He waited for his heart to descend from his throat to his chest, for his frantic breathing to slow. It didn’t matter how often Cal came to him this way, he was never prepared. If once he could wake reassured by his brother’s presence rather than frightened ... but fear was his oldest friend. For fourteen suns he remembered little else.
He listened for sounds of wakefulness in the crowded boys’ dormitory. All he heard was a chorus of heavy breathing and soft snores. Thank Auraya hard work and
late services make for deep sleep. Slowly, he lifted the threadbare blanket and padded barefoot across the cold stone floor to the alcove where Cal waited for him.
The dormitory, so full of bodies, was somehow a hollow place. The high, small windows stole the light and life from the room. There never seemed to be enough air, but the chill multiplied like vermin in the walls. It was a dungeon, a place for the unwanted, where boys waited to become monks, or to be thrown out into the street. At fourteen, he’d waited longer than most.
Without preamble, Cal thrust the hardened leather case, broader than Eoghan’s chest and nearly as thick, into his arms. Eoghan’s foot slapped against the floor as he steadied himself and he waited, breathless, for some sign that other sleepers had woken.
Within the case he held was the Kas’Khoudum, the book of light: the reason Cal had fallen, but also why he’d been promised he’d soon rise above all others.
A respected scholar and priest, Cal was to take the position of chief archivist in the great library. It wasn’t a prestigious post. He’d have no land, no parishioners to tithe, and little possibility of becoming a member of any prelate’s staff, but he loved the old
books. Then his duties led him to the Kas’Khoudum and the terrible truths hidden
in its pages.
Because of this book, Cal discovered that everything the Faithful espoused was a lie. The Kas’Khoudum contained no commandments, no catalogue of sin, and certainly no list of penance or punishment. He hadn’t read yet of damnation or the tortures of the blessless soul after death. There was no instruction regarding the tithing of the people,
no hierarchy, and not even a mention of tonsure. Eoghan’s scalp prickled at the thought of it, the plucking. The monastery’s barber said it bred dedication and the stoicism to bear up under the burden of a monk’s duty. The goddess wanted them to suffer in this life, he said, so her consolation would be so much more rewarding in the next. Eoghan thought the practice unnecessarily cruel.
This book, with the shapes of dragons burned and burnished onto case and cover, encouraged Cal to enlighten his brethren, but they would hear none of it and accused him of heresy. Cal fled and became a fugitive.
Because of this book, Cal lived in hiding, preaching in the alleys, in barns, wherever the people would come to hear him, and snuck into the monastery dormitory in the middle of the night to teach Eoghan about the Kas’Khoudum and the truth of the
The book was the reason Auraya finally spoke to Cal and told him that he’d become the Kas’Hadden, the hammer of light, and her representative on Tellurin. Cal was going to change the world and Eoghan only felt proud, privileged, and intensely grateful that his brother hadn’t forgotten about him altogether.
Cal had visited him like this for moons, teaching him the language the book was written in, but tonight Cal didn’t lead him to one of the store rooms and ask Eoghan to read from the Kas’Khoudum. Something cold and hard settled in the boy’s stomach. He swallowed, his mouth dry and gummy.“ What?” Eoghan said, the word only
Cal grabbed his shoulders and spoke into his ear, saying the words slowly, clearly, and as loudly as he dared: “Hide it. It’s your responsibility now. Copy it. Bring faith back to the Faithful.”
Eoghan shook his head and Cal’s fingers dug into his flesh painfully. Giving him the book meant Cal expected something terrible to happen. Eoghan heard the confirmation of his suspicions in Cal’s voice, but how could this be? Auraya chose Cal for her champion. What would happen that the goddess couldn’t protect him from?
“They’re coming for me,” Cal said.
“Who?” It emerged a squeaky ‘oo.’
“Archbishop Manse and the Grand Inquisitor.”
Cal left Eoghan shivering from more than his bare feet on the cold stone, holding a book that might be the only thing he’d have to remember his brother by.
The thought galvanized him. Eoghan hastened to don cassock and cloak and scurried through the rain to the south wall, headed for the beggars’ graveyard outside.
Hunched over the book, he passed uncontested through the postern gate. Monks and the boys of the monastery came and went at all times of the day and night. Burial and vigil were nigh on continual. Though he felt certain they must have heard his heart pounding against his bones, the guards, huddled beneath their own cloaks, nodded him
through. On the other side, his bare feet squished in the mud, slipped until they scraped against buried stones, were cut on the sharp ones.
Eoghan buried the book along with its name, the language it was written in, and every other memory he had of it. He commended it to its new guardian and tried to forget. The girl had been interred that day and would speak of his visit to no one. Even using the spade, he was mud to the elbows, dirt to the knees. He had to strip off the cloak and cassock and let the rain cleanse him before he dressed again and returned through the gate.
Back on his pallet, holding his jaw closed to keep his teeth from chattering, Eoghan’s fear devoured him.
A few tense and sleepless days later, the news reached the monastery: a heretic had been captured and would be interrogated by Grand Inquisitor de Naude himself. Following the inquisition, there would be a public execution, the likes of which Aurayene hadn’t seen in many a sun. Though the name of the alleged heretic was made public, everyone in the monastery acted like they didn’t know Callum MacDubghall.
Only Eoghan harbored any doubt about Cal’s guilt. Wasn’t the point of an inquisition to ascertain the nature and degree of the sin? There seemed to be no investigation here, no considered judgment, just foregone conclusions.
Eoghan abandoned the scriptorium, buried himself in unauthorized research, and poured over the heretical annals. Had anyone accused of heresy ever been found innocent? So rarely that it gave Eoghan little hope. Many had been released for recanting their heretical beliefs, but Cal would never deny Auraya.