“I’m afraid I don’t know the extent of the, erm, decay,” Ismay said as Vasser examined the sausage. “Just that the amount of unhealthy material is too much for my blessing to have made it vanish entirely, which would only be about this much.” He held two fingers up indicating a size about as long as one of his knuckles.
“Well, I’m much obliged anyway, Father.” Vasser took a large knife and chopped a piece off the end, then started to examine that bit critically, both visually and by sniffing it.
“Happy to help.” Ismay tapped a few fingers on the counter that separated them. “I hate to interrupt you in that, but I don’t have much time to procure my meal.”
“Oh, right, sorry Father. Fair’s fair and all that.” Soon Vasser had handed over a shallow bowl made of tough bread, and filled with a small pile full of stewed vegetables and small chunks of meat, covered by a layer of savory gravy. Ismay thanked Ismay again and walked slowly away through the market, eating the pieces of stew one by one with his fingers.
He was waved over by the banker’s wife, who had a question about the last week’s sermon, and on his way back to the church after that, Ismay heard a dog’s bark and turned around. He wished that he hadn’t looked in time to see Ismay gleefully tossing a length of sausage to the butcher’s two dogs. Yes, perhaps it was fitting in the eyes of the saints that the butcher’s own negligence should become his own mess to clean up, literally, but there was no need to take such pleasure in making innocent animals the brunt of such revenge.
A tall man in shiny chain armor was waiting outside the chapel door when Ismay finally returned. Ismay didn’t recognize him, and the surprise of that made him stutter as he greeted the man. “The blessings of Lady Birgit upon you,” he muttered, conscious of the difference between such a sentence, which was really only a wish and a pleasantry, and a genuine blessing such as he had used on Vasser’s behalf. “Might I ask what brings you to my chapel door?” The stranger was evidently a knight or a trained man-at-arms but Ismay thought he knew all of Lord Sland’s usual retinue.
“Certainly, but first, the introductions. My name is Clast Songger, and I am a wandering errant, owing no loyalties but those I swear to those in need of my aid that I discover as I travel. Be you the priest that they speak of in this town, by the name of Ismay?”
“Yes, that is the name I took when I made my first vows in the service of Saint Birgit,” Ismay agreed, wondering just what a Knight-errant might have heard about him.
Clast told him. “They say that the virtue of your patron Saint is strong within you.”
“Birgit has blessed my life very much, and I try very hard to live out my days as her faithful servant.”
The errant nodded with some satisfaction at his response. “Have you heard that the Millers are missing?”
“Of course, they’re members of my congregation. I helped to find foster parents for their sons. May Birgit and all the saints bring them home safe, and soon.”
“Sometimes the Lord God and the saints call on men to do the good work for them,” Clast said meaningfully.
“What, me?” Ismay asked. “Maybe you’d better come inside and explain a bit more.”
“As you please,” Clast declined to take a seat once he was inside the small room that Ismay used to council visitors, but leaned against a wall as Ismay sat in his usual chair. “I have tracked a small pack of hobgoblins to a small thicket in the woods northeast of town, and they have human prisoners. I don’t have long to free them before the Hobs prepare a bonfire feast, but neither can I challenge them all alone. I need help, and the righteous arm of Saint Birgit would ensure the success of this undertaking.”
“What? Why would the Hobgoblins have left the Millers alive, or whoever the prisoners are?”
“Hobs love to keep humans alive for a few days,” Clast told him darkly. “They have a special mix that they use on our kind to make us tender and pleasant.”
TO BE CONTINUED…