Blogosphere special: the “Show me yours” Blogfest!

January 3, 2011

Blogosphere index

Okay, today is the day of the Show me yours Blogfest, in which bloggers share a 500-word passage from their Nanowrimo 2010 writing and go comment like mad on each other’s excerpts!

So, here’s mine. It’s from the very beginning of “The Angel’s Charlie,” and does a really good job of setting the scene, I think:

Nothing made sense when Richard opened his eyes.

It wasn’t like things had been that clear in the moment before he opened them either, really. The last thing he could clearly remember was driving home after a late night in the office, and then… well, he’d still been sitting down, but somehow it had been obvious that he wasn’t in a car anymore. As far as he could tell now, he was in the chapel of a church, which hadn’t been the case for far too many months, really, and it definitely wasn’t Ottawa Street Baptist, either.

He started to explore the material available in the back of the pew in front of him. Old-fashioned looking hymnal, so probably not an evangelical denomination. Catholic? No, the decor didn’t really look Catholic… maybe Anglican. Aha, little visitor’s cards to drop into the collection plate, with spots for name and address. But they’d have the name on the card – yeah. ‘Episcopal church of the Good Shephard’, and an address on Delaware Street. It didn’t really ring a bell, except that he thought something was slightly off with ‘Episcopal.’

“I’m afraid that there won’t be a worship service for a while, young man. Are you in need of prayers?”

Richard looked up quickly to see an older man in a sedate uniform standing near the chapel doors. Quickly he rose to his own feet. “Not really, reverend… though a good word with the Lord Father is always appropriate, I suppose. Maybe we could pray together, before we leave, actually. But – but I have to say I’m a little confused, not sure how I got here.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you with that, my son, though I assumed you walked in,” the reverend said, chuckling slightly. “When I saw you sleeping in the pew on a Tuesday night, I suppose I assumed – that you just didn’t have any better shelter from the cold. Perhaps I was wrong.”

“Yes, the last thing I remember, I was on my way home… do you have any idea how I’d get to Queenston Road from here?” The reverend looked blank. “The Research in Motion headquarters?” Still no real recognition. “It’s not too far from the big university campus.”

“Ah, well, then, you’re just down the street from campus,” the reverend told him more brightly. “I can point you that way, at least. And you can check in our parking lot to see if your car is there, of course.”

“Thank you.” Richard took a breath. “What about that prayer, then?”

“I think that would be a good idea.” The two men sat down on one of the nearby pews. “I’m reverend Hynes, by the way.”

“Richard Horwood, and nice to meet you.” Richard closed his eyes. “Father in heaven, I’m feeling very lost and confused right now, but I know that to you, the way that I should follow is clear and straight. Please guide me in your infinite wisdom, and lead me along the path that leads to your service. You have blessed me with many gifts in my life, I am thankful for them all and give praise to you. Amen.”

“Dear Father, your servant Richard is in need of aid,” the Father added. “You know what his needs are better than I do, or he does, so help him along his way, and give him the strength to carry his burdens for your sake. All glory to your name, Amen.”

UPDATE: Okay, as of this writing, I’ve given feedback to 15, out of the other 34 bloggers who’ve participated in this challenge, and it’s been a really fun experience. If I haven’t posted a comment to your excerpt yet – I’ll do my best to get to you sometime this week – and for the 7 people who signed up and haven’t posted excerpts yet, I’ll keep checking your blog too.

This event has been really very much in line with what I wanted to be doing with Blogosphere Mondays – finding other bloggers who are sharing their own writing, letting them know what I thought, encouraging them – and attracting new readers to my own blog as well. Kinda fortuitous that the whole thing happened to be scheduled on a Monday already!

Out of curiosity, I started tracking the length of the different posted excerpts – partly because mine was stretching the 500 word limit. Well, I wasn’t alone. 22 of the excerpts were more than 500 words, ranging from 505 up to 972 words. (My 567 was more or less in the middle of that pack.) And there was one person who was exactly on 500, and twelve who were less, going from 257 up to 498. Sorry, my numbers geek is coming out to play now.

Oh, and all 3 of the founding blogfest members were over the 500 word limit that they imposed – 533 to 647 words. 😉

Happy Blogfest, everybody.

Blogisode Seven

October 30, 2010

There was a moment’s pause before the hobgoblins panicked and ran for the edges of the forest, hoping to escape the terrible curse that Ismay was threatening to loose on them – the one that he didn’t have. Thank goodness they fell for the bluff, he thought, keeping his cross raised in silence until he couldn’t see any trace of the disreputable creatures any longer.

At that moment, Clast turned to him and started to stagger forward, grimacing more with each step. Father Ismay met him as quickly as he could. “Well done, Father,” Clast told him. “I was worried that you’d admit there was nothing further you could do, since we hadn’t rehearsed that bit of trickery before.”

“I almost did,” Ismay admitted. “Until I saw what the only solution to the situation was. How badly hurt are you? I see that slice on your arm, and you have clearly taken another hurt.”

“The hobgoblin clubs have broken a few of my ribs, I’m afraid,” Clast told him. “But don’t worry about me – the captives are too close to the fire. We need to untie them as soon as possible.”

Ismay looked over at the hobgoblin’s cooking fire, still burning hot, and the trussed bundles sitting next to it, and his throat tightened at the thought that those bundles were two of his parishioners. “I’ll take care of that. Give me your blade.”

“My axe won’t be much for this, but two of the enemy that I felled had knives.” Clast gestured to the dead body of a hobgoblin. Ismay rushed over towards it, and picked up the knife that lay near its hand – the bronze was covered with Clast’s dried blood, and there was a coating of dust sticking to the blood on one side, but the edge was still sharp enough to do for cutting rope.

The time from that moment until full dark set in around the hobgoblin camp was blurry for Ismay – freeing the captives, making sure that they were okay, and using the healing gifts that Birgit had entrusted him with for the sake of the others, especially Clast’s battle wounds. The Millers had also taken some hurt during their days with the hobgoblins, unsurprisingly.

“So, what is next for us?” John Miller asked. “Do we stay here all night?”

Struck by the question himself, Ismay turned to Clast, and the wandering errant took only a moment more to decide. “No – there may be some dangers from making our way back to town through the forest in the dark, but the hobs might come back to their camp before dawn, and I don’t like our chances if they figure out that Ismay doesn’t have a great and horrible curse waiting for them. Though they have better night-vision than we do, there should yet be some torches around the camp – we can ignite them in the campfire and have lights to cast upon the way our feet must go, eh?”

And that was the way it went. Tabitha Miller got her foot stuck in the hole of a digging vermin halfway back to town, and it was about five minutes before the menfolk were able to get her free. John ended up digging the hole up wider with his bare hands. But that was all the excitement of their return trip, and before midnight they had returned the Millers to their children at the house of their foster parents. Clast and Ismay stood aside together and watched the happy reunion.

“I’ll be traveling on after a day and night, father,” Clast told him. “There’s an ogre up by the path to Northton demanding tolls of wine and jewels to leave passersby unmolested. Dare I to hope that you might come along to help again?”

Ismay considered that. “I’m afraid not. It’s great that you will go wherever you’re needed, to help the people against such monsters, but that’s not my path yet. But see me tomorrow night, before you leave town, yes? If Birgit allows, I may have some gifts I can bestow upon you before you leave.”

“That would be a great kindness, Father,” Clast agreed. “And your own path?”

“I’m not sure,” Ismay said slowly. “I shall go back to preaching to my congregation in the usual manner – but if any here in my home town need aid of a more direct nature, then I hope next time I will not need a stranger to come and tell me so.”

“So will you challenge the creatures of evil yourself?”

“I may not need to – there are a few other brave souls in the area, that I may be able to recruit when they are needed. Good luck, Clast.”

“Best of luck yourself, father,” the strong errant said, bowing his head. “And God bless you.”


Blogisode Six

October 23, 2010

“Ahhyi!” Ismay exclaimed, putting his rapier up in a guarding position in front of his face by habit, and then realized how useless it was to use a light, edgeless sword to try to parry a heavy wooden club with. At the last moment, he tried to dodge back, and managed to sprawl backwards onto the sparse grass – effectively avoiding being hit by the club for that moment, but the hobgoblin was still orienting on him, chuckling nastily, and Ismay knew that wouldn’t be able to scramble out of the way of the next attack. Birgit’s curse upon the hobgoblins might have helped him slightly there, or it might have just been his own dumb luck, but the priest doubted that he could count upon that again either.

As the tall brute made his way closer, though, Ismay realized that he did have one opportunity. He’d dropped the weapon, but its handle was lying quite close to his right hand still. Choosing his moment, he grabbed the rapier again, and drove the point into the hobgoblin’s upper leg.

For a moment the monster didn’t seem to notice, and even moved forward and forced the shaft further into himself. Then he seemed to notice that something was wrong, looked down, and gestured with his club to brush the rapier away though it was now piercing him too deeply to make this possible.

Desperate to incapacitate this inhuman creature quickly, Ismay pulled the rapier out, stabbing again, lower on the opposite leg, where a stumpy knee could be seen between the heavy clothing that the hobgoblins wore. Suddenly the hob fell – toppling forward, onto Ismay’s own legs, and he began immediately thrashing and punching with bare fists against anything within reach, including much of Ismay. Try as he might, he couldn’t extricate himself from the maddened hobgoblin. Was it in its death throes? Would Ismay be, soon enough?? “Clast, I need your help!” he called.

“I’m busy,” the gruff Errant called back. “Can’t Birgit come to your aid again?”

Somehow Ismay didn’t think that he could concentrate enough to discharge Saint Birgit’s grace now, even if she had left him any blessings or other gifts that would avail in this situation. But since there didn’t seem to be any other option, he racked his brain, and desperation seemed to make his link to the back of his soul firmer, instead of impossible to reach. No, there were few of the new bequests that remained to him – a few works of healing, which might be useful if Clast incurred injuries in his own struggles, or if the prisoners that they had come to save were badly hurt, but Ismay could not ask them on his own behalf – and they would not keep the hobgoblin from striking him again in any event. But there were a few minor signs of the power of his patron Saint that he had held for a while, which Birgit had not withdrawn in preparing him for this trial…

Hoping desperately, Ismay seized a dry pine branch with his left hand, and held it above the hobgoblin’s face. It would serve, if only… “May the flame of the Holy Spirit serve my need in this desperate moment,” he croaked, his voice failing him.

That was enough. The pine needles burst into vigorous flame, and the hobgoblin spooked. Though they used fire, his kind must be primitive enough to still fear it more than civilized people did. The wounded hob had only enough strength to scramble a few feet away before lying still, but that was enough to free Ismay.

When he had finally struggled to his feet, Clast was still trying to fend off three hobs, and he appeared to have taken an ugly gash on his left arm from a bronze blade. When he spotted Ismay, the warrior called out hoarsely. “Do it, father! We have no other choices. Let loose the most dreadful curse of all upon these vermin!”

That sounded good to Ismay, except that he had no curses at all remaining to him, never mind the most dreadful one of all! “Do it now!” Clast called again, more authoritatively. “Before it’s too late.”

Then Ismay thought he saw what Clast was getting at, and dug in the pockets for his silver cross, and raised it high, taking a deep breath.

That was enough for the hobgoblins, who must have also been watching to see what the priest would do next.

To be continued…

Blogisode Five

October 16, 2010

Clast gasped, lost somewhere between surprise and awe as he felt the benefits of the blessings Ismay had bestowed upon him. And then, slowly, he smiled. “Is that all of it?”

“No,” Ismay replied, running over the other gifts that Saint Birgit had entrusted him with in his mind. Some would have to wait until they had actually met the enemy in battle, but… “Hold out your weapon, sir Errant.”

Clast did so, offering the axe as if he expected Ismay to actually take it from him, but that wasn’t what he had in mind. “In the name of Birgit and our Lord God the Father, I bless this weapon. May it never be raised or swung in in malice, in hatred, or the service of evil, but be sure and true in the service of justice.”

Before both of their eyes, the metal head of the axe seemed to shine just a bit brighter, only when it was held in the sunset light. Quickly, Ismay also spoke blessings on his own rapier, and on their enterprise in general. He next thought of blessing Clast’s armor — and found that if such a blessing existed, it was not one that Birgit had entrusted him with. That seemed to be a somewhat strange omission, but he came across a prayer of safety from injury at dangerous times and recited it for both of them, and for the Hobgoblins’ prisoners, whoever they might be. “Alright, that’s about as much preparation as I can do in advance of the fight,” he said at last. “Lead on, Clast.”

Clast did so. “Try to move more quietly,” he whispered as they made their way into an invisible break through the undergrowth, less than half the width of a proper path. “I suppose I need not ask if Saint Birgit supported my quest.”

“I suppose not,” Ismay answered as quietly as he could. “She has given me much to think upon.”

“Any many great boons,” Clast observed. “I admit, I am curious about such things. Priests seldom explain much about the true nature of the relationship they have with their patron or God.”

“Usually that is true,” Ismay said. “But perhaps if we both survive the night and rescue the innocent victims, I might be persuaded to answer some of your questions.”

Clast nodded, and then shushed him, pointing ahead. Ismay realized that there was a clearing there, and people moving around. Not necessarily ‘people’ in the sense that he was familiar with them, though.

After they had both crept close to the last line of shrubs, and caught their breath, Clast held up his gloved hand where Ismay could see it, all five fingers spread, and began to lower them one at a time. Two heartbeats after the thumb had been brought down to complete Clast’s gathering fist, he sprung from cover, his shadow falling upon the hobgoblins as he charged out of the setting sun, from their perspective.

Ismay stepped forward, his sword drawn, but the weapon he first called on was his voice. “Hobgoblins, for your perfidy of trapping and feasting upon the Lord God’s chosen, his vengeance is approaching you. Renounce the eating of human flesh forever, or be cursed at this moment in the eyes of Jesus the Son.”

All of the dark and twisted figures were staggered when the curse landed. A few small hoblins scattered into the underbrush, like the mice fleeing Vasser’s stall after Ismay had blessed it with health, and one larger hob, perhaps a female, fell over and kicked vainly at the air. But there were still at least half a dozen left to immediately mob Clast, each one carrying a heavy wooden club or crudely fashioned bronze knife.

Ismay rushed to catch up, trying to think of another blessing or curse, or some prayer that would help in this situation. But nothing occured to him, and he realized sickly that he might have used up nearly all of the gifts that Birgit had entrusted to him. Now it would be Clast’s axe and his rapier that would carry the day – or fall.

Fortunately Clast did not seem to be lacking in valour or might, and Ismay remembered some of his long-ago lessons in how to use the rapier for self-defense as opposed to formal fencing. A hobgoblin screamed in outrage when he stabbed it near the neck, but did not fall immediately, and turned to menace Ismay with its club.

To be continued…

Blogisode Four.

October 9, 2010

“Very well,” Father Ismay said, looking around at the peaceful wooded surroundings. “I suppose it’s more than time enough that I should prepare for my devotions.” He dug into the napsack that he’d been carrying and pulled out a heavy embroidered prayer rug, spreading it out as flat as he could on the bare dry ground next to the stream. It had been difficult to carry this so far out of town, but from the start he’d known that he’d need something familiar to get into touch with Saint Birgit in this strange venue.

Clast nodded silently, pulling out a one-handed battle axe. For a moment Ismay was worried, and then realized that he trusted the wandering warrior – Clast was simply preparing to stand guard while he prayed. Did he realize just how helpless men of the cloth could be while engaged in their devotions?

That was not a good thing to concentrate on, Ismay realized, as he kneeled on the prayer rug and started to whisper the words of the first ‘O domine Jesu Christe.’ For a long while, it was hard to truly concentrate on prayer and meditation, on account of the unfamiliar setting, and his worries about what Clast’s reaction might be if he did not reach a communion with Lady Birgit before sundown. What if she had already attempted to speak to him, while the two of them were still on the march, and Ismay had not heard that quiet voice in the back of his soul? Quite apart from the hobgoblins, would Birgit give him an opportunity tomorrow night if they did not traffic this evening, or would he need to send word to someone else favored in the order to intercede on his behalf?

Then those concerns faded from his mind, and Ismay lost himself in the prayers, not reciting words that others had written before him, but reviewing what he wanted to convey himself, his praise of the Lord God and thanks for the blessings of the Saints, the trespasses of others that he wanted to forgive, and the failings in himself that he needed to confess. And he spent quite a while thinking of this mad venture that Clast had dragged him into, about his fears – and also his hopes that he would actually be able to help somebody who was in terrible trouble.

The moment of contact with the presence of a saint, when it came, was always intense beyond words. This time, as well as the usual sense of Birgit’s incredibly graceful character, charitable and resolute in equal measure, Ismay caught a fragment of approval. For a moment, he struggled with the sense to immediately rise and charge off to confront the hobgoblins, but Ismay knew that was foolish. Just as it took time in prayer to prepare to step into the spiritual presence of a saint, meditation and deep thought was necessary to understand the contact, and he would have to perceive everything as well as possible before acting.

Surely enough, as he sat and struggled to clear his mind of its own thoughts, many more things became clear to him than had been evident in that one moment of rapport – instructions and advice for dealing with Clast, and about unconsidered roads that his choice to come with the errant might have led him to. He would have to think on such things further, but they didn’t need to be completely resolved yet.

And then, there were the miraculous gifts of his patron saint. Some had been withdrawn, minor blessings like that blessing of cleanliness that were of more use for his ordinary life back in town than they would be out here, struggling against Hobgoblins. If Ismay survived the night, he might get some of those back. Assuming that he would still have use for them.

Rising to his feet and opening his eyes, Ismay crossed over to Clast. He took a moment to concentrate over unfamiliar words, then began to chant in a deep voice.

“In the name of the Holy Abbess, Saint Birgit, I grant the blessings of strength and a sure hand in battle to this man, Clast the errant. In the trials to come, may the protection of Jesus be upon him, that he should not fall in battle, and may his arm be quick and deadly in the defense of the innocent from those who would devour them. In the name of all the saints I pray it, Amen.”

To be continued…

Blogisode Three

October 3, 2010

“Hobs love to keep humans alive for a few days,” the wandering errant Clast told Father Ismay darkly. “They have a special mix that they feed to on our kind to make us tender and pleasant.”

“Ohh,” Ismay moaned, thinking of brutal monsters holding John and Tabitha Miller prisoner, and fattening them up like lambs for the slaughter. “So, what assistance are you asking of me, sir errant? Am I right in thinking that you do not simply need a blessing of strength before you go into battle?”

“No, father,” Clast insisted. “You must come with me to confront the hobgoblins, to serve as the strong right arm of the Lord God, in the service of Saint Birgit. You can curse the hobgoblins in Lady Birgit’s name, and…” He trailed off, uncertain just how much the virtue of a Saint might be able to accomplish in a melee.

“But I am no warrior priest,” Ismay protested, though he was starting to wonder if this was indeed the path that Birgit had laid out before him. “Birgit is a bold woman, fierce in the defense of the innocent, but – but I cannot join you in this enterprise, before consulting her in my prayers, and that is something that I will not be able to do in this hour, or the next. If time is truly short, then you will need to seek some other aid for the Millers.”

“How long will it be before Birgit expects you to meditate and pray for her?” Clast asked, and Ismay looked up, startled that this layman had asked this question. How did he know so much of the ways of priests and their prayers?

“An hour before sunset tonight.”

“And must you pray here in the temple?”

Ismay stared at his visitor, wondering if he was being mocking by referring to the small village chapel as a temple. “No, Birgit will hear my prayers wherever I am. Let me guess, you mean to have us travel out into the woods near the Hobgoblin camp, rest a safe distance away so that I can pray, and if Birgit gives me her blessings, then we fall upon the Hobs in the fading dusk, as they build their cooking fire?”

“That would suit me,” Clast agreed. “Will you come thus far, for the Millers?”

“I suppose I must,” Ismay said, sighing. “How soon must we leave? Is there anything I will need to take with me?”

“If you have any protective gear, or a weapon that you feel competent to use in your own defense, that would be well,” Clast told him. “I have already gathered the rest of the supplies and equipment that we’ll need.”

“Hmm.” For a long moment, that possibility of needing such things stunned Ismay, and then he left the chamber, heading towards the chapel storeroom and gesturing for Clast to follow him. After searching half the shelves, he finally produced a long, sharp rapier.

“I used to fence when I was in the seminary,” he said. “The bishop gave me this for my trip into the hinterlands, in case I should need to fend off robbers.”

“Aren’t priests forbidden from taking the way of the sword?” Clast asked him.

“That depends on the sect. Saint Birgit discourages the use of blades, but a rapier has no edge, so it falls within the rule.” He cast one more look around the room. “I’m afraid I have no armor, though, though I did once train to march in chain mail. You don’t have a spare set?”

“No, I couldn’t afford or carry such an extravagance,” Clast told him.

“Would my heavy winter robes offer any level of protection, do you suppose?” Ismay asked.

“Well, we can but try it, I suppose.”


Neither of them spoke much on the trip through the forest to the hobgoblin’s hideout. Clast had a few questions to ask about Ismay’s ministry in the town that he had made his home for the past fifteen years, and Ismay asked for a few details about the errant’s travels and the adventures he had embroiled himself in, but the pace was quick enough to not leave much breath for idle chatter.

“Well, I think that this is about as close as we should get to the Hobs until we are prepared to challenge them,” Clast said, looking over the clear bank of a stream surrounded by tall trees. “And it remains not much more than an hour until the sun sets.”

Blogisode Two

September 25, 2010

“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.”


Blogisode One.

September 18, 2010

This is something new that I’m trying… a Kelworth Files exclusive!


Father Ismay smiled as he walked down the street towards the crowded Market Square of Oaksford.

The people who he passed always smiled and nodded when they recognized him in his deep black homespun robe and the somewhat spotted white v-shaped sash that hung from his neck. He nodded back, and greeted some of them, especially the ones who he recognized. Many of the ones he knew were part of his congregation, but not all of them. There were four churches in town, most of them on fairly good terms with each other, though nearly everybody else looked down on the Chapel of the Beneficent Daemon Umbriel.

Shaking his head slightly, Ismay continued on into the market and considered his options. He didn’t have long before he needed to be back at his own vocation, and the crowds were particularly thick today. Settling on a tolerable choice, he pressed forward between the other shoppers, took a left turn into a narrow aisle full of stalls, and made his way down to a particularly rickety booth. There were only a few other patrons in line before him, and they were served quickly and moved away. “Father!” the bearded man in the badly stained apron exclaimed. “I’m glad to see you today!”

“Always happy to drop by, but I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Ismay said, bringing out a small silver billon coin out of a pocket inside his robe. “Can I get the usual?”

“Happy to serve you, as always, Father, but it’s not the world’s coin that I’ll need from you,” Vasser said, hurrying close. “You know my usual as well – it’s no problem, right? Anything you want in exchange, but the inspector’s somewhere about.”

“Not again?” Ismay said, with a resigned sigh. Vasser shrugged. “You know, I’m happy to help out, but not when all it amounts to is a crutch that keeps you from standing on your own.”

“No crutch, seriously,” Vasser insisted, his voice almost pleading. “I’m just short-handed this week, and as soon as Debri gets back from tending to her mother, we’ll get the whole place clean as a whistle, you’ll see.”

Ismay leaned into the booth. He couldn’t really imagine it being ‘clean as a whistle,’ but he did believe the cook wanted to do a better job. He tended to believe the best in people, no matter what, but anyway… “Very well, I do have one handy, so…”

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and took a moment to connect with something that was hovering at the back of his mind all the time, like a minstrel’s tune that he’d heard a few hours ago, or some errand that he needed to remember to run, and yet slightly different. This was something more than just a thought that had come from his own mind.

“In the name of the Holy Abbess, Saint Birgit,” he muttered, reciting the words that had come to him while praying, “I grant the blessing of health and cleanliness into this place, that the food prepared herein should be nourishing and beneficial to all those who partake thereof, and that none should fall ill from it. May pests and the unclean vermin remain no longer, and may the prosperity of the Lord God shine upon us all, Amen.”

The force of the blessing coming loose into the world staggered Ismay slightly, as it always did when he was the vessel of Saint Birgit’s grace. All of the tiny insects buzzing about inside the stall were struck dead by the power of it, and two families of mice immediately scattered underneath the cracks in the wooden wall and vanished into other parts of the market far away. There was also a general impression of cleanliness that had nothing to do with whatever washing of his stall Vasser had managed to do today. But as he looked around, Vasser obviously still seemed to sense that something was wrong, and with a wince Ismay had to agree with him.

“There’s… there’s some kind of meat on a high shelf, to your right,” he muttered. “It… it hasn’t been preserved right, I think, and is already putrid. There was nothing that a low-level blessing could to do save it, except to let me know that it was going bad.”

“Oh.” Vasser took a few minutes to find the item in question, a long fresh sausage. “Is the entire thing beyond use?”


%d bloggers like this: