An Afternoon on the Town

An Afternoon on the Town

"Look out, love, comin' through." Saro turns quickly, in time to see a plump, motherly woman carrying an enormous basket of carrots coming straight at her though the crowded market square. The scholar tries to move out of the other's way, but the packed crowds don't allow her to get completely free. The older woman jostles the younger unintentionally as she passes, and pauses to apologize. "Sorry, love, didn' mean that. Are ye all right?"

Saro smiles absently, warmed by the farmwife's concern. "Yes...of course I am, ma'am. I should have gotten out of your way."

"Ye hardly could'a gotten out of the way of a butterfly, now, crowds bein' as they are.", the elder assures her heartily. "Ye're not from around here, are ye?" she asks suddenly, giving Saro an appraising look.

"No, ma'am, you're right." Saro sighed to herself. Proper etiquette when visiting an Aboriginal village, they had taught in school. Blending into a medieval-level community with all the legendary trappings (elves, magic, and dragons)..and a few extras (vampires, werewolves, and heavens knew what else)..., they had most emphatically *not*.

Clearly seeing her chagrin, the woman pats Saro on the hand in a reassuring, maternal manner and continues, "'Tisn't so bad as all that, y'understand, love. Just that you seen a little out of place, is all, and you just look a bit confused. This market's a very confusing place, so 'tis, even for folks who come here every week. Were you lookin' for anything in particular, now?"

"Actually, yes. I was looking for some clothes..." Saro pauses momentarily and her companion takes the opportunity to interject, "Well, love, you've got a lovely dress ye're wearing now."

"Yes, but it's borrowed.", the scholar explains hastily, smiling to herself. This lady reminded her a a few people she had known back in Cambridge; kind, well-meaning people who'd take every opportunity to talk and dispense advice. But then, she thought wryly, a little advice wouldn't go amiss with me right now.

"Well, seein' as that's the case...", the older woman allows, "there's a merchant down Arner's Street, there-" a nod of the head towards one of the numerous ways leading off of the main market square; the crowd flows about the two too thickly to allow for an outflung finger- "Good man, Master Clotten, a fair man. He'll help ye out, love, no mistaking."

Saro thanks the woman graciously and tries to take her leave...and tries, and tries, for the next quarter-hour. Finally, the woman (Mistress Smith, it turns out- wife to one Abell Smith, farmer, and mother to two grown boys, Jaky and Ren...), with an exclamation about the lateness of the hour and where did the time go?, excuses herself to continue on to her husband, waiting at their market stand.

The man must have the patience of a Saint, Saro thinks with a smile, wending her slow way through the throng to the suggested Arner's Street.

Master Clotten, Saro had to admit, was as good as Mistress Smith's word. Better. Once she had finally located his shop- no more than a narrow storefront in between other narrow storefronts- she enters it to be greeted by a tallish, stooped gentleman of advancing years. Yes, he was Master Clotten, he assures her, and she'd certainly come to the right place. Now what was it she was looking for, exactly? Saro explains, as best she can, and soon finds herself measured, fussed over, and shooed into a tiny changing room with a pile of clothes- some new, some second-hand, but all in good condition and practical- as Master Clotten turns genially to two people just entering the shop. A slightly harried-looking woman and an impish small boy, Saro sees before she shuts the changing room door.

When she emerges quite a few minutes later, a small pile of clothing under each arm, the woman is paying Master Clotten and making small talk with him, looking just a bit more relaxed. The boy, hiding behind a rack of shirts, sticks his head into view and makes a face at Saro, who laughs, unable to help herself. The woman and the shopkeeper both look at Saro, and the boy dissapears behind the shirts once more.

"Now, missy, find anything that fit you?" Master Clotten smiles, knowing himself that there must have been, and calls a benediction to the woman who, having extracted her wayward son, is leaving with him firmly in tow.

"Of course, sir. Quite a bit, in fact."

"Well, now, that's just grand. But you know, missy, I could make you a lovely dress, to your measurements. Be much nicer than anything premade, thought that's what everyone's after, these days. No appreciation for craftsmanship, I tell you, missy, that's what it is these days. No appreciation." He sighs elaborately; clearly, this is a particular pet peeve of the old tailor's.

The scholar, wishing to oblige the old gentleman and also quite intreagued by the prospect of a custom-made dress, looks slightly undecided nonetheless. She hasn't got too much to spend, she reminds herself (only what money she made selling drawings and portraits to various people on her way to Stormpoint); and a tailored outfit in Cambridge, at least, would be frightfully expensive. But the craftsman continues his spiel (obviously well-rehearsed), and finishes by naming a figure far more reasonable than she would ever have expected. In the end, she aquiesces, much to the delight of one Master Clotten, Tailor Extraordinaire. She pays for the clothes she's decided to take- several pairs of pants and shirts, a skirt, and a very plain and very servicable dress- and leaves the tailor muttering to himself about the fabric and color her new dress is to be.

Brown-paper-wrapped package under one arm, the scholar heads...yet the center of the town. To her great delight- and no small surprise- she manages to find it, first try, this time. She squints against the mid-day sun, and notices the cathedral, central landmark of the square, simply exuding Gothic splendor. She hurries over. High time I payed a visit to the priest, she thinks. Recalling the events since she'd last seen him, she tentatively opens the door and slips into the back of the church. High time indeed.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

~ attr. Omar Khayyam
trans. Edward FitzGerald

After the holiday rush, the priest had found hinself quite distracted as he conducted the daily offices during the Christmas season. In fact, as he led the few folks gathered in the Cathedral for Vespers through their prayers and the recitation of the Scripture readings for this day, he found himself already thinking of his sermon for the Epiphany of the Lord on the morrow. Never-the-less, as he read the appointed Gospel lesson, he looked over those who were assembled there, and his eyes settled on the face of the scholar.

"Saro!" he thought to himself, as he continued reading. Then he was ashamed of himself to have let his concentration wander. He finished the service with proper decorum, and then found himself rushing down the main aisle of the Cathedral to catch the scholar before she left. Standing before her, he offered an embrace. "Lady Doctor! Damn, but it is a joy to see a familiar is it that ye have come here of all places?"

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

Just inside the door, Saro pauses. Oh, heavens, I've interrupted a service!, she thinks, blushing. But the priest continues as if nothing untoward has occurred, and as she is about to exit as quietly (she hopes) as she entered, the priest looks up from his reading and catches her eye. Saro shrugs imperceptably to herself, and waits in the shadows of the doorway for the service to end. It seems nearly finished, anyway, and she finds the Church's ritual comforting in its familiarity. She may be living in a delusion of vampires, castaways, and old-fashioned tailors; but at least her mind is willing to grant her the same real, solid religion she had in Cambridge.

As she's musing, the service ends and the surprisingly few parishioners trickle out of the building. Although, in this town, perhaps I should be surprised that there's anyone to attend a Catholic mass at all, she reflects wryly. Her thoughts are interrupted as the priest hurries down the center aisle of the impressive building and offers her a hug and a warm greeting, "Lady Doctor! Damn, but it is a joy to see a familiar is it that ye have come here of all places?"

She moves to embrace the priest, juggling her package in one hand, and replies with a smile. "I could say the same to you, Father. As for me, I was simply passing by on my way from some shopping and wanted to see you and your lovely church." She knows she's deliberately misinterpereted the priest's question, but only smiles sweetly and adds, as a sort of parting shot, "Do they teach you that language in Seminary, I wonder?" Her intended mock horror at his language is spoiled, however, by her joy at finally meeting another mortal friend. "It's good to see you again, Father.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

~ attr. Omar Khayyam
trans. Edward FitzGerald

"I was passing they teach you that language in's good to see you again Father...."

The priest watched the doctor carefully.....frowned a bit as he sensed that all was not as well with her as her good humor tried to project....then smiled wickedly as she poked fun at his rough tongue.

Impishly he shrugged...."Well....regardless of what they tried to teach me in seminary, I insist that my Bible doesn't condemn vulgarity....just the misuse of God's name....." He chuckled to himself.

The lines on the scholar's face concerned him.....he could sense that she was feeling...what? strained? fragile? He thought back to their last conversation in Rhydin before he moved to Stormpoint.....she was convinced then that she was living in a delusional state here through her mind while her body lay on old Earth in a coma. It had been months, and he reproached himself for not having remembered her more often in prayer. Then his mind skipped a track to the debates he had at University concerning the nature of reality.....endless and pointless arguments about whether dreams were real or reality was a dream. He had entered into a rebellious pragmatism in those days, deciding that reality was simply what you lived....and dismissed the arguments of his classmates. God knew what was real....and that was enough for the priest.

Suddenly he realized that he was being terribly impolite as he saw the scholar shifting about during his prolonged silence. He slapped his forehead....

"But I am forgetting my manners! Would you like a quick tour of the cathedral, or a cup of tea over at the rectory? Have you been in town long? I really can't imagine why Lady Samantha didn't alert me to your presence......finding plenty of things to record in your notebook?"

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

She smiles at his comeback, mentally admitting the truth of his point. She wasn't as conversant with the Bible as she would like to be, but she couldn't seem to recall "Thou shalt not use Dirty Words." as one of the Commmandments, either. Still, the scholar had always preferred to avoid profanity herself. Well, she mentally amends, except for just after I discovered some of Latin's more...colorful...aspects, years ago, and spent a delightful week or so...ah..."quoting the ancients", as it were. Delightful up 'til the time that elderly gentleman turned around and, with the greatest of dignity, told me exactly what he thought of impeccable Latin. As I recall, she smiles slightly at the memory, he did his share of quoting, too.

Lost in her own thoughts, it takes Saro several moments longer than it might ordinarily have to notice the priest's own preoccupation. Her tentative smile dissolves. Whatever the priest is thinking, by his face, it's hardly as pleasant as her first meeting with her college mentor. She doesn't want to interrupt his thoughts, and so remains standing where she is, fidgetting slightly and shifting her package to her other arm. Suddenly the priest's attention shifts from past to present, and he slaps his forehead as his remembers himself.

The barrage of commentary and questions comes so fast the scholar has difficulty keeping track of it. When he's finished, she answers his questions one at a time, hoping she hasn't missed one here or there.

"A tour of your cathedral would be wonderful, if I can leave this somewhere." A nod of her head indicates the paper-wrapped clothes, which make a fairly large and unwieldy bundle. "I've been in town for perhaps a week-and-a-half; Sam told me you were here when I first came, but she's been...busy. Between that and the baby, it likely slipped her mind. Ah...what else...?" Saro pauses, sure there was something else, and trying to dredge it up from her unco-operative short-term memory. Her memory serves her in good stead; and she recalls his last comment with a smile. "I'm finding more in Stormpoint to record than I ever could have dreamed of." The smile wavers as she is reminded that this is, after a fashion, a dream. After a moment, it remains on her face, though her eyes are no longer smiling.

"You were going to show me your lovely cathedral?"

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

~ attr. Omar Khayyam
trans. Edward FitzGerald

"You were going to show me the cathedral.....?" The scholar asked him - but it was clear to the priest that she was trying to turn her mind away from something she abhorred as much she was turning her mind to the study of anything, much less the cathedral.

He had caught the change in her eyes as she spoke the word "dream," and for him this confirmed that she still was not at home in this land. Then again, who really was "home" here? He sighed for a moment, reminding himself that old Earth had its share of problems too, and that believers from the Old Church still had the promise of a final, real and unquestionable homecoming.

But his attention stayed with the scholar this time. As he considered how best to minister to her "Would it be best to let her believe it a dream and deal with it under that aspect, or should she be moved toward accepting the reality of this place?" he thought to himself. The priest carried on a spirited debate within himself on this question while he let his mind and body see to business....those meditation exercises he had endured in preparing for the priesthood on separating the internal mind from the outer mind did him some good after all.

Smiling, and gentle, he spoke almost immediately after the scholar had asked for the tour. "Well....set your package down on any pew, Lady Doctor - been no pilfering in this sanctuary, so I'm sure it'll be safe....besides, I seem to have a bit of a mysterious protector wandering about...but I'll tell you of that later....." He wandered down the main aisle of the nave to the narthex....."join me back here...and we can start as the architect wanted...get the full effect of the space, so to speak......"

And as she joined him, he started pointing out the features of the cathedral...noting the windows telling their stories of Christ's life.....indicating how all the lines of the building lead the eye up to the high altar and the blessed Sacrament.....

As they walked toward the rood screen, he casually mentioned "I week and a half already you've been here, eh? I'd rather imagine you've a had few adventures my first week here......" Then he fell silent. Paused for a moment....and started speaking of the construction of the chancel, and his pet theory that there must have actually been a cathedral school at one time......when they reached the communion rail, the tour came to an end.

"Really, that's the most of it.....quite lovely...but I haven't managed to get to the organ loft or bell tower who knows what's left to be discovered. The library in the rectory is impressive in of itself. You'll have to give it a good once may recognize some titles I don't...all I know is that there is some darkness at the center of this town, and I don't think it's the fault of the vampires...though Lord knows some of them....feh....." Then he grinned a bit mercurially.

" about that tea or coffee? And do you have a place to stay yet...there are plenty of rooms at the rectory......"

In his other mind however, he concluded that she could not remain believing Stormpoint to be a delusion.....for. from what he had seen already, it was an easy way to end up dead. But how to establish its ontological reality for the scholar? Certainly sophomorish tricks of philosophical argumentation were not the answer.....and he began rehearsing what he knew of the differences between the worlds of the waking and the sleeping......

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

She set the package down as the priest had suggested, wondering briefly if he had noticed how she fought to hold onto that smile. Probably, she considered ruefully. He doesn't seem to miss much... But the man continued, with no more than the typical pause between her request and his assent, and she abandoned that line of thought to the beauty and majesty of the building.

And beautiful it was...light slanted through the intricate windows in shafts of red, blue, gold, and a myriad of other hues, splashing the wood of the pews with soft pools of color. The windows themselves were incredible; Saro almost gaped at the effect, wide-eyed. She had seen churches before, of course; but none so grand as this, and none she had been so happy to see. And the architecture, as the priest pointed out, was masterful; all lines drawing one's gaze to the altar. Just like The Last Supper, Saro reflected in surprise. Can't believe I remember anything from that Art History course I took, to fulfill my graduation requirements....All lines, the ceiling, walls, down to the windows and the very disciples, designed by a master to bring your eye to Christ, presiding over all...

As she was still marvelling over the construction of the church, the priest's narrative continued, "A week and a half already you've been here, eh? I'd rather imagine you've a had few adventures my first week here......" He trailed off; and Saro made a mental note to ask him how he got here; and just what he's been doing.

The priest expounded for a while longer, outlining why he thought the cathedral originally posessed a school. The idea was intreaguing to the former teacher; and she wondered what might have happened to it. Probably whatever put this church out of commision for so long...

She listened to the rest of the priest's comments, musing about the "undiscovered country" of the loft and bell tower...until he mentioned the library, that was. A library...who knew what might be contained the rectory library of such a...singular town as Stormpoint? Were there perhaps even native writers?

Preoccupied as she was, Saro almost missed the priest's last comment. Almost. She privately agreed with him...something was amiss about this town, that couldn't be explained away by simple vampires or even the occaisional demi-god. She would have voiced this opinion, too; but the man continued blithely on, extending an invitation. " about that tea or coffee? And do you have a place to stay yet...there are plenty of rooms at the rectory......"

"Coffee? That would be wonderful..." Saro sighs slightly in anticipation. How cruel can one's imagination get? Thrusting me into a world of utter unreality is one thing, but making that world almost entirely devoid of a decent cup of coffee is another entirely... She smiles, a bittersweet smile to be sure, but not without a touch of genuine amusement, and gestures to him to lead the way.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"It's harder to try again than it was to begin.
A man can play a lone hand in a high-stakes game,
but it doesn't mean he's gonna win."

~ Stan Rogers

"Coffee? That would be wonderful......." the scholar sighed. But the priest watched the struggle in her...the anticipation of the sensory pleasure of the coffee.... ("And who couldn't enjoy a rich cup of dark roasted beans?" he thought, in a third corner of his mind, which joined his blithe public self, and the well-masked meditations he was conducting relative to the scholar's situation).... had led her passions to accept Stormpoint as real, but then her conscious mind reasserted the belief that all this, the priest included, was illusion. He smiled inwardly and outwardly in response to her bittersweet grin, thinking "What a world! To think, an illusion arguing for his own ontological wonder she thinks she's gone mad...."

"Then follow me, Lady Doctor...though I should warn you of two things: first, when we arrive at the rectory, the coffee will be waiting for us...a bit of a mystery...but I've learned to live with it....I seem to have a ...what, maid?....No.....well....a sexton of sorts, who has yet to show her or him self....but seems to anticipate everything I might want....." He pursed his lips and frowned. "Another mystery to get to the bottom of......feh......" Then, looking at the scholar again, he grinned a bit devilishly. "Second, I hope you like your coffee strong......whoever my mysterious help is seems to like to brew the stuff rich and black...."

He opened the door that led from the north transept to the colonnade between the cathedral and the rectory.....and paused for her to pass first......then ran over to the pew to fetch her package, and called to her "Did you want to bring this along?"

Something of a strategy was forming in his mind....maybe he could just create an island of semi-normalcy (well, as normal as things can be in Stormpoint) for which the reality of day to day life would settle upon her, and give her the strength to accept the more "uh.....flamboyant?" he thought....aspects of life here..... and then he wondered....."but does she dream of Cambridge? Her husband?" And again the gears ground to a halt in his mind as he felt unable to truly help her....."Except through prayer......Lord knows philosophical arguments will have no feet here....."

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

"Second, I hope you like your coffee strong......whoever my mysterious help is seems to like to brew the stuff rich and black...."

Saro laughed slightly, and nodded her assent. "The stronger the better, Father. Jack used to joke that I could drink motor oil in the mornings, and think it was my coffee." Jack used to...she ruthlessly cut off that line of thought, and her tone remains light and bantering as she forced herself to wonder about Father Selnecker's mysterious 'help'. "The invisible sexton...", she chuckled to herself, "...sounds like a Brother Cadfael episode...". But the priest had opened a door, presumably leading to the rectory, and politely held it for her to pass through, an old-fashioned gesture the northern-born scholar was still slightly surprised at. She paused a moment before passing though, then smiled and nodded her thanks to the man.

She looked ahead, silently admiring the artistry of even the utilitatrian aspects of the structure. After an instant, she realized that the priest had not followed her directly, but had started towards her forgotten package, still sitting in all its brown-paper-wrapped splendor on one of the rear pews. She turned quickly, back towards the cathedral proper, and out of the corner of her eye thought she saw...something. Something perhaps just passing by the opposite door. She hesitated just barely, wondering if it were just a trick of her poor eyesight- but then, she *did* have her glasses on, and tended more to miss things that were there than to see things that weren't. She continued to the rectory, burning with curiosity, as the priest's words fell upon empty air...

"Did you want to bring this along?"

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"It's harder to try again than it was to begin.
A man can play a lone hand in a high-stakes game,
but it doesn't mean he's gonna win."

The priest watched the scholar take her package absent-mindedly, and could only guess what thoughts swirled in her head as she fell silent, sipping at the coffee. Of course, he really could use her help in researching the background of the cathedral. The Lady Samantha had only provided him with the barest details of the parish's history when he first arrived. And for some reason, the priest was convinced that the history of the cathedral held the clues to discovering the still invisible sexton's identity. Not that he wanted the arrangement with the sexton to end....the priest had come to rely on his unknown helper every bit as much as he had come to value Aria. But, always curious, the priest felt he needed to know who his helper was....and why so much time was lavished in taking care of his needs and the needs of the cathedral.

He sighed as the scholar let minutes pass in silence.

And, if the scholar accepted the assignment....voila! Two birds with one stone. Useful work done for the priest, and hopefully healing work done by the scholar, that she might yet gain a sense of balance in this admittedly mad world.

As the silence stretched to fill the room, the priest began to be uncomfortable. "Heavens...." he thought to himself......"she's fallen into the trap again.....the solipcisms have her....." Watching her with concerned intent, he was about to clear his throat to snap her out of her reveries, when she blinked a few times, and re-surfaced on her own. Catching his eyes upon her, she blushed with her characteristic shyness....and began to speak with effort born of uncertainty.

"um.....I think I'll accept......"

The priest smiled broadly, nodding his head.....

"Good! good.....of course I don't mind.....wouldn't have made the offer if I did........excellent."

He stood excitedly, setting his coffee to the side. Then, without explanation, he started toward the dinning room. When he was three steps out of the kitchen, he stopped, and turned around. "Goodness gracious....where is my head?" He chuckled at himself......"Lady Doctor, if you'd like to follow me, I'll give you a proper tour of the residence......and if I guess correctly, by the time we get upstairs, we'll find a room prepared for you already......."

And he waited for the scholar to catch up with him, as he silently gave a prayer of thanks to his God. In this forlorn town, another mortal ally couldn't hurt.....and the company would be welcome......"Hell....." he mused to himself......"she might even keep me sharp on my Latin......I wonder if she knows German too......."

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

"Lady Doctor, if you'd like to follow me, I'll give you a proper tour of the residence......and if I guess correctly, by the time we get upstairs, we'll find a room prepared for you already......."

Saro smiled slightly, then quickly arose, leaving her coffee mug, now regretably empty (it *was* good coffee, after all...), on the kitchen table. She had been a little confused when the priest walked off without warning- the scholar figured she was probably meant to follow, but she was hardly going to take any liberties of that nature- especially after her decidedly "improper" tour of the place. She caught up with him quickly, where he had kindly waited in the dining room, and proceeded to follow him through the rectory, this time taking care to notice the furnishings and architechture, as opposed to the...ghosts..?

She straightened her glasses absently, then commented half to herself, "I'll have to be sure to let Sam know I'll be staying here for a little while. She's been so kind to me, and I know she has a lot on her mind, recently. Good of her to extend her hospitality." The words were an observation, not really meant to be overheard, but no harm done if they were. She followed the priest, thoughts of her prior embarrassment and Lady Samantha's hospitality rapidly fading as she turned her thoughts to the library and her task find the Rectory's invisible sexton, be he- or she, Saro reminded herself- ghost, or...or something else entirely.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"It's harder to try again than it was to begin.
A man can play a lone hand in a high-stakes game,
but it doesn't mean he's gonna win."

The priest caught the scholar's mention of dropping Lady Samantha a note, and offhandedly responded as they moved through the rectory's entry hall and up the stairs to the second floor.

"If you want to write Samantha a note, I have a very efficient courier who will see that it gets to the fact, I'm rather surprised you haven't seen her skittering about already.... a gift from Samantha in fact.....a little silver-white dragonette....goes by the name Aria..... she's my companion and protector.....rather good-natured, so you needn't be concerned about her......"

The second floor had a washroom immediately at the top of the stairs, and the priest's quarters were to the left. But to the right, the hallway led to three guest of which had its own bath, and then to what must have been servants' quarters toward the back.

The priest, momentary trying to guess which room his "sexton" would have chosen for the scholar, settled on the largest and opened the door for Saro.

"Here we are......."

The room was quite spacious. There was a large chair, a double bed, a reading desk and chair (already supplied with a sheaf of paper, ink, and pens....) a book shelf, upon which sat a small clock......a chest of drawers with a mirror.... and a perfectly ample closet. The closet door was open....and there appeared to be some clothing hanging in it already..... To the back of the room, another door opened into the private bath.

"Well, it seems that you were expected......" the priest chuckled, shaking his head at the "sexton's" efficiency.

The scholar appeared a bit overwhelmed by her room, and the priest decided that this might be a good time for him to leave her to herself. He began to back out of the room.

"If you'll excuse me, Lady Doctor, I do have some work to attend if you don't mind, I'll leave you to get settled. Dinner is served at 7:00 p.m. after Vespers.....and if you want to get that note to Lady Samantha, just leave it on my desk in the study.....and I'll see to it that Aria gets it over to the castle......"

He was starting to head down the stairs when he remembered one last piece of hospitality. He said loudly.....

"Oh...and do feel free to borrow any books from my study you find of interest....but don't dare touch the ones on my desk.....I'm actually working with those......"

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

The priest's closing words floated up the stairwell just as Saro was closing the door. She paused for a moment to hear, then blushed slightly with a guilty thought. Oh, dear...I put that book down where I found it, didn't I...? Well, it's a bit late now. And with this she closed the door, turning the knob out of long-standing habit so that the door's shutting was attended with little more noise than a whisper of air.

Turning, she surveyed her new room. Simple and unadorned as it was, it was overwhelming. How had Father Selnecker's 'sexton' arranged it on such short notice? Granted, it was to be expected that the rectory's guest rooms would be furnished with the bare essentials- hence the bed, chest, even the desk... But on the desk...while it was entirely plausable to have a few sheets of paper and a pen out for a guest's convenience, there was far more provided here than a couple of simple letters would merit. Enough, in fact, to get her research notes well under way. And the closet...she hadn't looked, but Saro was pretty certain that, should she do so, she would find it occupied by a variety of clothes, all of them tasteful and all of them as perfect fits as those she had bought earlier in the day. Quite the mystery, indeed.

But that could wait a little while longer. Right now, she really owed Sam a letter of explanation. She set her package on the bed, forgetting it almost immedietly, and sat down at the desk. The scholar took a creamy sheet of paper from the stack, admiring the slightly uneven texture and old-fashioned color of it. Modern white paper really can't compare...this is lovely. The pen, too, was a bit outdated from a Cambridge point-of-view. It hadn't registered to her before, but she had been provided with a pen- and ink. Well, this will just make wriitng this letter that much more interesting, then. How *do* you hold these, again...? She unstoppered a small bottle of ink, setting it carefully to the front of the desk, where it would (she hoped!) be reasonably safe from accidental overturning. Then to the pen, which she played around with for a little while, trying desperately to summon up what she could recall from one grade-school art class in which she'd done calligraphy. They shouldn't be *too* dissimilar, after all. But the minutae of that particular class stubbornly refused to surface, and the scholar was forced to hold the pen as she would any other. Very well. That out of the way, she began to write.

She had ruined three pages before she managed a presentable letter, two to large and ugly ink blotches and the third to carelessness (Imagine! Copying 'and' twice in a row! How scatterbrained of you, Saro!, she mentally teased.). There was certainly an art to writing this way; and just as certainly, it was not one in which she was exceptionally gifted. But the message was legible, if not beautiful, and that was what was really important. Sam would forgive her the lack of copperplate. She read it over hastily, checking for overall clarity as well as splashed ink and misspelled words.

Dear Sam,

I spent the day wandering about Stormpoint; your city is indeed fascinating. I paid a visit to the Cathedral during my small adventures, which is actually what I'm wriitng in regards to. Father Selnecker has kindly offered me a room in the rectory for a little while, in return for my aid in researching the Cathedral's history. I've accepted. Your hospitality has been kind and greatly appreciated, but it will be nice to feel useful, even if only in a small way.

Thank you most of all for your friendship. If there is anything I can do for you, just let me know. Please. And take care, for yourself and for your baby.

Your friend,


Satisfied, she folded the note in thirds and marked the front with a slightly smudgy, uneven "Lady Samantha Jeanteau du Cheval, Stormpoint Castle". She hoped it would do; after all, this letter would be going not by post, but by dragonet. Saro walked down to the study, setting the note on the desk. She turned to leave, resisting the tempation of the shelves and shelves of books surrounding her. Time enough for that later, after a- That thought went winging off, a drifting cloud, as a small, lithe shape suddenly landed itself neatly on the desk beside the letter. Saro studied it carefully- a tiny dragon, elegant and with surprising intellingence in those glittering eyes. "So you must be Aria.", she said, one edge of her mouth curled ever so slightly in disbelief. Consorting with dragons, indeed, Saro. The dragon in question chirupped- in assent, Saro rather fancied- and cocked her head quizzically at the letter. "Ah...would you deliver this for me? Please?" She added, hastily, "It's for the Lady Samantha.". Aria picked up the letter in one delicate- paw? Saro wasn't entirely up on her draconian anatomy- and bobbed her head once. The scholar had the oddest feeling that the little creature knew exactly what she asked, and could more than likely read the address (such as it was), too. A pause, then, "Well...thank you, lady Aria." Another bob of that silver-white head; and Saro left, not entirely sure what else she could do. Besides, Aria had seemed impatient to be off, though how she had told that, Saro couldn't have said.

Back in her room, the scholar was once more hit by the question of Stormpoint Cathedral's mysterious helper. Tomorrow, she decided, she would explore the library and start her research. Much as she burned to be over there now, it was getting late- close to dinner time, from what Father Selnecker had told her- and she knew that if the library was anything like what she had come to expect from Stormpoint, she would want a good long day ahead of her for a first visit. But for now...

She spread another sheet of paper on the desk, simply staring at it for a moments, considering. Then she dipped her pen in the ink and ever-so-carefully began to write.

Thank you.

Just those two words, her name signed in an untidy scrawl underneath. She waved the paper about for a few moments, impatient for it to dry (Like fingernail polish, she reflected with a dry chuckle. I never did have the patience for that.), then carefully folded it in half once and left it on the desk, staring critically at it. She considered marking it with a name, but she had none to mark; and "Sir/Madam", "Cathedral Ghost", and even simply "Mystery" didn't seem quite right, somehow. But still...something seemed in order. She considered a few moments more, turning over several different options in her mind, and finally settled on "To the Sexton". That dealt with, the scholar left the letter in clear view on the center of the desk.

Then, she went down to dinner.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"...there's a face and a memory behind every door.
The life that you lead is the life that you choose,
But the games that you play are the games that I lose."

~ Dave Mallett

((posted as Chytraeus))

A pale hand reached for the carefully written note on the desk shortly after the scholar left the room. The note was unfolded quickly.......then re-folded 'inside out' and left on the desk.

However...a few words had been added. Inside, it read....

"You are welcome, of course. Indeed, we are all to serve, not to be served.....consider me always at your disposal as long as you serve what is true, noble, good, and virtuous........"

Outside, it was simply addressed to:

"The Doctor, late of Cambridge, Massachusetts......"

The "Sexton" of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul

"Burn off my rusts and my deformity,
Restore Thine image so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou may'st know me, and I'll turn my face."

John Donne, Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

"I could have sworn I saw someone in here....." she said as she found here way back to the kitchen.

The priest only smiled warmly, noticing her embarrassment, and held a cup of coffee toward her. He sipped greedily from his own cup as they both stood in the rectory's kitchen. Then he set his cup down.

"Ahhh.....I'd say that hits the spot." He looked at the scholar with the kind of friendly distraction that means to communicate "no harm done," hoping that she would put her "un-guided tour" of the rectory behind her. In the back of his mind, however, he was quite happy to see her let her instincts get the better of her. "She'll settle down and accept this place yet....." he thought....."it's just a matter of giving her the right things to keep busy with.....if she reflects with the skeptic's mind there will only be the solipsism of endless questions about what is or isn't real....but with work that occupies the mind, heart and soul....perhaps she will find peace...."

"You should really try the coffee while it's invisible helper is quite good at brewing this stuff.....and help yourself to a pastry.....he seems to have a connection at the best bakery in Stormpoint....."

The priest set Saro's cup in front of her, tossed her a linen napkin, and then helped himself to an eclair. After he had taken a couple of bites, he sipped at his coffee again, and noticed that the scholar had yet to drink her coffee or sample the pastries. He sighed.

"Look, if you're worried about seeing things, don't. I see them all the time - just at the corner of one's eye, a quick movement, sometimes dark, sometimes light. Chased whatever it is all over the rectory and cathedral. Of course, I never find anything. One gets used to it after a while. I can only assume that my invisible sexton just wants me to know he's here...but isn't ready to meet yet........" He paused for a moment......"or you may have seen my little companion....a gift from Lady Samantha...Aria's her name......little thing of a dragonette, quite harmless except when dealing with evil..... has a good heart, keen mind......she will actually "sing" with me during prayer offices when no one else is in the cathedral....."

Still, the scholar remained silent and ill at ease. So the priest tried one last gambit.....

"Look, dear Lady Doctor, you could be quite helpful to me if you are so inclined. I really do want to get to the bottom of this mystery with my invisible sexton. Thought I'd get over to the town library, check out the archives, and see what I could dig up on the history of the cathedral, see if there are any clues there. But...." he opened his hands in a gesture of frustration, "who has the time? What, with services, the occasional visit for assistance or counseling, and so forth....."

He looked at her squarely, "There isn't any chance I could get you to go and do the research for me - in exchange for room and board, is there?"

Then he looked away, grabbed her parcel that he had brought in from the cathedral, and pushed it toward her on the counter top. "Oh.....and this is yours I believe?"

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

"There isn't any chance I could get you to go and do the research for me - in exchange for room and board, is there?"

Saro stared at the priest, embarassment fleeing in the face of astonishment. Stay at the Rectory and research this...someone...for the priest? She took a sip of coffee automatically, noticing in some far corner of her mind that it really was quite excellent.

She was distracted from both lines of thought by the priest, who had slid her now-forgotten bundle of clothes over to her.

"Oh.....and this is yours I believe?"

She nodded, taking her package in a gesture as involuntary as her sip of coffee had been. "Yes, yes, it is.", she affirmed absently, mind still whirling from his offer. Stay here? And research? Of course, you'll have to decline, Saro; he's obviously only being kind. He knows you well enough to realize that you haven't got any marketable skills, and is offering to let you do something you're good at and feel as if you're working while doing it. It would be frightfully rude to accept; he surely doesn't mean you to. Saro sighed, covering her thoughts with more coffee and a polite compliment to the Father about his invisible sexton's considerable coffee-making skills.

Of course, she would be happy to research for him; but in exchange for room and board? It was just too convenient... Imagine!, some nagging, realistic part of her brain reminded her. Worrying about things like whether or not the priest is sincere or simply "being kind"! He's not real, none of this is! This presented the scholar with a new angle to consider. If none of this was real, the priest's motives were taken entirely out of question. He was offering, not be nice, but because some strange, unknown part of her subconscious directed him to. Furthermore, this meant she was free to choose as she wished, instead of doing what she generally did; which was to say, politely decline other peoples' offers of help. Libertating as the idea was, it didn't make the reminder of Stormpoint's questionable reality one iota more comforting.

She blinked a few times, surfacing from her thoughts. To her surprise, her coffee cup was less than half-full of that deliciously potent beverage. The priest likewise was watching her with concerned intent. Oh dear... I must have been completely pre-occupied, she surmised, an embarrassed blush flooding her cheeks anew.

"Um...about that offer, Father?", she ventured tentatively.

"I think I'll accept it- if you don't mind, of course." She smiled hopefully. After all, if she *were* suffering from some sort of delusion, it would at least be a pleasant delusion.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"It's harder to try again than it was to begin.
A man can play a lone hand in a high-stakes game,
but it doesn't mean he's gonna win."

"Jack used to joke..........." were the last words from the scholar which the priest heard distinctly as he found the package she'd forgotten back in the cathedral.

He fetched it, somewhat curious as to its contents....."hmmm" he thought...."change of wardrobe? Well, she seems to take that much of Stormpoint seriously....." He hefted it under his arm, and walked to the north transept.

But then the priest's thoughts turned to Jack. On the whole, the priest couldn't decide if the scholar remembering Jack was a good thing or a bad thing for her overall stability. He thought back to the few times she had mentioned Jack in her conversations with him back when they were both still in Rhydin. She had seemed plagued with guilt about something touching the marriage....and yet when she had described Jack, he had hardly sounded like a good husband. Some sort of materialist, he scorned her faith, and he was the one who had told her that Rhydin/Stormpoint were mere illusions when she had "surfaced" from her coma once (according to Jack) and found herself back in Cambridge. "The power that man seems to have over her.....she will accept no other accounting of events save his....." the priest frowned. No, if the priest was to help the scholar adjust to her new surroundings in Stormpoint, Jack was to be left out of it.

When he came back to the colonnaded walkway between the cathedral and the rectory, the priest was startled to see no sign of the scholar. The door to the rectory stood ajar. The priest closed the cathedral door behind him, and crossing the walkway quickly, stepped into the rectory pantry. The smell of the coffee hit him immediately, and he smiled at the efficiency of his "invisible sexton." He also felt a slight involuntary twinge run through him in anticipation of getting some of the coffee himself.

He took a moment to reassume his public demeanor, and called out with hearty good humor... "I'd have thought you would have least waited for your host to escort you to the kitchen, Lady Doctor....but then again, I'm almost desperate for a cup off coffee as well...."

He turned into the kitchen, saw the coffee and some pastries set out for two. But the scholar was not there. The priest puzzled for a moment, and then called tentatively...."Lady Doctor?...."

Even though Aria was usually out and about during the day, the priest wondered if he shouldn't have warned the scholar of the dragonette's presence at the rectory. After all, the sight of the dragonette might not be good for her....

Father Nicolaus Selnecker, O.P.

Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum, baby!

"...a well...."

The priest's voice, having had to carry through several rooms and walls before reaching the scholar, was muffled. Engrossed as she was in the slim, leather-bound volume she cradled carefully, barely open, in both hands, it took Saro a few moments to register his words. Her head jerked up as they drifted in to her, and she blushed in embarrassment. Look at you, she thought, rifling through the priest's library without even waiting for him to show you into the rectory! She closed the book hastily- though reverently- and set it on a nearby desk, then hurried through a door to her left, casting one last, longing look towards the library.

She headed back to the kitchen, finding her way with only a little trouble. She had been preocupied as she came, true; but each room-the pantry excepted- had only two doors, making it simple. You go in by one door, out by the other. As she retraced her steps, cheeks still burning in embarassment, Saro took no notice of the well-furnished, old-fashioned rooms, wondering instead about the mysterious...something...that had prompted her to such discourtesy.

She *had* seen it, she knew... Just a glimpse, to be sure, but something she was certain enough about to have gone charging through another person's house without so much as a by-your-leave. Her first thought had been to follow- perhaps this was the Father's strange assistant in a careless moment. But she had seen nothing more; and besides, she rather doubted a person who took so much care to remain unknown would have many 'careless moments'. But she had continued anyways, following the path anyone else must have taken- unless that anyone had gone up the stairs in the main entry hall, instead of straight ahead to what seemed to be a living room. Saro went straight; she'd seen no more sign of...whatever it was..., and it seemed as logical a choice as any. And then from that room, the library was right there, and whoever it was *could* have sought refuge there... She was not unfamiliar with such a refuge herself. But she had noticed nothing untoward about the room; just a plain, neatly-kept place whose chiefest glory was the shelves full of books lining most of the wall space. A single book was out of place, on the desk; it had been this that her curiosity had prompted her to pick up momentarily. She hadn't given the top shelves more than a passing glance; after all, a person would hardly be hiding eight feet off the floor between Shakespeare and Donne...or whatever the books were that were kept up there. Had she done so, Saro might have noticed that the small silver statue, a tiny lifelike dragon with folded wings and cocked head, was perhaps too lifelike. Every scale engraved with a perfection unrivalled by the finest of master-craftsmen, it seemed a rather odd accessory for so utilitarian a room, but then, this *was* Stormpoint, and the scholar mentally shrugged it off. As she left the room, heading back to the priest's words, she was so preoccupied that she failed to notice the silver head cocked at an entirely different angle.

"...sorry, Father! I thought I saw someone...". Her words precede her as she rejoined the priest. Cheeks blazing, she repeated her apology, "I'm so sorry, Father. I could have sworn I saw someone in here..." She trailed off, aware of how strange she sounded, and mentally chastized herself again for such poor behavior...especially since it now seemed she'd been chasing ghosts.

Saro Wentworth, PhD.

"It's harder to try again than it was to begin.
A man can play a lone hand in a high-stakes game,
but it doesn't mean he's gonna win."

1999 Stormpoint Writers Guild
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