You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Monday, September 1, 2008

All That is Holy-

Abraham carried the vessel with great care as he navigated the narrow path. He had been an acolyte for only a month, and took his duties seriously. It was his task to feed and otherwise care for the ascetic monks attached to the monastery. The mixtures of simple grains were sanctified, and destined to nourish one of God's Chosen.

Making the final turn in the path Abraham walked up to a literal hole in the wall. Brother Levi had hollowed out the hillside and sealed himself inside a small cave of his own making. He had stacked the rocks that formed the front of his cell, leaving a hole just big enough to allow the vessel Abraham carried to pass through.

Brother Levi was the last of the seven monks assigned to Abraham that he had to visit each morning. Abraham was tempted to greet the monks. Abraham was a naturally cheerful young man, and keeping the silence required in the Vale of the Monks was difficult for him. Still, he was devoted to his God and to the church. He managed, most of the time.

Abraham silently slid the vessel full of grain into the hole. He waited. Soon, a pair of hands took the vessel into the darkness. Abraham tried to hold his breath while showing the proper veneration for God's Chosen. Unfortunately, the Chosen of God did not smell very good. Abraham felt bad for his uncharitable thoughts, but he did not believe his nose lied to him.

A moment later another vessel appeared in the opening. It was the vessel he had delivered the day before. Abraham lifted it with care. The contents reeked more than the air escaping from Brother Levi's dwelling. He carried it slowly away. He was always very careful at this point. The solids and liquids sloshed dangerously in the vessel, no matter how carefully Abraham walked.

He was relieved when he reached the place where he could pour off most of the liquid. He took great care in not letting the solids escape. He mouthed the prayers he had been instructed to speak as he performed this task. Ordinarily he enjoyed prayer, but these prayers required him to breath more than he really wanted. This was a time when even a small inhalation could be incapacitating.

Once most of the liquid had been poured off Abraham lifted the vessel and carried it in his outstretched arms. By the time he got to the hut of Father Isaac his arms were shaking from the strain. Father Isaac met him at the door, and took the vessel before he could drop it. Father Isaac gave him a baleful look.

"Abraham, Abraham, Abraham!" he said. "How long will it take you to learn to venerate the gifts of the Chosen of God?"

Abraham hung his head in shame.

Father Isaac tucked the vessel under his arm, and gave Abraham a gentle smack on the top of his head. "Come with me." he said.

Abraham followed, thankful for the gentle rebuke. He watched as Father Isaac took the stone lid off of a very large vessel, using only his free hand. With practiced moves Father Isaac emptied the contents of the vessel Abraham had brought to him into the larger vessel. He muttered the appropriate prayers as he waited for the last bit to drop into the ripe smelling container. Abraham muttered the prayers along with the priest.

The task completed, Father Isaac handed Abraham the vessel and put the lid back on the larger container. It would be Abraham's task to take the vessel to the nearby stream and wash it clean. Abraham liked this part of the job. The air was fresh by the stream, and he could sing his prayers to the music of the running waters.

"A year from now and this shit will be ready." said Father Isaac. "People will come here and buy this shit to take home to their gardens. You know why, Abraham?"

Abraham held his tongue. He knew that it was not a question he should answer. Father Isaac liked to ask questions, and then answer them himself.

"They will come for this shit, because it is Holy." continued the old priest. "Yes, this is Holy Shit. Those crazy men sit in their rock holes, praying and pooping. Why should just the praying be Holy? That's what I said. 'What about all of that shit?' I asked."

Abraham waited. He knew better than to interrupt.

"So, they put me in charge." said Father Isaac. "They said, 'OK, so you do something with all of that shit.' And I did."

The old priest looked lovingly at his row of large vessels. He patted the nearest one with affection.

"Holy Shit. That's what I said. Put it up for a year, and it is the best soil on earth. That's what I said. And the people listened. They came, and took it to their gardens, and praised the Chosen of God for their prayers. But it wasn't only prayers that gave them abundance from their gardens. No, it was the Holy Shit."

Abraham nodded, and waited patiently.

"You go, Abraham. Clean that vessel, and bring it back. Then you can be off to your classes."

Abraham smiled, turned, and ran for the stream.

"Oh, and Abraham!" Father Isaac shouted after him. "Take a bath while you are there. You don't smell so good!"

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