He bent at the hip, as one peering down a well at his reflection, though it be Ivo cold on the ground he looked upon. “Where’d you go?” he whispered, though not to this lifeless thing. For certainly, it was Ivo no more.
He is nowhere, an intrusive thought. As Nyneve. Bayard. Crushed in the Nothing. Devils and werwolves are no argument. They’re of this world.
He and Aile had had sex before the cross – an impulsive tangle of arms and legs on the floor. Humping and pumping, their naked bodies, flesh on flesh, fluids and blood – something of Life . . . Before the Cross . . . Life and Death at the Cross. It compelled them. Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum – For God soooo loved the World – us, sinners – Jesu die for me. Fine conceit.
Why me, thought Tìbald once emptied and growing facile against the heat of Aile’s belly. I must matter. Her fingertips caressing his shoulder – no wounds there. She must matter. It must be so and not otherwise. He could think nothing else – Man, yea, every man, at Creation’s center and Christ came down for the redemption of him; the Body and Blood broken for him; the Devil sought the destruction of him; judgment or glory to be leveled on him. A universe of infinite centers. Quite the fellow, Man.
The Void did not care. It could not. In the wood shop Ivo’s coffin being built. It is not an it. Tìbald’s wounds hectored . . . WHAT, then, is GOD?
And on que came the priest, a beefy man in his hood and cowl – big hands, broad shoulders, trunk like a barrel as if his form should signify. For he was the Church. Or rather, bore it on his back. Such weight, the crimes and graces, depending on the beholder’s inclination. A caricature at first glance.
Tìbald glowered. “My man is dead.” As if the priest be the cause of it.
The Father, the Père, his frock blotched and stained from God-knows-what, placed his palm to Ivo’s breast in blessing, and Ivo no longer Ivo, but a device to advance the plot. Sainte Ivo now – Sainte Ivo en Caux – who in life frigged little boys and fathered half the villein children . . . As he, himself, been fathered and frigged. No better, no worse. Who noticed? His death no longer his own – invoke his name . . .
“He’ll be buried face-up,” Tìbald said with little trust.
“Indeed,” the priest replied, a scar beneath his puffy eyes incongruous with his post.
“And they will mourn,” Tìbald said, pointing to the village.
“They will do what they do, dómini.”
“You will say Mass for him.”
Indolent creature, Tìbald thought. Stinks of sin – in his pours, on his frock. Cheeks all spidery and a pallor like cooked bone. Drunkard. Masturbator – working his ballocks with those beefy paws. That they should touch the Host. Sacrilege . . .
The priest made the Sign of the Cross over Ivo and Tìbald with an involuntary rush. “Pray for me too, Père Marin.”
“Last night, Père . . . Pray for me too.”
And after a mawkish silence, Tìbald snapped-to. “From now on, you will say the daily Office in my chapel.”
“Mass too – in my chapel.”
Arms across the fortress of his chest, Père Marin inquired, “And the villeins who attend Mass?”
“What of it?”
“In your chapel?”
“Of course not. They have the church.”
“But to say the Office, I would have to come to the hall day and night. I would have to walk through the village in the dark.” Behind him, the town with its corners and angles, the sweep of the field’s tillage, and la Forêt beyond. And talk of werwolves . . .
“I would expect---” a sigh of acquiescence, “you’d reside in the hall.”
“And my wife?” the priest asked.
“Swive her on your own time – after Mass when you attend at the church . . .”
“My duties are at church – completely. I cannot be both chaplain and pastor. I have no curate to assist me. Your request is for our prelate to decide. You have no authority in this.”
No authority? No authority! Yet another government. Of dukes and kings, Heaven trumps . . . Not last night---
“I am not . . . ordering. I am asking.”
Marin scratched his hand. “I cannot suffer my wife to be alone at night.”
“Yes,” Tìbald grudgingly a glance back to the tower window. “She may come but must work double for her keep. I suppose you’ll want to be paid.” The wrath of Aile . . . How quickly things spiral.
“An offering is fitting.”
“You’ll get fat on my food and drink.”
“‘Never muzzle the ox as he treads out the grain,’ dómini.”
“In any case, you will say Mass and the Office . . . and I will join you. Come now Père and bury my man.”