The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
If you missed Part I visit here
Philip stopped and waited for a response from anyone in the hall. His mind flashed back to much better time when he was twelve five years old. Philip had met kindly old bard named Beagle who sometimes visited Philip’s aunts and once told Philip what the world was all about. What he told Philip was meant to be a Bard, or even a courtly troubadour. He also told Philip how one stayed alive in the process. Philip remembered how Beagle became very grave. He was about fifty, which was very old for anyone that was not royalty. So Beagle knew enough to be listened to.
Beagle had liked Philip, maybe because he saw himself in Philip forty years before. He saw himself before the world had taken him to school. He wanted to tell him what the illusion of freedom would cost.
Beagle tried to talk him out of a dear and future mistake of leaving the walls of the school, not knowing or understanding what the world was. Philip remembered Beagle’s words spoken almost half his life ago.
Beagle seemed almost to speak in his mind. Philip saw the kind soft red face behind a graybeard that seemed to speak only to him out of time.
“You must make it interesting enough so that they will do something to make you go on. Buy you a drink give you a coin. But it was tricky because if you stopped and they hated you they would not let you start again. I really think that this is not your line of work. Philip stays listen to your aunts, and study with the Bishop. Who knows, maybe you will get to like it. Philip, do as I say not what I did.
So Philip stopped and waited, and waited, but no drinks came nor coins only more silence, and finally from the back of the room two drunken Coopers said spoke in very loud slurred voices.
Clyde the Cooper shouted
“If he starts again wailing like a cow; into the dung
heap with him!”
George the butcher had a better idea,
“No throw him into the piss trough.”
The blacksmith and teamster, Thomas Kaveny, who weighed at least thirty stones a stood up menacingly . Thomas’ was so tall his head almost brushed the lowest ceiling beam. He said, thoughtfully stroked his full red beard, making him look almost like the Norse God Thor and said.
“Not the dung heap for him. He is too pretty. I have a better idea. I bet you all I can do it.”
Now Thomas Kaveny filled his great chest with air and then with this great boast.
“I can throw a barrel of flour across High Street. I can a lift side of an ox cart; hell I lifted an ox off the ground to win a purse of gold. They say my mother fucked Thor who fathered me. I am Thomas Kaveny the blacksmith who eats molten iron and squats nails. My mother was Freya and my father was Thor.”
A little voiced said in a stage whisper that everybody but Thomas Kaveny the Blacksmith heard.
“Thor, Thor, Thor, Thor your mother was so Thor afterwards she couldn’t walk for a week.”
It seemed everybody heard the line but Thomas who just went on working himself up more and more. He wrapped a steel chain around his arm and broke it flexing his great biceps, which were thick around as svelte maid’s waist.
Thomas was getting pumped up, as he emptied a yard copper
teamster’s flagon of ale in a single draft. Thomas had stolen the show and the audience from Philip.
Thomas went on and the audience went wild,
“Turned a team of Clydesdales I did, Stopped in its tracks to save a wee lass, who wandered in front of me. Hmm, how far I can throw this pretty lad with a face smooth as a baby’s bum?
Another voice said,
“I have a sack of silver Washington Dollars that says you can’t throw him across the outside yard and into the piss trough. After all it is at least 20 yards”. There hall broke into kind of roar of pandemonium, as all the voices seemed to mix into roar of, which was working into a fever pitch, as side bets were made.
“I bet I can” ”
“We bet you can’t”
“I bet Can”
“We bet You Can’t
“Can’” “can’t, “can,” “can’t, “can, “can’t, Can, Can.”
The crowd broke into a thunderous roar and the Guildhall Tavern shock on its five hundred year old foundations Philip was now looking very much like the late Philip of Trier.
Thomas only seemed be the fool, he was fast, strong, and deadly even if he thought he was just playing at his idea of a good time.
Philip thought about running but where could he run to. For some reason at that instant, he thought of himself as the sinner man with no place to hide, and it was his judgment day.
It was out of control. They were all placing bets on how far the teamster Thomas could throw poor Philip. Thomas snatched Philip up like a kitten and held him by the shoulder in a grip as strong as the vice that held a horseshoe to be filed. Then he calmly waited till the pile of silver bets all grew a hand tall and then another.
The night was so filthy and so wet, and so cold with no one would be letting him inside because he smelled so bad. Philip would freeze to death before dawn. It was not so much that they wanted to kill him, they just did not connect things sometimes. His mind slipped out of time to some Greek he had translated when he was a boy. He thought of Plato’s phrase the boys throw rocks in jest at the frogs, but to them it is a deadly matter.
Thomas set Philip down on the floor for an instant. The lumbering teamster loomed in front of Philip who came barely to his chest. Philip felt like a child’s doll helpless doomed without hope. He thought about fighting but he did not know how, all he knew was playground wrestling, headlocks, arm-twisting, and the kind where little boys put each other in headlocks and roll around like puppies.
What were his chances against this lumbering giant of a man? Then Philip remembered a small knife in his pocket, but it was not a knife to cut or hurt a giant. Philip did not even know how to use the small [alimpsest knife as a weapon. It was used for cleaning ink of parchment that he kept in his belt as a remainder of his other world, it was useless except, to scrape ink off the parchment so that it could be saved used again, and even at that it did a lousy job.
He thought about getting his hand free and cutting Thomas’ face. He was so calm and peaceful in his mind. If he cut Thomas’ face Thomas would drop him. But then they will just beat him to death. But all that was not to happen. That night, or any night in the near future Philip was not destined for the piss trough. His story was to continue.
Philip did not have to attempt anything because Thomas the Teamster got not one step farther towards him. Thomas stood up stiff a plank for two heartbeats; then he let Philip slip from his grasp. No one saw what happened exactly but Thomas fell he fell to the floor like a pole axed ox who had just been knocked. Then he gasped like a fish drowning in air.
Something stopped the room from breaking into pandemonium. It was
a ringing, singing, maddening sound which sang to their souls like the songs of Sirens, or laurli who sang and drew sailors to rocks of death in the river Rhine.
A gloved hand, the same-gloved hand that brought Thomas down spun a pure, half pound gold coin on the bar. A pure coin that size was double the wages of a Master craftsman for a year. Gold was so dear yet knew the sounds they all knew the tenor of gold. Even the hounds sensed something as they awoke from primal dreams with pointed ears.
Humans loved gold with a murderous madness. They all felt its call and loved like dragons loved their hoard.
Gold, not copper or silver, was what they all wanted to be paid in. It was their dream it was always worth the same in war or death or famine. Gold was their deliverance Wergild could stop a war and bring peace, and it could ransom you from the darkest dungeon, It even could save the heretic from the stake, some said and the church seemed to believe the gold could even buy a soul out purgatory.
But as gold was their deliverance it was also their damnation also, they felt this in their souls. That was the knotted contradiction of their faith that might bathe their world in flame as it had eighteen hundred years before.
The man who had dropped Thomas and then spun the coin was known only as master of the hounds and warden of the night. The man who had effortlessly brought Thomas the teamster blacksmith down with a short sharp punch to the base of the rib cage could have killed Thomas. He knew and could have done so easily by driving his sternum like stiletto into his heart, if he chose, chose not even injure him, using only the necessary force it took to save Philip from the piss trough.
The dark master was dressed in a black leather coat that seemed even in bright but flickering light and the acrid smoke from the black cast iron lamps that hung from the cathedral ceiling, to bring the night with him inside the tavern. Even inside the tavern the night seemed to be part of his great coat. Its great leather folds wrapped him like arms of darkness. Only a very little of the masters skin showed, and he had a leather patch over his left eye.
It was hard to see anything about the man inside, but it was clear that nobody else was about to test him. Thomas’ breathing was more regular now. Thomas seemed to hear a voice inside his head say
“Careful you fool, whom you claim as a relative, but maybe it was only the booze talking to him.”
The dark figure spoke; Philip’s savior now spoke for the rest of the room. He seemed very gentle as he helped the bewildered teamster Thomas to his feet and then set a chair under him as his legs, which still buckled. The dark man spoke in a soft, rich, voice, as if with almost somber and yet musical tones.
“Innkeeper, the coin is yours. Give them all as much as they want to drink. Let them drink their fill I want to hear the rest of this boy’s story.”
The dark figure that saved Philip was only known a “Master of the Hounds.” He reached inside his coat and placed what he had been holding inside his palm back inside his coat. In a fetid room the Dark man smelled faintly of spices, spices that came from across the world, and perhaps across time.
Bar maids rushed forward to fill glasses but backed away from the patrons. They knew their trade all to well to do otherwise ***
Philip of Trier continued in a different voice, he wanted to tell his story and hold and interest then, it only takes one listener to do that. He knew how to pace himself and how to lower his voice to pull them in it and make them start asking question of themselves. He looked into the, sad, lonely eyes of his audience, he sort of lost his contempt for them and he was not sure why. Maybe, he changed because they were all such a long way from home. He now saw them as different. All he knew was that he really believed the story he was telling them and he wanted them to believe it or at least enough to continue to listen.
They felt it to. Nothing had changed, but everything had changed. He was still Philip of Trier’s, sad eyed with auburn hair that cascaded down his shoulders across the back of his best embroider gold thread linen shirt which was open to his waist. In some ways he look like overly flat chested maid if not for the wisps of hair on his chest and the finely drawn muscles in his forearms.
One last voice broke in from Marvin, the stone cutter, who held his hands up for all to see, they appeared to be cut from stone themselves, cut from living stone by the one master of all master stone cutters. He took a huge draught of ale, farted loud enough to knock birds out trees, and then asked, Philip in a slurred voice.
“Say my fine pretty lad, have you ever done an honest day
Work in your life?”
Philip stopped and looked at his own hands, which were another reason why he would not be mistaken for a woman once one got past the first glance. They were not workers or a craftsman’s hands, but they were not weak either. He had a sensed that if he lived as long as Beagle the Bard he would have old mans hands, he lived that long.
Everyone waited for Philip to answer, as he seemed to wait forever. Finally Philip simply sighed and answered.
“No I haven’t. I have not ever done an honest day’s work”
Marvin laughed hoarsely and said,
“Son, you ain’t missed a god-dammed thing”
Maybe the Guildsmen really did not hate their sons at The University of Paris, or Oxford as much as they seemed. What the hated was that the sensed their world was about shift into world where they had no place, into a world where a man’s word was not as good as his bond. They did not know what they were remembering but in some ways the world became very stable after the Black Visitation. Some said it was god, others said were devil, or god’s angel of death, or perhaps it was just human stupidity.
But, before Philip started again one last question scrabbled crab like from the back of the room.