The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
If you missed Part I visit here
If you missed Part II visit here
If you missed part III visit here
If you missed Part IV visit here
As Alphonse prepared himself to cross the river Styx he asked himself these questions:
Where has Clara gone since I hurt her and called her a slut? Where did she go after I called her a royal slut and she cut me? How has she made me do this thing, to try to kill the beast that cannot be killed?
When she came to my monk’s cell I could have turned her away. I could have turned her away. Now the image of her and I together is constantly before me.
Clara, Clara, Clara, the wind whispers her name.
Alphonse’s trip to the river seemed to only take a few moments and the moments seemed an eternity, and Alphonse’s life seemed to be but a tiny ripple in the sea of eternity. Then there was indeed a boatman with very boney arms and hands and an empty cowl for a face. His boat was waiting for Alphonse at the river Styx with and the boatman, hand outstretched who said: “Pay the toll unless you would rather swim across.”
And then boatman added, “And be quick about it, this is not a pleasure cruiser.”
Alphonse reached inside his pouch and handed him a silver coin. Then the boatman motioned with pole in hand, that he come aboard.
There was a dog in the back of the boat. His name was Cerberus the hound of Hell who turned out not to have three heads to rip sinners to pieces, but rather was a large black lab that seemed to like everybody. His tail made a thumping sound as it wagged against the bottom of the boat. It was said that theologians had speculated about the possibility that dogs might have souls and get into Heaven, but it turned out that if they did they were like Cerberus, and would prefer to follow their owners into and live with them in Hell.
The boatman who was only a robe and empty cowl, some very bony arms and legs, said:
“One-way or round-trip?”
Then the whole river bank filled with spectral laughter as the boatman continued with his little speech.
“A very few have gone both ways, maybe a couple of handfuls. Once, of course, there was this father bought his son a round trip passage. What a pain he was, almost put me out of business. He nearly wrecked the place with that dammed harrowing and he took about a third of the folks down here out with him.”
The boatman continued as he placed a bony hand on his non- existent chin.
“The guy had a former side kick named Judas, but no matter what he did Judas was not leaving, no he just sort of sits around and bullshits with my boss Lucifer, who also, it turns out, worked for this guy’s father till he couldn’t take it anymore. But that’s another story.”
Just at that moment somebody woke out of a drunken sleep in the audience in the Guild Hall Tavern, woke from dreaming of a very wet kiss from his favorite barmaid only to find his face was being licked by a very large and friendly wolfhound.
Then he said, “Did somebody say empty cow around here, what the hell is an empty cow.”
Then he went back to sleep. He smiled and liked it at first, then realized the dog was not his girl.
Philip continued his story as he described the underworld where Alphonse crossed the river Styx.
The underworld glowed with its own luminescence. It shone with a greenish pall. Alphonse started to remember. He remembered what he had done that had made him a master of the craft of death.
The dark man nodded for Philip to continue. And he did so in a carefully paced voice, and they all walked with Alphonse.
For a man to kill a god who will drag Clara into Hell he must lose his soul so that the beast will have nothing to take from him. With no soul, death becomes the gift of peace into the sleep that passed all understanding. He had no soul to take.
But one must be brave to chant the chant of the death song which kills your soul so that even the beast cannot take it. That was the gift for which Alphonse’s mother had paid so dearly. It never had been the water which had made him invulnerable. Perhaps she knew he was part of something more than the moment.
Alphonse sang the song that was inside the box which Carlo had given him as he started on his decent. The box held the signs; the signs it held were the sighs which were the words. Ella: lllllaaa: klaaaa, mlliii, the words from the signs which turned Alphonse’s soul to dust. Though he lived on in mortal form without his own vulnerable self, the beast now appeared in full material and mortal form in Hell. It had nothing to take from Alphonse.
The beast drove to him as he had the others, teeth and blood and devastation and claw. Free now, and mortal, the beast appeared as a great wolf and this time Alphonse’s eye did not tear as he reached into his cloak. Alphonse held the beautiful scorpion crossbow in both his hand and lifted it up and pierced the beast’s now mortal heart. The beast died in bliss released from all the weight of what he was.
He had tricked Alphonse into giving him his greatest gift, the gift only Alphonse could give, the gift of death. Now it was all so clear to him. Now the beast made clear to him that the bride he really wanted was death. He had tricked Alphonse. Into paying the bride price for it with his soul, but in all of it Clara would be free, though she would never see Alphonse as her savior. She would only see the beast when she saw Alphonse; sometimes you pay that much for something.
Then a series of questions seemed to come from everywhere.
“What a strange story,” said the innkeeper.
What happened to Alphonse?”
“What happened to Clara?
“Tell them the rest,” said the Warden of the Night and Master of the Hounds.
Philip had now kept them awake by his talking past midnight. Tomorrow morning, they would be back at their trades. All were safe at least for this night. In the prologue Philip of Trier put it simply:
Alphonse had bought a two-way ticket. Hell was a place with another mouth, and it lead back into the world. But few could find it. His mortal feet touched solid ground. The guards let him back into the city with only a nod to them. He was just a tall older man, harmless not worth challenge.
Alphonse walked to Carlo’s inn. His work now done, he wondered how he lived without a soul. Carlo still saw Alphonse as a man, but one now hollow though his sacrifice. Not much past a dark dream.
Carlo spelled it out to Alphonse.
“If you see Clara now she won’t see you. She will see the beast as if it comes to take her, and she will die. The old gods have asked you to make the world run as it would.”
Clara had no further part, past marrying and living happily ever after, and Hell got a new custodian as it always does, but not a beast this time, a man named Alphonse who had no soul.
It was said by some a new dawn was coming and with it a new tomorrow which would drive the night and darkness from the world. However the world was not that simple. The night was not just ignorance and darkness the night had its own song; the night was strong and feminine like the Egyptian goddess Nut who held up the sky with the beautiful vaulted arch of her nubile form. Nut’s form was as beautiful as the nave of a cathedral, and Nut had had taken pity on the dark man as her own and made his shadow her substance, but she could not give him what he wanted most, because his name was Alphonse and he could had no soul and could not die, and he would be back in the world again soon enough.
The first story ended that night and Philip earned a place to sleep with the wolfhounds. The wolfhounds seemed to take to him almost by instinct, and Leroy the little pug remembered Philip from their other lives. Leroy liked Philip then but loved him now since they were both strangers. Dogs have a way of finding what is good in you when you have forgotten yourself, and this was something Philip needed very much indeed. Philip had learned to survive, now he had to learn to care.
The dogs took to Philip because Philip let the dogs be what they were and respected them for it. There was a primal world older than anything humans could touch and they remembered it. Maybe someday the wolfhounds would share their secret if he really got to know them, and let him run with the mammoths, and rumble with the Saber Tooth Gang.
Section Two: Thomas Makes a Crossbow
Philip became a regular troubadour at the Guildhall Tavern, after he explained what it was and how to spell it, but, tips were small so he also had to work for his keep. But he had an easy job as a scullery boy and he found that he didn’t mind sweeping floors and cleaning copper cooking pots and turning the beast that was roasting on the cooking spit to keep it cooking evenly.
The hall master had decided that since they were having regular entertainment the place had to be swept out every day which was Philip’s other job. As Philip was dividing his time between turning the ox, scouring the pans, and sweeping the floor he had a visitor: Thomas Kaveny the giant red haired blacksmith.
Philip was tall, and a bit unformed, like a staff of ash wood which might someday become a longbow, with a hundred weight draw that shot an arrow four hundred yards, to its target. Or perhaps Philip was a different kind of longbow who shot another kind of arrow, that is to say an idea, into the future to pierce and expand the walls of their universe.
Thomas towered over Philip, he was well over two meters tall weighing thirty stones as his great pectoral and arm muscles bulged under his shirt. Thomas’s long red beard flowed just like he had come out of a wind storm, and he was wearing great boots, leather pants, and a fine lace shirt, and his long auburn hair hung in braids across the front of his shoulders. It seemed Thomas wanted to look his best to visit Philip.
Philip looked up at him and said, “You must hit you head on doorsills a lot.”
Thomas could laugh at himself and he laughed loudly.
Philip, not feeling so helpless, picked out the fire poker that he been using to stir the glowing oak embers that the ox was roasting over, and stood on his tiptoes, not sure if Thomas was out for revenge. Philip had made the mistake that many do with large men of equating strong with stupid. In fact Thomas was clever and inclined to self-preservation, and he wanted something and spoke to Philip almost as an equal.
“Don’t worry after what your buddy did to me last night I would not harm a hair on your lily- white ass,” said Thomas.
Philip laughed to himself as he thought, ‘My friend, I never saw that guy in my life before last night and I am not sure I ever want to again.’
“Yes my uncle is pretty scary when he wants to be and he can turn up any time.”
Thomas glowered a bit and then said, “Yeah I bet you are his favorite nephew, but I have a question for you.”
Philip looked at Thomas dumfounded the man was serious and really wanted something from him, and Thomas’s voice had a weird resonance and gravity to it.
Then Thomas asked, “How would you make a crossbow like Scorpion in your story? I want to make one.”
Philip looked at him dumfounded, and since he did not have to be kind to Thomas he adopted the guise of a scholar’s contempt for the stupid question.
“How in hell am I supposed to know it is just a story somebody wrote down 1300 years ago, and I found it in the bishop’s study and translated it from English.”
Thomas stared at him in disbelief as Philip continued, “I don’t know a dammed thing about cross bows, besides if I don’t keep turning this ox part of it will burn and that is what I will have to eat.”
Philip thought Thomas would just get pissed off, but he was deadly earnest since his life was stake, and that’s where he would be going condemned as a warlock in less than two months.
“I need that crossbow and besides we have something in common.”
Philip looked back at the giant and said, “You and, you and I, what could we have in common, you are nothing like me in any way whatsoever?”
Thomas picked up Philip’s broom and started doing his jobs for him moving faster than anyone could imagine, seemingly with an extra pair of hands.
Then he said, “I know what the prince-bishop did to you and your family, I know because we all know because he is the worst kind of sadist and thrives on others pain, defiles what is beautiful for the pleasure of it, I know what he did to you and your aunts, and know he would do it to me and my daughter Jeaneal.”
What Philip had been denying, what had filled him with so much anger and hate and self- destruction came back and he heard the bishop’s voice, from that terrible night.
‘You could have been my best, my brightest scribe, then my translator, then my chamberlain. If I raise my little finger my men will kill you, but I let you live to suffer what you lost as you wander the Earth till you die. Until you repent your pride, and appear as a penitent before God and myself you may not receive the sacraments, in the name of God and our Holy Mother, I excommunicate you.’
Then Philip vomited and heaved as he felt it all come back to him, he felt the weight of the bishop, and his foul breath on the nape of his neck. He felt the tips of the lash cut into his back as the bishop’s men whipped him into hopelessness, ground salt into his wounds, and discarded him as useless and cast him out.
Thomas said, “I know your story, you are not the first this happened to, and to be honest I put it together last night after your uncle decked me. I can’t ask you to forgive me for not thinking about what I thought was a joke, but I will ask you to help me make that crossbow in the next two months so somebody can kill the Prince-Bishop of Trier with it.”
Philip looked at Thomas defiantly and said, “You why should I care about you? You are nothing to me, and I would have frozen outside after you threw me in the piss trough last night, if you had your way.”
Thomas replied, “Do you think the Bishop will let you live?”
“Do you think I care if I live?”said Philip.
“Yes you now you care, and that’s what he was waiting for. There was no pleasure for him in killing Philip of Trier, who cared not whether he lived or died, or how his aunts lost everything,” Thomas added.
Philip said loudly, “Yes I care not but there must be another way back to what was mine?”
“Then find it,” said Thomas.