28 July 2011

The Jailer's Songbird 3

The Death of Tyndale
Here is the conclusion to a short story that won me first place in the Word Guild's Write! Canada writing contest. Contestants were told to write on the theme of "changing the world through words."

“It needn’t have come to this, had you curbed your vulgar notions.”
    The sorcerer jerked his nose at Mina.
    “As if commoners could interpret the Scriptures. Lex pedagogus noster fuit! The Law of the church is the teacher of the people!” Speaking then in a language that Mina had never heard, Sir William answered, weak but clear.
    “Ouketi hoopo paidagogon esmen. Now we are no longer under a teacher. For you are all the sons of God, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” A thrill passed through her. She fingered her pocket again, wanting to write it down.
    The sorcerer’s face flushed purple.
    “Do not flaunt your idolatries here! Saintly Jerome knew Greek a thousand years before your infelicitous birthing, and his translation is canonical! Ah, but I forgot, you believe the sacred word is to be bottled and peddled to the common rabble,” His gaze fell on Mina. Her pocket felt so heavy with forbidden secrets that she imagined its seams were about to burst. Smiling thinly then, he put a hand into a fold of his robe. He drew out a long rope and still looking at her, held it before her knight.
    “Though you be spared the flames for the sake of your priesthood, this rope will suffice to strangle your neck. Your uncouth translations have gone to the flames, and your corpse will soon be with them. What then of your labors, master linguist?”
    Mina squeezed her sponge into the bucket and looked up at Sir William. He beamed at her with a smile that promised nothing very bad could happen to him now. She believed him.
    “Back to your roost,” one of them crowed, prodding her with his foot. Just as she was exiting, Mina glanced back from the door, but one of the robed figures stepped in front and blocked her view. Once she was in the passageway, Mister Philips fell into step with her, reached down and closed his fist on the hand that was carrying the bucket.
    “Much too heavy for one so small,” he whispered. “I’ll help you to the stairs.” Mina tried to pull herself free, but when Phillips yanked back on her little arm, two things happened all at once: the bucket deposited its contents upon his shoes and the notebook tumbled out of Mina’s pocket with a thud. Phillips roared in dismay, then spying the notebook on the ground, he asked,
    “What’s this, sparrow?”
     In that instant a footman approached with her lamp and announced,
    “The horses are waiting at the ready, Mister Phillips.” Snatching up the notebook, Mina left the bucket where it was and broke for the stairs. Phillips snarled after her.
    “Your Pappy will pay for these, little birdy!”
    Mina raced past the footman and navigated the stairs in the dark, not stopping to catch her breath until she had made it all the way back to the top. What could she do for him? What could she do? She opened the door and fell inside. Father was at the table, his face in his hands, his shoulders silently shaking. He looked up, and Mina saw streaks of tears. Father never cried, not even after Mama...
    “What is it, Papa?”
    He wiped his cheeks and held out his hands. “Come here, Mina.” She went over and was hoisted into his lap. He looked confused, and it scared her.” Something had happened.
    “Tell me, Papa, what is it?”
    “Those stories, Mina, those songs, I do not know what, but there is something about them. They stay with me through the day. He stays with me.”
    “Who, Papa?”
    “Mister Tyndale’s Jesus, I think,” he said, touching his heart, “I cannot explain it.”
    The passage returned to her then, the one Sir William had used to answer the sorcerers. “I can, Papa.”
    “What do you mean?” He brushed the hair away from her face.
    “Listen,” she said, and closing her eyes, she sang the words for him in a melody slow and sweet, an earnest expression marking her face.
    “You are all the sons of God, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” When the last note faded, she opened her eyes.
    For the first time in as long as she could remember, Papa was smiling. “Sing it again, my little nightingale.”


Stephen said...

Lovely. Well done.

Todd said...

I love it Daren! Superb! Well done indeed!

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