Even though he scratched the words carefully — his gnarled, arthritic hands shaking — they appeared wobbly and spidery, all the same. He showed the note to the one, who read it and nodded, solemnly. He in turn recited the words aloud (a bit too loudly) to the third, who exhaled slowly; it was a sigh tinged with both sadness and contentment, regret and acceptance.
“Write the message, my brother,” said the one with no eyes, voice thin and wavering. “And write it well.”
The one with no tongue made a sound of confirmation deep down in his throat, nodding for the sake of the one who was deaf. In spite of their disabilities, communication flowed freely between them — a sign of those who have spent a great deal of time in each other’s company, learning their every thought, every tic, every quirk, every reaction, every way of dealing with things and every way thinking things through, every facial expression, every sound uttered, every posture, every mood. They knew each other better than they knew themselves.
Slowly, trying to still his trembling hands, the mute monk began the momentous task of writing the most important — and indeed, the last — letter of his life.
Their bandages were already damp with blood when they began the journey at daybreak, the watery grey light trickling down through the overcast skies. They had supplies enough to last them the duration of the walk, but they had to be used sparingly. Dali had appointed himself as the one in charge of their rations — medical and nutritional, much to the grumbling of Bidar — and he intended to see that they had enough to get them through the trek, and perhaps even some left over once they’d arrived. He wanted to give a good impression.
Everybody from the community had gathered to see them off. Not out of any sense of sentimentality — although there was undoubtedly a bit of that — rather, it was required by the Ty Sanctaidd’s Holy Laws. To break the church’s rules was a crime punishable by death… eventually. A fair bit of torture and maiming was to be expected prior to the sweet release of expiration, of course. And even then, the damned souls would be burned for all eternity in Uffern. So, all were in attendance that cold, grey morning, lest they suffer punishments that stretched beyond the realm of mortals.
The boys’ parents were there, naturally. They likely would have been even if hadn’t been an obligation to do so — or at least, some of them would have attended. Few tears were shed, however, and the ones that trickled down cheeks came from the eyes of mothers and (secret) sweethearts. The men of the community stood stoic, faces stern and stony.
No words of love were exchanged between the fresh Three and their friends and family, even though this would likely be the last time they’d ever see each other. Instead, the Father recited a dry bit of scripture from the Gair Duw, rambling on about the importance of doing that which has been assigned to you (“Or you’ll burn in Uffern!”) and achieving holiness through hard, backbreaking work (“Or you’ll roast in the fires!”) and denying the superfluous pleasures of the flesh that distract from the Great God Above (“Or your skin will blister and char for all eternity!”) until people started shuffling their feet, stomachs rumbling hungrily, backs aching. All the while, the boys stood there, packs on shoulders (to lay them on the ground would be a sin), waiting for the whole thing to be set into motion.
Once the Father had wound his way down to his conclusion, he uttered the words, “Well, off you go, then!” and turned and marched in the direction of the Ty Sanctaidd without so much as a word of a goodbye. As soon as the words had left his lips, the crowd immediately began to disperse, flocking this way and that to get on with the chores of the day. A few lingered for a moment — watching as the boys who still had their eyes exchanged a nervous look — and then went on their way, for fear of being punished for laziness and shirking of duties.
As was usually the case, Dali stepped forward first, in spite of his blindness. The knife he’d plunged into his eyes had robbed him of neither his confidence nor courage. “Let’s go then, boys!” he commanded, voice strong and sure. He didn’t even wait for the other two who acted as his eyes, and strode onwards without a hint of uncertainty. Dafyd and Bidar swapped one last glance of fear and worry, and then raced on to catch up to Dali, to make sure he didn’t trip or stumble over a tree root or a bump in the road.
And so, the Three departed the place of their birth — the only place they’d ever known — without much fanfare or celebration. The Change in which they’d mutilated themselves had been the real festivity, this was the moment where they simply got on with it. They had a long, arduous journey before them; their mettle would be tested, their bonds would be stretched, their newfound partial sensory loss would be regretted and their remaining senses would be sharpened. They knew that they were leaving their childhoods behind them (not that they were particularly cheery or joyous times), and that what lay ahead would be brutal and unflinchingly unforgiving. Any sense of innocence that remained within their spoiled bodies would soon be crudely extracted by the wilds that awaited them. It’s a trek that all prospective Repellers of Boddi Craig must endure, in order to prove they are up to the task.
All before they even reach the uninviting stone walls of Castell Boddi Craig and liberate the elder Three from their duties.
When the letter arrived, the monk with both eyes and a tongue but no sense of hearing showed it to the one and read it aloud to the other. The blind one nodded unhurriedly in response to hearing his companion’s voice.
“Let’s hope these ones actually make it here,” he said. “I fear time is not on our side. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for another batch.”
4th June 2020
Written for the June #BlogBattle