The Tale of King Henry and the Sacrifice

[There was no doubt; spring had arrived at the Castle and lands of our King. The flower gardens had not only buds, but flowers, and their beauty and aroma made the air fragrant and the gardens a joy to walk in. The music of the bird song in the trees added a delightful counterpoint to the beautiful sights and odors. Spring cleaning was done, and the castle cleaning crew were back to their normal, less intensive regular tasks. No one needed a coat to go outside, and the nannies had to fight the littlest ones from removing their shoes and stockings and running through the lawns in bare feet. Actually, more than one old Auntie was seen sitting in the gardens letting their naked toes rest on the grass, so it was hard to scold the children for doing what their elders so obviously enjoyed. The fact of the matter was clear; the lands around the Castle were content.

Inside the Castle, there was little tranquility, however; although many of the people who lived in the Castle were going about their daily lives calmly and peacefully, the Confirmation class, and a few others were not calm at all.

Today was supposed to be the final lesson for the Confirmation class; today they would discuss some topic their instructor taught, hear a story about it, and answer a question that their teacher posed them. That was what they did at every class. But today, in addition to all that, they were going to have to tell Roger the question he didn’t ask, and they were beside themselves with worry. “How can we figure out what question he didn’t ask?” they all thought; “there must be Thousands of questions he could have asked, but didn’t.” They were very afraid of failure; not being able to be confirmed would devastate their parents, and bring shame on their families' names. So as they sat and waited for the old monk to enter his Herbarium, more than one soon-to-be adult was offering a prayer for wisdom.

Finally their teacher arrived, and sat rather heavily in his chair by his desk. The other three chairs that had seated the three guest lecturers last week had been removed; evidently Roger was not going to share his class with anyone else today. This actually relieved some of the students; talking to the non-Christians last week had been nerve-racking; what if they inadvertently said something wrong, and incurred Roger’s wrath? All of the students knew that Roger, using words alone, could skin the hide off of a person he felt deserved it, and even those who had never seen it done did not want to take the chance; the old monk’s reputation was formidable.

“Thank you all for being here on time; I regret that I was not able to be at my desk at the appointed hour; but one of the Ladies of the Castle had a great misfortune during the delivery of her baby, and I was called on to give the last rites.”

“Are the mother and child going to live?” asked one of the boys.

“I’m sorry to say neither did survive. A terrible tragedy, further complicated by the fact that Lady Grace had two other children, little girls both less than 5 years old, who have now lost their mother. The Ladies of the Court will do their best, but it will be hard on everyone; the Lady Grace was well-liked. Her husband Dennis is quite distraught; I had to give him a potion to let him sleep. He has had no rest for over forty-eight hours, and the choice he had to make is now a very heavy burden to him.”

“What choice did he have to make?”

“The healers saw that after 45 hours of labor his wife could not handle any more pain, and so told him that he had to decide who they should save, the baby or the mother. He chose his wife, but when the child was pulled from the mother’s womb, she started to hemorrhage, and died before the bleeding stopped. The child took a few fitful breaths, but expired soon after his mother did.”

Four of the children started to cry. Roger, seeing this, made a decision: “I do not think that I am in any condition to teach a class today, especially this particular lesson. Let us meet then on next Friday, at the third hour. I will talk to all of your masters, so you will be able to take the time from your work. Go now and report to them, and tell them why you have no class today.”

“Roger, can we go to the Chapel first?” one of the girls asked.

“If you want to; I think that would be a good idea. Does any other of you want to join us?”

Getting either a “Yes” or a nod of the head from them all, Roger led his class to the King’s Chapel, and together they prayed for the two who were gone, and the rest of the family who would have to deal with their horrible loss. After about 30 minutes, Roger sent the children on their way, but stayed in the Chapel, to give aid and comforts to those of the Castle who, having learned of Lady Grace’s passing, wanted to pray for her soul and the soul of her baby.

. . .

The days after the deaths were hard. The funeral was to be attended by everyone in the Castle, so the funeral Mass was held at the nearby Cathedral. Lady Grace and her son were buried in the small graveyard reserved for those who had given their life in the service of the King.

Afterwards, Dennis, her widower, asked for aid in finding a family to board his children, as he knew that as a man-at-arms he was not equipped to tend two growing children by himself. The Crown aided him in this, and a family with two small boys stepped up and admitted Lady Grace’s children to their hearth and home. Dennis knew that the foster father would soon supplant him in the lives of his daughters. He would always love them, and contribute to their welfare, but the joys of fatherhood would be passed on to the man who would be there every day. “A child needs to know that their Ma and Da are close by, and these fine people will love them as much as Grace and I did;” he said quietly to Roger. “I must do what is best for them.”

When Friday morning came, the assembling students saw their teacher sitting at his work table, and ready to start the lesson. “I am sorry the class last Monday was cut short, but events beyond our control changed our plans,” the old monk spoke softly. “You will find that life has a way of doing this; so learn to adapt your plans to whatever the world throws at you.”

As the students were finding places to sit, Roger seemed preoccupied with a small cross that he had in his hand. It was about four inches long, and made out of some bright, shiny metal. Seeing his class was ready, the old monk put down the cross, and began to address the class.

“This is the last class you have before your Confirmation examination. As you might have guessed, much of what we talk about today is going to aid you in passing that examination, so I suggest strongly that you listen carefully to what is talked about, and if you have any questions, that you ask them now, while you still can.” Roger allowed those words to sink in for a moment, and then resumed talking. “As you may remember, this is the class that will have something added at the end; after you answer my question about today’s lesson, you all must talk among yourselves about what you have learned these last five weeks, and tell me the question that I have not asked you, but should have. Realize that this is not a very hard question, but it is a very important one. The answer to it will aid your passing the Bishops test before Confirmation. In fact,” the old monk added, “I can truthfully say that without the answer to that question, you can not pass the Confirmation examination.”

“What if we fail this test; what if we can not guess the question?” one young woman wanted to know.

“That has only happened once, and the class that it happened in was given extra lessons by me, until they were able to figure it out.” Roger scowled as he added, “to help focus their thoughts, the extra lessons were given from sunrise to sundown, and the students went on a diet of bread and water. I can’t say if those conditions had any effect on the class, but after three days, one student arrived at the question. Her classmates were quite grateful, as I recall.”

Having completely terrified his students, Roger began his lesson. He first reviewed the previous four weeks work, and summarizing each week’s question, and how it related to the class members. Then the old monk started on a new subject; what each student was going to do with his or her life. Roger spoke of the many options that the kingdom offered, and how if they were currently on a path that did not please them, that it was possible to change.

“Realize that if you are in an apprentice program that will lead to a career you are not fond of, you must convince both a new master to allow you to work for him, and your old master to allow you to change. It is not an easy thing to do, but this is your life you are talking about; no one should be forced to endure work that they can not stomach. Mind you, if you are apprenticed to the stable master, and you do not like cleaning out horse stalls, there is little I can do; each job has duties that are unpleasant. But if you truly detest being around horses, then I may be able to find you a different situation.”

Next the old monk talked about what the students wanted to do, once they were finished with their training. “Do you want to work for the King, or set up a shop in a village? Do you intend to make the Castle your home, or do you want to live in the countryside? You do not have to make up your mind today, but you need to start planning now.”

After the class discussed among themselves their ideas about where they wanted to live, Roger called for a break. “It is now the hour for your mid-day meal, so go off now, and get yourselves adequately fed. Be back in less than one-half hour; I intend to start my next story on time.” And taking a plate of fruit, cheese and dried meat from off of one of the shelves behind him, the old monk began to consume his own repast.

. . .

Roger was not surprised that his class was all in their seats before their time was up. “They would probably pay to hear the rest of the story,” he thought to himself; “at least until they had actually heard it. It is a rather sad story, and such stories are not usually popular.”

Getting their attention by eye, the monk cleared his throat, and began to speak: “You may remember that I last said that . . .”]

. . . Professor John wore a green scarf on that morning on the way to teach his class. He was not really sure what to expect; but he thought that the man who was following him would report back to his superiors and that he would be contacted soon. In this he was correct, he did not have long to wait. It was that very night, while the Professor was busy in his office, preparing for the next day’s lecture.

“May I join you?” the stranger from the inn asked John while standing at the doorway to the Professor’s study.

“Yes, please be seated,” was the polite response.

“I see you have a rather attractive scarf on today, is it new?”

“Yes, I had no scarves, green or otherwise, and so bought one on Saturday.”

“I know,” said the stranger, rather smugly; “I know everything you do and say.”

“Do you attend my lectures, then? I do not recall seeing you in my classes.”

“My people go everywhere,” the stranger boasted; “I keep myself well-informed. For example, I know of your fondness for mutton, that your students admire you greatly, and that you are a very good chess player.”

The Professor smiled. “But I only play chess with a certain friend, and only in his private rooms; how can you know that?”

“As I said, my people go everywhere, and I have many servants. Your gaming with the Lord Albert Drummond, the University Chancellor, is one of the reasons you were contacted; it would be good to have someone who can tell us what is on his mind.”

“I’m still not sure if I want to join you; you have told me nothing yet. Who are you, and whom do you represent?”

“You may call me Lord Dagon,” the stranger replied; “and I am part of a group of people who seek power, as you do, and do not accept the limits imposed upon us by the Church and the Crown. The rules they create are for the common man, we are well above them.”

“Why should I join with you?”

“We can give you the power you crave, and we can protect you from those who would try to stop us.”

“And what do you want from me?”

Lord Dagon smiled, “You have knowledge we do not; knowledge of the powers of the earth, the powers of the sky, and the powers of the sea; we can share knowledge with each other, and we will all benefit.”

John thought for a moment, and then posed a question, to mislead Lord Dagon: “How do I know you are not some agent of the King? I have never heard of you. How do I know you are really what you say you are?”

“I can prove to you our powers: Do you remember hearing about the young girl who died mysteriously in the forest? She was sacrificed to gain power for our master, and he grew strong when her blood was poured out.”

This news made John sick to his stomach, but he kept his revulsion to himself. “I heard that those who killed her were killed themselves when they tried to sacrifice another. Wasn’t your master killed, also?”

“The only ones killed were lowly minions; our master escaped with the rest of his followers, who were well hidden in the forest. All would have escaped safely, but those fools died trying to fight a swordsman with knives. Still, their deaths were useful; it made the King and his followers think that we were all vanquished”

“So what do you want me to do now?”

“We need to know what the Chancellor is thinking; can you discreetly inquire if he knows what the King is going to do?”

Professor John got an idea; “What if I were to invite him to visit me once a week, to return his hospitality, and to have another night of chess? This way, I could sound him out more often, and he would be none the wiser.”

“Splendid! That would be perfect.”

“So when do I meet your master?”

“You will meet our master at the time and place he decides.”

“Of course, of course.” John thought that his was a natural question, but had not expected to have it succeed quite yet. “But let him know that for me to fully trust him, we must meet face to face.”

“Just remember that you, too, are not yet fully trusted, and your movements will be watched.” The stranger waved away John’s protests; “I know, you want to be treated as a full member of our band, and you will; still, we must be cautious. You can understand that, can’t you?”

“I guess so.” John stood, and the two men shook hands. “I will speak to the Chancellor tomorrow night, and arrange for a second night of chess.”

“One more thing; we have a young man who will act as your servant; he will come around in the morning.”

John felt a moment of panic. “I have no need of a servant, and have not the pence to pay for one, even if I did want one.”

“Do not worry; he will not cost you a penny. He will aid you in learning about us, and our ways.”

The Professor certainly did not want a spy in his own home, but could hardly reject a free servant. “Well, if there would be no cost . . .”

“I knew that you would like that price. I know you oh so well!” Lord Dagon laughed as he left the study.

“If you only knew what I thought of you,” said John to himself; “Your smile would vanish in an instant.” John knew that he had to prepare for the new ‘servant’; some of his papers, if found, would make it clear that he was not the man they thought he was. As he gathered up the notes he had made of his meeting with the King, he realized that such documents were not safe in his home. After racking his brain over where to hide them, he had a brilliant idea. Getting all his ‘unsafe’ papers in one box, he got his coat and hat, and went to see an old friend.

“John, what brings you out on such a cool night?” Father Francis greeted his fellow-teacher at the back door of the rectory.

“I come to beg a favor; may I store some papers in your Chapel basement?”

“Of course, my friend, but why? Have you filled every shelf in your study?” John’s love of books, and his spending every extra penny to acquire them was a standing joke between the two friends.

“Let me in, and I’ll tell you.” The two men went to sit by the salon room fire, where Father Francis had been enjoying a cup of tea. As John explained what he was doing, and why, Francis’ face grew grave.

“Of course you may store what you wish here, but I wonder if the Chapel is safe. If these are the same fiends who killed that poor little girl, a house of God will not deter them. Why not just let me place it in my bed chamber, no one but I ever goes in there; not even the cleaning woman.”

John thanked his friend, and began to discuss how he could fool the evil ones. The good Father’s ideas were not slow in coming. “Your best course of action is to do nothing at all in sight of the servant; let them think that you keep your powers private.” The Priest thought for a bit, and then went on; “Why not go into your sleeping chamber after dinner for an hour or so? Keep the door locked, and light up some incense that I’ll give you; it will make the servant curious. Then start to read from some book out of your library, but only pronounce every other word; it will sound very mysterious to unlettered ears.”

The Professor smiled and added: “I was once told that everything sounds profound, when written in Latin. I shall reread Caesar’s Gallic Wars; that will make the servant sure that I am up to something.”

By the time the two friends finished talking, it was quite late. “I did not see my ‘shadow’ on my way here tonight; perhaps Lord Dagon’s threat of a watcher was mere bluff.” Still, John stayed bundled up, as if cold, and took care to re-enter his rooms without being seen.

Over the next few weeks, John got used to the idea of having a spy within his very chambers, and even learned to appear interested in the ‘lessons’ his servant was teaching him. He was puzzled, though; the servant, called Kenneth, did not ask any questions about the arts John knew; nor did he seem very interested when the Professor offered any answers.

Things went on for the better part of three months, when Kenneth told his ‘master’ that he would be visited that evening. “Be sure to be home before sundown; our master does not like to be kept waiting.”

Finally, a chance to meet the man in charge of this cabal! John left his study early, had a hurried dinner at a near-by inn, and hurried home to wait for his meeting with the fiend who organized this evil. But he was in for a disappointment; when there was a knock at the door, Kenneth did not let in some powerful-looking stranger, but Lord Dagon.

“Our master has been delayed and will not be able to make it here; but has sent me instead. Our master wants you to select one of your students; someone without powerful family or friends, so that his disappearance will not be noted.”

“Why do we need a student? Could it be someone from the village of Oxenford?” John was inwardly quaking; he knew anyone that he named would be the cabal’s next sacrifice.

“We have learned to our regret that villagers tend to be missed by their families and Priests. A student, especially a student who is not doing well in his studies, has family far away; we will make it look as if he left the University and went off alone, ashamed of himself. Do you know of any such?”

“No, but I will start to make inquiries. When do you need him?”

“The sooner you can produce him, the better.” With that, Lord Dagon offered his respects, and left the Professor alone.

Te next day, over a chess board, the Professor posed his dilemma to the Chancellor. “Any person I name will be put in tremendous peril; I can not do this to anyone. We must contact the King, and have those we know arrested.”

The Chancellor was reluctant to do this. “Let me contact the King; perhaps His Majesty has a solution to this problem.”

And so they sent a messenger to the King, begging Him to find a solution to their problem. The answer was soon in coming.

“I have a courtier who is willing to act as our victim,” the King’s message read; “He looks thin and young, but has had the training of a Squire and Man-at-arms. He was not chosen to become a Knight, though not through any failing on his part, and could have been one of my guardsmen, had he chose. He is more than a match for any his own size, and with surprise could take on a man larger than himself. I have spoken to him, and he is preparing to enter the University as a ward of the King’s Court. Let him stay over with Professor John during the summer months, and no one will be the wiser.”

The Chancellor and the Professor both agreed that this was a workable solution, and they set in motion plans to prepare a place for the young man at the University. In a week the young man, Gerard by name, was welcomed by both John and the Chancellor, and soon was settled in his classes. Being a bright lad, he soon was well-liked by his classmates and teachers. Although he was older than many of the other students, he looked younger than his age, and fit in well with the other students. He made it known that he was a ward of the Court, and his fictitious parents had been killed in the service of the King, so His Majesty was paying for his education. When Lord Dagon next contacted John, he had an answer for him.

“This new student is perfect for your plans; he has no family, and intends to stay on at the University during the summer months, to study and catch up with his fellows. If he goes missing, it will be thought that he decided to leave his studies, and strike out on his own.”

“Excellent! I shall inform our master that come July, everything will be in readiness.”

Now that John had accomplished what the evil Lord Dagon had required of him, his servant began to prepare John for the summer meeting of the cabal. A black robe, patterned after a monk’s habit, appeared one day, and John was instructed to hide it where none could find it. He was also told not to wear anything beneath it.

“There will be ‘celebrations’ after the sacrifice, and small clothes will only get in the way.” John was told; “and it will be your first celebration; you will want to make a good impression.”

John intended to make a good impression, but not the kind that his servant meant. Still, he had to find out when and where the sacrifice was to take place; so the King’s men could hide nearby, and rescue Gerard in time. As the days went on, John was beginning to despair of finding the location, but the day before the sacrifice was to take place, his luck changed.

It came about in a strange way. Kenneth told him that he had to take the afternoon off. Curious, John followed his servant from a distance, seeing where he might go. Kenneth traveled deep into a wooded area, and eventually came to a small glade, with a stone table in the center. Kenneth prepared the altar, which is what the stone table was, by putting ropes staked to the ground in each of the four corners. Near one end, he placed a sealed jug, and a small silver knife. It was clear to John that this was the site for the next day’s sacrifice. After Kenneth had left the glade, John crept out of hiding, and surveyed the table. He unsealed the jug, and saw that there was wine within.

“This wine must be drugged,” he thought to himself; “I think that if I were to replace it with good wine, something might just go wrong with their plans.”

That night, John went to his chess game with great excitement; finally they were to capture the evil ones. He told the Chancellor where in the forest the glade was, and suggested that the King’s men hide in the surrounding trees, to prevent any escape. “And send someone with a fresh jug of wine, and a jug of water. Dump the old wine, rinse out the jug with the water, and then refill their jug with the good wine.” The Chancellor agreed to do this, and also agreed to tell Gerard to be ready.

The next day, Kenneth told the Professor to be ready that evening. “Have the boy come with you to dine this evening. I shall give you a powder to put into his wine; be sure he drinks it all; it will make him docile, and easy to be led. Bring him and your robe to the edge of the forest to the north; there you will be met and led to the site of the sacrifice. There you will meet the master and the rest of our cabal. Just think of the power you shall gain tonight!”

John did what he was told, up to a point. He had dinner with Gerard, but instead of giving him the poison in the wine, he told him to act as if he was drugged instead. John dressed in his robe, and strapped a small hunting knife to his ankle; he did not want to go unarmed amid the evil ones. At the appointed hour, John and Gerard left the Professor’s chambers, and headed to the north. They were met by Kenneth.

“You should have worn normal clothes to the forest, and changed there!” Kenneth scolded; “But it is too late now. Let us hope that we meet no one on our way.”

At the edge of the forest they met more people, male and female, who were dressed in black robes. “I understand now what they meant by ‘Celebration’; let us hope that they are stopped before that!” John thought to himself. They all proceeded to enter the forest; some had torches which they used to show the path. John kept back, letting no one see that he was familiar with where they were going. When they reached the glade, they were told to circle the stone table, and to remain silent. In the confusion, John backed away, and hid himself in the shadows by the edge of the trees. He bent down, took his knife in hand, and waited.

Then a man in a devil’s mask came forward, and led Gerard to the altar. He slowly undressed Gerard, and arranged him on the altar; tying his hands and feet at the corners of the table. What he did not know was that the King’s men had cut each rope part way, and one good tug by Gerard would free himself from bondage. When he was done making the last knot, he stepped back, and took the silver knife in his left hand.

“We are here to give this boy in sacrifice to Satan; let us all link hands, and repeat the words of power.”

And then the most horrific ceremony John had ever witnessed was displayed before him. Some of the words he knew, some were new to him, but throughout all there was a palpable sense of evil. As the leader in the devil’s mask took and poured the wine over the seemingly helpless boy, the air was filled with the chanting of the cabal. John realized early why they had not taught him the chant; it was simple and repetitive, if seemingly nonsensical. But as the chant filled the air, John suddenly realized it was a Christian prayer, chanted backwards. He also knew that they had no real interest in the knowledge he possessed; they wanted him for his ability to procure them a sacrifice. He now doubted that his ‘celebration’ would have been anything but getting his own throat slit.

Suddenly the chanting stopped, and the leader raised the silver knife in both hands: “Lord Satan, we give this boy’s life to you; take it and feast!” But as he started to bring the knife down, an arrow appeared in the middle of his back, and he fell forward, over the boy.

“Stand where you are; do not move; you are surrounded by the King’s men!” A voice filled the glade; “If you value your life, be still!”

As the King’s men came and tied up all the minions of the evil leader, John rushed up to Gerard, and started to cut his bonds. “You’re safe now,” he told the boy, but got no answer. Pushing the dead leader’s corpse off of the young man, he beheld a ghastly sight. When the leader had been pierced with the arrow, it penetrated through his body, and had emerged out of his chest. When he fell on the boy, the arrow had pierced the young man’s chest, and cut all the way to the boy’s heart. Blood was pumping out of his wound, and there was nothing that John could do to save him. John saw the boy was trying to speak. He leaned over, and heard the young man’s last words: “Tell. my . King . I . died . well!” Soon the blood stopped spurting, and the eyes of Gerard lost their life light.

The scene the next day was grim. The King himself was there, and he had come with a group of monks from the Abbey attached to the Cathedral. John, and those who reverenced Nature were there also, and they all looked to the King for leadership.

“It is a day of sadness. Although we have stopped a great evil that has been wounding the land; we did so at great cost. Gerard lived his short life trying to serve me, and has given his life for the kingdom. Although he wished to be a Knight, he gave no complaint when others were picked over him. He shall have in death what he wished for in life; Sir Gerald will be buried as befits a Knight of the realm.”

There was a moment of silence, and then the King went on; “I call on you all to now heal the land here; each to his proper station. Let the monks banish the evil one’s presence here, as they are best suited to deal with Satan’s minions. Those who worship Nature let your words heal the land of any lingering evil presence. Together, my friends let us put this land to right!” The King took John’s right hand in his left hand, and the Abbot’s left hand in his right hand, and they all made a circle around the stone table. All bowed their heads in prayer, and the two forces for good merged and cleansed the glade of any lingering sense of evil.

After their prayer, the Holy monks and the Wise men fell to talking, and in sharing learned how each believed. No converts were made that day, but many friendships were, and the harmony of peace filled the glade that once held evil.

“Let us go now; men will come and remove this stone table, lest others try to use it for evil’s purposes. I must go back to my Castle;” King Henry concluded, “and bury my newest Knight.”

[ . . . And so the land was cleansed of the evil one’s foulness, and life in the lands of Good King Henry returned to normal.” The old monk paused a moment and let his students adjust themselves; sitting still in one spot can grow uncomfortable.

“Now then, my question to you is: ‘Why did the King allow Gerald to do such a dangerous task?’”

The children started to talk among themselves. Every so often, one would look at their teacher, but not one asked any questions of the Old Monk. Finally Thomas, acting as spokesman of his class, ventured forth the following: “The King really did not have a choice; he needed someone to act as the sacrifice, and he chose the best person for the job. As it was, it was only ill-fate that caused Gerald’s death, if the arrow had not pierced the evil one’s chest, he might have lived unharmed. But either way, the King had a responsibility to find someone, and Gerard was chosen.”

“Very good! Yes, the King had a burden; some call it the burden of the Crown, to act in cases that are not always pleasant. It is part of being an adult; to do things we do not want to do, knowing someone may come to harm. Those of you who want to be men-at-arms or Knights will have to face this in battle some day.”

Roger looked at his class, and smiled. “You have now gotten through the training class for Confirmation. All you need to do is tell me what I didn’t ask you. Now realize that it needs to be relevant to the class, and has to have been something I might have asked you, if you were younger. As adults, you can now ask me. Talk among yourselves, and see what you come up with.”

Some of the children looked fearful, and others were actually crying, but none seemed to have much to say. Thomas and some of the older students talked about one aspect of the class, but no one seemed to have an idea of what Roger had left out. After a 5 minute silence, the Old Monk took pity, and gave the class a clue:

“By the way, this Sunday there will be a party in honor of Dennis; he has decided that being too near his children is not a good thing, so the King has offered to send him to one of the castles on the west coast, where he might not be a distraction. Some of his friends begged the King to give him a ‘going away’ feast, and the King agreed.”

Some of the children looked shocked, but Jenny, the youngest girl, burst into tears. “Why?” she sobbed; “Why did God let his wife die? Why did his baby die? This is all so unfair! Why did Gerard have to die? He had done good things, and was rewarded in death! God is not fair! Why does evil get to win?”

The class was stunned. No one spoke to their teacher like that and lived to tell of it. But when they looked at the Old Monk, he was smiling. “That was good, Jenny. Although you phrased it in a number of different ways, you really asked one question; ‘Why does God allow evil into the world?’ That is a good question, and I did not ask it of you; you have solved the riddle.”

“But what is the answer?” Jenny repeated.

“You are adults now, you should know the answer. Talk it out among yourselves.”

This time the class had no hesitation; everyone it seemed had an opinion on the answer. Soon, however, they reached an agreement, and like last time, Thomas spoke for his classmates: “God did not invent evil, mankind did. God allows it because man has a choice; to do good, or to do evil. Without that choice, we would be like the animals; or like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall. To do good things, we must know not only how to do good but also how to resist evil.”

“That is the secret of being an adult,” the Old Monk added; “it seems hard to accept it, but it is now time to put away childish things, and deal with things as an adult. Dennis is making a sacrifice, to give his children a better life. As an adult, you will make choices that are sometimes very hard, but they must be made. I pray that they are always clear to you, and that you make all the choices, hard or easy, the right way.”

The students all thought that their teacher was finished, but Roger spoke in conclusion; “and may God bless you all, and keep you in His care. Remember that in the Church's eyes that you are now adults, but never forget, God will always be there to help you, for everyone needs help sometimes; me especially.” With this, the Old Monk smiled, and told his suddenly grown-up class to go back to their regular labors; “This is still a workday; I have taken you away from your work for long enough; your Masters will never let me hear the end of it!”

But up spoke little Jacob; "Roger, you said that my father had a unique answer, and that you would tell it to us at the end of our classes; what was his question?

Roger responded with a very big grin on his face: "Your father, bless his soul, asked me 'What kind of gift would I have to give the Bishop to let me be confirmed?' I must admit, it is not a question I would have asked, but I dared not tell the Bishop! It took all of my willpower to not burst out in laughter! Now off with you all, and try to remember everything that you have learned!"]

Roger of Belden Abbey
Copyright © 2006, Daniel A. Thompson, Jr.

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