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The Scroll

 
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 2:22 am    Post subject: The Scroll Reply with quote

Originally called "Brother Felipe's Demise", I wrote this short story for a descriptive narration writing assignment long, long ago when I was a teenager. It has nothing to do with Warcraft of course, but I thought some of you may enjoy reading it anyways. Other than changing the title, I did not change the content, only edited out some of the more obvious mistakes that I had made. I confess that I gathered this story idea after reading a historical novel from an Italian author, Umberto Eco. His book, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, was a difficult read, but facinating in his detail of a murder mystery inside a medieval monastery. The book was also made into movie, starring Sean Connery and a young, Christian Slater. The movie was not popular among US audiences unfortunately, although I thought it was brilliantly done and it is one of my favorite movies of all time. Anyways, I found some real historical information about the Spanish Inquisition in encyclopedias at the time and put together this short story. My English teacher liked it, I hope ya'll do to.



The Scroll

By a teenaged Moorea


I was sitting at my humble writing desk in the library, the morning sun streaming through the decorated stained glass windows. Shadowed flowers, outlined by a rainbow of colors, were strewn across the smooth stone floor. A small sigh of surprise escaped my lips as I unfurled the aged scroll that had been delivered to me a fortnight ago. I had wanted to open it sooner, but I was determined to control my selfish desires and refused the temptation to open the scroll until after I had finished my assigned transcribing duties for this week. The moment I had been waiting for was finally over. The brittle papyrus parchment was undoubtedly ancient, ready to disintegrate at any careless touch. Slowly I spread out the Methuselah-like scroll over my desk and used several small stones to hold the corners down. Filtered sunlight shone down on the cracked parchment as I fitted my magnifying glass eyepiece to begin inspecting the scroll.

I discovered, to my sheer delight, that the scroll was written in Greek. Fortunately, I was well versed in the language of Greece, having spent a number of years there with my family as a youth and also by furthering my studies at a Greek seminary. All the Saints be praised I thought. If it is a sin to have such a secret desire, then I must confess that I do have one. I have always felt such unrestrained joy when I am translating ancient knowledge from mortals long since returned to their baser materials. But surely this is not a great sin? The learning of ancient knowledge has always reinforced my faith, never detracted from it. Nevertheless, I prudently had always kept this secret joy to myself rather than let my fellow Franciscans to know of it.

The small scratches were faded almost beyond all recognition. I squinted my eyes and gritted my teeth in concentration. Slowly I began to read. My hand instinctively found a quill and fresh inkpot from inside a drawer. I pulled a clean sheet of paper from a stack under my desk. The first line stated the scribe’s name, which was Thetus. The date which the scroll was penned was 590 BC. Overcome with excitement, I began writing my direct translation.

“Recorded by Thetus, the king’s loyal scribe. By the order and grace of the goddess Ishtar, King Nebuchadnezzar the second is to erect a wall around her sacred temple in the capital city of Babylon. The Assyrians to the north are mounting an army to invade this land between the two life-giving rivers.”

Confused, I put my quill down. Too many questions flew through my brain to continue translating. How did a command to the King of Babylon come to be written by a Greek scribe? Did the ancient Babylonians not write in their own language of Akkadian or Sumerian? More curious than ever, I ran a finger lightly over the yellowed parchment, looking for a clue.

A sudden, loud rapping on the library door interrupted my reading. As befitting my position as head translator of our abbey library, I arose from my desk and hurried across the sparse room to the door. Grasping the big iron ring, I pulled the great, oaken door open.

Abbot Ramirez greeted me, and with him was a short, older man with piercing black eyes. This stranger wore the dark robes of the Benedictine order, different from our own familiar brown. He rather resembled a hungry vulture, I thought impiously. The Abbot introduced the stranger as Brother Bonican Tomas de Torquemada, of the Grand Inquisition order of Spain.

A feeling of dread washed over me at the mention of that name. Smiling weakly, I bowed to them both. Showing the proper obeisance to my Abbot, I first knelt and kissed the proffered opal ring. Rising, I moved in front of the Inquisitor and knelt again. Slowly I watched his hand come from under his midnight black robes. Twisted and deformed it was, but a thick golden ring encrusting a massive, fiery red ruby hung on his limp, dead thumb. Choking back the revulsion crawling up my throat, I leaned forward and touched my lips to the ring. I pulled back and started to rise when the Inquisitors other hand shot out and put pressure on my shoulder to prevent rising.

“Dear Brother Felipe, your renown as one of the finest translators of Greek within the holy church is well deserved. Even one so unenlightened as I have heard and been impressed with your fine translations,” Inquisitor Torquemada said. His voice oozed false sincerity and humility.

“Only by the grace of the blessed virgin and her holy child am I allowed to do such,” I replied as I lowered my head so he could not see the fear in my eyes. Though I’m not sure if I was able to hide this feeling in my voice. The pressure on my shoulder lifted. I slowly stood up, keeping my eyes on the floor.

Abbot Ramirez cleared his throat. “His Holiness is here to inspect the contents of our library, Brother Felipe,” he said.

“Of course, please come this way, Holy One,” I replied. I motioned for both of them to follow me as I led the way back towards the desks. “This is where the abbey’s monks do their translation and transcribing work,” I said. Having heard the exchange at the doorway, all of the monks kept their heads lowered, writing furiously. No one dared to even raise their heads enough to risk a glance.

“Is this your desk, Brother?” Torquemada asked, pointing towards the only empty desk. He did not even wait for my acknowledgement. “May I?” he gestured towards the open Greek scroll.

Nodding my head, “Of course, Holy Inquisitor. Please look wherever you wish.” My heart sunk as he peered over the original scroll.

He bent his nose close to the parchment and inhaled deeply. “I have always found the smell of ancient parchments to be quite pleasant,” he said, directing an oily smile towards the Abbot and me. His flinty eyes flecked over my Latin translation. Those soulless eyes widened as he voicelessly mouthed my written words. The smile disappeared. “Where did you obtain this scroll?” he asked.

“It was found somewhere in the Mesopotamia region, your Holiness,” I informed him. “Since the scroll was written in Greek, it was sent here to our Abbey. I only just began the translation this morning.” Now I was positive that fear had crept into my voice.

His lame hand pointed towards my parchment. “These words speak of heresy, Brother Felipe.” His voice was cold as ice. He gathered my translation up with his good hand and awkwardly rolled it. Addressing the Abbot, he continued, “Dear Abbot Ramirez, did you know of this blasphemous writing against the Holy Mother Church?”

“Surely this is a misunderstanding, your Holiness,” the Abbot replied. “Brother Felipe did not actually write those words, he merely translated them. What heresy is that?”

I stood there motionless, with my head held down. I knew inside my heart what the Inquisitor would ultimately say. There was always only one verdict.

Torquemada pursed his lips angrily. “I see now that I was divinely inspired to come to this Abbey, for the roots of heresy run deep and strong. I shall pluck these Satanic tendrils from this hallowed premises and restore it to the goodness and grace which is our light and salvation.”

Trembling, Abbot Ramirez rushed to the side of the visitor and got down on both knees. “Most wise Holy Inquisitor, I am your devout servant and shall aid and abide you in any manner possible,” he said.

I had not moved, my heart had grown cold.

Inquisitor Torquemada spoke, his content voice purring to me. “Brother Felipe. Return to your quarters and pray for forgiveness. Someone will come for you before vespers.”

Numbly I turned towards the door and put one foot in front of the other. I was so paralyzed with fear that I could barely pull the heavy door open. I heard the Inquisitor speak again as I exited the library.

“Rise my dear Abbot. Together let us peruse the titles. There may be other examples of heretical writings fouling the sacred confines of this library.”

I walked slowly out of the library into the mid-morning sun. Nesting birds in the nearby Abbey orchard were singing, cheerfully chirping their songs. A slight breeze rustled the leaves in the courtyard as I walked towards the dormitories. Entering the shabby, centuries old building, I walked down the long hallway until reaching my assigned quarters, my home in fact, for the past twenty-three years.

I paused outside my door. The handle was a simple iron ring, worn smooth from the touch of age. I grasped the ring, pushing the door open. The scent of an early autumn flew in through the open, circular window. After closing the door, I knelt down before my little statue of the Holy Mother and prayed silently. I cannot remember what I prayed for, only that I gave my devotions as honestly as I could, as has been my custom for all these years. I sat on my cot and stared at my room. This is what I had devoted my entire life to God for. This little, tiny room. I ran my eyes over the cracks in the walls, the crumbling mortar which allowed such terrible drafts in the dark cold of winter. Suddenly I realized that I would never see this room again. It was a sobering thought as I began to perceive that this little room was not so bad after all. Indeed, one could even call it a palace. There was great beauty in the plain, wooden cross, hanging on the wall. The stark, bare white walls gleamed in the setting sunlight. I felt gratitude and a sense of calm, compared to my early feelings during the confrontation with the Inquisitor. A knock jarred that peace.

Brother Williams, a most kind soul, opened the door a crack and called my name. There was sadness in his voice. I rose from my cot and followed him out, knowing that this would be the last time I would ever see my little palace. But I felt no resentment, only peace.

We walked through many halls and corridors, but I noticed nothing at all until we stopped. I looked around at my surroundings. We were in the refectory, where normally we ate our meals. But there was no humble fare set out to eat. At the far end of the room on a raised dais, Inquisitor Torquemada sat in the Abbot’s chair. A look of almost rabid joy shone in his eyes. I could see it, even all this way across the room. It appeared that the entire population of the abbey was present. My fellow monks sat quietly at their normal seats, hoods drawn over their heads. Brother Williams left me standing at the end of the long table, he too drew his hood over his grayish tonsure and sat down at his normal seat. Abbot Ramirez appeared at my side.

“Be brave, my son,” the Abbot whispered.

The refectory was totally silent, everyone waited with baited breath. Finally, Inquisitor Torquemada spoke.

“My dear brethren. It is with sad and heavy hearts that we gather together today. Sad that even within these sacred walls, the insidious reach of Satan can still be felt. Indeed, found so easily and so casually on display.” He pulled the original Greek scroll from a pocket in his robes. Holding it aloft, he said, “Do you deny the Devil and embrace the divine, saving grace of Christ?”

I didn’t know what to say. The peace that I had earlier felt seemed to have deserted me. My knees quaked and I sank to the floor. Seeing my fall as a sign of submission, the Inquisitor rose to his feet, nearly shouting with excitement.

“Brother Felipe, you are charged with heresy. You have willfully broken the holy commandments. You have brought other false gods before us and born false witness that these falsehoods are true.” His little frame shook, the dead hand with the ruby gold ring bluntly pointed in my direction. “There is only one punishment for such diabolical acts.” He looked around the room, as if to gather consent among the seated, but still hooded and unseen monks. Nodding with obvious relish, he continued, “Fire. Yes, brethren, fire is the only cure for heresy. The cleansing fire of our faith shall rid us of this devilish influence.” He lowered his arms, dropping the scroll to the floor. “Brother Felipe and his heretical works shall burn tonight.”

Inquisitor Torquemada continued talking about constant vigilance against the Evil One and other such recommendations for quite some time. But I heard no more, tuning him out. I raised my face upwards, towards the heavens. Huge stone buttresses help up the ceiling. I marveled at the ingenuity and the technical prowess it must have taken to raise such giant-sized stone blocks and suspend them so gracefully overhead. My daze snapped as all of the monks stood up, following the Inquisitor’s example. One by one, they filed past me, making the sign of the cross upon themselves to ward against evil influences. Torquemada strode past me, verbally rebuking the Devil and all who followed him. At last, no one was left in the Refectory except me and the Abbot.

“Come, brother Felipe. It is time,” he said quietly.

I rose up from the cobbled stone floor and followed the Abbot outside into the courtyard. A large pile of wood was stacked in the middle. A pole sprouted from the center of the pile. The Abbot led me to the edge, then placing his hands on my shoulders, he kissed me on both cheeks. He said, “I am sorry, brother Felipe. Go now and embrace God.”

An unknown man wearing a black mask approached. He pushed me up onto the corded wood and tied my hands behind the pole. A brush with sticky, pine tar was rubbed over my robes. The smelly fumes burned my nostrils. Someone brought up a torch, burning the same color as the sun setting over beyond the far mountains to the west. A pungent smell filled the air, and my eyes began tearing up. I could hear my fellow monks chanting, praying for the redemption of my soul. A half dozen monks approached the growing fire, holding armloads of books.

“That’s it, my righteous brothers. Throw those Satan inspired tomes into the fire. Let the pure flames of Christ cleanse us and this place,” Torquemada howled over the chanting.

Sparks flew up, blinding my sight as all of those books were thrown into the fire. My feet and legs grew numb at first, followed by coughing from the smoke pouring into my open mouth. Inquisitor Torquemada himself strode forward, holding both my parchment and the original Greek scroll. Together he tossed them into the fire at my feet. I could not hear what he said. The cool evening air grew hot. Shaking my head with sadness, I hoped that there would be a great library for me up in Heaven.
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Amaunator



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 2074
Location: Belgium ... innocuous but intrepid!

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For a young you that's very good writing. I don't think I could write anything better presently...

It lacks proper dynamic though (you could have strung a thread of faith through the tale, I feel) and there were places you could have made some great parallels.

Once real error: I prudently had always kept this secret joy to myself rather than let my fellow Franciscans to know of it.
--> ... than letting my fellow Fransiscans know.

I like it though. I've read The Name of The Rose and found the book to be compelling. I've seen the film and thought it was brilliant as well (and I just love Sean Connery and his accent Very Happy. Such a great actor). I can see where you got the inspiration from and must say that you used it wisely.

I might have added a paragraph at the end to 'prolong the suffering' and detail the meaninglessness of it all. I might have added a paragraph of two in the part where he sits alone in his cubicle, flashbacking or at least looking back on his otherwise pious life and generally being dignifiably inconsolable so as better to explain his exhaustion when he was called upon. I might have added a snippet of a couple of servants carrying wood blocks to the courtyard to add a sense of foreboding. I might have done all those things, but now that it's written and now that it's yours, I'll speak no more of it Smile.

Liked the description though (I didn't know the word 'butress' yet. Thanks for that; I've been looking for that for quite some time and it always sort of slipped my mind to look it up properly Smile).
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Amaunator Very Happy I confess that I'm seriously tempted to do some major overhauling. But then again, if I did, I'm afraid I'd change up too much so that it is no longer the same story that I wrote when I was just 16.

Did you catch the reference to Sean Connery's character, Brother William? The Brother Williams that fetches Felipe was in homage to Connery's character.

Last year, while hunting in the bargain bin of a closing down Hong Kong DVD shop (real one, not pirates!), I found THE NAME OF THE ROSE. I hadn't seen it since back in the 80's and it was every bit as good as I had remembered. Listening to the commentary, I was shocked to hear that Umberto Eco went ballistic when the French director cast Sean Connery. Eco didn't want him, but after the movie was completed, I'm sure he changed his mind. Connery absolutely breathed life into that role.

I have another mouldy paper from that era of my life. The assignment was to write a follow-up chapter to the ending of Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE. I'm not sure if younger generations read that book anymore, and without having read it, my story would not really make much sense. However, if anyone has read that book and would like to, I'll type it out for them.

*Edit* All of this old stuff came to light as my parents are renovating my old home in Louisiana and they found boxes of my old junk in a closet. Mother kindly plucked these faded pages from trash before Dad threw all my stuff away Crying or Very sad The collection includes a story about a talking crawfish that garnered me 1st prize in the elementary school writing contest. Shocked Wow, the things you forget about yourself once you get old Mad
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Amaunator



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 2074
Location: Belgium ... innocuous but intrepid!

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sad to say I didn't catch the reference! I must have been focusing too much on the text Sad. (I just finished a book, which was very enjoyable, but my mind just shocked me when I reflected on it and found myself thinking that it was 'a very uncreative style for a professor creative writing to use in that book' Embarassed...

Which reminds me of a book by Stephen Fry I read shortly before that (no I don't swallow books at any such rapid rate as my subego wants to imply! Damn Freud!) wherein he stated that being able to dissect something means you gradually lose the ability to appreciate the object of dissection (though he worded it less crudely and formulaically). As a creative writer might say (clausule: not a warranty for success): I reeled and shivered in the waves of discontent that lapped my mind and drowned my heart. (Notice: the diabolical summation Wink)

I'm rambling. Rolling Eyes

I've heard of 'The Crucible' but never read it, so you wouldn't be doing yourself a favour if you typed that out for me, but maybe anyone else? I'm anxious to read it anyway...

You seem to have a lot of prizes on your name Very Happy. I once got one as well... I think I won because I was one of very few to enter the contest Confused, that notwithstanding I won and got a very official wooden pencil (one you'd have to sharpen with a knife, and not in pencil sharpener... Very Happy). ^^

I'm young. I still remember all those things...
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