"Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:"
Father Hough was kneeling at the altar, hands folded, quietly chanting the evening prayers when Drift Snow slipped through the entrance doors behind him. The chapel was otherwise empty of people, and the boy-priest's voice carried well in the fine acoustics of the room.
"Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum…"
Drift carefully shut the doors, taking care to make as little noise as possible. He frowned, wishing he'd thought to shutter the lantern he carried before entering, as it threw new shadows around the room and he'd wanted as unnoticed an entry as possible. Well, too late for that now...
"Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum…"
The samoyed Keeper recognized pieces of what was being said, enough to take a guess at what prayer was being spoken, but his grasp of the Old Suiel used by the Ecclesia was sparse at best. He cast his mind back to his uncle's translation, hidden in his room, trying to figure out what the next line would be, but Father Hough finished before he could remember.
"Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Yehudim. Amen."
Drift waited until Father Hough had made the sign of the yew and started to rise before announcing his presence. "Hello, priest."
Father Hough turned, surprised (albeit pleasantly so) to hear that particular voice in his church. "Master Snow. I did not expect to see you here. Welcome."
Drift walked in silence around the room, pausing to admire each of the stained glass windows in turn. He lifted his lantern when the moon's light and the light of the candles around the church were not enough. The seven-sided lantern gleamed brightly in Drift's hand, each surface polished, the glass lightly etched. "Misha was right," he said finally, without any preamble, reaching out to stroke a finger over a particularly rich blue pane. "These are beautiful. I love stained glass."
"Thank you," Father Hough replied, stepping up alongside, looking up at the window in front of which the samoyed had stopped, his tail gently swishing. Yahshua sat at the side of a well, and a woman in Steppelander clothes stood nearby, a pitcher by her side. Yahshua's hand extended toward her in invitation. Drift's choice of windows did not surprise the boy priest. "The Steppelander woman at the well. This is one of my favorites, too." He let the silence stretch for a few moments before turning to look up at the white-furred Keeper next to him with the slightest hint of a sad smile at the tension his proximity seemed to reflexively cause in the man. Rather than unkindly draw that tension out, he cut to the point. "But something tells me, Master Snow, that you didn't come all the way here to talk about windows."
"No," Drift replied, finally turning to look at the boy priest. "I've been doing some thinking over the past month, about what you and Madog said. After that, I started asking around… and what I've heard about you has been, without fail, positive." He stooped to one knee so he could look Hough in the eye. "I don't think you and I are ever likely to resolve the issues I have with the Ecclesia hierarchy and their tactics, but you yourself I think I can trust." Lowering the lantern, he held it out to Hough. "I made this for you. Please, consider it a peace offering," he said with just a hint of ingrained reluctance, "and an apology for pre-judging you. I hope that it can be a reminder for all that our differences are less important than the things that we share." The lantern looked undersized in his hand, clearly meant for someone smaller than he. His mouth twitched slightly. "However heretical an idea that might be."
Hough's smile fit his face perfectly. The lantern light danced across his youthful brown curls and sparkled in his eyes. "Thank you, Master Snow. This is a lovely gift. I gladly accept it in the spirit in which it is given. We do have more in common than we often recognize." His eyes strayed past the lantern to note the way Drift knelt, and then rose to meet the Samoyed's gaze. "But you shouldn't give up so soon on resolving issues. Nothing grieves Yahshua more than to see his children squabble."
Drift shrugged. "This seems pretty amicable to me. I'm here, aren't I?" He got to his feet and brushed off his knee, his white fur almost seeming to glow in the broad sweep of light cast by the slightly lensed glass of the lantern. "Well, I won't keep you from your duties or your sleep any longer," he said as he turned to go. "Goodnight, priest."
Hough lowered the lamp, casting his face into the shadows that he might see better. "Master Snow?" His voice was curious, soft, and welcoming as to a friend. "Why will you not join us? Your friend Misha has been with us many times."
Drift paused, looking around, and his ears flicked with suppressed irritation as his eye traveled through the Stations of the Yew, the procession of statues depicting Yahshua's path from the courts where he was condemned to death, to fulfilling that death on the yew. His ears flicked most noticeably at the last station, and he quickly turned his attention to the windows instead, which seemed to please him more, although his lips still tightened slightly at a few of them depicting the Virgin Mother. "I'll think on it," he said finally. "I have my own place for worship, but perhaps for special occasions."
Father Hough nodded and smiled in a way that must have set many hearts at ease. "You are always welcome here, Master Snow. I or one of my acolytes will be happy to help in any way we can. If you prefer, I will tell my acolytes to fetch me when you come."
Drift half-turned, one ear flicking off to the side in mildly baffled curiosity, Hough's smile notwithstanding. "I was thinking more along the lines of Yule or Easter than for… help." He pondered for a moment, running his hand absently along the polished wood of the backmost pew. "Still, I appreciate the offer, and I'll consider it."
Hough nodded. "Of course. You must do as you feel the Spirit Most Holy directs. We will be happy to have you join us during those most wonderful liturgies." He turned to the side and paused, his face lost in brief thought when he saw by Drift's expression that his slightly grand choice of wording had not been as well received as he might have hoped. After a moment of grasping for a way to repair his small gaffe, he turned back to the samoyed, believing he now had the right answer in mind. "Madog tells me that you are very gifted in working with the lighter metals, and from this I see he is correct. Perhaps you can aid us here. One of our stanchions was damaged during the attack last Yule, and I have never had it repaired. Mayhap sometime you could inspect it?"
The apparent shrewdness of the remark was not lost on Drift after months of experience with his clever fiancée, and his tail swished in amusement. Trying to bring me back with a little flattery, are you, since I've already declined your 'help'? he thought to himself. Let's see what happens if I move up the time a little. "Madog was being generous, as he usually is," he said modestly, leaning forward against the pew and supporting himself with his hands, and he couldn't quite keep a small smile from his face. "I've got a few minutes to take a look now, if you'd like."
Hough smiled and lifted the lantern higher. "Follow me. It's just this way." The priest turned toward the altar, where one of the candle stands beside it stood slightly askew, its top and bottom both bent.
Drift stood there for a moment, his mouth slightly open, feeling like he had when Wolfram had grabbed his arm mid-punch during hand-to-hand combat practice the month before and thrown him into a wall. Now, as he had then, he thought, wait… that wasn't supposed to happen. Only when Hough turned to look for him did the samoyed jar back into motion. "Coming…"