The day proceeded pleasantly. After a quick lunch back at the food pavilion, Charles led Lady Kimberly down to the central structure, with the rows of benches and bleachers where they could watch the antics of many a differing performer. He saw most of the seats were filled already, so they had to squeeze in next to Dr. Channing who was sitting up towards the top of left-most corner of the highest bleacher. For some reason, the height made Kimberly a bit nervous, though Charles didn't mind so much as long as he didn't look down.
Dr. Channing was reading through some small notebook, and looking up in the sky, studying it for a moment, his beak mouthing out words here and there, and then he would go back to reading his notebook. Charles wondered just what he was doing, probably studying the weather patterns. He would often hold one wing like arm out into the air, feeling the way the wind was blowing, and then he pulled out his quill pen to write something down. Charles hoped he didn't spill his inkbottle, as it was perched near the end of the stacks.
The others about the stadium were easy to find. The Duke himself was sitting in the slightly held off section with his crest and royal seal of it. Charles could see Thalberg his Steward standing off to one side, idly chewing on a piece of fish. The Prime Minister was sitting down though, his eyes intent on the games being played about on the field. Presumably all three would be at the dinner on Saturday night, and they would probably be flanking the Duke as they always did. Thalberg was not so much a shadow as the Prime Minister was. Charles had a difficult time trying to remember a time he'd ever seen the two of them apart. He wondered about that for a moment, but not being the most political person in the world, decided that there must be a good reason for it and quit worrying about it.
Besides there were other more important things at hand. Enjoying the games with Lady Kimberly among them. Preparing himself for Eucharist the other, the more important task ahead of him. Good Friday was an important day, very important, for it was the day that the Lord Yahshua died for him on that tree. It was the day when he would take that bread and drink that cup and he would do it in remembrance of Him.
He shuddered at his turn of thoughts. Not at what it implied, but at the lack of effort on his own part to maintain the pillars of his faith. He always got this way whenever Father Hough was around. He was always reminded of the lack of spiritual support that he had from the clergy these days. There simply was no clergy to be found in the Keep. Aside from Raven, and for some reason he could not bring to count her, despite the shriving that she had performed quite ably for him only a week-and-a-half ago, there were no other priests. That she was a woman only made it doubly worse, but then again, there were many in the Keep who were women who once were men. Still, the idea revolted him for some reason.
He tried not to think about it, but instead focus on the antics of the performers in the central ring. It seemed to be a swordsmanship contest, with two of the keepers circling each other, blades in hand. He noted that one was at least a foot taller than the other was, but unfortunately those sorts of disparities were unavoidable. There were lines of others on both sides of the central ring waiting to be admitted to test their hand. He peered through the lines, scanning faces and shapes. He saw no rat though. Sir Saulius had not joined in.
It was to be expected of course. He had been pressuring him to join in the festivities, despite his pacifism, but the injury he had sustained had prevented that from happening. His chest was no longer bandaged; Coe the healer had removed those only a couple days ago. Still, his muscles must still have been too sore to join in. For some reason, Charles suspected that it didn't matter to Saulius what his prognosis was. He had yet to join in the tourneys, despite being completely healthy previous years. Despite all of Matthias's help and assurance that he was still an honourable knight, he was still ashamed of being a rat.
He peered about the rest of the bleachers, looking for any of the others. Tallis was there, as well as Eliot, but Julian, Goldmark, and Hector were nowhere to be found. Tallis, curly hair and all, with black coloring down his back and white on his underbelly, was sitting towards the front, his little eyes moving back and forth over the players as the swords suddenly clashed together. He gripped the wooden railing tightly in his paws, chewing on it distractedly. Eliot sat back farther up and over in a corner where he wasn't easily noticed. The red splotch on his right shoulder however gave him away. He was cautiously looking from side to side as he clutched the small slice of cheese - it looked to be cheddar - in one hand.
Charles suspected that Hector was still at his booth, but the absence of Julian and Goldmark was inexcusable. Julian was not too surprising though, he usually only came up for the Support Group meetings. Goldmark was a different story though. In fact he was always a different story. Matthias did not understand that rat's motivations, as he was always doing the oddest of things, and somehow getting away with them too. That and the fact that he spent a good deal of his time in his pure rat form also was odd. Though Charles himself liked being a rat, he did not have much use for being a full rat; he did shrink to that size from time to time, but in general he stayed in his most human form.
He looked into Lady Kimberly's face, having scanned the crowd to his own satisfaction. He would have to bonk Julian and the others on the head tomorrow morning before he took his bath. However, he knew that she would be about, and that she would be prepared and waiting for him. He could not help but feel elated at the thought. He wanted to look his best for her, and for the others. He did not like playing political games, but he had a feeling he would not have a choice. Anytime he set foot in the central spire of the castle he felt as if he was invading enemy territory. It was not that Duke Thomas made him feel unwelcome, hardly, but that his advisors always seemed ready to take away everything he had worked for. He felt like he had to fight tooth and claw for all that he had every time he came with a request. He did not know how many times he'd heard threats of having to cut back the funding for the Writer's Guild, but it never happened.
Of course, his impression was probably completely wrong, but that wasn't what was important. That was how he felt about it, correct or not it didn't matter. It was the same way with Lady Kimberly, correct or not, she seemed to feel that she was ugly as a rat and that nobody could ever love her. About that, she was most certainly wrong. Charles let his left paw just glance over her right, and suddenly she slipped her paw into his almost reflexively. It was a comfortable feeling, and one that he appreciated. He gave her paw a little squeeze, and she glanced over at him, her whiskers twitching in delight.
He noticed a small piece of wood sticking between her teeth then, and reached up to her mouth. She put her own paw on his hand to stop him, more of a reflex than anything else, "Don't do that!" she chided him, her voice suddenly covered up by the cheer that arose from the audience as the shorter of the two combatants disarmed the taller. Charles took a brief glance and saw that his sword had tumbled to the ground. However, the disarmed man quickly pulled a knife from a sheath behind his back, and continued the fight, much the fevered excitement of the crowd. Matthias found it revolting.
"There's a bit of wood stuck there, let me get that out."
"I know it's there," Lady Kimberly kept her arm over his.
"Well let me get it out, it must be very distressing."
Lady Kimberly nodded slightly, then leaned over to him, showing him her front teeth and the small splinter that was stuck between them. Matthias pulled his paw out, and tried to grip the splinter between two of his claws. It was troublesome, as the splinter kept sliding out of his way, but he finally managed to get a good hold on it, and quickly pulled it free. Kimberly put her own paw up to her incisors, "That feels much better. Thank you, Charles."
Charles smiled, putting his arm around her shoulders as they leaned against the back railing. She leaned into him chest a bit, and her one paw took hold of his, almost unafraid to let go. Her eyes returned to the game, which clearly excited her, but Charles found to be offensive. While he was not against violence per se, he found the exploration of it only to be a dangerous path. It had been so for him, and it could prove to be so for others. Still, he did recognize the necessity of it; otherwise such things as Lutins might overrun them. Or worse yet, Nasoj would have destroyed this place only six years before. He had done much to destroy it, everything he possibly could have, but it had not been enough. People move on, and survive.
However, the memory of that should never die. Even though he was not here for the Battle of Three Gates, he still would remember it. Just as he would remember the Last Meal, which they would once again celebrate tonight. "Do this in Remembrance of Me" he uttered aloud, though softly, too softly for another to hear. Those words meant much to him, for they were in his estimate the sum of his faith. Do this in remembrance; every act of his should be done with the memory of the sacrifice that was made for him and all others so long ago. On this day, Yahshua hath died. His whole body trembled with the memory of past Good Friday's. The service and the pain that passed through him as he visualized the event were strong.
He could see the man whom they called Yahshua being whipped, flogged, with his back being sheared apart by the sting and the slashes. Blood ran down his back in rivulets, the skin having been torn to ribbons, hanging down like pinions on a flag. He saw the huge tree, the gnarled branches like a hand grasping to tear down the sky. He watched in horror as Yahshua was held against it, and the soldiers took those huge thick rusted nails and set them upon his hands and began to hammer. He cringed as the blood spurted, his body quivering in the shared agony. With each blow, the rusted metal pushed further and further into the weak flesh, scraping against the bones of his palm.
Charles wanted to cry out from the pain, but he could not, he could only watch as his Lord was nailed to the tree, each hammer blow one more laugh of the devil who had thought he had won. It was the cheer for death from the bloodthirsty priests who did not know better, who'd rather have it their way than listen to the eternal Eli in Heaven. "Abba!" he heard cry out and then he could bear it no more.
Lady Kimberly shook him gently, snapping him out of the terrible daydream, "Charles, are you okay? You look a little scared."
Charles nodded, "I'll be fine." He nodded to her, and gave her a quick little hug. She returned it, looking much happier now. She returned her attention to the game, but his mind was now free. He considered her face, taking a moment to note the new pair of contestants come out on to the field. It was a dangerous sport, and he could see Coe waiting in the wings in his own tent to tend to the wounded, as there were almost certainly going to be some through such activity. Her head was shaped much the same as his, her pinkish ears set up towards the back of her head, with her twitching nose and whiskers set almost to a point, with her incisors beneath. Her eyes, a radiant black peered out at the field, often times turning to look at him and then give him that sweet glint he always knew meant a smile. She had a dark coloring, almost a hooded appearance, but it was a matter of shading, a darker auburn against the lighter tan of her underside. In his entire time here, he had never seen another that was as beautiful to him.
Though he might have been biased, he could still look at things from a human physiological perspective. Some of the gendermorphs who had become women had at first caught his eye, but only when in certain forms. The most seductive of the forms, with the most ridiculous of proportions made him want to gag. That some strutted about like that made him wonder just what the change had done to their minds. Of course, they could wonder the same thing about him, finding a rat attractive. Still, he maintained his own opinions, despite any opposition. Lady Kimberly was the most beautiful person in all the Keep, and that was that.
Feeling a little frisky, he took the time between sword blows to lean over to her ear and whisper, "You do know that you are the most beautiful lady in all the Keep."
Kimberly turned to look at him and she gave him another quick hug, "You are so sweet, Charles."
"No, you are. Me, I'm just some guy who knows what beauty is really about." Charles shrugged as he spoke, glancing at the battle scene once more. His thoughts were beginning to move about so fast that he could hardly keep track of them. This combat was going to last forever, and there was little he could do to shorten it. Much to his disdain it would continue and almost all about him, even Dr. Channing, were enjoying themselves.
Lady Kimberly sighed and leaned into him again, her eyes returning to the contest. He idly watched it for a moment, letting the vagaries of the combat seep into him, drowning out other thoughts. The two opponents were pretty evenly matched, a ferret and a kangaroo. Wait, there was only one kangaroo in the Keep and that was Zhypar Habakkuk. He never knew that he could use a sword. Well, that was probably one more thing about the man that he didn't know. It wasn't like he had a complicated history or anything, it was just that like so many others at the Keep he didn't talk about it that much, nor did he talk about himself much at all period. He was the type who could tell you nothing and you'd walk away feeling you'd learned his life story, only to later realize that you knew nothing.
He watched the two exchange blows, the ferret ducking and weaving very well, his natural energy giving him a good chance to move about, and to avoid Zhypar's timely thrusts. Charles was not sure who the ferret was, but he did have some typical armor from the Keep on, probably a guard or something. He most likely spent his time out on patrol so was never needed much inside the Keep. Habakkuk handled him with relative ease, though it looked like the Roo was getting some exercise as well.
Charles refused to let himself get caught up in the tension of the game, and just when he found himself getting into it, he looked away, back towards the Keep. He was not going to find his heart thirsting after violence, no never again. He murmured a prayer for strength, calling on every saint he could remember to ask his or her help as well. It took long enough, and it gave him some calm of mind. He turned back to see that both of the combatants were limping off the field. Habakkuk still had his sword in hand though, and could mostly walk by himself. The ferret was not so lucky. In fact he seemed headed straight for Coe's tent. Charles cringed at the thought, but realized that it was what happened when people attacked each other with sharp objects.
"How are you enjoying the Equinox festivities?" Charles finally asked her, just trying to get some sort of conversation going.
She beamed at him, "I'm having a wonderful time. Thank you for taking me."
"Well I didn't really have to take you that far," Matthias joshed.
"You know what I mean," she gave him a gentle nudge. Channing quickly picked up his inkbottle as Charles tail swept the seat by it trying to keep his balance.
"Sorry about that Reverend." Matthias apologized.
"No problem," Channing remarked dreamily, and then continued writing in his little notebook.
Charles turned back to Lady Kimberly. She was watching all of his antics with a bit of amusement. "So, what are we going to do this evening?"
"Well, we'll be having an early dinner tonight because of the Service will be taking up most of the evening, and besides we'll be having the Eucharist anyway, and I don't like to eat before that," Charles calmly explained.
"Service? Eucharist?" Lady Kimberly looked confused.
Charles suddenly felt very small and very stupid. The one thing he had forgotten to ask her, the most important question that he could have asked her, was that if she was a Follower. How stupid had he been not to remember that? Oh sure, he asked just about everybody else at some point, but it had never even occurred to him to ask her. And now he finds out that she is not even a Follower, maybe not even a professing member of the Way. True she was from lands in the North, and there was not much in the way of Followers up any farther North. There was only one diocese any further North from Metamor Keep, and it was rather isolated from the rest of the surrounding kingdoms by a small series of mountains. There were scatterings of other members of the Way, and then a wide range of other pagan religions. He should have been expecting this, but no, he had just made the assumption that she was a Follower too. How could he have been so stupid?
"I take it you are not a Follower?" Charles asked, already knowing the answer. "No, but I am of the Way," she replied. He sighed in relief, well that was good at least. Judging from her lack of knowledge about he Eucharist it seemed she was a rather isolated Protestant. Most of them that he'd talked to had at least had some sort of familiarity with Follower practices. Perhaps her kingdom had been just as remote as the Northern Followers were.
"Well, would you care to come to the Good Friday Service this evening with me. Worship may be unfamiliar to you, but it is still the same Eli." Charles put his paw on top of her, and stared deeply into her eyes. He desperately wished that she would come and he offered up prayers that her heart would be convinced as well. He found that he prayed more often when these days came about, yet only once or twice during the rest of the days of the year. Perhaps he was trying to make up for his previous inattentiveness.
She nodded, "I would love to come."
Charles bowed his head, his whole body no longer quivering with the loss, but nearly bursting forth with joy. The tree had not stopped the Yahshua, nor would her isolation stop her. "Thank you, my Lady Kimberly. That means a lot to me."
She put a paw on his shoulder, and ruffled the fur on the back of his head for a moment, and he leaned into her, feeling the warmth of her chest against the side of his head. He was so glad to know her. In just the two short months that he had known her, he had found that she was beginning to occupy a much larger space of his life than he had ever imagined. For some reason, it wasn't so bad, but instead, overwhelmingly joyous. He was in such a good mood that he was even able to enjoy the rest of the swordsmanship contest.
When the sun was beginning to get low in the horizon, he had taken Lady Kimberly to grab a quick bite from the foodstuffs pavilion, and had grabbed a small slice of cheese that they had both shared. Charles let her eat most of it, only taking a few nibbles himself. He spent much of that time chewing on his own stick instead. It was the one that Phil had given him at the last Support Group meeting. It had seen a bit of use, and was no longer quite so exquisite looking as it had once been. Still, the thought was there, and he was happy to have received it.
His thoughts had grown increasingly morose as the day had worn on. That Lady Kimberly would be coming with him to the Eucharist was very pleasing, but still there was that knowledge that so many others would not join in. So many others, friends and neighbors, people that he cared deeply about, would not be coming. So many did not know the power that he felt inside of him on these days, the power and the anguish of the Passion. It was so powerful that he could barely contain it himself, and the fact that others rejected it hurt him in a very fundamental way, one in which he could not describe.
He had gotten himself involved in such a discussion and had brought that up, but had been curtly reminded that he was not the only one who felt such pain. Each felt equally involved in their own faiths, and it hurt to see others so easily denounce them. Charles had not brought it up again. There was very little he could do, aside from what he had always done, write stories and be an example to others. That was all he could do, he was no minister, he did not know the Bible well enough to minister to others. He wished that the Follower Ecclesia would establish a full-time presence here in Metamor Keep, so that such a ministry could begin, and that others who were still sitting on the wall would come down and enter into the church.
Still, then there was the continuously repeating image of the crucified Yahshua. He could see him, the man with only a loincloth for modesty as the nails were driven into his flesh, pushing apart his bones but not breaking them. He could feel the suffering on those shoulders as his arms struggled to hold himself up, to seek forgiveness upon even his own killers. The ultimate sacrifice, giving one's life for another, something that he had never thought he could do. It had been something that he had been taught might be required, and at one point he had been ready to give his life for another, but the situation changed, and everything became so much more complex. His own life had become more important then, and it had been ever since.
Was that selfish? Hardly. Was it ignorant? Absolutely. There were so many things about him that were worth more than just his life, so many causes that dying for would be noble. So many people that needed him and that even in death he could save them. Would he take an arrow for Lady Kimberly? Without question. Would he die for his faith? If need be.
That almost wavering on that point had kept coming back, the question returning. Would he die for the Yahshua? He wanted to say yes, but each time he dwelt on it he thought of everything he had here and how much he did not want to leave it. Yet who was he to determine what should go and what should stay? He was not to be the master of his own house; he was just the tenant. He tried to sort out his convolutions, but they kept twisting back on each other, and his prayers did not seem to help.
Still, no matter what he did it should all be in remembrance of Him. He had to let his own thoughts come into order, and stop falling over each other. He needed to let himself be guided by the saints and by the ecclesia, and most importantly, by Yahshua Himself. Yet, was not bringing Lady Kimberly to Service an act that was worthy of much? Was this not something that was worthwhile? Certainly it would affect her, and bring her closer to the truth, as he strove to be at these times. He remembered her face when she had told him that she would come. It was beautiful, and it was one of love for him. She would do it for him, and certainly she would try her best to understand. That was worthwhile, that was good. Charles felt better about it somehow.
The hall that was given over to these ceremonies was rather long and was designed with public speaking in mind. It was in one of the outer spires of the castle proper, and many chairs and benches had been brought into the room for the faithful to enjoin in the service. The altar had been prepared towards the front of the room with the crucifix erected behind it upon the wall; there was a small oaken lectern set before the altar. He recognized the sacraments and the vestments as they were laid out in proper order with meticulous care. Father Hough was standing by the entrance into room itself as they came strolling in. There were many already on their knees in prayer throughout the makeshift pews. He recognized a few faces, Sir Saulius among them. However, there were no surprises, nobody that he had not seen at Service before.
Father Hough was a tall man; well most any human was tall to him now, almost standing six feet in height. His brown hair had been cropped close to his head, and his slender face and features with short beard seemed to radiate a gentleness that Matthias missed. He was wearing the ceremonial robes of the priest on these occasions, but was not so afraid as to greet them at the door. That was one thing that always struck Matthias about the man, he was always there to greet them, even if to him they looked to be subhuman things that were more animal than man is sometimes.
Matthias inclined his head, "Father."
"Ah, Charles, my son. Have you fared well?" Hough's voice was a deeply rich baritone.
"I am doing well. I missed you last night."
"Yes, I know. I will be around tomorrow afternoon if you want to talk. I will be in confessional the rest of the time until Sunday evening."
Charles nodded. "Father Hough, I'd like you to meet a very special friend of mine, the Lady Kimberly."
Hough smiled at seeing her, noting her reluctance to approach him. He kneeled down slightly in his robes, getting on a more eye to eye level with them. "Welcome, Lady Kimberly. I am Father Hough. Services will begin shortly, but you are all invited to pray to get your hearts in order before we begin."
Lady Kimberly nodded slowly, avoiding eye contact with the man. Charles could see the nervousness and the diffidence plainly in her expression. She was not sure she wanted to do this, but he gave her a reassuring hug, and they continued on into the temporary chapel. Certainly Father Hough had been busy today consecrating the place. He must have been at it all morning. The lingering scent of the various fragrances could be detected in the air, and the lackluster odour of the unleavened bread that was waiting with the Host up upon the altar was very evident to his sensitive nose.
Charles led her to a pair of simple chairs close to the front. She sat down, letting her tail dangle out the back, but then immediately got back up again when Charles got to his knees. Charles closed his eyes as he bowed his head. He could tell Kimberly was doing the same. He wondered for a moment what she would pray, but his own prayer quickly silenced such speculation. He called upon each of the saints, most especially the Virgin Mother. To each he brought a simple supplication, "Pray for my own faith to be made strong. Pray that my own past might be just that, the past. Pray that Lady Kimberly will see the glory of our Lord Yahshua, Son of Eli in his fullest glory, and the establishment of his own Ecclesia. Pray with me these things."
To Yahshua Himself, he offered his soul once again; remembering what the taste of flesh was like, remembering the taste of blood. Remembering that it was He who had offered it, remembering that only His flesh and blood brought such wonders that could not be described. All other thoughts were systematically shut out, as his whole mind turned to the task of preparing himself for what he was about to do. His prayers focused him, brought him closer to the reality of the situation in a way that had not been clear in the early morning. That had been a time of pleasure, but in reality it was a time of pain. He had been flogged, beaten, spat upon, and all other sorts of horrors and signs of disrespect. And then, in the evening, he had died upon the tree.
Charles finally took his seat, when he was ready. Lady Kimberly was already there, looking a bit uncomfortable. She was not completely sure of herself. Charles gave her a reassuring nod, and then looked about the rest of the chapel. It was much more crowded now, and Father Hough was no longer at the entrance. He saw Tallis, Nahum, and Zhypar taking their typical places across from him on the other side of the central aisle. Habakkuk looked no worse for wear from the fight he'd been in earlier too. He must have gotten himself cleaned up, as he had been a mess when he'd limped off the field. Sitting just a few rows behind them, much to his delight was Misha the fox. He got Misha's attention for a moment, waving to him. Misha nodded, his eyes bright and joyful. He certainly seemed to be glad he was here. It was such a pleasant reminder, there was at least some hope for them if even one thought of as an axe-wielding maniac could come and sit before the altar of Eli properly.
It was only a few moments later when Father Hough took to the lectern and stared out among the faces in the crowd. Each one so uniquely different that it must have disquieted this still human man. This man who had never fallen prey to the curse of Nasoj's nefarious spells was going to minister to those who had. What self-composure that took Matthias did not know. He suspected that Hough did not want to ever stay here longer than four or five days, six was pushing it, seven was just asking to be cursed. Anymore and he would certainly start to change. Most tried to avoid that if they could. Some were caught unawares early, but others it took its time. Hough did not seem to want to even take a chance. Matthias did not blame him either.
He waited until he had everybody's complete attention before speaking. His voice rang out through the hall with each word carefully phrased. The sermon had to be given in a language that all would understand, as the classical languages were beyond many here at the Keep, so far from the places where they were used. "The Lord Yahshua died on this very day over a thousand years ago. He was crucified by the Elders for challenging their authority. Yet, that death was one that would take with it so much more. It is one of the darkest hours in our tradition, and in it, the movement that Yahshua had started among the apostles seemed to have been destroyed. Kepha himself, the very rock upon which our Ecclesia is founded, has gone and denied Him. Yahudos Eskeros, the traitor, has hanged himself. The rest are scattered in hiding. Everything that they seemed to have planned has come to ruin.
"Yet, we can see that his death and shedding of blood had a purpose. He said he would be put to death, and he told the disciples that he would be raised three days later. The Son of Man must suffer at the hands of the chief priests and the elders, this he told them, yet they did not understand. Of more importance, he told them what they had to do, he told them they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
"It is written in the Canticle of St. Yahnous 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.' This was hard for them to hear as well, and many left him because of this. Yet when he died on that tree, he did just that, he gave his flesh and blood for all of us." Hough's voice boomed throughout the room, and Matthias let the words echo through him, pounding at his heart, letting it break through, reminding him of the importance of the Eucharist, the most sacred of all acts.
The entire room rocked back in forth to the time and cadences of Hough's sermon. He was no Chrysostom, who was so named for his unbounded eloquence, but he was a refreshing sound. The guilt of Charles's entire world piled up inside of him, filling him, but he emptied it into those six simple words, "Do this in Remembrance of Me." Those six words reminded him why he got up in the morning, why he went through his days, why he lived out his life, and why he had forsworn ever using his powers again. They were all that should matter. He felt Lady Kimberly's paw in his own. She was rapt with the sermon, her mouth hanging agape, her eyes wide and astonished. Never before had she heard such teaching, never before was she aware of what the Eucharist meant. Never before had she realized that it was the literal eating of the flesh and blood of the Yahshua. Matthias was not that surprised at her reaction; it would sound odd to those who had not heard it. He remembered telling it to somebody who had never heard of The Way before, and the reaction had been one of shock and horror, "You eat the body of your Eli?"
It did seem odd, even to him at times. However, it was a body and blood freely given. Yahshua had died and given his body and his blood for them, why should they not respect his wishes that they eat it? That it appeared as simple bread and wine meant nothing, for that was just an outward appearance. One thing that the Keep had taught him and everybody else in it was that appearance meant nothing. Father Hough even seemed to have used that fact to his advantage in his sermon, referring several times to how they could understand what it meant for the substance to be changed.
Still, it came down to the last, and Father Hough ended with a retelling of the story of the Last Supper where the practice had first started. Matthias could not help but visualize the events. All thirteen of them around a table, with St. Yahnous leaning up against his side, and the others about the table in some manner. He always felt that Yahudos Eskeros should have been on the opposite end of the table, trying to vie for position by sitting close to the teacher. Charles watched as Yahshua blessed the bread for all of them present, and then broke it and passed it around amongst his peoples. It was a moving scene, for He knew that it was the last time he would eat with his followers, and in it he gave them one of the most important keys to understanding his church that he was building. Charles shook with tears in his eyes at the vision that seemed more a memory than anything else.
When Father Hough stopped speaking, several of the Keepers with better manual dexterity and strength than he had took the chalices filled with the unleavened bread which had become the body of Yahshua. As they were passed, Charles reached in and picked up a large morsel. Of course they were all large to him, being a rat. Lady Kimberly gingerly pulled one out as well, holding it in both paws, just staring at it, trying to resist the urge to bite into it too early. She looked up at Matthias, her eyes concerned. Charles put a comforting paw on her arm, and nodded, wiggling his whiskers. He then returned his gave up at the crucifix that had been erected behind the altar. He could almost imagine the blood draining from the figure's wounds in hands and feet and from the head as the thorns pierced into his skin. The thought made him shake.
Once all the body of the Host had been passed around, Hough said in a gravely voice, "Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you." Each in the room brought the bread to their lips. It was no longer bread, but indeed the flesh of the Most High. Charles ate it quickly, taking larger bites than he normally would have. This was important, but he chewed it properly as well. The taste was not bland, but instead it was transcendent in a way that he could not describe. He felt himself fill with the bread-turned-flesh, each bite reminding him of the broken bread that had been raised up to feed the five thousand. Then his thoughts turned to the Last Meal once more. He saw each of the disciples eating in turn, each eating but not understanding. This was different, he knew what he was eating, and he knew that it was not bread.
Finally, the first part of the Eucharist was over, and Father Hough once again related the second half of the story, as he passed out the wine amongst the disciples. Once he finished his brief statement, the deacons came forward again and began to pass out the wine that was now blood. Matthias had an affinity for wine that was at times excessive, but on this occasion, it was different. Completely different. This was not about drinking something that tasted good and warmed his belly. This was about a commitment to Eli, about his faith in the ever-risen Lord. He took the small cup in hand, studying the liquid only a bit. It did not look like blood, but looks were not everything. Lady Kimberly held hers in both paws, the cup a bit big for her. Matthias found it unwieldy as well, but he had discovered that he never got even the least bit tipsy from it, despite the amount he was given. No matter how much of it he drank.
The blood pouring forth from the wounds of the Yahshua, filing this the cup that he held in his paws, it was an image that he saw all too frequently. He could not help but remember it all so clearly as if it had happened before his very eyes. He saw Jesus hanging from the tree, and the soldier's spear poking into his side. The flow of blood and water that poured forth, evidence that the body was no more alive. The blood spilled into his cup, washed over his body, and whitened him, making all that was unclean pure again. The baptism washing him off his sins, the blood of Yahshua washing his very soul, filling it with that living water that never ran dry, that guaranteed eternal life. The mish-mash of images and concepts from the pages of the Canticle of Eli washed over him as he held the cup in his paws, awaiting the allotted moment when the Priest had finally given them the ordinance to drink.
He did not have to wait long. Hough's voice was almost grief stricken as well when he spoke, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Hough then took his own cup and imbibed it. Matthias lifted it to his mouth, his tongue lapping it up, drawing the wine that was now blood into him. He tipped the cup over his tongue, letting it spill into his mouth, drawing it in, filling ever crevice of his throat, washing down him so completely, coating his insides with its living power. There was so much of it, yet he kept drinking, tasting it, the taste of the blood of Yahshua, delicious and sweet beyond comparison. It filled him, and he felt as if all of his prayers had been answered. He felt as if he were being embraced in a tight hug by the Almighty Himself.
Kimberly was shivering slightly as she set her cup down, her eyes meeting Charles, and then relaxing. Charles put his paw back in hers, and nodded slowly. She licked a bit of the liquid from her cheek, and sighed contentedly. Charles turned back to face Father Hough who looked emotionally fulfilled, his face radiant now, where once it had been full of pain. He too knew the sorrow and misery that had been the Last Meal. Now, the bread and blood were inside them, and they each knew that something had happened. There were no sudden flashes of light, sound or shaking of the Earth. In fact, there were no visible changes in the room about them at all. Yet something had happened regardless.
Charles knew what it was. It had been the Eucharist; the sacrament that he had pondered and mulled over all of the day. And for now, and until the next time, the Eucharist was over.