The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Interlude - The First


 Galen Sharp noticed a small white thread on the left sleeve of his coat. He’d seen it the instant he glanced at his reflection in the tall, plain, wood-framed mirror that hung above his dressing stand. Seconds before, he’d finished slipping on and buttoning the dark blue jacket of his uniform, smoothed out any wrinkles that might have appeared and tugged on the bottom of the coat to make sure it was straight and sat squarely on his shoulders. 

That was when he first caught sight of it. 

One tiny but offensive thin white strand had somehow found its way onto his sleeve. It glared up at him like a shining beacon of light against the dark blue material of the jacket. He turned his eyes from his reflection to his left forearm and frowned. Then placing his thumb and index finger around the offending speck, he lifted it from the jacket. Flicking it from his fingers, he tossed it aside and then turned back to his reflection as the thread floated to the ground never to be seen or thought of again. 

The thread had disturbed the pattern of decorum and order Galen preferred his life maintain, and now that it was gone, he continued his daily ritual of dressing in the same unwavering order he always followed, without change or deviation. 

Galen Sharp liked order. One might even say he loved it. To Galen, order was the glue that held the framework of the universe together. Nature followed a logical and orderly progression – didn’t it? The day always held the same number of hours. The sun always rose in the morning and set at night. Rain fell downward from the sky not upward, and once it reached the ground it flowed by gravity into streams then rivers and finally to the great sea itself only to repeat the cycle again and again. The pattern of nature was orderly, just as he felt the pattern of life should be. 

Looking once again into the mirror, he continued to inspect the reflection that looked back at him. The tall gangly man with pale skin and dark black hair that greeted his gaze stared back at him with steely gray eyes devoid of warmth or emotion. His nose, a large protrusion that looked as if it didn’t belong to the face on which it hung, was long and hooked, with a strange bump pushing out midway up its bridge. His thin face, pointed chin, high protruding cheekbones, and gaunt sunken cheeks made him recall the nickname the children in his town used to call him – the skeleton. As a child, he’d been teased and made fun of. That though wasn’t as bad as the bullying and occasional beatings inflicted on him by some of the street thugs and bullies in the ghetto district of Moorgate where he and his mother had been forced to live. 

But none of that mattered anymore. As the bastard child of a bastard father who had impregnated his mother and promptly deserted her upon learning she was with child, Galen began his life in abject poverty. An orphan at thirteen upon the death of his mother – some would say because of overwork and abuse as the scullery maid in the largest brothel in Moorgate – he’d been forced to make his own way through life. 

After his mother’s death, the boy was utterly alone. His mother often told him of her parents and a younger brother, but after finding herself pregnant, she’d left her home one night while they slept, not wanting her family to learn of her shame. Without any knowledge of where they lived or even of their names, Galen quickly abandoned any hope of ever finding his grandparents or uncle. And even if he had, he’d wondered: would they have accepted him or even believed that a hungry orphan child in need of a home was really of their blood? Living as a street urchin, begging for food and the few pennies he could coax from those more fortunate than he, Galen scratched out a tenuous existence that carried him through his early teenage years. 

Galen had first heard the teachings of the blessed prophet as a small child. Early in his life as he fended for himself on the streets of Moorgate, he often used the various churches and chapels in the town as places of sanctuary. He learned early on that if he was being pursued by a particular troublesome bully or risked being accosted by some of the small groups of gangs that populated the various neighborhoods and ghettos of Moorgate, he could duck into a nearby place of worship and hide. At first, it was just the atmosphere of the dark quiet churches that appealed to him, but sometimes a particularly tenacious bully would see him enter the building and wait outside.

During those times Galen would be forced to wait hours – sometimes even half a day – until the bully grew bored and would abandon his stalking in favor of finding someone else to pick on. During those extended periods Galen would sit quietly in one of the church pews and wait. Eventually he became caught up in the ceremonies and pomp of the church. He came to know the ritual prayers by heart and enjoyed many of the hymns that were sung by the congregation. But what finally drew him into the loving embrace of Sarjanian doctrine were the homilies often given by the clergy.

After Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Prophet Sarjanus, the next most important discipline taught to monks was rhetoric and homiletics. Sarjanian monks were instructed diligently in all the great skills of rhetorical exegesis. The church prided itself on the preachers it produced. Even such things as movement, gestures and inflection of voice were drilled and practiced by novices again and again. 

Early on in the process, novices of particular promise would be culled from groups of newly pledged initiates. Those novices whose knowledge and skill suited them to other tasks were quickly placed in areas of apprenticeships. The bakery, kitchen, scriptorium, and herbarium always had a ready supply from the ranks of the culled, but those novices who showed promise were given special preference. 

Their studies were demanding and difficult; there were at least four culls among each group of novices who entered the discipline of homiletics. After each cull, unsatisfactory or failed candidates were sent to one of the other divisions of labor within the monastery. The last cull included sending the final successful novices to the great Arch Abbey at Eagles Eyre for an intensive one-year training period. Even then a candidate could fail and be sent back to his home monastery, but those that emerged were masters at their craft. 

Galen fell in love with the great sermons given by the talented monks. Their words and the way they presented them captured the imagination and enriched the life of a boy who had little else to find comfort in. In his later teenage years, after struggling to survive on the streets of Moorgate, he had gone to the local monastery and tried to join the holy order, but his dubious paternity and the profession of his mother seemed to make that desire an impossibility. But Galen was not one to give up so easily, so through diligent persuasion and with dogged determination, he managed to convince the local Abbot of the monastery in Moorgate to let him at least study the teachings. 

At first he met resistance, but then after he was finally able to convince Abbot Bosca of the sincerity of his motives and his zealous devotion to the holy teachings of Sarjanus, he was allowed to enter – not as a monk of course, for that would have been too noble an aspiration for one who had begun life as lowly as he, but as a student of the teachings and servant within the monastery. And while some might have been insulted or demeaned, Galen had been elated that he had finally been accepted into something, even if it was on the lowest of levels. 

His work occupied most of his days, but there was always time for study, and while he often was forced to sit on the floor in the back of the classroom, shunned by the novices, he hung on every word of their teachers. He’d even been able to use the small monastic library late at night when his chores were complete, after the monks and novices had departed to their cells and their beds. 

Initially life in the monastery hadn’t been much easier then it had been on the street. He still found himself sitting at the lowest level of the society he’d become a part of. Yet, he counted himself lucky for at least he wasn’t one of the indentures of the Holy Office. While his station was low, it was still better then it had been when he was forced to fend for himself. Galen faithfully did his chores, was completely obedient, and studied at every opportunity. 

Whether it was tending the horses in the stable with the liverymen or helping Brother Jasper in the kitchen, Galen always preformed his duties to the best of his abilities. And what he lacked in looks, grace and charm, he more then made up for in his ability to faithfully perform any and all duties assigned to him. 

Some of the novices working along side him grumbled at the work they were required to perform – especially those of noble birth – feeling such labors beneath them. Others executed their tasks with great enthusiasm. Galen, on the other hand, exhibited neither trait. Once give a task, no matter how menial, he would attack it with the single-minded determination of a dog gnawing on a bone. He would never complain or drag his feet if the task was one he didn’t enjoy, nor would he be enthusiastic or exuberant when it was a chore he particularly liked.

He would begin the work, keep at it until it was complete, and then report that it had been done and await inspection. And whether it was a task he loved or hated it was impossible to tell, since he executed each and every assignment in the same thorough manner until it was accomplished – always wearing the same emotionless expression that never seemed to leave his face. Gradually, over time within the confines of the monastery, the boy who seemed to have no future or skill for anything great or grand found that he was exceptionally talented in one very important area – the art of manipulation. 

Although he wasn’t very attractive, or sharp of wit or tongue, Galen found that he had a way of persuading people. He’d learned of his ability gradually. From time to time, Galen would gently remind the novices who grumbled about doing their chores that to obey and live in the teachings of the prophet was the key to happiness and salvation. 

Because he was plain, soft spoken and never one to brag or appear to dominate, others would often listen and take his words to heart. And while Galen Sharp would never be a charismatic leader, his quietly spoken words had a practical sense and iron clad logic to them that most of the novices couldn’t ignore. Because he never lied, put on false airs, acted in a proud or domineering way, or used his persuasive abilities for his own ends, others could accept his simple pronouncements without feeling threatened or challenged. Even more remarkably, they would usually take in his words and quietly agree with him. 

At first this talent went unobserved, but gradually Abbot Bosca and Brother Sarto, the prefect of novices, started to take notice of the young man. Keeping an eye on Galen, the two of them began to observe and compare notes. Then one day, during a visit to the monastery of Moorgate by the Vice Arch Abbot of Eagle’s Eyre, Abbot Bosca told him of the young man’s amazing talent. Vice Arch Abbot Gude, who had just been named successor-heir by Arch Abbot Tarqurion, listened intently, but without comment. Returning to the Abbey of Eagle’s Eyre, Gude made a mental note of the boy and his abilities, and quietly brooded on the subject. 

Abbot Gude, while holding his old teacher and mentor Arch Abbot Tarqurion in high regard, nevertheless thought the Arch Abbot a bit softhearted in dealing with heresy and apostasy. Gude felt that certain measures must be instituted to make the church stricter regarding wayward believers and more importantly, non-believers. Over the years he’d noticed a drift in some parts of the land – especially Xannameir and Aradamia – where large groups of the faithful seemed more lax and pockets of genuine skepticism and disbelief had been fomenting. 

Years before, when he’d first been sent to Eagles Eyre and assigned the office of First Prefect under Tarqurion, Gude had formulated an idea for increasing the devotion of the faithful while rooting out heretics, atheists, and sinners. Tarqurion, while initially seeming interested, nevertheless wavered and hesitated when Gude presented it to him, and the plan never came to fruition. But his mentor continued to hold him in high regard and Gude advanced through the hierarchy of the church until he eventually held the mantle of succession. 

Two years after Gude’s visit to the monastery at Moorgate, Abbot Tarqurion died and Gude assumed the Arch Abbot’s miter and ring. A few months after settling into his new office Gude remembered his visit to Moorgate and his discussions with Abbot Bosca – a pleasant enough man, but elevated to the position of Abbot more for his aristocratic connections then his zealous faith. After a few days of pondering, Gude sent off a parchment summoning the young man named Galen Sharp to the abbey on the mountain. 

Abbot Tarqurion may have been less then enthusiastic about the plan that Gude had proposed, but that was in the past. Since Gude now sat on the Cathedra Ecclesia, he began to think that this young man might be of use to him. And although Galen was surprised when Abbot Boca showed him the parchment with the Arch Abbots seal on it, upon reading the words, the young man bowed reverently to Bosca, gathered what he needed for the journey, and headed off to the great mountain abbey of Eagle’s Eyre. 

The journey had taken a few days, and when Galen finally arrived at the foot of Mount Savat he raised his head in wonder at the sight of the great abbey fortress. Climbing the steep narrow footpath and passing through the tiny gate in the wall surrounding the abbey, he eventually found himself standing in front of the cathedral of the prophet and holy martyr Sarjanus. Met by the Prefect of Discipline, he was whisked into the chapter house of the cathedral, and then ushered into the private apartments of the Arch Abbot, where he was surprised to be met by the Vice Arch Abbot. Then both men accompanied him to Abbot Gude’s private office.

“Come in…,” the Arch Abbot said looking up from his desk giving Galen a rather pinched and forced smile, “…and be seated.” 

Galen sat uncomfortably in one of the wooden high backed chairs standing before Abbot Gude’s desk. After the boy was introduced, Gude dismissed the Prefect and Vice Arch Abbot, telling them to close the door behind them. Leaning forward across his desk Gude sized up the young man and then began to speak. Galen listened intently to everything Abbot Gude had to say and responded respectfully to the abbot’s questions. 

Gude first questioned the young man as to his beliefs and their purity and fidelity to approved church doctrine. The questioning had been intense, but Galen answered honestly and truthfully  – just as he always had. The boy simply had no guile or deceit in him. After a lengthy catechetical drilling and questioning, Gude moved on to describing his plan and its eventual execution.  

The meeting had gone well for Galen – or so he thought. He’d emerged with a task to perform – a task personally chosen for him by the Arch Abbot himself. And like every other task he’d ever been called to do for the church, he would execute it to the best of his ability. He began his work in the smallest and simplest ways, but like all the assignments he’d ever been asked to execute he did so with steadfast determination. Over time, his work progressed. The months turned into years as he went from a young man to a middle aged one – always performing his assignments with diligence. 

The Holy Knights of Sarjanus had grown and prospered under his leadership. Steadfast and ever vigilant, he liked to think that he and his knights helped maintain the necessary order the church needed to flourish and grow, and his superior, Arch Abbot Gude had been highly pleased.

Looking long and hard at his reflection, Galen carefully pinned the Cross of Sarjanus – the one personally given to him by the Arch Abbot – in its prescribed and rightful place above his left breast pocket, just above his heart. No other ornamentation adorned the coat save a fillip of gold thread embroidered on his right lapel. After giving himself one final inspection, he walked to the door and turned the handle. 

Before stepping across the threshold, Galen reached out his arm to the hook on the wall next to the door. His hand removed the dark blue cloak that would make his dress complete, and although it had been fashioned from the finest wool shorn from the prized “golden hoofed” sheep of Grüner Platz, it too appeared both plain and serviceable. A small gold braid had been stitched to and then draped over the left shoulder and a second Sarjanian cross – this one an embroidered image instead of a pin, on the same side and location as the one on his jacket – were it’s only distinguishing features. 

As he walked out the door, he took the cloak in both hands. Then in a move long practiced, he swirled the cloak around his shoulders. It billowed out as the fabric fluttered and floated in the air like a small flock of birds quickly darting about him and when it came to rest it hung from his body in perfect symmetry. Galen Sharp liked order.