This story is the original short that I wrote. The first line was given to a friend of mine, who will not this week be posting the resulting short story to her blog, The Gate in the Wood, because it inspired a part of a larger work in a larger world over which she does not have sole proprietorship. Take my word for it: It was awesome, and very little like this one. That is the wonder of legal theft!
All legal theft links will be posted here by our thief lord.
The title comes from Hebrews 11:30.
The monastery walls were high, and the city walls were higher. The tang of the sea, the odor of fish and of fisherman had always been a constant for Bran, but, a ward of the monastery, he had never even been outside of even those lower walls. Once with Anton he had climbed to the top of the walls, where they weren’t supposed to go, and they had peered down from the height of the monastery onto the narrow street below, over the red-tiled roofs and white stone walls and towers and turrets towards the main thoroughfare of Zidzim.
It had been night then. The streets had been all but silent.
Bran had heard the people moving about from within the monastery’s thick walls rarely. He heard them when he was in one of the outer rooms by a window, high and narrow. Their lively shufflings, shouting, hawking, creaking, rumbling, laughing, bawling carried through the window with the dust from their feet, kicked up from the white limestone.
Another wall had separated Bran from the people on Sundays, when they flooded into the monastery to bask in the worship of the Lord. From behind a wooden palisade he sang songs of praise, songs of supplication. From behind the decorative latticework, he had watched Father Aleksander tending to the mass.
He had envied Father Aleksander then as the people touched his hands, accepting the wafer and the wine, as he touched the heads of babes, silent or bawling, offering the benediction or marking them with oil and water for the Lord.
At night, every Sunday, he’d prayed for the Lord’s forgiveness because envy was a sin. Brother Zlatko warned him to be grateful for all he had, all of it provided by the Brothers and the Order.
But today—today he was going outside the walls.
Brother Nenad had fallen ill, and Brother Radovan needed someone to carry his supplies as he went to tend to the poor who lived by the harbor. Father Aleksander had asked Bran.
Bran had enthusiastically accepted and had endured the Father’s warnings about what he would meet on the streets of Zidzim while sitting on his hands to deter his excited fidgeting.
The iron gate opened for them and Bran and Brother Radovan proceeded onto the narrow street, dark in the shade of the nearby houses, the tall, tall walls of the city.
Now with the pack slung over his shoulders he had to keep himself from running ahead of the old Brother Radovan. He breathed deeply of the dusty, salty, reeking air of the town outside the walls of the monastery. A few bedraggled peasants huddled in a corner and Brother Radovan stopped to offer them his prayer and a few hunks of bread from the kitchen. Bran looked further ahead where a group of children were bouncing a round leathern sack against the wall of houses, laughing, running after it, shouting insults and praise at one another in equal measure.
Brother Radovan led Bran through the narrow streets, down a steep slope, down a flight of shallow stairs where fishmongers and fruit mongers were already setting up their stalls, though dawn had broken only a brief while before. They hailed Brother Radovan, and the brother acknowledged them with a nod.
The gate loomed ahead, tall as a house and made of strong oaken beams. The narrower of the doors was open to the sunlight beyond, brighter than any that Bran had ever seen, a streak of pure gold, bright as the rays that framed the Dove that hung on the altarpiece in the chapel.
When that ray struck Bran it was an admonishing slap and the most welcome blindness that he had yet experienced.
The great blue stretch of the harbor with its constellations of moored boats was his first sight of Heaven.