Edmund stared vacantly at the
clothes piled haphazardly on the straw mattress of his narrow cot. The
clothes were a jumble, randomly tossed together. Heavy wool winter
tunics lay bundled with leggings; a white linen alb was visible from
certain angles, while a white silk cincture wove itself amidst the
various fabrics, binding them into one chaotic whole.
"Much good it will do to me."
Edmund said wryly, as he wrestled with the mound of clothes, trying to
stuff them en mass down the gullet of his saddlebag.
"Talking to yourself again Ed."
Came an amused voice from the doorway. "I
hope you're not planning on packing like that. I don't think
Archbishop Michael would appreciate seeing you swathed, head to toe,
Coram; Edmund's cellmate, best friend, and
partner in crime, crossed to his cot in one fluid stride. He opened
the wood chest at the foot of his bed and began to remove neatly
folded cloths, which he placed gently and deliberately into his own
waiting saddlebag. A faint floral odor, emanating from the sachet
Coram's mother Honoria brought him, wafted over to Edmund from the
"How long has your mother been making those
"For as long as I can remember, I guess.
Why?" asked Coram, knowing
instinctively what Edmund was talking about.
"Because you smelled like that the first
day I met you, ten years ago."
Ten years ago, Edmund had been a terrified child
of nine, freshly arrived at the remote seminary, dust still clinging
to his only travel cloak. Coram had arrived the same day, so the two
new boys were given cots next to one another at the far end of the
dormitory hall. The hall, as well as the seminary, were bare, stark
places, totally devoid of any of the small details a mother, or any
woman for that matter, provided. Edmund had missed his mother, Yanatta,
desperately. His father, Alvyn, however, had been adamant. Alvyn did
not want his only son to be just a tanner, like himself. Edmund would
go to seminary, become a priest, and rise above his station, and in
the process make his father proud. Edmund went, meek and obedient,
scared and shaking, off to the bleak hilltop seminary and its solemn
faced brothers. To make matters worse he did not even like the boy in
the next bed. He was small and quiet, the brothers called him serene,
and he had depth less brown eyes, old eyes. He made Edmund uneasy.
Coram was two years younger than Edmund when
they first set eyes on one another. His father, Edmund later learned,
was some kind of Baron from the Connait. Not that Coram would inherit
his father's title or lands; those would go to his older brother Laran.
As the second son of a wealthy family he still would have been
entitled to something, money, an advantageous marriage, anything but
the seminary. Yet Coram had wanted to go. Felt, Knew that God was
calling him for as long as he could remember. Edmund could not imagine
someone with such a bright and potentially easy future, choosing such
a difficult path. Jealousy and disgust compounded by the unease the
boy already provoked, set Edmund's teeth on edge whenever Coram was
Time, however, dulls even the sharpest of
feelings, blunting the corners, smoothing the sides, buffing the
surface, much like a river stone. Within a year, Coram and Edmund were
inseparable, with the younger, more often than not, leading the elder.
They tutored each other, one pushing the other to strive for academic
excellence. They debated together: theology, divinity, and canon law.
Coram enjoyed playing devil's advocate, especially when it came to
canon law. Most importantly, they grew together: physically,
emotionally, and spiritually.
When Coram was 13, on one of his infrequent
visits back to his families' estates, his father had given him his own
sword. Coram trained with practice swords and with his father's
captain whenever he went home. And for someone with such a limited
training schedule, he was actually quite good. One night, after
fortifying themselves with ill gotten wine, some of Abbot Chester's
own Fianna reserve, they sealed their friendship over the sword.
"Give me your hand."
Edmund drew the edge of the blade lightly across
Coram's left palm, opening a shallow cut. Silently, Coram performed
the same service for Edmund. They sat, hands clasped together,
allowing their blood time to mingle. They joined themselves in the
strongest bond either of them knew or understood - the bond of blood.
"Bind me to thee."
"Bind me to thee." answered Coram.