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To Rescue an Old Friend
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Anxious thoughts darted through Clemens’ mind like steady flashes of lightning as he neared the Captain’s quarters. The sight of common folk began to thin out, replaced with soldiers and horses, and prisoners being led to their new, dismal home. The guard escorting Clemens stopped his march to talk with a sentry. They spoke in hushed tones before the guard walked away. “Right this way, sir,” the sentry said, motioning with his hand. “I’ll finish escorting you to the Captain’s office.”
As they progressed down narrow street roads and under old bridges, the click of their heels against the pavement was the only sound either of them heard for a long span of time. “Lovely day, wouldn’t you agree?” said the sentry, attempting to end the stiff silence that stood between the two men.
“Glad you’re enjoying it,” Clemens said, in a way of responding without encouraging a conversation.
The silence returned, and the time continued to crawl like a slug in the mud, filling Clemens’ head with questions. “What have I gotten myself into now? What have they uncovered? Is this, at last, the end of my glorious days at Winterthur’s Rose Cathedral?”
A guard had knocked on Clemens’ door just after sunrise. All he said was, “You’re wanted by the Captain, friend. Make quick of it!” before closing the door and peering at the unkempt minister through a rounded window. Aware of the guard’s uncanny gaze, Clemens changed in his bedroom, and was dressed in under one minute. Before leaving the house, he looked up and said, “How I loathe this dreadful life.”
Now, he was walking through the still, September air, his empty stomach turning over like restless leaves on a windy day. After what seemed like a decade and two years, the men reached a door in the side of the fortress. They entered, and walked down hallways crowded with soldiers, all who looked Clemens over with raised eyebrows. “This will do wonders for my reputation,” Clemens thought.
“Here you are, Minister,” the sentry said, as they stopped by a large, oak door. “Captain Peter Carlberg is waiting for you.”
“Peter Carlberg?” Clemens said with a sigh of relief.
“Send him in! Send him in!” thundered a familiar voice from behind the door.
The door was opened, and Clemens stepped into a small office with books and papers and armor scattered across the floor. A small mutt rose its head sleepily from the mess to acknowledge the intruder, before resting again. Beside a brick fireplace and behind an ivory desk sat a man Clemens had not seen since his early childhood.
The Captain rose from his chair and . “Clemens! My, your hair is as long as a girl’s.” Peter laughed, before shaking his old friend’s hand with a grip as strong as stone. Both his bright eyes and pale hair were all Clemens recognized of his once scrawny, childhood friend. Peter now had a matted beard and a chest that threatened to tear his uniform open. His voice was deep and strong, something like the sound of thunder on a warm, summer evening.
“I never expected to find you behind this door, Peter. I was terrified the entire time I walked to your quarters,” Clemens said, almost rolling his eyes.
“What? That daft guard never told you it was Peter Carlberg who sent for you? I’ll have a word with him when we’re done,” he said, stroking his beard and shaking his head. “I never wanted to make you uncomfortable, and I would have visited you myself if not for all of this accursed work.” He pointed a thick finger to his desk, stacked high with maps and binders.
“It’s fine, Peter,” Clemens said with a sigh. “So, you called me here to talk? Tell me, when did the frail Peter Carlberg become a prestigious captain of Winterthur? Why have I not heard from you?”
“Ah, I won’t waste all of your time with that refuse. And as far as communication goes, you haven’t been faithful either,” he said. He turned to sit in one of two, sagging armchairs situated in a sitting area near the brick fireplace. He motioned for Clemens to take the chair adjacent to his. Clemens followed with not a little hesitation. “I didn’t call you here for a reunion. I learned something this morning that concerns both of us,” Peter said in a hushed and urgent tone, before looking at the open door. “It’s about Aron.”
Clemens’ face turned as pale as frost. “What on earth are you talking about? He’s been dead for ten years.”
Peter grinned. “But he isn’t dead. That’s why we’re having this discussion.”
“Not dead?” Clemens said, staring at the floor as if a cobra was coiled in the corner.
“Remember the asylum he was sent to? I discovered three years ago that he was never really hung; he was given a life sentence.”
“Remarkable,” Clemens said. Then, he shot Peter a threatening glance. “You’d better not be joking about this.”
“Of course not,” Peter said. His face was too grave to be that of a joker’s. “There’s more. I received word from the asylum yesterday morning by way of a report.”
“There was an attack on the asylum three weeks ago. The Brodin Clan was behind it. They sabotaged the prison to save their men.”
“Aron was a part of that clan.”
“Were they successful?”
“Tragically so,” Peter said. “The entire prison was burned to the ground, and all of the prisoners were set loose.”
“Then, that means Aron is…” Clemens paused, furrowing his eyebrows. “Aron’s escaped, hasn’t he?”
“He’s been loose for six months. I was just informed this morning.”
Clemens swallowed hard, and a shiver sailed down his spine.
“A bounty’s been placed on the head of every escaped prisoner,” Peter said. “A higher reward is offered if the prisoners are brought in dead; a year’s wages, for the common folk.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“I want to help Aron, that’s why.” Peter rose from his chair and walked towards a window that was too dirty to see through.
“How would you help him? How would you even find him?” Clemens also rose.
“I can tell you no more until you agree that, first, you will share this information with no one,” Peter said.
“I’ve no desire to tell anyone else about Aron, I assure you.”
“Second, that you will help me find Aron with… no reservations. All to rescue an old friend,” Peter said, hesitating as if he expected an unwilling response.
Clemens squinted his eyes. “Rescue an old friend? My dear Peter, I am the Minister of one of the biggest churches in Switzerland,” he said, laughing. “I’m a distinguished man. I haven’t the luxury of offering myself and my time so wholeheartedly to rescue a scoundrel I once played with as a child.”
“You’re as vain as a prize peacock,” Peter growled. He walked over to his desk, and removed a binder of papers from one of its drawers. “Perhaps, this will change your mind,” he said, throwing the binder at Clemens’ feet.
Clemens glanced down, but did not move a muscle.
“Go ahead,” Peter said.
As the minister leaned forward to pick the binder up, Peter said, “Those are reports of your spending habits over this past year, Clemens. Go ahead and take a thorough look. I assure you, you’ll find them all very accurate.”
Clemens’ face lit up with crimson. “Where did you get this information? How dare you!”
“Now, I don’t know for certain how you managed to get your hands on all of this money, but I do know that this amount is way above your pay. Don’t you think the people of your cathedral might be a little concerned by such extravagance? My guess is that if they saw these reports, they would demand an investigation.” Peter smiled, and then continued, “An investigation to confirm that their greedy minister isn’t helping himself to the money given to the church.”
At this last statement, Clemens scurried to the open door and slammed it shut, hoping no one else had heard Peter’s words.
“I don’t think your congregation would like the idea of their hard earned money funding your miniature mansion,” Peter said. “That mansion is very impressive, by the way.”
Clemens tore the papers and stuffed them in his jacket. Even his heart seemed to shake in his chest, as his scandal was brought to the light.
“Won’t do you any good, my dear Clemens,” Peter said. “That was only a copy.”
“Are you threatening me?” Clemens said, his eyes opening wider.
“Well done, Clemens!” Peter said, clapping his hands. “Wonderful deduction.”
“Scum,” Clemens said under his breath.
“I have the original papers here,” Peter said, removing another binder from the drawer. “Now, if you agree to help me find Aron, I’ll set this nasty secret aflame in my fireplace.”
Clemens walked over to a chair, and collapsed into its seat. “I need something to drink,” he said, burying his head in his hands.
“What if,” Peter said, “this faith in God you have could change things? I mean, really change things. I assume you know that I would not consider myself to be a man of faith; I find church as dreadful as having teeth pulled, and I certainly don’t know God as you would claim to, but I have seen lives transformed by Christianity. I have seen men become new creatures, hurting people find hope, and wayfaring scoundrels given a purpose and a drive for doing good. Why not Aron?”
Clemens looked down at his feet as he realized his friend possessed more faith in redemption than he did. “Certainly he can… change. Nothing is impossible with God. I don’t deny that.”
“You don’t deny it, but you doubt it… don’t you, Clemens?” Peter said leaning forward, looking hard at his friend.
Clemens remained still and silent.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Peter said.
“Aron has always been trouble,” Clemens said. “He’s a liar, a thief, a rebel, a trouble maker… a scoundrel!”
“But not a murderer,” Peter said. “He doesn’t deserve a life sentence in prison. My plan is this: this morning, I was assigned to accompany the party which will find Aron and arrest him. I was informed of his location. This gives us the perfect opportunity! Instead of arresting him, we’ll warn him of the impending danger, and then hide him. Perhaps you could give him some sort of humble and unseen job in your cathedral. Maybe your religion will do just the thing to help him. What do you say, Clemens? It will be just like one of our childhood adventures.”
“Only you’ve grown more childish since then, not less,” Clemens said, shaking his head. “Where on earth are we going? Who will look after the Cathedral while I’m away? I’ve got so many responsibilities there!”
Peter took a deep breath, and said, “I’ve already gotten that taken care of. I’ve arranged to have an itinerant priest look after the Cathedral in your absence. I think you’d like him; real stern fellow.”
Clemens felt his blood boiling like water in a scalding cauldron. “You mean you’ve been going behind my back, meddling in my affairs, organizing for my departure without my approval? You can’t expect me to leave my cathedral in the hands of this priest!”
“Don’t be that way, Clemens. It doesn’t befit a Minister of God to be so ill-tempered,” Peter said. He returned to his desk and poured a silver glass of water.
“Here, have a drink. You look like you need it,” Peter said. He seemed as restless as a child in church until Clemens took his first sip. When Clemens’ lips touched the glass, and the chilled water refreshed the back of his throat, he was grateful for the drink. He placed the cup on a stand near the chair, and looked at Peter to thank him. A cold pit formed in his stomach as he noticed the broad smile that was spreading across Peter’s face. Clemens looked at the water in his glass, and only then noticed that it had a murky appearance.
Clemens’ vision slowly faded to a blur, and his mind began to lose control of his body. “What… have… you… done?”
“There, there, don’t fight it,” Peter said. “I have your Cathedral and your manor all taken care of. Sleep well, old friend.” Peter’s voice resonated in Clemens’ mind, yet sounded as if it came from yards away. Clemens passed into blackness and silence.
* * *
The drug-induced stupor wore off. Clemens’ mind awoke from a strange land of nightmares; nightmares mostly about being poor, being dressed like a poor person, being with poor people, and dying poor. A clap of thunder and the force of a light rain on his body were enough to end his dreaming.
Clemens’ eyes shot open. He was alone in the dark, lying on the ground of a cold and saturated earth. When he tried to lift himself, his hands pressed down into soggy soil, and when he attempted to rise, he slipped and fell down again.
Finally balancing himself enough to stand in the rain, he noted that his head was protected by a long-brimmed hat. There was a sharp snort next to him. "Peter?" he said, after a pause. Walking in the direction of the noise, he felt disoriented and nauseated. The snort came again, this time followed by a whinny.
Clemens stopped when he felt his hand touch horsehide. He felt along the body of the horse until he reached its saddle. He leaned himself against the leather seat in an attempt to rest. Clemens noted that he wore a heavy, leather, trench coat and thick, tall boots. Even these were not enough to protect him against the falling water.
The rain grew fainter and fainter, until it was only a drizzle, and then it stopped altogether. The clouds cleared away, and a red light began to glow in the East. The shrill song of sparrows soared through the trees. It was morning, and the world was now visible. Clemens was in a wooded region, one that he hoped was in Winterthur.
The sun now lit up the trees and the grass, sending sparkling light through drops of fallen rain that covered the forest. The sunlight lessened the sickening effects the drug had left on Clemens’ mind. He examined the white horse he leaned against. On one side, its saddle held a short sword. He strapped the sword to his belt. He opened the flap of a supply bag on the other side of the saddle, and found a map, a compass, and a note. The note read:
“Good morning, my old friend! At least, I hope you are awake by now. I’ve marked your current position on the map. You are only a few miles away from Aron; I’ve marked his position on the map as well. A group of soldiers is on its way to arrest him. I should know, because I’m accompanying the leader of this cavalry. I will delay the men as much as I can, sending them down “detours” whenever possible.
I can only stall for so long. Make haste! Warn Aron of the danger, and then lead him to the third area I’ve marked on your map. This will take you to a cave where you can hide. I am certain that you will not be found there. I will drive by in a carriage to pick you up in two days; expect me in the morning, waiting on the hill north of the cave. I will only wait for a few hours, so be quick about it!
Also, I placed some food in your horse’s saddle bag; you must be famished. May your God be with you. Please, don’t muck it up!”
Peter’s signature decorated the bottom of the letter.
* * *
Thankfully, Clemens’ childhood of exploring the forest had paid off. He maneuvered the white horse through the woods like a master rider, getting closer to the spot on the map that marked Aron’s location.
As Clemens neared the destination, the trees became fewer and fewer, and he smelled smoke nearby. The sound of voices in the distance alerted the minister to take caution. Dismounting the horse, he tied it to a tree, and crouched, moving forward in that position. The voices were jovial, filled with laughter.
Clemens reached the end of the wooded area, and peered through the branches in front of his face, not really sure what to expect. What he saw surprised him.
In an open field, dozens of wounded men reclined in the grass. Most wore crimson-stained bandages, and some were missing limbs. Several tents surrounded them. A few men who seemed in perfect health walked among the wounded, pouring some kind of soup into crude, wooden bowls, which they then distributed to the rest of the men.
What shocked Clemens the most was how happy these men seemed; happier than he had ever been. They were laughing, smiling, and singing strange songs. “Their brains must have been damaged by warfare,” he said under his breath. He mocked them with the smile that twisted his face.
Though Clemens was suspicious of the wounded men in the camp, their cheerfulness made him want to approach them. The steam rising from their bowls of soup also compelled him. Then, he remembered that this spot was where Aron was supposed to be. He knew that he had to approach the men whether he wanted to or not.
Clemens wondered if Aron was one of the wounded men on the grass. He laughed in a hushed tone, and said, “Oh, my dear Aron. What have you gotten yourself into this time, you wild ass?”
Rising, he pushed his way through the brush and the branches and walked towards the men. As they began to notice him, one by one they stopped singing. The entire camp soon grew quiet. One of the men who distributed soup placed his pot on a gnarly tree stump and walked towards the approaching minister. He seemed young, and wore clothing covered in patches and tears. His hair and beard were cut skin short, and he limped as he walked. Something about him seemed almost familiar, in a strange and subtle way.
Clemens rose his hands, and called out, “I mean you no harm. I’m looking for an old childhood friend of mine who may be in this camp.”
“Happy to see you fared well in your travels. We’ve kept a tent waiting for you,” said the limping man. His voice was restful, like a stagnant brook.
“You were expecting me?” Clemens called back, suspicious of this young man.
“I was told someone might be coming. This friend of yours; what’s his name?”
The two men were almost face to face. “This man must be Aron,” Clemens thought. “I’m looking for Aron… Aron Glomren,” he said.
The men were now standing two feet apart, and Clemens got a clearer look at the young man. He now realized he was mistaken about him. His face was far too kind and gentle to be that of Aron’s, whose expression was always as intense as a summer storm. The only similarity between Aron and this man was their ocean blue eyes.
“Aron’s here,” the young man said, looking Clemens over from head to foot. Clemens felt his stomach squirm when he noticed three ugly scars on the man’s face. One scar could be seen under his hair, running along the left side of his skull. The second was on his right cheek bone, and the third near his left eye. It looked as if a giant wolf had attempted to claw his head off.
“What is this place?” Clemens said, trying to end the silence.
“A place of rest for the weary and the wounded. For those who are welcomed nowhere else,” the man said, a smile lighting up his scarred face.
“Oh. I see,” Clemens said, shifting his feet. “You look after them, then?”
“That’s right,” he said.
Another silence fell on them, until Clemens said, “My friend, Aron. Where is he?”
“What do you want with him?” the man said.
“I have an… urgent message to give him.” Some of the men throughout the camp began to whisper in hushed tones to one another.
“We work as a group. Whatever you have to say to Aron, you say to all of us. What’s your urgent message?”
“Is Aron… alright?” Clemens grew suspicious of the seeming secrecy surrounding his friend.
“To be quite honest… Aron died,” the man said, looking at the ground.
“You said he was here!” Clemens shouted, his voice as harsh as a whip to bare skin.
“He is. And he’s not.”
“Let me guess,” Clemens said, squinting his eyes. “He’s buried here, isn’t he?”
“Something like that,” said the man, still looking at his feet.
Clemens pulled out his sword and threw it into the ground. He turned around, and let out a bitter laugh. “Peter, you prize fool! I knew Aron was hopeless. His recklessness has become his ruin at last. What a waste of precious time, all to rescue a miserable wretch who has always been beyond saving!” His shout echoed through the sky.
“What is your message, sir?” the young man said.
When Clemens turned around to face the camp, tears streamed down his face; the news of Aron’s death grieved him more than he wanted to admit to himself. “You want to know my message? I might as well tell you,” Clemens said, grinning with a strange sort of satisfaction. “A group of soldiers from Winterthur is on its way to find and arrest Aron. I imagine when they discover you here instead, they’ll have you all locked away. You’re taking care of wounded Anabaptists, aren’t you? I’ve heard of you.” Clemens walked closer to the man, until he was up in his face. “You sympathize with the very scum who would devastate our lands with their doctrine of demons. And now, your work is about to be uncovered. You’re all going to decay in prison. And then, when the worms feast on your flesh, hell will have you for itself.”
Clemens turned around, walking towards his sword. When he had returned it to its sheath, he looked back, still smiling. Then, he took strident steps to return to the woods.
“Clemens!” the young man called. Clemens stopped, and the young man continued. “I would say Minister Clemens, but that can’t be right. You aren’t worthy of that title.”
Clemens turned around, suddenly aware of who he spoke to. “Aron?”
“Yes,” Aron said. “And no.”
“What are you talking about?” Clemens snapped.
“I am Aron, but not who Aron used to be. That Aron died two years ago.”
“And this Aron has lost his mind,” Clemens said, walking closer.
Aron smiled. “Please, walk with me.”
Clemens hesitated, but followed Aron as he walked through the camp. Some of the wounded men looked up, but others hid their faces.
“So, Peter Carlberg finally got up the nerve to send you here,” Aron said. The two men walked beside each other.
“How on this tiring earth did you know about that?” Clemens said.
Aron stopped walking. “He’s spoken often of you.”
Clemens face stiffened. “You’ve spoken with Peter?”
“He feels sorry for you. Now, I see why.”
“He feels sorry for me?”
“I wondered why at first,” Aron said. “Peter is an atheist, and he told me that you were the Minister of one of Winterthur’s finest cathedrals. I thought that surely you would be the godliest of us. And instead, you behave as less of a Christian than Peter.”
Clemens clenched his teeth, snarled, and threw his fist into Aron’s face, sending his friend’s body crashing against the moss-covered ground. Clemens calmed himself when he heard footsteps running behind him. He was horrified when he remembered that he and Aron were not alone. He expected to be seized by the men in the camp. Yet, they ran past him, and went instead to help Aron.
Clemens looked down at his right hand, and noticed blood on one of his jagged rings. When Aron was brought to his feet, blood soaked the right side of his forehead.
When Clemens saw he was not in trouble, he relaxed, and said, “I would apologize, if not for the audacity of your severe and damnable statement. One does not talk to a minister of God that way, cur.”
“My statement may have been audacious, but does that make it any less true?” Aron said, panting.
Clemens let out a scream that sent birds scurrying from their branches. He pulled out his sword, and charged at Aron. Some of the men ran to stop him, but Clemens had already reached Aron. He hit him on the temple with the hilt of his sword. Aron’s body crashed against the ground a second time, but this time Clemens was brought down as well. The men who tackled him were weak and frail. Clemens pushed them off and leaped onto Aron’s chest. He hit him in the face five times with enough force to break bones.
He heard a sharp crack behind him, and then felt the force of an arrow sink itself into his left arm. He screamed again, but this time in agony.
* * *
Two of the stronger men dragged the thrashing minister away, and the rest attended to Aron. After a few hours, Aron was conscious, and, when his face was cleaned and bandaged, he insisted that he was not seriously injured. The sharp pain in his head argued with him, but he sensed danger, and wanted to talk with Clemens.
Aron entered the tent his old friend recovered in. “You never finished your message,” he said. His swollen face and the bandage that covered his cheek and forehead made it difficult for him to speak.
The arrow was removed from Clemens’ arm, and his wound was cleaned and dressed. Still, he writhed on his cot, and hot tears fell from his eyes.
Bare chested, Clemens pushed himself up. “You’re in danger,” he said, breathing with the heaviness and desperation of a dying man. A pained expression covered his face, and he said, “If Peter was speaking truthfully, there’s a small army after you.”
Aron remained silent.
“My horse is tied to a tree nearby,” Clemens said, beginning to sob. “There’s a map in its saddle. Peter marked a hiding place not far from here.” He held his arm, and gritted his teeth. Aron imagined that the minister had never been seriously injured before, and knew that the pain had probably broken him.
“Hurry! Leave while you still can!” Clemens cried. “Go, and leave me behind!” His sobbing grew heavier. “You’re right, Aron. You’re right. Peter is more of a Christian than I am. I don’t care about people. I don’t believe in God. I’ve never believed in Him. All I’ve ever cared about is people’s pocketbooks. Just like when we were children. I’ve always wanted to be the wealthy one; and religion has its wonderful way of making people wealthy.” Clemens wept bitter tears that burned his cheeks.
Aron turned to the men in the tent and gave them instructions. They left, gathering everyone in the camp into one group. Aron looked at his old friend with glassy eyes. “My dear Clemens,” he said, smiling.
He grabbed a towel from a basin of water and walked to the wounded minister. He pressed the cloth against his friend’s forehead, and said, “I think it’s about time you left your religion far, far behind and tasted the fresh air of knowing Christ. His grace is the most remarkable power in the universe; an ocean that fills and satisfies.”
“You said that you died,” Clemens said through his teeth.
“I did,” Aron said. “I died with Christ, and my past is buried with Him. A prisoner told me of the cross, and the love of Jesus for sinners. He told me that there is power in the blood of Jesus to wash all our crimes away and make us new people. I believed this, and life as I knew it vanished. The old Aron is dead, and I am the man who took his place. From the time I was let out of prison, I’ve been taking care of outcasts and pariahs, telling them about my Savior. I thought Winterthur had forgotten about me… until now.”
“I want to die too,” Clemens said, after a pause.
A tear fell from Aron’s eye, and he nodded his head.
The two friends were interrupted by one of the wounded men, who stuck his head in the tent and said, “Someone spotted a cavalry not far from us, sir.”
“Thank you,” Aron said. “Well, Clemens, it’s time for us to run.”
Throwing a shirt over the minister’s shoulder, Aron placed his arm around Clemens’ waist and lifted him from the cot. Leaning on one another, they moved out of the camp and into the woods. All of the men ran like squirrels with their tails set on fire.
* * *
If Peter had not been with the small army, they would have found Aron and the wounded men with ease. When the cavalry entered the camp, Peter suggested that the soldiers head North, instead of West where the cave was. They followed his lead. “This had better not be another one of your detours,” someone said.
Peter spotted Clemens’ horse, and made sure to check it before the rest of the group. After he had removed his letter and the map from the saddle, he said, “See! They must have left a horse behind! Keep moving north! I know they’re here somewhere.”
All of the soldiers moved northward on their steeds, but before he followed, Peter turned his head west, smiling.
* * *
The cave came into view, and most of the men waved their arms and cheered. Some remained silent, fearful they might be heard. But Aron assured them that the danger had passed.
Aron was carrying Clemens now, and was thankful to unload him onto a rock in the cave. The men recovered their strength, enjoying some food that waited for them in barrels. They rested two days, and then decided it was safe to move on. It was time to continue their journey.
Clemens remembered Peter’s note, and the carriage that was waiting for Aron and himself not far away. He found Aron packing some belongings.
“Aron,” Clemens said. Aron turned to acknowledge his friend.
“You look much better,” he said.
“Peter told me that two days after our escape, he would bring a carriage near the cave. If we make haste, it should be there now.”
“Doesn’t sound like enough room for everyone!” Aron said, smiling.
“It’s not. Only for you and me.”
Aron tilted his head.
“I could give you a job in the church, Aron. That was the plan all along. To rescue an old friend,” Clemens said.
“Only, I’m not the one who needed rescued,” Aron said, stepping forward. Placing a hand on Clemens’ shoulder, he said, “My old, dear friend, this mission was never about rescuing me. It was about rescuing you.”
Clemens nodded his head.
“We found these wounded men in an old field. They call themselves ‘Anabaptists’, and told us they were attacked unexpectedly. Most were killed. They are considered heretics by many in Europe. I don’t know much about their beliefs myself, but I do know that the churches persecuting them are not behaving like Jesus in this matter, and it grieves me.
“We’re taking the wounded men to an obscure village in southern Switzerland, where they can live in secrecy and recover. They should be safe there. I’m going to teach them to work and support themselves again. You can return to Winterthur with Peter if you’d like. Or, you can come with me, and discover a life of unspeakable and lasting joy. You cannot even begin to imagine how wonderful it is to follow Jesus,” Aron said, a gleam in his eye.
Aron took his hand off Clemens’ shoulder and walked away. The party left the cave and headed south. Clemens followed them from a distance, and then looked northward where he knew Peter was waiting.
Aron looked behind, hopeful Clemens would join them. Instead, he ran away from the group, up the steep hill leading north. His legs pushed him up the giant mound, until at last he reached its top. He saw the carriage, and Peter waiting outside. Peter appeared to be talking to himself, but stopped when he saw his friend. The men locked eyes. Peter seemed disappointed.
Clemens just stood there, a mile and a half away. Peter furrowed his eyebrows. Then Clemens smiled. At this, Peter smiled too (it was the first time in years he had seen a happy Clemens). The young Captain knew what his friend had decided. Clemens nodded his head once, turned around, and then darted back down the hill. Peter mounted the carriage, and looked into the sapphire sky. “Maybe there is something to Christianity after all,” he said, before riding the carriage back home.
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01 Oct 2015
I think you have a wonderful gift. You did a great job of introducing conflict right out of the gate. I could feel the suspense as I read.
I noticed a few minor things that might need tweaking. You had some POV shifts. Because the story is told from Clemens POV, the reader can only know what he knows, sees, thinks, or feels. For example, this is a shift:
“Lovely day, wouldn’t you agree?” said the sentry, attempting to end the stiff silence that stood between the two men.
Clemens can't know for certain what the guard is attempting. Perhaps he is really interested in weather phenomenon s (a stretch to make my point.) Instead, use body language to allow the reader to come to that conclusion. That will also allow you to do more showing and less telling. For example : "Lovely day, eh?" Tugging at his shirt collar, the guard's eyes flitted to Clemson's face. "Um, don't you, ah, agree?"
The example isn't perfect, but it shows the guard's anxiety a bit and creates a picture for the reader.
The other thing I might encourage you to do is to put thoughts in italics. That's generally the accepted practice and it sets them off from dialog.
You did a great job of developing your characters. I thought the dialog was realistic and really moved the story along. I'm not usually a fan of fiction set in the far past, but you really drew me in and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I could easily see this as a bigger project like a novel. It might have felt a wee bit preachy when Aron was talking to Clemons in my opinion (I'm fussing than most about that though), but if you were to use this as a part of a novel, the reader would get this information over more time.
Actually, that's something you are quite skilled at--sprinkling the back story over the whole article. Many writers are tempted to tell it all in one or two paragraphs. The way you handled it helped build the suspense and kept me interested. You are quite gifted and I'd love to read more of your work.
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