And now for a character study of Martin Luther, from the 10K Lakes world, written by special guest author Lonnie
He stepped on the box.
It was a clear day, the sky a bluish white that stole what heat was in the air and replaced it with light that hurt the eyes if you raised them too high or looked too long at the snowdrifts beyond the camp. Everything man-made touched by it turned the brown of dried mud or the gray of an elephant, leached of color by the brightness.
He cleared his throat.
"A moment of your time, brothers and sisters, before you go." His voice was soft, but clear in the chill air, seemingly carried on the light. A student of music or voice would call it dynamics, but he didn't have that vocabulary, only the lessons of the listening to a thousand sermons, the rhythms, the pacing.
You don't need to be loud to be heard.
"I'd like to thank Sister Rose and her family for preparing that fine meal. Hopefully the supplies the church has brought can ease this winter, as this meal has eased our hunger."
Sometimes, he hated the looks he got as the archaic forms came from his lips. He's just a kid, talking like an old man, was the unspoken reproach of people twice his age who'd survived on hard measures and God's mercy, even if they didn't believe it.
But he was his father's son, raised for just this duty in just this way. In the cold light of his self-reflection in the quiet moments, he decided that talking like a teenager wouldn't make things better, either.
"However, I also came to give you the good news that the church is almost built. Our work is almost done, friends."
"So what?" This came from a man who shouldered through the small crowd to stand in front of the young man on the box. Even with the extra height, the man's eyes were level, such was his height. He was a huge frame, with the black veins bulging in his exposed face, running into the rough growth of beard. He raised a hand where the dark merged with the dirt to point a mottled finger. "Another miniature Enclave, with yourself as boss, I take it. Won't be any better than here. Thanks for the food, but no thanks."
The boy shook his head. "No, I'm not here to be Caesar. I am only here to tend the flock. I - "
"Then why don't you go back to Covenant and run your precious church there?" The man interrupted.
"Because even in Covenant, there are walls." The bitter tone behind the answer even surprised the young man, now that he actually verbalized it—but he realized it's truth the moment it left his lips.
The large man was brought up short by that. He looked mutely at the young man, or maybe the brown red wall behind him, tall and menacing.
"Have you ever wondered why the church hasn't tried to invite you all to Covenant? Why you're here, among those who haven't received judgement, instead of safe behind their walls?" He let the question sink in to a suddenly unmoving crowd. "It's because the men who run it fear what would happen if the church became too large. If people could come freely."
He lifted his hands. "Friends, you know who I am. Doubtless you've heard what I do. And what I've done. But know this," his voice rose. "I don't do it for myself. I have no home in the Recession to go to. Everywhere on Earth, there's a wall to keep out the faithful. They fear God's judgement. And so it falls to me to build a place—the ONE place—where the wall will keep us all safe, instead of keeping us all out."
"I don't come asking for Bounty. The work is almost done. Hopefully, in a short while—" After I've finished committing all the sins I can stand, his brain added unhelpfully, if silently— "we'll be able to open the gates, and all are welcome. That's all." He made a helpless gesture with his left hand and stepped down from the box.
"Even if we don't believe?" came a woman's voice from his right side. He'd turned, so he hadn't seen her. He turned back around, but didn't bother to meet her eyes. He was so tired.
"The Lord's reach is not shortened for sinners. It's not even shortened for them." He waved a hand at the wall where the hint of rifles behind slots in the wall loomed, fencemen watching. "They haven't been judged yet. That's God's work. But they will be."
He left in silence that felt like defeat. Always the same at every Enclave. The work of the Lord is hard, his father had told him over and over. Walking away from the small camp, he hoped it would be worth it.
He took out his Ubiqs and put them on. Time to go find Toss Up. His work was almost done.