After a very vivid dream of Father Corbinian, the Bear awakes to find himself in a cage. It turns out, however, that he was in protective custody, and his friends have amazing news.
A finely dressed and clean-shaven man entered into the room beyond the bars. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Look at us, friend," he said in Frankish. "Lombards have become Romans, and bears hairy men. Like Lombards used to be." He watched the Bear pace back and forth as it ignored him. The man reached into a large bowl of fresh fish and offered one to the Bear. The Bear paused in its pacing, then resumed.
"No? Perhaps later," the man said, wiping his hands on the hem of his tunic after replacing the fish. "King Liutprand put you here. Not directly, perhaps, but you are here on account of what you mean to him."
"Bear wants to see the king," the Bear said.
"I am sure he wants to see you, too! But his wishes will be deflected by gentle excuses and distractions. He will want to get back to Pavia soon, well before Easter. No doubt he has beguiled you as he beguiles everybody. I confess to admiring him myself. But he would drag you from campaign to campaign on a golden chain. You would strengthen his armies and confer divine legitimacy; a living relic. However," the man said after a pause, "you will learn that Liutprand may be king, but Turin is my city. I am Agilulf, Duke of Turin. Are you sure you will not have a fish?"
At that moment, the door burst open and in walked a group of clerics led by a fierce-looking man dressed in a tunic the color of rich earth, and a cloak of lighter brown that was intricately embroidered. He wore a purple cap, and carried a simple shepherd's crook. "So this is the abomination," he spat. "Why have you not yet killed it, it, Duke Agilulf?" "His Excellency Claudius is an iconoclast," Agilulf explained. "Our bishop is the last of a dying breed. He thinks holy pictures are an abomination. Germans are ever a thorn in Holy Mother Church's side. It is an ill wind that blows from Constantinople, destroying what people venerate"
"And did King Liutprand really reverence this animal?" the Bishop asked, ignoring Agilulf's commentary. "He has traded the glory of God for the image of a beast!"
"The people scattered rose petals at his feet," Agilulf observed.
"Hardly spontaneous," the Bishop growled. "Sheer paganism."
"Even so, the people's will must be taken into account. In fact, I have heard rumors that a mob is forming at this very moment to demand the return of their art to the cathedral. If you leave now, Claudius, you might be able to save yourself and ride to Rome. There you can explain to Gregory III the merits of an iconoclastic bishop."
The Bishop, trembling with anger, hissed, "Treachery," then whirled and stormed out the door with his clerics retinue behind him.
"I don't know how much of that you understood," said Agluilf, "but I have saved you from the king, and I have saved you from the bishop."
"Who will save Bear from you?" the Bear wondered aloud.
Agilulf laughed. Then he switched to the German that was most familiar to the Bear's ears. "You may survive among the Lombards after all! But perhaps your salvation is nearer than you think." He opened a side door to the room, and in walked Prior William, Brother Gunther and, lastly, Angest.
Angest, however, had undergone a transformation. He wore a white tunic with two vertical green stripes worked in gold thread. Hie trousers were also white, criss-crossed below the knee with leather straps from his soft shoes. His face was shaved and his hair cut short. He removed a large key that hung on a chain around his neck and opened the door of the cage. "Greetings, Captain Bear." he said with one of his wide grins.
The Bear immediately left the cage, looking excitedly from one companion to the other. "It is so good to see you again!" he finally said. "And thanks to you Angest, my faithful Lieutenant."
"I shall always be your friend," Angest said. "but I am afraid I cannot be your lieutenant, Captain Bear. I am Angest, king of Italy! And, since the See of Turin appears to be vacant, I shall appoint Prior William Bishop of Turin. It so happens that the Bishop of Spoleto shall arrive today or tomorrow to ordain and consecrate Prior William."
"Bear is confused. His lieutenant king, his prior bishop?"
"And Brother Gunther abbot," Prior William said.
"Lombard politics," added Brother Gunther. "You will go mad if you try to figure them out."
"No, they are simple, are they not, Angest?" said the Bear. "Can I eat you or can you eat me? I bet Angest knows that game." The Bear's eyes strayed to the bowl of fish.
"Indeed, Captain Bear. And right now, we are not yet the ones who eat. This happy ending depends on defeating Liutprand. I would gladly have your help, just as Liutprand wanted, but I will only take it as a free gift. As long as I am king, you will never feel the muzzle or chain."
"For you, and all my friends, Bear will help." Then his resistance collapsed and he went over to the bowl of fish. "Now if Bear only had honey."
Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...
Movie star handsome, charming Ted Bundy. Psychopathy: Not a Mental Illness As you are likely to hear discussion of "psyc...
Poles: Put Your Rosaries Away, Hop in the Sack, and Make Like Bunnies UPDATE: Bear's "Modest Proposal" for &quo...
BEAR FOUND OLD TIRE TO PLAY WITH. COMMENTS CLOSED. Pope Francis issued the most unequivocal condemnation of the death penalty that t...