The Man Without a Face
The man without a face couldn’t find the right word. And it made him uglier. His withered face, remnant of a once handsome face ravaged by the plague, was twisted into concentration.
He couldn’t find the right word that he knew succinctly described the beautiful creature frolicking naked by the river. Those infernal priests and their Latin! He cursed. The creature was a boy child of about eight summers or so. The boy was breathtakingly beautiful. Golden locks which were naturally curled on their ends. Skin almost as pure as snow. And the eyes. They were the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
An hour ago, he had paid two hundred florins for this child. The boy’s father, a destitute mercenary soldier who got his legs chopped off in battle while fighting the moors of Iberia, would not go for a hundred, the usual amount he would pay for little boys. The man insisted on two hundred, take it or leave it, thank you very much. He did not like the man’s attitude and how he would look at his face intently and then sneer at him. He had a mind to plunge into the man’s throat the stiletto he was fingering inside his monk habit. Curiosity got the better of him however. Any man would sell his child for fifty florins these days and would even throw in the proverbial wife just to seal the deal. And yet, this man refused his offer of a hundred. He decided he would kill the man later. He took out the leather purse from inside his robes and counted two hundred florins, the man greedily snatching every coin as they settled into the table. Only after the last coin left his palm did the man reveal the child’s location. The child was playing by the river, the man had said, without so much as a glance at him.
The child was truly a creature of heaven. The fat lady would be very pleased. ‘Bring me a handsome little boy,’ she had said, like she was just buying a cow. ‘I’ll give you three hundred for it. Five hundred if the child is very handsome and will pass as a noble child.’ He was a bit surprised when he first met her. He wasn’t expecting his latest client to be a woman. And a hideously fat woman at that. Normally, he would have bishops, abbots, men of the nobility, rich merchants and priests. Sometimes a monk or two. But never a lady. Well, to each his own pleasure. He smiled at the thought. As long as they pay, of course. He stifled a laugh.
He had found the right word at last. The boy really looked like one of those painted cherubs in the chapel ceiling of the monastery where he used to live as a child. And he had bought him at a bargain.
He wondered why he had forgotten the word. When he was still a boy of about thirteen and he was almost as beautiful as this child in the river, Brother Marino would visit him every night and call him ‘my own cherub’ while he fondled him. He used to be his favorite boy, until he caught the plague that ate his once handsome face away. After which he was unceremoniously thrown into the pit where plague-ridden bodies were deposited. They thought he was dead. He survived, however, and went back to the monastery and killed Brother Marino by inserting a barbed arrow into his backside.
The man without a face stood up from behind the shrubberies where he was silently watching and walked towards the child. Without even a word, he grabbed the surprised child from behind and punched him lightly on the side of his belly. The child went limp immediately. He carried him towards his horse, as one would carry a livestock, and deposited him unceremoniously on top of the animal. He then went back to the soldier’s shack. An ear-splitting scream was heard from inside the house followed by a gurgling sound, like a man choking on his own blood. The gurgling sound could still be heard when the man stepped out of the house.
The man without a face was taking the cherubim to Carcassonne.
to be continued. . .
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