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WHEREIN THEY REACH THE THE CASTLE GRIM
From the mountain's top they beheld a dark castle, and the sounds of revelry emanated therefrom.
"Come," said Pilgrim, "Let us refresh ourselves in this place, and give greeting to its Lord and Lady!" "Not all Castle lords are hospitable, Pilgrim," said Justice, but natheless, let us see what can be learned from it."
"It might be well were we to disguise ourselves, until we learn what manner of folk inhabit this castle," said Faith.
"Thou hast given of good advice in the past, and this is a wise rede," said Pilgrim. "Let us do so."
They tied their horses out of sight, and put on such garb as might let them pass as ordinary folk, and entered the castle.
The castle was not well-kept, and there were many beggars that asked alms of them. Some seemed to be of the nobility, but their clothing was ragged and torn, and all were haggard, and starving, and their eyes were empty.
"These are those that have given themselves over to the Seven Children of Darkness," said Justice, "And I fear we shall find the two most powerful, Pride and Lust, as rulers of this castle."
They walked into the Hall, wherein was a feast. At first glance, it was a good feast, with much food and drink, but then they saw that the servers looked starved, and much harrassed, and the feasters had one hand tied behind themselves, and the other held a three-foot long spoon, and, no matter how hard they tried, they could not reach their own mouths with their spoons, to feed themselves.
"These are those that provided only for themselves, and gave not to their liegemen. They fell to the Prince GLUTTONY, and now they pay the price. Were they not so trapped by his lies, they could see to feed each other, but they are truly gluttons, and think only of themselves." Faith shook her head, sadly.
In the midst of the feast sat an enormously fat man, with his coronet askew upon his head. He was eating everything within his reach, and was drunk besides. He released a huge belch, guffawed, and then broke wind. This struck him as hilarious, and he bellowed with laughter, pawing the breasts of the lady that served him wine.
"That is Gluttony, who takes of the best of all things for himself, and gives naught to others." said Faith.
A server walked to her side, and quietly said, "I give thee greeting, sister!"
She looked, and then looked again, and pulled at the sleeve of Justice. "It is our brother Temperance! Why art thou in this place, gentle brother?"
"Our sister Hope is held a prisoner here, and she guards the Candle given by Arthur to his page. (4) We must rescue her, and preserve the candle!" His answer was quiet, and yet the urgent tones of his voice were heard by all in the company of travelers.
Just then, there was a blast of trumpets, and a Herald strode forth into the hall, shouting "Make Way! Make way for Their Majesties, King Pride and Queen Lust, and the Princess ENVY! Make way!"
The travelers, with Temperance, shrank against a wall so as not to be seen, and watched the procession.
Pride entered the room, dressed in velvets and silks, and carrying a sceptre of rusty iron. On his arm was Lust, and she was in the full bloom of a woman's beauty, though her deformed leg caused her to limp as she walked. Close behind her, a black robed figure followed, its face hidden by a hood.
"That is Death indeed, and he waits to take his toll of Lust's prisoners." whispered Faith. "Come, let us go from this hall and find our captive sister."
They quietly left the hall. Pilgrim looked back to see Envy glaring at the King and Queen, and handing a dagger and a purse of coin to a servitor.
They searched until they found the entrance to the dungeons, and entered therein. After many hours, they came to a small room, wherein was a lady, who was holding a small candle protectively to herself. Four ugly persons surrounded her, grinning and jibing at her.
"Ho! I almost had that flame blown out that time!" one chuckled. He was choleric of complexion, and his teeth were as long as fangs.
The second, a lady dressed in rags and tatters, with dust and ashes in her clothing, said, in a voice that seemed to crack with age, "Thou hast not the wind to do so, Servant Hate, but I, Despair, shall assuredly kill that flame!"
And she puffed up his cheeks for a mighty blow, but the third servant, dressed in mourning, whined, "Both of thee are as nothing to me, for I, Sadness, shall extinguish it with bitter tears!"
The last of the servitors was somewhat better dressed, and carried the keys of a Seneshal. He said, with an oily grin, "Who better than I, Cynicism, to kill that fire? None! It may take longer, but -my- efforts will kill that flame surer than any of thine, and will kill it so that naught can relight it!"
"What shall we do?" whispered Faith.
"I have a plan." said Pilgrim, and forthwith entered the room. His companions hid themselves in a room adjacent.
"I am sent from the Princess Envy!" he said to the servants therein, "She requires thine assistance in the great Hall. I shall guard the prisoner."
"We go." said Cynicism. "Guard her well, for the King and Queen have uses for her ... uses she will most assuredly not enjoy!" And he gave a wicked laugh.
The servants left, and Pilgrim signaled to his companions that they were gone.
"Dear sister!" said Justice. "How comest thou here?"
"I was traveling to our home, with sister Charity, when we were set upon by brigands in the pay of Pride and Lust. They captured me, and with me the Candle of Arthur, and carried me here to this dungeon, wherein they have tried for many days to put out the candle. I have been able to shield it from the servants, but I feared that I would be brought forth to Pride and Lust, though I fear Envy the most. I know not what has happened to Charity."
"If she is free, we will find her, and if she is imprisoned, we will free her." said Pilgrim.
"That is well spoken," said Prudence, "But now we must find our way from these dungeons, and escape the castle."
"Let us go, then," said Pilgrim, "But tell me of this Candle."
Hope smiled at him, and said, "It is said that none survived the Last Battle of Arthur, save he who returned the Sword, but this is not strictly true. The night before the battle, Arthur gave a small candle to a page named Tom, who took that candle from the field, and guarded it well, and lit many more from its flame. It came here, and now we protect it, and light candles therefrom. The Children of the Darkness would like nothing better than to put it out, and let Mundania in to destroy us."
They began to walk back to the dungeon entrance, past many cells. Some were open, and had no inmates, but other doors were shut, and groans and cries could be heard thru them.
Faith took Pilgrim's hand, and led him to one of the doors, and said, "There are places here that thou must look upon, and remember," and she opened the door.
Inside the cell were many knights, dressed in mail hauberks, and open faced helmets, and they fought with each other incessantly, giving and receiving dreadful wounds, that split their helms, and disemboweled them, causing them to tread upon their own entrails, and cut their limbs from their bodies, and yet, they did not die. They could feel the pain of the wounds, however, and screamed with the agony of it, but the wounds healed themselves after a small time, only to be freshly opened by another sword.
"These are those that and allowed Pride to take them, and cheated in the Lists. Here, the wounds they ignored are all too real, and they suffer from them."
Pilgrim shuddered, and said, "Close the door! I wish not to see such suffering and pain."
Faith led him to another door, and opened it. Within were many Lords and Ladies, who threw sharp flints at each other, inflicting painful hurts that bled.
"These are those that gave themselves over to Pride by taking credit for another's work, and gaining the Pelican thereby."
Pilgrim closed the door with a sigh.
Faith opened a third door. Pilgrim looked therein, and wavered, and almost fainted from the horror he saw.
"Those are ladies that gave their bodies to Pride and Lust, to become Queen. Their fate is horrible indeed," said Faith, and her face twisted with grief.
She closed the door with a shudder, and opened a fourth door, and Pilgrim said, "I know not if I can bear another door."
"Look, and learn!" said Faith, sternly.
Within were Lords and Ladies with hot coals upon their tongues, and the coals were made from the burning of musical instruments.
"These are the poets, and Bards, and minstrels who prostituted their Art. They attacked for the pleasure of attacking, and praised not, but merely tore at the fabric of the Dream with their words. Take thou heed of this!"
Another door was opened, and inside the room were persons who carried large Laurel medallions in their hands, but the medallions were red-hot, and the stench of burning flesh made Pilgrim gag.
"These are those Laurels who did not teach of their Art, and who made no effort to contribute to the Dream in any way but by selling what they made. There is another room wherein those Laurels that were invested with the honor and did nothing thereafter are made to sit upon their red-hot medallions, but they find no rest there."
Within another room were many Lords and Ladies who fought with poisonous vipers, and with each other, rending and tearing, and swelling from the poisons. They groped at the swellings, and ripped their flesh open, and a stink burst forth from the wounds.
"Here thou witnesseth those who would not let old feuds die of themselves, but kept them alive, and fed that evil serpent called Faction. Here they feel the poison of that snake for themselves, and are torn by the divisive conflicts they engendered." said Faith.
She closed the door, and led Pilgrim to another room. "Herein are those that used their Offices for their own ends, and exercised power for its own sake, and destroyed the Dream for many new arrivals to our lands."
Pilgrim looked, and saw a large pit filled with ice cold slime, and many persons trying to climb out of it, but who were thrown down by their companions to freeze. Worms chewed their flesh, and they stank.
"They punish themselves, for they could climb forth if they would but work together, but their pride is overweening, and they cannot bring themselves to do such a thing." said Faith.
"There is one more room to see," said Faith, "An thou hast the stomach for it."
In the final room were persons who crawled on the floor, as if searching for something. Their eyes had been put out, and they were blind, and they felt their way thru vermin that crawled over their bodies, and it was near impossible to distinguish them apart from the foul insects in the room.
"These are the ones that had a hidden agenda in all that they did, who used others for their own ends, and who thought to keep the Dream to themselves alone, and now they must search for that which they hid from the world, and from themselves."
She closed the door, and they continued on their way. Pilgrim walked quietly for a time, in deep thought, and looked upon the many doors they had not looked into, and listened to the cries and groans of the sufferers within. He then turned to Faith, and said, "It is horrible! Is there no redemption for them? Is there no escape?"
"That is the saddest truth of all," said Faith, "For all they must do is walk from their dungeon of themselves; all they must do is abandon their allegiance to Pride and Lust, and they will be free. These pits are unguarded, and none would stop them. But they cannot see to do this simple thing, and thus must suffer." (5)
As they left the dungeons, they saw an old and battered shield abandoned against one wall. Pilgrim walked to it, and turned it over. It bore the emblazon of "Or, a Laurel Wreath vert." The shield was so worn and marked from countless sword strokes that the heraldry was barely visible.
Faith said, "Let us take that with us, for old and battered as it is, it may be more than it seems." She took the shield from Pilgrim, and slung it over her back, hiding it with her cloak.
They made their way towards the barbican of the castle, but were stopped by Envy.
"Perhaps thou canst help me," whispered the green-eyed Dark Princess. "This Queen has the place that is rightfully mine, taken by treachery. I am more suited for it than she, and I wish to be in her place of honor and receive the adulation and worship I deserve. Wilt thou join with me in this endeavour?"
"That we will not!" Pilgrim spoke with firmness, and the travelers passed her by. Envy turned immediately to another, and began to whisper in their ear.
A hooded lady glided to Pilgrim's side, and spoke, softly. "Thou dids't well in thy answer, Pilgrim. We all have our own abilities and places, and duties to fulfill. Satisfaction lies in a job well-done and not in any honors that might accompany it. And if another suceeds in their endeavour, then rejoice with them in their sucess."
Hope suddenly turned at the sound of the voice, and her smile had all of Heaven in it. "Sweet Charity, my sister! I thought thou had been captured with me!"
"Not I," said Charity, "Though I have hidden within the crowd of this place for a fortnight, (6) hoping to find a way to rescue thee."
"Then we shall rejoice this night," said Justice, "For we are all together at last!"
The left the castle, and regained their mounts, and rode quickly away thru the mountains.