Land of Goshen, Part One
1 November 1905
Recovered from the logs of the riverboat Hastings
Manfred delivered his bell today. Silver, etched with beautiful pattern and symbols. I asked him if the symbols had to do with those books he’s been reading, he assured they don’t mean nothing. Gave it a test on the Allegheny, above and below Pittsburg. Sound insufficient for our needs, promised M to ask our nicer boat if they need something pretty.
I hope they decline. Could swear something was stirring in the water when it was a-ringing.
Late in the summer of 1943, a light was seen briefly in the clefts of the Hörselberg hill in Germany. The few residents who witnessed it muttered prayers and averted their eyes. It was known what one could expect when the hill opened, as it had so many times before. The most stunning ladies could be seen dancing in its light, and from deep under the hill, a magnificent song struck the heart of any poor soul who dared venture too close. Some old tales said it was the voice of Venus herself, others a great queen of the fae or some other mighty spirit. Whoever she was, when a man was smitten with her song and tarried in her court, he was lost. Only one, a minstrel, was ever believed to have returned, and went pleading to Pope Urban IV for redemption. The pope condemned the man, swearing his certainty that his scepter would bloom before God could forgive such an offense. And with that verdict, the minstrel returned to his new queen, and was never heard again.
Blick vom Kohlberg bei Wutha auf den Kleinen Hörselberg by Metilsteiner. Used under Creative Commons.
But on this night, no man entered the court. Instead, a priest named Josef Klappenger, emerged carrying an infant boy, only a few months old. The priest had been missing for nearly two years, and the people were hesitant to accept him back. He and the child were taken to Rome, to be judged in light of his station. There, he reported his tale. Only rumors emerged from these sessions, whispers of a priest who fell into despair and, on a walk through the countryside, heard a soothing voice offering him aid. In his weakened state, he was no match for the temptation, and entered the mountain. What happened there was never spoken again, and those who witnessed his confession simply crossed themselves and hurried along when asked about it. The child was the priest’s duty, that much was known. His origin, and how the priest smuggled him from the mountain, were a closely-guarded secret.
But I saw what happened that day. And I followed the pope into his chambers, and stood by as he gazed thoughtfully at an old scepter, with blossoms hundreds of years old and as fresh as the day they grew. The priest was restored and, with the boy, sent to a parish in Venezuela, far from the temptation of the mountain. The mountain remembers them, though; and on the 18th of May, every year, the shining ladies of Hörselberg hill sing for a child that may one day return.
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