The Monk

Before dawn, the monks filed into the chapel for the Lauds service. The meter of the Gregorian chants set their pace. Eardwulf sang the words of devotion but his heart was not in it. His heart was set on proving Godwine that he could be as brilliant an illuminator as the older monk.

So bent was Eardwulf on this that he slipped out of the chapel and headed to the scriptorium. He sat at Godwine’s bench and picked up a quill. He dipped it into the rich sapphire blue ink. He was about to continue drawing weaving snakes that twisted themselves into mesmerizing knots along the side of the parchment.

“What do you think you’re doing at my desk, Eardwulf?” Godwine whispered. “I saw you leave chapel and I decided to follow you. I knew you were up to something.”

Startled, Eardwulf dropped the quill. It smudged the beautiful illustration. Seeing the mess on his precious vellum, Godwine flew into a rage. But it was short-lived. His facial expression mutated from rage to calculation. He caressed Eardwulf’s cheek and ran his thumb slowly over the younger monk’s lips. Eyes shining with lust, Godwine said “I know how you can make this up to me.”

Eardwulf felt a wave of revulsion rise from the pit of his stomach. “No, no, no!” He shoved Godwine with all his might. The older monk fell backwards and hit his head against a chair. He lay still. His blood started to pool on the flagstones.

Eardwulf knelt beside the other monk and tried to shake him awake. The realization that he had killed another man slowly dawned on him. He felt the cold from the stone floor seep up his feet, up his legs to his chest. His heart felt cold with fear. What to do?  If the abbot found out, Eardwulf would be banished, maybe sent to the wind-swept monastery on the remote island of Skellig Michael. He was not made for a life of asceticism and hardship.

The first rays of the morning sun lit the east windows of the scriptorium. Eardwulf then knew that had enough time to cross the causeway before the high tide cut Lindisfarne off. He could flee south to Mercia and throw himself on the mercy of King Æthelred, his kin.

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