The Ryghteous Martyrs of Spaigne – Vincentius Protomartyr & Valerius of Caesaraugusta Part II

II. The Wrath of Forculus

Marius bid them farewell and opened the door to leave. It squeaked sadly and fell off its hinges in his hand.

Valerius looked up. «What did you do now?»

«N-nothing, Overseer! I swear!» Marius tried in vain to hang the door back on the wall, but the iron hinges had cracked and crumbled apart.

Vincentius sighed. «Just set it off to the side somewhere, Brother Marius.»

«I can repair it if you’ve got some spare hinges. It’s no trouble.»

Valerius shook his head. «That was the only door in the church. Who knows when we can afford the repairs?»

«Stop procrastinating, Brother.» Vincentius gestured towards the wall. «Please, just set the door off to the side. You have more important things to worry about.»

Marius frowned and carried the door across the office. The only place where there was enough space to put it was directly in front of the room’s sole window. He leaned it against the window and looked back. Without the sunlight the office was considerably darker. He pulled the door towards himself and looked back again. Then leaned it against the window. Then towards himself. «I think it’ll be too dark if I put it here, but–«

«I beg you, Brother. If you love us, you’ll leave it there and go.»

«But the sunlight–«

«We’ll get lamps from the assistant.»

«It’s fine, Brother Marius.»

Marius shrugged and walked to the now doorless exit. He stopped and turned around. «Uh, look…I know this is going to sound blasphemous, but…maybe if you got some hawthorn…or at least offered a–«

Vincentius stood up. «Brother! Please leave now!»

He walked briskly out of the office and nearly crashed into the assistant, who was bringing another wax tablet to the overseer and his deacon. The assistant handed it to Vincentius and asked what happened to the door. «It was old. The cast iron broke.»

«Just all of a sudden?» the assistant asked. «Huh. Strange. Should I find some lamps?»

«Please.» The assistant nodded and left. Vincentius tilted the tablet towards what little light was still coming in the room. At the top was the list of missionaries confirmed killed this week followed by the usual list of members of the congregation who had died, converted, or given birth. «I wonder what he’ll do.»

Valerius, feeling in the darkness even more tired than before, rested his cheek on his palm and asked, «What? With the lamps?»

«No,» Vincentius said. He rubbed the words «24 COPIES FOR DIST TO ELDERS» at the bottom of the tablet and signed his initials. «Brother Marius. I wonder if he’ll take the money back or if he’ll get the box.»

«Oh, that. Who cares?»

«I’ll pretend you didn’t say that, Overseer. Did you want to add anything to the distribution list?»

Valerius yawned and made a grabbing motion for the tablet. «If I know Marius, he’ll take the money. But maybe he won’t. But I don’t care. I don’t understand why the elders keep sending these sorts of problems to us. We’re supposed to be available to counsel our people on the grave matters–the questions that the elders aren’t qualified to answer. Instead we’re…babysitting.»

«I suppose what they feel qualified to answer differs from elder to elder. Anyway, I think it’s good. The more contact we have with our congregation the better Christians we’ll be.»

Valerius studied the tablet. «Hm? I’m starting to think you broke the door hinges, Brother.»

Vincentius chuckled. «I’m serious, Overseer. Look at what happened in Rome. Brother Marius wouldn’t even get into the building to see the overseer there.»

«Well, they have their reasons. Security, for one thing. And what happened with the Pope…»


«I wonder how they died.»


Valerius turned the tablet around to face Vincentius. «The missionaries. It just says ‘died’ with no explanation. Were they martyred? Were they killed by locals? Was it a plague? Just ‘died.'»

«What difference does it make? They died in the Lord’s service. It’s not a contest.»

Light suddenly filled the room. A woman floated on the other side of the window holding a puppy and a large pair of shears. «Sorry, guys. Took me forever to find the address. Also I know I promised the puppy would be cute, but this is all I could–whoa…this is definitely not the right address. Uh, did I break that door or was it like that? Either way, sorry for disturbing you…»

Valerius shrugged. «I’m just curious, Brother Vincentius. Just wondering out loud.»

«That makes you curious? But Brother Marius’ dilemma–«

«I hope you’re not comparing the work of missionaries to a plumber being propositioned by a bored housewife.»

«Hello?» the floating woman said. «Are you two deaf? I’m trying to apologize.»

«Of course not, Overseer. I just meant that Brother Marius’ problems–our congregation’s problems–are real. They’re real issues we can help them with. Trying to get to the bottom of the Mystery of the Dead Missionaries isn’t going to help anyone.»

«Fucking assholes.» The woman squeezed the puppy until it yelped and floated away.

«I’m not suggesting it would. And stop trying to paint me as unconcerned with the flock. I was just curious.» Unable to find his, Valerius borrowed Vincentius’ stylus without asking and added another note to the bottom of the tablet. It said to make an additional copy of the list for Caesaraugusta’s resident senator. He signed his initials directly below Vincentius’ and handed back the tablet.

«I wish you’d tell me what this said.» Vincentius stared at the additional note, turning the tablet upside down and back again.

«In time, Brother. Someday it will be your burden. Probably. Uh, could you…»

Vincentius stood and put the door back in front of the window. «‘Burden.’ You were a deacon once. You knew what you were getting into when you ran for election. Why do you act like it’s some unforeseen punishment to be Overseer?»

Valerius sighed. «Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you get what you actually didn’t want.»

«…I have no idea what that means.»

«It means you’re right. I care more about what happened to those missionaries than what happens to Brother Marius because they were doing important work–necessary work. Marius is…being Marius. And we’re sitting here using a door as a curtain.»

Vincentius snorted. «So…you want to do missionary work again? Forgive me for saying so, but you’re a bit old for that.»

«Brother Iacobus traveled to the edge of the world to convert the Nerios and he was older than I am. Sixty-two, I believe.»

«…and they mistook him for a Roman scout and sent his head back with his…member…shoved in his mouth.»

«His mistake was going alone.»

Vincentius shook his head. «But he wasn’t alone. His assistant abandoned him after a month. The coward ran off to Emerita Augusta.»

«Fine. Then his mistake was going without someone he could trust.»

«I think if you’re thinking about things like this…maybe it’s time to retire, Overseer. I’m not saying you should go do missionary work somewhere. Not at your age. But…»

Valerius nodded. «I’ve considered it for awhile now, Brother Vincentius.»

Vincentius sat up. «Really?»

The assistant returned with two lamps and set them on the table in front of the two men. He read the notes on the tablet and left.

«Yes. Did you know before I became Overseer I got up before sunrise and walked the entire perimeter of the city? I’d say hello to people and ask them how they were doing and get to know them. Now I feel too tired to stare out the window.»

«Well, I’m sure you could get into shape again with all of your newfound free time.» Vincentius twirled his stylus. «So…when exactly were you thinking about resigning?»

«I’m not sure, Brother.»

«But roughly speaking. Next week? Next month? A year?»

«Are you already coveting my chair, Deacon?»

«O-of course not, Overseer. I mean…me? Overseer? I’m far too young. And you have to know the right people. It’s supposed to be a free election, but…»

«You’ve given this some thought then.»

«Do I think I would be a good overseer? Sure. I think I could shake a few things up. That senator, for example. The one who wants his own private elder. I get his reasons, but it defeats the whole purpose. What good is a confession if nobody he’s wronged hears it?»

«And you’d forbid him to have one…»


«Uh-huh. Well, good luck with that, Brother Vincentius. For what it’s worth, I’d put in a good word for you.»

«You would?» Vincentius blushed. «You think I’d win?»

«I didn’t say that. But I think you’d be good at it. Better than me anyhow. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather endorse.»

Vincentius’ eyes began to water. «Thank you, Overseer.»

«Forget it.» Valerius sifted through the remaining papers on his desk. «I guess we should get back to it.»

Vincentius nodded. «You know, since we’re being honest…I think you should do something you feel is more worthwhile. I know I reacted sternly before, but you’re right: you’re getting on in years and sitting at a desk doing paperwork all day–if you think there’s a better way for you to serve God in what little time you have left, I think you should.»

«Perhaps, but you were also right. It’s not just my age. My speech…I can’t make my points around them without stuttering. The ones that want to argue with me are the worst. I sputter and pop like a dirty candle. How could I be effective if people are constantly asking themselves what kind of all-powerful god wouldn’t cure me of my affliction?»

«True, but you don’t need to do the speaking. You need an assistant anyway, right? You be the authority, and let the assistant do all the talking.»

«What authority would I have if I resigned? How could I get an assistant? Or permission from the church, for that matter? Normally these things are handled from Rome.»

«Then don’t resign. Go on your mission and I’ll watch things here for you until you return. How is Rome going to stop you?»

Valerius laughed. «I see. You’ll watch things for me here.»

«Sure. Where were you thinking of going?»

«Not far, not far. There are more than enough pagans between here and Emerita’. Or Valentia for that matter.»

«That’s really not far. Valentia isn’t more than a couple days by foot.»

«Without stopping. But stopping is the point.»

«OK, so let’s say a week or so for there and back.»

«As a practice run for a real mission.»

«Sure! You prove you can do it, maybe use the walk to build up your constitution a little…then come back, give up your office, and uh…we’ll see what happens.»

«I still need an assistant.»

«Well, that’s fine. I’ll help you find one. What about Davidus? He’s great. One of the best people we’ve got here.»

«You mean Publius? The fact that he changed his name to Davidus…no. Instant no. I cannot imagine walking with that guy for an entire week.»


«Why don’t you come with me?»

Vincentius gulped. He couldn’t imagine walking with Valerius for an entire week. «Nonsense. Who’d watch the office while you were away?»

«It’ll be fine. I’ll put Publius in charge.»

«Publius? He’s a moron! He’s only here because of his parents!»

«Oh. I suppose we should keep looking then…It’s a shame. If we could find someone I’d take care of some things and leave tomorrow.»

«Tomorrow? You’re really serious about this.»

«Yes…leave tomorrow, be back in a week, resign first thing, tell everyone I’m throwing myself behind you in the election. Ah, well. If you think of anyone else, let me know.»

«Wait a second, Overseer. I didn’t realize you wanted to leave so soon. I thought we were just daydreaming. I mean, if you want to leave tomorrow that’s another story. Let me check my day planner.» Vincentius removed a little notebook and flipped through the pages. «I actually have nothing I can’t reschedule.»

«What do you mean?»

«I mean, let’s do it. Let’s go to Valentia tomorrow.»

Valerius jumped up. «Really? Oh, Brother!» He walked over to Vincentius and kissed him on the mouth. «This is wonderful!» Valerius walked around the table and began pacing back and forth in front of the entrance. «Now let’s see. What will we need to bring? I’ll go shopping.»

«I don’t think we ‘need’ anything, Overseer. It’s a week. We’ll beg for food if we get hungry, but otherwise–«

«No, no, Vincentius. Good planning is half the battle!» Valerius put his finger to his chin and stared at the ceiling. He pointed the finger at Vincentius. «Good shoes!»

«I already have shoes, Overseer.»

«So do I, but not good ones. Not ones that’ll survive a journey like this. We can’t skimp on quality footwear.»

«I can’t afford to buy new shoes. Not now–«

«Don’t worry, Vincentius. Don’t worry. I’ll pay for everything. Believe it or not, I still have quite a lot of my inheritance.”

“Forgive me, but…how?”

“Money increases over time, Vincentius. I don’t expect you to understand since you grew up poor, but…how can I explain it?» Valerius began pacing again. «Do you remember when you were a kid and something cost 5 denarii? And now, if you try to buy the same thing, it costs 200?”


«It’s the same with my inheritance.»

“Forgive me again, Overseer, but I don’t think that’s how inflation works.»

“Forgive me, Vincentius, but which one of us is so poor he can’t afford shoes and which one of us understands how money works? Economies of scale and so on. Price floors. Imperial fiats. Debasement.”

«Wait a second, Overseer. Are you earning interest on your money? Where is it kept?”

“Pfff,» Valerius shrugged. «Maybe?” His pacing grew faster and his posture straightened.

“We’re supposed to be against that.» Vincentius sighed and stared at his ragged sandals. «You know what? I think you’re right. You should buy me a new pair of sandals.”

“Good! So what else?»

«The Gospels.»

«Sure, sure. We’ll bring a whole scrollbox. That’s a given. Maybe even a Latin copy for the locals if we can find one. But what else?» Valerius snapped his fingers as he walked. He spun around to the deacon. «Walking sticks. What are they called? Staffs? Staves. Yeah, we need a really good, reliable pair of staves. Take the stress off the old backaroo.”

“I can manage without a walking staff, Brother.”

“That’s what you say now, but don’t complain about how hard it is to stand up straight when we’re hours in and can’t turn around.»

Vincentius threw up his hands but said nothing.

«Snacks! We need like some high-energy, nutritious snacks for the road.”

“All right, Overseer. Valentia is quite a ways away and we might not get anything begging. But that’s it then. Shoes, a walking stick for you, and a small amount of food.”

“Sure, sure. And some good cloaks in case it gets cold. But that’s it. You’re right. Don’t want to get too carried away shopping. OK, then I guess I’ll go take care of that while you manage…all of this…”

“Wait. I thought we’d go together.”

Valerius shook his head. “Well, one of us has to stay here! What if someone comes while we’re gone?”

«But if someone comes–«

«Then give them the same spiritual guidance you’ve always given them. And if they give you a hard time or won’t leave without seeing me, just read this out loud to them.» Valerius scribbled a note on the underside of a dirty plate and handed it to Vincentius.

The deacon read it and blushed again. “You really think I’m wise?”

“Absolutely, Brother. I’ll be back in a couple hours!” Valerius hopped in the air and smacked the head of the doorway with his hand, humming as he left. Moments later the façade that Valerius had struck crumbled to the floor and exposed the cheap brick beneath.