THE NECESSARY MAN
Vlachus laughed at his commander and freely drank of the dark wine.
“Spoken as a true soldier. But let me speak as a former farmer and a monk of God. There is much pleasure, my friend, in the creation of new life. That is indeed true. Yet there is an even greater joy in the fostering of it.
Any man may plow the field, and enjoy the swift and sweet sweat of that labor. Yet only the True Husbandman labors long at the profit and the produce of the fruit. Sow where you can commander, but gather where you may. And if you see another field untended and the crops therein languishing to fail then are you not lawfully allowed to step into it that field and harvest what was already planted so that they are wasted not? Indeed, are you not obligated to do so?”
Marsippius looked at Vlachus in consideration of his speech, but then opened his hands as if in supplication or supposition to the priest.
“And what of you?” Marsippius asked. “Are you unfit to reap what others have sown? Are you not also obligated?”
Vlachus handed Marsippius the wineskin. Marsippius immediately noticed how much emptier it seemed. Then Vlachus wiped his mouth upon his long decorated sleeve, rubbed his hands briskly together, placed them closer to the fire and glanced admiringly upwards at the bright alien stars. Finally he looked back across the flames and drifting smoke at his friend.
“Oh, I am certainly fit to reap and even still to sow,” Vlachus said, his long untended beard casting weird shadows in the firelight and making his face seem momentarily made more of ethereal questions than earthly answers. “Nevertheless I am a monk. I would make a far better grandfather I think than a sire. This child though needs a father. A real father, truly known and knowing. You are an excellent, if sometimes uneven commander of men, Marsippius Nicea. Furthermore I suspect that you are already a fine father as well. And would be so again if necessary. The question you must ask yourself is this: are you now the necessary man?”
Marsippius sighed and rubbed his scarred sword hand through his now lengthening hair. Vlachus’ gaze seemed to him extraordinarily bright and perceptive in the uneven light of the struggling fire.
“You are also, I have seen, an unfailingly honest man,” Vlachus said. “So, if I have spoken in error of you then correct me now.”
Marsippius studied the monk’s face for a long while, and then his gaze fell back into the fire. He would not say what he saw there, and he did not answer his friend.
Vlachus of Armenia (The Myrelaion Monk) to Marsippius Nicea, Commander of the Basilegate
From the Kithariune