Fran, the boy who assisted Pretzl in his daily duties, came rushing up to where we stood. Charl had called his warriors together, and was issuing orders for them to search the village for anything unusual before they left. I don´t know why I was with them, only that I had followed Charl and somehow seemed to be included into the conversation.
Charl turned to speak to the boy. “Yes Fran?” he asked.
“Sir, Master Pretzl sent me with news” gasped Fran. He couldn’t have been out of breath from running 20 metres from the shrine to us, in fact, had Pretzl leant out of the door and shouted we would have heard. It was, I decided, most likely that Fran was volunteering again. I didn’t like him, although he was only a year younger than I was, he was far too serious and self important. His mother was always boasting about him, about how he would eventually become Pretzl’s apprentice and heir. He was, in my opinion, self centred and righteous enough for the job.
“Get on with it” snapped Charl. Fran reddened and straightened up.
“He says that the floor of the shrine has been desecrated” he reported stiffly. “He says that he must order the floor and begs for time to do so”.
“Somebody did not break into this village, killing an entire family in the process, just to scuff up Pretzls magic floor” snarled Charl. “What is missing?”
Fran gulped as the massive man towered over him, but still remembered his dignity. “It’s not a magic floor” he quavered. “If the floor is not properly arranged for the right ceremonies throughout the day…”
Charl cuffed the boy around the head, knocking him to the ground. I jumped back, shocked. Used as I was to the careless give and take of daily life, of being fast enough to be just out of reach of a clobber, I had never seen anyone knocked to the ground in such a manner. Fran curled up, grabbing his head, and sobbing. Without a second look, Charl stepped over the boy and headed towards the Shrine. “Come” he ordered us over his shoulder, and we quickly followed as a group.
Pretzl was sitting in the middle of the shrine, ordering his floor in an absent minded way. He looked up indignantly as we all poured in.
“Look what these heathens have done” he said, waving his hand around. I realised, and probably Charl did as well, that he was showing far more emotion over his floor than over the bodies of the family of Felix. “The sun will come and will find us wanting”.
I should explain about Pretzl’s “magic floor”. We do not, unlike those in the meseta, worship objects. Our gods are not trapped within objects. We know our gods are busy with their tasks, causing the sun to rise and set, the moon to appear, thunder to roll, flowers to blossom and trees to grow.
And Pretzl’s job is to show our appreciation of this. When we carry out the annual pig killing, he is there to show thanks. When we make our annual metal smelting, the first tool is always given to Pretzl for him to give back to the mountains. We take, but we show that we appreciate that what we take, for otherwise in the future, there may be nothing to take.
And the most important god, the one that looks over us, is that of the Sun, and of his sister the Moon. And Pretzl must show our appreciation of their life giving rays on a daily basis, by ensuring that their giving rays fall upon our tokens of thanks.
This then, is our Shrine, a building which is the largest building in the village. The roof has been built by our best artisans to allow the passage of rays of light at certain times of day and night, to fall upon specially designed patterns upon the floor.
Because by allowing the Sun and the Moon to see our appreciation, they will continue to smile upon us. We must not imitate them, we must not copy them. Let the barbarians do that, to scare away their gods. We concentrate upon the flows of life, the interactions, the way it impacts upon us.
And whoever had broken in last night had been busy dragging their feet across the sand and the earth, scuffing up the ground, breaking up the patterns so carefully laid by Pretzl and Fran.
But, as Charl had said, this was the private world of Pretzl. We know what he does and we are content to allow him to get on with it, safe in the knowledge that he is responsible and will ensure the rituals are carried out. We do not need to get involved. The scuffing of the floor was hardly a reason to break into the village.
Charl peered around suspiciously. “Pretzl, what is missing?” he repeated.
Pretzl unfolded himself from the floor. “Where’s that kid?” he asked, meaning Fran.
“I cuffed him and he is currently sobbing into his mothers arms” replied Charl with a nasty smile.
Pretzl sighed. “He is a good child, but an earnest one” he said. “He will learn in time but… what on earth are you doing?”
Charl had stepped past Pretzl and was scanning the pots at the back of the shrine. “I want to know what the intruders were after” he snapped. “I want to know, because then I will know what they wanted, and I can guess who they were. And once I know that, I can guess where they have gone, and I can follow them to kill them”.
Pretzl sighed. “I’ve already looked” he said, stepping forwards and snatching a small burial pot out of Charls hands. “Stop messing everything up. They took the Crown of Crucis”.