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The Perception of Shadows

Part 10 & Notes

by tirnanog


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O these places towards which we surge,
pushing into the scant surfaces
all the waves of our heart,
all our pleasures and weaknesses,
and to whom do we finally hold them out?

To the stranger, who misunderstood us,
to the other, whom we never found…

Rainer Maria Rilke, ["Once I took your face into my hands…"]

Part 10

By six, everyone had departed, and the rectory returned to its usual quiet. Darius went to the church to put things away, and Diana and Enkidu did the washing-up. When Darius returned, he found Enkidu in the study, doing the newspaper crossword in ink, using a dip pen from the inkstand. "Have you got any ball-point pens?" he inquired. "This infuriating ink keeps bleeding on the newsprint."

Darius rummaged through a drawer in the desk, found one, and tossed it to the Akkadian. "Where is Diana?" he asked.

"I believe she is upstairs, packing."

"Packing?"

"I did as you asked—I invited her to come and stay at the monastery. She said yes. We are leaving as soon as she is finished."

But Darius was already halfway up the stairs.

Diana folded the silk dress and put it into the suitcase. She was in jeans and a sweater again. That was the last of it. James' belongings, except for the few items she had decided to keep, had already been boxed to be sent to a charity. She closed the suitcase and set it on the floor, and had just begun to strip the bed when she heard a knock at the door.

"Brother Enrique tells me you've decided to spend some time at St. Jerome," Darius said, coming into the room.

"That's the plan," she said, bundling the sheets neatly into a pillowcase. "He seems to think a few weeks of fresh air and back-breaking manual labor in the monastery fields would be the perfect cure for my nightmares. He assures me that if I dream at all it will be of shoveling manure."

He laughed. "He's probably right. I'm glad you're going."

"I figured you would be, since you were the one who put him up to it," she remarked dryly, looking at him out of the corner of her eye.

He tried to explain. "Diana, I didn't do this because I wanted to get rid of you. I did it out of concern for you, because I thought getting away from here to another place might help you recover. You'll always be welcome here. I hope you know that."

"I understand completely," she said quietly, turning around to face him. "All the reasons, even the ones you're not admitting. And I really appreciate everything you've done for me, including this. I don't know what I'd have done without you. And that's what makes this so hard. I'm worried about you, too."

"Come here." He held out his arms, and gathered her into a warm hug. "There is nothing to worry about. It is only a dream. And one I soon hope you will be free of."

"So all you Immortals tell me. And you all think I'm crazy—you, Sean, Brother Enrique--well, Brother Enrique thinks I may only be partly crazy, but he won't commit as to percentages. I hope you're right—it's better than the alternative. But promise me something. Since you won't let me stay on as your bodyguard, at least humor a poor demented mortal and watch your back, OK?"

"I will," he said, ruffling her hair as he let her go. Together they carried the luggage downstairs and out to the curb. Enkidu had already put his overnight bag in the monastery station wagon, which was parked out front. They were just about to drive away, when Darius remembered something, and ran back inside. He came out with James'sword in his hand. "You don't want to leave without this."

"Keep it," Diana told him. "Just in case. I won't need it where I'm going, and as I said before, I'd feel a lot better knowing you had it with you."

He shook his head, and carefully handed it to her through the car window. "Thank you, but no. I made a vow long ago to never use a sword again. It belongs to you now—keep it well. A safe journey to you both." And giving a last wave goodbye, he returned to the rectory and went to his study.

As he turned on the light, he saw it, a sheet of cream-colored paper lying on the desk. He thought at first it was a note from Enkidu, but when he turned it over, he saw it was a pencil drawing--Diana's face, looking up at him. Beneath the drawing was a scribbled note: "Darius, I was going to leave the portrait I did of you, but you didn't really like it, and anyway, I found I couldn't part with it. I hope this will do instead." He picked it up, and held it out at arm's length for a better look. Except for the ragged, spiky haircut and the multiple earrings, it could have been a portrait by Ingres. The shadows beneath the high cheekbones were delicately modeled, the eyes luminous, and the mouth held a little secret smile.


finis




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Notes

About the Darius Trilogy

I began writing these tales because I was disappointed that there didn't seem to be very many stories about Darius out there, and I felt there ought to be more, because he is such a wonderful character. From the very first moment I saw Band of Brothers, Darius and the actor who played him had a profound effect on me. The idea of an Immortal renouncing war when he was on the verge of conquering Europe was very compelling, and Werner Stocker projected a powerful presence and a spirituality which brought the role to life as no one else could have done. I was devastated when Darius was killed off in The Hunters, and even more so when I learned that Werner himself had died. As I will never be able to write him a letter or see him in person to tell him how much his work meant to me, I dedicate these stories, such as they are, to the memory of Werner Stocker, and Darius. As far as I'm concerned they are both Immortal.

A few notes about Saint Julien le Pauvre

In the television series, the church was usually referred to as Darius' Church, and on one occasion as St. Joseph's Chapel, but I chose to use its real name because it suits the poor, battered little place. The church contains two side chapels, the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament on the south aisle, and St. Joseph's Chapel on the north aisle, which could be where that one reference came from.

The rectory does not actually exist. What we saw as the rectory in the series turns out to have been only a set on a sound stage, alas. The real monks who lived at the Priory of St. Julien during the Middle Ages were housed in the cellars of buildings in nearby streets. In my story, I have placed the rectory just to the north of the church, fronting on the street, and connected it to the sanctuary by a passageway, such as many real churches have. The rectory "garden" I refer to is the Square Rene Viviani, a small park adjacent to the church.

The sacristy is a real room inside the church. It is located behind the ruined wall you can see just to the left of the main doors. The church used to extend all the way out to the street, but by 1651, the west end of the structure was in such bad shape that the Gothic portal, part of the nave, and two bays of the south aisle were removed, and the current facade added. The sacristy occupies the two bays of the north aisle which were left intact. The courtyard, or parvis, of St. Julien used to be part of the interior of the church, as was the caged well that you can see to the right of the west doors in Band of Brothers.

The details of the history of St. Julien which Darius remembers while he wanders through the sanctuary are for the most part true. Dante is believed to have said his prayers there, and he mentions the nearby Rue du Fouarre (Straw Street) in his "Paradiso" (Canto 10:137).

Saint Fursey and Saint-Pierre at Lagny-sur-Marne

One of the wandering Irish saints who came to France in the 7th century, Fursey of Perrona Scottorum, a disciple of Saint Columban, founded an abbey in 644 or 645 at Lagny-sur-Marne between Paris and Meaux. The Normans destroyed Saint-Pierre in 910, and it was rebuilt in 1018, only to be destroyed by fire twice more. The surviving abbey church of Saint-Pierre in Lagny dates only back to the early 13th century. The ruins of the abbey which Darius would have known are all gone.

Plant Symbolism

The rose is a universal symbol of love, both earthly and divine. It is also used as a symbol of silence and secrecy—words spoken sub rosa (under the rose) were not to be repeated. As a funerary flower, it stands for eternity, immortality, and the resurrection. Pansies (French, pensee, remembrance, thoughts) stand for romantic thoughts, violets for modesty or hidden virtues. Columbines, which resemble the cap and bells of the fool, can mean foolishness, but Diana would probably think of them in association with James' sense of humor. As for the herbs, I chose three that grow in my herb garden, which I thought Darius would probably also have in his. Rosemary (Latin rosmarinus, rose of the sea) signifies not only remembrance and fidelity, but also immortality. It was used as a funerary plant in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, but it has a longer history as a wedding flower, dating back to the days of Charlemagne. A legend has it that the flowers of this plant turned blue when the Virgin Mary spread her blue mantle over it. (It is also supposed to prevent bad dreams if placed under one's pillow, but Diana obviously was ignorant of this). Rue, (Greek, ruta, repentance) is a bitter tasting herb. It is called the herb of grace because true repentance is supposed to restore one to a state of grace, and the plant was sometimes used to sprinkle Holy Water as a blessing. As a funerary plant, it signifies sorrow. Thyme (Greek, thymon, from thyein: to make a burnt offering) was burned as a fumigant in Greece (some say it was burned as incense). Thyme's bracing scent was supposed to impart courage. These three herbs were also thought to ward off evil. I left out fennel, because it means flattery, and would not have been appropriate in a funeral bouquet.

The Missal

The missal I quote from is a 1941 Latin/English edition of My Sunday Missal by the Rev. Joseph F. Stedman, published in Brooklyn, N.Y. by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood. The relevant passage is at the bottom of p.52, and the same explanation is given in the Introduction on p. 20, that because the bread (Body of Christ) and the wine (Blood of Christ) are given separate consecrations, the words uttered by the priest mystically separate the Body and Blood from each other like a sword.

Tir Nan Og and the Song of the Immortals

These lines are actually from W. B. Yeat's "The Wanderings of Oisin", Book 1. Oisin, or Ossian, is a hero in Irish legend who rides off to Tir Nan Og, the Land of the Young, with Niamh, a woman of the Sidhe (Fair Folk) on the back of a white horse.

Translations of Rilke

The fragments quoted at the beginning of Part 2 are from The Complete French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by A. Poulin (St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 1986). The quote from The Book of Hours at the beginning of Part 2 is from Anita Barrows' and Joanna Macy's translation of selections from that work, entitled Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996. I only wish they had translated his entire Stundenbuch). The quotes from the beginning of Parts 4 and 10 are from Uncollected Poems, translated by Edward Snow (New York: North Point Press, 1996).

Runes

The word "rune" (Gothic "runa", Old English "run") means "a secret" or "a mystery". Each rune represented a letter in a runic alphabet (futhark), but also carried a symbolic meaning. Runes were primarily used by the Germanic and Norse peoples of Europe for all sorts of communications and inscriptions, but they were also used to cast spells and for divination.

The earliest runic inscriptions we know of only go back to the 2nd century CE, and runes were in use throughout the Middle Ages, so Duncan's statement in Band of Brothers that runes died out over 2000 years ago is incorrect. Runes may have been in use earlier than the 2nd century, but as they were often cut into wood, which deteriorates, none have survived that we know of.

No one really knows the method by which runes were used for divination. Tacitus in 98CE describes the Germans using marked pieces of wood tossed out onto a white cloth for divination, but does not say whether the symbols on the pieces were runes or something else. And both the letter values and symbolic meanings of the runes could vary a good deal from futhark to futhark. For instance, the symbol for "k" or "hard c" could mean "ulcer" in one culture, and "torch" in another. So the meanings modern "rune masters" such as Ralph Blum assign to the runes, based on the Norse rune poems and other sources, may or may not bear any relation to the way the runes were originally interpreted for purposes of divination.

In this story, Darius draws 3 runes from the bag to help him make a difficult decision. (Tacitus describes the Germanic priests selecting 3 runes for interpretation). Because Darius was said to be a leader of the Goths, a Germanic tribe, I used the Germanic rune-names and meanings: Nauthiz (need), Teiwaz (warrior), and Algiz (protection), which are pretty self-explanatory. I did attempt to identify the 13 runes on 12 pieces which Darius sent to Duncan in "Band of Brothers", and figure out what the message was, but I could only identify 11 with any certainty. Plus they appear to be a "mixed bag" of Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse rune forms, and I ran into the problem of variant meanings. The ones I was able to make out are: Raido (journey), Uruz (strength), Sowulo (sun), Dagaz (day), Algiz (protection), Wunjo (joy), Purisaz (demon or giant), Kaunaz (ulcer or torch, and there were 2 different forms of this rune), Gar (an Anglo-Saxon rune meaning spear), and a star-shaped rune (called Ior in Old English and Hagall in Old Norse, or which could be a variant form of Algiz, and so could mean ocean, hail, or protection). Journey, ocean, spear, strength, and protection all could make sense within the context of Band of Brothers. And the other runes could refer to people in the story--Grayson, Duncan, Victor and Darius (although I couldn't hazard a guess as to which refers to who, except Purisaz (monster or demon) might be Grayson). If anyone knows what the two runes were that I was unable to see in the video, or has another interpretation to offer, please e-mail me. I would love to know. (Of course it is possible those who made the episode just picked out a bunch of neat-looking runes and figured no one would know or care what they were).



This story is Copyright ©1998 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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