A Thief in the Night (A Tale) by goldie ()
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A Thief in the Night (A Tale)
In this scene, we will travel back to the early 14th century in the Italian Alps. Specifically to an abbey and its library and scriptorium. The library contained a multitude of old manuscripts, most in the form of scrolls, also books of philosophy, science and geography of the time.
It is here that we are introduced to Ubertino. He joined the abbey in 1302, working his way up from novice to his current position, translator of manuscripts. Ubertino carried with him a dark family secret, one that shamed him terribly. He also knew that there were archives which contained the ill-doings of regional families, and in all likelihood these archives, or at least copies of them were located in this very library.
As he rose in rank, his permissions also rose (in the library most material of scientific and of philosophical nature were off limits to most of the monks, since they were considered sacrilegious, blasphemous--not suitable for most minds. When he was finally allowed access to freely read the scrolls and books, he searched for that particular book or scroll (he didn't know which it would be) that contained the damning information. It did take him some months since since he had to, at all costs, not raise suspicion.
Ubertino finally did find what he was looking for this very day, in the late afternoon--it was a scroll, which he placed on this table near the edge. That night he returned to the library to retrieve the scroll, hoping to secret it in his robe. Just as he was going to grab the scroll he heard something--a creak, a rustle. He stood deadly still, not even breathing...must be just my nerves, he thought. After several moments he decided to just chance it. Grabbing the scroll, he rushed to a secret doorway that led to a staircase reaching to the lowest level of the library and ultimately to the outdoors.
The following day, on his daily walk, Ubertino burned the scroll in the woods far from the abbey. To be doubly certain his action was never to be discovered, he buried the ashes and covered their grave with leaves. No one ever discovered the theft.
As fate would have it, several years later the abbey and its library were completely sacked and burned by the invading Ottomans. Most of the monks were murdered, but the ever-clever Ubertino did escape.
(Inspired, in part, by The Name of the Rose, on the top of my reading "A" list.)
Thanks for dropping by and for you greatly appreciated comments.
Image Comments (13)
linwhite () Online Now! 6:35PM | Sun, 09 May 2021
Wow.....I really got into the story. What a clever guy. I really love the dark, authenticity of the surroundings. Medieval times were dark in more ways than one.
bakapo () 10:37PM | Sun, 09 May 2021
I love the Name Of The Rose. The book is better than the movie. This has the exact feel and secret and dark atmosphere. Good lighting in this scene and the old books and scrolls look ancient and well-handled.
rhol_figament () 10:51PM | Sun, 09 May 2021
I'm begining to wonder if someone planted that scroll for Ubertino to find. An insider Ottoman monk with a long end game plan no doudt... 🐉
Jean_C () 3:05AM | Mon, 10 May 2021
Very interesting story and fantastic illustration! I like atmo, lighting and all detail of this library. The worried attitude of this monk is excellent too, great work, Barb!
eekdog () Online Now! 11:39AM | Mon, 10 May 2021
his expression is most cool, but your lighting is absolutely amazing along with all the elements. another top 10 of all your fine works. 5++++
jendellas () 1:30PM | Mon, 10 May 2021
Superb image, great character, love his expression. Story is very interesting.
miwi () 4:27PM | Mon, 10 May 2021
Immediately reminded me of Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose. Fantastic image, excellent character,wonderful done, super Info,love it. 5*
RodS () 9:50PM | Mon, 10 May 2021
Did I hear a heavy sigh of relief - across the centuries? A fascinating short story, Barb, and one that gives me an idea or two for a story I started a couple years ago, and never got very far with (about one of our top Agents...).
A perfect and beautifully done illustration for this tale, Barb! You captured his unease very well.
anahata.c () 12:00AM | Tue, 11 May 2021
I read this when you posted it, and I was thrilled that you'd given us a tale. First off, you write with very clear, very open prose. And, like your images, it's very inviting (in just a few paragraphs!). Where there are unanswered questions---the whole tale revolves around an unanswered question---you deliver it with total clarity and simplicity. Kudos on how well you wrote this.
As for the mysteries this monk has hidden in his mind/heart: We can feel them even when we don't know what they are. The tale is all about his seeking some mysteries, finding them, hiding and destroying them; and all we know is, there is something of great power in them. And, shrouded as they are in the foreboding and prohibitive world of a mysterious monastery---and its proscriptions against many forms of knowledge---they take on a laden feeling, something heavy and significant. So much so that he must escape the monastery and burn the manuscript and bury it. Your tale is one of those tales that has a kept-secret at its heart, and it never reveals the secret while it lets us taste its presence. And your image---showing Ubertino being spotted, I presume; or maybe it's when he hears someone/something invading his privacy---captures the deep secret of the moment. The light is red/golden (a light you've used in other medieval images), and the objects give a real monastic feel, including the manuscripts in the background. (Those manuscripts could take months to do...and as you probably know, from some of the most elaborate of them--like the manuscripts of the Kells or Lindisfarne monks--they could be extraordinary works of art. We wonder what gems are hidden in these manuscripts, sitting there in the dark...
I haven't read Eco's book, but boy have I heard of it: I know the plot-line is way complex (someone explained it to me once, and I said, "whoa---I think I have to READ it!" I'm told the language is very complex; there's a hidden homosexual relationship in it; a number of mysterious murders and intrigue etc. I can see how it might have inspired this little fraught tale. And you leave us with the mystery of the ruins, wondering if, one day, someone won't find it. (Many ideas for a tale!) Very enticing, and since this is the first tale I've read of yours, I love that you did it. I hope you'll do it again, if the muse strikes...