Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons to Luxeuil
Stuck in the mud as we are, we unhitch the team and lead the mules back to solid ground by the creek. The wagon is unloaded so we can lift it out of the mud. Here are chains and pulleys lots of heavy rope, a sledge hammer and chisels, and buried under everything else, what is this? Maybe it’s a huge iron cooking pot. No. It’s a church bell! It’s a bell like the one mounted in the tower of the new church in Châlons. It’s a fine and valuable gift from the King to Father Columbanus. With five strong men, and four monks of questionable durability we lift the wagon from the mud and set it back on firmer ground at the creek road, then haul all that stuff back to the wagon.
Selling off the stuff seems a wonderful plan for our hungry stomachs right now. But have we abandoned our mission to deliver a proper, well-intentioned gift from the king? Lifting the bell out of the wagon, and then back into the wagon is one of those projects that surely gives holy purpose to brute strength. And by now, the November sun is pretending to warm this noontide though it is actually veiled in winter sky and we are all simply cold and hungry and tired and annoyed.
The barley and straw we’ve brought in the donkey cart could see us all through another supper and another night camping, but then that will all be gone too, so we really need to trade for supplies. Now I’m the one who won’t hear of selling the church bell and that means we can’t trade away the mules who can pull it, so all we have to trade are the tools.
We follow the donkey cart along the creek bed until we come to a fording dip. Ana and Colleen don’t even ask, they just turn onto a rocky path of a road and we who are walking and those with the hand-cart and the workers with the mule wagon simply follow after without a word.
Now we find people! They live in a small cluster of cottages. We soon learn they are concerned only for their own need to keep their stash of winter food and fuel and they have no use for tools in this season. They also have one gargantuan problem right now and trading away their own winter stores isn’t going to solve it.