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Pope Stevens VI leaned into his walk and made his way down the hall, a quiet bull given the all clear to make his way down the gilded corridor towards a far off muleta. His predecessor, Pope Formosus, had been exhumed during the night and brought into the Vatican — through the front door, no less (at the height of midday!) — for the purposes of a trial at Stevens’s instigation. The trial was initiated on a charge of corruption and a theft of funds. The advisors who had asked what the difference was if the money was recoverable now — why go and get the body? — were dismissed to wander in thought atop their horses through the cobblestones and gentle tree branches of the Tiber.

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The advisors were then subsequently replaced by what historians would later recognize as Asaro Mud Men. (“There’s no doubt about it,” historians would say before the television news cameras would gallop away to a field of barking dogs of jump cuts.) No one could figure out how these Mud Men traveled from Papa New Guinea to the advisory court of the Vatican as quickly as they did — if they were already there, then why were they already there? — but they were there, silently flanking the Pope on all sides as the latter made his way from room to room and meeting to meeting — even out onto the balcony above St. Peter’s Square as he preached to the minstrels, manciples deep in conversation with ale conners, travelling münzmeisters, a decent handful of fewterers surrounded by a constellation of their dogs (their fur every shade of color under the sun — even those that could be found all the way north in Bologna), a ropemaker, a scythyesmith, knights errant, a laughing nakerer … I was personally surprised that his holiness would even attempt to draw a rhetorical comet across the expanse of the sky in a bid to attract and join the attention of the crowd below.

“I come to the balcony to announce to those who are citizens of the Papal States that my predecessor has betrayed you. When the sun has set early, when the sea has run dry, when injustice has stalked the streets, this is the man you should keep in mind.”

He paused for a moment, and then turned, whispering in my direction?

“Should he get a lawyer, Maximillian?”

“Should who get a lawyer, Your Holiness?”

“His previous holiness.”

“It could be a matter of cannon.”

“It’s just that I don’t particularly want his other holiness to get any ideas.”


I turned to leave and nearly bumped into one of the Mud Men. I nodded to the helmet and entered into the corridor.

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