Before Serenity - The Tale of Derrial Book
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Part of a Series I am doing - marking the specific events that set each character on a path that led them to Serenity, at least, in my own mind.


Before Serenity - The Tale of Derrial Book

Derrial Book, Southdown Abbey, Persephone and the 'Verse were created by Joss Whedon for Fox. I do not own these characters or situatons and, if given a cease and desist order from the copyright holder of those properties, I will remove this fan fiction story. However, the other characters are mine, Copyright 2010 by Mendur, and my not be used without *my* permission.

This is one of a series of tales I am in the middle of writing, my own ideas of how the nine main characters of "Firefly" set off on the paths that led them to Serenity in the true pilot of the series, "Serenity".

* * *

Before Serenity - The Tale of Derrial Book by Mendur

Derrial Book, Shepherd and resident of the Southdown Abbey on Persephone, went through his morning routine. Something, however, was off.

He began the day with morning mass for the monks and nuns at the abbey. In the middle of his sermon about the reason Jesus Christ healed the lepers, he paused when he noticed that Price, one of the recently arrived lay brothers on pilgrimage to the abbeys, monasteries and convents of the 'Verse, was snoring again. Book frowned at the overweight, balding brother, then continued the sermon.

Later that morning, as he tried to move through the martial arts katas that formed his meditation and exercise regimen, he was interrupted three times. The first time, it was Brother Daniel, who wanted to ask for his help in the kitchen later to prepare the morning meal. The second time, it was elderly Sister Proserpine, who had gotten lost again and couldn't find the room set aside for sewing and embroidery. After those two disturbances, he had all but lost the threads of tranquility that his katas usually brought him. When he was bothered a third time, on this occasion by Price, again, who stopped by to say he was sorry for falling asleep during mass, Book gave up the attempt as useless.

In the kitchen, his mind not on the task at hand, he burned the toast and overcooked the eggs. Usually one of the abbey's best cooks, he took pride in serving superior meals. Now, with a dozen visitors in the abbey, he found that he was serving one of his worst culinary creations in at least ... well ... since before he could remember. He apologized for the meal, personally, to everyone who ate. Everyone was polite about it, except for Price. The lay brother just looked at him and said in a noncommittal way, "It's still edible." Given the lay brother’s relative corpulence, he could stand to lose a kilograms anyway.

Washing up afterward, Book dropped and broke a plate.

His nerves jangled. He needed to get out to his garden.

He gathered up his gardening gloves to protect his hands and his wide straw hat to protect his head from the sun. Holding his trowel in one hand and a small basket in the other, he walked out of the abbey's rear doors. The sun beat down on him mercilessly. He put on his hat and paused to acclimate to the heat after a morning spent in the cool stone building of the abbey. After a moment, he walked through the grounds of the abbey toward the corner reserved for his garden.

When Book got there, all he could do was stare in dismay at the damage. Four tomato plants had been uprooted. Their delicate fruit lay on the ground. A snail had already located one at pierced its too thin skin, ruining it. Several vegetables had been dug up from their rows and scattered among other plants. And in the little section he had reserved for his herbs, he found the rosemary almost completely destroyed, the mint leaves in tatters, the basil stomped nearly completely into the dirt, and the abbey's resident mongrel puppy in the corner, nose and paws covered in the rich earth of the garden, a stalk of rhubarb in its mouth.

It was the last straw. He picked up a clod of dirt and hurled it at the little dog. The puppy yelped in surprise and scooted under the fence where it had dug its way in. Book stood there in the garden, seething, his mind clouded with anger.

"You've been here too long."

Book whirled at the sound of the voice behind him. His hands came up in a striking guard position and he barely stopped short from a throat strike which would have disabled ... or possibly killed ... the man who stood behind him. At least, it would have if the man hadn't taken two steps back as Book had turned.

"Price." Book said the word with loathing.

"Book," Price replied, his voice calming and soft, the kind of voice a person would use with an angry client on a customer service call, or a rabid dog.

Book recognized the tone and let his hands drop to his side. "I'm sorry."

Price shook his head. "Are you?" The mongrel puppy crept up to Price. It glanced sidelong at Book and positioned itself behind the lay brother. Price lowered himself to one knee and gently stroked the little dog’s head. The puppy seemed to Book almost pitifully happy to be shown such a small kindness, that Book nearly lost his reply to Price’s question.

"What do you mean, am I sorry?"

"How long have you been here?"

"In this abbey?” Book asked, confused. “I ... don't know, exactly. Many years."

"Do you know who I am?”

“You’re Steven Price, one of the lay brothers, stopping here on pilgrimage.”

“Not quite,” Price replied. “I’m actually Shepherd Costas.”

Book stared. “Shepherd ... Rhodney ... Costas, the head of our order?”

“The same.”

“But ... your hair?” Book asked, staring at the man’s bald head.

Price ... Costas ... laughed ruefully, running a hand over his head. “Our order forbids us to cut our hair, as a sign of devotion. The Lord, however, had His little joke with me. Our order can’t guarantee we’ll actually get to keep the hair on our head.”

Book fell to one knee in a gesture of respect to the senior-most Shepherd of his order.

“You’ve been here too long,” Costas said again.

“I don’t understand.”

“One of my duties is to keep an eye on you Shepherds, make sure you don’t get yourselves into trouble, physical, spiritual, or mental.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Book said, rising.

“Don’t you?”

“I’m fit as a prize fighter, I believe as powerfully today as I did when I entered the order, and my mind is as sharp as ever.”

“Prize fighter ... powerfully ... sharp. Yes, you are all those things. I felt the sharpness of your gaze when I pretended to fall asleep at mass. Your pride in your cooking and your gardening is certainly powerful. And your fighting exercises are unusual for a Shepherd, as evidenced by your desire to hurt me for disturbing you ... or this puppy for doing what puppies do.”

“I wasn’t ....” Book started, then stopped. He tried again. “I didn’t ....”

“You’ve been here too long,” Costas said once more, finally standing. “You’ve grown too accustomed to the peaceful, ordered life of an abbey. Worse, you’re in danger of losing the kindness which was the second greatest trait of our Lord, behind only his love for us. I think you need to go out among people, Book. Not brothers and nuns and shepherds but ordinary people. You need to rediscover the purpose of a shepherd, which is not just to watch over the sheep in the pen, but to go out and gather the sheep who have strayed. To care not only for the obedient sheep who do what you expect them to do, but to care for those who do the unexpected, who challenge you and surprise you.”

Book stared at Shepherd Costas, who had never stopped soothing the puppy. Book suddenly felt ashamed of what he had done. He quietly and calmly approached the two of them. The puppy startled a bit when Book came near but was reassured by the presence of the man who had been patting it head and smoothing its fur. Book held out a hand. The puppy sniffed it once, then gave it a tentative lick.

“I’m sorry,” he said, tears in his eyes.

The puppy looked at him, looked at Costas, then took a few steps toward book and trustingly put its head in range so that Book could pat its head.

Book looked up at Costas and repeated, “I’m sorry.”

Costas smiled gently and said, “You’ve been out of the world too long, Shepherd. It’s time you went out and walked it a while.”

Book nodded. “I’ll leave right away. Today.”

Costas laughed. “Tomorrow is soon enough. Now, let’s go to your garden. We can harvest some items for your trip and gather the makings of tonight’s dinner. I have a feeling that I didn’t get to see your best effort in the kitchen this morning and I was assured that you were one of the best cooks this side of Londinium itself.”

Book nodded. “I don’t know about that, Shepherd Costas, but I’ll prepare something special tonight.”

Costas nodded back. “And it’s lay brother Price. You’re not the only Shepherd out here toward the rim that I want to observe while I’m incognito.”

“As you say, brother Price. Tell me, do you like rosemary?”

The End.


Thursday, November 25, 2010 1:42 AM


Not at all how I imagine Shepherd Book's life at the Abbey, but a very well-written and plausible backstory.
I hope the publication of 'Shepherd's Tale' doesn't make authors like you quit offering us speculation about the life and motivations of the old boy.


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Before Serenity - The Tale of Malcolm Reynolds
Ever wonder how Mal got enough money to buy Serenity in the first place? There might be an official version out there but I wrote this one just for fun.

Before Serenity - The Tale of Derrial Book
Part of a Series I am doing - marking the specific events that set each character on a path that led them to Serenity, at least, in my own mind.