I'd like to give a shout out to Montez's Brotherhood story "Parting Gift" she took a vague concept of mine and is wrapping it up in a wonderful story. She writes a great Sam and the aftermath of him being possessed by the ultimate evil. I encourage anyone that might have missed it to check it out.
For all of you a little rusty on your Roundtable myths:
The Siege Perilous- In the Arthurian legends that was the mythical seat of Galahad at the Round Table forged by Merlin. It would do great harm to anyone else that tried to sit on it but the true Grail Knight. I am taking quite a few liberties with it actually is this story.
Gawain- By the earliest Welsh legends Gawain was Arthur's nephew, a healer, and also the 'First Knight' of the round table and Arthur's second before Lancelot. Gawain actually pre-dates Lancelot and Galahad appearances in stories that is why I used him.
When John Winchester took him out on his first hunt the very first lesson the older hunter taught him was: Lose the shine.
Anything that reflected light gave away positions and made you vulnerable. Gun barrels, buttons, even boot-lace loops were painted over with a permanent black marker.
Later on Caleb would come to understand how apt of a parallel that was to hunting.
Anything that reflected the least bit of light, decency or empathy made you vulnerable.
It was a rule that every hunter lived by.
Except the Brotherhood, they wore their silver rings openly in defiance of the darkness.
He wore his amulet in the center of his chest like a target. Like he was boldly daring the bad guys to come and try to get him. It almost was like a fucking sheriff's badge from the Old Westerns Bobby loved to watch.
As Caleb watched the light slowly vanish from John Winchester over the years he'd come to understand why you needed separators. Mac was right. You needed those lines between the hunter and the man. A hunter needed to hold on to what made him human. You couldn't eat, sleep, and breathe a world where the monster under the bed made a gory mess out of the average American family 24 hours, seven days a week without losing your mind. The longer you stare into the abyss the more it reflected back.
Caleb's line had started simple.
A silver bracelet he had found on his pillow with a crayon written note from Deuce after his first hunt. Baring a simple Native American Medicine Shield design in the center was a chunk of honey colored amber or "Sun Stone'. Caleb knew enough to know a Medicine Shield was given at a turning point in a warrior's life. They represented a warrior's life path and physical as well as spiritual protection.
Caleb had been so bowled over he had almost hidden the bracelet away. Locked it up to guard with the few things he considered truly precious. The book Mac had given him. The quilt his grandmother had made.
Instead he had worn it.
The expression on Dean's face as he walked down stairs had been worth it.
That's how Caleb's little ritual got started.
The bracelet only went on after all other remnants of the hunter got stripped or washed off. The boots got kicked off. The gun was secured. The body cleansed with salt scrub and a nice hot shower.
Through the years it had come to symbolize 'Damien' and 'Off duty'.
If Nate thought Caleb would ever give that up without a fight.
He was sorely mistaken.
Caleb dispassionately studied his hunters from the shadows. Nate hadn't sent any of the big guns after him. These guys were amateurs.
It didn't make sense.
If Nate wanted him dead why wouldn't he have sent the more experienced guys in? Like Zack who was a fellow trained Brotherhood Hunter? Or any of Nate's more competent cronies like the huge mountain of a creep Caleb had all so nicely dubbed Chrome Teeth? Hell used Deuce as a shield and sent the guns in blazing knowing Caleb would hesitate to shoot back?
It all equaled trap.
Problem was Caleb couldn't see where Nate was trying to spring it and how.
Oh, happy day.
Caleb carefully made his way back to his hiding place. Deuce's little theory about sand stone acting as a buffer against psychics had been right. He'd let Dean know so his best friend could happily gloat obscenely about being right later. So far that had been the only thing going for Caleb. The thick sandstone walls made it impossible for Nate and his remaining goons to scan for him. It was like trying to feel where you were going through pea-soup fog.
He tiredly leaned up against the sandstone walls of the small cavity he was using as cover. God he hurt. Every damned muscle in his body ached. His injured left shoulder's itch only added to the chorus of misery.
Caleb supposed getting tortured via electrical shock would do that to you.
Really not something he ever wanted to find out.
He was headed to a five-star sky resort in Colorado and a nice bubbling, multi-jet hot-tub to chase slutty supermodel sky bunnies.
Screw saving the world.
The bad thing about letting your guard down to indulge in your misery is you don't see ambushes coming. Caleb wasn't prepared to be tackled from behind and sent tumbling.
John would so kick his ass for that one.
The world spun as they went tumbling as a rock ledge gave.
Caleb saw the glint of a knife gliding downward towards him.
Next thing Caleb knew he was falling and hitting a stone floor.
Oh yeah, the day was getting better and better.
At least the shoulder didn't hurt anymore.
The bruised ribs hurt worse.
Sun Tzu once wrote: Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
The great master was talking about Death Ground.
Back to the wall. No retreat. No surrender.
That frozen moment where one stares an enemy down and recognizes only one of you is making it out of here alive. Caleb let his adversary look in to his cold vacant eyes. Let him see they were about to do the most real thing two human beings could do to each other.
With his opponent posed over him Caleb knew he was going to lose this fight.
The human body is a machine.
It can do some miraculous things when the mind overrides it for a while. Go beyond limits ever imagined. That's why true warriors condition the psyche as well as the body when they train. There is a line however where your body will simply say fuck you. It hits a wall. A place where shock, dehydration took such a large toll it shuts down. A moment where your body had been pushed beyond all its limits and simply couldn't give you anymore despite what the mind and will wanted.
Problem was Caleb's battered body just didn't have any more left to give.
He had hit his wall.
His foe punched him hard.
Caleb saw stars.
And at that instance he knew he was going to die.
I'm so sorry Deuce.
The floor rumbled.
Suddenly a strange golden glow came from the center of the chamber. Then his adversary dropped the knife and started making low whimpering noises. A noise that implied suddenly his vocal cords weren't working. An animal like noise Caleb had never heard before. And Caleb prayed never to hear again.
The yellow glow in the middle of the room got brighter.
His enemy grabbed his eyes as these brown leathery patches started growing on his face and hands. All the while a strange mist was evaporating from him.
Caleb scrambled back.
His opponent's face contorted in to a frozen scream. It was going to haunt Caleb's nightmares for a very long time to come.
He poked at what was left of his opponent.
There was nothing left but collapsed flesh and tough leathery chunks of skin.
At his feet was one dehydrated, very dead, human mummy.
Holy fucking shit!
Then it crumbled in to dust and fragments of bone.
The water in his body was…just… gone.
Behind the pile of dust lurked the silver.
Kind of like some guardian angel blob.
Caleb looked at the silver than over at the strange glowing orb in the center of the room. He cleared his throat. Then he looked down at the human remains at his feet. "Um… Thanks?"
Suddenly his ring vibrated and at Caleb's feet where the silver used to be stood a figure of a man.
What the hell?
Caleb backed away slowly until he felt his back hit the wall.
He hoped that this was something ancient Deuce let loose and not some subconscious demonstration of his Guardian abilities that Dean's feverish mind was somehow projecting outwards. Dressed in ancient armor and a cloak the silver figure didn't speak but instead pointed to a portion of the wall behind Caleb.
What he was seeing had to be some physical manifestation of a collective ancestral memory pulled to this plain.
This had to be the Muninn.
Some of what Mujib said earlier clicked in to place.
If this was a sample of what Dean was capable of after he became a full-fledged Guardian…
That was a pretty terrifying thought.
Caleb didn't need to think about those possible revelations.
They made his head hurt.
It had been a shity, I've-been-tortured, I-really-need-some-Johnny Walker type of day already.
Before Caleb could blink the silver figure abruptly turned to water and splashed to the floor. The water's remnants rolled between the stones on the floor and vanished.
He took a deep centering breath. His aching ribs screamed at him in protest.
Well that had been…
Run screaming in to the night terrifying?
In his line of work it was a fine line.
Caleb looked around. He had fallen into a circular chamber when the floor had given out. A large chunk of amber in the center was what was giving off the soft golden glow. Its illumination gave Caleb enough light to see brightly colored paintings on the walls and the ceiling painted a bright breath-taking sky blue.
It was like the day to the other chamber's night.
He got up slowly and went to examine the imagines on the wall.
There were four large paintings on the wall spaced equally between each other. They were symbolic of the ancient Egyptian gateways for souls. Over every picture was an early symbol for each element. Earth, Wind, Fire and Water the very basic building blocks of alchemy. Not only did the paintings on the walls tie in to make a sacred circle of protection, Caleb was willing to bet dollars for doughnuts that each of those images aligned with an astronomical alignment too.
Below the one marked 'water' was an image of the tree of life with a great white plain and an opened dragon's mouth at the base of it. At the base of the dragon's mouth were small figures of humans. In the background was a picture of Orion in perfect summer solstice alignment in the sky. In the northern hemisphere Orion is a winter constellation. Here it was the very opposite. Orion rose around the time of the spring equinox. Here the Hunter was the harbinger of the wet season's life-giving rains.
Nothing really explained why he'd been brought here.
And Caleb knew he had been led here and literally dropped in this chamber for some reason.
So the real question was why?
A soft golden glow came out from behind a stone beneath the painting and a stone in the wall slid forward.
The silver flowed down from behind the rock on to the floor and once again vanished into the stone floor.
Caleb grabbed the loose stone and pulled.
It slid free.
Behind the stone was a very old looking leather pouch. Inside the pouch contained a silver cross pendent wrapped in embroidered silk.
The cross was distinctively Celtic design. The four even arms showed a heavy influence of Greek or early Christian. He was no expert but if Caleb had to place the time period it was made very early medieval. It might even date back to the fall of Rome, time of Arthur and his Roundtable. The workmanship and intricate metal work was magnificent. Caleb had never seen anything like it. In the very center of the cross visible through a large gem stone of translucent amber was the very familiar three circle design. He ran his thumb over the warm smooth stone in the pendant's center. It glowed at his touch with a soft inner fire.
When Caleb flipped it over and saw the symbol on the back.
That's when he nearly dropped the pendent in shock.
In Latin there was an inscription that read, 'Beware the Siege Perilous'
Below the inscription was the symbol of a hawk in the center of the sun.
The mark of the May Hawk.
Gawain had been the first Knight before Lancelot. By legend he pulled his strength from the 'fire of life' or the sun, wrote the Round Table code of honor, and thanks to Mordred's treachery later died of the wounds inflicted by Lancelot.
Why had he been given this?
His eyes were once again drawn up to the painting above him.
There in the painting one of the figures at the dragon's mouth held a glowing amber orb
Caleb studied the cross and the painting again.
Then it snapped in to place.
The ironed peg dragon message they had found in the chamber with the bodies earlier.
The pendent and its stone were a key and he had been brought to this chamber to fetch it.
A key to what or where?
He didn't know.
But his gut told him Dean did.
He remembered Dean deliriously rambling earlier about the Pendragon showing him Orion. Through the Muninn, Dean had somehow tapped in to the Brotherhood's ancient dead and their secrets. Their knowledge was now buried deep inside Dean's subconscious. Like a computer file download with the information waiting to be accessed when needed. Caleb doubted Dean even realized it was there.
His mission to get Dean out of here and find Jim was more important than ever.
"It's too bad your mission is going to fail miserably," a familiar voice announced from the shadows.
As Nate stepped out of the gloom he resembled Lucifer stepping out of hell.
Well, Caleb now knew what trap Nate had been planning for him.
And like a moron he walked right into it.
"Only a true Knight would be able to access the stone." Nate smiled at him. "Now if you would kindly hand over Gawain's Key, Hound."
"You want this key, Nate?" Caleb's grip tightened around the pendent. He thought of the ghost grenade hidden in his boot. Caleb's smirk was more a challenge or a primal baring of teeth. "Come and get it."