A King's Justice
Based on Highlander: The Series
Original Story by Timothy Linnomme
No battles on Holy Ground, no battles in sight of mortals and no interference once a battle is joined. It's a tradition!
Duncan MacLeod has mourned the loss of his fellow Clansman Connor and is prepared to move on with his life but will there ever be any sort of peace for immortal kind?
The rules of combat are considered a tradition but time can smooth the edges of a lie and hide a truth so dangerous that even immortality pales beside it. An act of deliberate theft and accidental murder is all it takes to send things spinning out of control. Modern age CSI people are on the job but the murder will not be left to those who are clueless or to the slow grinding gears of justice. An immortal lost in the shadows of time has once more joined modern society where his dire enemies lie in wait. He may wear a monk's robe and across but his apocalyptic temper and a penchant for havoc were forged millennia ago when peace was never tolerated for long. He was once called the Destroyer. He will find the murderer and prove transgression and once those things are done, it will be time to exterminate the last of the Defilers wherever they may be hiding. He has resharpened his sword and recast his hand greave and now he only waits for the Defilers to show themselves. Each head of theirs that falls from their shoulders will be like absolution before God... but not the one of peace. It isn't long before first Amanda and then Duncan is caught up in the maelstrom. An onerous task from almost 6000 years ago will be settled at a place called Temair but will Duncan preside over the new order of things or will he and Amanda meet a violent end along with one who once was King?
…My name is Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in the Scottish Highlands in 1592 and I am immortal. Onward we live, learn, and fight…until the time of the quickening…when only one will be left. We live among you, unnoticed by most. Only by taking the head of another immortal will they truly die. Most of us seek the betterment of mankind, but some do not. Here is to the future and whatever it brings…
My name is….of no consequence to you…yet you assail me with your banal entreaties…you should be thankful that we are no longer among you, that we disappeared some centuries ago, hidden in the mists of time; relegated to frightening tales for children. We are not from your time; we are not even from the time of the youngling pests that wander the earth amongst you. We laughed and reveled in the carnage and havoc we wrought; we served our gods well. The gods we worshipped may long be dead, but we assuredly are not. There is only one immortal of your pestilential sort that knows of us, but he will not dare speak. We also are unknown to the chroniclers that hound you. That is the way we decided it should be… or the way I forced it to be. You mortals never really learned or you learned very well; you were far more deadly to your own than we ever were. Megiddo…..The killing fields of the Somme…Rwanda….Darfur…what need for us to cry havoc? But sooner or later you will rue the day when we come forth yet again, for my enemies are still many and some matters are still unsettled. The matters will be settled; peace has reigned too long to make any of us comfortable. It is not a matter of when they will transgress, but how. Then shall their doom be sealed…I am Brother Timothy…transgress upon me at your own peril!
England 1024 AD
He awakened just before dawn was about to break. He had no problem doing so; the same routine seven days a week. Tossing aside the thin blanket, he arose and stretched. The mean pallet of straw was still adequately fresh so it would not need to be changed. His eyes quickly adjusted to the dark as he went to his washing bowl. The water had a film of ice across it from the nights chill, but the monk paid it no mind. His sparse underclothing was small protection from the weather, but the thick woolen robe was more than a match for it. He splashed some water on his face and then dressed. Bare feet padded across the stone flooring; a tinderbox lit the pitiful candle that was the room's only illumination. In a corner of the room, a pair of battered but serviceable sandals rested. His bladder and bowels were full, so resolutely and with no wasted motion, he followed the smell to the lavatory. It is the Sabbath today, the monk thought; all the people from the village will be here. He knew them all, but some better than others. Some like Brother Gregorius he thought were pompous fools, overly serious about their importance. That initiate though, Michel, he was an interesting sort. Too curious for his and your own good though, a voice in his head, malevolent and apathetic, grated at him. He saw you that one time at least! And he still lives! I also scared him suitably that one time as well; the monk thought back at the voice, enough will die on their own accord without me adding to the toll. The monk finished his business as he heard the bells toll for the waking of the other Brothers. He knew Michel's sister, Agnetha, would be there, along with her parents, Mary and Eodmund. They were a good sort of people. A shame about the societal rules, though. Agnetha's impertinent questions were a sign of high intelligence, but that would be quashed by the time she was of marriageable age. Before he realized it, he was in the main room where Mass was held. He saw Brother Gregorius acting like his usual pompous ass self, doing his best at controlling everything. Without even thinking, the risen monk walked over to a rather plain looking wall. On crudely made pegs on the wall, a sword rested in repose. Despite its obvious metal composition, it reflected very little light. According to the Monastery legend, a heathen barbarian had converted to Christ and built the original Monastery as penance to God, leaving his barbaric ways behind. There were other pegs on the wall. One set held a sturdy but crude looking scabbard, its leather darkened from use and age. The other pegs held a rather strange device made of metal, in the rough shape of a human arm. A patina of rust and dirt covered most of it but 3 strips of metal along the top had no such neglect. The metal of those strips resembled the metal of the sword. It even had a part on the front that looked like some sort of hand guard. The monk rubbed his hand on the blade of the sword. If only you really knew, Brother Gregorius, the monk laughed softly as he saw Gregorius' glare aimed directly at him. For all you think you know, Brother Gregorius, you know nothing.
Winters pall still gripped the land, though the snow was more a nuisance than a hindrance. A cold, raw wind whistled over the settlement if it could be called that. The motley collection of crude huts and corrals were well suited for its filthy, scrawny inhabitants. The sole exception: A small building made of what appeared to be a combination of stone, wood, and thatch. Though its crude lines could easily be construed, no wind whipped through this structure. As the first pale gloamings of a false dawn showed in the sky, a small sonorous bell rang out across the area, summoning all to Mass.
Inside the anonymous monastery, it almost seemed warm. Though a bonfire burned in the hearth, the chill still could be felt wherever you stood. The monks' coarse woolen robes, though plain and showing much use, were warmer dress than most of the villagers had. While 2 attended the altar, several more readied the rough-hewn pews for their parishioners.
…it did not matter that a Scandinavian King held thrall over the land of England…not to these men. England meant plunder and women, the weakling Christ priest hoarding their treasure under the sign of the cross. Six ships of raiders set forth, but a violent squall had capsized all but one. 30 of the finest berserkers sat in her…a battered but serviceable longboat…4 others swept overboard earlier and lost to the elements…but their leader was still with them. Screaming foul curses at the Hel god he still worshipped, Olaf Sigvarth manned the tiller. Landfall had to be soon, he thought. He watched his men ready their weapons of destruction….
"Brother Gregorius, will I get to take part in the Mass?" Michel was only a recently accepted initiate but worked hard and without complaint.
"You are not yet a brother of this Monastery, but soon you will be able to assist the people in worship" Brother Gregorius was a rather rotund but cheerful sort, ever ready with a joke or a paean to his lord god, but his decisions were never to be argued against, especially from a lowly initiate.
Michel was sad for only a moment, but then he brightened. "May I then draw a relief of the worshippers for their viewing?"
Brother Gregorius laughed a deep chuckling sound. "You are ever the most eager, Michel. Wait until after mass. When your chores are done, we shall see."
….Olaf was proud of his band of raiders; all men in the prime of their fighting skill. He was also glad his friend Raegnir was here. Olaf thought for a moment of a time back many, many seasons ago. He had truly died then…he knew it…but what manner of Odin or Hel had occurred…he awoke covered in blood and there was pain…such pain…but the pain rapidly ebbed. Soon he was whole in body and spirit again….but he knew he had died. So had his kinsmen. Screaming out "Draug!" they banished him from the mead hall in a hail of stones and spears. He had wandered alone amongst the fjords and fjelds he remembered for an unknown amount of time. Eventually, he discovered what he was, no thanks to another of his kind that tried to kill him. All but Raegnir were ignorant of his gift…or curse? Raegnir was also like him; it was good to have a friend along…still, it saddened him that all he took to bride bore no progeny, but that was also in the fate of the gods…
Slowly but surely, the Monastery filled with the faithful arriving to worship Brother Gregorius beamed at the crowd that was assembled. He had been the senior Monk here for near a score of years. No less than twenty other brothers and initiates were here with him. He was proud of the Monastery and its devotion to saving the parishioners' souls. Even the cloudy and foggy sunrise could do little to dampen his spirits. He looked askance at Michel as the initiate sat off to one side drawing with charcoal on a scrap of parchment. Then a frown crossed his visage. A fellow Monk was staring at the monastery artifact…again. Brother Gregorius tried to remember his name to admonish him, but it slipped his mind. Just then he felt a tug on his woolen robes.
`"Brother, can God see us through the clouds and fog?" It was a little girl, Agnetha, daughter of Eodmund and Mary.
"Yes, my daughter…god sees all and will forgive your sins if you believe in his power."
"God bless you, brother."
"And you too my daughter."
Only on the Sabbath were females allowed into the Monastery…its disciples, of course, were chaste males the lot. His mind once again turned to the fellow monk whose name he couldn't place. There they were again, except this time they were walking around the floor of the Monastery….odd, he thought. The crude sandals the Monks wore made considerable noise on the stone floor, but this monk walked as silent as a ghost. And all the other monks but this one had their hoods thrown back. Oh well, he sighed, maybe later he would deal with the matter…Mass was beginning and Brother Roderick and Brother Demetrius would need his assistance….
…Their craft beached well and the warriors lost no time heading inland. A group of horses was found and utilized; the two guards watching them were no more, hacked to ruin. With this mobility, Olaf's raiding party, though only 26 strong, was even more formidable. Through the misty fog, they galloped down a well-used road. They knew that somewhere along the road would be a village…a church…plunder…..
The Mass went off without complications. While the altar boys and initiates helped with the censers and lent their voices to the hymns, Brother Gregorius delivered a thunderous sermon espousing his gods' commandments. Soon the Mass was concluded. The Parishioners stepped forward to thank the Brothers for the sermon and services.
…at last! The road widened out onto a collection of rank hovels. What few animals there were made hardly a sound. As the Vikings thundered through the town they saw the church. Olaf called a halt. He directed Raegnir and nine of the warriors toward the church while he and the remainder dismounted to inspect the dwellings. With disgust he kicked around the peoples few meager belongings…what a dung heap of a village he thought. Hopefully, the church had better pickings.
Brother Gregorius had reached the end of his patience. It was bad enough that Michel was defying him, but now the hooded monk was inspecting the relic again. With an exasperated sigh, he stalked over to that area. "Why must a Brother devoted to the service of god need to constantly view the heretical artifacts? And who are you, Brother?"
"Heretical? There is nothing holy or heretical about them; I wonder why you display them here. This is a peaceful place of God, and these items are meant for anything but peace, Brother. They are interesting though, even if they are a bit out of place"
They both gazed at the wall where the items were ensconced. Near 5 feet long and 3 inches wide, the sword looked massive, though not so much as other weapons of its sort. It almost did not reflect any firelight. Its pommel and hilt were unadorned, except for some runes upon the handle. A line of smaller script ran for a short distance from the hilt. Next to it was what looked like a strange piece of armor, seemingly shaped for an arm. Brother Gregorius sighed. "If you have so much time to ruminate on these items, perhaps you are not fully devoted in your work for god, Brother. I also asked you your name. And why are you the only one hooded in your robes?"
"I choose to be so, Brother. Suffice it to say that I am one as penitent to God as you are. I work hard in this Monastery. Despite that, it is of no consequence in your eyes. It seems only those you favor assist with the important functions here. Maybe you are in need of penitence, Brother since isn't arrogance a sin?" A frosty smile accompanied the monk's statement.
Brother Gregorius was shocked at this monk's impertinence; he was the senior Monk here! At the same time though, the monk's voice put him ill at ease. Even when not meaning to be so, when this monk spoke, it was like the icy winter wind. He remembered now; Brother Timothy was this monk's name. He also remembered that he was glad this monk was hooded. His eyes….severely discomfiting, but oh, his scribing! No one here could place the written word as well on parchment as this Brother could. Why he had even repaired some of the illuminated text they used! Other Brothers here avoided this one as best they could. His habits were strange and also disconcerting. At least once a day this monk could be seen washing in the cold stream near here regardless of the weather. He also changed his sleeping mat once every week. Gregorius sighed.
"Perhaps you will be able to help with a Mass at some point, Brother Timothy, but you must remember…God chooses his devoted followers to serve him in many ways. Some are born to lead the sinners to the glory of God, others to write of his wishes."
Brother Gregorius felt an internal smugness as if he had put this monk in his place. Suddenly, the strange Monk jerked erect and scanned the area, as if seeking something.
"As for those artifacts —"Gregorius prated.
"Raiders! Berserkr!" Brother Gregorius whirled around to see no less than 10 fully armed Vikings burst into the Monastery. The one who cried out was chopped down with a heavy ax.
"Give us what gold you keep here, brothers, and we may leave in peace!"
Brother Gregorius was a brave man before God, but there was no way to be brave before these heretics. The village here did not even rate a watchman, let alone any warriors. "We are but a poor Monastery…we have no such valuables as those you seek. You have spilled blood in here and defiled this place of God; please go in peace."
"If you have nothing valuable, where is your brother going?"
Brother Roderick was fleeing toward the back of the church with something in hand.
"No, Brother Roderick!"
Brother Gregorius shouted, but it was too late. A well-aimed spear dropped Roderick in a welter of blood. Roughly shoving pews and people aside, the Vikings searched the corpse.
"What manner of 'treasure' is this?"
Raegnir screamed as he cast some clay rosary beads to the floor. A corroded copper crucifix followed. Several beads shattered. "For this we braved the stormy seas? We will make you pay!" He saw the few females. "Let's take as many of these sheep as we can with us!"
Brother Gregorius tried to block Raegnir's path; fortunately, he only got the flat part of the ax in his face, but it still knocked him senseless. One Viking seized Agnetha while the others grabbed any younger female they could eye. Eodmund died when he tried to stop them; an altar boy who got in the way was decapitated. That quelled most resistance then and there. What could villagers and unarmed Monks do against hardened warriors? Blood flowed amongst the straw that was littered on the floor.
"Cowards you are, all of you! Fit only to be sheep for the wolves!"
The Vikings laughed in unison.
Michel watched in horror as the slaughter ensued. He was the son of Eodmund and Mary, who saw higher glory in consecrating their son to God. Tears flowed unhindered as he wept quietly; he did not want the bearded monsters to see him. Maybe he should have shuddered at Julius' head rolling around on the floor, but he was somewhat in shock. Violent death was no stranger to this society. Life was short, fast and brutal. Any and all old enough to view their surroundings knew this well enough. He would miss Brother Roderick and Brother Gregorius though. There was also that other monk, the one who Gregorius admonished. He was unlike the others. He never meted out punishment to the initiates; as a matter of fact, he rarely paid anyone any mind…..except him. When they had him repair the illuminated bible the Monastery used, he had Michel draw the pictures. But there was that one time. Michel was awakened by some discordant clanging sounds. He snuck down to where the noise was and there he saw the strange monk with the heretical artifacts! He was polishing the sword but cursing at the strange piece of armor. It looked like he had exerted himself earlier. He also was singing softly in a strange tongue. Then when the monk suddenly jerked up his head and looked directly at his hiding place, Michel ran back in fear to his quarters. He never again investigated the strange noises. He was satisfied that that monk didn't treat him as the others did. There was something odd about that monk though, but he decided not to question it; who else here would have taught him to read? Brother Timothy seemed to hold all the written words he saw in reverence.
The people were cowed as the Vikings tossed the general area of the Monastery looking for loot. Another man was killed when he refused to surrender an eating dagger. Two others dragged Brother Gregorius outside. Christ priests, especially the chubby ones, made good slaves or torture victims. Another grabbed Brother Timothy.
"Raegnir, what do you think? This one looks too skinny for anything useful!"
The Viking guffawed loudly.
"You have made a penultimate error in bringing death to this place. It would be in your best interest to leave and never return. You are not welcome here. And take your filthy hands off of me." The monk twisted out of the Viking's grip easily.
His temper flaring, the Viking again fastened his right hand to the monk's right arm. "Raegnir, he says we made an error visiting here and that we should leave. This one has some fight in him. Maybe we should take him along as well!" The Viking started to pull the monk…and next he was down on the floor with his head ringing.
"What the hell did you do?"
The Viking lunged off the floor in a red fury, his ax upraised in his hand. Suddenly he was screaming as he dropped the ax. It made a muted clank as it hit the floor. The monk's right hand was closed over his left forearm in a grip of iron. The Viking, Ulgalth, felt the bones stress. He punched at the monk with his left hand, but slowly, inexorably, he felt his arm going numb. The monk ignored his blows.
"Raegnir, help me!" Ulgalth cried out.
An ax from a Viking caught the monk in the back as a spear thrown by Raegnir transfixed his chest. Without a sound or cry, the monk slumped to the floor, finally releasing his grip. Agnetha screamed.
"That was the grip of Odin he had!"
"Maybe Ulgalth, you are getting weak?" Raegnir laughed at his riposte. "I saw an extra boat at the shore. Let's take away all these villager sheep with us. That way we can make some profit at least."
"What of this sword on the wall and this piece of armor?" Ulgalth said. He lifted it off its mounting hooks. "Bah! It is too heavy to be a real sword…just as worthless as this dung heap Monastery!" He tossed the sword to the ground... The sword hitting the ground made a loud, piercing sound, unlike the ax. Then he poked at the piece of armor. "This is worthless junk! What use would this be for anything?"
Ulgalth shook his head in disgust. Ulgalth removed the ax from the monk's corpse, but the spear was too deeply embedded. In the process, the dead monk's robe ended up with a bloodstained slash mark in the back and a ragged hole in the front. The Vikings began to herd them outside, but all was not done yet. Agnetha began to cry in loud, wailing sobs; seeing Brother Timothy die was too much. When a Viking slapped her to quiet her, Mary slapped the Viking. The worst was yet to come. With a massive backhand, Raegnir knocked Mary senseless. He swept the Altar clean of objects then proceeded to rip off Mary's clothing. He was first. The others took their turn, laughing as Mary began to scream. Finally, one of the Vikings gutted her. "Here is a sacrifice to your God upon his Altar!" A few of the Vikings urinated on Mary's naked, bloody corpse and the altar. The other monks and initiates disappeared quickly from the main room when the trouble started, so they were not herded outside with the other villagers. The raiders staggered the removal of the parishioners. While a few herded out the women and dragged the Christ priest, the others rounded up the remainder and marched them away. In moments, the area was silent and empty except for the dead…..
…blackness…always blackness at first…then the light again…..and again…and always the pain…searing burning pain…..it was not that he was not used to it…but it had been so long…an ax and a spear….he was fortunate that he lay on his side though. Right hand behind…That wound was already healing….they must have retrieved the ax. The spear though, that was another story. Through the haze of pain, he saw the spear point protruding through his chest. This is going to hurt….carefully positioning his hand around the shaft…a gasp of agony as he broke it…..more blackness….
Michel quietly emerged from hiding. Brother Timothy was dead too! He would miss him as well, strange habits aside. A spear protruded from his chest. The monastery was nearly empty, the only testament to its recent inhabitance the charnel house that lay around. He had not even shed a tear yet for his mother Mary…her death was violent even by the standards of the age. He dared not even think of drawing this scene. God would surely condemn him to hell if he did. A sharp crack made him scurry back to his hiding place. Where was that from? He looked around and noticed Brother Timothy lying dead on the ground. The spear, the one that had transfixed him….the haft was BROKEN! It had not been before, he was sure of it! Michel's face became pale…
…once again...the light…..but the pain was even more jolting….lucky that that one did not know what he was….a shame to lose your head over the matter…oops mistake ..Chuckling only made the pain more intense…..by degrees and thankfully without dying again…he extracted the spear haft. It clattered on the ground and he began to heal. He smelled blood and excrement all around. Of all things, Viking raiders. How many did they kill? One of them was an immortal. Just like him…no, not like him. They would not be able to shield themselves from others. He tried to rise but hestill was too weak. This will not do….he raised his left hand and pointed it at the wound. Blue lightning crackled from his fingertips and flowed into the wound, healing it much faster than normal. Had he not been concentrating on that task, he would have noticed more then one set of eyes saw what he had done….Soon, he felt whole again…
All of the nightmares of hell and brimstone seemed alive in Michel's mind. The monk was DEAD! But no; the strange monk bled pools of blood, but he extracted the spear…he saw it! And the blue lightning! He saw that too! He would miss his parents and Agnetha and Brother Gregorius, but he had to get away from the demon, he had to. As he retreated, his feet skittered on a small stone….
Slowly he got up from the floor and looked around. The carnage! Why? Brother Roderick, an altar boy, 3 male villagers….he shook his head. Thoughts reverberated in his mind…
….fool….coward….you brought this on yourself….trying to be what you are not…
"I am a man of God! Of peace!" he screamed out
The voice in his head was filled with contempt…god? What god? The puerile weakling one who burned you? To think you have forgotten what you were…..you still weep at the plight of the filthy mortals….Ardis never did….he would have sought justice…killed them for their affront…for even their very presence….
The monk suddenly became aware of his surroundings. Some noise towards the back had jolted him out of his reverie, though only momentarily. He chuckled and shook his head, trying to escape the battle occurring in his mind. How long ago had it been since he first put together the monastery? It seemed the right thing to do at the time; construction instead of destruction. Over 400 years, he mused. At first, no one lived here but himself. It had taken much work and force at times to construct this edifice. Paganism ran rife still in the 600's. One day though, he saw a crude hut erected near the monastery. Hut after hut followed. Soon a small but thriving village was in existence. The villagers named it for some other saint in the lexicon…Albans. He had paid it no real mind though. He did his best to minister to them, considering the short, miserable lives they led. Hearing confessions, burials in the holy ground for those who were penitent and writing. That was his most fond task. He could sit for hours unmindful of the elements of nature scribing what he chose or what was required. He had heard of raiding parties for centuries, but they had never been this brazen. And whoever would think in this day and age? London was not so far away. But he knew a Viking held thrall over this land ever since the Edmund King had died. He raised himself fully erect and looked about. Even now, the monks who had hidden away were venturing out, saying prayers over the dead, and cleaning up. That is, most of them were. Several were staring at him with expressions that ranged from incredulous to grim indeed. The fact that they are what they are may make some things easier for them to handle. His toe struck something hard and unforgiving on the floor. With a curse, he looked down. The sword that was on the wall lay at his feet. Mindless of its weight, he picked it up and replaced it on the wall. After he did so, there still were three monks staring at him. But who had made that noise? He headed towards the sound. Nothing was there but an initiate by the name of Michel. He remembered that this one had a penchant for beautiful drawings, good enough to be included in the Monastery's' bible. Little do you know, Gregorius. He never bothered telling Brother Gregorius of the origin of much of Michel's work. Michel appeared to be intently working on something now. The monk wandered over. However crude the initial rendering was, the picture was of a monk removing a spear from his chest!
Because the villagers had to walk, it took a little time before Raegnir and his cohort made it to the ships. Cries of greeting were intermingled with taunts and gibes towards the prisoners
"Good haul, Raegnir!" Olaf boomed. "Was there any treasure in their church?"
"Bah! Nothing at all…some clay beads and a copper cross! But these thralls may yet net us some profit. I saved the best for last though."
"Yes, a fat Christ priest and a few females. I will need to make another trip to retrieve them, and then we can go."
"You are a good friend Raegnir. Take Ulgalth and some others back with you to make sure they are not hiding anything and to retrieve the females. I will secure these slaves and prepare the boats. No touching the women…yet!"
They both laughed at that comment as Raegnir barked orders to his men. "We will search again, but I doubt these sheep are hiding anything." This was the last time Olaf would see Raegnir alive.
Brother Gregorius regained his senses. He tasted blood as he spat out a tooth and attempted to rise from the ground where the Vikings had dragged him. The world spun for a moment, then stabilized. His nose hurt and his face ached from the blow, but he set aside the pain for the moment. He turned at the sound of soft weeping to find Agnetha and several other women in a group. Their ankles were shackled with strips of leather, almost like cattle. He was unbound, but probably because he had been knocked senseless. The dawn ever so slowly crept up on the village as the Brother approached the women. "Is everyone all right here?"
"As best as can be Brother, until they take us away, but you probably knew that though" Aegnes was older woman nearing her sunset of child-bearing years.
"Brother, they killed my mother and father! Why?" Agnetha wept bitterly.
"It is gods will as to what happens to man on this earth, my daughter. Only by believing in his power will we get to heaven in the afterlife."
"Then God is not as powerful as you say? If he was, he would have punished those men!"
"Hush, Agnetha! You should never say such sacrilegious things!"
"Perhaps they may send rescuers yet, eh Brother?" Bertae was fat for the times, but still of child-bearing age.
"It is good to pray for deliverance, my child, but this location is of little consequence as things go. We shall pray for deliverance to our Lord God Jesus. He will hear our entreaty if we show the utmost piety." Brother Gregorius proceeded to lead the small group in prayer.
Michel urinated on himself. He could not help it. The demon was standing right over him. The scrap of parchment he had used to draw the monk's devil-aided recovery had been torn away by the monk and burnt in the flame of a candle. "You will not be drawing what you saw, initiate!" the monk intoned in a voice as cold as the winter wind.
"But I saw you—"
"You best get it out of your head what you saw. There are those who would kill you if they saw what you did and I as well, so for your own safety, you will forget what you observed! Do you understand me?"
"They killed my father and mother, and took my sister away!" Michel started weeping anew, oblivious to the monk's ominous tone of voice.
"Where is Mary? I do not see her." The monk said more gently.
"She is on the altar where they defiled her." Michel looked directly at the monk. "I know what I saw! You were DEAD! Are you a demon from hell come to punish us? What are you? The other monks make such noise when they walk, but you walk silently like a spirit. They quaked in fear at those heretics, but you showed no such fear. Who are you? What are you?"
The monk looked at Michel. "I am Brother Timothy, that is all…I am not a demon or a saint….and you must promise me…no more pictures of what you just drew; the knowledge is too dangerous. Do you understand me?" He shook the boy by the shoulders to emphasize the point.
The initiate acquiesced in abject terror. As Brother Timothy walked away from Michel, two other monks sidled towards the initiate, keeping their eyes upon Brother Timothy.
Brother Timothy quickly headed towards the altar of worship, but the cries of horror preceded his view of what was on the altar. Mary lay there, open-eyed in death, her face a rictus of horror. Even though the body was growing cold, it still steamed in the chill. Rivulets of blood and urine, in some cases mixed in with semen, flowed off the altar to stain the straw and stone beneath. While some monks stared in horror at the sacrilege, others fell to their knees and wept…all but two…The other one not doing so was glaring directly at Brother Timothy
…see. they care not for your god. Why should you…vengeance from god will never happen, but you can exact vengeance…..
There was no cause to justify this, Brother Timothy thought sadly. She was a good woman.
…do you not miss the cries of the dying as you sent them from earth? Tell me you do not..and I will leave you be…
I am a man of god…of peace! Brother Timothy was assailed by the qualms of conscience and the battle inside his head. That youngling dared invade your sanctum and desecrate it…..that kind only understands one sort of peace….the peace that comes when you kill them. They can not stand against you. You know this…. He thought for a moment. Answer slaughter with even more slaughter? Would it really solve anything? ..and when that youngling arrives at his home, he will know you are weak and more will come to spread even more ruin….. He sighed, long and low. Despite being no stranger to death, at times he still wept for some of them. They all die…..while you live on…why waste emotion on them?
Because I have learned to care for some of them, it pains me at times. Does that make me weak?
He felt a tug on his robe and turned to see Michel "Will you find my sister Agnetha? They took her away with the other people. If she is around, I will not be so inclined to draw pictures of what I see." His eyes were red from crying, but no more tears flowed. Instead, his eyes held a glittering sort of hardness; the blackmail in his plea was baldly apparent.
How quickly they learn the ways of man, Brother Timothy sighed. ..but if they are slaughtered to a man…they will avoid this place like the plague…call it wergilds-bane…you will be left in peace….. Brother Timothy had his hood in place, so the only feature discernable was his mouth. He mouthed a prayer and crossed himself as close to the defiled altar as he could. Some monks deliberately blocked his path to it though. He prayed as hard as he could for the inner peace that he knew was rapidly slipping away. 'Take up the sword!'...the voice in his head was…excited? 'Show them the price they pay for transgression….kill them! Slaughter them! In his mind, the laughter was not of mirth, but of ruin.He failed to notice Michel looking at him in awe, or three monks looking as grim as could be as they conversed amongst their selves. A decision had been reached in his mind, though. He saw no way to fully disguise his intentions or to rationalize his actions. The fury he had attempted to quell was boiling over. He couldn't ignore the voice inside him anymore. There were too many mortals present, but it couldn't be helped. He brushed away his hood, revealing rather mundane features, but with features twisted in fury. His eyes felt like they were burning with the emotion.
Michel stepped back, once again fearful. Fortunately, Brother Timothy's gaze was directed at the other monks. "Cleanse this corruption from the Altar and re-consecrate it. Perform the rites on Mary and give her a Christian burial along with the others."
Brother Leopold was one of the three monks who had a grim demeanor upon their countenance. "What manner of creature are you so as to DARE take refuge in a house of God! I saw what you did and you will not corrupt the initiate Michel with your devil spawn ways!"
Brother Timothy only paid Brother Leopold the smallest amount of attention. "Did you hear me? You will cleanse this altar and give her a proper burial."
Brother Leopold was joined by Brother Kenneth. Brother Kenneth had a container of holy water and a crucifix. "Brother Leopold asked you a question, Brother Timothy. You fall dead upon the floor with a spear through you, yet moments after extracting it, you are once again whole? And what of the demonic power that came from your left hand? That assuredly is of the devil's work; it is nothing from the God in heaven."
It seems that others saw what Michel did, he thought. There was no way to hide what he was now. He turned towards the two monks. "I am not 'demon spawn' as you say. I am as penitent to God as all of the people here."
The two brothers weren't convinced. They were joined by the third monk with the accusatory stare. "You have upon your person the marks of wounds that should have killed you, yet you now DARE walk amongst those of us who ARE truly of GOD! I say begone from this place of God, spawn of Lucifer!" At this point, Brother Kenneth sprinkled him with the holy water and began mouthing a paean to dispel evil. The other monks were ranged in a loose sort of arc behind the three that accused Brother Timothy.
Brother Timothy finally noticed the chill of the air as it found the rents in his robe. He looked at his bloodstained robe and the holes in it. Brother Timothy laughed softly as he stared at his three accusers, but there was nothing cheerful about it. The three monks actually backed away from him. Michel was looking at the ground as Brother Timothy spun away from the monks and headed towards the wall where the sword was. That was how he walked so quietly! His sandals and the others only had front straps, thus the heel part was loose, causing the noise. But Brother Timothy's sandals were not only bound at the heel, they were of a thinner material. Was he wearing a warrior's sandal? Michel thought. No, it could not be. The monks were peaceful servants of God, ministering to the masses as best as they could. Brother Timothy pulled off his robe and left it in a heap on the floor. Copious amounts of blood had fouled his underclothing in addition to the damage from the attack earlier. A murmur of voices ensued as he first removed the strange armor from the wall; the three monks were attempting to gain more support. They rose in pitch to some gasps and even a scream. The catches were little rusty but still worked. The armor fastened over his left arm as if it was made for it. When he was done, his left arm from shoulder to wrist was covered by the item. The odd-shaped front section nearly covered his left hand. Blue-tinged lightning sparked and stuttered along its length.
"Brother, what are you doing?! We are men of God, of Peace…..how did you know how that was to be mounted?" Brother Hroald was a better sort than Brother Leopold. Brother Timothy was ignoring everyone by this time; he was concentrating on his task.
Brother Leopold pulled out a crucifix and thrust it at Brother Timothy as he openly mouthed a Latin Paean. "Begone, scion of hell! I know you for what you are. You were dead on the floor yet you dare to rise amongst the living?!" The sheep-like demeanor was gone from Brother Leopold's visage. He was in his element, or so he thought. Brother Hroald's face had lost all semblance of color; he slowly backed away from Brother Timothy, crossing himself in the process. More than a few others did the same thing.
"You are men of God; to this Monastery you must be faithful. You would best consider this to be a matter of faith, for you would not understand the truth of this matter." The last sentence was spoken with the same icy chill as Michel only recently heard.
"I call you an agent of the Devil! Be gone from this place of worship! Do not assail us with your demonic entreaties!"
Brother Timothy stalked over and simply knocked Brother Leopold down; the crucifix fell from Leopold's grasp. "Once, long ago, I was not a man of the Christ God, and I also discovered many of men to be fools like you. If Mary is not ready for burial by the time I return, I will hold you to blame, Brother Leopold. You are no better than some of the Druids I knew, and I have seen such as you prate on so piously without understanding a thing!" As if to emphasize his displeasure, a jolt of lighting from Brother Timothy struck Brother Leopold, causing a collective gasp. He turned to the other monks
"I said you are men of God." Brother Timothy laughed bitterly at that remark "Tend to that which God needs to be here in this place of worship; I intend to bring our parishioners back to the fold."
There was no more time to waste. He only hoped he would be in time so he could deal with the other fools who forced such a matter on him. First, he mounted the crude looking scabbard device so that it rested on his back rather than his hip. Finally, he removed the sword from the wall and flipped it in the air…..grasping it by the hilt as it fell down. Several monks gasped in horror as Brother Timothy began to swing the sword through the air, its sheer size causing a whistling sound to come from it as it cut the air. But it was not wielded as a symbolic artifact…it was wielded as a sword….a heavy, dark-colored, deadly sword even blacker than iron. And even a neophyte could tell if one was suited for that sort of skill. The way Brother Timothy cleaved the air with the sword spoke of no novice. With a final flourish and a soft laugh, he swung the sword around in an arc. The sword made a solid sound of sliding into the scabbard...mounted on the monks back. After putting the soiled robe back on, a shrug of his robes and the sword seemed to disappear into its folds. Once again, the monk raised his hood.
"The defilers will learn the price of transgression upon which is mine."
Brother Timothy spun around and stalked out of the Monastery, steps still as silent as a spirit, but his laugh this time was almost maniacal as more lightning played across his frame in fits and starts. When Brother Timothy stopped laughing, strings of unintelligible speech erupted from him spoken in a bitter tone. Several of the Brothers crossed themselves and prayed, while others were conversing amongst themselves. The word 'druid' was mentioned, but several of the monks decided to do what Brother Timothy had said, ignoring those who protested. Yet another picked up a broken, bloody spear haft and head from the ground. Brother Leopold arose from the floor, white-faced in fear and shaken. Rather than try to grasp what had occurred, he decided to shrug it off, shaking his head. To his dying day, though, he considered Brother Timothy with only guarded contempt; he would always view him as something unholy. All of them at some point looked at Brother Timothy's retreating figure with fear….except for one.
Despite the fact that children can be scarred from bad sorts of exposure, they also can be the most resilient to it as well. He knew what he had seen. Perhaps it was to his advantage that he rarely was around adults; the monks only assigned him chores, and besides Mass, he led a rather solitary existence. That monk died…but he pulled out the spear and healed himself. That was matter-of-factly accepted into his world paradigm. The monk invoked some blue lightning to assist the healing. Okay, that was accepted too, God did not strike him down for praying at the altar, so the devil must not be involved. He was modest about what had happened, pious at the altar, and seems to possess the wrath of St. Michael. That was accepted into his paradigm for the plain reason of blatant ignorance that reigned on high at the time. The Monks are peaceful men of god, but he wielded that sword as if he knew how to use it. In the mind of a 10-year-old child inculcated with the teachings of Mother Church these statements could lead to only one possible conclusion: Brother Timothy is a Saint that came to deliver us from the defilers. It fit in so well with his paradigm; he never bothered to question the incongruities of his reasoning. He knew he would be lax in his duties if he did not draw at least one picture of the Monastery's Savior. As quietly as possible, he also left the Monastery; not even his fear of the monk would sway him from what he must do for the sake of God if not his monastery.
A steady but light drizzle fell from the clouds as Brother Timothy purposefully walked away from the Monastery. Raiders of any sort were not hard to understand. Their goal was to be in and out as quickly as possible before reinforcements arrived. Thus, their staging area could not be far off. Considering his estimate of the size of the party, there were too many captives for only one trip. ,, you should have killed that initiate…HE SAW!...it bodes no good this 'mercy' of yours…. Brother Timothy tried to put the voice out of his head, but for the moment he was not successful. ..he draws pictures well..he SAW your face and he knows your secret…that was blackmail he used!...
"Should I also kill all the Brothers there too? They may be massively ignorant, but not all of them are stupid. Soon there will be enough slaughter to satisfy even you….do not question my purposes." Brother Timothy said aloud to himself.
..you grow weak…too long since you screamed out the name of the battle god…. Without even being aware of it, Brother Timothy was scanning for the telltale jolt of the one Viking; not enough to let them know he was near, but enough for the opposite effect. He stopped and re-affirmed his information. Yes, there he was, returning for the last of the captives probably. The hoof beats told an additional story though. In addition to the other immortal, there were others. This could become very ugly, he thought. Did he still have the skill? It had been hard to practice recently; Michel had caught him once. He put all doubt out of his mind. Doubt was the enemy. He mouthed a sort of prayer but not to the Christ God, but to a much older one lost in time. Inspire me, Morvran, for what is to come. I will show you weak, he chuckled at the voice in his head as he picked up his walking pace. A melody lost in the realms of time came to his mind and he voiced it in a sort of singsong language as he walked through the mists and the sprinkle of rain. Though the mist blocked his vision, it also blocked theirs as well. He moved silently on his feet, all senses aware; he had not lost his hunters sense…..
Brother Gregorius' pains resided to a dull ache as he concluded his prayer with the women. Despite women being such weak creatures, God had to watch over them as well. Such was the responsibility of the Church. He gave a resigned sigh as he heard the sound of hoof beats. He only hoped that the women would be true to their god even while they were being defiled. He himself was celibate, but through God he knew the ways of men and women.
"All of us must be quiet now, lest they visit further injury upon us."
He watched the Vikings come to a halt and dismount. They had left three others to guard the small group; with Raegnir's group, there were thirteen Vikings in all. The guards answered their hails when called, but Raegnir still made them stay where they were just in case there was an armed cohort nearby. "Get on your feet all of you! Be quick about it or else!" For emphasis, one of them kicked Brother Gregorius in his ample backside and guffawed. The women and the Monk quickly complied, but a strange sound came out of the mist; it sounded like choking or something. Agnetha stopped where she was upon hearing the sound; she swore she saw something in the mist.
"What was that, Brother Gregorius?"
She pointed over the monk's shoulder where she had seen …something. Ulgalth had remounted and he trotted over. A rough hand knocked Agnetha to the ground.
"Silence her, Christ fool, or I will!"
One of the other women gasped as another of Ulgalth's cohort laid his hands on her. "Ulgalth, this one has plenty of flesh on her. She will be much fun!"
"You heard what Olaf said, fool!" Raegnir cuffed the exuberant Viking. "We get them home, and then we can have our fun!"
Agnetha tugged on Gregorius' sleeve. "Look, Brother. Someone is here!"
She pointed behind him. With a sigh, Brother Gregorius turned around….yes, there was a monk that looked like they were walking toward them and the Vikings, but as quickly as he was there, a shift of the mist and he was gone. What did that monk hope to accomplish? There were thirteen raiders here. He would have admonished them for their foolishness at another time, but he convinced himself there was nothing in the mist. He laughed to himself, the innocence and imagination of children. He felt secure in his knowledge….for the moment.
Brother Timothy walked slowly through the mist; it was fortunate for him that he did so because he was almost on top of one of the guards before he knew it. He reacted nearly as fast as he did long ago; he snapped the guard's neck with his left hand. He dropped the body with disdain and slowly walked on, ears picking up the noise of where at least one group was. He saw the other two guards without them seeing him. He hit one in the head with a sizeable rock and then used their sword to kill the third one. He dragged the corpse of the third guard with little effort, making only the slightest of sounds…..
He slowly was able to discern where the other raiders were. He counted ten of them. That plus the three made thirteen in all. If there were 10 here…..20? 30? It could not be helped, though. The die was cast. Slaughter or death, it was his choice. He knew what choice he made, though. He saw the one strike Agnetha through the mist; knew now he would not be sorry for the coming conflagration.
He walked up near the group, near enough to cast the corpse of the guard on to the ground with enough noise to get everyone's attention, and then faded into the mist. Ulgalth was the first to react.
"Raegnir, one of the guards is dead!"
"Where are the other two, Ulgalth?" Ulgalth called out their names, but he got no answer. The other Vikings began to get uneasy as they did their best to see through the mist. The women and the monk were forgotten as Raegnir organized his ten companions. While Ulgalth stayed near him, the other eight began to walk wider and wider circles around the captives. They found the two other guards quickly enough. The eight Vikings slowly backed away towards where the captives were, dragging the bodies of the fallen and gave Raegnir the information they had discovered. Raegnir raised his ax and moved towards the captives with menace in his eye, but another Viking gave a shout and pointed. It looked as if the figure was stepping out of the mist. They slowly walked towards the Vikings with their hood up over their head saying not a word…they seemed to be singing in some strange sort of language…..
The Vikings had only posted three guards to watch their captives; who was going to come to the captives' defense anyway? Now, the three guards were dead and someone garbed as a monk was there in the mist. They were singing a moment ago, but in some strange language, but now they were silent. His silence gave the ten left time to regroup. They all unlimbered weapons of ruin and destruction as they charged toward the silent figure. The first two to reach him were the next to die…
He had never, ever considered battle theory when he fought. He had never really had a teacher for the finer points of swordplay. He had taught himself at least the rudiments; this sword was unlike even the 2 handed broadswords that were becoming so common now. It was heavier than those, yet not quite as massive in size. Countless hours of practice had gone into learning to wield it, and then even more. What rudiments he had learned were refined as he saw fit, or as he saw usefulness. He never lost an opportunity to watch other techniques at play, if only to find their weaknesses. The sword was heavy but deliberately crafted so. After all, had he not forged it himself? The strength of a blacksmith was behind this item; lighter weapons seemed unsuited for his muscles. His speed with the weapon was laboriously learned as well. A two-handed sword had its pluses and minuses. Heavier blows could be dealt, at the sacrifice of speed, or so people thought. He would never be as fast as some of the lightly armed contingents he had seen, but with the longer reach and a heavier weapon, that was offset by the fact he could kill such a person with one blow. Due to millennia of practice with the sword, he disregarded its weight; extra muscle was developed, making him deceptively quick in his movements; in no way did he wield his weapon in a ponderous manner. The sword was slower to draw, and he carried no shield, but that had been partially offset though: the arm greave he wore. It made the arm somewhat less maneuverable but it served as a shield while leaving the left arm otherwise unencumbered. He had devised the greave on his own solely for that purpose; left arm to block (if needed), both hands to wield sword (often needed). Also, the covering over his left hand made it so he could rest the tip of the blade there, a sort of 'en garde' stance. The sword itself was of a unique quality; the source of its metal would not be believed; nothing short of steel could even come close to matching it, and even steel could not stand against it for long. It was time to preach to the unbelievers, the black humor of that statement almost made him smile.
Good, he thought, two of them assail me first. He was not stupid though; he knew there were others here with them. He sized up the two warriors. He did so not for purposes of battle. This would be a slaughter. Best not to leave things to chance though, he thought, overconfidence could yet be my undoing. He stopped then reached both hands behind his right shoulder. No rest position this time, he thought, killing blow needed first. The sword slid out of its sheath, looking even darker than the semi-darkness surrounding it. A quick shift of the hilt and the draw became a thirty pound whistling harbinger of doom. The warrior on his right was decapitated in a spray of gore. Then the sword sheared through the other warrior's left arm and went halfway through his chest cavity, also killing him instantly. A powerful, swift kick freed the sword. Now go to rest position. With the hilt grasped firmly in his right hand, the left hand loosely held the sword near its tip. His robe now soaked in gore, he advanced towards the other Vikings with malice in his purpose. Almost unbidden, an old battle song burst softly from his lips….only the captives could clearly hear it…he paused in his singing to laugh at the death he had caused. It was like the purest of elixirs as it thrummed through his being. Yes, it felt so good….
Both Raegnir and Ulgalth were in shock: where moments before were two warriors now there were 4 pieces of warrior on the ground. Where a moment ago the monk seemed docile they now held in their hands a massive sword…the very sword on the wall of that Monastery….it had to be! That item was too heavy to be more than an ornament? That ornament had just killed two of his men with ONE blow! And the monk was laughing! The glint of metal from the monks left hand…that piece of armor! Was this a Christ Warrior? Was this the reward the priests got from devotion to their god? The monk approached them at a steady walk, his intentions clear. It was then they noticed the monk was singing softly yet again…this was no paean to their god in Latin….it was a different language, not even Latin, but something even older it seemed; not quite intelligible, though. Raegnir felt a stirring of unease. Somewhere….
Brother Gregorius' paradigm was under heavy assault. First, the monk is appearing out of the mist with murderous intent, and then actually following through with their intention. Agnetha's assertion did no good either. Was this monk in the mist before? He laughed at Agnetha's vivid imagination and most assuredly thought the monk a fool being here since all he could do would be to join the other prisoners in their fate. That monk just killed two raiders with ONE sword blow! It is the sword on the wall! They also are wearing that piece of strange armor! He made an attempt to wipe away some spattered blood that was on his face. They wield that sword as if it was a toy. Is it their sword? A voice in his head giggled at him. That is impossible, those artifacts are old. Why is he singing in that heathen tongue then! Brother Gregorius was a weak sort of human; omnipotent within his life paradigm, but completely defenseless outside of it. What happened next would destroy Brother Gregorius' paradigm for good and send him into insanity; adults are not as adept at dealing with the unexplainable in some ways.
The train of thought of Raegnir lasted only for seconds. Kill him!" he screamed at his remaining cohort. The six others had already unlimbered weapons and were in process of attacking this murderous monk. Ulgalth lagged slightly in back of the others waiting for an opening….
While Brother Gregorius fought with his sanity and the other women screamed and cowered, Agnetha stared at the monk with a beatified look. Maybe God does care, she thought, but why are my parents dead? God brought back the monk, why not my mommy and daddy? She was also spattered in blood, but she paid it no mind. The monk was simply too mesmerizing, despite a strange feeling of unease she had. Even now, she observed bluish lightning crackle across the monk's figure. She rubbed her filth-covered arm; why did she feel so uncomfortable? The monk was now moving at a run towards the other Vikings, sword out and ready….
He snapped his sword out of rest position as the warriors thundered towards him. He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet as his run picked up speed. He wasn't about to stop or even slow down. By ones and twos, he reduced his attackers to corpses upon the ground. An ax clipped his shoulder. He did not feel it. Raegnir and Ulgalth were shocked when the monk blocked two attackers at once on opposite sides. The one warrior's ax rang against his armored arm. The sword came around to decapitate one Viking, and then it continued as a jab that killed the second. The monk was…laughing! A sharp gust of air combined with the angle at which he stood allowed his hood to fall back from its usual upright position. Then the drizzle turned into more of a rain, cleansing some of the gore from him. It was then he also felt a momentary twinge….another one?...but only one of his foes was like him….the jolt was coming from the group of captives; this was something he hadn't expected…
Agnetha could only stare in awe. It was Brother Timothy! He had come to save us! You saw him die though, a voice in her head said matter-of-factly, does it not bother you that he is whole again? She thought about that for a moment. For some reason, the incongruity failed to even faze her. She almost felt sorry for the bad men even. The feeling of unease still was with her though, but she paid it no mind. She had been through a lot in these past few moments. They had killed her mother and her father. There were 10 of them there, but now only two remained. Eight of them were dead, killed by Brother Timothy. She looked at his face, but only for a moment. Fear gripped her momentarily in its icy chill. Brother Timothy was smiling, but it was not a pleasant smile….it was …dangerous…..a man of God can most assuredly not be such if they are willing to inflict such violence. They deserve it, she screamed at the voice in her head. Due to a large part her childish innocence, the incongruities of what she saw had no effect on her psyche. She simply accepted what she saw at face value. The other females were simply in shock. They also had an effective way to deal with this anomaly: block out its existence. If they had dared accept any of it, they would be as worse off as Brother Gregorius. The very fact that the Brother had a rudimentary knowledge of some things led only to the doors of insanity. He could not accept what he had seen, and there was no way for him to block it out. Brother Timothy wields the heretic artifacts with a skill nowhere near a novice. He slaughtered eight or more skilled warriors in a short period of time. He sings in a pagan tongue long dead. He laughs at the destruction he has caused. He is ruin and havoc and destruction! Flee from him lest he mark you with death! Brother Gregorius giggled out loud to himself. His eyes held the illumination of insanity as drool seeped from a corner of his mouth. He was on the raving train of incongruity with no way of getting off.
Brother Timothy had paused only for a moment. Once he determined that he was still reasonably hale, he cast his eye on the two remaining Vikings. "Look at what you have done here today! You brought rapine and slaughter to this monastery!" Ulgalth looked aghast at the monk then looked around. Eleven of the finest Vikings he ever knew; now they lay dismembered and slaughtered on the ground. Then he saw amidst the welter of crimson the ragged hole the spear had made. He suddenly knew there would be a slash on the back of the robe as well.
"You were dead! You are no Christ Priest! You fight like a demon from Hel!" He screamed in fear and fury. "You are a Hel warrior hiding in monks robes!"
"No, I wished to live in peace, but you sundered that," the monk replied in a voice as chill as the winter wind. To add to Ulgalth's apprehension, the monk was now speaking in a Nordic tongue. "Now pay for your transgression!" Brother Timothy noticed that Ulgalth wielded his ax in his left hand. Interesting, he thought. The axe, however finely made, was only of base iron.
"You were dead! I know not what sorcery you use, but I will send you back to Hel where you belong!"
With a yell, Ulgalth attacked. Shifting his weight to his left side, Brother Timothy slammed into Ulgalth's buckler, sword already on an intercept path towards his axe. When the two weapons collided, there was a cacophonous screech of metal, then a solid thump. Even steel suffered under the metal of the monk's sword, let alone any baser metal. The top fourth of Ulgalth's ax had been sheared through. Ulgalth may have complained about the damage, but he was missing his head above the bridge of his nose. Brother Timothy pushed the corpse away, heedless of the body or the fresh gouts of crimson. There was one more to kill here and then the others…
There was one other viewing the slaughter that was not really affected in a bad way. Michel had had the foresight to keep parchment and charcoal always around his person; you never knew when you could create a drawing to the Glory of God. There was no doubt in his paradigmal view: Brother Timothy was a Saint. He was a protector of the Monastery from the heretics who defiled it. He had watched nine Vikings die in the course of minutes; most of the deaths were as gory as could be. That sword must have some holy power; none of the heretics can stand against it, he thought. As ignorant as he was of even basic metallurgy though, it did not occur to him that the swords' metal might have something to do with the one-sided battle. Quickly, he sketched rough drawings of what he had seen so far. You will NEVER be burning these in a candle's flame, monk! Michel was resolute on this fact. He would hide these drawings if he had to, but he would never part with them. This assuredly was the path to the Glory of God. Unmindful of the penetrating rain that now fell even more persistently, he sketched like one possessed. He was possessed, though; in his mind, he was witnessing concrete proof of God's wrath.
Raegnir was in a quandary. Also, an unknown dread seeped into his bones. By all measures that he could conceive, he had the right to flee in utter terror. Of the thirteen Vikings here, he was the only one left alive; the other members of his cohort were bloody charnel on the ground; the monk had reaved a bloody path through them, but the monk showed no injury. With his hood back, his features were easily discernible; they were nothing of note. Well, he looks like a monk, he thought, but he fights like a Hel warrior. The sword that Ulgalth said was too heavy the monk wielded like a toy. Ulgalth's ax was base iron, but that sword had sheared through it as if it was not there; not even the best steel could do that! The strange piece of armor the monk wore on their left arm was as effective as a buckler if not more so. Never had he seen weaponry or armor the likes of this. The monk was not staring at him, though, he was staring through him. If he fled, then he would get to explain to Olaf why his men were dead and how they were killed. Wait! The monk's robe had a ragged hole in the front. And Raegnir recognized the Nordic tongue the monk spoke! That was an older dialect than was current, but still recognizable. That hole was there before they started slaughtering! Hel warrior, bah! The monk was like him, an immortal. With this new information in mind, fleeing was simply not an option now. He dismounted his horse, mounted his best buckler, and hefted his best steel ax that he owned. Still, something nagged at his consciousness. Why am I hesitating?
He watched the immortal dismount his horse and prepare for battle. He glanced down at his robe; there wasn't a spot not drenched in blood. His sword was at rest position now, but even he could see the bluish lightning crackling along its length. You know, don't you? He softly spoke at the sword. The lightning also began to evince itself along the greave he wore. There was no real way to help it; his fury boiled at a white-hot level. As such he had no control over it. It was inconveniencing at times, but it also marked him as one to be avoided at all costs. Another ignorant youngling pest, too stupid to realize his mistake….
"You will not find me easy a mark as my cohort! You are no Hel warrior! We are one and the same…immortal! You do not frighten me! Why was I not able to sense you, though?"
"I wished to be left alone….I do wonder if one of the defilers sent you here, though." One advantage he had over the less seasoned immortals was that he could hide to an extent what he was; he could approach a youngling without them even knowing he was immortal. This time the monk made no effort to block his identity. He smirked as Raegnir staggered from the onslaught. "I suppose not…you are not of them. They usually send a lot more than one." He as quickly shielded himself as he laughed.
Raegnir recovered in a moment but stopped to think: what the hell was that? He had felt other immortals close by before, but never a sensation like that. It had felt like a combination of the worst sickness plus a crushing weight on his skull. And once again, he simply could not sense the monk. What in hell was going on?
"I am Raegnir Sjalffson. I have walked this earth for over 1000 years, but have never met one like you. You hide like a woman in a Monastery!" Raegnir laughed loudly, and then looked at the women and the priest. "And you know of course, after I win, I will kill those sheep. They know about us, and that can not be tolerated." Slowly, but with deadly intent, Raegnir moved towards the monk. He had seen what sort of weapon that sword was and what it could do; because of that, he was justifiably wary.
"Whatever the battle gods decree, be it Morvran or Badb; I answer to them now because of you." Brother Timothy cared not about his opponents' prowess in battle, but he studied what they wielded instead. A steel and oak buckler and what appeared to be a fine ax of steel. The Vikings did make the finest weapons, or did, he mused. The rest of Europe was catching up, though rather piecemeal. He made an attempt to control the quickening fire but was not completely successful. More bluish tinged lightning now crackled across the greave and up and down the sword.
The demon and the heretic will now fight for our souls and the chance to devour them! Brother Gregorius laughed hysterically. The monk demon is speaking in that pagan tongue again. Maybe he could convert the heretic to God! At least the heretic was human. He knew how to stop the demons from claiming him, but how would he protect the others? Little Agnetha was the most vulnerable to the demons. He needed to protect at least her. He grabbed at Agnetha to shield her from the demons, but with an unholy oath she twisted away and ran off. Return my child! I will protect you from the demon! Without my intervention, your soul will be lost!
Agnetha, despite her young years, knew the score. Brother Gregorius was the danger; Brother Timothy would never, ever harm her. Brother Gregorius was weak, Brother Timothy was not. The other women sat cowed and catatonic while Brother Gregorius wet himself as he babbled what prayers he knew. More and bluer lightning erupted from the monk, illuminating the area in fits and starts. Agnetha felt more at ease once she was away from the carnage.
Agnetha stumbled across her brother hiding a short ways off from the scene. They hugged each other in greeting. He showed Agnetha his drawings. "Do not tell anyone I made these. One day I will be able to show the truth of what occurred here, but not now."
"Okay, Michel. I don't think Brother Gregorius is well, either. He is calling Brother Timothy a demon."
"He is not a demon! He is a Saint and the protector of the Monastery!"
"I know that, Michel. You do not have to convince me. "
Huddled together for what warmth they could glean, the two watched in fascination, childish wonder inuring them to the thought of danger.
Raegnir froze in midstep. Tendrils of icy fear began to seep into his psyche, damping his initial enthusiasm. What in hell did he just say? I could only understand a little of that!
Ever since Rome had lost hegemony over her European empire, a polyglot of languages had corrupted the pure speech strains. He had been alive for nearer to 1500 years than 1000; when you are around for that period of time, learning can occur by attrition, that is, you will have to learn something. Raegnir could read, no mean feat for this time, but he also was aware of this language shift. The monks reply was in some sort of Celtic dialect. I have never heard that before! Or have I? There was no longer any such speech in these parts, Germanic tongues were creeping over here to muddy things further. The speech was somewhat recognizable, but the accent was wrong. Morvran? Badb? Those gods were old….older than even possibly his Nordic Pantheon. He had traveled some of these lands before the Roman Empire subjugated it; even spoken with some soothsayers. He had learned what they had called Celtic. It only generally resembled what the monk had spoken, but with a more normal cadence. What if what they spoke was the corrupted form? Then this monk's speech would not be corrupted. He knew it! That had to be the answer! But how far back would one have to go to hear Celtic like he was now hearing? It had almost a sing-song quality about it…..the Olden-Tongue? That was just some fable he had heard! That storyteller cringed when he spoke of it as if it was a speech to be feared; as if they who spoke the Olden Tongue meant only harm… That would make this monk so old…..Raegnir shook his head. The monk's posture also nagged at him. Ulgalth was right…this was no Christ priest or even a Hel warrior. They stood like one who commanded, not one who followed commands….like a …King?
There was a Celtic King who visited such slaughter upon his enemies that even the Gods feared his temper! One with the power of command! Now was not the time for thought, but for battle. But Wait! The Romans eradicated them when they invaded! Even then the language was corrupted! But that was over 1000 years ago! The soothsayer spoke of a time so long before…when the king's fair bride was slaughtered and the king reaved through his enemies, greaved of arm. Eldritch speech and battle song ruled the land
Olden-Tongue and a posture of a king…but from a time only spoken of legend and with fear and loathing….THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE! The monk was glowering…at him, a chilling smile warping his features. He was also singing again, but now Raegnir knew what to listen for in regards to that speech. That was no tongue humans had ever learned…NOT IN HIS TIME ANYWAYS! That was Eldritch speech at its most fluent, more like a song than simple voice! Blue lightning crackled across the monks' sword, his whole body. Even his eyes glowed with the flame. Quickening fire, a voice screamed in his mind, but you see that when you take a head, NOT beforehand! Raegnir was witness to something not even an immortal wished to see. He had been warned to flee from such….a being who reveled in destruction and carnage, and old beyond even immortal comprehension.
"Who are you!?"
The noise of the lightning and the speech pattern made understanding difficult, but Raegnir confirmed his ultimate fear. "I am he who once ruled these lands but am now bereft of my crown thanks to the Defilers and the Daoine who did not care. You and yours will pay dearly for your trespass!" Then the monk was upon him.
It dawned on Raegnir that the monk had not even considered his cohort a challenge, thus had not battled to his full capability. This much was unfortunately true. This was no Hel Warrior as Ulgalth had said, or maybe they were. This was a Hel Immortal! He remembered a conversation he had had with Olaf. He never really knew how old Olaf was, but one night in a mead hall they sat and talked.
"You and I, we have met all sorts of immortals, some friend, others foe, Olaf said, As you know, I am not afraid of anything I have seen on this earth, all save one thing." Olaf's visage paled all of a sudden. He took a long draught of his mead. "There are immortals you will never, ever want to meet, Raegnir. They only wish to be left alone. They will go to great lengths to be left in peace, but if angered, they will fight like the scions of Hel. If you ever run across one, even Valhalla may forgive you for being a coward."
" How would I know one if I saw them?" Raegnir was interested, but concerned. Olaf was not a coward, but if something had scared him…..
"They may speak an archaic tongue, unpolluted in its sound. Refer to gods long gone from this world. They may carry a weapon or use armor not of the sort you have seen. Others say they can hide from detection. Yet others say they have taken so many heads and gained so much power that you can see the quickening fire on them. They are best avoided, at all costs."
Raegnir nodded in affirmation. "Have you ever met one"? He asked conversationally.
"You see me here alive still, yes?!" Olaf glowered at him. "We will speak no more of it; there is still much mead to drink…" Olaf refilled his flagon.
Daoine Na Sidhe?! You have angered a Hel immortal! The voice in his head screamed. You have found one that should not even exist! There was no time to reply, though. Raegnir was fighting for his life. As much as Raegnir wanted to attack, he found himself defending instead. Blow after blow rained down on him, and when it was not the sword, it was the monk's feet and hands he had to watch. His buckler was smashed and dented to ruin and his axes' blade edge was chipped in several places. He also noticed it was scorched as well. The monks mailed left hand carried a painful punch. It was no matter that the monk wore only sandals. The monk kicked as powerfully as a mule. He knew from the beginning he was way outclassed. He was surprised he had lasted this long. His chain mail was slashed open in several places. What few blows he was able to land affected this monk not at all. Whatever that cursed sword was made of, he doubted it was steel. As heavy as it must be, the monk wielded it as a child would wield a toy sword. It was so massive it whistled as it cut the air. It was darker than the darkest iron ore he had seen. The monk's robes did nothing to slow them down, either. He was faster than the fleetest warrior Raegnir had ever seen. A sideways slash from the monk missed him by mere inches and demolished half of a small, dead tree in a shower of splinters. With a recovery speed beyond any plausible logic considering the massive weapon, the monk brought the sword back across and down in a downward slash he blocked with his axe. The impact made his whole arm go numb. Now there was a gouge in the blade edge, not a chip. The finest steel that could be found and that sword had ruined it with one blow. Mustering his last reserves of energy, he charged at the monk with a berserk war cry, ax raised to deal carnage. To this point, his hardest blows had been blocked or parried. He had tried a shield bash before, but the monk was solidly built; their greave and body weight neutralized his own with ease. His second attempt at this maneuver was his last mistake. The monk skipped away as his sword came around in a whistling arc of death. Raegnir died in a spray of blood as his head was severed. Even before his body hit the ground, quickening power began to leech from his neck.
Aged, but hardly seasoned, Brother Timothy thought. This quickening would be of no consequence to him. Unlike those much less seasoned, those of his sort were not incapacitated by any but the most major quickenings. He absorbed the power into his right arm; some of it was used to relieve what fatigue he felt. He sheathed his sword and walked over to where Brother Gregorius and the women were.
"Where is Agnetha?"
Brother Gregorius screamed a prayer at him and held up a crucifix. Brother Timothy batted him aside.
"She ran off when that Brother attempted to grab her. He swears you are a demon from hell come to claim his soul. He wanted to protect her, but she ran away."
Brother Timothy noticed that the speaker of the words would not look at him directly. No matter, he thought. He was used to it. He cut their bonds with a cast-off sword. "You will help Brother Gregorius back to the Monastery. They will tend to him."
"What of the others, though?"
"I will find them and bring them back." The chill in his voice was discomfiting enough so that the women arose and mutely started in on their task.
In his insane paradigm, Brother Gregorius had saved them from the demon. The power of his god was all mighty. He giggled at the fact that he was such a powerful man of God that he had warded away a demon. Oh, what sermons he would give!...alas, this was all in his mind; his exterior self-had been destroyed in the conflagration he had witnessed. Even as he reveled in his insanity, one of the women, Bertae, was filled with anger. That monk was NOT a man of God! To her dying day, she kept her children away from Brother Timothy….far away.
Michel was awestruck. The monk had to be a saint. 13 of the heretic butchers he had slaughtered in only a moments time! He watched the monk quickly mounted a horse… with skill of course. Once again, Michel was not even fazed by this. Oh, such tapestries and drawings this would make! After telling Agnetha to find her way back to the village, he managed to corral a mount for himself. He now became apprised of the danger he had willingly braved thus far. He was awestruck enough by what he had witnessed, but he had seen enough; he left the horse and then headed back to the monastery, crude drawings protected as well as possible from the elements.
It did not take long for Brother Timothy to find the rest of the Viking cohort. He ran into them in the process of herding the first group of captives. Brother Timothy smiled as he drew his sword once again; he had killed four of the remaining raiders even before they realized something was wrong. The captives screamed out at the fresh sounds of battle and attempted to get away from it; they moved like a herd of cattle. That made it so Brother Timothy did not have to run any down to get at his enemies. Dawn had only barely paled the sky as once more battle was waged. Brother Timothy had learned to fight from horseback as well; one by one, the raiders died. Olaf died with a look of horror on his face…..he knew what the monk was…he knew….
Monastery of St. Timothy – Present Day
…he jerked awake in a cold pall of sweat which even now was chilling him in the drafty room he inhabited. He could barely see the first hints of dawn in the sky. Outside of his window, he could see a light dusting of snow on the ground. Well, another day of worship and work, he thought. He arose and stretched. He was not able to find his bowl of wash water or his robe…the room was not that chill either…central heating or some such...then with a shock, the last vestiges of his dream disappeared. Of course, he would no longer have any wash water. There were communal showers. That assuredly beat a cold brook. Opening the door to a small closet revealed several robes in varying shades of brown. Brother Timothy chuckled. It has been a while since I dreamed like that…nearly thought I was still there. He then sighed deeply. So much has changed…but has anything really changed? He reached for a candle…not anymore; there was a light switch. Brilliance flooded his rather Spartan chamber. A straw pallet (a real bed actually), stone flooring (with a throw rug), no decorations on the walls save for a cross. He opened the door to the hallway and then stretched. The tips of his fingers brushed a bar over his door. He leaped up and grabbed the bar with both hands. He had no problem doing fifty pull-ups. That is too easy, he thought. He then proceeded to do one-armed pull-ups, twenty for his right arm and twenty for his left. He dropped to the ground, breathing a bit harder from the exertion. I remember helping to build this door, he thought as he walked down the hall to the (shower).
He imperceptibly shook his head as if to clear the last cobwebs of the dream from his mind. He would be alone in the shower; this he knew. The morning meal these days was not served until seven or so and even without a (timepiece!), he knew that was near 2 hours away. There were no real stand-out features in Brother Timothy's visage, so there would be no point in describing them in detail. Brown hair, though no longer tonsured, cut severely short, but completely generic. Brown eyes also of the same type, unless you stared into them too long. No one ever succeeded at that, since he usually went around with hood in place. His voice was not as generic though. Its tone never evoked laughter and always seemed to possess some chill. A person would have been correct in assuming if you stated that he was paid barely a mind by the others present; oftentimes more so than not, he was avoided. He liked that. Fewer questions meant less answers. He showered and dried off, then returned to his quarters. After he donned a clean undergarment, he deposited the used one in the (laundry bin!), then went to his closet for a robe. There were several other things that were not mundane about this monk but only really noticeable if he was in a state of partial undress. Though of only slightly over average height, there were no areas of fat or flab that could be seen. His physique would have fit well into nearly any athletic club. There was an inordinate strength implied in the legs, chest and arms of this monk. No scar or blemishes marked his skin except a blackened, burnt spot below his left shoulder and another to the rear of his right hip; layers of hard muscle were where most would not have such. Though both arms had some color, the left was lighter in color than the right. Forearms of both bulged with corded muscle, the right more so than the left. And lastly, the right hand, though limber in every way, was a mass of callus tissue.
Actually there were nearly 20 of the robes on (hangers!), in varying states of wear. He gazed with contempt on a few of the newer garments. Mass produced recycled wool they were, dyed with artificial dyes to a ersatz, pallid brown that lacked any sort of real color. Another had what seemed to be rust colored highlights all through the garment. It was heavy of weight with good reason: The rust color was from the iron filaments woven amongst the stout wool fibers, a necessary modification. That robe had stopped more than a few lead balls. That would not be needed though. Instead he chose an old, battered robe he had. It was comfortable to the feel and touch. It also had a voluminous hood of which he immediately made use. Once dressed, he closed his door and walked back down the hall. Through another hallway past the showers was the main room of the monastery. The altar was splendid in appearance, all gleaming brass and polished wood. The pews were no longer rough-hewn, but padded and (comfortable!) The peace and quiet of this time was priceless to the monk. He learned to relish it as best he could. From the front of the main room, he could see the somewhat ornate stairs that led to the Monsignor's office and living quarters. Behind that staircase was another door. It was to that door to which Brother Timothy headed.
He reached down to open it but the door did not give. He laughed for a second, and then pulled out a keychain that never left his side. He had installed the lock some years back when he thought someone had been snooping. He never found out who was doing so, but someone had been. It was a simple matter to put a lock on this entrance. Though old, the door opened with nary a squeak, due to liberal oiling. He shut the door and immediately turned to the right. A hallway stretched before him with various doors discernible at regular intervals. He stopped at the door at the end of the slightly sloping hall. This door was different looking then the other doors in that it looked far more massive. This one also was locked. The key lock had long been removed and had been replaced with a combination tumbler. Only 2 people knew the combination, and Brother Timothy was one of them. It also opened silently. This was once an old storage area; as far as Brother Timothy knew, no one save a very few knew it existed. At one time it was much more; this area once was part of the main room of the monastery, but upon the massive construction that occurred in the 1600's, this place had simply been forgotten. In here now was Brother Timothy's private sanctum. It had started as a simple hiding place for things, but that had been centuries ago. Over time, as clandestinely as possible, Brother Timothy had expanded and upgraded the area so that now it resembled a crowded study. A comfortable chair, an old but serviceable desk, and many bookshelves were present. Unlike his sleeping quarters, myriad decorations abounded on the walls, from a chipped steel axe to a tattered banner. Two fluorescent lamps served for light (He had been slow to realize it, but they sure beat candles!) A small fireplace was present along one wall, though it looked unused; past that it would suffice to say that most of the rest would have comprised a historians dream.
First and foremost were the tomes on the shelves. Many of them were illuminated; most pertaining to some religious aspect. Some, as crudely bound as they were, were much older. 2 sections of shelving held nothing but written journals of the monk, who stared at them only for a moment. Seating himself in the chair, Brother Timothy unlocked the lower drawer on the desks right side. Here in lay some items no mortal alive even knew existed. He felt it was safer that way. Several tomes, all with locking clasps, some with even deadlier protections, were extracted first. A miniature crossbow, its breadth measured only 10 inches, and a set of quarrels for it. The quarrels were poisoned; the weapons purpose was not for any noble purpose. Rather, it was meant to kill silently from a distance, and kill quickly. Brother Timothy transferred it to another drawer in a smaller desk. A half-circlet of sterling silver, gleaming brightly, undecorated except for a runic-styled symbol in its center. .Last but not least, a sheet of old , old parchment with several paragraphs of Latin, signed by a pope…guess you were not so Innocent after all…even thrice removed… he chuckled at the play on words, then unwrapped the item ensconced in a piece of velvet. Even crusted with dried, flaking blood you could tell that this cross was no normal cross. 10 inches high, 7 inches wide, both pieces an inch wide and a half inch thick, of nearly pure gold. A massive Ruby was at the juncture of the 2 parts of the cross and large Emeralds at its 4 endpoints. Diamonds encrusted its entire length. This was a Pope's cross, a sign of Papal authority. His expression grew hard for a moment, then relaxed as he replaced the items and relocked the drawer. He still periodically checked that those items were in their proper place. The contents of two of the Tomes would be very dangerous in the wrong hands, but he dared not destroy them. What lengths we go to so that we can have some semblance of peace.
Until he had learned to read, he held all written matter in contempt. Once he had mastered the art of reading though, he held all books in equally high respect, whether or not he agreed with their contents. Many items on the walls would have been valuable additions to many museums. He smiled at the thought of the Monastery being a benefactor…he smiled grimly; best refer to it by its new name. .or one it held since 1051 or so…The Monastery of Saint Timothy. Even after all this time, he still cringed mentally when he looked at a vellum painting he had on one of the walls. Its title was "The Massacre of the Heretics" done by Brother Michel….that black-mailing bastard he thought… it was my entire fault though. I should have known what was going to happen…….thankfully only this edifice was sanctified though… Brother Michel eventually rose to head the Monastery of St. Timothy. He was a pious and (relatively) learned man. It was bad enough that this original painting showed up at his quarters shortly after what had happened; what was worse was that a massive sized version of it adorned the back wall of the main chapel, complete with some visual embellishments, courtesy of Monsignor Michel. Then, as a courtesy of local tourist traps that abounded much later, mass numbers of reproductions. Oh, joy!
Though he had tried his hardest; even explained fully to Michel what he was, that one would hear none of it. The Monastery was renamed at the behest of the reigning pope after the Edward king demanded it, and of all the tapestries and paintings Brother Michel did, that was the most galling. He did have a massive amount of talent, though. The end result of his encouraging that sort of talent was some of the most beautiful artwork outside of Italy. The other and more lasting result of Michel's exuberance was that Brother Timothy usually went around with his hood up; he still thought mortals to be fools in general, but all it would take would be one overly inquisitive fool. The monks here were a good example. Long past were the days when their initiates were the massively ignorant. Most all of the Brothers here had one or more college degrees; some even in scientific fields. Awe them as he did Agnetha? Bullshit. So the more anonymous he could become the better. There was another matter to be resolved as well, but it would have to wait. The bell announcing morning mass pealed, time for another day of prayer and work.
…..he had died; he knew that he did. As if it was not the first time in 150 years. Slowly, by degrees, the fatal wounds healed. Shortly, he was able to totter erect with the assistance of a handy tree. Then he made the mistake of looking around. He knew this was going to happen; Scotland stood no chance against England in open battle; they were at their best only when the Woad raiders were supreme. He wept as he saw many of his friends lying bloody and dead, never to rise again. The pursuit after the rout was ruthless, there had to be many dead. Unmindful of his tattered, bloodstained clothing, Duncan MacLeod burned for something else: Vengeance and slaughter, retribution for those killed today. He knew where one of the instigators lived. He smiled…..