May 25, 2001
Beaming, newly-commissioned Lieutenant Dean M. Winchester of the United States Marine Corps made his way through the crowd to his wife, parents, and brother. The first person on either side of the family to go to college, Dean had just graduated summa cum laude from the Naval Academy with a major in mechanical engineering and was looking forward to some time off before moving to Camp Lejeune and starting his hitch with the 2D Combat Engineer Battalion. Sam was about to graduate from Lawrence High School himself the next weekend, and they'd promised each other a cross-country road trip in Dean's black '67 Impala before Sam started to Stanford on a full scholarship in the fall.
It was the third happiest day of his life, after Sam's birth and his marriage to his high school sweetheart two years earlier.
Amanda found Dean first, and after she'd kissed him until their unborn son kicked hard enough to make her stop, John pulled him into a hug and rumbled "So damn proud of you, son" in his ear. Mary was crying and laughing all at the same time as she took her turn, and Dean nearly joined her in crying for joy. Then he looked over at Sam, who was grinning in that way that meant he had a surprise.
"Dude," said Sam, "look who's here!"
Dean looked—and gasped. "Uncle Gabe! Uncle Cas! You made it!"
"Of course we did, Deano," replied Uncle Gabe. "You didn't think your guardian angels would miss your graduation, did you?"
Dean laughed and hugged each of his 'uncles' in turn. They weren't blood, of course, and neither was Uncle Bobby, who couldn't get time off from his salvage yard in Sioux Falls to come; but Gabe and Cas had moved to the Winchesters' neighborhood just before Dean was born and had befriended John and Mary, who named them as godfathers for Dean and Sam, and they'd been looking out for both boys ever since. They were a little weird, what with Uncle Gabe's addiction to candy and Uncle Cas' tendency to wear a trench coat everywhere he went, and nobody knew much about them beyond the fact that they were brothers, but Dean loved them anyway.
Uncle Cas smiled that strange little smile of his as he looked Dean in the eye and said gravely, "You've done very well, Dean."
"Thanks, Uncle Cas." Dean clapped him on the shoulder and went back to put an arm around Amanda's shoulders. "So, when do we eat?"
Meanwhile, 35 miles away in Ilchester, the coroner's van was leaving St. Mary's Convent, and a detective was finishing taking statements from the shaken sisters.
"He started mumbling during the Lord's Prayer," the elderly British nun he was interviewing explained, "and that's when I noticed that the statue of Our Lady was weeping blood. I couldn't think what might be wrong... and then... oh, please don't think I'm mad, Leftenant, but he turned around, and his eyes were white! No iris, no pupil, just white as they could be. And he started saying the strangest things about his father's will, and this knife just appeared in his hand, and he smiled... such an evil, evil smile. So unlike our dear Father Lehne—he's been with us for thirty years, and never has he acted like that before."
The detective was skeptical, but he prompted, "And that's when the other man walked in?"
"Oh, no. He didn't walk in. He was just there behind the altar, and he had an old gun in his hand, and he shot Father Lehne and disappeared." She leaned forward. "And the queer thing was the way Father Lehne died. He lit up from the inside, almost like he was on fire. But the gun looked like an ordinary revolver."
"Did the shooter say anything?"
"Just one word. 'Alastair.' And Father Lehne turned as if he'd been called by name—only that wasn't his name, you know, it was Fred. And Father Lehne looked most surprised and started to say something, but the other man shot him."
"What did he say?"
"Well, he didn't get very far. It was a guttural kind of sound, though, and I thought it was a 'guh,' but it might have been a 'kuh.'"
"Hm." The detective made a note. "Anything else you can remember?"
The nun thought for a moment. "I did think I might have heard wings flapping when the man disappeared, but I don't suppose it means anything."
"Probably not," the detective agreed. "Thank you, Sister."
The nun left, and the detective sighed as his partner entered the office.
"Still the crazy story?" asked the other man.
"Yeah. White eyes and weeping statues and assailants that appear out of nowhere. What's Doc Hembry got?"
"Not much yet, but it looks like an oddball caliber, like a .28."
The detective blinked. "They said it was an old revolver... what, an 1836 Colt Paterson?"
"Yeah, could be. And—get this—there was some kind of sulfur residue on the padre's lips."
"Nope. Raw sulfur. Like he'd been drinking the stuff."
The detective shook his head and gathered his notes.
"You know," his partner said casually, "they say this place was built over a hellmouth. Supposed to keep a lid on Lucifer's cage."
The detective rolled his eyes. "Catholics. C'mon, let's get some lunch."
"Nah, you go ahead. I'm gonna look around, see if I can figure out how that shooter got away so fast."
Once the detective was out the door, however, his partner's eyes turned a furious black from corner to corner. Alastair wasn't supposed to die! The Colt was locked away in Daniel Elkins' safe, and the angels were in Annapolis! This was supposed to be their one chance to get through to their Father without attracting attention! How could Castiel have wrecked everything again?
And yet, if Alastair's death had caused the angels to relax their guard on the convent... this might be the right time after all. She—for the spirit had once been a woman—could perhaps take advantage of the situation. She knew the spell, in part because she was the only one of Alastair's apprentices whom he could trust to watch his back, what with the lower ranks preparing for some delicious disaster coming up in September and Crowley being too involved with the crossroads division to even care about the Apocalypse. She had the nuns' trust; the angels were off with the Winchesters...
Slowly, sinisterly, the demon sometime known as Meg began to smile. She had work to do.
Explicit Gestum Angelorum Gabriel et Castiel Fratrorumque Decanum et Samuel
—aut est hoc?
This started out as a response to a prompt by bellatemple on i_speak_tongue's Looking Glass comment-fic meme ("Dean v. some kind of big time old magic beast, a giant or a basilisk or a griffin or some such. Mirror: Oh, hey, he's actually a medieval knight."), but Gabriel wasn't really satisfied with the version I wrote there, especially once Season 6 started going off the rails mythologically. So this is what came out. Many thanks to jennytork for the beta and the brainstorming help!
One thing that made me sad as I was writing this story was realizing that no matter what horrors the twelfth-century hunters faced... humans were the threat that made them want to stay home. Society in the twenty-first century may be far from perfect, but it's a whole lot better than it used to be.
Deliberate AU Points
Peerage – No, there wasn't a baron named John of Winchester or a self-styled Geoffrey, Earl of Hampshire. Just go with it. (FitzUrse, however, was the real baron of Bulwick, though I have no idea if he was as much of a brute as most of his peers seem to have been.)
The Eagle and Child – In RL, the Eagle and Child was (apparently) not founded until the 17th century, and the name comes from a story depicted in the crest of the Earl of Derby. But the Oxford pub's scholarly associations, especially with the Inklings, make it as good a model for this AU's 12th-century Roadhouse as any other.
Mary's exorcism – Those are indeed the opening words of the Rituale Romanum exorcism, but the best period piece from the Celtic Rite I can find is an exorcism of water from the Lorrha-Stowe Missal, which also opens with "Exorcisamus te," so I felt safe going with a version SPN fans would recognize.
Robin Hood – Not that I want to set up John or Dean as the "real" Robin Hood, especially since it's far too early for them to cross swords with Prince John, but the echoes and allusions (at least to the Errol Flynn version!) are intentional.
Deliberate Non-AU Points
Omens and Robber Barons – Manuscript E of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is an absolute gold mine for post-Conquest history and major supernatural stuff. The St. Lawrence Day flood in 1125 is real, as is the comment in the annal for 1137 about the state of despair at the lawless behavior of the barons under King Stephen (and that is my own translation). And while technically not an omen, the currency forgery problem was real and resulted in the guilty mint-men being deprived of certain important pieces of their anatomy.
Jews – There was a sizeable contingent of Jews living in Winchester in the Middle Ages, and it was one of the few cities in England where the Jews were treated consistently well; in fact, from what I've read, it was the only place where anti-Jewish riots didn't break out in the panic after Richard I's coronation. So it's not outside the realm of possibility that African-Spanish Jews who weren't willing to live under Islamic/Turkish rule would flee to a place like Winchester.
The Second Crusade – I chose this crusade partly because of its timing—Rievaulx was a good place to send Samuel, given both his love of learning and his likely desire to join an order that was serious about serving God, and the great abbot Aelred had just accepted the post when the Second Crusade started—and because Bernard of Clairvaux, who had been coerced into preaching the crusade on the Continent, blamed its failure on the immoral behavior of the noblemen who went on it. What better cover for both a non-believer like John and a demon like Azazel?
Mary mac Duibne – Evidently the Campbells can trace their lineage to the family Mac Duibne.
Father Seamus – Jim Murphy being an Irish name, it makes sense for his alt-historical counterpart to be an Irish priest.
Dean – There are two possible etymologies for this name. One is the late Latin decanus, a leader of ten men, which in this period would make the name Decan (and this, I should note, is the tack taken by malkingrey in her astoundingly good Hamlet crossover AU "Elsinore"). The other is the Anglo-Saxon denu, a valley. The latter is the etymology used in Quenya Lapseparma, and it seems more likely to me for this period, since decan appears to have been used solely in a monastic context (at least from its definition in A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by J. R. Clark Hall).
Geoffrey – Not a deliberate reference to JDM or anyone else. It just seemed like a more likely Norman nobleman's name than Fred, Rob, or Mitch.
William de Harvelle – William (or Guillaume) is an established Norman name, and Harvelle seems most likely to be a Francophone surname.
Gwynedd – Well, Missouri had to show up somehow, right? Gwynedd is the name of an ancient Welsh kingdom, and I'm assuming that she's descended from Roman citizens of African extraction who fled to Wales when the Saxons invaded. She might not look as "Moorish" as Rufus after so many generations of intermarriage, but her coloring would likely still be darker than the average Saxon woman.
Cynewulf – Cynewulf was an eighth-century king of Wessex whose exploits are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. His name also means "wolf of the kindred," which is fairly fitting as an alias for John.
Asce – Yep. That's simply the Saxon spelling of Ash.
Cynehunde – Caleb's not a Biblical name I've encountered in medieval literature. That doesn't mean there were no men of this period who were named Caleb, but it made more sense to me to go with a rough translation of the name into Saxon.
Todd – This name comes from a Middle English word for "fox," which in Spanish is el zorro—and I picture Dean's mask looking a lot more like the mask worn by Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro than like Batman's mask. (Battmann in both Old and Middle English would have meant someone who carries a club.)
Tamar – "Tammi," of course, is too modern, but assuming it's either the demon's right name or her preferred alias, and knowing that she was making deals at least as early as the Black Death (if Ruby told the truth), this is the most likely version of the name she would use before the modern era.
Wintanceaster – This was the name of the city prior to the Conquest (spelling per Introduction to Old English by Peter S. Baker).
Ledecester – This was the Saxon name of Leicester, which is the earldom to which Hamilton belonged—and if you've read the Different Roads AU, you know that Hamilton is the fanon surname for Caleb that Enola and I settled on.
Grentabrige – One of two twelfth-century forms of the town name that would eventually become Cambridge.
This being only eighty years or so after the Conquest, and French still being primarily the language of the nobility, the actual English language spoken by most people would not yet resemble the Middle English of Chaucer and Gower. John and Dean, being proudly Saxon, would favor a dialect that stayed as close to Old English as possible. Samuel, being proudly educated in both Latin and French, would incorporate far more Latinate words into his everyday English speech, not counting the random bits of actual Latin that academics still have a tendency to throw out as proof of their education. Although I've gone with a deliberately archaic style of Modern English for the sake of readability (and writeability, to be honest—I'm not up to composing in Middle English yet!), I've tried to choose my wording carefully to reflect the differences between Sam and Dean's acquired dialects. Devil vs. demon may be the most obvious example—the Greek-derived word demon did exist in Anglo-Saxon, but deofol was by far the more common term, as you can probably guess from the compounds above.
And of course, it leaves the door open for "Do thou speak English" to be a running complaint on Dean's part!
Speaking of which (for those who don't know), thou is actually the informal second person singular pronoun in Middle English and early Modern English. Samuel and Dean use it as family; Azazel uses it to talk down to people; older adults use it with Samuel and Dean to show that they still think of them as kids; and when Dean and Joanna start talking to each other as more than friends, they shift from you to thou. Everywhere else, I've defaulted to you (or ye for the plural).
Winchester had been an academic powerhouse since the days of Alfred the Great, so it makes sense to me that John's family would have taken pride in being able to both read and write, if only in English. And that's part of their noble heritage that I can see John making sure to pass on to the boys; it probably wouldn't have taken much for him to get Father Seamus to teach them those basics. But full literacy in those days would have meant having those skills not just in English but also in Latin. So Dean, not having the patience for Latin, would have been considered illiterate despite knowing how to read.