Ettori swung at the Priest, a powerful if inaccurate strike. Retaliating, the Priest brandished his cross at us in defiance causing the beast within me to recoil, but it did not send me to flight as it has sometimes done. Ettori seemed to be equally unmoved by the attempt to drive us off.
Thunder rumbled overhead and the wind began gusting to the point I found it hard to keep myself steady. I fired at the priest but my aim was fouled by the wind, and by his robes. His companion, the brother cowered in the corner. I noted that as he became more afraid, the weather worsened. More was going on than appeared.
I attempted to soothe him with my song, but he was terrified and my song was not strong enough to drive the terror from him. The priest continued his assault on Ettori who did an admirable, if unimaginative, job of holding him at bay. Parry, counter, Parry, strike. The mortal was tiring, and Ettori could likely keep this defence up indefinitely, but the wind had increased in power to the point that church was shaking. Shards of wood from the roof worked their way free and flew; some were lost to the storm and others flung at the ground
Two more arrows became fouled in the priest’s robes, and the brother – Brother Chax I later learned – his terror only intensified. More wood was ripped from the church walls, a beam hitting me a glancing blow. Fortunately, my blood had already answered my call enhancing my strength prior to battle, and I was able to cast the debris aside. A glance behind me told me the village fared worse. Homes flew apart, people screamed or wept.
Enough was enough.
I nocked one final arrow to my bow, called to the beast inside, summoned its murderous fury and fired.
Flying true, the arrow struck the priest in his chest plunging toward his heart. He staggered, blood smearing his robe and pouring from his mouth. He gasped a knowing laugh at us as he fell.
Ettori took that opportunity to attempt one of his arts. “The Tithe to Cardiff is missing, and your church shows no holy symbols! Speak your treason and heresy! Confess!”
It is the given gift of some kindred to be able to command obedience with simple eye contact and a phrase, or a word. Lasombra are known to wield such arts.
“This is the Wrath of God, child of Caine! You know not with what you meddle!”
He can defy the mind bending arts, and he said child of Caine. This was indeed alarming. I have never heard of a priest referring to us as anything other than damned, or demons if they are particularly unimaginative. That he referred to the first of our kind is alarming. Torn from its hinges, the front door of the church struck me, the handle digging into my back, shaking me from my thoughts. Such wool-gathering would have to wait. Ignoring the screams of the villagers, though it pained me to do so, I ran to Chax and told him, “All is not as it appears. I need you to be calm. You will not be harmed. I give you my word.”
The wind was dying down, though the damage had already been done. The church no longer stood nor did most of the village. Screams had been replaced with sobbing, and the cries of the wounded.
“Your flock will need your leadership. There are wounded. Can you be strong for them?”
“Can you go speak to them, help them through this crisis?”
Raising a shaky hand he pointed at Ettori. “Wouldn’t he be better? He’s a full priest.”
“What do you think, Ettori? A flock needs a shepherd. Can you help them?”
“I believe so. Brother Chax, come with me. I believe you can be of assistance.”
Ettori lead Brother Chax to the street. Those surviving villagers looked at his askance. “The Father Alun is dead, found engaging in heresy.”
A man of the village, a headman I suspect and one of the few able bodied healthy men remaining, approached Ettori. “Are you come from Cardiff?”
“Will Cardiff aid us in our time of need?”
“I will communicate your request for assistance, however, the Tithe is overdue. What has happened here is God’s will. Should the tithe resume, I am sure aid will be forthcoming.”
Ettori is no diplomat. I decided that an intervention was necessary before the village decided to bury us in a shallow grave. “What Father Ettori means is, of course Cardiff will help. It wants nothing more to have Nefyn return to the fold. You have my word, your needs will be heard and met. But we have an errand, and must determine what happened with the tithe.”
Brother Chax was shaking his head. “Father Alun always handled the tithe. I don’t know…”
Watching Ettori preach to the flock, I decided it was time to pay Brother Chax the respect of being direct with him. I dragged him to the graveyard. The prince’s men were unearthed by the storm, the ghastly countenance of the recently deceased an accusatory reminder that all was not as it appeared.
“You need to start talking Brother. Cardiff will send aid. If I tell them that two of their own met untimely deaths here, they’ll also send soldiers. Start. Talking.”
“Father Alun! It was all Father Alun! He said they were spies, turned the village against them…”
His prattling faded as I noticed something. The bodies, now fully exposed, had no visible wounds on them. Certainly nothing that indicated death at the hands of an angry mob. I felt something shift and change behind me, and then I heard a voice, deep and terrifying.
“It seems my deception has been, shall we say, unearthed.”
Brother Chax was changing before my eyes. Radiating power, he grew two wings of black feather, and increased in size to standing more than head and shoulders above. His countenance was beautiful and terrible, lithe and muscular. His grin was one of the most terrifying things I had ever seen “We will meet again.”
He shot up into the air, faster than the fastest of horses and I could do nothing, not even cry out. The survival instinct of my beast had overruled reason and had sent me scurrying for the shadows.
Ettori found me, later, trying to dig a hole that I could climb into and hide. Applying the same finesse he had used on the crowd, he calmed me with an open handed slap. Under other circumstances, that would warrant reprisal but I can only thank him in these circumstances.
“Neighbour, we have a new problem.”
With barely fours until dawn, we left. We reiterated the promise of support of Cardiff, and I personally committed to returning to aid in the reconstruction. If the followers of Christ won’t provide adequate help, then a spirit of the forest will…
As we left Nefyn, I heard that thing’s voice in my mind again.
“We will meet again, small creature…”
Neither of us spoke for the entire return journey. Ettori didn’t even pray.
As we reached one of the mile markers outside Cardiff, I spotted a falcon circling above. I had been looking for birds of prey for several miles, and sure enough there it was. Circling at night, where it had no business being. I called it, and it came.
“Hello friend. Do you know Menw?”
It shrieked a yes. “Good. Tell him a storm has destroyed Nefyn and the villagers need aid. Tell them that the priest invoked some form of holy spell, and is dead. Tell him that the Brother Chax is responsible for the deaths of the Prince’s men, and that he grew wings of black feather and flew away. Do you understand?”
It shrieked yes, and left its perch on my wrist. “The Prince will now be alerted to our news.”
We arrived in Cardiff with no difficulty. I was pleased to note a relief column of riders, soldiers, craftsmen and priests was already leaving for Nefyn as we arrived, made all the more impressive given it was one hour before dawn. We were ushered into the Cathedral, and taken to the Library.
The Library was a huge circular room, stretching over multiple levels. And the walls were lined with books. Hundreds of them. Thousands. I didn’t know so many volumes existed! We were led to the apex, where there was a small office. The Prince, Daeryn and Menw were present. The Prince and Daeryn were poring over books when we entered.
Emrick acknowledged us upon our arrival. “You’re back, good. We have much to do.”
“We do,” I said, “My condolences on the loss of your men. We have bigger problems.”
The Prince favoured me with a smile. “Yes we do. Daeryn has been researching since you sent word ahead.”
“It is bad, your majesty. I believe Ethan encountered an Archangel, which would be terrible in the short term. Or a Higher order Demon, which in many ways would be worse.”
“Why would it spare me?”
Daeryn held my gaze. “That is an excellent question.”
The Prince stood. “I must ask for your aid once more. This thing could come back and we will need every able individual to fight it off. I must insist you remain here, should your assistance be required in the defence of Cardiff.”
It was approaching dawn anyway, but, “Majesty I wish to help with the recovery of Nefyn.”
“That is admirable but there are craftsmen already assigned to that labour.”
“I realise. But I gave my word I would return, and help.”
Ettori butted in, “They will need guidance too.”
“Priests have already been dispatched to provide guidance and aid. Dandrain will go tomorrow. Your skills will be better used here.”
He was probably right. “Very well, Majesty. Do you have a place we can sleep?”
Emrick nodded. “There are quarters beneath the church. My men will show you.”
Ettori and I were led into the crypts, and given chambers. And the day claimed us.
The Mycroft Journals is a serialised fiction, written in response to a roleplaying game I play in. It serves multiple purposes. It acts as a permanent reminder of what happened in the story (so, it helps us players), it acts as an advert for the game, and I think our Games Master has provided us with a compelling story, which other people should get to experience.
Featured artwork is by Barry Martin. Check out his page