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1

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AmitBobrov
Allrightsreserved.Nopartofthisbookmaybetranslated,
reproduced,storedinaretrievalsystemortransmitted,inany
formorbyanymeans,electronic,photocopying,recordingor
otherwise,withoutpriorpermissioninwritingfromtheauthor
andpublisher.
ISBN:9789655501469
Internationalsoledistributor
AmitBobrov

Dedicatedto
JulieFaithOwen
Mynumberonefan

Contents

Prelude

I
FirstDayinDrentwych

II
IvartheSmith

III
Ingrid

IV
TheThornsofLove

V
PathoftheTavernWarrior

VI
PathoftheSoldier

VII TheMadnessofWar

VIII TheLifeofRaymondBrooks

IX
TheCasualtyofMurder
X
Jaunee

XI
SeekandYouShallFind

XII ScumoftheEarth

XIII ManofaMission

XIV SimontheThief

XV JauneesStoryContinues

XVI AFinalResolution

XVII SelfLoathing

XVIII TheStoryofaMan

XIX TheValueofGold

XX WhenAllHellBreaksLoose

XXI Aftermath

XXII JauneesStory:TheMagician

XXIII Jaunee&RaysStoryComesTogether
XXIV RaysStoryContinues

XXV TheEarthquakes

XXVI ModernDay,EighteenMonthsAgo

XXVIIAFewDaysAgo

5
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23
31
36
51
60
64
76
87
99
116
127
135
142
147
155
185
189
199
218
228
241
257
259
286
308
313

Prelude

AreyousureI'minterviewingtherightperson?Asked
theinterviewerthroughthemicrophoneonherblouse
signalingwithherhandtocutthecameras."Thisteenagegirl
couldn'tpossiblybesheadded.Shelookedagainatthe
personbeforeher,blinkingtwicetomakesureshewasnt
imagining.Uponthechairbouncedapetiteteenagegirl,
smilingcharmingly.Sheseemedordinarytotheinterviewer
beautifultobesure,butordinary;nothingbutgrayedhairto
signifyJaunee'strueage.Thecameramannoddedhisapproval;
itwasher.Shehadachiseledheartshapedface,almost
symmetric,andherskinwasofpalecomplexion,without
blemish.Asshewasdrawnbyamasterartistratherthanborn.
Wereitnotforthesadnessinhereyes,andtheworrylines
aroundherlipsanyonecouldeasilymistakeherforfantasyin
flesh.Shehoweverwasverymuchaliveandtryingherbestto
putonashow.
Soah,JauneeTheinterviewerbegannervously,
sippingaglassofwater.
YesMaamrepliedJauneewithaslightFrenchaccent.
Youretheworldssmartestwomanaccordingtothe
Guinnessbookofrecords.Theinterviewersaid.
SoI'vebeentold,Jauneerepliedwithaconfidentsmile.
Andthatyou'reascientist,aphilanthropistandah
Theinterviewersighednervously.
Athousandyearoldmonster?Itsokay.Youcansayit.
Jauneecompletedtheinterviewerssentence.
Youdon'tlooklikeamonster,theinterviewerreplied
awkwardly.

AndImnotreally.Imjustnothumanbutonceweget
pastthat,youllseeI'mjustlikearegularperson.Imean,Ilove
coffeeinthemorning,IdoyogaIvealsobeenaliveforavery
long,longtime.Jauneesaidcheerfully,tryingtodispelthe
tensefeelingintheair.Shecouldheartherapidheartbeatof
boththeinterviewerandthecameraman;heartheirfrightened
littlethoughts;smellthefearandadarkpartofherlovedit.
Shetookadeepbreathandclosedhereyes.Shemustremain
hereandnow,it'sheronlychance.
Soyou'reimmortal?Askedtheinterviewer,tryingto
dispelthetensionintheairaswell.
Notforlong,repliedJauneewitheventones,hiding
herownfearsofwhatshehadjustadmitted.Shewasdyingand
therewasntmuchleftforhertodo,exceptthisfinishwhat
herstepfatherhadbegunbutneverbeenabletocomplete.
Wouldyoucaretoelaborate?"
"Aboutmyhealth?Non.Sufficetosaythateventhe
immortal,thepowerfulandthewisecannoteludethetouchof
deathforever.AndIhavestillmoretoaccomplishbeforeIhave
drunkmyfillofthecupoflife."Jauneesaidthenbrightenedup
andaddedinmorecheerfultones"SoYou'vegotyourselfan
immortalwhohaslivedforathousandyears,willingtotalk.
Arewegoingtotalkaboutmyhealth,favoritecinematicsor
aboutstuffthatmatters?
"Idon'tthinktheaudiencehaseverheardthestoryof
peoplelivingforthousandsofyears.Theinterviewersaid.
"Exactly"Jauneeadded.
"Whyisthat?"Theintervieweraskedincalmertones,
excitementreplacingfear.
Wellinoursociety,secrecyisanimperative.Itisthe
onelawwhichweallabideby.Youseetheresalotthepublic
doesn'tknow;wholeworldshiddenfromyoureyes.Itslikethe
motherofallconspiraciesandjustabouteveryoneinpoweris
involved.Imadeadpersonjustbytalkingtoyou,butImdying
anywayso,youknowJauneeexplainedgettingexitedherself.
6

Soisthiswhyyou'redoingthis,confessing,breaking
therules,tellingusmortalswhat'sreallygoingon?The
interviewerasked.
Noactually,yousee,ineverypastinstancewhere
letscallustheothers.Imean,youllprobablycallus
supernatural,butwerenotreallysupernatural.Anyhow,
wheneverwetrieditinthepast,italwaysescalatedintoawar.
Wheneveryoutriedrevealingthetruth?The
interviewerasked.
Oui,wheneveranyonetriedtorevealthetruth;to
createadifferentsociety,itjustdidn'twork.Humanitycanbe
leftwingliberaluntilitrealizesitsnotatthetopofthefood
chain.Theonlytimeyoullseethewholeofhumanitycome
togetherforajointcauseiswhenoneofustriestomake
contactonagrandscale.Swordsaredrawnandbloodisspilled,
oursandyours.Besides,itsnotlikehumanityortheothersare
unified.Inmanywayswearejustasdiverseasyouare.Thereis
nosinglegovernment,orasinglebeliefsystem.Mosthumans
wouldhaveusalldestroyedtomaintainthedominanceoftheir
species,regardlessofthebenefitspeaceoffers.I'msureyoucan
wellimaginehowdiversityandpowerconjoinandthen
escalateintochaosandwar,Jauneesaid.
Sowhyareyoudoingthisnow;escalatingthewhole
worldintochaos?Didn'tyousayyou'reapeacelovingcreature
beforethisinterview?Theinterviewerasked,angryand
frustratedatwhatshewashearing.Acreepingthoughtentered
herhead:whentheinterviewisoverdestroytherecordings
andreportthisdyingteenagegirltosomeone,anyone.Withall
duerespecttoprofessionalintegrity,she'snotabouttothrow
thestonethatwouldopenWorldWarIII,justtosatisfyher
professionalpride.Alargepartofherwantedtodisbelievewhat
shewashearing,andshebegantorationalizeherself.It'sa
hoax,orchestratedbyaseventeenyearoldgirl.

"Isympathizewithyourfeelings,truly."Jauneesaidsadly
"Howeverthisisnohoax,it'sreal.I'mnotseventeenorseventy
orevensevenhundredforthatmatter."Jauneerepliedtothe
thoughtsinDaina'shead.Inturntheinterviewer'sexpression
turnedtothatofafrightenedmouse.
"PleasecalmdownMa'am,IhadtodemonstrateSiddhi,
whatyouwouldcallmagictoprovethevalidityofmyclaim.I
assureyou.Youwillleavethisinterviewverymuchaliveandin
goodhealth."JauneesaidandDainacalmeddown,transfixed
byJaunee'seyes.'Iwillleavethisinterviewverymuchalive'she
repeatedinhermind.
"WherewasI?"Dainaasked.
"YouwereaskingwhyI'mdoingthisinterview,telling
theworldwhat'sreallygoingon."Jauneereplied.
"Right,Ikindoflostmytrainofthoughtforamoment,
thanks.sowhydidyou?"Dainaasked.
Iwashidinginplainsight,withthatwholeWorld's
smartestpersonroutine.Butthefactofthematteristhatwe
arenotalone;asinhumansarefarfrombeingtheonlysapient
speciesoutthere.Andsomethingsareuninterestedin
emancipation,peaceorevenworlddomination,Jaunee
replied.
Soyou'retellingusthisinpreparationforthe
apocalypse?Theinterviewerasked.
Itdoesn'thavetoescalatethatfar.Mystepfather
Raymond;hewroteaJournalasawaytorevealustothe
generalpublictoshowthatthereisnoreasontopanic;we've
livedalongsideofyousincethedawnofmankindandyou'reall
stillherethriving.Hebelieveshumanityismatureenoughto
knowthetruth.Jauneeexplained.
Wait,areyouimplyingwellbecausingthe
apocalypse?Dainaasked,deeplytroubled.
Onceyouknowwhat'sgoingon,withyouradvanced
weaponry,youholdthepowerandtheresponsibilitytomakea
difficultchoice.Jauneeexplained.
"Whatchoiceisthat?"Sheasked.
8

"Willyoudestroyus,thenbedestroyedbywhatmay
comenext,orwillyoustandwithus,bravelyforgingafuture.
WehavesomuchtoofferIhavesomuchtooffer.Icanopen
newhorizonsforscientificandmedicaladvancement.Ican
teachyousomanythingsthatwerelosttothepagesofhistory.
I'vebeentoplacesyoucouldn'tevenimagine.Thechildrenof
AdamandLilithcanfinallyforgeacovenanttogether.
Resolvingstrifebornbeforeourdaysinthesun.Wecouldhave
peace!"Jauneesaidpassionately,andconcentrateddeeply.
Whileshehatedmanipulatingminds,therewastoomuchat
stake.Forthistowork,theinterviewerhadtofocusonthe
positive.
[AdamEveLilithisthebibletrue?]
Wait,Adam,Lilith?Thatsfromthebible.Aretheyreal?
Imean,isthebibletrue?Dainaasked,ignoringJaunees
focusedgazeandthesweatstreamingdownherbrow.
Finallyagoodquestion.JauneeBegan,Some
revelationsaretrue,buttheyweregiventoprimitivemen.You
couldntreallyexplaintheUniverse,QuantumPhysicsand
AdvancedMedicinetopeoplewhobarelyknowhowtostarta
fire.Soyoutellthemyoucomefromthesky,tellthemtobe
goodpeople,nottomurderandstealandtoresteveryfew
days.GodorGodsexist,ItorTheyaresuperiorbeingswho
desirethewellbeingofinferiorlifeforms,likeyouhumansshow
compassiontodogsandcats,butinamoresophisticatedway.
WhataboutAdam,Eve,Buddha,youknow?Diana
asked,tryingtounderstandwherescienceandfaithcome
together.
Someofthemarereal,thoughlikeGreekMythology
fact,parableandfictioncametogethertoformmyriadideas,
someofthemreflectingthecultureofthetime,others
universaltruths.Jauneereplied.
Whataboutmagic?Dianaasked.
Manipulationoftheself,othersortheenvironment
throughritualoractofwill,entirelypossible.Shootingfireballs
fromyourfingertips,moreofaHollywoodfab.Jauneereplied.
9

HowdoIknowanyofthisistrue?Dianaasked.
Youconductresearch.Jauneereplied.
Verywell,canIaskyouaboutRaymond?Hewaskilled,
washenot?Wherewasyourmagicthen?Theinterviewer
askedbluntly.
Oui,hewas;andIcouldntsavehim.Imnotall
powerfulyouknowJauneerepliedsadly.
Willyoutellusaboutit?Theinterviewerasked.Jaunee
tookadeepbreath,tryingtomaintainconcentrationdespite
thethrobbingmigraineandshewondered;wouldshegetto
finishthetale,orwouldshediehere,tonight,being
interviewedbythemedia.Itwassomethingshedlongedtodo
fordecadesnow;tellthetruth.Intheend,sheknew,this
interviewerwouldbeleftwithaterriblechoice;aburdenfew
couldhandle.
***
Notlongagomystepfatherdied,andonthatdayBenny
approachedourhousecarefully,avoidingdryleavesandtwigs
carefullywithhisfeet,ashedbeentrained.Coveringhisarmy
gear,woreblackcamouflagetrousers,ashirtandalongcoat.It
wasthemiddleofthenight,andeveryonehadretiredtothe
safetyoftheirhomes.Theydidnotrealizethatwe,my
stepfatherandI,hadmadeourhomeamongstthem,
pretendingtobehuman.Thesettlementwhichmyfatherchose
tocallhomewasnestedinasecludedlocation,farfromany
majorcity.Smallhousesandcaravanscoexistedamongsta
naturalforestwhichpredatedthesettlement.Raymond,my
stepfatherhadlovedthecountrysidesettingswhileIIloved
Raymond,andsochosetosharehishomebeforemyown
demise.

10

Asfarasthekillerofmyfatherwasconcerned,thiswas
theidealplaceformonsterstomaketheirhome.Ashemade
hiswaytoourhome,hisheartraced,poundinginhisears.He
feltalivenowforthefirsttimesincehisbrotherdied.The
freezingNovemberwind,andeventheheavyfog,hindering
sight,andgivingthesettlementahauntedlookdidnotdeter
thekiller.Hewasdeterminedtofinishthetaskhehadstarted
earlierthatnight.Hewouldfind,andkill,metoo.
Bennywasapproximatelythirtyyearsold.Hisfeatures
wouldhavebeenhandsomehadhenotneglectedhimself.A
fewyearsago,beforehisbrotherdied,hewasquitepopular
withtheladies.Hisrsumincludedserviceasasniper,lateran
officerinthearmyandlaterstillacareerasapolicedetective.
Themanwassmart;onemightevensayagenius.Hewas
clever,fastandstrong,comingfromasuccessfulmilitary
family.Asaresultofthemanyblessingsbestoweduponhim,
hewasnotusedtofailure.Hewasnotusedtolosing.Hewas
notusedtonotgettingwhathewanted.Hisbrother'sdeath
andthepoliceinvestigationleadingnowherewasthefirsttime
therisingstarexperiencedthedarknessofthisworld,andit
fracturedhim.
Unabletocopewiththeloss,ourherodecidedtocrack
thecaseandbringthemurderertojustice,andsolikeaman
possessed,hemadehisowninquiriesleavingnostone
unturned.Itisuncertainexactlywhenthispossessedhunter
discoveredtheexistenceofsupernaturalcreaturesintheworld.
Iwouldassumeayoungandweakcreaturegotcarelessand
madetheirexistenceknowntoBenny.Thatwaslikelythefirst
timethedetectivehadkilledsomethingnothuman.
Howhecameabouttheknowledgeofmyfather's
existenceisbeyondme.Whyhewouldthenspendafewyears
trackingdownmyfathertokillhimisevenagreatermystery.I
wouldassumethateitherBennycametotheconclusionthat
weareallmonsters,andmyfatherisoneofmany.Orworse,he
believedmyfatheristhekillerofhisbrother,theonehewas
trulyafter.
11

Regardlessofthechoiceswhichledhimthisfar,hewas
determinedtoinvadeourhomeandslayanyoneresidingthere.
Thefallenherodrewhisgunandcheckedthemagazinefor
ammunition.Heholsteredhisgunagainandmadesurethe
leatherholsterwassuppleenoughandreadyforaquickdraw.
HethenmadesurehisKevlarvestwassecurelyfastened,and
thathisgrenadeswereallwheretheyshouldbewithineasy
armsreach.Skimaskon,hecarefullymadewaytothe
seeminglyabandonedhouse.
Thehousewasslightlylargerthantherestandasthe
sniperapproached;histrainedeyespottedhiddencameras
nestingamongstthetreessurroundingthehouse.Theywereall
madeuselessashesabotagedthepowersupplypriortomaking
hisassault.TherecouldbenomistakesasfarasDetective
Strauswasconcerned.Hewasameremortal,andI,anancient
andpowerfulmonster.Heknewwithoutadoubtthateventhe
tiniestofmistakeswouldleadtohisinevitabledemise.Partof
himlongedforthatoutcome.Partofhimlongedtobefreeof
thehatred,thepain,worryandsorrowthathischosenlifestyle
hadbroughttohislife.Secretlyheyearnedtodie,butnot
beforehetookasmanyofuswithhimtothegraveaspossible.
Entrythroughthedoorseemedimpossibleitwastoo
sturdyandthelocktooadvanced.Coldnitrogenprovedan
efficienttoolinbreakingthewindowbars.Hewasinsidethe
housewithinmoments,silentlikeatrainedassassin.He
carefullydrewhisgunandpreparedforwhatmightcome:I
wouldawaken;Iamalreadyawake;Iwouldsensehim.Luckily
forhimtheworsthadyettohappen.
Themortalmanstrainedtohearsomethinganything,
butthelivingroomwasassilentasagrave.Thefurniturewas
handcarved,notthatprefabricatedjunkeverybodyseemsto
fancynowadays.Everythingappearedtobeorderlyandclean,
anditwashardforanyonetobelievecenturyoldmonsters
livedinthishouse.Foraninstantourheropausedtoconsider
theramificationsofhisactions,andthechoicesthatleadhim
downthisbloodypath.
12

Thisisnothowthisonceproudmanenvisionedhislife.
Whenhegrewuphewantedtobeanairforcepilot.Henever
onceevenimaginedthatattheageofthirty,he'dbeavigilante
hunter,trackingdownandkillingmonsters,fightingsome
invisiblewarthevastmajorityofhumanityisn'tawareof,and
stubbornlyrefusedtobemadeawareof.ThevariousTVshows
andmoviesneveronceexpressedthetruehorrorandfear
confrontingwhattheunknownsupernaturalworldentails:to
discoverthatthewholeofhumanityislivingalie;thatthe
fabricofsocietyisbeingmanipulatedbyalienmonsters.No
onecouldhelphim;hecouldnotevensharehistalewithout
beingcommittedtoamentalhospital.Herealizedhewasall
alone;hisbrotherdead,andnotasinglepersoninthewhole
wideworldknewthetruthandperhapsneverwill.
Theburdenofhismiserywastoomuchforhimto
handle.Heshovedthestraythoughtsaway,lockingthemdeep
behindwallsofhatred,prideandpain.Hecheckedthathisgun
wasreadytofireagain.
Notimeforselfpity,Bennyreasoned.It'stimeforthe
hunt.
Hecheckedthekitchen;itwasafancykitchenwitha
professionalstoveandavarietyofchef'scookingtoolsneatly
organized.Thenhecheckedthefridgenohumanbodyparts,
nounusualfoodstored.Thedetectivebreathedasighofrelief.
Gunleadingtheway,hecheckedthepantrytomakesure
petite,littlemewasn'thidingthere.Again,foodproductswere
neatlyordered.Nothingoutoftheordinary.Hecheckedthe
upstairsbedrooms.Theywereneatlyorderedandcleanedout
ofanypersonalbelongings.Thatwaswhenourcleverdetective
realizedIhadprobablyknownhewascoming,andmadesure
toleaveahousedispossessedofallevidenceastoourexistence.
Hewasrightatsomething.

13

Imadeasinglemistakethough.Inmyhurry,Ineglected
toclearthebasementfloor.Hefoundthehatch,andlistened
carefullyforanysignofmovement.Bennydidn'ttrusthis
nightvisiongoggleswellenoughandhadtobeextracareful.
Thebasementhousedtwomorebedrooms,asecondkitchen
andplentyofstoragespace.Itappearedtohimthatthiswas
wherewereallylived,judgingfromthedisarray.
Thehunterwasveryalertnow.AtanymomentIcould
jumphim.Hefoundmybedroomalargerroomwithahand
carvedmedievallookingbed.Theroomwasassilentanddark
asabatcaveatdawn,andheshiveredrealizingjusthowalone
hewas.Inthedarkness,noonewouldhearhimscream.His
breathquickened,andturningleftbehindtheopendoor,he
sawmytoilette,myperfumesandmakeup.Nexttothemwasa
closedbathroomdoor.Turningsharplyrighthesawmycloset.
Hesearchedformeunderthebed,theninthebathroom.
Afterwardsheopenedthecloset.Therewereavarietyof
dressesandsexywomen'swearthere.Somescarves,hatsanda
fewtoomanyshoes.Notingstandardsize,hemusthave
realizedIwasreallysmallorappeartobeinmyteens.
Theotheradjoiningbedroombelongstomylatefather.
Ithousedasimple,singlesizedbed,asmallerclosetandafew
personalbelongings.Theroomappearedmeancomparedtomy
magnificentbedroom.It'strue;Raymondsettlesforthebare
minimumswhilelavishingeverythingagirlcouldeverwanton
me.
ObviouslyIwasn'thiddenthereeither.Therestofthe
threebedroomswerelikewiseempty.

14

Inthelastroomofthehouse,hefoundawritingdesk
withabatteredoldlaptoponitandshelvesfullofbookslining
thewalls.Hecheckedthebooksandreadthetitles.Therewere
somerareeditionnovels,butnooccultbooksandnothingout
oftheordinary.Disappointed,thehunternearlydespaired.He
hadgonethisfar,andkilledacenturyoldbutcher,onlytomiss
hisdemonicdaughterbyacoupleofhours.Silently,heprayed
foramiracle,eventhoughhewasanatheist.Hisprayerswere
apparentlyansweredbythebatteredlaptop.Ashecheckedthe
laptophediscovereditstillhadbatterypowerandno
password.
Bennycarefullysearchedthebrowsinghistory,emails;
anythingthatwouldgivehimahintastomylocation.The
computerwasemptysaveforafewmp3sandadocument
entitledTheJournalsofRaymondBrooks;itwasthelast
openeddocument.Bingo!Ourherohadhitthemotherlode.
Hereasonedthatthestupidmonsterhadleftajournal,no
doubtrecountingtheatrocitieshehadinflictedupon
humanity.
Likeamanpossessed,Bennybeganreadingthejournals
Ihadleft,abouthisfallenadversary,hopingtofindcluesabout
mywhereaboutsandanyothercreaturessuchasmyself.Ileft
himtherereadingthejournalsverymuchaliveandunharmed.
Ittookagreatdealofstrengthonmyparttoleavehimstill
breathingafterwhathehaddone.ThoughI'mnotaviolent
creaturebynature,eventhemostdocileofbeingscanbe
pushedtoextremesgiventhepropercircumstances.IknowI
shouldhavekilledhimthereandthen.However,Iwantedhim
tounderstand.Therewasadireneedinmetoeducatehim,to
makehimunderstandwhatitisthathehasdone,whohehad
killedandwhatmyfathermeanttome.Iwantedhimtoknow
us,andsohelives,andIflewfaraway,perhapslosingmy
chanceforvengeanceforever.
***

15

16


TheJournalsBegin

DearDiary,
Ifyouarereadingthis,thenIfeartheworsthascometo
pass.Ihavesetofftofightanoldworldmonsterofuntold
wickedness,andpresumablyfailed.Withthisjournal,Iwould
liketotellyou,myanonymousreader,aboutme.Bynomeans
doIprofesstobetheallknowingsage.Ishallnotpretendto
holdthesecretsoflifeoreventhewisdomoftheages.ThoughI
havelivedlong,Ihavenotalwayslivedwisely.Thisjournalfor
meisanendtoalongodysseyastoryofhowIgrewfroma
frightenedandangryorphan,intoamythicalfigure,both
frighteningandrevered.
MynameisRaymondBrooksatleastthatsthename
Igobytoday.Myoriginalnamemybirthname,wasAdam.
Imaboutsixfeettall,verystrong,withanathleticbuild,brown
hairandbrowneyes.Ilooklikeoneofthosepeopleyou
wouldntwanttocomeacrosswhenyourealoneatnight,
thoughImalwayspoliteandsociable.Iliveinoneofthe
smallersettlementsinIsraelnow.Forme,itisaretirement,a
closureforaverylongandbloodystory.
***

17

18

CHAPTERIFirstDayinDrentwych

IdliketobeginmystorywithmyarrivaltoDrentwych,
atowninEnglandthatimmigrantsandtheunwantedwashed
intofromwhateverlifetheyhadleftbehind.Manyhopedthata
freshstartinanewplacewouldaltertheirfate.Thatwasthe
hopemyparentsheldintheirheartswhenweboardedtheship
thatwouldtakeusfarawaytothisstrangeandbarbaricland
nowcalledEngland.Asforme,Iwastooyoungatthetimeto
haveanyclearthoughtsregardingthetransition.
IreachedDrentwych,morethanfiftyfiveyearsbefore
theNormanConquest.Then,itthrivedasanimmigranttown.I
sayIbecausemyparentsbecamegravelyillduringthejourney
toEnglandandpassedawayshortlyafterourarrival.Iwasa
boyofeightwintersthen,freshlyorphanedandlost.
Drentwychwaslikeabizarredreamtome,itresembled
nothingIknewinmyhomeland.Thetreesweretoweringand
huge,dwarfinganymanwhostoodbeforethem.The
surroundingstonewallsandtall,armedguardsspeakingin
theirbarbariclanguagegavemeaverystrongfeelingofbeinga
miniaturemansurroundedbymaneatinggiants.Thenthere
werethecold,chillywindsandthesnow.Itwasthefirsttime
Ideverseensnow,andItriedtograbafewflakestostudy,
wonderingallthewhilewhysnowturnstowaterupontouch.I
wastinycomparedtoallofthis.Iwasjustasmallboy.My
parentshadjustdied,andIreallydidnotknowhowtocope
withthatwitheverything.InmyownwayIconcludedthat
peoplearelikesnowflakes;uniqueandfragile.Icouldntreally
thinkaboutanythingelse.

19

Iwalkedratheraimlesslyaroundtown,uncertainofmy
steps,andlackingtheadultdirectionwhichallchildrentakefor
granted.Iwasawed,atfirst,byallthenoveltyaroundme.Yet
asthespelllifted,Isawtheplaceasittrulywas:wretched,just
likemyhomelandonlyinadifferentway.Itwaslikeastory
beingrepeatedbyadullbard,wherethecharactershave
differentnames,andthesceneryisdifferent.Yetsomehow,
theyallplaytheexactsameroleasthesadstoriesyouveheard
before.Asmellybucketful,whichmayormaynothavebeen
dung,pouredoutawindow,brokethespellofchildishwonder.
Inoticedhowthesnowmingledwiththefilth,becomingan
oozing,repulsivesubstancewhichIdidmybesttoavoid.I
nearlybumpedintoastumpfootedmanlyinginthesnowand
wasteprobablyhalfdeadbythelooksofhim.Hewas
coveredheadtotoeinfilthyrags,andunderneaththemhe
woreadirtysoldiersuniform.
Obviouslyhehadbeeninjuredinbattleandlefttobeg
foralms.MyheartwentouttohimandIfeltmyownmisery
morekeenly.TearswelledupinmyeyesandIforcedmyselfto
lookaway,onlytoseeayoungmaidenwitharavenblackmop
ofhair,greenteeth,andaslightlyswollenbellyleaningagainst
adoordyedblue,offeringwhateverhiddenwaresshehadto
offer.Iwonderedastoherwares,andwhysomepeoplegazed
atherwithdisdainwhileothersstudiedherasonewoulda
horse.NeedlesstosayIdidnotrealizethesignificanceofthe
bluedyeddoor.Iactuallyfoundmyselfleaningagainstawall,
staringather,untiltimeandwouldbeclientsmademereach
thesimpleconclusionthatthewaresshewassellingwereher
ownbody.Iknewgirlslikethatinmyhomelandtoo;theywere
shunnedbysocietywhotooknopityonthem.

20

Ihurriedtogetawayfromallthewretchedness,passing
byalargerhousewhenawoodensign,portrayingalargedrink
filledmug,creakedonitshinges,andthenastrangesound
caughtmyattention.Inaditchtotheleftofthehouseaman
leaneddownandvomited,coughingandspitting.Noone
seemedtocare,soItoodecideditbesttoleavehimalone.Ifelt
eversosorryforsteppingfootinthistown.Myparentshad
diedfornothing,Irealized.Thisplaceisnoheaven,butanicy
versionofhell.
Iwanderedaimlesslythroughtown,tooproudtobegfor
foodandrefusingtosubmittothemiserythatsurroundedme.
Inaway,IsawmyselfasAladdin,ayoungidleboywaitingfor
hiswizardtounknowinglyfulfillhisdreams.Inthemerchants
quarterIfinallyrested,toocoldandwearytogoon.Isatona
barrelandwatchedtheworldgoby,waitingforthedreamto
endandformetowakeupbackhome.AtsomepointImust
havefainted,forIwokeupthenextmorninginabed.Aman
whomIrecognizedtobethesmithfromthemerchantsquarter
gavemeabowlofunidentifiedfood.Ithankedhimgratefully
withanodandawarmsmile,andcherishedthefeelingof
warmthinmypalmsasIheldthebowl.
WhenIhadfinishedeatinghetookthebowlandsaid
somethinginhisstrangelanguage.Iheldmypalmsupinreply,
signalingthatIdidnotunderstand.Eventually,afterseveral
awkwardattemptsatconversation,hepointedtohischestand
said,Ivar.Imimickedthegesture,pointingtomychestand
saying,Adam.
Hegesturedformetostayput,pointingatmewithboth
handsandthenpointingdown.Ididasinstructed,andsat
uponabarrelfeelinganimmensesenseofgratitude.Ithought
tomyselfthattherewasindeedoneadmirablemaninSodom.
Ivardescendedsomestairs.Idiscernedthisfromthesoundof
hisfootsteps,andshortlyafterwardsIheardthesoundof
hammeronanvil,andunderstoodthathehadgonetohisplace
ofwork.Irestedforsometime,andthenfollowedhim
downstairs.
21

Iwantedtothankhiminsomeway,soIdecidedIdpay
himbackbyworking.Hisoldfaceseemedsurprisedtoseeme
upashetookabreakfromwork.Ismiledathim,andlooked
abouttheroom.Findingabroom,Icommencedcleaninghis
smithy,purposelyignoringanythinghesaid.Ihadtopayhim
backsomehow,andquitefranklyIalsohadtoprovemy
usefulness,elseIfearedIwouldfallfromhisgoodgraces.He
resumedwork.
AssoonastheplacewascleanIdaredtolookathim.He
pausedhisworkandsmiled,sayingsomethingwhichIbelieve
wasathankyou.Ifoundacornertositinandwaitingforthe
firstsignofworkwhichIcoulddo.ThatdayIlearnedhowto
carrytwowaterbucketsonacaneacrossmyshoulders,aswell
asothermenialtasks.Intheeveningheofferedmefoodagain,
whichItookgratefully,andinthemorningwebothwokeat
dawnandbeganourdailywork.ThatshowIwasadoptedby
Ivar,themanwhobecameafatherfiguretome,whotaughtme
thecommonlanguageofthisstrangenewland,andeventually
hiscraft.Ourrelationshipwasoneoffewwordsinitially,and
manydeeds.
IfthereisanythingIlearnedfromthischapterofmylife
itsthis:Therearetwokindsofpeopleinthisworld,thosethat
hadtheprivilegeoflivingshelteredlives,andthosethathadto
fightforshelter.Regardlessofthecircumstancesofonesbirth,
prosperitycanbeobtainedbythoseoftenaciousnature.
ThoughIdidntappreciateitatthetime,Iwashappyliving
withIvar.

22

CHAPTERIIIvartheSmith
ThreeyearsafterIvarfirsttookmein,mylifechanged
again.
Adam,Ivarbegantheconversation,takingadeep
breathwhenourdaysworkwasdone.
Yes,Master,Ireplied,asIalwaysdidwhenhespoketo
me.
Itsbeen,what,threewinterssinceItookyouin,yes?
Heasked.
Threeyears,Iagreed,andnoddedmyhead.
Andinthistimeyouvegrowntallerandstronger,he
continued.
Thankyou,Ireplied.
Imnotdone,boy,heansweredangrily,soIkeptmy
mouthshut.
Thisisntacomplimentaryconversationbesttobeon
mytoes,Ithought.
Andasyouvegrowntallerandstronger,sohavethe
storiesofyourvariousadventures,hesaidwithasmilethat
hintedthathekneweverything.Iraisedmybrowsinnocently,
silentlychallengingthatknowledge.
YoudontknowwhatImtalkingabout,doyou?He
asked.Ishookmyheadinnocently.
Imtalkingaboutthemillersboyyoubeatuplastweek.
LastIheardhiseyewasswollenshut,andheonlymanagedto
openityesterday,hesaid.
MayIdefendmself?Iaskedinastrainedciviltone,
clenchingmyfistsunderthedinnertable,theinnocentfaade
quicklyfading.
Byallmeans,pleasedo,heanswered,andsmiled,asif
itwereachallengeofsomekind.
IniusMillertriedtonickacoinvichyougavemeto
perchisbread.NowIcouldnthalethimstealfromyoulike
dat,notwithoutafight,Irepliedproudly.
23

Soyouwereactuallyprotectingmefromthemillers
boybyhittinghimsohardthathecantopenhiseyeanymore,
hecommented,playingwithhisthinbeard.Verywell,what
aboutlittleTymonandGerelde,thebutchersboys,twoweeks
ago?Heasked.
Datsnotfer!Deybothmadefunofmenozbeintoo
big.ItolddemIwasborndatway,butdeywouldntstop,I
replied,hopinghewouldceasethislineofconversation.
SoyoubrokeArchiesnoseandintimidatedhislittle
brothersomuchhecouldntstopcryingforhours,Ivarreplied.
Servesemrightformakingfunofminoz!Ireplied,
raisingmyvoicemorethanIintended.Ivarsmiledacrooked
smileasIraisedmyvoice.Bybreakingmycalm,hehadproven
hispoint:ImabullyandImquicktoangerattheslightest
provocation.
Alright,whataboutCalinfromacrossthestreet,what
washiscrime?Ivarasked,leaningforwardonthetable.
Calinstartedit,hestwoyearsolderdanIam.Iwas
fightinformylife,honest!Ireplied,tryingtosoundmorelike
avictim.Damnit,Iknewhewasright,butforthelifeofmeI
didntwanttoadmitit.
Adam,everychildinDrentwychisscaredofcoming
nearyou,hesaidinfatherlytones.
Good!Ireplied,proudofmyaccomplishments.
Evenchildrenbiggerandolderthanyouwouldrather
notcrossyourpath,hecontinued.
DidntknowIleftsuchagoodimpression!Iboasted,
growinghappierstill,thoughIknewitwasntappropriate.
Andnowyouboastofyourbullyinginsteadofasking
forforgiveness.Thatshardlyhonorableofyou,Ivarsaid.
Master,thesepeoplearealltieves,liars,andbullies,and
Itakepride,notshame,inactinoutagainstthem,Ireplied.
Inthatcase,itsgoodthatyousetthemstraight,right?
Heasked.
Ofcourse!Ireplied.
24

Soyourethechampionofthepeople,areyou?He
inquired.
Ishouldhopetobesolucky,Irepliedhappily.
Adam,youspeakwell,Ivarsaid,andchangedhistone.
YoureprobablythetoughestboyinDrentwych.HesaidandI
smiledproudly.Butthisisasmalltownandyourenowarrior.
Youlackawarriorsrestraint,hecontinued,andmysmile
vanished.Awarriorwithoutrestraintisnothingmorethana
bullyatyourage,andashamelessvillainwhenhesolder,Ivar
said.
Wait,I!Ibegan.
Shutup,Imnotdone.Respectyourelders!Ivar
commanded,andIcomplied,clenchingmyteeth.
Olderwarriorsofyourtypeareoftenmurderers,cut
throats,andbrigands,andtheyranklowerthanthievesin
honor,hesaid.
Imnotamurderer!Youwrongme!Irepliedtoo
quickly,raisingmyvoice.
Donotraiseyourvoiceatme.Besilentandlisten,boy!
Heyelledback,andIimmediatelysatdownandloweredmy
eyes.
Adam,youletyouremotionscloudyourjudgment.You
angertooquicklyandstrikeoutattheslightesthintof
provocation.Imtryingtoteachyouhowtobeabetterman,
butyoudontcaretolisten,hesaid,andleanedbackinhis
chair,crossinghishandsinfrontofhischest.
WhateverhappenedtothelostchildIpickedoffthe
street?Heasked,hispridewounded.
Imsorry,Master,Ireplied,trulyashamedofmyself.
Awarriorshouldnotonlybestrongandwinfights,he
mustactwithhonorandresponsibilityatalltimes,Ivarsaid,
andInoddedinmyunderstanding.
Awarriorisabovethecommonman,andshouldact
accordinglywithnobilityandmoreimportantly,withrestraint,
otherwise,hesnothingmorethanarabiddogandshouldbe
dealtwithassuch.Ivarexplained.
25

Iunderstand,Isaid.
Killingiseasy,anybodycankill,Ivarexplained
emotionally,butwhoamongstuscanraisethedead?Who
canbringamanbacktolifeoncehislifessparkhasbeen
extinguished?HeaskedwithapassionIrecognized,onewhich
struckachord.
Asimpleflower,oncecrushed,cannotberevivedeven
bythewisestofmen,hecontinuedasmythoughtswandered
elsewhere.
Youreright,Master,Isaid,andtriedtochokedown
mytears.
Youneedtoconsideryouractionscarefullyandyou
needtotakeresponsibilityforwhatyousayanddo.TheGods
arewatchingusandourancestorsarewatchingus;thinkofthis
beforeyoudishonorthem,hesaid.
Yes,master,Irepliedobediently.
Imnotangryatyouforbeatingthoseboys.Imactually
proudyouregrowingstrong.Imangrybecauseyoumake
shamefulexcusesforyouractions.Imangrybecauseyouallow
yourselftobeweakandtoletyouremotionscontrolyou.That
sortofthinkingissuitableforawoman,notaman,hesaidand
Istaredsilentlyathim.
Now,sinceyouvegrownsostrong,hewentonin
lightertones.Ivedecideditstimetoteachyouhowtofight.
Hesmiled.
Whwhat?Iasked,notsureofwhatIhadjustheard.
Losingourhearinginourvenerableoldage,arewe?I
saidyouvegrownstrongenoughanditstimeyoulearnedto
reallybeaman,sotomorrowafterworkImgoingtoteachyou
howtofight,hesaid.
Thankyou,Master!Ireplied,overjoyed.
Controlyourself,Adam.Youcanneverexpecttomaster
aswordbeforeyouvelearnedtomasterthespiritwhich
commandsittoaction,hereprimanded,angrythatIacted
emotionallyoncemore.
26

Yes,Master,Isaidmorecalmly.ThusIbecameIvars
apprentice,andtherewasnomanproudertobecalleda
blacksmithapprenticeinallofDrentwych.
***
Iamnevercertainastothecauseofmyangerduringmy
teenageyears.Perhapsitwastheinjusticethathadsentmyreal
parentsandIonthevoyagethatwouldlaterbetheirending,
makingmeanorphaninaforeignland.Perhapsitwasthe
continuedinjusticeandmiseryIsaweverydayofmylife.The
wretchednessofthecommonman,thecrueltyinwhichmenof
higherpositionstreattheirlesser.Icouldneverfindclosureor
solacewithmyparents;theyregone...EverytimeIhadtocope
withtheworld,Iwasfilledwithwrath,andsometimesthis
wrath,likeanoverflowingvolcano,spilledandlashedoutatall
whowerenearme.Iwasmightyfortunatetobecaredforby
nobleIvarwhoasifIwashisown,forwhateveraltruistic
reasonheheldinhisheart.Ihadneverproperlythankedhim,
thefirst,foremostandgreatestofmyregrets.
***
Meanwhile,notfarawayalonefiguremadehiswayto
thefortressofWistHillwhichruledoverthewholeoftheland.
HispacinghastenedashiseyesgazedupontheFortressunder
thelightofthefullmoon.Inhisgrimanddeterminedmindhe
heardthewhispersvoiceswhoechoedthebetrayalhehad
sufferedatthehandsofthoseclosesttohim.Itwasachilly,
starfillednight,yetthelonefiguresufferednotfromcoldor
fatigue.Theundeadrarelysufferfromthesethingswhichmay
crippletheliving.EdmundIronsidewouldhavehisrevenge.

27

Edmundwasofanunrecognizableage,hisfeaturesonce
plain,nowhadtakenonagrayishpalehue,likeadyingman.
Hishair,oncegroomed,nowwasdustcoloredandhanging
abouthimunkempt.Itwasntlongagoperhapsafew
months,whenEdmundwasalivingKing.Ashetraveledtothe
realmhedecidedtohideinnearbyDrentwychbefore
extractinghisrevenge.AshisfeetcarriedhimtoDrentwych,
hisminddriftedpasttheendlesswhisperswhichinfestedhis
mind;towhatwasanotherlifetime;toatimewhenhewasa
mortalmanteachinghischildrenhowtohunt.
Happythoughtsweresoonreplacedbyinfernalwrath,
andEdmundsknuckleswouldhavewhitenedevenmoreifthey
couldunderthepowerfulflexofhisclenchedfists.Hiseyes
lightedandbeamedinunholyrage.Thewhispersinhismind
roseinvolume,becomingscreamsofdyingmenandburning
fire,ofswordandspearpiercingtenderflesh.
Edmundwasbetrayedbythoseclosesttohim,andhe
wouldneverseehischildrenagain.Hecouldhaverescued
Britannia.HecouldhavedefeatedKingCnuttheGreat.He
couldhavesavedhisfamily.Hecouldhavevanquishedthe
Vikinghorde.HecouldhavebeentheheroEnglandlongedfor
sinceArthurbuthewasbetrayed,beatenandmurdered.
Withhisdyingbreathhesworeanoathofvengeance.Hisoath
washeardandaccepted,bywhateverforceslordoverdeath.
Now,notevendeathwouldstophim.InDrentwychhewill
beginpreparationsforavengeancethatwouldshapethefuture
oftheworld.InDrentwych,thevoiceswhispered,isaspyof
Cnut,asmithIvar,thevoiceswhisperedhisnameisIvar.
Iwillmakehimpay,Iwillmakethemallpayforwhat
wasdonetome!Hethought.Edmundhadbutonedarkdeed
todo,tomakethisspysufferashehadsuffered.
***
Presentday...
AsJauneewasbeinginterviewed,avoicespokeon
Daina'sheadsetasshelistenedtoJaunee'sstory.
28

"Keephertalkingforaslongaspossible,"thevoicesaid
amongststaticinterference.Dainaforsomereasondidnot
noticetheradiostatic.
"Waitaminute,"TheinterviewerpausedJaunee'sstory.
"Qui?"
"FromwhatIreadofthetwopublishedJournals,"Daina
began."Adamwasbornhuman,yetyoumentionedhimin
modernday.Cansomeonetransformfromaregularperson
intoasupernaturalone?"Dainaasked.
"Qui"Jauneereplied."Somecantransformpeople,as
youcallit."Sheexplained.
***

29

30

CHAPTERIIIIngrid

Iwasapproximatelyattheageoffourteenwinterswhen
Ingridcameintomylife.Thiswasaneventthatbrokethequiet
routineIhadadoptedformyselfunderIvarscare.Itwasaftera
brieflunchthatayoungwomancameandstoodbytheclosed
smithy.Iwasoccupiedinthesmithywithmyownfood,while
Ivaratethefilthycommunalmealwiththerestofthe
townsfolk.
Ihadneverbeenabletobringmyselftoeatthe
disgustingcommonFayrewiththerestofthem:Inahuge
cauldronthatwasrarelywashed,wasboiledvegetableandherb
andwhateverotherscrapsthecooksawfittothrowin.Tothis
wasaddedanymeatthatcouldbefound.Imadeitmyown
habittoeatonlywhatIcouldidentify,andtowashmyhands
priortoanymeal.Therefore,Ioftenatealoneatthesmithy
whileIvarandtherestofthetownsfolkatetheirquestionable
sharedmealinthetownsquare.
Iwasquitesurprisedbythisstrangeyoungwomanwho
stoodbythedoor,notevenbotheringtoknock.Itseemedthat
shewaswaitingforsomeone,andIwasquiteintrigued.So,
hiddeninthesmithy,Istudiedhercarefully.Shewastwoheads
tallerthanI.Fairlylongblondhair,almostwhiteinshade,
reachedhalfwaydownherback.Itwasbraidedintoone
pigtail,andtiedwithasimpleleatherribbon.Herfaceand
framewerewiderthanmineandfuller,withachubby,porcine
nosethatatfirstglancemadeherresembleanunattractive
beast.Despitemyinitialexaggeratedreaction,shewasquite
fairupontheeyes.Withblueeyesandanabsentminded
expression,shecasthergazetowardsthetownssquare.Icould
nottakemyeyesoffher.

31

WhenIvarfinallyapproachedshesmiledbroadly,going
tohimandspeakinginalanguageIdneverheardbefore.I
walkedtowardsthewindowtocatchabetterview.Ivar
appearedstunned,then,afterrecognizingher,smiledbroadly.
AstheyembracedIfoundmyselfwalkingbackwards,deeper
intothesmithy,asifthepoweroftheiraffectionphysically
drovemeback.Foramoment,Ithoughtshewashisbride,and
Iknewwhatenvywas.
Howunfairthatamanofhisageshouldhaveayoung
maidenforawife!Ithought.
Adam!Comeonout!Ivarcalled,andIlostthetrainof
mythoughtobeyinghiscommandabsentmindedly.
Thisismydaughter,Ingrid!Isshenotbeautiful?He
asked,onthebrinkofjoyoustears.Myeyesmovedfromhimto
her,andnowitwasherturntostudyme.Ididntlikethesmall
shiftsinherfacialfeaturesasshestudiedme.Sheprobably
thoughtmecoarse,brown,anddirty.Ismiled,ashamedof
myself.
Ingrid,thisismyapprenticeAdam,whoseemstohave
gonemuteallofasudden,Ivarsaid,andmyembarrassed
smilegrew.
Itsappleasuretomeetyou,Mistress,Isaid.She
smiledatmywordsinawaythatrevealedheropendistaste
ofme.
Adam,fillacoupleofbucketsatthewell,Ivar
commanded.Iobedientlycompliedwithhisorder.
Abittooraggedytobeasmith,dontyouthink?Ingrid
toldIvar,ignoringmypresenceasIwalkedaway.
Perhapsheis,buthedoeshisworkwell,Ivarsaid.AsI
enteredthesmithyIpaidheedtothefirstpartofthesentence
describingmeasbeingtooscraggy.Myfistsclenched,andmy
knuckleswhitenedasIwalkedtothetable.InmymindIhad
anotherenemynow,onethatIcouldnotpummelinto
submission.

32

Losingmyappetite,Itossedmymealaside.Ipickedup
thebucketsandtheyoke,andleftthesmithy,hearingtheir
laughterbehindme.Theywereprobablymakingfunofme,I
thought.Icarriedthebucketsasifmarchingtowar,tryingto
figureouthowIwasgoingtotacklethisnewenemy.Ibarely
registeredalonefigurearmoredandcoveredinrags,
studyingme.Ifiguredhehadtheplague,orwasdisfigured
somehow.Myminddriftedbacktomyownlittleworld,
unawareofthemortaldangerIfaced.
UponreturningIheardthemlaughingstill.Iopenedthe
doorandpretendedthebucketswereaslightasairasIlifted
themagaintoenterthesmithy.Unfortunately,Inearly
droppedbothbucketsandspilledthewater.Ivargotupfrom
hisseattohelpmewhileIngridjustlaughedandgavemethat
expressionagain,asifIweresomesickpuppy.
Great,Adam,Itoldmyself.Trytoshowthatyoure
strongandyouendupshowingjusthowclumsyyouare!
Youshouldbemorecareful,Adam,Ivartoldme.
Yes,Master,Ireplied.
RememberwhatItaughtyou.Ifthebucketsareheavy
foryou,placeyourselfinabalancedposition,mindyour
breathing,andliftcarefully,hesaid,andIgrewangrierstill.
Yes,Master,Ireplied,andhopedhedleavemebe.
LaterthateveningIwaitedoutsidewithmywooden
swordforIvartogivemeanotherfencinglesson.GodknowsI
hadplentyofrageinmetoworkout.Wasthatlonefigurestill
lingeringoutside?Icouldnttell,asifunderaspellofsome
kind.Myminddriftedback;Iwantedtofight.Inoticed
somethingwaswrongwhenIvardidntbringhisownsword.
Adam,puttheweaponaway,weneedtotalk,hesaid.I
didasinstructed,frustratedandscaredofwhathewasaboutto
say.Ilookednervouslyathimashebegan.

33

Adam,Ingridisnotforyou,hesaidflatly.Ittookmea
fewmomentstounderstandwhathewassaying,formymind
hadbeenexpectingnewsofanothersort,suchasnowthat
Ingridishere,werenotgoingtotrainanymoreornowthat
Ingridishere,Imnotgoingtohaveenoughroomforyou,too,
ratherthanthis;Ingridnotbeingforme.Icouldnthavecared
less.Yetmyfaceflushedredasifburningupandmyfists
clenchedoftheirownaccord.
WecomefromdifferentplacesyouandI,soIdont
expectyoutoknowthis,Ivarsaid.
Knowwhat?Iasked.
WherewecomefromIngridandI,itisconsidered
...Ivarsaid,lookingfortheproperwordverywrongfora
womanofherstaturetobeinvolvedinanywaywithsomeone
likeyou.
Someonelikeme?Iasked,notreallysurewhatwas
wrongwithme,butangrynonetheless.
Alowbornorphan,Ivarexplained.
Shesnoble?Iasked,understandingfullwellthe
differencebetweennobilityandcommoners.
Inourrace,yes,sheshighborn,andyourenotofour
race,Ivarsaid.
Iunderstand,Isaid.
ItsnotthatIdontcareforyou,butsomethings
shouldntbe;somethingscanbringshametomyfamily.
Iunderstand,Irepeatedabitmoreloudly,andIfully
did.WhereIcomefrom,Iwasthehighbornthechosen,
whileshewouldhavebeenthelowborntheoutsider.
Goodnight,Adam,Ivarsaid.Heturnedandwentback
tothesmithy.IwasangryasangryasIhadeverbeen.It
seemedthateverythingangeredme:theveryfaceofIngrid,the
wayshespoketomeasifIwasbeneathnotice;Ivarstalkwith
me.Iknewshewastakingovermylife,pushingmeawayand
deprivingmeofwhatlittleIhad.Icouldhearthemlaughing
inside,probablymakingfunoflowbornme.
34

SoIleftthesmithyandinthedarknessfoughtagainst
myshadow,imaginingthefacesIhadnowcometohate.Ifonly
Icouldpoundsomeone.WasIbeingfollowed?Howmyblood
ragedforafight,andforwhat?Iwasoverreacting;Iwashalf
pastcrazy.IrealizedthatnothingIhaddoneorthoughtsince
noonhadmadeanysense.Myragewasgravelymisplaced.
IngridisIvarsdaughter;shedoesntevenknowme;sowhy
wouldshebelittleme?AnddearIvar,whohasshownmeonly
kindnessovertheyears;surelyhellnotforsakemenowthata
closerkinhasreappearedinhislife.
Iwalkedalone,travelingthedark,muddyroadsand
alleys,thinking,tryingtounderstandtryingtomakesenseof
everything.Tiredandcoldbutthencalm,Iwenthometothe
smithy.Ingridsleptinmybed,andIvarpointedwithhisfinger
formetogodownstairs.Isleptinthesmithythatnightand
thosethatfollowed.

35

CHAPTERIVTheThornsofLove

"Adam,mydaughterwillbestayingwithusnow,Ivar
explainedtomecomemorning.Inoddedmyheadin
understanding,tryingtodispelthatirrationalangerbubbling
upinsideofmeonceagain.
Soyouwillsleepdownstairsintheshop,Iwillsleepin
myusualbed,andIngridshallsleepintheattic,Ivar
continued.Hepausedtostarethoughtfullyintomyfacethen
wentonaftertakingadeepbreath.Itsimproperforagirlher
agetosleepinthesameroomwithayoungman,andIwont
havehersleepinginmyshopwithtoolslyingabout,hesaidin
firmtones.Inoddedmyunderstanding.Hiswordsmade
absolutesense:hishousewasfairlysmall,agirlshouldnot
sleepnearaman,andtheshopwasthelastremainingspotin
thehousewhereonecouldsleep.Yetsomehow,despiteall
commonsense,IfeltIwasbeingrobbedofmybed,being
drivenaway,evenbanishedfrommydomain.Iknowitdoesnt
makesense,butthisishowIfelt.Ifoughtmyrageandtriedto
mastermythoughts.
WithmyeyestothefloorIgatheredmyfewbelongings
andmaderoomformyselfinthesmithy.Ingridwatchedme,
yetIcouldnotbringmyselftoreturnthegaze.
WhatkindofnameisAdam?Shesuddenlyasked,as
shewatchedmewalkingabout.
Wwhat?Iasked,surprisedbythequestion.
Iamsooorry,Ingridsaid,drawingouteachsyllable
slowlyasifIwasdumbordeaf.Myfathertoldmethatyou
dontspeakverywell,shesaid,noddingherheadupand
down.
Yes,Ireplied,takingadeepbreath.Mypatiencewas
growingthin;Iwantedherawayfromme.
WhatkindofnameisAdam?Iveneverhearditbefore,
sheasked.
ItmeansMan,Ireplied,speakingplainly,tryingto
overcomemyaccent.
36

Thatsit?Sheasked.
Yes,Ireplied.
Doyouknowwhatmynamemeans?Sheasked,
obviouslywishingtotellme.Ihadnoidea,butIplayedwith
thethoughtofhernamemeaningingreed,inbreed,orany
suchwordplay.
Yourequiteodd,beingsostiff,andthensmilingallofa
suddenfornoapparentreason,shesaid,andIturnedred.
Itmeansbeautiful,sheboastedafteranawkward
silence.
What?Iasked,notfollowingherthoughts.
Myname,Ingrid,itmeansbeautiful,shesaid.
Itfits,Ireplied.
What?Sheasked.
Thenamebeautifulfitsyou,youarebeautiful,I
replied,onlynowrealizingthetruthofit.
WhythehellwouldIhavesaidsomethinglikethat?I
hateher!Ithought.
YouthinkImbeautiful?Sheasked.
Yes,Ireplied.No!
Well,howcanyoutellifyoukeeplookingatthefloor?
Sheasked,andIraisedmyeyestolookintohers.
Ifinkyourebeautiful,Ingrid,daughterofIvar,I
replied,feelingmyheartbeattoofastandmyfacegrowashade
toored.Ilookedawaylikeafrightenedmousecorneredbya
cat.
Oh,willyoustoppesteringtheboy!Ivarcalled,andI
tookmyopportunitytogetawayfromherasquicklyaspossible
whiletheyexchangedloudwordsinalanguageIcouldnot
understand.Ihatedherforsure,andwantedhergone;thats
whysheputaspellonmebackthen,toforcemetoloveher.
Iveheardbeforeaboutthespellswomencancast,Iwasalways
certainIcouldresist,Ididntevenlikethem.Theywereloud
andannoying.

37

Dayspassed,andmyfearscametopass.Ivarspenthis
freetimewithIngrid,exchangingwordsintheirnative
language.Thoughhekepthiswordandcontinuedtoteachme
bothhiscraftandthesword,hisaffectionshiftedtohis
daughternow.Ifeltdiscarded,andresentedthembothforit.
Silently,mydissatisfactiongrewdaybyday,andaselfishrage
consumedme.Iworkedhardereverydayandtriedtoexcelat
everythingIdid,yetIvarsattentionandpraiseremained
focusedonhisdaughter,andI...Ifeltlikeastrangeling
amongstthem,morenowthanever.Isitsosurprisingthat
uponfeelingdiscarded,Ithoughtofmyparentsonceagain,and
thelifeIhadbeforeDrentwych?ThemoreIthought,the
furtherawayfromthemIwantedtobe.ButIcouldntleave;
therewasntaplaceformetogo,andtheworldoutsideiscruel
andharsh.
***
Despair,injusticeandthecoldhandofvengeancecan
swayevenanoblemantododarkdeeds.Sacrificesmustbe
made!Edmundtoldhimself,ashechokedthelifeoutof
Ingridsmother.Hewatched,withamorbidappreciationno
mortalmancanfathom,thefinalmomentsbeforelifeisforever
extinguished.Hegazedintohereyes,andwassaddenedfor
onlyamoment.ForwithherdyingbreathallIngridsmother
couldthinkofwasherpoordaughter,andthefateshellface
withtheeternalabsenceofhermother.Ingridwasyoung;only
achild.ButEdmundtoo,hadchildren,andthiswomanslast
desperatethoughtsuddenlyrekindledafeelinghehadnotfelt
sincehisundeath.Itwasasiftherootsofadelicateseed
piercedahardandcoldrocktofindsustenancebelowan
emberofhope,asparkofthenoblemanheoncewas,before
fallingtodarkness.
Imhome,Mama!SaidIngridassheopenedthedoor.
Hereyeswidenedwithterrorasshesawhermother,lying
lifelessonthefloor,hereyesopen,gazingintonothing.Luckily,
Ingridfailedtoregistertheloomingshadow,whichdeparted
throughthewindow.
38

Mama!Ingridscreamed,andrantohermotherwhile
Edmundfledintotheshadowsofdarkness.Yet,inhisway,he
hadshownhermercy.
NowtheUndeadLordgazedatIvarssmithyandthe
childrenthere.Hehadcometoknowthem:Ingrid,prettyand
proudandAdam,thinandangry.Edmundwasalwaysofa
patientnature;hehadtime,allthetimeintheworld.Hewould
studyhispreyandhisfamily.Hewouldwaitfortheproper
momentwherehewillstrikelikeavenomousserpent,
extractingcoldvengeanceinthemannerthatwillhurtthe
most.Allwhowereresponsibleforhisdemisewillsuffer
eachandeveryoneofthem,fromthehighCnuttothissmith.
***
Presentday...
Itwaslateevening;theschoolonIsserlisstreetinTel
Avivwascompletelyvacant.Acrossthestreetfromtheschool
stoodacommercialbuildinghousingseveralcompanies,
includingaPublishinghouseandaTVstudiowhereJauneewas
nowbeinginterviewed.
StrikeTeamAlpha;movetoposition.Washeardovera
secureradiochannel,andarmedsoldiersquicklycutthefence
andenteredtheemptyschool.Takingpositionsonrooftops
andbehindwindows.
***
Itwasacalmdaylikethosethathadcomebefore.A
warmspringhadarrivedandallthesnowhadmelted.The
groundeverywherewassprinkledwiththegreenofgrass,and
wildflowers.Ilovedthatseasonandthereliefitbroughtfrom
theterriblewinterthathadjustpassed.Winteralwayssteered
sadthoughtsintomymind.
AsIworkedwithIvarinthesmithyuponacozynoon,a
messengercameandinformedIvarthattheLordswishtosee
himatonce.

39

Adam,Ihavetogo,Ishallreturnwithinaweekorso.In
themeanwhile,youareinchargeofthesmithyandmyhome,
Ivarsaid,andfondlyslappedmyback.Inearlytoppledover,
unbalancedbythecasualstrengththeoldsmithhadinhim.
Ishallnotdisappointyou,Master,Isaidashe
swallowedhislaughteratseeingmenearlytoppleover.Then
histonesturnedseriousandhegazedintomyeyes.
Adam,yourethemanofthehousenow,andIexpect
youtocareforIngridasIwould.Youknow,shehaslosther
mothertotheplagueandgrowsquitefearfulwhensheis
alone.Myeyeswidenedwithdisbelief;no,Ididnotknowher
motherhaddied.Neitherofthemhadeverspokenofit,atleast
nottome.Myshockwasnotforthefacthermotherhaddied
Ihadassumedsomethingwasamisswhentheyoungmaiden
suddenlycametolivewithus,butfromtherealizationthat
Ingridhasfeelingsbeyondthatofsuperiorityoverme.
Ishallnotdisappointyou,Master,Irepliedsternly.
Good,andyoushallmakenoattemptstowoomy
daughter,Ivaradded.
Iwouldntdreamofit,Ireplied.Hesnorted,andthen
gavemeacrookedsmile
Ofcoursenot.YoudneverdishonormeafterallIve
givenyou,hesaid.Ihavecompletefaithinyou,headded
andleft.
Itookhistoolsandcontinuedhiswork,proudtobe
giventhisopportunitytobeselfsufficient,bothasasmithand
asaman.AsIworked,mymindbegantowonderatthepuzzle
thatwasIngrid.Irememberthisdayinvividclarity,foritwas
thefirstofmysteriesItriedtosolve.Itsetmymindthinking.
IknowthatIvarisanobleman,orwasanoblemanyet
makesnomentionofitwhileheworksasacommonsmith.
Theremaybemanyreasonsforthat,fromlossofstatusto
simplehumbleness.Heoftendiscusseshonorandproper
conduct,soitissafetoassumehislossofstatusisnotdueto
shamefulactsonhispart.Whyhedoesnotlivewithhiswife
anddaughterisamystery.
40

IhadassumedIngridwasabastardchild,whichwould
explainherobnoxiousbehaviorandwhyIvarwouldnotlive
withherandhermother.YetIvarperhapshasnowifeatall.So
whynotlivewithhisdaughterandhermother?ItsamysteryI
cannotanswer.Havingnooneelseintheworld,itsquiteclear
whyIngridwouldcomehere,andIvar,beingofagenerous
naturewouldtakeherin,despitealossofstatusinDrentwych.
Onepieceofthepuzzle,though,doesntmakesense.Therewas
amanindirtyarmorandclothes,whosometimeswatchesthe
house.Whilehespeaksnotawordandalwaysdepartswhenhe
isnoticed,hisfirstappearancecoincidedwithIngridsfirst
appearance,soitissafetoassumebotharerelated.Thesewere
mythoughtsasIwrestledwiththepuzzle.
IdecidedtoaddressthemanwhennextIsawhim,now
thatIvarwasntaroundtoscoldmefordoingso.Iclosedshop
asusual,waitingfortheopportunitytosolvetheenigma.
AfterIclosedtheshopIngridsaidshewasgoingtowash
intheriver,andrequestedthatIguardher.Inoddedmy
consentandfollowedherwhenshewasready.Iwassilent,
proud,andsternasIaccompaniedher,feelingquitepleased
withmyselfforactinginachivalricmanner.AsshewashedI
didnotpeekevenonce,tryingtobeasvirtuousasIknewI
should.Aftershedressedherselfloosely,shesatbyatreeand
requestedthatIcomecloser.
Ididasinstructed,yetkeptmyeyesfirmlyonthegrass.
Shesatnearatreewithherbacktome,andItookcareful,
nervousstepaftercareful,nervoussteptowardsher.Something
inthewayshesatandthewayshespokeseemedoutofplaceto
me.
YesMistress?Iasked,asIstoodbehindhernervously,
tryingtobanishtheinappropriatethoughtswhichstirredin
me.
Doyoufindmebeautiful?Sheasked,lookingintothe
blueriverasthesunwassettingbehindus.
Whwhydoyouask?Istutterednervously.
41

Andwhydoyoualwaysansweraquestionwitha
question?Shereplied,quiteangryatmyresponse.
Itsahabitofmepeople,Icanthelpit,Ijoked.
What?Sheasked,obviouslynothavingconsideredthe
ideathatI,too,mighthaveapeople.
Ifindyoubeautiful,Mistress,Irepliedhonestly.She
wasindeedfairupontheeyes,withherblondhairandan
absentmindedexpressionthatmadeherblueeyesseemabit
dreamy.Evenhernosewhichwasntpretty,gavehersome
character;ameasureofhumanity.
Sowhydontyoueversayanything?Sheasked.
Becauseusually,Ihavenothingtosay,Ireplied
honestly.Ididnotunderstandherquestionthesamewayshe
did,forshewasthefirstmaideninmyproximity,Ididnot
knowtheyliketobeflattered.
Oh!Nevermind!Shespatoutangrily.
WhatdidIsaytoupsetyou?Iasked,frustrated.Idid
notunderstandthisgirl,norwhatshewastryingtotellme.
Nothing,combmyhair,shereplied,disappointed.
Caughtsomewherebetweenangerandfrustration,Igrabbed
thecombandhelditastightlyasonewouldholdasword.Yet,
asItouchedherhairandcombedit,IdidsoasgentlyasI
could.
Youhavequitethegentletouchforaboy,she
commentedasIworked,andItookitasaninsult.
Yes,Imquitefrailaswell,Irepliedbitterly.
Idontthinkyourefrail,youseemtobegrowing
strongerdaily,sheresponded,tryingperhapstomendbroken
pride.
Idotry,Isaid,stilltakinghereverywordasaninsult.
Iknow,Iseehowyoufistfightyourshadowatnight
whenyouthinkwereallasleep,shesaid,laughing.Andhow
youpretendyourbroomisaswordandfenceagainstyour
shadowwhenyourelefttocleanalone.Igrewdeadlysilent.

42

Mysecretssoopenlyrevealed!Ithought.Mymind
flickeredbetweenshameandrage.Shemusthavereadmyface,
forshelookedatme,puzzled,herlaughterdyingonherlips.
Whyareyoualwayssoangry?Iwasnttryingtooffend
you,Ithoughtitwasfunny,shesaidashereyessoughtmine.
tisnotfunny,Ireplied.Iwantedthisexchangeof
wordstobeoverwith,butIwasntincontrolhere,anditdrove
memad.
Alright,Iapologize.Nowwillyoutellmewhyyouare
alwayssoangry?Sheasked.
Idontknow,Itoldher,lookingatthegrass.There
weremanyreasonsandshechiefamongstthem.
Sowhydontyoutrytalkingtomeinsteadofsulkingall
thetime?Sheasked.
Whatdoyouwantmetosay?Iaskedhonestly,hoping
foronceshewouldrevealtomewhatshedliketohearandbe
donewithit.
Whateverisonyourmindthatscausingyoutobeso
angryeverytimeIcomenearyou,shereplied.
IfinkIloveyou,wasmysimplereply.AndIknowI
shouldnot,Iaddedbitterly.Asthesewordswerefinally
spokenoutintheopen,Ifeltasifagreatburdenhasbeenlifted
offmyshoulders.Iwassurprisedatmyself;IdidnotrealizeI
caredforherinanypositivewayuntilIconfessedit,bothto
myselfandtoher.
Sheblinkedtwice,perhapsstunnedbymyanswer,andI
loweredmyface,feelingashamedofmyself.Withonefinger
shetouchedmychinandliftedmyfacesothatmybrowneyes
couldlookintotheblueofhers.Myheartracedeversofast,
andIfeltlikeamousetryingtoescapeahungrycat.

43

Shelookedintentlyintomyeyesforafewmoments,and
then,aftermakingsomesortofsilentdecision,sheclosedher
eyes.ShemovedherfacesoclosetominethatIcouldhearand
feelherbreath.Iclosedmyeyesthen,andfeltherlipstouch
mine.Itwasasifafeatherhadtouchedme,solightatouch
thatIwasuncertainastowhetherornotshehadtouchedme
atall.Herlipswerechillyandsoft,awonderful,tender
sensationsuchasIhadneverfeltbefore.Itwasasiffora
momentwebothascendedtotheheavens,solightwewere.
Herrighthand,whichbeforehadheldmychin,now
caressedmycheek,andsomehowmyrighthandmirroredher
ownandcaressedhersinreturn.Herfingersfeltsosoftasthey
touchedmyskin,andhercheekwaslikewisesosmoothand
delicate,thatItookenormouspleasureinhertouch.Theworld
spunandfadedaway,allwrongsweremaderight,andIfelta
momentofalmostperfecthappiness.ThebitternotionthatI
hadbetrayedIvarstruststungmyheart,yetmymindquickly
soughtwaysinwhichtosetthingsrightwithhimperhaps
therewouldbeawayforhimtoacceptandendorseourlove.
Ingridthenmovedherheadback,openinghereyes,and
Ididthesameaftersensinghermovement.Wesattherefora
longtime,silentlylookingintoeachotherseyes.Itseemed
wedsharedasilentbond;thekindnowordscouldever
achieve.IwantedsomuchtotellherhowIfelt,toconfidein
heraboutmyhopesanddreams.Iwantedtoopenlybaremy
soulandletherseethepurityofmyfeelings.Iwantedtosing
ofloveandforgetallthatisdark.ButIhadnowordsforthese
things,soIwatchedhersilentlyandhopedshewould
understand.
Wedidnotleavetheriveruntilnighthadfallenandit
wastoocoldtoremainoutside.Thoughwesleptapart,she,so
faraboveandI,sofarbelow,shewasneverfarfrommy
thoughts,andIwouldhavealmostsleptinpeacethatnight,if
onlyIcouldhaveforgottenthatIhadbetrayedIvarstrust.

44

Onthateveningwhenyounglovefirstbloomed,the
darkfigureappearedagain,watchingus.Ingridwasfastasleep
whileIbattledmyshadowoutside,woodenswordinhand.I
couldalwaystellwhenhewasabout,asthehaironthebackof
mynecksuddenlystoodupright,andachillpenetratedmy
bones.Ihavealwayshadthisfeelingalwayswhenhewas
about,evenwhenIcouldntseeorhearhim.Thistime,asI
practicedmyswings,Itriedtofocus,tolistenandfeelthe
movementofthewind,tosensehisposition.
Promptly,withoutwarningIturnedtohimashehidin
thedarkness,observingme.Iwalkedquicklytowardshimand
heslowlyretreatedtowardsanalley.LittledidIknowatthe
time,thatheonlyobservedthehousetogaugewhetherornot
Ivarhadleftthesmithythathadbeenpromptedbythelatter.
EdmundretreateddeeperintothealleyasIclosedin.Iwaslike
aflyassaultingaspidersweb.
Heyyou,whomayyoube?Iasked.Thefiguregazedat
meforamoment,makingadecision.Thenhestartedwalking
slowlytowardsme.Icouldsensetheeagerness,andhowhe
triedtohidehiseagernesswithslowsteps.Iheldtheswordin
frontofme,inadefensiveposition.
Youwatchusconstantly,Iknow!Isaid,andhehalted,
realizingsomethingwasverywrong.HeseemedsurprisedI
couldseehim,yetitwascleartomethathewasconstantly
there.IhadnotrealizedatthetimethatIhadthecursedgiftto
sensecreaturessuchashimdespitetheirattemptstoobfuscate
andmisdirectmysenses.
Whoareyou?Iaskedagain,feelingmyheartpound
withinmychest.Thethoughtthatperhapsitwasfollyto
approachhimfinallypenetratedmythickskull.
IamEdmundIronside,hesaid,andobviouslyexpected
somereaction.Thefactofthematterwas,Ihadnoideathis
wastheprevious,nowdeadkingofEngland.

45

Alright,Isaid,registeringthenameWhyareyou
watchingtheSmithy?Iasked,trulyoblivioustowhatwas
supposedtobecommonknowledge.Heclosedthedistance
betweenuswithimpossiblespeed,andgrabbedholdofmy
swordarm.
Revenge,Hesaidvenomously,expressingeachsyllable
togiveitmeaning.
Iactedoutofinstinct,tryingtopullmyswordarmfree
whilepunchinghisstomachwithallmystrength.Iwasnt
nearlystrongenoughtowrigglemyhandfree,butwhenmyfist
connectedwithhisarmorIhurthim.Therewerelittlewhiffsof
smokecomingoutfrombeneathhisclothes.Heletgoofme,
tookafewstepsbackwards,andfrombeneathhismaskIcould
seehiseyesglowinginhatredandshock.LittledidIknow,I
hadsomehowhurttherevenantwithamerepunch.Iwastoo
frightenedtoactuallyprocessthemyriadofthoughtsgoing
throughmyhead.IfledasfastasIcouldtothesmithy.Ibarred
thedoorandremainedawake,vigilantlyguardingourhome.
Revenge,hehadsaid.SurelyIwasnothistarget.Imay
havebeenanangrybully,butsurelyIvemadenooffensewhich
warrantedtheattentionofthisLord.
Likewise,Ingrid,whileannoyingintheextremewhen
shewasnotperfectlylovable,couldwarrantnosuchdire
enemy.ItwasonlythenthatIsolvedthepuzzle.Ivarkepthis
distancetoprotecthisfamily,andthentraveledtoDrentwych
toprotecthimself.WiththedeathofIngridsmother,
accidentalorintentional,hewasleftwithnochoicebutto
acceptIngridintohisfold.Perhapsthiswaswhyheinsisted
thatIbeevervigilant.Perhapsthisiswhyhehadtakenmein,
inthefirstplace.HedidseemproudthatIwasstrong,andhe
didtrainmeintheuseofaswordno,Imgettingaheadof
myself.Ivarwasnotthecunningsort;surelyaschemeofthis
magnitudecouldonlyliveinmymind.
Ibestnotdelveintothematteranyfurther,Ithought.

46

Comemorning,Iopenedthesmithyandworkedas
usual,hidingfromIngridandtheworldwhathadtranspired.
AsIstruckhammertoanvilmyminddriftedtomanythoughts,
tryingtomakesenseofthingswhichcouldnotbeexplained.By
eveningIdecidedthatIprobablyhadavividdream,andthat
noneofthisisreal.Isleptsoundlythatnight,andresumed
normallifethedayafter.
***
Edmundfledthishorridchild,inthedarkness,takingoff
hisarmorandshirt,toinspecthisinjury.Beneathhisarmorhis
skinwasgrayanddead,andyettherewasascorchmark,where
achildsfistmadecontactwithhisarmoredflesh.Asfaras
Edmundknew,hewasvirtuallyimmunetoharm.Hecould
survivecutsandbruiseseasily,ashehasdonewhenattackedby
bandits.Hisflesheasilyknittedtogetherandhedidnotbleed.
Yet,thischild,thisskinny,brownchildhadstruckablow,and
ithurtlikeaninfernoburninghisflesh.Edmundreasonedthat
perhapstherewerelimitationstohispowers.PerhapsGodor
theDevil,fortheirownreasonshadmadehimvulnerableto
theinnocenceofchildren.Thoughhecouldprobablyendure
manysuchblowsfromchildren,Edmundwouldnottakethe
chance.Hewouldwaitandstudy.Therewerequestionsthat
demandedanswers.Howcouldtheboyhavesensedhim,when
nooneelsecould?Howcouldhehavebeendamagedbya
child?EdmunddecidedtopostponeattackingIvarfor
nowthedeadhastime.
WhenIvarreturnedthefollowingweekhehadnoidea
thathisdaughterandIwereinloveorthatwewereinany
mortaldanger.Wekeptafaadeofbusinessasusual,uptrying
topreventhisknowledgeofandsubsequentinterferenceinour
romance.IknewthatIhadgravelywrongedhim,andthe
rationalsideofmescreamedeverytimemyeyesmethis.But
thatother,irrationalsideofmebelievedthatloveconquers
everythingandthatIvartoo,oncehewitnessedthepurityof
ourlove,wouldcometoacceptitandapprove.
47

Howfaredyouhandlingmyshop?Ivaraskedwitha
raisedbrowoneday,asIheldaslabofironwithhispliersand
heworkedhishammeronit.
IfinkIfaredwell,Irepliedbetweenblows.
Iseeyouvemanagedtomakeabarrelonyourown,he
replied.
Yes,Ihave,Ireplied,andsmiledproudly.
Andhowfaredyouhandlingmydaughter?Heaskedin
thesamelighttonesyethestoppedhittinghishammerashe
spokeandwaitedforananswer.
Ifaredwellhandlingher,Isaid,andsmiled,then
blushed,apprehendingwhatIhadjustsaidandquickly
correctingmyself.Imean,Master,shefaredwellandgaveme
notrouble,Master,Iquicklyadded,glowingashadetoored.
Isthatso?Heasked,andraisedhisbrow.
Yes,sheonlyrequestedmyassistanceincombingher
hairandothersuchmenialtasks,Iquicklyanswered.
Isee.Verywell,then,hereplied,andresumedhis
hammering,satisfiedforthemoment.Yetfearcametonestin
myheartonceagain,fearthatourlovewouldbediscovered
andthehappinessIknewwouldbeover.EversincethedayI
hadcombedherhairIwasinheavenandheldnootherthought
ordesireinmyheart,savethatofmarryingIngridsomeday.In
mymind,IsawmyselftellingIvarofmyhumblerequest,and
imaginedthathewouldslapmyshoulder,smiling.
Ofcourse,Adam,yourloveistrue,andItrustyouwill
takegreatcareofmydaughter,hewouldsay.ThenIwould
takeherinmyarmsandkissher.Whenhewouldgrowoldand
retire,Iwouldtakeoverhistradeandprovideforhimandmy
wifeandallofoursonsanddaughters.Wewouldallbeone
happyfamily.Inabold,unthinkingmomentmymouthopened
ofitsownaccord,fueledbymyhopesanddreams.
Master,Ibegan,takingadeepbreath.
Yes,Adam,hereplied,andpausedhishammering
again.Itookamomenttosteadymyself.
48

Iwouldliketomarryyourdaughter,Isaid,raisingmy
voicemorethanIintendedtoinmyexcitement.Hegazed
deeplyintomyeyes,andIforcedmyselftomeethisgaze,asa
man.
HellneveracceptmeifImnotaman,Ithoughtto
myself.
Absolutelynot!Herepliedsternly,holdingbackarage
Ihadneverbeforeseeninhiseyes.
Whynot?Iwillprovideforher,andforyouwhenyou
growold,Iwillbefaithful...Ibegan.
Isaidno,Adam!Herepeated.
Whatsallthefussabout?Ingridsaidasshe
approached,overhearingourraisedtones.
Adam,Idlikeyoutoleavemyhomenowandnever
return,Ivardeclaredinrestrainedtones,holdingbackhis
anger.
Ingrid,I...Ibegan,asmyfaceflushedredandmyeyes
burned.
Now!Ivarroared.
Goodbye,then,Iblurtedout,discardingthetoolsandwalked
away.
IaskedonesimplethingofyouIvarsaidtomyback,
andyoubetrayedme!
Father!Ingridcalled.
Sheisahighborngirl,notfitforthelikesofyou!He
proclaimed.Iturnedaround,outsidehisshopnow.Myfists
clenched,Ilookedhimintheeyes,fullofspiteandrage.
Iwouldhavetreatedherasagoddess,shedhavehad
nowantinlifeasmywife,Iavowed.
Begone!Ivaryelled.
Adam!Ingridcalled.

49

Farewell,Ivar,farewellIngrid,Isaid,turningaround
andwalkingawayfeelingthetearswellingupinmyeyes.Ingrid
triedtorushtome,butIvargrabbedherwristandrestrained
her,andIkeptonwalking,notlookingback.Mylackof
patienceruinedeverything.Mywrath,oncecoiledinitscave,
nowsprangforth,andwouldnotsubside.
***
Presentday...
AdamRaymond;yourstepfather:He'snotavery
likableperson,ishe?Dainaasked.
No,Idon'tsupposehewasinhisadolescence.We're
notallbornwithsocialskillsorastabletemperament.Butfor
methatjustmakeshimatruehero,Jauneereplied.
Why?
Becauseit'salongerroadtofindyourcompasswhen
you'rereallylost.Imean,hewasatroubledchildinan
unforgivingera.Itspracticallyamiraclethathenotonly
survived,buteventuallygrewbeyondhislowcharacter.Asa
wisepersononceaskedWhatisbettertobeborngood,orto
overcomeyourevilnaturethroughgreateffort?
That'sverydeep,whosaidthat?
AdragonfromSkyrim,Jauneerepliedwithasmile.
WheresSkyrim?
Itscomputergame,Jauneerepliedwithasmirkand
Dainalaughed.
Youhaveaverydiplomatictongue.Andyouplay
computergames.Dainasmiled.
Ialsocook,cleanandreadcomics,sometimesIdo
othermundanethingstoo.WhatcanIsay,I'maneternalgeek.
Jauneereplied.Dainalaughedandfoundherspiritlifted.
Thisancientcreatureisaperfectlylikableperson,she
thoughttoherself.
BetaTeaminposition,washeardovertheradio,as
moresoldiershidbehindroadblockssealingthearea.
MeanwhileJauneeandDainakeptontalking,unawareofthe
danger.
50

CHAPTERVPathoftheTavernWarrior
Feelingadeepsenseofrageandloss,Isoughtrefugein
theworstpossibleplace.IwenttoTheBlackSheepTavernat
thedocksofDrentwych,wheremanydangerousruffiansspent
theirfreetimeandhardearnedwagesoncheapwhores,cheap
liquor,andgambling.Itwasaplaceseldomvisitedbymenand
womenofreputation.Infact,onlyahardenedcriminalora
manwithadeathwishwouldeverwanttovisittheplace
andIwasntacriminal.
TheTavernwaspoorlylit,withafewtorchesattachedto
thewallsandafireunderthekettles.Apigwasroastingthere,
fillingthepoorlyairedroomwithsmoke.Yetthewarmthofthe
TavernprovedanallureIcouldnotdeny,foritwasan
especiallychillynightoutside.Agaptoothedbarmaidgreeted
mewithasmile.ThoughIfoundherunattractive,Iallowed
myselfanervoushalfsmileinreturn.BehindherImetwiththe
suspiciousexpressionsofthepatrons,asmorethanone
dangerouslookingruffiansizedmeupwithhiseyes.Iclenched
myteethandgavethemallachallengingglare.Thedanger
excitedmeandIwelcomedtheprospectofabrawl.Iwantedto
belostinanoceanofoblivion,forviolencetoprovidemewith
sweetrelease.SoIsatdownandjoinedagameofcardsata
tableofcutthroats.Onehadatiredlookingwhoresittingonhis
lap;shereekedofstaleale,amongstmorefoulscents.The
knavefondledherintimatelyasheleeredatme,boastingofhis
conquest.
Areyegoingtodealmesomecardsorwhat?Iasked
oneofthem,asIsatandwaitedimpatientlytobeincludedin
theentertainment.
Gotanythingtowageron?Theruffianholdingthe
tarotcardsasked.
Justdealthebloodycards,Ispatimpatiently.
Hellpayuplater,addedthesweatythugwiththe
whoreonhislap.Seeminglyconvinced,thedealerdealtme
somecards.
51

Yougofirst,Itoldthethirdplayer,askinny,toothless
maninrags,asIwasntsurehowtoplaythegame.Hebegan,
andbythethirdroundIgotthehangofit.AsIwasplaying,
however,Inoticedashadowloomingovermeassomeone
approachedfrombehindmyback.
Whatdoyouwant?Ispat,withoutturning,tryingto
eraseanytraceoffearorinsecurityfrommypose.
Say,arentyeAdam,thesmithsboy?Heasked.
Whatofit?Iadmitted.
Heardyoureaprettydecentbrawler,hereplied.
Iassumethisisgoingsomewhere?Ireplied
impatiently,obviouslynotpleasedwiththedirectioninwhich
thisconversationwasheading.Thepatronsatthetablestarted
laughing.
Tisafierceone!Remarkedthewhorelappedbrute,
andlaughed.
Iwannaseehowgoodyeare!Theresevencointobe
madeifyoucanbeatme,saidthemanbehindmyback.
Verywell,Iresolved,asIgotupandturnedaround.Ill
beathimsenseless,getpaidandgetsomerespectforoncein
mylife.

52

Hewasabittallerthanme,andclearlystockier.His
hardfacehintedthatthiswasnttobehisfirstbrawl,andhe
showednotraceoffear.MystancewasmoreferalasIleaned
forwardlikeapredatorybeast.Thepatronsaroundweretaking
wagers.Iturnedmyattentiontohimfullyandwelockedeyes.
HeraisedhishandstoprotecthisfaceandIdidlikewise.Then
outoftheblue,Ikickedhiminthegroin,fellinghim.Allthose
AnglesandSaxonstheyrequitebigandstrong,butthey
dontkickorknowhowtodefendthemselvesagainstlower
bodyblows.AndtheAlbions,theyrejustminiaturewimps.As
hegrabbedhiscrotchIturnedback,averycontentsmileonmy
face,andsatdown.Thepatronsatthetableallcheeredand
laughed.Thewhorewinkedatme,silentlypromising
somethingIdidntcaretosample,eventhoughIwasavirgin.I
knewIhadhumiliatedhim,butitservedhimrightfortryingto
pickafightjusttoseewhosstronger.Itookupmycardsagain,
pretendingtobeatease,andwatchedhisshadowcarefully.
Asmyadversaryarosefromthefloor,tryingtogather
whateverdignityhehadleftandretaliateagainstmy
dishonorableblow,Ielbowedhimagaininthegroinbeforehe
managedtostrike,fellinghimtotheflooroncemore,and
winningyetanotherroundofapplausefrommyaudience.He
wascarriedoutsidebyhisfriendsandIhadcoinwithwhichto
wager.
Laterthatnightmynewfoundbuddiesretiredoneby
onetotheirlodgings,leavingmewithafewmorepenniesthan
Ihadstartedoffwith,whichwasnthard,consideringthefact
thatIhadstartedwithnone.

53

Intoxicatedwithafatalcombinationofsleepdeprivation
andcheapale,Iwasseriouslyconsideringacareeringambling
asIlefttheTavern.IswaggeredleftandrightasImadewayto
Ivarssmithy,evenhalfpreparingaspeechtorecitewhenIgot
there.ThiswaswhyIdidntseemyassailantscomingallI
heardwasasoundofrushingfeetbeforeaheavyblowtothe
headstunnedme.Idroppedlikealogtotheground,feebly
tryingtodefendmyfacewithmyhands.Myassailants
proceededtostrikemewithathickwoodenbranchandahail
ofkicks,untilIlayinapoolofbloodandvomit.ThoughInever
gottoseetheirfaces,ImadeafairassessmentthatIdbeen
accostedbymyadversaryfromtheTavern,andhisfriends.
AsIlaidthereinthemudwaitingfordeathtoclaimme,
Icouldnotsuppressthelaughterinmybelly.Theironystung
metoodamnedmuch.OfallthewaysIcouldhavedied,this
hadtobethemostmeaningless.Tobebeatenandleftfordead
inthemudonaccountofatavernbrawl.WhenIwasdone
laughing,Itriedcallingforhelp,butitwastoolate.Iwashalf
frozenandmyvoicetooweaktobeheardoverthesoundofthe
rushingwind.MybodygrewnumbandIresignedmyselfto
oblivion,andfellasleep,onlytowakeverymuchsurprisedand
inpain.
ThefirstthingIsawasIopenedmyeyeswasagolden
halowhichImistookforthatofanangel.Ismiled,stupefied;
whatelsecouldIdo?
Youreawake!Afamiliarfemininevoicecalled.Asmy
visionclearedIrealizedthatthegoldenhalowasinfactIngrids
goldenhair.Myheartracedwithexcitement.
...Ingrid!Iexclaimed.
Bequiet,Adam,shereplied,andchangedthecoldrag
onmyforehead.
Imsorry,Icontinued.
Shh,shemurmuredassheplacedafingeronmylips.
Ingrid,IthoughttomyselfasIallowedsleeptoclaim
meagain.Ivegotherback.
54

WhenIawokenextitwasntaspleasant.ThistimeIvars
frownreplacedIngridssmile,hisfrowndeepenedwhenhesaw
mystupidsmile.
Happynow?Heaskedsternly.
What?Ireplied.
Areyouhappyyouscaredherhalftodeath?Heasked.
No,Ireplied,surprisedandangryhewouldthinkthat
ofme.
Sowhatwasthatallabout?Heasked.BeforeIcould
answerhecontinued,Yougoofftryingtogetyourselfkilled,
soshellfindyourbloodycarcassinthemorningwhenshes
goingtogatherwater!
No,Igotintoabrawl!Iprotested.
Youalwaysgetintoabrawl,thatsnoexcuse!Ifyour
mindissetondeath,findamoreconvenientspot,hereplied.
Imsorry,Ianswered.
Sureyouare,hesaiddismissively.Nowyoulistenhere
boy,headdedinsterntones.Youregonnarecoverquickly
now,evenmiraculouslyso,thenyoullsayyourprettyfarewells
tobothmeandmydaughter,andyoulldisappeargo
someplaceelse.Andmydaughterwillneverknowwhatwent
betweenus,understand?Hedemanded.
Yeah,Ireplied.
Whatwasthat?Heasked.
Yes,MasterSmith,Icorrectedmyself,asthefull
implicationsofhiswordssettledin.Iamdeadtohim,andcan
havenohope.Ifeltmyeyessting.
Adam...hebeganinsoftertones.Look,IdowhatIdo
notoutofspiteforyou,butoutofadireneedtoprotectmy
daughter,hesaid.
Protectherfromwhat?AmIsuchalowlyvermin?I
asked,fullofpain.
No,boy,yourenotvermin,hesaidapologeticallyBut
youdontunderstand.Yourenotofourpeople.Yourelow
born,andifIwastoendorseyourmarriage,itwouldruinour
reputation,heexplained.
55

IunderstandImnotofyourpeople;myownpeople
wouldvetreatedyouthesame,Ireplied.SoIholdnogrudge
againstyouforit,Icontinued.Hesnortedatmystatement.
Thendothehonorablethingandleave,ourblood
cannotmix,hesaid.Istaredathimforamoment,lookinginto
hiseyes.IclenchedmyjawasImademyfinaldecision.I
strainedabittositup,andthengatheredmyself,fighting
nausea,andgotuponmyfeet.Icouldntmanagetostayon
themformorethanamomentandhadtoretreatbacktobed.I
stayedthatwayforacoupleofdays,pretendingtobeasleep
wheneverIngridcameby.OnceIregainedenoughofmy
strengthIsaidmyfarewellstoIvarandleft.
IcouldntbearthethoughtofbeingnearIngridyetso
faraway,andIhadnostrengthtofightfurtherwithIvar.AllI
reallywantednowwaspeaceandtobeleftalone.Isufferedtwo
daysconfinedtoaplacewhereIdidnotwanttobe,relyingon
thekindnessofamanwhodidnotwantmearound.Assoonas
IwasabletobeupIfoundmywaybacktotheTavern,andasI
walkedin,Iclenchedmyjaw,straightenedmypose,anddid
everythinginmypowertohidemysicknessandinjury.The
Tavernwasnearlyemptyatthishour,soIsatatanemptytable
andorderedmyselfamealandsomeale.Mygamepartners
enteredlaterthateveningandweresurprisedtoseeme.They
wavedandjoinedmytable.
Youlooklikehell,theskinnyruffiancommented.
Tanks,Irepliedandorderedsomemilk.Ineededto
keepsharpforwhatIwasabouttodo.Finally,theyentered,my
enemyandhisbuddies.IsmiledasIsawtheirstunned
expressions,feelingmybodycomealivewithaninnerfirethat
stavedofftheacheinmyjoints.
Takeitoutside!ThebartenderbarkedasIgotup,
readyforabrawl.Myenemyandhisbuddiesnodded
agreementandturnedtoleave,andIdidlikewise.Myown
companionswerequicktofollow,catchingmebysurprise.

56

Amomentlaterwewerealloutsideformingacirclein
themud,joinedbythepatronsandsailorspassingbywho
stoppedtowatchtheaction.
Caughtmebysurprisetheotherday,Icommented
venomously,throughclenchedteeth,tomyenemies.Ithen
caughtsightofIvar,whohadalsojoinedthecrowd,though
furtherback.
Youfightdirty,myenemyreplied.
Putyerfistupandquityapping,IrepliedasI
positionedmyfiststoprotectmyface.Andsothefightbegan.
Istormpacedtomyenemy,lockinggazeswithhim;
slightlyintimidated,hefailedtorespondasIsmashedhisface
withaleftswing.Hefeeblyjabbedmewithhisright,too
stunnedtoputanyrealforcebehindhisblow.Iignoredhisjab
andproceededwitharightswing,thenaleft.Hespatsome
bloodandteethashefellbackwardstotheground.Idropped
ontohim,takingonlyamomenttomounthimashestruckat
mykidneys.Ionceagainignoredhisblowandproceededto
poundhimleftandright,leftandright,untilhisfacebecamea
mashofblood.SomeoneliftedmeoffofhimasItriedtolay
anotherblow.
Hesalmostdead!Calledoneofhisfriends.Ilunged
towardshim,showinghimmybloodiedfists.
Yourenot!IroaredasIchargedhim.Hemanagedto
placehishandsinfrontofhisfaceasIgaveastraightpunch
withallmystrength.Ihithisarm,whichbouncedandhithis
face,injuringhisnoseandsendinghimtotheground.Ifellon
topofhimasotherarmstriedtograbme.Anotherpunchedme
frombehindandIturnedmyfacestillmountedonmy
adversary,toblockakickaimedstraightatmyface.I
respondedwithadirectpunchtohisgroinwhiletheshort
distancegavemeafavoredposition.Thensomeonethrewpot
atoneofmyadversaries.AsthepothithischestIturnedtosee
whothrewtheprojectile.Isawoneofmycardbuddiesholding
achairandchargingtowardsoneofmyenemies.
57

WhenthebrawlendedIsatwithmybuddiesdrinking
ale,wipingourbloodyfaces,andboastingourvictory.Theonly
sourmomentthateveningwasIvarcomingtoourtable.
Sothisiswhatyouwantforyourself,hesaid.Iturned
tohim.Tobeataverndrunkandabrawler,hecontinued.
IamwhatIam,IrepliedterselyasIturnedbacktothe
tableandsippedmydrink.Itriedtoburymyfacebehindmy
mugtohidethosetreacheroustearswhichsoughttoappearon
myface.
Youcanbebetterthanthis!Ivarprotested.
Idontwantto,Ireplied,andwiththatheleft.We
resumedourdrinksandourboasts,thoughIlostallsatisfaction
fromboth.
Whydidhehavetocomeandruintheonebitofsolace
Ihadwonformyself?Iaskedmyself.
Findingnoanswer,IresignedtoabedIwasofferedby
thebartender.
ComemorningIfeltbothbetterandworse.Ontheone
hand,Iwasntsickanymore.Itseemsboozeandbrawlskeep
thediseasedemonsatbay.Ontheotherhand,Iwassoreall
overfromfartoomanyblows.Iforcedmyselftogetupand
boughtmyselfameal,payingwiththelastpenny.
AmanstoodabovemeasIatemybreakfast.Ipeeredat
himfrommyrighteye,becausetheleftwasswollenshut.He
woreasoldiersuniformwithchainmailandleatherarmorand
hadbehindhimseveralfootsoldiers.Hisbootswereshiny;I
covetedthem.
Adam?Heinquiredinacommandingvoice.
Yeah,Irepliedsternly,thoughdeepinsideIwas
worriedthathedcometoarrestme.
Yourechargedwithdisturbingthepeace,hesaid.
Wholaidthecharges?Iasked,feelingmyheartracein
dreadofincarceration.
Youknowwho,youbloodybrokehisface,theSheriff
replied.Ilaughedashementionedabrokenface.
58

Twasabloodygoodfight,Irepliedandgotupina
nonthreateningfashion.
Indeed,herepliedashemotionedmetostartwalking
andfollowedcloselybehind.MylegsshookandIworkedto
hideiteverystepoftheway.Iwantedtogotoprisonwith
dignity.
YouknowtheSheriffsaidwhenthebarrackswerein
sight,wecouldusesomeonelikeyou.
Whatdoyoumean?Iasked,toofrightenedandangry
toattributeanymeaningstohiswords.
Imeanhebegan,theresreallynoreasonforyou
towalkinasaprisonerwhenyoucanbeasoldierinstead.The
fullimplicationofhiswordssuddenlybecamecleartome.Id
heardtherumoroncethatsomehardenedcriminalsaregiven
thechoicetobesoldiersinsteadofgoingtoprison.
Enlistme,Ireplied,smiling.Thisishowmyshort
careerasatavernbrawlerendedandanothercareerasasoldier
began.IdreamtofbecomingaChevalierandmarchingon
Jerusalem,conqueringitfromthehandsofAlHakimbiAmr
Allah.

59

CHAPTERVIPathoftheSoldier
AftersigningupIwasshipped,comemorning,toWist
Hillthenearestcastle,forbasictraining.Iwassentwith
threeotherrecruits,allofwhomwerecriminals.Iwasgladto
beawayfromDrentwych,andIreallydidhopethatachangeof
scenerywouldmakeforarefreshingnewstart.Allthings
considered,beingasoldierdidntsoundtoobad,andit
certainlybeatthealternative.Iwasratherdisappointedwith
basictrainingthough.Ireallyhadhopedtobesuitably
instructedandtaughtmilitarysecrets.Instead,Iwasgivena
coupleoflessonsonhowtouseaspearandshield.Iwastaught
howtotelltherankofsoldiersand,mostimportant,Iwas
taughtthatmyjobwastoaccompanytheTaxCollectorand
makesurecommonersdidntgivehimanytrouble.Tosaythe
least,Iwasdispleasedwithmynewjob.IwasstationedatOver
Hampton,aminingcommunitynotfarfromWistHill.Mostof
myfellowsoldiersallowedtheirfitnesstoslacken,contentwith
spendingtheirdaysbeatingcommoners,takingadditional
taxesfortheirhardwork,andthenspendingthosehard
earnedtaxesoncheapliquorandwomen.Itriedtobenumbto
theirdeeds,tellingmyselfthatthisisthewaythingsare,and
alwayshavebeen,butItooknojoyorprideinmywork,orin
myfellowsoldiers.Iremindedmyselfthatitsaharshworld
andthatitsbeyondonemanspowertochangeit.But,deep
insidemyworktookitstollonmysoul.Iwasasmalcontent
andangryasIdeverbeen,quicktolashoutatanyonewho
stirredmywrath.Ifeltasif,stepbystep,myjourneywastaking
medeeperintoanabyss.Worsestill,Iknewnobetterway.
EverychoiceImadeseemedtobethewrongone,andIhad
onlymyselftoblame.ThisisthepartofmylifethatInowthink
ofasthetimeofnumbness.Timeflewby;daysbecameweeks
andweeksbecamemonths,untilfinallyachangedidtake
place.Imayhavegrownnumbanduncaring,butthe
commonerswhowereconstantlyrobbedbytheTaxCollectors
werenot.
60

TheminersoftencomplainedtotheprotectingLordby
proxythattheywerebeingrobbedbytheTaxCollectors.But
theLord,forhispart,neverbotheredtoinvestigate.Either
becausehewasbribedbytheCollectorsorsimplybecausehe
didntcare,regardlessofhisreasons,noactionwastaken.In
myheartIsympathizedwiththecommoners,thoughthey
loathedmeforthefactthatIwasasoldier.Ikeptsilentonmy
politicalopinionsthough,sinceanyperson,soldieror
otherwise,whodaredsayanything,waschargedwithtreason
andpromptlyputtodeathinthemostgruesomefashion.They
usedtotiethevictimtoawheel,thenspinitwhilestriking
hammertolimbs.Iftheyweremerciful,youdbehanged,
suffocatingtodeath.
Itwasonesuchpoliticalexecutionthattriggeredthe
riots.Aminerwashangedinthetownsquareonthechargesof
disturbingthepeace.HisdaughterpleadedwiththeLordfora
pardonwhileherfatherwaitedwiththenoosealreadytight
aroundhisneck.TheLord,forhispart,forcedhertowatchas
herfatherchokedtodeath.Hethenchargedherwithacting
rebelliouslyandsentencedhertoamusethesoldiersbefore
beingexecutedthefollowingmorning.Shediedwithacurse
upononusallonherlips.
Theriotsbrokeoutatnoon,afewhoursafterthepoor
girldied.ATaxCollectorandhistwobodyguardsweredoing
theirhonestwork,collectingfromthecommoners,whenan
ownerofonehovelclaimedhehadnothingwithwhichtopay,
andofferedhisdaughtersvirginityaspaymentinstead.Thetrio
werequicktoaccept,andweregreetedbyarmedmenwith
knives,insteadofagirltodeflowerinthebedchamber.Initially
wejustheardthataTaxCollectorandhisguardshadbeen
brutallymurdered,andweweresenttoarrestthekillers,but
theaffairhadturnedintoafullriotbythetimewegotthere.

61

Weweregreetedbyscreamseverywhere.Somecriedfor
blood,whileotherscriedbecausetheybled.Itwasacacophony
ofsoundsmostterribleanddreadful,apreludetothetrue
hellishnatureofwar.Ididntwanttofight.Ifeltthatitwasnt
myfight;Ididntbelieveinthis;Ididntwantit.Killingcivilians
isfarfromthereasonforwhichIhadenlisted.Iwantedto
protectourborders,towinrespectandgloryinwar.Notto
turnswordandspearagainstcommoner.NothingIhaveever
donehadpreparedmeforworkofthistype,formassmurder.I
wasrough,yeah,andsometimescruel,butthis,thiswasevil!I
wasfightingforthewrongside.OnlynowdidIvarsteachings
sinkin.Oh,howeasyitistoloseoneshumanityinwar.
Irememberthatatthefatefulmoment,whenwewere
giventheordertoattack,mythoughtswereallinajumble;I
didntknowwhattodoandIcouldntthinkclearly.Itdidnt
makesensenothingdid.YetIchargedwiththerest.Someof
mycomradeshadbeenmyenemiesonlyafewdaysbefore,
someperhapsevenfriends.MostIdidntreallyknow.They
werejustmasks,facesIdseenhereandthereintown.Nowwe
wereallbloodbrothers,fighting,forweweretoldourcause
wasjust,whileourheartsscreamedotherwise.
Waristhepurestformofinsanity,hatred,andcruelty
onthefaceofthisearth,Iknowthisnow.Yes,Iwhohave
foughtcountlesswarsandhavekilledthousands,wouldlike
nothingbetterthantolivemylifeinpeace,andIdohopewith
allmyheartandsoulthatallhumanitywillsomedayloathe
warsasIdonow,athousandyearsoflife.

62

Onlyinfairytalesarebattlesneatandclean;inreallife
theyregruesomeandchaotic.Thereisatimetodie,for
everyone,andeverything.Weliveourlives,ignoringthe
terribletruthofourmortality.Deathlurksineverycorner;in
sickness,inhealth,injoyandsorrow.Deathcomestoeveryone
initstimeanditsplace.Inwaryouwitnesstheworkingsof
Deathfirsthand,aseveryswordswing,everyarrowcruising
throughtheairmaymeanthedeathofsomeone;maybeyou,
maybeme.Everysoldier;everymanandboy,sayshisgoodbye
tothelifeheleftbehind,foramanofarms,morethananyone
else,isawareofhowfragilelifeis.Iwasthinkingofmyfamily
whenIwenttowar,andgrievedforallthethingsIshouldhave
saidanddone.ButthissorrowIfeltinside,threatenedto
consumemeifleftinsuchfertilesoil;ifonlyIallowedmyselfto
payittoomuchheed.Instead,Iclungtoanothertypeof
poison;onemuchdeadlierthanselfloathing.AngerRagewas
myguidinglight;myshiningstar.Angeroverpoweredevery
otherfeelinginsideofme,burningdeeplythroughallthe
weakness,rulingmythoughtsandguidingmetovictoryand
sweetrelease.
Ittakesagreatmantoconquerhisinnerdemons.Iwas
notsuchaman,yet.

63

CHAPTERVIITheMadnessofWar
Thefightingperiodicallybrokeoutandthenrecededfor
threedaysinarow.Thetownwasdivided,eachhalfgoverned
byanopposingside.Therebelsweremostlyminers,peopleof
strongbuildwhowereusedtodailyhardships.Mostofthe
soldiers,ontheotherhand,wereidlers.However,wewere
betterarmedandarmored,andcommandedbyaLordwhowas
aformidablewarrior.Onthethirdday,weweremovinginfor
analloutfight.
Wepushedtherebelsbackonlytobesnaredbyafire
trap.Therebelshadcleverlydugatrench,filleditwithoiland
water,andlighteditassoonaswemarchedforwardinour
Romanformation.Iremembertheflashoflightblindingme
andthefeelingofheatsuddenlysurroundingme.Iremember
thescreamsdeafeningmyearsand,mostvividly,recounting
thechaosthatonlymomentsbeforehadsurroundedme,and
nowenvelopedme.
Icantseemtorecallmuchofwhathappened
afterwards.Idorememberrunning,thoughrunningashard
andfastasmyfeetcouldcarryme.Ialsorememberthescreams
throbbinginmyears,echoinginmyheart;thescreamsofdying
men.SoIwondered,anddreadedthatImightbenext.
IrememberrainwashingovermeasIkeptrunning.The
searingheatofthefirecombinedwiththefreezingcoldofhail
andrainmademefeelIwastrulyandutterlyinhell.Iwasntso
sureanymorethatIwasevenalive.PerhapsIdiddiethatday,
andmyrestlessghostlingersinthebattlefield,sufferingforthe
crimesIhadcommitted.

64

Regardlessofmythoughts,Iranuntildeepforest
encompassedmeformanyleagues,andtherewasapeculiar
soundofringingbellsjustbeforemyheadhittheground.Ifelt
mucksoakmyface,andmuted,watchedahorsemanwhoraced
pastme.Iwasstruckbyhim.Theutterdreadofdeathclaimed
me,andinadesperateactIheldstillandwouldnotmove,
hardlybreathing,myeyesopen,gazingintonothing.Transfixed
onwhateverwasinfrontofme.Ihadhopedandprayedinside
forhimtothinkmedead.Perhapsheleft.Iwassotransfixed
thatInolongerregisteredtheoutsideworld.Eventually,
exhausted,Ifellasleep.
WhenIwokeupapersonstoodaboveme.Heseemed
ratheroldandforestworn,yetnotsooldastobeweak.His
hawknoseattractedmyattentionthemost,asitseemedtoo
bigforhisface.Hisdarkeyesweresomewhatsunkenandhis
leathercapgavetheimpressionthathewashalfhawkandhalf
man.
Boy,areyealright?Heasked,inanaccentthat
remindedmesomewhatofapersonIknewyetcouldnot
recollect.Itriedtomove,yetfelttoonumbandheavyto
accomplishit.Iopenedmymouthtospeak,yetcouldnot
rememberthewordyesinthecommontongue.Istrainedto
think,yetcouldnotfocusonanythingexcepthisfaceandthe
forestgladeIwasin.Therewasdrybloodinmyhair;I
wonderedwhereithadcomefrom.IquicklyrealizedthatIhad
noideawhatwasgoingon.
Whodbehuntingye,boy?Heaskedafterstudyingmy
tattereduniform,lookingoverhisshoulder.
EiniZoher,Isaidtohim,thoseweretheonlywords
whichsprangtomymind.
Whatsthat?Somesortofpassword?Achant?He
asked,puzzled.IstrainedandgesturedwithmyhandsthatI
knewnothing.Heheldmyheadandgavemesomewaterfrom
hiswaterskin.Iwasgrateful,andsoverythirsty.Iwantedto
thankhimbutknewofnowaytogivethanks.
65

Hepaidmenoheed,andlookedaboutasifheheard
something,thenlayperfectlystillonthemuddyground,
plantinghiseardeepinthemud.Thenafterafewmomentshe
roseandwipedthemudfromhisface.Hesmiledthisstrange
smilethatpeopleoftenhavewhentheyarecontentwithsome
secretknowledge.Igrewtootiredandheavytothink,myeyes
shutagainstmywillandIfadedaway.
Iwokeupinacabin,lyingonastrawbed.Ilooked
around,tryingtogathermybearings.Notrecognizingthe
place,Imovedtoasittingposition.Myrighthandhurtandthe
painincreasedasIawoke.Istudiedit,notknowingwherethe
bandageshadcomefrom.ItriedtothinkofwhereIhadhurt
myhand,butcouldnotrecollect.Myhead,too,waswrapped
up,andnomemoryofanyinjurycametomind.Notknowing
anythingmademefeelquiteagitated.
Soyourefinallyup!Avoicespoke,andIturnedmy
attentionfrommyhandtothedirectionofthevoice.Itwasthe
oldforester.Irecognizedhimquitequicklyandwasproudof
myselffortheaccomplishment.Theforestersfaceseemedglad,
andIsmiledwhenseeinghimsmile.Inhishandshehelda
bowlandinitsomefood,asmysenseofsmelltoldme.
Hungry?Heasked,andpresentedthebowltome.I
smiledbroadly.
TTTTankyou,Isaid,stammeringandsuddenly
shakingallover.
Haa,dontsweatitboyo,itsmypleasure,noweatup
beforeitgetscold!Hegentlyslappedmyshoulder.Hiseyes
keenlystudiedmygestures,thoughItriedtohidethem.He
ignoredmyshakesandmyobviouslookoffear.Icouldnt
rememberwhy,butIknewitwasimproperforamantoshow
fear,sohemaintainedmyhonorbynotseeingthatIwas
terrified.

66

HeletmeeatinpeaceandIkeptmygazeuponmydish,
yetfromthecornerofmyeye,Ispiedhislookofworry,and
thatmademesomewhatrelievedheseemedtocare.He
tendedtothekitchenfire,whistlingachildslullabyIthoughtI
recognized,yetcouldnotrememberfromwhenorwhere.My
thoughtsturnedtothefood,whichupuntilthenIhadeaten
withoutnoticingwhatIwasdoing.Icouldntrecognizethe
tasteofit,for,tome,therewasnotastetoanything.WhenI
wasdoneeating,theforesterwasquicktonoticeandwasthere
totakethedishaway.Everythinghedid,hedidwithanhonest
smile.
Nowboyo,mynameisRaymondotheBrooks,this
beingnearthebrooks,thusmysurname,hesaid,laughingto
himselfatsomesortofprivatejokewhichwasfunnyonlyto
him.Hecontinued,Canyoutellmeyourname?
I...Idontknow!IsaidgrowingagitatedbythefactI
couldnotbringmynametomind.Icantremember,I
continued.
Doyourememberwhowaschasingyou?Orhowyou
gotinjured?Heasked,andmyworrygrew.Ishookalloveras
fireandscreamsflashedthroughmymindandmyeyesdarted
everywherelikefrightenedhensearchingforaplacetohide.
Calmdown,boyo,youvebeenherefortwodays,
nobodysafteryounow.Youresafe.Hesaidsoothingly,You
justrestforaslongasyouneed,Illtakecareofeverything.
Therewasfire,andscreams,Isaidmanyminuteslater.
Igrabbedhisarmwhenhegotcloser,anactwhichbrought
backtheimagesoffireandslaughter.Theywereeverywhere
andItriedtogetaway,Icontinued.Thesewordsstruckacore
ofterrorinmyheart,andIhungontohishandindireneedof
support.
Hell,hesaidunderhisbreath,notintendingthatI
hearhim.ButIdid.Ididntknowwhathellwas,forIhadno
memoryofsuchaplacename.

67

ByMarysgrace,nofiendcanharmyouhere.Thisisa
Christianhomeandnouncleanthingcantrespasshere,he
said.Iwantedsohardtobelievehiswords,thoughIknew
neitherwhothisMarywasnorwhathemeantbyChristian.
Hiswordsnonethelessreassuredmethatheknewmyenemies,
andthatIwassafefromthemhere.
Thankyou,thankyou!Isaid.
Dontworryaboutathing,boyo.Youresafehereand
youcanstayforaslongasyouwish,headded,andIsmiled.
Feelinglessanxious,Iletgoofhisarm.
YoujustrestnowwhileIgooutsidetochopsome
wood,hesaid,andInoddedandlaidmyheaddown,doingas
instructed.Irememberthesoundofhisaxestrikinglogs
outside,andthenassleepapproached,thesoundfaded.There
wasamomentwhereIdidnthear,feel,orthinkanythinga
momentofutterblackness.Thenthevisionscame,avast
discordofimagesandsounds;fire,screams,violence,pain,and
thescentofscorchedfleshandspilledblood.Istrainedwithall
mymighttoopenmyeyes,andfleethisplacewhichIknewby
namenow.Hell,Raymondcalledit,andthenamefitperfectly.
MyeyesshotopenandIbouncedfrommybed,shaking
uncontrollably,soakedincoldsweat.Itwasthemiddleofthe
nightnowIjudgedbythedarknessoutsideandthesoundof
theRaymondssnoring.Ilaybackinbedassoonasmy
surroundingsbecamefamiliaragain,notwishingtodisturbmy
hostsrest.Mutely,Istaredattheceilinguntilthelightofday
came,myminddeepinconflictingthoughts.Apartofme
wantedtorememberwhoIwasandwhathadbroughtmeto
thisplace.Anotherpartwantedtoforget,tostartafreshas
farasIcouldgofromtheHellIhadbeentrappedinbeforeI
metmypresenthost.
Raymond,Ibegan,comemorning.
Aye,boyo,heansweredashecookedusbreakfast.

68

Ifyouweregivenachoiceastowhetherornottohave
memories,thoughyouknowdeepinsidethatmostofthemare
unpleasant,ortostartafreshasadifferentperson,whichwould
youchoose?Iasked,asclearlyasIcouldposethisquestion
thatwastroublingmesomuch.
Wellthatsquiteadeepphilosophicalquestion,
comingfromsomeonesoyoung.IdontthinkIcangiveyoua
simpleanswer,hereplied.Iloweredmyeyesandclenchedmy
teethindisappointment.
Willyougivemeacomplicatedanswer,then?Iasked,
cheeringupabitandallowingmyselftobebold.
Yesureseempassionateaboutananswer,herepliedin
apseudocasualmanner.
Yes,Iam,Ireplied,hopingtopresshimfurtherforan
answer.
Well,tobeanewman,tostartover,surehasitscharm.
Imean,lifespainfulenough,andsurelytherearememoriesI
canlivewithout.Butontheotherhand,mylife,withallits
blissfuleventsanditssuffering,hasmademewhoIamtoday.
Somyansweris,thatIdratherbethemanIamtodaythanlive
alifeofblissfulignorance,heanswered.Istaredathimquietly,
somewhatdisappointed.
Imsorry,boyo,Ididntmeantomakeyousad.Imsure
yourmemorieswillcomebackeventually.Hemisinterpreted
mysadness.
IdontknowifIwantthemto,Ireplied,frustrated
withmyself.
Howso?Heaskedasheservedusbreakfast,keeping
hiscomposedmanner.
BecauseIhavethisfeelingdeepinsidemyheartthatmy
lifehasbeenquitehard,andeverytimeIclosemyeyes,Isee
thisplacehellasyoucalledit.SomaybeIdontwantmy
memoriesback,Ianswered.
Whataboutfondmemories.Dontyouthinkyouhad
anyofthose?Family?Friends?Maybeaspecialladyfriendfora
youngmanlikeyou?Dontyouthinkyouhadanyofthose?
69

Itriedtothinkhard,toseeifanybellsstartedtoringin
mymind.Family:notevenanechothere;completenothing
couldntrememberanyfamily.Friends:evenmoredarkthe
feelingwasliketheabsenceofanything,soIknewforafact
thatIhadnofriends.WhenItriedtothinkbacktoseeifthere
wasanyspecialgirlinmylife,Ididrecallaface.Itappearedas
ablurredwhitevisage,surroundedbythedarkofnothingness,
herblondhairshininglikethesun.ButIcouldntseeherfacial
features;couldntmakeouthereyes.
Therewasaspecialgirlinmylife,Ifink,Isaidaftera
longpause,spentincontemplation.
Soyehaveyouranswerthen!Hesaidcheerfully.
Idontfollow,Ireplied,growingconfused.
Startingfreshhasaprice;youpayitbyleavingbehind
thosethatloveyouandthosewhomyoulove,hesaid.There
wassomethinginhisvoice.AqualityIcannotexplain.It
touchedsomething,insideofme.
Whatifshesdead?Iasked.
Whatifsheswaitingforyouathome?Heretorted
quickly,notlettingmethinktoolongthesesadthoughts.
ThenIhavetofindher,ofcourse,Ireplied,andmoved
subconsciouslytostartrunning.
Holdonthere!Doyourememberhername?Orwhere
shesfrom?Doyouhaveanyideahowtofindher?Heasked.
Notreally,Ireplied,frustratedagainbyhowstupid
andrashIwas.
Well,therearentthatmanysettlementsnearby,so
youllprobablyfindher,oratleastsomeplacethatlljogyour
memoryifyoutakeyourquestseriouslyandtravelaround,He
said,notlosingpatiencewithme.

70

Youreright.Tankyou,Ireplied,andstartedthinking
ofthetrackahead,andwhoshemaybe.Butthenasuspicious
thoughtenteredmymind.ThismanwhosavedmefromHell,
whosprangoutofnowhere,tookmetohishomeandcaredfor
measifIwerehislostsonIwondered,whyallthekindness?
Whowashe,really?Iknewitwasimproperofmetothinkillof
myhost,butIcouldnthelpit.
Illleaveyoutoyourthoughts,then,hesaid.
No,wait!Irepliedhastily,extendingmyarmtowards
him.
Whatswrong?Heaskedandremainedsitting.
Well,Ibegan,retractingmyhand,Idontmeantobe
rudeorburdenyouinanyway,butmayIstayhereawhile
longer?Iasked.
Ofcourse,boyohesaid,asmileslowlyspreading
acrosshisface,stayforaslongasyouwish.Imalonelyold
manandcouldusethecompany,hesaid.AndthusIstayed
withhimaverylongwhile,enjoyingalifeofblissfulignorance.
Raymondneverrequestedordemandedanythingofme,andI
wasalwaysgratefulandfullofadmirationforamanwho
seemedsoperfect;suchashiningexampleofwhatmenought
tobe.Hissmilewascontagious.Thebrightwayinwhichhe
conductedeventheslightestaspectsofhislifecouldcheereven
awoundedsoulsuchasmine.
Ineverwanttoleave,Itoldmyself.
***
Presentday...
So,asasupernaturalcreature,howdoyoufeelabout
humanity?Dainaasked.
That'sadeepandcomplicatedquestionDaina,Jaunee
began.I'dliketostartbycorrectingyourstatement.Nothingis
abovethenaturalorderofthings.Thereissimplynosuchthing
asthesupernatural.Youperceivesomethingsasthe
supernaturalbecauseyoucannotexplainthem,thatdoesnot
implytheycannotbeexplained.
Butyou'reimmortal.Dainaprotested.
71

Virtuallyimmortal;Idon'tagebutIcanbekilled,
Jauneecorrected.
Andyou'recapableofextraordinaryfeats.
Yes,Iamphysicallysuperiortoahumanbeing.I'm
smarter,faster,strongeretceteraHowever,thesetraitsdonot
makemeamagicalcreature.
Comeon!Theysayyoucanbendmetalbarswithyour
mind,ignitefireandcastspells!Dainaprotested.
Yeah,I'msecretlyaJedi.Jauneelaughed,Youcaught
me.I'mtheincestuousdaughterofLukeandLeia.
Areyou?Dainareplied,andJauneecouldnotreadif
shewasbeingserious.
Non!Jauneebegan.However,youarecorrectthatI
amcapableofperformingmagic,Sheadmitted.
See!Dainareplied.
Magic,asyourefertoitisnothingmorethanaformof
energyonecanlearntoharnesswithpracticeandeffort.There
isnothingsupernaturalormagicalaboutit.Allenergiesobey
thelawsofphysics.However,yourhumanunderstandingof
physicsstillhasnotreacheditsfullmaturity...Afewdecades
agoflyingtothemoonwasconsideredsciencefiction.Just
imaginewhatyoucouldaccomplishacenturyfromnow,
assuminganuclearwardoesntextinguishhumanlife.You
couldbeimmortal,allofyou.Jauneesaid,hopefully.
Doyoureallybelieveit'spossible?Dainaasked,now
keenlyinterested.Shethoughtbacktoherlife,toherevery
morningritualoflookinginthemirrorlookingforgraying
hairs.Whatadreamitwouldbetobeforeveryoung.
Oui...Ibelievethatitis.Butforthisdreamtobecome
realJauneemistakenlyrepliedtoDaina'sthoughts.The
lightwillhavetofinallyovercomethedarkness.
Whatisthelightthen,andwhatisthedarkness?
Dainaasked,forgettingherroleasinterviewer.

72

Ohit'snothingmagicaltoputplainly.Thedarknessis
apartofhumannature,thevicesoftheworld.Peopleneedto
realizemoneyisjustpaper,faithisnotajustificationforhatred
ormurder.Nothingwhichexistsisneitherinherentlyevilnor
good.Thesearejustmanmadeconcepts.Theadvancementof
scienceallowsmankindtocuretheillsoftheworld,orto
destroyonaglobalscaleintheend,weallpayforwhatweve
done.Youhavetomatureasaspecies,totakeresponsibilityor
findyourselvesdestroyed.Thisismywakeupcalltoyou,the
worldisescalatingtoaverydarkerabutitsnotfate,nordivine
will.Thisiscauseandeffect,science.Jauneeexplained,andit
seemedthatshewantedtoelaboratefurther,togiveafull
speechbutdecidednotto.
Igetit,sciencemakesuspowerfulnow,soyouve
chosentomakeyourpresenceknownbeforewefindoutonour
own.Dainasaid.
True,butImnottalkingonlyaboutthedynamics
betweenusandyoubutthedynamicsbetweenmanandman,
thedynamicsbetweenmanandnature.Youreincontrol,for
goodorill.Jauneereplied.
Anythingelse?askedDaina.
"Yeah,somethingaboutracismalwaysbotheredme.Its
likethatsceneinplanetoftheapeswheretheastronautsaw
theapesarguingwhichisbetter,agorilla,orangutanor
chimpanzeeissuperiorandhewastellingthem'Butyou'reall
apes!'Soyeah,it'skindoflikethat.Youreallhumanforus."
Jauneeaddedexcitedly.
"We'reallapes?"Dainarepeated.
"Youreallhuman."Jauneerepeated.Dainaseemedtobe
daydreaming,orveryfocused.Jauneedidn'thearthestatic
interferencewhisperinginstructions.
Let'sdoashortbreak,Shesaidandgotup.I'mgoing
tomakemesomecoffee.Doyouwantsome?Sheasked,and
signaledthecameramantostoprecording.Jauneenoddedher
approvalwithasmile.
73

Black,onesugar,Shereplied.Andasshesaidthese
words,athirdgroupofsoldieropenedtheglassdoorsintothe
building.
Gammateamisinposition,washeardovertheradio.
WhenJauneewouldattempttoleave,StrikeTeamswould
surroundheronallfronts.
***

74


75

CHAPTERVIIITheLifeofRaymondBrooks

RaymondandIlivedinNorthwoodForest;avastwoods
rangingfromtheChannelnearDrentwychtotheoldwestern
bordersofWessex;tothenorthitexpandedandseparatedus
fromtheScots.Thetreesclosertooursettlementswererather
small,forthelocalpopulationoftenharvestedtimberasclose
aspossibletohome.Woodtheftwasalsoawidespreadcrime
amongstthevariouslumberjacks.ThisiswhyRaymondhad
chosentotraveldeeperintotheforesttoharvestoneofthe
larger,oldertrees.Raymondscabinwasquitelargerelativeto
theneighboringhomes;itequaledthesizeofthreehovels
mergedtogetherintoone.WhenIinquiredastowhyhiscabin
wassobig,hesaidthathelikedhisspace.Buttherewasmore
toitthanthat,Ireasoned.Myguesswasthathehadalarge
familyonceuponatimeandthattheyallhadleft,eachinhis
turn,leavinghimaloneinhisvenerableage.Hewasavery
fatherlyfigure,andIcouldwellimaginehimwithscoresof
childrenrunningabout.
Onenormal,autumndayRaymondandIlaboredat
choppingsuchatreeashepreferredtoharvest.Thistreewas
toughertochopdownthanithadappearedtobeatfirst,and
bothRaymondandIgrewtiredbeforeitfell.Othertrees
loomedhighaboveus,someoftheirpeakspaintedwhitewith
snow.Thoughnosnoworrainwasfallingatthatmoment,it
wasquitechilly.Ilikedthisweather.Itmadetheworldseem
beautifulandcalmkindoflikehowIfelt.Thesoundsof
smallanimalsandbirdskeptuscompany,though,andIfelt
safesittingbyRaymondsside.Iwatchedhimlightabonfire
andblewairupontheemberswheninstructed.
MasterRaymond,mayIaskaquestion?Isaid,afterwe
settledforsupper,ourdishesspreadbeforeus.
Ofcourse,hereplied,andIhesitatedafewmoments,
tryingtothinkofhowtoposemyquery.
Whatdrivesyoutoactsokindly?Ifinallyasked.
Whatdoyoumean?Hereplied,puzzledbyquestion.
76

Well,youtookmeinwhenyouhadnothingtogain
fromit.I,awoundedsoldierwithpeopleprobablyouttokill
me.ThewayIseeit,youhadeverythingtoloseandnothingto
gain,soIdontunderstandwhy?Pleasetellme,Isaid.
Noteverythingisaboutgainingorlosing,herepliedin
calmtones.AnditsnottruethatIhadnothingtogain.Isaved
alife,andIthinkyoursisalifeworthsaving,hesaid,yethis
expressiontoldmetheresmorebeneaththesurface.
Whyme?Youdontevenknowme,Iprotested.
Idontneedyourlifesstorytoknowyourheart,andit
doesntmatter.Imnotyourjudge.Formeyoureasoulin
need,andassuchitsmydutytogiveassistance,hesaid
calmly.
Duty?Assignedbywhom?Iasked,pressinghim
further.Iwantedthegodawfultruth.
Selfassigned,bymyheartasaChristian.Itsmydutyto
helpthoseinneed,herepliedquickly.Iknewtherewasmore
toitthanthat,butIchangedmymindanddecidedthatI
shouldnotdelveintomatterswhichhewishedtokeepto
himself.Mymindwasnotsatisfied.Iwantedtoknow,damnit.
ButIdbeadickifIrepaidmysaviorwithinterrogations.The
turmoilwasprobablyevidentonmyface.
Why,youdontthinkyourlifeisworthsaving?He
asked,afteranawkwardsilenceofstudyingme.
Yes!Iguess...Idontknow.Idontknowforsure,
maybeImavillainandIdontevenknow,Irepliedhonestly.
Ifhewontcomeforward,atleastIwill,Ithought.
Whatcrimecouldaboyyouragedotodamnyouso
completely?Heasked.
Idontknow!Icantremember,buttheresguilt.Iknow
theresguiltinmyheart,andIcantrememberwhy.Idont
knowmycrime,butitsthere,runninglikeableedingwound
acrosstheveryfoundationsofmysoul,Ireplied.Andthereit
was,ashonestlyandboldlyasIcouldputit.ItwasnthimI
wantedtointerrogate,itwasme.Irubbedmyeyes,Iwantedto
goaway,IwantedtostayandopenPandorasBox.
77

SotakethisopportunitytoaskforgivenessoftheLord,
andmendwhateveritisyoufeelneedsmending,hereplied,
stillamazinglywellcomposed.
ButwhatifmycrimeisnotagainstGod,whatifits
againstmyfellowman?Iasked,asIfelttheBoxslidstartto
open.

Thenaskforgivenessofthatmanonceyouseehim,he
replied.

Notallcrimescanbeforgiven,Ireplied,feelingahole
inmysoul,myheartburning,andgrowingfrustratedwith
thesefeelingsforwhichmymindrecoiledattherecollection.
Forgiveyourselfthen,orfindawaytomakeamends,
lestguiltconsumeyou.Heplacedhishandonmyshoulder.
Goon,eatyourfood.Ididabsentmindedly.
Ikilled,Isaidafterfinishingmyfood,havingnobetter
waytorestarttheconversationsoIjustopenedtheBoxand
daredrevealwhatwasinside.
Thatsasoldiersjob,Jesusknows...hesaid,andI
stoppedhim.
NotasIdid,Ireplied,tearsinmyeyes.
Idontunderstand,hesaid,becomingveryattentive.
Mybrother,IfinkIkilledmybrother,anditshaunting
meforever,Isaid,staringattheground.
Yourememberthisoryoujustthinkit?Heasked,
caringperhapsmorethanheshould.
ItsafeelingIcantdescribe,butIknowitsrealandit
wontleavemebe,Isaid,lookingawayfromhim.
Didyoumeantodoit?Heaskedcalmly.
No!Idontthinkso,maybeno,Isaid.Idontknow!
Soforallyouknow,itcouldhavebeenanaccident,he
replied.
Itcouldhaveyes!Ithought.Ihungonhis
explanationasifmylifedependedonit.
78

Yes,itmusthavebeenanaccident,thoughIfeel
responsible,Isaid.
Ifitwasanaccident,yourguiltcanonlyhurtyou,
unlessyoufindawaytomakepeacewithitandmoveon,he
saidsimply.
Howcanyoumakepeacewithsomethinglikethat?I
asked,clenchingandunclenchingmyfists.
Youmust,forlifegoesonnomatterwhat.Eitheryougo
onwithitoryouwitheranddie.Theresplentyofguiltinmy
lifetoo,butIdontletitruleoverme,hesaid.
Youmakeitsoundsoeasy,Ireplied.
Neversaiditwas,youjustdonthaveanyotherchoice,
hereplied,andIstaredatthefiresilently,tryingtosortouta
lotofblacknessandsomescrambledimagesrunningacrossmy
mind.
Itsrathersimple,boyo.Yourehandedoutwhatyoure
handedout.Werenotallbornequal,sotheresnouse
resentingfate,hesaid.
Butitsnotfair!Iprotested,feelinganoldangerstirto
life,andanimageofblondhairblowinginthespringwind.
No,itsnot,butyouhaveachoice,anditsasimpleone,
really.Youdowhatyouwanttodo,goyourownway,carve
yourownfate,hesaid.
Idontunderstand,Ireplied.
Illexplain,then,hesaid,grabbingatwiganddrawing
inthesand.
Therearethreekindsoffates,heexplained.Thefirst
isthefateofbeingborn,hesaidashedrewthewordvitae,
whichisLatinforlife.Hewashighlyeducatedforawood
choppinghermitinthewoods.
Youcantchangethecircumstancesofyourbirth,cant
chooseyourfolks,cantchooseyourgender,cantchooseyour
race.DoyouknowwhatImsaying?Heasked,hintingata
deepermeaningIcouldnotyetsee.
Yes,Ireplied,assofaritwasclearasItookhiswords
literallyforwhattheywere.
79

Ontheothersidewehavedeath,hesaid,anddrewthe
wordMorte,theLatinwordfordeath.Youcansometimes
choosethewayyoudie,butyoucantstopdeath.Thatsthe
secondGodordainedfate,heexplained.
Iunderstand,Isaid.
Now,inbetween,youvegotthelastkindoffatecalled
experience,hesaidanddrewthewordexperienceinthe
sand.Thisiswhereyourfreedomofchoicecomesin.Youcan
dowhateveryouwantbetweenthosetwofates,birthand
death,andthisisthefatethatmatters,sinceitistheonethatis
yourstoshapeasyouseefit.Andyoushapeitbymaking
choices.Forthisfate,Godgaveusaguidebook,totellushow
toexperienceagoodlife.Buthedoesntforceustotravelhis
way,youcanexperiencelifeinanywayyouwant,heexplained
atlength.
Iunderstand,Ireplied,thinkingthisover.Hiswords
wereclear,butIwantedtoprotest.
Imhappyboyo,Herepliedawkwardly.Hewasnt
happyatall.
Yousaywehavenocontroloverbirthanddeath,but
havecontroloverourlife,Isaid.
YesHeagreedpreparingformychallenge.
ButIsayinlife,wehavelittletonocontrolatall.For
yousee,wevegotrules,andpeopletellinguswhattodoand
whatsrightandwrong,evenwhatspropertofink.
Ofcourse,freedomisavaluablething,andonemust
alwaysbemindfulandprotectonesfreedom,hereplied.It
wasastatementwhichseemedfilledwithflaws,although
soundingpleasingtotheear.
Ifinkfreedomisanidea,butitdoesntexistinreallife.
Supposesocietycrumbledandtherewerenonobles,no
soldiers,noruleseachpersonwouldhavetofightfor
everything,toprotecthisfamily,togatherfood.Aworld
withoutruleswillbeadarkworldindeed,Isaid,andIhad
moretosay,butIwantedtohearhisreply.
80

Ofcourse,therulesofsocietyarethereforareason,to
preserveyourwellbeing,butonecanchoosetoliveoutsideof
society,asIhave,hereplied,keepinghisadamantcomposure,
evenwhenchallengedrhetoricallybyanadolescent.
SoIsaythereisnofreedom.Youcanchoosetolive
confinedbysociety,ortoliveasanoutlaw.Youcansometimes
chooseyourcraft,andsometimesevenyourwife.ButIsay
choicesarelimited,andthereforeevenbetweenbirthand
death,apersonislimited.Ifeltmyargumentwassound,and
thatmademeabitsad:Ididntwanttobringhimdown.

Thatiswhereyourewrong,Herepliedwithout
missingabeat.Youthinkfreedomisdivinity.Illexplainwhat
realfreedomis.Freedomisthechoiceyoumaketodotheright
thingortheselfishthing.Youcantalwayschooseyourwife,
butyoucanchoosehowyoutreather.Youcantalwayschoose
yourprofession,butyoucanchoosetodedicateyourselftoit
andexcelortoslackatit.Evenwhenasoldierslifeisimposed
onyou,youmakeachoiceonwhatkindofsoldieryouare.And
youalwayshaveachoiceofwhatkindofpersonyoucanbe.
Thatistruefreedom,andnoonecantakeitawayfromyou
becauseitwasgiventoyoubyGodthefreedomtochoose,
hereplied,andIwashumbled.
Iunderstand,Isaid,andthistimeImeantit.Ifelt
betternow,andinawayafterreleasingallmytroubles,Ifound
hope.Icanbeagoodperson;abetterperson.Ihaveachoice,
andIchoosetobenoble,likeRaymondotheBrooks.
Willyoutellmeyourstory,howyougrewsowise?I
asked,hopingforachangeofsubject.
Theresnothinginmystorythatwouldcheeryouup.
Perhapsitsbesttoletthepastdieout,herepliedthoughtfully.
Idliketohearitnonetheless,ifyourewilling,I
replied,noweagerandintrigued.

81

Well,boyo,theresseemnostoppingyouverywell
thenIoriginallycamefromalandfurthertothenorth...he
began,andIlistenedcarefully,makingmyselfascomfortableas
Icould.
Peopleweredifferentthere,tallerandstrongerthanany
here.Wewereawarriornation,thoughfewofusremaintoday.
Iwasntmuchofawarriorcomparedtomybrethren.Itwasnt
thatIlackedskill,butIlackedinterest.Myconcernslay
elsewhere,inthingsfarmoretenderandpleasurable,hesaid,
andwinkedatme.Ididntgetwhateverhewashintingatand
myfaceremainedblank.
Imeantosay,Boyo,isthatIwasfarmoreinterestedin
womenthanIwasinwars.Icourtedayoungladybythename
ofLianna,andsheindeedwasfair.Ravenhaired,clevergreen
eyes,andasharpmind.Wespendmanyaneveningafter
doingourchores,debatingandarguingallthefactsoflife,and
everytime,boyo,everytimesheleftmeconfused,discouraged,
miserable,andlongingformore.Shehadsomethingtosay
abouteverything,andmostoftenitwasradical,revolutionary,
bittersweet,anddemandedrumination.Ifellinlovewithher,
andthoughshewouldhavesaidmyaffectionwastowardsher
fleshandnotherspirit,thiswasnotthecase,no!Hesaid,and
hiseyestookanostalgicgleam.
Asfatewouldhaveit,IwascalledtowarbeforeIhad
thechancetoproposemarriage.Ihadsavedafortunetopay
herfatherfortheprivilegeofherhand,andhe,asharp,shrewd,
andgreedyman,knewofmyaffections,andwoulddemandno
lessthaneverythingIowned.Ihadmanagedtoraiseenough
goldandjewelstopurchaseher,yetasthefateswouldhaveit,I
wascalledtowarandherweddingringremainedinmypurse,
hesaid,hiseyesglazedandhaunted.

82

SoIwenttowarandIfought.Ididntcarewhothe
enemywasorwhyIwasfighting.Ifoughtonlytoreturnto
Lianna,andproposetoher.Fiveyearsofsoldieringchanged
me,Boyochangedmetotheverycoreofmysoul.Iforgot
myself,whoIwasbeforethewar.Ilivedintheforestforfive
years,fightingagainandagain,Icantevenrememberagainst
whoIdontcaretoremember.ButIwasstrong,andI
survived,hesaid,takingasipofwaterfromhiswaterskinto
calmhimself.Isatbesidehimstunned,wantingtosay
something,butIdidntknowwhat.Iwaseager,yetatthesame
timefrightenedtohearwhathappenedtohislove.
SomewheredeepinsideofmeIwondered,amItooin
exilefrommylover?
IntheendIfoundmywaybackhome,ashadowofthe
manIusedtobe.Myfacewasheavilybeardedandcrustedwith
dirt.Myclotheswerenotmyown,butbelongedtoadeadman
whohadwornthembeforeme.Myhands,myfingers,were
blackenedbyashes,sand,andblood.Inotherwords,Ilooked
asifIhadgonetoHellandback.IcouldnothaveLiannasee
melikethat.SobackIwenttotheforest,andbathedmyselfin
theriver,washingcleanmybodybutnotmysoul.Therewas
stillbloodonmyhands,astainthatcannevergoaway,he
reflected.
Raymond,mayIaskaquestion?Iventured.
Yes,byallmeansboyo,heanswered,hisfacerelaxing
andhistonelighter.
Whyfiveyearsatwar,whywereyoutheonlyoneto
comeback?Iasked.Hepausedforafewmoments,tryingto
makeadecision,andthenhespoke.
Ihavedied,Boyo,hebegandarkly.Idiedandcame
backtolife.Theresnodoubtaboutit.Abladepiercedmyflesh
andassureasheaven,Iremembermyselflyinginapoolof
blood.Then...hepaused.

83

Thenwhat?Iasked,lookingtotheground,unableto
beartheintensityofhisgazeashespokethosewords.Thenan
oldmanappearedoutofnowhere,hejustmaterializedbehind
mykiller.Ilistened,tremblinginaweandfearastheoldman
struckmykillerwiththunderandlightning,destroyinghis
bodycompletely.Icanseehisfaceevennowinmymind,smell
thebrimstoneandwitnessthesmoke.Ithoughthimademon
andcalledouttoGodwithmyfinalounceofstrength.Buthe
healedmywounds,Boyohealedthem,Raymondrepeated.
Didhesayanything?Iasked,inaweofhisstory.
Aye,Boyo.Hesaiduntomethewisestofwords,
Raymondansweredandbreatheddeeply.Hesaidthatangels
hideascommonmen,watchingus,servingjusticeormercyas
Godseesfit.Whyme?Iasked,andwhathetoldmeIcannot
repeatBoyo,thoughIcanadmitourmeetingwasnotbychance
butoffate.
Whatdoyoumean?Iasked,fervently.
Icannotsay,hereplied.
Well,goonwithyourstorythen!Ipleaded.Please,I
added.
OnthatdayIsworemylifetoChrist,andthisiswhyI
wastheonlyonetoreturn,Boyo,hesaidwithafarawaylook.
WherewasI?Raymondsuddenlyasked,asifwaking
fromasleep.
Youhadbathedintheriver,Isaid.
Yes,yes.Ihadbathedmyselfthenreturnedhomethe
secondtime,seekingmyLianna,hesaidandgrewsilent,his
faceturninggrim.
Andwhathappened?Iaskedafterafewmoments,
unabletobeartheuncomfortablesilencethatsettledbetween
us.
And,herfatherhadwedhertoanothermanwhileIwas
gone,thatswhathappened,hesaid,andwassilentagain.
What!Thatsnotfair,whydidhedothat?Iasked,
protestingwhatIthoughttobeahorribleendingtothistale.
84

Hesaidthatallthoughtmedead,andthathehadonly
hisdaughtersbestinterestinmind.ThoughIbelievehehad
hisownbestinterestinmind,forhewaspaidahandsomefee.
HerequestedthenthatIrefrainfromseeingher,andIsilently
turnedmybacktohimandleft,Raymondsaid.
Wheredidyougo?Iasked,stillimmerseddeeplyinhis
story.
IwenttoLianna,ofcourse.Herhusbandblockedthe
door,yellingathertoremainsilent.Ichoppedthedoordown
withmyaxe,struckhisfacewiththehilt,andproceededtotake
herwithme,Raymondsaid,andhiseyesshonein
remembranceofaragehehadnotforgotten.
Whathappenedthen?Iaskedasheoncemorebecame
silent.
Thenwemadeloveunderthestarsandtogetherwe
builtthiscabinwhereIstilllive,hesaid,tearsinhiseyes.
Whysosadthen?Whereisshenow?Isaid,andthen
caughtmyself,forhissilencetolditall.Hiseyesgleamedand
staredintomine,asifdiggingintomysoul.
Shewasstillthewifeofanotherman.Justifiedornot,
ourlovewasasinagainstGodandhepunishedus,forIhad
covetedandtakenthewifeofanotherman,herepliedwith
tearsinhiseyes,andIforonceremainedsilent.
AndIhavebetteredmywayssincethen.Ihadcometo
feartheLordandkeephiscommandmentsAndIpray,every
daythathewouldforgiveme,anddelivermetowhereourlove
wouldbepossible.Anyplacewherewearetogetherwillbean
Edentome,hesaid,andstaredatmesilently.
Imsorry,Isaid.
Dontbe;yougavemeyourconfessionandIgaveyou
mine,heresponded.
IwishIknewwhattosay,Ireplied.
Dontbesadforme,Boyo.Ididfindanotherlove
eventually,gotmarried,hadchildren,hesaid.
Still,itseemsunfairandsad,Ireplied,stillengrossed
inhisstory.
85

Comeon,Boyo.Theautumnwindsblowchillycome
darkness,hesaid,andwemadewaybackhome.Mymindwas
nowfilledwithmorequestionsandfeweranswersthanithad
everbeen.

86

CHAPTERIXTheCasualtyofMurder
Onlyasingleweekhadpassedsinceourconversation
toosoonitfadedaway,andIcontinuedtoliveinignorantbliss,
fullofyouthfulquestionsandaninnocentlongingforlife.
Raymondwasavirtuousmanineverymeasure;ashining
exampleofthenobilityofthehumanheart.Ienviedhis
peacefuldemeanorandhiswisdom,whichshoneineveryword
hesaid.Hemademefeellikeachildagain,butinapositive
way.Ifeltsheltered.Wenevermentionedourtalkinthe
woods.IdroppedacoupleofhintsthatIwishedtoknowmore,
butwheneverIdid,hiseyestookonasorrowfulgleamandI
knewbetterthantostrikeatthedentinhisarmor.
IrememberitwasaSunday.Raymondhadsentmeto
thebrooktodrawoursupplyofwaterforthedaywhilehe
preparedfishforlunch.PerhapsIwastooslowingettingthe
bucketsofwater,forthescentofcookingfishattractednot
onlybeastsoftheanimalsort,buthumanaswell.
IfeltachillwhenIcamewithinviewingdistanceofhis
cabin,asifsomeonehadpassedovermygrave,thoughasyetI
sawnothingoutoftheordinary.Foramomentmymind
recalledanimageofalordindirtyarmor,hisskinsickly,and
thenthevisionended.Akeenlydirefeelingfilledmyheartwith
mortaldread,butIdismissedmyfearsbecauseIsawno
evidencetovalidatethem.Thesmokingchimneygavea
pleasantsmell,andIapproachedrapidly,bearingalogovermy
shouldersfromwhichtwowaterbucketshung.Icarefully
kickedthedooropen,andthenstared,mouthagape,atthe
sightwhichconfirmedallmyfears.

87

Twoarmedmensatathistable.Iremembertheirfaces
asiftheywerecarvedonmysoulinblood.Astheyatethefish
whichRaymondhadcooked,aspearrested,leaningonthe
tablewithinreachofthemansittingoppositetome.Hishair
wasblackandhisfacedirty,hispalmscoveredinsomefabric:I
dontknowiftheywerebandagedorgloved.Icantforgethis
faceorthechestnutbrownmassofhairwhichbelongedtohis
friend.Hesatwithhisbacktome,hisclubofcarvedwood
lyingonthetablerightnexttohisrighthand.Athirdbandit
mindedthecookingpot;hewasdarkhairedaswell,perhapsa
brothertothefirstman.Butwhatstruckmethemostwasnot
thesightofthebandits,butRaymondsdeadbodylayingatthe
cooksfeet.Hisheadwascleavedprobablybyhisownaxe,
andhisinsideslitteredthefloor.Noneofthebanditsseemedto
care;theyhadbeeneatingasifnothingextraordinaryhad
happeneduntilIcame.
Hey,you!Theblackhairedoneroared,andgrabbed
holdofhisspearashestoodupabruptly.Idroppedthelog
withthebucketstothefloor,stunned.Thechestnutbrown
hairedmanturnedandgrabbedhisclub.Imanagedtoseehis
faceforonlyabriefmomentbeforeItookalongstep
backwardsandslammedthedoorshutwithallmymight.I
heardthespearheadstrikethedooranddidntwaitforwhat
wastocomenext,butranwithallmymightawayfromthe
cabin,intothewoods.Thethreegavechaselikehounds,
obviouslyinbettershapethanI.YetIwasrunningformylife
andsodidnottireorslowforalltheworld.
Iranstraightforthebrook,tryingtozigzagmyway
betweentreestomakechasingmeasdifficultaspossible.I
lookedtothegroundonlyforbriefglances.Myfeetmovedso
fastthatIcouldscarcelyseethematall,onlyfeeltheearth
beneathme.AssoonasIreachedthebrookIbouncedacross
thebanktotheotherside,hidbehindatree,andprayedthat
thebanditswouldthinkIhadcontinuedon,swimming.

88

Thesoundoftherunningwatermaskedthesoundofmy
laboredbreath,orperhapsthebanditsweredimwits.
Regardlessofthecause,theystrayedintheirchaseandsought
meelsewhere.
Iwaiteduntilitgrewdark,standingmotionlesswithmy
backtoatree.Mythoughtsatfirstweretoofrightenedtobe
coherent,buttheybecameclearerasIcalmeddown.Ithought
ofthebanditsfaces,memorizingtheireveryfeature.Iwould
notforgetthosefaces,Isworetomyself,sohelpmeGod.
AsIcarvedtheirimagesintomymemory,Iimagined
whatsweetvengeancewouldbelike,fantasizingunlikely
situationsinwhichIwouldkillthemallaftermakingthem
sufferfirst.AtlastIforcedmymindtostopitsidlefantasies
andfocus,knowingIwouldmakesurethatthosewhohad
killedRaymondwouldpay,paydearlywiththeirlives.
Raymondhadbeenasaint;atruesaintonewhowas
kindandgoodhearted.Whenhehadhelpedme,itwasnt
becauseofaselfishdesirethatIwouldpayhimbackforhis
kindness.HehadntevenexpectedGodtorepayhimhis
kindness.Raymondssolemotivationforhisactionshadbeen
thenobilityofhissoul.Iwasntsonoble,however,andmyfist
clenched;IwantedhiskillersbloodsplatteredIwanted
themtosufferhorriblyanddieinagony.
ItwasthenthatIprayed,underthemoonlight,inthe
darkofnight,forGodtograntmejustice,tograntme
vengeance.IdidntknowhowtoprayanymoreIcouldnt
remember,soIspokefrommyheart,baringmysoultoHewho
remainedsilent.
GodGodIcalledoutinpain,assilentlyasIcould
Grantmevengeance,please,ohAlmightyGodoftheHeavens
Above,Hewhohearsthevoicesofhispeople,Icontinuedafter
takingadeepbreath.Hearme!Iexclaimed.
Agreatwrongagreatwrong,hasbeendone.A
righteousmanhasbeenslain,murdered!Icriedinpleading
tones.
89

RaymondotheBrooks;hewasmurderedbythree
bandits.Murderers!Icalled.
Ohplease,LordofHosts,grantmethisprayer;helpme
strikethemdown,Ipleaded.
Illnotrestuntiljusticehascometopass...thisIswear!
ThisIswear!Icalledmoresoftlyinagony.Itwasonlyafter
manyminuteshadpassedthatIcollectedmyselfandfoundthe
strengthtorise.Aragingspiritwasaliveinmenowasnever
before.Itbroughtmestrengthandcomfort,wherebeforehad
beenweaknessandfear.Itcausedmetospringtolifewith
determinedmotion,wherebeforeIhadbeennumband
insecure.Thisvowwasmypassion,myonlypassion.
Soitwasthatmymemoriesreturned,oneafteranother
racingbackwardsthroughtime.IwhimperedinfearasInow
rememberedthefiretrapandtheflashoflight.Ivars
monstrousglareasheroaredatmetoleavefilledmewitha
mournfulanger.Thenmymemoriesbroughtmeforwardtothe
fightagainsttherebels,andagaintherewasnothingbut
sadnessthere.Iwasangryatmyself,anddisappointed.There
wassomuchIcouldhavedonedifferently,somanypossible
outcomesandIbroughtdowntheworstuponmyself.Myrage
racedon,unstoppableasatornado,tearingacrossmyheartand
soul.Irememberedthefightsthen,andclenchedand
unclenchedmyfistsinrecollectedanger.ThenIvaroncemore:
avisionofanhonorableman.Thoughhehadcastmeaway,oh
howIwrongedhim.Mythoughtsnextlingeredonthe
bittersweetmemoryofIngrid.Ievenwhisperedhernameto
thewind.IhadsomuchinthelifeIleftbehind.WhydidI
leaveitallbehind?

90

NextIrememberedmyparents,andtheshipwhichhad
broughtusfromJerusalemtoDrentwychonthecoastof
Britain.Mymemoriesendedwithavisionofmyolderbrother
movingtotherhythmofthewind,hangingfromhisneck,his
headinanawkwardposition.Ishunnedawayfromthat
memory,foritwastoomuchformetobear,andtheguilt
whichaccompanieditthreatenedtoshattermyresolve.Why
allmymemoriesweretaintedbyhatred,malcontent,andrage,
Iknownot.Butwhateversadness,longing,orevenjoyIdared
rememberwasovershadowedbythisgreathatethatnow
engulfedmylife.Ifedtheinfernosandwasnourishedbythem.
HatredgavemethestrengthandresolveIneededforthegrim
taskIhadsetbeforeme.Mypathwaslaidbarebeforeme,
pavedinviolenceeverystepoftheway.ThisiswhoIam.
IreachedthemilitarycampinOverHamptonatthe
breakofdawn.Ismiled,pleasedtoseethatthefightinghad
subsidedandwasforgotten.Iaskedasoldierwheretheclerk
whoenlistsmenintoserviceresidedandmademywayingrim
determinationtohisbarrack.Hesatinaroomveryclosetothe
cellswherethesurvivingrebelsnowresided.Itooksatisfaction
inhearingthemoansofthoserebelswhohadbeencapturedby
thearmy.Icouldnotforgivenorforgethowtheyhadnearly
endedmylife,andIwasnotenlightenedenoughtoconsider
themmorethanenemiesnow.Theywerethesamebrandof
scumasthesoldierssurroundingme.Theywerehuman.Ihad
onlytopicksides.Iknockedonthedoorandenteredquickly.
TheroomhadbeendarkwhenIcrossedthethreshold
onlyalonelylightshonefromasinglecandle.Aclerkingray
robessatuponaheavyoakchair,anopenbookbeforehim,still
writingwiththefeatherinhishandasIenteredtheroom.Fora
momentIenvisionedhimasademon,writingdownthenames
ofthesoulshewouldtakewithhimtotheunderworld.Only
hisblueeyesshoneinthelightoftheflame.
Soyouwanttosigninforservice,heaskedinarasping
voice,andcoughed,raisinghisshinyeyesfromhisbooktolook
intomine.
91

Aye,Idliketobeasoldier,Ianswerednervously.
Therewasanearlyinvisibleshiftinhisexpression,atinysmile
thatwasnearlyobfuscated.InmyparanoiaIalmostimagined
hehadbeenwaitingthereforme.Ibanishedthatthought,
however,sinceitwasimpossible.
Signhere,then,hesaid,turninghisbookovertome
andshowingmewithhisfingerwheretoplacemymarkwith
thewritingfeather.Itriedtobanishtheimpressioninmyhead
thatIwassurrenderingmysoul.Inervouslymovedashaking
handtoscribblemynamewhenhiscoldfingersclosedaround
myhand,preventingmefromsigning.
Ifyourenotsure,dontsign,hesaidinavoicethat
sentshiversdownmyspine.
Imsure,Ireplied,myfacegrowingharder.
Ifyousayso,youngman,hereplied.
Youdontseemconvinced,Itoldhim.
Yourenotthetypetojointhearmy,hesaid
dismissively.
Whynot?Iasked.
Becausethearmyhasonlybloodshedtoofferyou.Iam
givingyouachancetochooseadifferentfate,heanswered.
Bethatasitmay,Istillwishtosign,Ireplied.
Why?Heaskedbluntly.
BecauseinDrentwych,Ihadbeennothing;aboy
relyingonthekindnessofothers.Ispentmydayslivingeither
onthebittergraceshowntomebythosewhodidnotcarefor
me,oroutsideindarkplaceswherethescumoftheearth
roam,Isaid,tryingtoconvincemyselfaswellashim.
Andyouthinkasoldierslifewillelevateyou?He
asked,smilingacrookedsmileasifchallengingmyresolve.
Yes,itwillgivemethechancetobemyownman,to
carveoutmyownfate.Itwillgivemeasenseofpurposeand
somethingusefultodowithmytimeratherthanwasteit
dreaming,Isaid.
Dreaming,youngman?Hewasgrowinginterestedin
myoddconfession.
92

Yes,dreaming.Ihatedreaming.Idreamtofabetterlife
formyself,butIcanthavewhatIwishedfor.Iwantedagood
wifeandperhapstoraisemyownfamilysomeday,butshell
neverbemineandtheonlythingImgoodfornowisfighting,
Isaid.
ImafraidIdontfollow,hereplied.
Ijustwantasecondchance,soletmesignandhaltthe
questions,Igrowled.
Illhaltmyquestionswhenyouceaselying.Whyare
youreallyreadytosignyourlifeaway?Heasked,andI
wonderedifthisdemoncouldtrulygazeintomysoul.
Vengeance,alright!Iwanttotakebloodyvengeance
againstbanditswhomurderedmyfather.Iwanttokillthem
andtherestoftheirkind!Iwanttomaketheworldabetter
placebydisposingofthescuminit,Isaidangrily,certainthat
Inowwouldbesentawayortossedinthedungeons.
Verygood,thearmyalwaysneedsgoodmen!He
repliedandclappedhishandstogetherashespoke.Signhere,
hecontinued,andpointedtotheplaceIwastoputmymark.It
wasonlywhenthatthefeatherwastouchingtheparchment
thatIrecalledthatIdidnotknowhowtowriteinhislanguage.
Icantwritemorethanafewletters,Isaidinshame,
andhandedhimbackthepen.IhadnoideathatinBarbaria,
veryfewpeoplecouldspellevenasingleletter.
Whydidntyousayso,then,hesaid,andtookthe
featherfromme.Whatsyourname?Heasked.
RaymondofDrentwych,Ireplied,andhesignedthe
namewhichItookformyownfromthatdayforward,in
homage.
TransportolemmautAbyssus,son,hesaidashe
dismissedme.
What?
SendemtoHell!

93

Ilefthisroomwiththedirefeelingthatsomeonehad
juststeppedonmygrave.Inanoddway,thoughthismansent
shiversdownmyspine,IfeltIdfoundinhimakindredspirit.
Therewasadarkpassionabouthim,fullofmalcontentand
hatredofhislife.Onelostsoulcanalwaysspotanotherofthe
samenature.
JustbeforeIwassentofftothefortressofWistHilltobe
trainedIheardthemostalarmingnews.Theyfoundthe
enlistersbodywithhisthroatslit,stuffedinacloset.Luckily
Iwasntasuspect.Imournedforhim,though.Enlistersusually
getpaidforeveryheadtheyenlist,anditwasmightykindand
thoughtfulofhimtotrytoturnmeaway.Iwasyoung,afterall,
andeagerandstrong.Exactlythekindofmanthearmy
wanted.
IarrivedatthefortressofWistHillonceagainandthere
Iwastrained.Luckilyforme,mostofthetrainersweredifferent
menthanthosewhohadbeentheremyprevioussojourn,and
theonetrainerwhorecognizedmecouldntremembermy
name.IwaseagertogetbackintofightingshapesothatIcould
takerevenge.Perhapsitwasmygrimdeterminationorperhaps
theshortageofsoldiersaftertherebellionthatpromptedthe
armytoprovidebettertrainingnow.ThistimeIwastrained
properlyintheuseofbothswordandspear.Threemonths
passed,asiftheywereasingleday.Iaskedtobestationedat
OverHamptonandwasgrantedmyrequest.ThusIbecamea
soldierthereoncemore,thistimeunderadifferentnameand
withtruepurpose.
***

94

Presentday...

Justbeforethedawn,Jauneetooktheelevatorwith
Daina.Astheydescended,Dainathoughttoherselfjusthow
smallJauneewas;likeaminiaturewoman.Hardtobelievethis
petitelittlepersonwasathousandyearoldwitchthe
smartestpersononearth.Dainawalkedfirst,bentandturned
thekeytoopentheglassdoors.Jauneewaspreoccupiedwith
examiningDaina'sbumtonoticeanysnipersoutside.They
descendedthestairstogether,shakinghandsastheyparted.
Dainawentbackinside,andtooktheelevatortothebasement
floorwherehercarwaited.MeanwhileJauneeturnedleft,togo
toherbikewheresomeonewaswaiting.Takingthreestepsshe
noticedtoolatethatsomethingwaswrongwiththeroad
blockade.AhailofbulletswasfiredatherallatoncefromAnti
Materialriflesandmachineguns.Shewasliterallyflungagainst
awallonherleftbythepowerfulkineticimpactofthesehigh
poweredrounds.Nopersoncouldsurvivebeingshotbyan
armorpiercing.50calBMGround,andJauneewasshotbya
fewdozens.Yettheydidnottearherapartastheywoulda
humanbeing.
Atoweringfigure,twometerstall,brownhairedand
wearingaBiker'sleatherjacketrantowardsJaunee,obliviousto
thedanger.
Mother!Hecriedinaheavyvoicedevoidofhuman
emotion.TheStrikeTeamswereloadingmagazinesasthey
watchedthistoweringgiantflailinghisarmsabout,running
towardshismother,wholayinapoolofherownblood.The
sickeningsoundofahumanskullexplodingattractedthe
attentionofaSniper,whoturnedtoseehisfrienddropdead,
hisbrainsplatteredallovertheroof.TheGiantwasshooting
silentlyfromthewrist.Thesniperscreamedattheradio,and
theshootingbeganagain.

95

Mother!Thefigurecriedagain,ashelayontopofher
shallowbreathingform,shieldingherwithhisbody.The
bulletstorehisclothesandfleshapart,torevealametallicform
beneath.Achillesretaliated,firingfromaninternalmechanism.
Twomoredeathsconvincedthesoldierstodropdownandtake
cover.
Achilles,run!Jauneesaidfeebly,asherfleshbegun
turningtostone.AndAchillesranasfastashecould,carrying
hismother;heknewthisstorywasoverforhimbuthehadto
getmothertosafety.
She'sgotafuckingTerminator!TheSnipersscreamed
overtheradio.
Noway,man!Itwasprobablyjustsomearmor!replied
theCommander.
Areyoufuckingkiddingme!Ishothimintheheadlike
threetimes,andI'mtellingyou,thisain'thuman,repliedthe
Sniper.
Youfuckingmoron,ofcoursehe'snothuman;his
motherisamonsterandsoishe.Nowpackyourgear,we're
leaving!Hesaid.
Deltateaminposition,washeardoveranotherradio.
SparkswereflyingfromAchillesinternalmechanism,andhe
receiveddamagereportsfromeverypartofhisbody;bothhis
bioticandsyntheticpartswereallrupturedandbleeding.He
washeatingupinside;hismicropowerplant'scoolingsystem
wasdamaged.Howdidtheypiercehisgraphenesubdermal
armor?Achillesdidntknow.Itwasonlyamatteroftimenow
beforeheceasedtobe.AchillesbrokethedooroftheAzrieli
Towers,andhidJauneewherehecould.Ifprotectionofmother
wasnothisprimarygoal,hewouldhavekilledallofthemand
moremuchsooner.JauneebuiltAchillestosurvive.Shecould
notbearchildren,soshebuiltone.Herperfectson,amachine.

96

TenminuteslaterlargearmyforcessurroundedAchilles
asheleftthetowers.Theyopenedfireonwhattheythought
wasaterroristandheexploded.Themediareportedasuicide
bomberwasinterceptedbyIsraelisoldiersandhisbelt
detonated.Luckilynoonewashurt.
"Formother."Werethelastwordshesaidashe
combustedfromtheinsidewhilebeingshotwithahailof
bullets.Andhewondered:domachineshavesouls...something
thathasneverbeforecrossedhismind.Anhourlaterlife
resumedtheirnormalcourse.Thebusstationswerepacked
withpeoplegoingtowork,andtrafficwasamessasitalwaysis
atthesehours.Thenewsrepeatedastoryaboutaterrorist
bomber,buttheIsraeliswereusedtothesekindofstories,and
everyonesignedasignofreliefhearingnocitizenoryoung
soldierwashurt.
Afloweriestdiscoveredanivorystatueofanangelwith
herwingsfoldedcloakingherself.Shetookthestatueandused
itasamannequintodisplayherbouquets.
***

97

98

CHAPTERXJaunee

DearJournal,
Iamskippingforwardinmytaletoallowmydaughter
Jauneetoaddherstorytomybook.
Butfirstsomebackground
IthasbeenalongtimesincelastIwrote,forreasonsI
cannotelaborateatthistime.Tonight,however,Ishouldliketo
tellyouofcurrenteventsinsteadoftheageoldtalesofmy
youth.MybeloveddaughterJauneecametoseemeyesterday.
Wehadpartedwaysabouthalfacenturyagooveratrifling
argument.Iwassurprisedandoverjoyedtoseeheragain,tosay
theleast,thoughhervisitworriedmebeyondwords,andIshall
explainwhy.Likeme,sheisimmortalyetunlikeme,shewas
neverreallyhuman.Jauneeisanastonishinglybeautifullady,
hereternalyouthfulappearanceenableshertoeasilypassfora
teenager.Muchlikeateenager,sheenjoysparties,dancing,and
drinkingandlifeaswildasitcanbe.Throughouttheagesshe
hasretainedheryouthful,unchanginglooksandlifestyle,
regardlessofhowmanycenturieshavepassed.Untilnow.That
is,whenIsawheryesterday.Herhairhadwhitenedcompletely.
Thisbroughtmetotwodirerealizations:one,somethingis
terriblywrongwithher,andtwo,shehasntdyedherhairso
shewantsmetoknow.Iwascertainlyworried,butuncertain
onhowtoapproachthematter.
SowhatIbegan,lookingatherhairafterIhad
servedheradishofspaghettiandredwine.

99

No,shereplieddismissively.Notnow,Imnotready
yet,sheaddedinmorepleasanttones.Ididnotwanttoput
pressureonmylittlegirl,soIquestionedhernofurther.Likea
worriedfather,though,Isearchedtherefrigeratorforatreat
moresuitabletoherpalate.Iknewshelovedcheese,wine,and
sweets.I,however,livedamoremodestlifestylewhenshe
wasntaround,andthereforekeptfewofthosethings.Afteran
extensivesearchImanagedtolocatesomesaltycheeseofa
localbrandthatIconsidertobequitegoodandsomebonbons
Ikeepincaseguestsarrive.ShesmiledasIplacedthesethings
onthetable,andhersmilewarmedmyheartasitalwaysdoes.
WethendebatedthequalityofIsraelicheese,beingthelocal
brandinthiscase,whileweate.
WhentheicehadfinallymeltedandtheIsraelicheese
hadbeenproperlydebatedshespokemorewarmly.
Thisisnice,thisplace,shebeganafterafewmoments
ofawkwardsilence,smiling.
Thanks,Ilikeittoo,Irepliedcasually.
Soofalltheplacesintheworld,whypickPalestine,and
asmallsecludedvillageatthat?Sheasked.
Israel,Icorrected.
Israel,sherepeated,wishingtoavoidadebate.
Well,Ilikethefreshair,Isaid,tryingtohideanawful
truth.
So,areyouinsomesortoftrouble?Sheboldlyasked,
catchingonfartooquicklyforthisyoungoldman.
Whatmakesyouaskthat?Ireplied,exploitingmy
peoplesageoldcustomofansweringaquestionwitha
question.
You,livinginasecludedlocationprettyfarfromany
settlementasfarasIrecallyoureusuallyacitydweller,she
said.
MaybeImfavoringcountrylifeforalittlewhile,I
offered.
AndIsupposethearmedguardsareheretokeepyou
company?SheaddedinthesametonesIhadused.
100

MaybeIprefertokeephumancompanyforawhile,and
providingthemwithausefuloccupationisanaddedbonus,I
jested.
Andyoulikepeoplearoundyoucarryingguns,cuzyou
likegunssomuchyouthinknopersoniscompletewithout
one,likePradaforthemasses.Shesaidwithawinningsmile.
Damnher,Icouldntthinkofananswershewouldnttwist
aroundtorevealhowpitifulmyattemptsatdeceitwere.
Imnotnave,Ray.Sincewhendoyouneedsomeoneto
guardyou?Sheasked,slightlyworried.
IdecidedIwantachangeofpace,Ilied.Imactually
workingonabook,andthequietpastoralenvironmenthelps
mymuse,Iadded.
Really?Sheaskedwitharaisedbrow.Whatabout?
Sheadded.
WellIbegannervously,Mylife,actually,I
explained.
Youvegottabejoking!Jauneesaid.Haventyou
alwaysbeenshyofthepublic?Warningmerepeatedlywhat
wouldhappenifwearediscovered,sheasked.Itriedtocome
upwithacleverretort,butcouldntfindawinningargument.
Shewasright.
Yeah,well,beingtheoldmanthatIam,Ithoughtitd
begoodtoactuallywritemystory.Besides,evenifIamever
publishedandIdoubtthatIwillbe,nobodysgoingto
believethisisarealstory,Isaid.
Youdontgrowold,shestated,andIfrowned.Andare
youactuallyconsideringgettingyourselfpublished?She
queried.
Well,no.Imean,Imnotsure,Ireplied.
Verywell.Iwanttohelp!Sheexclaimedinlighter
tones,catchingonthatIreallydowanttokeepmysecretsas
muchasshewantstokeephers.Shesobviouslyintroublenow,
andthereisnoneedtoputmytroublesonhershouldersas
well.
Soyoureallywanttohelp?Iaskedcarefully.
101

Sure!Shereplied,Whereareyouat,exactly?She
queried.
Well,Ijustfinishedwritingaboutmybattlewiththe
demoninDrentwych,Iexplained.
Justbeforeyoufoundme!Shereplied.Yes,I
remember,shesaid,andIblushed.HowaboutIllwriteyou
mysideofthestoryandwecancompareversionslater,
wouldntthatbefun?Sheasked.
Sure,Ireplied.Shebouncedfromherchairandgave
meakiss.
So,wheredoIstay?Sheaskedwithawinningsmile.I
showedhertoalavishbedroomwithakingsizemedieval
handcarvedbed,alargearmoire,andallthelatestelectric
appliancesonecouldwishfor.
Thisistheguestbedroom,Ilied,showingherthe
roomIhadfurnishedforherandheralone.Ihadkepttheroom
clearandinpristineconditionwiththehopethatsomedayshe
willreturntome.
Raymond,shebeganwithawidesmile.MonDieu,I
didntknowyouhaditinyou!
Thanks,Ireplied.
Thisisaroombefittingakingshesaidora
queen,sheadded.
Anditsyours,Ireplied,andlefthertoexploreiton
herown.IwouldhavetoldherthatIdesignedtheroomand
carvedthebedthinkingofherhopingadaysuchasthis
wouldcomeandthatshewouldflybackhometome,butI
wishithadbeensoonerandunderdifferentcircumstances.
***
DearReader,
IamgoingtocallthisJaunee'sDiary,andwritemystory
fromtimetotime.Iwilluseadifferentpen,andofcoursemy
writingstyleisdifferentsoyoushouldbeabletorecognizemy
pages.Laterwewillorganizeitinthecorrectorder

102

Aspromised,heresmypartofthetale.IguessIshould
startwithanintroductionforyou,dearaudience.So,myname
isJaunee,andIvebeenimmortalforclosetoathousandyears
now.UnlikemystepfatherRaymond,Iwasneveranordinary
mortal.IwasbornoddlookingandIhavealwayshadthis
touchofmagicwhichsetmeapartfromtherestofhumanity.
Imatadlessthanameterandahalftall,thoughbyno
meansadwarf.Imaperfectlyproportionedminiaturewoman
anditsaperfectlynaturalheightformyraceintheerain
whichIwasborn.Myhairisnaturallytomatoredandwavy.I
havecrystal,iceblueeyesandaheartshapedface.Withmy
palecomplexionImnottoocomfortableindirectsunlight.I
wasntaprettychildbutnowadays,butmaturednicely.
RaymondistheonlypersonintheworldforwhomIamneither
atrophynoramonster.Forhim,Iamandalwayswillbehis
littlegirl.
IwasborninasmallvillagenearParisinmyestimate
around1010or1011.Myfatherwasalocalnoblemanofminor
titleandnolands,havinglosttheminthisorthatventure.He
wasnotatallman.ProbablyofmixedCelticandNormand
blood,hehadblondhairandblueeyesyoucoulddiefor.I
mean,Ialwayslovedhiseyes,butthatsaboutallIlovedabout
him.Hewasdrunkmostofthetimerude,andcruel.
Mymotheroftensaidthatitwasmybirththatbroke
him,butIheardfrommorereliablesourcesthathehadalready
beenlikethatbeforeshemethim.MymomwasaFrench
prostitute,bytheway,andafamousoneatthat.Shehadginger
hairandanaturaltalentfor,wellshewasafamousandmuch
soughtafterprostitute.
Togetherthecharmingcoupletookoverthebrothelshe
workedin,aftershegotpregnantwithme.Theestablishment
laterservedasourhome.Itwasntallthatbad,though.Iwas
actuallyquitefondoftheplace,ifithadntbeenforthe
presenceofmyfather.

103

Really,brothelsinFrancearethebestplacesinthe
world.Intheolddaysitwaswheremenandsometimeswomen
cametounwindafteraharddayswork.Wehadgoodfood,
gooddrinks,andfabulousmusicanddancesitwaslikea
partythatneverendedwithinterestingguestsshowingup
everyevening,eachcarryingwithhimastorytobetold.I
learnedtosingrightafterIlearnedtotalk,andtodanceright
afterIlearnedtowalk.Mypassion,eversinceIcanremember,
hasbeenforsonganddanceandlifeasitshouldbelived,
abundantly.
However,mypersonallifewasntonebigparty.My
parentswerenttoofondofme,yousee,giventhatIhadbeen
bornunnatural.Anditshowed.Iwasoddlooking,Isawthings
nobodyelsecouldsee,andIwasfartoosmartformyown
good.Sincepredestinationwasadogma,itwasobviouslymy
faultforbeingbornasIwas,justlikeitwasmymothersfault
forgivingbirthtoagirl,insteadofaboy.Thepriest,andeven
themidwife,thoughtitbesttodrownmerightafterbirth;
thatswhatmymothertoldmewhenwewereonbetterterms.
However,onthatdaymyfatherwouldhearnothingofit.
Perhapsonlybecausehewasdrunk,heinsistedthatIbe
allowedtolive.Maybehisevilhearthadadropoftendernessin
it,whichheutterlyspentonthedayofmybirth.
SoIwasallowedtolive,butIwasnotloved.AndIthink
themosttragicandsadpartofitallisthattheyblamedme,
andIblamedmyself.SoIvealwaystriedtoimpressmyparents,
showingoffthenewsongsanddancesIlearned.Myfatherwas
usuallydrunkandimpatienthewantedmeawayfromhim,
andmymother;shedidntcareaboutanything.Shewas
absorbedinherself.Whenmytalentsfailedtoattractattention
frommyparents,Ishowedoffmyskillstotherestofthe
patrons.Everyonethoughtitsamazingthatagirlsosmall
spokefluently,andsanglikeanangel.OnstageIwasadmired
andcheered.Ishone,andIfeltthatthisiswhereIbelong.

104

Theawfultruthwasthatmylifewasterribleduringmy
tenderyears.ItriedtohidebehindstoriesIheard,andthe
songsIsang.ItriedtowinadmirationwhenIfailedtoreceive
affection.Butintheend,myfantasiesalwaysshatteredwhen
confrontedwiththetruthofreality.Theybothhatedeach
other,lockedinamarriagebecauseofmybirth.OnedayIjust
couldnttakeitanymore.Iwantedtolivelikeinthesongsand
ballads.Iwantedtoseetheworldandgoonadventures.I
wantedtodancewiththefaeriemaidensofthewoods,andto
dineatthetablesofkings,andtomeetheroeslikemighty
HerculesandBeowulf.Iwantedtoseetheroundtableof
Camelot,andtoaskMorgain,WhoamI.
Andsoitwasthatasevenyearoldgirltooktothehard
road.Imanagedbystowingawayoncarriagesandships,by
stealing,andsometimesbysingingorplayingmusicforfood.I
cansayfairlythatIliveddaytoday,notknowingwherethe
nextmealwouldcomefrom,butIhadfunIreallydid.I
lovedtravelingandseeingnewplaces.Everythingseemedso
bigandwonderfultomyeyes.Somepeoplealongthewaywere
crueltomebutmosttookpityandofferedmeshelterandfood
atleastforaslongasIkeptmyhaircoveredandhidden
fromview.
ThatshowIgottoDrentwychbyaccident,really.I
hadbeenonashipmooredatthedocks,anddecided,ona
whim,todisembarkthere.Inawaythatswheremylifesstory
began;inthatfatefultownwhichchangedallourlives.
IdisembarkedquietlybeforeanyonenoticedIstowed
away.IthensoughtthetownsquaresothatIcouldplaythe
fluteormaybeevensingforfood.Idreamtofplayingmyflute,
andtoseeallthetownsfolkgatherinadmiration.SurelyIdfind
awarmmealbeforecontinuingonmyjourneytoseethewhole
wideworld.Butitwasacolddaytoocoldforsingingand
playing,anditturnedintoanevencolderevening.IntheendI
earnedascrapofbreadandcaughtachillthatpenetratedmy
bones.
105

Iwasintearsthenthebreadwasmyonlysolace,and
yetthattoowastakenfrommebeforeIhadachancetotakea
goodnibble.AboymuchlargerthanIwithafilthcrustedface
andaredauramirroringhisviolentintentions,grabbedmy
bread,tookahandsomebiteoutofit,andlaughedasIshrieked
andtriedtotakeitback.Itriedpleadingwithhim,but
whateverreplyhegavewasinalanguageIcouldnot
understand.AsIdespairedofattemptsatdiplomacyandtried
oncemoretograbthebreadbyforce,heshovedmyfaceinto
thefilthy,slushygroundandsniggered.
Irememberfeelingdespair,asonlysomeonedefenseless
canfeel.Unabletocontainthestreamoftearsthatcame
rushingforth,Isawthevillainspeedingoffwithhisloot.Then
anotherboytackledhimandtheyfought.Thisonewasa
smallerboywithbrownhair.Theyappearedasvenomous
monsterstomyeyes,witharedlightofviolenceemanating
fromthemboth.Apartofmewascontent,though,seeingmy
villainonthelosingside.Thenitwasoverasquicklyasithad
started.Thethief,nowbeatenoutofhistrophy,escaped,and
hisvanquishermadehiswaytowardsme.Itriedtobrushoff
mytearsandthoughtperhapstothankhim,ifhisintentionwas
toreturnmyfood,ortodefendmyselfshouldIbeattacked
again.Humanswerealwaysneedlesslyviolent.InternallyI
tuggeduponmymagic.Tomyuttersurpriseandgratitude,he
chosethefirstofthetwooptions.Ireleasedthetugbeforeit
hurtme.
Hehandedmethebread,whichItookgladly,butwitha
tremblinghandashesmiledvictoriously.Healsosaid
somethinginthesamecrudelanguagehisadversaryhadused.I
expressedmygratitudeinFrench,whichheprobably
understood,forhisaurachangedtoamorepassionatecolor.I
brokethebreadinhalfandofferedhimthebiggerhalf.Hetook
itgraciously,forhewashungrytoo:Icouldtell.Thenhesat
besidemeandwedinedonthetwoscraps.

106

Hethenpointedtohischestandsaid,John,towhichI
noddedandpointedtomychestandsaidmyownname.He
fumbledasheattemptedtorepeatitinthesameaccentIhad
used,andthencalledme,Jane,instead.
Ihuggedhim,whichtookhimbysurprisethoughhedid
notpushmeaway.Iwasverycoldandtrembling.Theboy
spokeandtookmebythehandwhenIfailedtoreply,guiding
metoaplaceIassumedtobehishome.
Itwasalargeabandonedhousewithfiveorsixchildren
likemewellnotexactlylikeme.Theyhadanold,greedy
manforaPapa.Iassumeditwasthelocalorphanage.
JohnledmestraighttothePapa.Hisauraatcloser
inspectionmademedistainhimevenmore.Itwassicklyand
coloredbygreed.Ioftengazedatthatparticularshadewhen
workersinmymothersestablishmentweregivenjewels,or
whenmyfathercountedcoinsattheendofasuccessfulnight.
NeverhadIseenthisaurashadecoloringapersonwhenhe
gazedatme.Iloweredmyeyesinfearofhim.Thisunsavory
manwastobethejudgeofwhetherornotIdbeallowedto
stay,andspendingthenightinthecoldisnotathingIwassure
Icouldsurvive.IneededhisapprovalforjustonenightI
decided,fortomorrowIllgosomeplaceelse,hopefully
warmer.
Theyspoke;JohnandthePapa.Johnstonewas
somewhaturgentandpleading,whilethePapastonewas
mainlyflatanduncaring.Iwasamazedandfrightenedtosee
thebullywhohadbeatenmeearlierenterthehouseandgo
straighttothePapa.Thedarknessinmyheartsentvileimages
tomymindofwhatIcandotohim,whatIshoulddotohim.
ButIdidntwanttolisten,Ididntwanttobethedemonchild
myparentssaidIam.Iforgive;thatswhatgoodgirlsdo.
Thethreeofthemargued,andattheendoftheirfight
PapaslappedJohn,fellinghim,ashebarkedanorderathim.
Johngotupandfledtheroomasfastashecould.Myeyes
followedJohnasIstoodstill,veryintimidatedbythelargeold
man.
107

Hisbonyfingertouchedmychinandforcedmetolook
athim,rightintohiseyes.Hestudiedmyfaceandthensaida
fewwordsinthesamecrudelanguagehehadusedearlier,
switchingtoFrenchwhenherealizedthatIcouldnot
understandawordhesaid.
Whatsyourname?Heaskedimpatiently.
JJaunee.Ireplied.
Indeedsheis,hereplied,addressingeveryone,turning
hisheadaroundtomakesuretheyallheardhim,hisaura
takingmoreirontones.
What?Iasked,completelypuzzledbyhisremark.I
wasonlysevenatthetime,thoughIwasasmartandclever
child.
GodisGracious,thatsthemeaningofyourname,he
replied.
Heisntsogracioustome,Ithought.Notwithhowhe
mademe,notwiththeparentshegaveme.AndIwouldntbe
standinghere,abeggar,ifGodwasindeedgracioustome.
Allright,Ireplied,afterapauseinwhichhisauraonce
againshiftedItriedtounderstandwhy.
Whereareyourparents?Heasked,andoncemorehis
toneandauratookonironquality.
Dead,Irepliedandloweredmyeyestohidemylies.
HemisreadmeandthoughtIwassad,aswellIshouldhave
beenhadIhadanyfeelingsforthembesidesuttercontempt.
Imsorry,heanswered,butdidntmeanawordofit;
histonerevealedthathewaspleasedsomehowbymyloss.I
couldntforthelifeofmefigureoutwhythatwouldmakehim
happy.
Hedidntknowthem,orhowviletheywere.Why
wouldhebepleasedbytheirdemise?Iwondered.
Haveyouanyguardian,someonewhotakescareof
you?Heasked.
No,Ireplied,mymindstilloccupiedwithtryingto
understandhim.
108

Sowheredoyousleep?Heasked,leaningforwarda
bit,likeapredatorcatchingthescentofblood.TothatIhadno
reply.Iwasnowmorethanevercompletelyintimidatedbythis
uglyoldmanwhosmelledsobadly.Isoughtwithmyeyesan
escaperoute.
Youcansleephereifyoulike,hesaidinlightertones,
andstillIdidnotreply,forIwaspuzzled,andscaredbyhis
conduct,whichfrightenedmemorethanhiswords.
Whatdoyousay?Heasked,hangingonhisown
words.
Thankyou?Ireplied,butasIspokeinFrenchhemay
havemistakenmytonesforactualgratitude.
Yourewelcome,hereplied.Imsurewecanbegreat
friends,headdedashepattedmyhair.Iloathedhistouch,I
wantedtobitehisfingers.Apartofmewantedtorunaway
now,anotherpartwantedtoremainandlashout,oratleastto
protectmyself,bycallinguponmydemonicgifts.
Yourecold,hesaid.Hethenturnedfrommeand
barkedorderstohisorphans,whoobedientlyclearedabedfor
meandguidedmetowardsit.IwasntsosureatthispointifI
wasgoingtorunawayornot,butthewarmcomfybedputits
spellonme,soIstayedthenight.
ComemorningthePapacookedusallbreakfastand
thenspedalltheotherchildrenofftowhateveritwasthat
childrendidinDrentwych.Myfirstthoughtwasthattheywere
senttohelpadultworkersascheaplaborandasawaytolearn
aprofession,butmynavenotionswerequicklydispelledwhen
Iwasleftalonewiththeoldman.
Doyoulikegames?HeaskedasIeyedhimfearfully.
Yes,Ilied.Ipreferredmusicanddancetopretending,
butIdidntwanttodisappointhim.
Howaboutweplayagame?Iknowquiteafew,he
said.Hetriedtosoundharmless,buthisaurarevealedhisinner
thoughts.

109

Allright,Irepliedafterapause.IknewthatifIwanted
foodandaroofovermyheadIdbetterplayniceandplay
along.Tomysurpriseheshowedmeagamewhereheadorned
ascarecrowwithsmallbells,andmyjobwastopickoffthe
bellsasfastasIcouldwithoutthemringing.Ilikedthegame,
thoughitwasquitedifficulttogetaholdofmorethanacouple
ofbellsatatime.
Heseemedquitepleased,andurgedmewithpleasant
tonestotryagain.WhenIgrewfrustrated,thenboredwiththis
game,heshowedmeanother.Inthisone,Ihadtocarrythe
bellsonmeyetnotmakeasoundwhileIwalked.Igrewbored
withthattooafterawhile,thoughinthisgameIfaredbetter.I
wasntsounfamiliarwithsneakingorstealingandthesegames
demandedsimilarskills.
Yourequitegoodatit,hecomplimentedme.
Thankyou,Irepliedpolitelywiththewinningsmile
mymotherusedtoputonwhenshewantedtowinmenover.
Hesmiledback,pleasedwithhimself.
Shealwayssaidthat.Ifyouletamanknowmyheart,he
willownyou.Soyoumustmaskyourfeelingswithasmile.As
longasyousmiletheyllneverbethewiser.
DoyouknowwhyItaughtyouthesegames?Heasked.
IhonestlydidnotsoIshookmyhead.
Thisiswhatalltheotherchildrenareplayingoutside,
hereplied.
Yourestrange,Ireplied.
Why?Heasked.
Thesearestrangegames.Whyplaythem?Iwondered.
Becausewereafamily,hereplied.
Idontunderstand,Isaid.Iknewwhatafamilywas
wellenough,butIdneverseenthesegamesbefore.
Itakecareofmyfamily,andIteachthemthesegames
sotheycanbringmegiftstoshowmetheycare,hesaid.

110

Allright,Ireplied.Iunderstoodthathewasaskingme
tosteal,butIwasntgoingtodothat.Iofferedhimmyflute
insteadmyonepossession.Thatwillwinhimover,I
thought,andIcouldalwaysstealitlater,fromhim.
Agift,IsaidasIpresentedhimtheflute,wearingmy
motherssmile.Heshookhisheadanddidnottakemygift.
Canyouplaytheflute?Heaskedsuddenly.
Yes,Ireplied.
Showme,heurged,andIpressedtheflutetomylips.I
fumbledatfirstwithmynotes,butafterafewtriesmusic
flowedfrommyflute.Iplayedthetunesofmyhomeandafew
songsIhadlearnedontheroad.Heseemedtransfixedbymy
music,anditpleasedmegreatly.
Youreverytalented,hesaidatlast,andIsmiled
broadly.
Thankyou,Ireplied.
Whydontyouplayinthetownssquareforeverybody,
andcomebackwithagift,hesaid.
Allright,Irepliedandhurriedtogettothetown
square.WhenIarrivedthereIplayedmyfluteasIddonethe
daybefore.Thiswasabetterday;somehowcozier.Thepeople
ofDrentwychseemedtobedeeply
Influencedbytheweather,forastheweatherbrightened
sotoodidtheirgenerosity.
AtnoonallthepeopleofDrentwychcametodine
togetherforabigmeal.Therewasacookwhomadethefood
forallofthem,andalineinwhicheverybodystoodandwaited
eagerlytogettheirshare.Theguardskeptthepeace,takinga
doubleshareoffoodaswagesfortheirhardwork.Theyall
smiledandpointedatme,seemingpleasedwithmymusic.
Thoughitwasntastage,Iwasthecenterofattention,andas
theyallstoppedtolisten,Ifeltathome.Iplayedtravelsongs,
allowingmyinnerselftoshinethroughthemusic.

111

AstrongoldmancameasIpausedtorest,smiling,and
gavemeabowloffood.Hesaidsomethinginthatsamecrude
languagethatIcouldnotcomprehend,andIbowedmyhead
andthankedhiminmynativetongue.
Ididnteatjustyet,forIthoughtitbesttoplayformy
crowdwhiletheyate,andeatwhentheyfinished.ThatwayId
havethemostchanceofwinningalms.ItwasasIplayedthatI
noticedtherestofPapaschildren.Atfirstitseemedthatthey
werestayinginline,thoughmakingabitofanoisewhilethey
wereatit.Uponcloserexamination,though,Idiscoveredtheir
cleverploy.Whilesomechildrenmadeacommotion
playing,yellingateachotherandrunning,othersusedthe
distractiontostealfromtheunsuspectingtownspeople.
Ithoughtitbesttomindmyownbusinessandplaymy
musicasPapahadinstructedme,lestIbetossedbacktothe
street.Iwasntsurewhyitbecameimportantformetostay
withPapaatthispoint,butitwas.AsIplayedmymusicthe
townsfolklistenedandmadenosound.Thatwasthebiggest
complimentanartistofmysmallstaturecouldreceive.Even
Papaschildrenallremainedassilentasdeath,listeningtomy
music.Ofcourse,beingsilentwasofparamountimportancein
theartofstealing,whichtheycontinuedtopracticewithease
nowthatIwasprovidingthemwithagoodcover.
WhentheeatingwasoverIstoppedplayingandjoined
therestofthekidsontheirwaybacktoPapashouse.Johntook
mebythehand,whichbothsurprisedmeandsentbutterflies
flyingthroughmybelly.Icaredforhim;therewassomething
abouthishonest,chivalricmannersthatmovedmyheart.His
friendseventhebrutefromthedaybefore,allseemed
impressedwithmeandenviousofJohn.Iadoredthefeelingit
gaveme,andcravedmoreofit.

112

Johntriedtalkingtome,butIcouldntasyetunderstand
hisspeech.Iassumed,though,bythetoneofhisvoice,hisbody
language,andthecolorofhisaura,thathiswordswere
compliments.YetIcouldntbesure,soIrefrainedfrom
respondinglestImakeamockeryofmyself.Still,Ikepton
smilingathimlestheinterpretmysilenceasrejection,
occasionallynoddingtoshowIwaslistening.
BackattheorphanagePapawaitedeagerlyforour
return.Somechildrenadvancedaheadandgavehimgiftsas
wellasexplanationsorboastsoftheirdeedsIcouldntbe
sure,buttheirtonessuggestedasmuch.Thensomeothers
advancedwithnothingintheirhands,Johnamongstthem.
Theyalltalked,seeminglyatonce.IstayedwhereIstood,not
sosurewhatIwassupposedtodo.Tomysurprise,theyall
pointedatmeandspokehurriedly,theiraurassignifying
nervousnessandexcitement.Asthepapaapproachedme,I
tookafewstepsback.Ididntliketheshadeofhisaura,orthe
lookinhiseyes.
Jaunee,mypretty,hebeganinFrench.Mychildren
tellmeyouplayedverywell,hecontinued;atthispointI
stoppedwalkingbackwards.Becauseofyoutheywereableto
bringmegifts,soIamverypleased,hesaid.
ImgladIhavebeenofservice,Irepliednervously,not
surewhatIwassupposedtosay.Hespreadhishandsashe
advanced.Themovementfrightenedmebeyondwords,though
Ipresumehemeantwell.Still,therewassomethingabouthis
gestureswhichterrifiedme.Myeyesdartedabout,seekingan
avenueforescape.Likeacoiledsnakeorathreatenedcat,I
baredmyteethandhissedathim.Isurprisedbothmyselfand
him,butatmysuddenweird,threateningmovementhe
stoppedinmidstepanddidnotadvanceanyfurther.Inmy
mindIsawmyselfleapoverhim,bitinghisneck.Therewasa
strangewarmthflowingthroughmybody,andacravingforhis
blood.Isuppressedmydemonicurges.Iwillnothurthim
unlessheleavesmenochoice.
Didntmeantoscareyouthere,hesaidapologetically.
113

Pardon,Irepliedasthedarkersideofmesleptagain.
Ijustmeanttothankyou,headded,stilldefensive.
Pardon,Irepeated.Iwasappalledwithmyselfandthe
wickednesswithwhichIwantedtotearhimapart.Inmymind,
hewasmyfather,arude,crudedrunk.Buthewasnota
monsterlikeme.Ijustcouldntlethimtouchmeeveragain.
Ifledandhidinanalleybehindsometrashandbroken
barrels.Imusthavehiddenthereforhours,thoughIdonteven
knowwhy.Luckily,Iwasfoundwhenthenightgrewdim.John
hadbeensearchingformethroughouttheday,butIhad
remainedhidden,notreplyingwhenhecalledmyname.He
neverthelessdidawonderfuljobandfoundmeinthealley.I
wasfortunate,yousee,forinmyfearIdlosttrackofthefact
thatIwasfrozentothecore.
Heextendedhishandtome,sayingmynamequietly.
HewaiteduntilIwasreadytocomeoutonmyownandlethim
takemebythehand.Ashetouchedmehesaidsomething
worriedly,thenrubbedmypalmsuntiltheywerewarmer.
Isleptahauntedsleepthatnight,feelingtheroomgrow
alternativelytoocoldortoowarm.Feverish,Idreamtofmy
fatherandsufferedtheworstofnightmares,sleepingand
wakinginspurts.SometimeswhenIawokeJohnwasthereat
myside,pettingmyhairorofferingmefood.Othertimeswhen
Iawoke,Iburstoutinfitsofweeping,especiallyifhewasnt
there.Hereallydidtrytotakecareofme,though,evenifhe
didntknowhow.Dayspassed,Ithink,andmysicknessonly
worsened.Attheheightofmyfever,IcouldnottellifIwas
asleeporawake,forbothworldsseemedtodefyreason,and
bothwerecoatedwithathicklayerofmisery.

114

Severaldayslater,comemorningIcouldnotrisefrom
bedeventorelievemyself.JohnwasnottherewhenIawoke
andPapacameinsteadandtouchedmyhead.Hesaid
something,thenhepickedmeupandcarriedmesomewhere.I
washalfasleepordelusional,butIremembertherushofwind
andthechangeoftemperature.Irememberthebittericekiss
hegaveme,likethemarkofCaineonmyforehead,andthenhe
laidmeinthefreezingsnow.
Imsorry,hesaid.Icanthaveyouinfectingtheother
children.Thenheleftmefordeadinanunknownalleyin
Drentwych.
ThisistheendofmyentryfornowsoitsbacktoRays
story.

115

CHAPTERXISeekandYouShallFind
IreportedtothebarracksassoonasIarrivedatOver
Hampton,eagertobesenttomystation.TheytoldmeIwasto
beafootman,andmyjobwouldbetopatrolthestreets,keep
thepeace,andreportanysignsofinsurrection.Iwastaught
thatrebellionisaformofasocialdiseasethatspreadsrapidly,
andcorruptstheheartsofinnocentmenandwomen.Atraitor
betraysbothGodandhisfellowmanforhecausesthefabricof
societytogrowweaker,andthusgivesthebarbarianhordean
advantagewhentheytrytoconquerus.IcantsayIfindthe
argumentconvincingnow,butatthetimeofmytraining,after
allIveseen,itmadeperfectsense.NotthatIhadanyillusions
thatwewerethegoodguysandtheywerethebad.Wewerethe
badguysfightingagainstotherbadguys,andthegoodguys
weresomewhereinthemiddleofthebattlefieldgettinghurt;
innocentswhopaythepricefortheirleadersdecisions.
Theysentanothersoldierwithmetoteachmethepatrol
routes.HeintroducedhimselfasEdrid.HewasamanwhomI
recognizedfromthetavern,sincewehadbrawledonceover
oneoffenseoranother,buthedidntseemtorecognizemesoI
actedasifitwerethefirsttimewedmet.
DuringmyshiftIactedtheidealsoldier,whichmeansI
keptmymouthshut,myeyesopen,andmyearspeeledforany
signofinsurrection.Peopleweremostlyterrifiedofussoldiers.
Some,however,weretoobrokenspiritedtocare,andbehaved
likehorseswhoacceptedtheyokeoftheirmaster.Edrid,
meanwhile,tookituponhimselftobemyseniorofficerand
mentor,andtaughtmehisversionofallIneededtoknow
aboutbeingasoldier.

116

Beingasoldier,isthebestdamnpositiononecanhold,
hesaid,andInodded.Yougettocarryaweapon,andthe
maidensjustloveamanbrandishingabigweapon,ifyouknow
whatImean,hesaidandelbowedmeplayfully.Now,the
thingiswiththemaidens,youhavetobeclever,orelseyoure
inabigmess,ifyouknowwhatImean,herepeated,again
elbowingme,andstartingtogetonmynerves.See,thething
is,werethelawaroundheretheutmostauthority,the
supremeleaders,ifyouknowwhatImean,hesaid,andI
dodgedhiselbow.Ido,Ireplied,prolongingtheosound.
See,thatsbetter.Iknewyoudseethingsmyway,he
said,cheeringup,thoughIdontknowwhy.So,asIwassaying
hesaidafterIneglectedtocomment,youcanhaveany
maidenyoulike,youjusthavetomakesurenobodyslooking.
KnowwhatImean?HeaskedbutIdidntknow.
Ifyouapproachtheminacrowdorwhentheyreclose
tohome,theyllscream,hesaid,andIstoppedwalking.Then
youhavetothreatenthefather,accusehimofmutinytoscare
himoffandhaveyourwaywithsometenderflesh,ifyouknow
whatImean,hesaid,smilingbroadly.
Soyourideaofwooingmaidensisthreateningtheir
familyandrapingthem?Isaid,tryingashardasIcouldto
hidethefuryinmyvoice.
No!Yourenotpayingattention,hesaid,andIrelaxed,
hopingitwasalanguagemisunderstanding.
IneversaidanythingaboutwooingWhoneedsto
woowomenwhenyoucanjusttakethem?Imean,werethe
law,right?Sowetakewhatwewant,divineprivilegeandall,
hesaid,andIremainedsilent.Iimaginedmyselfgrabbinghis
throatwithmyrighthandandtearinghisbigswordfromits
scabbardwithmyleft,imagininghisscreamingfacebroughta
smiletomine.Hesawmesmilingandsmiledback.Mostlikely
thevillainthoughtIwasseduced.Ifhecouldonlycatcha
glimpseofmydarkthoughts,hedneversmileagain,forinhim
IsawthesamewickedevilthathasclaimedRaymondslife.
117

See,Iknewyouwereasport,hesaid,andcontinued
onmerrily.Istoppedpayingattentiontohiswords,thoughhe
keptonbabblingthroughouttheshift.Icouldntaffordtolisten
tohim,foritwouldhavecosthimhislifeandmemyjob,andI
neededmyjobifIwastotakemyrevenge.
WhenourshiftwasblissfullyoverIwentonasecond
patrol,stillwearingtheuniformandhelmetofaguard.This
patroltookmetootherareas:taverns,alleyways,andother
gatheringplacesforthoseofadangeroussort.Isoughtoutthe
cutthroatswhohadmurderedRaymond,andhopedthey
wouldntrecognizemewiththeuniformandhelmeton.
Besides,eveniftheydid,Idoubtedtheydtrytoattackasoldier
whenthereweresomanyofus,allbloodthirstyandwithin
callingdistance.Mypreparationsprovedtobeinvain,however,
fortheywerenowheretobefound.
MytimeinOverHamptonwasmostfrustrating.Ispent
countlessdaysinidlesearch,findingnothing.Ileftnostone
unturnedandnoalleyunvisited.ItoleratedEdriddayafterday,
tryingtoturnadeafeartoendlessaccountsofhisdiabolical
activities.Everywordhesaid,everydescriptionofthedeeds
heddone,leftabittertasteinmymouth,anddayafterdayI
plannedthedayofreckoning,whenIwoulddispensejusticeto
himaswell.Trulyreaders,ifevertherewasadevil
masqueradingasahumanbeing,thiswouldbehim.
TherewasnosignofmychiefadversariesinOver
Hampton,however,nomatterwhereIlooked.Malcontent
filledmyheartuntilIcouldnolongereat.Nightmaresof
Raymondbutcheredlikeananimalhauntedme,remindingme
thatthescumoftheearthstillroamsfree.Alltoosoonmaidens
pleadingformercy,alongwiththeirscreamsandEdrids
laughter,joinedthedisharmonyofmydreams.Icouldtakeno
more.Iawokeonemorning,anditwasadifferentday,anew
day,abeginningandanend.

118

Asingleblowtothebackoftheheadkilledhim,amove
thatiscommonlyknownasaBlackjack.Iburiedhiminanalley
beneathaheapoftrashandhumanwaste,asuitablegravefor
theman,ifsuchamonstermaybecalledaman.Ilaughed
insideathoweasyitistokillaman,tosnuffoutalife.Ihad
hopedtofeelregret,tofeelanything.Buttherewasonly
content.Adarkbeastlonggrowinginthefertilesoilof
malcontent,watereddayandnightbyrage,hadfinallybeen
sated.
Whentheyfinallycamearoundtoquestionme,Itold
mysuperiorofficerandhiscomradesthathehadnotseemed
himself,lookingoverhisshoulderaswepatrolled.Afteralotof
fuss,Igotoutoftheincidentwithareprimand.AsIexpected,
theypreferredonesoldierworkingratherthanonegoneand
oneinprison,especiallysincetheyhadnoevidenceoffoulplay.
Imustadmit,though,thatmurderinghimwasaspurofthe
momentthing,anuncalculatedriskwhichjeopardizedmylong
termgoals.
However,Ididsleepsoundlythatnight.Nonightmares
hauntedme.Thecommonerssighedinreliefwhenwordofhis
absencebecamethetalkoftown.Itssoeasytogetawaywith
murder,itseems;soeasythatIwantedtoprotest.Howmany
moremurdererslikemegotawaywithoutasmuchasaproper
inquiry,Iwondered.IrequestedatransferfromOverHampton
afewdayslater,tellingthemthatEdridsdisappearancehad
touchedmedeeplyandIsoughtachangeofscenery.Ithus
returnedtoDrentwychwithmixedfeelingsbutwithhopefora
freshbeginning.

119

DrentwychhadremainedjustasIrememberedit,
fortifiedbyawallwithfamiliarcobblestoneroads.WhenlastI
hadcomehereIwasaboy,recentlyorphanedandmesmerized
bythebeautyandtheuglinessofthistown.NowIwasaman
andnotsoeasilycharmed.Ireportedtothebarracksandwas
assignedafellowsoldierbythenameofBarnabas,thoughhis
closefriendssometimescalledhimBarny.Hewasmuchshorter
thanI,withshortcurlyhairthatthinneddramaticallyaround
thefrontofhishead.HewasalsomuchfatterthanIwas,
thoughnotsofatastoresembleabarrel.
SoyourethenewguyfromOverHampton,hesaid,
movinghisheadbackandraisinghiseyesinaverypeculiar
gesture.
Aye,thIbegan,butheinterrupted.
Splendid!MynamesBarnabas,hesaid.Butifweget
onwell,youcancallmeBarny.
Raymond,Irepliedsimply.
Andthisismypartner,Crushy,hecontinued,asifI
hadntspoken,showingmehisironclubaheavy,dented
weapon,dirtiedbycrustedblood.
Crushy?Iinquired,withthemostpuzzledlook.
Perhapsitwasastunnedlook,Imnotcertain.
Mypartnerhesaid,presentingitagain.Doyou
knowwhyIcalledherCrushy?Heasked,inwhatIdidnt
realizeatfirstwasarhetoricquestion.
Why?Iasked,meaning,Whythebloodyhell,under
Godhaveyounamedyourclubatall?Andhowinbloodyhellis
aspiky,dirtyinstrumentofdeathatallfemale?
BecausesheandIcrushthings,thatswhy!He
elaborated.
Ofcourse,thatmakesperfectsense,Isaid,noddingmy
head.Areallsoldiersviolentlycrazy?Iwondered.

120

Theoddintroductionsdone,wewentonpatroltogether.
Barnywascrazierthanmylastpartnerobviouslymissinga
fewmarblesinhishead,butonthebrightsidehewasntinto
rapeandpillage.Hemuchpreferredtobelazy,atleastfrom
whatIgatheredpatrollingwithhim.SoIguessheshouldlive,
Itoldmyselfandsmiled.
Thereweretwomaintopicswhichseemedtooccupyhis
monologues.Illsummarizethemforthesakeofnotdelving
intohismadnessanyfurther.Hisfavoritehobbywasgaming
andwagering.Hespokeconstantlyofvariousgames,stakes,
andodds,alongwithhisvictoriesandlosses.Ihadaveryhard
timekeepingupwithhisprattlesoIjustnoddedmy
understandinguponoccasiontokeephimfromaskingme
anything.Hissecondbestfavoritesubjectwasvengeance.He
keptalistinhisheadofeverybodywhohadeverwrongedhim
anddescribedtomeindetailwhathehaddoneorintendedto
dotosaidparty.Onthebrightside,hewasntasbadasEdrid,
whoItriedtoforget.Hespokesomuchofwageringthathegot
methrilledattheprospectofjoininghimandhisfriendsfora
gameintheTavern.Thisiswherewewenttogetherafterour
shift.
WeheadedforTheBlackSheepTavernatthedocks,the
sameplacewhereIhadoncefought,drunk,andwagered,
myself.TheoutskirtsofthetavernsmelledworsethanI
remembered.Puddlesofpissandvomitwelcomedanypatron
whosoughtentrytotheestablishment,alongwiththecrme
delacrmeofDrentwych:drunks,cutthroats,thieves,
eccentrics,andsalesmanofdubiousreputationand
merchandise.Ishovedthedrunksasidewhentheybumped
intome,brokethefingersofamanwhotriedtopickmy
pocket,andtoldthesalesmentoshoveofforbedamned.Barny
seemedimpressedwithmyshowofviolence,andcommented:
Wow,youdonttalkmuch,butyousuredohandle
crooksright!

121

Ijustdontlikeemshovingtheirfingersdownmy
pocketsortryingtosellmefencedgoods,asifImsomeeasy
mark,Isaid.
Youreevensavvytothestreetlingo,andyouveonly
justarrived.Imimpressed,hesaid.
Yeah,Ilearnfast,butonlybecauseyouresuchagreat
teacher,Isaid,andopenedthedoor.Thesarcasmwasloston
himthough.Hejustsmiledatthecompliment.
InsidetheplaceseemedtohaveremainedasI
rememberedit,thoughnowInoticedeverybloodstain,every
spotoffilthand,moreimportantly,Isawthehiddenweapons
ofmanydangerouslookingpatrons.Iwonderedtomyselffor
onlyamoment;howcouldIhavebrawledwiththesepeople,so
carelesslywageringmylife?ThenIspottedthethree
murderers,asallthepatronspausedintheirdoingstostareat
me.ThemurderersappearedcleanernowthanIremember
theminRaymondscabin,andtheirtablesportedafairnumber
ofdrinksaswellasthatsametiredlookinghookerwhomI
recognizedashavingbelongedtooneofmyfriendsfrommy
previousidentity.Obviouslytheyhadacquiredacertain
amountofgoldtoaffordthisrelativelylavishlifestyle.
Splendid,Adam,Itoldmyself.Findingthemhad
provedtobefairlyeasy,andIhadntcountedonthat.Now
what?Iaskedmyself.Myfirstinstinctwastochargethem
headon,spearinhand,readytoextractjusticeandbloody
vengeance.However,Iwasntstupidatleastnottothat
degree.Havingbeeninthearmyandlearningafewmoveswith
aspearhardlyqualifyapersontotakeonthreeexperienced
adversariesallatonce.SoIstoodthere,watchingthemsilently,
uncertainofmyselfandmynextcourseofaction.

122

WhatcanIdoforyousoldiers?Thetavernowner,
failedtorecognizemeinuniformandhelmet.Ifanyoneelse
didrecognizeme,theywiselykeptittothemselves.Iturned
aroundandleftwithoutawordbeingspoken.Ihadnothing
bettertodoatthisstageanyway.Thepatronsresumedtheir
doingsasifIhadnevercome.BarnydidntseemtocarethatId
left;hewalkedinsideandindulgedinwhatevergameofchance
hewasaccustomedtoplaying.
NowIhadtocarefullydeviseaplan.Killingthreearmed
menisnotachildsgame,andIcouldeasilybekilled.The
imageofRaymondtheForesterwithhisheadcleavedintwo,
lyinginapoolofhisownblood,cametomind,remindingme
againhowfragilelifeis.Callingmoresoldierstotakethemin
mighthavebeenagoodidea,butthenIdhavetospillthe
beansonhowIcametoknowtheymurderedRaymondthe
Foresterinthewoods.ThelastthingIneededwasforthearmy
toknowthatIhaddefectedandthenenlistedagainundera
differentname.ForallIknew,thiscouldmeanadeath
sentenceformeratherthanthem.No,Ihadtodothisonmy
own;nowitnesses.
WhowasIkidding?Imnoassassin,noragreatstrategic
mastermind.Ihadnoideahowtoaccomplishmygoal.Idid
knowforcertain,though,thatIneededabetterweaponthan
anarmyissuespear.Ineededasword,somebettertraining,
andprobablysomeoneolderandwisertogivemecouncil.
ThereisonlyonesuchpersonIknowwhocandoallof
this,Ithought,Andhewontbetoothrilledtoseeme.Infact,
hemayslaymehimselffordishonoringbothhimselfandhis
daughter.Itmaybetooriskyturningtohim.
Besides,Iwasmorethanhalfafraidofconfrontinghim,
evenwithoutregardtothemessybusinessathand.Butthere
wasnooneelse.Decisions,decisionsIprocrastinatedagain.
Justact,Adam!Justact!Itoldmyself.

123

Reluctantly,IfoundmywaytoIvarsSmithy,theplace
whereIhadoncelivedandfalleninlove.AsIwalkedthere,I
gatheredstrengthandhastenedmypace.Itriedtobanishall
thoughtsofIngrid,andforgetherfathersfacewhenhehad
sentmeaway.Itriedtofocusonthebusinessathandinstead.I
wasabletoputasidemydisagreementswithIvar,butIngrid
Imissedher.
Thesmithywasclosedatthistimeoftheevening.Snow
fellaboutmeandobscuredthecobblestoneroadwhichledto
thedoor.Thewindowswereclosed,butalightfromtheinside
penetratedthroughthecracksintheshutters,makingthe
scenearoundmeseemabitsurrealasallwasdark,savefor
starlightandtheglowcomingfromthehouse.Smokecoming
fromthechimneyandthescentitbroughtofcooked,cheered
meupandtoldmethattheoccupantswerentsleeping.Italso
remindedmeofhowhungryIwasIdaydreamedofhaving
supperwithIngridandIvar,asweusedtodowhenlifewas
simpler.
AsIstoodbythedoor,allmyturbulentthoughts
assailedme,andIwaslostasifinadarkstormthatdrowned
mysensesandcloudedmyjudgment.Imusthavestoodthere
motionlessatthedoorforminutes,unabletofindthestrength
toknock.Hemayhavespokenpriortoopeningthedoor,forI
rememberthesoundofhisvoice,butnotwhathesaid.
IvarsbeardwasgrayerthanIhadremembered,and
signsofagingwereonhisface.Westaredintoeachotherseyes
forafewlongmoments,neitherofusspeaking.Hisface
actuallybrightenedupwhenherecognizedme,atleastfora
momentbeforethepleasurewasreplacedbyafrown.I
smiledfaintlyandloweredmyeyes.Theystung,asifwishingto
shedtears,buttheywouldntdowhatmyheartwantedthem
to.Icouldonlyspeakthewordswhichcamefrommyheart.
Adam,whatareyou...hestartedtosay,butI
interrupted.

124

Master,Imsorry,foreverything.Iwasafool,Isaid,
notdaringtolookintohisface.Hepausedforamomentin
midspeech,consideredhiswords,andthenspoke:
Itoldyoutogoandnevercomeback,hereplied
somberly.
Father,whoisit?Ingridaskedfrombehindhim.I
heardthesoundsofachairshufflingandherrisingup.
Thisdoesntconcernyou,hereplied,hisheadturning
lefttofaceherashespoke.
Iknowyoudid,Master,butIdishonoredyouandbore
theshameofitforalongtime.Icametoapologizeformy
wrongdoingsandthankyouforthehospitalityandgracewhich
youveshownme,Isaid.Heconsideredinsilencebefore
speaking.
Wellspoken.Obviouslyyouhadtimetopreparea
speech,hereplied.
Imeanit,everywordofit.Ivechanged.Iknowbetter
now,Ireplied.
Icanttakeyouback,hedeclared.
Imnotaskingyouto,Ianswered.
Soyoureallycameherejusttoapologize?Hequeried,
andIwastrapped.IfItoldhimyes,thenaskedhimforaid,Id
bealiar,andapooroneatthat.IfItoldhimnoandaskfor
somethingmore,myapologywouldbeseenasameansof
obtaininghisaid.SoIdecidednottoansweratall.
Icametoapologize,andalsototellyouIunderstand
yourdecisionandagreewithit.Imnotofnoblebloodorspirit
andImunworthyofthelikesofIngrid.Youwererighttoturn
medown;agoodfathermustprotecthisdaughterfromthose
beneathherstatus,Isaid.
ItsnotthatIdontloveyou,heanswered.
Iknowyoucareforme,Master,butyouhaveadutyto
yourdaughterandthatcomesbeforeallelse.Idhavedonethe
sameifIwereinyourshoes.
Youreallyhavechanged,heremarked.
125

Yes,Ihave,andIvelearnedsomething.Ivelearned
thatevenifImnotofnoblebearing,itdoesntmeanIcantact
noblyandbeabettermanforit,Isaid,andinhaledthecold
air.Offeringamuchdeservedapologyismysecondstepin
beingdignified.
Whatsthefirst?Heinquired.
Recognizingmyerrorsandtakingresponsibilityformy
actions,Isaid.
MaytheGodsblessyou!Heanswered.
MayIaskasmallfavor?Iasked.
Whatisit?Hereplied,losinghismirthatmyrequest.
Idliketobegiventhechancetotellyouwhat
happenedtomeafterIwasbanished,andhowIcametothis
epiphany,Isaid.
Well,ofcourse!Ifthatsyouronlydesire,Iapologizefor
mistrustingyou.Wontyoucomeinforsupper?Heasked,and
Ientered,smiling

126

CHAPTERXIIScumoftheEarth
IwasbeamingwithhappinessasIsatatIvarstablefor
supper.IthadbeenalongtimesinceIdbeenthishappy,and
onlynowdidIrealizehowmuchIhadmissedthemboth.
Ingridkeptsilentmostoftheevening,thoughherconstant
smiletoldmewithoutwordsallthesecretsofherheart,andI
toosmiled,andfoundameasureofjoydiningonasimplemeal,
withsimplepeoplewhowerefamilytome.SoIseeyourea
soldiernow,Ivarremarked,onlyafterwehadfinishedour
meal.Ingridtheneyedmyuniformandrankcarefully,asifshe
hadntunderstoodtheirmeaninguntilthen.
Yes,Iveenlisted,Irepliedproudly.
Areyouhighranked?Ingridaskedinnocently.
Howcanheholdahighrankifheonlyrecently
enlisted?Ivarresponded,inamannerthatsomewhatbelittled
hisdaughter.
No,Imonlyafootmannow,butIllbepromotedifI
workhardenough,Isaid.BothIvarandIngridnoddedin
understanding,thoughtheirconflictingexpressionstoldme
thateachunderstoodmeindifferentways:Ingridseemed
impressed,Ivarnotso.IheardthesoundofIvartappinghisleg
impatientlyunderthetable,anddecidedthatthiswasthebest
andprobablyonlyopportunityIhadtotellhimwhathad
happenedinhopehedwanttohelp.AndsoIstarted
ThatRaymondsoundsfamiliarfromsomewhere,Ivar
said,andIleanedclosertohearwhathedsaynext.
Cantrememberfromwherethough.Youresaying
threebanditskilledhimandtheyreintownnowsoundslike
riskybusinessifyoureafterthem,heremarked.
HonordemandsthatIpursuethem;Iwoulddothe
sameforyouorIngridifsomethingweretohappentoeitherof
you.Ireplied.

127

Irespectthat,Ivaranswered,thinkingafewmoments.
TellyouwhatIllgiveyouaswordandtutoryouinits
properuse.Youcanreturnhereeacheveningafteryourshift
andwelltraintogether.Ivebeenmeaningtopracticemy
fencingatanyrate,buthaventfoundthetime.Nowdbeas
goodanopportunityasever,heconcluded.
Thankyou!ThankyouMasterSmith!Ishantforgetthis
favor,Ishant!Icried,takinghishandandkissingit.Dont
thankmeyetboy,Imaybesendingyouofftoyourdeath.You
needtotakeyourtrainingveryseriouslynowandbe
persistent,herepliedafterhereleasedhishand.Ingridsface
turnedpale.
Imnotgoingtodie,Godiswithme,Ireplied,to
reassurebothmyselfandIngrid.
Thegodsfavorthebold,buttheyllnotstaythehandof
deathevenforthemightiestofwarriors.Nowwaithere,Ivar
said,andwenttooneofthewalls,whereheremovedalogto
revealasecretcompartment.BothIngridandIstaredathim,
andhesmiledashetookoutabundlecoveredinbrowncloth.
Hereturnedtothetable,Iroseasheapproached,andIngrid
didaswell.Hepresentedthebundletomewithbothhands.I
tookitandremovedtheclothtorevealafinelycraftedsword.
Takeit,itsyours,hesaid,andIdid.Iliftedthesword
bythehiltandstudiedit.Itwaslong,thoughunlikeageneric
longsword,thisonefeaturedatwohandedgripforeasier
wieldingandaslightlycurvedbladepoint.Theswordwasquite
sharpandlighterthanitappearedtobe,somostlikelyitwas
madeofsomekindofironwithwhichIwasunfamiliar.Itooka
stepbackwardsandtriedholdingitwithtwohands,then
shiftedmygriptoonehandandsmiled,anticipatingrevenge.I
discoveredthatIwasntstrongenoughtouseitproperlywith
onehanddespitethefactthatitwaslighterthanacommon
sword,however,soIwasgladfortheprolongedhilt.Ijust
wasntbuiltasstronglyasthoseofnorthernlineageandIvar
knewit.
ItscalledTroublemaker,Ivarsaidproudly.
128

Thenamefits,Ireplied.
Ofcourseitdoes,forIwasthinkingofyouwhenI
namedit,hesaid,chuckling.
Itsamasterpiece,Iadded.
Well,Imadeitforyoualongtimeago,butthenother
thingscameupIdontknowwhyIhaventsolditsince,he
said,embarrassed.Ismiledbroadlythen,astheimplicationsof
whathehadjustsaidbecamecleartome.
Wanttogooutsidetotestit?Heasked.
Ifitsnotabother,ofcourse,Iansweredandturnedto
exithishome.Heplacedhishandonmyshoulderthen.Icould
tellbyhisexpressionthattherewasmuchhewantedtosay
hell,therewasmuchIwantedtosaytohim.ButhewasIvar.
Ivarrarelydisplayedemotion,andIIwasasstubbornashe.
Adam,itsbestifyouroldnameisforgotten.Iknowthe
armybetterthanyouthink,anditllbethedeathofyoushould
theydiscoveryouoncedefected,hesaid.Iknewhiswordsto
betrueandhadpreviouslycometothesameconclusionofmy
ownaccord.Iacquiescedsilently,andthenthankedhimforthe
advice.
MynameisRaymondoftheBrooks,Ireplied,andhe
nodded.
Itsanhonorablename,hereplied,andwewent
outsidetotrain.

129

Westoodoutsidefacingeachother,Ivarandme.Snow
fellaboutus,andIngridheldatorchilluminatingourtraining
ground.Ivarpaddedourweapons,thenstartedthelessonwith
afreeformlightfencingexercisemeaningthatheletme
fightasmyspiritguidedmewithoutcorrectingmyposeor
movements.Hefrownedandbattedmyweaponasidewhenhe
sawIwasverydominantlylefthanded,ashebelievedthiswas
agreatflawforaswordsman.WhenIvarhadtrainedmeinthe
past,hehadinstructedmetouseonlymyrighthand.Since
then,Iveonlywieldedpolearmswhichrequiretheuseofboth
hands.NowasIswitchedbacktoasinglehandedweapon
again,IfoundthatIstillfavoredtheleftdespitehisconstant
tutorage.
Adaer,Raymond,hesaid,gettingusedtomynew
name.Yourlefthandrulesyouandyourrightispractically
useless,Idontknowifyoulleverbeabletofenceproperly.I
frowned,assaultinghimwithgreaterforce.Heeasilyside
steppedmywildattacks,stabbingmewiththetipofhispadded
blade.IthurtandIwashumiliated,butIdidntletthatslowme
down.Ijusttriedagainandagain,shiftingandexperimenting
withmyasyetnonexistenttechnique.
Alright,alright!Youhaveafightingspirit;Illgrantyou
that.MaybeIllmakeawarrioroutofyouafterall,Ivarsaid
afterinterceptingahailofblowsherealizedwouldneverend.I
pantedheavily.Myheadfelttoolight,andtheworldspun
aboutme,butbyanactofsheerwillIkeptstanding.Unlike
me,hehardlymovedorexertedenergy.Thisdrovememad.I
hadaboveaveragespeed,staminaandaveragestrength,yetfor
thisoldman,Iwasnothing.

130

Maybewecanturnyourdisabilityhesaid,referring
tomylefthandedgrip,intoanadvantage,Ivaradded.He
taughtmetheproperlegandhandpositioningforexecutinga
reversegripofthetwohandedpummel.Iplacedmyleftfoota
bitforward,butnotsofarforwardastorevealmyreversedgrip
andstance.HeshowedmehowtoholdmyweaponasifIwere
righthanded,andthenshiftmygripassoonasthefirstswing
came,inordertodeceivemyopponentuntilitwastoolatefor
himtoadapthistactictorespondtomyblows.Themoveis
usuallyreferredtoasthefoolsguardthoughthereareseveral
variations.
Mostbattlesaredecidedbyacoupleofswordswings,
hesaid,despitevariouslegendswhichtellofprolonged
matches.
Yes,Master,Ireplied,takinghiswordforit.
Standproperly,breatheinrhythm,studyyour
opponent,searchforhisweakness,thenstrike,deceive,andgo
forthekill,hetoldme,summarizinghisfencingphilosophy.
Ididasinstructed,failingmiserablytimeaftertime,
untilIalmostdespaired.ButIwouldnotquitIcouldnot.My
pridekeptmefromit,andthesenseofmyutterworthlessness
wheneverIhadthoughtsofquitting;thatkeptmefrombacking
down.Webattledforperhapsanhour,untilsoldiersheardthe
soundofourswordsclashingdespitetheirbeingmuffled.
Halt!AseniorofficercalledtoIvarwhenhesawus
fighting.Anothersoldierstoodbesidehim,morenervousthan
thefirst.IloweredmybladebeforeIvardidandspoke.
Thankyou,MasterSmith,fortheswordandthelesson.
YourgenerositywillbemadeknowntotheLordsofWistHill,
Isaid.
Aye!Thisismypersonalgifttoyou,MasterSoldier,he
repliedandbowedlow,catchingon.Bothsoldiersvisibly
relaxed,andIturnedtothem.
MasterIvartheSmith,hasgivenmeaswordanda
lessononitsuse,Iexplained.
131

Carryon,then,theseniorsoldiersaid,losinginterest
andleaving,togetherwithhiscompanion.IturnedbacktoIvar,
buthehadleftsilentlywithhisdaughterassoonasthesoldiers
hadfocusedtheirattentiononlyonme.Ididnotunderstand
hisfearofthesoldiers,butIguessedthathisreasonsmustbe
soundenough.Ileftthemerchantsquarterandwalkedbackto
thebarracks,whereIspenttheremainderofthenightalone.I
watchedmyunsheathedbladereflectthelightofthesingle
candlewhichshonenearmybed,castingtheonlylightinthe
room.Mymindracedwiththoughtsofeverythingwhichhad
broughtmethisfar,andofwhatlayahead.Iwonderedifthese
werethelastdaysofmylife.Ifellasleep.
Iwaswalkinginafieldofwheat,thesunshiningabove
meandwhitesheepshapedcloudsmovinginthesky.The
climate,foronce,wasjustright.Thesunabovewasnottoohot,
asitnormallywaswhereIcomefromneitherwasittoocold,
likewhereIamnow.
Everythingwasjustperfect.Iwalkedinthefield,not
knowingwhereIwasgoing,orhowIgotthere.Somany
questionsunanswered,someanswersIwouldneverknow.But
mybodymovedwithitsowninertiaitseemedtoknow
wheremystridesweretakingme,thoughIdidnt.Suddenly,
mybrotherstoodbeforeme,justasIrememberhimbeforehe
waslosttome.Hestood,leaningonascarecrow,muchsmaller
thanInowwas.Howodditis,Ithoughttomyself,tohavemy
olderbrotherbesmallerthanme.
Whereareyougoing?Heaskedme,inanancient
languagethatIhadalmostforgotten.
Idontknow,Iansweredhonestlyintheodd,mixed
language.
Wherehaveyoucomefrom?Iaskedhimafterapause,
whenhehadsaidnothingmore.Buthewasalreadygone;the
scarecrowremained,surroundedbygoldenwheat.

132

Lookingaround,Imurmured,Wherehaveyougone?
Nowinmynativetongue.ItseemedthefieldwasspinningasI
turned.NomatterwhichdirectionIlooked,thescarecrow
alwaysfacedme.Ifelttrapped,likeinaratsmaze,mypathset
beforemebyhandsnotmyown.Theworldseemedtoclosein
aroundme,andfeelingsofclaustrophobiaurgedmyfeet
forwards.ItseemedIhadnochoiceasword!Aswordjustlay
thereinthefield.Howoddtoseeaswordjustlyingthere,its
surfacegleaming,reflectingthelightofthesun.Mylefthand
movedofitsownaccordandgrabbedholdofit.Wasthatthe
rightthingtodo?IaskedmyselfasIinspectedtheblade.Then
therewassomethingonmypalm;myeyeslostfocusandthe
goldenfieldblurred.Iwasbleeding!Itwasbloodonmyhands!
Ilookabout.Itwasnighttime.Someonewaschasingme;I
couldfeelthepredatoryeyesonmyback.Iturnedandturned
buttheworldkeptonspinning.Itwasrightbehindme;Icould
feelit!Iswungmyswordwidely,cuttingthroughtheairand
wheatallaboutme.Nothingwastherethough.Aravenflew
andmyeyesfolloweditsflight.TheworldspunasIturned.The
ravenfinallyrestedontherightshoulderofthescarecrow.It
wasntthesamescarecrowasbefore,forthisoneseemed
sabotaged.Itsrighthandappearedtobemissing,asifsomeone
hadtornitout,anditsfacewasscarredwherethereshould
havebeenaneye.TheravencawedonceandIbecameawareof
myhandagain...itwasstillclutchingthesword.Thathand
seemeddistorted,however,asifsomeonehadpouredhotred
waxonit.TheswordfellfrommypalmasIclutchedmy
woundedhand,anditsbladedugintotheground.Istood
beforeacrosswiththeravenbehindit,andthenIturnedmy
backandfled,asfastasmyfeetcouldcarryme.Wheat
everywhere,breakingwhenItrampledonit.Ididntknowthe
wayaheadsoIlookedbackasIranforwards,leavinghavocin
mywake.EverythingItouchdies,Ithought.Icantescape
Bellsrang,highaboveinthesky.

133

Iwoketothesoundofchurchbells;itwasnowmorning.
Isatinacoldsweatforseveralminutes,frightenedlikealittle
boy,thoughIdidntknowwhathadscaredme.Igotupand
washedmyface,readyforanotherdayofduty.Barnyseemed
affableenough,havingforgottenthenightbeforeasifithad
neverhappened.Perhapsherespectedmyprivacyandknew
nottoaskquestions.

134

CHAPTERXIIIManonaMission
Myshiftspassedquicklyinsuccession,oneafter
another,likenighttimeintervalsbetweenmyeveningswith
IvarandIngrid.AllIcaredaboutwasjusticeandmyfriends.In
anattempttobettermyself,IactedwithrespecttowardsIvar
andheededhiswishes.IhadtostayawayfromIngrid,thoughI
stillcaredforher.IreasonedthatIwouldhaveplentyoftime
forthatwhenwedbemarried,afterIvarhadpassedaway,or
mellowedenoughtoallowusourdream.NotthatIwishedhim
deadonthecontrary,Iwishedhimalonglife.ButIcouldnt
forgetandIcouldntforgivethewayhehadcastmeaway.I
realizeitmakesmeseemungrateful,butIwasonlyakidthen,
moreconcernedwithwhatIdidnotgetthanwithwhatIdid.
AsasoldierinDrentwych,mydutywastokeepthe
peaceanddealwithanyonewhoposedathreattothePrince
andhisLords.Idecidedthatbandits,sincetheyrobpeopleand
thuspreventthemfrompayingtheirtaxes,areathreattothe
Prince.Idecidedthatrapists,sincetheydisturbthepeaceful
livesofcommoners,arealsoathreatandmustbedealtwith.
Barnydidntseemtocareonewayortheother.Hewasasfond
ofidlenessashewasofviolence.Hewasatruefriendinthathe
alwayscoveredmybackandletmedowhateverIwantedtodo
withoutjudgmentorcomplaint.Iwasnofool,however.Iknew
beyondashadowofadoubtthatthePrinceonlycaredabout
histaxesandBarnyabouthispleasures.ButIdecidedthatmy
dutiesextendedbeyondthat,soIworkedwithinthesystem
whichempoweredme,thatallowedmetocarryaweaponand
dowhatIthoughtwasright.PerhapsIwasjustsearchingforan
outlettosatisfyadarkneedforviolence.Therulingpowerdid
notcondemnmyprey,theirdeedsweretolerated,atleastto
somedegree.Tome,however,thatpowerwouldnothave
shownsuchclemency.

135

Theworld,Idiscovered,doesnotrevolvearoundme;
earthlymattersdonotwaituntilImfinishedwithmybusiness.
Itmusthavebeentwofortnightsalongintomytrainingwith
IvarwhenmyCommandersummonedmetohisoffice.
Hisofficewasamodestenoughplace;asmallroomin
theupperfloorofthebarracks.Aheavyoaktableoccupied
mostoftheroom,andonitwerevariousscrollslayingaboutin
noparticularorder.MyCommanderwasanagingman,botha
religiousmanandasoldier.Heworeabrownwoolshirt
adornedwithsmallspikesthatactedaslightarmor,and
thinnertrousersofasofterfabric.Aroundhisneckheworea
silvercross,largeenoughtobeseenbutnotlargeenoughto
poseahindrance.Hisfacewashiddenbeneathathickwhite
mustachethatpartiallyconcealedthinlips,andhisdark
grayinghairwastrimmedshort.Overall,tomeheresembleda
raccoon,thoughInevermentionedthistoanyone.WhenI
crossedthethreshold,IsawanothermanpresentwhomIdid
notrecognize.
Thestrangerappearedthinnerthanboththe
CommanderandI;aheadtallerthantheCommanderbuthalfa
headshorterthanme.Heworefancybrownishred,clothes
toppedwithadappergreenhat.Hisclothingandshavenface
markedhimclearlyasnobility,probablyofsmallstature,forhe
worefewjewelsonhisperson.BuckledonhisbeltIsawa
fancylooking,short,thinsword,probablybestusedfor
stabbing.Myownlongerswordwasstrappedtomyback.
Comein,Raymond,theCommandersaid,andIdid.
LordDurrant,thisisFootmanRaymond,whomItold
youabout,theCommandersaid,motioningtome.I
immediatelystraitenedmypose,swallowedandstooderect,
increasinglynervousastheimplicationsofthetitleLordran
throughmymind.
Ithought,HeworksforthePrinceandislicensedto
kill.
LordDurrantstudiedme,whileIremainedmotionless.
136

Footman,LordDurrantisonanofficialerrandon
behalfofHisMajestythePrince,hesaid,addressingme.It
hascometothePrincesattentionthatafairnumberof
commonershavevanishedwithoutatracehereinDrentwych,
LordDurrantsaid,andIimmediatelydislikedtheannoying
soundandarroganttoneofhisvoice.ThePrincewishesthese
commonersfoundandthoseresponsiblefortheir
disappearancebroughttojustice,hecontinued.
Raymond,youaretoaccompanyLordDurrantand
servehiminanycapacityheseesfit,layingdownyourlifeif
needbe,theCommanderordered.
Yes,Commander,Irespondedimmediately,hopingthe
latterpartofhiscommandwouldnotcometopass.
ThePrincethanksyou,CommanderFaolan,Lord
Durrantsaid,andthenturnedtomewithoutwaitingfora
reply.
Come,Footman,heorderedme,andleft,turninghis
backtoCommanderFaolan,whosenameIhadonlyjust
learned.Peculiar,isntit?Iwassoabsorbedineverythingthats
beengoingoninmylifethatIneglectedtoknowmyown
commanderbyname.Iwhoalwaysfanciedmyselfamanof
astuteperceptionfailedtodiscoversomethingasplainasmy
owncommandersname.Iwhorememberthenamesofevery
singletownpersonandsoldierandwheretheyliveImlosing
it,Imfallingapartagain,andIcantaffordit.
Yes,myLord,Irepliedhastilyandfollowed.Iforced
myselftofocusoneventsathand,andignorethesethingsthat
arebeyondmypowertochange.Deathisfinal.Icannotbring
backthedead.Icannottakehisplace.
Imgoingtolistthemissingcommonersandwhatwe
knowofthem.StopmeanytimeyouknowsomethingthatI
haventmentioned,hecommandedasIfollowedhimdown
thecorridor.Soldiersmadewayforusaswewalked;Irather
likedothersclearingthepathbeforeme.

137

RichbenSonofEgbert,hestated.Amerchantofsome
reputationwhotradedinfinesilver,gonemissingabouttwo
monthsago,lastseenatTheBlackSheepTavern.
TheBlackSheepTavernisadangerousplace,usually
thehomeofruffians,Icommented.
AreyouimplyingthattherespectedRichbenconsorted
withcriminals?Heaskedthequestioncasually,buttherewas
astinginhisvoice.
No,myLord,Iwouldneverdreamofit,Isaid,tryingto
wiggleoutofhistrap.Iwassuggestingthathecouldhave
walkedinthevicinityoftheTavern,whichafterallislocatedat
therimofthemerchantsquarter,andbeensurprisedby
banditswhosoughthispurse.LordDurrantpursedhislipsin
asmile.
Verywell,letuscontinue,hesaid.
Yes,myLord,Ireplied.
ThomasthePotter,hesaid.Alocalpotterofno
knownreputation,lastseeninhishouse.Iremainedsilent.I
hadknownhissonCharlesPotterbackwhenIwasachild
livingwithIvar,andIfeltpityforCharles,whomust,likeme,
beanadolescentnow.
Anythingyoudliketoshare,Footman?LordDurrant
asked,seeingmychangeofexpression.
IamfamiliarwithhissonCharles;hisfatherThomas
wasanhonestmantothebestofmyknowledge,Isaid.
Verywell,hereplied.
Owen.Idontknowhisfathersname,LordDurrant
said.Youngpickpocket,disappearedamonthago,lastseen
leavingjailafterbeingreleasedfromincarceration,hefinished.
Thenamemeantnothingtome,notthatIgavetoomuch
thoughttothievesgonemissing.

138

Jaunee,hesaid.Streetmusicianachild.Reported
missingtwoweeksago,hefinished.Iwasunfamiliarwithher.
ShemusthavecomewhenIwasinOverHamptonand
vanishedbeforeIreturned,orelseshehadbeentherethe
entirelongandIjusthadntnoticed.Itriedhardertorecollect
ifIhadknownanychildrenwhoworkedasstreetperformers,
foritsaddenedmegreatlytothinkofachildgonemissing.I
triedtodispelthoughtsoftheunfortunatecircumstancesthat
turnedachildintoastreetperformer.
Adam,SonofIvartheSmith,hesaid,andIstrained
withallmymighttokeepastraightfaceandbetraynothing.
Reportedmissingbyhisfatheralmostayearago,hesaid.My
heartwasoverjoyedattheimplicationofwhathehadsaid.Ivar
namedmehisson,andhadgonesearchingformeafterhe
banishedme.IwashappybeyondwordstoknowthatIwas
lovedafterall.ItwasthenthatIforgaveIvarwithallmyheart
andsoulandfeltdeeplyashamedformistreatinghim.
Whatareyousmilingabout?LordDurrantasked,
irritated.
Ifindthenamefunny,Iquicklyreplied,usingthefirst
excusethatcametomind.
ThomasandArchibald,SonsofBowietheButcher,
LordDurrantsaid.Failedtoreturnhomeforsupper,
disappearedthreeweeksago,hefinished.AtfirstIhadnt
recognizedthenames,butthementionoftheButchersparked
mymemory.ArchieandTimmy,Ihadbrawledwiththemwhen
Iwasachild.
Iveheardofthem.Theyrenoweaklings,andalwaysgo
togethereverywhere,Isaid.
Isee,LordDurrantresponded.Wewereoutsidethe
barracksbythetimehespoke;Ionlythennoticedthatwehad
walkedthatfar.
Haveyoueverconductedaninvestigation?Lord
Durrantasked,turningtomeyetbeforeIhadachanceto
reply,heansweredhimself.
139

Ofcoursenot,sillyme,whyyourenothingbuta
commonfootman,heremarked.Myfaceflushedred,thoughI
saidnothing.LordDurrantdisregardedmyexpression;
obviouslyhedidntcare.
Well,thefirstthingyoudoinaninvestigationistryto
findalinkbetweenallthemissingpeople.Sinceyourebetter
acquaintedwiththelocalpopulace,canyouthinkofone?He
asked.
Seemtobeunrelatedincidents,Isaid.
Yousoldiersarealwaystryingtodismissanythingthat
causesyoutowork,hesaid,irritatedbymyanswer.Theres
alwaysalink!Hecontinued.Youjusthavetofindit.
MyLord,mayIspeakfreely?Iasked.Hetookafew
moments,andthenfinally,impatiently,hereplied.
Verywell,butletsrestrictourselvestotheinvestigation
athand,shallwe?Hesaid.Thesoonerwefinish,thesoonerI
leavethisgodforsakentown.
WhatImeanttosay,myLord,isthatIdontthinkthis
Richmondisrelatedtoanyoftherest,Iventured.
Richben,hecorrectedme.
Richben,myLord.Hewasamerchant,probablywith
somecoinorothervaluablesonhisperson,andhevanishedin
adangerousneighborhood,Isaid.
So?Heasked.
SoIdontthinkthesamepersonorpersonswhotook
Richbenwouldalsohavetakenapennilesschildwhosastreet
performer,orapairofbrotherswhoknewhowtodefend
themselves,Isaid.
Hmmm,hesaid,rubbinghischin.Youhaveatalent
forthefineartofinvestigation,itseems.Good.Yes,the
offendingpartyshouldhavemotiveandwevefailedto
establishamotivesofar,hecontinuedafteramoment.
SoRichbenwasprobablytakenforhismoney,I
speculated.
Whataboutthepotter?Hequeried.
140

PerhapsransomPerhapssomeunsatisfiedcustomer
haditinforhim,Ioffered.
Andthechild,Jaunee?Heasked.Icouldntforthelife
ofmeimaginewhyanybodywouldwanttokidnapachild.
Ransomagain?Ioffered.
No.Ransomcouldbeamotiveforamerchantand
maybethepotter,perhapsthesmithssonoreventhebutchers
sons,butJauneewasanorphan,andofnovaluetoanyone,he
said.
Sowhoreportedhermissing?Iasked.
Goodquestion.Idontknow,hesaid,andsmiled,
pleasedwithmycontributionstotheinvestigation.
Alright,Ihaveataskforyou,hesaid,apparently
havingarrivedataresolution.Iwantyoutogoaroundthe
town,findatrustworthycriminal,andenlisthiminour
service,hesaid.
Goodthinghedoesntaskmetosummonthedeador
turnnightintoday,Ithought.
Atrustworthycriminal,myLord?Iasked,puttingon
mymostpuzzledexpression.
Yes,dimwit.Findacriminalwhoknowsthings,arrest
him,interrogatehim,bribehim,Idontcare.Justgethimto
cooperate,hesaid.Ohandwhenyougoaboutthe
investigationIwantyoutoconcentrateonfindingRichben,if
hesstillalive.Therestareunimportanttothecrown.
Yes,myLord,Ireplied,andwentoffinallhaste.The
lastthingIwantedwastostayaroundthatpompousassa
momentlonger.ThoughImustadmit,Iwasmorethancurious
abouttheinvestigationbusiness.Icantputtowordswhat
sparkedthispassioninme.Maybeitwasthethrilloftestingmy
mentalabilitiesagainstthoseofaskilledadversary;maybeI
waslikeachildbeingpresentedwithaninterestingpuzzle;
maybeIcaredaboutthevictims;andmaybesomecombination
oftheseanswerswascorrect.Whateveritwas,itexcitedme.I
wentouttolookforatrustworthycriminal,andnotonlyin
ordertoberidoftheInvestigatorspresence.
141

CHAPTERXIVSimontheThief

Findingacriminalprovedharderthanithadfirst
appeared.Istrolledabouttowninexpectationofcrossingpaths
withtherightkindofperson.Asfatewouldhaveit,all
criminalsseemedtohavetakenthenightoff.Thedrunksdozed
offinalleyways;Itriedwakingafew,butmostofthemweretoo
fargoneindeliriumtomakeanysense,letalonebeofuseto
me.Thecommoncutthroatswereastrustworthyastheirname
suggests,andtheytooseemedtohaveretiredforthenight.The
samewentforpickpockets,thoughIsearchedthemoutin
preferencetoviolentcriminals.Mynextbrightideatookmeto
thelocalprison;Ifiguredthatanincarceratedcriminalwould
bemorecooperativethanoneswithnothingtogain.Heck,I
couldofferthemfoodinexchangeforaid.Itsnotlikeanybody
botheredtofeedtheprisonersexceptfamilymembers,ifthey
hadany.
Drentwychhadaprisontoolargeforamediumsized
town,butwiththeamountofimmigranttrafficitmadesense,
inasadkindofway.AsIwalkedthecorridoroftheprisonI
wasfilledwithasenseofdreadandcompassionforthehuman
sufferingaroundme.Themoans,gentlesobs,andsometimes
hushedprayerstouchedandsoftenedmyheart.Icouldnteven
bringmyselftoimaginethekindoflivesthesepeoplelived,
probablynotsoverydifferentfrommyown.Iimaginedthat
mostwereincarceratedforcrimeslesserthanmyown.Iwas,
afterall,amurderer,atraitor,andaliar.Confrontingthe
inmatesmiseryaffordedmearareglimpsebehindthemask
labeledconvict.AtthispointIstoppedseeingthemas
criminals;theybecamejustmen.True,therewasaroughface
peeringatmefrombehindbarshereandthere,butthevast
majorityofprisonersseemedtobeonlyfeebleandsuffering.
Myheartfilledwithprayersfortheillaccusedandallthosein
distress;mayGodgrantthemmercy,fornomanwould.

142

Itwaswhenthesethoughtswereoccupyingmymind
thatIfoundmycandidate.Greeneyesgazedsilentlyatmy
walkingform.Ipausedandturntohim,onlyhalfconsciousof
whatIwasdoing.Istartedtosmilebutthenstopped,unsureif
smilingwasthepropergesture.Hishairwasblond,though
unkemptanddirtiedbycrustedsand.Hewasshorterthanme
evenshorterthantheaveragemanofmytime.
Consequently,Itookhimforahalfbreed,theresultofan
unfortunateunionbetweenaScotswarriorandaBriton
woman.Thevastmajorityofthesehalfbreedsaretheresultof
rape,thoughmostoftenthewomenarekilledafterthemen
havehadtheirfun.Somewomenarespared,ormanageto
escape,thoughtheiroffspringarecastawaybyboththeScots
racesandtheWelsh.
Cometogloat,soldier?Heasked,interruptingmy
thoughtsandcatchingmeoffbalance.
No,why?Iaskedinnocently,beforemyconscious
mindfocused.
YouvebeenstaringatmeasifIhavetheplague,he
said.
Myapologies;thatwasntmyintent,Ireplied.
Youreapologizing?Thatsanovelty.Areyousure
youreasoldier?Heaskedmockingly.
Yes,Iam.MynameisRaymondofDrenIbegan,
whenheinterrupted.
Youdaftorsomething?Idontbloodyneedan
introduction.Justbeaboutyourbusinessandgloat;leaveme
thehellalone,orevenbetter,getmeoutofhere,hesaid.
ImnotdaftOrweakinthehead,Isaidangrily,Speak
tomelikeImyourwenchandyoucanbeascertainashellthat
Illleaveyouheretorot,Isaid.Hejustglaredatmeandsaid
nothingprobablytooproudforanapologyortoodumbto
flatterme.Good,Ipreferredworkingwithsomeonehonest.
Icansetyoufree,Ioffered.
Thenwhydontyou?Heasked.
BecauseIwantsomethingfromyoufirst,Iretorted.
143

AndhowcanIbeofservice?Heasked,smilingcasually
andleaningcloser,withtensedmuscles.Hewasintrigued,but
tryingtohideit.
Youcanstartbygivingmeyournameandwhyyoure
here,Ianswered.
Andonceweredonewithourformalintroductions?
Heaskedonedge.
Andonceyouanswermyquestionswithoutbacktalk,
Illtellyou,Ireplied.
Finethen.MynameisSimonoftheRoads,hesaid.
AndImhere...hebegan,andIinterrupted.
Wait!Whatdoesitmean;oftheRoads?Iasked.
MeansImavagabond,youknow?Adrifterwithout
home,heexplained.
Fine.Whyareyouhere?Iasked,abitirritatedbyhis
manners.
BecauseIwasstarvingandstolesomebread,he
respondedafterpausingandtakingadeepbreath,obviously
notkeentoconfessasmuch.
And?Iasked.
Andwhat?Hereplied.
Thatsit?Iasked.
Thatsit,heresponded.
Howlonghaveyoubeenhere?Iasked.
Twodays.Illprobablybedeadinadayortwo,he
replied.Unlessyougetmeoutofhere.
Letmegetthisstraight.Youwerecaughtstealingbread
whenyouwerestarving,sotheyputyouherefortwodays
withoutfood,Isaid.
Aweekactually,Iwassentencedtoaweek,he
correctedme.
Ifwhatyouresayingistrue,Illtrytogetyouout,I
repliedandturnedtoleave.
Whatdoyoumean,If?heaskedurgently.Imaybea
thief,butImnoliar,hesaid.
144

Myapologies.Illtrytogetyouout,Ireplied.Atthe
timebeingaliarwasonlyashortstepfrombeingatraitor,and
bothwereworsethanbeingathiefasfarasoffensesgoes.
Unlessyoustoleahorse,inwhichcase,youweredeadby
torture.Youmightaswellhavekilledpeople,ratherthansteal
horses;itwouldgetyoualesserpenalty.
IcheckedwiththewardenandhetoldmethatSimon
wasacommonpickpocket,andthathehadindeedbeencaught
stealingbread.ThewardenmadeitsoundasifSimonwasa
dangerouscriminal,emphasizingthewordpickpocket.Itold
thewardenthatIdbeenassignedtoaLordsretinue,andthat
hewishedthiscriminaltobesetfree.Thewardenwantedto
resist,butItoldhimthathecouldspeaktomycommanderif
hedlike.Withoutfurthertroublehereleasedtheunluckythief.
Thankssir!SimonsaidwhenIspranghimfree,and
hastilymovedtogetawayfrommeassoonasweleftthe
barracks.
Holdonthere,Icalledbacktohim,myhandmoving
tograpplehimofitsownaccord.Istoppeditsmovementas
soonasInoticeditandtriedtodependuponmywordsinstead
offorce.Simonslowedbutdidnotstop,turninghishead
wearilytowardsme.
Ipulledinafavorbackthere,andIllbeinawholelot
oftroubleifyoufleeonme,Isaid.
Imsureyoullmanage,herepliedafteramomentof
silentconsideration,andturnedagaintogetaway.
Iprobablywont,Isaid.
Lifestoughandtoeachhisown,heretortedlightly,
takingpleasureinmyseemingdisadvantage.
Willyouholdonaminute?Imnotgivingchase.Hear
meoutandthenleavewhenIhavefinished,ifyourenot
inclinedtohelpme,Isaid,angryatmyselfforthisshowof
weaknessangrierstillthatIhadletthesituationgetoutof
hand.Itoldmyselfitwouldnthappenagain.
Fine,Imlistening,hesaid.
145

Thankyou,Ireplied.Itookacoupleofdeepbreathsto
recollectmythoughtsandthenspoke.Imtryingtofindafew
peoplewhovegonemissingintownandIneedyourhelp,I
said.
Imnoinvestigator.Maybeyoushouldtrytofindalord
orsomething,hesaid,interruptingmyspeech.
Letmefinish,please,Ireplied,somewhatangrily.Im
noinvestigatoreither,andthereisalordinvestigating.Butthe
lordsmainlyconcernedwithsomerichmerchantgone
missing,whileImtryingtofindthemall,Isaid.
Why?Heasked.
Whatdoyoumean,Why?Iasked.
Dontplayinnocentwithme,Iknowsoldiersofthe
guardvarietywellenough,hesaid,andIclenchedmyteeth
yet,remainedsilent.Whatsinitforyou?Whydoyoucare?
Heasked.
Nothingsinitforme,Irepliedangrily.
Liar!Hereplied.
Bloodyhell!Ispatangrily.
Liar!Herepeated.
Fine!Fine!Iprotested,surrendering.Ihatethebloody
lord!Isaid.
And...Simonsaid.
AndIbloodywanttoshovethisinvestigationinhis
face.Pompousbastard,Iwanttofindemallmyself,claimthe
glory,andwatchhimstrollbacktohisivorytowerknowingfull
wellthathewasoutwittedbyasimplesoldier,Ilied.
Thatsmuchbetter,Simonsaid,satisfied.Letsgetone
overontheLord!Headded.
Fine!Isaid.
Fine!Heagreed.AndsoItoldhimofmysituation.

146

CHAPTERXVJaunee'sStoryContinues
SoIwasleftfordeadinanunknownalleyinDrentwych
bythePapa.ThetearsfrozeuponmyfaceasIresignedmyself
tomyfateandwaitedfordeathsnumbembracetoclaimme.I
mayhavepassedout,orperhapsIwasstillawakebuttoo
delusionaltotellrealityanddreamapart.Mynextvivid
memory,though,wasofamantoweringaboveme.Ina
desperatedesiretostayaliveIclungtothewakingworldofthe
livingjustabitlongerandmanagedtomovemylipstoform
thewordplease.Hewasatallyetskinnyman,perhapstwenty
fiveyearsofage,withawellkeptshavenfaceandblackhair
oiledandbrushedbackwards.Hisblackrobe,adornedbysilver
wassobeautifulHehadadarkkindofbeautyabouthim.He
studiedmyfaceintentlybeforehespoke,standingstilllikea
statue.Thisiswhathetoldme:
Littlegirl,hesaidinclearFrench.Diseaseovertook
youandnohealerinthisworldcanhealyouwithhiscrafts.
Youaregoingtodie.Iclosedmyeyesandresignedmyself
oncemore,losingallhope.
Iamamagician,anditiswithinmypowertosaveyour
life,butthereisapriceheannounced.Iopenedmyeyes,
desperatelywantingtobelievetherewasstillhopeforme.
Yes?Istrainedmylipstoformtheword.
Servitude.Youwillbelongtome,hesaidsternly.
Yes,Irepliedastheworldspunaboutandfadedinto
dark.
Iwokeupinastrangeroomthatatfirstglanceappeared
tobeaverycleannurseryroom,butoncloserexamination
turnedouttobeaprisoncellofsomesort,withaheavyiron
doorconfiningme.Suddenlyasharppaingrippedmystomach
itwaslikebeingstabbedoverandoveragain,untilahorrible
nauseacompelledmetovomitthecontentsofmybelly.Ahand
pressedagainstmymouth.Surprised,Ifirsttriedtofight,but
thenhisvoicespoketome.
147

Calmdown,hesaid.Dontfightit.Thepotionisthe
onlythingthatcansaveyou;youmustnotspititout.Ididas
instructed,swallowedthevilepotionagainandwatchedthe
mansswirlingauraashekepthishandonmyface;therewere
magicrunesinhisauranow.ItwasthesamemanIhadseen
before,soIrealizedthatthiswasntadream.Iwasreallyalive!
ComfortedbytheknowledgethatIwasstillinthisworld,Ilet
sleepandoblivionclaimmeagain.Hisaura,likehisrobedark
andsilver,wassomagnificent.
WhenIwokeagainIwassurprisedtofindmyself
standing.Iquicklylookedaround,andtomysurprisesawmy
bodylyingonthebedwiththehealerstandingoveritdrawing
strangerunesuponit.Itensedinfear,realizingthatImightbe
dead;aghoststandingovermyowndeadbody.Something
movedbehindmeandIturned,surprisedandfearful.Butthe
movementhadjustbeenmine.Ihadwings;beautifulangelic
rainbowcoloredwings.Ihaddiedandbecomeanangel.I
reconciledtothenotionthatIwasntademonchildafterall,
butahigherbeing,belovedbyGod.AllmylifeIhadloathed
myselfforbeingamonster,butnowIknewthattheywere
wrong,thepriestsandmyfatherIwasnotinfernalbut
angelicinstead.HowsaddenedIwastoknowthetruthnow,
onlyafterhavingspentthefewyearslivinginvainselfloathing.
Themansvoicebrokethetrainofmythoughtsandcentered
myattentiononmybodyagain.
Shesdead,hesaidindisappointment.Asheuttered
thewords,Ifeltthegravityoftheirmeaningmorefully;itwas
asifsomeonehadsteppedonmygrave.Suchaterriblefeeling
ofhopelessnessandfrightgrippedmethatItriedwithallmy
mighttoawakentolive.Despitemycuriosity;despitethe
bittersweetjoyInowfelt;despitetherealizationthatIwas
betteroffdeadanddivinethenlivingandmiserable,Iwanted
tostayalive.Istrainedwithallmymighttoentermybody.I
calleduponmywillandunleashedmymagic.Iwantedtolive!
Atlonglast,myeffortsprovedsuccessful.
148

Iwokeagainwithgreatdifficulty,anditwasthenthat
theburdenoflifereturnedtomethreefold.Ifeltsuch
weakness,misery,andpainthatIcouldntevencry.
Yourealive!Hesaid,overjoyed.Itworked!Yes,
indeed,againstalloddsIwasstillalive,oraliveonceagain.
Yes,Isaid,asIfeltmystrengthslowlyreturntome.
Hushnow,herepliedandpattedmyhair.Saveyour
strengthandsleep,headded,andIdidasinstructed,content
andcomfortedbythefactIwasstillhereonearth,anangel.
ItwasthenthatIhadthestrangestdream.Idreamtthat
Itraveledtoalandofice.ItwascoldbutIdidntmind,forI
wasanangelandangelswerenevercold,sad,orlonely.Ifound
myselfwalkingtowardsacave,butIpausedforamomentto
studymydreamscape.Ithadalwaysbeenanaturalabilityof
minetobeabletoconsciouslycontrolmydreams,andeven
sometimestoseethedreamsofotherswhenIstrainedhard
enough.
Theiceappearedstrange,forbeneathitslayersIcould
seeanoceanofseasand.Ilookedtowardsacavethatharbored
similarqualities,aworldthathadoncebeenanoceanofwarm
seasandnowturnedintoacolddesertofice.Ienteredthe
cave,strainingtoseeinthedark.Thecaveconsistedoffive
wallsoficeformedintoageometricshape.Neverinmylifeor
eveninmydreamshadIseensuchsheetsofclearice.ThenI
noticedthattherewassomeonetrappedontheothersideof
oneofthewalls.Itwasawoman,nakedandbeautiful.Imoved
closer,touchingtheiceandgazingatherintently.
Mydarling,Iheardhervoicesayinmyhead.Asshe
beganspeakingaredliquidbeganflowingonthecavefloor.I
touchedit,andfoundthatitwasblood.Ilookedatherwitha
questioninggaze;Ididnothavetheabilitytospeaktominds,
butshedid.
Bloodislife,shesaid.Fearitnot,fortheflowing
bloodsignifiesthestreamsofourlives.
Whoareyou?Youaresomysterious,Ithought.
149

You,shereplied.YouandIareone,oneandthe
same.Istrainedtoseehermoreclearlynow,tryingtodream
crafttheicetomakeitmoretransparent.
Youcantseeinthedark?Sheasked.
No,mythoughtsreplied.
Takemyeyes,then,sheoffered.Theyareagift,she
added.Itouchedmyeyes,myhandsmovingoftheirown
accord.Ismearedbloodonmyeyesbyaccident.Myvision
becameblurryforamoment,andthenitclearedandbecame
muchsharper.Thedarkdidntappearsodarkanymorebut
ratherradiatedwithmagnificentpalebluelight,resonatingoff
theicywalls.
Thankyou,Ithought.
Youaremostwelcome,shereplied.ItwasthenthatI
sawandmarveledatthecavestruebeauty.Theiceradiated
andreflectedthestarlight,whichsparkledandmadeeverything
wondrous.WithasmileIgazedatthewomanandmarveledat
herbeautyaswell.
Shehadredhairlikemine,butitwasmuchprettier,
cleaner,andlonger,thewayIwouldhavelikedmyhairtobe.
Herskinwaswhiteandperfectwithoutblemish,likeanivory
statueofanangelicbeinganimatedtolife.Herfeatureswere
likewiseperfectfeminineanddivine,asIdreamedofbeing.
Notasingleflawmarredherbeauty.Morethananything,I
wantedherwordstobetrue;thatwewereindeedoneandthe
sameandthatItoowouldsomedaybeasbeautifuland
feminineasshe.
YouandIareone,sherepliedtomythoughts.I
marveledatherrainbowcoloredangelicwings,justlikemine
onlylongerandfarmorestriking.
Whyareyouhere?Iaskedher,forIfeltthatbeneath
hermaskofglamourshewassufferingandsad,justlikeIwas.

150

Imtrappedhere,shereplied,herfaceturningsad,
thoughithadntreallymoved.Itwasmoreasifthelight
somehowreflecteddifferently,coloringtheroomwithher
sadness.Icouldntbearseeingherunhappy,andwantedtocry
inmiseryandpain,echoinghersadness.
HowcanIhelp?Iaskedindesperation.
Youcanfreeus,shereplied.
How,ohhowIbegofyou,tellmehow!Icried.
Ifyouexertyourwillandpowerallbarrierswillshatter
beforeyouallgateswillopen,sheexplained.Ididnt
understandheratall,soItriedbangingatthewall,hopingto
freeherbyforce.ButIcouldnt,andsinceIwasntcalm
anymore,Icouldnthearherthoughts,whichmademepanic
evenmore.Ithenwishedforfirewithallmyheart;burningfire;
enchantedflamesthatwouldmirrorthewarmthofadistant
summer;fireeverywheretomelttheice,boiltheblood,and
freetheotherhalfofmefromthecage.
Iwokeupfrightened,andscreamed,vividlyawarethatI
hadfailedtofreethewomaninmydream.Theroomhad
becomewarmer.Orperhapstherewasheatrisingfromme
again.Thecandlesandtorchesburstintoflames,andfirelicked
thewalls;itwasme,Inowknew.Icouldfeelit.Itwaslikea
waveoflavathatflowedinmybloodstream,withmyheart
pumpingit.Thensuddenlytherewassweetreleaseasavolcano
ofpowerandflameseruptedfromme,lightingfiresallaround.
BeforelongIwastrappedinthisinfernoofmyown
making,yetIhadpowerstillIfeltitflowinginmyblood,
raisingmyhaironedge.Iwavedmyhandtowardstheliving
flamesandconcentrated,mentallycommandingthemtodie
outandsleep.Ifeltmyheartbeatingeversofast,untilafew
pulsesofpowerbentthefiretomybidding,anditslept.Wind
flewthroughmyhair.Thefeelingwasintoxicatingand
wonderful.
Thedooropened.Mycaptorandsaviorenteredthe
room.Withawaveofhishandthesmokeclearedandvanished.
Heeyedmethen,mostpleasedwithhimself.
151

HeisarealmagicianIthought,andapowerful
one,asprovenbytheeasewithwhichheclearedthesmoke.
Excellent!Youarebyfarthemostsuccessful
experimentasofyet,heboasted.
What?Iaskedhimfeebly,exhaustednowthatthehaze
ofpowerhadlifted.
SomanytimesIvetried!Somanyspecimenswasted!
Strongyoungmen.Powerfulwitches.Allfailed.Ialmostgave
uphope,onlytosucceedwithafrail,dying,oddlookinglittle
girl!Hesaidtriumphantly,hisvoicegrowinginvolumeashe
spoke.
Idontunderstand,Iventured,buttherewasno
stoppinghim.
Iveonlyadministeredthepotionyesterday,andalready
youcanlightandextinguishfireswithyourmind!Hegloated.
Imanangelicdemonchild,Irepliedsoftly.
What?Hedemandedabruptly,asifthiswasthefirst
timehedheardmyvoice.
Iamanangelicdemonchild,Ihavealwaysbeenableto
lightfires,Iexplained,tellingapartiallie.ItistruethatIve
hadsomecontroloverfireallmylife,butitwasmoreinthe
realmoflightingacandlewhenIconcentratedwithallmy
might.
Really?Heasked,quitesurprised.Howdidyoucome
tobesuchabeing?Heaskedsoothingly.Ilikedhispleasant
tonessomuchbetterthanhisangryonesthatIwouldhavetold
himalmostanythinghewantedtoknow,ifonlyhewouldntbe
angrywithmeanymore.
Helistenedcarefully,andIbegan.WhenIwasalittle
girl,amanusedtocometoourhome.Mamaandpapadidnt
likehim,andwerebothangryandsadeverytimehecame.
Mamatoldmeshewassadbecauseshehadtogivehimcoins,
soonenightwhenhecameItoldhimtoleave.Hewasabald
wrinklyman,andwhenhesmiledorfrowned,hewrinkledeven
more,Iexplained.
152

Whathappenedafteryoutoldhimtoleave?The
magicianasked.
Heyelledatme,soIyelledback.Iwassoangry.The
wrinklymanslappedmeandIfelldown.SoIbaredmyteethat
himandhelaughed.Papacamerunningwhenheheardnoise,
Isaid,gettingangryjustrememberingit.
Whathappenedthen?Themagicianasked.
Thenthemangrabbedhiseyesandscreamed.He
couldntseeanymorebecauseIhadburnedhiseyeswithmy
power,Isaid.
Andthen?Themagicianasked.
TheneverybodyscreamedDemon,demon!Atme,I
saidandhidmyfacefromhim.
Youdidwell,hesaid.
Papaandhisfriendsdidntthinkso.Theyallshoutedat
meandthenpapahitme.Itriedtoprotectmyselffromhim,
buthehitmeagain,Itoldmycaptor.Hetriedspeakingsoftly
tomeandevenpattedmyhair.WhenIclosedmyeyesand
wenttosleephewasrelieved,andaskedmenofurther
questions.
BacktoRaysstory...

153

154

CHAPTERXVIAFinalResolution

"Soundslikeatoughcaseyouvegotthere,Simon
concludedafterItoldhimmyassignment.Sowhatdoyou
needmefor?Heasked,aftertakingafewmomentsfor
consideration.
Ifyouhaveanyideaswho...Ibegan.
Idont,hestatedinstantly,thenadded,butIdliketo
helpnonetheless.
Thenmaybeyoucanaskaroundfellowthiefbuddies
orsomething,Isaid.Hefrowned,andthensmiled.
Sure,Iwill,hesaid,stillsmiling.Thenheturned
aroundandstartedtowalk.Ididlikewise.
Whydontyouaskaroundyoursoldierbuddiesor
something?Maybeoneofthemhelpedthesepeopledisappear.
Maybetheydid,Ireplied.Simonsnortedandwent
abouthisbusiness.Meanwhile,IwenttoIvartoseekhis
council.
Thissoundslikeadangerousquest.ImafraidIhavent
acluewhokidnapscommoners.ExceptperhapstheLords
themselves,butthentheywouldntsendarepresentativeto
investigate,hesaid.
DoyouthinkperhapsoneoftheLordsdidthe
kidnappingwhiletheothersremainedoblivious?Iasked.
Possible,butunlikely.Youhaventansweredasimpler
questionyet,hesaid.
Whichis?Iasked.
WhyshouldaLordbothertokidnapcommonerswhen
hecansimplytakethem,outintheopen?Hesaid.
Icantthinkofanyreason,Iadmitted.
Andwhydoyou,andprobablythisrepresentativeLord,
refertothesepeopleaskidnappedwhenasfarasanybody
knows,therewasnodemandforransom?Thisisanimmigrant
community,theycouldhavesimplyleft,Ivarsaid.

155

Whatcouldthatmean?Iasked,nowevenlesssureof
wherethiswasgoinginlightofIvarsperceptiveobservations.I
hadtroubleenoughunderstandinghiselaborateuseofthe
tongue.
Itmeansthatsomethingfishyisgoingon,Ivarreplied.
Ifthepeoplewerekidnapped,thenyoudknowtheywere
kidnappedonaccountofaransomdemand.Ifthepeoplejust
vanished,however,thenthereisnoreasontobelievethatany
ofthemarealiveatall,heexplained.
Andwhatdoesthatmean?Iasked,humbledbymy
apparentlackofbasicinvestigativelogic.
ItmeansthattheLordsareunlikelycandidates,and
thattheyknowsomethingtheyrenottellingyou,Ivarsaid.
Idontunderstand,Ireplied.
Theyknowthepeoplewerekidnapped,andnowthey
wanttofindthematleasttheywanttofindthemerchant.
Hesaid.
Anymoreinsights?Iasked.
IfearImillequippedforsuchinvestigations,hesaid,
andresumedhiswork.Heliedofcourse,Icouldtellhes
conductedinvestigationsbefore,andIwassureashellhewasa
Lordhimself,thoughhedidhisbesttohideit.
Illlethimhavehisprivacy,Idecided.
Youvedonegreatsofar.Ihadntevenconsideredthe
thingsyoupointedoutsoquicklyandclearly,Ireplied.
Andwhatdoesthattellyou?Heasked,testingme.
Thatyourealordobviously,Ithought,butIdrewan
alternativeconclusionaswell.
Thatyoudrathernotgetinvolved,Ireplied,catching
ontohiswayofthinking.Well,thankyounonetheless,Isaid,
andmovedtoleave.
Apieceofadvice,ifImayofferone,youngman,Ivar
venturedafterafewmomentsofhesitation.
Ofcourse,Ireplied,readytolisten.

156

Itsafeelinginmygut:somethingaboutthiswhole
businessreeksofdanger,sodobecareful,thismayprovemore
riskythanyourcommonbrawl,hewarned.
Thankyou,Iwill,Irepliedandleft.Iwaitedinthe
barracksforSimonsreturn.
Noluck,Simonsaidwhenhefinallyreturned.
Reluctantly,IreportedmyfailuretoLordDurrant.Hedidnt
seemsurprised.
Alright,soldier,hesaid.Returntoyourusualpost.Ill
haveyousummonedshouldIhaveuseforyouinthefuture,he
saidindismissal.Ireturnedtomypoststillthinkingoverthe
mysteriouseventsthathadjustcometomyattention.Ikicked
apebbleasIwalked,followingtherouteofmypatrol.Iheard
thesoundofBarnybehindme.
Hey,Raymond!Hesaid.Itriedtogetaway,andjust
keptonwalking.Ididntwanttolosemytrainofthoughtand
hadnodesiretoentertainhimnow.Iheardhisshortlegs
flapping,chasingafterme.Hepassedmeandturned,puffingas
ifhehadjustrunamarathon.Igavehimanirritated,impatient
look.
IfIdidntknowyoubetterIdsayyouweretryingto
shakemeoff,hesaidandlaughed.Igavehimahalfsmile.
Shakeyouoff?Iwouldntdreamofit,Ireplied
cynically.Hesmiledbroadlybetweenhuffsandpuffs.But
reallyBarny,Ineedtodosomethingnow,so...Icontinued
andheinterrupted.
Listen,Iheardaboutthisinvestigationofyours,and
youwanttoknowwhatIthink?Heoffered.
What?Iasked,tryingtobepatientyethavinglittle
success.
Ithinkyoushouldntletitgetyoudown.Imean,
peoplevanishallthetime,andmostofthetimenobodyfinds
themeveragain.Youshouldjustpraythattheyhadaquick
deathanddidntsuffertoomuch,hebegan,andIinterrupted.
Isthereapointtothistale?Iasked,growingmoreand
moreimpatient.
157

Yeah.Peoplevanishallthetime,itsafactoflifelike
eatingorsleeping,sodontletyourselfgetdownonaccountof
it,herepeated.
Peopledonotvanishascasuallyastheyeatorsleep.I
replied,notverycheeredup.
Yes,butpeoplealsoshit,Hereplied,asifthatssome
sortofrevelation.
So?Iasked,notknowingifIshouldlaughorcryabout
thisturnofconversation.
Soitslike;shitting,peopleshitallthetimebutnobody
discussesthefruitoftheirbowels.Hesaid,andIfrowned.So
itslikethat,peoplevanishallthetime;everybodyknows,but
nobodytalksaboutit.Hecarefullyexplained.
Fine!Isaid,notfeelingcheeredupatall.
LiketheresthisstoryaboutasoldierinOverHampton.
Onedayhevanishedwithoutatrace,andnobodywasableto
findhim.HecontinuedhismonologueasifIhadntspoken.I
feltmyfaceturnredasIrecognizedthestoryofasoldierwho
vanishedwithoutatrace.
And?Iasked,nowfakingangertomaskmyblushing
face.
Andtheyfoundhimaweeklater,halfeatenbyrodents
andinseveralpieces,hesaid.
Wonderful.Didtheyfoundoutwhodidit?Iasked,
leaningclosertohearhisanswer,whichnowtrulydidinterest
me.
Idontthinkso.Rumorhasithewasdoneinbysome
crooksheowedmoneyto,hesaid.
Great!Thatsurecheeredmeup,Iremarkedwryly,and
startedwalkingagain.Barnywouldntgiveupandwalkedon
besideme.
Oh,comeon,hesaidandslappedmyshoulderfondly.
Iknowwhatwouldcheeryouup!Meandsomefriendsare
gatheringtonight...youknow,todrinksome;loosenup.
Maybeplayrocks;wagerabit.Youknow,youcanwinlotsof
moneyfromfriends,hesaid,laughing.
158

Idontthinkso,Barny.Idonthavemuchforyoutowin
fromme,Isaidwithahalfsmile.
Imkidding!Imkidding!Heprotested.Comeon,
comeon!Itsgoingtobefun!
No,Iflatlyrefused.
Iinsist!Ifyouwontcomeofyourownaccord,Illbe
forcedtotakeyoutherebyextremeforce!YouknowCrushy,
shesveryemotionalyoucannevertellwhatshesgonnado!
Hejested.
Fine,Illcome,Iconceded,hopingitwouldgethimoff
mybackalready.
ThoughIcamereluctantlyatfirsttoBarnysgambling
gettogethers,onceIlearnedhowtowagerIlovedit.Tobe
honest,morethanplaying,Ilovedwinning;thegamewasonly
funformeforaslongasIwon.Callitbeginnersluckifyou
will,butonceIstartedgamblingIwasaninstantsuccess.Iwon
adayspayonthefirsteveningIplayed.Iwaitedeagerlyformy
dayshifttobeoversothatIcouldwageragainintheevening.I
evenskippedmyeveningtrainingsessionwithIvar,telling
myselftheoldmancoulduseadayoff.Idontknowwhatmade
meslackoff;perhapsitwasthestrainofconstantfailure,and
perhapsitwasfearofwhatwastocome,ofwhatIhadsetout
todo.Idoubledmyweeklywagesonthesecondevening,and
tripledthemonthethird,becomingquitethecelebrityaround
TheBlackSheepTavern.Thenabrightideastruckme:itwasas
ifthedevilhadwhisperedadeviousideainmyear,Icouldeven
imaginethesmoke.
Imgoingtogetthemall,andtheywontseeitcoming.
Ithought.

159

Iplayedthegame,playedatbeingadumband
obnoxioussoldier.Suddenly,Ihadanabundanceoffriends,
andevenwomenstartedpayingattentiontome.Wordspread
aroundtownthatIwasrich,andIdidnothingtocounteract
thatrumor.WordalsospreadaroundtownthatIwasaladies
man,andIdidnothingtonegatethatgossipeither.Intruth,I
wasnthalfasrichastheymademeouttobe,andIwasalltalk
andnoactionwiththewomen.Actually,theydidthetalking
andIdidthesmiling.Butregardlessofmyinvolvementwith
theladiesorlackthereof,mynewfoundfamekilledwhatever
relationshipIhadwithIngrid.Nothingcomeswithoutaprice
inlife,andIwasreadytopayapersonalpriceforthesakeof
justice.
SadIamtofindyouhere,Ivarremonstratedupon
enteringTheBlackSheepTavernonthefourthnightofmy
winnings.Iwassurroundedbynumeroussordidfriendswho
eyedhimthreateningly.
Whysad,MasterSmith?Iasked,offeringhimapintof
ale.Perhapssomealewillcheeryouup,Iadded.
Illhavenoneofthatdrunkspiss,hesaidforbiddingly.
Iignoredhisglare.
Suityourself,Isaidlightly.Apologizinginmysoulfor
whatIwasabouttodo.
Youredrunk!Whatsbecomeofyou,boy?Hesaid
angrily.
Imaman,notaboy,oldman,andIlldrinkwhenIsee
fit,andwagerwhenitpleasesme,Irepliedcasuallybutwith
venombehindmywords.Heglaredatmeandtookadeep
breath.Holdingthechairandleaningforward,hisclenched
fingersturnedwhite.
Fairenough.Whataboutyourtrainingsessions?He
asked,exercisingameasureofselfcontrolthatamazedme.
Figuredyoucoulduseafewdaysoff,Irepliedlightly.
Howthoughtfulofyou,hesaidsarcastically.
Takeiteasy,Imjusthavingabitoffun.EvenGod
restedonedayoftheweek,Isaid.
160

Imgreatlydisappointedinyou,herepliedsternly.
Whythebloodyhelldoyoukeepjudgingmeallthe
time,eh?WhatdIeverdotoyou?Iasked,aspurepainrushed
frommyhearttomymouthwiththesortofhonestythatIhad
notseenforthcoming.
Why?Youwanttoknowwhy?Heasked,hisvoice
growinginvolumeandangerashespoke.Becauseyouasked
meto,thatswhy!
Me?WhendIaskyoutocondemnme?Iasked
painfully.
Whenyouaskedmetomakeawarrioroutofyou.
What,doyouthinkbeingawarriorisjustaboutknowingafew
moveswithasword?Heasked.
Yeah...Irepliedslowly,andseveralofthepatrons
noddedtheiragreement.
Well,yourewrong.Anybodycanswingasword.Being
awarriorisamatterofdisciplineandhonor,andbothare
equallyimportant.Awarriortrainshard,everysingleday,
honinghisbodyandmind.Awarriorwithoutdisciplineisjusta
rashyouth,andtheydontliveverylong.Awarriorwithout
honorisnothingmorethanamurderer,heproclaimed.
Well,Imamurdererthen!Iconfessed,thoughhehad
noidea.
Andobviouslyarash,sentimentalyouthaswell,he
concluded.
Anythingelse?Letslistallmydefects,Iresponded.
OnlytheGodscantellyouthose,Ihavenotenough
longevitytolistthemall,hereplied.Atthatremarkthewhole
tavernstartedlaughing,andIwasfilledwithpurerage.Idont
rememberwhathappenednext.WhatIdoshamefullyrecall,
however,iswakingupinthemorningonthetavernfloor
coveredinbruises.Barnywaswaitingformetoawake,come
morning.Whatbeganasacleverployhadnowbackfiredintoa
wholemess.
Bloodyhell,Iprotestedasawaveofnauseaandaching
headsuddenlyattackedme.
161

Yourealive!Barnycriedoutmerrily.
Notsoloud,inthenameofGod!Imoaned,grabbing
holdofmyheadandmovingintoasittingposition.
Gladtoseeyourealright,hereplied.
Ifyousayso,Igroaned.
Savedyourcoinsforyou,Barnyoffered.
FirstgoodnewsIveheardrecently,Isaid.
Whataboutbeingalive?Hesuggestedbrightly.
Dontdepressmefurther,Ianswered.Atthispointhe
startedlaughing.
Sowhathappened?Iasked.
Youdontremember?Hequestioned.
Obviouslynot.Whathappened?Irepeated.
Youattackedthesmith,hestated,asifthatexplained
everything.Iwaitedafewmomentsforhimtocontinue,butno
furtherelaborationwasforthcoming.
And?Iaskedimpatiently.
Andtrulyhebeatyourhide.Boy,Iveneverseena
personpavedtothefloorlikehepavedyou,hesaid.
Thanks,Ianswereddryly.
Oh,dontworry,Igothimforyou,soyourewelcome,
hesaid,andmyeyesdartedontheirownaccordtohisweapon.
Whatdoyoumean?Iasked,suddenlyfearfulbeyond
expression.Hiseyesfollowedmygaze.
What?Youthink,Idclubhim?No,savedyouthe
honor.MeanwhileIhadhimarrested,hesaid.
Whereishenow?Iasked.
Injail,ofcourse,waitingforthemagistrate,hesaid.
Why,whatswrong?Ithoughtyoudbepleased.Youcannail
himnow,heoffered.
Ivegottagetthere,Isaidandrushedtogetup
obviouslyapainfulmistake.Ivomitedthecontentofmy
stomachonthefloor,partiallywipedmyfaceonmysleeve,and
rantothejailasfastasIcouldinmycondition.

162

Openthegate!IcalledtothejailerassoonasIreached
Ivarscell.Ivarstoodtherewatchingthesunoutsideanddidnt
turntowardsme.
Thejailerarrivedpromptlytohearwhatthefusswasall
aboutandprotested.HehasntseentheMagistrateyet.
HedoesntneedtoseetheMagistrate,Ireplied.Atthis
pointIvarturnedtofacemeandIloweredmyeyes,unableto
meethisgaze.
Hebeatupasoldieryesterday,thejailerbegan.
Yeah,me!Iinterrupted.
Sowhatstheproblem?Heasked.
Itwasmyfault.Iwasdrunk,Isaid.
So?Heasked,unimpressed.
WhenIrepeatedlymaderuderemarksagainsthis
personandthatofhisdaughter,hekepthispeace,Ilied.
Asheverywellshould,thejaileradded.
Yeah,butthenIattackedhim,Isaid,killingmycareer.
So?Heprobablydeservedit,thejailersaid.
No!Itwastotallyuncalledfor.Itakefullblame,I
replied.
Themagistratewillhaveyourheadifhehears,the
jailerwarned.
Sowhatifhedoesnthear?Ipropositioned.
Supposehedoesnt...thejaileroffered.
ThenIdoweyouafavor,Itried.
Deal,thejailersaidandunlockedthedoor.Iopenedit,
andIvarpacedoutsideinnogreathurry,assilentasdeath.
Withacloudyskyaboveourheadsandthebarracksat
ourbacks,Ivarfinallyturnedtofacemeafterhavingstayed
silentfortheentirewalkfromprisontotheSmithy.Igazedat
theground,unabletomeethiseyes.
Tookalotofcouragetodowhatyoujustdid,hesaid.
Icouldntletyoudieformyshamefulconduct,Isaid.
TheMagistratewouldnthavedoneanything;weve
beenfriendsforawhilenow,hesaid.
Oh,Isee,Ireplied,flushingred.
163

Butyoudidntknowthat,heoffered.Andyourisked
yourcareer,perhapsevenyourlife,onmybehalf,headded.
IdidwhatIthoughtwasright,andImsorry,butitwas
allpartofaIsaidandIvarinterrupted.
Sowhatswrongwithyou,boy?Whydoyouactso
noblysometimes,andatothertimeslikesuchadamned
lowlife?Heasked.Ifeltsoashamedofmyselfthatnowords
cameandmyeyesburned.EvenifIexcusethisonetime,inthe
broadersensehewascompletelyright,andIhadnothingtosay
inmydefense.
Idontmeantojudgeyou;Ihonestlywanttoknow
whatswrong,likeafatherworryingabouthisson,hesaid
earnestly.
Idontknow.Immessedup,Isaidhonestly.
Youmakeitveryhardforpeopletogetclosetoyou,he
replied.
Iknow,Iadmitted.
Sogetagrip,Raymond,beaman!Stopturningintoa
mindlessthug,irresponsibleandthoughtless,wheneverthings
dontgoyourway,hesaid.
What?Iasked,surprisedandshockedbyhiswords.
Youdontknowwhatswrongwithyouwell,Ido.You
wantsomethingandyouworktogetit,butwhenyour
achievementsdontmeetyourexpectations,youchangeintoa
downrightlowlife,heexplained.
Imsorry,Ireplied,blushingandfullyrealizingthe
truthofhiswords.
Dontapologize,Ivarreplied.Changeinstead!
Apologiesdontmeananythingunlessyoudosomethingto
betteryourself,hefinished.
Youreright,Ireplied.
IknowImright.Iknowyou.Now,ifyoudontmind
Ivegotadaughterathomewaitingforme,hesaidandturned
toleave.

164

Thankyou,Ireplied.Iwantedtosaysomething
meaningfultohim;somethingtoexpressmygratitudeand
shame;somethingthatdmakehimseethatIcanbebetterthan
allofthis.Butreallifeisntfullofprettyspeeches,andallI
couldsaywas,Thankyou,andhavemyunspokenwordssinge
mysoul.
Myliferesumeditscourseasifnothinghadhappened.It
seemsthatIhadnotgainedanywisdomorenlightenmentfrom
myexperience.Mythoughtssometimeswanderedoftheirown
accordandlingeredonallthethingsIhadleftbehindallthe
thingsthatmatteredtome.IwonderedwhyIdistancedmyself
fromthosewhomIloveandthosewholoveme.WhydidI
postponeallthegoalssodeartomyheart?Whatisitthattore
meapart?Ididntknow,anddontknowevennow.Itook
comfortinthesordidcompanionshipofstrangers,andthekind
ofpeaceonlyalcoholcanbestow.Inaword,Iwasamess.What
Ibeganasaploytowintheattentionofmyadversariesinaway
thatwouldleavethemoffguard,nowbackfired.Isuccumbed
todespair,verylow.Ikeptonwinningatgamesofchancemost
ofthetime,butnoteventhatelevatedmyspirits;nothingdid.I
feltasenseofhelplessness,accompaniedbybitternessanda
silentrageforthingsbeyondmycontrol.IfeltIhadstrayed
fromthepathIshouldhavetakeninlife,butIdidntknowhow
tofindmywayback.
ItwasonaTuesdayjustasIendedmyshiftbehindthe
barracksthatSimonfoundmeandremindedmeoftheworld
outsidemyself.
Ray,Ithinkwehaveaproblem,hebeganquietly,his
eyesdartingeverywhere.
Whatswrong?Iasked,matchinghisvolume.
Ioverheardsomeoftheguystalkingaboutyou,he
said.
And?Iasked.
Andtheythinkyourerich,hecontinued.
And?Iaskedagain.Hespokeinstopsandstartsasif
hehadhardtimetalking.
165

AndIthinktheyregonnadoyouin;theywantyour
money,hesaid.
Who?Iaskedabittooharshly,asmyheartspedfaster
andfaster.
Icanttellyouthat!Theyllkillme.Theyredangerous,
RayYoushouldclearoutoftown,hewarned.
Whatdotheylooklike?Iasked.Hepursedhislips.
Icanttellyouthat,butIcantellyouitwontbetheir
firsttime.Theyreadangerousbunch.Youshoulddisappear,
herepeated.Idescribedtohimthethreewhohadkilled
RaymondoftheBrooks,withouttellinghimwhattheyddone.
Henoddedhishead,hisfaceturningpaler.
Myployasuccess,finally!Nowletushopeitwontbe
thedeathofmeaswell.Ithought.
Soyouknowthem,hesaid,hiseyesdarting
everywhere.
Yes,Ireplied.
IvegottodisappearmyselfItsnotsafe.Iftheyeven
dreamIsaidanything,Imworsethandead,hemuttered
apprehensively,shakingallover.
Holdon.Ineedyoutodoafavorforme,Isaid,asa
deviousplanbegantotakeform.
Well?Heasked,nervously,obviouslyholdinghimself
backfromfleeing.
Talktothem.TellthemImricherthantheythink.Ask
forasmallshareofthelootinexchangeformywhereabouts,I
said.
Areyoucrazy?Heaskedincredulously.
Yes.TellthemIsomehowthinksomeoneintendstorob
me,andImhidingoutinsomecabinIfoundinthewoods,by
thebrooks.
Youreallyarecrazy!HerepliedButyoureplanning
something,arentyou?Heasked.
Yes,Ireplied.

166

Alright.Illdoit,butIwantyoutoknowImreally
stickingmyneckoutforyou,soifIdothis,wereeven.Yougot
meoutofjail,Illhelpyououthere,andthescoreissettled,he
said.
Illoweyou,Iproposed.
Youjustrememberthat,hereplied.
Remember;inacabinbythebrooks!Iremindedhim.
Heturned,noddedhishead,andleftwithoutanotherword.
Thereitwas;mysalvation.Allthestraythoughts,gone.The
causelessdepression,gone.TheFateshadintervened.AsIhad
strayedandprocrastinated,theFateshadsentmyenemiesto
withinmyreach.LikeHectorandAchilles,ourpathswere
destinedtocollideinafatalway.Allthethingsthathadbeen
takingmeawayfromeverythingIhelddear;gone,asiftheyd
neverexisted.Andallittookwasareminderthatdeathwaits
fornoman.Deathdoesnotwaitforaconvenienttime.Death
maystrikeanyoneandatanytime,remindingustocherishour
lives.Mymindwassharpagain;itwasasifjustyesterdayId
trainedwithIvar,andjustlastweekRaymondoftheBrooks
hadbeenmurdered.Wholeandincontrol,Ifocusedonthe
diretaskahead.IknewthatIwaslivingonborrowedtime,soI
movedasfastasIcould,formulatingmyplanasIwentalong.
TheywilldiewheretheykilledRaymondBrooks,Ivowed.I
purchasedafewboardsfromthecarpenterandblackcloth
fromtheseamstress.IthenwenttoIvar,findingthecourageto
seehimagainonlybecauseofmymission.
Whythenails,Raymond?Heasked,somewhat
disappointedthatthiswasntasocialcall.
IfIcomeback,IllhaveearnedthenameRaymond,I
replied,andhesmiledandaskednothingmore.
Maythegodsbewithyou,hesaid,kissingmyforehead
andgivingmeallthenailsIdaskedforandmore,andevena
hammertogowiththem.

167

IwenttoIngridnext;shelookedlovelierthanIhad
remembered.Timehasbeenkindtoher.Shehadfilledoutin
alltherightplaces,makingheraveryalluringshape.Ormaybe
itwasthethoughtthatImightdiethatelevatedherbeautyin
myeyes.Withoutadoubtthough,Iwantedtoforgetmypast
mistakesandkissheronelasttime.Iwantedtotellherthere
arethingsbiggerthanthebothofus,andthatlovemattersand
nothingelse.Damn,justbeforemyverylikelydemiseIturnup
aphilosopher.
Iknowyoudontwanttotalktome,Ibegan.She
ignoredme.
Imsorry,Isaidsimply.Shecontinuedtoignoreme,
thoughshestoppedmoving,perhapssensingthatsomething
hadchanged.
Imgoingawaynow;whenIcomeback,IhopeIllbea
betterman,Isaid.Shepaidmenoheed,yetherposerelaxed
andsheseemedworried.Itookherapparentanxietyasasign
thatshestillcared.Iturnedandleftwiththatherlast
expression,cherishedinmyheart.
IloveyouIngrid,daughterofIvar,Isaidundermy
breathasIleft,hopingthatGodabovefeltmylove,andwould
somehowsendanAngeltodelivermylovetoIngridwhenIwas
gone.
IpurchasedapotionofGreekfire,amagicconcoction
that,onceopened,ignitesalmostinstantaneouslyafew
bottlesofoilandachain.Withmysuppliescarefullyassembled
inmypack,andthishiddenundermybed,Imovedontothe
nextstage.
Usingabitofcharcoaltodarkenmyskindirectlybelow
theeye,andanherbtopaintmyfacemakingitseemabit
yellowish,Iwasexcusedfromserviceonaccountofbeingvery
sick,andwentoffintotheforest,towhereRaymondhadonce
livedanddied.Idontknowifmydisguiseworked,ormy
CommanderdeemeditreasonablethatItakeadayoff.The
latterisprobablycorrect.
168

AsIopenedthedoortoRaymondshutIhesitateda
moment.Imorethanhalfexpectedtoseehiscarcassrottingon
thekitchenfloor,beingeatenbyinsectsasIopenedthedoor.I
dreadedthesight,butforcedmyselftostopmyrapidbreathing,
takeadeepbreath,andenterthecabin.Iwassurprisedtosee
thathisbodywasntthere.Ihalfsmiledinreliefandwalked
inside.OnlyaftertakingacoupleofstepsdidIrealizethatif
thebodywasntwhereitshouldhavebeen,andthehousenot
crawlingwithinsects,thensomeonemusthavebeen,orbe
therestill!Myeyesdartedeverywhereinalarm;myhanddrew
myswordofitsownaccord.Isearchedaroundthehouse,
foundnothing,thensearchedoutsideandfoundnoone.
Ifoundatombstoneoutside,nearthewoodpilebehind
thehut.Thetombstonemarkedthegraveofamanwhohad
oncelivedthere.Iwassurprised;thebodymissingandnow
buried;thehousecleaned.Butwhatmademyjawfall,agape
wasthewriting.Someonehadwrittenonthestonenotin
thecurvedscriptofthelocaldialect,butinAncientHebraic
letters.Ireadthetextcarefully,goingovereverysingleletter
andeverymark:
RaymondBrooks
MayGodAvengehisBlood
MayHisMemorybeBlessed

169

Totherightofthewritingacrosswasalsoimprintedon
thestone.HewasgivenaChristianburial,afterall.Ibentcloser
andtouchedtheletters,readandrereadthem,tryingtograsp
thisenigma.WhointhislandknewancientHebrewwell
enoughtowritethisinscription?Whowouldhavehadthe
motivetofindRaymond,buryhim,andwritesuchan
inscription?Howwouldtheyaccomplishallthis?Theletters
appearedtobeburnedintothestone,butIknewofno
techniquecapableofaccomplishingthatfeat.Acrowpassed
abovemyhead,anomentoremindmethatIhadlittletimeto
prepareformymission.Idecidedtoleavethecurrentenigmas
forlaterandfocusonthetaskathand.
Ifirstpoundedthenailsintotheboards;alltheway
throughsothattheyprotrudedfromtheotherside.Ithen
placedtheboardsbelowthewindows,upstairsanddown,with
thenailspointingupwards.Ithencamouflagedthetrapswith
someblackcloth.Thisdone,Icleanedthefireplaceofleftover
wood.Ithenclimbedupontheroofandpouredoildownthe
chimney,soakingallthewallsinsidethechimney.Goingback
insidethehutagainInailedtheblackclothintothewallsofthe
fireplace,spreadacrosstheopeningshaftofthechimney.This
madethechimneyappearcompletelydarktoapersonlooking
downthesmokestackfromtheroof,shouldsomeone
contemplatescalingdownit.Fireplaceswereusuallybuilt
slightlylowerthantherestofthefloorsothattheasheswould
settlethere,ratherthanspreadthroughoutthehouse.Ifilled
thecavitywithoil,creatingasmallpool.Ithencarefullytieda
shortropearoundthepotion,makingtriplysureitheldbefore
attachingittotheclothnowhangingabove.Icouldnotafford
todiebeforemybloodyvengeancewascomplete.

170

Thetrapset,Iproceededtothenextstage.Icrawled
underthestaircase,filingafewofthestepsleadingupstairs;I
madethemtoothintosupportweight.Ithenlaidoutallmy
toolsbelowthesteps,alongwitheveryothersharpobjectI
foundinthehouse.Finally,IprayedtoGodtograntme
vengeanceandwaitedimpatientlyforeveningtofall.Assoon
asthesunset,Ipouredwateronthestepsbehindthehouse,
hopingthatitwouldfreezequicklyinthewinterair.ThenIhid
inthecloset,hopingthatthebastardswouldtakethebaitand
cometonight,otherwise...Ididntwanttothinkofotherwise.
Luckilyforme,andquiteunluckilyforthem,theytookthebait
andcame.Letsdancewithdeath.Itoldmyself.
Ihadnoguarantees,ofcourse,thatthereturning
banditswouldntjustbargeinthroughthefrontdoor,weapons
inhand,andreadyforslaughter.However,IknewfromSimon
thattheywereexperiencedkillers,andthuscarefulones.I
reasonedthatiftheywerecarefulandtheyhadreasontoguess
thatIknewoftheirwhereabouts,theydalsoassumethatI
wouldhavepreparedsomethingfortheirmostobviouschoice
ofactionandlocation,andthatIddosomethingclever.I
hopedIreallydid.Intheworstcasescenario,iftheydid
storminthroughthefrontdoorIdjusthopovermyowntrap
andfleeoutthewindow.Byexploringthehouse,theydbeat
theveryleastwounded.
AndIknowthesewoodsbetterthantheydo.Imbigger
now,andIcanriskaskirmishinthewoodsandbythebrooks.
Ithought.

171

Itwasawindy,starlessnightwithnocloudsinthesky.
Assilentasthenighthadbeenuntilnow,itprovedtobeonly
thesilencebeforethestorm.Iwastense,soakingincoldsweat.
Iheldmyswordinbothhands,huggingitclosetome.Apartof
mewasscared,butanotherpartwasthrilled.Iheldmybreath,
stillhiddeninthecloset,whenIheardthefirstsuspicious
sounds.Therewasashufflingoffeet;someonewasscalingthe
outsidewallinthevicinityofthebedroom,whereanailtrap
waitedforhimandme.Therewasapauseanduttersilence
astheroomgrewabitdarker.
Hesatthewindow,Ireasoned.
Igrewdizzy,whichmademerealizethatIwasstill
holdingmybreath.Iforcedmyselftoinhaleandexhale,softly,
slowly,sothathewouldnthear.Thereweresoundsof
movement,feettouchingwood.Suddenly,aterriblescreamof
agonyandsurpriseshatteredthesilence.Ipeeredthrougha
crackinthecloset,andcaughtaglimpseofmoonlightreflected
onthebloodynailsandofanintruder.Anotherpersonstood
behindthefirst.
Shutup,youfool!Hesaidinhushed,strainedtones.
Thefirstturnedhisheadandlookedatthesecond,thenmoved
hiseyestogazestupefiedatthetrap,andhisfeetsoakingina
poolofblood,nailedtotheboardIdprepared.Theeyesofthe
secondfollowed,andgrewwideashetoorealizedthedeadly
trapintowhichtheydfallen.Withaquickgesturethesecond
thugslicedthefirststhroatwideopenandhefelltothefloor.
Myeyeswidenedatwitnessingsuchacasualactofmurder,and
Iagainforgottobreathe.Theremainingintruderbounced
insidetheroomclearofthetrap,takingasteptowardsthe
closetwithhisbloodydaggerinhand.
Therewasashufflingoffeetfollowedbyasmall,pitiful
sound,thenthreethudsontheground,oneafteranother,and
agroan.Someonefellofftheslipperybacksteps,possibly
breakinghisneckbythesoundofit.

172

Haa,Eafrid!Itsatrap,Eafrid!Atrap!Thevictim
screamedfromoutside.Eafridsgriponhisdaggertightened
andheturnedhisheadtowardsthewindow,hesitating.Iknew
thenthatthiswasmychancetoopenthecloset,swordinhand,
andstormhimbutIwastooscared.Ihesitated,and,having
missedthemoment,retreateddeeperinsidethecloset.
Asoundcamefromthechimney,toofasttobethatof
onescalingtheinterior,whichmeantthatsomeonemusthave
beenfalling.Aloudthudresonatedthroughthehut,followed
byaterriblescreamofagony.Amanwasburning,caughtinmy
firetrap.Iwantedtolaugh,whichremindedmetostart
breathingagain.Bythesoundofit,theburningmanwasnow
runningaway.Eafridseyesgrewwideandfilledwithalookof
purefear.Thishadturnedoutvastlybeyondmywildest
expectations.Ihadexpectedthemtochooseapathofentry,
andfallintooneortwotraps.Notchooseeverysinglepathof
entry,fallingintoeverysingletrap.Idhaveaskedwhatthehell
isgoingon!ButIdidntwanttopushmystellarluck.Perhaps
Godhadmadethemdimwits,thusaidingmeinextracting
vengeanceforthemurderofatrulyrighteousman.
Whatthehellsgoingon?TheBanditmuttered,
seemingsurprisedthathespokeoutloud.Heturnedtowards
thewindow,tookacoupleofstepsandpaused,mindfulofthe
trap.Iknockedsoftlyonthewoodenwalloftheclosetacouple
oftimestocatchhisattention.Heturnedandwalkedtowards
theclosetassilentasdeath,hishandshaking.
Anothersoundcamefromoutside,acrackingofwood,
somethingfalling,andthentheloudsoundofheavy,sharp
toolsbeingtrampledunderfoot.Thesewereaccompaniedby
thescreamsofamanwhohadjustfoundoutthestepshewas
attemptingtomountcouldntsupporthisweight,andfallenon
topofthesharpsnareIhadcarefullyprepared.
Great,thattrulymakesitdivineprovidenceItold
myselfasIbracedforcombat.

173

Eafrid!Eafrid!Help!Mylegs,mylegs!Hecried.Eafrid
movedclosertothecloset,takingoneslow,carefulstepafter
another.HetiltedhiseartothewoodenwallandIswiftly
stabbedthroughacrackwithmydagger,tryingtoimpalehis
headbutnarrowlymissingthemark.Thedaggerflashedbefore
hisfaceandhefellback,surprisedandmomentarilyoffguard.
Itookaquickbreath,bracedmyself,andstormedoutof
thecloset,knockingitsdoorofitshinges.IslammedintoEafrid
andwebothfellonthefloor.IdroppedmyswordasIfellon
topofhim,butitwasatanyratetoolongforclosecombat.I
caughtthefastmovementofhisdaggergoingformyneckand
grabbedhiswristwithbothmyhands,wrestlingformylife.
Withhislefthandhepoundedthesideofmyhead.Seeing
throughahazeofred,Iheardnomoresounds,justthebeating
ofmyheart.ImayhavescreamedasIkneedhisgroinwithall
thestrengthIcouldmaster,simultaneouslypinninghisright
handtothefloor.Hemayhavehitmyheadafewmoretimes,
buttheblowslackedthestrengthofhisfirstassault.I
continuedtokneehisgroinashardasIcould,assaultinghim
likearabidbeast.Finally,heceasedfighting.
Please,hebeganbetweenmoans.Ipausedasbile
pouredfrommymouthontohisface.Irecognizedtheface:this
wastheaxbearingmurdererwhohadkilledRaymond.God
haddeliveredontomyhandstheoneresponsible.Myhands!
Notatrap;notsecondhandvengeance.Ihavehimnow!
Isurrender!Hecontinued.Iroaredlikeamaddened
beast,strikinghisfaceleftandrightoverandoveragain
untilhegrewsilent,andthensomemore.

174

Firenowsurroundedmeastheroom.Theentirehouse
wasfullyengulfedinflames.Itwasonlywhenthefirecaught
therimofmytrousersthatIwasreleasedfrommyfrenzy.
Eafridsfacehadlostanyresemblancetoahumanform.Blood
waseverywhereandbitsoffleshhungfrommyglovedfists.His
brainswereshowingthroughthecracksinhisskull,andaneye
socketwasvisibleamidstthewreckage.Hewasmostsurely
dead.Istoodup,dazed;shakinguncontrollably,smokefinally
penetratingmyeyes,slightlyblindingme.Ilookedoutofthe
room,tryingtoshieldmyeyeswithmyrighthand.Flameswere
everywhere.Therewasatremorandaburningbeamfell;the
housewasfallingapart,andIhadntmuchtimetoescape.I
turnedtothewindow.Itwasntburningyet,buttherewasno
wayformetoavoidthetrapIdsetandbounceoutofit.I
wasntagileenough,andevenifIhadbeen,Idhavelandedface
firstontheground.InmyinexperienceIthoughtitbesttotake
anotherpath.Igrabbedmyswordinstinctively,turnedtowards
thesearinginferno,andranintotheflames.
Ijumpeddownstairsandfellintothefire,screamingasI
burned.Theagonywasunimaginable.Withmylungsonfire
andmyeyesblinded.Imovedoutofinstinct,conscious
thoughtbeingnowimpossible.Mylastconsciousthoughtwas
thatIvemadeafatalerrorinjudgment;Ishouldhavegonefor
thewindowescape.Iranstraightahead,intotheflamesornot,
Ididntknow,didntcare.Smashingthedooroffitshinges
asburningtimberflewabout,Ikeptonrunning.Myclothes
werenowonfireandsmokewasinmyeyesasIexitedthe
building.ThehousecollapsedbehindmeandIdroppedtothe
groundandrolled,tryingtoextinguishmyself.Someonecalled
mynameandpouredwateroverme.Oblivionovercameme,
thoughdemonsstillkeptburningmyfleshinhellasIslept.
IscreamedinmysleepandscreamedwhenIawoke.My
eyesshotopen.Ifeltsocoldandwet;theagonywasterribleas
rainwashedoverme.Partlyhiddenbyatree,Iheardtheflow
ofwatertomyleft,andturnedmyhead.Iwasbythebrooks.
Yourestillalive!IheardSimonsvoicesay.
175

No,Ireplied.Simonssmilefaded,andheactually
soughtthemovementofmychesttomakesureIwasntamong
theundead.HissmiledoubledwhenherealizedIwasjoking.
Yeahyouare!Hesaid.
Killme,Ireplied.
Doyoumeanthat?Heasked,deeplytroubled.
No,bloodyno!Isaid.ButIneedahealer,I
continued.
Yeah,yousuredo,heagreed.
Wouldyoumind?Iaskedpolitely.
What?Heasked.
Takingmetoabloodyhealer,thatswhat!Iprotested.
CantIalreadytriedcarryingyou.Imanagedtodrag
youthisfartosafety,hesaid,obviouslyindistressoverit.
Isee,Isaid.Helpmeup,then,Iasked.
Yourekidding,hesaid.
No,Imnot.Ineedahealer;youcanttakemetooneso
Igottawalk,Isaid.Heapologizedunderhisbreath,and
helpedmetomyfeet.Thepainwasexcruciating.Islowly
walkedbacktotowninthepouringrain,Simonhelpingmeas
muchashecould.ForonceIfeltgood,atleastatheart.
IfinallyreachedDrentwychwhenthedawncame.Rain
stillpouredovermyheadandmyclotheshunginwettatters
aboutme.AsIwatchedthesunrise,theworldspunaboutme
andIfell.IkeptonstaringatthesunasIlayontheground.
Simonsheadblockedmyviewashespoketome,butIcouldnt
hearhiswords.HejustwasntloudenoughorIdlostmy
hearing,Ididntmuchcarewhich.Thesunwasshiningagain,
andIwasglad.Simonnowcamebackohpeskyhim;Id
hardlynoticedhisdeparture.Hebroughtmorepeople,someof
whomIknew.Nowtheyallblockedmyview,andthenthey
liftedmeup,torturingmebeyondwordsIcouldtell.Somehow
intheheatoftorment,Igrewnumbandsilent,asifwatching
fromadistance.Ididntwanttobeliftedsohighdidntwant
tobecarriedawayfromthelight,soIclosedmyeyesandthe
lightkeptonshining.
176

NextIknewIwaswalkinginafieldofwheat.Iwasso
gladtobeoutinthesunagain,forIhadfeltsocoldbefore.I
didntknowwhereIwasgoing,butthatwasalright.Allroads
ledtoheaven,orhell.Ididntcareaslongasitiswarmthere.
Iopenedmyeyes;anoldwrinklyfacereplacedmy
beautifulsun.
Youhaveafever,theHealersaid.
Oh?Ireplied.
Doyouunderstandme?Sheasked.
Sure.Imdying,Isaidlightly.Butwhydyoutakeaway
mysun?Iasked.
Idontunderstand,shereplied.
Truthisneverhonest,Ireplied.
Demonshavetakenholdofhismind,shesaid,turning
herheadasshespoke,obviouslyaddressingsomeoneelse.
Imgoingtotrytolowerhisfever,shesuggested.
Thoughtheydontlikethecold,sheexplained.
Verywell,afamiliarvoicereplied.
Ihavesomeherbstotakecareofhisburnedskin,she
added.Imovedmyfaceinthedirectionofhergaze.Shewas
speakingtoSimon.
Isnthethedearestoffriends,Ithought.
Iclosedmyeyes,notinterestinganymore,andgaveinto
myfatigue.
Ireturnedoncemoretothefieldofwheat,but
somethingtoldmethiswasgoingtobethelasttime.Thesun
shoneabovemyheadandIwasntcoldanymore.Thistime,I
recognizedtheway.Ihadwalkedherebefore,thoughitseemed
solongago.Istartedwalkingoncemore,asmileacrossmy
face.
RaymondoftheBrooksstoodtherewherethescarecrow
usedtobe.Iwasoverjoyedtoseehimagain,andyetsotired.It
wasonlynowthatIsawhimaghostatpeace,thatIrealized
howlonelyIhadbeen;howImtrappedinthismessthathasno
resolution.
Itisdone,Isaidsimply.
177

Itis,Boyo,indeeditis,herepliedgently.Whyisheso
damncalm!Hediedforabowlofsoup,andhismurderersare
forthecarrion,onlybecauseIcouldfindnopeace.Howcanhe
beevergentleandwise!
Ikilledthembutcheredthem,liketheverminthat
theyare.Ispatangrily.AndIavengedyourdeath,Iadded
morecalmly.
IknowBoyo,Iknow,hesaidcalmly,asifsoothinga
child.Iamnotachild!Andmyragewillfindnotranquility.
So?Iasked,feelingmyselfgrowingwarmer,practically
fuming.
So,Ithankyou;Imgrateful.Theyweredeservingof
death,Ithink.Andyouvedonerightbyme,Adam.Hesaid,
andsmiled.Iwassotorninsideangry,sadandlonely.I
wantedtoweeplikeachildonthecoldground;Iwantedto
swingswordandpieceflesh,totearthemapartagain,limbby
limbandbatheintheirblood.Iwantedtoscream.Iwantedto
beatpeace,likehim.
Whatnow?Idaredask,ashewatchedmesilently,
knowingmyheart.Hedidnotrecoil,andIwasgratefulforit.
Nowitistimeformetogo,Herepliedasafaint
ghostlyimageappearedbehindhiminthedistance,beyondthe
fieldofwheat,andnearlyobscuredfrommyview.Shewasa
woman,andthoughIcouldnotseeherfullform,hersmile,was
likehisandshewasatpeace.
No!DontgoIyelled.
Iknowhewasatpeace,andthathewaswrongabout
God,forthereitwas:hisLianna,waitingforhim,hisandno
others.Ithought.IknowIshouldlethimgo,butIcant!I
cantdowhatsright!Imnotlikehim.
Itsmytime,Adam.HerepliedIhavetogo,He
addedsadlyasacrowlandedonabranchnexttohim,
observingus.WasitthesamecrowIencounteredbefore,when
Isettothetaskofbloodyvengeance?

178

Sotakemewithyou!Ireplied.Ivedrankenoughof
thebittercupoflife.Theresnothingleftformehere;only
bitterness,wrathanddisappointment.Isaidbitterly.Wont
youpleasetakemewithyou?Iaskedmoresoftly,thewallsof
wrathinsidemyheartshattering.Iwassoverysadandlonely
anddesperate.
Itsnotyourtime,HerepliedAnditwontbefora
verylongtime.Headded.
Please!Ihavenothingtoliveforhere,Ibegged.Please
takemewithyou,IwontcomebetweenyouandLianna.Youll
hardlyknowImaround.Icried,tearsuponmycheeks.There
wasasorrowinmesogreathidingbehindthewallsofrage,I
wantedtodrownintooblivion,tofeelnothingatallnowthat
mytrueselfhadbeenexposed.MeanwhileLiannacamecloser,
andheldhishand.Shewasfair,andhereyesshoneinthelight
ofthestars,andIknewwhatenvywas.Hewasabouttoturnto
leave,butpaused.Hewillnotgo,notuntilourmattersare
resolved.
WhataboutIngrid?Heaskedempathically.
Ingrid?Iasked,memoriesofherflashingbeforemy
eyes.Iwasovercome.Ingrid!OhGod,whathaveIdone?How
couldIforget!HowcouldIfailherso?Iaskedhimandmyself.
Hewatchedmesilently,theybothdid.
Sheneedsyou,RaymondsaidAndIvartooHeadded.
ImundoneMasterRaymond,Imundone!Isaid.I
cannotcomewithyou!Icannotfailthemso!Isaidandtriedto
findthestrengthtogetbackonmyfeet,butmybodyfeltso
heavy,andtheweightoftheworldpressedtohardagainstme.
Hegrabbedmyhandandhelpedmetomyfeet.Theweightof
theworlddidntseemsoheavyanymore.

179

YouhavemuchtoliveforAdam,forIvarandIngrid
awaityou,andyouwillloveandbelovedbymanyothersinthe
agestocome.Andasthemusicofthespheresplaysalong,
storiessuchasmyownshallrepeatthemselvesinvariations.
Andyoushallbecalledtoraiseswordagain,forjusticeor
vengeance.Hesaidashisvoicetookonadifferenttone,like
someoneelsewasspeakingfromhismouth,someonegreater
thanallofus.Ilistenedverycarefullythentothewordswhich
cameoutofRaymondsmouth.
Icannotpromiseyoualifeofpureloveandbliss,for
notallstoriesgetahappyending.ButIcanpromiseyoualife
ofmeaning,shouldyouchoosetoacceptit,andwalkapathfew
daredwalkbeforeyou.
Iaccept!IrepliedwithoutthinkingtwiceforI
understood,Ireallydid.
RememberwhatIvetaughtyou,Raymondadded,now
inhisowncalmvoiceagain,Thoughsomethingsareoffate
andbeyondyourpowertochange,thereisalwaysachoiceto
bemade.You,andnootherdecidethemanyouregoingtobe,
Hesaid.
Iunderstand,Irepliedsimply,forIwasatpeace.
Faretheewell,Adam,ManofSwords,Raymondsaid.
Faretheewell,RaymondandLiannaoftheBrooks,
PeopleofWisdom.Ireplied,andtheyweregonewithcalm
smiles,walkingtowhereIcannotgoyet.
Iwokeup,feelingmybodysocoldandheavy,Ihadto
straintoopenmyeyesandasIdid,thedreambecameobscure,
andIcouldnolongerrememberthedetailsofitforalongtime.
Iwashoweveratameasureofpeace.
Hello,IgreetedtheHealer,whoapparentlytreatedmy
woundsasmysoultravelledthroughtherealmofdreams,
conversingwiththeghostsofthepast.
Feelingbetter?Sheinquired.
Yeah,much,Ireplied.
Good,sherepliedandgotup.
180

HowamIdoing?Iaskedher,mymindgrowingclearer
witheverypassingmoment.
Prettygood,allthingsconsidered,shesaid.
Pleaseexplain,Ireplied.
Youcameinwithamildfeverandfreshburnmarks,
shesaid.
And?Iasked.
Ibroughtyourfeverdown,andgaveyouaremedyfor
theburns.Theywerentsobad,youllbegoodtogoinacouple
ofdays,thoughtheremaybescarring,sheconcludedafter
ponderingforafewmoments.
Good,Isaid,drinkingsomewaterandlayingmyhead
back,allowingtheworldtofadeawayoncemore.Ivarwasthe
firsttovisitme,accompaniedbyIngrid.
Howareyoufeeling,lad?Ivaraskedwarmly.Ingrid
openedhermouthtosaysomething,butthenthoughtbetterof
itandjuststoodbehindherfather.
ThefeversdownandtheHealersaidtheburnswillheal
quickly,Isaid.
Good.Didyagetem?Heasked,proudly.
Everylastoneofthem,Iannounced.
Improudofyouboy,youvedonewell,hesaid.
Imaman,notaboy,Icorrectedhim.
Thatyouarenow.Thatyoutrulyare,hesaid.
Howdoyoufeel,Ingrid?Iasked,turningtowardsher.
Oh,Imalright,shesaid,surprisedthatIdspokento
her.IcaughtIvarsforbiddinggaze.
Iwassoworriedaboutyou.Imsogladyourealright!
Shesaid,andmovedtohugme.Ivarstoppedher.
Why?Iaskedhim.
Notnow,hereplied.
When?Iasked.
Whatswrong?Ingridasked.
Notever,hefinished,andthatwastheendofit.

181

Youarewhatswrong,ItoldIngridharshly.ThoughI
spoketoIngridmygazeneverleftIvarseyes,lockedina
messageofhatred,rage,andfeltbetrayal.Idwillinglytearmy
heartoutofmychesttohavethispaingonefromme.
Imsorry,shesaidinsurprise,herfingersmoving
acrossherchest.
Whydyoucomehereanyway?Iaskedher,stilleyeing
Ivar.
Toseeyou.Iwassoworried,sheexplained,her
honestybreakingmyheartintosuchsmallpiecesthatInearly
lostmybitterresolve.
Well,youveseenme,nowgohomeandworryabout
somethingelse,Isaidharshly,stabbingbothourhearts,and
hopingthatIvarsawthepainandcomfortedhimself,withthe
knowledgethathedbetrayedusboth.
Imsorry,Ididntmeanto...shebegan.Icouldnttake
itanymore.
Thatsfine.Goawaynow,Isaid.Ivarsmiled.Iloathed
hissmileandfocusedonit,lettingmyhatredfuelmyrage,
lettingitsoaranddrownawaymypain.
Whyareyousomeantome?Sheasked.
BecauseIdontlikeyou,Iliedfromthebottomofmy
heart.
Whydontyouevenlookatme?Sheasked,
heartbroken.Myeyesfoundhertearstrickeneyesandthepain
wastoomuchformetobear.Isowantedtotakebackthe
bitterwordsIdsaid;theywereaddressedtoanother,nother.
ButIdidnt,andforthatIamsorrytothisday.
Idontlikeyou,Irepeatedflatly,inavoicedevoidof
outsideemotion.
Ihateyou!Sheyelledpitifully.Ihateyou!Ihateyou!I
hateyou!Shescreamed,turnedaround,andranoutside,
cryingmiserably.

182

Thankyou,Ivarsaid,loweringhiseyesandnodding
hishead.Hethenturnedaroundandleft,andIwishedwithall
myheartandsoulthatthiswouldbethelasttimeIevertraded
wordswithhim.Ilaidmyheadback,lettingtherageand
hatredfuelmywilltoliveanddrownmypain.
MyCommanderwasthenexttovisit.Itoldhimexactly
whathadhappened,addingjustonelie.ItoldhimRaymond
hadbeenmyfather,andthatIwasnamedafterhim.My
Commanderappearedsurprisedatfirst,buthislookgradually
changingintooneofadmiration.
Well,Ididntknow,hebegan.Inoddedmyhead.
Thatchangesthings...hesaid,thinkingdeeply.
Raymond,youvedonewell,hesaid.
Thankyou,Commander,Ianswered.
Youtookonabandofmurderousbanditsallby
yourself,hesaid.
Yes,Ilied,leavingoutSimonsinvolvement.
ImgoingtorecommendtotheLordthatyoureceive
theMedalofHonorforyouractions,hesaid.
Thankyou,Commander,Ireplied,fullofpride.Two
dayslaterIwasuponmyfeet.AtthemealgatheringatnoonI
wasawardedtheMedalofHonorinfrontofthecitizensof
Drentwych.
LetitbeknownthatRaymondBrooksisashining
exampleofanidealsoldier,LordDurrantannounced.I
recalledEdridwhenhesaidit,laughinginsideattheirony.
SergeantRaymond,LordDurrantsaid,spontaneously
promotingmebyacoupleofranks,tomyuttersurprise.I
herebygrantyoutheMedalofHonor,hesaidashepinnedthe
medaltomynewuniform.ThepeoplecheeredandIsmiled,my
eyesscanningthecrowd.Simonappearedjustasproud,asdid
Ivar.Iturnedmygazeawayfromthelatter.
ThefollowingdayIresumedmydutytourswithBarny
asmycompanion.NowIwashissuperior,butIdidntmakean
issueofit,forwewerefriends.
183

Icouldtellyouhowvainvengeanceis;howitleavesyou
inacoldandemptyshellonceyouredonewithit,andhaveto
dealwithlifealloveragain.True,vengeanceprovidesa
powerfulpointoffocus,keepingyouoccupied,andchannelsall
yournegativeemotionsintoasinglemindedanddrivingforce.
Ontheotherhand,whenyouhavetodealwithlife,vengeance
canthelpyou,forittendstoconsumeyourveryspirit.Idont
recommendtakingonvengeanceassport,foritcausesthe
worstkindofselfdestruction.Thenagain,nopearlsofwisdom
canreplacethesenseofdeepsatisfactionthatwelldelivered
vengeancebrings.
RaymondofDrentwych.

184

CHAPTERXVIISelfLoathing
Afterthatincidentmylifetookaturnforthebetter.I
wasperceivedasalocalherobybothcommonersandsoldiers
andtookprideinmynewreputation.Ipatrolledbothin,and
outsidethetown,andkeptinshapewhenmyshiftswereover.I
stilldrankandwagereduponoccasion,butnotwiththesame
driven,selfdestructiveforceasbefore.Itshouldcomeasno
surprise,then,thatononetypicalnightofsmallwageringand
milddrinking,Iallowedthingstogetoutofhand.MaybeI
drankonanemptystomachIdontremember.Whats
importantthoughisthatinthethrillofthemomentImadea
largewagerandlostallIdgainedmywages,mywinnings,
andeverythingelse,shortofmyclothesandmysword.Dumb
asIwas,IneverbetonIvarsmasterpiecesword.
ItwasthenthatIdiscoveredtwoworldlytruths.The
firstisthatfalsefriendsarelikethetides;theycomewhen
yourehighanddriftawaywhenyourelow.Simon,myonly
realfriend,hadadvisedmetimeandagaintoceasemybad
habits.Simonstayedbymyside,provingthathewasofthe
secondbrandoffriends,thosethatlendahandwhenyouneed
them.ThesecondworldlytruthIlearnedisthatGodseemsto
lovefools,soverymuchsothathemadesomanyofthemand
lavishedopportunitiesontheirheadsoratleasthedidon
mine.

185

Thenextdayaroundnoontimeamancamebyand
stoodinfrontofmeasIsatonabarrelaftermyshiftwasover.I
prettymuchignoredhim,hopinghedgoaway,sinceIwastoo
focusedonmycurrentpredicamenttowantanysortof
conversation.Hedidntgoaway,though.HewasshorterthanI,
whichwasntunusual,asmostpeoplewithbloodofthe
northernandeasterntribesdidntapproachmyheight.Hehad
shortblackhairandashavenface,inthestyleoftheRomans.
Hischestandarmswereverymuscular,evenmoremuscular
thanIvars.Heworescalearmorandagoldencrosshungfrom
hisneck.HewasprobablyaLord,oratleastatruewarrior,
unlikeusragtagsoldiers.Inanycase,hewassomeonetowatch
outfor.Ishouldhave,butIjustdidntcare.
Areyeallright,soldier?Heasked,recognizingmy
positioneventhoughIworecasualclothes,andnothinginmy
attiresignifiedmyoccupationorrank.Icontinuedtoignore
him,hopinghedgoaway.Buthejuststoodthere,motionless,
waitingpatientlyformyreply.
No,Imnotallright,sinceyouresodeterminedto
know,Isaidrudely.
Whatailsyou,myson?Heaskedgently,takingno
offense.
Imnosonofyours,Irespondedinsolently.
Still,myquestionstands,herepliedcalmly.
Imbutalonely,poor,andwretchedsoul,Isaid
miserably.Ivegotnocoinforyou.Leavemeinpeace,ifyou
please.
WhatevercoinyoupossessIsuggestyoukeepinyour
purse,youngman,hesaidgently.
Sowhatdoyouwant,then?Iaskedimpatiently.
Tohelpyou,ifIcan,hereplied.
Whywouldyoudothat?Idemanded,suspicious.

186

BecauseIcan,hesaidfranklyNow,willyoutellme
whattroublesyou?OrifIamtrulythesumofyourtroubles,
askmetoleaveagainandIshallnotreturn,hesaid.Ipaused
toconsiderthis,openedmymouthtotellhimtogo,butthen
thoughtbetterofit.
No,stay,Isaid.Imsorry,Master,Ibegan.
CallmeRichard,hereplied.
MasterRichard,Icorrectedmyself.
JustRichardwillsuffice,hereplied.Ineednotitles.
Verywell,Richard...Isaidcarefully.
Whatswrong?Heaskedagain,andtookaseatbeside
meonalowerlevel.
Tobehonest,Idontknow.IwasrichandnowIm
poor,butthatsnotreallymytrouble.Imeanitis,butitsnot,
Isaidconfusedly,perplexednowasIthoughtoverhisquestion.
PerhapsIcan...hebegan,reachingforhispurse.
No,Iprotested,grabbinghishandtostophimfrom
offeringmealms.IletgoofhimassoonasIrealizedwhatId
justdone.Idontwantyourcharity.Imaybemanythings,but
abeggarisnotoneofthem,Isaidinmydefense.
Bothwretchedandproud;averybadcombination,he
mused.Iwasntabouttoofferyoucharity,headded.
What,then?Iasked.
Abargain,hereplied.
Iwontconvert,notforalltherichesintheworld,I
said.
Ihadntrealizedthatyouwerepagan,heremarked
calmly.Regardless,Idliketopurchaseyourstory,he
continued.
Why?Iasked.
Myreasonsaremyownandmytermsaresimple.Your
storyforwhateverdebtsyouowe,hesaidcalmly,yetfirmly.It
mademewondertheextentofwhatheknewaboutme,ifhe
alreadyknewthatIowedmoneywithoutmetellinghim.Ihad
notadmittedtoasinglesoulinDrentwychthatIwasindeep
debt.
187

Verywell,Ireplied.
Youmentionedthatyoureofadifferentfaith.Idliketo
knowwhereyoucomefromandthetenetsofyourfaith,he
began.
Very...Ibegan.
Imnotfinished,hesaid.Youalsomentionedthat
yourewretched,andIdliketoknowwhathappenedthatfelled
you,hesaid.
Verywell,Irepliedandbeganmystoryfromthe
beginning

188

CHAPTERXVIIITheStoryofaMan

"Iwasbornintheyeartwoandonethousand,asyou
Christianscount,Isaid.Iwasbornunderadifferentname,in
theoutskirtsofJerusalem.
Isee,hereplied.
MymotherSarahwasahealer,myfatheracarpenter.I
hadoneolderbrotherwhosenameIcarenottomention,I
said.
Verywell,hereplied.
Meandmybrother;weusedtogetintoalotoftrouble
withtheMuslimkids.Wewerealwaysatodds,Icontinued.
Why?Heasked.
Idontknow,really.Likeallenduringhistorical
arguments,Ithink,nobodyreallyknowswhostarteditorwhen
itsgoingtoend,Isaid.
Isee,hereplied.
ButwegotalongwiththeChristiancommunitywell
enough.Imean,wewerentfriendsoranythinglikethat
noneofourfathersallowedit,oneitherside.Butwewere
boundtogetherinhatred,Isaid.
Explain,hesaid,withapuzzledexpression.
WewerebothoppressedbytheMuslims,Istated.
Iveheardotherwise,hesaidsomberly.Myfather
wenttoJerusalemtwentyyearsagoonapilgrimage,andhetold
methattheMuslimswerefairtobothChristiansandJews.I
staredathimforacoupleofmoments,dumbstruckbyhisodd
comment,andthenburstoutlaughingwhenIcouldntcontain
myselfanylonger.
Itoldnojoke;whatamusesyou?Heasked.
IguessyourfatherneverheardofHakim,Isaid.
No,henevermentionedhim.WhosHakim?Heasked.
AbuAliMansurTariquAlHakimIsaid,pronouncing
hisnameasanativeArabicspeakerwould.Knownhereas
HakimtheMad,supremerulerofJerusalem,Iadded.
189

Thisismostdisturbing,hesaidseriously.Whatshis
story?Heasked.
Ihonestlydontknow.HehasruledJerusalemforas
longasIcanremembermaybeevensincebeforeIwasborn.
Hewasalwaysissuingweirddecrees,actinglikeadifferent
personeveryday,orsoIwastold,Ireplied.
Iunderstand;continue,hesaid.
HewasmostlyoccupiedinmakingJewsandChristians
livesalivinghell,Isaid.
Inwhatway?Heasked.
Wellatonetimehedecidedthatweshouldall
worshiphisGod.Whenthatdidnthappen,heforcedallthe
Jewstocarrybiglogsofwoodeverytimetheywentoutside,
andChristianshadtocarrybig,heavycrossesaround,I
replied.
Youmustbejoking,hereplied.
Afraidnot,unlessthejokesonme,Ireplied.
Allright.Goon,then,hesaid.
Iwasjustgettingstarted,Ireplied.DidImentionthat
heburnedallthetemplesandchurchestotheground?Iasked.
No,hesaid.Hiseyesgrewred,causingmetolosemy
mirth,thoughitwasmyonlyshieldagainstthemadnessthat
hadbeenmychildhood.
Imsorry,butthatistrulywhathedid,Isaidsoftly,
findingmyheartagain.
Continue,hereplied,hisfacedeeplytroubled,
mirroringhisinnerthoughts.
Atsomepointhedecidedthathewasthenew
incarnationoftheProphetMohammad,andthenherewrote
theKorantheirholybook,substitutinghimselffor
Mohammad,Isaid.
Trulyamadman,Richardsaid.
Yes.Well,Idontknowifitwaseverresolved,forwe
escapedhispersecution.Perhapshestillrules,Isaid.
Whendidyouleave?Heasked.
Aftermybrotherdied,Ibegan.
190

Imsorry,hesaid.Inoddedandcontinued.
Afterhedied,Ifledwithmyparents.Wetooktheroute
theChristianpilgrimstravel,totakeustoEurope,Isaid.
Good,Richardreplied.
ThatwasthefirsttimeIkilled,Irevealed.Richards
eyesopenedwide,buthesaidnothing.
BeforewereachedJaffa,wewereambushedbyrobbers
alongtheway,Iexplained.
Whathappened?Heasked.
Imnotsure.Ihadgonetorelievemyselfbehindatree,
andwhenIreturnedIsawtwoArabboysolderthanmyself,
butnotoldenoughtobemen.Onewavedawoodenclub
aroundandtheotherheldaJabariaacurveddagger.They
demandedeverythingwehad,andoneofthemmovedtocut
mymother.Irantowardsthem,thinkingwithmyfearinstead
ofmymind.Istruckthefirstontheheadwithmywalkingcane
ashardasIcould.Heturnedaround,stunned,blooddripping
fromhishead.Istruckhimagainevenharder,andhedropped
tothegroundwithoutmakingasound.Hisfrienddroppedthe
dagger,hiseyeswideashewatchedhisfriendfall.Idontknow
whatcameoverme,butIranafterhimashetriedtogetaway,
andstruckhimacrossthefacewithmycane.Hefelltothe
ground,cryingandscreaming.Iproceededtostrikehimuntil
hedidntmoveatallanymore.Therewasbloodalloverme,
andIwascrying,Isaid,myfaceharsh,andmybodyshaking
withthememory.
Imsorry,hebegan.
Dontbe;IdidwhatIhadtodo,Ireplied.
Imnotonlysorryforyou,butforthemaswell,he
replied.
Why?Iasked.
BecausetheMuslimsIknowarehonorablepeople,and
fromwhatyousay,itsoundslikethesewerejusttwopoor
boys,hesaid.
Nobodytoldthemtorob,ortowavedeadlyweapons
aboutatinnocenttravelers,Irepliedharshly.
191

Maybetheyhadnochoice,heargued.
Wavingadeadlyweaponabout,isalwaysachoice!I
protested.
Theycouldhavebeensetbyaneldertothetask.
Richardtried.
Iguesswellneverknow,Irepliedangrily.
True.Continue,please,herepliedcalmlyagain.I
glaredathimforafewmoments,thenletmyangersubsideand
resumedmytale.
Well,afterIkilledthetwo,mymotherandfather
huggedme.Theytookmebythehandawayfromthere.They
washedmyfaceandhandsoftheblood.Ipretendeditwasonly
dirtandthatnothinghadhappened,theypretendedthattheir
sonwasntakiller,andwenevermentioneditagain.Itwaslike
oneofthoseroadstoriesyouhearoften;justastory.Isaid,
andhenodded.
Atnight,whenIpretendedtosleepIcouldhearmy
parentstalkingwhilemymotherwept.Theyspokeaboutme,
mybrotherandthepeopleIkilledIdrathernotdelveinto
terriblewordssaidlongagobynowdeceasedparents.Isaid.
Verywell,Hereplied,anddidnotpressmeonthe
matter.
Anyhow,wereachedJaffasoonthereafter,Ireplied.
Isee.Andthenwhathappened?Heasked.
Wegotonaship,butmyparentsbecameillduringthe
journeyanddiedaswereachedtheshore,Isaid.
Sowhatmadeyouchangeyourname;thethingthat
connectsyoutoyourlostfamily?Heasked.
Idontknow;wantedtostartafresh;gottiredofracial
wars;toldmyselfthatanamemeansnothingontheoutside,
andthatinsideImjustthesame,Isaid.
Iproceededtotellhimtherestofmystory,asIhave
writtenithereinthisjournal.Bythetimethetellingwasdone,
thesunhadsunk,andIwashungry.

192

Raymond,hebegan,IcertainlygotmorethanI
bargainedforbyhearingyourstory.Hethenhandedmeasack
filledwithgoldcoins,morethanenoughtoclearmydebtsand
morethanenoughtoliveasanoblemanforyears.Yetadealis
adeal,sothisisyours,heexplainedasIgazedwideeyedatthe
coins.
No,Icantacceptthis.Itstoomuch,Irepliedandtried
toreturnthesack.
Iinsist!Hesaid.Itsyoursnow,dowithitwhatyou
will.
Butwhydoyougivemethismuch?Iasked.
Anoldmandonatedittomychurch,Richardbegan.
So?Iasked.
Letmefinish.Itoohaveastoryworthtelling,albeita
shorterone,hesaid.Ishutmymouthandlistenedaspatiently
asIcould,consideringmyexcitement.
Hecamebythechurchacoupleofmonthsago,dressed
inanoddfashion.Hismannerofspeakingwasasoddashis
clothes,andhereekedofsomeincenseIwasunfamiliarwith,
hesaid.
And?Iasked.
Andhedonatedthisgoldandmore,andthenasked
thataquestbeembarkedupononhisbehalf,Richardsaid.
Idontunderstand,Iresponded.
NeitherdoI.Letmefinish,foritgetsstrangerstill,he
said,andIoncemorestoodsilently.Thebishophimselfcame
toacceptthedonationafterpriestsawthesum.Thepriestbade
thebishoptosummonme,mentioningmynamespecifically,
hesaid.
Whatssooddaboutthat?Iasked.
Ihaveneverseentheman.Imoneofthedefendersof
thechurch,butImnotfamousinanyfashion.Howdidhe
knowtocallmebyname?Richardasked.
Perhapsheoverhearditfromothers,Isuggested.

193

No,itisntpossible.ButwhenIspoketohim,hewasso
selfassured,speakingasifhehadallknowledgeathis
fingertips.Hisaccent,hismanners,Idontknowalienisthe
bestwaytodescribethem,andIthoughtperhapshewasoneof
theapostles,foritwouldhaveexplainedhisaccentedLatin,he
said.
Isee,Ireplied.
No,youdont.WhenIaskedhimifhewasanangelhe
burstlaughing,thencoughed.Hecouldntspeakagainuntilwe
gavehimsomewater.Thismeant,ofcourse,thathewasa
mortalman,Richardsaid.
Hesworemetosecrecybeforesendingmeoutonhis
quest,Richardsaid.Itookthevowshedictated,andthenhe
toldmehewasdying.Hissolewish,asoddasitmayseem,was
thatIandIaloneseekoutthetownofDrentwych,inthe
KingdomofWistHill,Richardsaid.
And?Iasked.
Imnotsureofthedatemyfriendwillbethere,hesaid,
butyouaretotravelthetownandseekoutyoungbeggarsand
purchasetheirstorieswithsomeofthegold,Richardtoldme,
eyingmyexpressioncarefully.
Idontunderstand,Ireplied.
Thatsunfortunate,Iwashopingthatyouwould,he
said.Youshouldgetyourselfsomethingtoeat,headded,and
movedtodepart.
No,wait!Tellmetherestofthetalefirst,Ibegged.
Verywell.ThemantoldmethatIwouldfindonea
youthinDrentwych,whowilltellmethathecamefrom
Jerusalem,thathismothersnameisSarah,Richardsaid,
studyingmyexpression.
What!Nowyoumustbejoking!Iproclaimed.
Afraidnot.TheoldmanrequestedthatIgivethesum
ofhisfortunestothisonetoyou,Richardsaid.
Idontunderstand,Ireplied.

194

NeitherdoI,Richardagreed.AtfirstIthoughthis
questtobeafoolserrand;thetalkoftheoldandthemad.But
hegavemethefunds,andIsawnoillintentinhisdesire,
Richardsaid.
Butwhocanitbe?Whowouldgivemesomuch
withoutknowingme?Iasked.
Hesaidhewasyourfather,Richardfinallyadmitted.
Thatcantbe.Myfatherdiedalongwithmymother,
andhewasntold,anyway,Iprotested.
Idontknowthetruth;onlywhathetoldme.Imsorry,
Richardsaid.
Whydidyoutellmeallofthisthen?Iasked.
Becausethatwasoneofhisrequests,thatIdiscussit
withyouandnoother,Richardreplied.
Idontunderstand,Ireplied,staringatthegold.
Getyourselfsomethingtoeat,Richardrepeated,and
farewell.
Wait!Doyourememberanythingelse,anythingatall?
Iasked.Heturnedhisheadtofacemeagain,andpaused,deep
inconcentration.
No,Idont...hebegan.Holdon,yes,therewas
somethingelsethatwasodd.TheOldManhadsomestrange
letterstattooedonhiswrist,Richardsaid.
Doyouremembertheletters?Canyouscribethem
down?Iasked,exitedatthisnewpieceofthepuzzle,thoughit
seemedtosignifyabsolutelynothing.Richardpickedupastick
androughlycarvedafewlettersontheground.Istudiedthe
lettersveryhard,asdidhe.
SomeofthemremindmeofArabicnumerals.TherestI
dontrecognize,Isaid.
Whatdoesthattellyou?Heasked.
Nothing,Iprofessed.OrmaybethattheOldManhad
visitedtheeast,Ioffered,aftercarefulthought.
Icantmakesenseofit,soIllleaveitwithChrist,he
stated.Whataboutyou?Hethenasked.
Icant,Ireplied.
195

WhycantyouseetheloveofChrist?Surelyitishewho
sentthismessengerwhocalledyouhisson.
No,Ireplied.
Dontyouunderstand,afterallthatyouvetoldme,that
yourecursed,andthattheresonlyonewaytoliftthecurse,
whichistoacceptChristandmendyourways?Surelyeven
Raymond,afterwhomyouvenameyourself,wouldhave
endorsedmyadvice.Hesaid.
ImnotChristian,Ireplied.
Iknowthat,Richardreplied.Iwaswonderingasto
why.Yousee,thisisafirstforme,talkingopenlytoaJew,and
ImtryingtounderstandyourrejectionofChristasthesonof
God.
HesnotmyGod,Irepeated.
Verywell;Iwontforceyoutoexplain,hereplied.
Whyisitsoimportantforyoutoknowmypeople?I
asked.
Jesuswasofyourpeople,andyouverejectedhim
thoughheperformedmanymiracles,hesaid.
ImafraidIdonthaveananswerforyou.Iwasnt
taughtmuchofJesus,Irepliedsadly.
Andnowthatyouknow?Heasked.
Iclingtomyoldfaithstill,Ireplied.
Why?Heprotested,andIcouldnotunderstandwhy
whichGodIboweddowntomeantsomuchtohim.
BecauseIbeganangrily,notyethavingformulateda
coherentargument.Becauselook,Imnotagreat
theologian;Idontpretendtoknowthemysteriesofthedivine.
ButIcantellyouthis:Ihavelosteverythingalready;Ihave
driftedsofarapartfromeverythingIonceknew.Myfaith,as
fragileandlackingasitis,isthelastthingthatremainstruly
mine,Isaid.
Butwhatifitswrong?Heasked.
Thenitswrong,Ireplied.
Whatofyoursoul?Heasked,genuinelyworried.
Notminetobeginwith,Ireplied
196

YoudresslikeaChristian,walklikeaChristian,and
talklikeaChristian.Fewcantellwhatyourrealfaithis,he
said.
Exactly.ThefaithinmyheartisallIhaveleft,Isaid.
Butyoureagoodman,youcanbesaved,Richardtried
again.
SoifImagoodman,Ideservetobesaved,Ioffered.
Yes,butyouhavetoacceptGodfirst,Richardsaid.
YourGod,Icorrected.
HeistheFather;thesameGodyouworship.Youhave
toaccepttheSonaswell,Richardurged.
Butthereinlaysthedifference.YourGodwilldamnme
ifIdonotworshiphim,minewillforgivemeifmyfaithisin
error.Hewillacceptme,forasyoujustsaid,Iamagoodman,
deservingtobesaved,Isaid,surprisedatmyselfforthis
improviseddefense.Richardwantedtoprotest.Heprobably
hadafewpointshednotyetmade,buthethoughtbetterofit
andjustsaid:
Youshouldgetsomethingtoeat.Farewell,headdedas
heturnedtogo.
Thankyou,Ireplied,meaningitinmorewaysthan
one.Farewell,Iresponded.Andsowepartedways,andIwas
leftstaringatalargesackofgold.
***

197

Richardwasafineman.Tothisday,whenIrecallhis
nameIsmile.Ioftenhavewonderedwhatdrivesamantodo
good.UsuallyIthinkthereasonsareselfish.Wedogood
becausewerelonelyandwantthecompany.Wedogood
becausewewantotherstothinkhighlyofus.Wedogood
becauseweexpectrewardfromhighabove;fromsomeoneelse.
Itsalwaysasortofabargaindoneingoodfaith.Butthereis
anotherkindofkindness;theselflesskind.Amotherslovefor
herchild.Amanplacinghimselfinharmswaytosavehiswife.
Thereisnogainthere,andoneneedsgreatinternalstrengthto
overcomesurvivalinstinctsandperformselflesskindnesses.
Blessedbeallthelovingmothers,blessedbeallthebrave
husbands,blessedbethosewhostruggletomaketheworlda
betterplace.Thisismyblessingtoyou,Amen.
RaymondofDrentwych

198

CHAPTERXIXTheValueofGold

IateuntilIwasfull,feelingmuchrefreshed.Asmilenow
stayedperpetuallyonmyface,makingithurtjustatinybit,
sinceIwasunaccustomedtosmiling.Irepaidmydebtsassoon
asIddoneeating.Imadesuremygoldsackwashidden,to
avoidgivingideastothepatronsofTheBlackSheepTavern.
Yourobbedsomebody?Barnyasked,ashesatbythe
table,playingrocks,surroundedbymysordidfriends.
Youshouldntaskthatsortofquestion,Ireplied,and
eyedhimdangerously,togivehimandtheothersthe
impressionthatIvegottenthemoneybydubiousmeansand
theydbetternotinquirefurther.
Right,Barnybegan,tiltinghisheadbackinadefensive
position.SorryIasked,headded.
Forgiven,Irepliedandtookacoupleofstepsback.
Wait!Youdontwanttoplay?Barnyasked.Iwantedto
verymuch,butIllnotwalkthatdevilsroadagainafterhaving
beengivenyetanotherchance.
No,Irepliedwithfinality.Farewell,seeyouinthe
morning,IsaidasIturnedandwentaway.
Whatcameoverhim?Oneofthegamblersasked
underhisbreath.
Hesalwaysmoody,mostlyonthebadside,replied
Barny.Thatwasit;really,Iwantedtowalkawayfromplaying
gamesofchance.Iwantedtolivemylifeascleanlyand
virtuouslyasIcould,asRaymondtheforesterwouldhavedone
hadhebeeninmyshoes.BeforeeveryimportantactionItook
fromthenon,Iaskedmyselfwhathewouldhavedonehadhe
beeninmyshoes.Meanwhiletheinvestigationstoodstilluntil
31stOctoberofthatyear.

199

ItwasduringthenewyearcelebrationsinEngland
theholydayknownasSamhain.Iknewlittleaboutitatthe
timeandpaiditasmuchheedasIdidanyotherforeignholy
dayIrespectedtheparticipantswhileignoringthedetailsof
thefestivalcompletely.Samhainforthepagansmarkedashift
intheunderworldwhichallowedtheghostsoftheonceliving
toreturntovisittheirlovedonesintheworldoftheliving.
Christianshadanoppositeviewofthemeaningofthe
underworldandtalkingtothedead,andthereforefoundtheir
ownnonviolentwayofprotestingthepagancustoms.They
createdamockholyday,commonlyknownasHalloween,in
whichtheydresseduplikeghostsandallmannerofapparitions
fromhellandmadeitallintoabigjoke.
Regardlessofhowapersonviewedthisholyday,itwas
animportanteventinDrentwych.Moreimportantlyformewas
thefactthatanotherpersonwastakenonthatdaynearthe
infamousTheBlackSheepTavern.
Ihadofferedarewardtoanypatronwhoknew
somethingaboutthekidnappings.IknowLordDurrantshould
haveofferedthereward,notI,butIwantedtomakegooduse
ofmygold.Ithusdiscoveredapropertyofgoldseldom
exploredbymodernscience.Itseemsthatgoldisaremedyfor
silenttonguesandsuddenlossofmemory.Somesayitsalsoa
verypowerfulaphrodisiac,butthatInevercaredtodiscover.
NotthatIheldhumanitytoanyespeciallyhighstandards,but
evenaslowasmyopinionswere,Iwasamazedtodiscoverhow
quicklypeopleturnononeanotherforjustafewcoins.Three
menwearingpriestlyrobeshadbeenseeninthevicinityofthe
kidnapping.IquicklydeliveredmyfindingstoSimonandLord
Durrant,andthatverynightwesatincouncil.
Sogentlemen,wehavethreepeopledressedaspriests
seeninthevicinityofthearea.Whatdoesthattellyou?Lord
Durrantasked.
Thatthepriestscouldhavedoneit,Simonreplied.

200

Dontbepreposterous!TheChurchdoesnotgoabout
kidnappingpeopleinthedarkofnight.Thatswhatcriminals
do,LordDurrantreplied.
Ofcourse,whatwasIthinking?Simonreplied.Lord
Durrantnoddedhisheadandsmiled,oblivioustotheblatant
nuancesofskepticismandcynicism.
Maybecriminalsdonnedpriestlyrobestoavoid
suspicion,Isaid,feelingasifIwastalkingtolittlechildren
ratherthanadults.
Splendid!Raymond,takeSamyonLordDurrant
began.
Simon,Simonquicklycorrectedhim.LordDurrant
glaredathimandcontinued.
TakeSamyonwithyoutothechurch,questionthe
priests,andfindoutifperhapssomeonestolesomeoftheir
robes,LordDurrantsaid.
Yes,milord,Ireplied.
Whatareyouwaitingfor,offyougothen!Hereplied,
andshooedusawaylikesmallchildren.
IstartedwalkingwithSimonbymyside.Oh,and
Raymond?LordDurrantsaidwhenIwasalreadyseveralpaces
awayfromhim.
Yes,milord?Iturnedandasked.
Dokeepyourthiefonashorterleash.Ifhistongueslips
againIllcutitoff,hesaid.
Yes,milord,IsaidandleftwithSimon.Ididnthaveto
tellSimonanything;forhehadheardtheLordsthreataswell
asI.

201

Drentwychschurchwasastonemasonrybuildingtwo
floorshigh.Obviously,itwasntaslargeandmagnificentas
AbbotSugerslaterGothicchurches,butcomparedtothe
humblehovelsandhutseveryoneinDrentwychlivedin,itwas
impressive,tosaytheleast.Acrosscarvedfromblackstone
hungabovethethreshold,greetingthecomersandgoers.My
eyeswerefixedonthecrucifiedChristianGod,portrayedinhis
momentofsupremesuffering.Ifocusedonhisclosedeyes,asif
theymayopenatanymoment.Ioftenwonderedatthetime
whytheChristianGodhungonthecross,aninstrumentof
torture,butIfearedembarkingonthatsortofconversation
withaChristianmorethanIwascuriousaboutit.Whenmy
brotherdiedIdidntmuchthinkaboutwhathappenstoa
personwhenhedied.PerhapsIwastooyoung,orperhapsI
couldntbegintodealwithhisdemise.Forme,itwaslikehe
wentonajourney,nevertocomehome.Whenmyparentsdied
howeverthequestiontookrootinmyheart.Whydidthis
happen?Wherearetheygoing?Ihavemademanyquestionsin
myheart.YetIknewtherewerenocertainanswers,andsoI
grewfrustrated.ButitwasonlywhenRaymondoftheBrooks
died,thatItrulywantedtoknowthetruth.Nowfacedwithhis
Goduponthecross,myheartburnedwithquestions
unanswered.YetIknewthecommonmanhadnoanswersfor
me,andaPriestIfearedthechurchmorethananything.It
wascommonlybelievedthatJewshadhornsandwereallied
withthedevil.Morethananything,Ifearedbeingdiscovered
forwhatIwas,andworse,findingevidencethatsitwastrue.
Therewasenoughdarknessinmysoultoprovejustthat.SoI
juststaredatthecross,silentlybeggingforananswer.
Ray!Quitdaydreaming!Simonsaid,shakingmy
shoulder.
Ah,eh,sorryaboutthat,Ireplied.
Soareyougoingtoopenit?Heasked.Imovedmy
handtodoso,butIsuddenlygrewfearfulofthenotion,soI
stoppedandjuststoodtheremotionless.
Youdoit,Ireplied,hesitating.
202

Whatswrongwithyou?Heasked.
Nothing,Irepliedimpatiently.Openthedoor,I
instructedhim.
No,youdoit,herejoined.Ipursedmylipsandexhaled
throughmynose.Atthatmomentthedoorwasflungopenbya
priest.IshouldliketopointoutthatDrentwychhousedseveral
priests,asthiswasanimmigrantstown,andthusimportantto
theholythrone.
Whatsalltheruckusaboutthislateatnight;evenif
thisbeHalloween,thehouseofGodisnotaplacetogo
wanderingabout?Aniratefiguredemanded.Weturnedto
himandIstudiedhisfeaturesinthetorchlight.
Goodpriest,Ibegan.ErIstammered.
Outwithit,thepriestrepliedimpatiently.
Doyouhappentoknowifanyofyourpriestlyrobesare
missing?Iaskedbluntly.
Stolen,Simoncorrectedme.
What?Thepriestasked.
DoyouknowofanyonewhomayhavestolenIasked
again.
Iheardyouthefirsttime!Hesaidangrily.Andthe
answerisno,noonestealspriestlyrobes.
PerhapsyoucanasktheotherIbegan.
No,Illnotbothermoreprieststhislateatnightwith
idlequestions,hesaidangrily.Haveyoutwobeendrinking?
Headdedandeyeduscarefully.
Inthatcase,wedliketocheckthechurch,Ireplied,
losingmypatienceathisrudeness.
Youmaynot!Heretortedinaraisedvoice.Thisisa
houseofGod,andyoumaynothecontinued,whenI
interrupted.
IhavethepermissionofLordDurrant;takeitupwith
him,priest,Irepliedangrily.
Iforbidit!Hebegan.

203

Stepaside,Icommanded,andshovedhimoutofthe
wayasIsteppedinsideachurchforthefirsttimeinmylife.I
wasshakingallover,myheartbeatinglikeadrum.Imorethan
halfexpectedlightningtostrikeme,ortodiesuddenlyfor
bargingintothehouseofagod.
Stop!Hecalled,raisinghimselfupfromthefloor.I
musthaveshovedhimabittoohard.Morepriestscameto
answerhiscall.
ByorderofLordDurrant,Iwillinspectthischurch,I
announcedtothepriests.YouwillletmepasswhereIwill,and
youwillanswermyquestionstruthfully,Icontinued.Oryou
willspendthisnightinjailandtomorrowmorningstandbefore
ajudge,priestorno.ItriedtosoundasthreateningasIcould.
IdidntknowifIwasreallyinthepositiontomakethosesortof
threatsortofollowthemthrough.Attheveryleastitcouldcost
memyjob,atworst,myhead.Butthetruthis,Ihadletmy
angerruleme,soIhadntreallyconsideredtheconsequences.
Itappearedtobethatthepriestsbelievedme,orthey
realizedIwasaderangedlunaticcapableofmanythings,for
theyhurriedtogetoutoftheway,eyingmewarily,thosewho
botheredtolookatmeatall.
Ray,whatareyoudoing?Simonaskednervously.
Shutup,shutup,IrepliedasquietlyandharshlyasI
could.Wethenquestionedthepriests.Theywerecooperative
butwerenotveryinformative,meaningthattheytriedtoavoid
uswhereverwewent.Itwasasifwewereplayingcatchbut
withoutactuallyrunningabout.Evenwhenwecaughta
priest,hehadlittleornothingtosay.Igrewimpatient,which
seemedtohavebecomeatrend.Simon,ontheotherhand,
tookitdifferently.
Ray,youknowwhotalksliketheydo?Heaskedme.
Priests?Ianswered,statingtheobvious.
No,crooks,hereplied.Ilistenedverycarefullythen.
Whenyourehidingsomething,youanswerasbrieflyasyou
canhopingwhoeverisaskingthequestionswouldntthinkof
therightonestoask,hesaid.
204

Idontfollow,Isaid,tryingunsuccessfullyto
understandhistheory.
Peopleusuallyactdifferentlywhentheyrelyingthan
whentheyretellingthetruth.Mostliarswouldratheravoid
actuallymakingupstoriesasmuchaspossible,thereforethey
giveshortanswers,Simonspeculated.
Makessense,Ireplied.Ithenaddressedthepriests:If
youtellmewhatyourehiding,Illgoaway.Ireceivedseveral
comments,whichitwouldbedisrespectfultothepriestlyorder
torepeat.
Verywell,then,Ireplied,takingoffensebutnot
showingit.Inthatcase,Imgoingtolookaround
EVERYWHERE,Isaid,pausingforthemtotakeitallin,
UNTILIfindsomething.IresumedmysearchwithSimonand
itdidnttakelongforustofindahiddenpassageway.
Wheredoesthislead?Iaskedapriest.
Tothecatacombs,theburialcavesbuiltatthetimeof
theRomans,hereplied.
Isee,Iresponded,gettingabitagitatedatthethought
ofvisitingaplacefullofdecomposingbodies.
Youhavenothingtolookfordownthere,thepriest
added.Therewassomethinginhiseyes,however,somehintof
secretknowledge;aworry.Likeawolfsmellingblood,hisfear
fueledmyresolve.Idecidedweshouldlookthereanyway,soI
motionedforSimontotakeafreshtorchandfollow.Hedid,
reluctantly.

205

Downthespiraldescendingstairs,wewent.Rats
scatteredaboutusandthescentofdusthungheavyintheair.
Eventhemostminorofsounds,likeourbreathingandthe
soundofscufflingfeetcarefullymakingtheirwayresonatedoff
thewalls,soundingtooloudformyears.Eventherapidbeating
ofmyheartfelttooloud.Wewerefrightenedtobesure.I
imaginedunlikelyencountersandwhatIshoulddowhenfaced
withtheseunknowndangers.Everythingfromdecomposing
bodies,animatedbysomedarkmagic,toacovenofdeadly
assassins,orrestlessghostscrossedmymind.Sadly,mostofmy
plannedreactionsincludedeitherstabbingitwithaswordor
runningforourlivesthisbeingSamhaineve,hadnotmade
thecircumstancesanyeasiertobear.
IbenttofitunderaRomanarchway;Simonhadno
troublepassing,ashewasshorterthanI.Ipaused,lookedata
humanskulllyingaboutthetombs.Aratfledfrombeneathit,
frightenedbythelight.Ibouncedbackwards,almostbumping
intoSimon.Hewassaved,however,becausehebouncedeven
furtherback,bothofusshriekinglikelittlegirls.Wethen
pausedandstaredateachotherforamoment,andthen
simultaneouslyburstoutlaughing.
Whobethere?Askedastrangevoicefromfurther
away,stoppingusinmidlaughter.Simondrewtwodaggers,
slowlyandsilentlyIfollowedhisexampleanddrewmysword
asquietlyasIcould.
Whobethere?Insistedthevoiceagain,louderand
obviouslyangry.
ItisI,brotherKleptophile,Simoncalledloudly.
AndI,brotherBeaveneus,Isaid,fumblingwith
makingupaGrecoRomansoundingname.
Comehere,thevoicecalled.Wehidourweapons
behindourbacksandapproached.

206

Thevoicebelongedtoahunchedabomination;thatsthe
onlywayIcoulddescribethetwisted,deformed,ugly,and
smellycreaturewhichseemedamacabreshadowofahuman
being.Thelightobviouslyhurthiseyes,soSimonheldthe
torchinfrontofus,sothathewouldntseeclearly.
Password?Heasked,shieldinghiseyesfromthelight.
BothSimonandIstrainedourmuscles,readyforconfrontation.
Myheartbeatfaster,andIfeltalive.
Password?Ibegan,notsurewhattosay.
Whydoyouquestionusagain?Simonaskedhim
pseudoangrily.
What?Heasked,takenabackbySimonstone.
Whatdoyoumean,what?hebegan.Dontplay
dumbwithme.Wewerejustherewithafriendofours,
remember?Simonsaidasheremindedthecreatureof
somethingwhichhadneverhappened.Wegaveyouthe
package,headdedmoresoftly.Youknow,thehuman
package,hefinished.
DeliverpackagetoNecromancer;Master,dontneed
moreforritual,theAbominationsaid.Ifoughtveryhardto
hidemystunnedexpression.
No,theMastertoldustobringthepackagehere,
Simonargued.
No,theAbominationbegan.Dealnotlikethat,he
said.
Remindmeofthedealthen,forIremember
differently,Simonargued.
PackagetoNecromancer.InreturnNecromancergives
boontoMaster,hesaid.
Youforgotonething,Simonstated.
Inotforgetanything,thecreaturecorrected.
Yeah,youdid.Whatdowegetoutofit?Simonsaid,
emphasizingthewe.
YouwaityourrewardlikeIwait.Mastersaidrewardis
powerandeternallife,butonlyifIwaitandworkhard,the
Abominationsaid.
207

When?Simonasked.Wearegrowingimpatient,he
added.
TonightMastermakeritual.Rewardcomesafter,the
Abominationsaid,growingveryimpatient.Formypart,Iwas
readyforafight,silentlythankingGodthatwedfallenona
dumb,talkativeminionratherthanasmartone.Ifonlyhe
hadntbeensobig,Idhavebeenevenmoregrateful.
Where?Simonasked,stillonaroll,butgoingtoofar
thistime,itappeared.
Younotpriests!TheAbominationroared,standing
straightandflexinghismuscles.Heclearlystoodtwohead
tallerthanme;fourtimesasstrong.Simonbouncedback.I
sprangbackandtotheside,asIvarhadtrainedme.
TheAbominationlungedatSimon,handsathissides,
musclesflexing,wickedclawsprotrudingwherenailsshould
havebeen.Simonmovedasfastandfrightenedasacat.Iheld
myswordinatwohandedgrip,swingingfromrighttoleftwith
allmystrength,movingmyleftfootforwardandturningmy
abdomen,spinningtotheleft.Theblowhithimacrossthe
midback.Itfeltlikehittingstrongbones,asifhiswholebody
wasashardasstone.Therewasbloodonmysword,however,
soIfiguredifIcanmakehimbleed,Icankillhim.
Ididntevencauseittobudge,however;hejuststopped
hischaseinstantly,turninghisabdomenandthenhisfeetas
wellinmydirection.Hishandswereextendedtotheirfull
length,andhenearlyrippedmyheadapart.Idodgedhisswing,
bringingmyweaponclosertomybody.Iheldmyswordtightly
atmyleftsideandwentforablowwithallmystrength.WhenI
stabbedhimontherightsidebelowtheribshescreamed.I
relaxedforasplitsecond,thinkingthattheblowshouldhave
killedhimbutitdidnt.

208

Hestruckmewithhisleftpalm.Luckilyforme,hewas
tooclosetomakeuseofhisclaws.Nevertheless,hewas
inhumanlystrongandtheblowsentmeflying.Mybackhitthe
wallwithtremendousforce.Theworldspun,andmyvision
grewdizzyandunfocused.Theringinginmyearskilledall
othersoundsasmyswordfellatmyside.
Meanwhile,Simonstabbedhimwithbothdaggers,
drawnfromscabbardsonhisback.TheAbominationspunto
therightandtheleft,yetfailedtoloosenSimonsgrip.Hethen
smashedhisbackagainstthestonewall,slammingpoorSimon
betweentheboneofhisbackandstone.AsSimonfell,the
Abominationspunaboutoncemore,steppingonaburning
torchbyaccident.Hescreamedingreatagony.
Ihadnowhadsufficienttimetorecover.Igottomyfeet,
liftedmysword,andchargedhimoncemore.HeturnedasI
roared,readytomeetmycharge.Atthelastmoment,not
slowingdown,Ibouncedtotheleft.Istruckhimwithmymost
powerfulswing,looseningmygripafterthehitsothatthe
momentumwouldntslowmedown.Itwassortoflikestopping
amountedcharge,onlywithoutthemount.Hescreamedand
missedhisnextswing.Badlyinjuredandbleeding,he
nonethelessremainedonhisfeet.
Simongrabbedthetorchfrombehindhim.Hey!He
calledout.Asthemonsterturned,Simonstuffedthetorchright
inhisface.Burned,hescreamed,andSimonhurriedoutof
harmsway.
Iswungagain,feelingmyheartnearlyburst.I
decapitatedhisheadanditfellwithathudtothefloor.Both
SimonandIgazedatthefelled,twistedhead.Onlythendidwe
realizethatthedismemberedbodywasstillstanding,still
tryingtoswingwidely.Webothjumpedback.
SimonburneditwithhistorchwhileIhackedatit.Two
moreswingsandit,whateveritwas,laydown,burning,and
died.Thishadbeenmyfirstconsciousencounterwiththe
supernatural,thoughIwastoostunnedatthetimetotakeitall
in.
209

Ready?IaskedSimon,preparingtochargethedoor.
Yeah,hereplied,holdingadaggerinonehandanda
torchintheother.Ihackedatthedoorandkickedituntilitfell
down,thenbouncedtotheside,hidingbehindthewall.
Goodminionsaresohardtocomebynowadays,a
voicecalledfrominside.Itsoundedlikeaneducatednobleman
ratherthanthesinistertonewewereexpecting.Damnit,the
voicesoundedfamiliar.Itookapeek.Hewasapaleman,taller
thanSimonbutshorterthanI.Heworerichlywovenblack
garments.Varioussilverrunesadornedhisclothes,butIdidnt
havemuchtimetostudythem.Thenitstruckme;thiswasthe
darkwarriorwhoconstantlywatchedIvarssmithywhenIwas
akid.NowIrememberquitevividlyhiswords,andthedire
intentbehindthem.
WhycouldntIthinkofitbefore?WhycouldntI
remember?Iwondered.
Surrender,Master!Icalledafteramoments
hesitation,belittlingthetitlemasterwithmyderisivetone.
Oh,butIamnottheMaster,thevoicesaid,mocking
us.
Thatsright,Simonsneered.
TheMasteriscurrentlyatthecemetery;youshouldgo
therebeforeitstoolateifyouintendtostophim,thevoice
said.IlookedatSimon,wholookedatme,neitherofussure
whattodo.
Byallmeansgo,Iwonttrytostopyou,headded.
Wedrathertakeyououtfirst,Iannounced.
Myrevengeisbestsavedforthosewhowrongedme,
hesaid.Iknewhedidntrecognizeme.Iwantedtoquestion
himaboutIvar,andthenatureofstrifebetweenthem.Then
again,IwasmoreeagertokillhimandkeepIngridandIvar
safe,thanIwasinterestedinsolvingthisenigma.
Enoughtalk.Tobattle!Iroared.

210

Verywell,butitsyourfuneral,thevoicesaid.Ireadied
myselftostormin,visualizingtheroomfromtheglimpseIhad
ofitwhenwetoppledthedoor.Imadeplanstofeintacharge
andthendropandrolltotheside,clearofanyhurledattacks.
Doansweronequestionbeforeyoufoolishlycharge,
bravewarrior,thevoicesaid,stoppingmeabruptly.
Ask,Isaid.
Whydoyouseektostopuswhenyoucangainsomuch
byhelpingus?Heasked.
BecauseIwantnothingyouhavetooffer!Ireplied.
Butyouhaventheardmyofferyet,heprotested.Ican
grantyoueternallife,hesaid.
No,thanks,mylifeshellenoughwithoutyouextending
itindefinitely,Ireplied.Hechuckled.
Youseekjustice?ItisIwhowaswronged!Iaminthe
right!Godbroughtmebacktolife,Godempowersmy
vengeance.StandwithmeandyoustandwithGod!Hesaid.
Dontcare.Notinterested.Ireplieddryly.
Icanofferyoupowerbeyondthedreamsofmortal
men,heproposed.
Notinterested,Iliedflatly.Thefactis,Iwasmorethan
intrigued,butRaymondtheforesterwouldhavesaidnoso
thatwastherightthingtodo.Iamonlyinterestedinthe
ending,withyourdeathlord.Iadded.
Thenyouareafool!Icannotbefelledbyanymortal
man.Hespat.
Thatkindofpower?Whydidntyousaysointhefirst
place?Iasked,pretendingIwaseitherintimidatedor
intrigued.Whatkindofpowersexactlyarewetalkingabout
here?Iasked.
Morethanenoughtomakeyoulordoverallmankind,
hesaid.
Bemorespecific.Bigwordswithlittlemeaningdonot
impressme,Ireplied.
Supernaturalstrength,speed,andendurance,he
began.
211

Youyourselfpossesssomuchofthesetraits,Imocked.
Imnotfinished,hecontinued;mycynicismwas
clearlynotworkingverywell.Magichealing,everlasting
youth,hepromised.
Soundswonderful,Isaid.
Oh,itis,hesaid,pleasedwithhimself.
Buthowcanyoujustgrantthesepowers?DontIhave
tostudyforcenturiesorsomethingofthesort?Iasked.
Oh,no,mypowersareinmyblood.IfIsharemymagic
bloodwithyou,Isharemypowers,nodullstudiestobehad.
Hesaid.
AndwhatexactlydoIhavetodotoensuremyshare?I
asked.
Ray,yourenotseriouslythinkingSimonbegan.I
motionedhimtobesilent.
Imgladyourefinalhebegan.Hehadtostopinmid
sentence,Imafraid.Ichargedhimwhilehewasbusy
explainingtomethemagnificenceofhispowers.He
responded,butnotfastenoughtoavoidmyassault.
ItriedthechargeandbouncetotheleftmovethatId
usedonhisminion,butbarelyhithim.ItfeltasifIwasstriking
somesortofliquidinsteadofflesh.OnlythendidInoticehow
theshadowsweremovingaboutmyopponentasallcolor
drainedfromtheroom.
Hejuststoodtheremotionless,whileshadowsmoved
abouthimasifhewashimselfhiddeninsideareflection.
Shadowtentaclesattackedme,andIdodgedfirstone,then
two.Thethirdgrabbedmyfeetandliftedmeoffthegroundas
ifIwereafreshlycaughtfish.
Seeingthisblatantdisplayofmagic,Ilostallmy
confidence.Simonthrewthetorchatouradversary,thussaving
mylife,sinceheabruptlyburstintoflamesasifapotionof
Greekfirehadhithim.Idroppedheadfirstonthestonefloor,
losingmyswordintheprocess.Hemovedwithimpossible
speed,extinguishinghimselfwithhishands.
212

Irecoveredquicklyandgotupfromthefloor,grabbing
mysword.Heclawedmewithhishands,themovementtoo
fastformetoregisterorrespondtoinanyway.Itriedblocking
theblowswithmysword,butitwastoolate,Iwasalready
bleedingfromadozenwounds,myclothesrippedtoshreds.
Simonthrewadaggerathim,buthecaughtholdofiteasily.
AtthispointIsawredandlunchedathimlikea
maddenedbeast,flailingwithmyfists.Wewrestled,whichwas
abadcourseofaction,forIquicklydiscoveredthathewasnt
lyingabouthissuperhumanstrength.Webumpedintoawall,
thenfellovereachother.Ashelayontopofme,hetriedto
chokeme,digginghisprolongednailsintomyneck.Iflailed
myfistsathisfacedesperately,tighteningthemusclesaround
mynecktoenablemetokeeponbreathing.
Simonjumpedonhisback,stabbingrepeatedlywithhis
dagger.Iwashalfcrazybythen.Ifelthisblooddrippingonme,
stingingagainstmyopenwounds.Then,inafuryofstabsand
blows,hediedoratleastIthoughthedid.Itseemedasifa
fireengulfedandconsumedhiminjustafewmoments,leaving
onlysmallpuddlesofblood,someofwhichcontinuedburning.
Ireasonedthatperhapshehadfailedtoputoutthefirethefirst
timeorelsesomedivinehandhadsavedus.Simonstoodover
meandinspectedmywounds.
Yourenothurttoobadly,hesaid.Canyougetup?
Maybe,Ianswered,asgiddyasonewouldexpectafter
receivingadozenlightwounds.Igotupwithlittledifficultyin
spiteofmydizziness.Iinspectedmywounds;mereredmarks
remainedwhereonlymomentsbeforehadbeengashingcuts.
OnlythendidIrealizethathehadprobablybeentellingthe
truthabouttheendurancepartaswellwhatanidiotIwas.
Imallright,Simon,Isaid.
Theressomebloodleftonthefloor,Simonremarked.
Weshouldnttouchit.Itsprobablytaintedbythedevil
orsomething,Ireplied.
Yeah,Iguessyoureright,hereplied,andeyedthepool
withdisappointment.
213

Weinspectedtheroom.Aledgerlayopenupona
writingdesk.Afewtomesofknowledgesatonabookshelf
attachedtothewall.Acoffinlayontheothersideoftheroom,
whereabedshouldhavebeen.Webothtriedtoreadthe
ledger,butneitherofuswasadeptatreadingorwriting,at
leastinwhateverlanguagewaswrittenthere,sowepickedup
thebooksandmovedtoleavetheroom.IletSimoncarrythe
bookswhileIpriedthecoffinopen.Itwasempty;nodeadbody
layinside.Simonstartedgoingupstairs,onlytoohappytoleave
thisdreadfulplace.Assoonasheexitedthedoorway,Ibent
downandcollectedthemonstersbloodwhichhadspilledon
thefloor.Iusedclothtosoakitup,andthensqueezedthecloth
intomywaterskin,repeatingtheactionuntilIcollecteditall.
IknewbeyondanydoubtthatwhatIwasdoingwas
wrong,butIwasseducedbythepromiseofsupernatural
powers.Thiswasamonsterandhisblood,anunholything,
offeredabilitiesIcouldonlydreamof.IwantedasmuchasI
couldgetandmore.ItoldmyselfthatthisiswhatRaymond
wouldhavedoneiffacedwithdiabolicalmagic,butitwasnt
true,anddeepdowninsideIknewmyreasoningwasfalse.
Somethingwasnownabbingmyinsides,asifscreamingtobe
heardwarningmetogetaway.Ididntlisten,though,asthe
sumofmydesireslaythere,soclose,inthepoolofblood.
Besides,evenasIwrestledwithlisteningtocommonsensethat
toldmetoleavethisplace,anotherpressingthoughtfoundits
waytomyhead.IfIamtofacethiscreaturesMasterandhave
anychanceofwinningoutagainsthim,Ihadbetterexploit
everyadvantageatmydisposal.WouldnotGodapprovethatI
usedthepowerofthedarktofightforthesideofthelight?
Yeah,IwasonlydoingwhatImust,Ireasoned.Nowthatwas
allright,Irationalized.Itdidntevenfeelwronganymore.
Ray,whereareyou?Simoncalled.
Coming!Irepliedandhurriedtojoinhim.

214

Weascendedthestairsandarrivedatthechurchagain.
LordDurrantwaitedforusthere,tappinghisfootimpatiently
againstthestonefloor.Priestsgatheredbehindhim,waitingfor
us,eyeingusasifwewerecondemnedmen.
Raymond,Samyon,howgoodofyoutojoinus,Lord
Durrantbegan.
Milord!Ibegan.
Theresnoexcuse,LordDurrantsaidloudly.
ButMilord!Iprotested.
Youbargedintothechurch!LordDurrantsaidangrily.
Yes,butIbegan.
Youthreatenedthepriestsinmyname!Heshouted.
Yes,butSimonsaid.
Youtreatedthemasiftheywerecommoncriminals!
LordDurrantsaidfuriously,eyingmedangerously.
Butwait!Ipleadeddesperately.
Ishouldhaveyourheads,hesaidirately.MaybeI
will.
Wehaveproof!Ishouted.LordDurrantbecamemute
andsodidallthepriests.
Wehavejustfoughttwomonsters.Notpeople;
monsters.Theresadeadmonsterandapileofdustdownstairs
toshowforit,aswellasthelovelystateofmyclotheswhichI
offerasproof!Ishouted.IfIwasabouttodie,Ireasoned,I
wouldgodownfighting.Thepriestswerestunned;theymade
thesignofthecrossandsaidnothing.
Wetooktheirbookshere,seeforyourself,Simon
added.LordDurrantturnedhisheadleftandrightin
disagreement.
Themonsterknewwherethemissingpeopleare!I
added.LordDurrantceasedmoving.
Showmethehebegan.
Thedevilspeaksfromtheirmouths!Theheadpriest
shouted.BothSimonandIglaredathim.Nouncleanthing
mayenterhere!Hepronounced.
215

Wehaveevidenceinourhandsprovingotherwise!
Simoncalled.Ordoyousupposethatyourpriestsreadthese
forbiddentomes?Headded.Ihadnoideaifthetomes
containedforbiddenknowledgeofanykindornot;itmade
sense,butwehadnoevidence.
Letmeseethevolumes,LordDurrantsaid.Thehead
priestbegantoprotest.Besilent,priest,LordDurrantspat,
andinspectedourbooks.Ashescannedthepageshisattitude
changed.
Itseemsyouareintheright,LordDurrantstated,his
gazegrowingsofterashelookedatus.Theledgercontainsthe
namesofthemissingpeoplemorenamesthanIknewof,
andalistofdates,hesaid.
Thetwistedmonsteratthedoor;ittoldusthatthe
priestsdeliveredthemissingpeopletosomeNecromancer,
Simonsaid.
Lies!Theheadpriestcalled.Apoxonyourheadfor
accusingtheChurch!HetoldSimon.
Itstrue,Ireplied.
YouwillburnforeverinHell!Thepriestcalledout.
Iguesswellneverknow,asthethingisdead,isthatnot
so?LordDurrantaskedus,interruptingtheexchangeand
drawingsurprisedlooksfromeveryoneabout.
Hesdead,Iconfirmed.
Verywell.Nowletusleavetheunsolvedmatterofthe
priests,andfocusonthetroubleathand,shallwe?Lord
Durrantsaid,andmotionedforustofollowhim.
Goodnight,goodmen,LordDurrantcalledtothe
priestswhenwewereatthedoor.Imafraidmymenare
drunk.Illdisciplinethemfortheirravings,hesaidwitha
smile.Onlytheheadpriestsmiledback,however;therest
appearedmightyfearful.
PraytheChurchwontcomeafteryou,fool!Lord
Durrantsaidaswehurriedawayfromthechurch.
Whatcanthepriestsdo?Iasked,inchallenge.
216

ThePopecancrownandtopplekingsgreatandsmall,
LordDurrantsaid.
So?Simonasked.
SoiftheChurchdecidestohuntyoudownforDevil
worshiporwhateverotherreason,nolord,prince,orkingwill
standintheirway.
Isee,Ireplied.
Ifitsanyconsolationtoyou,accordingtothisledger
noneofuswilllivethroughthenightanyway,LordDurrant
said.Simonpaled,andIclenchedmyteeth.

217

CHAPTERXXWhenallHellBreaksLoose

"Tonightisthenightofthedead;doyouknowwhatthat
means?LordDurrantasked.
Thatwereintrouble,Ianswered.
Thatourlovedonesreturntovisitus,notharmus,
Simoncorrected.
True,Samyon,howeveritisanightofgreat
significance,andaNecromanceroraWitchwhosesoulclearly
belongstoSatanmayusetheirpowertoexploittheeventfor
evilsorcery,heexplained.OnanyotherdayIwouldhave
laughedattheutterstupidityofhisclaim,butonthisnight,
afterthefightwiththemonsterandthemagicpertainingtothe
bloodthatIhadwitnessed,Iwasinclinedtobelieveanytaleof
sorceryandwonder.
Ihavebattledquiteafewwitchesinmortalcombat,
stavingofftheirdiabolicalsorcerywiththepurityofmyfaith,
LordDurrantsaid,andIrepressedthescornIfeltforhim.I
sincerelyhopedthathedceasehiseffortstoimpressuswith
vainglorioustales,andsticktothemattersathand.
Now,ifonlywehadabetterideaofwhoourenemyis
andexactlywhatheintendstodo,headded.Thislast
statementbroughtmebacktothepresent.
Wait!Themonstersaidsomethingaboutthemaster
conductingtheritualatthecemetery!Icalledout.
Besilent!Wedontwanttopanicthetown,Lord
Durrantwarned.
Shite!Simoncursed.Iclenchedmyteethastheair
grewchilly.Itwasourenemy,silentlyremindingusthathewas
onthemove.
Comeon,letshuntdownaMastertonight!Lord
Durrantsaidandledustothecemetery.

218

Drentwychscemeterylaynexttothewesternwalla
dreadfulplacetovisit,especiallyatnight.Southofitlay
Drentwychsswampsanequallyghastlyplacetosojournin
atanytime,dayornight.Drentwychsgraveyardwasfullof
rottenwoodencrossesandunmarkedgraves.Afrighteningchill
pervadedatnight,feltmorekeenlyinthebonesthantheflesh.
Itwasasifthechillemanatedfromsomewhereatthecoreof
onessoulratherthanbeinganeffectoftheweather.Thethree
ofusLordDurrant,SimonandI,bentlowandinspected
whatsoonwouldbecomeabattleground.
Alonefigurestoodatthecenterofthegraveyard
wearingsimplegrayrobes,itseyeshiddenfromviewasitbent
overanopentomeheldinitslefthand.Blood,probablyhuman
inorigin,hadbeenusedaspaintinformingafivepointstaron
theground,alightedtorchmarkingeachpoint.Beneatheach
torch,atthetopanglesofthepentagram,anartifactlay.Atthe
baseofoneofthetriangleslayalargeonyxstonethatglowed
withametallichue.Atanothertrianglewasabowlofdark
liquid.Atthethirdtrianglethereburnedalargeblackcandle
whoseflamestrangelydidnotswaywiththewind.Atthe
fourthpoint,incensecoatedinhoneyburned.Atthefifthwasa
blueurnofmagnificentbeautyadornedwithsilverandgold
carvings.Thoughnoneofusknewanythingofmagic,itwas
quitecleartoallthataritualwasbeingperformed,andthat
whoeverthecaster,hewasquiteadeptatthetaskathand.
Getyeready,LordDurrantcommanded,drawinghis
splendidlongsword.Thelonefigurebeforeusceasedits
chantingandeyedhim.IcouldalmostswearIsawitsmile.
BythePoweroftheDarkHand,Icommandyeto
approachme!Thefigureordered.BothSimonandIburiedour
facesinthegroundhopingitwouldnotseeus.LordDurrant,
however,stoodupright,hiseyesunblinking,andgazedatthe
robedfigure.Hestartedwalking,hisfeetfollowingthepathas
ifhewereapuppetonstrings.

219

JustastheDarkHandpredicted,thefiguresaidwitha
smile.Yourejustintime,warrior,toactasmysacrifice.Lord
Durrantkeptwalkingtowardsit.BothSimonandIhoped
beyondallhopethattheLordwasfakingit,andthathewould
stabthisMastertodeathassoonashegotcloseenough.After
all,hedidclaimtobeaveteranofsorcerersbattles.
Dropyourblade,warrior!TheMastercommanded.
LordDurrantcompliedsilently.Wethenlosthope.Thiswasno
cleverployofhistoconfrontthemysteriousfigure.Ishook
uncontrollably,fornothingIhadeverlearnedordonehad
preparedmeforthisshowofforce.Iclenchedmyteethand
flexedmymusclesasIbanishedanythoughtsofweakness.
Raymondtheforesterwouldhavedonethesame.ByGod,I
understandnowmylife'spurpose.Iamrough,andruggedand
unpleasant.Allmybitternessanddisappointment,andallmy
failingshaveforgedawrath,aburninghatredinsidemystill
beatingheart.Iamonlysuitedforviolence;Ithriveinit.Beit
bybladeorfist,Ishalltearmyenemiesasunder,Ishallbreak
them.Ihavenochoiceinthis,Iwasnotdestinedforloveorbe
loved.Iwasdestinedtoinflictpain,andtokill.Ihavebeen
givenachoicethough,onwhomyvictimsshallbe.Ishallbe
themonsterontothemonsters,andIshallbetheshieldofthe
defenseless.
Imdisappointed,theMasterbegan,forye,whowas
prophesiedastheSwordofGod,areaweakling;theoldman
overratedyou.LordDurrantstaredathimmutely.
Kneel!TheMastercommanded,andLordDurrant
obeyed.
Ray,whatdowedo?Simonwhispereddesperately.I
studiedhisfaceforamoment,seeingtheutterfearinhiseyes.I
didnotsharehisfear.MeanwhiletheMasterdrewaceremonial
daggerandreadpassagesfromhistome,holdingthedaggerto
LordDurrantsthroat.
Runaway,IinstructedSimon.Warnthetown;get
everybodyawayfromhereasfastastheycango!Iinstructed.
Whatareyougoingtodo?Simonaskedfearfully.
220

Illholdhimoff;nowgo!Isaid.TheMasterthenslit
LordDurrantsthroat;hisbloodflowedintoapoolathisfeet,
untilhefinallydroppedtothefloor,dead.IprayedtoGod
undermybreath,andthendrankoftheevilpotion;themagic
bloodIhadstolen.
Myvisionturnedred,andtimebegantoslowinexorably.
IheardSimonsfootstepsasheran.Mybodygrewaliveasit
hadneverbeenbefore,andmysensessharpened.Myeyestook
inthefigureseverydetail,eveninthedarkofnight.Myears
heardSimonsfranticstridesandhisshrieksofalarm,even
thoughhewasalreadyfaraway.Mymusclestensed,andItook
adeepbreath.Ibouncedtomyfeet,filledwithoverwhelming
ragethatdrownedoutmyfears,drownedoutmythoughts,and
drownedoutmyveryhumanity.IacceptedwhatIam,andI
wasreadytodie.Washe?
Anotherone,theMastermused.Thatsallhemanaged
tosay,however.Irantowardshim,gainingimpossiblespeed.I
couldntseemyfeetastheymoved,couldntevenfeelthem,
butjustfeltthegroundflyingbeneathme.Ismashedintothe
smallerfigure,shoulderbuttinghim.Theforceoftheblowsent
himliterallyflyingaway.Hehittombstonesofstoneandwood,
breakingthem,thoughtheyhardlyslowedhistrajectory.He
thenhitatree,shatteringittopieces.Afewtreeslateranold
willowhadfinallystoppedhisflightwithaterriblecrushing
sound.MyshoulderhurtandIbreathedheavily.Thisburning
wrathbroughtmecomfort,itbroughtmestrength.Iwantedto
evisceratehim.Ifeltalivenowforthefirsttimeinmylife.No
fears,sureofpurposeIheldmyswordwithbothhands.
WalkinghastilytowardsthefallenformoftheMaster,Iwas
stunnedtoseehimrisingfromtheground.Hesmiledandthen
begantoshifthisshape.Doubtcreptintomyheart.WhoamI,
apitifulmortaltochallengethisinfernalmonster?Avoice
screamedinsidemyhead:"No!Donotfalternow,notnowyou
baby!Tearhimlimbfromlimb!

221

Istoodmotionless,mymindfillingwithindescribable
fear.Thisfear...hewasdoingthis,Irealized.Mymindreeled
andrecoiled,tryingtoassumecontrolagain.Beforemenow
stoodatoweringdemon,hisfleshareddishgray,onhisfacea
dogsmouthfilledwithfangs.Inonepowerfullyclawedhand
largerthanmyentirebodyheheldaflailmadeoflivingsnakes.
Forallintentsandpurposes,IbelievedIfacedtheDevilhimself
andIwaspetrifiedwithfear.Killhim!Mymindroared.
Heswunghiscoilingsnakeflailatme.Withnotimeto
think,Idodgedandrolledtotheside,lettinginstinctguideme.
Iaroseandswungwildlywithmysword.Hemovedawayfrom
mywildswing,kickingme.Hemissed,however,forIspunto
thesideandmovedclosertohim,stabbingathisextendedfoot.
Blood!Hecouldbleed,buthisbloodwasafieryacidthat
burnedmysword.Hethenstruckmewithhisotherhand,butI
didntevenregisterwheretheblowcamefromasIwassent
sprawlingtotheground.Mylefthipwastorn,andbloodcame
gushingfromcutmuscles.Blood,sweat,fearandrage;they
weremyguidinglightsasIlettheferalbeastwhichlurksin
everymanshearttakehold.
Madnessovertookme;Iroseup,supportingmyweight
mostlyonmyrightleg.Helaughedahollowlaughterthatfilled
mewithdread,whichwassoonmixedwithuncontrollablerage.
HeswunghissnakesatmeandIslicedthemwithtwosure
swings,waitingforhimtoadvance.Fullofrage,hedidso,
attackingwithhisclaws.Ianticipatedthemove,dodgedtothe
rightbeyondhisreachandthenchoppedhishandcleanlyoff.
TheblownearlypriedloosemygripontheswordasIbrokea
coupleoffingers.

222

Iwouldhavecontinuedfighting,butmyswordshattered
asIlandedanotherblow.Istaredforjustaninstantatthehilt
andthebrokenoffblade.Ivarstroublemaker,destroyed.An
instantlatertheDemonattacked,clawingatmychestand
inflictingfivegashingwoundsdownmytorso,whichfelledme.
Myfleshwastornandmyribsbroken;bloodwaseverywhere.I
wouldbedeadinonlyamatterofmoments.Thewholeworld
wasspinning.IhadbeengazingatthespinningstarsasIhit
theground.AsIclosedmyeyesinthesilentacceptanceofmy
demise,IwonderedifIwouldbeburiednexttomyparents,
buriednearby,or,morelikely,havemyremainseatenbythe
demon.Heloomedaboveme,laughing,andextendingahand
tograbme.TheworldfadedawayandImayhavebeenlifted
offtheground,forIfeltaslightasair,withchillywinds
surroundingme.Ilostallsensationofpainfollowedbythe
sensationofflesh,andthenthesensationoftimeandplace.I
sawmylifeflashingby,andwhatanemptylifeitseemedto
havebeen.Ivedonefewdeedstobeproudof;allmylifeIhad
spentinidleactivitieswhichamountedtonothingatall.
Drentwych,theDemon,andevenSimon,becamefleeting
imagesinmymind,partofalonglostmemory.Isawmy
motherhuggingmyfatherclosely,extendinganivoryhand
towardsme,shininginthepalelightofthemoon.
Itriedsohardtoflyintotheirembrace,seekingthe
solacethatachildcanfindonlyinamotherswarmarms.Iwas
alittleboyagainwhohadgottenlostinadarkandforeign
land.HowgladwasItohavefledhorridrealityandtohave
foundmyparentsagain;howthankfultohavecomehomeat
last.Notyet,Son.Youmustgoback,myfathersuddenly
commandedme.Ifeltmysoulbeingsuckedbackintomy
brokenfleshasifthehandofaTitanwaswhippingmebackto
life.Ididntwanttoreturn.Iwantedtostaywithmyparents,
evenifonlyamomentlonger,butthiswasnottobe.

223

Myfleshfeltalientome,torn,cold,andbleedingasI
openedmyeyestoseetheDemonreadytostepovermyface
andfinishthejobhehadbegun.Istaredathisfoot,the
instrumentofmydestruction.Icouldfeelmybrokenflesh
knittingtogetherasthedarkpotionrepairedthedamagehe
haddone.ThenSimonjumpedontheDemonsbackwith
nothingmorethanadagger;mydearfriendSimon,riskinghis
lifeandsoulwhenhecouldhavefledandsavedhimself.Simon
waschargingtheDemondespitehisfearandindefianceof
reason,inanefforttogivemeenoughtimetorecuperate.
Myragereturnedtenfoldaslifereenteredmyflesh.
SimonleftthedaggerlodgedintheDemonsbackandranlike
thewindawayfromhim.TheDemon,leavingmeforamore
challengingtarget,turnedandgavechase.Simonscreamedin
fearandIjumpedtomyfeetasunspeakableangerfilledevery
cornerofmybody.Soterriblewasmywraththattherewas
nothingbesideit.Alltheworldwasconsumedinmyfury;I
knewonlytheragethatwouldnotletgo.

224

IranbarehandedaftertheDemon;Ididntcareabout
myodds,orformulatingatactic.IheardSimonscreaminpain
astheDemonstruckhisleg,andmyragegrewimmensely.I
screamedasonlymonsterscan,andtheDemonturned;ina
splitsecondIwasuponhim.Ashesawmyhand,rushingtohis
face,clawingathiseyes,surprisegrippedhimandhe
momentarilyfailedtorespond.Myfingerstoreintohisface,
pluckingouthiseyes,tearingintohisskull.Ithenheavedwith
allmystrength,kickinghisformwithmyfoot.Itorehishead
fromhisbody,creatingasickeningsound.Beforethebodyfell
totheground,Ismashedtheskullandproceededtotearthe
Demonlimbfromlimb.Iwascompletelyconsumedinmy
thirstforblood;Itoreathimlikeamaddenedinstrumentof
death.HisfleshemittedacidandIburned,butIdidntcare,
andItoreathimuntiltherewasnothingleftbutapoolof
bloodandgore.Iscreamedinanguishandrageashisacidic
bloodburnedmyhandlikeathousandfiresboilingmyblood.I
roaredtotheheavens,heavingmybloodyarmstotheskyto
showGodmybloodywork,screaminginragelikeabeast.
Ray!Helpme,Ray!Simoncalled.Inoticedhis
existenceonlythen,asthebloodyhazeslowlylifted.Hewas
crying,bleedingfromhisfeet.
Ray,Icantfeelmylegs,helpme,Ray!Hecried.Ibent
tolifthimup.Hewasaslightasafeather.Iturnedtogotothe
Healer,whenIsawthetownspeoplestandingallaroundus,ata
safedistance,ofcourse.Likerodents,theysensedthedanger
wasover,theenemyvanquished,andmovedtocelebratethis
victory,asiftheyallhadahandinit.Theycheered,screamed,
whistled,whispered,andblessedusyetnoneofthem
approachedtoofferaid.

225

Someonehelpus!Icalled.Someonehelp!Irepeated.
Thentheworldspunaboutme.Isawthestars,andtheghosts
ofdeadpeople.Horridapparitionsghostlyimagesofrotted
corpses,sentshiversdownmyspine.Myeyesdarted
everywhereasIheldmyheadwithmygoodhandwhilea
piercingpainshotthroughit.Simonspleadsforaidechoedin
myears.Throughhalfclosedeyes,Isawmyparents.Theyheld
alantern,thenamomentlatertheyweregone.Thepiercing
painthrobbed,andImayhavescreamed,orperhapsitwas
someoneelse.Theworldwasspinning,andthenIsawthestars
asIfelltothegroundthestarswerethelastthingI
rememberbeforeunconsciousnessclaimedme.

226

227

CHAPTERXXIAftermath

Iwokeuponabed,andsprangupscreaming.Ihad
dreamedthatmybattlewiththeDemonstillragedon,andI
theloserateveryturntornanddismemberedrepeatedly.As
Isprangfromthebed,thepainsofmynightmaresechoedin
thepainsofmymortalinjuries,sothatIthoughtIwasstill
fightinghim.Handsgrabbedme,soothingvoicesspoketome,
butIroaredandjostledthemallaside;tometheywere
minionsholdingmeinplace,whilehe,theDemon,my
tormentor,heldacurvedsacrificialbladetomychest.Iroared
likeacorneredbeastandflungthemacrosstheroomwith
tremendousforce.
Raymond!Calmdown!Youresafe!Barnyyelledatme
fromacrosstheroom.Apparentlyhewasnthurt,andIfoundit
oddthatIhadmanagedtoflingthechubbymanacrossthe
room.
Werenotsafe,Icalledouturgently.Wehavetoget
away!IaddedasIinspectedmysurroundings.ApparentlyI
wasinthebarracks,surroundedbysoldiers,healers,andsome
ofthetownsfolk.
Wereallsafe,Barnyrepeated.
Ray?Simonaskedweaklyfromhisbedatmyside.
TheDemon!Simon,wehavetogetaway!Ishouted.
TheDemonsdead,Raymond,hesdead,yougothim,
Barnytoldme.Istaredathimindisbelief.
Dead?Iasked.
Dead,Barnyrepeated.
Besure,Ireplied.
Ray,youtorehimlimbfromlimb,thensteppedonthe
remains.InvisiblefirethentookhimtoHell,andthereaint
nothingbutscorchmarkswhereoncehestood.Barny
explained.
Yasuregothim!Anothersoldiercalled.
AllhailRaymond!Yetanotherapplauded,risinghis
handinsalute.SlayerofDemons,headded.
228

Ceaseyourvainboasts,youfools!Iroaredatthem.The
roomgrewsilent.Cantyousee;thedarknessisntgone!Tis
merelyarecess,andIabrokenvessel!Iroared.Iheard
laughterinmyears;intruth,itresembledthesoundofaman
gagging,butdefinitelywasanattemptatmirth.Isoughtout
thesourceofthelaughter,mygoodhandsearchingformy
brokensword.
Calmdown,myhero,Ingridsaidsoftly.Thedarkness
surelyisgone.Loandbehold,thedawnishere.Sheadded.My
eyesdartedtoher,stillhalfderanged,andastheyfocusedon
herangelicimage,myresolvebrokeandIcouldnotcontainmy
tears.Sheheldmyhandandbroughtmecomfort.Mylovefor
herburnedstill,inagony.Hergazetransformedintooneof
suffering,andshetriedtoreleaseherhandfrommygrasp.Ilet
goinstantly,forapparentlyIhadsqueezedtoohard.
Youresafe,dearesthero,shesaid,hidingherhurt
fingersbehindherbacksothatIwouldntsee.Andweareall
inyourinyourdebt,shecontinuedasshebowedtome.
Alas,mydear,donotbow,Ireplied.Please,Ishall
utternomoredarkwords,Iadded.Shebenttomycheekand
plantedakiss,herlipschillyandsoftagainstmyfeverishskin.
Thensheroseupandstoodbehindherfather,whoshowed
onlyworryforme.
LordDurrant?Iasked.Thesoldiersloweredtheir
headsandsaidnothing.
Helpmeup,Icommandedthenearestperson,andhe
complied.Isatdownandinspectedmyinjuriessilently.Myleft
armfromelbowtothetipsofmyfingerslayinheavybandages,
feelingasifitburnedstill.Mytorsoandhipwerelikewise
bandaged,andhurtjustasmuch.
Theysayamiraclesavedyou,IvarsaidasI
contemplatedmyinjuries.IgazedatIngridasiffromagreat
distance.
Whatdoeshemean?Iasked,addressinganother.
Theysayyourwoundshealedontheirown,Ingrid
offered.
229

Whoarethey?Iasked.
Thesoldiersthatcarriedyouhere,shesaid.
AndI,too,observedthemiraclewithmyveryeyes.
Whereonceorganslayexposed,yourfleshknittedtogetherand
reformed,Ivaradded.
Wesawyouwrestleandslayadiremonsterwithyour
barehands,calledoneofthesoldiers.
Aye,weallsawyourglory!Addedanotherasthey
cheeredandnoddedtheirapproval.
What,again,aboutmyinjuries?Iasked.
Thehealerssaidyouwereonlylightlywounded,
consideringwhatyouvebeenthrough,Ivarsaid.
Isee,Isaid.
Youllprobablylive.However,therewillbescars,a
healersaid.
Iunderstand,Ireplied.
Yourethetownshero,anotherexclaimed.
Idontcare,Ireplied.
What?Asoldierresponded,astonished.
Idontcareaboutthat,Ireplied.
Whataboutus?Ingridquietlyasked,andsuddenlyshe
seemedtomeasfragileasaflower.
Iminterriblepain,Ireplied.Nowisnotagoodtime
Isaiddismissively.Irememberedherfatherswords,and
determinednottoputhimtoshameyetagain.
Yes,dear,ofcourse!Shesaid,flushingred.Imso
sorry,sheadded,andfledawkwardly.Asifshehadincreased
mysufferingwithherwords.HowmuchIcaredforher.How
shehaschangedfromtheyoungbratthatshewastoa
compassionatewoman.HowIhavechangedfromayoungbrat,
toabitteryoungoldman.
Simon,wehavetogo,ourworkisntover,Istatedas
soonasshehadleft.
Icantwalk,Ray,Simonreplied.
Whatneedyedone?MyCommanderasked.
230

Arrestallthepriests.Theyareinvolvedinthisdark
deed,Ianswered.
Icantarrestallthepriests!TheBishopwillhaveour
headssurelymenofGodarenotresponsibleforthis,he
protested.
Igotup,seekingmybrokensword.Ifounditnexttothe
bed,grabbeditwithmyrighthand,andstartedwalking.Ivar
andsomeofthesoldiersfollowedclosebehindme.Ifirst
visitedthebattlefield,dearlyhopingtoseeaslaindemonthere
todispelthehorrorofmydreams.SadIwastoseethatno
demonlaythere,onlyapatchofblackenedgroundandsome
crustedhumanblood.Theinstrumentsofmagicwereallgone.
Wherehavethetoolsgone?Idemandedofthesoldiers
behindme.
Iknownothing!Isawnothing!Calledoutone,
defensively.Myangerburnedinsideofme,magnifiedbypain
andfueledbydespair;Ifeltcheated.HadIwonafightonlyto
losethewar?Iaskedmyself.Someonehadtohavetakenthe
artifacts.Iknewthatthepriestswereinvolvedandthatwestill
didntknowthetrueidentityofthisNecromancer.Meanwhile,
LordDurrantlaydeadandIchaseafterghosts.
Imgonnagetmesomeanswers,Isaidthrough
clenchedteeth.Followordisperseasyouseefit,Itoldthe
othersandwalkedroundtothechurch.Atleastthesoldiersall
followed.
Iprocrastinatedbeforeenteringthechurch.Mysword
wasshattered;allthatwasleftwasaquarterofabladeanda
nicelookinghilt.Mylefthandwasencasedinheavybandages,
asweremytorsoandfoot.Inshort,IlookedasbadasIfelt;my
personaloddsincombatwereslim,andIcountedonnoone
elseexceptperhapsIvar.Abruptly,Ihadenoughofthinking,
andIpushedthedoorsopenandsteppedinside.
Priestsrushedtome,blessedme,andcheeredmeon.
Theheadpriest,however,sawmybloodshoteyesandmy
menacinggaze.Hehurriedtogetaway,crossinghimselfasifI
weretheDevilhimself.
231

Halt!Icalledouttohimandpointedtheremnantsof
mybladeathim.Hepausedinmidstrideanddarednottake
anotherstep.Theroomgrewsilentaspenitentsandpriests
alikewatchedmeinablendoffearandadmiration.
Confess!Iordered.
Ivecommittednosinandshallnotbejudgedbythe
likesofyou,hereplied.Hetriedtosoundselfassuredbuthis
voicewasshaking.Ismelledhisfearandlovedthescentofit.
TheLordofHostsguidedmyhandanddeliveredme
fromtheinferno,Ibegan.
Amen!Thepriestsandsoldierscalled.
Confess!Icalled.
Begoneyoufool!Hereplied
IknowoftheDarkHand,andIknowofyoursins,I
bluffed.Theheadpriestinhaledandheldhisbreath,hiseyes
growingwide.
InvokingGodsgrace,Iofferyouthissinglechanceto
confessandrepentyoursinsIsaidortosidewiththe
DevilstillandpraythathishandstaysmineIaddedwitha
smile.Ortolie,ifyouthinktheDevilcanprotectyoufrom
me.Hetookthebait,andbegansweatinglikeahog.Hiseyes
dartedabout,takingintheaccusingstaresofhisparishioners
andpriests.
Illconfess!Illconfess!Herelented.
Awisechoice,Irepliedsternly,smilinginternallywith
abig,wide,andevilgrin.
MayIaskfortheprivacyoftheconfessionalbooth?He
requestedpolitely,sweatdrippingfromhisface.
Ofcourse,Irepliedandfollowedhim.Hewasbabbling
somethingtohimself,butIfailedtofocusonhiswhispersforI
wasmorepreoccupiedwithseeingtheinsideofaconfessional
boothforthefirsttime.HebeganwithashortLatinprayer
whileIwaitedforhimtoconfess.Therewassomethingvery
wrongwiththewayheprayed.ThoughIdidntknowthe
words,Ihadheardtheprayerbefore,andhiswasoddinaway
thatmademeshiftuncomfortablyinmyseat.
232

WhwheredoIstart?Heasked.
Startwithwhyyoudidit,Iinstructedcryptically.I
fearedhedcatchonthatIknewnodetails,soIremainedas
enigmaticasIcouldandlethimdothetalking.
Itsthosedamnedpaganswiththeirwitchcraft!He
exploded,asifthatexcusedeverything.
Explain,Iinstructed.
Thecommoners;theyresoignorantofthewaysofthe
devil.Theyreruledbywitchesandwarlocks,whogovernthem
withmagic.Theyseekhealingfromblasphemersanddevil
worshipinghags.WeItriedtosavetheirsouls,hesaidashe
attemptedtojustifyhisactions.
How?Iasked.
Ithoughtyoualreadyknew,hereplied.
Ido,butIwantyoutotellittomefromyourpointof
view,Icountered,oncemoresavingmyself.
Ithoughtitalesserevil.AsChristsufferedforthesins
ofothers,I,too,wasreadytogivemysoulandsuffer,sothat
theirswouldeventuallybesaved,heelaborated.
Whatdidyoudo?Iasked.
Itriedtopurchaseamiracle,hesaidflatly.
Goon,Iinstructed.
Amanapproachedme,SebastianofSpain.Heoffered
meabargain;afewwretchedlivesinexchangeforthepowerto
performmiracles,hesaid.
Andyoujustacceptedamanofyourstatureandin
yourstateofgrace?Iasked,bynomeansintendingtobe
cynical.
Heshowedmehowheheals;heevenraisedthedead
beforetheseveryeyes,likeChristdidforLazarus,whomhe
favored,hesaid.
SoyoutriedtobeChrist?Iasked.
Isntitwhatweallwant;tobelikehim,cleanofsinand
fullofgrace?Heasked.
Soyoukidnappedpeopleanddeliveredthemtohim?I
asked.
233

Ionlytookthedamned,wretchedcriminals,villains,
andwitches.TheywerealllosttoGodanyway,hesaid.
Onlythosethatdeservedtobedamned?Iquestioned.
Yes!Onlythosewhoweredamnedanyway,hesaid.
WhataboutCharlesPotter?Iasked.
Ogler.Hereplied.
Hestaredatwomen?Iinquired,notexactlysureifhe
didanythingfurtherthanstare.
Yes,ThePriestrepliedfirmly.
Richben?Iasked.
Youdontwanttoknowtheweightofthismanssins.
ThePriestrepliedproudly,asifoneheavysinnerfromabunch
ofminoronesjustifieshisownsins.
Alright,IbeganwithachallengeWhataboutthe
children?Jaunee,thestreetmusician.Bowieskids,andAdam,
sonofIvarthesmith.Iasked,sayingmyownnamewithout
flinching.
Herhairwasredshehadnosoultobeginwith,he
saidvenomously.Takingadeepbreath,hecontinuedhisturret
ofaccusations.Bowieschildrenareillegitimate.Hewasnever
properlymarried.Hischildrenarebastards,cursedbyGod,he
said.
AndAdam?Idaredinquire,toseeifhewasjustgiving
excusescoveringupforsomeonebehindthescenes,orifhe
hadactualknowledgeofeachofthevictims.
Wetooknopersonbythatname,thoughIhaveheard
Adamwasabullyandabrat.Hewillnotbemissed,hesaid,
andIwantedtopunchhisteethin.
Whatifyourewrong?IaskedWhatifyouve
condemnedinnocentpeopleevenchildren,toterriblefates,
justbecauseyoubelievetheydidsomethingwrong,orthey
shouldntexist?Ichallengedhim.
Nobodyisinnocent,Herepliedangrily.

234

Thatsright,Iagreed,andheseemedstunnedbymy
shiftofargument.Notevenyou,Iadded.Hewasaboutto
protest,butIwouldntlethim.Youkidnappedpeopleandsold
themtoslavery,forcrimeswhichwereconfessedtoyouin
hopesofpardonandguidance,Isaid,thenraisedmyvoice.
Youweresupposedtobetheirshepherd,helpingthem,but
insteadyouweretheirwolf,devouringthem.Nowtellme
youwhofancyjudgmentssowell,whatshouldbethepenalty
foronewhoconsortswithsorcerersandsellsinnocentsto
slavery?Iasked,andhecouldnotanswer.Hisfacewasred,
andhiseyesappearedasiftheydpopoutoftheirsocketsat
anytime.Hejuststaredmutelyatme.Itookadeepbreath,and
continuedtheinterrogation.
Howdothemonstersinthecatacombsfitintothe
picture?Iasked,asifnothinghadhappened.
Thiswaswhentheordealgotoutofhand,hebegan,
takingadeepbreath.AfterIclosedthedealwithSebastian,his
consortapproachedme;amanbythenameofAzimar.He
threatenedtoexposeme,hesaid.
Goon,Icommanded.Heansweredadifferent
questionthanIasked,butIdidnotreprimandhimforIwanted
toheareverythinghehadtosay.
IfIhadbeenexposed,Iwouldhavebeen
excommunicated,mysouldamnedandlostbeforeIhad
accomplishedmygoal,heexplained.
So,whatdidhewant?Iasked.
Mainlytoblackmailmeforfavors,hereplied.
Andthemeninthecatacombs?Iasked.
YouwouldnotbelievemeifItoldyou.Hesaid,andhis
eyestookonamaddenedstare.Idecidednottopressthe
subject,elsehedgoinsanebeforecompletinghisconfession.
So,whatoftheDarkHand?Iasked.
ElderoftheOldOnes,hestated,asifthestatement
clarifiedeverything.
Explain,Iordered.
Ithoughtyouknew,hereplied.
235

Idliketohearyourversion,Iretorted.
Longago,beforetheageofman,demonsroamedthe
earth.WecallthemtheOldOnes.Theoneyourefertoisan
ElderoftheOld,whichmakeshimacreatureofimmense
power,hesaid.Hiswordsamountedtoaloadofnonsense;the
samemaddenedargumentsIheardagain,manytimesinthe
futurewheninterrogatingHeretics.
Wherearethepeopleyoukidnapped?Iaskedsternly.
WiththeNecromancer,hereplied.
Where?Ipressed.
Hehasamansionoutsidethetown,hesaid.
Where,outside?Iasked.
Itshiddenbymagic;youcantseeit,hesaid.
Alldoorsshallopenbeforeme,Istated.Howdoyou
findit?Iasked.
Theyrealldeadanyway.Imsureofit,hecried
desperately.
Ihavetogetthereregardless,Ireplied.
TheNecromancer;hespowerfulbeyondyourwildest
dreams.HecommandstheHordesofHellasiftheywere
pawns,heexplained.
Nevertheless,Ineedtoknowhowtogettohim,I
persistedsternly,whileshakinginsidewithdread.
Youhavetodrinkthemagicpotion,andthensaythe
incantation,heexplained.
Givemethepotionandteachmetheincantation,I
commanded.
Yes,ofcourse,hereplied,andproceededtodojust
that.
YoudounderstandImeantnoharm.Imeantnoharm,
herepeateddesperately.
Idontcareaboutyourintentions;Iamnotyourjudge,
Ireplied.
Butyouvesmittenthedemonwithyourbarehands,
surelyChristguidesyou!Youmustjudgeme!Hesaidin
despair.
236

Whydoyouwantmetojudgeyou?Iasked.
BecauseIneedtoknow,hereplied.
Needtoknowwhat?Iasked.
NeedtoknowthatIservedGod;needtoknowthatHe,
atleast,understands,hepleaded.
IdonotpresumetoknowthemindofGodorhiswill,I
statedflatly.
Butyouvebeenblessed,hepersisted.
AndstillIknownothing,Imaintained.Hiseyes
becamemoredesperateasIrosetoleave.
Wait!Please!Amomentlonger,please,hebegged.
Verywell,ifIcanthaveGodsjudgmentIllsettleforyours,
hebegged.Rageburnedinmymind.Iwantedtoshovemy
handsthroughthewoodandtearhisheartoutforwhathedid
forwhathewasaskingfor,overandoveragain.Why
couldntheunderstandthatIwastryingtosavehimfrommy
ownwrath?
Verywell,Ishallgiveyouyourheartsdesireandmay
youburnwithit,Isaid.YoutriedtoplayGod,sacrificed
innocentmentoanagentoftheDevilinexchangefor
unearthlypowers,Isaid.
Yes,yes,heagreed,weeping.
Sobeyourownjudge;whatwouldyouhavesaidtoone
guiltyofthosecrimes?Iasked.
Ipleasehesobbeduncontrollably.
Mayyoudieahorribledeath!Isaidvenomously.May
yourSatanclaimandtormentyourworthlesssoul!Andmay
youthricebedamnedforforcingmetobeyourjudge,I
concluded.HisweepingtookhimtorealmsofmadnessasI
rosefrommyseatandleft.Theconfessiondooropenedbehind
me.
Killme,thedesperatevoiceoftheheadpriestcried.
Mayyoulivelongandsuffer,Irepliedwithoutturning
tofacehim.ThusIleftthechurch,contemplatingmynext
adversary,theNecromancer,andhisconsortAzimar
237

Iwasnofool.IknewbeyondadoubtthatIwasprobably
incapableofvanquishingtrueEviljustbecauseIhadsurviveda
gruesomeordeal.Whoeverthesesorcererswere,Iwascertain
theyknewtheirminionfailedandthattheirplanshadbeen
madeknown.Ihadtodeviseatactic,ifIweretovanquish
them.FromalltheevidenceIhadgathered,theywere
magicians,notmenofthesword.Ihadalreadydefeatedtheir
Demonandafewoftheirminions.Itwassafetoassumetheyd
betryingtocovertheirtracks.Abold,aggressivemoveonmy
partwouldsendthemintohiding.
AslongastheyreontherunIthought,whatever
planstheyhadforDrentwychwouldhavetoend.Thatismy
truegoal.
Killingthedemonhadgivenmyconfidenceinmyself.
ThatswhatIdbeenmissingallmylife;confidenceandasense
ofpurpose.
Thiswasthefirstdayofmylife.ThiswasthedayIhad
earnedtherighttobearaherosname.NotbecauseI
Succeededindoingsomethinggrand,butbecauseIdaredto,
andthatmadeallthedifference.

238

ThusIbecameknownasRaymondDemonSlayer,Hero
ofDrentwych.Icannotsaythatthetitlechangedanything
inside.Iwasnotmagicallyreforgedintoanewperson,oreven
abetterone.Icannotsayeverythinginlifeworkedoutforme
asIwouldhavehoped.Circumstance,tragedyandafewbad
choicesonmyparthadtheirroletoplayintheforgingofmy
fate.Idontcomplainthough.IgotwhatIwanted,ifnot
everythingthatIlongedfor.Ididlearnsomethingaboutheroes
though.Heroesareordinarypeople,whoendurethroughdire
circumstances,andperformactswhichmakeusquestion
humannatureinapositiveway.AHeroisnotwithoutfear;he
actsdespitefear.AHeroisnotwithoutvice;hechannelsitfor
positiveoutcome,asawarriorwhoridesaferociousbeast.We
allhavethepowertobeheroes.Allittakesisasparkofhope
andtenacityofspirit,totakethatfirststep,beyondwords
commonlyexpressedbythevastmajorityofmen.Weknowin
ourheartsaswewitnesswithoureyesthewrongsoftheworld:
AHeroisapersonwhorisesabovehisearthlyvicesanddoes
somethingaboutit.Itdoesnthavetobeagrandgesture.
Feedingastraycat,orstandinguptoabullyarebothheroic
actions,oneofgenerositytheotherofjustice.Asforyoumy
readers,Iwanttoinspireyoutobeheroesyourselves.Rise
aboveyourfears;conquertheobstaclesthatstandinyourpath.
Youareheroeswhenyoudaretofollowyourdreams,whenyou
dareandtrytomakethisworldabetterplace.Nevergiveup,
forthepathtosuccessisneverastraightarrowup,itisalong
andwindingroad,fullofobstacles,challengesandfailure.
RaymondofDrentwych

239

240

CHAPTERXXIIJaunee'sStory:TheMagician
Thefollowingdaythemagiciancameintomycelland
gavemefood.Itwasarichmealofcheese,wine,andsome
meatstew.OntheroadIdgottenusedtoeatinglittle,andsuch
alargeandvariedmealwaslikeatriptoheavenforme.Yes,I
hadactuallybeenachubbychildonceuponatimebeforeI
lefthome.
MynameisSebastianDelToro,MasterMagicianofthe
seconddegree.HesaidsoftlyafterIthankedhimforthemeal.
Jaunee,Irepliedwithasmile.Iwasgladtobealive
and,allthingsconsidered,Iwasbetteroffwithacrazy
magicianwhoactuallyfedmewellandtookcareofmethanI
waswiththePapainthecity.
No,no,no,heannounced.Inhereyouarespecial.
Everybodysgotnames,butyoualsogetanumber.Onlyspecial
peoplelikeyougetnumbers,heexplained.
Allright,Ireplied,notreallysureIunderstood.
YouareNumberThree,anditwouldpleasemeifyou
answertoyournumber,hecontinued.
Istilldontunderstand,Ireplied.
YounameisNumberThreenow,herepeatedsternly.
No!MynameisJaunee!Iinsisted.
Wemadeadeal.Igaveyoulifeandyoubelongtome
now,hepronouncedangrily.
Allright,Isurrendered,nowveryafraid.
Youwillneverrepeatyouroldname,ever,he
instructed.IshallrefertoyouasNumberThree,andyoushall
answertothatname.

241

Allright,Irepeated,butthencouldcontainmytears
nofurther.HeleftmetherewiththefoodInolongerdesired.I
wasntsurewhatwasworse,beinginservitudeorbeingrobbed
ofmyverynamemyidentityasalivingcreature.Iwasleft
alonethroughouttheday,withoutaflutetopassthetimeor
evenawindowfromwhichtogazeattheworld.Ispentthe
timesleepingorthinkingofwhatitmeanstobeaslaveandto
havenoname.
Slavery,thoughnotwidespreadwhereIcomefrom,did
nonethelessexist.Therewasacustomamongstthenobles;they
wouldsometimestraveltovillagesliketheoneIgrewupin,
seekoutprettywomenmostlyveryyoung,andbuythem
fromtheirfathersforlargesumswiththeunderstandingthat
theywouldbecomeservantsforlife.Thatwasthecommon,
dignifiedwaytoestablishslavery.Iknewthisbecausethose
sameesteemednoblemenwouldoftenvisitbrothelssuchasthe
oneIgrewupintotryout,train,orbreakintheirnew
purchases.Iwasnttoosureexactlywhatitwastheyweredoing
withthoseyoungwomen,orwhytheyneededtobuythemin
thefirstplace,butthenamestheyusedtorefertothese
women,andthewaythosewomencriedorscreamedatnight
paintedquiteavividpictureoftheirordeal.
Sotobeaslave,Iknew,wastobetreatedasanobject,
notaperson.Toaddtothat,thedenialofmynamemademe
thinkmysituationwasevenworse.Evenacatoradog,once
ownedbyamaster,hastheprivilegeofaname.NotI,though,
andIcouldntunderstandwhy.TherewasonethingIhad
learnedfromtheslavegirlsbackhome,though.Thosewho
wereobedientandpleasedtheirmasterssufferedless.Yetfor
thelifeofmeIcouldntfindthestrengthtosmileandact
perky,whendeepinside,Ijustwantedtodie.Itwasperhaps
fortunatethatatthatdaywhichheleftmebymyself,forIhad
suchfitsofweepingthatIcoulddonothingelse.

242

OnthethirddayofmycaptivityIhadputonmymask.I
greetedmymasterSebastianDelTorowithawidefrozensmile
uponmyface,asIhadseenmymotherdocountlesstimes
whenpatronsvisitedthebrothelthatwasmyhome.
Master,goodmorning,Isaid.
Ggoodmorning,NumberThree,hereplied,taken
backbymyoddmanners.Haveyousleptwell?Heasked,
tryingtobesocialobviouslysomethingwhichhewasnt
accustomedto.
No,Irepliedcasually.Hefumbledwithhiswordsafter
myunexpectedretort.
Iwantedtothankyou,Master,Ibegan,withawinning
smileplasteredonmyface.
Whatfor?Heasked,puzzled.
ForsavingmylifeIanswered,andforthiscomfy
bed,andfabulousfood,Iadded.
Youaremostwelcome,hereplied.Nowwhydontyou
returnthefavorandanswermyquestions?Headdedinstern
tones.Ilookedathimmutelyandnoddedmyconsent.Ihad
decidedtothrowhimabonesothathedleavemealone.
Whatcanyoudo?Heaskedsimply.
Imhungry,Ireplied.
Verywell,hesaidimpatiently.Illgiveyoubreakfast,
butonlyifyouanswermyquestionsafterwards.
Iwill,Isaidwithasmile,whichImeantthistime.It
seemedthatIcouldpullhisstringstosomeextentafterall.He
leftthen,andreturnedwithbreakfastanhourlater.Themeal
waswonderful,thoughIhavenoideawhatexactlyitwasthatI
ate.
Sotellme,hesaidassoonasIddoneeating.Itookmy
timewithmymeal,bytheway,asIsensedhiseagerness.I
reallywasademonchild,fartoocleverlikethesnakethat
atethefruitofknowledge,andassharpofthetongueasthe
Devilhimself,orsoIwastold.
Icanlightfires,Ibegan.
243

Whatelse?Heaskedmightypleasedwithhimselfnow
thatIdstartedtalking.
Iseethings,Isaid.
Whatkindsofthings?Heasked.
Lightsaroundpeople,whichchangecolorsometimes,I
said.
Auras,hesaidunderhisbreath,andthenIknewwhat
theywerecalled.Ineverhadtheprivilegebeforetotalktoa
magician.IhadtomakeupnamesforwhatIcoulddo.
Whatelse?Heasked.
Faeries,too,ifoneisaround,Isaid.
Faeries.Thatsodd,hesaid.
Anddeadpeopletoo,Iaddedcasually.
Youseeghosts?Heasked,nowveryalarmed.
Yes,Ireplied.
Canyoutalktothem?Heasked.
Yes,Ireplied.
Whatdotheytellyou?Heasked.
Theyusuallyaskmetodolittlethingsforthem,orask
mewhatsgoingonwhentheyreconfusedanddontknow
wheretheyare,Isaid.
Youspeakquitewellforonesoyoung,heobserved.
Thankyou.Iwastoldthatalldemonchildrenaretoo
smart,andthatitsthemarkoftheDevil,Isaid,shiftingthe
conversationinadifferentdirectionsinceIdidntwantto
discussmypowers.
Whotoldyouthat?Heasked.
Priests,andmyfather,Isaidinnocently.
Yourfathertoldyouthat?Whatelsedidhesay?He
asked.
Papasaidthatredhairedgirlswhoaretoosmartarethe
devilschildrenandthatIbelonginHell,Isaid.
Thatsterrible!Hesaid,hisaurashifting,perhapsto
oneofsympathy.
Hadhesufferedasimilarchildhood?Iwondered.
244

Healsosaidthatmakingfireisthedevilspower,I
added.
Yourenotademonschild,hestated.
No?Iasked,sincerelyhopingthemagicianhada
betterexplanationofmyoddqualities.
Youregifted,heexplained.Yourpowersaregifts,
whicharegiventoachosenfew.
Why?Iasked.
Manyreasons,hereplied.
Idontunderstand,Isaid.
Youshouldrestupabit.Illcomebacklater,andId
likeforustoexperimentwithyourgifts,hesaid.
Whatsexperiment?Iasked.
Weregoingtoplaywithyourgiftstoseewhatyou
cando,heexplained.
Hereturnedlaterthatdayandwestartedplayingwith
mygifts.Heletmetrytolightfires;firstoncandlesandthen
onbiggerthings.IwasquitesurprisedthatIwasevenableto
lightatorch.HekeptaskingmehowIdiditandwhatIfelt;I
triedtoanswerasbestIcould.Wehadtostopmanytimes,
though,forusingmymagichurtmealot.FirstIgotheadaches,
thenIbledfromthenose,andfinallyIfainted,andhadtorest.
Hetriedgivingmeallsortsofremedies,butnothingworked.
Makingmagicmademesick,andthatwasafact.Andsotime
passedtimethatIcouldnotmeasure.Weexperimentedand
thenhemadeeffortstomakemewell.Hedidnottryto
advancemymagicortoteachmeanythingnew.Onthe
contrary,hehidasmuchashecouldfrommeandfocusedthe
wholeofhiseffortsintoworkingouthowIpracticemymagic
withoutanyformalteaching.
Speakingtoghostsprovedeasierthanlightingfires.He
tookmeoutsidebythehand,andwesoughtoutaghost.Iwas
gladtobeoutside,andIknewbetterthantotrytorun.Atthis
point,asashamedasIamtoadmitit,Iwasquitefondofhim.
Hetreatedmewell,comparedtothewayIdbeentreatedthus
farbyothers.
245

Assoonaswefoundaghost,hewatchedintentlyasI
sparkedaconversationwithit.Ghostsarealwayseagertotalk
withthelivingworld;itisarelieffromthestateofconfusion
theyusuallysuffer.Istayawayfromthemaliciousones;thoseI
canusuallytellapartfromtheothersbecauseghostsemanate
theirfeelings.Thus,aghostwhoemanatesredrageandappears
asabloodymanwithswordwounds,isusuallyaghostoutfor
vengeance.IdidnoticeSebastiancouldtellwhenaghostwas
nearbybeforeIdid,forhisgriptensedandhisaurashiftedto
eagerness,whichInowcouldidentifyinhimwithease.
Wespentmanydayslikethis,exploringwhatIcould
andcouldnotdo.YethechangedandIdontknowwhat
causedthechangeinhim,butaftersometimethingsturnedfor
theworsebetweenus.Hecameonlytofeedme,andspoketo
mebriskly.Evenwhenhedidchatter,healwaysseemed
preoccupied.HeoncecommentedthatIwasflawed,andthat
theheadachesandfaintingmayneverpass.TodayIknowthat
hedidntactoutofcrueltyorboredom,butratherfrustration.
Hespentmuchofhistimeseekingacureformebutneglected
tocareformeasahumanbeing.Iwritethisnowsothatyoull
knowexactlywhatkindofmanhewas.Hewasacriminaltobe
sure,butnotwhollyevil.
Beingleftaloneforsolongmademelongfortheoutside
world,likeacagedbird.Myonlypastimesweresingingor
playingmusicbymyself.SoImadeupbothsadandhappy
songsaboutadventuresandtheoutsideworld.Isangof
handsomeprincesandfairmaidenslockedintowers.Idreamt
ofspreadingmywingsandflyingfarawaytoaplacewhereI
wouldbereallyloved.Whatelsecanacagedbirddobutsingof
freedomandthesightsandsoundsdeniedit?

246

AfterawhileIdiscoveredthattherewasamoment
betweenwakingandfallingasleepwhereitwaseasiestto
imagineandtravelwithmymind.SoIusedthismomentto
dreamofpassingthroughthewallsandflyinghighandfar
away.Unfortunately,duringthosekindofdreamsIonlysaw
shadesofgreyandIheardnosound.Isawthenmutetalesof
humanlife:romancesandtragediesofsimplefolk,thejoyous
birthofchildren,andthebittermourningofdemise.Idreamt
ofloverskissingandchildrenplayinginthefields,andina
forlornway,itmademehappyIwascomfortedbythefact
thatatleastsomechildrenareloved.Inmygamesofmake
believe,theyweremyfriendssoIgavethemnamesand
composedsongsforthem.
Thenshecameintomylife;themonster.
Sebastianopenedthedooroneday,andIgreetedhimas
Ialwaysdid,withafalsesmileplasteredonmyface.Unlikeall
hispreviousvisits,though,thistimesomeonetailedafterhim.
Ibroughtyouafriend,hesaidastookherbythehand
andpresentedhertome.ShewasslightlytallerthanI,with
mangledredhairandapalecomplexion.Thatiswhereour
similaritiesended.Shehadastockybuild,somewhatlikea
barrel,withtoomanybulgingmusclestobefeminine.Hertoo
largemonkeyhandsendedwithlongfingersandsharp,eagle
likesilvernailswhichfrightenedme.Hermouthsportedfour
fangsamidstothersharpteeth.Byallaccountsshewasa
monster,andtherewassomethingaboutherplayfulsmileand
shinyredaurathatfrightenedmetothecoreofmybeing.
NumberThree,hebegan.Idliketointroduceyouto
NumberFour.
Apleasuretomeetyou,NumberFoursaidinawkward
French.
Imadeherjustforyou,mycaptorsaid.
Idontunderstand,Ireplied.
Shemaynotbeasprettyasyou,butImsureyoullbe
greatfriends,hesaid.
YouthinkImpretty?Iasked.
247

Letsplay!Sheinterruptedbeforehecouldfumblewith
areply.
Illleaveyoutwoalone,Sebastiansaidashedeparted,
lockingthedoor.
Youresuchalittlething,aprettything,NumberFour
said,andItookastepbackwards,feelinglikeacorneredanimal
facingmypredator.
ComeandbemypetandmaybeIllbegoodtoyou,she
saidassheadvanced.MyeyesfilledwiththebloodtearsthatI
hadcriedeversinceIdrankhispotion.
Comecloser.Dontbescared,littlebird,shesaid,and
advanced,whileIsoughtwaystokeepusapart.
Allright,letsplaycutandchase,shesaid,and
advancedtowardsmequickly,cuttingmyhandwithhersharp
nailsasItriedtododgeoutofharmsway.IcriedasIbled,and
shelaughedgiddily.Myonlyconsolationwasthatshesoughtto
causemepainandmisery,notdeath.ForasIcried,bled,and
sufferedsheseemedpleased,butmadenomoreadvancesto
injuremefurther.Illspareyoutheexactgrimdetailsofour
game;justtrytoimagineacatplayingwithhisprey.
Attheendofourplaysession,whichseemedtolast
forever,sheleftmeonthefloorcryinginapanic,withbloodall
overtheroomIhadneverknownthatIhadsomuchblood
insideofme.
WhenSebastianfinallycameback,hestruckNumber
Foursfacehard,andsheinturnhissedathim,baringher
fangs,thensmiledasherlipsbled.Heseemedenragedmore
enragedthanIhadeverseenhim.InmyheartIprayedforher
death.Heliftedhishandandseemedtostrainandashedid
sosheroseintheair,asifaninvisiblehandhadgrabbedand
chokedher.

248

Youshallneverhissorchallengeme,NumberFour,lest
Ishowyouthehorrorsofmywrath,hesaid,andflungher
acrosstheroom,causingthewalltoshakeasshehitit,andmy
bedtobreakasshecrashedintoit.Hethenadvancedtowards
me,andIhuggedhisleginfear,horror,andrelief,weeping
uncontrollably.Withatouchhehealedmywoundsandsent
metosleep.
WhenIawokeIwasinadifferentroom,onewithahole
inthewallthroughwhichIcouldviewthecorridor.Iwasfed
largemealsandallowedplentyoftimetoresthere.Allthe
while,however,Idreadedthereturnofmynewfriend,
somethingwhicheventuallycametopass.Hergamesnowwere
slightlylesscruel,foritseemsshehadlearnedherlesson.Every
timeshecametoplaywithmefromthenon,sheknewbetter
thantoleaveanymarksofherabuse.
Asmylifeturnedtohell,Ispentmoreandmoretimefar
awayintheGreyworldofdreams.Ibeganlearningthe
languageofthatworldbyreadingthecreatureslips.Iwasalso
constantlyonthealertandeavesdroppedoneveryconversation
Iheardthroughtheholeinthewall,untilImanagedtofigure
outmoreandmoreofmycaptorslanguage.
Idiscoveredmanythingsthisway,includingthat
Sebastianhadperhapsanassociate,perhapsabrother.Inever
sawtheonewhooftenreferredtoSebastianasbrother,though
InoticedthatSebastiannevercalledhimthatinreturn.He
referredtohiminsteadasAzimar.Thenamesoundedalien
andoddtome.Idistinctivelyrememberaconversationwhich
tookplacenearthecorridoroneday,andwhichrelatestoyour
story,Raymond.Inthisconversation,thereweretwomore
individualswhomIdneverheardormetbefore.Onewasavery
loudandsinistersoundingindividual,theotherveryself
confidentonewitharaspingvoice.
Imtellingyou,accordingtotheprophecytheSwordof
Godishere,inthistown,saidtheraspingvoicedman.
Whatdoesitmeanforus?AskedSebastian.
249

Onlythatyouallneedtobeespeciallycarefulinorder
tosucceedatwhatyouintendtodo,theraspingmanreplied.
Whyareyouhelpingus?AskedAzimar.
BecauseIknowfullwellthatIllberewardedformy
helpwhenthetimecomes,themanreplied.
Idontbelieveyou!Roaredtheloudvoice.Nomortal
mancandefeatme!Headded.
Thatistheprophecy,repliedtheraspingvoicedman,
insimpleyetfirmtones.
Propheciesareforfools,theloudvoicereplied.
True,yetprecautionisneverfoolish,repliedthe
raspingvoiceman.Imarveledatthecontrolthismanasserted
overtheconversation.
Iagree,repliedSebastian.
AsdoI,repliedAzimar.Itisneverfoolishtobe
careful,headded.
Verywell,saidtheloudvoice.WhoisthisSwordof
God?Heasked.
Icouldalmostheartheraspingvoicedmansmile.This
iswheremypricecomesin,hesaid.
Talkordie!Theloudvoicesaid.
Killmeandyoullneverknow,repliedtherasping
voicedman,ascalmlyasever.
Thereisnoneedforsquabblingandviolence,said
Sebastian.
Nameyourprice,offeredAzimar.
Threethings,theraspingvoicedmanbegan.First,
youaretotransferallyourexperimentstothesouthquarters,
hesaid.
Why?AskedSebastian.Theraspingvoicedman
ignoredhim.
Second,oncemyprophecycomestrueandyourDemon
losetotheSwordofGod,noneofyoushallattempttoharmthe
Swordinanymanner,ever,theraspingmansaid.
IWILLNOTBEVANQUISHEDBYANYMORTAL
MAN,theloudvoiceroared.
250

Thenmysecondrequestshallbevoided,sincethere
willbenoSwordofGod,theraspingmanmused.
Whoisthisman?Demandedtheloudvoice.
Third,onceIrevealhisidentitynoneofyouaretoharm
meinanyway,directlyorindirectly,unlessIattackyoufirst.
Iamlosingpatience,repliedtheloudvoice.
First,youmustallpromisewhatIhaveinstructed,and
thendoasyoupromise,hereplied.
Ipromise,saidSebastian.
Ipromise,joinedAzimar.
Verywell,then,ifyourprophecyholdstrueandthe
SwordofGodslaysmyhostbody,Ishallnotengagehiminany
sortoffurthercombat,theloudvoicesaid.
Promise?Askedtheraspingvoicedman.
Ipromise,mortal!Nowtellmewhotheprophesied
SwordofGodis!Theloudvoiceroared.
HisnameisLordDurrant.Heisamasterswordsman
currentlyhereintown,theraspingvoicedmansaid.
Heishere?Demandedtheloudvoice.
Indeed,andinvestigatingyourexperiments,noless,
answeredtheraspingvoicedman.
Interesting,repliedAzimar.
Icantellyouhowtokillhim,saidtheraspingvoiced
man.
Ineednoaidinkillingamortalman,repliedtheloud
voice.
Hesnotanordinaryman,butyoureright,Ishant
argueforyourbenefit.Afterall,IwillgetwhatIdesireeither
way,theraspingvoicedmansaid.
Itwouldnthurttohearhimout,reasonedSebastian.
Fine,theloudvoicerelented.
Justwaitforhimtofindyou;heshallapproachyouon
thenightofthedead.Usewhateverpowersyoupossess
withoutengaginginphysicalcombatandyouwillprevailover
him,theraspingvoicedmaninstructed.
Howdoyouknowallofthis?AskedAzimar.
251

Imaprophet?Answeredtheraspingvoicedman,his
voicedrippingwithsmugness.
Soproveyourpowerstellmemyfuture,Azimar
said.
Howdidamanassmartasyouevercometopossess
realpower?Theraspingvoicedmanasked.
What?Azimarasked.
Hemeansthathecanjusttellyouagoodfabricationof
yourfuturefortellingfortunesisnosignoftruepower,
Sebastianexplained.
Verytrue,theraspingvoicedmansaid,quiteamused.
SoyouwanttoknowhowIcamebymypowers?
Azimaraskedangrily.Idiscoveredthesecretnamesandwords
ofpower,andIwasbraveenoughtousethem,andstrong
willedenoughtogetmyway,heexplained.
Verywelltheraspingvoicedmanbegan.
ImaynotbeassharpasyouorSebastian,butdont
presumethatImweak,anddonttakemeforafool.Icould
ruinyouwithaword,Azimarwarned.
Tellmeofmyexperiment,then,saidSebastian,
changingthesubject.
NumberThreeisyourwinner.Somedayshewilltake
uponherselftheroleyouhaveassignedherandmaketheworld
abetterplace;sheshallbeknownastheastheRedWitch.The
raspingvoicedmansaid,areplywhichstunnedme,andIguess
SebastianandAzimaraswell.
Andwhatisthepurposeofmyexperiments?Sebastian
asked,reassuringselfcontrol.
Youexploretheinnatemagicasexhibitedbyaselect
fewpeople.Theraspingvoicedmanreplied.
Towhatpurpose?Sebastianaskedfurther.
Tomakeagod.Theraspingvoicedmanreplied.
Youarenoprophet,Sebastianremarkedcasually.
Whatmakesyousaythat?Askedtheraspingvoiced
man.
252

Youobviouslyknowafewscattereddetails,yetyouare
somisleadonyourassessment.Sebastianreplieddryly.
Enlightenmethen,repliedtheraspingvoicedman
withasmirk.
First,thepurposeofmyexperimentsisnottomakeany
sortofgod.Numberthreeisnowinner,andshemeansnothing
moretomethanatestsubject.Sebastianlied.Iknewhimwell
enoughbynow,andIcouldheartheriseinhisvocalpitch
whenhewaslying.
Idontfollow,Repliedtheraspingvoicedman.
Foolishman!AnsweredSebastian,losingpatience.If
youhadanymeasureoftrueunderstandingoftheoccult,you
wouldhaveknownthatmagicisnogift.Itisacraftanart.A
dealmustbestruckwithanoutsideforce,lateritmustbe
studiedandpracticedtoperfection.Andyet,somepeopleare
bornwithsomeminorinnatemagicability.Meaning,theycan
useminormagicwithoutanysortofstudies,practiceanddeal
making.Sebastianexplained.
AndNumberThree?Theraspingvoicedmanasked.
Shesonlyuniqueinthesensethatshehasmorethan
onesuchinnateabilityandthereforeshemakesabettertest
subject,Sebastianexplained.
Sowhatsthefinalgoal?Askedtheraspingvoiced
man.
Tostudytheseinnateabilities.OnceIunderstandthem
fully,Ishouldbeabletoalchemicallypurifytheseabilities.
ThenIshouldbeabletocontrolwhogetsbornwithinnate
powers,andwhatkindofpowerstheyshallhave.Inthelong
runthisresearchmaycircumventtheneedtostrikebargains
withoutsideforces,andmayevenbenefithumanityina
numberofways.Sebastianexplained.Theraspingvoicedman
laughed.
Ijusttoldyoueverything,haventI?Sebastianasked.
Theraspingvoicedmankeptlaughing.Wellplayed!
Sebastianreplied,obviouslyamused.
253

Sohowdoyouknowanythingaboutmyexperiments?
DemandedSebastian,afterbeingsufficientlyinsultedbythe
raspingvoicedmanslaughter.
Arentyousupposedtobeagenius?Therasping
voicedmanasked,provokinghimfurther.
Icantbelieveyourebuyingintothis!Demandedthe
loudvoice.Surelythismanisatrickster.Isensenotouchof
thedivineabouthimhedoesntevenhaveasoul,headded.
Soyourdamagedsightmakesmywordsfalse?Asked
theraspingvoicedman.
Donottemptmypatience,repliedtheloudvoice.
MayIremindyouthatyoupromised,repliedthe
raspingvoicedman.Iheardthesoundofloudbreathing,which
Iassumedbelongedtotheloudvoice,becausehespokeno
more.
Answermyquestion!Sebastiandemanded.The
raspingvoicedmanbegantalkingwhenAzimarinterrupted.
Youthinkyouresosmart,cominginhereandplaying
thewiseprophet,callingusstupidandimagingthatyouhave
theupperhand,Azimarsaid.
Perhaps,theraspingvoicedmanreplied.
Icanplaythisgameaswell.Iknowmoreaboutyou
thanyouthink!Azimarsaid.
Ohyeah,likewhat?Theraspingvoicechallenged.
IknowthatthoseareArabicnumeralsonyourwrist,
whichmeansyouvebeentoArabiaorSpainandstudiedthe
secretsofalgebra,Azimarsaid.
Maybe,retortedtheraspingvoice.
AndIknowfromyouroddLatinvernacularandfrom
yourblondNorthmanlooksthatyoureprobablyaNorthern
scholarwhotraveledasfarasArabia,Azimaradded.
Letssayyoureright;nowwhat?Heasked.
Donttakemeforafool,Azimarwarned.
Ineversaidyouwereafool,theraspingvoicedman
replied.
254

Imaynotknowwhyyourehereorwhyyoupretendto
helpus,butIdoknowthis.IfeverIsomuchassuspectthat
youreworkingagainstus,Iwillrainhellfireonyou,Azimar
warned.
Ofcourse,andIshallcowerinfear.Theraspingvoiced
mansaid.
Iwillmakeyousuffertormentyouhavenevereven
dreamedof,andIllkeepyoualiveuntilImboredwithyou,
Azimaradded.
Ofcoutheraspingvoicedmanbegan.
AndIwillhelphim,freeofcharge,addedtheloud
voice.
Arewedonethreateningme?Askedtheraspingvoiced
man.Receivingnoreply,hecontinued,Mywordshallhold
true.YoujustkeepyourendofthedealandIllkeepmine,he
saidinsoftertones.
Wewill,repliedSebastiancalmly.Youmayleave,he
added.
Goodbye,saidtheraspingvoicedmanandleft.
Goodbye?Azimarrepeatedaftertheraspingvoicedmanhad
left,puzzled.
Godsbewithyou,explainedSebastian.
Whatanoddman,repliedAzimar.
Iknowthisman,oramanlikehim,repliedSebastian.
Wealllistenedcarefully.
AlongagowhenIwasseekingtreasuresinArabia,I
metayoungmanwhospokejustlikehim,Sebastiansaid.
And?Azimarasked.
Andhedestroyedsomethingprecioustome,Sebastian
replied.
Sowekillhim?AskedAzimar.
Yes,wekillhim,repliedSebastian.ButfirstIllgo
movemyexperiments,hejustmightberight.Theloudvoice
startedlaughing.
Whataboutourpromise?Theloudvoiceaskedafter
calmingdown.
255

JustmakesureyouslaythisSwordquicklyand
seeminglyeffortless,confirmingheisasimplemortalman.
Sebastiansaid.
Ifouresteemedprophetiswrong,weowehim
nothing,Azimaradded.

256

CHAPTERXXIIIJaunee's&Ray'sStoryComes
Together
First,Jaunee:
ItseemsIowemylifetotheraspingvoicedman,foran
earthquakestruckourhomeandmyroomwasoneofthefew
whichsurvivedrelativelyintactrelativelyheremeansthat
myroomwasnotcompletelydestroyed.Ittookmeafew
momentstorealizewhatwashappening,butbythenitwastoo
latetoseekshelter.IrememberhowhopelessIfeltasthe
mansioncollapsedandIwastrappedunderthedebris.
Ifaintedaspebbleshitmyheadwhentheybounced
fromthewalls.AsIwokeup,Ibeganbangingrepeatedlyona
stonewall,hopingbeyondhopethatsomehowIwouldbe
found.Iwashurt,maybebleeding,Icouldnttell.Ididntcare
aslongasIsurvive.ThedreadIfeltbeingentombedliveisa
feelingIcannotdescribe.Thehorrorofthesemomentsgave
strengthtomylimbs.Icouldntdie,notlikethis.Ihadtofight,
hadtostayalive.Iknowitdoesntmakesense,mylifebeing
thehorridlittlestorythatitwas,butIhad,letscallitfaith,
thatahandsomeprincewouldcome,likeinallthefairytales.
Idontknowhowmuchtimepassedinthismanner;you
cantreallyjudgetimewhenyoureburiedalive.Iremember
thatatthepointIwashalfdreaming,andhalfawake.My
fantasyofaprincetocomeovershadowingthebleakreality.My
princewouldcome,Itoldmyself,overandoveragain.Ijust
needtostayalive.
ItwasyouRaymond,thathadrescuedmeofcourse.
WhenIfirstfelttherocksmoveandheardfaintsounds,Iwas
uncertainifthiswasadreamorreality.ButforthelifeofmeI
bangedharderthanever,andithurtsomuch.Ikepttelling
myselfoverandoveragain,myhandsomeprincehadcome,
heshere.Iwontdiealone,Iwouldlive,happilyeverafter.

257

Imhere!Imhere!Alive!Alive!Here!Iscreamedin
FrenchasIheardthefootstepsdrawnear.Ihadbreathedintoo
muchdustandbegangaggingonit.Thenrocksmovedand
dustflewacrosstheroomasamanheavedthedebrisawaywith
thestrengthofHercules.
Youwereagiantofaman,yetsomewhatthin.Yourleft
handandwaistwerebandaged,butthatdidnotslowyouone
bit.Thedustmademyeyeswater,butIcouldstillmakeout
yourdarkimage,illuminatedbytorchlightshiningbehindyou.
Myhandsomeprincehadcome,Ithought.Itwasyou,Ray,it
wasalwaysyou.Irememberhowyouthrewtherocksawaylike
theywerenothing.Thencarriedmetosafetysaying,
everythingzgonnabeallright.Juststaydown,yursafenow,I
wontletanythingbadhappentoyou,Yousaid,inyour
somewhatbrokenspeech.Ifoundthewayyoufumbledwith
thewordscharminginagoofykindofway,makingyouseem
evermoreperfectbecauseyouwerehuman.Isleptsafelyin
yourarms
MyHandsomePrincehadcome.Oh,mylove,my
champion.IvowedinmyheartthenthatIwouldloveyou
forever.

258

CHAPTERXXIVRay'sStoryContinues
DearDiary,thisisRaymond.
Jauneecontributedafewentriestomyjournal,though,
honoringherrequest,Ihavenotreadthemasofyet.Itsbeena
weeksinceshecametolivewithme.Unfortunately,asfate
wouldhaveit,duringthistimeIwasawayonbusiness.Forthe
firsttimeinalongwhile,though,Iwaseagertocomehome.
Thereisacertainundeniablejoyinknowingsomeoneoutthere
iswaitingforyouwhenyoucomehome.Ihavebeenlonely
withouther,Icanadmitasmuch.Ifanythingisevertohappen
toher,IdontknowwhatIlldowithmyself.
Yesterdayasshesatnearthecomputertyping,Istrolled
roundandroundthehouse,asIoftendowhenImdeepin
thought.EverywhereIwalkedIfoundevidenceofherpresence.
Itwaslikethechangingoftheseasonsfromwintertospring;
everythingseemedatadbrighterandfulloflife.Iwaspassing
mytimeincontemplation,asIoftendo,whenayoung,French
accented,Alldone!Wokemefrommythoughts.
Evening,Jaunee,ItoldherasifIwasSherlockandhad
justdiscoveredanewclue.
Evening,Ray,shesaidcheerfully,andsmiled
graciously,asmilethatonlyhintedmoresurelyatherguilt.
Iseeyouvehadalotofsparetime,Isaidinanamused
tone.
Some,why?Sherepliedinaninnocenttone.
Well,apparentlyyouvemanagedinonlyaweektogain
theattentionofeachandeveryoneofmysecuritypersonnel.
TheyjustgreetedmewithaLuckydog!WhenIaskedthem
whatwasnew.Notonlyaretheyallinlovewithyou,butit
seemsthattheyvegottenusedtoyourcookingandare
reluctanttocookforthemselvesanymoreImock
complained.Jauneegiggled.
Well,whatcanIsayImirresistibletomenin
uniformandIliketocook,sheoffered.
259

Andsomehowyouveconvincedthemalltocleaneach
andeveryspotofthehousebecausedustmakesyousneeze,I
continued,exposinghercrimes.
Andwhatswrongwithhavingacleanhouse?She
replied,andthensmiledinnocently.
Icleaneveryweek,Ireplieddefensively.
Ifitsdusty,itsnotclean,shereplied.
Soyouverearrangedallthefurniture?Itriedonce
more.
Yes,maximizingworkspace,efficiency,andstufflike
that,sheoffered,usingtermsIwouldusewhenrearranging
furniture.
Besides,itlooksmuchbetternow,sheaddedwitha
winning,milliondollarsmile.Iwouldhavesaidsomething
sooner,butfranklyIloveawomanstoucharoundmyhouse
andIhadnointentionofdiscouragingherefforts.Butshelikes
itwhenImabitgoofy.
Well,eh,okthen,IsaidasIloweredmygazewitha
defeatedsmile,playingthegamewehadsooftenplayed.She
bouncedfromherchairandkissedmycheek,makingmock
housepeace.
ThewayIseeit,youshouldbethankingmeforcooking
andcleaningforyou,shesaid.
Thankyou,dearest,Isaidindefeatedtones.
So,youwantareadmarathonorwhat?Sheasked
cheerfully.
Sure,Ireplied.
Wait,wheredidyoustopyourwriting?Sheasked.
RightaftertheDemonfight,Ireplied.
Well,Istoppedafteryouwereshotbythatbolt,she
replied.
Right,Ireplied,rememberingfullywellthatdreadful
day.
Iwantyoutogettothesamepointbeforeweswitch,
sheasked.
Verywell,Ireplied,andgottowriting.
260

Thetimeisnearlyathousandyearsago,rightafterI
foundthemissingpeopleonLordDurrantslist.Theplaceis
Drentwych.Foraboutamonthorsononeofusleftourbeds,
recoveringfromourinjuries.Iwasntdoingsowell,foryousee,
ImayhavedefeatedtheDemononthephysicallevel,butinmy
mindhelingeredstill.WheneverIclosedmyeyesandsoughta
restfulstate,thenightmaresbegan,alwaysaccompaniedbya
dreadfulchillthatseemedtoemanatefrommybones.
IneachnightmareIwasonceagainontheterrible
battlefieldinDrentwychscemetery.IfeltthesandasIlaidon
theground,andthecoldnesswhichpenetratedtothebone.I
feltthenightairchillmyface.Ievenremembertheexpression
etchedonSimonsfaceashelaynexttome.Yettheeventsin
mydreamsalwaysunfoldedinadifferentmanner;aneven
morehorrificalternativetothealreadydreadfulcombat.
InoneversionitwasIwhowascompelledbythe
Demonspowerandsacrificedbyhisblade.Thefeelingwasso
terribleandrealthatuponawaking,screaming,Igrabbedonto
myslitthroattryingtostopthegushingblood,onlytorealize
thatithadbeenbutanightmare.InanotherversionIhadlost
theconfrontationwiththeDemon,whoproceededtotearme
limbfromlimb.Ididntdieinstantly,andthefeelingwasmore
realthanrealityitself.OnceagainIwokescreaminginagony,
onlyafterfinaldeathshouldhaveoccurred.Inyetanother
versionIhadwonthefight,onlytobeeatenalivebytheacid
whichwastheDemonsblood.Thiswasthemostterrible
versionofthenightmare,notbecauseoftheagonizingpainI
feltatthisslow,torturousdeath,butbecauseinthisversion,I
actuallythoughtIhadwon,onlytoberobbedofmyvictoryby
thisslowdeath.
SorealwerethesenightmaresthatafterawhileI
dreadedfallingasleepandwouldstayawakefordaysuntil
fatiguefinallyovercameme.Itwasntlonguntilmadness
claimedme,andIcouldnolongertelldreamingandwaking
hoursapart.Itwaslikelivingthenightmare,onlytoawakeand
discoverinhorrorthatIwasstilldreaming.
261

ThehealersfearedthatwewouldbothdieSimonand
I,afactthathadnothinderedthetownscelebrationofour
triumphoverthedemon.IamashamedtoadmitthatIwould
havetakenmyownlifeifitwerenotforthevigilantcareofmy
healers.ForIwasbrokenandsoughtmeanstoescapethe
nightmare,evenatthecostofmyimmortalsoul.
Idonotrememberclearly,butIdobelieveIwastold
thatRichardtheChevalierwiththegoldcrosswhohad
boughtmystory,hadcometoseemeoneday,andthatbothI
andSimonrecoveredmiraculouslyinthedaysthatfollowed.
Regardlessofthecause,Iwasgratefulforthereprievefromthe
nightmares.
AssoonasIhadregainedasemblanceofsanityand
begantowalkoutside,Iwasgreetedfondlybythetownsfolk.
Simoncouldnotyetwalkmorethanafewstepsandrelied
heavilyonhiscane.Weweresuddenlysowelllovedbythe
peopleofDrentwychthattheyheldasecondcelebrationin
honorofourrecovery.BothSimonandIwerereluctantto
attendthecelebrationatfirst,buteventuallyagreedtocome.
Duringtheheightoftheevent,theMayorvery
enthusiasticallyannounced,Listen!IntheyearofourLordone
thousandandeighteen,theLordsoftheLandcalluponthe
heroesofDrentwych,MasterRaymondBrooksandMaster
SimonRoads,tograntthemtheirduehonorintheFortressof
WistHill.

262

Thecrowdcheered,andevenIcouldnthelpbutsmile.
BeingcalledtoWistHillunderthesecircumstancesmeant
morethanjustbeinghonored.ItmeantrecognitionbyPrince
Adwenandhislords.Idaredevenhopetheydmakemealord,
andthusIwouldbeacommonernolonger.Icoulddosomuch
asalord.Icouldhuntthescumoftheearthfreely,andmake
Drentwychabetterplace.Icouldeasilythenaffordmyown
hovel,perhapsevenalargerhouse.Iwouldhavethesethings:
honor,recognition,wealthandpower.SurelythenIvarwould
begladtomarryoffhisdaughtertooneasdignifiedasI.Once
shewasmine,Idmakesureshedlackfornothinginlife;Ivar,
too,wouldlivehisremainingyearsinluxury.
Ahollowlaughterinmyheadremindedmethatlife
wasntsoeasy;theDemonwasheretostay.Theirclapsand
cheerstookonadarkerhueinmyeyes.Howcouldtheyrejoice,
Iwondered,whentheshadowofdeathsoclearlywalked
amongstthem?Onlyamonthago,ademoncasthisinfernal
magic,righthereintown,aneventwhichcouldhaveturned
intoamuchgreatertragedy.Nooneissafe,Irealized.NotI,
notmyfriendsandlovedones;notanybody.Weareall
doomed,victimsofthisinvisibleenemy.Icantsayanythingto
them,itwouldonlyspreadpanic.TheDemon,though,isstill
aliveinsidemyhead,andheneverrests.Ifledinthemiddleof
thecelebrationjustastheMayoraskedmetogiveaspeech.
Leavemebe!WasallIsaid,assomemenchasedafter
metofindoutwhatcausedmyflight.TheMayorquickly
recovered,andtoassurethemurmuringpeasantshemadeup
thisorthatexplanationformyabsence.Ihidinanalleyfora
fewminutesuntilIrecollectedmythoughtswellenoughto
blockoutthesoundoftheDemonshorriblelaughter.The
messengerwasquicktofindmeassoonasIleftthealley.He
eyedmeasifIwasderanged,andperhapshewasright.
Areyouallright?Heasked,acertainpityinhisvoice.
Aye,Isaidandbreatheddeeply.Ithasbeenahard
recoverysincemyfightIbegan.
Certainly,theresnoneedtoexplain,heanswered.
263

AndImafraidImstillnotatpeakhealth,Iadded.
Ofcourse,ofcourse,hereplied.
Yes,thankyou,Isaidandtookadeepbreath.
Pleasetellwhoeversentyou,Isaidandhefrowned.I
musthaveviolatedsomeruleofetiquette.Ismiledin
embarrassment.
PleasetellhisEsteemedMajestythePrince,Icorrected
myself.ThatIamhonoredtobeinvitedtotheFortressofWist
Hill,Iadded.
Ofcourse!Herepliedwithasmile.
Howfaresyourarm,bytheway?Heasked,glancingat
myleftarmwhichwasstillwrappedinbandages.
It'smuchbetternow.Thewoundshaveclosed,only
scarsremain,thoughsometimesIfeelpain,Irepliedhonestly.
Verywell,acarriageshallawaitbothyouandMaster
Simontomorrowmorning,hereplied.
Farewell,headded,andthenbowedlowandleft.

264

Beforemydeparturenumeroustownsfolkcametovisit
me.Manyofthemgavemegifts,andallspokewarmwords.
Simonseemedabitenvious,fortheloveofthepeopleseemed
tobefocusedonme.Iwastheirgrandhero,theslayerofa
demon,whilehewasanexthiefasidekick.Ifeltitwasnt
fair;SimonhadriskedhislifejustasmuchasIhad,andhed
gottheshortendofthestick,almostnoneoftheglory,andhad
sufferedgreaterinjuriesthanI.Imayhavebecomescarredand
uglybuthewasthat,andhandicappedtoboot.WheneverIsaid
awordonbehalfofSimon,peoplejustregardedmeitasmy
modesty,whichwasannoying,butitmademerealizeasimple
truthaboutpeople.Peoplewanttoseethingsacertainway;
greaterthanlifeheroes;theworldpaintedinblackandwhite,
andtheywontletasimplethingliketruthgetintheirway.
NobodyreallywantstoknowmeorhearwhatIhadtosay.
TheywantedtheirownshinyHero,toweringabovethem,
shieldingthemfromthehorrorsbeyondandthatswhythey
gavemegiftsandspokehighlyofme.Theymadeupafalseme,
andworshipedhim,tryingdesperatelytomakemefitmysmall
feetintohishugeshoes.
Thegypsiesgavemeagreensapphirenecklacewhich
theysaidwasmagicalandwouldprotectmefromtherestless
dead.Sometownsfolkgavemechickens,clothes,andother
suchmundanethings.IvarcamewithIngrid,carryingfancy
armorcalledLoricaSegmentata;RomanLegionnairesarmor.It
featuredsilverandgoldengravingsofadragonandalion.It
wasmagnificent,andIvarsmiledbroadlyashepresentedthis
armortome.Itwaspriceless;aperfectlymadeartifact.
IveworkedonthiseversincetheGreatBattle,son,he
said.
Itsmagnificent,surelyyourfinestwork!Ireplied.
Itsyours,Ad...er,Raymond,hereplied.
Itstoomuch,surelyitsarmorworthyofaking,I
replied.

265

Indeeditis,andyoudeserveit,hesaidandscratched
hisbeard.WhatyoudidrivalsthegloryofBeowulf,hesaid.
Beowulfwasthegreatestheroofhispeople,andthis
complimentmeantagreatdealcomingfromhim,forthiswas
notsomethingwhichissaidlightlyoratallbyhispeople.
SurelyIIbegan.
Isawit,IvarrepliedIwillhearnodenialofyourglory,
Odinblessedyourhandsandyoutorethedemonapart,he
added.Ibowedmyheadandofferednofurtherargument.
Youmaynowmarrymydaughterwithmyblessing,he
saidsuddenlyafteranoddpause.ForamomentIwasthrilled,
fornowallmydreamsseemedtohavecometrue.Ienvisioned
ourwedding,andhowbeautifulshedlookdressedasabride.
Yetsomethingwasterriblywrongwithmyimaginedpicture.
Insteadofarabbiorapriest,stoodtheDemonGreyrobed,
readingfromhisinfernaltome,askingme:
Doyou,Adamthewretched,takeIngridthemiserable
tobeyourbride?Toloveherasyoutwogrowsick,wither,and
die?Heaskedandlaughedthatterriblelaughterofhis.
No!Ireplied
What?Ivarprotestedindisbelief.
Raymond?Ingridasked.
Icannotmarryyourdaughter,ItoldIvar.
Imsorry,Ingrid,ItoldIngridempatheticallyasIfelt
myeyesturnred.
Yousoughtherhandforsolongandnowshesnotgood
enough?Ivaryelled.
No!Youdontunderstand!Iprotested.
Thereisnoendtoyourdishonorvillain,hesaid
darkly.
Letmeexplain!Iprotestedraisingmyvoice.Damn
you,oldman,letmespeak!
Speak,hesaidasIngridwept.Heheldherfiercelyby
thehandandwouldnotletherflee.Ifeltsosorryforher
andformyself.Shehadsufferedsomuchdegradationforloving
meandI,intheendcouldnotrewardherlove.
266

Iamnotwell,Ibegan.Iaminjured.Somewoundsare
oftheflesh,butothersareofthemind,andmayneverheal,I
explained.
Youseethebattleinyourhead,dontyou?Ivarasked,
inmoreempathictones.
Andhearit,andfeelit.EverytimeIclosemyeyes,I
said.Ithauntsme,Iaddedandcouldcontainthetearsno
longer.
Mypoorboy,hesaidsoftly.Ihaveseenthisinmany
warriorswhosemindslaybrokenafterabattle,heexplained.I
weptsoftly.
IwillnothaveIngrid,mylove,suffertheremainderof
heryearsnexttoacrippled,uglyhusbandwhocannotsleepat
nightwithoutwakingupscreaming,Isaid.TheDemon
laughedtriumphantlyinmyhead.
Iwillgladlydoso,Ingridreplied.
ButIwillnothaveit!Iansweredmoreharshly.Itis
mywishthatyoufindadecenthusbandfromyourpeoplewho
willbegoodtoyouandmakeyourfatherproud,Isaid.
Youareaheroamongstheroes,Ivarsaid.Andthereis
nomanworthierofmyarmor,headded.
Iloveyou,Raymond,Ingridsaidandkissedmycheek.
Pleasego,Icannotbeartobearoundyou,Ireplied.
IvartookIngridbythehandandturnedtoleave.Hehadthis
lookinhiseyes,thisproudlookIneverthoughtIdseedirected
atme.Shehoweverwasingreatturmoil,andthedistresswas
veryevidentinherexpression.Hereyeswerehaunting,
mirroringmyownsuffering.Astheycrossedthethresholdof
thedoorIngridsaidtoIvarMayI?Father,andhenodded
slightly,approving.Ivarkeptonwalking,andthesoundofhis
stepswereasthedrumsofwarforIngridsapproach.Shewasa
fighter,justlikeherfather,andshehadnointentionofgiving
upwithoutafight.Iwantedtolosesobadlyinthisfight,but
theDemonsbreathinmyearremindedmethatthepriceof
loveisterribletragedy.
267

IngridIIbegan,andIngriduncharacteristically
interruptedasawarriorraisingaswordforawildswing.
No!ShebeganIknowaboutthebargainyoumade
withmyfather.Iknowheforcedyourhand.Shesaidand
stoodabovemybed,scratchingherfingersindistress,though
shetriedtoappearcomposedandresolved.Shetookadeep
breath,hereyesdartingeverywhereashermindcomposedthe
wordsthathurtmesointhehearingofthem.
Dontbotherdenyingit,Iknow.Ivealwaysknown,
ShebeganagainasIinhaled,wantingtosaysomethingmyself.
AndIunderstand.ThatswhatImtryingtotellyou;I
understand.Ialwayshave.Youfeelashamedbecausehedenied
youyourgenuineaffectiontowardsmeforsolong,onlyto
changehismindwhenyouprovedyourworth,asIknewyou
wouldalways.Shesaid,andchokedthesobsthatsought
release.SheforcedherselftobethestronggirltheSaxon
born.
Ingrid,IItriedtobeginagain;toexplain;toconfess,
totellthetruth.Butsheshushedmewithagesture.
LetmefinishwhatIstarted,Shebeggedkindly,andI
noddedmyconsenteversoslightly,closingmymouth.Thats
whyIneverhelditagainstyou,Iknewitwashim.ButIwant
youtolookpastthat,swallowyourwoundedprideandlookto
thefutureourfuture.Shesaid,andtheDemonlaughedin
myhead.Isawinmymindusgettingmarried,andtheDemon
insteadofaPriestjoiningusinterriblematrimony,thevowsall
wrong.Iblockedoutthesightandforcedmyselftopay
attentiontoher.
Healthy,andwouldbareyoumanygoodandstrong
children,Shesaid.Icomefromnobleblood,andwedont
havetoliveinpovertyinthesmithy,shesaid,listingherperks
asifmyrejectionofherhasanythingtodowithgreedordesire
foroffspring.
Enough,Isaid,asIcouldhearitnolonger.

268

Iwillbeagoodandobedientwifetoyou,sheadded,
hertonebecomingdesperateasshesensedrejectioncoming
again.
Enough!Icried.
Iwillbeloyal!Sheraisedhervoicedesperately.
Nomore!Iwept.
ButAdam,Iloveyou!Ialwayshave.Sheadded,
sobbingterribly.
AsIloveyou,mydearIngrid,andalwayswill.Isaid,
andshemovedtoembraceme,bymyfaultmistakingmywords
foracceptance.Oh,howtheDemonlaughedandenjoyedthe
unfoldingofourtragedy.Iignoredhim;therewouldbetimeto
dedicatemyselftohisdestructionlater.Itriedtopushherfrom
meeversogently,butshewouldnotletgo.
No!No!No!No!Sherepeated,cryinginpanic.Donot
discardme,shebegged.IsurrenderedforIhadnomore
strengthinmetofight,tohurtmylovedones,thoughIknewI
must.Shecuddledlikeachildinmyembrace,andIcombed
herhairasIspoke.
Ingrid,listentome.Ihavetotellyou.Ihavetotell
somebody.Ineedyoutolisten,Iaskedher,sorrowchokingme
asmymindformulatedthewordsthatmightcondemnme.
TheDemonwhichIfoughtisstillalive,Isaid.Hereyes
widenedinalarmathearingthesewords.Isinsidemyhead
tauntingme,andIvecometosuspectImnotitsfirstvictim,I
confessed.
Illstandbyyou!Shesaid,afterasmallstrugglewith
herselfWellfightittogether,anddieforoneanotherifneed
be,sheoffered.Ipromise!Iwontfalter.ThoughIma
woman,ImalsoSaxon.Iwontfailyou,sheadded.
Youcantfightit,mylove,Isaid,andshekissedmy
lipstothesoundofmyloveexpressed.Herkisswassoft,yet
bitterfromourtears,muchlikeourlove.Itwasararecomfort
inanoceanofmisery.

269

Itsinsidemyhead,andIhavetofigureoutawayto
banishittohell,elseIsuspectIllenduplikethemadpriest,I
said,andithadnowjustoccurredtome.Itwassoverylikely
themadpriestwashispreviousvictim,howdidntIseeit
before!
Alright,Iunderstand,Ingridsaidandshekissedmy
cheek.Youhavetogotowar,andIwillwaitforyou,she
added.
Yes!Iagreedwithallmyheartandsoul.Whenhes
vanquished,Ishallreturn,weshallwed,andIpromiseyou;I
shallbeagoodhusbandtoyou.Iwillalwaysprotectyou,and
respectyou.Illworkhard,andyoullhavenowantinlife.I
promise!Ioffered.Wekissed,exchangingourvowsandfora
fewmomentsIknewpurebliss.Ifellasleepcuddlingher.With
firstlightsheleft,assilentasspringwind,takingwithher
whatevermeasureofjoyIdaredfeelinherpresence.Onething
remainedthough.Ihadhope.Ihadhopeforabettertomorrow.
Ihadsomethingtofightfor,somethinggreaterthanmyown
life.
Weregonnabeallright,arentwe?Simonaskedwhen
hewokeup.Ihadpracticallyignoredhispresenceuptillnow.I
feltsoashamedthathehadtoseemeinmymomentof
weakness,andwasgratefulthathepretendedtobeasleep
whentenderwordswereexpressed.
Yeah,wellbefine,Simon,Isaid.
So,theSmithsdaughter,eh?Heaskedboldly.
Idontwanttodiscussit,Irepliedflatly.
Werefriends,arentwe?Savedeachotherslivesand
all?Hesaid.
Bethatasitmay,Idonotwishtodiscussit,nor
anythingelsethatwassaidinconfidenceIsaidinfirmtones.

270

Sotodaysthebigday,isntit?Heaskedinlighttones,
suddenlychangingthetopic.Iunderstoodwellenoughthathe
wantedtotalk,butnotwhy.Ijustwantedtobeleftalonetomy
misery,toplanawarIcouldnotwin,againstanadversarywho
playedbynorules.Simonhowever,whenfeelingmiserable,
soughtthecompanyoffriends,evenoneaslousyasI.
Yeah,Ireplied.
Anhourlaterthesunshonebrighter,andthechildren
playedmerrilyoutside.Likeaworldafteragreatstorm,all
seemedtobloomwithnewlife.Thearmedchevalierssaluted
meandSimonaswemountedthecarriagethatwouldtakeus
totheFortressofWistHill.
Peoplehurriedtogetoutofourway;elsetheydbe
trampedorshovedasidebyourescort.Allworkceasedasthe
townsfolkformedtwolinescheeringuson.Eveninmydreams,
IhadneverimaginedthatpeoplewouldcheerasIcameand
went.Simonappearedtobedaydreamingtherewas
somethingbothsadandhappyinhiseyes.Hishandthen
movedtocaresshisinjuredknee.Instinctively,myrighthand
movedtostrokemyleft.Iunderstoodnowthatgloryhadits
price.BeforelongwestoodbeforethegatesoftheFortressof
WistHill,andtheyopenedbeforeustoafanfareoftrumpets.
AlwaysthoughtIdhavetoimpersonateamonarchto
beinvitedtoaplacelikethis,Simonjoked.
Orkillamonarchandbeinvitedhereinchains,Ijoked
back.
Oh,shutup,hereplied.Ilaughed,andthenquickly
adjustedmynewarmorandmybrokensword.Luckilyforme
noonecouldseethatmybladewasbroken,forenoughofit
hadremainedintactinorderforittofititssheafandappear
whole.
Thinktheyllletyoubealordforkillingme?The
Demonaskedinmyhead.Iignoredhim.Youknowyourejust
afraud,alittleboywithabrokentool,hetriedagain.Iignored
himstill.
271

Notitlesgoingtosaveyoufromme,Imheretostay,
Boyo,hetaunted.Myangergrew,andIhastenedmysteps
towardstheThroneChamber,accompaniedbythearmed
guards.
Whodoyouthinksentthevillainstogethim,Boyo?It
wasI,becauseIknewyoulovedhim,hejeered,remindingme
ofTheForestersmurderscene.
Shutup,Ireplied.
Didntsaynothing,Simonreplieddefensively.
Sorry,thoughtIheardanothercrackatme,Iliedas
thedemonlaughedinmyears.
Dontworry,theyllallknowwhatalunaticyouare
soonenough,thedemonsaidandlaughedharderstill.
Staybehind,hismajestyPrinceAdwenwishestosee
MasterRaymondfirst,thesoldierswhoaccompaniedus
commandedSimon.
Allright,hereplied.Hollerifyouneedme,Ray.
Sure,Ireplied,andpushedopentheheavywooden
doorsimpulsively.EtiquettedemandedthatIwaitforthe
trumpetsandhavethedoorsopenedforme,butIwasina
semifitofrage,fightingmyowninternalbattle,too
preoccupiedtokeepthesethingsinmind.Thedoorswere
heavy,perhapstooheavyforasinglepersontoopenthem.It
wasthenthatIrealizedIwasntsupposedtohaveattemptedto
dosoascasuallyasIhad.Worsestill,Isucceeded,
demonstratingsupernaturalstrengthbothtomyselfandmy
hosts.
Thethroneroomwasfairlylarge,fittedwithburning
torches.BytheirlightIsawtheLordssittingatheavytables,
fullyarmored;abovethemstoodthethroneofPrinceAdwen.
Hewasapale,blackhairedmanandfairlystrong,hisclothes
fresh.Hisfacewascleanshaven,intheRomanstyle.Hewore
ornateplatearmorlikemine,onlywithdifferentengravings,
andafancyshirtdepictinghisfamilycrest.TheLordsrosefrom
theirseats,thoughtheyappearedangrywithmeformybreach
ofprotocol.
272

Iapplaudamanwhosbraveenoughtodoawaywith
setcodesofprotocol,amanwhoissharpandstraighttothe
point,thePrincesaid,whilestillsitting.
Thankyou,Milord,Ireplied.
Andhedoesnotboweither,thePrinceadded.
Perhapshefeelssoelevatedthatheneedsnotpayhomageto
hisPrinceandlords?
Imeannodisrespect,Milord,Iapologized,feelingmy
faceturnredandhearingthedemonslaughterinmyears.I
bowedawkwardly;thiswasmyfirsttime.ThePrinceseemed
displeasedstill,andgruntedasIbowed.
Tellmeyourstory,RaymondofDrentwych,he
commanded.
Yes,Milord,Ireplied.Iamasoldierinyourservice.I
wasstationedinDrentwych,Ibegan.
Yes,yes,thatweknow.Gettothepartwedontknow,
thePrincerepliedimpatiently.
SimonandIworkedforLordDurrant.Wesoughtthe
missingpeople,Isaid.
Youmeanyousoughtthemissingmerchant,the
Princeinterrupted.
Yes,weIbegan.
Andyoufailedtolocatehim,headded.
Yes,Isaid.
Goonwithyourstory,then,thePrincecommanded.
Thecluesledustothechurch,whichinturnledusto
theDemon,Isaid.
Thepriestswereinvolved?ThePrinceasked,leaning
forwardinhisseat.Igotthedistinctimpressionthathehad
murderonhismind.TheLordsmurmured.
One,Milord,Ireplied.
Who?ThePrinceasked.
Hewastakencareof,Isaid.
Good.Nowgoon,thePrinceresponded,satisfied.
LordDurrantengagedhimfirstincombat,I
elaborated.
273

Andyoutwodidnotfightathisside?ThePrince
asked,andIonceagainfeltthathehadmurderonhismind
andthistimeIwastheintendedtarget.Igrewabitfearful.
No,forLordDurrantcommandedustostayputwhile
heengagedthedemonincombat,Ireplied.
Hedidsuchathing?ThePrinceasked.
Aye,hewasamanmostnobleandbrave,andhefought
staunchlyagainsttheDemon,Ilied.
Andthenwhenhedied?ThePrinceasked.
BothSimonandIengagedhim,Isaid.
ViolatingtheLordsorders,thePrincesaid.
Yes.Wewantedtosavethetownordietrying,I
replied.
Good,thePrinceresponded.
TheDemonwassubstantiallyweakenedbyLord
Durrantsmightyblows,sowemanagedtofinallydefeatit,I
lied.
Andthatshowyoubothweresoinjured?thePrince
queried,andwereinneedofamonthsrecovery?
Yes,Ianswered.ThePrincestaredatme,thinking.
Youareamanofhonor,RaymondofDrentwych,he
stated.
ThankyIbegan.
Imnotfinished!ThePrincespatoutangrily.Butyou
speakfalsely,andbadlyso,headdedmoresoftly.Iclenched
myfistsinamixtureofstress,shame,andanger.ThePrince
smiledatmydisplayofemotion.
ItisadmirablehowyoutriedtohonorLordDurrantat
theexpenseofyourownglory.ButIknowthetruth.Iknow
thatitwasyouwhofoundallthecluesandIknowthatitwas
youwhoengagedtheDemoninbattleafterLordDurrantmost
foolishlydiedwithoutsomuchasanattemptedblow,hesaid.
IknowthatitwasyouwhotorethemightyDemonapart,limb
fromlimb,untilhelaidonthegroundabrokenmassofgore
andblood,thePrinceaddeddarkly.Istaredathimmutely.
274

Well!Confessyourgloryorremainsilent,thePrince
commanded.Iremainedsilent.NeverhaveIseenamanwho
doesnotboastofhisglory.Why,mostmenwhenslayinga
roosterwouldturnitintaletoafearsomedragon,butnotyou.
Why?Heasked.
BecauseIremembernoglory,Isaid.
Explain,ThePrincecommanded.
Iremembermanydetailsinmyinourstrugglewith
theDemon,andtherewasnoglorythere.Therewasbloodshed
tobesure,andsweatandtears.Somepeopleperished,others
survivedwithinjuries,butglory?No,Ifoundnoevidenceofit,
Isaid.
Wellsaid,hecommendedme.Bravo,headdedashe
clapped.ThisiswhyIlikeyou,Raymond.Youareapiousman
oftruehonor,hesaid.Istaredathimdarkly;Ifelthewas
tryingtoflattermeandIdidntlikeit.
Iamsatisfied,youmayproceed,heinstructedthe
Lords,andthenherosefromhischairandleftthroughaside
door.
TheLordsthenpresentedmewithagift:AHelmet
forgedofpuresilverintheshapeofaneagle.Itwasa
masterpiece,andIstaredatitinwonder.Withgleefulfacesand
merrysmiles,theybademetryiton,clappingasIdidsoand
theysawthatitfit.Ifeltalmostlikeachildimpressinghis
parents.Theneversokindlytheyaskedmeofmylineageand
hintedthatIdbemadealord.
Itoldthemthetruth:thatIwasawaywardJew
orphanedandlostwhenIcametoDrentwych.Eversokindly
theyasked,Wontyouconvert?
No,Ireplied.Smilesturnedtofrowns,merriment
turnedtorage.
Thisissacrilege!OneoftheLordswarned.

275

AcceptthetrueGod,anothertriedmoresoftly.Surely
afterallthatyouveseen,youknowhewatchesoveryou,he
added.WillyouturnyourbackonHewhoguidesyourhand
againsttheagentsoftheDevil?TheDemonlaughedeverso
loudinmyears.
Lords,Iamweakoffaith,Iadmitted.Yetmyweak
faithisallthatremainsofthelegacymydearlydeparted
parentsleftme.SurelyImusthonoritfortheirsake,Iadded.
Icanunderstandthat,asoftspokenlordcommented.I
smiledshyly,hopingthatperhapsthismeetingwouldnotend
incompletedisaster.
Ohyes,itwill!TauntedtheDemoninmyhead,andhe
thenassaultedme,causingmyheadtothrobinpain.Igrabbed
holdofit,tryingtoeasethepainandcalmtheringinginmy
ears.
Areyouallright?Askedoneofthelords.
Yes,Ilied.
Iamsorry,MasterRaymond,saidoneofthelords.But
wecannotappointyoualord.
Verywell,Isaid,deeplydisappointed,fightingtoease
thethrobbinginmyhead.
Wecan,however,promoteyoutotherankofFirst
Sergeant,anotherlordoffered.
Thankyou,Iheardmyselfsay,overcomewithafeeling
ofbitterdisappointment.
Iturnedaroundinyetanotherbreechofetiquetteand
walkeduptothedoor;aquadrupletofsoldiersopeneditfor
me.Hesitantly,Igaveonethesilverhelmetandexitedthe
room.Simonwasthere,waitingforme.Hereadmysad
expression.
Whatsthematter,Raymond?Heasked,worryand
fearevidentinhisvoice.
Nothing,Ireplied.
Whatthebloodyhellhappenedinthere?Heasked.I
thoughtyoudbemadealordorsomething,headded.
276

Imnotgoodenough,itseems,Ireplied,matchingmy
speedtohisaswewalkedaway.
Yourereallynotgoodenough.Surelytheyrebetteroff
withoutyourbitchingandwhining,saidthedemon.Youshut
yermouth!Iyelledathim.
Imsorry,Ididntmeananythingbyit,Simonreplied,
thinkingIhadspokentohim.
Imsorry,Simon,didntmeantolashoutatyou,I
apologized.Henoddedhishead,offended,yetheletthematter
pass.WemadeourwayoutsideofWistHill,andproceeded
towardsDrentwychonfoot.
Thenightairprovedmightychillyaswemadeourway
toDrentwych.Angerandbitternesskeptmewarm,however,
andIdidntpauseevenoncealongtheway.Itwasatiresome
andlongjourneynonetheless,moresoforSimon,whohadnot
yetfullyrecoveredandhadtoleanonhiscaneforsupport.
ComemorningwearrivedatDrentwych.
InDrentwychtheyhadnoknowledgeofwhathas
transpiredinWistHill,andtheycelebratedourreturnas
heroes.Thesoldiersescortedusinandallthetownspeopleleft
theirworkandhomestocheerusasweenteredtown.Iloathed
it,andloathedthemforbeingsocheerfulinthefaceofsomany
wrongs.Ipausedinthecenteroftown,determinedtoendthis
constantcelebrationofmyeverystep.AsIbegantospeakthey
allsilencedeachotherHushup,hestryingtosaysomething!
Oneproclaimed.Iwaited,gatheringthestrengthtosaywhatI
hadtosay.

277

Whatareyahallcelebrating,yahpackofPancrazed
Satyrs,Ipronouncedtheyweredrunk,bewitchedbySatyrsor
both.Notlongagoademontriedtodestroythistownwith
everyoneit,yetyourejoice!Iyelled.Youthinkwehavewon,
butthiswasonlyasinglebattle.Thewarwagesonwhileyou
danceandsingmypraises,Isaid.Iweepforus,andyou
rejoice!Theylookedatmeblankly.Icurseyourignorance,I
finallysaid.Theywerestunned;speechless.IknownowthatI
waswrongtojudgethemsoharshly,torobthemoftheirlittle
joyswhentheyhadsofewofthose.Butdisappointmenthad
mademebitter,andinmyresentment,Ilashedoutagainstthe
world.WithoutanotherwordIreturnedtothehospitalandlay
inmybed.Simonseemedoffendedbymyspeech,forhewas
quitehappywiththewaythingswerebeingadmiredandall.
ThenextdaytheMayorcametomyhome,andallthe
townsfolkwalkedbehindhimatadistance.
Listenhere,eh,MasterRaymond.ThetowneldersandI
havemetlastevening,andwevetalkedhesaidandIjust
staredathim,stillunjustifiablyresentful.Andwehavedecided
thatyouarecorrectinyourassessmentofoursituation.
Allright,Iacknowledged.
Andwealsodecidedthatweneedsomeoneyoung,
someonewhohaswhatittakestocleanupthistownoffilth
andreturnustoGodsgrace,hesaid,searchingmyeyesfor
approval.
Goodluckthen,Mayor.Ihopethatyoullfindsucha
person,Ireplied.
Wewerethinkingofyou,Raymond.Wouldyoube
willingtobeourprotector?Heasked
No,Iansweredflatly.
Youllreceivegenerouswagesandafreehandtodoas
youchoose,heoffered.

278

Youalreadyhaveaprotector,andhesagoodprotector
whoperformshisdutieswellandhehasawifeandthree
children,Isaid.Whatwouldbecomeofthem?Wouldyou
leavehimwithoutwork,andhiswomanandchildrento
starve?Iasked.TheMayorhesitatedbeforereplying.
Illnothavetheirfatesonmyheart,andIdonotthinkI
candobetterworkthanhe,Isaidfinally.
Youhavetheheartofasaint,MasterRaymond,the
Mayoranswered,tryingtoflatterme.
Hardly,Ireplieddrylyandturnedaround,lookingat
mybedwithlonging.
Youcanhaveanypositionyoudesire,hecalledafter
meinahurry.Iturnedaroundandfacedhimagain,looking
intentlyintohiseyes.
Any?Iasked.
Any,hereplied,swallowing.Iguessthathethought
thatIwasaimingforhisjob.
Ifthatisthecase,Iwanttoresumemypositionasa
simplesoldier,Isaidashevisiblyrelaxed.Ithenraisedmy
voicetobeheardacrossthecrowd.

279

Youlookatmetobeyoursavior,yetIamasimpleman,
lostandalieninaforeignland.Ifyoutrulyloveme,letnoman
placemeonapedestalorbuildastatueinmyhonor.TheDevil
isreal.Wehaveseenitandfeltitsworkintheworld,IsaidasI
clenchedandunclenchedmybandagedleftfist.Evilworks
bestwhentheheartgrowsindifferentandcruel,andifyou
wanttoopposeit,opposeitbygoodworks.Iwouldnotbehere
ifnotforthreekindlymenthatguidedmeonmypath.Thefirst
isthesmithIvar,whotookpityofmeandraisedmeashisown.
NextisRaymondtheForesteroftheBrooks,whoshelteredand
gavemeguidance.ThelastisthepriestRichard,whowas
charitabletomewhenIfellwecanallfollowtheirexample,
Isaid.Idonotknowwhatmusesparkedthisspeechinme,but
IdaredhopeRaymondtheForesterwouldhavebeenproud.I
alsoprettymuchadmittedIwasAdam,Ivarssupposedchild,
notthatanywoulddaretoarrestmenow.Igrewsicksoonafter
speakingandspenttherestofthedayinfeverishsleeping.
AsIsleptIfeltasifIhadplungedintoanabyss.Iwas
upsidedown,fallingintoavortexofswirlingfire.TheDemons
laughteraccompaniedmeallthewaydown,untilIfound
myselfstandingbeforeitagain.Itstoodtoweringoverme,
menacing,andI,Istoodtherefeelingpuny.Itseverymovement
threatenedtoengulfmebutIwasdefiantfrightened,but
defiantnonetheless.
Theywillneverlistentoyou,itsaid,firecomingout
withitseverybreath.
Shutupandfight!Isaid.
Theywilltakeeverywordyousayandtwistitbeyond
recognition,itcontinued.
Shutyermouth!IkilledyeonceandIllkillyaha
thousandtimesover!Iscreamedatit.Itlaughedand
continuedasifIwasnottobetakenseriously.

280

Andwhentheyredonewithyourwords,theyllstrip
youofyourveryhumanity:theyllfindnamesandtitlesforyou.
Icanhearitevennow,beingpassedonfromfathertoson
thestoryofmightyRaymond,aGodamongstmen,itjeered,
laughing,mockingme.Iwasfilledwithrage.
Wouaaaa!!!Haaaaa!Iscreamed.Illtearyahapart
piecebypiece!Doyouhearme?Iyelledamidstitslaughter.
DoyouthinkthatIlie,littlemortal?Youdliketo
believethat,wouldntyou?Itasked.
Awaywithyou!Iyelled.
Doyouhaveanyideahowmanybeforeyouhavetried
tochangethenatureofmanandfailed?Itasked.
Yourenothingmorethanashadow,yourenothing!I
calledback.
Learnfromthepast,orbetteryet,watchthefuture
unfold.Andthenwhenyourfalsebeliefs,falsehopesdieout
andleaveyouwiththeuglyfaceoftruth,youwillcometome
andbowdownbeforemythrone.Youwillbegmetoteachyou
thetruthandtakeyourlifeasapenanceforyourmistakes,but
Iwont.Illjustsitandlaughatyourfoolishness,itsaid.
Youlie!Everythingyousayisalie!Youareapitiful
creatureborntoatorturedexistencewhotakespleasurein
watchingthepainofothers,Isaid.ItstoppedlaughingandI
knewIhadstruckasoftspot.
Yourpower,yourimmoralitymeansnothing,foryoudo
nothingofvaluewithwhatwasgiventoyou,Isaid,anditlost
itsmirthaswell.
Youareaprisonerinyourownselfmadejail;asorry
excuseforalifegoneterriblywrong.Aretheseallyourhopes
anddreams,towatchmefalltomykneesandbegyoufor
mercy?Ifthatisso,betterprepareforalongwait,forIshall
nevercometoyouwithanythingbutaswordinhand,readyfor
battle,Isaid.
Youdare!Ityelled,angered.

281

Idare,andIshalltakeyourheadandmakeitmytrophy
fortheworldtoseeandscornyoursorryexistence!Iyelled.
Youarethewormbeneathmyheel,andthoughyoumaybest
meinbattle,Ishallneverbedefeatedbyanothinglikeyou!
Finally,itroaredinwrath.
Enoughtalk.Takeuparms!Isaid,ourweapons
collidedagainandwefought.Itwasntsostrongthistime,and
westruggledforalongwhile.IrealizedthatIwasfeedingit
constantlywithidlenegativethoughts,andwhenthesefeelings
subsided,hereallywasnothing.IfoughtonashardasIcould;
armedwiththeknowledgethatvictoryisneverbeyondmy
grasp.Eventually,though,itmurderedmeagain,andIawoke
onanotherplaneofexistence,inanotherworld,screaming.
Dazed,Isawpeopleapproachingme;healersandnurses.
Simonwastheretoo,andevenBarny.
Hiswoundshaveopenedup;hesbleeding,Ihearda
healersay.Itriedtogetaway,togetupandawayfromthem.
Raymond,dontmove.Youreinjured,Barnysaid.
Getyerhandsoffofme!IyelledasIshovedthemback.
IsatupandexaminedtheblackscarstheDemonhadgivenme
inourterriblefight.Oneofthewoundsopenedslightlyand
releasedpuss.Icleanedthewoundmyselfandbandagedmy
arm.
Leavemebe,Itoldmyfriendsharshlyandreturnedto
sleep.ThefollowingdaysIrememberonlyfaintly,forIwas
givenastrangemedicationthatmaderecallingmemoriesquite
difficult.
ThenexttimeIawokeIfeltalotbetter.Mywounds
werecompletelyhealednowandonlyuglyblackscars
remainedtocommemoratethem.IhadnoideahowlongI
slept,andIdidntcare.IfeltthattherewassomethingIhadto
do,nowthatIfeltbetter.

282

Iwenttothebarracks,towheretheevilbooksandthe
restofthemagiciansartifactswerekept.Igatheredthemallin
aclothbag,closelyfollowedbymyfriends.FromthebarracksI
wenttoIvarshomeandaskedtousehissmithy.Heallowedit,
ofcourse,askingnoquestions.
TheyallwatchedasIlitthefiresinthesmithyandtook
outtheshardsofmyTroublemaker,theswordIvargaveme
whichhadbeendestroyedinthefight.Imeltedtheswordand
itsshards,addingnewmetalandusingtheevilbooksand
artifactsasfuel.Theflameschangedcolorsandburned
brightly,andmyfriendsgaspedbutwatchedmestill.
Hammertoanvil,Istrucktheheatedmetalandforged
mybladeanew.Mesmerizedbymyownwork,allthefury
rushedtothesurfaceoncemore.Inafitofanger,Istruckagain
andagain.SeeinginmymindseyetheDemon,Istruckitsface
withmyhammerandstruckitsfleshstruckandstruck
again.Isawavisionoftheevil,undeadmenaceandstruckhim
aswellhewithhismagicbloodwhichcoursedthroughmy
veinsstill,pollutingmyblood.Sparkswereflyingeverywhereas
IstrucktheLordsofWistHill,andstruckPrinceAdwen,and
struckthemurderersofRaymondtheforesterFinally,Istruck
myownimageasIkilledmybrother.LikeamanpossessedI
struckagainandagain.Themenfromthebarrackshadalready
gone,andleftmetomyself.
WhenIfinishedthebladedayslatermyworkwas
fearsometobehold.Themetalforsomereasonhadtakenona
reddishhue.Lookingattheblade,atitsrazorsharpcurved
shape,stretchedoutwithawideelongatedsharptip.It
appearedstrangeandterrifyingtobehold,likeabladeforged
fromthesubstanceofnightmares.Finallyheldthefinished
swordinmyinjuredhandanditwasaperfectfit;itbelonged
there,inmyhand.
"Rage,Inameyou,foryouarethefruitofmyrageand
suffering",Ipronounced,andsoitwasdone.

283

Myragewaspouredintothebladeandnoneofleftin
me.IliftedupthebarrelofwaterinwhichI'dcooledmysword
andpoureditovermyhead,washingmybodycleanforthefirst
timeinalongwhile.AndIfeltclean,calm,andatpeace,likea
childwhohascriedallnightlongandfinallyinthemorning
fallsintoapeacefulsleep.Iplacedmyswordinitsscabbardand
walkedoutside.Thesun'sraysgreetedmekindlyandmybody
feltchilledandalivewhenthewindandsuntouchedmywet,
exhaustedskin.AssoonasIleftthesmithy,alleyesturnedto
meandIgreetedthetownspeoplewarmly,fortherewasno
furtherangerinme.
"Gooddaytoyouall!"Iproclaimed.
"Goodmorning",myfriendsreplied,exceptforIvar,who
wasn'tthere.
Itookalongbathatthenursery,shaved,andatealarge
meal.AsIslept,nonightmarescame,andIwokemuch
refreshed.Iputmyuniformon,andthenmyarmor,planning
toreturntothebarracksandreportforduty.

284

285

CHAPTERXXVTheEarthquakes
IwasonroutetoSimonshousepriortothenoonmeal.I
wantedtobewithhimandmaybetakethechancetoapologize
forbeinganoafrecentlyinmyselfabsorbedmelancholy.
Disaster,however,rarelywaitsforaconvenienttimetostrike.I
waswithinviewofhisdoorwhenithit;anearthquakesogreat
andterriblethatitsentmeoffmyfeet,anddestroyednearlyall
thedwellingsinDrentwych.Gapsopenedintheground,
swallowingtrees,rubble,andsometimespeople.Noteventhe
townwallsweresparedthedestruction;Isawthemcrumbleto
dustasIlayonthegroundwithmyhandsfoldedabovemy
headtoprotectitfromharm.Thequakesseemedtolastan
eternity.Mymindwasroilingwiththepossibilitiesofwhatwas
tocome.Justassuddenlyastheystarted,thequakesceased,
andIgazedaroundatthedestructiononlythechurch
remainedstanding.AmidstthescreamsofthetownsfolkI
heardagodawfulsound,andthensawinthedistancethe
FortressofWistHillcrumblingdown.Thecloudofdustalmost
reachedDrentwych,anditwouldhave,haditnotbeenforthe
tidalwave.Thewaterwashedawaywhatremainedofthetown,
takingmanypeoplewithit.Itrecededmanymomentslater,as
abruptlyasitcame.Iheldontoapieceoflog,tokeepmyselfin
place.Assoonasitwasgonehowever,Imovedintoaction.
Withoutthinkingtwice,Igotup,balancedmyselfonthe
shakinggroundoftheaftershock,andrantoaidthefirstvoiceI
heard.Iwassurprisedandsomewhatrelievedtodiscoverthat
thesupernaturalstrengthIhadacquiredduringthatterrible
fightwiththeDemonlingeredstill.Itprovedmightyuseful
here,asItossedtimberandstonesabouttofreetrapped
townspeople.Therestofthesoldiersjoinedtherescue
operationassoonastheydcometotheirsenses,andmanyof
thetownspeoplealsoparticipated.Somesatstunned,however,
anddidnothing,eventhoughtheywerethemselvesnot
seriouslyinjured.
286

Manyofthesoldiersandtownspeoplecametomefor
guidanceandIsentthemhereandtheretocleardebris,carry
theinjuredtothechurch,andhelpeachotherasIsawfit.
Togetherwerescuedtheinjuredandturnedthechurchintoa
makeshifthospital.
Iworkedtirelessly,forwheneverIthoughtofrestinga
momentasoundcaughtmyattentionorsomeoneneededmy
assistance,soIjustworkedonandon,forgettingmyown
fatigue.Inclearingacollapsedhovelofdebris,Ilocatedan
undergroundpassageofsomesort.Istrainedtoseeinside,but
allIsawwaspitchblackdarkness.Itriedtolisten,butIheard
nothingbutdrippingwater.ThensuddenlyasIwasaboutto
getupIheardthefaintsoundofknocking.Icalledoutto
whoeverwasinside.
Ihearyou!Ihearyou!Icalled.Imcoming!Dont
move!Iadded.
Ivefoundsomeonetrappedundertheground!Icalled
tothetownsfolkoutside.BarnyandmyCommandercameand
lentmearopesoIcouldclimbdown.
AsIwentdownthehatch,Isawacorridorbuiltwith
Romanarchesforsupport.ThismusthavebeentheoldRoman
outpost,Ithoughttomyself.Icalledforatorchandwastossed
onebeforeImademywayonthetrail.Sometimestheceiling
crackedandabitofsunlightpenetratedthedarkpassage.
WhoeverwastrappedknockedharderandIhastenedmysteps,
tryingtofollowintherightdirection.Finally,Ifoundtheexact
point,Ibelieved.
Everythingisgoingtobeallright;staydownandback
awayfromthewall.Imcomingforyou,dontworry!Isaidand
beganclearingdebris.ThenIsawit,asmallfiguretrapped
amongtherubble.Itdidnotseeminjuredatfirstglance,
thoughIcouldnotbesure.Itseyesshoneblue,soIwasntsure
ifitwasacatorotheranimal,butthenitmadethemostpitiful
soundandIknewitwasahumanchildIsawthetipsofits
fingers.
287

Ienteredthesmallpassage,leaningmybackagainstthe
ceilingtopostponeitscollapse.Ihuggedthesmallchildtome
likeababyandcarrieditoutside,shieldingitfromharmasthe
roomcollapsedbehindus.
Youresafenow,dontworry,IvegotyouandIwontlet
anythingbadhappentoyou,Itoldit.Itclungtomeinafirm
gripandheldtight.IgavethechildtomyCommandertohold
asIclimbeduptherope.SimonstoodbehindhimandBarnyas
well,hisjawclenchedandhisfaceflashingred.Itookthechild
againandexaminedit.Mymotherhadbeenanurse,andIwas
familiarwiththebasicteachingsofmedicine,atleastenoughto
recognizeinjuries,cleanwounds,andapplybandages.
Apparently,beingoftenbruisedasachildhaditsmeritsnow.
Itwasalittlegirl,Idiscovered;perhapsfivetoseven
yearsofage.Shedidnotappearinjured,thoughshestrainedto
breathe.Herskinwasaghostlyshadeofwhiteunderneaththe
layersofmuck,andhereyeswereanicyshadeofbluewhich
seemedtoglowabitlikecatseyes.AtfirstIthoughtshehad
sufferedaheadinjuryandthatherhairwassmearedinblood,
butno,herhairwasapparentlynaturallytheshadeofblood.
Isawyououtsidethewindowwhentheground
shookyouleftmeinahousethatwascollapsing,knowingthat
Iamcrippled!Simonsaidangrily.
Itwasntmyintentiontoabandonyou,friend.Ididnot
think,butrushedtothefirstcallforhelpIheard,Ireplied
honestly.
Whatdoyoumean,rushedtothemfirstyourushed
onlytothem,Ineversawyouturnmyway,hesaid.
Simon,IIbegan.
Yetdespiteyourwilltoberidofme,Imanagedto
survivewithoutyouraid,hesaid,venomously.
Toberidofyou?Whatthebloodyhellareyousaying?
WhyshouldIplottoberidofyou,youremyfriend,areyou
not?Iasked,stunnedbyallthisanger.
Idontknow,Raymond,amI?Heasked.
288

Well,ofcourseyouare,haveyougoneallcrazy?What
madnessisthis?Isaid,raisingmyvoiceinastonishmentathis
wildaccusations.
Stopplayingtheinnocent,Raymond,youhardlyfitthe
part,Simonsaid.
IdonotIbegan.
Iwasthereforyou,wheneveryouneededme,andyou,
youleftmefordeadwhentheopportunitypresenteditself,he
said.
Imsorry,Itried.
Anditdidntstarthere,no.Thisbeganalongtimeago.
Youjustdontliketosharetheglory,doyou?Heasked
sarcastically.
Ineverplottedtoberidofyou,Irepliedsternly.
Neverplotted,perhaps,butyoudfinditmighty
convenientifIjusthappentodropdead.Youcouldthenmaybe
giveaprettyspeechtothetownsfolkandplaythehero,pissing
onmygravewhennobodyslooking,hesaid.
Thatsnottrue"Iprotested.
Ofcoursenot,yourearegularsaint,heroofthepeople
andallthatrubbish!Hesaid.
Simon,ImItriedsaying.
Shutyourmouthandletmefinish.Youwontevenlet
mefinishacoupleofsentenceswithoutbargingin,takingover
theconversation,hesaid.Ishutmymouthandlethimrant
on,forthelastthingIwantedwastoprovehimright;though
hewasright.
Youknowsomething,Raymond,youresoself
absorbed.Youonlyseeyourselfineverythingthatyoudo.If
onlyIshouldbesoluckyastoberewardedbyreceivingsome
ofyourattention,hesaid.Iwaitedafewmomentstomake
surehewasdoneandonlythenspoke.

289

WhatcanIsaySimon?ImnotperfectandIneverwas.
Imakemistakes,true,butthisishardlythetimeortheplace
forthisargument.SurelywhenDrentwychiscrumblingall
arounduswehavebetterthingstoworryaboutthanoursilly
disagreements,Isaid,hopingtoputthemattertorestfornow.
Isthatwhatyouthinkthisisasillyargument?All
right,Ray,donttakemeseriously,butdontexpectmetake
youseriouslyeither,hesaid.Iwasamazedbyhoweasilyhe
twistedtheintentmywords.
Simon,Imnottakingyoulightly,butlikeIsaid,thisis
neitherthetimenortheplace,Irepeatedasthechildstirred.
Verywell,Raymond,wellsettlethislater,butdont
thinkIllstickaroundforever,hesaid.InoddedandIturned
tothechild.Ihadtosortoutmybusinesswithher,andthen
moveontootherpeopleinneedofassistance.
Whatsyourname,littlegirl?Iaskedthechild,
ignoringSimonnow.Areyouinjured?Canyoustand?Itried
whentherewasnoreplytomypreviousquestion.Shenodded
no,thenyes.SlowlyIputherdown,makingsurethatshe
indeedcouldstandonherown.Igaveherawaterskintodrink
fromandweproceededtothechurch.Itwasmyintentionto
deliverhertothechurchandresumemybusiness.
Whatsyourname?Simonaskedher.Shejustsmileda
sadsmileathim,offeringnoreply.
Canyoutalkatall?Iaskedhergently;stillIreceived
novocalreply.ThensuddenlyshehuggedmylegasifIwasher
father.Iwasabituncomfortablewithbeingtouched,especially
afterthefightwiththedemon.Itriedtogentlydetachherfrom
myleg,butseeingthatshehuggedmeonlyharder,Iceasedmy
attempts.Ireallyhopedshehadamothersomewhereatthat
moment.
Justleaveherbe.Shesobviouslynotwoundedsave
perhapsbeingmute.Shellfindhermotherinnotime,Simon
said.

290

No,Imtakinghertothechurch,shemayhaveinternal
injuries,Isaid.Sheseemedpreoccupiedwithwatchingtheair
asItriedtellinghermyname.Ipattedherhairgentlytoattract
herattention.InsideIwasstartingtolosepatience,butthis
taskdemandedgentleness,andIintendedtohavechildrenof
myowninthefuture,sothisseemedlikeagoodexercise.
IamRaymondandthisisSimon,Isaidasshefinally
lookedatme.Sheseemedtotryandspeakthenandweall
paused,waitingexcitedlytohearwhatshehadtosay.
JetaimeRaymend,shesaid,finally.Simonvisibly
frowned,butIsmiledatthecompliment.Thenshekissedmy
hand.
Didntyousaywehavemorepressingbusiness?Weve
wastedenoughtimeonthischild,havewenot?Hesaid.I
ignoredhim,pickedherupinmyarms,andtookhertothe
church.Uponapproachingthechurch,shestartedshaking
visibly.Ihaltedmystepsandspoketoher.
Whatswrong,littleone?Iasked.Shejustmade
strange,fearfulsounds,likeababywhosfrightened.Not
understandingwhatthematterwas,Iapproachedthenearest
priestandaskedhimkindlytocheckthechildforinjuries.
Ofcourse,ofcourse,MasterRaymond,hesaidand
quicklymovedtocomplywithmyrequest.Movingtheblanket
thatkeptherwarm,hetookonelookather,andthenbounced
afewstepsbackinfear.Hecrossedhimself,asifIwasholding
acontagiousdiseaseinmyhands.
Imsorry,MasterRaymond,butIllnottreatthisthing,
hesaidindisdainfultones.Iwasstunned,tosaytheleast.
What?Why?Whatswrong?Iasked.
Thatsafiendwhomyounowholdinyourhands,he
repliedprofessionally.NowIwasfuriousearthquake,flood,a
fightwithSimonandnowcondescendingshitfromabuffoon.

291

Whatthebloodyhellisthematterwithye?Cantyesee
thatthisisasmallwoundedchildandnofiend?Iaskedhim.I
couldnottoleratehisindifferenttreatmentofachild.He
repliedinpatronizingtones,asifIwassomebarbarianinneed
ofslowspeech.
MasterRaymondhebegan,thisisnochildbuta
spawnoftheDevil!Canyounotseeitsdeathlypaleskin?Its
redhair,thecolorofblood?Surelyyoucanseethattheseare
themarksoftheDevil!Heproclaimed.
Goodpriest,shesaShenotanIt,andshesnota
monsterbutalittlegirlwhoswounded.Idontcarewhatshe
lookslike;shesnofiend,Isaid,tryingtobediplomaticbut
firm.
IllnotacceptademonintothehouseofGod,takeher
elsewhere,hesaidimpatiently.Itookathreateningstep
forward,andhetookthreebackwards;Simongrabbedme,
tryingtostopmefromdoingsomethingrash.
CalmdownRay,itsonlyanoldpriest.Hurtinghim
wontdoanyoneanygood,Simonpleaded.Ieyedthepriest
dangerously,butlefthimotherwiseunharmed.Iwasreally
fumingseeingthosewhoshouldcareprovingindifferenttothe
sufferingofchildren.Themoretheworldrejectedher,the
moreIfeltagrowingkinshipwithher.
Wewenttowheretheoldorphanagehadoncestood.I
wassocaughtupwithtryingtohelpthelittlegirl,andbeing
angryatSimon,thatIoverlookedtheobviousreactionthe
childrenwouldhavetotheghostlyvisageofthepalelittlegirl.
Theyscreamedinterrorandcried,Banshee!Pointingather
andhidingbehindaveryworriedoldmanwhowastheir
keeper.Ihastenedtotakeherawayfromtheotherchildren.
Surprisingly,sheseemedsaddened,butdidnotweeporcryout.
Ifearedshemaybedullinthehead,forherreactionswere
strange,tosaytheleast.

292

Itwasobvioustomethatthelittlegirlwouldnotfit
anywhere.Shewasdeemedademonbythepriestsandaghost
bytheorphans.Shedidntspeakforthemostpart,appeared
toofrailtowork,andshewasntevenprettyenoughsothatany
adultwouldtakepityandadoptheranyonebutme,thatis.
Inaway,shewasasmessedupasIwas,withbadthingshailing
downliketheflood.WhenIgazedintoheramazingblueeyes,
allIsawwasinnocencethere;innocenceandaninternalsparkI
envied.Likeme,shewasanorphan,lostinanalienland.I
couldtellasmuchfromherlooks.DidnotIvartakepityon
me?RaymondtheForesteraswell?Neitherofthemthought
twicebeforeofferingmeshelterandacceptance.Iwasntmuch
tolookateither,anorphanfromafarawayland.Ishouldbeso
lucky,Ithought,ifeverIcouldmatchtheirhonor.AsIthought
thingsover,shesmiledatmeandSimoncomplained.
Itseemstheorphanagedoesntwantyou,Ibegan.She
noddedheragreement,andIcouldseeworry,likeadark
shadow,emanatefromhereyes.Sheclungtomeatadmore
forcefully,andtheneasedhergripwhensherealizedhergrip
hadtightened.
Ifyourewilling,littlemaamIsaidandwaitedto
makesureIgothercompleteattention.Imwillingtoadopt
youasmyownfleshandbloodandcallyoumydaughter,I
said.BeforeshehadachancetoreplySimonspoke.
What?Shitonthis!Simonprotested,Youreaswine
toyourfriendsandnowyourealldaddylovetoastranger.
Simonadded.
Shutyermouth,whatbusinessisitofyours?Ishot
back;hewasreallygettingonmynervesdangerously.
LetsseenowSimonbeganwelivedangerous
lives,Simonsaid.Youregoingtogetherkilledbutyoudont
care.Headded.
Again,whatbusinessisitofyours?Iasked,glaring.
Alright,Ifinditdespicablethatyoudontgivearats
tailaboutyourfriends,andyoutreatherwithkindness.The
wayIseeit,itsyetanotherslapinmyface.
293

Wellcontinuethisanothertime,Simon,Isaid
throughclenchedteeth.
No,letssettlethisonceandforallnow.Whyisitall
rightforyoutopostponeargumentswhenitsuitsyour
scheduleandwrongforotherstosettleargumentsintheirown
time?Heasked.
Look,Simon,IknowthatImnotalwaysaniceperson,
butpleaseifnotformysakethenforthesakeofthechild.
Sheshouldnthearadultsarguelikethis,Ipleaded.
Ohno,itsnotaboutthechild,Idontgiveacrapabout
her,sodontuseherasashieldforyourfaults.Yourebeing
selfishandyoureexpectingmetobeconsiderate,hesaid.
Whatdoyouwantmetodo?Whatdoyouwantmeto
say?Youtwisteverywordofmineanduseittolashoutatme.
HowcanImakepeacewithyouwhenyouwontletme?I
pleaded.
Lashatyou;learnedanewword,eh?Yourenottrying
tomakepeace;youretryingtoprovethatyourerightagain,
andpeacehasnothingtodowithit.Youwantmetoseeyour
superiorityyouwantmetoseejusthowkindand
understandingyouare,butitisallhypocrisywithyou.Isee
throughyouandIcanseethroughthistoo,hesaid.
Areyoumywifeorsomething?Whatthehelliswrong
withyou?Iasked.
What?Hereplied,stunned.
Allright,Simon,youknowwhat?Youdowhatyou
wantandleavemetodowhatIwant.Illstayoutofyour
businessandyoullstayoutofmine,Ishotbackangrily.
Thankyouforpermissiontogoaboutmybusiness,
GreatHeroofDrentwych!NowIcanlimpaboutinpeace,
knowingthatmightyRaymondpermitsmetodoso,hesaid.
Buggeroff,Irepliedandsotheargumentwasdone.
Webrokeoffindifferentdirections.

294

Therewasntmuchtodoaroundtownatthispoint;
everybodywhosurvivedwasalreadyoutofthewreckage.This
remindedmethattherewasonepersonIhadfailedtosee
duringtherescueoperation.
Ihurriedtothesmithywiththelittlegirlatmyside.At
firstglancemostofthehouseseemedintact.Smithieslike
churches,arebuiltoutofstone,andIhopedthismeantsurvival
formylovedones.
Ivar!Ingrid!Icalledasbangedonthedoor.Iwas
answeredalmostimmediatelybyIngridwhoopenedthedoor.
Hereyeswereredandherfacewetfromfitsofweeping.Seeing
myface,sheweptagainandhuggedmeclose.
Ivar?Idaredask,asIfearedherreply.Shereleasedthe
tightembraceforonlyamoment,holdingmestill.Shelooked
intomyeyes.
Hesdead,shesaid,andburstoutcryingagain,holding
mecloseoncemore.
Showme,Icommandedher,Ishouldhavebeenmore
empathic,IwantedtobebutIhadotherthingsonmymind.I
pushedhertoleanonme,ashertremblingfeetcouldnotcarry
her.Placingmyhanduponhershoulderforsupport,my
thoughtsturnedtovileandmorbidthoughts.Myparentsdead
fortheyhadtoflee,becauseofme.Mybrother,hisbloodalso
uponmyhands.Ihadmurdered,morethanonce.NowIvaris
deadandIfailedtosavehim.Iamwretched,andcursed.All
thatItouchdiestherevenant!WhenItouchedhim,hewas
injuredbymyhands,asachild.
Iinspectedthebodyemotionless,Ihadtoknow!
Iwasrightthesubtlemarkingsofhandsuponhis
throathewasstrangledbyarmoredhands.
Imsosorry,dear,Isaid,andfoughtbacktearsmyself.
Westayedlikethisformanyminutesuntilshegathered
enoughstrengthtoletgo.
WhatwillIdo?Sheaskedme,herfaceghostly.

295

Youhavenothingtoworryabout,Ireplied.Iwill
provideforyou.Youllhavenoworriesforaslongasyoushall
live,Isaid.
Butyouwillnotmarryme?Sheaskedpitifully.Her
wordsbrokemyheart.Iwantedtomarryherthenandthere,
damningusbothshouldtheDemonprevailoverme.
Icannotyet,Ireplied.First,IintendtoavengeIvar,
thenslaythedemoninmysoul.Ithoughttomyself.
Why,Raymond?Dontyouloveme?Sheasked.
Ido,Ido,buttheDemonIbegan.
Idontcare,shereplied.
Isstillalive,Icompletedmysentence.
Idontcare,sherepeatedsternly.
Ihavetofighthim,andIcannotmarryyoutillIwin,I
explained.
Letmebattleatyoursidethenthelineageof
Warriorsrunsinmyblood!Shedemanded.
NoIngrid,thisisnotabattleoftheflesh,andImustdo
thisonmyown.UponmyreturnIshallmarryyou,Isaid.
ThisIvow!Ingridssmilewaslikethesun,oncehiddenbythe
cloudsnowfullyrevealedinitsglory,warmingmysadbones.
Ihavefoundthisorphanchildinruins.Shehasnone
butmetocareforher.WillyouIngrid,daughterofIvarshare
thisblessedburdenwithme?Iaskedandkissedherhand.
Iwill,ofcourse,shereplied,takingherbythehand.I
willshareallblessedburdenswithyou,insickness,andhealth,
tillShesaidandburstweepingagain.Icomfortedherhand
andkissedherforehead.MydearIngrid,howthefateswronged
you.
StaywithIngrid,child.Iinstructedthelittleone.Igo
onaquestbutwhenIreturn,wewillbeafamily.Isaid.The
childremainedmute,observinguslikeanelf.
Godsbewithyou!Shesaidandkissedmylips.Herlips
weresoftandinviting,yetbitterfromhertears.Iwantedto
wipehertearsawayandstaywithherforever,abandoningall
quests.
296

TheDemonlaughedthenatmypitifulfantasy,
remindingmethatthebattlewasnotoveryet;itwantedits
revengeanditisgoingtotakeit,piecebypiece,makingme
miserable.IgaveIngridallthecoininmypurse.Withmy
rewardforsavingthetownitwasenoughgoldtomaintainher
foryearsindignity.Ithenturnedaroundandleftwithout
anotherword.MyCommanderfoundmeasIstrolledaround
town,aimlessly,thinkingthingsover.
MasterRaymond,hebegan.
Yes,Commander,Ireplied.
TheMayorseeksherovolunteersforadiretasktosave
Drentwych,hesaid.
Iknow.MasterSimonalreadymentionedit,I
volunteered.Irepliedwithoutthinkingtwice.
Good,good,Raymond,hesaidandpattedmyback.
Allthevolunteersaretocollectcoins,jewels,andother
thingsofvalue.Thenyouaretotakethiscurrencyand
purchaseprovisionsandhiremercenariessothatthetownmay
rebuild,heexplained.
Iunderstand,Irepliedandwentaboutthetask.I
passedbyeveryhouse,takingwhatevertheycouldspare.We
weresettodepartcomemorning,soIspentthenightinIvars
smithymylastnightthere.

297

Igotabucketofwater,soakedaclothinit,andusedit
towashthechildsfacewhileIngridcookedusdinner.I
repeatedthemotionseveraltimesuntilIgotallthedirtand
grimeoutofherface.Ithengaveherthecloth,andmotioned
hertocleanherselfwithit.Sherespondedwithasmile,and
thenundressedherselfbeforemyeyes.Iturnedaround,
blushing.Itmayhavebeenthecustomwherevershecamefrom
toundressbeforestrangers,buthereinEnglandor
Jerusalemforthatmatter,itwashighlyunacceptable.Iso
wishedIngridwouldtakecareofher,butshewascooking,and
inmourninghavinglostherfatherrecently,andhermothera
fewyearsago.Iwouldnotplaceanevengreaterburdenupon
hershoulderseventhemostminoroftasks,unlessshe
volunteered.Asformyowngrief,Iwassorryforsodamnmany
things.ForyearsoftakingIvarforgranted,fornotshowinghim
therespectIshouldhave.ForsomanythingsIcannottake
backnow,becausedeathisfinal,theendofallthings.I
couldnthandletheguiltandthesorrow.Mymindrecoiled
fromsimplefactthatIvarwasgoneandIwouldneverbeable
tomakeamends.Soinsteadofbreakingintopieces,Iactedasif
nothinghadhappened;asifhewasjustgoneononeofhis
journeysoutoftherealm.Iforcedmyselftofocusonthemany
tasksathand,andthosewhowerelivinganddependingonme
tobestrong.IcouldntfalternowlikeIalwaysdowhenthe
pressurerises.
Thistime,itwillbedifferent,Iwillbedifferent,Itold
myself.
Ioccupiedmyselfrearrangingthehousefromallthe
messwhilesheshowered.AgiddysoundandawordinFrench
signaledmethatshewasdone.Iturnedandrealizedtomy
dismay,thatshewasclean,butstillnude.Iquicklyturnedfrom
her.

298

Dress!Isaidinembarrassment.Ihadneverhadasister
oradaughter,soIwashighlyunaccustomedtotakingcareof
one.Iheardherfootstepsbackawayandthenshereturneda
minuteaftermakingthesamesoundshehadbefore.Ihesitated
toturnaround,butthenwashappytodiscovershehaddressed
herself.Onlyherhairremaineddirty,andthiswecouldnot
washintheevening,foritwastoocold,andboilingwaterwas
outofthequestionconsideringthecircumstances.
Ingridplacedabowlofmeatsoupontheboardwhich
wewereusingasatable.BeforethechildsatdownItookher
handstothewaterandshowedherhowtowashthem.She
nodded,saidsomethinginFrench,andthenatehungrily.
Ingridwasmuteallthewhile,watchingmehandleachild,
smilingslightly.IguessshethoughtIdmakeagoodfather.
Inoticedthenthathereyeswhichshoneinthedark
werenottheonlythingfelineabouther.Sheseemedtolean
forwardoverherbowlandguardherfoodlikeacatdoes.
Prisonersdisplaythesamebehavioraswell.Icouldnotimagine
whatkindofhorriblelifeshemayhavehad,tohavetaughtthe
childtoguardherfood.
AsIateInoticedthestrangestthingabouther:
SometimeswhenshethoughtIwasntlooking,shed
stareintothewall,mesmerizedbythedarkness.Othertimes
sheseemedtomoveherheadabout,asifshewasengagedin
somesortofmuteconversationwiththeair.Whenevershe
noticedmystare,sheturnedtomeandsmiled.
Finally,fatigueaidedbyfoodconqueredmeandIlonged
forsleep.Ingridsilently,withherfinger,invitedmetoherbed.
Ihadwantedtosharealoversbedwithherforaverylongtime
nowsomyheartpulsedandIbegantoperspire.InmymindI
imaginedloversentwinedthesoftnessofherbosom,andthe
gentletouchofhercaress.ThenIimaginedherpregnant,andI
failingtoreturnfrommyquestmiserysuchterriblemisery.
Icantdothis!Ithought.

299

WhenIreturn,andweareproperlywed,ItoldIngrid,I
loweredmyeyesandsmiledinapology.Sheseemedglad,and
notangryforsomereason.Ilaydowntosleepinthesmithy,as
Ihaddonemanytimesbefore,wheneverythingmadesense.
ForsomereasonthegirlstaredatmeasIlaydowntosleep,
insteadoffindingaplacetorest.ThelastthingInoticedbefore
Isleptwashereyes,watchingme.Thatchildreallyunnerved
me.
Thenthenightmarecame,asitalwaysdoeswhensleep
befallsme,andhaseversincethatfatefuldayIfoughtwiththe
Demon.ThistimeIwastrappedinamazeofburninghouses.
EverywhereIturnedburningbeamsfellmyway,andIhadto
dodgeconstantlyorelsebetrappedandburnedbythem.Asif
thefirewasnotbadenough,littleimpsthesizeofchildren,
withoversizedmouths,sharpteeth,andnofacechasedafter
me,tryingtoimpalemeonwickedspears.Evencuttingthem
withmyswordprovedoflittleuse,fortheirwoundsclosedand
theyregeneratedinamomentortwo.
ThenightmaregrewmorehorridthemoreIran,
dodged,andfought.Icouldsuddenlyhearmoaningsounds,
likedeadsoulsorpeopleinterribleagony.Themoanswerelike
adreadfulmusic,causingmetoshudderindread.
Astheworldbehindmeturnedintoablazinginferno,
theDemon,nowintheformofawolf,burstoutfromthe
flamesandchasedme.Itseyeswereglowingredorbsof
infernalfire.Itsblackcoatlookedlikecoalanditsmouthwas
fullofsharkteeth,withbilespillingoutasithungeredformy
flesh.IranwithallmymightuntilIreachedaplaceofutter
darknessforonlyamoment.IthoughtIhadlostit.Thenit
appeared,standingbeforemeinitsdemonform,holdinga
wickedbladeinonehandandawhipmadeoffireintheother.
Iheldmyswordinbothhands,readytofightformylife
oncemore.Thensuddenlyathirdfigureemergedinthedream.

300

Itwasthepale,redhairedgirl.Sheworeadressof
brightblue,andatherbacktherewasagoldenhue,like
sunlight.Myfirstinstinctwastoplacemyselfbetweenitand
her,toguardherwithmylifeagainstthisterribledemon.Then
themostdreadfulthoughtenteredmymind.TheDemon
knowsofher;itmaycomeafterherinthewakingworldaswell,
justtotortureme.Perhapsinmydesiretosaveher,Ive
actuallydamnedher.Iheldmyswordtightlyinbothhands
thenadvancedonhim.
ItwasthenthatIsawsomethingIdneverseenbeforein
theDemonseyes.Itwasterrified,andnotofme.Itslookof
frightquicklyturnedintothatofgrimdetermination,andit
advancedtowardsthelittlegirl.
No!IscreamedasIstormedit.Sheheldherhand
towardsit,closedhereyesandseemedtostrain.BeforeIgotto
ittimeseemedtofreeze.Icouldnotmove,andneithercouldit.
Therewassomesortofgoldenlightemanatingfromher,slowly
growingstronger.Thelighthurtmyeyes.
Mytorturedeyeswatchedthelittlegirlgrowgreat
colorfulwings.Windblewfromherdirectiontowardsthe
Demonandthenblewitawayasifitwereanantinastorm.
Thewindthenblewthefireout,andeverythingwentdark.
Aslightslowlyreturned,emanatingfromher,Isawher
raisingherhandupwardasiftotouchthesky.Herformwas
likeashadowsurroundedbythedarkness;onlyherblueeyes
glowedandhercolorfulwingsreflectedthelight.Thenasifthe
darknesswasonlyablackcloudhidingthesky,thedarkness
parted,allowingthegoldenlightofthesuntocomethrough.
InthecoldanddarkIfeltthelightwitheverycellofmy
bodyandmyeyeswatereduponseeingthismajesticradiance
comingtome,here,inthedeepestreachesofmyabyss.

301

Shejuststoodtheresmilingatme,alittlepalegirlonce
more.Asmytearfelltothedesolateblackground,athousand
dropsofrainfellallaroundme.Somethingtouchedmylegand
Imoveditquicklyaway,seeingtomysurprisethatanolive
branch,smallandgreen,grewoutoftheblackgroundbefore
mystunnedeyes,takingtheshapeofayoungsapling.
Allaroundmeblackturnedtogreen,andtomy
amazementIsawmyselfstandinginagreengardenbaskingin
sunlightwhereonlymomentsbeforetherehadbeenonly
desolationanddarkness.
Thelittlepalegirlwassmiling.Thenshepointed
forwardandIquicklyturnedmyheadinthedirectionshe
indicated.Isawalittlefairy,likeawomanwithdragonfly
wings,glowingslightlyassheflewtowardsme.Sheflewtwice
aroundmeandthensettledonmyshoulder.Iputmyhand
thereslowlyandsheclimbedonmyhand.AsIwaslookingat
her,clearlylosinganysenseofreality,thelittlefairysaidunto
me:
Yoursoulisagardenandyouharvestwhatyouplant,
sillyhuman.
Withthatthefairydisappearedaswellasthegirl,andI
aloneexploredthegardenofmysoul.Iswamintheriverand
laughedatthewhiteclouds,baskedintheraysofthekindsun.
SomewhereinsideIfelthereyeswatchingmestill,butIfeltno
fear;noneatall.
Iawokewithfirstlightfeelinglikeanewman.Ingrid
wasstillasleep,Inoticed,andluckilysowasthegirl.Iwanted
tobeupandout,beforeeitherofthemstirred;beforewords
anddeedsdrovemefrommytask.Iskippedbreakfastandleft
asquietlyasIcould.
IwasmightysurprisedtoseeSimonthere,waitingwith
ashortswordstrappedtohishipandawalkingcaneinhis
hand.
Morning,Ray,hegreetedmepolitely.
Morning,Simon,Irepliedasifwehadneverargued.
Morning,Barny,Igreetedmypartner.
302

Morning,Calin,George,andArcher,Igreetedthe
threeothervolunteerswhowerenowmycolleagues.
Fateworksinmysteriousways,doesntit?During
childhoodthreeofthesevolunteershadbeenmybitter
enemies,andthelastwasmyfriend.Now,theyaremyallies,
andmyfriendhadbecomemyenemy.Iwashappytheyall
survived,thoughIwasverydispleasedwithSimon,
handicappedashewas,joiningus.
GoodmorningMasterRaymond,theyreplied.
Wetookoffonourjourneysouthsoonafterthe
pleasantrieswereover.Theroadwasharsh.Wecameacross
manygapsandtreesfelledbythequakes.Thatdidnotstopa
crazyfaeriechildthough,shefollowedusrunning,fallingon
occasionandgettingbackupagain.Imotionedforusallto
halt,thenwenttotakeherwithme.IexpectedSimontosay
something,buthedidnt,somethingIwasgratefulfor.Ididnt
havetimetoreturnhertoIngridsoIguessshewascoming
withus.
Thegirlwasmostfrail;shegrewtiredandthen
exhaustedafterlessthananhour.Uponseeingthatsheslowed
herpaceSimonfrowned,soIfrownedbackathiminherstead,
thenpickedherupandcarriedheronmyshoulders.
Ineedascouttoseewhatsahead,andsinceyou,little
girl,standthetallest,youreit,Isaidinhalfjestingtones.She
noddedherhappyconsentandstaredforwardintothe
distance.
Theterrainbecamemoredifficultaswetraveledand
soonSimonhaddifficultywalkingaswell.Imovedtohelphim,
andIthoughtthatnowhedunderstandthegirlsposition.But
hejustshovedmeaway.
Icanhandlemyselfjustfine,hesaidinanger.Imoved
aheadtotakemypositionfirstinline,ignoringhimasfaras
hecouldtell.AsIadvancedandpassedCalinandArcher,I
whisperedtothemtofallbackandhelpSimon.
Whenwefinallyrestedafterawholedayoftravelthe
littlegirlapproachedme.
303

Jaunee,shesaidinaFrenchaccentandpointedto
herself.Ismiledbroadlyatthegesture,foritmeantshehad
learnedtotrustme.Upuntilnowshehadnotrevealedher
nameorwhereshehailedfrom.Heraccentgaveheraway
though.
Raymond,Isaidmovingtopointatmyself;she
stoppedmeandwithahugthatcaughtmebysurprise.
Laterthatnightaftersupper,thegirlsatdownapart
fromusandseemedtobetalkingtothewind.Whilenowords
cameoutofhermouth,hergestureswerethoseoftalking.I
waspartlyworriedthatsomethingwaswrongwithherand
partlywonderedifshewastalkingtofaeriesthatwecouldnt
see.
Thegirlsderanged,Simonsaid,expressingeverybodys
thoughts.
Shesfine,Irepliedsternly,everybodyexceptSimon
turnedtheirfaceaway,mindingtheirownbusiness.
Shesnotfineandyouknowit,hesaid.
Notyourproblem,Simon,leaveitbe,Ianswered.
Wereinthistogetherforgoodorill,soiftheresa
problemwithoneofus,itsourproblem,hesaid.Hewasright,
butdamnit,hewasstartingtovexmegreatly.
Jauneeismyproblem,notyours.Ifyoudontlikeit,
Simon,youcanjustleave,Isaid.
Youvegottabejoking;whataboutthemission?He
asked.
Illnotleaveherouttodieevenifsheisderanged,
demented,orjuststupid,Ireplied,turningmybacktohim
andignoringhisfurtherspeech.Iwatchedherstrangebehavior
instead.

304

Sheheldabeetleinherpalmandinsteadoftossingit
asideinfearasotherchildrenusuallydo,shefeditcrumbsof
breadthenplaceditgentlyonaweed.Sheturnedandsmiledat
mewhenshenoticedmystare.Ismiledbackandwenttosleep,
waitingforthewatchmantowakemeformyturnatguard
duty.ShesleptnearmeandawokewhenIawoke.Sheeven
keptmecompanyasIguardedthesleepingmen.
Ourjourneycontinuedforanothernightandhalfaday
andthenightmaresdidnotcomeagain.Ismiledinreliefevery
morningafteranightofsoundsleep.
PerhapswewereambushedbecauseIwassohappythat
IfailedtospottheSaxonswhohidbehindarock.Theyshot
crossbowboltsinourdirection.Afewmenwerehit,Ithink,
andIremembermorethanonevoicecalling,Ambush!Before
fallingtotheground.
IbroughtJauneedownfast,shieldingherwithmybody
asIfellontopofherontheground.Assoonasweweredown,
IbadeherlayflatasIgotuptochargemyenemiesheadon.It
wasagraveerroronmypart,broughtonbymyyouthand
inexperience,andIwasshotbyaboltatcloserange.The
missilepiercedmybellyandcameouttheotherend.AtfirstI
justfeltthestingandfoughton,cleavingawristthen
beheadinganadversary.
ThentheworldaroundmespunandIfelltotheground
offbalance,nauseaassaultingme.Imanagedtocrawlundera
treeasthebattlewagedonwithoutme.Iwasfearfulofthepain
whichspreadthroughoutmyframe.Itwasafatalwound,I
knew.Iwasabouttodie,andtherewasnowayformeto
extractthemissile.
Go!Imfelled;Imnotgoingtomakeit!ItoldSimon
whenthebattlewasover.Hetookadeepbreath,takinginthe
newswithamixedlookoffear,angerandabitofpity.
Go,Iurgedhim.HegrabbedthesackofgoldIhad
carriedandturnedtoleave.AtthelastmomentIgrabbedhold
ofhisarm.
305

CareforIngrid,andthegirl,Iaskedhimandthen
closedmyeyesandwaitedfordeathtoclaimme.
Iwill,Ipromise!Hevowedsternly.Atruefriendwhen
itmattered.Wehadwonthefightandmyfriendswouldgoon
withoutme,IthoughtasIclosedmyeyes.
Perhapsthewoundwillnotkillme,Itoldmyself.
PerhapsIhaveachancetosurvive,ifonlyIgarnerenough
strengthtomakeit.
Myeyesshotopen;therewasthestrangestfeelingof
pleasantwarmthspreadingthroughoutmystomachtomy
torsoandfeet.IsawthelittlegirlJauneebentoverme,and
pressedherhandsagainstmywound.Thenshewassnatched
awaybySimonandIclosedmyeyesagain.Mylastthoughts
wereofremorse.IregrettedsomanythoughtsandactionsI
hadcarelesslythoughtanddonethroughoutmylife,starting
withtheguiltIfeltovermybrothersdeath,andthentohowI
spenttheyearsofmyyouthidly,tooimmersedinmyown
worldofrageandguilttoactuallymakeaproperlifeformyself.
Morethanthat,IregrettednottreatingmylovedonesasI
shouldhave,forthefactInevergotthechancetotrackdown
therevenantandavengeIvarasIhaveRaymondtheForester.
Lastly,IwassorrythatIdnevergetthechancetomake
amends.Andsomyworldfadedtoblack.
Iwoke,surprisedanddazedtobealive.Iwasntactually
sureifIwasaliveornot,butIfeltsomeonetouchingme.I
strainedtoopenmyeyes,whichfeltheavyandnumb.Hewasa
giantofamanwithblondhairandblueeyes.Hewasso
massive,infact,andhisframesomuscularthatitfeltasifhis
musclescouldexplodeatanymoment.
Greetings,RaymondofDrentwych.IamLord
TusseldorfAndreusofSparta,hesaid,andIfainted,thestrain
ofstayingawaketoomuchformetobear.
***

306

307

CHAPTERXXVIModernDay,
EighteenMonthsAgo

Itwasanotherconversationinourhouseoneofthose
thatcementrelationships.
See,youdontknowhowtolive,shesaid.
Maybenot,Iacknowledged,becomingangry.
TomorrowImtakingyoudancing,shestated.
Fine!Isurrender!Isaid.
Yippie!Sheresponded,withahugegrinonherface.
Butwait,therewassomethingelseIwantedtodiscuss
withyou,Iadded.
Theoldman?Sheasked.
Theoldman,Iagreed.Howdidyouknow?Iasked.
Impsychic!SherepliedandIfrowned.Idontlikeit
whenshereadsminds,especiallynotmine.
DidntreadyourmindRay,andIdontneedpsychic
abilitiestofigureoutyourthoughts,shedefendedherself,
obviouslyreadingmymindthistime.
Sohowdidyouknowthen?Iasked.
Hestheoneconstantintheevershiftingnarrativea
mystery,shereplied.Soitsonlynaturalhedbeyournext
topicofconversation,sheexplained.
Right,Ianswered.
Allright,shesaid.Sowhatabouttheoldman?
WhenIreadyouraccountathoughtoccurredtome,
onethatIhadntthoughtofinmyyouth.Anoldman
apparentlysentRichard,andperhapsothersmyway,tohelp
me,Isaid.
HesenttheDemontoyoutoo,ifindeedtheyarethe
sameman,Jauneereplied.
Nottome,toLordDurrant,Icorrected.
Yes,toLordDurrant.Hespecificallymentionedhimas
theSwordofGod,shesaid.Amistake,youthink?Sheasked.
308

Oradeliberatemisdirectiononhispart,Isuggested.
Whatabouttheraspingvoicedoldmanwhoenlisted
you?Sheasked.Ihadntthoughtofhim.
Youthinkthatwashim?Iasked,clenchingmyjaw.I
didntlikewherethiswasgoing.
Well,arecruiterwasfounddeadshortlyafteryougot
enlisted,right?Sheasked.
YesIreplied.
Sowhostosayyourguydidntkilltherealrecruiter,
stuffhiminthecloset,andIdontknowrecruityou?She
said.
Whywouldhedothat?Iasked.
Whoishe?Shereplied.
LetsseewhatweknowabouthimIsaid,andbegan
gatheringmythoughts.
Weknowhesgotaraspingvoice,Jauneeoffered.
Weknowhesaboutfortyyearsold,Iadded.
WeknowhesgotArabicnumeralstattooedonhis
arm,sheadded.
Arabicnumerals?Right!Theywerequiterarebackin
thosedays;whodtattooArabicnumeralsonhisarm?Iasked.
Holocaustsurvivor?Sheasked.
What?Athousandyearsbeforeittookplace?Ireplied.
Itfits,butdoesntmakesense.
True,highlyunlikely,sheagreedThoughyoumust
admit,itfits,sheadded.
Icanadmitthatitfits,butnotthatitsinanyway
plausible,Ireplied.
Verywell,letssortoutthewhatsandwhysandleave
thehowsforlater,shereplied.
Verywell,Ireplied.Sowhywouldsomeonegoforall
thattrouble?Iadded.
Whattrouble?Sheasked.
Arrangethings,people,andsituationsashewouldhave
thembe,Iexplained.
ArrangeforyoutofighttheDemon?Sheasked.
309

Andwin,bysendingtheDemonafterthewrongman,I
corrected.
Allright,letsthinkback,whatelsedidhedo?Jaunee
askedaftersomepondering.
BuriedRaymondtheForesterevenwroteinHebrew
onhistombstone,Ioffered.
SavedayoungRaymondtheForester,accordingtohis
owntestimony,Jauneeoffered.
Youbelievethatwashimaswell?Iaskedin
astonishment.
Yes,shereplied.
Thatwouldmeantheraspingvoicedmanwasbusy
arrangingthingssincemybirth,ifnotpriortothat,Isaid.
Indeed,Jauneeagreed.
Alright,whatelse?Iasked.
SentRichardwithmoney,Jauneeoffered.
AfterRichardmadesurehegaveittotheproperman,I
added.
Butallthesethingshappenedatwideintervals,thats
whyIneverthoughtthemlinked.Yousee,ifhehelpedboth
RaymondandRichardandlivedtorecruitmeandsendthe
DemonafterthewrongmanIsaid.
Thenhesoveracenturyold!Wesaidtogether.
Itdoesntmakesense,Isaid.Iwasanordinaryman
andyouwerejustapsychic.Whatssospecialaboutusthat
madeanimmortalofthispowerinterveneeverystepofthe
way?Iasked.
Obviously,heknewsomething.Werebothimmortal
now,arentwe?Sheasked.
Yes,probablybecauseofhisconstantintervention.I
insisted.Butthereismoretoitthanthat.Thistakesvery
carefulplanningandforeknowledge,notjustlongevityand
patience.Iexplained.
Yourebuildingtowersonair,Jauneesaiddismissively,
justwhenIfeltwerestartingtouncoversomethingreal.
310

Fine,fine.Sowheredoesthatleaveus?Iasked,getting
frustratedwiththismystery.
Withnothing,really,Jauneereplied.
Whynothing?Iasked,andIwasstartedtogetuneasy.
Jauneeishighlyintelligent,farmoreintelligentthanI,andher
masteryoftheoccultputsmostmentoshame.Itsunlikelythat
sheknewsolittleaboutsomethingwhichhadsuchimpactover
ourlives.Andyet,shesmydaughter,andshewillneverbetray
me.Idontbelieveshewouldhavehiddenthetruthfromme.
Allright,notexactlynothing.Weknowthattheremay
beamanoragroupofpeoplebearingsimilarities,whomay
haveinfluencedeventsduringyourchildhoodoverarelatively
longandunlikelyperiodoftimeforhisortheirownreasons,
whichwedontknow,sheexplained.
Theremustbemore,Iinsisted,damnit.Wasshe
readingmymind?
Whyareyousotroubledbyit?Sheasked.
Becauseifitstrue,itmeansthatsomeoneIdonteven
knowinfluencedkeyeventsinmylifethateventuallyledmeto
thelifeIhavenow,Iexplained.AndIdidnotaskforthis,any
ofit.Iwantedmorethananything,toliveanormallife,I
added.Iknowitmaysoundoddtosome,buttruly,mylife,
thoughlongwerenotahappylife.AndIwouldtakeanormal,
happyyetshortlifeforallthelongevityandpowerintheworld.
Yes,sheagreed,ahintofsadnesscreepingintoher
blueeyes.Andunlesswecantravelthroughtimethereisno
wayforustoknowwhatreallyhappened.Shesaid,dismissing
itagain.Thesorrowinhersightlingeredstill,thoughshetried
toshovewhateversaddenedherdeepinside.
Damnit,Ihavetothinkthingsover.Illcrackthis
riddleeventually,Isaid,andbyGod,Imeantit.Ifsomeone
messedwithmylife,Iwouldmesswithhis,permanently.
Iwanttohelp,shereplied,shiftingtones.
Excuseme,IrepliedasIansweredabuzzfromthe
securitypersonnel.Itlookslikethatwontbenecessary,Isaid
asmyfaceflushedred.
311

Why?Sheasked,insulted.
Takealook,Isaid,andpressedabuttononthe
monitor.Therewasawhitemanwithgrayingblondhair
standingatmydoor,wearingabikersleatherjacketand
smokingacigar.Itwasasifsomeonehadsteppedonmygrave
Irememberthisman,oratleastthesoundofhisvoice.
TellhimitsUncleXan,theraspingvoicedmansaidas
Iturnedonthesound.Helookeddirectlyintothesecret
securitycameranowwithasmile,asifheknewIwaswatching
ontheotherside.
***

312

CHAPTERXXVIIAFewDaysAgo

Itwasafewmonthslaterwhenthatlastconversation
occurred.However,therewasanunwelcomeguestaboutto
visitourhouseBenny.Iknowthisbecausesomebodywas
watchinghimandgavemethisaccountlater
Bennylaidinambush,ashehasbeenforthelastcouple
ofmonthsnow,hiddenbythebushesandtreesofapastoral
settlementinIsrael.Itwasawarmnighttoowarm,like
everynight.Yetitwasaspecialnight.Themonsterhidingin
thesettlementreceivedspecialcompany.Bennypeered
throughhisscopetogetabetterlookatthesmallfigure
makingherwaytothemonsterslair.
Sheworelongblacktrousers,andamatchingblack
sweater;herfacehiddenbyablackshawl.Atfirstglance,from
hersize,Bennyjudgedhertobeaseventeenyearoldgirl.
However,astreakofgreyhairtoldhimotherwise.Benny
peeredcloser,steadyinghisbreathingandthescopetogeta
betterlook.
Raymondopenedthedoorforher,wearingawhitegolf
shirt,darkbluetrousers,andaholsteredpistolathisbelt.They
staredateachotherforafewsilentmoments.Bennysmind
racedwiththepossibilities.Issheachallengertohisdominion
overthesettlement?Isshearival?Anally?Whyarethey
staringateachother?
Raymond,shesaid,almostbreakingintotears.He
embracedherandsheleanedonhisarms.
Mydaughter,Raymondsaid.Youhavereturnedtome.
Hesaidinavoiceheavywithemotion.
Hisspawn!Bennythought,andapuzzledthought
enteredhismind?Isitpossibleforamonstertoholdhuman
compassioninhisheart?Orevenloveforhisoffspring?
Apparently,theanswerisyes.
Imsosorry!Theybothsaid.

313

Ishouldneverhaveleft,shesaid.Ishouldhavenever
letyouleave,herepliedemotionally.Bennyhasbeentailing
Raymondforawhilenow,andthiswasthefirstdisplayof
emotionhehadeverseenfromhim.
Pleasecomeinside,Raymondsaidasshereleasedhim
fromhergrasp.Bennyaimedforherhead,hisfingeronthe
trigger.ForwhateverstrangereasonBennyhesitatedamoment
longer,losingher.
Damnit!Bennythought."Hissurveillanceequipment
couldntcaptureaudiofrominsidethehouseandhelostthe
shot."

Meanwhile,Icameinwiththemeal.Itwasathree
coursemealconsistingoffourdishes.Ismiledandthenbegana
preparedspeech.
GooselegalaJaunee!Firstwehaveanappetizerof
shotsoftomatogazpachotoamusethemouth.Thefirst
courseistartarofredtuna,coatedwithspices.Themaincourse
willbegooselegincherryliqueurwithrootvegetablepuree
ifIcangetitright!Andfordessertthereischocolatesouffl.In
short,itsafeastsuitableforaking!
Imustsay,youhadquiteachildhood,Jaunee,
Raymondbegantheconversation.
Yeah,itwasfun,Irepliedlightly.
Horrid,youmean,hereplied,surprisedbymy
statement.
Itwasntsobad.Imean,comparativelyspeakingmany
childrenhadmuchworse.
Justbecausesomekidshaditworse,doesntmean
yourswasawalkinthepark.
No,butIsurvived,didntI?Igottoseealotofthe
world,andIlovedtheadventures.
Iguessthatsonewayoflookingatit,
Whataboutyou?Yourswasntawalkintheparkeither,
asyoucallit,myAmericanfather.
Ineversaidminewaseasy.
314

Butyousurvived,didntyou?
Yes
Anditwasexciting,wasntit?
Yes.
Anddonttellmeyouwouldhaveratherlivedasimple,
boringlife,Ray,causeIknowyou.
No
Sothereyouhaveit,Ray,youvehadadventuresand
youvelikedthem.
Iguessthatstrue.
Ifyouwouldntmindsomepositivecriticism
OfcourseIdontmind,fireatwill.
Well,itseemstomeanditcomesacrossyour
writing,thatyoureveryfocusedonnegativeemotions.Your
feelingsmostlyalternatebetweenangerandsadness
Ihadanangrychildhood!
Theresnoneedtobedefensive.Illstopifyouwantme
to,whiteflagandall!
No,no,Iapologize.Iwasoutofline.
Verywellthen,soasIwassaying,youreconstantly
angryorsad,andrarelyhappy,Isaid.
Youreright,Iguess,headmitted.
Whydoyouthinkthatis?Iasked.
Idontknow.GuessIwasnttoohappythen,he
replied.
Andnowadays?Iasked.
Nottoohappynoweither,heconfessed.
Ithinkyoujustdontknowhowtoenjoylife,Isaid.
Idoenjoylife,heprotested.
Really?Iasked.
Yeah,hesaid.
Allright,whensthelasttimeyoumadelovetoa
woman?Iasked.
What?Heasked,stunned.
Madelove.Comeon,wereallgrownpeoplehere,I
said.
315

Wellhebegan.Itsbeenawhile,
Days?Ipressed.
No,awhile,hereplied.
Weeks?Months?Ipushedandmyfaceremained
blank.
Years?Decades?Ipressed.Inoddedyessomewhere
betweenyearsanddecades.God,Ray!Isaid.Allright,
whensthelasttimeyouwentonadate,aromanticone?I
askedassoonasIdrecoveredfromtheinitialshock.
Awhile,headmitteddryly.
See,Ray?Isaid.
Idontthinkfornicationisthemeasureoffun,he
protested.
Allright,howaboutbarhopping?Goingdancing?
Eatingatafancyrestaurant?Evenplayingacomputergame?I
asked.
Idontdothesethings,hereplied.Justthenthehouse
alarmsounded.Raywasangryandwenttoanswerthedoor.I,
feelingastrangemixofgleeandprivateindignation,turnedthe
Mozartrecorduptofullvolume.
ThiswillirritateRaymondwhenhe'stohissoundproof
room!
RememberBenny,dearreadertheoneItoldyouabout
atthebeginningofthejournals?Thatwaswhenhestruck,and
IIwassickandillpreparedImsorryRaymond,ImsosorryI
couldntsaveyou.
***
Today.
AsBenny,theslayerofRaymondBrooksfinished
readingthewholejournalinhishouse,hecried,likeaman
whoseverylifewastornapart.
WhathaveIdone!OhGod,whathaveIdone!He
screamed,pullingathishair,wipinghisfacewithhishands.If
thismanhadanyresemblancetotheproudman,thearmy
officer,thepolicedetectivewhohasslainmightyRaymond
Brooks,itwouldhavetakenavisionarytoseeit.
316

Bennyhadpublishedasmallportionofthejournalsasa
workoffictionunderapseudoname.Inaway,hehadwanted
tofulfillRaymondsfinalwish.
AstimepassedandBennygrewfamousasanovelist,his
miseryonlygrew.Hewasstrickenwithsuchterribleguilt,that
everydayheheldhisguntohisface,wonderingwhatitwould
beliketopullthetrigger.
Bennywasntawickedman.Inhisworldviewtherewas
goodandbad,whiteandblack.TherewerenoshadesofGrey.
Hewasthewhiteknight,andthesealienmonsters;theywere
evil.Butnow,withthefullrealizationandacknowledgment
thathewasntagoodmanatall,hisguiltruinedhimanddrove
himtomadness.Hereturnedtothehousewhichbeganthis
odyssey,thehouseofRaymondBrooks,seekingclosure.Hedid
notbothertowatchasthesecuritycamerasshowedanaging
blondmaninabusinesssuitapproachthehouse.
AsBennyaskedyetagainWhathaveIdone?Sitting
aloneintheabandonedhouse,araspingvoicefinallyreplied.
Youshotmyson,itsaid.Momentslaterseveralshots
werefired,buttheywerenotheardbythesurrounding
community.Asmortalmenandwomenwentabouttheirlives,
thesupernaturalworldwasatwar;awarignitedbythe
publicationofthejournals.ForyouseedearReader,secrecyis
thekeystonethefoundationforanygoodconspiracy.Andas
thejournalssawthelightofpublication,names,locations,
identitiesanddeedsofmanycreatureslivingtothisdaywere
exposed.Itwasonlyamatteroftimebeforeaboredconspiracy
faninvestigatedtheevidencespreadthroughthevolumesof
theJournals,thatthetruthwasrevealed.Itsironic,thatofall
thesupernaturalcreaturesintheworld,Iwasthefirsttobe
exposedfullytothemundaneworld,exposedbythevery
Journalsmybelovedstepfatherwrote.

Tobecontinued

317

318

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