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Wednesday, 14 January 2009
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My Brother, My Killer
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Chapter Seven: Vengeance


True betrayal is a long and winding road into a deep chasm which only mortal minds can reach. Once embraced the fever vanished as they witnessed a true miracle come true. Even so, the malignant forces were still at work in that once pure body, twisting and corrupting it for it higher purpose. Nicolas favoured to wear a cloak to disguise his disfigurements until the time for his vengeance for this rotten world would come. Likewise he turned away any advances made by Agnés, reminding her his body was still weak and in pain. In fact the boils had erupted like small volcanoes, spewing black pus which covered his sweating skin. He quickly began to gain weight until he could not hide his perverse obesity anymore. The outside world suspected it to be a lingering effect of his disease and mourned the loss of its warrior. Visits became increasingly more scarce as the legendary lord became more distant and rarely ventured outside. Travellers started to shun the castle and its moody lord. Simon and Agnés worryingly chalked it up due to the massive trauma his mind and body have sustained in those gruesome weeks. When cornered he’d assure them with fleeting interest that he’d be fine, fighting to control the starting change in his voice. Weeks passed as his descent became ever more apparent, a chasm between his former world and the realm of corruption that couldn’t be bridged anymore. Meanwhile snow threatened to engulf the land once more in the tidal reign of winter. Vengeance was best delivered cold, when least expected, with an icy stab that would harvest sorrow and despair.



Through the weeks dark clouds had been pulling inwards but for the moment the coast had been spared any assault of the most miserable season of the year. The days however had been a daily struggle against the pervasive cold, the morning laden with little shards of ice on the roofs and ground. True to the season Nicolas had even seen more reclusive, a dark weather likewise conquering his mind. Shall the storm of snow bring misery as well to his mind? Simon found himself wondering on that subject for most of his days, worried about the mental stability of his friend. With each day he seemed to be slipping farther away from him. And Agnés. The poor women is desperate for his affection but it seems that their bond has mutated in his weeks of sickness.  The scarce times I get to see her, weariness radiates from her eyes, her silver pearls lined red from the bitter tears to which seems there isn’t no end. Her mood is toppled by doubt and guilt: she doesn’t blame me, I know, but it is hard not to blame yourself when she suffers so much.


Dark clouds, their spectra ranging from light grey to pitch black, passed overhead to wage war on the frozen landscape. The cold touch of the parapet didn’t seem to bother Simon as he gazed out to sea. Even the sea seems void of light, a dark torment out pull the living to its cold depths. The wind tried its best to chase the living inside as a strong and freezing sea breeze ruled the shores. I don’t mind the cold, it seems to numb my worries at least.
“Sir Gastinois?” The voice who had interrupted his chain of thoughts belonged to a master sergeant of the keep.
“Yes, sergeant?”“The beacon of Fort Niçoise is ablaze, sir. It’s been burning for near a half an hour now.”The news surprised the knight as the south border was the safest of all: years could have passed and the warning fire would not have been alit.
“Lit? Are you sure?” The short nod of the sergeant send a shiver down his spine.
“Alright, has the lord been warned?” Meanwhile he started to make for his quarter to don his armour and prepare his gear, followed on his heels by sergeant.
“That’s just it, sir: we don’t seem to be able to find him anywhere.”
A sudden unfathomable fear materialised in his mind which Simon quickly tried to suppress. “Have the guard been warned?”
“Yes, sir, they are assembling as we speak.”
“Warn the lady of the situation and continue to search our lord. As soon as the guard is gathered, ride on to the castle. I’ll be riding ahead, I’ll meet you there or in the event of trouble earlier on. Get!” 


Simon rode on with all speed he could spur his horse towards the beacon which burned bright as a star in the night sky. The first specks of snow melted on his cold armour but started to hamper his sight. The gates of the small keep were ajar and silence dominated the surroundings. There was no sign of forced entry nor did there seem to be any trouble which fortified the fear which he had tried to quench with the obvious. Surely Nicolas was down in the city or travelling in the countryside. The threat will be nothing more than a brave band of orcs lost in the plains. Holding his breath he tried to push the wooden doors further open but something was blocking the left one and the right one seemed to still be strongly fastened. Simon put his shoulder against the fortified wood and braced himself. Facing the fierce might of the knight it gave way but left a stream of blood behind. The knight’s heart skipped a beat as he saw the bloody remains of a corpse just inside the gatehouse, its corpse sprawled against the door. The man had been brutally skinned, its gear laying discarded around the poor soul’s body. The heraldry on his broken shield suggested it’d be one of the brotherhood, a recent arrival by the name of Jasper. As a token of last respect, the knight pulled his cloak over his head. A fallen in a war which you had nothing to do with. 


All over the fort he found the same grisly scene: men which he had known, had fought with and loved, all had undergone the same bloody fate as Jasper. Their bodies were unrecognisable to the tear-struck eyes of Simon, their last fight one without him. There was no doubt anymore for the young grail guardian just a guilty emptiness which torn his mind asunder. One by one he covered their bloody corpses with the cloaks and stained sheets, every time praying for their soul to find their kingdom of heaven. Every time the guilt reminded him, he wasn’t fit nor worthy to be standing here. A betrayer to all they believed in and now I betray them with my presence. He stopped every single time and tears welled unwillingly for the old guard and their undeserved fates. What hurt him even more deep was that he could not even recognise the familiar grooves on the forehead of his old friend Jean de Garlande, the sly smile of Ticham Malfas or the soft and young eyes of Martin de Tinnaire. In their cruel deaths Nicolas had taken their faces literally and physically.


A trail of blood led the unwilling knight to the stairs leading to the beacon on top of the tower. Slowly to not lose his footing on the slippery stairs Simon ascended the blood-coated steps. Twirling and twirling it gave Simon’s mind to catch up with the tragedy, the inhumanity these loyal knights were struck with, the curse he had brought upon these innocent souls. He did not want to see what awaited them on the top of the flights for it was his fault, his betrayal had heralded their doom. Life seemed to have stopped in that small confined space, the only way to guess time still passed in that choking silence was the occasional dripping resonating through the stone staircase. There was no Nicolas to greet him to the top of the tower, no chance to redeem himself and right the wrongs he had collected over the year. Impaled on two swords embedded strongly in the sturdy oaken door there was another skinless corpse, his blood dripping on the stone floor. There was no familiar face to be recognised, just one other body, grinning wickedly at Simon’s sadness and guilt.  


Mentally preparing for the grisly task that had to be done, Simon advanced to the corpse whose lidless eyes seemed to follow his progress with keen interest. At his feet lay a shield, mostly covered in blood by then. Determined to know whose life had ended here, impaled on a door in a castle far away from home, the knight tried to brush off the sticky layers of blood. His heart skipped a beat as he recognised the grail in a rose on a white and black divide: there was no hopeful doubt left in Simon’s mind: Nicolas had forsaken his name, land and goddess in favour of the dark powers of the world. Thrice cursing his name and his own part in this fell play, the overwhelmed knight lifted the poor soul’s body of its disgracing position and carried it all the way down as the start of his self-induced penance. Blood soaked his tabard first, drinking deep its water of life, bloody streams then trailed their way down on his plate, staining the forged iron, at the base of the stairs the blood had covered the greater part of his armour. As he walked into the yard, he gently laid the body on the stone pavement. The muster of Pinson’s Keep had arrived at the scene, horrified by the bloody account. Bravely they had ventured past the gatehouse to gaze upon the full brunt of Nicolas’ anger. In trance Simon moved past them until he found their sergeant.“Bury the dead with the honour they deserve, clean the place to get rid of the stain and leave a cohort here until we can empty the keep.”
The sergeant merely nodded at the hollow voice of his lord, his blood-drenched tabard unsettling and his sadness irradiating from his dull eyes.
Suddenly tired and drained, the knight nodded in his own reply and sighed. His trait was heavy with sorrow as he walked to the gates of the small fort. He would never enter Fort Niçoise again.


Last Updated ( Saturday, 31 January 2009 )
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