Chapter Ten Tomas. Holy Knight?
The Knight sat polishing his sword in the flickering fire light of the camp fire with a small smile to himself as he watched the two young men copying him in polishing their own weapons while Sir Henry, the Dwarf Cleric, stood on guard just outside the fire light.
“I have asked you here to our Armourer Louis Camber and Weapon Smith Christian Margot, to obtain you own personal weapons and armour.” Alexander said surprised at how quick time had gone since Sophia’s trial. Four days had passed with no sign of her or her mother and come to think of it very little sightings of Patrik either. “We don’t normally do this until further on in you training but my friends here will be going to the royal court for half a year to teach the Royal Armourers staff in these new methods they have discovered.” The little wizen armourer gave him a dark look. “I’m sorry I should have said invented here.”
The weapon smith was a jovial man with a ready smile and huge muscles to boot. Alexander knew to well that anyone argued with him at their own peril.
“Well hello youngsters.” The man said. “Sir Alexander has assessed your needs and has discussed them with us. Now since you are to become Paladins your armour and weaponry are not made in the conventional manner.”
He crossed over to a large bubbling coffin like affair.
“Your armour and weapons will be grown out of the raw materials rather than being forged, but having said that they will have many of the same properties and shapes as the more traditional armour.”
Alexander saw Tomas put up his hand to ask a question.
“Yes Tomas?” he asked.
“Gentlemen , My Lord, I am still growing and fear that the armour will soon be out grown.” Tomas petered out to a nervous stop.
“That is a good question. Louis would you explain?”
The little man groaned and shook his head in disgust.
“What are you teaching them these days.” He shook his head again and tutted. “The metal is crystalline in structure and as such will grow with you. Now stop the yakking and get on with it. Who’s first. No volunteers, very well you boy since you asked the question can go first. Strip to your underwear and come over to the vat, Christian will you assist please?”
“My pleasure my friend. When you get in it will feel like a hot bath. Tomas isn’t it, I loved your sisters story telling to my two children, all three of us were quite enthralled.” Christian saw his friends impatient look. “While we are cooking Tomas, so to speak, the rest of you will strip to your undergarments. You my young lady will undress behind that screen. When it is your turn we will put a screen around the vat until you are in. We need elbow room as you’ll see.
Ah your ready young Tomas. Follow me.”
The three of them, Tomas, Louis and Christian, crossed over to the tank where a short set of stairs were built into the device.
“In you get lad.” Louis said with an attempt at a reassuring smile. “Lay flat and when I tell you to submerge your head take a deep breath and do so. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little alarming but you will soon be able to breathe again.”
Alexander remembered when he trialled this method last year and how alarming it felt as plates of armour coalesce around his limbs and a great helmet quite literally grew over his face.
“Your doing well boy.” Christian said his arms like Louis’s up to his elbows in the grey turgid liquid manipulating something unseen.
“Now lad take a deep breath, that’s it, and go under.” Louis told him.
Silently the two men worked quietly manipulating things that could not be seen with their high gloved hands.
“I know you can hear us Tomas. I want you to sit up in ten seconds from now. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six , five, four , three, two, one, up.”
Tomas sat up like some form of Kraken emerging from the sea. The liquid poured off his silver encased body.
“Out you get please?” Louis commanded.
Soon a Knight resplendent in full plated silver armour stood before them. The figure raised the visor to reveal Tomas’s slightly green looking face.
“Put that down at once it hasn’t set yet! Louis said fiercely.
“You’re the next one, yes you big boy.” Christian laughed. “As you can see there is nothing to it.”
Bonnyface crossed over a little shakily but soon he was standing next to Tomas in dark steel plate armour.
Gregory was next but he didn’t have full plate armour instead his was made of steel plates on chain mail, as was Vicktor’s.
“Young Aziz isn’t it?” Christian asked.
“Yes sir at you service.” Aziz tried to look and sound confident but his dry lips and stammering voice gave him away.
“Because of your faith young man we need to do things slightly different. Nothing to worry about but I need you to pray to your God while you are immersed, can you do that for us?” Christian said with a warm reassuring smile.
“Be certain that I will most assuredly be praying to God, my friend, from the moment I step in.” Aziz wiped his sweating hands down the legs of his linen pants.
Tomas gently gripped his friends shoulder.
“You’ll be fine Ferret besides which we need you alive, it’s your turn to cook tonight.” He whispered to him.
“You know how to make a fellow feel better my friend.” he whispered back.
He crossed over and laid down in the tank.
With frowns of concentration the two men set to work. It took a little longer than the others which made Tomas wonder if Aziz had enough breath in his body. Tomas was readying himself to move when Aziz sat up resplendent in silvered steel chain mail. On his head was a conical helmet with a tall spike and a turban of bright colours around the forehead.
He was barely out of the tank before De Anjou stepped forward in arrogance his lip half curled with distain. De Anjou swaggered over and with a snarl of contempt got into the viscous fluid. Both Christian and Louis looked concerned as the youth went under only to resurface moments later encased in midnight black chain mail.
When he stepped out of the tank he looked down at his jet black set of chain mail.
“How come I have chain mail while that pair have plate armour?” He moaned.
“It is not a contest De Anjou you get what Our Lady thinks is appropriate.” Christian said sternly before turning to Samantha who was still hidden by the screen. “Are you ready Samantha?”
“Yes sir.” She replied shakily.
She had seen little of what had taken place, the screen obscuring her view.
As she walked to the coffin shaped bath the two men lifted up the screen and followed her round such that she was obscured from the view of Alexander and the other pupils.
Strangely she suddenly felt calm when the time came to totally immersing herself in the liquid. When she resurface she noticed that the screens had been removed. She now wore a mail shirt with a steel breast plate and back plate attached and a separate mail and leather skirt.
Alexander looked at the group with pride. He had to admit to himself that they looked splendid in their armour.
“Attention please.” He called noting the quick grasping of hands between Tomas and Samantha as they gave him their attention. “You have now received your armour, I remember receiving mine I was scared witless and I am a darn sight older than you lot, but don’t rely on it alone to protect you. You will now select your weapons, the extension to your arms. The idea is to keep your opponent at arms length until you can see your moment to strike, remember it is better to strike once and hit the target than to strike five times and miss. Christian would you take them through the selection process please?”
Christian and Louis led them over to a long bench festooned with weapons of different sizes.
“Tomas you will go first. Select a pair of weapons not for their looks alone but on whether they would suit your fighting style.” Alexander instructed.
Tomas picked up a hand and a half sword or as it was called the Bastards Sword. He tested its balance and made a few trial passes with it before nodding to himself with approval. He then picked up a small but powerful looking ball mace.
“I would take these if that is alright with you?” He said looking at the two men.
“A fine pair, you have picked a choice piece of my work in the sword.” Louis nodded.
“Why does he get to go first?!” De Anjou exclaimed.
“Because I said so.” Alexander answered coldly. “But since it is so important to you, you can go next.”
In short time he was armed with a broad sword and a long bladed dagger.
After weighing up his options Bonnyface selected a double handed war hammer and a long sword, both Vicktor and Gregory chose long sword’s and long bows.
Aziz chose a pair of scimitars.
Samantha walked over to the weapons and caressed them gently before selecting an exquisite composite bow and a short sword.
Alexander smiled a warm smile and picked up two javelins to add to her pile.
“It seems our Holy Knights are caparisoned for war.” Sophia’s voice floated over from the doorway into the abbey proper. “They make a fine looking spectacle Sir Alexander do they not?”
“Yes they do My Lady Sophia.”
As she entered all the students save Aziz and De Anjou dropped on to one knee.
She laughed a little light laugh.
She put a hand on Tomas’s head.
“See I told you that you would one day be a Holy Knight brother. Our Lady blesses you.” She walked down the line blessing each of them until she reached Aziz.
Aziz did one of his intricate bows.
Sophia gave a great peal of laughter before saying.
“You do me a great honour Aziz, may your God bless you and be with you always.”
Aziz took her hand and kissed the ring on her right hand.
“My God has already blessed me by knowing of you and your brother. I shall hold your blessing here by my heart with my Gods words.”
Sophia patted Aziz’s swarthy face and turned to Anjou.
“So you still doubt De Anjou. You feel you know better than the inquisitor on this matter.” She cocked her head over to one side for a moment then added. “Our Lady even blesses you. Go in peace.”
Alexander could see the worried looks of Patrik and her mother who stood behind her. Alexander felt that something was wrong though he couldn’t put a finger on it. She seemed strangely placid and calm.
He caught sight of Patrik’s slight shake of a head and decided not to push the subject.
“Listen please. I want you to spend the rest of the day getting used to your weaponry for tonight you will undergo a vigil in the Night Chapel. I’ll join you in the practice yard shortly.” Alexander told them after Sophia had left.
As the students filed passed the armoury tank De Anjou succeeded in jostling Tomas. Tomas crashed into the vats side causing him to lose his grip on his sword. It dropped into the tank with a splash.
In blind panic Tomas shoved his mailed fist into the tank to late to hear the chorus of ‘No’ that split the air.
Rapidly he withdrew his hand clutching the sword. The sword blazed with silvery light that flew over Tomas’s armour making it difficult to look at him and then just as suddenly it vanished leaving Tomas’s armour so highly polished it acted like a mirror.
“Are you alright boy?” Alexander asked worriedly wondering what damage had been done to the lad.
“Yes I’m fine my Lord just a little shaken. I’m sorry for my stupid actions gentlemen, my Lord.”
“At least you haven’t come to any harm. We have never done a double dip so to speak so what new attributes the armour has we don’t know.” Christian stroked his chin deep in thought.
“Let us know if there are any problems lad?” Louis asked with a concerned frown.
“Yes sir I will.” He replied.
“Right Sir Alexander get them from under our feet we have got to clean up this mess.”
“Certainly gentlemen, and thank you.”
Out in the courtyard Samantha asked what was playing on all their minds.
“My Lord what happens in our vigil tonight?”
“Hopefully nothing but some of the Paladins have met Devils and Angels both. I will tell you more when the need arises.” Alexander said carefully.
“Did you see any Angels when it was your turn?” Samantha asked trying to keep the conversation going.
“Yes.” Was Alexander’s monosyllabic reply.
Alexander worked them hard for the rest of the day, carefully heaping as much praise as rebukes. But at the end he had a sinking feeling that they were not ready for what may play out in the chapel.
The group entered the chapel as the sun began to set a little nervously after Alexander’s briefing.
“You will endeavour to stay awake through the night hours. You have no food just water to drink. You will spend the time considering why you are going to be Paladins and what your calling may be.” Alexander spoke seriously to them willing them to understand. “The vigil is different for each sojourner, each Knight. Do not believe all you will see and hear. After tonight you will either be a Journeyman Paladin or just a army warrior. Good luck all of you.”
Ferret carefully laid out his prayer mat making sure that it faced east. Tomas gave the sign of the living ankh to the idol in its niche.
Unseen hidden by a veil Alexander and Patrik took their seats up in choir. The choir was a perfect place for the two men to watch unseen the events down below. Unlike their charges down below the two men had a platter of cold meat, cheese and a bottle of red wine to ease themselves into the night hours.
“Was something wrong with Sophia Brother? She seemed a little, oh I don’t know, distant if that makes any sense.” Alexander stretched out his long legs and gave a sigh of relief that he was out of his armour. But his sword stood propped against a stool.
“Yes it does I’m afraid old friend. I had to give her laudanum.” Patrik sighed sadly. “She has been cutting herself because of the pressure of hearing our Ladies voice. I must admit I am wondering if she isn’t under some attack of some sort. We have set up a day watch hour by hour, making sure she isn’t alone. It seems to be helping.”
“We forget how young she is.” Alexander was distracted by the activities down below.
“Tomas?” Samantha came across nervously to where Tomas sat in prayer.
“Yes my love?” He said without looking up.
Samantha let out a long sigh at his reply and gathered her courage to press on.
“I wondered if you would help me pray? I don’t know what to say or do. I’ve never been that .” She struggled for a word.
“Religious?” Tomas’s long face lit up with a smile. “I don’t pray as such I just have a conversation with them. I tell them what’s bothering me and ask them for the courage, the strength, and clarity of mind to face it and resolve it.”
“Yes I see, at least I think I do.” Samantha nestled herself in his comforting arms.
“Samantha?” Asked Tomas hesitantly.
“Yes.” She replied hopefully.
“I have just asked our Lady for the strength to say this and I hope I get this right. I have feelings for you and I hope you have feelings for me.” The words were carefully chosen and said in a slow cautious way.
“You make my heart sing with joy, and make my days seem bright.” She reached up and stroked his cheek.
He bent his head and made an attempt to kiss her.
“Oh fetch me a bucket!” De Anjou said his voice dripping with open disgust. “Tomas is trying to kiss the boy girl.”
The two of them sprang apart their faces colouring with embarrassment.
Up in the gallery the two men watched critically.
“Ah young love.” Patrik said with a broad grin. “Were we ever that young My Lord.”
“I was but I don’t know about you Brother you have always seemed old to me.” Alexander quipped.
Down below Tomas had stood up to confront De Anjou. Quickly Bonnyface and Ferret intervened.
“Tomas my friend is this not why we are here, to face our emotions and control them.” Aziz counselled.
Tomas nodded his thanks and taking a long deep calming breath he went to sit down only to pause in mid squat. His armour and sword were glowing with a bright cold light.
He stood up and drew his sword from its scabbard.
“Arm yourself friends I think we have company.” He was turning round his sword thrust out in front of him like a dowser’s yew branch when the sound of stone moving caught his ear.
He swung round to face an alcove to find himself facing an Angel staring calmly back at him.
“Can anyone else see what I see?” He asked confusedly.
“If you see an Angel then yes I do.” Samantha told him with the muttered agreement of the others.
Up in the gallery the two men were up on their feet ready to dash down to the teenagers.
“Holy One, if that is what you truly are, what do you wish of us?” Tomas asked.
“Nothing that you would not give freely.” The voice said with a soft lyrical sound. “Soon you are destined to become Holy Knights and I have come to show you what you will be fighting for. I offer you a glimpse of Heaven.”
A fierce crackling sound assailed their ears as a tall demonic figure appeared beside the Angel.
“While I will show you what awaits those you condemn.” The creatures voice said with a smirk. “And to show you the alternative choice.”
Up stairs there was pandemonium as the watchers found their way down blocked by a sealed door.
Alexander looked for any alternate route down to the children whilst below Tomas had taken over the confrontation.
“Holy and Infernal One we must turn down the offer you have made. We will see those fields soon enough and I for one have no wish to see them before my allotted time.” Tomas spoke clearly without any sign of the fear he felt inside showing in his voice.
" I thank you and wish you a good night as we that remain continue our vigil.”
“What powers can you give us.” De Anjou said greedily.
“Ah, so you don’t speak for all your number.” The Devil said.
“We can give you much if you pledge yourself to one or other of us.” The Angel said.
“And what do we loose in this bargain?” De Anjou asked.
“Oh a mere trifle I can assure you. That which you would call your soul. You will not even know that it is missing.” The Devil smiled displaying pin sharp filed teeth. “But you will not be needing to bargain I think.”
“Leave the children alone!!” Alexander bellowed as he tried to climb down the massive organ pipes his sword in hand.
“Ah Holy Knight Alexander it is decided we will show the children our domains and you will come too but you will not be allowed to interfere, the decisions must be the children’s and the children’s alone. But let us not leave you dangling their so ungainly and you too good Brother join us.” The two men vanished to reappear beside the youngsters in an instant. “Come let us be off to my domain.” The Angel spoke her body fading till only a black portal remained.
Bird song could be heard and the buzzing of bees, the smell of spring flowers and grasses started to fill the air.
“Tomas I have faith in you and will back your choice in this matter.” Aziz asserted, the others, all but De Anjou , murmured their agreement.
“Are you all so incapable of making the decision yourself.” De Anjou mocked.
“The choice is a complex one it is agreed, one way is to benefit the common good the other to benefit the individual.” Sophia walked down the aisle to join the huddled group her face calm almost serene. “Do not concern yourself good Brother at the moment I am quite well.”
Both the men stood there unable to speak as they had quite literally been struck dumb.
“I can not come with you but I’ll be waiting here for your return.” Sophia told them. “For you many minutes would have passed but for me it will be the merest blink of an eye.”
“Know this Angel or Devil we are capable of defending ourselves if you play false.” He took Samantha’s hand and stepped into the void with Alexander quickly following.
Patrik gave Sophia a worried look as he went to follow the others.
She smile at him.
“I am fine Good Brother now go for I think my brother will need your good council before this night is done.”
Patrik nodded and followed the others.
Sophia became still as if she was a statue as she waited their return.
The students temptation had begun.