Paladins Tale

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Chapter Five Blood Tide

The morning sun shone its clear light into the sleepy alleyways and streets of Prey. A dog woke up and yawned mightily as a young apprentice ran swiftly to his place of labour.

Elizabeth was preparing their breakfast when she heard Sophia scream. Quickly she ran up the stairs to their bedroom.

“Come quickly mother Sophia’s bleeding.” Tomas called as she entered the room to find Sophia sitting in a pool of blood holding her stomach.

It took only a few moments examination for Elizabeth to ascertain the cause.

“Am I going to die mother.” Sophia’s face was quite pale.

“No Sophia no. You know of Holy Eve’s curse, the curse that all us women must carry?” The girl nodded. “Well yours has begun I’m afraid. Stay there and I will get some cloths.”

Moments later the girl was cleaned up and huddled under her mothers arms.

“It means you are becoming a woman my darling and that your mother must find you a husband if she can.” Her mother told her.

“A husband?!”

“If I can. You become eligible for marriage a year after your first curse but it doesn’t mean you have too.” She tenderly swept a hair off the girls forehead. “Perhaps you should miss the market for today.”

Sophia cocked her head a moment.

“No mother I will go, the people expect me too, and I don’t want to let them down.”

An hour later after they had broken their nightly fast there came a knock at the door.

Elizabeth opened it to be confronted by the smiling visage of the priest Pierre.

“Good morning Goodwoman Elizabeth. I wondered if there were anything you wanted from the market that I could get you?” He said cheerfully.

“No, but thank you Father. We were just about to go ourselves, you were lucky to find us in.” She ushered the children out and shut and locked the door.

“Hello children.” He said with a smile

The children politely replied but with out enthusiasm.

As they walked to the market Pierre conducted a bright and cheerful conversation with Elizabeth offering many sorts of help.

Though Elizabeth was in widow’s weeds she wasn’t expected to stay single for long for as a widow her financial prospects were slim.

As they approached the market Sophia could see the little pulpit shining in the dappled sunlight.

“Are you going to preach today mistress Sophia.” The cleric asked in a bored indifferent voice.

“Yes I think so.” She gave the man a tight smile that didn’t extend to her eyes.

The people in the market spotted the group and fell silent.

Sophia gave her mother a kiss and with the help of her brother mounted the wooden pulpit.

“Be seated good people.” As they sat she saw Patrik and Alexander at the edge of the group watching. With a dazzling smile she curtsied to them before turning back to the crowd.

“Long ago before the worlds and stars were formed. When the universe was just one flat plain our Lord created the beast’s of the land, sea and air and saw that it was good. He took the red clay, the Adoma, and created a man and called him Adam.”

She paused as a pain lanced deep inside her.

“Our Lord saw that Adam was lonely and created for him a woman out of the red Adoma clay and he called her Lilith. But Lilith would not be ruled by our Lord or Adam. She thought, because she was made last, that she was better than they. She fled to an island and gave birth to demon’s and all manner of twisted creatures.

Our Lord sent his best loved advisors to her island but she would not recant and sent out her children to despoil all the land and bring forth chaos. Our Lord changed her into a snake and banished her to the infernal pit of Gahanna.”

Father Pierre frowned but did not take any action.

“Our Lord God then took the living tissue of Adam and his fluids and made him a new wife but they were revolted at what they had seen, for they were aware of all that occured, and she fled to a deep cave never to be seen again.

Our Lord was much vexed so while Adam was sleeping he took all knowledge and all memories from him and created from his rib a new wife called Eve.

The Knowledge he put in Pandora’s box and buried it in the roots of a tree at one end of Eden which became the Tree of Knowledge, and it bore fruit.

Adam and Eve where happy in their nakedness until Lilith came to Eve as a lizard and whispered in her ear to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the only fruit the were band from eating. Eve plucked the fruit and split it with Adam who unknowingly ate it.

They became ashamed of their nakedness and were banished from Eden’s beauty to work the land and fields of the wastes beyond. But the Lord in his mercy gave them two sons, Abel and Cain, to help tend the flocks and grow the crops.”

“She is quoting the old Hebru Codex,” Patrik whispered. “How can she know this, it is forbidden to all save the high clergy and the Brotherhood.”

“Well she knows it now.” Alexander said thoughtfully.

“But Lilith came again.” Sophia carried on. “And whispered jealousy into Cain’s ears. She told him to strike Abel down as a punishment for his pride so that when Able rose again to life he would respect Cain. But Able did not rise again and Cain in his fear buried the body to hide his sin but Lilith commanded the very earth to reject Abel’s body.

When our Lord learnt of the deed in his anger did he curse Eve for stealing the fruit of knowledge that led to Cain’s envy.

Eve was commanded to give birth to all the stars and worlds and all the people that dwelt there on, in pain. He decreed that all female’s shall in pain each month remember her sin and that they too should give birth in pain.”

Sophia put a hand to her stomach and caressed it.

“This day has started for me ‘Eve’s Curse’ but I do not see it as a curse, I rejoice in its discomfort. For it means that one day I will be able to bring forth a new life into the world and though I will share Eve’s suffering I will share her blessings in bringing forth that child.

Let us pray in silence.”

“This is going to cause difficulties.” Patrik muttered once more.

“In what way Brother?”

“She will be eligible to wed and I fear that I know who her suitor may be. And if I’m right all claim we have on their land will vanish.” Patrik shook his head sadly before adding. “I do not see Father Pierre complaining much, far from it he seems to be please. Worrying that?”

“Thank you for hearing my words, the Words of Our Lord God, and I here do pledge my life to your service.

When our noble knights go forth to face the foe I shall be with them so that they know they are blessed by God. And in their fear they can see me and take heart.

I may be just a child, a farmers daughter, but I have the heart of a lion.

Go in peace.”

Sophia made the sign of the living Ank in the air before descending the stair’s into Elizabeth’s weeping arms.

Father Pierre put a comforting arm around them both.

“Your sermon was beautiful child it lifted my heart. But you must be thirsty come let us go to the tavern where I insist I purchase a drink and some food for you. No arguments now.” With that he led them away.

“What did you feel Brother? Is she genuine?” Alexander asked.

“I felt no divine intervention but at the same time how could she know the Codex no matter be able to speak it in the common tongue if their wasn’t.”

“So we are no further forward?” Alexander sighed.

“Oh no I must disagree with you there my Lord, I think we have found out someone has been talking to her we just need to find out who, starting with the Codex.”

Tomas gallantly pulled out a chair for his mother and then Sophia before taking a seat between his family and the priest.

Pierre was true to his word and purchased some wine and cheeses for them. He spoke wittily about his parish and the eccentrics within it making Elizabeth laugh and more importantly relax.

“I will come round to see you all after the morning service tomorrow and we will see what help I can provide.” He said with a warm smile.

“You will not see us Holy Father.” Tomas told him. “We will be up at the Abbey doing our lessons.”

“Oh yes of course you will I had quite forgotten. It must have been there that you were taught that version of the Holy Garden Mistress Sophia?”

“No Father, our Lady told me what to say, and what it meant.” Sophia’s head had lowered and she was looking darkly at Pierre from under her brows a humourless smile on her lips. “I trust your intentions to my mother are honest and true for if they are not I will, we will know!”

As threats go it was quite lame but somehow Pierre couldn’t avoid a cold shiver running down his spine.

When he looked again he saw just a young innocent girl laughing with her brother and he wondered if he imagined the confrontation as neither Elizabeth or Tomas had reacted.

In the Abbey the Abbot reacted poorly to the news of Sophia’s topic for her sermon.

“How did she know the Codex, it is safely locked away with the hidden gospels! Is she going to preach the gospel of ‘Barbarous’ or ‘Margaret the Whore’ next? You were supposed to be keeping her under scrutiny Brother and you have failed miserably.”

“How many of us has access to the Codex?” Patrik asked gently ignoring the Abbott’s words.

“We three and the Mother Superior of the convent.” Alexander told him. “I’m assuming that we three didn’t give her access so an approach to the Mother Superior may be called for.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Patrik told them. “Sophia hasn’t had any real contact with the nuns.”

“Let us assume she did get into the vault which held the Codex could she read and understand it. What language was it written in my Abbott.”

The Abbott sighed and lent back in his chair.

“You are right Brother, as usual, there is no way she could have read it. Forgive me my previous out burst Brother.” Patrik nodded in acceptance. “It is encoded in the ancient Roma tongue and before you ask all the priests know of it, and that it is about Adam and Eve and that it is forbidden, but that is all.”

“So Father Pierre could have put her up to it.” Alexander steeple his long fingers. “He is getting too close to the family for my liking. I fear he may be trying to encourage the girl so he can condemn her and have his way with the Inquisition.”

“Possibly my Lord.” Patrik said deep in thought.

“I will not see her used so, I will not see her harmed! What if she is hearing the Holy Lady and we submit her to torture have you though of that gentlemen!” The Abbot thundered.

“You will not get any argument from us on that quarter Abbot. Did you know that the Blacksmith is making her a suit of armour so she can keep her pledge to ride out with the Paladins and the knights? My own men and women are already discussing how they can arm her and are out looking for a pony for her as we speak. She has bewitched us all I’m thinking, but not with magic, just with the power of her words.” Alexander told them before continuing. “You asked me to investigate further Goodman Clarence’s death Brother so we can tell if his death was natural. With his body cremated there was no body to examine but those that tended the pyre told me independently that the body gave off a foul green vapour.”

“Poisoning you think my Lord?” Patrik asked.

“If it was it was by no reagent known to me.” Alexander concluded.

“Foul magic’s then but by who?” The Abbott asked rhetorically.

The three men fell into silence each deep in thought.

The next day both Alexander and Patrik paid a visit to Elizabeth only to find someone already there.

“Good Morning My Lord, Brother.” Pierre said lightly as he opened the door to them. “I’ll just ask Elizabeth if she will see you.”

“There is no need for that Father Pierre they are always welcome. Come in gentlemen.” Elizabeth seemed a little distracted. “It is not about the children is it? They have been behaving themselves haven’t they?”

“Yes my good woman they have been most diligent in their lessons and behaviour. They are doing you proud.” Patrik confided. “In fact it is how well they are doing is the reason for the visit.”

“If you’ll excuse me my love I must visit Granny Chandler her back is hurting her once more.” Pierre kissed Elizabeth’s cheek and with a nod to the men left the house.

“Father Pierre seems most attentive Goodwoman Elizabeth?” Patrik asked a little worried.

“Yes he is. He says that he has loved me from a far and would wish to take me for a wife, but he knows he must wait while I grieve for Clarence.” Elizabeth blushed. “I think I will accept his offer for the good of the children.”

“I beg of you not to rush into this mans arms to soon, your emotions are too raw, to confused and could impair your normally sound judgement.” Patrik warned.

“I will take your council as that given by a good friend, and heed it. You said you want to discuss the children.”

“Yes good lady. Your son Tomas is showing such skill and the desire to learn that I wish to sponsor him to be a Paladin in training, with your permission.” Alexander told her.

“I fear I have no money for such a venture my Lord.” She said sadly. “Pierre, sorry, Father Pierre may be able to be his financial guarantor. I will ask him when I see him later.”

“You’ll have no need to worry him on this matter as I will be providing all he needs and pay you a stipend.”

“I to have been impressed with Sophia and would like to increase her lessons up at the Abbey and I to will compensate you of course.” Patrik smiled gently at her. “The young Brothers I have punished by working here have shown a desire to remain working here, and I have agreed, and you will have Brother Simons help as well. Will that be sufficient Goodwoman Elizabeth?”

“More than sufficient, though they can not replace my children, they are a great help.” She replied sadly.

Before the conversation could carry on there was a loud knock at the door.

Alexander opened the door and found himself face to face with De Anjou senior.

“Can I help you my Lord?” Alexander asked respectfully.

“I’d like to speak to Goodwoman Elizabeth?” His manner was brusque as if he was only just holding his temper in check.

“I will ask her if she is available. Can I ask what this is about my Lord?” He asked civilly.

“No you dam well can’t! Now stop wasting my time and ask her.”

Patrik and Elizabeth came up behind Alexander, when she saw who was calling the colour bled from her face.

Remembering her manners she bid him enter and escorted him into the sitting room.

“How can I help you my Lord?” She asked as the children took up defensive positions at her shoulder.

“I won’t beat about the bush Goodwoman.” The man said abruptly. “Is your girl with blood?”

“I don’t see that being any of your business my Lord.” Alexander said outraged at the rudeness of the man.

“God dammit man it is a simple enough question, is she or isn’t she with blood like she said at the market.” De Anjou senior replied angrily. “Well my Lady is she?”

“Yes my Lord she is.” Elizabeth replied shakily.

“Then she will marry my son a year from today.”

Patrik was taken aback by the mans blunt confidence so it was to Alexander he looked for a reply.

“Pierre is too young to marry my Lord.” Alexander said defensively. “Her husband must be twenty one at least with land of his own or a trade and he has neither.”

“Do you think I’d inflict that bastard on the girl after all the effort I’ve made to get rid of him.” He turned to the bewildered and frightened Elizabeth. “I am proposing that she marries my youngest legitimate boy, Bernard. He has just come into his majority and would be perfect. I’ll start arrangements and get my scribe to prepare the required documents.”

The huge man got up from where he was sitting next to Elizabeth.

“I will take my leave. Goodbye Goodwoman Elizabeth, Brother, my Lord.”

With that he breezed out of the cottage just as Father Pierre returned.

“My Lady what has the Duke wanted here?” He asked.

“He has offered his son Bernard as Sophia’s husband.” Alexander said having a hard time controlling his anger.

Pierre nodded.

“It will be a good match politically, and with the fortune he has accumulated Sophia will not want for anything, but I understand your reluctance, he is somewhat of a force to be reckoned with.”

Elizabeth burst into tears.

Pierre sat and took her into his arms.

“I will stay with her for awhile my Lord, Brother.” He dismissed them as if they were errant school children.

Sophia escorted the two men to the gate out of the farm.

“Sophia what is your feelings on all of this?” Patrik asked.

“I do not know Brother Our Lady has not spoken to me yet about it.” She seemed very calm about it. “But for myself I do not trust the man.”

“Do you hear our Lady often child?” Alexander asked gently.

“Sometimes more than others. Like when I preach, I hear her telling me what to say.” She cocked her head as if listening to someone talking. “No she is not with me but I shall ask her what to do.”

“I will see you up at the Abbey my child.” Patrik smiled at her.

“You too young man.” Alexander said.

“Sophia do not marry this man, I fear for your safety.” For the first time during all this Tomas spoke. “I would say the same to mother over Father Pierre but I doubt she would listen.”

“I must agree with Tomas on both counts.” Alexander said wearily. “Keep a good watch over you mother and this man, I do not trust him. As for yourself Sophia I have several young knights that would make better husbands.”

“Our Lady thanks you for your concern and tells me that I should consider your wise words carefully.” Sophia smiled.

“She doesn’t approve then?” Patrik asked.

“No she does not, but counsels me to be patient!” Sophia closed the gate.

That night two different meetings were taking place.

In the Abbey the three male leaders were taking wine together.

“I don’t think Father Pierre’s concern for Goodwoman Elizabeth is genuine.” Alexander said.

“It is a about turn from his tirade I grant you, but perhaps being with the child has changed his position.” The Abbott mused.

“No I think not Holy father. He is using his growing friendship with Elizabeth to get close to the children.” Patrik countered.

“We must be careful that we don’t allow our views bias our actions.” The Abbott said. “I find having them here at the abbey most refreshing. They work hard and are swift learners.”

“I agree that is why Tomas is joining the others as a paladin elect under my sponsorship.”

“Pity he would make a fine priest.” The Abbott sighed.

“And he also will make a fine Paladin.”

“Sophia is a natural healer and has a quick mind. I actually believe she hears voices but whether it is our Lady remains to be seen.” Patrik said. “The populace believe it, so we must tread carefully.”

“Yes I agree Brother but it has already come to my ears that there is anger over the claim in some quarters.” The Abbott paused. “I fear she will split the opinions of the people such that if we are not too careful she will be the cause of all to real violence.”

In a large dark room in a deserted house a Sabbath was taking place.

A naked five year old child lay in a drugged stupor on the sacrificial stone.

The throng swayed to a guttural wordless sound that made the hair lift off several of the members neck.

The child looked up and smiled as the knife plunged down straight into her chest. The knife split her from collar bone to crotch. She whimpered a little as the high priest rummaged around and pulled out her still beating heart.

Foul words poured out of his mouth as he called out to the Lord’s of Hell.

With a squeeze he stilled the heart as a loud ripping sound silenced them.

The girls eye’s fluttered open and a sultry female voice began to speak.

“Ah a body. Smells, heat and taste, so long since I have felt them.” It cackled in laughter as it seductively felt down her body. “Oh yes a body, a body with such potential.”

She took the heart and returned it to her body, sealing up the flesh.

She swung round and sat on the edge of the table.

“I have fore filled my part devil now fore fill yours.” The Priest brought the ceremonial knife around to lay against her neck. “I have given you life creature and I can just as easily take it away.”

“What and miss your chance for wealth, power and riches, I think not.” The creature smiled a knowing smile that effected all those present.

The priest removed the knife and put it in its sheath.

“You wanted her stopped and to that end I have brought on her curse. As for the voice she hears in her head you will see the change as time goes on.” The girl scratched its privates with a sigh of pleasure. “When your coven leave here they will not remember me coming into being it’s a nice touch don’t you think? I trust the child will not be missed?”

“No she is a street urchin, invisible to all. Will you meet Sophia and kill her?”

“No you fool, she’d recognise what I am as soon as she saw me.” The girls face darkened and took on a skull like look.

The priest took a step backward and was more than a little shaken.

“Then what are you going to do?” He asked with a surprisingly calm voice.

“You will see as the days progress.” As she spoke the girl grew into a stunning young woman. “I have others to see, to influence and for that someone must die.”

“What do I call you creature?”

“Why I am Bernadette. It is not my real name and I am not so stupid to give it, so you can have power over me.”

“You better succeed woman. I want that land and I have sold my sons soul to get it.” The priest angrily pulled back his hooded mask to reveal De Anjou’s heavy face.

“By the years end the land and much more shall be yours. Patients my friend patients. Already dissent is showing her hand and with a little push in the right direction all will be ready for the anarchy only you can quell.”

She began laughing an unhinged sort of laughter that sent a shiver down even his spine.

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