There is more to life than just politics. Every once in a while you have to do something different and new. Below is my attempt at this. When I write under the name of Something The Dog Said, I am pretty comfortable that I can do it well, both from a knowledge and style perspective. I am not as convinced that I can do as well in the realm of fiction, but I have decided to find out.
This is the first installment in a novel I have written. I am taking the risk of posting it here as I need some feed back. I trust the DD crowd to tell me the truth. If it is unreadable, let me know, if it is average, well I want to hear that too. Any input anyone would like to provide I will take to heart, up to and including hearing “I could eat a piece of paper and typewriter ribbon and crap a better novel than that, don’t embarrass us or yourself any further by posting the rest”, say what you think.
This is a fantasy novel set in a slightly alternate Europe in the early 1000’s. Without further build up:
It was getting dark in the forest. The trees stretched over-head and blocked most of the sky, but it was definitely twilight, whether one was in the forest or not. The road ran along with no pressing need for straightness, and from the back of a horse, it looked like a tunnel that constantly ended a few dozen yards ahead. The two riders could not have been more different. To an observer they looked like the kind of juxtaposition that a philosophy professor might come up with for the definition of opposites.
The one was clearly a warrior. Slightly above medium height, with long brown hair, held back form his brow with a thin leather string. Dressed in a short sleeved chain-mail shirt, covered with a leather vest, a bastard sword slung at his back, its leather wrapped hilt poking above his left shoulder, heavy dark green felt pants, bloused above calf length hob-nail boots. This man was clearly someone born to fight, and win. He rode a chestnut stallion with the confidence that can only be gained form long days and weeks in the saddle.
His companion, on the other hand, was, well, soft. The man was a study in the use of ovals, spheres, and oblongs to make a man. At no point was there a sharp angle, or a flat surface. His head was nearly a perfect orb, with a round top, giving way to red puffed cheeks, and coming to a full circle at the point where his several chins dropped away from the blurred line of his jaw. His eyes, what could be seen of them behind the folds of flesh on his face, were blue and lively. He wore a brown robe with a hood pushed back. The robe bulged in various places, making it look as though he had been built from several large wheels of cheese, stacked one on top of the other. His oddly soft legs stuck out of the bottom of the robe and his feet were covered with leather sandals laced up his calves in the Roman style. He was barley perched on top of a donkey with ridiculously long ears, and as the donkey stepped along with a lively pace, the man would be jogged forward, then to one side, then backward, then to the other side. He gave the impression of a top that was loosing speed, but not quite ready to topple over. As he rode, his non-melodious voice was singing. It was the kind of singing that only three-year-old children and the very pious could possibly enjoy.
“Priest! By the hairy balls of Hannibal’s elephants, will you stop that singing!” said the warrior through gritted teeth.
“Tyrone Costello,” the priest said in a disapproving voice, “I can’t for the life of me think why you would object to the singing of hymns as we travel along, it lifts the soul and spreads the Word of God to the wilderness”
“It also lets any bandits within a two county area know exactly where we are,” replied Tyrone. “So, Brother Carlinus, unless you would like to have a repeat of the situation that I found you in, I strongly suggest that you refrain from any more singing. Even hymns.”
“Surely this close to Dunel Dirk we would not be set upon by brigands?” said the priest looking around as though the very bushes would come alive. “The cheeky bastards would not dare!”
“Brother,” said Tyrone with a sigh, “where do you think brigands live? Sure a few hunt the hinterlands, but most live close to a town. It just makes sense, more merchants coming and going, easy to buy supplies. Hell, some of them might live in the town, just a half day ride from their work, and home shortly after dark. Sounds about right, for your average brigand.”
“Well,” said Brother Carlinus, “I would think very poorly of the priests of any town that would allow such a thing. After all, the Lord said ‘Thou shalt not Steal’ when he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. To let any of your perish flout the Lord like that is a clear abdication of responsibility as a priest!”
At this Tyrone just rolled his eyes. It had been like this any time he spoke to the monk in the last two days, always some homily on how the Lord wanted men to live or the failings of the local clergy to enforce the Word of God on the hapless population. It would do no good to tell the good Brother that most, if not all of the local brigands and robbers, did not attend church nor go to confession. He would just see it as a further failure of the local church to do their duty.
“Brother Carlinus,” said Tyrone in as reasonable a voice as he could, “we are less than two hours away from the inn in Dunel Dirk. If you could refrain from singing during that time, I will buy dinner for the both of us. Would that be a fair trade?” The priest stroked his multiple chins, while considering the proposal, as if there was any doubt that he would turn down a free meal.
“That would be just lovely, my son” said the fat monk, “This inn we are headed to, the Slaughtered Hart? Are you sure that we will find this man you say we need? It seems like the wrong kind of place for a Crusader Knight to be staying”
“If you knew the Shadow, you would not be surprised at the location we are meeting him. I just hope that he’s still there. He may have taken another job, you know.” Tyrone could not resist needling the priest. He was fairly sure that the Shadow would be drinking in the Slaughtered Hart, after all, if what Tyrone had heard were true, where else would he have to go?
“Come on, Brother Carlinus, lets make some time, I would rather not get to the inn at midnight” said Tyrone, and spurred his charger into a canter. The little priest was startled, but not wanting to be left behind, he kicked his heels at his donkey and grimly hung on as the small beast chased after the larger one.
The rain had begun an hour before, and of course, it slowed the riders down. What had been intended as a two hour trip had become three. But, at last, they had reached the town of Dunel Dirk and where riding through its wet streets.
The town showed the variety of houses that you would expect form a moderately prosperous town. On the edge of the town where the shacks of the local farmers, log and mud constructions with low thatched roofs, clustered together near the fields that surrounded the town. Inside the wooden fence of the town proper, were the half-timber and stucco homes of the more prosperous land lords and merchants. Most of these buildings were more than one story with the upper room hanging out over the street, to make it easier for those living there to throw the contents of their chamber pot into the street below. The sides of these houses where splashed with mud up to about four feet, from the near constant traffic of horses and wagons on this main street.
The town sloped up to the to the top of the hill where the stone houses of the nobility, the tower keep of the Count and the church of this town all sat in granite gray splendor, though truth to be told, they looked a little run down and seedy in the soaking rain. Regardless, Tyrone and Brother Carlinus were not going up the hill to the places of the nobles; they turned left, down toward the riverside docks and what could be called the rougher part of the town.
The docks where composed of a combination of large and small buildings. The large buildings were warehouses for goods, and repair docks for the river boats that called at Dunel Dirk. The smaller buildings were the shops of the merchants, and the inns for the river-workers. The inn they were looking for, the Slaughtered Hart was very near the river, wedged in between two warehouses that had fallen out of favor, both with the river traffic and the people responsible for maintaining them.
The Slaughtered Hart was a two-story building, but it did not look that tall. The first floor was reached by walking down three steps and through the wooden door. This arrangement meant that the painted sign for the inn hung at nearly head level. The sign was a picture of a stag that had been killed, gutted, and hung to dry. The animal was hung by its hind feet and the blood from it’s guts and slashed throat had run down it’s head to drip into small pools from the points of it’s antlers. If a person cared to look closer, he would see that the edges of the cuts that had disemboweled the beast were jagged, as though something other than a knife had been used. The background of the picture was a dark forest, with the suggestion of unwholesome creatures lurking in the trees, just out of sight. It was startling to see for the first time, and never failed to be disturbing after that. But, as a way to make sure that patrons remembered your inn, it could not be beat.
The warrior and the priest rode past the inn down to the waterfront, looking for a stable for their mounts. They turned left at the water and found one nearly in sight of the inn. The stable was built with a small porch in the front and the rest of the building perpendicular to the street. The two men dismounted and Tyrone bargained with the surly young man that was manning the stable. As his horse was being led down the aisle, he could see that the very farthest stall was occupied. There was the faint outline of an enormous charger could just be made out. It was as though the light form the lanterns that hung form the beams would not quite reach that particular stall. Seeing this made Tyrone much happier, he was now sure that he would find the Shadow at the Slaughtered Hart. With a smile he turned and walked back toward the inn.
Tyrone stood in the doorway of the Slaughtered Hart and took a deep breath of that distinctive inn smell. It was a combination of smoke, old spilled beer, cooked meat, and unwashed bodies. For a man that had been on the trail for even a short time, it was a smell that promised relief from his aches and pains, in an alcoholic haze.
The common room of the inn was filled with the rough laborers that you would expect to find in this part of town. The kind of men that bore the scarred hands and bent backs of long-time river rats, each hunched over their drinks, in the serious pursuit of some kind of pleasure. Each of these men knowing that the dawn would come and the work that they did would not have vanished in the night like a bad dream.
The bar and kitchen lined the back of the large low room. Heavy oak beams held the ceiling and second floor over the drinkers heads. On each side of the room, there was a large fireplace. On a cold and wet night like tonight seats near the hearths would be prime spots. In fact they would be so valued that it was not uncommon for a lethal or near lethal brawl to break out over who would posses those seats. Indeed on the side of the inn farthest from the door, there was a large crowd moving in a slow circulating pattern trying to be closest to the flames. The other side of the room, however, was a different story all together.
By this fireplace, there was only one occupant of the trestle table. The lone occupant sat to one end of the table, so that both the whole common room and the fire would be visible to him. The table had space for at least five others, more, if one was in a mood that would allow drunks to jostle you as you drank. But none of the tough breed of men that frequented this inn would brave that table. It was clear at a glance that the lone man at that table was trouble, and not the run-of-the-mill type of trouble that the foolish brave, or crazy drunk might be expected to handle.
The man had long black hair that hung loose in waves from his high forehead down past his shoulders. The swarthy skin of his face covered prominent cheekbones, and was framed with a line of black beard that outlined his jaw to the sharp point of his chin. His mustache emphasized his generous red lips; lips that where a brighter red then one might expect, cruel and sensual at the same time. His nose was a narrow blade, on either side of this thin divider where exceptionally dark brown eyes. Eyes so dark that they gave the impression of having no iris, instead just black holes in the white leading to places best left unknown. His clothes too, gave the impression of someone best left alone. He wore a black leather jerkin that laced up the front. The sleeves of this shirt ended in a jagged fringe just below the level of his shoulders, leaving most of his muscular arms bare. The reason for this choice was obvious. Starting at his fingers and flowing up his arms onto his biceps, were tattoos of flames. Black, red, and yellow twined about each other to give the impression that his arms were burning with an unholy fire. All in all these characteristics, combined to create a very sinister man.
Tyrone smiled as he took in the sight of him, this was the man that he had been looking for, and he could well guess the effect that seeing the Shadow would have on Brother Carlinus. As Tyrone thought this, the priest stepped into the inn and pushing back the hood of his robe looked around in clear disapproval.
To stave off a lecture on the various patrons, Tyrone said, “There you are Brother, just the person we need to get to through the Black Tooth Mountains” and pointed to the man by the fire. His reaction was everything that Tyrone could have hoped for.
“W-w-what do you mean?” stuttered the monk “That, that, that, warlock spawn? This is the man that we have ridden three days to find? Have you lost your senses? He is clearly in league with the forces of darkness!” The look of consternation and horror on the little monks face was too much Tyrone and he laughed out loud. This was not the most diplomatic thing that he could have done, but he really could not help himself.
“Brother Carlinus, please, have a little faith in me!” he said between chuckles. “This may be the only man that will allow you to complete you mission, and while his looks do not bode well, I think that you will find that not all is not as it appears. Come, I’ll introduce you”. Tyrone turned and crossed the room to the where the Shadow was sitting.
“Shadow?” he asked as he came up to the table, “Do you remember me? Tyrone Costello? My father’s army fought a battle near Craig Keep, ten years ago?”
The Shadow looked up with wine bleary eyes, and focused on Tyrone’s face. “Ah, it’s Fergus’s son, is it? How is Bellowing Costello?” said the Shadow in a clear baritone voice, smooth but uninviting in it’s tone.
“Dead, these past five years,” was the reply “Killed in the siege of Derry Castle. He died, but the bastards did not get the castle.”
“Happens to us all, Fergus must have seen a clear advantage to give himself up. He was a good general,” said the Shadow. He gestured for Tyrone to join him. As the younger warrior sat, Brother Carlinus was revealed standing behind him.
“I see that you have heard of my situation, given that you have brought a priest into my presence, “the Shadow said in a hard voice.
“I can assure you that he is no more pleased to meet you, than you to meet him” said Tyrone with an unstoppable smile on his face, “But I think that you will both be happier after we talk a bit. Or at least not quite so unhappy” He gestured for the monk to sit next to him on the bench. The priest was clearly torn about sitting down, but catching the mocking look in Shadow’s eyes he could not shrink form the challenge.
“This would be, Brother Carlinus, of the order of St. Benson,” said Tyrone as Carlinus sat on the bench across from Shadow.
“Benson,” said Shadow, “Historians, Map makers, patron saint of those that are lost or can not remember.”
“I would not expect one such as you to know much of the Holy Church, let alone my humble order,” replied the monk in an icy tone, doing his level best to stare a hole into the head of the man across from him.
Shadow leaned back with an arrogant smile just barely touching his lips. “A case of knowing your opponent, priest. No respect intended. ”
Brother Carlinus jumped on what he saw as a golden opportunity. “So, you admit being in league with the Devil! I knew it! Repent child of the Pit, a true agent of the Lord God commands you!”
Carlinus was not sure what he expected to happen, but the result that he got nonplused him no end. Shadow leaned forward and held his arms before the priest.
“Do you see these? They are called the Fires of Hell, servant of Yahweh. I was given them when I was only ten summers old. To ware them is to consecrate your soul to the eternal service of Lucifer. Only five men in all the history of the world have been offered the power and responsibilities that go with these markings. I was the youngest, ever. Of course, I’m in league with the Day Bringer. Or at least I was.”
“Then, you repent? You see the light, and hope of Christ the Lord? You renounce your evil ways?” asked Carlinus excited that he may have made a major conversion in this shabby inn.
“No” was the cold response “I never renounced my ways, nor would I. I have been possessed by the Archangel Michael, I do not choose to break my pact with the Lord of Hell, that choice has been made for Me.” finished Shadow in a defeated tone of voice.
“So, it’s true?” asked Tyrone is a quiet voice, “I was not sure”
“Sure enough to look for me with a priest in tow” came the reply “If you had not been sure, I doubt that you would have brought him here. ”
“Possessed by the Archangel Michael?” interrupted Brother Carlinus ‘what do you mean, possessed? Angels don’t possess people, that is the work of demons.”
“Priest,” asked Shadow, “exactly, what do you think demons were before the Fall? Every last one was an angel first. So if they can possess living beings, it is only reasonable that the weak sisters, who did not revolt, can do the same.”
“How did this happen, I know you had been training as a wizard all your life, your family and all…what happened?” asked Tyrone.
“I’d be willing to tell you, if your companion can keep from interrupting me,” said Shadow looking daggers at Brother Carlinus.
Tyrone gave a hard look of his own to the priest and received a grudging consent to silence, clearly, the monk had questions about this occurrence, and the only way to have them answered was to listen to this man.
“My name,” began Shadow, “is The Shadow of Abbadon, or if you prefer, The Shadow of the Angel of the Abyss. I am the sixth generation of my family committed to the service of the Bringer of the Day. My family has been learning and refining the arts of the Lord of the Depths for more than one hundred years. All of it to culminate with me; I was to be the human equivalent of a high-ranking demon. I would have been as a Lord of Hell, without any of the restrictions imposed by Yahweh on the Fallen.
I told you that I received the Fires of Hell in my tenth summer. That is but one of many trials and commitments I made to fulfill my destiny and receive the power my family has sought for generations. I have trained in the Black Arts; have had powerful demons as playmates and teachers all my life. I began my study of the arts of War before I had mastered the skill of walking completely. I have fought in battles, commanded troops, both natural and supernatural my whole life.
All this and more I did, with the sure knowledge that I was the one that would command one of the armies of Hell, as a general in one of the greatest strikes against Yahweh since before the Fall. All of this glorious evil, wasted, betrayed by my father, may he rot!
You see, what neither my Grandsires in Hell nor I knew, was that my father was weak. It started after his father died. One of the benefits of our pact with the Fallen is that we continue to have access the knowledge and wisdom of our predecessors. At our Keep, there is a large blood ruby that gives a window into Hell itself. This lets us speak freely to our dead in Hell. Unfortunately, it must have given my father too good a view of the next life.
This makes no sense to me, why he would fear to be one of the high minions of Lucifer. Hell is no mystery for our family, and we would be part of the rulers, not the ruled. ‘Better a throne in Hell, than to serve eternity on bended knee’, eh priest? But, as I said, he was weak, and would not live up to his commitments to the Bringer of Day.
So, he went to the enemy instead. Being involved with evil all of his life, he would have no trouble attracting the notice of one of the local minions of Yahweh. From there, he could get one of the Archangels involved. But, it was not enough for him to just betray his Lord. His life had been too evil; too dedicated was his soul for him to be rescued just for giving up himself. And that is when he decided to ruin one hundred and fourteen years of work, and allow me to be possessed, possessed by the forces of Light.
He was the only one that could set this in motion. As part of my training, I had to apprentice myself to him as my master in the Black Arts. Only he would be able to force my defenses against, the so-called divine down enough for Michael to take control. I fought it, but by the time I realized what had happened, it was too late. And there stood my father, my dark master, stood by and let it happen! All so that he could go to Purgatory and spend most of eternity suffering, with the pitiful hope of being allowed to crawl into Heaven as one of the lowest of the low. I cannot think of a sorrier end for a man of great power and evil, such as I thought my father was.
So, now I am stuck with a lifetime of training and skills that I can no longer use. My good friend, Michael, will tolerate no use of the Black Arts by me. By Beelzebub’s beard! There are some items that I used to own that are so inherently evil, that I can’t even pick them up. ”
“Can you still fight?” asked Brother Carlinus in a strangely eager voice
“Yes, against those that are evil or neutral, but not against any good man or man concreted to your Carpenter Lord. Why does that please you?”
Carlinus ignored the question and turned to Tyrone “I can see why you have sought this man out; he will be perfect for the job.”
“Job?” said the Shadow in a cold voice, “What job? Exactly what are you talking about?”
Carlinus leaned forward, looking happy for the first time that evening. He reached into the sleeve of his robe and pulled out a roll of vellum parchment. He looked at both of the other men and said, “Let me tell you a story of my own, Sir Shadow.
As I said, I am of the Order of St. Benson. I have been at the monastery at Tolerest since I was a boy of nine. It is a beautiful place, filled with books collected, and copied by the Brotherhood. From the day that I arrived, I knew that God had sent me there for a great purpose. That someday, I would be one of God’s select, remembered for all time, perhaps even one of the saints. Alas, the Brotherhood of St. Benson is not a militant order, or even one of the missionary orders. We, as I have been told many, many times, are librarians, copyists, and mapmakers. The service that we do for God is to preserve knowledge, not bring new members to the church.
It was a quite life, there in the high mountains, with the books and the monks. I loved the teachings of the priesthood and could not wait be ordained. I took my vows and began the work of a librarian. But I could not be still. I have always been able to see how our fellow priests have let their flocks get out of control, and the short-comings in any congregation. It is not just that I see the problems, but I have solutions, solutions that can easily be found in the bible, if one would just look!
I spent many a day, telling the Abbot of the shortcomings that I saw, and how our order could make them better. In fact, I so impressed him that he assigned me the very important task of re-cataloging our archives. It was quite an honor for someone my age, I can tell you. Once that was completed we would be able to use our impressive store of biblical knowledge to foster a more complete adherence to the Word of God!”
Shadow and Tyrone shared a look over the head of Carlinus; they could both guess just how anxious the abbot had been to “honor” a young Carlinus. Cataloging the entire contents of a monastery could take years, and would be the most tedious of make work jobs.
“I worked most diligently,” continued Brother Carlinus, “and before I knew it ten years had passed. It seemed that the cataloging of the archives was a never-ending task. However, I did not give up my vision of doing a great service for God.
Then, one day, I came upon a chest in one of the archives basements. It looked as though it had not been opened for ages. When I looked inside and saw what the contents where, I knew that the Lord God had sent me a sign of what his great work for me was.
In the trunk was the where the personal possessions of Father Arturo Delatora. Father Delatora was one of my orders greatest priests. He was a mapmaker that traveled most of his life, only returning to our monastery to bring his notes and maps to our library for safekeeping. In the chest, I found his journal and a map that had never been cataloged before. I took both with me for to see what was in them.
In my cell that night before vespers, I read this most amazing document, the good Father’s journal of his last trip. He had set out to make a complete map of the Black Tooth Mountains, which had never been done, as you know. Well Father Delatora managed it. His journal detailed his travels and gave the key to interpreting a map that he had drawn to document the trip. While this is a fantastic find in and of it self, with the details of four unknown passes in the mountains, there was an even more important bit of knowledge in this journal.
Father Delatora had found a lost city in the mountains! More than just a city, there where inhabitants living there, completely unaware outside world. These people who where neither Christian nor pagan. They lived simply and to quote Father Delatora ‘in complete accordance to God’s Law, though they have no knowledge of Christ or the Holy Church’. So, you can see the opportunity, can’t you?”
Shadow and Tyrone looked at each other. Shadow raised an eyebrow and said “No,”
“These people, the, ah, Celesta they are called, they are ripe for conversion to the Holy Church!” sputtered Brother Carlinus. “Think of what it means to bring an entire people to the Lord! This is the great work that I was made to do. I began to study the map and there in a clear hand were the directions to reach the valley of the Celesta.”
On the table, he unrolled the bundle that he had taken form his sleeve. It was clearly a map of the Black Tooth Mountains. On it were the known passes and to the south a pass that lead to a box valley, right in the hart of what was thought to be impassable mountains. It was marked with dates and times, and the valley was named Valley of the People of the Light. Below this in tiny letters was the word Celesta.
“You can see,” continued Brother Carlinus, “That the pass is not easy to reach, being far south of any of the common routes. This has kept the Celesta hidden throughout time.
“Ah, “said Shadow, “So, your abbot has sent you to shackle these innocents to the Church? Is that it?”
Brother Carlinus looked down at the map, and a hint of red could be seen on his round cheeks.
“I took this information to the abbot, of course. I explained about the opportunity, how we could make our order the most well known in Christendom, but he did not see it. He kept throwing meaningless objections at me. ‘It has been over 100 years, what if the Celesta have all died? You can not be sure that this map is accurate, after all Father Delatora was very old when he returned to our monastery.’ And other such tripe! As if God would put this kind of opportunity into our hands, and then take it away without letting us fulfill it! No! I knew that this is the mission that God has set for me, and nothing will keep me from completing it! ”
Shadow leaned back and let out a low chuckle that built to a full-blown laugh.
“So, you stole this map? This holy relic and fled the monastery without permission? I think that is wonderful! Tell me, what about your vow of obedience? Did that slip your mind, priest?”
“Sometimes God calls us to obey a higher law,” said Carlinus primly.
“Oh? And here I thought all this time that the Church’s law was Yahweh’s law. Imagine my shame to find out that I was wrong.”
“Men are fallible, even abbots. I have heard the voice of the Lord God calling me to a great work and this is that work. If my abbot could not see that this is God’s plan, then it is just one of the obstacles that the Devil is placing in my path to keep me from this work. But I see signs that it is the work of the Lord; why else would he have led me to you?
I need a guide through these mountains. Someone that knows them and someone that can protect Tyrone and me from the evil things that have made them such a hazard. And look, the Lord has provided for me.” With that, the priest pointed his chubby finger directly at the Shadow.
“You have to be joking,” said the Shadow,” and a joke is very low taste indeed priest! The idea that, I would…” and he broke off speaking. There was clearly something wrong with the Shadow, his mouth moved but no words came forth. It suddenly looked as though a beam of sunlight was shining on him alone, especially his face. It was obvious that there was some kind of struggle going on within him, and the Shadow was loosing. His face became completely slack and from his mouth issued a bass voice.
“We would be more than happy to assist you in your Holy Mission, Father,” it said. The light flowed away as quickly as it had come, and the Shadow fell face down on the table. Tyrone got up and rushed to the Shadows side of the table. He was about to pull the Shadow up, but was stopped by the gravel voiced command.
“Don’t touch me!” said the Shadow, still face down on the table. He placed both palms flat on the table and slowly, painfully, pushed himself upright. He then sagged back against the wall behind him and took deep ragged breaths, as if to calm himself.
“Caesar’s Sandals!” said Tyrone, “What was that?”
The Shadow looked up at him with bloodshot eyes that contained the first glimmer of despair and said, “That’s what it looks like to be possessed by an Archangel.”
Both Tyrone and Brother Carlinus’s eye’s where wide, this was not something they had ever expected to see. As usual, Brother Carlinus recovered his voice first.
“You mean the Archangel Michael is here, now?” he asked, his voice rising. “You must ask him to help me in my quest!”
The Shadow glared at him from across the table. He pulled himself up from the wall and said” Greedy, aren’t you priest? It is not enough to have me take you through the mountains, now you want so-called divine intervention?”
“You don’t understand, what could you, a mortal man, do that he could not do better? With the help of an Archangel, we would be assured of success!” replied Carlinus.
“Damn it, Priest! Don’t you even know your own dogma? Mike can’t help you directly, unless his master tells him to, explicitly. All that is beside the point, in any case, my possessor has said that I will help you with your mission to subjugate the Celesta. So, you will have all of the help you need to cross the Black Tooth’s and ruin the lives of these people. Damn you both!”
“You will really help us then?” Asked Carlinus
The Shadow sighed and looked over at Tyrone.
“Costello, take this fool out of my sight. We’ll meet tomorrow morning and figure out what provisions we need. I hope you have money, priest, you will need it to outfit yourself for the journey.”
“You, you, you cannot talk to me that way, hell-spawn!” sputtered the priest. “The Lord will not let you disrespect the office of priest this way!”
“Carlinus, you continue to show what a fool you are. I can and will call you anything that I like, for all their power to compel me to help you, the forces of Light would no more rob me of ability to speak the truth then they would rob you of your ability to be a fool. You may have divine help, but that does not make you any less of a fool. Tomorrow morning Tyrone, I’ll see you then.”
“And what will you do tonight?” asked Tyrone.
The Shadow sighed and said, “Try to drink the taste of holiness out of my mouth.”
Tyrone stood and waited for Carlinus to get up as well. He led the little priest out of the inn and into the raining night. Before he left he looked back one last time at the Shadow. Two bottles of wine now sat on the table and the Shadow was drinking. He still looked dangerous and evil, but now, he shared that desperate and beaten look of the other patrons of the Slaughtered Hart. It made Tyrone think of a captured wolf that he had seen as a child, that same look of something wild, forced into a tameness and made to conform to the rules of the common world. He could not say why, but the sight made him sad.