Joined Tue 09/06/11
For the bishop, this was an extremely difficult position to find himself in. His conscience pricked at the very idea of handing over the sacred book.
One thought overrode this concern however. The idea of his young lover being murdered. His own position could well be at risk.
When he returned to his office, he paced the floor in anger.
âWhat the hell do I do? She said no police!â
He struggled for another hour, and at last took the key to the top-secret vault.
As he approached the guard for the second time that day, he tried to smile.
âBack again sir?â
âI forgot to check something.â
Once he entered that room, he removed the book and tucked it under his vestments. As he locked the door once more, he tried something rather brazen.
âIt must be quite boring down here.â
The armed guard smiled.
âTime passes sir.â
He safely reached his office with some relief, before heading back to his official car.
âWhere to sir?â
âSame location and then drive off.â
The driver nodded and took him as rapidly as possible towards the young manâs home.
When the car drew away, the nervous bishop knocked upon the door.
âCome in,â the woman hissed. âI hope that you have it.â
The bishop entered the room and noted the missing lover.
âWhere is Edwardo?â
The woman smiled.
âAsleep in the bedroom of course. Now hand it over.â
He reached under his robes and the sacred book appeared. She snatched it before directing him to a waiting chair.
She opened it to the letters and read avidly.
âItâs uncorrupted despite the ravages of time.â
âOf course it is,â the bishop said. âWe have been protecting it.â
âStill your church kept its mouth shut.â
âWhat do you expect? How did you find out about it anyway?â
The woman smiled.
âYou still have no idea who I am.â
âA cold blooded killer,â the bishop replied. âWhy the deaths?â
âThey knew about the book but not its exact location. That was crime enough. I added a policeman to the list, just to keep that detective off guard.â
âMy brutality? Your organisation has been persecuting people for centuries.â
âSo you collect religious manuscripts?â
âI told you that in order for you to cooperate. I only needed this.â
âFor what purpose?â
âTo expose the truth at last of course.â
âYou canât do that. We may never survive!â
âThat will depend on the worshippers not me.â
âWhat do you get out of all this?â
The woman turned on him.
âThanks for this Bishop Brentburg. Now I have only one thing left to do.â
As his eyes opened wide, she slit his throat and left the building.
The nine oâclock door knock was not to Saliniâs liking. He puffed towards the door and his sergeant nearly fell inside.
âWhatâs this about sergeant?â
âWe have been called in by the commissioner sir. The bishop has been murdered.â
âIâll get my coat.â
When they arrived at the crime scene, the doctor was waiting.
âMorning Salini. Really bad case this.â
The detective glanced at the still body upon the floor with distaste.
âLooks like our killer has struck again.â
âYou better check the back room,â the doctor suggested.
He found the young man tied to the headrest with forks driven into his naked chest.
âWell sergeant, what do you think?â
âOur suspect obviously threatened him.â
âObviously. We need prints.â
They returned to the living area as forensic arrived.
âWere they killed together?â the detective asked.
âThere was an hour between them. Ah...â
The officers turned as their boss walked in.
âWhat a ruddy mess Salini. This madman needs stopping.â
âI agree sir. Hopefully the team will find some prints.â
As the commissioner saw the second body, he shook his head.
âThe press are really going to love this lot.â
âIt seems they were at least friends sir,â the detective said quietly.
âWe all know what the headline will be. Anymore leads?â
The sergeant shook his head.
âWe keep coming to a dead end sir. The only connection to them all is the Vatican.â
âI hope you donât suspect them.â
The detective shook his head.
âSeems the press release failed sir.â
âSo drop this book theory and find some witnesses!â
The officers left under a dark cloud. It was obvious to the detective that he was on the brink of being replaced.
âWe must be missing something sergeant.â
âWhat sir? We have no witnesses.â
âHow can two people go around Rome killing without being seen?â
The sergeant considered this.
âThey must look pretty ordinary sir. Thatâs the only thing I come up with.â
âI agree sergeant. So damn ordinary that no one blinks.â
When they reached the roundabout, a vehicle suddenly cut across their path. The squad car braked hard and skidded onto the pavement.
âStay here!â the detective yelled dashing out.
He saw the car as it raced off and cursed.
âDamn stupid driver.â
He turned his back as a motorcycle approached at high speed. He failed to notice the levelled barrel.
As the shots rang out, the detective crashed to the ground.
At noon that day, Latini stood in front of the empty drawer within the bowels of the Vatican.
âThe damn thing has gone. At least Salini was silenced. The Holy Father will need a miracle now.â
He stormed out and tossed the key to the waiting guard.
âClose it yourself!â
At five that evening, the receptionist at the city paper received a strange visitor. The tall woman had bright red hair and a sea blue dress. Under her arm was a nicely wrapped package.
âCan I help you?â
The smiling lady handed it over and said pleasantly, âMake sure your editor gets that.â
As she walked away, the receptionist asked, âWho shall I say called?â
As she stepped outside, she stared hard at the sky.
âDo you think Iâve done enough?â
A blinding light enclosed her, and the woman vanished.
When the elderly pontiff woke the following morning, the aid entered with a grim look upon his face.
âYou seem as though the world is about to end.â
âYou better read this.â
As the pontiff turned the paper over, he almost collapsed with shock.
Across the front page was photoâs of the ancient letters.
Underneath, the Italian translation. The headline was bad enough.
The truth about Judas Exposed...Why were we not told?
He tried to read but his hands were shaking.
âWhat the hell has been going on?â
âI donât know,â his aid replied.
âWhy was I not told?â
The aid shook his head.
The pontiff read the translation with extreme alarm.
âOur sister Judith was the most beloved of Our Lord. Always faithful, her impatience led to her terrible downfall. I John know that He loved her with body and soul. His disciples saw them together. Their laughter and how they slept. Despite her terrible crime of betrayal, she will be redeemed. â
The pontiff could not read any more. As people woke to that startling news, a soft rain fell over Rome.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
The well-versed detective sat in his squad car as the sergeant started the engine.
âYou know sergeant, that Latini was lying.â
âI know sir. It was written all over his face.â
âWhy would he lie to me?â
âTo keep you from finding out the truth perhaps?â
âAlmost certain. Okay, Iâll pull rank for a change. Take me to see the commissioner.â
The car set off towards the government buildings. To the right stood the proud headquarters of their supreme boss.
After convincing his secretary that it was important, they were ushered inside the business like office.
âYou have something to report detective?â
âYes I have sir. I believe that Lutini is lying to me.â
âThatâs a very serious charge.â
âHe was being evasive in his answers sir.â
âWhat was your line of questioning?â
The detective remained calm.
âIâm convinced that these killings are linked to a book called the Neo Clasico sir. I need your authority to examine it.â
âIâve never heard of it.â
âIt is really important sir?â
The commissioner nodded and tapped his intercom.
âGet me Lutini would you.â
The new head of security was sitting at his desk thinking when his phone rang.
âHello commissioner. Yes, I know of that title. Your detective thinks itâs important? I really donât know much about it sir. Iâll put you through to the Bishop sir. Yes of course. Bye.â
As he put the phone down, he smiled happily.
Bishop Brentburg was back in his office when the call came through. As he listened, he cheered up.
âDetective Salini could take a look at it commissioner if this book was still in existence. We had the builders in last year and sadly it was destroyed in an accidental fire.â
He paused for the reply.
âIâm sorry too sir.â
As he replaced the receiver, he grimaced to himself.
âThat detective is becoming a nuisance.â
The commissioner replaced the handset and stared at his loyal officer.
âThe book was destroyed in some kind of fire Salini.â
âThatâs rather convenient.â
âI agree but perhaps it gives us an edge.â
âI donât understand sir.â
âObviously the killer thinks that it still exists. If you issue a
statement to the contrary, the slaughter could stop.â
The detective nodded.
âIâll try that sir.â
Within the hour, the detective was reading a press release as the pack jostled just feet away.
âAs you know, my department is investigating three murders. We continue to follow leads but one lead has come to a dead end. A certain book was destroyed last year that may have solved this case for me.â
Judith sat in her dingy home watching the conference on her television. A garish red wig now adorned her head, and the black dress had been replaced with a nice blue one.
âYou really didnât fall for that crap? The buggers still have it detective. There is only one more killing to carry out then Iâll grab the Vatican by the balls!â
As night fell, a lonely Rome policeman strolled his beat rather impatiently.
âAnother hour to go.â
He knew about the APB of course. Despite keeping an eye out, he had not seen the suspect. What he had seen were the posters.
Upon those was an artistâs impression of the killer. A quite nice looking one too. Below that, the pictures of the victims.
As he crossed the busy street, he noticed a tall woman with red hair gazing at him.
âPerhaps she is a lost tourist.â
He walked towards her and saw that she was smiling sweetly.
âAre you lost mam?â
âI need to find my way to my flat officer. Iâm damn sure that itâs round about here.â
The officer smiled.
âWhatâs the address?â
âThe Via Tablo sir.â
The officer smiled.
âThatâs across the city mam. Just north of the Coliseum actually.â
She took his arm and asked, âAcross there? I would feel far safer with you at my side.â
âIt would be my pleasure.â
As they approached the ancient arena, the woman seemed to become a little agitated.
âSorry about this but Iâm desperate for a pee.â
He saw her dash into a dark alcove and soon after heard the soft trickle of running water. When she did not emerge however, he decided to check.
The lost tourist was leaning against the old stone wall stark naked.
âI need you to screw me.â
The officer smiled and unzipped himself as she splayed her thighs wide. As he drew between them she whispered, âThen you can take me home.â
Salini and his sidekick were back at the station in deep discussion.
âThere has been no response to the posters sir.â
âSo I see. At least the press are treating us with a little sympathy for a change.â
The sergeant had a sudden thought.
âI donât suppose we are dealing with some religious nutters?â
âWhat makes you think that?â
âThe crucified altar boy sir.â
âObviously the book was religious. I just hope the killer gets my message.â
The desk sergeant poked his head through.
âSorry sir but you need to reach the Coliseum. One of our officers is down.â
When they arrived, the street had been sealed off with yellow tape. As everyone know of course, this historic building was now located at the centre of a deadly roundabout. Cars now took the place of racing chariots.
âWhere is he?â the detective demanded.
The shocked officer pointed to the alcove.
âHe's in there sir.â
When they entered, the doc was retching.
Salini saw the carved up body. The head had been settled upon a small stone shelve whilst the torso stood against the far wall.
âIâve never seen anything like it Salini. Youâll find urine near the entrance.â
The detective stared.
âI want it tested. What do you think happened?â
The doc recovered and wandered over.
âHe was lured in here and butchered. Weâll get the DNA and pin this bastard!â
âAny witnessâs doc?â the sergeant asked.
âNone at all. Everyone seems to have gone stark blind.â
As the detective stared at the severed head he whispered, âOur killer did this sergeant. He and she are sending us a clear signal.â
âWhat kind of signal?â
âI donât know yet. That is the problem. They must know by now that the book has been destroyed.â
âSo this is a reply?â
âI think so. Itâs telling me that they donât believe it.â
He left the alcove and pulled his sergeant to him.
âI donât either. A priceless book destroyed in a fire? The commissioner needs his head testing.â
âSo what do we do sir?â
âWe check the internet of course. Perhaps it mentions this book. Despite what the Vatican wants us to believe.â
Throughout that long night, the officers checked every search engine they could think of but with no result. As dawn rose, the detective yawned.
âDamn hopeless sir.â
âIt would seem that nobody knows about it. Not even that so-called expert. The bishops must be pleased.â
He glanced at his watch.
âItâs just gone five mate. Check back at noon eh. Iâm off to bed.â
Earlier that night, as the officers conducted their search, a twenty-year-old man got a rather surprising visit.
When he opened the door, a tall, red haired female stood outside.
âI wasnât expecting anyone.â
The woman smiled.
âEdwardo, remember me?â
He looked intently and shook his head.
âWe used to be at school together. May I come in?â
âItâs really a bad time.â
âIâll make it worth your while.â
He stepped outside and she entered the happy home. A bright carpet covered the floor and expensive ornaments were dotted around upon wooden stands.
âYou have done well for yourself.â
The young man smiled.
âYou really cannot stay long.â
The woman turned and smiled.
âI donât intend to Edwardo.â
âWould you like a drink?â
She shook her head.
âThis is far too important. I understand that you are the partner of a rather important bishop?â
The young man grew rather nervous.
âHow did you find out?â
âI have my ways.â
As she said this, she opened the Velcro and removed a dagger from between her soft breasts.
âNow do as you are told and you might just live.â
The young man staggered back in shock.
âWhat do you want?â
She advanced upon him and said, âJust a phone call. Nothing too complicated.â
Edwardo grabbed the mobile and waited.
âNow call your lover!â
Bishop Brentburg was about to leave when his desk phone activated. When he answered, he was rather annoyed.
âI told you never to call me here. What do you mean by emergency? Okay, Iâll pop over.â
He put the phone down and cursed.
The Bishop had ordered his driver to drop him off three blocks away, and made the rest of the way on foot. When the nervous young man answered he said, âYou had better have a damn good reason for this.â
When the bishop answered, a strong arm hauled him inside. Turning sharply he was confronted by the cold killer.
âWho the hell are you?â
âJudith,â she said calmly. âYou have something that I really want.â
The bishop saw the blade and waited.
âWhat could that be?â
âI want the Neo Clasico.â
The bishop laughed.
âYou are a bit late. It was destroyed last year.â
The woman shook his head.
âDonât try that one with me. Not if you donât want your partner diced.â
âWhatâs it to you?â
She smiled back.
âIâm an avid collector shall we say.â
The bishop thought this over.
âYou will never be able to sell it you know.â
âThat sir is not my intention. You will bring it here tonight or else. Any attempt to contact the police will have unfortunate consequences for Edwardo.â
The defeated bishop nodded.
âYouâll get it.â
She shoved him toward the door and warned, âIf he dies, you will soon follow.â
Joined Tue 09/06/11
As they mulled over this conundrum a tall, dark suited gent walked into the victimâs room.
âYashish sir at your service.â
âAssistant head of Vatican security?â the sergeant asked.
âI am here to help. This murder has hit us all hard.â
Salini stood and pointed to the wall safe.
âI need this to be opened sir.â
Yashish wandered over and fiddled with the barrel until it clicked loudly. The detective glanced inside and pulled out a sheath of papers.
âThose will be security arrangements for the Holy Father sir.â
The detective glanced through them.
âI suppose there have been changes.â
The gent nodded.
âWe have no option sir. The arrangements may have been compromised.â
âI tell you what I think,â Salini said.
âWe now have three deaths. I strongly suspect that the killer is after certain information. Can you think of what that may be?â
The gent shook his head.
âNigella always kept everything under his hat so to speak.â
âSo in your opinion, he would not have discussed his job with others?â
âHe certainly would not have done sir.â
The sergeantâs radio suddenly crackled into life. As he took the call, his jaw dropped.
âWe need to visit the boyâs mom sir. Our officer has been told some disturbing information.â
The detective nodded and said, âWe may need to talk to you again.â
âYou know where to find me.â
The detective handed the papers back and followed his sidekick out.
They fought their way through the heavy traffic until the squad car drew up outside the family home. When they entered the pretty lounge, they found the boyâs mom bawling.
âWhatâs the trouble?â Salini asked the officer.
âShe swears that he was picked up by one of us sir.â
Salini sat opposite and waited for the tears to stop.
âCan you tell me exactly what happened?â
She wiped her red eyes and nodded.
She identified herself as Rome police sir. Wanted some more information in regard to the priestâs death.â
âThen what happened?â the sergeant asked.
âShe followed him to the black car before driving off. I thought that they were heading for the station.â
âDid you get the registration number?â Salini asked.
âNo sir. I didnât even think.â
âYou must have got a good look at her,â the sergeant suggested.
The woman nodded and gritted her teeth.
âTo my grave sir, I wonât forget that woman.â
They waited as she paused.
âShe was dressed in a dark dress sir. She had very strange green eyes and long black hair. She was tall and very convincing.â
Salini turned to his sergeant.
âIssue an APB with those details. We are finally on her track.â
After this was done, they left the woman with the bereavement officer.
As they sat in the squad car, the sergeant said, âShe must have had a nerve sir. Posing as one of us.â
âQuite a cool customer too sergeant. However, her arrogance could well be her downfall. I think she has made a mistake.â
âWhere to now sir?â
âBack to the station sergeant. Sadly, the next move is up to her.â
The desk sergeant smiled as they entered.
âYou have a visitor Salini.â
When he opened the door, a short, well-built man was waiting for him.
âYou may go sergeant,â his guest said.
As the door closed, the commissioner invited the detective to sit.
âIâve had Vatican security on the line. They are very concerned by
âAs am I sir.â
âOur PM has even had to answer questions in parliament.â
âI am not a politician sir.â
âYou would make a lousy one if you were. Whatâs your take on the break-in?â
The detective thought quickly.
âIt is obvious that it was carried out by a young and fit woman sir.
Though robbery was not a motive.â
The commissioner gave him a steely look.
âI know your history Salini. If I find out that you were behind it...â
âWhat me sir? Even if I had wanted to, Iâm not fit enough now. I do have some good news though.â
He then told his boss about the woman.
âAt least itâs a start Salini. Your reports indicated we were looking for a bloke.â
The detective nodded.
âA bloke certainly attacked the head of Vatican security sir. They must be working together. A woman killed the priest and it would have taken two to nail that boy up.â
âJust keep me in the loop eh?â
âI had intended to sir.â
When he departed, the detective sighed with relief.
âAny trouble sir?â his returning sergeant asked.
âNothing to worry about. Itâs that priestâs funeral tomorrow.â
âYes I know sir.â
âI think we should attend that.â
âYou donât think the killer will turn up sir?â
The detective shook his head.
âPeople say the most strange things at these events sergeant. I want to be there when they do.â
A light drizzle was falling as the mourners stood weeping at the graveside. Standing at a discreet distance, the two officers listened to the proceedings with deep respect.
When it was over, the sergeant pointed to a short, elderly man who needed a stick to support himself.
âThat is his brother sir.â
âLetâs go and have a friendly word eh?â
âSorry for your loss sir. We are the investigating officers.â
The brother glared at them.
âWhen you catch him, string the coward up.â
âI understand that this is a bad time sir but we really need your help.â
The brother nodded.
âWhat do you need to know?â
âAnything unusual about his behaviour perhaps?â
The brother shook his head.
âWe had not spoken for three years sergeant. Something I will always regret.â
âIs there nothing you can give us?â the detective asked.
âI just hope it wasnât over that wretched book.â
This was news to them.
âA book sir?â the sergeant asked.
The gent huffed.
âAbout ten years ago, my brother told me a great secret. Apparently the Vatican has a book that it would rather keep out of the public eye.â
The officers glanced at each other.
âYou wouldnât know the title by any chance?â
The gent grinned.
âOf course I do. Itâs the Neo Clasico. I even joked at the time that the pope would bump him off.â
âIs it valuable then?â Salini asked.
âBeyond value I should think. Itâs written in Latin and contains certain letters that never made it into the New Testament.â
âSo itâs apocryphal?â the sergeant asked.
âMy brother indicated that it was downright heretical.â
âNot enough to kill over surely,â Salini muttered.
âI donât think so. No one has seen it for at least a century, and those who know of it are sworn to secrecy.â
âThanks for your time sir,â the detective said.
As they reached the squad car, he was smiling.
âCome on sergeant. I want a word with the popeâs security boys. We have just been given a clue that could crack this case wide open.â
Their entry into the Vatican was far easier than last time. Once their intentions had been made clear, they were taken to a third floor office where Vatican security was located.
The dark suited gent smiled as they entered his opulent office. The wall was brightened up by two religious paintings, and he invited them to sit.
âHow can I help you detective? Any news on the break-in?â
âI have been informed of a certain book sir. I just wanted your thoughts upon the subject.â
The assistant head smiled sweetly.
âThe Vatican has over a thousand books detective.â
Itâs called the Neo Clasico sir.â
The gentâs face hardened.
âThere is such a book.â
âWhat does it contain?â Salini asked carefully.
âI actually donât know detective. You see, I have never seen it.â
âIt still exists?â the sergeant asked.
âAs far as Iâm aware yes.â
The detective noted the gentâs nervous posture.
âWould your predecessor have known about it?â
âThe head of our security would have done. You think he was killed for that?â
âItâs a possibility sir,â the detective replied. âI take it that this book is under lock and key?â
âItâs securely guarded.â
âIâm glad to hear it,â the detective said. âOne last thing. Does it contain anything that would provoke three murders?â
The gent grimaced.
âIâve already told you sir that I have never seen it.â
The detective smiled.
âI think that is all. You were very helpful.â
The gent gave him a grim look as they left. After a few minutes of thought, he pressed a buzzer and an aid entered.
âHave detective Salini watched twenty-four seven.â
The aid nodded and promptly left. The worried officer then left himself. He found his way onto the ground floor and took a staircase down to the floor below that.
Along a dim corridor, he stopped and noted the gold plate.
The Holy office of the Inquisition.
He rapped twice.
Sitting behind an enormous desk sat Bishop Brentburg. A typical hardliner, his job was to keep the mother church in line. His hard face broached no compromise.
âWe have a problem sir.â
He sat down and whispered, âDetective Salini knows about the book. Naturally Iâve placed him under surveillance.â
âThat is a good move Lutini. Any further action can only be taken by my express order.â
âI understand sir.â
âYou may go and thanks for keeping me informed.â
When the officer left, he opened a drawer and removed an ancient key.
Sighing to himself, he walked to one of the paintings and pressed a hidden button to the right. As the door opened, he stepped through.
A spiral staircase took him down fifty feet and into a well-lit corridor. At the end of this stood an armed guard. The trooper saluted as the Bishop inserted the key.
After switching on the light, he found himself inside a bare room. Only a single filing cabinet stood here. He tapped the code and opened the top drawer.
His sweating hands drew out the book, and he opened it to the three Latin letters.
As he read the contents he hissed, âThis must never get out.â
Joined Tue 09/06/11
As the crowds gathered in Vatican Square on that Sunday morning, the woman stood amongst them quietly. A tall fair skinned beauty who turned many an eye. Her long black hair and intelligent green eyes nearly matched the dark outfit that stood in sharp contrast to those around her.
As she listened to the Popeâs sermon politely, her anger grew. When he had finished, she wandered out of earshot of the crowd and muttered, âHeâs as daft as an old brush.â
She walked into a side street and entered a quaint religious bookstore that dotted this part of old Rome. She purchased the book before returning to her abode once more.
The Via Copelon was within a run down street. The walls were cracked and blistering paint festered upon the old walls. She was glad her
apartment stood on the ground floor.
A terribly small room it was but Judith did not mind. As she lay upon her bed, she opened the book and read carefully. After a few hours, she tossed it away in contempt.
âThey have really no idea this lot. Even the church has got it
wrong. How dare they malign me!â
She calmed herself before entering the squalid sitting room and making a meal out of yesterdayâs soup.
As she ate, at last she grinned to herself.
âYou know Judith, itâs time to teach these morons a lesson they will never forget.â
She smiled at the thought whilst outside, the Romans went about their petty lives, unaware of who lived amongst them.
Father Antonio was an elderly kind gent who had spent his entire life within the embrace of the mother church. He sorely wished his church had been taken care of though.
As he placed prayer sheets upon the old, dark pews, he noted the woman entering quietly.
âLooks like a lost lamb to me.â
He smiled as she closed the door calmly.
âMorning Father. Preparing for service are we?â
âI am indeed. Will you be attending?â
The woman shook her head.
âMay I have a private word?â
The old priest smiled.
âThere is the confessional.â
She turned and saw the panelled box and nodded.
âI think that will do nicely father.â
When she sat within the darkness, the shutter opened and the priest
waited for the usual things to come out. However, today he was in for a surprise.
âOut of interest father, have you heard of the Neo Clasico?â
He thought for a moment, his mind drifting back some twenty years.
âMy teacher mentioned it once before admonishing me never to mention it again.â
âI understand that itâs located in the Vatican vaults under lock and key.â
âSo I understand sister. As far as I am aware, not even Our Father has seen it.â
âYou do realise its significance of course?â
âThat is a matter of conjecture,â he replied. âOnly the Holy Order of the Inquisition knows the truth for certain. They are its guardian if you like.â
âThe last pope used to head that organisation father.â
âHe did indeed. Though the days of torture and ritual burnings have long gone.â
âI am glad to hear it father. You have been of valuable help.â
She left quickly, pushing her way beside the helpful priest.
âWhat is the meaning of this?â
âA little lesson in faith father.â
She tore the Velcro fastenings open, exposing a silken body to his shocked gaze. She sat upon his knees and ripped his trousers open.
âEver had it here father?â
âYou sister of Satan! Be gone from my sight.â
As she impaled herself she whispered, âWhoâs he?â
Detective Salini approached the doors of the chapel and saluted the police guard. A tall but overweight man, he enjoyed his pizza and wine far more than was prudent.
âWhat have we got?â he asked adjusting his grey trench coat.
âA rather strange one sir. It appears the old priest was murdered
whilst engaging in coitus.â
âThat will do the church no favours. Where is he?â
He was led to the confessional and peered inside. The body had been propped up against the corner but his lower region was fully exposed.
âWho found him?â
âOne of the altar boys sir.â
âNo need to speak to him then. I want a list of his friends though. Especially female ones.â
The sergeant smiled.
âPlaying one of your famous hunches sir?â
âNaturally. Try and keep the press of my back eh? One more thing, leave out any reference to sex. The Holy Father has enough trouble over that subject.â
As the forensic team arrived he said, âI want a full report by sunset. There must be DNA on that old bugger. I have a feeling that this case will solve itself somehow.â
As the sun went down at last, the sergeant entered the modern office of his boss carrying the faxed report.
âIâll see that.â
As the detective read it, his face promptly fell.
âWhat does it mean no matches?â
âWe ran the DNA through the system sir. It failed to link to any known villain.â
âWhat about female friends?â
âWe spoke to those who knew him sir. He was married to his faith.
The only women in his background was his late mother.â
âDamn peculiar,â the detective muttered.
Then he had an idea.
âCheck out the local prostitutes then. A woman certainly screwed him. Though at his age Iâm surprised that he managed it!â
âIâll do that sir. Anything else?â
âThe report says no witnesses. What does that say to you?â
âThat she slipped in unnoticed sir. He obviously knew the killer.â
âI tend to agree sergeant. No one can hide in Rome you know.
Everyone sees something. Especially on a Sunday. Someone out there is keeping their mouth shut.â
âYou want a door to door sir?â
âThat is one ploy sergeant. Have posters made up too. Weâll plaster them over the whole city if need be. Whatâs the press saying?â
The sergeant sighed.
âThey just say he was killed in a random fashion sir. Police continuing enquiries. That sort of thing.â
The detective cheered up.
âAs long as they are kept in the dark Iâll be quite happy. Go off home now. We start early you know.â
As the sergeant left, the detective stared out of the open window.
âWherever you hide my dear, I will find you and hang you out to dry.â
Elsewhere in Rome that warm, balmy night, Nigella was sitting at the nightclub bar letting his hair down. This tall forty year old was head of Vatican security and loved his job.
After swallowing his fourth wine, he decided that it was really time to go home.
Stepping outside, he was startled by a tall, darkly clad woman who actually bumped into him.
âSorry lad, I was rather clumsy.â
He eyed the attractive lady and smiled.
âThe fault was all mine, I assure you.â
âIâm rather lost,â she said.
âWhere are you trying to get too?â
âThe Via Tablo I think.â
âI know it well. Iâll show you if you like.â
The woman smiled.
âI think that would be a lovely idea.â
As they entered one of the many alleyways, the woman stopped and
leant suggestively against the cracked wall.
Nigella was a little far-gone but not too far to read the signal. He
smiled and leant against her.
âNot far to go now.â
âI hope not. I need a really big favour.â
âWhat might that be?â
âDo you know the whereabouts of the Neo Clasico?â
Nigella gave her the best blank look that he could conjure up.
The woman gripped his shoulders tightly.
âYou are the head of the Vatican security. You must know where in the vaults it is hidden.â
He shook his head lazily.
âIâve never actually heard of it.â
The woman smiled and gripped his balls tightly.
âAre you really sure of that?â
âOh that is a pity.â
Detective Salini drew up in his squad car and saw the officers waiting for him at the entrance to the now sealed off alleyway.
âWhatâs the story sergeant?â
The victim had his testicles crushed sir. The poor bugger died almost at once.â
He was soon peering down at the corpse.
âAny sign of robbery?â
The sergeant shook his head.
âHis wallet was still intact sir. That was not the motive.â
âThe injury points to a strong bloke then?â
âIt seems to sir.â
âIâll need to speak to witnesses.â
âWe donât have any. He left the bar alone sir.â
The detective turned.
âThat is two murders without any leads sergeant. This wonât do you know. Getting those posters out?â
âWe are indeed sir. I spoke to the girls and none of them visited the late priest.â
The detective nodded.
âI think you know that the deaths are connected.â
âThey both are linked by the church sergeant. Believe me, this is no coincidence.â
He paused for a moment.
âWhere did he stay by the way?â
The sergeantâs face fell.â
âHe had a room at the Vatican sir.â
âSuppose we will have to search that.â
âYouâll never get permission.â
The detective looked at him sharply.
âWhen it comes to murder, Iâm in charge.â
âIâll do my best sir but donât expect a miracle.â
The detective smiled.
âMiracles are the least of our worries.â
When darkness fell, the detective reached a momentous decision. Ten years before, he had been a member of the Italian Special Forces and despite the additional weight; he was still in tiptop condition.
Within his room, he was scheming something drastic.
âEven the commissioner refused. I need to check his place. There
could well be a clue that will crack this case wide open.â
He wandered to the wardrobe and removed the old black uniform.
âI hope it still fits.â
An hour later, a dark figure shinned up the drainpipe on the west side of the Vatican building. When he reached the third floor, he removed the glasscutter and set to work.
When the circular section had been removed, he leant in and opened it from the inside.
Climbing through silently he looked around.
âDamn untidy place this.â
He checked the drawers carefully before sifting through his clothes. A sudden sound drew his attention.
A grey head appeared through the door and he lashed out expertly. As the body fell, he dashed to the window and made his escape.
As he entered his flat once more, he cursed.
âBefore being interrupted I didnât find a thing. I just hope that the old codger is okay.â
The black car drew up outside the simple, stone built home. The tall and darkly clad woman stepped out and gently knocked upon the stained green door.
The middle-aged mom answered and seemed quite shocked when she was shown the Police warrant card.
âHe's not in any trouble is he?â
The woman shook her head and smiled.
âI only need to ask a few questions mam. I understand his trauma by the way, but he may hold an important clue.â
âFranconia?â the mom shouted.
The woman watched as a fifteen-year-old youth wearing glasses, ran down the long stairs.
âThis officer wants a word.â
He stepped out and the woman escorted him to the waiting car. As they drove off, the mom was rather worried.
The Roman roads are a normally busy affair, and tonight was no different. The woman negotiated the busy streets like an expert as she headed for the nearby quiet hills.
âThis is not the way to the station,â the lad pointed out.
The woman smiled.
âI donât want to expose you to that environment son. How long have you been an alter boy?â
âSince I was eight.â
âYou have known the priest since then?â
âOf course. I almost fainted when I saw the body.â
âIt must have given you a shock then.â
âA shock Iâd rather avoid thanks.â
The woman smiled as they drew up at the edge of a dirt track.
âI think this is far enough.â
The youth patted down his shorts rather nervously as the driver leaned over.
âHow much do you know about the priest?â
âA lot I suppose mam.â
âDid he ever mention a book?â
âHe mentioned many books mam.â
âHow about the Neo Clasico?â
âOh that one mam.â
The green eyes sparkled in the flood of moonlight.
âYou see Franconia;we think his murder is connected to it.â
âHow come,â the youth asked out of curiosity.
âProbably it contains something that the killer needed.â
âIf he told you about it, we really need to know.â
The innocent youth thought back to a distant conversation.
âHe did mention that it was ancient mam and written entirely in Latin.â
âHad it been translated from Aramaic by any chance?â
âThe priest thought so mam.â
âSo the letters may be contained within it. Hopefully uncorrupted.â
This statement confused the youth.
She smiled sweetly.
âPeter wrote three letters that went missing my boy. They were last
heard of at Patmos.â
The reference did not escape this youth.
âYou mean St John saw them too?â
âMore than likely. You see the book was written by him.â
âI agree my boy. Now, we know that it is located in the Vatican vaults but of course, nobody is saying where. I was hoping the priest may have told you.â
The youth shook his head.
âI did ask but he admonished me mam. You see, he told me about the book in confidence.â
âYou my lad have been terribly helpful in our investigation.â
âThere is one more thing that he did say mam.â
âWhat is that Franconia?â
âHe said that it must remain out of the sight of man.â
The woman smiled.
âOh did he indeed.â
She gazed at the youth and said, âThanks. I have a special reward.â
âA reward mam?â
âYes my boy. Me.â
The detective arrived at the mountain chapel the following morning just as the ambulance took the body away. The sergeant took him to one side and said, âItâs Franconia sir, the altar boy.â
The connection took a moment to click.
âHe found the priestâs body.â
âHe was nailed through the wrists to the chapel door after his neck was snapped like a twig.â
The detective rubbed his hair and pointed to the bloodstained door.
âI want that washed off eh. Does his mother know?â
âWe sent an officer to break the bad news.â
âWe have another problem sir?
The sergeant shook his head.
âThere was a break in at the Vatican overnight. Guess which room?â
The detective smiled and said, âYou tell me.â
âThe thief broke through the window of the head of security.â
The detective just stared.
âWe had better go there next with forensics. At least they wonât keep us out this time.â
When they arrived, the old priest was waiting for them.
âI was clobbered you know.â
âDid you see who did it?â Salini asked.
âIt was far too dark sir.â
As they gazed around the room, the detective asked, âDo we know if
anything was taken?â
âNothing seems to have been disturbed,â the priest said.
Salini noted the wall safe.
âI donât suppose that you have the combination for that do you?â
âOh no sir. May I go?â
The detective nodded.
âHow did the suspect get in by the way?â
The sergeant pointed to the circular cut.
âClimbed up the drainpipe and got in through there.â
âSo we are looking for a cat burglar then. Most likely a female.â
âA female sir?â
âCould you shin up that drainpipe?â
As the sergeant shook his head, the detective thought for a moment.
âIâll need this room brushed for prints first. Now that we are here, look for any clues to his murder eh?â
This time the detective searched slowly, but despite this nothing of significance was found.
Salini sat down upon the sofa and asked,âNow we have three linked cases sergeant. So why kill the alter boy?â
âPerhaps the killer is after information sir.â
âThat would certainly fit. So, our suspect fails to get it and kills the priest. He tracks down the head of security and kills him. As a last resort perhaps, he turns on the alter boy. That does beg one question though.â
âWhatâs so important to warrant the killings?â
âExactly. This is no ordinary case sergeant. There is something deeper going on here.â
The sergeant agreed.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Darkness has fallen again beyond
the safety of our window.
I'm in the lounge again,
treading my paws over daddy's knees.
He's typing again on that
ruddy site! As I patter to
my food and treats.
Treats from daddy.
He's watching now,
I can tell.
He types slower you see.
Types and watches.
He annoyed me last night.
Asleep atop his bed,
a sofa really.
Then daddy came.
"Bedtime for daddy."
I am in bed daddy.
Find your own eh?
He just gawped.
My eating is over now,
there I am again, upon
Stop typing daddy.
At last he stops.
He thinks deeply I
Only daddy knows.
As it gets colder
In this bleak mid spring.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
I lie here sleeping as daddy types
for all his worth.
Trapped in a world
not of his making.
I sleep and dream of
better days ahead.
I dream of small trees
and vast grassy plains.
I dream that daddy is running
With all my feline friends.
In this loving dreamscape.
I sit upon this headrest
knowing that daddy loves me.
I love daddy too.
He knows that.
Yes I bully him too much.
Lets me off though.
So I sit here and dream
as the keys tap away.
Go to bed daddy.
Go to bed and dream with me.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
King Henry the Ninth rose at dawn. As was his custom, he wandered over to the aperture in his chambers and gazed up at the clear sky. This day however, he saw the comet and its long fiery tale just below the rising sun.
âSo the prediction has arrived.â
His mind flowed back to the soothsayerâs warning.
âA kingdom shall fall and twins shalt die, as the comet fractures the sky.â
He turned as a frightened pike man knocked frantically.
âSorry to disturb sire but the men are frightened.â
The old king shook his head.
âTell them not to fear. Inform my captain that I wish to see him in my throne room.â
The trooper bowed and when the king had dressed, he found Grant and
Charly waiting for him.
As he sat upon his sumptuous throne, he muttered, âSo the grim day has arrived.â
âPredictions can be changed sire,â Charly said slowly. âThey are never set in stone.â
âYou really believe that captain?â
âWe have to sire. Allow me to have the gunpowder stored in the castle vaults.â
âYou may captain. Perhaps this is a day that can be avoided.â
The friends bowed and headed for the alchemist. For many months now, he had been creating the gunpowder in large quantities as Charly had asked, and now the barrels were fairly cluttering his chambers.
âAh captain. Have you come to remove this explosive mixture at last?â
âWe certainly have,â Grant said. âYou sure have been busy.â
The alchemist smiled.
âI am exceedingly diligent.â
Charly nodded to the waiting pike men who now entered to cart the heavy barrels to the lower vaults.
âWe shall need no more,â Charly said. âThe day has arrived.â
The alchemist glanced up.
âThen it is time for me to leave.â
âWhere will you go?â Grant asked.
âTo safer climes of course.â
They left him to it and returned to their apartment.
âWhat about us mate?â
Charly shook his head.
âOur place is here.â
He opened the drawer and pulled out the sapphire ring.
âI know what this black knight is really after. Come with me now.â
Grant followed as they returned to the throne room.
âWhy back so quickly captain?â
Charly pointed out the special ring.
âI believe sire that our enemy will want to get his hands on these.â
The king reached inside his purple robe and pulled out his own.
âYou know that he gave these to me captain. Why make war to retrieve
Charly smiled grimly.
âHe needs both to return from whence he came sire. It is our duty to
deny him the opportunity.â
âWe shall captain. When his army is smashed and he be scattered to
the four winds.â
âAs we all know, this shall not be easy. We only have four of his swords and the blacksmith has been unable to replicate the steel.â
âA terrible business captain. To face an enemy that can slice my knights like can openers.â
âThen allow me to destroy the rings sire. You never know, he may call this war off.â
The king thought this over and after groaning, handed his over.
âDo as you will captain. Let us hope that you are right.â
The friends left at once and made for the blacksmith shop. The tough metallurgist looked up as they entered.
âSorry captain, my latest attempt failed. As you can see the blade is far too brittle.â
As if to demonstrate, he tapped the new sword with his fist and it crumbled into filings.
âHopefully we may not need them after all,â Charly said taking a heavy hammer.
As the blacksmith watched, Charly placed the rings upon the anvil and smashed them into tiny fragments.
âCome on Grant, we have to make sure that everyone knows.â
They found the castle crier and the captain said, âI need you to ride far and wide to deliver a special message to the settlements.â
âThat is what Iâm here for captain.â
Grant smiled as his friend continued.
âTell everyone that the rings have been destroyed by Charly.â
âI will do this sir.â
Charly patted his shoulder warmly.
âGood man. After you finish return here. Hopefully the castle will still be standing.â
As the crier ran for his mount, Charly entered the courtyard and assembled the rag tag army.
As they stood in line, he shook his head sadly.
âSince we lost the knights, our effectiveness has been diminished. The dark enemy knows this and is waiting for his chance. Therefore, every wall shall be guarded. At the least sign of trouble, the bugler will sound the alarm.â
He paused for effect.
âThe black knight knows that he will have to break us here, or lose the war. We shall overcome!â
The bowmen and pike men cheered, and headed off to their respective positions. When they had gone Grant said, âRousing speech mate.â
Charly looked at him grimly.
âSometimes Grant words are not enough.â
As darkness approached and the comet burned brightly, a thick fog rose from nowhere and the lights of the oncoming army came into view.
A top a turret, the bugler spotted them easily and issued the call to arms.
âLooks like they are here,â Grant said as they reached the curtain wall.
âThey are indeed. Obviously my message was ignored.â
The kingâs troops manned the walls as the strange enemy approached slowly. The king joined his captain upon the battlements in full armour.
âYour ruse failed then.â
âYes sire. Even destroying them was not enough.â
âI intend to fight beside you this night.â
He took a bow and dropping his visor, leant into the aperture.
The enemy approached with the black knight at their head. He scanned the determined defenders and strangely took a white flag and rode at them.
âDonât fire!â Charly called. âHe wants to parley.â
âPerhaps he wants to surrender?â Grant suggested hopefully.
âI very much doubt that,â Charly said.
The shining steed stopped at the walls and the knight shouted up.
âIf the king steps down in my favour, Iâll spare this place and its people.â
âGo to hell!â the proud king shouted.
âDestroying the rings was rather foolish Charly. Now Iâll just have to stay.â
He turned and rode back to his own lines as the kingâs standard fluttered in the breeze.
âPrepare yourselves,â Charly shouted as the enemy drew even closer.
Despite the gloom, Grant heard a strange rumbling and squinted.
âWhatâs that at the front?â
Charly strained to see and then his face fell.
âItâs a ruddy cannon mate! Now we really are finished!â
âWhatâs a cannon?â the king asked.
As if in answer, the air shook as the cannon was fired. The metallic ball smashed into the front turret, as it fired again.
âHold your position!â Charly yelled as enemy fire began to rain down.
A third cannon shot broke the proud tower, and it collapsed with a mighty roar. Almost at once, deadly arrows showered upon the defenders.
âKeep your heads down!â Charly roared as the arrow storm struck his troops.
The thin armour of the defenders was no protection from such monsters. The tips smashed through easily and the defenders began to fall.
âIf only we had knights,â the kind lamented.
âWe do not sire,â Charly reminded him. These are just softening up tactics.
The cannon roared again and part of the front curtain wall crumbled.
As stone and men toppled, arrows crashed around them.
âWe wonât take much more of this Charly,â Grant said with mounting alarm.
âI know that mate.â
Another cannon ball smashed the front gate to smithereens and a shout went up.
âStay here captain,â the king commanded. I shall stand with the pike and defend the courtyard.â
Charly nodded as the king left while the enemy troops surged forward.
âWe stay?â Grant enquired.
âYou heard the ruddy orders.â
A cannon ball smashed the second tower as more arrows crashed around them. Within the courtyard, the armoured king stood with his men.
As the enemy reached the shattered gate, the king led the attack.
Swords clashed and cleaved, severing hands and arms respectively. A well-timed blow by the king, allowed a pike man to disembowel an enemy trooper.
A moment later, an axe caught the king amidships and the brave monarch crashed down.
âThe kingâs hurt!â the troops cried as another swarm of arrows descended.
âWe canât hold them sir,â the pike man said as he reached the captain.
âJust a moment longer mate.â
Sitting upon his steed, the black knight watched with satisfaction.
Now with the battle nearly won, he gave another order.
âBowmen take up swords and assist our men. Cannon brigade remain on station.â
From the crumbling battlements, Charly saw the bowmen surging forward.
âJust as I expected Grant. Heâs far too confidant for his own good.â
Within the courtyard, the battle continued. The swordsmen clambering over bodies to get at the enemy. Beneath that rotting pile lay the dead king.
Axes clanked and cut, swords clashed as the air filled with screams and moans.
âI think now is the time,â Charly hissed.
âYou had a plan?â
âA rather grim one mate. A last resort. The final throw of the die. Come on!â
He dashed to the west parapet and opened the wooden hatch. A ladder led into the bowels of the castle, and down this he scrambled.
Just as Grant attempted to follow, a hail of arrows crashed down, more than a few striking his unprotected back.
He groaned and actually tried to smile before toppling over.
Charly scrambled back to the parapet and saw that his dear friend was indeed no more.
âYouâll ruddy well pay for that mate!â
He closed the hatch and scrambled toward the waiting vaults where the gunpowder waited.
âNever thought Iâd need to do this.â
He opened a barrel and spread a trail of the mixture across the floor and into a nearby tunnel. When half was gone, he ran to the tunnel entrance where a lit brazier awaited. Just beyond this was the secret entrance to the stables.
âLetâs see how you like this.â
Charly lit the powder, and as it fizzled, he ran for his life. He found his steed and gripping the reins guided it into the open air.
Within the castle, the kingâs remaining forces had been forced onto the battlements to make a last stand.
As the enemy rushed toward them, the fuse reached the chamber and the twelve barrels exploded.
From his position, Charly saw the castle being torn asunder, as the huge mushroom cloud rose skyward. The entire castle seemed to vanish within that terrible fireball.
He stared toward the waiting cannon and those who guarded it.
Drawing his sword, he charged.
The black knight had seen the awful detonation, and saw Charly bearing down upon him. Rearing his steed he cried, âWe shall meet again Charly!â
The horse turned and rode off as Charly reached the cannon. Its two operators tried to stop him but were easily cut down. As Charly saw his deadly foe recede he cried with vengeance, âOh no you ruddy well donât. Youâre not escaping a second time mate.â
Charly dug his heels and his brave steed bolted after the retreating enemy. As it clattered toward Thor Height, Charly urged it on to greater speed.
Across the rising rocky ground it sped, gaining ground as the black knight took greater care. Charly saw him dismount and slap his glowing steed away and run toward the towering cliff.
âNow Iâve got you mate!â
Charly pulled on the reins and jumped off, his sword drawn for immediate action. As he crept gingerly forward, there was no sight of his dangerous foe.
âWhere on earth could he have got to?â
As rocks towered overhead, Charly moved gingerly toward the edge of the awesome ravine. Peering down he saw the raging river far below.
âHe certainly didnât go that way mate.â
Charly shook his head and stepped back.
âDamn crazy thing this. He just canât vanish. No ruddy ring for a start.â
A scraping noise from behind swung Charly around and he gasped. The black knight stood some way off just staring at him. âSo you decided to hide I see.â
The knight removed his helm and tossed it aside with some distaste.
âSuch cumbersome things donât you think?â
âIâll keep mine on if you donât mind.â
âPlease yourself then.â
Charly stared at his own familiar face as the knight smiled.
âWorked it out yet?â
âYou should know.â
The knight smiled back.
âWe both knew upon that battlefield how this would end.â
âHopefully with your demise mate.â
The black knight roared with laughter.
âRather unlikely Iâd say. So tell me how I got here?â
Charly nodded grimly.
âYou jumped from an alternate reality of course. A reality far ahead of this one. Hence the rings.â
âYou got it in one,â the knight replied. âHowever, you missed the important bit.â
âWhy you want to kill me?â
The enemy nodded.
âOh that is so simple mate. My good restricts your evil. You cannot be totally free whilst I exist.â
âExactly,â the knight hissed. âI will soon rule here without your interference.â
âWith no castle? I donât think so mate.â
âCastles can be rebuilt.â
âNot an army though. We saw to that.â
The knightâs face grew darker as he caressed his blade.
âEnough of this idle banter. Itâs time my friend.â
âIâm no ruddy friend of yours!â
The knight began advancing slowly and Charly swung his sword to keep him back.
âRemember this Charly. I know all your moves. After all, we are two sides of the same coin.â
Charly tried a sudden rush that his enemy easily sidestepped. An armoured boot struck out, knocking him to the ground. As Charly stood once more, his enemy smiled.
âRound one to me I think.â
Charly heard the roar of the river below and moved forward with purpose. The swinging sword not allowing the knightâs to find a path through.
âLetâs see what you make of this then.â
Charly stepped to one side and swung with all his might. Their weapons clashed as they came toe to toe.
âYouâll have to try harder than that.â
The knight swung an armoured fist and Charly reeled back. As he fell, the knight leapt at him.
Charly rolled violently as the sword blade swished down, and was on his feet before the knight realised.
He swung the sword again, striking the knight squarely across the shoulders. The blade sliced through the armour and his enemy squealed.
âThis is one of your own blades mate. Taken from a corpse. I think we are even.â
The black knight staggered away, but his sword hand remained as mobile as ever. He turned, wiping the sweat from his brow.
âA lucky strike thatâs all.â
Charly swung again but the injured knight lashed out viciously. The blade opened the stomach protection and the skin below. Charly reeled awkwardly as the awful pain struck.
âNow we are really even,â the black knight hissed.
Charly groaned, looking at his enemy with hatred.
âSo it ends like this.â
The knight lurched at him until their swords locked together. Charly kneed his groin plate with no effect. They pushed and shoved, each trying to gain the upper hand.
At long last, the enemy began to stagger back as Charly threw in his very last ounce of energy.
âHope you can fly mate.â
The ravine was only a step ahead and the knight knew it.
âDam you Charly!â
Charly head butted his own evil face and the knight overbalanced. He fell back, as his sword arm swung for the final time.
The blade struck the thin neck armour as the black night toppled into empty space. His body tumbled as terrible screams rent the air.
Charly saw it smash into the torrent below as he wobbled.
He knew how badly he was injured. As his vision clouded, he saw Christine looking at him. The spectral cat meowed bitterly as Charleyâs head detached.
For Charly himself, he had at least the weird sensation of seeing his headless corpse reeling over the edge, as his head plummeted into the cold icy waters.
The story did not end there however...
The darkness cleared and Charly found himself within a warm environment. Grass grew here, alongside rather small trees.
As he scratched his head in wonder, a fluffy black cat with a white bib padded towards him.
âAt least Iâm not in hell.â
Charly rubbed his head and knelt down.
The loving cat, the lifelong companion purred happily.
As she jumped into daddyâs loving arms, Charly glanced across the warm meadow. Wherever he looked, cats were peering at him.
Some sat upon the small trees. Just the right height for these fluffy felines. Others were scurrying towards him.
Charly smiled at the peaceful vision. Looking down once more at Christine, he stood at last. His cat purring within his arms, her nose rubbing against him.
âWell Christine,â he whispered. âSeems as though I have friends here eh?â
The cat stared up at his kind face.
âWelcome home daddy.â
Brigandia: The End...
Joined Tue 09/06/11
The shepherd had used these peaks near the towering castle, since the dragon had been dealt with. His habit was to guide them to the pasture before leaving them overnight to feed.
As he trekked out this morning, a light drizzle fell upon him.
âI just hope that the ruddy rain does not return again.â
He ignored the slight wetness and clambered amongst the rocks until he spied his valuable animals.
âThey seem peaceful enough,â he muttered.
He walked over slowly and suddenly noticed something strange. Two of the animals were lying upon their sides and definitely not moving.
âOh I hope nothing has happened.â
He ran over and stared at the brutal scene. The animals were very dead. Dried blood hung around the lower wool coat, and entrails littered the grass.
âTheir stomachs have been ripped out. Iâd better get my flock indoors again.â
It took him a few hours to pen them before entering the castle and warning the monarch.
âTime for din dins?â Charly asked the spectral cat as she simply stared and purred happily.
Grant sat at the table thinking.
âHow is she?â
âChristine is okay ta. How is your leg by the way?â
âStings like a *****. Itâll heal though.
âGlad to hear it.â
Charly placed a fresh piece of fish inside the bowl as Christine tried to feed.
âStrange this you know,â Charly said. âHer appetite is as good as ever.â
Grant smiled as the door was rapped.
âAnother day of stress,â he muttered before answering it.
âThe king asks for your company sir.â
âSee you later,â Charly told the cat before following his friend to
the kingâs chambers.
When they entered, the shepherd had completed his unusual account.
âMorning to you sire.â
âThis shepherd has lost two of his sheep to some kind of predator.
Would you mind looking into it?â
âI would welcome the change sire.â
They soon found themselves upon the hilly pasture examining the terrible wounds.
âCould it have been wolves?â Grant asked.
âThere have been no wolves here for at least ten years now,â the shepherd informed them.
âNo wolves you say?â Charly asked.
âNot in these times.â
âHmm...The wounds do indeed indicate a predator but there are no bite marks at the throat. If wolves had done this you would expect that.â
âSo whatâs your conclusion?â Charly asked.
Charly scratched his head.
âIâm not sure you know. Iâve ruled out wild dogs as well.â
âThat does not leave much room for manoeuvre,â Grant pointed out.
âLetâs have a look around eh?â Charly suggested.
âJust what are we looking for,â the worried shepherd asked.
âTracks my man. This drizzle has been on all night you see. There
should at least be tracks.â
âOh I see.â
As they peered around the field, Grant took his friend aside.
âSo what killed the sheep?â
âIâm not sure yet but animal attack is clearly out of the question.â
The shepherd suddenly shouted and they dashed over.
âLook here sir. Over there too.â
As Charly knelt by the tracks Grant said, âYou know something mate.
They look terribly familiar.â
Charly glanced up.
âA little too familiar. They seem to go that way. Come on then.â
He scanned the wet ground as the tracks crossed the field back toward the rocks.
âNot a bear I suppose,â Grant asked nervously.
âI very much doubt that. Though I accept the tracks are similar.â
The tracks stopped upon the stones and Charly sighed deeply.
âThe trail has gone dead Iâm afraid. Look around eh?â
They split up to maximize the search area. As Charly scanned the surrounding stones, he saw what looked like an enlarged foxhole.
âCome over here you two.â
âWhat have you found sir?â the good shepherd asked.
âWhat does that look like Grant?â
âA fox hole of course, but ruddy large if it is.â
Charly knelt down and peeked inside.
âIt goes one hell of a long way. Iâm going inside to look.â
Grant grabbed him.
âNow donât be daft mate. What if you run into whatever it is?â
Charly grinned up.
âIâll try to persuade it not to kill me.â
Charly crawled inside as his friend shook his head.
âIâd better follow I suppose.â
The fearful shepherd shook his head.
âI will stay here. Guard the entrance if you like.â
âThatâll do just fine mate,â Grant said disappearing into the
He caught up with his friend as he crawled into an open space.
âItâs a cave Grant.â
As his friend stood, he surveyed their warm surroundings.
The floor was littered with stalagmites while stalactites grew from
the rocky roof.
âWe are not dealing with a fox Grant.â
His friend saw him draw his sword and did likewise.
âLet us hope itâs not hungry then.â
Charly grinned at him.
âYou go left and Iâll go right. Weâll meet up at the top end.â
He watched as his friend set off before he moved away. The cave rose
gently as the rocks grew harsher around him. He spotted what looked like simple stone tools and bent down to examine them.
âNow this makes a lot of sense,â he muttered.
A sudden growl from above made him glance up. He suddenly saw a hair covered man with long talon like nails staring at him wildly. Before he could react, the animal was upon him.
The sword was dashed aside, as Charly was lifted off his feet.
âCanât we talk about this?â
The animal growled and hurled him against the nearest rock. Despite the light armour, Charly was a little dazed by the blow. As he shook his head, the animal picked up a boulder and seemed intent to smash his brains with it.
âWhat a ruddy place to die,â Charly muttered in final despair.
The animal lurched forward and suddenly stopped. As Charly looked, he saw a bloody sword point sticking from his stomach.
The wild man staggered, dropping the rock harmlessly before crashing to the ground. A shocked Grant stood looking.
âHe gave me no choice. It was either you or him.â
Charly stood and patted his shoulder.
âI know mate. You have my gratitude.â
Grant stared at the still body.
âDid he live here?â
âI found stone tools nearby. He must have been half crazed. Or perhaps a throwback to our early ancestors.â
âWhatever the truth mate, heâs well out of it now.â
The final episode was written first and follows shortly...
Joined Tue 09/06/11
A table had been brought into the kingâs chambers, and Charly was hunched over a diagram of the castle well.
âOh come on Christine, I need to see love.â
As others glanced awkwardly, the king smiled.
âDonât worry captain.â
He placed out a hand and said, âYour daddy needs to work now. Off you get.â
As everyone stared, the spectral cat jumped off with a happy purr.
The king noted the odd looks and said boldly, âThe trouble with you
lot is that you donât believe.â
Charly scanned the plans carefully.
âSo a natural spring supplies the water?â
âCorrect sir,â the designer said.
âThatâs torn it. Weâll never flush the arsenic out now.â
âPerhaps we can neutralise it?â Grant suggested.
âDoes anyone know how?â Charly asked.
The king piped up.
âThe healer might know.â
Charly smiled at the news.
âGo and bring her then.â
The woman was duly summoned, and as she heard the details, she smiled.
âI certainly can neutralise that. Should take about an hour or two.â
âThatâs great my dear,â Charly said. âIs there anything else on our rather busy agenda today?â
The king nodded and rolled a map across the table.
âAs you know, the French have their own populace and likely some kind of armed force. So, I want to build forts along here.â
Charly saw the locations along the coastline.
âI wouldnât bother with the salt zone sir. Those animals that we met will keep any invader out.â
âWhat about the other locations?â the king asked.
âThere is no problem with them sir.â
The happy king smiled.
âThen itâs settled then. You and Grant will survey these sites and report back here.â
The captain of the guard nodded.
âCome on Grant. We have work to do.â
âAs always,â his friend grumbled.
After they had left the castle, the king sighed loudly.
âYou know something? I fancy a hunt in those northern woods.â
âWithout knights sire that would be unwise,â an aid warned.
The king shrugged his majestic shoulders.
âWe have no knights now. Anyway, Iâm the king. No one would dare attack me.â
Two hours had passed, and the king was fast approaching the woods with the crossbow packed away in the saddlebag. Just ahead, he spotted a beggar.
âI had better stop.â
He pulled the reins as the steed reached the unfortunate man.
âCan your king be of assistance?â
The beggar raised his head and suddenly drew a sword from beneath the filthy coat.
âYou get off sire or be ran through. Your choice.â
The startled king stared in mute disbelief.
âYou must be crazy man.â
âCrazy or not sire. Iâm the one with the sword. Now get down!â
The king nodded and dismounted. He slapped the rear and the steed galloped into the distance.
The beggar bowed and pointed toward the thick wood.
âIf you would sire. Weâll have some privacy at least.â
Raising his hands, the unfortunate monarch did as he was told.
As night fell, the two friends rode toward the castle after completing the survey. At the gate however, the guard said, âThanks you be back sir. The king has gone missing!â
Charly stared in disbelief at the incredible news. Through gritted teeth he asked, âWhat do you mean the kingâs missing?â
The guard shook his head.
âThe aides can explain sir.â
Charly nodded and trotted into the courtyard. As Grant and he
entered the kingâs chamber he found the two aides waiting for them.
âIâve just heard,â Charly said. âWhat the hell happened?â
The smaller man came forward.
âHe insisted on going hunting sir in the north woods.â
âWhat alone,â Grant asked. âHe must be out of his tiny mind.â
âHe is the king sir.â
âItâs too late now to do a damn thing! We leave at dawn Grant. Iâll take two pike men on horse with us.â
The aides nodded as the captain walked towards his apartment. As he sat upon the sofa, a spectral cat jumped upon his warm lap.
âHello sweetheart. Sorry for being so long.â
As Grant stared, Charly smiled.
âYou heard our king mate. You need to believe.â
Grant shrugged his shoulders and sat at the table.
âWhat do you think has happened mate?â
âIt could be an accident or foul play. Weâll find out tomorrow eh?â
A sudden knocking broke the tension.
âEnter,â Grant said.
An aid rushed in at once.
âSorry sir but the kingâs mount has returned alone.â
âAny sign of blood?â Charly asked.
âHe may be alive then. Thanks.â
As the door closed, Grant asked n awkward question.
âWith no issue, who succeeds him?â
Charly just stared.
âLetâs hope that it doesnât come to that.â
He yawned as the spectral cat purred softly.
Gazing at his groin he whispered, âTime for bed Christine? Letâs go then.â
He stood slowly and trotted off as his friend shook his head sadly.
As the sun rose, the king stretched.
âGood morning sire,â his abductor said softly.
âOh you are still here I see. I was hoping that you would have
âI canât do that sire after catching you.â
âWhat do you want with me anyway?â
The beggar grinned.
âI reckon to collect a handsome fee for your majesty.â
âWe donât negotiate with terrorists. Thatâs a stated policy.â
The beggar laughed.
âIâm no terrorist. I only want food and a decent living!â
The king shook his head.
âThe only thing you will get is a rope when my captain catches up
âIâve heard of your lap dog sire. Heâll pay rather than see your guts strewn amongst the trees.â
âHe is far more worthy than a lapdog. I assure you of that.â
âNo worries. Heâll pay. Iâm damn sure of that. Now move yourself!â
He pointed the sword tip at the kingâs royal chest and marched him deeper into the woods.
Not too far off, four men rode along the track that led to the north forest.
The captain of the guard was followed by his faithful friend Grant, and two pike men.
âWe should be close now,â Grant commented.
âI agree with that.â
Turning to the pike men he asked, âHow are you two doing? Sorry for putting you on horseback. With no knights...â
âNo worries sir. Our bums are just sore tis all.â
âNice to see a bit of loyalty eh Grant?â
âYou never cease to amaze me mate. Ah, thereâs the wood. Now what?â
Charly pulled the reins and stopped.
âEveryone dismount and lead on.â
As they reached the trees, the mounts were tied up and the swords drawn from their sheaths.
âThe king canât be that far now,â Charly muttered. âEveryone follow me and please keep the noise down.â
As the tall Cypresses closed in, the group headed deeper into the
forest as curious squirrels watched their progress.
Grant stepped upon a fallen branch that snapped loudly.
âDo you mind?â Charly hissed.
"Sorry boss. I hate woods.â
âI suspect our monarch would agree with you mate.â
They stumbled on until a clearing was reached.
âHold it!â Charly yelled.
Everyone stared at the amazing sight.
The king was firmly tied to a thick tree, whilst a crossbow had been set up two feet from his head. A long string hung until it vanished behind another tree.
âGood grief,â Charly whispered.
âOne wrong move Charly and heâs had it.â
âThatâs what worries me mate. Look, you take the pike men off to the right eh?â
âWhat will you do?â
âTalk my way out of this ruddy mess.â
Grant grinned and led the two pike men off. Once they had disappeared, Charly stood in the open.
âWhoever you are, Iâm the kingâs captain.â
âThanks that you are here captain.â
âSorry for taking so long sire.â
Another voice called out, âI want a gold bar for my troubles captain.â
âI need to see you first.â
The voice chuckled.
âIâm no ruddy fool mate. No archer is going to pluck my feathers.â
âIâm on my own promise.â
The beggar stepped out and Charly spotted that he was holding the string carefully.
âNow donât do anything stupid,â Charly said. âKilling him will lose any gains that you have.â
âOne gold bar captain. Thatâs all that I want.â
âIt may take time.â
The beggar grinned.
âI have plenty.â
Meantime, Grant and the pike men had reached the rear and were watching proceedings carefully.
âThis is damn awkward,â he hissed. âIf we take him down that ruddy bolt will fire.â
âIf I may sir. I have a suggestion.â
âLetâs hear it mate.â
âThese pikes are pretty heavy but can be thrown if necessary. I reckon I could take out the ruddy crossbow in one blow.â
âAre you sure?â
âOh yes sir. Then you and my mate can get the ruddy bloke.â
Grant thought the desperate plan through.
The pike man knelt steadily and launched the heavy weapon. As Grant watched, it struck the mounted bow hard. As it reeled back, the hideous bolt was launched skyward.
âGet him!â Grant squealed.
The beggar stared at the disaster and turned to behead the trapped king. Charly dashed out with flailing sword and cut him down.
As he fell, the pike man skewered him.
âTwo seconds sir,â Charly panted untying the king.
âThanks captain. You are certainly a bloodhound.â
When he was released, he gave the still body a hard kick.
Charly was resting later that day as Grant sat at the table.
âWe done well today.â
âYes we did Grant. Iâd say the king was damn lucky.â
âAt least he accepted your ban on future solo trips.â
âHe had no choice did he. I threatened to clap him in irons.â
As they both laughed, Grant suddenly yelled.
Charly glanced up and said sharply, âLeave him alone Christine!â
As Grant checked his lower leg, he noted a red cut.
âI donât believe it!â
âWhat she scratched you?â
Grant glanced at him.
âThen itâs true.â
âOf course itâs true mate. Come on now. You really didnât think I
was mad did you?â
As his friend went crimson, Charly chuckled.
âYou did think I was mad...â
The two friends laughed, as the spectral cat jumped onto the sofa headrest purring loudly.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Grant was sitting on the sofa when the knock came. He opened the door and found the monarch staring at him.
âYou better come in sir.â
When the king entered he asked, âHow is he?â
âStill the same sir. He just lies upon his bed.â
The king grimaced.
âWe have a serious problem Grant and I need my captain back.â
Grant pointed to the bedroom door.
âThen you go and tell him sir. Because I canât.â
The king nodded and marched through the open door and found Charly staring into empty space
He simply glanced up.
âSheâs here you know.â
The baffled monarch guffawed.
âNow look here captain, the healer needs your help badly.â
âCome on sweetheart...â
As the perplexed king watched, he clearly saw a spectral cat jump onto the bed and purr loudly.
Grant tapped his shoulder.
âHe thinks sheâs still here.â
The king glanced at him.
âI can see it too.â
âSee what?â Grant asked.
âHis cat of course.â
They watched as Charly stroked her before he glanced up again.
âWhatâs this about the healer?â
The king was so astounded that he was struck dumb.
âCome on now out with it.â
âWell captain. It seems that three of our people have gone down with
some malady or other. She just wants you to look into it.â
Charly grinned like his old self.
âCome on Christine off you get now. Daddyâs got work to do.â
As the king watched, the spectral cat jumped off the bed and headed
for her wooden bowl. Within lay a cold portion of fish.
Charly climbed out and walked over.
âCome on Grant, itâs work time.â
As they left, the monarch glanced at the feeding cat. He even heard
the crunch of those ghostly teeth.
âI donât know about Charly,â he muttered. âOne thing I am sure of though...I need to lie down.â
He left as his captain entered the healing room.
He immediately saw the woman glancing up from the wooden table upon which, a body lay.
âAbout time sir.â
âWhat have you got for me then?â
âOne dead and three who are quite ill.â
âWhat did they eat last?â
The woman seemed annoyed by the question. Pointing to the first
patient she said, âHe had pork. The second had potatoes and the third had fish. I checked that sir.â
Charly scratched his weary head.
âSo we can rule out food poisoning then.â
âWe certainly can,â the healer said sarcastically.
âI need to know where they live.â
Charly gave her an icy stare.
âSo that I can question their spouses of course.â
Once he got the information, he popped into the blacksmiths.
âHow is it going smithy?â
âNo luck Iâm afraid. Whatever these swords are made from, I canât
âJust keep trying eh? Our lives may depend upon it.â
The poor man nodded as the friends left.
âLetâs see our friend the alchemist eh?â Charly muttered leading the
When they entered, they saw a barrel standing at the rear wall.
âHello captain, your recipe is producing results.â
Charly peeked into the barrel and saw that it was half-full with
âAt least you know what to do.â
âCan you tell me one thing?â
âJust name it.â
âWhy make this useless stuff?â
Charley smiled at the question.
âCall it a keepsake. Come on Grant, we have an investigation you
As they headed for the nearby settlement, Grant was puzzled.
âI know that you are scheming something. I just donât know what.â
âItâs far better believe me.â
At the settlement, they soon found the first spouse. A rather cross
old woman who was ill disposed to answer stupid questions.
âI tell you this sir. The fish had been properly cooked upon this yonder hearth.â
âDid it smell okay?â Charly asked.
âOf course it did. Do you think that I would give my husband rotten fish?â
Charly quickly backtracked.
âOf course not madam. Did he perhaps drink stilted wine?â
The woman was deeply shocked.
âHe bought it from the kingâs own distiller sir.â
âThanks for the help.â
Outside the wooden home Charly stopped to think.
âI thought you ruled out food poisoning?â
âI have Grant. Come on.â
At the second home, a sprightly young lady was a bit too keen to
âHe had three platefuls of potatoes sir.â
âAll nicely boiled?â Charly asked.
âTo a âTâ sir. You see, he needs those to do the business.â
Charleyâs cheeks reddened at once.
âOh I see. How long after did he fall ill then?â
The girl thought back.
âAbout an hour sir.â
The answer gave Grant an idea.
âWhy are you not ill may I ask?â
âCause sir I donât like potatoes.â
Charly smiled and led them to the third home.
Inside, they found a weeping woman.
âSorry about your loss mam but we need to ask a few questions.â
She glanced up at Charly rather coldly.
âWe understand that your spouse had pork mam.â
âWhat if he did? He is a brute anyway.â
Charleyâs ears pricked up.
âSo why the tears?â
She stared toward the empty floor.
âMy ruddy cat has died thatâs why.â
Charly reeled and would have fallen, if Grant had not caught him.
âYour cat died too?â he stammered.
âLively yesterday then all fever and shiver today. I held her to the
Charly absorbed the terrible shock.
âI need to know what you fed her.â
The tear stricken woman said, âFish and water of course.â
âWhere do you get the water from?â Charly asked coldly.
âFrom the ruddy castle well!â
Charly grabbed Grant and pulled him outside.
âNow we have a real problem.â
âWhat do you mean by that?â
âWe know the food is okay right?â
âI fed Christine fish and water too. So, what is the one thing that
we cannot do without?â
Grant knew at once.
âSomeone must have poisoned the ruddy well!â
They returned to their steeds and rode at breakneck speed back to the castle. Without thinking, they went straight to the king.
Once the facts were laid before him, the king mulled it over.
âSo you believe that this was an attempt at mass murder?â
âAlmost certainly sire. If we donât stop people drinking our water
the toll will rise.â
âWho would do such a thing?â the king asked. âAgents of the black knight perhaps.â
âI think not sire,â Charly replied.
He then disclosed the attack upon himself and Grant.
âWhy not tell me sooner?â
âI couldnât sire. We killed the attackers and I hoped any further malcontents would back off.â
âObviously you were wrong then. Did you recognise any of them?â
Charly thought back.
âOne at least was a pike man sire. Went by the name of Greg.â
Now it was the kingâs turn to think.
âI know of him. You may want to talk to his mate.â
âWho is that sir?â Grant asked.
âA man called Luke.â
The captain nodded and headed into the very bowels of the castle.
They entered the quarters with drawn swords as the surprised man looked up.
âWhat the hell do you want sir?â
The friends put the sword points to his chest and Charly hissed, âTell me about Greg.â
âI know that heâs missing thatâs all though.â
âYou are lying mate,â Charly hissed. âHe and his ruffians tried to kill us.â
âThey had a meeting sir. I even tried to talk them out of it.â
âEver heard of guilt by association?â Grant asked.
The pike man became a frightened rabbit.
âIâm not a threat.â
âWho else was at this meeting then?â Charly demanded.
âOnly one more sir. Brundhide.â
Grant at once recognised the name.
âThe north tower guard.â
Charly smiled and glanced at Grant.
âLetâs go kill the poisoner mate.â
As they approached the north tower entrance Grant stopped him.
âYou really want to kill him?â
Charly pointed to the weapons.
âWhen he sees these, he will know the games up. Of course I want to kill him. He murdered my cat!â
They climbed the stone steps slowly and suddenly burst onto the tower rampart. The surprised guard swung around but Charleyâs blade reached his throat.
âDonât even think about it.â
âWho are you working for?â Grant demanded.
âNo one of course. I just wanted revenge.â
âRevenge for what?â Charly asked. âFor the death of your
âWe wanted to kill you because of the threat that you truly pose.â
âWhat threat?â Grant asked.
The man grinned.
âWhile the captain lives, we are all in danger. Mark my words, he will bring condign destruction upon us all.â
Charly pushed the sword point until his throat bled.
âYou are coming with us to the king on a charge of attempted mass
murder. What poison did you use by the way?â
âArsenic mate. As for the king well...â
He suddenly lashed out with his knee and Charly stumbled. Before anything could be done, he ran to the battlements and threw himself into space.
As the friends gazed down upon the smashed body Charly muttered, âThe bastard deserved it. Come on Grant, we have to shut down the well until I figure out a way to flush the ruddy poison out.â
Joined Tue 09/06/11
On the third day, two sad friends approached the quiet, dark lake as overhead, angels sang the death march.
Within his shaking palms, Charly cradled the little boat kindly made by the carpenter. When they reached the still bank, Charly lifted the boat and kissed the cold, black fur.
âSleep well my love.â
Fighting back tears, he knelt and sprinkled petals upon his beloved pet and Grant handed him the burning torch.
He lit the kindling and gave the boat a gentle push, before handing the torch back.
As the boat sailed out, burning fiercely now, he sat and wept.
Grant put the torch out, and sat beside his grief stricken friend.
âI canât go back yet,â Charly sobbed. âKing or no king.â
âNever you mind mate. Iâll stay here with you.â
âYouâre a damn good friend.â
As the boat burned Grant said, âI think a Viking funeral is lovely.â
Charly nodded silently.
âHow did you two get hitched up anyway? You never said.
Charly smiled for the first time since his terrible loss.
âThat was on my first day in Foxley mate. Iâll tell you if you like.â
âGo on then, I really want to know.â
It had been raining when Charly arrived in his new Foxley flat. All the furniture had been placed exactly where he wanted it of course.
As he gazed at the kitchen door, he thought to himself and muttered, âI really need more protection here. I want a rosary over that door. It should keep bad spirits out.â
He scratched his head and wandered the tow rear rooms.
âHmm. Something wrong you know.â
When he returned to the lounge, he realised what.
âThe flat feels dead. You know what I mean. No life force. Hmm. I wonder where the pet store is?â
He left at once and upon the happy street, he accosted a policeman.
âSorry mate, this is my first day here. Iâm looking for a religious shop and eh, a pet store.â
The young constable smiled.
âYou will find both on market Walk sir.â
The delighted Charly thanked him and set off. After quite a time he found the religious shop. As he entered, the elderly keeper smiled.
âThis may sound rather strange but I need a protective rosary.â
The woman smiled and led him to a small case.
âThese are the usual ones sir.â
He scanned each one, before pointing to a particularly lovely blue one.
âVery good choice sir.â
He paid and took the rosary happily. He gazed at the crucified Lord as his fingers stroked the blue beads.
âI certainly feel safe now.â
He stopped and gazed around.
âNow where is that ruddy pet shop?â
He walked along the street and back again in mounting dismay.
âIt might be further down.â
He walked past the religious shop and about four shops down spotted the pet store.
As he entered, a filthy smell struck his rather sensitive nose.
âWhat a rotten stink.â
He saw the caged rabbits and just slightly ahead another stinking cage. When he reached it, he stopped and stared.
A jet-black kitten with blue eyes stared at him. As its head moved, they changed to a dark colour. It yawned, exposing a small white bib upon its fluffy chest.
The keeper grinned.
âSix weeks sir. Minimum age to sell legally.â
Charly gazed at the tiny ball of love.
âCan you take her out for me?â
The keeper did so and the cat meowed happily.
Charly felt his eyes mist up.
After five minutes, the keeper became rather aggressive.
âDo you actually want her?â
Charly turned slowly.
âOh yes...Iâll need a cat box and of course a feeding bowl. Have you food too?â
The keeper found these and Charly purchased the package for a staggering Â£48.
As he took her outside, he said quietly.
âNo crying until we get home eh.â
He arrived back safely of course and placed the box gently upon the lounge carpet. The kitten sniffed and crept outside as Charly gave her a name.
âI reckon Christine fits the bill.â
The kitten sat upon its dark haunches simply staring.
Within his head a feline voice said, âI need feeding daddy.â
Charly smiled and poured the food out. When Christine refused, he knelt and adding a little water to soften, fed her by hand.
âSix weeks indeed. Sheâs just been ruddy well born!â
Christine fed happily from his palm and afterwards, Charly hung the rosary from the nail above the kitchen door. As he sat upon the sofa, Christine jumped upon his lap and purred sweetly.
âI love you daddy.â
He cradled her within his loving arms.
âLove you too Christine...â
Charly coughed suddenly.
âWhat a lovely story.â
âMy first memory of her Grant.â
âI always wondered if you two would ever marry.â
Charly smiled at him.
A few years back you know, I carried out a short ceremony. So
technically Iâm a widow.â
âOh I see.â
Charleyâs mind drifted again as the burning boat sank a little lower.
âCan I tell you about the night she vanished?â
âI would really love to hear that.â
Charly closed his eyes, mind linking with a happier past.
As Charly slept, lightning rent the cold, dark sky. As a sudden bang floated across the silent room, Charly sat bolt upright.
There was no response.
âShe usually sleeps with me. Where are you?â
Rather alarmed now, he climbed from beneath the warm covers and turned on the light.
Again, only the rattle of thunder replied.
âIâll check the lounge.â
When he entered, he saw the silent room,
He knelt and peeked behind the sofa but saw nothing.â
âShe canât be ruddy missing!â
He fell upon his knees and looked between the two chairs.
âCome on Christine stop it. Youâre frightening daddy now.â
Again, there was only the crashing from the storm.
Charly wandered into the kitchen and looked everywhere.
Scratching his head he muttered, âSheâs definitely not in here.â
He walked briskly into the rear bedroom.
âCome on darling. Stop fooling around now.â
Again, there was no response.
âThis is damn weird. What was that bang then?â
He dashed back inside the bedroom and looked beneath the bed.
âShe is certainly not there.â
He thought deeply then and smiled.
âI bet that I left that ruddy cupboard open!â
He dashed into the hall and saw that the door was only slightly
ajar. He opened it fully and gazed inside.
The dry clothes lay at the bottom. Above this upon the wooden shelve sat Christine. She simply stared and purred.
âWhy did you wake me?â
âLess of that madam. We are both awake now. Come on then. You can
have some treats.â
Christine stretched before following daddy to the kitchen, and to the waiting treats.
Charly opened his eyes.
âShe scratched and bit you know but at the same time, I know that she really loved me. I so loved her too.â
Upon the lake, the burning keel had reached a critical level. Charly stood slowly and watched as it suddenly flooded. The flames of mourning went out as the cat sank into the dark depths.
As his body shook with violent emotion Charly stammered, âGoodbye Christine.â
He turned slowly then.
âItâs time to leave this place.â
Grant embraced him as friends should and gently led him away.
Through a veil of heavy tears, Charly glanced down at the passing ground.
A spectral image ran beside him and a feline voice within his head whispered, âCome on daddy. Letâs go home.â
Joined Tue 09/06/11
âGet him into the castle now. Move it!â
As the body was picked up, Grant stared at the shocked pike men.
âI want these brave men buried before sunrise. Now snap to it.â
Charly was carried into the healing chamber, where the armour was quickly removed.
The shocked woman groaned in despair.
âThe wound is deep sir.â
âThen wash it out and stuff it with something.â
The woman nodded and as she set to work, Grant noted that his friend was breathing.
âJust hang on in there mate. Weâll soon patch you up.â
As the wound was carefully washed, the king entered.
âHow is he?â
Grant looked grim.
âBadly wounded sir but I think heâll pull through.â
âWhat of my knights?â
âAll gone sir. Iâve ordered their burial.â
âTis a dark night indeed. Now we are defenceless.â
âOnly if this knight returns sir. Letâs try and look upon the bright side eh?â
The king nodded and left the room, as the wound was stuffed with clean cloth. When Charly moaned, the woman brightened up.
âThat is a good sign sir.â
âI hope so mam. Heâs a tough old bird you know.â
Three weeks had passed and Charly was sitting up in bed as his cat, Christine, meowed, and chewed his finger. As Grant entered, he smiled.
âHowâs it going mate?â
âA little painful but Iâll manage thanks. We both need a break you know.â
âI hear the fishing has improved.â
âYes why not indeed. Can you help me up?â
Now out of bed, Charly stood stiffly as the cat looked on.
âI wonât be able to wear my armour for a short while. At least the riding wonât be affected.â
As he dressed Grant asked, âWhat happened out there?â
âThe black knight led me on a foolâs errand. We walked into a trap.
As for their ruddy swords. They cut through my men like paper.â
âA different type of steel?â
âMore than likely. Did you gather up the enemy weapons by any chance?â
âThere were only four of them mate.â
âWeâll give them to the blacksmith and perhaps he can duplicate them.â
âYou think this black knight will return then?â
âYes I do Grant. He has too you see. He knows that I am here.â
With that rather mysterious remark, Charly hobbled out as Grant followed. They reached the weapon stores, and took the four swords to the waiting blacksmith.
âWe need as many of these as possible. Think you can do it?â
âSounds no problem to me. A sword is a sword sir.â
Charly shook his head and removed his own. He then handed it to the blacksmith, and snatched up one of the captured weapons.
âNow defend yourself.â
The blacksmith was a dab swordsman and lashed out. Charly ducked and slashed back at once as Grant jumped to one side.
âHey you two, stop it.â
As the swords clashed, Charleyâs sliced straight through the blacksmithâs.
The man was astounded.
âThat should not have happened.â
âI know smithy,â Charly said putting his sword in its scabbard. âThatâs why we need as many as you can make.â
âWhere to now?â Grant asked.
âI think to the alchemist my boy. I want a word with him.â
The alchemist was a tall but strange chap who dabbled in chemicals and experimentation. His current project was trying to convert uranium rock into a usable power source.
Charly knew about this line of research and strongly disapproved. For obvious reasons!
âHello Charly, glad that you are up and about.â
They saw the bottles lining the wall and Charly smiled.
âHow is the research going?â
âAs well as can be expected. It is a long and slow process you know.â
âItâll never work,â Grant assured him.
âLet me put it another way,â Charly said icily. It must never work. So here is a substitute.â
He reached inside his cloth trousers and handed over a note.
As the alchemist read the list, he scratched at his straggly hair.
âI recognise these ingredients Charly. What do you want me to do with them?â
Charly just smiled.
âWhy not mix them together and make as much as you can. We may need to use it.â
They left the puzzled man and walked into the courtyard.
âWhat was that all about?â
âI just gave him the recipe for gunpowder. We may not have cannon, but it sure will make one hell of a bang!â
âSorry sir,â a guard called out. âThe king needs you at once.â
The friends sighed and followed the man into the presence of the monarch.
âWhoâs this?â Charly asked.
He stared at the bent over figure of the crone. Her beak like nose and glassy eyes were reinforced by the black frizzy hair. She held herself up with a crooked walking stick and looked almost ready to drop.
âThis is the soothsayer captain. You may find this rather interesting.
As they waited, the old crone began.
âA kingdom shall fall and twins shalt die, as the comet fractures the sky.â
âIs that all?â Grant asked.
âBeware my warning!â
The king waived her away and as she hobbled from the castle, her tortured frame faded at once.
âWhat do you make of it captain?â the king asked.
âA load of cods wallop,â Grant hissed.
Charly however had other thoughts.
âComets sire have always been regarded bad omens. This woman is simply following a long held tradition.â
âSo we have nothing to worry about?â
âI wonât go that far sire. We should always be on our guard for unexpected developments.â
The king nodded.
âWise words. What are your plans now?â
âA little R and R sir. With your permission.â
The king stood up at once.
âConsider it an order captain. Go and enjoy yourself!â
When they reached the stables, one question was playing upon Grantâs mind.
âWhat did she mean about the twins?â
âNever you mind mate. Just remember Nostradamus eh? Not all soothsayers are crazy.â
They dismounted after a relatively short ride west, and gazed upon Foxley Lake.
âLovely ainât it?â
âIt certainly is Grant. Come on, we have some fishing to do.â
They set up the makeshift rods and watched as the feather float bobbed in the still waters.
âDo you think we will ever catch something?â
Charly shook his head.
âItâs quite dead Iâm afraid. As dead as the town sleeping beneath.â
An hour or two passed in peace until a soft mist began to rise from the placid surface.
âMust be getting cool,â Grant commented as the mist grew thicker by the second.
âI donât think so,â Charly whispered. âSomething very strange is going on here.â
Grant rolled his eyes.
âIt always is when you are around.â
To their astonishment, the rising mist suddenly turned to thick snow and through the blizzard, Charly saw the lake freeze over.
âI think we are in serious trouble,â he muttered.
âPerhaps we should leave eh? After all mate, you are still not quite recovered yet.â
âWe need to check this out so come on.â
âThat way of course,â Charly said pointing to the blizzard.
As they crept along the frozen surface of the lake, thick snowflakes blinded them.
âWhatâs causing it?â Grant whimpered.
âI donât know at the moment mate. Itâs getting ruddy freezing!â
A few steps further and they suddenly sank up to their waists in soft snow.
âThe ruddy lake has gone,â Grant said.
âIf we donât find cover, we will both freeze to death.â
They struggled to free themselves but it was quite hopeless.
âI know Grant. This is definitely the last time we go fishing!â
âMe and my big mouth mate.â
They had almost given up when a figure suddenly crawled toward them.
âGive me your hand.â
Charly did so and was easily hauled out. Working together now, Grant slid from his icy tomb.
Charly glanced at the white clad rescuer.
âThanks mate. Where did you come from?â
âJust follow me eh?â
They kept close until a lighted trap door appeared. As they climbed inside and it was closed, they found themselves standing upon a vast metal platform.
Their rescuer was hidden inside a white duffle coat, and thick goggles hid the eyes. When they were removed of course, Charly smiled.
âNice to see you again Triad. Rather unexpected but welcome none the less.â
âWhere is this place?â a relieved Grant asked.
âBeneath our Yorkshire base of course. You had better follow me.â
âHow did you know about us?â
âOh Charly,â she muttered. âWe have sensors everywhere.â
They stomped down the long steps and onto the vast warm floor. She led them into a small office and sat them down.
âCan anyone explain how we got here without a ring?â Grant asked.
Triad looked at Charly and winked.
âYour department I think.â
Charly rolled his eyes.
âI think it is obvious. For some reason the two time zones are merging. Call it a time crash if you like.â
âHow can that happen though?â his friend asked.
Charly glared at the woman.
âWhere were you when the world ended?â
âThat was six months ago now. I was sitting at my desk reading a report when one of my men dashed in and called me outside. Thatâs when I saw it. Naturally I hit the klaxon that ordered everyone down here.â
âAn emergency bunker?â Grant asked.
âIt was built to survive nuclear war.â
âLucky you,â Charly said grimly. âHow many made it?â
Triad looked away.
âOnly four of us. The rest were vaporised.â
âToo bad,â Charly said slowly.
âWhere were you or shouldnât I ask?â
âI was in Foxley when the energy wave arrived. I only just made it back.â
âSo, we have both been lucky so far.â
She saw her old friend wince.
âWhat happened to you?â
âHe had an argument with a sword and lost,â Grant explained.
âSo how many more of these exist?â
âThis is the only one Charly. What with government cutbacks.â
âHow about missile silos?â Grant asked. âThey crews must have survived.â
Triad shook her head sadly.
âThey are dead by now. Their emergency power systems only last a
month. Thankfully our designers extended that period.â
âSix months Charly. In a day or two, itâs lights out and we freeze.
Iâm damn glad to see you again.â
Charly looked at her suspiciously.
âYou want something?â
âYou can lead us back to your time. At least there, we can live.â
âOut of the question.â
Triad was shocked.
âYou and Grant live there,â she snapped.
âWe got away with it. Your arrival will upset the delicate balance.â
âIâve been in this Brigandia before though.â
âNot to stay. Donât you see? The balance could shift and my new world would be utterly destroyed.â
âYou would leave us here to die?â she asked with understood resentment.
Charly gritted his teeth.
âI had to leave my friends and colleagues to die in order to save my monarch. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.â
Grant suddenly interrupted.
âSorry to butt in, shouldnât we be trying to stop this merger?â
âWe have to stop it soon. If this is allowed to continue, it's the end of both worlds. Past and future.â
âSo what caused it?â Triad asked coldly.
She almost heard Charleyâs mind whirring.
âI used the ring as the wave arrived. That could have weakened the dimensional walls.â
âNow itâs collapsing?â
âYes Grant it is. Hence the mist, the snow, and not forgetting the frozen lake.â
âSo how do we save both worlds?â Triad asked.
Charly looked at her coldly.
âAnother form of energy could close the hole I suppose. You wonât have it anyway.â
âHave what?â Grant asked.
âA small kiloton thermo-nuclear device.â
âYou are kidding right?â
Charly gave Grant an ice-cold stare.
âSeems that you are not.â
Triad sighed softly.
âAbout a year ago I requisitioned two of them in case some unfriendly aliens tried to land here.â
âYou still have them?â Charly asked excitedly.
âThey were stored down here.â
Charly glanced at Grant.
âNow we have a ruddy chance.â
Then he paused. Realising an unpalatable truth.
âIf we use them Triad, you understand the consequences.â
She nodded grimly.
âA sudden suntan mate. When I signed up for military intelligence I knew my life was on the line. Hell, who gets a chance to save two worlds eh?â
âWhat do you want to do with them Charly?â Grant asked.
âThey need to be positioned just at the apex of the merger. Hopefully the resulting explosion will heal the breach and push them apart.â
âSounds good to me,â Triad said.
âIt has to be done quickly,â Charly warned. âBeyond a certain point, nothing will work.â
âYou had better give us a hand then.â
She called her remaining men together, but did not say why. She led them deep into the bunker where the warheads were stored. Once there, they were loaded onto transporters and taken to the base of a second shaft.
âHelp me to place them on the platform.â
They helped Triad do this, before the metallic surface was raised toward the roof. They saw it slide back and thick snow drifted inside.
Upon that freezing surface, Triad asked, âShow me where to put them Charly.â
âJust follow us.â
They carried the heavy devices into the blizzard until Charly felt the snow slightly harden.
âThis is it Triad. The transition point. Forward is my world. They have to go off now.â
âIâll set the ruddy timer for two minutes then.â
Charly shook his head.
âWhen I mean now, I actually mean ten seconds.â
âHow about you two? Youâll never get clear in time.â
Charly just grimaced.
âWe will take that risk. Goodbye Helen Carter.â
âGet out of it Charles.â
Charly grabbed his friends arm as she set the lethal timer.
As they stumbled onto firm ice he yelled, âWe are nearly there!â
They broke through the thick blizzard and stumbled onto the banks of Foxley Lake. A thousand years earlier, a woman watched the needle reach zero.
âSeems like we made it,â Grant said.
âThey blast was contained within the transition zone my friend. Look at the blizzard. Itâs gone now.â
As they reached the castle gate, the guard smiled.
âYou two have been gone three days. Enjoy yourself?â
Charly gave him a withering look.
âNever ask that again.â
Stepping into the apartment, Charly noticed something odd. Christine was huddled upon the floor shivering violently.
âWhatâs wrong darling?â
He ran to her and shouted, âGet me cool blankets now! Sheâs burning up. I donât understand this. She was alright this morning.â
He lifted the loving cat from the floor and sat upon the sofa with her upon his lap.
âHereâs the blankets.â
Charly took them and carefully swaddled her within. He cradled her now, singing a lullaby.
A heavy hand suddenly gripped his shoulder.
âSorry mate but sheâs gone.â
Charly looked down and stared at the still animal. He shook her gently.
âCome on darling. Time for your din dins. Time for your treats.â
There was no response.
Charly stared toward the ceiling as tears rolled down his bonelike cheeks.
At the top of his voice he screamed, âNoooooooooooo!â
Joined Tue 09/06/11
It was night when they came. With no moon to shine down upon them, they seemed invisible. They seemed ungodly. As if they had come from the pit of perdition itself.
The village was struck without warning. Devilish horseman carrying lighted torches, setting fire to the homes. When the panic-stricken people ran, brutal swords struck them down.
There was no resistance.
Resistance was futile.
Charly and his friend Grant had been summoned to the kingâs chamber to hear a terrifying report.
As they gazed upon the shaking six-year-old girl with the golden tassels, they sensed absolute terror.
The king turned grimly.
âYou had better hear this captain.â
âTell us again child.â
The child raised her tear-marked cheeks and told the awful story.
âI was in bed with momma when it happened. We heard screams and she pulled me outside. Everywhere that I looked, there was fire. Then I saw them. Hellish steeds that glowed in the dark. Upon those steeds and carrying torches rode skeletons.â
âMomma screamed and told me to flee. As I ran, I saw momma being struck down with a sword.â
âI managed to dodge them and made it into the woods. I slept till dawn and made my way here.â
The story shocked everyone to the core. For Charly, something far worse had happened.
âYou asked for a report sire without making her comfortable? Damn it man! This child needs water and sustenance.â
The king gave him a grim look, but ignored the criticism.
âYou heard it for yourself captain. What is your opinion?â
Charly gritted his teeth.
âTell me child. Did you really see skeletons?â
The child simply nodded.
âThatâs just not possible,â Grant said.
âIâm afraid it is my friend,â Charly replied. âObviously the steeds were coated in florescence. As for the riders well. They wore dark garments with skeletons painted on with fluorescent liquid.â
âThat explains it then,â Grant commented.
âI do not understand,â the king said. âYou are saying her account was real?â
âIt was to a certain degree sire. How far is this village?â
âLess than six hours ride why?â
âThat is rather unfortunate sir. I fear that we are next on their list. As for this child do as I ask. She is in desperate need of food, water, and warmth.â
The king at last agreed.
âTake her to the wise woman for looking after.â
As the child was being led away, she stopped.
âThere is something else that I remember sir.â
âWhat is it child? Pray tell.â
They were led by a black knight.â
The kingâs face suddenly blanched.
âThis means something to you sire?â
âYes captain. It was such a knight that gave me the sapphire rings. Had I known then what he would do, I would have killed him myself.â
Charly glanced at Grant.
âAt least that is one mystery solved then.â
Once the child had been removed, the King said,â If you fear an attack by these demons, you must plan for it.â
âThat is exactly what I intend to do sire. With your permission?â
The king nodded and they headed for the courtyard. As they stepped outside Grant asked, âHow serious is this?â
Charly suddenly grabbed him violently.
âAbout as serious as it gets mate. Donât you know? We are facing the army from hell!â
Charly suddenly released him and collapsing to his knees screamed, âWhy me!â
âAre you okay mate?â Grant asked.
After a moment Charly said, âAssemble the troops my friend. The time for war has come.â
When the troops had been assembled, Charley's address began.
âThe first thing to do is to drive stakes around our east wall at a distance of thirty feet. Behind this, two lines of pike men shall deploy.â
Then Charly glanced at Grant.
âYou have no armour mate. Grab yourself a pike eh?â
âI will lead two lines of knights beyond the stakes to meet them in open combat. We will carry maces and swords.â
A voice suddenly chirped up.
âWhat about the archers sir?â
âThe bowmen shall be our final line of defence. If they break through the pike men they shall cut them down.â
âIs everything clear?â
The assembled troops answered with a united voice.
âSo snap too it. We ride at sunset.â
Throughout that day, the carpenter made the stakes as pike men drove them into the ground. As night approached, Grant found his friend stroking his mighty steed.
âWhatâs wrong Charly? You do seem out of sorts.â
Charly turned as tears fell.
âWe know who gave the king those rings now.â
âThis black knight, what of it?â
âAny man who can create that technology is a formidable enemy indeed. I truly fear that we shall be utterly routed.â
Grant shook his head.
âNot with you in charge mate. Pull yourself together eh?â
Grant left then to collect a pike as his friend stroked on.
With Charly at the head, the knights rode out for battle. The standard-bearer rode aside the captain and as they left, the king watched the army depart.
âI wish you victory this day.â
Beyond the line of stake, the knights waited. As the dark hours passed, the pike men shivered with cold.
Then lights appeared in the distance and Charly gave the command.
âKnights, charge. For death or glory!â
The troops followed their brave captain as the enemy came into full view. They stared in horror at the blazing torches and the ghost like steeds. They stared in horror at the terrifying skeletal riders.
With maces swinging and swords raised, they charged into the enemies open flank.
As the sound of clashing metal filled the air, the flank suddenly opened and Charly realised that he had rode his army into a well-planned trap.
As the knights entered, the flank closed around them.
At their head, Charly sat utterly aghast.
âWhat a ruddy fool Iâve been!â
The enemy struck with their double-edged weapons, weapons that could slice through armour, like a hot knife through butter.
âHold your position!â Charly screamed as chaos erupted.
A skeletal horsemen tried to ride him down, but the captain was quicker than that. His horse reared and twisted as his mace swung hard.
The enemy soldier screamed as his head was torn off, before crashing landward.
Screams filled the air as the kingâs knights fell like ninepins.
Charly knew that only one response might save their lives.
âForm a circle now!â
At this terrible command, the remaining knights dismounted and slapped their steeds away. They stood shoulder to shoulder now with shields and swords raised.
The standard-bearer stood at the centre with Charly right next to him.
âCan we get out of it sir?â
Charly smiled sadly at the armour-clad youth.
âCan pigs fly?â
The enemy stood back for a moment as heartless laughter filled the night air. Minutes passed before a new voice shouted, âTake them! Charly is mine!â
The knights braced themselves as the enemy struck hard. Their metallic protection was useless against these weapons. Sword slashed through it, sending arms flying toward the ground.
An unlucky knight was rapidly beheaded, and as the body fell, his body was pierced by countless sword points.
Charly watched his men being decimated with horror.
The question was where to? There was no place to run.
A line of skeletons smashed through at last, charging the standard.
The brave youth swung his sword as a well-placed blow crushed his skull.
Charly slashed at the rider as he leaned down to grab the flag and yelled when he fell. The captain reached the fallen man and screaming to heaven sliced his head from atop his heavy shoulders.
As blood pumped out, Charly swung round and screamed, âWhose next?â
Then he fell silent.
Around him lay the bodies of his men. The enemy were jeering at him.
The lone survivor of this bloody massacre.
Charly stood waiting as blood trickled down his gleaming armour suit.
âWhat the hell are you lot waiting for? Get it ruddy over with!â
The invincible enemy parted and the black knight rode through.
âYou have come for me then?â
âOf course I have. Who else could have defeated you Charly?â
âI would like to see the face of my killer first.â
The visor opened and a familiar face stared back.
Charly stood in absolute shock as the blazing steed suddenly rode at him. As if in slow motion, Charly screamed with his raised sword swinging wildly. He ran forward, desperately attempting to cut the distance.
The sword of the black knight caught his side savagely and the captainâs body twirled and fell.
As the black knight rode on, he grabbed the standard and led his victorious army away.
At the line of stakes, the pike men waited. They had heard the clash of arms and now silence had fallen. As the distant lights vanished into the darkness, Grant had had enough.
âWe must go to them.â
âWe have our orders sir.â
âTo hell with orders mate. Iâm going now, alone if need be.â
The others watched as the brave man ran toward where the sound had come from.
Shrugging their shoulders, the pike men broke rank and followed.
It did not take long for them to find the grim scene of battle. As they gazed upon the sea of broken bodies Grant shouted, âCharly!â
When there was no response of course, he ordered a search. As Grant checked the north side, a call reached his ears.
âOver here sir!â
Grant ran over and found the pike man kneeling at the side of a downed knight. The weary pike man glanced up.
âSorry sir, I think heâs dead.â
Grant stared aghast at the still body and the open visor. He stared aghast at the closed eyes of Charly.
This was the season finale...
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Within the castle, angry murmurings filled the air. Certain members of the kingâs entourage had serious misgivings about the captain of the guard.
âWhat right does the king have for putting him in charge,â a short fellow complained. âHe knows nought of our ways.â
âTrue. This Charly bloke spends most of his time above the kingâs own chambers.â
A tallish bloke had other concerns.
âHave none of you noticed that since his arrival we have had nothing but trouble?â
âI noticed that,â another quipped.
âWhat about the way that he dealt with that malady. The settlement was put to fire and sword.â
âWhat if he decides to do the same here?â the short bloke added.
âWe wonât be safe in our beds,â the tall gent said.
âWe should at least put our complaint before the king,â another suggested.
âHe is under Charleyâs spell,â the short gent said. âHe will stand by him whatever he does.â
âSo what are we going to do about it then?â
The rebels just stared at each other.
âWe should get rid of him,â the tall bloke said.
As murmurings grew, a new problem was brought to the monarchâs attention.
As he sat regally upon his throne, a deputation had arrived from a settlement with some bad news.
âThree in our village have died already sire. The wise woman is treating four others.â
âIs not her potions working then?â
âThey appear not to be sire. Word has it that your captain knows of ways to help people.â
âYou wish me to despatch him then?â
âIt would be the desirable thing to do.â
The king thought this over for a bit and summoned Grant and Charly.
âWelcome captain, these gents need your expert assistance.â
âWhat seems to be the trouble?â
He listened patiently as the details were repeated.
âCan you say what symptoms they have?â
âWell sir, they start coughing violently before inhaling with a
weird noise. On the second day they turn blue and perish.â
Charly thought this over.
âSounds like a severe case of whooping cough to me. So what is this wise woman treating them with?â
âWith potion and bleeding sir.â
Grant winked at his friend.
âA good old medieval trick that.â
âYes indeed but one that rarely works mate. We will return and see this malady for ourselves.â
The ride to the village took around three hours, and the sun was well down when the stockade gate was opened.
âThe sick are being treated in our great hall sir. This way.â
The great hall was of course a misnomer. A largish squat building made entirely from wood, it was often used for gatherings and the rare feast days.
When Charly entered, he saw the four sick individuals lying upon thick woollen blankets and the old woman mopping their brows. She glanced up as Charly approached.
âSo you did get help then. There was no need.â
Charly smiled at her before kneeling beside the patient. As he did so, a coughing fit took hold, followed rapidly by a loud whoop.
âWhat do you think it is mam?â Grant asked.
âFever of course. Though of a type that I have never encountered.â
Charly drew the woollies down and saw the feeding leeches upon his chest.
âThey remove the bad humours sir. A well tested treatment.â
Charly just groaned.
âI know that it goes back to the Greeks mam but it only weakens the patient.â
The woman was far from pleased.
âI have always used this sir. Even upon myself and I still breathe.â
âIâm glad to hear it,â Charly said.
âI understand that you also use a potion? May I see it?â
The happy woman smiled and led him across to the nearby table.
âThis be it sir.â
He peeked inside the ceramic jar and saw the thick goo with a little distaste.
âIt looks thick enough to choke the poor sods.â
The woman shook her head as if he was daft.
âI add a little grape wine sir. It helps with dilution.â
As they spoke, one of the deputation suddenly alerted them.
âThis oneâs turning blue!â
Charly and the woman dashed back as the patient gasped with a thick rasping sound.
âHeâs going,â the woman said sadly.
The patientâs back arched as his last breath rasped out.
âNow we have lost four,â Grant commented.
Charly rubbed his head.
âThis is more than just whooping cough Grant.â
He covered the body and examined the next patient.
âThis one has a very high temperature and by the way heâs breathing
I would say clogged lungs.â
âCan you help?â Grant asked.
âI did my Red Cross course ten years ago mate. It might help.â
The woman was puzzled by the reference.
âI no heard of that?â
As Grant smiled, Charly whispered, âWell before your time mam.â
âCome on Grant, help me to sit this fellow up eh? You lot, do the
same for the other two.â
After a moment Charly said, âNow do as I do.â
He started rubbing and strongly tapping the space between the shoulder blades, which quickly produced a violent response. The patients went into a spasm, violent coughs bringing up an odorous green sputum.
âYou must keep them warm and make damn sure that they sleep upon their sides. Use wedges if you have to.â
The wise woman watched the strange remedy and the even stranger effect. When the coughing stopped, at last the patients were laid upon their sides.
As Charly pulled the leeches off the old woman said, âIâll just fetch my potion. It should speed the recovery.â
âYou do that then,â Charly whispered.
âWill they recover sir?â the head of the deputation asked.
âIt will take time but I think so.â
As the woman returned with a drinking bowl Charly asked, âWhatâs in it by the way?â
The wise woman smiled.
âWell sir, aloes, tomato seeds, a mushroom and of course hemlock.â
That word made Charly gasp.
âIs there something wrong?â the woman asked. âMy mom used to swear by it.â
Shaking his head Charly said, âWhat do you mean hemlock? If you miscalculate by even a gram the consequences can be devastating.â
âYou mean she poisoned them?â Grant asked.
âWe must report this to the king,â the man said.
Charly shook his head.
âThat will not be necessary. After all she was only trying to help.â
He gave the now frightened woman a glassy stare.
âYou must never use that again?â
She shook her head violently.
âNot as long as I live sir.â
As an afterthought Charly asked, âCan you make a thin broth?â
âIâll do that now sir.â
âThatâs great mam. It will perk them up a bit. No bread mind.â
The woman nodded and dashed off.
Smiling at the deputation he said, âWeâll stay till sunrise and then be off. These poor souls will be on the road to recovery by then.â
A little after sunrise the friends galloped from the village towards the castle and home. A single track led through an open common and Grant spotted an armed group coming their way.
The friends pulled the reins, and as their steeds came to a halt, the group of four slowed and drew their sword.
âThis does not look good mate,â Grant said.
Charly recognised the individuals and called out, âDid the king send you?â
âNey lad,â the leading ruffian replied.
âThen why are you here?â Grant asked.
âTo free our king from your magic,â the second ruffian replied.
The horses reared as the ruffians charged the friends without any further warning.
âThis way,â Charly yelled as he led the escape.
Across the common they went, as the ruffians followed hard upon their heels.
âWhere are we going?â Grant asked.
âSee that escarpment?â
âOh I see.â
Their steeds reached the higher ground before Charly swung the horse around. Pulling his sword, he charged.
The sudden attack threw the malcontents off balance and Charly cut the first down quite easily. Grant struck the second. But the remaining two smashed their steeds against him.
As Grant was roughly dismounted, Charly threw his sword and it pierced the attackers back. The only survivor headed across the rough ground as Charly yelled. âNot that way!â
Charly saw Grant sitting up and went after the retreating man.
âThe fool is heading for Thor Height!â
The rascal did not know this of course. He guided the steed across the rocky ground and stared ahead. As a huge cliff came into view, the ground suddenly fell away.
Charly heard the scream and pulled the reins hard.
He turned the horse and galloped back to where his bruised friend waited.
âYou okay mate?â
Grant nodded as Charly retrieved his bloody weapon from the dead rascal.
âHe got away did he?â
Charly shook his head.
âHe went over that ruddy ravine mate. With the horse Iâm afraid.â
âWill you tell the king about this rebellion?â
âNot yet. Hopefully we got them all. In any case, when they do not return, any others will be a lot less willing to deal with me.â
He dug his heels and the steed bolted towards home, as Grant followed a little way behind.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Within their upstairs chambers, Grant and Charly were having a discussion upon an old subject. Charly sat at the table, examining the sapphire ring.
âDamn strange thing this you know. It has the ability to open a time portal to the past.â
âA past now destroyed mate. I hope you arenât thinking of using it again.â
âDonât worry Grant. No past to return to now.â
âSo whatâs the problem?â
âThere are two of them right?â
âYes, the king has the other.â
âWe also know that this was the queenâs.â
âI follow so far.â
âSo who made them? Itâs some serious tech and this lot certainly didnât create them.â
âPerhaps an alien did?â Grant suggested.
âThatâs possible but surely the king would have mentioned that.â
âHe certainly knew nothing about those wretched crystals,â Grant reminded him.â
âThat proves my point.â
The door rapped and the king entered with a smile upon his face.
âIâve been talking to the stores man and it appears that we are short of salt.â
âYou get it from the sea I suppose,â Charly said slipping the ring back inside the drawer.
âA team of six men do that captain. They spend a week boiling it off and bringing the salt back.â
âWhat do you need that stuff for,â Grant asked absentmindedly.
Charly shook his head.
âThey use it for curing and preserving meat of course.â
Charly stood and said, âSire, may I show you something?â
When the king nodded, he was led into a small rear room. At the far end stood a small box with wire mesh across the door. When Charly opened it, a series of shelves were revealed.
âSome kind of cupboard?â the king asked.
âItâs a cooler sir. In medieval times this was the forerunner to the fridge.â
âI donât quite understand.â
Charly rubbed his head.
âI intend to use it to store fresh food sire. I got the carpenter to knock one up for me. I also instructed that a pyramid shaped one is also made.â
âThat will work better,â Grant added.
âI see,â the king said. âIt certainly sounds interesting. Concerning the salt team, would you mind going?â
Charly shook his head.
âI donât mind sire. The outing will probably do us some good.â
âWhat do you mean by us?â Grant asked.
âYou are coming too mate.â
Upon the sea, a shell like wooden boat paddled its way carefully following the shoreline.
The owner was a keen fisherman, though the apparatus was rather on the primitive side. A length of wire, courtesy of the blacksmith was wrapped around a square wooden handle. A lethal hook finished off the effect.
He lived within a small up shore community that prided itself on strict privacy.
âI just hope this area is a bit more productive than the previous one. Three ruddy days in this contraption would drive anyone quite mad.â
He stopped paddling at last, noting that people were approaching from landward.
âThey are no concern of mine.â
He hooked the dead fish and dropped it over the side, settling himself down for the expected bite.
He did not notice the small black dorsal fin break surface. It swam a short way before dipping under the cold surface once more.
This animal resulted from the rapid evolution that followed the mass extinction of a thousand years previous.
The sensitive nose was shark like, but four stiff fins had grown along its stomach that allowed it to crawl short distances upon land. It did this to lay its eggs, which it left promptly to fend for themselves.
It nosed the dead bait and swam on. Dead fish did not concern it though. This animal preferred live food.
It turned suddenly and slowed. As the calculation was made, the flat tail swished and the nose struck the strange flimsy craft.
The fisherman was rather alarmed when his boat overturned suddenly.
As he bobbed up, grabbing the side of the upside down shell he gasped, âWhat the hell hit me? Iâm too far out for it to be rocks.â
These were the last words that he would ever utter. A sudden firm pressure gripped his floundering limbs and pulled him silently beneath the surface.
Upon the headland, none of the approaching men had seen a thing.
âNearly there,â Charly muttered as the horse and cart neared the sandy beach.
Grant pointed to a small dark object floating well offshore.
âWhat do you think that is?â
Charly peered carefully from his mount.
âJust a piece of flotsam mate.â
The six-man team quickly set up their salt maker and set to work as the two friends walked the beach.
âIs it hot under that armour?â Grant asked.
âThankfully not too hot. I got the blacksmith to punch small holes under the armpits for ventilation.â
Grant stumbled and Charly peered down at the offending object. It was oval shaped and quite smooth to the touch.
âIt looks like an egg you know,â Charly muttered.
âIt could have come from a turtle.â
Grant shook his head.
âToo far north mate.â
âThe currents would have changed since our time. Donât forget that.â
When darkness came that first night, the two friends were lying upon their backs watching the stars twinkling as the fire roared.
âSeems strange Charly, watching the stars with no moon.â
âI feel that also mate. Of course with no moon, no tides either.â
A bulky chap wandered over.
âIâm just off for a pee mate.â
âGo ahead. Just donât be too long.â
âThe weight of authority mate.â
As the chap relieved himself at the waterâs edge, a dark shape rose out of the ocean and snapped its teeth around his waist. As a terrible scream rent the air, his colleagues came running.
âWhere the hell has he gone?â Grant asked staring at the empty sand.
âI really donât know. Weâll wait till morning and mount a search eh? Naught we can do tonight."
As dawn broke on the second day, the search began. Gazing at the sand Charly pointed out the thick drag marks.
âSomething came out of that ocean and took him.â
âLike a sea going croc?â
âPerhaps. One thing is certain though. Just donât go for a paddle.â
âWhat do we say to the others?â Grant asked.
âWe make damn sure that no one strays too close to the beach after dark.â
As Charleyâs mind worked, he realised something.
âRemember that egg?â
âPerhaps the killer laid that. If it follows turtles, it would do that at night.â
âI would rather it be one of those,â his friend replied.
The search was called off, and the gathering of the vital salt began once more.
As the sun went down Charly ensured that everyone sat around the burning flames.
From the beach, the animal waded ashore once more and squeezing its lower underside tightly, vomited another egg onto the sand. It then hobbled on, its rear fins flicking a layer of sand upon it.
It raised its snout, detecting the scent of burning wood. Curiosity took over and it lurched toward the flames and the unsuspecting men.
As it moved closer, it scented warm flesh and waited silently. Once the men were asleep, it struck suddenly. Powerful jaws snapped around the victimâs leg, an action that severed the artery. As screams and blood mixed together, the others woke with a start.
âGet the ruddy sword!â Charly barked as the leg was ripped away. By the time that the weapons had been returned, the animal was swishing its way out to sea.
âDonât go there!â Charly shouted as the man ran in pursuit. âThere may be more of them.â
He was relieved when the fellow returned safely.
Charly grabbed a torch and applied it to the gaping wound.
Thankfully, the victim was quite unconscious.
âWe canât stay here!â Grant shouted.
âWeâll move further inland,â Charly replied. âCome on, help me with him.â
The man was dead when the third day arrived.
âHave you got enough salt yet?â
âNo captain. Some way to go yet.â
âVery well. Make what you need then. Tonight though, we camp about a mile inland. I doubt these animals can travel that far. As for us Grant, we patrol the damn beach line.â
As the day progressed the workers done their best and at sunset they retreated to the safety of the new camp.
As the friends patrolled with lit torches and drawn swords, Grant was grumbling.
âIâll be happy when we get home.â
âSo will I mate. No resource is worth two lives.â
As the waves crashed, a slithering sound took their attention. As the burning torches were waived, seven of the animals broke from the water. Charly took one look.
âTime to run mate. This whole coastline is deadly.â
The animals had other things upon their minds that night though. Being capable of self-fertilisation, they avoided damage during the coitus process.
Lumbering onto the cold sand, they laid their eggs with precision before lumbering seaward once more.
When the fourth day arrived, the salt gatherers redoubled their efforts.
As darkness fell once more, a lone animal lumbered onto shore looking for a fresh kill. The human meat was well gone but other animals had not followed their advice.
A lone rabbit that was lost perhaps, bound across the sand quite happily until the animal struck.
At dawn of the fifth day, Charly got some good news.
âIf we repeat yesterdayâs gains, today should do it sir.â
âYou mean that we can go home?â Grant asked.
âWe sure can.â
Charly glanced at his good friend.
âWeâll give you a hand. The quicker we leave the better.â
They worked without stop until an hour before sunset. By that time, enough salt had been collected and they loaded up at last.
As the cart trundled off, Charly looked back.
The people were well gone as dawn arrived once more. The empty overturned shell of a boat was bobbing in the waves as one of the animals gave it a short, sharp shove.
From beneath the overturned hull, the half eaten skull of the fisherman bobbed into view.
The animal closed in and crushed it to a pulp, as the boat was lifted onto the empty beach by the action of the waves.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Joined Tue 09/06/11
To the east of Foxley Lake, the land rolled down towards a lush valley. This was prime feeding ground for the cattlemen, and jammed between the rugged escarpment and the dark, dense wood.
As the cattleman drove their animals onto the field, the abandoned horse and cart was all too obvious.
âStrange place to leave a horse.â
He walked over to the edge of the wood and patted the head of the poor animal.
âWhat are you doing here then?â
He decided to glance inside the grey wooden cart and stepped away at once. Within the box lay the bodies of a family. A young child and the parents, rotting quietly and covered with maggots and flies.
The cattleman had seen death before of course. However, this worried him.
âThey must have come from yonder settlement,â he murmured to himself.
He gazed at the grazing animals and made a snap decision.
âIâll take them back to the castle and bring this to the attention of the king.â
âYou look quite fine in that,â Grant commented as Charly did a twirl with the light suit of armour.
âCaptain of the guard is quite an honour,â his friend said.
Charly shook himself and the metal duly rattled.
âItâs ruddy clumsy.â
Grant patted his shoulder and said, âAt least the arrows will bounce off mate.â
The door rapped and the monarch duly entered. The friends noted the royal purple top and trousers, not to mention the lack of royal crown.
âCan we help?â Charly asked.
The grim faced monarch had plenty on his mind.
âWe have received a deeply disturbing message,â the king said carefully. âYou had better see this.â
They followed him into the central courtyard where the cart now sat. Charly looked inside at the corpses and winced.
âWhere were they found?â
âIn the grazing meadow. The cattleman believes that they came from the settlement.â
âIt would be bad if they did sire.â
Charly mulled it over and made a decision.
âWe need the bodies taken outside sir and lifted onto the ground. I can examine them there. A bowl of hot water is also required.â
When his advice had been accepted, he grimaced as he gazed down at the bodies.
âWhat do you think killed them?â Grant asked.
âHard to say mate. The decomposition is fairly advanced. Iâll just make a cursory exam. What I would not give for a doctor.â
âWhy not ask the wise woman?â
Charly shook his head.
âShe may know about healing powders and such but not this.â
He took a deep breath and began to tease the huddled bodies apart. Being very careful, he tilted the neck of the male and looked hard.
âNow this is rather interesting,â Charly muttered.
He was gazing at a large growth and when he squeezed it gently, bloody black puss poured out. Washing his hands, he took a sponge and washed the victimâs throat.
âThis looks really bad Grant. Can you just raise his arm for me?â
Grant did so gingerly as his friend felt the armpit. He nodded and
whispered, âLet it down gently now.â
He stepped away and washed his hands carefully in the bowl.
âWhat do you think?â Grant asked with some concern.
Charly looked grim.
âItâs bubonic plague my friend. We must inform the king at once.â
He was about to do this when he stopped and said slowly, âWhatever you do, donât mention the âPâ word.â
âIâll keep quiet then mate. We both know what this disease can do.â
The king sat upon his throne as Charly gave the grim report.
âThey died from a virulent disease sire. It is imperative that both cart and bodies are burned.â
âWhat of the horse?â
âIt has to be destroyed and burnt alongside them sir.â
âAre we in any danger?â the king asked carefully?â
âOnly time will tell sir. Thankfully there are no fleas, which is a bonus.â
âWhat else can we do?â
âI need to visit this settlement sire. We need to know what is going on there.â
âYou may do that of course.â
Charly glanced at the grim faced Grant.
âMay I take a squad of bowmen?â
The monarch looked puzzled.
âWhat need of those men?â
âIf the settlement has been struck hard, it needs to be quarantined at once. The bowmen can reinforce it. We will also need a lit brazier and tar.â
âThese requests are very strange but you know best. Make the arrangements captain.â
The column was rapidly assembled and quite soon after, they came across the nearby settlement. It had been created in the middle of the forest for protection, and unlike the other, no stockade protected it.
âIt looks fairly quiet,â Grant whispered as they approached.
âYou men stay here,â Charly ordered. âIf anyone tries to leave shoot them down.â
âWe shall do that sir. Good luck.â
The friends glanced at each other before entering the silent place.
âWe need to find the headman. He perhaps can tell us how bad it is.â
âDo you think everyone is dead?â Grant asked.
Charly pointed to a door as a woman peeked out at the strangers.
âThey seem to be cowering inside.â
The headmanâs home was the largest of course and they knocked quite loudly. Charly was surprised when a lovely woman opened it.
âCaptain of the kingâs guard at your service mam. We need to talk about this.â
The woman stepped back.
âEnter with peace sir.â
The living area was quite crude but a roaring fire kept the cold out. Charly sat at the roughly hewn table as she joined them.
âWhen did this malady arrive?â Charly asked grimly.
âTen days now. Strangers came from the west and one of them was ill. Of course we took them in.â
âWhat happened to them?â Grant asked.
âThey were dead within a few hours sir.â
âThen the illness spread?â Charly enquired.
âVery quickly sir. I truly think that half of our people have perished.â
âDidnât you try and contain it?â Grant asked.
The woman shook her head.
âWe knew not how.â
âWhatever happens now, no one must leave here. My men are under orders to use their bows.â
âThen you intend to watch us die?â
âI came to help my dear. Can you find four stout men for me?â
âCome with me sir.â
Once outside, the headman began knocking upon doors. When no one responded, she moved on. By this simple process the men were soon found.
âI want everybody removed to the last home at the west section. If anyone lives there get them out. When that is done, I want the homes of the dead burned.â
The woman was deeply shocked.
âWe took ages to build those homes sir.â
âThere really is no other way mam.â
She issued the order and Charly watched as they men started upon their grim task.
âAnything else?â the woman asked.
âI need to check every home in turn. This will tell me the number of the ill.â
She nodded and the search for them began.
Charly was shocked that every home had at least one case. After an hour, he knew what had to be done.
âOrder the carpenter to nail them inside. That may stop this advancing.â
âWhat of the well sir?â
âHave the surviving militia relocate them to the great hall mam. That should solve the feeding problem. Now with that number of ill, the settlement will have to be levelled. That does mean every home you know.â
âI do not like your council sir, but as a loyal kinswoman it shall be done.â
The carpenter began nailing the victims inside, as the healthy were hustled outside at sword point. As they gathered inside the great hall, dark mumblings began.
âWhat right has the king to do this thing? We live here quite happily.â
âThe king knows best,â another said.
âHe does not know everything man.â
âWhat if these strangers are right?â another said. âThis malady has no respect for anyone.â
âThe wise woman assured us that it would pass.â
The majority agreed.
A more levelheaded individual shook his head.
âShe was one of the first to perish. I say that compliance is the only option.â
âItâs alright for you,â the ringleader said. âYou live alone. I had to leave my wife and kids.â
The mood of the survivors was rapidly turning ugly.
As the last body was thrown into the last home, Charly gave the order to torch it. As they watched it burn, a frantic woman ran towards them.
âOh mam...The people intend to free their loved ones. They wonât mind breaking heads either.â
âThey must not oppose the kingâs authority,â the headwoman said. âThat is open treason.â
âIt is not the king they oppose but those two.â
Charly looked grim.
âWhat we do is for the better. Tell the ruddy mob that.â
As he said this, a group of men armed with clubs marched toward them.
âGet out of our settlement,â the ringleader shouted. âLeave us be.â
Charly walked towards them but Grant stopped him.
âThey are beyond reason now mate.â
The headwoman raised her palms for calm.
âYou must return to the great hall. Go home.â
The ringleader was in no mood for parley. He swung his club and smashed the head of the unfortunate lady.
Grabbing Grantâs arm Charly shouted, âRun for it!â
The mob jeered and followed as the headwoman lay upon the dirt bleeding profusely.
As the friends broke free from the settlement Charly shouted, âBowman fire.â
The crossbows were lowered, and bolts cut the first rank of people down. As the rest hesitated, Charly called a halt.
âIs this what you want? To lose everything? This way you at least have a chance.â
âWe only want our loved ones back,â the mob yelled. âYou have no right to imprison them.â
âFor pities sake donât do that,â Charly pleaded.
âStuff you mate.â
The angry survivors ran back and promptly lynched the carpenter. As the headwoman came to, the frightened people carried her to the burning home of the dead and tossed her onto the flames.
Her short-lived screams rent the air and hardened Charleyâs heart.
âThey killed her?â
âOf course they did Grant. Well that does it. Every one of them will contract it now. Probably try to flee and these bowmen may not be able to hold them.â
âSo whatâs the plan?â Grant asked.
Charly pointed to the tar brazier.
âFire your bows and torch the settlement. Kill everyone on sight. Do not let them touch you.â
The grim faced troops fired their bolts, and sent showers towards the wooden buildings. As the flames took hold, the bowman moved through the settlement with no mercy.
A young girl fled towards them and a bolt cut her down. As a group of men armed with clubs moved against them, the bowmen knelt in line and cut them to pieces.
The crackling flames and screams tore at Charleyâs heart.
âI feel like a murderer.â
âThey gave you no choice man. Anyone would have done the same.â
âIâm not just anyone Grant. Iâm Charly. Iâm supposed to save life, not snuff it out like a mad dog.â
The grim task was soon over. As the last four survivors huddled inside the great hall, fiery bolts struck the walls and the roof. As thick smoke poured inside, they leapt out coughing frantically. The bowmen opened fire at once.
As they filed towards their captain, Charly screamed, âKill me!â
They ignored his plea and headed towards the castle and safety.
Charly sank to his knees and wept uncontrollably as Grant looked on. The first of the burning homes collapsed as thick black smoke rose toward the clear blue sky.
Night had fallen and many miles away an old man was walking along the golden sandy beach. He was a true loner, preferring to live by the coast instead of the settlements. Now that the rain had stopped, his life had become far easier.
âI really need to rest now.â
He sat against a large boulder as the dark waves rolled up. His heavy eyes soon closed as sleep claimed him at last.
A dark shape soon spotted him. As it lumbered from the sea, he remained oblivious. When the teeth lined jaws snapped across his legs he woke abruptly and began screaming in pain and for help. Help that never came.
The beast ignored his pleas and dragged him into the salty water. Water that rapidly turned blood red.
Joined Tue 09/06/11
Night had fallen as the endless rain lashed down upon this sleepy hamlet. A dayâs ride from the great castle, they were enclosed inside a protective stockade. Who they expected to attack them, was known only to themselves.
Standing upon the high tower stood a very strange man indeed. Buried inside thick woollies, he stood with his legs apart and arms splayed toward the menacing sky.
âErdom, richvat, hear me, oh hear me.â
The villagers stood and watched in silent awe. They watched as the storm began to abate. They watched as the stream of water changed to a light drizzle. They watched as the millennium rain ended at long last.
Charly had been asleep, dreaming of tea at JO JOâs when he was suddenly grabbed.
âYou must see this mate. Itâs ruddy amazing.â
Charly was none too pleased of course.
âThis had better be worth it.â
He entered the apartment and walked towards the open window. Or should I say the small hole in the wall. For a moment, everything looked normal to his sleepy mind.
âIsnât it great?â
He glanced at Grant then back outside. The blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds that rolled by slowly.
âThe rain has stopped,â he muttered at last. âI never thought Iâd live to see the day.â
âYou should see the king mate. Heâs cock a hoop.â
When they entered the kingâs chambers, he was indeed very happy.
âA great day eh Charly?â
âYes it is. Obviously, nature has restored herself. Be warned though. Abuse her again and sheâll bite back.â
âNo worries there,â the king said. âWe live in harmony with nature now.â
Charly joined Grant outside, watching as the clouds flitted by.
âItâs almost miraculous,â Grant said. âWe can throw away the woollies now.â
Charly glanced at the very old poncho.
âSomeone already has mate.â
As the king emerged beaming he said, âThis calls for a visit to the next hamlet.â
âWhatâs it called?â Grant asked.
âWe use no names here,â the King reminded him.
âRemember to take bodyguards,â Charly said helpfully.
âCan we come too?â Grant asked.
âOf course you can. Nobody would try anything with Charly around.â
As the king made the arrangements Grant whispered into Charleyâs ear, âIâll blame you if they do.â
The small force had nearly reached that distant hamlet. With six knights at either side and Charly at the rear, the king was indeed well protected.
âNice to see the sun eh?â
âYes Grant it is.â
A rider approached and rapidly dismounted.
âWe send greetings sire.â
âAccepted of course. This is simply a courtesy visit.â
âWe understand sir.â
The kingâs steed broke into a gallop and Charly coaxed his own to follow suit.
The gates were open as they arrived. The villagers cheering the arrival of their monarch. Amongst them was the village head, a short puffy man of some worth.
As the king dismounted with his guard, he reciprocated.
âA fine greeting indeed. You need not have troubled yourself.â
The head lowered his voice.
âMay we speak in private?â
The king noted the grave look and assented to the request.
âI wonder where they are off to?â Grant asked.
âProbably to talk about the tax rate my boy. You know what councillors are like.â
The village head lived in a larger wooden home than the others. The thatched roof added to its importance.
âWhat is this about?â the king asked.
The head shuffled his feet nervously.
âIâm as open minded as the next man sir, but something strange happened overnight.â
âPlease explain yourself.â
âThe wizard arrived telling everyone that the rain would cease, and that he would make it happen. He stood atop yonder tower and said some kind of incantation. Then the rain did stop.â
âHe used magic to accomplish this? You saw this with your own eyes?â
The head nodded.
âNow he demands tribute sire. A goat per day to feed himself.â
To the king this information smacked of high treason.
âOnly I have that right. What a scoundrel!â
âI hope no retribution will be taken upon my own people for his deed?â
The king shook his crowned head.
âYou are not to blame. The wizard should have known better.â
The king thought for a moment and called in a guard.
âFetch Charly and Grant for me.â
When they entered, they noted the monarchâs changed mood.
âTake my knights and travel to Skull Peak. There you are to put the wizard to the sword.â
The two friends were utterly shocked at this order.
âThe wizard sir? What has he done?â Charly asked cautiously.
âAttempted high treason of course. Now away and do my bidding.â
Charly shrugged his shoulders and took his friend outside.
âSo, weâre off to kill the wizard are we?â
Charly gave Grant a filthy look.
âHah...Wizard indeed. Come on then, we have another hard ride ahead.â
It was just before dawn when they drew close to the crystal bed and the ominous Skull Peak to the left.
âYou donât really think he is a wizard do you?â Grant asked.
âProbably just some old codger whoâs got ideas well above his station.â
Overhead, the stars twinkled down as the swung towards the peak.
âEveryone dismount,â Charly ordered before dashing to the nearest rock.
âI see that you are taking no chances then.â
âWhy should I?â
From their position, a soft glow could be seen near the summit.
âIt must be a cave,â Charly whispered.
He glanced at the knights.
âYou lot stay here a moment. Hey Grant, can I have that white cloth
that you are not carrying?â
His friend grinned and brought it out.
âWhat are you up to?â
âIâm going to give him a chance.â
Charly stood waving the material.
âWe come in peace.â
A strong voice soon replied.
âThen enter in peace.â
Charly scrambled forward and found the illuminated cave quite easily. He saw the so-called wizard quietly stirring a potion that hung over a well lit fire.
âIâm from the king sir.â
âI know who you are and why you are here.â
The wizard glanced back and Charly saw him for the first time.
He was younger than Charly had expected with piercing green eyes.
âWhat has enraged the king so much?â Charly asked.
The wizard laughed.
âI asked for tribute in payment for my service.â
âWhat service was that?â
âMy magic stopped the infernal rain of course. Had you not noticed?â
Charly shook his head.
âThat sir was an act of nature.â
The wizard stopped stirring and turned completely.
âI agree. You see I appealed to the goddess.â
âShe answered you?â
âThe rain stopped didnât it.â
Charly wandered over and peered inside the black iron pot.
âWhat noxious concoction are you making here?â
The wizard laughed.
âA simple salve to heal burns. Now what are we going to do about you
Charly detected the hidden menace in that question.
âIf you return to the king sir, you would at least get a hearing.â
The wizard shook his head.
âYou were ordered to kill me were you not?â
âHow did you know though?â
The wizard grinned.
âBy magic. Of course I cannot allow this to happen.â
âYou wonât come quietly then?â
âWait and see.â
Charly was disappointed and returned to the waiting knights.
âHe wants to make a fight of it.â
âIs he armed?â a knight asked.
âOnly with knowledge. A simple rush should put an end to this sad
Charly led the way as the knights drew their swords. As they
approached, a hideous apparition suddenly appeared.
âCrikey! Fall back.â
The company did so as Grant stared at the huge Cyclops.
âWhere the hell did that come from?â
Charly shook his head.
âSeems he may be a magician after all. Look, let me try something.â
Charly took a small rock and tossed it toward the immobile monster.
When it passed harmlessly through its body, he nodded with understanding.
âHeâs buying time Grant. Thatâs just a ruse. Letâs get him.â
They dashed forward as the knights clanked behind. With swords drawn, the friends entered the illuminated cave and stared in disbelief.
âWhere is he?â Grant asked.
Charly shook his head and scanned the empty space.
âEven the cooking pot has gone.â
The knights entered and Charly re-sheathed his sword. Shaking his head he whispered, âThe bird has flown but donât ask me where.â
They returned to their mounts and Charly ordered the knights to return to the king.
âSo where are we going?â Grant asked.
âTo the castle and home of course. I just hope that the king does not decide to punish me.â
He need not have worried. By the time the monarch reached home, he was in a far better mood.
âNo doubt he sprouted wings then.â
âSeems so sire. Will that be all?â
âOf course. You know Charly, perhaps itâs time to promote you.â
âTo what rank sir?â
âTo captain of the guard.â