Prentice Dolphin Chapter 3

Brazen Trumpets Blared… 

…from the battlements of Soliloquy as the flags  beneath his hard-soled boots shook and the ringing of  his end came thundering down upon him in the form  of Justice Claret charging his destrier down the file of  knights. No lance or sword was in his hand, the shield  clapped unused from his saddle pommel, but death  came all the certain as the weight of a wagon load of  hay hurdled down upon him.  

‘Do not soil yourself.’ 

He did not, but Acolyte Wells behind him did most  wretchedly that.  

‘Stand and embrace the Light of Jesus!’ 

He did, even as Servitor Bund dove into the gutter,  effectively filthier ten-fold than Acolyte Wells, who  lacked the material assistance of a dozen destriers  and assorted livestock in his adornment in shame.  

The trumpets peeled, conducted by that dastard  Jared of the Musicians, who beat the dirge of siege… 

‘This is a rite of induction—yet I die…’ 

He was of a sudden unconcerned with his going. He  knew not what parochial rites the Musicians and  Knights afflicted his kind with. Why Acolyte Wells  must pilgrimage to Vester Humarium on the River  Savanah to a confessor for restoration, so his successor would know not the fate of his  predecessor, trampled under the hooves of a war  beast in some rite of passage no doubt inspired by  heathen practices… 

A smile played across his face as he spread his arms  in an ecstasy of ascension, sure he would be taken by  Mother Mary to the feet of the Savior, conducted by a  chorus of angels… 

‘No, it cannot be?’ 

And so, Prentice Dolphin remained among the  wretched living, a clash of brazen symbols and oak  drums and ceramic keys ending the blare of trumpetry  as the massive beast reared, skidding on its hind  hooves, anger playing across it’s savage eyes that he  had been denied a victim by his master. Justice Claret  reigned hard, saliva splashing from the bit and snot  from the nose, coating the once white right sleeve of  his habit with an unsavory, grass-green slime.  

The man rearing above him, looked down into his  face fiercely, eased his steed down and grinned with  wry humor, “Well stood, Prentice. My entire troop of  bloody-handed apostles are now without a coin  between them. I too would be broke if not for my oath  not to gamble with other than blood and steel.” 

A sack of coins was tossed by the first knight up to  the battlements, and caught by Organist Jared who  saluted Prentice Dolphin with a wink and a heft of the  gold and silver within the red-silk sack. 

‘That courtier of minstrel mammon, Jared judged me  courageous?’  

With a nod from Justice Claret, the eldest pikeman,  dour and grizzled, along with the youngest  crossbowman, a mere lad, descended upon Servitor  Bund, beat him with fists and boots, stripped off his  reeking rags, dragged him to the stage and looked to  their Master, as they stood between the branding  cresset, the stocks and the hooks and chains. 

Acolyte Wells had already vanished into the  apparently long-reaching shadows of shame. 

Servitor Bund, ugly and flat-faced, ashen and wan, absent all hope for mercy, looked at Prentice Dolphin,  as did Justice Claret.  

‘Mother of God, grant me grace.’ 

He found his voice—or did it find him—“Release him  to the Sanctuary to maintain it for the Next of my  Rank.” 

He then looked upward to Organist Jared and  requested, “Send the Song of Soliloquy to Vester. I  will not return, but for my skull to flute your pipes.” 

‘Maniac, you have blurtingly preached a crusade against the very wind! This is beyond your rank. Yes,  a fine reason not to return. Surely sanguine Master  Claret desires the heroic course. Will he second this  rash passion?’

‘Mother Mary moved me. It is done.’ 

The two soldiers then left Servitor Bund weeping his  thanks and mercy on the stage. With a nod from  Justice Claret, the youthful crossbowman seized the  small apprentice attending the blacksmith. As  objection registered on that hard-bitten face and  welled in the mouth of the burly, bald blacksmith, the  elder pikeman handed the boy’s master some coin  and forced his fist closed about it. 

‘A brutal strong hand that must be, to close a  blacksmith hand like a lady’s latchet.’ 

The boy was then pushed at the nearly soiled  reliquary and chalice and began to brush them with  his dirty rags and arrange them in some crude  semblance or form.  

Prentice Dolphin was stunned by this silence of  communication and definite commitment to hard  action so alien to him and his calling. 

The wife of the blacksmith then emerged in her opaque and snow checkered dress and apron with a  water skin, a bedroll and a cedar-shingle chest,  apparently belonging to the boy. She gave these  things to him without affection and backed to her  husband, who manned the branding cresset  whenever the knights returned, often with heretics or  brigands to burn. 

The boy then looked questioningly up at Prentice  Dolphin, a boy of perhaps twelve, with sallow, ashen complexion, strange hazel-hued eyes and tightly  curled and reddish-tinted wool upon his head.  Prentice Dolphin comforted him with words alone,  “You shall attend the relics and I shall attend myself.  Place them in the chest and lead the lama.” 

The boy did so and took the lead rope of the lama,  Prentice Dolphin’s bed bundle, holy flasks, wine cask  and chalice, censor, incense and Eucharist boxes,  rosary pouches and rolled cloak all upon its back under an oiled canvas tent cloth.  

A silent command of the hand was given by Justice  Claret and the brazen trumpets blared again, the  organ pipes of Soliloquy moaning their dirge as  symbols clashed above and drums upon the  battlements took up the sendoff march, heartily  composed by the fanatic Organist.  

He wanted to look up and thank Organist Jared, wave  with a smile and show good cheer. But he had a role  to affect, to walk solemnly, like a wise-man bound for  Nazareth, between the pikemen and the crossbowmen their brothers, leading the way  symbolically, as the knights rode out ahead to clear  the way for their lamb processioning in the guise of a  shepherd into the wolfish beyond.  

The brazen trumpets blared soon at his back, thence  in the distance and soon were lost, suffused in the  winds rushing down the forest road. Forever they  would blare in his mind’s eye, his gift from Jared of  the Organ, an orchestra echoing within to keep time for his crooked passion and drive his narrow  obsession upward and outward into the evil unknown.  

‘Hinterbeast of Hither Heathenry, Christ has sent your  taming hand to root out what evil you breed among  forests dark and mountains cold.’ 

Caught by his own mind forgetting his office, Prentice  Dolphin took out his near treasure, opened the velum  at random and read out loud, for the men to hear,  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, 

by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit

your death brought life to the world.  

By your holy body and blood 

Free me from all my sins and from every evil.

Keep me faithful to your teaching,  

And never let me be parted from you.” 

‘Stop there before one of these brutes realizes this is  supposed to be reserved for the Communion Rite.’ 

‘Father who art in Heaven forgive me.’ 

Noon was nowhere yet nigh, yet the deep green  forest already gathered darkly about them on the  narrow upward road into Hither Heathenry.  

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