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.