Prentice Dolphin Chapter 6

Titan Corpses Moaned…

…the poetry of their wicked kind, fallen and dethroned whistled down the mountain from Hinterpass down to  the Old Baily, lost like a speck behind them. For  Prentice Dolphin had a fair view of their progress from  the safety of the rear of the column.  

Forest, dark, ice-crowned in wintergreen, spread out  to the south. Behind them, to the east, was the Old  Baily. To the north loomed the craggy faces of wind scoured mountains. To the west, winding around  these mountains, marched the titan skeletons in icy  rows. The rode was a slick, rocky bed, snow  hundreds of feet deep to the west, rocks grinning to  the east above the moaning steel of the titans.  Legend had it that these steely sentinels, their  metallic frames shivering with the rushing wind-song,  like naked trees of steel, once pulsed with devilish life  in service to the sinister fiends who had ruled the  followers of Christ like an army of Pontius Pilots in  service to their Mammon Caesar.  

All life was sorrowful for the Christian soul in those  long nights of profane darkness, in an age of towering  Babels, when sin was good and goodness was sin.  He stopped to count upon his rosary, looked up at the  moaning steel monstrosity made in vaguely human  form, as it dirged mournfully, and as he leaned on his  crook, the dolphin bearing The Blessed Mother whirling upon is wheel, he spoke in the tones of  exorcism: 

“Lo, in the Twenty-nine-hundredth-sixty-first Year of  Our Lord and Savior, I confirm your banishment and  the plague upon your master’s kind—not to rise in  wicked service ever again. Amen.” 

The men had stopped and listened, silent in their  ranks. As they moved off again at a nod from the  Elder Pikeman, the young crossbowman inquired,  “Father, why name this year and not the year of God’s  Plague?” 

He thought little and spoke from his rote soliloquys,  “God willed his cleansing of the wicked through  alchemical works of Prenticeship. Though it were the  founders of the Order, to which I belong as a servant  of Christ under the Blessings of His Virgin Mother, the  fathers of Our order have never agreed on a precise  dating of the alchemical scourge unleashed in the  name of Almighty God, Lord of Hosts. Some hold that  it was in Twenty-seven-sixteen. These are the  Seveners, who maintain the reliquaries at Vester  Cathedral. There are three dissenting alchemical  schools of thought. Hence, it has been judged by a  council of papal legates, advised by the cardinals and  bishops, headed by the Pontiff himself, that  confirmation of the baptism of evil by the founders of  our order, is to be addressed to the earthly remains of  heathen relics and other such monstrous  manifestations of evil as these moaning shades of 

steel. Likewise, reconfirmation is to be showered  upon the graves—if any—the likenesses—if any— and, God forbid any of the Rendel kin who survived  the initial plague to stalk as fiends in the waste  places. It was this monstrous manifestation that  brought into being your military branch of the order in  Twenty-seven-twenty-one, to the glory of God. 

The young soldier nodded, dumbly and they  continued their trudge, Prentice Dolphin wondering  after Justice Claret and his knights, seeing no sign of  the passage of horses.  

… 

Just after High Noon a barking was heard up ahead  where a figure of some stature, womanly in form, was  surrounded at the mouth of a large cave by a pack of  what seemed wolves. As they neared it was plain,  that the barren mountainside, covered in snow, was a  sheep pasture, and that said flock resided under  snowy skies in a large cave complex, bleating and  feeding upon stacked hay. The shepherdess was a  large woman with light red wool upon her head, her  skin browned from the sunrays of these waste places,  who stood haughty before the cave. He noted that a  hut was built in the eve of this cave and that the many  large, wolf-like hounds obeyed this woman like she  were their very deity.  

‘A witch I wonder?’

A pleasant odor of mutton stew wafted up from the  chimney of the small, hut-like house, as the woman  beckoned the men forward, with a sparkling green  eye reserved for Prentice Dolphin what made him  shiver. 

The Elder Pikemen formed up the men in silence and  motioned for the young crossbowman to guide  Prentice Dolphin to his side at the head of the men,  where the veteran snarled, “Steel yourself Father and  let us pass with a blessing. The men need no such  distractions this march.” 

The Elder Pikeman then addressed the woman  formerly, “Shepherdess Sally, we present Prentice  Dolphin, come to exorcise the ice.” 

The dogs sat and whined, most as large as he and  larger by far than the boy.  

The woman responded, “Now, Marty, you mean tell  that the Prentice does not want to sleep warmly by my  fire?” 

‘The men should all be wearing their rosaries out  before their armor on meeting with such temptation.’ 

Prentice Dolphin showed no fear of this harlot,  produced his Rosary pouch, touched his own,  hanging before his narrow chest, and advanced  among the snarling beasts and extended his pouch  for all to see in his left hand, and withdrew a rosary of  the Blessed Mother kneeling beneath her son’s nailed feet and handed it up to the giantess, who stood as tall as the pikemen and was formed like some pagan  goddess of Babylon.  

The woman took the rosary with a soft touch of her  large yet feminine fingers and responded, “Why thank  you, Prentice,” in a voice to seductive by half. She  then drew aside her cloak to expose a stupendous  sweep of breasts, and between those pendulous tools  of Satan hung, he reckoned in his mind, though  counting would have been hazardous to his vowel of  abstention, no less than 26 rosaries of the Justice  Order, of the Saint Michael of the Sword Order of  Pikemen and the Saint Sebastian of the Arrow Order  of Crossbowmen.  

The wicked woman then indicated her vast nursery  with a languid flutter of downward spreading fingers  and cooed, “Why Prentice, I would dearly be honored  to have your rosary commanding good order of the  lesser rosaries in my collection.” 

Her smile was risen from Sheba and stung of  Delilah’s soft caress and he backed away woodenly,  bumping into the boy behind him, whose hair and  eyes and hue were as like as could be to that of this  harlot among the fold. The tableaux was shattered, as  the temptress looked with a soft-eyed sadness upon  the boy and the little fellow gazed up in wonder. 

The woman soon regained her composure and bowed  slightly to Prentice Dolphin, her hand coming  modestly to her breasts and said wistfully, “Thank you  for this blessing, Father and may your journey be a safe one. The upper pasture is no more. This is the  last of the hay. Next month I move down to Outer  Soliloquy.” 

A tear wet her eye and she looked away and began  commanding the hounds with whistles. Half the savage pack bounded off ahead of the men to scout  the way up the mountain. 

He was moved to pity for the woman and placed his  hand kindly on the boy’s shoulder and tried to be a  comfort to her obvious distress, “I am attended by the  best acolyte a Prentice could be blessed with. When  the Crusade is successfully resolved, I might seek a  boarding place for him in Outer Soliloquy. An acolyte  will one day be a shepherd of sorts amongst the  laymen.” 

He had never seen such a look of thanks from tearful  eyes before.  

‘Might wickedness be left here, above and beyond  Soliloquy with her wretched sadness.’ 

“Blessed Mother be with you, Shepherdess.” 

She surprised him then, with her hands clutching the  rosary he had bestowed, “And also with you, Father.” 

‘She is ten years my senior at least. How many of her  little sorrows have been assigned boyhood service by  Justice Claret,’ he wondered.

‘It was for the best, to bring them churchward after a  fashion.’  

The woman smiled and bowed with praying hands as  they returned to the men and climbed the frozen road  to Hinterland.

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