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.