Shrill Heresy Whispered the Spears of Barbary…
…among the snow fields before the wretched hamlet of heretics known as Mountain Door, Prentice Dolphin shivered in the snow, his feet wet from the long march, his heart wrestling with devils of doubt. The sixty odd spears whipped in the wind ahead of them, the people of this place long since expecting them, to be sure. The many wooly-headed, ashen-hued, wide eyed, hide-clothed figures of the Barbary folk whose ill-constructed huts and ramshackle long-house clustered before the anciently-bored hole in the mountain that ate the road that ran into its maw, were standing in a semi-circle of vile reception. The men, some sixty of them, were in the front of the crescent. Women and children and old men, numbering twice that number, were gathered in gaggles behind them, with large dogs also heeled besides the old men, two or three of these beasts with each of the half-dozen or so elders, distinguished by their great dragon-headed canes.
The Elder Pikeman barked his order, “Advance to a bowshot and form shield, Prentice in the center. Junior [addressing the young crossbowman who had been Prentice Dolphin’s guard], stay with Prentice. If the Justice does not relieve us before we are cut to pieces, cut his holy throat. A Prentice of Soliloquy will not be raped by this mangy pack of dogs in human form.”
The men were silent and grave, and he continued, “Bigun One!”
The largest pikeman stepped forward at attention, a giant of a man, with a face like a bear, brown eyes darkly alight with a battle hunger, great hands flexing away the chill of the snowy morning.
“Ground your pike for the rally point and buy us sometime between the lines.”
The man then advanced with his 12-foot pike, this being the pike with the unit banner fluttering beneath the cross piece, tied a red sash, and his rosary to the cross-piece beneath the blade, and slammed the butt spike into the frozen earth. Their banner set, the men rushed to positions around it, the young crossbowman guiding Prentice Dolphin, attended by Acolyte David to its base and admonishing the Acolyte, ‘Don’ led dis fall, Davey.”
Each pikeman, planted his heavy weapon as a stake and kneeled next to it, forming a circle, more dense in the front than the back, exactly a pike length from the banner haft. Between each pikemen was a crossbowman, his weapon cranked and loaded, his sword and spare bolts thrust tip-down in the snow covered earth, and his small shield strapped to his left forearm. The junior crossbowman kneeled before Prentice Dolphin and handed his shield to David and bade him protect the Prentice with it.
Fearlessly, and with an air of mockery, the pikeman addressed as “Bigun One,” swaggered out between the lines and began making rude and obscene gestures and shouting profanities, challenging the champion of the enemy to a single combat.
Prentice Dolphin almost choked, realizing the stakes on this gamble and Junior, noticing, whispered, “Da jacks ‘ill send dere chief so-as our bully cuts down dere brain.”
A tall, wooly-headed beast of a man stalked forth with much fanfare, a great axe in hand, waving the crooked weapon on high to the cheers and jeers of his fellows.
Soon the two men were engaged in a dance to the death and the great axe rose, and the hand wielding it fell along with the weapon as the ashen arm of the hideous and ill-kept foe was loped off at the elbow by the lunging slash of the sword of Soliloquy.
Within a heart beat Bigun One was grabbing the nappy wool of that starting head and using his sword to separate it from the body. With the wail of women—of whom many must have been this chief’s wife—and a hiss of anger from their ragged ranks, the Barbaries objected in their crude tongues as Bigun One held that head high for all to see and walked deliberately back to his fellows.
The Elder Pikeman now narrated the obvious, “Here it comes, boys, the dogs! Don’ loose ‘til they reach the pike heads!”
Bigun One was lumbering as fast as a giant could run as some 20 hounds with little hair, but being huge and having great flat faces, tore across the open after him, as he bounded between the pikeheads and had to roll on the ground to prevent knocking Prentice Dolphin and David and Junior over like dolls.
A breath later twelve crossbows sung and as many slathering hounds choked out their lives on bolts driven through snout, eye, breast and throat.
But five of the beasts were among them, ripping and tearing as the sixty men across the snow-covered meadow gave throat to curses and charged…
The Elder Crossbowman, man who had never addressed him, shouted to him, as he cut the head from a huge dog, “A prayer, Padre—a fuckin’ prayer!”