Some days the silence was unbearable. Breton scrubbed the marble floors on her hands and knees in silence. She carried the Baron’s meal tray three times a day in silence. She brought the linens to the laundry, carried orders to the Proconsuls, cleaned the Baron’s chambers, and obeyed his every command day after day. All of this was done without ever speaking a single word. Even at night when she went to the Abbey with the other initiates, the silence continued. None of them were allowed to speak since they had joined the faith at age twelve, except for those who had earned tokens for speech. For five years this had been her way of life. For five years she hadn’t been hungry and for that she had very little reason to complain.
The Baron was waiting for her at his personal dining room. Breton was careful not to spill the wine as she poured it for him. He ate his meal as if he were a starving man sitting down to a feast. It was disgusting to watch but Breton was skilled at hiding her feelings in a mask of stoicism. The Baron was far from hungry and had probably never known true poverty in all of his long life. Baron Denver had indeed lived a very long life. Some two hundred years ago he had been granted a taste, a single taste from the fruit of the holy garden. Nothing could harm him now. Nothing could kill him and if he wanted to, Baron Denver could kill her as easily as snapping a twig. All those who had been granted access to the holy garden and the cup of life were as he was. So few ever got to see it let alone partake but it was enough to see the Barons and Bishops and Cardinals and know that the power of God resided in them.
It took the portly Baron almost an hour to eat his meal. Breton stood along the wall behind him while he ate, ever ready to serve him should he require it. She moved twice to pour him more wine and a third time to serve more bread. The Baron didn’t talk to her at all while he ate that day. Some days, if he was in a talkative mood he might rattle on and on about the progress of the lads in the tournaments. The tournaments were all anyone ever talked about. For one hundred years the faith had been searching for the once and future king. The tournaments were the means of finding him and also a means of finding men for the army of God. Young men from all over the world came to enter the fights. They could earn valor and honor of course, but more importantly they could earn a chance to taste the tree of life or the holy cup if they should live long enough to reach a ranking that high. Those that did not survive, earned a compensation for the family they left behind and those that did survive were paid well, far better than most forms of labor. The Baron had no interest in talking about the tournaments that day. He ate and slurped his food noisily and Breton was forced to look on in silence.
When the Baron was finished, Breton went to the table and began to clear the dishes and all the unfinished food onto a cart. It was then that Baron Denver finally took notice of her. He caught her hand as she reached for his half empty wine glass.
“You don’t have to run off so soon,” He said in a manner that she supposed was intended to be alluring. “You might stay a while and keep me company.”
Breton pulled her hand away from him and continued working. It wasn’t the first time he had made such a suggestion. Some of the other girls in her Abbey had heeded his wishes and received all sorts of things as compensation. Though no one took the vows of celibacy seriously and no one enforced them, at least not among the ordinary youth who did not intend to make lifetime vows. However, this was one vow Breton was not interested in breaking, at least not for the likes of him.
“What would it take to change your mind?” The man was still speaking. “You look like a reader. Perhaps a new data card filled with the latest books from the Vatican Publishers?”
Breton raised an eyebrow. It was a tempting offer but not that tempting.
“Fine,” He huffed, “Go on then. Leave me in peace.”
She hurried to finish clearing the table and got out of the room as quickly as possible. She was in such a rush to get out the door that she overturned his unfinished glass of wine, spilling the red liquid all over her brown jeans and brown tunic. Brown was the color of her Order. It was the color of service with silence. She might have chosen a different Order had she wanted to. There was an order of scholars who dressed in gray, a militant order wearing white with a red cross, and many other variations of contemplative and service oriented Orders. Everyone had to join an order if they hoped to escape poverty because every place of business had to be licensed by the church to be legitimate. If a man was caught buying or selling from anyone who had not joined the church and completed a term of service, that person could face severe punishment. A minimum of ten years was what the church required. Breton had five years remaining to serve.
She reached the kitchen with her cart and found everyone bustling about cleaning and cooking as usual. Breton dumped all the half eaten food into the garbage disposal and loaded the Baron’s dishes into the machine. Three other initiates were waiting with carts to clean plates for their own Cardinals and Barons or whomever they had been assigned to. Breton moved quickly to get out of their way. She had to return her cart to the utility room and then change into clean clothes in time for evening mass.
Back in the Abbey, Breton quickly changed into a brown dress. Almost any style of clothing was permitted for all the initiates provided it was modest and stayed to the proper color. She had dresses, jeans, t-shirts, and tunics of all sorts in the approved shade of dark brown. There were times when she longed for the blue of the contemplatives but she knew she would hate the continuous meditation. She needed to stay busy, to have something to do with her hands and that was why she had chosen an order dedicated to service. Dressed in her brown knee length dress, Breton rushed out into the hallway and headed in the direction of the chapel. She was so concerned about being late that she didn’t even hear the footsteps approaching around the corner. She was going too fast to stop in time and ran directly into a young man wearing a white tunic with the red templar cross on the front. She jumped back, wanting to apologize and knowing she couldn’t say a word. Then she looked up at him and all thoughts of apology left her mind. It was him, again.
“We just keep running into each other don’t we, Frankie.” He said with a grin on his face. They had met a few times before. Each time he called her Frankie. The nickname was a reference to the fact that her Order was rooted in what was once the Franciscan Order.
Breton sighed. She didn’t have time for his flirtatious games. It wasn’t that she disliked him. He was handsome enough but the Holy Mother had told her that if she was late to Mass again this week, there would be three extra hours of work in store for her. Breton made an attempt to go around him but he caught her arm.
“Now wait just a second there Frankie,” He said, pulling her back to stand in front of him again. “How come you never want to talk to me?”
She rolled her eyes at him.
“The least you can do is tell me your name,” He joked, knowing very well that she wasn’t allowed to speak. “I know it isn’t actually Frankie.”
Frustrated with his persistence, Breton grabbed the tablet that he carried in his hand and quickly typed in her name. She shoved the device against his chest and let go, forcing him to catch it and then she fled around him down the hallway.
“Breton,” He read aloud as she ran off. “My name is Patrick by the way!” He called after her. “I can see you were dying to know.”
Breton kept moving not looking back at Patrick even though some part of her realized it would be polite to at least acknowledge him by waving goodbye. She made it into the chapel and took a seat in the back just in time for the service to begin. Two rows ahead of her, Margot turned and waved to her. Margot slept in the bunk next to Breton’s. Thought they couldn’t speak to each other often, they spent most evenings playing board games together. Margot was the best friend Breton had in the Abbey. At end of the service, Margot caught up to Breton as she left the chapel. They walked together out into the courtyard, across the grounds, and back to the Abbey. As they reached the dormitory, they each had to stop for an iris scan. Only the young women who belonged to the convent were allowed inside. Once inside, they gathered with a small group of ladies who had stopped to view the announcements on the viewscreen in the entryway.
1. All speech tokens must be submitted by 10AM for use during the games.
That was an ordinary enough announcement. They were given the same one each weekend. Breton had a few speech tokens and generally did spend them during tournaments. One token meant one hour that she was free to speak.
2. Lights out at 11PM.
3. Bishop Randall’s birthday celebration tomorrow at 8PM after the games. Please kindly bring a gift.
4. Cardinal Yancy will arrive for his quarterly visit in four days time. Division of labor in preparation for his arrival will be posted tomorrow evening.
On and on the announcements scrolled over the screen. Once Breton and Margot had read them all, they headed off to the bunk room to go to bed. Breton woke the next morning to Margot shaking her awake. Her friend looked worried. Margot pointed to her watch. 8:18 AM. Not good. Breton was late for bringing the Baron breakfast. She tossed aside the covers, threw on her brown jeans, and brown tank top. She quickly braided her light brown hair into the customary braid, slid on a pair of sneakers, and ran out the door.
The kitchen mistress looked annoyed that Breton was so late. All the other meal carts were gone. No one wanted to be late on game day. Breakfast was supposed to be picked up at 8AM which meant that she was at least twenty minutes late by now. Breton had no idea why she had slept through her alarm or what had happened. All she knew was the Baron Denver was likely to be annoyed or even angry.
Breton pushed the cart as fast as she dared to go without risking overturning it or break any dishes on the sharp turns down the hallways. She was breathless when she knocked in the Baron’s door. Moments later he yanked open the door himself looking red faced and furious.
“You’re late!” He said. “How dare you be half an hour late on game day?” The man demanded.
Breton just stared at him wide eyed. She couldn’t answer him. Not yet.
“Well, get in here and serve me my breakfast,” he said, throwing himself down in his dining chair.
Breton tried to serve the meal quickly but as she took her place to stand along the wall it became clear that the Baron was no longer in a hurry. He ate slowly. He asked for more toast, more coffee, another cup of milk, and before she knew it, the clock was nearing 9:30. If she wanted to get back in time to spend her speech tokens, she would need to get a move on. It would be rude to start clearing the table before he was finished but she couldn’t see another way to make it in time. She stepped forward and started to clear the dishes he had finished with.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The Baron spat out the words.
Breton’s hand paused in midair as she reached for an empty teacup.
“You’re worried about being late all of a sudden?” He said smugly. “No, you’ll wait until I’ve finished. It might do you good to wait. You will learn patience this way.”
Breton went back to stand against the wall, not daring to test him further. Her eyes stung with tears. He was doing this on purpose. He knew very well that she had to submit her tokens before 10AM. He was forcing her to endure another day of silence as punishment.
By the time she had returned the breakfast cart and found the nearest terminal it was 10:07 AM. Breton went to the wall panel anyway and pressed her thumb to the scanner just to be sure.
“Access denied,” The computer voice said. “Please remember that token transfers on game day must be submitted before 10AM.” Frustrated beyond measure she kicked the wall. Then she kicked the wall again.
Breton took several deep breaths to calm herself and then she turned and made her way back to the convent. Margot was waiting for her at their bunks. She took one look at the tears on her friend’s face and could immediately guess what had happened.
“Oh no, were you too late?” Margot asked worriedly. Marot wore the glowing green bracelet showing that she was permitted to speak. When her time was up the bracelet would change color need to be returned to the terminal.
Breton nodded in response and she dropped down to sit on her bed with a sigh.
“Well it’s okay. This means you can spend your tokens at the end of the work day all week. You’ll have enough to do that and still use some next gameday.” Margot pointed out.
Of course she was right. They generally earned one token per day, giving them about six hours of time each week the speak. The rules of the order taught that work done in silence would bring one closer to God. It was meant to be a form of contemplation. Breton had long ago accepted that the silence was useful but like everyone in their order, she looked forward to the times when socializing was permitted. It would be useless to spend her tokens during the work week. There would be no one else to talk to.
“Right…” Margot said, guessing her thoughts. “I guess it wouldn’t be any fun without someone to talk to.”
Breton nodded again.
“Maybe we could go talk to Mother Nancy. She might be able to get you a bracelet anyway,” Margot suggested.
Breton shook her head no, emphatically no. Mother Nancy hated her. Breton was always late, always disorganized and for some reason this got on the old woman’s nerves. It would be useless to ask for her help and would probably only serve to make the woman like her even less.
“Are you sure?” Margot asked, concerned. “I wouldn’t mind asking for you.”
Yes, Breton was sure. She would simply watch the tournaments in silence. There was nothing else that could be done about it.
The lines to enter the stadium were excessively long. Everyone in the city attended the tournament. Each order had their own gate and the citizens of the city, those who had completed their service to the church and now lived secular lives, also had their own gates. As Margot and Breton approached the entrance, Breton saw a familiar figure wearing white with a red cross standing to the right of the gate.
“What is that Temp doing over here?” Margot asked. His order was based in the Knight’s Templar which was the military branch of the church. Everyone called the young men wearing white with Red Crosses, Temps.
Breton shrugged in response to Margot’s question. Moments later they got an answer. Patrick moved from where he stood and walked over to the two of them.
“I was hoping I’d see you here Breton,” He said when he had reached them.
Breton felt herself blushing, not because he’d had to have been waiting hours here in hopes of seeing her, but because after all that effort, she couldn’t even speak to him.
“You know her name?” Margot replied for her.
“I do...is she still not speaking today?” He asked, seeing that she wore no bracelet.
“She was too late to spend her tokens today,” Margot explained.
“I see…” Patrick said, sounding disappointed. “I came to tell you that I’ll be in the tournaments today. I am scheduled to fight in round nine. I had hoped…” He trailed off, apparently not quite as bold as he had seemed when they had met on other occasions.
Breton didn’t need an explanation. She knew what he was asking for. It was an ancient custom that had been revived since the tournaments began a hundred years ago. She barely knew Patrick but he had always been nice the few times she had seen him and it was a simple thing to grant his request. Without hesitation she pulled the elastic band from her hair that held her braid in place and reached over placing it in his hand.
“You’re granting me a favor?” He asked, with a bit of a smile.
She nodded, a little embarrassed that she had nothing better to offer him. Many of the men in the games wore brightly colored scarved tied on their arms to make it obvious that they had been granted a favor.
Patrick put the rubber band on his wrist. “Then I thank you, my lady, I will wear it with pride,” He said and with that he left them to enter the arena at the Templar gate.
“What...what just happened?” Margot asked, confused. “I can’t wait until you can talk to me. I need details!”
The pair found a seat in the stadium some ten rows from the front. It wasn’t anywhere near the season for finals yet so there were plenty of seats available. This time of year was only elimination rounds for those who had entered from more rural areas. Anyone could enter the tournaments, male or female, age 12 or older. Each town and village held their own competitions and the winners were sent to compete in larger populated areas until eventually a final tournament would be held in Rome the week of Easter. If Patrick was competing here in London then that meant he had won in a smaller town somewhere and probably won in his entire district as well.
“Welcome to the week 32 of the Oafk tournament,” A voice boomed over the loudspeaker. Oafk was an acronym for Once and Future King. “Today, in honor of Sir Amati, we will feature 22 rounds of competition.
Twenty rounds of competition was standard. In the year 2222, Sir Amati of the Templar Knights had betrayed the rules of his Order and revealed to the world that the Templars had the cup of Christ and had kept it hidden for more than a thousand years. Sir Galahad had found the cup, just as the legend stated and the Templars had been sworn to secrecy to protect it. They also had a single seed in their treasury from the Tree of Life in eden. When Sir Amati made his announcement, most of the world no longer believed in God. The Vatican had been about to close forever. The church had given itself over to secularism. Of course no one believed Sir Amati’s announcement at first. It wasn’t until the man went on national television, drank from the cup, stabbed himself through the heart, only to heal before the eyes of the world that anyone believed him. After that all the Templars, only nine were left, drank from the cup. They planted the seed from the Tree of Life in Rome and they stood guard day and night, tending the tree. Nothing could kill them and their strength was greater than any living man. And thus people found faith and the church rose to power again.
“For the first seven rounds, jousting! Following that ten rounds of swordsmanship!” The announcer called off. “The day will end with a final five rounds of marksmanship. To begin we have Garret Miller of Belfast facing Kevin Wells of Dublin!”
Breton settled down to watch in silence while Margot chatted endlessly with Sara on their right. As the rounds wore on and some of the men left the arena bloody and bruised, she found herself a little worried about Patrick. She wanted him to win, but if he won enough competitions to go to Rome… well she didn’t want him to die. In Rome it could be a fight to the death. Killing was permitted in the Roman arena. It was actually encouraged in Rome to kill one’s opponent. Those who survived could participate in the harvest from the Tree of Life. The rest would never live again.
Patrick looked down at the rubber band on his wrist and kicked at the cobblestones. He was almost back to the Templar gate. His heart should be racing, but like usual, it seemed to slow down in times of stress. His best friend, Wallace, looked at him with concern.
“Patrick,” he started, “why do you sign up for these things?”
“I dunno,” Patrick said, though he did know. Before the games, before the cobblestone streets called to him, he’d known pain. It wasn’t right, but this was a way he could share the pain with others. His father was always angry, and Patrick thought it better to have his dad beat him, rather than his mother or little sister. Now he just wanted the chance to hit someone else. The tournaments let him do that. All his anger was aimed at his opponent. It was the easiest way to deal with it all.
“Well, did you at least get the favor?” Wallace asked.
Patrick held up his arm, showing his friend the rubber band. “She gave it to me. I didn’t even have to ask.”
Wallace was shaking his head. “I don’t get how you can always do that. Back home in the Clifden tourneys you always got favors...and you’re not even…”
“Not even good looking?” Patrick finished the thought for him.
“I wasn’t gonna say that,” Wallace protested.
“Good, because it wouldn’t be true,” Patrick countered.
“I was going to say that you aren’t even humble,” Wallace continued. “Father Thomas used to preach that humility could make people love you more than pride could...so with you...I just don’t get it…”
“There’s nothing to get. The priests are just liars is all. I wouldn’t expect much of what any of them preach to hold true,” Patrick told Wallace as he had told him many times before.
“I know,” Wallace hung his head. He didn’t like these conversations or approve of Patrick’s lack of faith. “I know you think so, but what about the cup of Christ? What about all those men who have tasted and now can never die? Some of what the priests teach has to be true, doesn’t it?”
“I should hope not,” Patrick said, irritated with the topic.
“Hope not? Why?”
Patrick stopped walking and turned to face his friend just outside the gate to the arena. “Because evil men should not be granted immortality. What sort of a God would allow evil men to grow stronger and torment mortal men forever?”
“But God’s grace is free to all…even evil men...” Wallace argued.
“God’s grace, yes,” Patrick agreed. “And forgiveness should be granted to those who repent...but evil men should not be granted immortality. Our order, the templars should have never revealed the cup of Christ to the world. Never. Perhaps the priests do speak truths on occasion but that doesn’t change the corruption of this whole affair where men kill each other in Rome for a chance to live forever.”
Wallace looked a little stunned, “What will you do if you make it to the finals then?”
“I won’t make it to the finals. I’ll be eliminated long before then and sent to serve the church at some horrible outpost in India and probably die of Malaria.” Patrick stated.
The two of them entered the Templars gate and took the corridor to the left which went to a stairwell leading under the arena. It was there that all the other competitors would be gathered. Half of the men, Patrick had met before. He and Wallace had been in London for three weeks now, having been sent by their local rectory after winning regionals. Patrick was allowed to bring any Templar to act as his squire. He had chosen Wallace. It was an easy choice to make. Wallace had been his friend since childhood and he wouldn’t have considered leaving him behind.
“Who gave you the favor?” Barry as soon as Patrick entered the room. The men gathered there were in various states of undress. Some were halfway into a suit of armor and others were just coming out of the showers. Barry was too observant to not notice a single brown rubber band on Patrick’s wrist.
“Girl named Breton,” Patrick said.
“Name like that she must be English,” Barry said. “Too bad you’re from Ireland.”
“I think she knows I’m from Ireland. If she cared she wouldn’t have given me the favor.” Patrick said good naturedly. “Where’s your favor?”
“Ah well, I haven’t got time for girls. I plan to win,” Barry said, moving off.
“He hasn’t got the personality for girls,” Wallace commented as Barry left. “Do you get to fight him too?”
“Not today,” Patrick said. “Today it’s just, William from the Isle of Man. I’ve never even met the man and I already hate him.”
“Good. The more you hate them the better you fight,” Wallace agreed.
Wallace helped Patrick into his armor which was the old fashioned metal type. Some of the wealthier entrants had lighter stronger armor made of new materials such as carbon fiber or kevlar. More than half had the ancient style armor like Patrick did. His sword was nothing special either. Just a regular metal blade and ordinary hilt. The weapon would do the job. That’s all Patrick cared about anyway, the chance to swing a blade and maybe impress a girl in the process. He glanced down again at the rubber band on his wrist. It wasn’t the first time he had been given a favor. Back home he’d gotten three. This time was different. There was something about that Breton girl.
The men were able to watch the tournaments on a big screen from the room below the arena. Patrick watched the jousts with interest. He might have to compete against some of these people later. It could be helpful to know their weaknesses and strengths. Besides that, the jousts were the more violent part of the tournament. They were the part where he actually got to hit people. The swordsmanship contests rarely drew blood but they were at least an interesting challenge. The marksmanship was just boring. In the end though, there was no point in being involved in any of this without the jousting.
“You’re up next,” Wallace told him.
Patrick got to his feet and went to the door. He looked up the stairway to the sunlight shining in from the top. Taking a deep breath, Patrick walked up the stairs. He came out into the arena to find the seats in the stadium were more than half filled. And there, across the arena at the other doorway, was his opponent.
Patrick crossed the arena through the rough tracks of horses and reached the center at the same time as his opponent, remembering to hate him all the way. They reached center and drew their blades, circling each other several times. William was the first to charge. Patrick blocked the blow with his shield. It was an old wooden shield painted with a shamrock because it amused him to style himself after Saint Patrick. The shield served him as well as it ever had, stopping the blow. Patrick allowed William to strike at him two more times before he truly tried to go on the offensive. When he did strike, Patrick struck hard. He was a muscular young man and when he was angry he could truly hurt people. William looked to be thin and wiry. Patrick knew he would win the fight and it had barely begun.
For more than twenty minutes they fought each other, parrying, striking, blocking blows, until Patrick could see that William had grown tired. Sweat in Patrick’s eyes made it difficult to see and he took a moment to throw off his helm. He’d seen others throw off their helm and as expected the move generated a roar from the crown. This meant the fight was getting serious, nearing an end. Patrick knew it and so did William. Patrick ran at him relentlessly. William tried to block his blows but only managed to lose more ground. As Patrick continued to push him back, William lost his footing and landed on his back.
“I yield,” William said, Patrick’s sword at his throat.
With a nod, Patrick put away his sword and helped William to his feet. The crowd was roaring. It was over. He had won.
Back underneath the stadium, Wallace helped Patrick to remove all his armor. “Well, did you see her?” Wallace asked. “The girl who gave you the favor?”
“No, there were too many in the crowd to pick her out,” He said.
“Then you’ll at least go see her after so she can congratulate you?”
“She can’t talk today. She was too late to spend her speech tokens. Besides it might just be awkward to try to talk to someone who can’t talk.” Patrick argued.
“What’s the matter with you? Yesterday you wanted nothing more than to talk to some girl who couldn’t talk to you.” Wallace asked him confused. “Don’t tell me you’re tired of her already?”
“No, I’m not tired of her. I’m just tired,” He was well and truly exhausted as well as hungry.
“Fine, but I want to go by that pub on the way back to the barracks,” Wallace said as he led the way out of the arena. They weren’t even bothering to stay for the whole tournament.
“Your pub won’t be open on game day,” Patrick pointed out.
Patrick was wrong, the pub was open and was showing the games on a large television screen. It was relatively quiet inside with only a few patrons. Wallace ordered a huge amount of food, more than Patrick did. After the both of them had eaten and watched several more rounds of the tournament, they left the pub and went back to the barracks. The only thing Patrick could think about at that point was sleep.
The next morning Patrick woke up to the sound of the morning alarm. He went through the entire day with the rest of the Templars in service there. That would be his duty until he either won enough fights to be sent on to the next city rounds, or lost and was sent to the Abbey back home. Most of the day consisted of military exercises of some sort. Unlike the tournaments. These exercises were modern. There was firearms training, flight simulations, as well as martial arts. Wallace was especially good at the flight simulations. Patrick wasn’t so bad with a gun.
Late that afternoon Patrick realized that he was still wearing Breton’s favor. There was about to be a two hour break. Maybe he should offer it back to her. That was the tradition after all. The knight was supposed to return the lady’s favor after a battle or a tourney and if she cared for him, she would ask him to keep it. He didn’t exactly care for Breton. She was pretty and it amused him they way she was always running off late for something or other. If she tried to give him her favor for good, that generally meant a relationship would ensue. Patrick was undecided on whether he wanted that or not.
Still thinking on the matter, Patrick wandered across the courtyard to the Abbey were the brown wearing girls all lived. He casually leaned against the wall not far from the entrance. Not fifteen minutes passed before he saw her passing by. She didn’t see him.
“Hey Frankie!” He shouted at her. Several heads turned. “Breton!” This time she stopped. She smiled on seeing him there. It was nice to be the cause of a smile like that. She left the path she had been on and walked over to him.
“I see you’re not rushing off somewhere this time,” Patrick said.
She shook her head no and then she reached into her pocket and took out a gray bracelet. She snapped the bracelet in place around her wrist and it glowed green.
“I’m not going anywhere important,” She said. “I bought this bracelet this morning in case I saw you today. I see you’re still wearing my token.”
“I came to offer it back,” He said, waiting for her response.
“No, you should keep it,” She said, a blush on her cheeks. Clearly she understood the way the tradition worked.
“Then I will. Thank you.”
“You fought well yesterday. I saw the lists. I saw that you’re to joust next weekend,” Breton said.
“I haven’t even looked at them yet,” He said quite honestly. “Want to walk with me around the grounds?”
Breton walked with around the grounds and spent the entirety of her speech token talking to him. She was pleasant to talk to. It turned out that her name was Vivienne Breton but she hated her first name so she didn’t use it. She told him a little about her childhood growing up in a regular British home. It sounded like her parents were nice people. He told her about his hometown in Ireland and his friend Wallace and stayed clear of the topic of his parents.
“How many more rounds must you win to go on to Rome?” Breton asked him as they walked.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I’m not counting on going to Rome,”
“I suppose that’s good then,” She said a little sadly.
“Why?” He asked her, curious.
“A lot of people die in Rome. It’s difficult to watch when it’s strangers on the screen but when it’s someone I know…”
“Well, don’t worry about it. I’m not going to Rome,” He said.
The time flew by too quickly and soon her green glowing bracelet had faded to gray again. Patrick walked with Breton back to her Abbey and said goodnight. She smiled as she waved goodbye to him. She really did have a nice smile.
“Where have you been?” Wallace asked him when Patrick returned to the barracks.
“Out. Walking with Breton. Actually she told me her real name is Vivienne. She bought a speech token,” He said, taking the rubber band off his wrist, he stretched it across his fingers to shoot across the room. “She also said she’ll give me a better token next week so I think I’ve found a good use for this one.” He took aim and fired at Barry.
Barry didn’t react as expected. He didn’t yell ouch or brush off the rubber band attack for the minor inconvenience it should have been. No, Barry was thrown to the floor as if someone had punched him in the face.
“What the…?” Patrick got to his feet. He went to Barry just to be sure it wasn’t an act. Sure enough Barry was on the floor, a bruise forming on his face. Patrick picked up the rubber band off the floor, unsure what to do or say.
Several other people had gathered around Barry. Some were laughing at him, some were checking to see if he was okay. Patrick grabbed Wallace by the arm and dragged him out the front door.
“Did you see that?” He demanded of Wallace.
“I saw it but…”
“Stand still,” Patrick aimed the rubber band at Wallace.
“Hell no!” His friend stepped aside.
“It’s just a rubber band,” Patrick protested.
“Fine,” Wallace said forcing himself to stay still. Patrick shot the band gently but it still knocked Wallace off his feet.
“That’s not possible,” Patrick said, helping Wallace to his feet.
“Maybe Breton is the Lady of the Lake,” Wallace shrugged.
“You said her name was Vivienne. If Arthur can return then he will need the Lady Vivienne to give power to his sword,” Wallace explained.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Patrick said, and Wallace had said some pretty stupid things in the past.
“Is it? The rubber band she gave you has powers, doesn’t it?” Wallace said.
“It doesn’t have powers, it’s just…” Patrick sighed. “This can’t be real. I’m going to bed.”
Baron Denver was in a foul mood. Nothing Breton had done all morning had pleased the man. First off, he had accused her of being late on purpose. She was never late on purpose. She was just terrible with time management. It was nothing personal against him. Secondly, the cooks had sent him fried eggs instead of boiled eggs and this was somehow her fault. He had ranted and raved and thrown a cup of coffee at her for that. Baron always ordered boiling hot coffee so she had brought it to him in a carafe that kept it at his prefered temperature. When she saw that he meant to throw the cup she had ducked and the coffee mug had missed her face but the hot liquid had stung her shoulder and neck on her right side. Her skin was blistered and peeling from the burn, her eyes stinging with tears, which made it difficult to pour his wine with steady hands. When she spilled a drop of wine on his white table cloth it sent him into a second fit of rage. The large man got to his feet and began shouting at her, telling her he could kill her, he could tear her apart for her insolence. She tried to back away from him but he only came closer, shouting more threats and breathing too close to her face. Terrified, Breton backed towards the door and when she reached it, she opened the door and fled the room. The Baron shouted after her to come back, that he wasn’t finished with her yet, but he didn’t follow after her.
Breton ran down a few more hallways and then found an alcove to duck into. She leaned against the wall and then slid down to sit on the floor, curled up, hugging her knees. Breton didn’t know what to do. Her shoulder and neck still stung and probably needed medical attention. But, she had fled her duties and she didn’t know what Mother Nancy or Baron Denver might do about that. She still needed to clear the Baron’s table and clean his chambers. She couldn’t go back there. It wasn’t the first time the man had shouted at her or threatened to kill her and he had thrown object across the room before but it was the first time he had actually taken aim at her and hurt her. She tried to weep silently and calm herself enough to make a decision about what to do next. Footsteps were approaching. Breton sucked in a breath and held it to keep silent. A group of Templar young men were passing by. Most of them didn’t even notice her, except one whom she didn’t recognize.
“Breton?” The young man stopped to speak to her while the rest of his group went on. “I’m Wallace. I’m Patrick’s friend. He pointed you out to me a week ago across the courtyard. Told me he intended to ask for your favor. Are you alright?”
Breton nodded, more in an effort to convince herself that she was alright than because she actually was. She got up from where she sat curled up on the floor, determined to return to the Baron and finish her duties.
“Are those burns?” He took a step closer to her to get a better look. Wallace was shorter than Patrick, stockier as well, but there was kindness in his eyes enough that Breton wasn’t worried about being in the alcove alone with him. “Let me walk with you to medical?”
She shook her head no. She couldn’t go to medical. She had to go back and finish serving the Baron. Either he or Mother Nancy would have her head if she didn’t. She moved out of the alcove, an apologetic look on her face. She hoped he would understand. Wallace didn’t let her just walk away. He followed her.
“Where are you going?” He called after her. Of course she didn’t answer. He followed her all the way to the Baron’s chambers.
Breton stopped outside the door and put up one finger, telling him to wait, or at least stay outside the door.
Wallace nodded. “Alright, I’ll wait here.”
Breton breathed a sigh of relief. Baron could kill the both of them as easily as one but it meant something to her that she didn’t have to face him alone. She reached up and knocked on the door. The Baron wrenched the door open. He was red faced and still angry.
“You’re back!” He grabbed her by the arm pulled her into the room rather forcefully, “Well get in here and finish your work!” He slammed the door shut behind them.
For the better part of an hour he raged at her. First he yelled at her for daring to run away from over a little coffee on her skin. Then he called her an incompetent imbecile. He threatened to kill her, he threatened to force her into his bed, he threatened to have her expelled from the church. On and on it went, in the crudest words imaginable, while she tried to keep her hands steady and get through with her duties. He had been angry before on occasion but never like this. Never had the anger lasted so long as this. She had no idea what had caused him to be like this today. By the time she pushed the cart out the door, Breton was a wreck of frazzled nerves.
Wallace was still waiting for her outside the door when she came out. He looked at her with worry and concern. “You have to work for him every day?”
Breton nodded, bursting into tears. She brushed the tears aside and reached for the handle of her cart. Wallace took the handle instead. “I’ve got this. You go over to medical. Patrick will meet you there.”
Breton nodded her thankfulness and did as he asked. The hospital wing was part of an old building. The people who worked in there were rather old as well. An elderly nurse took a look at Breton’s burns and then handed her a tablet to fill in all her medical and contact information. Breton typed quickly, looking up from time to time for any signs of Patrick. The nurse told her they would have a room ready for her soon. Then she took the tablet and left. It was Wallace who arrived first. He took a seat next to her.
“I sent Patrick a message to meet me in medical. He’ll be here soon,” Wallace explained.
Moments later Patrick strode into the room looking worried. He caught sight of Wallace and headed straight towards him. “I got your message. Are you…?” Then he caught sight of Breton and the burns on her neck. “Breton? What happened?”
“The Baron she serves threw scalding hot coffee at her,” Wallace explained.
“Why?” Patrick asked, not quite understanding what had happened.
“Because the man is a monster,” Wallace said. “I stood outside his door for an hour and listened to him speak obscenities that no holy man should ever say. He threatened to kill her, to have her expelled from the church, to rape her...I’ve never heard anything like it.”
Visibly angered, Patrick sat down on the other side of Breton. “If he wasn’t a Baron I’d…”
“I know,” Wallace agreed. “You were right Pat. Evil men should not be granted immortality. I see that now.”
Patrick only nodded, not exactly pleased to be right in this instance. “Are you alright?” He asked Breton.
She tried to nod but realized she was still crying. She had never been so afraid in all her life as she had been that morning. Still shaken, and unable to even have the relief of talking about it, Breton did the only thing she could think of to steady herself. She reached for Patrick’s hand and held on tightly. For a moment he looked stunned. Then he reached over and took her hand in both of his. They stayed like that until the nurse came for her.
Breton was given healing salves and a laser burn treatment. Once it was done with she felt almost back to normal. Her skin felt normal anyway. Patrick and Wallace were waiting for her in the lobby.
“I’m going to find out which Bishop presides over Baron Denver. Maybe he can put an end to this,” Patrick told her.
Breton doubted that it would do any good but she was thankful that he was willing to try.
“You still have to serve him dinner today?” Patrick asked her.
Breton nodded regretfully.
“I’ll duck out of the afternoon training regiment then. There’s not much punishment for that. They just make us run extra laps. I could go with you, stay outside the door while you serve him if it helps?” Patrick offered.
Breton found herself nodding. It would help having him there. There was nothing Patrick or anyone could do to stop Baron Denver if he did become violent. Still it helped to know that she didn’t have to face his anger alone.
“I’ll meet you at the kitchens in two hours,” Patrick told her as he moved to leave. “And Breton, bring a weapon tonight. A dagger or something small you can keep hidden. You can’t kill him but maybe hurting him can give you time to escape him should you need it.”
Breton nodded again, a little worried that Patrick might not just wait outside the door and listen like Wallace had. He might just get himself killed.
Patrick crossed the grounds feeling more furious than he had ever felt in years. Not since the time his father had hit his sister Kathleen when she had stayed home from school sick and he hadn’t been there to protect her, had Patrick been this angry. He went straight for the practice yard, took up a sword, and started hacking at one of the practice dummies. Wallace stood by at a distance and watched him, arms crossed. When Patrick finally managed to hack the head clean off the dummy, Wallace spoke up.
“Pat you need to stop this!” Wallace said.
“Why? Why do I need to stop this?” Patrick demanded to know. Wallace and his unbreakable calm often got on his nerves.
“Well, for one thing, Breton is alright. She isn’t hurt anymore. And the Bishop will take care of it. We just need to go speak to him,” Wallace said optimistically.
“Fine, we’ll go to the directory and find out who we need to see,” Pat agreed, not at all convinced.
The pair of them went to a terminal and looked up Baron Denver. They found out a few things about him. He had been awarded the status of Baron for exemplary service to the Templars some two hundred years earlier. As with all Barons, he was given a military command, lands, wealth, and a visit to the holy garden. For the past forty years the Baron had kept residence in London. Every year he officiated at the Roman games as one of the judges. The Bishop he served under was Bishop Hansen.
They also found, much to their disappointment that Hansen was not currently in the city but gone a visit to his hometown of Oslo. The bishop’s mailbox was closed and he was not taking any London appointments for another month.
“Now what?” Pat asked, still angry.
“I don’t know,” Wallace said, still thinking over the matter. “Maybe, everything will be fine. The Baron only threw a coffee cup and did good bit of shouting. That doesn’t mean that Breton is in danger.”
“My father threw coffee cups and did a good bit of shouting too,” Patrick pointed out. “I’ll not leave her to face him alone. I wouldn’t have left my mother or my sister alone with that kind of man, I won’t do it here either.”
Wallace sighed. “Well you can’t skip out on all the regiment exercises. I’ll take the mornings and you take the evenings,” he offered.
Patrick breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you Wallace.”
“I won’t let him hurt her. I’ll be a distraction so she can escape him if I have to but I won’t let him hurt her. Don’t spend too much time worrying about it Pat. It will work out,” Wallace tried to reassure him.
“Good,” Patrick said, thankful that his friend was doing this, though he knew it was probably more for his sake than for Breton’s.
“Yes well, someone has to protect the lady of the lake until Arthur is found,” Wallace joked.
“Don’t start that again,” Pat replied. “There are lots of girls named Vivienne. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“I looked up her profile. She was born at a lake. And what about that token she gave you? How do you explain that?”
“I don’t,” Patrick said. “Not everything needs an explanation. It just happens. It doesn’t have to mean anything. The things that mean something aren’t magical tokens, or powerful swords, or cups that the gods drank from. The things that mean something are far simpler than that.”
“I agree with you Pat, I really do.” Wallace said. “Things like justice and honor and family are more important than any holy relic but we live in a world that won’t let us have justice without the power of God or magic on our side. We can’t beat immortal men without help. Don’t you at least want to know if Breton has a power that can help us?”
Patrick swallowed, feeling sick at the implications of the question. He didn’t want any of it to be true. Not God, not the cup of Christ, not immortality, not the coming of Arthur, because if it was true it only meant that God and the church had failed him his whole life and how could he fight for them if they had? If they were just a lie, well he could tolerate a conspiracy that gave corrupt men power and he could even fight against that. There was hope to win against corrupt men who had constructed a church for the sake of gaining power. No man could fight God. “No, I don’t want to know,” he finally said.
Wallace nodded, saddened by his friend’s response. “We should go eat before it gets too late,” He said.
After they had taken a meal, Patrick went back to his room and put on his sword. It was permissible for Templars to wander around carrying swords. He also hid a gun under his tunic. Then he made his way to the kitchen. Breton was waiting there outside the doors. She looked nervous, frightened even. She passed him a tablet with a news article on the home screen. He looked down at the headline.
Cardinal Yancy Considers Replacing Baron Denver With Younger Baron, the headline read. Patrick had seen the announcement earlier that the new Cardinal would be arriving soon. “So that’s why he is so angry?”
“He’s not likely to get over that anytime soon,” He said. Men with that much power didn’t like having their power threatened.
Patrick walked with Breton all the way to the Baron’s door. He let her push the cart because it seemed to help her keep herself steady. By the time they reached the Baron’s door she looked genuinely frightened. He turned to her. “Did you bring a weapon?”
She nodded, showing him a dagger up her sleeve.
“Don’t use it unless you have no other choice,” he told her.
She nodded again, tears in her eyes.
He reached out and put his hands on her shoulders. “I’ll stay outside the door for as long as I hear only shouting but I’m not going to let him hurt you. If he does anything to harm you, I am coming in there and if I do, you need to take the opportunity to get out.”
She nodded her agreement, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door. Patrick stepped off to the side where the Baron wouldn’t notice him standing. From the moment she entered the room, the Baron began shouting. But that was all he did, lots of shouting and threatening and insulting her for the entire duration of her service. Patrick listened carefully. The Baron did nothing to actually hurt her and so Patrick made no move to enter the room. The words spoken were disgusting. No one deserved to be treated like that. When Breton exited the Baron’s room, she looked utterly exhausted. Patrick walked with her back to the kitchen to return the dishes, then on to the utility room to return her cart. Breton pushed her cart into place and then turned and shut door behind them, closing them into the utility room together.
The next thing he knew she had stepped closer to him and she was hugging him and crying. It didn’t make a lot of sense to him why she was suddenly crying but he hugged her in return anyway. And then as he thought about it, it did make sense why she was crying. If the Baron had treated him like that, he wouldn’t have been all that troubled by it. Shouting and hurling insults was nothing to him. Breton had never been treated badly before. She’d had parents who loved her and protected her and did their best to care for her, poor as they were. She’d never been physically harmed or overpowered by anyone until the previous day. She had probably never been treated so poorly in all her life. For that, Patrick did feel a measure of empathy and he hugged her a little tighter just then.
Eventually Breton did let him go and she moved towards the door of the utility room to let them out. “Wait,” he said and she stopped in her tracks. He moved closer to her her and reached down and kissed her, just briefly, then pulled away and opened the door. “Aren’t you coming?” he called after her. She had stayed in the doorway staring after him. Breton caught up to him quickly and he said goodnight to her outside of her convent.
Wallace would have questions about why he was so happy. Patrick wasn’t going to tell him anything but Wallace would figure out the truth. He always did.
Breton had never seen Margot with such a wide eyed shocked expression on her face. The bracelet Breton wore was gray again now but she’d managed to have enough time to tell her friend everything. She told Margot all about the way the Baron had treated her and how both Wallace and Patrick had helped her. She told her how afraid she had been and disgusted and terrified. She even told Margot about the kiss. Margot had smiled in response to that. She had kissed a few Templars herself and a Benedictine once too. Relationships that remained within the bounds of propriety were permitted by the church and those that were inappropriate were ignored as long as those involved kept their affairs private. The church seemed to believe that their rules on silence and the amount of work they gave to those enrolled in holy orders was enough to prevent these scandals from occurring. The young people of three orders couldn’t freely speak to each other and they all had plenty of ways to occupy their time and regiments of schedule so there would be very little taking place in the way of fornication. That was the official stance anyhow. Margot had already been through a couple of relationships. She had been waiting for Breton to finally take an interest in someone. Her excitement at this news was obvious, even without words.
Once the tale of what Breton had been up to all of yesterday was told, both Breton and Margo headed off to do their morning work. Wallace met Breton outside the kitchen as promised.
“You look as happy as Patrick did last night,” Wallace commented on seeing her.
Breton blushed in response. What had Patrick told him had happened?
“Don’t worry, he didn’t tell me anything that might or might not have happened. Pat doesn’t spread rumors. I’m sorry I mentioned it.”
Baron Denver was hardly in a better mood than he had been the previous day but at this point he was at least rational enough to tell her why he had been so angry.
“You’ll have to help me pack everything today. Everything! I am being sent to Canada. Can you believe it? Of all places, some little remote northern village in Canada? Cardinal Yancy is a fucking moron! If I am to be transferred I should be going to Paris or Rome, not some unheard of parish in the Canadian wild! I don’t even have clothing suitable for that climate. You will go into the city today and pick up purchases of winter clothes. And don’t get the orders wrong! I can’t abide anymore of your incompetence! Not today. I have enough on my mind without you being late and fucking up my shopping and spilling shit all over my table!”
Breton served his meal and cleaned up afterwards without any real incidents. The Baron never stopped raving through the whole meal but his ranting about the move was a slight improvement over yesterday.
“Well that was pleasant,” Wallace said as she exited the Baron’s room. “I heard that the new Baron is a young man, not even thirty years old.”
Breton raised a questioning eyebrow. It was rare for anyone so young to reach the status of Baron. It took either winning a game in Rome or many years of service to the church. If he was a young man, he must have won a tournament.
“I suppose you’ll be serving him when he gets here?” Wallace asked as they walked to the kitchens.
Breton shrugged. She hadn’t heard anything from Mother Nancy about any changes in service plans.
“Well, he can’t be as bad as Baron Denver anyway,” Wallace said, “No one can,”
Breton went into the city that day with the shopping list the Baron had sent to her tablet. She had little money of her own that her parents had sent a month ago. While she completed the purchases for the Baron, she looked for something that would serve as a favor for Patrick. Most of the shops carried items in the colors of the holy orders. Eventually she found a spool of brown satin ribbon and added it to her purchases.
She made it back to the kitchens in time to grab a quick lunch for herself before loading up the Baron’s cart with both his meal and his purchases. Patrick was waiting for her in the corridor.
“Wallace told me that the Baron is leaving and being replaced with Baron Merry,” Patrick said.
She didn’t know where Wallace had heard the name of the Baron or anything about him but she wasn’t surprised that he knew. Wallace seemed like he probably knew a lot more things than people generally expected of him.
“I can’t wait for Denver to be gone,” Patrick said, sounding relieved at the prospect. “Though I do wonder why they are sending him to Canada?”
“Be careful,” Patrick told her as they reached the Baron’s door.
The man was still irritable when she went into his room but slightly less furious than he had been that morning. Breton served his meal, gave him his purchases, and then began the process of packing up all his things into boxes for his trip. After complaining for the better part of two hours about her methods of packing, telling her to do it over again, shouting at her for being too stupid to properly put junk into a box...after two hours of that he suddenly stopped yelling.
“Vivienne?” He said, more kindly than he had been in several days. “You may stop packing the boxes now.”
Breton got off of her knees on the floor where she had been working on filling a box with antique books and got to her feet waiting for his orders. She expected at this point that he would dismiss her to return to the job tomorrow.
“Go into my bedchamber,” He said.
His tone was too soft, too kind, Breton didn’t dare to move.
“Should I take your disobedience to mean that you have understood my meaning?” The Baron said, irritated. “For three years you have served me. For three years I have watched you. Tomorrow I leave. I will have you now. Go to my bedchamber!”
Breton couldn’t breath. She couldn’t move. All thoughts were on the dagger on her arm and the man outside the door. Her mother had given her the dagger years ago. It was meant to be decorative more than anything else but it did have a real blade and was sharp enough to cut through ordinary flesh. She didn’t even know if the Baron could be stabbed at all or if she could be fast enough to do it. If she did try then Patrick would likely come in and get himself killed. If she resisted at all, someone would probably die, either her or Patrick, or both of them. The only way they would both survive this was if she obeyed the Baron. Trembling, Breton took three steps towards the bedchamber.
The front door to the Baron’s rooms was flung open. Patrick had a sword in one hand and a gun in the other. He took aim at the Baron and fired without hesitation. Baron Denver collapsed to the floor. She stared for a moment. The man looked to be dead.
“Breton, he’s not dead. Go!” Patrick told her.
Coming to her senses she did as he asked and fled the room. Patrick was right behind her. They didn’t get far. Within seconds of being shot to the ground, the Baron was on his feet again and coming after them.
“How dare you shoot a holy man?” The Baron roared after them.
For being so large a man, the Baron was far faster than he appeared to be. Perhaps it was because the cup had granted him strength that made him extraordinarily fast. He had nearly caught up to Patrick in just a few strides. Patrick reached behind him and fired the gun a second time with only a glance behind him. He didn’t miss. His shot caught the Baron square in the chest but only served to slow him down a little. Patrick shot again and again, the shots serving to slow the Baron enough to put a little distance between them. They rounded a corner in the hall and found someone had left one of the utility carts in their way blocking the hall. One of the wheels was broken off. Breton tried to push it aside, Patrick caught up to her and jumped over the cart. He flung his sword into the scabbard, caught her arm with his free hand and pulled her alongside him to keep running, pushing her in front of him as they went. The cart in their path had given the Baron time to catch up to them again. Patrick fired two more shots at him. The baron roared in anger, barely even noticing the blows. Then Patrick fired one more time and the gun only clicked.
“Shit!” Patrick said, out of ammunition. He drew his sword, turned and plunged it into the Baron’s belly.
The Baron stopped moving and for a moment Breton thought that perhaps they would be able to escape him after all. Denver pulled the sword out of his flesh and threw it down the hallway behind him with a clatter. Then he was moving again, more slowly than before as the wound in his stomach healed.
“Go Breton! I’ve got this!” Patrick told her.
But he didn’t have anything. Patrick didn’t even have so much as a weapon. She couldn’t just leave him there to die for her. She wouldn’t.
“Breton, go!” He told her, seeing her hesitation to leave him.
“Take this!” Breton gave him her dagger, speaking out of turn for the first time in years. The weapon wasn’t much but it had to be better than nothing.
He nodded his thanks and then he kissed her like he was saying goodbye. Next thing she knew he was pushing her away. The hallway was long and she hadn’t even reached the end before Baron Denver reached the spot where Patrick stood waiting for him with only a dagger.
Denver reached out and put his hands around Patrick’s neck as if to strangle him where he stood. Patrick plunged the dagger into the man’s heart. The man let go of Patrick’s neck and clutched at his chest. Denver dropped to his knees.
“How did you…?” Denver choked out the words. Then he fell forward onto his face, seemingly dead.
Patrick stood there stunned for just a moment. Then he looked to Breton down at the end of the hall. “We need to go!” He caught up to her and the two of them hurried together out into the courtyard. The Baron never came after them.
Only moments after Patrick and Breton ran out into the courtyard, they were surrounded with Templar officers. Someone had been watching the security cameras. Apparently they were under arrest.
The officers brought them to the Cardinal’s office. “Be seated,” One of the older officers nodded towards a wooden bench in the antiquated room. “His holiness will see you momentarily,” The officer told them and then all nine of the officers exited the room, locking the door behind them.
“I’ve never talked to a Cardinal before,” Patrick said, confused. “Do you suppose he will decide our sentence...my sentence? You didn’t do anything wrong. It was my fault...though I don’t even understand what happened…” He rambled on, still in shock.
They waited for twenty eight long minutes. Patrick got up and paced the room, unable to keep still. Then they heard the inner door opening and the Cardinal was on his way out. Patrick sat down quickly on the bench.
The cardinal was an older man. He came around the front side of his desk and sat down in a chair across from them. “I have just finished watching footage of what can only be described as a miracle,” The man said. “I have questions about what I saw. For the duration of this meeting your silence is lifted, Breton. You may speak while you are in this room.”
“Thank you your imminence,” She said a little timidly.
“You needn’t worry yourselves,” The cardinal told them kindly, “Neither of you are here to be punished. You are only here so that we can discover exactly how you managed to kill an immortal man. It is important information to have. ”
Patrick and Breton looked at each other worriedly.
“I assure you, you are not to be punished. As I am sure you are aware, Baron Denver was being transferred to a post in Canada. The decision to send him there was made because he had become dangerous. The church is not perfect. Not everyone who has visited the holy garden or drank from the cup of Christ has been truly worthy of it. We had no other means of dealing with Denver but to send him some place remote. If there is a means of overpowering corrupt Barons, we need to know about it.” The cardinal said.
“How do I know you’re not just looking for information so you can stop us next time?” Patrick asked.
The cardinal sighed. “I know do not trust in the church or in God Patrick, but that doesn’t stop them from trusting in you. God has given you and Vivienne great power so that you may purge his church of evil. We would like to know how it happened so that we can prevent further evil.”
“Prevent further evil?” Patrick said with disbelief. “If you knew that Denver was corrupt, why did you send Breton to him day after day? Think of the evil he might have done to her.”
“I have thought of it. Many nights I have laid awake thinking about what that man might do next but I did not have the power to stop him,” The cardinal sounded genuinely distressed. “It appears that you do.”
“Not me,” Patrick shook his head. “She does,” He looked to Breton. “She gave me the knife that killed him.”
“Your name is Vivienne,” The older man said with realization.
“That’s what my friend Wallace thought too...but I told him it can’t be…”
“What can’t be?” Breton spoke up, unsure what they were thinking.
“You are the Lady of the Lake,” The cardinal said. “You can give ordinary weapons power from God.” He said, standing up from his chair and the old cardinal got down on his knees and bowed to Vivienne.
Breton was at a loss for what to do. She had never thought to have a Cardinal kneel before her. “You don’t have to bow to me….”
“I do, but my knees can not take it much longer so I will return to my chair,” The man said.
“I don’t understand,” Breton said as he sat again. “How can I be the Lady of the Lake? I thought it was Arthur that the church has been looking for?”
“It was always Arthur we have hoped to find. However the church has long expected that some of the members of his court might precede his coming. We don’t expect them to have the same names they once did but they will play the same roles. His Holiness the Pope believes we will know the members of Arthur’s court when we see them.” The Cardinal explained. “You, my child, were sent by God for a reason, just as you were, young man.”
“What reason?” Patrick spoke up. “I can’t possibly be part of this. I’m not even english.”
“God uses whoever He wills. Which island you were born on is of no consequence,” The cardinal said.”In the meantime, no one can know about what happened here today. If the other Barons hear of this they will come looking for you child. You are a great threat to them. You need to go back to your work and pretend none of this ever happened. If anyone asks, Baron Denver was transferred early. I will take care that no one knows of his death. You never spoke to me. Is that understood?”
“Yes your immanence,” They both mumbled as he took out his keys to let them out of his office.
As soon as they were out of the office, Patrick grabbed Breton’s hand and brought her with him to the utility closet where the carts were kept. He brought her into the room and then he closed the door behind them.
“I can’t believe either one of us are alive and not being shipped off to the Vatican dungeons,” Patrick said and then he reached for Breton and he hugged her. He had never been so close to death as he had that day and though he had been willing to die, he hadn’t wanted to. He just needed to hug her for a little while and reassure himself that they were both alive.
They didn’t stay there long. After a few minutes Patrick let her go. “It’s almost time for evening mass. Wallace and I will sit in the back on the left. Meet us there?”
Breton nodded her agreement.
Breton’s mind was reeling as she changed her clothes for evening mass. She couldn’t be the lady of the lake. She couldn’t. Maybe there was something special to the knife that her mother had given her. Maybe the Baron had never truly been immortal. But as she thought on the matter, she knew the Cardinal had been right. It was the only explanation for what had happened at the lake when she had been a child of eight.
Breton had been raised in a lake town. Often on warm summer days, her parents used to bring Breton and her older brother to the lake for a swim. She had always been a good swimmer and loved to explore under water. One of those times she spent far too long under the surface. When she came up, there was an ambulance on the shore and divers were looking for her. SHe hadn’t been out of breath. She hadn’t even noticed the water. She was playing like she did in her backyard. Her parents had avoided the lake after that. No more swimming trips. She never understood what could have possibly happened until now. Perhaps she could live as easily beneath the waves as above them.
It was difficult to concentrate for mass. Patrick sat to her right and Margot to her left. Breton barely heard a word that was said through the whole service. As they were leaving Wallace spoke to them.
“Do you have any more speech tokens to spend? We need to talk to you Breton?” He said, “Your friend can come too if you want.”
Breton nodded and they walked together to a terminal where both she and Margot got new bracelets.
“We can talk at the practice yard. No one is out there this time of night.” Patrick said.
They all followed his lead to the open space where the Templars practiced fighting.
It took just a few minutes to update Margot on what had been happening, once that was done, Wallace had something to say.
“We have a problem, a very tricky problem,” Wallace said.
“That’s obvious,” Patrick said. “If Breton is the lady of the lake, where is the rest of Arthur’s court? And if you’re thinking Wallace, that I am supposed to be Arthur because she gave me a weapon, you’re wrong. I won’t be Arthur. I hate that story. Besides, that dagger is no excalibur.”
“That’s exactly the problem I was talking about,” Wallace said. “Where is the dagger?”
“Oh no,” Breton said. “The Templars must have it or whoever the Cardinal sent to clean up the body.”
“I bet you the Cardinal himself has the dagger,” Patrick said. “Keeping us holed up in his office, kneeling in front of Breton was a pretty good diversion from the fact that he wanted the dagger for himself. Then telling us to keep what happened a secret...no, the Cardinal has the dagger. I’d bet my life on it.”
“Well, we have to get it back,” Wallace said. “He can’t have a weapon like that. It wasn’t meant for him.”
“I can ask for an audience with him,” Margot said. “He won’t suspect me, and if he at least has it on display in his office, I can let you know it’s there. I’ve seen the dagger lots of times. I know what to look for.”
“How long will it take to get an audience with him?” Patrick asked.
“At least a few weeks,” Margot said. “But he will see me. He sees all initiates who request council of God.”
“Well, that’s a start at least,” Wallace agreed. “If he has it, we’ll have to find a way to give it back.”
“In the meantime Breton, don’t give anyone, anything,” Patrick said emphatically “Not even so much as spoon.”
“I don’t have any spoons. I think item has to be mine in the first place or else all the flatware Baron Denver ever used would be an arsenal by now,” Breton said.
“Good point,” Patrick said, a little relieved.
“Do you think the rest of us are members of Arthur’s court?” Margot asked no one in particular.
“Well, I don’t think Patrick is Arthur,” Wallace replied. “I think he is Sir Bedivere.”
“What? Why?” Patrick asked.
“Remember in the tale when Arthur lay dying? He gave Excalibur to Sir Bedivere and told him to throw the sword into the lake. Bedivere wouldn’t do it at first but eventually he did and the sword returned to the lady of the lake,” Wallace reminded them.
“I remember,” Patrick said, still not understanding where Wallace was going with his explanation.
“Well, it makes sense that for Arthur to return, it will need to happen in the opposite way. The Lady will return the sword to Bedivere who won’t want to give it to Arthur but eventually he will do it.” Wallace explained.
“Wasn’t Sir Bedivere a one handed knight?” Patrick asked, a little concerned.
Wallace shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Nah, don’t be sorry. He was also said to be a handsome knight and could take down thirty men to a time. I could deal with that.”
Wallace’ explanation made a lot of sense to Breton. She didn’t know if she fully believed it just yet but it was a good explanation at least. The group agreed to meet again the following day after evening mass and Breton could let them know about the new Baron she would be serving and Patrick could update them on the whereabouts of his sword which he had lost in the hallway while fleeing the Baron.
A chapter in which stuff begins to happen.
Wallace stood in line at the firing range along with all the other men and boys doing weapons training that morning. It was noisy even with the ear muffs. He watched carefully. Some of these guys were really good with a gun. Others were terrible. Wallace himself was somewhere in the middle. Barry was three spaces to his left. He wasn’t so bad with a gun. Jack, who was immediately to his right kept missing the target entirely. Wallace took another head shot hitting almost two inches from where he had aimed. Better than last time he supposed. Down near the end of the line someone was hitting every point of their target like an expert. He couldn’t see who it was but he wasn’t the only one to notice. Several people around him had stopped shooting to watch the expert marksman.
He waited along with the others for the man to step back and remove his protective glasses and earmuffs so they could see who he was. Finally, the shooter stepped far enough out of line that Wallace could see him. He took off his gear and it was clear that shooter was just a boy, probably just turned twelve which was the minimum age to join the order.
Barry snickered at the sight, “Damn kid probably played gun simulations his whole life. I bet he’s shit with a real blade.”
Several others agreed with him and resumed their practice. Overcome with curiosity, or something else that he couldn’t quite define, Wallace put his gun and gear aside and went to talk to the boy.
“That was pretty good kid,” Wallace said as he approached him. “You’re new here?”
“Yeah, just had a birthday last week. I came as soon as Dad would let me. My name is Artimus but just call me Marty.” The kid said.
Somehow in that moment Wallace knew, he didn’t know how he knew it, but he knew that this boy was Arthur. There had been no miracle to reveal this to him. It simply a matter of faith. Marty was a scrawny blond haired lad who didn’t look like much but there was a confidence about him and a compassion that could only be described as kingly.
“I’m Wallace,” he told the boy. “Where did you learn to shoot like that?”
“Here, This morning,” Marty said with a shrug.
“You’ve never picked up a gun before today?” Wallace asked.
“I did once at my Uncle’s house. I don’t think it really counts though because I never got to shoot it.” Marty explained.
“Have you ever held a sword?” Wallace asked him, beginning to understand something through this conversation.
“I haven’t. Will they let us practice swords today? I always wanted to try a sword,” Marty said, a little excited at the prospect.
“I bet you have,” Wallace agreed, “There will be swordsmanship today, yes. We could go to the armory now. I’ll help you find a sword that fits you.”
He made the offer because he knew now what his role was to be in the things to come. Arthur of old had been raised by Sir Ector, a man who taught him how to wield a sword and sit a horse. Marty had never done any of these things. There were Templar instructors and officers who would teach these skills but none of them knew who this boy was or how important it was that he learn them well. Wallace would be Sir Ector to this Arthur. He couldn’t tell Patrick what he was up to though. Patrick needed to discover Arthur for himself. It was the only way he would ever have the faith to give him excalibur when the time was right. This task, Wallace would do alone.
Breton went to the kitchens that morning to pick up the Baron’s meal as she had done every day previously. She had considered going straight to Mother Nancy to find out what her new service orders were but Breton wasn’t supposed to know that the Baron Denver was gone. The best course of action was to pretend she knew nothing. Mother Nancy was waiting for her outside the kitchens.
“I see you’re on time for once,” The stern woman said. “Good, it’s best not to make a poor impression on the new Baron. You’re being assigned to the new man. Baron Denver left rather suddenly last night and the new man arrived this morning. Baron Merry claims to be a simple man who will not require much of you. However if I see that you are growing lazy from serving such a man I will have you reassigned. You will never learn godliness without the benefit of hard work. Is that understood?”
Breton nodded her agreement. It was actually a comfort to know that she could get herself reassigned in this manner should the need arise.
“Good. The meal is readied. He is in Baron Denver’s old rooms. Do not displease him,” Mother Nancy said and she sent Breton on her way.
Breton tried not worry as she pushed the cart to his room. No one could be worse than Denver. The new man could only be nicer, not meaner. Everything would be fine, or so she kept telling herself. She stopped outside his door and couldn’t seem to find the courage to knock. She didn’t have to. Baron Merry pulled the door open of his own accord.
“Vivienne,” He said, emotion in his tone. “I knew you would come,”
Wallace had been right. The new Baron was a younger man, probably in his twenties, and he wasn’t ugly. Far from it. Apparently he already knew her name but judging from the way he was looking at her it wasn’t as simple as Mother Nancy informing him earlier of who would be serving him.
“Right, you probably can’t remember me. Come in,” He said, stepping aside so she could push the cart through the door.
The entire room was completely rearranged and redecorated. Gone were the books, expensive artwork, tapestries, weapons displays of the former occupant. Instead the whole place was cluttered with books older than Baron Denver had and glass bottles and vials of herbs and liquids. There was a computer terminal set up in one corner and a staff against the wall. She couldn’t stop looking at the tall wooden staff. The top was twisted with roots and held a gem of some sort.
“Forgive the mess,” Merry was saying. “I never have figured out an efficient way to organize all of this.”
Breton tore her eyes away from the staff and began to serve the Baron his meal. He was not an unpleasant man. He was actually very polite for the entire duration of her service to him. He told her he had been born in England but had been away for many years. He had requested the transfer to London because he felt it was time for him to go home again. She served his meal and did her best to clean up around his cluttered mess. Just as she was about to leave him he caught her hand and held onto it. She felt a moment of panic that he might not be chivalrous after all.
“Vivienne recordabitur enim omnium,” He said quietly and then he let her go.
Breton left him wondering what the hell that man was up to. She knew the words he had spoken were probably latin but her knowledge of latin was not good enough to recognize them. Whatever he was up to, Baron Merry was not an ordinary man.
Patrick couldn’t find his sword anywhere. He searched the hallway where he had seen it last. No luck. He asked the templar officers who had been involved in his arrest. They seemed to have no idea what he was talking about. According to them, there had been no arrest, and therefore there was no sword to be found. Patrick wasn’t too happy about that. It wasn’t that the sword was particularly important. It was just some blade he had picked up in a shop. He could buy another one. It was the secrecy of the whole matter that angered him.
Once he had accepted that he would need to buy a new sword, Patrick set his mind on preparing for the tournament that would take place in a matter of days. He spent the entire afternoon on horseback working with a lance.
As Patrick was leaving the jousting field just before dinner, he caught sight of Wallace across the way in the practice yard. He was with a scrawny boy that Patrick didn’t recognize. Curious, Patrick made his way towards them to see what his friend was up to.
He watched the two of them sparring as he approached. Wallace wasn’t bad with a sword. He had never been interested in in entering the games but it wasn’t because he couldn’t compete with those sorts of fellows. Wallace was generally pretty good with a sword, but this kid...this kid he was sparring with was even better.
Patrick watched them from a closer vantage point for a long while. Wallace would stop from time to time to give the kid a bit of instruction. The kid would take his advice and then beat Wallace even more soundly. Finally they finished their practice and Wallace turned to speak to him.
“Hey Pat, this is Marty. He just got here yesterday,” Wallace told him.
“Hey Marty. Who taught you to use a sword like that?” Patrick asked him.
“He did,” Marty indicated Wallace. “I never held a sword before today.”
“No way,” Patrick didn’t believe that at all. Marty was too good to have never picked up a sword before. “What’s your last name kid?” Whatever it was, he was going to look this kid up and find out where he’d gotten instruction. Might be worth being wary of all students trained by whoever taught him.
“It’s Utherson,” The boy told him.
“His real name is Artimus,” Wallace supplied helpfully. “He just prefers Marty.”
Patrick raised an eyebrow at that. Everyone knew that Arthur was the son of Uther.
“No,” Patrick said, backing away from Wallace and Marty. “No, you’re not pulling me into this one Wally. I’ve got enough to deal with after Breton and that dagger. Not this.”
“Pat wait!” Wallace called after him and then ran to catch up. “Pulling you into what? What do you think is going on?”
“I don’t think anything is going on but I can see what you think is going on. You think he’s Arthur? Fine, believe it if it helps your faith. I want no part in it,” Patrick told him.
“But I thought you were...I thought you had accepted that Vivienne is the lady of the lake? I thought you..?” Wallace trailed off.
“You thought I was going find faith and accept all of this?” Patrick said, a little angry. “I can’t do that Wally. Too much of this still doesn’t make sense. Even if Breton has been granted power from God to stop evil men, why did God allow the evil men to gain so much power in the first place?”
Wallace just stood there, not having an answer to his question.
“I’m sorry Wallace, I wasn’t trying to shout you into silence. I have never been a man of faith. My father made sure of that. And now, a powerful man is dead, and a scrawny kid happens to be good with a blade. It doesn’t mean anything. It never has. It never will.” Patrick told him and he moved to walk away.
“Patrick, did you ever think that maybe evil creates good?” Wallace called after him.
Patrick stopped walking and turned to face Wallace. “What?”
“The things that people suffer make them better. Baron Denver probably never suffered anything in all his life. He knew wealth and power for years and it didn’t make him better. But Pat, you know what it means to suffer. I was there after your drunken father broke three of your ribs. I was there to clean up your bloody noses and put ice on your black eyes...and in spite of all that I’ve never met anyone with more compassion and more willingness to fight for justice.” Wallace said sadly. “You are good because you have known evil. Your father may have destroyed your faith but he did make sure that you were good. And maybe, that’s why God lets evil remain in the world, because without suffering, we would know nothing of empathy and compassion. Without evil in the world, there would be no good men. No men like you.”
Patrick didn’t know what to say to that. The words stung as much as they rang true. Whether there was a God or no, he had indeed been shaped by the things he had experienced. “Nice speech, Wallace. They should make you a preacher,” Patrick said, and he fled from his friend before he became emotional.
Patrick sat next to Breton for evening mass. She seemed to be in an odd mood. He couldn’t quite figure out was different about her and he was too lost in his own thoughts to even try. After mass, he walked the grounds with Breton. He told her he hadn’t been able to find his sword and he told her her little else. Their walk was mostly taken in silence.
He hadn’t meant to give Wallace hope that he might have found faith with his comments yesterday. He didn’t actually believe he was Sir Bedivere or that he would ever be able to take down thirty men to a time. It had been like this between them for years. Wallace took his faith seriously and Patrick did not. It had never caused a rift before. Not until now. Right now, Patrick had no interest in speaking to Wallace for a while. He would talk to him eventually but not until he had cooled down.
Patrick stopped for his iris scan to enter the barracks that night and the tablet he carried in the back pocket of his white jeans pinged. He took it out and read the message as he entered the building. The message was from his sister Kathleen. They sent each other messages from time to time. She was allowed to write him twice a week from her Benedictine convent back home. It did him good to hear from her and have a distraction from everything that had been going on all week.
Patrick was in his bunk that night and almost asleep when Wallace spoke to him for the first time all evening.
“I’m sorry Pat. I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I don’t really know much of anything about how the world works or what sort of plans God might have for us. I only know that you are meant for better things than you think you are. I don’t need you to have faith in God, only in yourself.”
“Good night, Wallace,” Patrick said with a sigh. There was really nothing else he could say.
Don't worry, I'm not going to go all crazy with the religion and faith aspect of this story. I am not secretly trying to evangelize anyone. I am not a person of faith myself (much like Patrick) but the need for him to believe in something is an important plot point.
Breton had the many unusual dreams that night. There were dreams of being underwater. It was amazing and peaceful under the lake. She sat on the bottom and watched the fish swim by. Every sound was so quiet and so loud all at once. The way the sunlight filtered through the water was the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. She wanted to stay in that water forever. The lake felt more like home than any place she had ever been.
Then she was swimming to the surface and going ashore. A man waited for her there, an old man wearing robes and a long beard. The dream came in flashes as dreams often do. Much of it was spent beneath the waters of the lake and much of it was spent with the old man. He was teaching her something, something that she desperately wanted to know, and more than that he loved her. He loved her more than he had ever loved anyone in all of his long life, yet she did not love him in return. She only needed to know the things he knew. He was a kind old man, and wise, and though she did did care for him as one might care for a friend, she couldn’t love him.
Back beneath the waves she played with a sword. It was a lovely blade. The metal shined in the shimmering sunlight. She enjoyed the way it felt to swing the blade through the waters. Someone needed that sword. She didn’t want to give it up but she knew she had to and when Arthur came for it, she raised the sword out of the lake and gave it to him freely. She felt alone without her sword.
The dream changed and she was on land in a great forest. The old man sat at the roots of a great oak tree. And she was afraid, more afraid than she had ever been. This man had knowledge and power that no mortal should have. At least not yet. He had to be locked away. It was the only way to keep him safe until the time was right. She raised her hands and the roots of the tree began to entwine themselves around him. Her eyes were clouded with tears as she watched him being pulled deeper into the heart of the great tree.
“Vivienne...Vivienne...please…” He called out to her.
Her hands were shaking as she struggled to keep them raised and make the tree do her bidding. It wasn’t her power at fault for this, it was her heart. How could she do this to a man who loved her?
“Vivienne, you promised…” He called out again.
Weeping, she let her hands fall to her sides and she went to him, giving him the one thing he wanted. As she kissed him she knew she had seen those deep blue eyes before somewhere, or maybe would see them again in another life? She took a step back from him and raised her hands one last time. The tree groaned as it closed around him, enclosing the man along with the great staff he carried, a tall staff with a gemstone at the top.
Breton awoke from the dream with a start. There were tears on her face. Her hands were shaking. She threw aside the covers and went to the showers, hoping to shake of the terrible feelings of guilt that had accompanied her waking thoughts.
She had at least woken in time for breakfast that morning but she didn’t feel the least bit like eating. She went straight to the kitchens and picked up the meal for Baron Merry, or for Merlin as she knew now he was rightfully called.
Once again, there was no need to knock on the door of her new master. He opened it as soon as she arrived. This time she at least understood the look in his eyes. He still loved her, or the person she had once been, it wasn’t really clear to her how all this worked or how it was even possible. What was clear, was that those eyes had seen her before.
“I see you have remembered.” Merlin said as he opened the door for her.
Breton nodded, tears in her eyes at the sadness in his tone. Some part of her wanted to apologize but she couldn’t even be sure if the things she learned in the dream had been truly her or some other version of her or just a dream.
“I am sorry that you had to remember like that,” He said as he sat down to his table. “I am sure you have many questions. Sit with me and eat and I will explain as much as I can.”
Breton was hesitant to join him at his table. It was not permitted for her to be too informal with those she was assigned to serve.
“It’s alright,” he said, taking note of her hesitation. “You may sit. I’ll not tell Mother Nancy. You may speak while you are in this room as well. No one will know of it, I assure you.”
Still unsure of herself, Breton took a chair at his table and passed him his meal from where she sat. He took the saucer from beneath his teacup and used it as a second plate, putting part of his untouched meal on the saucer and giving it to her. She waited for him to begin eating before taking a bite of anything.
“I am sure you are wondering if the dream you was real, and if it was really you and really me that you saw,” He began.
Breton nodded and waited for him to continue.
“I am the same Merlin that went into that tree but as the years passed I grew younger instead of older. A hundred years ago the tree split apart and I was freed. I have been preparing for the return of Arthur all that time,” He explained. “You...you are Vivienne reborn. In essence you are the same person, with same powers and the same weaknesses, you even look nearly the same as she did, but without all of her memories and experiences you are not exactly her. Not unless I give them back to you.”
“How?” Breton finally dared to ask, he had granted her permission to speak after all. “How is any of this possible?”
Merlin shrugged,” I do not claim to know the how or why of any of this. I only know what is and what was and what will be.”
“Then.., what...what will be?”
“I am not here to tell you that. I am only here to guide you and others through the things that are to come. Nothing more,” He explained.
“Does that mean Arthur is here, now?” She asked him.
Merlin nodded, “He is near, yes. He will need your help and mine as well as the help of others. Are you willing to aid the once and future king when the time comes?”
“Of course,” If this was real she would do her part. “If I am the Lady of the Lake, what part will my friends play in all of this?”
“They will discover their roles soon enough and if they need my help, I will gladly give it,” He said evasively.
“What if I want your help, to learn things...again?” She asked him.
Merlin set down his fork and she knew that her question had hurt him. He had helped her once long ago. He had taught her everything he knew because he loved her and she had used that knowledge to trap him, having never returned his love. He didn’t answer her question right away.
Finally he looked up at her with sadness in his eyes. “Vivienne, I would do anything you asked of me, always.”
Breton got to her feet and started clearing the table in an effort to hide the tears in her eyes. There was no point in hiding though. He knew. She finished her duties without speaking again and Merlin seemed to have nothing else to say either. He was lost in his own sadness. She got out of his room as quickly as she could and rushed back to the kitchens, trying to think about something else, anything else, the whole way there.
Patrick spent the morning at the firing range then he went to practice drills with a group of other Templars who had been assigned to the field. He had just finished drills and was on his way to get lunch when his tablet pinged with a message. Curious he stopped walking and took it out. The message was from Kathleen. Odd. She wasn’t supposed to write to him for another two days. If she was writing to him now, something was wrong. He ducked into an alcove out of the path of everyone else walking to lunch and opened the message.
This is probably the most difficult letter I have ever had to write. Please find some place quiet to read it because it will be difficult for you to read.
Last night after evening mass my convent mother came to me and told me she was giving me a pass to return home for a two hour family visit. I hadn’t requested a pass. I had no idea why she would be giving me one. I hate going home as much as you do and I didn’t want to go. She seemed to sense my hesitation and she told me that something had happened in the village and it was important that I go home. So I went.
When I got to the house there was a police car parked out front and I knew...We always knew it would happen Pat. We always knew he would kill her. Just last week I tried again to convince her to leave and go live with Grandpa but she wouldn’t hear it. She said the same thing she always said, that if God loved him then so could she. Anyway, when I got to the door of the house the police wouldn’t let me in. I told them my parents lived there and I asked what had happened. One of of them walked me back down the driveway and told me that a woman was dead. I expected to hear that it was a murder, that he had beaten her to death, but they told me it was a suicide, an overdose.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve told you that I hated her, hated them both. She was never the one who hit us though. Mother was always kind and patient and she did everything she could to take care of us in spite of him. I always thought she was a coward for staying with him. I thought she was a horrible parent to allow her children to grow up like we did. She was always so patient about her “duty” to stay with her husband that I had started to believe that none of the things he did even moved her. Apparently I was wrong. I was so wrong. She was hurting after all and she finally decided to end it.
I think I was crying in the driveway with the police officers when they told me. I don’t know. Then HE came out and wanted to talk to me. I tried to walk away. I didn’t want to talk to him. I didn’t want to see him. Even with the policemen standing there I don’t feel safe if Dad is around. He had the audacity to grab my arm before I could go and try to hug me. I pushed him away. I think I screamed. One of the officers pulled him away and told him to let me go. I ran back to the convent and didn’t get permission to write you until this morning.
There is to be a funeral on Tuesday. Dad is trying to make all the arrangements himself. I don’t want him doing that. He caused this. He has no right to plan her funeral. I told him that this morning when he stopped by the convent but he has no intention of listening to me. He never has. If you can get away and get here before Tuesday you could make him listen or at least see to it that he doesn’t disgrace her entirely with whatever arrangements he makes.
And Patrick, I know you well enough to know that you will blame yourself for this. Please don’t. If anyone is to blame, it’s me. You were ready to forfeit your last fight in our district and stay for Mom’s sake. I was the one who convinced you not to. I was convinced, and am still convinced, that you are meant for better things than life in an obscure Irish village. I have had an entire night to think about this and all I can think of is that our mother made her own choices. There was nothing you could have done to save her.
I will try to get permission to call you tomorrow. Until then…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields until we meet again,
Breton looked for Patrick at lunch and didn’t find him. There was a small dinning hall where all the Novices to the various orders ate lunch whenever their schedules allowed the time. The meal was kept warm and initiates were expected to serve themselves and clean up their own dishes. Wallace was there having lunch with some kid. Breton took a seat across from him in hopes that maybe Patrick would turn up. He didn’t.
Breton finished her meal and was just getting up to put away her dishes when she finally really noticed the blond kid who was sitting with Wallace. He looked familiar. She couldn’t figure out if she had seen him before somewhere. Wallace noticed the way she was standing at the end of the table gazing at her new friend.
“Breton?” He asked, pulling her from her thoughts.
She tried to look apologetic as she moved off to take care of her dishes and go to wash the floors in hallway B as she did several afternoons a week. The marble floors in hallway B were right outside the Cardinal’s office. She gathered the supplies she would need, went to the farthest corner, and got down on her hands and knees to begin her work. A mop would have been easier. In fact, there were machines that could wash this floor and do a far better job than any person could do. But she was supposed to be spending this time on her knees in prayer or contemplation. Mother Nancy had posted the scripture for contemplation on the announcement screen that morning. Breton hadn’t even stopped to look at it. She felt a little guilty about that but not too much. She had too much on her mind to ever be able to focus on contemplation anyhow.
Breton couldn’t stop thinking about Merlin and the dreams she’d had. She knew, from the short time she had spent with him, that Merlin loved her. It was strange to think that a man she had never met, or had only known in another life, could love her enough to claim he would do anything she asked. And it was absolutely exciting and fascinating to think that this man knew magic. She wanted to know the things he knew. She wanted to know what he could do, what magic might be capable of. She wanted to know if he remembered everything that had happened with Arthur of old and if he could tell her about it, but she didn’t want him to grow more attached to her in spending the time teaching her these things. He reminded her of her brother Nate in so many ways. He had the same politeness, the same tone of speaking, as Nate did and as such, she couldn’t feel for him, the way he felt for her.
Breton wrung out her wash rag over the bucket of soapy water and began to wash yet another tile. She was a little worried that Patrick hadn’t come to lunch. There really wasn’t any reason to worry about it, she just had a bad feeling about it. A few Dominicans in their black and white clothing passed her as she washed, she looked up to see if any of them were her brother Nate or not. They weren’t. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Nate hadn’t spoken to her for more than a year. There was no chance that it was going to change today. He had said he was never going to forgive her and apparently he had meant it.
Saddened, Breton went back to work deciding she had best just try to think about yesterday’s contemplation scriptures and nothing else. That would be safe enough to not end in tears. She washed the entire floor all the way to the end of the hall and got to her feet to carry the soap bucket back to the janitor closet. A noise down the hallway to her left, the hallway she hadn’t washed, stopped her in her tracks. She glanced down the long hall expecting to find a couple of people had ducked into an alcove for privacy. Couples did it all the time. She didn’t see anything. It didn’t matter. She didn’t want to see that anyway. Breton was just about to move on when she heard the sound again. Someone was crying. Maybe it was none of her business, maybe she shouldn’t care...she set her pail down on the floor and went towards the sound.
“Breton?” Patrick apparently saw her coming before she saw him. His voice sounded raw, something was definitely wrong.
Breton stepped into the shadowed alcove and found him sitting on the floor. He had been recently crying, his brown longish hair was a wreck, and he looked utterly worn out. She knelt down and put a hand on his shoulder, wanting more than anything to ask what had happened but knowing if she were ever caught speaking out of turn it would be a point against her towards excommunication. He didn’t answer her unspoken question. Instead he simply reached for her and pulled her into a firm embrace. He was holding her so tightly it almost hurt. She didn’t care. Something terrible had happened. Whatever it was, he needed her. He held onto her for a long while and she ran her fingers through his hair and tried her best to be comforting, not knowing what exactly she was comforting him from.
After a long while passed, he finally let her go. “I have to show you something,” He said, picking up his tablet from where it lay discarded on the floor nearby. “It’s a letter from my sister.”
Breton took the tablet and saw that the letter had been sent two hours earlier. By the time she reached the end she had started to cry herself. What a horrible childhood he must have had. And now his mother had killed herself? Breton set the tablet aside and she hugged him again. It was all she could do. She knew it wouldn’t be enough.
Margot Walters never expected to get an an audience with the Cardinal so soon. She had heard that he was taking appointments at least a month out so when she got a message for an appointment just two days after her request, she was a little worried what it might mean. It could very well mean that she was in trouble. Margot had never been the good girl that her friend Breton was. Margot broke the rules all the time. She often broke silence if Mother Nancy or any of the other clergy were out of sight. She often only half did the work that was required of her. She’d also had more than a few boyfriends. It could be any of these things that had gotten her moved up on the Cardinal’s appointment list. Whatever the reason was, she needed to find out before she went to see him that evening. She needed to be prepared.
Margot got up from the lunch table and dropped her dishes in the dishwasher without bothering to scrape the food into the garbage disposal. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about the mess she was leaving, she was just in a hurry. She had to find Nate before his afternoon study period began. If she were lucky, he would be waiting for her in their usual spot under the stairway to the chapel balcony. Margot rebraided her blond hair as she walked. It irked her that a braid was the only hairstyle permitted but if this was all that was allowed, she would at least make it look nice. She braided her hair loosely in a manner that Mother Nancy had expressly forbidden because it made young ladies look like temptress harlots. Margot didn’t care. She’d rather be a temptress harlot than a prude.
Nate was waiting for her under the stairs. Margot didn’t wait for him to greet her. They didn’t need words. In moments, his arms were around her, his lips against hers, and she forgot all about the question she had meant to ask him. It wasn’t until later when she and Nate were putting themselves together again, that she remembered.
“I got an audience with the Cardinal already. Do you have any idea why I got one so soon?” Margot asked him.
He shrugged, “I may or may not have asked him to move it up.” Nate was the Cardinal’s aid. He did all sorts of scheduling, typing letters, research, and the like.
Margot breathed a sigh of relief, “At least I’m not in trouble.”
“No reason for you to be in trouble,” Nate joked. “You never break any rules.”
She gave him a look. “At least I only break the fun ones… your sister on the other hand…”
“I don’t want to talk about my sister,” Nate said, his joking mood at an end.
“I know, but you moved the appointment for her, didn’t you? So it must mean you still care?” Margot asked carefully, not wanting to upset him with such a sore subject.
“I did it for you, that’s all,” Nate said. “And for that guy Patrick. He sounds like he’s okay.”
“He is okay. Maybe you should talk to him. He saved your sister’s life,” Margot suggested. She didn’t care if Patrick and Nate were friends really. She only wanted to push Nate and Vivienne back towards being normal siblings again. This year of silence between them was hurting them both. Maybe Patrick could convince Nate to forgive Breton if anyone could.
“I don’t think so,” Nate said. “Not that I wanted her dead, because I don’t… but I’m not talking to him. There’s no reason to.”
“Okay,” Margot let the subject drop. “So do you think the dagger is in his office?”
Nate shook his head. “I haven’t been in his office in a few days. He hardly ever sends me there for anything. It’s not in his apartments, I do know that.”
“Then it has to be there,” Margot said, resigned to finding out the truth somehow.
Nate was silent for a moment before speaking again. “I watched the footage of Baron Denver’s death. It was playing in the Cardinal’s chambers. He has watched it a bunch of times….maybe you’re right. Maybe my sister is the Lady of the Lake…”
“And if she is?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I only know that I love you,” Nate said, pulling her close to him and kissing her again. Margot would have told him she loved him too but that would have meant ending the kiss and that wasn’t something she was willing to do any time soon.
Patrick had gotten leave for the afternoon to make travel arrangements for the funeral. He would stay through the weekend and compete in the tournament as planned. He hadn’t wanted to stay so long. He was willing to forfeit the match just to go home early but Breton’s eyes looked so sad when he mentioned the idea that he changed his mind. If he didn’t win matches here in London he would be sent home instead. She didn’t want him to go home for good and he wasn’t so sure he wanted to go either.
He stood at a terminal about to make the necessary transfers to buy airfare. He supposed he ought to tell Wallace first before he bought tickets. Wallace might want to go with him. Or maybe he’d prefer to stay here and keep training the boy he was convinced was the future king. Patrick didn’t care what Wallace did anyway. He was still too angry with him to care.
The tickets were purchased and Patrick turned away from the terminal to head back to his bunk. A guy about his age in Dominican clothes leaned against the wall some fifteen feet away watching him. Irritated at being watched, Patrick turned in the opposite direction and began to walk away.
“Hey are you Patrick?” The guy down the hall called after him.
“Yeah, what’s it to you?” Patrick kept moving and didn’t even look back.
“My name is Nate Breton. I need to talk to you.”
Patrick stopped walking. Breton had mentioned she had a brother. She hadn’t ever mentioned his name. Nate caught up to him and stood in front of him. He had the same blue gray eyes as his sister did.
“I heard that you saved my sister’s life,” Nate said.
Patrick only nodded. What was he supposed to say to that? How did he even know about that?
“I haven’t spoken to her in a long time,” Nate went on. “Will you tell her that I was glad to hear she was okay?”
“Why don’t you tell her yourself?” Patrick asked.
Nate started to back away, “Just tell her please?” And with that he left.
Patrick watched him go wondering all the while what could have induced Nate to not speak to his sister. He couldn’t imagine not talking to Kathleen for any length of time. She had kept him sane through most of their childhood. He didn’t think about it for long though. He had darker thoughts on his mind to muddle through. Darker thoughts than any he had ever known.
By the time Breton returned to Merlin to serve him the evening meal she wasn’t thinking about magic anymore or Arthur or lakes or swords. Her mind was preoccupied with thoughts of Patrick, so much so, that she didn’t notice Merlin’s sadness right away.
He was sitting at the table stirring sugar in his teacup without the use of his hands. The spoon seemed to move of it’s own accord and Merlin barely even noticed. Breton stopped moving, taken aback by the sight.
“Forgive me,” He said, raising a hand to stop the spoon. “Sometimes I forget that others are not accustomed to such sights.”
“Can you teach me how?” She asked him timidly, unsure if his permission to speak was extended to every visit or not.
“Of course. Sit.” He said and she did as he asked. “Magic is a combination of natural ability, willpower, and knowledge to use the correct spells. You have the natural ability already. The spells you can learn. The willpower will come with time and confidence.”
In a short time he had shown her the spell to move the spoon within the cup. It was only a small thing but Breton felt overcome with a strange emotion. It was the realization that she had a power that others did not possess. She had been dimly aware of this before when Baron Denver had died by her dagger. Now, seeing that she could whisper a few words and make objects move, she was finally able to accept that all of this was true. She was the Lady Vivienne of the Lake and she would herald the return of Arthur. All that was left to do now was learn how to play her part.
“I saw your brother passing in the hall today,” Merlin said as Breton began to clear the table. “He did not recognize me either. I should be used to that by now but I fear I never will adjust to it. Imagine seeing people who you knew for years and none of them know who you are anymore?”
“That must be terrible,” Breton agreed. “Who did you recognize him as?”
“As Lancelot of course,” Merlin said simply.
The teacup in Breton’s hand fell to the floor and shattered. “Lancelot? But I thought Lancelot was raised by the Lady of the Lake?”
“Yes, but it need not happen the same way all over again. In many ways it will happen the opposite way,” Merlin explained. “The first Lancelot was raised by the lady of the lake. The second one raised her, or was raised alongside her. Many things will happen differently for Arthur to return then they way they happened before. I only know that your brother is the same man I knew as Lancelot.”
“But Nate isn’t a Templar. He is a scholar. He has no interest in being a knight,” Breton said, not trying to argue with her new mentor but genuinely confused.
“Only because he has nothing to fight for,” Merlin explained. “You will give him that.”
“I will? Nate hasn’t even spoken to me for more than a year…”
“And why is that?” He asked.
“I thought you would already know,” She replied, a little surprised at the question.
“I know a great many things but I am not omniscient. What happened?”
“I was supposed to join the Dominicans. As you know, they are an order for scholars. I always did well in school, as did Nate. He’s three years older than I am and when he left home to join the order, he made me promise that when my time came, I would join him. But when the time came, I didn’t go through with it. I was tired of all the studying. It’s all we ever did as kids. I just wanted to keep busy and not have to think for a while,” Breton explained. “I joined five years ago. Nate was upset at first of course and hurt and when he asked me why I didn’t join him I told him it was because I was afraid I couldn’t be smart enough. That wasn’t true, of course. It was just an answer I thought he would accept. He did accept it for four years. We used to visit each other three times a week. Then a year ago he found my file in the Cardinals documents...my test scores for the exit exam at school were twelve points higher than his, a neat perfect score. He was crushed that I had lied to him, that I had avoided joining his order. He said that I was wasting my talents doing menial labor when I had brain that could be put to better use. He begged me to ask for a transfer to a new order and when I refused, he stopped talking to me.”
“I am saddened to hear that,” Merlin said quite genuinely.
“I am saddened to even think about it,” She replied. “What makes you think I can convince him to fight?”
“Not convince him, give him something to fight for. There is a difference.”
“How will I do that?” She asked.
Merlin sighed sadly. “You will be in danger and that danger will make him forget that he was ever upset with you.”
“Danger?” Breton was a little concerned.
“Practicing magic is still Heresy in the church after all, remember? The more you learn, the more danger you are in.”
“You practice magic, how are you even here? How are you even a Baron?” She asked. How had he escaped charges of heresy all this time?
“There are spells to make people forget and I use them when necessary.” He explained, “But only when truly necessary.”
“I see...and what is the punishment for heresy if you were to be caught?”
“Now? Probably death. It used to be death. I don’t know. It’s nothing to worry about. I have seen enough of what is to come to know that they don’t burn you,” Merlin said.
Somehow she didn’t find that very reassuring.
“I am getting you a travel pass for Monday,” He told her, suddenly changing the subject. “You have a funeral to attend. Patrick doesn’t know it, but he will want you there.”
The morning of the tournament dawn and Patrick found that he was ready for a fight after all. It might help to hit something, in this case to hit Barry. Patrick was to joust against Barry Howard that day. Since the moment he had arrived in London, Barry had been annoying him. He hadn’t been a bully or done anything wrong really. He was just an irritating arrogant bastard. He was one of those people who were easy to dislike and the past days since Patrick had gotten the news from his sister, Barry had somehow been even worse. He had accused Patrick of “moping around” and always looking so penitent. It was true of course. Patrick had been feeling sad and guilty the last few days. Barry and his comments hadn’t helped.
Wallace was putting his boots on in their bunk preparing to leave for the stadium with him. He looked up at Patrick concerned again. “What’s going on with you Pat? You’ve been acting down for a few days now.”
Patrick swallowed. He hadn’t told Wallace about his mother’s death. He had still been too angry with him when he’d first gotten the news. After that he just kept putting it off. He hadn’t wanted to talk about it. He was a little worried that he might cry again like he had with Breton so it was easier to say nothing.
“It’s because...it’s because I had a letter from Kathleen. Mum is dead.” Pat made himself say the words.
Wallace looked stunned, then hurt. “Why didn’t you say anything Pat?”
He shrugged. “Funeral is Tuesday. I already got the pass and the tickets.”
“It’s probably too late for me to get one now,” Wallace said. “I might have gone with you if you’d told me. It’s alright though. You can’t have been thinking clearly....just tell me what happened to her. What is your Dad?”
“She killed herself,” He said, not wanting to say the words. Saying it somehow made him feel more at fault.
“I’m sorry,” Wallace said simply.
“I’m the one who should be sorry,” He replied, a little angry.
“Don’t do that Pat. You can’t blame yourself,”
“There’s no one else to blame,” Pat said bitterly. “I should have been there. I shouldn’t have been off fighting in these stupid fucking games. I wanted to hit someone, I should have just hit him!”
“You did hit him sometimes. I remember,” Wallace said.
“Yeah, only after I’d been at the monastery for three years. I was too much a coward before then.”
“You were too small before then. It had nothing to do with courage. That time when you were sixteen and your Mum came to visit with a bruise on her face and you…”
“I got a pass and I went home and I beat the shit out of him. He didn’t hit her again for near six months,” Pat admitted. “But that’s why I should have been there.”
Wallace was shaking his head. “No, I know you cared about your Mum but it wasn’t your job to protect her. Not when there were things she might have done to protect herself. She could have left and didn’t.”
“She didn’t because our Priest told her her it was God’s will that a wife stay with her husband and love him in spite of his sins. It was her faith in a God that did nothing for her that kept her there!”
“It was her faith in a misguided priest,” Wallace said.
“It’s the same thing. The priests claim to speak for God. It’s all the same.”
Wallace sighed but didn’t argue with him. “Well, whatever happens today, try not to kill Barry. I know you’re angry. Don’t take it too far.”
Patrick nodded and got to his feet. As he and Wallace left the barracks they found Breton and her friend Margo were waiting outside. They both wore the glowing green bracelets allowing them to speak.
“I brought you a new favor,” Breton said. She tied a brown satin ribbon on his arm, her hand lingering there a little longer than necessary.
“Thank you,” Patrick said, appreciating that she hadn’t forgotten.
“When the tournament is over, I need to talk to you.” She said. Something in her tone sounded a little worried.
“Alright, meet me in the dining hall. It should be all but empty by then,” He suggested.
“I will,” She agreed.
“And Breton, I saw your brother,” He told her before she could leave. “He said to tell you he was glad you were alright after Baron Denver and all.”
“He said that?” She asked, a little shocked.
“He did. We can talk about it after.”
Patrick and Wallace made their way to the room under the stadium and began the process of putting on armor to get ready for the joust.
Margot sat next to Breton in their usual section and fidgeted with her brown skirt. Maybe it had been a mistake to wear this particular skirt. It was a little too clingy to hide the dagger that she had strapped on her upper thigh. It wouldn’t be the first time she had worn a weapon under her skirt. Her friends would hardly notice or care but this particular dagger she had taken from the Cardinal’s office the previous night. Breton didn’t need to know she had it. No one did just yet. It had been easy to take it once she found it on display. All she’d have to do was ask for his blessing, ensuring he’d leave the room to get some holy water. Once he had returned she only had to keep his attention long enough to not notice the missing weapon until after she left. That was easy too. She had dressed for the occasion and holy man or not, he was distracted enough for her to accomplish her purpose. A little flirtatious body language and the man never even glanced at his empty display case.
She wasn’t going to do anything bad with the dagger. She just wanted it for herself for a little while. It wasn’t fair that Breton had special powers from God. And it was stupid Breton and Nate weren’t speaking just because she was too smart to be a Frank. For once in her life, Margot was going to be the hero. She would give the dagger to Nate and let him study it. He would like that. And once he was convinced it was real he would return it to his sister. That should end the stupid feud between them. It was simple. Until then, or for just a few days anyway, she was going to carry the only weapon on earth that could kill an immortal.
Margot glanced over to the other section of the stadium and met Nate’s eyes. She wished he would sit with them. A lot of people moved out of their section for the games. It was a pain to cross the stadium across people’s seats but a lot of people did it anyway. Nate wouldn’t. He wouldn’t sit with his sister and he also didn’t want his sister to know that he was in a relationship with her best friend. For eight months they had kept it secret from her. Margot was sick of it. She cared about them both. It would be better if they went back to the way things used to be. Breton wasn’t paying attention just then so Margot waved to Nate. He waved back just in time for Breton to glance over and see him.
“Did Nate just wave to you or to me?” Breton asked.
“How should I know?” Margot shrugged.
“Just because he sent a message by Patrick doesn’t mean he’s talking to me now. So that means he was probably waving to you,” Breton pointed out.
“Maybe. I do talk to him sometimes.” Margot admitted.
She wanted to tell her why. She wanted to tell Breton that she was madly in love with her brother and that when their service to the church was over they planned to marry. She couldn’t tell her that though. She had promised Nate she wouldn’t say anything and she knew how well he handled broken promises. If she said anything he might never forgive her.
“Because he always used to visit with both of us. I missed that.” Margot said, which was mostly true.
Breton swallowed. “You’re not the only one….if you asked him to, would he sit with us?”
“He might,” Margot said, waving to Nate again to get his attention. He saw her and she waved for him to come over. Nate looked hesitant but after a moment he got to his feet and started in their direction.
“He’s really coming over here,” Breton said with surprise.
Margo was just as surprised as her friend was. Nate took an empty seat next to Margot on the opposite side of Breton.
“Hi Nate,” Breton said a little timidly as he sat down.
He didn’t reply to her but he did nod in greeting. Jerk. Margot elbowed him in response to that.
“Hi Vivienne,” He said. It was the first words he had spoken to his sister in more than a year. Breton started to cry.
“Oh no, I’m not getting in the middle of this,” Margot said. She got up from her seat leaving an empty chair between the siblings. Neither of them moved. “Nate, move over and sit next to your sister,” She commanded. He obeyed. Margot sat down again on the other side of them.
The pair of them didn’t really talk for the duration of the games. There were no apologies, no words that things would be different but when Breton truly started to cry, Nate put his arm around her and kept it there.