Timeros: A Clash Of Gods Ch. 04byTravellingWilly©
Outskirts of Zoroa
Golman had the priest firmly by the neck lifting him cleanly from the ground bringing him face to face with the giant. The priest sucked in what air he could but his face was rapidly turning to the color of a bad bruise. Rosen stood a little way off, cursing himself for letting the situation get out of hand.
They had warned the priests, they had given them ample opportunity to leave, much to Golman and his men's displeasure. The arrow that had been fired from the church doorway had not even reached their feet but it had been enough to send Golman charging up the stone steps and send the heavy wooden door crashing in as he shouldered into it. And now they were here, standing in the crossroads, with the remaining priests that Golman had not torn apart.
Rosen stepped forward, "Put him down Golman." He said as he walked to the giant. Golman's hand visibly tightened, "That, in case you were mistaken, was an order." The Giant bared his teeth to the priest and let go, the body crumpling to the road grasping for breath. A large quantity of the townsfolk had turned up a motley bunch that sneered until they were noticed then tried their best to look interested in their boots. Others were clearly happy to see some sort of entertainment. Rosen felt sickened, his taste for needless death long since diminished.
"They shot an arrow at me." Golman growled delivering a swift kick lifting the limp body of the gasping priest at his feet.
Rosen decided not to push the Giant on the fact that the arrow was aimed at all of them and no one in particular, "And I believe you killed three priests in the church one of which," As he spoke Rosen maneuvered himself so that he stood directly between the prone priest and the giant. "Was holding a bow."
Golman looked down at him, a deep growl emitted from the giant's throat before he stepped down. "So what do we do with these ones?" he asked.
Rosen had taken them to the cross roads for a reason. Here in the fork of the road hung three metal caged gibbets, all empty. He had seen them earlier that day as they were riding into the town making a mental note of them should the need arise that their services were needed. Three of the priests were lifted and forcibly pushed into a cage each, Rosen hardly heard their plea's he was too busy looking at the crowd that had gathered noting their reaction. He was surprised to hear a cheer as the last cage clanged shut. "We have one spare Captain." Golman said, lifting his early play thing to his feet. "What do we do with this one?"
Rosen nodded but did not respond straight away. His stomach was clenched in an icy grip and he focused on keeping his voice calm and in control as he beckoned one of his men over. "Go find some wood. I want three stacks under each cage." The soldier nodded and quickly walked over calling two more men to his aid as they headed off at a pace into town.
As the sun started to disappear behind the low hills in the west the last of the wood was placed under the gibbets. Rosen watched the disk of fire slipping down, somewhere in that direction his love was waiting, he wondered if she was watching the sunset too. He quickly shook Oundle from his thoughts. For this next task he did not even want his own thought of Oundle to witness it.
Golman, stood leaning on one of the wooden masts that held the metal gibbet off the ground, he was whispering to the priest inside who sobbed loudly and openly. "Enough taunting." Rosen said a surprising amount of anger in his tone. Golman glared at Rosen then thundered off.
Rosen stood before the gibbet's the crowd had swelled considerably as word got about that Dolan soldiers had captured Gorgaroth priests. "These men are accused of Treason and blasphemy of our," Rosen stopped himself then continued, "Your good king Balestre and your god Barthan. Does anyone here stand as naysayers to these crimes?" The crowd murmured but no one stood forth as Rosen had expected.
The remaining priest was brought forth his hands bound with heavy rope and clutched and bound between his hands a lit torch burnt. Rosen swallowed the bile that bit at the back of his throat and whispered forgiveness to Oundle before continuing. "Your brothers are guilty. The flames will purify that guilt." The priest shook his head mouth opening to protest but before he could Golman grabbed him by the back of his robe and dragged him to the closest Gibbet.
The dry wood caught and the rising flames quickly began to eat hungrily at the fuel. The priest in the cage cried out pushing himself against the bars, arms stretched out pleading for forgiveness, pleading for life. Golman laughed and spat in his face. The next two fires started just as quickly. The caged priests cried for help, those cries turning quickly to pain and anguish as first the wood was consumed by the hungry flames then the priests themselves became fuel. Many of the townsfolk turned foot and ran back to their homes crying in fear for their own lives. "Pretty sight," Golman said as the first priest's robes caught fire, "That one over there looks like a candle." he said with glee in his voice as another priests hair caught fire.
Rosen lifted his gloved hand to his mouth coughing away the vomit that threatened to rise at the stench of cooking flesh. He wanted to weep and not because of the smoke, he was again becoming that which he hated, knowing if he did not his life and that of Oundle were forfeit. "Take him to the church." Rosen said to Golman as he pointed to the remaining priest who knelt on the ground weeping and praying the burning torch still strapped to his bound hands. Golman looked at him wide eyed, fury hardening the glare, Rosen did not react. "Burn the church with him in it, stand inside and watch him go up in flames if you want. But not here."
"Your love for a warm cunt has made you a weakling." Golman spat at his Captain. Rosen gave no response. Golman grabbed the priest lifting him up and dragging him as he tried to find his feet towards the town.
'And this is only the start.' Rosen thought to himself. He had to become Captain Farringdon Rosen the ruthless and blood thirsty man that children back in Dolan heard terrible stories about. That man had died but now, now he would have to be resurrected if he wanted any chance of surviving the coming months and the battle that was surely facing him on his return to Dracon Castle.
Winter's Forest, dawn
Breakfast was made up of the same old bread, cold meat and a hard cheese that Lucan was quickly growing to loath, "We make the cheese ourselves, it may not taste wonderful but it has enough in there to keep a grown man on his feet for a whole day." Amberlee said noticing the way Lucan picked, fingered and eyed the cheese suspiciously as much as he had done the first night in the foothills. She waited for Lucan to finish chewing before asking a question. "How are you feeling this morning?"
Lucan looked up at the sky. The sun had yet to break the horizon, only a pale hint of pink could be seen in the east and Old Man could still be seen casting his ghostly white light. "Morning starts when the sun can be seen, this is still night time. As for how I am feeling," he fidgeted on the ground, "better than I did last night." when he wandered off to find somewhere to relive his aching bladder, Lucan had held his breath when he pulled his cock free and gave a loud sigh of relief as he noticed the inflammation had already receded, the terrible looking lacerations a pale pink on his limp shaft and the pain was now nothing more than a dull itch.
Amberlee smiled, "A knight who only works when the sun rises, you are as old as they say." She goaded.
Lucan spat out a lump of cheese that refused to breakdown between his teeth. "Perhaps I am, as I cannot even chew this blasted cheese." He gave a soft laugh, one that even he had not heard in a long time and was happy to see Amberlee laugh and smile in return. He now had his own question to ask. "How long did you watch for?" Amberlee looked at him a small frown creasing her forehead. "At the battle, how long did you watch?"
Amberlee placed her plate to one side and took a sip from her small cup. "We were meant to be heading home, but Alotta came with orders that we were to head there and bring you back if you were alive, she was not impressed."
Alotta had found Amberlee and the younger Olivia packing the open cart in the small town of Silva. Both the younger priestesses knew better than to question their orders and dutifully followed. The sound of battle could be heard before they even reached the top of the hill. Olivia had squeezed the hand of Amberlee so hard that she lost all feeling. The roars of men and not-men chilled her blood even. Once they had reached the top of the hill the sight had made Amberlee loose her breath.
Utter chaos sprawled out beneath them. It was like watching two tides competing. One side would swell and push forward breaking onto a wall of Armour then the second side would return the favor. The sky blackened with arrows that rained down on foe and friend alike. A horse charge from the Crusaders was crushed beneath a barrage of giants with war axes and hammers. Unceasingly the battle continued into the night until dawn came when they finally saw that any Crusader that had not died on the field had turned tail and fled, that is, all but one.
Amberlee knew that he was the one they were sent to retrieve. He stood on the battlefield all alone yet he looked stronger than any army could. Here was a man unlike any she had seen before. Then the giant rose up. She had let out an audible gasp as the man fought and won over the giant, the gasp had received a tight, angry scowl from Alotta but Amberlee did not care, chores would be a simple payment for witnessing such a site.
The rain had started just as they left the last stand of trees of the forest. They sat on a slight rise a road wound across the land beneath them and nothing moved on it in either direction. Amberlee scanned the horizon, her eyes following the road as well as noting small rises, trying to second guess an enemy they had yet to face. They could not sit on top of the rise forever already the rain was soaking into their clothing, she made up her mind. "The road ahead looks safe for now." She said and spurred her horse forward
Lucan of Aldemar looked out across the land as they trotted down the incline to meet the road that would lead them to Zoroa. He had expected some sort of change, a sign that Dolan and the God Barthan now resided here, yet all looked the same. He felt a small sense of disappointment. Gorgaroth the First Son had blessed the land. Barthan the Destroyer took it away yet here there was no sign of destruction. The season of New born would be coming to an end and Sumarlord would be upon them, hot days, and warm lazy nights and all about them life flourished unaware of the changes that a battle over six months ago had started. "So strange that it looks and feels no different than the last time I saw the land." Lucan said looking about.
"The land does not carry all the scars, when we are all gone it will still be here. But if you look closely it has changed some. The animals are not as friendly and the fields will give less harvest at the Reaping you can mark my words on that one." 'This young girl,' Lucan thought 'speaks far wiser than she looks'. Seeing that war had not destroyed his land completely and there was still some hope in setting things right had lightened Lucan's sorrow somewhat, perhaps Gorgaroth had not left the land altogether.
The journey was lonesome, for endless hours they saw no other travelers. At noon they had stopped to eat in a burnt out shell that was once a humble farm house, the partial roof providing small respite from the pouring rain. They discussed holding up for the day in hopes that the morning would bring better travelling conditions but they both agreed that where they currently were did not feel very safe. A few more hours and they would make Zoroa, a far safer and dryer option.
At the crossroads they discovered the three cages. They hung on stout wooden poles at least six feet off the ground. Their contents could be discerned as that of three men only by their actual bulk and outline, their features had been consumed by the ravages of fire. Amberlee crinkled her nose at the smell that even the rain could not dampen entirely and she kept her distance while Lucan had ridden in for a closer look.
The cages were blackened around the bars. "They were burnt alive inside their cages," he called back to Amberlee. Inside the cage the remains sat, no hair remained on the head, the skin had blackened and burnt and in places pulled apart revealing bone and teeth on what was once a face. Clothing and skin had melted together leaving no distinguishing marks. "Beggars perhaps or thieves maybe. Either way this is not a way to punish a man."
The small town of Zoroa was a welcome site at the end of a long days ride. That was until they reached the center. People were quick to shy away from the strangers, conversations halted and suddenly the ground or the stores window became the center of attention. Lucan wanted dry clothes and a bed, but what he wanted more was to see the inside of a church, he had been gone six months and there was much to discuss with Gorgaroth.
The Zoroa Church of Gorgaroth was nothing more than tumbled rock and shattered glass. Here and there a wall or archway still stood, blackened by smoke and fire giving you an after image of what the church possibly looked like in better times. Everyone he called out to ignored him and moved quickly away. They retreated to an inn not far from the church. A bed was hopefully not closed to them.
The Maid's Inn, Zoroa
What life Zoroa had lost outside the inn, inside, it remained bustling. The difference had thrown Lucan at first, laughter and song peeled out from the bar and from tables and booths set in dark corners. Their entrance had made people look up and take note, especially Amberlee, Lucan had noted. All simple curiosity and quickly forgotten as the curious returned to their tales and songs. Lucan hastily made for the bar his disheveled wet clothes forgotten for the time being for the one thought that invaded his mind. His first sip of ale sent waves of pleasure across his body, his face breaking out into a huge grin that took the barman by surprise. "Thirsty?" The barman asked warily. Lucan laughed and downed the jug quickly, banging it twice on the counter for another. It appeared quickly on the counter. Lucan went to thank the barman and caught his words. A woman stood holding the jug. Dark hair, pale skin and ample bosom and rounded hips she smiled at Lucan and walked off to serve another, far louder and drunken customer.
"Isn't she something?" An old man sat next to Lucan said nudging him in the arm with his elbow, "How someone like old Spinks there got a wife like that is anyone's guess," he said nodding his head towards the barman "And they say money doesn't buy you pleasure." He laughed loudly leaving Lucan's right ear ringing. He looked at the fat, red-faced bar man and then at the bar maid, Lucan had a hard time in seeing the attraction he had to admit. "Molly's 'er name sired three children for Old Spinks never knew he had it in 'im. Betting she's had plenty of 'im in 'er though." Another loud laugh and Lucan leaned away.
Amberlee leaned in "Perhaps we can find somewhere a little less noisy." She said disliking the bawdy chat from the start.
"Oswald you best not be upsetting paying customers," Molly had walked over after handing over yet another jug of ale. She put a lot of emphasis on the paying Lucan had noted. "Ignore him if I were you, Oswald has a way of rubbing people up the wrong way sometimes." She gave Lucan a wide smile and glanced briefly at Amberlee registering that she was present but not much else. Lucan smiled back dumbly a little lost for words. "Not much of a talker eh?" The woman called Molly said leaning on the bar her ample cleavage squashed and pushed further up.
"I'm sorry, excuse my manners," Lucan said hoarsely, he coughed and cleared his throat, "When one is met with such beauty words can be hard to come by." How those words came back so easily to his lips. "I am Lucan of Aldemar," the look on Molly's face made him stop, she looked around making sure no one else had heard him even Oswald stared at him as if he had declared himself Ibris God of All.
Molly leant in close, "You should be wise enough not to call out your lands name so freely in these times unless you're after unwanted visitors in the night." She stood up straight again smiling as if nothing had happened.
"I have been out of the lands for awhile and perhaps I have forgotten where I now tread is different than when I was last here." Lucan had been lost in the moment, lost in seducing the woman before him. Molly relaxed her smile now natural again. "Or perhaps it is being blessed with seeing a woman such as you has made me confused." She laughed and shook her head. "I should return to my flagon and perhaps drink my confusion away." He stood up, downing his second jug of ale. He asked for two rooms one for himself and one for his daughter. "We have had a long ride and are in need of a hot baths and dry clothes."
"Perhaps it would be wiser to stay for one more?" Oswald's slurred voice had taken on the air of command. Lucan turned to look at the drunkard and was startled by the transformation before him. Beneath the grey whiskers and heavy brow keen eyes glinted out at him. "There is a booth free just over there, please join us for one more." With his curiosity pricked Lucan followed close behind watching Oswald walk with a drunken gait bumping into people and slurring a hello or a profanity in their direction.
"We should not be doing this. We need rooms not attention." Amberlee hissed at Lucan.
"What we need is information." Lucan retorted.
In the booth neither man spoke as they sat opposite one another. Lucan went to speak first but Oswald shook his head once. After awhile Molly finally joined them, she sat down next to Oswald and placed two jugs of ale on the table before both men. Amberlee crossed her arms, annoyed that a drink for her, though unwanted had not been brought over. "We did not expect to see a Crusader in Zoroa," Molly began, "especially one so stupid to call out his name." Amberlee shifted uncomfortably next to Lucan.
Lucan raised his eyebrows. Both Oswald and Molly had become different people, hard and steely in tongue and looks. "Forgive me then for I was speaking as a suitor would to a lady, not as a Crusader to a spy." Even in the dim light of the booth Lucan could see Molly's cheeks blush red.
"We are not spies, rather renegades. Followers of Gorgaroth still but in these lands that name is a death warrant, we speak it in hushed tones until we can rise once more." Oswald said. "And we are at your disposal Crusader Knight of Aldemar." He finished and bowed his head low almost touching the table top.
"What happened here?" Amberlee asked.
Molly hesitated looking between the two of them before she began the story. She was quick with her words, spilling them out as if she had been storing them for too long. "Fourteen of them carrying King Balestre's banner, one of them was Giant." Lucan felt his heart skip at the mention of a Giant. They had ridden in only a day earlier Molly went on to say "They headed straight for the church. Demanded the priests leave, when they didn't...the Giant went in." Her voice strained at the memory of it.
"Then they took the priests," Oswald continued, "Took them to the crossroads and locked them up in cages. The troop's commander a man called Rosen called them traitors and blasphemers. Then he set them on fire. He laughed as they screamed and prayed for mercy." Even Oswald's eyes had filled with tears. Lucan sat shocked at the story, at the sheer brutality of the Dolan man, he gritted his teeth wanting nothing more than for this Rosen to walk into the bar and be greeted by the sight of a Crusader armed with the wrath of Gorgaroth.