Pro. Ch. 6
April 10, 1563
A cloaked figure sat at the edge of a clearing in the woods. Except for the nervous shuffling of his men around him, it was silent. As if anticipating what was to come, all the usual night animals and insects had ceased to converse. The figure scowled into the darkness. That would make it harder for him and his men to accomplish the mission. Even if it wasn't very likely that some one would notice the slight, trained noises of the band, it was always a possibility. And this cloaked man never overlooked possibilities.
Just then another shrouded figure sidled up to his leader. It was the spy he had sent out. He excelled in his specialty, able to easily pick up irrelevant information from casual conversations and store it away for future use. He could mimic a dozen accents and dialects, speak six languages fluently and impersonate a man after five minutes of careful observation. All this made him invaluable to the cloaked figure's plans. The spy's one downfall was his unbelievable dedication to the church. He claimed that his hands were stained enough with blood, so he might as well try repenting it now.
"Sir," he whispered in their native language; Spanish. "All lights in the servant's quarters have gone out. We are ready to proceed with operations."
"Very good," he replied, also almost inaudible. He then stood up, scanning his troop and drawing the eyes of all his men. "Saddle up. This mission is now underway." He whispered harshly, loud enough to be heard by them. He then leapt astride his own black stallion. The horse was known to bite anyone except his master and could only be cared for or ridden by him.
The cloaked figure watched with mild satisfaction the silent, efficient way all the details that had been drummed into these fool's heads for the past few weeks were being carried out so smoothly. They got into formation, having donned their costumes. With a small smirk the cloaked figure took the lead and they started quietly down the wide dirt path, the esteemed spy on his right.
Just as they reached the turn in the path that lead to their destination he raised his hand in the sign to halt. The company came to an abrupt stop and, without being told, shed their black outer coverings. They also began lighting torches and unfolding their horses' stolen blankets and adornments.
The leader, too, dramatically discarded his trademark cloak to reveal a handsome young man with brown hair neatly trimmed to his ears and eyes that gleamed with malice. The man could have cared less about his position as the King's top assassin. He took great pride in his skill and was constantly going over previous missions to point out little mistakes and details that could have gone faster or smoother or even classier. He was a perfectionist but had no principals and very few morals, indiscriminately working for the person who gave him the most interesting work.
He hadn't always been this cold, or so they said. He had had a wife, a cunning woman of great beauty often used in his business as a seductress. She had been kind to whomever had been in her husband's band at the time, though, helping many shaken souls and keeping many men loyal to her spouse. She was the only one who could open him up. He had not been at all pleased when she had gotten pregnant, quite disgusted actually, that she was put out of action for months. When she died giving birth to his son her last request was that he looked after the baby for her. He grieved in silence and his already cold exterior turned to stone, even around his son who was given to a wet nurse after birth until the time the boy could be weaned and no longer needed a mother's milk. Also until Odin could find a moment to go home to Spain to retrieve the infant, which could be an intentionally extended period of time.
The spy waited in the solitude of the night until those light brown eyes deemed his troop ready for the task at hand. He spoke only once to the bitter man beside him. "Odin, are we to kill all members of the household, even the children?"
Odin didn't even look at him, giving him a blunt, foreboding "yes". The spy shuddered. The man truly didn't have a conscience. Although his own son was only eleven months old he was still going to kill those babies with no remorse. Or maybe that was why he could do it, after all he might blame his child for the death of his lovely wife and since his word bound him to care for the boy he couldn't harm or abandon him permanently.
Odin gave the gesture for 'move out' and the band started forward, this time much louder, with the horses no longer masking their hoof beats as they had been brought up and trained to do.
They galloped down the path toward the well-kept stone house. A broom and an abandoned apron still lay in the doorway as the chaos inevitably started. The spy cringed as he thought of Odin Lowe's plan, which was being smoothly carried out.
As directed the spy dismounted and ran with some other men to the main entrance. The other men started pounding on the door, breaking it down. Behind him he heard terrified farm animals screaming and saw horsemen tossing some of the torches on bales of hay and the barn. The dry wood immediately caught the flames, the fire lighting the tragic scene.
Bang! The door crashed open and his attention was once more on the matter at hand. The screams of women, most likely servants, were heard toward the back of the house. Some of the men with him went in that direction. Three came with the spy upstairs to the sleeping quarters.
He put on his hard mask of indifference and froze his heart and mind temporarily so he could carry out his orders without becoming sick. The door to the lord of the estate's room was just opening revealing an obviously frightened but determined young woman followed by her husband.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, taking in the colors of the French army with considerable confusion.
"Orders of the King." the spy replied emotionlessly and affecting a perfect French accent, gesturing to the men beside him. They stepped forward, swords drawn.
He watched as the couple's eyes widened in fear. The beautiful lady brought her hands to her lips to muffle a scream as the men bore down on them. The man watched helplessly, not having or seeing a weapon with which to defend his family. He had no where to run so he instinctively embraced his beloved and backed up against the wall, twisting around so he protected her with his body.
The first rogue lifted his sword, gleaming dully in the poor lighting of the hall. This time the woman, her violet eyes tearing in shock and sorrow, didn't hold back. She screamed in agony as her husband's body fell against her, blood staining her hands as she tried vainly to hold him upright. The spy knew the sword had yet to touch her, she was screaming from the inner pain. Weighed down by the body she wouldn't let go of, she sank to the flagstones. She turned her anguished gaze from the man with the sword, now dripping with her husband's blood, to the spy himself. Seeing no remorse or even a hint of pity, she buried her face into her spouse's thick golden hair as the sword was raised once more. She didn't sob or beg like many the spy had witnessed. No, this woman was stronger. She clung to the man whom she would be joining shortly, her slim body tense and expecting the blow that killed her.
Now the girl collapsed in death upon her beloved's body, their blood mingling in a spreading pool on the floor. The spy turned away from the nauseating sight with calm detachment and proceeded down the hall to his left, motioning for the other men to continue downstairs, looking for hiding survivors.
Down this hall, he knew, was the nursery. He could hear the babies crying. With all the noise, he wasn't surprised. He reached the room and pushed open the door, planning to just slit the kids' throats. Easy.
The one he saw first was pink from crying, tears coming out of his amber eyes, and was howling in fright. He came to a standstill. The other boy was standing up in his crib, hands on the bars to support his stubby little legs. He was gazing at the spy in much the same manner his mother had, with her eyes and all. Silent tears streamed down his face but he did not cry out.
The spy lost all resolve and his cold demeanor slipped. These were innocent children. He just couldn't kill them. Thinking fast, he grabbed the noisy boy since he didn't unnerve him as much as the other one. Shocked by the contact, the baby looked at the man tearfully as he was tightly wrapped in a blanket. The spy quickly did the same to the other boy, encountering no resistance from either of them. He picked them up roughly, clutching them together against his stomach and bending over, letting his embroidered cloak fall over them. They were heavy and the spy was huffing by the time he got downstairs, ignoring the dead bodies on the way.
Seeing a man coming toward him for orders, he turned around so the boys couldn't be seen and called harshly over his shoulder, "All clear, burn the place! Now!"
The man saluted and spun on his heal to go back the way he came, relaying the orders. Now all the spy had to do was get out of here. But where?
Ah. The church they had passed on the way. Of course. He was known to ride away from the group after one of the massacres and was never questioned, for all knew he had been to the nearest religious facility to try vainly to purge himself of his recent sins.
He quickly grabbed a mount from those standing in the center of the fray. They had been trained not to run when riderless but their eyes were rolling in fear just the same. The fire and shouts were most definitely unsettling.
The house was now starting to burn at the hands of the raiders who were yelling all the time that it was orders from the King, incase someone escaped and started talking.
Carefully mounting, he dug his heals into the all too willing horse and galloped back up the now ravaged dirt road. He held the scared children to him tightly as the jarring movements upset them enough to send the one howling again. The other must be in shock, he realized. They must have seen their parents' corpses he knew, but he didn't think they would make the connection or understand that the blood soaking the bodied meant the couple was dead. This one evidently did comprehend this.
Soon he had no time to muse about this. He arrived at the large church about twenty minutes after starting out and leapt off the mare, mindful of the twins in his arms. He raced up the steps and set the two down carefully on the wooden porch. He did a double take for a moment when he noticed something shining in the moonlight around the youngest's (who had quieted) neck. A cross. Now the spy was certain he was doing the right thing. He beat the door with his fists desperately.
A light went on inside and the carved door opened to reveal the disheveled priest, looking quite flustered. "Yes, my child, what seems to be the problem?" The man's kind eyes looked worried.
The spy hurriedly gestured to the kids and turned around, running as fast as he could to his horse before any awkward questions could be asked. He galloped back to his troop with one backward glance.
A nun wearing a hastily donned hood that did not mask her blonde hair properly had joined the elderly priest on the steps and was picking up the violet-eyed boy in tender confusion. The priest watched him go but the young man could no longer see his expression.
Shit! He had forgotten to remove his French army costume! That's what the priest had been staring at. 'Oh, well, too late now,' he thought. And he rode back to his people, the Maxwell Church growing more and more distant behind him.
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1.1 Well? I won't be posting for a few weeks: first, because I have finals and then family stuff coming up and second because I'm a lazy-ass and haven't written anything else yet. I was going to start with the actual fic next but I think the next few chapters will be following the characters as they grow up. My traitorous mind just keeps thinking up new twists that can not be achieved without remaining in their pasts a little longer. I also want to thank everyone who's reviewed so far; I'm more amazed at the people that have reviewed than the number. Thanx!