Chapter 3 - Part 2 of Sword of a Saint by Katy Colby
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Sword of a Saint



Chapter 3 - Part 2


November 922 - Rengarth

**One more time.** Michael fixed each of his men with a stern look and repeated his instructions in a tightly focused band of thought. **Adrian and Devin, you secure their stable and keep the horses quiet at all costs. We can sell them later or keep them to replace our own mounts.** Adrian de Courcy and Devin Kendall nodded. **Fergus, you light the roofs of the barracks and officers' quarters. I will hold the doors until they stop struggling.** Fergus nodded also, his expression grim. Michael turned to the two male slaves. Both were swathed in dark wool from head to foot, and armed with wicked daggers. **You two take care of any sentries and stragglers who might be lingering about the yard. If you miss one, you'll beg Allah to put you back on the block in Jaharra.** One slave's eyes crinkled as he nodded. He might have been smiling behind his balaclava, but Michael could not tell. The other lifted his dagger and ran his thumb over the blade, signaling he was ready to do his part. **Any questions?** When there were none, Michael dispelled the wards set about their camp and mounted his stallion. "Let's ride."

They entered the city shortly after Compline. In less time than it had taken to explain, the garrison was taken without resistance. Flames shot into the lightly falling snow. Smoke stained the night sky, blacker than the hovering clouds. Only the snap and crackle of raging fire broke the stillness. Even the horses were silent.

Michael Cameron watched the cluster of buildings burn. The small garrison had claimed allegiance to the king, but their equipment bore the seal of the Archbishop of Valoret. Not that either royal or Episcopal patronage had helped them set a proper watch. It had taken Michael and Fergus barely half their concentration to hold the doors to the soldiers' barracks closed while two of their companions fired the buildings. Only when the roofs and walls began to collapse did they relax their attention. By then Michael was certain all inside were dead.

**Ya Muntaquim! The streets begin to stir.** The mental shout from the youngest of his men brought Michael's attention to the immediate. **We should be gone.**

**Do we have their horses?**

**We do.** Adrian de Courcy gave a mental laugh so bitter it raised bile into Michael's throat. **Let us be gone now that we've sent the devils back to Hell.**

**We go!** Michael broadcast the last thought to all his men. Their replies carried the satisfaction of men at last avenging their own. By the time the townspeople roused themselves from their beds and came to see what was happening Michael's men were well on their way. The tracks they left in the snow were obscured by the feet rushing to aid those who were already dead.

The first fire was attributed to accident. After all, hearths and braziers often threw sparks into thatched roofs. If the building should catch flame from such mischance it was surely the work of God. When, less than a week later, seven knights of the Equis Custodes fell screaming in agony on the steps of Marbury's cathedral the whispers began. The knights died as they were leaving the Mass, collapsing one by one, choking on their own blood. All expired before the bishop could rush from the vestry to administer the final rites to speed their souls on their way. Worse, before the astonished eyes of the watching townsfolk, the knights' faces turned deathly black as they lay, before their breath ceased.

Michael watched the spreading terror from a quiet corner of the cathedral's yard. Townsfolk shrieked, children cried, neighbors recoiled from friends who had been splattered by the blood the dying Custodes spewed from their noses and mouths. Some, fearing contamination through contact, hurled stones at any who bore traces of blood on their skin and clothing. Many lay in the muddy street, knocked senseless or trampled in the panicked crush.

Now let the humans rush about with book and candle. Such a simple thing, to open tiny blood vessels beneath the skin and turn his victim's faces black. So much confusion and panic came from it. The Equis Custodes would carry the mark of damnation with them to their graves, despite all the bishop and his priests could do. Let those in power tremble. He would bring them to their knees, teach them the meanings of loss and pain. And he was enjoying the beginnings of his task immensely.





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