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Praying the Devil Back to Hell
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Connar Valdor
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:46 pm    Post subject: Praying the Devil Back to Hell Reply with quote

Connar stepped from the inky black of a Rhydin night into the hazy cold of a medieval winter morning. The heavy white tunic of a Templar Knight covered his chainmaille armor, and he carried about him the weapons of the day; a crusader's sword and dagger. He had long since severed ties with the Templar order. Even though it was still in its relative infancy, he could sense that the order meant to protect pilgrims and the defenseless was drifting towards other motives. This, however, was the only clothing he owned that would identify him among the Council gathering.

He had labored in France since the time of Charlemagne, the pair forming the Sword and Hammer of the Holy Roman Empire. But as power shifted from kings to popes, from the people to the religious hierarchy, Connar drifted into disfavor, and had to carry out his mission under the cover of the shadows from Rome.

He nudged the horse to the city’s edge, riding in the relative quiet of the early morning. His breath hung in the crisp, biting air, the ground covered in a fresh dusting of snow. As he cleared the tree-line road, the grand cathedral rose like a gray mountain in the center of the town, ominous and looming.

Connar lowered himself from the horse’s saddle, choosing to walk the remainder of the distance over the cobblestone lane leading to the cathedral gates. The sound of his boots against the smooth worn stones reminded him of other streets in a distant realm, of promises made, of lives touched.

As he neared the gates, guards called out to him, bidding him halt. Connar knew they had been awaiting his arrival, and he knew the routine. He stopped in place, raising his arms to the side, his palms turned upward. The guards rushed in, one poised with a crossbow aimed at Connar’s chest, while others relieved him of his horse and his weapons. But it wasn’t his sword the Council feared as much as it was his words and the fiery indignation of a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

The soldiers stood of either side of him as he was escorted through the gates and into the courtyard. More guards and people stirred, the large courtyard coming slowly to life, a city unto itself. Peasants who were there of their own accord, or compelled to be there by holy order, were awakening from a cold night huddled on the ground, groups of them by the tens and tens upon tens, as if the gated cathedral keep had become an outdoor dungeon. Connar looked upon the dirty, scared faces as he walked past them, feeling their hurt, sensing their fears. It was for these, and the hundreds like them that he came, that he continued to walk in a darkening world that seemed to be without hope.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 11:10 pm    Post subject: A Plague of a Different Sort Reply with quote

“Tell me, Valdor,” the pontiff began as he paced the floor as he spoke, “Is this plague of vampires that run our streets red with blood the fulfilling of the vision spoken of by John the Revelator?” The heavy-set man was clad in neatly pressed ivory robes and crimson beads, the high collar constricting tightly around his pudgy neck. He stood before Connar, large drops of sweat running down the sides of his cheeks. The council was beginning its third hour in the confines of the grand cathedral’s great hall. Torches strained to light the room against the dark wood and towering walls. The sun had yet to break the gray, hazy morning sky, adding to the general gloomy mood of the gathering.

Connar stood before the rest of the seated council, his hands tied behind his back, the rough cords biting into his wrists and palms. The ruling clergy deemed it fit justice having charged Connar with heresy three times within the first hour of the council’s convening. He imagined that if the tightening of the heavy ropes did not get the responses they were seeking, they might try other means to soften his testimony.

“Non...tis a plague of a different sort...not of this world, “ Connar began with a shake of his head, his eyes diverted to the well-worn wooden floor before raising his gaze to those gathered. “There are no amounts of exorcisms, tortures or rites that ye can perform to overcome this evil. Ye cannot pray this devil back to hell.”

“Blasphemy!” cried one of the clergy in the raised gallery, as he pointed an accusatory finger at Connar. With one look a guard was sent over to deliver a blow to the captive’s midsection with the blunt end of a pike. “Ye underestimate God’s power on earth!” the now enraged man exclaimed before angrily retaking his seat in the high-back chair.

Connar raised his eyes to him, drawing himself up and taking a gasping breath, “Tis not God’s power I question, but those who claim to wield it.” He knew it was coming, the second blow not having nearly the same impact as the first.

“Enough. Enough!” the large pontiff bellowed as he stepped between the guard and Connar. “This is getting us nowhere.” He used a bit of cloth to wipe the sweat from his brow and rose-tinted cheeks. “The Valdor’s reputation proceeds him. None should be surprised by his unbridled tongue and arrogance by now. Control yourselves!”

Another of the clergy rose to feet, bedecked in red robes and neatly coiffed hair, one of the many palace clergy sent to exert influence over the few thrones dotting the land. “This man is in league with the devil himself. It is a mockery to even include his vile tongue in these proceedings,” he hissed, looking directly at Connar. “We should send him back to the fiery pit from whence he came.”

Connar could only shake his head, the smirk returning to his lips, which soon caught the attention of the pontiff. “This amuses ye, Valdor? Do ye not believe in Hell?”

He looked at the pontiff standing before him, reading his gaze, trying to judge whether responding to the question was going to earn him more pummeling. He looked up to gallery of clergy, anger on some faces, indignation on others. But there were a few friendly faces in the gathering as well those with whom Connar had served in the not-so-distant past. It was for these that he chose to answer.

“The Hell ye imagine is nothing more than wives tales and fodder made to frighten children and the simple minded into compliance. The fiery pit that ye speak of does not exist.”

The room erupted in clamoring shouts for the blasphemer to be put to death, for his remains to be scattered from one end of the city to the other. It took several minutes for the lead pontiff to restore order, bringing a new wave of sweat to his meaty face. It took several more minutes to stop the guards from their assault on the prisoner.

Connar was roughly helped back to his feet, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth. The pontiff growled angrily at the guards holding their captive by the arms, “The next one of ye to strike this prisoner will find his head on a pike. Understood?” He looked from one guard to the next, the two large men lowered their head and nodded in unison. “Good. Now maybe we can proceed in more civil fashion,” his last words delivered directly to Connar. It was an invitation and a warning for Connar to choose his words wisely.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:38 am    Post subject: The Calm Before the Storm Reply with quote

A recess was called so that bellies could filled and rising tempers allowed to settle. Connar was left alone in an adjoining chamber to the great hall. The room was dark save for the tiny bit of light straining to seep through a narrow slit of a window cut in the nearly meter-thick wall. In the stillness his mind drifted back to Rhydin, how that city, in many respects, mirrored his world...and yet, it was so vastly different. More tolerance, more compassion, more searching for understanding. There, in many respects, he probably appeared to be the standard bearer of intolerance and pride - something he would have to work on, if given the chance.

After a long while he could hear voices reconvening in the hall. The merits of Connar’s purpose at the council was being angrily debated. There were other matters at hand equally pressing as pertaining to another reformation of the doctrine. While this room only represented the outer fringes of the ruling authority, he could hear in their words, in their desire for absolute power and control, a trend that would only extend the reign of darkness and ignorance upon the face of the land.

Connar knew there had to be a falling away...that truth would be mired in the whims and will of men seeking to line their own coffers and extend their control over the people. He had seen glimpses of it in dreams and read it upon the ancient scrolls. More fractions, more wars, great protestations for truth would only end in increased bloodshed and tears. The blood spilt by the vampire hoard paled in comparison.

Hours passed and the debate waged on. The accusations of his being one of Satan’s disciples were raised again as he had allegedly emerged from the battle of Montesoire* unscathed. The word of the bloodshed at Montesoire only served to strengthen the resolve of many more monasteries and friars to unite against the absolute power being exerted from Rome. The attempt to quell one small faction only added more voices to the choir.




*The story Montesoire can be found here: http://rdi.dragonsmark.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8657
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:50 am    Post subject: Misery Loves Company Reply with quote

At long last, the heavy iron lock in the large oak door was turned, and Connar was pulled back into the grand hall, squinting his eyes and turning his head against the blaze of lights and candles now in the room. As his eyes adjusted he looked up to the gallery, hoping to see calmer countenances. What he saw was the fire of indignation. He noted that there were fewer clergy than before, any allies he might have once had in the room, had been purged from the gathering.

The pontiff was pacing the room once more, circling the spot where Connar stood, contemplating the Council’s next move, his fingers interlaced and resting atop the roll of his white-robed stomach. The setting sun cast long shadows through the windows and across the floor, seemingly illuminating the area surrounding the Council’s bound guest.

After circling in silence for what seemed an eternity, the pontiff stood before the gallery and turned to look at Connar, having decided that the proceedings would now continue.

“I have but a few questions for ye, Valdor. Answer them to our satisfaction, and ye will be free to go on your way,” the pontiff articulated very carefully.

Connar did not respond in word, but simply gave a single nod of his head to invite the pontiff to continue.

The pontiff cleared his throat, his hand coming to rest on the ornate railing that separated the gallery of clergy from the area were he and Connar were standing. “We seek to understand why ye and a select few of the friars cannot support the doctrines that come from these peaceable councils and proceedings, and how it is that ye come think ye understand God’s will better than we.” The last statement coming as a direct challenge.

Silence punctuated the question before his voice rose in response. “Ye have the all the writings before ye, a vast library...a literal biblia, yet ye comprehend them not,” Connar began, looking from one clergy to the next, his words delivered slow and deliberate. “And when the writ ceases to serve your purpose, ye have it altered to fall into agreement. Tis hardly the work of inspired men.”

Angry murmurs seethed across the gallery, yet, miraculously none raised their voice in protest. The pontiff must have reached an agreement with the council as well which now directed their behavior.

The pontiff nodded, retaking his pace before the gallery once more, his hands now clasped behind his back. “Very well, Valdor. Ye have stated your position clearly enough.”

He gestured with a wide sweep of his arm toward the gallery, “If ye will, please explain to the Council how ye think anyone can teach the people about heaven if there be, as ye claim, no hell.”

Connar drew in a breath, squaring his shoulders to the gallery, ignoring the throbbing pain coming from his bound writs and hands. His voice carried steady, his gaze piercing as he spoke, “Ye have the scriptures right before ye, wherein do ye lack understanding? Do ye honestly believe that God would create a being with hooved foot and horned head and allow it power and dominion on His very footstool?”

He approached the gallery, to better look into their eyes, “Lucipher, a son of the morning, having fallen from God’s presence, strives to make man miserable like unto himself. And how does he accomplish that?” Connar paused, giving the Council time to reflect upon his question before it was answered. “He does it by striving to separate man from God. Misery truly does love company. He has no flesh, nor blood...tis through us that Lucipher works his evil.”

His voice was rising, not in anger but as a voice too long held silent, “When ye torture the innocent, enslave the meek...when ye seek to satisfy your own appetites and pleasures at the expense of others, tis then that ye become Satan’s handmaidens...tis then that ye give your flesh to a different Master.”

Whatever promises of decorum the Council had promised broke loose like a great wave crashing upon the sea shore. Connar was dragged away from the thrashing gallery by the guards as the pontiff pounded his fist on the railing, shouting above the other cries of anger, trying restore a semblance of order.

As the room eventually quieted once more, Connar did not wait for any more questions before speaking. He called out those gathered within the great hall, making his intentions clear, “I will work until the end of my days to rid the land of this fanged plague and evil seeping into the shadows of our world. God will decide my fate and hour of my final passing. By your words and actions, ye can make of me an ally...or enemy unlike any ye have ever known.”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:49 am    Post subject: The Sound of Distant Howling Reply with quote

Connar was shoved off the horse...hands still tied behind his back as his body crashed to the snow-covered ground. He spat dirt and mud from his mouth as he rolled to look up at the guards on horseback, their silhouettes cutting a hard line against the dark curtain of stairs and trees behind them.

The hooves of the prodding horses came close to trampling Connar as tried to sit up. One of the guards carrying a torch spurred his horse forward, knocking Connar onto his back, as another guard barked out their intentions.

“Try surviving the night in these woods with hungry wolves on the prowl and then ye will learn a little about hell, Valdor.”

Connar shouldn't have been surprised by the turn of events, but the look on his face must have said otherwise. At least the Council had kept their promise. The guard circled his horse once more around Connar, as he spoke, “They only told us to set ye loose, they never said anything about undoing your bindings...” The last statement eliciting laughter from the other guards as they galloped out of the thick woods, leaving Connar alone in the darkness to the sound of distant howling.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 2:26 am    Post subject: From Out of the Ashes Reply with quote

"The Watchers were the sons of god (Genesis 6) sent from heaven to instruct the children of men; they fell after they descended to earth and cohabited with the daughters of men - for which act they were condemned and became fallen angels. But not all Watchers descended: those that remained are the holy Watchers of the Valiant order of God."
- A Dictionary of Angels



* * * * *

The charred remains of the monastery at Montesoire rose like blackened fingers from the scarred earth, reaching heavenward for relief but finding none. Connar walked across the battlefield, the putrid stench of rotting flesh pushed up toward his face with every step. Shattered skulls and lifeless faces stared up at him, not all the bodies had been picked clean by the birds and predators. Blood, that once stood as crimson pools upon the ground had turned dark and stained the earth. He wondered how much of that blood was his own.

The questions asked of Eva and Eless by Melantha and her companion, Artsblood, returned him to Montesoire. Never in all his days and nights spend in Rhydin did he ever think he would hear talk of the Book of Enoch and the Watchers. There was no doubt that whatever version of the tales were had in Rhydin came from Connar’s future, dug up and assembled piece by piece by time distanced historians. The once simple truths had been twisted into fantasy by the passage of time and the imaginations of men.

Connar walked slowly across the deserted monastery grounds, hoping beyond hope that a few books and scrolls remained hidden, protected from the fires and destruction. He pushed the blackened timbers aside, looking for the large stone covering a concealed stairway, his hands and face becoming increasingly smudged with ash and soot with the labor. Timber and frame were shoved aside until he reached the large, flat stones underneath.

As he strained at the heavy capstone, the air inside suddenly escaped like a hissing volcano, the extreme heat from the fire had heated the air underneath, and now it finally had its escape. He lit a torch and descended the narrow stairway, stepping past the robbed bodies of two monks who had remained behind to protect the secret library and had perished in a stone-walled oven.

He knew the records which he sought rather well. Connar had carried them from one protective sanctuary to another over the centuries. During the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the sacred writings of Enoch and the Watchers had been destroyed, “for none could be greater than Caesar.”

With the rise of Papal power and influence, Rome, too, had cause for the writings to be done away with. But the stories and legends were well known and their absence from the religious scrolls of the day would have been noticed. The legends were rewritten, altered - slowly, subtly, in such a way that, over time, no one noticed.

Under the flickering torchlight, Connar looked over the two tomes, one a scroll, the other a bound book. The former written by the hand of Enoch himself on a plain, faded surface, the other a beautifully transcribed manuscript, inked with brilliant colors, elaborate illustrations, and the tiny insignia of the monk responsible for the work. By altering just a few words and deleting others, the simple doctrine taught by Enoch had been transformed into a tale of fallen angels, sins against god, and giant men who spread plagues and famine across the land.

Connar did not know why Piper’s father might be stirring tales older than the earth itself, nor from whence came the deacon's power and influence over his daughter. Connar knew the truth...not from having read it on the ink-stained page, but from having lived it over the centuries as a Son of Enoch, one of the Valdors, the Watchers of Righteousness.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love and hate are hollow emotions if there is no price to be paid for experiencing either of them


The day's first light greeted his eyes like a splash of cold water. Too many late nights at the inn...even later nights spent chasing shadows. The blackened remains of a nameless family yet smoldered in the cold morning air, melted to the place where they had been left to burn. They were victims of superstition, of fear, of religious fanaticism run amok.

He leaned his back to the wall behind him, head hung low within the heavy hooded cloak. Connar had arrived too late to intervene - yet again. The veil of darkness was spreading faster... accelerated by some unseen force. The plague of vampires notwithstanding, it seemed to take little to cause reasonable people into doing the unthinkable. Connar no longer knew what to pray for anymore nor for whom.

It hurt to be here...his realm, his time and it equally pained him at times to be there...Rhydin's realm and time. The shadows of both lands darkened the paths upon which he tread. Pain and sorrow with just enough hope and love sprinkled in to keep him coming back. Though the last exchange with Piper and Tara had him asking the same questions of himself again - age-old questions, the answers to which never seemed to come easily if at all.

A piece of blue silk passed through his fingers - a gift, a reminder of the hope that yet existed in his life. He raised his head, looking out over the small hamlet...peaceful and quiet in the early of morning, and yet the charred remains smoldering at his feet told the true story. The truth always lay just below the surface, just under to shiny veneer. He couldn't help but think that this was just a foreshadowing of events to come.

He didn't know whether he could help Piper, Eless...Rhydin, nor whether his attempts to do so only caused more harm than good, but he couldn't change who he was nor stay the tears that fell for the innocent, no conceal the rage at evil's hypocrisy.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:10 am    Post subject: Life among the undead Reply with quote

I walked with a vampire...a notion as distant and foreign as touching fire and not getting burned.

Connar looked out over the city of Rhydin in the quiet still of the cold morning, concealed within the heavy gray of a hooded cloak, a steady breeze pushing the veil of clouds along their skyward journey.

The stroll the prior eve in the tavern with Tara had him questioning certain aspects of his life, of his purpose, his prejudices. In his world and time, he hunted vampires and became hunted in turn. They ran like rabid beasts, spreading death in their silent wake. It wasn’t hatred nor fear that drove him to stand vigil in the darkness - it was no different than speaking out against the injustices forced upon the weak, the simple, the defenseless. He could not stand idly by and let an aberration of nature run its perverted course.

Yet not all those who turned to drinking blood were evil just because they were vampires - like Victor and Tara. Some maintained a level of humanity, of civility...even goodness. But then others took the powers of the undead and darkness to new levels of corruption and tyranny.

It was not unlike power in his own world. In the hands of the just, wealth and power were tools to lift others, while in the hands of those already turned evil by greed, wealth and power corrupted them even more, making them darker, sinister, less human. Perhaps it was the same with vampires.

But it wasn’t the notion of vampires and demonic beasts that kept him restless. Connar’s biggest struggle lay deep inside himself. For century upon century there was only black and white, good and evil. He never had to question his actions, his motives, nor to which side of the line he would stand. Yet, let him pass through a portal, step into another realm, and all was turned upside down. There was no black, no white...only a sea of grayness...where goodness was laughed upon and ridiculed while darkness and the power it afforded were accepted, lauded, condoned.

The irony and hypocrisy ate away at him every moment there. How a gathering of people could raise their voices and their might against evil one night and then sit idly by, chatting and drinking while that same darkness sits calmly in their very company, drinking, laughing, and scheming. It made he wonder what he might do if he ever came face to face with Piper’s father.

He knew Eless could see that inner struggle in his gaze. He knew others felt it from his scathing words. Trying to remain standing with a foot in both worlds was tearing him asunder. It was only a matter of time before one of the worlds would emerge the victor.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:27 pm    Post subject: Into the Mouth of the Unknown Reply with quote

It hasn't always been this way, there were brighter days before the darkness came stealing away that which was precious, leaving my soul wrapped in chains of silent anguish. My heart and my life were healed a thousand times at her touch, but now the healing is gone.

I walk among the dead, fighting the anger and the voices in my head, hoping no one hears my cries of anguish in the night.

What are these chains holding me...why do I yet linger here? There is none left wherein hope might yet reside. Not even sharpened steel can set me free from these chains that bind.

Morning breaks another day and finds me standing in the rain, all alone with the demons. The dark ones plot their growing evil, tugging at the chains, their grip on the city growing ever tighter.

I don't want to live to waste another day underneath the shadows, feeling as though I am breaking inside. I fear I might fall, succumb to the warm caress of this world and lose it all.

There is nothing out here and yet nothing is clear - except the knowledge that I must move on, fight the fire ignited by fear and fueled by darker passions.

Tis hard coming back while I yet carry hopes of the past...a past that cannot be erased, nor forgotten.

Perhaps tis where I should go, straight into the mouth of the unknown.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

King Richard I, the Duke of Normandy, and the man better known as Lionheart, had a striking presence. He was tall, handsome, of large build - a stark contrast to the pale, sickly people that he led. He conquered enemies as often with his charm as he did his mighty force. And, like most kings of his era, he had a darker, malicious side - ever jealous of his throne, his lands, and his rule.

The council that was now gathering on the eve before the army would set march once more for the Holy Land, talked and mingled as if they were celebrating a forgotten anniversary. Distant from their minds, or so it seemed, were thoughts of war, blood and the fiercesome army of Saladin.

Polite talk bantered about the large hall, eyes drifting ever so often to look upon one of Richard’s more newly knighted - a man who kept mostly to himself. Long, black hair framed sun-darkened skin and hazel eyes that seemed to be set upon brooding.

His family was a known entity in the land, his great grandfather having fought alongside William the Conqueror in the battles with England - the Sword and the Hammer of France. But even in the same breath those stories were told, there were hushed whispers about the Valdor family, the mysterious coming and goings, their presence almost always associated with demons and darkness. Even at this place and time, Connar was held in high regard in some circles, yet hunted and despised in others.

The evening progressed on schedule. Plans were laid out, assignments given, captains giving their instructions, until, one by one, the knights parted, the soldiers set on their way to tend to their specific duties, leaving Richard and Connar alone in the chamber.

Richard’s voice boomed and echoed off the cold stone walls as he paced the room, “I know ye sent word to Saladin of our coming, Connar. What say ye?”

Connar raised his gaze to look upon the King, his voice low and calm, “I did not give any word to Saladin that he wouldn’t already know by now, sire.” Connar paused, looking at Richard who stood before him now. “I told him ye were coming...and that I would not be with your army...nor his.”

The King was doing his best to bridle the rising anger in his voice as he stared eye to eye with the defiant knight. “Ye are in no position to deny me your service, Sir Connar. As a knight ye are compelled to defend your King and his interests, whatever and wherever they may be.”

Connar’s palms rested upon the steel hilts at his side, a relaxed pose, but one that also afforded him ready access to his weapons. His brows narrowed as he chided Richard, “This isn’t like the other crusades, and ye know it at your core. Your army is mostly made of mercenaries...men paid to go to battle. Greed powers their steps. Your pride drives them forward. They will corrupt every land they cross, taking no thought about the lives they trample under their feet. God will not be with ye...nor will I.”

Color raced to the King’s cheeks, nostrils flaring as he drew in deep breaths and pushed his crested chest against the outspoken knight, “Ye will either draw your sword in battle or draw your remaining breaths in chains. The choice is yours.”
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2009 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Men make prisons and chains of the choices they make, the lies they spread and by the lives they destroy.

The disappearance of the Valdor from his chains and cell seemed now to be but a minor nuisance to the ruler known as Lion Heart. King Richard and his army of knights and crusaders were yet weeks from arriving in the Holy Land, but those set upon lining their purses and satisfying depraved appetites had already had several opportunities to indulge. Their small victories in hapless italian hamlets only served to fire their lust for more. Though not encouraged by the King, his silence seemed to condone the lootings, "they were but soldiers, apres tout," he would tell himself.

The army kept to the coastline, moving slowly southward. Small bands of soldiers would break out during the night from camp, descending into the small fishing villages, seeking out any who were not of the faith or, as was more oft the case, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before dawn, the brigands would return to camp, their bellies fattened, their purses full, and their base cravings quenched for a spell.

The knights and soldiers awoke to a cold morning's frost, as they had every morning since undertaking this third Crusade. Meals were prepared and eaten, tents were pulled down, and fires left to smolder and die. The first sign that this morning was unlike any other appeared as a lone tent, yet standing where all others had been removed. Either the soldiers were still sleeping or they had not returned to camp after a long night's carousing. In either event, the captains would see that the offending soldiers would be punished accordingly.

A quick inspection revealed that the tent was empty, the bedding undisturbed. Orders were called out, the tent taken down and stowed away - the soldiers would spend the next night without such luxuries. When the soldiers failed to return, others were dispatched into the nearby town to fetch them. Unless they had deserted, they would be easy to find. The search was short, for as the men reached the edge of town, there, lashed to a large barren tree were three soldiers, their clothing in tatters, blood streaking their skin, their bodies hanging lifeless and cold.

A parchment was returned to King Richard, the page stained red, as it had been secured onto one of the soldier's chests by his own dagger. As the King's squire read the note aloud, Richard's features tightened, his brow knitting angrily together as he lifted his eyes to the horizon, one more enemy to add to the crusade.

These men, whom ye call crusaders, were found raping a young girl, taking from her that which is most precious above all. As your silence has spoken louder than words, I shall dog your heels, striking from the shadows, bringing down any who do works of evil against the very people ye were meant to serve and protect. It pains me to do so, Sire, but I would rather be a traitor to an errant throne than to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the innocent, for their tears shall be thy downfall.

~ Connar Valdor ~

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Connar Valdor
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cold winter rain fell from the sky like icy needles, stinging the exposed flesh, streaking it in thin crimson rivulets of blood and water. Connar raised his eyes from the carnage at his feet; mangled flesh of the once high and mighty now laid low. His warning to the crusading army not only going unheeded, but serving to fuel the rage within the knights and soldiers.

A bounty had been placed on the Valdor’s head - the hunter had become the hunted. Not only was the army seeking him out of the shadows, but in every new town and hamlet along the route, desperate mercenaries and greedy thrill-seekers had been enlisted in the cause on the promise of a handsome reward from the hand of a king.

The rain, though chilling to the bone, afforded him the opportunity to clean his wounds and wash the blood and grime from his garments. The falling water was also his temporary respite from his darkened world. As he closed his eyes, bowing his head in nature’s shower, his mind drifted back to simpler days, to precious moments of peace, warmth and rest, to silken fabrics and soft perfumes.

Connar had stayed away from the Rhydinian realm and Inn for many days. Portals were growing harder to find, and he wasn’t free to openly search for them. Moreover, his growing wounds and scars were more difficult to conceal. He knew those he cared for most would certainly feel the weight of the fatigue and despair of battle he carried with him.

The loud crack of thunder, like a dragon’s roar, lifted his gaze skyward as the early morning sun strained to break the stormy night’s grip on the horizon. Connar was hungry, tired, and cold - his all-too-familiar traveling companions. As the landscape continued to narrow toward the coastline, he was running out of places to hide.

The army would soon take to the sea for the last leg on their journey to the Holy Land. If Richard and his captains stayed true to form, they would see port as their best chance to trap their prey - assuming the Valdor was foolish enough to continue his solo siege of the army upon the turbulent waters of the Mediterranean.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 11:18 pm    Post subject: Like a searing ember... Reply with quote

“Shadows conceal what they will, but light reveals all.”

“What seek ye among the dead, Valdor?”the woman’s raspy voice called from a darkened, tattered storefront. Connar slowed his steps, peering at the woman gathered within the doorway. The elderly woman addressing him had long, gray hair falling in messy curls at her shoulders, like a wiry vine, her round face carved with deep lines and wrinkles. Her pudgy finger pointed at the traveling warrior could not hide the knotted bones lurking underneath the skin. Her gypsy dress, once colorful, was, like the woman, faded with time and wear.

Connar’s hesitation was the only invitation the woman needed to continue her pitch. “Come closer, friend, and we shall tell ye all ye seek to know - every mystery revealed,” her voice raking over the words like dry wood dragged along the cobblestones.

“There is naught that ye can tell me that I do not already know, woman.” Connar’s voice was low, sullen. Though he had never seen the woman before, he recognized the voices. “I know the source of your knowledge and it holds no value to me.”

The woman cackled, pulling her round, sagging body off the doorframe. “Aye, the self-righteous Hammer of God, we know ye all too well,” the woman sneered as she stepped out onto the street, “but ye have fallen from grace of late, have ye not?”

Connar addressed the source, not the shell from which they spoke, “Spirits, demons all, ye are in no place to speak of grace, though ye know a great deal about being fallen. Leave this host which ye hold captive or I shall draw ye out as in days of old.”

"Then tell us this, Valdor, do ye know why the Lion Heart is now on the move after remaining idle for so long? Do ye know the word he sent to Rome?” A chorus of voices laughed and sneered becoming more menacing with each question. “While ye have been way in distant realms, seeking your own...comforts...much has been transpiring.”

Truth, like a searing ember, burned through Connar’s chest as he stared at the woman, seeing past her faded eyes to the demons within, their voices calling out, spewing their venomous words, “Even now an army descends upon Beziers. Their guardian saint has been too long absent...distracted, as it were...and there is naught he can do for them now.”


.
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Last edited by Connar Valdor on Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:25 am    Post subject: God will recognize his own Reply with quote

The gray steed labored hard under the weight of its rider and the long, relentless journey that begin with the sun’s rising. Now, as the afternoon sun cut through the hazy sky, the horse's hide burned against the saddle, its sides heaving to draw air into its lungs. Though but a beast, the horse could sense the urgency which drove its master, and neither had rested during the blazing journey across the southernmost part of France. Connar had shed every unnecessary weight, including his cloak and chainmaille in order to lighten the load carried by the horse.

They had been following the Gulf of Lyon since descending the Alps, and now, as Connar turned the horse northward, black smoke could be seen climbing skyward. The sight of the thick cloud darkening the sky twisted him from within. Connar snapped the reins, driving his heels into the horse, urging him forward at a full gallop.

* * *

Beziers, nestled in the heart of the Languedoc, was a thriving hamlet with some 20,000 inhabitants. They were a peace-loving, tolerant people, and had not seen the threat of war in centuries. The large stone walls which fortified the city now were overrun with moss and vines. A small religious sect had found refuge within the open arms of Beziers and had followed their divergent christian precepts in relative obscurity.

The Cathars, as they were known, were but 200 strong, but word of their heretical teachings had caught the attention of Rome. The blood-lust and power-mongering once reserved for the Crusades in the Holy Land were now directed inwards. Dissension, no matter how peaceful its voice, would not be tolerated.

An army of some 3,000 ruthless crusaders were assembled to march on Beziers and drive the Cathars to extinction. The Cistercian abbot-commander, Arnaud Amaury, was a vicious man, whose love of terror and killing was unmatched, even for a senior churchman. It was he who was responsible for the mass burning alive of many heretics and many fair women at Casseneuil. As his army approached the unsuspecting village, Amaury was asked by one of his captains how they would know the Cathars from among those within the city walls. “Cædite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius,” was his response; “Kill them all. God will recognize his own.”

* * *

As Connar powered through the crumbling stone wall, which once stood as the entrance to Beziers, the horse under him collapsed, having given its all to deliver in haste the rider to his destination. Connar’s body struck the ground with the force of the falling animal behind him, his arm, and shoulder, though braced for impact, were unable to cushion the fall. A flash of light and a moment of searing pain, then all went black.


.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Connar rose slowly from the blackness, shielding his eyes from the piercing daylight. He stumbled forward trying to regain his balance, his vision blurred by the blood running down his face from the gash in his head. Each step more steadied than the last, and as he wiped the blood from his eyes with his sleeve, he could see the devastation all around him.

Everywhere he looked, every corner, every open space was covered with the bodies of the slain, young and old alike. Mothers lay upon the ground still clutching their babies in their arms, arrows and the points of spears driven through their bodies. Connar could not move without treading a sea of dismembered corpses, his footsteps sliding on sheets of slowly drying blood.

”Look w’at we ‘ave here...It appears we missed one, boys.” Connar looked up to see three soldiers approaching, their brown tunics stained red and black, their arms toting the spoils of their pillaging - the last to be taking their just deserves. Setting their loot to the ground, weapons were drawn, one last victim of the bloody onslaught in their sights. The throbbing at his shoulder was but a distant memory as Connar drew the sword from its scabbard, his jaw clenched tight. There was no hesitation, no pause for thought as he advanced with ferocity upon the soldiers, their shock and surprise lasting only for the briefest of moments.

Connar moved quickly to the city center, wiping his hands on his white tunic, now streaked red. The black smoke issuing from the central cathedral signaled that a fire yet burned. He plodded through the crimson mud arriving to find the grand church doors barred from the outside, the shutters locked against the fire burning within. He hacked at the barricade, sending a shower of black splinters into the air. Once weakened, the force of the trapped heat and air within blew the door open, sending Connar sprawling upon his back.

He pulled himself to his feet, coughing and straining to see through the thick smoke. Connar’s sword fell from his hand as the unthinkable was slowly revealed to his view. Within the walls of what formerly had been sanctuary, were the charred remains of thousands, upon thousands of men, women and children. The very air was drawn from his body as Connar fell to his knees...and wept.


* * *

"Today your Holiness, twenty thousand citizens of Beziers were burnt or put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex. Not a single soul survived, not even the new born babe. The heretics were punished for their crimes, mutilated and killed. The town was razed, the Cathars are no more.”


  ~ Abbot Arnaud Amaury


.
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Last edited by Connar Valdor on Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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