First Part. The tale of how the artisan saved us all.
December 26, Year 1267
A gasp. A young man, Amnarillaeus's, head sprung from the pillow it had just laid upon. He touched his forehead and felt cold sweat; a nightmare. He steadied his breaths and turned his head to look at a white-gold amulet with a stone of rare onyx in it. It was pitch black except for a wisp of starry blue-white light that floated within, and in the wisp a vague image showed--the gates of the city from last night's dream quickly shut and then slowly faded away. He looked at the onyx bewildered, and moved his head quickly from left to right, shaking off a hallucination or an illusion or...or something more.
He lifted himself from his bed and looked out the window briefly to see the great expanse of forest just outside the roadside-inn he stood in--a cozy, albeit large, wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere. As he smiled and began to forget the night, he removed his pajamas and put on a pair of brown cotton pants and a white woolen, sleeveless shirt. He placed a dark brown monk's robe, split from the waist down, over his head and took his hood off, revealing the black stubble on his otherwise smooth scalp. Spotting the amulet, he picked it up, slipped it on and tucked it under his shirt. Finally, he opened the chest at the end of his bed and strapped a katana onto his back. He spun around and faced the door and took a deep sigh, ready to face the new day ahead of him, when his stomach growled for breakfast.
Heading, down stairs the barkeeper handed a patron a mug of something and looked at Amnar.
Barkeeper: Hello Mr. Antonnus, how's the mornin' been treating ya?
Amnar: Had a weird dream, but otherwise I've only felt one thing so far.
Barkeeper: And what would that be, Mr. Antonnus
Amnar: Hunger. Hehe. Got anything sweet today?
Barkeeper: Yeah. We have some sweet potato bread.
Amnar: Thanks. I'll have that and some milk.
Barkeeper: I'll get your meal ready, and you get your money ready.
Amnar took a seat at a window-side table. A barmaid delivered his food soon after and he did not hesitate to dig in. He ripped the warmed bread, stuffed his mouth, and chugged down milk to soften the bread as it trekked down his throat. The barmaid tapped him on the shoulder and gave him a wide grin. Amnar swallowed.
Amnar: Oh, right. How much will this be?
Barmaid: Fifteen copper pieces--monk's discount.
Amnar: Thankyou, but please let me pay full price. You can keep the surplus for yourself if you'd like.
Barmaid: Well then, how can I refuse now. Eighteen copper please.
He counted eighteen coins and handed them to her. She nodded and walked off, letting the monk finish his meal.
The bell by the door rang as a man entered. He went to the counter and spoke with the barkeeper, but Amnar could not hear his words for two reasons. Firstly, he did not care much about them, and secondly, the clamor of the other patrons muffled said words. The barkeep handed him a pint of stout and pointed at Amnar, then the man walked across the inn floor and sat right across from the monk, who grinned.
Amnar: Hi. I'm Brother Antonnus...Who are you?
Man: You've met me before Amnar. I'm Artorius Iustinianus--you know, Art.
Amnar: Art? I don't know any...Art?! Oh man, Art! It's been so long. Where have you been all this time? I haven't seen you since we both lived in that dreadful orphanage-estate place all those years ago. Where are you now a days?
Art: Until just half-a-week ago, I lived in the servants' quarters of Master Patricius's estate. I was his property and I was the estate's craftsman.
Amnar: Well, it must be good to not be there any more. So, what brings you here?
Art: That's just the thing, Amnar. The reason I'm here and the reason I'm not there are one in the same. The estate was attacked--
Amnar: Waoh! Why?...Who?
Art: I don't know why, and I don't know who exactly. I saw men wearing monk's robes much like yours, but in red, and they were led by something I've never seen or heard of before. A big man with skin as rough as toughened hide and with veins of fire and two big black horns. I think it was a daemon, but I really have no idea. They easily killed all the guards and then broke into the master's chamber and...
Art looked nervous, but swallowed hard and continued his story with a blank expression all over his face.
Amnar: Did they kill the master?
Art: No, I don't think so...I don't care, but they took Aemilia.
Amnar: What was she doing in Patricius's chambers.
Art: Um...That's not important right now...They grew closer after you left or something. Anyway, the daemons took Aemilia!
Amnar: Is she alright?
Art: Of course not! I mean, she's alive, but she's a prisoner or a slave or something.
Art reached into his pocket and pulled out an onyx, much like Amnar's. He placed it on the table and continued.
Art: When the red-robed men passed by my room, I heard Aemilia scream, 'Art! Help me, Art! Please!' So I grabbed the first thing I could grab--this onyx--and I ran outdoors only to have my throat grabbed by the daemon. His hand was as hot as boiling water and it left hot ashes all over my neck, but when--
Amnar: We should head upstairs before you go on. This needs to be a private conversation.
So the two moved into Amnar's room.
Art: The daemon was strangling me as the monks took Aemilia away. I fought back will all my strength, but I was no match for this creature...until I struck it with my onyx stone. The daemon screamed and let me go. He briefly stared at me and then ran off with a look of fear in his eye.
Amnar: So you're here to ask my help to rescue Aemilia I assume. Am I right?
Art: Yes you are.
Amnar: Why me though? Why not a mercenary, or the army?
Art: The army would never help someone like me, but I chose to come to you for two reasons. I know you; I feel I can trust an old friend and a pious monk, and I remember giving you one of the onyx stones I found that day. Do you still have it?
Amnar took the amulet from under his shirt and showed it to Art.
Art: Oh...good. It may help us. So what do you say? Will you help me?
Amnar: I need to know something first. Why are you going through so much trouble to save Aemilia. Why do you care so much?
After having held back great emotion behind a mask of serious and straightforward talk, his expression quickly changed and he looked blatantly angry and incredibly sad.
Art: Because, Amnar, I love Aemilia. I love her more than anything in the whole damned world.
Amnar: You two finally fell for each other?
The monk tried to smile, tried to lighten the atmosphere.
Art: Not exactly...She doesn't love me. She told me many times--every time I would make her some jewelery or a bouquet and she would throw it away as soon as she thought she had left my sight. The way she rejected all of my advances and turned me away every time I wanted to speak to her. The way, she avoids me every time I bump into her on the estate.
A tear rolled down Art's cheek, soon followed by another, and then another. The tone of his voice grew increasingly tense and hysterical.
Amnar: Relax, my old friend, just take a moment and know I will help you find her and I will help you rescue her. Okay?
Art: Thanks, Amnar. Oh, thank God.
Amnar: Let's get you some breakfast.
There was only one thing Amnar could remember then--the last words of his abbot. "Bow to the one who loves without being loved, for he is the shadow of God.