The third installment of my novella, Artisan.
December 29, Year 1267
Three days. It took Amnar and Art three days and fifty-eight miles to leave the inn after breakfast, walk down the road to Pelagiadus until dusk, stop at another inn, walk again until dusk, stop at a third inn, and walk to the gates of an old and bittersweet memory--the plantation and estate of the noble Tiberius family and its most prominent resident, Sir Patricius Cornelius.
Unexpectedly, the heavy iron gates were not closed but opened very widely, and all over the ruined tobacco fields and the burnt gardens and the trampled pathways crawled constables and rangers, investigating and questioning. The look of surprise on Amnar's face left when he remembered what Art had told him earlier.
Art: Amnar, what are you waiting for?
Amnar: What? Oh, sorry Art...I haven't been here in a long time is all.
Art: Where should we start looking?
Amnar: You should ask the sheriff...or whoever's in charge around here...what they know, and I'll go ask Patricius what he saw, being that he was the last to see Aemilia, right?
Paleness had overcome Art, and he simply stood before Amnar, staring at him with a solemn blankness and some sort of deep thought.
Art: No, we should both just go straight to Patricius.
Upon, entering the house with Art, Amnar saw two men investigating the place; two men who were clearly not officials. One of them wore a hard and studded leather breast-piece over chainmail armor, and the other wore a clean blue shirt and pants beneath a finely-woven, woolen, green vest and had elvish ears jutting out of his long blond hair.
Green Vest-Wearer: My God! How come there's so much ash everywhere?
Mail-Clad Man: I already told you. The chef, three maids, six farmhands, and fourteen guards...all of them said they saw a big fiery daemon come stomping through here.
Green Vest-Wearer: I know, but do fiery daemons usually make these many embers.
Mail-Clad Man: Why don't we ask the history books...oh wait...fiery daemons have never been seen before!
Green Vest-Wearer: Sorry, just calm down and hand me my--
He turned around to point at a wineskin, but spotted Amnar.
Green-Vest Wearer: Amnar?
Amnar: Zanril? Pannan?
Mail-Clad Man: Who said my name...Amnar!
Amnar: Pannan! Man! Long time and no see.
Pannan: Haven't seen you since we escaped from this place.
Zanril: Can you still dig tunnels that fast? I mean you probably dug us beneath the fence faster than a miner could with that little tin sandbox shovel.
Amnar: Where'd you guys end up going?
Pannan: After we escaped, and after you were caught by that group of traveling monks...
Zanril: You should've hid with us faster.
Pannan: ...We were adopted by an old warrior--
Zanril: My old great-uncle, Erigus, actually.
Pannan: Yeah, that's right. He fed us and cared for us, and he also trained us in combat when we bugged him enough about it.
Zanril: We trained hard for like five years; the old bastard wouldn't let us quit once he started.
Pannan: Glad he didn't...After we were old enough and skilled enough we left home and joined the Arena together, didn't much like it and became mercenaries--
Art: I'm sure we'd all love to catch up, and we will, but later. We should concentrate on figuring out where Aemilia is.
Art: Look, its just some girl and I love her and I want to find her and rescue her.
Zanril: Aemilia...Aemilia...Ah! Aemilia! So, you two finally hooked up, huh?
Art: It's a long story.
Amnar: Art's right though, we need to get going. We have to ask Patricius about what happened here and where Aemilia might be.
Pannan: He won't talk to anyone, not even the sheriff.
Amnar: Well, what do you propose I do.
Zanril: Let us come with you.
Amnar: I don't see how that will help, but go ahead.
Pannan: Maybe the four of us all together might make him more prone to talking.
Amnar: Don't tell me you're both enforcers or something.
Pannan: We only use fear against the bad guys...relax. We're mercenaries, and we only work for clients who need people rescued, something stolen retrieved, or some criminal brought to the law.
Zanril: Old Erigus taught us to be good too y'know.
The four went up the stair case, all chuckling and remembering the good old days, except Art, who was silent and looked anxious--almost angry too. Amnar felt even more bittersweet when he saw this expression; while glad to be with old friends, he knew that they were all seconds away from something...ugly.
Patricius sat at his desk in his room as Amnar creaked open the door. Before him sat an empty glass and a half-empty bottle of brandy. He filled the glass with the liquor and downed it. His clean-shaven face was solemn and the toga he wore was plain and void of any elegance one might expect to find in a nobleman's dress.
Amnar: Sir Patricius?
Patricius: Leave! I will not speak to anyone. I wish only to be left alone.
Pannan, Zanril, and Art walked into the room after Amnar.
Patricius: What part of leave don't you understand!
He turned around and spotted Art.
Patricius: You, craftsman, get back to work! As for the rest of you, leave me in peace.
Art clenched his fists tightly and curled face, tightening it to the point of redness.
Art: Where the hell is Aemilia you son of a bitch?!
Patricius: I said I am not speaking to any one--not a constable, not a mercenary, and certainly not a servant!
Art: I am a greater man than you are. You sick thing. You're nothing but a greedy pervert!
Patricius: What! How dare you...
Art: I know what you've been doing to Aemilia, and probably countless other little girls.
Patricius: I don't know what you are talking about.
Art: You've been using her to satiate your sick needs since she was a little girl!
Patricius: What a wild accusation! Why...you are obviously fired. Now, leave...leave at once!
Art: No, I don't obey people like you.
Patricius: You're insane; can't you men see this boy is insane? Where's your proof?
Art: I walked in on you and you know it. You think you can just get away with anything you want because you're rich, but you can't.
Patricius dropped his glass, and as it crashed into his floor, a guilty spark of wrath lit up within him. He grew red and opened his mouth to yell.
Patricius: You fool! You shouldn't have said that, and now you are going to die like a bad servant should!
He quickly rose from his chair and grabbed a dirk from his drawer; then he charged Art, but Amnar grabbed his wrist and twisted it forcing him to release the knife. Then, with Pannan's help he rammed Patricius into a wall.
Pannan, as he steamed with rage at hearing what the twisted "nobleman" had done, commanded Zanril to leave.
Pannan: Zanril! Get Art out of here and leave us with this...man....for a while.
Zanril: Of course, Pannan.
He pulled Art out of the bedroom and stood with him in the hall as Amnar closed the door.
Pannan now faced Patricius and looked him in the eye.
Pannan: You will tell me what you know about Aemilia and what the hell happened here, or I'll slit your throat you worthless piece of shit.
Patricius: I will not say anything to a brute like you.
His face filled with fear and was clearly on the edge of tears. Amnar heard a crunching sound when Pannan punched Patricius right across the jaw.
Pannan: Burn in hell then!
He rose his hand to strike again, but he paused as he saw Patricius crying, laying against his bedroom wall pathetic and petty.
Patricius: I already am.
This caught Amnar's ear more than anything else, and he put his arm up to block Pannan's hand.
Amnar: What do you mean?
Patricius: You think I like being what I am? A pervert, a rapist? I wanted to be a good and noble merchant and nothing more, but God didn't want that for me. He gave me these mad and sick impulses! I can't stop myself when I see a pretty little girl. I can't ever stop myself...I always am guilty, and I always wish I was dead.
Pannan: Then why don't you put a stake in your own head!
Patricius: Because, not only am I pervert. I am a...coward! I don't even have the bravery to kill myself.
He began to cry, but Pannan showed no sympathy, and neither did Amnar, but the monk knew the right thing to do; he knew that beatings would not open this mouth, only swell it shut.
Amnar: I can offer you a chance at redemption. If you tell us where Aemilia is, you can save a young girl. It'd be a nice change and maybe you can leave this world knowing you did one good thing in your life.
Patricius: No, it's too late for me.
Amnar: Maybe, but you're not doing this for you; your doing it for her.
Patricius merely stared at him, thinking. Amnar knew what he was pondering and weighing--life versus death, good versus bad, change versus imprisonment. A slight grin flickered on Patricius, disappearing as fast as it had appeared. He saw a chance to escape hell.
Patricius: I traded Aemilia for something. The daemon looked into my soul or he read my mind. He offered me a quick and painless death if I gave him Aemilia. So I called her to my quarters and he took her. As you can see, the daemon didn't keep his word. He just laughed and left with her. He only said one thing to me, 'You can't escape hell that easily!'
Amnar: Art told me men were following the daemon. Who were these men?
Patricius: They were inquisitors. The torturers of the Imperial Church's Grand Inquisition.
Pannan: Good job. You gave her up to a fate worse than the one she suffered with you.
Patricius: Kill me. I won't ever stop. Do it for Aemilia and the other little girls I hurt and will hurt.
Pannan: Sure thing!
Amnar: No, wait!
Pannan did not re-sheathe his sword. He looked at Amnar and argued.
Pannan: He's only going to hurt more people, we can't just let him live.
Amnar: I know he will, but still, he's not armed, and...
Pannan: And what?
By now, Patricius had crawled to and opened his drawer and taken out an awl. He looked at Pannan and Amnar as he held it against his throat.
Patricius: Monk; please tell God...that I'm sorry. Tell him I won't ever hurt anyone again.
Amnar: No, wait! Don't!
He shoved the awl into his neck and Amnar could only watch as blood sprayed and squirted all over. He gargled, but smiled, as he fell. He was dead.
Slowly, Amnar walked to the body, staring at Patricius's still face as he moved. Once he reached the corpse, he used his fingers to shut the cold, yet warm, eyes and blessed the body. He spotted an onyx, the one that had been given to Aemilia all those years ago, sitting next to the oil lamp on the blood-stained desk. He picked it up and tears began rolling down his cheek. He simply stared into the stone's starry heart and whispered to himself.
Amnar: Oh Holy Lord, please bless the soul of Patricius Cornelius Tiberius. Please forgive him; I know in my heart how sorry he was. This morning he was a monster, but right now he is merely a dead man begging your mercy. All I am asking is that you give this man...give this man, please, just a sinner's redemption.