The Hollow Crown
In the Land of Uz
‘I’m telling you Thomas, the woman’s got the sight.’ The young soldier reels back from his cups, looking wide eyed at his Lieutenant “She looked at me, swore I looked pale and had the mark of Caine upon me, then started to mutter in a language that sounded like the tongue of the Viking. I know it, my grandmother came from Orkney, she used to mutter it sometimes. She’s hexed me for sure.”
‘That’s blasphemous Malcolm.’ Thomas checks off the last of the supplies they have been sent from Edinburgh " Prophecy is a gift of Jehovah to his saints and prophets. It is the Lord’s truth made visible to the worthy Is it not said in Ezekiel, ‘Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.’ Now aside from the downpour that has been constant in this popish Babylon since we got here, I’ve not seen any such signs of god’s will made manifest, saving our victories under Montrose of course." The older man moves towards the camp fire and brings out a chair.
“She knew of the forest Thomas. She could describe it to me like she was there, like she stole the image from my mind. She also bade me give you a message.” With the detachment that comes from a certainty he is in the elect, the elder man looks directly at him.
“Well spit it out then. If it rests your mind, some mumblings from a demented fishwife will not trouble my conscience as easily. It was god’s work we did in that place.”
“She mentioned the name of one of the men in the forest, said you had taken one of hers. She cursed your name – dripped blood into flame – mumbling that damned tongue of hers. Then she swore that my commander’s soul would be bound to the first man I saw on leaving the woods. Jesu help you Thomas, but it was Colwan.” Thomas looks at him. The words unspoken between them were the fact that Colwan had been one of the worst of the professional’s brought over by Munro. A man who would had taken place on Rathlin Island. “She swore that you would share everything going forward.”
“This is nonsense – to prove it I’ll go out into the night myself.” the torrent of rain continues unabated. Pulling his cloak up, he narrowly avoids the flood of water that comes when he exits the awning of the tent.
“So it’s done then?” he looks across the clearing at the woman standing over the fallen Colwan.
“indeed.” she passes her hand across his features, “from now on you bind your fate with his. In return I will explain the mysteries to you. “drawing a nail across her wrist, a slither of blood follows it.” Drink from me, know what is to serve Tremere.” Weir moves quickly to her, lapping the fluid. Above them lightning fills the skies, beneath them Colwan’s features merge into Weirs.
Edinburgh Tolbooth 1650
‘Is it Colwan or the good Lieutenant Weir I have the misfortune to be speaking to? I always had trouble working out which one of you I was actually putting on charges. But of course, our Bow Head Saint couldn’t have been the one committing those acts, after all he was always at prayer meetings in full view of everyone.’
‘Woe to thee Moab, even covered in the Highlander’s shit you are still an arrogant fool. Your sins are grevious, but you remain blind through your ignorance.’ Thomas allows his staff to rattle along the bars, Montrose maybe bloodied and battered and its Major Weir. Given how little time you have left, it would befit you to utter some truths.’ Looking the fallen peer in the eye he tries to exert his will over him. He’s shocked to find it doesn’t have any effect.
‘Take your false words and be damned leech.’
‘You’re a damned hound!’ suddenly it becomes clear, the reason why the charge was so fearsome, the alliance with MacColla and the reason for the ritual that had forced his embrace before Phillphaugh. ‘Best place for one of your kind is in a cage.’
‘I spit upon thee thou man of blood, but with my dying breath I curse thee. Come closer’ the young cainite moves towards him, with words barely audible the failed chevalier mutters ‘Deuteronomy 28:41’ Recoiling, the guardsman moves out into the night to hunt.
Edinburgh Cowgate Autumn 1660
A bitter wind blew the stench from the Nor Loch straight up the Wynd. Not for the first time, Thomas regretted the heightened senses that the blood had bought him, handy though they were in his work as the capitol’s guard. For instance, had he still breathed he would have been unaware of the gentle steps of his maker coming towards him. The childlike footfalls of the fair-haired woman were barely perceptible over the wind.
With a slight nod of his head, he acknowledges her, ‘Gil-martin.’
‘You need to leave here, the locals grow wary of the apparent agelessness of the Bowhead Saint, more over the Pyramid has need of your services in the colonies.’ Her voice is low, with a lilt that seems part Hebridean, although he knows she was born far from this country.
‘You must leave them, allow them to live out their days, Colwan has been driven half mad by the blood and the last ritual. I’ve seen this before, he now believes himself to be you in full.’
‘I will miss this view.’ His silence confirms his assent to his maker’s request.
‘A view of the cities midden? You know they drowned witches here, I lost at least one apprentice here, sure his name was Sinclair. I’ve half a mind to have this damn thing drained and start rebuilding the town from scratch.’
“It is a mean mouse that has but ae hole.”
“I’d rather not know about your nocturnal activities. Can’t you see we can break this place of its superstition & shackles. They are making the first steps – even if the English go back to their King, this place will be ours for centuries. All the time we can hide behind the Toreador and the Brujah.”
“It matters not now, when will the carriage take me to the docks?”
“With the evening tide. You will meet with Wymer and attempt to restore our position in the New World. The damned Ventrue and Brujahs have got their hooks into the local churches. They’ll tear each other apart and our newly established covens given half a chance.”
“What is my discretion in these matters?”
“Wymer and yourself have full discretion. You are granted permission to take on one apprentice each.”
“As the Pyramid wills it.”