Well, hello again.
I hope you had a nice break. I had a break but it was not nice. In fact, well, I don’t need to go into it. Let’s just say I was so busy doing things I did not want to do that I did not even have a chance to write my story for this post. Which is a shame because it was going to be good (because all stories are good before they are set down on the page).
Anyway, we did have one contributor to this week’s prompt, Mike Raven with his story “Twins Parted”, a story of brothers, bravery, and regret. Hope you enjoy!
And please come back on Monday for the usual treatment (four days, 500 words).
Mike Raven (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There is a madman, held, in the back of a monastery.
But we are not there yet.
He’ll come, soon enough.
A finely polished longsword, shining in the rays of the midmorning sun, sliced horizontally through the air. Borne by a fighter in his early twenties, adorned in fresh chainmail. The young man had blue eyes, the same blue as the sky on a clear summers day, with a mop of black curled hair.
A handful of inches before its target it came to a sudden halt, hitting and digging into a thick wooden shield.
The eyes of the bearer of the shield gleamed momentarily as they began their counter attack, but the act of defending against the blow had focussed their attention on the young man, and as a result had missed something.
That something was another finely polished longsword being thrust through his backplate, ending somewhere in his ribcage. Suddenly unable to fight, he dropped to his knees, and then fell flat on his face.
A foot was implanted on the dead mans back to aid the killer in pulling the longsword out of the corpse.
“Thank you.” the first fighter said to the other one, who had the same summer sky eyes, the same mop of curled hair, and the same fresh chainmail.
“Don’t mention it, brother.”
Isan and Heran were identical twins, sons and squires of the knight Sir Belden. The knight and his companions were entrusted with protection of the small town of Sudtone in the Kingdom of Guthrum. Whilst only a small town, they had experienced several incursions by viking raiders seeking to pillage whatever they could get their grubby hands on.
“Well fought,” Sir Belden greeted his sons, who were sat round a small fire cooking a stew. He had been at his stables, where attendants had put his horse to bed and helped to remove his armour.
“Thank you, father.” both Isan and Heran intoned synonymously.
“What say you deal me a portion of that food, eh?” the knight declared with a big smile. Isan picked up a spare bowl and brought up to the stew pot just as Heran dug a large serving spoon deep into the pot and lifted up a goodly portion of the hearty meal.
“Thank you, boys,” Sir Belden said as he received the bowl, filled with hot meat and vegetables in a thick sticky gravy.
There was but a few moments of silence before one of the sons spoke up.
“Father – Sir Belden – we wished to ask you,” spoke Isan, “about knighthood.”
“Hmm,” grunted the knight between mouthfuls, “I thought you might. The time is coming, is it not?”
“Of course,” he went on the say, “this would be the end of your close brotherhood, you realise.”
“We can part-” Heran said, which would have been more convincing if, barely a heartbeat apart, Isan had begun to utter the same words.
Sir Belden smiled. “You boys are close. Closer than any other brothers I have ever had the fortune to meet. And that does not happen often.”
“When the time comes, you will part, and you will struggle. But you will both learn and survive, of that I have no doubt.” he said, reassuring his sons.
Sir Belden retired for the night early that evening, sleeping under a stout oak tree, and encased within a large thick patched blanket, and the boys sat next to the cooling embers of the cooking fire, talking about life, themselves, and the future.
Talking so much that they didn’t spot the danger.
A spear, wooden haft and ferrous tipped, slid smoothly over Isan’s shoulder. With a gasp, he and his brother turned.
A pack of vikings were but twenty yards away. A second spear, aimed true, was let loose towards Heran, but he managed to dive out of its way so it rattled harmlessly on the ground. With a roar, the vikings ran at the boys.
“Father! Wake up!” Heran shouted. The knight woke with a curse and wrestled to get out of the blanket. Heran and Isan scrambled to draw their swords, barely making it in time.
The boys parried spear thrusts from several of the raiders, and, wordlessly, acted together. Isan deflected a foolhardy thrust from one viking upwards, while Heran ran his sword deep into the viking.
Heran opened his mouth to cry in victory, but instead his head was neatly taken off by the swing of a viking held sword.
Isan stumbled backwards, mouth opening and closing in terror.
Sir Belden ran forward, clutching a longsword that he used to run through one viking, and then slash wounds into a second. He swore.
“There’s too many of them! Isan, run!” he roared.
Isan dropped his sword, turned, and fled. He never looked back as the vikings encircled his father, impaled him on their spears, and looted his corpse.
He ran, and escaped the vikings.
But he couldn’t escape himself.
Sometimes in the monastery, you can hear the cries of a madman.
Sometimes cries of rage, sometimes of sadness.
But the cries always have a tinge of insanity.
They come from a room at the back of the monastery, a room with a single small window, and a heavily barred door.
Periodically meals are brought to the room. Sometimes those meals are eaten.
Sometimes they are flung against walls, and then scraped off the walls and eaten as hunger kicks in.
The monks aren’t sure of his name, although sometimes he can be heard to utter, or shout, the word “Father”.
And, of course, “Heran”.