Chillmark manor lies huddled in darkness atop its lonely hill as the early winter winds sweeps around its sides and gently coos in the nooks and crannies of the great hall. Even though lord Chillmark and his servants do their best to warm the cold stone there is little they can do when winter comes. So they do as best they can; huddle together in small groups to stay warm, pile felt after felt on top of themselves until they resemble cloth knolls more than men or creep dangerously close to the glowing embers of the fire pits to catch the fleeting warmth. Maelgwyn sleeps peacefully in his bed with hisbeloved wife nestled up against him, surrounded by the squirming and snoring children. Beside the dais lies the grubby and featureless mound of cloth containing Rhyfels snoring body but the bed on the lord’s left hand is empty.
I snuck out as soon as the last voices died down out there in the darkness. Carefully I parted the drape hanging around my bed and let my gaze sweep over the darkened hall. Here and there the light from the dying embers gave enough light for me to see the contours of the sleeping servants sleeping in the cool air. Oh, how peacefully they slept. I dared not put on my shoes due to the sound and with every step the chill from the floor felt almost painful in its intensity; a sensation closer to burning than freezing. I hate this kind of secrecy but I know it must be so. When I finally left the main hall I carefully slipped on my shoes and wandered into the falling snow. The world seems so still this night, the snow masking my hurried footsteps and all other sounds. It’s like if the entire world was sleeping and only I was awake. A lone wanderer in the moonlit darkness.
The chapel is freezing cold and as I walk around lighting the candles I can see frost glistening on the walls and floor. The sensation of the cold stone against my knees makes me shiver even more but there is nothing to be done about it. Prayer and atonement shall be done in solitude, just as Matthew decreed. So with my arms outstretched, the cold draft around me and with my mind towards the divine I silently whisper:
‘’Forgive me, oh Lord. I’ve failed my kinsman in aiding his wounds and I’ve failed in protecting Bradwen from the infidels. Please Lord forgive me. I’ve put the wellbeing of my son before my duty onto my lord and onto Thee’’ Slowly the knot in my stomach began to unfold and the light shone upon me once again. The Lord is mercy, the Lord is light. Somehow the dimly lit chapel didn’t feel so cold anymore.
The alarm sounded just as the sun was about to rise. Startled warriors and kinsmen rubbed the sleep from their eyes and armed themselves with axes and spears, ready to defend their home and honor with their lives. The lord himself was among the first to storm up the battlement in his hastily donned armor; his gleaming eyes searching the fields for enemies. Yet there were none. The bell had rung for Sister Abigail. The chaplain had found her lying unconscious in the chapel, a small pool of blood around her head. Carefully she was picked up and brought to her bed and it was agreed she must’ve slipped on the frosty stone. But what had startled her made all men who beheld it shiver. Someone, or Something many contended, had thrown a dead cat towards the praying sister. Young Athena cried when she saw her beloved tabby lying on the chapel floor, its eyes gouged out and the stomach pierced with a knitting needle. She screamed and kicked when the animal was inspected by the chaplain and her father. Had it not been for her mother leading her back inside she would have tried to hug it one more time. The cat was brought outside and burned for good measure. How Maelgwyn would have loved it to have been raiders instead, those could easily be fought with a sword.
The Prophesy of Sister Abigail
During the coming month’s sister Abigail slept almost constantly and it wasn’t until the spring came she finally recovered. She said she remembered little of what had happened that faithful night and that she, apart from feeling a bit dizzy and weak, felt she had recovered completely. When asked about her time bedridden she simply smiled and thanked the Lord for her restful sleep.
Maelgwyn was never sure if the sister lied to him or not. He had listened to her while she slept and mumbled, while she dreamt and saw. Maybe the Lord didn’t grant her knowledge of those things she spoke of when she awoke but her sleep had not been easy. Every night she mumbled and every night Maelgwyn or his chaplain was beside her, not letting a single word slip. For Maelgwyn had learned the power of prophesy long ago and in these dark days he sought advice wherever he could. But what strange advice it was…
When the darkness comes
Man will trade everything
But then, man will not be more than the weight of his own flesh
His body will be offered for sale as a pound of flesh
His ear and his heart will be taken
Nothing shall be sacred anymore,
Everything will have a price
And everything will be sold.
Man will give a handful of grains as alms
While they sleep on full sacks
When the Sword is lost
Everyone will know
What’s on all four corners of the earth
We will see children
Whose soul flee
And whose eyes are covered in flies
But the people seeing this will avert their eyes
For they only care for themselves.
Poison will be sold even in the churches
And the world wanders with the scorpions under its feet.
When the Dragon falls
The father will not protect his young
The mother will not raise her young
The old man will no teach the young
It will happen for all to see
And love will be the greatest threat to those
Who only recognize each other through the flesh
When the darkness comes