The Last Lantern
Chapter 19 - Visions
@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009
The sky was lit with streaks of lightning, coming so fast the world and any one or any thing moving seemed to jerk to a halt in the darkness and then move again in the light. Phillip, his sword in his hand, crouched, waiting for the attack. Blood dripped from his arm, the wound reopened. He was nearly out of strength, the sword seeming an impossibly heavy thing to hold, let alone swing at an assailant.
This would be it, he knew. He'd die on this rocky crag. Or ... He looked down again. He couldn't see the bottom. The cliff was sheer and straight down, and Phillip had no option. Fight to the death right here or.. or leap off and let whatever was down there kill him. At least that way it would be quick.
He trembled and gathered what little strength he had left as three men, each much bigger than he, advanced toward him. They sneered and called him names, and promised to remove his genitals and feed them to him.
He swallowed and swang his sword. It clashed as it met theirs, adding flashes to the stormy night, flashes nearly as bright as the lightning above them.
Then his sword went flying, knocked out of his hand by one of his enemies. Phillip hesitated a moment, then took one step backwards. Blackness...
He heard his name through the blackness. It seemed an awfully long way off. He tried to call out but for some reason he could make no sound.
"Phillip," came again.
The voice seemed strangely familiar. Comforting. Not an enemy then.
"Phillip," came the voice again. A bit more demanding now, an order, an order to gain his attention.
He sought the owner of the voice, but it was all blackness here. Nothing moved, nothing but the voice made a sound. He turned his head. Well, at least he thought he did. But it was so black he wasn't sure.
He looked around desperate to see, to reach the voice. A tiny spot of light appeared and he turned toward it.
"Welcome back," the voice said.
Phillip opened his eyes to see Vaal leaning over him.
"You had us very worried, my boy."
Phillip tried to speak but not much more than a croak came out. Vaal's strong arm lifted him up and put a cup of cool water to his lips.
"Drink," the priest ordered. Phillip drank, greedily, until the priest pulled the cup away. "Not too fast. There's plenty more." When the cup was offered again Phillip sipped a bit more slowly.
"That's better. There was poison on the man's blade. Your cut," Brother Vaal explained. "Luckily, we were able to fashion an antidote."
"How long?" Phillip croaked.
"A night and a day. We'll need to stay here until you get some strength back."
"Molly..." Phillip said trying to get up.
"Hush. Lady Molly is fine. She's with friends."
Phillip sank off into the blackness once again.
Phillip next awoke to the smell of something wonderful. His stomach seemed so empty it felt as if it was trying to eat itself.
He opened his eyes to see the publican's goodwife sitting beside his bed knitting. She smiled as his eyes opened. "I thought the smell of stew might waken you up, young master. Let me help you sit up and well get some of it in that tummy of yours."
"Where is Brother Vaal?" Phillip croaked.
"Scouting. He'll be back by sunset, or close enough as makes no never mind," she replied as she helped Phillip scoot backwards and fluffed pillows up behind him.
"Thank you for taking care of me," Phillip said, between bites of wonderful stew.
The woman shook her head. "No thanks necessary. Brother Vaal will say a good word to the Guardian and we'll be safe and lucky for our care of you."
"The Guardian?" Phillip asked.
"Ah. I forgot you be a Southron. Aye. We call him Guardian here, not Heretic like those south of the mountains do. Bastard he may be, but the Black Brothers watch over us and protect us as does the Bastard himself."
"But the Mother..." Phillip replied frowning.
"Aye. The Mother and her priests never liked him. The Father though. He's less concerned about such things as hearth and home. He concerns himself with things that require a strong sword and a brave heart. What cares he who birthed the Bastard or who didn't. Some claim," she added, leaning in to whisper to Phillip, "the Bastard is the Father's own son but not hers and that's why the Mother hates him."
Phillip looked startled. He'd always thought of the Mother as the kindly and forgiving God and that her hatred of the Bastard, he'd thought, was due to his deeds not his parentage.
"Things are very different up here," Phillip commented more to himself than to the goodwife.
"Aye, so I'm told. Tis a shame there'll be war soon between us."
"War?" Phillip freely admitted to himself he didn't pay much attention to politics. Unlike his father. Still, he thought he'd have heard about this.
She nodded, picking up her knitting again. "No matter who might be in the right of it, its us who'll pay." She sounded resigned.
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