Authors: Kat Black
I moved closer. Listening hard. Nothing came to me. Frustrated, I leaned forward. Suddenly the mounded material I was leaning on began to slip. I couldn't stop myself; I pitched forward and the knife clattered loudly to the deck.
Immediately something seemed to snap and change around me. The attacker roared and swung his blade. The Templar dodged and spun, then, where moments before his hands had been empty, two palm-sized cross daggers glinted. Without pause he threw both â one to the heart, one between the eyes.
The attacker's sword wavered and a strange gurgle wheezed from his lips. I gasped. Shock and pain filled his eyes. Blood poured from his wounds, and yet I could not look away from him. The Templar quickly stepped aside and, as I watched, the man pitched forward.
All at once the night was still.
The Templar approached the dead man and removed his knives. Hurriedly he wiped them clean, then kneeling, he whispered a soft prayer, closed the man's eyes, lifted the body, and dropped him over the rail.
It was as if I felt the hungry waves reach up and accept their bounty.
“Are there others?” I whispered, unable to keep my eyes from the rail where the man had disappeared.
“Only on the beach.” He moved past me, looking toward shore. The fight there was over. Seamus and Brother Andrus were in a small skin boat and nearly on us.
“Lower the rope for them. I must go below and see to the crew.” As he turned away, he hesitated a moment, and then his soft voice filled the space between us. “Ye put yerself in harm's way, Tormod. If ye have no regard for yer own life, next time consider the lives o' others.”
He was very angry with me. Without a backward glance, he went below.
I turned away and dropped the ladder. The swish as it hit the water reminded me of the sound the body made after it went over the rail. My stomach twisted suddenly, and I was horrified to feel what was left inside rush up. It nearly hit Seamus as he climbed from the coracle.
“Watch it, rat!” he hissed.
God's breath? What did I do?
Sick with worry and confusion, I stumbled back from the rail and folded to the deck, wrapping my arms around my knees. The Templar came up from below, and I watched him as unobtrusively as I could. Seamus met him at the top of the ladder.
“Are either o' the two ashore alive?” the Templar asked.
“No,” Seamus replied. “But they were from Philippe.” He held out something small for the Templar's inspection.
“Aye. The brooch shows his crest. We must be gone from here now. There may be more on the way. Danger is high. We leave on the next tide, but we have a problem.” I felt his eyes rest on me. “We don't have the luxury o' sending Tormod back.”
Not go back?
Aye, please let me stay.
“Not send him back?” Seamus was filled with amazement. “Ye must be mad. He's a disadvantage. We'll have to watch over him every moment. Why would ye do that?”
I looked daggers at Seamus but he didn't even notice.
The Templar was silent a moment before he spoke. It was with a tone I had not heard from him thus far. “I have seen it, Seamus. Our meeting was destined. There is a part this one will play.”
Surprise rushed through me.
He'd seen itâ¦. How? And, what could he mean? He was angry with me. I did things that were wrong. A part to play. What part?
Seamus looked ready to disagree but held his tongue. The Templar stepped then to the rail and raised his face to the waning light of the moon. I read many things there â not the half of which frightened me
terribly â but strongest was the sense of desperation, of a man seeking hope in the faintest of places.
I dropped my head onto my arms, praying for the ship to leave, to hurry and take me into a new life of adventure.
he splash of the waves against the ship was the only break in the silence of morning. A cold mist wafted across the deck. I was freezing and pulled the blanket someone had laid over me tighter. Bits and pieces of the night came back as I came fully awake. The memories seemed a part of some other life, not mine. So much had happened. My throat was dry and my body ached. And then out of nowhere a rush of excitement filled me. I was still here. The ship had sailed. I was with them!
But then, as if something warned me not to get too happy, his words came back.
If ye have no regard â¦
I pushed them away.
He said I had a part to play. I'll just have to make it up to him.
I smiled. For the first time in many days I had something to look forward to.
No one to order me about, no bairns, no sheep. No explanation needed for the things I could do or the things that happened when I was around.
My grin was wide. The Templar had been truly angry with me for disobeying him, but he hadn't sent me home. I would try very hard not to do anything foolhardy again.
The sun was well above the horizon. Water surrounded the ship. The air was sharp and cold. I shivered, drawing my knees close. My tunic, trews, plaid, and sporran lay in a pile at my elbow. The jeweled dagger lay atop them. I'd have to give it back. Quickly, I dressed, glad of the warmth, and went in search of the Templar.
At the door of the forecastle, I paused. Something stopped me from entering directly, perhaps the hushed tone of the voices inside.
“If they got to the Pope, could they no' have gotten to the Archbishop?” I heard Seamus ask.
“Aye. But we must take the chance. The Archbishop has to be told o' the treachery. De Nogaret must answer for his crimes. We're being hunted, an' Philippe's men have the map. We need an intermediary to go to Pope Clement,” said the Templar. His voice had dropped to an urgent whisper. “The Archbishop will send someone.”
“'Tis too dangerous. Why do we not go straight to the Grand Master?”
“He has already left for a tour of the European preceptories. I dare not step on French soil without allies, Seamus.” The Templar's voice was not to be questioned. “We go to the Archbishop as the Abbot instructed, an' rendezvous with Ahram by month's end in Spain, where we will seek out the Grand Master. He's due to see the
Spanish Templars in June. If we miss him an' he's gone on to France, Ahram will give us an armed escort there.”
Neither said anything for a moment. I leaned closer to the door and the floorboard creaked. I bit down, holding my breath, when suddenly the door before me swung open, two hands grasped my plaid. Unceremoniously I was yanked inward to land with a crash on the planks at the Templar's feet. His sword was drawn and rested point down on my chest before I knew what had happened.
“What have ye heard? Who sent ye?” It was Seamus directing the interrogation.
“Nothing,” I stammered, but it was an obvious lie.
“Come, Tormod, answer the question.” The Templar's voice was calm. He didn't seem to be as alarmed to see me as did Seamus.
“I mean, my Lord Knight, I did hear ye, but it didn't make much sense. No one has sent me, save the Abbot. I don't know anything o' intrigue,” I sputtered, shaking with the certainty that I was about to be killed.
The Templar removed the point of the sword and resheathed it. Then reaching down, he offered his hand to pull me to my feet. “I had hopes that ye would not be much drawn into the schemes of our making, but as I expected, fate has deemed otherwise.”
I picked up the dagger that had fallen in the scuffle and moved to a large table covered with maps
and instruments of sea travel. As casually as I could, I laid it there.
“Take it. Ye will need it someday,” the Templar said.
I thought with awe. I picked it up quickly and slid it into my sporran before he changed his mind.
The Templar didn't continue the conversation nor did he speak more of what I'd heard.
“Where are we a' for manpower?” he asked.
Seamus replied, “The captain an' first mate were killed. All o' our crew remain.”
“I can plot our course. We will alternate sailing the vessel,” said the Templar.
“We must redivide the work load. Douglas's absence leaves us with a hole.” Seamus said the last with a glare at me that set my face to burning.
Douglas, the old man whom in my recklessness I had killed. “I will take his place,” I said, miserable and desperate to atone.
“You will never be half the man he was, rat,” said Seamus.
The Templar motioned sharply at him. “Enough o' that.”
Seamus had the grace to look chastised. “Fine, let him do the work, be our servant.”
I spoke solely to the Templar. “I will do whatever ye need me to do. I can take the wheel as well.
I have done so for my da many times. Though this is a much larger ship an' I'd need some counsel at first.”
“We'd be better off slitting his throat an' tossing him over the side,” said Seamus. “He could be a spy.”
“I'm not a spy!” I protested.
“No, ye're probably not. Ye stink a' it too badly to have stayed alive this long if ye were.” With that he left.
I watched him go with relief. “He likes me little,” I said, “an' I him less.” I turned to the Templar, imploring. “I'm not a spy. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to listen.”
“I think there are a lot o' things ye don't mean to do, Tormod, but ye do them nevertheless. Start thinking ahead. This is not a fireside tale. We are hunted. The price on our heads is redeemable whether we are alive or dead. One misstep by any of us, an' this will end. None of us can afford for this to end badly.” He turned away.
This was more than I had heard him say in all the time that I had known him. It was a lot to take in. “I am sorry,” I said meekly. “For everything. For falling an' alerting the enemy o' our presence. For causing the death o' Douglas â¦”
“Ye didn't â” he started.
I cut him off. “Aye. I did. An' I apologize for that. I didn't do it on purpose, but I take responsibility for the action.”
He dipped his head in acknowledgment.
“But I'm not sorry I followed ye an' came aboard,” I said doggedly. “I think that I was supposed to be there in that place at that time. I don't know why, but I'm sure o' it.”
The speech was a bit self-important, but I was still stinging from his words. I looked down at my feet unable to face him and another remark I would not like.
“Aye. Ye're right. Ye're supposed to be here.”
Whatever else he might have said, I did not hear for a strange chill riffled the air. His words reverberated within my head. I swayed with dizziness. Blood spilled over a cross. Red leaching onto a field of white. Metal on metal rang in my ears. Firelight danced on dark walls.
“Focus. Ground. Shield.” Strange commands from the Templar pressed into my mind. I didn't know what he meant or what he wanted, and the vision continued to pound away at my mind.
Then suddenly it was as if a stiff breeze blew through my mind and I felt the vision slide slowly away. All at once I was back in the here and now.
The Templar was close before me, his face furrowed with lines of concern. I had not even known of his approach. “Hush ye now. It's gone,” he said.
I stared at him long and hard, trying to reconcile the vision. I felt faint. My hands were fists of white gripping his vestment.
“Do the visions come to ye often?” he asked, sounding so earnest that I responded without thought. “Not very, but even that is more often than I'd like.” My body shook. Twice now the visions had come to me in the presence of another. This strange seeing that had been with me from birth was changing somehow.
“Aye. The visions can seem a curse,” he murmured. “Or a blessing. 'Tis all in what ye make o' it, Tormod. Tell me, why is it ye have no training in the basics of grounding?” he asked.
I had no idea what he was talking about. I had only shared a vision once, and I had great cause to wish I hadn't. Panic rose within me as my mind careened back to the memory I longed to forget.
The boat was capsized in the water. The father o' Torquil's friend Cormack floated facedown.
I had told Torquil of the vision and he told his friend. When the body was found, the whole of the village branded me a warlock. Torquil and I were never again as we once were.
I pushed it away, nearly forgetting in whose presence I now stood.
“What did ye see?”
I swore I would never again voice anything I had seen, but the Templar asked so plainly I was bound to answer. “I saw a broadsword waver, then blood on a cross.” I didn't want to go on but felt I must. “I think I saw ye,” I whispered.
He stopped me with an outstretched hand, his eyes commanding obedience. “'Tis not a tale to be shared.”
“But ye don't know,” I said, frustrated. “I feel ye must take heed. What I see
.” I needed him to believe me.
He pulled away and moved off several paces. “Aye. But what ye see is not the whole an' not always the truth o' the future.” He didn't make a bit of sense and my face must have shown it.
“Think o' waters running swiftly in a stream. Drop a pebble an' ye change the path but a little. Drop a boulder an' ye have a diversion. 'Tis the same with lives an' futures. What ye saw may happen, but what I do between now an' then could very well change the outcome.”
He reached down and picked up a large black cat that had wandered in and began scratching its neck and ears. The animal purred loudly and with much contentment. “I also think 'tis a very bad thing to know yer own future,” he continued. “'Tis enough that I've heard what I have. I wish to speak o' it no more.”
“You know o' the visions?” I said. “Do ye have them as well? I've never known another who does.”
“Aye. I have the vision.” He would have said more, but just then Brother Andrus came into the room. A sharp look from the Templar warned me to heed my tongue. I did, but inside I wanted to chase the monk
away. I badly wanted to speak with the Templar. I was troubled. The visions had been coming to me for as long as I could remember. And in the whole of that time, each and every vision had come to pass just as they had been shown to me. Anxiously I moved around the central table, picking things up and putting them down again.