100 Themes 020 - Fortitude
This was a toughie. I played with a couple of ideas, and this fell out; it's not great, so I'll stop talking and let you read it :D
“Fortitude. Chastity. Faith.”
Sir Clement of the Fairweald murmured these words in time with the other knights around him. He was knelt, as were they all, dressed in full armour, holding his sword out in front of him. The point dug into the ground as he leant on it, standing. The armour was heavy, but he barely noticed its weight.
The Grand Master strode forward to stand in front of the three-tined cross. His own armour was covered in gold, glinting in the light filtering through the high windows.
“Brothers,” he began, his deep voice carrying to the furthest corners and highest eaves, “We have been called together for this purpose. To root out the evil from its dark nest!”
A resounding cheer rippled through the crowd, and many a stamping of boots and banging of shields. Sir Clement watched as those around him fell to the fervour of their leader’s speech. He stood, immobile, and listened further.
“The three tenets of our faith, brothers, are Fortitude, Chastity and Faith! I say to you, brothers, that you cannot have any one of those without any of the others! For it requires courage and a mind free from the interferences of our daily lives to have a pure Faith! The one God that we all follow, the God who died for us, asks this of us!”
That cheer again, louder this time if anything. Sir Clement’s mouth twisted in distaste. They were sheep, and the Grand Master was the shepherd. Or was he the butcher? The last campaign had been nothing but butchery, it seemed. The mountain villages had been completely unprepared for them, and children had been put to the sword. Sir Clement had hidden a family in one of the barns, but it was a small victory.
Again the gold-armoured knight gained silence and waited for just a moment before continuing.
“Chastity! It is a hard penance to bear, but is when compared to that borne by our Lord and Saviour? You must have the courage to turn away the evils of the flesh, not just those of women, but strong drink and gambling! These also will blind us to the Lord’s bounty, and you must have faith that better will come of it. Chastity!” He raised on golden gauntlet in the air, a fist punching the heavens, and the crowd erupted once again. Sir Clement smiled a little under his helmet. The cheer sounded a little more subdued this time, and he wondered if some of the men regretted losing their conjugal rights.
“And Fortitude, brothers. We must have courage, to stand against evil wherever we see it. To destroy it, before it can spread to others, to crush it out. It is our faith that gives us the answers!”
They cheered again, but suddenly the Grand Master’s hand came down, finger pointing. Sir Clement gasped; it was pointing at him!
“The Lord has given me a message, brothers. This man, Sir Clement of the Fairweald, he is not one of us! He has known a woman! He is not of the Faith! And therefore, brothers, he cannot have the fortitude to stand with you, to guard your backs. Would you have someone at your back you could not trust?”
There was a steadily widening circle around Sir Clement, who still held his sword loosely in one hand. The Grand Master pulled the visor down on his helmet and strode off the platform, towards him. Sir Clement looked all around, but where before he had seen allies, he saw only bared swords. The golden knight stepped into the circle.
“Is it not true? Deny it now for all to hear, with my glove upon you, and all will hear it,” the Grand Master stated. He moved forward, and Sir Clement stumbled backward into the arms of two other knights. His helmet was wrenched off and light flooded his eyes.
“One touched by my gauntlets can tell no lies, or be burned to the pit, Sir Clement. We shall see your innocence or guilt.”
“I swear, I’m innocent,” he pleaded, but could do nothing to prevent the gauntlet from covering his face. Almost immediately he knew something was wrong.
“Sir Clement, do you harbour Fortitude, Chastity and Faith in your heart?”
“I… I do, I swear,” he stumbled out, but then suddenly the glove was on fire, a burning pain unlike any he had ever felt. He saw, in the smoking instant before his eyes melted, fire in the eyes of the Grand Master, and a voice inside his head spoke to him. “You will burn, little man, and we cannot be stopped. The Fifth Circle will rise and this world will crumble to ash!”
Then he knew no more as his face caved in, his corpse falling to the floor with a rattle.