I left. All I had with me was the borrowed clothes on my back, the last reminder of Saxon…I needed to shed but for that I needed coin. I’m not going to lie and say that the thought of returning as ‘The Bastard’ hadn’t crossed my mind, cause it did – still does – but I had to assume a new identity. I couldn’t carry all of that weight and do what I had to do, not again.
They knew me, or at least one version of me, but I had the advantage: I could change. My face was barely recognisable anymore anyway. My eyebrows and facial hair had persisted to grow in awkward clumps which could not decide which way was up…I was…I am, what they would call a “looker”. Anyway it’s not what’s on the outside, not for me, I couldn’t give a shit. I knew them. I knew exactly where they would be, and the paradox in all of this was: they knew that I knew where they would be. Wait a minute, I realised in a moment of belated stupidity, am I walking into a trap? My ears strained as I stalked through the woods. The industry of the town ahead plumed above the naked tree tops like a merciless beast of gluttony.
Something snapped, a fallen twig? I already knew the answer to my earlier conspiracy. I twirled reactively, feeling the tightness rip across my chest as a dark blur whistled close to my ear. I was fast, really fast, but not fast enough. Another snap drew me around to my left and sent my senses scurrying as a jolt of red flashed across my eyes. The familiar sting of injury brought a small smile to my lips. Warmth oozed down onto my neck. I fell forwards and span into a crouch. Now I could see my attackers, or most of them.
I felt my smile growing wilder as I recognised the silhouette of a man I had not seen for, what seemed like, a lifetime, mortally speaking of course.
‘Game, o’ how you have grown soft, my friend.’ He stepped out of the shadow. I listened for any movements to my flanks. I knew this tricky bastard.
‘Grim. That was your doing?’ I said gesturing back to the church from where I had just come. He understood me, I saw it in his remorseless expression. I continued to slowly back away in order to get all of my attackers into my field of vision. Grim snorted an ugly sound and threw something that landed in the dirt a few paces in front of me. It was a cross, a plain golden cross. I recognised it.
‘You need to accompany me back to the-‘
‘-no fuck that! The Archbishop was an annoying fuck, but he didn’t deserve that.’
‘No?’ Grim bounded a couple of steps closer. His face devoid of emotion.
‘And Father Saxon? Do not tell me that was you.’
‘Saxon?’ The look on his face troubled me more than the answer I wanted. I needed to vent, to blame somebody. Saxon reminded me so much of my father…Grim was clear of that guilt at least. He continued to advance. I stopped still, I was ready. I counted four, five including Grim. They would die of course, Grim however…not sure. Something flickered across his face. A multitude of emotion. Maybe it was recognition? Maybe it was fear, or acceptance. One thing was sure because I recognised it too. It was the face people made when they finally met death.
I whooped in joy as Grim retreated a step. He tried to warn his assassins. Both he and I knew: the time for talking was over. I needed blood and I was going to get it.