I am staring my captain in the eye, a man who supposed to have died five years ago. I can’t believe it, this isn’t right and yet here he is, here I am. With the equipment from five years from now, I am the same man as five years from now, with the same scar as five years from now.
“Well, do you think you can find me the white elk?” The captain looks at me then looks beside me, I turn my head to see Patch, my best friend, who is suppose to die a few months from now. But only its not him, I know it to be him but his face, it’s wrong, it’s of the Waifer we met in Italy, the one we lost in the camp outside Milan. “Is there a problem Friedrich?”
“Um no sir, no problem. Though just out of curiosity, have you heard any grumbling from the men, any malcontent?”
“No I haven’t, there has been no word and there will be no rebellion in my camp, I wont here of it.”
“Yes, sir, sorry sir. I will find you that elk then.” I turn and walk out of the tent, Patch at my side. We leave the camp as we did five years ago, but unlike five years ago shortly out of ear shot, I tell Patch to hold up.”
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“We are not going to hunt for that elk.”
“Well I didn’t think so considering you need to go save your captain.”
“How did you know, are you one of the conspirators?”
“No, no, but you can’t save them alone, I can help you. Think about it, you will be a hero, you would climb the ranks of the army, maybe become knighted, maybe even having a nice piece of land to call your own. All you have to is ask, and I can help you accomplish this.”
“What is your angle on this, what do you get if I ask for your help?”
“I don’t have an angle, I am just interested in your decision.”
My decision? Who is this guy? Why does he wear the face of the young Waifer, and how can he want nothing in return? I am no business man but I know nothing is free. There has to be something.
“Well, what will it be?”
I look at him, then at the ground, then back at him. “My decision?” I move my hand to the Corvo mace. “This is my decision!” I swing the mace at his head and crush it in one strike. His body falls to the ground dead, it’s not the mangled Waifer’s I see, it’s Patch’s face. ‘Well that isn’t what I expected’. I move quickly back to camp, as I near it I can here fighting in the distance. I make it to the outskirts of the camp, I had behind a bush so no one can see me. The captain and his forces are doing a great job of getting their arsch handed to them. They are surrounded by an out numbering force, there is one man who appears to be in charge on horseback. I take out the spyglass and look to see if I recognize him, I might not be able to kill him now but maybe I can kill him after all of this is over. My jaw nearly hits the ground when I see his face, it’s Mastino Della Scalla, Cangrande’s nephew. ‘Well I certainly can’t kill him, Cangrande will be pissed.’
Someone falls to one knee next to me, he is breathing heavy as if he ran to join me. “Man its one hell of a fight out there, are you gonna join them?” I look over, its another soldier who just came out of the fight, but he has the Waifer’s face. “Are you just gonna stand here or are you gonna save your captain?”
“There are too many of them, I would be picked off before even getting close to them.”
“No, all you would have to do is hit the guy on horseback, kill him and the rebels will run. You will be a hero.”
“The guy is about 1000 yards away, not even I can hit him from here.”
“Here, try this.” The Waifer takes out an arrow and gives it to me. “Here, its a lucky arrow.” He then touches the tip. The tip of the arrow turns shadowy and black as I hold it. The shadow creeps up the shaft until it covers the entire thing, the tip now appears to be rotting and the shadow is dripping off of it.
I stand up, take the arrow with two hands and stare at it for a moment. ‘Do I shoot it, I would be a hero to my homeland, not a disgrace. But if I do this, and I stay in the Empire, what will happen to my friends? Would they even be able to take on the cardinal without me?’ And what would happen to Carine if I stayed here, and my son….’ My train of thought trails off at that point. I take the arrow, grasp it firmly and break it over my knee.
“What are you doing, I don’t have an unlimited amount of lucky arrows.”
“This is what it should be, I can’t help them, I won’t make it to Italy if I do.” I watch as the traitors finish off my comrades, my friends. Five years ago I would have given anything to come back here and help them, to fight and possibly die beside them. Now there is too much at stake, if this is real, who knows what would happen if the cardinal succeeded, who would be able to stop them. The traitors begin burning the countryside, my home. I watch for a moment, I look to see if there is anybody I can help, I then take my leave.
“Where are we going?”
“To the lord commander, just like before.”
“You think he will just let you go, you are a traitor and a deserter. You will be killed.”
“He let me go last time, he should do it again.”
“Yes, but that was because Patch vouched for you last time, you made sure that it won’t happen this time. I don’t think I will do as good of a job backing you up as he did.”
“We will see.”
It appears that the Waifer is following me to the castle. He is acting like any soldier would, jovial, trying to make small talk and the like. He has stopped tempting me with deals which I am grateful for. We make it to the castle, and I tell my story to the general, just like before only the Waifer is with me. He doesn’t believe me, he orders me executed. This isn’t suppose to happen, this is not what happened before! I plead with him: “I will do anything to prove my innocence, name it and I will do it”.
He pauses of a moment, “You will die”.
The soldiers begin to approach me to lock me in irons. “You know, you wont make it out alive without my help, there are too many of them. All you have to do is ask”.
“Fine, I need your help.”
“Then run!” We make a break for it, run past the immediate guards and make it to the stairs. Its then when he nudges me into a shadowy wall. Before I can do anything, the shadow envelops me like cool fine silk. I go into the wall and I see myself emerge from a large bolder 200 yards outside the castle. As I emerge the shadows cling to me. I quickly shake them off but the cool feeling lingers. Thats when I notice that my skin has become pale and cool to the touch. ‘Well that is concerning, hope its not permenant.’ Fortunately this time the Waifer does not follow. I quickly run from the castle as I can here the troops are mustering, no doubt there are getting ready to look for me.
I make my way south to the place where the slave caravan was ambushed. Maybe, my friends will be there and we can meet up the same as before. As a venture down, I hear of a great war brewing in the east. It also seems to have started in Venice. ‘What war, there isn’t suppose to be any war at this moment. Sure the crusades are ongoing but not like this. Me changing of events didn’t cause this, did it?’ I make it to the ambush site, and I wait. The day comes, no caravan. A wait another day, still nothing. ‘Maybe they got delayed or never left Venice. I need to go there.’ I make my way farther south, avoiding Imperial troops headed to Venice. ‘I must be headed in the right direction, everything seems to be converging on Venice.’ I make it to the Veneto and see banners of all colors there as tens of thousands of troops are camped outside of Venice. ‘Who are these people, what are they doing there? There is no way I caused this.’ I ask some villagers what is going on.
“The new Pope has called a new war against the east. He has united all of the nations of Christendom to fight in the crusade.”
“Wait, new Pope, what new Pope? What happened to the old Pope?”
“Well, after Pope Gregory died, they voted on a new Pope. They voted for the cardinal of Florence, he is now Pope Corvo.”
My heart sinks in my chest. ‘No, this isn’t possible. How did he- when did he- WHAT IS GOING ON! There is only one thing to do now, see if I can meet up anybody. I will start with Ettore, I think I remember where is old house is.’ I manage to catch a ferry to Venice proper. What awaited me was a city in complete chaos. Rival families opening fighting in the streets, corpse collectors trying to impose martial law upon the city, troops from several different nations cutting their way across the city, trying to maintain order. I slowly make my way toward Ettore’s house, avoiding as much fighting as I can. On the way, I bump into a soldier and he turns to me “Where are you headed?”. I turn to respond, he has the Waifer’s face.
“I was wondering if you would show up again.”
“What do you mean, I have always been with you. Even before all of this.”
“Sure you have,” I say with skepticism. “I am headed to Ettore’s house if you must know”.
I continue to head to Ettore’s house, the Waif follows me unfortunately. Despite the rest of the city in turmoil, this part of the city is early quite. I turn the corner to enter the campo to see bodies littered everywhere. I check them to see if I recognize anybody but fortunately come up with nothing. I make my way up the stairs to the apartment, I cautiously enter to see a room painted with gore. Dead bodies of both Ettore’s family and what appeared to be hired thugs litter the apartment. Although Ettore’s family is dead, the thugs on the other hand have been eviscerated. Some of them are almost cut in half. I check again and again do not find Ettore living or dead. Now I have nothing, no leads nowhere to go, nothing.
“We must leave here, it is dangerous to linger,” says the Waif behind me.
“For once I agree with you.”
We quickly leave the area, as we do I pull a random idea out of my head. ‘Maybe Abbot Morosini will know what to do, if anything he might be able to bless me or do whatever Dominic does to help people keep their minds strait and get me out of this dream, if this is a dream.’ I make my way to the docks, and after making a couple wrong turns I make it there to find some of the heaviest of the fighting is here. As I ponder how I am going to get around this mosh-pit, I see Ettore come out of the shadows on the far side of the fighting and jump into the fray. I am too far away to yell and get his attention and the only way to get closer is through this hoard of bodies.
“You wont make it you know,” comes a voice from behind me “without my help that is.”
“I don’t want you help!” I charge forward, taking a few out with arrows at first then, when I am closer, I lunge into the fray with the Corvo mace drawn. I am not used to close quarters combat like Dominique and Nizar are so despite my best efforts I take some hits as I slowly make my way towards Ettore. About midway through a booming warcry, which sounds like it came from the sky itself echos throughout the city. It is so loud I can feel my entire body reverberate to the sound. “What was that?”
“Danger, you can’t save him if you don’t ask for my help.” comes a voice from behind me.
I ignore it and continue to make my way toward Ettore, who appears to now be defending a unconscious person on a gondola. I almost make it to him, I now can see that his hands, in addition to holding his daggers, now have flames that dance all around them. Then I see them, a woman I have never seen before and the now new Pope accompanied by a large contingent of guards moving toward Ettore. Ettore sees them, kneels, and begins praying. ‘Now is not the time kid, get up.’ “Ettore, what are you doing? Get up, run!” No response, the woman approaches him and touches the back of his neck and he immediately falls over dead. “No!” I yell as I try in vain to move closer. Another yell comes from crowd, Nizar bursts through the mass of people and makes a flying leap toward the Pope and the woman. They put their hands up in unison and he slows, as if he is running into a raging wind. As he nears a stop, his body begins to dissolve and blow away from him until he finally disintegrates before them.
“What now, you can fight them alone.”
“New plan is the same as the old plan.” I manage to get onto an empty gondola and untie the ropes holding it in place. ‘What am I doing, I have never used a gondola before’. I attempt to make my way to the island with cathedral in the distance, in between me and it are large ships dueling each other in the canal. I look back to see if I am being followed. I see the Pope and the woman looking in my direction, they look at each other and begin talking then look at me again.
“You aren’t going to make it.” the Waifer says from the other side of the gondola. “They will kill you.”
“There is only one man who could walk on water, and it sure as hell isn’t those two.”
“Ha, who says they will be walking.”
Just then, both of their lower halves are enveloped in shadow and begin to lift them up. Once the are ten feet off of the ground, they begin to fly across the water to me.
“You must decide now, you either let me help you, or you die.”
I wait a moment, “Dieing isn’t an option”.
“That is what I like to hear.”
“Do we need to shake on it?”
“Shake? Oh no, all you have to do, is ask.”
“Fine, I need your help.”
The Waifer grabs my right arm, and it erupts in flame. “Just reach out, and you will kill them.”
I grab an arrow and noch it, I am for the woman first and let it fly. It hits its mark and she cries out in pain. The shadows seem to drip off of her and land into the water creating an oily ooze under her as she now floats toward the water. I shoot again, this time at the Pope, same thing happens to him.
“You have to do it with your hand.”
I bring the gondola to the woman, she is still writhing in pain, though now she is at the surface. I grab her with my right arm and her skin begins to crack and catch fire. As parts of her now begin to turn to dust, a somewhat humanoid shadow, leaves her body and pushes its way into mine. I try to wave the wisp away from me with my other hand but it does nothing. The shadow enters my body and as it does, knowledge enters my mind. After the woman is dead, I then move to the Pope, I stare at him for a moment, savoring the moment as this is the man who has caused me, my friends, and family so much pain. Then I grab his face and he begins to crack and disintegrate. Just like with the woman, a shadow leaves his body and enters mine, with it even more knowledge and the realization that I can now do new things. As the flames from my hand go away, I notice my skin is now alabaster white.
I take the gondola back to the island of Venice, at first the other soldiers ignore me but as I try out my new powers, some and then most begin to bow to me. I see myself become an admiral in the Venice-an navy and leading a campaign through the Byzatine Empire and then to the holy land and taking it all in the name of Venice.
I awaken to find myself laying in the middle of the Milanese Cathedral. Ettore and Nizar are next to me still unconscious. Dominic is still attacking his foe, but now his sword is partially melted and his armor has been ripped off his body. ‘I am back, but, how?’ I go to get up, as I bring myself to my feet I catch a glimpse of my arm. It is now alabaster white.