Light WarriorsRead completely
The confrontation of bio-energetic entities from other universes, whose Dark Forces have ruined more than one planet, brought them to Earth, where they will fight for the souls and hearts of people in every way possible for them.The plot unfolds in the Middle Ages, in the era of the Crusades. This is a story that could have been true, or perhaps it was…
© Vlad Vas, 2023
Created with Ridero smart publishing system
Warriors of Light
Hundreds of centuries ago, long before the advent of humanity, in intergalactic space lived representatives of alien organisms, highly evolved unknown races with supernatural abilities akin to gods. With the speed of light they traveled through various stars in search of places with other forms of living inhabitants, from which they received the necessary charge of energy to maintain their vitality and to continue their kind, prolonging their endless existence in the immense and unexplored galaxies. Some of the species were Warriors of Light, others, on the contrary, were Warriors of Darkness.
The representatives of the Force of Light were in human forms, with angelic wings, in snow-white robes, with pretty faces, looking no older than thirty years of Earthling age. Their heads were covered with blond hair of a blond, near-golden hue. With shining eyes, the colors of emerald and sapphire, they bestowed upon those they met a sunny warmth and inner peace, bliss, and tranquility.
Angels radiated a bright, penetrating light, ennobling everything in their path. And wherever their feet stepped, everything around them immediately began to shine and blossom: the wretched became beautiful, the maimed became whole, the sick became healthy, and the sad became joyful and happy.
The dark ones, in turn, were also with human bodies, but of a larger size and with heads resembling wild, predatory animals and reptiles.
Between these species there have been regular clashes of interest and conflicts over survival, battles over the lives and energies of others since the beginning of the creation of everything in the universe.
The difference between them was that the Light Warriors derived their strength from showing love, kindness, striving for prosperity, peace, as well as compassion, mutual assistance, and even self-sacrifice. And they themselves tried in every possible way to maintain peace wherever they could.
And the Warriors of Darkness, diametrically opposite to the Light Forces, received their energies from negative aggregors, actions, feelings, emotions, destruction and suffering. And no matter what planets with living organisms they came to, with their little alien help the inhabitants instantly increased their bad, wretched qualities: weaknesses, phobias, resentments, envy, greed, betrayal, treachery were manifested.
After that these creatures weakened so much that only death from various diseases became for them the payback for all their sins, and subsequently the death of the planet with a complete plunge into darkness.
The Light Powers had no right to interfere physically and to engage in combat, to resort to violence. Being close by, in the status of «overseers», they sent them hints, gave them signs, as if insistently telling them: no matter what happens, one must always strive for good, for light, for finding the positive in the negative, to enjoy what one has, what is here and now: to rejoice in the environment, to protect it and dispose of resources with dignity, to strive for love both for your neighbor and for all other people, that everyone is free and that the choice is always left to them and everyone decides, does and receives from the universe and the world exactly what he desires, deserves, depending on his level of spiritual development and on the works to which he has devoted his life.
They only guided, but always left individuals free to act and choose. After all, any decision for another or imposition of one’s opinion is already violence, which in itself was contrary to the statutes and the essence of the Light Forces.
Tragically, however, in most cases the Dark Warriors were one step ahead of their opponents and filled the universe with all kinds of negative colors. Many of the inhabitants of the planets had more than enough bad, destructive thoughts, destructive habits, which made them slaves of temptation. With this, they, like a magnet, attracted the Warriors of Darkness, sending a signal into space, inviting them to their light. And upon their arrival on their planet their negative emotions were augmented, which then gave birth to yet darker thoughts and actions, even a desire to inflict disease or death, thus they unknowingly cultivated evil powers within themselves, leaving their children only degradation and suffering. And the evil grew with each next generation, for ignorance does not exempt them from responsibility. And the more negative things were sent to the universe, the stronger the Dark Warriors became, taking all the energy of the inhabitants and the planet as a whole, which caused the death of more than one civilization.
And such absorption by the Darkness and destruction of the living planets has been taking place for thousands of years, because all the inhabitants ended up being servants of the negative and could not resist the «good things» and temptations that destroyed their souls, with time they completely stopped doing good deeds, even elementary thank each other, lost the ability to love themselves and their neighbors, to care about the environment, to enjoy life.
After many centuries, the very young planet Earth and the humans on its surface became the next test object.
The events unfolded in medieval times, during the Crusades and the emergence of chivalry, around the beginning of the 11th century AD.
Upon their arrival on Earth, the Dark Warriors took on a human form, which they did not have much trouble creating.
People were quite developed representatives of living organisms, as evidenced by the impressive size of buildings, royal castles and huts of villagers, located on the perimeter of large estates, people were economic activities, in the port stood merchant ships, the king held meetings and receptions, balls, at the court regularly held all kinds of entertainment, games and, of course, jousting tournaments.
Despite the scale and diversity of the population’s activities, the aliens managed to infiltrate all areas of humanity in order to learn their strengths and weaknesses, what they like most and what they are most attracted to, in order to understand where it would be easier to get the necessary energy, as well as other test subjects from other planets.
After a dozen days of being surrounded by humans, the Dark Warriors were able to summarize: this was clearly the tastiest planet. They had never seen so much sin, so much debauchery, so much weakness, so much so that they had the privilege of seeing it all on the first day after the invasion-so the chaos had begun and grown even before the invasion.
Despite the presence of fancy temples and churches, the development of knowledge and the dense spread of religion, all this appeared to work just the opposite and gave a powerful boost to negative energies from dirty deeds, for priests, monarchs, kings and rulers were constantly blatantly lying and using their power over the lower class people for their own selfish purposes, taking whatever they wanted from them. Controlling their minds through intimidation with rage, God’s punishment, execution, rape, and control of their destinies as they pleased.
In view of these circumstances, which could not but please and even delighted the Dark Warriors, they came to the conclusion that it would be supremely easy for them to destroy the Earth, that it could be done practically unhindered, in the shortest possible time and with minimal interference.
They could instantly get all the accumulated negative energies along with their black souls, which is exactly what they intended to do. On a pure, voluptuous night, all the strongest Dark Warriors gathered in one place, far away from dwellings and people, on a mountain, one of the highest points on the planet.
Lined up in a circle of fifty warriors, combining their strength, combining all their power to create an energy beam to pierce through the planet, deprive it of life, and pull out of the living shells of people their sinful souls, leaving their physical bodies to die in savage suffering, to see before they die how everything dear to them is dying around them.
Above their animal heads the energy of evil began to concentrate. The heavens seemed to split open, the water in the bodies of water began to boil, the clouds began to thicken into a coarse mass, and a strong wind rose up, sweeping away everything in its path, even the mountains began to crumble from the intense pressure. And out of the black clouds came a clot of darkness, remotely resembling a spear and a tornado in one phenomenon, which grew more unwieldy and frightening by the second.
After gaining an impressive form and strength, this spear was suddenly stopped by the energy of the Light Forces. They cast a kind of bright, yet transparent dome, like a glass vessel, which began to absorb the darkness. A snow-white explosive flash, like a powerful lightning, blinded all present, and then the Dark Ones suspended their deed, and the sky became clear and cloudless again, strewn with marvelous stars.
Twelve peace angels came down to earth. They were dressed in bright white togas, and from their bodies emanated, like living threads, light beams that resembled fire in their smooth movements over the bodies of their bearers. The five girls and seven young men had very attractive looks and athletic figures, and their beautiful faces shone with good-naturedness.
– How dare you have the audacity to interfere with us! – He was still squinting slightly and covering his eyes with his hand, coming to his senses after the sudden dazzle.
– We know that the inhabitants of this planet, the people, still have a little bit of good and light in their souls. We feel that maybe soon it will wake up and move to a new, higher level, as it once happened on our planet, so none of us should meddle in their destinies, and we all have to give them an opportunity to reveal and develop this light in themselves. – answered one of the angels, apparently the chief one.
– What light?! – The reptiloid smirked, with an ironic irony in his voice that could only indicate that nothing would ever make things better or save people. – There’s more light from an extinguished embers than from the actions or thoughts of men! You are too naive! They will destroy themselves and this planet. Not ten years from now there will be nothing sacred and no one left here alive! – He concluded with a laugh which the other Darkseekers mirrored with contemptuous grimaces.
– If you think nothing can save them, and you are so sure of that, then let’s leave them alone for eleven earthly years and not interfere or help them, let them determine their own destiny. – the angel offered calmly.
– But what sense and interest do we have in this?
– And your interest will be such that together with the energy of the planet you will also receive all our powers. You have our word! – The angel offered, swearing.
– All right, my Bright Winged Brother! We agree to this! We can wait to see how this weak race perishes, just as the civilizations of the Titans, Atlanteans, and Hyperboreans perished, and with it your last hope for the rebirth of the seemingly rational, but so fallen and hungry for temptation, debauchery, and fratricide people! – Gloating, his opponent confirmed the bet, laughing again.
And thus a pact was made between them to give the inhabitants of this planet some time, eleven earthly years to be exact, for their inspection and supposed, in the opinion of the Dark Ones, healing.
This is the only reason why they agreed, because they were absolutely and unconditionally sure that even a century would not be enough time for people to improve and change for the better. On the contrary, during this time they will only further pollute their thoughts, their lives and their souls, or worse, they will eliminate themselves and destroy everything around them, thus doing all the dirty work for the Dark Ones, or even surpassing them in results.
* * *
Time went on, and year by year the time that was measured for people was diminishing. There was no light in the hearts and deeds of men, and only a few adults still had a glimmer of life and good deeds, and newborns who had not yet had time to drink the devil’s spoonful of tar. But in the rest, the Darkness progressed: drunkenness, debauchery, fornication, murder, despondency, lies, violence.
The space and conditions for the creation, development and expansion of Light and love were negligible, so everything gradually plunged into darkness and disease, which further exacerbated the problem.
The kingdoms and their rulers thought of nothing but their own gain, the multiplication of wealth, power and the pleasures they could gain by it. People shunned each other, became more withdrawn, greedy and jealous of those who could afford a little more. Even the pretty, pure-hearted children who had barely learned to speak became embittered, capricious, and simply unbearable.
The end of mankind was already near and most likely inevitable. Destruction was happening at a very rapid pace, and nothing seemed to be able to save the world anymore. In addition to the unstable state of affairs on a planet plunged into the abyss, solar activity had decreased, and common diseases, such as tuberculosis, had mutated, were spreading rapidly, were untreatable, and in most cases were lethal. Because of malnutrition and lack of minimal hygiene, the immune systems were too weak. «The Black Death, or plague, to which all were helpless, covered most of the continents. It consumed people and all life at an exorbitant rate and wiped out more people in a few years than in all the wars put together. Those who survived fled from their lands, came to other settlements, seized them, killed the men, raped the women, and then executed them and their offspring. They stayed in the captured settlements for as long as they had food reserves, and then moved on in search of new, clean, plague-free lands, rushing away from disease-stricken areas.
The Warriors of Light watched with tears in their eyes as people degraded and their world perished, but, alas, they could do nothing about it because they had taken a vow of neutrality. Everything was in the hands of the people, who made their own destinies and disposed of their own souls.
For what is on the outside is a reflection of what is on the inside. Hopes were bursting like soap bubbles, and there was little chance of restoring the Light in the minds and hearts of men. As a result, the angels’ doubts about people’s salvation only increased. Day by day the belief in the possibility of winning the fight to save another planet and save their own kind was melting away.
Eleven years later
Through the autumn forest, dressed in tones of red and red with barely visible remnants of green, two riders walked leisurely on horseback, their black horses treading on fallen leaves, tossing them up behind them with their hoofed hooves.
They were brave, courageous warlords, quite accomplished knights. They were also brothers, which at first glance would not be obvious. They were both handsome, but very different from each other, both internally and externally.
Richard, the older brother, aged thirty-two, was tall and powerful, with a very attractive and good-natured appearance: brown eyes radiating confidence, brilliance and warmth, a disposing smile, and black, long hair that fell freely over his shoulders. In communication he was very easy, open, caring to others and sincere. But in battle he was known as a resolute, fearless warrior, always the first to rush to the attack. But he himself never unleashed a war, but only confronted the invaders, as he fought for peace on earth with all his heart. He was dressed in a walking outfit: a thick shirt, camisole, long pants, black boots, black cloak, a sword tied to his belt, and a hunting bow behind his back.
Jeffrey was barely twenty-four years old, of medium height but also of sturdy athletic build. His face, hard and strong, and the rather cold gray-green eyes were rather intimidating. But despite this, it was still a face with very handsome, manly features. His long brown hair fell slightly below his shoulders, and part of it covered his right cheek, which had been damaged in his first big fight about seven years ago. Having an analytical mind, he was distrustful and often grouchy, sometimes even rude and harsh in his utterances, secretive, able to keep his true feelings to himself, silent, listening more and trying to talk mostly about business. He was very agile and easily evaded attacks of attackers, rarely tested the strength of his armor, including due to his already at that time of great experience, so he was considered one of the best warriors of the kingdom. He was also an excellent archer with a crossbow, which he parted with except during sleep. The knight was dressed in much the same way as his older brother, the only difference was a cloak of dark brown color with a hood over his head and slightly covering his eyes.
– I love the smell of freshly fallen leaves, the silent singing of the wind, and the light, invigorating chill! – The older of the knights said, chest full of air with evident pleasure.
– I, too, am quite fond of it, and also of those marvelous colors of the leaves that have not yet begun to decay,» answered Geoffrey, barely smiling. – But come on, Richard, you should talk about beautiful things with the ladies of the kingdom! We are, in fact, on the hunt, and we have other aims. We’ve been walking for three hours without seeing much but a couple of squirrels,» he said, slightly annoyed at his last sentence.
– Exactly, dear brother, so that the three hours are not wasted, learn to appreciate every moment and enjoy what Mother Nature gives us,» the first replied, picking a maple leaf from the tree and smiling while breathing in its fragrance.
– The battle the day before yesterday did not go unnoticed after all, alas, my friend, but you have gone mad! – The other said gravely, but chuckled at the end.
– Thank you! Perhaps you are right! – laughing uncontrollably, Richard replied, which infected the joker, and their laughter melded into a single echo in the deep woods. Suddenly the laughter was interrupted by the crunch of a branch.
– Quiet! Did you hear that?! – Geoffrey asked sharply, but almost in a whisper, taking off his hood, to which Richard answered in the affirmative with a nod. – You can tell by the sound that the beast is at least a hundred pounds, perhaps a moose, a big boar, or even a small bear,» Jeffrey continued, preparing his crossbow. – The noise came from the east; let’s split up and try to trap the prey.
Richard said nothing again, only shook his head, and they rode off in different directions. On the right side, where Richard rode, there was nothing to be seen. He jumped off his horse, drew his sword, and rode on unhurriedly, listening to every detail.
Geoffrey, on the other side of the forest, remained on horseback, but also kept his ears open. He stopped his horse and at that moment he heard another branch crunch from a thick part of the forest, the knight immediately headed in that direction. As he rode a little closer, he saw someone’s silhouette rushing through the bushes, just barely catching the brownish color of the object, but still not being able to see it fully.
Then he stopped and took aim at the end of the bush, expecting his prey to come running out of the thicket right at him any minute. His expectation was not in vain, for in a few seconds the branches and leaves were shaking, and he was ready to shoot the first thing that came out, but suddenly he saw his brother a little to the right of that spot, giving him a sign with his hand not to shoot. He didn’t quite understand why Richard was asking for it, but he put the crossbow away nonetheless and climbed down silently from his horse.
Richard put his sword away and began quietly creeping up behind the unknown man.
– Sweet lady, you are not lost… – Before he could finish his question, the «beast», who turned out to be a beautiful girl, pounced on him with a dagger in his hand with the savage cry of a hunted, desperate animal struggling for its life. Richard staggered backward, caught his foot on the mighty root of the tree, and fell. She jumped after him and wanted to pierce his chest in the heart area, but Richard freely, even in that position, knocked the stabbing weapon out of her hands. The girl jumped up from the knight as easily and quickly as she settled on him, then sprinted away with inhuman speed.
But her escape did not last long. For when she began to deliberately loop between the trees, getting lost behind them, the same circumstance played against her. As she squeezed between the two trunks, she ran into an obstacle: an arrow from Geoffrey’s crossbow, fired and flown just inches from her, struck one of the trees very richly and firmly, blocking her path. The arrow blocked her path at abdominal level, and she crashed into it, and then collapsed to the ground, crouching in unbearable pain and labored breathing, hugging herself with her thin arms, but not even crying out, only letting out a low moan.
– Did you shoot her? – I heard Richard’s agitated voice, rising to his feet and heading at a brisk pace toward the lying girl.
– Calm down, Richie! Just a little scare,» he said ironically, also hurrying toward his downed prey.
– So much for hunting,“ Richard went on, „you could have been more delicate and respectfully asked the girl to stick around. Your methods are primitive!
– Yes, but most importantly – effective! It worked, didn’t it! – Jeffrey answered, drawing his sword as a precaution, for he was almost at his destination, and besides, who knows what else the sudden stranger might do. – Are you alive? – he asked with indifference in his voice, stopping two meters away from her.
– Are you all right, pretty lady? – Richard, the true connoisseur of women, asked her when he arrived. She sprang to her feet, still clutching her stomach, and leaned her back against a tree.
She was of such extraordinary beauty that both brothers were speechless for a few moments at the sight of her. The black-haired beauty was young, about twenty years old, with very feminine, delicate features, with beautiful mysterious green eyes from which it was impossible to take your eyes off, they radiated a magical energy that strongly attracted and disarmed… However, now her eyes also held anxiety, it was obvious that the girl was very frightened and at this moment was in confusion because of the unknown people standing in front of her. She was dressed in a burgundy floor-length dress with long sleeves, made of expensive material, which already indicated that she was not a commoner, as well as a cloak with a hood in a color approaching brown, and a tone lighter boots.
– Please excuse us, young lady, we didn’t mean to hurt you or hurt or scare you, it was just so sudden,» Richard began the conversation. – Please don’t be afraid of us.
– Who are you, where did you come from, and why did you attack him? – Jeffrey asked the stranger coldly, pointing to his brother.
– My name is Adelaide. I am the daughter of Prince Nicklot, lord of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a region in northern Germany. My men and I were on our way to my companions in France to discuss our concerns about the outbreak of the epidemic and the cure for the plague, about security in our regions, and to ask for help on mutually beneficial terms,» she answered even more excitedly, but with less fear in her voice, realizing that since she had been interviewed and asked questions, they were not going to kill her yet. – But on the way we were attacked by about fifty warriors and destroyed, apparently, all who were with me. I managed to escape into the woods. And I attacked you out of fear, defending myself, because I thought you were one of them.
– Self-defense is good! – Richard spoke again, softly and good-naturedly. – I am Richard, and this is my younger brother Geoffrey. We have come to visit King Philip the Second Augustus of France, a good friend and ally of our father Henry the Second, King of England. We also came here to settle some matters from the same area, in view of the increasing danger from immigrants, Viking invaders and the rapid spread of disease. And so a few days ago we joined with French troops in a battle with the foreigners, driving them out of the king’s eastern possessions. It may well have been the same invaders who attacked you, my dear lady,» he added gently, even flirtatiously, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile, but only with the right side of his mouth.
– So I was going where you were going,» she said quietly.
– Apparently so. You’re lucky we have the day off, that’s why we wandered so far from the castle and decided to go hunting,» Geoffrey said again with his usual unemotional look.
– Yes, thank you very much! But you could have killed me! – she answered, raising her voice a little.
– You could have… But I was aiming for the tree,» he said in the same tone, to which she only stared intensely into his eyes, trying her best to show her great dislike.
– All right, come on, take it easy,» Richard said during the heated pause. – Give me your hand and get on your horse and ride to the place where you were attacked and see if any of your companions are still alive.
– Okay, but the attackers were, as I said, about fifty people,» said Adelaide warily.
– Thank you for your concern, but we’ll take a look from the outside first! – he replied. – We are not suicidal! – he added with a chuckle, and they set off on horseback. Geoffrey rode behind, and Adelaide rode with Richard, hugging him from behind.
– Show us which way to go! – Jeffrey’s voice sounded a few seconds later.
– Let’s go! – Adelaide answered. – Follow us, there’s a big burnt oak tree about ten minutes away, and that’s where it happened,» she said, then turned to Richard.
– As far as I remember, yes!» he answered smiling. – But do not worry, in general, he is very kind at heart, as well as a fair and honest man, just outside dry and angry, and the time is such that he is not up to fun yet.
– Yes, I understand. These are indeed harsh times,» Adelaide said with sympathy and regret in her voice. – We came here for help, because recently our kingdom was attacked by evil warriors, the castle was besieged for three days. Fortunately, our troops were able to fight back, but unfortunately, many of the defenders are now worm food, the same fate befell those who were with me today.
We were warned of the danger approaching from the northern countries and that war, darkness and plague had already engulfed the Scandinavian countries, the Iberian states. Only a small portion of the central lands are holding on,» she continued the story. – There were practically no means of survival there, that’s why this kind of games began – migrations in search of easy profits in other states, everyone became by himself and for himself, and animal instincts prevail over any laws of morality and morality.
Our whole army was at a religious feast, a church service, when the raid took place, so we were taken by surprise and suffered a large number of casualties – soldiers and innocent civilian victims. I would like to believe that things will get better soon, that the Vikings will not return, that we will unite with friendly neighbors and coexist peacefully as before… Although who knows what’s going on at home now, maybe it’s just at this very moment that new attacks on my father’s castle follow and things are still much more tragic… – She ended with tears rolling from her eyes, and there was anxiety and genuine concern in her trembling voice.
– I am sure that everything will work out and be fine, just like before, in peacetime, and maybe even better! The main thing is to believe and strive for it! – Richard said encouragingly, when suddenly Jeffrey’s whistle was heard.
They turned around, Geoffrey signaling for them to stop and wait for him while he climbed a low mountain next to a stunted ancient oak tree, which he also indicated with a silent gesture, and surveyed the present surroundings. To which they nodded in unison and obeyed their instructions without question.
Geoffrey tied the reins to a tree and headed up the hill on foot. Slowly retracing his steps, picking up his crossbow and keeping his finger on the trigger, he prepared himself for the shot and for all sorts of unfavorable scenarios when encountering his enemies.
When he got to the top, he found a safe place behind a massive rock where he had a clear view of the battlefield, and there he made himself comfortable. But after a while he put the crossbow away, making sure he didn’t need it, since there were no living people down there and the dead couldn’t do anything to him anymore.
Before his eyes opened a terrible picture: carriages and dead horses, pierced by lit arrows, were ablaze, German soldiers and women who were on their way to Philip II were beheaded and hung from branches by one leg, and all their upper body parts, that is, their heads with open mouths and eyes, in which fear was still reflected, were placed on spears stuck in the ground.
One of the heads Jeff saw belonged to a young girl. Apparently it was a maid, and at that very moment her eye was pecking out a raven sitting on top of her. The sight made the knight insanely ill, so he hurried back, for he could see no more of this decomposing creature. Richard and Adelaide dismounted and went to a secluded spot so as not to be seen by outsiders.
– It’s too quiet in this forest,“ Richard said, looking around, „I don’t like it…
– And you’re right not to like it,» Jeffrey’s voice was heard. – I haven’t seen so much cruelty and inhumanity in a long time, though, to be precise, I’ve never seen such a mess before… – He made a wry smile on his face as he continued. – We have no business there. We have to get out of here, as soon as possible.
– What’s out there? Is there anyone left alive? – Adelaide asked, staring hopefully into Geoffrey’s eyes, pleading.
– I’m sorry, but there are no survivors, and you don’t want to see what’s left out there… – he answered, climbing on his horse, trying not to meet her gaze. – And I think we need to get out of here soon, because I’m afraid we can’t handle those beasts alone.
– My sincerest condolences, Adelaide… – Richard said, empathetically. – But we’d really better get on to the castle. If he says things are bad, I have no doubt that we really must hurry, for we have seen many things… – He continued, putting his hand on her shoulder, and she hugged him tightly as the tears streamed down her cheeks.
– Get on your horse and let’s ride! – Geoffrey said in a slightly irritated and commanding tone. – We haven’t time for that now; they’re somewhere near!
– Wait a minute!» answered Richard. – We’ll be on our way soon! – He added, and at the same moment a crow flew up, cawing and flapping its wings, followed by the clatter of over a hundred hooves.
– Not even a minute now… – Jeffrey spoke too calmly. – Climb up now – and get out of here if you still want to live! – He shouted now, and only then did Richard release Adelaide from his embrace, mount her, take her firmly by the arm and help her up. They hurried away deep into the forest, to get away from the place and get lost among the creatures of nature.
There was a sense of tension in the air. The presence of the enemy was becoming more and more palpable. The brothers drove their horses to the limit, rushing through the most overgrown places, trying to evade the intruders, bursting through dense bushes, scratching their legs, making them squeal like pigs, but they continued on their way. But still, despite their best efforts, they failed to break away and escape the sight of the unknowns – they were spotted by a lean, unkempt man, with rough features on his face, galloping away from the others. A skilled tracker with a face decorated with dozens of scars from various fights, from a Viking troop. With a loud, deafening, creeping, horrifying whistle, he informed his companions that they were not alone. The brothers’ faces grew tense, and they began to push their horses even harder.
Some of the pursuers, about twenty souls, followed them, shouting in fearful voices and waving their cold and throwing weapons at the command of their leader, a huge, stout Viking of about forty-five with a long red beard covering the front of his body. He was dressed in armor, with a hide, most likely that of a bear, and a helmet on his head, protecting and half-covering his face, with two horns, like those of a massive, grown-up bull.
– Catch up and kill! – he gave the order in a harsh, cold and heartless voice. There was nothing but a mighty emptiness in his eyes, consuming absolutely everything.
His comrades-in-arms were more than happy to obey the order and, maddeningly happy, set off in pursuit. No doubt the killings were the most exhilarating, dizzying experience of their lives.
– Let’s split up! I’ll find you later! – Geoffrey shouted after Richard and Adelaide, who were riding ahead, and yanked the reins of the horse to the right. The Vikings followed their example and rode off in different directions as well, keeping an eye on their targets and getting closer and closer to them.
– Where is he going? Has he left us?! – Adelaide asked, looking around and squeezing Richard tighter and tighter with excitement, almost shouting. Richard said nothing, only occasionally glancing over at their pursuers to see what they were up to. He knew that his horse was already too tired and that it would be impossible for the two of them to evade the pursuers.
– Can you control a horse?! – he asked.
– What? Me?! Yes, I think so, why? Why? – she pelted him with questions in confusion; meanwhile they galloped up to a small hill and disappeared behind it.
Just a few moments later, the Vikings approached the same hill. As the first of them disappeared over the hill, there was a shrill, piercing cry of unbearable pain. Richard, who had dismounted from his horse and sent Adelaide onward, hid himself in the ambush. With a powerful, scathing swing, he slashed his sword across the defenseless part of his opponent’s leg at the knee and severed it, slashing through the horse’s belly as well, which immediately collapsed to the ground. The Viking was writhing in savage agony and in a bloody mess.
The next rider, seeing this picture, lunged straight at Richard, holding a huge axe in his hand and intending to demonstrate it in action, on which Rich grabbed the spear belonging to the «one-legged man» from the ground and hurled it into the chest of the «woodsman» with such force that it knocked him from the saddle and fell on his shoulder blades. The defeated man lay on his back, holding the spear with his hands and wriggling in excruciating pain, while his horse galloped deep into the woods.
Other warriors were arriving at the site of the battle, clearly very aggressive toward Richard. Two of them swooped down at him at once, screaming with beastly force, their mouths wide open, though it would have been more accurate to say mouths open, and grimaces of horror. They each held bulky swords with jagged bottoms, spikes on the hilt to disfigure their opponents as much as possible in their fights, and a small axe, smeared with the blood of what must have been their previous victims.
The lunge of the first fighter, who was delivering a vertical downward blow against Richard, was easily sidestepped by a sideways dive from the line of attack, and Rich deftly slipped his sword into his opponent’s stomach area. Blood splattered in all directions, and the contents spurted out at once, with his host still alive and trying to shove his insides back in.
The second man had only had time to shout «I’ll kill you,» and had charged at Richard before an arrow from Jeff’s crossbow went through his neck and through the arrowhead. When his brother arrived at the scene of the massacre, Jeff headed straight for his opponents, still on horseback and outnumbered.
He severed the first one’s head with a precise blow to the neck with his perfectly sharpened morning blade. His head flew off his shoulders, but his body continued to run for a few more meters in the opposite direction until it struck a tree and then collapsed to the ground. Then Jeff jumped off his horse and dueled with other warriors armed with powerful axes. He himself drew a second, smaller sword from its sheath and skillfully twisted it with his left hand, then stabbed one fighter right in the heart, repulsed the blow with another sword, and quickly switched to the next, whom he struck two strongest blows, knocked the weapon from his hands and from above from shoulder to stomach deeply cut and mutilated his body.
Richard approached his brother, and now the two of them continued to deal with the remaining opponents. Each blow the brothers made was so precise and well coordinated that no one could resist them, some did not have time to make a single lunge. The knights took out their opponents with ease, but did not linger on the battlefield. Jeff grabbed the reins of his horse and slammed his blade against Rich’s in gratitude for the beautiful fight and successful victory, as they always did to thank each other.
– Where is the girl? – Jeff asked, climbing onto his horse.
– Wasn’t far away. We parted behind a rock and she drove on, but I stopped the pursuers, so I hope she’s all right,» Richard replied. – We must quickly find our beautiful companion and get away from here as quickly as possible before others get here,» Rich added.
– You are absolutely and unquestionably right, my dear brother! – Jeff hastened to agree. – God only knows how many of them are left. And frankly, I don’t want to know, because they are not going to talk about the weather. – he said the last phrase with a change of face, apparently remembering at that moment the picture of ruthless murders.
Richard had no time to say anything about it when at the same moment Adelaide emerged from behind the mountain, holding her horse by the reins. The badly frightened girl held herself with dignity and was very impressed by the fighting skills of both brothers.
– Are you okay? – Rich spoke and held out his hand to her. She did the same, and he helped her onto her horse, after which she only said a quiet yes.
For a while, everyone just went silent and headed for home. After about half an hour, the silence was interrupted by Jeff’s voice:
– It’s getting dark, and we’re not likely to make it back to the castle today, and the horses are already so exhausted that they can barely move. We should look for lodging to recover from a hard day’s work.
– Yes, you’re right,» Rich confirmed. – On a night this dark and in the state we’re in now, it’s pure suicide.
– Let’s climb that hill first,» Jeff pointed to his brother at a small hill that contained a small cave, and above it was a rock that could be used as a canopy for shelter from the rain. – There’s a decent view and a way out,» he added, to which his brother acquiesced.
It was dark, a fresh but cold wind was blowing through the woods, the sky was overcast, and not a soul was around. In the midst of the darkness there was the crackling of the firewood and the quiet conversation between Richard and Adelaide. Geoffrey, on the other hand, went off to look around and set a couple of traps, both for protection and for prey for a late supper or at least breakfast.
– It is very sad,“ Adelaide began, „that our nations have developed and flourished so quickly, and now have faded and fallen into the darkness of ignorance and spirituality. These constant wars for territory, wealth and power never do anyone any good, and if they do, it is for a very short time. And the plague takes everyone, wiping out cities that have not recovered from the irreversible effects of the infection, and the rulers, instead of finding cures and helping their subjects, think only of raising taxes and invading other territories. On the whole, we are only contaminating and destroying all that remains intact and uninfected, although it is necessary to conserve, create, multiply what remains to sustain the lives of future generations, otherwise we will all soon die. Although, maybe it’s for the best if that’s what happens, since we can’t change? – she shared her thoughts, Richard silently, but empathetically, took her hand.
– Perhaps you are right… Apparently, if we can’t cleanse ourselves of the temptations and pernicious tendencies that destroy everything and keep us from becoming better, the Earth will do it on its own without any right to choose by means of cataclysms and natural disasters… – he said.
– No doubt about it! – She replied enthusiastically, finding Richard to be a like-minded man. – You are very wise. By the way, I wanted to thank you for today and for your help, and to apologize for knocking you down at the beginning of our meeting.
– You’re welcome, it’s all right,» he said, squeezing her hand tighter, and smiled without taking his eyes off her. – And I’m very glad we were in these woods today to meet you. You’re a very nice person to talk to, and you’re a peerless beauty. – he said and reached for her lips, to which she made a counter move to kiss him. But then Geoffrey returned. Seeing this idyllic picture, he purposely stepped on a branch to prevent them from continuing this deed in his presence. As a consequence, the kiss was stopped.
– I wonder how Gertrude is doing? She must be terribly bored, worried? – He asked the question casually, which made Richard’s face change.
– Who is Gertrude? Your fiancée, Geoffrey? – Adelaide asked a clarifying question.
– No, not a bride, a wife… But not mine,“ he paused, continuing, „but Richard’s.
– What?! Your wife, Richard? – She asked nervously, already in a sharply spoiled mood.
– Thank you very much, Jeff, for reminding me! I’d forgotten,» Richard said irritably, smiling crookedly when he found himself in an awkward situation. – I’m sorry, Adelaide!» he hurried to justify himself to the girl, but she did not listen, waved her hand and went away to be alone with herself.
– Thank you again, brother, for coming at such short notice! – He was even more angry and irritated, and he was reproaching Geoffrey. – You don’t have to say that right now!
– You’re welcome, brother! Yes, indeed, I arrived at a very opportune moment, so that you would not have time to harm two beautiful ladies who, I believe, do not deserve such treatment,» he answered quietly.
– If you liked her so much, you could have told me that! – Rich went on, to which Geoffrey looked away from his brother and said nothing. – I’d better go for a walk and get some fresh air, see if anything works out! – Richard shouted and disappeared into the woods on the opposite side from Adelaide.
And Jeff sat down and remained alone by the fire, carefully watching the fire that reflected on his sword and his eyes, and then he was completely immersed in his own thoughts. Only he and God knew what he was thinking.
The smell of meat cooking on the fire woke Adelaide. As she opened her eyes with difficulty, she saw Jeff sitting across from her, smoking a hare caught in one of the traps over the coals. Richard wasn’t there. It was dawn, the fog was thick, the air was frosty, and the sky, overcast with dark gray clouds, boded for rainy weather.
– Good morning,» she greeted him softly, hugging her shoulders as she tried to warm herself after the chill of sleeping on the cold ground that had long since passed, and moved closer to the fire, which was almost completely extinguished, but still gave off heat.
– Good… – He said in reply. – Make yourself comfortable, we’ll have breakfast and be on our way.
– Thank you, but where is Richard? – she asked in between.
– He decided to take another look at the area to see which way we should go. – he answered. – Are you rested, have you had a good night’s sleep?
– Thank you, yes, very much, just frozen. Have you even slept yourself? – she asked in a slightly shaky voice, rubbing her hands together to warm them.
– I’ll sleep in the other world! – He grinned, and then stood up, threw off his cloak, and covered his companion with it.
– Thank you,» Adelaide said.
– Then I hope you won’t be asleep for a while,» Rich’s voice suddenly sounded as he approached. – All is quiet in the forest. I found the right direction to Philip’s fortress. However, we got a long way from it yesterday, so let’s hurry up and eat and hit the road to get out of harm’s way. – He said, not looking anyone in the eye, as he was a little embarrassed by the situation of the day before.
Jeff, unceremoniously, cut the hare into several pieces and served it to his guests on a dagger.
The brothers quickly set about the meal, which led to her soon disappearing.
Adelaide managed to tear off just a small piece of meat with her tiny fingers and looked at it for a long time before putting it into her mouth.
– Aren’t you going to eat? – Rich asked sharply as he finished chewing the hare.
– I’m not really hungry,» she answered with a slight reflection of food rejection on her face. – But maybe you’d like some?
– I’d love to! – they said in one voice.
– It’s not a waste of good things! – Richard added and took the piece from Adelaide’s hands, then divided it «fraternally» with Jeff, and they finished it off as quickly as they had done before.
– That’s it, we can ride,» Jeffrey said, filling the rest of the coals with earth. Then they got on horseback.
This time Adelaide got on the horse with Geoffrey – apparently because she was still resentful of Richard. And they set off.
A couple of hours later, our heroes came upon a village. Tiny in size and quiet in assessment in general. Not a soul was visible in the street. In the windows of the houses, too, there was no movement or signs of life, only a dark gray thick smoke came out of the chimney of one of the buildings. That was where the three walked leisurely. Adelaide pressed herself closer to Geoffrey with excitement, which made him feel good, and he couldn’t hide his smile.
Jeff held the reins in one hand and the crossbow in the other, ready to fire at any second, while Rich drew his sword from its sheath and mentally prepared for battle. As they rode through the gate, which had long since been unfit for defense, they looked around and made sure that they were facing a ghost town, with not a single living person, animal, or even bird in the area. They followed the smoke to a house, and when they approached it, they saw a cross on the roof of a small chapel, and the smoke was coming from a house attached nearby.
When they descended from their horses, they went to the door and knocked on it, but there was no answer, so they decided to enter without an invitation. Once inside, the knights and the princess were greatly alarmed and frightened by the number of corpses there, and their faces changed, turning pale, if not even green, at the pungent smell of dead bodies that almost made them all vomit.
The skin of the bodies, whose souls might have gone to better worlds, seemed so white as to compare it to the first virgin snow, but the sight was absolutely unappealing. All these snow-white corpses were studded with purple stains, like bruises resembling jellyfish, and their eyes were as black as the darkest night, with nothing in them to be seen at all.
– Oh, my God, what a horror! – Adelaide suddenly burst out sharply.
– Perhaps they are much better off now, young girl,» came a sudden voice from an unlit corner of the room.
– Who’s there?! – Richard asked loudly. – Come out into the light! – he added in a commanding tone. Immediately a man appeared out of the darkness, clad in an old brown cloak with a hood covering his face.
– My name is Father Victor, my children. I am the priest of God’s Temple here,» he said, taking off his hood and exposing his face. He was a swarthy man in his fifties, with black hair and a black beard, with kind but tired brown eyes.
– What happened here? Where did so many dead people come from and why did they look so horrible? What killed them, and was there anyone left alive? – Jeff asked the priest a lot of questions.
– My dear friend, a terrible calamity has befallen our village, just as it has befallen other cities and peoples. It destroyed all life, sparing no one, not even newborn children. Death does not choose, it does not care about age, gender, nationality or race. Apparently, this disease is God’s punishment for all our sins. It comes suddenly, and no one knows how to avoid it or heal from it. It affects health so quickly that it leaves no chance of curing those who are infected,» the father said with pain in his voice. – I spend every day praying for the salvation of their souls and every day burning their physical shells.
– Is there anyone else alive with you, and how long ago did it start? – Richard asked again.
– The sickness and the passing of people began a year ago, but in just the last two weeks the plague has taken the lives of one hundred and eighty people. There are only twenty-nine left alive, and all are already old people who have one foot in the grave. They now spend most of their time in church, and it is very strange that the deadly disease has bypassed them, including me.
– How does this disease spread? – Adelaide asked. – Isn’t it dangerous that we are here now?
– I don’t know how it started,» the priest said. – But one thing I can be sure of is that it is not transmitted from the dead, you should fear the living, whose first signs are a cough, sometimes even with blood, yellow eyes and a grayish tint to the skin. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my work,» he answered and went on burning the bodies of the dead.
Without a word or delay, the brothers began to help the holy father in his plight, and in just a couple of hours all the plague-stricken bodies committed to the fire were destroyed.
– Thank you, my children, for your kind hearts and for your invaluable help,» he told them as he left. – You will be rewarded in heaven for your noble deeds. And may your guardian angel protect you all from evil, and may Christ the Savior Himself send good things to you! – Once again he thanked them and hugged them tightly as if they were his children.
– Thank you, Father! – said Richard.
– Thank you, I hope the Lord will indeed forgive us,» Jeffrey said.
– Surely he will forgive, he loves all his sons, the main thing – have sincere faith and live in goodness and in conscience, – the priest answered affirmatively, and then they went on their way.
– А-а-а-а-а-а-а-а! – страшный рёв раздался из леса. It was the cry of a Viking warrior who had found with his foot one of the traps Geoffrey had left especially for uninvited guests when he had made his rounds the previous night. The traps in question were quite simple, a rake-like instrument made of pointed, thick, short twigs. They were deliberately covered with mud to infect the enemy through the cuts if he did not die immediately. Such a wound could lead to excruciating, fatal results from prolonged suffering. The entire mechanism was easily set in motion: as soon as the victim stepped on the hidden, taut rope, the weapon was released to engage the target. In this case, the trap worked perfectly, jamming into the victim’s right thigh.
– Get it out of me! Help me! – Trying to pull the sharp rods out of his leg on his own, the victim screamed so hard that even the birds scattered in fright.
– Shh… Calm down, now we’ll help you… – The leader said softly, and at the same moment he struck him with an axe straight in the head, and blood spurted in all directions. – Watch your feet before you lose them,» he said in a commanding tone. – Byron, get over here and take a good look, and find the direction the two men and the girl went,» he continued.
– Yes, my lord! – replied a tall, lean, but sturdy warrior with a sitting hawk on his arm. When he removed the small helmet from the bird’s head, which covered its eyes, he threw it up sharply so that it could look out over the area. The hawk immediately soared above the trees, waving its wings widely, and its master began searching the ground for traces of the men who had left. The rest of the warriors remained where they were, peering more cautiously and carefully into the thicket to avoid falling into another trap, but staying far away and not touching anything, lest they confuse the seeker.
– My lord, I’ve found them, or rather the direction,» Byron finally spoke after a while, having found the hoofprints. – They’ve gone northwest, and the tracks are still fresh, so we can catch up with them!
– Did you hear him?! – A chief Viking named William the Conqueror spoke. – Go after them! Whoever finds them can be the first to taste the woman, after me, of course! – he added, whereupon everyone jumped on their horses with a wild shout of approval and set off in search of their brothers and their reward.
After a few hours, the Vikings made their way out of the forest and came upon a village, one that looked like a ghost town. It was still empty and silent. Only one black raven sat on the roof of the tallest building, watching the new arrivals.
– Search everything! Find something to please me! – The leader with the red beard gave the order to the others. Everyone immediately began to carry out the order and scattered around the village, running into houses, kicking in doors.
The Viking himself, surrounded by Byron and several other warriors, drove in the direction of the church, from which the priest soon emerged.
– How can I help you, my children? – he spoke.
– Perhaps you can help us by telling us if the two horsemen and the girl with them have not passed or stopped here?
– Unfortunately, there are no visitors to our city, because a terrible disease has overtaken it and killed almost all of its inhabitants. Therefore, is there anything else I can do for you? – the priest asked the question again.
– What do you mean «more»? – The Viking asked him rudely and grudgingly. – You haven’t helped us yet to ask such a question! I guess since things are so bad here, we’ll put you out of your misery now, father!
– My suffering is my highest reward, my son,» the priest spoke. – And only at their expense, as well as in laboring and helping others, will we all find true rest, eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven.
– How ironic! – laughing, the Viking continued, getting off his horse. – A black priest with a light soul! – he reasoned, and laughter already erupted from everyone else. – And what beautiful words! But our lives are more important than such nonsense, and death will take us to a nicer place than paradise for wretched, worthless, cowardly men! I suppose you have heard of Valhalla?! – Already he spoke sneeringly. – We shall live forever! – he added, and after these words he turned and signaled to his subordinate to destroy his irritant.
And he promptly fired a crossbow straight into the priest’s chest. The priest fell to his knees, but was still alive. His face twisted in pain, and he began to pray and ask God’s forgiveness.
– Well, go to your God now! – The chief Viking, William the Conqueror, spoke again, and with a sharp blow he cut off his head, which rolled off his shoulders and rolled on the ground for several meters. – Check all the houses and kill everyone you find! – he gave a new order, and at the same moment an old man ran out of the church, who immediately threw himself at his feet and begged for mercy.
– Nice man… – he spoke. – Please let me go, there are only a few old people living here, and almost all of them are in the temple. We have very little provisions left. You can have it, as well as all the wine and water, and all the gold and silver coins that are also in the temple near the cross of the Savior. – He gave away everyone and everything with ease.
– Thank you for saving my time. But I am not a nice man and I do not like sycophants, but I forgive you, and therefore you will die quickly! – said Wilhelm and stabbed him in the chest with a small dagger and then twisted it, looking the victim straight in the eye. – You heard him, find the gold as well as the food and then burn everything here to the ground!
And once again the robbers and looters rushed to carry out the orders without question. Once inside the church, they found the promised gold and took food and wine from the old people there, then they bolted all the doors in the church where the people were and set it on fire. In half an hour all the buildings and the church were ablaze. The villains, somewhat satisfied with their booty, moved on, not wasting another minute.
The Road Home
The gray clouds gradually turned black, and a heavy downpour began. Jeff, Richard, and Adelaide raced as fast as they could toward the castle, as far as their already tired horses would allow.
All soaked to the skin, they waded through rocky places, through muddy bogs, in which the horses’ legs got tangled and tangled, clinging to the roots of ancient trees, causing pain to the animals, which slowed down the course. The brothers hardly spoke all the way, only occasionally glancing at each other to make sure they were on the right track and that one of them had not fallen behind.
After another hour or so, the completely exhausted riders emerged from the dense forest into an open field where they could clearly see the Allied fortress city, a castle on a huge piece of land surrounded by walls with towers on which flags flew, with the coat of arms of the Kingdom of France, depicting three lilies on a blue shield and a golden crown at the top, fixed in the center.
– At last,» Richard said with relief in his voice. – I was beginning to think we’d never get out of this wild forest, and, to tell you a secret, I almost despaired,» he added with a weary grin, and he called the wild forest, which he had found very attractive because he was exhausted from the fighting and the journey.
– Oh, my God, I’m so glad to see this castle! – Adelaide also said.
– It’s certainly to my liking to see him, too,» Geoffrey said in a fairly calm, even voice, though he, too, was very tired. – So I understand exactly how you feel now,» he added, glancing at his brother and Adelaide with smiling eyes.
– It’s been a long and grueling ride, but we have one last push to make, which I hope the horses will hold up,» Richard spoke again.
– The only way to check it is to try,» Jeff answered, and they went on, and even much faster than before, because the field was flat and without obstacles, besides, it appeared as if the horses wanted to arrive at their destination even stronger than the riders, so they gave their best on the last stage of the route.
As they approached the castle, the heroes breathed a sigh of relief. But suddenly dozens of knights on horseback appeared from the other side of the forest.
– Geoffrey! – Adelaide, almost shouting, said in an alarmed voice when she saw this picture, and hugged him tightly from behind.
He turned around.
– It’s all right,» he put his hand over hers, and then squeezed firmly. – These are our brothers in arms.
After these words she instantly calmed down, loosening her embrace a little, but still she did not let him go, and, on the contrary, she reciprocated and squeezed his hand, too. Jeff was unable to hold back a smile, and it spread across his face in pleasure, giving him a powerful burst of energy that relieved him of his discomfort and allowed him to forget his experiences and fatigue.
– Jeff! – Richard’s voice was heard, but there was no response, so he repeated, but again to no avail, and it was not until the third attempt that Jeffrey came down from heaven to earth and responded.
– Yes, Rich,» he said a little incomprehensively, as if he’d just woken up from a dream.
– Where are you, brother? – smiling, Richard asked a question. – I could hardly get through to you!
– I’m sorry, I was thinking,» Jeff replied sharply with embarrassment.
– You and Adelaide go on and rest, and I’ll meet the knights and come back afterwards.
– All right, dear brother,» Jeff replied without hesitation and galloped to the gate, while Richard descended from his horse to the ground, on the still partly green grass, covered with frost after the first frost, and walked leisurely toward his companions.
Castle of Philip II
– Welcome back, Your Highness! – one of the guards spoke, lowering his head, half-covered by his helmet, as he raised the gate and let in Geoffrey and his companion who had just arrived, and the other guard followed his example and did the same, also lowering his head and looking down.
– We are very glad to see you safe and sound, for your father was very worried and restless because of your long absence, so he sent a search party last night.
– I thank you for your concern, but we’re all right, it’s just that the hunt took a little longer, so it took a lot longer to get back than we thought it would,» Jeff replied. – But our guest and I are very tired from our journey, so with your permission we will go to our chambers and have a good rest,» Jeff added, turning slightly toward Adelaide.
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