The Mongoliad: Book Two (The Foreworld Saga)

BOOK: The Mongoliad: Book Two (The Foreworld Saga)
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Text copyright © 2012 by FOREWORLD LLC

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by 47 North
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140

ISBN-13: 9781612185606
ISBN-10: 1612185606


to the spirits of Charles Dickens and Robert E. Howard



Verna, 1224

Damietta, 1218

Verna, 1224

Damietta, 1219

Verna, 1224

Damietta, 1219

Verna, 1224

The Mongoliad: Book Two

Chapter 1: Quod Perierat Requiram

Chapter 2: Boy Meets Gruel

Chapter 3: Thirsty Work

Chapter 4: Prisons within Prisons

Chapter 5: Custodi Animam Meam, Quonian Sanctus Sum

Chapter 6: An Affable Excursion

Chapter 7: A Knife in the Dark

Chapter 8: Naked Upon the Steppe

Chapter 9: Enter the Bear

Chapter 10: Into the Land of the Khazars

Chapter 11: A Good Strategist

Chapter 12: Preparations

Chapter 13: Signa Hodie Lumen Vultus Tui Super Me

Chapter 14: The Quartermaster’s Tongue

Chapter 15: Tündér Magic

Chapter 16: Exterge Lutum Oculorum Meorum, Ut Videam

Chapter 17: Rumors of My Demise

Chapter 18: To the Place of the Cliff

Chapter 19: Grave Gravatae

Chapter 20: A Simple Plan

Chapter 21: Quod Debuimus Facere, Fecimus

Chapter 22: An Afternoon at First Field

Chapter 23: Servus Servorum Dei

Chapter 24: The Knife Edge

Chapter 25: Decipies, Et Prævalebis

Chapter 26: Rædwulf’s Bow

Chapter 27: Come Blood and Fire

Chapter 28: Pillow Fight

Chapter 29: Deus Iudex Iustus

Chapter 30: Waiting For the Storm

Chapter 31: Freedom Lost

Chapter 32: The Night of Steel and Fire

Chapter 33: Lucerna Corporis Est Oculus

Cast of Characters


About the Authors


Dominus det tibi pacem.

—personal greeting of Francis of Assisi

Verna, 1224

The oratory and two other buildings of the hermitage were built along a ridge of mottled rock near the peak of La Verna. The upthrust of smooth basalt served as the back wall for one of the two dormitories. A small garden was delineated by a hedge of jumbled stones, a makeshift barrier that mainly served to keep the capricious wind from stealing the soil. Several goats and chickens wandered aimlessly about the grounds—the goats, with their thick coats, were not terribly disturbed by the wind that blew through the rocky terrain of the mountain top.

The hermitage was home to a half-dozen lay brothers of the
Ordo Fratrum Minorum

, as they referred to themselves. The mountain had been a gift from the Count of Chiusi, who had, some years prior, been witness to one of the spontaneous sermons offered by the titular head of the order, Francis of Assisi. So impressed by Francis’s rhetoric, he had bequeathed the territory on the spot.
It is a barren place, La Verna
, he had said to Francis,
and once you climb past the thick forest that cloaks the lower portion of the mountain, there is little to sustain a man among the naked rocks of the peak.

To many, this gift would have been an insulting bequest, but Francis of Assisi and his
had a relationship with God that eschewed property and goods—in that sense, the hermitage atop La
Verna suited them perfectly. Other than the buildings themselves, which had been constructed by local tradesmen at the command of the count, there was nothing of value atop the mountain. The view—a dizzying panoramic of the Tuscan countryside—was impressive, and a constant reminder of the sublime beauty of God’s handiwork, but it was ephemeral. Pilgrims marveled at the vista, and some even attempted to capture the enormity of the landscape in song and art, but for the local people who lived down in the valley, a hike to the top of La Verna did not aid them in their daily labors. They might return refreshed of spirit, but their hands would be empty. Unlike the
, they did not seek out such austerity; rather, they struggled every day to escape from it.

did not go down into the valley very often, nor did many visitors brave the long hike. The only one who came with some regularity was Piro, a wiry goat herder who habitually brought a meager assortment of supplies. The odd time when Piro brought someone else with him was a cause for celebration among the lay brothers. Simply because the monks eschewed owning property and goods did not mean they did not enjoy a decent meal now and again, and an increase in visitors meant a commensurate increase in fresh supplies from the village below.

There were several holy days that the monks celebrated, and around those days, the
looked forward to Piro’s visit. On the morning before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the monks began to find excuses to wander close to the old pine tree that clung to the edge of the bluff. The upper half of the tree had been blasted by lightning years before the monks had arrived, and it had never offered them any shade, but it was both a notable landmark and a convenient vantage point from which to observe the trail.

Brother Leo, having been at the hermitage since its buildings had been erected, no longer paid much attention to the younger brothers’ eagerness, but on this warm September morning as he
worked the hard scrabble of the garden, he gradually realized all of the monks were clustered around the tree. Brother Leo set aside his hoe and joined the group, where he learned not only had Piro been sighted, but that he had a companion. The monks were engaged in a frenzy of speculation as to the identity of the other visitor. Listening to them, Brother Leo was reminded of the flocks of starlings that used to chatter in the shrubs around the decrepit old building near the Rivo Torto, where he had first become one of Francis’s followers.

The sharp-eyed lay brothers—Cotsa and Nestor—had already determined that both pilgrims carried satchels.

Brother Leo listened to the prattle of the others with detached amusement. He had grown accustomed to the serenity afforded by the seclusion of the hermitage; he did not yearn as readily as these youngsters for these passing dalliances with the decadences of civilization. Most of the lay brothers had only been following the letter of Brother Francis’s Rule for less than a season. The mystery of an unexpected visitor—and the possibility of extra rations!—made them unbecomingly giddy. He could not fault them, however; he remembered the first few years in the order—back before it had been officially recognized by the Pope—and how any respite from strict piety was eagerly embraced.

“There,” said Brother Cotsa. The tall monk pointed over the heads of the others, and all chatter ceased as the
turned their collective attention to the path.

Piro emerged from the cleft first, and he smiled and waved at the sight of the clustered monks. “Ho, Piro,” Cotsa called down to him, and Brother Leo frowned at his lay brother’s casual disregard for the order’s traditional greeting. Some of the others shouted down to the pair as well, asking questions that could not be readily answered before the two men arrived at the hermitage.

The stranger paused as he emerged from the rocky passage, taking a moment to stare up at the monks. A large hat, floppy from
age and the heat, covered his head, and his tunic and pants were equally simple and unadorned. His boots were worn but solid—well-formed to his feet and legs. The man carried a sword on a baldric, and he stood with the practiced ease of a man used to the presence of a scabbard against his hip. His skin was darker than Brother Leo’s, and his face was adorned with a neatly trimmed beard. Brother Leo estimated he had not seen more than two dozen winters, but there was a cant to his carriage that suggested he carried both wisdom and pain beyond his years.

“May the Lord give you peace,” Brother Leo called out to the stranger in Latin. He glared at the
next to him, silently admonishing them for their failed courtesy.

The stranger looked up, raising a hand to shield his eyes from the sun. “And may peace be upon you as well,” he replied.

Brother Leo scratched the side of his neck. The man had replied quickly and surely—his Latin graceful, yet touched with an accent Brother Leo could not place. He spoke as if the greeting of the
Ordo Fratrum Minorum
was familiar, but his response was not quite in keeping with tradition.

Piro reached the plateau and dumped his satchel on the dusty ground. “Ho, holy men,” the young goat herder called out. “I bring one of your brothers.”

“One of us?” Brother Mante asked. He was the tallest of the group, and oftentimes his height made him the spokesperson. “How can that be, Piro? None of us carry a sword.”

“He has—” Piro offered a steadying hand to his companion who was struggling with the last few steps up the steep path, “—what do you call it?”

The young man seized the offered hand and hauled himself up. “An
,” he explained. He fumbled with his satchel for a moment as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do with his hands. “I am Raphael of Acre. Forgive my unexpected arrival. Piro here said he would show
me the way, and it would appear that he did so. Quite successfully.” The young man was slightly out of breath, but he hid it well.

BOOK: The Mongoliad: Book Two (The Foreworld Saga)
14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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