- Text Size +
While I could not disagree with the last pronouncement, it nonetheless raised certain other questions...which I did voice aloud.

"How do I get to this Jomsborg? When I do, how do I persuade this Varangiant to my service? And, even assuming that can be accomplished, how do we get to Ovaria's realm upon reaching that island?"

Brother Iosef bade me wait where I stood, while he went hither and yon, throughout this wondrous repository, gathering various items. Upon completing this task, he brought them over to me.

"First," he intoned: "A map that shows a secret route to Jomsborg. Secondly? A small glass vial, containing ash from a cremated bone of St. Nicholas of Lycia. A most holy man, to whom no door was ever barred! Next? A longbow and quiver of arrows once owned by an English friar named 'Tuck,' who did briefly stay here while returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Something he did witness in the Holy Land (exactly what, he refused to divulge) made him shatter the bow over his right knee. To emphasize his promise to never, again, take up any weapon for any reason! Perhaps, if you are any good at horse archery, you can repair and modify it?"

Upon my nodding in affirmation, at these two veiled inquiries, he smiled and continued.

"Last, though not least; one of the gold coins with which one of the Seven Sleepers did try to buy food, in the Ephesian market place, upon reawakening from their miraculous slumber."

At this disclosure, I felt my eyes bulge with amazement. For, even in my birth-place of Murom, I had heard the tale of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Persecuted Christians who had hidden themselves in a cave, near that Anatolian town, to protect themselves from the soldiers of the Roman Emperor Decius. They fell asleep in that cave for what they initially perceived to be one night. Upon trying to purchase food the next "morning," however, they discovered that they had slept for two hundred years!

During which time, of course, Rome had adopted Christianity.

In any event, Brother Iosef escorted me from the repository to the monastic smithy. There, he did whisperingly instruct the blacksmith to forge the coin into an arrowhead. While the latter attended to this, I waited in the good brother's office chambers. There, I did watch him write two letters. The first one of which he gave to me, to read, while he commenced the second.

It was addressed to the captain of a Venetian merchant ship, currently in port at Chios, waiting for the monastery's latest batch of mastiha. And, this particular captain was entreated by Brother Iosef to take me as far as the Templar fortress at Vrana, in Dalmatia.

When I handed this missive back to the good brother, he did show me the second letter. It was addressed to the chief chaplain at this fortress, entreating him to serve as my intermediary with the fortress commander.

Upon remarking that these letters showed admirable foresight on his part, I nonetheless inquired of Brother Iosef as to what I should do, in the event the Knights Templar proved just as reluctnant to admit me, at Vrana, as his own gatekeeping subordinates had been, here.

Whereupon, he did return to me Brother Lupo's silk hand kerchief.

"Show them the emblem, upon that, and they will not fail to grant you admittance."

"But, why?" I persisted: "What is the significance of the stag's head with the golden cross?"

Brother Iosef took several silent moments to answer this.

"It marks the bearer as a member of the Society of Saint Hubert. The demon-hunting arm of the Roman Catholic Church!"

Chapter End Notes:
Mastiha: a brandy-based liqueur made from the resin of the mastic gum tree. It's a very popular beverage in the eastern Mediterranean.
You must login (register) to review.