Mark Andrew smiled slightly at his son and kicked his horse. Most likely, it was the presence of the Djinni that allowed him to maintain control over these shades from the past. In his current condition, he would have been hard-pressed to command them at all. He rode into the circle and turned his horse about, looking at them. They sat staring at him coldly, assessing him from their deep eyes.
“I am John Mark Andrew Larmenius Ramsay, Chevalier du Morte, Poor Knight of Solomon’s Temple, King of Terrors, Prince of the Grace, Watcher of the Seventh Gate.” He addressed them with as much vigor as he could muster as he continued to turn the horse in a tight circle. “Some of you I know personally and others I do not. I rode with some of you in battle and I saw some of you fall. Some of you, I helped along to meet death!” A murmur, not quite words went along the ranks of the mounted soldiers. Their horses moved about, jostling one another.
“How do we know you are who you say you are?!” A heavily accented voice boomed in the silence. “You do not look like a Knight of Christ to me!!” Several bursts of laughter accompanied this outburst. Certainly the owner of this objection was correct.
Mark Andrew turned his horse to face the man who had cast this insult at him.
“I know you, Gerard d’Belleau! I saw you fall in a drunken brawl at an opium den in Aleppo! Over some dancing girl, was it? A harlot with a mole on her left cheek? Not her face, mind you! You were an arrogant ass then and I see you still carry your backside on your shoulders!”
Gerard’s mouth fell open and another; louder guffaw erupted further down the circle.
Mark Andrew turned his horse again and glared at the laughing man. A large, red-haired fellow holding one of the banners.
“Oh and wot wud ye be laughin’ at, Caleb MacDougall? I saw ye foll from yur horse onto a viper when ye wair runnin’ away from battle! Dunna ye remembar ’ow ye begged me t’ kill ye when th’ poison set in?”
“And I dare say you obliged him?” Another, more educated, English accent questioned him from the opposite side of the circle.
Mark reined the horse about and galloped across the circle, pulling up short in front of a tall, slender Knight sitting astride a dark horse with a long broadsword clasped in his gloved hand. Gold flashed on his buckles and a pheasant’s feather adorned his helmet. Decorations not approved by the Order’s dress code.
“And I dare say that I did. Unlike you, I had mercy on my Brother! Did you never feel the least bit of remorse for helping send the Grand Master to the stake? How much did good King Philipe le Bel pay you to whisper in his ear the crimes of which we were accused, Brother?” Mark Andrew raised his chin slightly and the English Knight’s face drained of color.
No one knew of his treachery. The Templar’s eyes widened in shock. No one. He let out a bellow and slid from his horse.
“I know you,” Mark Andrew continued in a low voice full of contempt. “I know you well, but I will not sully my tongue with the sound of your cursed name. Have you learned nothing of humility? Have you learned nothing in all these years?”
“Come down off that horse! This is an abomination! I would not follow you into battle! You are a devil or worse!”
Mark Andrew slid from the horse and grunted audibly when his feet hit the ground. He rose up slowly and pulled the golden sword from the scabbard. The Knight’s eyes bugged at the sight of the twisted golden blade glinting in the moonlight, but he did not back down. He threw back his mantel and raised his own broadsword. His gold and silver spurs jangled as he stepped lightly, squaring off with the Lord of the Seventh Gate.
Mark Andrew fought him without the advantage of gloves, gauntlets, helmet or shield. Within a bare few minutes, he had disarmed the Knight, much to his chagrin and he lay in the dirt on his back as his Brothers looked on in wonder. Mark Andrew turned away from him and limped back toward his horse. The Knight got to his feet behind him, drew his long knife from his belt and charged at his back.
“Head’s up, Father!” Lemarik shouted a warning.
Mark Andrew raised the sword, stepped forward, dipped slightly and swung around to face his persistent, yet foolish, attacker. The belligerent Englishman’s head left his body very cleanly, flipping over and over as if in slow motion. It smacked the rocks behind the circle of Knights with a sickening thud and a low groan circled through the rank of mounted Knights. The headless corpse slapped the dust in front of the Knight of Death, sending up a small cloud of white powder. Within moments, it had disappeared, gone back to the halls of dust and ashes.
Mark Andrew sheathed the golden sword and climbed wearily back into the saddle, reining the stallion about, looking at each of the men in the circle, silently giving the invitation to any who would follow the Englishman.
“As I was saying, Brothers, I am John Mark Andrew Larmenius Ramsay, Chevalier du Morte, King of Terrors, Prince of the Grave and I have called you all here to give you a chance to redeem your souls. If any of you wish to step down, do so now!” He rode about the circle making eye contact with each and every one of them once more, before continuing.
“Now here is the lay of it…” He began to tell them of what they were about to face.The Assassin Chronicles Book #21, the Dead Confess No Sins, will be published some time next month. It is the 21st book in the Red Cross of Gold Series published at Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback form also available at Smashwords.com, the Ibook Store and Barnes and Noble.
The Assassin Chronicles follow the adventures of a modern day alchemist and Knight of the Temple as he works his way back to his original purpose after losing more than just his memory in a botched assassin's mission. The adventure begins in Book I:. The Knight of Death http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001J6ORUI