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Zeo Grey
This Weren't God's Work
Mon Sep 13, 2010 7:44pm
24.74.51.147

Marion was dead.

Her body lay in a jumbled mess of limbs and torn clothes.

The positioning was awkward but there was no missing the way her thighs were parted.

Jacob vomited.

Then he set to work.

Digging the hole was the easy part.

Marion hadn’t ever seemed heavy in life, her walk was a breezy dance, her figure petite. She was so vibrant a man might think her to be more sprite than human.

Her corpse had none of that levity. Jacob’s muscles trembled and burned by the time he dragged her to the hole. But he could not rest. It seemed blasphemous to sit around while Marion lay in a heap at the bottom of an open hole. The situation was no more noble than the one he’d found her in. So Jacob arranged her limbs and covered her completely in the scant amount of dirt he’d been able to tear free of the hard desert soil. Then came the rocks. Big ones first then smaller to fill in the gaps.

In the end he thought the cairn a bit pathetic. There was no marker. Even if he had the wood and charcoal Jacob couldn’t write. At least she was covered. Jacob slumped to the ground and stared down at the grave. He wished he knew the fancy Latin words the priests said over the graves of knights. Marion wasn’t particularly religious but Jacob felt she might have liked that. Thinking of her made his eyes prickle and grow hot. He blinked rapidly but couldn’t hold back his tears. They trickled down his cheeks in an unchecked torrent and spattered against the stones at the edge of Marion’s cairn turning the tan rocks brown.

***


Abin Al-Rachid frowned when something squelched under his boot. He looked down and let out a blasphemous curse. His boot sat in the middle of a puddle of semi-congealed blood. Following the pool to its source he saw Farush’s corpse splayed out on a low boulder. Metal stakes protruded from his eye sockets and two more were rammed deep in his chest.

Above him the silhouette of the cross stood slender and empty against the night sky.

***


Jacob’s neck twitched at the sound of someone approaching. Slowly a shadow slid across his body and began crawling over the rocks of Marion’s burial mound. It stopped midway. The boy tried not to fidget. He could hear the stranger’s harsh breath and his back tingled in such a way that he knew he was being stared at.

The visitor spoke. The words were unintelligible but the voice, despite its raw character, was familiar.

The mercenary.

Jacob turned and fell backwards venting a short gasping noise of fright. The mercenary weaved on his bare feet, dressed in nothing more than his smallclothes. The sun had turned his flesh a shade of red painful to look at. His lips were cracked in a dozen places. All that was insignificant against the holes torn clean through the mercenary’s palms and feet.

Jacob fell forward in abject horror and fealty. The mercenary had the stigmata. He was touched by God Almighty. Something thick splattered on the back of his head. Blood. Jacob looked up and saw the mercenary’s hand raised over his head in benediction. Even as the young page watched with burning eyes the mercenary’s eyelids drooped and he crumbled to the ground without so much as a sound save for his body thudding dully against the worn desert sand.

***


“Where’m I?”

When he received no reply Zeo grudgingly cracked an eye and examined his surroundings. He lay in an arid cave on a mostly flat slab of cool rock. Beside him a vaguely familiar boy prayed fervently; clasping his hands together so hard they shook. His knuckles were pure white.

“Where am I?” Zeo demanded again feeling the hot flare of anger in his gut. The boy’s eyelids didn’t so much as flicker and his lips kept silently moving. Belatedly Zeo remembered just what his circumstances were and switched over to the appropriate French.

“Where am I?”

The boy’s eyes opened with a start and he lost all color in his face. For a second Zeo thought he might run. Then the boy did something unfathomable. He bowed his head. Not just the way a servant might but with real reverence. Like Zeo was one of the innumerable relics the crusaders were constantly digging up from the sand. He found it uncomfortable and reacted as such by snarling and weakly shoving Jacob backwards. The shove had more than enough power to send him bowling backwards into the wall of the cave.

The boy yelped when his head cracked against the stone of the wall and fell forward hissing in pain and rubbing his scalp.

“Who are you?” Zeo demanded.

“Jacob. One of Godfrey’s pages. You have the stigmata. How? Why? What is it like to be touched by God?”

Zeo made a face. “Stigmata?” His positronic brain quickly brought up the definition of the unfamiliar word and he looked down at his hands. As he examined them his brows drew together and the hate boiled in his belly. When he finally looked up the boy made the sign of the cross at what he saw in Zeo’s eyes.

“This weren’t God’s work.”

***


Clockwise stood at the entrance of the courtyard of the potters?. Around him an honor guard of assassins kept careful watch for any approaching crusaders. The time-warper appreciated the gesture but knew it was mostly pointless. With the slaughter done the majority of the Franks were getting drunk and having their way with whatever woman they came across be they camp-follower or one of the few infidel women to have survived the purge.

Not that such things mattered to Clockwise. No. This was long dead history to him. These people had already suffered and so it meant nothing to him to see it live. What mattered was the courtyard he stood in.

Zeo Grey had fought his way here in the initial stages of the attack. Here he had killed crusader and Islamic defender alike. True he could have simply gone berserk. Clockwise knew well his malady. But he did not believe that was the case. Zeo came to the courtyard for something. Something important enough to shatter years of cover.

“Keep watch.” Clockwise ordered. The assassin closest nodded sharply. The reploid didn’t see the assassin leap backwards with a startled oath. Nor did he care. The golden light pouring from him was a side effect of his powers. Nothing more.

Clockwise watched as the courtyard flowed backwards in time. Corpses long dragged away reappeared then stood as blood flew back into them and sword strokes reversed.

Then there was Zeo. Like a storm of blood and fire he swept across the courtyard killing as easily as Clockwise snapped his fingers.

Beads of sweat rolled thick and heavy down his face as the Chronos Matrix buried at his core revved and whined under the strain of shoving Clockwise back in time and keeping him apart. Despite the sweat and the burning sensation spreading outwards from just under his ribcage Clockwise persevered. Finally he reached the beginning of the battle and gentled his grip on the strings of Time. Watching carefully the final stand of Zeo Grey.

He saw when the assassins attacked. He saw them die. He saw the old man come out from the temple and raise something that sparkled gold in the morning sun. He saw him die.

He saw Zeo finally subdued and dragged away. He saw the cautious approach of Frankish knights. Saw them examine Robert of Ponard. Saw their surprise when he still breathed. Most importantly he saw Robert demand the retrieval of the medallion and clutch it weakly to his chest as he was carried away.

With a final push Clockwise catapulted himself back to his proper moment in time and allowed his falling body to be caught by two assassins. Gasping for breath he spoke two words before unconsciousness tore him down into its black waters.

“The medallion.”

***


It took far longer than Zeo had for his body to recuperate enough for him to begin moving. Even then every twitch of his synthetic muscles was painful. The pain didn’t matter. He was ambulatory. That was what mattered.

The page, Jacob, proved useful once he got over his misplaced religious fervor. He scrounged food and even clothing and a bit of armor for Zeo, bringing it all to the cave. The greatest prize was the axe. A mighty double-bladed affair. It was mostly sharp still too. The knight wielding it must have died in the earliest moments of the battle for the walls.

“I cannot bring anything else.” Jacob said, handing Zeo a half-loaf of stale bread. “People are getting suspicious and I have been lax in my duties to Godfrey.”

Zeo eventually noticed that the boy was still there.

“So go.”

“Marion is dead.”

Zeo frowned.

“Someone killed her then dumped her body out here in the desert. They…” Tears trickled down the page’s cheeks. Zeo stood quietly for a long moment watching him cry then grudgingly set his hand down on Jacob’s head in a brief pat. That was all the comfort he offered.

Eventually the tears ceased and Jacob looked up. “It was Duke Robert. I saw her enter his tent. A man carried her out. I… I couldn’t help her.”

“That prick’s dead.”

Jacob shook his head. “No. I saw his knights carry him into his tent after the battle. Then they moved him to a palace. Duke Robert is alive.”

Zeo swung the axe up from the ground into his hand. “Not for long.”

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