The Three Tasks Part 1
The Three Tasks Part 1
On a chilly night in late March, Uther and Manzio made their way north-west along the coastline of Galloway, following the directions suggested by Cole. As they spotted the tiny fishing village and the standing stones on top of the hillside known as ‘Farach Tar,’ a mist rolled in from the sea obscuring the view. The three made their way as best they could towards the standing stones. As they approached, they could see 3 stooped, shadowy figures huddled around what appeared to be a cauldron. The three fussed over a bubbling, brewing potion.
‘Strangers from the south approach sisters…’ said the first.
‘…but only two, not three as the prophecy suggested.’
‘Tis the wolf missing, though I sense his presence to the south,’ said a second.
‘The orphan boy, running from death…’ said the third.
‘…and the bastard Knight!’ stated the first.
Approaching the heath, Uther wasted no time in charging toward the witches, whilst Manzio confused by what he was seeing held back. One of the witches pointed toward Uther and the Templar was held rigid.
‘You have no manners, knight. Perhaps, that is why your father disowned you.’
Manzio approached, desperate to plea for his friend’s life but as he did so, an external presence entered his conscious thoughts.
‘Assassin, I will protect you from the ‘Badb’ if you do something for me in return.’ The voice retreated into Manzio’s subconscious and for a moment, he wondered if the thought was merely a figment of his imagination.
Suddenly, an electrical field generated around the standing stones as diminutive lightning forks struck out between the menhirs. Slowly, the electrical energy began to rotate.
‘Here ye now the words of us witches 3 for ye have 1 night only to seek the traitors 3. The dragon’s mist shall hide your passage and we 3 shall watch ye in the waters of Utrecht’s bloody cauldron here. Away with ye now to Stranraer shall ye wander to hasten the death of Farquar the Furious? If ye dare and should fortune shine upon you this dark night. Your success will rely on the shadow assassin but this word of warning I give to you…the shadow stirs in the dragon’s breath and should ye barter with the shadow, young Manzio will never be the same again. If you do not return to us by dawn then the dragon will devour ye whole…’
All of a sudden, the earth began to rotate, a kaleidoscope of light shimmering in a disorientating rush of power.
With a thud, the two had landed hard on the ground. As the dizziness faded, Manzio found himself surrounded by thick fog. Slowly regaining their bearings, the pair found themselves on a rickety wooden bridge just north of a small settlement. On the outskirts, glimpsed through thick tendrils of mist, they made out a twisted looking Tower, ancient and slightly lopsided.
Peering ahead, Manzio was quick to spot a figure approaching from the tower. ‘Quick, get under the bridge,’ he urged to the still disorientated Templar.
Crouching beneath the narrow bridge, their bodies barely above the stream gently, passing beneath them, Uther turned to Manzio, his face still blotchy as though from anger. ‘What the hell happened with those evil three hags?’ he whispered. ‘And where the hell are we?’
Manzio placed his index finger on his lips and slowly waded through the stream, crossing to the far bank before using the riverbank to conceal his movements. Risking a quick glance, he could see a very young man, wearing a leather jerkin, with a short sword in his hand. He had a red face with tangled black hair, and wore hobnail boots. Sensing movement behind him, the young man, now committed halfway across the bridge, turned, just in time to see Manzio cartwheel from his concealed position before landing theatrically, ready to face the snarling charge of his opponent.
Entering melee together, Manzio was shocked to see that the teenager facing him was little more than a boy, younger by a year or two from himself. Lunging forward, the boy overextended his reach and Manzio easily caught him on the riposte, his dagger slashing a gaping wound in the boy’s shoulder. The teenager twisted in desperation to right himself, clutching his back, obviously in agony.
‘End this now boy, growled Manzio. I can give you your life, if you leave Stranraer now.’
For a fleeting second, Manzio thought the boy would take the olive branch but having glanced over his shoulder toward the open fields, he foolishly jabbed out with his short sword, narrowly missing the quick assassin but opening his body in the process. Manzio with a rising acidic bile in his mouth, silently jabbed his dagger downward, tearing through the worn old leather hide and entering his heart. Slowly, the light faded from the boy’s eyes, mouth wide open, shock registered on his face before sliding from the deadly tip of the dagger and falling lifelessly to the ground. Uther, coming to stand beside his friend, looked down at the boy, shaking his head, making a cross with his right hand, before nodding toward the tower.
‘What kind of man keeps boys of this age to be his guards? I do not know what evil has transported us to our destination at such speed but now that we are here, let us finish the first of the jobs we were set by the Archbishop.’
Wasting no further time, Manzio and Uther sprinted towards the tower. Finding an open doorway on the ground level, Uther motioned that he would go first. Entering in single file, Uther was first into a makeshift common room, two guards eating a thick, grey gruel nonchalantly looking up expecting perhaps to see the teenage boy returning. However, seeing the Templar knight, both leapt to their feet. At the sight of Manzio and Uther, one of the guards charged towards them, wearing the same clothes as the teenager, also with a short sword, but much older looking. As he rushed forwards, Uther lashed out at him with his long sword, biting deep into his upper chest. The guard lashed out at Uther with his short sword, catching him slightly, making a narrow cut on Uther’s left hand.
Meanwhile, Manzio rushed the second figure with his dagger, reaching inside the feeble defensive parry of the overweight man facing him, porridge still visible on his lip, before burying his blade into the gut of the guard. The man screamed in agony, his shriek quickly cut off by the bubbling blood frothing from his mouth. The other guard rushed over to support his friend, lashing out at Manzio with his short sword, but was unable to compete with Manzio’s lightning-fast speed. Behind him, Uther was backing off from a third guard, entering the fray from the staircase behind.
‘Manzio, quick, get to the stairs, I’ll deal with these.’ shouted Uther, the blood dripping from his severed left wrist. ‘Don’t worry, this will be nothing more than training yard formalities with raw new recruits,’ he said, noting the concern of Manzio’s gaze, which had taken in Uther’s injury.
Deciding to move quickly and decisively, Manzio unleashed his hook-blade. The guard was backing off in confusion as the Vesuvian bolted toward him with blinding speed. The Vesuvian vaulted high above his head at the last second, slowing his descent before angling the hook-blade and then jerking his left arm downward, biting deep into the guards neck, before landing lightly on his toes. Turning to face any counterattack, Manzio noted the guard, now crawling for the safety of the kitchens, an old woman with ashen skin looking fearfully from beyond the scullery. As blood spurted from an arterial wound in the man’s neck, Manzio risked a glance over his shoulder toward the other battle, in which Uther had clearly been wounded badly on his upper-left shoulder. However, noting Manzio hesitating, the older Templar urged him on with a flick of his wrist.
Racing up the spiralling staircase taking each two at a time, Manzio barely had time to recover, before seeing a crossbow bolt narrowly miss him. He looked up to see the staircase reach the first level at which point a guard was busy reloading his crossbow but fumbling the quarrel.
Entering the room from which the guard now backed away with his crossbow, Manzio noted the grand design of a long table, which had 8 chairs. A fire was burning in the hearth with a selection of brass pokers hanging from an ornate matching brass stand. An open window was set in the far wall, the guard edging toward it.
‘Get out…jump and I will spare you your life.’
Unlike the teenager from earlier, the scrawny guard accepted the offer, abandoning the crossbow before jumping out of the window, followed by a gasp of pain from below.
Manzio, now left alone, proceeded carefully and slowly up the second staircase. As he approached the second landing, Manzio decided to use his magical ring, disappearing from view. Rounding the bend, he saw a guard with two short swords held making a cross over his chest. He was also wearing leather armour with hobnail boots. He hadn’t spotted Manzio as yet.
“Louis, whit’s happening man?” he called down the staircase fearfully. There was no reply.
Manzio didn’t want to attract attention, so he loaded his crossbow, aimed it at the guard and released. The crossbow bolt bit home, stabbing into the chest. In shock, the guard looked around, wincing in pain, spotting Manzio who suddenly appeared on the landing beside him. Using the surprise of the guard to his advantage, he sprinted the remaining 4 yards before once again stabbing his dagger home, the blade now slick with congealed blood. The guard slumped to the ground, dead. Manzio heard a thump on the ground from downstairs and heard the familiar footsteps of Uther, charging up the stairs as he too started to climb again. He heard a voice from above-…
“Guards, what in the name of God is going on?’ came a commanding voice from the stairwell above.
Gritting his teeth against the weariness beginning to spread through his body, Manzio vaulted the steps at full speed. Stood in the doorway in front of him was a burly, broad chested man in his 40s with receding, grey hair and smashed, jagged teeth, which gave him a ghoulish grin. His chain mail armour, which had clearly been hung on a mannequin in the corner behind him, had been grabbed in a hurry, the mannequin toppled to the floor. The big man was now trying to wrestle this on, as first Manzio and then the labouring Uther approached on the steps. He wore a surcoat emblazoned with a silver lion on a green field, wearing a golden crown…the heraldic arms of Wigtown in Galloway.
“Come ahead boys, lets see what you’ze scum can dee?’ Discarding his chain mail shirt, he unsheathed a large claymore. With his sword held two handed, he readied himself for the strike.
Manzio also prepared himself, thinking perhaps to use his flash powder to disorientate the big man but once again, the mysterious voice entered into his conscious thoughts:
“Let me deal with him, don’t try to resist me!” Knowing instinctively that the man facing him was too strong, Manzio acquiesced, his body suddenly inhabited by a colossal power.
Manzio experienced the battle much like a spectator, or like a dream. He lurched forwards toward Farquor, lashing out with his dagger, pulling it back quickly and back jumping onto the wall, jumping back off it, and lunging towards Farquor at incredible speed, then did the same thing over and over again until the last stab from his dagger came, which bit into Farquar’s jugular nerve. Defeated and exhausted, a look of shock registered on his face Farquor fell to the ground, dead.
Uther, barely having risen his blade during the combat, started in shock a his friend. ‘How did you do that?’ However, Manzio moved quickly toward a chest kept in the corner, quickly picking the lock. Inside he found a beautiful Sgion Dubh which he attached to his lower leg. He also made out an Emerald gemstone on the handle. He followed Uther down the stairs and out the tower.
After the encounter…the mists swirled around the ancient Tower, the blood of Farquar’s henchmen and the Lord himself seeping into the cracks. Back at the bridge, Manzio and Uther were met by one of the witches, dressed this time in white.
- Written by Rohan Williamson & Iain Williamson*