Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cottonwood - 1877 - Tyler Coleridge (Part 4)

This is the last part of Coleridge's story before he is revealed in Vendetta: The Awakening.  Again, reading this will not ruin the main story for you, but it will supplement it.   

He had hoped the list would come sooner.  Tyler Coleridge had been Pastor of Cottonwood for almost fifteen years by the time his father spoke to him again.  Coleridge figured it was because of what happened in Chicago.  He had spent the summer tracking down and giving his father, Hades, the list of names that had been demanded.

Tyler Coleridge
Coleridge had taken refuge in an abandoned church - St. Joseph's just outside Chicago in a smaller western community.  It served its purpose well.  The travel from church to city was only an hour, and the location allowed him to bury the bodies according to Hades demands.  However, when the last name on the list had been Alderman Taylor, the city constables did their work fast.

They tracked him to the church less than an hour after he abducted Taylor with the poisonous drink.  He had only tied Taylor to the altar and had just about started hacking through Taylor's limbs when two constables entered.  They were armed with revolvers.  Since the Civil War had still been blazing at the time, the constables consisted of older men - some forty or fifty years of age.  Both the men after him had white beards.  Coleridge was aging less and less each day, though his white hair made him look just the same as the constables.

Coleridge felt two bullets enter and exit his body, yet there was no pain.  The constables shouted their curses and told him to lay on the ground.  They told him to drop the knife.  But Coleridge had a job to do.  He hacked into Taylor's right arm, and heard the familiar crack of metal on bone.  He hacked again to go all the way through.  Two more bullets entered and exited his body.  He felt no pain.

One arm fell to the ground, and Coleridge began to work on the other.  He felt warm blood trickling down his stomach, but there was no pain associated with the blood.  He felt nothing but the urge to continue his work.  He raised his knife, and felt a bullet go through his hand.  It didn't hurt, but it caused him to drop the knife.  Coleridge grew angry.  He grabbed the knife with his other hand and threw it towards the constable.  The thud and subsequent gurgling of blood told Coleridge it hit.  The pastor was too focused on the man waking on the altar - missing only one of four limbs.  Coleridge need to make it four.  He had to do it without distractions.  

Coleridge walked back to the constables, feeling the remaining constable's bullets fire and go through him as he approached them.  Their eyes became wider and wider with each shot and each step he took towards them. He grabbed the left constable's pistol, and snatched it out of the man's hand.  The one on the right was holding the knife in his chest, who looked like he was having a hard time decided whether to pull it out or leave it.

Coleridge shot the constable on the left in the head with the final bullet loaded in the six-shooter.  He dropped the gun, turned to the man with the knife in his chest, pulled it out with a little effort, and chopped into the right constable's head.  The constables fell.  Coleridge took his knife and walked back to Taylor to finish.  During the remaining task, Coleridge felt the holes slowly heal themselves, like invisible sticthes tying the loose ends of his midsection together.  

Taylor cried like a woman in childbirth.  Coleridge reveled in the sounds.  But when he finished and buried the cremated remains, more constables were arriving on the scene.  Coleridge ran, and found himself in Cottonwood during a great fall storm in 1863.  He hadn't heard from his father... until that morning, almost fifteen years later.

His father didn't speak - didn't command.  Coleridge simply woke with a list in his hands.  The first name on the list was the new butcher, Johan.  Johan was an immigrant from Sweden who was getting away from economic turmoil, or so the man claimed.  But Coleridge smelled something strange about the butcher.

Coleridge had been preaching, and acting as the pastor ever since the night he arrived and killed the old one.  After fifteen years, Coleridge had forgotten the man's name.  It hadn't been written down - maybe that's why Hades had not spoken with him.  When Johan approached Coleridge, he smelled of Burnt Umber and snow.  It was the strangest of scents, but one that triggered Coleridge's desire to kill yet again.

Two months after Johan arrived in town, Coleridge, having not seen the man in church, went for a visit.

"Not a church going man, are you?" asked Coleridge as he watched Johan hack through meat.  The knife the man was using looked like polished silver, though it had a rainbow luster gleaming in the metal as well.

"My church is work, good pastor," said the Swede in his thick accent.  "My father was a butcher in life, and taught me well to mind my task."  Johan's voice had the swinging sound of the Scandinavian dialect.

"Was your father an immigrant?"

"No - he died in the war with Bavaria.  I came here to escape it all."  Johan chopped with such power and precision.  Coleridge saw the knife the man used and longed for one that appeared as sharp.

"Not much for war, then?"

"Nope."  The fleshy slapping and hacking thuds kept them company while they spoke.

"Why come out to Indian territory?  Surely you know there is war between the native people and our own."

"They are your people, Pastor - not mine."

"But are you not living in America?"

"Yes, but I still do not belong to these people.  When I have wife and child, I will be part of these people.  Until then, I am my own."

"What about your brothers and sisters in Christ?"

"I do not believe that Christ existed - and I am free to believe so, yes?"

"You're not a Christian?"

"Is there something wrong with that?"

"I'm just surprised."


Johan, the Butcher
"A man like you, with beliefs like you, would do well in a Christian setting."

"I find they contradict my views."  Johan put the knife down and walked his chunks of meat to the cold locker.  Coleridge saw the knife left behind.  He took it as soon as Johan's back was turned.  Coleridge could feel the ichor vibrating through it.

"What was your father's name?" asked Coleridge once Johan returned.  Johan began looking for his knife.  He must not have assumed Coleridge had taken it.

"Why do you ask?"


"Freyr."  Johan kept searching.  "You have not seen my knife, have you?"  Coleridge took that moment to hack into Johan's shoulder.  The cut was so pure and solid that Coleridge had a hard time taking it out of the shoulder.  Johan cried in pain.  Coleridge soaked in the pleasure.  It took him half an hour to perform the rituals, and Johan was taken so off guard that the man failed to put up any fight.  Coleridge reveled in the sound of the man's pain.

One down, eleven more names to go...    

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Escape - Tyler Coleridge (Part 3) - 1863

Killing felt good - it was a release of pent up stress for Tyler Coleridge.  Men who had not committed themselves to the Church could enjoy sex.  Tyler Coleridge had to find other means.  When the Lord of the Dead came to him in his sleep, three nights after Bishop Cranston met his fate, Coleridge was overcome with worry at first.  

Tyler Coleridge
"But they are my flock - I must see to their blessed lives, not murder them."  Coleridge could understand why death wanted souls, but it did not mean that Coleridge would walk them to his gaping maw.  

"You forget yourself, my son," said Hades, face covered in a helm of twisted skulls.  He was robed in darkness.  "I do not ask this of you - I demand it."  Hades was less pronounced in the dream state.  Had Coleridge seen the God of Death in person, he would not have been able to resist his father's demand.  "When you wake, there will be a list of names - see to their passing as I have instructed."  

Coleridge had no choice.  When he woke, he saw the list of names written in his own hand.  There were thirty-six listed.  The entire Marshal family was present, aside from two children, and most of the upper class and affluent citizens in King's County.  

The first time he killed had been so sudden, and he had been scared - worried he'd get captured.  He invited the elder Marshal to his home for dinner - an introductory ruse utilized to put his victim at ease - and applied a poison that rendered the elder Marshal unconscious for a few hours, as well as paralyzed for half a day.  Hades called the poison Anthoss Thanatoo, and had instructed Coleridge to speak the phrase over the concoction to make the poison effective.  It seemed similar to the transubstantiation that took place during the Christian ritual of Mass - where the wine and bread became the blood and body of Christ.  

The poison worked, and Coleridge took his victim to the basement altar.  He cut each limb from the elder Marshal's body, and buried them at each cardinal direction outside the church.  The right arm was buried east; the left was buried west; the left leg was buried south; the right leg was buried north.  The body was taken to the church cemetery, where Coleridge cremated it in a ceremony Hades interpreted as "Cleansing the Soul."  It made the person fit for Hades' realm.  

It had taken him six years to get the names on the list completed - to find the perfect time for their deaths and to exact Hades' will.  After the first twelve names, Coleridge began enjoying how much power he held over his victims.  The last and final victim, Jeffrey Donaldson - a banker from Manhattan who moved to Long Island for status and recognition - actually awoke just before Coleridge began his work.  He had wanted to savor Donaldson's murder.  The banker had been hedonistic in his life - drinking, whoring around, gambling, stealing money - Donaldson had confessed to it all during a proud drunken boast just before  Coleridge invited him to dinner.  

Jeffrey Donaldson
"What are you doing, Bishop?" asked the tied and bound Donaldson, a fearful look on his stern boyish face.  Coleridge had a chopping blade in his right hand and a hand-saw in his left.  "Where are we?"

"What do you think I'm going to do, Jeffrey?" asked Coleridge with a smile twisting his lips.  

"If it's money you want, I can get it for you - name your price," pleaded Donaldson.  Coleridge could feel the fear in Donaldson's eyes.  The man was trying to stay calm, but the confusion gripping his heart was playing games with his imagination.  Coleridge could sense every ounce of panic that dripped from Donaldson's words.  

"The Church has plenty, Jeffrey."

"You want some women - I won't say anything."

"I have taken a vow that I hold dear."

"I can get you more land - more land will help you house the homeless, right?  You want a house?" Coleridge smiled at Donaldson's grasping attempts to placate him.  The Child of Hades could only be placated by one gift.  

"I do want something you can give me, Jeffrey."  

"Anything - you name it."  The brief appearance of relief was all that Coleridge wanted to see on his last victim.  He savored Donaldson's illusion of hope for an extended moment of succulence.  He sighed, then went on.   

"Your soul, Jeffrey.  You can give me your soul."  Coleridge smiled.  The sudden horrified shock in Donaldson's pallor made Coleridge laugh. He loved seeing his victim's hope evaporate.   

Coleridge raised his knife and hacked into Donaldson's upper arm, licking the splash of blood that hit near his mouth.  He opened the gash in the man's bicep to reveal the place he would begin working with the hand-saw.  Donaldson screamed in pain, terror dripping from his cry.  He began calling for help.  

"No one is here to hear you, Jeffrey," said Coleridge as he lined up the saw.  "But you may call out all you like."  Coleridge moved the saw back and forth against the rough muscle and then through the bone.  The smell of raw bone made Coleridge's nerves tingle with delight.  He drank in every cry Donaldson gave.  The screams began low, and then raised to a feverish pitch before Donaldson passed out from the pain.  The blood spurted everywhere.  Coleridge was covered.  He didn't mind; he enjoyed his work.  

The rest of the kill went as planned - each limb buried in place, and the torso and head placed on a pyre for cremation.  Coleridge tied Donaldson to the platform of sticks and dried logs.  Donaldson woke one last time.  He began crying after realizing what was to become of him.  Donaldson had finally given up, seeing his arms and legs gone.    

"Crying for your loss, Jeffrey?" asked Coleridge as he finished the bindings.  

"You're going to rot in hell for this," declared Donaldson.  His voice spit vitriol.  Coleridge was surprised the man could still voice words after the amount of blood that was lost on the altar.  

"I will sit by my father's side for this, Jeffrey."  

"You think you'll be going to heaven?  You'll be in hell, right beside me!"  Donaldson must have thought it would phase Coleridge.  

"I will be in hell, yes, but at my father's side - not yours."  Donaldson's eyes widened, his tears ceased.  That familiar look of fright dressed his face.  Coleridge drank the last sip he could, and lit the pyre.  He spoke the chanting words of the ceremony.  The screams of Donaldson as he burned were a chorus of praise to his father.  Hades would be proud of him, that night - as he finished his first list.  

He had to make his exit the next morning.  A crowd of people were worried about the sounds they heard echoing from the Cathedral the night before.  Coleridge had tried to assuage their fears, but the crowd was insistent.  They marched in and to the back, where Coleridge's bloody ceremonial robes were still out.  He had yet to burn them, as well.  They found them and began accusing him of the murder of Donaldson - who told everyone that he was having dinner with the Bishop the previous evening.  

Coleridge took a horse from the church's stables, and made his retreat to the ferry.  Just as the ferryman left the dock, Coleridge saw the torch-bearing crowd of people descending upon the landing.  He was just in time to avoid them.  He passed it off as a farewell ceremony so the ferryman wouldn't take him back to face the mob.  That night, he slept in the cold northern night under a tree.  The blanket under the saddle was the only warmth offered to him.  He had only had enough time to gather a small amount of money from the church coffers before he fled.  

He dreamed of his father for the first time since 1857.  

"You have done well, son," said the figure of Hades, still garbed in the mask of skulls.  "But now, you're calling lies west of here."

"Where must I go, Divine Father?"

"The City on the Lake," Coleridge was given an image that could only have been Chicago, from the stories he'd been told and the sketches he'd seen.  "There you will find your way towards the chosen fate."  

It was a short dream, but one he did not forget.  It took him a week and a half to get there by horse.  He could have taken a train, but he did not want to be noticed.  When he reached the shores of the Great Lake Michigan, and saw the City on the Lake his father had shown him, he grinned from ear to ear in satisfied accomplishment.  He decided he would sleep the night on the windy shore, and then go into the burgeoning city the next morning.  He dreamed of hell once more, and woke with a new list, written in his own hand-writing.  It contained twelve names.  

Coleridge did not know who those names were, or what Chicago had in store for him, but he did know it was going to be a busy summer.  


Monday, October 21, 2013

Revenge - Wandering Star - 1845

This side story is about a character who appears in the novel Vendetta: The Awakening.  It will not ruin the story overall, and is meant as supplemental text.  The events within this body of text have no bearing on the events of Vendetta: The Awakening.    

Wandering Star lay face down in the mud.  His body was useless and torn.  His arms and legs were too tired to move, and the rain kept falling around him, burying his face further in the puddle.  The two holes in his chest and the one in his gut were his only trophies from the attack made on his people - The Sihasapa Tribe of the Lakota Nation.  He had to protect his wife and daughter from the angry white men traveling the Oregon Trail to the West.  They attacked out of ignorance, and killed with no mercy.  His daughter was taken to the white man's camp, but his wife and the other warriors in Wandering Star's camp were murdered for being Sihasapa at the wrong time.

Wandering Star
They had been traveling with the buffalo herd when the white men came galloping up.  The whites wore no colors of allegiance, but wielded rifles, pistols and swords, and they spat curses no one understood.  Wandering Star recognized a few calls of revenge for some act committed against their numbers as the whites slaughtered his kinfolk.  He tried to fight back, but his tomahawk, spear and dagger were nothing compared to what the white men used against him.  

He saw them rape his wife, but could do nothing.  His wounds were too great to allow him to move.  They took his daughter, who was only just beginning to grow into her adulthood, and tied her to one of their horses.  They took the other young women as well - seven in all - and slaughtered the rest of them, young and old, man and woman alike.  Wandering Star had never seen such disregard for life.  But what could he do?  He gave all that he was to try and stop them.  
He did not want to give up.  He wanted to stand and follow them, as he knew others in his camp wanted to do as well.  But he could not.  The wounds in his chest and in his stomach had bled out too much, and he could no longer feel his arms and legs.  His eyes wanted to close, but he wanted to remain awake until his last breath.  

Thunder rolled above as the rain continued to pour down on him.  He saw the sky light up and another tumble of thunder followed.  He felt his eyelids grow heavy.  He closed his eyes with the intention of reopening them, but found he could not.  He willed himself awake, and opened his eyes for what he thought would be one last look upon the horizon where the white men disappeared.  Lightning tore through the sky and down to the ground before him.  A single bolt singed into the very fabric of reality before him.  

He saw a man in a suit of what Wandering Star could only assume was armor.  The man's shoulders, waist and legs had metal flaps that hung from fastenings.  The man's face was covered by a furious mask and his helmet draped to each side of his head.  A single lightning shaped sigil rose from the forehead of his helmet.  The eyes behind the mask glowed with a fierce intensity and crackled with contained electricity.  The man walked to Wandering Star, a single curved blade at his side.  

The man unsheathed the sword with a flourish, revealing a shining silver metal that reflected a rainbow luster.  He raised the sword into the sky and another lightning bolt struck the blade.  The sword glowed with violent fervor.  The man stepped over Wandering Star's body and pointed the sword down.  

"I, RAIDEN," spoke the man in perfect Sihasapa tongue, "THE GREAT KAMI OF RAGE, ACCEPT YOU AS MY CHILD, AND GRANT YOU THE STRENGTH TO AVENGE YOUR PEOPLE.  GO FORTH, SAVE YOUR DAUGHTERS, AND LET THE FOREIGN INTRUDERS KNOW MY FURY."  The man calling himself Raiden stabbed Wandering Star square in the back.  The lightning tore through Wandering Star's body, jolting him with pain and agony for every second it coursed through his veins.  Yet, he felt each of his wounds close, and the bullets dislodge themselves.  His arms grew strong again; his muscles tightened and expanded.  He felt his mind sharpen and his skin grow thick and tough.  Raiden removed the sword from his body, and Wandering Star looked up to find no one standing above him.  The storm was the only entity keeping him company.  

His body felt new.  It felt revitalized.  He rose from the ground, and re-armed himself with HIS tomahawk and spear. He sheathed his fallen dagger at his belt.  He wiped the blood from his stomach and side and covered his face with the crimson war paint.  He knew which way the white men went.  Wandering Star would show them his fury - he would exact his revenge.  

It took him two hours of walking and running to find them.  They were twenty men camped inside a small outcropping of trees.  Wandering Star was ashamed it took so little of them to kill he and his kin - but they had guns.  His kin only boasted twelve warriors, including Wandering Star.  But with women, elderly and children, their numbers added up to over fifty.  Now, he and the seven daughters were the only ones alive.  The white men would feel his wrath.  

He approached low in the tall grass, and waited for nightfall.  Only two men remained awake as the other eighteen went to sleep.  The six of the seven girls were tied to a tree, and one was taken into the leader's tent.  Wandering Star was unsure whose daughter it was, but since he was the only one of his kin remaining, they were all his.  He heard grunting and screaming coming from the leaders tent - the other nine tents were quiet.  The two guards - one with a grizzled beard and one with just a mustache - kept watch next to the small fire they built to keep warm. It was nothing but embers and smoke with the rain, but they kept it going nonetheless.  

Wandering Star crept closer through the tall grass, and got behind the tree the bearded guard leaned against.  The other guard kept his eyes on the fire.  If Wandering Star was quick enough, he could slit the first guard's throat before the other noticed.  Wandering Star put down his spear and tomahawk quietly, and unsheathed his dagger.  He extended his arm around the tree trunk, and quickly flicked his wrist.  Blood spurted out and onto the ground.  A panicked sound came from the bearded man as he clawed at his neck.  Wandering Star silently moved back into cover and readied his tomahawk as he saw the mustached guard look alarmed.  

Wandering Star threw his tomahawk and struck the mustached guard in the center of the forehead, just as the guard was about to raise a shout.  The guard fell back against the tree, and died with his eyes wide open.  Wandering Star, after gathering his spear, moved softly towards the dead guards and dislodged his tomahawk from the second guard's forehead.  He still heard the whimpering and grunting from the leader's tent.  Wandering Star could not forget the leader's face - it looked like his nose was being held up by an invisible string, and his eyes bulged whenever he spoke.  His face and lips were both fat, and his chin was small and dented.  Wandering Star crept through camp, beside the six daughters tied to a tree, and beyond to the leader's tent.  

When he entered, he saw what he never wished to have seen.  His daughter - Running Fox - was being raped by the leader.  He grunted as he moved in and out of her body, and a thin rail of a man watched from the other side of the tent, smiling and wringing his hands in anticipation.  Wandering Star could not withhold his rage.  

He threw his spear and struck the leader dead in the chest.  The strength behind the throw forced the spear - haft and all - straight through the leader and onto the bed next to Running Fox.  In the next instant, as the snake-like man's eyes widened in surprise, Wandering Star threw his tomahawk and hit the man in the middle of the chest.  The thin man did not fall right away, so Wandering Star drew his dagger and threw.  It lodged itself within the man's neck.  The next second, he was removing Running Fox from the bed, and pushing the shocked leader forward.  Wandering Star moved faster than he imagined.  By the time he and his natural daughter stood at the entrance to the tent, both men had finally fallen, and were bleeding out onto the ground.  

"Father - " exclaimed Running Fox just before Wandering Star covered her mouth.  

"We must be quiet.  The rest of the camp can wake up."

"How did you survive?  I saw you die," she whispered low.  Her soft face was covered with grime and bruises.       

"The Great Spirits watch over us, my daughter.  I will explain everything later."  He looked out to the camp through the open tent flap.  "There should be an Oglala camp near the Great Rock this time of year - go to them.  Take the other daughters, take some horses and run."  His voice was low and insistent.  She did as he ordered.  

When he heard the horses gallop away, after he finished scalping the leader with his dagger and collecting his weapons, he walked out to the middle of the dark camp.  The lightning was the only illumination.  The storm raged on above him.  Wandering Star killed every last one of the white men as they slept, slitting their throats and hacking off their heads.  He tied the heads together with a tent rope, stabbed his spear into the ground, and tied the tent rope of heads to the end of his spear.  

He got on a horse and rode away into the night, content that his revenge had been quenched.  The next group of white men would think twice about marching upon Wandering Star's kin.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Snake Oil - Henry Gladspoon - 1873

This is a side story created with a character that appears in Vendetta Awakening.  This is a back-story and does not ruin the plot of the main story in any way, shape or form.  This is meant as a supplemental addition.  

They all loved him when they were buying his tonic.  They all adored him when the cure-all helped Mother Jansen's knee feel better.  The people of the newly founded Huntington, West Virginia - the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway - praised him for bringing in his medicine and helping the people live their life to the fullest.  Henry Gladspoon had been embraced by the new mayor - the puppet of the railroad - and was given a suite to honor the product he brought into town.

Henry Gladspoon
It was all going well until Mother Jansen took ill, and Gladspoon's cure-all tonic - Euphoria - did nothing to help her through her struggles.  The Jansen family marched to the hotel and demanded he answer for his deception.  By that time, most of the city had been behind them, bottles of Euphoria in their hands.  The mayor tried to calm them, but they would not listen.  Gladspoon heard the whole conversation as he packed his bags.  His pile of coins, gold and greenbacks was in the bag that once held bottles of Euphoria.  He had planned to leave town earlier, and had bought a train ticket.  He paid off the mayor to keep himself protected, and was going to use the rest of his profits to buy more bottles to fill with water from the Chesapeake Bay - once he returned to Richmond.  However, the crowd was now between him and the train station.
Huntington, WV

Gladspoon watched as the torches swayed back and forth among the frothing crowd of disgruntled buyers.  He smiled at seeing them outside the window of his hotel suite.  The mayor was doing his best to keep them from storming the hotel.  Gladspoon walked, luggage and moneybag in hand, out of his room and down the hallway to the staircase.  He was going to use the rear exit to keep himself from being noticed, and gave a little extra tip to the hotel employees to keep them from revealing his departure.

He opened the rear door and made for the trees to hide his disappearance.  When he was a safe distance from the hotel, he took out a few matches from his luggage and sparked the light to signal the mayor.  Once Gladspoon was clear of the hotel, the mayor would let them in to search the hotel for the man who robbed them of their money.  The small flame flickered a few seconds before Gladspoon dropped the match to the ground.  It went out before it t
he ground, and he saw the crowd enter the hotel.  Gladspoon waited a few seconds and then moved towards the train station with ease.  His hat over his shoulder-length hair, he moved quickly through the town, avoiding the glances of anyone looking for him.

He couldn't believe how easy it was.  He thought for a moment that a few people in the crowd would see him, but no one paid him any mind.  They were so focused on the hotel.  He walked by people spitting their hatred towards the suite he once occupied.  He heard their curses that spoke of his deception.  How different it was from the day he arrived and gave them Euphoria.

When he got to the train station, he saw the empty platform and the near empty passenger car waiting for him to board.  He hastily walked on the train and took his seat.  The lanterns lit the inside of the car, and revealed only one other passenger on board.  He smiled as he saw the town gathered around the hotel.  The train was already fired up and was minutes from leaving.  The people would search every room for him before they gave up.  Once they finished, the train would be on its way east.  Gladspoon got comfortable as he felt the wheels turning on the rails.  He heard the grinding of metal on metal, and leaned back in his seat to enjoy the ride away from Huntington, West Virginia.  In minutes, using his plush coat for a pillow, he was being lulled to sleep by the steady racket of the train clacking on the tracks.\

He opened his eyes with a drowsy lull, and saw flames burning a line outside the car.  The train moved through a burning inferno, and horned devils laughed around bonfires blazing beyond the line of flame.  The trees were scorched and the train moved faster than he had ever felt.  He bolted up and wiped his eyes.  He tried to make sense of the scene when it suddenly, drastically changed to a scene of
snow-covered fields.  He saw tall, pale-skinned men, with beards longer than Gladspoon's leg, roasting humans on a spit over smoldering embers.  They smiled at him as he passed them by, moving faster and faster as the train continued to gain speed.

Then, the train shook. Gladspoon yelped in the abrupt change and shot his attention towards front of the passenger car.  The man three seats in front of him continued to slumber, despite the sudden jolt to the car.  A being in a dark robe walked through the door and slowly approached Gladspoon.  The other man seemed not to notice a thing.  The man's face was a torrent of fury and rage, and sent ripples of fear through Gladspoon's spine.  The dark being reached forth shadow hand clasped Gladspoon's jaw.  The face contorted into pleasant anger - as if the being was happy to be so angry.  It laughed a horrible cackle and Gladspoon felt his jaw crack as the being squeezed.

He jolted awake.  The man three seats in front of him was still asleep.  The scenery was dark, but no fires burned outside.  No snow covered the fields.  He looked towards the front of the car, and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw no dark robed man standing by the door.  However, the man three seats in front of him turned around.  The man had a crooked goatee and deep black hair, and a pale skin that seemed whiter than possible.  His sharply angled face was reminiscent of Gladspoon's own features.  He wore a black suit and a black shirt with no tie, and held a cane with a silver goat head.  The goat head gleaming a strange luster that reflected every color of the rainbow.

"So, you're Henry Gladspoon, huh?" asked the stranger in a sinewy voice.  He snorted in derision.  

"Who wants to know?"

"It doesn't matter who I am - I'm just disappointed that you're so easily fooled."

"Fooled by what?"

"Illusion, Henry Gladspoon.  For one who sells an illusion, you sure are subject to believing in them quite easily.  Perhaps it is your human side."  The stranger seemed disappointed.

"What illusion?  The dream?"

"Dream," the stranger laughed.  "That you think you're awake makes me laugh.  You truly have no clue, do you?"  Gladspoon was confused at the stranger's tone.  Should Henry know who the stranger was?

"If you can give me a clue, I might have a better understanding of things."

"Do you remember who your father was, Henry Gladspoon?"

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"You asked for a clue."

"My mother says he left when I was just a baby."

"She would be right - did she tell you what he did for a living?"

"She said he was a salesman for some big company in Atlanta.  She said he disappeared after I was born."

"Salesman," the stranger laughed.  "What did he sell?"

"She didn't say - I don't think she knew."  Gladspoon was having trouble understanding how the question had anything to with what the stranger was talking about.  "What does it have to do with anything?"

"Henry," laughed the man.  "You have so much to learn.  I wonder if I should lift the veil from your eyes or let you discover it on your own."  The stranger sighed.

"Just who the hell are you, sir?" asked Gladspoon.  "What right do you have asking questions of my mother and father? How does that provide me with a clue?"

"And you're dense as well."  The stranger shook his head with pity.  He tapped the cane on the wooden floor twice.  The floor buckled and bent.  It dipped in the middle and rounded by each of the windows.  The front of the car dissolved and the blistering cold blew in with a swift gust.  A blizzard covered them both as the train car disappeared from around them.  Gladspoon was about the cry out when the scenery changed altogether and he saw a cave in the side of a mountain.  Snow-covered evergreens stood watch over the entrance.  The stranger walked through the snow.  Gladspoon saw no footprints in the snow.  He followed the stranger, having no other option.

He looked around and saw nothing telling of the train car upon which he once rode.  He wondered how the stranger had done what he did.  He wondered where the train car went as he crunched through the ankle deep snow.  When he looked back to the stranger, the man's clothes had changed to a fur-lined cloak and a helm with a two long ram horns spiraling into the sky.

"When you enter the cavern, you will have your answers."  The stranger gestured to the cave.  Gladspoon entered, and was engulfed in darkness.  The shadows consumed him.

When the shadows cleared, he saw his mother, young and pregnant, holding the hand of a man in a three-piece suit.  She was trying to pull him back into her home.  She pleaded for him to stay.  He told her he would return to care for their child.  She asked why he needed to leave before the child was born - he told her it was business, and showed her a letter.  She took the letter, and he left as she read it.  She collapsed on the ground and cried once he was out of sight.

The shadows swirled around him again and he saw the suited man sitting in a train car.  He smiled as he went to New York.  He spoke with a young woman nearby, and kissed her hand in greeting.  The vision followed the man to New York, and back to the woman's family where he introduced himself as Martin Gladspoon.  He did not recognize the woman, nor the family to which she belonged.  Martin Gladspoon introduced himself as a salesman from Atlanta.

The shadows engulfed him once more, and he was back on the train in front of the stranger.  The stranger looked like an ageless version of the suited man from the vision.  Henry Gladspoon realized now why the stranger mocked him.

"You're my father?"

"I am."

"Martin Gladspoon?"

"Was one of my names, yes."  He smiled as he waved the goat-headed cane in a flourish.  He once again became the fur-cloaked man. "My real name is Loki."  In a sudden rush of power, his body grew in stature and glory.  His cloak became a glistening silver fur and his helm turned pure gold.  The train around him became the throne upon which he sat.  "I AM LOKI OF THE AESIR, WHO WATCHES THE WORLD FROM ASGARD.  I AM THE MASTER OF ILLUSION, AND THE LORD OF FLAMES AND DECEPTION.  PROVE TO ME YOU ARE WORTHY OF BEING MY CHILD - MY CHOSEN.  FIND MY SCEPTER IN THE WORLD YOU INHABIT, AND YOUR DIVINE REWARD WILL BE REVEALED."

Gladspoon woke suddenly in the train car.  The image of the goat-headed cane was in his mind.  He had an urge to find it.  He blinked a few times to remove the sleep from his eyes.  He rubbed them in the glare of the morning sun.  The train had just finished pulling into the Richmond station.  The familiar sense of home returned him to reality.  He watched the sun rising over the horizon as he stretched his arms and legs, standing from the seat in which he slept.  The stranger was gone, and the car was empty.  He got off the train and went to work.  He had a goat-headed cane to find, whether or not the dream was real.      

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Huntress - 1861 - Tennessee

This is a second side arc to the story of Vendetta.  This has no relevance to the plot-line in Vendetta, but helps to create a larger picture of the world in which the story takes place.  This character may, at some point, have an interaction with a character from the Vendetta Trilogy.  

Abigail Crenshaw remembered what her father told her, as she laid on her back, staring up at the stars.  The wounds she sustained from the bear she was forced to confront with only a dagger were sharp pains.  She was bleeding out; she felt the slick wetness under her body as she rested on top of the crisp autumn leaves.  Her soft leathers had been nearly shredded, and her auburn hair was splayed out around her, and matted with blood.  

"Just breathe," he had told her, during her first hunt, when she was but twelve years of age.  It had been during the later portion of the summer of 1853.  Bernard Crenshaw, her father, had raised Abigail in the small log cabin he built with his own two hands.  He hunted and foraged for food in the wild woods of the Tennessee hills, and had decided to teach her how to do the same for herself.  She had foraged enough to know what was good for her, but that day, her father decided it was time for her to learn how to hunt.

"Breathe in," her father sucked in a deep breath.  "Hold it in, then release it with the arrow."  He exhaled just after the arrow was sent flying towards his prey.  The stag took the wound - just below the shoulder and right behind the front leg.  The two of them tracked the trail of blood to find the stag lying on the ground, bleeding on the forest floor.    

Abigail Crenshaw 
He had been trained in the hunt by the natives, he told her, before they were run out of their land and to the west.  He was taught how to make clothes from the skin of the animals he killed, and how to make use of every part of their body.  It was a waste to leave anything behind, aside from the offering to the crows. He taught her everything he knew that day, and the next week, she showed him how well she learned.  She performed remarkably.

Abigail buried her father three years later.  He had been hunting a stag when a black bear surprised him and attacked him.  She found him alone in the woods, mouth agape and eyes smiling.  She didn't know what he had seen, but she knew the signs of a bear attack, and the marks a bear claw made in the supple side of human flesh.  She'd been on her own since.

Now, five years after she buried her father, while hunting a buck with five points to each antler, she met with the same fate.  Only this time, the bear lay right next to her.  She had wounded it as much as it had wounded her. It was a male black bear, she knew, which meant it must have been roaming the area for food.  She had seen the tracks earlier that day, but thought she would be safe for a quick hunt.  When she scored the buck, the bear made its move on her.

The bear fight lasted only moments, as it reared and bore its weight down on her.  It tackled her to the ground, bit her right shoulder and tore into her side with its right claw.  She stabbed it over and over in neck, armpit and side, varying the stabs until she knew the beast could no longer withstand the effects.  The bear moved off her, confused as to how such a small creature could have such a painful attack, and collapsed a few trees to her left.

When she assessed the damage, she found cracked ribs, a torn shoulder and her side splayed open.  She knew better than to panic.  She tried to rise, but the pain was too intense.  So, I will die as my father did, she mused to herself.  Her bow was broken and cracked to her right, her dagger was inside the bear's armpit.  At least I took it with me.

The sun set and the the cool night came upon her faster than she expected.  She was losing consciousness as she stared into the sky.  The crescent moon above her was decorated with a field of stars that shone from the heavens.  The entire universe was displayed before her above the interwoven bare branches of the forest canopy.

One, solitary star shone bright on the left side of the crescent moon, like a the tip of an arrow on the moon's bow.  Its ambient light spread forth arms, and reached down from the heights to cradle her face in its twinkling splendor.  She knew she had to be seeing things; she couldn't help but smile in the mystery.  Maybe this is what father saw when he passed on... 

From the light grew a being created by the stardust, robed in the glittering essence and outlined in a star matrix.  A bow was in her hand, and antlers of wispy stardust extended from each shoulder.  She walked down the cascading light and to Abigail, smiling in the bliss of divine beauty.  She extended her hand to touch Abigial's chin.  There was pride in the star-woman's eyes, like the pride in her father's eyes when Abigail succeeded in her first hunt.

"Abigail," said the woman's voice inside her head.  "I have come to give you new life.  You have made me proud, my daughter, in your humanity.  Now, you will prove you are worthy of my divinity."

"Who are you?" she asked, not believing the woman in the stars could be her mother.  "What do you ask of me?"

"I am Artemis, Huntress of the Dodekatheon that rules from Olympus - you are my Child; my Chosen."  The
words held weight.  They resonated through Abigail's chest and penetrated the very core of her soul.  She felt something awaken within her.  Her wounds began to close; her bones began to mend.  In seconds, she felt renewed strength surge within her, yet she was too awed by the starry light to rise from the ground.  "You will be my instrument upon this Earth.  Purify this land of those who corrupt the wild - those who bring danger to the Great Hunt."

She did not know how, but she knew in her heart that she would do the task her mother set forth.  The starlight receded and she fell to exhausted sleep.  The next morning she rose, a new strength within her body, and went to the task set before her.  From the bear, she made a new waterskin, a winter cloak, breakfast, a new bow, several arrowheads and small daggers, and a large offering to the crows and scavengers of the forest.  She thanked the bear for giving her the experience, and thanked her mother for the gift of her new life.  Then, Abigail Crenshaw, daughter of Artemis, began her task of purification.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Father Tyler Coleridge Part 2 - King's County - 1857

It had taken Tyler Coleridge less than a month to make his home in King's County.

He had found his journey easy as he traveled along the country roads and slept in the comfort of the Church in which he once believed.  While he was still technically employed, his parish had burned in a tragic fire... one that claimed Pastor Turnbull who had been trying to set the horses free.  The poor soul was very concerned for all life, and ran into the flames to save the horses only to be suffocated by the fire.  Coleridge had been too busy trying to put out the fire to the rectory to aid Turnbull.  At least, that's the story Coleridge sold along the way to New York City.

When he arrived at the ferry, late in the evening on that October night, he found himself alone, at the crossing of the Gravesend Bay from New Jersey's South Beach.  He gained passage and they moved through the water.  Between shores, the fog covered his view of the land.  Coleridge sat on the bench of the ferryboat, and looked out into the fog.

"What brings you to King's County?" asked the ferryman.  His voice was hard and grizzled.  It sounded as if the man had a cold, or had recently experienced a heavy cough.

"The work of my Holy Father, of course," said Coleridge with a smile.  The ferryman laughed.

"The Church sent you?"

"I would not say the Church - I would say it was a calling from beyond.  A higher power."

Tyler Coleridge
"God, Himself, then?" chuckled the man.  Coleridge nodded.  "It's about time we had a faithful man here.  The Bishop - Cranston is his name - is as corrupt as they come."

"Is that so?"  Coleridge's interest was piqued.  Maybe this is a messenger from my father... "Tell me more of him.  Perhaps my calling will aid this county in cleansing the corruption from the Holy Church."

"He takes our tithe and fills his coffers.  He offers nothing back.  He feeds no hungry, he gives no solace to the beggar.  He listens only to the wealthy.  It's as if us poor, simple folk don't exist. We pay our tithe just like the rich men on top of the hill - but we're ignored down here by the bay.  It's a shame it is.  The priests all follow his lead, too."  The ferryman spit off the side of the boat.

"Where is his parish?"

"Between Atlantic and Washington Ave - north of the bay by a half hour's ride.  It's St. Joseph's on Pacific.  You can't miss it."   Coleridge chuckled at the name.  Surely, the name was the sign - the purpose - for which he was looking.  He thanked the ferryman, and got off the small boat, paying the man with the small amount of funds he had left from what he took from his Pennsylvania parish.  He hadn't taken much - just enough to buy him passage and a night's stay in a hotel or hostel if needed.

It took him three hours to travel from the ferry landing to the church by foot, but the ferryman was right - Coleridge could hardly miss it.  It was a tall and ornate building with two squared spires reaching into the air on either side of the main entrance.  There was a tall stained glass window above the double door entrance, and a cross atop the angled roof.  Coleridge saw bells in each of the spires.  While it was well into the night, the lights of the church were on inside.

Coleridge decided to go around the back, and walked to the side entrance of the long building.  He saw arched windows along each side peering in to the candlelit sanctuary within.  The church was indeed decadent.  He found the side door and knocked softly at first.  When he was not answered, he knocked slightly harder.

The door creaked open after another minute of waiting, and he saw a young acolyte, black robes under his white top, hold up a lantern to see Coleridge's face.  The acolyte blinked a few times before focusing on the white collar Coleridge wore around his neck.  The boy stepped aside quickly.

"Greetings, Father," said the boy, his voice cracking.

"Hello, my son," said Coleridge as he walked inside.  He looked upon the vaulted ceilings and the archways lining the central pews.  The sanctuary was pristine and lit by decorative candelabras.  The Tabernacle was gilded and set upon fashioned marble and velvet.  The altar was sculpted from marble as well, and stone angels held its surface aloft.  Coleridge was stunned by the beauty.

"Are you here to see Bishop Cranston?" asked the boy.

"Indeed I am - I have been assigned to this parish by the higher power."  Coleridge looked at the boy with a smile.  The boy walked away quickly, and behind the area of the altar to the rear chambers.  Coleridge took a seat in the front pew, and looked upon the glory of the church before him.  It was, indeed, quite the marvel for Coleridge to behold.  He had never seen a church so magnificent.

Bishop Cranston walked out from his chambers and towards Coleridge with a smile on his clean-shaven face.  Cranston's jowls stretched around the sides of his mouth and his thick eyebrows showed a stern and resolute facade.  The Bishop's hair was grey and slicked back.

Coleridge brushed his own hair, bare at the top but thick on the sides, against his scalp.  He smiled towards Cranston, feeling the gap between his front teeth with his tongue.  Coleridge knew his smiling round face was often a very disarming countenance.  He had not shaved, himself, since Pennsylvania, and so had grown a beard.

"It's good to meet a fellow man of the cloth," said Cranston, extending his hand in greeting.  Coleridge shook it after rising from the pew.

"Likewise, Bishop."

"So, you were sent to King's County?"  Cranston gave Coleridge a calculating glance.

"Why yes, I was.  My old Parish of St. Joseph's outside of Philadelphia burned down in a tragic accident.  I have been reassigned to these parts."

"I see," said Cranston.  His countenance looked appropriately pitiful, though not genuinely so.  "So, I'm supposed to find a place for you, then, I guess."

"That would be correct."

"Have you eaten, yet?"

"Not yet, Bishop."

"Please, call me David - we're of the same cloth.  What's your name?"

"I am Father Tyler Coleridge, Bishop Cranston."

"David, please," reminded Cranston.  "It's good to meet you, Tyler.  Let's get some food inside your belly and then we can discuss where you'll be performing Mass in the morning."  Cranston led Coleridge back to the Bishop's chambers, and Coleridge saw the remains of a large meal. There was half a baked chicken, vegetables and fruits of every variety laid out, and two half-eaten loaves of bread.  Cranston gave him a silver plate and fork and told him to dig in.  Coleridge did so, and took a seat at the side of the rounded rectangular table.

He examined the room while Cranston left to get some wine.  There were ornate rings near the preparatory area, and fancy robes with gold trim and silk lining held within the open closet.  The collection box was full.  Coleridge had never seen one as large or as full as the one Cranston had.  As he ate, Coleridge noted that the food was both succulent and savory.  The bread had herbs and spices Coleridge had never tasted - a sweet and robust flavor.  The chicken was moist and flavored with garlic and basil.  The fruit was a perfect compliment.  When Cranston returned with the decanter of red wine, Coleridge nearly forgot what the ferryman said, he had been so taken by the decadent meal in which he partook.
David Cranston

"This is the best wine on the island, Tyler," said Cranston as he poured two glasses full.  "It was a donation from the Marshall family just north of here.  Their estate does quite well, and donates much to the Church grounds.  I like to visit them once a week if possible - for just such delicacies."  Cranston smiled as he handed Coleridge the goblet of wine.  Cranston held his own for a toast, and Coleridge waited.  "To new arrivals - may your time benefit this parish, and bring the eyes of God upon us all."  Coleridge and Cranston tapped glasses.

Coleridge did not break eye contact as he drank his first drink.  The red wine was indeed very flavorful.  The thick aromatic finish wafted through his nose after he swallowed the liquid down.  Cranston set down his glass, and Coleridge did the same after finishing his drink.

"Normally," said Cranston, "I would have received a letter from the Holy Mother Church about your appointment.  But, since your church burned down, I guess we can find a good place for you here, if you were told to come here.  Who sent you?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, if I can send a letter to him by rider, then maybe we can have this whole appointment cleared up.  Which Bishop in Philadelphia sent you here?"

"I must confess, Bishop," said Coleridge.  "I was sent by a higher power than the Church."

"What?"  Cranston was about to laugh, but saw Coleridge was serious.  "What higher power - God?" Cranston laughed as if it could not be conceived as believable.

"Something like that," Coleridge smiled.

"You're either delusional or a joke - who put you up to this, really?" asked Cranston with a grin.  "Was it Bishop Tasker from up north in Albany?"

"I assure you - I was sent by a higher power."

"You don't really think I believe that, do you?"

"Why is it so hard for a man of God to believe?"

"It's just very unlikely."

"Isn't it unlikely that a man would rise from the dead after three days, and then ascend into heaven?"  Cranston's smile vanished.

"Who are you, really?" Cranston set his goblet down on the table.

"I have told you the truth - Father Tyler Coleridge."

"You'll have to pardon me, Father Coleridge," sneered Cranston.  "It seems I will not be able to give you a place to stay for the night.  The rooms are occupied - and you have nothing to donate."

"Surely you have enough funds to help a fellow member of the cloth find lodging elsewhere, then?"  Coleridge looked towards the donations coffer.

"Those are funds for the Church, and used for Church needs - not to be used to give some vagabond a room at a local brothel.  Now, if you would be so kind as to remove yourself from this church, I have business I must attend to."  Coleridge frowned at the anger written on Cranston's face.

"You are forcing me out of God's house?"  Cranston held back outrage at the question Coleridge asked.  The Bishop's jowls began to ripple.

"You are testing my patience."  The Bishop moved over to grab Coleridge by the arm and try to lift him out of the chair.  Coleridge resisted.

"The ferryman told me you were not a man of God - I see he was correct.  Such a sad thing."  The Bishop stopped, wide eyes looked at the placid lake of Coleridge's face.  Cranston's cheeks grew red.

"I will ask you one more time - politely.  Will you please leave the premises?"  Cranston's hand had not been removed from Coleridge's arm.  There was an urge inside of Coleridge as he looked down to Cranston hand.  He wanted to stab Cranston's arm.

With blinding speed, he grabbed the fork he'd been using, and lodged it into Cranston's arm.  Coleridge did not avert his gaze from Cranston's face while doing so.  The sudden realization that he had been wounded slowly came over Cranston as he let out a cry of pain.

"You do not deserve this Church.  No, I will not remove myself."  Surely, Cranston was the reason he'd been sent to King's County.  Coleridge took his cutting knife as Cranston grabbed his own arm, mouth open and trying to yell.  It appeared to Coleridge that Cranston didn't have the first clue what to do or say, he just held the arm with the fork lodged into it.  Coleridge took the cutting knife, and jabbed the blade into Cranston's neck.  The Bishop's eyes grew even wider at the smile Coleridge gave.

Blood gushed from the wound and onto the ground, sanctifying the floor of the church.  The Bishop fell to his knees, and his eyes stared in disbelief towards Coleridge.  Coleridge took another cutting knife, the one from Cranston's side of the table, and plunged it into Cranston's shoulder - between the blades of bone.  It felt relieving - cleansing.  Coleridge felt the power of his divine father coursing through his veins as he ended the life of Bishop Cranston.

Just then, Coleridge saw the acolyte enter the room.  The boy looked surprised, and was about to run when Coleridge felt the divine power within him flare.

"Stop," Coleridge said.  He heard an echo to the word.  I reverberated through his own chest and bounced off the rock walls.  "Bishop Cranston had an accident - get the shovel, and I will see to cleaning this room."  Whispers echoed his words as they were being said.  The divine power he held within poured into his speech.  The boy's blank face nodded and walked away.

It took him one hour to bury Bishop Cranston.  It took him another to clean the blood from the floor - though the stain still remained.  When he finished, the acolyte looked at him for some sort of command.  He told the acolyte to return home and speak nothing of what he'd seen that night.

The next morning, Tyler Coleridge donned the Bishop's robes, and told his congregation the news: David Cranston had been reassigned, and he, Bishop Coleridge, would be taking over services.  


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Father Tyler Coleridge - Pennsylvania - 1857

This story is considered a side story - this character appears in the novels and has a role in the main plot line of Vendetta: Awakening.  This story, however, is not expressed within the text.  This will not ruin, only enhance the story for a reader of Vendetta: Awakening.   

He was awake that night, in the rectory of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.  Father Tyler Coleridge, a Priest of St. Joseph's, had heard some noise outside.  He did not want to wake the Pastor and head Priest Josiah Turnbull, so he quietly left the rectory to examine what was making the noise.  Coleridge thought it would be rodents, or a raccoon, as always.  However, when he got outside, he saw a group of Negroes running towards the stable barn behind the rectory.  They had knocked down an empty crate that once held apples.  Coleridge assumed they were looking for food.

Coleridge had taken a moment to assure himself of what he saw, clearing his eyes of the sleep to see the five Negroes in torn and sullied clothes scampering across the grounds. Their shadowy forms ran inside the stable and disappeared.  He always felt pity for those less fortunate, so he figured he would get the some food while they his from the authorities.  It was the least he could do.

He walked back into the rectory and headed towards the food pantry he and Pastor Turnbull kept stocked and supplied.  They had started the pantry at the beginning of the recent economic panic, and were taking in donations from the wealthier land-owners from the countryside to help feed the people moving out of Philadelphia.  Coleridge saw they had plenty to spare for the few Negroes taking refuge in the stable.

Tyler Coleridge
"What are you doing, Tyler," asked the baritone voice of Pastor Turnbull behind him. Coleridge had taken the empty apple crate and started packing it with hardened bread and ripening fruit.

"Cleaning out the refuse, Pastor," said Coleridge, trying to cover the jump of his surprise.

"A noise woke me, was it you?"

"Who else would it be, Pastor?" asked Coleridge.  Pastor Turnbull was a sympathizer for the slave owners.  Coleridge knew if he told the pastor what he saw, Turnbull would be quick to alert the authorities.  Coleridge had been raised in Philadelphia, believing that all men were created equal under the eyes of God - regardless of the color of their skin.  Coleridge was not a radical abolitionist by any means, but he did feel slavery was not something God would condone.  He and Turnbull had enjoyed many debates on the topic, but now, the subject of debate had found its way to their Church stable.

"I saw some people moving towards the barn, Father Coleridge," said Turnbull, his voice stern.

"Did you?"

"You're acting strange, Father Coleridge," said Turnbull.  "You wouldn't be getting that food for the people in the stables, would you?"

"I've seen no people in the stables."

"Thou shalt not lie, Father Coleridge."

"In all honesty, Pastor Turnbull, I saw no one inside the stables."  Coleridge had not, in fact, seen anyone inside the stables.

"If not, then why are you doing this work in the middle of the night?"

"I could not sleep, Pastor."

"So, you decided to clean the food pantry?  In the dark?  With no lantern?"  Turnbull lit the oil lantern he held in his hand to life.  It flared for a second, then calmed to a flickering spirit.  Turnbull's handlebar mustache and hard, chiseled face held the deep shadows of truth in their features.  Turnbull knew Coleridge was lying.

"Yes, pastor."

"Then go ahead," Turnbull's face softened to a knowing, confident smile.  "Throw the spoiled food away to the rodents and birds of the field.  I will watch, for I, too, am having a hard time sleeping."

"I was going to feed the apples to the horses, Pastor."

"Good, then we can go to the stables and see what we find."  Coleridge walked to the stables with the lantern's light behind him.  Turnbull's shadow loomed over him.

"Tell me, again, pastor," said Coleridge, trying to break his nervousness, "why do you support the slavery of other men?"

"They are not men, Tyler, as I have said time and again.  They are mongrels from another world - they are a race meant to be enslaved."

"How can you say that they are not men?  Do they not share our features and characteristics?"

"Does a horse not eat?  Does a flower not blossom when it's time to procreate?  Just because they have similarities does not mean they are the same, Tyler.  Besides, if the Lord had seen fit to make them equal to us, he would have given them the means to defend themselves.  Surely, we have been blessed by the Lord and the mongrels have been cursed in their servitude."  Coleridge arrived at the stable door, and set down the food crate.

"But surely, the Lord has put them in our care, then, to foster them and not to enslave them; to teach them, not to beat them; to ignite within them the fire of life, not to stamp out their spirits like we would a horse.  We are the stewards of the land, not the rulers- yes?" asked Coleridge as he began opening the door to the stable.  The heavy wooden frame was tough to move against the moist autumn soil beneath.

"The Lord gave them to us as He gave us cattle."

"Then you would have us slaughter them?"  Coleridge asked through panting breaths.  When the door opened, he went back to the crate.  "You would have us beat them into submission?"

"It is the Lord's way."

"The Lord would kill, then, those that desire freedom to live?"

"The Lord punishes those that do not obey His Will."

"And who are you to know His Will?"

"I am his servant, as are you."

"Then why do we disagree?"  Coleridge took the crate and walked into the stable.  He stopped near the first stall.  He heard the stomping horse behind it.  The lantern illuminated the hayloft and shadows danced in the flickering light.  Coleridge saw Turnbull eyeing the loft with suspicion.

"You should join the Franciscans, Tyler," said Turnbull.  "They would suit you better than the Jesuits."  Coleridge snorted a chuckle.

"You joke," said Coleridge, "but God is life, is He not?  Why would He create beings like us if they were not to be held in the same light?"  Coleridge opened the stall and walked in to feed the brown mare.  He took the softest apple he could find and fed it to the horse.  He saw a pitchfork for the hay to the horse's right, and bent down to take lift it off the ground.  He leaned it on the wall outside, and then closed the stall behind him.

"They are cursed souls, Tyler.  They do not deserve the light of heaven."

"God would deny his creations the light of heaven?"  Turnbull looked at Coleridge with skewed eyes, as if Coleridge should have known the answer was 'yes.'  Coleridge was half in and half out of the second stall, and fed the grey gelding a softened apple as well.

"God is all-powerful, Father Coleridge.  He alone is the judge of us.  These beings have been judged and placed in the skin chosen for them."

"I cannot believe that God would be so cruel."

"It is reality, Father Coleridge.  God is not just life.  God is the beginning and the end."

"I have seen these creatures and their faith, Pastor Turnbull.  They beg for forgiveness - does God not hear them?" Coleridge returned to the main walk of the stable, just within reach of the pitchfork.  Turnbull was near the hayloft ladder.  Coleridge saw something in the other hand of Turnbull, now that the light was in front of him.  He had not noticed it at first.

"There!" Turnbull pointed to the hayloft and a shadow moving along the ceiling.  It looked like a man who was adjusting his position, or trying to grab someone else from running.  Coleridge couldn't see clearly, but he did see a revolver in Turnbull's pointing hand.  Coleridge had not known Turnbull to possess one.  The pastor was about to fire the gun into the haystack in the loft.  Coleridge moved fast, dropping the food crate and lifting up the pitchfork.  Turnbull didn't see Coleridge act.  Without thought, Coleridge moved to stop Turnbull.

A shot fired from Turnbull's pistol.  Hay flew everywhere.  Coleridge saw the pitchfork, held within his own grasp, lodged within Turnbull's back.  He had stabbed Pastor Turnbull - the forks were halfway through the man's back.  Turnbull's pistol dropped to the side.  Coleridge was breathing heavy.  It had happened so fast, he didn't have time to comprehend what he did until it was done.  His eyes were wide, his breathing became faster.  He heard a woman scream above him - it chilled his blood.  Coleridge let go of the pitchfork.  Turnbull fell to his knees, then to the hay covered ground, lantern in hand.

What have I done? Coleridge asked himself.  He tried to put his head around the act.  Before he could regain his focus, the scream came from the hayloft once again.  Coleridge could not take his eyes off of Turnbull.  He had not meant to kill the pastor, but Coleridge had to do something to stop Turnbull from shooting into the darkness.  Turnbull's words echoed in his mind.

God is the beginning and the end.  Coleridge wondered if he, himself, had been chosen by God to end Turnbull's life. God is both life and death, thought Coleridge, looking at the pitchfork sticking out of Turnbull's back like a flagpole.  The Bible did say that God worked through man.  His Catholic Tradition upheld the notion.  Perhaps Coleridge was only enacting God's will.

He heard steps coming down the ladder to the hayloft.  He turned and saw a Negro man and woman descending the stairs, tears glistening in the fallen lantern light.  They stopped, but then continued once they saw Coleridge's frozen shock.  Two more descended after them.  The woman held a small, motionless bundle over her shoulder.  The four Negroes ran from the ladder - one man stopped to gather the food from the crate - and they fled out of the stable.  The door behind Coleridge swung open, letting the cool autumn breeze chill his skin.

The light of the lantern flickered and caught in the dry hay of the barn.  Coleridge was still frozen.  He didn't know what to do.  He had not killed anyone in his life.  He had been a peaceful man, a faithful man.  What do I do now? he asked himself, looking down at the dead pastor's body.  The fire began to spread, but he paid it no heed.  He took the gun from the pastor's cold hand, yet left the lantern to burn.  If the stable burned down, it could give reason for the pastor's death.

Thinking quickly, he opened the stalls to each of the four horses that had begun whinnying in the firelight.  The dry hay was catching fire fast.  They hurried from the stable and out to the pasture beyond.  Coleridge, before leaving, looked back at the stationary body of Turnbull, still in quiet shock at what he had done, and made the sign of the cross to bless the pastor on his way to heaven.

When he turned around, he saw a looming figure robed in night, standing in the middle of the doorway.  The figure held a long, tall and crooked scythe, and wore its hood to conceal its features.  It was easily three heads taller than Coleridge.  He stepped back, feeling the hot flames burn behind him.          

"TYLER COLERIDGE," a voice boomed in his mind.  While it was loud, it was also sinewy and hollow.  It bore the strength of something more powerful than man.  Coleridge's mouth gaped.  He stood before what he believed was the visage of death.  "I HAVE COME FOR YOU."

"Am I... to die?" stammered Coleridge, weakly.  The figure moved closer, seeming to float over the ground.  "Please forgive me - I didn't mean to kill him."  Coleridge sobbed softly in the awe he felt for the being before him.

"I AM HADES, RULER UNDER OLYMPUS," the figure spoke.  Coleridge gulped down his fear.  The very God of the Dead stood before him.  In that instant, all of Coleridge's faith in the Catholic Church vanished.  He prostrated himself and begged for mercy.  "RISE, FOOL MORTAL.  I HAVE CHOSEN YOU TO BE MY HARBINGER - MY INSTRUMENT - MY SON."  A single finger of bone extended from the cloaked arm of the shadow being before him.  It touched Coleridge in the middle of the forehead as he felt his own tears washing his face.

In that instant, the fires behind him burned in the heat of hell.  They flared and exploded around him.  He felt his mind sharpen, his body harden, and his soul strengthen.  A sudden understanding came over him of the cosmic forces within the universe - he had been Chosen by Hades, God of the Dead, as his instrument on Earth.  The God in which he had believed was dead - had never been in existence.  The god who stood before him was now his father - his Holy Father.  The finger of bone moved away.  Coleridge looked upon the horrific shadow visage of deep nothingness.  Coleridge had never known his parents - he had been orphaned by Indians.  Now, his father was a god.

Coleridge smiled at the being's decision.  For the first time in his life, Coleridge felt like he belonged in the world - he felt a pattern weaving around him.  It gave him strength of purpose.

"What would you have me do, Divine Father?"  The figure began to vanish.  It was a slow process.  First the bottom robes disappeared, and then the arms.  When only Hades's head remained, he spoke once again.


The hooded figure vanished entirely, and the fires behind him roared on.  Coleridge rose, and viewed the suffocating flames once more, glancing only once at the dead body in the middle of the stable.  He smiled as he walked out and left the stable to burn.  He had been called to New York.  He had no need to stay in Pennsylvania any longer.  Turnbull was taken by the Chosen of Hades - and now Coleridge moved onward.

New York...