The large man stepped into view, a shadow separating himself from other shadows. Despite his bulk he made no sound as he walked through the church. His eyes swept the expansive structure, his ears searching the near darkness for any sign that he was not alone. Quickly he approached the altar and knelt to one knee, crossing himself and uttering a silent prayer.
As he was beginning to rise he felt the cold steel against the side of his neck causing him to hold still, his muscles twitching with repressed rage like a tiger pacing in its pen, “Put that away you blasphemous lout. I wouldn’t have expected such irreverence even from you.”
When he no longer felt the cold steel against his neck, Vitali rose, quickly turning. The fact that he towered over a small, almost elfin woman gave him pause, until he noticed the sneer she wore like a mask of impertinence, “Yes, your kind would never draw a weapon in here… unless you outnumbered an unarmed priest five to one and needed to curry favor with King Henry at least.”
Vitali growled low in his throat, unable to bear the insinuation, reaching for the blade concealed inside his priestly garments with murderous intent, “If I had known it was you who invited me here, foul Templar you can rest assured I would have brought four friends with me to help you live out your paranoid…”
“She didn’t invite you here, brother. I did.”
Turning, they both realized with some alarm that the man in the shadows had been there all along, that they had walked right past him and not noted his presence. Stepping from the shadows, they could see that he dressed simply in a Friar’s raiment and carried no weapon, his face radiating calm serenity.
Vitali had to strongly resist the urge to reach for his weapon again, but the large Russian restrained himself. He had endured a childhood in a Godless state that persecuted all those who believed and he now prided himself on his ability to endure anything if needed.
Even, it seemed, the company of a Templar Knight and a Torquemada Friar.
“I think I prefer the company of the Templar. At least she acts out of ignorance, while you, in full knowledge of the evils wrought by your zealotry.”
Now an edge of steel tinged the serenity, but the old friar merely smiled, his eyes twinkling with a dark light, “Yes, that is to be expected of one such as you. When you land on an uncharted continent and find it dominated by savages sacrificing women and children by the thousands on blood-soaked altars to bring about the end of the world, you beg for Cortez to deliver you. When Spain is overrun with the Caeder the Holy Father himself cries out for Torquemada to bring darkness from the light. But when you do not think you need my kind you apologize to the people we have saved for the salvation we have given them, when you do not need us we are zealots.”
The twinkle in the old man’s eye vanished, replacing mirth with cold, calculating rage as the huge Russian’s booming laughter filled the enormous cathedral, “My but you love the sound of your voice, old man.”
Though it would seem impossible, Vitali’s laughter only increased in volume when the small woman at his side clapped him on the back, joining him in his mirth, “I think he’s saying we have no need for your brand of ‘faith’ old man.”
Now the friar smiled again, but it was a smile incapable of warming the cold glint in his eyes, “Oh but you do need me. The Pope is gravely ill. And someone is killing those most worthy to succeed him, one by one.”
And as the church fell silent it was the old man’s turn to laugh. A perverse laugh, without a hint of mirth.