Castle Roland


Published: 8 Apr 14

Stumbling into the church, the youth held his hand close against his side, eyes narrowed against his pain. Looking up at the splendor and beauty around him, the youth wept all the harder for its glory. Finding his way to a pew, he sat and stared up at the face of the man on the cross. Bowing his head before the power he had once so loved, he felt the tears run down his face. A fragment of scripture, unbidden, called itself to him. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

"Why?" he croaked out softly, unable to say more. A half hysterical giggle threatened to climb up out of him, but he kept it under control. "Why, why God?" Struggling to find some meaning, some hope, he simply raised his head and stared. "Why?" he whispered once more, the cry of a damned soul looking for hope.

Finding none, he rose. He was not welcome here. How could he be? How could such a... a pervert... ever be welcomed here? Tears falling unabashed, he stumbled from the church, exhausted, dead of hope and spirit, tasting despair for the first time in his twenty year life. Outside the darkness waited.

He knew that darkness would consume him, and he was glad.

In the shadows, a single figure stirred, walking forward into the light. Glancing up at the cross, he bowed his head with respect to the figure there. "Is this why you called?" he spoke softly, hesitantly. It had been so very long. "I can do so little for him. He is not like me, and I cannot help him grow closer to you, only more distant." No answer came, save the growing certainty that the answer to his question was "yes". Turning, he strode purposely into the night. Vaguely, he sensed that this was something more than the usual. That he wasn't simply going to heal the youth he'd encountered, but that there was something more.

Turning his head left and right, he saw no sign of the young man who had just left. Frowning, he swore softly and closed his eyes to concentrate on senses other than sight.

A fist slammed hard into his side, hard, and Jason bit back another yelp of pain. He would not -- would not! -- give them that satisfaction. The fire burned inside him, fighting the pain, yielding to the pain; feeding it and being fed in turn; calling it and becoming one with it. He might break soon, but he had yet to do so. Another blow slammed into his face, sending him flying as yet more hands grabbed him, spun him around, and struck him again.

And again.

And again!

And again!

Suddenly he slumped against a wall, half fallen, half standing, as his tormentors, or perhaps executioners were distracted by someone at the head of the alley. Breathing shallow breaths, he waited for them to finish him, hoping God would do him one last favor and let this end quickly. What happened reminded him of one of his father's favorite sayings.

A sudden blur of motion at the head of the alley defied description, moving with a speed and ferocity that blinded the eye and staggered the mind. First one figure then another simply flew away, crumpling around attacks of such force and power that the blow simply blasted through any attempts at a defense, striking gut when his assailants blocked high, face when they blocked low, attacking another when they guarded against both and then struck back when they moved to try and stop the shadowy figure. New screams of terror, agony, and pain breached the night's still calm, as his assailants were met with what they had dealt out.

Soon, the shadowy figure knelt over him, and his blurry vision finally managed to resolve a few details. A simple face, rough-hewn but strangely unscarred for all the violence that danced in the eyes of his rescuer. Dark hair drifted above the face, framing a visage that screamed into the darkest corners of his mind. He'd never met this man before, but in that one instant he knew him. God had sent him the angel of death... if not quite the one he'd expected. Jason's mind drifted on the haze of agony that enveloped him, and he barely heard the strangers questioning tone.

"Whah-" he croaked. Swallowing, he tried again. "What did you say?"

"I was going to ask if you're all right, but I suppose that's a fairly stupid question," the humor stood out in the grim, if somewhat nasal, voice, and a ghost of a smile drifted across both their lips for a moment. "My name is Ronan Koken, and yours might be?"

"I'm Jason Bester," barely constrained hysteria danced in his voice. He was beaten, bloody, probably had a concussion, and this guy was fucking trading names? What a stitch! Ronan's hands danced over Jason's body, checking his injuries. In his struggle to control his hysteria, Jason barely even noticed.

"You'll be fine. They didn't break anything, and the head injury isn't serious." Ronan looked Jason in the eyes. "If you wish to go to the hospital, I will see to it."

"I can't afford-" Jason began, and was interrupted by Ronan before he was halfway through. The rough face led him to expect a lecture on the importance of medical insurance, but what he got was stranger still.

"I said, if you wish to go to the hospital, I will see to it." The voice was stern, hard as rock yet warm and caring.

"And I said-" Jason started to snap. Real heat rose up in Ronan's voice.

"I will make allowances for the situation. Hear me, Jason Bester! Hear me well!" The tone of command in Ronan's voice grabbed Jason's attention with hands of stone. "If you wish to go to the hospital, I will see to it that it happens. Do not worry of cost, or time, or effort. The question is, simply, do you so wish?"

"No! I don't want them to know!" a cry filled with pain burst from his lips.

"Then it shall not be." Ronan's voice thundered between Jason's ears, behind his eyes, pain rising in a torrent of agony that coursed briefly through his body. Strangely, he felt better for the pain, his thoughts clearer and body lighter.

"Since you don't want 'them' -- I shall not now ask who -- to know, I'm going to guess you don't wish to call the police." Ronan's voice held threat, and Jason knew full well the operative word of that sentence.

"No." Jason whispered, exhausted. Catching his eyes falling closed, he tried to force himself to his feet.

"Gently, now, young one," Ronan grabbed Jason by the arm and helped him rise, then brought the arm over his shoulder and held him up. "Now, where do you wish to go?"

"I-" Jason hadn't thought that part through. Dimly he heard his rescuer speak to him thoughtfully.

"Home? No, I think not... Since hospital and police are out, perhaps the nearby church- ah, I see not. So where shall I take you?" a moments thoughtful pause before he continued, "I'll put you up at my house tonight- what's wrong?" he ended sharply.

A memory shook Jason to his core, of a body resting on his back, and a sharp pain. He forced it away, thinking to himself, Not now!

"No-" a ghostly whisper breathed in his ear, filled with shock and pain. "Never." The simple force of it turned it into an oath, a vow that shook Jason to his core and forced him to believe. There was no volume to that whisper, but the tone and cadence of the utterance burned through his mind. Ronan meant it.

Jason nodded his head, muttering simply, "Thank you."

As darkness overtook him at last, two things drifted through Jason's mind. Firstly, how did Ronan know? And, in his ear a simple whisper -- a memory: "God always answers, just not the way we expect."

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