Castle Keep 3

(Part 1 from 4)

CASTLE KEEP 3: The Thirteenth Son

A solitary cloaked figure approached a large, walled monastery on horseback. The monastery was an intimidating presence on the crest of a tall hill that overlooked a serene and peaceful valley. The hill was dotted with grape vines, and peasants worked the angled fields.

The figure dismounted from the horse and approached the heavy wood and iron gates that protected what lay within the walls. A wood panel slid open and challenged the visitor suspiciously, for few could be trusted in a land where evil held free reign over a population besieged by hunger and violence.

"I seek Brother Wallace," Juliette softly announced in a hesitant voice.

"And the purpose of your visit?"

"I require information and guidance regarding spiritual matters," she explained. "Please, allow me to pass and meet with him. It is of the utmost importance."

The panel slid shut. A moment later a metallic noise sounded as a metal lock was unlatched and a smaller door built into the large gate opened. She cautiously stepped inside as she cast a nervous glance at the horse she left behind.

"I'll see to the animal during your absence," he reassured her.

Another led Juliette through a courtyard and into the central monastery building. They walked down two interconnecting corridors, a flight of steps beneath ground level, to a small chamber where a lone cloaked man examined a heavy parchment document by candlelight. Her guide bowed respectfully and quietly disappeared.

"What knowledge do you seek?" he questioned without looking up.

"I need to learn of the thirteen sons, for I suspect twelve have been born already," she nervously revealed. "What evil awaits our land when the thirteenth arrives?"

His behavior changed upon hearing of the thirteen sons, for it was his interpretation of a document that he believed to be correct but others disregarded as folly. And hearing that twelve may have already been sired gave the moment considerable urgency. He sighed as his heart filled with dread, for evil was now closer at hand than he had ever anticipated.

"How do you know of this?" he inquired.

"From the beast himself," Juliette responded. "He told me with his own voice that my sister and I are the mothers of the eleventh and twelfth." 

She looked down at her hand and opened her fingers. It contained a small piece of parchment that she reluctantly withdrew, so frightened was she of the image it contained. She carefully unfolded it and stepped towards him with her right hand extended. He took it from her hand and looked at it closely.

"It is the birthmark both boys were born with," she explained. "I'm sorry I am not a better artist, but if this means something perhaps the resemblance is close enough for you to make some sense of it."

The look on his face said more than words could describe. He was initially doubtful, but when he studied the illustration for several moments he heavily sighed and lowered his head in distress. She gasped upon seeing his reaction, for although she knew the truth it had never been confirmed until now.

"There will be thirteen sons who shall rise to power, and claim the thrones of thirteen provinces. Their forces shall unite and for 18 years wage war and wreak havoc across the land. At the end of 18 years the strongest son will vanquish his siblings and rise above all others to rule the kingdom. For thirteen centuries he will rule unchallenged, and the land will be turned into hell on earth as beasts of all types are unleashed upon it."

He didn't need the parchment to recall his bone-chilling interpretation of the words and illustrations that had been discovered and brought to the attention of the church. He had spent nearly a decade unraveling the revelation. However, his warnings had gone unheeded, as more popular interpretations gained greater acceptance.

"The birth mark you have provided is the key, for I have seen something remarkably like this in the document I studied related to this matter. I had hoped it would never come to pass, that my interpretation was terribly wrong, but I clearly see that it is almost upon us."

"What can be done?" Juliette asked, for she was now frightened as never before and gravely concerned. 

"It is said that all thirteen shall be sired in the same place," he said in a hushed, hurried voice. "Do you know of this place?"

"The castle that my family called home, where my son and that of my sister were conceived by the beast's evil seed," she answered with a disgusted look upon her face. "Beneath the ground, in the dungeon, where he was aided by torturous devices."

"Do you live there still?" he continued the questioning.

"My father was removed for reasons he would not reveal, and Lord Barger has annexed our land and taken control of the castle as his own."

Brother Wallace nodded knowingly, as if the worst was at hand. "The eldest three sons have arisen to power, and now command the first three of thirteen provinces. They have had a hand in your father's removal, for it clears the path for their destiny. Tell me of this Lord…has he a daughter?"

"Of marrying age, his only off-spring," Juliette confirmed.

"And her father is the thirteenth child of royal blood," the monk recited his own words, written several years ago. "She will be the mother of the thirteenth son. It must be prohibited."

"But how?" Juliette asked.

"The beast must be killed in its natural state, not in human form," he revealed, based on his interpretation of this and other discovered prophecies. "But I cannot say how to get the beast to reveal himself in such a manner, for it knows of this vulnerability as surely as we do."

"At the very end of our union that created my son, I felt his body transform into a beast for his skin turned to fur and his hands to claws," she remembered in vivid detail that chilled her blood. "It was right before he planted his evil seed in my womb."

"Then that is the time to slay the beast, for it will be distracted by its mating," he surmised, hoping that he was right. "But beasts are crafty and possess skills of charm and fore-knowledge. Any plan would be sensed unless well hidden, cloaked in an emotional shield strengthened by courage and resolve. Any weakness could betray it all."

"How can it be slain? With what weapon?" she persisted, eager for it all to end. Juliette already decided that Francesca would raise her son, for her own death was certain.

"If you're asking for a holy weapon, all of the relics that have been found reside in the church in Rome, and their indiscriminate use is not allowed," Brother Wallace told her. "Time does not allow such a lengthy journey, and even once in Rome proving your case would be an entirely different issue and likely more time-consuming than the trip itself. No, you'll find no help from that source."

"Please, I will give my life to slay the beast, but don't let my sacrifice be wasted through the use of an ineffective tool," she pleaded with him. "You must know what can stop its beating heart. Please, share this knowledge with me, or we are all doomed."

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