The Last Priest

In Northern Ireland, there was once a mining town called Shalemont. It inhabited a small space between Dagda’s Mountain, and the Shale, a dark forest rumored to be filled with demons and beasts of extraordinary size. The citizens of Shalemont never went there for fear of what might happen to them. The land around Shalemont was desolate, as the mining that took place below had long since ruined the soil. This made farming and raising livestock impossible. So, the one source of income for the town was the iron ore that the workers harvested from the mountain, though a very low income it was for them.

At the edge of the village, on the borders of the forest, was MacBroin Manor, a once handsome and lavish estate, but eroded and fading for some time. It had been home of the MacBroin family for about two hundred years, and they had been owners of the Shalemont mine since it’s creation. Lord MacBroin lived there with his two sons, Lucan, a tall, handsome young man, and Lorcan, a pale, bookish lad with a fascination in the spirits and creatures in the woods behind the manor.

Lord MacBroin was not a just or fair man. He took almost all the profit from selling the town’s ore to the caravan of merchants that visited weekly. He used this gold to surround himself with jewelry, food, and fine wines, all of which he indulged himself with frequently. He abused the townspeople as much as he ignored his sons, much preferring the company of a Chardonnay to that of the peasant folk.

Lucan was muscular, athletic, and possessed a fair countenance. His personality and behavior were less refined. He was arrogant, self-satisfied, lazy, and greedy like his father. He liked nothing more than to harass the village girls, and torment his younger brother. He would chase the young women of Shalemont until he either gave up, or one of the townsfolk stood up to him, and then he would fight them instead.

Lorcan had no interest in food, gold, or women. The only thing he participated in, was reading. He was quiet, brooding, and secretive, hiding away in his mother’s library and reading all day long. He was self-educated, having plenty of time to learn in solitude. Lorcan made every attempt to avoid interaction with his family. His father was too greedy, and too apathetic to connect with, and Lucan was loud, conceited, and brainless. His mother had left years ago, so he had no idea what she had been like, but if she’d had the intelligence to leave Shalemont, she couldn’t have been that bad.

Out of all MacBroins, Lorcan was hated the least by the townspeople. They hated his father because he took their hard-earned gold and kept them in poverty. Lucan was hated because he harassed them and showed every sign of becoming his father. They hated Lorcan simply because he was a MacBroin. He never showed himself, so they had no qualities to despise, but they assumed that if he was raised side by side with his brother, Lorcan must be just the same.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of rumors about the youngest MacBroin. Some guessed he was a sickly boy, and couldn’t go outside. Others supposed that he must not be right in the head, and embarrassed his father. The more superstitious folk believed that he must have been born as some kind of hideous beast, and so was locked in a dungeon beneath the manor. Oftentimes, the village children would sneak up to the side of MacBroin Manor, hoping to catch a glimpse of the unseen boy.

Lorcan was 15 years old, and, as many other boys his age, sought for a major change in his life. He wanted to leave Shalemont and seek his fortune in the outside world. Here, he had not friends, no caring family, and no interest in his father’s mine. Lorcan knew that sooner or later, his father would try to get him and his brother to manage the estate and the mine. There was nothing he would like to avoid more, but what could he do? He could try to run away, but he didn’t know how to get anywhere. He could try to give all of his “inheritance” to Lucan, but he knew Lucan didn’t want it either. He would figure out something, but he needed more time.

Time is something that would not be given. Lord MacBroin had been planning for years that he would introduce his sons to the business of the mine, and today was the day his plan would begin. It was July 3rd, a hot, dry day, and Lord MacBroin took his sons out to see his own personal accomplishments. He showed the boys the “happy, industrious” workers and their families, bragged of the fairness in wage and housing that he gave to them, and displayed the majesty of the mine he owned and labored on.

Lorcan was less than impressed with what he saw. The people were miserable and filthy, casting evil looks at him and his father. Their so-called “housing” was little more than shacks made of earth and splintering wood. There was hardly a scrap of food to be seen, and their clothing was tattered rags. Young women hid from Lorcan, afraid he might be like his brother, and children pointed and whispered amongst themselves, excited to finally see what he looked like.

Lorcan looked in dismay. He had no idea of the poverty and misery of the villagers, nor how much they hated his family. He had been blissfully ignorant, enjoying solitude in the library, and all the while these people had been suffering. Great sympathy grew in his heart, and he felt a strong urge to help them.

Over the next few days, Lorcan had concocted a plan, and put it into effect. He began to take gold from around the house, and hid it in the library. His father had so many riches anyway; it was unlikely he would notice. He created a small hoard, and after a week of thievery, he was ready to act on the next stage of his plan.

Lorcan waited until twilight, when he knew the village children would sidle up to the outside wall to get a glimpse of him. When he saw a sizable group gathered, he flung open the library window, and looked out. He gestured for the children to stay and be quiet, but many shrieked and ran. A few stayed however, and Lorcan smiled kindly at them. He pulled out an armful of silver and gold, cutlery, necklaces, and coins alike, and threw them out the window. The children backed away as a shower of riches fell before them. They scrambled over each other, hoping to stuff their pockets with all the gold they could carry. Lorcan unloaded handfuls of gold to the eager children, and his stash was soon depleted.

Lorcan looked out the window to the joyful children, and told them to quickly and secretly bring their newfound wealth back to their families. They could buy from the weekly-visiting merchants, but they must keep this very secret, or else they would be caught. The children nodded enthusiastically, and rushed off back to their homes, and Lorcan sat back in a chair, utterly relaxed.

Word quickly spread through town of what Lorcan had done. Fresh rumors were born of the pale boy that had given gold to the children. Some believed him to be an alchemist, or perhaps a herald of good fortune. The more daring said he was a herald of the gods, rewarding the people for their patience. Few truly believed the rumors, but they were told and retold as if they were truth. Hope was not a familiar concept in Shalemont, but it started to grow in the homes of the villagers.

For the first time in years, Lorcan willingly left his library, and wandered through the rest of MacBroin manor. He continued to sneak away bits of gold and jewelry, and hid them in the library. His presence was hardly noted, as Lord MacBroin and Lucan were much too busy with self-indulgence. Every Wednesday, Lorcan would distribute his gold among the village children, quietly dropping valuables from the library window. The next day, the usual caravan of merchants would come to buy and sell with Lord MacBroin. How surprised they must have been when the previously penniless citizens suddenly had a great deal of money, and bought food, clothing, and medicines.

The villagers were far from prosperous, but they had much less to worry about when it came to feeding their families and aiding the sick. For the first time, they didn’t have to scrape and toil for a handful of stale bread, they didn’t have to repair their clothing with spare pieces of sinew from dead plants, and they didn’t have to watch their loved ones die from disease.

For the first time ever, Lorcan felt satisfaction, and even joy with his work. He knew now how useless he had been, and how little he had accomplished. He had served no purpose before, but now he was helping his people; he was finally doing some good.

The aid of the townspeople went on for 6 months, and in that time, Shalemont grew into many times the town it had been. Lorcan often left MacBroin manor now, and ventured into town, smuggling in coins and food. Children crowded around him, glad to see him, and eager to receive a gold piece or two. Lorcan was well known and well liked by the villagers, who would give him a polite nod, or a clap on the shoulder as he passed.

This good fortune could not last forever. Lord MacBroin began to notice the missing wealth from his house, as well as the growing prosperity of the peasants. At first he thought Lucan had taken a liking to one of the village girls, but there was far too much gold missing, and Lucan wasn’t really the kind of person to give up riches willingly. Lorcan was the only suspect, and so he must be the guilty party. But what could he do? Lorcan could have a nasty accident, but no, people would talk. Perhaps he would send him away? Yes, yes that was it. He’d heard the merchants talking about a monastery North of Shalemont that was looking for students. That’s where he would send his ungrateful son. Lorcan would be out of his hair, and Lucan would have no choice but to take over the mine; it was brilliant!

The plan was in effect before the week was out. Lord MacBroin sent a letter through the merchant caravan to the monastery, requesting that they take Lorcan to be a student there, and to have him study to become a priest.

The response came three weeks later, the brethren saying that they would be more than happy to take Lorcan in, and they were grateful to Lord MacBroin for providing them with a new student. The message was kind and well meaning, but Lord MacBroin smiled cruelly, knowing that he had gotten his way.

It was Wednesday evening, and Lorcan was once again throwing gold to the town’s children. He had no idea that this would be his last time. Lord MacBroin snuck into the library, and crept up behind his son. When Lorcan turned from the window to see his father, color drained from his face. Lord MacBroin smiled broadly, and clapped his son on the shoulder, congratulating him on his new opportunity. Delighting in Lorcan’s confusion, Lord MacBroin cheerfully announced that Lorcan had been accepted to become a student in a nearby monastery, and was to become a priest.
Lorcan saw through his father’s false kindness in a heartbeat. He knew he’d been caught, and he knew that his father was just trying to get him out of the way. Hatred burst from Lorcan’s heart at the thoughts of all that he knew his father had done, and his calm, quiet demeanor broke. Lorcan rebuked his father, calling him a coward and a pig, always looking out for himself and leaving his people to die. He had been the reason his wife had left, and he had corrupted his own son, making him arrogant and brainless.

Lord MacBroin’s joviality faded quickly, and was replaced by rage. He lunged for Lorcan, grabbing the front of his shirt, and holding him halfway out the window as if ready to hurl him from it. Lorcan looked coldly back into his father’s eyes and said, “I have stayed in this library for my entire life, happy to be unaware of the suffering of my people, blissfully ignorant of the wrongs committed around me. No more. I will fight evil men like you until the day I die, and may God find us both accountable of our actions at Judgment Day.

Fear crept into Lord MacBroin at the look of intense hate in his son’s eyes. He pulled Lorcan back inside, and struck him hard across the face before striding quickly out of the library.

The pain in his cheek stung, but Lorcan was most deeply wounded by the knowledge that he would be sent away. For the first time in his life, he had dared to do something good, and now he was being punished for it. When he left, there would be no one to help the people, and they would suffer once more. Lorcan wept bitterly, and cursed his father. Unknown to him, sitting hidden behind a bookcase, having heard the whole ordeal, was Lucan.
As promised, the merchants that came the next morning came right up to MacBroin manor to collect Lorcan. He strode out of the house, expressionless and cold, and got into the back of one of the wagons without a word. The caravan pulled away from Shalemont, and Lorcan watched as the town he had come to love, faded into the distance. He didn’t know what to expect from the monastery, but Lorcan did know that if it’s what his father wanted, he wanted nothing to do with it.

The journey to the monastery took about a week, but to Lorcan it seemed much longer. Truthfully, Lorcan had hated Shalemont for a long time. He hadn’t wanted to be around his family, and he had cared little for the town. A few months ago, he would have leapt at the opportunity to leave, but now… He had made a name for himself in Shalemont. The people there had come to respect and count on him. Without him, they would go back to their life of squalor. Lorcan hated to admit it, but despite his dislike of Shalemont, it was still his home. It was the only thing he knew, and now he was being sent away to a place he knew nothing about.

When the wagons arrived, a short, balding man in a dark robe greeted Lorcan. The man was solemn and polite, welcoming Lorcan into his new life. Lorcan followed the man up an incredibly long stone stairway leading up to the top of a hill. At the top was a huge castle, with tall towers and high stone gates.

The monastery was built like a fortress, but no one looked like warriors or kings that might reside in one. Men in robes could be seen on the ramparts, walking back and forth across the walls, carrying books and scrolls. Upon the watchtowers, men could be seen kneeling in prayer.

The man escorting Lorcan explained that the monastery had once been the home of an Irish warlord centuries ago, but a plague had come and wiped out everyone that lived inside. A group of missionaries on a pilgrimage had discovered it, and repurposed it for religious study.

Lorcan was quite unhappy in his new home. To be fair, the monastery was not a bad place at all. The priests were kind, the other students were polite, and the studies were interesting, but there was something about the place that made it hard to swallow. There was no feeling of freedom here. Lorcan had been sent here against his will, and the injustice of losing his free will made him feel bitter.

There was only one thing that brought Lorcan comfort: books. There was a library in the North end of the castle, and Lorcan went there as often as he could. He attended sermons, classes, and prayer like everyone else, but spent every other moment he could in solitude. He became interested in a very specific line of study, and he found any book relating to it, drinking in every scrap of knowledge. His favorite subject, was magic. It was demons, spirits, elements, and wizards that fascinated him. He deeply desired to understand magic, and to use it. He searched one ancient tome after another for methods of exorcism, philosophy, natural science, and his understanding expanded greatly.

The priests and other students were not quite as happy with Lorcan’s chosen education. Lorcan was often disciplined for “dabbling in unholy knowledge” and “neglecting needful duties”. They took away many of the books Lorcan read, and had him spend twice as much time in prayer and Bible study. Lorcan didn’t mind, there were still plenty of books, and they couldn’t possibly all be taken away.

One of the other students, Dorian, took a liking to Lorcan. He approached the pale boy as he sat in the library, poring over a book on human anatomy. He spoke to Lorcan cheerfully, complimenting him on the focus and understanding it must take to comprehend what he was studying. He managed to coax Lorcan out of the library, and into the monastery gardens.

Lorcan protested, unhappy to leave the comfort of his books, but Dorian said, “You can spend all the time you like in a book, or your room, or even a nice comfortable cave if you can find one, but that isn’t where you’re going to discover the world. It’s out here in the open air, out here where man was made to be.”

Dorian got Lorcan involved in growing crops and flowers, in getting his hands dirty and enjoying the fresh air. In spite of himself, Lorcan enjoyed the gardens, and Dorian’s company. He had never had a friend before, and he never knew how much fun it could be. He was able to discuss ideas and trade bits of knowledge freely. He was not being judged for who his family was, or who he had been; he was just Lorcan.

Dorian was very popular among the other boys, and so Lorcan was introduced to other students who quickly became his friends. There was Lexaeus, the hot blooded Italian with an obsession for swordplay. William, the proper, London-born artist provided a level head, and shared Lorcan’s fascination with natural science. There was also the Irish Baylor, who shared an interest in magic, and Dominguez, the Spaniard who had just left a band of troubadours.

These boys were like family, treating each other as brothers. Lorcan’s friendship lasted two whole years, and they were the best years of his life. He grew stronger, working in the garden, and lost much of his paleness. The priests began to look at him with pride, as he was now fully involved with his religious duties, and had become a brilliant speaker and writer. Lorcan learned how to heal wounds and illness, and freely offered aid to nearby townspeople. Lexaeus taught him a little fencing, and many languages from Dominguez, who had traveled all over Europe. Lorcan learned Spanish, French, and Latin from him, and became fluent quickly. He wrote and spoke often for sermons and classes, and was soon made a priest.

His advancement came quickly. Lorcan, at the young age of 17, was made a priest; an accomplishment cheered on by his friends. It became a kind of Golden Age for Lorcan, as he was given new responsibility and respect. Life at the monastery was more than Lorcan ever could have hoped for, and soon all memory of Shalemont faded away like a bad dream.

But, as the Golden Age of old, this all ended. Word came to the monastery that Vikings had landed on the Northern shore, and were ransacking churches and villages. Lorcan feared the calamity that could come to his home, and he urged the brethren to flee and take the students with them, but they would not listen. They prayed for protection and deliverance from these savage men, but Lorcan did not. He was a man of faith, but he was also a man of realism. He knew that they had to flee, and he often argued his point of view with the other priests, saying that even prophets of old were commanded to flee when death was imminent. However, few students left, and none of the priests. Despite his fear, Lorcan remained behind, determined to save as many people as he could if the Vikings did come. A shepherd must guide his flock, Lorcan knew this, but often the shepherd must also fight off the wolves.

And the wolves came. Late one night, Lorcan and his friends were secretly patrolling the ramparts of the old castle, when a war horn sounded at the gates. Lorcan signaled for everyone to get inside and help everyone get out safely. Before anyone could move however, arrows, sent from the bows of the warriors below, struck down William and Dominguez. Lorcan’s cry of grief was drowned out by the sounds of shouting and stomping of the Viking warriors. Dorian and Baylor grabbed Lorcan and dragged him indoors, where they proceeded to evacuate everyone they could find. They saved many, but also saw many slain by the reckless brutality of the Vikings. Baylor was killed protecting a group of children. He was avenged by Lexaeus, who took the sword of one of the warriors, and slew many in his rage.

After all who could be saved were away from the monastery, the three remaining friends, Lorcan, Dorian, and Lexaeus made their escape. They were just outside the monastery when ten Vikings ambushed them. Lexaeus fought them off, urging his friends to flee. As they ran, Lexaeus killed seven of his assailants, but was struck down by the Vikings’ captain, who wielded a large warhammer. Lorcan and Dorian ran for all they were worth, but they could not evade the Vikings forever. Just as they reached the edge of the forest nearby, an arrow struck Dorian in the back, sending him sprawling into the dirt. Lorcan stopped, and held his last friend in his arms as Dorian exhaled his last breath.

The Vikings cheered their victory, congratulating each other on their success. Meanwhile, Lorcan wept over Dorian as he knelt in a dusty field. Loneliness and grief swept over Lorcan, making him shake as if surrounded by a cold wind.

And suddenly, a storm brewed above him, dark and terrible, it loomed threateningly over the carnage of the warriors’ work. Lorcan’s pain and rage overwhelmed him, and his mind went blank, with only one goal fixed: these savage men must pay. All of Lorcan’s will went into the storm, and it grew, larger and darker.

Wind swept through the fields and forests, shaking trees and tearing them from the ground. It threw Vikings in every direction as they scrambled to avoid the clutches of Nature. Lorcan dragged Dorian’s body into the shelter of a boulder, and there watched the chaos unfold. Bitterly cold rain pelted everything left in the open, threatening death to any living thing caught in it. Lorcan’s rage seemed to fuel the deadliest threat of all. Jagged bolts of lightning flashed from the sky, scorching the ground and hunting the Vikings as if Thor himself stalked them. Many a Viking fell by the storm that night, but still Lorcan’s pain was not sated. Lightning struck the monastery towers, setting the old fortress ablaze. The castle became a fiery beacon, warning all who saw it to flee. There was an unnatural force at work, and Lorcan was at the center of it. As he sat shivering under the boulder, Lorcan slipped into an uneasy sleep, and knew no more.

He awoke the next morning in a daze, unsure of where he was, and even who he was. In shock of what he had witnessed, Lorcan’s mind had gone completely blank. Looking around, all Lorcan could see was charred ground, and the bodies of those he had treasured as friends. He could not remember any of these people’s faces, but something in the back of Lorcan’s mind told him that these people were dear to him.
For two days, Lorcan buried everyone he could find around the ruins of the castle that had once been his home. All that had lived there were either buried or fled, and so Lorcan MacBroin essentially became the Last Priest.

In a haze of the mind, he stumbled into the nearby woods, and was seen by no civilized person for a long time. In the months following the attack on the monastery, Lorcan built himself a hovel deep in the ancient trees of the forest, and learned much about the world. He saw many things that no one else could, and he understood things that most would interpret as madness. He saw spirits in great multitudes, and he learned from them. They taught him ancient knowledge that had long since passed from the understanding of men. They taught Lorcan the language of beasts and of birds and of trees. He learned the power and will of the elements, and became able to bend them to his will. The earth and sky became his to command.

Lorcan rejoiced in his knowledge, but there was something missing. As far as he understood, he had sprung into being in the middle of a field, but he knew that was not possible. He searched continually for answers about who he was, but he could not find the slightest clue.

One night, during a new moon, Lorcan conjured a storm more powerful than he had ever attempted before. The wind raged, lightning flashed, and Lorcan urged it forward. Lorcan was indeed powerful, but Nature would not be controlled forever. The maelstrom grew beyond what Lorcan intended, and it spiraled beyond his control. The storm lashed out at Lorcan, hurling a bolt of lightning at his small house. The shack burned brightly, and Lorcan failed to stop it. A large branch fell from the trees above him, torn away by the winds. It landed on top of Lorcan, knocking him out cold.

Lorcan dreamt of many strange things as he lay on the forest floor. He dreamed of a large house in a dying town, of a castle, and faces he almost recognized. He saw himself lying pinned underneath a tree limb, as if he was an observer, and not himself.

As he watched, a large raven drifted from above, landing in front of him. The bird’s intelligent black eyes studied him for a moment, then opened its beak, and spoke three words. “Seek the Rose,” it said, and then took off, leaving Lorcan to fade back into nothingness.

He awoke the next morning as a new man. The impact of the tree branch, along with the stress of the storm had cleared his mind. He no longer saw spirits, and did not feel as deep a connection with Nature as he had, but he still believed all he had seen was real. His memory was back, his thoughts were clear, and he had a purpose again. Lorcan believed in the truthfulness of visions, and whatever this Rose was, he would search to the ends of the Earth for it.

Lorcan packed what food and herbs he had, and set our. He had a specific destination in mind. It was time to pay a little visit home.

Lorcan traveled for two weeks on foot determined to reach Shalemont quickly. He didn’t know what to expect, but he prepared himself for the worst. There was little chance of anything changing there. His father would still be abusing the workers, and Lucan would still be terrorizing them. He didn’t want to see all of that again, but he needed to have some closure after all he’d been through. He wanted to tell his family goodbye before he left to search for the Rose.

Lorcan arrived at dusk, when most of the citizens were in their homes. His father would be in the dining room drinking himself to sleep at this time. Lorcan approached MacBroin Manor slowly, taking in the image of the house that he had considered a prison. He stopped at the door, and waited for what felt like years, though really it was only a few moments. Lorcan lifted the brass knocker on the door, and knocked four times.

Seconds later, a servant opened the door, and ushered Lorcan in. When asked what he was here for, Lorcan told the servant to fetch Lord MacBroin. The servant bowed and rushed off, leaving Lorcan in the entrance hall. It was dark, save for a few candles along the walls. There was significantly less gold in this room than Lorcan remembered, but in all fairness, he had thrown quite a lot out the window.

Lorcan smiled at the thought, but stopped when he heard footsteps coming toward him. The servant reentered the room, not with Lorcan’s father, but with Lucan. The brothers froze when they saw each other. They stared at one another for a moment, neither really knowing what to do or say. Lucan’s look of shock faded, and he stepped forward until he was right in front of Lorcan. Lorcan braced himself, ready for Lucan to yell or punch. Instead, Lucan threw his arms around his brother. Lorcan, completely thrown by this, awkwardly hugged back. When Lucan drew back, there were tears in his eyes, and he sported a wide grin. He guided Lorcan through the halls until they were in Lord MacBroin’s study.

Lucan proclaimed how overjoyed he was at Lorcan’s return. He explained that he had received news that the monastery Lorcan was at had been destroyed, and everyone within it had been slain. He had mourned, thinking his last remaining family member was dead.

Lorcan stopped his brother there. Last family member? Lucan’s expression darkened, and his smile faded. He explained that after Lorcan had been sent away, Lord MacBroin had begun drinking in earnest. After Lorcan rebuked him, he had not had one moment of peace. About a year later, Lord MacBroin had drunk himself to death.

After that, Lucan had inherited the mine. His smile returning, Lucan proudly declared that things had never been better in Shalemont. He took the smallest portion of profit from selling the mine’s ore, and gave the rest to the people. They could finally afford food, clothing, and medicine for themselves. They didn’t have to live in shacks anymore either. The people were happy, and Lucan had never felt better.

During the explanation, Lorcan sat frozen, his jaw dropping. He had expected something wholly different. Lorcan managed to stammer a few words of question as to why Lucan decided to do all of this.

His brother’s smile faded into a sad expression. He admitted that he had overheard Lorcan rebuking Lord MacBroin, and had heard what Lorcan really thought about him. He said, “You called me arrogant, cruel, and brainless, and you were right. Before you said it, I had no idea. Until that day, no one had ever dared to tell me what I was. You helped me to understand that I needed to change.”

Now it was Lorcan’s turn to tear up. He embraced his brother, and thanked him. They stood in the study, truly brothers for the first time. After a few seconds, they parted, and Lorcan was shown to his old room. He slept peacefully for the first time in months.

Lorcan stayed at MacBroin manor for a fortnight, observing the changes in Shalemont. He was overjoyed to see that the people were happy, and so much safer than they had previously been. One day at dinner Lorcan explained to Lucan that he couldn’t stay; there was something he needed to find. He didn’t quite know what it was yet, but he had to seek it out. Lucan supported him, saying that there would always be a place for him at MacBroin Manor. He gave Lorcan supplies for his journey, and sent him on his way.

Lorcan traveled for two months, passing through many villages and farms, never staying more than a day or two. During his time in the monastery, Lorcan had become proficient in the healer’s art, and now he had the chance to use it. In every home and village he passed through, he sought out the sick and injured, and healed them before moving on.

After all the damage he’d seen done, Lorcan felt he needed to fix as much pain as he could. However, grief still burdened his heart, and he carried the memories of the slaughter he’d seen as if they were lead weights. He hated the Vikings for what they’d done, and he knew he would forever hate them.
His sorrow and rage would soon be tested. Lorcan was still searching for his “Rose”, whatever and wherever it might be, and he was starting to lose hope. There was no trace of any special rose that he could find, and Lorcan was starting to consider the possibility that his “vision” had been a hallucination.

He came to a small settlement that was clearly a farming community, except there was very little livestock or crops to be found. All of the people were tense as a bowstring; giving Lorcan dark looks as he passed. The farmers were all carrying some sort of weapon: pitchforks, sickles, and knives. They looked like they meant to use them.

Lorcan headed to the village square to find the leader of the village to ask if there was anyone who needed healing. As he approached the main building, a woman came out to meet him. She had a hand on the rapier at her waist, and her expression made it clear she wasn’t the welcoming party. She asked what Lorcan was doing here, and warned him against causing trouble. Confused, Lorcan introduced himself and said he was a priest and healer, just passing through to see who needed help.

The woman’s expression softened a little. She said her name was Evanlyn of Terrasylvae. She told Lorcan that there were a great deal of wounded inside the main hall. Lorcan followed Evanlyn inside the Mayor’s house to see dozens of injured people lying on the floor. Lorcan set to work, first helping the people with the gravest wounds, and working backward to those with minor injuries, such as broken arms and sprains. While he worked, he asked Evanlyn what happened to the townsfolk.

She explained that these villagers had been harassed and controlled by a group of bandits for months. They were taking livestock and food leaving these people starving. Her Order had sent her and a companion to fight the bandits off. They came to this village, and raised up the villagers in rebellion. They fought as a small army, driving off the thieves. These villagers and her companion had been injured, but they had won.

Lorcan looked around, his work finished, and asked Evanlyn where her companion was. Evanlyn’s face darkened. She pointed to a back room, telling Lorcan that her companion, Ulvade, had been one of the most grievously hurt, but had insisted that he be helped last. Lorcan rushed off to the back room, but stopped suddenly as he saw the man lying on a table in the center of the room.

He was a Viking. He had the build, the clothes, the very face of the savage men form the North. Bitterness grew in Lorcan, almost every trace of compassion wiped out. This man was like the murderers that had slain dozens of religious men, and his friends. Why should he save this man?
The image of Lucan swam before Lorcan’s eyes, and this made him think a moment. Lucan had been an awful person with a terrible father. He had every reason to stay that way after Lorcan left, but he didn’t. He changed; he changed his nature, and became someone else entirely. Though he shared a part of something evil, he was not an evil man. Lorcan looked down at Ulvade, his heart softening. This man had Viking blood, yes, but who was to say he was one of them? He had come here to liberate these people, and though he was in the most pain, he had insisted on being healed last.
Lorcan’s resolve strengthened as his prejudice vanished. He set to work, disinfecting, stitching, and bandaging. After he was done, Lorcan stood back to survery his work. He saw the tabard Ulvade wore, black, embroidered with the image of a rose. Lorcan stood in shock. Was this the point of his vision, to overcome his hate?

Evanlyn noticed what Lorcan was looking at, and smiled. She said that she and Ulvade were from Terra Sylvae, but their band was called the Order of the Rose. They were a band of swordfighters, captained by Kane Driscol, and they fought for the helpless and needy.

Lorcan asked Evanlyn what kind of people were in the Order, to which she responded, “Any man or woman, regardless of wealth or background can join the Order of the Rose, provided they are honorable, brave, and have the will to fight the good fight, no matter how difficult or treacherous it is.”

Lorcan thought this over, heavily impressed by what he heard. Surely, there was nothing like this anywhere else in the land. A band of men and women, bound by honor, fighting for the powerless. Surely, this is the Rose he sought. This was his destiny. Lorcan looked up at Evanlyn and said, “I seek to join the Order of the Rose.”