What if you could live forever with just a few small requirements? You have to serve as Assassin for a clandestine Order of celibate Templar Monks and you must keep your head, your heart and your spinal cord intact? Could you do it? And what if you woke up dazed and confused, unable to remember your own name and found yourself a prisoner in a strange place with one woman after your brain, another after your body and a trigger happy fool ready to make a corpse of you?
Mark Andrew wandered around the little dormer room, waiting impatiently for the arrival of John Tellman. He had already decided not to leave under any circumstances even if the opportunity presented itself. Listen to the inner voice. Always a good way to go when all other means had been exhausted. Certainly all of his memory would return eventually and the entire situation would make sense. Supper was long gone and he was hungry again. If he ever got away, he would head straight to the nearest steak house and order everything on the menu.
When the door finally opened, it was not John Tellman, but Cecile Valentino who looked in at him. She carried a bottle of white wine under one arm and, of all things, a basket of fruit. He watched her curiously as she closed the door and set the fruit on the desk.
“I thought you might want a snack or something,” she announced. “Merry told me that she didn’t think you had gotten enough to eat at supper. You should have said something.”
“That would have been rude.”
He crossed the room and took a bright yellow apple from the basket. He looked at it suspiciously before biting into it.
“I keep forgetting what an appetite you have,” she commented while she watched in amazement as he devoured the apple. “Have you always had such a high metabolism? I would be as big as a house in no time.”
He just looked at her as he finished off the apple. He dropped the core in a small wastebasket and eyed the basket again.
“Oh yeah, I forgot.” She smiled indulgently as he picked up a banana and peeled it with a bit more dignity. “No talking. You know that is a strange habit and one that has its roots in the old school of monastic thinking. Are you sure, you’re not a monk or something?”
He shook his head. He wondered what had motivated her to come to his room bearing gifts. He had no intention of drinking the wine.
“Merry has taken a great interest in you, as you well know,” she continued to ignore his vow of silence and had a seat in the chair in front of the desk.
He ate the banana in two bites, grimacing after each one. He did not care for them, but they went down easy enough.
“I never encouraged her,” he objected as he dropped the banana peel on top of the apple core and stood looking down at her. “I told you that before. She is a grown woman with her own mind.”
“I will not have her throw her life away for you,” Valentino’s tone changed. “She doesn’t understand what she is doing.”
“And you do? Exactly what is she doing?” He leaned against the desk and folded his arms over his chest, eyeing her as if she were the next fruit on his list of things to eat.
“She wants me to take you into our order,” Valentino fought to retain control of her anger. “She wants you to become one of us and she knows nothing about you.”
“She apparently knows something,” he smiled at her.
“She is blinded by her desire to have a baby!” Valentino blurted. “The one thing that I cannot provide for her. At least not by conventional means.”
“Aha!” He stood up straighter. “And you think that she would use me for this purpose? That’s preposterous.”
“Is it?” Valentino raised one dark eyebrow.
Mark thought for a moment what he would have done to her if he had been in possession of his sword, but he didn’t need his sword for this one. Her smug expression enraged him and the red haze hovered around the edges of his vision.
“Certainly you are living in the Dark Ages, my friend.” Valentino laughed. “Lots of women have babies without the entanglement of having Daddy around to complicate matters. It’s just that Merry has it in her head to do it the natural way. She’s one of those people who drinks all-natural orange juice and eats breads made without preservatives and makes her own yogurt. So, you see, you are just the instrument of her latest whim. A necessary evil, so to speak. Her interest in you, personally, is a fleeting thing.”
Mark was trying to reconcile what he was thinking with what she was saying. He searched his memory for something to draw on. The only thing that came to mind was the story of Lot’s daughters. They had actually seduced their own father just to have children, but they had thought that they were the only people left in the world. Somehow that particular story did not seem to apply here.
“Don’t take it so hard, pilgrim,” Valentino told him lightly. “She would not make a good wife for you anyway. She is too unsettled. Too… her tastes are too varied. You would have a hard time keeping her home.”
Mark considered her words carefully. The Pixie did not seem to be the motherly type, that was true enough, but motherhood was instinctive in women, was it not? He still could not grasp the idea that he was some immortal, ancient Knight of a long dead order. It was just not possible.
“Perhaps,” he said after a moment “she is looking for something else.”
“Like what, for instance?” she asked in her most condescending manner.
“Love,” he said simply.
“Love?!” She laughed and he cringed inwardly, immediately regretting what he had said. “No one… male or female… could love her more than I do. I would give my life for her in an instant.”
“Perhaps,” he shrugged. “But perchance there is a love of which you have no concept. Perhaps you have no frame of reference having never experienced the love between a man and woman.”
“And are you telling me that you are in love with Merry?” she asked incredulously. “I hardly think there is much of a difference between such relationships and the one she and I share. They may differ a bit physically, but the emotions are the same. I can do anything you can do, except for that one little detail.” She wiggled her forefinger suggestively.
Mark blinked at her in disbelief. “I disagree,” he told her. “Love between men and women is ordained by God. What you are describing is an abomination in the eyes of God. It is written that…”
“Don’t give me your holy roller bullshit, Ramsay!” she snapped and her composure was gone. “That shit is dead and stinky.”
Mark Andrew closed his eyes. What had he been doing? Preaching to her? OK, so he was a murdering, raping, burning and pillaging priest who carried a sword made of gold and fell in love at the drop of a hat. That explained everything. A sort of religious Viking berserker with a romantic streak. That was it.
“But back to the other question,” she calmed down as quickly as she had exploded and leaned her chin in her hand, propping her elbow on the back of the chair. “Are you in love with Merry or not?”
“No!” he said quickly and then recanted. “Yes… maybe. It doesn’t matter.”