Character Profile: Bart, the Knocker

Bart, the Knocker, appears in the Assassin Chronicles books along about book 5 or 6. He’s a faery creature who lives in a cave on the face of a cliff overlooking the sea in the underworld. He loves beer, ale, wine and smoking his pipe. To say he is very laid back doesn’t quite cover him. He likes to take it easy, but he does love to play checkers and collect shiny things. Unfortunately, for him, he is a bit slooooooooooow. His general appearance might remind you of a dwarf, short and stocky, indeterminate age, long beard, pointed cap, suspenders and hob-nail boots. Not much on fashion. Normally, he doesn’t care to get involved in things, but as keeper of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, his life is entwined with the Order of the Red Cross of Gold whether he likes it or no. He’s none too friendly as faeries go, but he can become a trusted companion if you gain his trust or call his bluff.

I found an interesting article about these so-called “Earth Spirits” which gives a good job description for Knockers. He gets the name ‘Knocker’ from his normal occupation as a miner. Of course, Bart doesn’t have to mine for his living, though his ‘brothers’ may have to work for a living. Knockers are thought to make the odd knocking noises heard in mines just before cave-ins. However, it seems to be a matter of debate whether the knocks are meant to warn the miners to get out or perhaps the knocks might actually cause the cave-in. Either way, suspicious miners generally do not ignore these noises since their lives may depend on it.

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This little fellow adorning a garden gate reminds me of what Bart, the Knocker, might look like. Here is a short excerpt from Book VI:. The Dragonslayer where we first meet Bart:

Bart was deep in the cave, lying on a rock with his feet propped against the wall, his hands clasped over his heart and his pipe clenched between his teeth firmly. He was practicing winking. One had to keep in practice. He scowled deeply and then winked his left eye for several seconds. When he was pleased with his success, he opened both eyes and then concentrated on winking his right eye. Just as his right eyelid began to droop, the sounds of approaching footsteps echoed down the passage and he sat up quickly. A cloud of dust drifted lazily in front of him. Visitors? So soon? He’d just had visitors not more than twenty years ago. Why would someone be bothering him again so soon? And just when he was beginning to get good with his left eye! They probably wanted to eat his bread and butter and drink the last of his beer.

He shook his head and ran his gnarled fingers through his long black beard, scaring away three black and orange spiders and one field mouse. Picking up his hood from beside him, he shook off the layers of dust on it and pulled it over his head. His black eyes glowing with anticipation, he slid from the rock and brushed off the spiderwebs that had accumulated on his black tunic. He tugged on his vest, hitched up his pants and stomped his boots to wake up his toes. He waved his hand over a small pile of dried driftwood and seaweed and a greenish, blue fire sprang to life, illuminating the interior of the cavern. The light reflected from a thousand crystal stalactites in the ceiling, casting dancing shadows on the walls and in the depths. The stalagmites on the floor were draped with all sorts of accouterments. Most of them were useless, but interesting pieces of flotsam and jetsam that he had collected from the beach. They gave the cave a cozy feel. The dwarf brushed at his knobby knees again and then sat down on an upended wooden churn to wait for his unexpected guests to arrive. He crossed his arms over his chest, then crossed his legs. He sat very still.

Sam and Lucio eventually found their way to the chamber where Bart was waiting for them.

“Ho, there!” Bart stood up when they entered. “How goes it?”

“Oh, it goes well as well it might, Bart,” Sam answered the greeting, smiled at the dwarf and set the baskets on the floor in front of him.

“And who’s thot ye have withee?” Bart narrowed his dark eyes at the Italian. “’e looks loike a mon.”

“Aye, that he is,” Sam told him as Lucio dumped the heavy cask of beer on the floor. The resounding boom echoed down through the passages. “Lucius of Venetia, Knight of the Golden Eagle, venerable son of the Doge of Venice, Chevalier d’ l’Aigle d’Or, Poor Knight of Soloman’s Temple, Keeper of the Secrets of Isis and Osiris, Diviner of Souls, may I present Bart….” The elf called the dwarf’s full name and Lucio bowed his head to the dwarf.

The dwarf was dressed entirely in black and wore a gold dagger in his wide belt. The black hood on his head ended in a long red tassel at the point and sported a long, black feather on one side. The dwarf’s craggy face was accented by heavy shadows and only his long nose was clearly visible in the eerie blue light provided by the fire. His eyes seemed to glow literally like red coals in the deeper shadow under his hood. His voice was amazingly deep for one so small.

The dwarf bowed his head minutely and then stepped forward to knock on the keg with his gnarled fist. He produced a shiny silver hammer from one of his pockets and tapped the keg in several more places, listening intently to the sounds.

“And beer, ist?” he asked when he looked up.

“And milk and eggs,” Sam added. “Lucius di Venetia has traveled long times and hard paths to honor you with these gifts. And to honor himself with your presence.”

“And well he moight do,” Bart muttered and plucked one of the eggs from the basket. He eyed it closely. It was speckled and about half the size of a chicken’s egg. “Wot’s th’ occasion? Did I miss me birthday again?”

“No, not your birthday this time, Bart,” Sam told him and sat down cross-legged on the floor. 

Sample Sunday ~ 12.23.12

This week’s sample is from Hesperian Dragon, the third book in the Assassin Chronicles series. The series consists of thirty books concerning the adventures of a group of semi-immortal Templar Knights left over from the Crusades waiting around for Armageddon.

The books are available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Nobles and in paperback from Amazon.

Mark frowned and then continued his pacing. He stopped again. “The Master shielded… used magick to keep the memory of it from him. He was afraid it would make him insane…” his voice trailed off and then he looked up. “There was something… else.”

Merry was horrified. There was so much she did not know about her Brothers and how could she ever hope to understand them? Even Simon.

“John Paul said but thou art he who took me from the womb,” Mark repeated the words again and went back to pacing. “Someone in that Council room knows where Simon came from. Someone took him from the womb.”

“I don’t understand at all, Mark. Someone on the Council delivered Simon when he was born?” Merry frowned at him. “What does that mean?”

“It would mean that Simon was delivered by the knife. Someone cut him from his mother’s womb. What you would call a cesarean section,” Mark told her in aggravation as if she should already know this.

Merry frowned deeply and placed her hand over her mouth. Scenes of bloody horror danced through her head. When was Simon born? In the fourteenth century? A C-section in the Dark Ages? Or was that the Renaissance? She didn’t know and didn’t care. Anesthesia was a modern medical miracle.

“I’m sorry,” Mark said suddenly and stopped once more. His expression softened “I should not be telling you this. I’m an ass.”

“Why should you not tell me?” she asked, though she did not want to hear more, she had to know. “I am not that squeamish though I know it must have been painful for his mother.”

“It isn’t proper and yes, it would have been fatal more often than not. It was used only as a last resort to save the child. The mother did not usually… survive… and was more likely dead before they cut her…” his voice trailed off and his complexion darkened. He remembered the time.

“Don’t you think I need to know these things?” she asked. “Why do you insist on keeping all these things to yourself? Does anyone else know about him that you know of? Listen, Mark, I will not say a word to Simon. I swear it! What would I say, for God’s sake?”

“Sir Philip was with the Master when Simon was found on the doorstep so to speak. He must know something,” Mark told her almost reluctantly. “But you must never tell it, Merry. Simon would not appreciate me telling you what he doesn’t even know himself.”

“He will never know it from me, Mark Andrew,” Merry assured him. She glanced at the clock on the mantel. Surely the others would be arriving soon. Perhaps the Grand Master would know how to wake Simon. He would be certainly be unhappy to hear what had happened and she did not want to be the one to tell him what had transpired concerning Elizabeth.

Bruce came in to announce that lunch was ready. They had missed breakfast and the cook would not hear of them missing lunch. The old man refused to take no for an answer even in the face of his Master’s anger.

Mark agreed to eat after a bit of cajoling and they ate in deep silence at the kitchen table. The meal was almost over when someone knocked loudly on the front door. Mark Andrew rushed from the kitchen to the foyer to answer it personally, expecting the Master.Image

Von Hetz stood on the steps looking like a vision from hell. His long, dark hair hung in his face, his cheeks were sunken, his eyes surrounded by deep shadows.

“Brother Simon,” he said without preamble.

“This way,” Mark answered without question and led him down the hall. The Apocalyptic Knight’s appearance was unexpected, but not unwelcome.

The Ritter bade them wait in the hall while he went in the room and closed the door.

A few minutes later, he emerged from the room and stood silently for several long moments in the dim light. Merry shuddered. He looked even worse than before.

“You knew of this?” the Ritter addressed Mark Andrew.

“What?” Mark Andrew answered with a question and frowned at him.

“Of this… woman?” the Ritter’s voice sounded hoarse and raspy.

“I only just learned of it this morning,” Mark Andrew answered. “I knew her when she was… alive.”

“You knew of Simon of Grenoble?” the Ritter tilted his head up slightly and narrowed his eyes at the Knight.

“Yes,” Mark nodded.

“You know who his father is?” Von Hetz continued to eye him steadily.

“No.”

Von Hetz seemed to relax almost imperceptibly, then turned his eyes on Merry. “How did the girl get in the house?”

“We invited her in,” Merry told him. “She was on foot. We had no idea that anything was wrong.”

“How long has she been here?” he asked.

“Two days,” Merry whispered. The Knight of the Apocalypse truly scared her. “I swear, Brother, I had no idea. Simon wanted to turn her out. It was my fault.”

The Knight seemed about to explode and then his features relaxed completely as he seemed to come to grips with something internally. Mark cleared his throat. He would not see von Hetz treat Merry less than respectfully. Not in his house. If the man had some idea of taking her mind by force, it would be over his dead body.

“And do you have any idea where she is now?” Konrad asked finally.

“No. She was gone this morning,” Merry answered a bit louder.

“She accomplished her mission,” he told them with some measure of resignation. “Brother Simon does not want to wake up. He wants to die. Before he can come back to us, he must face his nightmare. There is nothing I can do for him.”

“But why?” Merry looked at Mark. “It was not his fault! If the girl was… evil, and he didn’t know…”

“Ignorance is no excuse, Sister,” Von Hetz told her. “Believe me, I know. Evil spares none. Not even children. She has caused him to relive something he never knew. Her reasons are her own. I cannot fathom her mind. I dare say she has no mind of her own. Perhaps she wishes simply to hurt or destroy those close to Sir Ramsay or all in proximity of the chapel. I cannot say. I did my best to banish her and thought it done.”

“You know her?” Mark Andrew eyed the tall man suspiciously.

“I do,” Von Hetz nodded. “I would speak to you alone, Brother.”