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The Chapel - Part 2 The Chapel - Part 2
by Theodore K. Nasos
2015-10-27 10:51:40
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Sir John looked worrying and I didn’t know what sould be the right question to ask. So I decided to take it from the beginning. “Who’s Frank?”

We were back in Sir John’s house with me sitting in my usual comfortable chair next to the fireplace and him nervously walking in front the French windows. I would have liked a glass with bourbon next to me but Sir John was obviously not in the right mood.

sir001_400“An old friend,” he said after a minute thought. “An old friend from the old-Queen’s time.” The old-Queen. The never forgotten in this house, old-Queen. The royal who had reworded simple John with a knighthood and earned his eternal loyalty. Not that she had anything less than absolute devotion before.

“He was a good soldier, a brave man.” Sir John said quietly and slowly he moved to the other comfortable chair in front the fireplace.

“It was winter and we were out in one of our usual patrols. At one point, five of us had been cut off from the rest of the group and somehow we were lost in the forest. Frank was the oldest and the most experience so he was trying to trace back the trail and take us back with the rest. But it was one of those times where everything – doesn’t matter what you do – goes the wrong way.

“We could all sense Frank’s frustration but still he was the most experience and he had already survived in these woods for so long, so we just followed him. But then it got dark and we heard the cats. Strange animals the cats when they are in their environment. You look at them through the bars of their cage and you know they are dangerous. You can see the sharp teeth and you can feel their eyes and probably you have read all about them and their behaviour but when you are in the forest is totally different. There, they are the hunters and you are the hunted. There you know. They rule the dark and they are coming for you.

“Predators by birth and you are the challenge. Frank just stood quiet looking at the dark sky while the rest of us we were looking at him. This is a situation you don’t pretend that you are brave, you know that there is somebody after you somewhere around you and the only thing you can do is let the more experienced to lead you somewhere safe.

“Frank didn’t say anything for a while and the rest of us tried not to move, if possible not even breathe. Then he kneeled and gathering us around him, he said: ‘I’m going to go right through the bushes and towards those trees you can see there in the left. Count to twenty and then start walking fast towards the rocks in the right. When you get there try to go as higher you can and then use your rifles to keep the cats away. As long you are up there they are not going to do anything and let’s hope that they will get bored and leave soon. Morning is not far away.’ And with no other word he left.

“When twenty came we looked at each other and then we started walking fast towards the rocks on out right. Thomas, he was just nineteen, he was first. I was the last. We were close to the rocks when we heard the cats again. And then a shot. Bang! And after that, bang-bang-bang! More cat screams and again bang-bang. Then nothing.

sir002_400“I was the last to climb. Thomas looked ready to cry and the other two were holding their rifles so hard that their fingers had turned white and I could see them in the moonlight. ‘He’s dead.’ Thomas said and looked somewhere in the dark. Nobody said anything we just continued climbing until we reached the top.

“For the next six hours we all sat on the cold rock, eyes wide open checking around the shadows and every move waiting for our turn but nothing really happened. Now and then something moved between the tress under us or a sound came from the forest but nothing to seriously alarm us. It was only the sense that we were defeated without Frank. We were lost and we had no hope to find a way out.

“We all looked towards the path we had crossed the night before and without saying anything we knew that this was not the way to follow again. We had to follow exactly the opposite direction. Still nothing could make us move. We just stood there, on the top of a small rocky hill looking at the forest, searching for nothing, waiting for nothing.

“And then a voice came, ‘what the hell are you still doing up there? Move-move, we have to be as far away from here before noon.’ And Frank appeared from behind the bushes. ‘I thought…” Thomas started saying. “That’s one of your problems, Thomas, you think too much. Why didn’t you sleep all night? I was watching you from down here.’ The four of us looked at him shocked. ‘In a case the cats returned.’ He answered to our looks in matter-of-factly way. ‘They would have come for you and I would appear from behind them.’

“Very brave of him.” I said with my mind full of pictures from dark forests, wild animals and frightening shadows. “No,” said Sir John, “you don’t get it. He had to do it and this was nothing to do with bravery. Yes he was brave but the same time not the way you mean it. There was no hero inside him that moments, there was the feeling to protect the family and it just happened that he was the right one to lead.”

I felt somehow obliged to defend Frank’s braveness, “Oh please Sir John, why do you want to undemand his actions?” Sir John just looked at me and then the fire in the fireplace. “You don’t understand lad. He was not brave, he was something far bigger. He was a man and this has absolutely nothing to do with his gender. He was a man acting as a man.”

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