Michael Ezekiel Tremayne
(Sword of God)
Michael let out a long slow breath and allowed his heightened senses to expand over the surrounding area. The potent, bitter drugs he had taken earlier were beginning to take effect and the darkness took on different shades of grey, showing distinct shapes and edges in the gloom. His pallid skin shone in the moonlight as he tied his hair behind his head and coughed lightly, cursing the cold, river-borne mist and his weakened constitution. Whilst giving him certain abilities and allowing him to see things that others dare not dream of, the strange herbs, infusions and trials of his training had also left him weakened, his anaemic mien testament to a troubled transformation for his present role. He lay his rapier across his legs in preparation for the night ahead, feeling the sharp steel as much with his other senses as its weight.
The leather purse of bounty money pressed against his leg as he shifted his back against the cool stone of the deserted barn, waiting for the creature to appear.
The unquiet spirit, or rusalka as his Father Tutor would have corrected him, should appear soon – the moon was high and it was the third night of the month, the anniversary of the day the poor girl had thrown herself into the river to wash away the pain and shame of a swollen belly and a young noble who would not honour his promises. The same young noble who had urgently pressed the purse into his hand in the fug of a local tavern, begging him to quietly resolve the matter. The same young noble who would shun him once the deed was done, not meeting his gaze and wishing him gone so that he could feel better about a monster destroyed, whilst the true monster still lived. Still, it mattered not, the creature would not kill again, luring young men to a watery grave.
This was his first rusalka in the ten years since he had left the monastery in Sierpc, a place he had called home since early childhood, when he was found wandering the streets of Nottingham, an orphan and thief. He had been deeply suspicious of the kindly monk who had shown him charity, but his hunger had overcome his distrust and he came to call the man Father in time, the family he had never known. The Brotherhood’s monastery outside Nottingham had been dissolved in 1541, the monks fleeing to Eastern Europe, where their training and strange practices were accepted for the benefits it provided. It was rumoured that Solomon Kane himself had studied under Father Tremayne in the crumbling monastery in Poland, declining the more arcane teachings but excelling in swordsmanship and lore.
Michael (he had taken the name on leaving the high stone walls of the sanctuary after the angelic Field Commander of the Army of God, retaining Ezekiel and his adopted Father’s name) had not prepared his rapier with holy oils, a rusalka should fall to a mortal blade and required no enchantment, not like a Likho, lichy or forest goblin as the barely healed scars on his back reminded him. A mistake he would never make again.
The hairs prickled on the back of his neck and he caught a glimpse of white-robed form slip from the river. She was here……