Survivor – The Legend of Adair
Glasgow, Scotland, 1257 AD.
The hooded figure cast him another glance from across the dimly lit pub as bitterly cold rain lashed against the window panes. Adair winced as he inhaled the stale stench of alcohol which drifted across the oakwood tables that lay between him and the man whose unwanted attention was pricking his skin like a needle.
Raucous laughter alerted Adair to a group of four intoxicated men who were arguing vehemently regarding which woman was the prettier; the tall, slender, blonde woman in her late thirties who had been serving the group drinks all night, or the stocky redhead who was at least ten years her younger working behind the bar.
A slight glance back at the table caused a sense of relief to surge through Adair’s veins, the hooded man had vanished. He released the firm grip he had held on his dagger, before sheathing the weapon and returning to his ale. It had been a strange day, usually the docks where he worked were quiet in the cold Scottish winters, with trade disrupted by ice and snow and fishing becoming increasingly difficult due to the harsh weather. But Adair felt an uneasy presence throughout his strenuous shift, as if someone was watching him, although here at the bar was the first time he had actually sighted anyone suspicious.
“One of Fingal’s lot, I suppose,” Adair considered, envisioning the now vanished man, hidden within the shadows of his thick cloak. A week ago, a false rumour reverberated throughout the city, speaking of Adair sleeping with Fingal’s wife. It had led to him to be on his guard constantly, the mere thought of the brutish Fingal caused him to instinctively brush the dagger at his side. The victim of the rumour had a fierce reputation, and an even fiercer temper. The man who worked the smithy on the other side of town stood at well over six feet tall and was as strong as an ox. Taking another sip from his mug, Adair’s thoughts once more harked back to the hooded stranger, he considered it strange that Fingal would send men after him instead of doing the deed himself, it just wasn’t his style.
The arguing across the room had ceased, to be replaced by boisterous bursts of laughter which Adair found even more irritating. He sat uncomfortably in his usual seat, nestled within the corner which allowed him a view of the entire room, it was a small pub, fitting only eight tables in all.
“How did I not see the hooded stranger leave, surely any movement would have caught my eye?” Adair pondered to himself, before taking another sip from his frothy pint. A sudden movement did catch his eye, as the pub door crashed open, engulfing the pub in silence. The group of four joined Adair to cast their gaze towards the large man whose muscular frame filled the doorway, a furious scowl painted across his menacing features.
“Adair!” The hulking figure boomed as he stepped into the building. “You have ruined me! Ruined my marriage! Ruined my life!”
“The rumours aren’t true Fingal,” Adair replied in a calm tone, but his words deflected off his aggressor like a weak gust of wind. “I wouldn’t, we both moved to Glasgow when our home was destroyed, I wouldn’t do that to someone I grew up wi..” Before Adair could finish he found himself being lifted into the air, Fingal’s enormous hands locked around his throat.
The group of four watched silently as Adair attempted vainly to catch his breath, feeling his life slip away. He had tried to plead with his countryman, but now he realised there was no other choice; reaching down to his side, Adair grasped onto his dagger, hoisting it from his sheathe before sliding it into Fingal’s side. The big man recoiled in agony, releasing his vice-like grip on Adair who seized the opportunity to flee from the pub.
Fingal watched in shock as Adair ran from the room, a sharp pain throbbing in his side where blood now oozed onto the cold stone floor. “We grew up together in Ikarium,” he cursed, evoking memories of his time in his homeland with the man who had been sleeping with his wife. “Before the English came and took that away, why would he take her from me too…” His thoughts were snapped back to the present when a group of four men stumbled over to him, clearly deeply intoxicated.
“I’ll run and find a doctor!” One shouted, before staggering out of the pub. “What was that all about?” One of the remaining three said, a short, bald man who looked to be in his early forties. “Ikarium, what’s that?” another chirped, this one taller with bright orange hair. The third one, the youngest of the trio and looked like he could be the small bald man’s son, remained unspoken.
“Get away from me!” Fingal roared before pushing the three aside, failing in his feeble attempts to pursue Adair as he tumbled back onto the floor as the room spun around him, his head feeling as if it were swimming.
“Out of the way, this man’s a doctor!” A voice crawled to him from the doorway. He mustered all his energy to tilt his head towards the entrance, sighting the fourth member of the group who had returned. Alongside him lingered a tall, cloaked man whose hood buried his face within shadows.
“Let me take a look at you,” the hooded man whispered, his wispy voice faintly laced with an English accent. After a few seconds prodding and poking at Fingal, he spoke once more. “It’s not fatal, but I’ll need him brought to my medical shack in the middle of town so I can have a proper look at him,” the mysterious man instructed the fourth member of the group who had just re-joined them, another man in his forties with balding, chestnut brown hair and deep brown eyes.
“Who…are…you?” Fingal whispered as his vision blurred.
“The name’s Clyde,” came a muffled reply.
“Hey, you were in the pub earlier, where’d you go?!” The short, bald man asked Clyde, but after getting not even a hint of recognition, shrugged his shoulders and together with the other three members of his group, began lifting Fingal into the air. His body already felt faint, but the sudden rush of being hoisted upwards caused Fingal to pass out.
Still unable to comprehend the events of the previous night, Adair strolled towards his favourite locale after another tough day of work at the docks, to once more spend his well-earned gold on ale. The streets bustled with life as a crisp wind swept through the city, biting at Adair’s sides as the dimming sun painted the skies a pale orange. His arms ached after relentless hours of lifting crates of goods and the smell of fish had contaminated his clothes. He passed through narrow alleyways, mapping out the quickest route to the pub within his mind, before suddenly stopping in his tracks and reversing his footsteps as he rounded a corner. Two men were talking in hushed tones near the pub, a short bald man and what must have been his son. Adair rapidly recognised the duo from the night before as he closed his eyes and eavesdropped on their conversation.
“…in the medical shack”
“We don’t even know the guy, why would we go and see him?”
“He might thank us for saving him son, with gold or beer or both!”
A strong gale of wind struck up and masked the conversation, muting any further words spoken, but an idea had already hatched within Adair’s mind. He changed direction and fastened his usual walking pace, striding towards the medical shack in the centre of town, rushing to make sure he reached the building before the bald man and his son arrived. He needed to explain himself to Fingal in a desperate attempt to clear any bad blood between the two, if that was even possible. They were the only two survivors of Ikarium, the only ones who knew the truth.
“I’m surprised he even survived, but glad he did,” Adair thought to himself. “I don’t want to add murder to my many sins.”
Adair moved through the busy streets of Glasgow, clouds of dust kicking up off the dirt tracks they used for walkways in the city. The day had been dull, the clouds which had filled the skies matching the grey stone buildings which the large Scottish city was composed of. Glasgow was always packed full of people and today was no exception, market stalls were everywhere the eye could see with merchants selling their wares, trading in everything from cloth to food to weapons or horses. The guards on the gates paid no heed to Adair walking through, and why should they, he made sure to always dress inconspicuously to avoid any unwanted attention. He had cloaked himself within a dark green outfit which covered him fully, his bulging muscles uncomfortable within the tight clothes.
As he neared the medical shack the crowds thinned as the stench of blood and death filled the air. A muffled scream of agony crept out from within the foreboding building, causing an assortment of citizens to evacuate the immediate area as uneasiness swept through them.
Fingal felt the remaining life draining from him as Clyde withdrew the cold steel blade from his ribcage. With a quick smile to the man lying on the bed, the Englishman spoke in a hushed tone. “Pierced your heart, dead for sure. One more survivor left then my job is complete.” Through his hazy vision, Fingal watched as Clyde glided out the room, almost gracefully, without a further word.
“Survivor?” Fingal croaked, before realising that speaking was even harder to him than breathing, his vision fully fading as the wooden walls of the medical shack turned to black around him. His side still throbbed from where he had been stabbed the previous night, not a fatal wound, but enough to force him to be rushed to the medical shack in the centre of town. “Then I woke up with a blade in me, and Clyde overlooking my bed. He spoke with an English accent and pretended to be a doctor, what did he want with me though?”
“Wait…Survivor?” The realisation struck him more painfully than any blade as he drew his final breath. “Ikarium…”
Adair entered the shack without a knock and immediately recoiled as the eerie stench grew only stronger within. “The smell of death” he concluded.
The shack itself was unremarkable, completely wooden, small and cramped, with a score of doors encompassing the initial room, which he assumed were rooms for the sickly. Movement caught Adair’s eye, his gaze flicking towards a well built, middle aged man who moved gracefully and looked like he might be a medic or doctor of some kind. “I’m here for Fingal, we grew up together,” Adair said to the doctor in his usual raspy tone.
“Ahh, yes, that accent is familiar, he’s in the room to the far left, I’ll show you to him,” the man replied, with a hint of an English accent. The doctor moved quickly, a busy man wanting to get on with his work Adair supposed, and showed him to one of the doors, before he pushed it open then moved aside to allow Adair to enter.
“My name is Clyde by the way,” he spoke in a voice far colder than the confident and assured tone he spoke in before.
“Adair,” came the hasty reply, as he pushed the doctor aside and entered before gasping in horror.
Fingal was lying in a pool of his own blood, dead from a new wound in his ribcage. The hulking man’s eyes were still open, as Adair moved towards his countryman to close them.
“Who did this to you?” His voice was a whisper as he asked the question more to himself than Fingal. “Doctor?” He followed, before spinning around to see that Clyde had vanished.
Memories of the past flooded back to Adair as he trekked the dark and dingy alleyways of Glasgow. He needed a drink, and his favourite pub, named ‘The Weasel’, now housed too many horrific memories. He needed somewhere else to spend his evenings and get himself so drunk he forgot all about his past. As he sauntered down another alleyway, a sudden crack of movement caused Adair to freeze in place.
“I thought spreading the rumour about you and Fingal’s wife would get you him to kill you,” a wispy voice called from behind Adair. He had been so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t been paying attention to where he was going. “Seems I was wrong, but at least Fingal is gone and I will be able to finish the job here and now.” Adair noticed the English accent from the medical shack earlier, it was Clyde who was speaking to him now. “The final survivor, our work will soon be done.”
“Show yourself Clyde!” Adair roared, his voice echoing through the darkness. “I’m always up for killing you English!” He drew his dagger and spun around just in time to deflect a sword aimed for his skull, coming face to face with the hooded figure who was stalking him the night before.
“You were watching me last night in the pub then Clyde?!”
“I was, but do you even know why? Why you’re going to die tonight?” Clyde replied before Adair parried another swing to his right, and a further one to his left before feeling a sharp pain in his ribcage where Clyde’s sword was now buried, the blade piercing his heart. The duel was over before it had even really started.
“Dying the same way as Fingal did” his attacker remarked before withdrawing the sword from Adair’s body.
“Who are you?” Adair whimpered as he felt his life drain out of him.
“You’ll never know,” came the reply.
As Adair tumbled onto the cold, wet ground he could hear the sound of footsteps getting fainter and fainter as his attacker left the alleyway. His vision faded as the darkness closed in, his death now only seconds away. His final thoughts were of his home, so far away, long since burned down and destroyed by the English.
“I wish I could be back with my family, a child again. They’re all gone now, everyone I knew. I miss my home; I miss Ikarium.”
Adair’s eyes snapped open to darkness. A small but bright light far in the distance the only thing penetrating the immense blackness. Adair felt as if he was floating, released from the shackles of his body, the air around him had no smell, no taste nor any warmth, as if it didn’t actually exist. He wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead.
To Be Continued.
“I’m dreaming.” Adair thought aloud, his voice carrying off into the distance. As if in reaction to the spoken words, the dazzling light in the distance began a slow crawl towards him, becoming larger and larger with each passing second. As the light approached, it morphed into the shape of two human like figures, on the left walked a beautiful woman with long chocolate-brown hair reaching down to her thighs. Her deep ocean blue eyes seemed to stare straight into Adair’s soul, as her slender body was covered in a flowing silvery dress of the finest ivory. On her left stood a tall, well built man, looking well into his sixties with what few hairs he had left on his head long gone grey. He bore a suit of armour constructed from the finest metals, polished so well that Adair could see his face stare straight back at him.
As the identity of the duo struck Adair, he stumbled back and fell as shock grasped his body.
“We mean you no harm,” the man in the armour spoke first, his commanding voice booming throughout the empty space. “I take it by your reaction, you know who were are?”
“Yes,” Adair’s voice was a whimper, he drew breath and steadily regained his composure, “You are the Judge, and she is the Mother. You are two of the four Gods of Ikarium.”
“Very good,” The Mother spoke next, her voice soft and caring, “We are the two living Gods, The Mother who created all her children of Ikarium and governs their life and death.”
“And me, The Judge,” The tall man followed, ”I decide whether a person’s deeds in life are worthy of them advancing to the Afterlife, or whether they should rot in the darkness for eternity.”
Adair picked up where the two Gods left off, his voice back to normal, “The other two Gods are the Waves – The God of the Sea, and the Spirit – The God of land and nature. Those two are not living bodies like you two, but live through things.”
“Very good, you still believe in us then, my last child, our last believer.” The Mother’s voice was sad, her eyes watering up as Adair shared her pain.
“Last child no longer, I died.” He could feel his voice shaking, it was finally starting to sink in that he had been killed, the last child of Ikarium. Why was he here? He was in the darkness that only the ones deemed unworthy of ascending to the afterlife by the Judge came, had he been unworthy?
“I know what you’re thinking my child” The Mother’s voice instantly soothed him, calming his thoughts, “You’re not here because you have been unworthy, but because us Gods cannot live on without any children left to protect. You are the only person on this Earth who still believes in us.” Tears began streaming down her cheeks, the pain of losing everyone that believed in her evident. “You must go back to Earth as my prophet, anyone you convert our religion will become my child, you must go back and bring Ikarium back to what it once was,” her voice was powerful now, the anger in it unhidden.
“But how? I am one man, I am an average warrior, and have never successfully persuaded anyone to do anything in my life!”
“You will receive my blessing, you will do this.” The Mother’s tone brooked no argument.
“Your blessing?” Came Adair’s stunned reply.
“Yes, you will be blessed with good fortune, the Spirit will flow through you during battle making you stronger,” the Mother’s voice was direct but calm, speaking not to Adair’s face, but seemingly to his soul. “And..” she continued, her voice deeper and darker now. “You will be kept alive until your work is done.”
“Kept alive? You mean immortality?” Adair was shocked, he knew he was no longer a man but a tool for the Gods, their weapon.
“Until your job is done, yes.”
“And when is that?”
“That is for us to decide Adair.” The Judge strolled up to Adair and gave him a violent shove, forcing him to the floor, or what he thought was the floor. As he fell into the darkness, unconsciousness took him.
Adair dreamed of Ikarium, the rich fields and the farm his family used to own. He always went hunting with his father, some days they’d hunt rabbit, others deer, his father was a gentle and caring man, his mother was quick to anger and shunned outsiders, but would give the world for the people she cared about, and she did. The fateful night replayed over and over through Adair’s head, the English soldiers who slaughtered his father, as he shouted his final words to Adair and his mother. “Run to the rowboat!” Run they did, docked on the beach was a lone fishing boat, large enough for usually eight men, it contained twenty, cramped full. Fingal was there in tears, his family nowhere to be seen, Adair climbed aboard and sat next to him, comforting the man he would later grow to despise.
As Adair’s mother climbed aboard, English cavalry could be seen charging down the hillside towards the boat, “Someone needs to push the boat out!!” Came a shout, Adair couldn’t remember who from as his mother stopped in his tracks, turned around and jumped off the boat. She pushed with all her might and managed to get the fishing boat out to sea, but as she went to climb on it a lance pierced her chest, the cavalry had caught up to her.
Adair’s mind went blank, a familiar voice crept into his head, “Avenge my children Adair, you are being sent to Wales, currently at war with the English,” The Mother’s voice was full of anger and hatred, “You will sound like a Scotsman to them, they will all think you’re a Scottish mercenary here to fight the English, start slow, build yourself up, gather loyal men, then begin your mission Adair.” Her voice trailed off and Adair’s mind went blank again.