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Redemption and Remonstrations


Blackguard
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The place was familiar to both men. Lesnes Abbey Woods was in southeastern London. The old Lesnes Abbey lay in ruins. Destroyed in 1534, it had passed through many hands as it was looted for building materials until finally being bequeathed to Christ's Hospital in 1633.

 

The Hospital had no use for it and local legend said the site was haunted by dead Catholics. Yet it was being used by Catholics that were alive, as it made for a convenient meeting place upon sacred ground.

 

Two men ahorse faced one another at a giant mulberry tree. The surrounding stones cast long shadows as the sun began to set. Diego had wanted to meet while the sun still shone in order to determine whether assassins lay in wait for him. Of all the Order, he trusted Thomas the most. They had been friends before Diego had crossed the Order to help Jane Digby.

 

Satisfied that an army of thugs was not lying in wait, Diego had moved forward to join the lone figure of an Englishman with a Spanish mother, a woman known to Estrada. "Peace be to you Thomas," Diego uttered as he approached, his face partially hidden beneath his hood.

 

"Peace be to you brother," came the reply. "You look well."

 

"I am well Thomas, and what of you? The Order has been quiet this August. I trust all is well?"

 

"You know that we bide our time Diego. We grow strong again. You should know that in the place of Judas there is Gabriel. An angel of death my friend. I fear that your name remains on the roll, along with your lady of Hardy."

 

"But why her Thomas? She is Catholic and has done nothing against the flock."

 

"When she slew Judas, she assumed his mantle, not of a killer but a traitor. Now she seeks to slay Father John, a most pious man, solely out of greed. Do not attempt to deny it Diego. We know well why you seek information about John Digby. Why is it that you risk everything for this woman? She is a whore, a Jezebel. Tell me that she has not charmed you."

 

"And who betrayed her father Thomas? She has not charmed me I assure you," Diego replied in a serious tone. "I am using her for a greater purpose."

 

Thomas did not seemed convinced with his words. "The promotion of Don Juan de Austria perhaps? That is a fool's errand as well."

 

"Don't be so sure Thomas. Don Juan is a Catholic who would restore Spain to greatness. Is that not what would advance the interests of the Order?"

 

"We have had these conversations before, my friend. The Queen is our benefactor. She and her chief minister are the ones supporting us. Not one piece of copper has come from Don Juan. He cares only about his personal ambition, much the same as the Digby girl. You have fallen into the company of the vain and the selfish. You used to be better than that."

 

"And you associate with murderers and opportunists wrapped in the guise of the Church. Before you condemn me brother, listen to your own words. You follow those that give you gold when you know that they are corrupt. I fight to change things Thomas. You fight to keep the status quo. The world is rotting in the status quo and you know it. Where is the hope in that?"

 

"Pretty words brother," Thomas replied. "I too fight for change. I fight for the redemption of England. It has become soulless and it descends into darkness without the discipline of the Mother Church. Despite its flaws, the Church is an instrument of order in a world descending into chaos."

 

"Thomas, you must call off Gabriel, or should I say Gabriella? To kill Don Juan would be to betray all that your mother held dear. To kill the Digby girl would only cause a greater problem for the Order. John Digby would be blamed for it and never allowed to take Hardy as his own. He might as well leave for Rome now if you kill the girl."

 

"You would control her and not allow her to kill Father John?" the man called Thomas asked in an interested tone.

 

"I do not control her, but I could make her task more difficult. There is another more worthy candidate for your angel of death Thomas. Instead of Don Juan and Jane Digby, there is another more worthy candidate. A success will bring needed ... support to the Order."

 

There was a pause before Thomas answered. "Tell me who."

 

"Take this letter. Share it with Peter. I think you will agree with what you read." An envelope materialized in the hand of Diego and held out for his friend to take. "It will be difficult but I can be helpful in arranging the ... accident."

 

There was a long pause as Thomas looked about in all directions. An audible exhale was followed by a gloved hand reaching out to accept the envelope. Diego did not release it at once. "And my name is removed from the roll, in more ways than one."

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