Battle of Tolbaic

c.497 AD, AI65ae94or

Battle of Tolbaic; Zulpich, North Rhine-Westphalia

Clovis looked down the hillside and across the valley. A boy was running up the grassy slope toward him with reckless abandon. The lad reminded Clovis of himself when he was a page, serving the Merovingian king, his father, Childeric.

Life with Clovis’ father had been a constant assault on Clovis’ self-esteem. Childeric would ponder while stroking his long black beard, “Son, I was going to ask you to move that boulder, but you probably aren’t strong enough.” Or, “That goat escaped again and won’t come back on his own. I would get him but I don’t have time right now, and there is no one else to do it. I guess I will do it later.”

Like most boys, Clovis longed to please his father. Clovis left no challenge lay unanswered.  As Clovis grew, the tasks his father chose became harder. By the time Clovis was fourteen, Childeric had a difficult time finding chores his son couldn’t finish with ease; but that didn’t keep the aging man from trying.

At the age of eighteen, Clovis stood two hands taller than any other man in their land. His shoulders were broad and strong like the flanks of bull, his arms rippled like a mountain range, and his legs were as strong as marble. He was unmatched in strength, speed, or intellect; all of it developed through repetition and determination.

All of Childeric’s challenges contained puzzles that demanded much of the youth, but the toughest was an errand that required Clovis travel into deep Germanic country to bring back a mysterious wild horse. Childeric wanted to use the stallion for breeding. The job forced Clovis to learn a new language, study the behavior of wild horses, negotiate with barbarians, and fend off highwaymen looking for plunder.

When Clovis matured into adulthood he began to understand why his father had insisted on education and strength. As king, Clovis was forced to daily prove he was more worthy of the crown than all the other warriors around him.

Loud crashes broke Clovis’ focus from the boy and brought an end to his reminiscing. He cringed as a boulder from a trebuchet landed and rolled through his army, indiscriminately crushing warriors in the field below.

Clovis stood alone atop of the hill, waiting for a change in the way this day was progressing. So far, things weren’t going well. Clovis shifted his feet and his leather armor creaked, his eyes rose to take in the sky.

Rays of sunlight carried a purple glow as they passed through the black and grey clouds and cast a surreal light on the field below.

The dust of battle filled the air. The sound of crashing metal, thundering hooves, screams, and shrieks pushed all natural noises aside.

Clovis winced at the clinking of poorly fitted armor. It grew louder as the young runner arrived at the top of the hill. He attempted to bow while still running to approach Clovis.

“The Alemanni have…” the boy wheezed with exhaustion.

“Slow down and breathe,” Clovis said firmly.

“Yes sir,” the boy gasped. “The Alemanni…have…the advantage, my King.  We are being pushed back every minute that passes.”

“We’re you sent up here to tell me that?”

“Yes sir, my King.”

“And I assume your father sent you?”

“Yes sir, my King.”

“Look down there, boy” Clovis said as he gazed at the battle field. “What do you see?”

“I can see the entire battle, my King,” the boy said not looking up from the ground.

“Tell me. From down below, could you see me standing here?”

“Yes, my King.  Very clearly, my King.”

Clovis gritted his teeth.  “You tell my men down there that the next runner that they send up here to tell me something that I already know better be carrying that ugly Seubian banner and claiming victory or I will send the runner back in six different pieces.

“Uh, yes my King. Yes, sir.” A frightened look crossed the runners face.

Clovis smiled at the young man. He whispered as if telling a secret he didn’t want others to hear, “And don’t worry, I probably wouldn’t do that to a promising warrior like yourself.”

The young man’s eyes beamed with hope. “Yes, my King.”

“Now go!” Clovis ordered.  The runner turned and sprinted back down into the fray.

Clovis could see his soldiers were being pushed back from the area around Tolbiac, but he also knew that if he could stop the Alemanni, the mash up of Seubian barbarians that called themselves “All Men”, he would stop the Seubians altogether.

A gust of wind blew his long braid across his back, brushing the thick dull top edge of Gladio Vita Vivet. The name meant sword breaker. A sword itself, it was uncommon in that it bore only one straight razor sharp edge that angled sharply at the very end to meet the spine of the blade at a point.  The dull edge was as wide as a man’s thumb and only narrowed where it joined the sharpened edge at the tip.

The wind turned into a breeze, shifted direction, and brought with it the unmistakable scent of filth caked on unbathed bodies. Clovis’ men all bathed regularly. He demanded it.

He slid both hands into the gauntlets that hung from his waist.  They were leather gloves inlaid with a crosshatch of silver strands that ran up to his elbow. Four silver shards, sharpened to exact fine edges with needle sharp points, were woven into the gauntlet above each knuckle and extended out past the ends of his fingers. When making a fist, his hand resembled an extended lion’s claw.

His right hand gauntlet was smooth with the exception of a raised section that ran along the top of his forearm. When he curled his fingers and pressed a leather pad on his palm, a blade extended out across the back of his hand and locked in place to the surprise of victims.

“You men have made a mistake,” Clovis said calmly to no one in particular, still looking down at the battle.

An unseen voice carried from the grove of trees behind Clovis.  “We have you. You are outnumbered and the only place for you to flee is into battle, where we are advancing swiftly, and your men will soon meet their demise.”

“And how long have you practiced that poetic declaration?” Clovis said with a dismissive laugh.

No answer.

“Come then, let’s see you,” Clovis said spinning on his heal and striding toward the forest to meet the challengers.

Twenty men crept forward from the trees, forming a half circle around the giant King. Clovis could see the fear in their eyes. It was all he needed to confirm what he knew. They would all be dead in moments.

The men crept closer, but moved slower as they realized that they were close to striking distance.

Clovis smiled. There was no fear in his countenance. He made a dramatic gesture to pull his black braid to the front of his chest to clear the handle of the sword on his back.

He flexed his massive right arm to emphasize the Merovingian family crest that combined the fleur-de-lis with the outline of a bee.

He opened and closed his fists to stretch his fingers, preparing for what was to come.

The men’s expressions betrayed them. Clovis knew that seeing him in person they had realized all the rumors were true. One man stumbled and Clovis snorted, unimpressed.

The first attacker ran forward, placing himself directly in front of Clovis. With one hand the assailant held a double edge sword high above his head, with the other he grasped a shield to protect his left side.

The second and third attackers took the cue from their comrade. They charged from Clovis’ left. One carried a spear and shield, the other wielded a battle axe with both hands.

Well, that makes no sense. Why attack all from the same side.

He swung his left gauntlet back and gripped the mace hanging from his hip – Arma Vita Vivet, the shield breaker. He spun in a circle counter clockwise as the first sword came sweeping down, parting the air where Clovis had been standing.  The sword drove into the dirt and created nothing but a breeze.  Clovis, already spinning in anticipation of a standard attack, use the momentum to swing the shield breaker toward the oncoming enemy.

Arma Vita Vivet was hand crafted by Clovis. Like most standard maces, there was a ball on the end of a short stick. Unlike other maces, the ball was more of a teardrop shape beginning with a point.  Running from the point to the back of the ball were six raised edges that served as wedges. When Arma contacted a shield, the wedge forced open a crack in the shield. Usually the shield broke completely in half, crushing the forearm of the man holding it. That was what Clovis hoped for.

He was pleasantly satisfied as the first attacker fell with the smashing sound of the mace splitting the shield, breaking his forearm, and shattering most of his rib cage, never to return to battle.

Attackers two and three presented more of a challenge. The clumsiness of a battle axe made the defense fairly simple, but it would not matter if the weapon made contact while he was dealing with the second swordsman.

Clovis dropped into a crouch as he finished the swing of Arma and hung the mace back on his hip. The advancing men pressed forward, opening their stances and beginning their attacking swings. Clovis could hear others advancing now, behind and to the right.

Well, I need to finish this quickly. This distraction is pulling me away from the battle below.

Instead of backing down into a defensive posture, he dropped into a crouch, looked up, and braced himself like a panther ready to pounce.

Decision made, he jumped forward toward the attackers. He could tell by the startled look on their faces that they were caught by surprise, both of them caught mid swing with completely exposed stomach and ribs.

He lifted both gauntlets. The left hand with metal claws pointing at the midsection of the axe swinging warrior advancing on his left side.

The right wrist bent his hand down, where fingers pressed the release for the hidden blade to extend.

Clovis stopped moving forward as he made contact with both men.  The Gauntlets stopped when the blades were fully embedded within the sternums of both victims, one on either arm. He stood to full height, lifting each body up in the air and turned to face the rest of the Seubian soldiers.

Since he had been a child, Clovis had wanted to grow as his father intended: a mental, spiritual, and physical giant, a myth among mere men. Mentally, he was the first of his family to learn to read. The first to speak other languages. The first to study science and nature. He understood the world he lived in like no other king before him.

Spiritually, he’d searched to know what was really there. Unfortunately, no god had ever impressed him enough to take seriously. All were no more than glorified reflections of the clan that had created them.  Clotilde, his wife, never stopped harassing him, begging him to accept the one true God of the Catholic Church, but Clovis would not concede. His decision to refrain from acknowledging God became more solid after their first child died shortly following his baptism as an infant.

Physically, Clovis had never stopped moving something bigger or throwing something farther.  When his father wasn’t challenging him with some task to test his skill, he had a routine of standard exercises to pull and push and swing and jump.  He found ways to lift his own weight, but soon enough he had grown too strong, and looked for other ways to grow.  That had led to lifting boulders and throwing animals.

Now, holding the two warriors in the air, he looked at the remaining men.  “Do you all wish this fate?” he screamed.

There was no response.

Very well.

Clovis dropped his hands and both bodies slid off of the gauntlets onto the ground at his feet. He reached both hands behind his neck where Gladio Vita Vivet rested between his shoulder blades and grasped the handle. The metal made no noise sliding from the leather sheath, but it seemed to glow, even in the gloom of the beaten and bruised sky.

In group, the next three men advanced. Clovis smiled. With Gladio, it didn’t matter what weapons the advancing men carried.  Gladio had a way with metal. He never started with Gladio in battle, because he feared it and even more feared himself with it, and the damage that could be caused.

In a situation like this, with no one and nothing that he cared about within immediate proximity, there was no reason for restraint.

Clovis had forged Gladio after almost losing a challenge from a barbarian warrior on a journey through the Black Forest.  The barbarian had wanted Clovis’ bear skin coat, and Clovis had no intention of handing it over.

The barbarian was strong, and swung a battle axe with more might than most.  When Clovis held up his father’s old double edged sword to defend himself, it deflected the blow but cracked in half from the pressure of a direct strike.

Clovis had ended the fight quickly by jumping forward and twisting the barbarians head in a circle, but he wasn’t okay with the way his weapon had failed.

Upon his return home, he worked for three cycles of the moon to develop a weapon that would never be the weaker in a straight up duel.  The result was Gladio.

Clovis allowed himself the momentary madness that came so easily to him and gave himself over to primal rage. With merciless swings of Sword Breaker, shields were cleaved in two.

The attackers came on but their hesitation was their undoing.

With each swing of a sword that was meant to harm Clovis, he parried the attack with Gladio and smiled through gritted teeth at each contact.  The first swing would destroy the incoming weapon.  Clovis would reverse the direction of the blade and swing back again, splitting open the armor of the enemy.

Standing in the midst of bodies Clovis stared down at the severed and crushed and broken men.  He raised his head and glared down at the two surviving men. His chest heaved with giant, but controlled breaths. Gladio was still clutched in both hands.  Blood dripped from the tip and formed a pool in the curve of a broken shield.

“Go now, and you live to tell of what you have seen.”

Neither moved.

Clovis twisted the sword in his hands so that the sharp edge was facing up and the thick spine of the blade toward the ground.

He pulled the sword back toward him with both arms and tensed the muscles in his arms.  The point of the blade was lined up directly in line with the heart of the closest warrior.

The man didn’t run, he held up his shield.  “I cannot run.  I have sworn a duty to protect…”

With an expelled breath and the unwinding strength of pent up energy, Gladio shot forward in a straight line.  The point pierced everything in its path.  It carved a upside down “v” shaped hole in the shield, continued through the iron breastplate, and exited the armor that protected the back of the soldier.

I suppose I should have let him finish. Now I will never know what he thought he was protecting.

Clovis pulled the sword back through the holes. He arced the weapon in one sweeping motion, the sword came overhead and down. The last man standing watched without moving. His eyes grew wide under the rim of his helmet.  He seemed ready, but hypnotized by the speed and merciless strength of the monster in front of him.

The blunt edge of the blade finished its descending arc and collided squarely with the top of the warrior’s helmet, driving the victim to the ground in a crumpled heap. The metal of the helmet caved in under the force of the blade and crimped, pinching the blade with bent metal, the remains of a skull still trapped inside.

Clovis pulled up and back to withdraw the sword, but it wouldn’t let loose.  Several times he tried to free the sword, but with each tug the entire body of the collapsed man came up off the ground several feet.

Realizing the sword wasn’t free, he would relax and the body would fall back down to the ground.

Clovis stopped for a moment and looked around him, to make sure he was in no immediate danger, and then tried again to pull Gladio free to no avail.

He lifted his left foot and stepped down against the neck of the fallen, and pulled slowly as the sword began to separate itself from the metal with a grinding shriek.

I am glad no one else is here. This is embarrassing.

With one final pull, the sword separated from the helmet.

The adrenaline started to wane and the sounds of battle once again grew and demanded his attention.

He stood and slid the weapon back into the sheath on his back.

He turned and walked back to the edge of the hill. What he saw was what he feared.  While his men for the most part didn’t seem to be wounded and dying, they had given too much ground. He was losing. Even if he were to run down and join the battle, it would not guarantee victory. He placed the gauntlets back on his hips, hanging each of them from circular hooks. He had designed them to allow the heavy gloves to separate from them when a hand was inserted and a downward pressure to the back was applied.

He sighed.  The thought of losing pained his chest. It wasn’t only the personal disgrace that troubled him. With leadership came responsibility. The livelihood of his warriors families were the true motivator for victory. He searched the field looking for any solution. He scanned the horizon in hopes of noticing some weak point in his enemy’s line, but there was none. He played each scenario in his head. He ran through the maneuvers. There was no escape. The weight of defeat weighed on his shoulders.

What now oh great and mighty king. How will you accomplish this task? How will you overcome this challenge?

He watched as his left flank broke and the enemy attempted to swarm his ranks. His warriors fought ferociously, trying to correct their mistake, but it was only a matter of time. Clovis sat down in the dirt and watched everything fall apart in the field beneath him. There was no hope. There was nothing left.

Then a thought dawned.

Clotilde wants me to convert. Let’s see what her god has to say about working out a deal with me.

He moved to kneel and continued to bow his head as he seen his wife do.

Better to bow to a god than the other king on the battle field.

“O Jesus Christ, you…”

I can’t believe I am doing this…

“…Who, as Clotilde tells me, are the son of the living god.”

Is this truly my last hope? Look at what I am reduced to.

“You who give succor to those who are in danger, and victory to those accorded who hope in Thee.”

Ok, here it goes.

“I seek the glory of devotion with your assistance: If you give me victory over these enemies, and if I experience the miracles that the people committed to your name say they have had,”

Am I sure about this?

“Then I will believe in you, and I will be baptized in your name.”

There, I said it.

“Indeed, I invoked my gods, and, as I am experiencing, they failed to help me, which makes me believe that they are endowed with no powers, that they do not come to the aid of those who serve.”

I should have known better, I knew they wouldn’t help.  This is stupid, but how can I lose?

“It’s to you I cry now, I want to believe in you if only I may be saved from my opponents.”

His head now was on the ground, his eyes were still closed.

The screams of his men erupted from the valley below.

In frustration he swore loudly into the dirt.

I knew it was all a lie.  Even her god can’t help us.

He rose quickly to his feet.

I will not watch my men be devoured by the hoard.  I will die by their side.

By the second step down the hill he realized that he couldn’t quite tell what was causing the commotion, but the surge of fighting was suddenly going in his favor. The orange banners with the yellow lion in the center were fleeing, and his men were pursuing.

As he gazed at the field, from the corner of his eye, Clovis noticed a shimmer in midair not more than two paces to the left. He spun his head, and the shimmering air was broken by the outline of a body disappearing through it.

Without thinking, he jumped head first into the blur and rolled as he fell to the ground to break his fall.

Pushing himself up onto his knees, he turned to look at the battle, and saw his men chasing the Almenanni, but his vision seemed blurred. They were almost imperceptible and fading more the longer he stared through the blurred air.

He looked around him and recognized the landscape, but nothing else was familiar.

The sky that had been the color of a terrible bruise was now a swirling mass of dark and angry clouds that seemed centered on the battle below and cast an eerie light across the scene.

The grass, trees, even the rocks, all seemed to shimmer with a greenish glow.

Slowly he stood and spun in a quick circle.  The men he had just defeated were no longer at his feet.  The last man defeated, with the crushed helmet, gone.

In their place were two men standing at the edge of the forest.

“What have you done?” the taller of the two said to the other.  They hadn’t yet noticed Clovis.

“He asked for help, and we needed to change the tide of the battle, both here and there.”

“Bashi, you cannot mess with Reality. It bears unknown consequences.”

“The Malacovi do. So have you, and Michael and Gabriel.”

“Only when commanded, and you and I are not Michael or Gabriel.”

“It needed to be done.”

“Yes, but an axe through someone’s head was not the way.

“We can’t stay.  When the Malacovi realize what has happened, they will pursue us.  And just you and I cannot defend against them.”

“Hyoi, look.” Bashi said, looking at Clovis.

“How did he cross over?”

“I don’t know.”

“He can’t stay.  Take him back.”

Facing him were the two warriors that had been speaking about him but not to him. Both men carried two long thin curved swords.  They matched his height and were well built, but nowhere near his strength.

In the second that he observed them, he had sized them up.  Warriors with no armor…strange.  Clothes are loose, pants and tunic don’t restrict movement.

A dark, haunting voice from over his shoulder added to the conversation.  “You have messed with the wrong Bellemus. That battle ground was pivotal, and we were not to interfere.”

Clovis spun again to view a an approaching crowd of dark soldiers.

The one that had spoken to the two warriors about interfering wore a long robe and had no weapons.  The hood completely covered his face, long sleeves dropped well below his hands, and the hem of the robe brushed against the grass as he walked.

Behind him and walking to the top of the hill were a group of the nastiest looking warriors that Clovis had ever seen.  His mind struggled to identify them.

Each wore poorly fitting armor and carried crude weapons such as clubs with spikes or long dull blades with hooks at the end.  One held a two handed battle axe that was more than half the size of Clovis.  They varied in height, from Clovis’ shoulder to five hands above Clovis’ head.

Twelve ugly ones, one spooky guy, and the two pixies behind me.  This will be interesting.

Clovis glanced one looked back where the battle had been, but nothing was left there that would be familiar.  Even the dark swirling cloud had dissipated and given way to an equally gloomy grey sky.  In the valley, there was no sign that there had been a struggle.

He faced the ugly group now stopped at the top of the rise, and a thought occurred to him.

Is it a coincidence that this is all happening immediately after I talked to Clotilde’s God?

He turned his head enough to address the two men behind him. “Just answer me one question.”

Hyoi answered carefully, “Yes.”

“I asked for help.  Were you that help?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“So be it.”

For the second time in less than five minutes, Clovis gave himself over to the darker part of him that was boundless strength under malicious intent.

Clovis’ gauntlets were weighing heavy on his hips, begging for him to slide his hands into them.

Gladio Vita Vivet rested on his back, vibrating with anticipation.

Arma Vita Vivet, seemed to call out for him to wrap his fingers around the handle and feel the satisfying crunch of shield and bone.

The flexible armor that covered his chest and formed his pants, inlaid with the bones men and animals stitched between layers of leather felt ready to absorb the pounding of enemy weapons. Knees bent.

Arms bowed.

His entire body tensed in a crouch.

He noticed as he moved that every action felt faster and easier and enjoyed the feeling as his muscles tensed for action.

As he slid his hands back into the familiar spiked gloves, Clovis wore a smile that seemed like he had lost all reason.

Arma in his left hand, Gladio in his right. A mass of creatures that needed reconciliation. They had evil intentions, and a power that they did not deserve. He could feel it. He couldn’t describe it, but he knew it was there, with the one in the dark cloak.

I am the great leveler.  The equalizer. The source of justice and judgment for those human or supernatural, weak or strong, one or many.  I will reconcile.  This is where I belong.

He pounced, aiming for the hooded man in front, but his jump carried him over the creature, landing him in the midst of the eleven orc like ugly creatures, crushing one below his feet.

Pleasantly surprised by his extra strength and speed, Clovis didn’t hesitate to spin and swing, mace and sword smashing and cleaving beasts seemingly without effort.

I have never felt this strong or fast.

A snarling hunched back beast with two long teeth that jutted up from his lower jaw ran directly toward Clovis.  With a flinch he swung Gladio in a perfect straight line.  The sword slid between the helmet and breast plate and cleanly severed head from body, leaving a black liquid spewing out of both.

When he stopped to take a breath only one monster was left standing.  It stepped backward in fear and tripped over a pile of broken armor with remains inside.

Clovis slowly hung the mace on his belt.  He slid his sword carefully back into its leather casing.

The orc stood up again and started to back away.  Clovis clenched the gauntlet in his right hand into a fist and leapt after the orc. One swing, and the orcs face shattered under the weight of the blow, and the beast collapsed on the ground and his feet.

In the quiet of the aftermath, the only sound was the sound of metal on wood.  A rhythmic thud moving at an incredible speed.

Thunk, thud, ting, thud, swoosh, ting.

Clovis turned and saw the three remaining men engaged in battle.  The hooded creature that had not shown any weapons had four long talons extending from each hand.

The two others were swinging their swords in a consistent defensive pattern.  Every time the metal contacted the claws, it gave off a muffled sound that resembled an axe striking a tree.

“This is not the way to win!” the one called Hyoi was yelling.

“You cannot speak of winning!  You have interfered,” hissed the hood as he made a wide arcing swipe with the claws in his right hand.

“Bashi, get Clovis back through The Veil!

“Fargoth, stop this now.  I will not engage you.” Hyoi stepped aside to avoid the swinging arms.

“It is too late for that.” Sneered Fargoth.

Bashi ran toward Clovis and paused to take in the carnage that lay at his feet.

Clovis smiled an evil smile and said “this is just the half of it, I have just as many at my feet where I came from.”

“Clovis, we can’t stay.  Come with me.”  A blurred section of air shimmered open next to Clovis.

“No, that man in the hood possesses a power that he should not.  I will not leave without bringing that power into balance.”  Clovis sprang forward as he finished.

Fargoth didn’t see it coming. His robe was torn from his body by a leather hand with four long claws that left deep gashes in his back.  The box that was tied to his waist by a rope sling was in the other gloved hand and pulled until the rope snapped. Then the same fist snapped backward, the single extended blade separating his head from his body and sending it spinning into the grass.

Without looking, Clovis jumped backwards far enough to carry him through the tear in the Veil, and he landed on his back looking up at a black and blue sky.

The sounds of war rushed into his ears so suddenly that he cringed.

The same runner came up the hill carrying the banner of the defeated and retreating army. “You said I had to bring this if we came back up, my King.”

“What has happened?”

The runner bent over, trying to catch his breath. “We were being pushed back…and…the commander of the…the…”

“Yes, yes, the savages, go on.”

“Yes, someone put a battle axe straight through his skull, helmet and all.  They are all retreating… and we are in full pursuit.”

Clovis looked at the box.  It was a small wooden rectangle barely the size of Clotilde’s hand when making a fist.  The pattern on the surface of the box was intricate.  By joining different species of wood, the changes in texture and color created runes that intersected.  Turning it over and over, there was no apparent latch or trigger to pry it open.

He held it up to his ear and shook it, and heard a muffled rattle from within.  He gripped it with both hand to find a seam or joint.  The box gently vibrated.

“Majesty, did you hear what I said?”

“Yes, yes.  Excellent news.  Let us head back down into the valley and congratulate your father.  Do you know how my sons fared?”

“Yes, majesty.  Theuderic and Childebert are unscathed.  Chlodomer was injured by a boulder from the trebuchet, but he is believed to be able to recover.”

“That is good.” A pause, and then he looked down at the messenger, “…and Clotaire?”  Clovis hesitated to have favorites, but his youngest son at 16 years old seemed to hold a special place.

A grin crossed his face.  Obviously the boy was fond of Clotaire as well.

“The trumpet sounded, the Gauls retreated, and we pursued.  When we passed a catapult, Clotaire and several others were able to turn it and launch rocks at the fleeing hoard.  It is believed that he killed at additional fifty men trying to flee.”

“Excellent! That’s my boy.”

In another place, Hyoi sighed as he stood before an imposing warrior wearing similar loose fitting pants and tunic, both shimmering royal blue.  The warrior had one hand on the hilt of a sword that hung through a loop in a belt at his waist.

“Hyoi, I have never seen you with this expression on your face.”

“The news is…troubling.”

“I notice you did not say upsetting, concerning or bad.”

A slight smile crossed Hyoi’s face.  “No, it isn’t any of those.  Really, it is more of an interesting situation than anything.”

“Ok, continue.”

“Ok, Bashi accidentally pulled someone through The Veil.”

Michael glanced briefly at Bashi, grimaced and turned back to Hyoi.  “That is not unprecedented.  Did you take that someone back?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.  He returned on his own.”

Michael looked at Bashi, and then back at Hyoi.  “You have no more time, tell me what I need to know.”

“It was Clovis.”

“Clovis?!  That is interesting.  What happened?”

“Clovis…um…stumbled upon a group of Malacovi…and a mardock that had The Box…with a Lamina inside.”

“And?” Michael asked with a troubled tone.

“Clovis made fairly quick work of the grunts, and then disabled the shade Fargoth.  It was he that was carrying the box.”

“Where was this?”

“Tolbaic.”

“Interesting that the shade had a coin and The Box at Tolbaic.  What we thought was just a simple battle must have been more.  They were trying to create a Bellemus, and they wanted to guarantee victory.”

“Yes sir.”

Bashi interrupted with a smirk. “He has both.”

“Who does?” Michael asked, addressing Hyoi without even a glance at Bashi.

Hyoi slowly answered, “Clovis does.  Both of them.  The Box.  A Lamina. In Reality.”

There was an extended pause.

Bashi said, “Clovis made a promise to serve God.”

“Is Clovis serious about the promise he made to God?” Replied Michael, again focusing on Hyoi.

“He seems to be, although it is soon to tell.”

“Yes, this very interesting…we seem to have an unprecedented opportunity.”  Michael pondered.  “Thank you Hyoi.  We need to secure Clovis for our cause.  Maybe Longinus could help?”

“I’m not sure that Longinus could control Clovis, but I will find out.”

Hyoi bowed in respect and walked away.

Bashi looked at Hyoi and whispered, “Do you even know where to find Longinus?  I haven’t seen or heard from him since he was contacted by Hrodman.”

“It has been a long time, but I am sure that he has not travelled far from Jerusalem since the crucifixion.  We can involve Hrodman if necessary.”

Bashi grunted, “I really don’t like him.  Michael hates him.”

“I know, but some things are necessary.”

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