This chapter will follow Johannes, and the next will shoot back to Samuel.
Johannes' carriage sped through the downpour. Rain whipped the shady-looking driver as he lashed the horses. As the carriage went faster and faster, Johannes worried that it would overturn. He was tempted to tell the driver to slow down, but knew he must get to Rome as soon as possible. He nervously sat down and kept quiet. Suddenly, it happened. The carriage, going around a bend, flipped, sending the driver flying, and he broke his neck landing in the forest aside the road. The ropes and bolts that kept the horses fastened snapped, and the carriage stopped. Johannes opened the left door and clambered out. He put on his coat and started down the road on foot. An hour later, several Roman dragoons rode up to him.
"Buona sera, prete! Che cosa è successo al tuo carrello?" said one of the soldiers in Italian; it sounded like a French accent. He sported a massive handlebar mustache and goatee and was wearing a highly ornate plumed helmet.Swiss Guard.
The Priest shook his head. "E 'andato in crash."
The Swiss soldier extended his hand and pulled the Priest up behind him. He said in Italian, "Don't worry, Father. I shall have you in Rome in just a quick ride! Hyah!" The soldiers and the Priest galloped off down the road.
The Swiss Guard, armed with pikes and muskets, escorted Johannes and several other Priests into a massive hall in the Holy See."Noi vogliam Dio, Vergine Maria,
benigna ascolta il nostro dir,
noi t’invochiamo, o Madre pia,
dei figli tuoi compi il desir."
Monks singing the Papal anthem lined the sides of the room. Johannes took his seat and went through the motions as the Swiss Guards goose-stepped out of the building. The doors shut. The singing stopped. A man wearing a black-colored cardinal's uniform stepped up to the podium. There were a couple hundred Priests present.
"Brothers! Fellow members of the Order of the Silver Cross! Buona sera!"
The Priests saluted. "Buona sera, il cardinale Martini!" they said in unison.
Cardinal Vittorio Martini spoke again. "I have word from Brother Johannes Baumschlager that the Sword of Alexander has been found. An Austrian soldier has it, looted during the battle at Banja Luka." A collective gasp came from the Priests. "Yes, the Sword of Alexander, usurped by Muhammad. This item must be brought to the Holy See for destruction.
If someone gets his hands on this, who knows what will happen. This sword must
be secured. This man, Captain Samuel Kleinheinz, is not likely to give it up, and le monde ne va pas manquer un soldat autrichien. 'The world won't miss one Austrian soldier.' In short, hunt this man down, kill him if necessary. Bring the Sword of Alexander back here. Another matter of the utmost importance to our Brotherhood is that five people fell victim to vampirism in Virginia in the last month. One month and in one location! Any answers to this horrible reflection on our Order of God?"
A man rose to his feet. Bright red hair, thin lips, crooked nose, and a permanent scowl. "Grandmaster!"
"Yes, Brother Crane?" the Cardinal asked, dreading that the infamous Ichabod Crane would go into one of his infamous rants.
"Grandmaster, I and my fellow American Brothers are doing our best. We are too few. Vampirism and lycanism are rampant in the forests in New England. The Indians worship them like their totem pole faces have come to life. It's horrible. I must get more help! Those dratted Anglicans and Puritans don't believe in us! We need the French to assist us immediately, instead of sitting on their lazy rumps in Quebec."
Brother Lefèvre and Brother Moreau stood up and shouted indignantly. "How dare you, Monsieur Crane!" Moreau pointed his finger at Crane. "The glorious Kingdom of France has more than it can handle! I, monsieur, am insulted by what you said! I demand an apology! I'm sure that the Grandmaster will agree!"
Crane took out his snuff box and ignored them, sniffing the tobacco through his nostrils. "Apology denied. I speak the truth. Brother Gottschalk will agree; you Frenchified fops take, but don't give, to our cause."
"Protestant blasphemer!" Lefèvre shook his fist. "Satan-follower! Gottschalk isn't a true member of our Order, the filthy Lutheran!"
Brother McFadden, a Catholic from Scotland, now spoke up angrily. "S'down, Frenchman! Crane is a good Christ-follower, and yew kn' 't! So what if Gottschalk is a Luth'ran? I know yew aren't the good Cath'lic yew make yer self out ta be!"
"Heretic!" cried Moreau. He threw his hat on the ground angrily. "Lutherans shouldn't be welcome inside the Holy City! I ask for a vote to ban Gottschalk from our Holy Order!"
Gottschalk, a haughty Prussian, rose to his feet. "Silence! We all have a mutual enemy! We must work together!"
"Blasphemy!" Lefèvre spit in Gottschalk's direction. "We have mutual enemies with the infidel Turks! Does that mean we should invite an imam to Rome? I think not!"
Martini banged his gavel. "Order! We shall have order! Everyone, sit down! Now, all in favor of banning Gottschalk from the order say aye!"
"Aye!" Most all the French, Spanish, Irish, Italians, Poles and Holy Romans raised their hands.
"Nay!" The English, Scots, some Germans, and the few Dutchmen raised their hands. Johannes also voted nay.
The Cardinal banged his gavel. "The nays have it! Brother Gottschalk is hereby stripped of his titles and his vampire and lycan hunting tools shall be confiscated!"
Crane let loose an angry tirade. "You villainous Frenchmen! You thieving Austrians! I spit in your faces! Grandmaster, I say you are biased and slanted toward the Southern Europeans! All in favor of removing Grandmaster Martini, say aye!"
"Aye!" The same group that had voted to keep Gottschalk raised their fists angrily and shouted.
Moreau was shocked, Martini even more so. An angry shouting match broke out, and someone stabbed Sergei Malinowski in the thigh with a dagger. He let out a scream and fell to the floor. All hell broke loose in the Holy City. Men clutched each other and threw each other to the ground. Fists flew, and Crane felt Lefèvre wallop him in the jaw, sending him sprawling backwards, toppling chairs and men. A Dutchman, William van Stockhausen, helped him get to his feet, and they tackled Lefèvre and Moreau. Gottschalk and McFadden worked as a team, largely due to McFadden's protestant leanings. Back-to-back, they took on waves of Catholic Priests.
Martini signaled for the Swiss Guards. They stormed in and tried to make arrests. That ended up hurting instead of helping. Anti-Martini men drew their rapiers and had at with the bulky, slow-moving pikemen.
Johannes made his choice. He drew his sword and thrust it into the shoulder of a pikeman, who collapsed, writhing in pain. He climbed up to Martini's balcony. "Stop, Cardinal! You have betrayed the trust of your Brothers. We are not your underlings, subject to your every whim and complacent with your hackneyed evicting of good members!"
Martini threw off his robes to reveal a suit of armor. He grabbed a broadsword from the crest mounted on the wall. The two men faced each other down, then swung at each other. Martini proved himself very agile, dodging every blow. The duo wound up on the railings, hacking and slashing while they tried to keep their balance on their precarious perch. Martini's skullcap flew off, and his powdered wig followed soon after, revealing his ugly, shaved head. He made a thrust at Johannes's hip, but he narrowly missed, accidentally loosing his grip on the sword, which fell below. In the time it took to recover, Johannes had his sword pointing at his neck.
"Desist, Martini! Now!" Johannes was really ready to run him through.
"Never!" Martini, with lightning reflexes, jerked the sword away from his neck and punched Johannes directly in the left eye, sending him backwards, where he landed on the balcony.
Below them, when Martini had dropped his sword, McFadden was unarmed and surrounded by Swiss. As if by divine providence, the sword went directly through the skull of an unhelmeted Swiss Guard. McFadden grabbed it, pulled it out, and defeated the six surrounding men.
Above, Johannes's sword had snapped when its tip landed directly on Martini's breastplate. Unarmed, the two started throwing punches. Before long, both men's faces were black-and-blue. Blood leaked out of the corner of Martini's mouth, and he was growing weaker. One after another, the younger, faster, more agile Johannes landed punches. Finally, Johannes cornered him. He let loose with a fury of punches. Martini collapsed to his knees in front of the Priest. Johannes gave him a solid, booted kick in the jaw, which sent him smashing through a stained glass window of Saint John. A loud, crashing noise and a scream followed.
The fight on the floor continued. Men flew on the chandeliers, jumped from balconies, and crashed through railings. Five Priests lay dead on the blue carpet, which was now stained with blood. Malinowski still was helpless on the ground. Fifteen Swiss Guards were sprawled in the huge room, two of them beheaded. The anti-Martini men knew they had to escape. A new wave of Swiss, armed with axes, barged in. It became a war zone. Men fell like flies. Finally, the anti-Martini men made a breakthrough. They escaped through a wooden door on Martini's balcony. They fled outside, sprinting along the walls of the Catholic castle. Swiss Guards were running everywhere, trying to shoot them with muskets. The loyal Priests mingled in, though, which made it nearly impossible to get an accurate shot. The anti-Martinites stormed into an armory loaded with flintlocks. The loyal followers and guards got crowded onto the wall walkway, forming perfect targets. Many of them, especially the Guardsmen, went down from a volley from the rebels.
Alarms were ringing all over the city. The pope, Clement XII, was immediately taken to safety, far away from the violence.
The rebels were now locked and loaded. They stormed into the Swiss Guards' barracks, annihilating many of them before they could even recover from their surprise. They went on. Next, they captured a large palace, where the Swiss put up particularly tough resistance. Finally, they took over the stables, where they commandeered all the horses they needed. They opened the doors and galloped out, fleeing for their lives as Swiss cavalry prepared to mounted up. One Priest, Malinowski, who knew he was dying anyway from his wounds, sacrificed himself by staying behind to hold the doors of the stables closed as long as possible. The Swiss finally barged in and ran a pike through his torso.
The precious moments afforded by the Pole helped save the rebel Priests. The next day, they planned, they were to disperse into small groups, ready to go about their old jobs and fight their enemies within the Church at the same time.
An injured man stood atop one of the Vatican turrets. "Giordano, tell the Pope we have this under control. Let the people know it was just a few criminals giving us problems. Scratch all records of this fight out of the records, and make sure no one speaks about it, under penalty of death."
Giordano saluted. "Sì, signore! Are you sure you don't need medical attention, signore?"
"No." Replied Martini. "I can survive a crash through a window. I wouldn't have though, if I hadn't grabbed a hold of that banner when I fell, preventing me from splatting on the ground. Now, Giordano, make sure I get that Sword of Alexander. When I get my hands on it, you shall be rewarded. And then, amico, I shall make the Pope quiver into his robes! I shall rule all Europa! Hahaha! All of it!"
"That sounds, grande, Signore!" Giordano grinned an evil, wicked grin.
"One last thing, Gio."
"How would you like to be King of Gaul? Or perhaps King of Iberia?"
"I'm your brother, Vittorio, so you better give me more than that!" The two shared a laugh and the brothers parted to accomplish their goals.
For those who don't know, this is a Swiss Guard: