Rorik sat near a small fire, fish from the river roasting on small sticks. He didn’t turn when Valgard stepped into the clearing; he simply waved his hand towards his catch.
“I think I caught enough for you and your companions, Father,” he commented. “If there isn’t enough I can throw the line back out and bring in a few more.”
“You’ve been insolent enough already. Don’t make things worse.” Valgard stood sternly at a distance.
“Didn’t you get my message?” Now he looked back over his shoulder. Janne was surprised at how young he looked, especially compared to his grey-haired father. His brown eyes shone in a way that she had not seen in Valgard’s face, and his short dark hair added to his rakish looks.
Asgeir moved forward to stand by Valgard’s side. “You address the Archbishop,” he intoned. “You will show proper respect.”
Rorik looked from page to patriarch for a moment, then sighed heavily. “I didn’t want it to be like this. I was hoping that if she sent you, you’d be willing to trust me.” He stood slowly, dusting off bloodstained pants. “I’m not walking away from my duty. I’m trying to fulfill it.”
Valgard shook his head. “You abandoned your post. You abandoned your sword. You betrayed the trust of the Church.” He unlooped the golden blade from his belt and tossed it in front of him. “Cardinal Broddrson, by virtue of your office I grant you trial by blade. You may defend yourself, knowing that in your death you will yet fulfill your oaths.”
Rorik looked down at his sword, sorrow etched on his face. “You didn’t listen to her at all.”
“I heard every word she said,” Valgard retorted. “You journey to destroy the Church.”
“I journey to find the truth.” Rorik spread his arms wide, limping forward slightly. “If you knew what I’d heard –“
“The Church is truth!” Valgard roared, loudly enough to make Janne jump. “Whatever the Church says is truth! All else is a lie! And now…” Valgard drew his sword, flames leaping to life along its surface. “Now you make me strike down my own son.”
“Your oath to the Church matters more to you than the word of your son?” Janne clapped her hands over her mouth, but it was too late. The question had come out without her thinking, and now Valgard turned to glare at her.
“I have put up with your impertinence so far, Bishop.” He spat the title at her as if it were a bug caught in his teeth. “I had hoped to show you what the position meant. If you still do not understand what it is to serve the Church, then you should leave it to those who know.” Janne shivered with fear and anger, her fists clenched at her side, but she did not reply.
Rorik shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry you feel this way, Father. I hope you feel differently when you see what I find.”
“I will not let you.” Valgard spoke in a near whisper now, but the edge in his voice was unmistakable. “Your heresy and your disgrace end here.” Stepping forward, the Archbishop swept his sword forward and rammed it through Rorik’s chest.