Eivor arrived at Athelnay, finding nothing out of the ordinary besides the villagers hard at work. A man called out to her.
- Anglo-Saxon Man: You alright there?
Eivor approached the villager.
- Eivor: Yes, hello. I do not mean to intrude but... I am looking for someone.
- Anglo-Saxon Man: And who would that be, then?
- Eivor: I... do not know exactly.
- Anglo-Saxon Man: Well, that'd be why you en't found him. But you're free to pass the time just here if you like.
- Eivor: Thank you.
Having not found what she was looking for, Eivor walked towards a nearby tree and took a nap. She was later woken up by a conversation.
- Anglo-Saxon Woman: These are soul cakes, love. Do you know soul cakes?
- King Aelfred: I do. I enjoy them.
- Anglo-Saxon Woman: They're small things, size of a lumpy fist, so they'll bake fast. Keep your eyes sharp!
Eivor stood up and approached the figure she recognized as King Aelfred.
- King Aelfred: And the butter? Do I... baste them?
- Anglo-Saxon Woman: No need, love. We'll leave the butter for mealtime.
- King Aelfred: I look forward to it.
- Anglo-Saxon Woman: Right then, I'll leave you to this. If you need me, I'll be doing the washing up next door.
The woman left, leaving Eivor to speak to Aelfred privately.
- Eivor: Quite a step down from your former work, lord.
- King Aelfred: As their guest, I volunteered to help with the daily chores. They offer me a bed. I tend the cakes.
- Eivor: Do they not feel strange giving orders to their king? Or do they know?
- King Aelfred: That knowledge would benefit no one.
- Eivor: I read your message. You went through a great deal of trouble to obscure yourself as this Poor Soldier of Christ. As I remember, you even sent yourself one of these letters in Wincestre. A clever touch.
- King Aelfred: The Order wanted me dead. I had to be careful.
- Eivor: You said you knew nothing about The Order then. Plead ignorance. But you knew everything. Their names, their schemes.
Aelfred turned to look at the cakes at the oven, then looked back at Eivor.
- King Aelfred: Would you join me for a walk?
Eivor accompanied Aelfred as they walked for a bit.
- King Aelfred: You look well, Eivor.
- Eivor: I am. The wars have ended, and my settlement thrives.
- King Aelfred: The wars have not ended. You have simply stopped fighting. But men are brewing plots in meadhalls and bedrooms. You will see.
- Eivor: And how are you, Aelfred? Getting used to the idea of being unremarkable?
- King Aelfred: I am well. Better than I expected. In this exile, I have found a somewhat nourishing peace. Each morning, I am awakened by the sun and growing cormorants, I bathe in the chilly water of the marsh, I eat from shrubs and drink from buckets. It is a good life. Simple. Blessed.
They stopped to look at the nearby river.
- King Aelfred: I have never been so far west. I find it quite peaceful here. Calming.
- Eivor: I traveled a long way to hear one name, Aelfred. Who is The Order's Grand Maegester?
- King Aelfred: Tell your shadowy friends that England is swept clean. Your work is done.
- Eivor: You?
- King Aelfred: Grand Maegester was not a title I desired. It passed to me on the death of my brother, from my father before him. Defilers of God's majesty and grandeur. I was their master, and I loathed them. With Goodwin, I set a plan in motion to destroy The Order from within. But my troubles with the Danes delayed that plan.
- Eivor: But your trouble with this Dane is what led to their demise.
- King Aelfred: You are Norse, are you not?
- Eivor: You have a good ear.
- King Aelfred: I owe you my thanks, Eivor. For that, I give you this, the key to my study. That you may better understand the good you have done.
Aelfred handed over a key to Eivor.
- King Aelfred: With The Order all but destroyed, you have made room for a greater idea, one to take its place. A universal, divine order. Inspired by God for the betterment of man.
- Eivor: With a Poor-Fellow Soldier at its head.
- King Aelfred: You have saved England, whether or not that was your intent. Now, let England save you.
- Eivor: England is no more, lord. You are the last of her kings, and yet you have no kingdom.
- King Aelfred: Look around you. God's works are wondrous, they cannot be ignored, nor resisted. In time, all those who accept God will flourish. And all those who defy Him will fall away. Should you remain in England, you too will one day be her subject.
Their conversation was cut short by the returning Saxon woman.
- Anglo-Saxon Woman: O, bloody crumbs! The cakes are burnt! Where is that man! Young man? Where have you gone?
- King Aelfred: Damn. That may have earned me a night of washing linens. I do not know if we shall meet again, Eivor. God willing, we will.. as one lord to another, perhaps.
Aelfred bid Eivor farewell and returned to his duties.
- King Aelfred: I'm coming, my lady. I'm here.
Eivor held up the key, pondering her thoughts while looking at the nearby river.
- Eivor: Aelfred gave me a key to unlock his study. Somewhere in Wincestre.
Eivor travelled to The Old Minster in Wincestre, suspecting Aelfred's study to be in the building. She approached the second floor and unlocked the door to the room.
- Eivor: This is it, Aelfred's study. What secrets has he kept hidden away?
Eivor read a letter on the left table.
- Letter from Goodwin:
Your spies in Mercia report on a curious development. A faction of Norse recently joined the brothers Ivarr and Ubba in a decisive assault on Tamworth, deposing King Burgred and installing a foolish king's thegn called Ceolwulf in his stead.
In following these Norse back to their settlement, your men discovered the presence of a Hidden One among the pagans who calls himself Hytham. he seems in rather good races with the two chieftains of this clan, Sigurd Styrbjornson and Eivor Varinsdottir.
As yet his motives remain unclear, but it may be we can put him to uses of our own. Our "Poor Fellow-Soldier Soldier of Christ" has already sent word of the Order's activities to the luminaries of England's major cities. It may be a well-timed letter to Hytham and his companions will speed along our plans considerably.
Your faithful servant,
She moved to another table on the right, reading one of Aelfred's commentaries.
- Aelfred's Commentaries:
I awoke this morning thing on Alcuin's final letter to Charlemagne. Written in fear that the Order had corrupted all but his master. Then, dead a week later? Did Charlemagne know? Had the Order corrupted him as well? Did he order the holy man's death? Or did the great emperor not see this letter at all? Long ago, I asked my father how this extraordinary document came into his possession. He had no answer for me. I feared the worst then, as I do now.
Outwardly, Charlemagne was a pious defender of Christ's word. It seems impossible to believe he was under the sway of this corrupted cult. But the Order is expert at hiding its motives. It has stooped to using the Christ's words and the holy book as a front for its blasphemous goals before, and the appearance of piety is all too easy to manufacture. Hoist a bible aloft on the steps of a church and claim divine inspiration. I must be vigilant against such villains.
The Order of Ancients argues for a hierarchy that flies in the face of God's purpose. They view men and women as debased and corrupt, borne of evil intent. yet they worship men they believe were their makers. Akin to a hammer loving the nail, they cannot see outside their own hermetic system.
They are not wrong to believe that there must be order in the world for peace to flourish. But they are wrong about the source of this order. Man was made in the image of God. God is the source of the universe's order. Therefore man need appeal only to God for guidance.
In a strange irony, I am grateful for the Danes and their invasion of Northumbria. My title should have gone to Aella. Being dead, it fell to my brother and then to me. God's unlikely gift. I will use it to destroy what I loathe so deeply about this sickening Order, and start afresh. Goodwin is with me, as are men on the continent. I will soon find others.
The Order often blesses their pagan creators. What they call the Father of Understanding, the Mother of Wisdom, the Sacred Voice. These are vile blasphemies. There is only one Father of Understanding. He is the Lord above; he is order incarnate.
Therefore, may the Father of Understanding be this and naught else--the invisible hand that plucks harmony from the strings of the universe. Nothing more. Let all remaining pagan blasphemies wither into dust.
Henceforth I am to improve our lot by harmonizing the average man with the order of the universe. To walk him down a quiet road, to lead him to safe and sober thoughts, to quiet his mind and cool his impassioned heart. Be he God-fearing or God-less, this new Order will encompass all and seek to improve man by aligning his needs with the ebb and flow of nature itself. This is my hope. This is my vow.
Eivor approached another table behind shelves of scrolls.
- Alcuin's Letter to Charlemagne:
Holy David, an urgent word from your Flaccus,
When last we spoke, I warned you of a rot that I feared was eating at the healthy, still-young flesh of our holy Church. Today I am more convinced than ever that something drastic must be done.
I have lately confirmed that there exists a group of men and women within our Church who belong to a parasitic order of heathens, men and women who wish for nothing less than the perversion of our God's word. As lice upon a loyal hound, using our resources for purposes in opposition to our Savior's plan.
In the past year, I have gleaned what I could about the beliefs of these vile usurpers who call themselves The Order of the Ancients. Here are but a few of their disturbing ideas:
They believe that mankind was created not by the Lord God, but by lesser and imperfect gods, variously called Isu, Archons, or Nephilim in their various unholy texts. In this way, they follow the unholy heresies of the gnostic sects that flourished in the years before the Nicene Creed.
They refuse the message of the Christ and his redemptive act of sacrifice. They disbelieve in sin and salvation, and seek only knowledge and power, which they believe will free their spirit in the final days.
They believe mankind is a lesser form of life, imperfect in the shadow of these lesser gods, and that is mankind's sole duty to aspire to the example of these lesser gods.
Their obsession with these ancient ones had led them to make a fetish of diabolical artifacts, which they believe will give them power and righteous cause over their fellow men. These devil's tools I have no seen for myself, but I have observed their effect on a few.
Most blasphemous of their beliefs is perhaps this: they believe many of these lesser gods still walk the earth or may return one day in resurrected forms. Some they believe are continually reborn. These they call sages. Others seem to appear once only and never again. Whether they believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be such one, I have yet to determine, but their literature is full of references to such beings.
All this I know to be true. In light of this gathering darkness, I urge swift and violent action, my lord, for the reach of this order is vast and their power insidious. Only a sustained campaign of eradication will end their advance.
Heed my words with care and wisdom, Noble Charlemagne, and may the Lord God guard thee, exalt thee, and make thee enter the glory of his blessed and everlasting vision.
Your faithful servant.
Alcuin of Eoforwic
10 May, 804 Anno Domini.
Eivor commented on her findings.
- Eivor: Rantings and ravings, not unlike Fulke's delusions. Is there more to all this that I understand?
Eivor met the Poor Fellow-Soldier of Christ, revealed to be King Aelfred who was simultaneously the Grand Maegester of the Order of the Ancients. She was given his medallion and the key to his study that contained his research into the Order.
Behind the scenes
The words used in the last paragraph of Alfred's commentaries when describing his goals are similar to the ones said by Templar Grand Master Laureano de Torres y Ayala in the memory "Mister Walpole, I Presume?" when introducing Edward Kenway, who had adopted the alias of the late Assassin turncoat Duncan Walpole, to Julien du Casse and Woodes Rogers.
The memory takes inspiration from the legend of King Alfred and the Cakes, a story told to children about Alfred's refuge in Athelnay whilst on the run from the Vikings.