Fandom: Robin Of Sherwood and Doctor Who
Characters: Abbot Hugo de Rainault and the Meddling Monk
Gen, c.2000 words

[community profile] fandom_stocking fic for [personal profile] liadtbunny



The Devil's Brew


"God's blood! Hellfire and damnation upon this whole, accursed country!" Storming into his chambers, at the priory that was occasionally his home, Abbot Hugo de Rainault glared daggers at the furniture, furious that there were no underlings present upon whom he could take out his frustrations. "Hellfire, damnation, thunderbolts, and – and – and –" He stuttered to a halt, unable to summon any further curses that were ferocious enough to suit his mood. Instead, suddenly overcome with fatigue, he slumped into his chair. Usually, sitting on it made him feel important, and rather satisfied with his lot in life. It was huge, carved from a mighty oak, with gilt inlay, and a tapestried cushion quite unlike any other that he had ever seen. Today, his robes sodden, his hair dribbling water down the back of his neck, and his feet in what felt like blocks of frozen mud, the chair could give him no pleasure at all.

"If I might suggest, Your Grace," said a voice from nearby, "a little hot, spiced rum usually does the trick at such moments."

"What?" Startled out of his wits, but almost managing to hide it, Hugo swung around, his dripping hair showering his desk, and several important scrolls, with muddy water. His guest, a smallish monk with a most benevolent smile, handed him a steaming goblet, and immediately began mopping up the mess.

"Where did you come from?" asked Hugo, looking from the goblet to the monk and back again. "There was nobody here!"

"Oh, I'm very easily overlooked, Your Grace." Bashfulness incarnate, the monk ceased his cleaning, and gestured at the goblet. "Drink up now. It'll do you the power of good."

"Will it?" Hugo had never heard of rum, but didn't like to appear unworldly in front of a lowly monk. He sniffed at the goblet, half-suspicious, but the kindly smile and laugh-wrinkled eyes of his guest made thoughts of poison seem foolish. He sipped cautiously, and the hot, spicy liquid immediately began to chase away his aches and pains. He sighed, relaxing a little, and drank more deeply.

"There now. Isn't that better?" asked the monk. Hugo nodded.

"Some. If only your potions could cure me of all my ills."

"I fear there is little that I can do about the weather, Your Grace. But perhaps if you were to tell me what else ails you?"

"England," growled Hugo. "The peasants. And one peasant in particular."

"An outlaw perhaps?" asked the monk. Hugo finished his rum, and considered hurling the goblet across the room. He restrained himself, partly out of consideration for his guest, but mostly in fear of unleashing more wet, muddy havoc upon his desk.

"Yes. One, cursed wolfshead. Or rather a whole gang of them. He's the heart of it all though. Cut out the heart, and the rest would soon crumble. The peasants would fall back into line too. He's giving them ideas above their station."

"And might this human devil have a name?" asked the monk. Hugo sighed, and put the goblet down on his desk. The monk scooped it up, and refilled it in an instant from a flask that he produced from within his robes. How the flask kept its contents hot, Hugo could not imagine, and right now he did not much care. This time he drained the goblet in one, and when he sighed again upon finishing, it was with considerably more cheer than before.

"His name is Loxley. The Hooded Man. And you must tell me where I can get some more of this rum."

"It came from a place called Barbados," the monk told him, and filled the goblet once more. "I might take you there; but first, Robin of Loxley."

"I said nothing of Robin," said Hugo, a suspicion stirring vaguely in the back of his mind. He sipped the rum again, and the suspicion dissolved in it, rinsed away in short order by the monk's benevolent smile.

"Oh, all have heard of Robin of Loxley, more's the pity. It should be possible to deal with him, though. To make it as though he had never even been born." The little man gave a discreet cough. "As it were."

"You? A nameless monk? The Sheriff of Nottingham and all his soldiers can do nothing. Private armies summoned by the great and good from miles around. King John himself! All have failed to deal with his wretched cur. And you propose to end him?"

"I have my ways, Your Grace." The corners of the curious man's eyes crinkled ever further, giving his round, pink face an ever greater appearance of kindness and warmth. Hugo eyed him with open cynicism.

"And your reasons?" he asked, not sure why he had not thought to press that point sooner. He suspected that the rum was to blame, but couldn't bring himself to worry about it too much at present. "You're a monk. You people don't usually have a lot to steal. You have little to fear from thieves."

"I have my reasons, certainly. Legends, history. One likes to leave one's own stamp upon such things." There was that smile again, so gentle and warm. Everything that Hugo would usually distrust, and stomp all over given the chance. He sighed, suddenly tired once again, and drained the goblet a third time. This time he pushed it away across the desk, out of the monk's reach.

"Legends? History? He's a damned wolfshead. A peasant. History will hardly remember him. Not once his friends are dead too, which I assure you will be very soon after he is."

"Oh, quite. Quite." The monk beamed at him. "But he's not merely a peasant, is he. Loxley was no ordinary place. It was wiped from the map for a reason. Its people were not of the common kind."

"Ordinary enough." Hugo's eyes narrowed. "Talk of Loxley has been known to get a man's tongue cut out. I would suggest caution."

"As you say, Your Grace. My mind could not be further from insurrection, I assure you. But you are a very senior churchman, particularly in these parts. You have records, I'm sure. Records keep secrets, and oftentimes point us to where we wish to go. If I knew exactly where to look, I could find the day of young Loxley's birth, and then all your troubles would not only cease, but never come to pass."

"You're drunk," Hugo told him. The monk laughed delightedly.

"Perhaps! Perhaps! It is possible though, that Loxley could be gone for good. I'd rather do it neatly. To strike as close to the birth as possible leaves no chance of error; no chance for any shards of legend to be sown. I suppose some other point along the timeline could suffice, if needs must, but it should be as early as possible, and you can still be of help to me there. I find it so very hard to judge the age of humans." He smiled again then, bashful and coy. "I mean men, of course. Naturally."

"One of us is certainly drunk," grumbled Hugo, secretly rather of the opinion that it was him. The monk shook his head.

"Have no fears, Your Grace. What sounds like rambling will become clear soon enough. Come with me, and I will show you the means to the wolfshead's end."

"No tricks?"

"No tricks."

"I... oh, very well." Still dripping a little, his feet squelching slightly in his muddy sandals, Hugo rose to his feet, swaying for a moment before he recovered his balance. Rum, he decided, was best taken in moderation. He was glad that his brother was not around to see what was almost certainly a glazed expression.

"This way." The monk led him across the chamber, to where a set of heavy, tapestry curtains hid Hugo's private altar. Behind them all was dark and cool, and a huge stone cross dominated a little alcove, ordinarily filled with nothing more than candles and incense. Today, however, there was something else there. A wooden cabinet, carved with images that did not seem at all appropriate for such a holy place. The monk opened it with a key that he wore around his neck.

"Here, Your Grace. Look inside. I shall explain everything."

"Somehow I doubt that." Hugo stepped forward as the cabinet door swung wide – and immediately found himself inside a huge, weirdly lit room, brighter than any he had ever seen. The size of it sent his brain quite into a whirl, and he swung in a half-circle, trying to make some sense of the place. No candles flickered on the walls, no flames danced. There were no windows either, not that they could have explained the light. It was dusk by now, and as grey and miserable a day as Hugo had seen in a twelvemonth. He stopped short, taking in the curious, hexagonal table in the centre of the room; the weird colours and projections that covered it; felt a peculiar vibration that filled his body, rising from somewhere beneath his feet. Beside him the monk was still beaming.

"There you are, you see!" he exclaimed, scurrying over to the hexagonal table. "I know you don't understand yet, but you will. Together, Your Grace, you and I can finish Loxley. Your wolfshead will never rise. A word in the right ear, a coin in the right hand, and he'll live out his days in Leeds, or London. Rome even! England will have to do without his legend. It will be interesting to see how that turns out."

"Witchcraft," said Hugo, unmoved by this piece of unfathomable plotting. The monk shook his head.

"No, Your Grace. Not at all. It's my time and space machine. Let me explain further."

"Be very careful, monk." His head was heavy, and his limbs heavier, but nonetheless Hugo managed to drag a dagger from within his robe. "I know witchcraft. I have seen witchcraft. It has walked these lands, even my corridors, and left its mark. I will not see it here again."

"Your Grace, I—"

"Silence!" The tip of the dagger was at the monk's throat in a heartbeat, although Hugo's balance was still not what it should be. "Do not speak again. One thing that that cursed wolfshead did right as to free us all of Simon de Belleme. I'll not be the cause of another magician's reign of terror. I imagine my knife can do you no injury, but I am more than willing to try it, if you do not leave this place now. Return, and I will have you burned at the stake for the heretic that you so obviously are."

"But—!" The knife pressed a little harder, and the monk paled, and spoke no more. Hugo backed away from him then, not stopping until he was out of the cabinet, and back in a place that made sense.

"Leave!" he bellowed, and the cabinet door swung shut. A moment later, with a terrible wheezing, groaning sound – surely a sound straight from hell itself – the cabinet disappeared. Hugo fumbled his way back through the curtains, and collapsed into his chair. Already his brain was scrambling to find a proper explanation for what had just happened. A genial monk seemed such an unlikely sorcerer. Was it perhaps more likely that he had dreamed the whole thing? Except that the rum had clearly come from somewhere. He could still taste it, sweet and laced with spices, heavy on his tongue. He picked up the goblet, turning it over in his hands. It was not his. Furthermore, it was carved with strange, circular symbols that he did not recognise. Crossing himself, despite his usual lack of spirituality, he tossed it into the fire. From now on, he must be more careful, More vigilant, There was enough to contend with as it was, with outlaws and rebels lurking everywhere. Magicians as well were too much.

Motionless, he watched the goblet burn. Already a suspicion was stirring in his mind. The magician had lured him with the temptation of an end to Loxley. Who else could have sent him but Loxley himself? Who else would wish to lure him into what had so surely been a trap? With difficulty, Hugo wrenched himself to his feet. Time to clean up. Time to chase away the cobwebs and the effects of the rum. Time to speak to his brother. They must crack down even harder on the populace; make examples, and greater enforce the rule of law. Hugo de Rainault was not to be trifled with, and the world would see that – if he had to burn half of Nottingham's peasantry out of their homes to make his point. He rubbed his brow, once again regretting the rum, and cursing the magician who had brought it. The magician, Loxley, and by association the rest of Nottingham – he would have his revenge upon all of them. If nothing else, somebody must be made to pay for the thudding of his aching head.

 

The End


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