The church was empty, the stone scoured by fire, the bulging, sturdy red sandstone blackened by the fires that had been lit around it, the church survived though many timbers had fallen or been consumed by the conflagration. The roof had vanished with the flames. It was empty, bereft, gods love had left this place. Still, I knelt at the entry and genuflected.
I pulled my sword from its sheath and placed it point first upon the ground before me. I begged the Lord’s forgiveness for all my misdeeds, they were many, I used the crosspiece to pull me up. I am old now, my sword blunted, my knees crack when I stand. My hair and beard greyer than a younger man.
I walked in through the crooked doors, burned and warped hanging from hinges that had melted or warped with the heat. Stepping over blackened beams, some smoldering still, I walked towards the chancel. I did not enter, I fell to my knees, instead, and prayed. My old knees were protesting as they hit the soot-covered, slate flagstones and my breath was lost in the pain. Jesus suffered on the cross and so we must suffer in this life that the Lord has granted us.
So many good men dead, so many lost, so many fathers that will see their children no more. I at least will return home. Hobbled, hurt and wounded, but I will get home. I will see my wife and children once again.
“I thank you Lord” I started, raising my face to the sky, I thank you for all that you have given me. A beautiful and loving wife. A son and daughter that, once a part of me, now forge their own lives. They have their own lives, their own places, thoughts, and dreams and you set them on their way.
I thank you, Lord, for my life and all that you have given me. I will be with you soon.
I could feel the blood seeping from the wound in my thigh, my kilt was blood-ridden, clinging to my leg, in half congealed gore. I gazed again skyward, accepting my fate. I would not die from the wound, though it was likely that I would have in time. I could hear the sound of marching, the flap of flags in the wind. I could hear death growing closer.
My Lord, who art in heaven, you have been good to me, your humble servant. I am old, I have lived my life. I have been loved and have loved in return, I have been a fortunate man. You know my Lord that I have praised you for my long life, and will till the moment of my death.
I am to die here, today. I have only one thing to ask of you my Lord, “keep my children and wife safe.” I have nothing other to ask, other than that you accept me, as a good man into your kingdom.
I heard the stones rattling before the door. I heard the footsteps of the intruders upon the stone flags. Six I reckoned.
The lord has not answered me, he never has before, but I already knew that I was never leaving this church. I had come here to make my peace with him before I joined him in glory.
I had to lean on the crosspiece to force myself to my feet, my knees protesting. I was suffering from blood loss. I could hardly hold myself upright when the first came at me, sword held high. I gutted him easily.
I lay in the early morning sunshine, back against the soot-stained walls of the church, bleeding from twenty-odd wounds. I always knew that I was not going home again. I could see my beautiful wife, hanging out the washing and looking towards the hills, hoping to see me striding over them, coming home, as I once did. My children running towards me, arms wide when I would gather them up and hold them close to me. I closed my eyes.