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Six o'clock in the evening. Time to head down to the bell tower.
Betrand stood up, tugging the edge of his linen robe away from his feet. A grunt to clear his throat, and the quiet padding of his feet were the only noises to be heard on the entire abbey floor. The Abbey was his home; Bertrand of course, was a monk.
A young monk, to be sure, having only entered into the abbey within a year or two of the present. He didn't even have a real job yet. At least, as far as he was concerned. All he had been commanded to do was ring the evening bell.
Every night, at 6:30, it was his job to ring the Abbey bell to call all the monks in town or out in the woods back into the abbey. The bell was heavy and ringing it felt like his arms were being torn out, but he wanted to be like the other monks. He wanted to have the peace they had in their lives, to help other people, and to feel important.
He never felt important. Not even know, as he trotted along in his worn out linen robe, to ring the bell everyone counted on for the evening. There was nothing important about him. He knew if he continued his boring job though, that one day someone would come to replace him and he could continue to move up. Someone had to be at the bottom of the ladder, he supposed. He'd be important later.
His pace slowed as he approached the fat wooden door to the abbey tower. Its hinges were terribly squeaky and rusty, it was a wonder the door didn't fall off when opened. The door itself was a shambled mess of rotted wood. What an ugly door he always thought it was. Bertrand shook his head free of his musing and shouldered the heavy door open. 6:25 on the dot. Looking up towards the bell tie he froze in place. There before him, waiting patiently beside the bell tie, was an old man he had not seen before.
He wore frilly noblemans clothes in a worn wall-paper blue, patches and fraying edges here and there on his coat. His shoes had almost no sole left to them, as though he'd walked many miles in them. His visage wasn't any less old-looking. His powdered wig had fly-aways and the bow on the tail was frayed. A pair of rusty, dusty spectacles perched on a bird-beak nose, attached to a wrinkled old butler face and squinted eyes. He looked like a nice old office assistant, who had lived many a year on hard work and little pay. What on earth was he doing in the abbey tower though?
Before Bertrand got over his bewilderment to ask, the old man turned and leaned slightly over towards Bertrand. His hands clasped lightly at his waist, he opened his mouth and spoke in a light gruff voice; "For whom does the bell toll sir?" The old man smiled slightly, as if only for politeness, and waited for a response. Bertrand coughed and stumbled over his words." Nobody, the bell tolls for no one in particular." "Indeed, sir, indeed." The old man stood up straight, and sauntered silently out of the room, past Bertrand into the Abbey yard.
Popping suddenly out of his trance Betrand pulled the rotting door open and flung himself into the yard to follow the man, but he was gone. No one seemed to have seen him leave either, as the monks in the area looked at him confused. "Nearly past 6:30 Bertrand, aren't you going to ring the bell?" One spoke. A hallucination, a figment of an active imagination he supposed. He saw nothing. "Yes, yes of course." Betrand pushed his way back through the door into the tower again, and tugged hard on the bell for the night. Well, at least his job hadn't been completely dull this time.
The following night, Bertrand set his book down to go ring the bell again. He was a tad earlier this time, he wasn't sure why. It didn't matter. Just another predictably boring walk down to the tower. It wasn't even a pleasant walk, down through the grass yard in the Abbey, which was lumpy and sometimes full of puddles. But, he did it. I want to be a monk! He thought. Bashing his shoulder roughly on the door again he stumbled into the tower.
Taking a moment to brush the rotted wood fragments off his robe, he didn't notice the old man at first. Turning his gaze up again, he saw him, less startled than before. Dressed in the same tattered clothes and dirty spectacles, the old man waited patiently at the bell tie. Bertrand rolled his eyes this time, and asked accusingly "Who are you? Why are you here? You aren't supposed to be in here alone." But the man didn't answer. 6:20, the man still stood silently ignoring Bertrand.
He didn't know what to do. He thought for a moment, then stepped tentatively towards the man, placing a nervous hand on his shoulder. "Sir, you really shouldn't be here alone, only monks are supposed to be here." The man didn't respond, but Bertrand noted that his shoulder felt cold. His hand slipped off the cold shoulder and stepped back with him. He puzzled on his chin, wondering what to do. 6:25, the man turned to him just as before, "For whom does the bell toll, sir?" Bertrand furrowed his brow, "No one sir, I told you yesterday." "Indeed sir, indeed." The man turned and stepped past Betrand out the door.
How could he move the heavy door so easily? Bertrand only questioned for a moment before turning after the man trying to catch him. Shoving the door open a second time though, the man was still gone, and only confused monks looked. Bertrand didn't wait for a monk to say anything, he went back into the tower and rung the bell, and started home. I must be seeing things, Bertrand said. Keeping his secret to himself, Betrand told no one for fear of being thought ill.
The following night, and many nights after that, Betrand saw the tattered old man. He never answered questions, he never moved from his spot, and Bertrand never caught him leaving. Every night though at 6:25, the old man would ask his question. After some time, Bertrand developed almost a liking for the man. He started responding differently to the old man's question, more politely, and with a smile. He almost seemed like a friend now, and Bertrand stopped chasing him. Now, it was just open the door, smile at the old man, and answer " Nobody sir," or "No one I know of sir." Even the smile the old man returned seemed more genuine.
Just as Bertrand seemed to be getting on his routine, a new monk was brought into the abbey. A boy named Arthur, slightly younger than him; a scrawny little boy with a nervous disposition. Finally! Bertrand would be able to stop ringing the bell and do something important for a change. But....then he wouldn't get to see the old man anymore. And, what would Arthur do if he saw him? How would the tiny boy ring such a heavy bell anyway? Bertrand chose to ask the Abbot if they might work together instead. To both boys surprise and happiness, the Abbot had already chosen to do the same, to ease Bertrand's job. The Abbot also hoped that Bertrand might help Arthur to build up some strength, so that he might one day ring the bell alone, and Bertrand could take on further studies. The arrangement was signed and sealed.
Bertrand was happy with his new friend. Arthur was very naive and childish, giving Bertrand plenty of opportunity to play mentor and big brother. After those first few days in the Abbey though, it was time to show Arthur how to do their job.
Bertrand wondered if the old man would be there. He hadn't taken anyone with him before, and he knew of no one else who saw him. Apprehensively, Bertrand led his enthusiastic companion down the lumpy yard to the door. Arthur jogged a little bit, tripping slightly over his robe and slammed into the rotten door. It didn't open. Bertrand laughed, and shouldered the door open for the both of them. Bertrand stopped to dust his robes off as usual, while the curios youngster stopped, and stared confused at the tattered old man by the bell tie.
"Bertrand who is this?" Looking up, Bertrand smiled. The old man was there! Surprised somewhat to see what had become like a friend, he answered. " That's the old man, I don't know where he's from or why he's here, but he's here every night." "Goodness, is he some kind of Ghost?" "I don't know? He's solid for sure, but he does vanish when he leaves the tower." The whole mess seemed so matter of fact to the older monk now, it wasn't scary that's for sure. What was there to be scared of? The old man had only asked his question and left every night for months.
"Well, does he do anything else?" "He usually asks me a question about the bell, and leaves after I answer." "What does he ask?" Bertrand had no time to answer. 6:25; "For whom does the bell toll sirs?" "That, he asks that." "What does he mean for someone who died?" "I don't know, i suppose?" Bertrand opened his mouth to answer, but Arthur beat him too it. "Daniel's dog! It tolls for Daniels Dog. Or at least I wish!" Bertrand laughed. Daniel was a farmer who lived just outside the abbey's gate. A quiet and kind man, his dog was everything but. A nasty pit bull the man had rescued from a traveler drowning puppies in the river he couldn't afford to feed. He frequently barked at the monks, nipping at their robes and ankles, no one liked the pooch. To Bertrand's surprise, his worn friend made a different response. "So it does good sirs, so it does."
He turned away from the door, to the bell tie. Reaching up to grab the rope, he yanked the rope with strength that even Bertrand couldn't produce with his months of ringing the damned thing! The bell rang three times, louder than he had ever managed alone. Finished, the old man bowed out, and left the tower. Arthur tried to shove the door open to catch him, as Bertrand used to, but couldn't move the heavy door alone. "He won't be there, I told you he vanishes! But, that was different. I've never told him a name before, and he usually just leaves! I wonder what that was all about?" "I dunno," Arthur pondered out of breath, " But we don't have to ring the bell tonight." Bertrand guffawed a bit at that. True, his old friend had saved them the trouble. They trotted back up to the Abbey, mulling quietly over what had happened. At least it was different.
Bertrand stirred in his bed the next morning, something loud had startled him awake. Someone was calling his name? It was Mathew, the monk in the room beside his and Arthurs. "Bertrand! Bertrand! Daniel's dog has died!" "What?" Bertrand rubbed his eyes and pushed himself up. "Daniel's dog, the nasty thing, it's dead!" "How? Someone finally do the bugger in?" "Watch your mouth friend, haha, but no, Daniel doesn't know why? He just found the beast dead on the doorstep this morning, where he'd lain last night." "Well, sorry for the dear man, but at least no one has to put up with the thing anymore." Bertrand forced himself up, not like he could get back to sleep again anyway. Arthur must have already been up.
This fact was proven when Arthur shoved his way in the room. "Bertrand did you hear? Daniel's dog di-" "Yes, I heard, and now that I think of it, I'm a bit concerned." "Why?" "You did say his name to the old man, and he did have a different response..I'm concerned that this might be more than coincidence." "Oh, Bertrand you think to hard on this. Yes I said his name but this is the only time this has happened! Who's to say that it's not coincidence?" Bertrand mulled it over in his head for a minute more, but Arthur was right. They had no evidence to suggest that the old man somehow caused the death of the brutish pooch, the dog could easily have eaten something bad, or simply died from some inborne problem. Shaking his head free of it all, Bertrand sat down in his chair to read, and Arthur left to eat.
As the night came close to 6 o'clock, Bertrand wondered again. Perhaps this needed to be tested? To be entirely sure of it? Bertrand tossed his book aside, and mosied his way down to the abbey chicken coop. Picking an old hen no one would miss and a wooden cage, he captured the bird inside and placed it in his room. He would test this tonight.
"What was the chicken for?" "I'm going to try something." Bertrand and Arthur tripped down the muddy lawn to the tower, again. Door shoved open again, and worn old man, standing patiently, again. 6:25, "For whom does the bell toll good sirs?" Bertrand cleared his throat and answered. " The poor old hen in my room, sir." "So it does, good sirs, so it does." Bertrand nodded to Arthur, who understood the idea. The old man heaved the bell tie down again, loud and heavy three times, and left. The two monks followed, plodding up the yard.
"BERTRAND! Good lord! The chicken!" Nothing more needed to be said. The old hen, though seated as though sleeping, was lopped over slightly, and clearly dead. It hadn't been dead long, it could easily have died just as the bell tolled. The two boys were frozen at the doorway. This couldn't be a coincidence. Then hen was perfectly healthy at the time, the dog was too! And twice they had named the names of the creatures before hand. This wasn't funny or matter of fact anymore.
Neither boy slept well that night, the image of the dead chicken following their test stuck behind their eyelids. It was only a chicken, but the implications were terrifying. Bertrand didn't find rest until late morning. When he awoke, it was nearly 6:30. He threw himself up out of bed to do his job, but quickly found he didn't need to. The bell rung three times in the distance. But....this couldn't have been Arthur? It was far to loud, and too strong a bell toll...oh no. Bertrand threw his shoes on, and gripping the hem of his robe, tore down to the yard. He ran nearly head first into Arthur coming back. "Arthur who rang the bell?" "The old man did!" "Arthur what did you do!"
"Calm down Bertrand! I didn't kill anyone! I said the abbey horse!" "What?" "You know the abbey horse! The plow and cart horse?" Bertrand thought. The abbey owned few animals, and only owned one horse at a time. The horse they had at present, was quite old now. It could hardly pull the plow or carts, and half the time the monks would have to help. Being life loving people though, neither the monks nor the Abbot had the heart to buy a new horse before the one they'd had for so long finally passed. Unfortunately, that meant more work, and the horse was exhausted half the time anyway. With the old one dead though, they'd have to buy a new one, and they'd be none the wiser about the old one's demise.
"See? The old horse can rest and the abbey gets a new one! And you didn't have to ring the bell!" Bertrand sighed, at least it was just the old horse, and Arthur was right, it solved problems for the abbey and the poor animal. "Fine, I guess this is alright, but don't do it again! We can't abuse this!" "Alright! Fine, fine. Your way then." Arthur patted him on the shoulder and went about his way. Bertrand looked to the tower, wondering about the old man. He still seemed like an old friend. He couldn't be some evil spirit could he? But what good spirit would cause the deaths of anyone who asked? Bertrand had a headache now. Clasping worried hands behind his back, he shuffled off to find a meal.
Many more days past, and neither boy said a new name to the old man. They'd answer his question politely, and ring the bell together. Everything seemed to be returning to normal, at least, up until that one Monday.
Arthur had left the room that morning on his usual whatever-business, and Bertrand hung behind to study. Perhaps it was good that Arthur be taking his job. Bertrand had found joy in his studies, but Arthur was always out eating, or talking, or wandering about the village. He was still so young, and needed time to grow up.
Then again, he spent an awful lot of time studying lately. Making his mind up, Bertrand dropped his book. It seemed like now would be a great time to have a relaxing day for once. He made his way down the stairs to the yard. A few feet ahead of him Arthur stood talking to another monk. Bertand snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Arthur turned. "Ah Bertrand! I was just about to come see you. Fancy a walk in town with me?" "Sounds like a capital idea, friend.
"Tying their sandals tight and smiles bright, the pair wandered out the abbey gate into town. Everything seemed a whole lot happier; the bright colors, neat new products in the shops, and street performers visiting as they passed through. It was easy to forget the old man and the dead animals. Nearing about 5 o'clock, the boys knew they had to return. Before they reached the hill path up to the abbey, near Daniel's farm house, a group of local boys their age, stepped out before them.
"What on earth made you idiots waste your lives as monks?" "They haven't really got lives to waste! This scrawny idiot couldn't have done much. Perhaps this one might have?" The boy pointed to Bertrand. Bertrand wasn't quite as thin as Arthur, and he'd actually gained some strength working the bell over the past half a year or so. Arthur was still tiny.
"This shrimp would have made a nice woman though, ha!" The boys laughed, flinging insults left and right at poor Arthur. The lad looked like he could have cried. "It's alright Arthur." Bertrand took Arthur by the shoulders, and led the teary eyed boy up the road past the gang. They laughed and jeered until they were out of sight, and Arthur burst into angry sobs.
Bertrand had them sit on a log outside the gate. Arthur calmed some, but seemed so angry still. "This is why I became a monk you know? I'm too weak to be good at anything else. I cant even ring the bell, and I can just barely open the door to the tower before that!" "Arthur you are not weak. You aren't a soldier for sure but what good are they but for fighting wars?" Arthur couldn't be consoled. "Why are they so mean?! I HATE them. I HATE THEM." Arthur's voice seemed to hurt the air as they spewed angrily from his lips. Slapping tears from his face, Arthur looked scheming up at the bell tower. Bertrand didn't notice, as he looked down the road toward town, considering the nasty people they'd passed. Before Bertrand noticed, Arthur took off sprinting up into the abbey to the bell tower. Bertrand caught the heel of his sandal turning the corner in his peripheral vision. "Arthur? ARTHUR DON'T!" Bertand tripped up the hill tearing after Arthur. He knew what Arther was going to do. He had to stop him. He nearly caught up with the tiny boy, just feet from the tower, but his sandal caught one of the lumpy spots in the yard, and down he went. Face first, into the ground. He turned over on his back in pain, the world blurry and muffled. He couldn't sit up, and he saw only the blurred face of Abbot song looking down on him, holding his head gently. Neither Abbot Song nor the other monks about him seemed to hear what he heard...
"For whom does the bell toll sir?" "For the boys who called me weak! ALL OF THEM."
Bertrand lost consciousness. He woke weakly later, in his bed. Other monks and Abbot Song were about the room with him, talking. For a bit, he heard their muffled conversation about him. He'd smashed his head pretty badly, but they were optimistic about his condition. The conversation turned at some point, he couldn't tell, to the boys he knew were now dead. All had been found, inexplicably dead on the ground, not far from where they had been left. Dead, like hen, just as the bell rang. Bertrand felt tears coming to his eyes. Those boys were stupid, to be sure, but they didn't deserve to die. Abbot song saw tears on Bertand's face. Thinking them to be of pain, he gently touched Bertrand's head, comforting him. Bertrand fell asleep again. The nightmare plagued his rest.
In two weeks, Bertrand recovered. He said nothing to Arthur. He was far too afraid. He couldn't know for sure, well, he pretty much did. News of many unexplained deaths around the town, even in the abbey reached his ears. Arthur had changed. He was no longer the quiet enthusiastic boy he'd become friends with. Now, he was proud, and angry. Bertrand was so scared. Scared for himself, his friends, Abbot Song, and Arthur. And the old man....The poor old man. No matter how this went, Bertrand couldn't seem to blame this on him. Arthur was the one spouting names, the Old man never expected any, after all, he seemed plenty content when he'd answered "no one." This wasn't the old man's fault.
One day, Bertrand worked up the courage to talk to Arthur. His voice came out brokenly, but he asked. "Arthur, please, stop doing this. You're hurting people."
"They deserve it, they ALL deserve it. They are hateful people, and they deserve to die."
"That's not for you to decide Arthur! These are living breathing people with lives! They are confused and misguided sure, but that's what we're monks for! To set the example!"
"Fuck your example!" Bertrand froze. Arthur never swore, and they weren't supposed to. "These people deserve to die for hurting me. I like you Bertrand, but I'm not gonna stop."
"I'm gonna tell Abbot Song. You can't keep doing this!" Bertrand turned to storm out the room.
He was determined now, he was - in extreme pain! Arthur grabbed the cane by the bed Bertrand had been using while he was injured, and cracked it along his legs. Bertrand fell down with a yelp, bones broken. Arthur leapt on top of him, knee in his stomach, and a hand clasped over Bertrands yell. Arthur stared into Bertrand's crying eyes. He was in too much pain and too scared to fight back. "You won't. You won't tell anyone. Do you know why? Because, if you do, I'm going to tell the old man YOUR name...or, maybe I'll tell him Abbot Song's name? Whatever, you wont tell him. If you do, you'll regret it." Arthur slammed Bertrands newly healed head into the ground, and left him. Bertrand couldn't move, he was in so much pain. His legs he knew were broken, and he suspected his wrist and some ribs from Arthur's bony knees. He couldn't call for help, he was in so, so much pain. What would he do? What on earth was he going to do? Tears flowing freely, Bertrand started to fall asleep, trying to escape the pain.
"The bell doesn't toll for you yet, good sir."
Bertrand awoke in bed. Abbot song and several other monks were about him again, deja vu. "Who hurt you Bertrand? We found you lying outside my room on the ground!" Bertrand hesitated to answer. He was so confused. How did he get to that hallway from his room? Arthur wouldn't, no couldn't have lifted him that far without someone noticing. He should have laid on the ground there all night! Perhaps for days! "Bertrand?" Bertrand roused from his thoughts looked to Abbot Song. "I don't know, I don't know who hurt me." The Abbot's expression saddened. Glancing about at the other monks around him, Abbot cleared his throat to speak. "Something terrible is going on here, I think we can agree. Someone or something terrible is here. We need to keep a close eye on everything in the Abbey, and I've asked the soldiers in town to watch out there as well. If we want to stop these deaths, it will take great care on all parties." The monks nodded.
Taking up lanterns in their hands, they headed out of the room, outside to patrol the abbey, Bertrand guessed. The abbot waved someone into the room after them, Bertrand couldn't see at first. It was two young ladies, from town. "Bertrand, since we need to have those left with us keep an eye on things, I've asked these young dears to care for you while you recover. This is Emily, and her sister Megurine. They will look after you." Bertrand smiled a silent greeting, nervous around the lovely young girls. Being a monk, it had been much time since he'd even considered women. He was nervous, to say the least. Smiling, and touching his shoulder reassuringly, the Abbot left the room. Megurine smiled courteously, then went about cleaning and dusting the dirty room. Emily sat beside him on the bed, and started up a conversation.
Over the next few days, Emily and Bertrand got to know each other well. There wasn't much else for him to do but talk while she nursed him back to health. He found her to be very kind and loving though. Arthur needed to meet more people like her! Meg he didn't know so well. Generally, she just did as asked, retrieving bath water, food, and medicine; tidying the room and then leaving to do whatever. Arthur popped in now and then, and slept of course. He paid a great deal of attention to Meg. In fact, Bertrand wondered if perhaps Arthur was more along the lines of infatuated. Deaths happened less often, and Arthur seemed almost his old self again for some weeks time.
When Bertrand recovered enough to try some walking, Emily assisted him out into the yard. They giggled, talking and joking down the stairs slowly, out into the warm summer sun. Bertrand looked up, nearly having a heart attack at what he saw. Out of sight of anyone else it seemed, behind a tree, in the bushes, was Arthur....and Meg. Emily gasped. They were beneath Arthur's robe, clear what they were doing. The watching companions turned to each other in shock. Not only was Arthur a monk, but the two were not even married. This was not good. Arthur could be asked to leave the abbey! Meg might be disowned by her family! Perhaps Arthur wasn't quite his old self again. Bertrand shivered though...if he told Abbot Song anything, Arthur would do terrible things. He couldn't risk anyone getting hurt. Sputtering a plea to Emily, she guided him quickly back into the abbey, to the dining hall.
"Oh my god. We have to tell someone that's...I can't even believe....how could meg!.....I don't even..."
"Emily, please no." Bertrand placed a hand gently on her cheek. She looked shocked, nearly in tears. Her little sister, doing what she was, right in front of her! Emily was trembling. "How could she be so thoughtless, so careless....with a MONK." Emily leapt into Bertrands arms. He held her gently. Bertrand knew, he had to tell Emily what was going on. If she didn't know, there was too much risk that she might tell Abbot Song. She would be scared, but it was better than her telling and causing her own, perhaps others deaths.
"Emily...please don't think I've lost my mind..."
Bertrand lay in bed, lost in thought. Emily had listened carefully, confused, and frightened, but she understood. He feared when she helped him to bed that night that she may not like him anymore. That was the least of his problems though. Bertrand sighed heavily. So much was riding on what he knew. If he told, he could be saving - or risking - lives at this point. He frowned. He'd wanted to be important for some reason, and now he was. As they usually say, be careful what you wish for.
Finally, Bertrand took his first steps alone into the lumpy yard. Emily watched, close by in case he fell, but he didn't. He couldn't hold back the smile, so relieved to finally be free of his bed. Leaping into Emily's arms laughing he kissed her. Only a quick peck, which none of the monks witness minded, but to the two of them, it was more. Hearing what he had to say had concerned Emily some, and it took time for them to move on from it. Now though, they were together, content even under the circumstances. Deaths among the villagers and Abbey had lessened, and seemed to have stopped. Bertrand knew that Meg and Arthur were still together in secret. He almost was glad, as it seemed to be the cause of the peace.
Such peace was short lived though. Only a matter of time after Bertrand reached his second full recovery, the horror came back with full force. Waking one morning alone - Arthur gone off as usual - Bertrand followed the sounds of weeping and worry flowing down his hallway, by the stairs. Looking from his doorway, Bertrand saw Emily, held by Abbot Song, weeping. Just past her, carried down on a plank by monks, lay Meg. She was dead. Bertrand knew her perfect, untouched look meant it was Arthur. What on earth had happened? Did they seem happy enough?
Bertrand caught up to Abbot Song. He looked at Bertrand sadly, nodding a silent welcome. Looking to see who was there, Emily sobbed and leapt from the Abbot to Bertrand. "Oh Bertrand! My sister, my sister..." He petted her head softly. Poor Megurine, poor Emily. Arthur was relentless. He didn't know how the girl had crossed him, must have been a small affair, but he felt she deserved to die anyway. Arthur wasn't even human anymore in Bertrands eyes. No human could be capable of such atrocities.
He led Emily back to his room, and had her sleep off her tears on his bed. Locking the door behind him, to prevent Arthur from hurting her should he return, Bertrand left the Abbey to find him. More than a year after the dog died, Bertrand made his mind up. Arthur had to be stopped. Nearly everyone in the Abbey and in the Town had lost a family member, a pet, or a friend to Arthur's rampage with the Old man's bell. He was going to stop Arthur, and he no longer had any qualms about killing him to do it. His death was worth the hundred or more he caused at least.
Bertrand saw Arthur immediately upon entrance into the yard. It was 6:20. He was on his way to the bell tower, to cause the demise of someone else no doubt. Betrand wouldn't allow it. "ARTHUR!" He shouted angrily across the unusually empty lot. Arthur looked up shocked for a moment, but grinned maniacally upon seeing his old 'friend'. He paused only to smirk before tearing off to the tower, Bertrand in hot pursuit. He couldn't let him talk to the old man this time. This time, knowing that Bertrand wanted to stop him, Arthur could easily say HIS name, or Abbot Songs, or Emily's. It was going to end here one way or another.
Bertrand was inches from snagging the hem of Arthur's robes when he slammed into the Rotten door. Unable to stop his momentum, Bertrand tackled Arthur, right through the rotten wood of the door, and onto the stone floor of the tower. The old man, was waiting.
Struggling on the floor, the two men fought to restrain each other, most importantly, their mouths. The old man wasn't simply staring tonight. He looked down upon the ghastly fight, frightened, and concerned, but still. Taking a hesitant breath, the old man spoke above the grunts and growls of the clambering monks.
"To whom does the bell toll, sirs?"
He waited. Bertrand could swear for a split second, the old man looked at him longingly, as if he was praying silently for him to succeed. Bertrand refused to surrender. This was it. Mustering up all he could in himself, Bertrand slammed Arthur's head onto the stone, and covered his mouth.
"FOR ARTHUR. THE BELL TOLLS FOR ARTHUR!"
Arthur relaxed. For his head injury, or because he knew it was to late now, it was done. Arthur laid still and stared maliciously up at Bertrand. Bertrand watched the old man, waiting. He turned back to his same sweet self as soon as he had turned frightened.
"So it does, good sir, so it does."
One bell toll. Arthur growled at Bertrand. Two bell tolls. Bertrand swallowed. Three. "I'm sorry." "I'm not." Arthur died, barely able to finish his last, hateful sentence.
The old man waited, glancing down at the dead man, before stepping out of the room. Watching the wall-paper blue coat wave in the breeze from the door, Bertrand witnessed him step onto the grass, and fade. The nightmare, was over.
During Arthur's funeral, many eyes were wet. Two had to force their tears. Emily and Bertrand stood beside, hand in hand. They alone knew what Arthur was. Keeping the secret though, they let Arthur be buried in peace. There was no point in spreading hate now, Arthur had left enough behind.
Dinner following the burial, Abbot Song approached Bertrand, who stood beside a window, staring out at the bell tower. He placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry about your young friend."
"I'll be alright. He's....at peace now."
Abbot song seemed hesitant, perhaps nervous. Bertrand appreciated his company nonetheless.
"I think, it would be best for you to leave the Abbey, Berrtand."
Bertrand shivered in shock, before turning slowly to face his teacher.
"Wha- Why? Have I done something wrong?"
Abbot Song smiled softly. "Not at all. You are free to stay if it's what you wish. However..." He turned and looked into the dining hall. Sitting quietly, looking terribly relieved, was Emily. She was listening softly to an older monk tell a story about Arthur, from when he was good. Bertrand looked back to Abbot Song.
"I think she would be in a better position to appreciate you if you left the abbey. Not the town, necessarily though."
Bertrand raised his eyebrows. Abbot Song gave a knowing grin. He blushed. Clearly the older man knew Bertrand was in love. He hadn't admitted it, or considered it until that moment, but there was no sense denying it. He loved her company, she was beautiful, sweet, loving, how could he not?
"I think you would be in a better place appreciating her..."
Bertrand didn't respond. It was sad that after so much study, so many friends here, so much loss, that after only a year he would be abandoning his journey for a different one. Did he really want to stay though? This place would always have the echoes of Arthur's evil in it, at least, since he knew.
Bertrand's opened his mouth and spoke, though his voice didn't follow. A whispered " I guess." Abbot Song brought the weeping young man into an embrace. "Do not feel like you are not welcome here again. You will always be.
The last day, Bertrand dragged the last of his meager possessions out toward the gate, to meet his fiance. He paused to look over the lumpy yard one more time. The tower caught his eye. A new, lighter door had replaced the rotten wood. He saw out the corner of his eye that Emily was daydreaming, and hadn't spotted him yet. Taking one last trip down the lumpy lawn, Bertrand approached the tower. 6:20.
Opening the new door (which was completely quiet), He saw a familiar sight. The tattered old man stood again before the bell tie. He seemed, different though. The old man was still in worn clothes, though there were more holes, patches, and tears than he remembered. The glasses were cracked and rusted, and the old man to say the least, looked tired. He looked like he'd been working a whole lot, for no pay at all.
6:25. The old man turned, and smiled sweetly, leaning in to speak.
"For whom does the bell toll, good sir?"
Betrand smiled in return. The old man still didn't fit any blame. After all, he asked, THEY answered. He frowned some. A new monk would ring the bell after him. The old man looked so tired. The town, the abbey had faced so much.
"The bell tolls for you sir, it tolls for you."
The old man smiled brighter than Bertrand had ever seen in the year. "So it does good sir, so it does." He stepped, not toward the door, nor toward the bell tie, but back, and waited. Bertrand stood confused for a moment, before understanding. He looked up at the heavy bell. He hadn't rung it in a while, confined to a bed, afraid of Arthur. Lifting his arms up to grasp the tie, he yanked hard. The bell rang loud, louder than even the old man had rung. One, two, three. Bertrand smiled. It sounded so bright and clear. When the last ring rung its last, Bertrand looked for the old man. He was nowhere to be found.
There were no more deaths.
Bertrand approached his fiance. Emily looked bright and alive in the sunset, more relieved now than she had been in many months. The nightmare would never return. Hand in hand, his bag of things over a shoulder, Bertrand looked one last time to the bell tower. He wondered if the old man was at peace now. Either way, he and Emily were.
Edward approached the bell tower. The lumpy lawn and hidden puddles were not well appreciated by his sandaled feet, but he wanted to do his job well. At least, until he got to do something more important. Lightly opening the new door, he stepped into the tower. 6:25, right on time. But- who was this other monk? This was his job right? That's what Abbot Song had told him to do. A scrawny monk in a torn up robe stood patiently at the bell tie.
He turned to face Edward, and with a smirk that sent shivers, he asked a quiet question.
"For whom does the bell toll?"