Dark. Sinister. Menacing.
That’s how Aaron looked when a bolt of lightning offered a momentary glimpse of the basilica’s hall. But he wasn’t always like this. He had been the good and noble Lord Aaron once. Once, but that seemed a long time ago.
Once upon a time in Italy, there was a town like no other. Scenic and abundant, with an unhurried air about its townsfolk. Most of the lands and its incomes belonged to Lord Aaron Salvatore, a just man endowed with both charm and wit. The Salvatores were one of the oldest names there and their estate had pride of place in the valley town. Aaron’s father had been loved and respected in equal measure. After his father’s death, the responsibility of carrying on their legacy fell in his hands. Aaron did all he could to be a worthy overlord; genuinely cared for the town and its residents, worked in their interest and solved any crisis that needed solving. He earned the respect of the townsfolk through his deeds and not his last name.
He was an ardent believer in the power of prayer. His faith in the Almighty was unshakable but the thing that mattered to him above all else was his family. His wife and children meant the world to him, gave meaning to his life and were the reason for his happiness.
Everything was perfect, the stuff of fairytales. Too perfect. Not for long though, dark clouds loomed over the horizon. Their peaceful town had been embroiled in a war they wanted no part of. Since they were all drawn into it, they had to fight. Fight for their lands, fight for their families and fight for peace in the valley. Lord Aaron wasn’t the kind of man to let his people die whilst he did nothing. With a heavy heart, he set out with his men to help bring an end to the war. He could not forsake his responsibilities and duties, no matter how much he hated leaving behind his wife and children. Before he left though, he prayed that his family did not suffer any harm. “I ask you not to protect me during the war; my family’s wellbeing means more to me than my own fate. Keep them safe when I’m not around to do it. That’s all I ask of you.”
After several months of fighting, the war was won. Fatigued, he returned home to find the town eerily calm. In his happiness and relief to be back, he didn’t notice that something was amiss. Upon reaching home, he found his home all deserted but for his butler. It seemed as though the man had aged years in a matter of months. He was uncharacteristically dishevelled and bandaged up. Aaron’s footsteps caught his attention and he looked at him with blank eyes. “They came at night” he said. “Armed men that hunted us like wolves and left behind a trail of blood and body parts. I was wounded, sprawled on the floor with the others and they took me for a dead man.”
All dead. Aaron just stood there looking as if made of stone. His wife, his lovely wife was lying there with the corpses of his children. Even his little daughter who he fondly called Strawberry. They were all dead. There was absolutely nothing he could do.
He stalked to the basilica through the desolate lanes. The night was dark and gloomy with the promise of a storm. The weather mirrored the turmoil in his heart. Once inside, he faced the almighty and set down the silver goblet he’d brought with him. The goblet was filled with blood! The blood of his family, the blood of his wife, the blood of his children, his daughter’s infectious laughter was in it, his son’s curious questions, his wife’s tender love, his time with them, his happy memories, his not so happy memories, his home and his life. He lifted the goblet to his lips and drank. He drank deep till there was nothing left.
“You mean nothing to me now” he raged. Everything he once held dear had been taken away from him. He was left with nothing. Nothing except:
Grief. Wrath. Vengeance.
This tale was narrated by a friend one dark chilly night whilst walking down a lonely road. I have taken the liberty to pen it in my own words.