Bolton Rising Part 76 - Sandor

A lone figure staggered through an overgrown pathway, wandering past several rows of crumbling tombstones under the soft moonlight. The drunken man stumbled but caught his balance along the way, spitting out vile curses as he held onto a bottle of half consumed liquor. A pack of hungry wolves howled in the distance, but he paid them no mind while making his way towards the dilapidated monastery. The worn down steps creaked under his bulky weight and the front doors groaned as they were opened and closed.
Once inside the chapel, the Hound made his way towards a middle pew and sat down, staring up at the empty altar, framed by intricate stained glass. Ambient light illuminated the sermon podium, covered in dust and a mass of spiderwebs. It had been years since the old, but dutiful priest had given voice to the will of God and the purpose of man. But Sandor Clegane could still remember the kindly soul that had given a beaten young dog shelter and a chance at redemption.
Any time he needed to make a confession or even just seek solitude for the night, Father McCann welcomed him with open arms, no questions asked. The forgotten monastery, located far from the city, past the countryside and off a desolate road that virtually disappeared into the valley between the mountains, had been a lifeline to the Hound. No one would ever think to come searching for him here. It was beyond ridiculous. Clegane had only happened upon the area by chance, surprised to find Father McCann all alone and disconnected from the modern world.
As the last member of his brotherhood who was still alive, the priest was intrigued to have such a rare visitor, one he instantly deemed needing help or else why would God have brought Sandor to him? The Hound chuckled softly at the memory, before taking a swig from the bottle. The stubborn old bastard could give one hell of a sermon and he didn't care that Sandor was his only audience. In time, the two developed a deep friendship, with Clegane visiting often, bringing the priest supplies, food and helping with the upkeep of the place. For a while, the Hound knew what it was like to have and care for a parental figure, filling the hole in his heart which he carried from suffering the lack of such attentions as a child. But like everything in his life, the cruelties of the world crept in and eventually took away his contentment.
The Father had been invited to a luncheon to receive a lifetime award for his dedication to the faith by the head Cardinal of the city. Sandor had offered to escort his friend to and from the ceremony, but the priest had kindly refused with a laugh. "Never would I willingly enter your hellish beast on wheels my friend. I'll stick to the old ways." A day before the ceremony, the old man had traveled by foot to the main road and had taken a bus into the city, making the tedious pilgrimage without any complaints. Yet, Father McCann never made it to his hotel for the night, for fate had other intentions. The Hound's dear friend had been murdered right there at the bus station after his arrival, beaten and stabbed by a pair of thugs after the priest had interfered with their assault upon a homeless woman.
After that tragedy, Sandor raced against time, hunting the scumbags down before the cops closed in. If anyone was going to deliver justice for Father McCann, it was going to be him, not the useless court system. The empty liquor bottle rolled loudly across the floor as the Hound slumped over and stretched out along the uncomfortable bench, his drunken smirk cruel and unforgiving as he recalled the rage he unleashed upon those rapist-thieves. Their mangled broken bodies had been dumped outside the police station afterwards, their faces bloodied to a pulp, making identification difficult for the cops, but by some miracle the men were still alive to cough up their confessions. Not long after sentencing, one coward committed suicide and the other refused to ever leave solitary confinement, too afraid of the monster that had attacked them.
In his friend's honor, Sandor had bought all of the pristine land surrounding the monastery, protecting it from any development and keeping the old man's grave site undisturbed. Sometimes the Hound imagined himself fixing the place up and living a peaceful life out here alone. He could be lost and forgotten by time, just like Father McCann, but he wondered if that would truly give him any peace. As long as Alayne was out there in the world, singing like a little bird, Clegane would have no peace no matter where he went.

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