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Urquhart the Wolf

Name:
Urquhart of Monadhliath
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  • yakalskovich
Urquhart* is the last of the Urquharts of Monadhliath, who used to reside in a castle above Loch Ness. He left for the crusades in 1248 and never returned.-

Urquhart is a medieval contract killer hired by some rich Cologne patricians in 1260 to murder the archbishop. There were centuries of power struggles between the citizens of Cologne (one of the richest cities in Germany at the time, later founding member of the Hanse trade association) and its archbishop (one of the most powerful positions in the realm), and the Cologne archbishops were forever being murdered** anyway. On the way to fulfilling his contract, Urquhart kills several other people, starting with Gerhard, the master builder who had designed the new cathedral of Cologne which is just being built. When he pushed Gerhard off the scaffolding, Urquhart was seen by Jacop the Fox, a red-headed thief busy stealing apples from the archbishop's orchard. That starts off the chase which Urquhart's canon is about...

Urquhart is a tall, handsome man with long blond hair, dark-cloaked and armed with a small crossbow of Arabic design that is still unknown in the West which can be used one-handed, which gives Urquhart an enormous technological advantage. He kills stealthily, without compunction, and sometimes in a quite bizarre fashion. He kills a whore after sleeping with her by nailing her to a beam with a crossbow bolt through her eye; later, he kills a fake monk in a lewd bath-house by giving him a massage that segues from bone-melting sensuality to bone-breaking torture within minutes of painful interrogation, and then, when he has heard what he needed, breaking the man's neck.***

Urquhart had been educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, having gone there in the course of the 'Auld Alliance' between Scotland and France. Thus, he was educated in the Liberal Arts of the high middle ages in their hey-day, learning from the first and second generation of scholastic philosophers first-hand. He can think logically in an age of faith and superstition, and that makes him feel superior to almost anybody around; at the same time, he does enjoy any chance of talking to somebody who has a similar background and can hold their own in a disputation.

Urquhart joined the crusades still idealistic and out of deep-felt faith, but he lost all that after the sack of Damiette in Egypt, when he saw his own side slaughter the entire civilian population of the city, including the children. Seeing babies disembowelled in the desert sand under a merciless sun made him lose both his faith and his sanity. He tried to prevent the slaughter, but was physically prevented, and went mad over it. The leaders of the crusade tried to have him murdered, but only one of the soldiers they sent to Urquhart's tent to kill him came out alive, and gibbering nonsense about Urquhart being an animal, and the devil. Urquhart himself had vanished.

Urquhart is the wolf in the story -- metaphorically, not literally. His world doesn't have any supernatural elements, but he is associated with the wolf, in contrast to Jacop, the 'good guy', being called 'the Fox'. This association of characters with the main protagonists of Aesop-derived fables of the middle ages feels very authentically medieval, and is what sold even me**** on the story, despite an unfortunate occurrence of pumpkins during a scene when Jacop the Fox is escaping through the crowded markets of medieval Cologne. The novel opens on a scene of a wolf coming out of the woods, after which Urquhart meets the patrician conspirators that pay him for the first time; we're left in the dark whether the wolf is just something of an establishing shot, or whether it is a metaphor for Urquhart's approach to the city. Urquhart is an archetypal wolf in that he kills efficiently and ruthlessly; he is a wolf in a more modern sense in that he only does what comes natural, using his natural prowess without the all-too-human weakness of a conscience, which he has lost to his madness after the events in Damiette. The fact that his humanity is partly destroyed gives him an odd kind of broken innocence. He has 'wolfish' traits -- the whore that he later kills admires the thick pelt on his chest, for example, and he can stalk and and keep quiet much longer than a 'normal' human.

Urquhart is not going to be in any way forthcoming about his backstory; he tries to forget it himself. He will admit to being a hired murderer (he is not on a job that he'd jeopardise that way, after all), but won't talk about the crusades at all, willingly and consciously. He constantly segues between being an untimely rational man of scholastic education willing to argue about angels on the head of a pin, and being utterly insane, with no inhibitions to kill and kill and kill again, with dark memories that need to be held at bay and threaten to overwhelm him at times, when triggered. Bright sunlight is very bad for that, as the glare in his eyes makes him remember the desert sun at Damiette; the same, crying babies or things that sound like crying babies. Such things might trigger fragments of memories, and shreds of confesssions. In his canon, the protagonists rustle up another insane old crusader in an asylum who remembers Urquhart's tragedy and gives them the knowledge they need to destroy him, which they do by forcing him to remember in the final confrontation, and then kicking him off the very scaffolding where he threw the master builder to his death, near the beginning.

Oh yes, and Urquhart is dead. I see no point in taking him through his canon as he wouldn't talk about it, anyway, and there is no leverage for involving any other Milli!charries in the very tight four-day plot. He is not so much in denial about it as simply ignoring the fact; he is still himself, body and soul. And he and his crossbow are definitely still for hire, to kill whoever anybody wants killed, in whatever canon...


*Yes, I do realise that Urquhart canonically has no first name. Urquhart is the clan, Monadhliath the seat of that specific branch he is from. I don't know if the author quite realised that. However, the novel's main antagonist having no first name resonates with the novel's main protagonist having nothing but a first name, basically. For Milliways purposes, though, I will sooner or later need a first name for the charrie, and rather than make one up on the spot when the need arises, I'll decide for one now and for great meta am going to steal the one of another fictional Scot who is only ever known by his clan name. Thus, henceforth, let this character's name be Angus Urquhart of Monadhliath!

** The mun's own original home town was founded on the spot where an earlier archbishop of Cologne was murdered in an ambush.

*** It's probably not a good idea to get up close and personal with Urquhart unless you're really sure you can defend yourself if he thinks that for some mad reason, you need to be killed after all.

**** Disclosure: one of my subjects at the University was Medieval Latin.

Dislaimer:
Urquhart of Monadhliath is from "Death and the Devil", and is the property of Frank Schätzing. He appears here solely for the purpose of role-playing in milliways_bar and mixed_muses, from which no profit whatsoever is being made.

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