IX – THE VILLAGE SEEKS SHELTER IN THE CHURCH
Brother Tancredus led the throng of villagers through the woods toward the churchyard. Brother Erlend Svensson, his brow knitted with concern, marched along beside him, and the grog Domhnail mac Donchadh followed mere steps behind. Tancredus led them into the churchyard and up to the door of the church. He swung the door open and stepped inside, then stood to one side and and watched as the villagers queezed into the church. Corwynn mac Murchan made sure he was one of the first through the door. He didn’t trust Brother Tancredus at all, and wanted to keep an eye on him. Brother Erlend, meanwhile, stood outside the door and urged the villagers to hurry on through. Thomas fitz Roy took the opportunity to pull Brother Erlend aside while they were still outside.
THOMAS: ‘Brother Erlend, a quiet word if you will…’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, by all means, what is it Magister Thomas?’
THOMAS: ‘Brother, tell me, have you yet disclosed to Brother Tancredus the nature of this ’holy’ water that he’s been so obsessively sprinkling about the churchyard?’
ERLEND: ‘Er, no we have not discussed this matter yet.’
THOMAS: ‘If I understand the rites of the holy church, is it not unusual to be sprinkling so much of this water throughout the yard, even if it was normal holy water?’
ERLEND: ‘Well, if there is a history of haunts and apparitions, some priests might take it upon themselves to sprinkle holy water around the ground to sanctify it and keep the spirits at bay, but I’ll grant that this is an unusual practice at best.’
THOMAS: ‘Really? Perhaps you might take Brother Tancredus aside to ask what he thinks he is accomplishing with this water. Then I think the time has come to tell him that his water is corrupted!’
ERLEND: ‘I agree…’
THOMAS: ‘He seems to like you more than me, I couldn’t help but notice. By this I mean that it should be you that tells him.’
ERLEND: (ignoring Thomas’ self-doubt for the sake of propriety) ‘…but we must allow for the possibility that he is ignorant of the qualities of his holy water. He may not be aware that he is taking it from a corrupted source.
THOMAS: ’Very well. I’ll leave it to you – though if you need me I’ll make myself available.’
ERLEND: (looking around and seeing that most of the villagers had now entered the church) ‘Hmmm. Yes, I think now is the time while everyone settles in and Tancredus is not otherwise occupied.’
Bother Erlend stepped into the church behind the last of the villagers and turned to the priest.
ERLEND: ‘Brother Tancredus, before the prayers begin, could I have a brief word with you in private?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, er, yes, of course, but first let me see that everyone has settled in and is comfortable.’
ERLEND: ‘No, I’m afraid I do not think it can wait and what I have to tell you might affect the tone of the prayers you wish to deliver later.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh? How so?’
ERLEND: ‘Well, let us just step outside here for a moment and I shall tell you.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Outside? Oh, very well.’ (then, turning to Thomas) ’Lord Thomas, will you see to my flock and make sure everyone is comfortable. Ensure them that when Brother Erlend and I come back we will take up a most fervent and vigilant prayer behind the alter to keep the evils of this night at bay.
THOMAS: ’Yes, I will certainly do what I can, brother.
Thomas turned to address the villagers, encouraging them to find places to sit on the floor so that they might be comfortable for the night. Erlend then led Tancredus outside into the gloom of the night. Corwynn, not willing to let Brother Tancredus out of his sight, slipped out behind the the two monks and stood in the shadow of the doorway. He listened as Erlend broached the subject of the holy water.
ERLEND: ‘Brother Tancredus, I could not help but notice that the water which you sprinkle so liberally throughout the churchyard is the Water of our Lord. Now, I have head of instances where such water is spread around as a protection against demons and apparitions… isthat your cause?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, you could say that. It is part of an Eastern Rite. I learned about it in Constantinople.’
ERLEND: ‘It might seem to a casual observer that this was a frivolous use of our Lord’s blessing, unless there was some evil to be kept at bay. Would you agree?’
ERLEND: ‘One might also think that the Good Lord’s blessings would be more wisely spent on, say, suffering, than on protecting already consecrated ground.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, but you are perceptive, Brother Erlend, I’ll grant you that. There IS an evil that I’m trying to keep away. Are you perchance familiar with the gospel of Thomas?’
ERLEND: (Hesitatingly) ‘Yes…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Er, and what about the works of Arius of Alexandria?’
ERLEND: ‘Are you talking about his teachings that the Christ is separate from the God?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, I am. And in your reading of Thomas did you notice that Jesus is never once refereed to ’Christ’ or ‘Lord’, but instead refers to him as the ‘Son of Man’?
ERLEND: ‘Well, I never…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Do you recall that Thomas preaches that we should ’keep the big fish and throw the small fish back!?’
ERLEND: ’I’m not sure that’s exactly… Forgive my thickness, Brother Tancredus, but I’m failing to make the connection between your fear of an apparition and the Gospel of Thomas.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, I have to say that I do not understand the connection myself. But you asked about the Holy water, and I have read… and believe, after extensive research… that (he dropped his voice to an urgent whisper) the resurrection Christ is a myth!’
Erlend crossed himself, but was lost for words for a moment.
TANCREDUS: (continuing) ‘Brother! What if it’s not true?! What if Jesus never was the son of God at all, but a homunculus created by demonologists and peddled to the people as a way of perverting the good religion of the Lord!’ (Tancredus eyes grew wild and he stumbled over his words as he tried to spit them out.) ‘Imagine if the whole church is a myth!?’
ERLEND: (uncertain how to react before now the now-unchained Tancredus) ‘It… it’s a theory… um… Are there others, locally, who…. eh… I come from the Hebrides, you see, and I am not that familiar with your local congregations.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, of course they all follow Abbot Muiredach, who is as obtuse as they come! None of them think for themselves. I was under the impression that you, at least, did think for yourself!’
ERLEND: ‘Oh, em, I do, I do.’
TANCREDUS: ‘What exactly are your beliefs, Brother Erlend, if I may ask? Do you believe in the all power of our Lord as I do? Do you believe in the Christ?’
ERLEND: ‘I do believe in the Holy Trinity… and who knows there might even be more than the Holy Trinity…’ [GM Note: Readers may recall that Erlend secretly still believes in the old gods, as well as God]
ERLEND: ‘Well, we don’t need to get into my beliefs right now. Suffice to say that I think we should allow for the possibility that some of the older gods may still inhabit the earth and may even enter the hearts of men. Some of these may now be called saints, angels, or even demons.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Then you are not altogether for Christ either! Am I reading you right?’
ERLEND: ‘No! You’re reading it completely wrong! I’m a devout Christian. However, I’m not one to pass judgement on your unique perspective…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Nor I on yours.’
ERLEND: ‘…but I am curious as to what this apparition is that you so fear. Have you seen any evidence of demons before?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Only in the souls of men!’
ERLEND: ‘What about physical evidence? I mean, if we are to pray for salvation tonight, would it not be more effective to know what we are up against?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Surely we should pray to God and that will be enough, no? For protection from temptation and the sins of mankind?’
ERLEND: ’I’m a firm believer that the more directed and focused one’s prayer, the greater the chance that the Lord will provide? Can you describe a demon?’
TANCREDUS: ‘I have never seen a demon in physical form!’
ERLEND: (changing tactic) ‘Let me ask you, then, another question. The holy water that you sprinkle on the ground, where do you take it from?’
TANCREDUS: ‘We make it here and bless it ourselves.’
ERLEND: ‘Where do you take the water from?’
TANCREDUS: ‘From the burn. Why do you ask?’
ERLEND: ‘Do you add anything to it?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, it is a special recipe that comes from a book I have.’
ERLEND: ‘I see. What are the ingredients, if I may ask?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, come – this is not important. Why are you asking me this now?’
ERLEND: ‘It could be important. You see it is possible that the ingredients you have added have made the water less holy and not more…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, the water is formulated to ward off the evil influences from the Christ and to return our good church to the sanctity of God.’
ERLEND: ‘Eh. Did you say ’from the Christ’? I see. So you believe that the Christ-Demon is trying to invade your parish? Is that it?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, the evidence is all around us! There is an empty grave and a revenant stalks the woods killing people! Not one hour ago poor Willie mac Iain’s broken body was found down by the river!’
ERLEND: (sarcastically) ‘You do have a point. Very Christ-like behaviour…’
Just then a howl came from the woods further down the valley – a most inhuman sounding howl. A flash of lightning streaked across the sky and this was followed by a peal of thunder.
TANCREDUS: ‘We must get inside, now, quickly, and start our prayers. I’m worried there will be little between us and evil tonight but the walls of our holy church!!
ERLEND: ‘Yes, very well. I’ll just consult with my fellows and then join you at the altar.’
Tancredus turned to enter the church. He was startled to see Corwynn lurking in the dorway like some kind of ghoul, but merely shoved him to one side and ran inside toward the altar, where he proceed to set out candles and light them. Erlend and Corwynn entered the church after him and closed the door behind them. They sought out Thomas and told him all they had learned, and then tried to ease Thomas’ panic.
THOMAS: ‘I knew it! He’s a false priest and has been spreading unholy water all about the place! We’re holed up inside an unholy church with a monster outside!! You say he followed a recipe from some heathen book from the East!!!? We should denounce him!! He should be denounced to the congregation and burned!! Is that not how to deal with his kind?! Erlend, you’re a brother of the cloth! Do something!’
ERLEND: ‘Now now. Let us reach deep inside to find calm. I do believe that Brother Tancredus has strayed, but not beyond the point of no return. His heart is in the right place and he can be led back to the path of good. If he can be persuaded that his misguided practices have brought this doom upon the village, then he can repent and be led back to the light. We must keep and open mind. It is possible that not everything we have taken from the good book is necessarily true…’ [GM Note: A reference to monotheism]
A crash of thunder interrupted Brother Erlend in his speech, shaking the very ground. As the sound rolled away, the voice of Brother Tancredus could now be heard from the choir of the church. He was calling from Brother Erlend to come and join him in prayer. And so Brother Erlend made his way to the front and knelt beside Tancredus and allowed himself to be led in prayer. This time, he listened carefully to Tancredus’ words. The prayers seemed legitimate enough, though they were directed at the Lord and not to Jesus.
The sound of thunder continued for a while from out side, but eventually died away to be replaced by the rattle of heavy rain. Other sounds occasionally drifted in through the little church windows – what sounded like moans or howls, and sometimes a bang or a snapping noise. Erlend, without interrupting his prayer, caught the eye of the two grogs, Corwynn and Domhnail, and gestured for them to peer out through the doorway to see if they could detect anything. But the night was dark, and there seemed to be nothing out there, even by the light of a lantern.
X – MIDNIGHT
Several hours later, the two brothers were still in prayer. A few of the villagers were still awake and dutifully repeating the amens, but most had fallen asleep, including Thomas the mage. Brother Tancredus showed no sign of flagging, but Erlend kept hoping for a chance to lead the prayers on his own in order to correct a few omissions. Finally, he leaned over to Tancredus and asked him at a whisper if he would like to take a rest for a few moments to un-parch his throat. Tancredus glanced over at the younger monk, and Erlend encouraged him, saying that he would take over leading the prayers for a time.
Tancredus nodded and got up off his knees. He turned to the back of the church and located one of his prize wine bottles. Then, with his back to the congregation, he stood contemplatively facing the wall and raised his wine bottle to his lips every so often He looked like a man who had regained some measure of crontrol. Erlend, meanwhile, took over the leading of prayer and made a conscious attempt to reintroduce Jesus and the trinity. He hoped it was not too late. He was reminded of the urgency by a resurgance of the howling noises coming from outside the church. He tried to reassure the congregation that it was only the wind, but he feared it was not the case.
Thomas found himself waking at the sound of one of these howls which seemed particularly close to where he lay near the door. He roused himself groggily and checked that the two grogs were doing okay. He noted with some satisfaction that Erlend had taken over the prayers and was addressing the Christ. He also saw Brother Tancredus standing alone, head bowed, in one of the far corners of the church. He took this opportunity to go and speak with him.
THOMAS: ‘Brother Tancredus, perhaps I could take this opportunity to have a word with you about the doctrines that you follow?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Eh? Oh, it’s you, is it?’
THOMAS: ‘Yes. In particular I wanted to ask about these Eastern rites that have influenced you.’
TANCREDUS: (shaking his head and slurring his words slightly from the wine) ‘Eastern rites? Brother Erlend has a big mouth.’
THOMAS: ‘Be that as it may, I’m most intrigued as to which texts you might have drawn these rites from. My fellow magi and I are scholastics at heart, as you are probably aware, and they would be of interest to us.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Do you then know the writings of Simon m-m-Magus?’
THOMAS: (lying, though poorly) ‘I am familar with Simon Magus, yes. In fact I think its fair to say that I’m familiar with him. Which particular recipe were you looking at?’
THOMAS: ‘For the holy water? Perhaps you could show me. It may help to present a solution to our problems…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, very w-w-well. I will show you the b-b-book itself… I believe it is here somewhere.’
Tancredus went rummaging under the altar and brought out one of the large books from beneath. It was the book written in Greek that Thomas had previously tried to peruse without success. Tancredus moved to the back wall of the church and stood under the crucifix. He handed the book to Thomas. Thomas took the book and set it down on the tabernacle, then flipped through it again. As he could neither speak nor read Greek he was at a bit of a loss, but he tried his best to look knowledgeable.
THOMAS: ‘I see… mmmhmmm… yes… Which parts of this book have you read, Brother?’
TANCREDUS: ‘The whole book, naturally!’
THOMAS: ‘And what is it that you’ve been trying to achieve with this book? Have you been trying to raise the dead…?’
TANCREDUS: ‘What? No!’
THOMAS: ‘…Have you been trying to raise a ghoul?’
TANCREDUS: ‘That is obscene! I will not hear any more of this!’
THOMAS: ‘Well, you have to admit that your rites are rather unorthodox. It is not usual to call the Christ a demon! It is not usual to sprinkle corpse water around the churchyard – which is what you’ve been doing!’
Tancredus simply looked blankly at Thomas, caught off-guard by the accusation.
Erlend, meanwhile, was now standing and had raised his voice in praise of Christ.
Thomas pressed on, trying to intimidate Brother Tancredus into a confession.
THOMAS: ‘A ghoul has been raised this night! You are the source of this! It’s going to come straight for you! What do you have to say for yourself?!’
TANCREDUS: (raising his voice) ‘No! My rituals and rites were performed to protect us! Protect us from demonic influence!’
THOMAS: ‘Then they have failed spectacularly. The body of poor, misshapen Brother Noilus has risen from the grave to take revenge on the villagers and to kill you all!’
ERLEND: (raising his voice to the congregation, half of whom were still asleep) RISE! RISE EVERYONE! WE ARE GOING TO SING A SONG IN PRAISE OF THE LORD!’
THOMAS: (continuing to harangue the old priest) ‘What do you think the Church is going to do to you?…’
ERLEND: (to the congregation) ‘RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU BELIEVE IN CHRIST THE LORD!’
THOMAS: ‘…and if you manage to survive the ghoul that you’ve raised and your practices become common knowledge?! What then??!’
ERLEND AND CONGREGATION: (voices raised in song)
THOMAS: ’THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES! IF NOT FOR YOUR SAKE, THEN FOR THE OTHERS!
By now, with all this noise, everyone in the church was awake. Thomas yelled at Tancredus, whose face grew red and twisted with emotion. Erlend sang his heart out and the villagers joined in loudly. Corwynn and Domhnail stood off to the side near the door and watched in wonder.
It was then that there came a knocking at the door. The two grogs looked at each other. The knocking turned into a pounding.
ERLEND: (Shouting) ‘RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU BELIEVE THAT THE CHRIST IS THE SON OF THE LORD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT!’
CONGREGATION: (singing and raising of hands)
THOMAS: (Shouting at Tancredus)‘BLASHPEMER! NECROMANCER! THAT IS WHAT THEY’LL CALL YOU!’
DOOR: (Pounding and shaking as the grogs stepped away)
TANCREDUS: (frantic and sweaty, speaking to Thomas) ‘NO! That is not the way it happened! The book explained it all! How Jesus was not the son of God and was not resurrected, but that the demonologists corrupted the church and has led everyone astray for over a thousand years!’
Thomas stared in horror as a drop of blood suddenly appeared on Tancredus’ forehead and ran down his cheek! Tancredus seemed not to notice, but continued to cry out in his own defence. The light from the candles flickered as a breeze passed through the church. Thomas looked up to see that the hands and feet of the porcelain crucifix were bleeding! Another drop of blood fell onto Tancredus! The wooden cross itself was now smoking! Erlend raised the voice of the crowd into a crescendo of song in praise of Jesus! The two grogs stared at the now violently shaking church door. They drew their weapons in fear!
TANCREDUS: ‘…AND SURELY IT WAS JUDAS WHO WAS RIGHT….’
THOMAS: ‘LOOK! THE CROSS! IT BURNS’
TANCREDUS: ‘…THE FALSE PROPHET…’
ERLEND: ‘LOUDER! SING FOR YOUR VERY SOULS!’
TANCREDUS: ‘…AND THE FOLLOWERS OF SIMON MAGUS SAID THAT ALL SEX IS PERFECT LOVE…’
Just then the cross burst into flames! The head of the porcelain Christ exploded into a thousand shards and dark blood gushed out, pouring down over Tancredus’ face! The door of the church burst open! The revenant broke into the room with mindless violence, letting out a deafening roar! The voices of the villagers turned from songs to screams and there was a mad press toward the back of the room!
XI – THE BATTLE
Amidst the mass confusion, the revenant charged toward the two grogs. It’s skin looked tough and leathery, its eyes only black holes. It was coated with mud and bits of sticks and straw stuck out at all angles. When it roared, it bared its yellow teeth! Corwynn and Domhnail backed away in fright, their weapons at the ready. Corwynn poked his quarter-staff at the thing, hoping to keep it at bay. He struck it, but not with enough force to stop it. It clawed madly at Corwynn and raked its grotesquely long fingernails across the frightened grog’s cheek, drawing five lines of blood. It slashed at Domhnail with its other claw, flinging him against the wall like a rag doll and bruising him horribly. Stunned by the ferocity of the attack, Domhnail shied away from attacking and began to look for an escape.
[GM Note: Corwynn succeeded in hitting, but couldn’t beat the thing’s soak roll. The creature attacked next, drawing one body level from Corwynn and three from Domhnail, leaving Corwynn hurt and Domhnail with a medium wound. Both grogs passed their bravery test, but Domhail decided to back away rather than press his luck after being so wounded in one blow]
Brother Erlend stood behind the altar and stared dumbly for a moment. Then he threw open the bible and began to flip through it frantically looking for something, anything, any helpful passage that he might use! Thomas, for his part, could think of nothing better to do than grab Tancredus by the collar and shake him, shouting ‘DO SOMETHING! YOU BROUGHT THIS UPON US!’ Tancredus’s knees buckled and he slumped to the ground sobbing. The throng of panicking villagers surged toward the choir of the church. A few who were lucky enough to find themselves of the edge of the crowd squeezed around behind the beast and fled out the door.
Corwynn and Domhnail backed away from the violent figure of the revenant! It clawed at each of them as they retreated; Corwynn turned the blow and Domhnail tried to, but the creature clipped his shield and Domhnail lost his grip upon it. The battered shield flew across the room and buckled against the far wall. Fearing for their lives, Corwynn cried out: ‘Domhnail! Retreat behind the altar! Maybe we can use it for defence!’
Thomas Magus, meanwhile cast the spell ‘Leap of the Frog’s Legs’ upon himself and leapt over the crowd and the insane revenant! He fled toward the door. Later, he would explain that it was his plan to flee the negative aura of the infernal church so that he could more effectively cast a spell, and since there was nobody present in the church at that time who wanted to be even partially turned into a frog, no-one dared to question this tactic later. Brother Erlend continued to occupy himself by scanning the bible and looking for any appropriate blessings against revenants.
Finally Corwynn and Domhnail managed to back round the altar. The revenant let them be for the moment and turned its attention to the panicked villagers who now stood nearby, It lashed out with its claws in a spasm of violence, throwing the innocents of Bogue aside willy-nilly and splashing the walls with their blood!
Corwynn and Domhnail then tried with all their might to tip the heavy stone altar over onto the beast, but with Domhnail now weakened as he was by blood loss, it was to no avail. Now the monster was approaching them again and Domhnail, feeling helpless and vulnerable, retreated into one of the corners of the church to cower.
Erlend continued to look for an appropriate passage in the bible that would help and frantically tuend page after page of the bible.
Thomas, for his part, was now standing in relative safety outside the church, turned and tried to cast a spontaneous spell similar to Demon’s Eternal Oblivion, but his effort fell far too short to have effect.
Corwynn suddenly found that he was the only man of action in the room! Domhnail and Thomas had fled, Erlend was reciting prayers, Tancredus was catatonic, and the villagers were either fleeing or dieing all around him. He had to stand up and do something! But what?! Then his eye fell upon the shroud which covered the altar and he remembered that Thomas had once told him it was writ-upon with words of praise to the lord. Feeling that any blessing would be useful at this point, he hooked the tip of his quarterstaff into the cloth and swirled it around until the staff was wrapped in the shroud. Then, reaching over the altar, he swung his staff decisively at the revenant. He thwacked it across its back, creating a wide gash and drawing black, oozing blood! At last – some success!
Brother Erlend was struck by the sudden memory of a passage in the bible that might be of use. Feeling blessed by the will of God, he flipped to the appropriate page and cried out in triumph. He then recited the passage in full voice and thereby filled Corwynn with the love of Jesus and hope against this evil! [GM Note: Erlend was asked to roll on his Church Knowledge and given a cumulative target of 24, thanks to a critical success which allowed him to quadruple his roll, he came up with a grand total of 57 after the third roll! I allowed him to divide the difference between the target and the roll by 5 to claim +7 one-time bonus points to be used by the party during the combat, and added a bonus +1 for Erlend’s piety for a total of +8]
Emboldened by his first successful attack and by the raised and triumphant voice of Erlend behind him, Corwynn jumped up on the altar and swung his shrouded quarterstaff in a wide arc over everybody’s head, screaming as he did so! The staff landed with a sharp crack on the right arm of the revenant, so hard the bone inside snapped! The arm went limp! Without a pause, the revenant retaliated with the other claw and raked it across Corwynn’s chest! Luckily his armour soaked the blow! [GM Note: Corwynn rolled a critical on his attack and with the exploding die and 7 of Erlend’s bonus points allowed him to succeed vs. The revenant’s defence by more than 20 points. This granted him an exceptional blow, which, after doing 3 body levels of damage, meant a maimed arm! An excellent result for Corwynn!]
Domhnail the grog still cowered in the corner, but wanted to help. He spotted the holy-water censer under the altar and, not knowing it was corrupted, he tried to yell out to anyone listening that it was there. Luckily he was either not heard or nor understood and the holy-water was left alone.
Brother Erlend now left off his prayer. He, too, cast about for anything that might help Corwynn to exercise this evil and his eyes fell upon the still burning cross on the wall. He grabbed it, ignoring the pain, and ran around the side of the altar to press the flaming cross onto the back of the beast, shouting ‘…EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR YOU ARE WITH ME….!’ He struck the beast and pressed the burning cross into its tough skin, leaving a mark, though the blow seemed to do little to stop it! [GM Note: Sadly, the cross had by now lost its divine aura, otherwise it might have had more effect].
Thomas still stood near the door of the church and tried to cast spells which might affect the beast. He attempted to cast ‘Despair of the Quivering Manacles’, which would at least have impeded its attack, but with the infernal aura that the church now had he simply could not overcome its resistance to such magicks. The creature ignored both the priest and the magus and concentrated instead on brutal Corwynn, swiping at him. Corwynn was lucky enough to parry the blow, however.
Corwynn and Erlend continued to strike with quarterstaff and cross; together they managed to hold the ferocious beast at bay. Thomas finally gave up on casting spells and decided to resort to more mundane methods. He drew his sword and charged in to stab the beast from behind!
The Beast tried to swipe at Corwynn again, but he spun away and avoided further injury. Using the momentum from his spin, Corwynn swung the shrouded staff once again and cracked it across the head of the thing! Its skull split upon contact, spilling black blood and brains across Thomas, who now stood behind it. The beast fell to the ground. It twitched, and then lay silent.
XII – AFTERMATH
The battle was over. The church was dead silent but for the whimpering of Tancredus who still cowered in the corner. Erlend tossed the smouldering cross down onto the despoiled body and let out a loud sigh.
ERLEND: ‘Whew! Valiantly fought! Is everyone alright?’
THOMAS: ‘I, for one, am disgusted! But you have all been an inspiration and I shall remind my fellow magi of your worth! But for now it seems we must cleanse these grounds!’
ERLEND: ‘I fear it will be a long process to re-sanctify this church.’
THOMAS: ‘Obviously, we will not be able to do it now. You should at least say a prayer, should you not, Erlend?’
ERLEND: ‘At the very least.’
THOMAS: ‘An what about Tancredus over there? This should be brought to the attention of the bishop of Whitherne, or perhaps the Abbot of Dundrennan, at least, don’t you think?’
ERLEND: ‘The Bishop of Whitherne or the Abbot of Iona, I would say. Given that this church belongs to them. Tancredus would undergo a trial by canon law, the likely result of which would be burning at the stake. However I think he now sees the error of his ways’ (then shouting to Tancredus, who still whimpered in the corner) ‘Brother, do you now see the error of your ways?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, you see – he see’s the error of his ways. Perhaps a week or two at Ken Muir would do him some good.’
CORWYNN: ‘Forgive me, but would that not make us look like we were harbouring a demonologist?’
THOMAS: (patronizingly) ‘Thank you for your comments, Corwynn. We’ll be sure to take them into account. Now Let us deal with our immediate problems, then we will take Tancredus back to Ken Muir for further questioning. Depending on what we learn, we may follow up with a communiqué to the bishop.’
Corwynn set about gathering the un-holy-water, the body of the revenant, and other questionable paraphernalia together. He wrapped them in cloth, and then in the shroud which seemed at least to still be holy. He and Domhnail dragged the entire lot outside and dumped it all into Noilus’ sodden grave. Then, with the help of Erlend and Thomas (both of whom had considerable strength) they carried the heavy granite stone of the altar and placed over the hole grave hole – all as pracaution against the revenant re-animating yet again. Then they returned to the church and swathed the dead in cloth, leaving the bodies inside. They bandaged the wounded and placed them in the beds of the guest room of the manse, while the members of Ken Muir and Tancredus retired to the priest’s quarters in the manse for the night, taking turns at keeping a watch.
During Erlend’s watch, Tancredus spoke softly from his bed.
TANCREDUS: ‘I fear I have made a grave error.’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, you have.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Will you hear my confession?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, I would be honoured.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, it all started in Constantinople when I came across a book. Have you heard of Tharene of Tyre? No? I’m not surprised. He wrote a book called the Diabolopsuche, which I happened to lay my hands upon. It confirmed many of my suspicions about the false nature of Christ and contained detailed rituals for communion with the True God. These rituals were to restore the church to the one god, taking it back from the usurper, Christ. When I was at Iona, I tried to speak to the abbot about my learning, but he is no deep thinker. He prefers to stick to the status-quo, saying that surely if new ideas were worth considering they would surely have been thought of already. He refused to let me speak of the matter, and when he caught me writing of the subject he confiscated many of my books, including one that I was trying to write. Then he banished me to this… this backwater parish in Galloway. I managed to keep a hold of a few of my books, including the Diabolospsuche.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Later, I followed the ritual in the Diabolopsuche, with poor Noilus as my unwitting aide. I’m ashamed to say it now, because it seems so obvious, that I was mislead, but this ritual involved the gathering of twelve toads! Poor Noilus had no concept – he simply followed what I told him to do. Then we exhumed the body of that poor girl…
ERLEND: ‘You did?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, and her heart went into that foul potion! When we went to re-bury her, there was already narcissus growing on the grave! Well, we could not then dig it up again – that would surely invite unnecessary questions! So I instructed poor Noilus to dispose of the body elsewhere, instead. Just how it ended up washed on the shore near your covenant I shall probably never know.
ERLEND: ’It was the will of God, no doubt! It was his way if sending us to you, that we might set you right. And that is what we intend to do.’
TANCREDUS: ‘How do you intend to do that? I’m afraid there is not much future for me in the church. They will surely have nothing but a flame and a pile of faggots waiting for me.’
ERLEND: We-e-elll, none of your villagers know that you are responsible for this yet, right? So-o-o, if we were not to speak against you ourselves, there would be no earthly witnesses to your errors. If you were to renounce those, and this confession is a good first step, and not to repeat them then I think it is still possible for you to find salvation. The good Lord is merciful, after all.’
TANCREDUS: ‘You mean you will let me go?’
ERLEND: ‘I would have to speak to the others, but I am inclined to do so, yes. You have learned your lesson, and often those who have learned their lessons are those who end up being the strongest and most devout servants of God.’
TANCREDUS: (thinking in silence for a few moments) ‘If you let me go, I will become a hermit in the service of God. I do not see myself any longer in the role of a priest. I would turn my books over to you. Burn those that you will and make use of the others.’
ERLEND: ‘Very well. Get some sleep. I will consult with my fellows again. Then I will decide upon your penance and we will discuss this again in the morning. By the bye, where did you come by your collection of books? Was it in Constantinople?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes. I knew a merchant then by the name of Levi Isaak. He was a Jew. He was the source of many wondrous things.’
ERLEND: ‘I see. And do you have anything else to confess? You mentioned Simon Magus – have you partaken in the pleasures of the flesh?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, no! At least, nothing since my last confession!’
ERLEND: Very well. Sleep well, then, knowing that I will look out for you. I will contemplate your penance. You have had many warnings along the way, and to have ignored them all can be seen as a sin in the eyes of God. But I believe that your repentance is sincere. I will pray on the matter.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Thank you, Brother Erlend.’
By the time morning came around their plan had become clearer. Thomas, Domhnail, and Tancredus would set off at the earliest light for Ken Muir so that their passing could happen in secret. Corwynn and Erlend, who were the most popular with the local villagers, would go to Bogue and to Dalri to explain that Brother Tancredus had fled during the night. They would advise them to stay away from the church, which had now been corrupted, and told them that Erlend would be back on the morrow to lead them through the Easter Sunday service (omitting the fact that he was not, himself, an ordained priest). He would then return each Sunday to lead them in services, erecting a preaching cross in their respective vills, until such time as the proper authorities had time to send a new priest their way.
Back at Ken Muir, Tancredus would be questioned and then allowed to live for a time within the friendly forest that surrounded their covenant, far from prying eyes. Thomas and Erlend suspected that there might be some use for him in the future, so they thought it would be best if his fate was put to the next council of the magi.
[GM Note – Experience: Thomas gained three experience points, Erlend two, and Corwynn and Domhnail one each, as per the basic rules. Corwynn was granted an additional experience point for his deft handling of the revenant in combat, as nominated by his fellow players.]
There are many loose ends to be resolved, here, but they will wait for the next mage’s council. The ultimate fate of the villagers, including the bodies of those that died, will need to be decided. They was some discussion so trying to absorb the villagers of Bogue into the covenant (and it is true they need new Grogs) but the players were loathe to try to incorporate more because it would mean cutting down some of their ‘friendly forest’ to make cropland. What to do with the demonic church and the lack of priesthood in the parish had been deferred to the next wizard’s council and will probably be deferred to the Bishop. Tancredus’s books will be incorporated into the covenant library, but further study of at least two of them will have to wait until the Greek and Arabic languages have been learned. Perhaps they will be traded away, but at what consequence? Hopefully these loose ends will addressed in the near future – else dire consequences may arise!
UPDATE (Played April 16 2013):
There was much debate over how to handle the matter of the infernal church. Medigas of Florence argued for informing someone in the church, with an eye to developing an ally in church. He felt that by informing an underling, they could allow that underling to claim responsibility for bringing the issue to public knowledge and thereby gain the benefits. In exchange, he thought that the discreet passing of the information to that individual would put that person in their debt. It would also help them avoid unwelcome attention from the hierarchy of the priesthood.
Raderic mac Gillolaine and Thomas fitz Roy, on the other hand, argued against a rapprochement with the church, and preferred to strengthen their ties with Uchtred, their noble lord. They felt that by informing him, they might prove their worth to the kingdom in mystical matters. This would allow Uchtred, in turn, to approach the church in his own manner and to foster his own relations with that organization. And to ease the passage of this letter to Uchtred, it was decided to write it to Hugh de Morville of Borg – Thomas’ uncle.
Ultimately, it was the second method which was chosen and Thomas was once again elected to write the letter. In this letter, Thomas mentioned the ‘misguided monk with heretical ideas’ who had ‘since disappeared’. He mentioned the infernal ground and the revenant and how he, Thomas, had overseen the destruction of it and the return to normality for the time being. He also mentioned that, because of the infernal grounds of the church, the king’s vills of Bogue and Dalri were at risk. He mentioned that the local villeins were now going to Trevercarcou parish for their spiritual needs, but that the infernal aura of the bogue church would likely spread unless seen to immediately by someone of authority in the church. Lastly, he suggested that a new spiritual leader should be provided for the parish of Bogue, and suggested that perhaps at the new church being built in Dalri, could serve the parish instead. It was briefly considered that Erlend might be put forth as the new priest, but Erlend objected. He preferred approach God through learning rather than through preaching.
William of Furness was elected to deliver this letter and he set off immediately with Corwynn mac Murchan. They walked to the castle of Borg and arrived as dusk was approaching on Saturday, the 27th of March. They were dismayed to find that Hugh de Morville was not at Borg, but across the Irish Sea at his lands in Cumberland. William did not want to delay alerting the authorities by waiting for Hugh to return or going to Cumberland to deliver the letter, so he decided to deliver it directly into the hands of Lord Uchtred himself. They spent the night at Borg, and the following morning, Easter Sunday, they participated in the morning mass. Then, while children of Borg were busy rolling their eggs down the earthen rampart of the castle, they set off toward Castle Fergus in the east.
They arrived in the midst of the royal Easter festivities and were welcomed to join in. As soon as he was able, William approached Fergus and handed him the letter explaining that it was originally intended for Hugh. Uchtred set the letter aside, saying he would read it later, but William urged him to read it immediately, saying that it addressed important matters that concerned the king’s lands. So Uchtred broke the seal and read the opening lines, then invited both William and his most trusted advisers into his private chambers for a consultation. The result of this was that Uchtred decided he would immediately head north with William, Corwynn, and the most trusted of his Gaelic lords to inspect Bogue for himself.
When they arrived at bogue they found the village to be empty. The church was much as Corwynn had last seen it, with the door broken in and with long scars resembling scratch-marks on the frame around it. Brown stains of blood marked the floor inside where the villeins had died and where the Christ figure had exploded. The empty graves in the churchyard had since been filled in, however; perhaps by some of the villagers. The vill itself was empty of people, except for those who still suffered from pox, for they had gone to Trevercarcou to celebrate Easter.
Not seeing much physical evidence of demonic possession on his tour of Bogue, Uchtred effectively shrugged and was about to turn and head back home. William, however, feared that Uchtred would take the whole affair too lightly and so he took the calculated risk of mentioning that Corwynn had witnessed the entire affair personally. Angry, Uchtred asked why William had not mentioned this to start with, and William merely pleaded that he assumed that Magus Thomas’ letter had explained everything already.
Uchtred then questioned Corwynn at length and insisted he accompany Uchtred to Trevercarcou, which he did. At Trevercarcou they found most of the villagers of Bogue and they were questioned in depth by Uchtred. The villeins confirmed what Corwynn had already said, and eventually Uchtred was satisfied that he now knew the truth. He then permitted William and Corwynn to return to Ken Muir, while he himself returned to Castle Fergus to develop a strategy to deal with the problem of Bogue. And that was the last anyone from the covenant heard about the affair for several weeks.