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Never Leave Your Monastery.  

They searched every nook and cranny of the monastery. They searched but they did not find. Not in the library, nor the sanctuary, nor in the infirmary, nor anywhere else in many stone-built chambers did they find the brother whom they had lost. They searched even the crypt and lower tunnels. They did not find him lingering in the caves of penitence and no one had seen him in the town below. although everyone confessed him to be a star novice, the young monk must have traveled off somewhere.  

It was at Chant that they first noted the absence. As the monks were getting ready, lighting candles, marking the huge book, and shuffling into choir stalls, some noticed an empty seat in the back row. Occasional absences at chapel must occur for various reasons and none of them thought anything of it. The monk must have fallen asleep in his cell. No one said anything. The chant commenced,

ss it must.

       When the monk did not show for supper the next day, his fellow novices became concerned. I do not say “worried,” mind you, for monks do not worry. Even so, young men like him do not skip meals, certainly not twice. They checked his cell again. He had not returned. As they could no longer put off the matter they immediately alerted Brother Zadoc, elder monk and novice master. He bade the novices search the entire monastery.

        On the sheer cliff by the wave-crashing sea Brother Zadoc moved through the monastery. The wiry figure went across creaking wooden walkways, down circling steps and dark corridors, into stone-piled towers, and up to white patios bright with the morning. He passed by other monks here and there working on the masonry, cleaning and sweeping, or strolling in meditation. They all knew the steps of his sandals, the ruffle of his habit, and the rattle of his beads. They did not even receive a glance from him. He kept his gaze down and arms folded within the grey-dark sleeves of his habit. He was a master monk, and would brook no distraction.

         The monastery, having been built into the cliff-face in the Third Age of the world, is a complex of passages and stairs. New monks rarely navigate her without getting lost. Even those professed of many winters must pause at times. Zadoc paused, although his winters were indeed known as his white beard testified. The Abbot  was awaiting him on the other side of the monastery. A serious situation had arisen. A monk had gone missing.

 

         The Abbot was prostrate before the altar in the Grand Chapel. A cloud of incense floated above. The smoke had swirled out of the thurible at dawn, and now it slowly drifted. The fragrance was not sweet and flowery, rather was it unearthly, having the sharp tinge of the etherial. The cloud drifted down and settled over Abbot, the high priest in adoration.

When Abbot heard Zadoc enter, he grabbed his crutches and placed them upright, and pushed and pulled himself up from the floor. It took some strength, but he was middle-aged and his arms were in good shape.

          Zadoc came and steadied him. He thanked him and addressed Zadoc first.

        “You took your time. I cannot imagine that even you would get lost in our home of many well-trodden turns.”

        “…only for a moment. However beloved may be our Whitehaven, she is in sooth a labyrinth. Most souls have all the world to get lost in. We have this monastery, but no monk can get lost in her for long. Our missing novice is wandering out there. That is a concern indeed. The world’s labyrinth is much more dangerous for him than is ours.”

         “Do not worry, brother. Angels watch over him. Besides, he was already lost before he went. Not in the world, lost, I mean. Admit you this; rather was he lost in the labyrinth of his own mind. He is the kind of monk who thinks too much. He gets lost in the mystery of things and watches not where his feet take him... What say you? Think you he was unhappy here?”

         “I did not percieve him unhappy. My guess is that he became weary of spirit, as novices often do. Too much study makes frail their spirit and they become susceptible to the Saturnian influence: they develop Melancholia. He must learn perseverance. So too all the monks: they are assuredly not perfect, not even one. Yet I dare say the formidable task of shepherding them is given to you...and believe it, God favors you.”

          “He favors me? I hope you are right. We prayed for the wayward novice all night. The Good Shepherd has heard our prayers and I have been offering thanksgiving. He has brought the lost lamb back to us already. We intercepted the lad returning. He must have gotten hungry and had misgivings about his adventure. Too often it’s the belly that brings souls back to reason. He was hoping to go unnoticed, as if his escapade were nothing. Monks cannot just come and go as they please. We shall hear his answers. Now be at hand and advise me. We must learn if he yet has a mind submitted to our Rule. If he does, you will let him in on our plan, tell him everything. May it turn his curious mind back here to his own brothers.” 

          Abbot began to work his way across the chapel. He went along the twelve Maurobic arches, using his crutches for the intervals. With a hollow click-clock the crutches struck against the stone tiles. Altitudes of crenelated ceiling and pine gables echoed the sound.

         Brother Zadoc went along. The wrinkles of the old one were deeply furrowed from his sagedom and his hair was white as snow. He glanced about with eyes sharp as an eagle’s. He soon caught sight of the prey: the wayward monk sitting there in a corner stall. The fellow in question had covered his head with his cowl, the monk’s hood. He wished to remain unindentified. He tilted his head away as if in meditation. He hoped to sit there unnoticed. All other monks had gone to their labours.

Zadoc did not miss the subterfuge.

           “Novice Jacob!” Zadoc called out in his raspy voice. “Abbot Cromna will speak with you now...!”  

Abbot and Brother Zadoc reached the center aisle. Zadoc genuflected as do all monks, but not Abbot. He could not. Even with crutches, the injury in his knees prevented him. Instead he bowed a deep bow, an act of slow and careful reverence.

The young brother maneuvered out of the choir-stall and hurried over to them. He doffed his cowl and bowed the cursory bow. The gesture of respect revealed something. Bruises clearly decorated the monk’s tonsured head on account of the recent misadventure.

             Abbot noticed the bruises, but said nothing.

             The three monks stood there in front of the sanctuary: Abbot Cromna, old Brother Zadoc, and Jacob the wayward novice. Somewhere above beyond the ceiling’s alabaster stonework, in the cleft of the rocks, maritime doves were cooing.

             Abbot spoke. “Brother Jacob, your friends have been looking for you. May God who is All-knowing not count your waywardness. We should discuss things, you and I. –not today however. But do stick around —will you? You may speak your mind freely with your Abbot and with Brother Zadoc here.”

              Jacob did not dare look at them.

              Abbot leaned on his crutches. He gazed a ponderous gaze up into the spaces above.

Jacob lowered his eyes. “. . . Master.”

              “Whatever you were doing in those woods, my son, you will explain to us, yes...but explain later... not now. The mind of a monk should always return to God first. Do you understand?”

“I understand, Lord Abbot.”

               “Therefore return your thoughts with us. You are far from perfect, admittably, but you are nevertheless accomplished in learning for your age. Therefore Brother Zadoc and I will know your thought on something... a bit of a mental puzzle that we have been pondering lately... A young monk with fresh mind like yours might be of assistance. Wouldn’t you agree Brother Zadoc?”

               “Even saplings have been known to yield worthy fruit, my lord...on occasion.”

Abbot took a deep breath. “We propose this: most folk do not accept anything “far-fetched,” especially what they cannot see, namely, what they can witness with their own eyes.”

 Jacob paused thoughfully and attempted an explanation. “—what I saw in the woods...the brothers must be calling it far-fetched, but—”

                “Keep focused...Jacob. Whatever went on out there will be addressed later. Put it aside for now. We have, in strict, an inquiry that is critical. And it is something that will interest you. Consider this a kind of in promptu quiz. Are you ready?”

               “May I prove ready, master...”

                “Then I will lay it out before you. It is about seeing...and believing. The proposal is this: every day people require that if something extraordinary is to be believed, they must see it “with their own eyes” or they will be quite slow to accept it ...especially things that sound far-fetched.”

 Jacob began to interprete his words aloud. “-if something extraordinary be believed...hmmm. There’s no doubt men are skeptical about many things beyond the range of everyday, and will refuse to believe anything far-fetched. Master, the most part of my life, and now my submission-years, have been here, up on these cliffs, thinking monkish thoughts with monks. By now I have become unfamiliar with the everyday thoughts of men.”

               “Not at all… Jacob. Monks are drawn from the ranks of men. So take an example from common life. Even monks use the expression: “When I see it with my own eyes, I’ll believe it...”

 The novice pondered a moment.

 “See it...all glory and splendor of the world? Shouldn’t a monk be happy enough to read of it in books? That’s what must have gotten into this monk. Desire to see the world, with my own eyes...all the mundane things that vanish away. Going after earthly and mortal things, vainglory, not thinking of THE glory everlasting. A knavish thing, what I did, going off like that...abandoning all the brothers. Permit me to remain a monk. Let me make up for my offense by the lowest chores and penance.”

 “Yes. . .you remain a monk...and we’ll see that you make up for it soon, be assured. But you are slow to follow my instruction. I repeat: our question has nothing to do with you. Right now something of high state vexes us. So consider the proposition squarely: most folk, even monks, do rely too much on the visible, as they say, “seeing it with their own eyes?”

Jacob paused, suspending his thought for a moment.“You want an answer from me, master, because of my abilities? I already have come up with something, but am surely too--”

“Then divulge it, but remember humility.” 

“As you say, master. Yes, I do grant the proposal, that such must be the case. How insightful the race of men –and how NOT! Most folk trust whatever is right up front...and that only. Most see nothing beyond it. Isn’t that how a magician gets away with his tricks? …and men see little of what’s really going on. Recently the old purblind hermit reminded me of something....what’s most valuable in life human eyes do not see.”

“The old hermit? He said that? Then rightly spoke that old raven. Heaven has a crystalline wisdom...and a contradiction: Physical sight is a lesser prize. Faith is the blessed way. Blessed are they who have NOT seen, and have believed.

Do you fathom the meaning, Jacob? They are the words of the Lord himself.”

“Visible proof: something for the physical sciences and mundane learning. That’s all good, but as my Abbot knows, not what Heaven rewards.”

 “Right... Now then; check this proposition: recall the individuals whom our Lord first called, who sojourned with him. They were men of faith...no? They were blessed in faith...but we wonder if less so than often imagined. We propose this: they had faith, Jacob, but not so great as we monks.”

“Master, do you speak in riddles? The Apostles walked with God himself, and He lived in their midst.”

“We know that,” he answered. “...but listen here: take something that is visible: any particular action that is a visible action. Men view it and usually know what is going on. Does such viewing require anything of faith? Not at all; nothing special found there. The same is true for those who actually saw the Christ and his miraculous works, back in the days when He walked the earth. Was great faith necessary for them? No, they saw miracles and they accepted what revelation teaches. We, on the other hand, we have NOT seen such things in our time; but we do believe nevertheless. So then: were the Apostles themselves, although blessed, more blessed than we monks, today in this last age of the world? Not at all! We have NOT seen. Blessed are they who have NOT seen. That’s us! We possess a blessed faith more than they! How can that be? We have learned to walk by faith, not by sight. The insight, I fear, leads to something of a paradox.”

 “Yes, my Lord Abbot... a paradox: defiance of common wisdom. In this matter it goes against the common notion seeing is better than believing. However, may I dispute with you on the Apostles? I say this: they also must have had greater faith than at first supposed. For they saw a man, outwardly a typical carpenter who eats bread, toils, sleeps, and all the rest, but they were informed that the same human was in fact the one true God: the invisible become visible: The Incarnation. It must have seemed ludicrous to most folk in those days. Even in our time it is still “a mystery.” Wouldn’t such a thing, seeing God in the flesh, take just as much faith, if not more? The Apostles were at least equal to us in faith.”

 “How true...you have made an excellent counterpoint-well said...but careful, boy...with us monks you are safe. The great clerics would take insult at your gainsaying. Better to feign ignorance with them. You would easily match even them with that little mercury in you. Pray ernestly lest you pride yourself on it. We wish to use your monkhood. Hold those thoughts, and turn now with us to another matter...

Monks and all servants of the Lamb should not esteem miracles without some caution. Wonders do arise that cause people’s eyes to widen; the visible miracles men often claim to witness, all the commonly known and famous ones: impossible rescues, complete and permanent healings, levitations and invulnerabilities, telepathy and bilocations, solar and lunar phenomena, future visions and apocalypses, and many others. Monks in due time accept and recognize them ...provided that the Soothfold does not object. Correct?” 

The novice did not respond. Why did the Abbot treat on these things, being so obvious an instruction?

  Elder brother Zadoc, who had been listening, suddenly interjected.  “Abbot himself has become privy to amazing news, Jacob. —news of a great miracle.” Wrinkle-faced with many winters and his faded habit hanging on his wiry frame, Zadoc’s eagle-eyes were stabbed with wisdom. Abbot nodded to him, giving the go-ahead. The old one fixed his gaze upon Jacob. “Ready your mind again, Jacob. Of this you may speak to no one. Hear it: raising the dead is no longer something we may dismiss for saints of legend...” There was a sudden flapping of doves rushing off somewhere above. “Mirabile dictu, a simple priest has found the power in his hands!”

“A priest...raising the dead?”

Abbot now spoke in a whisper, as one who wonders. “With chosen prayers, with incantations long forgotten, a certain priest performed a resurrection ex monumentis. Through his hands Heaven restored someone who had been in the tomb over a year!”

“Were it a trick of some sort,” remarked Zadoc, “our experts would have detected it.”

“—nothing else can explain it!” said Abbot. “Other resurrections were done as well, everything in the presence of infallible witnesses. They have testified to what they saw.”

“By the saints, a priest can do that?” Jacob asked. “Which priest? Is he one of ours?”

There came no immediate answer, only a reluctant pause. Abbot glanced over his shoulder. He was nervous about something. “The priest remains anonymous. We admit that he is prudent to do so. He has shown his work to few others, to the Soothfold in strict.”

 “My lord Abbot...that one of our Ammouric priests can raise the dead...I need to see it to believe it. He must be a holy priest indeed.” 

Zadoc interjected to make a correction on that point: “Dutiful...he is said to be as dutiful...but holiness of a noteworthy sort his superiors never reported. Heaven-above knows why the power is granted him. Why should so obscure a cleric be chosen for so famous a miracle?”

No answer was offered. Abbot gazed off somewhere to interior distances. The pigeons cooed a soft cooing.

 “There is something else,” Abbot said, furling his eyebrows and frowning. “There has been a proposal. It is something strange, something...diabolical!”

He leaned in close to Jacob. “Listen to me, Brother Jacob. You have heard of the Friars of Whigg on the continent, have you not?”

“I have, master. They are our brothers in Christ.”

“Indeed they are, Jacob, but they are also proud and bitter rivals. May God shed his mercy on them. Some of them have unhealthy obsessions. They say this miracle-worker of a priest...they say...that he should use his power to help the endangered realms of the world. The Friars say: let him raise certain deceased personages, men who know how to draw upon mysterious forces. Let him raise men of famous repute.”

“...famous men...you mean; from long ago, from a previous age?”

“Yes, but particular men, powerful lords. They want him to use his miraculous hands on the wisemen and wizards of Nystol!”

At that exclamation the whole flock of pigeons in the dome above was stirred to a panic of flapping flight.

“What? I doubt that Heaven would ever approve that! Raise up wizards long extinct?” Jacob exclaimed. “Nystol’s many towers were desolated. Flames consumed them all, their libraries and all magic scrolls. It was Divine Justice!”

Abbot and Brother Zadoc exchanged uneasy glances.

“—not all wizards...and not every scroll did the fires destroy.” Zadoc warned.

Some shadow just then passed over the three.

Was it a cloud drifting over? Jacob looked, but could not determine the source. Abbot hesitated. “This priest—” He turned and whispered to Zadoc. The elder nodded back. A theologian’s mind was needed on such matters:

“...it is written,” Zadoc said in his dreamy yet precision-voice, “both the righteous and the wicked must rise at the Resurrection. That’s right, the wicked also shall rise. You see, Jacob... there are certain gifts, that, when Heaven bestows them upon frail mankind, no conditions against their usage are decreed. Heaven freely gives them. Freely may they be used, be it either in wisdom or in folly. A priest may, with this power given, restore whomsoever he wishes. He could wake the wizards from their pagan sepulchres, the sweet incense of Heaven drifting across their boney nostrils.”

  “—ushering them back from the abyss!” Abbot turned away so as not to show his consternation.

 “Unto what possible end...?” Zadoc said. “Yes, you are wondering.” His eyes flashed with a stare that penetrates souls. “It would be this: by their powerful spells the wizards could not only restore civilization but also push back the troll-horde. Once and for all they could overthrow the creature of the North, the deathless master of the black realm.”

 “You mean all that heresay about the ghost-creature in Nzul?”

 It was no mere halfling’s fable. The Dire of Melancholy, a powerful Archdruid of an unknown race, ruled the distant feudatory of Nzul upon Northernmost Whitehawk. He was the dark lord of our time. The ancient wizards had countered him, and though they had driven him back, he had proved impossible to destroy. Rumour had it that he slept in his impregnable fortress. The wise knew that he slept not.

Abbot was searching Heaven with his eyes. He glanced around in suspicion as if his words were too loud.

“Several high level prelates have agreed to the plan. It sounds reasonable, but I warn you, there is something profoundly unwise with this sort of “practical” thinking. I am amazed at how many monks and clerics have consented. How can they even think of abusing a power that the only Lord can give? If He gives power to raise the dead, would He not also grant the authority to banish that apostate creature, and drive him back to the pit without resorting to ancient magic?”

“The Friars do not realize,” Zadoc added, “how awakening long-extinct wizards of the hopeless epoch would be...catastrophic... achieving much worse than that creature of Melancholy could ever himself do in the world. They must be corrected.”

Abbot declared: “As Godmouth and Eldane of every Whitehawk Kingdom and all the Furthlands beyond, I must act.” He paused in the carefulness of a grave command. “You Jacob, will be our voice. We bid you write a philosophical tract; use all your first-hand knowledge. Spare no precise language, nor couch cozy words. Spill as much ink as you need, tearing into the demented theologies of those Friars.”

      The Abbot and Brother Zadoc disclosed other things to Jacob as well, things that most novices would not comprehend. I cannot here divulge all of it. Suffice to know this: I was to write out a detailed argument against the folly. They considered me the right pick, eventhough I had left the monastery and come back. You see, among all the monks, I alone had encountered an actual wizard of Nystol.

 “Get to work on it; that will keep you clear of trouble.” Abbot abruptly turned away. He and the theologian Zadoc made way back across the Grand Chapel, crutches clicking as they went.

The pigeons were no longer cooing.

Within days I completed the tract in Latin and submitted the pages to Brother Zadoc. He looked it over for errors. It was published the week I left for Hordingbay; my first and only divine treatise: Jacob of Whitehaven: De Resurrectione Magorum. Two winters have since passed.

The wool-frocked Friars of Whigg, our theological adversaries, of course got a hold of it, as we intended. They have opposed my admonition as a quarrelsome display, angrily scratching out in writing that I am a heretic. These brothers profess that there is nothing at all wrong with disturbing the dead...not if its for a good cause. They are quite out of their depth. Do honest people imagine that such an ingenious and evil spirit may be overcome with a little magic? 

The ancestors titled him “the Dire” for a reason, you know. True, many tales men have told of that ghostly creature who sits upon the Throne of Melancholy, but does anyone know the real story on him? Contrary to the presumption of the Friars, against him not even the wizards of Nystol ever dared, not as far as the histories indicate, and that was back when their magic was at full measure.

Let the wizards remain condemned to oblivion; their restless sleep beneath desolated Nystol. We who are believers need not their magic.

Could we ourselves not move mountains with but a mustard seed of faith? I myself went against that mirthless lord of Melancholy, and without magic. Not only have I been to his court, but I have returned to tell of it. The Friars, the “great intellects” of Whigg, sit all safe in their own library of seven ivory parapets, fattened on sumptuous fare, reminiscing holy poverty in woolen frocks. They have never actually espied that unholy minion, nor the troll horde.

They have no clue what’s out there.

Months away and miles across unforgiving wildernesses and icy wastelands, there is a place accursed, where civilization’s exiles stalk the night beneath the aegis of an infernal archon.

It is the frigid region beyond the Northern forests, where is bounded the not-very-hospitable principality of Nzul. There, overlooking all, stands the impregnable fortress, the dreadnought known as the Arc du Baffay.

To get there, you must sail from Hordingbay. You must first traverse the forest that “forgives no traveler.” The trees are tall and magnificent. The primordial form of those pines hint that they are from a time beyond human knowledge. You can even see the swaying tops from here, not so far from the monastery. They are the entrance to a vast and true wilderness.

Those who have never been through it politely call those pine-forests “The Timberhills.” But from of old it was called “the Lokken,” a name that has persisted in several languages even to this late age of the world.

They extend even to the remote Northward shores of the island. So before I tell of the hellish dungeons of that villainous overlord, or speak on the long-robed wizards of Nystol, let me admonish the monks who are new. Go not into that forest. Take it from someone who knows. Seek no familiarity with the charm of the woods. Do not think to be going in a just little ways. It is no place for a monk’s meditation, only his doom.

Doom found me, my friends, a doom that is worse than death. We monks, more than anyone, know that there are things worse than death. Doom was the price I paid for my folly, a folly begotten by Pride. To have left this monastery, without permission, was indeed Pride. To go where angels fear to tread was folly, and to journey blindly across tangled horizons was doom.

The truth entire I now dare present to you, brothers, be it with or without your pardon, omitting nothing; knowing full well that I could burn at the stake for what I am about to divulge. But it is the best way to furnish you some peace of mind, for in your hearts lingering doubts over me must certainly remain. 

My mode is plain, not flowery or embellished with fancy words and high rhetoric, or with clever descriptions of sunsets and landscapes. This is how the words of a monk should be; unadorned, just like the simple habit and rope he wears. He views all created things as of less worth.

I exhort you therefore in telling of these things to weigh not only our common weakness, but the sad end of all things unless we monks, each one of us, accomplish some worthy reparation for this world so forgetful of God.

So it is with due warning and the earnest appeal to Heaven’s mercy that I now tell the tale…

1
 

The storm was heralded by an vision of the great winged Agathodaemon Ambrosius, the lion-headed, who stood on the summit of a mountain in command of the winds and recited the seven hundred seventy-seven unwitten verses.

Thannato Excorpus

 Prophetias Mercurii Yod

      A Storm APProacheS          I   

The testimony of the wandering monk, masterful at the quarterstaff, who traversed lands treacherous and unknown, entering mysterious realms, and encountered many fantastic beings. It was not for treasure, or fame, or some earthly accomplishment that he went. The Spirit from on high drove him into the wilderness, there to oppose the very chamberlain of Darkness, the ancient creature within the impregnable Arc du Baffay.

Tell, o traveler of worlds long vanished, tell of that great contest, and everything the monk endured to get there, and fail not though some call it outlandish, for you will convey a light to those who cannot see, a lantern for those in dungeons dark.

Start with the terrible storm from the Vastess Ocean which battered the monastery in the fourth winter of Abbot Cromna, the morning after the feast of St. Placidus. Massive black billows gathered upon the horizon and blocked the rays of the rising sun. Hulking thunderheads overtook all the Western shores. Within the first hour they were looming overhead. Above the monastery the fleet of juggernauts rushed like marauder-ships, black sails unfurling, hurling hailstones and thundering like giants. It was a tumult unexpected. The dark billows did not drift, but moved as if by will. All the sky was in revolt.  

Flashes of lightning shocked the air and cracked out thrilling rumbles. Some suspected that such tumult indicated the disapproval of Heaven. The tempest blasted the Orchard of Catafrax with frost and ravaged all the countryside. It took heavy toll on the peasant’s farms in particular. Nor was the property of any free lord spared.

After that it decimated the ranks of the gardens, tearing down branches. Glistening sheets covered all the landscape. After the wind ceased a pale shroud of mist blanketed the ground. A creeping whiteness moved across the landscape, as if a thing alive, searching.

Strict justice was exacted upon the weak. Was it not that mischievous spirit, come to pour out trials and temptation upon everyone, even rope-girded monks?

But with all that, in the darkness just before first light, monks  mustered in peace, cloaked in shadow.

Let nothing hinder monastic duty. So enjoins the Rule.

In that primordial dark, as every time, monks assemble, stepping from shadows into the partially lit choir rows. A thunderclap rattled the sacred vessels of the sanctuary. Candles flickered. They covered their heads with their cowls. The chanting began.

Monstrous blasts shook the air. Outside lightning blinked across the umbraged sky. Far away in the hills the pagans came out of their caves to study the tracts of lightning and discern the pedigree of forgotten gods.

      The thunder passed over until the storm moved off.

Monks pushed back the hoods.

 

 

. Magnum Silentium,, the Grand Quietude,, had not been so quiet.

 

 

Enwick,, a sturdy and earnest new monk,,, some sixteen winters, now entered the chapel,. He was mature for his age in speech and bearing. A wholesome and well-built fellow,, he was also bright, a sure bet to become one of the Christ--crowned priests.

He stood before the assembly of monks. He must be scolded, for failing to rise for prayer. He knelt down before the elder monks, doffed his cowl, and bowed his head; .

“I missed the first hour... ”I ask for penance; ... it was not for oversleeping that I missed.”” He bent all the way down to touch the floor with his head.

Brother SilasOssica,, the disciplinarius,, was required to do a brief interrogation in the case of novices. Ossica Silas was a black--skinned Mahanaxaran and bald,, a formidable man for his sharp gaze, but always squinting and coming off as slightly amusedcynic,., but he was not so.

“You say you did not sleep in? Why did you missThen why? Spooked by a little thunder?””

 “ “——a distraction held me back, a thing strange:: I spotted something abroad in the dark, but lit up by lightning flash,... something not of our understanding...... a creature moving through the woods....I seen it from my cell window,, a supernatural beast,....monstrous......””

“How interesting,, Brother Enwick.””  

The monks became all very interested at this. Enwick did not look at them. His eyes were fixed on SilasOssica.

Enwick added: “......it must have crawled up from one of the caves:; a dragon; . It froze me up in fright.

“a dragon....”

“Yes...the kind that usburn down whole cities you know. Have you seen the skull in the Regulian library? …they still exist. They snooze in the deepcave for an aeon,. The earth herself, burdened with the sins of men, awakens them. The thing is out there.””

Silence of incomprehension followed, then a burst of laughter; ; mirth in the chapel where monks must beg high Heaven to overlook innumerable transgressions. Was there any monk who was not amused? Such an imginary excuse was at least worthy of gaining a dispensation.

“Enwick...the only snoozing going on was in YOUR bed!”

More laughter…BSout this monk, without failing in the tone of respect, raised his voice sternly. “ “The city of Galadif worships the image of a dragon, a dragon instead of the one true God, dont they?””

The monk-laughterslowly faded away. Galadif had been Whitehaven’s biggest failure. We had never suceeded in bringing the gospel to those ignorant folk.

SilasEnwick was a red--haired Ael. Ossica thought it better to treat any Aels with leniance,, having no kindred of that nation himself. The monks

 

of Whitehaven dwell upon the grandthe island St. Aldemar, called Kiluria of old. Twhhe Aels had recently conquered not even a generation past.

Ossica squinted,. Ael or not,, Enwick must learn not ever to contradictraise voice against superiors. Enwick’s repeated faults had did not gained him anything but credibility.

“In that town of Galadif the pagan imagination never rests,, Brother Enwick. If you imagined the thing a danger,, why did you not come at once to WARN your brothers? Enough then of childish stories,, you are a monk now. Even were such a beast yet alive to crawl up here,, quid refert nobis?

 

What is that to us? Does a monk fear a created being,, a merely finite being? Or does he fear THE uncreated and infinite being? Or, in your case, did you fear the beast so much and God so little, that you would let it hinder your sacred duty?””

Enwick kept a humble posture. He contrived no answer where no answer was possible,.

The disciplinarian assigned no penance. Enwick lifted himself from the floor to depart. He turned about and stepped away. But with sudden start he lifted head and wheeled back around— —a wordless protest.

With this boldness Brother SilasOssica’’s eyes widened. “Be not one to contrive idle stories,, Enwick! ! Such fantastic stories! ! …excuses thatwhich bring triviality to these sacred halls!!””

Enwick stilled his tongue. He remained and bowed again.

Ossica warned,,“ “Well......have you anything else to say?””

“——they are NOT lies,, by my own marrow. I have only this; ; there is some great monster abroad... and all you who make mirth of it:: climb up to the crow’’s nest and spot the horned beast with your own eyes! ! The thing is creeping around the woods!!””

 monksWith cheerfully satisfaction all monks went off to their day labors,, some to remove ice,, others to look after the animals,, others to copy the manuscripts. They had been well pleased with Enwick’’s imaginative outburst. Several curious monks however,, surprised that Enwick did not retract,, wondered if it were more than entertainment. They wanted to take a look.

Novice Jacob Magister was also curious.

         Seven ascended, ...a line of monks went, moving spiralwise,, upon step and stair,, circling many levels.

At last they filed up to the highest area; ;

into a narrow spire where,, far--seeing as at sea, for a ship’’s vantage, a “crow’’s nest” swayed. swayed.One may view all points on the horizon.

Looking downward one sees, beyond the sandaels of monks, one could see the enormous vessel of ancient wood and rock:: the stone-crafted ship called Whitehaven monastery. The founders built her high on a crag overlooking the Vastess OceanSea; ; a natural defense against ever--menacing sea--raiders.

To the North layis the Orchard of Catafraxforest. Most who travel in the forbidden place are visible in part.

One scans to the South and beholds all the salty sea; , and spots tall sails of many--masted ships breeching the horizon.

To North and East the busy fishing-town Whilom hums below below.

Not much farther beyond town broods the primordial Timberhills, that wilderness broods reaching every shore of the grand island.  It stretches across the Northern horizon without any apologies,, without hosting a single comforting sight of human dwelling. On this our rule keeps fresh the warning.

There in the crow’s nest we all stood,, seven monks,.

We peered into distances from the crow’s nest, and let the drizzle of the cloudy morning cool our cheeks.

Spry brother Zadoc was the first to speak:: “There is something astir…faintly seen beyond… can just barely spot it.…barely. It does have a creaturely look......as Enwick said. Through the forest branches.......do you see? To the West and North......just below the thicks and fogs. Anyone else mark that?”

“Over that way? I do not see anything,,”” another monk said.

“The mist upon the wood is just too thick.

 Of course who has eyes sharp as yours,, Zadoc?

 Your eagle-vision can pick out ghosts through thick clouds.”

 Brother Formosus saw something. “ “Aye, there stirs something abroad ......true,, I grant that much....something  moving......reddish segments; ; and what could be golden fins. One can grant how Enwick mistook a dragon......””

            “You have never seen a deep--dwelling dragon,, have you?”” Jacob said.“ “So you cannot tell. Therefore it might not be a dragon,, or again it might be; ; and if so,, one which outlived the centuries.” Being just a novice Ihe should not have added in a simple opinion to demonstrate learning. But I continued my vain dissertation.“

       “In the bestiaries some of those are depicted,, some others having segmenta,, and in the encyclopediac manuals  of Guy of Xaragia it is described......” I finally realized what I was doing and cut short the vanity. Monks care little to answer or add to the scholarly notes of novices.; ..

A certain old man was up there in the crow’s nest with us. He also made the long climb. All the way up to the topcrow’s nest he had trusted his spindley- legs. In a tattered black robe, he sat and kept his peace. This mysterious one was from the ancient KilurianKilurian city--state Mithaeron. He was after the appearance of an old raven,, perched and ponderous. Older than Zadoc, he was nearly blind,, his whitish eyes aglow with unearthly vision. And hoary was he, his beard being like frost on forest hemlock. The other monks out of routine politeness awaited his word.

He had taken a narrow place on a little bench of that high porch.

“All ye monkish tongues,, keep ye them still now. Be ye silent a spell.”” he said. An seeming exceedingly protracted series of moments slipped by. The thin furrowed lips at last parted and moved. “Ye brethren cannot say what goeth ‘neath the eldark trees,”” He spoke, as in an utterance. “ “Hark well; ; it is,, in sooth,, a beast,, perilous indeed. The novice was right;  a wyrm of the intermundane world,, and the devil’’s spirit. She comes disguised......few would guess it. Rickety wagons come,, aye,, wagons rolling in line,. Squeaking wheels, do ye hear? Those who have ears let them hear it...... and hear me:: a traveling troupe of players and actors cometh,, the dragon’’s servants,, cunning folk. They are the troubadours of Galadif. Once before came they hither,, many winters ago,, in the days of my heathenry. A, danger for souls be they,, as much as the dragon Vorthragna herself!!””

The many-headed dragon Vorthragna, hydra-progenitor of all dragons, according to lore…but hHow could he possibly know it were actors? None could hear sounds of wagons.

This old one was not like the rest of the elders. He was not a rope--girded monk like the brethren. He wore something like dark sackcloth, being a penitent man who sometimes lodgeddwelt with monks; : he was the hermit Maragald. (now,, brothers,, long since garnered unto the Lord).

......keep far from them,, and from all that carnival,, beloved of God. Weigh you these things I say:: for the sake of bread and circuses, entire nations have floundered. Do ye few monks,, mere bellies,, hope to resist such worldly entertainments by your own strength? Already some of you salivate. It is the Devil’’s long preparation...... Fast and do penance instead. Resist the devil and he will take flight!!””

“——entertainments?””

“Amen I say to you,, beware of them. Of entertainments few are there for helping souls. Most are for hindrance. The clans of Galadif will put on a show for you to purvey the cult of the dragon. Meditate on God’sthe holy laws instead. Enter not the confines and tents of the wicked.

Blessed is the righteous man,, who is like a tree planted by flowing waters.””

“Old raven,, how is it that you,, who are nearly blind,, can be keen of circus wagons?”” I asked.“ “Even Brother Zadoc’s eagle-eyes could not penetrate the mist. No,, the thing is something of a ......””

“Hold your tongue,, boy,,”” warned another monk,, a professed. “ “We weary of your questioning and hapless mental display. You yet have not learned to act as a proper monk. Have respect and advance not against your elders.””

“Advance against the old one,?”” I countered. “ “......I do not see why you press on me for that.””

“You just did it again,,”” noted Brother Zadoc. ““A novice should not even dare speak in defense of himself.””

“Enough......”” Maragald said. “ “Scold not a novice too much; ; yourthe Rule warns. The young monk Jacob is a brave soul,, although sometimes he strays like a little lamb. Right wellly is made the alarm. What novice Enwick saw was not vain fancy. I say to you,, he saw in earnest a fire--breathing dragon......in spirit. Fire--breathing,, yes,, not physic fire,, but the scathefire; ; that is,, Hell’’s doctrines that which scorch the soul. You will shortly discern what I mean. They seem to be merely colorful wagons,, happily decorated,, golden fins. They are not what they appear— —aye,, just like a lavish marble sepulchre,, or the works of the pagan poets:: beautiful exterior,, sweet to hear,, but all corruption within,, fraught with decay and dead men’’s bones.

Amen I say to you:: here is the great beast faining with cleverly disguised. Come,, be not fooled,, ye monks. Do you think that because a man be blind that he cannot see? Not only is this old raven ableam I able to see all round,, but by the power of The Ancientmost

I see many things thatwhich come to pass,,

for I utter this and say that,, and the days unfurl it all

like some fateful scroll ......Heh? The Angel has touched my lips with the burning coal. Ancientmost uses them as an oracle,, that he may give warning to wayward souls.

So harken well,, all ye:: ware be thou,, each one,, of that serpentine idol; ; pray lest empty curiosity present you her temptations,, and you be swallowed alive,, just as a snake swallows a sparrow that by stealth it has seized.””

Maragald often gave such warnings. At that moment the Eastern sky,, murky with the retreating storm,, rumbled its last thunders,, as if to confirm his words. The wagons advanced nearer from the Western forest.

The oldelderly hermit continued.

“Learn,, you monks......the eye of the spiritual man catches sight of things visible to the spirit......for by grace does the veil of this terrestrial world thin,, and not by human will.

I say to you,, the smoky magic of a dragon’’s breath clouds a mystery.

The sun blotted out of the sky! ! There! ! A lethal mist drifts across the landscape. Only the eye of a right--living monk can penetrate it. You newly--made monks and you novices,, heed my council:: do not doubt the power that you have been given. Vouchsafed,, did ye not,, to use Heaven’’s gift when you donned the habit? Swore you not,, to war against the eldest enemy of both God and Man? If fleshly eyes of the flesh hinder a monk to see only wagons and horses,, then by disbelief that is all ye will see,, no more.””

“......and that is all we can see,, Maragald,,”” commented Zadoc,, ready to counter anything irrational.“ “......and all that we should see. Forgive me,, venerable one,, but you bring too much caution. You are overzealous. We accept reasonable things,, and we are not to be afraid....strong in the spirit we have blessedness in our vision.””

      Maragald seemed to frown, but he let go a slight smile under his beard. He lifted his mystical raven-eyes heavenward. Eventhough he is the “raven,” and “mad,” all could see that an unearthly Wisdom lit up his face.

      “You are not so keen as you suppose, Zadoc! Careful; lest tainted human reasoning foul your divine science. Blind monks...blind are ye who say that you can see! Brothers, does not attachment to the flesh blind a monk from the truth ever-abiding? Use your spirit-eye. The mist of the forest conceals a gruesome terror,, a great dragon,, DRACONEM! ! conjured up out of the dark places of the world. It is nothing less than, Vorthragna,, mother of all dragons- dwelling--deep.

She makes way along the threshold of the great forest. The horned power will turn to approach the town walls. Not satisfied with devouring the king’’s deer,, and bored with burning the peasants’’ crops,, she will instead go creeping about the orchard.

She hopes to surprise the unwary,, or to seize and devour idle townsfolk ,and to tempt rope--girded monks with magic.””

So he warned. Was he right? Monks should be vigilant after all. They should take seriously the rambling sermon,, even of an eccentric old hermit.

The beast moved in wavy motion like some serpentine hunter,, a sphinx leaning close upon the new Jerusalem. The red wagons trundle along the rolling path, bobbing like a line of fishing flotillas as they passed through the swells of mist. Here was an ancient mischief wrapped in mist. Seven wagons in number were they,, and seven horses drew them,, their heads sporting decorous gear,, crowned with golden fins. It was the seven--headed dragon of prophecy,. The haggard hermit lifted his hoary head and spoke again.

“Inside those wagons sit enchanters.

Just as in the prophecy you monks have heard,.

They wear the diadems. Like the secret army thatwhich waited

in the belly of the wooden gift--horse for the Trojans,,

they will not appear until they are within the outer walls.

And the Harlot of Babylon sits upon the scarlet Beast,,

crowned with a display of brass horns.

It is a troupe of those who go about plying cunning tales,,

and with shameful masks they hypnotize souls.

They do the work of Hell,, wandering through the world seeking whomsoever they might ensnare. From beyond the great forest they come and will pitch their tents in the yards of Catafrax.””

  Brother Ulcrist,, master trainer of guardian--monks,, a dark--eyed dark--haired Ataluran,, had also come to the crow’s nest. He spoke up. ““What possibly could be diabolic or cunning with a band of actors and performers?””

              “Are you not an adept of fist and staff,, Brother Ulcrist? How then can you be so unlearned in the spiritual contest?”” Maragald spoke a plaintive speechly. “Do you not teach the new monks of such things anymore? Do you forget the Sapphire Instruction? Do you monks let down your guard and welcome now everyone here,, even the pit--borne devils,, in order to please men and their ways? These performers are like sorcerers,, they have a way of summoning spirits,, the extinct gods raised up anew as demons.

Whether or not they be wise to it,, they are doing it:: tools of Hell are they, ,like the ignorant men who crucified our Savior,, even venerable brother Anherm admitted as much.”” (Anherm of Whigg......that was my former tutor, of Latin, one just recently fallen asleep in the Lord,, our famous and most beloved brother,, envy of the Friars). The old raven continued:: “Anherm  agreed on this; ; the actor is an illusionist who beguiles with drama,, and wears the unholy masks of old demon--gods,, reviving by artful display their manipulations and mischievous tales. I ask you,, would a true Christian wear a mask? Be it not the contrivance of old vine--crowned Bacchus and his goat--riding revelers,, a demon--god stirring up the maniacal imaginations from erstwhile pagan time?

              Ah yes; ; we welcome the actors and gaze in fascination upon their glamour. Will the thorn--crowned King of Kings have anything ado with such a libidinous herd of goats?

Rather,, He will say to them Depart from me,, ye accursed,, for I never knew thee.

Indeed,, when he comes he will not delay,, but he will separate the goats from the sheep......””  With that sermon,, the brethren, who were here and there and  had heard all,, with hasteily departed from the crow’’s high nest.

 

 

 

Ye monks of future time:: if you find this tome in some forgotten corner of the monastery,, then know that rather has it found you. Thumb through the leaves,, but do not dismiss it as just another fantastic yarn. It is not an idle tale fabricated by superstitious men fading away. There are treasures are stored herein thatwhich monks have made earnestly laboured to preserve. I say to you:: they communicate many mysteries,, and just as the sunlight scatters the dragon’’s mist blanketing the lands,, so too may these words clear away your doubts.

     Brother Jacob’s translation of The Black Book

      

The DarK ProphecieS                II                               

Of the dragon and her entertainers we would soon learn more than enoughall too well about the dragon and its entertainers. Town-ie-boys boundedcarried up the monastery steps with the news.

They reported that the circus’s- guildsmen were “ “unusual indeed,,”” the sort of characters heard tell of only in old rhymes:: quick--fingered jugglers,, some rakish elf--kin and dwarfish folk,, lanky half--giants,, together with terribly stalwart men:: “ “Sons of Hercules,,”” well--hewn wrestlers and shaven--headed boxers; ; horsemen and cavaliers,, gallant experts at jousting,, (they were rumoured to be true knights, no actors),, and fencers acrobatic,, with a pair of jesters. Even sultry dancers from the East gave a show. And,, as destiny would have it,, a magician lurked about,, sable--robed and mysterious.

Tents were erected,, and colorful banners; ; the bait prepared.

A musical introduction began......the organ triumphal.

The strangers waited for the townsfolk to come running,, which of course they did,, and without delay.

No monkone of the monastery came running,. oh no...

Twelve elders counsel the Abbot of WhitehammerWhitehaven,, concerning the governance of the sacred enclosure,, and they advise him on any question respecting divine teaching for all the churches of the Whitehawk league.

That day,, word came to the twelve of the circus invasion.

Can any news bring an elder monk to become alarmed?

The twelve proceeded into the stone--piled hall of councils with Abbot Cromna to discuss the matter. What should be done about it, if anything?

They do not run,, but slowly slowly process in. They sit on ancient stone benches and each elder may speak without interruption. Abbot presides.

He sits not on a high throne but a stonework bench,, equal in level to the others. After Abbot involks the help of God, Eagle--eyed brother Zadoc,, mercurial theologian,, worn but sturdy elder,, was first to speak.

“In keeping with our sacred custom,, my brothers,, I propose that monks descend and explore this uncommon thing,, this tournament-circus, but permit them not to attend displays of acting. I admit that Maragald is right. Let not any of you lambs stray near that many--horned beast who salivates,, and who calls away the townsfolk with fantastical allurement.””

The elders all nodded. Beards hove down and back up. This counsel,, agreed,, was a stern one,, but was thought best. Younger monks like myself were there as well,, who may only listen,. But they also hummed in approval.

Elder brother Jonah,, a man from Yahoros,, as Abbot,, sounded soft words like a dove giving warning. “

“The serenity we keep here,, this remote perch

in its contemplation, should not be taken for granted.

This peaceful watch upon skyward crags; ;

it is a haven set by the churning shores of the sea.

So let it remain. The wWorld’sly vexing must not disturb us.

Nay,, when it comes to men of the world......

you cannot deny them their entertainments and daily mirth; . No one can help that, but it is written:: Woe to you who laugh,, for you shall weep and mourn. We monks are not men of the world. Our duty is to guard these sacred precincts,, a place for men to seek refuge after the world drinks down their lives.

White-hammer of Uriel Archangelus guard thou these poor souls! ! Therefore I bemoan,, let no unworthy contamination of false gods outrage this place,, where the Kingdom of Heaven falls tangent upon the sphere terrestrial sphere.””

Again the elder monks affirmed,, humming in concord and stroking their beards. All seemed decided on this......but were not all  decided.

Outside the drizzle began to slaken; ; clouds opened for the beaming sun and scattered the grey. Someone in that chamber,, not an elder,, made a proposal for reconsideration. It was crane--like brother Formosus,, wise in book learning but not in years, and nevertheless granted leave to speak.

“Let the elders come to agreement. Will the beast and musical horns enchant our townsfolk as was done with the men of Galadif?–beguile them from their fiefs or from their families,, only to yoke them into idolatrous submission? Who will prepare the harvest? Who will feed the children of Heaven?......who will feed the monks?! ! Nay,, trusted brothers should be sent down to shoo away the overbold adversary.””

Consternation was set on the brows of those elder monks as they sat on those stone benches.

“It will pass,,”” Brother Zadoc said. “ “On second thought, tThere is much that is praiseworthy in the old dramas,, and the peasants or townsmen do not trespass in learning from the old pagan wisdom. By seeming disinterested in the whole affair, we are preaching: something else captivates monks; ; the wisdom of what is immeasurablyy sublimee,, the ever--abiding Word. Our prayers,, therefore,, and the unending worship; ; these protect Whilom- town and WhitehammerWhitehaven,, the monastery--upon--the sea.””

The theologian’’s learning was beyond question. He was an example for all. In his youth he had stolen a pear from the sacred orchard of Catafrax. He had requested a stern penance. So many years under harsh conditions he had worked at the monastery windmill.

Next a certain monk set back his cowl,, and lifted his chin. He was one who was ancient,, and whose look I had imagined to resemble a pelican,, (a which joyous fowlly that feeds her young plucking at her own chest). Brother Abel, was a native of the distant sacred land Vesulum,, whose anscestors had been desert nomads. In a raspy voice he gave confident utterance.

“Inítium sapiéntiæ timor Dómini. Remember,, you monks,, it was the Lord our God who made heaven and earth.

Eve was our first mother.

It was curiosity that drew her and distracted her from garnering the acceptable fruits. Had she instead been not so anxious to sate her hunger for something new,, as much as we monks are anxious about dazzeling our eyes,, she would have ignored the climbing serpent and kept working.

The fall of our race would not have transpired.

It has brought all the evils of the world,, my friends.””

(Brother Abel was truly old,, the oldest, over one hundred years). He added,,“ “Aye,, true enough......but then the story of Man

would never have been told,, the beast never confronted,,

Man never redeemed,,

and the Lord may never have opened our way into even greater revelation......fellowship with the divine.

In the end how beneficial was the mistake of Eve!!””

Abbot Cromna paused and stroked his beard over and over,.

Brother Abel’s remarks were enigmatic and meant to go either way. Did it make Abbot nervously?. All were hush. All awaited his word. His watchful owl--eyes glanced to interior spaces. Finally he spoke his mind:. “

“Think about it,, all ye monks,. Long have we regreted what has become of Galadif. Whow we failed to convert the men of that cityf Galadif. What shame before the Lord. So it was,, but II will not have those idolatrous cannibals come here and REvert the men of Whilom!!””

So the decision was made. Eventhough it did not seem like so terribly dangerous or crucial a thing,, when it comes to sacred matters, one must never assume. The Abbot picked a few monks, including Formosus. Of course why he nominated Jacob Magister, a novice, must be ascribed only what destinies a mysterious God designs’.

Abbot blessed the convoy of monks and addressed them. “You monks go into the yards of Catafrax and warn souls. If you find any peasant,, townsman,, or noble,, otherwise upright,, but who of a sudden is forsaking duty,, the sweat of the brow,, in exchange for glitter,, for glamour,, whom the empty display has captivated,, rebuke him. With gentle wordly do so,, as behooves the monkis fitting. Remind him of the Judgement,, and thereby deliver his soul and preserve your own.””

So Formosus and Jacob were off together with two others assigned to the minor expedition. (Those two I do not name,, to save them a little embarrassment).

The custom of entering the world below in pairs must not become extinct amoung us. It makes our presence unmistakable,, and is best for spiritual protection. The Rule insists.

Old Maragald the purblind hermit who had spoken of the beast had not given up so easily. He was waiting by the gate for us. When we approached,, he did not fail to admonish.

““You monks in your exalted learning will not be persuaded

by what a blind man can see. So be it ......no man is steered away easily from a worldly course, but as you go at happy paceily

to your spiritual demise,, measure ye this::

The ancient earth is not so hush. Therefore unto thee I prophesy:

and do not shirk the power of what is told through me: now cometh the times long foreseen in holy visions and of which the saints warned:: The dust of the ancients shall rise! !

These years time be named by our furth--ancestors

as The Time of The Harvester:: “It is come,, I say.

The Furth High King will soon return to rule all,, to rule with an iron rod. Behold! He finally quells the old dragon,, that is to say,, drakodemon,, the devil’’s consort loosed on the wide world. That is how it must go. “However,, before that great day,, many things must first transpire——and much travail. Learn that even now many demons are released; ; they patrol the lands on featherless wing. Entire kingdoms——royal courts seduced by their whisperings——woeful days near for the race of men.

There is already upon us what is called The Great Abandonment.

The greater part of souls shall turn from the faith handed down by our fathers. Many talented writings are now filling the void left after Nystol’’s burning; ; writings that teach

not what is godly but a liberty that is false. Charity and kindness—

—forgotten! ! Altars they leave empty. Common mMen deny the dogmas.

The good are barely able to speak with any conviction.

Not so the wicked,, not so. The wicked fill many pages

with passionate zeal for their cause. “Even moreore must I prophesy.

When the inferno of carnal desire and hedonism has scorched souls,,

borne fruit and become ripe,, a Dark Shepherd appears.

He will be elected Eldane of all Whitehawk Kingdoms,,

and Godmouth,, the faith-keeper, assuming the Grand Abbacy,,

in our own beloved WhitehammerWhitehaven,, monastery--upon--the shore! !              

This one is no feudal prince of the world,,

but a shepherd,, a dark shepherd; ; a bishop.

On account of an outward display of piety

he will seduce many and win praise.

On his command Ammouric clerics introduce novelty

to our sacred rites,, so that little by little,, he inspires churches and even kingdoms to embrace customs not worthy of God. Only certain righteous will not be deceived,, those elect whose liege--lord is The Furth High King,, and they must resist; ; those few who do resist will be righteous and true,, strengthened by the yearly pilgrimage to Lamb’’s banquet hall on the sacred mountain.

But they must surrender up their lives in the end.

“This chastisement for the kingdoms is fitting; ;

the innocent pay for the guilty.

        Men have indulged themselves with rotten heresies,, carnal dramas,,

        and howling entertainments,, denying the authority of the keys.   

        “Then suddenly the war--wind blows,,

shaking the thrones of Kings. Cruel wars blossom in procinct.

These wars leave not a meadow of IllystraWhitehawk

unsoaked with blood nor any kingdom neutral.

The old hegemony renewed,, faithful kings

harry the archonate power,, only to strengthen it.

An empire of shadow is born,, and the kings all die

drenched in crimson spillage. This is the All--war,,

a chastisement on the godless nations.

Kingdom shall war against kingdom,, brother against brother.

Every crownmonarch of IllystraWhitehawk tips under in anxiety great,, and countless feudalvaliant lords die by sword and bow,, for there will be a slaughter and havoc on the plain of Gederon as never before seen. This chastisement from high Heaven is overdue,, recompense for the uncharity of Many.

Peace will seem impossible. Then,, from out of nowhere::

a mysterious peacemaker arises; ; a man of high charisma.

This is Inversus. He will be a man,, have no doubt; ;

but will seem a god. “Loved by many,, he claims the Imperial diadem,,

and he installs a lying peace among the kingdoms.

He declare says that he is come to enlighten all,,

but he will fault the terrible war on the old believers,,

and many shall be put to the sword. In the spirit of the Archdeceiver,,

he works wonders before all the Ammouric princes.

It must be accepted,, this chastisement.

Pride has stiffened the knees and kept the folk away from church on Sunday. Greed bids them toil by the sweat of their brow even on the Sabbath day of rest. “Against the Inversus none shall dare stand. Then he will do the unthinkable:: he restores Nystol and is seated upon The Eldark throne of The High Magistracy,, founded of old by Satan.

He is to be worshiped by all as divine,,  as a god,, the Supreme Magus! !

The Dark Shepherd will preach in his name,, causing all,, from the greatest down to the least,, to bow down in adoration. This chastisement is given because men have not opened their ears to the Truth. Nor their hearts to His divine love.

Whosoever has ears let him hear!!””

So he prophesied. Brother Formosus then spoke.“ “What scripture can you cite for such outrageous prophecy,, Maragald?”“ For example,, what you say of a Dark Shepherd?””

“Study closely my teaching. I claim it from St. John’’s vision,, for there it is written:: And I beheld rising up out of the earth another beast,, which had two horns like a lamb,, and which spoke like a dragon ......and it maketh the earth and all the dwellers therein to adore the first beast.

The beast is like a lamb; ; but is not.

Two horns are a bishop’’s miter,, a tall hat having two points,, and he is like a lamb,, as it were,, like a Christian,, but is not.  He speaks like a dragon,, that is,,

he speaks and pours out the dark smoke

disguised as sound doctrine,, obscuring the true light.

Confusion comes instead,, not understanding; ;

for he is a dark shepherd,, and a gnostic. 

If you have an ear,, hear it:: the Inversus will obtain the scrolls of Simon Magus lost beneath desolate Nystol,, and so will he perform many works and great marvels before all. Be not deceived. The Dark Shepherd is but the herald.

He will cause all to fall down and adore one who madly boasts divine origin. Were it not for the elect,, all would be deceived.

Remember what has been prophesied,, for they know not the Lord; ;

He who became dead,, and lives.

And I willI shall prove more. Concerning the Great Abandonment,, the complete loss and final repudiation of right faith in many Whitehawkfurth kingdoms......

it is Christ himself who prophesies

Yet the Son of man,, when He cometh,, shall He find,, think ye,, faith on earth?

Many will follow the Dark Shepherd who will possess the High Abbacy,, and with teachings that disguise sin as virtue he shall be midwife of evil,, he brings forth the Whore of Babylon! ! The yearly pilgrimage will be abolished! !  Fear not,, in that time God himself will feed you from the Tree of Life. Monks,,

Be faithful unto death,, sayeth the Lord,, and ye shall win the crown of eternal life.””

Formosus shrugged. “Maragald, old raven, tThe brethren will always have recourse to the divine teachings of the Lord in the gospel, Maragald,. Let the square-hat scholars who have learned the deep and hidden meanings in this world be the interpreters of the sacred books. Do you imagine His Word would be destroyed?””

“Not destroyed; ; no they cannot,, but be not so simple,, Formosus. He also prophesied,, in those days the moon shall not give forth her light...... the Moon? Just as the Moon reflects the solar illumination, so the scholars of the Church interprete the unchangable teachings of the Lord…but few now dare to do so!”

“Maragald,, did Our Lord not also say,, I am with you all days,, even unto the consummation of the world.? Then why fret you so? The Sun and Moon are faring quite well,, and soaring high,, venerable fellow.””

“What I have said is a prophecy uttered by Christ himself,, the Furth High King!!”

“I do not recall him speaking of The Inversus.””

“He did so; ; against those who rejected him,, Christ warned,, I am come in my Father’’s name and you receive me not. If another will come in his own name,, him you will receive. The Confederacy of Ammouric Kings has already accepted this and received an imposter as spiritual head!”

“Hmmm......it is unknown what he meant......but to say that so many of those who have been faithful will turn away in abandonment......that is high imagination indeed. Christ was merely opening a question to purvey us faith; ; such is the interpretation of the learned Friars of Whigg and the Soothfold.””

“Formosus, why would he ask such a question were there no danger of so great an abandonment? I tell you,, Christ warned,:

in those days the Sun shall be obscured.

He means not the physic Sun,, but the metaphysic Sun,, the very light from the East! ! It is the gospel light of the risen Lord,, but it shall be darkened by the dragon’’s smoke. Mischievous heretics with counterfeit faith pervert the divine teachings,, teaching men to seek after secrets. Their itching ears will heed any alien doctrines instead,, the work of Gnostics!!””

“Nay,, Maragald......the Gnostics long ago have set down their heretical pens. Joy--clothed saints silenced them with the truth ever--abiding. We do not fear their devious writings.””

“Fear you may not,, but wrong you are if you dismiss them.

The Gnostics are NOT done; ; they did not scatter like the other heretics,, but underground they went. Gnostic monks never cease to ply their pens for hellish tracts,, publishing alien doctrines of the Abyss in monasteries beneath the earth. Soon they will obtain the accursed scrolls of Simon Magus.””

“Maragald,, where in thunder do you come up with such imaginings,, such dark prophecies?””

“The Ancientmost has given me the sight. That is why I warn you as He did,, …and the stars shall fall from the sky. Do not suppose that these events are far off in the future,, brothers. By “ “the stars”” is indicated the high clergy. They will fail to defend right faith and fall terribly. The Time of the Harvester; ; it is near. Repent! ! Awaken now to the deceits of the dragon or you too shall succumb— —struck down by the swipe of his tail. All the earth will be convulsed! !

When wretched men do not expect it,, a sign above appears.

Shines forth a light,, and lo,, the master has returned.

Those who have chosen Ddarkness will flee into the caves

to hide. But those who have believed,, who have endured,,

and done what he commands,, see Him coming on the clouds in glory,, for there are shouts of joy and victory in the tents of the just.”

So went the conversation,, if that’’s what you want to call it. Few monks took Maragald seriously; not in those days,, brothers. That old raven,, who had retreated into the woods for many winters,, claimed many things instructed him. And mark you,, he claimed it not from angels,, but directly from The Ancientmost. You see,, unlike all of us,, the hermit was different,, robed not in fine grey-dark frock,, but an old tattered darfurque habit, blackish, to signify holy renunciation of all things. Secretly would he burn hours upon hours of late night oils in the library,, combing the texts for some hidden heresy. Once,, having discovered a number of heretical books in our modest library, he had appealed to the Abbot to have the books burned.

All the brothers were appalled at the idea. ““We are makers of books,, not destroyers of books!!” exclaimed the Abbot. Many pointed to the importance of keeping them for a record of human experience.

     

But Maragald would not agree. He argued well; let such books be annihilated,, the memory of them completely erased. What value is a handsomely bound book,, he argued, compared to some perilous instruction stored up in its pages,, doctrines of dark Hell, and fraudulent wisdom for a future monk: an unwary and naive monk, a poor soul who, fed lavishly their curious and colorful lies,, might adopt such a vain theology and be deceived unto final impenitence. Upon his last day,, near judgment,, having trusted in a mere counterfeit,, failing to pray like many souls, willfully is he formed against all truth,, which he foolishly designates untruth. Lost he would be; for all eternity.

              After all,, the hermit asserted, real faith is from The Ancientmost,, and is orthodox,, whereas heretical faith is a faith given from the Devil. What is that acheivement? Aye,, faith do the wicked also boast. It is written,, even the devils believe,, and they tremble.

Soothfold:: The conciliar body of Ammouric Sages in the Furth,, they must be present for the election of the High Abbacy,, the Abbot of Whitehaven, Primate of Aldemarz,, The Godmouth and Keeper of the Bachal Dsu, Staff of God,, Solitary Eldane of All the Churches. For two centuries the Primacy was reserved for the Patriarch of Vesulum,, and the Soothfold meet in the holy city Vesulum,, where the sacred texts were kept. Later they were asked by the order of Magi to come to Nyzium (Nystol) in order to limit and govern the usage of magic, as a neutral arbitrator,, but after a century they moved to The Monastery of the Weeping Brotherhood in the Dry Blood Sea for the wickedness of Sorcerers had come to full fruition. It was in this time that the Patriarch chosen was ever thereafter an Abbot of a monastery. Finally Nyzium was burned down in what the Soothfold claimed was “the Wrath of God”. In a later century they migrated to the West on account of the Arian threat,, and in the fifth and sixth age the meeting place remained at Whitehaven, although the Soothfold was no longer an influential council in world affairs.

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