Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Seventy-Five



"Allow me Child," said one of the Church elders as he got more comfortable as if to tell a story.  "The Sheriff has told us what you know of your family's lore and we have heard what the Borderlander told you.  Taking that information I can say that you are both right and wrong in your declaration of the veracity of both."

"How so Sir?" I asked, happy as ever to receive a lesson from one of the Brothers.  "What did I miss?"

He smiled and told Nat, "A sponge she is; I wish more of my students were this eager."  Returning to my question he explained.  "You were correct when you said that the truth was likely a tale that took some from both sides of the stories told to you.  You were incorrect in assuming that there was no way to find the middle ground where the true facts lay."

"Sir?"

"Patience.  A little mystery never hurt anything," he said with a kind smile.  "Now, the first thing you will need to understand is that the study of the arcane is not something that either the Church or the University encourages.  Too many that have, have been swayed to evil and used the knowledge to abuse their status and those under their care.  But that is not to say that a select group of Brothers well-armed against such temptation - as well as accountable to one another in prayer and actions daily - does not study it so that fact can be discerned from fiction.  Also when someone carries a tale we can usually discern where that tale originates or how it might have been twisted so that we can reveal the original truth.  Knowledge, like wealth, is not in and of itself a bad thing, it is how it is used that can be evil."

"In this case the study of the Darkfriars was not something that needed to be studied on a daily basis as we knew they had all passed from this life; but we kept the knowledge of them secure so that no one else could take up their name and reputation as if they had never fallen or been defeated."

I asked, "So the ... the order that calls themselves the Priests of the Damned defeated the Darkfriars?"

"No, actually that was a group of select military men who refused the notoriety of the deed seeing it to be their duty and honor to root out the worst of the worst enemies that would destroy their land.  They saw the giving of death as a sometimes necessity, not something to be bragged about."

"This particular group held a dozen fine men.  Despite the government to which they owed their allegiance to having fallen during the Days of Destruction, these men continued with their call to duty to deal with those that no ordinary protector could expunge.  These military men did not eradicate the Darkfriars entirely, but did cut out the heart of their group and ran them into the desolate places and away from those they would persecute.  It was a larger militia made up of different men that followed the Darkfriars to complete their destruction only to find that the remnants of the Darkfriars had run headlong into a group of corrupted individuals that did the deed for them.  The texts, sketches, and ancient pictures that survive from that mission are in a file that is held in a special vault beneath the Regional University.  Having reason to study that file and others similar to it on occasion so as to ascertain the veracity of some translated texts, I recognized the story that the Borderlander told to you."

"But," I started hesitantly.  "I am only just hearing this.  And only just told Nat.  How did you know you would need to be here to hear this story?"

"Brother Nat and I have been conversing at some length concerning a puzzle that the Sheriff had put to him.  The symbols of the Darkfriars is but one part of it so I familiarized myself with the facts ... and what we know of the Priests of the Damned since that time."

"They've really been around that long?" I asked.

"Yes, since the Chaos though they were - and still are - a very small sect compared to what you know as the Church."

"And they really practice ...?"  I was hesitant to repeat yet again all of the corruption that I suspicioned them of.

"Yes," he sighed showing his age.  "Think of it as a form of control.  They tell their people the lie that there are no consequences for their lusts and pleasures, that their dark god rejoices with them.  And when the consequences spring forth down the generations they rationalize them by saying that the corruptions are actually blessings.  They are a twisted people who cling to their beliefs because without them ... without them they would have to recognize the corruption of their souls and it would crush most of them."

"Most of them?  Not all?"

"Not all.  Some are still strong enough to search for the truth.  It appears that perhaps that is the stage that your Borderlander is in."

"And the others?"

"The others are evil and it makes no difference to them that they follow a false god because they do it for the pleasures of the flesh rather than for their soul which they care nothing about if they even believe in its existence."

I let his answer soak in then asked, "And this particular Borderland sect did descend from the Harpers?"

He nodded.  "Yes.  And no.  It is true that some of the earliest leaders were descendants of Solomon Harper but we are each answerable for our choices and Solomon Harper is not accountable for the choices his children made during adulthood.  But the entire population of that sect would have died out almost before a generation was out if others had not joined with them."

"And the prophecy?"

"That's a little murkier but I believe that I have some clues."

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