Read part one here
Read part two here
With haste, the pair quietly exited the sanctuary and walked through the town that saw it’s citizens begin making their way to Black Rock Chapel. “Wednesday mass…”, Father Carroway muttered, silently chastising himself for the lapse in memory. “What is it, Father?”, queried the budding nun, sighting the expression of anxiety on the elder priest’s face. Father Carroway, still bearing a worried face; shook his head and blankly reassured her that all that was important was that they sought the Archbishop as swiftly as could be humanly possible. Within the span of another five minutes of walking, they arrived upon a small cottage built from stone and mortar. Fixed upon the front of the wooden door was a silver crucifix that hung by a string of rosary beads dangling from an outwardly protruding nail. Above the decoration were inscribed three words in latin: “In Nomine Patris” in bright red.
“Is this the Archbishop’s home”, asked Sister Merideth. “Indeed”, replied Father Carroway. He spotted an air of curious skepticism mold itself on the young fledgling nun’s face. “Archbishop Marcus always preferred modesty”, Father Carroway told her as he had already anticipated her question. As he reached to ring the worn down, yet functional bell that was fashioned to the right of the door, the elder priest briefly recollected a few of his memories of his years under Archbishop Marcus’ apprenticeship.
He gave the small, frail string that hung the bell two light tugs, hearing the six high-pitched rings of it’s frail clapper impacting against it’s interior. In the mere span of a minute after the bell rang it’s last, the wooden door began to jolt ajar. “Who seeks my home?”, a voice called out from the inside of the cottage. The voice was that of a man far older than Father Carroway. “We have seeking council and aid against a grave and unknown evil that has plagued God’s kingdom of Black Rock Chapel.”, Father Carroway couldn’t help but emphasize the urgency of his request for an audience.
The entrance of the cottage was revealed as the wooden door was opened fully. Standing in the doorway was an elderly man clad in a soft velvet robe with a white cross stitched into the left. Despite his aged appearance, the man stood a solid six feet in height, even dwarfing Father Carroway’s mere five feet six inches. The man’s head bore a clean shave; bearing only an albino mustache and beard that reach down to his collarbone. For a solid moment that felt to stretch, the man in the doorway examined them; evaluating the sincerity in the spoken urgency. “Well then, you’d best come inside.”, said the man in the doorway, finally breaking the ever-straining silence and gesturing for them to enter.
The pair entered, the older gentleman promptly closing the door behind them. Inside the cottage, the young Sister Merideth felt a sense of warm comfort. The walls held different varieties of oils and myrrh. Large, thick leather-bound volumes were neatly lined atop a shelf perched above the fire place that housed a ferocious blaze within. Father Carroway became once again lost in his memories of days past.
“So tell me; what is this vile menace you beseech my aid for?”, the question breaking the elder priest from his memories. Wasting not an instant, Father Carroway began regaling the Archbishop of the hauntings of the prior two days. As he continued his dreadful of the horrors that occurred in Black Rock Chapel, the elder priest saw the face of the Archbishop become grim, somber; as if he bore some grave piece of the macabre enigma the other didn’t. When Father Carroway was finished describing their peril, a long and unsettling silence hung in the air of the cottage.
“The ground upon which Black Rock Chapel stands wasn’t always holy.” Archbishop Marcus’s voice evoked the same foreboding feeling of sorrow and regret that remained reflected on his aged face. The elder priest himself hesitant to press the Archbishop for a further explanation, as if the hidden revelation could scar him further than what his psyche could recover. “You made mention of one Father Edwards, the priest bearing the serpents, yes?” Father Carroway nodded in response and offered a “Y-yes, excellency”, nervously stumbling over his own words. “I might have known this day would come again. As you no doubt have realized; this “Father Edwards” is no priest, nor is he a man. At least, not any longer.”
As fear’s chilling grasp began to slowly take hold of him once more; the burning question that had been suppressed by hesitation before now embedded itself into the forefront of Father Carroway’s mind and erupted from his lips: “What do you mean, your excellency?” His heart hanging a heavy pendulum of rueful regret and worry, Archbishop Marcus began to enlighten the pair of the unfortunate tragedy that molded the infancy era of Black Rock Chapel. “Before the land that the Chapel’s foundation rests upon was first consecrated as hallowed soil, it had served as a sanctuary for a coven of gypsy folk. When I first came upon the land, I was as you were when I tutored you; I was a pupil under the tutelage of my predecessor: Archbishop Duncan. It was my first journey abroad for the spread of gospel.” For a brief moment, Father Carroway’s mind, with cursory accuracy, recollected small fragments of his own initial journey abroad before he was commissioned to the status of priest. His recollection of prior ages halted when the Archbishop’s voice began again.
“When we arrived, it was a mere darkened patch of earth that appeared to bear sparse, if any, vegetation and in it’s center, a massive dark, stone boulder sat in perchance. I remember that, engraved on it’s outward-most surface, was the image of some manner of talisman with two words in the dialect of the gypsies: “Tara Condemnatilor”. The Archbishop’s face darkened, the aged features of his face beginning to pronounce themselves by shadow. “Only long after the grave events that occurred there did I ever learn what those two words meant; for, in our tongue, these words translate as: “Land of the Condemned”. The dread incubating within Father Carroway tightened it’s firm grasp on his mind.
“We wished at first to establish commerce with them. We thought that, through fellowship, we may convert some of them to the lord’s gospel.” Archbishop Marcus’ eyes fell to the ground in a frightened, stoic gaze as a chilled shudder escaped him. “We were wrong.”, his voice was devoid of any emotion, save for petrified trauma. Stare still fixed to the ground beneath, the Archbishop continued in a gravelly voice, “two years passed in harmony, until strange occurrences began.”
Morbid curiosity bested Father Carroway and he queried Archbishop Marcus as to the implications of the occurrences he referred to. “At first, we simply brushed them off as minute phenomena, events that we wouldn’t try to bear real significance to as they occurred few and far between. With the progression of time, however, the phenomenon became more recurrent and amplified in it’s malignance. The other priests in our congregation awoke every night in terror and foretelling of unrighteous envisionings plaguing their sleep and storms began to grow fierce and unwavering night and day. It was one dusk, however, when our paranoia reached an apex and our goal of peaceful fellowship was abandoned.”
The cracks of the flames dancing upon the oak kindling inside the hearth arrested the mournful stare of the Archbishop. “Voices; it began with the voices that came to me, whispering all manner of unrighteous blasphemies to me. Night upon night, the ghastly voices beckoned to me, tempting me to partake of the ungodly acts they would describe to me. Though the grace and strength of the Lord willed me to resist them, I began to grow worried and I recounted my experiences to another apprentice under the former Archbishop’s study,” the Archbishop met gaze once again with the elder priest, “the man you named as “Father Edwards”.
Father Carroway stared in confusion at what he was told. Just before he could question to himself of the plausibility of what Archbishop Marcus’ implication was, morbid realization sent a thunderbolt that shook his his mind to it’s inner-most foundation. “Not a man, not any longer…”, the words pierced him like a finely-sharpened dagger as he began to slowly piece together the connection between the malign hauntings that menaced him in the previous days within the the Chapel’s walls and those recounted from the Archbishop’s macabre anecdote. Noting the clarity molding itself to the elder priest’s face; Archbishop Marcus continued, “He suspected immediately the machinations of the gypsies were at fault. He was certain that their foreign customs had; in some form, wrought evil forces against us. Over time, paranoia became disdain and mistrust until one grave twilight, the night that blind fear drove us to violence”.
“I’ll never forget their faces as we came upon them, wielding the instruments that razed their livelihood to ash. Their homes, their shops, everything was set ablaze by the hands of our convent.” The Archbishop’s mouth split into a morbid, dead smile; wholly devoid of any authentic joy, “Edwards told me what we were doing was an “exorcism of the land”; that our actions were in righteous merit of the Lord’s service.”, a small tear escaped his lifeless eyes and ran down his cheeks. Father Carroway’s blood began losing it’s warmth as he was witnessing the collapse of his former mentor’s psyche.
“They fled the land that night, but not before letting slip an omen: “May you all be spared of Degasii.” As if mention of the word carried a supernatural force of it’s own; the hearth exploded outward, the flames dance upon the oak kindling shifted erratically. “If I could have known of the unholy evils we wrought upon ourselves…”, Archbishop Marcus’ lips quivered as he continued, “We thought that by ridding the land of the gypsy heretics from the soil, that the evil would flee with them. What we were too blinded by arrogance to see at the time was that the ones we were swift to drive away, were the same whose practices acted not as a weapon against us; but to spare us from something far worse.”
“Degasii?” Father Carroway queried, more from instinct than genuine curiosity. A sullen nod of the Archbishop’s head, coupled with his chiseled expression of recriminatory despair served to reply to the query. “Like with what was inscribed upon the stone; I learned only long after what “Degasii” was.” “What is it, excellency? Is it the name of a demon?”, Father Carroway asked, attempting to recollect the multitude of malign spirits dwelling from the lake of fire that were catalogued in “Le dictionaire infernal”, (a volume he was required to devote hours of study to in his apprenticeship under Archbishop Marcus) to find one by the name of “Degasii”.
Archbishop Marcus arose from his seated position and went to his bookshelf and pulled out a volume dressed in dirt and dust, adorned by cobwebs. “Father, you misunderstand; “Degasii” is no demon.” Blowing away the concealment provided by the dust on the cover; the volume’s cover was revealed to be a faded, yet polished brown hue, leather-bound, and bearing no title on the front. The Archbishop fixed himself with his reading lenses and opened the worn volume halfway and began turning further pages until he found the specific page bearing the heading of “Blestemùl lui Degasii”. Father Carroway gazed intently at the faded page before him; unsure exactly of what to make of the foreign runes scrawled upon the page. Archbishop Marcus placed his index finger upon the passage in question, directing Father Carroway’s gaze. “When they fled, the coven of gypsies left behind this tome.”
Archbishop Marcus read the passage that detailed the Blestemùl lui Degasii”, “the curse of the debased” in their tongue. Father Carroway’s blood chilled, draining his skin pale as he listened to the Archbishop tell of “Degasii” being the physical manifestation of mankind’s condemnation itself. The memories of the Chapel’s phenomena abrasively invaded his mind once again, pronouncing emphatically the gratuitous blasphemies the wraiths assaulted him with. The Archbishop further explained that those that fall victim to “Degasii” , do so when they call out to them; seducing them to either embrace whatever sins they’d committed that drew the attention of them, or by stripping them of all hope of salvation until their demise wherein they’re to join the ranks of the condemned. As Archbishop Marcus continued reading, the elder priest glanced at the page when he felt his skin begin to crawl at the sight of the illustration on the page’s bottom right corner.
The illustration depicted the scene of a man brought to his knees and clutching his forehead as long, black serpents appeared to swarm over his body. The face of the man was craned back to face the sky above and was twisted into an expression of perpetual agony. The detail of the image that disturbed Father Carroway, however, was a large, dark monolithic stone stood erect and protruding from the black stone was what looked like a cyclonic whirlwind formed from many faces that appeared conjoined; all of them twisted in the same expression of abject horror and sorrow. Spotting this, Father Carroway felt a dreg of nausea grasp firmly to him as the recollection of his nightmare forced itself abrasively into the forefront of his thoughts.
“How has it been taking the form of Father Edwards?”, Father Carroway queried, using the question to void the malignant event from his mind. The Archbishop fell silent once again, his aged face giving away to it’s earlier state of mournful despair. “As writ in the tome here”, Archbishop Marcus began as he placed his index finger upon the excerpting passage he meant to reference; his vocals low and forlorn, “Degasii” can assume the avatar of any that are of them to walk the earth above.” The chilling words returned to Father Carroway: “Not a man, not any longer.”
Utter despair consuming him, Father Carroway gave in to the compulsion to query Archbishop Marcus of how Father Edwards, a servant of the Lord, could have been met with such a fate. “We were all lost to righteous arrogance”, replied Archbishop Marcus. “But Excellency”, the elder priest cried out, interrupting the Archbishop’s reply, “how could that alone condemn a servant of Christ?” “His pride attracted their attention to him, but it was what he did next that allowed them to consume him.” Tears began to run freely down Archbishop Marcus’ cheeks.
With heavy, shuddering breath; the somber Archbishop recollected the event that wrought damnation upon the arrogant priest that Father Carroway once thought of as a brother in faith. “The night of the raid, I found him wielding one of the gypsy’s own blades against one of the maidens of the coven. She begged for her life in her people’s tongue, but his murderous judgement was unbound. I called to him, told him to stay his hand.” The Archbishop froze, his stare became distant as frightening recollection of the gypsy maiden’s screams and the sickening squelch of flesh being penetrated molded vividly in his mind.
A deadly silence hung within the cottage, contested only by the cracks of the kindling beneath the flames that only ever-lightly increased in volume. Father Carroway felt himself in a state of fruitless denial at what he was just told; that a fellow servant of the cross was a murderer and had committed himself to the whims of an unspeakable evil that, even now, wears his face. It was then that a horrific realization revealed itself to him that almost caused him to faint: “who else but Father Edwards could have called the mass for sermon tonight?” “Can it be stopped?”, Sister Merideth queried with a shaking tone of panic seeping into her voice. The young fledgling nun’s voice caused the two men to glance at her with mild surprise as, until that instant, her silence had caused them to forget her presence entirely.
Before a reply could be offered, a mass of shrill screams in the distance arrested their attention. The three listened to the sound of many clamoring, stampeding footsteps accompanied by a collective cacophony of frightened screams. Father Carroway opened the front door of the cottage to reveal that the source of the sounds were of the townsfolk who had gathered for mass before; now fleeing Black Rock Chapel for their very lives. The full magnitude of the mortifying display caused the elder priest to fall to his knees in a trance of terror-induced shock. “Father Carroway!”, exclaimed Sister Merideth as she rushed to him with urgency.
Archbishop Marcus exited the cottage into the midst of the chaos. “What’s going on?!”, the Archbishop demanded to a fleeing youth farmhand. “M-monster, I-in the sanctuary!”, cried the farmhand before pushing past the Archbishop. Once his stance was regained, Father Carroway waded through the horde of fleeing congregation until he found Archbishop Marcus once again. “It’s “Degasii”, it must be! Tonight was Wednesday mass; it was a trap!”, the elder priest exclaimed with staggered breath.
With a cold, icy, and stoic glare carved into his aged face; he turned to Father Carroway and said “We must destroy the evil of Black Rock.” “How?”, Father Carroway queried, remembering his own encounters with the frightening entity and the lack of effect his holy objects with warding them away. In a grave tone, Archbishop Marcus answered, “By fire, this evil was born; through fire, so too shall it die.” The two continued pushing through the terrified churchgoers; climbing up the steps and thrusting the Chapel’s entrance open.
Credit : Corpse Child
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