…from the battlements of Soliloquy in their disquieting bray. The Humarium walls had, centuries ago, been crowned with battlements worked in the grimacing likenesses of the spawn of damnation summoned to serve the Just of Pure Intent in their Trinitarian Purpose. The walls were not constructed to withstand rams, stone throwers or siege engines. The walls of Soliloquy had been long ago raised against an ever more menacing foe than the feuding secular knights and heretical sons of Barbary, who on occasion challenged the Swords of Elder Reorder. The knights of Soliloquy were peerless, and besides, the evils of Yore, when wicked workers hurled fire and thunder in Satan’s name in mockery of God, had long since ended; those ancient evil days put to rest by the blessed lore of his class, The Prentices of Just and Pure Intent.
The gargoyles above and without brayed more stridently above the unseen battlements as he donned his vestments and gathered his treasure dear, the velum Within the Sanctuary: The Mass. But prayer was not his only calling. For their were two other aspects of his Trinitarian Purpose: Curation of the Mysteries—that act which so compelled him deep in his soul—and education, the bestowal of understanding and purpose upon the laity and particularly among the brute class of the Swords of Justice. Thus, though Prentice Dolphin, orphaned as were all of his committed kind, since the inception of their order, 671st of his rank and 4th of his name, must ever meditate and recommit to memory the gross Acts of Men, so that those for whom he prayed might serve the Blessed Purpose with just and clear intent. That educational drudgery unfortunately compromised his third duty: Curation, his expression of adoration. If only he had been of noble birth he might have been admitted to a Holy Cloister down in the warm Heart of Christendom and enjoy a life of wonder and introspection committed only to Curation. But as it was, and the sad circumstances of his birth, he was consigned to serve the laity and knighthood as a teacher and chaplain—his passion, being Curation of the Mysteries, a purpose rarely observed. This made him a mockery of the True Monks and a servant of the ever jealous Priesthood.
Such was his lot, blessed in its way and fraught with trials, of which he was reminded as the gargoyles once again brayed in their defiantly hideous way…
He knelt upon his boney, calloused knees and the velvet-covered wood of the petitioner’s block beneath his flesh but barely prevented the icy radiance of the stone floor from chilling his body to the point of reaching his soul. His cowl now donned, and the opaque upon snow vestiture, complete he committed his duty three songs before the fateful tolling of the Gargoyle’s Seventh Bray—which was not to be permitted.
He heard his acolyte’s imitative echo all the while from beyond the curtain that separated their cots within The Sanctuary.
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Oh Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my life as it is, with its handicaps and weaknesses, its past mistakes and failures, its talents and abilities, its joys and pleasures, its trials and sufferings. I offer You all that happens this day, together with all my thoughts, words and actions, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for sin and for the conversion of sinners.”
And like that the gargoyle brayed their wolf-calls of stone one great and howling time, the walls of Soliloquy shivering to the baritone of their song…
He dare not rise, but continued, with an impious shiver, in kneeling contemplation, once again practicing the memorandum of man’s woe on earth so he could ever illuminate the rude, a task for which he was uninspired, it being necessary to his ministry yet so low and crude next to his high aspirations.
With the ancient evils of men quelled by way of the mysteries of blessed alchemy, the purpose for Soliloquy, and some thirty other Humariums across the beleaguered marches of Christendom, was one of blessing and warding. Thus, the walls of this sublime cathedral were built to cast back the curses of
Hinterland and the evil of its residual Heathenry. The walls were made like the pipes of a church organ, by means no-longer understood six generations after the last erection of a cathedral, throated with pipes of brass, ceramic and bone—the cleaned skulls of his 670 seniors having been mounted as clarions from the long ago until just last year, when Prentice Allan had been called to God. Jared the Organist had
cleaned and mounted the skulls of five Prentices. Prentice Dolphin now wondered if the old musical engineer would place his skull in the hymnal walls of Soliloquy, or some younger other from amongst his acolytic troupe, the numbers of the Musicians being far greater than the Prentices.
For it was well known, even to the laity, that when the shrunken and twisted spawn of the Titans were driven back into Hinterland, that their Heathen powwows and
wretched mournings and vile curses had summoned the Blight Powers once again into the world of men. For some hundreds of years now, and to be specific, 192 years since a heathen had been last seen, and 221 years since the last of that wretched kind had adorned the point of a lance with its ghoulish head, the Humarium of Soliloquy had stood here, hurling back the curses of Hinterland through the throats of the gargoyles and the prayers of the prentices.
Yet, the ice crept closer, every closer.
A mere two day’s march to the west, would bring Prentice Dolphin to the very tip of the licking tongue of the icy Hinterbeast…
He felt the shame cast by the Blessed Mother in her catacomb above the podium and was stung by the depth of his cowardice. Kneeling he looked up over prayerful hands and responded, “So be it then, Blessed Mother of God, I will confront the Hinterbeast.”
He knew his cowardice in the chill that played down his spine, was instantly suffused in the fact that he had embraced every excuse not to conduct the Procession of Warding, since his Elevation and Induction had been so committed April Last. It was now October First Eve, and he knew his test was upon him.
A tear of fear coursed down his soft cheek, a cheek he knew without peering into his exorcism disc, was of a pallor too wan by half.
And the walls moaned, bellowed and groaned, the Gargoyles taking up their song anew.
He was moved by fear to embrace his most immediate treasure, the velum-paged Within The Sanctuary: The Mass for another reading, but stood instead, closing the slight liturgy, steeling himself for what trials and terrors surely loomed and lurked ahead.
‘Blessed Mother of God, pray give me strength.’
The tear did not reach his bare jawline, and another did not follow.
The Fervor of Just Intent was coming upon him.
He knew then, in that serene instance, that he had momentarily been blessed.