Prentice Dolphin Chapter 1

Gargoyles Sang… 

…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.

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