THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF Part 17
The Holy Scriptures never made much sense to me, in that they taught, or so it seemed to me, a belief in two different gods while stressing the existence of only one. I do not speak of two parts of the Trinity—one outside the Faith might, with sincerity, argue that Trinitarian doctrine espouses that there are three gods—rather I refer to the opposing depictions of God in the Old Testament and the Gospels. Easy enough to accept the capricious, vindictive and sometimes cruel despot of ancient times, sending His own Son as a lamb into a world of ravening beasts, abandoning Him, or even subjecting Him, as a deliberate act, to the tortures of the crucifixion, justified in doing so by His absolute might alone; like Valsalvas, heady with His own power. Easy enough to accept, save that Christ stressed the existence of a very different type of God, a God of love and mercy. Could it be possible that the Son would not know the true nature of His own Father? For one such as me, born a pagan, a descendant of pagans, the gods of my ancestors were easier to understand. They were just reflections of us.
Would God the Father, revealed to us in the likeness of the Son, as a deliberate act inflict suffering in order to accomplish good? I will not accept this. I will not accept that the Father forced the Son onto the cross, nor do I believe that God, by His own hand, put me into my little prison. I will accept that God, knowing that evil and misfortune are to occur, a consequence of sin in Man’s world, can and does take advantage of those situations in order to bring about good. Good things and evil both came as the result of my being held captive in the shrine of the vrykolakas. Good for me, evil for others.
I did not count the days I spent in my prison. One keeps count only if there is hope of eventual escape or release. I had resigned myself to spending the remainder of my life, however long, walled up inside the shrine. I do know only two times had the moon swelled to fullness, the beast struggling inside me to break free but too weak to do so, with a third full moon approaching, before I was set free. A little less than three months, then, I spent inside my penance house. Alone, save for the occasional taunts of my guards, the brief visits from my friends. Oran endured the taunts of the guards, as well, in order to come to me, so devoted he remained to me. No longer did he irritate me. I came to depend on his company as much as the food and drink that he or Elsora or, on some rare days, Samaethea, brought to me. Thus God allowed me the brief solace of their society. He also allowed me my little window, through which I breathed fresh air and could watch the world going on outside, and through which I could communicate with my visitors.
Oran had fled the village, believing it unsafe for him without my presence there; in this I believe he made a wise judgment. He had set up a place for himself somewhere in the woods, sneaking back into the village for food—Elsora fed him—and returning to the woods at night. “I sleep in a tree,” he confided to me. “I climb up into the highest branches, where even a leopard can’t get at me. I sleep quite well.”
Oran did not stay overlong during his visits to see me. He would have, I daresay, despite the danger—for I feared the guards might harm him—had I not insisted he go away. He came as often as he, or rather as I, dared for him to come. But the majority of time I spent alone, all alone, except for God.
I realize now that God remained ever with me during this time.
Too weak to do much else, I spent much time in contemplation. I returned to the teachings of my youth, lessons learned amongst the Christians. As day dragged after day in the stifling, fetid darkness, with my flesh feeling as if it were becoming a part of the hard earthen floor, the measure of time offered only by the scant meals brought to me each day and the fading to nothing of the light sometimes stabbing, sometimes seeping in through my little window—after some many days, I began to pray. I came to know, to understand, I believe, in a way I never had before, this Deity about Whom I had been taught but had never truly known. For this reason, I count my days within this second penance house a blessing.
Those days came to an end soon enough.
I recall hearing excited words from outside. I did not see my cadre of jailers rushing off, leaving the shrine unguarded. I did not even realize they had gone until late that evening, when no one came to bring me my evening meal of moldy bread or watered-down gruel. Only then did I realize something was amiss in the village. Nor did my guards return. I wondered what calamity had befallen the Marmorca. I feared for my friends: Dalmontenes—though I had not seen him since that last morning in the village—for my dear, loyal Oran, for Elsora and Samaethea.
Two days passed. In that short time I grew stronger, even deprived of nourishment and water, without my daily doses of the witch’s poison. The beast, that before this had been sleeping, began to stir. Now there were three of us in the little shrine, God, myself and the monster, the latter groaning the loudest. Two days and then, about noontime on the third—I knew the time because of the brightness of the day outside my tiny window—I heard voices from outside, voices I recognized. I hurried to the opening.
“My lord!” Oran pressed his face into the gap. “Do you live?”
I almost laughed in my relief at seeing him. “I live!” I answered.
“Get back, fool,” I heard Dalmontenes say, “so we can free him!”
Oran’s face disappeared, pulled away.
“Dalmontenes,” I said, “what’s happened? Has Valsalvas . . .?”
“Valsalvas is dead!” Dalmontenes said. My friends had brought hammers and they went to work on the mound of rocks sealing the doorway.
“The Romans!” Dalmontenes said in answer to my next question. “An entire legion of them! Took us by surprise, the bastards! We lost half our men in the first attack!”
“What villagers weren’t captured have fled into the forest,” Oran said. “I too was captured, but I managed to get away. I am sorry I did not get here sooner!”
“You should not have bothered with me,” I said.
“No more of that talk!” Dalmontenes snapped. “We need you, damn it!” He hissed the words as he worked, speaking amidst the clanging of hammer on stone.
One thought made me want to fight. “What of the women?” I asked. “Elsora? Samaethea?”
“Either captured, in hiding, or dead,” Dalmontenes said. Soon they had broken down enough of the barrier for me to get out. I felt the dappled sunshine on my skin for the first time in weeks. “Here, I brought you a sword,” Dalmontenes said, thrusting the weapon into my hand.
“I’m still weak,” I told him.
“I brought you some food,” Oran said.
“There is no time for weakness!” Dalmontenes growled. “We have Roman blood to spill! By the gods, what I’d give to have you in your other form right now!”
Dalmontenes would have both his wishes, for the beast and for blood, granted soon enough.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!