The monks maintained gardens, both to feed themselves and the fruits of which they shared with the townsfolk. They practiced medicine, as a couple of them had some training. There were potters, blacksmiths, bakers and brewers among their number. I became one of the group selected to teach the children of Gilead, and those children who came to us from the surrounding villages, how to read. In addition to the works of the Bible, I taught from the great philosophers and we studied arithmetic. In addition to instructing my pupils, I served as the order’s huntsman, keeping our tables stocked with fresh game.
The monks of the order had all sworn vows of chastity. To live among them I had to do likewise. I did so without reservation. With Samaethea gone, I had no desire to find another wife. I thought often of Oran, Oran who had taken it upon itself as a personal mission to ensure the shoring-up of my faith, to see completed in me the works of salvation. How pleased he would feel—and how much he would gloat, I mused with a smile—to see me now living as a monk, my life entire devoted to the service of the Lord. I missed Oran.
The monks lived in a large communal house fashioned of gray blocks. This lodging house had a large cellar, bare stone walls and a stone floor, devoid of windows, with only one door, heavy and thick, coated with iron plating and suspended on large iron hinges. This the monks reinforced with a strong crossbeam as well as a large padlock, and here did they confine me during the nights of the full moon. Even the beast, never tamed despite that one night in the Roman arena, came after a time to accept this, as it ceased its wild convulsing and howling, its frantic attempts at escape, and slept through the nights on the fresh, scented straw with which the monks always filled my cell. Did the werewolf appreciate this place, as it comprised so much nicer a prison than had the Penance House all those years earlier, or the dungeons beneath the Coliseum in decadent Rome?
The monks, after I’d first come to live with them, had tried exorcisms. I use the term in the plural because they made repeated attempts. All of them failed the curse. As with Saint Paul and his thorn, Christ’s grace proved sufficient for me, and I attained happiness in spite of my monthly confinements. I accepted my curse as an inevitability.
None of the exorcisms the monks performed on the others worked, either. And there were many others. As I have said, I realized what was happening.
The incidents grew more frequent, the numbers of those young men becoming afflicted with Lycanon’s curse. More and more families in our town had to construct penance houses of their own for their sons, and more and more families from neighboring villages brought their sons to us in hopes that we might somehow avail them. The monks tried.
Each year brought a greater increase in cases. The society of the Cynocephali swelled to a legion.