TITLE: The Scriptorium: The Beginning
By David Ian
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JOURNAL OF BROTHER PARVIS, ABBEY ST. AZARIAH
Entry #1: I put quill to ink one last time to write down those things to the best of my recollection, to the furthest that my shredded memory can reach, and to the length and breadth my sanity can muster. After recording this, I have prepared for my own death, which, if I have clear enough mind, I can execute as swiftly as possible. I have not the will to hurl myself out a tall window or down a steep step; nor the strength to hang myself or to construct a pyre for conflagration, or to tie a stone to my foot for drowning, though I have considered and wished for all of these ends.
And although I know that taking my own life is a Mortal Sin, such that I have experienced and participated I cannot have a hope of heaven, and I must end my existence on earth, lest my bent mind aid the Diabolical in some unforeseen way and cause more harm upon those that commune with Our Sublime Father. My soul is shattered, and redemption does not wait for me, only oblivion, and while the last vestiges of God’s Breath still exists within me, that which has not been wrung, sapped and sucked from this mortal shell, I shall devote to a chronicle of my poor state of being, and how it got to be in this wretched way.
The focus, I hope, will also aid in my wakefulness, as I dread that sleep, in which I am opened to the assailments of that which no man should endure, no man can withstand, and which no mortal can resist its siege for any sustained length. The Night. The Dark. The Dreams. O! How they are hateful to me! Even now I hear them calling -- their unearthly howling, their insatiable hunger. For the natural man, sleep is a comfort, a cradle by which the soul rests and the body refreshes. For me, it is the shroud of untold terrors, with the most frightful of horrors that visit my weariness and the one thought ever-present in my mind – that I might never wake up!
And yet, it is to this terror of sleep I must periodically return, as required by my nature and mortality. O! Sleep of death! That I might escape this waking world, and lose myself in the darkness of thy oblivion. Engulf me in the folds of thy mantle! Would that I were lost in the River of Forgetfulness. Come for me. Surround me. I plead with thee!
[The text here departs from the Latin and rambles in an older regional tongue for which I am unable to make clear, nor dare I guess at the probable meaning, the fragments too obscure to piece together into coherency. -- F.D.]
Entry #2: I must apologize for my previous ravings. My personal rants would only defeat the purpose of this journal. It is with a steadier hand and firmer resolve that I take up a sharpened quill and continue in my narrative. I will attempt to refrain from outbursts again in the future.
It was with a great amount of rejoicing that our abbey St. Azariah received the news that we were given a special directive, and through only a few mediaries, directly from the Pope himself. His Eminence Cardinal Mandolio was to make a visitation himself to bring us details of this important event. Our abbey was trebly blessed -- for our Order to be given this special mission, for our Abbey to receive the charge among the others of our brethren, and also to receive a minor token from the Vatican to be added to our modest reliquary in order to pay for the cost. Our abbey is situated on a remote and disused pass and while certainly it enjoyed a certain amount of traffic from pilgrims to the Holy Lands, the relative peace in the surrounding nations meant that common and more expedient means become more popular and traffic now trickled to a small few.
Little did we know at the time, what a double-edged sword we were sharpening, and how we would fall upon it to our own ends! At the time we accepted gleefully and gratefully, and the Abbots were rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a new resurgence of notoriety for St. Azariah. Preparations were made, the entire west end of the abbey was cleared for the Cardinal, for who knew how many clerks and attendants he would bring with him? A carpenter was engaged to tie together a wooden bed with rope ties and pallet so that our Holy guest would not have to sleep upon rushes strewn upon the stone floor, and no sparing of candles, wine, parchment, sealing wax, inks, and any other commodity that could be thought was gathered for our Vatican The stables were freshly mucked, the goats, swine and fowl moved outside of the living stations, and all was done to not offend the sensitivities of one accustom to church court and high station.
It must be said, then, that it was with a little bit of disappointment that we spied and eventually received a lone traveler on donkey back donning simple clothes and cloak who identified himself as our honored guest. He had the sealed writs and ring to present himself, but it was with a great deal of skepticism that we took him in. More than one brother muttered the word “bandit” and there was talk that this was only the first of a gang who had designs on looting our abbey and using it as a stronghold. It wasn’t long before black eyes followed Cardinal Mandolio as he went into the Priory’s study, and discordant whispers raced throughout the brethren.
I have not the authority of first hand knowledge, but it is my understanding through many exchanges after the fact by various parties, that the introductory conversation went something like this:
Priory: “Cardinal Mandolio, this is somewhat of a surprise.”
Cardinal: “Were you not told of my arrival, Priory?”
Priory: Yes, Your Eminence, we had ample warning.
Cardinal: You also had ample expectations, as well, I should think.
Priory: Forgive me, Eminence.
Cardinal: And you suspect that since I do not meet your expectations, that I may not be who I say I am.
Priory: With all respect Eminence.
Cardinal: And yet, here I am, with papers sealed and signed by His Holiness, and a ring of my office, and still you doubt like Thomas?
Priory: No disrespect to you, Eminence, only my own weakness. Papers can be forged, rings stolen—
Cardinal: --And information of my mission got by the point of a blade, eh?
Priory: Apologies again, Eminence. Roads are dangerous, and evil lurks at every turn.
Cardinal: And what would these evil men gain by traveling all this distance just to bring ruin to your monastery here? Certainly better profit could be gained by staying on the roads, don’t you think? And yet, you have responsibilities Prior. I do not hold them against you. It is admirable that you take your duties and this great undertaking with such seriousness that you would not listen to just any traveler who comes in with papers and a ring.
Priory: Thank you, Eminence.
Cardinal: But what can I do to break this impasse, eh? You will not believe my papers, my ring, and subsequently my word is suspect as well.
Priory: Again, my humblest apologies, Eminence.
Cardinal: Think nothing of it. I do travel with a good sized though not ostentatious train, that tends to discourage these evil men you mentioned. They were stabled not far when I was within easy travel of your walls. You would have been obliged to receive all who travel with me, and that would have been a great burden to you. They wait for me when I leave hence when I am through here. It is not good manners to beggar your hosts.
“But we’re still left with this conundrum of my identity which has left you at arm’s length and kept us from executing the Church’s business Now for I was hoping to save this for later at a more appropriate time, but it looks like I must make a show of goodwill on my part to receive your graces as a guest.
Priory: Eminence! What is this?
Cardinal: This pendant, a small cross of gold, contains within its crossing pieces two of the thorns which wreathed our Lord’s head at the time of His crucifixion. Stamped on the flattened seal in the middle and inscribed on all the points are an intricate chain of words uttered by our Lord while he hung in Atonement for our mortal souls. So, you see gentles, I am carrying more worth than all that rests within these walls. If anything, I should by wary of you.
Priory: Eminence! Forgive us our doubts! We--
Cardinal: It is forgotten. We have the Church’s business at hand. This minor relic is small provision for what lay in store ahead. Let us not dally any further with such trifling matters.
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