Changed by Contagion
Garden of the Prophet > Libraria Chroniclis

It was upon the eve of the Procession of the Anointed Etesephen that word arrived from my Lord in the far Afrik realm. These tidings came many leagues from the mountain Cathedral - whence the Prophet's Fire had borne it - carried by dutiful Brother Murmus. Peasants yet toiled in the fields and upon the garden-decks, to take in the last of my Lord's harvest before the holy procession day. The youngest followed the laden Brother from the forest edge to the great-portal of Witan's walls, as sheth after the herder.

Brother Murmus is yet a face of old Witan, for all he is given to the Hateless Order and the Prophet's seed. He is of a rude stock gathered from all the realms by my Lord's grandsire, and once a Voidman exhorting the Prophet's will within echoing, root-choked Dasu. This was long years past in Witan's greatness, when Dasu's heart-vault beat with the Prophet's Fire, a Voidmaster sat beside the Lord and his Magister, and the fortress war-shrine spilled forth the prayer of faithful souls. So much are the tales told by the Lay-brother of the Prophet's shrine, and by my Lady's mother to her maids - but Brother Murmus lived those years just as he lives now.

With small-cannon, sword and faith, the holy Brother walked a hundred leagues from Fraberg through barren, poison char and trackless forest. Pelts of four wolven from the near-forest he brought as a gift for Magister Albret, slain by his own hand - and the meat good for a traveler away from his Brethren, or so was his word. Other gifts he had besides: tales of faithful crusade in the Afrik realm, tidings of Fraberg, and the speech of my Lord carried in his heart.

The eldest Lord of the Afrik realm had in truth fallen far from the Prophet's teachings, and such was the call to crusade from the High Ordained of the Faith these three years past. Many took the Prophet's service; Brotherhoods of the Garden and close-guard of many a Lord had stood in siege about the fortress-mountain Kilemjaro for a year and a day before Brother Murmus returned to Fraberg upon the war-barque Tibene.

The Brother told the noble-blooded of Witan of the noise of great-cannon and steaming jungle set to char by the Prophet's Fire; rivers cast to vapor in a single breath, and forgen black with heat. The holy Brother told further of pennons of the Mercyless Order carried through breached vent-works to reclaim the Void-fortress Obeja from foul heresy. That great holy of the Faith towers above jungle and river upon a cradle of forgen and crete, as it has since years of the First Order; Brother Murmus spoke of Obeja as a great-shrine of the Faith, just as those shown in the books of my Lady's vaults and embroideries sealed within the war-shrine.

It gave much comfort to my Lady and the Magister to hear of the success of the faithful and the words of my Lord from afar. My Lady soon gave promise that would see even the last dust of Witan's dry coffer-vaults bestowed upon the Order, and a heavy chantry-tithe upon the peasants. So it was to be, the least of the faithful to be grateful for a greater burden, and Witan to lessen in the name of the Order and holy Fraberg.

Darker tales had Brother Murmus for Lay-brother Wagen and the peasants who burnish the vault-works of the Prophet's shrine, retold by my Lady's guard of the upper vaults many days later. Of foulness from Unhallowed vaults, pennons of the Faith cast asunder, and dark-men of the Afrik realm driven mad by voices from the Void. The peasants of the lowest levels whisper of the Changed, and of war-blooded guard sent screaming by what hides within the vault-ways and shafts of despoiled Obeja. I shudder yet to set these words in ink - it is the Prophet's will for Witan in harvest and holy days to be far from all that is foul and heretical, praise be to His name.

Whilst darkness was told to few by night, Brother Murmus brought tidings of Fraberg to Witan for the tales of day and trencher. Of these, I recall clear and well his voice upon telling my Lady of Preacher Tuth. He who brought holy armor before the peasants of Witan upon a winter festival had passed into the Prophet's arms; at the bidding of my Lady, the Brother gave a blessing upon the gathered, and spoke well of the Preacher's deeds in long service to the Prophet.

In the way of memory, the words of Preacher Tuth at my Lady's table returned to me with the dark tales of Brother Murmus. A foolish maid, raised from low by one who should have known better the place of peasant blood, asked if the aged Preacher journeyed in fear of Unhallowed places and Changed who hid to spite the Faith. In the voice of the Prophet from a body so frail, with great, vaporous breath in the snow-chilled vault, Preacher Tuth gave harsh Peniten to the maid; the holy Rur realm is cleansed of such foulness these past centuries. The Faithful of the Orders guard against both Contagion from the Void and the faithless whispers in the hearts of men and women - who amongst the faithful would speak such peasant's tales? The maid ran from the high vaults of my Lady, down shaft and vault-way to the least of the faithful and the lowest decks of rags whence she came.

Preacher Tuth had spoken then in low earnest to my Lady, his words of the Changed and the fantasies of peasants; such was lost to me until wakened by the black tales of Brother Murmus, hidden from my Lady and come to me through lame Rudel of my Lady's close-guard.

Said the Hateless Preacher: the least of the faithful must by guided well in the Prophet's teachings, for their hearts are given to wander from the true path of the Faith. In the heart of Witan he trusted, for my Lord and his guard showed well their duty in the Prophet's service - but each faithful heart hides whispers that yet call to the Void. The madnesses and false superstition of peasants cannot blind the faithful of noble blood, nor those who bear the Prophet's seed: there are yet Changed in the Prophet's Garden. They who were once of the Faith and to whom the Void hath spoken madness; who call further than a voice may carry; who see further than the eye may see; who know your memory as their own; whose hearts burn to spread Contagion as the cancen within the old; who are cursed and Unhallowed in the Prophet's eyes. The Orders call Purgen upon the Six Revulsions, enacted by the hands of the Prophet, lest these fallen bring a doom upon all the faithful.

That winter, I heeded the maid's Peniten and not the quiet exhortation of the Changed. The faith of Witan is strong as the forgen of fortress walls, for all my Lord and his guard are at crusade, and in this the Rur realm is well in the Prophet's eyes. May our prayer in the Prophet's name keep it so for centuries yet.

[ Posted by Reason on June 30, 2006 ]