The Vampire of Schwarzbrunn Part 2 - Nights of Terror
CoC 1-6e Dark Ages
* * *
Adalbert volunteered to watch the body that evening but Abbot Winfried told him that would be unnecessary as they would bury the child before dark. The guard volunteered to help the villagers dig the grave in the cold, cold ground.
It took hours to dig in the frozen ground and the squad of villagers worked hard on it while others took to the woods in search of the last missing child: Maria.
As they worked on the grave between the village and the monastery under cloudy skies, one of the other villagers talked about the still-missing child, noting she was beautiful with short black hair and blue eyes. As he described the sweet young child, Adalbert suddenly realized she was the one that he had been having nightmares about every night. The description was perfect and he’d never seen the little girl before but was dreaming about a girl who matched her description exactly.
* * *
Father Weißwald searched out Fabian that day, finding the man alone in the scriptorium, copying and illustrating a manuscript. Brother Fabian was a lanky, tall monk with dark hair and dark, deep-set eyes. He blinked unnaturally often and his eyes were wet when the priest found him.
“So … horrible things happening to these children,” Father Weißwald said. “Strung up on the steeple. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
“Nor I,” Brother Fabian said, voice cracking. “Nor I. This is a terrible time.”
“Only monsters could be so blasphemous. Don’t you agree?”
“Yes! Horrible, horrible people. There are terrible things … terrible people in this world.”
“So, do you believe, as the villagers believe, that it’s werewolves?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Benjamin has been examining the bodies. He would know more than I.”
“The villagers up north believe it to be vampires.”
“I have not seen the bodies closely.”
“Well, none of the books here say anything about vampires. What do you know?”
“I … I know that … Friedrich was a good child. I was hoping that I would convince him to be a monk.”
“Oh, so you knew Friedrich very well.”
“I didn’t know him … well enough, yes. Well enough. He was a good child. He had … he had a strength about him. An intelligence … necessary for … life in the monastery … and it’s a great blow that we could not have found him before he died. Before he was so brutally killed.”
The monk didn’t make much eye contact with the priest, preferring, obviously, to work on the illustrations of the book he was concentrating upon. He continued blinking at odd intervals, as if he was nervous.
“So, apparently the village up north also lost a child,” Father Weißwald said.
“Really?” Brother Fabian replied, not looking up but stopping a moment in his work.
“Did you hear about that? She was killed in a very similar fashion to these other children.”
“It’s terrible. It’s a terrible things. I’d hoped to teach Friedrich … what I know … about calligraphy … illustrations. The boy seemed to have a penchant for the church.”
“So, do you often visit the bistum?”
“The abbot sent me so I went there. I go occasionally. It’s important … the books are distributed constantly in order that more copies may be made so that the holy word can be spread. Sometimes books of … whatever it is we are copying.”
“So … when was the last time you visited the bistum?”
“Beginning of the month, I believe. The abbot asked me to transfer some completed books back there. I-I don’t remember the date, exactly. It was a couple of weeks ago.”
“Your penmanship is very fine.”
“Thank you. Thank you. I … endeavor to … please the eye as well as the mind with the writings in these books. Which is somewhat taxing when someone is speaking to you.”
Father Weißwald took his leave of the monk.
* * *
The priest and his guard met after the midday meal and discussed what they had each learned. Father Weißwald told Adalbert that Brother Fabian seemed very suspicious. He related what they had discussed briefly. He noted he would probably talk to Waldemar later in the day. Adalbert told the priest of what he had learned about the Maria and the nightmares they had both been having.
* * *
Father Weißwald found Waldemar working in the kitchen that afternoon. The priest had noticed Waldemar was always busy, always working, always asking what help he could give to others. The monk was balding and had a beard and mustache with patches of white despite his young age. Father Weißwald asked him for a snack and the monk gave him a knowing look. He prepared the priest some bread, cold roast pork, and cheese.
“So, terrible times,” Father Weißwald said.
“Indeed,” Waldemar replied. “Indeed. It is bad.”
“Do you suspect it’s werewolves like the villagers do?”
“Well … they say that … all the blood was gone from the bodies is what Benjamin is saying. That strikes me more … werewolves tear people apart, don’t they? They eat the whole animal, skin and all, don’t they?”
“This strikes me more as if it were one of Satan’s foul brood: vampire.”
“That’s what the village to the north believes as well.”
“I … I don’t know those people well but … they were bitten in the neck, right? So … the blood was sucked from them. Sucked dry. Horrible.”
“They have lost a single child, up in the north. The village.”
“Seems the same way, too.”
“Sucked dry of blood by the vampire!”
The monk put the plate of food in front of Father Weißwald, who was a little less peckish after all the talk of vampires and sucking bodies dry of blood. The repast proved tasty, however.
“Terrible times,” Brother Waldemar said. “Terrible.”
He went back to his chores, his back to the priest.
“But it must be rampant in these parts if there are attacks in the north and bodies found in the south,” Father Weißwald said.
“Sounds like,” Brother Waldemar said.
“Some of the villagers say it might even be among them. Or among the monks here.”
“I couldn’t think of a monk who would do such terrible things.”
“Well, neither could I. We’re all men of the cloth here.”
“Indeed. It would have to be a terribly corrupt soul to do such a terrible thing. These are dark times.”
“Well, thank you for the snack.”
Brother Waldemar took the empty plate and washed it as Father Weißwald left the kitchen.
The priest wandered the halls, seemingly deep in prayer, but he was actually trying to figure out, by the monks comings and goings, where each of their cells were situated. He was able to determine where Abbot Winfried and Brother Fabian’s cells were. He was unsure of where Brother Waldemar and Brother Benjamin’s cells lay.
* * *
Adalbert spent the afternoon searching the woods near the monastery by himself. He didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. However, as he returned to the monastery that evening in the gathering gloom, he closed the gates behind himself and thought he heard a child’s cry for help from beyond the northern wall, clearly outside the monastery grounds.
He ran outside, tripping and falling on the boggy ground. As he got to his feet, he saw a figure clad in red disappear into the nearby woods. He gave chase, finding tracks in the snow that disappeared into the trees. He couldn’t find the tracks in the tree line and looked around, memorizing the place he had entered the woods. Then he ran back to the monastery to get help.
As he passed the tracks in the snow once again, he realized they were not fresh. They were at least several hours old. It perplexed him how he had seen the man go into the woods but how the man had left no fresh tracks. He ran into Father Weißwald as he entered the main monastery building, apparently praying to himself.
“I saw the red monk!” Adalbert said.
“Where?” Father Weißwald said.
“Outside the gate to the monastery!”
“Well, that’s strange. Well … it can’t be …”
“But I also heard a child’s voice!”
“Calling for help. I know the place. I just needed more help.”
“We’ll have to look in the morning since it’s too dark now.”
Father Weißwald wanted to search Fabian’s cell and noted both of them would be needed for that particular task.
* * *
On the morning of Monday, December 19, the two waited until Fabian was in the scriptorium and then the priest crept into his first floor cell while Adalbert watched the hallway. The priest found the room very Spartan with two cots and a shared chest. There were a few personal belongings but nothing incriminating or seemingly connected to the terrible murders that had been taking place in Schwarzbrunn.
They left the monastery after that but found the footprints had been obscured by the newly fallen snow of the night before. Adalbert was unsure where, exactly, the tracks had gone into the woods. He knew the general direction and area where the tracks went. He entered the woods in search of the trail under the trees but couldn’t find anything.
* * *
That afternoon, Adalbert sought out the villagers and learned they had been searching that part of the forest where he had seen the tracks. Though their searching for the lost children continued haphazardly, they had not found anything. After that, both he and Father Weißwald followed the road south of Schwarzbrunn to the Bearded Giant and the other stones. They took Gertrude, and the mule did not like the stone, not wanting to get near it. When Father Weißwald led the mule around it, the mule still stayed as far away from the stone as she could. That happened all the way around it, as some simple experimentation soon proved. She didn’t seem to care about the other stones.
Adalbert more closely examined the Bearded Giant. The stone stood on solid rock as opposed to the dirt in the area. It was as big as a small house and too large for anyone to move. He searched the crevices in the stone, seeing if anything might be hidden there, taking an hour or so to search the entire stone carefully and even climbing atop it. He found nothing.
Father Weißwald found the mule’s reaction to the stone disturbing.
They returned to the monastery and headed into the woods in the area where Adalbert thought he had seen the red monk go but, though they searched for some time, the mule didn’t react to anything there in any unusual way. They returned for the evening meal and prayer before going to bed that night.
* * *
Father Weißwald had a different nightmare that night. He found himself standing alone in the church as the stentorian chorale sounded around him. This time, he thought he could make out alien, blasphemous syllables and scraps of words in it. The church was only lit dimly by a few candles and fleeting figures constantly seemed to disappear between the columns. Suddenly, a loud crunching noise came from the right transept, accompanied by a peculiar gurgling. He found himself unbearably afraid.
Against his will, he walked through the flickering light towards the sound. His hand slid over the wood of the greasy pews, feeling as if it was running through warm blood. But he could not pull his hand off and slid it down the pew as he was drawn closer and closer to the roaring and gurgling. Finally, he could see into the transept where a pillar of water suddenly collapsed and flowed over him in a huge wave.
He woke up with the salty taste of blood in his mouth and found he’d bitten his tongue in his sleep. He heard Adalbert stirring at the same time.
“I think God is sending us these dreams,” Father Weißwald said in the dark.
“I’m going to get some water to wash this blood out of my mouth,” Adalbert said, getting up and leaving the cell.
“Bring me a cup of water!” Father Weißwald called after him.
Adalbert went to the kitchen and rinsed out his mouth, returning with a cup of water for Father Weißwald. When the two talked, they learned they had once again had the same dream and had each bitten their tongues in their sleep. Father Weißwald said they would search the church the next day.
* * *
On Tuesday, December 20, the two entered the church on the monastery grounds after the morning Mass. Nothing looked out of place and they approached the right transcript with its altar to John the Baptist and its picture of the Saint on front of it. They carefully searched the area and noticed two parallel groves in the floor leading from the right side of the altar, parallel to the wall. They attempted to move the altar without luck.
Father Weißwald noticed the picture of John the Baptist was loose and removed it. Behind the picture was a little door about eight inches square. At first Father Weißwald wondered if fairies or imps were there. Adalbert gave the man a look and pushed the little door open. In the hole behind was the handle of a lever that disappeared down.
Adalbert tried to move the lever, finally pulling it upwards. There was a distinct click from within the altar but when he let it go it went back down. Father Weißwald suggested he pull the lever while Adalbert push on the altar. When they did so, the whole altar moved along the grooves as if there were rollers underneath it. It moved easily enough that one person could have pushed it by himself. When Father Weißwald released the lever again, there was another click. They found the altar immobile once more.
A narrow staircase led down into the ground.
They retrieved candles from the church. They lit the candles and climbed down the steep, slimy stairs. Adalbert led the way, sword in one hand and candle in the other. Father Weißwald had drawn his knife.
The stairs descended some 15 feet below the floor and at their foot lay a natural cavity of about 20 feet in diameter. The floors and walls were rough. The ceiling vaulted to a dome only about eight feet at its highest point. Around the sides, one could not have stood upright. They had to duck upon entering the chamber. Father Weißwald thought they had entered on the southeastern side, putting the chamber directly under the church.
Two chests sat next to the entrance. Adalbert looked in them. In one, they found a red ritual cowl, which was fairly old. In the other were the sorts of objects they might expect to find in the witch’s kitchen of a black magician: black candles, chalk, exotic varieties of herbs, incense burners, phials with strange liquids, and the like. In addition, they found a book written in Greek. One page was marked with a book mark. Father Weißwald tried to identify the liquids but they were unlike anything he had ever smelled before. He guessed they were some kind of elixirs used by witches.
They searched the entire room and Adalbert noticed five flecks of black wax inscribing a circle in the middle where candles once stood. There were no other entrances to the place.
Father Weißwald suggested they watch the chamber to see who eventually showed up. They discussed it, Adalbert pointing out if someone stayed in the chamber, they would be trapped. Father Weißwald noted they could stay in the church. When they more closely examined the altar, they found there was an easy way to unlock it from below. They could see the rollers once it was over the hole and another lever to release the catch. It was easy to get out of the place from below.
Adalbert pointed out the last time they tried to follow the red monk from the monastery building, they had both passed out. He suggested they stay either in the church or in the cave below. Father Weißwald suggested one in each. Adalbert said he’d stay down in the cave.
They returned to the church proper and closed the secret stairs.
They returned to the monastery building proper and used the morning to figure out where Brother Waldemar and Brother Benjamin’s cells were. They realized the best time to search the rooms was during one of the daily Masses. Father Weißwald told Adalbert to search during the Nones, the afternoon prayer, and Compline, the evening prayers.
Adalbert was able to search both Brother Waldemar’s and Brother Benjamin’s rooms, finding only a few personal items, including cheese in Brother Waldemar’s room, but nothing incriminating in any case. He also found just enough time to search Abbot Winfried’s cell as well, finding only a book of a general history of the Holy Roman Empire there.
That evening, instead of going to bed, the two crept to the church once again. Adalbert hid in the chamber below the church while Father Weißwald hid behind the altar of St. Benedict in the left-hand transept of the church. It was terribly dark. In the chamber, Adalbert crouched down behind one of the chests, hiding himself as best he could.
* * *
A man entered the church in the dark of the night some hours later. Father Weißwald didn’t notice him as he had fallen asleep behind the altar of St. Benedict. Nor did the priest hear the man move aside the altar of St. John the Baptist. He slept the sleep of the just and the exhausted.
Down in the cavern, Adalbert didn’t hear the movement of the altar but did notice the light from the candle as the man descended the steps towards him. In the flickering candlelight, Adalbert saw Fabian, who immediately saw him in turn, his eyes opening wide. The monk dropped the candle and turned to flee as Adalbert leapt to his feet, sword in hand, and struck the man with his closed fist instead of his sword. The glancing blow sent the monk stumbling backwards before he turned and fled up the steps. Adalbert gave chase as the man tripped and slammed into the steps, letting out a shout.
Adalbert punched the man in the head as the monk crawled up the steps like a cornered animal. Fabian let out another shout and lashed out with one hand, striking the man a glancing blow to the chest. He had rolled onto his back and was backing up the stairs.
“Stop!” Adalbert said. “It’s Adalbert!”
Fabian looked terrified as he backed up the steps frantically trying to get away from the guard. Adalbert rushed the man and brought his fist down on the man’s head again. It was a solid blow that knocked Fabian’s head down onto the stone steps. He went limp. There was a good amount of blood.
Adalbert ran up the steps and found the altar closed at the top. It was pitch black so he ran back down for the fallen but still lit candle at the bottom. Then he ran up and pushed the altar aside. A quick search of the church revealed Father Weißwald’s sleeping form behind the other altar, huddled on his knees in prayer.
Adalbert slapped him lightly on the side of the head.
“And where were you?” he said.
“What?” Father Weißwald said. “What happened?”
“We were wrong. It was Fabian.”
“What? I thought it was Fabian.”
“But you didn’t tell me it was Fabian! You said it was ...”
“Anyway!” he said. “It’s Fabian. We need to go get the abbot.”
“Well, where is he?” Father Weißwald asked. “Where is he?”
“He’s on the stairs. I … knocked him out. He needs attention.”
“Well, I guess I’ll watch him. You go get the abbot.”
“I don’t know if it’d be proper for a guard to go get the abbot.”
“It’s an emergency, right? And I need to go tend to him … so …”
“Okay. Yeah. Fine.”
He left, Father Weißwald taking the candle and heading for the secret stairway. He climbed carefully down but found that Fabian had expired on the steps in a pool of blood below. When he examined the body, he realized if only he had gotten there sooner, he might have been able to save the monk.
* * *
Adalbert woke the abbot in his cell.
“Oh no!” the old man said when he had lit a candle. “Is it another dead child?”
“No … it’s a matter in the church,” Adalbert muttered. “Brother Fabian?”
“What? What about Brother Fabian?”
“There was … just come with me. I’ll explain everything.”
“Very well. Very well. One moment.”
It took Abbot Winfried only a short time to don his robes, belt, and sandals and follow him to the church, Adalbert explaining on the way what they had found under the secret passage beneath the altar.
“Witchcraft!” Abbot Winfried said.
“Yes,” Adalbert said.
They went to the church and down the secret stairs. They found Father Weißwald in the cave with the body of Fabian on the ground next to him, the priest having pulled the corpse off the stairs.
“How could this be!?!” Abbot Winfried said. “How could this chamber be!?!”
Fabian lay very still.
“He didn’t make it,” Father Weißwald said when he saw Adalbert staring at the body.
Adalbert broke down and cried, dropping to his knees and sobbing. He was mortified that he had killed a monk. He had not meant to kill the man.
“Be consoled in the fact that you were doing the Lord’s work,” Father Weißwald said.
Abbot Winfried looked through the chests and around the room.
“This is terrible,” he muttered. “Blasphemous.”
Then he turned to the grief-stricken Adalbert.
“You are absolved, my son,” he said. “I absolve you of your sin.”
Father Weißwald was resolved to get the man absolved properly by the bishop.
Abbot Winfried didn’t want to tell the other monks about the strange chamber, citing that there was witchcraft at work directly under the consecrated church of the monastery. Father Weißwald suggested there could also be other monks involved. The abbot went pale when he said that, terrified.
“Do you really think so?” he muttered.
He found the book, but also didn’t speak or read Greek though he was convinced it was a blasphemous tomb and considering whether or not to burn it on the spot. Father Weißwald pointed out they had flint and steel, but also wondered aloud if they could learn something from the terrible tome. Adalbert asked if any of the other monks could understand Greek but the abbot didn’t think so.
The abbot asked Father Weißwald to take the chest of paraphernalia and the book, putting it under the priest’s command, not wanting anything to do with it. He said that, for now, it was of his opinion, they should leave the body in the room, but deferred to the priest’s wisdom.
The three went back up the steps, Father Weißwald showing the abbot how the altar moved. They put it back in place and put all back the way it had been, Abbot Winfried bidding them not to tell the other monks anything for now. He told them he would tell the other monks that he knew where Brother Fabian was but it would be he who decided what to tell them of his whereabouts.
He questioned the two more closely in the dark church, asking if they thought other monks or people from the villager were involved in the terrible things they had found under the church. Father Weißwald pointed out they didn’t find Maria, which would have confirmed Fabian was killing the children.
“Oh,” Abbot Winfried said, not having thought of that. “If it is Brother Fabian, then wherever Maria is, he must have been taking care of her. So, we have to find her before she dies. If she has been without food and water, it could be a matter of days, if not hours.”
Adalbert started sobbing again.
“No,” Abbot Winfried said to the man, trying to comfort him. “Be of good will. No. No. You did what must have been done. You did what needed done.”
Abbot Winfried deferred again to the priest. He asked if they should rouse all the monks and search the entirety of the monastery or wait until morning or alert the villagers. He seemed at a loss, seemingly very disturbed that one of this monks seemed to be practicing witchcraft.
“The villagers are still searching,” Father Weißwald said. “If we show suspicion towards the monks, they might …”
“Turn on you,” Adalbert said. “Turn on the monks. We don’t want that.”
“What should we do?” Abbot Winfried asked.
“We’ll still investigate as we have been doing before,” Father Weißwald said.
“All right,” Abbot Winfried said.
He bid them to tell him of any new developments. He also pointed out if they revealed Fabian as the murderer, it might relieve some of the anger of the villagers at not being able to find the last child and not knowing who was behind it. Father Weißwald didn’t like the idea of making Brother Fabian a scapegoat, however. They went their separate ways after that. The priest and his guard returned to their own cell, hiding the chest under a blanket. Father Weißwald showed Adalbert the silver ring he had found on Fabian’s finger and they put it in the chest as well.
They discussed what to do and whether or not to blame Fabian for the murders. Father Weißwald pointed out if they did blame him, if there were other parties involved, they might be less cautious, thinking they were unsuspected. Adalbert noted if they told them that, they would have to explain what happened to Fabian and where he was. Father Weißwald thought that at least as concerned the morrow, they should merely keep their silence.
* * *
It was snowing on Wednesday, December 21. After they broke their morning fast, Father Weißwald and Adalbert discussed what to do at some length. The priest suggested either telling the villagers about finding Fabian and that Maria was still lost or searching for the lost girl themselves. Adalbert was of the opinion they should bring the villagers in so that they could focus their search on where he had seen the red monk a few nights before.
While Adalbert headed into the woods to begin the search himself, Father Weißwald went to the village to gather the men before they headed out to search that morning. He told the villagers Brother Fabian was involved in the kidnappings and murders but they needed help in searching for Maria as they thought they knew what part of the woods she was held in. The villagers were confused and in some despair that one of the monks was involved, but headed off to that section of the woods to search.
As Father Weißwald followed the men, one of the women of the village pulled at his sleeve.
“Yes, my child?” Father Weißwald said.
“Uh …” the woman replied. “Uh … may I speak to you for a moment, Father? It is of greatest importance.”
“Of course,” he said.
She beckoned the priest into one of the small village houses.
“I am Annegret,” the middle-aged woman with steel-gray eyes said. “You say Fabian was involved with the disappearance of the children?”
“Yes,” Father Weißwald said. “We believe that to be so.”
“Uh … that uh … that can’t be … that can’t be true.”
“Do you know more of the matter? Did you know Fabian?”
“I … do. But … the things that I say might be seen as heresy. Can you absolve me if I tell you everything?”
“I can absolve you.”
“I am utterly certain that Fabian cannot have been responsible. He … is a Guardian. There was a … there was a … some 200 years ago, or however it was that the monastery was formed, it was done so by the express purposes of closing … there is a gate, a portal to another place, deep, deep under the sea where a terrible god lives. Fabian is responsible, twice a year─”
“There is only one God, my child.”
“This is why I need absolution. Fabian is responsible, twice a year, on the solstice and on midsummer night for using heretical and horrible magic to keep the gate from opening and this … this … godlike thing … from coming through. I have proof.”
She went to a chest and opened it up, digging within until she pulled out a torn piece of paper.
“This … this confirms what Fabian’s task is,” she said. “But he’s the only one who knows how to cast the spell.”
She handed the paper to the priest.
“I am … I am learning under his guidance,” she went on. “Each Guardian has one in the village who is privy to his secrets. He was planning on Friedrich being his replacement someday as a monk of the monastery and also as a Guardian in order to cast the spell every six months to keep the gate closed. But the gate opens tomorrow. If … if … but he has a book. It is written in Greek. It tells how to summon the thing. It is a horror called Ghatanothoa that sank with an ancient civilization and lives in the bottom of the sea. But it … can come back through this gateway that was formed here. It sent it’s minions through hundreds of years ago. But Fabian wouldn’t have taken the children. He is trying to stop it. He’s been doing that for years. According to him … the blood of men is needed to open the gate to contact Ghatanothoa. Tomorrow is the solstice.”
Father Weißwald read the terrible letter:
Given the year of Our Lord 771, the eleventh day of July this letter is to my successors
so that the lore may never be lost. Know then of the battle that we fought against the
invisible servants of the Prince of elsewhere wherever his terrible domain may lie.
Anno Domini 771, I was summoned to the Precinct of Niederwald in order here to
determine what pagan cult had brought about the death of many men. In fact I found
the inhabitants to have the most sincere devotion to our Lord and to have completely
renounced the worship of the false gods of their forebears. Nevertheless a horror was
occurring in the precinct. What seemed ab initio to be common manifestation of ghosts
was revealed to be horrors from elsewhere for the invisible servants of the prince were
But in my blindness I thought only of ghosts when the objects began to levitate.
But soon I had to recognize that the unholy goings-on possessed a much more
blasphemous demonic aspect when the malefactor caused the earth to tremble and tore
it asunder and burned it completely.
ALL the exorcisms of the wise Father Umberto Vinculo seemed in vain against the
events and I despaired of the fact that I could not stand at the side of the citizens of
Long did I fight thusly and had no success of my own doing until one night one of
the inhabitants - his name is not relevant - made the most frightful disclosures to me.
Whoever might have guessed that the piety of this righteous people should be its downfall.
They would have banished the one who still knew about the dawning horrors.
Without his protection however the invisible ones could cross into the world when the
sun is at its highest and begin their demonic works. For there is a connection between
here and the domain elsewhere where no man’s foot has trod and no man’s eye may see.
Long did I work together with my new confederate to reconstruct the ways of those who
last knew it didn’t last very long and we could begin our difficult undertaking: the black
candles burned in the circle the air was pregnant with herbs of the Orient well-known to
every exorcist and the sigils of the demons of the elements were inscribed in the circle
around the entrance and that of the Demon of Might which lives in all things. We sat and
sang the exotic chorale not created for the ears of man and which can only with difficulty
be put into words. It is the chant of Akhar Ashar as it is found in the sinister Al-Azif the
cursed work of the mad Arab.
In this fashion can the way be closed through which the invisible ones came into our world
and their prince blustered and howled so that we would be taken by fear and alarm. But his
power was broken.
Thus must the ritual be repeated every year when the sun is at its highest or lowest so that
the way remains barred to them who come from elsewhere. I wish to build a monastery on
this site a holy church above the dark hole and will appoint one of the monks as guardian
who will complete the saving works without the knowledge of the others. In the village
nearby, however, a friend of the Guardian shall pass on the knowledge.
Bernard von Wilhelm
in the Precinct of Niederwald
The priest was horrified by what he’d read.
“So … he was using the blood of children?” he asked.
“Fabian isn’t,” Annegret said. “It doesn’t require the blood of children. It requires chanting, black candles, oils and incenses.”
Father Weißwald recognized everything they had found in the chest under the church.
“That’s what is needed to close the gate,” she said.
“So, you know how to cast this black magic?” Father Weißwald asked.
“I … I know … I know some. I don’t know if I know how to do it correctly or not.”
The priest thought on that.
“It wasn’t Fabian,” Annegret went on. “It doesn’t require the blood of anyone. Closing the gate - keeping the gate closed requires a ritual on the solstice and on midsummer’s night. Someone else was trying to open the gate. That’s why they needed the blood.”
“Well …” Father Weißwald said slowly. “The problem is that Fabian is dead.”
Annegret’s face fell and she silently crossed herself, then wrung her hands.
“That is bad,” she said. “Fabian is that one that would cast the spell. I was merely his associate in the village. There is always one for the other. I-I-I remember the chants somewhat. I don’t know if I can … I don’t know for certain if I can do it.”
“Do you need the book?” Father Weißwald said.
“The book could help. The items in the chest are necessary. The gateway appears in … there is a secret room under the church. The gateway appears there. If the spell is cast, it is sealed. If the spell is not cast, I do not know what will happen.”
“Oh. So, do the people who are trying to open the gate need to access this area?”
“I-I wouldn’t think so. I think they’re trying to do something else but I don’t know what. Fabian had his suspicions that they were trying to summon the same … godlike creature. But he wasn’t sure exactly how. The book had some reference to using blood in order to summon it. That was what he was taught was the initial spell to bring it here whereas the spell that he used was different. It didn’t use any blood. It doesn’t require any death or any destruction. It just requires the correct chant, the correct intonations in order to-to make sure that it-it is … that the gate is resealed. As I said, I know, somewhat, the spell, but I’m not certain that I can do it correctly. But it has to be cast on the solstice: tomorrow. That’s when everything is weakest.”
Father Weißwald thought upon that as well. Annegret seemed distraught to the point of terror.
“As I said, I don’t know what will happen,” she said. “I don’t know what will happen if the spell isn’t cast.”
“Well, I will … I have─” Father Weißwald said.
“Please forgive me, Father!” she said, grabbing his hand and putting it on her head.
“I have the chest of items in my possession,” he said. “Maybe I could see to it that you are there, tomorrow, in the chamber.”
“If you would help, I could teach you what I know. The more of us that do it, the better the chance that it might succeed. But it wasn’t Fabian who was killing the children. He’s been concerned since last summer, when three died. But, according to what he has told me, it takes five deaths, the blood of five people, to cast the spell that will summon Ghatanothoa.”
“There were the three children that died in June.”
“Three died, yes. One after another. Disappeared and then died. Then everything just stopped. The villagers were searching they were ready and everyone was armed. Perhaps whoever did it realized that he would get caught if he continued. But now four have disappeared altogether, but still, that’s only four.”
“But there is one in the village to the north.”
Annegret gasped and started crying, backing away from the priest in sheer, unmitigated horror.
“That’s five by tomorrow!” she nearly shrieked. “That’s five by the solstice!”
She ran her hands through her hair, clutching at it and pulling it from her head in terror.
“If we don’t stop it, I don’t know what will happen!” she cried out.
“Be calm, my child,” Father Weißwald said. “We’re searching for Maria as we speak.”
“But if you don’t find her … then she’ll be the fifth. I don’t know if our spell would be able to stop it if someone else is casting a spell to summon it!”
“I’m sure God will preserve us. I’ll see you on the morrow.”
“But, if he strikes tonight … after midnight … that will make it the solstice as well.”
“So, you’re saying you have to be there tonight.”
“The solstice is when it’s weakest, when the gateway is most likely to open. If he waits until just after midnight on the solstice, that’s only … it’s not tomorrow.”
The priest nodded and asked if she wanted to go the monastery right then. When she acquiesced, he left the terrified woman in the monastery kitchen to do chores for the monks. Then he went in search of Adalbert.
* * *
It was noon before Father Weißwald found Adalbert with two other villagers searching for Maria. The snow was coming down harder, making it rough going even in the woods. The priest pulled his guard aside.
“I heard something disturbing from one of the villagers,” he told the man. “We need to get back to the monastery.”
Adalbert nodded and the two made their way back through the driving snow. On the way, Father Weißwald told him everything Annegret revealed, guessing the “godlike being” the woman had told him about was Satan.
“Can we trust this woman though?” Adalbert asked.
Father Weißwald wasn’t sure. However, he noticed the signature of the paper Annegret had given him was the same as on the monastery chronicle, the man who founded the monastery.
Their last suspect was Waldemar and they realized he would have to murder the last child on the solstice. If they kept him under watch, they could follow him and stop him before he killed the child. Father Weißwald also realized they could probably cast the spell any time on the solstice.
The priest decided to get more information from Annegret and learned she thought the chant only took about an hour. She was unsure of the specifics because she had never done it, she was merely his confidant in the village. Only Fabian had known the specifics. She told the priest the villager confidant was handed down through her family but was only there to aid the Guardian.
He returned to the monastery and they decided to keep an eye on Waldemar. They knew where his cell was and they knew he spent a lot of time in the kitchen. They briefly looked through the kitchen and the pantry, finding stairs down to a cellar in the latter room. There was food stored there, as well as three wine casts, mounds of vegetables, and even some meat. They toyed briefly with the possibility of a secret door in the wine casks and Adalbert even knocked on one, but it didn’t sound hollow.
Beginning in the evening, Adalbert started to keep an eye on Waldemar, helping the man with his chores. Then he picked a place on the landing of the steps, crouching there in the dark, where he would see anyone entering the kitchen. However, there were doors to the pantry into the hallway and the kitchen so Father Weißwald suggested the man could escape them if he simply crept through and he took up a place in the library to hide and watch the hallway as well.
They took their positions after dark when the monks had all gone to sleep, watching the front and back hall and trying to stay awake.
* * *
Sometime after midnight, Adalbert saw someone slip into the kitchen holding some kind of light. He crept down the steps to the kitchen door, which the figure had closed behind him. He pushed the door open quietly and saw the room was dark and empty. He crept across the room to the pantry door quiet as a mouse.
* * *
In his hiding place in the library, Father Weißwald thought he heard footsteps or some kind of noise in the pantry, which shared an adjoining wall. He had not seen anyone in the hallway so guessed the person had entered through the kitchen. He crept up to the door in complete silence. He thought he heard the sound of someone going down the steps to the basement.
He pushed open the door as quietly as he could. It was dark in the pantry but he saw a muted light coming from down the stairs. The door opposite him opened and he could just make out Adalbert there, who flinched when he saw the priest. He also noticed the glow of light from down below and drew his short sword.
They crept down the stairs as quietly as they could though the steps creaked under their weight. They spotted Waldemar standing in front of one of the wine casks. The entire front of the huge barrel was open and he spotted them and dashed into the opening.
Adalbert charged the man, running him through with his sword. Waldemar let out a shout and crashed to the ground. Blood began to pool underneath him almost immediately. Adalbert looked down in horror, fearful he’d killed another man of God. Father Weißwald quickly moved to the fallen man and found him alive but bleeding profusely from the terrible wound. He tore strips from the monk’s robe and fashioned them into bandages, binding his wound and slowing the bleeding.
The candle Waldemar had been holding had fallen into the wine cask and had gone out. Adalbert lit another candle, revealing a crack in the earth under the back of the cask, which seemed to have been built to conceal it. The cask was made of very thick wood, obviously not for holding wine at all. The narrow crack would probably have been a tight fit for Waldemar.
The two men crawled into the crack, which Father Weißwald assumed was the result of the strange earth tremor some weeks before. Adalbert led them into the passage beyond which was very narrow and twisted with many corners and niches in which shadows seemed to lie in ambush for incautious intruders. It felt like it went on and on and they felt like they walked for hours.
However, eventually the passage momentarily widened, revealing a crude enclosure built of boards. Something moved inside it.
“Maria?” Father Weißwald said quietly.
They heard a mewing noise coming from the enclosure.
“Maria, it’s Father Weißwald,” the priest said.
He approached the enclosure and Adalbert followed. It was held together by rope and nails with a board on the front apparently only held in place by several strands of thick string. It was very dark within the thing and they could hear movement. There was also a nasty smell.
Adalbert pulled away the string and moved aside the board that covered the only opening in the enclosure. In the light from the candle, the little girl within blinked and covered her eyes. They were terrified when they recognized her as the little girl from their nightmares. She wore rags and was covered in filth, as was the interior of the enclosure. Tears ran down the little girl’s face and she wore an expression of horror.
It was Maria. It took some minutes to gain her trust enough to get her out of the terrible enclosure.
While the priest tried to coax the girl out, Adalbert looked beyond the makeshift prison where passageway continued. A few steps further, barely out of sight of the slapped-together prison, a rope hung from a crag above. The floor showed traces of dried blood and, on the ground, was a large copper bowl engraved with occult symbols which were mostly covered by encrusted blood. The rough passageway continued beyond that spot as well.
Father Weißwald sent Adalbert back to watch over Waldemar and the man complied. He found the monk where they left him, unconscious. A few minutes later, the priest returned with the little girl. Father Weißwald went to wake the abbot and tell him what they’d found, bringing him down into the basement.
Abbot Winfried was dumbfounded by the strange secret panel in the cask. He told Father Weißwald the monk had built the cask some months before. He thought it was full of wine and so was completely flabbergasted. He told the two to wait there and returned with rope whereupon the two tied up the unconscious monk. Then he got two other monks and they took the man to a cell to secure him as best they could.
Father Weißwald and Adalbert took Maria to the village, waking Hagen, who helped them find the house of Maria’s parents. They were overjoyed to find the child still alive and seemed surprised as well. They hugged the two men, kissed them on their cheeks, and thanked God as they cried over their lost daughter.
They stopped at Annegret’s house and roused her, telling her husband she was needed at the monastery. Father Weißwald took her to the secret room under the church and fetched the chest of items.
* * *
Adalbert convinced Hagen to gather a couple of villagers to investigate the strange tunnel under the basement. They were most enthusiastic to join the man, grabbing a scythe, a threshing flail, and a sickle to arm themselves. They followed the man back to the monastery.
They entered the tunnel to the area where the children had been imprisoned and sacrificed. The passage continued for perhaps as far beyond that. Towards the end, it went upwards and ended in solid stone. Adalbert realized the stone above the crack was different from the stone of the surrounding passage, however. He guessed he was under the Bearded Giant, a mile from the village.
* * *
Father Weißwald found Adalbert when he returned to the surface, the two of them slipping off to the church where they sealed themselves into the secret chamber where Annegret waited, obviously very afraid. She guided them on what they needed to do.
The three sat in a circle in the ritual chamber, Father Weißwald obviously very uncomfortable with the entire ordeal. Annegret lit five candles in a circle on the spot on the floor between them. The pungent smoke of the exotic herbs drew tears from all of their eyes as they began. The monotonous chant seemed to take possession of their bodies as they swayed in time almost spontaneously. The strange symbols, sigils of diverse demons, formed a strange, shake-like trail across the floor, almost seeming to live and writhe. Was it merely an illusion generated by the twisting tendrils of smoke?
All of them fell into a trance, the steady chant seeming to fill the world; the candles flickered as if in a draft that seemed to come out of the middle of the circle. The symbols blazed up brightly. The earth shook and they were gripped by vertigo as the stones underneath them seemed to spin.
The chant suddenly broke off as if by command. The candles burned steadily again and most of the smoke seemed to have lifted. Unsteady glances were exchanged. Did it work? The signs and symbols sat quietly and the floor once again seemed as solid as before.
It seemed to have worked. At least for now.
* * *
They left the trunk of items, most of them used and empty, in the secret room. Father Weißwald kept the book. Annegret bid the priest get a monk who could take the place as the next Guardian. He said he would get someone before midsummer night when the spell would have to be cast again.
They left Schwarzbrunn the next day after bidding the abbot to keep the secret room in the church quiet.
They took Waldemar with them as a prisoner, returning him to the bistum where he was tortured and soon confessed to using witchcraft to contact a god. He confessed under torture he had been trying to contact Ghatanothoa, worshipped by the ancient people of Mu. He hoped to gain esoteric knowledge from it. He refused to be absolved of his sins, screaming that everything the church taught and believed was a foolish lie.
Father Weißwald was there for his confession and torture, finding it all very disturbing. He did not tell his superiors of the witchcraft he and Adalbert had carried out to keep the gate closed. He set about finding a new monk and guardian for Schwarzbrunn.