My indoctrination into the Church began very young. I was raised Catholic and proud throughout my life. One of the things that stuck with me is the trials and tribulations I was put under as a boy. The local priest guided us on the good and honest path, although he seemed content to let us be boys at the times we were wont to. He seemed to take extra care, as we got older, that we were more strict about our adherence to the Lord as we got older. Food drives, homeless shelters, blood drives, animal shelters, and so on. Years in studies, time away from my peers who, as my bishop explained, were simply not as mature as I was.
So it came to be that I was deacon, and eventually a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. I supported my aging Bishop and Cardinal well and was asked to attend special occasions with them, often supporting the Church in larger communities and even a national affair now and again. And so I ended up at a meet in London.
“Do you know what they’re capable of?” demanded a bishop who I did not know. The table was full of similarly dressed, sweating old men, Bishops and Cardinals both.
We were late.
They grudgingly made room for my own Bishop Rueloiv. So far as I was told, as we are not to listen to idle rumor and gossip, the meetings were being held as emergency summons across the globe. I was here as both a sigil of honor and a messenger boy. I will not try to hold myself in as high esteem; I was here as a secretary for my Bishop, and I was not the only one.
The large rectangular table sat many Bishops and the few Cardinals for our country. Many priests were relegated to being sent in and out for messages, beverages, food, and who knows what else. The place was in chaos.
The one thing not bothered seemed to be the stoic guards placed at nearly every door. Vatican.
Priests near me immediately began to fill me in as I respectfully sat a few feet behind the larger table. Nearly every Pope warns against gossip, but the Lord is going to have to remove a preacher’s tongue before that happens.
“Father, what have you heard?” they immediately asked me.
“Nothing, we received the notice late as we were on a trip.” I shrugged. Say less, listen more, I always say.
“Well,” one excited young priest eagerly whispered, “I heard an Irish priest was murdered!”
“By another priest!” another chimed in.
“No, by a demon!”
“He was possessed for sure!”
Squabbling went on for a moment before there was any sense of order again.
“What is being done about this?” I finally interjected. “Isn’t this a matter for the bobbies?”
“They’re being told the Vatican is investigating this matter personally. It was just some old Irish priest in a small town.”
The din of the Bishops and Cardinals overpowered our hushed discussion.
“We CANNOT make this decision alone.”
“We aren’t making this decision at all, this is a Papal decree.”
“His word will hold them.”
The door swung open with a bang, interrupting the bickering. The guards eyed the priest warily. He looked as if he’d been dragged through a mud patch, his odor wafting through the room quickly.
“Father, is that…?” one of the Cardinals trailed off.
The priest clutched stained and dirty wrappings to his chest. His eyes were wild, and he seemed unsure of where to go next.
“Father, it’s alright,” the Cardinal reassured him, gesturing at the table. “We will take your burden from here, you’ve done enough to get it this far.”
I watched as the priest pulled himself toward the table, step-by-step, looking for all the world that he would sprint like a madman if someone were to say, “Jump”. He looked at the silent group once more and back at the Cardinal. Gently, he laid it in front of them. The Cardinal carefully unwrapped the object, shielding it from our eyes across the room, but the three Cardinals and their seconds got a good glimpse before quickly wrapping it back up.
Looking very pale, one of the priests who saw it excused himself immediately.
“Please see to his spiritual needs,” the same Cardinal said to his own priest, who ushered the shaking figure out.
The three Cardinals conferred among themselves while the room remained quiet.
A buzzing and clicking noise nearly threw me out of my seat. A printer. One of the priests brought the paper over to the Cardinals. Their faces grew grim.
“Who here is fluent in French?” one asked. A number of hands went up. “Bishop Rueloiv, please prepare yourself.” He nodded and motioned for me to follow him.
The rituals began easily enough, some familiar blessings, and the intercession of St. Benedict, St. Christopher and others. I was surely on the road to my first exorcism. For what purpose I was not sure. It is a bit of an open secret, but we keep the actual practice quiet enough that the media doesn’t bother us. I’m sorry to burst bubbles, but they are not things done in the open, nor are recordings allowed, meaning your online videos are fakes.
One thing that is widely misunderstood, and has definitely been perverted over the years, is how demons work according to the word of God. The Roman Catholic church believes that through free will, man is allowed to choose temptation. Now the reasons for demons being allowed to exist vary widely. For some, they believe demons are a punishment to those who stray from God’s path, as he is known to punish. Others believe the Lord simply will not destroy, utterly, one of this creations. There are others with mixed theories. My personal belief is that God did not engage in the battle himself, and that given it took many other angels fighting with the archangel Michael, Satan is not a pushover and cannot simply be destroyed. In fact, nowhere does it ever describe an angel or demon being killed. Endless battle and all that.
After being dressed, including getting my own special garbs, we were given a white parcel, wrapped in golden twine. The hallway we first entered was in the same building, modern, well lit. Going down a single staircase, it became noticeably darker. While still modern, the door at the end of the hall featured an archway of ornate and engraved stone utterly out of place with the rest of the building.
Gargoyles sat at each side, always terrifying creatures to me, turned slightly inward toward the path forward. Another set of stairs, stone, led into darkness beyond archway.
My Bishop spoke latin, which I translated loosely as:
“Open the gate,
Grant us safe passage
Those given from the Lord.”
And then we passed through. The stairwell was indeed dark, but dimly lit by oil lamps that smelled of sage. I personally never liked the scent. After we traveled for a full minute, I asked, “Where do we go to? Surely we don’t hold anyone this deep?”
My Bishop declined to respond.
We must have been more than two hundred feet down when we reached another door. This guarded by a large double wooden door, laid with archaic runes. The runes disturbed me greatly, for what possession needs the binding of Baphomet? And others…so old…
I was interrupted in my study of the runes by the Bishop, who had already opened the door, beckoning me inside. Blinding light spilled into the darkness. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed that the hallway before me was very modern. Upon entering the room, I noticed a statue of the creature, a large replica of Baphomet, hooves, horns and all. But this was not all.
Eight transparent walls, four on each side, lined the hallway. We stopped at the first and I saw a large man sitting in the middle of a white room. A simple bed was in one corner, a closed closet, a couch, a TV, and a bookcase packed and overflowing with books. And a carved wooden head on a dresser at the bedside. He faced away from us, and his garb was only what I could call medieval. A long tunic, fringed in red.
“Bonne soirée, évêque,” said the figure. Holes were drilled into the wall, allowing us to hear him.
“Bonne soirée à vous, Sir Roger De Sancto Leodegario,” the Bishop replied.
“Vous croyez-vous aussi fidèle et pur que Daniel des lions?” Sir Roger turned, his words turning Bishop Rueloiv white as a ghost. He began sweating immediately. “Forgive me,” he spoke in English, “I did not mean to be rude and speak privately. The English tongue is just very, raw, if you would excuse the explanation.”
At full height, Sir Roger easily surpassed two metres. Built like a castle, I’m sure he could have punched through whatever glass made this prison without flexing.
“I have a decree–I have a PAPAL decree,” the Bishop corrected himself. He went to a slot on the wall, a drawer to slide items back and forth. Shakily, he pulled a document from his robes and dropped it in the drawer. I could not read it, but it was indeed marked by the Pope. The large man received it as Bishop Rueloiv backed away, never taking his eyes off him.
The man studied the paper and then held it to his nose. Taking a large breath, he gave a half smile, “The paper is of poor quality, the ink made of carbon and fire, and the words of the Pope so very…weak.” He held the anticipation for a moment. “But this will do. Perform the rite, Bishop, and we give our word as a Knight to serve as we have served before.”
“Pull the hand of the statue when I am finished, Father,” the Bishop spoke to me, “And give me the package.”
I nodded and gave him the package. Creeping down the hallway, I could see more men in similar cells. Some looked at me, others did not.
I turned and watched the Bishop, trying not to look at the cells but seeing movement out of the corners of my eyes anyway. He continued the rite, very softly so I could not hear it, although I do not think that was his intention. I could see Sir Roger at the front of his cell, head bowed in prayer, hands held together close to his chest. Time seemed to slow, but was only a few moments before it was complete and the bishop nodded at me.
I pulled the handle with great effort, and a small pop and hiss sounded. I walked back to the Bishop, who stood back from the glass. Sir Roger was speaking quietly to himself.
“…and in these deeds, I am bound. All in the name of the Lord, and the word passed by him through the Pope, amen,” he finished and grinned.
A drip appeared on his outfit of pure red from a spigot in the middle of the ceiling of his cell that had not there before. It turned into a faucet that poured over him. It was surely blood; nothing else flowed so red. It covered him head to toe, soaking his outfit and the floor around him. The lights flickered as he smiled a wolf smile in the half dark. As the spigot cut off, and I finished wetting my own clothes, I noticed the blood was moving toward him. Being absorbed, as his skin flexed, turned black and split open. The air around me rushed as if a great fan were nearby, and it stopped when those cracks closed and his skin resumed its normal color.
One might think I might ask questions or run, but I was both fascinated and terrified, struck by fear and indecision. Sir Roger walked over to the closet and opened it, dressing in a chainmail skirt, and then another white tunic over that, before bucking a leather belt with a sword to his side.
It was when he put the tunic on, the image of a symmetrical red cross with the ends splayed out, that I knew who he was. This man could not be a demon; I was not here for an exorcism, and I was staring at something that could not be.
The barrier exploded with the back of his hand.
The bishop and I both flew backwards, falling to the floor.
“Y-y-you will do as you’re asked? As the Pope decrees?” the Bishop stammered as Sir Roger stood over him.
The Knight paused, and then helped the Bishop up. He gently prodded the Bishop to look at me, and then turned his head in both hands, his face intimately close.
“Vous êtes…impurs,” the Knight said softly, crushing the Bishop’s skull between his hands. He stepped on the corpse in his bare feet, and again the blood welled up to him at his legs. The lights flickered. His skin was again as pure as day, and Bishop Rueloiv was a dry husk.
He turned to me and knelt down, putting a hand gently on my face.
“I know what he has done to you as he has done it to others. His sweat is putrid. It stinks of lies and deceit. He thinks himself clean. He has attempted to dirty you, but you remain clean,” and at this point he tapped my head and my heart, “here and here.”
“L’amour et le désir, these things are not wrong,” he continued, “but they must be given.”
I cried as decades old memories washed upon me, and he held me.
“Your tears are power, your anger is well controlled, and yet the warrior in you is not dead. He has been waiting. Come with me. Come with us.”
“I don’t want to be a…I serve the Church.” I sputtered, pulling away. He laughed, and if the hall did not trap sounds, it would have echoed for miles.
“We are who you think we are, but we are not the creatures you think. You have much to learn if you wish to fight in the war to come,” he stood, towering over me, “Will you?”
If I was to be a servant of the Lord, and the Lord passed word through the Pope for this to be willed, then perhaps this was my second calling.
“I place thee,” he put his hand on my head as I knelt, “under my protection. I call thee my squire in-arms. You will serve the Lord, the word of the Pope, and the commands I give you. No other. Do you accept?”
“Then I, Sir Roger De Sancto Leodegario dub thee Squire Foresta, arise!”
I felt empowered, as if new gates of knowledge were about to flow into me.
“You will learn much, starting with French, as English is a peasant’s language,” Sir Roger said. “You need a weapon.” He began to unwrap the package that we had brought down.
I was not shy about showing my shock.
He looked pleased, examining the hand, sheared off almost to the elbow, inlaid with a sigil of God in gold.
“I’m going to need your arm.”