29 June 1989
Flitwick was approaching me with the knife as a chant spread through the room. I whispered a prayer.
"What a fascinating specimen. I had no idea the Vatican had stooped so low as to use nephilim," he said, placing the edge of the blade against my neck. He leaned in close to my ear. "Tell me, do they know?" I closed my eyes and continued my prayer. "Doesn't matter, of course. Once I have your blood, Nachash will rise, and all these religious trappings will fall." I opened my eyes and looked at him.
"Is that what you think? That my blood will help you?"
"Oh, now you want to chat?" he asked, slowly digging the blade into my skin. I hissed as a small trickle of blood began to flow. "I'm sorry, but we are on something of a schedule."
"Don't you know what it means to be a priest?" He reached out and touched the blood, then recoiled and screamed as smoke rose from his finger. The blade dropped and I regained control of my body. I clenched my fist and stepped forward, closing the distance between myself and Flitwick as he backed up. "Whatever I was born as, I'm a holy vessel now." The young man opened his eyes and snapped his head up to stare at me. I had a brief glimpse of his slit pupils before I was thrown backward, cracking the wall behind me.
The rest of the attendees stood, drawing weapons and lunging at me. Those outside entered the house to help. The boy screamed and grabbed his face, collapsing into a heap on the floor. As I was trying to avoid the blows from the others, I saw Flitwick move for the knife and I dove forward to stop him. As the boy screamed again, the markings on the floor began to glow and everyone was thrown, the knife crashing through a window. The markings continued to glow, and energy from them was spinning around the boy, who was working his way to his feet. I knew I didn't have much time, whatever it was that was happening needed to be stopped.
I reached out, placing my hand on one of the circles. Fire shot from my palm, burning away the marking and making the floor smolder. There was a disruption in the energy that upset the boy's balance, and he turned to face me. I felt hands all over my body as the cultists tried to drag me away. A pair of massive yellow eyes were opening in the floor. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, feeling the heat build within me.
Flames erupted from my entire body, and I heard the cultists scream as they let go. I stood, aflame, staring at the boy who floated slightly above the ground over the eyes and surrounded by swirling energy. He raised a hand toward me, and I felt the energy try to push me away. Slowly, I stepped forward, pointing my hands at the eyes and blasting them with fire. A loud, otherworldly scream reverberated through the building, and the boy jerked back. I could hear the crackle of the fires behind me spreading to the house and cultists scrambling around, but kept my eyes on the boy. He went to charge toward me, and I pulled my fists in and drew all the fire into a sphere around me. Just before he made contact, I threw my arms out, emitting a blast of flame in every direction.
The house collapsed in flames, with the cultists inside. As the fire licked at the trees around it, I walked out of the rubble and brushed ash off my shoulder. The fire on my body faded out while I continued, stopping only briefly when I found a large towel to wrap around myself to replace the cassock that had burned off. I climbed into the boat Flitwick had used to reach the site, and rowed back to the mainland as the island burned.
29 June 1989
Those attending the ritual arrived shortly after dark, already cloaked and focused on the work at hand. They didn't seem to notice me, as they gathered in the house to light candles and find their positions. There were around two dozen people in attendance, some stationed at the circle on the floor of the house and others scattered around outside. As I made my way around, I saw a pair of more ornately cloaked figures arrive on a boat and begin making their way to the house. I slipped inside to monitor the activity.
On reaching the center of the circle, one of the figures knelt while the other was given a dagger and a large fang. The one with the implements was clearly in charge, master of this event. As the master lifted the fang up and slowly turned, the others gathered began to chant and kneel. The master suddenly lowered their arms and the island went silent.
"Tonight," the master announced in a voice that was amplified and clearly augmented to sound like a chorus, "the time has come! Nachash shall rise and finish its great work!" Muttered approvals rose from the kneeling crowd. "The goats are gathered. One," pointing the fang at the figure kneeling in the center, "shall take on the sin of mankind and give himself fully to Nachash. The other shall be sacrificed to call it forth!" I looked around and didn't see anyone else with a similar robe, and no one seemed to be stepping forward as the sacrifice. "Show yourself."
I turned in surprise but found the master was indicating the one kneeling at their side. This one lowered his hood, and I saw the face of a young man, somewhere near his late teens. He had long blonde hair and stern green eyes, fixed resolutely on the one standing before him.
"Take the venom," the master said. The boy nodded, and the point of the fang was pressed into his cheek until it drew blood. I began to pace, praying for wisdom about whether or not I needed to interfere. The boy screamed out as that side of his face began to discolor, like a rash spreading along his skin, his eyes closed tight as he took deep breaths to try to stop himself from crying out. I took a step forward to act when the master turned their attention in my direction. "Show yourself," they said, pointing at me with the dagger. I immediately felt myself tugged into the physical realm, my arms and legs frozen in place, and everyone in the house turned to look at me. The master lowered his hood with the edge of the blade and I growled.
"So glad you followed my trail," Professor Flitwick said, pointing the dagger at me again. "It just wouldn't be the same without you."
22 June 1989
Finding traces of the cult was surprisingly easy. Ensuring no one knew that I was doing so was the difficult part.
The little things helped quite a lot, really. Bits of graffiti in ancient scripts hidden in underpasses, whispers in the right bars just before last call, and local folklore all played a role in pointing me to some small islands off the coast. I was able to call Flitwick every few days with what information I had gathered, and usually by that time he had researched what I found the time before and would give me the information I needed. Last night, we were able to narrow down a date. The evidence suggested that the ritual was going to happen on June 29, late at night. We knew the location would be somewhere on the islands around Southport, and I have a week to figure out which one. Flitwick informed me that he had to take a trip for work, some summer training in his field, and he would not be available before the date of the ritual to help me any more. He wished me luck, and I prayed for safe travels. I am on my own now, but I believe I have all that I need.
1 June 1989
When I woke again, the sun was bearing down hard on me, in long strips broken apart by the shadows of trees, from near the western horizon. The only noise were the cicadas, early crickets, and the late birds, and the soft tone of a river further down the slope where I had passed out. My notes and clothes were scattered all around me, and the marks from the sheriff's fangs ached. The grass around me looked like it had been singed, but never caught fire.
I gathered my things, got dressed, and made my way down to what I found was actually a creek. The water hissed and steamed when I placed my hands in it, so I stopped and began to focus. I had to get my body back under control, I couldn't return to my superiors like this. When I was finally ready to drink, I began to wonder if I could return to them at all yet. I determined that Flitwick would be the best place to start. I had not yet made contact with him, so there was no reason for the cult to watch for me there; and his relationship with the Church meant that he could get a quiet message sent along. I wanted to rest some more but had no desire to test the limits of providence that prevented me from being found already. It was time to move.
It was late into the night before I found the professor's house. He was, thankfully, a light sleeper and I was able to rouse him enough to be welcomed in with little fuss that would alert his neighbors. When I tried to convince him of the urgency of my mission, he patted me on the shoulder and informed me that no one was coming here and that he would be useless to me without at least a little more sleep. Satisfied at his own answer, he returned to his bed, leaving me with permission to make myself comfortable. The only comfort I could find in that moment, however, was understanding the nature of this cult.
I took over his dining room, spreading my notes around the table and jotting down new ones based on my encounter the night before. For hours I poured over the connections and the gaps, trying to understand what event they were preparing for and how to stop it. They were planning to gather victims for sacrifice, and I had no idea how to stop them from doing that. As I attempted to piece everything together, I didn't notice the sun rise, or Flitwick preparing coffee or rejoining me. I leapt when his hand casually reached over and lifted my drawing of the circle in the basement of the inn.
"This is very old magic," he muttered, sitting down and resting his mug on the nearest clear space. I took a deep breath and reclaimed my seat opposite him.
"Seemed lively as ever."
"You know well enough that magic does not age." He set the page down and began looking over my scattered notes, taking a particular interest in the drawings. "What do you know about this cult?"
"They are not a minor nuisance, as we expected. The cell I encountered is part of a larger organization, led by a Barzai, with plans to 'free' mankind of the influence of gods and religion. They are violent, they perform human sacrifices, and their leaders at the very least have access to dangerous magic."
"Fascinating. What do you know about this plan?" I leaned forward, resting my forehead on my hand.
"Less than I would like. It seems to be a summoning, they appear to believe that the serpent of Eden is a singular being, a Great Serpent, who they can call upon to finish corrupting mankind. I don't know what, exactly, they will summon if they succeed, but I fear they will certainly be able to summon something. And I know whatever is coming, is coming soon." He picked up my drawings of the markings in the cave.
"Wait," he said, grabbing the other circle from the inn. "I think there's a clue here. Do you know the geographic orientation of these markings?"
"Oh," I said, sitting up, "No, I don't. Why?" He went into the next room and returned with a stacks of road atlases, shoving a section of papers aside to lay it down and open the first to a map of Tennessee.
"Show me where the inn is, and the cave, if you can." I rose and stood over the map, scanning for anything I knew. I pointed out the town where the inn was and was able to identify the general area of the cave. He noted the county, and then dug through the stack until he found a more detailed county road map. We found both locations, and after a discussion about the orientation of the basement compared to the front door, and the way the cave angled, he felt he had an idea on how everything was laid out.
"This has been very interesting, professor, but will it help us?"
"Yes! Okay, look here. The circle in the inn is a summoning circle. It has these markings around the outside, here, see? One of them, and only one, matches markings you identified in the cave. If the geographic orientation is important, and they usually are for things like this, then there should be more sites at each of these symbols. We just have to determine the scale."
"How do we do that?"
"I have no idea. Something attempting to summon a creature to oppose God Himself would have to be huge so it could collect a lot of energy. But if the scale is too large, then some places would have to be in the ocean. Which...well, there's this large empty area here..." He began tracing out the circle, and then pulled out an atlas of North America and started trying to match up locations. "The largest I think this could be, since there is an area with no sites that would probably be in the ocean, would be if this lower site is in Bermuda, and this other site in the Bahamas, and that would put the central site somewhere here in North or South Carolina, near the border, on the coast. I think that needs to be your next destination."
"The sheriff talked about gathering people for sacrifice, though. I need to stop him before I can just drive off to the beach." Flitwick waved his hand dismissively.
"I'll call the state police, they can handle a murderous sheriff. My guess is that there won't be any record of this...Jimmy's death on their official rolls, and that alone should raise reason to investigate. You have bigger problems, Father de Monte. I suggest you address them." I was hesitant to admit he was right, but there was little more I could do here. I needed to track down the ritual and learn how to counter the magic they would be using, and had very little time to do so. Flitwick drove me to the nearest Greyhound station and bought me a ticket to Wilmington to begin my search. I was only on the bus a few minutes before I drifted off.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.