9 October 1997
"I can't believe you killed a bishop," Tadzio whispered in German as we were laying in the woods, watching the cult site through binoculars.
"It wasn't on purpose."
"But do you regret it?" There was a long pause, then I lowered the binoculars and rolled onto my back to check my gun.
"I'm surprised you care, given your distaste for the Church."
"They tried to kill me, Bene! Repeatedly, for years!"
"It was an inquisition and you were literally under the constant influence of demonic power."
"Yeah, well, torture still sours the relationship. But you're dodging the question."
"I don't want to talk about it. You ready?" Tadzio smiled as if he was certain he'd won some argument, then put his binoculars away.
"Lead the way, inquisitor," he said, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword.
The ground floor of the building was dark and damp, having sat undisturbed in the humid air for decades. The rusted frames of hospital beds, broken glass, bits of fallen plaster, and the occasional bit of graffiti or pile of beer bottles and cigarette butts were the only markers still available to trace our path. Occasional holes in the ceiling gave us glimpses that the upper floors were no better, but the floor beneath our feet was as solid as it was filthy. It was probably not enough to tip off the local youth that something was amiss about the location, but Tadzio and I recognized it as evidence that someone was maintaining the lower levels and keeping them hidden from sight. The trick was finding how they got down there.
We scoured the entire ground floor; though we were sure from observation that the cult members who frequent the site used a hidden exterior entrance directly to the basement, we suspected there was still a method for reaching the lower levels from the main structure. If we could find such an entrance, especially a forgotten entrance, we could hopefully catch the people below by surprise. When we found nothing, we debated trying to find the main entrance, but ended up deciding to check the other floors just to be safe before we took that step.
It was on the second floor, in what appeared to have been an administrator's office, that we had our discovery. One desk was attached to the floor and couldn't be moved, and under it we found a secret switch. On activating it, we watched a rusty and likely forgotten part of the wall hesitantly open to reveal a door marked with the red spiral of the Brood of Nachash. We had our entrance.
The elevator that used to connect the office to the subbasement appeared inoperable at a glance, so rather than poke at it and risk alerting the people below, we took to climbing. That much worked, and when we arrived at our destination no one was waiting for us. We agreed on a search pattern, and I stepped into the spiritual realm to take my path as he turned away to find his. As a spirit, I slipped past about a dozen people milling about or praying to their dread gods. In one room I found an assortment of weapons and explosives, with a handful of maps marked with targets. Being that I was alone in the room, I went physical again to gather the maps for future reference and rest my hand on the hinges and latch until they melted. Once the metal hardened behind me, no one was getting in there without magic or running the risk of blowing the whole place. I hoped it would be enough. When I met Tadzio again, he was wiping blood off one of his swords, slipped away in a crevice where I nearly missed him.
"Did you run into trouble?" I whispered. He shook his head.
"No trouble for me." He briefly explained that he had found a passageway that seemed to lead into catacombs, styled to look old and European, but with the wrong stonework. He'd seen enough of the real thing to recognize it, he said. It was the only clue we had to suggest an inner sanctum, so we went back to follow it. We descended into the dark and narrow passage, feeling our way through winding corners and down precarious stairs. I could have done something to help myself see better, but the turns were frequent enough that I wouldn't see much at a time. I probably should have. We saw light seeping in a side passage ahead, and slowly approached it. We paused while still in shadow, he readying his sword and I offering a quick prayer, before we stepped out together.
Spread before us was a large, cave-like room, with rough hewn walls and a vaulted ceiling. From the ground rose a number of jagged pillars, appearing like stalagmites, but flattened about five feet up with idols perched atop. They were scattered around the room in what appeared to our perspective as having no system at all. Among them were about two dozen robed figures with oversized hoods, who all turned to face us as soon as we emerged.
"Father!" one cried out, raising his arms. "Have you come to hear our confessions?"
"I'm sure they would be among the most interesting in my career," I replied. He laughed, lowering his hands to the sides of his hood.
"I didn't get the chance to notice last time that you have a sense of humor," he said, drawing back the hood. I recognized him immediately, the scarred side of his face and his serpentine eye raising every hair on my body. "We were so busy that night, weren't we? Barely got introduced at all. Why, I bet you have all kinds of surprises waiting for me." He smiled and pointed to Tadzio. "Like, you have friends! I wouldn't have expected that." The other figures began to slowly walk toward us.
"And I suppose your friends just want to get to know us, too?"
"Them? They'll leave you alone, don't worry." His smile grew larger, distorting his face and stretching until two fangs began to emerge from his upper jaw. "Your penance will be special."
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.