Sabbatical, Part Six
15 April 1991
We were standing around my table, which was covered in open books and notes. Over the weekend we had touched on all of this as much as we could, but I also had mass to tend to and the church's expectations for my Sunday afternoons, so this was the first time we could really spend a large chunk of time picking at what we knew. It would also probably be the last; we would keep in touch about anything we found, but Henry was flying back to the United States early the next day. In the course of our discussions, I had pieced together that he had met Tadzio while doing fieldwork, the exact nature of which he never explained but seemed related to the half-human child of a water spirit that was particularly important to him. Having never actually met another nephil in my life, I was hoping he would be more talkative about this other one he knew. Sadly, this was a matter he was not interested in discussing.
"This is the earliest reference to Nachash as an actual being that I own," he said, resting his hand on the reprint of a book originally printed during the Spanish Inquisition as I entered the room. "I know of an earlier reference, a mysterious book so rare I get conflicting accounts of what it's even called, printed around 1270. But nothing earlier."
"So this is a relatively new religious order?" I asked, setting a mug of coffee in front of him and then taking a sip from my own. He absently lifted it to his lips and then set it aside again, looking over to a page of notes he had nearby.
"To a European Catholic, sure."
"So we know when the Brood of Nachash was formed?"
"No. We know that there are no surviving records of any reference to Nachash as an actual being from before the late thirteenth century. It does seem somewhat unlikely that the cult existed very long by that date, given the complete silence in the record, but we can't really know. The most likely alternative is that they existed but called their god something different."
"But before then, Nachash was just...what?"
"An Anglicized version of the Hebrew word for 'serpent' used in the Fall narrative of Genesis 3. Outside of language studies of that actual passage, I have found little evidence to believe it had any use outside of Hebrew until either the cult or the spirit appropriated it."
"Is is possible that other groups that center on serpents are related to it?" I sat down and picked up one book, which included a brief reference to Nachash among a number of chaotic deities.
"It's worth looking into, I guess. It is, at least, possible that the cult will have borrowed imagery from other serpentine orders or even folklore, even if there's no direct relationship." As we looked over the information we had, it was decided that we needed to expand the scope of our studies. Henry had other matters to address, so he agreed to be available for the occasional bit of research, but had to keep his focus elsewhere. I knew that my resources were going to be limited as long as the Vatican had me off the case, so I thanked him for the help and admitted that it may be a while before I can contact him with anything new. I hated to put the matter aside, but I was growing concerned that I would soon have no other choice.
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Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.
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