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.