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The Abbot
#1
(Right, so back this summer, Spix and I worked on a storyline with Bastius and Cristovao, to find the writings of an anchorite named Gerald Hughes. We role played out the first part of the story, and then Spix edited it into an IC post. Then he went on absense and I forgot to post the story... so, here it is! Consider this a prelude to Lost in a Song, Heart of Evil, and Tarnished Silver of sorts, as it hints at the Atilio storyline.)

Men. Born. Made.
Strong cry latter.
Those screams fade.
As they shatter.
I know all.
For I hear.
Of their fall.
Of their fear.
Shared by men.
As their pasts crush them mortal once again.


Long ago, before the red tides of chaos swept the fields of the Eastern Kingdoms, holy men - so devout, so wrapped in their minds - would seal themselves forever in the cells of churches and abbeys like madmen. Without families or friends, books and musings provided the comfort of companionship. Then, death, the comfort of mercy.

At times, pilgrims would visit these sacred prisons of men, these anchorites, coining the holy man’s advice as equal in value to food and water. These visits often resulted in fair trade.

One such anchorite, Gerald Hughes, isolated himself for thirty years in Northshire Abbey before its destruction. Of course, it would not have been mentioned if he had not escaped. Indeed, the man fled with others to the North, to Lordaeron.

Certain refugees, upon mention of the name, recall him as Father - not Anchorite. For it was observed that his thoughts created substance for the thread. The thread from which the universe was sewn. Thoughts that challenged the mind. That convinced peasants to wish for more than rain. That convinced wise men that they were blind. Thoughts that were to blame for his madness. Those who saw his words as wisdom came to follow him as a priest. The most holy of which recorded Hughes’ breath on every scrap of parchment that they could salvage.

Unfortunately, the fate of Father, Anchorite, and Madman Hughes was but one of the many sheets of history lost in the ruins of the Northern Kingdoms. Perhaps this sheet will also be lost, as will those adventurers who, by seeking to uncover what is lost in the past, find themselves lost in the future.
______________________________________________________________________________

The carriage wheels creak as they bump over small rocks along the road. Outside the window, I watch as Elwynn Forest silently wisp by. To have been here so frequently, yet never think of it much. Northshire Abbey, the Clerics of Northshire, ..all but destroyed during the First War. The survivors were among the many who fled to Lordaeron, his home. Funny, I never thought about it that way, though I certainly knew it as fact. There was one man in particular who stuck to my memory of those days long past. A priest, named Marcellus Luther. He was a rather gnoll-faced for a man, and served in the church my mother was in. He was a refugee from the Northshire clerics.

… I rather disliked him, if I recall correctly...

My mind began to wander.

I sat on the wooden planks of my childhood home, in the living room. Mother was there. She was talking to dad in the kitchen. She was angry.. or sounded angry. I can’t remember why. Maybe dad was drinking? He had stopped drinking years before I was born. I dunno. The Gnoll-faced man was also in there. Marcellus, the one who went to church with mom. I kept sitting there, barely able to make out what they said, unable to pin the words that this debate was built upon.

Marcellus clears his throat, the discomfort of the air is heavy enough to force his mouth into a frowning arch, "Maeia... I agree. Draenor is dangerous, but we all have a duty to our country. To our people. Altilio isn't doing this for glory, he's doing this for his family - for you, your child."

Maeia paced between the two men, covering her face with her hands. She looks to Marcellus with a half-pleading, half volatile expression. "Atilio has already done his duty for the Light, Father! The war was not even that long ago, and you want for him to go off to another battle? And on another world, even, where those green... MONSTERS, came from?!"

Atilio glances up from the floor at his wife, then the abbot. He stays silent. The priest uses his hand to rub at the stubble lining his jaw, "I don't want this, but the Alliance needs every hand it can get. There's no shortage of volunteers, but there certainly is a lack of experienced soldiers. If not Atilio, then who? Would you condemn another who lacks his skills; what would become of them?"

Atilio steps forward some. "He is right, Maeia. There are many volunteers, but veterans are what we need the most. I experienced many of the battles in the war, and I survived them all. I came back to you, didn't I? If we don't stop these demonic monsters at their source, they will continue to invade and endanger us all."

“Then let other vetrerans go! They have Turalyon, and Khadgar, and Danath! So many heroes of great power, Atilio! Why must you go as well??", Maeia begged her husband with pleading hands.

Marcellus noticed my interest. He moves around the kitchen table, blocking my view from the cracked open door. He lowers his voice somewhat, "That's what every veteran’s wife is saying. Soon, there won't be any left. You have to set an example Maeia. Be strong for your husband, for Lordaeron."

I scooted away from the cracked door when Marcellus blocked the way, still unsure what is going on. Maeia covers her face with her hands, dropping them down. "It... is not fair, why would this be in the Light's will... what if he never comes back??"

Atilio walks over to his wife and hugs her closely. "My love, I promise you I will come back. I came back from the war, didn't I? Even when orcs were at the capital walls, and all hope seemed lost, the war ended for the right cause. I came back. I will come back again."

Marcellus rubs the back of his neck, "Truly, it is what the Light wills. I say that as a holy man... and as a friend. In the end, Maeia, all you can really do is come to terms with it. It's getting late, though, I'll go make sure the carriage is ready Atilio. Come as soon as you're done here. Good bye, Maeia." He steps out of the kitchen, close enough to pat Cristavio's head, "Everything will be fine, little one." He offers a empty smile and makes his way out of the house.

I turned my head to Marcellus as he leaves. "... what's the gnollman want??"

Atilio looked down to me and picked me up with a hug, then placed me down. "S'nothing important, Cristovao. Just some work for daddy is all."

"What kind of work, dad? You gonna go away again... ?", I asked him with a frown.

Maeia kneeled down beside me and petted my head. "Only for a little while, Cris. Just a little while. Not like last time... right?", she asks Atilio as she stood up.

Atilio looks down and rolls a shoulder. "... Aye. Right. This time, the war goes to the monsters. We have the upper hand. Daddy promises to come back before Winter's Veil, and if he don't, he'll get you anything he wants when he does come back, alright!"

I turned my head and frowned even more. "... ok. But you better promise..."

Maeia turns to Atilio. "When are you leaving... ?"

"... Tonight. After dinner. I won't deny you that, dear. Now, we've plenty of hours still. Let's not fret about such sorrowful things...", he says back to wife, giving her a warm embrace.

… and that was the last time I ever saw my father.

The carriage came to a halt. The door opens and reveals the gray-stone pillars and gothic towers of the Abbey. As I step out, the deep echo of a massive bell rings throughout the valley seven times. I make my way up and through the open entrance way. Hooded, robe-clad pilgrims shuffle across the refractory. Their dull whispers fill the domes above and the orange glow of the setting sun pierces through and into the long corridors to either side.

This is where he lived. Why I am here. This is where he ate, slept, and prayed. Anchorite Gerald Hughes as Dr. Thaddeus called him.

A crisp, slow voice pulls me from my thoughts.

“Are you in need of aid, traveller?” The words belong to a tall, lanky man draped in a white and red, gold-trimmed sheet. His sixty-year old face was long and serious, topped by a mitre matching his robe.

I look at the old man with a steeled face, adjusting my cape and Silver Hand badge. "Of sorts, aye. I'm looking for the writings of Gerald Hughes. Know of him?" The Abbot eyes the badge at my chest. His eyebrows lift, but his face remains stern.

"Ah...a Knight-brother. Does your business press you enough to forget the proper civilities shared between worshippers of the Light?"

“Ah... beg your pardon?,” I inquire as the scolding observation had lacked any answer to my question.

The Abbot’s left eye twitches ever so slightly, "Manners, boy."

“The matter is rather urgent,” I suggest instead. The man releases a breath of hopeless air. He slowly turns and begins to lumber down the corridor, beckoning with a tired hand.

His voice fills the passage, "I'm assuming that your of the proper standing in the Order to make such a request Sir..." The Abbot curiously looks over his shoulder at me.

"Silvio. Cristovao di Silvio."

The Abbot’s steps degrade into a standstill. His shoulders soften, but quickly stiffens as if struck hard by the orange sunlight. They rise, and then drift back down. His cold and low voice grumbles.

"Go home, boy. I cannot help you."

I blink, "Wait... what? What's wrong? This is too important to just... just stop here."
The Abbot drags out each word with a snarl, "As an abbot of the Sanctuary, I am ordering you to leave." He steps through an open doorway and slams it closed behind him. There is a sound of a heavy lock turning.

What is the meaning of this? I stomp up to the door, “Are you one who calls the Argents heretics!? You can't do this! I studied here once. Open this damn door!"

I refuse to move. It was quite some time before I could accept that my efforts alone would not unlock that door. That, and the last glow of sunlight had already retreated behind the distant hills. A meek, tender voice came from behind, belonging to a woman dressed in black.

"Is something wrong?" Her face is etched in hesitant curiosity.

"Pardon me? Someone there?,” I retort, turning.

"Oh! Sorry," comes a reply followed by the sound of flint on steel. A few sparks, and the place is lit by a torch, "I don't usually carry a light when I walk around at these hours. My name is Mary, Sister Mary Armsworth."

"Ah. Light's blessings, sister,” I say before realizing I had yet to explain myself. “I asked this curmudgeonly, old abbot to show me the cell of Father Gerald Hughes, but he suddenly slammed the door on me."

In the torchlight, I notice the woman is quite young, just out of her teen years. She smiles mischievously, "I've never heard that name before. You haven't been around here long, have you?" She takes a few steps towards me and continues speaking before I can reply, "Abbot Maximus can be rather ...pugnacious at times, but he is a very good man. The Sisters say that the Light speaks to him."

"I've just arrived. My name is Cristovao, by the way. Cristovao di Silvio."

She turns away from me, "I've never heard that name before, either. Have you eaten dinner, yet, Mister di Silvio?" The torchlight begins to drift away as she makes her way around a corner.

I follow, "Ah, no. I literally just arrived, by carriage. Are you offering, though? Heh."

Several minutes later, I found myself seated in the refectory with Sister Mary placing a bowl of hot soup on the table in front of me. The large hall is empty, with a few candles beating away the flickering shadows.

"Thank you kindly. So, what's this abbot's problem? Why's he so grouchy?"

Mary sits herself across from me, "It would be rude to speak of the abbot behind his back. In the few years I've been here, he's always been ...stern.” She leans forward, words as swift as the motion, “Personally, I heard that long ago, he lost his wife to a murderer. That changes a man. And really, if somebody I loved was taken from me like that, a friend or a Sister, you know, I would be bitter to."

"Oh, really? How terrible. Still, the Light teaches us to be compassionate. Our past is no excuse act that way. Bah..."
Mary smoothly returns to an upright position, "So... Mister Cristavao, what about your past?"

Perhaps it was the stress of these past few weeks, or just this strange trust I had in the girl, but I told her... well, everything. My father, my knighthood, my hatred of clocks.

“Clocks?”

“They tick me off.”

Right into the early hours of the morning. In exchange, I learned that Mary Armsworth was a light-hearted girl from Moonbrook. She’s also had her own share of losses, but remains positive in her growing awe of Light champions and heroic tales. She’s only been a cloistered pilgrim for three years.

Our conversation trails to its finish as she leads me to the guest houses, whispering gently, “Later, after the morning sermon, meet me on the far side of the cloister, by the Chapel. I think I may know how to find what you’re looking for.” We say our goodbyes and I sleep until later that morning, when the bell strikes nine.

Pilgrims make their way out of the church into the fresh morning air. A few monks gather and surround the statues and obelisks of the courtyard. The flapping of pigeons clutter on the rooftops or by the gushing fountain at the center. Mary, still in black robes, leans against the Eastern wall where the cloister ends.

I approach, fixing my mussy hair and humming a Lordaeron tune.

Mary spots me and pushes herself from the wall, a smile quickly coming into play, "Ah you made it." She waves me closer, looking around, nervous. "Go on look out, would ya?" She turns her back to me and crouches in front of an old, worn looking door with iron supports.

"Look out... ? For what?" I can hear hear metal jingling, but the door opens before I can open my mouth to question it.

Mary stands up and straightens out the wrinkles in her gown. "Well, then, don't look daft... come on." She disappears into the dimly lit building. I tilt my head, shrug, and step inside after her.

The inside of the building is a cold, stone chamber. A torch-lit staircase leads further down into the earth. I hear Mary’s voice, but it is low, "This is where they keep the meditation chambers. Some of them are probably crypts. Creepy, right?"

I return in a faint echo, "Where are we going?" Despite the burning torches, I can still feel the chilly air on my skin.

Mary points down the staircase, "Your guess is as good as mine. Lead the way, oh brave sir Knight."

"... Right, right,” I mutter as we descend down the stairs into a long, empty hallway. Ancient, dusty wooden doors line either sides along torch posts. I can see that some are just large walls of stone in place of doors. A single sliding slate is either adorned with a handle or carving of a name.

Mary speaks, somberly, as we make way, "I couldn't imagine it...being so isolated, dying alone..."

“Are these all cells for the anchorites?,” I wonder out loud.

Mary trails her hand across one of the stone sections, "Only the ones without doors."

"Without doors? They literally never left? How did they eat? Or sleep?"

She points to one of the slits in the wall, "Before dinner, the High Abbot will sometimes allows pilgrims to come down here with food. Most Anchorites will exchange advice. I believe they have everything they need in there, though. Bread, water. Maybe some hay and a few books. At least, that's what Madame Sophia says."

" I was never big on churchly matters, myself. Glad I didn't become a priest like my mother did. So where is father Hugh-” An unexpected, familiar voice fills the hall.

"Looking for something, Sister Mary?" Abbot Maximus stands in the doorway to a meditation chamber.

Mary takes a quick breath of air and pushes against the wall, "Oh! ... oh." She's breathing rapidly, but still manages to sputter out, "I... um, I was looking fo-"

The abbot interrupts, "And you... Knight-brother, I ordered you to leave."

The thought creases a scowl on my face and compels me to approach the abbot. "And you've yet to give me good reason. I've every right to be here! As a brother in the Light, you can't command me away like this”. I fold my arms.

The abbot, much taller than me, looks down to meet my brooding gaze. His eyes and mouth are unmoving, unphased. His eyes remain fixed, "Sister Mary, Madame Sophia is probably looking for you."

I can hear the ruffling of robes and then a soft mutter, "sorry, Chris". Her hurried footsteps fade.

"So what is your beef, old man? Argent background? The Tirasian name? What, eh?" I didn’t turn, and didn’t see Mary, ever curious, take the opportunity to hide in a nearby alcove.

The abbot hints a sneer, "I am an abbot, and therefore above explanations. Leave, before I have the monks remove you. Troublemaker." He shuts the door behind him, grabs a torch, and shambles further down the hallway, inspecting the doors and slits as he goes. I follow.

"No one is above explanations. We are all equal in the Light's eyes. You call me a troublemaker? Have you any idea what I've done for you and the Light over the years?"

The man turns, fury finally breaking the wrinkles etched into his face, "What you've done? What you've done! Little boy, you have no idea the things that I have done. Your blood is bad, beneath the Light! If your mother knew how the Light truly saw the di Silvio name, she'd cast herself into the sea, swallowed by the Maelstrom! You have no idea what I've done for you. And now, you come back and demand more!"

"Where do you get off at, you codger! What do you know about my mother? I don't even know you, dammit! If my grandpa or whatever owed you money or whatever back in the day, then I'm sorry."

He turns his back to me, "I... I was a close friend, young Cristovao, let us leave it at that."

"... Who are you?"

A sigh breaks the silence, "Back then, in those days... you knew me as Father Marcellus. If you're done with your interrogation - leave this abbey." He resumes walking.

"... Marcellus... wait! I remember you. The gnoll-looking man! You were the supervisor for my mother's church,” he ignores me, “You were at my home! The day my father left. Don't ignore me! I thought you died during the Scourge."

"I can assure you, Mister di Silvio, I am very much alive."

"I can well see that, now! You used to be my mother's mentor, what's wrong with you now?"

"I don't have to tell you, Mister di Silvio, that time brings change. Now if you don't mind, you're disturbing those meditating. Keep your voice down, turn around, and go home. Your mother is probably worried into a fit about you."

I feel my fists clench,"Mother is dead, like my father.” The words are powerful enough to stop Marcellus in his paces.

“Dead?”

I don’t have to answer. He stands for a few seconds before starting again, shambling now.

"The Scourge left little survivors. I'm surprised you made it out of there alive."

"My faith in the Light protects me."

What a textbook answer. “Was mother's faith not good enough, then? Or father's?"

"Atilio had no faith in the Light."

"My father was a righteous man who gave everything he ha-”

"You're naive."

Ignorant bastard. "He was among the first paladins. He died for his faith!"

He turns and holds the torch to me so I can feel the heat between us, "Is that it? That is what you truly believe?"

My face scrunches, "Of course it is. He's why I became a paladin. He was our hero, for me and mum."

"Your father was a drunk and a whore-monger! He didn't die for the Light, he died for himself. Selfish! He left you and Maeia. If it wasn't for him, he might've been there to save her. His decisions ruined the lives of his family... including me!"

"You filthy liar! My father rarely touched a drink because of what his own father was like, and he never laid eyes on any woman besides my mother! It was you that helped convince him to go to Draenor in the first place, and you call him selfish? You didn't go to Draenor; you stayed behind, at home, near my mother. Was she what this was about? Were you jealous of my father?"
[
He juts out his chin, staring down his nose in pure rage, "Liar? Liar! Your father ruined my life. We were friends. All those arguments when you were a child? What do you think they were about? Who got to sit you on their lap and spoil you? You were too young then, and you're clueless now. Your father was far from the Light when he went to Draenor. There was no sacrifice. It was for redemption. Redemption that I offered him."

"Redemption for what, pray tell! He had done nothing wrong! He served in the Second War, he defeated the ultimate evil of his time! And he perish-

The Abbot’s voice overwhelmed my own, "He killed a whore!" Then both our words echoed into a silence. I can hear his deep breaths. No, they’re mine. His old, tired voice continues to grumble, "The night before he left. I found him, drunk again. He always had... noble intentions, but Light's wrath, how the man would fall. This time however, he came to me. In tears. A harlot was blackmailing him. When she threatened to tell Maeia, he... he scorched her. There and then. He came to me for redemption. I... I respected him... his struggle, his family, his child. What type of man would I be if I didn't help him? So... " He leans against the wall and slowly comes to sit against it, "... so we buried the body. We both knew he couldn't stay. So the next night, I told him to go to Draenor. Fight the good fight. Maybe, maybe the Light would return to him. ...then, he goes and gets himself killed. I meditate. I serve. There's always this feeling, this twisting pain, that I can never get rid of. Cristovao." He looks utterly defeated, "I beg your forgiveness.”

I refused to believe it. Could it even be possible? My father was everything. Strong. Holy. Wise. He battled evil, he helped save the world! Sure, he sometimes would slip... sometimes too much, but he never hurt anyone when he did.

From the alcove, Mary is watching in shock, hand over her mouth.

I finally speak, but my throat is dry and weak, “I’ll forgive you when you admit you’re lying."

His grunts and struggles sound as he pushes himself from the ground. He picks up the dropped torch and takes a few paces forward. He turns to face a stone wall. A wave of his yellow-glowing hand causes the stones to systematically drop into themselves, eventually forming an entryway, "This is the cell of Father Hughes. Conduct your business and leave." He makes his way back to the courtyard.

He isn’t lying. My nose is tingling. I didn’t have to say anything, but I knew that he knew. Father Marcellus. I've nothing to forgive you for. You did not kill my father. You simply kept the lie alive. That lie allowed me to become a paladin of my own accord. If anything, I'd should ask you to forgive me. My anger was unbecoming. My father was a good man to have a friend like you help him.

I take a deep breath and enter the cell of the anchorite.
Your stories will always remain...
[Image: nIapRMV.png?1]
... as will your valiant hearts.
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