Tuesday, November 10, 2009
This is part of my ongoing novel. Think of it as Killer Angels taking place in a musket and magic fantasy world with characters that combine the religious sensibilities of American revivalism with Beowulf-like blood feuds. All this while engaging in Talmudic style dialectics. "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" is about to take on a whole new meaning.
Introduction, A Note from the Author, Prologue, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV
Asael found himself, midmorning the next day, lying on his back reading one of his favorite books in his favorite reading place. The book was Reginald Scott's Hammer of Witch Hunters: Tales of Fanaticism and Greed and Asael was lying on top of a book shelf with a drop of more than thirty feet to his side:
In the Jaws of Captain Eryn Vorn and His Iron Mistress
Of all the witch hunters who have preyed upon the superstitious and the helpless over the course of this supposedly enlightened century, the Saebethian Captain Eryn Vorn will surely be remembered for his singular fanaticism and his sadistic brutality. Not much is known about Vorn, but it is safe to say that he was not a military officer or a minister of God as he liked to claim. One images that Vorn was at one time a boy, who laughed and smiled, but no reliable descriptions of the man have come down to us until the time of his blood soaked reign on the New Continent of Navon. The earliest descriptions of the man paint him as tall, bone-thin, with a long crooked nose, cracked yellow teeth and wispy grey hair. Wherever he went, the sight of his ragged army field coat and his iron-studded copy of The Peaceful Tidings was sure to strike terror in the hearts of anyone ever suspected by their neighbors of being a so-called knack. …
Vorn first gained renown in Saebethia as a wondering preacher, who offered sweets to children in return for memorizing passages from scripture and repeat back to him his sermons on the evils of knacks and how to spot them. Bringing children to him with the offer of sweets also served a hidden purpose as he poisoned children whom he suspected of being knacks. It is not known by which means he poisoned them. Vorn was too clever to resort to common poisons. Instead he made recourse to heathen recipes unknown to civilized men.
It is told that one "fortunate" lad managed to survive a full helping of Vorn's sweets due to some natural bodily defenses. Upon seeing him the next day unharmed, Vorn offered him more sweets if he would only come in the back of his cart. The naïve lad readily agreed upon which Vorn grabbed him and tied him down to a bed that he had prepared. Here Vorn proceeded to experiment upon him. These experiments were conducted dear reader not in the way of a true natural philosopher, seeking to banish superstition with the light of truth, but of a savage fiend seeking only to inflict suffering. What was done to the poor boy should not be told over in words. If I write them it is only as a stenographer of the public good and not as a purveyor of copper dreadfuls. First Vorn cut out his tongue and vocal cords to stop him from screaming. Next the boy's innards were cut open and while Vorn kept him alive, through some arcane knowledge, he proceeded to insert his poisons directly on to specific bodily organs, cutting away slices of bodily matter afterwards for closer examination and consumption. Bit by bit this boy's liver and kidneys were sliced away, fried and eaten.
By the time he was caught it is said that he had personally murdered over one hundred children. One would have expected a fiend like Vorn to be hung or, better yet, to suffer just a few of the deaths that he had inflicted upon others. Instead all men of sense stood aghast as the jury of the common rabble failed to turn in a unanimous verdict. This was due to at least one of its members being moved by a feminine misplaced sense of pity at the rumor that Vorn was an ordained minister and the pious display he made of reading from scripture. Vorn, pretending to be contrite offered to place himself into exile on the New Continent to do manual labor in the silver mines of Almurcia for the rest of his days.
If only Vorn had known then what awaited him he might have designed it so that he would be caught and sentenced to this fate. Within months of arriving in Almurica, Vorn was free of his chains and at liberty to pursue his pleasure in ways that had eluded him in more civilized realms. The settlers of Navon were largely criminals or other lowly individuals seeking to escape their wretched pasts. Even without the charges of knackery and witchcraft that were Vorn's specialty the setters of Navon had little difficulty in looking out into the darkness of the barren landscape and filling it with creatures that populated the demon-filled landscape of their superstitious imaginations. Lewfrick dogs, an odd breed of feral creatures, which, in a rational world, would have been of interest to educated society simply for the debate they sparked over whether they were dogs, wolves, a species onto themselves, or even mammals at all were turned into Hellhounds, the long lost children and servants of a dark lord from the age of myth. It was to this world that Vorn arrived and spread his tales of knacks. Free to act now without any threat of law, for he now was what little remained of law in the land, Vorn found that the only his imagination could limit his sadism. Nothing could stand between him and a confession. In his hands friend turned against friend, and brother turned against brother. Mothers even handed over their own children in order to save themselves.
Looking askance at the devices of death soaking the pages of history, Vorn fashioned his Iron Mistress. This was done at the behest of a magistrate who feebly noted that many of Vorn's victims were being brought to trial even without the prosecution being able to find any law to accuse them of breaking; let alone one that carried the death penalty. Unlike less civilized countries, Saebethia never passed such an absurd law as a ban on witchcraft on pain of death and would be no more likely to do so than to make it a crime to jump to the moon or to another world. Vorn's response was to create this Iron Mistress in which the victim would be hoisted onto a cross-beam directly in front of a blade, only inches from their face. The logic of Vorn's devilish device was simple; the blade was kept from springing forth and skewering its victims by a pair of weights in reach of the victim's hands. These same weights also kept the victim's chains in place on the cross-beam. In order to get free all the victim needed to do was let his arms and the weights they hold drop below the level of the horizontal bar. The victim, his tongue having previously been ripped out, Vorn's favorite calling card, was told that he could continue to deny the charges by holding up his hands and thus continue the torment or confess by dropping his hands and go free. Eventually the victim's hands would tire and drop upon which the clamps would unlock, dropping him to the ground, as the blade drove into the back of his throat. Thus the victim would die at his own hands, leaving the hands of the law and Vorn's cowardly magistrates spotlessly clean.
Vorn made a living executing people on the charge of being able to cause sickness with the evil eye, break bones with a thought, call down lightening by whistling and, once he arrived in Navon, to command Hellhounds through mere laughter. One may wonder why Vorn did not meet the violent end he so surely deserved at the hands of his victims. Vorn liked to claim that he was protected by Saint Krenger and the indivisible three knots of the Melcothian God. In such a way Vorn brought scorn to reason and faith.