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Chapter 19: The Influence of Demons

Dawn came much too early for my liking. I sat up on the edge of the modest bed, allowing my eyes to grow accustomed to the increasing amount light seeping in through the shuttered window. When I first entered the gates of Summers Grove Monistary, I looked forward to the Blessing of Hospitality. What should have been a good night's sleep in a proper bed turned out to be anything but? I tossed and turned most of the night, finally drifting off in the small hours before dawn. The events of the previous evening still weighed heavily on my mind.

It all began with an invitation to dinner. The Pilgrim's House had a private dining hall for guest and I fully expected to take my meals there. An hour before dinner, a Novice came to me with an invitation from the Abbot. I was to join him and the rest of the community in the Refectory for the evening meal. At the appointed time, I followed the nervous young monk to the monastic dining hall where I was ushered to the Abbot's table. Two other senior monks were seated with him at the high table. The Abbot greeted me warmly, his tablemates glared at me but kept silent.

That seemed to be the way of things for the better part of the evening; glaring monks and novices casting me disapproving looks from every corner of the Refectory. When the mandatory silent portion of the meal hour expired, I noticed those around me beginning to engage in hushed conversations. When they continued to glare at me intermittently while they conversed, the hairs on my neck began to stir.

"Didn't you tell them the truth about Uriel," I whispered as I leaned in closer to Abbot Sextus.

"I thought it best not too," he replied quietly. "Even within the cloisters of a monastic order, spies abound. For your own sake, it is better if the community thinks you are under the influence of a demon of Chaos than in the company of ... well, of your friend. Word of his true nature might find it's way to the Duke's ears."

"What if they drag me from my bed in the night and ... and ..." my imagination played through a gallery of unpleasant scenarios. To willingly be in the company of a demon was the very pinnacle of heresy.

"Fear not," he intoned gently, "I've let it be known that I am personally dealing with your case. No one will trouble you." Then he paused, and after a bit of thought added, "You might want to suggest to Uriel that he keep himself out of sight. While I can protect you, I'm not sure that I can stop the others from stuffing him into a wicker basket and setting it alight."

As I crossed the room to the washbasin, I suddenly felt sick at the thought of Uriel being burned alive in a wicker basket. Just as the taste of bile entered my mouth and my stomach heaved, the thrumming of Uriel's purr brush lovingly against my mind. Instantly a smile curled my lips and my stomach settled.

"It is a large valley, Companion, and I am in the guise of a small cat," he whispered inside my head. "Rest assured, they will not find me."

After a quick washing up, I combed and braided my hair before putting on my green frock. I went down to the small dining hall where I found a simple breakfast laid out for me. On the sideboard with the food, I found a note. It was folded neatly and sealed with red wax bearing the impression of the Abbot's signet. It would seem that he wasn't taking my security lightly.

I served myself a portion of oat gruel, cheese, and ham along with a mug of potent mint tea to wash it down with. I found a seat near the rooms glowing hearth and settled in. Halfway through my meal, I turned my attention to the Abbot's note. Breaking the seal, I unfolded the page and began reading.

Apprentice Kerri,

Please meet me in the chapel one hour after the conclusion of morning service. We will discuss how you might achieve your penitence then.

Abbot Sextus

The morning service concluded with the first cresting of the sun over the eastern mountains. I quickly finished my meal, went upstairs to fetch my cloak, and left the Pilgrim's House. Outside, the glowing orb of the sun was half visible above the eastern peaks. The regular inhabitants of the monastery rose to there duties in the dark hours before dawn. I felt slothful in comparison to them.

The golden glow of morning sunlight illuminated the front of the chapel giving the white stones a yellowish tint. Above the heavy wooden doors, a beautiful round stained-glass window caught the morning light and shimmered like a multi-colored jewel. I opened the doors reverently and enter the quiet space beyond them. On the inside, light streamed through the stained-glass, bathing the interior of the chapel in cascades of rainbow hues. The sight made me smile with wonder.

I made the sign to bless myself before wandering up the main aisle towards the front most pew. The chapel seemed to be empty, but out of respect for the holy space, I refrained from calling out for the Abbot. I settled myself into the front pew and, after a time, felt Unity's call to meditation. I closed my eyes and found myself drawn to Unity's powerful presence.

When I became aware of myself again, someone rested beside me on the pew. I opened my eyes and glance over to find Abbot Sextus sitting next to me.

"Have you ever considered abandoning your pursuit of magic in favor of the religious life," he asked after concluding his own meditation. "The passion of your devotions put most of the Brothers here to shame."

"You praise me too highly, Abbot," I answered. "However, Unity has ordained my steps. He placed within me an aptitude for light magic and put me under Balthazar's care."

"Indeed," he sighed. "I see you brought your cloak, did Uriel suggest it?"

I shook my head. I didn't know exactly why I'd gone back to my room to fetch it, but the cat-dragon hadn't prompted me to do so.

"No matter," he dismissed before continuing with his planned remarks. "In a few minutes, you and I are going to have a very loud and very vigorous confrontation and then ..."

My eyes cast nervously to Unity's alter as I interrupted his instructions. "We're going to have an argument ... here ... before the holy altar?"

"I know the notion of such a thing runs contrary to your nature, but remember ... you're supposed to be under the influence of a demon."

I nodded reluctantly.

"I understand your apprehension, the thought of raising your voice and speaking harshly in Unity's chapel bothers you to no end. It's part of the ruse." I nodded again and the Abbot continued. "when I point to the door, you will storm from the chapel in a rage. For effect, please try to look as angry and unapproachable as possible.

March straight out the front gate and keep going along the path until Uriel comes to greet you. He will guide you to the lake. Wait there until I arrive. I will help you complete the Journeyman's quest. Are you ready to begin?"

NO, the word echoed in my mind, but I nodded my readiness just the same.

The abbot stood then and gestured for me to do the same. "I've found that one's orations achieve better volume and intensity when standing," he insisted when I hesitated. "It's rather like singing, you see."

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