Deacon of Death
By Brett Salter
The Pontiff Scarlata drew his ornate white robes about him and scrambled from the library of the ancient chapel. His hurried footsteps could nearly be heard from outside of the old monolith. Her spires twisted and wove to the clouds, daunting the small hamlet below. The town itself bustled with the customary exchange between local farms and craftsmen, haggling and peddling. Who could know the dreadful circumstances brewing within the austere church. Its golden bell stood, tarnished, atop the steeple. Ne’er once had she rang, not since the marble building was stark white. Now the house was crusted with black sludge and abandon. Only the holy men within kept up their appearance. And Scarlata’s golden trim on his robes shone as brightly as on the day the vestments were tailored. His gilded staff glimmered in the waning candlelight. The ivory cross atop was clearly recently polished.
The Pontiff scurried through the dark corridors. No attempt was ever made to modernize the church, so the halls were lit only with wax candles. Only his heavy breathing carried over the sound of his swift footfalls. He pulled open the heavy doors to the ceremonial chapel. Colored light filtered from the regal stained glass down onto the chestnut pews and carpeted floors. The elderly clergyman stared in horror down the aisle between the pews. One hundred yards stood between the heavily-garmented elderly Pontiff and the altar. There, Deacon Charles was entranced. Every candle surrounding the pedestal was lit, flickering upon the face of the deacon. His prayers were subdued and ominous.
Scarlata trudged forward, each step far more labored than the next. His bald head glistened with sweat and his wrinkled face screwed with torment. The stress of the events transpiring before him and the trying task of reaching the altar were taking their toll on the elderly minister. What little light reverberated in the hall dimmed as the deacon continued his dark prayer:
The warmth of blood in which the Child bathes, blood of self-inflicted woe
boils under the torment of the sacrificial matron
To cleanse her breast of spiritual foes.
The Child shall be soothed by her milk of flesh
And shall be calmed by the still and stained fabric
Of her ceremonial and blessed dress.
The filament, conduit and conductor of souls
Shall bring the Child up on high who once was low.
The Pontiff’s eyes widened as he heard the final words of this unholy sacrament. In all his wisdom, he could not imagine what unholy beast the corrupted Deacon Charles had attempted to summon. The walls seemed to shudder as the young man reached his hands into the font normally reserved for baptism. As he reached his hands deeper into the cauldron, his sleeves and robes were drenched in a liquid of a red hue particular to blood. And then the robes darkened, as though the blood had coagulated into black.