The Graticule of Ephemeron - Prelude for the Ancient Revenant
2/14/10 - Three Prelude Stories and Session 1
1: Janus, the Ancient Revenant
Janus is a monk picking pink hollyberry in the garden to make the ale his fraternity drink. Brother Laverly approaches him and they chat on a bench about the time, ten years past, when Janus was deathly ill, but then miraculously recovered after uttering some unsettling phrases: “Someone’s out there. He’s waiting for me to leave.” In vain, Laverly prods Janus to reveal more about that incident. The topic of Abbot Tillerock’s apoplexy comes up.
In the monastery, Janus is at his work, copying scripture and secular texts, when Brother Laverly informs him that copymaster Shaol would like to speak to him. Shaol wants an explanation for the incongruous and disturbing phrases he found in Janus’ work: “This body won’t do. Too feeble. Nothing but candles here. I need wires.” Janus compares himself to the abbot, saying his arm is weak from his illness a decade earlier, and that Laverly has been known to miscopy texts without all this suspicion. Shaol becomes uncomfortable and asks him to leave.
Communal lunch. Janus serves his brothers and fathers, exaggerating the quavering of his hand as he grips the ladle. Laverly takes over the task. Once more it becomes apparent that the fraternity is worried about Janus, or suspects him. He makes flippant comments about the abbot’s health, causing a murmur. Lunch proceeds with tension.
He wakes up tied to his bed, the fathers and some of the strongest brothers and young laymen are gathered around him. Abbot Tillerock is in full ceremonial garb, and incense balls and twin-crosses are waved about. The abbot shouts for the intruding spirit to be cast out of Janus, who protests this treatment. The ritual is working; Janus can feel himself being loosened from the human husk and beginning to slide out of it. During the rising fervor, the abbot clutches his chest, grimaces in pain, stumbles back to the floor, unseen by the rapt monks. Janus takes the opportunity, swapping bodies. The monks notice the abbot and all but copymaster Shaol break off from the exorcism to help the feeble old man. Janus, now the abbot, sends them out, all except Shaol, whom he tasks with continuing the exorcism. Janus’ old body is fading fast, life signs weakening. Janus claims that Shaol botched the exorcism and has killed the man. For his penance, Shaol must wait in this room night and day until “a pigeon arrives”. Janus declares that he will travel to find the other abbots and hold congress with them. He leaves Shaol in despair.
He is a wandering priest, dressed for the part. His body has grown ever frailer; one side of his face is slack from a stroke. Presently he is staying at the inn of a small town, and when he comes downstairs, a woman rushes to him, kissing his hand and begging him to see her young son, whom the doctors have abandoned. In the boy’s room, Janus sends the mother away so he can deal with the moribund boy alone. As she complies, he’s stricken with a stabbing chest pain, but he manages to shoo her out anyway. He swaps bodies with the eleven-year-old boy when both spirits are loose and slipping. As the boy, he walks out of his room, into the arms of his mother. He tells her he thinks the priest is dead. She wanders into the room to check, and Janus takes this opportunity to flee.