[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 13a

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Sat Aug 25 22:06:54 CDT 2001


Nestled in the crook of the overhanging banister in the choir loft, Vinsah 
stared down at the assembled Keepers filling the pews.  His brown animal eyes 
scanned along the floor of the Chapel in Metamor and found the boy priest 
Father Hough dressed in the bright purple robes of the Advent.  He was 
standing before the altar, the phylacteries spewing incense about him, a 
familiar aroma that was strangely sweeter than the racoon recalled it.  His 
small hands lifted aloft the wafer of bread, and began to call out the 
traditional blessing, and Vinsah found hi sown muzzle moving with the words, 
long since committed to memory. 

He'd left Healer Coe's apartments several hours earlier, sneaking along a 
small railing outside his window to a parapet a few ells away.  With the wind 
and snow howling about him, he'd barely made it across without slipping, but 
his sharp claws had a firm grip, and for once he was grateful of the form 
Metamor had given him.  However, this ceremony was special -- the Yahvice as 
it was called still in Yesulam - the celebration of the birth of their 
Saviour Yahshua. 

Though he mouthed the words, as best as his full animal shape allowed, his 
mind was not upon them.  It was a week more before the New Year was upon them 
all, and he still had yet to decide what to do.  Healer Coe's demand that he 
rejoin the word by then was his only concern, and the two options that lay 
before him were not ones that he wished to employ.  The first was to reveal 
that he was indeed the Bishop of Abaef, transformed into a raccoon, a mere 
animal.  Yesulam would likely condemn Metamor in fury, himself as well as 
Akabaieth's mission.   

Of course, it did not help matters that the former Patriarch had been 
murdered on Metamor's soil. Whoever the new Patriarch was - and with a tinge 
of regret he realised that if he was still human, it would have been him - he 
was surely not going to look favourably on this northern province of the 
Midlands, no matter what Vinsah did.  Yet, to have a Bishop be struck down as 
he was, would be interpreted as a sign from Eli that this place should be 
destroyed or at least something akin to that.  Grimacing, his dark nose 
turning in distaste, he realized that had he been in their position, he 
probably would have done the same thing. 

Pushing such unpleasant thoughts to one side, the other possibility that he 
could embrace began to fill his mind.  Brian Coe had suggested he abandon his 
old self and take on a new identity.  Nobody would question it, and even if 
they realised that it was a lie, most would respect his wishes to keep the 
reality a secret.  It was an attractive idea, except for the fact that it 
involved him telling lies - though apparently he was halfway decent at it - 
and choosing a new name.  The one that instantly sprang to the front of his 
mind was one that he wished to avoid. 

The worst part about it all was that he had already called himself by that 
name, by Elvmere.  That other racoon Rickkter had been most insistent that he 
give a name, and that had been the only one that would come to his lips, as 
if it had pushed its way to the front of his tongue, keeping the rest back.   
How many would remember that name and his face?  How often would people call 
him that after he did reveal himself? The thought of such was unbearable. 

And so, Vinsah had come here to the Chapel for the Yahvice, hoping that the 
familiar ceremony would calm his mind, and focus his thoughts.  Yet, all it 
managed to do was bundle them tighter and tighter into knots, and get his fur 
soaked!  He did not know how much snow he'd shaken from his grey coat when 
he'd settled himself in the choir loft.  He'd spent the first ten minutes of 
the service shivering and curled up as tightly as he could as it was! 

How he longed for the warm sun of Yesulam, it would dry his fur quickly.  Of 
course, were he in Yesulam, he would not have fur to dry.  He would still be 
a man, Vinsah, the Bishop of Abaef.  Yahvice would have come and gone 
already, for the day comes sooner in that land than in Metamor, being many 
leagues eastward.  In fact, he would have been standing out on the streets of 
Abaef, facing the desert with his congregation all about him, holding bright 
white candles to the stars and singing praises until the morning sun 
diminished those twinkling lights. 

With a bit of a chuckle, he recalled how one Bishop had thought that such 
festivals should be done away with, as their origins were found in other 
false religions.  While the Festival of Lights was something that existed 
elsewhere, Vinsah always enjoyed standing with his people in choruses of 
affirmation for Eli.  The Christmas time may have been decided upon to 
coincide with pagan holidays, as had been accused, but what better time to 
bring the light of Eli into the world than upon the day of the year with the 
longest night? 

Even as he dwelled on that bit of symmetry, he felt a cold shiver race up his 
tail and spine, settling behind his rounded ears like an uncomfortable itch. 
It was not the same chill that permeated the air outside, and throughout much 
of the Keep, at least, where there were no fireplaces.  His own room was a 
bastion of frost, despite the abundance of covers and cloth that he draped 
himself in while there.  Many nights he would bundle tightly, shifting into a 
smaller more compact form to hold in his own body heat, sharp teeth 
chattering while his black nose peeked out from under the agglomeration of 
quilts that nearly threatened to smother him. 

Yet Vinsah knew that the bit o ice that had come across his back was not the 
sort brought on by the weather, no matter far north one travelled.  This was 
a different sort, the kind that presaged the arrival of things that were best 
not mentioned.  He scanned his dark brown eyes about, the whites showing at 
the corner of the mask he wore.  Placing his small five fingered paws atop 
the granite railing, he peered about the Chapel, scanning the dark stained 
glass windows and the colonnades before them.  Things stirred about them, 
silent, silvery shapes that twirled about their crenellated surface, darting 
and winding down towards the base and the pews where sat the Keepers, unaware 
of their presence. 

Vinsah opened his muzzle, fright filling him with that same icy, leprous 
touch. All eyes in the Chapel were on Father Hough, or towards the floor, or 
simply closed while the prayers over the sacraments were given.  None save 
Vinsah could see these abominations slipping unmolested through their ranks, 
brushing them by, filling them with that same cold dread that had come upon 
the procyonid Bishop.  With a start, that lone animal watching from the choir 
loft knew the target of these incorporeal spirit's malice - they were 
striding towards the young priest, towards Father Hough. 

Vinsah nearly gasped aloud once he knew that, but he kept his animal cry in 
check.  It was likely that Father Hough would notice them before they came 
too close, but that was not a chance that he could take and still respect 
himself afterwards.  He was, despite his bestial appearance and sometimes 
demeanour, still a priest, nay a Bishop, of Eli.  He had responsibilities as 
such to see to the care of his Follower brethren.  This included protecting 
them from the world of the unseen, of the spirits. 

It also helped if he could speak aloud, and so Vinsah willed himself to 
change, to rise up above his animal shape and into something resembling a 
man.  Though he still possessed the fur, the long striped tail that would 
dangle about his ankles, and the teeth and claws, as well as the face of a 
racoon, he cared not, for he was still a man, and could speak like a man, and 
think like a man.  And in the end, that was all the he would need.  There was 
little question in Vinsah's mind at that moment that Eli would know his voice 
no matter how oddly it was formed. 

Standing before that granite rail, he peered out over the Chapel, gripping 
the stone tight between his paws, naked and bare for all to see, including 
the spirits.  But he did not concern himself with modesty now, for the 
spirits were nearly upon Hough, who appeared to only just now notice them as 
he lowered the sacraments once more to the altar, the prayer finished.  Their 
filmy substance avoided the altar, circling around behind it as if it 
repelled them, viscous fangs appearing in their nature, as if formed from the 
very air. 

And then, the back door burst wide, an explosion of wrath as men poured 
through, bearing weapons and terrible malice.  They advanced on the young 
priest, and the rest in the Chapel.  The knights who were seated among the 
congregation rose in a shuffle of boots, hooves, and claw tipped paws, 
shouting cries of anger at the blasphemy this represented, and rushed to 
engage them.  Their weapons left in the apse by the great, vaulted doors, the 
knights and soldiers of Metamor were unarmed, but that did nothing to deter 
their swift reaction to this new threat.  They snatched up whatever was 
convenient as they surged toward the intruders, slowed only by the terrified 
retreat of non-combatants.  Looking over it all from his vantage the Bishop 
realised there was nothing he could do to counter this new threat, even if he 
did have a weapon.  He did have claws and teeth, he reflected momentarily, 
but quickly diverted such things from his mind.  The thought of sinking 
either in a man's flesh was too terrible to contemplate. 

His voice however, betrayed none of the anxiety his mind felt. "Hear me 
spirits of darkness!  You seek the wrong man, for I am a Bishop of the 
Ecclesia, and can destroy you!  Leave the boy alone, but come for me, if you 
dare!"  Over the sounds of swords clashing, it was clear that the people in 
the Chapel, crying out in terror and clutching together for protection did 
not hear him.  Yet, the spirits were not of flesh and blood, and turned 
ghastly apparitions in his direction, sifting through the air towards the 
choir loft while Hough ducked behind the altar, crying out in the name of 

Suddenly, that chill raced down his spine as he felt something unholy draw 
across the fur of his back, making it stand up as if called to attention.   
Turning his head to one side, brown eyes gleaming with the frost and the leap 
of terror, he saw another such apparition, a mocking visage that parodied 
man.  A simulacrum whose façade had been tortured with hate.  Foul eyes 
formed from the mist laughed at him, and a voice whose utterance must have 
originated in Hell spoke with wintry touch to him. "A beast pretends to be a 
priest!  You have no power over us Elvmere, for your Ecclesia has cast you 

The use of that other name startled him, making his fur shiver even more.   
The racoon trembled even as the gaseous tendrils roped about his tail and 
hest, stroking the grey flesh beneath his pelt. They nearly wrapped 
themselves completely about him, massaging insidiously every aspect of his 
body, sending erotic thrills through him as they excited parts of his flesh 
that had been denied for thirty years. Yet, he caught such flaring emotions 
in his throat ad spoke, "They have not, you lie!  You are servants of 
something unholy, and I will not tolerate your presence in the House of Eli! 
Begone from this place, in the name of Yahshua I cast you out!" 

The spirit gave a mocking laugh then, coating his extremities in that greyish 
translucence.  Something spectral tapped his nose, and those baleful eyes 
filled his own. "No, Elvmere, you do not possess that power anymore.  You 
wanted to face us, and so you shall.  We will turn you into that beast and 
leave you raving inside this flesh before we finish with you and turn to the 

Vinsah could see the other ghostly apparitions crawling in and out of the 
choir loft railing, snaking their way towards him, encircling his flesh as 
this first had done.  He shuddered, the overwhelming urge to give into the 
bestial urges that began to course through his body was terrifying his mind 
and his heart.  A swelling in his loins caused him to cry out in anguish, as 
the flesh rebelled against his will, desire overflowing reason.  And yet, on 
some carnal level, he yearned for it, yearned for this release, this breaking 
of oaths which had bound him, to truly embrace the feral nature Metamor had 
blessed him with. 

With the spirits clustered so close, obscuring all other vision but what they 
wanted him to see, he could feel a single hand reaching out for him a single 
image cascading from outside of them, offering a slender ray of hope.  There, 
amidst the turmoil that coalesced on all sides came a brilliant light, a 
visage of austere beauty that made his heart cry in joy, for it was his 
relief and sanctuary even more than this Chapel could be.  Another face came 
to him, that of a woman, radiant with dark silvery hair that billowed about 
her shoulders.  Her hand was burning with a white nimbus, and he reached out 
for it with his paw, the grey-black fur appearing to whiten as it approached. 

Then they clasped, and that surging sexual frustration fell away, his loins 
irrelevant once again.  From out of the well of his heart and her presence he 
cried out, breaking the lustful enchantment that had been woven about him. 
"No!  Deceivers!" They flinched at the power in his throat, the terrible 
caresses ceasing. "You fools, no man can take from me what Eli has given!   
That is Eli's purview only!  Begone I command you, in the name of Eli and his 
Son Yahshua, I command you to begone from this place and return to your 
master in Hell!  Begone!" 

The baleful eyes, at once full of contempt and malice, were filled with fear 
and despair as they recoiled from him, flinging their insubstantial forms 
from his flesh, crawling like sick beasts from a predator.  The milky shades 
began to whither, until even their cries dwindled into incoherency. "Begone! 
In the name of Yahshua son of Eli, begone!" Vinsah repeated, his voice hot 
with sudden passion, even as he continued to view that radiant face, smiling 
down upon his mask.   

With final shrieks of anguish, the spirits disintegrated into the walls, the 
film dispersing into nothingness, and warmth filling his body once again. He 
breathed a sigh of relief, his chest heaving as he leaned against the choir 
loft railing.  Strangely, the granite was warm beneath his palms, as if by a 
fire.  Her face was still there, that nameless woman smiling down upon him, 
her hand gently cradling his muzzle by the chin. "My Elvmere," was all she 
said, and then, she too was gone. 

Gasping again, he peered out over the Chapel, his eyes seeing the world as it 
was once more.  The fight appeared to have been finished, Father Hough still 
clutching one side of the altar, while the knights and soldiers were carrying 
the bodies of the slain to one side. There were also those in the crowd who 
were looking up at him, their faces curious.  Though many wore the heads of 
animals, he could still see that all too human expression in their eyes. 

A moment later, and Father Hough was noticing him, staring up at the racoon 
perched in the choir loft where there had been nobody before. "Who are you?" 
the boy called out, his high tenor nervous. 

The moment of his decision had finally come, and with a start, Vinsah knew 
there was only one choice he could make.  His muzzle broke into a wry grin as 
he peered down at his junior colleague, pondering for a moment at the boy's 
real age.  If he did not say it, how could they ever guess his now? 

Summoning his voice once more, the rasp of his tongue against his pointed 
teeth clear, he cried out so that everyone in the Chapel might hear him, and 
know who he was. "I am Vinsah, the Bishop of Abaef!  And I stand with you 
now, as a Metamorian, a Keeper for all time."  The sudden look of joy on 
their faces reminded him of the very first day of the Patriarch's visit.  And 
in fact, he felt as his former master Akabaieth were not also smiling fondly 
down upon him from some heavenly sea as he sailed the course of his 

Finding a similar smile perched upon his muzzle, he descended the stairs at 
the back of the choir loft to join his comrades in the Chapel, not as a 
priest of a foreign land, but as their brother.  Despite the peace that came 
from the resolution of his personal conflicts, Vinsah found exultation 
fleeting, for from beyond the walls of the chapel came the muted tones of a 
ringing bell, swiftly joined by others as alarms rang across the Keep. 


 End part 13a 

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