Wednesday, 15 May 2019
Onward Christian Soldiers by G. H. Finn - Part 5
Drearly Beloved reader,
As part of my dastardly plot to persuade you to pledge toward,
STRANGE DAYS - A BOOK OF CURIOUS FORGOTTEN LORE
I gleefully present:
ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
The Beast must die
And so I first asked Our Father for protection, and then I formed a plan. I determined we should carry the holy sign of the Cross before us, but also that we should follow the example of Monsieur Chastel in preparing our own ammunition before setting out to hunt The Beast. My belief that a crucifix would have power over a were-wolf was due primarily to the accounts of the death of the original Beast of Gévaudan, although I confess I had also pondered whether the creature’s weakness was in reality an allergy to silver. And so, as sinful gamblers are apt to say, I decided to hedge my bets.
The following morning, Captain de Marran enlisted the support of three retired soldiers who lived nearby the village. While they were somewhat advanced in years, none of the men were infirm, and if they felt the cold touch of fear upon their hearts at the thought of tracking a Were-Wolf, nevertheless they were good Christians and they stiffened their resolve to slay the monster. They needed no urging. They had all seen the mauled body of the poor girl it had slain. They had known her. And they had children and grandchildren of their own.
While François was recruiting the men, I first found the local priest, a Roman Catholic, but a good man of God despite that, and managed to persuade him to allow me to take a silver crucifix that had stood in the village church since time immemorial. I will admit the generous donation I offered in return for the item may have influenced the reverend gentleman, but I would prefer to believe he agreed for more pious reasons than money alone. I also acquired a number of wooden crosses, which were of little financial value, but which I believed would be of incalculable spiritual worth when confronting The Beast. I took the antique crucifix to the village blacksmith and asked him to melt it down and fashion it into as many bullets as he could make from the molten silver – true bullets, not simply musket balls. At first he was shocked, considering my request to be sacrilegious. But when I told him the reason for my strange request, he readily agreed and refused any payment for his time or labour. He too had known the slaughtered child.
We ran into one unexpected difficulty, in the form of the mayor of the village. Somehow he had heard about our intention to kill the Were-Wolf, and he forbade François and myself from trying to do any such thing. Or rather, he tried to forbid us. He insisted that attempting to hunt for the Beast would only provoke the monster and cause more deaths. Had I been alone, an Englishman abroad, I may reluctantly have been forced to obey the petty official. He was an unpleasant, pompous, red-headed man with an unkempt, straggling black beard. Although I found his objections spurious and foolish, he was after all the mayor. I was but a foreigner visiting the region. But Captain de Marran turned the mayor’s objections aside. François told the man that, as a commissioned army officer, he was not subject to orders from any civilian authority. The mayor insisted de Marran must obey his orders or face the consequences, telling my companion that his uncle was an army general, and if de Marran disobeyed, then he would write and persuade his uncle to have François court-martialled. The argument went on for some time and became decidedly heated, but in the end there was nothing the mayor could do to stop us. No one in the village was about to try to arrest a serving Captain solely on the mayor’s say so, and besides which, their sympathies were clearly with us on the matter. Eventually, as darkness approached, the mayor stormed off, warning us we would regret ignoring him. We were glad to see the back of the officious bureaucrat, but the delay meant that it was already very late in the afternoon before we could begin our expedition.
When the time to enter the dense woods finally arrived, we all came armed. Both with prayers and with guns. The three retired soldiers each had swords in addition to pistols. François, a trained marksman, alone had the limited supply of silver ammunition, and was armed with a rifle as well as his cavalry sabre. I had no gun. I placed my faith in the sign of the cross. But I confess that I was relieved that my belief was supported with the Captain’s firearm, and that it was filled with silver from the crucifix, blessed by the local priest.
That was how we found ourselves, armed as a Christian soldiers, marching onward through the woods to wage war upon the unholy monster that now haunted the forest. I held an old rugged cross out before me, like a shield. My companions variously held their own crucifixes clutched in nervous fingers, or simply tucked them into their wide belts.
Night fell and still we advanced through the forest. I felt righteous, almost like a knight on a sacred quest. We lit lanterns to help us find our way through the dense woodland, and we shone these before us, seeking any trace of the Beast.
François suddenly called a halt and pointed to a patch of muddy ground. I hurried over, pulling out a magnifying glass I occasionally used for reading faded manuscripts, then bent to examine the area he indicated. I scarcely needed the glass. The wolf tracks were clear to see. But the paw-prints were massive, larger than my own boot-prints.
That was when the first man died.
-End Of Part Five-
Dearest Darkest Reader-
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STRANGE DAYS - A BOOK OF CURIOUS FORGOTTEN LORE
Possessed doll of the week: Elsie