The long, narrow abby hall was lit by the early morning light that fell through simple stained windows, scattering an array of colours in the dim interior. A few broken windows had been replaced with clear glass, while several others had been bricked up, giving a stark contrast to the old, natural stonework.
Against one wall, two rows of pews stood, one slightly higher than the other. The benches were filled with men in grey robes, the youngest of whom were still in their forties. Below the large, centerpiece stained window stood a tall, stone throne of sorts, of which one of the top corners had broken off. A man clad in white with gold embroidery sat in it, a feeble hand covered in liver spots resting on one of the armrests. Below the throne stood three people who were completely covered in white robes, including gloved hands and faces covered under their hood.
The odd one out amongst all this was Alden. His small figure nearly drowned in the heavy, black robes that marked him as the sinner amongst them. Yet he bore the clothes with his head held high, not letting them weigh him down as he repeatedly tried to defend his claim from the onslaught of arguments. Until finally he had had enough and addressed the man in white and gold directly in a last plea.
"Medieval traditions cannot save the Order, Your Reverence, we need to change our ways, or we will crumble under the change in the world." His voice was loud and clear, reaching all the way through the hall.
"We have survived for over eight-hundred years young Alden, or have you forgotten that this is our Holy mission, spoken by the Lord Himself? Why ought we change for your personal paranoia?" The Reverend spoke softly, and the men in grey fell silent immediately, to allow for the wispy voice to be heard. He beckoned for one of the people in white, his Watchers, and whispered something. The Watcher shook their head, presumably speaking something back.
"Oh I do not believe he has forgotten at all, Your Reverence." One of the men in grey claimed loudly, standing up to address the Reverend. He had dark black hair, and a long, thin beard that got increasingly more salt than pepper near the roots.
"Speak clearly Father Huxley." The Reverend said with a gesture of his hand, allowing the Father to continue. With a grateful nod of his head, he did.
"We all know the issue in this room does not come from any of our traditions," Father Huxley took a long look at his fellow Occultists, letting his words settle. "Or are we to believe that his abilities do not come from the very vile sources we are set to destroy? What are you then, young Alden. Witch? Possessed, perhaps? Or sired by devil?" Father Huxley leant forward in the pew, both hands on the wood as he scowled at Alden. Alden scowled back, his eyes sharp and narrow, not impressed with baseless speculation.
"Lord Ewart has always served us faithfully, why question his allegiances now?" Another man in grey robes said, from the corner of the lower pew. His wavy, fair hair showed a few touches of grey too, but far more sparsely – he was perhaps one of the youngest in the room, besides Alden.
"What other reason has he for this mad endeavour other than to sow doubt and division?" Father Huxley snapped back with a gesture at Alden.
"Father Huxley, Father Roberts, I wish to remind you that this is not your trial." The Reverend spoke, before slowly leaning in towards Alden, hands folded under his chin. "With what reason do you doubt our very God-given conventions, young Alden?"
"What reason do I have not to, when we are failing? When the demonic and paranormal runs rampant whether we are there or not. How can you not see you are nothing but a gathering of old men clinging to old ways, in a new world?" Agitated by all the questioning he'd already endured, Alden made a large, sweeping motion towards the rest of the room.
"How dare you?" Father Huxley hissed in a dangerous whisper, but Alden immediately snapped his head back.
"How dare you send us out with paper bullets?! How dare you send us into danger without a semblance of information?! Tradition you call it, and tradition they used. Zare, Reuben, Laurent, did they not faithfully pray how you taught them? Did they not believe enough?" Alden's angry voice filled the room somehow far darker and heavier than his small size should command. It caused a few of the men in grey to lean away from him in shock and horror.
"You are upset. You have been wounded, but this is no reason to believe God has failed you." The Reverend continued ever-calm.
"No, you have failed God. All of you!" Alden yelled back in rage.
"Alden! Calm yourself, your mind is clouded by anger." Father Roberts shouted, and the deep, commanding voice seemed to demand at least enough respect for Alden to lower his voice when he gave his retort.
"And yours by convention. We need the new philosophies, we need logics, the bible did not speak of mechanics, nor of chemistry or of physics – yet those are what have brought forth this age. Why not study the forces you fight against? Why not a philosophy of the occult, or paralogics?"
"Because it is blasphemy!" Father Huxley added with a slam of his flat hand onto the pew.
The rest of the men immediately burst out in tumultuous discussion, as if the very mention of the word in their halls upset the order of things.
"Silence!" The Reverend demanded, not loud but stern enough to be heard. "Young Alden, in lien of your loss, I know we can find the heart to forgive you for your misguided anger, if you are to admit these fantastic ideas of yours were nothing but a lapse in judgement brought on by a moment of vulnerability." A thin, old finger lifted slowly towards him, and it held all the power over his demise – or restitution. Alden glared back at it.
"I… I cannot," he confessed, only for the Occultists to once more burst out in speech. Louder, he continued, demanding their attention for one sentence more. "I cannot let their deaths go to waste without at least attempting to find another way. A better way to continue their fight."
"Alden…" Father Roberts said softly in shock, and Alden kept his gaze, as he tugged on the cord of his cloak.
"I swore to fight the forces of evil, I took my oath." He explained himself towards the Father, before turning his gaze up towards the Reverend as he stepped back and away. "I will keep it, with or without the Order."
He went to push the heavy, oaken doors of the hall open. A deep sting in his left hand nearly made him cry out in pain. As he looked up to find out why, he was still shocked to find a lack of fingers, the scar red and only barely healed. The full shame of his actions now settled in, and he bit his lip out of anger, instead using his elbow to bash open the door. It hurt his elbow too, but he didn't care as much about that.
Alone in his carriage, he buried his face in both his hands. He let out a loud, frustrated cry. It had been stupid to go against the Order, but he couldn't stand it any longer. Time and time again he saw the people he was supposed to save suffer a terrible fate – good people, bad people, and everyone in between.
"It makes no sense. Nothing makes any Godforsaken sense!" In agitation he grabbed the first thing in reach, which was his notebook, and threw it at the side of the carriage with as much force as he could. With a loud slam and fluttering papers, the booklet hit the wood, before dropping on the floor. It laid there rather miserably, and he wished he could join in.
He'd burnt all his bridges in this fight, and if anyone in the Order was deemed stark mad, he was now considered insane even by their standards. The thought of running and finding a different life crossed his mind for just a moment, but he knew that he couldn't. If not bound by oath, then he was bound by vengeance. Either he fought until there was nothing left to fight against, or he died trying, joining his companions last.
"There has to be an answer – a method, or even just a rule. If I can just prove it right, if I can find a way that works… I need evidence." 'I need allies…'
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