Monday, March 10, 2014

The Retribution

Part 1, A holiday gone wrong
“You look like an honest man. I can always tell. I have a powerful thirst and, alas, not much money in my tuck. If you will stand me a tankard of ale I will tell you a story that will amaze you, and every word is true. Mind if I sit?” The man had already taken a seat, and I wasn’t sure I was happy about that. He was of medium height, balding and his clothing was travel worn. He had a most interesting face, like a man who had seen much and had suffered much, and yet a face not without humor.

                    The village of Schmeckle-Something is not quite right here
 My name is Heinrich Emmler. I had come from the city of Ardoberg on holiday. I am the Master of the Electoral Public  Archives by profession, but a Naturalist by vocation. I specialize in the cataloging of rare birds, and the wild places of the province of Holstein are said to have some truly rare species. Now, here I was in the village of Schmeckle, deep in the wooded hills of Holstein and all I had seen so far were surly rustics, the landlord of this establishment where I was lodged, all innocent of soap and water, and now this oddly charming stranger with the outlandish accent, who would most likely knock me on the head later and rob me.   
The ale was set before us in due course, and the stranger drank his straight down. He then began his tale, pausing only briefly to motion to the landlord for two more. I set his story out here as I remember it, and if it seems implausible, what I myself experienced soon after will sound more unlikely still.
A stranger engages Heinrich with an extraordinary tale
So spoke the stranger: “The people of the village are being terrorized by what they claim is a witch. For years villagers have caught glimpses of this impossibly ancient looking hag lurking in the vicinity of the village at night. They call her Mad Emma. She seemed always to be collecting one thing or another, wild plants, tree mold, vermin, animal bones, for some unknown purpose. When approached she would fade into the darkness. Over time, the yokels grew to fear her. Some claimed to have seen her flying on a broom through the night sky and others to have seen her meeting the Devil in a forest clearing.

At last, a group of local men surprised Emma during her nocturnal foraging, dragged her to the nearby river and threw her in. The local folk hold that if a hag is thrown into deep water and she floats, that is proof that she is a witch. If she sinks, then she was innocent and those who threw her in must pay for a Mass to be said for her soul. In this case, she did indeed sink without a trace, proving, they thought, her innocence. A few days later as the Mass was getting under way the church was filled with an unbearable stench that drove the villagers and the priest out into the street. Since then the locals have reported livestock sickening and dying and the crops are starting to wither. Several people have seen the hag in the countryside at night and in each case she has made the sign of the evil eye before vanishing into the darkness.”
There was something about this rustic inn, the rain beating down on the thatch, the fire casting fantastical shadows on the walls and just the two of us travelers and the landlord present that made the strangers story sound a little more plausible.
“A fine story, friend, and worth the price of a tankard or two.”  Indeed, two empty vessels stood before my companion and he held a third to his lips. “My name is Heinrich Emmler,of Ardoberg. Will you tell me yours?”
“I am Brother Mattias, and I am in your debt” said our story-teller.
“Am I to understand that you are a clergyman?”
“I am that. My Order is the Irish Christian Brothers”.
“Not a Roman Priest, then? Why are you not in clerical garb? I confess, I haven’t heard of your Order.”
“No, not a priest, no. A Brother is a servant of God who has better things to do than to learn his Latin! My Order is small and the nature of our mission is such that we are not widely known. As for my cassock, it was left behind with the rest of my poor possessions recently when I had to leave Albania on short notice, with the Sultans minions nipping at my heels.”
I must confess, at this point my thirsty new friend had me entirely engaged. All thoughts of bird watching in the countryside had fled, and had been replaced with an irresistible urge to delve deeper into Brother Mattias’ story, however nonsensical it would prove to be. It is not given to mere mortals to see into the future. If I had known what the next few days had in store regarding Mad Emma, I would have left the inn that night and returned to Ardoberg directly, standing not upon ceremony.
Note: The really nice buildings in the pictures were made by JustMike


  1. Okay, I'm hooked. I want to read the follow-up post . . . so please don't make us wait too long for it, okay?

    -- Jeff

  2. Wow! It was almost worth to have to wait almost a year to read from Ardoberg-Holstein again! Then, now that we were hooked by the prelude, I wish we'll not have to wait as long for the first chapter?
    *Great* to have you back!

  3. Excellent, don't keep us on tenterhooks for too long

  4. I do so enjoy your tales. The Duchy of Indur would like to extend the olive branch to your country.