Abbe Micheal turned on the buckboard of the wagon to look at the troops seated in the back of the wagon as the group of holy warriors traveled closer to Aldisburgh and the depravity of the cannibalistic zombie attack that were being sent to dispatch.
The trip from New Edinburgh had been quiet for the most part. Only the sounds of a rolling, creaking wagon, trodding horses and the shuffling of equipment was heard. The warriors in the wagon were grim in visage and determined in countenance. They all knew they were heading toward a new kind of threat in the form of something that had previously been relatively, in their line of work, all too common. Now they faced a new variation that put their previous experience in question.
"Have any of you seen this image in relation to your previous dealing with zombies?" he asked them as he handed a piece of parchment back with a sketch he had hurriedly made from his brief studies of the questions his friend Jolly had originally brought to his attention when they were first introduced.
They took the picture and looked it over in turns, each reflecting a bit to try to recall if the image had any familiarity. None of them had claimed any recognition as the image was passed back to Abbe Micheal. "Show that to me please," Abbe Merrin Lankester said from beside him, holding the reigns of the horses as they pulled the wagon closer to their immediate destiny.
Micheal held the image up and Abbe Merrin glanced over it for a bit then shook his his slowly and took a deep breath, resulting in an even deeper sigh. "I have seen that image before Micheal" Abbe Micheal sat up straighter and looked perplexedly at the older abbe next to him. "You have?" he exclaimed. "I can find little to nothing about it in the records in the Church library." "Where then, did you find that image if not in the Church library?" the senior Abbe asked in return. Micheal held up the image again, explaining, "This was a drawing made by my friend who sent me the message from Aldisburgh. He has found this image in various places at the cemetery there and was trying to learn more about them. When he found nothing in the library, he introduced himself to me hoping that as a member of the Order, I might shed some light on it."
Merrin hung his head low, the memories flooding back to him faster than he would have imagined. He should have asked for the records when he volunteered to the Monsignor. He had suspected as much on a deep inner level but at the surface hadn't been able to let it come through. Now it was in front of him. All of it.
"Abbe Lankester," the young abbot prodded softly. "Do you know something of this image?' A part of him almost hoped that the long time Exorcist and Cleric known commonly among the Order as "Yahweh's Bulldog" didn't have the information he was afraid of hearing. "Is this something you have seen before Abbe?" he asked anyway.
"Micheal, I have seen and done a great many things in my long lifetime than most clerics have seen in two or even three lifetimes." Merrin began. "I began my true career in the Order as an exorcist almost by accident. In actually, it turned out that I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time." This conversation had caught the interest of the warriors sitting behind the two abbes. They at quietly, paying attention to hear every word from the older cleric over the low racket of the horse hooves and wagon wheels.
"To give you the whole story, you need to understand that I am not what I seem to you. How old do you think I am? " He asked looked up into the younger man's eyes. "If I had to guess, I would say perhaps about fifty sir." Micheal replied. The older man smiled, slight wrinkles around his mouth making his face lose and gain ten years simultaneously. "I can tell you that I came to the calling late in my life Micheal. I did not become a Cleric in the Church until I was fifty three years old." Abbe Merrin stated. "I am now just over one hundred and twelve years old and I expect that Yahweh intends to keep me around much longer in punishment of my good deeds.
The group sitting behind in the wagon looked back and forth between the two abbes and then from one of their own faces to another in quiet disbelief. "How can that be Abbe? Not that I disbelieve you but how could it be possible for a human to live so long and look so youthful as you do?" Micheal had turned fully in the buckboard to face the abbe next to him.
When I was a younger man than I am now but twice as old as you, I was a wandering historian. I visited the sites of ancient temples and cities long buried beneath the grasses and the sands. I made a modest living in the trade of artifacts of lesser importance but for the most part, I was passionate for the knowing of history. I had also become something of a travelling sage to be so bold if I may. Many people sought me out for the information of long forgotten and archaic ruins of times long gone by. They paid rather better than trading petty trinkets to be honest." Merrin paused for a breath, licking his dry lips before carrying on.
"I was always an ardent follower of Yahweh, had been since childhood. My faith had been nearly unshakable but I hadn't ever seriously considered becoming a Priest or Cleric. Then I discovered the ruins of a long lost cathedral near a place also long gone to history called Sumeria. The cathedral had been an incredible find. It had been awe inspiring. It was upon seeing it for the first time that I was so moved to even actually consider the Church as a life pursuit."
"However, when we broke through the dust and sand encrusted doors, we learned too late that we had awoken something truly wicked. Perhaps the greatest Evil to walk this world in physical form. As punishment for releasing this great Evil, Yahweh saw fit to curse me with long life with which to pursue the great Evil until I can banish it to it's confinement in the Abyss again. I cannot leave this life until I rid the world of the Evil that I released."
Micheal leaned back again into the backboard, stunned. He had heard rumors. Outlandish fairy tales that he had assumed were the legends that naturally came from performing great deeds of heroism in the name of Yahweh. To hear the story come so plainly, so earnestly spoken from the man himself was like being a small gong struck by a sledgehammer. It blew him away entirely.
Abbe Merrin Lankester grabbed the flask next on the seat next to him and took a long draught. Letting the warm liquid trickle down his dry throat before setting the flask down again to resume his tale.
"The image you carry is that of one of Yahweh's greatest foes. A lord of demons known as the Beast of the Apocalypse. His number is 440 and is also called the Great Dragon. He is the lord of fever and plague. He is known to me as Imdugud and I shall not rest until I see him gone from this world again."
Everyone in the wagon had sat stunned by the revelation. The wagon had come to a complete stop and realization dawned on everyone present that they were no longer dealing with something s simple as a secret necromancer amassing a horrible variant of zombies. They were facing something much older, something much darker and more sinister. Abbe Merrin Lankester looked around, into the of each face. When he was sure he had all of their attention once more, he spoke again.
"We are nearly there. The beast is there and it is waiting for us. It will bide it's time in hiding no longer. It has come forward to make a bold play for the very lives of our people. If they should not be stopped here, now, then the world as we know it will end. We are enjoined, all of us now, to stop this lord of demons and his undead minions. It is now upon us to put an end to his evil or give our lives in the effort." Micheal stared in awe at this now vibrant and emboldened man sitting next to him. No longer quiet and subdued but sitting straight and with fervor, with passion as he finished his statement.
"When we enter Dem Tode Nahe, we will enter not as investigators or meek priests but as the just and and powerful right hand of Yahweh. We will destroy the demon if we can and if not destroy the beast, we will put an end to his undead minions and send them back to the peace of their graves!?
Abbe Lankester finished this last nearly as a roar from deep in his chest. The conviction of his will covering him like a shimmering aura. He looked at the assembled warriors again, then back at Micheal, his new apprentice, though the young Abbe didn't know it yet. He looked forward again, lifted the reigns high and snapped them, startling the horses into a canter. He looked directly in front of them the remainder of the ride until they stopped in front of the boarding house of Jolly the Magic User. He had plans for this spellcaster as well.