The brothers met me at the Abbey door. Dressed in their volumous black robes and cloaks, so far removed from the plain white of my own, hood raised, hands crossed. One looked older, the other two a little younger, closer to my age. As I dismounted, they spoke quietly, in whispers amongst themselves, a few hand signals given in passing to suppliment the conversation. And there I stood, alien.
The elder came forward after a while, a small bow and his hand jutted out to greet me. “Hello. I am the Father Prior.” he introduced himself in a rasping voice, “You are the Abbot they’ve sent, I presume.” His gaze looked me up and down, studying me. I could see it linger on my brand which, despite my best attempts at covering it as far as sumptuary would allow, was still quite visible from its home on my jugular.
“Yes.” I responded, trying to draw his attention away from the penitential mark, “Father Bene ab Piuso.” he nodded finally and motioned me to follow. The Abbey Church was massive. Stunning. Even more beautiful than the Cathedral by some judges. Its lights had been unlit save a few candles and it was filled with the congregation of black robed monks and nuns. I was led to the altar where the Father Prior made his announcements. The other two monks stood beside me, a silent honor guard. Finally, the bells began to ring.
The Father Prior turned to face me. “Piuso, do you swear to me now, before God, the vows of monastic life? Of celibacy, of obedience to the law of God, and to poverty?” “I do.” He nodded and I was gently, if ever so firmly, pushed to the ground. I lay on my stomach before the altar. A black funeral pall was laid over me. All was silent save the church bells which kept their heavy, mournful toll.
I lay there in the darkness, my life passing before me. I saw in the shadows the red cloth of prelacy, the altar of the Cathedral. I saw Deviah, I saw Cedany. And above all, I saw her. I whispered my prayer, “Dav, I know this may seem like a little much now after it all.. You know my thoughts and my heart, no need to voice it. I think I’ll be a fine monk. Give me strength and Faith. Give me hope and joy. I need both.” I laughed softly to myself but soon silenced as I felt the cloth around me being removed. I rose, a nod was given by the Father Prior who put and hand on my shoulder to guide be down from the altar, “Come, Father Abbot, the cloister is this way.”
The halls of the monastery, sitting at their perch at the very head of the Church, were long and echoing. The Chalice windows streaming faint light into the area. It was absolutely silent in the abbey, even the footfalls seemed dulled by an unknown and heavy solemnity. No laughter, no shouts, no song past the steady chants of the day’s prayer life. The monks and nuns were similarly somber, dressed in the heavy sable of their habits they glided through on their detached march. Their eyes were downcast and their minds seemed to be off somewhere else. Utter silence. I remembered Father Francis’s words to me when I told him I had been appointed abbot, “Ah, Piuso, be careful. A man can loose himself in a monastery.. much like a cemetery, everyone there have long since passed to the Lord.” I had not quite believed him at the time but now, what he said was right before me.
The tour was short, the quarters for the sisters and brothers, a council room where I would be expected to greet the monastery tomorrow, and finally my quarters. I remembered the place from before, I had helped get everything organized. It seemed so long ago now and even in this small piece of preserved time, like a memory come to life, it all seemed foreign. I shuffled through everything, looked at the ledgers and notebooks kept for me. The Father Prior updated me on the comings and goings of the abbey. I nodded, we would see the library and scriptorium tomorrow, then onto Southside for my maiden voyage as ‘Father Bene ab Piuso, High Priest for the Southside of Lithmore.’ Oh, such weighty titles.
That night, I longed for my bed by the Cathedral which seemed so far off. I missed her all the more, suddenly, everything that had happened seemed so much more real. She was gone and I now lived in the constraints of the cloister, even when I were to leave its physical bounderies. But a month ago, I had been young, in love, looking ahead to marriage, children, a happy, normal life. A few months before, I had been Cardinal of Lithmore. Now Bene ab Piuso had been submitted, I was little more than a simple, anonymous title, ‘Father Abbot.’
Dav save me.
Only a few days later, I would find myself in a different cloister. The dank walls about me and the ever present promise of tortures to come.