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The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XXXI
By
ZMahnke

The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XXXI

Entry XXXIX –

Could it be that every inch of our world above the vast seas is stained with the blood of the innocent? Is there but a single patch of soil pure and untouched by the aftermath of heinous cruelty? What horrific crimes purge our existence in the name of a self-indulgent just cause? It is quite ironic, if I may say the very least, of our Bishops to utilize their faith as a weapon or tool to justify their insanity; the same sort of madness they so claim to wage an endless war against.

On a summer's evening, at the break of twilight, a humble village stood beyond the shores of a long-crooked lake. An owl called from a tree deep in the blackened forests, supported by the everlasting noise of insects. The houses and shoppes, crafted by straw and wood from the vast forests further inland. Makeshift dirt roads lay between each structure, littered with the footsteps of humans and animals alike. A light fog had crept in from the lake, barely hindering the view of the moon and stars above. A couple of fires burned within the village limits, adding smoke to the natural fog, a few of them roasting spits of remaining venison. There were women that stood at the fires, speaking some language unknown to me, twirling the meat above the crackling and popping flames, as small children playfully fought among themselves with sticks a short distance away. Other women throughout the small community tended to their infants by cradling them to sleep, or through breastfeeding. A few young pregnant women slept soundly in their homes, undisturbed by the chorus of the outside world. Some of the villagers wore pendants and rings recognizable by the hammer shape. Peculiar, as there seemed to be no men above the age of 12 present within the village. Nonetheless, at a glance, it would seem peace had thrived throughout the settlement.

A storm brewed in the distance. A rumble growing ever closer to the village. But not a storm of nature, no, indeed, a great storm of men. Soldiers stomping their boots upon the cold dirt, swords, and axes strapped to their belts, carrying torches above their heads. Organized for war in hauberk armor, bringing with them symbols of Christianity to the obviously Pagan village. A couple of soldiers steered a horse that pulled a long carriage with a large iron cage in the back, like a mobile prison that could be taken anywhere. Leading this platoon was a large man dressed in the finest robes of white, red and green, carrying with him a gilded bible of his priesthood. Upon the storm's immediate entry to the village green, the women of the community gathered around, some of them holding their small children at their chest, and listened while the priest preached in a language that I could not comprehend.

Immediate shock spread throughout the crowd after a few sentences, some of the women whispered among themselves in a kind of utter disgust by what the priest had proclaimed. Then, horror broke out, and utter panic, as the soldiers began to steal the infants straight from the mothers' arms. Threatened with execution by sword or axe, the women did not fight back; they could only cry out as their hapless children were thrown into the prison carriage. The other soldiers dispersed through the village, grabbing every child under the age of 3, and breaking down doors into the homes to search every nook of the rudimentary structures. They grabbed the pregnant women by the arms, and despite the resistance and struggles for freedom, they managed to pull the women to the prison carriage, and locked them inside. Children screamed for their mother's as they were carried away, babies cried in agony having been tossed about, and the few pregnant women attempted to break free of the iron cage. Their efforts failed.

Carted out of the village were the stolen innocents, followed by the soldiers and the radical priest, down a long dirt trail that lead deep into the forest. The pleading of those jailed went unanswered for the length of the trip. The moon above provided light to all, allowing the pregnant women to recognize the abandoned Church, hidden by the hundreds of pine trees, not a quarter mile away from the village. Damaged by the elements, the structural frame of the small building barely held together. Some wood boards along the ceiling had collapsed inward, wooden walls covered with a black mold. Grass grew between the cracks on the stone floor, moss formed in the areas exposed most frequently to rain.

When the carriage came to a stop near the entrance to the one-room Church, the pregnant women were taken out of the cage first; each held by a couple of soldiers by their arms. The other soldiers removed every infant and child from the mobile prison and placed them inside of the rotten Church. One of the women was forced to the ground on her back, held down by the combined strength of the soldiers, her attempts to release herself by kicking the men away were ill met. The priest removed a long and sharp dagger from his robe; the hilt in the shape of a cross, made of gold, with ruby gems at each point. He said a prayer in his native tongue, and plunged the dagger into the woman's bloated belly, cutting a horizontal line across the skin above her occupied womb. The woman wailed, tears streamed down her face, as she utilized all of her might to free herself, all the while blood and fluid spitting up from her belly. The priest removed the bloody dagger and placed it in the dirt beside him. With his own bare hands, he reached inside of her, inside the fresh cut, the warm and watery red filth soaked his hands, and ripped the fetus from her womb. He sliced the organic cord that chained the fetus, that final connection the mother had with her unborn child, with the dagger, and ordered his soldiers to place her back in the cage. The soldiers did so, dragging her exhausted and mutilated body through the dirt, and forced her into the prison once more. The priest looked over the gory, fleshy fetus as he walked toward the Church, and mumbled a prayer as he did. He then threw it into the building with the rest of the infants and children.

The other two pregnant women knew their fates, and the fates of the child they were carrying. One of them was forced to the ground, just like the first, while the other fought herself free from the grasp of the soldiers. She attempted to flee by sprinting into the dark forests, hearing the agonizing screams of the other woman behind her, but was caught before she was able to disappear. Dragged by her hair, she was placed into the Church and kicked in the head by a soldier that wore a metal boot. Dazed by the act of violence, her head spun and vision blurred. She could see only the priest, standing like a shadow at the moonlit doorway, as he then tossed the second fetus into the building.

The priest slammed the door and barred it shut with a sword. He gave one final order: For the soldiers to use their torches and light the Church ablaze. They did so without hesitation, and soon the whole building had been consumed and engulfed in yellowish flames.

The pregnant woman inside of the burning structure did not attempt to save herself. She could only listen to the screams of the terrified children; whose bodies began to roast and melt by the intense heat. The screams were drowned by coughs and heaves as smoke took the place of whatever air remained. The woman reached for one of the dead fetuses and held it in her arms. She looked it over, thinking of her own still housed within her. The heat inside of the Church rose to the likes of Hell; her own skin could not handle it anymore, as pieces of the molten flesh of her face began to drip onto her arms and the unborn infant she held . . .

. . . I rose out of bed, in an almost instinctual fashion, my mind absorbed by the images that had invaded my sleep. I was not tired, as my eyes were wide open. I stared at the wooden door of my bedchamber as I stood up, with some sort of compulsion beckoning me toward it. I worked my way forward through the darkness and passed into the corridor, so compelled that I did not close the door behind me. Like a moth to the flame, I walked down the darkened hallways of the Priory, guided by an unusual intuition feeding my starving curiosity. That dream―that nightmare, that night terror―took dominion of my mind with a sense of some foreknowledge. Something hidden away, kept secret, a dead piece of history buried forever in the past, never to be acknowledged once more. But there I was, moving toward its direction, my eyes hardly blinking and my nerves lost in the ecstasy of premonition.

I opened the Chapel doors and moved to the center of the grand space between the rows of long pews. I sunk to my knees, taking one long deep breath, and rubbing my eyes with my palms of my hands. The colors of the evil Realm swirled in the black of my closed sight, blue and violet, meshed into a whirlpool of indigo, as a tingling sensation burst forth from the back of my eyes to top of my forehead, and down my cheeks. A change in the air touched my skin, and I knew within those few seconds that I was no longer within the safety of the familiar world.

The area was layered in gray. The Chapel pillars and walls sustained cracks and rubble from some destructive force the structure had fallen prey to. Smears of blood lead into the darkest corners, filling the cold air with an iron scent. The pews knocked over, snapped and desecrated. Wind blew throughout the corridors in the distance to faintly shoo away the immortal silence. But, most peculiar of all, the small liquid pools dispersed throughout the stone floor. Molten pools of pale flesh and bone and blood, like freshly prepared soup, poured upon the dust and grime of the mangled Chapel, within this evil Realm. I dared not touch the solution before me and only stared into it with the utmost interest. Gazing upon the nastiness, I saw something within it: a face emerged, at least, what I could only perceive as a face. Smooth and small it was, bulbous cheeks and thin eyes, infantile, young and unborn.

My perception served me well; before my very eyes the face rose out from the pool of gory filth, forming a head, and soon a body. The other pools, probably 14 or 15 of them, did the same, faces rising out of the muck to form a body of disgust and repulsiveness. The one before me stood there, broken as it was, a toddler, not beyond the age of 2, a mass of slimy decayed entrails, wailed as it stared back at me. The sound of its cries cursed my heart with a heavy burden of the suffering it had endured upon its death. The others, as withered and decomposed, stumbled toward me on broken legs as I knelt in the center of the Chapel. They all cried for me, they all begged for me to spare them from such an awful existence, to free them from the constant suffering within the Realm of Death. I could see it in their faces, the exhaustion in their being. I could do nothing. Nothing but cry, witnessing the unstoppable torture of the murdered and the aborted.

“Miss Labelle?” A voice asked, and a hand touched my shoulder. I closed my eyes and opened them just as quickly to find my vision had returned to the Realm of Life. I looked up to see Prior Anders standing above me. “There are tears running down your face,” he continued. “What happened? Are you alright?”

“May I ask you something instead?” I asked, disregarding his questions for me.

“Anything.”

I looked back to the stone floor, the exact spot where the slaughtered infant had stood. Thick tears rolled down my cheeks, just as I was about to ask my question. I swallowed hard, and said, “Do you know what happened here in this very spot? Something so difficult to imagine, let alone speak of. Something horrific. A crime against God's innocent creations.”

“What did you see?” he asked.

“A dream, a nightmare . . . children . . . infants . . . burned alive in an abandoned Church. Here, in this very spot.”

He sighed and moved to sit down at the nearest pew. “It would seem you saw a vision of the past, Miss Labelle. An event that took place over two hundred years ago. Yes, I know it well. . . . A man, by the name of Saint Rimbert, an Apostle of the North, led an army into Scandinavia to finish his predecessor's work. His beliefs were radical, to say the very least, in that he believed all Pagan worshipers and followers are influenced by Satan in some form. There was a night in the summer of the year eight eighty-five when he and a few of his soldiers entered a village populated only by Pagans. The men of the village were Viking raiders that lived with their wives and children. There had been several past attempts to convert the people of the village to Christianity, but all ended in failure. And so, Saint Rimbert believed his mission was to purge the village by removing the possibility of any future generations challenging Christian authority. He chose to execute this purging when the men of the village were away on their raids to the south, as to reduce the chance of losing his own soldiers in a battle. He rounded up the children of the defenseless village and took them to an abandoned Church not too far away. He ordered the children be placed inside the Church, and have it burned to the ground. It was a massacre of innocents that should have never taken place. The villagers could not fathom another onslaught upon their young, and so, when the Viking raiders returned to their wives, they all abandoned the village to resettle in the north, away from the growing Christian influence. That Church, however, once stood where this Chapel now stands. Twenty years ago, when I was given the funds and resources to build this Priory, I blessed the land with Holy Water and prayed to God to forgive the sins of the past.”

“It did not work,” I said. “Their souls are still trapped here. I saw them.”

He sighed once more and stroked his long white beard. “One of my old fears, then, has been realized.” His voice had grown soft, almost to the point of a whisper. “Even in such a Holy place, the purest of souls still linger within these walls. It is information such as this that forces me to question the acclaimed power of prayer. It releases the burden of guilt and shame from the hearts of the living, but it is that the dead still endure the boundless suffering. I so dearly question my faith in God.”

As do I . . .

 

Claudia Labelle

28th of December 1097

 

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