Chapter 2 : Gramstaf
Scene 1 : The Truth in the Papyrus
The wizened old cleric leaned a bit more heavily upon his walking stick this November morning as he made his way through the cathedral’s chilly halls towards the archives. He always felt the excessive damp in his left knee. That old wound inflicted by that damn dwarf always reminding him of his past. The swift but quiet pattering of bare feet behind him drew him out of his reminiscence.
“Forgive me Prelate Gramstaf, I would have been here sooner but there was a messenger for you at the front gate.” Brother Anselm was gasping as he finally fell in step with the elder priest.
“Not to worry Brother, this thrice-cursed knee will always slow me down enough to let you catch me. So what did this messenger have to report?”
“It was good news, Prelate. It would seem that Sir Denzred the Landless has finally rid our fair land of the last of the Spawn of Satan.” Anselm declared, pleased that he was the one to report this to the master of Canterbury Cathedral. Gramstaf glanced at his companion and sighed, Anselm had proven to be a useful and diligent assistant though a bit too sycophantic for Gramstaf’s liking.
“Slaughter is never good news, foolish boy! But the cause was just and the ends sadly did serve the means, so enough chatter and be content that those poor souls no longer suffer upon this plane.” Gramstaf sighed, disappointed that the Crown insisted on eradication instead of banishment to Wales. That godforsaken land of fey knights and Jews were welcome to them. He harumphed in frustration and continued a bit quicker on his path.
“I’m so sorry, Prelate. My apologies. I never meant to offend-”
“Shush boy! That’s enough. Life carries on and only God knows the Design, so let us not worry of such things. I have almost deciphered that ancient Sumerian scroll we found in the catacombs. So very fascinating…”
“I thought it was simply a retelling of Genesis, Prelate, and nothing more?”
“From what I have been able to discern it seems to suggest something…larger. Something profound, a truth that I am not sure I wish to learn…” Gramstaf scowled to himself.
“I’m not sure what you mean, Prelate”
“Anselm I wish I could help you understand but I don’t understand it myself. Though last night before I slept I had an epiphany on how to decipher that frustrating passage. I realized it was encoded and I think I know how to tease out the message it was attempting to convey.”
“Prelate, there was a second missive that arrived along with the first but the messenger was instructed that it was only to be read by you…” Brother Anselm handed a slip of vellum to Gramstaf with the seal of the Crown upon it. He scowled with trepidation as he broke the seal and unfurled the small sheet and read it quickly. His eyes grew wide as he scanned it:
Sir Denzred the Landless has committed the cowardly murder of the Duke Alfrid of Kent. The traitorous cur is to be captured alive and brought to the Royal Court in chains for trial and execution. The one that succeeds in this task is to be granted a single boon of his choosing from Our Blessed King Aethelweard. So be it this 15th day of November, in the Eight Hundred and Fiftieth Year of Our Lord.
Gramstaf sighed heavily and handed the parchment back to Brother Anselm as he spoke in a dower tone.
“Brother, transcribe this onto a larger parchment and post this upon the front gate for all to see. It is a sad day indeed when one of our bravest knights loses his way. We shall pray for God’s Mercy upon his soul at Mass this eve, lad.”
Gramstaf continued implacably down the quiet candle-lit hallway as Anselm gasped in disbelief as he quickly read the parchment. They finally arrived at a massive iron-banded oaken door. He pulled an equally massive brass key from his sleeve and slipped it into the lock, turning and feeling the haft slip out of the rock wall. He pushed with a gasping effort and the door swung silently open to reveal the Archives of Canterbury Cathedral. Shelves marched into the darkness before them, filled to overflowing with scrolls, librams, grimoires, treatises and tomes.
When the Christians fled Rome during the Ascendance of the Roman Deities they were able to siphon out an enormous cache of ancient knowledge over the course of five years. The vast majority of these works ended up here at Canterbury Cathedral, while the rest are held in the Cathedral at Aix-la-Chapelle. There was also a small collection of documents that were saved from the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria. It was a specific ancient papyrus scroll from that very collection that had brought Gramstaf here today. He walked patiently to the reading lecturn that he had commandeered the past few weeks and took a seat before the spread sheet of ancient and faded papyrus.
Gramstaf turned to Anselm with a kindly expression,”This shall take some time Brother Anselm. Be a good lad and fetch me a small bowl of porridge and a cup of water. With a dollop of honey in the porridge, my one vice.”
“Of course, Prelate. Right away!”
Gramstaf shook his head in resignation as Anselm rushed off back the way they had come. He turned his attention back to the scroll with a sigh. The text seemed to be in angelic script but it confusingly contained words of ancient Sumerian and Minoan. Now as far as he was aware these were two of the most ancient written languages so it would make seem natural to see those words in this context but what was odd was that they were used in place of common Angelic words that would have been in more common usage at the time this scroll was supposedly written. He frowned at the frustrating script then reached into his belt pouch and withdrew a small vial of holy water he had brought with him. He opened it and pressed it against his fingers of his right hand, one at a time. Then he whispered a series of latin phrases and blew gently on his fingertips. They began to glow with a lambent illumination and he smiled in satisfaction before places his fingers over the intrusive words and traces each iconograph with a damp fingertip leaving a glowing trail behind. After a moment the glow faded and the script begin to twist and shift until it finally came to rest in the more familiar Angelic phrases, and yet they were not the words he expected…
His eyes grew wide in astonishment as the words wormed into his mind, the power of those phrases changing and molding his thoughts. A stunning realization flowed into him as the glamour finished its work. He straightened to his full height for the first time in over a decade as the pain in his knee faded. His walking staff now forgotten as he stood back from the lectern. His eyes glowed a clear blue as he spoke, the words strong and deep.
“I am …. I am Gramstaf. I am… I am more… I am EGL.”
A trembling voice spoke from behind him,”Prelate, I brought you your porridge…”
Gramstaf extinguished the glow in his eyes with a slow blink and turned to face Brother Anselm.
“Foolish boy, if you had only been another minute I would have been able to let you live, but now…”
Before Brother Anselm could speak or react, Gramstaf picked up his staff and placed it against Anselm’s temple. With that single touch the poor boy began to drop to the floor, all life drained from him. Gramstaf caught him easily and gently lowered him to the floor, he closed his eyelids with his palm as he whispered a benediction over the corpse.
“You are in a better place now My son. When My work is finished I hope to have the opportunity to explain why this must be. But as with all things, God’s Will Shall Be Done.”
Gramstaf slowly stood up and carried his staff in one hand as he strode easily from the archive, muttering to himself.
“Now I must find this Sir Denzred. I have it on good Authority that he is vital to the Quest ahead of us…”