WHJC - October 1985
Inquisitor - David Leigh
(page 4/9)

illustration - people staring into distance

INQUISITOR

Below, the tower burned. Plumes of flame burst out into the night from every part of the building, like the blooms of some rampant and destructive vine. From his horse, perched atop a nearby cliff, Pitor had a grand view of the destruction of his home. The mob crowded round the blaze, still throwing a few torches to add to the fire. Tomorrow, thought Pitor, the inns all around would reverberate with the tales of these men's bravery, how each of them had single handedly fought and destroyed the 'magician'. He reached out with his mind to taste the feelings of the crowd, hoping to find more about these people who had, in a scant few days, destroyed his life and all but destroyed him.

At first the screaming torrent of emotions threatened to tip him into unconsciousness. But instead he filtered and focused, and briefly examined the many individuals. Their fear, hatred, loathing for what they believed him to be, but above all he found a resolute conviction that they were doing right. And behind this conviction he could feel the presence of a strong leader, one who had taken these simple peasant folk, with whom he had traded for many years, and awoken in them the blind hatred he now felt. This man was clearly skilled in his work, and just as clearly responsible for the deaths of his wife and son, and of the many friends he had never met. Pitor felt hatred wake in his heart, mirroring that in the crowd. He now had a new purpose in life; to destroy this leader as he had so many others, and almost Pitor himself.

He turned his horse and rode back into the hills, his path lit by the flames of his burning home.

It had been a good life in the tower, away from the noisy thoughts of other people, with Isabella and his son. They had spent many long evenings farspeaking with others like themselves. The things they had talked about! From the mundane day to day matters, to politics, religion, discussing their varied countries and lives. There was Dr. John Dee, far away in England, who could live among the noise of other people and was a court alchemist to Queen Elizabeth. There were the Bouviers, a whole village of people like themselves, in Provence. And here in Moldavia, scattered throughout the mountains, were many of them. Above all they discussed what made them different from everyone else. Their strange abilities. They were able to make small things move just by thinking about it. Able to communicate over vast distances. They could look into a man's mind and feel his innermost thoughts and emotions, and, sometimes, change them. They had never decided what made them different, and now they probably never would.

Pitor's search for his foe took him on a long journey. First he decided to find those he thought of as his own kinsmen. He knew where their homes were, and, in time, he visited them all, only to find the same at each place. Ashes, death, destruction. In one place, even the victim's cattle had been slaughtered, and left for wild animals, birds and rot to take. Gradually his hatred of his unknown foe grew.

The end began slowly, but only a short time ago. One evening Illya, who lived in nearby Bessarabia, had not joined their farspoken conversation. At first Pitor and Isabella thought he had been too busy to concentrate on the farspeach, as was true of their son, now studying at a school in Yassy. But Illya never returned to their group discussions and, soon, others disappeared. Then rumors reached them of witch burnings in Besarabia, and they realized the truth. The Inquisition was seeking out their kind and destroying them.

Pitor found he was the last of his people left in Rumania, so he alone would have to undertake the search for vengeance. He turned his mind to following the Inquisition. Firstly he bought a large silver cross, and was careful always to wear it in view. He attended mass diligently in the towns he visited, always asking the priest for news of the holy light against the forces of the devil.

Once pointed in the right direction, the Inquisition was not hard to follow. If it wasn't the fiercely devout priests, glad to help anyone willing to join the holy crusade, it was the signs left behind. The quartered bodies picked clean by birds. The bloated dripping corpses swinging from the jibbit. The black twisted things, that Pitor still found difficult to believe were once human, left tied to charred posts.

And, as he traveled from town to town, Pitor found that the remains were becoming fresher.

They had decided to leave; John Dee and the Bouviers arranged travel for them through Europe o the safety of Anglican England. They arranged with the school at Yassy for their son to be sent home, and, finally, Issabella had ridden into the village to collect him from the post wagon, and to make final arrangements for their departure. She never returned. The last Pitor heard from her was an anguished farspoken warning, coloured with pain and terror that a mob of villagers had been sent by the inquisition to burn the tower and all within it.

Pitor did not visit the village on his search for the Inquisition, partly for fear of being recognized, but mostly for fear of what he might find hanging from a tree or tied to stakes on the village green.

It was at Maldoveni on the Yalomitza river that Pitor found the Inquisition. The whole panoply of papal justice had taken root in the Count's castle. There were cages of suspects waiting to be tried, and the great bridge across the Yalomitza was adorned with the remains of those who had already come to trial. This was no idle stopover for the Inquisition, but its summer home for this year.

Pitor crossed the bridge, trying not to look at, or smell, the things on either side, hut he could not help but hear the feverish buzz of flies scared up from their resting places by his passing. He had considered this moment many times. How to confront his enemy, the murderer of his wife and son, and of countless friends. He had considered every eventuality, from instant imprisonment to a freely given audience, hut he was totally unprepared for what now happened.

As he entered the outer bailey of the castle, he felt something he had thought he would never feel again - his mind was touched by another. At first he thought one of the prisoners might he of his kin, but no, the source was not there. It came from above; there! He looked up to the keep and his eyes met those of the Grand Inquisitor, each recognizing the other for what he was.

For some time Pitor sat in the inn room he had taken in a state of utter confusion. How could this man, who was capable of feeling every ounce of suffering he meted out on his victims, be responsible for the deaths of hundreds? At first he thought the man he had seen was not the Grand Inquisitor, but on reflection he realized there could be no other with such robes at a high window in the keep. He knew he could not he mistaken about recognizing one of his kin. There were so many questions to ask. When the castle guards came to take him away, he thought none of them would be answered.

Pitor's sword and dagger were removed from his belt, but the dagger he had concealed within his cloak was undiscovered. He was lead to the castle hall and the doors were opened. He was surprised not to find racks, thumbscrews and braziers waiting for him. Ahead was a large room, papal pennants adorning the walls, thick fur rugs lining the floor. The Grand Inquisitor stood some way inside. Pitor was beckoned in, and, as he entered, the two guards escorting him took up position by the door, crossbows at the ready.

"Enter my son," said the Grand Inquisitor. "Pray be seated." He indicated an ornately carved chair. "I would speak with you before you are introduced to the lower chambers.

"My son, I recognize you. You have certain gifts and abilities that I have seen only seldom."

"As do you," interrupted Pitor.

"I am graced by God with divine powers, yes. The more to do his work on Earth. Your powers and all the others come from the devil, from Satan his very self. God speaks to me you know." The Inquisitor moved forward, as if he was speaking in confidence. "He told me you were all evil. That I must find all those I heard speak from far away. Seek you out and destroy you. I did, and you are the last."

Pitor looked into the man's eyes, and saw a strange gleam within them. He reached out with his mind, to find what sort of a man the Inquisitor was. The confused mess of a mind he found astounded him. Here lay the expected foul murderer, reveling in what he did. But more than that, there was also a devout believer in God and the church. But mislead and misguided by the other blacker character that spoke in his dreams, that drew on the suppressed memories of childhood rejection, of hatred and mistrust as a result of his powers. And Pitor no longer felt hate and the need for revenge. Instead he felt pity For this poor crippled man, unable to gain happiness from his unusual gifts as Pitor had. Then Pitor touched the man's memories. There was a day, long ago, in Rome. Two men stood talking outside the Inquisitor's monastic cell.

"The man is mad" said one.

"Yes, but he will teach them the true rewards for heresy!"

Another day, more recent. A woman prisoner an the rack. Issabella! She was tied firmly down. The Inquisitor moved forward, bending over her, removing his robes.

Hate burned afresh in Pitor. "No!," he screamed, and threw his hidden dagger. It struck the Inquisitor in the chest, and a crimson stain quickly spread over the purple vestments.

At the same time as the Inquisitor collapsed, Pitor heard the crossbows fire, almost together. Two fireballs struck Pitor in the back, and drove him forwards. He fell into a warm, viscous puddle, not sure whether the blood was his or the Inquisitor's, who lay not a foot away. Numbness was spreading through his body.

"Who sent you," asked Pitor, his voice a rattling croak.

Far away, maybe a thought or a voice, Pitor could not tell, came a reply. "The Church." He heard nothing else.

David Leigh