The Wintrose Chronicles V: A Return to Wintrose Abbey
"This is bizarre stuff."—Thomas F. Monteleone, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Blood of the Lamb and The Mothers and Fathers Italian Association
Hayt Fasserby was a simple man, but not the simpleton people often took him for. He knew the weight of his decision when he climbed back up to the mountain abbey and took it upon himself to watch over the brotherhood’s charge. He felt called to it, just as Brother Wintrose had been called on to build the abbey and his own brother, Char, had been called on to raise a family.
But the devil was full of tricks, and it wasn’t long before Hayt was being assailed daily with taunts and confusion. It was unfair, the devil prince contended, for Hayt to have been left behind. And when Hayt told Kurg that no one knew he’d returned to the abbey, Kurg only scoffed and said it was all the more reason Hayt should be upset. While the brotherhood was out in the world, collecting accolades and basking in adulation, Hayt was stuck on Scratch Mountain, looking after a devil prince who wasn’t likely to so much as scratch his nose in a thousand years. While Char enjoyed the love of a good woman and the glory of rearing children, Hayt was pinned to a duty no layman ever should have been burdened with. Kurg promised that once freed he would take Hayt to see his friends and his brother’s family. He said he would explain to the brotherhood that his incarceration had been the result of a terrible misunderstanding.
If Lucifer was the Father of Lies, then Kurg was the essence of those lies.
Mind, the devil prince’s trickery wasn’t the work of days or weeks. He was at it for years before Hayt finally wore down and did the unthinkable by setting him free. When he did, the brute pushed past him in a rage and wasn’t seen or heard for days. Liberated from the creature’s influence, Hayt could feel a veil lift, and it revealed to him the truth of what he had done.
There was evidence that the devil prince hadn’t left the abbey for good. One evening, during a routine constitutional, Hayt discovered something odd in the cloister. Someone had built a circle of pikes, all angled in toward a space at the center, large enough for a man to stand in. A portion of the pike barricade hung open like a gate, inviting him in. The contraption chilled his blood, for it was the obvious work of a Rocky Forest devil. Kurg, in other words.
That night, while lying in bed and wondering about the young nomad who had recently taken up residence in the abbey, Hayt heard a noise like a door slamming shut. Perhaps the door to the cloister. Fear crawled across his belly as he lay there, motionless. It might have been the stranger, but Hayt hadn’t heard a sound from the man since his arrival. He only seemed interested in perusing the volumes of philosophy and metaphysics left behind by Brother Wintrose and some of the others. And besides, the newcomer was early to bed without fail. This was far beyond his usual time for turning in.
Another sound echoed down the hall outside Hayt’s door, this time the creak of a hinge. He’d so far avoided detection from the abbey’s newest inhabitant so he could keep an eye on his movements. But maybe the man was wise to him, seeking him out in the night.
No, it had to be Kurg he now heard. He was only trying to assuage his fears by pretending otherwise. He had made a dreadful mistake in letting the devil prince go, and one way or another he was bound to pay a price. Brother Wintrose would be so disappointed in him, if the old abbot still lived. As he lay in the dark, waiting for the demon’s final approach, his shame momentarily eclipsed his terror. The very shame that had kept him from fleeing the abbey after setting Kurg loose. He could never again bear the company of men. Besides, he had nowhere to go.
The door to his chamber shot inward as if caught in an explosion. Several candles burned dimly in the room, and Hayt wished he’d extinguished them. The flickering shadows they cast only made Kurg’s form appear more mutated and huge than it already was. Into the room he came, limping and grunting. He held something heavy at each side. These items he deposited on the bed before leaning over Hayt’s troubled features. The creature flashed something like a smile as he brought up a long, rough talon. With his other claw he pulled Hayt’s tongue as far out of his mouth as it would go and then sliced it clean through with an easy swipe of the misshapen nail. Hayt heard the severed portion of his tongue strike a wall where Kurg flung it, but before he could react, the devil was holding a candle’s flame to the fresh wound in his mouth, burning it closed.
He thrashed and bucked but could produce only the most pitiful gurgling sounds. Kurg turned his attention to the objects he’d brought in with him, which allowed Hayt to cover his blood-wet mouth with both hands.
But soon there was fresh pain. Kurg had clamped metal boots onto Hayt’s legs and was now twisting pins into his flesh and bone through holes in the metal to secure the boots. This complete, the devil prince draped Hayt over one shoulder and carried him out to the cloister.
The gate of pikes was open as before, and Kurg deposited Hayt in the center of the bizarre device. He drove several long pins through each foot, deep into the ground. Before leaving Hayt to his punishment, Kurg lashed at his face until it was free of skin. What he’d cut from Hayt he chewed on and swallowed, right before the man’s eyes. Hayt moaned and cried, but his sorrow and pain only drove the beast to laughter.
Kurg slammed shut the gate of pikes and hobbled to the rear of the cloister, where he disappeared through a fissure in the wall. Hayt nearly lost his balance and realized the horror of his predicament. Eventually he would tire, and his body would collapse onto the barricade. And while he had any strength or will to live, he would push himself away from the pikes, back to a standing position. It was human instinct to avoid pain. But his strength would drain away. His resolve would ebb. And sooner or later he would die—impaled, faceless and without a final scream to mark his departure from the world.
He let his head drop as he burst out sobbing, his body swaying in tiny moonlit circles.