The Many Tales of Blackjack: L'Abbaye des Morts

<I think that it does work.> The old monk said quietly, spreading his hands. <Does it help a great deal? I do not think so. But every few drops can only help, not hurt. And so I do what little I can.>

<And I am not alone. You are not the only quester in these modern days, and some few still follow the old ways.> Marcel said. <But we number a small amount, not a hundred in this great, tossing and turning world. I am the only one to care for this chapel, when once there were scores.>

What will happen when you are gone? Erin left unspoken, though she wondered if Marcel could indeed die.

<You spoke of mortals who would worship the Grigori?> she asked. She likely knew most of what there was to know of those, and asked mostly out of concern for the ones she knew. Arsen, Magda, Pavel, Masha... her two friends showed no ill-effects, but she worried so, and the eunich's corpse in Udachny always concerned her. And also. <Do you know what became of Verité, after it was he was burned?>

<Some mortals worship the Grigori. Scattered cults, lone acolytes, but they are not many. The old ways are weakest now, even as the promise of new ways grows stronger.> Marcel said. He sighed, however, when Erin mentioned Verité. <He died. And some other creature came back wearing his face.>

<I met a man with green eyes who claimed that name, Verité. Perhaps he was lying to me, I do not know. But he seemed to think himself Verité, the man who had been burned in the Terror.> A fetch, came to Erin's mind, unbidden. <Do you know why he was noticed and replaced, like that? The manner he died, or simply that he knew too much of the Grigori...?>

<I do not know.> Marcel said, sighing quietly. <I have never met this doppelganger, I cannot say. Some fragment of Jean-Michel's soul, living onward despite everything? Or some interloper from a darker realm, a daemon true.>

<I do not know why or with whom he was replaced. Not for certain.> The old monk said. He leaned forward, looking at Erin closely. <But I believe I know something of the 'how' of it. They burned his books, the books in which he had written the true words of the Grigori. When that much power, that much knowledge is destroyed, it... echoes... across the universe, in a note of tragedy. There is power in such destruction, and in that moment of burning, things were possible that would not have been in other times.>

<He has always told me he is simply a man... a bit of his soul, living on...?> Erin said, half to herself, the word Fetch echoing in her head once more. It swallowed easier than thinking of him as a demon. She liked Verité. And surely a demon wouldn't have trusted her, and been tricked and betrayed because he'd trusted her...

Even tricked and trapped, he led her down his path rather easily, came a darker thought.

<Do angels have souls?> Erin asked suddenly, following her thoughts. <Do the Grigori have souls? Do the Nephilim have souls? Do... do the Nephilim's servants have souls?> It was like a dam had broken, and questions spilled forth. <Can... can a fragment of a broken soul grow, into a real one?>

<You ask questions to which I have no great answers.> Marcel said kindly. He put a hand on Erin's shoulder, to calm and comfort. <But I will do my very best. Angels are nothing but soul, great souls with great powers, but limited for that soul is unclothed in flesh. And the Grigori, whatever else, are still angels.>

<The Nephilim have souls as well, children of great-souled angels and mortals.> The old monk said. <And their servants and creations as well. A soul is not so easily lost, you see. If it lives and breathes and thinks, then it has a soul. Some men shrivel and blacken their soul until nothing is left, others nurture it and let it grow. But everything has a soul, even the cruelest of the Nephilim, even their most broken servant, and all can grow to greatness if they only make the effort.>

<Even demons?> Erin asked, tremulously, but quieter. She slumped a bit, not out of dejection, but as if she had finally set some heavy burden down, and could finally rest. She looked tired, now.

<I've heard of things that steal souls, or eat souls... what happens to those souls then? Are the just...> Erin spread her fingers. <...gone?>

<Even demons. They were angels, once, and the loss of grace does not confer the loss of a soul. In every true demon is the potential for greatness.> Marcel said. <As for those... there is vile magic that can do just that. But consider, for a moment, what soullessness resembles. Those unfortunate ones become listless, lost, losing the very will to live. Automatons of flesh, caring for nothing. That is what to have a soul means, to want to live and survive and to do things. To have free will is to have a soul.>

<But it is gone. Or subsumed, or consumed...> Marcel said quietly. <It is a frightful crime.>

Erin blew out a deep breath, and recomposed herself.

<May I ask about the history of this place?> she said. <You know so many things that seemed to have been lost.>


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