The Many Tales of Blackjack: L'Abbaye des Morts

<I? I am just a man, albeit one who has lived longer and read more deeply than most.> Marcel said with a gentle smile. <This chapel was founded by the Cathars, refugees of the Albigensian Crusade. It has been rebuilt many times since, but I uphold the traditions of my forebearers. Old stories, from a long ago time and a faraway place.>

Erin just looked at Marcel, tilting her head. She'd heard that phrase a lot: 'Just a man.' Two of the men who had said it were demonstrably wrong.

She thought for a bit, and then asked, <Do you know much of the Avatars of the Angels, those who wear the crown to serve as the Grigoris hands? I have heard before that even such a link as that could be severed.>

Wormwood himself had been seeking a different means of immortality, which meant perhaps he hadn't wanted to be Belial's servant forever - or perhaps this had something to do with what he'd said, that Belial wanted to finish what he'd started.

<They seem twisted, these avatars - would severing the link make them normal men again? Or are some changes too great?>

<I have met two such beings as you say.> Marcel said, casting his mind backwards across the reaches of time. <One I saw only from afar, as he was burned for his crimes. The other came here seeking sanctuary, and we spoke at great length. He called himself one of the Solomonari, the chosen of that black academy of Scholomance.>

<It can be severed, though it is a fraught process. I do not know the details greatly, but it involves a forgetting, a repudiation of knowledge? One must stare across the abyss and say 'No More'. It is something that each of the avatars knows how to do, in their darkest nightmares, in their blackest imaginings.> The old monk spread his hands. <What happens then? Some -- most -- die, for they are so transformed that without their patrons powers, they cannot survive. Others become mortal men, wounded in body and soul, but with greater knowledge than ever before. It is a function of time and the will of the Grigori, I think. But I cannot prove it one way or another.>

<Burned?> Erin questioned. <Verité, or another?> She looked up. <And do you know where I can find that black academy of Scholomance?>

<You have been very kind in answering all of my questions,> Erin told Marcel, beginning to rise. <Is there anything I can do for you in return, Father Marcel?>

<Another man. They named him, but it was a false name.> Marcel said, sighing sadly. <Perhaps he deserved it, perhaps not, but burning is a most painful way of death.>

<They say that Scholomance lies beneath the lake of Hermannstadt, in Romania.> The old monk said, spreading his hands. <Is this true? I cannot say, I have never been there, and the Solomonar did not say.>

<But I need no payment for my labors. I ask only that this not be forgotten.>

<All that I know, I keep written. The words do not forget, even as the flesh fails. Should I go, they will remain, for others to find, as I have found others.> She stood up and bowed, deep and respectful, to Marcel. <Thank you.>


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