Transcript – The East Window

[The Pensive Tower theme plays]

Scroll & Dagger presents
The Pensive Tower
Episode Sixteen: The East Window

[A click, and the strange whirring of the venoscribe begins]

This is the memory of Witness Oblar Kueck. Orklin, aged forty-eight, identified as male. Memory regards a stained-glass window in the Trinlian of the Most Humble, and was donated on the sixteenth of the month of Stillsky, in the year 684. Inscribed by Paxton Ferox on the nineteenth of Sunsfall, 729.

We Begin.

Never thought I’d be here. The Pensive Tower. I’m used to seeing it from the spire of the Trinlian, but I never thought I’d have anything worth adding to the collection. As a martyst, my life is pretty uneventful.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to say my life is boring or unfulfilling. Ever since I took my vows, I’ve found a great sense of fulfillment. Leading the weekly prayer service in one of the biggest Trinlians in the Federation, aiding the poor and needy in the city, being the face that many people think of when they contemplate the divine Three. I never dreamed I’d hold such office when I first decided to join the church.

I remember there was quite a stir when I first became a disciple. The Master Keeper of the time didn’t seem to want to believe I was there. But, given I stood a head taller than all the other neophytes, I was a little difficult to really ignore.

I won’t pretend my novitiate wasn’t difficult. The Master Keeper seemed to regard my mere presence as an absurdity that needed to be removed from the role of the initiated. To this day, I don’t truly understand why. Certainly, there are not many of my kind among the martystry but I was hardly the first to wish to be initiated.

Fortunately, I did have my allies. I became good friends with several of the other disciples and one of the other masters, the Master Chanter, seemed to take a special interest in my progress. She said it was good to see more orklins taking an interest in the divine mysteries.

With their help, I passed my trials and became an initiate and, well, the rest is history. Twenty years later I was called upon by the Archvletia to take over duties in the Trinlian of the Most Humble. A high honour indeed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever visited the Trinlian? I know these days religion isn’t as high up on the list of priorities for people as it used to be. And for you fine people working here I suppose the world of secular learning and scholarship is a lot closer to home than the more spiritual world that is my purview.

It is a wonderous building. First built during the latter years of the Dark Age, it is impossible to know just how old it is. Quite how they managed to raise such an incredible piece of architecture during those times is a mystery, and the renovations it’s been given since then have only added to its majesty. The tall, ornate pillars engraved with images of days long past and the high vaulted ceiling gives the impression that you are walking in the Halls of Serenity!

And then there is the great statue of the Three. The Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer; the Horned God, the Chained Goddess and the Faceless One stood together in majesty at the very centre of the Trinlian where all may see their divinity.

[A door opens in Paxton’s office.]

And all of this is-

Hey, Paxton, thought you might like to know-

[aside] Szelia, I’m in the middle of an inscription! Do you not know how to knock?

[sarcastically] Well, I am sorry. I suppose I’ll just take this note from the High Librarian elsewhere.

[She flaps the note, Paxton pauses.]

He wrote back? Well, it’s about time.

I think he’s been away on business the last couple of weeks.

Well, what does it say?

Uhhh, it says…

[Szelia opens the note.]

[reading] “Ferox, thank you for bringing this to my attention. However, while our policy has, for a long time, been to be on the alert of any mention of the Night Queen, there has been no report of any activity from Stemeyeca for many decades, so I do not think you need worry yourself – or anyone else – over this. But thank you again for letting me know, please keep me informed if you find anything similar during your project. Regards, Lord Edubbarus duSell Jostellarte.”

Hm. I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or not.

Well, if the High Librarian doesn’t think it’s a problem, we’re probably okay.

I suppose… I was right to raise it with him, wasn’t I?

I mean… You can’t be too careful, not with something like that.

I suppose so. Thank you Szelia.

I’ll be down the hall if you need me.

[Szelia leaves and closes the door behind her]

[clearer] Inscription continued.

And all of this is illuminated by a veritable rainbow of colour as the sun shines through the stained-glass windows that line the walls of the Trinlian. And… it’s those windows that I came to talk about. Or rather, one in particular.

You see, most of the windows are just simple diamond patterns, no meaning to them – at least, none that are remembered – but there purely as decoration. But there are four that have actual pictures to them. One on either side of the main nave and two overlooking the chancel. The two in the chancel are fairly standard images, well known to most I would have thought. One depicts Holy Iyassena, who protected the people of Elalton during the Dark Age and, stories have it, helped raise the Trinlian itself. The other is an image of the three gods, similar to the great statue, but more stylised.

The one on the west wall shows what I believe is meant to be some great hero from many years ago, he is dressed in armour and holds a sword triumphantly as if declaring a charge. It’s quite an impressive image.

Its counterpart on the opposite wall is… well, it is just as impressive but in a different way. The image of this window, picked out in beautifully detailed glass, shows a figure shrouded by a thick grey cloak and a deep hood. No detail of the person beneath the cloak can be seen and the hood shows only shadowed darkness beneath it. When I first saw it, I thought this was an ancient interpretation of the Faceless One, especially since, at first glance, the figure is depicted standing atop a mound of bodies. The Faceless One has long been associated with death so it makes sense for the dark age mentality to picture Them in such a way, though of course today we know this is a very simplistic interpretation of the Third God. But, on closer inspection, it becomes clear that this might not be the case at all. The bodies that lie at the feet of this figure are the corpses of monstrous creatures. With the heads of snarling beasts, bat-like wings, claws and huge sycthing teeth.

As a boy, my father told me stories of khirrocs. Vicious monsters that terrorised Senteria before the Federal Army chased them into the outer-lands. The creatures depicted in the glass called those old stories to mind and I shuddered just to look at them. Even now, after years of living there, I still try not to look too closely at it.

So, I don’t know why my first reaction was to look at that window when all this began.

It was earlier this year, the middle of Chillingtine. I’m sure you remember how cold the winter was. And, I make a point of offering the Trinlian as a place of refuge to those unfortunates who are homeless during the cold months. I also provide tea, and what food I can afford to give them. The only catch is that they have to listen to me perform the evening service which I don’t consider too much of a price.

Anyway, the service had ended and I was passing out the tea when the doors opened to reveal three men; two burly humans and a nasty looking diman. It seemed one of my guests, a rather scrawny young man by the name of Kane, owed them a fair amount of money and they were intent on collecting.

I reminded them that this was a house of the gods but they completely ignored me, advancing on poor Kane, the diman going so far as to pull out a knife.

Well, that was going too far. I might be a martyst, but I am not about to sit back and allow such things in my Trinlian. Threatening violence? Absolutely outrageous. And to do it so brazenly right in front of me?

I strode forward and planted myself between these invaders and Kane. Though I am a man of peace, I am an orklin. I had about a foot on the tallest of the three and my tusks were a lot more dangerous than the diman’s little knife. I glared down my snout at the three and said again, that this was a house of the gods. I think I was a bit more noticeable this time because the three of them looked up at me like they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. One of them asked me if I knew who they were. I told them I knew nothing and I cared less. I told them they could leave on their feet or off of them.

I meant that I would throw them out but looking back. I wonder if they thought I meant I was intending to kill them. It would certainly explain why they looked so nervous all of a sudden. I suppose I should be thankful that religious matters aren’t as common knowledge as they once were. If they’d known I wasn’t permitted to harm them, I might have been in some trouble.

Cowed for the time being, they turned to leave but their leader shouted at Kane that they’d be waiting and that he wouldn’t be able to hide in the Trinlian forever. I followed them out, watching until they closed the door behind them. I sighed and felt the effect of the adrenaline that had been coursing through me a moment ago gradually fade away.

I went back into the nave. Poor Kane looked absolutely terrified. I reassured him that he could stay as long as he needed to, though I knew that those three, or more likely whoever they represented, would probably not give up easily. And they had been right, Kane could not stay in the Trinlian forever.

For some reason, I still don’t know why, I looked over at the stained-glass window on the east wall. I remember feeling helpless and a little hopeless, wanting nothing more than to protect Kane and others like him.

And the figure, the cloaked and hooded figure depicted in the window, moved. Now, I know how that sounds. I know what you’ll say. It’s an image made of coloured glass, how could it move? The answer is it can’t. It shouldn’t. But it did. I saw it turn its head. Even without seeing a face, I knew that the figure depicted in that glass was looking right at me. But that wasn’t the end of it. Thinking the head had turned might have been explained as a trick of the light, but this next part couldn’t have been. Because raised an arm from beneath the cloak, an arm that I had never seen before, that had never been part of the picture, and it pointed up the nave, towards the chancel.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I looked away, trying to see if anyone else was looking at the window, to see if they’d seen what I’d seen or if I was going mad. I looked back and the window was as it had been. The arm was gone and the figure was still.

I wish that had been the last of it. I might have just chalked it up to a hallucination brought on by a stressful situation. Adrenaline can do funny things to your brain. But it wasn’t.

Over the next few days, whenever I was alone in the Trinlian, my eyes would go, involuntarily, to the window. And I would see that arm again. Pointing to the chancel. Each time I saw it, I ignored it, pretended I hadn’t seen it.

Two weeks passed like this. It got to the point that I didn’t even look towards the back of the Trinlian if I could help it, just to avoid the possibility that my treacherous eyes would go to that window.

That ended when I heard about Kane.

Neither of us had wanted him to go but he needed to eat more than what I could give him.

And while he’d been out in the open, he’d been caught. A lawkeeper came to tell me, said it had been the work of a known street gang. Kane had owed them money and the gang had taken his life as compensation when he couldn’t pay back the debt. He said the lawkeepers have been trying to bring them in for a while, but they were well connected, protected by the duLane family.

I told him about the altercation, the three who had come into the Trinlian to threaten Kane, but he shook his head sadly and said that would support a case against the murderer but without a witness of the actual crime, it was not enough to bring anyone to trial.

I didn’t know what else to say. So, I bid the officer good day and closed the door, leaving myself in overwhelming silence.

I turned and made my way slowly back through the nave, making for the sanctuary of my arbitorum. My footsteps echoed all around me, the only thing that disturbed the peace.

My mind was so full of the news I’d just heard, that I wasn’t able to focus on not looking at the east window. And my eyes, as they often did, strayed over to that image of the cloaked figure.

I think I knew what I would see before I even looked. Even so, it took me a few minutes to register what I was looking at.

There was no mistaking it. It was looking straight at me again. And, as I watched, the hand emerged once more from beneath the cloak and once again pointed up the nave, towards the chancel.

In that moment, I was overcome. Likely the anger and sadness I felt at Kane’s death drove me but, I decided to stop ignoring what my eyes were telling me and instead see where this would lead.

I stopped walking slowly and began walking with purpose. I strode all the way up the nave, past the statue of the Three, all the way to raised dais on which stood the altar. I climbed up and stood at the centre of the dais. The sunlight shone through the two windows behind me, filling the chancel with a rainbow of light.

I looked back towards the east window and I started. The robed figure was gone. The space where it had been was now plain glass. I span about, my eyes scouring every corner I could see for any sign of the figure. I looked up behind me. And there it was.

In the left window, now standing beside the image of Holy Iyassena, was the cloaked figure.

I think I just stood there, gaping at the window. I was starting to think someone had slipped something into the incense. Surely the shock of hearing what had happened to poor Kane had affected my mind.

Once again, an arm reached out from beneath the cloak. This time, it pointed to the right, towards the alcove of the axial chapel. The axial is not much more than an empty room, it’s long been used as the place where we give the bodies of the recently deceased the Final Recitation before they’re taken for cremation. There is a decent sized stone table, but aside from that the room is plain and unadorned apart from a small stone relief of the Faceless One.

I glanced back at the window. The hooded figure hadn’t moved but still pointed towards the chapel.

I was at a loss of what else to do. I mean, what would you have done in my place? Told someone? Anyone I might have told would have thought I was insane. I could have ignored it, I suppose, but I’d been doing that for weeks and it hadn’t made any difference. So, I went into the chapel.

I’ve been in there many times, tending to the bodies of the dead is one of my duties as the martyst. It was just as it always had been. Plain, unadorned wooden walls, with only the nebulous visage of The Faceless One looking down at me. I turned about on the spot, looking for what I had been directed toward.

Then I realised, I was looking for something in a room I knew for a fact to be empty at the direction of a stained-glass window. Maybe I was going mad, overwhelmed by grief, thinking of Kane and how I had been unable to protect him.

That’s when I saw something on the side of the table that I had never noticed before. Something had been engraved into the stone. It was tiny, the size of a fingernail. I leaned down to get a closer look at it. It looked like three incomplete circles, one inside the other, and beneath it was what appeared to be a stylised arrowhead design, pointing downward.

On some impulse, I reached out and touched it. A pulse of blue light ran through the engraving at my touch. There suddenly came a great grinding and whirring. The table moved. It slid away from me as if on wheels, revealing a set of stone steps that led down to what appeared to be a hidden chamber underneath the chapel.

I hardly hesitated. I’ve never been an adventurous man but, after seeing that, I had to know what was down there. This was my Trinlian, after all, the idea that there was a part of it that I was unaware of was… well, it was unthinkable.

I grabbed one of the candles that burned in one of the sconces and began descending the steps.

The table did not slide back into place above me, the Three be praised, so light from above shone through the entrance, giving some illumination to what lay below.

Not that it was much needed. As soon as my foot touched the bottom step, a strange blue light began shining from large orbs that hung suspended from the ceiling.

The chamber was bigger than I’d expected. It was a circular room, by my estimation, maybe fifty feet across, just slightly wider than the chancel overhead, with two corridors, one at either side.

My eye went immediately to the far wall, where stood a stone statue that was almost identical to the figure I had seen represented in stained glass, the figure that had led me here, to this place. Tall and ominous, with features shrouded by a deep hood.

What I couldn’t understand was why? For what purpose? What was this place? Was it some ancient part of the Trinlian, some old hall for the dead maybe?

I approached the statue. It didn’t move, I’m glad to say. It seemed content to stay right where it was. The figure had been carved as if at guard; tall, upright with its feet together, its long cloak thrown back over its shoulders, its hands resting on the head of a long-handled axe. Despite being stone, the half-moon blade still looked razor sharp.

Between me and the statue was another stone table, though this one was nowhere near as wide as the one in the axial chapel. There were a few things on this table, some sheets of some very old and mouldy paper, some rusted remnants of what must have once been tools and at its centre was a small, iron anvil.

On top of the anvil, placed with an evident care, was a small dagger with what looked like writing engraved on the hilt. I leaned closer, curious. The writing was Ittilic, an ancient language from before the Dark Age. Fortunately, we are taught to read it as part of our novitiate, a lot of the ancient holy texts are written in Ittilic after all.

Inscribed on the blade were the words “Ceo’ls Iun Tikran-nu.” This loosely translates as “The Faint of Heart, never triumphed.”

I glanced back at the statue. For some reason, I got the impression that it was guarding the dagger. Was this what I had been directed to find? I reached out, tentatively, and picked up the dagger.

It was light, very light. I think it was made of silver.

Something changed when I touched the dagger. There was a shift in the air. Something that I had not noticed before vanished the second my hand touched the blade. I was suddenly aware that I was not alone down there.

I looked slowly down the right-hand corridor. There were no blue light orbs down there so it was still dark. But I could see that there was a patch of darkness that looked a lot more solid than the rest of it.

Unconsciously, I took a nervous step back towards the stairs.

As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I was able to see it more clearly. It looked… it looked like a man in a thick black cloak. I thought for a second that maybe it was like the cloaked figures depicted in the window or the statue.

Then it moved. And I knew this was something else.

Though, of course, I know figures depicted in glass are not supposed to move, the figure still moved like a person. And the statue clearly depicted one of the twelve peoples, though without seeing its head, I am unsure which.

But this thing… It came towards me but it was not walking. I’m not sure how to describe it. It was as if it moved only when I blinked with me only catching sight of it when my eyes flicked back open. Except I had not blinked once since my eyes fell on it.

In that moment, my mind went to the Book of Censure. Verse twenty-eight; Beware the men of Shade, they who go ever-cloaked in black, the servants of the Night. They the eyes of darkness, the grasping hands that claim the innocent. Beware the eye of the Shade, for you stare into the soul of evil.

I ran for my life.

Back through the chamber, back up the stairs, I ran faster than I ever have before. My heart was pounding, my lungs heaving air. I reached the top of the steps and looked down. It was there. At the bottom of the steps. Looking at me, its face hidden in its hood. Despite this, I could feel its eye on me. A shiver passed through me.

Its foot was suddenly on the bottom step. And again, without seeming to move, it stepped up onto the next.

I backed away, my heart pounding. The dagger was still grasped in my hand. I thought for a moment about using it to defend myself, though even then I could tell that this tiny blade would not do much.

I considered running for help but I knew that would take too long. I had to stop that thing reaching the top of the stairs. If it got out, who knew what might happen.

Fighting against every instinct of self-preservation I had, I ran forward, back to the table, my eyes searching for the little symbol I had seen earlier. Finding it, I pressed my finger to it again.

The black-hooded head came into view just as the table slid back into place. It was trapped again. At least, I think so. My mind keeps going back to those corridors I saw down there. I have no idea where they let out. It could be, it never was trapped and that strange secret chamber was just where it made its nest.

I still have the dagger. I’m not sure what to do with it. I have a friend, Doctor Ablard, he’s a professor of history at the Etterean University. He might know something about it, or at least might be able to point me in the right direction. I haven’t told anyone about that… thing beneath the Trinlian. I haven’t seen it since so I assume it’s still trapped down there. I have taken to double bolting all my doors before bed. And I always have at least one candle burning.

The figure in the east window hasn’t moved since. It’s back where it’s supposed to be which… well, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. If it would move again, at least I’d know that there was something else there with me. Or it might at least explain why it led me down there in the first place.

Final Notes. Well, if I ever needed any more reason to avoid religious buildings, I think I just found it.

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Figures moving in stained glass windows, secret chambers and the second claimed sighting of a wereskaed that I’ve come across since I started this project. I think if I hadn’t already read Ms Vinn’s memory I’d be a bit more skeptical, assumed Witness Kueck had just disturbed someone squatting in an unknown basement. But, well… the descriptions are too similar to be mere coincidence.

I’m not saying I believe in wereskaeds, I’d need to see a lot more evidence before going that far, however there may be something here. Something to watch out for in future memories, I suppose.

Witness Kueck’s memory also puts me in mind of the memory of Betny Kanarook. The cloaked figure in the window and in particular, that statue, they remind me of the statues she saw in her Marraman temple.

There was never an investigation into the secret chamber, at least none that were made public. But the Trinlian of the Most Humble is still open and services are still performed. So presumably all is well there and, to my knowledge, there have been no other claims of seeing stained glass images move.

We were unable to follow up with Witness Kueck, as he passed away just over ten years ago of natural causes.

I did reach out to my own contact in the Etterean University, about the silver dagger. I wasn’t hopeful, after all it has been nearly fifty years since this memory was given. But my friend told me they did, in fact, know about it. It was being kept in the history department for study. In all the decades it had been there, no one had been able to identify where it came from or what its purpose was. But then, a year ago, there was a break in. The thieves only took one thing. The little silver dagger.

The culprits were never caught and the dagger remains lost to this day.

Inscription Complete.

[The venoscribe clicks, and the whirring stops.]

Special thanks to Américo Congo.

[The end theme plays and the Announcer recites the credits.]