The young squire stood up, keeping a tight grip on his blade.
The man’s face could not be seen in the darkened church. He had silver hair, and a light gray robe. He was neither slim nor fat.
“Who are you?….”, Jonas grimaced. His voice had shot out too fast and high.
The silver hair bobbed. “My name was….Luthen?”
“Don’t you know?”
“Yes, I’m fairly certain it was Luthen.”
The squire stared across the pew, willing his eyes to pierce the shadow. Was this man mad, or perhaps changed by whatever had fallen on Gilead? He seemed to be wearing a priest’s robe. Father Krohm was master here three years ago — and he was in the prime of life. Who is this stranger?
At the thought of Father Krohm, Jonas unconsciously pushed back his hood. Thick black hair, like a sheep pelt dripped on his shoulders.
“Can you tell me what has happened? What are you doing here?”, Jonas said.
The supposed priest, Luthen, answered calmly.
“I am waiting for God.”
Luthen’s right hand straightened a fold in his robe.
“What happened here? It’s quite simple. The devil came to Gilead. He walked right through the front gates. And now the city burns and burns and burns.”
The priest’s words came to a halt, and the roar of the rain filled the silence.
Jonas leveled his sword at the strange priest, the blade-tip shaking.
“What..what are you talking about?!? What happened to all the people? Tell me!”
The silver-haired man laughed. He held up his right hand and whispered an odd word. A faint yellow light sprouted in his palm, like a shimmering flower petal. Jonas blinked, allowing his eyes to adjust.
The priest had no eyes.
Not even sockets where eyes once were, just smooth featureless skin from brow to nose.
Luthen smiled, his face creasing.
Jonas screamed and backpedaled. His elbow hit the pew behind him, causing his hand to release the hilt. Without thinking, he caught the sword with his other hand, glove wrapping around the blade. The priest had not moved, just calmly raised his hand to allow the golden light to spread through the chapel.
Bodies wrapped in white linen were stacked like cordwood. Piled along the far wall, in front of the door, and arrayed around the altar in neat rows.
What …who..will..where…what is happening?
“These are the blessed,” Luthen said, “God allowed me to save them from the devil, before he could taint them. They drank the golden water and slipped free to be with God. I was left behind to tend to their mortal forms, and keep them safe. Until God takes me too.”
The priest stood and reached towards Jonas.
“This is the only safe place. Every other place in Gilead is tainted by the devil’s touch. Let me prepare the golden water for you, so that you may be at peace.”