Chapter 39

The Stench of Decay

Four armed guards charged through the doorway that led into the chapel cavern from the catacombs. They were dressed in nondescript black suits and carried compact handguns that had been concealed beneath their suit jackets as they rushed through the catacombs.

“Where are the intruders?” the suited guard asked as he stood before the ancient guardian.

The guardian gestured with his scythe towards the shadowy corners at the back of the cavern.

“What happened here?” another guard asked, shining his flashlight around the room and pausing as it rested on the bodies of the two dead guards who lay on the white stone floor outside of the chapel.

A third guard stepped up the ancient guardian, bowed to him, and spoke in the ancient tongue of ceremony. “Worthy guardian, I am Yvon, a scion of the third order. We were summoned here by one of these fallen brothers. Can you tell us what happened?”

The guardian nodded its bald head. The stench of decay, of a body forced into ketosis by continually consuming itself to go on living, spewed forth from its mouth as it began to speak in a slurred, toothless voice. “Defilers entered the sacred cavern via the path of skulls. First one, then two more followed. A woman, then a man and a woman. The man spoke our tongue, but was not of our faith. He killed me with a firearm.”

At that Yvon’s eyes widened and, after a brief hesitation, he sank to one knee and bowed his head. “I offer my life to you, sacred guardian, if you are still in need.”

“Your offer is most generous and in keeping with your place within our order. I thank you, Scion Yvon, but I have only just been restored by sacrifice.”

Yvon looked up at the guardian and said, “Can you tell us anything else that might aid us in capturing the defilers?”

The guardian gave another slow nod and said, “The first woman was a descendant of Tavernier.”