The Lost Letters of Brother Gabriel
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Katharine! Oh, Katharine!
I write to thee now because I do not know when, or if, I will ever have the opportunity again. I do not even know how much time has passed since I last wrote to thee—since I was last human.
I tried to run from the Urbat curse after I was infected. I tried to flee this wretched place before the curse could take me over. I left my other letters and a dagger for you in my tent, then packed a sack and headed for the forest. Before I got too far, the most horrible noise filled my ears. I’d heard nothing like it before. It was high-pitched and ethereal, yet it filled every fiber of my soul and clutched at my heart like the devil himself. The noise pulled me toward it, out of the forest, and through the burning walls of the great city. My friend Jonathan de Paign tried to stop me in my tracks, telling me to go back before I was swallowed by the chaos of the city. Alas, there was no escaping the draw of that noise.
Oh, how I wish now I had let Jonathan stop me from finding my horrible fate!
It took me only moments to follow the noise through the city—like a supernatural speed carried me on my feet—to a crumbling church. Flames lapped from its boarded windows like the tongues of yellow serpents. Five knights from our encampment stood in front of the chained entrance doors, holding torches in their hands. They shouted at me to join them, smiles on their sooty faces. The sound was so strong here; it engulfed me to the point that I was sure I must be a lunatic, for the others did not seem to notice it. To my horror, I realized that the high-pitched noises were screams. The screams of women and children—trapped inside the fiery church.
I ran for the door, shouting at my brothers to help me. Surely, they heard the noise—even over their laughter. One of the men caught me by the arm as I attempted to pull at the chains from the door. He laughed and said he enjoyed the delicious smell of burning traitor flesh. The others laughed and made crude gestures.
And then I knew. These knights from my encampment, men I called brothers, had set fire to this church themselves, knowing people were trapped inside. Women and their babes, from the sound of their dying voices, choking off now from the smoke, who had most likely sought sanctuary from the ransacking of the city in this place of God.
“Thou didst this?” I shouted at the knight. “Under what authority doest thou desecrate this holy place? Let me go, and free these innocent saints!”
“Under my authority, Brother Gabriel,” a voice said from behind me. “And there are no saints inside there. Only heathens and traitors, and I am sending them to hell where they belong.”
I whirled around, the knight still gripping my arm, and found Father Miguel standing before me. The torch in his hand seemed to burn brighter than the others. I knew right then that this man who claimed to be God’s servant—this man I followed to this place in an effort to build the Church—was responsible for this evil.
Rage filled my heart. A terrible trembling shuddered through my body, and a voice inside my head told me to destroy Father Miguel; these men must die for this heinous crime. That was the only way to save the souls inside the church.
Before I knew what was happening, I’d lunged at Father Miguel, my hand outstretched to grab him by the throat. Alas, as I made the movement, that rage in my heart ripped through me, and I collapsed in a writhing, quaking shudder, and it felt as though something was clawing its way out of my body. I heard the knights scream, and everything went hazy, like when we’d open our eyes under the dark water of the lake in the woods behind our home. Father Miguel dropped his torch, and he and the five soldiers ran.
I lunged after them, yet my body was no longer my body.
I was an animal.
It felt as though I was watching this monstrous version of myself chase after them, as if I were out of my new body, watching from a great distance. Unable to stop myself as I caught one of the men with my claws, sinking my new fangs into the flesh of his skin…
I do not remember much more of what happened. What I did. For I awoke several hours later, even days later, for all I know, with dried blood caked on my hands—my human hands—and on my face. The bodies of two of the soldiers I had chased lay near the smoldering ruins of the church. I knew it was too late to save the people inside. They were as dead as the men I was surely responsible for killing.
I stumbled back to my encampment to find that Father Miguel and everyone else had gone. Fled from me—the beast—before I could come after them also.
I am all alone now, Katharine. And I am lost.
So very, very lost.
The monster has devoured me.
How can I go on?
Doest thou remember the promise I made to my beloved Marie?
That night the baby would not come, and the midwife said there was nothing more she could do, I held Marie in my arms as she cried out for the Lord to come take her and our child so the devil’s spirits would not claim them before the angels could. I brushed her wet hair from her face and reassured her that heaven awaited her soul. She smiled up at me for the briefest moment and told me she could see a light, and her mama, waiting for her. Then she tried to squeeze my hand and made me promise I would come find her in heaven when my time to leave this world came. She said it would not be heaven without me. She made me swear that I would reunite us in our love.
When Marie left me, I held her cold body for hours. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole to save me from my sorrow. I did not know how to keep my promise to find her. Marie’s good heart was the only thing about her greater than her wit and beauty, and how could I, a simple seventeen-year-old peasant, dream to live a life pure enough to meet her in the heavens? That is why I chose to join the monastery despite thy and Uncle Jean’s protests. I planned to sequester myself away, devote myself to God Almighty, if that is what it would take to bring me back to Marie.
Alas, I foolhardily followed Father Miguel on his crusade. We were supposed to help build up the Church, bring salvation to the Holy Land. Only now, Father Miguel has destroyed me. He and those knights who burned those souls in that church—they have made me break my promise to Marie. Because of them, I will never know heaven. I will be damned to hell as a demon-wolf for all eternity. They have stolen my Marie and our child from me.
That is why they deserved to die, Katharine. That is why I have punished them. Two of the six men who burned the church and murdered those women and children died by my hands the night I became a wolf-man. At first I was disgusted and frightened by what I had done. Yet, now I know it is what they deserved. They needed to die.