The story begins in what in this world is called "853 Anno Salutis Humanae", "in the Year of the Human(e) Salvation" according to my research. The term should probably be "Anno Salutis Hominum", "in the Year of the Salvation of Humans", but apparently looking that up was too difficult. "Humanus" is an adjective, not a noun. Well, trying to be gracious here, perhaps the author was trying to imply that some unspecified but important salvation had been a humane thing to do or done by humans or that Not-Jesus had been all man and zero God. I think there's no chance of that though.
You see, Vox Day is a Christian apologist. It would be heretical to have his Not-Jesus not be fully man and fully God as the real-world doctrine has it. Also, now that I pay attention to it, I see that the story has a lot of questionable Latin in it.
And by the way, speaking of potential heresy, I think it's worth mentioning that Vox Day's name can be translated as "Voice of Godde". Vox Day is in English pronounced the same as "Vox Dei", which is Latin for "Voice of God". That sounds just a tad
arrogant. I wonder what the Inquisition would have thought of it. It's like Vox is implying that all of his opinions are God's opinions. But more than that, Vox is making it sound like he is channeling God and Vox's writings are holy scripture. I thought humility was an important Christian virtue.
We finally get to the first paragraph, and it contains some really "good" material.
- Quote :
- The pallid sun was descending, its ineffective rays no longer sufficient to hold it up in the sky or to penetrate the northern winds that gathered strength with the whispered promises of the incipient dark.
Apparently in this world suns are held up by radiation pressure. It also sounds like it should be dark. Electromagnetic radiation being unable to somehow get through thin air should have that effect, at least in a logical world.
Also, I wonder if the winds whisper different things during different times of the day or if the winds' verbal communication is limited to always repeating things like "Daaaark... Whooooosh... Daaaark..." Winds shouldn't have a brain, after all.
- Quote :
- The first of the two moons was already visible high above the mountains. Soon Arbhadis, Night's Mistress, would unveil herself as well.
Apparently moon rays are more effectual than sun rays.
I don't know if Arbhadis is the second moon or what. We're never told. In case it is, I wonder what the first moon is called. Is it Night's Wife, Night's Other Mistress, or what? Anyway, apparently Arbhadis is already on the scene, just hidden by clouds, unless you think those mountains qualify as a metaphorical, overly thick veil. Any of this is however doesn't matter one little bit as far as the story goes. We'll never hear of Arbhadis again. After this point the author largely stops his efforts to write in an evocative language. Too bad for the lost humor value.
A monk is keeping watch at a monastery that we soon learn belongs to the Order of St. Dioscurus, because it's such an imaginative thing suited to secondary-world fantasy literature to recycle the names of real-world Catholic saints. As nothing is happening at the moment, it's a great time for the author to indulge in some infodumping about the world. Eventually, after a big block of infodump, our still-unnamed monk spots a visitor on the road.
The monk, who clearly has a keen eye for fashion, recognizes from a distance that the visitor's robe is made from extraordinary expensive wool. The cut and the decorations in the stranger's green cloak and grey robe apparently aren't that special, but the wool
is somehow the height of highly visible ostentatiousness. The monk is wearing wool too, so it's not like commoners in this world wear straw clothes either, unless all the previous infodump about the Dioscurines not being a rich order was a filthy lie.
In case you wonder, the monk isn't supposed to have a Half-Eagle template. He suspects that the visitor might be an elf but doesn't get that visually confirmed until the stranger gets a good bit closer.
The monk and the elf exchange greetings. The monk's name is Sperarus. We don't learn the name of the elf.
- Quote :
- He did not ask the traveler's name. It was the foremost rule of the order to give succor to all who asked it.
This is probably meant to raise suspense. It doesn't work.
There is a bit of description of the monastery. The garden includes
- Quote :
- fruit trees mostly denuded of their leaves
It's like Vox channeled Stephen Donaldson for a while there (or used a thesaurus) but soon the vocabulary level of the story returns to what it used to be. Maybe Vox doesn't want to use naughty words like "stripped", even to describe trees.
In a shocking revelation, the elf's name is Bessarias, a name that the monk has never heard. Moreover, the elf comes from the city of Elebrion. This means that the elf is not a wood elf but a high elf! You'd have never known it from the ridiculously expensive wool.
The abbot, Father Waleran, goes to talk with Bessarias in the guest quarters. Bessarias is slender with long hair. Nevertheless doesn't look feminine but instead projects "a powerful aura of strength and confidence", as if women, at least feminine ones, couldn't do that. We had to get some misogyny in this story after all. Waleran also notes that Bessarias looks "truly beautiful", adding a little bit of gay subtext that I'm certain to say was unintended by the homophobic author.
Eventually the chit-chat leads to us learning the cause for the elf being there. He came seeking God because of a missionary to the elves. The missionary was from the Tertullian order that was probably in-universe founded by someone named along the lines of Tertull instead of referring to Tertullian. Maybe "Tertullianian" sounded too stupid, even if the author does like explicitly using real historical characters or at least characters whose names just happen to be
coincidentally identical with their historical models.
And talking about the missionary, who seems to be named after a Medieval bishop...
- Quote :
- "Oh no," the elf said, shaking his head. "He is dead. I killed him ten years ago."
The above is just a bit of manufactured tension though. It turns out that what our elf did was just a mercy killing.
- Quote :
- "By the power of his god, he defeated our Magister Daimonae, thus inspiring a certain amount of fear among the magisters. They were unaccustomed to fearing anyone or anything, so they naturally decided to kill him. The problem was that they were torturing him to death, and I did not wish him to suffer."
Christians love their martyrs.
We also learn that the elf is a sorcerer, the best sorcerer in fact. In this world arcane magic is demonic though, just like the Christian dogma has it.
- Quote :
- The winter was a cruel one. The snow fell relentlessly for what felt like months
Snow shouldn't have the ability to fall relentlessly like rain, but on the other hand, natural phenomena in this world keep doing weird stuff, so maybe the snow is like that too.
Bessarias stays in the monastery and gets into theology.
- Quote :
- He even contributed an illumination to the one hundred fifteenth Psalm, a beautiful silver-and-purple letter N that featured an orc, a goblin, a troll, and an elf all but hidden in the design.
The above quote is the one sentence in the story that I feel capsulizes its feel the most: religion, religion, and religion with some generic fantasy stuff awkwardly tacked on top.
Bessarias and Waleran engage in pseudo-profound discussion. Bessarias wants to copy by hand the entire Bible, I mean the Sacred Script, to really learn it. He also argues, as if we are interested, that the world must have always existed because it contains things that must have always existed, such as souls. Waleran in turn says that things like souls must have been created by God. This story has so much talking.
The discussion is finally interrupted by the appearance of a guest at the door. It's a chicken that's not a chicken but evil manifest - I mean, a fox
that's not a fox but evil manifest. It's a demonic talking fox that asks Bessarias to return home (obviously so that he won't convert to Not-Christianity and get his soul saved). He refuses. In the following years the demon returns, and we have a squirrel that's not a squirrel but evil manifest and a rabbit that's not a rabbit but evil manifest, but Bessarias doesn't want to see them. The demon even tries to sneak in as a human, but is too incompetent at that human thing to get itself allowed through the gate. For some reason the demon can't just take the form of a bird and fly over the wall to find Bessarias. Our demon is the worst demon ever.
Ten years pass and Bessarias's manuscript is 87% finished even though he is somehow up to Apocalypsis. He must not have been doing the books in order, assuming Apocalypsis is at the end of the Not-Bible like it is in the real Bible. At that he needs to leave the monastery and go shopping for the first time in years. For some reason they can't send out less important people for wine and paint ingredients, but the plot needs Bessarias out of the way and out of the way he goes.
Incidentally, on the trip we get a mention of "the insipid sun". Poor sun gets no love in this story.
When Bessarias and his companions return to the monastery they find that it doesn't show signs of life. Bessarias orders his companions to hide in the woods and they vanish from the story, never to return.
- Quote :
- Brother Sperarus, no longer young, lay dead in the snow, his face frozen in the rictus of violent death. Beside him lay his staff with dark green ice encasing one end of it.
I had to stop where when I first read that bit to wonder where the green ice had come from. Luckily the offhand mystery - intentional or not - gets solved a little later. It turns out that goblin blood is green in this world, like in the Warhammer RPG. They were attacked by goblins, you see.
Also, Sperarus's, who hasn't had the slightest career advancement in ten years, face is in a figure of speech frozen in a rictus but it is also should be frozen solid from the cold. I have no idea if this thing is Vox's idea of a joke or not, just like I don't know if the green ice thing is meant to be mysterious or if the author just forgot he hadn't talked about goblin blood yet. The casualness of the reference makes me think it's just a mistake.
In short, everyone is dead, including a few goblins. Some of the monks somehow look like they're praying even when they've been killed violently, because they're so pious and holy they can manage feats like that. Presumably the ones who were torn, mutilated, and/or partially devoured didn't look like they were praying, but you never know.
Bessarias notices that for some reason nothing has been stolen and the place hasn't been set on fire. The whole thing had been intended only as a cold and calculated mass murder by the demon, with no other objectives. You'd think the goblins, being goblins, would at least set the place on fire just because, but for some reason they didn't want to. Of course, the real reason is that Vox wanted to have his designated plot, even if it meant characters acting out of character. Bessarias's manuscript needs to survive, you see.
Even if the demon wanted to send a message to Bessarias, a simple note attached to the massacre would have worked. Unless, of course, the pathetic excuse for a demon couldn't write with animal paws or couldn't write period.
Bessarias gets angry when he sees that the abbot, too, has been killed.
- Quote :
- He wanted to turn this temple to an useless, ineffectual god into a lake of glowing crystal glass.
From that quote we learn that "all the fires of Hell" are sufficient to melt stained glass windows (though it's suspect if the process would produce nice lead glass), but insufficient to melt the (granite? gneiss?) rock floor and walls. I suppose that makes sense, as it would be kind of inconvenient if Hell melted down its own walls inside the Earth's crust (not mantle or core, as the walls would be already molten), possibly getting itself even more destroyed in an eventual volcanic eruption.
Anyway, Bessarias suppresses his impressively glowing magic aura SFX and prays for Waleran's soul.
After that we skip to the future, to a place we can only assume is the Not-Rome of this world, as the building is the main library of the Church. We aren't privileged to learn the exact year. People there have unimaginative real-world Roman names like Aurelius, Gnaeus Avidius Libanius, and Marcus Valerius, the last of whom is a boy who would like to join the Order of the Saints of the Pamphlet (translated) one day, but is born to the upper classes so he'll have to be content with being an archbishop instead. No standing on street corners for him.
The library has a really fancy and popular manuscript on display that everyone wants to see. Nearly a hundred
men are gathered around the manuscript, trying to get a look. But the library has a better manuscript too, and it's being largely ignored by the crowds. Like Vox Day, except he's not actually good even if he thinks himself brilliant.
Aurelius takes Marcus to see the superior manuscript. In an entirely predictable twist it will later turn out that the best illustrated manuscript in the entire library and likely the entire world was the one made by Bessarias.
Bessarias has drawn people's faces on the title pages of his manuscript. The manuscript is open on the opening page of "Liber I Paralipomenon", meaning that the Not-Bible has not only a book of the Psalms and the Revelation (of John?) but also the Chronicles like the real-world Bible and that Greek also exists in the world in addition to the widespread bad Latin. I wonder if the version of the Not-Bible Bessarias copied is called the Vulgate and if its original translator's name is St. Jerome. That just might be the case. The religion in this story makes Tad Williams's Not-Catholicism in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn seem thoroughly obscured.
To the characters in this scene Bessarias's identity is unknown. Somehow that means that it is time for some gratuitous name dropping on the part of the author when they try to figure who he his. Aurelius thinks the inscriber of the manuscript must have been mentioned in "the Summa". Said book turns out to have significant similarities with Summa Theologica but Vox Day has also written something called Summa Elvetica. The following sequence about names mentioned in the Summa is Vox in his most blatant and gratuitous self-aggrandizing show off mode.
- Quote :
- "We know the identity of the Philosopher - "
"The Poet and the Master."
"Vergilius Maro and Petrus Lombardus."
"The Doctor and the Expert."
"Aelius Galenus and Domitius Annius Ulpianus."
With this Marcus figures out that the hand behind the manuscript must be... "The Wayfarer!" Because someone who spends years making an illuminated manuscript must
be important enough to be mentioned in a theological treatise even if he lived in the same monastery at approximately the same time. Marcus and Aurelius are apparently psychics. Meanwhile the Islamic and Jewish luminaries in Summa Theologica just go without mention. Maybe Vox wants to forget they existed and exclude them from his fantasy world because they weren't white men.
We get one final title drop: the Angelic Doctor because Vox just has this urge to show everyone his mastery of theological trivia.
And about that Not-Bible manuscript, the face in the chapter heading currently open is... wait for it... Father Waleran whom you may remember! Now that's some dramatic final revelation. Not.