The following is the part of a very intricate, very tragic Ghost Story, played out on Mortos Diablos, 5000 within the Home & Hearth Saga.
THE BISHOP’S STORY
You are Jeremiah Michael Cornelius III, a noble from the highly civilized worlds of the Hawkwoods who gave up the court life for a life in the priesthood. Politically savvy and fiercely passionate in his beliefs, you quickly became a Bishop on the war-torn world of Stigmata, using your pulpit in the prosperous County of Northern Lights to preach against the alien menace that threatened the land and the lack of faith that made the stars themselves fade.
Your undoing, ultimately, was a moral lapse from your past. In the neighboring county of Eastmont, there lived a noble named Aramus. A vocal atheist, Aramus was highly intelligent and well-versed, verbally ‘dueling’ with priests whenever the opportunity presented itself. Only his quick blade, the loyalty of his followers, and the imminent danger of alien invasion prevented a quick burning at the hands of the Inquisition.
You made it a point to be a constant presence in Aramus’ Keep, attempting to convert this local folk-hero back to the Church’s fold. Ultimately, you excommunicated Aramus, but could not bring yourself to call down the forces of Brother Battle to destroy this heretic. After all, Aramus was too good a soldier in defending this border County from the alien Symbiots, and this provided a buffer zone between your County and the war front, keeping you safe and prosperous.
All that changed with the ‘Millennial War’, a massive Symbiot invasion in the early part of the year 5000. Symbiots flooded through Eastmont County and into the County of Northern Lights for the first time in history. The County was nearly wrecked by the attack and only a dedicated counter-attack from off-world reinforcements drove the aliens away. You were found cowering in the locked nave of your cathedral, almost incoherent with fear.
Though Eastmont County was mostly overrun, the few places that survived did so because of Aramus’ valor. His actions in the first battle of the Millennial war were well documented, lending support to the almost-effeminate looking warrior’s legend. His forces depleted, Aramus retreated in victory back to the safety of the keep with his favored commander and the remnants of his army when the alien Symbiots were finally driven out of his homeland.
You were horrified to learn of the heretic’s burgeoning popularity. Some even joked about making Aramus a saint. You were equally incensed when you learned of a rumor (spread, it was said, by Aramus’ men as a sick joke) that Aramus bore the blessed stigma of St.Lextius (spontaneous bleeding). As Aramus’ popularity grew, your popularity shrunk.
Your congregation became smaller as your ‘cowardice’ was revealed (an unfair accusation, for you were NEVER a warrior). The Archbishop, dying from alien spores, revoked your petition to be his successor. The reason for this rejection was a straight and brutal one – if Bishop Cornelius couldn’t take care of one atheist, how could he care for a world?
This rejection from the Archbishop was the final straw. Taking a core of Brother Battle with you, you lay siege to the Aramus’ keep. In the process, you learned several damning rumors about Aramus – first, that Aramus enjoyed ‘unnatural’ relations with several of his soldiers and second, that this heretical ‘noble’ may not be a noble at all; some thought Aramus was a serf that was pretending to be a noble.
Though the siege was a costly one, you overcame the Hold’s defenses, and, then entered the Keep with only a few Brother Battle acolytes to guard you. In the Hold, you faced down Aramus. Defeated and anguished, Aramus claimed that he had had a change of heart. Clutching a copy of the Omega Gospels, Aramus claimed that the situation had changed and he was ready to convert.
You had seen this trick before – the cry of the desperate. Even as the Brother Battle guards stripped off Aramus’ armor (leaving him only in a brown woolen shirt), you screamed at him that if his faith was so strong, it would carry him into death.
You brought the heretic to a small room, half hidden in the side of the Hold. There, you tore up the Omega Gospels and scattered the pages throughout the room. Then, you had the acolytes begin to brick up the only entrance to the room. When there was only a (relatively) small hole left, you and the other Brother Battle seized Aramus and thrust him kicking and screaming into that tiny room.
To your horror, as your hand was upon his stomach, you felt something alive, something you perceived as demonic, kick and struggle through Aramus’ skin against your hand. Revolted, you were the last hand to push Aramus into the nearly sealed room. You were the only one to see his short shift bunch up, exposing his nether regions.
He lacked the genitalia of a man.
For a moment, as the bricklayers placed in the final bricks and sealed the room tight, you were lost in horror. What sort of fiend gave himself over to the darkness like this? To mutilate one’s self in this manner was abominable! To have a demon kicking and screaming inside you…
And then it came to you. As your revulsion ebbed for a moment, rationality took sway.
Aramus was not a man. Aramus was a woman.
And she was pregnant.
Many things became clearer them. The ‘stigma’ of St. Lextius – the monthly cycle of a woman. The ‘unnatural acts’ not so unnatural seen in a different light. Her conversion… it was for the sake of her child…
But you could not turn back now. Could not undo what you had done. When you were made Archbishop, you would cleanse your sin in service to this world. But the madness of this atheist – this threat to your reputation and the reputation of the church – it had to cease.
You were the only one to see Aramus as he… she… truly was.
You left her to die in the dark.
You came out to the courtyard and found the guards had captured Aramus’ favored commander. The man was obviously her lover and howling with anguish, wondering what happened to her. The Brother Battle guards, assuming the captain was screaming about relations with another man, looked on with disgust. You had the man’s face covered with a sack, taken outside, and burned at the stake outside.
You lied to the masses and claimed that this was Aramus so that no one would know she was buried alive inside the keep. You had her army impaled on large stakes outside the keep, removing their bodies only a fortnight before the new owners of the Keep came. You assigned the soldiers who had buried Aramus with you to the front line of the War. They have not been heard from since.
Since that time, the burning anguish of that sinful night has faded. Your congregation has grew. The Archbishop’s retinue has said you will soon be named as his successor. And new Brother Battle have taken over Aramus’ Keep, restored it to a more natural beauty and are now rededicating it as a shrine.
You have made the right decision.
You are now going to the Keep to attend the re-dedication mass and settle your soul.
You have nothing to fear.
Everything has been made right.