Logs:High Mass, Low Grave

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High Mass, Low Grave
Dramatis Personae

Sister Cándida, Sloan, Godric Ritter, Wellow, Antoinette


The Catholics of Fallcoast attend a High Mass at Mary, Star of the Sea Church and spot some shenanigans in the churchyard


Mary, Star of the Sea Church

Logfile from Fallcoast Log opened 27/09/2015 - 00:39:43

=====> Sanctuary - Mary, Star of the Sea Church - Fallcoast <=====

The church is laid out according to the classic cross floor-plan. The nave is divided from the aisles on either side by a series of pointed arches, up to where the altar sits under the crossing. The southern transept is blocked off by an elaborately decorated iron screen, the church's pipe organ visible behind it. The northern is mostly filled with a little chapel, divided by a carved wood screen, and doors leading to the sacristy and out to the churchyard. The whole space is intricately decorated, from the pattern of the tile floor, mosaics on the walls, to the blue ceiling with its pattern of gilt stars. The pews are heavy dark wood, elaborately carved.

Most of the imagery depicts incidents from the life of Christ and of the Virgin. The mosaics set between the elaborate stained glass windows are the Stations of the Cross, with memorials to deceased parishioners above and below them. The windows themselves were deliberately designed in blue and green tones, so the whole space is filled with an almost aquatic light on bright days. The great east window is almost entirely blue, save for a compass rose of white and yellow glass in the center. The design is stylized, with a rippling pattern that makes it look as if the blue mantle of the Virgin is rising from the waves themselves. She smiles down benignly on the little ships that make up the window's lower border.

This evening, Mary, Star of the Sea Church is filled with congregants, dressed, unusually, in dresses and hats, ties and jackets -- not the usual tee-shirts and jeans -- for a rare High Mass in honor of the Papal visit to the United States. Even the groundskeeper, Wilhelm, is in attendance, still in his overalls. From the back balcony of the basilica, the organist strikes up the Gathering Song, "Take Up Your Cross," and the congregants stand, raising their hymnals and singing as more parishioners slowly trickle in. The organist has her sheet music prepared for all six verses of the song, to allow for latecomers to fill the last few spots in the pews, the front rows of which are filled with nuns and clergy, like a murder of crows, in their black habits and vestments. One tiny newcomer in the front turns, her hymnal in her hand, lost in the English translation of the hymns, and, rather than struggle through it, simply sings along quietly in Spanish and looks around to see who might be coming in the back doors.

Sloan has arrived.

Sister Cándida cranes her neck around to see who's coming in.

Sloan enters shortly before the starts of the Mass, he takes a seat near the back of the church instead of his normal posture he seems to be trying to avoid much attention as he starts to sing as well. he stumbles a bit with the English versions but does not switch to another language.

Sloan Hendrix is a rather large figure he starts at roughly 6' 4" and have a heavily muscled build, not bulging out like a body builder to impress or be showing instead the type of build earned through years of hard physical labor. His body language tends to make him seem even bigger; he does not slouch or stoop instead either sitting or standing straight up. He has blond hair that is cut short and kept well groomed, though his face does have some stubble on it like he does not shave everyday more like once or twice a week. His face stands out a bit not because it is attractive really but his features appear harsh and weathered. His cheek bones and jaw line are highly defined. His Blue eyes move regularly as he tries to keep tabs on his surroundings.

This man's clothes are rather simple, and hint at the fact that he does not have a lot of money to his name. He has on a battered leather jacket, while it is not torn nor does it have any holes it is clear that its best days are behind it. If the weather is cold out it is zipper up, otherwise it hangs open revealing a t-shirt underneath, while the entirety of it can't be seen it is in roughly the same condition as the jacket. His jeans are in better shape they appear new but are not a major brand instead they are one of the brands that Walmart or K-mart would carry, functional not fancy. This trend with his clothes stops when you reach his work boots. The black leather is policed to a shine and they are a an actual major brand in this case the timberland Pro Pitboss model.

Wellow is a man, a guy, a dude. Probably. Possibly? Probably. He's not that impressive, and that long brown hair doesn't help. Mousy brown and tangled. Not quite homeless, not quite normal, not quite all right, all there. There's something behind those dull brown eyes, unfocused. Something a little bit off. His face is plain, slightly unpleasant; though his skin isn't bad, it's a bit rough and marred, like maybe if it's clear now? It wasn't all through his life, perhaps. His eyes avoid the world and especially the eyes of other people, like he doesn't trust them, trust himself. Like he doesn't like what he sees.

His clothing is thrift store, so very thrift store, focusing on heavy things in dull colors. He's not got the homeless vibe so much, more the helplessly unfashionable, the criminals against the fashion world. He's... quiet, at least.

Antoinette is a tiny slip of a girl at barely 4'9" and weighing next to nothing. Her small stature tends to get her overlooked and passed by, but it's her haunted look and hollow eyes that will grab your attention and hold it fast. A girl of 21 who has definitely seen some life, Antoinette is an old soul. She has long blonde hair that cascades around her shoulders and down her back; pale hazel eyes which grab your heart and suck you in; a plaintive expression she carries with her through happy times and sad; fully, pouty lips and delicate bone structure. Her body is petite and somewhat frail; she's never known a diet or seen the inside of a gym, yet she hasn't an inch of body fat on her bones. One might even worry about breaking her, if such a thing were possible.

World weary - both the first word and the most accurate. Ritter is not old; there's no gray in the short, reddish-brown hair, and the lines on his face are only those of middle age. Clearly been a hard road to reach that point, and his air of watchful stillness does nothing to detract from that impression. Broad and rough of feature, with a large nose, heavy-lidded pale eyes, a lantern jaw. Skin once fair has been left ruddy after years under distant, harsher suns. He's tall, with the sort of build that might've once been described as lanky, before some kind of hard labor laid down muscle in shoulders and back.

His clothes are uniformly dark and plain, without ornament, nothing that stands out. He wears a silver ring on the middle finger of his left hand, adorned with St. James's cross in red enamel, and the silver scallop shell of the pilgrims of Santiago.

Of course Ritter's there. How many Popes has he seen on the throne of Saint Peter? Plenty. He even remembers the Borgias, God help him. He's dressed in a good, dark suit, for once without his young companion, Guy.

Windows are funny things. They can be transparent, and let everything through, or they can be beautiful stained glass things and let nothing but colors through. It lets some of the music through, and though he'd never set foot inside himself unless he was dragged in in chains, in fact, funny about that, he kind of likes the fact that, while he can't hear the words, the tone caries through. He's not sure what he thinks about it all, but the sound of it is pretty. The grass here is nice, and this far back, behind some of the bushes, Willow isn't in danger of being seen from where he is.

Antoinette slips in as quietly as she can, trying to be unnoticeable and unobtrusive. She's in a little black dress that carefully and modestly covers her from wrists to neck and neck to knees, including small white gloves and a very worn leather-bound bible that fits perfectly into her hands. She genuflects briefly as she crosses herself toward the alter before making her way into a pew to kneel and pray silently before the mass starts.

The High Mass starts with the processional of the priests toward the sanctuary of the church. Pastor Monsignor Peter Coudrin is preceded by a few alter boys carrying the thuribles and candles. Behind the pastor walk the two venerable priests who will perform the High Mass with him.

As the organ plays the last few bars of "Take of Your Cross," Sister Cándida and two other young sisters close the doors after peeking outside to look for latecomers.

Pastor Coudrin greets the assembly. He begins the Penitential Rite as the congregants bow their heads to reflect on sins and pray for mercy. He then proceeds with the Opening Prayer.

Just as they're closing the doors, Ritter looks over and frowns. He motions to the little Sister, as if to call her attention to something.

From afar, Wellow waits a second.

Sister Cándida , smiling, sees Ritter and notices his gesture. Her smile starts to fade as she attempts to process what he's silently telling her. She blinks and turns her head to follow his gaze. She sees Wellow in the bushes. Her smile grows again, a warm smile, and she tilts her head sympathetically as she gazes at him crouching in the bushes. She stops closing the doors, and gently extends her hand through the opening between the double doors. There is something soft about her, in diametric opposition, in fact, to the severe monks and their cold chains so long ago.

To be fair he probably looks like a terrorist or something, Wellow can't help but reflect, crouched there. But the lights are pretty and the sounds are gentle, this far back where you can't hear the words behind them. He shouldn't be here, he knows. Tempting fate, begging for bad things to happen to him. It's stupid. But the lights are so pretty, across the grass. And then there's a lady in the doorway. There's something kind about her face, something gentle and tempting almost. He hesitates... and her hand is soft as he takes it, not in acceptable, but in a strange sort of thanks... head down, and the forehead pressed to the back of her hand is, oddly cool. But he'd step back, at that point, into the harsh moon and the night-cold air. There's something sad about his smile, standing there, moving backwards in slow steps to let her get back to her work, consigning himself to the cold and the dark, of his own choice. Though he acknowledges the kindness. He can't not, not a gesture like that.

For one so seemingly young, Antoinette seems to know it all by heart, inside and out , back and forth, up and down. She is absolutely unaware of Wellow outside and his comings and goings. She does, however, glance briefly at Sister Cándida and Ritter, then to Sloan but doesn't offer much more than the briefest of smiles before returning all her attention to the mass and the pastor.

Sister Cándida closes the last door and returns to her seat as the trio of priests proceed to the Liturgy of the Word. It commences with the First Reading, a scripture reading from the Old Testament. The Mother Superior of the attendant convent takes the podium and proceeds to read a passage from the second chapter of Genesis, an account of the creation of the earth, and the first reference to the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. A lay deacon takes the podium next to lead the congregation in the Responsorial Psalm. He reads from Psalm 90, and the organ springs to life again as the parishioners in their sung response.

Sister Cándida then takes the podium for the Second Reading. Her coif and veil can barely be seen over the top of it, so diminutive is she in her stature. But there's a wooden box behind there, and she steps upon it, rising up until her honey brown face is visible in its entirety. Her expression is solemn, as she begins, in very broken English, to read the First Epistle of Paul and Timothy to the Philippians, a missive greeting and thanking the first Christian community of Europe for their participation in the Gospel and praying for their discerning love to increase until the Day of Christ. Much of what she reads is difficult to understand from her heavily accented pronunciation, but she has practiced this many times before reading, and she is the perfect vessel to convey the warmth of the Apostle's missive.

Ritter is listening attentively. He still can't get used to Mass in the vernacular, but...beggars can't be choosers. He's wearing a little smile, almost rueful, but his eyes are sad and patient.

Sloan returns the brief smile back to Antoinette, he blushes a little as he reamians a bit slow to follow along though he starts to get better. Though those near him might catch the occasional phrase not in English. It is in Finnish if anyone here would know that.

Antoinette listens carefully to Sister Cándida's readings and rejoices in her heart. It is moving and inspiring and quite lovely. It's been a very long time since she's been to a kine mass. She's not even sure this is an approved activity nor appropriate for her to be taking part in but she is certainly going to find out tonight. Oh yes... she will... So she might as we enjoy the hell out of it while she can. She takes in each word and savours it. Prays to her god as she knew him before all this happened.

Pastor Coudrin takes the podium and reads the gospel of Matthew, chapter sixteen, the appointing of Peter by Christ as the Rock of the Church. He then takes the center aisle and speaks of the recent visit of the Holy Father to Washington DC, New York, and Philadelphia, and of the pilgrimages many made to find renewal of their faith. He urges the congregation to find their own personal spiritual renewal, and notes the impressive -- and unusual -- attendance. Indeed, many acknowledge in their expressions and gestures that the visit did indeed affect them and inspire them to attend this High Mass in honor of the historic event. After the pastor returns to the altar, the congregation joins in the Prayer of the Faithful, a collection of short prayers of petition to which the parishioners beseech, "Lord, hear our prayer." Pastor Coudrin proceeds to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and so begins the most sacred part of the Mass.

Sister Cándida can be seen, with some of the other nuns and deacons, participating in the Presentation of the Gifts. She carries the bread as a deacon carries the wine to the pastor as the congregants sing the Offeratory hymn. As the moon outside shines through the stained glass windows, the congregants file out of their pews to receive the Eucharist.

About that. Ritter, it may be noted, does not. He remains seated and still, which earns him a look or two from those who pass him. He doesn't look particularly ashamed of anything, still with that calm expression.

Sloan closes his eyes during the Eucharistic Prayer as the solemnity starts to get to him a bit. When the time comes he does follow the profession up to receive the Eucharist though as he nears the front he crosses his arms over his chest the signal he wishes to receive a blessing rather then the Eucharist.

Pastor Coudrin makes the sign of the cross over Sloan's bowed head, and blesses him in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Antoinette actually does look quite uncomfortable and somewhat torn. She doesn't rise but stays kneeling in prayer as people file up to receive the Eucharist and blessings.

Sister Cándida receives the Eucharist and returns to her pew, among the last to do so. After everyone has risen from kneeling, Pastor Coudrin delivers the Prayer After Communion. Being a High Mass, well more than an hour has passed since the Gathering Song. Eventually the Concluding Rite, giving final blessings to the congregants and concluding with, "The Mass has ended. You may now go in peace to love and serve the Lord." He, and the other two priests then begin the procession to leave the church as the organist plays the opening keys to "Tell the World of His Love." In an orderly fashion, those in the front of the church depart first. Sister Cándida is holding the doors open for the procession, and stands just outside, by the bushes, holding the door and smiling as the last few, Ritter, Sloan and Antoinette file out behind the rest.

At precisely ten o'clock p.m., two hours to the minute of the commencement of the High Mass, the last of the congregants leave the basilica of Mary, Star of the Sea Church. Sloan and Antoinette follow behind Ritter, who is stopped in the doorway by a smiling Sister Cándida, who, it is obvious by the beaming grin on her face, has been waiting all evening to chat with him in her native tongue. He is all but arrested in the doorway, walling in Antoinette and Sloan, as she greets him enthusiastically, and inquires about his day, and how he liked the Mass, and a few other brief topics. As this conversation goes on, the preceding congregants exit the churchyard and disappear into the night in their cars. The priests have long returned to the rectory.

You pass through the heavy doors of the west porch and into the churchyard beyond.

====> Churchyard - Mary, Star of the Sea Church - Fallcoast <=====

Surrounded by a fence of iron and stone, the churchyard of Mary, Star of the Sea, is a peaceful place. The north side is almost entirely filled up by graves, from plain slabs of slate worn into illegibility at the back to the more ornate Victorian memorials in sandstone, all urns and palls and pointing angels, nearer the main gate.

The rest of the space is just as carefully landscaped and maintained, devoted to a relatively formal garden with winding paths, a few trees, and any number of statues of saints in white. The exception is the nearly-lifesize statue of Mary herself done in living colors, set in a pebbled grotto that stands in a little island of grass and white landscape roses in the main path to the church's doors. Over her heart is a star, eight pointed like a compass rose, in worn gilt.

The west porch of the church itself faces the street, all bright polychromy in brick and stone, rust red and black and white. A trio of pointed arches opens on the main steps. Above them gleams a rose window, and pointed spires finish the corners, the left-hand one rising into a multi-tiered belltower.

Apologizing to Sloan and Antoinette, Sister Cándida steps aside finally, permitting Ritter to pass and finally freeing Sloan and Antoinette from their captivity just within the threshold of the basilica. In the night air, Antoinette passes alone and weary through the churchyard and out the gates. Sloan notices something no one else did, a pale lamplight in the far north end of the churchyard. It might not be too unusual, except that it is a solitary light. But it is Ritter who notices in that pale light, the shapes of three men crouching in the bushes.

Which makes him tense, that sight. Without hesitation, the Immortal heads for them. "Excuse me!" he says, voice loud and clear, a bark meant to call attention to all of them. "Do you need help?" Not angry, not aggressive, but also not letting that stand. Once Sloan is outside he stretches to his full height he had remained hunched up a bit through out the mass. He takes a few moment to work some kinks out of muscles then he notices the strange light and makes the mistake he always does he heads towards it. He glances to Ritter as he heads in the same general direction.

Whispering can be heard from the bushes, and, drawing closer, a mount of earth can be seen piled to the side of the foliage. Drawing even closer reveals the scent of freshly turned earth.

As Ritter and Sloan draw nearer at a walking pace, the whispers in the bushes start to take form as discernible words. ". . .faster. . ." ". . .we do?" Finally, as the pair enters amongst the tombstones in the north end of the churchyard, one man whispers to his companions, "Well, we *could* have finished in time if that lunatic hadn't been hiding in the bushes outside the church doors earlier! We can't leave without what we came for. I say we stay and fight." His dark silhouette raises a long shovel in both hands, and holds it as if raising a polearm.

Sister Cándida follows behind Ritter and Sloan, squinting into the darkness to try to discern who has been digging in the churchyard. She knows it's not groundskeeper Wilhelm, since he was in Mass for the past two hours, and there's only one of him. She hears the whispering, but her rudimentary grasp of English doesn't give her the insight that Sloan and Ritter have when they hear the utterances in the dark. She sees the raising of the shovel, however, and falls back as the intruder lurches forward from behind the tombstone, taking a swing at Ritter...

A middle aged man lurches out of the shadows, dressed in black sweatpants and a black turtleneck sweater, black business socks, black sneakers, a black wool cap, black leather gloves, and charcoal all over his face. His slight pot belly is accentuated by the tight wool sweater. The shovel comes at Ritter's head accurately enough, though, but he is no match for the old knight's trained reflexes, and the blade of the spade whizzes harmlessly past Ritter's ear.

A second man comes out from behind the bushes and follows his compatriot's lead. He is thinner, taller, but similarly dressed. His sweatpants have a faded "Adidas" logo on them that reflect the pale light of the lantern that rests behind a mound of freshly overturned earth. The tall man is filthy, unlike his potbellied counterpart, but his shovel strikes true, clobbering Sloan in the head.

Finally, a third man leaps from behind a tombstone and GRABS Sister Cándida by the arms from behind, holding her in place. "I--I'm sorry, Sister," the third man says to her as he covers her mouth to muffle her attempt to scream. He is the shortest of the three, but also dressed all in black. He happens to be African-American, so he has foregone the charcoal makeup.

These guys are....in no wise legit. So Ritter's yelling at the very top of his lungs, in hopes the priests in the rectory will hear. "Help! Help! Fire!" he bellows, even as he frankly punches the man in the gut.

Potbelly bends at the waist at the impact, the wind knocked out of him. He still stands, and still wields the shovel, but his eyes bulge as he gasps for breath.

You don't grab nuns; that is a rule -- or at least it should be. Now these guys have a pissed off Troll to deal with. He grunts as the shovel whacks him in the heard and takes a moment to focus himself then he swings his meaty fist at the man connecting solidly with his jaw.

Blood and a single tooth spray in an arc as the Tall Man's head snaps to the side from the impact of Sloan's punch. His eyes roll around like marbles in a tin can, but he maintains his footing and his grip on the shovel.

The short, African-American man holding Sister Cándida by the arm and mouth says, "Come on...this plan's gone FUBAR! Let's cheese it!" But Potbelly, trying hard to stand despite the pain in his gut gasps, "NO! The...Orphic...Order...runs...from...NO MAN!"

There was a lunatic out there, standing in the cold, occasionally looking in the blind-color windows, and then moving into the shadows. He would seemingly disappear and then pop up somewhere, shuffling, muttering in the cold and the dark. The silence is almost eerie, as eerie as the low whispering under the black parts of the trees and brush. He'd disappeared entirely at some point, letting them dig in peace.

But then there's a scream, muffled, shouts of help and fire.

Sleep flees quickly, but he's left paralyzed for long moments, eyes open in the dark.

But then he hears it. And there's the ghost of footsteps. Behind the man holding the woman there would be a low, slow, long hiss, leaked out from between what to mortal eyes would look like yellow broken teeth. "Early morning to lie at your feet, all day follow how fast as you run, and yet I wither in the noonday sun. What, am, I." It sounds like the challenge of a lunatic, and those eyes- those eyes...

A light goes on in the rectory, and a dark figure can be seen nearing the window from within. A head and shoulders is now framed in the rectory window, it stands there, unmoving, as Potbelly, still hunched over, lifts his foot and KICKS at Ritter's groin. Unfortunately, the pot belly gets in the way, and the kick runs out of momentum before it reaches Ritter. The hunched attacker stumbles, but brings his foot back down to stabilize his balance once again.

Tall Man brings cups his hand to his mouth and his eyes widen as he sees blood. He stumbles backward with a fearful expression, turns, and RUNS, dropping his shovel and LEAPING onto the churchyard wall. He climbs, but gets his black turtleneck caught on the spike of the wrought iron gate. He looses his footing, and dangles there, helplessly flailing and calling out, "Gus! Gus! I'm stuck!"

The short, African-American man jumps at the voice behind him and lets go of Sister Cándida. He backs away, eyes wide, "What am I? What am I?" He turns to Potbelly, "Look, I ain't doin' this, man. I don't care WHAT we gonna find in there. It ain't worth goin' to jail! My daughter's got ballet tomorrow!" He makes a mad dash for the open gate on the far end of the churchyard. Only Potbelly remains, and he stands steadfast with his shovel, but does not attack . . . he is a rat, trapped.

He misses, this time. Ritter is out of practice, when it comes to fisticuffs. His fist lands only on air, and he grimaces. Time to fix that, since he can't wear a sword in this day and age. Still yelling for help.

Potbelly is still reeling from the first time Ritter hit him, and Sloan is quick to move in on this final target. He lunges forward and doubles his fists to come down on the back of the man's head leaving him crumpled in a heap at his feet. He then calls out to an otherwise empty churchyard and smiles, 'Next." He declares like a man working the counter at a deli.

Ritter calls the police, while making sure that the guy Sloan knocked out isn't dying or comatose.

Tall Man continues to flail, calling out pleadingly to "Gus" as he hangs by the sweater on the wrought iron fence. With the trespassers neutralized, Sister Cándida approaches the hole in the churchyard the men have dug. She lifts their flashlight from the ground, and shines it into the hole. Looking up briefly at Ritter, Sloan and Wellow as they contend with the remaining members of the "Orphic Order," she leans down and shines the light on the tombstone to read the inscription: 'Renaud Guyon / 1648 - 1717 / Pro scientia superiori / Sub tumulo marmoreo'.

Wellow would have helped Sister Cándida, if he hadn't been so afraid of her. Instead he stalks, near paralyzed with indecision. He paces, for a moment, torn, before slipping a little closer, and his words are hasty, conflicted, sad and low. "In deepest basements I sing in your ear, but whisper my name and I disappear." This one isn't a challenge, but an implorement, of sorts. Of odd, odd sorts. He wrings his somewhat rough knuckled hands, slipping into the darkness under a nearby tree, shaded from the just-emerging slice of moonlight, watching for right now away from eyes, watching turtleneck guy flail and call piteously.

Sloan walks over to the nun to offer her a hand up, "Sorry for the disturbance sister. Are you alright?" He asks trying to keep his voice soft.

Sister Cándida shakes her head and shines the light on the hole. "Dios mio. Meester Weelhelm weel hjave to feel dees hjole in deh morning. Hjwhy dey do dees?"

Tall Man hears Ritter on the phone with 911, and begins flailing even more frantically. In fact, he slips purposefully out of his turtleneck and falls to the sidewalk on the other side of the wrought iron fence. He climbs back to his feet, and runs, bare-chested, into the night.

Wellow is out and on the other side of the fence. There's a moment as the turtleneck is eyed, like he's tempted to take it up and put it on, but they might need it for, hunging, or who knew what they did over here. A glance through the poles of the fence. He looks like he wants to, say, something... but instead he just shakes his head and slips away into the dark.

Sloan looks down into the hole and says, "I think I heard them say something about looking for something." He looks at he steps toward the stone, 'Wow that is an old grave." he then says, "Maybe they thought there was treasure buried with him."

Sister Cándida raises an eyebrow as she re-reads the tombstone. "Mebbe dere ees," she says, and suddenly she gets a look in her eye...some dangerous hybrid between curiosity and determination. She turns off the flashlight and backs away at the sound of sirens arriving outside the churchyard. "I go tell Mothair Superior to tell Pastor Caudreen everydeeng okay..." She disappears into the convent and leaves Ritter and Sloan to handle the police statements.

The police arrive and take statements all around, including from Sister Cándida, despite her reticence to come back out of the convent. Potbelly is arrested, and the open hole is left for the groundskeeper to fill.