Dear readers, tonight with us is a witchfinder, from a post-apocalyptic world where tyranny and medieval torture reign supreme and witch burnings are an everyday occurrence. He’s here to talk about demons and sorcery, of the dark past and twisted present.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I grew up in a Church-sponsored orphan house. My parents died in a fire when I was young. The Church of the Deiparous takes in and provides for all foundlings, until such a time as they are old enough to begin apprenticing or enter a profession. Like most homes of this kind, mine was rigorous but fair. They taught me about the Church which in turn nurtured my love for the Church.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
I have no particular toys that I remember a distinct fondness for, but books are another matter. One of my most cherished ones, given to me by Valerian Merrick—the man who would become my sponsor and mentor—was called Malachi the Strong and the Keeper of the Gate. I think I was six at the time. Merrick used to tell me that I was named after Malachi the Strong although I’m sure that wasn’t really the case. When I was eight, the two of us were supposed to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Malachi the Strong but it didn’t happen. Merrick was a Witchfinder Imperator and got called away at the last minute. I was so mad I wouldn’t speak to him for three months!
What do you do now?
Once I was a Witchfinder Imperator just like my mentor. One of the best, in fact. A Witchfinder Imperator is the highest rank attainable in the Paracletian Order, the arm of the Church responsible for law and jurisprudence across the realm. It was our duty to assess, investigate, interrogate, and pass sentence on those convicted of heresy, witchcraft, rebellion, sedition, or other acts against the Church. In my first three years as an Imperator, I had overseen the trials and executions of 200 heretics. People referred to me—with awe and fear—as the “Hammer of the Heiromonarch.”
However, in the pursuit of my duties I uncovered some…troubling…things about the Church. I rejected these discoveries at first, convinced that they were nothing but lies. But I soon learned different. And with that learning my faith was torn asunder. All that I had ever believed, all that I had willingly given my life to, crumbled like burnt parchment. I was faced with horrible truths about myself and questions about what my future held.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
It begins simply enough. A convicted heretic named Traugott, whose trial and execution I was presiding over, was rescued by rebels right out from under my nose. My record had been perfect up to that moment. I swore I would recapture Traugott and so set off in pursuit. Little did I know then how my life would be thrown into chaos because of Traugott. What started simply became increasingly complex, painful, and life-threatening.
What did you first think when… ?
When we galloped blindly into the hamlet of Honvale, I had no idea how close we would come to never leaving it alive. With prisoners in tow and in the midst of a pounding thunderstorm, the posse at our backs closed in. I had never been to Honvale before but knew it would be the best place for us to make a stand. We were having no luck in outdistancing our pursuers. Their horses were fresh; ours weren’t. But before we could do anything we saw the webs. And then everything went mad. Our group took shelter in the remains of an old building. A few of our pursuers managed to flee. Most never made it out of the village alive. It was then—trapped in a drafty building with only boards over the windows and doors—that I felt like we were going to die. And when those boards failed, we had no choice but to go underground. Literally.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
I’ve seen much in my time serving the Church. Magic. Hellhounds. Witches. The denizens of Honvale that nearly claimed our lives. But the scariest part was being trapped in a holding cell with an Elder Demon.
I had finished interrogating a co-conspirator who aided in Traugott’s escape. I went upstairs to check on a different prisoner. She was an old woman, a member of the Enodia Communion, the witch cult that has long been at odds with the Church. I suddenly found myself at the mercy of the demon, summoned by the Communion to take revenge for all the witches I had put to death. I was terrified to be so close to such evil, knowing that it intended to take my life, and knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it.
What is the worst thing about…?
The worst thing about zealousness is that it quickly becomes all-consuming. I was zealous for everything about the Church, taking even the smallest slight against it as a personal attack against me. I wanted every single person to be as dedicated—some would say fanatical—to the Church as I was. Because of my singled-minded devotion I had a hard heart and an unquenchable desire for doctrinal purity. I saw things in black and white terms. I didn’t believe the Church was capable of making mistakes and that I was justified in doing whatever needed to be done in order to ensure the perfection of the faith. As you can imagine, when all that started to break down for me I was filled with turmoil and cast adrift.
What is the best thing about it?
The best thing about serving the Church? Looking back from my new vantage point it’s hard to find a lot of good things. All I seem to see now is weaknesses, gaps, insufficiencies, deceit. But I know there’s a lot of good, too. The Church takes care of people. It gives them meaning and purpose. It provides order and stability, which we all need in our lives. It takes care of the sick, the orphan, the widow, and all those who faithfully obey its laws.
Tell us a little about your friends.
My two closest male friends are Dario Darien and Thurl Cabbott. I’ve known them both for years. They travel with me around the realm and help in my work. Dario is a 19-year Clerk in the Cartulian Order. His job is to keep records of all inquests, interrogations, trials, and executions. The Church is well known for its record-keeping. Thurl is a Constable in the Paracletian Order and serves as my bodyguard. He has two deputies apprenticing under him, Tycho Hawkes and Solomon Warner.
My closest female friend is Teska Vaun. She’s a firebrand, let me tell you! Our relationship didn’t start on the best of terms. In fact, we captured her for crimes against the Church that included theft, witchcraft, blasphemy, and escape. But the longer we spent together, the more something…changed…inside me. For the first time in a long time, I felt a stirring in my heart. I think she did, too, although both of us were too stubborn to admit it. Besides, how could a witchfinder and a witch be anything more than enemies?
Any romantic involvement?
Well, that—ahem—is what I was just alluding to. Despite all the differences—and there are plenty—we seem to always find ourselves back to each other. It goes against everything the Church ever taught me, and probably against everything the Enodia Communion is teaching her. It’s taboo for both of us, which makes it all the more dangerous and confusing!
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
At first it was witches, heretics, blasphemers—anyone who stepped outside the doctrinal boundaries of the Church. But now, as my eyes have been opened to some of the hidden truths about the Church, it’s a man named Zadicus Rann. He’s an opportunistic, arrogant witchfinder one rank below me. I believe his mind is broken. Not only has he launched a vendetta against me, but he’s also become a cog in the machinery of the Fifth Order.
The Church of the Deiparous is made up of Four Orders: the Paracletian, the Abthanian, the Cartulian, and the Kyrian. Between them they govern all aspects of the life in the realm of Deiparia. From minting coins to writing hymns, collecting taxes to record-keeping, the Church oversees everything needed to sustain society. But a new group, the Fifth Order, has emerged from the shadows. And Rann has become their lap dog. They’re also responsible for the Crusaders, men of huge strength and unflinching obedience, whose origins are shrouded in mystery.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Members of the Paracletian Order don’t normally have a lot of time free from responsibility. We’re available almost all the time, night and day. I don’t really have a favorite drink, nor do I see the point in having a favorite color. One is just as good as the next. However, when I’m in a town or city I like to go out at night and walk around. It’s relaxing. It’s good exercise. And it helps me learn “the lay of the land.” I also enjoy reading.
What does the future hold for you?
My friends and I are going on a journey to a different land, a place my mentor once visited, where I intend to learn some things that will help me lead in a new way. I expect I shall make new friends and new enemies. Dark days lie ahead. The Fifth Order and their Crusaders must be stopped. The Church must be made to understand the need for individual freedom. I don’t know if I’m the person to do all that, but I must try. Even if that means making alliances with age-old adversaries or confronting the ancient evil of the Crimson Fathers. I fear that not all of us will survive, and those that do will no longer be the same.
Todd is the author of the Deiparian Saga and a forthcoming horror novel, With a Blighted Touch, also from BHC Press. He has written two non-fiction books–Carrying on the Mission of Jesus and Bullied! Confronting and Overcoming Six Major Obstacles to Church Effectiveness–and he contributes Blu ray reviews for “Screem” magazine. He and his wife live outside Chattanooga, Tennessee with their two dogs, plenty of 80s metal, and an ever-expanding movie collection.
You can find Malachi on the pages of The Witchfinder.
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