The Aureate Rise, led by High Priestess Valeryctus, has taken her sect deep into Mount Kuzuchi where her faithful attempt to unlock the holy unity of the mind, body, and spirit. Greth, a troubled priest, stays loyal to the light, which sends him through trials of fire, uncovering the dark history of the human faith.
Aureate Rise is December’s short story taking you into the dark fantasy world of Mental Damnation where secrets are unravelled. Enjoy the story in written form, the artwork, and in audio through the podcast with improv synths.
My faith has never steered me dishonest as I obey the inner light that leads me. We all face trials of fire, testing our true nature. With guidance from above, we can walk-through unscathed. Decades of focus are needed to harness the powers of the light. The Heavenly Kingdoms no longer bless mere mortals with their holy powers. Centuries ago, they once did, creating the Paladins of Zeal. A grave error as man is incapable of handling such gifts while being bound by sin.
For humans to obtain a fraction of a paladin’s strength, we must earn it through vigorous determination and discipline. Of course, the words of power will never reach the feats of the former. Paladins matched the angels. A mortal corrupted by sin with tainted powers of light is deadly. Thus, it be, their eradication. After the Drac Lord Karazickle slaughtered almost all of their followers, we burned their false teachings and brought the focus on the worship of the true God. A single paladin remains alive and has proven themselves in the new Kingdom of Zingalg. They do not fight our faith in God nor enforce their old ways. This paladin simply serves. Our new religious hierarchy controls the ability a priest can have, preventing another rise of the Paladins of Zeal. We vow silence with our words of power unless granted by a higher priest.
Not all remains perfect in our faith in God. I pray. My brothers of faith believe in the true God. I . . . Our sect did not stray from the truth. Others have, altering the words written of the Son, foolishly forming unholy cults. No . . . we stayed faithful to the Scriptures, never bending to the temptations of evil. I pray . . .
High Priestess Valeryctus feeds our holy crusades not in the form of travel on steed but in the uncharted realms of our own psyches. Our mind, body, and spirit are intertwined into a unified harmony forming the holy triangle – naturally nearing the holism of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reflected in his mighty creations. Perfectionism is all we can expect from our Lord. I pray. . .
The High Priestess had never strayed us afar. The creation of the Aureate Rise was forged from her vision granted to her by God himself. Need I reflect upon it again? She witnessed extraordinary heights for our spiritual intelligence if we learned to unify our three elements. Her blessed sight witnessed blackness all around . . . with a dim golden light guiding her closer to the truth, growing the more reinforced her faith was, until a glowing golden cross appeared with a hand in the centre with a thumb on each side – totalling six fingers – and an eye consuming the palm.
Her vision has led us to forge the Aureate Rise taking refuge in Mount Kuzuchi, below its snowy peaks, where we have locked ourselves inside an old forgotten chapel. Deep isolation is required to venture into one’s psyche and bridge the gap between the three elements. High Priestess Valeryctus has ordered us to descend to the basement, locking us in. In dark solitude, we can champion our unity without the distraction of sin. Our determination is enforced by the Aureate Rise Shield, guarding the locked door to the surface.
The High Priestess remains above, focusing on ancient literature and codices that the Aureate Rise Shield crusade for, hoping to gain more insight into the chasms of our souls. The Shield are no priests, clerics, but not disciplined in the light. My brothers and I report the discoveries we make about the connection of the mind, body, and spirit, speaking through the cracks of the locked stone door to the Shield, then they report to High Priestess Valeryctus.
The mind is a terrible place. I pray. These thoughts – or trials – are purely my own. I once wished that it was evil entering my mind, tempting me . . . now, I am not so sure. I pray . . . Perhaps the last letter I received from my old colleague, Dr. Alsroc, have fractured the barriers I have built around my fortitude. His message describes attempting to solve a brain disease known as Mental Damnation. This . . . disease . . . Pierces the mind and sends them to hell, where the unfortunate is ultimately consumed by the fallen souls, burning for eternity.
I wish to dismiss Dr. Alsroc’s letter! Yet, the words have raised concern that I cannot shun. The disease victims are depicted as crossing from our world and into the afterlife during their dreams, returning the next day with tainted visions of the unholy. Eerily enough, the Aureate Rise and our High Priestess are guiding us through the depths of our own mental states. We eat next to nothing, we sleep little, and pray for days on end. I felt weak – so hungry . . . thirsty. The trials . . . how many years had gone by? We have no muscles, and our skin is so pale. Our hair has grown far past churchly formality.
I ponder for hours, prayer after prayer, attempting to unravel what lies deep within myself. These heights that the High Priestess described seem to be a fool’s dream. Are these visions from God? Or has she turned mad, bending to darkness, and enslaving us – and for what? This I do not know, and so I ponder. Are these more temptations of evil? Is this my own sin, jealousy of what the High Priestess has created? There’s reason to feel such ways. She’s the higher rank, commanding us, and capable of far greater words of power than I.
Dr. Alsroc’s note has infected my mind, leaving me with uncertainty. I have my doubts about it merely being a brain disease. He described his last patient, Frenan Soulstone, as having similarities hauntingly foretold in an ancient book in High Priestess Valeryctus’s study. Yes, I confess my actions of witnessing the surface, proving me disloyal to the Aureate Rise’s mission. I pray . . . I ponder.
I believed the holy light unlocked the basement door, as at the time I could not fathom any other reasoning for why it opened. None of my brethren noticed whom were entranced in deep meditation. Atop of the stone stairwell, I could hear my name being called . . . Greth . . . Greth, come to the light. Perhaps it was a trial of fire that I ignored. Regardless, I believed it to be the holy light and crept up to the surface of the chapel. Fresh air filled my lungs, and the torch lights nearly blinded me . . .
The light led me straight to High Priestess Valeryctus’s study, where she was not present – possibly another miracle. My hand ran across the long black marble table. Papers scattered its surface. The first I noted were historical documents, stained of blood – whose I am uncertain – that accused the church of shifting to false prophets, straying humanity from the truth of the Creator – renamed to the true God. The author claimed that the Paladins of Zeal held knew the way before the Holy Book was rewritten.
These archived documents accurately describe what all holy men fear in the back of their minds as their mouths remained silent. I am victim of this. The truth is not worth the loss of life, and God will guide his loyal followers to salvation. Seeing these archive notes with the naked eye changes this perspective. All I could think about was exposing High Priestess Valeryctus to the church.
Further on the table were more papers that eventually took me to the far end where a large codex rested. It was the size of a small child. This massive tomb was open, letting me see the black pages and golden ink. These pages were so black that all light ceases to reflect on them. It was impossible to tell where a page ended, and another began. I could touch it and move the page, feeling an unholy power channel into my veins.
The book itself is bound by a stone exterior, and I can only imagine the codex’s weight. If it weren’t for the papers around this monolith, I would not know its name nor be able to read the contents inside. They were the High Priestess’s notes, attempting to transcribe the ancient language. On top of her papers wrote the words: The Book of Consulo.
The words in this codex are most unsettling. Its language is of unknown origin. With the transcription notes, I read some of the texts found within the pages. The Book of Consulo claims to have the power to undo all creationism – a great reset, one might say. In the wrong hands, and a small sliver of this book’s knowledge, it can be used for necromancy. If a mortal dies, it can revert it – an unholy monstrosity.
The Book of Consulo and Dr. Alsroc’s letter have crossover phrases that troubled me to my core. This Mental Damnation speaks of an afterlife, a place known as Dreadweave pass, where the dead have been reanimated to serve a fallen god. Not the holy God, some other evil god known as the Weaver, who is locked in a prison within this realm. I believed it once nonsense until this book . . .
Both the codex and the letter use phrases such as the Creator, Dega’Mostikas’s Triangle, and the Truce of Passing. The transcriptions from the Book of Consulo never mention the Son of God or the Holy Spirit, nor God himself. Where could have the Aureate Rise Shield found such a book? The High Priestess must know of dark deeds at play. . . the Paladins of Zeal spoke truths of the old faith.
My view into this codex was brief, as the Shield had returned with more loot, and I could not be caught for such treason. I hastily escaped from the study and hurried to the basement. Unfortunately, the lack of food and muscles in my legs caused me to clumsily collapse.
The Aureate Rise Shield seized me. I began to pray for strength, knowing that torture and punishment were soon to follow for such disobedience. The Shield took me to High Priestess Valeryctus, beyond the study and into her private chamber made of black stone and marble. She knelt at the end of the chamber where a gold statue stood, shimmering in the torch light. The sculpture was the same cross seen in her vision – with a two-thumbed hand and an eye in the centre.
The High Priestess approached me, with her long black-and-gold gown draping against the marble floor. Her stride was calm and expression unfazed by the fact that I have deliberately disobeyed our sect’s purpose. I did not lose my gaze into her purple eyes. Beyond their surface, I could clearly see the drunkenness of power. At that moment, I lost faith, not in the holy light, but in humanity. The documented truths expose centuries of deceitful spitting, claiming to lead humanity out of the paladins’ tyranny, have shown me that we were all fools.
High Priestess Valeryctus asked if I believed God guided me to the study so I could feast my eyes upon the historical documents and the Book of Consulo. I told her I believed the holy light did. She laughed at me; I was puzzled until she said she personally unlocked the door, wanting one whose faith was troubled to come forth and seek the truth behind the Aureate Rise. Through her mighty power, she transcribed words into my mind that tempted me to leave the basement.
The High Priestess ordered the Aureate Rise Shield to murder me. In a flood of clarity, I finally understood what she was attempting to do. She wanted a body – and I fell into her plan. The church would not question a disloyal priest’s death. Yes, then she would be free to do what she wished. The Book of Consulo. Necromancy. Power.
The Aureate Rise Shield drew their swords. I prayed to the light, calling upon holy powers that we deemed not speak. I broke my vow of silence and summoned a prayer of protection. The light effortlessly absorbed the failed strikes from the Shield’s swords.
I spoke more words of power – of truth – smiting the minds of the Aureate Rise Shield. They fell to the ground, dropping their weapons, locked in repent for their immoral actions. With one word, I could release them. I did not. Their minds ran around and around, reliving the sins they committed until their psyches collapsed under their own weight. Their limbs fell limp as blood seeped from the mouths, nostrils, and ears.
The High Priestess’s words of power have been bent to her will through the Book of Consulo. Her enslaved words affected my protection prayer. The fortitude shields I built crumpled, and her false smite smeared my thoughts. I attempted to speak a word of power! High Priestess Valeryctus finished hers first and the unholy speech scorched my face, melting half of it away. My mind gave in and blood oozed out of my remaining facial orifices. I, too, fell as the Aureate Rise Shield did. I wish that it ended there, and I was brought to the golden gates of the Heavenly Kingdoms. The Book of Consulo is more real than I could have ever dreamed . . .
High Priestess Valeryctus leaned over my dying body as the last breath of air left my lungs. My soul began to rise; I could see my body. She spoke words in an ancient tongue . . . Pronunciations that I could not attempt to mimic myself. The power to undo creationism flowed through her vowels as energy channelled out of her black-and-gold glowing fingertips and onto my corpse. The black-and-gold stream of . . . liquid defeated all worldly rules, by hovering over my body like a snake about to feast. It seeped into my mouth, eyes, and ears, fueling the body with new blood.
My soul was pulled back down, locking me into the dead flesh. I was alive again! My hands pushed me up from the cold marble – which I could barely feel – until I rose to look at the High Priestess directly in her eyes. I have never seen such a malevolent grin of joy spread across someone’s face. I . . . I was living, yet, I wasn’t. My heart failed to pump, and my skin was stiff. The blood is new. It’s thick and made of the black-and-gold energy. She repeated this process for the men I had killed, and they rose from the ground.
High Priestess Valeryctus deemed us the first of her new order. I wish to resist. My soul is bound to hers, and her will is my action. The Book of Consulo has granted her powers meant for gods, not mortals. Her first command for us was to strangle the remaining priests. I was not in control of my hands as I squeezed the life out of each of my brethren, watching their helpless eyes beg for mercy. Those that fought back with words of power were eradicated with my own tainted words – infused with might from the Book of Consulo. Then, the High Priestess converted my brethren into the living dead, growing her army.
I do not know what her end goal is, as she does not share it with anyone. She obsessively studies The Book of Consulo as we await her command at the gate of the church, under the pouring rain. We do not eat, we do not sleep, and we do not tire. The words she’d learned from that unholy codex has converted us into a horror that only a warrior of light can destroy. Hope is never lost, as light always guides us, and we simple priests may have fallen victim to treachery, but there is truth. The light led me to witness the Book of Consulo. In time, no secrets stay buried forever – that, is what I pray . . .