The Spook's Apprentice: Book One (The Wardstone Chronicles) . DOWNLOAD PDF That's what the Spook did and I was going to be his apprentice. 'How old. DOWNLOAD PDF .. That's what I told myself - but I kept thinking of the Spook's last apprentice, poor Billy Bradley, who'd died trying to bind a boggart like this. Size Report. DOWNLOAD EPUB THE SPOOK'S BATTLE (WARDSTONE CHRONICLES) The Spook's Apprentice: Book One (The Wardstone Chronicles ).
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Wardstone Chronicles / Last Apprentice has 58 entries in the series. Joseph Delaney Author (). cover image of The Spook's Apprentice. The Spook's Apprentice: Book 1 (The Wardstone Chronicles series) by Joseph Delaney. Read online, or download in secure EPUB format. by Joseph Delaney Book Details Format: EPUB Protection: DRM Language: English The Spook's Apprentice is the first book in Joseph Delaney's terrifying.
Not in United States? Choose your country's store to see books available for purchase. All 13 volumes of Joseph Delaney's internationally best-selling fantasy adventure series, The Last Apprentice, plus the two short story collections and The Spook's Bestiary —all together for the first time! Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son. As the Spook's apprentice, he will face boggarts, witches, ghosts, and other terrifying creatures of the night. Other apprentices have come before him. Some have failed.
The creature came forth brandishing a great club and roared out in anger. It was a foul thing dressed in the skins of animals, reeking of blood and animal fat, and it attacked me with terrible fury.
At first I retreated, waiting my chance, but the next time it hurled itself at me I released the blade from its recess in my staff and, using all my strength, drove it deep into its head. It fell stone-dead at my feet but I had no regrets at taking its life, for it would have killed again and again and would never have been sated. It was then that the girl called out to me, her siren voice lurinq me up the stone steps, There, in the topmost room of the tower, I found her upon a bed of straw, bounds fast with a long silver chain.
With skin like milk. No sooner had I unbound her from the coils of the chain than she fastened her lips hard upon mine own. And so sweet were her kisses that I almost swooned away in her arms.
I awoke with sunlightt streaming through the window and saw her clearly for the first time. She was one of the Lamia witches, and the mark of the snake was upon her. Fair of face though she was, her spine was covered with green and yellow scales.
Full of anger at her deceit, I bound her again with the chain, and carried her at fast to the pit at Chipenden. When I released her, she struggled so hard that I barely overcame her and was forced to pull her by her long hair through the trees, while she ranted and screamed fit to wake the dead.
It was raining hard and she slipped on the wet grass but I carried on dragging her along the ground, though her bare arms and legs were scratched by brambles.
It was cruel but it had to be done. But when I started to tip her over the edge into the pit, she clutched at my kniees and began to sob pitifully. I stood there for a long time, full of anguish, about to topple over the edge myself, until at last I made a decision that I may come to regret. I helped her to her feet and wrapped my arms about her and we both wept. How could I put her into the pit, when I realized that I loved her better than my own soul?
I begged her forgiveness and then we turned together and, hand in hand, walked away from, the pit. From this encounter I have gained a silver chain, an expensive tool which otherwise would have taken many long months of hard work to acquire. What I have lost, or might yet lose, I dare not think about. Beauty is a terrible thing; it binds a man tighter than a silver chain about a witch. I quickly leafed through the rest of the notebook, expecting to find another reference to her, but there was nothing - nothing at all!
I knew quite a bit about witches, but had never heard of a Lamia witch before so I put the notebook back and searched the next shelf down, where the books were arranged in alphabetical order. I opened the book labelled Witches but there was no reference to a Meg.
What had happened to her? Was she still alive? Still out there, somewhere in the County? I was really curious and I had another idea; I pulled a big book out from the lowest shelf. This was entitled The Bestiary and was an alphabetical listing of all sorts of creatures, witches included.
At last I found the entry I wanted: Lamia witches. They shunned sunlight, but at night they preyed upon men and drank their blood. They were shape-shifters and belonged to two different categories: The feral were lamia witches in their natural state, dangerous and unpredictable and with little physical resemblance to humans. All had scales rather than skin and claws rather than fingernails. Some scuttled across the ground on all fours, while others had wings and feathers on their upper bodies and could fly short distances.
But a feral lamia could become a domestic lamia by closely associating with humans. Domestic lamias had even been known to grow to share human beliefs. Often they ceased to be malevolent and became benign, working for the good of others. So had Meg eventually become benign? Had the Spook been right not to bind her in the pit? Suddenly I realized how late it was and I ran out of the library to my lesson, my head whirling. A few minutes later my master and I were out on the edge of the western garden, under the trees with a clear view of the fells, the autumn sun dropping towards the horizon.
I sat on the bench as usual, busy making notes while the Spook paced back and forth dictating. We started with a Latin lesson.
I had a special notebook to write down the grammar and new vocabulary the Spook taught me. There were a lot of lists and the book was almost full. Still, there was less than an hour before the sun went down and the worst of the lessons were over. And then I heard a sound that made me groan inside.
It was a bell ringing. Not a church bell. No, this had the higher, thinner note of a much smaller bell — the one that was used by our visitors. Generally we would both have gone but he was still quite weak from his illness. Once out of sight of the house and gardens, I settled down to a stroll.
It was too close to dusk to do anything tonight, especially with the Spook still not properly recovered, so nothing would get done until morning anyway. I would bring back an account of the trouble and tell the Spook the details during supper.
This time a lad was waiting there. When he left, I set off back towards the house. The Spook was standing by the bench with his head bowed. When I approached, he looked up and his face seemed sad. Somehow I guessed that he knew what I was going to say, but I told him anyway. He died yesterday morning, just before dawn. It was hard to guess what he was feeling. At last the Spook sighed again and then he spoke.
He usually spoke a few words, even if they were just to ask me how the meal was. Praise at supper was very important or the bacon would end up burned the following morning. The Spook suddenly pushed his plate away and scratched at his beard with his left hand. The Spook shunned the place like the plague and had once told me that he would never set foot within its boundaries.
I thought we might be going to Horshaw, for the funeral. Get out your notebook, lad. Turn to a clean page and make this heading Something clicked in my head.
That town is cursed! Cursed with something that I last faced over twenty long years ago. It got the better of me then and put me in bed for almost six months. In fact I almost died. But within an hour I realized the journey would take us two days at least.
Usually the Spook walked at a tremendous pace, making me struggle to keep up, but he was still weak and kept getting breathless and stopping to rest. It was a nice sunny day with just a touch of autumn chill in the air. The sky was blue and the birds were singing but none of that mattered. What worried me was the fact that the Spook had already nearly been killed once trying to bind it. So at noon, when we stopped for a long rest, I decided to ask him all about this terrible spirit.
Usually, when on the way to a job, we made do with a measly nibble of cheese because you have to fast before facing the dark. To my surprise he told me to put the book away. We never stop learning in this job, and the first step towards knowledge is to accept your own ignorance. But hopefully not this time. Those tunnels existed long before the cathedral was built. The hill was already a holy site when the first priests came here in ships from the west.
Reckon the Bane would like to be a god again. You see, it used to roam free in the County. Over the centuries it grew corrupt and evil and terrorized the Little People night and day, turning brother against brother, destroying crops, burning homes, slaughtering innocents.
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It liked to see people existing in fear and poverty, beaten down until life was hardly worth living. Those were dark, terrible times for the Segantii. It suddenly demanded an annual tribute from King Heys. The poor man was ordered to sacrifice his seven sons, starting with the eldest. One son each year until none remained alive. It was more than any father could bear. But somehow Naze, the very last son, managed to bind the Bane to the catacombs. All I know is that its way was blocked by a locked silver gate: How can the Silver Gate keep it in?
All I know is that the Bane is bound in the catacombs, and is only able to leave through that gate. The Spook knew me well by now and was good at guessing what I was thinking. That only happened after it was bound. Before that, when it was very powerful, it had a physical form. Before you enter the cathedral for the funeral service, look up at the stone carving directly above the main doorway. Twenty years ago, when I first tried to kill the Bane, it was still a spirit.
And the real danger is that it might force somebody to unlock the Silver Gate. The blood of animals - and humans. It has a terrible thirst. It tempts them with money, position and power - you name it. It can make itself so heavy that some of its victims are found squashed flat, their bones broken and their bodies smeared into the ground - you have to scrape them up for burial.
Sometimes it even sees through their eyes. Its influence extends up into the cathedral and presbytery, and it terrorizes the priests. Whenever it can it gets them to spread its evil. The Bane drains the spirit and the will.
It makes people do what it wants, silencing the voices of goodness and reason: In Priestown tithes are now collected twice a year. It was the law. Women make it very nervous and it tries to avoid their company. Well, I can understand that easily enough, but how to use it to our advantage needs some thinking about. So I was used to him saying things like that. Well, my master had certainly given me a lot to think about. Could they all be wrong? Why did He allow it to corrupt the priests and spread evil out into the town?
The Spook’s Apprentice
My dad was a believer, even though he never went to church. But it suddenly made me wonder what the Spook believed, especially knowing what Mam had told me - that the Spook had once been a priest himself.
Where it came from I can only guess. But with that strength came a new feeling. That someone or something was at my side. That I was no longer alone. Well, come on, lad. Soon we left the road and took a short cut through a wood and across a wide meadow.
It was pleasant enough but we stopped long before the sun set. The Spook was too exhausted to continue and should really have been back at Chipenden, recuperating after his illness.
I had a bad feeling about what lay ahead, a strong sense of danger. As we came down the hill, the river was like a huge snake gleaming orange in the light from the setting sun. It was a town of churches, with spires and towers rising above the rows of small terraced houses. Set right on the summit of a hill, near the centre of the town, was the cathedral. And its steeple was something else.
Built from limestone, it was almost white and so high that I guessed on a rainy day the cross at its top would be hidden by clouds. There he placed his forefinger against his lips for silence and made me crouch down with him, while I listened to the sound of approaching footsteps. It was a good, thick hawthorn hedge and it still had most of its leaves, but through it I could just make out a black cassock above the boots.
It was a priest! We stayed there for quite a while even after the footsteps had faded into the distance. Only then did the Spook lead us back onto the path. The following day he puts on a different hat. He becomes the executioner, and organizes the burning. They say he positions the stake carefully so that the poor wretch takes a very long time to die.
But thafs just an excuse. You see, the Quisitor counts a spook as a warlock. They think only priests should be allowed to do that. The good news is that the Quisitor lives in a big city way to the south, far beyond the boundaries of the County, and rarely comes north.
Also my arrival here should be a surprise. Entering the town seemed full of risks. With his cloak and staff he was unmistakably a spook. I was just about to say as much when he gestured left with his thumb and we walked off the road into a small wood. After about thirty paces or so my master came to a halt. Take off your cloak and give it to me. He took off his own cloak with its attached hood and laid his staff on the ground. Nothing too heavy, mind. It was a disguise.
The Quisitor uses torture. Give me ten minutes, then follow. He nodded in agreement, then lifted the bundle up onto his right shoulder and left me waiting in the wood. I gave him ten minutes or more, just to be sure there was enough distance between us, then, carrying his heavy bag, I set off down the hill, heading for the steeple.
Once in the town I started to climb again towards the cathedral, and when I got close, I began my search for an inn. There were plenty of them all right; most of the cobbled streets seemed to have one, but the trouble was that all of them seemed to be linked to churches in some way or other. Not even when you used a bell as well.
I walked along Fylde Road and then up a wide street called Friargate, where there was no sign of a gate at all. The cobbled streets were full of people and most of them seemed to be in a rush. The big market near the top of Friargate was closing for the day, but a few customers still jostled and haggled with traders for good prices. The smell of fish was overpowering and a big flock of hungry seagulls squawked overhead. Every so often I saw a figure dressed in a black cassock and I would change direction or cross the road.
I found it hard to believe that one town could have so many priests. Next I walked down Fishergate Hill until I could see the river in the distance, and then all the way back again. Finally I came round in a circle, but without any success. Drawing attention to myself was the last thing I wanted. It was a small inn called the Black Bull. It should have been a lot more, for we were often on the road, sometimes for several days at a time, but the Spook liked to save his money, and unless the weather was really bad he thought a tree or an old barn good enough shelter for the night.
The narrow entrance opened out into a large gloomy room, lit only by a single lantern. It was full of empty tables and chairs, with a wooden counter at the far end. The counter smelled strongly of vinegar but I soon realized it was just stale ale that had soaked into the wood. There was a small bell hanging from a rope to the right of the counter, so I rang it.
Presently a door behind the counter opened and a bald man came out, wiping his big hands on a large dirty apron. I shook my head.
I was fasting anyway, but one glance at his stained apron had made me lose my appetite. Five minutes later I was up in my room with the door locked. The bed looked a mess and the sheets were dirty. I knew the Spook would have complained but I just wanted to sleep and it was still a lot better than a draughty barn.
However, when I looked through the window, I felt homesick for Chipenden. Instead of the white path leading across the green lawn to the western garden and my usual view of Parlick Pike and the other fells, all I could see was a row of grimy houses opposite, each with a chimneypot sending dark smoke billowing down into the street. Just after eight the next morning I was heading for the cathedral. I was a bit anxious about leaving it at the inn but the bag had a lock and so did the door and both keys were safely in my pocket.
I also carried a third key. The Spook had given it to me when I went to Horshaw to deal with the ripper. It was very useful to have, just like the small tinderbox my dad gave me when I started my apprenticeship. I always kept that in my pocket too. Before long I was climbing the hill, with the steeple to my left. At least the top third of it was hidden by the dark grey clouds that were racing in from the south-west. There was a bad smell of sewers in the air too, and every house had a smoking chimney, most of the smoke finding its way down to street level.
A lot of people seemed to be rushing up the hill. One woman went by almost running, dragging two children faster than their little legs could manage. Hurry up! Right at the top the hill flattened out and I turned left towards the cathedral. Here an excited crowd was eagerly lining both sides of the road, as if waiting for something. They were blocking the pavement and I tried to ease my way through as carefully as possible. Sounds of applause and cheers had suddenly erupted to my right.
Above them I heard the clip-clop of approaching hooves. A large procession was moving towards the cathedral, the first two riders dressed in black hats and cloaks and wearing swords at their hips. Behind them came more riders, these armed with daggers and huge cudgels, ten, twenty, fifty, until eventually one man appeared riding alone on a gigantic white stallion. He wore a black cloak, but underneath it expensive chain mail was visible at neck and wrists and the sword at his hip had a hilt encrusted with rubies.
His boots were of the very finest leather and probably worth more than a farm labourer earned in a year. I was fascinated by his face. Then I looked again at the blue eyes and saw the cruelty glaring from them. Dad also said that the man was noble, that he could tell by looking at him that he came from a family that could trace its ancestors back for generations, all of them rich and powerful. This man riding through Priestown was also clearly noble and had arrogance and authority written all over his face.
To my shock and dismay I realized that I must be looking at the Quisitor, for behind him was a big open cart pulled by two shire horses and there were people standing in the back bound together with chains. Mostly they were women but there were a couple of men too. They wore filthy clothes and many had clearly been beaten. All were covered in bruises and one woman had a left eye that looked like a rotten tomato.
Some of the women were wailing hopelessly, tears running down their cheeks. One screeched again and again at the top of her voice that she was innocent. But to no avail.
They were all captives, soon to be tried and burned. A young woman suddenly darted towards the cart, reaching up towards one of the male prisoners and trying desperately to pass him an apple. Perhaps she was a relative of the prisoner - maybe a daughter.
To my horror, the Quisitor simply turned his horse and rode her down. One moment she was holding out the apple; the next she was on her side on the cobbles howling in pain.
I saw the cruel expression on his face. She was no older than me and her eyes were wide and frightened. Her black hair was streaked across her forehead with the rain, which was dribbling from her nose and the end of her chin like tears. I looked at the black dress she was wearing, then glanced down at her pointy shoes, hardly able to believe what I was seeing. It was Alice. And she was a prisoner of the Quisitor. No, Alice had just been brought up in bad company.
And then there was the Quisitor. What terrible timing that our visit to Priestown should coincide with his arrival. The Spook and I were in grave danger. The cart continued past the cathedral and halted outside a big three-storey house with mullioned windows. They were taken down from the cart and dragged inside but I was too far away to see Alice properly.
The building had big buttresses and tall, pointy stained-glass windows. Then, remembering what the Spook had told me, I glanced upwards at the large stone gargoyle above the main door. This was a representation of the original form of the Bane, the shape it was slowly trying to return to as it grew stronger down there in the catacombs. The body, covered in scales, was crouching with tense, knotted muscles, long sharp talons gripping the stone lintel.
It looked ready to leap down. It had an elongated chin that curved upwards almost as far as its long nose, and wicked eyes that seemed to follow me as I walked towards it. Not something to face in the darkness of the catacombs! Before I went in, I glanced back desperately towards the presbytery once more, wondering if there was any real hope of rescuing Alice.
The cathedral was almost empty so I found a place near the back. Close by, a couple of old ladies were kneeling in prayer with bowed heads, and an altar boy was busy lighting candles. I had plenty of time to look around. The cathedral seemed even bigger on the inside, with a high roof and huge wooden beams; even the slightest cough seemed to echo for ever.
There were three aisles - the middle one, which led right up to the altar steps, was wide enough to take a horse and cart. This place was grand all right: Each one, set in a big brass candlestick, was taller than a man.
People had started to drift into the church. They entered in ones and twos and, like me, selected pews close to the back. I kept looking for the Spook but there was no sign of him yet. What if the rumours were true? What if it did have the strength to take on a physical form and was sitting here in the congregation!
I looked about nervously but then relaxed when I remembered what the Spook had told me. The Bane was bound to the catacombs far below, so for now, surely, I was safe. Or was I? Its mind was very strong, my master had said, and it could reach up into the presbytery or the cathedral to influence and corrupt the priests. Maybe at this very moment it was trying to get inside my head! I looked up, horrified, and caught the eye of a woman returning to her seat after paying her last respects to Father Gregory.
I recognized her instantly as his weeping housekeeper and she knew me in the same moment. She stopped at the end of my pew. Priests - dozens of them! It was as if all the clergymen in the whole world had come together for the funeral of old Father Gregory. The housekeeper said nothing more and hurriedly returned to her pew. Now I was really afraid. I was just deciding that I should probably leave, when suddenly the big doors of the church were flung back wide and a long procession entered.
There was no escape. At first I thought the man at the head was the Quisitor for he had similar features. But he was older and I remembered the Spook saying that the Quisitor had an uncle who was the bishop of Priestown; I realized it must be him. The ceremony began. There was a lot of singing and we stood up, sat down and knelt endlessly. No sooner had we settled in one position than we had to move again.
Now if the funeral service had been in Greek I might have understood a bit more of what was going on because my mam taught me that language when I was little. I was a little surprised that he made no mention of how Father Gregory had died, but I suppose the priests wanted to keep that quiet. They were probably reluctant to admit that his exorcism had failed. At last, after almost an hour, the funeral service was over and the procession left the church, this time with six priests carrying the coffin.
The four big priests holding the candles had the harder job because they were staggering under their weight. It was only as the last one passed by, walking behind the coffin, that I noticed the triangular base of the big brass candlestick.
And although it was probably caused by the flickering of the flame, once again its eyes seemed to follow me as the priest carried the candle slowly by. All the priests filed out to join the procession and most of the people at the back followed them, but I stayed inside the church for a long time, wanting to keep clear of the housekeeper.
I was wondering what to do. I needed to warn him about the Quisitor - and now the housekeeper. Outside, the rain had stopped and the yard at the front of the cathedral was empty.
Glancing to my right, I could just see the tail of the procession disappearing round the back of the cathedral where I supposed the graveyard must be. I decided to go the other way, through the front gate and out into the street, but I was in for a shock. Across the road two people were having a heated conversation.
More precisely, most of the heat was coming from an angry, red-faced priest with a bandaged hand. The other man was the Spook. They both seemed to notice me at the same time. The Spook gestured with his thumb, signalling me to start walking right away. I did as I was told and my master followed me, keeping to the opposite side of the road.
It was hard to be sure, but I thought he suddenly seemed far more interested in me than in the Spook. We walked downhill for several minutes before the ground levelled out.
It was a big, bustling square, full of stalls, which were sheltered by wooden frames draped with grey waterproof awnings. I followed the Spook into the crowd, at times not far from his heels. What else could I do? It would have been easy to lose him in a place like that. There was a large tavern at the northern edge of the market with empty benches outside and the Spook headed straight for it.
At first I thought he was going in and wondered if we were going to buy lunch. But instead he turned into a narrow, cobbled blind alley, led me to a low stone wall and wiped the nearest section with his sleeve.
I sat down and looked around. The alley was deserted and the walls of warehouses hemmed us in on three sides. There were few windows and they were cracked and smeared with grime so at least we were out of the way of prying eyes.
The Spook was out of breath with walking and this gave me a chance to get the first word in. The Spook nodded. I was standing on the opposite side of the road but you were too busy gawping at the cart to notice me. Alice who? We have to help her Now the Spook had her imprisoned in a pit, back in his garden in Chipenden. The Quisitor has at least fifty armed men with him.
The truth is, none of them were witches. As you well know, a real witch would have sniffed the Quisitor coming from miles away. Our job is to protect people from the dark, not to get distracted by pretty girls. Especially not here in Priestown, with the Quisitor breathing down our necks.
And keep your voice down. But for us, the alley was deserted. Beyond them I could see the rooftops at the far side of the market square and, rising above the chimneypots, the cathedral steeple. But when I spoke again, I did lower my voice. People were still scurrying past, going about their business, and I could hear some stallholders calling out the price of their wares.
But although there was a lot of noise and bustle, we were thankfully out of sight. Despite that, I still felt uneasy. We were supposed to be keeping our distance from each other. The priest outside the cathedral had known the Spook. The housekeeper knew me. What if someone else walked down the alley and recognized us and we were both arrested? The only good news was that at the moment they were probably all still in the churchyard. For all I knew that red-faced priest outside the cathedral could even direct the Quisitor to Chipenden.
She was really angry. A cousin who meddles and gets a bit excited at times but he means well all the same. Someone had turned into the alley and was walking directly towards us!
This is my brother Andrew. He looked even older than the Spook and reminded me of a well-dressed scarecrow, for although he was wearing good quality boots and clean clothes, his garments flapped in the wind. He looked more in need of a good breakfast than I did.
Without bothering to brush away the beads of water, he sat on the wall on the other side of the Spook. Five brothers dead and gone. Have you forgotten the curse?
Keep your silly superstitious nonsense to yourself. The Quisitor would love to get his hands on the County Spook. Get back to Chipenden while you still can. When have I ever let you down? But this is madness. You risk burning just by being here. Not now. I suspected that it could be seen from almost anywhere in the town and that the whole town was also visible from the steeple. There were four small windows right near the top, just below the cross. The Spook had told me that the Bane could use people, get inside their heads and peer out through their eyes.
I shivered, wondering if one of the priests was up there now, the Bane using him to watch us from the darkness inside the spire. That the priests are becoming more corrupt, that people are afraid? And think about the double tithes and the Quisitor stealing land, and burning innocent women and girls.
What terrible force makes good men inflict such atrocities or stand by and let them happen? Why, this very day the lad here has seen his friend carted off to certain death. Aye, the Bane is to blame, and the Bane must be stopped now. Do you really think I can let this go on for half a year more? The town is rife with rumours of sightings down in the catacombs.
Soon it could return to its original form, a manifestation of the evil spirit that tyrannized the Little People. And then where will we all be? How easy will it be then for it to terrify or trick someone into opening that gate?
Will you make me a key? Finally he looked up and nodded. With that, Andrew stood up, gave a world-weary sigh and walked off without even a backward glance. Go back to your room and stay there till tomorrow. Remember where you were standing earlier when the Quisitor rode by? And remember, we must continue to fast. Oh, and one more thing: I think we might be needing it. What should I fear most: Or a fearsome creature that had beaten my master in his prime and, through the eyes of a priest, might be watching me at this very moment from the windows high in the steeple?
Father Cairns. But my relief was short-lived for when I got back to my room there was a note pinned to the door. Thomas, If you would save your masters life, come to my confessional this evening at seven.
After that it will be too late. Father Cairns I felt a sickening unease. How had Father Cairns found out where I was staying? Had someone been following me? Or the innkeeper? Had he sent a message to the cathedral? Or the Bane? Did that creature know my every movement? Had it told Father Cairns where to find me? Whatever had happened, the priests knew where I was staying and if they told the Quisitor he could come for me at any moment. I hurriedly opened my bedroom door and locked it behind me.
Then I closed the shutters, hoping desperately to keep out the prying eyes of Priestown. The Spook had told me to stay in my room until morning. Was he just going to meddle again? But what if the priest really did know something that threatened the Spook? If I stayed, my master might end up in the hands of the Quisitor. Yet if I went to the cathedral, I was walking right into the lair of the Quisitor and the Bane! The funeral had been dangerous enough.
Could I really push my luck again? What I really should have done was tell the Spook about the message. I decided to go and speak to Father Cairns. My palms were clammy with nerves and my feet seemed reluctant to move towards the cathedral. It was as if they were wiser than I was and I had to keep forcing one foot in front of the other. The ugly head seemed bigger than ever and the eyes still seemed wick with life; they followed me as I walked towards the door. As well as the dog-like ears and a long tongue protruding from its mouth, two short horns curved upwards from its skull and it suddenly reminded me of a goat.
I looked away and entered the cathedral, shivering at the sheer strangeness of the creature. Inside the building it took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the gloom, and to my relief I saw that the place was almost empty. I was afraid though for two reasons. If Father Cairns was tricking me then I had just walked straight into his trap. Soon the day would draw in, and once the sun went down the Bane, like all creatures of the dark, would be at its most dangerous.
Perhaps then its mind might reach up from the catacombs and seek me out. I had to get this business over with as quickly as possible.
Where was the confessional? There were just a couple of old ladies at the back of the cathedral, but an old man was kneeling near the front, close to the small door of a wooden box that stood with its back to the stone wall. That told me what I wanted to know. There was an identical box a bit further along. The confessional boxes.
Each had a candle fixed above it set within a blue glass holder. But only the one near the kneeling man was lit. I walked down the right-hand aisle and knelt in the pew behind him. After a few moments the door to the confessional box opened and a woman wearing a black veil came out. She crossed the aisle and knelt in a pew further back while the old man went inside. After a few moments I could hear him muttering. He went to confession twice a week and after hearing his sins the priest gave him a big penance.
That meant that afterwards he had to say lots of prayers over and over again. I supposed the old man was telling the priest about his sins.
The door stayed closed for what seemed an age and I started to grow impatient. Another thought struck me: I really would have to make a confession then or it would seem very suspicious.
I tried to think of a few sins that might sound convincing. Was greed a sin? Or did you call it gluttony? Suddenly it seemed madness to be doing this.
In moments I could end up a prisoner. I panicked and stood up to leave. It was only then that I noticed with relief a small card slotted into a holder on the door. A name was written on it: At that moment the door opened and the old man came out, so I took his place in the confessional and closed the door behind me. It was small and gloomy inside, and when I knelt down, my face was very close to a metal grille.
Behind the grille was a brown curtain and, somewhere beyond that, a flickering candle. I just shrugged. You wanted to see me. I asked you here because I need to talk to you. I was wary of making promises now.
And do you know what that task is? We have to work out how we can save your immortal soul. You must walk away from John Gregory. You must cease practising that vile trade. Will you do that for me? We are here to help John Gregory but we must begin by helping you. So will you do what I ask?
Then I thought of something else. At least he died in bed, in the warmth. Mr Gregory could have sorted it out for him. It takes more than just a few prayers. He kept calm and that made it seem a whole lot worse. Do you know the source of his power? It takes long, long years to train for the priesthood. And priests are clever men being trained by even cleverer men.
How do you explain the fact that your master routinely does what his brother could not? At first I thought he was choking; then I realized I could hear laughter. He was laughing at me. I thought that was very rude. You see, John Gregory has made a pact with Hell. When I opened my mouth, no words came out so I just kept shaking my head. All his power comes from the Devil. What you and other County folk call boggarts are just lesser devils who only yield because their master bids them do that.
And a soul is precious to God, a thing of brightness and splendour, and the Devil will do anything to dirty it with sin and drag it down into the eternal flames of Hell. But I saved Father Gregory. So the power of evil is on loan to you while you serve. But of course, if you were to complete your training in evil and prepare to practise your vile trade as master rather than apprentice, then it would be your turn.
You too would have to sign away your soul. John Gregory has made many serious mistakes in his life and has fallen a long, long way from grace. Do you know that he was once a priest? Do you know of his shame? I knew that Father Cairns was going to tell me anyway.
That debate continues, but of one thing we can be certain - a priest cannot take a wife, because it would distract him from his devotion to God. It tore the family apart. Brother turned against brother over a woman called Emily Burns.
But I was curious about the Spook. I was astonished and wanted to know more. Some say they quarrelled, but whatever the case John Gregory eventually took another woman, whom he met in the far north of the County and brought south.
Her name was Margery Skelton, a notorious witch. The locals knew her as Meg, and in time she became feared and loathed across the breadth of Anglezarke Moor and the towns and villages to the south of the County.
I know that he expected me to be shocked. Father Cairns gave another deep sniff then coughed deep in his throat. When John threw away his vocation, another brother took his place and began training for the priesthood.
Yes, Thomas, it was Father Gregory, the brother we buried today. He lost his betrothed and he lost his brother. What else could he do but turn to God? Now, suddenly, a choir began to sing.
The Spook's Apprentice
It would be well after seven by now and the sun would already have set. I decided to make an excuse and leave but just as I opened my mouth I heard Father Cairns come to his feet. He beckoned me towards the altar where, led by another priest, neatly arranged in three rows of ten, a choir of altar boys was standing on the steps.
Each wore a black cassock and white surplice. Father Cairns halted and put his bandaged hand on my right shoulder. His voice was bad enough to turn the milk sour. Your voice is already beginning to deepen and a chance to serve has been lost. Let me show you Then we went out into the garden at the rear of the cathedral. Well, it was more the size of a field than a garden, and rather than flowers and roses, vegetables grew there. Michael Vey 5. Richard Paul Evans.
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