Sanctom

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
An old tale that my grandmother told me. I have patched it together, from various sources. It seems to have had a basis in fact. A family called Veran still live in the this area of Derbyshire. Also, my grandfather letter, which themselves are of great interest often refer to an organisation, somewhat like the Freemasons, called 'Sanctum', who had a great hold on the local community, but who are now a thing of history.

Submitted: November 02, 2007

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Submitted: November 02, 2007

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SANCTOM

 

There are some interesting versions of the same legend set in the north of England, one from the High Peak of Derbyshire and another in Northumberland around the area of the Eildon Hills. Both areas almost as remote today as they were at the time the tale takes place.

 

In the reign of King James 1,in a bleak and unforgiving landscape, were three adjoining parishes. Two of the villages were in the care of elderly clergymen, the Reverend Samual Strawbridge and the Reverend William Wyper, both scholars and friends. The third and most remote village was nestled beneath a remarkable and forbidding mound called Old Peak or Old Reek. Its’ sides were smooth and its’ top rounded. It was notable for the fact that no matter the season or weather, a pall of cloud hung about it and never appeared to move, although at times it took on a strange luminosity. Also, no tree or bush was ever known to grow on Old Peak. It was said in the village that the mound had not been made by God as all other mountains and hills about the land, but had been made by an ancient race of people long ago. Other folk said more darkly that Old Peak had not been fashioned by humans at all, but that its hollow centre was the home of countless Feyfolk, who were waiting to steal away any fool who ventured too close. Whatever the truth, the people of the village never climbed the gloomy hill or dug for minerals even though the landscape was riddled with natural caverns with ore rich seams. In all, Old Peak cast a lowering shadow over the village and it s people, who planted rowan trees to ward off witches and hung hag stones tied with red ribbon by their doors.

 

Unlike its two neighbouring parishes, the village under Old Peak had never managed to retain its own resident clergyman. This despite it having a much superior church with a high steeple and a peal of bells and a solid ,comfortable house for the incumbent vicar. No reverend ever stayed for more than twelve months. That is until the arrival of the Rev. Peter Veran. He came in late October having given no notification of his arrival. He was a tall young man with an imposing presence, dressed in the black garments of a minister of the church. Strangely he arrived carrying only one small bag, which he assured the self appointed housekeeper, he would unpack himself.

 

In the following days he settled into his duties very ably and needed little assistance or guidance from his parishioners, despite being a foreigner from the South. It was soon apparent that he was an even more learned scholar than Reverends Strawbridge and Wyper as well as being a gentleman of substantial private means. People were bewildered about why someone with such talents and resources should be in their remote ,obscure part of England. They were even more amazed to learn that he had not arrived by accident but had chosen and requested to be made incumbent of their parish, although he did not explain why.

 

For the first twelve months the Rev. Veran was a source of pride to his parish. The two elderly clergymen who were his neighbours, were equally impressed and were quick to invite him to join their weekly meetings which they had held for many years ,to discuss doctrine and other learned subjects. The Rev. Veran accepted the invitation and the meetings were soon held exclusively at his house under High Peak, in a back room which was always kept locked.

 

Things began to take a more uneasy turn when Peter Veran had been living in his parish for nearly three years. Far longer than any other minister had ever stayed. However, not only had the meetings between the clergymen increased from once a week to four even five times, always in Rev. Veran's locked room, despite the age of his guests and the distance they must travel in inclement weather. Not only that, but the housekeeper reported strange murmurings and odours coming from behind the door, sometimes sweet, sometimes foul. At times she claimed to see a glowing light around the rim of the door. Also, solitary worshippers in the church found their prayers disturbed by a soundless vibration that seemed to get deep into their innards and was located under the floor of the church.

 

In those superstitious times it was not long before rumours of witchcraft began to be mooted and for people to look fearfully at the Rev. Veran. It was Mistress Strawbridge, perhaps tired of being deprived of her husbands company and spending long evenings alone with the wind rattling the shutters, who, when a carrier came from the distant market town, instructed him secretly to seek out the bishop and inform him that Reverend Veran was not all he should be.

 

It took some time for the witch finders to reach that remote place but in the early autumn they arrived, equipped with their pricking needles, swimming ropes and learned texts on how to discover witchcraft. First at Rev.Wypers village and then on to the Rev. Strawbridges’ parish, bundling the elderly ministers and their weeping, trembling wives into a cart, then climbing the steep track towards the distant Old Peak, trailing a swarm of anxious and exited village folk. On their arrival there was no sign of the Rev. Veran but a search of the locked room and a passage leading to beneath the church, left the witch finders white faced and grimly determined to wipe all devilry out of those heathen parishes. People crowding into the house tried desperately to get a glimpse of the evidence but saw nothing but a fleeting glance of a wall covered in strange diagrams and a bowl of shining liquid. The door was slammed shut and a heavy chest dragged in front.

 

The Witch Finders had no need of the tools of their trade, nor did they feel any need to take the two ministers to trial, so apparent was the evidence. They had them immediately hanged from a large ash tree just outside the churchyard, along with the house cat, which they felt had a malevolent aspect and the yard dog which had tried to attack them, clearly demonstrating its allegiance with the Devil.

 

The Reverend Veran was still absent despite an prolonged search of the surroundings. His housekeeper was subjected to rigorous interrogation. She said that he had left immediately after breakfast and had not said where he was going, but then he never did. After several hours they satisfied themselves that the illiterate old woman knew nothing of her masters whereabouts nor his devilish activities and they released her, whereupon she died an hour later.

 

The bodies of the Reverends Strawbridge and Wyper were left hanging as a warning for several days while the Witch Finders continued to search for Peter Veran, but there was no trace. A village boy told a strange tale of how he had seen the Reverend during the executions of the others. The lad had been watching the hangings with enthusiasm until it came to the execution of the dog whom he felt was innocent, he had therefore looked away towards Old Peak, and there standing near the top was the Rev. PeterVeran in his black hat and gown watching the doings down by his church. But strangest and most alarming thing of all was that when it was all over, he had seemed to simply melt into the ground and vanish into Old Peak itself. This story was greeted with suspicion and since no person wanted to search Old Peak the boy was branded a liar. Finally it was deemed that being a foreigner from the south, PeterVeran could not survive out in open and he must have perished in the cold and fierce weather. After burning down the house of Peter Veran and seeing to the burial of the two guilty ministers, at a crossroads with stakes through their hearts, the witch finders left the area never to return. Once again the village under Old Peak never had a regular minister and if anything, the fear and superstition surrounding the grim mound intensified ,the people falling back upon the symbols of protection against evil that had served their forebears. They learned not to look towards Old Peak in the Autumn, particularly around All Hallows when the constant cloud would glow with an intensity that lit up the night sky.

 

But this is not the end of the story. One hundred years later, around the time of late October, two stonemasons, a father and son, were hurrying home along the track the ran past Old Peak. It was getting late and the light was fading fast, they had been working longer than they intended and the older man was anxious to get home, knowing too well the legends told to him by his grandparents about the mound they were now walking alongside. As they turned the corner to face their village a quarter of a mile away, they noticed a eerie white glow on the track ahead of them. The father stopped his stride at once and called to his son that they must turn back the way they had come. But the boy was already ahead hurrying to investigate the thing in their path. He called back that they were almost home and there was no other way home. I’m hungry! He laughed. The father reluctantly joined his son and they approached the glowing object together. For as they got closer they could see that it was a solid object and not floating light as they had first supposed. A little closer and they surmised with shock that it was a person lying on the track, a man in fact, the pearly, intense light was all around him. At this the father begged his son to come away and leave him be, but his son bent down and peered at the mans face, placing his hand on his chest. “He breathes” said the boy “He is in a swoon but he lives”

“Nevertheless” said the older man.”We should leave him here”

“For shame!” cried the boy “That is a very unchristian act”

“He is not an earthly being, see how he glows!”

“Perhaps he is a heavenly being sent to test our Christian charity”

His father faltered, he was aware that his son was a better Christian than himself and may be right. He took a closer look, the creature had the face of a young man but with hair of pure white, his skin had the intense pallor of someone who has never seen the sun, but worse, it was from his skin or from somewhere deep within that the glow was emanating. He fell back with start as the stranger turned his head and opened his eyes . He fixed his pale gaze upon the youth and mouthed some words. The boy eagerly put his ear close to the strangers lips “Speak” he said “that we can help you”

The stranger took a hissing breath “Sanctom” he whispered.

“What is that?” said the older man

“Sanctom....I believe he must be asking for sanctuary....we must carry him to the church .” replied his son and with that he prepared to gather the stranger into his arms.

“Wait, let me help you.” Said his father unwilling to allow his son to take all the burden and eager to be gone, for now it was full dark although they were crouching in their own pool of light. After all, depositing the creature in the church could only be good, if it were a fiend it would be destroyed and if a heavenly being it would be at home.

He wrapped the ragged black garment tighter around the stranger and lifted him by the shoulders, his son took the legs and so they walked for some ten minutes, the spire of the church looming ever closer and the dark bulk of Old Peak put further behind them. The stranger had appeared to be back in a swoon, but as they neared the church he suddenly roused and twisted his head around.

“Fear not sir,” said the boy “soon you will be in sanctuary”

These words had a terrible effect, the white stranger gripped the older mans arm and began to twist and struggle most terribly. The deep, intense cold that shot up the stone masons arm from this touch told him that this was no angelic being.

“Quickly! he cried, get him in the church!”

They ran with the struggling creature through the churchyard and almost flung him through the church doors.

There before their terrified eyes the Stranger raised himself upright and turned to face them. He smiled, then turned and ran quickly to the arched door of the belfry as if he knew exactly where he was going. The youth chased after him, following the glowing light up the spiral stair. The father followed more slowly, he arrived at the door at the top of the steeple just in time to see the stranger standing on top of the parapet. He had spread out his arms and stood poised for a moment, gleaming against the dark sky. He murmured a single word and with that took a tremendous leap out into the darkness, almost as if he was expecting to fly. The two stone masons watched as the light tumbled far down to the ground below.

 

They could see the glow in the churchyard as they left the church. Reluctantly they approached it, but fell back in horror as they saw not the body of a pale young man, but a heap of bare white bones, shining with the same intensity as the glowing stranger, but its empty orbits staring out in horrible manner. Gripped in its bony grasp was a small tightly bound scroll and in the cavity of its chest was a medallion inscribed with heathenish symbols. It is said that the two stone masons were found huddled together by an ancient ash tree outside the church gate at first light and although they continued to work as masons they never spoke again.

As for the bones and the unholy relics, the village idiot was paid a penny to bury them under a large rock down by Old Peak. It was said that soon the rock itself had started to glow as if contaminated by the bones.

 

The following autumn, a tall young man with an imposing presence came walking into the village saying that he had come to claim the remains of a relative. People were amazed that he could have heard the story of the glowing bones or how he could know they were related to him. However, they were glad that the devilish things were to be taken and sent the village idiot to help him remove the stone. The idiot boy told them later that the strange gentleman had packed the bones into a bag, put the pendant around his neck and the scroll in his coat. He was last seen walking up the slope of Old Peak.


© Copyright 2017 Eglentyne. All rights reserved.

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