Second installment of Malleus Maleficarum. It's a pretty different perspective than the first. Enjoy!
Malleus Maleficarum: Libri Secundum: Sanctuary
Jonan tripped and fell into the muddy ground. It was the third time in the night he had done so. After what he had seen, it was remarkable that he was still able to keep on getting up. The trauma any normal person would feel after seeing so many deaths would send him into depression, or at the very least, a nasty state of psychological shock.
It may have been the command of his father that drove him on. "For the sake of us who die here, live," he said with his last words as he lay crushed underneath a supporting beam of the family's farmhouse. The building was enflamed, and its inhabitants were dead, except for Jonan.
The deaths of his parents and several siblings were not the only terrible things he saw. The field labor of three months gone in a blaze and the near complete razing of his village was there to confront him once he left his home. However, those did not frighten him.
What frightened him were the knights. The knights all wore the same seal upon their chest. It was hammer with a crucifix upon it and a skull at the base, with two wings on the side, one like that of a dove, the other like that of a bat.
They were the legion of Witch Hammer.
The trouble had started a month ago. A dead body was found in a nearby stream, and the origin of the poor soul's corpse was of great concern. Debate over what to do with the body continued for hours among the townsfolk, since the young woman was unknown to anybody in the village. Eventually, it was agreed that the body was to be buried in the local hallowed grounds. It would have taken a terribly long time to find the woman's family, if she even had one, so spending time searching for more appropriate burial grounds would probably be a waste of time.
However, when the body was to be retrieved from the altar within the local church where it was left, the body was not there. Sweat grew upon the brows of the townsfolk, and their hearts toiled twice their worth. Someone believed that the vanishing of the body must have been the labors of a witch, as few other people would have reason to steal a deceased body. Witch Hammer was contacted through runner as soon as soon as the message was conceived.
A few days afterwards, a legionnaire of Witch Hammer arrived to investigate. He studied the village and its nature for a day, without finding anything of value. Deciding to find respite within slumber, after dusk he went to the church to enter the quarters prepared for him by the local clergy.
The next morn, the legionnaire was dead. In the very room he was to sleep in, his body was pinned against the wall with three nails; one in each wrist and one through both ankles. His abdomen was torn open, and his humor was used to write a message upon the opposite wall that was more ominous than the death of the knight. "The shadow lurks when the sun doth rise; the flame shall blaze and mark thy demise," it read.
Within two more days, another holy knight arrived, this time with two veteran squires. They died in the same manner. Witch Hammer sent yet another group, this one made up of four legionnaires. After they perished, Witch Hammer lost its patience.
It was time for a purging.
Considered a drastic but acceptable measure, purgings were only permitted when confronted with a powerful witch who remains hidden from Witch Hammer within a population. It was believed that such a sly witch could only be killed by extermination of the populace where the witch was hiding in. The sacrifice of the lives of the bystanders who would also inevitably die was considered agreeable; if the witch was not removed, they surely would have died through means much crueler than the swift blade or hammer of a holy knight.
Witch Hammer did not notify the village. After all, if they got wind that the town was to be razed, the witch could leave, and the destruction of the village would mean nothing. Neither wearing metal armor for moonlight to glance upon nor speaking any words to stir a single animal, they came bearing their swords, jars of oil, their brooches, and of course, their hammers.
They struck too fast to let anyone escape.
Anyone but Jonan, though. Through the confusion he was able to leave the village and enter the nearby woods, where he hoped none of the knights would realize he had escaped. He had heard of a haven for people wrongfully accused of being witches that lay deep within the forest. Although Witch Hammer had done their share of killing malicious witches, it was believed by many that their techniques were excessive, so havens from Witch Hammer existed.
They had to be difficult to find, since Witch Hammer was many knights strong and among them were good trackers. Jonan's only hope was to be found by the people who controlled the sanctuary. Jonan knew this, and prayed with all his might as he ran.
True to his hopes, a man dressed in a hunter's garb appeared from behind a tree and quietly called Jonan to him. His name was Fern, and he claimed to be from the haven. He led Jonan into a nearby cave, where there were primitive living quarters, a stock of food, and smaller branching cave, which Fern described as an emergency escape route.
There, Jonan told Fern the terrible things that had occurred. Jonan's mood did not improve when he was told that Jonan was the only person to arrive at the sanctuary so far.
As Fern was lighting a fire to help warm Jonan's cold body, a young man with sandy blond hair appeared in the entranceway of the cave. At first, Jonan's spirit was lifted in the hope that it was another survivor from the village, but that feeling was soon revoked when he saw the emblem on the young man's chest and the hammer on his back.
It was the emblem of Witch Hammer, the weapon was Witch Hammer's namesake, and the young man was a legionnaire of Witch Hammer.
Fern cast the match that he lit in the knight's direction. The match's small flame burst the moment it hit the ground by the holy knight's feet, and as he was reaching for his hammer, he was consumed. The man-sized blaze continued burning for a few seconds, then died down, revealing the pile of ashes that was the legionnaire.
A sigh escaped Fern's mouth and told an unseen person to come out. A woman then came from an offshoot of the cave that Jonan did not see before. Jonan was slightly surprised; not because there was another person in the cave, but because the woman was the same as the dead person the found at the stream.
The woman and Fern spoke amongst each other for a moment, and then turned to Jonan. "They probably know where we are now. We need to leave soon," said Fern. "To where shall we go, master?"
Things had not gone completely as Jonan had wanted, but at least he was able to rally two of his four disciples. Half was more than enough. "To Germany," answered Jonan. "They won't think to search for us there."