It seems I’ll be awake for a while longer tonight than planned. Insomnia, my constant companion now for many years, has come to visit and there isn’t anything I can do about except what you see here. Bear with me for a while and I will ramble on about something, tis to be sure. I’ve been thinking of beginning again a story I never finished but feel as if I must now. That happens. Stories begin, stall out, and then continue. This one has been stalled out for a while now but it has crept back into my world like a shadow exposed only by illumination.
I remember quite clearly the birth of the story. I had a dream in which there was someone within the walls of a very dark building, a building made of stone, and I could barely hear the sound of the person within the walls over my own heart beating but I knew there was someone there. Who was this person and why were they inside the walls and where were these walls, and … Well, the story formed slowly as I began to try to answer these questions. The first question to be answered was “where” and that decided a lot of things from that point forward.
The dream had the feel of ancientness to it. The walls were inside of a castle of sorts, no, no, that will not do, it was a building with religious significance. Yes, and the person who was listening was not I, no, but a child, a boy, who was being punished and the person inside the walls was someone who was also chained to their own past by this religion. But the climber could not find a way to help the boy, but he had an idea.
I decided to call the building the Sacellum, which is a temple without a roof. This building clearly had a room but there was a new building constructed around the place where the old Sacellum lay, and the name was never changed. After all, it was still the Sacellum that kept the religious order at that location. The order was led by a Cleric and under him served Priests, and under those men served Acolytes, who trained to be either Priests or Monks. Priests mainly served in the Sacellum or moved on to another site to serve another Cleric while Monks were more local in their duties. But it was the Cleric who was the master and leader of the order in the Sacellum, which was located near the village of Hesper.
Hesper lay on the banks of the River Motus. This was a very wide, three leagues where Hesper lay, and very swift river. Yet winter freezes even the Motus over in ice, and for half the year Hesper and the Sacellum are snowbound. Life is harsh, very harsh, and there is very little room for compassion when it comes to food, lodging, and life itself.
Of course, this story is set in a world where magic holds the greater part of power over anything else. There are also sentient beings, monsters, who inhabit this world, and the humans must placate them, negotiate with them, or make war upon them. The Cleric and the village Elders decide what to do about the local denizens as well as the local citizens. There is a high and thick wall built around Hesper but even this isn’t proof against some creatures. Mainly, the wall is built to keep Motus from devouring the village. The Sacellum is a kilometer or so away from Hesper, on much higher ground that slopes into the mountain range that serves as Hesper’s eastern border with Motus to the west.
The new building that was built around the Sacellum, and no one remembers when it was built or who built it, is large enough to serve a couple of hundred Acolytes, most of whom will not finish their vows to become Priests or even Monks, but they will return to their old lives after a certain period of time. They are slave labor for the Order until they take their vows, or until it is clear they aren’t going to, yet most are there on their own accord. A few are sent to the Order as payment for some service rendered by the Cleric
Hesper is a very tight knit community of about two thousand people, all of whom are related in some way or another. Everyone has a useful skill of some sort, and the Elders of the village, despite their titles, aren’t necessarily the oldest people around. They tend to be tradesmen who the village rely on the most; the blacksmith, the baker, the stone mason, the harbor master, and that sort of thing.
Ah, but the boy in the basement, what are we going to do with him?
As it turns out, his family was wiped out by the plague. Orphaned and considered tainted by the fact his parents died of plague, no one will take him in. He must wait, however, for his execution for the manner in which he is to be killed is to be tossed into a hole in the ice of the river. During his stay in the cellarage of the Sacellum, he defends himself against hordes of rats and he hears someone in the walls.
The day of his execution arrives, he is dragged out onto the ice, and suddenly, the irons bells of the Sacellum stop ringing. The Tocsin, who is the person whose job it is to toll the bells for different ceremonies, has fallen from the bell tower and is dead. The Tocsin is considered to be Graceless and without merit yet no ceremony can be held without the bells, and without a Tocsin…
Hey, let’s make the kid the new Tocsin!
And so begins the story of the Tocsin of the Sacellum and how he weaves his life around ringing the bells, slipping about inside the walls, and watching the people of the village and the boys of the order.