Diego Gisbert and Anastasia Balakchina, Design by Luminarch& | Illustrated by
The Haunting of Havengul
The sat high above the rooftops of Nephalia. Amber street lamps lit the way to the church's outpost, an array of knapsack tents set up outside the wind-worn tower. A handful of soldiers are sat around a campfire, cooking some fish he'd recently caught in the ocean's waters.
Wernog held his lantern close to his chest as he approached. The light was his comfort in the journey here; best not lose it now. Near him, an , who appeared to till the soil with the edge of a scythe for the soldiers to grow crops, watched him out of the corner of his eyes. It was not often that a chaplain came to their coastal town. Even less often that they should be trusted.
At the encampment's edge, readied her spear as the chaplain approached. Upon glimpsing the mark of Avacyn emblazoned on Wernog's forehead, she lowered her guard. The man didn't meet her gaze, instead looking at his leather boots as he shuffled in the dirt. His mind worked differently than most on Innistrad, and it worked brilliantly. .
"Took you long enough." Sophina said. "She's been holed up in that tower for the past couple days. Couple of got some restraints on her before she took care of them and ran there." Her spear gestured to the lighthouse chamber.
"And what is stopping you from storming up there and, well-" Wernog mimed the stabbing of weaponry.
"Reports of others like her. popping up all around the coast. Whatever it is, she must be at ."
Wernog snorted. The church was never one to show restraint in those they deemed heretical, but Sophina was always more merciful than her cohorts. A merciful spearsage felt like an oxymoron, but in a post-Avacyn world was admirable. Now to see if her reservations were well-placed. Wernog blessed her, his collar of Avacyn glowing with the murmer of his prayers. Now to accomplish what was expected of him.
As he climbed the spiral staircase leading to the chamber, the chains hanging off his jangled in time with each creaking step as he prepared for what he would encounter. Reports of mad diabolists were common; most were simply some with a knack for pyrokinetics and performance. But this was something special. An entire farm in Lambholt rendered into . And its source was in this tower.
But there was no at the top of the tower. Instead, a young woman no older than thirty wrapped in a burgundy cloak, chains hanging off her wrist as she sat against the opposite wall. Wernog raised his lantern up towards her, as if the light would to this issue. Instead, the woman shielded her eyes from the light. She rose to her feet very slowly, and Wernog saw glowing runes of arcane energy burnt into her skin. Surefire signs of demonic activity.
"Cecily. I've heard so much about you," Wernog said. "May I approach?"
Cecily nodded as she slowly shuffled over to a side table. A hunk of bread sat there, looking to have gone stale long ago. She tore a chunk off with her teeth and chewed on it. "Are you gonna ?"
"No. Frankly, I don't think I could even if I ," he chuckled. "You're quite powerful. But you seem to have been the source chaos for a lot of people. I just want to ."
"You want to understand, or you want to know how to kill me? Like those rogues your priests out there sent after me?" She raised a wrist to reveal her restraints, infused with moonsilver. "I'll tell you now: I'm useless with . So do what you're going to do. ."
"I don't want to hurt you. I came here to help. Those people want you dead." He gestured to the . "But if there's someone who did this to you and we can stop them, I think we can call them off."
"Even if it was ?" Cecily asked as she cocked an eyebrow.
Wernog paused, clicking his tongue. "And what do you mean by that, diabolist?"
"Take me to Havengul and I shall show you. I worked at a there. Your church finances a certain alchemist who labors within its walls."
"How might they be involved in this?" Wernog asked.
Cecily approached. Standing in front of him, he realized she was almost a foot taller than him. She tore off a hunk of bread and handed it to him. The crust was stale in his hand. "You will come to understand once you take me . Do we have a deal?"
The spearsages were able to supply them with a horse and carriage for their journey to Havengul, along with a driver. Most of them looked at Wernog with some form of disgust now, as at a , for working with this murderer. Sophina managed to stave off a coup, luckily.
After a long while of traveling in near silence, Wernog and Cecily arrived in Havengul just as the sun began to set.
"This is as fair as I've got clearance to go. Head in through the and you'll be home free," the driver said, whipping the reins of the horse as she left the two in the dust. Wernog turned to his companion, curious as to what lay ahead.
"You got your free ride. Now, tell me what's going on here so we can clear your name and my reputation," said Wernog.
"Are you aware of , chaplain?" Wernog nodded. He'd had his exposure to these occult rituals. "There's an alchemist there who your folks have been filling the coffers of. And there's a whole lot of peasantry that she's been injecting with-"
"There you go. Pretty smart for someone who only went ." Cecily winked at him. "Did they teach you how to fight there too?"
Wernog nodded. "And I'm just supposed to believe the church is funding some cruel experiments?"
"Experiments that erase those inflicted with madness. She's striking at those who could cause a threat. Turning them into social outcasts. If you aren't careful, it'll be your hometown that's lost next."
The chaplain stood frozen for a moment. Whispers of an era of madness filled his mind. "If this is true," said Wernog, "then we haven't a moment to waste. Let Avacyn's justice be swift."
Wernog and Cecily crouched outside the windows of the Havengul Laboratory, clouds of bursting from the piping on the building's side. Within, danced around an array of vials and materials. Hacking off a chunk of ichorous meat, she mixed it with a piece of liquid . Something about this act seemed to please her, evident by the grin spreading across the alchemist's face.
"That's Damonenblut. That garbage she's her subjects."
"?" Wernog asked. "You're accusing a scientist of demonology. She must have a reason."
"That's what you're here for. Why don't we ask her some questions? Nicely, of course. Seems like your vibe."
As the two spoke, a great rush of chilly wind tore across the . In the chambers of the laboratory, one of Bjorna's eyes snapped towards the two intruders. Before Cecily could protest, the alchemist pointed a gnarled finger towards the two of them. flew at them, shredding at the cloaks they wore.
"I thought you said she was an alchemist!" Wernog shouted as the laboratory's defenses whirred to life.
"Sorry that I didn't ask her about her skillset when I was on!" Cecily vaulted over the now-broken windowsill, attempting to conjure some form of energy to fling at the woman. Her restraints as she did, moonsilver sigils hindering her magic. Still, sputters of lept from her fingertips and into the chest of the alchemist. Bjorna lowered her head to her hands and let out an ungodly screech. The loose pieces of metal in her laboratory began to shake, coalescing into the shape of a .
"Interloper! " Bjorna shouted. Her eyes seemed to steam with the same energy of Cecily's magic. "You'll never reach the Writhing One's ! Cecily Von Brandt, your madness will be !" Her words seemed to command the golem as it lumbered towards Cecily.
Attempting to , Cecily found that the restraints had gotten so tight, the tips of her fingers had begun to turn dark red. As the golem whirred and approached the wizard, Cecily shut her eyes tightly as its metal arm swung down on her.
"Child, get down!" Wernog entered, his censer at the golem. The burner collided with the construct's face, incense spreading across the laboratory floor. "We'll handle the metal beast. You take out the alchemist." Wernog began to trace symbols in the air.
Before Cecily could ask who "we" was, the incense from Wernog's censer had begun to condense in the air. The thick scent of burning materials filled the room, causing tears to well into her eyes. Then, as if from thin air, a being emerged. As if born from the mist itself, an broke from the cloud of incense, swinging a misty sword at the golem. It met the swings with the metal of its forearms once, then twice. But the third time, the angel's platinum blade swung down on the golem's head, cleaving it in .
Bjorna stared in awe at the chaplain, who breathed heavily as he reeled in his device. The angel dissipated in tandem with Wernog's exhaustion. In this brief moment of respite, Bjorna lept toward Cecily, stabbing into her with her sharp fingernails. Her mind became filled with a fog: of the devils and demons this woman had fed into her. "May your last moments be filled with the screams of the damned, witch! The will consume your soul from the inside out!"
Bjorna spat into her face. Shaking her, Cecily reeled her neck back and slammed her forehead into the alchemist's nose, breaking it with a sickening crack.
"Get out of my head!" Cecily screamed, flinging more at the alchemist. The purple beads exploded against her as she spat blood onto the floor. With the same magic she had cursed Cecily with, the light faded from Bjorna's eyes, and she was gone.
Outside, Cecily shook beneath the streetlamps of Havengul. A few passed by, possibly of her own imagination. From the doors, Wernog emerged, looking better now that he'd had time to collect his thoughts. Looking at the young mage still bleeding from her battle wounds, he saw a deep fear in her face.
"Far from me to pry, Cecily, but the woman there seemed to have some choice words for you."
"Madness. Yep. Runs in my family ever since Avacyn . Bjorna's vile things sort of... beckoned it back out. Not that you'd know anything about that kind of mess."
"I think you'd be surprised. I did my time." Wernog said as he nestled down next to her. "I was one of the first the Mad Angel took. Heard the of the angels to cleanse my town. Nearly burnt it to a crisp one night."
"And they just let you go after that? Become a holy priest?" Cecily scoffed. "Lucky man."
"The opposite. Stuck me in for nearly half a decade. Thought they could fix me with the school of hard knocks. Did nothing for me." Wernog picked at the blazing symbol of Avacyn on his forehead, burnt there ever since his first rampage in the streets of Gavony. "But I found people I could trust. Sophina, Thalia, and . People can't fix madness. But they can make it worth living beyond it."
Cecily thought for a moment, wrapping herself deeper into her cloak. "Does it ever get quieter?"
Wernog listened for a moment. Whispers of angels beckoned him to perform heinous actions. Terrible deeds. But he turned his mind away from them. Looked out on the town that he had saved. A , whatever that meant now. "It doesn't. But we can make the world louder."