Father Matthew had spoken to the nuns who said that Karissa was ready to receive the sacrament of Baptism. His concern for the woman was deep; she seemed a good, honest woman who had been tricked and deceived by evil.
He headed off to the tavern. “Good evening my child.” He blessed the tavern as he entered.
Karissa seemed to force a smile “Good evening Father ”
They sat and talked briefly. The priest explained the nuns’ report and the importance of baptism to a troubled soul. “It is an important step in saving your soul my child. God will wash away the transgressions of your past. The sins of the flesh that you committed will be forgiven. You will be able to start your life as a good Christian woman.”
As they spoke Baylee entered. Karissa half whispered to her, “Baylee, looks like there is gonna be a baptizing.”
BayLee turned quickly and asked “Whose?”
“Mine” she whispered. “Coming?”
Karissa replied “If you want.” as she headed out after the priest. They passed Wooden and several peasants on the way to the Abbey. The priest arrived first at the Abbey and went to the fount to prepare it.
Bryantt Sands entered and shouted, loving the echo of his voice, “Good eve.” The priest blessed him, the two men making small talk. Bryant’s eyes reflected surprise that Karissa was about to be baptized. He moved slowly forward to the front pew and sat somewhat stunned.
“Come and stand by the baptismal fount Lady Karissa.”
She paused by Bryantt. “The Father says it will keep me safe from evil spirits.” Bryantt rolled his eyes and Baylee seemed visibly shaken.
Karissa shifted nervously from side to side. The priest began “Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power. In baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament. At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.”
Wooden entered and watched from a distance.
“Through the waters of the Red Sea you led Israel out of slavery to be an image of God’s holy people, set free from sin by baptism. In the waters of the Jordan your Son was baptized by John and annointed with the Spirit. Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from his side as he hung upon the cross. After his resurrection he told his disciples: ‘Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Father, look now with love upon your Church, and unseal for her the fountain of baptism. By the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son. You created man in your own likeness: cleanse him from sin in a new birth to innocence by water and the Spirit.”
Father Matthew touched the water with his right hand and continued. “We ask you, Father, with your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the water of this font. May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
Karissa Leimes watched quietly, listening to the words.
“If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, take now the vows of your baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which you are about to be baptized.”
Bryantt Sands sat shaking his head slowly back and forth feeling a chill in the air.
Father Matthew continued “I will now ask you a series of questions Karissa. You respond “I Do. Do you reject Satan?”
Bryantt Sands listened intently
She responded “I do.”
“And all his works?”
Karissa shivered slightly “I do”
“Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?”
“Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?”
“Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?”
“Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?”
“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?”
Bryantt Sands sighed audibly.
“Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?”
Karissa looks around the room, half expecting something to happen before responding “I do.”
“This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Karissa nodded as she listened.
“Is it your will that you should be baptized in the faith of the Church?”
“Is it your will Karissa?”
Bryantt Sands squeezed his sword handle harder.
Karissa glance over towards Bryantt. “Yes it is my will.”
“Lean over the fount and receive the Holy Spirit Karissa.”
Wooden glanced quietly around, always at the ready for any sort of trouble that should walk this way.
“Karissa, I baptize you in the name of the Father.” He scooped up water and poured it upon her head. “And of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Karissa shivered as the water ran down. The priest than annointed her head.
“God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with salvation. As Christ was annointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life. You are baptized and all your past sins forgiven my child as you have taken Jesus as your Savior.”
Bryantt sighed softly wondering where this came from.
“You are now a soldier of Christ in the war against sin and evil.”
The Warden cleared his throat loudly “ERMMMMM. Yes Father. Thank you.” Than he looked to Kris. “Are you alright Lady Karissa?”
She replied “Yes I am fine.”
The priest dismissed them “Go and live as a model of virtue to the other women in Roxeter.” Karissa tilted her head, eyes widening at Father Matthew’s words.
Wooden raised an eyebrow at the priest’s words to the Lady Karissa.
“I assure you Father the Lady Karissa is a model to all.” replied the Warden touching her hand.
As they parted the Lady Karissa told the priest she would be available if he had more questions. The priest proposed a celebration at the tavern.
Karissa unsure of the right words to use nodded, “Yes come Father, I just made a fresh pot of stew today, although I do need to find time to see Gus for some more fresh vegetables.”
Wooden smiled at the word “celebration”, as it usually involved some ale.
At the Inn, the priest was all smiles as Karissa fetched Wooden and him bowls of her delicious stew. The men introduced themselves and felt each other out. Soon after Baylee and Bryant arrived. Lady Karissa began serving ale and tea to the party. The priest made a show of wanting to pay for the meal, taking coins from a small purse.
The Warden commented “I will remind the Countess to leave a bit extra in the tray next Sunday.” Small talked followed until Karissa asked the priest if he had visited Tanninhold.
His response started an interesting interplay with the Warden
“I have not gone south yet as there are more here i wish to question first.”
Bryantt replied quickly, “More? Here Father? Who?” Baylee squirmed nervously.
“Well, the Lady Baylee, the countess and yourself for sure. And the old farmer.”
“Me? I have nothing to confess Father,” was the Warden’s response.
Baylee questioned “Me Father?”
Behind them Karissa smiled thinking she would like to watch him question Gus. Wooden sat drinking and listening.
The priest answered the Warden “You all have seen the effects of the evil that was here.” Wooden looked up at the mention of evil.
“I have seen no evil to speak of Father. Men are men. Women are women. We have flaws, but evil?” Bryantt shook his head.
Wooden supported his friend “Aye, nor have I.”
The priest went on, saying that he had spoken to some of the peasants and they have seen or felt the presence of evil. Bryant dismissed this with remarks that the less fortunate needed something to believe in or to fear. The conversation continued with each man driving his point.
“As Inquisitor is my duty to track down evil and heresy.”
Bryantt retorted, “As you wish Father but I think you are wasting your time. There is no evil in Roxeter. There was an evil man, but he is gone now, never to return.”
The priest seemingly dismissed his comment “Well I must report to Rome and the Queen. I wish that report to be thorough and complete.”
“As you wish Father Seek out this evil.”
“You know who Lady Karissa.” Karissa lowered her head answering soflty “He wasn’t evil.”
The priest continued. “That I shall, as I have given my word to the Pope and the Queen.”
“I should like to see this encounter between the priest and what ever evil lurks.” commented Wooden.
“I thank you for the offer Wooden, but the smith Dom is assisting me.” He turned to the Warden “What man is this you speak of Warden?”
Bryantt rubbed his side, looking at Karissa. “He was a man Father. Perhaps an impostor but I do not know, He posed as a priest, but as far as I know HE was no priest. He was your evil spirit.”
“Ahh you speak of Father Barnard…”
“I will not speak the name of that person Father.”
Wooden seemed tp notice the Lady Karissa as her demeanor changed quickly when speaking of the other priest.
The Dominican continued “He is no longer a priest. I had in my valise that was stolen the papers from Rome and from the Society of Jesus releasing him from his vows. I have spoken to him briefly and I believe that, as with the Lady Karissa, that a greater evil was at work. I intend to find it.”
Bryantt felt his blood boil at the mention of Father Barnard.
Baylee decided to leave. “I have work to do down in your establishment Warden, so if you will excuse me? Wooden, the girls are looking for you, don’t be a stranger. Father good evening.”
Karissa looked to Wooden and said in a lighter tone “I guess your reputation precedes you Wooden.” Wooden smiled broadly. Father Matthew shook his head, knowing sin was about to be done.
He tried to shake it off so as not to ruin the celebration of a baptism. “The tea was delicious Lady Karissa but nothing compares to your stew.”
At Bryant’s invitation Karissa joined them. She offered them more stew before sitting down. Bryantt leaned back in his chair looking at Kris then the good Father, he decided to keep his mouth shut. He may say something he would later regret to the Good Father.
Karissa offered Father Matthew more stew. He declined. “No, if I indulge in your stew too much I will look like one of those old scribe monks in the abbey.”
Karissa’s laughed. “Sister Agatha’s cooking must be good!”
“Good? I am not certain. Fattening for sure.”
“Oh and Dom has completed work on some equipment to aid me in questioning heretics and pagans.”
“Oh he has? That must be where he has been hiding.” she commented.
Bryantt asked, “Equipment Father? What kind of Equipment? If I may ask.”
The response was brief “A rack.”
The Warden exclaimed, “A RACK!?”
The priest responded simply, “I had very good results in Spain with it.”
“What kind of questions do you need a rack for Father?”
“To get to the truth.”
Bryantt’s eyes widened as he stared at the Father. “I would hope you consult me before you use any ‘Equipment’ on any of our citizens.”
“Pagans and heretics often lie Warden. Surely you have experienced the same?”
Karissa shivered and dropped her head, “Surely you wouldn’t use such a …horrible device.”
Bryantt replied “I have Father, but I have not tortured anyone to get answers.”
Speaking to the lady the priest said “It is part of God’s work my child….to flush out heresy and evil.”
“I have found it quit effective.”
Bryant thought of one person who might look good on a rack. “Father Barnard,” he whispered to himself.
Karissa glared at Bryantt.
Father Matthew thought of the whore with the attitude but said nothing. “I will keep you informed of any pertinent civil information I obtain Warden.”
“Please do Father. Please do”
“There are a few folks I have suspicions of already from my ‘interviews’ with the peasants.” the priest reported.
“Remember Father, they have nothing to lose and much to gain from well …lets just say they may not be telling the truth but just what they think you Want to hear.”
“Surely you want the area cleansed of pagans and heretics? This is a Christian community is in not?”
“Yes Father but if you take away all the people who have sinned we may have no one left. Besides I know of no Pagans or Heretics in this town Father. Only people working for a living. Sinners can be reformed.” he answered smiling at Karissa.
Karissa smiled and said, “Maybe we should start questioning the Countess?” A mischievous smile lit up her face.
Father Matthew continued, “Even some pagans can be converted but heretics……burning is the only way.”
Bryantt spoke up. “Father, the good Countess is beyond reproach. I know. She may have some flaws but she is a good woman with the good of the people of Roxeter at heart.”
The priest replied, “Well I was told before I came that she had a fondness for alcohol and gambling….two of the devils tools to pull good people astray”
Bryantt crossed his arms and sat back in his chair. “Well Father I knew of these traits in the Countess and she has mended her ways.”
“Well what I have learned thus far seems to collaborate that information Warden.”
The Lady looked surprised. “But Bryantt,” she whispered.
“I would like to know who told you these things father?”
The priest goes on “Plus her manner of dress is often scandalous. THAT I have seen with my own eyes!”
“Well I mean she is still in here quite often.” stuttered Karissa.
“She dresses as any lady of the court does Father, no different from the people in London, and yes Karissa she is here with me. As the Father said, a bit of drink hurt no one.”
“I can only tell you that I have multiple sources Warden.”
“I will contest those things Father” challenged Bryantt. “It takes a strong woman to run a town as she had before me. Now I am here to help her and to see to her bad habits. You can ask the Queen about that.” Karissa pressed her lips tightly together.
“It was the Queen who chose me to be warden. There are no special cases Father but I would not risk the Queen’s wrath. After all Father, they are cousins and she is close to the Queen.”
Snickering the priest retorts “I am well aware of her relationship to the Queen and your ‘appointment.’ But I prefer the wrath of a Queen to the wraith of God.”
“I prefer neither father.” smiled Warden.
The priest continued, “And the Queen fully supports my mission here.”
“I am sure she does Father, but we are far from the Queen and from Rome.”
“Her Majesty wishes her kingdom purged of heresy and pagans.”
Before the priest could say more, Bryantt said, “I wish you well in your quest Father but I will not have havoc in this town I am here to keep peace and order, and I will.”
“Remember Warden I am here as an Agent for both Church and Crown.”
“I am an agent of the good people of Roxeter Father. I was told to keep peace and it is MY duty to them to do so.”
“Your task is to support the rules of Church and Crown sir.”
“As long as they do not disturb my peace here Father, that is all I ask. I am a fair man. A just man.”
Karissa looked back and forth between the men as tension mounted. “Please enough.”
“And I shall see you do support Church and Crown,” the priest replied, looking the Warden square in the eye.
“I will Father. But just remember my words.”
“And you remember mine Warden.”
Neither man backing down.
“I am afraid business calls me Father. I wish you both well.”
“Remember you serve at the pleasure of the Queen Warden.”
The Warden looked at Karissa as he stormed out the door.
Karissa whispered a heart felt “I’m sorry Father.”
“No need my child.”
She tried to explain “He doesn’t really believe in any spirits and demons and stuff.”
The priest sipped his tea and mentally added the Warden to the list of suspects who do the devil’s work. “I am afraid I question his faithfulness to Holy Mother Church Lady. There are only two people I feel who are above reproach and we both sit here my child.” He smiled at her.
“I hope I do not disappoint you Father.” She frowned, worried about the words unleashed here today.
“I place more faith in the word of the peasants than your friend Bryantt. We need to speak more of the events about the demon and how he came to be here. Perhaps at the Abbey. You can try the nun’s cooking for yourself.” He smiled.
Karissa took a very long sip of her tea.