The acrid taint of burning incense did nothing to mask the rancid stink that permeated the desecrated sanctuary. Reavers had crawled over the walls and altar like leather beetles, stripping the trappings of the sanctuary like flesh from bone. Taking their pickings, reavers left their leaders to bask in the profane overthrow.
Their chief, Rolf, sprawled in the cathedra, one leg draped over an arm, the other leg stretched out with his foot resting on the altar. His hoard of keys, trophies from his many raids, hung from his belt, jingling each time he shifted in the chair. He chewed on the end of a hard, stale loaf of Eucharist bread, crumbs raining down on his bare chest. His leather britches, cracked and patched, were stuffed into the tops of his buskins.
Garrett, his second, strode up the center aisle his arms full of pilfered solid gold chains, necklaces of fine silver and amethyst, chalices adorned in rubies and diamonds. Pouring them out on the altar, he stirred the pile, selecting a single signet ring. Slipping it on the third finger of his right hand, Garrett held it up to admire his plunder.
“Henceforth, you will address me as, ‘Your Excellency’,” Garrett proclaimed.
Rolf unfurled himself from the church throne and bowed to his second. “My Lord.”
The two men laughed until they lost their breath, having to hold on to the altar to stay upright.
“Where is Reverend Constantini?” Rolf asked between fits of laughter.
“Blaine is still interrogating him,” Garrett said. “An ignominious inquisition.”
As if on cue, the two men heard an anguished scream.
“Ah, Blaine is making progress,” Garrett said.
The men stumbled as a distant rumbling could be heard then felt through the thick stone walls of the church. The altar skidded across the apse, wobbling on its acacia wood legs. The brass fitting tapping out a violent staccato. Trappings not pilfered fell off the walls, the pile of stolen goods rattled to the floor.
Using the backs of the pews as support, Rolf and Garrett made their way down the center aisle trying to get out of the church before the ceiling fell. Chunks of plaster crashed around them, wood splintered and shot through the air like missiles.
Halfway to safety, the narthex doors burst open ushering in a maelstrom of debris and Rev. Constantini. His clothes bloody and in tatters, Constantini rolled something down the aisle. The head of inquisitor Blaine came to rest at Rolf’s feet, his milky eyes staring up at the ceiling.
“Greater men than you have tried to assault the church,” Constantini said. “Greater men have failed.”
Garrett heaved into the closest pew. Rolf stepped back from the mangled head, swallowing the bile rising in his throat.
“Where are the rest of my men?” Rolf finally managed to say.
“The same punishment has been exacted on your lackey barbarians. I would think pirates like you would be accustomed to bloodshed,” Constantini said. “Is a little gore making you sick?”
“How are you doing this?” Rolf said. “You were alone here. Who is doing this?”
“Your blasphemy has angered the church Divine.”
“Which god?” Rolf hissed between clinched teeth.
“All of them.”