Out now from Avon, here’s an extract from the latest thrillfest from Scott Mariani:
The first rumours had begun to circulate about a month after Salvator’s recovery. Just a few passing whispers to begin with, quickly growing to a widespread consensus that the presence of this itinerant priest was cause for deep concern. Increasingly, villagers complained that the content of his sermons was scandalous. He railed against core doctrines of the Church, even attacked the views of the Pope, which he declared to be ignoble and ungodly. But that wasn’t the worst of it. What really worried people were the seizures.
Once while feeding the pigs and again in the middle of delivering one of his sermons, Salvator had been seen suddenly to go rigid, then drop to the ground and begin to thrash about in a way that absolutely terrified those who witnessed it. During these inexplicable convulsions, his limbs would twitch violently and his face would contort in the most horrible way, foam drooling from the corners of his mouth and his one eye rolled up in its socket so that only the white showed. Most alarmingly of all, it was reported that he would babble and croak in a strange, guttural language that none of the villagers had ever heard before.
As the rumours inevitably gathered momentum, so did the growing belief that Salvator was possessed by demons. They’d all heard of such things, though never before seen it with their own eyes. What else could explain these frightful episodes?
It was after the third seizure happened that the village elders convened to discuss the urgent situation. The assembly of greybeards unanimously decided that such evil could not be allowed to remain in their midst. Despite the risks posed by the weather, they all agreed that their best horseman, a young carpenter named Guy, should be dispatched at once to the nearby town to notify the higher church authorities. In the meantime, Salvator should be locked up in a stone barn outside the village walls and guarded day and night, so that whatever sinister forces had taken hold of him could do no further harm.
When, after several worrying days, Guy returned from his trek, he was accompanied by an envoy of the bishop and a small party of officials and soldiers, who rapidly set up court in the village’s tiny stone chapel and summoned the prisoner to be brought before them. Covered in chains, Salvator was forced to prostrate himself in front of the bishop’s envoy, explain himself for preaching such scandalous and profane sermons, and provide evidence to all present that he was not in league with powers of Satan.
The evidence Salvator gave them was all they needed. Right before their eyes, and to their horror and satisfaction in equal measure, he succumbed to yet another bout of convulsions that proved beyond any doubt that some devilish entity had taken possession of this man’s soul. There was no alternative but to purge it out, to banish the demon and cleanse the corrupted fleshly vessel that had been its host.
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