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Catlan's Tales by Glyn Knowles

© Glyn Knowles

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The Monastery of St Valenick

The Monastery of St Valenick as it stands today, on the isle of the same name, needs no description to the people of the city or the lagoon. The island is the major connections to the mainland, linking the city to the inland trading routes that spread out across the near continent. The remains of the Monastery are a shadow of its former self, but it is still an active site of worship and a centre of care.

Sitting two miles from the Western Seagate across the main channel to the lagoon the Island of St Valenick has one remaining jetty from which the ferries still run. Where once a fishing village stood, now a solitary inn remains set back from the coast at the site of the old gates. “The Inn”, for such it is called, has basic rooms and stables for the travellers waiting for the ferry. Travellers make their way across the island via the old Monastery to the causeway and bridge that link the island to the mainland beyond.

Turning aside from his view of the island from the top of the wall beside the Western Seagate, Catlan walked along to the stone stairs that took him down to the harbour below. The morning ferry was heading towards the Seagate; it would soon be mooring up to disgorge today’s first load of travellers. The cargo would be quickly loaded onto the waiting narrow punts to go to the market in the northern quarter of the city, via the Market Canal that flowed into the harbour. This harbour was the life blood of the city, bringing in the fresh produce from the mainland and surrounding lagoon communities. It also served as the departing point for the dead on their way to the island cemetery of St Bernardino. The monks of St Valenick arrived here each day to tend to the needs of the ill and infirm.

It was to meet one of this order that Catlan found himself at the Western Harbour this morning. He had been paid by the Captain of the Artstone to escort the monk to the ship and to see to the transfer of his belongings. This monk had found himself promised to the Captain’s service for the long voyage east to the spice islands, to act as medical officer and surgeon.

Like all the city folk, Catlan was well used to the sight of these monks, he had long ago become accustomed to their look. At first they seemed like any monk of any other order. Whether young or old they were garbed alike; dark brown habits with a white cowl, long sleeves and simple leather shoes. The Abbot was distinguished only by his red cowl and a novice by the pale blue. What set these monks apart from all others were the marks upon their body. The scars and cuts on their faces, necks, hands, arms and chests, mostly hidden beneath their habits. The age of a monk and his length of devotion could be seen writ upon his skin; some older brothers so disfigured that no inch of their face or arms was not covered with the signs of their strange worship.

Once down upon the harbour, and across the low bridge that arched above the Market Canal, Catlan stopped beside the shrine and said a short prayer to fortify his resolve. Like many of the city dwellers he saw the monks as a blessing, but also as a source of fear. They knew the art and mystery of healing, but the tales of the meanings of the scars had become a rich source of legend, fears and myths. Catlan was not generally a man given to the fears of other’s tales, but every man of the sea learns to respect the possibilities of all beliefs and faiths. The wide ocean was no place to tempt the fate of anyone’s gods or ghosts. He was stirred from his brief moment of devotion by a gentle tap on his shoulder and a low voice.

“The ferry has entered the Seagate, she’ll be here in a moment,” said the man at his back.

Crossing himself for reassurance, Catlan turned to eye his friend and, for today, his punt master.

“You’re no respecter of a man’s prayers are you Manas?” said Catlan in half joking manner.

“Not when you are paying so little, no!” he replied.

Manas was one of a number of punt owners that ferried cargo from wharves to market via the connecting canals of the city. Up for hire, their profits lay in a speedy delivery and rapid turnover, standing idly was not in their nature. This morning he was taking Catlan and his priestly cargo to the Eastern Harbour via the central market. Catlan had no intention of carrying the monk’s goods himself nor of enduring his company longer than he needed too. Call it superstition or common sense, but the monks dealt in life and death and Catlan needed no reminder of his age or mortality.

The ferry had furled its sails upon entering the Seagate channel, the ferrymen were straining at the oars to bring the bow sharply to starboard so the ferry’s port side could come to rest neatly alongside the quay. The skill of the ferrymen placed it smoothly into its moorings with practiced ease. Seconds later the ropes secured the ferry in place, and the passengers disembarked at the stern, while cargo was leaving amidships, landward to port and to starboard onto the waiting punts. Catlan and Manas remained at their ease, elbows resting on the shrine, irreverently watching the ebb and flow of goods and passengers in a well-orchestrated ballet of movement. They knew their monk would be one of the last to leave along with the others of the order just as they did every day. After half an hour a monk disembarked from the ferry holding only a small bag and then looked about quizzically. He was clearly seeking someone he did not know, and this was Catlan’s clue that his charge had appeared. Tapping Manas on the shoulder he set off in the monk’s direction, in his turn the monk spotted Catlan and both approached each other. At a respectful distance the monk stopped and bowed slightly to the pair. He was a youngish man in his mid- twenties, the scars on his exposed hands had only just begun to work their way up his arms, but so far there were none upon his face.

“You are sent to me for the Artstone I think? I’m Ursharanivich at your service.”

His accent and his name marked him out as a man from the north. Not unheard of here in the crossroads of the trading world, but unusual enough for one of them to be a monk, it caught the pair off guard for a passing moment.

Hesitating briefly Catlan replied, “We are sent to take you to it yes, but we are not from the ship. You have any more luggage?”

“It is in the hold awaiting your cart,” he said looking about. “Where is it left?”

“We’ll go by punt. Manas here will ferry us via the market so you can get any last-minute things you may need for the voyage. You will be gone a long time.”

“Very good, a most thoughtful gesture. What time will she sail?” he asked through his thick accent.

“Not till after dark, the next high tide is about ten tonight, and the ship is fully loaded so the Captain will want all the draft he can get on the run out to the channel,” Catlan informed him.

“You have plenty of time, but I’m not being paid by the hour, so let’s get to it if you please,” interjected Manas.

Whilst Catlan and Ursharanivich walked back to the ferry, Manas disappeared down a flight of steps at the edge of the quay to retrieve his punt, taking it quickly alongside the ferry. Swiftly the ferrymen loaded two chests onto the punt, then the monk and his guide shimmied down the rope. They settled onto the box set aside as their seat, and with quick swings of the pole their water borne carriage turned about, before gliding across the harbour towards the mouth of the Market Canal. The entrance was marked by solid stone pillars on either side, above was the arched bridge across which Catlan had crossed. The effect of the two with the sun high in the sky was to create a cavern of shadows into which various punts, bound for the market, entered and seemingly disappeared.

There are various tales about the meaning of the marks on the monk’s skin that made their way across the city. Catlan had his favourites to share in the bars he frequented. Buoyed up by his task today he sat with the sailors of the Artstone in an inn across the quay from the ship upon which the monk prepared for his journey.

“He seems a strange un,” said Talwynn the ship’s Boson to Catlan. A general murmur of agreement supported this view from the assembled crewmen.

“Maybe,” mused Catlan. “He must know his trade as a healer if the Captain is letting him on board.”

“It’s those odd marks and cuts that give me the creeps, they say they are all self-inflicted,” noted Talwynn with a look of disdain. “Do you think he will be doing that all the time we are at sea?”

“Not from what I know of them no,” Catlan offered. “They only do it in the Monastery, never beyond the walls.”

“Why?” asked Talwynn.

“Well get me a refill in my tankard and I’ll tell you what I know of those strange marks that so haunt you,” said Catlan draining his tankard and holding it towards Talwynn.

Obligingly Talwynn took it and picked up his own pot, “I fell for that one! Alright but this better be a tale worth the ale, you old rogue.” So saying he headed to the bar.

Settling down again and placing the now filled tankards on the table, “Well old man, time to earn your drink,” Talwynn said raising one quizzical eyebrow in Catlan’s direction.

“Some two hundred years or so ago the Monastery upon the isle was a thriving place of worship, commerce and one of the finest houses of healing. Its fame was known across the world. The only annoyance for the city’s Grand Dukes was the Abbots refusals to move to the city proper. The order has always considered itself to be above the loyalties to city or state, answering to a greater authority,” began Catlan, looking skyward with mock reverence.

“That all changed towards the end of the Trenic Wars. Before then it was a place of majesty and craft, the monks as plain skinned as the next man. It was the events of which I will tell you in this war that changed all that, and it was from those days onwards that the cost of worship and the knowledge to heal came with the price you see upon the arms of your new shipmate.”

“As you know the last Trenic War between the City and the Molinvian Empire was a struggle for control of the sea routes and ports along the shores of the Trenic Sea out beyond our harbour walls. The might of the Empire thrown against the naval skills of our fine City State. There was a time when the Empire was within a hair’s breadth of realising their goal. The fighting raged at the very gate and walls you see just beyond our harbour,” he said pointing past the Artstone to the solid harbour defences that keep the Trenic Sea’s worst assaults at bay.

“Amidst the naval power of the Empire one Captain was notorious as a talented sailor, a tactician and a brutal fighter. Captain Urbanc; they say he was over 6-foot-tall, dark haired and a man with few ambitions in each conflict but to brutally destroy his foe. Well, one night he led his fleet to a raid upon the wall of the Eastern Harbour. Sacrificing his flagship his gambit was simple. Full speed ram into the Seagate at night. The specially reinforced ship under full sail rammed into the gates hard enough to buckle the defences, running the keel up onto the shattered gate. Providing a landing platform wedged between the harbour walls for his troops to flood out to being the attack. No-one had prepared for a Captain to sacrifice his vessel to gain a foothold onto the city’s defences like that. His daring tactic gained him the advantage he desired. Abandoning his stricken vessel his chance at success now lay in main brute force. He needed to clear enough of the walls of the city’s defenders to establish his presence. No clever tactic or strategy would now determine the outcome of this assault. Neither side could deploy machine, trebuchet or catapult, even archers were of limited use in these close quarters. Only hand to hand combat was possible on the narrow walls, with precipitous falls on either side and an array of sword to the fore. The fight for the city was engaged. The imperial sailors and marines were well schooled and well-armed, but the city had learnt to defend itself from many foes - great and small. The final outcome is evident enough, or you and I would not be sat here today freemen of the city. We would be on bended knee to the Empire, if events had not gone our way.

Now as for our monks their fate was tied to that of Urbanc. For all his strength and training, the twists and turns of fortune in battle do not always hang on a man’s skill alone. The least skilful can still find a lucky strike. So, by whose hand Urbanc was struck we will never know, but speared by sword or pike he was. The tide of the Molinvian assault was no match for the city. So, like the raging sea, the harbour walls held their storm at bay. The enemy ebbed and flowed like an angry retreating tide.

There along the walls as the sun rose on the following morning, upon the beach head of their quelled storm, lay the flotsam and jetsam of the battle. Many dead and more soon to be so. Picking over the detritus of the assault were the scavengers of arms and goods, the friends of the fallen and the Monks of St Valenick seeking out those too far gone to save. To these poor souls they administered potions to ease their passing to eternal salvation. They also took away the few with a chance of recovery. Much to the aggravation of many, their calling made them men of compassion unbound by secular loyalty. A life is a life of equal value no matter their badge of earthly allegiance. So it was that the injured and blooded Urbanc was stretchered away by the good monks and taken to the hospital on the island to the south, from whence the monks still come to this day. An act of kindness that would change the fortunes of that grand old order forever.

Once Urbanc had been carried to the Hospital, that sat at the main entrance to the Monastic enclosure, the severity of his wounds became clear, that he was an officer of the Empire was also evident. This gave the Abbot certain problems. Much as the order was neutral in its giving of care, the practical and political realities were not so easy. A room was set aside for the limited number of commoners from the Imperial forces, many of whom were mercenaries. They might as easily have been employed in the defence of the city, so the animosity of the city folk to these men abated once the fighting had stopped. An officer, and clearly a high ranking one, was an altogether different affair.

So, seeing the need to keep this man from the view of others he was laid in a small private room at the far end of the main ward. The ward itself was a long, high-ceilinged building with windows set near the base of the roof line. Beds stretched down the outer walls with the central area filled with tables and cabinets of medical supplies. These were interspersed with braziers to provide some heat. Urbanc’s room lay next to the door into the monastery grounds.

Truth to tell the Abbot saw a chance to profit from this situation. Wealthy patrons grateful for the ministrations of the Order had over time been most generous to the Monastery and its Abbots. Two novices were directed by the Abbot to tend to the Captain once his wounds had been seen to by an experienced healer.

Now as we all know these monks have remarkable skills, so after two days the Captain’s life looked secure. The novices took to seeing to all his needs, reporting only to the Abbot on his daily visits. The novices had moved their simple beds to the area outside the Captain’s room at the insistence of the Abbot. Dedicated to their assigned task, they diligently tended to his wounds, saw to his meals and spoke to no one of their work. Over the next month they aided his recovery and, in this time, Urbanc regained some of his former strength, enough to become curious and concerned for his condition and future.

One morning, with the weak sun illuminating the room, one of the novices walked in carrying a bowl of porridge and a vial of green liquid. As he approached the patient, Urbanc grabbed his habit and pulled him in closer.

“What’s your name boy?” demanded Urbanc sitting up with a groan as the wounds objected to this sudden movement.

“Bogdan,” the novice replied.

“Well Bogdan, where am I? From your accent I would say I was too close to the city for comfort?”

“In the hospital of the Monastery of St Valenick, sir.”

“I should have guessed,” said Urbanc pulling the monk in closer. “So, is this my prison then? Your Duke looking to get me well enough to hang or trade?”

“No sir, I do not work for the Duke or the city. The Abbot has asked us to see to your care and comfort. What happens when you are well is a question for his Worship not me.”

“May be - what’s in that bowl?”

“Porridge, and this medicine will help your wounds heal and control the pain.”

“Or poison me!”

“You have been given this same infusion for over a week now. If we had meant you any harm we could have done it by now.”

“I was referring to the bowl of gruel. Give me the vial, then go find me some real food; meat and bread.”

“I will ask if that is allowed, you are still quite weak.”

“Tell your Abbot I’ll pay, just do as you’re told and get me some food,” directed Urbanc pushing the monk back.

Bogdan obliged and leaving the vial by the bed headed off in search of the Abbott. A while later he returned with a second novice and a plate of steaming meat and hot bread.

“Much better, who’s your friend? Afraid to face me alone then?” laughed Urbanc taking the plate off the novice.

“Pathket at your service,” introduced the second novice.

So it was that over the coming weeks Bogdan and Pathket were nurse and waiter to the strengthening Urbanc. Their conversation grew from mistrust to something akin to friendship. Each day Urbanc asked careful questions of the novices to work out what he could of the conflict, the situation he was in and the strength of arms in the Monastery. What he could not know, for the boys had no knowledge to share, was the Abbot’s plans for him once he recovered. And that point was fast approaching.

Urbanc was a military man of the Empire and he held little faith in anything, let alone the expressed impartiality of the Abbot. Even if he was true to his oath, the moment he stepped outside the Monastery he would be subject to the authority of the City. The Duke was unlikely to be benevolent to the man that had smashed his precious Seagate to splinters. To Urbanc his only valid option was to make it across the causeway to the mainland before the Abbott thought he was fit enough. For that he needed his sword or at least some serviceable weapon. The novices were never armed, and he saw nor heard any sign of soldiers. The latter was a bonus, the former a hinderance as finding a weapon would waste time once he decided to attempt his escape.

Over the following month Urbanc observed what he could of the rhythm of the hospital and the Monastery. It was obvious that the monks did not have any defences inside the walls, from what he could gather they relied completely on their faith and their impartiality to defend them. The military shadow of the city only a few miles away naturally made this relaxed approach something of an easy burden. No serious threat to these healers, so useful to the city, was likely to go unanswered from the armies of the Grand Duke. However, the lack of a standing armed presence gave Urbanc the edge he needed to make good an escape. With only some monks to avoid he could see no impediment to his quick return to the ranks of the Imperial Navy as and when he chose. With this easy route in mind Urbanc figured he had enough of a weapon in his meal knife to deter any monastic interference.

Back in the City with the most immediate threat suppressed and the repairs to the Seagate and the harbour walls underway, the Duke and his general staff had turned some of their attention to the question of the whereabouts of Captain Urbanc. If he was dead, it would be an object lesson to the patrolling Molinvian ships to see their “hero’s” remains hanging from the harbour walls. If somehow he was alive and within the City, or more likely out in the lagoon, his life would be of great value to the City.

Naturally the suspicion that Urbanc was recovering under the protection of the Abbott was upper most in the Duke’s mind. The Abbott had piously declined to discuss the details of any of his wards and was quick to remind the Duke of the famed neutrality of the order. The Abbott after all could change his philosophical position as and when the situation best suited the Abbott and the Order.

Not all the monks of the Order were as devoted as the Abbott, indeed several of them were younger and junior members of the Ducal family. Thus, the Duke learnt of Urbanc’s presence in the hospital. Mindful of the long-standing treaties and customs between the City State and the Order, the Duke refused to enter the Monastery or its lands. However, under the pretext of the City’s ongoing concern for the monks from the despicable and heretical actions of the Empire, he sent a well-armed honour guard to maintain order on the road to the Monastery. A fact unknown to Urbanc.

The sun had set over an hour ago, the novices had lit the candles and the brazier in Urbanc’s room before retiring to evening prayers. The evening meal would be served shortly after, then Urbanc would be left to read and sleep for the night. The monks were true to their impartiality and he was treated well, given good food and wines. His room was never locked or guarded. The novices slept on their rude beds outside his room, not to act as jailers but to be available to him and discourage casual curiosity from others.

Urbanc thanked the lads for the food and wine, asked for a little extra wood for the fire and then wished them a pleasant night, he even shared a brief blessing with them as was now their custom. Urbanc waited till the sounds of the Monastery had subsided and settled into its nocturnal pattern. He weighed the knife in his hand and judged its limited utility to be suitable enough. He didn’t expect to use it as more than a threat inside these walls. Beyond that he would need a real weapon, but the first task was to be past the walls and off this island. He chose this night with care, if he judged right the tide would be out in about 30 minutes and the causeway clear for a good few hours. The moon was full and there were only some low passing clouds adorning the night sky.

Although he had a very rough idea of the lay of the land, he had only ever seen this island from the deck of a ship. He knew the sea charts well enough and if he was escaping by boat he could probably navigate home blind folded. Tempting as the idea was of acquiring a vessel, he would never outrun the city’s pursuers in a boat he could control on his own. So much as the sea was his natural home, this venture would have to be overland; for now at least. Urbanc had decided if he could maintain enough stealth he would get to a high point inside the walls, a tower or roof perhaps, and from there get his bearings before heading to one of the gates. He assumed a place as big as this would have side gates to the farmland or for tradesman, these would make for a quieter exit than the undoubtedly well watched main gate. It would be risky to devote precious time to this elevated survey, but in the long run a gamble worth the information it would give him.

Urbanc bound lengths of cloth over his feet. Placed his knife and some coins into the pockets of a sea cloak and began his escape in the dead of night, just as he judged the tide was at its lowest. Outside the door to his room Bogdan was snoring softly, but Pathket’s billet was empty. Out into the ward he stole on silent feet making his way towards the door. Once through the door he found himself at the foot of the stairs up to the tower. Urbanc was elated by his good fortune, the vantage point he desired placed right where he needed it. So, he crept up the spiral stairs, silent as an owl on the hunt.

Pathket was returning from his vigil in the Chapel just as Urbanc was putting his plan into effect. When Pathket arrived back at his bed he noticed the room door ajar. Looking in he instantly saw Urbanc’s bed empty. Confused he turned to Bogdan still asleep in his bunk.

“Wake up!” Pathket whispered, shaking his companion. “Wake up, he’s gone.”

“What? Go away,” came the sleepy reply.

“No, get up. Urbanc is not in his room,” Pathket said in increasingly anxious tones.

Bogdan stirred, “What’s going on?”

“He has gone, look,” Pathket was all but dragging Bogdan from his bunk.

The sight of the empty room woke Bogdan up instantly. “Oh God!” Bogdan grabbed his cowl and shoes and turned to look at Pathket, “What do we do now?”

“He can’t have gone too far,” reasoned Pathket.

“No, maybe he’s gone looking for more wine, if the other brothers find him the Abbott is going to kill us both.” Bogdan was now looking about trying to decide where to go first. “OK, he must have headed that way,” suggested Bogdan pointing back the way Pathket had come from the chapel.

“Guess so, if we can get him back here before the others notice we might be OK,” said Pathket as he turned and walked towards the door leading from the ward to the Monastery.

As they began to pass the base of the tower, Urbanc himself was at the top and had just spied the numerous camp fires of the Ducal honour guard. He realised his escape was not going to be as easy as he hoped. Cursing loudly, like the seasoned sea captain he was, he turned to descend the stairs and at least get free of the Monastery. The curse echoed down the stone clad spiral staircase and reached the ears of the novices below. A curse that was about to seal the fate of Urbanc and the monks of St Valenick forever.”

Catlan stopped and took a dramatic swig of his ale, checking briefly that he still held the attention of his audience, before launching into his final assault of the tale.

“The novices froze. Turned a quizzical look at each other, confused by Urbanc’s curse from above.

“What is he doing up there?” asked Pathket.

“There’s nothing up there but bell ropes and dust,” observed Bogdan. “At least we have found him,” he said as he rushed up the stairs with Pathket following on behind.

Running upwards the two young men almost crashed into Urbanc as he leaped downwards taking the stairs two at a time. As he rounded a corner, Urbanc spied Bogdan seconds before the novice realised what was happening. The knife flashed in Urbanc’s hand and Bogdan was dead before his startled eyes had time to see his doom. Urbanc vaulted over the falling monk with Pathket clearly in his sights. Pathket was an athletic young man and the fleeting second it had taken to kill Bogdan was all he needed to turn and run full speed down the tower. Once down he turned towards the chapel, then turned left into the courtyard, sprinting for the dorms on the far side for help. The moment he reached open air he screamed an alarm at the top of his voice; continuing to sprint for his life with Urbanc in frantic pursuit.

Determined to silence the novice, Urbanc raced after him, dagger at the ready. His youth and strength notwithstanding, Pathket was never going to be any real challenge to Urbanc. Pathket was grabbed from behind by his hood, kicked in the back of the knees, he fell to the ground. Urbanc was upon Pathket instantly, his knees pressed into the boy’s neck, half choking him, The blow was swift and deadly, the knife piercing the boy’s right eye, ending his life with the question, “why?”, unspoken on his strangled lips.

By now the watchers on the main gate had sounded the alarm, raising the monks from their dorm and the Ducal guard from beyond the gate. Rushing forward the night watch of the guards were quickly at the entrance demanding admission. The monks startled by this murder in their peaceful enclave were wise enough to know the limits of their own defences. They opened the gates at once. Urbanc realising his plan had collapsed decided to chance the side gate to the left of the dorm. That meant cutting across the path of the advancing guards, but it was his only option now that all pretence at secrecy was gone.

The vanguard of the troops ran to intercept Urbanc, as monks scattered out of his way, leaving him an open target. The Sargent of the guards shouted some orders and the troops abruptly halted: all but one, who took two steps forward. He raised his bow and loosed a single arrow with practiced ease. In full flight Urbanc suddenly stumbled grasping in one last treacherous breath. He died clutching at the arrow in his chest as it quivered to a halt, echoing the failing beat of his heart as his blood soaked into the holy ground around him. And so Urbanc, Captain of his Imperial Majesty’s Navy, came to his end. His last act was to betray the two innocent novices that had shown him only kindness and compassion.

The bodies of the fallen novices were removed by the monks to the chapel. Urbanc’s remains were passed over to the Guards. His body hung upon the harbour walls for the amusement of the city folk and food for the gulls. In time his skull was returned to the Emperor in a golden box, a gift from the Duke as a reminder of the resilience and the wealth of the City.

The novices were laid to rest at the base of the tower, beside the hospital to which they had devoted their young lives. The Abbott had granted this internment as a mark of respect to the two young men. This is where it should have ended, tragic as it was for the order, but the spirits of the novices did not wish to rest so easily, nor could they forgive their ill treatment.

Within a week of the burials, healthy monks and patients recovered from their ills, began to die suddenly at night. Each death was marked by blood oozing from the throat and the eyes. Two deaths each night. No one that was ill or injured in any way died of these strange and gruesome causes. The monks and the Abbott could find no logical cause or culprit. No one wanted to admit their fears of the spirits that must be taking their revenge. Patients began to discharge themselves, and word quickly spread to the city and the lagoon of these ghostly murders. No one was willing to enter the Monastery for help, so the monks began to cross the channel each day to the city to provide their care.

Bereft of other victims the nightly deaths spread increasingly to the population of brother monks. Only those with illness or injury seemed safe, indeed wounds it was said healed quicker than expected. The unharmed, however, risked a bloody death. Many of the younger more impressionable monks began to tell of the ghosts of the murdered novices seeking to help but taking revenge on anyone not in need of their care. These monks began making small cuts on their skin or accidentally injuring themselves on knives or while tending to the farm. The custom has spread and now 200 years on the practice is as much a part of the rituals of the order as are the vigils of the chapel. No sane person has entered the hospital since then, fearful of their lives and of those that would choose to be monks of the order of St Valenick.

So my friends, now you know the secret of the monk that awaits the turning of the tide upon your ship. I hope for your sake the spirit of the novices is not with him, trapped as you will be on that vessel for months at sea, concluded Catlan with a sly laugh at the monk’s shipmates.

The night was drawing on, the jars of ale emptied, and the crewmen sat in silent contemplation of Catlan’s tale. The bosun stirred first “Right you scum get going, the Captain will be looking to cast off in a few hours.” Backing away from Catlan he gave him his farewell, “Good evening Catlan, your story has not brought much comfort to us before the voyage, but it was a good tall tale none-the-less.”

“Safe journey my friends, and if God is willing my old bones will be here when you return - if you return,” he laughed. So Catlan was left alone with his ale and his memories of the sea.

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