Friday, 18 November 2011

Chapter 25 - Scourge of the church

Friar Francis paused and lit another cigarettes, I lit one too. My cup of tea was only half drunk and was now cold. Hammond brought us both a fresh cup.  My breakfast plate was a mess of congealed egg and cigarette ash with butts standing haphazardly. I didn’t speak a word, we just enjoyed a brief smoke before he continued the story.

In the time until Jesus ascended into Heaven Lazarus begged him for forgiveness. He pleaded for Jesus to take him with him. His pleas were to no avail, he would have to suffer his punishment and await Jesus’ return for the final judgement.

After the ascension Lazarus tried to continue to work with the other disciples in spreading the gospel. They refused to work alongside him knowing that he had been condemned by their Messiah.

Ostracized Lazarus began to fade into the background and spent more time at home, hiding himself away with his sisters and their families. As the years passed by and they began to grow old. Not knowing of Jesus’ judgement, everyone remarked at how blessed Lazarus was to retain his youth. It was a bitter compliment.

Eventually his sisters died, he still had not aged a day, but they both withered away, wrinkled and feeble. Over the years the congratulations of blessings had twisted as his circle of friends and family dwindled. Now he could hear whispers of fear. He had become a fair faced monster, a youth that never aged. He was unnatural and unwelcome.

The mutterings drove him from his home, now an empty sad place anyway. For three hundred years no-one really knows where he went, or how he spent his time. There are rumours that he visited with mystics in the East, at first to seek a way to end his suffering. When this quest failed, he later sought to develop powers that make him the threat he is today.

Friar Francis interrupts his story, saying that this is what made Lazarus so dangerous. As a mortal he was charismatic and full of vigour, but still just a mortal. There’s only so much that can be learned in our short lives. In thirty lifetimes he has gathered a vast wealth of knowledge and has developed his powers to a remarkable level, beyond that even of the Champions in some aspects.

Lazarus doesn’t come back into the notice of the world for three hundred years. It is no coincidence that he makes his appearance in the Middle East and Europe around the time the Catholic Church became fully formed.

Those years had desolated his soul. He had found nothing that could destroy the miracle inside him. . He saw the fledgling church and hated it. He hated what it represented and he hated everything. From that moment on he dedicated his existence to the destruction of the church.

At first his attacks were relatively minor, he would stir up locals against the new church and its priests. He then took to murdering isolated members of the church, the more important the better. His existence and actions were an embarrassment for the early church, his resurrection was too famous an act to hide, so that was kept in the gospels, but all other mention of his work with Jesus was expunged.

For a while Lazarus maintained his identity, but it made him too much of a target. Wherever he appeared the church would react quickly. He found himself being hunted, a few times he was caught. Of course he could not be killed, but on one occasion he was bricked into the walls of a church for thirty years. He finally managed to escape this prison when some of his network managed to locate him. Thirty years bricked up in the darkness, every day the hunger and thirst fuelled his hatred.

Those long years trapped in a wall, with just the muffled prayers and sounds of the despised mass for company gave him the time to think. He changed how he operated and began to work through others more and travelled more widely. Wherever the church’s missionaries travelled he would follow, he would work with the local religions, to help them resist. He had some successes, but even with a growing network he couldn’t stop the tide of Christianity pouring across Europe.

His first real success came with the followers of another youthful religion. He joined forces with some of the more energetic followers of Islam, helping them in their initial invasion of the Holy Land. The response from the Vatican and the European kings was the Crusades. This resulted in a terrible war that lasted for three hundred years and saw the Christians driven from the Holy Land.

This was a major defeat for the Vatican, Lazarus tried to capitalize on it by pushing his allies into invading Europe. Unfortunately for him the leaders of the Muslim forces saw no advantage to this. They had defeated the crusading armies only after many battles and at great cost. To take the war to Europe, especially to strike at the heart of the church would cost too much. They risked losing everything they had so recently won.

Again Lazarus adapted and tried something different, this time he tried to create schisms within the church. All over Europe he provided funds and support for heresies, most were quickly crushed through brutal action from the church. Some survived, but none were strong enough to weaken the church.

For centuries he continued this guerrilla campaign using any means to strike at the church. While he was able to cause many casualties, he has never managed to match the success of the crusades defeat. Lazarus continued to develop his abilities and to grow his international network. Occasionally the Inquisition of the order were able to track him down, although they have not managed to capture him again.

This lack of meaningful progress was a source of great frustration for Lazarus and in recent times his strategy changed again. Instead of hit and run he would strike directly at the heart of the church. His plan was to detonate a nuclear device at the Vatican during the Easter service. This would destroy Vatican City and the spiritual heart of the church. It would also devastate most of Rome and would likely cause a new war in the Middle East.

Using his own network and contacts with various terrorist groups he arranged to have a nuclear device stolen in Pakistan. For security the devices are split into component pieces, to steal them would take almost all of his network’s resources.

The Syrian defence intelligence agency caught wind of the plot through their own contacts in the terrorist groups that was helping to transport and steal the weapon. While relations between Syria and the West and the Vatican in particular aren’t exactly cordial, it wasn’t in their interests to see a nuke go off in the middle of Rome. They passed the information onto Mossad through intermediaries. Mossad and the order managed to intercept the weapon and in the process captured or killed a large number of Lazarus’ network. Lazarus himself managed to escape the operation.

Once again the church had managed to wound Lazarus’ operations. In fact it was a major victory. Unfortunately Lazarus has shifted his strategy in response. He knows that his curse will be lifted when Jesus returns to Earth for the final judgement. To make that happen, he needs to trigger the Apocalypse.

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