Book III: Chapter 15
Lightning tore the sky, flashing its brilliance through the skeletal remains of Whitby Abbey.
Positioned precariously atop of the cliffs of Northern Yorkshire, the magnificent ruins of the abandoned church were the perfect setting for the sinister meeting that was occurring in the cathedral’s underbelly.
Nature continued to rail her disapproval as The Brotherhood of the EArth shared a secret conclave for its top echelon of members.
How do I know this?
Because I was there!
Although we hadn’t used this venue in many decades, tonight’s meeting was taking place in the shadowy recesses beneath the church – in a venue unbeknownst to most of the world. For despite the popularity of Whitby Abbey, few knew the real truth about its former history…
It was itself built upon the ruins of the much older colony of Tower Bay — an ancient Roman settlement that was a site of unspeakable doom.
Among the guests this evening, perhaps I alone truly understood why this subterranean domain emanated such an evil aura…
For I had been instrumental in bringing that evil here.
Recall that I had first joined The Brotherhood during the time I lived under the identify of “Zosimos of Panopolis.” As I told you before, it was my prowess at alchemy that first led The Brotherhood to discover me. And even though I never rose above the rank of the Third School during my time as Zosimos, both my passion for alchemy and my addiction to The Brotherhood continued on with future identities.
Around 380 AD, I emerged as a Roman scientist named Ambrosius and again got The Brotherhood to notice me – like I told you before, once you know the drill, you can get invited into the club again pretty easily; at least that’s the way it has always been for me.
And so, for the next two decades, with my growing knowledge about alchemy and physical science, as well as my deteriorating concern for mankind, The Brotherhood agreed to fund Ambrosius’ research concerning what I described to the Inner Circle as an “invisible weapon — capable of controlling the world.”
Now, at that point in history, the concept of biological warfare was rudimentary at best, but the idea of being in control of a secret weapon that could allow for world domination was enough for me to secure all the resources I desired from The Brotherhood – so long as I eventually delivered on my promises.
After nearly a decade of additional development, eventually my team and I were ready for testing. Unfortunately for the citizens of Tower Bay, theirs was colony chosen as the site of our live (albeit clandestine) experiment. Now, the actual specifics of the experiment are long since lost to history, but suffice it to say that the biological devastation that resulted from my project was both horrifying and extreme – even I did not expect such potent results – for the entire town fell prey to the disease.
It was the winter of 409 when we released The Scourge.
The first subjects exposed to the virus – guests at a dinner party that I hosted as a ruse to deliver the agent – came down with burning fevers within just a few days. By the end of that week, their symptoms included headaches, nausea and vomiting.
Even as they spread their sickness to other townsfolk, that first group deteriorated further – they began coughing up blood-tinged sputum and soon developed pus-filled patches on their skin. In just two weeks, most of the first infectees were bleeding out from their noses, mouths, and other bodily orifices, and every one of them suffered a gruesome death.
Meanwhile the sickness quickly raged throughout Tower Bay and, with no cure available to stop it, and a brutal winter keeping the townsfolk hostage, the colony was unable to resist the virus’s deadly force.
In less than one month, the colony of Tower Bay was completely wiped out.
Strike that, not everyone died — although all the townspeople and my entire support staff perished from the virus, there was one person who survived – ME!
This only added further insult to injury because my sole purpose for creating The Scourge was to kill myself too. Doh!
Now it’s important to understand that Tower Bay was an isolated locale during this time in history and an especially hard winter that year meant that travel to and from the colony was impossible — initially, this was considered ideal because it meant that we could conduct our experiment without threat of outside interference upon our test subjects.
In hindsight, Tower Bay’s isolation likely saved the entire human race!
For had anyone been able to escape, they would have carried The Scourge with them and it would have spread without contain.
As it was, within a month, I was alone at Tower Bay and in my bitterness at the failure of my experiment, I grew to quickly despise The Scourge Project. As a result, while the winter raged on, I used the remaining time of isolation to destroy all remnants of my work – burning my notes, despoiling the project plans, and dismantling its materials. I even destroyed the infrastructure of Tower Bay – razing it to the ground. And finally, I proceeded to reverse my results by developing a substance that (I thought) would destroy The Scourge forever.
I called my reversal agent Formula 409 and I deployed this agent in an attempt to eradicate The Scourge.
“Nothing can withstand the germ-killing power of Formula 409!” I remember boasting as I sprayed this potent clean-up agent everywhere around the site. “If not for Formula 409, there would be no Year 410!”
And yet, while I was able to force The Scourge to go to ground, unbeknownst to me, I did not in fact destroy it.
As fate would have it, I became a silent carrier of the virus and unknowingly brought it with me to many of the places I would later live – for The Scourge would later re-emerge throughout Europe in the form of a population-trimming disease later known as The Black Death or simply The Plague.
(Yup, chalk another boo-boo up for Ol’ John – I guess I really pulled a stinker there, huh?).
In any event, by the time the spring of 410 arrived – and with it the agents of The Brotherhood who were sent to follow-up with me – The Scourge had disappeared – at least for a time — as proven by the fact that the newcomers to the scene did not get sick.
For my part, I (falsely) reported that not only was the experiment a failure, but worse yet, a fire had burned down the town – destroying all our project materials and killing everyone but me. To add weight to this lie, I had inflicted terrible burns upon my body as evidence of the unexpected fire – and as a kind of self-punishment for my own failures.
The agents proceeded to rescue me – taking me a safe-house in northern France; there, as Ambrosius, I was repeatedly interviewed (read: tortured) by some of the members of the Brotherhood’s Inner Circle as they sought to understand why I was unable to deliver the biological weapon that I’d so confidently promised them and which they were by now salivating for.
I stuck to my fabricated story and no amount of torture ever made me reveal the truth.
Eventually I was left as a shell of a man – withered of mind and scorched of body — and soon enough I was taken away and dumped at the doorstep of a hillside nunnery in Poitiers, France – The Brotherhood exiling me to die as payment for my colossal failure.
It’s not a stretch to say that this time comprised some of the darkest days of my life and I had no clue (nor did I care) what would happen next…