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The Expulsion

If the clothes, the handkerchiefs, and even the very shadows of the Saints, while yet on earth, banished disease and restored health, who will have the hardihood to deny that God can still work the same wonders by the holy ashes, the bones and other relics of the Saints?

"On the First Commandment," Catechism of the Council of Trent

Introduction

While common parlance in most countries makes no real distinction between an artifact and a relic, the difference is quite important to Catholics and especially to the Sisters. An artifact is simply an item of great age, be it a Viking axe or a Minoan vase. The artifacts the Sisters are concerned with tend to be more esoteric than that, of course. Relics, on the other hand, are the physical remnants of the saints, the Blessed Mother or Jesus Christ Himself, or else objects of great importance to their lives. Every Catholic church has at least one relic of a saint in its altar, and grand cathedrals and basilicas may have many. Some of the more famous relics recognized by the Church include the Holy Nails and Lance, and the Crown of Thorns from the Crucifixion; the bones and blood of saints are far more common. Many relics are associated with miracles and wondrous events, and the Sisters have catalogued quite a few mystical artifacts that also carry a touch of the supernatural.

Christopher Columbus' Secret Book of Prophecies

This book, not to be confused with the Genoese navigator's Book of Prophecies, has never been proven to exist. Nevertheless, it is the object of great interest by the Red Sisters and others interested in prophecy, mysticism and the eschaton.

While the ordinary Book of Prophecies is a compilation of fairly well known apocalyptic texts and motifs from ancient and medieval sources, the Secret Book is said to be much more specific.

As the story goes, Columbus wrote the Secret Book in late 1504 or 1505, while resting after his fourth and final voyage to the New World. The Secret Book was a hybrid, containing both strange tales from "India" (including an early, mysticism-laden version of the story of Welsh prince Madoc's supposed voyage to the New World) and visions granted to Columbus while he sailed from the West Indies to Spain in the fall of 1504. These visions are said to be very specific and, to date, astonishingly accurate. For instance, the Secret Book apparently outlines such major world events as the French Revolution and Empire, the American Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and so forth - not just describing them but dating them. Finally, it is said to tell exactly when the world will end, and the entire sequence of events leading up to it.

The problem is that no solid evidence exists that the Secret Book is real. All accounts are at least third hand. The most detailed is that of Spanish priest and antiquarian Anibal Dominguez, an 18th century Dominican who wrote that, while he hadn't seen the Secret Book itself, he had been given a glimpse of a list of its contents and a rough time table of the Apocalypse. Dominguez' source was another, unnamed priest who may have been resident at the cathedral in Badajoz; this anonymous priest apparently saw the Secret Book while serving the Spanish Inquisition. Since then, the Secret Book has faded back into obscurity, although every now and then rumors of it surface and attract both the Red Sisters and less scrupulous seekers.

The Crystal Chalice of Coimbra

This mysterious chalice was found by St. Sofia in the ruins of a medieval convent west of Coimbra. St. Sofia, on retreat shortly after the conclusion of her trial before the Inquisition, discovered the chalice in a tarnished silver box that was buried under a faded, cracked mosaic of the Annunciation. The chalice, crafted from a sky blue shade of crystal and etched with delicate circles and whorls of a Celtic flavor, is a work of stunning beauty. It is also a subject of much wonder and reverence amongst the Sisters, for those who drink from it endure strange visions. It is the property of the Lisbon priory, the sisters of which generally keep it locked away in a silver casket in a chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Chalice works simply enough. When one drinks water, and only water, from it, one is gifted with a single vision of the future. Sometimes the visions are answers to questions posed in the mind of the drinker, but more often than not they are random and odd, but usually of use in the end.

Francesco Nardi's Calculating Machine

Built in 1687 by the infamous Genoese mathematician, magician and heretic, this strange device can perform simple calculations. This is secondary to the main function, that of drawing up eerily accurate horoscopes. The machine has two sets of dials. The first are four simple discs with the digits 0 through 9 written upon them, used for adding and subtracting (the latter function works when a small switch on the side of the calculator is flipped). The second set consists of two rows of dials: days (1 through 31), months (Ianuarius through December), and years (two dials, one ranging from 15 to 20 for the century and the other from 00 to 99 for the year). The top row of the second set is for one's date of birth, and the bottom for the current date.

Nardi's amazing machine functions as a simple calculating device (it can add and subtract any three four-digit numbers). This is not all that remarkable, since late models of Pascal's Arithmetique (1645) were able to deal with sums up to 9,999,999. The true value of Nardi's machine is in its astrological guise. By manipulating the second set of dials, and then pulling the large brass lever on the top of the calculator, an internal printing press is activated and after a moment, the horoscope code is dispensed from the bottom of the machine. This is only half the process. With the code, the user must then consult the guide book and look up the corresponding horoscope. Those who have used the device report it is very accurate, but always brings grim tidings.

The location of the guide book is unknown at this time, although the machine itself is in the hands of the Patriarch of Venice and is sometimes on display in his palace. There are rumors that Nardi made another machine before he was burnt at the stake, a machine devoted exclusively to astrological purposes. If it was made, and not subsequently destroyed by the Inquisition, its existence has been carefully concealed by whoever possesses it.

Grimoires

Grimoires are magic books, and as such form an important part of the Red Sisters' work. Although there are hundreds of grimoires in existence, dating from the Classical Era to the present day, only a few are of particular interest to the Sisters of the Immaculate Fire, either because of their effectiveness or their antique origins. The following grimoires are the most well known to the Red Sisters, and Sisters possess copies of most of them.

Abraham von Worms (unknown author, 14th-15th century)

This book, originally written by a German Jew sometime in the 14th or 15th century, is (in the older and most complete German copies) divided into four sections: the account of Abraham of Worms' travels in Egypt, a collection of material from various Kabalistic works, and two spell books imparted to Abraham by Abramelin, an Egyptian sorcerer. Aside from the well-known German translations, copies can be found in French and Hebrew; these lack some of the material in the German version. Of particular interest to the Red Sisters and other practicing occultists is the ritual in which one can achieve contact with one's Holy Guardian Angel. More than a few Sisters have noted the similarities between Abraham von Worms and the blasphemous book used by the Paris Priory; perhaps both were inspired by some missing original grimoire?

The Book of the Outer Darkness (unknown, 16th century)

The product of an unknown but surely demented mind, the Book of the Outer Darkness is a truly twisted grimoire. It first surfaced in Prague in the late 1580s, and was initially believed to have been written by the English occultist John Dee; Dee denied the allegations and denounced the book, as did Emperor Rudolf II. All but a handful of copies were seized and burned by Rudolf's men or agents of the Inquisition; the remaining copies were hidden and passed from one secret owner to the next. The Red Sisters found one among the possessions of the Moravian cult leader Milan Janacek after his fiery suicide; this somewhat damaged copy now resides in the Vienna Priory. Another copy is known to be part of the collection of Count Albrecht von Marchwald in Danzig. The book itself describes the cold and hostile regions that lie beyond the planets. According to the author, these frozen depths are home to countless devils and indescribable Others that seek the ruination of both the world and the souls of men. Few who read the book emerge unshaken, so powerful and twisted is the imagery it presents. The von Marchwald copy is rumored to contain summoning incantations and a few curses and hexes.

The Key of Solomon (unknown, late Middle Ages)

This book is perhaps the most famous medieval magic book in existence, and the model for many later texts both famous and obscure. While it is attributed to King Solomon, the oldest copy of The Key of Solomon is a Greek translation of the 15th century. The Key of Solomon is an incredibly detailed work divided into two books. Book I focuses on rituals to summon and bind the dead and devils to the magician's will, as well as many other spells, while Book II consists of how the magician should purify himself prior to any conjurations as well as general preparation (implements and animal sacrifices) to be undertaken before the rituals. Most practicing occultists consider The Key of Solomon their bible, so to speak. The Red Sisters study it, but despite the God-fearing attitude of the text its use is shunned as both necromantic and sorcerous.

Lathspell (Gerádman of Warwick, 12th century)

The Lathspell of Gerádman of Warwick (an otherwise unknown figure using an anachronistic Old English pseudonym) is a strange occult text that lies outside most medieval European traditions. The only similar work is the much later Tursaanluvut. The content of the Lathspell takes the form of a narrative of Gerádman's dream-journey through a strange shadow realm and depicts his many encounters with odd creatures, deities and people. Some of the material draws from Celtic mythology, but most of it is utterly original. A few of the Sisters believe the Lathspell is largely accurate in the particulars (such as its descriptions of various monsters), if not in the blasphemous worldview it presents. It may even be the best account of the Shadows in existence, although this is a matter of great debate among the Red Sisters. Five copies are known to exist: three English translations (two in the hands of the British Library and one belonging to Oxford University), a 15th century Latin version in the Vatican library and the infamous and cursed Schweiber translation currently in private hands in Prague.

Le Livre des Anges (Théodore Clugnet, 1503)

This unassuming blue tome consists of two sections. The first and shorter part is an esoteric account of the Creation story which focuses on the War in Heaven. Its protagonists are six archangels: Camael, Jophiel, Raziel, Remiel, Shamsiel, and Zadkiel. For their valor, they were given a special charge by the Lord - to bind themselves to the world and forever walk it, guiding humanity and imparting angelic wisdom onto the worthy. The second part is a grimoire, typical of those of the Renaissance era. It has about two dozen spells of varying quality. All of them call upon the power of one or more of the six archangels. These spells are the standard tool of the schismatic sisters of the Paris Prieuré. The horrific truth, however, is that the entire text is a diabolic deceit. Clugnet was a Satanist through and through, and he worked a subtle enchantment upon the pages. Only those blessed with true insight will see through the illusion and read the true words. The first part of the book is a version of the Creation story, but the protagonists are not angels. Instead, they are devils, dukes of Hell: Agares, Valefor, Barbatos, Gusion, Eligos and Zepar. Worse, each incantation is part of a 999-fold key that binds the six devils to the fires of Perdition. When all 999 parts have been triggered - i.e., when 999 spells from the grimoire are cast - the devils shall be loosed upon the world. Each spell hastens that terrible day, unbeknownst to the sisters (in their angelic worship services, they don't use the grimoire, and thus come across as no more than an eccentric and compelling cult). Sadly, the Paris sisters find it so much easier to use the theurgic rituals contained therein, and have abandoned all others.

Livre de Sia (Sébastien Mercier, 1845)

This French grimoire was written by one of the savants who accompanied Napoleon I to Egypt. Mercier claims to have used the Rosetta Stone to translate a mysterious hieroglyphic stele found near the ruins of Memphis. According to Mercier, the similar work known as the Black Pullet is a false account of what actually happened. The stele that the Livre de Sia claims to be a translation of was supposedly carved by the god Sia himself, and it does contain several Egyptian spells and stories otherwise unknown. Nearly half the Livre de Sia is an incredibly lengthy and elaborate ritual for summoning the god Sia. Interestingly, the Parisian detectives who investigated Mercier's death by immolation in 1852 indicated the scene of the death resembled the circumstances of the ritual.

Picatrix (unknown Arab, early 13th century)

The Picatrix was written around 1200 A.D. by an unknown Arabic scholar, possibly al-Majriti of Islamic Spain, and focuses on astrology as a means to better understanding God's Creation, typical of the general medieval Arab approach to science. The third and fourth books contain the most pertinent material to Red Sisters, including several spells for contacting 'planetary spirits' and many astrological rituals. Later European astrology and magic owe much to the contents of the Picatrix. Aside from the original Arabic and early Latin versions, the Picatrix has been translated into most major European languages. The Lisbon Priory has one copy of the rare 18th century Portuguese translation of Afonso Ribeiro, a version which also contains spells of pre-Islamic origin drawn from Ribeiro's travels among the Bedouin of Arabia.

Sefer Raziel HaMalakh (Unknown, mid 13th century)

Also known as Liber Razielis Archangeli, the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh is a major Kabalistic grimoire. It claims to be the revelations of the archangel Raziel to Adam, although the text itself apparently dates to the 13th century (even if parts are apparently drawn from ancient, if not antediluvian, works). The Sefer's varied contents include very elaborate description of the angels of heaven, practical astrology, gemetria (Hebrew numerology), the holy and powerful names of God, protective spells, and a system of creating magical healing amulets. The Latin translation, like that of the Picatrix, was written for King Alfonso X of Portugal; the Lisbon Priory has an early manuscript of this translation, as well as later French and Portuguese copies. The Paris Priory also has and employs its own unique Latin translation.

Tursaanluvut (Johann Georg Faust, 1530s)

This strange work was written by the historical Faust (source of the famous legend), probably shortly before his death in the early 1540s. The original title is unknown, as the earliest existing copy is a Finnish translation by Mikael Agricola (the German original was placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by the Church and only nine of the fifty copies printed are unaccounted for). The Tursaanluvut (Finnish for "Writ of Turso", after the sea monster or god Iku-Turso of pagan mythology) contains much otherwise unknown Finnish folklore and mythology, especially cannibalistic rituals used to conjure up the spirits of the seita (sacrificial sites, almost all of which were demolished in the early Middle Ages). It was again banned by Tsar Nicholas I in 1827, although a few modern translations (the annotated edition of Finnish folklorist Elias Lönnrot is the most famous) do exist, including one rumored to sit in a locked room in the Vatican library.

The Hand of Leopold Figl

This gruesome artifact is a Hand of Glory made from the left hand of infamous Tyrolese murderer Leopold Figl (himself the son of a murderer). It was cut from his body while it lay in the morgue, and is said to have made its way into the possession of one of the warlocks of Vienna. Like all Hands of Glory, the Hand of Leopold Figl strikes motionless all those who are boldly confronted with it, and also unlocks any door in its path. No doubt any number of mysterious burglaries in Vienna can be attributed to Figl's hand, and for this reason, the Sisters are constantly on the watch for it.

The Hand of Leopold Figl has two powers, just as folklore holds. The first power is to induce temporary paralysis in all who the wielder wills and can see. This state lasts until the next sunrise, and during it the victim can do little more than breathe and look in whatever direction his gaze was frozen in by the Hand. The second power is to unlock any locked doors, and there is no way of blocking it.

Lazaro's Elixir

The product of an exceptionally eccentric medieval alchemist, the so-called Lázaro the Astounding, the elixir actually does have some form of healing power. Lázaro, born of English and Portuguese ancestry, although eventually shunned by polite society in both, was one of many alchemists drifting through 12th century Europe. Unlike almost all the others, however, Lázaro had true gifts (and sometimes even put them to use for the good of the Church). His travels took him to strange corners of Portugal and Spain, and even to the Moorish kingdoms to the south, and he somehow established a friendship of sorts with Belchior, a Portuguese mystic and reputed sorcerer of the day. Sometime around 1130, Lázaro went into seclusion for 40 days and emerged from his workshop with three vials of a bright red fluid. To his dying day, the alchemist would not divulge how he had created it, although he was fond of giving contradictory hints, but the results spoke for themselves. Those who drank from the vials were healed of even the gravest injuries. After Lázaro's death, the two remaining vials fell into the hands of the Church. One was lost a century later, stolen from its resting place in the Bishop's palace. The other remained in Coimbra until 1682, when it was granted to the care of St. Sofia after the completion of an errand on behalf of the Archbishop. It went with her to India and is now in the care of the Goa priory, along with many of St. Sofia's other treasures.

A single swallow of the sweet red liquid is enough to undo all but the worst wounds or diseases. The vial in the Goa priory has thirty doses left, and a local tradition has it that when the vial is empty, it will be a sign of the birth of the Antichrist.

The Sibylline Daggers

These medieval weapons, said to have been forged for Charlemagne's twelve peers (but more likely the products of 13th century Venice), are twelve in number. Each one is dedicated to one of the Sibyls, pagan prophetesses who foretold the coming of Christ in early Christian and medieval legend. All the daggers are long and sharp, and each bears a unique hilt and pommel as well as a legend etched into the blade.

An elaborate and almost certainly fraudulent tradition surrounds the Sibylline Daggers. After their initial use by Roland and his knightly companions (Oliver le Daim, Gérin, Gérier, Bérengier, Otton, Samson, Engelier, Ivon, Ivoire, Anséis, and Girard according to the most common version of the story), they were passed down through various noble families of France and the Holy Roman Empire before being reunited by a brotherhood of Knights Hospitaller during the First Crusade. These twelve knights, Aleaume, Amyon, Beaudonnier, Bruyant, Ernaut, Forsard, Gilles, Hernaut, Huidemar, Othon, Prades, and Rabel, were all French nobles (otherwise unknown to history) and fought together during the Siege of Antioch.

While defending a church against an attack by Saracens, so the legend goes, the twelve knights were taken by surprise and forced to fight with only their daggers. After their triumph, the twelve knights were amazed to discover each one was armed with nearly identical weapons. This was taken as a sign of Divine Providence and after that the twelve knights formed a new brotherhood, the Knights of the Sibyls, to defend the churches of the Holy Land, especially the great Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. When the last remnant of the Crusader kingdom finally fell in 1291, the Knights of the Sibyl (direct descendents of the originals) were slain or driven into exile, and the daggers separated again. A more likely origin is that the daggers were forged in Venice, possibly either for some aristocratic family or the Venetian secret police, and gradually scattered across the Mediterranean and beyond.

What makes the daggers especially of interest to the Red Sisters is that they apparently the power to inflict especially grievous injuries on supernatural creatures. The Delphic Dagger, for instance, was able to kill the werewolf that ravaged Bachenwald in the Tyrol in the 1840s, even though silver bullets are generally considered to be the only effective method of slaying lycanthropes. Those Red Sisters who have wielded Sibylline Daggers report that the weapons seem to impart an almost preternatural instinct for the weaknesses of an inhuman foe; one solid blow seems to 'trigger' the ability and allow the wielder to instinctively, infallibly know when and how to strike in order to kill the enemy.

The twelve daggers, their inscriptions, their pommel symbols and probable locations are as follows:

The Agrippine Dagger, Iesus Christus violatus verberatusque erit (Jesus Christ shall be outraged and scourged), a whip, unknown, last seen in 18th century Brussels.

The Cuman Dagger, Iesus Christus a caelo veniet, atque in orbem terrarum pauperter vivet regnabitque (Jesus Christ shall come from heaven, and live and reign in poverty on earth), a crown, unknown.

The Cumean Dagger, Deus nascetur ex virgine integre, et peccatoribus sermones conferet (God shall be born of a pure virgin, and hold converse with sinners), a candle, believed to have been lost at sea in 1606.

The Delphic Dagger, Propheta ex virgine natus spinis coronabitur (the Prophet born of the virgin shall be crowned with thorns), the Crown of Thorns, the Vienna Priory of the Red Sisters.

The Erythraean Dagger, Iesus Christus, Filius Dei, Salvator (Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior), a horn, the private collection of Lord Julian Montberry (the Earl of Catterford).

The European Dagger, Virgo filiusque eius in Aegyptum confugent (a virgin and her Son shall flee into Egypt), a sword, unknown.

The Hellespontic Dagger, Iesus Christus in cruce ignominiam patietur (Jesus Christ shall suffer shame upon the cross), a crucifix, unknown.

The Libyan Dagger, Dies veniet ubi homines Regem omnium vivorum videbunt (the day shall come when men shall see the King of all living things), a lit candle, the private collection of Witzburger aristocrat Manfred Beckenbauer.

The Persian Dagger, Satanus vero propheta superatus erit (Satan shall be overcome by a true prophet), a lantern, last seen in 1875 in the hands of Doña Charlotte Rémond Aznar y Villareal of northern Mexico.

The Phrygian Dagger, Dominus noster resurget (Our Lord shall rise again), a banner on a cross-staff, either Alexandria or Cairo, the owner unknown in either case.

The Samian Dagger, Dives nascetur ex virgine integre (the Rich One shall be born of a pure virgin), a rose, the property of the Prince-Bishop of Schwerin in the German Empire.

The Tiburtine Dagger, Altissimus de caelis descendet atque virgo in vallibus desertis videbitur (the Highest shall descend from heaven, and a virgin be shown in the valleys of the deserts), a dove, American industrialist William Oglethorpe.

The Skull of St. Guinefort

The Skull of St. Guinefort is certainly one of the oddest relics ever cataloged by the S.I.F. In form, it is simple enough: the skull of a large hound with an ornate silver 'death mask' covering it. The mask is etched with various floral symbols, primarily fleurs-de-lis, and Latin crosses. The opening words of the Our Father (Pater noster, qui es in caelis) are inscribed along the left side of the lower jaw; the next phrase (sanctificetur Nomen tuum) was once on the right, but has worn out over the years and only a few letters can still be made out.

The Skull is popularly associated with the strange 13th century legend of St. Guinefort (a loyal hound mistakenly slain after protecting a noble infant from a serpent and thereafter honored by the noble lord and the peasants alike), but it can be traced back to the early 12th century. The English chronicler David of Willardburgh alludes to the skull in his Mirabilium Anglicarum while discussing the phenomenon of cynocephaly (dog-headed men, a popular theme in the Middle Ages). In Mirabilium Anglicarum, David says the 'silver skull' was known throughout Lancashire for its ability to speak! It was said to be a talented, if acid-tongued, theologian and also possessed a keen insight into visitors' sins and secrets.

After this period of medieval fame, the skull languished in obscurity. It was hidden during the Elizabethan Reformation to protect it from Puritans, and then passed out of sight for two centuries. Just before the French Revolution, it somehow crossed the Channel and ended up in the hands of Lucien de Lavaine, a minor Norman aristocrat. de Lavaine ended up in the tender embrace of Madame Guillotine, but the skull was not found among his effects. Much later, after Napoleon III became emperor, de Lavaine's grandson, a prominent Spiritualist also named Lucien, began to display the relic in his Parisian cabinet of curiosities. It remains there to this day, shown only to de Lavaine's friends and colleagues (a select list that does not include any Red Sisters).

The Spear of Adam

This is one of the most precious relics in the world, but also one of the most obscure. History first mentions the Spear in the form of a 3rd century letter to Pope Caius from Cyril, Bishop of Antioch. Little remains of the original letter, but one passage stands out. "Perdiccas, a traveler from India, brings strange tidings. He was at sea in the fall of last year when a sudden storm stranded him on the shores of Taprobane, an island far to the east. There, he found an old temple, as of the heathens, abandoned in the forest. In the temple, he found an altar, and before it a tomb. On top of the tomb was a great spear, as tall as he, and with a great black blade. The spear had the name Adam carved upon it in the alphabet of the Hebrews. Perdiccas took the spear away from that haunted place." Alas, there the account ends. Where the spear went, no one can say, and the name Perdiccas appears in no other histories. For more than a thousand years, the Spear of Adam remained solely the province of legends. It was rediscovered in an abandoned mosque in Ceylon by Portuguese soldiers in 1529. It is now the property of the van Hoose family, a clan of Catholic burghers who dominate the banking trade in Gampaha. The blade is, quite unusually, of well-shaped granite and has a keen edge. The shaft, apparently only the latest of many, is of cedar and has barely visible carving in Hebrew upon it, suggesting it was created for ornamental purposes.

Although there are many fabulous medieval and Moslem tales about the Spear, its true powers seem limited. Specifically, no demon can stand in the sight of the Spear of Adam. Moreover, any such creature that is struck by the blade is immediately banished back to the fires of Hell. Likewise, ghosts of the restless dead are sent onto their eternal reward (or punishment) should the blade pierce their 'flesh.' Finally, it is said that those possessing supernatural gifts of discernment and visions can see glimpses of the life of Adam and Eve when they grasp the blade (but not the shaft).

The Shroud of Aklia

Hidden away in a synagogue in Sanaa in Ottoman Yemen is this fabulously ancient relic. It appears to be a simple cotton shroud, grey in color and so threadbare that it is almost transparent, more a veil than a shroud. The Sanaite Jews claim that it has been in their possession for as long as they have lived in the area, nearly twenty-five centuries according to their traditions. Before that, it was said to be the property of one of the families of the Gershonites (the offspring of Gershon, son of Levi), and discovered by the family founder in a cave in the wilds east of the Sea of Galilee.

The shroud itself, it is said, was once the garment of Aklia, the sister of Abel according to the apocryphal work Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan. That text does not say much of her, but Sanaite legend tells that after Abel was murdered, Aklia left the lands of Adam and Eve in grief and disappeared into the north. Eventually, the story goes, she faded away from grief and wandered the grey lands of the afterlife (Limbo, in Catholic theology), leaving only her shroud behind. The shroud, when worn, supposedly allows one to physically enter the boundaries of Limbo and even Purgatory. This, perhaps, is the antediluvian inspiration for the much later Greek myth of Orpheus. The theory has never been tested, since the rabbis of Sanaa rarely let visitors see the shroud and certainly never let them touch it.

The Staff of St. Sofia

One of the most revered relics of St. Sofia, this oak staff is of humble appearance, as is the simple wooden rosary wrapped around it (and secured in place by three silver nails). St. Sofia took it with her to India, but on her deathbed gifted it to Véronique Guichard, a French nun and perhaps the most inquisitive of her many disciples. Sister Véronique took it with her to the south of France and kept it for her use and the use of the priory she founded. It remains in the reliquary of the priory's chapel and is often used by the local sisters to battle the strange beasts who still haunt the wilderness of Provence.

The staff's power is generally subtle. Demons and spirits shy away from it, as a result of the many prayers St. Sofia offered while holding it humbly before God. Any demon or spirit that wishes to come closer than ten feet must muster up all its willpower. Moreover, if such a thing is struck by the staff it must be brave indeed not to flee in terror. Rumor has it that the staff possesses greater powers, many theurgic in nature, but this has never been proven.

The Uriel Pledge

The Vatican possesses numerous ancient texts, many of which are available for study by Church scholars. The Uriel Fragment is not one of those. It has been locked away in a Roman vault for half a century, ever since it was given to Pope Gregory XVI by Sisters Maria Rudloff and Katherine Kessler, Austrian members of the S.I.F. who discovered it in Constantinople. In a letter to the Mother Superior of Goa, Sister Katherine says it was purchased at great price, without elaborating if the price was financial or otherwise.

The document itself is an ordinary, aged piece of papyrus similar to those used in the Roman Empire of late antiquity. It has two phrases upon it, each written in Aramaic and each by a different hand. The first says "I, Yahya son of Zebedeo, witness this." Beneath that, the handwriting changes, becoming far firmer and more elegant. This new author writes "I, Flame of God, bind myself willingly to he who bears this. Let him honor me and cast this into the fire, and I shall deliver the wrath of Heaven upon the heads of his enemies." The implications are somewhat staggering - an unknown writing by St. John the Apostle (Yahya being the Aramaic form of John) combined with what claims to be the promise of one of the archangels of Heaven. The pontiff, after long debate with his aides and theurgical experts (it is rumored), decided to seal the parchment away until an hour of great need.

Interestingly, it is rumored in the occult underground of the Near East that three more such texts exist, penned by the archangels St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, all witnessed by the Apostle. The whereabouts of these three pledges are unknown, if they even exist at all.

The Welling Stone

This stone slab, five feet tall and two feet wide, was carved by some offshoot or ancestor of the Cree tribe around 1700 and then buried in the forests southeast of Hudson Bay. It was unearthed by employees of the Hudson Bay Company in 1827 and now resides in a basement room of the Geological Society of Canada's museum in Montreal. The petroglyph is dominated by a vivid image of a large winged demon, and depicts him being buried alive by a band of warriors (or gods). Although the Welling Stone has not been shown to the public since it was found, and few people who aren't members of the GSC have ever studied it, a large body of folklore surrounds the artifact. Cree medicine men insist it is cursed, and the Sisters have no reason to doubt their claims. It is known that at least two ethnologists have gone insane after attempting to decipher the strange markings on the slab.

The Welling Stone is not cursed per se. It is an object of evil, however, and those who use it often regret it. The language of the markings is a type of proto-Cree, and can be translated by those with sufficient skill. Translating the text reveals it to be a simple incantation which, when combined with an appropriate blood sacrifice, allows one to commune with the entombed devil. This experience imparts great occult wisdom on the subject... but also renders them incurably insane.

The White Lilies of Vilnius

Once upon a time, there was a young Polish farm girl named Nadzia Ulasewicz. She was the loveliest girl in the province, but instead of marrying her many suitors, she became a nun "for I love none so much as Jesus." Alas, Nadzia died young, as many did, for there was a plague in those days. She was buried in the convent's cemetery, and the earth above her remains soon became white as snow, for lilies grew there, a whole carpet of them. They gave off a sweet smell, and all the good Catholics in Vilnius planted one in their gardens, for it soon became known that even one of the lilies would ward off every evil spirit, curse and bad luck in the world. The grave remains, even if the convent was destroyed in the wars of Napoleon, and the lilies still grow there.

The apotropaic (ability to ward off supernatural evil) qualities of the White Lilies of Vilnius are just as effective as legend says. No devil, daemonic, monster or ghost can come within ten yards of a single White Lily. Sadly, flowers are fragile, and the White Lilies especially so; most attempts to transplant them to other locations have failed, although the Lisbon Priory has several dozen around its grounds.