The Debate

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It was the beginning of the third round of the fourth bout, the penultimate discourse being held that day in the packed nave of the Cathedral of the Inevitable Sacrifice, and things were going poorly.

Confessor Carsollus of the Sect of the Sinful Denominator was an immovable wall, providing an eloquent and well-considered liturgical argument backed up by a good defensive stance and refusal to be baited. Conversely, Brother Diomodes of the Turnwise Flagellites spouted a bevvy of quick-witted counterpoints, pairing his verbal assault with a mean right hook that took the doughy Carsollus on the chin time and time again. It wasn’t enough, and after being brutally knocked down in the first round and wasting the entirety of the second barely keeping out of the Confessors’ titanic grip, Brother Diomedes was on the proverbial ropes.

In the third round, however, the Confessor slipped. He dared to rush the Flagellite whilst philosophically jabbing at the arguments of Constantine the Pious, making a valid ecumenical point but forgetting for a moment that the Cathedral in which they fought was the life’s work of that very saint. He had overreached, exposing himself to both a harsh rebuke from the local clergy and a sharp knee to the ribs from Diomedes. The Confessor staggered, arms thrown wide for balance and paying with a trio of ruthless strikes to his jaw along with merciless criticisms of his own personal faith. With one final blow the large priest toppled backwards, falling over the railing and into the pews, eliminated.

The cheering Flagellites welcomed their champion with open arms and a glass of blessed wine, whilst the Sect of the Sinful Denominator gathered up their fallen Confessor with much grumbling and cries of sophistry. The rest of the heaving throng of holy people agreed that it had been a superb example of the Grendellian Method of Theological Debate, the ancient rite of discussion that settled ecumenical disagreements between generations of priests in the isolated Subsector Titus through the twin crucibles of criticism and combat.

‘Their popularity appears to be rising, your Eminence,’ said Chaplain Crawley, serving the High Pontiff a fresh goblet along with his usual look of unshakeable gloom. ‘The cause of the Flagellites has now gone further than any predicted, even the bookkeepers.’

‘Indeed,’ the High Pontiff replied, gazing at the figure of Brother Diomedes as he gratefully accepted a second cup of wine. ‘A pity, that. I had three hundred thrones on Confessor Carsollus in the third round.’

‘Are you quite certain the matter is under control, your Eminence? If the Flagellites win this final bout, the canonisation of their beliefs could cause a shift in the balance of the entire Ecumentical Conclave.’

The High Pontiff tutted. ‘The Flagellites are fanatics, Crawley, of the worst sort – not ours. Their obsession with introspection is as mad as their devotion to self-destruction. Examining the tenets of the Lectitio Divinitatus to better understand them? Bah, what nonsense. Faith should always be blind; even the lowliest of us know that.’

‘Of course, your Eminence, but should they succeed at this council, it could encourage further divergence. Deep thought could break out across the subsector. I fear another schism.’

‘And you are right to, Chaplain,’ the High Pontiff subtly signalled to one of her attendants in the crowd. ‘But worry not. Deep thinking is nothing more than a weakening of faith and a wasting of time. We still have one last bout to prove it.’

The cheers of the Flagellites were drowned out as the bells tolled for the final debate. Brother Diomedes returned to the dias with all the swagger of the moderately successful and mildly inebriated, sizing up his opponent as she emerged from the shadows beneath the pulpit.

The woman was tall, six and a half feet by his count, and muscled more heavily than any priest had the right to be. She wore a simple pilgrim’s robe devoid of denomination and bearing neither sigil nor insignia. A length of white cloth had been bound firmly over her eyes, leaving her utterly blind.

Had he been a man with interests beyond the blessed rapture of self-flagellation, Brother Diomedes might have recognised the dark ports that studded her arms and legs, or the tri-feather tattoo on her cheek. Had he been a wiser man, he might have listened to the voice coming from his gut that told him to run. But Brother Diomedes was not concerned with the trivialities of the mortal world, so instead he strode to his position, head held high, and awaited the signal.

Smiling, the High Pontiff swung her Crozius and the final debate began. The Flagellite moved lightly on his feet, closing the distance to his opponent and beginning with an observation of the limits of dogmatic – 

‘BLESSED IS THE MIND TO SMALL FOR DOUBT!’

The blow broke through his guard like a battering ram, striking with unerring accuracy for one who was apparently blind. A pop was audible over the suddenly silent crowd. Teeth and blood made a brief constellation in the incense-heavy air, before the stunned Flagellite staggered backwards into the gilded railings and slumped to the floor.

Diomedes struggled to open his remaining eye. His foe stalked towards him, wordless. Distant pride told him to get up, to deliver a witty line or deep theological insight that would surely save his cause, or at least martyr him well. All he could muster was a short, confused mumble, before throwing up a bellyful of wine and falling unconscious.

The blind woman stood for a moment, considering her opponent on the ground, then smartly turned about and returned to her spot beneath the pulpit. As the voices rose in discord amongst the gathered priests, the High Pontiff stood up and addressed the crowd, her booming voice drowning out even the bells.

‘The matter is settled, my brothers and sisters. We shall have no more of this wicked introspection. Faith, blind and pure, shall see us to the new dawn!’

About the Author

Liam has been interested in writing since he figured out the funny squiggles on the paper could make pictures in his head, and became interested in Warhammer when realised dice weren’t for eating. For Liam, fan fiction really was a match made in heaven.