The Inquisitor, His Apprentice, The Abbot and His Three Young Novices:
The Theory of Torture
Sitting in his quarters at the archbishop's palace the Inquisitor reflects that since the Noamskian heresy was suppressed, thanks in part to his own efforts, he has become bogged down with petty administrative tasks. Although he certainly cannot condone heresy in any way he sometimes feels that the ensuing dozen years of peace have led to a decline in the state of the inquisitorial arts. It was with a sense of some personal responsibility for preserving the art and passing on his skills that three years ago he took on an orphan, Ambrose, as his apprentice. This has sharpened his thinking because as a teacher he has to explain the wisdom he has taken half a lifetime to learn. Apprenticing Ambrose was also a personal favour to the Archbishop who, according to rumours circulating in the palace at the time, was familiar with his mother, a heretic who refused to recant. The Archbishop frequently expresses his affection and concern for the boy's future. The Inquisitor feels personally responsible for the lad and has become genuinely fond of him, like a father. Through Ambrose he hopes to perpetuate his art and therefore forgoes any intimacy, their love being strictly platonic. However it's not that Ambrose lacks erotic charms as both men and girls seek out his company. In any case there's never any shortage of attractive young scribes and servants at the palace for him to choose from.
With his small but steady private practice the Inquisitor is able to provide some hands on training for the boy. It's nothing very demanding, a lot of odd jobs for the local courts and aristocracy; mostly extracting confessions, testing witnesses and the routine torture of servants and slaves upon their master's death. It provides a welcome break from his bureaucratic duties. And he is pleased with young Ambrose's progress. The boy, now fifteen, was initially quite inhibited and it took some time to impress upon him the nobility of the calling. He can't remember how many times he's told him that torture must be viewed as part of God's Plan for the discovery of Truth and maintaining the Faith, and because of its special qualities it should be reserved for these noble causes. Gradually Ambrose is learning to find divine fulfillment in the agony of the tormented.
The Inquisitor has definite views on the subject of torture. It should never be used gratuitously or as mere punishment. Torture, he claims, should always be employed judiciously and never more than is necessary for the purpose. Nevertheless, he sometimes feels disappointed when subjects recant or confess merely on being shown the instruments of torture. This is, of course, as it should be and he is quite insistent that proper procedures be followed. Torture also should be applied politely, with no distracting arguments, appeals to ideals, and without any emotional or moral fervor. He has contempt for browbeating and those who indulge in psychological tricks by inventing clever scenarios. They pollute the truth and one is never sure if he's found it. The subject should feel pain, in an unpackaged, pure and uncontested form. He is always thrilled when his efforts, through pure pain alone, the only honest way to torture, bear fruit. And the intense satisfaction that his work sometimes brings him can only be further evidence of its divine purpose. It brings him close to God.
Torture should never be confused with other processes entailing the infliction of pain. Beatings, for example, have their place as punishment, as penance, and of course as a practical educational tool. However, there's not much art, though perhaps some technique to administering whippings. You may beat those you love, but you'd never think of torturing them. The distinction is perfectly clear to him. He'd never torture Ambrose, for example, though he's had to whip him quite severely on a few occasions to motivate him and assist his comprehension . Ambrose is a strong and stubborn boy and it takes a good thrashing to have much effect on him. When he has to flog Ambrose, never more than a few times a month, he likes to watch his face in order to gauge the pain he's inflicting. He knows what he can get away with, it wouldn't do for his apprentice to be unable to carry out his duties. Ambrose hates being whipped but he never questions it. Floggings are part of the order of things and try as he can he can't avoid them. He knows he'll be sore for days but doesn't complain.
Torture ideally should be capable of immediate termination or relief to encourage the subject to confess or recant. It should not leave the subject scarred or maimed although he will admit of a few exceptions. The Inquisitor prides himself on the fact that most of those he has questioned were capable of resuming their normal duties within a day or two. Clients often express their appreciation of his skills in this respect. Less care is required with old servants past their most productive years and sometimes their demise is a blessing in disguise for an impecunious master. Older children can occasionally be a problem because while their bodies are still fragile they are capable of extreme stubbornness, often he suspects, the Devil's work. He is saddened when he happens to maim a child who isn't already destined for garroting or the stake.
The idea of unnecessary, unjustified suffering, particularly of small children, appalls him. On moral principle he refuses to question anyone under the age of seven as they have not reached the age of reason and cannot be held responsible according to the teachings of the Church. However he recognizes the value of using threats and causing even very young children to suffer in order to obtain information from other family members. This can be very effective although some who are untrained in the subtleties of theology fail to understand that this is fundamentally different from torturing young children. It has taken him many years to acquire wisdom. Looking back on his career the Inquisitor sometimes laments the formidable fortitude wasted on heretics and criminals, fortitude that might be more appropriate for the martyrs of the True Faith.
The Abbot's Call and the Case of the Missing Sapphire
While the Inquisitor enjoys the luxury and the intrigues of the archbishop's palace he has lately been tiring of the eternal jealousies. It is not a good time to take sides in their petty squabbles. When he receives a message from his old friend, the Abbot of Saint Vincent's, urgently seeking his assistance in an investigation he eagerly seizes the opportunity for a break. Ambrose is thrilled, "Do you think it's heretics, Boss?" And while the Inquisitor can in no way condone heresy he also secretly indulges that it might be another virulent outbreak.
"We must be patient my dear Ambrose, but we shouldn't forget that the last great heresy started in a village only a few days further up the river." He has heard reports of strange traders passing through a year earlier and he is convinced that heresy is spread by trade. The great abbey is only a three day journey on horseback and it promises to be a pleasant excursion in the sunny, dry, early autumn weather, with the prospect of harvest's bounty at the end. He quickly organizes a party and sets off with Ambrose, four archers and seven sturdy servants.
The Inquisitor and the Abbot became friends and allies during the great crusade against the Noamskyites. The Abbot, then a mere priest, traveled to Rome and received the blessings of the Pope for the crusade. He provided the inspired leadership and the Inquisitor, then the town barber and surgeon, became his right hand man. In fact he personally interrogated the previous Abbott of St. Vincent's who was later burnt at the stake in front of the palace. His friend had arranged for the Inquisitor to receive a permanent sinecure with papal blessing for his services in the pursuit of Truth, and to be his insider in the palace.
When the party arrives at the heavy gate in the monastery walls the Abbot emerges and welcomes the Inquisitor, embracing him three times. He extends his hand to Ambrose who kisses his ring and he compliments his friend on his handsome apprentice. The Abbot's hospitality is renowned and even the servants are provided with comfortable quarters. After formalities he suggests to the Inquisitor that they go on a boar hunt together when their business is settled which "given your formidable skills," he doesn't think will take long. The hunt will give them time to reminisce, renew their friendship and make future plans. The boar will be plump and tasty at this time with the abundance of acorns and nuts. "And for your apprentice, Ambrose, I have a fine club to give him for the hunt. He's a charming and quite remarkable lad, at the age when they're horniest." The Inquisitor can't deny it. "You don't expect me to believe your chaste tales." He ignores the insult as he gazes at all the handsome young novices working in the vineyard which is almost ready to harvest.
Later in private the Abbot explains why he has summoned him. The Great Sulieman Sapphire that the Crusaders brought back from the Holy Land is missing. It has apparently been pried from the gold reliquary box that contained their most revered relic, the Holy Turd of St. Vincent, around which the abbey was built. He personally had discovered that the priceless blue gem was missing almost immediately and he had seen to it that no one had entered or left the abbey's walls since. The sapphire must still be here and it is urgent that it be found soon as the Archbishop himself will be making his annual visit for the feast in honour of Bacchus at the end of October. He will lead a procession where the Most Holy Relic is carried on a bier through the nearby town for the adoration of the faithful.
The relic had been kept in the personal sacristy in his quarters, which are guarded at all times. The Abbot explains that only he and three others had access to it. The Inquisitor smiles knowingly as he explains that the other three were young novices; "Dear Little Alexi", twelve, "Sweet Roman", fifteen, and "Noble Paul", eighteen. Since little more than an hour after the theft each lad has been confined to a separate cell in the keep and guarded closely. However during that time they had attended chapel and eaten in the Great Hall so the gem could theoretically be almost anywhere within the abbey walls. Two of his most trusted monks have been quietly searching for the sapphire but he does not want news of the theft spread. As for the boys the Abbot does not want to interrogate them himself for reasons that the Inquisitor can surmise. After they have eaten and refreshed the Abbot takes him around to see the three suspects.
Alexi, a frail blond child barely looking his age is huddled in a corner of the cell, his short tunic pulled tightly around him. With his pretty face and long wavy blond locks he is certainly an attractive child. The Inquisitor wonders if the latter is some special dispensation from the Abbot. Terror erupts in the boy's pale blue eyes when it is explained who he is. He approaches the boy and gently asks him a few questions about himself. Then putting an arm around the boy's shoulders he quietly tells him, "Know that your answers will be tested by torture", and he inquires about where he was at the time and if he saw any others in the Abbot's quarters. His answers to these preliminary questions seem sincere and he denies knowing anything about the stone, and didn't know it was missing or how it might have been stolen. He admits he was briefly in the sacristy where he keeps an extra tunic and sandals. While the Inquisitor is confident that Alexi has not taken the sapphire himself, he's less certain that he knows nothing about the theft. He knows how devious and loyal to supposed friends young boys can be and recalls some of the extreme measures he's had to employ to extract information and confessions from children his age.
They next visit Roman, a husky Mediterranean boy in the full rosy bloom of youth. The Abbot says he's a charming lad but inclined to be obstinate on occasion. His large dark intelligent eyes regard the Inquisitor with intense suspicion. His skin is almost opalescent and his generous lips are topped by a smudge of fine hairs much like Ambrose's but a bit darker. Roman seems to be a practical and perhaps cunning lad who alludes to the better opportunities the other novices had, although he denies seeing the others near the sacristy when he was last there. He's emphatic in his protestations of innocence and seems sincere and confident in his denials but the Inquisitor has been deceived before. The boy is mature enough to make his way in the world should he be able to leave the abbey with the gem. He could be an interesting challenge to his inquisitorial skills.
Paul is a tall, earnest, studious young man noted for his proficiency in Latin and Greek. The Abbot says he once caught him reading proscribed texts and had him severely flogged. However he is very faithful and strict in his devotions and is a model for all the other novices. Paul claims to know nothing about the missing stone and has no ideas how it might have happened, and his pleasant Gaelic wit give his words authenticity. The Inquisitor wonders if the youth might be a potential heretic or guilty of pride. Paul's delicate aquiline face and long fingered hands give him an appealing sensuous quality, and again it is clear that the Abbot has excellent taste in boys.
After dinner over a couple of bottles of the dark red wine for which the abbey is famous, the Inquisitor and the Abbot discuss tomorrow's interrogations. "I must know the truth," the Abbot begins, "I must know if any of them admits to knowing anything about what may have happened to our precious sapphire. I want you to make certain you extract any relevant information and each must be given every possible encouragement to inform on the others. Tell them that if they can provide any information implicating the others I will not only be most merciful but will give them a substantial reward. I know you will not show any pity or be deceived by any ruse. Mercy is a weakness. I have the greatest respect for your talents. Still, I wouldn't want to be denied their pleasures for any length of time, especially dear little Alexi." And he has certain points to make about the others. The Inquisitor suggests that he and his apprentice Ambrose begin with the youngest, Alexi. He might inadvertently reveal some useful information with which to confront the older, more likely suspects. He assures the Abbot that the boy will be serviceable in a day at the most and any marks on his body will be minimal and transient. And he promises to careful of Roman's left elbow which he recently injured in a fight, and of course Paul's dexterous hands. During the interrogations the Abbot plans to remain in his quarters where he is unlikely to hear the inevitable sounds of distress. "I sometimes fear I lack the moral determination to carry out certain difficult tasks." He adds apologetically.
From experience the Inquisitor knows that the manner of questioning is as important as the actual tortures applied to the suspect. The pursuit of truth should be the only goal and clearly at least one of the boys knows what happened to the Great Sulieman Sapphire. He looks forward to getting to work; it is a few years since he had such young and handsome subjects to interrogate. He somehow finds them more rewarding to work with than older ones. Perhaps it pleases God more?
Dear Little Alexi's Excruciating Torments
The torture room in the dungeon appears to have been little used in recent years, the Abbot known to be lax in discipline. The room has however been well scrubbed and fresh, clean sand has been piled in the corners. The restraints and instruments of torture have been cleaned and polished, and all the whips and bindings are well oiled. Ambrose checks the pulleys and the table rack and is delighted to find they both work smoothly. "Hey Boss, can we use the rack?"
"Certainly my dear apprentice, in fact I'll even let you try it out as unfortunately few of our clients have had them. You need to back up your theoretical understanding with practical experience. And we've got three healthy young subjects to work on. Mind you we'll be have to somewhat careful with them, they're not mere servants but the Abbot's special companions. We'll have to pad any shackles we use so they don't cut in. I don't think the Abbot wants to see much in the way of marks and bruises like some of our client's request as warnings to others. Now our first subject is a rather delicate blond boy, how do you think we should go about testing him?"
Ambrose flattered that his opinion is sought ponders for a minute before he volunteers, "What about those low visibility techniques you taught me, Boss?"
The Inquisitor smiles, "Very good Ambrose, I hope you still remember how to find those secret pressure points where pain can be most excruciating, and even paralyzing." Ambrose thinks he remembers some of them. "Another thing, I think you should personally thank the Abbot for the fine opportunities he's providing."
"I will, I promise, and you know what Boss? I really appreciate you doing this for me... And I love you."
"And I love you too, dear Ambrose." They embrace each other, tears in their eyes.
Just then there's a banging at the top of the steps and two guards come down with Alexi, bound and hooded between them. The Inquisitor removes the hood covering Alexi's terrified face, studies him briefly and asks, "Have you been tortured before my child?"
"No... no, a..."
"Well, it'll be something you'll never forget.” With a look of concern he continues, “I assume however that you have a rough idea of what to expect?"
"I think so."
"Well then, I guess we should begin." He holds the boy from behind. "Now Ambrose, show me what you remember about what we were discussing." He holds the young novice still as Ambrose probes him around his neck and shoulders with his thumbtips and fingers. The child desperately squirms so the Inquisitor reassuringly pats him on his head. “There, there, you needn't worry if you're telling the truth. A young healthy lad like you, why you'll be good as new in a couple of months. Unless of course you have something to say which would make further questioning unnecessary? Like where we might find the great sapphire? Or is there something else you want to tell me, perhaps something about the others? You never know, even little details might be worth something, and the abbot can be very generous." The boy has nothing to add and pleads his innocence. He turns to his apprentice, "Well my dear Ambrose, shall we begin? It shouldn't take long to discern the truth of this small lad." He holds the boy securely and indicating an ankle screw that Ambrose stands ready to demonstrate on the terrified child he asks, "Would this change your mind? You might never walk normally again." Alexi shudders and pleads with tears running down his cheeks. "Don't worry, we'll try other methods first, but you must trust us, it is for the good of your soul, we only seek the truth." He twists the boy's arms behind his back as Ambrose digs in his thumbtips around the child's delicate neck seeking the secret pain points. He gets the boy yelping a few times but his master is not satisfied and tells him he can do better. He demonstrates on the novice who immediately convulses in agony. "Now that hurts a lot more, doesn't it?" but the sobbing blond is unable to reply. Ambrose goes back to work eagerly digging in his thumbs and eliciting a series of hysterical shrieks. He looks pleased with himself. Then he remembers there's some good places around the groin. The Inquisitor holds the boy's pale skinny legs apart as his apprentice vigorously probes the desperately writhing boy. Then splat. The boy involuntarily shits narrowly missing his tormentors. Ambrose goes to fetch some sand to cover the mess. The Inquisitor is furious and demands, "Weren't you made to move your bowels before they brought you down?" Alex shakes his head. "I would have thought that would be a standard procedure."
Between sobs the boy manages, "Nobody's been tortured here for years, and only for heresy."
The Inquisitor looks at the novice, "You're not a heretic, are you?"
"Oh no. I don't know enough for that, I just pray lots and do my devotions and penances as best I can."
"That's good. I'm glad to hear that."
"And as for you my apprentice, haven't I told you to watch what you're doing. Don't look at him, you learn more by listening. You'll must learn to pick out the different kinds of screams which can help avoid these disgusting problems. I certainly can't blame him for what happened. Listening is also very important for timing your questions. But never trust a face."
Ambrose goes back to work on the shrieking boy who finally goes limp. "Like now, master?"
"No, you dunce, you should have stopped a minute ago. You weren't listening to his breathing and screams. You've wasted valuable time, now we have to wait before we can proceed." Ambrose offers profuse apologies. "That is not good enough, you've earned two lashes." Ambrose meekly lowers his robe to his hips while his master selects a short leather scourge with knots. That business quickly completed, and Ambrose appropriately contrite, they go over to Alexi who's curled up on the floor still whimpering. "We need to give him a few more minutes but I believe we're getting close to certainty."
The master has his apprentice tie Alexi's hands behind his back and hook them to a rope attached to a pulley and hoist him five feet off the ground painfully wrenching his shoulders. "This technique is a lot less trouble than shackling the subject into a rack, and in some ways just as effective." Turning to Alexi who is barely able to endure the pain the Inquisitor continues, "Now getting back to your tortures. You know the question, I don't have to keep repeating it." Alexi nods. "Now I'm going to have my apprentice add a little weight to your suffering." Ambrose grabs the novice's ankles and pulls as he twists and shrieks. "They're very flexible at this age, unlike the elderly who tend to fracture and come apart quite easily. You should see some of the things I've done with boys' limbs and only a couple were maimed." Ambrose is encouraged and Alexi grimaces and squeals in pain, and despite the dungeon's coolness sweat pours out of him. The questioning continues, the boy quivering with fear, his tearful eyes pleading, denies seeing anyone near the sacristy and pleads his own innocence. Ambrose keeps adding his weight and jerking on the screaming, pain crazed boy who begs for mercy every chance he gets. "Well, you can make it stop if you provide some useful information."
"Please, please, I can't."
Ambrose resumes his jerking and when it brings no result he asks if he should try dropping him. The Inquisitor considers the idea, just a two foot drop can be amazingly effective, but the novice is already exhausted from his ordeal and blubbing hysterically. He is satisfied that he knows nothing. After Alexi is untied he is barely able to stand due to the pain in his joints and limbs. The guards may have to carry him back. But there's barely a mark on the child, which will make the Abbot happy. Although the boy will be quite sore for a few days he's sure he'll recover quickly. Alexi regains some of his composure when the Inquisitor informs him that he's convinced of his innocence and his ordeal is over. "It wasn't all that bad, was it?" he cheerfully asks the miserably sobbing boy.
The Cruel Torture of Sweet Roman
When Roman is brought down the Inquisitor decides to give his apprentice a chance to explore some new techniques. The boy is, he believes, ready to assume more responsibilities and he tells Ambrose that he's going to start letting him carry out more of the actual questioning and torture but that he must follow instructions. It will be a good experience for the lad; it's a pity he can't provide him with more such opportunities. The sensuous featured Mediterranean lad is fearful but resigned to his ordeal. The Inquisitor asks him if he stole the sapphire. Roman claims that he did not. "Well, who did then?" The boy says he wishes he knew. "And if you did, would you tell me?" Roman regards him with defiance in his eyes and he has to patiently repeat the question before the boy replies that he would. "If I find that you've been protecting one of the others, you will wish you were never born." He knows that puberty, which makes boys more vulnerable to the Devil's blandishments, often makes his work more challenging. "I would like you to look at this magic probe." From his personal collection of instruments he takes out a sharp, finely tapered ivory stick almost a foot long. "This is my favourite tool for locating demons. If you insert it in the flesh and the subject feels no pain you can be almost sure there's one nearby. Incidentally their favourite places are the groin, the armpits and the nipples, but demons can hide almost anywhere. I've found them in tongues and testicles. And they can move from one place to another so it is often necessary to go back over places several times. However today we are only concerned with this stick as a truth seeking instrument.” Roman is tied back on a heavy bench with his head propped up and arms and legs wide apart. The Inquisitor tells Ambrose to open the subject's robe and expose his chest. “Let me demonstrate, and Ambrose, I want you to watch closely as you're going to be using the stick too." Roman, who's been fairly calm becomes anxious as the Inquisitor grasps one of his dark full nipples, "Ah, I see they're already a bit swollen, quite normal for a boy your age, and nicely tender for our painful purposes." As Ambrose watches closely he slowly forces the stick in, dimpling the flesh an inch below the nipple and works the point in and under the cone and brings it up behind the nipple's tip. "It's not as easy as it looks." The novice struggles futilely, his soft featured face contorted in agony. "You can really feel that, can't you?" Roman glares back at him. "The pain is going to get more intense. But if you have something to confess, perhaps you saw one of the other novices acting suspiciously, I'm sure the Abbot would be merciful." He turns to Ambrose, "Now my dear apprentice I want you to finish forcing the stick out the tip and draw it completely through. Take your time. You'll be surprised how much strength it takes for the nipple is tough as well as very sensitive. And remember to be careful to avoid the subject's eyes. They can be very devious and try to arouse your pity, something that has ruined many interrogations." Ambrose takes over and with some effort manages to break though the skin of the nipple tenting it out almost two inches from the boy's chest. Roman grits his teeth and curses them. "Such language for a novice!" The boy struggles desperately but as his pain intensifies he stops cursing and grits his teeth. "I think he's starting to weaken, now is the time to put the question to him." Ambrose asks him where he hid the sapphire but gets only protestations of ignorance. "Push harder and twist the stick so it hurts more." Slowly, a few short inches from Ambrose's eyes the sharp point emerges, merely a prick at first, painfully enlarging the hole in his flesh and contorting Roman's sweet face. The Inquisitor sits back, relaxes and watches, occasionally offering his dear Ambrose encouragement. He is pleased with his apprentice's efforts as the stick, as big around as a little finger at the base, is worked slowly through the sensitive flesh. He enjoys watching subjects' expressions, especially the terror in their eyes, as torture is applied. He is particularly delighted with Roman's moans and squeals that reveal the depth of his agony. In fact he's rather taking a fancy to the handsome young lad who suffers so beautifully. The Inquisitor detects some aesthetic quality in it, as if others didn't know how to suffer half as well. It's his sensuous quivering lips, it's his lovely big shocked eyes, it's… it's, it's his sincerity. He can imagine in other circumstances pleasuring the boy. And the striking physical similarities of the two boys add to his enjoyment of the scene. The boy is quite a challenge for his apprentice. He even imagines their roles reversed with his dear apprentice suffering. It's an exciting idea, one he'd dearly love to see, but he recognizes that it would be very difficult to arrange in practice.
Ambrose is enjoying his first time using the stick. He figures it's a neat torture. It's interesting feeling the victim's struggles and spasms, and hearing all the different sounds he makes. He likes seeing his skin getting pierced and stretching, and he would like to look to look in the victim's face just to see how he's doing but the boss is probably right, it might be dangerous. But it sure is fun, and he's getting to like his work more, now that he understands how torture is one of God's ways to pursue the truth. He tries to interpret the novice's moans and squeals as the music of Truth. Finally with some effort Ambrose pulls the stick all the way through and blood trickles down the novice's chest. Not enough to bother with the sand however. Ambrose again questions Roman who indignantly denies any knowledge. The boy is indeed a challenging subject. Then with more confidence and determination than before he starts working on the boy's other nipple. After skewering the breast he vigorously, and almost gleefully, twists the stick around and works it back and forth through the oozing flesh. Roman is in agony but remains defiant and after a while Ambrose becomes frustrated with his lack of success. He complains angrily, "I can't even get a good scream outa him Boss!"
The Inquisitor advises patience. "It takes time. Rome was not built in a day. Our goal is not to make him scream but to discover the truth. And I think you should be more detached in your approach and conceal your enthusiasm as this can create a resentment that distracts the subject from the pain and may encourage him to resist."
"I know Boss, but some subjects just piss me off so much I want to punch them out."
"I can understand your frustration, my dear Ambrose, but you know how the Church is opposed to violence, and that is why we are not permitted to punch or kick our subjects during torture. Do you think they would have supplied us with so much equipment if they expected us to simply beat people?" Ambrose contritely apologizes. "Pain, pure pain, clear sharp overwhelming pain is what we must strive for." After his second skewering the tormented boy is still appears determined and hate burns in his lovely dark eyes. He is repeatedly offered relief if he implicates one of the others but remains silent. Only after almost an hour during which Ambrose has used the stick in several places and experimented with pincers does Roman's resistance break down but he still has nothing to say. The Inquisitor is almost certain of the novice's innocence. He is actually relieved and quite smitten by the brave lad. Roman is able to walk up the steps on his own.
Noble Paul Shackled to the Rack
Both of them are now convinced that it must be Paul who took the gem. The two younger boys' answers and reactions under torture are certainly convincing. Ambrose who has a few secrets of his own is somehow fascinated by the idea that Paul is a thief. Knowing that stealing is a mortal sin gives the youth an exotic quality in Ambrose's eyes. He has heard romantic folk tales with highwaymen and Robin Hoods as heroes. When Paul is brought down Ambrose shackles his ankles and wrists to the table rack and works the winch lightly stretching the novice. "You sure you don't it tighter, Boss?"
"Later, I have something else in mind first." On his master's command the apprentice hikes the novice's robe up above his waist exposing his genitals. The Inquisitor tells Ambrose that he wants him to begin the interrogation by torturing the subject's balls. "I never cease to be amazed by God's Wisdom, it is as if He had our needs in mind when he made these organs so exquisitely sensitive." Turning to the shackled youth, "We know you stole the sapphire, so you might as well admit it now." Paul politely tells him he is mistaken. "Now my dear apprentice, this may be a difficult interrogation but I'm going to leave the actual tortures up to you. Remember what I've taught you." Ambrose is familiar with the standard questioning formulas and techniques, as well as the various tortures required in the search for truth. It's not the first time he's tortured a subject's balls although the others were all old men. Once again the Inquisitor reminds him that it is best to avoid looking into the subject's eyes. "Later, my dear Ambrose when you have more experience, observing their sufferings may spur you to greater efforts."
Ambrose decides to proceed intermittently so that Paul's nuts will have time to become swollen and tender and hence more sensitive to subsequent assaults. It is one of his master's harm reduction theories to maximize pain while avoiding the danger of permanent injury, and he's anxious to try it out. He curiously examines Paul's genitals, which are more richly hued than his own and admires the large balls, which lie loosely in their crinkly bluish sac. Ambrose gazes, fascinated by the texture and fullness of the novice's genitals. It's not until he gets an impatient glare from his master that he grasps the youth's balls and starts to spank them smartly with his other hand. Paul struggles against his shackles and tries not to scream. The Inquisitor looks pleased with his apprentice's efforts and nods encouragement.
Suddenly there's a knock at the dungeon door. A messenger descends the steps and whispers to the Inquisitor that the Abbot wants to see him immediately. He signals Ambrose that he's leaving and goes up the steps. Ambrose continues his spanking briefly causing Paul to struggle and squeal. He decides he'll return to the balls later. He realizes that in his excitement he had forgotten to ask questions but gets no response when he does. Then, left alone with Paul he is not sure what to do in the meantime. He assumed that his master would be present to offer guidance. Then he recalls his master explaining and demonstrating various ways to torture cocks. In fact he has successfully tortured the cocks of a few old slaves already. Paul's cock is a generous one. Thumbscrews and the ivory stick come to his mind. There are a number of techniques and he is curious to try some of them. And anyway, it's an excuse to examine Paul's dusky member more closely. He's known a few cocks in his young life and this one is a particularly nice looking one, and it enlarges rapidly in his grasp. He fondles it admiringly as it grows to a quivering rod forgetting that he's to torture it. Paul seems to welcome the attention. When the rosy glans peeks out Ambrose realizes that he's also aroused and becomes confused. He glances at Paul, he looks into Paul's eyes and detects a strange joy, and a forgiving smile on his face. He knows immediately that he shouldn't have looked but he's captivated by the older youth. He stares transfixed into his face which he finds noble, beautiful and inviting. And he has such a handsome muscular body, all the more appealing due to its slight stretching on the rack, and the flickering light from the torches which accent his form. Then he remembers what he is supposed to be doing and he tries to assume the proper attitude of a seeker of truth. Unfortunately for the practice of his art he is overcome with surging excitement and impulsively kisses the youth instead. Paul moans with delight and calls out his name. "Ambrose, Aammbrose..." Temptation completely overcomes the apprentice, he climbs onto the shackled novice and lovingly caresses his hard manhood, reveling in its softness and rich shadings. He relieves the tension of the rack and frees one of Paul's arms. The novice returns the apprentice's caresses and before long they are passionately embraced, rolling around on the cool well scrubbed floor, their ecstasy accompanied by bells loudly chiming in the abbey above.
Upstairs in his quarters the Abbot inquires how the questioning has gone. The Inquisitor describes the torments inflicted on Alexi and Roman and their resolute denial of any knowledge, and mentions that at this very moment his apprentice is violently assaulting Paul's genitals. The Inquisitor confidently assures the Abbot about Ambrose's proficiency in genital torture. The Abbot seems pleased but strangely unconcerned. He hopes that his apprentice doesn't get carried away, as he regularly likes to enjoy the fullness of the youth's endowment. "I know that Paul did not take the sapphire, in fact I've found it, as you may have guessed." He offers flippantly that the gem may have gotten caught in a fold of his vestments when he replaced the reliquary in its niche. "In any case it is getting late and we have things to do if we are to leave on the hunt tomorrow when the alignment of the planets is auspicious.
“Word that the Great Sulieman Sapphire is missing has become known within the walls and must be dealt with right away. I have decided to declare that its return is a miracle. The great blue stone, more radiant than ever, suddenly reappeared in a burst of blinding white light as I lay prostrating myself before the Most Holy Turd of St. Vincent. I was astounded. Perhaps God had simply borrowed the stone in order to contemplate the beauty of His creation. Anyway, it calls for a celebration." The Abbot gives orders for the bells to be rung and candles lit. A special te deum mass is held immediately to celebrate the miracle. As the monks and novices rejoice, tears in their eyes, the Abbot observes, “After this, no one will ever doubt the power of the relic.”
When the Inquisitor belatedly returns to the dungeon he finds his apprentice and the subject asleep in each other's arms with the evidence of their lust smeared on their bodies. He studies them with amusement for a moment before feigning anger he awakens them. He tells them they must be punished for their sinful acts, be scourged with the lash. He enjoys giving floggings, there's a certain grace and finesse to the movements, like swordsmanship. Compared to torture it's not only better exercise for the body but also much less demanding on the mind. People have no idea of how tiring torturing can be. The boys cower in shame and fear. He's not sufficiently hypocritical to morally condemn their love, he can recall the urgent passions of his own youth and doesn't believe that sort of thing ever did any harm, especially in the religious orders. Even the Archbishop has remarked that the bureaucratic hierarchy would collapse without it. However, it will be good sport to flog them. He contemplates, as a poignant tableau, tying the two together embraced, suspending them in chains and whipping them with a long black lash. He envies them. Wishful thinking, but he looks forward to punishing them.
Ambrose, expecting a severe whipping, loosens his robes, wraps them around his hips and stands back hunched ready. Floggings are so violent, painful and leave ugly marks that he sometimes wonders if he might prefer torture. And while he's helped torture dozens he's never whipped anyone although he'd certainly like to. For the Inquisitor, the prospect of whipping handsome young Paul, whom he was denied the opportunity to torture, is very enticing and he decides to punish him first. Ambrose will have to watch his co-conspirator get whipped before his own eyes, a nice touch of cruelty he thinks. In a situation like this there is a place for cruelty. There is also some novelty to whipping a new boy which can make it more interesting. It's like sex, you don't want to whip the same boy every day. And after, Paul will be in no condition to offer Ambrose any support. He makes Paul remove his robes entirely and stand naked with his hands on back of his neck. The master uses the lash to explore the youth from his shoulders to his knees front and back. He makes comments for his apprentice's enlightenment about the relative sensitivity of various places to target, and warns that he will be tested on them later. He offers pointers on wrist action and on how to get the most out of backhand strokes. He makes him watch Paul's eyes as he's whipped. He must learn to look the price of truth in the eyes. After every few strokes he makes him examine Paul's rising, darkening weals so he learns the instrument's effects intimately. Then as a cruel touch he has his apprentice take over the flogging, not something Ambrose really relishes, but fearing his master's wrath he applies the lash conscientiously. Paul remains relatively stoical during his ordeal and is near collapse at the end. They've been careful not to draw any blood but the striking marks decorating his body will help convince the Abbot that Paul was well tested even if, technically speaking, a whipping is not torture. Compromises must be made. The Inquisitor is satisfied and gives Ambrose his lightest whipping ever as an additional act of cruelty.
The Hunt and After
They set off on horseback early next morning accompanied by two archers, four swordsmen, six beaters and a cook. The autumn air is pleasantly crisp and the game abundant. On the second day Ambrose kills his first deer with his club delighting his master who believes it is good experience for his apprentice to kill a large animal. Death is, after all, an unfortunate part of the job. One evening after the others are asleep the Inquisitor mentions to the Abbot that the Archbishop's spies in Rome report that the Pope is in poor health and politically weak because of Vatican intrigues. The Abbot replies that his own spies have given him similar reports and mentions troubles in the East. The Inquisitor adds that Jews fleeing pogroms in the north have settled and prospered in the towns along the coast. "Ah! So you also think the Jews are ready to be milked again?" the Abbot asks and then comments, "You know, a few rumours about them abducting Christian children to sacrifice in their secret rites and most of their gold would soon be ours. And with the Jews' gold, and what it will buy, and the political situation, it might be a good time for the Archbishop to win the papacy. And I am getting to the age where I could appreciate the luxuries of the palace in his stead."
The Inquisitor ponders the plans and inquires, "I like the idea and see good prospects for success, but what is there in it for me?"
The Abbot gestures reassuringly, "You will be pleasantly surprised and I will let you know very soon." The hunt is a great success; they make forty kills in four days, and receive tribute from several hamlets in the forest.
The next evening the Abbot holds a lavish intimate feast in his guests' honour. The Inquisitor, his apprentice and the Abbot recline on plush divans as a team of young novices serves a variety of delicacies. The three favourites, all seeming to have recovered and to be remarkably cheerful and pleasant in view of their recent ordeals, attend their personal needs, fluffing up pillows and refilling the Venetian goblets with a reserved vintage. When they are well sated the Abbot announces that his favourites will perform a curious form of Arabian entertainment that was introduced by crusaders returning from the Holy Land. The three novices, now revealing clad in diaphanous gowns, reappear and begin a slow sensuous dance accompanied by a lute player. Each boy in turn performs a few feet from the Inquisitor teasing the air with his body. He is astonished and delighted. Gradually the tempo increases as the boys' movements become more rhythmic and erotic. Each dancer briefly joins the guests on their divans and affectionately caresses them. Alexi snuggles in beside the Inquisitor and hugs him before resuming his dance. Roman rubs his big bruised nipples against the Inquisitor and invites him to take minor liberties with his body and Paul massages his shoulders and spine in a most soothing way while permitting more than a glimpse of his generous endowment. Ambrose and the Abbot are similarly entertained. The music and dancing build towards a frenzy that excites the Inquisitor's loins. He applauds loudly, he's never been entertained by recent subjects before and wonders. He is amazed by their affection and seeming lack of any resentment. When the boys leave he turns to the Abbot with a puzzled expression.
The Abbot has an amused smile, "They all love you, my esteemed inquisitor. They all want to make you happy." When the Inquisitor does not understand the Abbot explains. "These boys are more than playthings, they incorporate my future hopes just as Ambrose may for you. I have long thought of acceding to the archbishopric but I need advisors and agents I can trust, like our mutual trust which has prospered both of us. I have plans for these young men but I needed to have absolute confidence in their loyalty to me and each other. They had to be tested and that is where you came in, as I certainly couldn't do the job myself."
The Inquisitor acknowledges the Abbots wisdom; "You had me fooled." They enjoy a good laugh.
"Paul in a few years will rise to emissary, negotiating alliances, handling affairs with Rome and keeping the Church united in the West. He has a very open mind and I see a great future for him. Roman is strong in body and determination, and has a love of combat. When the Archbishop leaves after the Feast of Bacchus he will take the lad with him to be trained by the palace guards. We will need some military prowess to back up our moral authority… Ah, and incidentally, Roman had an interesting question, he inquired whether your apprentice's commitment and loyalty had been tested under duress." The Inquisitor admits he has not. "It is not a task I would expect you to perform yourself so I am having two of my most trusted monks accompany sweet Roman to assist him in testing Ambrose. He claims to have learnt a great deal already under your skilled guidance, and is happy to offer his services. And interrogation can be a useful military skill, wouldn't you agree?"
The Inquisitor nods, concealing his joy at the prospect, and says he will remain discreetly in the background, "to make sure that proper procedures are followed while the torture is applied".
The abbot continues, "And my dear little Alexi has a talent for numbers and counting and will help us keep track of taxes and the Jew's gold. When he is older I will appoint him as my loving chamberlain. I also have the tentative support of many powerful lords who see their interests served by my ascension.
"The boys have been aware of these possibilities for some time but now we can start making more definite plans. Returning to your puzzlement, what intrigued them, and accounts for their sincere good will towards you, is that I informed them on my return from the hunt that I would be promoting you from Senior Inquisitor to Provincial Tax Collector. Wouldn't you agree that you are eminently qualified for the position? They will all need to work closely with you if our scheme is to succeed. On a more personal level I thought the matter of the missing sapphire would be an excellent chance for them to get to know you, and vice versa. I think it worked, they have few illusions." The Inquisitor is impressed; the Abbot has lost none of his cunning. "With you collecting taxes we may all end up in Rome." The two men solemnize their pact by clasping hands and kissing the Holy Turd.
Before he retires with Alexi for the night the Abbot graciously offers Roman for his friend's nocturnal pleasure. The dark eyed boy has bared his chest and fondles his still bruised breast as he signals his willingness. The Inquisitor would not think of refusing his host's generousity, or the boy's carnal charms which certainly do not disappoint him. And Paul, as a special dispensation from the Abbot, is allowed to entertain Ambrose in his cell. Bonds are strengthened and a good time is had by all.
The Inquisitor admires the Abbot's astuteness. Certainly Alexi and Roman after their testing under torture must be considered as completely reliable. The Abbot was correct to want his boys tortured, but what about Paul? Just how far did his dear apprentice test the youth before he succumbed to lust? On the trail back he puts the question to Ambrose of what actually happened in the dungeon. "When I left you I was quite impressed with the vigour with which you were attacking Paul's balls, but just how far did you go in the questioning and application of torture?"
Ambrose looks at him sheepishly, "Well Boss, what you saw was about it. And you know, last night in his cell he wanted it again, he quite enjoyed getting his nuts smacked around. He tells me it's his favourite penance. So I had him do it to me and it was sort of interesting at the time but I'm still sore today."
At this revelation profound doubt enters the Inquisitor's mind. He's come across pain lovers before, the previous abbot for one, and considers them to be extremely dangerous and unreliable. There may be a traitor, if not a heretic in the midst of their ambitious scheme. But after his assurances to the Abbot he's not sure if he can do anything about it. And he doesn't know the truth. Two days later the party arrives at the palace with the flesh of ten boars, 300 pounds of the Abbey's famous cheese, eight barrels of newcrop, three large bales of skins, an assortment of honeys, wax, herbs and six pack mules. The Archbishop is pleased and very interested in their plans. It looks as if Ambrose is going to get ample journeyman opportunities to practise his art.