The Chastise Church is a modern church, and that means that, accordingly, it has modern saints alongside the ancient examples. Saint Marrus is the most recent addition to the ever-growing flock, having gained her sainthood in 1989, a year after her death. Born Jane Trippolis, Saint Marrus showed little interest in the church for most of her life, and it wasn’t until she was sixty five that she attended her first sermon.
For her working life Marrus had worked as a fitness instructor at the Cooperative Gymnasium, and was by all accounts relatively happy with her life. She married early to a young man that she went to school with, but seemed to lose her desire for romance or relationships after he died at only thirty two. Yet Marrus had a large support group of friends, and seemed to recover from the loss. Nothing about Marrus made her worthy of sainthood, until, in 1982, she began to have visions.
Today, at the Church of Saint Astrocann and Marrus at Culvert Lane, the narrow streets will fill with hundreds of worshippers, many of whom will be dressed in long leather coats, tight-wrapped headscarves and goggles, the battle raiment of Saint Marrus. Each will take turns to touch the assorted relics lain out on the altar; her diary, her sighting gown, the right leather boot of her battle raiment which adorns her plastinated corpse. Inside the layers of plastic, her bones still exist, but the flash surrounding them has been replaced, a golden skin layered on top. This process is the Church’s currently favoured method of creating human body relics, producing a far more durable result than mummification which retains much of the character of the original subject. Saint Marrus’ plastinated arm is poised, spear in hand, ready to strike a huge, many-legged lizard that writhes beneath her.
According to Church dogma, the visions that set Marrus on her way to sainthood were initially terrifying, confusing affairs. The first came upon her in church, as the sermon ended and she spoke her Dedications. At first there was a sense of pervading fear and unease, which grew slowly into a blinding terror, and the conviction that she was being chased. In her mind she was running down a dark street with something terrible and unseen hot on her heels, yet her body merely fell lifeless to the floor of the church and she let out stifled screams. When the priest brought her around she described the experience, and how it had ended in excruciating pain in her legs, as if they had been bitten by huge jaws.
The visions continued to assail her, three times at least before she got a look at the beast that chased her. It was the influence of the Waylayer, said her priest, but she believed that it was some kind of specific Attunement, not with the world, but with other Buentoillitants. ‘I recognised her scream,’ she said after the third vision, ‘she came to my fitness class once and pulled a ligament badly, it was the same woman.’ The priest asked what happened to the poor lady. ‘It killed her. It killed her and ate her, a terrible lizard ate her.’
And indeed people were going missing, all near places where the sewer network connected with the surface. Obviously, she went to the Defence Brigades, but for obvious reasons they failed to take her seriously, and even held her for questioning for some time, believing that she could have been connected in some way to the disappearances. When she saw the fourth victim be claimed in a vision, Marrus decided to take action. With her priest’s blessing, she armed herself with the Spear of Saint Astrocann, another beast-slaying saint, dressed in her raiment, and stepped into the sewers.
She stayed down there for three days before she encountered the beast, and many thought she too had fallen victim. Yet her fitness training, and the insight into the beast’s movements that she had gained through her visions gave her the upper hand; the hunter became the hunted, and after a long battle, Marrus brought right her hobnailed boot down on its skull, clamping its razor-jaws shut, and pierced the animal through the midriff with the spear. She returned to the surface to fetch the Church authorities, who cut the huge six-legged lizard down the centre, pulling out the human remains to be later sanctified and interred, then burned the monster into ashes with ritual oils so that it could not reanimate or spread evil disease, as with Astrocann’s beast.
The beast displayed with the relics today is a mere artist’s rendition, made from eye-witness descriptions in the weeks following the miraculous event. Many Buentoillitants see this lack of evidence all too convenient, and some have even gone as far as to accuse Marrus of the murder of the folks whose remains were allegedly recovered from the beast’s stomach. It is exceptionally important to note, however, that these claims are entirely unevidenced, and other than her discovery of the mangled remains nothing ties her to any of the deaths. The bones, which were extensively analysed by a number of coroners, did show evidence of what were either large tooth or tool marks, and what remained of the victim’s flesh had apparently been subjected to ‘viscous tearing forces’ and a strong acid, similar in composition to the stomach acid of a marble lizard (a largish white lizard that can grow up to three foot long), though not the same.
The Defence Brigades made a number of procedural mistakes in their investigation, including the loss of the beasts supposed ashes, and this of course has led to a number of conspiracy theories, ranging from a murderous cadre of religious fanatics within the Church to ‘magical energies’ exuded from the City’s power source leading to some kind of monstrous mutations in a sewer-dwelling marble lizard, and a subsequent cover-up by the Defence Brigades who wish to maintain confidence in the safety of the electrical grid.
The lack of evidence means very little to true believers, and has done nothing to stop the tides of people visiting the relics of Saint Marrus the Many-Sighted, the Undaunted, the Beast Slayer, on this, the day of her birth. Buentoille’s most recent saint is set to captivate and inspire for many years to come.
Other festivals happening today:
- I Wrote You Into My Book, Derek, Now Come to My Festival
- The Festival of Beer Bottle Flutes