Innocence, in a Sense

Artwork by Joshua Insole


Even though he scratched the words carefully — his gnarled, arthritic hands shaking — they appeared wobbly and spidery, all the same. He showed the note to the one, who read it and nodded, solemnly. He in turn recited the words aloud (a bit too loudly) to the third, who exhaled slowly; it was a sigh tinged with both sadness and contentment, regret and acceptance.

“Write the message, my brother,” said the one with no eyes, voice thin and wavering. “And write it well.”

The one with no tongue made a sound of confirmation deep down in his throat, nodding for the sake of the one who was deaf. In spite of their disabilities, communication flowed freely between them — a sign of those who have spent a great deal of time in each other’s company, learning their every thought, every tic, every quirk, every reaction, every way of dealing with things and every way thinking things through, every facial expression, every sound uttered, every posture, every mood. They knew each other better than they knew themselves.

Slowly, trying to still his trembling hands, the mute monk began the momentous task of writing the most important — and indeed, the last — letter of his life.


Their bandages were already damp with blood when they began the journey at daybreak, the watery grey light trickling down through the overcast skies. They had supplies enough to last them the duration of the walk, but they had to be used sparingly. Dali had appointed himself as the one in charge of their rations — medical and nutritional, much to the grumbling of Bidar — and he intended to see that they had enough to get them through the trek, and perhaps even some left over once they’d arrived. He wanted to give a good impression.

Everybody from the community had gathered to see them off. Not out of any sense of sentimentality — although there was undoubtedly a bit of that — rather, it was required by the Ty Sanctaidd’s Holy Laws. To break the church’s rules was a crime punishable by death… eventually. A fair bit of torture and maiming was to be expected prior to the sweet release of expiration, of course. And even then, the damned souls would be burned for all eternity in Uffern. So, all were in attendance that cold, grey morning, lest they suffer punishments that stretched beyond the realm of mortals.

The boys’ parents were there, naturally. They likely would have been even if hadn’t been an obligation to do so — or at least, some of them would have attended. Few tears were shed, however, and the ones that trickled down cheeks came from the eyes of mothers and (secret) sweethearts. The men of the community stood stoic, faces stern and stony.

No words of love were exchanged between the fresh Three and their friends and family, even though this would likely be the last time they’d ever see each other. Instead, the Father recited a dry bit of scripture from the Gair Duw, rambling on about the importance of doing that which has been assigned to you (“Or you’ll burn in Uffern!”) and achieving holiness through hard, backbreaking work (“Or you’ll roast in the fires!”) and denying the superfluous pleasures of the flesh that distract from the Great God Above (“Or your skin will blister and char for all eternity!”) until people started shuffling their feet, stomachs rumbling hungrily, backs aching. All the while, the boys stood there, packs on shoulders (to lay them on the ground would be a sin), waiting for the whole thing to be set into motion.

Once the Father had wound his way down to his conclusion, he uttered the words, “Well, off you go, then!” and turned and marched in the direction of the Ty Sanctaidd without so much as a word of a goodbye. As soon as the words had left his lips, the crowd immediately began to disperse, flocking this way and that to get on with the chores of the day. A few lingered for a moment — watching as the boys who still had their eyes exchanged a nervous look — and then went on their way, for fear of being punished for laziness and shirking of duties.

As was usually the case, Dali stepped forward first, in spite of his blindness. The knife he’d plunged into his eyes had robbed him of neither his confidence nor courage. “Let’s go then, boys!” he commanded, voice strong and sure. He didn’t even wait for the other two who acted as his eyes, and strode onwards without a hint of uncertainty. Dafyd and Bidar swapped one last glance of fear and worry, and then raced on to catch up to Dali, to make sure he didn’t trip or stumble over a tree root or a bump in the road.

And so, the Three departed the place of their birth — the only place they’d ever known — without much fanfare or celebration. The Change in which they’d mutilated themselves had been the real festivity, this was the moment where they simply got on with it. They had a long, arduous journey before them; their mettle would be tested, their bonds would be stretched, their newfound partial sensory loss would be regretted and their remaining senses would be sharpened. They knew that they were leaving their childhoods behind them (not that they were particularly cheery or joyous times), and that what lay ahead would be brutal and unflinchingly unforgiving. Any sense of innocence that remained within their spoiled bodies would soon be crudely extracted by the wilds that awaited them. It’s a trek that all prospective Repellers of Boddi Craig must endure, in order to prove they are up to the task.

All before they even reach the uninviting stone walls of Castell Boddi Craig and liberate the elder Three from their duties.


When the letter arrived, the monk with both eyes and a tongue but no sense of hearing showed it to the one and read it aloud to the other. The blind one nodded unhurriedly in response to hearing his companion’s voice.

“Let’s hope these ones actually make it here,” he said. “I fear time is not on our side. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for another batch.”

4th June 2020

Written for the June #BlogBattle

Read the rest of Tales from Boddi Craig here!

8 thoughts on “Innocence, in a Sense

  1. aebranson

    One of the things I find so fascinating about this twisted world is that the forces who keep the demon restrained are little more than a lesser evil themselves. There’s so much lack of compassion among them that I detect a sense of irony – the triad of monks ‘condemned’ to restrain probably develop more camaraderie with each other than all the rest of the ‘church’ that sent them out.
    Which then sets me to wondering how the story will ultimately pan out: Will the evil of the demon appear to promise more happiness than the dreary existence of the ‘good’ they currently adhere to? Or will facing an even greater evil lead them a little closer to true light? (although they might not live to share that revelation?)
    I know, I know – you can’t tell me! 😉 But since at this point I’m wondering if the new Three will complete their journey anyway, about all I know for sure is new questions will arise. Oh, and I loved the wordplay in the title!

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, AE! Sorry for the sluggish response, I’ve been without internet for a bit — been rather productive without the distractions… makes me think I should go on a writer’s retreat, and see how much I can get done! I will be reading yours for last month before the new prompt next week. (How are we in July 2020? That can’t be right, can it?)

      I’m really glad this little isle is posing so many questions — that’s exactly what I’m going for! I didn’t want a clear-cut Good vs Evil, but multiple shades of greys and ambiguity. Thanks again! 😊

  2. Gary

    It’s like a microcosm sect. Deaf leading the blind directed by an orator. A very eerie place to contemplate living. Very reminiscent of villages under the auspices of a castle filled with vampires. Nobody speaks out in fear. Compassion, if there is any left, swallowed by the same dread of repercussion. Self mutilation an honour that leaves acolytes on a path few appear to reach the end of. I assume letters from the elderly watchmen don’t get read? Does anyone dare visit them to collect them? If so, is this task set by some leader in a bunker of wealth and opulence?

    Meanwhile, if the oldsters faculties begin failing does the beast of Boddi Craig stir more virulently? Is this why it reached the Capten? Is it even real or just some ritualistic myth to perpetuate the sect? If it is real then is it itself playing them all for fools? Which is the greater evil here? What do outlying villages or nearby islands make of it all? What happens if folk realise the world offers much more than fear if they decide to leave? That would be an ending worth writing as a concept. The Last Monks. A ghost township where nobody now lives. No new senseless monks to walk the path and age taking the last monks to the beyond. What then? Can the beast move or is it fixed to Boddi Craig? Bitter irony if so. No fear to prey on. Does it too atrophy into dust?

    Sign of a good piece is questions aplenty methinks.

    Clearly this is your world build beginning to grow.

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, Gary! Very much appreciated. I do have a sketch in mind of how the communications are passed on — a sort of jury duty, each member of the village gets their own time in the sun (or should that be in the darkness?). Sort of like the Chernobyl disaster, where each member of the clean up crew was given a minute to help clean and then had to leave and swap shifts, to avoid radiation sickness. The monks are far too busy in their duties to grow food for themselves or the like, and so they need deliveries, and communication — particularly as the Three grow older and the end of the path beckons. Can’t have one of the Three kicking the bucket before their proteges have arrived, can we? I won’t spill any more, as I reckon it’ll be better put in an actual story, ha! 😉

      Fantastic questions you’ve posed there, Gary! Given me quite a bit to think about, as I further explore this grim little isle! The Last Monks, yes that would really be interesting to investigate. Funny that you mentioned that, as I was thinking about the very first monks — the First Three — and the events that led to their pilgrimage. (This is where the Capten’s story takes place, pre-Three.)

      As you say, thanks for the good mojo! I’m enjoying explaining about this twisted place, so I reckon that’s a good sign! 😊

      • Gary

        Always good when a story ignites questions I find. Bit like the end of a book chapter that lingers with thoughts of just read the next one…then the next…the draw of page turning in search of the answers.

        Good lord….who but a looney would travel to the monks bearing food? They dwell in a place rumoured to contain a pit where there be a monster. Not only that said creature would, presumably, be aware of folk approaching. If it knew why then would it not try very hard to make them lose their way, spoil the food or some other method whereby the monks longevity became compromised?

        A very “wretched” existence 😳

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Ha! Those who get sent will not have a choice. Either face the potential wrath of the monster, or the very real wrath of the church. But I’ll leave this well enough alone, and I’ll come to it in my own time, drip-feeding the worldbuild a bit at time. 😀

  3. Sue Eller

    The story intrigues me and makes me want to read more, which is what a good story is meant to do. Thanks for drawing me into that world. I will attempt to “liberate” myself from it until you add more.

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