1494 c/o Jefferson Byrd

An Auspicious Assemblage

This excerpt from Sir Marshall Foam’s Encyclopedia of Medieval Demonologists comprises all that is currently known about the council of eight.

In 1494, the council of eight convened for the first time in earnest during the Feast of St. Stephen. There was the archbishop, exiled from Britain for his controversial writings. He claimed that at the moment of orgasm, as ecstasy rippled through his corporeal form, he could see the face of God and receive divine prophecies. His widely circulated treatise lambasted the church and provoked anti-clerical sentiment amongst England’s growing lower class. King Edward IV accused the archbishop of inciting the London Massacre of 1479, in which a deranged mob ripped nine Anglican deacons to bits. The archbishop took refuge in the Levant, where he lived in opulence at the Duke’s secluded mountain palace. Contrary to popular belief, the Duke was never a member of the council of eight, though his financial and political assistance maintained the council during the tumultuous period of the Great Cleft.

There was the Genoese artist and his sister. Under commission of the Pope, the artist sculpted numerous masterpieces in marble, limestone, and flatrock, most of which stand today at the Crescent of the Holy Sepulcher in Milan. His celebrated works explored the themes of inescapable fate and God’s wrath, including Moses falling to his death at the sight of the Promised Land and Abraham solemnly holding a stone blade high above the head of Isaac. Despite his piety, the artisan was wracked with guilt over his incestuous relations with his sister. Upon conceiving a child in unholy union, the artist devised a scheme to swap his inbred offspring with an orphan child. Yet the artist’s penitence was not so easily diverted. The adoptive son grew mad with age and poisoned the artist’s goblet with hemlock, leaving the grand master paralyzed. Henceforth, the artist was carried on the back of two young apprentices to meet before the council of eight.

There was the acrobat who traveled with his family of circus performers from Kiev to Prague. So convinced was the acrobat of the meaninglessness of existence, he allowed his own wife to fall from the trapeze to her death. “I cannot be judged for my misdeeds,” the acrobat announced to the crowd following his wife’s untimely demise. “God is chaos!” After settling in Berlin to avoid his creditors, the acrobat spent his days throwing himself against the walls of the Basilica of St. Justine, soliciting donations from passersby. The Duke extended an offer of 10,000 lira for a performance before the royal court in Lisbon. In a grand spectacle, the acrobat leapt from the zenith of a stone megalith at Alfama, Baixa, shattering his legs and hips.

There was the acclaimed Parisian actor. Prior to joining the council, the actor was renowned as a child prodigy who had marveled Europe with his famed recitations of scripture. In 1468, at the tender age of four, the actor performed before King Louis the Universal Spider. Reading from the Book of Holy Wills, the actor moved the entire royal court to tears. Believing his sweet voice to be a gift from God, the actor virtually bankrupted himself importing fine oils and tinctures from Persia to soothe his throat. He retired from the theatre at age 30, devastated by the death of his elderly father. Standing before throngs of devotees at the Royal Academy of Arts, the actor denounced God. Cursing God’s gift, he severed his vocal cords with a wooden dagger. He emerged in 1493 for one final performance in Bourbonnais, in which he stood in abject silence before a rapt audience for three hours. Those in attendance hailed it as his finest effort.

There was the Byzantine astronomer who had the gift of predicting future events that would never happen. Born with a condition that left him prone to seizures, the elders of his Turkish village drilled two small holes in the back of his head in an attempt to alleviate his suffering. The procedure had little effect on his seizures, but afterwards the astronomer claimed to be able to foresee events that had not yet occurred. He devoted twelve years to the study of celestial convergence under the tutelage of Mehmed the Younger at the Emperor’s University of Mathematics. Yet the scientific community denounced the astronomer when he proclaimed that God had told him the sun would crash into the Earth during the next solar eclipse. His prognostication rebuked by his academic peers, the astronomer turned to the Imams of the Sultanate. Condemned by the clerics as a demagogue, the astronomer’s grim prediction found a welcome audience with the Armenian death cults of Lower Anatolia. Hailing the astronomer as a prophet, the cultists eagerly awaited the doomed eclipse, which eventually came in the winter of 1488 without incident. Angered that the sun had not crashed into the Earth, the cultists turned on their prophet, flaying the skin from his feet. He escaped with his life to Gibraltar, where he began a correspondence with the Duke. In an undated letter, the astronomer claimed that the world would end during the Feast of St. Stephen in 1494.

There was the Dutch apothecary and his handmaiden. Stricken with poor eyesight, the skilled apothecary conceived an elixir that he believed would bestow ultimate vision. The potion left him blind, yet he continued in darkness to perfect his craft with the assistance of his loyal mistress. While developing a peppermint balm to heighten his remaining senses, the apothecary unleashed a noxious gas cloud, which struck him delirious. Unable to formulate sentences, he communicated in a language only comprehensible to his handmaiden. Under his demented supervision, the handmaiden procured a deadly assortment of lethal herbs and minerals: widowleaf, scorpion dust, devil’s root, and volcanic crystals. In his madness, the apothecary believed these fatal ingredients could be combined to subvert the natural order and cheat death itself. The effects of his concoction remain unknown to history. In 1490, the apothecary burned his shop to the ground and settled in Antwerp, where he renewed his clandestine experimentations through a generous grant from the Earl of Warwick, a favored cousin of the Duke.

The assembled council only convened publicly on one occasion. Thereafter the conclave moved underground, meeting under the strictest of secrecy. Following the Harsh Quickening of 1494, the council disappeared, only reemerging to issue their Proclamation of Four Truths at the turn of the century. A reconstituted council of eight materialized in the late sixteenth century of unknown origins, first during the War of Prussian Succession in 1572, and again during the Belgian civil war of 1581. In each instance, the council’s sway determined the outcome. What happened to the original council following the oppression of the Harsh Quickening and the catastrophe of the Great Cleft remains a puzzle to scholars.