Characters: Ianto Jones, The Doctor (10th) and Rose in mentions
Spoilers: End of Days for Torchwood, The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit for Doctor Who
Length: 1081 words
Notes: Many many thanks to mustangbex for her cracking beta job on this!
They have planned to be in Rome by this time, but the schedule, so meticulously planned out for the Great Gap Year Adventure, didn’t take into account freak December snowstorms. High up somewhere in the Italian Alps the only place around that has room for them to stay is an ancient and active monastery. It’s a willing trade; the monks are not ones to turn down hostellers for the night, especially ones so young, and the boys from Wales are willing to pay to get out of the snow.
While his mates are still asleep the next morning, Ianto Jones wanders into the monks’ earliest of early morning services, the only light in the cavernous room coming from a few scattered candles and dim light bulbs wired into the ceiling, almost disappearing into the stone and woodwork. He is the last person anyone would call religious, but would admit to a bit of fascination as to why people believed what they did. Aside from being in Latin, the early morning mass wasn’t that different from ceremonies he recalled attending as a child.
Afterwards, one of the few English-speaking monks asks Ianto if he would like to see their library. Feeling it would be terrifically impolite to decline, he agrees. On the way there he dares a glimpse out one of the arched windows into the gloom. He sees the snow thick and white on the ground, glimmering like some weirdly iridescent cloak, and he knows they won’t be going anywhere for a few days.
The light in the library is dim too, a throwback to the older days when other monks scribed their works by candlelight. These monks are a bit more practical though, using green glass and brass lamps to light their way. There are plain and sturdy tables in an open space in the centre of the room, with the aisles of books radiating out from there like an overly educated star. “Very impressive,” Ianto murmurs, not sure what else he should say.
The monk nods, a pleased grin on his face, and waves an arm at the aisles of books. “Please, explore.”
Ianto nods back and wanders off, tugging the sleeves of his jumper down over his fingertips. There’s a draught coming through the stone walls, sneaking in through the cracks left by time in the mortar. As he walks, he sees titles on dusty leather-bound books, some he recognizes, but most he doesn’t. Words and names such as ‘Beowulf’, ‘Roman de la Rose,’ ‘Wolfram von Eschenbach,’ ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ ‘Psychomachia,’ ‘Petrarca,’ ‘Tertullian,’ jump out at him, briefly registering across his eyes. He gets only part way through a title that says ‘The Further Nice and Acc—‘ before he spies a table set up in the middle of the aisle, heavy with books and practically beckoning him to explore it.
The books on this table are of a different sort, darker and weightier, carrying a bit of a threat about them. “What are these?” he asks the monk who is creeping up behind him.
The monk leans over his shoulder, peering down through half-moon shaped glasses. “’The Testament of Solomon,’” he murmurs, his hand going out to brush against each cover in turn. “’Daemonolatreiae libri tres’… ‘Malleus Maleficarum’. These are books about witches and demons.”
“Demons?” Ianto questions. Books of fantasy, no doubt, made up to keep people warm during nights around the fireplace and keep the darkness back.
The monk gives him an intuitive look, probing in a way that makes Ianto squirm. “You don’t believe in them?”
He shrugs, trying to look confident even though he is only eighteen years old and so brand new at everything. “They’re just children’s stories; legends from when people didn’t know any better.”
“Yes, but every legend has to come from somewhere.” The monk shifts slightly and picks up another book from the table, one that had been hidden from Ianto’s eyes, smaller and slimmer than all the rest. “There’s a story in here. An ancient story, from before time was trapped down and recorded with numbers. It speaks of the Lonely God and the Valiant Child, called upon to destroy the Beast in the Pit. The Beast was a creature of great, immeasurable evil, trapped before time immemorial but slowly waking up. The Lonely God destroys the Beast’s body, but the Valiant Child, the bad wolf turned wolf mother who carries the words of a lost civilization within her skin, oh, she destroys his putrid soul.” He turns to Ianto, and the young man feels a cold finger draw a line down his back, making him shiver slightly. It could just be from the draughty walls, he supposes, even though he knows that there is a part of him that doesn’t want to admit it could be something more. “A story, a legend, yes. But something had to have happened to make people come up with this story. No one remembers the facts, but they all remember the tales.”
“I think you’re making a big deal out of nothing,” Ianto says, full of bravado and false hubris. Still, he slowly backs away from the monk, resisting the urge to turn tail and run straight back to Newport. It is that feeling at the base of his neck, the one that says no matter how much he tries to deny it, things are different from here on out. Things are going to be looked at with different eyes.
“Ianto,” the monk calls out, stopping him where he stands. It was the first time any of the monks have used his name. “In your native language, there is a word: cyfarwydd. By my understanding it translates into ‘one who knows’, the keeper of the traditional tales and knowledge. Just keep that in mind.”
Ianto just turns and heads back to their room, not emerging until the snowstorm is over and they can be on their way again. His friends worry, but all they can do is bring him food while he stares at a crack in the stone wall. The monk who had taken him to the library isn’t seen again.
The brief moment is pushed out of his conscious mind for years, deliberately not thought about until it becomes habit. It is only when he is in the Torchwood Hub many years later, reading words from a bible that talk about the end of days and the beasts that come from the pit, does he think back on the monk’s words, and a shiver goes down his spine once more.