Death is a neighbor to be feared. Life is kin to be dreaded. Our god departs from within us and returns to oblivion. Agony abides with light, fury and shame dwell in shadow. In their illustrious presence, I simply consume a single leaf from the garden. Fear god. Fear thyself. SAMPLE followers
SAMPLE refers to various branches of a religious system founded concurrently in a number of locations across Europe during the sixteenth century. The cult was largely struck down by the Spanish Inquisition for their heretical beliefs, particularly their worship of the torture and deaths of their "Sacrificial Gods"—children under the age of ten selected as scapegoats for their suffering. Despite being targeted by inquisitors and even a military order, sects of SAMPLE continue to exist across the world in the twenty-first century.
Due to arising in several different locations at the same time, with no link of communication, not all of SAMPLE's practices and doctrines are shared across the board—Celice Artia notes from her research that one sect in particular held that devouring the flesh of children granted immortality—but each sect is united by a handful of common doctrines and their practice of child torture and murder. This practice is founded on the belief that God does not exist and that because God does not exist, one must be created: these tortured children are both sacrifices and Gods, and their agony itself is the target of worship.
Followers of SAMPLE seek, above all else, absolute peace of mind and absolute happiness. Through the centuries they have used various means to alleviate their own pain and suffering—herbal remedies, drugs, even physical alterations – but finding only means of lessening it, never erasing it, they have decided that they must send their pain somewhere else, separate their experiences of anguish from themselves fully, and so they create a God to suffer for them. Their Gods act as substitutes for their negative emotions; by inflicting pain upon them, they believe that they are being relieved of that pain themselves, and so they pray and give thanks during their torture.
The sacrificial Gods are generally chosen at their births and are immersed in both physical and mental pain from that moment onward. Some sects, such as the one Illness was born into, believe that their suffering is more optimal if they are exposed to the outside world and given hope to be shattered, while others take the path of total isolation, but the end result is always the same: a child subjected to brutal torture every day of their life until they are killed at the age of ten, all in the name of bringing joy to the people who inflict this suffering.
The shared doctrines which are considered the basis for all branches of SAMPLE are cited as: 'God does not exist', 'God does not exist. Meaning—we can just create one and shape it as we will', 'Pain is what makes us human', and 'So that we may erase the pain from our hearts, make from a human a god to whom we may pray and offer thanks'. The sect which plays a role in 2002 seems to be one which builds on its doctrines periodically—the "Holy Book" which Bride describes is a binder filled with parchment dating back to the cult's origin and newer papers from more recent years. The cult does not demand that faith in Abrahamic religions, nor any other religions, be denounced before ascribing to their faith; the leader who preceded Bride, for example, had been a follower of seventy-three religions in total while still holding to the core beliefs of SAMPLE.
Huey Laforet documents his thoughts on the upbringing of Elmer C. Albatross, describing his role as a living sacrifice for the cult. By his account this particular sect numbered in the hundreds, with Elmer at the center, born to bear the brunt of their despair. He learned about this sometime in 1705 when Elmer had recounted the story, laughing.
In 1700, an enormous branch of the cult established in a Northern European village is taken out by military order. Elmer, the son of two of these heretics, is rescued on his tenth birthday moments before the believers can ritualistically sacrifice him – a process which was to involve boiling his lower body, burning his upper body, and twisting his neck. He is taken in by the church of Spain and heralded as a miracle boy, saved by the grace of God.
in 1705 he leaves the care of the church to pursue the study of alchemy in Lotto Valentino. Here he meets Huey and Monica Campanella, who see firsthand the myriad of scars across his uncovered skin—knife wounds, picked apart flesh, and burns, all inflicted by the cult in his childhood.
From 1985 to 1995, Illness, not yet named as such, is raised by a branch of SAMPLE based in an unspecified country. For the first eight years of her life she is cut off from the outside world, hidden away in a manor deep in the forest and tortured continuously by her parents and the other cult members. She suffers, among other things, the pain of having her flesh gouged out and ripped away, her nails torn off, her skin burned, her body starved—even her ribs removed and carved and replaced—all while listening to the prayers and sincere gratitude of the people around her. She does not question her treatment because she does not know there is a world that does not require children like her to suffer.
This much changes the year she turns nine. A group of children a little older than her sneak into the manor thinking it is a castle, and they meet and befriend Illness. When they find out her circumstances, they tell her that she is a strange—a thought which had never occurred to her due to her total immersion in this way of life—and that they will never forgive the adults who brought her up this way. They vow to save her and show her the outside world, but as they are escaping they are caught by Illness' parents. They are given a choice: carve out Illness' eyes and leave unharmed, or refuse and be killed. When one of the boys accepts the knife under this pretense, he uses it to cut Illness' father instead and tells her to escape on her own. He and the other boys are shot by her father's gun, and she blames herself for letting them priorities her life over their own – for seeking their help when "help" is something she, as a sacrifice, is only supposed to give, not receive.
Following these events, Illness starts to learn about the world beyond the cult. Her parents allow her to watch television shows and movies, read books and comics, and listen to music. She comes to understand how differently most children her age live—but she continues to endure the same torture she always has, pain no longer dulled by her ignorance to the better alternatives.
A year later, the branch is slaughtered by Mask Makers, then a group of mercenaries led by Luchino's father. Illness is almost killed along with them when she is found, chained up in preparation for her sacrifice, but when the mercenary tells her he is under orders to kill every person there, she questions whether she is a person or a God, as her parents have told her, and spares her life with the excuse that the boss had not said anything about killing Gods.
In 2002, when the plan on the Entrance goes awry, Illness flees the scene to find Claudia. On the way, she receives a radio transmission from the other ship. Expecting it to be one of the other mask makers, she picks up; what she hears on the other end, however, is SAMPLE's prayer being chanted in monotone. The sound triggers a breakdown and she collapses where she is, throwing up bile and sobbing.
In the summer of 2002, Celice Artia goes undercover to investigate a branch of SAMPLE, and attends a service at their church under the alias Lucotte Diaz. She finds amongst the believers people of all ages, genders, and races—the only thing that sets them apart from an ordinary Sunday service crowd is their uniform of red and black.
The believers stand around an empty, circular altar in the center of the room in silence, neither moving nor praying, until a door at the back of the room opens to let in several men and women followed by a dozen or so children. The man at the helm of the group has the bookish look of a "research student fresh out of the laboratory", and carries a binder with him. He apologizes for his late entrance, blaming it on a difficult video game level, and moves to stand behind the altar. The men and women who had arrived with him line up beside him, the two women on either side of him and the two men—one with the build of a gorilla, and the Viralesque with black and red bandages wrapping his entire head—at their sides, in turn. The appearance of these strange additions adds an element of abnormality to the congregation which had not been there before; however, when the man who stands as their leader begins to speak, rambling nervously, Celice's first thought is that the whole situation is some kind of joke.
(Full chronology to be added).
|Illness||44th (2002-)||Mortal Human|
|Bride||43rd (–2002)||Mortal Human|
|Sacrificial Gods||Status||Immortal Status|
|Illness||Former (approx. 1985–1995)||Mortal Human|
|Elmer C. Albatross||Former (1690–1700)
(also known as the "Child of Calamity and Light")
|God (Spouse) Candidates||Summary||Immortal Status|
|Czeslaw Meyer (current)||Main groom candidate to Illness (searching for)||Complete Immortal|
|Celice Artia (former)||Temporary bride to Bride (wed in Aug 2002)||Mortal Human|
|Sylvie Lumiere (former)||Main bride candidate to Bride (caught; not wed)||Complete Immortal|
|Known Members||Position||Immortal Status|
|Gorilla-shaped man||Believer||Incomplete Immortal|
|Two women||Believers; Secretaries to Bride||Incomplete Immortals|
|Roeckl||Believer; Chief Mate of the cruise ship Exit||Unknown|