Chapter 36: Four Battles
Chapter 36 of the Light-Father: The three-pronged assault upon the Great Cathedral is in full swing and Harold’s Army get the upper hand at first in the Four Battles remembered in saga and in song for many generations…
Camus emerged from the dormitory along with two Fathers and thirty Brothers at the sound of the explosions. He saw great plumes of smoke rising into the air as sirens wailed within the Abbey complex. Four Ferals were running and capering along the top of the north wall and taunting them. “So it seems these abominations can be trained to commit sabotage,” he declared, shaking his head in disbelief. “So much for Pious and his empty boasts about purging these lands of the Unworthy then.”
A terrifying thought struck him as he gazed at the four Angels in the bays nearest the dormitory and the hangars beyond them. “Father Telus, ignore those creatures – take a team of twenty Brothers and find out what’s going on over in Hangar One. They’ve obviously targeted the fuel tanks. We need to move the Angels away from those flames – we can’t afford to lose a single machine or the Great-Abbot will skin us alive.”
“I think Hangar One and Hangar Two are on fire, Eminence,” Telus observed, shading his eyes from the blazing sun. “They probably got sprayed with burning fuel. We must proceed with caution as there could be more explosions.”
“Caution is the friend of Satan, Telus. There are four Angels at risk in between those two hangars and another two inside them. Get fire extinguishers, my son; get the fire hoses out and save those Angels and then the hangars if you can. Father Harpeth and I will check Hangars Three and Four and the Angels inside those. What are you waiting for? We’re under attack!”
The Brothers looked nervous. “With all due respect, Eminence,” the diminutive Father Telus pointed out. “The Angels may also be booby-trapped and more of those half-beasts may be waiting in ambush. What if we have Wiccans out there as well? There were twelve Brothers-Technician in Hanger One – where are they? One of them should have come to us to ask for help by now.”
“They must have been killed,” one of the Brothers exclaimed fearfully. “The hangars must be crawling with Ferals.”
“Then go into the armoury and arm yourself, my son,” Camus ordered. “Only half of you had the wit to pick up your weapons when the alarm sounded.” He drew aside his robe to display his gun and holster. “I keep telling you all to keep your weapons to hand but you never listen.” He groaned in despair as the unarmed Brothers rushed back into the dormitory to pick up their spears and dart guns only to jam and jostle each other in the doorway. “If Pious was here, he’d rupture himself laughing at us.”
“There are more explosions inside the Great Abbey,” another Brother cried, pointing at the vast clouds of smoke now billowing upward to the right of the Great Cathedral. “They must have planted bombs in the main fuel stores. We need real weapons not these pathetic spears and dart guns!”
Camus seethed with impatience as he waited for the Brothers to return from the armoury and join the others who were standing motionless, staring in disbelief at the great plumes of smoke now billowing skywards and listening to the crackle of rifle fire. “Let Abbot Michael deal with the attack in the complex!” he shouted at them. “Our priority is to save the Angels!”
Telus shielded his eyes again and gazed westwards. “Eminence, there are two Angels approaching at high speed,” he reported excitedly. “They don’t seem to be landing here – probably because of the fires so they seem to be… yes, look! They’re setting down next to the Cathedral!”
Harpeth nodded approvingly. “Then that must be Abbot Pious – I heard he was at Bede earlier. Only he would risk setting an Angel down on a flat roof. It’s a shame he can’t help us here.”
“And let him gloat at how incompetent we are?” Camus snarled, clenching a fist. “By the Seventh Trump, they’re just Ferals; mutated children. Harpeth, shoot those things off my wall!”
“With pleasure,” Harpeth grinned wolfishly. He raised his rifle and aimed it at the jeering and gesturing Ferals.
“I don’t think so,” a woman’s voice whispered in his ear.
Harpeth turned in disbelief to see an albino woman standing right next to him dressed in black clothes he recognised as being drawn from the Royal Conclave of Architects. Her milk-white hair, her perfect, calm face and her blood-red eyes left him speechless with fear for several seconds as she stared directly into his soul. “Huh? Where did you come fr…?” was all he managed to say before his rifle discharged and Telus fell dead – the bullet having passed though his head and spattering Camus with blood. “What? Eminence, she has control over my body! Help me!”
“You bitch!” Camus gasped and unholstered his revolver. He tried to bring it to bear upon her as a horde of Ferals swarmed across the tarmac towards them. He ground his teeth in helpless fury for every time he pressed the trigger another Brother fell dead and with the last bullet, Harpeth was killed. With a great effort of will, he threw the revolver to the ground and drew a long knife from a sheath within his robes. “Get the begiuller from my office!” he roared at the petrified Brothers, brandishing the knife. “Move! We won’t stand a chance otherwise!”
Two Brothers turned and raced for the doors of the dormitory but a dozen Ferals dropped upon them from the roof of the two-storey building and they vanished under the frenzied assault. “This isn’t real,” Camus blustered as he turned to find another Mother behind him. “How are you doing this? It’s impossible!”
“The mind sees what the mind wants to see,” Ivy smiled. “Oh, and all twelve technicians in the hangars are dead so we add that to the two dead Fathers and four dead Brothers here…” She looked over at the dormitory. “Sorry, six dead Brothers and let’s see… twenty-three, no, that leaves twenty-one Brothers, one Abbot and one postulant.” She went over to the trembling youth and placed her hands on his cheeks. “Ah, they haven’t quite blackened your soul yet,” she told him as Camus and his Brothers stood transfixed. “You have only thirteen years, dear heart, so you had nothing to do with the murder of billions of innocent souls. You may live. Go and hide behind those crates until we’re done here.”
The youth fled and as if awaking from a spell, the Brothers held their spears at the ready as the snarling Ferals encircled them. “They will not do you any good,” Nightshade said sweetly. “May God forgive your sins – for you are all about to die.”
Camus was perspiring heavily in the merciless sun and his hand holding the knife was trembling. He glanced up at the open window of his office to see a Brother who had been in the toilet during the alarm had now assessed the situation correctly. Hope leapt in his heart as the Brother aimed his bizarre weapon at the Mothers. “I think Brother Althayne up there has something to say about that, you damned whores of Satan!”
The Ferals watched in consternation as both Ivy and Nightshade pressed their hands to their ears in speechless agony and sank to their knees. “Thanks to the Great Computer, we know all about your arcane weaknesses,” Camus crowed, retrieving his revolver. He reloaded it slowly with bullets from a pocket then he placed the barrel to Nightshade’s forehead and made the sign of the cross over her with his other hand as she glared helplessly up at him. “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and for the glory of our holy Order, I shall now Redeem thee, witch.”
“Aiee, a begiuller – the pain, the pain!” Rosemary groaned as she and Veneris writhed upon the ground, clutching at their heads. They’d been corralled in a narrow alleyway by twenty Tally-men at one end and a Father and fifteen Brothers with spears and tazers at the other. After a brief and bloody skirmish, fifteen Ferals had fallen but so had five Brothers and six of the Tally-men.
The Mothers were helpless as the nine Brothers advanced upon them with their spears at the ready; intent on killing them where they lay. “We’ve failed you, Fern!” Veneris cried out as the surviving twenty-five Ferals stood before the Brothers, barring their way and baring their teeth.
The Father was calmly reloading his rifle. “Keep that begiuller trained on them, Brother Abel,” he snapped. “Or we’re all dead. Don’t worry about the beast-children – they’re nothing without the Wiccans controlling them. Keep your guards up, my sons. I just need to reload a few more times to put them all out of their misery. It’s a shame I have to waste so much ammunition.”
“Are you sure about that, Father Ionas?” Abel demanded, the begiuller shaking in his hands. “They still look dangerous; some have knives and they might have bombs in those sacks.”
“Hardly,” Ionas snorted in contempt. “They’d have used them by now.” He finished reloading and was about to aim but four Ferals shot forward at incredible speed and knocked him clean off his feet. “Get them off me, you idiots!” he screamed but the Brothers stood gaping in horror as sets of powerful teeth ripped into his face and throat and knives punctured his body.
Brother Abel was the first to react: “Kill them all!” he cried at the Tally-men. Five Brothers turned and rushed upon the four Ferals to stab and gore them with their spears but they were too slow – Father Ionas was dead, his throat ripped out.
“What is the matter with you?” Abel screamed at the motionless Tally-men. “Kill them! Kill them all!”
“Why are the Tally-men smiling at us like that?” a Brother asked as the remaining Ferals turned to face them with their claws and knives at the ready.
“I don’t know. Maybe their control link was knocked out by the explosions,” Abel said grimly. “I’ll keep the Wiccans down. One of you, get that rifle. The rest of you, use your dart guns and spears to Redeem them – they’re only children after all!”
Harold thought he was dead as Schimrian swung his sword at his head but somehow his sword was in the right position to block the blow as all hell broke loose about him. “It’s plain that you’re no swordsman,” Schimrian exulted as he struck again and again, forcing Harold towards the doors leading to the Annex. “You’re no warlock; no omen. Pious is right: you… are… just… a fat… buffoon… sent by the Devil to taunt me!” He feinted and slashed at Harold’s right upper arm, slicing through the fabric and cutting into the flesh as Harold realised that Schimrian was simply toying with him. “The Great Computer wants me to keep you alive for study but I will enjoy Redeeming you instead.”
“You bastard!” Harold spat as he staggered back, barely able to block the blows as sparks struck off their clashing blades. He desperately tried to remember what Saul had taught him about the blade he was holding: “Do not grip the hilt too tightly and let the blade strike where it will. A weapon made by a master swordsmith has its own soul – you merely have to set it free.”
Harold relaxed and let loose a flurry of swings and stabs that surprised the Great-Abbot. He winced as Pious let loose the begiuller behind him. “Ah-hah!” Schimrian exulted as Fern and Shield screamed in agony and staggered backwards. “You hear the horn of Gabriel! You are indeed of Satan’s craft!”
Harold barely blocked the next swing and jumped backward. “Bas!” he yelled in desperation. “Get that damned begiuller!”
“I can’t, Light-Father!” she cried desperately, letting loose a series of arrows that felled two of Pious’s Inquisitors. “I have to kill the ones with guns first but I think Fierce is at him!”
Pious looked down in disbelief at Fierce who had slashed at his legs forcing him to jump back and almost drop his begiuller. “Ah, I recall you,” he grinned, revealing his gold teeth. “You’re the one who scarred me.” He handed the begiuller carefully to one of his surviving Inquisitors. “Take this, Brother Theo. Keep the trigger depressed and don’t let the witches up for a second. I want to personally Redeem this little bitch for ruining my face.”
“I’m going to kill you!” Fierce screamed at him.
He laughed and struck down at her with his sword but she dodged the blow easily and he found to his surprise that her own slim blade had gone clean through his right thigh. “Why, you little troll – you’re toying with me!” he cursed then despite the injury, he kicked her full in the chest sending her flying across the flagstones. “By the Blood of the Lamb, I’ll make you pay for treating me with such disrespect, you Unworthy little brat!”
He raised his sword and swung it down upon her with all his might only to find it blocked by a sword of the Japanese Empire expertly held by a youth with a fire in his eyes. “Only a maggot takes pleasure from fighting and torturing children,” Saul snarled. “Let’s see how you do with someone who can fight back or is the Great Inquisitor frightened of a mere Unworthy youth?”
“You may wish to dream that!” Pious grinned, turning to take on Saul. “With your parents and their corrupt Babylon destroyed, there’s something holy about resorting to these tools of the Bible: the staff and the sword.” With that, he swung at Saul’s head but the youth merely deflected the blade and tried to slice past the hilt of the Abbot’s sword forcing Pious to step back.
“Nice move, boy,” Pious nodded with a grudging respect as the fight raged around them. “But you won’t take me that easily even with a damaged leg.”
Saul’s arms were numbed by a two-handed stroke and he barely avoided the turn and the thrust at his abdomen but he smiled as he saw that the winded Fierce had made it safely to the pews.
“I’ll kill you if you interfere!” Pious roared at a Brother who had jabbed at Saul with his spear. “This lad shows a spirit that I want to crush and Redeem by my own hand!”
“Scum!” Saul roared and let loose with such a flurry of sword strokes that Pious had no choice but to give ground.
Fierce gasped with horror as she saw that Harold was alone and being forced back by Schimrian and three Tally-men. She dropped down to crawl quickly between the rows as in the next row, Ibrahim charged at Theo to try and smash the begiuller.
It was sheer chaos in the nave as Ferals launched themselves at the Tally-men; pitting teeth, knives and brute strength against stun-guns and spears. They were paying a heavy price, tearing at Fern’s heart as she lay helpless and in agony next to Shield who was struggling to stand up and use her crossbow. Mouse had taken to defending them and was fighting off a young Brother intent on killing the Wiccan. Suddenly, Eliza and Jacob leapt upon him and restricted his movements then Shield watched in a mixture of pride and horror as Mouse thrust her spear up into his abdomen. She wished then with all her might that she and her sisters were a million miles away from this hellish nightmare.
The Brother’s scream was visceral but as the blood bubbled from his mouth, he grabbed Mouse by the throat thus forcing Shield to battle against the black-red nightmare of the begiuller tearing into every fibre of her brain and being. She fired a bolt into his heart and the powerful Brother toppled like a felled oak onto his back sending the two Ferals rolling away across the flagstones.
“Mouse, are you all right?”
“Yes,” Mouse croaked, rubbing at her throat as she retrieved her spear. “But there are more Tally-men coming.”
“Shield, they’ve taken the Light-Father,” Fern moaned as she watched one of her precious Ferals impaled and gored by two Tally-men. “You have to target that begiuller! The Brothers are keeping Ibrahim from destroying it.”
“I-I c-can’t,” Shield groaned helplessly. “I can’t even think.”
A shape landed silently on the flagstones next to them. “I can,” Bas said and let fly with her last arrow at Theo. The arrow caught him in the shoulder and sent him reeling backward straight into Fria’s long knives which sank down behind his collar bones and pierced his heart and lungs. She jumped back quickly to avoid him as he crumpled lifeless to the flagstones then Amos ran up and smashed the device with his sledgehammer.
“Behind you, Fria!” he yelled in despair as two Tally-men thrust at her unprotected back with their spears.
Fria would never forget the love in Bethwin’s eyes as she stood there with the two spearheads embedded in her chest. “Luuuffuuu Frrreeaaahhh!” she gurgled and then she was gone.
Fria did not remember much and had to rely on Amos’s account of how she engaged two Tally-men twice her size and killed them both without mercy, the ultra-sharp blades slicing in and out of their bodies as fast as the needles of sewing machines.
“Shield!” Fern cried as she levered herself to her feet using the staff. “There are too many of them. Save as many as you can with your power, dear heart. Lead a retreat to the platform!”
“What about you?” Shield yelled above the bedlam of battle. “We can’t leave you and the Light-Father here!”
Fern gazed at the doorway leading into the Annex. “I have to save him,” she said. “And face whatever has taken him in there alone. If I fail, dear heart, you will be the only one left – the craft and the Scatterlings must survive so don’t follow me!”
Reluctantly, Shield obeyed and watched as Fern raced for the open doorway then she despaired when she saw Fierce follow her into the Annex. “No!” she screamed in anguish but she could not follow her as she was forced to use her last bolt to kill a Brother trying to gut Mouse with his spear. She stood there in an agony of indecision but at that moment, Ruff-ruff approached and solemnly presented her with the staff of Mother Moss. Suddenly, she understood what it was to be a Mother as she looked into the depths of those pleading, innocent and still human eyes.
“Go and join Surl and protect the young ones,” she told him as she shouldered her crossbow. “Come with me, Mouse – we have to trust to Mother Fern to protect Fierce as we have to save everyone else.” Together, they skirted the Brothers and joined the others as their dwindling band was being driven back towards the apse.
“You’ve taken out the guns and the begiuller but you’re losing your little war, boy!” Pious gloated, slashing at Saul again. “How does it feel to gaze upon the pit of black despair? Are you ready for your Redemption yet?”
“How can I be Redeemed by such a soulless monster as you?” Saul retorted defiantly and attacked again. He would have been skewered had it not been for Ibrahim who blocked the thrust and killed the Tally-man with an axe blow to the neck. Nearby, Kai killed a Brother with a massive swing of his sledge-hammer but Pious immediately thrust his sword into Kai’s left flank.
“Treacherous youth!” Pious grinned as Kai screamed in agony. He would have killed Kai with a second stroke but Saul had deftly used the opening to slice into the Abbot’s left upper arm. Pious howled with pain then resumed his assault upon Saul as Kai staggered to safety but the respite had allowed the surviving Ferals and the Scatterlings to retreat towards the stairs in good order.
Saul saw Farzad’s children follow their genetic programming and take a truly grim toll upon the Order – Bas had already killed all the Fathers and Brothers bearing firearms whilst Ibrahim had beheaded or dismembered a dozen opponents with his axe.
Pious stepped back and raised his sword. “Hold!” he yelled at the top of his lungs and the Brothers and Tally-men halted behind him to present a line of spears across the nave. He leered at Saul and Shield. “Your witch and your precious Light-Father are trapped in the Annex at the mercy of the Great-Abbot,” he gloated. “You cannot win – half of your beast-children are dead; the others creating these pathetic diversions are Redeemed and your escape is cut off. However, you Children of Exodus have given a spectacular account of yourselves and amply demonstrated the perverse genetic skills of your parents.” He placed a hand upon his heart in mock tribute: “I respect your courage so if you surrender, I promise you that we will not transform you painfully into Tally-men but we will reward you with a swift death instead. What say you?”
Shield gazed with loathing upon the scarred and bloodied Abbot. “You are standing before a Mother!” she declared proudly, brandishing her staff. Memories cascaded through her mind: their dead parents, the Barnacle, the museum, the Keep, the Inquisitions, the Tally-men, the rats and dogs and now this ghastly man delighting in all that the Order had done to them. “From my body, my heart, my mind, my voice and my soul as one,” she grated through clenched teeth as a strange dark fire surged through her veins and nerves. “I say repent, demon, while you can!”
“Pah! You’re no Mother, brat!” Pious sneered but the smirk was wiped off his face as she spoke the arcane words patiently drummed into her by Mother Moss. A howling wind arose within the Cathedral and roared about the flying buttresses of the nave in a vast invisible torus. Nearby pews began to creak and rock as Pious gazed about frantically. “Throw your spears at her!” he cried at the Tally-men but they were unresponsive. “What’s the matter with you? Quickly, Brothers, throw your spears at her! Take the witch down before her craft manifests!”
It was too late for behind Pious, pews shot inward from both sides of the nave as screaming torrents of air slammed into them. The ancient carved oak pews scythed into the Brothers and Tally-men, scattering them like nine-pins and slamming them into walls and pillars. Saul seized his opportunity, took three quick steps forward and plunged his sword between the startled Abbot’s ribs and into his heart. He withdrew the sword as the screaming gale died suddenly and Shield sagged from exhaustion.
“We can rescue the Light-Father!” Mouse cried exultantly. “They’re all dead! Shield killed them all!”
“No, she didn’t,” Saul gasped. “The Tally-men are dead but the Brothers aren’t. Look at Pious, Mouse – I know I stabbed him through the heart yet he’s still standing! What’s happening?”
Pious stared at his bloodied hand in disbelief as the Brothers forced their broken and battered bodies upright and slowly retrieved their weapons. “How can this be?” he gurgled, his eyes filled with horror. “I know you killed me, boy, yet I live in mortal agony as do those slain behind me! What devilry is this? Is this your dark craft, witch? Do you possess a Satanic art powerful enough to impart a living death unto your victims?”
“This is not my doing!” Shield cried out in horror as Mouse sought comfort in Fria’s arms. “This is not my craft!”
“Why are you disappointed, Eminence? Is that not the eternal life you craved for?” Kai said pointedly, clutching at his wound. “I believe we finally see the true nature of Schimrian’s New Jerusalem where Death itself has no dominion.”
“But this is not life,” Pious spluttered, indicating the gaping wound in his chest. “There is no pulse within me yet I stand and I breathe and I suffer such pain – even as my flesh cools. Whose craft has done this if it is not yours, witch? Where is the divine blessing in this travesty? Where is our New Jerusalem?”
“This is your New Jerusalem,” Saul said mercilessly, readying his sword again. “As befits a demon, you are now the Tally-man of some greater darkness – maybe the Devil Himself.” He turned to the others. “Retreat up the stairs, all of you! If they attack us again, we won’t be able to kill them!”
The four young Scatterlings halted before a plain white door with a sign painted upon it. “This is the surgery unit,” Surl whispered, opening it carefully. “There’s nobody here,” she sighed with relief and led them into a long, brightly lit room with thirty gleaming operating tables set at intervals on either side. Each table had a bank of equipment designed to monitor the victim and aid the Fathers-Surgeon in the brutal process of converting sentient human victims into a mindless travesty of life as Tally-men.
The tables were empty but for two victims in surgical gowns who were still unconscious. Peter went over to look at one and felt the bile rise in his throat. Blood still seeped from the ears and the Guides brutally driven into the freshly-trepanned skull of the Tally-man. “Ugh! We can’t save them!” he shuddered in horror. “How can people who believe in God do this to someone?”
“Mother Moss told us that history is full of people who have done unspeakable things in the name of God,” Surl said sagely, pulling him away from the operating table. “We have to go or the Brothers will catch us here and we’ll end up on those tables!”
“Ow! Surl, mind my stump – you’re hurting me!”
They reached the end of the surgery unit feeling dizzy from the smell of disinfectant and the sheer horror of the place. They entered a huge store of surgical equipment and what looked like a vast collection of barbaric implements of torture. “These are for hurting people,” Rabbit growled. “The Order is so evil. How can they worship God? Why has God let them do this?”
“Maybe God asked Mother Moss to send us here to stop them,” Surl suggested as she opened another door and peered into a whitewashed corridor that reeked of bleach and excrement. There were thirty iron doors – fifteen to each side matching the number of tables in the surgery unit. Groans, moans and screams filled the air so that it sounded like the Hell on Earth it truly was.
“These must be the Redemption Cells Kai told us about,” Rabbit whispered, fighting back the tears. “How can God allow people to do this? They’re all in so much pain.”
Pup forced his head past her to peer down the corridor. “It’s clear. Let’s find the keys and let these poor people out.”
They approached the first cell on the right expecting to find a lock but to Surl’s immense relief, there were just three huge bolts securing the heavy iron door. “Let’s free them all,” she said, pulling at the lowest bolt with all her strength. “Unh! They’re really stiff,” she grunted then heaved again, releasing it. The groaning in the cell turned into whimpers of terror and babbled prayer.
Above the children, a camera turned silently upon a mounting and focussed upon them as Peter freed the middle bolt and Rabbit climbed on top of his shoulders to release the top one. The moaning subsided and the prisoners began to shout at them to hurry up and reached through the barred windows in their cell doors.
Surl stiffened as the first cell door opened and a crawling sensation affected the back of her neck. “We’re being watched,” she shuddered. “They know we’re here.”
Rabbit whirled and hurled a hand-axe with unerring accuracy, shattering the security camera into crackling fragments. “We have to hurry!” she cried, rushing to retrieve her precious axe.
In the surgical units, the eyes of the two new Tally-men snapped open. They sat up, swung their legs off their tables and headed for the door with the monitoring leads and drips tearing away from their bodies. In the store room, their Guides crackled faintly as they armed themselves with long serrated knives.
The children had now opened the first three cells and were helping a badly injured man leave his cell. The first two victims were barely able to stand yet they were feebly struggling to release the others. They did not see or hear the two armed Tally-men entering the corridor behind them.
Rosemary and Veneris lay helpless on the ground unable to aid the ten surviving Ferals who had formed a defensive ring around them. They were baring their teeth and brandishing knives at the five Brothers and six Tally-men who had surrounded them. The Ferals had acquitted themselves well but the rifle had proved too deadly and they were now trapped within a ring of spears where they were all prepared to die to protect their precious Mothers.
Veneris turned to Rosemary. “Is this is the Darkness we were destined to face?” she groaned as the scream of the begiuller tore at her sanity and shredded her nerves. “To die without hope?”
“Whatever the truth of it, I go before you, sister,” Rosemary smiled, touching her cheek. “I am not afraid for I commit myself to Gaia’s arms and to the Mercy of God….” She closed her eyes as a pool of blood spread out from under her body.
Veneris felt hot tears upon her cheeks as she rolled over and forced herself to her feet using her staff. She pressed a hand to the deep spear wound in her abdomen and blood oozed between her fingers. “You murdered my children, you murdered my sister,” she gasped, gazing into the eyes of the Brother holding the begiuller. “You’re nothing more than the left hand of the Devil!”
“Hah! You know all about that being a whore of Satan!” the Brother sneered. “I’ll be taking the oaths of Fatherhood for killing you.” He turned to the impassive Tally-men. “Don’t just stand there like statues, damn your soulless eyes. Kill them!”
One of the other Brothers waved a hand in front of the eyes of the nearest immobile Tally-men. “It looks as though they’re waiting for orders but look at their faces, Brother Abel – they seem to be enjoying this as much as we are.”
“That’s impossible,” a wiry Brother called Alephus exclaimed, lowering his spear. “They’re not programmed to smile. The attack must have compromised the Great Computer itself or one of the relay systems. We’ve lost twelve good Brothers and Father Ionas and the Lamb alone knows how many more of these abominations have breached our walls. There’s smoke to the south so Abbot Camus and his Angels must also be under attack.”
He stepped forward suddenly and plunged his spear into the ample stomach of Veneris. “See? We don’t need Tally-men or rifles to finish these whores off… unh!” he grunted and looked down to see a bloody spear tip emerging from his own stomach. He looked up into her eyes as she grasped the shaft of the spear he’d thrust into her and smiled pityingly at him.
“It seems the Great Computer does not want you to deprive it of…. the pleasure of killing…. me and my… children, Alephus…” she gasped as they both sank to their knees together. Abel’s begiuller clattered to the floor as the Ferals clustered about the two stricken Mothers and began to mourn softly.
Alephus turned his head with difficulty to find that Abel and the other Brothers were all still alive but similarly impaled by the Tally-men who had been standing behind them. “Is this your work witch?” he demanded as they too, sank to their knees beside him. “Is this the work of your foul master?”
“It is nothing to do with me, fool, and the Devil does not command us,” Veneris gasped as she tried to console the trembling, weeping Ferals. She wiped at the blood trickling from her mouth. “It is you people who have been doing the work of the Devil for centuries and the abomination you… have… created is controlling the Tally-men. Satan has manifested and you have all earned your damnation thrice over!”
“What do you mean, harlot?” he gurgled. Blood was running down his chin and he coughed up yet more. “What’s happening? How is this… unh!… possible!”
“Revelation, fool, is all about bringing the battle of Heaven and Hell down upon the face of the Earth. Ah! Don’t you read… your own scriptures? Your false twelve tribes within a false Order driven by false omens… and manipulated by a greater darkness to befoul and lay waste the earth!”
“Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God,” Alephus prayed defiantly. “Just and true are thy ways, O King …”
“Fool!” Veneris grimaced. “There will be no New Jerusalem! You have created a world of vengeful ghosts – a Void where there is no new Heaven or new Earth – just the old one shrouded in darkness and the corpses of all mankind slain by your arrogance and conceits. The Devil Himself could have done no better…”
“You lie! We shall drink from the water of life,” he gasped in agony, releasing his spear and leaving Veneris to slump into the arms of her beloved, whimpering Ferals.
“Don’t you understand?” Veneris gasped in agony. “This is not my craft! Your vital organs have been destroyed yet an evil power sustains you. Behold – all of you are mortally wounded yet you will not be allowed to die… oh no, you are now condemned to live in torment ever-lasting in your New Jerusalem that the Devil now forges in the Great Cathedral. Ah! I follow my sister to embrace a death that shall forever be denied you yet for all your hatred and contempt of me, blind fool, I pity you… ah… with my dying breath,” she gasped, raising her staff defiantly to the heavens. “I cannot let a child do this… I will not… let this come to pass…”
Surl halted as a death’s-head moth fluttered frantically in front of her face. She turned to follow it and beheld in time the knife thrust that would have killed her instantly. As the prisoners, naked but for soiled and bloody loin-cloths, leant weak and helpless against the corridor walls, she leapt back and readied her machete. Amos and Saul had spent days honing the edge for her and she held it out in front of her as the two Tally-men with hideous leers upon their faces advanced upon her. The children retreated slowly down the corridor and stared in helpless horror as the two Tally-men paused to casually stab two of the prisoners.
Pup fired his catapult and the heavy ball-bearing struck the Guide on the right temple of the nearest Tally-man causing him to go into spasms and arch his back. The two prisoners slumped to the floor bleeding heavily from their wounds as the second Tally-man received another ball-bearing upon the Guide set into his forehead. As the two Tally-men twitched and shuddered, the children launched themselves forward as one.
(c) Paul D E Mitchell 2013 copyright protected