Chapter 01: Tower of Grieving

First Chapter of the the second book of the Light-Father Trilogy : CITY OF GARGOYLES – {thanks to allets for all her valuable and constructive criticism}

Tower of Grieving

     Milverburg was once the marvel of the West: a vast merchant citadel that rose up from the grey waters of the Milverbore like some immense broaching leviathan. Three causeways led to three viaducts across the estuary, each ten miles long and bearing the railways that connected the countless workshops, factories, docks and stations to the mainland market places. Set into the outer walls were ten tall round towers from which merchants once kept watch upon their ships and those of their rivals.

   On the roof of the northernmost tower, Harold Norman Porter was leaning one of the parapet crenels which gave him waves of vertigo as he was nine hundred feet above the languid waves below. The views across the estuary were spectacular so he would spend hours brooding up here even in the ceaseless rain but today was unusual for this world: a late afternoon sun was blazing down for only the second time in six years.

    This particular tower had twelve gargoyles each the size of a large bear equally spaced around the parapet. They were exquisitely carved grotesque chimera, some with wings, some with horns and all of their faces were anguished and weeping. They were leaning slightly over the crenels in front of them as if they were about to cast themselves into the abyss with their hands and claws gripping the raised merlons on either side of the crenels.

    A woman emerged from the small turret in the centre of the roof that housed the entrance to the stairs. She strode across the flagstones to stand behind him but he did not turn around.

    “I thought I would find you here, Light-Father,” she said. “It’s hard to tell where the gargoyles end and you begin.” She went to the next crenel to look down at one of the twelve weeping gargoyle heads set into the stonework below the parapet that discharged the rainwater through their mouths. “If you could walk around the base of this tower and look up, you’d see twenty-five miserable faces staring down at you instead of the usual twenty-four.”

    “Don’t try to humour me, Fern. I’m not in the mood,” he said bleakly. “You won’t believe how many times I’ve wanted to throw myself off this damn tower.”

    “Of course I know. I’m a Wiccan,” she said in a hurt tone. “That’s why I’ve come to get you: we’ve let you brood up here long enough. I don’t even know why you like this tower.”

   Irritated, he exhaled heavily before replying: “These gargoyles remind me of a honeymoon with Andrea in Paris. We went to the Notre Dame Cathedral which had statues and gargoyles just like these.” He was silent for a while as he watched seagulls circling near the base of the tower. “But that was another time in another world before I lost my daughter and my marriage.”

   Fern closed her eyes and savoured the unaccustomed sunshine on her upturned face. “And so you ended up as a technician in some university,” she recited wearily. “Drinking yourself to death. I’ve heard this all before, dear heart. Do you really miss that life?”

   “Yes, I do. Well, no to be honest,” he admitted reluctantly. “I spent all my time in that workshop well on my way to becoming an alcoholic until that hell-light or whatever it was knocked me out and I woke up in a railway depot surrounded by twelve urchins all armed to the teeth and calling me the Light-Father like I was some kind of messiah.”

   “The Scatterlings regard you as one,” she insisted, looking at him with the concern plain upon her face. “They gave you a new purpose in life and you gave them hope.”

    He stood up and indicated his stained overalls, the baseball cap covering his thinning ginger hair, his stocky frame and steel toe-capped boots and the Japanese Empire katana strapped to his belt. “Hope? Just look at me!” he said bitterly. “I’m a technician. I fix machines; that’s all I’m good for. I’m no samurai yet I had these pathetic delusions of grandeur and took you all to the Great Abbey and for what? I lost five of those kids! I love them as my own but I failed them! I don’t belong here!” 

    She came close to him so that her face was just inches from his.  “Be at peace,” she said gently. “It’s time to stop this maudlin self-pity. It’s annoying and the children need you. You are not to blame for what happened there. All of us including your Scatterlings knew the risks yet we willingly walked the path laid out before us by the prophecies of Mother Moss.”

   “Some path!” he exclaimed angrily. “I failed those kids and every time I fall asleep, I’m back there in the Great Annex with you, Schimrian and that freaking angel!”

    She closed her eyes and took a deep calming breath. “Yes, I know. You are not the only one plagued by night terrors,” she said, placing a hand on her chest. “Fate summoned you here to be the Light-Father just as I was destined to be born a Wiccan.”

    He noted that she was dressed once more in the plain black linen shirt and trousers of the Wiccan Motherhood. She wore a white hemp belt with ornate loin cloths bearing a triple spiral on the front cloth and a Celtic triqueta on the back. He knew the clothing mocked the formal attire of the powerful but misogynistic Royal Conclave of Architects but it did not detract from her lithe figure one iota. Her face was beautiful with piercing jade-green eyes and framed by long black hair intricately braided and threaded through hundreds of amber beads. How could he not love such a goddess?  

    She smiled having read his thoughts yet again: “As I love you, Light-Father,” she laughed and kissed him briefly on the lips.

   “That’s not fair,” he protested. “I’ll never understand you or your craft yet you know everything about me. What are you, Fern? Witches are just fairy tales in my world: hook-nosed old crones flying about on broomsticks.”

   “The same prejudice prevailed in this world as well, dear heart. Do you know why we call ourselves Mothers?”

   “Yes, I do listen to you,” he assured her. “You told me that the Wiccans wanted to take that title away from the very religion oppressing them; to show the world that women could be something more than just nuns and chattels.”

   “Oh, I’m so happy you pay attention to a mere woman!” she teased and then she became serious: “Mother Moss had the power of prophecy and on my eighth birthday, she sat me down and told me that my one true path lay through the fires of Hell and into the arms of a saviour and she was right: it did.”

    “I’m no saviour, Fern, but dear God, what a birthday gift for a child! She must’ve scared the hell out of you.”

   “Oh, she did. I had nightmares for weeks but now I know well the price of prophecy. Seers are rare but they have the power to change Destiny itself as they perceive hundreds of possible futures and can steer the world down a path of their own choosing.”

   “Yes but for all her powers, we were only saved by David and a thirteen-year-old girl who sacrificed herself!”

    “I know and I bless the short time that I knew her but…”

   “Mother Moss was a seer,” he interrupted angrily. “She must have told Fierce to hide those grenades inside her stuffed toy and follow us into the Great Annex.” He winced suddenly and pressed a hand to his abdomen; upon the wounds inflicted by Azrael, the insane seraphim that the Great-Abbot of the Order, Schimrian, had inadvertently brought into the world. The Wiccans were skilled in the healing arts but the pain still took his breath away: “Unh! She knew David would become a Tally-man and she knew Fierce would have to die to stop Azrael!”

    Fern took his hands in hers: “You must rest, dear heart, otherwise you will never be free of him. You are newly healed but those wounds to both your body and soul were deep.”

    He snatched his hands away. “Don’t fuss over me! I’ll be fine,” he snapped. “Look, it’s not just Azrael and Schimrian driving me crazy; it’s Fierce. When those cables dragged her inside the Great Computer, I could see she was in agony but she didn’t cry out: she just looked at me and she smiled! She knew she was going to die in there and she accepted it! How can I ever forgive myself or Moss for letting that happen?”

   “She was a warrior,” she said simply, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I failed her too, you know.”

   “I’m sorry, Fern,” he relented, drawing her to him after wiping the sudden tears from his own eyes. “I’m being selfish, I know, but she could fight like that because she and her sisters were physically enhanced by parents who played God with the genes of their own children. That’s not right.”

   “Had they not been enhanced then they would not have survived when the Order attacked their family.”

    “Mmm, maybe,” he said doubtfully. “We’ll never know for sure but they won’t answer to their real names because of what Pious did to them then watching their parents die from the Plague. They even took their Scatterling names from Pious when he said that Shield protected her sisters, Mouse scurried about like a rat and Fierce defied him and slashed his face open. I suppose no normal eight year old could do that to a thug like him.” 

    “Thank Gaia their parents vaccinated them in time,” she pointed out. “Even though they were infected themselves.”

    “Saul told me about how their parents worked for Exodus Industries and when the Order bought the company, they set up a secret society and used the company’s resources to give their offspring the same advantages in life as the Brothers had.”

     “As I told you, I infiltrated the Exodus labs in Crawcester to find them and warn them that the Order was designing a lethal virus at the Great Abbey but they would not believe me at first. Then one scientist in the Great Abbey lab finally told them that they were working on a virus that rewrote the host’s DNA with the Fathers-Surgeon. They stole a sample and started working on a vaccine but it was too late…”

   “The Order found out they’d tried warning the press and the government so the bastards infected them with a slow-acting version of the virus in the hope they would pass it on to their families.”

   “Diana forgive me! If only I could’ve made them listen!”

    She fell silent, her face grim, so he touched his forehead to hers in empathy. “You tell me off for beating myself up so why do you blame yourself for what those maniacs did?”

     She shuddered and clung to him: “That’s because I dream of the dead asking me over and over again why I couldn’t save them,” she groaned. “We couldn’t even cure the Ferals – we tried and tried but we were unskilled and too few in number… I…”

    “None of that was your fault!” he said firmly. “But I still can’t forgive Mother Moss for sacrificing David, Fierce and the others just to save the rest of us. She…”

   “I keep telling you: that’s the price of prophecy!” she fumed and pushed him away. “She had to tell Fierce she was destined to die. Fierce accepted that so why can’t you?”

   “Like I said; how could she do that to a child?” he retorted though clenched teeth. “How could she?”

    All the love for him seemed to drain from her face and he knew that he was defenceless before her power. “Never forget that Mother Moss foresaw the vile torture and death she would have to endure to save her precious Scatterlings,” she said icily. Such was the anger in her voice and the fell light in her eyes that he averted his face: he was no longer standing before a lover but a Wiccan who could destroy him in an instant. “Don’t you ever disrespect her memory again!” she added, baring her teeth and pinching his face hard. “She sacrificed herself willingly as did Veneris, Rosemary and our precious Ferals: one hundred and sixty of them!”

    He turned his back to her and folded his arms. “I’m sorry, Fern, I was angry at myself more than her,” he began slowly. “You know how much I love you and you know I can’t lie to you.” Despite the dull ache of his wounds and the newer, sharper pain in his cheeks, he recalled how passionate their love making was despite their injuries: there was no way he could ever lie to her about that.   

   “I’m so glad you feel that way, dear heart.”

   His shoulders sagged. “Please stop rummaging through my mind like that,” he said dejectedly. “My thoughts are private.”

    She stood in front of him with her hands on her hips, appraising him with her head tilted slightly to one side and an enigmatic smile upon her lips. She twirled suddenly and laughed: “So, when we lie abed together, all you can think about are my breasts? By Gaia’s endless tears, how shallow!”

    “I know. I’m a man,” he conceded, raising his palms in a gesture of surrender. “Sometimes our brains are in our trousers.”

    She laughed again and threw her arms about his neck: “Such a strange saying but so apt in your case, dear heart.” She rubbed noses with him. “But for all your faults, I love you. It pains me to see you rotting away in your tower or hiding from the Scatterlings in the docks but,” she added, shielding her eyes from the sun as she gazed skywards. “See how Gaia favours you! You have magic beyond your empathy and our bed, dear heart.”

    Her scent was so distracting that he could barely think. Her touch was electricity sending sensuous thrills throughout his body: something he’d never known before – even with Andrea. She kissed him full on the lips, her tongue searching for his until all awareness faded but for the tsunami of lust surging through his veins.

    She stopped suddenly and placed a finger upon his lips but he felt as though his knees were about to buckle. “Enough. We’ll lie together soon enough, dear heart. I have news for you.”

   “Is it about Surl and the others?” he demanded anxiously, pulling back from her and placing his hands on her shoulders once more. “Well? Have you sensed them?”

   “You have to trust our craft,” she said, placing a hand on her chest. “Ivy sensed them close to Milverburg. In our hearts, we knew they’d survived…”

   “I don’t have any craft,” he cut in impatiently. “All I have is the certainty that I left four children at the mercy of those lunatics. I hope to God Ivy is right and they’ve escaped because the last thing we need is more false hope.”

   She suddenly kissed him and placed her forehead briefly against his. “I trust her craft, dear heart, as I trust in you.”  

   “Seriously? You trust me?”  

   “You are the Light-Father!” she said vehemently, startling him. “I keep telling you this! Azrael, Schimrian and Pious are dead so the Order will remain in chaos until a new Great-Abbot ascends the throne. We’ve had precious time to heal and grieve.”

    He pointed at the cumulonimbus clouds to the south with anvil-shaped heads already ninety thousand feet high and still rising into the stratosphere. “I don’t know how much time we have, Fern This world is dying.” He paused to wipe his face with a rag as the air was becoming incredibly humid. “Those storms are off the charts already after just one day of sunshine.”

    She shaded her eyes to study them. “I think they’re moving towards us but what of it? It rained for six years before you came with not one day of sunlight like this.” She sighed happily, closed her eyes, stretched her arms above her head and savoured the sun once more upon her upturned face. “Gaia is healing herself and even the waters below us will one day recede.”

   “I doubt that but at least those storms mean we don’t have to worry about the Order for a while. Why are you frowning? I thought you be would be glad to see the rain again.”

   “No, dear heart,” she said, folding her arms. “Pious is in my mind again. How could Azrael animate his corpse after Saul had pierced his heart? I fear that which I can’t explain.”

    He laughed incredulously. “This from a Wiccan? In my world, people loved all these horror stories about the walking dead but I never thought I would see one for real. All I know is that the bastard stopped moving once Fierce set off her grenades inside the Great Computer and that’s good enough for me.”

    A southerly breeze arose and stirred Fern’s braided and beaded hair. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as it carried the necrotic stench of the Dead Marshes. “Maybe that devil-machine in the Annex created these abominations?” she suggested.

   “Pious was nowhere near the machine when he was killed so it had to be Azrael. Given what you Wiccans can do, I have to admit that he must’ve been using some kind of necromancy.”    

   “I see,” she said doubtfully. “Then it is a craft we must fear. We’ve been lucky thus far but I fear that the Order will come for us soon. We must go and talk to Ivy and Nightshade.”  

   “How are they? I haven’t seen them for days.”

   “They are fully healed physically but like me, they grieve for Veneris and Rosemary and our poor Ferals…”

    “At least they survived thanks to their Ferals. They destroyed every rotorcraft in that compound but it amazes me that an albino like Nightshade survived a beating like that.”

    “Why are you surprised?” she said raising an eyebrow. “Think of all the Mothers before us who endured both whip and flame. We survived centuries of persecution because we are of Gaia.”

   “I see that’s all the answer I’m ever going to get so let’s get back to Ivy: is she sure Surl and the others have escaped?”

   “You and I were wounded, dear heart!” she reminded him sharply, placing a hand upon his chest. “Yet you were still able to lead us from the Great Cathedral and bring us here safely. We had to flee otherwise they would have killed us all.”

   “I know that in my head but not in my heart.” He was distracted for a moment as lightning flickered ominously along the entire southern horizon. “They must have been the ones who killed the power in the Annex thinking back on it. If they’ve managed to escape from the Abbey I have to go and look for them. What about the other Scatterlings? Do they know about this?”  

   “No. We do not want to raise their hopes. You must work your magic, dear heart. You must talk to them. They are grieving for Fierce and they fear for the little ones.”

   “How can I? I can’t even look them in the eye.”

   “You are their Light-Father!” she said fiercely, emphasising every syllable by poking him hard in the chest. “You’ve wallowed in your tower for weeks when you’re the only father they have. They’ve never once blamed you for her death. They love you!”

   “You’re right: I should concentrate on the living not regret the dead. I promise I’ll talk to them this evening.”

   “Finally,” she beamed, raising her arms to the heavens once more. “The Light-Father sees the light. Hallelujah!”

   “O joy! Sarcasm and telepathy!”

   She suddenly frowned at him: “Forgive me for prying: I could sense Bas and Ibrahim were in your thoughts.”

   “That’s because all the Scatterlings are genetically upgraded:  they’re stronger and faster than ordinary humans but their father went further than anyone at Exodus: he spliced the genes of other species into his own kids. He put cat genes into Bas and gorilla genes into Ibrahim. That man was a monster.”

    “He was that yet here they are,” she said firmly. “They are part of our family; your family. Farzad paraded them naked as a testament to his own twisted genius so please go to them as soon as you can. They both need to talk to you.”

    “I will, I promise. I just had to get through today…”

    She was surprised to see that his eyes were brimming with tears again. “Ah, what’s so special about today, dear heart?”

   “Ha! And you a mind reader.”

   “I usually try not to pry too much. You know that. What is it about today that vexes you?”

    He took her hands in his. “As far as I can tell, today is the anniversary of the death of my own child, Rebecca, in another life, in another world yet here I am…”

   “Then you must honour her memory by being a father to the Scatterlings and the Ferals but you cannot do that up here; one gargoyle amongst so many.”

    He winced. “I deserved that. What’ve you got there?” he asked as she presented him with a small silver-plated tin.

    “It’s for you. I searched all the shops in the lower levels this morning,” she grinned. “I hope you like it.”

    He opened it and his eyes lit up. “Oh, thank God, cigars!” he exclaimed joyfully. “Real, genuine cigars!”

    She curled her lip in disgust: “Foul things they are but you seem to need them more than your poor lungs do.”

     He extracted a cigar, peeled off the cellophane and sniffed at it. “I promise these will be the last I ever smoke. Mmm, as fresh as the day it was rolled,” he sighed happily. He patted at the numerous pockets of his overalls in vain. “I think I left my lighter on one of the boats. Damn it, my head’s all over the place!”

     “You forget that I am Mother Fern of the First Degree,” she intoned with a slight bow. The phrase reminded him of the coven upon the Hill Where It Never Rains. It was here he’d first met Fern and the other Wiccans with his soul somehow transferred into one of the Ferals that served them. “I am a Servant of Gaia, a Wielder of Earth yet I learnt a little of another element from Mother Rosemary,” she touched the end of the cigar he had placed in his mouth. A coil of aromatic smoke curled skywards. “See? I still retain a little of her craft and wisdom.”

    His eyes widened in awe. “What? You never told me you could do pyrokinesis!” he spluttered. He calmed down and inhaled a little smoke then slowly exhaled it upon the humid and pungent breeze. “I suppose I should not be surprised given that I saw Rosemary melt a hole through a brick wall. I just assumed you Mothers were stuck with the one ‘element’ and that was that.”

   “We have a little of them all but we are far stronger in the one. We’re taught all the elements as part of our induction into the ways of Gaia but we are chosen by our defining element as Shield was when she manifested her power in Crawcester.”

   “You told me how you were taken from your parents as a little girl after you started talking to birds but you haven’t told me much about your life as a Daughter. Why is that? Whenever I try to raise the subject you always find something else to talk about – the children, the Ferals, how the search for food is going. We make love, we sleep in the same bed but you’re a mystery to me.”

    She pushed the hand with the cigar to one side and kissed him briefly on the lips then grinned impishly: “There’s an old Finnish saying: if a woman cannot keep a man guessing then she cannot keep a man.”

   “Hogwash! You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.   I’m so in love with you it hurts but I know so little about you.”

    She looked down at the weathered flagstones beneath their feet. “I find it painful to talk about those days. As Daughters we grew up knowing full well the Mothers would kill us the second any evil thought took root in our hearts. It happened to my only friend, Clover. We shared a room and we lay together in the dark watches before the rituals of sunrise but she…”

   “You’ve mentioned her name in your sleep a few times.”

    She looked ashen and chewed at her lower lip in silence for a while. “Pah! When I tread the dream-paths of Mag Mell, I am vulnerable to thee, dear heart.”

   “See? I know you think it’s a pretty one-sided relationship when you use all those thees and thous,” he said triumphantly.

    “Formal speech is still common in Britannia,” she huffed. “It’s considered a mark of utmost respect.”

    “If you say so but you know everything there is to know about me: my family, my job, everything – yet you keep secrets.”

    She raised her face to savour the sun once more. “I loved her, Harold, almost as much as I love you,” she confessed. “That’s why these are memories are so painful. Wiccans are shy of men so Daughters had but each other for solace.”

    “I know you’re taken from your families,” he sympathised, tapping some ash off his cigar “But why are you ashamed to admit you slept with a girl? It doesn’t matter to me: I have absolutely no doubts about your current orientation.”

    “I am not ashamed!” she retorted angrily. “Ach! Why do men always assume that Wiccans are Sapphic? I will be more open in time, I promise, but for now just be content that I love you with all my heart.” She went to the nearest gargoyle and put her hand its head. “Do you know why they named this the Tower of Grieving? Do you know why these gargoyles weep?”

    “Damn it, Fern, there you go changing the subject again but no, I do not know how this tower got its name. I suppose every tower here has some bizarre story behind it.”

   “When the world began to drown four centuries ago there was a thriving city beneath us but as the waters rose, the citizens were seized by the madness of vanity. They refused to accept their fate. They quarried the hills to the south and to the north and brought rock and stone to raise the causeways and viaducts to rebuild the city anew atop the ruins of the old.”

   “Impressive. I can’t imagine how they ferried millions of tons of rock across an estuary like this with just barges.”

    “They laid down the first harbours and docks and for a while Milverburg prospered as a port while others foundered or had to be moved inland but still the waters kept rising.”

    “So they kept rebuilding the city and the viaducts but surely everything would keep sinking into the mud?”

    “This happened many times but as the saying goes: all the crows to Crawcester; all the mules to Milverburg. Levels collapsed and walls fell but they kept on adding stone and rock until the sinking stopped and Milverburg rose up into the sky to become a fortress. These perimeter towers were built to watch over the estuary and each was named to honour a hero or great battle during the Age of Invasions but this one was different,” she smiled and patted the head of the gargoyle. “They placed these weeping gargoyles here to lament the original city now buried beneath us and all those who died raising each new Milverburg upon the old.”

   “I see. I’m sure I heard the sound of a drowned bell down there yesterday when the waves were breaking against the walls.”

    She smiled and sang a lilting folk song: “Milverburg of old was paved with gold and the people dressed in silk but drowned were they in waters grey but only merrow mourn the soulless stones of Milverburg today. There’s more but you get the idea.”

    “Yes and you told me how the city grew so rich that all this insane architecture took place.”

   “Even a hundred years ago the world was a dangerous place but because Milverburg had survived blockades and bombardments, wealthy merchants settled here and tried to outdo each other in creating a city of art and wonder.”

   “I suppose you could call some of it art but did any of them understand the meaning of taste or restraint?”

    “I doubt it. We stayed here once on the way to spy on the Great Abbey. Mother Moss thought it would be an education to show Clover and I what true decadence was.” She smiled at the memory. “Every level was filled with amazing statues, sculptures and gargoyles. Even the workers on the factory levels used to carve them in wood to mimic the merchants above. People in the Middle Cities used to say that there were more statues here than people so they dubbed it the City of Gargoyles. Mother Moss disapproved of them and she despaired of all the whores and tavern sots but we thought that Milverburg was magical.”

    “Magical? This place is a monument to all the servants and workers who lived in the darkness of the lower levels. I’m surprised there was no uprising or revolution here.”

   “The merchants were not stupid, dear heart! The workers’ wages were thrice that of anywhere else in Britannia even Beorminghas and the markets were full of life and light. We went down to watch the ships being loaded and unloaded in the docks then we went to the railway stations to see the trains. You could smell every spice in Creation – it was the market place of the whole world.”

   He imagined the bustling crowds then he realised that Fern was probably projecting those images into his mind:

   “I saw Assyrians, Inuit, Egyptians, Finns, Slavs, Chinese and even the Japanese Empire traders with their beautiful silk robes and wondrous swords but everywhere there were gargoyles and strange statues spouting water into fountains or sewage into foul drains and cess pools. We had such nightmares afterwards!”

   “I’m not surprised,” he said, stubbing his cigar out.

   “An Assyrian asked Mother Moss if she would sell us to him so that he could take us to the Caliphates for the harems,” she laughed. “We thought she was going to turn him into a pile of soot on the spot – she was that vexed with the idea.”

    “Sounds positively Mediaeval,” he noted dryly. “You want me to talk to Ivy and Nightshade so… what’s the matter, Fern?

   “There, dear heart!” she cried, pointing and wide-eyed with fear. “Can’t you see them? There are Angels in the air!”

   He grabbed his binoculars from the flagstones and focussed them on the two black rotorcraft of the Order. The machines had been dubbed Angels decades ago by an unsuspecting world as they were exclusively used for medical aid by the Order. This was the very same Order whose ruling Conclave had created and released the Virus of Revelation; a lethal plague that had left billions dead and mutating surviving children into Ferals by corrupting their DNA; activating redundant genes until they became animal-like and so deformed that they usually starved to death. The distant rotorcraft were Angels alright: heavily-armed Angels of Death.

   “So much for the Order being in chaos!” he said despondently. “They must be from Bede. They could be looking for Surl and the others we need to … hey, what are you doing?” 

   “Hush, dear heart. I am trying to far-see with my craft,” she explained, closing her eyes and pressing her fingertips to her temples. “I am in the thoughts of Father Ursaf of Bede… ugh! A disgusting mind full of schedules and circuitry! I am in the pilot’s mind now: he is displeased to be despatched from Bede with such a violent storm front approaching. They’re searching for people who’ve escaped the Great Abbey!”

    His heart leapt with sudden hope: “Is it the little ones?”

   “I’m not sure,” she said, perspiring from the effort “They’re looking for… for Abbot Michael! He survived the machine!”

   “What? He was cut to ribbons. We saw all that blood.”

   “Nevertheless, he survived and they regard him as a traitor to the Order and want him dead.” Her eyes snapped open. “Gaia protect us!” she gasped, sagging against the parapet. “I saw an image of Schimrian in Ursaf’s thoughts: he’s alive!” 

   “Bugger!” he groaned, his heart sinking. “That damned machine must’ve revived him! Search their minds again. Are the little ones with him? I need to know!”

   “I can’t see them!” she said desperately. “They were not in Ursaf’s thoughts but he does know that Abbot Michael had others with him that he’d freed from the Redemption Cells.”

 He gripped the hilt of his katana and a strange cold thrill ran through him at the thought of action: “If there’s any chance of those kids being alive, we have to go out there and get them! I will not fail them again!”





© mitch 2023
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I can see this is the second in your series of stories and I really liked the way you gave the information about the previous series. I’m very intrigued and enjoyed reading it. Do I need to go back and read the previous one or should I be able to pick up the story from here?

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