Chapter 24: Tower of the Sun

Chapter 24 of the City of Gargoyles: Book 2 of the Light-Father Trilogy 

Snatched from the jaws of death, Surl is reunited with Ken Glascae whom she’d freed from the Redemptions Cells at the Great Abbey. Uneasy alliances are forged….


    Tower of the Sun
 

     Harold despaired as four lines of erupting fountains from heavy calibre rounds plunging into the Milverbore advanced towards them then passed the Ellendaed spraying them all with seawater. Rounds then impacted the two original Angels and tore through the cockpits blasting out expanding haloes of windscreen shards and worse. Gouting fire and smoke, the stricken rotorcraft tumbled down into the estuary. One rotor-blade sheared off on impact and everyone on the Ellendaed involuntarily ducked as it whirled over their heads making a fearsome thrumming sound.

     He let out an expletive as he narrowly avoided ramming the Ellendaed into the base of a viaduct pier. One of the rescue Angels rose up a hundred yards to act as sentry whilst the other hovered a few feet above the estuary waters. A man dressed in a green quilted hunting-jacket and corduroy trousers with goggles hung around his neck, stepped out onto one of the huge chain guns bolted onto the landing skids and held onto the rim of the cockpit doorway. He had a loudhailer and waited for Harold to bring the Ellendaed as close as he dared. Despite the engine noise there was no mistaking the broad Scotian accent of their saviour

     “Well met, Surl of Crawcester!” he called as Surl literally bounced up and down in the boat with relief and joy, waving at him with both hands above her head. “I told you we’d meet again! We’re glad to return the favour and it looks as though you’ve freed another three prisoners. Well done, little Scatterling!”

      Harold cupped his hands to yell a reply but it was pointless as his voice was whipped away by the rotor downdraft. 

    “I can’t hear you!” Ken Glascae continued. “I presume you’re this Light-Father we’ve heard about. We have some new recruits for you and you now have an air force! I’m told there’s a large public park on uppermost near the Tower of the Sun so we’ll land there and wait for you. We owe your four younglings there our lives so we want to repay that debt.”

     Surl was ecstatic as he looked so much healthier than when they’d freed him but she’d foreseen a different reunion and that worried her on so many levels. Fern raised her head: “Prescience is never accurate,” she advised blearily. “You’ll learn to accept that and make allowances for it.” She vomited a little again. “By Gaia’s paps, Harold! Get me to solid ground now, please!”

   He nodded and pointed at Milverburg for Ken’s sake then he gunned the engines making the Ellendaed surge forward through the gentle swell eliciting moans from Fern. Ken saluted them and climbed back into the cockpit then both Angels rose swiftly and headed towards Uppermost. Harold looked around the deck at the varied expressions of surprise and relief on everyone’s faces and realised that he was the only one trembling like a leaf from yet another near-death experience. “Well, I did not see that one coming,” he admitted then he saw Surl looking utterly downcast.

    “Neither did I,” she said. “I’m sorry, Light-Father!”

    “Don’t worry, Surl,” he reassured her. “You’ll grow into that power of yours, I’m sure of it, but for now could you help Mother Fern? You and Shield need to get her away from all that puke. People’s faces are not meant to be that shade of green!”

    “But you’re as white as a sheet,” Shield pointed out.

    “Having bullets and rotor-blades miss us by inches has that effect on people,” he replied grumpily. As the girls dragged Fern to the gunwale, he noticed that the other Scatterlings were chattering excitedly with Marc and the other two escapees but Michael sat cross-legged at the stern with his hands clasped together in prayer. He wondered what was going through the mutilated cleric’s mind and noted that the spear wound had already stopped bleeding but his movements were restricted.

   He recalled the image Fern had relayed into his mind. The Naked One: Azrael had somehow made Michael’s skin completely transparent so that all the muscles, capillaries and veins could be clearly seen in all their raw red glory. This was no doubt done to add to his torment at Azrael’s feet; every reflection exquisitely enhancing the psychological torture…

   Surl tugged at his sleeve, derailing his thoughts. “Mother Fern says we can trust him,” she reported. “I had a vision last week that showed me he has a hard road ahead – he’ll be tempted to betray us but I don’t think he will. I couldn’t see much more as there are too many twists and turns ahead for every one of us.”

    “I understand,” Harold said, throttling down as they passed through the gateway and coast into the dock area. They moored the Ellendaed but, as the tide was low, they had to use the dockside ladders with Harold assisting Michael up the rungs. His hand came into contact with Michael’s forearm flesh as he heaved him up. The skin felt normal to the touch but as soon as he saw the muscles and blood vessels pulsing, a powerful gag reflex almost made him spew. “Jesus! No wonder she fainted,” he gasped.

    Michael shrugged as he sat upon the flagstones. “Imagine how I felt when Father Aten first brought me a mirror. The cruel bastard actually found this funny! He and the rest of Pious’s Inquisitors survived because they held back from the fighting. I was told brave Father Aten actually hid under a pew in the Great Cathedral.”

    “Typical thugs,” Harold grunted sourly. “They’re not used to their prey fighting back.”

   Michael pointed to Fern who was still prostrate on the boat with Surl, Saul and Shield tending to her. “Your place is clearly at her side,” he advised. “She should recover quickly now the other Wiccans are here. Ah, the Ferals are here as well. I’m glad they survived the Great Abbey. Wait… What?”

      Harold had to stand in front of Michael to block ten Ferals who had scooted around Ivy and Nightshade, clearly intending to attack Michael dressed as he was in the robes of the Order. “No, you will not!” he roared, holding his arms out wide as they bared their teeth. Such was the force of his voice that they halted in their tracks and stared at him in puzzlement. “He’s with us! He’s disfigured.”

     The boldest of the Ferals, Godwin, came up to Harold and put a hand on his chest. He looked up quizzically. “Arrrrrhh wee naht disssfighered tooo?” he asked. “Heee Orhhduhr. They khill ahr famleees. They whaarrp usss. They khill efreethiiing!”

     Kai strode forward to stand over Michael, hands on hips. “Have you truly repented?” he demanded. “Why do you skulk beneath that cowl? Why did they turn on you and call you the Naked One?”

  “Godwin and Kai need to see what Azrael did to you, Michael,” Harold insisted. “Otherwise they won’t believe you.”

    Michael struggled to his feet. “Very well, Light-Father, but first,” he said, turning to Ivy and Nightshade. “Your fellow Wiccan in the boat needs you. You’ve probably far-seen this but she caught a begiuller blast at point blank range in Wealthorpe. It was far worse that the begiullers she endured at the Great Annex.”

     Ivy brushed past him and began to descend the rungs to the boat. “I’m not surprised she’s ill,” she said angrily. “It’s like having every nerve in your body set on fire. The weapon was designed to torture Wiccans as we hear such a wide spectrum of sound as part of our craft. As we suffer so much from your infernal devices it’s only fitting that you show Kai the true price of serving the Order!” 

   “There’s something else you all need to know as well,” Nightshade announced. “I received an insight while I was asleep. I was shown what’s really behind this nightmare and I was given a warning that Azrael could rise again.”

    “Rise again? What do you mean by that?” Harold demanded. “Are you a seer as well?”

  “No, Light-Father, my astral form met a goddess,” she said excitedly. “She told me that Azrael is part of a fathomless ancient evil that’s near impossible to kill so it won’t end with the Great Computer or its manifestation in the Great Annex…”  

    “Then he might be the cause of this new evil coming from the North, Mother Nightshade,” Bas chipped in. “The animals were terrified of a new scent carried on a northerly breeze.”

    “I’m aware of it,” Nightshade nodded. “I scanned Ursaf’s mind as the rotorcraft flew into Uppermost. “Light-Father?”

     “Yes?” Harold said, watching Ivy tend to Fern in the boat. “So how will Azrael rise again?” he asked, completely distracted by his concern for his lover.

    “I see I’ll have to discuss my vision with you later,” Nightshade said pointedly. “Ursaf and his Brothers were attacked by a new breed of Feral that has escaped from Erdethric and is now on the mainland. That’s what Bas detected. There may be hundreds of them to the north and they have packs of wolves running with them as well. Bas and Ibrahim’s father had something to with breeding these chimerae and I fear they can procreate.”

    “This is getting to be a sick joke,” he groaned. “There won’t be anything left alive in this world at this rate.”

     “That’s Azrael’s true purpose, Light-Father.”

     “So they’re like us?” Bas demanded angrily. “These wolf-children from Erdethric?”

    “They’re nothing like you, Bas. Whether this dark will is guiding them or not, they’re attacking and killing everything they come across.” 

    “Well, there’s a bonus if they’re attacking the Order as well,” Harold noted ironically. He turned to Michael who had Godwin and Kai standing impatiently before him. “For God’s sake hurry up, Michael, before they throw you into the dock.”

      “As you wish, Light-Father,” Michael conceded reluctantly. He pulled back his cowl and slowly peeled away his bandages.

    Godwin gaped and sat back on his haunches in shock while Kai’s reaction was unexpected: he pushed Michael hard in the chest sending him backwards to land heavily on his behind. “No!” he screamed. “You aren’t Michael! He’s twice your size!”

    Michael started wrapping the bandages around his face. “I was twice my size, Brother Kai, but Azrael ripped the fat from my bones in his machine without anaesthetics and made my skin transparent because it amused him.”

    “I’m no Brother,” Kai fumed, glowering down at Michael.

    “Then why do you wear the field robes of the Order, my son?”

    “He has a point,” Harold observed dryly.

     “I’ve told you, Light-Father: it’s to remind me of my sins!”

     “No. It has to stop, Kai. You need to move on.”

     Kai’s shoulders sagged. “If you insist, Light-Father.”

    “I do. It serves no purpose. Dress in camel-hair shirts or sacking if you wish to  scourge yourself but those robes offend everybody here. I want you to become one of the Scatterlings not a distraction.”

     Michael drew the cowl about his head again and stared down at the flagstones but Godwin closed his jaws and crawled forward to press his forehead gently against Michael’s. “Jussteess. Jussteees,” he growled softly, almost purring. “Ahr whull fahrgeeve youuu, Mmmarkhell.. Justesss ees sseee…” he ended on a low gurgling sentence that nobody but Kai could decipher:

    “He said justice has been served,” Kai translated. “He forgives you for being of the Order, for killing his family and turning him into a half-beast. He takes no pleasure from it but he does take comfort from seeing a punishment befitting the crime.”

   “Indeed it does, young Kai,” Michael laughed wryly. “Ach! The wound reopened. Damnation! I’m bleeding again!”

    “He fought with us, Kai,” Ibrahim interjected, joining Marc to help Michael back upon his feet. “He shot several Brothers and took a spear in the shoulder. Bas and I don’t look like you so we don’t care what he looks like to us because we trust him and you should too. You’ve been saying that you’re still a Christian so where’s all the sympathy and forgiveness?”   

    Kai reddened and looked away. “He did try to look out for me and protect me from the House-Fathers,” he relented. “But we were both enraptured when the Plague was released. It’s only since the battle at the Great Abbey that my mind’s been truly clear.”

     Peter joined them. “The Abbess reckoned that an evil will was affecting your minds to varying degrees before it took physical form in the Great Annex.” He paused on seeing two new faces peering from behind Nightshade. “Light-Father! Look! I think Nightshade has two new Scatterlings with her!”

     Bas immediately scampered forwards to sniff at them but they recoiled at her sharp teeth as she grinned. “The stone ghosts!” she gloated. “I know their scent! You’ve finally enticed them out into the open, Mother Nightshade! What are their names?”

    Nightshade placed her hands on the girls’ arms and drew them and their bows and quivers of arrows into plain view. “This is Pomona Regina and this is Kayleigh Burr. They’re from the Regina and Burr merchant clans who owned the Beomodor and many buildings on nearly every level of Milverburg.”

    The two girls ignored Bas, much to her chagrin, and stood before Harold, bobbing a courtesy at him. “You can call her Yang-chan,” Pomona simpered, grasping Kayleigh’s hand tightly.

     “And you can call her Yin-chan,” Kayleigh declared lovingly. “You’re our Light-Father now.”

      With that, they both launched themselves forwards into his arms almost knocking him off his feet. They hugged him and kissed him on the cheeks repeatedly making Bas emit a little involuntary hiss of jealousy. Her ears and tail drooped as Nightshade tutted and wagged a finger at her.

    “So you’re our mysterious stone ghosts, eh?” Harold smiled, guessing that this was the first physical contact they’d had in six years apart from each other. “Welcome to the Scatterlings, Pomona and Kayleigh of the merchant clans.” He looked over at Nightshade who’d coughed discretely to get his attention.

    “It’s unlikely that they’ll ever take a mate,” she advised him, having read his thoughts. “But that’s not all: they bear the mark of the craft upon their palms.”

     “They’re Daughters?” he exclaimed. “What’re the odds?”

     Nightshade shrugged. “Pretty good given that they’ve survived alone in this place for six years. No normal human child could’ve done that so they either had to be Children of Exodus or possessed of the craft. They’re very proficient with the bow and almost succeeded in sticking two arrows into Ivy and even our brave warriors, Fria and Amos, were no match for them.”

   “The little vixens nicked my ear,” Fria growled, grasping a knife hilt. Nightshade frowned and concentrated. “Ow! Not fair! A geis!” Fria squealed, rubbing the palm of her knife hand vigorously. “You made it red hot!”

   “You imagined the heat but be at peace, child, we’ve no time for silly vendettas!” Nightshade admonished. “You and Bas must not be jealous of them as they had to watch their entire clans die before spending six years with corpses and rodents for company. Light-Father, you need to help Fern up the rungs then you must go: you have to work out how we’re going to defend this place!”

    “I know. I should’ve given it more thought before now.”

   “You were too busy brooding, Harold,” Fern said waspishly, ignoring his outstretched hand as she hauled herself slowly up the rungs with Ivy’s assistance. She crawled up onto the Wharf to lie on her side in a foetal position. “Now I’d like you to go away,” she groaned, clutching at her stomach. “Just leave me be!”

     “Huh? What did I do?”

     Nightshade laid a hand upon his shoulder in sympathy. “You must understand what’s happened to her, Light-Father. She loves you but she knows that if you touch her in this condition, she’ll lash out with her craft and probably blow you and this entire dock apart. Go to Uppermost! We’ll take care of her.”

    “Very well,” he agreed doubtfully. “Just make sure she’s okay. Can you get the Ferals to watch the docks and the viaducts?”

    “Of course,” Nightshade assured him. “We can far-talk with you to keep up to speed or if we see any movement on the banks or in the air. Ivy and I can counter any sorties along the viaducts so make haste,” she urged, shoving him gently in the back. 

     “Huh? What did I do?”

   Nightshade laid a hand upon his shoulder in sympathy. “You must understand what’s happened to her, Light-Father. She loves you but she knows that if you touch her in this condition, she’ll lash out with her craft and probably blow you and this entire dock apart. Go to Uppermost! We’ll take care of her.”

    “Very well,” he agreed doubtfully. “Just make sure she’s okay. Can you get the Ferals to watch the docks and the viaducts?”

    “Of course,” Nightshade assured him. “We can far-talk with you to keep up to speed or if we see any movement on the banks or in the air. Ivy and I can counter any sorties along the viaducts so make haste,” she urged, shoving him gently in the back. “We need you to come up with a plan to defend this city.”

     “We have some ideas, Light-Father,” Pomona volunteered.

     “Yin-chan and I know every inch of this place,” Kayleigh chipped in brightly. “They can only attack each level from the four Circumference Stairs so you can booby-trap them as you retreat. We know all the air ducts, chimneys and vents so you can ambush them anywhere on every level at any time!”

    “We know where all the apothecaries and gardening stores are as well,” Pomona added. “We can show you.”

    “Huh?” Harold exclaimed, looking at her with a puzzled frown then the penny dropped: “Oh, of course! Nitrates and chromates; charcoal powder and sulphur! We can make more pipe-bombs – damn, we should’ve been making them weeks ago!”

    “Have some faith in us, Light-Father,” Nightshade said in a peeved tone. “We’ve made thirty or so, and we can easily make others if these two really do know where to look for the ingredients. They need to go with you for now but Surl must stay with me as her visions have almost destroyed her health. She’d be tempted to scry for you and could suffer permanent harm. She must rest.”

     “Anyway, Pup is hungry,” Pup said, looking meaningfully at a basket full of fresh cod. “Can we stay and eat fish, Light-Father?”

     “Pup is always hungry,” Harold laughed. “Fine, you stay with Surl, Peter and Rabbit and see if the Mothers can grill you some. Everyone else, come with me. We’ve a long climb ahead of us as we can’t use the lifts to go up without power.”

    “I can sort that out,” Michael suggested, gazing around the dimly-lit dock. “Those generators over there are known to me. I am sure I can rewire them or any others on the docks level to power at least one set of lift motors and maybe the dock gates too.”

    “That’s good to know. I’ve started servicing them but we’ll all have to climb for now,” Harold said in martyred tones as they all headed in to the Central Core to find the passage leading to the Northern Circumference Stairs.

    “I can carry you,” Ibrahim suggested with a mischievous grin. “If you’re not up to it, that is.”

    “Show your elders some respect!” Harold grumbled. “I can make it under my own steam, thank you.”

    “Of course we respect you, Light-Father!” Bas smiled sweetly. “When you aren’t puffing  those foul cigars or trying to rip my ears off!”

    “They are indeed curious ears,” Marc observed, walking in step beside her. “What’s that word that Japanese Empire trader used to describe cat-girls? That was it: neko.”

     “The Japanese word for cat,” Harold explained as Bas frowned at Marc who stepped back a pace, raising his hands defensively.

  “Don’t take offence. I’ve never met a chimera until I met you and Ibrahim today. I really do think you look amazing,” he grinned. “I know your tail is real too. It’s so kawai-ee.”

    “What is he babbling about, Light-Father?” Bas demanded.

     Harold rolled his eyes. “In my world, Japanese boys had a fetish about cat-girls so I guess it was the same here. Kawai-ee is Japanese for cute as in a cute child or a kitten.”

     “I’m no kitten!” Bas hissed and executed a breath-taking leap over Marc’s head to land behind him with her arm around his neck and knife point pricking his throat before her discarded bow and quiver hit the ground. “Don’t you dare patronise me again or I’ll gut you like one of those fish!”  

      “Hoi! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Marc apologised hastily. “I just find you a very attractive young human girl despite the cat attributes. I was only being chivalrous.”

    Ibrahim slowly prised Bas away from Marc. “You weren’t being chivalrous, idiot. As children we were paraded naked by our father, Professor Farzad, at scientific conferences as an example of how to splice genes,” he explained with exaggerated patience. “I had ape genes spliced into me but it was worse for Bas because they would pet her and make her lap milk from a saucer. Calling her cute or a kitten just brings those unbearable memories back so if you disrespect her again, lecher, I’ll rip your head off.”

   Harold stepped between them. “That’s enough, both of you. Save it for the Order,” he said curtly, pushing them apart. “Bas is just a child for all her maturity, Marc, so I’d appreciate it if you respected that otherwise I’ll throw what’s left of you into the Milverbore.” He turned to the other two escapees and half-drew his katana. “The same goes for you two. If you disrespect any of my Scatterlings, you’ll answer to me. Understood?”

    All three men bowed deeply, thoroughly chastened: “Yes, Light-Father,” they said in unison. “Forgive me, Bas,” Marc added, displaying his left hand which was missing its fingernails. “I was trying to forget this by being insensitive. I apologise.”

    Mollified, Bas nodded at him and sheathed her knife. “I accept your apology but think before you speak in future.”

    “Good. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up,” Harold beamed, slamming the sword back into its saya making Saul cringe at the abuse of such a skilfully-crafted weapon. “Let’s get to Uppermost before someone else says something stupid I’ll regret.”

    The climb progressed in near silence and near darkness but for the window slits allowing a little northern light to filter through the fifty-yard thick outer wall. Harold had to fall back as Michael was struggling and called for Ibrahim to assist him.

    Ibrahim demonstrated that his genetically-enhanced strength was no idle boast as he unslung his axes, giving them to Harold to carry, and hoisted Michael into a piggy-back position to ascend the last two flights with no apparent effort.

    They found the two Angels in the park near the Tower of the Sun and to their surprise they saw a portly Father and three Brothers sat upon the rough overgrown grass with their hands upon their heads and five heavily-armed men armed standing guard over them. Harold recognised the man who’d used the loudhailer and correctly assumed him to be the leader of the group.

    “I take it you’re Ken Glascae?”

    Ken grasped his hand and shook it fiercely: “Aye, I am. It’s good to meet you, Light-Father. I’ve heard so much about you from these four scaernae and what you did at the Great Abbey. They actually think you’re some kind of demigod! They’re from Bede but we saved them from a pack of wolves and those weird hybrids thinking they were refugees like us…”

   “They’re chimerae created by Professor Farzad at Erdethric,” Ursaf interrupted. He would have had a gun butt slammed into his face but Saul had quickly intercepted the blow and pushed the man aside. “Thank you, my son. We want to warn you…”

     “We already know about these creatures,” Harold replied. “Farzad spliced wolf genes and God knows what else into those children just as he did with his own. The man was a monster.”

    Ursaf’s jaw dropped as he beheld Bas and Ibrahim. “Ah, I’ve seen these two before! They’re his most accomplished creations!”

    “We have souls and names,” Bas hissed at him and again Ibrahim had to restrain her. “We’re not experiments any more, you stinking pile of kack!”

    “I apologise, child,” Ursaf said, bowing as best he could in a sitting position. “I can see that but those things that attacked us were your father’s handiwork and they showed very little of your awareness or humanity. They broke free of their cages and killed everyone on Erdethric some years ago. The Order hoped that the seas would contain them but, as ever, they were wrong.”

    Harold sat down to face the cleric after asking their names and those of Ken’s companions. “I want to know what you plan to do now,” he said urgently. “Are you free of this power that affected your minds or will you simply attack us again if I set you free? Should I let Ken and his men kill you right now?”  

     “They’re cowards, Light-Father,” Ken observed. “They opened fire on their own brethren simply because we pointed a gun at their heads and threatened to shoot them.”

    Ursaf glowered up at him. “You deliberately misunderstand us, Glascae,” he said angrily. “We retain our faith but we are not of the Order now. May we be permitted to stand, Light-Father?”

    Harold nodded and all four men got to their feet and within moments, they were standing naked but for their somewhat grubby underpants feeling the hot sunlight prick the pale skin of their backs, having cast their field robes away. Ursaf placed a hand upon his flabby chest: “We pledge ourselves to you, Light-Father. Be mindful: we are not Brothers-Martial but Brothers-Technician yet we will fly the Angels for you. We won’t return to an Order run by Schimrian and his fell servant, Pious, who would gut us alive for our failures at Wealthorpe. All four of us want to bring  this madness to an end. We can persuade others at Bede to join us…”

    “We want to sleep without this Azrael whispering in our minds and a million dead screaming for our souls every night, Light-Father!” Piamadet pleaded. “We beg you to work your magic upon us! We’ll fly the Angels and defend this Queen of Babylons for you as best we can. You have our word.”

  “So you see the dead every night now that the dark thrall has been lifted?” Michael interjected before Harold could reply.

   “Ah, I recognise that voice! Well met again, Abbot Michael!” Ursaf enthused. “Is what they say about the Great Abbey true?”

      “Yes,” Michael nodded. “Azrael did indeed live within the Great Computer and took shape as an angel beautiful but deadly to look at. He slew Schimrian whom he placed in the machine I was in and it brought him back to life. I can confirm Azrael also commanded the Tally-men to slaughter everyone for his pleasure. I too would cast aside my field robes as you have but you would all retch and vomit as Camus did and flee screaming. However, I intend serve the Light-Father in the battles to come and save as many of his Scatterlings as I can.”

     “Bless you, Eminence,” Ursaf said formally.

    Michael forestalled him with a raised palm. “I am Michael Onderhelm not Abbot Michael. As with young Kai here, I reject the Order and all its works and declare it to be my enemy.”    

     Ursaf bowed reverently. “Then I am no longer a Father of the Order and will henceforth be just Ursaf Unwin of Accyngate and the answer to your question is yes: all of us at Bede see the dead at night only more so during these last three weeks now Azrael’s seductive fog no longer dulls our senses.”

    “Camus and I have seen them for six years,” Michael said thoughtfully. “Probably Azrael did not apply the geis to us as strongly as he did to you and the rest of the Order.”

   “We can discuss this all later, gentlemen,” Harold urged. “We have work to do! Ken, can your men please stop pointing their guns at Ursaf and his Brothers? They’re hardly likely to attack us in their underpants, now are they? We’ll go into the tower and find you all some clothes then we’ll go up to the Northern Library and decide what to do about defending this place. There’s water and some food up there if you’re hungry.”

     “What about you, Kai?” Saul asked pointedly. “Are you going to follow their example as the Light-Father requested?”

     “You have your path and I have mine, Eldest,” Kai seethed through grated teeth. “I’m less than a beast in the eyes of God.” He pulled at his field robes. “These remind me of how I led countless children to their deaths. I do not deserve fine garments until I find forgiveness and absolution for my sins. If you’ll excuse me, I will rejoin Mother Ivy and my Ferals.”  

      Michael stepped forward to stop him leaving but Harold raised a hand. “Let him go, I’ll talk to him later.”

    “I should take that responsibility, Light-Father. I did mentor him as a postulant and novice after all.”

     Ken shielded his eyes from the glare of the Tower of the Sun. “What a waste of gold,” he murmured in disbelief. “Sometimes I think the world deserved to die when so much obscene wealth was in the hands of so few. Tell me, Light-Father, what are those strange white towers in the centre of each quadrant?”  

     “The Towers of the Moon,” Harold replied. “They used to house the four global banking clans until they moved their operations to Beorminghas to build even bigger towers.”

    “Bankers!” Ken scoffed disdainfully as they crossed the Tower drawbridge. “Trust me, we never had any of this revolting Sasana opulence in Scotia when I was a child!”

     Harold smiled, taking a deep liking to the young Scotian: “We have the same injustices and disparities where I come from, Ken.”

     He paused at the doorway to gaze at Uppermost shimmering and steaming in the rare hot sunlight. “But how can I defend all this?” he wondered aloud, waving a hand at the hundreds of luxurious mansions and imposing civic buildings. “We can’t flee anywhere so we have to stay and fight.”

    “I’m sure you’ll find a way, Light-Father,” Shield assured him, placing a hand on his arm. “We have faith in you.”

     “That’s good. I just wish I had faith in myself.”

~~~~~

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(c) 2019 Paul D E Mitchell  – no copying or reproduction is allowed without written permission. Copyright protected. 

© mitch 2019
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