Chapter 25: Council of War

Chapter 25 of the City of Gargoyles: Book 2 of the Light-Father Trilogy

In Schimrian’s Chambers at the Great Manse, Abbots, Fathers and Brothers gather to debate the assault upon Milverburg and Abbess Ondine receives a cruel command…

Council of War

“Fall now, sweet irony; like rain upon a desert dune;

 a brief oasis then a cruel mirage for thirsting souls.” – Thomas Tythe


     Camus rapped on the door to Schimrian’s chambers. “It’s ten of the bells, Eminence!” he called out querulously. “Can you not hear the Great Bell tolling? We have news! Fathers Theo and Edward are with me! We have grave news, Eminence!”

    The door opened and they beheld the Great-Abbot, unshaven and still in his night-clothes. “Ah, my sons; forgive my slothful appearance,” he yawned. “Cancelling Matins meant I slept the deep sleep of the truly righteous. I hope the three of you are similarly refreshed?” He looked at Camus with a raised eyebrow. “Hmmm, perhaps not so in your case, my son; I take it the vengeful shades of unwarranted guilt terrorised you in the night?”

     Camus rubbed at his red-rimmed eyes. “Aye, Eminence. It’s been worse since the attack but I managed a few hours after a bottle of rum I’d prudently set aside. It dulled the wraiths for a while.” He bared his right forearm and displayed deep scratches. “But they appear to be gaining some form of corporeal presence.”

    “Unlikely, my son,” Schimrian assured him, placing a hand upon his shoulder. “You claim to be a man of science: these marks are more likely to be self-inflicted in the throes of a troubled sleep, wouldn’t you agree? The subconscious is our own worst enemy in times of great stress. I’m aware of how overburdened you are, my son, but the Order is eternally grateful to you.”

     Deep within the recesses of his fracturing mind, Camus thought that the Great-Abbot was far more dangerous when smiles like this crawled across his normally humourless face. Controlling the shrieking fear in his soul and a debilitating urge to flee, he bowed his head and murmured: “You do me great honour, Eminence.”  

     Theo, by contrast, was desperately eager to ingratiate himself with the Great-Abbot and genuflected: “Thank you for your blessed concern, Eminence! Like you, Brother Edward and I also slept the sleep of the righteous at our desks so we could be up at cock-crow, restoring the electrics to the Manse. If you throw the light switches, all your chamber lamps should now come on.”

    Schimrian did so but there was a bang and a shower of sparks as one of the lamps above his bed exploded making Edward and Theo quake inwardly at the withering look of contempt directed at them. Luckily the rest of the lamps and lights dealt with the power surge and the shadows in the chambers were finally dispelled.

     There was a pause, pregnant with retribution, reducing the two newly-appointed Fathers to a quivering shambles. “Wait here while I shave and get dressed,” Schimrian ordered curtly. It was a full ten minutes before he admitted them into his chambers and he appeared to be in a much better mood. “Behold, my sons! You’ve freed my beloved ceiling angels from the Light-Father’s chains of shadow,” he beamed, raising his hands heavenwards.

     Theo and Edward grinned to each other in the relief of the reprieved then they made the mistake of looking upwards: both immediately thought that the carved faces of the angels had somehow subtly altered during the night so that they appeared to be leering down at them in unholy appetite and expectation.

     They could not avert their eyes from the corrupted angels until Schimrian sharply bidthem to sit in the chairs before his desk so that he could gaze benevolently down upon them. They noted that there were nine chairs set in a line before the desk. Schimrian pre-empted their questions about the seating: “We have Abbot Pious, Father Aten, Father Dreorman and their three Brothers-Inquisitor joining us for a conference soon. I suggest your ‘grave news’ can wait until they arrive.”

     There was a faint wailing cry of pain and despair from beneath their feet that made the blood of all three run cold for they knew who was being tortured. Schimrian sighed deeply and steepled his fingers, looking imperiously at Theo whose robes were already damp with copious nervous perspiration. “Well? Are the internal communications restored, my son?”

    “Aye, they are, Eminence,” Theo responded quickly. “The Redemption Cells beneath you can be reached by entering…”

   “I am not some mewling postulant!” Schimrian snapped, entering the code into the intercom unit on his desk. He leant close to the microphone: “Pious, cease your Inquisition and bring yourself and your Inquisitors to my chambers immediately.”

   He punched in another intercom code. “Abbess? I would welcome food for ten in my chambers and some tea if there is any left. Thank you. What’s that? I appreciate that you have but three dozen sisters and the postulants to help you but, thanks to this Light-Father and his Harlots of Satan, there are a great many less mouths to feed, yes? Fifteen minutes? Ah, it will have to do. Thank you, my daughter.” He disconnected the intercom with a flourish then relaxed on hearing a respectful knock at the door. “Come in, my sons,” he called out. “I have no need to lock my door.”

     Pious was the first into the chambers and bent over the desk to kiss the ring of office upon Schimrian’s right index finger. “Given the infiltration and the betrayal of Brother Ignatius, Eminence,” he said, seating himself next to Camus. “I think such confidence may be premature. Because of the sparseness of our brethren, we cannot guarantee that we can prevent further infiltration by our Unworthy enemies. You are our guiding light, Eminence: we cannot risk losing you at this most critical of times.”

   “Well said, old friend,” Schimrian nodded in approval. “As ever, I bless your divine resurrection in our times of need.”

     Pious placed his black-veined hand upon his cold dead heart and bowed his head: “Bless you for your confidence in me, Eminence. Permit me to formally introduce my colleagues of old: Father Aten and Father Dreorman, you already know.” He paused as the two Fathers bent to kiss the ring of office and sat down. “This is Brother Feris,” he began, as the hulking, bearded torture specialist kissed the ring. “He was demonstrating some interesting Inquisition techniques just now upon our traitor.”

     “So I heard. I still wish to Inquire of him personally. I would be grateful if he is left relatively intact to appreciate my displeasure regarding his slothful and decadent treachery.”

     “He’s pathetic, Eminence,” Feris grunted sourly as he sat down. “You only have to breathe on that traitorous rat and he swoons like a maiden. I’m surprised that my cousin, Father Bucheort, failed to sniff out his foul deceits before now.”  

    “Ah, I thought I recognised a family likeness in you!” Schimrian exclaimed delightedly. “Then you’ll know that my ever-faithful Bucheort was as dear to me as if he were my own son. I mourn his loss every day as no doubt you do yourself.”

    “Thank you, Eminence. I will make the Harlots of Satan pay thrice over for his unseemly and blasphemous demise.” 

    “This is Brother Cwellor from the Mentougou Abbey,” Pious continued. “He is our best projectiles specialist. His mother was of Beorminghas but his father was a member of the Royal Conclave of Architects chapter in that province. He has shown me much fervour and loyalty these last six years.”

     The half-Chinese Brother bowed deeply before kissing the ring. “Abbot Pious does credit me overmuch yet for all my flaws, I serve the Order and you, Eminence. We cannot risk internal conflict now that we are but One Tribe in number.”

    Camus noted Cwellor’s ice blue eyes and shock of striking blond hair contrasting his dark Asian features. Like Father Dreorman, he was reputed to be an excellent shot and as utterly ruthless as Pious. He reckoned it was a miracle they ever brought back any Tally-men recruits to the Redemption Cells at all.   

   “Last but not least, Eminence: Brother Brodiglede, our ordnance specialist,” Pious said as proudly as his bellows-wheeze of a voice would allow. “Don’t let his slight frame deceive you: he’s the most accomplished Brothers-Martial in the Northern hemisphere.”

   The elegant, almost foppish Brother kissed the ring. “I’m sorry we have not been introduced before, Eminence, but we’ve been out hunting down the Unworthy these last three weeks. We cannot bear to be idle knowing that scum still stalk these Hallowed Isles.”

  Camus restrained his tongue: not only had these brutal men failed to fully engage the invaders, except when they managed to corner a few Ferals, they had refused to assist in the repairs and rebuilding although Father Aten had located the generators now powering the lights. They had taken half-tracks out on Inquisitions but when they were despatched to help hunt down Michael and the escapees, they had refused the authority of Father Beorcraft and swung northwards into the Middle Cities – apparently at the behest of Pious. Consequently, the postulants, novices and many survivors at the Great Abbey detested them but they all avoided them as best they could for they were known to be utterly merciless towards anyone who showed them even the slightest disrespect.

     They were heavily armed with rifles, machine guns, handguns and swords which clinked and rattled as they sat bolt-upright in their chairs whilst giving the Great-Abbot their utmost respect and attention. “Thank you for your courtesies, my sons. Alas, your brethren here were not as respectful upon entering my chambers,” Schimrian began sarcastically, displaying the ring with the seal of the Order. Theo and Edward paled visibly as they’d forgotten to do this and squirmed with fear and embarrassment as the three Brothers-Inquisitor smirked at them.

   Camus kept his counsel and his face impassive though his heart beat a fierce tattoo. Schimrian steepled his fingers and stared at him over his prince-nez glasses. “Abbot Camus, you all know and these are Fathers Theo and Edward whom I trust implicitly. Well, my son; now that we all know each other let us begin with the grave news you so calmly announced at my door earlier, hmm?”

    Camus coughed to clear his fear-clogged throat: “Ahem! We’ve lost contact with Father Ursaf and his two Angels. I assumed that the storm had damaged the rotors and the radios but we’ve also lost contact with the two Bede Angels I ordered out to search for them this morning. They came upon a boat full of Unworthy near Milverburg and went down to destroy it but we lost contact at that point. I fear the Light-Father and his Wiccans may have destroyed them both. We’ve lost four Bede Angels, Eminence!”

    Schimrian’s brows knitted with fury as he drummed the fingers of his right hand on the desk. “Ah, grave news indeed, my son: Bede has failed us again,” he snarled. “You always gainsaid my suggested appointments to Bede and I respected your judgement and this is the payment I reap for that blind trust! The Brothers-Technician there have been left to their own devices for far too long! Father Aten? Bede has need of an Abbot of your obvious calibre. Are you worthy of such a post, my son?”

     Pious clasped a hand on Aten’s shoulder. “Eminence, forgive me but I had hoped that Father Aten would accompany me on the ground assault upon the Queen of Babylons.”

    “Indeed so. I value your request, old friend, but I sense Bede is morally adrift and losing focus and that’s where our remaining Angels are gathered! If the Light-Father strikes there, he will find an undefended target and you’ll have no air support for your Inquisition tomorrow.”

    Pious considered this for a moment and acceded: “You are of course correct, Eminence: if I were this damnable Light-Father, that’s exactly where I would strike next. I therefore congratulate my fellow Abbot here on his elevation…”

    Aten raised his hand. “If I may beg your indulgence, Eminence, but I will need Brother Feris and Brother Cwellor with me to instil discipline there if what you suspect is true. I’ve heard that they’re in their cups from Matins to Compline since the invasion and seem to share the same night terrors as poor Camus here.”

    “Then I do pity them,” Camus muttered. “But if we are to succeed in our endeavours, we’ll need all the remaining Angels to take to the air tomorrow…”

    “Exactly how many Angels have we got left?” Cwellor interrupted, deliberately foregoing Camus’s title of Eminence.

     Camus bristled at the insult until he saw the thin smile on the dead white face of Pious and the disdain in his lifeless eyes. “One is now airworthy here and fully armed,” he reported through clenched teeth. “There remain eleven at Bede but I understand from my radio conversations with Brothers Thanewell and Gerald that three of them cannot fly due to engine faults.”

  “Nine should be enough,” Theo ventured, eager to make a mark. “Three to cover Uppermost and two to cover each viaduct in support of the Brothers-Martial crossing them.”

    He swallowed nervously as Schimrian glared at him. “Just concentrate on restoring the electrics to the rest of the Great Abbey, my son,” Schimrian said dismissively. “You and Father Edward also need to fully restore our global communications as quickly as you can. Leave the strategy to your elders, my son.”

  “Y-yes, Eminence,” Theo stuttered. “Pardon my presumption.” If looks could kill then Edward’s glare would have turned his oldest friend’s body into a pile of smouldering ash. 

    “I want you and Edward to remain here and monitor the radio traffic of our brethren abroad,” Schimrian continued, jabbing an index finger onto his desk in emphasis: “Especially those transmissions between Abbot Amherus and the Conclave.”

    “We shall, Eminence,” Edward pledged quickly. “Is there anything else you require of us?”

    “No but it is fitting you remain here and listen to our decisions as you will be the ears of our last Great Inquisition. Now be silent as I need to hear more of this ‘grave news’ from Camus…”

    “Burslen Abbey was attacked last night as was the convoy from Norton, Eminence, losing half the Brothers that set out last night,” Camus reported slowly, mopping at his brow. “The survivors are being tended to by the Brothers-Surgeon as we speak. Father Hvretsope is setting up camp at Wealthorpe but he reports that they sustained losses at Burslen.”

     Pious turned to Camus: “What’s this?” he demanded. “Has the Light-Father the capacity to reach that far?”

     “No. Hvretsope told me the same story as the Norton survivors: they were attacked by wolves sweeping down from the north and there were human-animal hybrids amongst them that they’d never seen before. He’s fortified the inner compounds at Burslen but he can only spare thirty Brothers-Martial to secure the causeway to the Eastern Viaduct at Wealthorpe. He’s creating a walled compound around several of the less ruined cottages to serve as a base but he and I agree that Ursaf may have also been attacked by these same hybrids as they weathered the storm.”

     Schimrian scowled and turned to Pious. “You do not seem particularly surprised at this news, old friend. Would you care to enlighten us as to what you know of them, hmm?”

    “I keep no secrets, Eminence. They’re obviously Farzad’s work,” Pious replied with a shrug. “Erdethric was where Farzad and our most loyal Exodus scientists worked on hundreds of orphans to perfect the gene-splicing techniques that we used to create the Virus of Revelation and to engineer our longevity.”

     “Ah, yes, I recall visiting there,” Schimrian noted thoughtfully. “I was present when he began creating his ape-child and cat-child abominations. It was a pity he harboured later doubts about his great works for the Order – he would’ve made a fine Brother.”

    “As you recall, Eminence, all contact was lost with our facilities on the island during the Year of the Rats…”

    “And now they’ve made it to the mainland,” Camus interjected. “But that’s not all. They mature rapidly and they can reproduce!”

     Schimrian’s eyes widened as the implications registered. “So they mature as quickly as the animal genes spliced into them?”

    “Yes, Eminence,” Camus answered. “His own spliced children matured at a human rate but these prototypes do not. They could breed us into extinction if we fail to exterminate them.”

     A deranged half-smile formed on Schimrian’s lips. “Did not my beloved Azrael warn me of the risk of Ferals procreating like the beasts they are? Did he not advise me to destroy them all?”

    “But these are not Ferals, Eminence,” Camus protested, uncaring of the consequences such was his foreboding. “Farzad had eighty or so male and female specimens at Erdethric. Assuming they reach sexual maturity when they have three years and bear a litter of four then they could easily number nine hundred or more by now.”

   Pious placed his hands on his knees and drew in a rattling lungful of air. “No doubt Hvretsope significantly reduced those numbers last night, Eminence, but we must focus on the Light-Father who I deem to be the greatest threat.”   

    Schimrian drummed his fingers on his desk for a minute. “Hmm, I tend to agree with that logic, old friend, but these chimerae worry me. They may aid the Light-Father in the long run if they keep on attacking our outposts and convoys.”

   “There’s more news from Wyehold, Eminence, both good and bad,” Edward ventured hesitantly. “As you requested, Father Vance led fifteen Brothers-Martial by boat from the Wyehold docks at Balnan to secure Wealthorpe but the Abbey has lost contact with them.”

   Schimrian removed his prince-nez glasses to massage his eyes. “May the Holy Lamb forgive me my frustrations this day,” he fumed. “We must presume that the accursed Light-Father wiped them out before he took to the Milverbore in that boat! What of the other expeditions from Wyehold, my son?”

  “They are still in contact, Eminence. Father Urthayne is at the village of Drytenham overlooking the Beorminghas line and the causeway to the Western Viaduct. Similarly, Father Stilnatus has secured the village of Cwiclasc and the causeway of the Southern Viaduct. With Father Hvretsope now at Wealthorpe, the Unworthy cannot escape by rail using that train of theirs.”

   “Ah, Father Edward,” Schimrian said benevolently. “My faith in you is indeed thrice rewarded! This is a rare and welcome glimmer of hope in the darkness that is this so-called Light-Father. I am revitalised, my sons,” he added decisively. “Father Aten, you and your Brothers hasten to Bede to restore purpose to our wayward brethren. Fathers Edward and Theo, go to the communications rooms but oversee the continuing restoration of the generators when you can. Pious, you and Camus will find boats and man them with novices and any Brother we can spare from repair duties.”

    “Can I arm them, Eminence?” Pious enquired patiently. “You can’t stop a vessel with just spears and dart guns.”

   “Yes,” Schimrian agreed reluctantly, his face looking as though he was biting into a particularly bitter lemon. “Issue rifles and radios and pray they don’t shoot each other. See if you can train them today to at least point the things in the right direction.”

     Pious bowed his head: “Blessings be unto you for your trust in me, Eminence. The boats need to blockade the Small Harbour and the Great Harbour and the eight docks – ten vessels in all.”

    “With but a handful of lambs in each boat,” Father Aten pointed out. “They’ll be wiped out by any vessel escaping Milverburg.”

    “They are not supposed to engage the Light-Father,” Camus explained patiently. “We deem that they only need to alert the Angels as to the fleeing vessel and let them take care of it.”

    “Like the two Angels we’ve just lost?” Cwellor sneered.  

   Camus could barely contain his loathing for this supercilious Brother-Inquisitor. “We’ll mount a coordinated assault along all three viaducts once the boats are in position at the dock entrances. The Bede Angels will ferry the Brothers-Martial from the Great Abbey to seize the four perimeter staircases. The Wiccans number but three and they cannot be everywhere at once so we will assign two begiullers to each stairwell party. We have but twenty begiullers left in Britannia so we must use them wisely.”

    “It will be the Devil’s own job to hunt and search each level with so few of us,” Dreorman fretted, chewing at a nail. “Do we have detailed maps of each level here at the Great Abbey?”

    “We did have them in the Library,” Theo said dejectedly. “But they’ve been lost to the fires. All we have are tourism brochures and there’s not much useful detail in them.”

    “It will have to do, my son,” Schimrian said. “Your first task then is to get them to Abbot Pious and Abbot Camus.”

    “Ah, I took the trouble of securing them before this meeting, Eminence,” Theo said unctuously, drawing out a wad of brochures and tourist maps of Milverburg and laying them on the table.

    Edward muttered a derogatory expletive as Theo smugly took his seat once more, ignoring the barb completely.

    Pious took one of the maps to study it. “Ah, this is all but useless but I do have one more item for our agenda, Eminence: a gift for you. I sent my inquisitors north to the army depot near Stepperton to secure ordnance. We’ve salvaged five heavy-calibre machine guns and three pieces of field artillery. As I said before, we shall reduce this decadent city to smoking ruins.”

    Schimrian was not impressed. “I would’ve appreciated being consulted on this ‘gift’ because your presence at Wealthorpe could have saved Beorcraft and Father Vance and all their Brothers from death at the hands of the Light-Father at Wealthorpe. Yes?”

    Pious bowed his head again: “Eminence, I prostrate myself before you and humbly beg your forgiveness for my hasty tactical decision but for all my transformed state, I do not possess the gift of foresight. I did not expect Beorcraft to be taken unawares nor did I know of Wyehold’s plans to secure the causeway villages. Perhaps, having instructed Camus and I to plan the assault you might have consulted us in that decision beforehand and we could have prepared reinforcements.”

     Schimrian reddened at the implied rebuke and grasped his sword scabbard. “I thought it prudent, my son, as both of you were not available at the time,” he countered darkly. “I had to get things moving and pre-empt your commands so I, in my turn, apologise for taking the initiative at four bells this morning. Nevertheless, we have secured our first objective though I admit that we are few in numbers. Therefore, I beseech thee: go forth, all of you and ready those boats, the radios and the Angels. I want all of Milverburg’s docks blockaded at first light tomorrow!”

     Pious stood and bowed deeply. “It shall be done, Eminence,” he wheezed. “But what of these chimerae that attacked Burslen? Are you sure we should ignore such a potent threat to our northern flanks? Hvretsope could be overrun at Wealthorpe for as the old Celtic proverb goes: tragedies come a-calling in threes.”

     Dreorman patted his powerful sniper rifle. “It sounds as if these creatures could provide us with sport¸ Eminence!” he chuckled excitedly. “I look forward to seeing them in my sights.”  

    Schimrian raised an enquiring eyebrow at Pious: “Sport or not, I suggest you join Hvretsope at Wealthorpe, old friend, and let Abbot Aten ready his forces at Bede then at midday tomorrow we’ll synchronise our attacks upon this Unworthy redoubt.”

    “Midday tomorrow it is then,” Pious agreed, turning to look down upon the white-faced Camus. “Come, let us gird up our Brothers-Technician, our novices and our postulants for battle. I’ll make these lambs ready for the assault while you liaise with Wyehold to bring ten boats to the wharf at Wealthorpe.”

    “Aye, I’ll see to that,” Camus consented reluctantly. “Though I can’t guarantee they’ll have ten that are seaworthy.”

    Schimrian raised his hand for silence. “This council of war is at an end, my sons, I’m sorry that the Abbess was unable to bring us refreshments quickly enough. Blessings be upon you all.”

     They all rose to bow deeply to Schimrian who was pleased at the deference and respect being paid to him. Pious was last to leave the chambers but he paused by the door: “Was there anything else, Eminence?” he asked. “I fear that I may have lost some of your trust this day and that vexes me.”

    Schimrian waved a hand in negation: “No, my son. You are my rock and my shield as ever, old friend. As God has resurrected you and filled you with His holy strength to do His holy works, I too was reborn and invigorated anew with our holy destiny reaffirmed. Beneath my angels who watch over me, my mind is crystal clear and full of purpose once more. I concur with you that that we must communicate more freely with each other and we can do that now that power is being restored.”

    “Aye, a silent tongue oft spreads the deadliest discord.”

  “Chenikov! Touché in both our cases,” Schimrian smiled thinly. “There is one more thing however,” he added, standing up and his sword from its scabbard. “This glorious morning, I am finally resolved to leave my throne untended for a while and do battle with this Light-Father face to face again. I’m coming with you, my son, and we will fight side by side as we did of old.”

   “Hallelujah, Eminence!” Pious grinned, clenching his fists. “This is welcome news!” He paused as a respectful pattering sounded upon the door frame behind him. “Ah, Abbess!” he grinned, turning to savour her displeasure at seeing him. “I see you have brought sustenance though somewhat too late for my brethren. It’s a shame that I have no need for such worldly necessities otherwise I would no doubt wax enthusiastic about your culinary arts. If you’ll both excuse me, I’ve mewling lambs I must forge into tigers before Matins tomorrow.”

     She paused at the doorway, transfixed by fear and loathing, to watch him stride down the corridor to the stairwell before wheeling the service-trolley into Schimrian’s chambers. Schimrian was once more sat at his desk with his naked sword before him and holding out his ring hand for her to kiss the symbol of his power. She said nothing but kissed it then laid a plate of sandwiches on the desk and poured him some tea.

    “Thank you, my daughter,” he said gently. “I have a favour to ask of you, if you would be so kind.”

    “You have but to name it, Eminence,” she said carefully.

  “Take the rest of this food to the communication rooms and then I want you to feed that traitor Ignatius. I want his strength restored so that I may Inquire of him for several hours this evening. I have much need of exercise and he has much need of confession. Why do you tremble at this? Do you hold this traitor in such high regard?”

  “No, of course not, Eminence,” she spluttered. “It’s just that I was dismayed, nay, devastated to learn of his treachery.”

   Schimrian ran a finger along the keen edge of his sword. “We suspect other traitors are among us but rest assured, we’ll find them and make them rue the day they were born.”

     Ondine feigned shock and put a hand to her mouth. “Dear God! We have more traitors at the Great Abbey?”

   Schimrian nodded, sheathing his sword. “Dear God indeed, Abbess! Some of us have strayed from the path; gnawed by doubt and beset by phantoms at night but damn them to hell! This is not a time for faint hearts and those who lack belief in our New Jerusalem!” He curtailed the rant and gazed at her sympathetically. “I do apologise, my daughter, a man can only bear so much misfortune in one day before his demeanour becomes somewhat uncivil. Forgive me. Ah, this is excellent tea, thank you.”

    Ondine felt the evil presence she’d sensed before but she could see nothing in the ceiling space above her head yet from the corner of her eye she was convinced that one of the angels had turned its head to glare at her. “You’re welcome, Eminence.”

     “Good. Is there anything you’d like to discuss with me before you attend to your tasks? There clearly seems to be something on your mind, my daughter.”

    “I just worry for my poor Sisters, Eminence,” she lied quickly. “They’ve lost so many of their friends that I’m hard put to keep their spirits up and motivate them when they won’t go anywhere near the Tally-men without collapsing into hysterics.”

    “There’s nothing I can do about that, y daughter,” he replied, sipping at his tea. “Only time and your gentle touch can heal them. Are you sure that’s all?”

    “Um, what are you planning to do with the traitor?”

    “Ah, gentle heart that you are! You worry for his immortal soul! We are truly blessed by your presence.” A deathly chill enveloped her as he looked up at her from under his eyebrows and a cruel, macabre grin disfigured his face. “He will of course be put to death in view of all at the Great Abbey before we Inquire of Milverburg. An example must be set. Are you shocked by this?”

    “N-no, Eminence,” she stammered. “He all but destroyed our Great Abbey and b-brought our Order low.”

    “He has that, Ondine,” he said, surprising her with the use of her birth name. “You’ll attend to his last rites because I want you to watch as he is brought to atonement for his sins.”

  She could feel the malice of that vast, disembodied will pressing down upon her soul, corroding every fibre of her being like psychic acid: “As you wish,” she whispered helplessly. 




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

© mitch 2023
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