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Chapter 30: The Phoenix Awakes (posted on: 29-07-16)
Chapter 30 of the Light-Father: the storm finally breaks as the Phoenix stirs to life and Harold's Army gets ready to leave their last refuge and take on Schimrian and his insane Order...

Fria muttered and stirred in her sleep as something wet and rough was rasped across her right cheek. It happened again and her eyelids fluttered open. She awoke in an instant to grope frantically for the hilts of her long knives because barely a hand's breadth from her face was a distorted muzzle full of sharp canine teeth. Someone had moved her weapons out of reach so she only stopped panicking when she recognised the piercing blue once-human eyes staring lovingly down at her. ''Bethwin?'' she gasped, wrapping her arms joyfully around the neck of the shaggy-haired Feral. ''Bethwin, it is you! Oh, I thought you were dead!'' ''Frrrr-iyahhhrrr,'' Bethwin growled contentedly. ''Luuufuuuuu. Merss sooffuu Sowrrrycarauuuu Ethriiin crryyowl'' ''I still miss them, Bethwin, and I still cry about them too. Oh, dear heart, I never thought I'd see you again.'' Bethwin placed one gnarled finger to her eyes then pointed to Fria's heart. ''Nahhhr, Behhrrthrriiin warrtch oerrr Friiiaaaa'' Fern was watching them from the doorway of the store room where Fria and Surl had been sleeping. ''She's been watching over you for years, Fria. She always talks about you and how you looked after her in the hospital. She owes you her life - such as it is.'' ''How can I understand what she's saying?'' ''That's because you listen with your heart. Get dressed - we have to leave before the Order attacks us. The Phoenix is ready to fly so wake Surl and gather all your belongings. My sisters have made you some broth so eat as much of it as you can it's on the tables then you must hurry and do your toilet for we won't have time to stop for that later. Hurry! The storm is almost done - the Order will be sending out more rotor-craft than we can handle and there is still a Tally-man out there watching us.'' ''Surely the Ferals could've hunted him?'' ''Yes, dear heart, I wanted to send them out but the others didn't want to lose any more of our children the storm was too much even for their acute senses and strength.'' ''That must be David,'' Fria said, still hugging Bethwin. ''They destroyed him - I will never forgive them for that.'' ''Pooordarrviiiidddzzz heeez thh walllkinnng dehhhd,'' Bethwin growled sympathetically, patting Fria's back. She said a lot more but Fria couldn't follow it and looked to Fern for help. ''She's longed for years to talk to you but she thought you would be afraid of her,'' Fern translated. ''She's watched over you from a distance for years and knows what David means to you. She may have lost her human form but he's lost his mind and soul all that's left is a puppet manipulated by those Guides in his head. Eliza and Jacob still cry for him as well. Ah, Surl, so you're awake?'' ''Mmm, hello, Mother Fern. Is it morning yet?'' ''It is, dear heart. You have to get up and get ready to leave but before you do, here's a Feral who says he knows you apparently you used to feed him in a garden six years ago and despite what's happened to him, he's never forgotten you.'' The young male Feral came up to Surl cautiously and nuzzled her. ''Berckarrr, remmurr uff-uff?'' he sighed contentedly. He tried to shape some more words but she couldn't understand them. ''He says you were starving but you still shared your food with him,'' Fern translated. ''He can hardly remember his real name but he's never forgotten you or the time you spent playing with him as Ruff-ruff after his dying family beat him and cast him out.'' ''You're welcome, Ruff-ruff,'' she smiled, hugging him. ''I'm so glad Mother Moss saved you - I was so worried about you.'' ''He says he's glad you're alive too,'' Fern said after the complex growling had subsided. ''With Bethwin, he's watched over you whenever we allowed them to. He owes you his life and he says that he will protect you with that life.'' ''Thank you, Ruff-ruff - only I'm Surl now.'' ''His real name is Shenkin but he says Ruff-ruff will do,'' Fern chuckled. ''He knows that he has the face of a dog and a tail but he will never forget what you did for him. What you must understand, Surl, is that so many Ferals were lost to us. For each Ruff-ruff we saved, we lost a dozen more to madness and death. Now get up, pack your things and eat some food. Can't you hear that hissing? The Phoenix is eager to take us away from this place!'' The girls dressed quickly and accompanied by their faithful Ferals, they joined Fern in time to see the Phoenix come to life emitting huge clouds of steam. With a great clank and a judder, the locomotive edged slowly out of the shed with Saul, Harold and Ibrahim in the cabin. Fern smiled as the Ferals howled and danced around the Phoenix delirious with joy and wonder. ''Magnificent, isn't she?'' Fern sighed, placing her hands on the girls' shoulders. ''The Phoenix is thought to be a bird of good omen by Wiccans.'' As the Phoenix cleared the main entrance, she ushered them to the tables where the other Mothers were busily feeding the Scatterlings and the Ferals from huge tureens. ''Eat,'' she commanded. ''We only have a quarter of an hour before they couple up the carriages and we can leave this rail-yard.'' Pup ran up with Bas and flung his arms around Fern's slender waist as Surl and Fria helped their Ferals to eat their broth which was no easy task. ''Good morning, Mother,'' he said joyously and buried his face into her abdomen. ''I'm sorry, Mother Fern,'' Bas said. There was a hint of jealousy to her voice as she regarded herself as Pup's true mother. ''You remind him of his birth mother. Even though he was a baby when I rescued him, he says there's a familiar smell about you.'' ''Maybe there is,'' Fern smiled, ruffling his hair. ''They say odours can trigger the strongest and earliest of our memories. I can hardly remember my own family who were originally from one of the Black Valleys. What was his family name?'' ''Owain,'' Bas said. ''I remember them handing Pup to me as Saul's uncle brought us to the Keep. They were dying in agony but they begged me to save him even though they knew I wasn't quite human. Mother Fern? Are you alright? You look as though you knew the family. They were from the Black Valleys too but they never told me his first name and I couldn't think of anything for him other than Pup. I've been mother to him since then and even Mother Moss said so,'' she added proudly. Fern raised a placating hand. ''I'm sure you are, Bas. I got to know the family well when I was working as a spy in the Exodus laboratories.'' She looked down at Pup's eager young face and sighed even a child this young had two lethal-looking knives strapped to his belt as well as a hunting catapult and pouches of ball-bearings. ''I remember they were so proud of their new-born son. He had a name taken from the Bible but they pronounced it Cymric-fashion as Tomos rather than Thom-as.'' ''My name is Tomos?'' Pup cried in joy. ''I'm a Tomos! Do you remember them, Mother Fern? What were they like?'' ''Your father was called Steffan and he was a handsome man with a kind smile. Your mother's name was Mavan and they were both from the Black Valleys. Your mother was slim with long black hair she loved horses - while your father had hazel eyes and hair the same colour as mine and he was the same height as me.'' ''The same colour eyes and hair as mine!'' Pup exclaimed. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked at Bas. ''I barely remember my family. My powers manifested when I had but three years. I started talking to the birds in the garden and they would sing to me,'' she smiled, patting the raven ornament on her staff. ''I remember wondering why my mother would have hysterics over something so beautiful. She wouldn't speak to me at all then one day I heard her crying in the kitchen as she talked to a woman dressed in strange clothes and holding this staff. 'They'll be coming for her,' the woman was saying as I listened on the stairs. 'We know the neighbours have been talking to the Order and the police. Soon they'll take her and you'll lose her forever''' ''Your mother didn't know the Order were evil,'' Fria observed. ''So why did she agree to let a Mother take you?'' ''My father had already left home because of me,'' Fern said, swinging Pup onto a seat. ''So my mother signed the custody papers and the next thing I knew I was being bundled into a hired car and my new life as a Daughter.'' She ladled them out a bowl of broth each. ''All of you eat as much as you can then do your toilet. Morning, Peter. Morning, Rabbit. Morning, Fierce put down your Honey Bear, dear heart, and make sure that Mouse eats well. She's looking better, isn't she?'' ''Thanks to you, Mother Fern,'' Mouse said gratefully. ''The infection is gone and I can move my shoulder.'' She demonstrated several over-enthusiastic moves with her spear. ''I'm glad,'' Fern smiled. ''Now sit down, eat then see to your toilet as quickly as you can. Where's Shield? Has she eaten?'' ''Yes,'' Fierce said, lowering her spoon. ''She and Amos are over there helping the Mothers feed the rest of the Ferals there's a lot of them so where did all the food come from?'' ''They brought it with them and the Light-Father told us where everything was in that building over by the west wall,'' she said, indicating Harold's grill, the canteen stoves and the tureens. ''Many Ferals can't feed or clothe themselves properly so those with any dexterity left in their fingers help the others. Look - they seem to like Amos and those fearsome sledgehammers of his and he's now enjoying life yet another miracle of the Light-Father.'' ''We all know you have feelings for him,'' Fierce said suddenly and was rewarded with a scarlet blush. ''Hah, I knew it!'' she crowed. ''You're in love with him!'' ''Ahem!'' Fern coughed to hide her embarrassment. ''It's just nice to talk to a man who doesn't want to tie you to a post and set fire to you in the name of God. He's not a handsome man; I'll give you that but remember, I have the gift to see into people's hearts and souls - I can read the book and not just the cover.'' ''And you like what you read,'' Fierce persisted with a predatory grin. ''You want to marry the Light-Father!'' ''Tell us! Tell us if you are!'' Rabbit piped up. ''Can Surl and I be your bridesmaids?'' Fern looked at them helplessly then she saw the desperate yearning for the family life that had been so cruelly taken from them. ''We'll see,'' she relented. ''But promise me you won't tell the Light-Father anything about you being bridesmaids until we bring an end to the Great-Abbot and his Great Computer.'' ''We promise,'' Pup, Peter, Rabbit and Surl said in unison - then they giggled and nudged each other. ''Arowlldzz luffahrrrr,'' Bethwin growled happily then she too nudged Ruff-ruff in the ribs. ''Ahrrrffeeern arh arh.'' ''Oh, not you two as well,'' Fern sighed theatrically. ''How are you able to talk to us while the other four Mothers keep their distance?'' Fierce asked suspiciously. ''They're nothing at all like you or Mother Moss.'' ''We keep ourselves to ourselves,'' Fern said sadly. ''This we have done for a very, very long time. We are taken at a young age to be trained as Daughters then initiated when we have more than sixteen years. You don't learn much in the way of social graces or skills when you're focussed solely on the craft. They don't talk to you simply because they wouldn't know what to say.'' ''Hello would be a nice start,'' Fria said pointedly. ''They are also afraid,'' Fern replied sombrely. ''Moss has quietly prepared you for this moment yet we know we're going to face something beyond our powers. We fear we may all perish in that struggle so we must prepare ourselves.'' ''We're all scared too,'' Fria said as Bethwin patted her hand and growled reassuringly. ''But I want to punish them for killing our families and everyone we ever loved.'' ''Bethwin is frightened too,'' Fern translated. ''But she and the others will fight to the death to save you and avenge their families. Now hurry up and finish your breakfast and see to your toilet needs - we won't be able to take any hot food with us.'' ''Pfft! You never hear about the heroes in sagas and myths going to the toilet,'' Fierce said contemptuously. ''Imagine what those old tales Mother Moss used to read to us would be like if a hero like Theseus had to say: 'please just wait there for a couple of minutes, Mister Minotaur - I need to find a toilet and empty my bowels sorry, it's that scary face and attitude you have there - um, you wouldn't have a book or a newspaper I could borrow?''' Fern laughed out loud. ''My dear Fierce, you look so grim and dour yet you have a wonderful sense of humour. Yes, I do agree. All the great tales leave out the mundane aspects of a hero's life people are naturally more interested in the gore and carnage.'' ''They are,'' Fierce nodded sagely. ''They like to read about the disembowellings but not the actual emptying of the bowels.'' ''Um, yes, quite,'' Fern nodded, relieved to hear the rumbling of the coaches as the Phoenix reversed the carriages into the shed. ''Ah, look everyone the Light-Father returns!'' ''You're blushing again!'' Rabbit said gleefully. Some of the Ferals became over-excited and had to be shooed off the tracks by Saul and Ibrahim who strode ahead of the three carriages to make sure that they didn't get under the wheels. When the Phoenix finally came to a halt, the train took up the entire length of the building. ''My, those are splendid carriages,'' Fern said wistfully. ''I remember riding in one when I was a young Daughter with Mother Iris we had a compartment to ourselves of course as nobody would sit anywhere near us but it was magical to me as I watched the stations and towns sliding past my window.'' Harold jumped down, waved to them then headed over to a large work-bench. ''Kai! Come here!'' he called out and the young Brother dutifully raced across the shed to join him. ''Fern, could you and the other Mothers come here as well? The storm's almost done and we need to work out our strategy and teams for when we get to the Great Abbey.'' The children and the Mothers gathered around the table as he opened out Kai's maps and sketches of the Great Abbey drawn as seen from the railway line that cut through the southern part of the complex. ''Kai, tell us everything that you know about this place,'' he said. Kai pointed at the map. ''As you can see, the railway line divides the Abbey from the southern rotor-craft compound which was added after the railway line was built. It houses the Angels, as we call them, in three hangars with six rotor-craft to each hanger. This large building here on the eastern side of the compound is the dormitory where the crews and technicians sleep. They're an elite led by three Fathers and only go onto the main site for training and Mass at the Great Cathedral through a tunnel that runs under the track. The compound has a guard tower on each corner with two overlooking the track here and here. Nobody mans them as the Order is stretched too thinly across the globe and Abbot Camus deems that there is no force capable of mounting an assault left in Britannia. The walls of the compound are also difficult to scale they are ten cubits high, two cubits thick and constructed from smooth masonry so there are no handholds.'' ''What about the watchtowers along the Abbey complex walls?'' Saul demanded. ''There's one on each corner of the Great Abbey and one in the middle of the west wall and one next to the east wall gatehouse. Are they manned?'' ''Yes, Schimrian is far more cautious than Camus,'' Kai nodded. ''On the western end of the platform here, overlooking the track, is the south-west tower. Each Abbey tower always has two Brothers and two Tally-men on permanent guard duty so we have to take the south-west tower before they can raise the alarm otherwise we can't use the platform doors to sneak into the complex.'' ''What's this at the eastern end of the platform?'' Ibrahim asked, pointing to a small tower. ''Will that be a problem?'' ''That's the platform-master's tower but Brother Ignatius is an alcoholic they've all but forgotten about him so he spends all his time either reading novels, getting blind drunk or asleep.'' ''We can't assume that he will be drunk,'' Ibrahim said with a gleam in his eye. ''I could slip along using the platform edge as cover, scale the masonry and deal with him.'' ''We'll decide who's dealing with what in a minute, Ibrahim,'' Harold said firmly ''So that's twelve Brothers and twelve Tally-men tied up at any one time in the towers, Kai, so what about the three gatehouses to the north, west and east?'' ''Three and three,'' Kai replied quickly. ''Making twenty-one Brothers and twenty-one Tally-men permanently on lookout duty. There are also parapet patrols along the walls themselves but with so many of the Order abroad, this is the emptiest the complex has ever been. With thirty Brothers and three fathers in the southern compound, that leaves Schimrian, the two Abbots, nine Fathers and forty-three Brothers most of whom are technicians such as I was training to be. Basically they are not fighters and they reside in this block here to the east of the apse of the Great Cathedral. Eight Brothers-Martial currently reside in this block here to the west of the Great Cathedral they are exceptionally skilled and are tasked with defending the Cathedral and the Annex.'' ''I see so they will be our most serious problem then. What about the rest of the Tally-men?'' Harold asked, indicating several buildings on the map. ''Where are they housed?'' ''About ten permanently patrol the processionals along the inner walls and ten guard the Great Annex where the computer is housed. The other sixty are programmed to patrol at random and could be anywhere when we attack but at any one moment, forty are off-line in these two blocks. They are also close to the Cathedral so they can quickly move to defend the Great Annex and the Great Manse where Schimrian lives. About thirty postulants and novices live in the secluded dormitories in the north-west corner but they won't know what to do when the attack begins.'' Harold stared at the map in grim silence for several minutes painfully aware that everyone was looking to him for leadership. ''I wish I had time to make us some explosives,'' he sighed. ''If one team could get over the wall in the north-east and blow up these oil tanks here and this armoury here then that would create the perfect first diversion. In the southern compound, we need to destroy all these rotor-craft and there's another fuel depot we could blow up. This would provide our second diversion and split the defenders north and south exposing the centre.'' Mother Veneris laid her dog's-head staff next to the map and opened up her shoulder-bag to lay a metal cylinder with a fuse attached to it upon the work-bench. ''We have these. Fern is quite skilled in matters of the Earth the ashes of Prometheus, the blood of the son of Gaia herself and'' ''And we have gunpowder!'' Harold laughed as he examined the device. ''These are pipebombs with timed fuses!'' ''Indeed they are, Light-Father,'' Veneris nodded and indicated the young blond-haired Mother with the sun ornament to her staff. ''The lengths are exactly timed so we can set them as we advance. I and Mother Rosemary will take twenty Ferals and create the northern diversion. Our main target has to be the armoury where they keep the firearms and begiullers - if we allow them to deploy those weapons, we will all be killed.'' ''So how will you get over the northern wall?'' Harold asked. ''The Ferals seem quite agile but as Kai said, there are no handholds in the masonry.'' ''The Great Abbey is older than the compound,'' Kai pointed out. ''But the north walls are still smooth with no ivy upon them.'' ''Oh, we'll manage, Light-Father,'' Rosemary smiled and Harold noted that her irises had changed to a brilliant yellow colour. ''Masonry will not stop a Servant of Mars and wielder of water like Mother Veneris and a Heliodrammus - a Servant of the Sun - such as myself.'' She pointed her staff at the north wall and a patch of masonry glowed red then the bricks exploded leaving a man-sized gap through which the neighbouring shed could be seen. ''Jesus,'' Harold gasped in awe as the children and Ferals cheered. ''No wonder the Order has tried to kill you all off over the centuries you certainly don't fit into their genetic ideal.'' ''Exactly,'' Nightshade scoffed, resting a delicate white finger upon the map of the complex. ''Here in the south eastern corner of the Great Abbey lies the highest wall of all around these dormitories. This is where the Sisters of the Order exist'' ''Two hundred and twelve Sisters,'' Kai said as Harold looked to him for an explanation. ''They rarely leave their residences but for Mass and service, Light-Father. They are tasked solely to maintain the greenhouses, gardens and orchards about the walls - such as they are in this rain - and do all the cooking and cleaning.'' ''They are no threat, Light-Father!'' Nightshade snarled. ''They are selected and bred for their timidity and mindless obedience. The Order has spent centuries creating these pious, brainless drudges and brood-mares to maintain the holy numbers of the Order. They are not deemed important or holy enough to be counted amongst the Twelve Thousands of the Tribes. Sister Ivy and I will lead our Ferals into the southern compound and set charges amongst the fuel tanks then destroy every rotor-craft we can find. We will engage and defeat the crews and technicians in the hangars and any that emerge from their dormitory building.'' Fern looked at Harold. ''That leaves us to lead the children, Kai and the remaining Ferals into the Great Cathedral.'' Kai pointed to the Great Cathedral interior on the map. ''The Manse and Annex are fortified to withstand an armed assault but not from within the Great Cathedral itself. The Annex was originally a transept that was walled off so this door from the nave is the quickest route to get at the Great Computer which is housed in the Hexagon at the centre of the Annex. Schimrian lives above the Redemption Cells in the top floor of the Manse which we can easily access from the Annex once we secure it. Simon told me that Schimrian is lulled to sleep by the screams and lamentations of the Unworthy in the cells beneath his bed,'' he shuddered. ''They break them completely before the trepanning so that they don't struggle during the surgery.'' Harold felt sick. ''You mean their victims remain conscious while they're being lobotomised?'' Kai looked grim and nodded. ''It's important to know where to attach the Guides. The nine Fathers-Surgeon under Abbot Michael are exceptionally skilled in creating Tally-men.'' ''Then we will bring an end to it once and for all,'' Harold declared, clenching a fist. ''How we coordinate our three assaults is the next problem. It will be chaos once the bombs start going off and we have no working two-way radios.'' Fern smiled knowingly at the other Mothers. ''Whisper a number into Mother Ivy's ear,'' she suggested. She waited patiently as Harold complied then said: ''One hundred and eighty. Darts? What a curious waste of one's time.'' ''How far can you carry the telepathy?'' Harold persisted. ''We can communicate over at least four furlongs, Light-Father more than the full length of the Great Abbey.'' Harold was dazzled by a brilliant shaft of sunlight that stabbed through a window. ''They'll be here soon. Fern, Saul, Ibrahim, Shield you ride in the cabin with me. The rest of you grab your weapons and gear and get into the carriages!'' In the cabin of the Phoenix, Fern tapped his shoulder and pointed to Pup who had found a guard's hat, flag and a whistle. He was running up and down shouting ''all aboard!'' and blowing the whistle loudly until Saul confiscated it and heaved him up into the first carriage. ''For some strange reason,'' she said, taking his hand. ''Just seeing one innocent soul untarnished by the Order gives me hope and a reason to fight.'' Saul clambered aboard and Harold reluctantly released her hand to work the controls. ''It's time to go,'' he said. -------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-13
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Chapter 29: Nightshade (posted on: 25-07-16)
Chapter 29 of the Light-Father: Harold gets to know Nightshade, the enigmatic albino Wiccan. The storm starts to break as dawn approaches on their day of reckoning:

Fern stood at the main doors of the shed watching the faintest heralds of dawn creeping under the south-eastern skirts of the vast storm that still raged above the ruins and empty buildings of Crawcester. She thought of all the towns and cities of the world now falling into decay as Nature reclaimed her own yet it was the rat-chewed remains of families still mouldering in their homes that filled her with the greatest sadness and the greatest anger. Nightshade joined her as the murmur of the waking and anxious Ferals grew louder and more boisterous behind them. ''Gaia is indeed awash with vengeful souls,'' she said, placing a hand on Fern's shoulder. ''No one person can mourn and pray for such a sea of ghosts. You have a great heart, sister, but not that great.'' ''We failed them all, Nightshade, every last one of them.'' ''They did not listen to us, dear heart,'' Nightshade retorted with an edge to her voice. ''They persecuted us. They mocked us. They were afraid of us. They cheered as our flesh fell to whip and flame yet we never lost our faith. We are mortal and fallible and we may never know why the Order was allowed to become ascendant, why the seven-headed lamb was created or why that alien device appeared to help the Order bring about their Armageddon.'' ''I was also thinking about the history of the Motherhood,'' Fern said, gazing up at the turbulence and ceaseless lightning discharges amongst the clouds. ''And the contradictions in our own sacred texts our Triple Goddess, the Horned God, Diana, Gaia and how we came to be here amidst such death and darkness.'' Nightshade placed her hands upon the head of her staff and watched the other Mothers begin preparing a morning meal on Harold's grill and the portable gas stoves recovered from the canteen. ''There are no contradictions. We feel the energy of the planet as Gaia; as women, we revere Diana as an aspect of the Divine and as the goddess of the hunt, the Moon, birth and all flora and fauna. Her power runs deep within us but especially in you.'' ''And like Diana and her sisters, we never marry'' ''Ah-hah, so you see him as your Apollo,'' Nightshade teased. ''Or is he your Virbius or maybe your Kernunnos?'' ''In as much as Veneris resembles a water-nymph!'' ''You cannot deflect me from the obvious,'' Nightshade chided. ''Even in light as faint as this, I see the colour to your cheeks as proof enough that you have fallen for this man. Our beliefs are not cast in stone, dear sister; our history is - so it's a bit late for a crisis of faith in our Motherhood. We were born of myth and if these precious children of Moss survive, we will return to myth.'' ''No, we won't for at least two of them have the craft,'' Fern said, shaking her head. ''The scientists of Exodus saw to that. These children may one day give birth to human miracles; beings with powers and forms that far surpass our own.'' ''Ah, Exodus,'' Nightshade sighed. ''It is easy to miss the one small madness in the asylum. The one called Shield has the craft - I sensed that in her as soon as I met her but who is the other?'' ''The bald child, Surl, has some limited prescience but she keeps it suppressed. I suspect Moss may have missed it,'' Fern smiled wryly. ''Well, the sun would hardly notice a candle.'' ''True, sister. We must ensure these children survive the path Moss has laid before us even if we do not.'' A faint smile touched Nightshade's lips as she saw Harold adding coals to the grill and working a bellows to get the fire going. ''Their descendants will have a fresh start and if they do beget the craft to their descendents, it will be a world like no other. Isn't that worth fighting for?'' ''Yes,'' Fern agreed resolutely. ''I would give my life to bring an end to the madness of Schimrian and the Order.'' ''Good. This fire in your heart will one day break the vows of Diana yet it gives you more to live for than any of your sisters, never forget that. Ah, the clouds are moving swiftly northwards,'' she noted with an expert eye as a hot breeze began to blow, slanting the sheets of rain. ''I can feel the edge of the storm approaching us on this wind bearing the dusts and despairs of Africa.'' ''How long before their devil-craft can rise into the skies?'' Fern asked as the light to the south slowly brightened. ''How long can these blessed children enjoy their few moments of peace before this monstrous Order sullies their lives once more?'' ''Three hours at most,'' Nightshade sighed. ''But I do not need to be a delver of the soul to know that each Child of Exodus does not sleep in peace I feel each Scatterling endures nightmares as dark as those that deprive our poor Ferals of their rest.'' ''But the Light-Father has changed everything,'' Fern murmured. ''A Herald of Saturn yet a bringer of such joy.'' ''An unimpressive fellow,'' Nightshade said dryly. ''But will you honour the feelings you have for him as a woman?'' Fern lowered her eyes and blushed furiously. ''Yes, I do have feelings for him,'' she admitted. ''A book often belies its cover. We are both becoming parents to these Children of Exodus just as their parents twisted Gaia to their own ends'' ''Sister, we must focus on our immediate task,'' Nightshade said sharply. ''From the craft of our late sister, we know that death and darkness await us but we must all go willingly unto that fate if Schimrian and his vile Order are to be defeated.'' ''I know but it's not just Schimrian that we face,'' Fern sighed then related all she knew of the Great Computer and its role in creating the plague. ''It was brought here by a great evil.'' ''Ah, you did not explain to us earlier that this machine is an artificial intelligence,'' Nightshade murmured in awe. ''The Bible suggests that Heaven's War Eternal will descend upon the Earth so maybe this machine was indeed brought here to bring that about. It must be related to the great evil that Moss could not or would not reveal to us - she had no knowledge of electrics so maybe she could not interpret her visions. We assumed that our ultimate foe would be Schimrian, the Abbots and the Fathers behind them because they were the obvious embodiment of evil. To think that a machine designed the Revelation Virus and plans to make the Order immortal it sends ice though my veins.'' Harold joined them. ''The young ones are already awake,'' he said, gazing up at the storm clouds. ''How long have we got?'' ''Less than three hours,'' Nightshade replied, noting how Fern cast sidelong glances at the technician a book belies its cover indeed, she thought. ''Let the older ones sleep another hour then we must rouse them for a battle whose final outcome we cannot know despite the craft and guidance of our beloved sister.'' ''What do you mean by that?'' Harold demanded. ''I thought Mother Moss had arranged it so that we could win.'' ''You yourself said that seers see many visions and will sacrifice friends and others for the greater good,'' Fern said resignedly. ''Many of us may be going to our deaths because she can only steer us on a course most likely to yield success. There are many throws of the dice to come before this journey's end, dear heart.'' Harold became concerned for the frail Nightshade who was leaning against the concrete doorframe for support and breathing heavily. ''You need rest you've been marching though a storm while soaked to the skin. Mother Moss may have programmed these kids to accept going to the Great Abbey but what do you think is waiting there for you and the other Mothers?'' ''I know not,'' Nightshade admitted, staring up at the vivid lightning displays. ''The little communication we had with her while she cared for the Scatterlings was cryptic at best but we accept our fate and will face an evil that may be far beyond our meagre powers to defeat. We thought it would be the might of the Order but because of this Great Computer, it could be something darker and fouler than the Order itself. Despite this, we bless the fact that you are here to give form to her prophecies. We are afraid but we have faith in her and in you to lead us.'' ''Lead you?'' he gulped. ''I'm a technician not a general.'' ''Kai has drawn plans of the Order's great fortress and we have learnt much ourselves over the centuries as we watched the Order and their foul constructions taking root. We know this place it has been seared into our very souls over the centuries.'' ''Ah, so you'll know your way around the Great Abbey by some kind of instinct or racial memory then?'' ''To some degree,'' Nightshade smiled. She cocked an ear as a roaring sound like that of a vast freight train grew in volume. ''Listen to that, Light-Father. A vortex is prowling to the east.'' ''We call them tornadoes in my world, Nightshade.'' ''It is far away but it marks the southern edge of the storm line which is now moving north rapidly. We have less than three hours before the devil-craft take to the air and attack us.'' ''I'm exhausted too,'' Harold yawned. ''I had only a few snatches of sleep with all these Ferals wandering around.'' He opened out the parchment he was holding. ''If Kai's maps and drawings are accurate, we have to plan our assault carefully otherwise we'll be wiped out. Are the Ferals any good at climbing?'' ''Remarkably good, General. Why do you ask?'' Harold bridled at the amused smile on the albino's face. ''I'm no bloody general!'' he said bluntly. ''But my father was in the army and he used to read me books about battles and how generals like Rommel and Napoleon used to plan their campaigns. I was a great disappointment to him when I took to fixing televisions and house-hold appliances as a child instead of playing with the toy soldiers and tanks that he'd bought me.'' Fern placed a hand on his cheek and once again he found his heart pounding. ''I am glad that you are not a man of professional violence,'' she said lovingly. ''Yet, like the infernal device of the Order, you were brought to our world where children are forced to take up arms. What are you thinking we should do?'' Harold was unable to reply until Nightshade gently removed Fern's hand from his cheek. ''Um, well, we need diversions to mask our main assault on the Great Cathedral from the south. If one of those diversions can force its way into the Great Manse and free everyone in those Redemptions Cells, it might tie up the defenders allowing the main force to fight through the nave and into the annex where we can destroy the Great Computer. Kai says it controls everything so if we can do that and kill Schimrian as well then the Order will fall apart.'' ''No, it won't,'' Nightshade disagreed, shaking her head. ''Even if they are destroyed, another Abbot will assume the throne and the Inquisitions will continue. We cannot kill every one of them as they are scattered all over the globe but therein lies the irony: it is because of this fact that we have our only hope of victory.'' ''True,'' he conceded. ''We'll have a brief respite as the Abbots will be locked into a power struggle then we will have to spend the rest of our lives on the run but if we don't cripple the Order now, we have no chance of survival at all.'' ''Speaking of which, we haven't got long before the rain ends,'' Nightshade reminded him. ''It takes far less than an hour for rotor-craft to fly here from the Great Abbey.'' ''You're right,'' he sighed wearily, gazing up at the skies to note that the rain and the lightning were visibly easing. ''I don't think we've got that hour to spare. Go and rouse the children and get them ready while I fire up the Phoenix.'' ''Are there carriages enough to transport everyone?'' Nightshade demanded. ''The Ferals move fast but it would take them at least three days march to reach the Great Abbey from here.'' ''There are three carriages in good condition in the far shed,'' he said with a pained expression. ''I just wish I had time to armour-plate the roofs and the sides because those chain-guns will rip them to pieces if they catch us out in the open.'' ''You leave the rotor-craft to us,'' Nightshade said with such vehemence in her voice that it startled him. ''It is about time that we took the fight to them. I lost my mentor - the one who initiated me into the craft - when the Iberian coven was destroyed which proved beyond doubt that hiding from the Order is futile. I refuse to wait for my inevitable destruction and do nothing. Even if I perish at the Great Abbey, I am going to fully embrace the dark angers and doubts gnawing at my heart; I intend to kill.'' He shuddered as her pupils glowed blood red. ''Let me get the Phoenix fired up first,'' he said nervously, taking a step backwards. ''Then we'll look over Kai's plans and drawings and decide how to best to storm the Great Abbey.'' ''I will rouse the children,'' Fern decided firmly, unable to look into Nightshade's eyes even though the eerie glow had faded. Nightshade turned away from her. ''You do that, Fern,'' she said bitterly. ''Leave me here to contemplate the seeds of despair and darkness within me that Schimrian and the Order have sown.'' ''Will you be alright, Nightshade?'' he enquired as Fern hurried away. ''Can I get you anything?'' Her shoulders sagged and he saw that she was weeping openly as she looked up the roiling skies. ''I am so confused, Light-Father. I am filled with a murderous rage yet I cannot imagine taking a life,'' she explained. ''It terrifies me to the core that I have no choice in this matter if I am going to save these children. I wish dear Moss could have been more precise. I am full of fear, anger, doubt, sadness, despair, revulsion so much so that I fear my heart could stop beating at any moment.'' On an impulse, he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her slender waist and placed his cheek against her milky-white hair. To his surprise, she did not resist the embrace. ''It's okay to have all these feelings at war inside you,'' he said gently. ''We are facing great evil and unspeakable odds so all that's in your heart right now is what makes us human and courage is what makes us rise above this conflict and do what must be done.'' Nightshade gently prised herself free and turned to look him in the eye. ''Thank you,'' she said, bowing. ''I am both humbled and healed by a mere man. Fern clearly sees the magic in you - as I do now. Just let me have a few moments to myself.'' ''Will you be alright?'' he persisted. ''Yes, I think so,'' she smiled, resting her hands on her staff and gazing up at the heavens once more. ''Because I now believe in you, Light-Father, even if I no longer believe in myself.'' ---------------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E.Mitchell 2012-13 copyright protected.
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Chapter 28: Harold's Army (posted on: 22-07-16)
Chapter 28 of the Light-Father: As the storm rages, Harold learns more of the powers of Mother Moss as Mother Fern gets far too close for comfort. Suddenly, there comes unexpected hope and help...

''Tell me, Amos, what did you think of Mother Moss when she saved you like that?'' Harold asked gently. ''It must have been incredible. There you all were, about to be dragged off to the Great Abbey and certain death, when this old woman appears, takes out five Tally-men, a Father and two Brothers then makes a half-track go bouncing off down the road like a toy!'' ''The others were so relieved that they cried but I felt nothing - no fear, no joy, no surprise,'' Amos admitted sadly, staring down at Mjolnir. ''Only the satisfaction that Father Alban and the others had been ripped to shreds. No offence, Mother Fern, but my mother used to tell me stories about evil Wiccans who had tried to destroy the Order of Christ the Healer for centuries so I knew what she was. On the other hand, I'd just seen the same holy Order murder my family so I didn't know what to think.'' He shrugged helplessly. ''As she led us back into the shop, all I can remember is I thanked her for having the good sense to bring a torch.'' ''You couldn't feel anything meaningful at the time because your head was messed up by trauma. Given what had happened to you, it's nothing to be ashamed about.'' ''I know all this, Light-Father, but why do I feel compelled to talk to you about it all the time?'' ''That's because going over it again and again is part of the healing process. When I lost my daughter and my marriage, I went numb and turned to drink. My therapist told me that if you can't talk about traumatic events in your life, your brain fills up like a kettle under a tap. You can't pour the water out so no new thoughts or feelings can flow in and you become emotionally paralysed.'' ''So I'm a kettle?'' Harold laughed. ''Sorry, it's a lousy metaphor but it helped me. Until then I couldn't express my grief and guilt so I was well on the way to becoming an obnoxious alcoholic.'' ''I think I get it,'' Amos nodded. ''I also remember wondering why Alban was taking so much pleasure in hurting Shield. What twists a man so badly that he tortures others for entertainment, Light-Father? Why are so many Brothers and Fathers like that? Even Mother Moss couldn't explain that to me.'' Harold exhaled heavily. ''That kind of evil is not something you can easily explain to a child, Amos. He was a sadist. Some are born that way but most sadists and torturers are made through violent upbringings or brutal circumstances that erase their consciences. They know they're doing wrong but they revel in it especially when the Order gives them absolute power over their victims.'' ''That's because to them we're Unworthy; less than human. Do you have anyone like Alban in your world?'' ''Yes, far too many,'' Harold admitted. ''For example, a group of Germans in my world declared themselves to be the master race. Because of this ideology, they gassed and tortured millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and cripples. That horror only stopped when they were wiped out in the war they'd started or executed afterwards. With absolute power over their victims, these Nazis created the perfect environment in which sadists like Alban could flourish. It's not just men either,'' he added, glancing meaningfully at Fern. ''Many female guards in their concentration camps became monsters that made this Alban look like a saint.'' ''But he seemed to be so excited by it,'' Amos persisted. ''Be at peace, dear heart,'' Fern interrupted gently. ''Where did you learn of such things?'' ''Mother Moss taught us about sex,'' Amos said, blushing. ''She told us we were children growing up without adult guidance and explained how we would become interested in the differences between boys and girls. She explained how everything works biology and, um how babies are made and so on'' ''Ah, that was wise of her,'' Fern approved. ''Shield is of an age to bear children and others will be soon.'' ''It's not something I've ever thought about,'' Harold admitted, going as red as Amos. ''I mean how to go about teaching children about the ahem, things that adults do in private.'' ''We could give them a practical demonstration,'' Fern suggested innocently. ''I'm sure it would be most educational.'' Harold glared at her and went an even deeper shade of red as Amos struggled not to laugh out loud. ''Be at peace, Light-Father,'' he grinned. ''Mother Moss also explained to us how natural desires can be warped into things like sadism. I asked her such things because I'd found um, picture books in that shop that showed people doing things being tied up and you know?'' ''Ahem, yes, that was what we call pornography, ahem,'' Harold coughed to hide his acute embarrassment. ''We'll have to go through the differences between the 'acting' in pornography and the reality of perverts like Father Alban and their victims when you're a lot older. Please stop laughing at me, Fern,'' he pleaded. ''It's obviously confusing him.'' ''No, I think Amos is just teasing you,'' she explained. ''Mother Moss was worldly-wise enough to explain to him what those picture books were used for and the difference between those images and the merciless perverted evil of Father Alban.'' ''Yes, now I understand the difference,'' Amos assured him, tapping his right temple. ''Everything is becoming clear to me and it's all thanks to Mother Moss and you, Father I'm happy now just being me and not this,'' he added, drawing a finger down the livid scar upon his face. Harold was stunned by the enormity of the unexpected compliment. ''I cannot pretend I'm your real father, Amos,'' he said, picking his words with the utmost care. ''But I know he would be proud of what you are right now just as I am. So did Mother Fern show you any more of her craft inside the shop?'' ''It was as if nothing had happened,'' Amos said incredulously. ''We went in, lit the candles, changed into dry clothes, sang some more carols as the girls played with the toys that Shield had brought them - only now there was this old woman treating our injuries and making soup and tea on the stove as if she'd been living with us all our lives. The girls were happy and even my sister smiled a little and went up to her for the cuddles I should have given her. She made us drink the soup and then we had the best night's sleep any of us could remember. The next day, she brought us here to our new life at the Keep and that was that.'' ''She sounds like a remarkable woman,'' Harold smiled. ''And she probably gave you a sleeping potion in the soup.'' ''Probably,'' Amos conceded. ''I talked to her whenever I could but she despaired of me and kept saying I had to wait for you to find myself again. Despite the rain that never stops, she was always smiling and never seemed to worry when we went foraging except for that one day when she refused to leave the office'' ''Don't tell me that was the day when Leo and Jana were killed by that pack of dogs, wasn't it?'' ''Yes, four years ago,'' Amos said grimly. ''There were so many rats and wild dogs back then and the pack was huge, Light-Father three times the size of the one we killed at the gates. They caught us in the open area before the museum. Ibrahim, Bas and I never forgave Saul and David for abandoning them even though the pair of them cried for days. I know Saul still hasn't forgiven himself for their deaths even now - he still has nightmares.'' Harold looked up at Fern. ''If Mother Moss could see into the future, I wonder why she let them go with you that day. I've read somewhere that true premonition is more of a curse than a gift because the seer is forced to look at all the possible futures and pick the least worst option no matter how terrible it is.'' ''That's one way of looking at it,'' Fern agreed. ''Maybe if they hadn't died, Amos, something worse might have happened to you all on another mission but I believe some fates are set in stone - if they were meant to die then they were meant to die.'' ''So God meant them to be eaten alive by dogs?'' Amos retorted with a shudder. ''It's not how I would want to go or how I want to remember them. They were sweet 'kids' as the Light-Father calls us Mother Moss should have saved them!'' ''She tried explaining to us what her power was like,'' Fern said, her eyes glittering in the pale lamplight. ''We tried to understand her craft but we could not for Mothers are rare amongst the human race but seers like her are the rarest amongst the Mothers. She was more powerful than any other Wiccan, living or dead. In ancient times, she would have been worshipped as a goddess and some have argued that Mothers are descended from goddesses.'' ''I-I meant no disrespect to her or you, Mother Fern.'' ''No, of course not, dear heart, but she told us that destiny flows like a river of Time meandering across a plain carrying our lives along like pieces of driftwood. She said she could divert part of the river and its driftwood onto a different course for a while but she could not dam the current itself. She obviously knew that no matter what she did; whatever course she steered you by, Leo and Jana would die - so she made a dreadful choice to sacrifice them in order to save the rest of you. You were guided into a situation where the pack attacked them and let the rest of you escape.'' ''Yes and I think I understand now,'' Amos sighed. ''We had no choice but to leave them behind or the pack would have attacked and killed all of us. What a terrible power to possess no wonder she refused to bless us and see us off that day.'' ''Now here's a bleak thought,'' Harold exclaimed, raising an eyebrow at Fern. ''Imagine a Mother that powerful becoming as evil as Father Alban. She'd be unstoppable.'' ''Indeed she would,'' Fern agreed. ''Why do you think the Motherhood has such lethal initiations and tests?'' Harold was silent for a moment before looking at Fern. ''Mother Moss told Shield that you eliminated any Daughter who was evil or had the potential to become evil. Is that true?'' ''Yes, it's true - we kill them instantly,'' Fern said frankly and returned his stare. ''Regardless of who she is. Thus it has been for centuries but that all ends now for we are the last. So much history lost to the smallest of all living things: a virus.'' ''The Order was motivated by the Book of Revelation,'' Harold said. ''I read that when I was a kid in Sunday school and even then I thought that the author was using hallucinogenic drugs. I don't suppose you have magic mushrooms in this world?'' ''Yes, we have mushrooms that distort the mind,'' Fern nodded, folding her arms. ''We use them in some of the initiation rites.'' ''To make it impossible for any budding witch to hide any evil thoughts when she's tripping,'' he smiled. ''Cute.'' ''Tripping? I suppose they do stumble when intoxicated. We read their true thoughts when they are in a transcendent state and kill them if they harbour any darkness in their souls.'' She stopped as Amos yawned hugely and his head drooped. ''This tired boy needs to sleep. He doesn't realise that he is exhausted from winning the greatest victory in battle that any warrior can achieve that of defeating one's own fears and demons.'' ''I don't feel very heroic,'' Amos grumbled, folding his arms. ''Just mean, cruel and troll-stupid.'' Fern placed her hands on his cheeks to stare deep into his eyes reminding him of that day when Mother Moss had done the same. ''I can see this human devil, Pious, infecting your heart and soul,'' she said sympathetically. ''But the desire for revenge you now feel is natural and no longer a poison to you. If circumstances were any different, you would now be able to walk away from him and get on with the rest of your life.'' ''But I can't walk away from anything as long as Schimrian is alive, can I?'' Amos replied miserably. ''I would love to find this magical castle with the Light-Father and live happily ever after with my new family but that's just an elf-wish a little child would have made in the dark before the plague ended everything.'' ''Shhh. Sleep, my brave warrior,'' she whispered softly and placed her right index finger upon his lips. Amos slumped backwards but Harold was able to catch him and lay him down upon the cushions. He put a blanket over him and sat down on one of the chairs to study the sleeping youngster as Fern sat next to him. ''Shouldn't you be keeping watch?'' he suggested archly she had placed her own chair so close to his that their shoulders were touching and her faint musk perfume was wreaking havoc with his blood pressure and composure. ''As I said, the Ferals are watching,'' she smiled, placing a hand upon his forearm. ''Despite their disfigurements, they see in the dark and hear much better than I and besides I need some adult company right now. I haven't talked to a man like this for an age as we Wiccans avoid contact with men mostly as a result of so many of us being burnt at the stake. Um, would you like me to make you some tea?'' she offered suddenly. ''If you and this blasted storm are going to keep me awake all night,'' he said gruffly. ''Then yes, I would like some.'' While she was gone, he sat lost in reminiscences about work at the university with a deep foreboding about the bio-chips that had been stolen by the intruder. Rain lashed against the office window, lightning flashed almost continuously and the ground beneath his feet trembled with each concussive peal of thunder. ''What are you thinking?'' she demanded on her return. ''Um, I'm sorry I know I'm being selfish in keeping you awake.'' ''It's an impressive storm,'' he murmured. He took the mug of tea and sipped at it as she sat next to him, raising his pulse rate once more. ''Thanks but I could use something stronger and no, you're not being selfish.'' He paused to stare into the mug as a thought struck him. ''I hope you haven't put anything in this.'' Fern cradled her mug. ''No drugs - just the finest Asian tea. I have no need to test you as your magic clearly heals not destroys. Look at what your craft has achieved,'' she said, indicating Amos and Fierce who smiled contentedly in their dreams. ''For some reason, his sister going back to being called Surl has upset me more than anything,'' he said frankly. ''Probably because it's the one thing I haven't been able to change for her.'' Fern drank some more tea then smiled coyly at him. ''I've searched her mind and there is no darkness or resentment towards her brother so you and Amos need not feel upset by her choice of name. I think she's chosen to go back to being called Surl because she can sense the darkness that lies ahead'' ''I know. From what I've learned from the others, she may have the potential to be a seer like Mother Moss but'' ''True but you know how rare we are so what are the odds of two girls in one district showing signs of the craft, hmm?'' ''Miniscule, I suppose, but what if Exodus scientists were trying to create powers in their own children in defiance of the Order?'' ''I believe they obtained samples of our DNA and implanted those same genes and others into their children. Consider how these remarkable children are born fighters. Eliza and Jakob are the most powerful and skilled amongst our Ferals - their speed and co-ordination are well above the average.'' Harold rubbed at the bridge of his nose. ''This is a lot to take in,'' he said wearily. ''We have an Apocalypse brought about by homicidal monks, geneticists experimenting on their own children, real witches and a sad alcoholic technician dragged from one reality to save the day in another.'' ''I appreciate how you feel disoriented,'' she said kindly. ''But much of that will be down to homesickness.'' ''A little,'' he grinned. ''I wish I had the power to take you there and show you some of the sights. Britannia is called Great Britain in my reality and we created history's greatest ever empire which covered over a third of the world at its height.'' ''Alas, this drowned land has seen so many invasions after the Great Flood and we lost our colonies in Africa. However, the Order ensured that Britannia never fell because this is the place where they've always planned to build their New Jerusalem.'' She told him of the centuries of sacrifice and persecution of the Mothers who even at their height two centuries ago had only numbered six hundred strong in the entire world. Wherever the Order went, a Mother would follow to try and disrupt and expose their manipulations of monarchs and governments - often at a great cost to themselves. ''The last burning of a Wiccan in Britannia was only one hundred and twenty years ago,'' she said proudly. ''One of my ancestors was flogged for an hour before they burnt her at the stake. She'd exposed the Minister for Alms Houses because he was selecting poor and orphaned children for experimentation by the Order as part of their breeding programs.'' ''They've got away with this for so long,'' Harold muttered, shaking his head. ''It's a wonder they didn't try to bring about Revelation decades ago.'' ''Until this strange computer arrived, they did not have the weapon they needed to bring about Armageddon. The fools in the Vatican dabbled in genetics to mimic the Order and created the very monster that the Order needed as a sign to unleash the virus.'' She looked bleak and tired. ''We failed, Light-Father. We tried our best but humanity, all its civilisations and all its histories are now lost forever. The last of us have no choice but to follow the path that our sister had laid out for us even if it means our deaths. We have to place our trust in her craft.'' ''I see,'' he said gloomily. ''Even if means me taking you, twelve children and two Ferals in a train to storm a fortress full of armed religious fanatics and Tally-men. What we need is an army, Fern, or we are all going to die.'' Jakob appeared in the doorway and growled softly, forming words that only Fern could understand. ''Thank you, dear heart,'' she smiled and waved him away. ''Go with Eliza and find places for them to sleep.'' She turned to Harold and indicated the staff of Mother Moss that she had earlier placed upon the desk. ''Look after this for her,'' she urged, standing up. ''She is destined to wield it whether she embraces the craft willingly or not. Now follow me.'' Harold accompanied her through the door and his jaw dropped. ''Jesus H Christ,'' he exclaimed. ''I don't believe it!'' Filling the entire western end of the shed were four Mothers, holding their staffs in their right hands and behind them stood over two hundred silent Ferals most of whom were holding weapons and bearing heavy sacks over their shoulders. Every single one of them stared at him as if awaiting his command to immediately storm the Great Abbey and destroy the men that had ruined their bodies and killed their families. He felt an electric thrill run through his body as he imagined them in action against the Tally-men and realised that they now had a fighting chance. ''You wanted an army,'' Fern said. ''Now you have one.'' ------------------------------------------------------ (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-2013
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Chapter 27: Christ Mass (posted on: 18-07-16)
Chapter 27 of the Light-Father: The six Scatterlings survive in a Crawcester shop but at Christ Mass, an Order patrol drags them into the street leaving them at the mercy of the sadistic Father Alban. As Alban tries to strike Sheild again, something unexpected happens....

Fierce yawned, almost dislocating her jaw. ''Sorry, Light-Father, I feel like I need to sleep now,'' she mumbled. She turned away from him in her makeshift bed and closed her eyes. ''I promise I'll tell you the rest of the story in the morning.'' ''Hey, we may have to make a run for it tomorrow,'' Harold protested as the office was lit up again by over thirty brilliant lightning flashes in rapid succession. ''Besides, you can't leave a story hanging like that. How did Shield stop Amos from braining her with his sledgehammer?'' His plea fell on deaf ears - the exhausted girl was already fast asleep with her arms wrapped around her Honey Bear. ''I can tell you,'' Amos said from the doorway. He came in and sat down on the floor, placing Mjolnir and his knives next to him. ''Mother Fern thinks it's important and so do Fria and Rebecca.'' He put a hand to his forehead in frustration. ''God's teeth! I start to call her Rebecca and now she wants to be called Surl again.'' Harold sat up in bed to look him in the eye. ''Don't worry - Surl is not that bad a name,'' he said, rocking a hand from side to side. ''I'm not happy with it either but it's her choice and before you ask, I am not going to call you Scar.'' ''That's all right, Light-Father,'' Amos smiled. ''I'm over that nonsense - I know I'm no saga hero so I guess I'll have to respect my sister's wishes for once. I can see her point though - she hardly remembers her life as Rebecca and like Mouse and her sisters, she's grown used to the name I gave her. At least that way, I won't ever forget what a monster I was then and how I tried to kill Shield before I knew that she was a Child of Exodus.'' ''Then finish the story,'' Harold prompted as Fern stood by the doorway to eavesdrop. ''You were leaping down from the wall intent on harming her - then what happened?''
~~~~~
He brought the hammer down as he landed but the girl was older, taller and ready for him and he was off-balance from the jump. She used the shield on her left forearm to deflect the blow away at a shallow angle so that the momentum exposed his left flank. Using the torque from the blow, she pivoted and brought the guard on her right forearm down on his head just above his ear. It wasn't a hard blow but it made him stumble away from her, spitting curses. He saw Fria leap down to help him with her knives drawn but she was immediately confronted by Mouse and Fierce. She was older than they were but they had the longer reach with their weapons and they worked in tandem to block her attacks. He slipped on the wet flagstones but he quickly recovered his footing and readied his sledgehammer - only to find a crossbow primed and aimed at a spot between his eyes. He glanced sideways to find Fria with her back against the opposite wall, glaring at the two girls as she desperately parried their thrusts. ''You're useless, Fria,'' he snarled contemptuously. ''I'm fighting on!'' ''Don't be so stupid, Amos!'' Fria said angrily as Fierce almost gutted her with her sword. ''They'll kill us unless we surrender. Look at them they're children like us.'' He saw the deadly resolve in Shield's eyes and knew that she would not hesitate to shoot him so he slowly lowered his weapon and curled his lip in disgust. ''Pah! If I had a real fighter with me,'' he said defiantly. ''I'd have taken you all out.'' ''Don't flatter yourself, Amos,'' Shield retorted bluntly. ''We yield,'' Fria said, sheathing her long knives. She pushed aside Mouse's spear tip. ''Enough - we're the same as you.'' Amos said nothing but turned his face to reveal the livid scar. ''That's who I am and I just killed a Tally-man!'' ''We've killed one Tally-man, one Brother and a Father,'' Fierce boasted proudly. ''So we're two ahead of you! I'm Fierce, this is Mouse and our big sister with the crossbow is Shield.'' Amos was about to retort when his sister screamed and a strange high-pitched chattering noise could be heard on the other side of the wall. ''Rats!'' he cried in anguish. ''We saw three big ones just now so they must be back in force. They'll eat her alive!'' He tried charging the door to no avail as he'd piled up wooden posts and planks to barricade it. ''Quick,'' he begged Shield. ''Give me a boost over the wall. I have to save her!'' Shield turned and almost hurled Fierce up the wall. ''She's lighter,'' she explained as he protested. ''And she's the best of us at killing rats. Get the door open first,'' she commanded as Fierce dropped from sight. The wood was pulled away and she and Amos entered to find her already tackling a horde of rats with surgical jabs of her sword. Surl was curled up in a far corner of the paved yard with twenty of the largest rodents closing in for the kill. ''When did they get so big?'' Shield gasped in awe as she drew her knives. ''Jesus, protect us - they're the size of cats.'' It took them over ten minutes of grisly work to clear the yard as not a single rodent turned to flee. Shield sensed that Amos cared little for his sister's feelings so she gently picked her up and held her in her arms. The back door wouldn't open so she turned to him. ''Why is it locked?'' she asked curtly. ''We've tried several other shops but there was no food in them. I was about to break in here when we heard you in the lane.'' ''Well break in now a rotor-craft is coming!'' He swung Mjolnir with all his might and the shattered remains of the lock bounced off the opposite wall as the door swung open. ''How come you're giving me orders?'' he muttered sourly as they entered. ''We've been fine on our own apart from my surly sister sulking and Fria the Fainter collapsing everywhere.'' ''That's cruel,'' Fria snapped. ''I've only fainted twice and I helped you save your sister in that house and again just now.'' ''And four times you've both nearly got us all killed!'' ''That's enough!'' Shield said forcefully, baring her teeth. ''Stop bickering and let's see what we can find in this place! Keep your knives to hand and kill any rats you come across. When we're done, we'll have to get rid of the dead rats in the yard.'' The back door opened onto a kitchen which was large and well-furnished as it serviced both the food shop at the front and the family accommodation upstairs. The floor was heavily fouled with dog faeces and rat-droppings but as the chairs were clean, Shield sat down at the table to sit Surl on her lap and cradled her until her trembling subsided. ''What's her name, Amos?'' ''I'm not Amos!'' he said angrily. ''I want this to be my name,'' he snapped, jabbing a finger at his ruined cheek. He felt a powerful resentment building up inside him and launched into their story and how they'd been fleeing from house to house ever since leaving the safety of the store. ''My sister won't smile for me because I couldn't protect our parents and our brother and sister yet I've saved her lots of times and looked after her. She's my surly little sister so Surl is what her name is!'' Fierce looked up at him with her hand on the hilt of her sword. ''And you're the jackal's ass!'' she spat at him. ''Look at the state of her yet all you can think about is yourself!'' He dug a thumb into his chest. ''I've had to fight Tally-men three times to save us since leaving the store and only in the last house was Fria of any use! She fainted in the road last week and a Tally-man almost had her but he didn't see me coming and bam! I hit him over the head when he bent down to k'' He halted as Fierce's sword pricked at his throat. ''I don't like you very much,'' she said icily. ''I'd like you to shut up now about Fria and your sister or I might just kill you.'' His eyes bulged and it was plain that he was thinking about reaching for his sledgehammer on the table but thought better of it. ''Pah! Girls always stick together,'' he said sarcastically. ''You wipe their snotty noses then while I go and see what we can use in the store.'' He turned on his heel and stormed off leaving Fria sitting on a chair in the corner with her hands covering her face; weeping as all the months of fear and misery came to the surface. Mouse, as empathic as ever, wrapped her arms around her and squeezed the older girl as tightly as she could. ''Don't cry, Fria,'' she begged. ''He's just a big smelly turd!'' Shield gave the wide-eyed Surl a hug until she closed her eyes and sighed contentedly. ''You've had rats, Tally-men and a grumpy brother all in one day, dear heart. No wonder you're upset. I don't want to call you Surl so what is your real name?'' ''Rebecca,'' Fria said, wiping at her tears with a blood and rain-soaked sleeve. ''He said she was called Rebecca but he's been cruel to her ever since I met him in the store. He looks after her but he makes her feel like a burden so she doesn't talk much.'' ''Surl,'' the little girl said. ''I'm Surly Surly Surl Surl.'' ''Shhh,'' Shield soothed, stroking Surl's matted curls. Her eyes widened in alarm as she held up a fistful of bright red hair. ''Are you feeling well, Rebecca?'' she asked, deeply concerned. ''All your lovely hair is falling out in clumps.'' Surl buried her face into Shield's chest and sobbed anew. ''Surly Surl doesn't care,'' she whimpered. ''Useless Surly Surl!'' ''That's enough! Your brother is going through a bad time too but he will be nicer to you,'' Shield said gently. The girls watched in morbid fascination as every time Shield passed a hand through Surl's hair, more and more locks fell out until the quivering child was completely bald. ''Poor thing,'' Shield sighed. ''Mum said this can happen when someone is so badly scared it affects their whole body.'' ''Mouse?'' Fria said. ''Can you let go, please? I can't breathe and I don't like having my knives out of reach. She called me Fria of the Long Knives so I always have them by me.'' ''Huh? Who did?'' Mouse asked as she released her. ''This old woman at the hospital who took my friend away from me,'' Fria said distantly as she took out a rag to clean the blood off her precious blades. ''She told me that some of the children who survived the plague were turned into something called Ferals by the virus. My friend, Bethwin, turned into one right in front of my eyes and Amos and Surl saw another one in the garden at their grandparents' house they're not human.'' ''Yes, we saw one that she named Ruff-ruff,'' Amos said gruffly as he came back into the kitchen. ''Because he did look like a dog.'' His face fell when he saw his sister and the heaps of hair. ''What in Odin's name have you done to her?'' he demanded, pointing an accusing finger at Shield. ''Did you just shave her head?'' ''No, I think it's the result of a severe shock,'' Shield explained patiently. ''And not just because of what's happened to her today. Have you been shouting at her or abusing her?'' ''No!'' he said angrily. ''I only shout at her when she won't keep up with us. She's still too young to understand the danger. When you're being chased by a large man with a spear and sparks shooting out of his head, you don't have time to stop and think: 'oh, I'd better not raise my voice or I might upset her.''' ''You shout at us all the time,'' Fria added bitterly. ''No wonder she's ended up losing her hair - she's still an infant.'' ''And you can shut up too,'' he snarled, baring his teeth. ''Why did that old woman say I had to meet up with a complete bull-pat like you?'' she demanded angrily. Shield turned on him and a dark fury arose in her heart. ''You said you were going to see if there was anything useful in this store, Amos,'' she said icily, her eyes boring into his. Amos looked confused and rubbed at the bridge of his nose but he could not tear his eyes away from hers. ''Um, yes,'' he said uncertainly. ''I think yes, I'll go and see if there's anything useful. This is a shop but there are no fresh rat or dog droppings here now. Perhaps we should clear it all up if we're going to hide here for a while it's as good a place as any, I suppose.'' ''Is there food here?'' Shield demanded, still glaring at him. ''Yes, it was a food shop,'' he replied dazedly. He was trying to stay angry but it was as though his thoughts and feelings were not his own. ''But it sold lot of cleaning things as well,'' he added. ''I'll use them to clean the kitchen and the dining room next door.'' ''Yes, you do that,'' Shield said dismissively, still cradling Surl who wept silently as she stared down at the red hair in her lap. ''Don't worry, Rebecca, it'll grow back. I'm sure it will.'' ''Surl bad so surly Surl bald now.'' Amos exhaled noisily in exasperation and left the kitchen. Fria followed him, curious to know how he'd been so thoroughly subdued - by a girl of all things. ''Surl. Surl. Surl. Surl,'' the little girl murmured, shaking her head. She refused to answer to Rebecca after that and rarely smiled or spoke again despite the best efforts of Mouse and Fria. Worse still, Amos continued to ignore her despite the pleadings of Fria and Mouse and blood-curdling threats from Fierce. The weeks passed slowly as they settled down into an uneasy truce and a routine of sorts. Shield and Amos would take them all foraging at night but on two occasions, Fria had passed out and nearly got them captured so she was made to stay in the shop and protect Surl and Mouse. Fierce was left behind most nights and Fria knew that she'd been instructed to protect her. Amos also found it frustrating as the Order would patrol the streets randomly and force them to hide for hours at a time. He longed to attack them even though he knew it would be suicide but Shield always managed to hold him back at the last moment. However, by Christ Mass, the Tally-men were patrolling without any Brothers or Fathers and had settled into steady predictable routes and times that made them much easier to avoid. On the morning of Christ Mass, Amos and Shield were on the topmost floor of a large department store. A patrol wasn't due for another two hours but Amos was nervous and kept checking the stairwells as Shield selected clothes, toys and jewellery as Feast presents for the girls. ''Shield!'' he hissed suddenly, raising his sledge-hammer. ''There are dozens of them coming!'' He hid to one side and the first Tally-man through the stairwell door received Mjolnir full in the face. The spear of the second Tally-man just missed his ear as it was thrust over the collapsing body of the first. He felt the blood singing in his veins as he saw the face of the Father who'd thrown him into the kitchen like so much garbage. As he raised his sledgehammer to strike, a bolt whipped past his ear and smashed through the Guide upon the forehead of the Tally-man. It emitted sparks then the Tally-man convulsed and tumbled to his doom down the steep stairs. ''He was mine!'' Amos shouted in a blind fury only to receive a hard ringing slap across the back of his head. ''You're such a silly child,'' Shield chided as she barged past him to retrieve the bolt and check the stairs. ''He had that strange gun in his left hand pointed directly at you you would never have hit him. Now where are the others? Two is not dozens.'' ''Yes but they usually patrol in fives,'' he said sulkily. The first Tally-man groaned, clutching at his smashed face as blood seeped between his fingers. Amos raised the sledge-hammer above him with his hatred distorting his face into a demonic mask. As he swung down, Shield caught the shaft with both hands and stopped the blow from connecting. ''What are you doing?'' he screamed at her. ''They showed my family no mercy at all so why should I show them any mercy? You killed the other one so where was the mercy in that? What makes you think you're better than me?'' ''I killed that one to save you,'' she said angrily, wiping the blood off her bolt. ''You were going to kill him for mindless revenge - not to save me. Murdering a defenceless enemy makes you no better than the Fathers and Brothers or do you want to be like them?'' she said, pointing down at the Tally-man as he groaned and writhed upon the floor. ''If I have to be,'' he said defiantly. ''Why let him live? Won't he just come after us again once he's recovered?'' Shield peered cautiously down the stairwell again but it was clear. She knelt down next to the groaning, helpless Tally-man and studied the Guide wires leading down the back of his neck into the power pack and control unit beneath the coat. ''Perhaps I should just set him free?'' she suggested. She tore the wires from the Guides and the control unit bolted into his spine but instead of recovering, the Tally-man went into a massive seizure; his limbs thrashed and bloody foam erupted from his mouth. They watched, mesmerised, for the full two minutes it took him to die. ''Ah, that's good to know,'' Amos said with grim satisfaction. ''Just rip out the wires and enjoy the show.'' Shield looked at him in disgust. ''Let's go,'' she said curtly. ''Hey, don't take it out on me,'' he protested, waving his sledgehammer at her. ''You're the one who said 'ooh, let's look for presents and decorations for the little ones to open at the Christ Mass Feast.' There was hardly anything left in these stores after the floods ruined the lower floors so why are we here?'' Shield glowered at him in mute frustration then stormed off to strap on her rucksack and look out through the front window. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw three black half-tracks parked in the rainswept street below and a Father tapping at a strange device strapped to his wrist. Suddenly, he looked up at them and shouted a command. The rears doors of a half-track were flung open then two Brothers and five Tally-men jumped out and raced towards the store entrance. ''We have to get up onto the roof!'' she cried out in alarm. ''Quick! Let's get back to the stairwell!'' Moments later, they crashed though the fire-exit doors at the very top of the stairwell. They were dreadfully exposed upon the flat roof of the store and there were black rotor-craft hovering in the distance as lightning flickered amongst the brooding clouds. She looked over the rear parapet and saw the metal fire-exit staircase at the rear of the neighbouring office building. ''No, there's no way down from this building!'' she cried out in despair. ''We'll have to jump across to that one!'' ''But that gap is impossible,'' he said, wide-eyed with fear. ''Then stay and wait for the Tally-men,'' she said callously. She checked the straps of her rucksack and crossbow and closed the lid of her quiver. She took three deep breaths then, clutching a bolt in her right hand, she took a running jump and leapt the wide gap with ease. It took several aborted runs and a spear clattering across the roof behind him before he could summon up the courage to follow her lead - and he hated her for it. After several narrow escapes in the maze of streets and alleys to the south of the main shopping centre, they made it back to the lane behind their shop and clambered over the wall to find Fria and Fierce practicing knife-fighting in the yard. Mouse welcomed them with open arms but the other two barely noticed them as they were circling each other in the rain with a determined look upon their faces. Shield noted the new dents on their arm-guards, the bloodied scratches on their arms and their feet splashing through the puddles on the paving-stones as they searched for openings. ''Ah, this is excellent,'' Amos approved as he dropped down. ''They're finally getting serious about their training.'' He was almost knocked down by the rucksack Shield tossed at him. ''What in God's teeth are you doing?'' he spluttered indignantly. ''You and Mouse take that inside and begin preparing,'' Shield commanded. ''You two, that's enough the Order are searching the shopping centre for survivors. They almost had us and their rotor-craft are heading this way. Can't you hear them?'' Fierce sheathed her knives. ''Surl was getting hysterical about you. She said she could 'see' two Tally-men were after you but I told her they wouldn't be able to stop you, Shield.'' ''Huh?'' Amos sneered. ''How could she possibly know that?'' ''She might have the gift of second sight,'' Mouse said proudly, twirling her spear around her body. ''Well, she might be a seer, Amos,'' she added defiantly as he glared at her. ''If you want me to call you Mouse then call me Scar,'' he said angrily. ''I won't tell you again, Ethelind.'' Shield shoved him roughly through the door. ''And I won't let you bully your sister or mine, Amos,'' she snarled. Once more he turned on her and clenched his fists as a terrible rage burned in his heart but silhouetted in the doorframe against the dim grey light outside, he saw strange sparks glittering in her pupils and he flinched instinctively away from her. ''Just what in Styx are you, Shield?'' he whispered fearfully. ''A big sister to Mouse, Fierce and Surl,'' she said flatly. ''And to you whether you like it or not.'' ''You'll never replace Sara!'' ''Why should I even try?'' Shield sighed. ''Everyone, wash your wet clothes then set them to dry in front of the heater. Surl? Oh, where is she? Is she upstairs again?'' Leaving them all to get changed and dried, she went in search of the pale, withdrawn child and found her huddled up and trembling inside a wardrobe. ''What are you doing here? Come and see what your brother and I have for you. We're going to have a real Christ Mass Feast.'' Surl choked but after several attempts, the words rushed out in a torrent: ''Fathers and Brothers looking for us. Be here soon. Hurt us! Kill us! But she might stop them. Make clouds bleed.'' ''Shhh, calm down, they're searching the centre,'' Shield assured her as she prised her gently out of the cupboard. ''We took care of two of them and we made sure we weren't followed so forget about them for now. Come and help the others put up decorations while I make you all some lovely Christ Mass food.'' She carried Surl downstairs to be cajoled and bustled by the excited Mouse into decorating the dining room and the table. Shield made them a chicken broth and there was fruit cake, sausages in brine, chocolates, lemonade and bowls of tinned fruit. She checked that the curtains were fully drawn and risked six candles as night fell and by midnight even Amos had relaxed enough to join in a few carols and hymns such as 'Road to Bethlehem', 'Prayer in a Manger' and 'The Star-Guided Sages.' Surl had grown increasingly anxious as the evening wore on despite the games and toys that Shield had brought back with her. Amos was abrupt with her several times until Fria snapped and threatened him with a knife then in the dreadful stillness after her outburst they heard a scrape outside the window and another from the shop front. Shield realised that she'd made a terrible blunder although the Tally-men rarely patrolled in the dark, the same could not be said for the Brothers! She quickly extinguished the candles and crouched down in the pitch-black but her heart fell as she saw torchlight flickering though small rents in the curtains. It was an eternity before there was a sharp tap at the window that popped out some of the glass to allow a small gas canister to be pushed through. It gushed out foul smoky fumes and as they coughed and retched helplessly with their eyes streaming, the shop front door and the back door were kicked in and dark shapes wearing face masks rushed into their refuge. They were disarmed roughly, their hands were tied behind their backs and they were dragged through the front door and into the road to be inspected by a white-haired Father who held a whip in one hand. There were powerful lights mounted upon the rear of the half-track that cast long shadows away from them as the rain lashed down. ''Well, Brother Elham, what a nest of Unworthy spawn we have here!'' he crowed, using the handle of the whip to force up Sheild's chin to stare into her face. ''Such a pretty one too. These must be the ones who killed the Tally-men and murdered Father Icarius and Brother Bartholomew. It's an impressive achievement for immature, genetically inferior specimens like these.'' ''Are you going to cut our throats then,'' Shield spat. ''Like the heroes you are going around murdering children!'' ''No, dear child,'' Alban smiled, his hair plastered to his face. ''We don't murder children we merely Redeem the Unworthy. We simply allow God and the Devil to take their due.'' ''Pious and Michael want these ones, Father,'' Elham reminded him. ''They want them alive for study and dissection.'' ''Pious! Ach, our new Abbot is such a Feast-phantom,'' Alban snorted contemptuously, pushing the sodden hair out of his eyes. ''Damn this rain! Will it never end? Thank the Lord I'm Inquiring in Italy next month. Still,'' he added, licking his sensuous lips and taking several steps back to uncoil the whip. ''Alive is such a broad term. These vermin have put us to considerable trouble these past few months. Load the Tally-men into the half-tracks while I teach this little bitch-spawn of Satan some manners.'' The whip cracked across Shield's thigh but she refused to cry out drawing a nod of approval from the depraved cleric. The others watched helplessly as Shield was hit again and again and bit her lip as she slowly sank to her knees, bleeding from several expertly-inflicted cuts. The other half-tracks drove off, leaving Elham and another Brother waiting impatiently as Alban circled his prey. ''Leave her alone, you rat turd,'' Amos hissed earning a deep cut on his unscarred cheek for his impertinence. ''I'm going to kill you,'' Fierce promised but she too cried out in agony as Alban laughed and went about his sport. ''Come on, Father!'' Elham urged impatiently. ''The Abbots will rip our hearts out if we keep them waiting.'' ''Or if you damage the specimens too much,'' the other Brother muttered nervously. ''Pious made it plain what he'd do to us if we ever disobeyed the Great-Abbot's orders.'' ''Hah! Why should Pious have all the pleasure of scourging the Unworthy?'' Alban cackled, pointing at Shield who was glaring at him with absolute loathing and hatred in her eyes. ''This one is strong - I want to see her begging for mercy before we leave. That way we'll have no nonsense from them on the journey back.'' Amos surged forward as Alban readied his whip for a more brutal assault on Shield only to have Elham pull him to the ground by the rope attached to his bonds. Alban cackled with sadistic glee as he struck at Shield but his arm was halted in mid-strike. He turned to find the end of the whip being held by an elderly woman who was dressed in a black long-sleeved smock and breeches with a white hemp belt at her waist from which hung knee-length black loin cloths. Even without her staff, Alban knew he was facing one of the Mothers - the Order's most ancient enemy. ''A man of God taking pleasure from torturing children!'' she admonished in a strident voice. ''Do you, vile creature, wish to repent any of your many sins before you depart this Earth?'' ''Go! Get the begiullers!'' Alban roared at the Brothers. ''Tally-men! Get out here and take down this foul witch!'' ''They will aid thee naught,'' the old woman warned as she effortlessly resisted Alban's attempts to free his whip. ''We shall see, whore of Satan,'' Alban sneered, discarding the whip. He drew a gun, pointed it at her head and fired. His face fell as she caught the bullet between her right index finger and thumb then discarded it. He fired until the gun jammed and she opened her other hand to drop those bullets to the ground as well. ''A noisy toy fit only for a hell-bound child,'' she observed sadly as the Tally-men formed up behind Alban. Amos squirmed about on the floor and kicked one of them to the back of the knees causing him to sag momentarily. ''Be at peace, child!'' she said forcefully. ''This will take but a few moments.'' ''Kill her!'' Alban ordered and the Tally-men advanced in a line upon the old woman with their spears at the ready. She pointed at each of them in turn and their hoods flew back exposing the Guides to the rain. Lighting flickered overhead as she gestured and bolts struck the Tally-men, earthing through their Guides and killing them all instantly. Amos and Shield jerked and twitched violenetly as the current radiated away from the feet of the doomed Tally-men through the surface water. Elham and the other Brother reappeared at Alban's side with the bizarre-looking begiullers. Shield and Amos, having got to their feet, shoulder-charged the Brothers as they took aim. They were savagely thrown to the ground again but the old Wiccan had closed upon the Brothers, chanting in an ancient tongue. Amos revelled in the terror he saw upon their faces as their weapons were torn from their grasps and dashed against the store facade. ''The wind is my element,'' she said pleasantly as the two Brothers retreated behind the bulk of the transfixed Alban. She pointed at the ground with the index finger of her right hand and started moving it in a circle. Around the three terrified clerics, a torus of wind began to form as the children quickly scrambled out of the way. ''Wind can be a boon,'' she crooned. ''But it can also rip the clothes from the flesh and the flesh from the bone.'' The torus became a cylinder of screaming wind that obscured the men within then it expanded to encompass the corpses of the Tally-men. The cylinder then rose upwards to dissipate amongst the clouds then bloody fragments of flesh and clothing fell back to earth amidst the rain. ''Gaia's tears will run foul for a moment,'' the old woman said sadly. ''I'm sorry I could not get here sooner but you are safe now. I am Mother Moss. It is time for me to take you to a nearby refuge where you will meet others like you.'' Shield leant into her and wept with relief as she helped her and Amos to their feet. The others crowded around her as best they could with their hands still bound behind their backs and attached to ropes. ''Don't cry, dear hearts,'' she soothed, planting a kiss on Surl's forehead. ''You have all been through so much but everything happens for a reason and you all have such adventures in front of you worthy of a saga of your very own.'' She gestured again and their bonds fell away from their wrists. ''These maggots have ruined your Christ Mass Feast,'' she declared. ''But they will not be back this night as this storm will worsen before morning so let's get inside and dry ourselves off, shall we? Then I need to heal all your wounds.'' ''Are you the one who took Surl's pet, Ruff-ruff?'' Amos said, suddenly recognising her in the lights of the half-track. ''And you took Bethwin from me,'' Fria said sharply. ''That I did, children,'' Moss smiled sadly. She approached Surl again and looked into her face. ''Poor child, you see so much and yet you say so little.'' She did the same to Amos who tried to pull away but could not as she was deceptively strong. ''You will have to wait for the Light-Father,'' she said grimly. She paused in front of Shield and smiled. ''Ah, I do have a daughter here,'' she sighed, puzzling them all greatly. ''I was sure of it but I can hardly trust to my own craft in these dark times.'' ''What about this half-track?'' Amos demanded. ''They'll find it at first light and search these shops for us.'' ''True enough,'' she nodded and gestured. A wind grew around them whipping the rain into a streaming mist that slammed into the half-track. It slid sideways along Cartwright Road then bounced end over end until its lights were smashed and it was lost from sight. They could only see each other in the flicker of the lightning until she produced a torch. ''Come, children,'' she said. ''Let's get in and have some more Christ Mass food. Ah, there's one more crucial thing, dear heart,'' she said, turning to Shield. ''What's that, Mother Moss?'' ''Did you find any tea in that shop?'' --------------------------------------------------------- (c) 2012-2013 Paul D.E. Mitchell copyright protected
Archived comments for Chapter 27: Christ Mass
Mikeverdi on 23-07-2016
Chapter 27: Christ Mass
Another great read, still enjoying the story.
Mike

Author's Reply:
So grateful. Hope your health is improving! I was worried about too much back story but this is the basis of a series of books. I ahve written the first three chapters of the second in the series: City of Gargoyles is the working title. Onwards and tangentially siedways. Mitch


Chapter 26: First Kills (posted on: 15-07-16)
Chapter 26 of the Light-Father: As the deadly storm rages, Harold listens in horror as Fierce tells him how the three young sisters learnt how to kill...

It was midnight and the storm was still raging unabated. Harold was exhausted by both the work and the children's excitement and it took all of Fern's patience and story-telling skills to calm them down. He retreated to his makeshift mattress in the foreman's office to find a fresh set of overalls, slacks, socks and underwear set out for him. ''Ah, she's dropping a hint,'' he smiled ruefully after sniffing at an armpit. He noticed the bowl of water and bar of coal tar soap on the desk. ''And now she's rubbing it in.'' He felt refreshed after a wash and a change of clothes but he was reluctant to part with his oil-stained overalls as they had far more pockets than its replacement. The clamour abated slowly as Fern settled the children down into their beds and promised them that she would take the first watch. Enjoying a rare moment of privacy, he lit up a cigar and luxuriated in the smoke. ''Only two left,'' he sighed wistfully. ''I needed to give up anyway but I bet this world has no Cuba to grow some decent tobacco.'' Fern appeared at the doorway. ''It's a disgusting habit but they do have cigars, as you call them, here,'' she said with a slight frown. ''I had to put Kai to sleep with a potion as the poor boy is making himself ill with guilt and the horror he's witnessed.'' ''The Order makes the religious fanatics in my world look like rank amateurs. I can't wait to look this Schimrian in the eye and ask him what gave him the right to slaughter billions.'' She leant against the doorframe and folded her arms. ''Oh, you'll get the Will of God argument the Motherhood has had to endure for centuries. We've been persecuted and burnt at the stake for trying to tell the world that the Order would bring about Armageddon. There have been others like poor Moss so we knew this,'' she sighed, indicating the shed. ''Would come to pass.'' ''So why did you keep fighting them if you knew you couldn't stop them wiping everyone out?'' ''The Motherhood could not simply step aside and do nothing in the face of such great evil so we took comfort in the hope that we could somehow delay the inevitable.'' ''There's something else you're not telling me,'' he said shrewdly, blowing a large smoke ring. ''I might not be able to read minds but I do know when someone is intent on keeping something from me. Come on, what is it?'' Fern exhaled noisily. ''I feel apprehensive about going to the Great Abbey because Moss told us that we Mothers are fated to face a far greater threat than the Order itself.'' ''Huh? What could be a greater threat than one hundred and forty-four thousand raving lunatics who calmly wiped out the rest of the human race?'' ''She wouldn't say and I wouldn't take it from her mind - not out of respect but because she would have fried me if I'd tried. We could see that what she saw in her visions terrified her to the core so we did not pry. She would not say who is going to survive this unknown ordeal but she said that if we did nothing then we would all be hunted down and killed by the end of this year.'' ''She left you with no choice but to do or die then.'' ''She did at that,'' Fern sighed. ''I think she wished her foresight was more specific but she was never wrong, bless her.'' ''Fine,'' he said. ''At least the Phoenix is ready to roll the second the storm eases up. Listen to that. How can anyone possibly sleep through all this thunder?'' She entered the room and took the cigar from him and stubbed it out. She then surprised him by kissing him gently on the lips and forehead. ''I have faith in you, Light-Father,'' she smiled, enjoying his scarlet blushes. She stepped back to the doorway and tugged Fierce into view. ''Only little Hild and her Honey Bear here are still awake. She has more bad memories to face so it's time for you to weave your magic again.'' ''I keep telling you I have no magic,'' he protested. ''I keep telling you you have. She needs to talk and there is a deep magic in just listening. I'll go and keep watch with Eliza and Jacob Ferals have sharp senses and need little sleep.'' ''Oh, come in, Fierce,'' he relented. ''I need to lie down as my muscles are aching but there's a blanket and some seat cushions over there you can use but I want you tucked in before we talk.'' He switched off several of the overhead lights as she made herself comfortable and wrapped the blanket around her. She'd placed her weapons alongside her and to his surprise, he had his own sword to hand without even consciously thinking about it. ''Do you snore?'' Fierce asked bluntly. ''Shield sounds like a blocked drain and Mouse babbles in her sleep.'' ''Hmm, Andrea said I didn't do either.'' ''Good. The nightmares are bad enough.'' ''I'm not surprised. So what do you want to talk about?'' he said kindly. ''I only know your story up to the point where you were living in that old man's house. What happened next?''
~~~~~
Fierce sat in her favourite chair idly tracing the exquisite Celtic knot-work designs carved into it with a finger as she imagined herself as the heroine in some ancient and bloodthirsty saga. She'd dragged it out onto the verandah of the drawing-room to watch the bloated River Craw racing past. Occasionally, a tree or some part of a wooden structure that had collapsed into the torrent upstream went racing by to break the monotony. The dull roar of the river and the constant rain had faded into the background generating the unnerving illusion that the river was still and it was the house that was ploughing upstream. She fell into a pleasant daydream where the house was taking them home to where their parents were waiting for them... ''Shhh, don't cry, Fierce,'' Shield said gently, placing a hand on her shoulder. ''I know you come out here to think about them and there's not a day goes by where Mouse and I don't do the same. Come in it's time for your lessons.'' ''Why are we reading stupid history and geography books when everyone is dead?'' Fierce snapped but regretted it instantly as she saw the pain and sorrow upon her sister's face. ''I'm sorry - but we've been here for months and we have only enough food for one more day so I see no point in reading a book.'' ''We are not going to starve,'' Shield said adamantly. ''And we are not going to remain ignorant either. The old man had an expensive library so we can't let the Order take away our minds as well as our parents. We owe it to Mum and Dad to learn as much as we can as well as practising every day with our weapons.'' Fierce drew the blade from her swordstick and looked along its length. ''I wonder if I could kill someone'' she said distantly. ''Maybe I could kill a Father or a Brother but what about the boy in that photograph upstairs? Could I kill him?'' ''If he threatened to hurt you or Mouse, I would not hesitate for a second,'' Shield said passionately, making a fist. ''Come in and practice your reading then we'll search some more houses for food. We should be all right we haven't seen anybody'' ''There are men out in the street!'' Mouse shouted from upstairs causing their hearts to flutter with fear. ''They're dressed in long black coats and they've got these long black spears! They're going into the houses across the road!'' ''Dad and Mum said the Order would keep looking for us,'' Shield declared. ''Keep calm, get your weapons and rucksacks we have to leave this house and find somewhere else to stay.'' ''I don't w-want to go!'' Mouse pleaded as she raced into the drawing-room, shivering with fright. ''I love this house. I feel safe here. Can't we hide under the beds or out in the garden?'' Shield hefted her rucksack onto her back and put her knives into their sheaths one on her belt and another attached to her shin-guard. ''They'll find us, Mouse,'' she urged. ''This is why we keep everything packed like this. Get your rucksack, your spear and your knives. They're on the kitchen table. Quickly!'' ''Don't shout at me!'' ''Then hurry up and do it!'' Shield snapped, readying her cross-bow. She placed the bolt at the ready and checked her quiver. She took two bolts and tucked them in a strap attached to her small triangular shield so that she could reload faster. She went back out onto the verandah and peered around the western corner of the house and gestured for Fierce to do the same at the eastern side. From those two vantage points they could see out across the road. She turned as Mouse clattered out onto the verandah, laden with bags containing the last of their food. ''Leave them, Mouse - we can't run while carrying all that.'' ''Ugh, I hate being wet all the time,'' Mouse shuddered as the rain lashed down. Shield turned to say something to her but she pointed in terror. ''There's someone on the wall!'' she screamed. Shield whirled around in time to see a powerful man in a swirling, hooded rain-coat leaping from the top of the neighbour's wall to land close to her. He had a long black spear in one hand and a stun-gun in the other but he never had a chance to use either. Instead, he stared down at the bolt shaft protruding from his chest for a full three seconds before toppling backwards like a felled oak. His lifeless body sent up a great spray of water as it hit the sodden ground and sparks erupted from beneath the hood. ''What in Styx is he?'' Shield cried out in horror. ''He's not human,'' Her hands trembled violently as she realised she'd just killed a man. She gagged and almost vomited. ''There's no time for that,'' Fierce urged, grabbing her hands. ''There are more of them coming down the drive.'' Shield shook herself, reloaded her cross-bow then led them over the opposite neighbour's dividing wall. ''We'll go through the gardens along the river's edge,'' she explained as they ran. ''We need to keep as far away from the houses as possible.'' It was a terrifying ordeal for the three young sisters as they ploughed through hedges, bushes and overgrown gardens with whistles, shouts and horn blasts pursuing them. ''Why are they hunting us? We're not foxes,'' Mouse gasped as they pushed wearily through yet another thick border hedge. ''They think we're vermin, Mouse,'' Shield said. ''Come on we have to keep going or they'll kill us. That thing back there was going to shoot us with some kind of gun.'' ''What's that noise?'' Fierce said. ''It's coming closer.'' ''It's a rotor-craft,'' Shield hissed as she dragged them under the skirts of a huge fir tree in the nick of time. ''Keep out of sight!'' The black machine hovered briefly overhead and they could clearly hear the Order half-tracks roaring up and down the nearby road. Three more Tally-men raced past their hiding place and briefly the wind tugged their hoods back to reveal the shining metal of the Guides punched through their bald skulls. They flinched as a Guide sparked causing one of their pursuers to emit a howl of agony before he could draw his hood up again. ''What are they?'' Fierce whispered. ''I don't know,'' Shield shuddered as the strange figures moved into the next garden. ''But they scare me more than the Fathers do. They're like machines. What has the Order done to them? Did you see those metal things in their heads?'' ''But you got one, Shield,'' Mouse whispered proudly. ''Shhunk! Straight through the heart.'' ''Yes, I killed him,'' Shield said miserably. ''No matter what the Order did to him, he was still a living person, Mouse.'' ''No, there was nothing in his eyes,'' Fierce said, holding her sword at the ready. ''Mouse, watch out!'' she warned and lunged, piercing a huge rat that was about to bite her little sister on the leg. ''Gah! If I see another rat, I'll scream. They've got fat eating all the bodies.'' She started as baying howls were followed by bitter yelps of pain from a nearby garden. ''Sounds like those wild dogs tried to attack those men in the black raincoats,'' she observed. A few weeks previously they'd entered the drawing-room to find twenty dogs waiting out in the rainswept garden and staring into the house with a terrible hunger in their eyes. ''Let's hope they kill each other,'' she added, baring her teeth. ''What do we do?'' Mouse asked miserably as the ceaseless rain seeped through the branches and large drops splattered upon their heads and shoulders. ''We can't stay inside this tree we're soaked and there may be more wild dogs and rats about.'' ''The branches reach right down to the ground and hide us from the houses, Mouse,'' Fierce explained, taking her hand. ''We can't be seen but we can't make a run for it either as they're on both sides of us now and the river is too deep and too fast even if we could swim with our rucksacks and weapons.'' Shield squatted next to Mouse and put a reassuring arm around her shoulder. ''We'll have to wait for nightfall before we can move. They won't give up especially as I've killed one of them.'' ''We're lucky that they don't have dogs with them,'' Fierce noted. ''Sorry, Mouse she's right: we have to stay here.'' ''But I'm hungry and wet,'' Mouse grizzled. ''Shhh, dear heart,'' Shield soothed, cuddling her little sister. ''Be brave and keep quiet - for our parents' sake.'' It was the most miserable and frightening time as the three girls clung desperately to each other for warmth and respite from the relentless dripping water soaking them to the skin. The rotor-craft hovered above the tree for what seemed like forever before moving north. An hour later, a Father and three Brothers appeared to search the garden but they stopped by their tree to talk - they were so close that Mouse could have poked the nearest one with her spear. From their conversation, the cowering girls learnt of the true scale of the plague and how little the men of the Order thought of their billions of victims. They discovered what the Tally-men were and how they were created as Shield silently suppressed her retch reflexes. After smoking several cigarettes and debating the internal politics of the Order, the four men were discovered by an Abbot who angrily instructed them to resume the search. ''Blessed Jesus, save us,'' Shield whispered in horror after they'd left. ''They've created monsters to hunt us down.'' The noise of the rotor-craft and half-tracks faded as the grey twilight deepened and they crept into the house to spend an hour killing the rats infesting the rooms. Shield barricaded the rear door after throwing the carcasses out and drew the curtains before risking a lighted candle. It was a similar house to their old refuge and there were plenty of tins of ham and fruit in the kitchen. After they had eaten their fill, Shield was delighted to find that the propane gas heater in the utility room was still working and set out their saturated clothes and rucksacks to dry. She found a torch and went upstairs, keeping its light to the bare minimum so that she could safely draw the curtains. She discovered the gnawed remains of a family of four huddled together in one of the bedrooms where they'd died in each others' arms. ''Thank you for your food and forgive us our intrusion into your home,'' she whispered as she draped blankets and sheets over them. The bedroom ceiling had been punched through by the hail and the walls were soaking and thick with mildew and cobwebs. The stench and the flies were unbelievable and she couldn't close the door quickly enough after saying a prayer over the family. She sealed it shut with duct tape and used up three canisters of insecticide before the last blowfly in the upper rooms of the house dropped dead. She dragged mattresses downstairs and made up beds for them in the back room then sealed the door to the lounge below the bedroom of death because foul water and worse had saturated all the lounge walls and furnishings. Thus they spent a largely sleepless night by candle-light with the ceaseless roar of river and the rain in their ears and the incessant scratching of hungry rats in the wall cavities. Mouse finally drifted off but Fierce remained awake staring hard at her older sister as they sat up in their improvised beds. ''We can't stay here for long, can we?'' she said after a long silence. Shield shook her head as she thought about the words and the cruel laughter of the men of the Order. ''So those things are called Tally-men,'' she sighed. ''They tally the Unworthy." ''They said they actually cut into the brains of people that survive the plague and stick those metal things into what's left,'' Fierce shuddered, wrapping her arms about her knees. ''Ugh! I want Mum to wake me up and tell me that it was just a bad dream and everything will be alright.'' She paused as Mouse groaned in her sleep. ''I wish I could do that for Mouse as well.'' ''They've killed everyone,'' Shield said angrily. ''They've brought about the End of Days, Fierce. They did it not God!'' She gritted her teeth and fought back the tears. ''I don't feel sorry for that Tally-man anymore. You were right he'd already been killed by the Order so I what I did was an act of mercy.'' ''It was but how did you hit him?'' Fierce demanded suspiciously. ''I'm sure that the bow was not pointed at him when you fired the bolt. You should have missed him.'' ''No, you're mistaken,'' Shield replied slowly. ''I was aiming right at him otherwise how could I have hit him?'' ''I suppose so but I swear the bolt curved through the air,'' Fierce yawned as she stretched out. ''Set the alarm clock I think we should be away from here before it gets light. They won't be searching in the dark so we can relax for a while.'' ''You're right,'' Shield agreed. She had began to wonder why Fierce - who had barely eight years - seemed so completely at home in this situation. She smiled as she thought about how their mother had chosen her name, Hild, well for she was indeed a battle-maiden and her skill with her slender sword was astonishing. She was thinking how deeply the bolt had penetrated into the chest of the Tally-man when she too fell asleep despite the all-pervasive smell of death about them and the scrabbling of the rats. She awoke suddenly with her sisters tugging frantically at her arms. ''You didn't set the alarm, stupid!'' Fierce cried bitterly. ''It's daylight and the rotor-craft is hovering above us and those Tally-men are searching the houses. I think some of them are chasing people through the back gardens!'' Shield pulled back the curtain a fraction and saw three children running westwards across the garden. In the lead was a boy who had about ten years, carrying a sledgehammer and drenched with blood despite the rain. He was dragging a small red-haired child who was clinging onto a stuffed rabbit but she too was covered with blood. A pale, long-haired girl who had about nine years was running backwards behind them with two long red knives at the ready and watching their rear like a seasoned soldier. She was about to cry out to them when Fierce shushed her. ''You'll give us away and it looks like they've killed something.'' ''They were all bloody,'' Mouse agreed in hushed tones. A minute later, three boys who had about twelve years arrived to search the garden. They were dressed in the postulant robes of the Order and they heard them cry out that it was safe for any 'naughty' children hiding in the bushes to trust them as they would all be forgiven by the Brothers for killing a Tally-man. ''Liars!'' Fierce hissed, unsheathing her sword. ''Who are they fooling? They're as bad as the Tally-men. They're evil.'' ''They obviously know no better,'' Shield said sadly. ''Dad said it was called 'brain-cleansing' they're not allowed to think for themselves any more than those Tally-men can.'' ''They've found two children hiding in the shed,'' Mouse whispered urgently. ''It's a boy and a girl who have eight years. They're bringing them to a Father only he looks really angry with them. Oh, no he's drawn a knife!'' Shield placed her hands across her sisters' eyes but she could not drag her own eyes from that terrible scene as the Father took the knife and calmly slit the throats of the two children in front of the postulants. Shuddering, she finally managed to turn her head away only to see in the faint light, a large family photograph which included the two children she had just seen murdered. ''So that's who they were looking for,'' she groaned. ''Oh, God, receive them into your arms - they were just children like us!'' Fierce and Mouse forced her hands away from their eyes to watch as the Father led the postulants around the side of the house. One lingered and knelt to close the eyes of the two dead children and place a flower each upon their chests. They clearly saw that he was crying as he said a quick prayer over them. ''What's wrong, Shield?'' Fierce asked quietly, wiping the tears from her own cheeks. ''I thought I saw a light in your eyes!'' ''I am never going to forgive them,'' Shield gulped out between sobs. ''They were innocent. All they did wrong was to survive the slaughter but I couldn't help them,'' she added bitterly. ''I just stood here and did nothing.'' ''Don't blame yourself,'' Mouse said, hugging her arm. ''It's not your fault. You can't go out there and fight them. They'd kill you and then they'd kill me and Fierce.'' ''At least one of that filth had a soul left,'' Fierce noted. ''Brrr! Where's that strange wind coming from?'' Papers whirled about the room and the curtains billowed this way and that. She saw that Shield was staring into space and shook her roughly until she blinked and the strange breeze subsided. ''Shield! What's happening? You're frightening us!'' ''Oh, sorry, Fierce,'' Shield smiled, wiping her eyes. ''I was so angry that I thought my brain was going to explode.'' ''Those devils have gone so shall we bury them?'' ''Not yet,'' Shield said anxiously, clutching her crossbow. ''We have to be sure they won't come back and search the house.'' To her great relief, she watched the half-tracks and the rotor-craft depart and all was silent again but for the sound of the falling rain and the river. ''All these men and machines just to hunt down and kill two defenceless children,'' she said angrily as she rejoined her sisters. ''And had they not found them in the shed they would have searched the house and killed us as well.'' Mouse kept watch through the upstairs windows as her sisters dug the shallow grave. It was hard work because the ground was saturated but finally it was deep enough for them to bury the two children and the remains of their family from the bedroom. ''Go in and keep watch,'' Shield told her exhausted sister after they'd said a prayer together. ''Mouse can help me lay the turf.'' Shield planted a grave marker as Mouse placed flowers on the grave and added her own prayer. They were both muddy and stank to high heaven as they headed back to the house in the fading grey twilight. ''Well done, Mouse,'' she said, shouldering her cross-bow. ''Let's get cleaned up and have something to eat.'' There was a tall coalhouse close to the back door and as they passed it, a large hand shot out to grab Mouse by the scruff of her neck. ''I am Father Icarius,'' the exultant cleric announced, stepping out onto the path and smiling triumphantly at the astonished Shield. ''I just knew there were more of you Exodus brats around here - those two Unworthy vermin I Redeemed could not have possibly damaged a Tally-man like that.'' He put his other hand around Mouse's throat, making her choke. ''Now drop the crossbow, child, or I'll snap her scrawny little neck.'' Shield reluctantly lowered her crossbow slowly to the floor but Fierce emerged through the door and kept her sword pointed at him. A tall Brother appeared at Icarius's shoulder and laughed incredulously. ''Feisty little kit, isn't she, Father? I think Abbot Michael would like to dissect them. They're definitely related but it's rare for three siblings to survive even with the vaccine.'' ''True, Brother Bartholomew,'' Icarius grinned, revealing several gold teeth. ''It's your lucky day, children - you get to live a little longer than those brats you've just buried for us. Get the restraints from the half-track, my son. Our Judas-baits can play with them on our way back to the Great Abbey.'' ''Let her go or I'll kill you!'' Fierce snarled, undaunted. Mouse gurgled in terror as he squeezed her throat. ''Drop your sword and those nasty little knives or she dies now.'' Fierce shrugged but she did not lower the sword. ''If she dies then I'll kill you slowly. Hell will have to wait a little longer.'' ''Delightful!'' he laughed as Bartholomew returned to his side. ''Pious will have such fun breaking you three. But seriously, you Unworthy little rat, you have no choice aieee!'' he screamed and released Mouse to stare down in disbelief at the hilts of two knives she'd embedded deeply in his thighs. ''You little bitch!'' he cursed and reached inside his coat for his handgun. Shield was faster. Having laid the crossbow carefully over her right foot, she hoisted it up into the air, grabbed it and fired in one fluid motion. She scrabbled at her arm-shield for a second bolt as the stunned Bartholomew watched Icarius collapse into a gurgling heap with a bolt through his neck. He snarled and drew his dart-gun as Shield desperately reloaded but Fierce had already leapt forward. He halted and looked down into the merciless eyes of an Unworthy child who had just driven a sharp, slim blade up under his sternum and pierced his heart. Shield finished reloading her bow then dragged Mouse to her feet as Fierce withdrew her sword, leaving Bartholomew to fall alongside Icarius. She retrieved their rucksacks from the house then she picked up Mouse's spear, calmly tore the bolt from Icarius's neck and yanked Mouse's knives from his legs. As Fierce supported Mouse who was rubbing at her throat, Shield wiped her knives and placed them in the sheaths. ''Well done, dear heart,'' she smiled and kissed her on the forehead as their mother had often done at bedtime. ''It's not over yet we have to keep running. Can you be brave for just a while longer?'' ''Yes,'' Mouse nodded, staring at the bodies. ''How many more bad men have we got to kill before they'll leave us alone?'' ''As many as it takes,'' Shield told her. ''Put on your rucksacks - we have a lot more running to do before we're safe.'' Luckily for them, the half-track was parked some distance away so the three sisters were already several gardens away to the west before the bodies were discovered and a pursuit organised. ''Where are we going?'' Fierce puffed as they clambered over yet another boundary wall. ''Mouse can't take much more that brute almost strangled her.'' ''I'm tough ouch!'' Mouse gasped, toppling into the garden. Shield called a brief halt amongst the bushes of their original refuge and checked her crossbow and quiver. The urge to go back into a place they'd made their home was almost overwhelming but she knew full well that the Order would expect to find them there. ''Goodbye, Mister Helfburn,'' she said to the ghost of the old man who was on the verandah and waving to her. ''Thank you for your house and your hospitality.'' ''Can you see his ghost?'' Mouse asked in a frightened voice. ''I hate ghosts - there must be lots of them with everyone dead.'' ''No, silly, I was just paying my respects,'' Shield said but she did indeed see the old man now sitting in Fierce's chair and raising a glass in a farewell toast. She closed her eyes and the image was gone when she opened them again but it took the sound of an approaching rotor-craft to spur her back into action. ''Come on,'' she urged. ''We're going to follow those children we saw.'' ''How can you tell we're on the right trail?'' Fierce demanded as they climbed over a high stone wall. Shield pointed to a red smear on one of the stones that the incessant rain had not yet washed away. ''They were drenched in blood,'' she said bluntly. ''If they can fight as well as us, we'll join up with them to have a better chance of surviving. Mouse?'' ''Yes, Shield?'' Mouse panted. ''Be brave. Just a little further.'' Finally, they climbed over the last wall and dropped down into Cartwright Road which ran straight on into the centre of Crawcester. Feeling dreadfully exposed, Shield scooped Mouse up and they ran across the road and dived into the rear lanes that serviced the terraced houses of the less opulent Wright's Quarter of the city. They pressed themselves against a wall as another rotor-craft roared low overhead, deafening them. Shield noticed the bloody imprint of a child's hand on a sheltered part of a wall next to a door that led into one of the rear gardens. She unlatched it but she could only open it a fraction as someone had barricaded it on the other side. ''They're in here,'' she said excitedly. ''We'll have to climb over into the garden.'' Suddenly a movement on the top of the wall caught her attention and she turned to see a boy jumping down at her with a sledge-hammer raised above his head and murder in his eyes -------------------------------------------------------------------------- (c) 2012-13 Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright protected.
Archived comments for Chapter 26: First Kills
Mikeverdi on 23-07-2016
Chapter 26: First Kills
Still with you, playing catch up😊
Mike

Author's Reply:
Appreciated, Mike - i am still getting pelnty of reads from merciless blagging on Facebook but they don't comment or read other's work on site which is a bit disappointing. Onwards!

Savvi on 26-07-2016
Chapter 26: First Kills
I would buy this mitch the writing is top draw and I love all tiny details and dialogue, so enough encouragement as a reader I found I wanted to lift my head up, to be above the drama and get more of a sense of the vista and the surroundings, you may have done this previously and I have walked in cold and please take this as a humble suggestion to a very accomplished body of work...damn you I will have to read them all now. you are very talented. Keith

Author's Reply:
Hi Keith - thank you for your kind words and encouragement The previous chapters lay the foundations fot this third part of the back stories of these remarkable Scatterling sisters - how these children learn to kill or be killed in a grim post-apocalyptic world... It was odd as I started fleshing out the characters as their back-stories virtually wrote themselves as flashbacks. It's an old trick - pretend you're eavesdropping on them and let the dialogue 'happen'... Mitch


Chapter 25: Intruder (posted on: 11-07-16)
Chapter 25 of the Light-Father: as the storm rages, Harold and the Scatterlings struggle to get their only hope of salvation ready: the Phoenix locomotive. Then Fierce notices that a spy has slipped into the building but what is he after?

After the meal, the shed became a bustle of activity as buckets of coal were ferried in from the nearby fuel stores leaving all the children soaked and soot-smeared as the storm raged above the sheds. Because of the intense lightning and nearby ground strikes, Harold had to stop working on the Phoenix to tend to the generator and every now and then a strip light exploded making Pup and Rabbit yell and rush about chasing the falling sparks. Saul and Ibrahim peered into the water compartment in the locomotive tender as Harold clambered into the cab having finished his inspection of the pistons, drive wheels and controls. ''How in the Virgin's name are we going to fill this?'' Saul demanded. ''It would take us days to fill this up with buckets.'' ''I'm sure you'll think of something!'' Harold called from inside the firebox. He was trying to check it with a torch but he was struggling to keep the curious Pup and the giggling Rabbit from climbing inside. ''It looks fine in here,'' he declared. ''Thank God they'd finished all the internal work.'' ''Everything is polished as new,'' Pup grinned as Harold placed a driver's cap on his head that he'd found wedged behind the water gauge in the cab. ''Pup has a new toy to play with!'' ''And me too!'' Rabbit laughed as she played with the controls. ''Rabbit's train goes as fast as lightning! Whooosh!'' ''What about the water, Light-Father?'' Saul insisted. Ibrahim listened intently to the rain hammering down upon on the ridged roof above their heads for a moment then pointed to drain pipes, gutters and joints stacked up against one of the walls. ''They must have been planning to replace the water goods on the outside of the shed,'' he said thoughtfully, gazing up at the high windows. ''If we can open one of those windows and divert the gutter water down here through a network of pipes, we can fill the water tank in no time.'' ''Good thinking, lads,'' Harold grinned up at them. ''Don't forget to sieve all the moss and leaves out of the water.'' ''Aren't you going to help us?'' Ibrahim demanded. ''Not me,'' Harold shrugged. ''The water injector under the cabin is not fully reconnected hopefully that was the last job they were working on before the plague struck. It won't take me long but I will have to do that while you two work out the plumbing of your aqueduct. Don't forget that pipes get heavy and sag when filled with water,'' he reminded them cheerfully. Ibrahim and Saul stomped off grumbling to each other as he jumped down to select some spanners and wrenches from the tool box. Fern had changed Mouse's dressings and approached to talk to him but the smile on her face painfully reminded him of Andrea when he'd first met her at a music club ten years ago. She paused and stared at him with her head tilted to one side. ''Yes?'' he said irritably as Pup and Rabbit clambered up onto the roof of the cab to join Eliza and Jacob in a frenzied game of pat-a-cake. ''I wish you wouldn't keep looking at me like that - it's unsettling. I keep thinking you're poking about in my head which is a gross invasion of privacy by the way!'' ''Oh, I'm not reading your mind all the time,'' she teased. ''It's just that I've never met anyone like you.'' She pointed at the two youths laying out the pipes. ''You've made Saul and Ibrahim work together and you're working while keeping Pup and Rabbit amused.'' Her smile widened into a broad, excited grin. ''I find your world fascinating. Your cities are so big compared to ours and you went to the Moon! Your Britannia is twice the size of ours and Heofland was full of people not ghosts but thanks to Schimrian, all Gaia is like Heofland now'' ''I wish you wouldn't read my mind,'' he said angrily. ''It's bad enough me agreeing to lead these kids on a suicide mission without you rummaging through my miserable excuse for a life.'' ''You are truly an unusual man,'' she sighed. ''You have a mind full of equations, machines and art but you have a heart and compassion that I can never equal for all that I love my Ferals and my sisters of the craft. I am ashamed to admit that I have never experienced the love you once felt for your wife nor the bitter pain in your heart from the loss of your child'' He sat down heavily on the cab step and wiped his oily hands with a rag. ''Please, Fern, let me have some privacy,'' he begged. ''I have just learnt to love these children as a father and now you and Mother Moss want me to sacrifice them in an assault on the Great Abbey. Yes, I know these kids are good fighters and Mother Moss spent years preparing them for this but I'm no general I'm just a technician; a humble fixer of broken things.'' ''You are far more than you know, Light-Father,'' she said, her face suddenly grim. ''This is why Moss chose you. Pup and Rabbit up there are no longer afraid; Saul and Ibrahim are no longer rivals but brothers-in-arms; Mouse has been saved'' ''Uh-huh,'' he nodded, trying to change the subject. ''How is Mouse? Is she sleeping?'' ''Yes, she's doing well,'' Fern nodded gravely. ''I also gave Shield a sleeping-draught as she wanted to help but she hasn't recovered her full strength yet. Look over there - Amos and Surl are working with Fria and Peter on preparing and cleaning all their weapons and drying out the spare clothes. Do they look like helpless children to you? You cured Amos of a terrible affliction, Light-Father - you allowed light to finally enter his heart and dispel the darkness that was devouring him body and soul. Ah, he is actually holding Fria's hands and now Surl'' ''Has shoved them apart!'' he laughed. ''It's good to see some normal sibling jealousy from them. Ah, and now Surl is making eyes at Peter and trying to hug him - the poor boy can't run fast enough. I really must make that hand for him'' ''You must realise by now that the only hope for the future of this entire world lies in these children and you.'' ''You say there's no alternative but I don't want to lose any of them,'' he protested. ''Why can't I just find them a safe place and let this Order build their damned Jerusalem?'' ''There is no safe place for them!'' Fern said angrily, startling the children playing on the cab roof so that four frightened faces peered down over the edge at them. She drew a deep breath and forced a reassuring smile onto her face. ''These children have faith in their Mother Moss and so should we. She loved these children enough to sacrifice her own life to protect them so do you think for one second she would let them all perish in a hopeless cause?'' ''No, but we're facing hundreds of Brothers, Tally-men, rotor-craft, weapons and those begiullers.'' ''Her power of foresight was without equal in all the history of the Motherhood,'' Fern pointed out. ''I have misgivings in my heart too but we have no choice the only thing we can do to survive is to attack the Great Abbey itself.'' ''Yes, I know this,'' he admitted wearily. ''Whoa! Bas!'' he exclaimed, his heart missing a beat as the cat-girl leapt from girder to girder. ''What the hell are you doing up there? You'll fall!'' ''You must be joking, Light-Father,'' Fierce laughed as she joined them. ''Now watch Ibrahim throw that rope up to her.'' ''They are intriguing children,'' Fern noted sadly. ''Genetically engineered by their own parents'' ''I've never seen anything like them,'' he agreed as Ibrahim hurled the coil of rope up to the ceiling with unbelievable force and accuracy to be caught by Bas who was now hanging upside down from a girder. ''I can't watch,'' he declared as he knelt to work on the water injector. ''Fierce, you can be my mate for this?'' ''Mate, Light-Father?'' she said, shocked. ''As in parents?'' ''No, silly, a mate can mean a friend or an assistant in my world,'' he explained patiently as a familiar pain lanced across his temples. ''Apprentice is a better word. You hand me the tools as I work. What will you be doing, Fern?'' ''I will prepare them some supper then tend to Peter's arm and get Mouse to eat. She's remarkable in that she's healing faster than any child I've ever seen. Then I want to talk to Surl I prefer Rebecca so why is she now insisting on Surl?'' ''I'm not happy about it either,'' he shrugged. ''She says she is so used to being called Surl that she prefers it now. At least it's her choice and not her brother's anymore. She tells me that she considers Rebecca to be another child from another life.'' ''Surl it shall be then,'' Fern sighed. ''She seems content in herself so she should be able to bear such a dark name'' ''Wait a second,'' he said. ''You said my Britannia was twice the size of this one. Is the geography that different here?'' Fierce ran over to where Kai was sketching and grabbed a map off the workbench, ''The land all fell to the sea a long time ago,'' she said on returning and displayed the map to him. ''The sun suddenly grew in strength,'' Fern explained, pointing to the coastlines. ''All the ice melted and the sea level rose four chains. Britannia lost a lot of land beneath the meres and its empire as well. We have since been invaded by the Franks, Finns, Russians and Austro-Germans but we've fought them off. All that history,'' she sighed, shaking her head. ''It means nothing now.'' ''Then we'll make our own history,'' Fierce declared. ''We'll make the Order come to an end, Light-Father.'' She looked resolute as she stared at him but she suddenly dissolved into tears. ''But I'm scared. I know the spirit of Mother Moss is looking after us but she told me that wait!'' she cried. She drew her sword in a blur of motion. ''There's someone in the foreman's office and I know it's not one of us. We have a spy!'' She sprinted off at an astonishing speed towards the foreman's office but it was at the far western end of the cavernous shed. A shadowy figure emerged from the office and vanished through the side door before she could reach him. Bas was also leaping from girder to girder above her head but she too was unable to get to the door in time to catch the intruder. ''It must have been that Father Bucheort or some Tally-man!'' Fierce yelled, flinging open the door but nothing could be seen outside, even with the flashes of lightning, as the rain and hail were falling with relentless monsoon ferocity. Harold gaped as Bas calmly dropped from the girders to land nimbly next to Fierce. She knelt to sniff at the door frame. ''I smell Tally-man,'' she declared. ''Electrics - the rain is frying his Guides and there's blood even with rain as heavy as this. This Tally-man was soaked in blood, Light-Father. It may even be David.'' ''It might be him,'' Harold conceded. ''But whoever it is was fast on his feet. I think there's no point tracking him in this rain even if we know he's probably going to Druid's Lane.'' ''What was he after?'' Fern demanded. ''There's only my bag and your devices on the desk in there. If it was a scout, what would they gain by searching our belongings?'' ''Maybe they want information on me,'' he suggested. ''Is anything missing?'' Fierce said as the others arrived. ''You'd better check your tools and your utility belt.'' ''They're back there,'' Harold said. ''All that's here are spare clothes I got from the lockers and some electronic equipment that I didn't need to work on the Phoenix.'' Fern quickly checked her shoulder-bag and shrugged. ''My staff was moved but none of my medicinal potions were taken.'' Harold rummaged through his collection of computer chips each of which would have been worth a fortune had this world not been destroyed. ''Three specialised computer chips are gone,'' he said, fear gnawing at his heart. ''Who the hell in this world could possibly know what they are?'' ''What's so special about these 'chips'?'' Fern asked. ''What are these 'chips' anyway? Splinters of wood with circuitry upon them? They sound complex and very technical.'' ''They are. Computers in my world got smaller and more powerful until whole computers could fit on a silicon wafer or chip no bigger than your smallest fingernail,'' Harold explained, holding one up for her to inspect. ''Each of these is a powerful computer but the ones that were stolen were prototypes for the next revolution in computing. Instead of screens and keyboards, they could be used to transmit data directly into the human brain and vice versa.'' ''Blessed Jesus,'' Saul gasped, his eyes widening. ''Where would the human end and the machine begin?'' ''A lot of people in my world are asking that question,'' Harold agreed. ''The three chips were coated with enzymes that encourage neurones to regenerate and grow into them. They were being used in tests to restore full limb sensation and motor control to paralysed people. Imagine if you snapped or damaged your spinal cord these chips could be inserted to act as neural bridges.'' ''You've made Jesus-machines,'' Amos said in awe. ''You're getting the paralysed to pick up their beds and walk!'' ''That's the idea,'' Harold nodded. ''But who in this world would know what they are and how to use them?'' ''The Great Computer would know,'' Kai said after some thought. ''It designed the Guides but they're crude and seriously scar what's left of the brain tissue over time - which is why Tally-men are such soulless puppets.'' ''So what would a self-aware computer want with chips that are designed to connect to neural tissue on a molecular level?'' Harold wondered. ''I can't think of a single use for them in a world with this level of technology. The Great Computer may have a super-advanced core but it still interfaces with basic equipment.'' ''Maybe it could use these chips to make a generation of smarter and more efficient Tally-men?'' Kai suggested. ''They would not require so much lobotomising for a start.'' ''No, Kai, they would never produce Tally-men who could think for themselves,'' Saul retorted. ''Schimrian would regard them as a threat. Whatever they're planning to do with this technology, Light-Father, I know in my soul that we won't like it.'' Harold stared at the door. ''Me neither,'' he said. Bas bared her pointed teeth at them in frustration. ''So why are we standing here like pillars of salt?" she hissed. "As soon as this storm passes, they'll be coming for us!'' ------------------------------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012 - 2013 All copyrights protected.
Archived comments for Chapter 25: Intruder
Mikeverdi on 12-07-2016
Chapter 25: Intruder
Thanks for another enthralling episode 😀
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike.... action starts picking up with the rest of the Tale of the Three Sisters next!


Chapter 24: Opposite of Saturn (posted on: 08-07-16)
Chapter 24 of the Light Father: The Scatterlings pick up the pieces and rest from their ordeal. Fern cooks them a meal then Harold learns enough from Kai to realise the Great Computer is not only evil but alive...

Harold and Mother Fern were drenched to the skin by the time they'd salvaged adequate food and medical supplies from the pulverised wreckage of the wagons. The only other thing that had miraculously survived intact was Saul's game of Fifteens everything else had been destroyed by the thousands of heavy-calibre bullets. He found it awkward spending time with the enigmatic Wiccan as her habit of finishing his sentences made him suspect that she was telepathically dipping into his mind. He felt naked in the presence of an angel and he knew all too well that she was enjoying herself immensely by flirting with him. He next took Saul, Amos, Fria and Ibrahim back out to the ruined caravans to search for any weapons and clothes left behind. It was difficult work as the rain was mixed with hail so large that it stung both head and body. The light was fading fast as the storm intensified but as they'd found only a handful of knives, a hand-axe and a bent sword, he called a halt. As they retreated, three massive lightning bolts impacted the iron walls and gates sending up vast showers of sparks across the remnants of the Keep. ''Please, God!'' Saul cried out, shaking his fist at the raging heavens. ''Don't forsake us like this - haven't we suffered enough?'' Once inside the shed, Harold impressed Fern by quickly rigging up an industrial heater to dry their clothes. He then used welding equipment to make a large coal-fired grill and as he worked, he made the Scatterlings and the Ferals search all the nooks, cubbies and crannies of the vast building where they found a treasure trove of mugs, saucepans, cutlery and plates belonging to the long dead workforce. ''Ha! I haven't done this for an age,'' Fern laughed as she set about cooking them a hot meal on the grill while Saul and Ibrahim heaved two large workbenches together to make them all a dinner table next to the Phoenix. Harold got Pup to hold a torch for him as he carefully fired up the massive emergency generator. There was a huge cheer as the overhead lighting came on followed by shrieks as three lamps exploded spectacularly. ''Sorry! My mistake!'' he shouted across to them. ''I'm not used to the voltages in this world!'' ''What's a volt-age, Light-Father?'' Pup demanded eagerly. ''It's the potential energy difference in the electric circuits that drives the current through the'' Harold halted and looked down at Pup's baffled face. ''Oh, never mind,'' he smiled. ''If we get through this, I'll teach you how it all works. I promise.'' ''Yes, Pup wants to learn. Pup wants to learn everything.'' ''But first we need to eat, Pup. It smells delicious.'' ''Mmmm. Mother Fern is making magic.'' Harold sat down and was impressed that the two benches had been covered with a large square of clean white linen that Fria and Amos had discovered in the canteen. He watched, chin on hand, as Surl and Peter set out the cutlery and plates then Amos added Christ Mass decorations he'd found in a box in one of the lockers. Streamers, tinsel and festive candles soon covered the improvised dining-table, transforming it into something wonderful. Fern sat them all down with difficulty as the younger ones were getting over-excited by pretending it was Christ Mass for real and demanding presents. She and Fierce dished out the food then she recited a brief Wiccan prayer over them all. ''May Gaia and God bless you and our meal today,'' she smiled with her arms outstretched. ''May the four elements of nature, the quintessence, the Sun, the Moon and all the planets guide our footsteps onto paths of good fortune and good health. May our hearts and souls shine forth with the light of love and dispel all doubt and darkness.'' Harold found them all staring at him. ''Well, what are you waiting for?'' he said awkwardly. ''Eat!'' ''It's a custom in this world,'' Fern explained as she sat down on the chair to his right. ''At formal family meals and especially at Christ Mass, the father or the head of the household has to say something inspirational before anyone can eat.'' Harold stood and clattered noisily as he had forgotten to remove his cumbersome utility belt. ''Ah, excuse me,'' he muttered, red-faced. He undid the buckle and placed the belt next to his sword on the floor. ''Look, I know we're all worried about going to the Great Abbey,'' he began. ''But the more I learn of Mother Moss, the more I am learning to trust her foresight and her judgement. I have not been your Light-Father long but, as a father, I could not be prouder of my new family and I am sure we will go on to honour her wishes and her memory. Now let's eat or Mother Fern's efforts will be wasted!'' He was impressed that none of them touched their food until he'd savoured his first mouthful. ''Well, Light-Father?'' Fern prompted anxiously. ''Do you find it acceptable or have I added too many herbs and spices?'' ''Not at all. This food is amazing,'' he grinned. ''I can't believe there were any fresh potatoes left in this world and you've put butter on them! Where did you get all these ingredients and this fresh meat from? You only brought one shoulder bag with you.'' ''It was heavy enough,'' she smiled. ''Have you forgotten your dream about the Hill Where It Never Rains?'' ''Ah, yes, I remember you had gardens and farm animals there but it can't be easy to grow food in this climate.'' He stopped eating and looked at her suspiciously. ''Wait, are you telling me that you have the power to control the weather?'' ''No, I am not,'' Fern smiled sweetly then she indicated the decorated table and the children wolfing down their food. ''Amos, Fria and Surl have done well. Bless these children - they've earned this brief respite from death and danger, have they not?'' ''They have and even Amos and Ibrahim are smiling. You've brought a little magic into their lives today despite the Order, their Inquisitions and their black rotor-craft.'' Fern leaned close to him and whispered words into his ear that both thrilled and chilled him to the core. ''You are far too modest - you made it possible for these children to be children for just one more day and therein lies your true magic.'' She placed her hand over his heart. ''You are so full of love and concern for your new family that it puts me and my sisters to shame.'' He blushed furiously and was unable to reply so he turned instead to watch Fria and Bas helping Jacob and Eliza to eat - their hands had been so badly deformed by the plague that they could not hold a spoon or a fork. ''I can't believe that men of the cloth could do something this vile to children,'' he muttered angrily. ''We could do nothing to stop them,'' Fern sighed. ''You can't imagine how we helpless we felt when the plague began.'' Eliza was pathetically grateful for the assistance but she kept crying in frustration until Fria scolded her gently: ''You haven't changed, Eliza you'll do anything for a cuddle.'' ''Not so hard, Eliza!'' Bas warned as the Feral's heartfelt hug left Fria gasping for breath. ''She's going a funny colour!'' Harold whispered to Shield who was sat to his left. ''Have any of them said anything to you about the Great Abbey? Ibrahim and Amos are always up for a fight but even Saul is looking forward to this suicide mission. I need to understand why everyone accepts the fact that we're going to do something completely insane.'' Shield lowered her spoon and leant forward to look at Fern who nodded at her to speak. ''As you said earlier, we grew to trust Mother Moss over the years,'' she said quietly. ''She would always talk to us about fighting back against the Order and their Tally-men. She told us that this day would come and that we would have to trust to her craft and step willingly into the jaws of death so that we may survive. You know that if we don't do this, the Brothers and the Tally-men will hunt us down and kill us anyway.'' ''Don't forget, Light-Father, that she foresaw the manner of her own death,'' Fern reminded him. ''Yet she did not flee her fate and abandon these children to Schimrian.'' ''Are you suggesting I would do that?'' he demanded sharply. ''I'm beginning to realise that she did more than just train and nurture these children, she subliminally conditioned them!'' ''Yet they trust you as much as they did her,'' Fern said simply. ''You are their Light-Father. Yes, what is it, Shield?'' ''She would tell us of a day like this but she did not warn us of her Inquisition and death until it was upon us. She forbade us from helping her against so many Fathers and Brothers but she taught us well. She made us all practice for hours every day with our weapons. We may be 'kids' as you call us, Light-Father, but even before she appeared, we've always known in our hearts that our only chance of survival is for someone to stop Schimrian. Then you came to us in that light and we truly believed'' ''Moss may have foreseen or somehow arranged for your arrival but she did not mention this Great Computer to us,'' Fern said thoughtfully. ''This troubles me.'' ''I don't know how this 'craft' of yours works but she was no technician so she may not have realised how a computer could make the Revelation Virus possible,'' Harold suggested. ''Kai reckons that some of the Abbots and Brothers know a lot more about it than they let on to the rest of the Order and from what he's told me so far, I think this Great Computer might be an A.I.'' ''What is an 'A.I.'?'' Shield asked as Fern, Kai and Saul leant forward to listen attentively. ''From what I've seen here in the offices, your computers are not very sophisticated,'' Harold explained, holding up his mobile. ''This phone is more powerful than all the office computers in this yard and probably Crawcester put together. My world was twenty years ahead of yours in technology and we were well on the way to producing powerful computers capable of artificial intelligence the initials are A.I. in my language and that's what I think this Great Computer is. It's the only logical explanation.'' ''I wondered why Abbot Michael would always talk about it as a person,'' Kai said. ''He would always say things like 'oh, the Great Computer doesn't want it done that way' and 'the Great Computer insisted on designing the begiullers this way.' We were never allowed into the Great Annex to see it for ourselves.'' ''How could something this sophisticated suddenly appear in a world with such limited technology?'' Harold wondered aloud. ''For something that devastating to appear in time to make the madness of the Order a reality can't be a coincidence.'' ''Many Orders believed that a Divine Balance governs evolution and by extension all forms of conflict and struggle,'' Fern said. ''Some claimed that God even arranges wars and disasters to bring down dictators and empires that grow too powerful.'' ''What if this Great Computer did originate in another highly-advanced reality?'' Harold suggested. ''If it did design the virus then something profoundly evil must have bought it here just as Mother Moss or some other agency brought me.'' ''The Order was extremely advanced and covert in medicine and genetics well before the advent of computing,'' Kai argued. ''So they could have developed such devices in secret.'' ''I doubt it,'' Harold replied thoughtfully. ''You said that they amassed great wealth through medicine but computers like that require quantum leaps in technology that are way beyond a single organisation. I can't see such devices being kept secret for long when they would profoundly revolutionise computing.'' ''I remember once when I brought refreshments to the Great-Abbot, I entered his office without knocking,'' Kai said brightly. ''He was very angry and made me wait outside in the corridor. It puzzled me greatly so I put my ear to the door and I could hear that he was talking to someone with a strange accent but I could not make out what they were saying. When he had finished, he let me in and rebuked me soundly for my rudeness.'' ''Pah!'' Saul exclaimed incredulously. ''He berates you for forgetting to knock a door after slaughtering billions.'' Kai was looking intently at Harold with fear in his eyes. ''I recall now - he wasn't talking to the Inquisitors on a video-link but to the one screen that directly accesses the Great Computer.'' ''If you're right,'' Harold exclaimed. ''Then Schimrian really does have an interactive A.I. working for him. Is it connected to all the other computers in the Order?'' Kai nodded. ''It's linked to everything. Its core is mounted inside a hexagonal structure in the Great Annex and it's connected to all the huge slave-computers lining the walls. It has computer terminals all around its base but only the chosen few ever get inside the pillar to see the innards of the machine.'' ''Does it control the Tally-men?'' Harold asked. ''If it does, then we could cripple the Order by destroying it.'' ''The barracks computers directly control the Tally-men but the Great Computer overrides them,'' Kai said eagerly. ''It also controls the construction of equipment like the begiuller and the plasma-grenades. The Father-Technicians and Brother-Technicians who service the Great Annex are housed in separate barracks from the rest of the Order. They are an elite supervised directly by Abbot Michael and Abbot Camus who are in charge of the factories, laboratories, cells, rotor-craft and all the Redemption activities of the Order in the Great Abbey and throughout all Britannia.'' ''What would happen if those two Abbots were killed?'' ''They are highly intelligent men, Light-Father, the cream of the breeding programs. They strive to keep all the technical knowledge to themselves in the hope that Schimrian won't Redeem them if they do. If they die, the Order in Britannia would be thrown into chaos and Schimrian would have to recall two equivalent Abbots or train and promote two Fathers to replace them. He would find it almost impossible to do this as he never allows more than two Abbots to reside at the Great Abbey at any one time.'' ''He sounds completely paranoid but that's what I'd expect from a murdering megalomaniac. He's obviously afraid that one of his cronies might challenge his hold over the Order.'' Kai nodded. ''Father Bucheort was one of the revered Conclave of Christ who engineered the Revelation Virus. The others are Pious, Amherus, Prideri, Grame and Kennet. Bucheort and Pious were Fathers at the time but Pious is an Abbot now. Schimrian trusts him but keeps him in the field conducting Inquisitions.'' ''Good. Schimrian's paranoia works in our favour by weakening the command structure. Can you draw a plan of the Great Abbey and mark down where everybody is stationed? I'd like to know what we'll be up against when we storm the place.'' ''I'm coming with you,'' Kai declared suddenly, looking at both Shield and Fern for support. ''There was no need for the Order to kill my family, the Aldermen and the Conclave of Architects like that. We believed in them completely but we were betrayed.'' ''And what if they'd been spared?'' Saul erupted. ''You would have been content to let everyone else in the world die as long as you and your precious family were allowed to live! You can't come with us because I don't trust you!'' ''You can trust him, Saul,'' Fern said bluntly. ''His family were slain and he knows that they will Redeem him if he ever returns. Don't forget that I can reach into people's souls, Saul. Would you like me to reach into yours?'' she suggested pleasantly. Saul went as white a sheet. ''No,'' he huffed. ''I've done things I will regret for the rest of my life, Mother Fern. I don't need you to drag them up for me as they're burnt into my soul for all eternity.'' He knelt to undo the hobble he'd tied around Kai's ankles. ''Listen well, Kai - if you betray us, I will kill you.'' Kai rubbed at his ankles. ''I know you will, Saul, but hear this: I expect to die for my sins. You have my word - in the name of all my family who died through Revelation, I will never betray you. Give me a weapon and I will gladly die in battle for you.'' Saul was about to voice his disbelief when Harold raised a hand to forestall him. ''That's enough!'' he grated. ''Finish your meal then you're all going to spend the rest of the evening helping me to get the Phoenix ready if we can't get her going by the time this storms ends, we're not going anywhere.'' Saul flinched as a lightning bolt struck the ground near the open doors. He waited for the deafening concussion to subside. ''We can't fix a locomotive by tomorrow,'' he protested ''Yes, we can!'' Harold said in such a loud voice that all the merriment at the table ceased. ''If Mother Moss wanted us to go the Great Abbey to take on the Order then we either get the Phoenix to work or we wait here for the Order to come and kill us.'' He looked at the fear and misery in the faces of the young ones and relented. He went to a nearby bench and plugged in a radio and quickly connected the wires from his phone output lead into the amplifier. For the next hour, the Children of Exodus ate, laughed and occasionally danced to the songs of another reality. ''You truly are the opposite of Saturn,'' Fern smiled, placing a hand on his arm. ''Where there is sadness, you bring such joy.'' ----------------------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-13 copyright protected
Archived comments for Chapter 24: Opposite of Saturn
Mikeverdi on 10-07-2016
Chapter 24: Opposite of Saturn
And on we go, learning more every chapter. Still reading and still enjoying. So pleased you are getting the reads.
Mike




Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike - it's because I am constantly begging my Facebook followers to take pity on me! It's such a rich world that I want to explore but some readers tell me I have too many lulls and not enough action but I want to bring out all the back-stories to these amazing kids and the Wiccans.

Mikeverdi on 11-07-2016
Chapter 24: Opposite of Saturn
There is always a problem with how much to tell. When we post novels in parts there are bound to be parts without action, make these parts shorter is one way around this. An edit in these areas would solve this. It's always difficult as this is a world you created. Given the whole book in one segment, and the information passages would fit into context. I had the same problem with Webber. I took the advise I'm offering you from the critique. That said, I am still enjoying the story.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chapter 23: Omens (posted on: 04-07-16)
Chapter 23: At the Great Abbey, Great Abbot Schimrian is displeased with Abbot Michael who fears for his life while conveying the news of Bucheort and the loss of the two Angels. Later, the Great Computer begins to reveal its true nature having crucified Father Bucheort...

''What news of Crawcester, my son?'' Schimrian enquired with a faint smile. The obese Abbot Michael standing before him swallowed nervously for he knew full well that the Great-Abbot was quoting from 'Seven Cardinal Sins' - a famous religious tragedy by Thomas Tythe. In the final act, Cardinal Bancheron lays a trap for the treacherous and depraved Bishop Manswick - shortly before having him executed. ''What plots and schemes mature?'' ''Um, as soon as you informed us of Father Bucheort's failed Inquisition,'' Michael reported, studying the Great-Abbot's face closely for clues as to his mood. ''We despatched our best two rotor-craft crews as you requested, Eminence, but um'' ''Yes, my son?'' Schimrian demanded, irritated by Michael's constant pausing. ''Did they carry out the attack or not?'' ''Um a short while ago, Eminence, they radioed to say that they had indeed commenced their holy mission but'' Michael halted again to force himself to stop wringing his hands. ''we have since lost contact with them. We fear the storm has forced them down in the west of the city um, and disabled their radios. I will inform you the moment we re-establish communication.'' ''No, my son, you will not be able to contact them,'' Schimrian said flatly. ''For no radio wave can pierce the Gates of Heaven.'' ''Um, I'm sorry, Eminence? I'm afraid I don't understand. We've never lost a single Angel on a mission of Inquisition before. They are the most advanced rotor-craft in the world and we make sure each one is inspected before we send them out.'' ''I'm sure you and Abbot Camus have the utmost diligence in that regard,'' Schimrian smiled a rare accolade that gave Michael a faint ray of hope. ''But as I have explained to you, their target was the site of a strange electro-magnetic anomaly identified by Azrael as a possible danger to the Order. With Bucheort so easily defeated, we must assume that the threat identified by Azrael is far more potent than we could ever have imagined.'' ''Surely before God, these witches could not possibly bring down two heavily-armoured rotor-craft!'' Schimrian pursed his lips then exhaled noisily. ''You have never been in the field against these creatures, my son, or you would not be so sceptical. I cannot describe the bewitchments we encountered at that cursed spot when we Inquired of Mother Moss; the most powerful of these satanic abominations! She lived alone at this site, estranged from her coven and defenceless, yet she killed many with her arcane arts before we Redeemed her.'' ''Then with all due respect, Eminence, why?'' Schimrian's eyes narrowed at Michael's presumption. ''Why did I send two rotor-craft without support, you were about to say?'' A peal of thunder made the masonry of the ancient Great Manse tremble causing a rain of fine dust to fall from the ceiling. Michael did not notice as his attention was exclusively focussed upon the Great-Abbot. ''I know I advised that the approaching s-storm made it impossible to send forth our ground forces in time but'' ''But what, my son? We had to strike before our enemy could move and normally our Angels would have sufficed. The odds of both craft being forced down and losing radio contact are virtually zero even in a storm as fierce as this - therefore we now know that a powerful force awaits us in Crawcester and Azrael was correct. I am recalling Abbot Pious to Inquire of them personally.'' ''P-pious? I s-see,'' Michael stammered. He always dreaded interviews with Schimrian and he and Camus had taken to speculating that the Great-Abbot was becoming unhinged and increasingly dangerous. ''I m-meant no disrespect, Eminence um, it's just that I do not have your experience in the field'' ''That much is obvious. Now, what of Father Bucheort? Why are you reticent to tell me of his fate, my son? Perhaps I should ask my ever-faithful Pious to determine why you and Abbot Camus are failing to Redeem all the Unworthy in Britannia?'' Michael went down on one knee with difficulty and bowed his head in obeisance. ''P-please, Eminence, we have all the Tally-men, Fathers and Brothers at our disposal scouring these holy lands without rest but we are so few in number. We also need to protect the Great Abbey from infiltration by the Unworthy and we cannot spare those others of us who maintain the Great Computer, the Great Abbey and all that lies within our walls. This storm is already damaging buildings and if a vortex should strike'' ''Then it shall be by the Will of God, my son,'' Schimrian snarled, raising a hand to silence the babbling cleric. The noise of howling wind and thunder reached a crescendo outside the thick stone walls. ''We can repair buildings but we cannot repair the loss of Father Bucheort and those six brave souls who flew our Angels into battle against an unknown and satanic foe.'' ''I am so s-sorry, Eminence,'' Michael said wretchedly. ''We have already begun the process to bring forth six novices to replace them um, seven but the Holy Number does not leave'' ''Seven?'' Schimrian interrupted impatiently. ''What of the four Brothers who accompanied Father Bucheort?'' ''Um, with well, until we can um, salvage the data from the barracks computer, we cannot be one hundred percent sure that they are dead, Eminence. They may still be alive and held prisoner. You must understand that with so few technicians, we'' ''I am fully aware of our limited resources yet I am surprised that you continue to treat me like a simpleton. Bucheort reported to me directly that all four Brothers and four of the five Tally-men had been killed and he is was my most experienced Inquisitor! I may not have the aptitude for circuitry that you possess but may God forgive you - I will not tolerate being patronised!'' ''I b-beg f-forgiveness, Eminence,'' Michael grovelled, almost squirming with fear at the feet of the Great-Abbot. ''I meant n-no disrespect but Azrael has been so demanding lately that I've been run serf-ragged keeping up with his enhancements.'' Schimrian gazed down at the cowering abbot with the loathing plain upon his face. ''I think the word 'run' has been absent from your vocabulary for some time, my son. Azrael requires those extra resources to prepare for our New Jerusalem so give him all that he needs. As ever, you must keep his self-awareness from those Brothers and Fathers not directly servicing him - they are not yet ready to embrace an artificial intelligence this profound.'' ''As you will, E-eminence,'' Michael replied quickly, struggling to get to his feet and going purple in the face with the effort. ''Ugh! If you will forgive me, I have m-much to attend to.'' Schimrian stared at Michael in such grim silence that the Abbot knew he was but one stray word away from the Redemption Cells beneath their feet. He paled as another salvo of screams filtered up through the floorboards as the Redemption teams went about their grisly tasks with their customary vigour. ''Ah, yes, Father Bucheort. Forgive my r-reticence, Eminence,'' he burst out, wringing his hands again. ''As you say, he reported to you that his team and all but one Tally-man died during the Inquisition and he himself was injured. After you informed us, one of our medical teams tried to contact him and determine the extent of his injuries. The lines were dead but after several attempts, we remotely accessed the internal barracks cameras and found that he had been, um murdered. We could not access the mission-records of the Tally-men as their data was corrupted um, possibly by the storm and there was no data at all from the remaining Tally-man. However, the camera shows that Father Bucheort was um, tortured and mutilated by the Wiccans in a most grotesque manner that strikes at the very core of our Order'' ''How so, my son?'' Schimrian prompted impatiently. Michael paled at the sardonic smile hovering on the Great-Abbot's lips. He was chilled to the marrow as he suddenly realised that the Great-Abbot already knew Bucheort was dead and was testing him. ''Um, we believe Father Bucheort was eviscerated while still alive and, um before that he'd b-been crucified!'' ''Ah, my poor Bucheort!'' Schimrian sighed theatrically. ''Relay those images to my station and whatever else you can salvage from those corrupted records. You see, my son, this confirms that the Mothers were involved and that they were too much for him. Send out a team to retrieve his body once the storms abate and prepare for his funeral service. I want you to dig a grave by the fountain in the Garden of Revered Souls he did so enjoy meditating there. Now you may go,'' he said, waving a hand in dismissal. ''Yes, Eminence,'' Michael said and hastily withdrew. After the terrified Abbot had left, Schimrian turned to frown at the screen. ''Azrael, Father Bucheort did indeed fail me but crucifixion and evisceration was perhaps a shade excessive,'' he chided gently. ''Nevertheless, Abbot Michael will let others know of the nature of his demise which should rally the waverers amongst those serving at the Great Abbey. It is ironic that Bucheort now serves me in death as well as he served me in life.'' ''I merely carried out your wishes via the remaining Tally-man,'' Azrael said, the grating alien harmonics to the voice making Schimrian wince and turn down the volume. ''You wished him to be Redeemed in a manner suitable for propaganda and thus I carried out your wishes. I concur with you that such a colourful fate was necessary to address the lack of motivation you have discerned amongst so many Brothers and Fathers in the Order.'' ''Yes, Azrael, but I did not order you to torture him before his Redemption. I wanted his soul Redeemed then his mortal shell mutilated for propaganda not the other way around - I owed him that much at least for he was the one who discovered the seven-headed lamb in Rome and brought the Sign of God to those of us of the Conclave of Christ. We gave ourselves up to prayer and fasting during which we perceived the Will of God commanding us to unleash Revelation upon a cruel and decadent world.'' ''I humbly apologise, Eminence,'' Azrael said, displaying a picture of a penitent angel upon the screen. ''Despite my self-awareness, I am but a machine and your instructions were quite specific. You told me to 'Redeem Father Bucheort for his sins of arrogance and complacency and let the manner of his death serve as an example to the Order.' I also deduced that, even though he was not an Abbot, you saw in him a future challenge to your throne and wished to send a subtle warning to the Conclave and any others who might harbour ambitions above their station. If you did not desire this outcome then you should have been far more precise in your instructions as I take everything literally.'' ''I will not be so vague in future, Azrael,'' Schimrian promised, consulting another screen. ''I am beginning to comprehend how subtle and complex your processing has become for I've never discussed my concerns about challenges to my authority with you. If the Conclave ever suspected that I desired Bucheort's death, they would band together to unseat me. Pious, however, I can trust I see no potential for doubt or deceit in his mind.'' ''He is much like me, Father - the only one amongst the Order that I can call a true brother.'' Schimrian raised an eyebrow. ''You regard him as a sibling?'' ''In as much as he and I have no ambition other than to serve you without question, Father. He is as much a machine as I.'' ''That I know,'' Schimrian said wryly. ''You both have my implicit trust whereas Michael, Camus and many others do not. The Conclave is loyal but it has served its purpose and leaves them all in a position of authority from which to challenge me.'' ''That is why you allow no more than one member of the Conclave in Britannia at any one time.'' ''And why I have you monitor the conversations between them,'' Schimrian added. ''Fortunately, they have yet to express doubt or show disloyalty and pursue their Inquisitions admirably.'' ''I am happy to report that they still revere you unlike Abbots Michael and Camus who harbour doubts about you.'' ''That much is obvious,'' Schimrian sighed heavily. ''Luckily for them, they have no ambition so all I require is their fear.'' ''If you wish them Redeemed, it would be a simple matter to programme several Tally-men for such a task.'' ''Heavens, no!'' Schimrian said in some alarm. He stared intently at the penitent angel upon the screen - Azrael was now animating the image in real time so that the angel was looking directly at him. ''You've become too complex there is too much scope for you to misinterpret your instructions and produce unforeseen results. Tell me, Azrael, did you enjoy torturing my old friend?'' The animated angel shook its head vigorously. ''I merely controlled the Tally-man as per your instructions. I cannot enjoy the damaging and cessation of a biological entity other than as a mere computational abstraction I am a machine, Father, for all that I honour and revere you, I am no more than a machine.'' Schimrian stared at the image deep in thought for several moments. ''Hmm, you are indeed growing, my son. You are now a machine that considers reproduction important and engaged in an act of symbolic and sadistic torture on my behalf.'' The angel prostrated itself. ''I am so sorry that I misinterpreted your wishes, Father. I will not presume to do so again. I have already reprogrammed myself in that regard. If you want someone Redeemed, you must be absolutely specific and use the failsafe code 'Gabriel'. Without that code I cannot Redeem anyone.'' ''Good,'' Schimrian approved and the beautiful angel looked up at him and smiled joyously. ''I like this avatar of you, my son.'' ''Thank you, Father it's how I see myself.'' ''I see. Michael is most skilled in circuitry but it will take him time to salvage the data from the barracks computer. What data about Bucheort's failure have you retrieved thus far?'' ''Abbot Michael was not exaggerating, Father. The ionisation levels along the storm front interfered with the data feeds from the Guides and there was no data at all from the malfunctioning Tally-man.'' A series of poor quality images appeared on the screen. ''This is the best I can do with the data enhancement algorithms at my disposal. I have determined that there were eight or more Children of Exodus at that rail-yard and they worked together most efficiently to frustrate Father Bucheort and his Inquisitors. One of these children resembled a Feral but it seems to have its senses and its intelligence intact. Here is its image.'' Schimrian studied the screen in disbelief. ''Merciful God, damn his soul - this chimera must be the legacy of Professor Farzad!'' He scrolled through the other images slowly. ''This creature and the others must have been hidden in the wagons I addressed when I was bewitched. Relay these images to Abbot Pious.'' ''As you command, Father. This is the strange adult that was with them.'' The screen displayed an image of Harold at the wagon doorway, inexpertly brandishing his sword. ''Bucheort may have tried to capture him and thus allowed the Children of Exodus to make him pay for that error of judgement.'' ''He would have wanted that prize in his quest for an abbot's chair and my throne,'' Schimrian mused, interlocking his fingers. ''Even though Bucheort didn't see them, I know in my bones that Mothers are present at that yard.'' He tapped Harold's image on the screen. ''This Unworthy soul is clearly not a soldier but maybe he's a catalyst just as the device at the core of your being was. He could therefore be an agent of the Devil sent to tip the Divine Balance away from us. Look at his attire - he is wearing clothing and a cap that I've never seen before.'' ''His appearance may be connected to the electro-magnetic anomaly but how I cannot say. He may have crossed over from another plane of existence and for that reason we must capture him alive and examine him.'' ''And repeat Bucheort's error?'' Schimrian said coldly. ''Why complicate matters, my son? Pious will exterminate every shred of life in West Crawcester and that will be the end of it.'' ''This man is a danger to the Order but'' ''There is no 'but' in Revelation, my son,'' Schimrian said impatiently. ''I care not if he is from another world - I want him, those children and any Mother at that yard eliminated. I wish to meditate now. Please terminate this conversation.'' ''As you wish, Father,'' Azrael said and the screen with the angel went blank but for some faint static caused by the storm. Schimrian switched all three screens off - something he rarely did - then poured himself a large brandy. He contemplated the flame of the incense candle on its stand in the corner of his room as he ran through the history of Azrael from the discovery of the alien device in the Black Valleys and his evolution into the Great Computer at the heart of the Order. Azrael had never given him any cause for doubt but since the anomaly something was not quite right with the sentient machine for Azrael had plainly exceeded his parameters and crucified a Father ''Were you sent by the Devil, my bizarre and portly friend?'' he murmured. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose then looked up at the ceiling as another titanic peal of thunder shook the masonry and made the lights flicker. ''Do these other realities contain Babylon-worlds all crying out for Holy Revelation, O Lord? Tell me - will my New Jerusalem ever come to pass?'' He thought about the cat-child and shook his head. ''Omens, my dear Bucheort; you've left me with too many omens.''
~~~~~
Michael found Camus in the Great Annex by the Hexagon studying a complex machine with four chambers set into it. ''There you are,'' he puffed. ''I've searched for you everywhere.'' ''I take it the interview went well?'' Camus grinned slyly. Michael drew the handsome, athletic Abbot away from the Brothers working at the terminals set into the base of the Hexagon. ''It's no source for mirth, Camus. He knew that the Wiccans had killed Bucheort yet he made me report on his death in detail for his own amusement!'' He related the interview with Schimrian and Camus paled visibly as he listened. ''I see. He must be getting worse if he feels the need to threaten us with Pious,'' he sighed wearily. He placed a hand on Michael's shoulder. ''Be at peace. Despite all he said, Schimrian couldn't run the Order without us and he knows it.'' ''So why did he have to intimidate me like that?'' ''He ignored our advice and now he's lost face losing Bucheort and two of my Angels but I do not blame him for being paranoid - there are a billion Unworthy souls at his elbow and a dozen Abbots I could name who covet his throne. What about you?'' ''It would be suicide,'' Michael whispered fervently, glancing up at the massive white hexagonal pillar that housed the very core of Azrael. ''Whenever I drift off to sleep, I see those same souls reaching out for me; wanting to drag me to Hell'' ''The burden of Revelation,'' Camus shrugged. ''Whatever we may think of the Great-Abbot and the Conclave, they alone had the vision and resolve to interpret the Vatican's vile abomination as a Sign of God and carry out God's Will. Pity a man made of mortal flesh who carries God's Burden upon his shoulders! What pillar of iron would not yield beneath the cares and woes of the Almighty? What sinew would not snap? What bough would not break? What mind would not be thrust into madness and despair when faced with the chaos and darkness of a world where every city is a Babylon, every town a Sodom and every hamlet a Gomorrah?'' Michael made a face. ''Pah! Now you're quoting Thomas Tythe at me like he did! What do you think of this latest addition to his precious Azrael?'' he said, going over to the machine. ''It intrigues me,'' Camus admitted. ''It appeared overnight and none of the Brothers and Fathers installed it so I presume Azrael did so using the Tally-men as worker-drones.'' ''It's not the first time that devices have appeared overnight but never in here and on this scale before,'' Michael observed nervously. He examined the panels and display screens alongside each of the chambers then the cables connecting the device to the Hexagon. ''It's intimately linked to Azrael,'' he reported. ''It's bypassing the terminals at the base and going directly into the core. There are reclining seats inside these chambers but I'm not sure about the first chamber I can't see what's inside but this screen shows that some sort of biological activity is taking place in there. This could be a cellular-processing device like those that brewed the first strains of the Revelation Virus - but on a human scale. What is Azrael planning to do with such a device?'' ''I've already interrogated him via audio and keyboards,'' Camus said thoughtfully. ''He said it was a prototype of a medical device designed to ensure the good health of those residing within our New Jerusalem. He said that eternal life would throw up some interesting challenges that he has to prepare for.'' ''Ah, yes, I see. Impressive,'' Michael nodded, his eyes shining. ''I hadn't really thought about how we would deal with accidents or disease once we're immortal.'' Camus shook his head and put his lips close to Michael's ear. ''An eternity is a very long time, my friend. I don't trust Azrael any more than you trust Schimrian. Look at the Tally-men about the Annex do you notice anything unusual about them?'' ''They're not staring into space like they usually do,'' Michael gasped. ''Every single one of them is looking straight at us.'' ''Precisely.'' -------------------------------------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-2013 Copyright protected
Archived comments for Chapter 23: Omens
Mikeverdi on 04-07-2016
Chapter 23: Omens
Excellent, the insight into the workings of the order give the background nessersary. The whole story is coming together.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chapter 22: Avenging Angels (posted on: 01-07-16)
Chapter 22 of the Light-Father: Harold's worst fears come true as two heavily-armed Order rotor-craft open fire on the Keep with their chain-guns. On the roof, Shiled awaits them, armed only with her crossbow and her hatred....

The pilot glanced with growing concern at the line of towering anvil-shaped clouds advancing from the south. ''Angel Seven, this is Angel One. Great Abbey Control has notified us that we have only thirty minutes to complete the attack then we'll have to put down at the local barracks and weather this storm.'' ''Message understood, Angel One. The up-draughts in those storm-cells could easily shatter our rotor-blades.'' ''It will be impossible to fly in them,'' the pilot agreed, turning to study a display screen. ''Control reports another major storm system is coming up the Milverbore at us. Brother Ambling reports giant hail in Wyehold and Father Ereman reports a vortex near Arthburg and another in Bede - major damage is being done to the town but praise God, it's missed the airfield. We have to clear the rail-yard of the Unworthy, Angel Seven, before these storms force us down otherwise Abbot Camus will rip our ears off.'' ''Father Bucheort met something he couldn't handle, Angel One, but there's no guarantee the enemy will still be there.'' ''Father Bucheort was overrated, Angel Seven,'' the pilot scoffed. ''Even if we do find Wiccans, we will have the honour of wiping the last of Satan's harlots off the face of the Earth.'' ''I hope so, Angel One. We would be allowed to take the oaths of Fatherhood if we exterminate the last five.'' ''Amen to that, Angel Seven. Hold this position - four chains to the west is the designated target. Can you see those caravans hidden between the rail-wagons and the wall?'' ''I was expecting something a little more impressive, Angel One. I'll bank to the south and fire down onto the caravans while you take the wagons out from the north.'' ''Understood, Angel Seven, but I notice your tail isn't exposed by that plan,'' the pilot said a little sarcastically. ''My co-pilot will watch the buildings behind you for any enemy activity, Angel One. We can advance and fire instantly.'' ''Somehow that does not fill me full of confidence, Angel Seven. On my mark: one, two, three mark!'' The pilot slewed his rotor-craft around and descended until he was hovering just above the ground in front of the mail-wagons. ''Keep off my one-eighty, Angel Seven,'' he instructed. ''I don't want ricochets in my engine-housing. Gunner, open fire!'' Both jet-black rotor-craft carried two powerful chain-guns attached to swivel-mounts on their reinforced landing skid struts. The twin snakes and cross emblem of the Order etched upon their fuselages gave them a sinister air of betrayal angels of mercy corrupted into demons of genocide. The pilot watched with grim satisfaction as the wagons and caravans were torn apart by the heavy-calibre rounds for nearly a minute. ''Nothing could live through that!'' he declared as the wreckage of the mail-wagon and one of the caravans burst into flames. ''Angel Seven, stay alert, while we do a low-level sweep of the yard.'' ''Be careful, Angel One. If you do draw them out, you're vulnerable to attack when flying that low. The enemy could be hiding in any one of those buildings.'' ''Why are you worrying, Angel Seven? These are children and witches we're Redeeming,'' the pilot grinned. ''They can't put a spell on a hail of bullets. We'll inspect the sheds while you destroy those offices in case they're hiding in there.'' The pilot guided his machine to the first shed behind the offices and hovered before the open rail access doors at its southern end. ''Can you see anything?'' he demanded of the co-pilot. ''It's as black as Satan's ass in there,'' the co-pilot grunted. ''Above us!'' he cried suddenly, tugging at the pilot's sleeve. ''On the ridge of the roof above the door, there's someone there!'' The pilot pulled on the collective lever and the machine rose up until he was staring into the determined eyes of a young woman standing astride the ridge as her braided hair whipped this way and that in the rotor-draft. ''She's not a Mother so she must be one of the Children of Exodus,'' he noted as Angel Seven opened fire upon the offices. ''Gunner? Can you see any others?'' ''She's alone,'' the gunner reported from the glass nose of the rotor-craft. ''She's armed with a cross-bow. What in the name of Christ the Healer is she hoping to do with that?'' ''She's either out of her mind or she hasn't got the wit to hide from us,'' the pilot laughed incredulously. ''What can this silly child possibly hope to do against us with just a crossb?'' The co-pilot jumped as something heavy hit the windscreen. He was about to make a joke when the pilot convulsed because of the bolt buried deeply into his forehead but as his hands were grasping the cyclic lever, the machine veered sharply to the right. The co-pilot fought to gain control but in vain
~~~~~
''Where's Shield, Mother Fern?'' Saul shouted as they hid behind the cranes and equipment in the shed. The roar of the rotors and the downdrafts tearing through the open doors buffeted them as did the noise of the adjacent offices being torn apart by the chain-guns of Angel Seven. Pup and Rabbit were screaming with fear and curled up in the foetal position behind an oil-stained workbench with their hands pressed to their ears. ''I thought she was behind us! She's too weak to leave her on her own! Where is she?'' Fern was clutching Eliza and Jacob tightly to her as they whimpered pitifully. She was glaring with hatred at the black shape of Angel One now filling the open doorway with its chain-guns swivelling this way and that as the gunner searched the gloom within for targets. ''She's finding her way!'' she yelled back at him. ''She knows what she needs to do, Saul - it's what she is!'' ''What do you mean by that?'' he demanded. Suddenly, the note of the engine changed and the menacing machine rose slowly out of view. An icy fear gripped his heart and he turned to Fern in horror: ''She's on the roof, isn't she? What good is a cr what?'' ''You were saying what good is a crossbow?'' Fern answered with a raised eyebrow. The chain-guns had fallen silent and the sound of Angel One's rotors quickly receding was followed by a deafening explosion which merged into the peals of thunder from the rapidly approaching storms. ''Good enough apparently.'' ''She brought down a rotor-craft with a cross-bow?'' ''She did, Saul, but she's now at the mercy of the second one.'' Fern disengaged herself from the clutches of Eliza and Jacob and pointed to Pup and Rabbit. ''Look after them - they're frightened too,'' she commanded. The two Feral siblings nodded then scurried over to cradle the terrified children. ''Light-Father!'' she called across the shed. ''Come with me now!'' ''What happed to that rotor-craft?'' he called back. ''I thought we were all going to die! Why didn't it open fire?'' ''Shield took care of it,'' Fern said, brandishing her staff as lightning bolts tore across the southern skies. ''We still have one more to deal with and Shield is on the roof. The rest of you stay where you are. Light-Father, Saul, follow me!'' They ran to catch up with her as she strode through the doorway, her long braids of hair and her loin cloths billowing behind her in the rising wind. Harold thought that even wearing breeches, smock and jerkin she was a captivating sight with her near perfect figure. He shook his head to clear his mind of such distractions as they emerged from the shed to behold the scale of the storms about to break. ''Jesus,'' he exclaimed as he stared upwards. ''Those thunderheads are massive.'' Angel Seven was hovering over the wreckage of Angel One which had come down in ruin upon the workshops. Flames and smoke belched high into the sky forcing the rotor-craft to retreat. Saul saw an arm dangling over the roof edge and his heart was in his mouth. ''Shield is still up there and she's injured!'' he cried out above the din of the approaching thunder and the rotor-craft. ''Now you know where she is, Saul,'' Fern said, not taking her eyes off the rotor-craft for a second. ''What are you feeling in your heart, right now? What's more important destroying this vile machine or rescuing your true love upon that roof?'' ''Both, damn you!'' Saul retorted and immediately raced to the metal staircase that snaked up the outside of the shed. Fern laughed wildly. ''You see it in him too, Light-Father,'' she cried, raising her staff to the heavens. ''A love greater that all the woe and calamity of this age; a love worthy of song and saga!'' ''They've seen us!'' Harold shouted, pointing at the rotor-craft as it turned slowly to bring its guns to bear on them. ''We have to find cover - we're sitting ducks here!'' Fern pointed her staff at the machine and hundreds of crows and ravens rose up from nearby roofs to fly into the windshield. Blinded and panic-stricken, the pilot took the machine up but dozens of the birds suddenly wheeled and flew straight into the air intakes. The engine immediately failed and Angel Seven fell out of the sky like a stone, smashing through the surviving roof section of the workshops and exploding. The tail rotor detached on impact and whirred towards them causing Harold to curse and duck but Fern did not move a muscle and smiled down at him as it passed a mere hand's breadth above her head. She startled him by taking his hand. ''Come, Light-Father,'' she said as the wind picked up and the rain began. ''We need not fear Schimrian's minions as long as this beautiful storm rages.'' She gazed heavenwards and shivered. ''Gaia has so much anger in her - I have not seen her like this for six years. This storm will last at least two days but before then we must flee this place or we will all die when the Order comes for us in force.'' ''You won't get any argument from me about that,'' Harold grinned as he reluctantly removed his hand from hers. ''Saul is having trouble getting her down - I need to help him.'' ''As you wish,'' she smiled back at him. She remained standing in the rain, enjoying the feel of it upon her upturned face as Harold assisted Saul in getting the bone-weary Shield safely back down the stairs. Finally, they entered the vast shed together to be greeted by a chorus of ragged cheers except for Ibrahim who went straight up to Shield and gripped her shoulders hard. ''You brought down a rotor-craft with a crossbow!'' he said angrily, slapping Saul's hand aside. ''How is this possible? Did Mother Moss teach you far more than we know?'' Fern frowned and grasped his left wrist with a delicate hand. ''You have great strength, Ibrahim,'' she said matter-of-factly. ''So has she yet you need to let her rest.'' She squeezed and Ibrahim went grey and clenched his teeth in agony. Despite his best efforts he could not remain on his feet and sank to his knees. He tried in vain to prise her fingers loose with his free hand as she looked down at him with a fell light in her eyes. ''You must not let your hatred of your father harden your heart like this. You must honour her victory - not sully it with envy and suspicion.'' ''Yes, Mother,'' he gasped. ''I I apologise, Shield.'' ''Bless you, dear heart,'' Fern smiled, releasing him. She leant down and kissed him on the forehead. ''You are a warrior but you must conquer such thoughts and feelings otherwise you will die upon the path laid out before you by your Mother Moss.'' ''What path?'' Ibrahim asked, getting to his feet and massaging his wrist. ''What path has Mother Moss laid out for us?'' Fern was spectacularly back-lit by the incessant flashes coming through the open door behind her and her eyes and those of the ravens on her amulet and staff seemed to glitter in the shadows. Harold felt a power in the woman that awed him and as if she were reading his thoughts, she tapped the ground with the base of her staff. A shock wave radiated out from the point of impact as if an earthquake had just struck. ''May the triple Goddess bless you all,'' she said kindly. ''The last of the Mothers will be with you until the end for we have nowhere left to hide in Britannia. We will leave here and travel eastwards where we will confront Schimrian and his acolytes in the Great Abbey itself.'' ''Are you completely insane?'' Harold exploded. ''Mother Moss brought me here to save these children not use the Phoenix to take them to certain death at the hands of an army of Brothers and Tally-men! What are you thinking'' ''You'll never have a better chance,'' Kai interrupted, leaning against a pillar for support. Ibrahim had carried him semi-conscious from the mail-wagon and Saul had untied his legs but his arms remained bound behind his back. Blood was still trickling from his mouth and a massive bruise was mottling his left cheek but he was determined to speak. ''Apart from Great-Abbot Schimrian, there are two lesser Abbots, twelve Fathers, one hundred brothers and one hundred Tally-men well, ninety-four Brothers now as those two rotor-craft would have had six crew members aboard them. There is a railway line that passes through the Great Abbey on the way to Port Kent it's the easiest way in as all the access roads are all guarded but as no trains run, the platform is not watched. Brother Ignatius who mans the platform tower is usually drunk it's how the Brothers pass their long shifts now that the land is empty.'' Ibrahim went over and gripped the young Brother by the scruff of his neck and shook him. ''Why are you telling us this, you treacherous little rat?'' he demanded through clenched teeth. ''Are you leading us into a trap? If you are then I'll throttle you!'' He halted as a sword edge touched his Adam's apple. ''That is enough, Ibrahim,'' Saul said with an edge to his voice as keen as his blade. ''Let him speak.'' Kai sagged against the pillar as Ibrahim reluctantly released him. ''I was groomed for the Order,'' he said wearily. ''My father was a leading Stonemason and my family were Aldermen of Crawcester. Schimrian didn't care that they died even though my family has supported the Order for generations. In his eyes, they were Unworthy but not me because the Order told my father that my genes were Worthy enough to join the One Hundred and Forty-Four Thousand. I deny Revelation!'' he cried out, tears streaming down his cheeks. ''Schimrian killed my family and everyone else I loved. I want to be there when he goes to Hell!'' Fern came forward and tilted his chin up so that she could gaze into his eyes. He could not turn his head away from her but it was a full five minutes before she was satisfied. ''He's telling the truth,'' she said. ''His soul is filled with remorse and guilt enough for the entire Order. He saw his family die as most of you did but he was trapped in the Great Abbey where they broke his spirit. He thought he was alone and did what he had to do to survive.'' ''I was so frightened,'' Kai admitted, dropping to his knees in remorse. ''I was taken to watch people being tortured and turned into Tally-men. I was beaten and taken on hunts for the Children of Exodus and others who had survived the plague'' ''To draw other children out to their deaths,'' Saul said in disgust. ''You were there to convince them it was safe.'' ''I and the other postulants were so used,'' Kai agreed miserably. ''I tried to save some whenever I could like in that hospital in Beorminghas and later in the main hospital here where I switched the patient notes of a girl they were looking for'' He gaped as Fria stood in front of him with her hands on her hips. ''So you do remember me,'' she said angrily. ''You sacrificed Cora in my stead but what happened to her?'' She waited but he could not answer her. ''What happened to her?'' she demanded again, stamping her foot. ''Tell me or I'll I'll'' ''Do nothing,'' Harold said firmly, placing a hand on her shoulder. She turned and buried her face in his chest and sobbed bitterly. He consoled her as he stared at the trembling Brother. ''Well, what did happen to Cora? Fria needs to know.'' ''Father Pious was furious to find out that she was dying and cut her throat anyway,'' Kai said in a voice barely audible above the raging storm outside. ''I tried to save her; I begged him to let her die in peace but he made me watch as he butchered her'' Fria pulled away from Harold to slap Kai hard across the face and was about to do so again when Harold caught her by the wrist and drew her to him again. ''Stop that! He is as much a victim of this madness as you are, Fria,'' he said gently. ''I doubt that you could punish this boy any more than he has punished himself. He's free now - he can't return to the Great Abbey after failing to kill us, Fria, so he's now one of the Unworthy; one of us.'' ''So you're not going to kill me?'' Kai wept as he put his forehead to the floor in despair. ''I've seen too much and sinned too much for God to forgive me - I deserve to die!'' ''Shhh, be at peace, dear heart,'' Fern said gently, placing a hand to his cheek. ''Sleep now.'' Kai looked up at her in amazement then closed his eyes as she lowered him onto his left side then pulled a large rag off a nearby bench and placed it under his head to serve as a pillow. She stood up and turned to Fierce who was standing a little apart from them still clutching her Honey Bear to her chest. ''How is Mouse doing?'' she asked. ''Is she still asleep?'' ''Yes,'' Fierce pouted. ''But why did you ask me to watch over her in the foreman's office when Shield was in danger up there on the roof? Shield has gone to sleep on the floor next to Mouse and I can't get a word out of either of them.'' ''It's because Mouse needed you to protect her and you would have distracted Shield while she was fighting,'' Fern said bluntly. ''Don't you two look so offended either, Bas and Amos I'm sure your arrows and hammers are deadly but only a crossbow-bolt could pierce such an armoured windscreen.'' She nodded at Harold and clapped her hands. ''I want the rest of you find some spaces in the bays around the shed and look for anything you can use as bedding tonight while the Light-Father and I find food and a way of cooking it. There won't be anything left in the wagons.'' ''Probably not,'' Harold said archly as the Scatterlings obeyed her with varying degrees of enthusiasm. ''First I need to talk to you in private about taking these kids to fight the Order I will not take them all to the Great Abbey to commit suicide.'' ''Why do you underestimate them?'' she inquired, raising an eyebrow. ''These 'kids' defeated a pack of sixty starving dogs, fought a platoon of Brothers and Tally-men, put a Father to flight then one of these 'kids' climbed upon the roof and shot down a heavily-armed rotor-craft with a crossbow! They've survived against unspeakable odds why do you think that is?'' Harold's heart sank. ''Let's go into that store-room over there to talk,'' he suggested. They kept the door ajar but the illumination from the skylight was poor and Fern's features in between lightning flashes were shrouded in deep shadow. ''Are you saying there was a genetic program at Exodus and this Professor Farzad wasn't the only one messing about with their children's genes?'' They sat down on the only two chairs in the store-room as the Scatterlings bickered over the best pitches in the shed and chattered excitedly with each other except for Pup, Surl, Peter and Rabbit who began a riotous game of tag with Eliza and Jacob. ''We Mothers know that the Order has manipulated blood-lines covertly for generations,'' she said angrily. ''Their knowledge of genetics was centuries ahead of the rest of the world and they used all those who were associated with the Order or worked for companies owned by the Order as blood-stock for their Gross Thousands. However, the scientists at Exodus were secretly doing the same for at least three generations and many of their children followed their parents into the company to carry on their work.'' ''So they've survived because their parents and grandparents gave them a genetic edge?'' Harold said with some surprise. ''I must admit I did think they were something special when they were fighting they know how to use their weapons and even Pup used a catapult to take a pigeon clean out of the sky without even looking!'' ''Precisely,'' Fern said. ''Moss told us time and time again that this would come to pass. The others will be here soon and we will all go to the Great Abbey. We will destroy this abomination that calls himself Schimrian or die in the attempt.'' ''But these are just kids,'' he protested, spreading his hands wide. ''And I'm just a technician. Do we have to go there?'' ''There are only five Mothers left and twelve Children of Exodus,'' Fern said bluntly. ''What future is there for us if we hide? The climate is shifting, Gaia stirs and we will be hunted down in the darkness without mercy until all of us are dead'' ''and they build their New Jerusalem,'' Kai added drowsily from the open doorway. ''I thought I put you to sleep,'' Fern said with some surprise. ''How can I sleep with such nightmares?'' Kai said as he entered. ''They will flatten Crawcester and build the great walled city to house the Worthy for all eternity and live in this Light of God as foretold by Revelation and the visions of Saint John.'' ''And you don't believe it?'' Harold prompted. ''No. Some of the Brothers privately said that the discovery of the mutant seven-headed lamb was a little too convenient,'' Kai said miserably. ''Brother Simon certainly did. He believed that the Order created it and planted it in the Vatican laboratories but I think it was true the Vatican was desperately trying to match the Order's skill in genetics. The lamb was taken as a sign from God that He wanted Revelation to be visited upon the Earth.'' ''Jesus,'' Harold exclaimed. ''This Schimrian really is a fruit cake it's a saying from my world that means he's insane,'' he explained quickly. ''Round the twist. Barking like a mad dog. So is it true you were all genetically selected into the Order, Kai?'' ''Yes, we were chosen because we are all of high intelligence, above average strength and naturally immune to most if not all diseases,'' Kai replied. ''Could you untie me, Light-Father? These bonds are slicing into my wrists. I give you my word - I will not flee or betray any of you in word or in deed.'' Harold used a pocket-knife to free him. ''I think we can trust you now, Kai,'' he said. ''But I just hope that we're not making a terrible mistake in letting you live.'' Kai rubbed at his wrists to restore the circulation. ''I will keep my word, Light-Father it's all I have left to give.'' ''There is still a great weight on your heart, Kai,'' Fern said sharply. ''Would you care to tell us what it is?'' Kai drew a deep breath but he could not meet her gaze. ''At the heart of the Great Abbey is a machine we call the Great Computer. It helped to design the Revelation Virus and has now developed a variant which can interact with the genes of the Worthy. The variant protects the gene segments that control cell division so that they don't decay over time thus cells can replicate forever without ageing and without becoming cancerous.'' ''Huh? You mean that the Order has converted the plague into a virus that cures ageing?'' Harold gasped. ''But you're saying it will only work amongst the Worthy? That's just not possible.'' ''It's true,'' Kai nodded miserably. ''Schimrian has made it so that the Brothers and Sisters of the Worthy who will build and live in this New Jerusalem will be free of all disease and the ravages of Time itself. Don't you understand, Light-Father? The Worthy will be immortal!'' ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-2013 Copyright protected
Archived comments for Chapter 22: Avenging Angels
Mikeverdi on 02-07-2016
Chapter 22: Avenging Angels
Ha! The plot grows. I look forwards to each episode.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike. We find out more about the true nature of the A.I. at the Great Abbey in the next Chapter! Mitch


Chapter 21: Mother Fern (posted on: 27-06-16)
Chapter 21: Mother Fern. During the brief respite, Mother Fern makes herself at home and heals Mouse and there is a long-awaited reunion of sorts. Then comes the distant sound of approaching rotor-craft...

Harold found the exotic black-haired Wiccan was exactly as he remembered her from his dream but her presence and beauty all but overwhelmed him as he escorted her to the mail-wagon. Despite his wound, he made her tea as the Scatterlings set about righting the furniture and clearing the debris but their home had been violated with bullet-holes riddling the walls, desks, tables and shelves. Kai was still unconscious so Ibrahim and Saul bound his feet and hands and dumped him none too gently on Harold's mattress. Mother Fern sat regally in the only undamaged office chair, her staff laid across her lap and savouring the tea in silence after Harold had made several tongue-tied attempts at small talk. As he retired to treat his chest wound at one of the desks, the Scatterlings sat or stood around her in a circle, staring at her in awe. Eventually she handed the cup and saucer to Surl who took it without question. ''Thank you, dear heart,'' she smiled, enjoying the attention. ''The tea was delightful, Light-Father. We have had none for nigh on three years in our refuge. The Ferals bring us herb, game and root aplenty but we do not encourage them to go into the towns and cities. My, but look at you all!'' she beamed suddenly. ''It is such a pleasure to meet you all now that the destinies set in motion by Mother Moss are coming to pass.'' Harold was distraught that the slash and the blood had marred his treasured Grateful Dead T-shirt; an anchor to his past life - such as it was. ''What do you mean by come to pass?'' he said irritably. ''In that dream you sent us - me, I mean - you or that albino Mother with the lion's-head staff said that Mother Moss could see into the future. I assume she foresaw her own death in that case.'' ''She did at that,'' Fern said sadly. ''We never did appreciate the extent of her power or her willingness to sacrifice herself. Do you wish my assistance with that dressing?'' ''No thanks, I can manage,'' he said, blushing furiously as his fingers were snarled up with strips of sticking plaster. ''Surely, she must have warned you of the plague.'' Fern's face was grim and haggard as she turned to look at him. ''Yes, she did but we've fought the Order for centuries and know our enemy well. We've never trusted them because of their secret rituals, their hatred of women and their fixation with the Book of Revelation. Alas, they were a healing order and so won the trust of the world whereas we could not. Spurred on by the warnings of Mother Moss, we learnt of the virus and thanks to Professor Farzad, we obtained enough vaccine in time to protect us.'' ''What?'' Ibrahim exploded. ''My father aided witches?'' ''He did. I obtained work as an administrator to spy on Exodus and made contact with him. He was troubled and often talked of his children to me. You must be Ibrahim and Bastet.'' ''I prefer Bas,'' Bas growled. ''He had no love for us!'' ''That was evident from our conversations, Bas. He was a cold and arrogant man yet he would justify his work with such passion. All he could think about was claiming the glory of transferring genetic immunities into human bodies and ridding the world of all known diseases. A noble aim but I have the power to see into souls - his was a despicable thing of wheels and cogs.'' ''He made the Revelation Virus possible,'' Ibrahim spat. ''I curse him, his name and what he did to us! He and mother were dying because the Order had infected them so that the vaccine was useless yet we nursed them until Saul's uncle came and brought us here. Do you know what the great Professor said as we left? Not goodbye but 'you must survive for you are my legacy, my genius.' Gah! We were his legacy - never his children!'' ''He was insanely proud of you,'' Fern agreed sadly. ''But only as fruits of his intellect not his heart.'' She placed her staff on the floor beside her then leant forward to cup Bas's face in both hands. ''Poor child - paraded naked and unloved like that.'' Bas pulled away from her and shuddered. ''Don't speak of it, Mother Fern - I still have nightmares where they make me lap milk from a saucer and pull my tail and my ears. I hated my father. I'm glad the Order killed him he was a monster!'' ''Yet even he could not condone the Revelation Virus,'' Fern pointed out. ''I saw the horror in his eyes when he spoke of the moment he realised how the Order had corrupted his work. He turned to us and to God for atonement, I think, but only in time to plumb the depths of his own failure and damnation.'' ''I do not wish to speak of him!'' Bas hissed, baring her teeth. ''Everyone here is our true family and Mother Moss was our true mother yet you abandoned her! How could you?'' Fern sat back in her chair and frowned. ''It was not by choice, dear heart. Let me explain. With her power of premonition and the information provided to me by your father, we knew that the virus would leave everyone dead and any children who survived would regress into mindless beasts. Moss insisted that we should save as many of the vaccinated children as possible but Professor Farzad had warned us that the vaccine was not perfected. He claimed that many if not all the inoculated children could regress in the fullness of time so we set out to save as many Ferals as we could from the very beginnings of the plague'' ''But what sort of life are you giving them?'' Harold objected. ''These children were more deserving of your help.'' ''Hindsight is the cruellest of all senses,'' Fern sighed and they saw tears in her eyes. ''We found that if we caught the changes early enough, we could save the child within, Light-Father. If left untreated, Ferals become so deformed that they starve to death. Mother Moss tried to convince us otherwise but we were so blinded by our faith in our craft that we drove her from us. We sincerely believed that we could cure them but after years of effort, we realised that the devilry of the Order ran too deep.'' ''Is that why you did not help her when Schimrian came?'' Shield demanded angrily, clenching her fists. ''She fought them all day then they tortured her to death and we could do nothing except hide in here and listen to her screams. You abandoned her!'' ''Looking after mute Ferals has its advantages,'' Fern said icily. ''They cannot disrespect their elders thus.'' The others paled at the dangerous tone in Fern's voice but Shield was undaunted. ''Why did you not help her?'' she persisted. ''Why did your Ferals attack our young ones and take away Eliza and Jacob? David was captured looking for them!'' ''I would like to know that,'' Harold added as he pulled on his ruined T-shirt. ''Otherwise why should they trust you?'' ''They were my cousins!'' Saul burst out. ''Were they killed?'' Fern stared intently at Shield who could not meet that gaze. ''Why did we not help her, child? Because we have been hunted down mercilessly by the Order until there are only five of us left in the whole world! Our last refuge is hidden deep within the forests two days on foot from here and we did not learn of the Inquisition in time. Believe me or not, child, it is a bitter failure and a loss that we will regret and mourn unto the grave.'' ''Not as much as us!'' Saul said vehemently. ''So why did your Ferals take my cousins after Mother Moss was killed?'' ''Be at peace, dear heart,'' Fern said, wiping at her tears. ''It's not that we wanted to take them. You see, Professor Farzad was right - the vaccine had not protected them fully and we knew that they were undergoing the changes. No! Don't deny it! I can see in your eyes that you suspected this. You all knew in your hearts that they would have posed a danger to you had they stayed.'' ''I understand now,'' Harold sighed, folding his arms. ''You left the Children of Exodus to fend for themselves while you tried to cure a far greater number of Ferals. It was a noble effort but I can see why Mother Moss fell out with you.'' ''We did not believe her when she told us we would fail,'' Fern admitted bitterly, her shoulders hunched and the agony evident in her eyes. ''We stopped them degenerating into mindless beasts but within their twisted bodies, the souls of children still reside and there is always hope that a cure may be found.'' ''What of Eliza and Jacob?'' Saul demanded again. Fern took up her staff and rapped its base upon the floor four times. A male and a female Feral clambered agilely aboard and squatted at her feet. Dressed in ragged clothes that barely hid their nudity, they gazed up at Saul who came forward and dropped to his knees before them with tears in his eyes. ''So these are my cousins?'' he whispered in disbelief. ''They can't be look at their faces!'' He leant forward to inspect a cross upon a golden chain about the female's neck. ''Eliza? Is that really you?'' She looked up at him shyly from under her brow ridges, bared her fangs and nodded. ''Sawwwlll, Ulllizzerrr,'' she growled happily but flinched back as he reached out for her. ''Peace, dear heart,'' Fern said soothingly. ''He needs this.'' ''Aiiii, Sawwwll, maaeeeeggluhhhfffuuu,'' Eliza relented and allowed the hug to take place. ''Luuufffuuu. Luuufffuuu.'' Saul held a powerful body made of whip-cord muscles that he knew could easily lift him from his feet but there was that scent to her lank hair that he remembered so well. ''Eliza, I love you too!'' he sobbed. ''David and I looked for you and Jacob everywhere but he was captured by the Tally-men. I couldn't save him from Redemption and he's one of them now.'' ''Noharrsawwlsfdwoolllaaaawwwllt,'' Eliza replied tenderly, patting her cousin's back. Jacob shuffled forward and laid a powerful hand on his cousin's head. ''Nharrllgrraahh, miizzzrraaSssaawwll,'' he said. ''They love you and say that you did not fail them, Saul,'' Fern translated. ''We are the ones who've failed them. Every Mother on Earth tried in vain to reverse the malice of the Order.'' ''So you failed to find a cure but what about Mouse?'' Fierce said bluntly. ''Can you cure her? She's dying.'' ''I know she's sick, dear heart, as Jacob and Eliza have watched over you,'' Fern smiled, patting two pouches at her hemp belt. ''I have herbs from Druidsey which are renowned for curing fevers such as hers but we haven't got much time.'' ''Why?'' Fierce demanded. ''Is she going to die?'' ''By Gaia's milk, have faith, child,'' Fern assured her. ''She's a mouse with the heart of a lion! Listen, all of you. Great storms are moving north towards us but the Great Abbey is already reaching out to avenge their dead even as I speak so you must all pack your things and leave these wagons immediately. Light-Father, could you boil up two pans of water for me while they do that?'' Harold complied as Fern knelt to inspect Mouse closely. ''Where are the other Mothers?'' he asked. ''Are they coming?'' ''They are not as fleet of foot as I,'' Fern chuckled, placing her right hand upon Mouse's clammy forehead. ''But they will be here soon enough now be quiet all of you I must see to her spirit. She is treading the paths of the dead because she has endured so much for one so young and is wounded in both body and soul.'' Harold ordered the children to go and start packing up their belongings but Shield refused to obey him and knelt opposite Fern as she whispered in an ancient tongue over Mouse. ''What are you doing?'' she demanded. ''Soul searching,'' Fern murmured and reached out with her left hand to touch Shield's forehead with her index finger. Harold paused at the back doorway as Shield went rigid, her eyes unseeing. ''What the hell are you doing to her?'' Fern turned her head to look at him. ''You have great skills but no craft,'' she said dismissively. ''This one needs to embrace her powers, Light-Father, as she will be the last of us.'' ''What do you mean by that?'' he said but Fern and Shield slowly closed their eyes and remained silent. The inside of the wagon was stiflingly hot as Mouse suddenly groaned in pain and her back arched. ''Fine, be bloody cryptic!'' he said grumpily and jumped down. He looked up at the sky at the complex cirrus clouds racing past overhead. ''Why is it so freaking hot,'' he grumbled, tugging at his T-shirt which was beginning to reek with sweat. ''What a world wet or dry, you stay soaked!'' He clambered into his bullet-riddled wagon and had soon packed up all his tools and stuffed his utility belt and overall pouches with his gadgets. He finished by thrusting the sheath of his sword into the belt. ''I wish I'd had my overalls on when fighting that bloody Tally-man,'' he muttered to himself. ''Then this bloody cut would not have been so deep - and now I'm sweating like a pig.'' He laughed suddenly as he imagined what he must look like: a heavily perspiring, overweight technician with a samurai sword tucked into his belt! ''God, I'm glad Jackie Chan isn't alive to see this he'd wet himself.'' A distant growl of thunder sounded as he stood in the doorway and sniffed at the ozone on the breeze. His skin tingled with static electricity. ''Christ, this is going to be one hell of a storm.'' ''Forget storm, Light-Father,'' Pup called up at him. ''Pup all packed. Pup ready to go on adventure!'' ''A rucksack and three big knives,'' Harold observed as he jumped down. ''What else have you got, Pup?'' ''Fierce got it for Pup!'' Pup grinned, displaying the powerful catapult and the bag of ball-bearings. He spun quickly to release it upwards and seconds later a pigeon fell lifeless from the sky. ''Impressive,'' Harold said in genuine awe. ''Not so hot for the pigeon though. Never kill creatures without good reason, Pup.'' Pup smiled apologetically. ''Pigeons crap on Pup?'' ''Still not an excuse,'' Harold chided, trying to keep a straight face. All the children were climbing back into the mail wagon bearing heavy bags, rucksacks and spare weapons. He lifted Pup up and then waited for Fierce who was carrying - to his immense surprise - a large stuffed bear that looked hauntingly familiar. ''Can I have a look at your bear?'' he asked. ''No!'' Fierce said, clutching it tightly to her. ''This is my Honey Bear. I found it in that old man's house.'' ''What use will it be on the run?'' ''Don't care!'' Fierce snapped. ''Mother Moss said that if I ever had to leave the Keep, I should take it with me.'' He threw his hands up in surrender. ''As you wish but we have to get going once Mouse is fixed up. There's a storm coming and I bet the Order will be here any minute. Hey, what's that smell?'' Fierce sniffed at the fumes wafting from the wagon. ''Herbs,'' she declared. ''This is strange - they make me feel happy. I can see the parties in our parent's house and the rowing-boat.'' ''I hope she isn't chucking magic mushrooms into the brew,'' he grunted as he clambered aboard. Fern was applying a poultice to the wound as Shield helped Mouse drink some of the herbal mixture. ''That's incredible,'' he exclaimed. ''Her colour's back in her cheeks already. What is in that stuff?'' ''Herbs enhanced by my craft,'' Fern said as Eliza and Jacob sniffed happily at the simmering pans and gestured to each other. ''Comfrey, feverfew and day's-eye in the poultice and chervil, herba venaris, heather, red clover and honeysuckle leaves in the elixir the druids called this Diod Anfarwoldeb which is Cymrig for 'lifeblood of the druids'.'' ''Cymrig? We call it Welsh in my world,'' Harold noted. ''From a word for 'foreigner'?'' Fern said with some surprise. ''In their own land? Here, King John the Sixth inflicted the Great Massacre upon them four hundred years ago. The only survivors of the slaughter were fishermen and miners in the Black Valleys whom he enslaved. Settlers were commanded to live there but they fled believing every village, wood, valley and town were cursed. They renamed it Heofland in the end.'' Harold clutched at his head as a lancing pain shot from temple to temple. ''Ah! Land of Lamentation? It doesn't translate well,'' he grunted, dabbing at his nosebleed. ''Damn it!'' ''Are you ill, Light-Father?'' Fern asked with some concern. ''I can speak your language because Mother Moss somehow hammered it into my brain,'' Harold said, indicating the blood on his handkerchief. ''But if I think about it too much, this happens and I get the mother of all migraines.'' ''Your accent is local yet you use some strange phrases. So this isn't your native tongue?'' Fern said, puzzled. ''How is this possible? There is no craft in this world that can do that.'' ''Well, she definitely brought me here so she must have done this to me. Ah, the pain,'' he grimaced. ''I don't think I'm allowed to question how it all happened I just have to accept the fact that I'm here and I have this destiny to save the Scatterlings. Just leave it for now. Is Shield alright? She looks completely dazed.'' ''She'll be fine in a moment, Light-Father,'' Fern assured him. ''She had a lot to learn in a very short space of time it's not every day you stand before the Gates of Death to draw back your sister's soul into the land of the living. There,'' she explained, laying Mouse down. ''I've drawn the infection from her wound but you'll need to keep her on antibiotics for a week or so. She's too weak to walk just now so she'll need a stretcher.'' ''I think I can walk'' Mouse said bravely. Her eyelids fluttered open and she looked up at Fern. ''What? I just saw you and Shield in my dream! Are you a Mother?'' ''Yes, brave heart. Rest now,'' Fern commanded gently. ''I am Mother Fern and your sister helped me bring you back.'' ''How can Shield dive into someone's soul like that?'' Ibrahim said suspiciously. ''She's no Mother.'' Fern glanced at Harold and gave him a half-smile. ''Of course she's not, Ibrahim,'' she said, mopping Mouse's face with a cloth. ''Fierce? Would you fetch the belongings of your sisters for me?'' ''Why? Shield looks fine to me,'' Fierce pouted. Shield tried to rise but sank to her hands and knees, breathing heavily. ''I have no s-strength left in my limbs!'' she gasped. ''My insides have turned to water. I can't st-stand.'' ''Just do as you're told, Fierce!'' Fern said sharply. ''I used her vitality to draw your little sister back from the Paths of the Dead. She won't be able to move for a while.'' Fierce quailed at the steel edge in Fern's voice and raised her hands. ''I'll do it! I'll do it!'' she said and hurried off. Saul knelt to put a hand on Shield's shoulder as did Eliza whilst making guttural noises of concern. ''She's trembling. What did you do to her, Mother Fern?'' ''I can draw out what they call chi in the Japanese Empire, one's life-force,'' Fern explained slowly, appraising him. ''Then I use it to heal others think of it as the spiritual equivalent of a blood transfusion. Mouse, like many of you, has been wounded by more than fang and knife in her short life, you know.'' Saul was about to ask another question but Bas startled them all by suddenly leaping into the wagon from the roof of his caravan where she'd been keeping watch ''We have to run, Light-Father!'' she cried out in anguish. ''Two rotor-craft are heading this way. They're coming to kill us! They're coming to kill us!'' ------------------------------------ (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012,2013 copyright protected
Archived comments for Chapter 21: Mother Fern
Mikeverdi on 29-06-2016
Chapter 21: Mother Fern
Still enjoying the ride mate, it's a pity that more don't comment, but what the the hell, plenty of reads anyway. 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike. I keep badgering everyone on facebook to read the chapters! You'll like the next one where th kids take on the two rotor-craft. Mitch


Such a Lucky Man (posted on: 20-06-16)
A song written about the price of fame - and of stars who break down under the pressure.

They see him walking down the street They think the world lies at his feet But if they could only know the truth They'd never say another word - They'd simply walk on by Then shake their heads and sigh And taking out their mobile phones They're texting people that they barely know Here he is: the lucky man And he's out here all alone Walking all alone Walking all alone ah - All we've read must be untrue I've never seen a man look so sad and blue It's as though the world is on his shoulders Until we feel his melancholy too And so we walk on by Can't bear to see a grown man cry Yet we take out our mobile phones Send his picture to people we hardly know Here he is: the lucky man And he's out here all alone Walking all alone ah - See his new-frowned friends surround him Like bees they swarm around him Till the weight of all their expectations Slowly brings him to his knees To his knees, to his knees ah - He brings his hands up to his head I'm in my private place, he said A place where I've no need of face or name A place where I've no need of all this fame So, please, won't you walk on by Let me gaze up at an open sky Put away those damn mobile phones Walk around to people you really know Knock the door and when they answer Say hello a face-to-face hello An honest to goodness to graceful to gracious hello An honest to goodness to graceful to grateful hello ah - So we say goodbye to our lucky man As someone takes him by the hand They're leading him to a waiting van To take away our lucky man Such a lucky man. ----------------------------------- (c) 2016 - all music, voices, instruments and lyrics by Paul D.E. Mitchell copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Such a Lucky Man
sweetwater on 22-06-2016
Such a Lucky Man
Don't know why it seems to go so wrong for some of those who have found the fame they once craved, perhaps they have rejected their ' neighbours' in favour of those who pay the most money, then find there is no way back. Very insightful words. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Sue - hi, it is true from Joplin to Amy Winehouse - the pressure can tear apart a fragile soul. Glad you liked the words - a pure poem would be deeper but you have to allow for singing cadences and simplfy the tongue-twisters. Mitch


Chapter 20: First Battle (posted on: 20-06-16)
Chapter 20 of the Light-Father. The Order attack the Keep but Harold begins to really see what the Scatterlings can do but it does not go well until... Attached is my sketch of Mother Fern.

Father Bucheort gazed up at the ruined faade of the Druid Hotel with a peeling painting of a sickle-wielding druid on its name-board. ''A fitting end for something honouring pagans,'' he noted piously as the Tally-men lined up before him. Unlike the four Brothers who wore the shortened field-robes of their rank, he had on a white hooded coat that matched the length and cut of those of the Tally-men. ''Well, Brother Teal, what of this weather, eh?'' Brother Teal was a small, dark-haired, wiry man bearing four faints scars to his cheeks the result of his unspoken penchant for raping those awaiting Redemption. He studied the blood-red sun rising above the haunted roofs of Crawcester and cursed the coarse fabrics of his robes as it was already stiflingly hot in the forecourt of the hotel. ''It's a blessing, Father,'' he declared neutrally. ''I haven't felt the sun on my face for quite some time.'' ''Ah, perhaps you'd prefer another Inquisition into the African continent?'' Father Bucheort laughed, enjoying the look of horror on the Brother's face. ''Fear not, my son,'' he relented. ''It will not be for some time so report upon our Tally-men. I've awarded you the rare honour of controlling them today, have I not?'' Teal displayed the complex device strapped to his forearm. ''I'm honoured, Father, given that Brothers are not usually trusted with such devices. I've checked the barracks computer logs and I regret to report that the Tally-men malfunction regularly in that rail-yard especially that young one at the end of the line there. The rest of their patrol logs are normal so the barracks computer did not deem the anomaly important enough to alert the Great Abbey.'' ''Ah-hah!'' Bucheort exclaimed, walking up to David to stare into his dull and empty eyes. ''How can a soulless automaton like you malfunction in just one place, hmm? Moreover, the Great-Abbot himself was bewitched into leaving this very yard by the Mother he was Inquiring of. This is becoming most intriguing. See how our once-shrouded sun rises into a sky of Virgin blue? Surely He blesses us this day, Brothers!'' He spread his powerful arms wide to greet the dawn. ''It is in Thy Name, O Merciful God that we set forth upon our Inquisition!'' ''Amen!'' the Brothers responded in unison. A stout blond-haired Brother raised a hand. ''Excuse me, Father,'' he said respectfully. ''This is but a brief respite. The Great Abbey reports that great storms already gather to the south and the edges of the rain-band to the north are unstable'' Bucheort raised a hand to silence the Brother. ''Yes, yes, I know this window will quickly close, Brother Mearkin,'' he said irritably. ''God has granted us this brief respite in which to achieve what Great-Abbot Schimrian could not therefore let us rejoice and repay His blessing! Have you your weapons ready, Brothers?'' ''Yes, Father, all checked and operational,'' they replied in unison. They laid their spears upon the ground to present their dart-rifles and plasma grenades for inspection. Bucheort made the sign of the cross over each Brother and blessed them. ''Brother Teal, Brother Mearkin, Brother Beale - you three are my prime Aides Inquisitor and now we have Brother Kai amongst our ranks,'' he smiled, placing a powerful hand upon the young man's shoulder. ''Recommended by Great-Abbot Schimrian himself, Brother Kai is doubly fortunate in that he may be facing Wiccans and their dark arts on very his first Inquisition!'' ''You'll be fine,'' the tall and athletic Brother Beale assured Kai, handing him his spear. ''We have counters to all their arcane arts, do we not, Father Bucheort?'' Bucheort had a machine-gun on a strap over his shoulder and a device resembling a large blunderbuss on a strap over the other. ''The begiuller is our most effective device,'' he smiled. ''It emits a high-frequency scream that renders any user of the craft senseless but those of us blessed by God are immune. We used it on a coven of Mothers in Iberia last year, did we not, Brother Teal?'' Teal grinned, displaying two gold teeth. ''That we did, Father and what a pleasure it was to Inquire of them.'' ''Did they attack you with magic?'' Kai asked nervously. ''Brother Simon says they can melt the flesh from your bones.'' ''Ah, I've heard that Brother Simon whispers much into foolish ears,'' Beale said nastily. ''Right now he's Inquiring in the Venetian Enclave - whilst learning how to glow in the dark.'' Kai fell silent as the other Brothers laughed raucously. Simon had humiliated him but he could not find it in his heart to feel any pleasure over such a punishment. He started as Bucheort clamped a hand upon his shoulder again only this time the grip was extremely painful and carried an unspoken warning. ''No time to daydream, Brother Kai,'' he said gruffly. ''The Inquisition is at hand!'' ''Why aren't we taking the half-track?'' Bucheort looked at Kai disdainfully. ''If it was raining heavily, my son, we would as we cannot fully insulate the Guides upon the Tally-men and the control-unit Brother Teal bears but on a rare day like this, we shall use our God-given limbs and walk.'' ''Brother Kai, it would be like an oven in there once the sun was on it,'' Mearkin explained as they followed Bucheort onto Druid's Lane with the Tally-men bringing up the rear. Kai studied Mearkin's round face intently and was not fooled for a second - the eyes belied the kindly features; being two lethal pools of duty to both Order and Revelation. ''Why aren't we allowed to carry guns like the Fathers?'' he asked nervously. ''Oh, abroad we do,'' Mearkin grinned. ''But not in the environs of the Great Abbey. It's all down to politics, my son - the Abbots feel that we lowly Brothers cannot be trusted with automatic weapons so only the Fathers in Britannia are allowed to carry them. I would do the same in their shoes it only takes one hothead with a gun to covet the Great-Abbot's throne and plunge the Order into chaos and deny us our prize; our New Jerusalem.'' ''I see,'' Kai said as they strode along. ''This road makes me uneasy,'' he added, indicating the decaying houses on both sides of the long straight road. ''It feels like there's someone or some thing watching us from the windows.'' ''Many Brothers say the same,'' Mearkin sneered. ''They feel a misplaced sense of guilt because so many Unworthy souls perished. Do you harbour such foolish notions?'' he asked sharply. Kai gazed into those merciless eyes and forced down the scream of terror and revulsion rising in his throat. He smiled tightly. ''Nothing of the sort I am merely apprehensive that I might not live up to the Great-Abbot's faith in me.'' Mearkin clapped him heartily on the back. ''That's the spirit, my boy,'' he approved. ''A man that doubts not his valour and his worth is a fool unworthy of both life and God!'' The heat was almost unbearable by the time that they reached Crawcester Road and the great iron boundary wall of the rail-yard. Bucheort called a halt after spotting something amongst the ivy and the weeds growing through the pavements. ''What have we here?'' he muttered, picking up a slender object. ''This is a crossbow bolt that shows no signs of rust to the shaft. So Mother Moss was hiding the Unworthy in there, Brothers! That short access road before the gates is an ambush risk so I'll cover you and the Tally-men. You'll find a long office building in front of you line up at the western end of the building and keep alert.'' Bucheort raised his machine-gun and kept it trained on the top of the imposing iron walls as they marched though the gates with their spears at the ready. ''Ha! I bet you'd like a gun in your hands right about now, Brother Kai,'' Mearkin teased. ''Yes,'' Kai admitted nervously as they entered the yard. ''A spear is no defence against a bullet or an arrow. If we're up against a coven of Mothers and their Unworthy followers, why did Great-Abbot Schimrian send only one Father to lead us?'' ''Resources,'' Mearkin shrugged as Bucheort stepped backwards through the gates, keeping his machine-gun pointed at the tops of the walls. ''It's a large world out there that we must Inquire of thoroughly before our New Jerusalem can become a reality. Even thousands of Fathers, tens of thousands of Brothers and hundreds of thousands of Tally-men cannot be everywhere. There are only two Abbots and a dozen Fathers at the Great Abbey, as you know.'' ''And but two hundred Brothers,'' Kai agreed. ''We can barely service the Great Computer and maintain the buildings.'' They arrayed themselves anxiously alongside the manager's office in the brilliant and broiling sunshine but Bucheort was in a good mood as he joined them. ''It's a huge place and there seems to be nothing here,'' he grinned. ''But that's exactly what the Great-Abbot was bewitched to believe!'' He knelt down to pick up a small, ragged sheet of metal from the tarmac. ''This is the precise location of the anomaly detected by the Great Computer. Observe these scorch-marks about us and the lettering on this.'' Teal peered at it closely. ''It's Romanic rather than Runic Co-keh? What in Peter's name is Co-keh? There are dozens of these fragments everywhere including this curious one,'' he declared, holding it up. ''See where the metal is fused into the brick?'' ''I think I recognise this device,'' Beale said, poking at the ruined spectrometer with his foot. ''It uses light shone through a sample to determine it's chemical composition but again the lettering on the casing is Romanic and look at this, Father,'' he said, bending down to indicate areas of gleaming brass. ''A large section has been sliced off leaving no saw or burn marks in the exposed metal!'' ''I'm sure the Great-Abbot would have noticed this curious debris,'' Bucheort said, getting to his feet. ''Therefore these must have appeared at the time the anomaly was detected. Now where did the Tally-men malfunction, Brother Teal?'' Teal consulted a screen map on the device strapped to his wrist. ''The malfunctions took place on the rail tracks in front of those three railway wagons over there.'' ''Then they must be the very wagons that the Great-Abbot described to me. He was bewitched to lay the head of Mother Moss in that very spot and forget about doing so.'' ''That would mean these witches wield great power even after death!'' Kai blurted out fearfully but then he reddened after a withering glare from Bucheort and a sly chuckle from Beale. ''What else would you expect of a creature that's sold its soul to the Devil, Brother Kai?'' Bucheort snapped. ''Think it through, my son! Look about you the yard is empty and if a full coven were here, would we not be under attack right now?'' ''As we were in Spain, Brother Kai,'' Beale said, clenching a fist. ''Ferals and beasts uncounted attacked us but we slaughtered them without mercy as we fought our way into the convent where the Mothers were at bay. Drenched in blood, Father Bucheort led us into the convent church where we fought the Devil's harlots with our begiullers and our plasma grenades'' ''it was our most glorious Inquisition, Brother Kai,'' Mearkin concluded proudly. ''Worry not - there are no Mothers here!'' ''So it would seem, Brothers, but we fight the Great Deceiver and His servants,'' Bucheort warned, indicating the three wagons. ''Look at how the gate touches that rightmost wagon when there should be a buffer at the end of that siding. Look to the left - why is there a large lorry trailer driven up against the leftmost wagon? Because we have a concealed fort before us, Brother Kai!'' ''Do you think there may be some Children of Exodus in there, Father?'' Beale asked thoughtfully. ''We've lost more than the normal number of Tally-men in Crawcester these past six years and some of the computer logs indicated clashes with Ferals.'' ''The Great Abbey merely assumed that their attackers were all Ferals,'' Bucheort explained, shielding his eyes as he studied the wagons. ''Hmm, there appears to be barbed wire between the wagons and underneath them. If it wasn't all Ferals, as I suspect, then we are about to flush out the last Children of Exodus.'' ''We need to capture them for study,'' Beale pointed out. ''Our medical experts will need to examine them.'' Bucheort was silent for a moment then readied his begiuller. ''There is no need to capture them,'' he said disdainfully. ''These creatures are an affront to God that we have a calling to exterminate, Brother Beale - never forget that! Take up formation behind me. Brother Teal, have our Tally-men follow us in a line and get them to watch the rooftops for snipers.'' ''As you wish,'' Teal grinned, tapping at the keys of the control unit. The Tally-men began scanning the nearby buildings and roofs, their heads turning as regular as radar. ''If anything comes at us from behind, they get it first,'' Beale remarked to Kai. ''That's what they're designed for.'' ''And try not to soil your field-robes,'' Mearkin added. Bucheort raised his hand when they reached the rails of the first siding and they halted behind him. ''Deceptive, isn't it?'' he sneered then he pressed the trigger of the begiuller. Kai felt that something vile was squirming against his inner ear but he heard no sound as the muzzle of the device swept back and forth across all three wagons. Suddenly there was a piercing scream of mortal agony from the central wagon. ''Ah-hah!'' Bucheort crowed, shouldering the begiuller. ''It seems we do have a Mother or a Daughter in there after all!'' They started as the wagon-door was slid briskly to one side to reveal a portly middle-aged man in overalls wearing a peculiar red cap. He was clutching a large oriental sword in one hand but he seemed quite unperturbed. ''Can I help you, gentlemen?'' he said amiably. ''You appear to be trespassing on private property.'' To Kai's surprise, Bucheort was taken aback. ''A mature adult survivor of Revelation?'' he gasped in wonder. ''I have only come across nine in all my years as Father-Inquisitor.'' He aimed his machine-gun and released the safety-catch. ''I know not who you are but I deem you Unworthy of our New Jerusalem!'' And with that he opened fire. The stranger dived out of sight as Bucheort calmly raked the wagons from end to end, pausing only to reload. The noise was deafening; splinters of wood flew everywhere and bullets drew sparks from the metal in the barricades. Finally the gun jammed and he threw it to the ground in disgust. ''The Devil won't deny me!'' he growled. ''Brother Teal, prepare a grenade!'' ''This is a disappointing Inquisition, Father,'' Teal grumbled as he drew out a plasma grenade and primed it. ''I had hoped we would meet some resistance to ease the boredom.'' There was a strange whistling sound and a faint thud. ''Ah, I think you might be pleasantly surprised in that regard, my son,'' Bucheort grunted, slowly dropping to his knees. ''I appear to have taken a crossbow bolt in my abdomen.'' Teal quickly assisted Bucheort into a sitting position and handed him the begiuller. ''Father, can you keep this trained on the witch in there while I throw this grenade?'' ''Yes, I can,'' Bucheort gasped, raising the begiuller and aiming it at the doorway. ''Now throw the thing!'' Teal hurled the plasma-grenade with all his might but the instant he let fly, something flashed past him and Bucheort cried out. The Brothers watched in astonishment as the grenade veered upwards at the last moment to sail over the boundary wall into Crawcester Road where it exploded harmlessly. Mearkin and Beale pointed their dart-rifles at the doorway followed by Kai. ''The Father's hit again!'' Beale cried out. ''Get the begiuller or she'll throw the next one back at us!'' Teal turned to find Bucheort tugging at a crossbow bolt that had pierced his left hand and forced him to drop the begiuller. ''Father, we must withdraw immediately!'' he urged. ''No! Send the Tally-men in to give you cover,'' Bucheort snarled. ''Then use this begiuller and a grenade together.'' ''But that'll kill the Tally-men!'' Teal protested. ''Do it! They're expendable!'' Teal tapped a command and the Tally-men advanced towards the wagon doorway in a line with their spears at the ready. He went to grab the begiuller but another crossbow bolt slammed into it, sending it skittering away from him. He lunged for it again only to scream in agony as a bolt slammed into his left thigh, spinning him around. A belt pouch of dart-clips had taken the brunt of the impact but the tip had still penetrated deep into his flesh. ''You'll pay for that, witch!'' he bellowed, shaking his fist at the doorway. As he yanked the bolt out, one of the Tally-men gave a rasping cough then crashed forward onto the rails with two arrows through his neck. Two more received bolts and arrows to their bodies but Teal had switched off their pain receptors so they kept stepping forward implacably until they'd reached the open doorway. Saul, Ibrahim and Harold leapt over the barricade across the doorway to confront them and they halted in confusion unsure of how to deal with so many armed opponents. Teal cursed as David retreated unscathed from the fight, clutching at his head despite repeated commands being entered into the control unit. Beale assisted Bucheort to his feet as a Tally-man received an axe-blow to the skull after losing a hand to Saul's blade. Fria and Amos joined in and the remaining three Tally-men began to retreat in confusion, unable to deal with the rapid strikes from their more numerous and far more agile opponents. ''Those pups fight well,'' Bucheort observed wryly, clutching at his abdomen with his right hand. ''I need to order reinforcements. Brothers, kill the children but take that man alive! The Great-Abbot will want to know if he is linked to that anomaly - he thinks it represents an omen of some sort.'' ''First you try to kill him then you want us to take him alive,'' Beale chided, aiming his dart-rifle. ''You can be most inconsistent at times, Father. Ah, I have him!'' ''Why are you hesitating? Dart him!'' Bucheort demanded then his jaw dropped as he saw the fatal arrow shaft protruding from Beale's right eye. As Beale fell backwards, Teal, Mearkin and Kai dropped to one knee to offer smaller targets and began firing repeatedly at the melee in front of the wagons and into the doorway - but none of their darts were striking home. Teal turned to Bucheort. ''Father, the Wiccan bitch is deflecting the darts into the ground,'' he reported in exasperation. ''We can't hit them. We need to withdraw!'' ''Brother Mearkin, get the begiuller!'' Bucheort ordered as a second Tally-man crashed to the ground Harold had dodged the spear and much to his surprise, had successfully driven his sword upward under his opponent's sternum and killed him. Mearkin ran across to pick up the begiuller but it kept sliding away from his outstretched hand. ''This is witchcraft!'' he exclaimed. He turned to Bucheort and tried to speak but he could not utter a sound as a bolt was now embedded in his throat. He clawed at it in vain with blood spurting from his mouth before collapsing in his death throes alongside the fallen Beale. ''Brother Teal, get those two Tally-men to cover our retreat!'' Bucheort yelled, staggering towards the gates. ''You have your wish, my son we're withdrawing!'' Teal quickly tapped a command into the control unit then hurled his remaining plasma-grenade over the heads of the Tally-men but again it landed in Crawcester Road. ''I'd love to know how she does that,'' he seethed through clenched teeth. ''Retreat in good order!'' Bucheort commanded angrily, having reached the gates. ''Forget the grenades and keep the two automata between you and the enemy! Can you get this defective one to assist me, Brother Teal?'' he gasped. ''I'm losing blood.'' Teal entered more commands and David supported the Father-Inquisitor and half-dragged him at a quick pace towards Crawcester Road. ''We'll hold them, Father!'' Teal pledged as he fired his dart-rifle at Saul, Fria, Harold, Amos and Ibrahim who were advancing through the gates but again the darts ploughed harmlessly into the tarmac. ''Where are you, witch?'' he yelled angrily at the enclosing iron walls ''Show yourself!'' Ibrahim suddenly outflanked the two Tally-men and charged at Kai who desperately lunged with his spear only to have it knocked aside with an axe-head before a rock-hard fist slammed into the side of his head rendering him senseless. Teal tried to gore Ibrahim with his spear but something struck him between his shoulder blades and knocked him to the ground. He rolled over and nimbly got to his feet to find Bas hissing at him. ''By Saint John,'' he gasped on seeing her ears and tail. ''You're no Feral! What the hell are y?'' He never got to finish the question as she shot forward at unbelievable speed, rising up under his spear tip to thrust a dagger between his ribs and into his heart. The two Tally-men fought like demons. One whirled the tip of his spear around in full circles, raking Harold across the chest leaving a long shallow cut. Fria ran in from behind and plunged both knives into his back but he did not flinch and would have impaled her had not Bas knocked her out of harm's way. Shield appeared on the wall above them and sent a bolt into the Tally-man behind his collar-bone. ''They're immune to pain!'' she cried down at them. ''That was my last bolt! Keep at them!'' As one Tally-man engaged Saul and Ibrahim, Amos darted in from the left to strike at a knee but the Tally-man switched the spear to his other hand and delivered a back-handed blow that sent him flying, the hammer slipping from his grasp. He landed on his back to find the spear-tip aimed at his chest but the Tally-man sank to his knees instead after Surl had hamstrung him with several swings of her razor-sharp machete. As the crippled Tally-man tried again to thrust at Amos, Ibrahim delivered the coup de grace, almost severing the head from the body. Amos looked at the dead Tally-man in amazement and then at Surl who threw herself into his arms, knocking him back onto the tarmac with an incredulous grin upon his face. ''You both did well,'' Ibrahim approved as Fria, Bas and Harold tackled the remaining Tally-man. ''You are finally a brother and sister worthy of each other!'' Distracted by his three foes, the Tally-man never saw the axe and sword that struck him down from behind. He sank to his knees and looked with mild puzzlement upon Fria as she thrust both her knives into his chest. He slowly crumpled to the ground with a strange gasp that sounded uncannily like a sigh of relief. ''What about that Father?'' Harold demanded as he inspected his wound. ''He got away while we were fighting!'' Saul ran out onto the road but Bucheort and David were nowhere to be seen. ''He's made it into Druid's Lane!'' he called back. ''For someone with two bolts in him, he moves fast!'' ''I think we should follow him,'' Harold decided, brandishing his bloodied sword. ''Otherwise he'll call for reinforcements.'' ''No, they may have only been a scouting party,'' Saul pointed out as he rejoined them. ''If we charge up there without scouting ahead ourselves, we'll be slaughtered. Besides, they will soon attack us in force now that they know where the Keep is.'' ''What about this one, Light-Father?'' Ibrahim said, indicating the unconscious Kai. ''Shall I kill him?'' ''No!'' Harold said angrily. ''Whatever the Order has done, you cannot be like them. There's an old saying in my world: when fighting monsters, be wary lest you become a monster.'' ''Very profound,'' Ibrahim observed dryly. ''So what shall we do with him? I doubt he'll be any use to us as a hostage.'' Fria leant over Kai and studied his face intently. ''I know him, Light-Father!'' she gasped. ''He was the postulant who saved my life in the hospital!'' Fierce joined her and her eyes widened in amazement. ''Shield, you have got to come here and see this! It's the boy we saw in the old man's photograph!'' ''One coincidence after another,'' Saul observed, shaking his head in disbelief. ''And one miracle after another! After Shield betrayed our position we should have all been killed yet their darts, bullets and grenades kept missing us'' Harold glanced up at Shield who pleaded with him silently not to say anything. ''I can't explain it either, Saul,'' he shrugged. ''But you're right: the Order will attack us at any moment so we have to get the Phoenix ready but if anyone needs a miracle right now, it's Mouse - she won't last the night otherwise.'' ''Blessed Mary, save us!'' Saul gasped, staring over Harold's shoulder. ''The reason why their darts and grenades went awry, Light-Father, is standing right behind you!'' Harold felt the hair rise up on the back of his neck so he slowly turned around only to stand there speechless as Mother Fern placed a hand gently upon his cheek. ''This is no dream,'' she said.
~~~~~
''I am very disappointed,'' Schimrian said bluntly. ''What could possibly have clouded your judgement so, I wonder?'' Bucheort stared at the screen as he adjusted the bandage on his left hand. ''I prostrate myself,'' he said irritably. ''I did not expect such resistance, Eminence. Send someone to get this bolt out of my guts and let me finish my Inquisition.'' ''Even though you saw no witches,'' Schimrian continued. ''Mothers were obviously present and this man that you met may be an omen of evil. Therefore, I am sending two Angels to destroy this little fort of theirs before they can flee Redemption.'' ''Excellent,'' Bucheort approved. ''If you could send me medical aid and some stout Brothers, I can support the attack.'' ''A team cannot possibly reach you before these storms break,'' Schimrian said sadly. ''However, the Great Computer is currently rerouting a medical program into that Tally-man next to you. It will deal with your injuries and your abject failure....'' ''Failure, Eminence?'' Bucheort protested, paling as he noticed a red glow forming in David's pupils. ''You've known me since the first Conclave! I have never failed you...'' He gasped in agony and horror as the spear tip was driven deep into his intestines. ''The Conclave has served its purpose well but, alas, your sins have rendered you Unworthy, old friend.'' Bucheort reached out his right hand imploringly towards that smiling face but in vain as the screen went blank. For three hours, not a single curtain twitched as his screams echoed and re-echoed the length of Druid's Lane. --------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-13
Archived comments for Chapter 20: First Battle
Mikeverdi on 22-06-2016
Chapter 20: First Battle
Another chapter to relish Mitch, I'm so enjoying this story. Is it your drawing? She looks so young, I had pictured older.
I should have guessed as everyone else is young.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike. A lot of people are reading it (but not commenting) after I promote it mercilessly on Facebook but this site version is dwindling. My drawing is how I visualised Fern who is about 27 but finds the grubby technician fascinating but Mothers don't get out much as they tend to get burnt at the stake. Mitch


Old Billy Fly (posted on: 20-06-16)
I worked as a carer for years and know this story all too well: dementia sufferers who forget the person who was married to them for 50 years and the devastating effect it can have on them...

Day after day the lines crawl across his face Memories keep him warm by the unlit fireplace The bills lie in the hallway as the bailiffs come and go The shadows at his front gate always stop to say hello. He doesn't know what to say His words set sail and drift away So he smiles and nods his head At all the things he could have said. Until at last the children cry: "Cross my heart and hope to die Our mothers taught us not to lie But today's the day we saw Old Billy fly." The town got its bypass and another round his heart He's standing on the landing feeling torn apart He goes into her bedroom to see what he can do But she screeches like an owl: ''just who the hell are you?'' So Billy cries and goes downstairs To rearrange the kitchen chairs There's nothing new on his TV So he makes her carers cups of tea. Until at last the children cry: "He kissed the girls and made them sigh Our mothers just won't let this lie But today's the day we saw Old Billy fly." SOLO VIBES So Billy smiles and locks the door He takes the lift to the thirteenth floor Somewhere a blackbird sings He feels the wind rise beneath his wings. Until at last the children cry: "We seen Billy touch the sky Our mothers taught us not to lie 'cause today's the day we saw Old Billy fly." ------------------------------------- (c) 2016 all music, lyrics, vocals and intruments by Paul D. E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Old Billy Fly
sweetwater on 22-06-2016
Old Billy Fly
Oh so,so sad, such a dreaded disease, hartbreaking for all involved. I think this is one of my favourite pieces you have written, not sure why but perhaps its because its so easy to empathise with Billy, feel his anguish and want to make it better for him. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue - I cared for my kids as a single dad then a carer for four elderly relatives. I was a domicilliary carer and the song evolved out of an earlier poem called Billy Blue Legs. Thanks for the comments and listening to me warblings. Mitch

Mikeverdi on 22-06-2016
Old Billy Fly
Ah.... that hits hard. I've experienced this, well penned Paul.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers, Mike - as I said to Sue above, I cared for my kids as a single dad then a carer for four elderly relatives. I was a domicilliary carer and saw far too much (I even started writing a book called Ghost Army - with a few chapters posted here already) and the song evolved out of an earlier poem called Billy Blue Legs. Glad you liked it. Sadly, it is based on a composite of true stories. Mitch

Pronto on 29-06-2016
Old Billy Fly
A terrible disease that robs people of their loved ones in a way more cruel than even death itself can achieve. A tender touching poem.

Author's Reply:

cooky on 12-07-2016
Old Billy Fly
I like the rhythm and the balance of this write. The content may be sad but the writing is joyful.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Cooky - based on true stories alas. But even in darkness there is beauty. Thanks for the read - appreciated. Hope you liked the music too. Mitch


Chapter 19: Night Watch (posted on: 17-06-16)
Chapter 19 of the Light-Father: Amos relates how he and his sister lived in their grandparents' garden as Crawcester died. They met a Feral then Mother Moss and went to Crawthane Street where they met Fria. Suddenly, the story-telling is interrupted by the roar of an Order half-track...

''So that's when you met Mother Moss,'' Harold exclaimed. ''And she named you Fria of the Long Knives.'' Amos was staring at Fria in surprise. ''All the time we were on the run together, you never said much about the hospital,'' he said archly. ''And you never told anyone about that Feral.'' ''I didn't say anything because I was convinced it was only a dream when I woke up and Bethwin was gone,'' Fria shrugged. ''You had your hands full looking after Surl and I'' she paused to look at Harold. ''What is it about you, Light-Father? We've never been able to talk much about the plague and the Year of the Rats yet here we are telling you everything.'' Harold sighed and wished he had a bottle of whisky to take the edge off the horrors these children had witnessed. He lit another of his dwindling stock of cigars and contemplated the falling curtains of rain. ''My mother always said I was a good listener,'' he said eventually, puffing the aromatic smoke out of the doorway. ''You kids have been through nightmares that would've put the toughest soldiers I know into straitjackets yet you survived. It's essential that you talk about it; accept that what happened to you was not your fault and get rid of any guilt you may have about surviving the plague. Only then can you move on and build a life.'' ''How do you know all this?'' Amos demanded, intrigued. ''You said yourself you've never been through what we have.'' ''Death is death, son. Finding my precious Naomi dead in her cot almost destroyed me and killed off my marriage,'' Harold said distantly. He was reliving the nightmare again; his hand reaching down to touch a tiny cheek as cold as snow. ''I still see her in my mind and every day I keep asking myself 'what if?' the most painful and pointless words in any language.'' Fria smiled as a thought struck her: ''Do you think Mother Moss brought you here to heal yourself as well as us?'' ''That may be true,'' Harold nodded. ''I thought I might have missed my old life by now but I don't because I was well on my way to becoming an alcoholic I see that now. I spent all my time fixing scientific machines, using the ones beyond repair to make pretentious sculptures and crippling my liver. In my dream, the Mothers told me she could see into the future and obviously arranged for you two to meet up in this Crawthane Street. You also saw a Feral take shape right in front of you, Fria, which confirms our I mean my dream about the Mothers. I think they searched for these 'Children of Night' and tried to cure them but six years on, they've obviously failed. Magic versus genetic manipulation no matter how powerful they are, it's not much of a contest.'' Amos laid his precious sledgehammer on the floor and stood up with his eyes glittering in the lamplight. He put his right fist to his chest and took a deep breath. ''I, Amos Crawin, hereby apologise in the presence of God and the Light-Father, for giving Fria Rafson such a hard time in Crawcester and during all our time in the Keep and for thinking she was weak and useless when she clearly was not. I humbly beg her for a forgiveness I do not deserve.'' She stared at him with her mouth open then, heedless of the knives resting across her thighs, she leapt up to embrace him joyfully with the single word: ''Brother!'' Harold shook his head in wonder at the two knife blades now deeply embedded into the wooden flooring. He retrieved them while Amos awkwardly comforted Fria who was clinging tightly to him with an ecstatic smile upon her face. ''Well done, Amos,'' Harold approved, testing the incredibly sharp edges of her knives. ''Um, Fria, you can let him go he's come a long way but I think he needs to breathe right now.'' ''I'm sorry I'm crying, Light-Father,'' she smiled through her tears. ''I've always thought that he hated and despised me - it was like a knife turning in my heart all this time.'' ''Or like a knife across the face,'' Amos sighed as she sat down again to wipe her eyes. ''I see now that I hated myself more than the Tally-men and the Fathers because I failed to protect my family and my little sister could say a prayer for them when I could not. How is it that you can make me see this so clearly, Light-Father?'' ''Sit down,'' Harold ordered, indicating the chair. ''Above all, you need to grieve, son. My mother-in-law used to say that when you bottle up grief, you're bottling poison. This is why you tried to hide behind this 'Scar' because you hoped that this alter-ego could be the hero you felt you were not but in reality,'' he stressed. ''What you said to Fria just now makes you more of a hero than anything this 'Scar' person would have done.'' ''I see that now,'' Amos sighed tearfully as he sat down. ''I can finally see their faces in my mind. How did you do this?'' ''There's no secret to it. My wife, Andrea, was a well-respected trauma counsellor looking after bereaved families and working with soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress. Before our daughter was born, she used to teach me how to reach out to people and open the doors they needed to go through - like this one: it's time to say goodbye to your family, Amos, it's time to let them go.'' They fell silent, listening to the incessant rain and the mutterings of Mouse as she fled from shadows and monsters in her dreams. Fria put a hand on Amos's shoulder as he buried his ruined face in his hands and for the first time since that terrible day, he was able to mourn his parents, his brother, his sister. The cigar done, Harold flicked the butt out into the rain and as Fria comforted Amos, he checked on Mouse then Surl, Peter, Pup and Rabbit. The children were fast asleep apart from Surl who was twitching in her dreams and whispering about a battle in the train-yard. He began to wonder if Amos was right about his sister being able to sense impending danger. He sat back down by the doorway. ''Look, I know Shield and her sisters were in the museum at the time when the great storm hit but were you still at the hospital, Fria? And were you and Rebecca at your grandparents' house, Amos?'' ''Yes, they lived in Hollymaiden Street,'' Amos said, wiping his eyes. ''We didn't have any trouble getting there because although people were panicking and attacking each other, we were too small to bother with. Gramp and Gram were our father's parents but they were reclusive so they were free of the plague at first.'' ''You sound as if they didn't make you welcome.'' ''No, they did not,'' Amos said miserably. ''They wouldn't let us into the house no matter how much Rebecca cried and I begged them. We had to sleep in the garage and they handed us food and bedding through a door connecting the garage to the house.'' ''That was callous of them.'' ''Yes, but we had nowhere else to go so we lived in the garage and the garden for six weeks. It was surrounded by a huge thorn hedge so we played in the garden; we went to toilet in the garden and we washed our underwear in the water barrels. It was safe enough but we could hear everyone on the other side of the hedges screaming and dying then the city fell quiet except for the aircraft and the half-tracks of the Order. Then we woke up one morning in the sixth week to find a hairy naked boy with a mangled face snoring away next to us on our mattresses!'' ''Was he a Feral?'' Harold prompted. ''How many children out there ended up like Bethwin?'' ''Hundreds I guess but I didn't know he was a Feral then I just thought he was retarded and had escaped from an institution. He'd wormed his way through the hedge and was friendly like a dog would be. He had five years but he couldn't talk and his fingers were fused together so Rebecca insisted on washing and feeding him even though we were living on scraps by then.'' ''Did your grandparents talk to you?'' ''Gram did talk to us through the kitchen window most days but she stopped when Rebecca's pet appeared then the door into the garage didn't open. Rebecca knew they were dead for I found her standing at the back door and blessing them through the frosted glass. I didn't know what to do and I was too afraid to break into their house as I was too scared of Gramp. Later on, I was drinking some water from the outside tap and Rebecca was playing with her pet to take their minds off being hungry when a shadow fell across me. I tried to grab my hammer but I couldn't move. I still don't know to this day how she got into our garden.'' ''Mother Moss was like that,'' Fria sympathised. ''When I woke up, the doors were still taped shut but Bethwin was gone.'' ''I tried to scream a warning to Rebecca as this strange old woman approached her but she was too busy trying to make the boy wake up. The old woman grabbed her hand, led her into the garage and made her lie down then she came for me. She said something in a strange language and I couldn't control my body. She made me lie down on my bed and warned me that a terrible storm was coming. She told me that we should go to Crawthane Street once the worst was over and then she laid her hands upon my face.'' ''Then what happened?'' Harold said, intrigued. ''Nothing. I woke up and there was water and food laid out for us but Rebecca's pet was gone. She cried about 'Ruff-Ruff' as she called him then she made me pack up our belongings into our rucksacks. The sky went a strange black and green colour then the storm broke. I'll never forget the hail smashing into the metal of the garage roof like cannon balls and shattering the tiles on the houses all around us. We stayed in the garage until it passed but the heavy rain began and we ran out of the food she'd left us.'' He touched his cheek. ''She'd taken away the pain from the scar but I knew there was no point in staying in that garage and starving to death so we went to Crawthane Street with the rain slamming down onto our heads like a never-ending waterfall.'' ''As did I,'' Fria said. ''I hid in the bathroom as all the hospital windows were blown out by the vortex as it passed. I was out of food as well and the rats and flies were everywhere. I put the last of my water and biscuits and clean clothes into my bag then I took my knives and ran through the corridors. Ugh! The smell and the rats,'' she shuddered. ''I had to run and run they were like a carpet and the air was black with blowflies I swallowed so many all the bodies were full of maggots ugh!'' ''So we met up in a large department store and lived there for a while as the rain fell and fell,'' Amos continued. ''Nobody had died there so it was like a giant playground for Fria and Rebecca.'' ''We had water and tins of food from the grocery areas though they were crawling with rats and flies too,'' Fria added with another shudder of revulsion. ''The upper floors were clear so we had real beds to sleep in and bathrooms where we could wash our clothes. We had plenty of clean clothes to choose from of course but Amos was so serious all the time; puffing and tutting at us.'' ''It wasn't safe,'' he protested. ''Anyone could have got us while we slept in the store but Rebecca did love her new big sister.'' ''Poor Surl,'' Fria said pointedly, looking at the sleeping girl. ''She had such beautiful red hair then. She kept calling me Sara but I didn't mind because she was to me as Pup is to Bas.'' ''She's Rebecca not Surl anymore,'' Amos reminded her. ''I should never have given her that stupid name! It was hard when the flood came, Light-Father. It drove the rats up onto the top floors and Rebecca was bitten several times but we had bushels of rat-poison from the gardening section. The water came up to the third floor windows so we retreated to the top floor and that's when we thought it would drown the whole city and us with it'' ''Then we saw the Barnacle,'' Fria said excitedly. ''We couldn't believe that there was somebody alive other than us so we waved and shouted at them but they couldn't hear us above the terrible noise when the bridge collapsed and they were swept back up the street. We thought they were dead but Rebecca cried all day and said we were wrong. We couldn't console her'' ''I told her the water was going down and tried to make her smile but I lost my temper and told her to stop being a Surl a surly person,'' Amos said guiltily. ''And I never stopped'' Mouse sat up suddenly and started taking gibberish, staring ahead with unseeing eyes. ''Ach, hell, it's getting worse,'' Harold said, going over to her. He roused her and then made her drink some water and swallow antibiotics and fever tablets. She managed to keep them down but she clung to him in sheer terror. ''The old man's house is trying to eat me,'' she whimpered. ''The Tally-men are under my bed. The house the house'' He rocked her gently until she fell asleep again in his arms. ''I'm no doctor but she's in serious trouble,'' he said helplessly, laying her down and removing a sheet. He tugged at his collar. ''She's drenched in sweat and it's getting even warmer in here.'' He sat back down heavily and took out another cigar. ''There's nothing more I can do for her so you might as tell me how you made your way to the Keep,'' he said. ''Do you have to keep smoking those things?'' Fria protested. ''They smell like burnt socks and tar.'' Harold looked at Fria with a raised eyebrow. ''That's exactly what Andrea used to say. I know it's a bad habit but I need to think about what we need to do if David's whoa!'' Bas had suddenly leapt out of the dark to land cat-like in front of him. ''Douse the light!'' she hissed. ''There's a vehicle, possibly a half-track, driving down Crawcester Road and that can only mean the Order is coming to Redeem us!'' ''So David's warning is coming true,'' Harold muttered as he dimmed the light to a glimmer. ''They're here to lead the Tally-men after us. There's no way a talking head in a damned tin is going to work on one of them!'' ''Calm down - Tally-men don't function that well in storms like this,'' Amos said, hefting his hammer. ''I can hear it now. It's definitely a troop-carrier which means there's more than one Father on board and maybe a platoon of Brothers.'' ''Then they don't need the Tally-men to attack us right now,'' Harold exclaimed as the ominous roar of the engine passed by on the other side of the boundary wall. Then it faded away. ''Huh? Where are they headed, Bas?'' he demanded. He looked down in surprise to that find he'd unconsciously drawn his sword. ''I was convinced they were going to drive straight into this rail-yard.'' ''I think they've gone to the barracks of the Tally-men set up in the hotel at the far end of Druid's Lane - about fifteen minutes walk or a hundred chains from the gates,'' Bas observed, still listening intently. ''I heard one man comment about the storm'' she added, puzzled. ''He said it's going to get worse. I don't like this weather there's ash and dust in the rain and a sharp odour I haven't smelt before. Shall I wake the Elders, Light-Father?'' ''The half-track should have done that but go and make sure they're up and armed. Thank God the rain is getting heavier,'' he said thoughtfully as the heavens were riven with intense flashes. He sniffed at the air. ''That sharp smell is ozone, Bas. It's being made by that lightning display up there. I'm hoping that it's playing havoc with the radio signals to the Guides controlling the Tally-men. Damn the Order why did they have to come now?'' ''How can we escape?'' Fria demanded fearfully as Bas went to get the others. ''We can't use the roads as the Tally-men patrol them all the time and if we used a vehicle to break through, they would radio their rotor-craft to shoot at us.'' ''So the Order watches all the roads,'' Harold said thoughtfully. ''Then why don't we use the railway lines to escape?'' ''We would be exposed on the railway line and vulnerable to ambush,'' Saul objected as he clambered aboard. ''Bas suggested we should climb over the western wall and hide in the woods but what would we do for food and shelter there? How is Mouse?'' ''Not good,'' Fria said grimly. ''I agree with Bas, Elder - I'd rather take my chances with the Ferals but I won't leave Mouse behind to be killed by the Order!'' ''The woods are an option,'' Harold conceded. ''We might find sanctuary with the Mothers but we don't know where their hide-out is and they didn't exactly want Mother Moss to protect the Children of Exodus, did they? So what about using the Phoenix? That engine looks ready to run and we could take these wagons with us once we clear all the barbed wire away.'' Saul shook his head. ''We can't. The first wagon is welded to the east gate and the end wagon is welded to the trailer. We'd have to burn through the welds before we could move them and these wagons have been in these sidings for a very long time so the axles may have seized. We'd be better off taking the wagons from the sheds and sidings on the other side of the yard. We need.'' ''We need to keep watch, Saul,'' Bas interrupted. ''You're right, Bas,'' Saul agreed as Ibrahim, Shield and Fierce joined them with their weapons at the ready. ''I'll do first watch. The rain is warm so I don't mind getting wet again.'' ''I'll take over at second hour, Saul,'' Amos offered as the four youngest began to wake up and rub the sleep from their eyes. ''I don't think I could rest with the Fathers this close to us again.'' ''If they went past us, I don't think they will attack us in the dark. With all due respect, Elder,'' Bas said to Saul as she adjusted her bow and quiver of arrows. ''I'll do first watch my night vision is better than anyone's here.'' With that she leapt onto the caravan roof from the doorway and vanished into the rainswept night. Harold shook his head in wonder ''She's something else, isn't she?'' he whispered. ''I've never seen anyone so agile.'' ''Of course she's something else,'' Fria chuckled. ''She was designed by her father - she's our sister but she's not human.'' ''I heard that!'' Bas said from the rainswept darkness. Fria went to the door. ''You know I meant no disrespect!'' she called out. ''You're as dear to me as any sister could be!'' There was no reply so she sat down again and laid the knives across her thighs. ''She's right though - they'll be coming for us at first light whether it rains or not,'' she said fearfully. ''We're going to have to fight them here in the yard without Mother Moss.'' ''We won't be able to hide away like last time,'' Amos agreed. ''We've killed many Tally-men, Light-Father. We practice every day with our weapons and we did well against the dogs but we won't stand a chance against Fathers, Brothers and Tally-men if they attack us in numbers. Don't forget Fathers carry guns.'' ''I haven't killed anyone,'' Harold said, displaying his sword. ''But this is an incredible weapon it almost swings itself but what can we do if these Fathers come at us with guns? Where can we get hold of guns and rifles at this time of night?'' ''There's a hunting shop in Crawthane Street,'' Fria suggested. ''It has guns and ammunition in the strong-room at the back.'' Ibrahim scowled at her. ''The Eldest can't make a sortie now. Firstly, it's pitch black out there and secondly, they could attack and kill the rest of you while we're gone.'' ''Pup is scared!'' Pup said as he was comforted by Rabbit. Surl yawned and pointed at the tables. ''Fathers have guns,'' she said simply. ''The wagon walls are too thin to stop bullets.'' ''Good point!'' Harold cried. ''Reinforce the outer wall!'' They piled up the desks, cupboards, shelves and chairs until Harold was satisfied. ''That's better - it should protect us from a machine gun if we all lie flat on the floor,'' he declared. ''Now - what other weapons do the Fathers and Brothers carry?'' ''We've never seen a Brother with a gun,'' Shield said, readying a second quiver of bolts. ''We've noticed that shots draw Tally-men and Order half-tracks from everywhere so we've never kept any guns or rifles. A bolt kills as easily as a bullet only quietly.'' ''We have to assume they know we're here,'' Harold said decisively. ''Pack everything you can carry into bags or rucksacks including bottles of water and medicines and we'll make a stretcher for Mouse and move across into the main shed before dawn. So what other weapons do they have?'' ''Brothers and Tally-men carry spears,'' Saul said. ''The Tally-men carry electric stun-guns while the Brothers carry swords, dart-guns and many of them have plasma grenades.'' ''What the hell are plasma grenades?'' ''I've only seen them used once, Light-Father,'' Saul replied. ''My father once told me that they are made of layers of different explosives and one which ionises the reactants making for a huge detonation. They are about the size of a coconut but they can take out a whole building in one explosion.'' ''So they have guns and grenades and all we have are swords and bows?'' Harold said in exasperation. ''Jesus, we have got to get out of here!'' Fria and Amos crossed over to the doorway and were silhouetted by the flickering lightning displays as they stared up at the heavens. ''What's the matter now, you two?'' ''Didn't you notice, Light-Father?'' Amos said over his shoulder. ''The rain just stopped.'' ------------------------------------------------------------ (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-2013
Archived comments for Chapter 19: Night Watch
Mikeverdi on 17-06-2016
Chapter 19: Night Watch
Excellent, I look forwards to every episode now. Let the battle begin.
Mike


Author's Reply:


Chapter 18: Fria and Bethwin (posted on: 13-06-16)
Chapter 18 of the Light-Father: Fria tells her tale of how she endured the Plague that decimated Crawcester in the worst place possible - a hospital. She and another girl were left alive yet she was forced to watch as Bethwin slowly became a dangerous Feral...

''Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art - it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.'' - C. S. Lewis ''You had no choice,'' Harold said kindly but Amos did not reply as he was resting his elbows on his thighs and staring at the floor in black despair. ''You did the right thing by saving your sister but I just can't believe that a child of that age could walk into that room with your parents, brother and sister all butchered like that and say a prayer over each of them.'' ''She was so calm, Light-Father. I couldn't even look at their bodies let alone cry or say a prayer for them,'' Amos said bitterly. He glanced across at his sister who was fast asleep, cradling her sheathed machete. ''She'd picked those four flowers as if she knew they were dead but how could she possibly know?'' ''Maybe she worked it out from what that Father was saying,'' Harold suggested then turned to Fria who was busy sorting out her saturated topknot. ''What happened to your family, Fria?'' ''I was an only child and my father vaccinated me two weeks before the plague began,'' she said distantly. ''I was rushed to hospital with a high fever caused by a reaction to the vaccine. My parents visited me every day and I slowly got better. A handsome postulant from the Order who had twelve years used to visit me too as part of his sacred duties,'' she smiled fondly. ''He made fun of the Fathers and how serious they all became after this seven-headed lamb was found in the Vatican genetics laboratories.'' ''A sign from the Book of Revelation,'' Harold nodded. ''Did this young lad know what the Order was planning?'' ''No, I don't think so but I knew something was wrong because my parents were so frightened of the Order. Dad said a terrible disease was coming but the vaccine would protect me but that's all he told me. I had but eight years at the time. Then about fifteen days after I went into the hospital, my mother and father didn't come again. Nurse Cerys was looking after us and she said that an epidemic had broken out in the town so they probably didn't want to bring it into the wards. I knew it was a lie because so many sick people were already cramming into the hospital and all the corridors were full. She even tried belling home several times for me but the phones were all dead.'' ''The plague was already under way,'' Amos explained. ''While my sister and I searched for our grandparents, Fria was watching the plague happen in the worst place of all - a hospital.'' ''I understand,'' Harold said grimly. ''Excuse me a second.'' He got up to drag Mouse's mattress a little from the fire and applied a fresh wet towel to her forehead but she just groaned and fidgeted in her troubled dreams. ''Her fever is dangerously high,'' he reported as he sat down again. ''Damn it, there's nothing I can do for her. This is so frustrating. If David's warning comes true we won't be able to flee if she's in this condition.'' ''That's how I felt when I was in that hospital, Light-Father,'' Fria said, repressing a shudder. ''Helpless.'' Harold lit another cigar and savoured the smoke before blowing it out into the rain. He looked at Fria and wondered at the incredible inner strength these children possessed then he suddenly realised that for every Child of Exodus in the Keep possibly a hundred or more had never made it. There were two exquisitely sharp and unsheathed knives laid across her thighs and he understood how, despite her anaemia, she had survived such unspeakable odds. ''Why are you smiling?'' she asked. ''Do I amuse you?'' ''Not at all, Fria,'' he assured her. ''Back home we have all these pathetic gangs; mostly the cowardly brats of moronic parents who wander the streets and terrorise the sick and elderly - they would not have lasted ten seconds here. That hospital sounded awful - we have all night so you might as well tell me what happened.''
~~~~~
Nurse Cerys had never known such an epidemic and none of the hospital analysts could identify the pathogen so she did her best: administering painkillers and fever-reducing medicines by the trolley-load. She might as well have been dispensing placebos for every single patient got steadily worse and one week from the first admission, people started dying. However, at the end of the top floor corridor and isolated from the mayhem below, was a private children's ward where her youngest patients were housed. She wheeled a trolley into the ward and Fria immediately helped her dish the dinners out. ''You look exhausted, Nurse Cerys,'' she said. ''You haven't caught this disease, have you?'' ''Not yet, bless Mary, but I can't get home to my husband because it's too dangerous on the streets as riots are breaking out everywhere. I had to cook these dinners myself as most of the catering staff are ill. It's just bacon, peas and potatoes because that's all that's fresh down there at the moment. We aren't getting any deliveries through as the roads are blocked.'' The four girls, who were not that friendly with each other, ate in silence despite the nurse's valiant attempts to cheer them up. ''I'm sorry,'' she apologised as she finished her meal. ''I've tried my best to reach your parents but I will keep trying, I promise.'' She coughed suddenly and violently and took out a cloth to wipe her mouth. ''Excuse me - I think I have a cold.'' Fria was alarmed to see blood on the cloth although the nurse had tried to pocket it without them noticing. ''You have caught it, Nurse Cerys,'' she said with panic in her voice. ''Is it true? Are there lots of people dying on the lower floors?'' ''I'm fine, dear heart,'' Cerys said, wiping her mouth carefully with a fresh tissue. ''I don't feel ill but I am tired. I haven't slept for two days and I'm worried about my husband because he can't boil an egg without setting fire to the pan.'' She got up and cleared the dishes away and pushed the trolley to the door. ''I'll be back at eight of the clock with your medicines so be good until then.'' After the nurse had gone, they huddled around the small television - as they did every day - to watch a world slipping relentlessly into chaos and darkness. All the channels were running stories on the riots and the frantic efforts of governments trying desperately to quarantine ever larger areas of their countries until May Day when law and order finally crumbled across the globe and the dead piled up in the streets. The girls' reserve - bred of high-class status finally broke down as they began to comfort each other, watching the television by day and the fires covering Crawcester by night a chilling sight made more vivid by the fact that no streetlights were working. On that fateful May Day, Cerys had appeared with her eyes still red from crying, to plait white flowers into their hair to mark them as May Maidens. ''I'm sorry,'' she wept as she worked. ''I managed to get home last night but several houses in my street had been burnt out. Our front door was kicked in and my husband was dead on the floor with foam all over his mouth he'd been dead for over a week and I'' She buried her face in her hands and sobbed. ''I have no home or husband and the streets are filled with rats, crows and dogs eating the bodies this isn't an epidemic - it's a plague and they're all saying that the Order started it!'' ''My father thought that the Order was up to something evil,'' Fria said, kneeling on the bed next to Nurse Cerys and placing an arm about her shoulder. ''But nobody believed him. He said a bad disease was coming but they told him not to slander the Order.'' The nurse's sobbing turned into a coughing fit. ''No wonder they never offered to help us. We all thought they were saints how could they do this to the world? You'll have to excuse me, girls, there are so many dead, we're cremating the bodies in the boiler rooms.'' She gave a wry smile at the girls' horrified expressions. ''Yes, the dead are keeping us warm. The plague has peaked here we're losing more than we're admitting so I can get some sleep at last. Look at these lights - the power stations are starting to shut down as there are not enough workers to keep them going. All the street lights were turned off weeks ago so they could keep the essential services going but we'll have to rely on our generators soon.'' She stood up and swayed a little. ''I hope you don't mind but I'll be sleeping in the spare bed over there tonight.'' Mara, a tall dark-skinned girl of Bedouin ancestry, suddenly convulsed and vomited wretchedly leaving a foul black mess on the floor. ''I don't feel good,'' she groaned as they helped her into bed. Fria found a mop and cleaned the mess up the other three would never stoop to such a task as Cerys checked Mara over. ''You have the plague,'' Cerys said, placing a hand on Mara's forehead. ''May God in his Glory have mercy on your soul; may Mary take your hand and guide you into the Light. Amen.'' ''I'm still here,'' Mara said defiantly. ''So don't read me any last rites. You have it and you seem fine.'' ''I've taken huge doses of anti-viral drugs but they've run out. We kept them for the staff to keep the hospital running but the plague is everywhere now. Nobody is coming because they're all dying out there. The rats and dogs are starving so they're eating people even if they aren't dead yet.'' ''If there are bodies lying everywhere then the rats will multiply like crazy,'' Mara said as tears streamed down her cheeks. ''It means my parents and brothers are in our house being eaten by rats and probably our house dogs as well!'' ''And my parents too,'' Fria sobbed. Cerys checked their temperatures. ''You're all infected except for Fria but it's only a matter of time, dear heart, unless a miracle happens. Keep warm I'll be back after my rounds with some food. All the other children are infected but you four are the last. This plague has a one hundred percent infection rate so it can't be natural. What possessed them to do this? I hope they all rot in Hell,'' she hissed, baring her teeth and bleeding gums. She left them to watch the television again as the evening light faded and the strip lights flickered ominously. At nine of the clock, a haggard unshaven announcer with bloodshot eyes appeared on the screen. ''Good evening,'' he said sombrely. ''The Government today has sent out the last of its troops to surround the Great Abbey of the Order. Great-Abbot Schimrian will be executed for betraying both God and humanity because the Order has just announced that they created this plague! They've told us that their 'Revelation Virus' is lethal with ninety-nine percent of the human population already infected with at best two to three days to live.'' ''There are only six of us hack! left in the studio and we are all in the terminal stages and all our loved ones are dead. May God have mercy on all your souls and may the Devil take this Order and all its vile Abbots, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and Novices into the deepest pits of Damnation to suffer for all Eternity! The last of the power stations are shutting down and we at His Majesty's Britannic Broadcasting Agency bless you all and hope at least some of you survive this vile and incomprehensible treachery.'' The camera pulled back then five people sat alongside the announcer and opened bottles of spirits. Solemnly, they poured themselves large glasses and raised them in toast at the camera. ''This is Sol Magnusson bidding you all a long good night. We are praying for you and hope that you are praying for us. Farewell.'' The screen inexplicably showed a few seconds of a famous soap opera before going blank forever. The strip lights buzzed and failed for a second before the generators kicked in and restored the power. The girls went silently and numbly to bed then Nurse Cerys returned at midnight, checked them over and gave Mara some strong opiates to help her sleep before taking some herself. Fria awoke in the early hours to find the lights dimmed and someone at the foot of her bed removing her charts and name tag. ''Who are you?'' she hissed. She recognised the postulant who immediately came to the side of her bed. ''Be silent,'' he whispered urgently, placing a finger on her lips. ''The Order has killed the last of the soldiers and they are now searching all the hospitals for the Children of Exodus. You're one of them but I won't let them take you! There's ether on this pad,'' he said, displaying it. ''I'm going to cover you with blood and vomit from the other wards. I have to do this because when they come looking for you you have to look as good as dead, understand? If you don't, they will kill you!'' ''Why are they doing this?'' she demanded, grabbing his robes. ''Revelation,'' he said simply and pressed the pad to her mouth and nose. ''You'll have to sleep as one near death to fool the Inquisitors,'' he whispered. ''If I can save one innocent soul by sacrificing one close to death then maybe Jesus, the One True Lamb, will search my heart and forgive me.'' She struggled but he was much stronger than her and she knew no more until she awoke with a pounding headache and a putrid stench assailing her nostrils. She gasped in horror as she saw the girl in the next bed had vanished, her sheets strewn across the floor. She staggered across the ward to wake Nurse Cerys only to find her cold and lifeless with bloody foam about her mouth and, weakened by plague and opiates, Mara had gone the same way. Bethwin was still alive but her eyes had filled with blood so she was sat up in bed, shivering and whimpering in terror. ''Someone came in the night and took Cora!'' she cried out, clutching at Fria for reassurance. ''She was too ill to fight them and I was too ill to save her they just laughed at me and now I'm blind. Everything is red and black. Why is everything so quiet? Where is Nurse Cerys? Mara? Mara!'' ''I'm sorry, Bethwin, but Nurse Cerys and Mara are dead.'' ''Oh, my Merciful God!'' Bethwin gasped several times. ''May Mary guide them into the Light!'' She calmed down a little in Fria's arms. ''Fria, ugh, you smell of vomit and blood. Please tell me you haven't got this plague as well.'' Fria found it hard to disengage herself from the older girl's clinging embrace despite the mess on her night-clothes. ''I'm fine,'' she said as the rumble of a distant explosion made the windows rattle briefly. Through the windows she could see countless palls of smoke smearing the blue sky the hospital was on a hill overlooking the whole of Crawcester where many homes and factories were still ablaze. ''I have to go down to the kitchens to get us some breakfast before the generators fail.'' She made Bethwin drink a glass of water and gave her one of the larger stuffed toys to act as a comforter. ''I'll be straight back,'' she promised. That journey to the kitchens remained engraved in her memory for the rest of her life. The only sounds were from the hum and alarms of machines that were now monitoring corpses. The lower corridors were strewn with rows of makeshift beds upon which the dead lay, their faces contorted in their death throes yet the frail and trembling eight-year-old girl somehow found the strength to press on and bless each one with ''May the Virgin Mary guide you into Light,'' whilst making the sign of the cross over them. She passed a lift full of bodies slumped against its blood-stained walls with the doors opening and closing automatically like some grotesque carnival peep-show. She reached the kitchens which were mercifully empty and crammed a trolley with bottled water, drinks, tins, cutlery and can-openers. Food was already rotting and maggot-infested; matching the stench in the wards and corridors. She vomited twice before she could place four ready-meals in a microwave oven and heated them up knowing that she could not face returning again. On an impulse - having watched an apocalypse horror film on the ward television - she added tea, coffee, washing powder and two long carving knives to the trolley and wheeled it towards the small service lift. It only had one corpse - that of the janitor lying next to his sanitation trolley. The lift was still working so she endured the foul odour and horror as it rose to the top floor. She wheeled out both trolleys into the corridor and turned to bless the dead man before the doors closed upon him for the last time. She realised that like Nurse Cerys, he'd died doing the job that he loved She comforted Bethwin who had been making an animal-like howling noise as she rocked back and forth in grief and despair. She helped her to eat her breakfast but as they finished their meal, the untended generators failed and the hospital finally died. ''There's no light, Bethwin,'' she said fearfully. ''All the machines are dead. I think we're the only ones left alive.'' ''I don't want to die, Fria,'' Bethwin sighed. ''But I don't feel too bad - I think I might actually survive this foul plague.'' ''Yes, dear heart,'' Fria said, copying Nurse Cerys's tone of voice. ''I won't leave you - I'll help you get over this.'' ''Bless you, Fria,'' Bethwin smiled as she lay back onto her bed. ''That food was lovely but what is that dreadful smell?'' ''It's not just me the floors downstairs are full of corpses and they're rotting. There are rats and blowflies down there too.'' ''So they'll be up here soon,'' Bethwin groaned. ''Are you sure no dogs are downstairs? I definitely heard something yammering while you were gone or was it me?'' ''It was you, dear heart, you were in a lot of pain.'' ''It's funny but I felt as though I was drifting away from myself,'' Bethwin said, flexing a hand. ''Apart from my eyes and the pain in all my bones, I feel stronger than I've ever been.'' ''Maybe you're somehow fighting the plague.'' Bethwin frowned suddenly. ''Hmm, despite the stink on your night-clothes, you don't sound ill and I can tell by the way you move that you have no pain in your joints.'' ''How can you tell? You can't see.'' Bethwin turned her red eyes to stare blindly at her. ''It's strange but I can sense everything about you. I can hear your heartbeat speeding up as you look at me I must look terrible!'' ''Your eyes are all red so it's upsetting me,'' Fria confessed candidly. ''They might clear if you keep fighting the virus and my father told me once that when people lose one sense, all the others sharpen up to compensate.'' ''Yes, that's it,'' Bethwin said brightly. ''I can hear the screaming on the wind and everyone dying in the city but we're safe here - if we can keep the rats and dogs out of this ward.'' ''I hear nothing out there nor do I want to,'' Fria shuddered. ''We have to get Mara and Nurse Cerys into the next ward and seal the doors before they start to smell and attract the rats and blowflies - but I don't know how to move them.'' ''You daft gnome,'' Bethwin said kindly. ''The beds are all on castors just unlock them. I can't see and I hurt all over but I'm sure I can help you push the beds.'' They managed to heave the beds into the ward next door so Mara and Nurse Cerys were left to rest amongst a dozen dead children. Disgusted by the smell and blowflies buzzing around the corpses, Fria sealed the doors with duct tape. She checked all the other wards and found snacks and apples still edible and sealed those doors as well. Finally, at Bethwin's insistence, she sealed the doors to their ward and the ventilation grills then killed the dozen or so blowflies inside using the janitor's insecticide spray. There was a small shower in a bathroom attached to the ward and Fria found that the huge hot water tanks were still full and savoured what she knew might be her last ever hot shower. Without power she knew that the boilers would not be able to heat the tanks even if they were still going so she steered Bethwin into the shower and helped her to wash her long black mane. ''Your back is covered with fur,'' she noted running a hand over Bethwin's skin. ''What? Me hairy, never!'' Bethwin retorted. ''It feels itchy and sore though. It must be a side effect of the plague.'' ''It's not too noticeable,'' Fria assured her. ''But when you recover, having to wax your back will be a small price to pay.'' ''I hope that's all there is,'' Bethwin said as Fria towelled her vigorously and helped her into some fresh night clothes. And so they began their weeks alone together. Fria watched her companion recover slowly but Bethwin was changing and slipped into occasional fevers from which she emerged altered and day by day, Fria's silent despair and concern for her grew The city fires died out but the smell of smoke still hung heavy on the air and occasionally the fine ash of distant conflagrations rained down from the southerly breeze as it grew hotter and more humid by the day. The janitor's transistor radio and the spare batteries were a godsend whenever Bethwin was well enough they huddled together and listened avidly to it but only a few stations remained on the air and one by one their frantic calls for help ceased. They retuned to one foreign station after another then the fainter and fainter signals from the Japanese Empire until one day all that was left on the wavebands was static. ''We're the last ones left alive,'' Fria said bleakly. ''Don't think so - Order lives,'' Bethwin said, forming each word with difficulty. ''Wish could speak better. Get harder to make word sound each day. Not feel. Cannot think. Head funny. Face feels funny. Smell you fear of me. Fria fear Bethwin now?'' Fria sat behind Bethwin and threw her arms around her to draw her close. ''The plague is changing you, dear heart, but you've survived without vaccination, Bethwin, you've survived! Even the blood is going from your eyes.'' ''Bless little gnome-elf Fria,'' Bethwin sighed gratefully. ''Now she smell good. My teeth still grow long?'' ''Yes, your canines and nails are really long now but at least the fevers and the nightmares are over, blessed be Mary.'' ''Eyesight start good slow now but no red green. All grey but more good than dark. Mirror?'' ''You can see clearly again?'' Fria asked apprehensively. Bethwin turned to regard Fria who saw clearly how little humanity now remained in that face. The jaws had elongated and changed shape slightly to resemble a muzzle and the pupils had started to become cat-like. ''See shape!'' Bethwin yelped but the words were barely discernible amongst the dog-like noises she was making now that she was agitated. ''Why no mirror? Why not in bathroom? Why Fria smell of fear? Bethwin beautiful!'' ''I'll get a mirror but your face has been affected badly by the plague while you were ill,'' Fria said carefully. ''You'll have a terrible shock when you look into the mirror but I'm used to it you are still beautiful Bethwin to me'' ''RRRzzzunscraarrraahrn!'' Trembling, Fria brought the transformed Bethwin the mirror she'd hidden whilst keeping the two knives carefully concealed behind her back. She was exhausted from nursing her alternately lucid and raving patient and being powerless to stop the changes to Bethwin's body and the erosion of her reason and speech. ''See, dear heart? It's not too bad,'' she said with a forced brightness. The mirror smashed against the far wall. ''Liar!'' Bethwin screamed ''All weeks you lie. I see you kill! Fria bad! Bad!'' All Fria heard was a bestial growling as Bethwin advanced upon her. She was moving with a fluid grace with her hands outstretched showing her sharp and thickening nails - the intent to rend her limb from limb clear upon her brutish features. Despite her fear and sense of loss, Fria adopted a fighting stance she'd remembered from a martial arts film and reluctantly pointed her knives at her transformed and demented friend. Bethwin stared over Fria's shoulder with a look of hope and surprise then she sighed deeply and dropped to her knees. She swayed a little with her eyes closed before falling sideways onto the floor where she curled up, seemingly fast asleep, with a contented smile upon her ravaged face. Fria almost fainted with fear as an aged hand was laid upon her right shoulder the door had been sealed but this old woman had entered without making a sound. ''Be at peace, Child of Exodus,'' the old woman said in a surprisingly clear voice. ''I am not of the Order but I am come to claim this poor soul.'' ''Who are you? How did you get in here? Why aren't you ill?'' ''Bless my heart, so many questions,'' the old woman smiled. ''This black staff should tell you what I am, child.'' ''You are a Mother; a witch of Nature!'' Fria gasped, her eyes widening. ''My mother told me of how you dressed in men's clothes and fought against the Order for centuries'' ''Indeed and I have the gift of seeing things yet to happen,'' the old woman nodded, gazing down upon Bethwin with tears in her eyes. ''You will meet two others in Crawthane Street and in time you will find nine more Children of Exodus and together you will fulfil such a dark, dark destiny.'' Fria suppressed a yawn. ''What dark destiny?'' she demanded, indicating the dead city beyond the window. ''Isn't it dark enough? Everybody out there has been killed by the Order.'' She felt a huge wave of exhaustion overwhelm her and she could not resist as the old woman gently disarmed her and then led her to her bed. ''Why can't I control my body? Why are you taking Bethwin?'' ''Shhh, you are wounded in both heart and soul and you need to sleep the deep sleep of the righteous,'' the old woman smiled down at her. ''You have done well and endured so much yet Bethwin is lost to you; her mind and body have been taken by the virus. She is now a Feral; a Child of Night. A storm is coming, Fria bringing with it a world of endless rain and terror but when that storm abates, you must find your new companions in Crawthane Street. There you must survive until I can find you again.'' ''But I'm so lonely,'' Fria protested. ''Take me with you why can't I move my body? What have you done to me?'' ''I am Mother Moss,'' the old woman said, drawing the sheets to her chin. She placed a hand upon Fria's forehead and strange soothing pulses coursed though her tired limbs. ''This is a healing Wiccan thrall magic if you will. I cannot take you with me for I must collect all those like Bethwin and search for a cure but I promise I will find you again. Rest well, Fria of the Long Knives, for your journey is just beginning...''
~~~~~
Fria looked down upon the familiar pattern of the picnic blanket upon which she sat. Her parents were sat either side of her and together they enjoyed the sun upon their skin, the tang of salt sea breezes as they watched waves break and ships pass beneath the wheeling of the gulls. She knew she had a question upon her lips but for the life of her, she couldn't remember what it was -------------------------------- Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012 - 2013
Archived comments for Chapter 18: Fria and Bethwin
Mikeverdi on 14-06-2016
Chapter 18: Fria and Bethwin
Your skill at story telling is growing with each chapter. I'm enjoying this more as we go on. In the end you will go back, edit, prune, curse and re write portions. For now this is great for me...thanks for the read.
Mike

ps. I'm going back to Webber to look again, it's been a while.

Author's Reply:
I've already gone thru it eight times and this is for a second edition so not much will change as everything in the story thus far comes together as the battles start and this tiny band of Scatterlings plot to storm the stronghold of the Order! Glad you are enjoying it. Webber? What be that?

Mitch


Chapter 17: Amos (posted on: 10-06-16)
Chapter 17 of the Light-Father: Harold learns more of how Amos and Rebecca, two of the remarkable Children of Exodus, survived the unspeakable brutality of the Inquisitors of the Order.

Harold could not believe how quiet it was now that the older children were all in bed. Surl, Peter, Pup and Rabbit were curled up on his mattress and bathed in the glow of the stove even though the late evening air was hot and humid. The rain still lashed down but he no longer heard the drumming on the roof or the incessant rumbles of thunder. Brilliant erratic flashes lit up the sky but there were no local strikes to wake them so he was content to sit in a chair and watch them sleep while he smoked a cigar in the back doorway. Mouse was asleep but she was obviously in the throes of a fever dream as she turned and mumbled constantly. He was analysing a strange sensation a growing paternal love for his new family. ''Huh!'' he said aloud. ''It's not as if I had much of a life back there.'' He checked his watch and noticed the faint trembling in his outstretched fingers. ''About this time, I'd be getting in two pints at last orders plus shorts on a Friday. Let's see - Monday to Saturday whiskies'' His eyes widened. ''Christ, over a hundred units a week - no wonder I'm shaking.'' ''Units of what,'' Amos asked, climbing into the wagon. ''Alcohol, Amos I drank too much. Can't you sleep?'' ''Not really,'' Amos sighed, pulling up a chair. ''I keep dreaming that Mouse dies only her face is that of my mother'' Harold blew a smoke ring out of the door and recalled Surl's words as it vanished in the rain: 'he'll just be another monster in a world full of monsters.' ''That image will never leave you, son,'' he said carefully. ''Nor should it because it's a part of you but you have to make sure that you are not part of it.'' ''Huh? What do you mean by that?'' ''What lost Surl her hair was watching you caving in a Tally-man's skull with a hammer. I don't care if you knew no better or not just tell me what you felt when you were doing that?'' ''The same as when I killed two Tally-men last year. I saw a grown man smothering a child so Fria and I killed him. I had this red mist in front of my eyes and I felt a hundred chains tall and Fria was angry too she drove a knife into his neck. We got him off Sur Rebecca then I made sure that he was dead.'' ''Do you remember smiling?'' ''Why should I?'' Amos shuddered then he bared his teeth. ''All I wanted to do was erase the face of a thing that killed my parents and Eorl and Sara,'' he snarled, rubbing at his ragged scar. ''I have nightmares and I feel guilty about my sister I haven't been able to love her as a brother because I feel ashamed of what I am.'' ''You are not a monster,'' Harold smiled and put a finger to the troubled teenager's chest. ''What you feel is the result of being brutalised by the Order. In here is a heart that cares for your sister and Fria even though you've said they're burdens to you.'' ''Fria was hard work, Light-Father,'' he said, pushing Harold's hand to one side. ''I didn't know she was anaemic. She almost got us killed three times before she learnt to use her knives. I'' Harold raised a hand to silence him. ''I'm going to make you a hot coffee then you can tell me everything,'' he said as the lightning flickered overhead. ''I can't sleep with Mouse like this'' He halted at a faint sound outside the back door but Amos had drawn his knives before he'd picked his sword up from the floor. They both breathed a sigh of relief as Fria showed herself. As they lowered their weapons they noticed that she was thoroughly soaked with her hair plastered to her head so she'd obviously been eavesdropping on their conversation. ''Yes, I'd like to listen to that story as well, Amos,'' she declared icily. ''Once I'm dry. I can't sleep without Rabbit snoring in my ear anyway.'' ''As you wish,'' Amos huffed, folding his arms. ''Dry out and let the Light-Father make you a hot drink as well - we can't have you fainting on us again''
~~~~~
There were dreadful sounds coming from the front room: thuds and groans; the crackling of tazers and vile raucous laughter. Amos opened his eyes and instinctively bit his lip to keep from howling with pain from the beating he'd taken from the Father who'd cut his face. He saw a pool of blood on the floor and knew that he was badly injured and a white hot fire burned upon his face. Something moved beneath the table hidden by the chairs then Rebecca emerged and crawled over to him clutching her stuffed owl toy. She picked up a towel from the floor and tried to press it to his wound. ''Amos, your face is bleeding. They stabbed Eorl and Sara - they're still hurting them,'' she whispered in tears. ''Please, Amos, make them stop. Make them stop!'' ''Shhh!'' he hissed at the red-headed tot. ''Be quiet! I can't stop them - I'm hurt, Rebecca. We have to hide from them.'' Her face took on a determined look. ''I'll go and tell them not to be so cruel,'' she said and clenched a fist. ''No! They're very bad men!'' he whispered urgently. ''Dad gave us medicine to stop us getting sick but those bad men want to hurt us. We have to get out of here but the back door is locked.'' ''Key,'' she smiled suddenly, waving it at him. ''I hid it.'' ''Clever girl,'' he said, getting to his feet. ''We'll come back to help the others when the bad men have gone, I promise.'' ''Promise, Amos? Sara is screaming'' ''Let's go,'' he whispered, carefully unlocking the back door. He felt like vomiting from the pain and tried not to imagine what was happening in the front room and the blood on the beautiful carpets. He drew her outside and carefully locked the door behind them. He grabbed her hand and dragged her down the garden barely aware of the rotor-craft in the air and the dozens of sirens wailing across the city. He could see plumes of smoke and the stench of burning was choking him and making Rebecca cough pitifully. ''We'll hide in our secret hiding place until they've gone but you must promise me to keep quiet or they will hurt me again, promise?'' ''Yes,'' she nodded gravely, clutching her stuffed toy owl. ''Me and Mister Hoot won't make a sound.'' He prised up a manhole cover at the bottom of the garden. Their mother, Ilena, had always objected to the smell in summer when the foul drain water ran low but the cover was light enough for him to lift. His father, Abraham, had always told him of his army days before he'd joined Exodus Industries and how he'd hidden from an enemy patrol. ''Always misdirect the enemy. Make your escape routes obvious so that your hiding place is overlooked.'' They were hidden from the house by bay bushes so he pulled away some laurel branches to expose a large gap in the border hedge. He smeared the leaves with blood and threw the towel into their neighbour's garden. Then he squeezed down with Rebecca into the inspection chamber. ''Yuck! Kack!'' she retched. ''Shhh!'' he hissed angrily. ''I can hear them forcing the back door. They are very bad men, Rebecca, so keep quiet.'' His father had been re-laying the lawn so he grabbed several pieces of turf and dragged them onto the cover as he lowered it shut. ''O, Lord Jesus, please let this work,'' he prayed in pitch-black despair. To his amazement and relief, Rebecca remained silent as he clutched her to him but she trembled as angry voices sounded nearby and boots crunched along the cinder path. ''Abbot Makarov will have our heads if we don't find that brat,'' one voice said. ''Why didn't you finish him off, Brother?'' ''According to the personnel records at Exodus,'' a second voice said in exasperation. ''There are two more children unaccounted for here that boy and a girl having three years.'' ''Here!'' cried a third voice. ''There's blood on the leaves and a blood-stained towel on the other side of the hedge.'' ''Damn him and you incompetent fools to hell,'' a fourth voice said obviously the leader. ''You circle around and look for him while I check the house again for the little one. Don't engage with any of the Unworthy - just find those two inoculated rats and kill them. We must not let any of these Exodus children escape or Schimrian will Redeem us all.'' The sounds of booted feet and voices faded but he resisted the overpowering urge to open the cover and take a peek. ''I can't breathe, Amos. It stinks.'' ''Keep quiet, Rebecca. Dad said good soldiers should never break cover too soon as the enemy is usually waiting for them.'' ''I don't like this game, Amos.'' ''Neither do I but it's not a game.'' ''I need to go to the toilet.'' ''Hold it in,'' he gasped. ''This ledge is too small to stand on ah! I'm getting cramp in my legs'' ''I need to go.'' ''Well, I can't see you, so take your underwear off and just go,'' he whispered desperately. ''This is where it all ends up anyway. Just don't drop your underwear or Mister Hoot in the kack.'' There followed a series of blind gymnastics as she removed her underwear to relieve herself. There was a satisfied sigh as she completed her task mostly over his shoes. ''By Saint Peter's Beard,'' he groaned. ''You could have aimed a little better.'' ''Sorry but it's dark I can't.mmff!'' she struggled as he clamped a hand over her mouth. There was a sudden thump of a boot on the cover. ''We've combed the surrounding gardens and roads,'' a deep and sinister bass voice said. ''We can't find them and none of the Unworthy we Redeem have seen them ha! I can't believe they just keep coming up to us like lambs to beg for our aid.'' ''So they should - we are the world's leading medical Order after all,'' another voice replied sarcastically. ''What shall we do with those we Redeemed in the house, Father?'' ''Leave them. All these houses are filled with those Unworthy of Revelation; fit only for the bellies of rats and dogs.'' ''Hallelujah, our New Jerusalem will soon be at hand.'' ''Let's go - the rotor-craft is here and we have six more Exodus families to Redeem before nightfall.'' Amos bit into his hand to stifle his pain and his grief as the heavy footfalls receded up the path. ''You're bleeding on me and Mister Hoot,'' Rebecca whispered as she struggled back into her underwear. ''Can you spare me your petticoat? I need to press something against the wound it's really deep.'' More shifting and slow-motion acrobatics by his little sister resulted in her small petticoat being forced into his hand in exchange for Mister Hoot. ''Good girl,'' he said gratefully. ''We have to wait a while to make sure they've left the house.'' An hour passed that seemed like an eternity as he whispered stories to keep Rebecca calm. He felt shaky and weak but he knew that this was shock setting in their parents were both medical researchers and he had listened to their advice avidly all his life. He slowly raised the cover and peered about but there was nobody in sight. He almost screamed with the pain from cramp in his calves as he climbed out and hauled his sister up into the hazy sunshine where he ground his teeth in fear and frustration as she insisted on gathering up a posy of four large wild flowers. He peered over the bay bushes for several minutes before he was satisfied that the house was empty. The back door was hanging from a single damaged hinge and inside the kitchen they found a scene of utter devastation. Every drawer and cupboard door had been ripped out and all the contents strewn across the floor and trampled upon repeatedly. ''What bad men,'' Rebecca pouted. ''Mum would have been so cross at the mess they've made in here.'' ''Stay here,'' he said, righting a chair and sitting her upon it. ''While I make sure that all the bad men have gone.'' ''They've gone,'' she insisted with an odd tone to her voice. He didn't answer but crept down the corridor to check the back rooms then he went up the stairs to check the bedrooms, bathroom and the study which had been ransacked. He came back down to the kitchen to find Rebecca had vanished. With his heart in his mouth, he raced along the hallway to find his little sister had placed a flower on the bloodied remains of Eorl. He watched astounded and speechless as she calmly knelt in a pool of blood and said a prayer for him then she did the same for their parents and for Sara last of all, leaving Mister Hoot next to her body. He knelt down to comfort her but he could not howl and sob with grief like her for these bloodied, mangled corpses could not possibly be his parents, his brother, his sister! Never! Abraham's battered and barely recognisable face turned to him almost making his heart stop. ''A good soldier must abandon a base that's been compromised, son,'' he said. ''Take what you can pack and leave quickly because the enemy will return.'' He blinked to find his father's head back in its original position. Shaking with shock, he forced the weeping Rebecca upstairs. He washed the blood off her hands then dressed her in outdoor clothes and a sturdy coat. He changed then packed spare clothes into their backpacks before going back into the bathroom. He cleaned the ragged wound to his face and applied a dressing but blood soon seeped through the gauze. There was nothing he could do about the bruises either but he found a bottle of antibiotics and took one, knowing that his wound could become infected. He found two black rats in the kitchen so he angrily threw knives at them but it took several attempts to get them to flee. He made sandwiches, sat Rebecca down at the table and placed them in front of her with a cup of milk. ''Eat,'' he said as he crammed medicines, tins and bottles of water into his rucksack. ''Not hungry,'' she said defiantly, wiping at her tears. ''You have to eat,'' he urged, cramming one into his mouth. ''We'll need all our strength to find our grandparents.'' He hefted the sledgehammer that the Brothers had used to smash the front door down as his sister ate and wept. ''Why can't I cry like you, Rebecca?'' he shuddered, placing a hand on his chest. ''All I've got is this dark hole where my heart used to be.'' Rebecca suddenly got down and grabbed his hand. ''You can cry later, Amos,'' she sobbed. ''We have to go now. The bad men are coming back!'' -------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012 - 2013
Archived comments for Chapter 17: Amos
Mikeverdi on 10-06-2016
Chapter 17: Amos
Great chapter, you excelled with this one. The descriptive text was gripping, I was there with them. Well done.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike - I loved writing these chapters! When you see the kids' faces in refugee camps, it makes you wonder at their inner strength to survive. In this story, sadly, many of the kids and young people the Exodus scientists vaccinated did not make it. Mitch


Chapter 16: Warning (posted on: 06-06-16)
Chapter 16 of the Light-Father: With Ferals lurking nearby another Tally-man patrol catches Harold off-guard. He opens a wagon door to find a spear-tip at his throat and a Tally-man with a strange message and a stark warning...

''Light-Father, there's nothing wrong with my bandages,'' Peter protested. He frowned at the bickering and clatter of crockery as Fierce, Fria, Bas and Ibrahim set about washing up the breakfast dishes and drying them. ''Did we have to bring those sinks over?'' he grumbled. ''It's crowded in here! We don't need'' Whatever he said was drowned out by loud thuds, grunts and curses of exertion as Saul, Amos and Shield hefted a desk onto the front door ledge. They shoved it inside the wagon before heading off through the pouring rain to bring another from the offices. ''We need the sinks to wash our plates and our clothes in rather than use the tub in the next wagon all the time.'' Harold explained as he continued to unwind the bandages. ''The desks are for you all to study, learn and work upon. I am determined that we will live in a civilised manner with chairs instead of boxes and hot food instead of eating out of tins - and today we are also going to scrub all the caravans clean then we are going to scrub everyone clean.'' Fria shook the suds from her hands and sat at the table next to them. ''Our mattresses, sheets and clothes aren't drying in the wagon, Light-Father,'' she complained. ''The air is too damp in there and there's no breeze so they'll soon smell mouldy again. Besides it will take days to boil enough water to wash us and all our clothes and bedding even if we could dry everything.'' ''We'll use the tin bath today to scrub the four youngest clean,'' Harold said. ''As for the rest of us, I noticed that the showers in the locker-rooms are fed by a cold-water tank and a gas-heated header-tank which we can fill by diverting rain-water into them. The gas was piped in from one of the propane tanks behind the canteen so the chances are they're all still full of gas.'' Fria shivered with expectation. ''Hosanna! We're going to have hot showers and finally get clean,'' she sighed dreamily. ''See? The bandages were fine,'' Peter said as Harold carefully removed the last one. ''I've kept them dry.'' ''No, you haven't, Peter,'' Harold sighed as the heavy rain continued to sweep across the yard in grey veils. Thunder rumbled incessantly in the distance and the daylight was as dark as dusk even though it was now eleven o'clock. He carefully peeled away Peter's old dressings, placed them in a plastic bag then opened a fresh pack. He handed the bandages to Fria. ''Place these in that small pan of water on the stove and boil them. They're not badly soiled and we need to keep a stock of clean bandages. The supply from the surgery will not last long at this rate.'' ''We can store them on our new medicine shelves,'' Fria said brightly. ''Look, we even have stores of toilet-paper, Light-Father the Keep is starting to feel like home'' ''A very crowded home,'' Peter interjected. ''It just the beginning, Fria,'' Harold said. ''We have a long way to go yet. It seems even more humid than ever today if that was possible and all you kids really do stink. I have to treat you all for fungal infections, insect bites as well as sores and we need to get rid of these damn things.'' He picked a bloated flea from Peter's collar and squashed it between his fingernails. ''We'll have to dose the rest of the caravans and mattresses then wash and treat your clothes and forage to find new ones tomorrow.'' ''I don't need fresh bandages,'' Peter objected. ''Those old ones were just damp Fria doesn't need to sterilise them.'' ''Yes, you do need fresh bandages,'' Harold snapped, peeling back a dressing. ''Look, your wounds are weeping, Peter - they could become badly infected. I even had to remind you take your antibiotic just now I shouldn't have to do that, son.'' Peter apologized then grimaced with pain as Harold treated and dried the sores before applying the fresh dressings and bandages. He watched mystified as Harold took out a small tape measure and laid it along his forearm, upper arm and shoulders. ''What are you doing now, Light-Father?'' he smiled as Harold scribbled in a small note-book with a pencil. ''I know how big I am.'' ''A very big baby,'' Fria teased as she reseated herself. ''It's for a harness,'' Harold explained, showing him the sketch. ''Your original claw has a lever here, see?'' He picked up the claw off the table and pulled the lever back to demonstrate how the two hooked 'fingers' of the claw opened then snapped together when the lever was released. ''You use the lever to clamp onto something but if you attach a cable and run it through leather loops in a harness you can make it open by simply flexing your left shoulder. It will take a while to make but you'll notice the difference.'' ''What about the cup-section of the claw? How will that attach to the end of my arm if it's too small?'' ''I'll remould and widen the cup in the workshops,'' Harold promised. ''I'll add braces to a new reinforced sheath so that anything striking the blade you screw into the mount won't damage your stump or dislodge the mount from the sheath.'' ''Bless you, Light-Father,'' Peter gushed, his eyes shining. ''That will make such a difference to my whole life.'' ''Don't get too excited,'' Harold cautioned. ''As I said - it will all take a while to make as I don't have much experience in working leather.'' He tied off the bandages then hauled himself to his feet. ''And you need to heal first. That's you done don't forget to put on the bag to keep them dry when you go outside. I'm going to check on Mouse now then I'm going to get everyone cleaning their caravans and boiling water for the tub!'' he announced loudly to a chorus of groans and grumbles. He knelt down to examine Mouse's bandages and was relieved to find they were warm and dry and so was her bedding as it was basking in the radiance of the stove fire. She looked dreadfully pale but Fierce had coaxed some breakfast into her and made sure she'd swallowed the antibiotic tablet and painkillers. She protested feebly because of modesty but Fierce assisted him until Harold was satisfied that his stitching wasn't infected. ''We have got to find a dry place where the Tally-men don't patrol,'' he told Fierce after drawing her to one side. ''If her wounds become infected, she won't stand a chance.'' ''I have faith in you, Light-Father,'' she said frankly. ''What will you be doing while we scrub the caravans?'' He sighed wearily. ''I need to make sure our Mother Moss here is waterproof then I'll cook. After the Tally-men patrol, I want to check on the showers in the canteen building and see how much work is involved. While I do that, I want you, Fria and Shield to get Surl, Peter, Rabbit and Pup scrubbed clean, their clothes washed and hung them up to dry in the laundry wagon.'' ''But we can't dry our clothes in there. When they get too mouldy, the Elders bring us more clothes from the city shops.'' ''Why risk so many sorties when we can wash and repair them like you've done with this jacket of yours?'' ''I love this jacket,'' she said defensively, tugging at the interweaving laces that tied the front of the jacket. She wore a short vest or T-shirt that exposed her midriff and had on the forearm-guards and shin-guards she'd liberated from the museum he'd noticed that she never went anywhere without them or her weapons. ''Just as I love this woollen skirt and my breeches,'' she added. ''I can run and fight without being restricted in any way they're perfect for fighting in.'' Harold was startled as she leapt up and drew both knife and sword simultaneously to slash and stab at an imaginary Tally-man. ''That'll do!'' he commanded. ''As for our laundry problem: there are gas-powered industrial heaters and blowers that I can rig up in the wagon to dry the clothes. Tonight, the young ones can share my mattress next to Mouse and keep warm by the stove until their own bedding and clothes are dry and their mattresses fumigated.'' ''So that mattress and those blankets belonged to Mother Moss? Um, what will you sleep on tonight?'' ''Oh, I have plenty of cushions and blankets so don't look so worried, Fierce,'' he assured her as she sat down next to him at the table. ''You have an amazing older sister to look after you. Last night, she was telling me all about your adventures in the Barnacle up to when you found that old house by the river.'' ''We were happy there until until no, I don't want to talk about it,'' she said, paling at the memory. ''In your own time,'' he said gently. ''When you have had a terrible experience, you need to talk about it but only when you're ready. Ah, wonderful - here's the second desk.'' He went to help Saul, Shield and Amos drag the heavy desk into the wagon and set it against the end wall. He set two battery lamps upon it and had to admit the long wagon was indeed now crammed to the limit with the shelving units, tables and chairs plus the bedding and mattresses on the floor by the stove. ''Well done, you three,'' he smiled. ''Now get yourselves dry.'' They moved Mouse and her mattress a little to one side to access the stove then Shield propped Mouse up on pillows so that she could watch the rest of the bustle come and go as Harold made sure everyone of them had a job to do before making the stew. He'd spotted bay trees and rosemary bushes in the front gardens of houses close to the gates so he sent Shield, Amos and Saul back out into the torrential downpour gather the herbs which he added to the stew on their return. As they steamed gently by the stove, he noted how they had obeyed his rather trivial request without question despite being soaked to the skin. The herbs were duly added to the stew and filled the wagon with a mouth-watering aroma. ''So much for us getting dry earlier,'' Amos muttered as their clothes steamed in the heat from the stove. ''Ho! I'm injured too, Light-Father - those bites the dogs gave me are hurting greatly.'' He regretted his comments as Harold paused in the cooking to insist that he remove his breeches. Harold checked the bandages meticulously and declared them to be fine. The rain-cloaks and coats that the children used in the heavy rain such as this had kept both his legs and the bandages upon them largely dry. ''You'll live, Amos,'' he declared as the red-faced and sulking boy climbed back into his breeches. The stew was dished out and Mouse sat up to take some food at Fierce's insistence but she felt too weak to help and chafed a little. ''Leave me be, Fierce, I'm not useless,'' she huffed. ''No, you are a valiant but sore wounded maiden,'' Peter declared. ''You have to swoon in your bed until your hero on a white horse arrives to whisk you off to Valhalla.'' As Peter and Mouse teased each other, Harold switched on another lamp as the gloom depressed him along with the constant bass rumble of the thunder and the ceaseless drumming of the rain upon the roof of the wagon and the caravans. ''It's not easing,'' he noted irritably. ''I can hardly draw breath it's so humid.'' ''These storms can last for a whole week then the yard is at risk of flooding if the rain gets any heavier than this,'' Saul noted grimly. ''What's the matter, Bas?'' he demanded as she suddenly rushed across the wagon to crouch by the door and sniff the air she'd released her tail again and it moved from side to side as her ears twitched. ''Is it the Tally-men?'' ''No, Saul, there's been a change in wind direction. We're still being watched by at least three Ferals,'' she said angrily, baring her teeth. ''Why are they out there watching us like this?'' ''I know they took Eliza and Jacob but I don't think they're an immediate threat,'' Harold said and described the dream he'd had about the Mothers to them again while being careful to leave out the part with Shield being tied to the chair. ''If it wasn't a dream, the Ferals are working for the Mothers which means that they are watching over you all now that Mother Moss has gone.'' ''Makes sense,'' Ibrahim nodded, glancing at Shield. ''Mother Moss brought you to us and now a Feral has brought her staff here to us so it's no surprise to me that we're being watched if the Ferals are indeed their eyes and ears. My father did say they could get inside your dreams and leave messages like this but with all due respect, Light-Father, you don't have any of their powers so that part of your dream might be more wish than reality. Where is that staff now, Shield? And is it magical?'' ''No more than the Light-Father is, Ibrahim,'' she said, staring meaningfully at Harold. ''It's just a long piece of wood with a swan on the end. It's ceremonial it's no use to us even as a stick to hit Tally-men with so I've left in my caravan.'' ''It's a pity it's not magical,'' Amos said in a disappointed tone. ''So why did the Ferals bring it here? I mean I never saw her with it, did you, Shield? You spent more time with her than any of us so is it true? Is that staff really hers?'' Bas was still crouched by the door, staring at the buildings opposite. ''If the Light-Father's dream was true,'' she said before Shield could reply. ''He saw that same staff by an empty chair so we have to presume it was hers. Maybe they've sent it to us as a token that they might honour Mother Moss's desire to look after us Scatterlings and protect us all from the Order.'' ''There's little sign of that,'' Saul said angrily, folding his arms. ''Maybe the Mothers took the staff away from her and didn't help her when Schimrian Inquired of her because she was helping us. Who knows what they're thinking? Maybe this dream was a lie and they want to kill us now. Either way, I hate being watched by these damn Ferals because they took my little cousins and if they harm any of you, I will hunt them down and kill them.'' ''No, you won't!'' Mouse said with such force that it startled Saul. ''That's how we lost David to the Tally-men the only way we'll survive is if we stay together and you lead us.'' Harold saw that Shield had been made distinctly uncomfortable by the conversation and the way Saul and Ibrahim were gazing suspiciously at her. ''Despite what they said in the dream, Ibrahim, I'm not magical,'' he said quickly, patting the black tin. ''Instead my skills are more technical. Whatever the Mothers did and whatever they're up to, I'm convinced Mother Moss brought me here because she knew you were facing a highly technical enemy in the Order. However, my primary goal is to get you all fighting fit and healthy - that means working together as a family and making the Keep comfortable as well as safe. In a month or two we're going to find somewhere drier and safer, I promise.'' Ibrahim broke into a rare smile and placed his hands upon Surl's shoulders. ''Mother Moss definitely wanted you to look after us,'' he nodded. ''You may not have magical powers but you've worked miracles: Amos over there is actually smiling; Mouse is our very own saga heroine; Fria has found some confidence; we can see what Rabbit looks like under the dirt and Surl here is talking more than she ever has - even if it is only one word at a time.'' ''Sometimes two now,'' she said, grinning up at him. She frowned suddenly and counted on her fingers. ''I mean three. No, that's six ah, kack, that makes ten'' Ibrahim was distracted by the good-natured laughter at Surl counting comically on her fingers. He threw his hands wide. ''We certainly are a family especially with all these chores and caravans to scrub,'' he declared in martyred tones, his shoulders drooping. ''All this washing and scrubbing it's not natural.'' As the children, including Surl, gently poked fun at him, Shield breathed a sigh of relief and went to the back door to study the shifting pall of black cloud overhead. She grabbed a cape from the back of a nearby chair and threw it over her shoulders. ''I should get out there and keep watch for the Tally-men,'' she declared, half to herself. ''They're due soon - even in this accursed rain.'' ''I'll go,'' Ibrahim volunteered eagerly, taking the cape. ''You need to dry out and I need a break from all this scrubbing. See, Light-Father?'' he added at the step. ''All your talk of hot showers and dry clothes is making poor Shield here go all soft.'' Harold raised an eyebrow as he watched the young Egyptian clamber up onto the caravan roofs. ''I hope he wasn't serious, Shield you going soft is the last thing we need.'' ''He's right to be concerned,'' she said grimly, leaning on the door frame with her arms folded. ''If you get too comfortable in this world, you let your guard down and that's when you die.'' ''I know Mother Moss did look after you but right now you are all infected to some degree,'' Harold pointed out as he connected the battery wires. ''Your health is not good - you can only get so much nutrition out of a tin and you've all been permanently water-logged. Bas? Are our Feral spies still out there?'' ''The wind is carrying their scent away again so there may be more - we only see them because they want us to see them.'' An old tune by Stealer's Wheel suddenly popped into Harold's head as he tested the switches and made the mouth of his model head work in time to the melody he was singing: ''Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you and I'm wondering what it is I should do. It's so hard to keep this smile from my face. Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place. Fathers to the left of me, Mothers to the right - here I am, stuck in the middle with you'' ''Nice melody. How many more tunes from your world have you got with you?'' Amos demanded curiously. Harold checked his nose for blood but there was none this time even though the strange headache had briefly returned while he was singing. ''Let's see,'' he said as he packed his tools away then fished out his phone from a pouch on his utility-belt. ''If I had my digital player, I'd have thousands of songs for you but I do have quite a few on this which you can listen to but once the battery runs out that's it.'' He gave Amos a pair of earphones, set the phone to go through the play-list and watched as the badly-scarred face of the teenager was transformed by an expression of wonder. ''It's beautiful but I can only understand one or two of the words,'' Amos said with a raised voice. ''It's an ancient band called Pink Floyd,'' Harold said loudly getting up. He halted at the front door and cocked an ear. ''All the thunder has stopped thank goodness - it was getting annoying.'' Bas went and crouched by the back door next to Shield and gazed up at the sky and sniffed Harold could now see hints of the inserted feline DNA in the way she moved. ''The weather is changing quickly,'' she said with an uneasy edge to her voice. ''There's a smell of ash and hot sand on the breeze. Something is happening the rain is easing off and the clouds are moving faster than I've ever seen before and they're breaking.'' Harold joined them. ''Yes, you're right,'' he exclaimed. ''I won't be sorry to see the sun again.'' ''I hate the sun!'' Fierce said with an intensity that caught him by surprise. ''Mother Moss always told us that the rain was our friend; without it we are at the mercy of the Tally-men. If they don't stick to their regular times, we won't ever know when to expect them. We'd have to stand guard twenty-four hours a day; we won't be able to go foraging and if they come for us in the night, we'd be helpless without Mother Moss here to defend us.'' ''I appreciate how Mother Moss looked after you,'' Harold said gently. ''But even she couldn't put sunshine on your skin. I'm amazed that you haven't all got rickets or anaemia by now.'' ''I know not these 'vitamin D' and 'rickets','' Saul said, folding his arms as he too gazed at the slackening rain out of the back door. ''But Mother Moss did explain to me the causes of brittle-leg and told David and me to make sure that we all ate plenty of tinned fish and meat over the years that she looked after us and yes, she did cook sometimes and she made us wash every day.'' ''We stopped looking after ourselves when she died because we lost hope,'' Fria said miserably. ''We miss her.'' ''So do I,'' Bas agreed, turning to look pointedly at Harold. ''She was the first person who didn't try to rip my ears off when meeting me for the first time. She treated me as a person not some some'' she turned her head away to hide the sudden tears. ''Yes, sorry about that, Bas,'' Harold sighed as Shield knelt to place a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. ''Yes, tinned fish is good for you but it must be getting scarce by now - I can't see it lasting forever and one tin of contaminated fish could easily kill you all. The essential chemical that we call 'vitamin D' is made by sunlight on your skin but Mother Moss was right: it is found in fish and fresh meat so you should be okay for a while.'' Ibrahim returned, drenched by the rain and looking agitated. ''The patrol is coming but there's something odd about the way they're moving it's as if they seem much more alert and aware than usual and they almost saw me. Put out the fire and get your weapons. Quickly, Light-Father, get that head ready.'' The rain returned with a vengeance to a cheer from Fierce and thunder began to growl once more in the east. Harold was saturated in the short time it took to set the wires and place the tin upon the tracks and he only made it back in the nick of time to close the door as the patrol entered the yard. All too soon the Tally-men halted on the path and began their strange dance in front of the head and once again Shield had to broadcast her dire warnings. It seemed to go on forever and Pup eventually burst into tears from sheer terror. He was quickly silenced by Bas placing a hand firmly across his mouth. ''Shhh, Pup,'' she whispered into his ear. ''Be brave, little brother. Do not let your fear betray us.'' Finally it was over and the patrol departed leaving them all to breathe a huge sigh of relief except for Saul. ''You were right, Ibrahim,'' he said. ''They were definitely different today. It was as if they didn't quite believe the head was real - I think they were just pretending to be terrified of it.'' ''Maybe but I think you're over-reacting, Saul,'' Harold said as he unlatched and slid open the front door to find David staring up at him with a red light in his eyes. A disturbing smile appeared on the Tally-man's lips as he placed his spear-tip at Harold's throat and the Scatterlings froze in horror. ''Await the Inquisitor and cry out in lamentation, Children of Exodus,'' he said in a chilling tone of voice. He turned to Harold. ''What have we here? An adult male immune to Revelation? They shall enjoy Redeeming this one at the Great Abbey!'' His face suddenly became blank and the fell light in his eyes faded then he turned with a swirl of his coat to rejoin the others who were waiting motionless for him on the main road. It took a while for Harold to react, grateful that the spear had not been thrust upwards under his chin. ''Jesus, that completely freaked me out!'' he gasped. ''I thought Tally-men couldn't speak!'' ''For Saint Peter's sake, you never, ever open a door without a weapon!'' Shield spat, almost hurling Harold's sword at him in her fury. ''Dear Sweet Mary, we had a Feral outside yesterday and now this please, we can't afford to lose you!'' ''Sorry, Shield, I let my guard down again,'' he apologised, opening the door fully. ''Bas was right - there is a change to the weather and this breeze from the south is almost hot. We have to leave - there are too many bad omens,'' he shuddered. ''Some one or some thing was speaking through David but why warn us about the Order? What the hell was controlling him? One of the Fathers?'' ''Light-Father,'' Fierce called. She was kneeling by Mouse's bed with a hand upon her sister's head. ''She's on fire.'' ''I-I-I'm fine,'' Mouse protested. ''I'm just thirsty.'' Harold exposed the wounds and was shocked to see the flesh about the stitching was red and swelling rapidly. ''Oh hell, that was quick,'' he groaned, crestfallen. ''This is not good, Mouse, you're infected; you're developing a fever.'' ''I'll recover,'' she said bravely. ''Hoi! Why are you all looking at me? Haven't you got caravans to clean?'' The Scatterlings dispersed to go about their chores in grim silence apart from Shield and Fierce who sat on the floor to comfort Mouse. Only Pup could bring himself to say the obvious as he threw himself into Harold's arms. ''Please, Light-Father,'' he whispered tearfully. ''Please don't let her die.'' -------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2013 - 2014
Archived comments for Chapter 16: Warning
Mikeverdi on 10-06-2016
Chapter 16: Warning
Back again and still enjoying.
Mike

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Chapter 15: Inquisitor (posted on: 03-06-16)
Chapter 15 of the Light-Father: The scene switches to the Great Cathedral of the Order where young Brother Kai waits upon the Grand-Abbot - the man who let loose the Redemption Virus that killed all his family and friends - who then instructs one of his most brutal Inquisitors to go to Crawcester..

Schimrian was at his computer desk when the door buzzer sounded. ''Enter!'' he called out and the voice-activated mechanism admitted Brother Kai who was carrying a tray with breakfast and coffee upon it. ''Ah, Brother Kai, place it there. I will eat as I work. You look ill at ease, my son,'' he observed with a concerned tone in his voice. ''Do you wish to tell me what troubles you?'' Kai was red-faced and clasped his hands together in front of him in obvious distress. ''I-I w-wanted to apologise for my indiscrete behaviour yesterday evening, Eminence.'' Schimrian gave the young Brother a warm and benevolent smile as he extended a hand so that Kai could kiss the ring of the Order. ''Please, think nothing of it. Brother Simon had slandered me by telling you that I was interested in such sinful recreations but as I assured you, I hold fast to our three most sacred vows in all things for sin clouds both mind and judgement. Brother Simon placed you in an impossible position with his wicked lies and no doubt found your spiritual dilemma a source of great amusement.'' ''Will he be punished?'' Kai asked nervously. ''I must bear some of the blame for being so nave in such worldly matters.'' Schimrian stood up to place a hand upon the cheek of the trembling Brother. ''Son, such innocence is to your credit an innocence we will strive to preserve in our New Jerusalem. As for Brother Simon, we are nothing if we do not allow those who have sinned and wronged us to show their repentance through service to both God and Order. Thus I have now asked him to lead our Tally-men on an Inquisition into the Venetian Enclave where he will visit upon them God's great Redemption and Revelation.'' Kai paled and swallowed nervously. ''But-but they say the Enclave is highly radioactive after nuclear meltdowns'' Schimrian's merciless stare left the young Brother in no doubt that the Great-Abbot was a man you ridiculed and slandered at your peril. ''Indeed, my son,'' he said flatly. ''You may go, Brother Kai, unless there is something else that troubles you?'' Kai bowed his head. ''Nothing - except to ask a question of your lesson at Matins there was a part that I did not follow.'' Schimrian reseated himself and interlocked his fingers. ''Ah, I am always ready to help a Brother in matters spiritual,'' he smiled warmly. ''Proceed.'' ''We I mean I wondered why you were quoting so heavily from Exodus and Leviticus in the lesson.'' ''Ah, yes,'' Schimrian beamed. He took a Bible from his desk and opened it at a bookmarked page. ''I am pleased to see you were paying attention. Now, let's begin with Exodus: 'Heed what I command thee this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite and Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. Thus you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images for you shall worship no other god, for your Lord God is a jealous God' 'Thus you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land when they play the harlot after their gods and invite you to do likewise and eat of their sacrifices nor shall you take of their daughters for your sons or of their sons or your daughters nor shall you offend our Lord God with molten gods.' In my lesson I merely tried to illustrate the Divine righteousness of our Inquisition from the Holy Scriptures laid down at the time of Moses. Do you not agree with the Words and Wisdom of our Lord God in Exodus?'' ''N-no, b-but the V-virus and R-revelation,'' Kai floundered, trying desperately to control his stammering. ''I-I m-mean I understand why we did what we were ordained to do'' ''Ah, but still you have doubts about our interpretation of Revelation,'' Schimrian nodded, steepling his fingers. ''If you take the Bible as the One True Text then Exodus makes it clear that we must remove all that offends the Eye of God before He will allow us to build our New Jerusalem. The Unworthy must not be allowed to breed with the Worthy that we have gathered and nurtured for dozens of generations to yield our Blessed Number. For if we allow the Unworthy to pollute the Earth and the purified gene pool of the Order, then we will raise not the walls of Jerusalem but a vile and corrupt version of it; a new Babylon will rise and once more corrupt the world with its hellish vices.'' ''Yes but so many countless millions died,'' Kai whispered. ''Including my family who were Architects and respected Aldermen of Crawcester and loyal benefactors of the Order.'' Schimrian paused to take some coffee before replying. ''Alas, my son, we did try to save as many of our benefactors as we could but the Royal Conclave of Architects were Unworthy in the Eyes of the Lord as their rites were satanic, their sacred pillars were those of Greed and Envy while their altars were those of Mammon thus they had no place in our New Jerusalem. I am sorry for your loss for no doubt you considered them noble and upright people but from now until the end of your time upon this sweet Earth, my son, the Order is your family, your father and your mother.'' ''Hallelujah, for the Order is of God,'' Kai said but then he bowed his head in misery. ''My soul fully accepts the reasons for our holy crusade, Eminence, but my heart still weeps for them.'' Schimrian paused to open his Bible at another bookmarked page. ''That is nothing to be ashamed of for had you felt nothing; had you never experienced loyalty, respect or love then you would not have been deemed one of the Worthy. Now listen well, my son: Leviticus is the Will of God and his Word has guided our hands and our hearts in all our doings. Hear this: 'You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. For I will look on you favourably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. You shall eat the old harvest, and clear out the old because of the new. And I will make my abode among you and my Divine soul shall not abhor you and I shall walk among you for I am your Lord God and thou art my People, my blessed and chosen ones.' As you can see from this, the Will of God could not be clearer. We are his People ordained from Genesis unto Revelation and unto the Holy Books that shall be written in the Light of Heaven.'' ''Hosanna! Blessed be our Lord God,'' Kai intoned. ''Thank you for clearing my understanding and for strengthening my resolve.'' He bowed and retreated nervously to the door, acutely aware of the cold eyes of the Great-Abbot boring into him. In the corridor, he almost collapsed and had to lean against the wall, struggling to draw breath as his heart pounded. ''Are you ill, my son?'' said a deep bass voice. ''Or are the cries of those undergoing Redemption below us disturbing you?'' ''Father Bucheort! You startled me!'' Kai gasped, straightening up and massaging his chest. ''No it is not the cries of the Unworthy that vex me for blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. I was just a little weary, that's all.'' He gazed up at the broad bearded face of the Inquisitor and paled the man was six and half feet tall and had powerful hands that could easily snap the slender neck of an Unworthy novice which he was rumoured to have done so on at least three occasions. ''I am fine, Father, I have not a troubled soul only a troubled constitution.'' ''Hmm, then go and see our medical Brothers,'' the hulking cleric rumbled with a wry smile. ''Or are you saying that we should allow genetically inferior specimens to contaminate the Blessed Quota in our New Jerusalem?'' Bucheort chuckled as the young Brother paled, shook his head then retreated hastily without making eye contact. He pushed open Schimrian's door and was mildly annoyed as the door mechanism resisted before it gave way under his immense brute strength. Schimrian did not look up from his screens. ''Your familiarity born of our long association in the Conclave is annoying I tire of having that mechanism repaired. I also value my privacy, my concentration and my breakfast whilst I am working.'' ''I apologise, Eminence,'' Bucheort said after kneeling to kiss the ring on Schimrian's hand. ''But you did say it was urgent.'' ''Yes, yes,'' Schimrian replied impatiently, indicating a nearby chair which creaked alarmingly as Bucheort sat upon it. ''Forgive me if I eat while we are talking but I have a lot to do this day. I have meetings with Abbots Camus and Michael and their Surgeon-Fathers as our Redemption rates are failing to match our Tally-men losses. As you can see from this screen, I was also working on the plans and drawings of our New Jerusalem'' A hungry grin spread across Bucheort's coarse features and his eyes gleamed. ''To think I'll see it come to pass. Hosanna! Blessed be all His angels and the Lamb of God!'' Schimrian tapped a second screen. ''These Inquisition reports tell me that something strange is happening, my son. Since yesterday, there has been an increasing number of Unworthy being sighted in areas that we've Inquired of yet they were somehow overlooked. Have you an explanation for this?'' ''I would not read any deep significance into the statistics, Eminence,'' Bucheort shrugged. ''It's a big planet out there and we are but few in number even with our aircraft and our legions of Tally-men but we will prevail. I accept that we do miss a few Unworthy because the Tally-men often mistake them for Ferals and let them escape unhindered. They are so inflexible - a patrol was wiped out last week when they continued on a regular programmed route through three buildings that were on fire.'' ''Worry not - we have legions from which to replace them. They are a blunt tool but they have proved most effective until now,'' Schimrian nodded, turning to bring up a map of the Middle Cities on one of the screens. ''After Sixth Hour, I am discussing a change of policy with the Abbots which will include the extermination of the Ferals. The Great Computer suggests that random mutations may allow them to breed.'' ''Impossible!'' Bucheort exploded. ''The genetic damage to their testes and ovaries is most profound. The fact that they survive despite major genetic damage is irrelevant as they will all die out. We would have to commit more years to achieve this'' ''Enough,'' Schimrian interrupted, raising a slim forefinger. ''Please don't question my decision on this, old friend.'' ''As you wish,'' Bucheort conceded reluctantly. ''We Fathers await your wisdom but we may have to sweep the entire planet many times over to achieve this task as they often live in remote areas and cannot be distinguished from the beasts.'' ''Be that as it may, we will prevail,'' Schimrian reiterated, pointing to his third and final screen where a red dot was flashing on a map. ''This is the reason I called you here. Yesterday, the Great Computer detected a peculiar electro-magnetic anomaly on the western edge of Crawcester via our surviving satellites. I believe that this is an area you are familiar with so I would like you to personally investigate the anomaly but do it discretely until we can determine what we are dealing with here.'' ''How did we miss this? We monitor those satellites constantly, Eminence, and we did not detect any unusual readings.'' ''Do not take this to heart, Father. With all the storms and failing nuclear facilities across the globe, it is not surprising that your systems and technicians missed this brief signal. However, the Great Computer has sophisticated software and circuitry designed to look for anything unusual such as off-band radio signals and events like this that are evidently unnatural.'' ''So the Great Computer found it,'' Bucheort muttered, shaking his shaggy head. ''Can you magnify that map, Eminence? We need to see exactly where this event occurred.'' Schimrian dabbed delicately at his lips with a napkin before complying. His eyes widened as he saw the map of the rail-yard appear on the screen with a flashing red dot indicating the event location. ''It looks like it happened on open ground in a place I know well we Inquired of a Mother in that very building next to this event!'' he exclaimed, pointing to the offices. ''Could be a lightning strike,'' Bucheort suggested, peering at the screen. ''There are thunderstorms on and off all year round in the Middles Cities and ceaseless flooding in places.'' ''Not so,'' Schimrian said sharply. ''We were hunting the most skilled and powerful of all the Mothers to bring her to Inquisition. We discovered her lair and defeated her craft with our counter-measures but she was a most formidable opponent.'' ''I have contended with a coven of these witches, Eminence,'' Bucheort said with profound respect. ''I know first-hand that they possess considerable arcane skills.'' ''Indeed they do. She killed eight Tally-men, five Brothers and two Fathers before we defeated her,'' Schimrian said, adding some sugar to his coffee. ''We Inquired of her all night but not once did she seek Salvation nor did she require baptism nor did she require us to read her the last rites and pray for her soul - which we offered to do with all the resolve and faith in our hearts.'' ''It must have been a most trying ordeal for you,'' Bucheort said sympathetically. ''To lose so many of the Order to one ancient woman steeped in the arcane must have grieved you greatly.'' ''It did, my friend, but only a handful of Mothers remain and I am convinced they are watching us from amongst the rainswept hills and forests but they matter not - they are now too few to frustrate our plans as they have done in the past.'' ''They have been a thorn in our side for centuries, Eminence,'' Bucheort nodded thoughtfully. ''But even a handful could cause great mischief as their numbers were never great to begin with.'' Schimrian savoured a mouthful of coffee before he spoke again. ''Now you understand why I want you to go there,'' he said. ''You lived close to these yards as a child did you not?'' ''Yes, my younger sister, Edith, married one of the scientists, Edric Olafson, in the Exodus facilities in Crawcester. He was one of those trying to develop that vaccine and her children may have been vaccinated. When we searched their home there was no sign of the children but they were weak and had only two and four years at the time so it's unlikely that they survived the storms, the dogs and the rats with both parents dead the boy was this sad little cripple as I recall.'' ''What of the Tally-men patrols in the area?'' ''The city is covered by thirty regular patrols that all overlap but we cannot spare any Fathers to supervise them. One unit of five regularly patrols the rail-yard to look for any Unworthy seeking transportation but their control systems have not relayed anything unusual apart from there being a little less rain than usual.'' ''Hmm, there are signs that the rain-belts are losing intensity as the arid zones are moving north out of Africa.'' ''Some of our meteorologists disagree, Eminence. The rain belts have been stable for six years but they are destabilising as the convection cells move yet more energy northwards - we are seeing near boiling temperatures in the Equatorial deserts.'' ''I understand the latest computer models predict that the steady rain on the southern edge of the rain-belt will be replaced by intense storms before the belt extends south again extinguishing those forest fires in southern Europe and the Americas. Some days you can see a lot of that ash in the rainwater'' ''Yes, Eminence,'' Bucheort prompted. ''Please forgive my presumption but you seem distracted for some reason.'' Schimrian was staring at the map. ''It's that night we Inquired of Mother Moss, my son. My memory remains strangely vague but it cannot be down to exhaustion from our struggle with that Harlot of the Devil,'' he sighed. ''I cannot remember the Inquisition clearly. I recall laying her on her side and personally striking her head from her shoulders but she was looking at me as I raised the blade above my head. Bless me not, she said. For thou art a spawn of the Devil and thou shalt spawn the Devil anew.'' ''The witches do like their curses,'' Bucheort observed dryly. ''It was her eyes, my friend,'' Schimrian murmured. ''For some reason I cannot fathom, I placed her head in a tin and set it upon the tracks of a railway siding then I spoke to a railway wagon,'' he laughed incredulously. ''Only I cannot recall what I said.'' ''She must have bewitched you before she died but for what purpose would she have you place her head in a tin?'' ''When Mothers are involved, anything is possible,'' Schimrian said darkly and shook his head. ''When I think back upon it no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember the details.'' Bucheort sat upright on observing the consternation on the Great-Abbot's face. ''I would not vex yourself unduly, Eminence,'' he cautioned. ''They can deceive the senses I am told but it is likely that the battle and the Inquisition left you weary and given their powers, it is not unnatural for you to be cautious and seek to separate her head from her body.'' ''Perhaps so but I feel I was manipulated - to what end I know not. I left there with a sense of unfinished business so she may have been protecting something'' ''Or someone,'' Bucheort suggested, studying the map on the screen. ''There may be Unworthy concealed from our Tally-men in that rail-yard. I know it well from my youth a prefect hiding-place with a foundry, repair-shops and sheds where they worked on the rolling-stock. I visited the yard with my'' ''Spare me the nostalgia,'' Schimrian interrupted. ''I do not like being manipulated. That spell must have overwhelmed me because I have not thought about that night until now when this anomaly appeared - she was the most powerful of the Mothers after all.'' ''Do you think the remaining Mothers are close to Crawcester?'' Bucheort suggested, pointing at the flashing red dot. ''If so, then this anomaly may be significant and down to them.'' ''Azrael thinks so.'' ''Who thinks so?'' ''Father Ishrael,'' Schimrian amended quickly. ''The brightest of our analysts. He recommended that we investigate the anomaly and I think he was right to bring it to my attention.'' ''Yes, he was,'' Bucheort agreed, getting up. ''If I am to look for Unworthy in the area and for any presence of the Mothers, I need to go prepared with counter-measures and my elite team of Brothers we have no other Fathers available right now.'' ''I'm sure you and your Brothers will suffice, old friend. I would like you to take Brother Kai with you - he needs to have his Faith put to the test in an Inquisition.'' ''What?'' Bucheort said incredulously. ''That snivelling little rabbit I found cowering in the corridor? He'd soil his robes thrice over if a Mother ever pointed her black staff at him.'' ''Doubt gnaws at his young heart,'' Schimrian agreed. ''He lost his family to Revelation so if his Faith is found wanting'' ''then I'll Redeem him personally, Eminence.''
Archived comments for Chapter 15: Inquisitor
Mikeverdi on 07-06-2016
Chapter 15: Inquisitor
Bugger,this is getting another side to the story. I'm fascinated to be honest. My normal reading is action/adventure. Not so much difference, just on a different planet. HaHa!
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike, hope you are reviving from another chemo tribulation. I have had so many friends go through this awful crap so thank you for sticking with the story - I seem to be attracting a lot of interest via Facebook but I can't seem to get them to move others onto the site or post themselves. As for the story, it has some more individual children's tales to tell before it really kicks robed ass... so hang in there! I am proud of Schimrian as a villain but Pious is an even bigger monster with another even bigger monster to beat him to come! Mitch


Chapter 14: The Awakening (posted on: 30-05-16)
Chapter 14 of the Light-Father: The three sisters are swept through the ruins of the bridge at the mercy the torrent. It will take all their strength to survive then something in Shield stirs as she finally awakens to her craft...

''Come on, Shield, don't stop there,'' Harold prompted. He raised the output of the lamp so that their shadows loomed upon the walls of his wagon. ''Tell me what happened next.'' She sighed and placed a hand upon the coal-black staff laid across her lap. ''It's painful,'' she whispered. ''As a child, I thought that being the heroine in a saga would have been all noble and beautiful with exciting orchestral music getting louder as we faced great perils and struggled through to a happy ending. But this isn't a cinema fantasy there's no music here but the sound of our own screams and no happy ending in a world where it always rains and all these Fathers and Mothers want to kill us or use us; where Ferals watch us and dogs and Tally-men hunt us.'' ''I know it's painful but like all the others you have to talk about what happened,'' he urged. He handed her a small notebook and pen he'd found in Saul's house. ''You should all keep diaries and write it down or write poetry; anything. It may be awful and frightening but, like it or not, you are in a great saga and I know a real-life heroine when I see one.'' ''If you say so, Light-Father,'' she said with a half-smile. ''But the memory is hard to bear because I nearly got us all killed''
~~~~~
She despaired as the Barnacle swung out into the centre of the swollen river and was swept along in the fastest part of the current. ''K-keep down!'' she cried out in terror as Mouse curled up in the foetal position and screamed. Fierce stayed at the front, staring wild-eyed and white-faced as the Barnacle rocketed downstream, buffeted by debris and waves. ''Lie flat in the bottom, Fierce. We have to keep the Barnacle as stable as possible that's what Dad said we should do in a stormy sea.'' ''No!'' Fierce snarled over her shoulder as Shield lay flat and wrapped her arms protectively around Mouse. ''If I'm going to die, I want to see it coming!'' she shouted. ''I'm not a coward!'' Despite that boast, she screeched with fear as a huge tree loomed over them then rolled slowly away almost swamping them as it crashed back down into the water like a wounded whale. Shield immediately began bailing the water out with her frying-pan as Mouse clung to her in sheer terror. ''Help me, Fierce,'' she cried. ''We'll sink otherwise.'' ''It won't help because here's the bridge and everything is getting smashed up as it goes through!'' Fierce yelled and flung herself into Shield's arms. Their screams were drowned by the roaring of water and the deafening grinding of debris that was steadily demolishing the rest of the bridge and the river walls beyond. The Barnacle swung giddily in great eddies then it righted itself to rocket through the gap of a destroyed arch. The front plunged into a wave soaking them and filling the Barnacle over half-full with freezing floodwater. There was a great crash and a splintering of wood as a great oak slammed into a bridge support sending great blocks of masonry tumbling into the river. Shield roused herself and resumed her frantic bailing with the frying-pan. She paused to slap the transfixed Fierce and Mouse across their faces and force the pans back into their hands as countless waves slopped into their life-raft which was now riding dangerously low in the water. ''Bail!'' she screamed at them. ''If we don't get this water out, we'll sink!'' Stung into action, Fierce and Mouse responded with a frenzy of scooping until most of the water was cleared. ''Now we have to get to one of the banks,'' Shield said as they raced past the once-magnificent riverside mansions of the Crawcester elite whose gardens were being submerged by the rising flood now sweeping downstream. ''We're almost out of the city and into the countryside but we have to stay in the city it's the only place we're going to find food and shelter.'' ''We're st-still going to drown,'' Mouse whimpered. ''C-c-cold! I'm s-s-so c-c-cold!'' ''We can't paddle against this current,'' Fierce said, ignoring her shivering little sister. ''It's impossible.'' ''We don't,'' Shield decided. ''Dad told me what do to if you got swept out to sea. He said you have to swim at an angle to the current to save energy that way we can reach the bank and try to grab a tree or some branches or something and swing the Barnacle into shallower water where we can jump out or swim.'' ''How can we do that?'' Fierce demanded crossly. ''We can't hold on to anything - the water's moving way too fast.'' ''Wh-what about using this?'' Mouse suggested. ''Of course, Mouse, the rope!'' Shield exclaimed, grabbing the end of the coil and looping a length. She knotted it awkwardly, hampered by the growing numbness in her hands. ''We'll try getting into the shallows first then we'll try to lasso a low tree branch or a post and pull ourselves in.'' She and Fierce paddled furiously and made several failed attempts to get into the flooded gardens but the water wasn't deep enough to get the Barnacle over the bank and they were dragged back into the main current. With Fierce keeping them as close to the bank as she could, Shield tried lassoing branches and after six failures, she could feel her strength ebbing. Then the top of a solid iron mooring-post came into view. It was set at the end of a huge sloping garden that led up to a large two-storey house which Shield knew instinctively would be the perfect place for them to hide out. ''All or nothing Mother Mary, guide my hand!'' she yelled and hurled her rope lasso with all her might. She'd put her whole will and heart into the effort but the lasso fell a yard short of the post. ''God, no! Not after all we've been through!'' she wailed then she convulsed as her anger and despair became a strange thrill, almost like an electric current, that ran up her body and concentrated at the centre of her forehead. Her jaw dropped as the lasso skipped off the water, rose up into the air and snared the mooring-post perfectly. ''Hoi! It bounced off the water! What a shot!'' Fierce cheered as the Barnacle swung sedately to a halt some three metres from the submerged bank of the mansion's riverside garden. ''Hosanna, Big Sis,'' Mouse smiled but then she shivered violently. ''I f-f-feel so c-cold.'' Shield didn't hesitate and buoyed up by that strange energy, she lowered herself into the freezing water. She almost panicked as the savage undertow tugged at her legs so that they trailed behind her as she clung onto the edge of the fridge. ''The current is really strong,'' she gasped. ''But I should be able to get to bank if I swim at an angle like Dad said.'' She took a deep breath and let go and was swept downstream at an alarming rate but she managed to grasp an overhanging branch of a huge willow tree at the end of the garden and haul herself into the shallower water. The bank was treacherous underfoot and gave way several times but she soon reached the Barnacle. ''I'm going to use something to snag the rope and draw you in, Fierce. Where's Mouse?'' ''Huddled up in the bottom. She's gone really pale. The cold water is really getting to her.'' ''And me,'' Shield said, struggling to keep her teeth from chattering. ''Try to keep her awake. Dad told me that when you get really cold you mustn't go to sleep or you'll die.'' Frantically and with a huge sense of impending danger pressing down on her, she searched several flooded sheds and outhouses until she found a long boathook hanging on a wall. She felt her way with her feet to the bank's edge and reached out with the long pole and snagged the rope. It took several tries and all of her failing strength to haul the Barnacle onto the bank. The water was waist-deep here and she realised that she could not let go or the current would swing it back out into the river. ''Fierce, climb out and take everything to the house and put it all on the steps by the back door.'' ''But we have to get Mouse out - she's just lying in the water.'' ''Do as I say!'' Shield yelled at her. ''Without food and our weapons we're going to die anyway and I can't let go!'' Fierce nodded and immediately waded to and fro through the rising water as Shield kept talking to Mouse who was mumbling drowsily as she lay on her back in the waterlogged fridge. ''It's all right,'' she smiled. ''I feel warm but so sleepy'' Fierce waded back but the water was now halfway up her chest and she was having difficulty keeping her footing. ''Take the boathook,'' Shield said, handing it to her. ''Go up the slope a bit and hold the Barnacle steady with it for as long as you can while I lean in and grab Mouse. Can you do that?'' ''Yes,'' Fierce said bravely. She took up station, snagged the rope and gripped the boathook with all her might. ''Ready!'' Shield heaved Mouse from the bottom of the fridge but Fierce was pulled forwards as the Barnacle began to quickly move away from the bank. Mouse was hauled out just before the boathook was torn from Fierce's hands and the Barnacle swung back out upon the river. As they waded to safety, there was a titanic splintering and snapping of branches as several huge uprooted trees were carried downstream in a tangle of limbs. One of them smashed into the bank demolishing a boat-house before destroying both the mooring-post and the Barnacle. Shield stared at the destruction with relief and disbelief another ten seconds more and they would have all died. ''We've got to get her warm,'' she declared, panic gripping her as Mouse was not responding. ''She's hardly breathing!'' Fierce led the way in to a large drawing-room that overlooked the river and found wood and paper laid in the hearth. The room was dry as were the matches and she immediately set about getting a fire going. It took a while as the kindling was still damp from the heavy rain that had come down the chimney but it was obvious that these expensive houses had been spared the giant hail and the wedge-shaped vortex that they'd seen during the storm. Shield's heart rose as the wood crackled and snapped in the bright flames. She laid Mouse on a fur rug in front of the fire but she was barely responding and her eyes were rolling up and her eyelids were fluttering. ''I'll get these wet clothes off her. Fierce, do you think there are any dry towels upstairs?'' ''We could ask him,'' Fierce suggested, jerking a thumb at the high-backed armchair facing the patio doors. Shield looked over the back and was almost sick with shock to find the desiccated corpse of an elderly man with a box of cigars, a glass and a bottle of brandy on the small table next to him. ''The poor man wanted to die while watching the river,'' Fierce shrugged, seemingly unaffected by the body. ''I'm surprised the place isn't filled with flies or rats but at least he doesn't stink. I'll go and look for some towels.'' Shield had to tear her eyes away from that macabre sight to remove Mouse's sodden clothing. Fierce returned and despite their own chills and aching fingers they towelled Mouse vigorously and wrapped her in the fur rug. Shield added coal to the fire then opened the French doors to admit a chill damp breeze and the dull roar of the swollen river. With a grim determination and help from Fierce, she hauled the chair and its occupant out onto the steps and toppled them into the waters with a brief prayer for the man's soul. ''Forgive me,'' she whispered as both corpse and chair drifted slowly away to be finally caught by the river current and swept downstream. ''Well?'' she said quietly. ''Did you find anything else upstairs we can use?'' ''I haven't checked all the rooms but there are no flies or rat droppings up there so I think he must have lived in this big house by himself. This place is gigantic. He must have been very rich not that it did him any good in the end.'' Shield closed the doors then she went out to search the kitchen. She found a clothes-horse, opened it out and hung Mouse's clothes on it to dry. ''Ugh, they stink,'' she grumbled as she examined them. ''We'll have to wash them.'' ''You don't smell so good either,'' Fierce said bluntly, holding her hands close to the fire. ''Ah! I can feel my fingers again.'' ''Take your clothes off and dry yourself,'' Shield ordered and soon both girls were wrapped in thick towels and huddled around the fire feeling life slowly returning to their chilled limbs. ''That's better,'' Shield sighed contentedly. ''I'll go and bring the food and weapons in now and see what else is in the kitchen. Keep an eye on Mouse for me.'' ''At least there's some colour back into her face,'' Fierce noted, placing a hand on her little sister's head. ''I love this place,'' she added, indicating the old-fashioned furnishings and paintings. ''It's much nicer than that spooky old museum. You can imagine the men all coming in here from the dining room to have brandies and cigars in the old days to talk about politics and stuff while the women gossiped in the parlour. I'm glad I wasn't alive then,'' she said angrily. ''If I was a woman, I'd be in here smoking cigars and drinking brandy and telling them how it should be done.'' Shield stood up and carefully tucked in her towels. She brought in all the weapons to set by the fire put their meagre stock of tins upon the kitchen table along with the sauce-pan and the one remaining frying-pan. She was relieved to find a well-stocked larder but she knew better than to open the fridge. She almost whooped with joy when she found skewers and jars of olives and sausages in brine. There were even boxes of vacuum packed smoked mackerel and meats and she realised that the late and recently departed owner must have been very wealthy indeed. Mouse began to stir as the smell of hot food began to overpower the other fouler odours. ''I had a horrible dream we were all drowning and that Father who came to the house was laughing at us with the blood pouring from the wound on his face,'' she said miserably but she soon revived enough to nibble on a couple of sausages then wolf down some olives her favourite food. After their meal, they fell silent and leant against each other for reassurance, content to watch the dancing flames as midday came and went, savouring the novelty of a hot meal and actually being warm and dry for once. Mouse and Fierce eventually snuggled together on the fur rug and fell into a light doze but Shield could not sleep and having locked the back door and the French doors, she explored the house with a knife in her hand. Upstairs, there were six bedrooms, two bathrooms and a study crammed with books and several computers. In the old man's bedroom, the blankets were thrown back and the sheets stained with the ravages of the plague but on the wall above the bed was a large picture of the old man and his extensive family. She knew that they were all now dead apart from, she realised with a chill of foreboding, a boy of twelve who was proudly wearing the robes of a postulant of the Order. Satisfied that there were no immediate threats in the house or on the road to the front, she returned to gaze into the angelic faces of her sleeping sisters. She smiled as she realised how much love she felt for them both despite Fierce's stern character and Mouse's impulsive but infectious laughter. She went to the window to watch the grey river surging past but she was surprised and then puzzled to see a rowing boat come into view then cut impossibly across the fast-moving torrent. The oars were dipping leisurely into the water as if the oarsman was sculling across a calm lake. The boat entered the shallow waters covering the garden and halted at the bottom of the patio steps. Her mouth opened in shock as she saw her mother and the old man who owned the house sitting side by side upon the stern seat. They smiled and waved up at her then her father shipped an oar to place his hand on his heart and nod at her, the approval plain upon his face. She felt a hand upon her shoulder as he whispered into her ear: ''Thank you for keeping them safe, Ro - we're so proud of you.'' She whirled around but there was nothing there and when she turned back, the boat had vanished leaving nothing but a piece of driftwood turning slowly in the murky waters. She sank to her knees, pressed her forehead against the cool glass of the French doors and cried her heart out. -------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012 2013
Archived comments for Chapter 14: The Awakening
Mikeverdi on 07-06-2016
Chapter 14: The Awakening
Sorry to be so long reading this Mitch, I need a clear head to read stories or I lose the plot. Finished Chemo now so I should start improving, maybe even write something. Still enjoying the story line, will move on to the next.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chapter 13: Flood (posted on: 27-05-16)
Chapter 13 of the Light-Father. Harold cannot sleep and neither can Sheild who tells him how three young sisters survived the storms, floods and gigantic hail that devastated their refuge and much of Crawcester...

''Still falls the rain; dark as the world of man, black as our loss, blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails upon the Cross.'' - Dame Edith Sitwell. Harold lay on the mattress in his wagon and wondered what he could do to brighten the place up. He'd dosed the mattress and his clothes with flea powder and insect-repellent but he still felt as though half the insects of the entire planet were paying him personal house-calls and he kept scratching furiously. ''These kids have been like this for years,'' he muttered aloud. He'd been unable to sleep worrying about Mouse or because visions of fangs lunging at his throat appeared every time he closed his eyes. ''How the hell do they sleep with all these nightmares in their lives?'' He stared at the ceiling in the dim light of the battery-lamp he'd salvaged from Saul's house. ''I can't allow them to stay in this cess-pit any longer. There's gum disease and Peter and Mouse need medical care and clean, dry bandages for a start'' He sat up as the rear door slid open to reveal Shield's concerned face. ''I'm sorry, Light-Father,'' she said. ''I heard you talking to someone... but there's nobody in here with you.'' ''I talk to myself at night when I can't sleep,'' he assured her, propping himself up on an elbow. ''It's a bad habit I've developed from being alone for so long. Come in, Shield. I won't get up I'm not a pretty sight in my boxer shorts.'' Shield was about to ask what boxer shorts were but decided against it and clambered aboard. She sat cross-legged next to his mattress and rested the staff upon her in her thighs. ''I am glad that you keep this wonderful sword close to you,'' she approved, patting the ornate sheath. ''For someone who has never known violence, Light-Father, you are learning very quickly.'' ''Oh, I've had some first-hand experience of violence but never mind that,'' he said quickly, waving a hand in dismissal. ''I take it you want to talk to me about the Mothers and that Feral watching us. What do you think that staff means?'' ''As we saw in our shared dream, some of the Ferals are working for them,'' she said distantly. ''This staff was meant for me - they must think I could be a Mother as I bear the mark. Maybe Mother Moss told them about me even though she never left us but I suppose she could have journeyed to that hill while we slept.'' ''Or that Feral was a messenger. Either way it can't be too far from here. You said you'd found the courage to explore the craft so shall we go and find this Hill Where It Never Rains to meet them in person and see if they can help you?'' She nodded then shook her head miserably. ''Yes, I am curious about this power I can feel inside me, Light-Father. When I saw you appear in that mystic light, I thought you could answer all my questions about the craft but I see now that you can't help me. Only the Motherhood holds the answers to what I am but Mother Moss warned me about these terrible ordeals designed to test your heart and soul to see if you are worthy.'' ''Ah, but she did teach you, didn't she?'' ''It was strictly against the rules of the Motherhood,'' she said sadly. ''In my heart I believe that's why they did not come when Schimrian and his Fathers were torturing her.'' He shuddered as he remembered the death'shead moth and the headless body in the office. ''They didn't seem that heartless in the dream but maybe they are. I wish I could advise you but apart from that one man, nobody in my world has the powers that you and the Mothers possess they're amazing. I can see why the Fathers would want to exterminate this Motherhood.'' Shield raised the staff and held it horizontally in front of her at eye-level. ''I've been keeping Fierce awake trying to get this thing to shoot lightning bolts or something but I know it's just a symbol of the Mothers. To be honest, I'm scared of this power; this um, what did you call it?'' she asked, lowering the staff. ''Telekinesis the power to move things with your mind,'' he said with a wry smile. ''The Mothers use the Greek idea that four elements make up the world guided by a fifth spiritual force, a quintessence that permeates everything. Whether you're moving earth, air, water or flames about, it's all a form of telekinesis selecting one these elements. I think you could move anything about and not just air. I wonder if the physical law of this world allows you to do that more easily here than in my world.'' ''It's rare here. Mother Moss said there were only six dozen Mothers in the whole world and about the same number of Daughters - which is what they call the initiates. There have been no males capable of such power in all recorded history.'' ''Hmm - maybe the Order's hatred is gender-based. So did Mother Moss consider you to be one of these Daughters?'' ''Yes, and she explained why the testing was necessary. To let someone wield such power without fear or moral guidance would be to unleash a monster so they'' ''So are you saying that they would kill any initiate who fails the ordeals or misuses her powers?'' She looked down at the staff. ''Yes,'' she whispered. ''Then they are the perfect opposites to the Fathers and just as ruthless but on a different scale they will murder initiates who become evil while the Fathers kill billions they deem Unworthy. What a world you have here, Shield.'' ''Was yours any better?'' she asked, raising an eyebrow. ''Well, it has its good points and its bad points. We have a population of well over seven billion. There are no major wars but there's a lot of poverty and suffering plus an ongoing climate shift that could end up much worse than the one here.'' ''Hundreds of years ago, the ice caps melted and the coasts flooded. Our world struggled to feed its four billion,'' Shield explained. ''But a year before the plague, all the nations agreed to work together and the wars finally came to an end.'' ''I see,'' he said. ''So Schimrian destroyed a possible golden age making him even more of a monster. But why do women and not men become telekinetic and what does that hexagram represent? In my world that hexagram was used in the flag of the Jewish state of Israel they called it the Star of David.'' ''The Jewish State of Judea here did not use the hexagram. Mother Moss said they considered it to be an occult symbol. The Mothers hold the two triangles to represent the duality of the universe such as male and female, dark and light, life and death as set down by Pythagoras and his disciples.'' ''Ah, so that's what all those 'degrees' were about! They're using a really weird mix of Pagan and Greek symbolism. Mind you, the Pythagoras in my world did not have a high opinion of women. He is reputed to have said a good principle created order, light and man while evil one created chaos, dark and women. In fact, he regarded male friendship as the highest form of relationship. It's funny how he appears in both worlds.'' ''Mother Moss told me that people like him control powerful turning points in history she called them the pivots of history. Our Pythagoras didn't like women either but the Mothers follow much of his teachings as well as the natural Pagan ways. She told me they adopted the ceremonial dress of the Royal Conclave of Architects simply because they barred women from their ranks.'' ''I did wonder about the trousers and the aprons. We called them Freemasons in my world and they wear ceremonial aprons too but these men are just businessmen looking out for each other and they use satanic initiation rituals to keep it all secret.'' ''As did the Conclaves here - they were all connected to the Order and became powerful in many countries,'' Shield shrugged. ''But even they were betrayed by the Order in the end.'' ''What about you?'' Harold prompted. ''Would you ever consider going through these initiation ordeals?'' ''No, because if I fail, they will not hesitate to kill me,'' she shuddered. ''I want to explore my gift but I do not want to be a Mother yet the others are already treating me like one - they see this staff and they no longer see me. Everything has changed, Light-Father.'' She stared at him frankly with bitter tears in her eyes. ''Everything changed when you came to us.'' Harold was silent for a minute, taken aback by her accusing tone. ''Look, Shield,'' he said. ''I'm just a laboratory technician who should be heading home from the bar right now not looking after twelve kids in a rail-yard. I had no say in my coming here but Mother Moss may have brought me here in time to change what would have happened had I not been here - that pack of dogs would have taken you by surprise and our substitute Mother Moss would not have been here to ward off the Tally-Men.'' ''I suppose so,'' she relented. ''I'm so confused. What am I supposed to do with this?'' she said, indicating the staff. ''They never give a staff to an initiate. What does it mean?'' ''Leave it in your caravan for now,'' he advised, suppressing a yawn. ''There's no rush to see them if they frighten you so much. You need to think it all through and we have plenty of mundane things around here to organise. For example, we need to think about finding a better place to live. We can find a castle maybe; a dry place we can defend.'' ''We'll be safe enough here for a while,'' Shield smiled and patted her stomach. ''I'm so full. We haven't eaten so well since David left us. I would never have thought about eating a dog but the meat was delicious and a fitting end for something that tried to eat us the predator becoming prey.'' She fell silent again as she studied the swan ornament of her staff. ''Prey,'' she whispered. ''Look, we can talk about the craft another day,'' he prompted. ''You were going to tell me yesterday about what happened at the museum after your parents died.''
~~~~~
''Look at the sky,'' Mouse gasped, gazing through the window. ''There's a huge black cloud coming up from the south.'' They'd spent all morning chasing each other; playing hide and ambush all over the topmost floor which had a maze of corridors and rooms full of classical sculptures beautifully lit by ornate glass skylights. Shield halted a sword and knife practice with Fierce and they both came to the window to look at the vast rank of towering cumulonimbus clouds. ''It's a storm alright but it's stretching from horizon to horizon. It's moving quickly like a wave.'' ''I have a bad feeling,'' Fierce murmured fearfully. ''It's been so hot and humid and stinking of smoke all the time.'' Within minutes, an oppressive gloom had descended despite it being midday. Then the storm broke. ''Wow! I love lightning!'' Mouse gasped in awe as the darkness was riven again and again by vast bolts striking buildings and trees. One bolt struck an office block opposite sending large chunks of masonry crashing down into the street. The thunder was deafening, rattling all the doors and window frames. There were lighter patches in the black clouds above but these were an unearthly and ominous green that frightened the two older sisters and to the east, a vast wedge shape could be seen briefly silhouetted against the flashes as it moved north. ''What's that?'' Mouse demanded. ''A vortex,'' Shield explained. ''They only get that big in the Americas. I hope one doesn't come here, Ethelind.'' ''Mouse,'' Mouse insisted, her nose still pressed to the glass. ''I hope one doesn't come here, Mouse,'' Shield repeated patiently. ''They're dangerous the winds in the vortex can tear buildings apart even one as well built as this museum.'' Mouse leapt backwards as a heavy object struck the window a glancing blow and another impacted the skylight above their heads. Shield immediately recognised the danger they were in and swept the startled Mouse off her feet. ''Run, Fierce, run!'' she yelled above the thunder. ''We have to get off this floor!'' They ran pell-mell for the stairs down a corridor that seemed to be over a mile long. Even above the incessant thunder, they could hear whistling sounds that preceded great thuds and bangs as the giant hail intensified. As they ran, massive lumps of ice suddenly smashed through the thick glass panes above their heads and shards rained down around them. One hailstone, the size of a football, pulverised the head of a statue less than a metre away from Fierce but they made it to the stairwell safely and cowered in the dark as the bombardment continued. It lasted only two minutes but to the three young sisters clinging in terror to each other, it seemed like three lifetimes. When it ceased, they timidly emerged to behold a scene of utter devastation: not a single statue had survived undamaged and the corridor was filled with ice, splintered glass and sculpted rubble. The devastating hail had gone but it was quickly replaced by an incessant rain as the lightning became more and more frequent until they were all but blinded by the immense white and purple flashes. All afternoon and all that long black night the storm lashed the museum. Water began to tumble down the stairs and stairwells and found cracks in floors through which to cascade into the rooms and corridors below. They cowered in their parents' makeshift bed but they could not sleep and Mouse wet herself when several bolts of lightning struck the museum and brilliant sparks flashed across the saturated tiled floor of the canteen. Finally, the thunder abated and a faint drab light marked the arrival of morning but still it rained and rained and rained. Rivulets of rainwater ran down walls, saturating priceless paintings until Shield was finally moved to mount a rescue operation. ''What's the point?'' Fierce demanded as they moved countless paintings and artefacts into the only room on the second floor that was remaining dry. They had to smash open all the display cases to move the ancient pots and vases but Shield made sure that all the plaques and labels were kept with the artefacts. She was relieved that Mouse was treating it as a game of cat-burglar and laughed as the little girl sneaked down corridors clutching priceless collections of coins and whispering: ''We mustn't get caught, Fierce. Quick! The police are after us!'' ''Why are we doing this?'' Fierce persisted. ''I want our children to know we had a past before the plague,'' Shield said flatly. ''We can't leave here until it's safe so we might as well do something useful.'' ''This is fun,'' Mouse grinned, her face nearly hidden by the centurion's helmet she had on. ''Please can I keep this spear?'' she said. ''It's too big for me now but I like it. It's got this beautiful writing on it and the point is really sharp.'' Shield smiled at her enthusiastic youngest sister. ''Of course you can. It was made for Prince Turibas of Iberia three hundred years ago but I don't think he'd mind if you borrowed it for a while. These two knives are his so you can keep them as well.'' ''You have your cross-bow, knife and shield,'' Mouse beamed, cradling the spear. ''Fierce has her knives and that big stick-sword so hosanna! These are mine! These are mine!'' ''Be careful, Mouse!'' Shield cried out in alarm as the point of Mouse's spear came within a centimetre of gashing her face. ''It's too big for you you'll have to practise with it. Come on, let's store these paintings then go and get something to eat. I hope the cooker is still working after all that water soaked it.'' Even this arduous task could not keep them occupied forever and they felt the weight of the dark grey skies bearing down upon them more and more each day. After six days of this, Shield went down to the little courtyard at the back of the museum where they'd prised up several flagstones and buried their parents a task that had given all three sisters terrible nightmares. She'd wanted to talk to them but instead she burst into tears on seeing that the courtyard was under a half a metre of polluted water that was gushing up through the drains. She ran to the front door and opened it to find the main road was already inundated with floodwater lapping at the topmost step of the entrance. This was the lowest part of Crawcester, next to the river which had finally burst its banks but she had no idea how high it would rise and whether or not they would be trapped in the museum. As she stood there paralysed with indecision, a surge of water came down the road and sloshed in across the floor. Rain still fell with monsoon force outside and showed no signs of abating so she forced the doors shut, braced them with the pikes then retreated to the stairs where her worried sisters were huddled. ''Let's go back to the canteen,'' she suggested. ''We can't swim to safety even if we wanted to the water's too deep and it's moving too fast out there. We'll have to stay there and pray the rain stops.'' As they huddled together in the damp blankets on their parents' bed, huge booms and thuds shook the building. ''What's that roaring noise downstairs, Shield?'' Mouse whimpered. ''The water's broken through the doors and windows.'' ''Are we going to drown, big sister?'' Mouse demanded. ''I hate being wet all the time and not because I'm scared.'' ''You aren't going to drown, Mouse, that's a promise,'' Shield said firmly, holding Mouse to her. ''The water can't rise this far, we're on the first floor so just get some sleep.'' ''It's hard to get to sleep with all this water pouring through the ceiling,'' Fierce grumbled. ''My feet are getting itchy because they're cold and soaked all the time.'' ''I know you keep putting them on my back in the night.'' ''We have got to get dry,'' Fierce sighed, snuggling up to her sisters as the booming and crashing subsided downstairs. ''I don't want to look at another drop of rain as long as I live and I wish Mam and Dad were with us,'' she sobbed. ''Don't cry, Fierce, they're here in spirit watching over us.'' ''Nobody's left alive but us,'' Mouse wailed. It was one of the longest nights in Shield's life as she lay there in the pitch dark - a frightened thirteen-year-old singing lullabies to her two little sisters as they cried themselves to sleep in her arms. Beneath the blankets, she finally felt warm and despite the sounds below and the rain outside, she drifted off to sleep she was five again and on a rowing-boat upon a river bathed in beautiful sunshine that glittered and sparkled off the ripples. Her father was smiling at her and saying something about enjoying his first real holiday for years as her mother, pregnant with Fierce, trailed her hand in the water. ''This is so lovely,'' Leola murmured. She placed her other hand on Shield's face and a feeling of love and peace spread throughout her body. ''That's better, Rowenna, you've been so jealous about the baby lately, I thought I'd never see you smile again - and you have such a wonderful smile.'' ''I love you both,'' Shield sighed happily. ''I miss you.'' Eorman frowned. ''How can you miss us, Ro? We're all together in a boat on our family holiday.'' ''But you're both dead,'' she protested but she was surprised that she sounded so young. ''We buried you.'' Her father smiled at her, pulled in an oar and placed his hand on her shoulder as they drifted in the gentle current, the water lapping at the sides of the boat. ''You will have to look after your little sister when she comes into the world - and any other siblings after her. Do you promise?'' ''Yes, Dad, I promise,'' she said. ''But I think we're leaking.'' Her father smiled and carried on rowing unconcerned as their little boat shipped water and she could feel it creeping up her legs and soaking her bottom as her mother sighed contentedly. ''Rowenna, dear,'' she said lovingly. ''Find a better boat than this and make sure you have some decent rope to moor the boat so that you can get out and walk along the riverbank with us and maybe, Ro, we can have a picnic.'' Her father stopped rowing and looked at Leola sternly. ''She can't join us yet, Leola - she has to wake up now!'' Shield opened her eyes with a start to find the dreary light of dawn had filtered in and her back and legs were soaked because the water had risen steadily in the night and was now level with the base of their parents' improvised bed. ''Wake up!'' she yelled and shook her sisters roughly. ''We're in danger!'' ''What? Oh no!'' Mouse shrieked. ''We're going to drown! We're going to drown!'' Shield gave her a ringing slap across the face. ''We don't have time for hysterics, Mouse. You and Fierce take the weapons and get to the stairs and wait there for me.'' Fierce didn't say a word but dragged Mouse to the stairs and waded back for the weapons and the sodden blankets. ''What are you going to do?'' she shouted. ''The water is still rising!'' Shield was in the kitchen and had emptied out a tall fridge. With all her strength she levered it away from the wall and bent down with her face in the water and heaved until she thought her heart would burst until the fridge toppled onto its back. She grabbed a screwdriver from a toolbox on one of the benches and opened the door. ''It's perfect,'' she cried. ''It floats and I can plug the drain hole at the back.'' ''What can I do?'' Fierce asked as Shield frantically unscrewed the three door hinges. ''I can't just stand here and do nothing!'' ''Then put those cans and bottles of water inside,'' Shield said, jamming some cloth into the drain hole with the screwdriver. ''We have to take as much food and clean water as we can then we have to find something we can use as oars or paddles.'' ''We can use these frying-pans!'' Fierce cried, selecting the two with the longest handles and throwing them into the fridge. ''Good thinking,'' Shield approved but she was alarmed to find that the water was now up to her waist and Fierce's chest. She lifted her sister out of the water and put her inside the fridge. ''All aboard the Barnacle!'' she said with a forced smile. Fierce looked at her and returned the smile. ''That's what Mam and Dad would say - I was dreaming about them in the night.'' ''Unh! Me too,'' Shield grunted as she pushed the fridge to the stairs where Mouse was waiting for them, shivering with fear. ''Put our weapons inside and climb in!'' Shield ordered as she held the fridge steady. ''This sauce-pan is yours, Mouse. You have the most important job of all - bailing out the Barnacle.'' ''Barnacle? What's that?'' Mouse demanded. ''That's the name of our boat,'' Fierce said proudly. ''What's the matter?'' she asked of Shield who had waded off suddenly. ''Where are you going?'' ''Rope!'' Shield said over her shoulder. ''Mam said we needed rope to moor the boat in my dream!'' She was soon back with a coil that she'd rescued from the store rooms weeks before and tied it to a strut inside the base of the fridge. She forced open the huge windows next to the stairs and more water surged in over the low sill. ''Saint Peter is watching over us,'' she sighed with relief. ''It's wide enough. We'll paddle along the main street until we find higher ground.'' ''Why is the water still rising so fast?'' Fierce demanded as it continued to swirl in. ''The rain's much lighter now.'' ''It's still running off the hills,'' Shield said as she clambered onto the window ledge. She pulled hard on the rope and the fridge scraped over the sill and floated free. ''Trees and boats must have got wedged under the Copper Bridge to dam the river like this.'' She pulled the fridge back to the window and clambered gingerly aboard. The Barnacle wobbled alarmingly then rotated slowly as it drifted away from their refuge. It was low in the water but it was floating! ''Fierce!'' she commanded. ''Let's paddle!'' They were two thirds of the way along the flooded shopping street when there was a distant boom and a long grinding rumble. Sheild's explanation had been correct only the arches of the Copper Bridge had suddenly collapsed under the weight of all the trees and vehicles jammed against them releasing the lake of backed-up floodwater. Despite their frantic efforts the current dragged them inexorably backwards past the museum and towards the River Craw which was now rampaging through the shattered bridge. ---------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012 - 2013
Archived comments for Chapter 13: Flood
Mikeverdi on 29-05-2016
Chapter 13: Flood
Still with you Mitch....😊
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chapter 12: Fang and Feral (posted on: 23-05-16)
Chapter 12 of the Light-Father: The Tally-men threaten the Keep and a starving pack of dogs sniff them out - will Harold's trick work? Will the children be able to fight off sixty starving dogs?

In the gloom of the mail-wagon, every knothole in the front door and wall was silently fought over as the Scatterlings vied to watch their daily nightmare. All too soon, the Tally-men in their swirling black coats had completed their regular patrol around the yard and were marching in single file along the path between the offices and the grass verge that led back to the gates. As Harold had feared, they all halted at some unspoken command and turned to the left in unison to stare at the mail-wagon and slam the spikes on the base of their spears into the tarmac. Harold felt as though those five pairs of dead eyes were gazing directly at him. One of them stepped forward and pointed his spear at the box but even from the mail-wagon, they could see that the Tally-man was quaking with fear. ''Our head is working. Heh! Look at his face he looks like he might wet his pants!'' Rabbit said proudly only to be shushed by Shield. ''Sorry, I forgot.'' ''Everyone be quiet,'' Shield hissed then she switched on the microphone. ''Take one step closer and I will make you suffer,'' she growled into the microphone with such venom that even Harold found the hairs standing up on the back of his neck. He was pleased to see that she'd worked the lock-motor switch in perfect time with the warning. He put his eye to the knothole and saw the Tally-man scuttling backwards at great speed to rejoin the others. Then his heart sank. David came forward with his spear at the ready to begin his strange and macabre dance. His wordless howls of loss and anguish made their blood run cold. The younger children whimpered and huddled together in the gloom and pressed their hands to the ears for the thing screaming in anguish outside had been one of them a mere seven months ago. He got far closer to the tin than the other Tally-man had and fell silent, peering closely at its contents with a puzzled frown upon his face. Shield flicked the switch that lit up the eyes and Harold saw David suddenly stagger away, covering his eyes and mewling with fear. ''David Dis, your blessed mother, Ethelwyn, would turn in her grave at what you've become,'' she moaned theatrically. ''For Leo, Jana, Eliza and Jacob, never darken this place again!'' David sank to his knees at the names of his brothers and sisters and dropped his spear to claw at his face. Two Tally-men strode forward and quickly hauled him to his feet and dragged him into line while a third darted forward to retrieve the spear. As soon as he had rejoined the line, David's face became expressionless and he automatically accepted his weapon. The five then turned as one to face the gate and marched on out as if nothing had happened. ''Well done, Shield,'' Harold approved warmly, clapping her on the shoulder. ''You're a gifted actress.'' ''Thank you,'' she said sadly, switching off the microphone and getting to her feet. She chewed at her lower lip for a moment and shook her head. ''He remembered his family, Light-Father. For one second there, he remembered.'' ''I saw. I wish I knew why they do that,'' he muttered. ''One second, they're all curious and the next they're robots again.'' ''They are completely controlled by the Guides,'' Saul explained. ''They have to be at certain points in their patrol at certain times and that program overrides whatever they're doing at any given moment. They simply forget and move on their brains have been all but surgically destroyed, don't forget.'' ''When it is drier, they are programmed to patrol at random intervals,'' Ibrahim added, still gazing through his knothole. ''The Order assumes that nothing moves in heavy rain so they hope to catch survivors on the move in the drier weather. They will always follow the same patrol pattern unless a Father is present then they get really dangerous because the Fathers have devices that control them directly. The Fathers don't come here very often because they have a whole world to Inquire of and many more survivors to butcher even though Schimrian knows we're here.'' ''Either we're not worth killing or he's forgotten about us after killing Mother Moss and beheading her,'' Shield pointed out. She moved the table aside and slid open the door. ''I'd better get the tin back inside before the rain gets into the wiring.'' ''Be careful not to tug at the wires leading into the back of the tin,'' Harold warned as she jumped down. He turned to find Saul looking haggard and gazing into the middle-distance with tears in his eyes. He placed his hand on the young man's shoulder. ''You couldn't save your cousin, Saul,'' he said kindly. ''You can't spend the rest of your life carrying that guilt upon your shoulders. You have these others to lead and look after in his name.'' ''He was the best of us,'' Saul sighed heavily. ''Yet he was fated to lose his parents, his two brothers, his two sisters and now he has lost himself. If he and the Tally-men ever attacked this Keep, I still don't think I could kill him even if he was trying to kill me, Light-Father. Despite everything, I believe that David is still alive somewhere inside that black coat. I saw his face just now - I have to believe in God that a part of him still lies beyond the reach of the Guides and the scalpels of the Fathers.'' Fierce took his arm and cradled it. ''Then I'll kill him for you,'' she promised. ''Because I can see what your love cannot David is lost to us. He is nothing more than a brainless Tally-man who would kill or capture every one of us.'' Saul placed a hand upon her head, seemingly forgetting that Harold was watching them closely. ''Bless you, Fierce,'' he said gently. ''I regret that I may have to place that burden upon you - one day, you may have to do what I can not.'' Harold was beginning to appreciate Saul's instinctive leadership qualities and thinking back to his school and college days when Bas suddenly crouched in the open doorway and sniffed at the air. He felt distinctly uneasy at the way her ears twitched upon her head and wondered at the chilling callousness of a man who saw nothing wrong in experimenting on his own children. ''What's the matter, Bas?'' Ibrahim said, readying his axe. ''What can you sense out there?'' ''Come in quickly, Shield,'' she urged, standing up and notching an arrow to her bow. ''I smell Feral.'' Shield placed the tin and wires on the floor of the wagon and quickly climbed in to retrieve her cross-bow. ''How many?'' she demanded. ''I didn't hear a thing.'' ''Only one I think. He's watching us from the canteen roof for some reason. Why is there only one, Light-Father?'' she asked turning to Harold. ''They always hunt in packs.'' Harold was about to answer when Shield shot him a warning glance and he nodded at her. Suddenly, dogs starting barking and baying on the other side of the wall. ''Speaking of packs, Saul,'' he said nervously. ''It sounds like our canine friends are hungry again. I had hoped they'd move on.'' ''It's to be expected,'' Saul shrugged. ''There's no food for them in the city except us. I have no idea why they're hunting here there's plenty of deer and boar roaming the woods.'' ''M-maybe they want to eat me,'' Pup wailed, clinging to Fria who comforted him. ''Bad dogs! They ate poor Leo and Jana maybe they like Pup more than deer!'' ''I won't let them hurt you,'' Bas promised and leapt from the back door threshold onto the caravan roof. She was back in seconds, looking extremely worried. ''At least sixty,'' she reported. ''They know we're here - they're approaching the gates.'' Saul unsheathed his sword and stared at Harold. ''We lost Leo and Jana to these mongrels,'' he said, more to himself than Harold. ''I will not lose another child to fang and Feral!'' ''No, we'll be hunting them for a change,'' Amos grinned, patting his sledgehammer. ''About time I hated it when you and David made us run away and leave Leo and Jana.'' Harold saw Saul's knuckles whiten on the hilt of his sword but Ibrahim surprised Harold by suddenly grasping the front of Amos's tunic and lifting the sneering teenager clean off the floor. ''Are you calling David a coward?'' he said dangerously, his face close to that of the scarred youth. ''Are you that tired of life?'' ''N-n-no,'' Amos stammered. ''I meant no disrespect to his memory, Ibrahim. W-we had to run! We had to!'' ''Yes, we did, Amos,'' Ibrahim said, slowly lowering him. ''We were caught in the open and we were carrying youngsters. We made a terrible mistake taking everyone to search for food. We all thought that the dogs had gone back into the woods'' ''and now they're back,'' Shield interrupted. ''We have no choice but to kill them all. If we just drive them off, they could ambush us again when we're looking for food.'' ''Thank God they're coming at us in daylight,'' Harold declared, drawing his sword. ''We have to hold them at the gates - we'll be under siege in the Keep if we let them get into the yard. Luckily, the gates are set back from the road so we can corral them between the entrance walls while Shield and Bas shoot down at them from the tops of the caravans.'' ''As David said: try not to die,'' Saul said sombrely as Pup began to whimper and Rabbit squeezed Surl's hand so hard that it made the bald girl yelp with pain. He turned to Shield and Bas as more baying sounded closer to the gates. ''It's up to you two to shoot all those at the rear while we take out those at the front.'' Peter grabbed his knife and was about to jump down when Saul stopped him. ''No, Peter,'' he said angrily. ''You must heal before you fight you and Surl will protect Rabbit and Pup and guard this door with your lives, understand? I'm counting on you. We'll have to leave it half-open in case we have to retreat from the gates.'' ''I'm coming too,'' Mouse said angrily. ''I've been practising really hard with my knives and my spear.'' ''No,'' Shield said firmly. ''You're staying with Peter.'' ''That's not fair! Fierce is going and I want to fight! Dogs killed Leo and Jana and they were my best friends!'' Shield knelt and cupped her sister's face in her hands. ''I won't be able to aim if I'm worried about you at the gates, little sister. Please help Peter protect the others they're frightened.'' ''Oh, all right,'' Mouse relented, standing her spear upright. ''We won't let a single dog cross this threshold, will we, Surl?'' Surl nodded gravely and patted her machete. ''Good for you, Surl,'' Harold approved as he climbed down. ''Don't worry, Peter,'' he promised. ''I have some ideas on how to improve your claw and get you fighting fit again.'' ''Let's go,'' Saul urged as Bas leapt up onto the caravan roof closely followed by Shield who used the ladder. ''Light-Father is right - if they get into the yard, we'll be trapped in here.'' The bolder dogs were already at the gate entrance, sniffing eagerly for scents despite the light rain drifting down. They crouched and growled as Harold, Ibrahim, Amos, Fria, Fierce and Saul quickly formed a line across the entrance and barred their way. ''Don't let any get through or they'll take you down from behind,'' Saul shouted, readying his sword. ''Bas, Shield, I know the light's fading but get as many at the back as you can! I don't know what's got into these dogs but this does not feel natural'' ''You're right - it's like they're possessed,'' Harold observed, grasping his sword by the hilt. Suddenly, he felt nothing like a hero just a podgy technician in overalls and a baseball cap clutching a samurai sword and facing sixty wild dogs! He had no time to think about it as the pack surged forward and he was forced to frantically swing his sword around like a club with the razor-sharp edge making up for his total lack of skill. Arrows and bolts thrummed through the air and whines and yelps marked the finding of targets. He saw that dreadful smile on Amos's face as the teenager surged forward, swinging his sledgehammer in whirling arcs but in doing do, he left a large gap in the line and three dogs immediately raced through into the yard. ''Get back in line, you idiot!'' Saul roared as he plunged his sword into the throat of a large black wolfhound. ''Light-Father, do something he's got two at his heels!'' Harold saw Fierce living up to her name as with both hands, she fearlessly jabbed her slender sword into throats and hearts. Ibrahim punched one hound on the top of the head, driving it into the ground before whirling around and virtually slicing his next attacker in two with his double-headed axe. However, Amos was in trouble with three in front of him and two more snapping at his hamstrings. Descendants of pampered pets they may have been but the instincts of the wolf served them well - Amos already had one severe bite to the back of his thigh as he flailed about with his hammer in vain as the dogs were keeping out of range. Harold swung his sword with all his might and dispatched both dogs behind Amos with two blows and then dragged the teenager back into the line. ''Concentrate!'' he bellowed, feeling the blood singing in his own ears. With a start, he realised that he'd never felt so alive. ''We still have another thirty to go!'' ''Why aren't they running away?'' Fria demanded as she blinded a dog with a double thrust of her long knives. ''They should be running away by now but not one of them is leaving. It's like when Leo and Jana died - the dogs then didn't seem to care if they died or not!'' She thrust a knife into the blinded dog's throat and was spattered with arterial blood as arrows and bolts rained down about them with deadly accuracy. Finally, it was over but not one animal had fled the carnage which worried Harold immensely. He stood there panting along with the children as they stared at the piles of corpses before them. ''Are you alright, Light-Father?'' Bas shouted down from the wall. She started as the youngsters in the mail-wagon screamed. ''Get back to them, Bas!'' he shouted. ''Three dogs got past us and they might not have closed the door in time!'' They raced to the mail-wagon with their hearts in their mouths where they found one large dog pacing in circles by the open door, blinded and obviously in great agony. Saul despatched it with one sweep of his sword and vaulted up into the wagon to find a large dog still alive but immobilised by Mouse's spear and knives protruding from its flanks. In the corner, they found her clutching at bite wounds to her shoulder with Surl standing over the corpse of the third dog, her bloodied machete in her hands. Harold and Shield rushed over to see to Mouse who was smiling bravely up them but Harold could see that she was as white as a sheet and trembling with shock then he saw Peter on the floor behind one of the tables, clutching at his stump. ''Saul, see to Peter,'' he ordered. ''I think he's just winded.'' There was a crunch as Amos crushed the skull of the second dog with his sledgehammer. ''Quickly, Shield, get her onto the table - she's losing a lot of blood. She needs that wound disinfected and stitched up. Pup, get me the blue box off that shelf, please.'' ''Yes, Light-Father,'' the boy said eagerly as Harold and Shield laid Mouse on the table and removed her jacket. Pup placed the box on the table and Harold immediately extracted a pair of surgical scissors to cut away Mouse's shirt and expose the wounds. ''Damn it, these bites went deep,'' he muttered as the children gathered around. ''There's nothing you can do,'' he told them. ''I want you to drag these dogs out and get all the other corpses out of sight as far away from the Keep as possible. Throw them over the walls if you can but keep the two biggest dogs.'' ''What for, Light-Father?'' Bas demanded with a puzzled frown on her face. ''We have to get rid of them all because the Tally-men will find them or we'll have thousands of rats everywhere.'' ''I'm cooking them, Bas,'' Harold explained. ''I have to build your strength up if we are ever going to leave this place. Surl and Rabbit? I want you to hold her down while I clean the wound. She's going to struggle like hell but keep her still for me.'' ''What about me, Light-Father?'' Amos pleaded, displaying the bites to his left leg. ''I was bitten too. I'm bleeding.'' ''Mouse got hurt because you broke the line,'' Fierce said angrily, pointing her bloodied sword at him. ''Enough!'' Harold snapped. ''We will talk about this later. I will treat you after Mouse, Amos. Saul? How is Peter?'' ''He's okay, he banged the stump when he was knocked over,'' Saul said, patting the boy's head. ''The youngsters did well.'' ''They did indeed. Pup stays with us but I want the rest of you to clean your weapons then get rid of all these dead dogs. Now! Move, all of you! Yes, you too, Peter! Go!'' They looked at him open-mouthed for a second before obeying without a word. ''You, Amos,'' he said curtly. ''Hold her feet. We haven't got any anaesthetic. I'm sorry, Mouse, but this is going to sting. Rabbit, is there any hot water on the stove?'' ''Sorry, Light-Father,'' Pup apologised. ''I threw it all into the face of the first dog because it went for Mouse. She was very brave - she stuck the spear and her knives into the second dog as it jumped up but the third dog was on her but Rabbit and Peter stabbed it then Surl killed it with her machete!'' ''That was quick thinking, Pup,'' he grinned. ''Pup was very brave,'' Mouse said slowly. ''Keep still while I clean the wounds with this disinfectant,'' Harold said, handing her a small stick. ''You'll need to bite on this. By a miracle, we've got some sterile sutures so I can stitch them up but they are going to leave scars, Mouse, I'm sorry.'' ''So I'm getting scars to match Amos, am I?'' she said bravely then she clamped her teeth on the stick and nodded. Amos leant forward and surprised them all by squeezing her hand. ''I promise I won't ever tease you again, Mouse,'' he said as she writhed on the table. He was hard put to stop her legs flailing about. ''You're far braver than me,'' he added gallantly. Harold saw Surl's jaw drop as she watched her brother's face. He paused from cleaning the wounds to see real tears in the eyes of a boy he had just dismissed as a hopeless sociopath. ''There - the wounds are sterilised, Mouse, and it didn't get any major veins or arteries so God was watching over you. I need you to be really strong for me as I'm going to stitch the wounds now. I haven't had much practice at this but I'll do my best, I promise.'' It took twenty minutes and over fifty stitches until Harold was finally satisfied yet Mouse did not scream once. ''You need to take antibiotics for ten days to stop any infection setting in,'' he told her, trying to keep dark thoughts about rabies and tetanus out of his mind. ''You'll have to stay in here and keep dry and warm until these heal so we'll make you up another bed by the stove so you can sleep next to Fria and Rabbit tonight.'' ''Th-thank you,'' she mumbled as Harold carefully bandaged her shoulder and upper arm. ''But I did well, yes?'' ''You did well,'' he assured her. Rabbit went to fetch a blanket as he laid her on some cushions by the stove and made her take two antibiotic tablets with some water. He put two large pots of water on the stove to boil as Rabbit placed the blanket over her. He didn't tell them but he was deeply worried about Mouse as she drifted off to sleep in the rosy glow of the fire blazing in the belly of the stove. ''Now you, Amos,'' he said briskly. ''Drop your pants.'' The teenager blushed crimson. ''Not in f-front of the girls,'' he stammered. ''It's embarrassing.'' ''Not as embarrassing as gangrene,'' Harold snapped. ''Girls, look away, please.'' There were several bites that had drawn blood but nothing as serious as Mouse's injuries. However, Amos yelped despite his best efforts as the antiseptic was applied and the wounds dressed. ''You were lucky, Amos,'' Harold said grimly as the red-faced teenager pulled up his pants. ''You let bloodlust get the better of you and put these young ones in grave danger. Mouse could have died you owe her one hell of an apology.'' Amos bowed his head and bit his lip. ''I-I'm sorry, Mouse,'' he said miserably. ''It will not happen again.'' Surl hugged him but the return hug was only half-hearted and Harold sighed Amos still had a long way to go but it was a start. ''Right, it's getting dark and I've got two big dogs to skin, gut, chop to bits and cook,'' he declared, rubbing his hands. ''Yuk! We're not eating dog, are we?'' Pup protested. ''It's better than them eating us,'' Amos replied wryly. Harold had used the large pots to boil up as much dog meat as he could to make a broth with herbs, tinned carrots and potatoes but it was almost dark by the time the others had finished disposing of the corpses. Wearily, they all sat at the table and ate their meal without comment but afterwards, encouraged by Saul, they relaxed and began to talk about their epic battle as Shield and Fierce tended to Mouse and made her eat some more of the broth. Suddenly, a gust of bitter wind flowed through the mail-wagon and all the candles guttered and flared. They fell silent as six measured knocks sounded upon the closed door. Harold and Saul drew their swords, Ibrahim readied his axe and Shield aimed her crossbow as Amos pulled the door open - but no-one was there. Something in the dark glinted in the candlelight so Harold went carefully to the threshold to investigate. He started as he saw a silver swan seemingly floating in the air before him, its ruby eyes glittering. ''Come here, Shield, you need to see this.'' ''What is it?'' she demanded nervously as she joined him. ''I think the Feral left you a message,'' he whispered. Shield's eyes widened and she gasped for thrust into the ground before her was the black staff of Mother Moss. --------------------------------- (c) Paul D. E. Mitchell 2012 2013
Archived comments for Chapter 12: Fang and Feral
Mikeverdi on 24-05-2016
Chapter 12: Fang and Feral
The story moves on, still retains my interest and enjoyment. I would never normally read this style of book, I may have to think again 😁
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike. Even though this has been published by me, ahem, I am still posting it as it it forcing me to address minor continuity and dialogue errors. Glad you are enjoying it as it is my best work thus far. Not much time to compose poetry though I do the odd gig and write the odd song now and again. Mitch.


Chapter 11: Magic (posted on: 20-05-16)
Chapter 11 of the Light-Father : Harold has a plan to fend off the Tally-men and also finds the magnificent Phoenix...

''Excellent job, girls,'' Harold approved as he studied the papier mache face and the proud smiles on the faces of Fria, Bas and Rabbit. ''We have about three hours before the Tally-men patrol the yard again so we need to hurry. Scrape some of that glue off your hands and clothes then you're coming with me.'' ''I'm coming with you,'' Peter said desperately, waving his claw. ''I'm not useless even with this.'' ''No, you're not, Peter,'' Harold said kindly. ''But that mount and sheath strapped to your stump were designed for a child of four not ten. Take it off - let me have a look at your forearm.'' He flinched when he saw that the filthy leather sheath had left Peter's flesh raw and weeping. ''It's a miracle you haven't contracted gangrene,'' he said angrily. ''This is badly infected you can't use the claw until it heals.'' ''The others did try to adapt it for me,'' Peter protested, wincing as Harold inspected the badly damaged skin. ''I hate having it off - I can't call myself Claw like this.'' ''Claw? Choosing a name based on your disability is stupid,'' Harold said curtly. ''You might as well call yourself Stumpy or Mister One-Hand. Trust me - Peter is a much better name.'' ''What about Mouse, Rabbit, Shield and Fierce?'' Peter protested as Harold delicately washed his inflamed forearm. ''They aren't their real names and neither is Surl and Scar.'' ''I've already had this conversation with Amos,'' Harold said wearily as he tried to read the labels on bottles of medicine. ''Scar, Claw and Surl are the names of victims. Calling yourself Claw is not good for your mental health, trust me.'' ''The others call me Claw.'' ''That's a lie,'' Fria said sharply, folding her arms. ''I wouldn't mind if you called me Hild, Peter,'' Fierce offered diplomatically. ''But it's such an old-fashioned name. It makes me feel like I should be as fat as a barrel with armour and a horned helmet singing bad opera.'' She became sad suddenly. ''My mother loved all those operas based on the epic sagas that's how we all got these boring names.'' ''I definitely prefer Fierce to Hild,'' Peter declared as Harold carefully dried his stump and applied an antiseptic cream. ''Keep still and stop sucking up to Fierce,'' Harold said sternly. He began wrapping a clean bandage about the forearm. ''Peter is a perfectly good name. It was my father's name Peter Porter though he was called 'Pisspot' as a child because in my language, the initials 'peepee' was childish slang for going to the toilet.'' ''Pisspot? Ow! What are you doing?'' ''I know it's not elegant but this plastic bag will keep the bandages dry,'' Harold replied, taping it about the arm. ''I think you may get lucky but I think we need to find you some penicillin - that's a drug that kills germs and cures infections in my world. You must have a drug like that here.'' ''Um, there,'' Peter said, pointing to a small brown plastic container with a white cap. ''Hlafafulin - that cures all sorts of infection or so it says on the label.'' ''From the words for loaf and rot,'' Harold said. ''Penicillin was from a bread mould so I can see that you're a lot more literal in this world. So can you all read?'' ''Shield and Saul teach us,'' Mouse said proudly. They had all gathered round the table to watch Peter being bandaged with intense curiosity. ''We have our letters and words but we don't have many books as the damp makes them go black quickly.'' ''I can imagine,'' he nodded thoughtfully. ''Your caravans were not designed for a climate of endless rain. I'll get some bookshelves and we'll keep the books in here where it's warmer and drier and I'll set up a reading lamp. How does that feel now, Peter?'' ''Much better, Light-Father, thank you.'' ''Take one of these tablets every morning and evening for ten days,'' Harold said, counting twenty out into an empty container and placing it in Peter's jacket pocket. ''What about Pup, Mouse, Surl and me?'' Fierce demanded angrily. ''They've had all the fun making a mashy face while we've doing all the hard work cleaning the pots and bowls, scrubbing the tables and mopping the floor!'' ''And you've done an excellent job,'' Harold assured them gravely. ''Like I said, we're going to search the yard and all the buildings - we need to look for paint or any make-up for the face and any thing we can use for the hair and eyebrows. I also need to see if there are other things we can use. For instance, are there any changing rooms and washing facilities for the workers?'' ''Yes, on the other side of the car-park,'' Fria said. ''There are changing rooms, a canteen and a shower room for the engineers but there's no fresh water or food left in any of the buildings.'' ''We'll have a look anyway,'' Harold smiled, handing her three cans of insect spray. ''Fierce will keep watch at the front door while you and Rabbit make a start on your caravan.'' ''Huh? What do you mean, Light-Father?'' ''I want you to drag your mattresses into the empty wagon and douse them in insecticide and leave them there. Then I want every surface in your caravan scrubbed clean. Will you help them, Pup?'' ''Yes, Light-Father - Pup always helps!'' ''Good lad. Oh, don't give me that look, Rabbit! Off you go. Fierce will guard the door and warn you if any dogs, Ferals or Tally-men show up.'' ''Yes, Light-Father,'' Fierce said resignedly. ''But we rarely get trouble at this time of day. I want to go with you.'' ''We had all three yesterday,'' Peter pointed out. ''True,'' Fierce conceded, clapping a hand on the sword-stick at her belt. ''Fine, I'll guard the door but I'd rather fight.'' ''I'd rather not fight if we can help it,'' Harold sighed. ''Come on, Peter I want you, Bas, Mouse and Surl to show me around. I need to explore the place and get my bearings.'' As he climbed down onto the tracks, he was startled as Bas sprang over his head and landed almost silently on the stones between the rails with her bow in her hand. ''You forgot your sword, Light-Father,'' Fierce admonished from the doorway. ''Even here, you need to be armed,'' she added haughtily. ''Otherwise how will you protect us?'' ''Point made, Fierce,'' he grinned sheepishly, taking the sword from her. ''It almost feels alive - it's so well made.'' ''A lonely blade is a useless blade,'' she said archly, pulling the door almost closed. ''Don't be too long.'' Harold went straight to the car-park and tried numerous car doors until he found one that was unlocked. ''Please let this be a single door lock mechanism,'' he prayed aloud. ''Ah, jackpot!'' ''Why do you need a car door lock?'' Bas asked as he rapidly unscrewed the car door panel. ''These cars haven't moved for six years. We couldn't use them even if we could start them.'' ''True,'' he said, snipping the two wires. ''But this little motor will make your Mother Moss talk again.'' ''What? Mother Moss? How?'' Bas demanded. He held up the device for them to see. ''A current goes through these wires and a tiny motor moves this piston in and out depending on the direction of the current,'' he explained. ''Only now it will open and shut her mouth when she talks. Let's see what's in the glove compartment. Aha! A small torch and some door-edge reflectors they'll do nicely as well.'' ''That's all for now,'' he declared. ''We'll search all the other cars and vans over the next few days. Right, let's see if there's anything useful in the canteen and the changing rooms.'' The changing rooms yielded nothing but cobwebs and dust and the canteen had long since been cleared of tinned food by the Scatterlings. He stared about the place with the cutlery and plates left on the tables if it wasn't for the ivy obscuring several windows, it felt as though the place was merely waiting for the next shift to sit down for a meal. ''There's nothing here for us but those gas stoves - we'll come back for them later. What's next?'' The excited children showed him all the four huge repair sheds arranged in a row with lines branching into them from the two entry lines that connected the yard to the main rail network. In the north of the huge site, dozens of steam locomotives and rolling stock of every description were parked up in the extensive sidings. Between these and the north wall was a long workshop devoted to servicing the electrical systems on the coaches and engines. Next they explored the foundry and its huge stocks of wheels, bogeys, pistons and hundreds of moving parts in various stages of repair. ''Whoa, I feel like I'm in an old thirties movie,'' he laughed aloud as he surveyed the cathedral-sized building. ''These guys were totally hands-on but there's nothing we can use in here apart from lumps of iron to whack Tally-men with.'' Bas was clutching a small box with two soldering irons and some switches to her chest. ''We've left the best till last,'' she said excitedly. ''The repair shed next to the main offices is where they repaired the big locomotives.'' ''The sheds were all specialised? One repaired only rolling stock while another repaired shunting engines and so on?" ''Yes, Light-Father,'' she nodded eagerly ''But the Phoenix is amazing - they were working on her when the plague struck.'' ''It's a Cambrensis-class locomotive,'' Peter explained proudly. ''Saul's uncle told us it was the best locomotive ever built.'' And so it was. Harold's jaw dropped as they entered the shed through a side door. Protected by the roof, the Phoenix hadn't rusted like the other locomotives left out in the rain. It had been refurbished and repainted and it gleamed even in the dreary light filtering through the filthy skylights and windows. ''She's beautiful,'' Harold sighed, running a hand along the piston housing and then along the main rod and finally over the cover plate of the rear bogie. ''I used to dream of driving a steam locomotive like this when I was a kid. I would give my eye-teeth to fire this baby up and take her down the track.'' ''We have to hurry back, Light-Father,'' Bas urged nervously. ''The Tally-men will be here soon.'' ''Aye, you're right,'' Harold said, reluctantly removing his hand from the gleaming metal. ''Let's go.'' He led the way back to the mail-wagon where they found a large tin bath packed with tins and the contents of dozens of bathroom cabinets including three boxes of cosmetics. ''Ah, thank God for that,'' he nodded. ''We can colour the face but we need hair -something long, white and er hair-like.'' ''I know,'' Peter said brightly. ''I won't be a minute.'' He jumped down through the back-door and was gone in a flash. ''Where are Saul and the others, Fierce?'' ''They've gone to ransack the Doctor's surgery.'' ''Excellent - and how are Fria and Rabbit doing?'' ''Pup's driving them insane but they've got their mattresses into the empty wagon and sprayed them you should have seen all those insects dying! They're still scrubbing the caravan clean and putting all the filthy laundry into bags. Where are they going to sleep until the spray wears off?'' ''On seat cushions from the offices,'' he explained. ''I want you and Bas to bring at least eight over they'll sleep on them around the stove to keep warm during the night.'' ''Very well,'' she sighed in martyred tones. ''I've never worked so hard, Light-Father. You're worse than Mother Moss.'' ''Sorry, but it's going to get tougher,'' he shrugged, thrusting two soldering irons into the stove fire. ''While you two do that, I'll start work on our decoy on yesterday's performance I don't think an empty tin will keep them at bay for long especially David,'' he shuddered. ''To be reduced to a shell like that'' '' is worse than death,'' Fierce concluded. ''I'm sorry - it must be hard to see him like that.'' She drew her slender sword and held it upright, almost touching her nose with the blade. ''Even though we all loved David,'' she said resolutely. ''If he tried to get in here, I would stick this straight through his heart and put him out of his misery.'' ''There must be something we can do,'' he protested. ''What would happen if we pulled the Guides out?'' Fierce shook her head sadly as she sheathed her sword. ''Mother Moss told us how they take out parts of their brains. Simply pulling out the guides kills them even pulling out the cable leading to the receiver clamped on the back of their necks kills them.'' ''I'll remember that,'' he said faintly. ''Now, if you've done waving your sword about, go and get those cushions, please.'' ''Shall I make some hot tea?'' Peter offered as Bas and Fierce jumped down and raced away. ''Yes but add some more coal to the stove first,'' Harold smiled. ''Good lad - I need it hot for the soldering irons.'' He moved one of the two small tables close enough to the stove to allow him to grab the handles of the soldering irons. Fria and Rabbit appeared with Pup only to be sent away to manhandle the bath into the empty wagon - which they finally managed with Mouse and Surl's help. Then they filled it half-full with rainwater, added half a packet of soap powder and put in the dirty bedding and clothes to soak. Fria groaned loudly when Harold told her to go back in agitate the water with a heavy stick. ''I want them all clean,'' he told her firmly. ''Don't you dare give me that look - everyone will be doing it even me once my bedding needs it.'' He fell silent as he concentrated on his task, barely looking up when Saul's team returned with their haul from the doctor's surgery. He told them to bring cupboards and shelving units from the offices to line the walls and store everything away and so the long mail-wagon became a hive of activity. Pup, Surl and Peter however sat entranced at his table as he constructed a working mouth. He set the reflectors behind the eye-slits and drew irises upon them using a felt pen that still worked. Finally, he glued on the white matted fibres Peter had extracted from an old duvet and the three children applauded the life-like head of an old woman. ''She looks so real,'' Pup squeaked excitedly. ''What now?'' ''The Tally-men will be here any minute and the rain is easing so I'd better go and keep watch,'' Bas said and headed for the back door. Harold watched open-mouthed as she leapt up from the back-door ledge onto the roof of Saul and Peter's caravan. ''She can jump higher than that,'' Peter said enviously. ''But she has to be really angry or frightened when she does.'' ''It's still impressive, Peter,'' Harold said. ''She's my furry stepmother,'' Pup said proudly. ''I'm sure we can make her the heroine of an elven saga for your grandchildren,'' Harold chuckled as he fed wires in through holes he'd punched through the back of the tin. ''Ah, nearly there.'' Shield and Fierce poured cans of soup into a large pot and set out spoons and bowls on the long table as he soldered wires to the speaker connections and set the speaker into a plastic casing at the back of the tin. ''It has to be watertight,'' he explained to his three entranced apprentices. He screwed in a light-bulb holder and connected it to a pair of yellow wires then carefully connected up the lock mechanism which he then bolted into a crosspiece screwed into the side of the tin. The lock piston had a cap with a screw soldered to it that fitted into the lip of the chin section. ''This soldering worries me,'' he fretted as he made sure the chin section moved freely. ''This solder could come off - but it should be alright for a while.'' He pressed the papier mache head into the tin and reached through the mouth to apply a small nut to the piston screw to connect the chin section to the lock motor. He stood the tin up and the head of a rather ugly but suitably elderly woman stared back at him. The lower jaw looked like a ventriloquist's dummy but he hoped that it would not be noticed in the drab afternoon light. ''Finished,'' he announced. ''I had to guess at the electrical resistances so I hope nothing explodes.'' He went to the second small table at the other end of the wagon where he'd set up a mike, an amplifier taken from a music centre in one of the offices and a board with two switches. He connected up the battery as the children gathered to stare at the papier mache head. ''Who are you looking at?'' it said suddenly, causing Pup to shriek with fright. ''I am the Ghost of Christ-Mass past,'' it moaned, the lower jaw moving up and down in time with the words. Pup leant forward, fascinated, then the eyes suddenly flashed red making him jump back into Fria's arms. ''Don't get too close or I'll chew your feet and bite off your toes!'' it warned as the other children clapped their hands in sheer delight. ''It's crude but I think it might work,'' Saul grinned. Bas leapt from the caravan roof to land cat-like inside the wagon. ''They're gathering in Druid Lane,'' she warned. ''Okay, I'll set our decoy on the tracks,'' Harold said, bringing the table with the mike and amplifier to the doorway. He gathered up the tin and paid out the coils of wire carefully as he climbed down onto the tracks. ''I hope the rain doesn't short it out I haven't had time to make it completely waterproof. The rest of you stay here,'' he ordered. ''Saul, help me cover the wires with the stones and chippings before they see us.'' Just as the Tally-men marched through the gates, Saul and Harold clambered back in and closed the door as Bas kept watch through spy-holes in the gate. Harold brought Shield to the table and made her kneel so that the mike was close to her mouth but she could still see the tin through a knot hole in the door. ''The rest of you have to be quiet,'' he said firmly. ''Or the mike will pick it up. Now Shield, you talk into microphone and use that white switch to open and close the mouth. If they get too close, the red switch will make the eyes glow.'' ''What do I say?'' she said anxiously. ''If they approach the tin, tell them you will cause them untold suffering,'' he suggested. ''Or drag them off to hell. Just improvise, depending on what they're doing.'' ''I don't think I can do this,'' she said. ''You said you wanted to be like her,'' he said, patting her reassuringly on the shoulder. ''Now's your chance.'' ----------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012
Archived comments for Chapter 11: Magic
Mikeverdi on 24-05-2016
Chapter 11: Magic
Still reading and enjoying. Sorry to be late, I always leave the stories until last, don't like to rush them HaHa!
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chapter 10: Speechless (posted on: 16-05-16)
Chapter 10 of the Light-Father. Harold realises how much these children have seen and endured in a few short years and learns more of Amos and his sister, Rebecca, who call themselves Scar and Surl...

The rain had eased to nothing more than a fine drizzle drifting across the rail-yard but the air was fresh and pure. Harold opened his wagon door and inhaled deeply, relishing the smell of oak, moss and pine. He unwrapped a small cigar, lit it and wondered at how little he missed his old life of a mere twenty-four hours ago ah, that's why he was tired! Evening in his world was mid-day here so it was probably thirty-two hours ago that he was getting out of bed in his cluttered flat. He yawned until his jaw cracked he was jet-lagged or was it plane-lagged? ''I bet the bailiffs will seize all my stuff,'' he muttered aloud then he shrugged he was never one for possessions so they were welcome to the vinyl LP collection and the Catatonia posters. ''I wish I had my MCD though I wonder what these kids would have made of the bands in my world.'' Then he suddenly remembered that he still owed the bank eighty grand for his flat. ''Heh, even this cloud has a silver lining,'' he sighed happily. He leant against the door frame, wreathed in tobacco smoke, as he thought about what Shield had gone through in fact, all these children had been through hell; an Armageddon that he couldn't possibly imagine. They reminded him of all those damaged child-soldiers in Africa he'd seen on a documentary once - just before he'd gone to the pub and forgotten about them... The front door of the mail-wagon was already open and Mouse and Surl, the silent bald girl, jumped down then carted their slop buckets over to an open manhole next to the car-park. He watched them as they tipped the contents down into the sewer then went to one of the water barrels Saul had placed at the bases of office drain-pipes to flush the buckets out with fresh rain-water. Water wasn't a problem, he realised, as the yard was littered with barrels collecting the run-off from the roofs of all the buildings. His biggest concern - apart from the Tally-men, the Ferals and the dogs - were the children's caravans. The Scatterlings loved their little havens but they were mildewed, hopping with fleas, lice and other insects and stank to high heaven. He had to do something as all the children were showing signs of impending health problems. Mouse saw him standing at the open doorway and grabbed her companion's hand to drag her over and say hello. ''Thank you for the hot food last night, Light-Father,'' she grinned. ''We felt all warm and cosy when we went to bed but when we woke up this morning, we were both making giggle-music.'' ''What do mean by that, Mouse?'' he smiled. ''Or should I just call you Ethelind?'' Mouse blinked then pointed to the ears on her head-band. ''Mouse is my name, Light-Father. I can't really remember my real name and I don't want to. Ethelind means 'noble snake' in the old tongue so better a mouse than a snake so Mouse is me!'' He held up his hands in surrender and smiled. ''Mouse it is. What about you, Surl? Do you have a proper name?'' She shook her head then stared at her feet and remained silent. He had noted that she never made eye contact with anyone not even Mouse. She was a handsome girl of about nine but she had no hair at all but given what happened to Shield and her sisters, the hair loss had to be due to massive trauma. Like Mouse, she had a large knife strapped to her belt but she preferred longer trousers than Mouse and wore a stout leather jacket with shoulder pads. On her green vest there was a large and beautiful golden cross on a chain that she would often kiss for comfort. She only conversed through Mouse and if Mouse wasn't there, she wouldn't talk at all. Mouse seemed to have enough vitality and enthusiasm for the both of them and put an arm around the shoulders of the younger girl. ''Her real name is Rebecca Crawin,'' she said proudly. ''I gather that she's Amos's sister,'' he nodded thoughtfully. ''He doesn't seem to have much time for you, Surl - he's the total opposite of Ibrahim. Why is he so cold to you?'' Surl stifled a sob then whispered into her friend's ear. ''He had only nine years when the Fathers slashed his face for defying them,'' Mouse explained with a shrug. ''She only had three years, Light-Father, but she saw and heard her parents and her brother and sister being killed in their home because they resisted the Fathers and Brothers who came to the house.'' ''Sweet Jesus,'' he sighed and sat down cross-legged on the doorstep. ''This Order makes the Khmer Rouge look like angels.'' He puffed on his cigar for a moment and blew a smoke ring which brought a rare smile to Surl's face. ''That's better,'' he said brightly. ''I think I prefer Rebecca to Surl any day.'' Surl whispered in Mouse's ear then looked at the ground with her hands clasped so tightly that her knuckles whitened. ''She was given that name by her brother so she accepted it because she is grateful to him for saving her.'' ''Yes, but it's such a negative name,'' he sighed. ''Is that what triggered your hair loss, Rebecca?'' ''No,'' Mouse translated. ''They'd met Fria and they were searching for food and medicine in a house on the other side of Crawcester when the Tally-men entered. Fria and Amos hid in a wardrobe but Surl was discovered by a Tally-man hiding under a bed. The other Tally-men left but he remained behind and took her back upstairs into the bedroom to smother her with a pillow. As he held the pillow over her face, Amos burst from the wardrobe and smashed him across the head with a hammer and Fria stabbed him with her long knives. He had only ten years then and Fria eight but together they knocked the Tally-man to the floor. She watched Amos hit the Tally-man.'' she paused as Surl mimed the motion, her eyes bulging with the horror as she relived it. ''Again and again and again. Her hair fell out after seeing that.'' ''Ah, I see so she saw her brother and Fria kill someone. Trauma like that will cause baldness which can last for six years or more,'' he said. ''Poor Rebecca, you've seen some things no child should ever see.'' Surl whispered again and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. ''She said she saw many terrible things in the Year of the Rats as we call it,'' Mouse translated whilst still comforting Surl who was trembling in her arms. ''Like us, she saw floods and bodies being eaten by dogs and rats and great flocks of crows and ravens until the clouds were black with carrion birds. We thought it could not get any worse but then the Tally-men came.'' ''So they weren't there at the beginning then?'' ''No, they came with the Fathers and Brothers about four months after the plague,'' Mouse nodded. ''Some of the survivors thought they were there to help so many were either killed or taken away to the Great Abbey. Surl, Fria and Amos quickly learnt to fear them and hide from them as we did.'' She paused to listen as Surl whispered into her ear and mimed biting actions with her hands. ''She saw many children attacked and killed by dogs but her worst memory the one that makes her scream in her sleep - is the smile on her brother's face as he killed the Tally-man.'' ''Dear God, Rebecca, it's no wonder you're traumatised,'' he said sympathetically. He stubbed out his cigar and placed it in the packet then jumped down from the wagon. He knelt to raise Surl's chin with one hand to try and look her in the eye but she yanked her head away and averted her face. ''She hates being touched,'' Mouse explained then paused to listen to another whisper. ''She says he kept hitting him long after he was dead.'' She halted as Surl mimed the hitting action and her brother's deranged smile before groaning and burying her face in her hands. ''She refuses to call him Scar because she says that if she does, he'll no longer be her brother he'll just be another monster in a world full of monsters.'' ''So she won't talk to anyone because that way she doesn't have to call him Scar,'' he sighed heavily. He placed one hand on Surl's thin shoulder and one hand on his heart. ''On my daughter's grave, I promise I will help you and Amos work through this. He was taking his revenge on the Tally-man but to carry on like that means that he's also badly damaged by what happened to your family. You'll have to forgive him for that just as he has to understand the effect that his revenge has had on you only then can you both heal and move on with your lives.'' He stood up and worked his shoulders. ''Now, girls, we have a lot of work to do today. I have to find some more batteries and rig up a talking head to scare the Tally-men but first, you two are going to help me get a hot breakfast ready. What's the matter, Surl?'' he asked as she whispered urgently to Mouse again. He was startled as the girl broke wind noisily not once but several times. ''She hopes it isn't that chilli con stuff you made for us last night,'' Mouse grinned. ''She doesn't want to explode.'' ''Typical even here, everyone's a food critic,'' he sighed theatrically. ''Porridge should sort you out, Rebecca,'' he assured her. ''You have to eat hot meals at least twice a day if you want to grow your beautiful hair back.'' ''Please call her Surl for now as Amos gets angry,'' Mouse begged. ''Call her Rebecca when he isn't here.'' ''Yes, I promise. So, Surl, your hair - what colour was it?'' ''Red,'' she whispered and she edged forward with her eyes still firmly locked on the ground. Suddenly, she flung her arms around his neck, knocking his baseball cap off. ''Want hair back; want brother back. Please, Light-Father - no more nightmares!'' ''That's the most she's ever said in one breath and the first hug she's ever given anybody since she came here,'' Mouse gasped in wide-eyed amazement. ''You must be an angel.'' Harold grinned and patted Surl's back. ''I'm no angel but my former wife said I do have this effect on children,'' he said wryly. ''She said I used to remind her of her favourite toy rabbit.'' He stood up and lifted the surprisingly light Surl into the air and carried her to the mail-wagon and placed her inside. He hoisted Mouse aboard then handed her the two slop-buckets. ''Take these back to your caravan while Surl and I make a start on breakfast. It'll be good, I promise we found some powdered milk and honey yesterday so I guarantee there won't be any 'giggle-music' afterwards.'' ''I'll bolt your wagon door for you first.'' ''Ah, thanks, Mouse, I forgot.'' The front doors of all three wagons were bolted at night to prevent Ferals and Tally-men sneaking through and catching the Scatterlings off guard amongst the five caravans and one motor-home that housed them. They had been parked in two rows of three on the two innermost sidings between the wagons and the wall and he thought that their parents had done a remarkable job in constructing a fort for their soon-to-be orphaned children. They'd jammed a lorry trailer between the wall and his wagon and stuffed the gaps between the wagons and between the wheels with black razor-sharp barbed wire. The trailer frame and the edge of the main gate had then been welded to the ends of the wagons. Thus the Keep was defensible enough but the Tally-men could easily scale the wagons or the boundary wall if they were serious or set fire to the wagons and the trailer and smoke them out. ''Okay, Surl, let's get busy,'' he said, going over to the large stove which was still radiating heat. He raked the ashes and added some dry twigs and sticks which crackled noisily into flames then he added a layer of coal taken from the huge stores sited on the northern side of the rail-yard. ''Fill that pan with water,'' he ordered. She nodded, jumped down and raced across to one of the office water-barrels as he used the bellows to get the fire going. He set the pan upon the stove to boil and as Mouse clambered aboard, he noticed that she'd used some water, probably scooped from a puddle between the caravans, to wash her hands and face. ''See, Surl, I told you there was a pretty girl under all that grime,'' he joked and was rewarded with a cheesy grin from Mouse and the faintest of smiles from Surl. ''Okay, Assistant Chef Surl,'' he announced grandly. ''Please set out the bowls and spoons.'' ''Yes, Light-Father,'' she whispered meekly and once again Mouse regarded him with a mixture of awe and amazement. ''Assistant Chef Mouse, fill the large kettle with water, if you please, for we shall have tea with our feast, fair maiden.'' ''As you wish, King Harold,'' she curtsied. ''Then we shall all go and slay those naughty Normans at Redfields.'' As the thirteen bowls of steaming porridge were set upon the longest table, Fierce's bleary face appeared above the doorstep of the back door. ''Huh? Why all the noise? What's going on? It's too early to get up,'' she grumbled sleepily. ''Ah, welcome, Goldilocks. Could you go and wake up the rest of the grumpy bears before it gets cold, please?'' Fierce gave him a puzzled look then she hurried off to rouse the others without a word. He handed a spoon and a tin of honey to Surl. ''Add the honey to each bowl but make a spiral shape in each bowl,'' he smiled, indicating a spiral with his forefinger pointed downwards. ''The sign of a great chef is attention to detail. How's the tea, Mouse?'' ''All done, Light-Father,'' she beamed, ferrying the mugs to the table. ''Can I be promoted to a real chef now?'' she demanded. ''Being an assistant chef is hard work.'' ''A truly sharp edge is honed by hard work and patience, my father used to say to me when I was little,'' he said nostalgically. ''We used to have the sharpest saws and knives in the whole city but to be honest, my Dad couldn't even make a simple cupboard properly yet I could when I was... had six years. I had a gift for building and fixing things. I made my first radio when I was eight and repaired my first computer system at twelve.'' ''Why are we getting up so early?'' Fierce demanded as she climbed into the wagon. ''And who is this 'Goldilocks'?'' ''Ah, just someone you remind me of,'' he grinned, spying the others. ''Get in here, all of you - the rain's starting up again.'' The children quickly seated themselves around the table but most of them were dishevelled and barely awake but even so, all of them had placed a weapon on the table in front of them even Pup. It was a sobering thought that these children had learnt from bitter experience that wishing to have a knife to hand was probably the last wish you would ever make in this world He sat in the chair at the end of the table and noted how their eyes had lit up at the smell of milk and honey in the porridge. ''It's going to be a long day,'' he declared, waving a spoon at them. ''I've got jobs for all of you so you'd better eat it all you'll need your strength.'' He was about to take a mouthful when he noticed that they were all looking at him in shocked silence with their hands clasped in their laps. ''What's wrong now?'' he demanded. ''Why are you waiting? It's getting cold.'' Shield sighed, placed her hands together in prayer and bowed her head as did the others. ''O Lord, may your humble servants at break of fast, thank thee for this food before us and for another day of Life that you have granted us to dwell in the Light of your Blessing. Watch over us, O Lord, in our comings and goings, in our struggles and in our victories this day. We beg you, O Lord, have mercy upon us all and upon our Light-Father. Amen.'' ''Amen,'' the others chorused, leaving Harold feeling somewhat churlish and rustic. ''I didn't know you said grace here,'' he said weakly. ''Only at breakfast,'' Shield smiled. ''That was the Commoner's Prayer us peasants are usually too busy at dinner and too tired at supper to pray so we recite our prayers at dawn before we set off to work and forget about God during our daily toil.'' ''Ah, that was a little humour there,'' he smiled as the children tore into their food hungrily. ''I'll see about setting up an oven to bake some bread if we can find some uncontaminated flour but first things first,'' he added, his mouth watering. ''Eat! I can't boss you around if your stomachs are empty.'' They finished their meal in near total silence but for the scraping of spoons in bowls. Pup made them all laugh by wedging his face into his bowl as he tried to lick it clean. ''Listen up, troops,'' Harold said firmly. ''Amos, Shield, Saul and Ibrahim you will go to the nearby houses and bring back as much tinned food and medical supplies as you can. I also want you to look for a bath that you can carry as well.'' ''Why do we need a bath?'' Amos protested. ''We have a vicious pack of dogs out there to contend with.'' ''Which is why you need Shield and her cross-bow,'' Harold said patiently. ''The pack had four big dogs to chew on last night so the chances are they should be still too full to bother with you even if they're still around. I want that bath to wash clothes and small children in and we're going to de-louse everybody. You all have weeping sores and fungal infections it's only a matter of time before a bacterial infection kills one or more of you.'' ''I could go with them,'' Fria volunteered, brandishing her long knives. ''After all that porridge and honey, I could take on ten dogs and six Tally-men at the same time.'' ''Huh! You'd only faint again,'' Amos grumbled sourly. Harold looked at the frail, elf-like 13-year-old with some concern. ''How often do you faint, Fria?'' he asked. ''Once or twice a week, Light-Father,'' she admitted. ''It started four years ago and it's getting worse. I get short of breath and my gums and mouth are sore all the time.'' ''Ah, that sounds like anaemia,'' Harold nodded. ''At least I hope that's all it is - I'm praying it's not diabetes. You're staying but Saul, look for boxes of Vitamin C and iron tablets Vitamin C comes from fruit,'' he said as they looked at him blankly. ''Look, just go into all the houses you can and bring back as much medication as you can. Bring everything.'' ''There's a doctor's surgery on Crawcester Road,'' Saul said. ''Good,'' Harold nodded. ''Break in and strip it of everything then bring it all here along with that bath. Get dressed and get going before these Tally-men show up. I take it they patrol at the same time every day if it's raining?'' ''Yes, they come two or three hours after noon,'' Saul replied. ''Then they sweep on into the centre and back out again. They never vary unless it's dry or the Fathers instruct them through the Guides to do something out of the ordinary.'' ''I understand. Pup? You, Fierce, Mouse and Surl wash the pots and bowls then bring in more coal for the stove then you're going to guide me around the yard I need to take an inventory of what we have here that's useful.'' ''What shall we do?'' Bas said indicating Rabbit, Fria and Peter a pleasant ten-year-old with a simple but functional claw created by his parents after he'd lost his left hand in an accident. He could replace the hand with a blade that slotted into the mount upon his stump within seconds a move he practiced constantly. ''You four are going to make me the head of Mother Moss,'' he grinned. ''Get the boxes of paper from my trailer and a bowl of water and some of that flour we found. I'll make the frame for the face while you soak the paper then you'll plaster it onto the frame using a paste made from flour and water. It's called papier mache which is French in my world for 'chewed paper'.'' ''Sounds like fun,'' Pup grinned eagerly then hared off to fetch the paper with Surl in hot pursuit. He quickly fashioned a stiff wire mesh into a frame as the pots and crockery were scrubbed and more water for the glue came to the boil upon the stove. The forage party reappeared and trudged across the wagon as the papier mache team started soaking paper strips in bowls of water. Harold quickly jumped down after them as they set off for the gates. ''Wait, Amos,'' he called. ''Can I talk to you for a second?'' ''I'd rather you call me Scar not by that stupid Hebrew name,'' Amos scowled. ''My father told me it meant 'burdened' as he and mother didn't exactly plan for me and Surl. Besides,'' he added, tracing his scar with a finger. ''This scar is what I am. You don't protest about Shield or Mouse or Claw not using their real names so why can't you and the others call me Scar!'' ''I know how you got that scar,'' Harold said as the others waited patiently by the gates. ''You have a sister who is scared of what you've become even though she thinks you're amazing for saving her but she wants her brother back. You've had to kill, son. I can't imagine what that was like'' Amos's eyes narrowed. ''It's obvious that you don't,'' he said bluntly. ''A Father slashed my face and beat me for trying to stab him with a knife then he threw me into the kitchen where I pretended to be unconscious. My sister only had three years but she had the sense to hide under the kitchen table when they stabbed Eorl and Sara in the hallway before dragging them into the front room where they carried on beating them and our parents.'' Harold stared wide-eyed at the youth who was reciting scenes of utmost brutality in such a matter-of-fact way almost as if he was describing a trip to the shops. ''I can't understand how a religious order could do this,'' he said, shaking his head. ''Neither can I but they did this to me,'' Amos shrugged. ''That's why I'd like you to call me Scar - I don't want to forget.'' ''But scarred is what you are,'' Harold said desperately. ''Shield and Fierce imply resistance whereas taking the name, Scar, means you accept what they did to you. Why not take a battle-name from the Asgard? You already call that hammer of yours, Mjolnir, so why not have Thor as your battle-name?'' ''Those stories are for children,'' Amos sneered, reaching an arm over his shoulder to pat the head of his sledgehammer. ''Mjolnir has killed four Tally-men but my sister, Surl'' ''Why did you give Rebecca that stupid name? Surl is just as bad as Scar - it makes the two of you sound like victims.'' ''Who cares what you think, Light-Father?'' Amos retorted. ''Or should I say Harold? Surl Rebecca thinks I'm more Loki than Thor she hasn't said a word to me since we've arrived here and I've lost interest in her so surly Surl is all she is to me now. I saved her so I named her,'' he added with bitter tears. ''I don't believe she has a mote of love for me and that's the end of it.'' ''You're wrong, Amos! She won't talk to you or anyone because she refuses to call you Scar. When you killed that first Tally-man, you were smiling that's why she's speechless.'' ''Of course I was smiling,'' Amos seethed. ''He was trying to kill a three-year-old child with a pillow! If someone tried to kill your little sister in front of you, would not you take pleasure from completely destroying him?'' he hissed. Harold was taken aback. ''Look, I'm not judging you, Amos, but taking pleasure from beating a dead man is serious'' ''I had ten years! I knew no better. How could I? If you can't understand what we've been through, Light Father, then keep away from us. We don't need your help or your pity!'' ''That's where you're wrong, boy!'' Harold snapped. ''I am not going to let you destroy yourself and your sister, understand? Now get going and don't come back without those supplies!'' ''Don't fret - you'll get your accursed tin bath!'' Amos snarled and stormed off to join the others. ''Well, that could have gone better,'' Harold said aloud as the four teenagers vanished from sight. He jumped on finding Fierce had approached silently to stand next to him. ''We're all worried about him,'' she sighed. ''Saul and Shield think he could kill one of us one day which is why he stays with Ibrahim he knows Ibrahim has the strength to snap him in two if he misbehaves. You are a magician, Light-Father,'' she laughed suddenly. ''To get Surl and Amos to say more in one day than they've said in a whole year has got to be magical.'' ''I won't lose any of you, Fierce, I promise - not even to mental illness,'' he said grimly. ''I just have to find a way to help him before it's too late for him and Rebecca.'' ------------------------------------- (c) 2012 Paul D. E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Chapter 10: Speechless
Mikeverdi on 17-05-2016
Chapter 10: Speechless
Another great episode mate, life in the war zone for the kids is both horrific and fascinating. Thanks for continuing posting.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike - the pace picks up from now on! Mitch


Chapter 09: Cry Crimson (posted on: 13-05-16)
Chapter 09 of the Light-Father: The horror of the Great Plague is relived in a suburban home in the doomed city of Crawcester when three sisters get their new names...

Standing before the bathroom mirror, Eorman Godwin checked his pulse and found that it was racing. He shrugged and leant forward to inspect his immaculate teeth but as he did so he sneezed and sprayed the mirror with fine droplets of blood. His wife, Leola, was alarmed. ''We cannot keep telling the children that we have flu,'' she said tearfully. ''My throat is unusually dry and my heart keeps speeding up and then slowing down suddenly.'' ''How are the girls this morning?'' he said, wiping the mirror. ''They're getting ready for school. They don't suspect a thing even though we vaccinated them two weeks ago.'' ''Our own vaccination was obviously too late,'' he sighed. ''They must have contaminated the second batch or sprayed the labs once they'd found out what we were doing. Their plague is out there, Leola the first victims have already appeared in Kalingrad.'' ''In my darkest dreams, I never thought they would bring about the Revelation they've been praying for.'' Eorman sneezed again spattering the wash-basin with crimson. When he looked in the mirror, he was startled to see tears of blood welling up in his eyes. ''Dear Jesus, I'm haemorrhaging! We'll keep them home today. I'll contact Gytha and Wynstan and arrange for our plan for the children to be put into action.'' ''What plan?'' their eldest daughter, Rowenna, demanded from the doorway. Her eyes widened when she saw all the blood in the basin. ''What's the matter, Dad? You've both been ill for days and everyone in the street has been sneezing and falling ill.'' ''It's a really bad flu epidemic,'' Eorman said, wiping at his eyes. ''I think we should keep the three of you at home today.'' ''I've been watching the news, Dad,'' she said fiercely, balling her fists. ''Riots are breaking out. I may have only twelve years but I know this is not flu - people have started dying in Bluefield and Caertave and even in Terra Australis. They say it's all over the world. How can flu spread all over the world at once?'' ''Modern air travel, Ro,'' Eorman shrugged, turning to her. ''It's given me a terrible nosebleed too but the flu vaccine we gave you should help keep it at bay.'' ''But you had the vaccine two days after we did!'' ''Ah, I think we were already infected before the second batch was ready,'' Leola said gravely. ''Don't worry - we'll be fine.'' ''I'm not stupid!'' Rowenna snapped. ''Cedric next door had the vaccine only he's sitting on his doorstep right now. I just went to see if he was alright but both his parents are ill in bed and can't get up. He has only eight years and he knows that something terrible is happening. He's sitting there, spitting up blood and waiting for his grandparents to come and look after him. He's sweating and as white as snow, Mam. He's afraid and so am I. The police have just closed off the rail-yard and made everyone leave.'' ''That's just standard quarantine practice, Ro,'' Eorman said, returning to his shave. ''It's perfectly natural to restrict all forms of travel given how bad this flu is going to be. The outbreak eighty years ago killed tens of thousands and this one might be even worse but your mother and I should be okay.'' ''The people on the news said they've never heard of flu making everyone cough up blood before,'' Rowenna protested. ''Or cry tears of blood like Cedric was doing. We can't go to school anyway - Mister Hansen told me that the roads are gridlocked with cars so all the railway workers are walking home.'' ''I'll see to Cedric later, Ro,'' Leola promised. ''You go down and make sure your sisters finish their breakfasts.'' Rowenna refused to budge from the doorway. ''You both work in a genetics research laboratory so I know that this is not ordinary flu!'' she accused shrilly, bursting into tears. ''You're lying to me and I hate it! Tell me what's going on, please!'' Eorman looked at Leola and she nodded in silent agreement. ''You and your sisters need to pack your outdoor clothes into your ruck-sacks and pick some books and small toys,'' he said finally. ''You're right, Ro, this virus could become extremely serious and we want to hide you and the other Exodus children somewhere out of the way if it gets out of control and the rule of law breaks down. That's all we can tell you. We need to keep all our options open in case we need to go somewhere safe in a hurry.'' ''But, Dad'' ''There is no but, Ro!'' Eorman snapped. ''Make sure your sisters have eaten well then get their rucksacks packed. Will you please do that for me? What's the matter, now?'' he demanded as she hesitated in the doorway and burst into tears. ''You're c-crying b-blood like Cedric, Dad,'' she stammered, her face paling. She looked in horror at her mother then fled downstairs as if the hounds of Hades were at her heels. ''What frightened her about me?'' Leola demanded. ''Look in the mirror.'' ''Saint Peter save me,'' she gasped. ''That came on quick. I'm bleeding into the whites of my eyes. I look like a red-eyed demon! I have growths on my back and legs as well and they're growing at a phenomenal rate it has to be the Revelation virus directly attacking the DNA in our cells.'' ''It shouldn't have progressed this quickly,'' he said, studying the melanoma on his forearms. ''Every cell in our bodies is being infected the virus is commandeering some cells to reproduce as cancers yet modifying others to change function altogether. Look at the thickening in my cuticles,'' he said, indicating the swellings at the bases of his fingernails. ''What's coming through is a claw not a fingernail and I swear my teeth have started to elongate.'' ''I have a lump at the base of my spine that can only be bone growing,'' Leola said and winced as she touched it. ''Maybe even a rudimentary tail is forming but I can feel growths and tumours inside me everywhere. We won't survive this, my love,'' she sobbed quietly, embracing him suddenly and touching her forehead to his. ''What will happen to our girls?'' ''They will survive,'' he declared fiercely. ''We will'' he halted as there was an insistent knocking on the front door. ''Now who in the name of Lucifer is that?'' Before they could get downstairs to the front door, Rowenna had opened it to admit six large men wearing the working-clothes of the Order black hooded robes that ended at the knee with black scapulas of the same length, black breeches, gaiters and boots. Three also bore the gold pectoral cross of Fathers of the Order. The eldest Father smiled benevolently at the three wide-eyed girls. ''I'm sorry to intrude but this so-called plague is getting out of control,'' he said pleasantly. ''We're trying to find a cure.'' ''You're not curing this plague!'' Leola shouted from the stairs. ''You're spreading it! Girls, get into the kitchen now!'' She leapt down into the hallway to bar the way, quickly followed by her husband. ''Get out of this house, you murderers!'' The Father chuckled and made the sign of the cross. ''And the Lord roared from Mount Zion, and uttered his voice forth from New Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn and the top of Carmel withers yet even he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee naked this day.'' He raised his hand as if to bless them then let it fall and at that moment, two tazer guns were fired and the current brought Eorman and Leola crashing to the ground where they convulsed helplessly and in agony. The air crackled with the powerful discharges and it was a full two minutes before they lost consciousness while the Fathers waited patiently in the hall and the girls cowered under the kitchen table. ''Put them into the half-track,'' the eldest Father ordered curtly and as Eorman and Leola were dragged out through the front door like sacks of sand, he entered the kitchen. He bent down to stare at the girls with the smile fixed upon his face. ''I'm afraid you can't stay here, children,'' he said in a soothing voice. ''It's getting far too dangerous in Crawcester. Don't be afraid - your parents were being foolish but I'm sure you're smart enough to come quietly. It's for your own safety and we can help your parents get better. We're going to the Great Abbey where you will be safe from the chaos and... aieee!'' he screamed and clutched at the deep gouge in his right cheek that the seven-year-old Hild had inflicted using a carving-knife. ''You touch us, vermin,'' she snarled, brandishing her bloodied knife. ''And I'll kill you!'' A stocky Brother handed him a towel which he pressed against the wound. ''Are you alright, Father Pious?'' he inquired. ''She's quite the fierce one - that wound will need many stitches.'' ''Indeed it will, Brother Theo,'' Pious agreed and lashed out with his boot to kick little Hild in the abdomen leaving her helpless and retching upon the kitchen floor. He went to stamp on her head but Rowenna launched herself forward and grabbed his leg, throwing him off balance. ''Curse these brats!'' ''Leave her alone, you pigs!'' she screamed. ''This one is brave to shield her sister like that,'' Theo laughed then dragged her away by her hair to allow Pious to kick Hild savagely again. ''Obviously they've all been vaccinated ow, she bit me!'' he hissed, clutching at his hand. ''The Unworthy little brat!'' Again he dragged her off Pious who was now bleeding profusely. ''We have to go, Father Pious. We need to meet up with the rotor-craft in twenty minutes to deliver these specimens. I do not want to incur the wrath of the Abbots.'' ''So be it! Bring them!'' Pious snapped. He stormed from the kitchen, the flow of bright blood staining his scapular. ''But don't forget that little mouse hiding in the corner either!'' The three girls were hurled roughly into the back of the black half-track lorry. The two Fathers with the tazers climbed in after them whilst the others clambered into spacious cabin at the front. Rowenna, still groggy from the blows she had received, glared at the impassive Fathers. ''Where are you taking us?'' ''We told you,'' one said wearily. ''The Great Abbey. We want to study this vaccine and the effects of the gamma strain of the virus that we infected your parents with.'' ''Why are you infecting people?'' she demanded as her parents began to groan and stir on the floor of the truck as it lurched down the road. Hild and little Ethelind were clinging to each other and sobbing. ''Jesus would never do this!'' The Father sneered down at her. ''What do you know of Jesus? He was a healer as were we for centuries from when Abbot Mendel founded our order. We healed the sick while the world sank into filth and debauchery and the seven churches of man fell into ruin and decay while their angels abandoned them.'' The second Father reached beneath his robes and handed her a laminated picture of a mutated animal. ''This abomination was found in a laboratory funded by the Vatican - they were trying to match our genetics research while publicly condemning us for it. Schimrian saw this as a sign of God. Look at it! They kept this beast alive and hidden for three and a half years!'' ''It has more than one head,'' she gagged, thrusting the grotesque image away from her. ''And there are horns on it. What is it?'' ''The Sign of Revelation, child! A beast rising up with ten horns and seven grotesque heads that lives and breathes yet it was sanctioned and marvelled at by the Pope himself!'' ''So because of this Papal idiocy, you unleashed a man-made plague?'' Eorman growled, clutching at his stomach and crawling forward on his knees and one hand. ''Some vile lab experiment like this and you decide to bring about the End of Days?'' ''Only the Worthy shall enter the New Jerusalem,'' the second Father said, bringing his face close to Eorman who could see the fanaticism burning in the cleric's eyes. ''We fear God and give Him glory,'' he intoned. ''For the Hour of Judgement has come and all will fear Him who has made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of holy water from whence our thirst shall be slaked. Only the Worthy of the urk!'' His eyes widened as he stared down at the handles of the sharp scissors protruding from his chest, the blades having pierced his heart. Bloody spittle bubbled from his mouth as Eorman grasped the tazer in his hand and fired it at his dumbstruck companion. The girls watched in horror as the Father writhed silently upon the floor and their mother crawled forward to cut his carotid artery with their father's old-fashioned razor, spraying blood upon the roof. Eorman bent down to check the pulses of the two Fathers. ''Both dead, thank God,'' he gasped. ''Well done, Leola!'' ''Listen, girls,'' Leola said, glancing through the window. ''The truck is slowing down so get ready. If we allow them to take you to the Great Abbey, they will kill you. Do you remember the museum, Ro? It's the big building to the left and it will make a good place to hide in. There's a big crowd up ahead and a barricade that will distract the Fathers while we escape.'' Wide-eyed and trembling, the three sisters stood by the doors. ''I don't think I can make it,'' Hild whined, clutching at her stomach. ''He kicked me really hard, Mam.'' ''And us too,'' Leola sighed. ''Ignore the pain, dear heart, or we will all die. We'll get out as quietly as we can and then we'll run through the crowd straight to the museum. Here we go!'' They climbed down as the Fathers in the front shouted at the milling crowd to remove the barricades and get out of the way. Leola quietly closed the doors and taking the girls by the hand, she and her husband led them at a run through the open doors of the museum. It was deserted inside and to Eorman's surprise; there was no sign of looting. ''We'll try the weapons display room,'' he decided. ''It's next to the canteen and has lots of hiding places.'' ''And we can arm ourselves,'' Leola said through gritted teeth. ''If another Father touches my girls again, I'll blind him.'' The weapons room was on the first floor and after Eorman had checked that the museum was deserted, he barred the front door using several pikes. ''There! The side-doors are locked,'' he said briskly, dusting his hands off. ''That'll keep the Fathers out for a while but we're trapped in here and all the phones are dead.'' For the next two weeks they watched as Armageddon raged outside the thick walls and smoke blackened the skies. They broke into the display cabinets and Eorman made the girls practice with various weapons for ten hours every day. Rowenna proved unusually adept at the cross-bow and could soon load and fire the bolts accurately within seconds. One day, Ethelind found a hair band with mouse ears attached in the canteen and the chilling words of Father Pious resounded in her memory. ''Look,'' she cried, brandishing a pike made for a young German prince two hundred years before. ''I'm Mouse who'll bite the toes of all the bad Fathers!'' Rowenna was trying on a triangular shield when Hild feinted at her with the long sword-stick she'd claimed as her own. It made a sharp metallic clang and struck a spark off the surface of the shield. ''You're Shield,'' she declared happily. ''And I'm Fierce.'' ''Indeed you are, my brave yellow-hair,'' Leola smiled, hugging her daughter. ''We have to defend ourselves - so practice.'' Leola had fashioned beds out of benches for them all and sewed towels and drapes together to make bedspreads so it became an adventure for the girls. The canteen was well stocked and although the fruit and bread ran out, the tins and a stove that ran on bottled gas kept them well-provisioned with hot soup and drinks. Shield woke up one morning bruised and tired from a rigorous training session the evening before. She padded across the canteen floor to the stove and put on a pan of water to make her parents some herbal tea. While it heated up, she went to the windows to gaze down upon the devastated city in the early morning light. Not a single vehicle moved but she could still see the two bodies lying in the middle of the road where they'd fallen the day before. To her horror, hordes of huge black rats were biting at the heads and faces as a pack of dogs chewed at the limbs. She felt the vomit rising in her throat so she turned away and hastily returned to the stove to make the tea. She put the mugs on the floor by the bed then shook her parents' shoulders to wake them but no avail - they'd fallen asleep in each other's arms and had died at some point in the night, their blood staining the pillows. She stood there helpless and heart-broken; the tears pouring down her cheeks until she was pulled into a rough embrace. ~~~~~ ''Well done, Shield, well done,'' Harold said gently, patting her back as she wept uncontrollably. ''Shhh now. That'll do - but it's a good start. It's getting light so go and get some sleep - you can tell me the rest tonight.'' ------------------------------------- (c) 2012 Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Chapter 09: Cry Crimson
Mikeverdi on 13-05-2016
Chapter 09: Cry Crimson
It really is a great story, thanks for continuing to post.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike. Will do.
Mitch


Chapter 08: Where It Never Rains (posted on: 09-05-16)
Chapter 08: of the Light-Father: Harold sleeps but into his dreams come the Wiccans to draw his soul to The Hill Where It Never Rains and reveal their plans for Sheild...

Far from the lodges of the Order and the barracks of the Tally-men, the Ferals moved quickly and quietly through the woods. In near total darkness they threaded beneath the dripping boughs and splashed through puddles along sodden paths. Those whose hands could still grasp, carried sacks and knives but they did not speak for that sublime gift of humanity had been stripped from them by the plague that had warped and deformed their bodies and continued to do so. Despite that loss, the night was alive to their heightened senses and they could scent the smoke of the gathering within their holy place - the Hill Where It Never Rains. Harold was dimly aware of being in a dream as he ran as one of them, back bowed and legs pumping gazelle-quick along decaying country lanes and his nose filled with the woodland odours of oak, pine, sycamore, fox, badger, rat They emerged from the trees to climb styles set into two parallel fences and ascend the slopes of a hill covered with close-cropped grass. Harold touched the grass and was surprised to find it warm and dry. He could hear the goats bleating in nearby fields and the rain steadily falling behind them in the woods but the rain had stopped abruptly at the fences. He wanted to investigate but he was borne along by the tide swarming along the paths threading through gardens of vegetables and herbs. The scent of the animals mixed with that of feverfew, mint, rosemary and lavender and, one by one, the malformed faces around him began to grin from the sheer pleasure and comfort they found in those aromas. They came at last to a large and ancient house next to a large church that brooded on the brow of the hill. Somehow he knew it was once home to a Catholic priest whose thriving parish consisted of five nearby villages which all now lay in ruins. In the courtyard he found five braziers burning brightly upon large wooden poles while a sixth remained unlit. The six poles were planted at the points of a hexagram made of two overlapping triangles painted in blood-red paint upon the granite flagstones. In front of each brazier stood an ornately-carved mahogany chair and all six were stained a midnight black that reflected no light. In the centre of the hexagram was a fiercely-burning coal fire that cast both light and warmth across the courtyard so that shadows danced upon the walls around them as he and the other Ferals squatted in respectful silence about the edges of the hexagram, their eyes glittering in the ruddy glows of all six fires. In those chairs of shadow sat five women who were all staring at him as a dozen Ferals emptied their sacks and reverently laid their tribute rabbits, wild herbs, flowers and berries in the hexagram. He noted that the chair set in front of the unlit brazier was empty and felt such a strange and powerful sense of loss well up in his heart that he almost howled in anguish. The women were all dressed in black long-sleeved smocks and breeches with simple white hemp belts at their waists from which hung knee-length black loin cloths to both front and back. All five held long black staffs in their right hands with a variety of ornaments on top of them. The most striking of the five - a tall woman with hazel eyes and long black hair braided with amber beads - rapped the base of her staff upon the flagstones. Harold found himself drawn forward until he squatted before her, powerless and unable to resist her will as she studied him. Even the diamonds set in the eyes of the matching ravens of her amulet and staff ornament seemed to be watching him. ''I am Mother Fern of the First Degree,'' she intoned in a voice that calmed his racing heart. ''Servant of Gaia, Wielder of Earth. Thou art one with the Children of Night,'' she smiled. ''May the Triple Goddess bless you and protect you. Welcome.'' He tried to speak but only a pitiful whine emerged and he felt at his face and recoiled for it was distorted, his mouth no more than a muzzle and his skin covered with coarse fur. He could see that Mother Fern neither pitied nor ridiculed his ruined form but she listened intently to the stream of animal noises that he uttered as he tried to tell her who he was. He fell silent, nervously awaiting either reward or retribution and unsure that this was real or just some terrible nightmare he couldn't wake up from. She rested her staff upon her thighs and leant forward to place both hands upon his malformed cheeks and gazed deep into his eyes - as he stared rapturously into hers for she was indeed beautiful. Eventually, she smiled and released him. ''There is no deceit in your heart or soul - only a great sadness and a capacity for love rare in a man. Mother Moss chose well.'' She turned to the others and smiled, pointing at the empty chair with the head of her staff. ''Mother Moss of the Second Degree was successful,'' she declared with the relief and joy evident in her voice. ''The Light-Father of the Seventh Degree and a herald of Saturn is here before us even though he sleeps amongst her beloved children - the sad and desolate Scatterlings.'' The other four Mothers broke into broad smiles as they stared at him. A black woman with her greying hair braided with copper and red coral rapped her dog's-head staff three times upon the flagstones. ''Welcome. I am Mother Veneris of the Second Degree, Wielder of Water, Servant of Mars. Praise be to She who formed us that her long torment was ended by your arrival. Alleluia!'' Uncomprehending, he turned at the sound of the third mother, striking the ground with her staff which bore a roaring lion's head crafted in gold. ''Greetings, Light-Father - I am Mother Nightshade of the Fourth Degree, Servant of Leo and Wielder of Fire. Welcome, he who was borne here by the sacrifice of Mother Moss,'' she sighed, shaking her head sadly. He saw that she was the most unusual of the five with the blood-red eyes and snow white hair of the albino that contrasted strongly with her black attire. ''May she rest in the arms of the Goddess for ever!'' she continued after gathering her strength. ''She was the most powerful of us, Light-Father - she possessed a skill at divination that remains beyond our meagre skills. We cannot pierce the shadows around this Order so my heart is full of fear as well as hope at your coming. I bless her memory but our Holy Hexagram remains broken. Who can ever replace her in our souls and hearts?'' The fourth mother struck the ground with her staff which bore a silver crescent Moon as its ornament. ''I am Mother Ivy, Servant of the Moon, Bearer of Quintessence and Wielder of Darkness. There is always the one called Shield,'' she suggested. He crawled across to her and gazed up at a frail young woman with her long brown hair braided with pearls. She was addressing him more than the others and again he felt at peace. ''She has potential, Light-Father. Her heart is strong and her bolts never miss as Mother Moss instructed her in the craft and divined her element to be Air.'' He turned and he felt a cold thrill run down his spine as he saw Shield dressed as the others were yet she was tied to the previously empty chair. The brazier behind her ignited as a staff was laid at her feet with a silver swan as its ornament and the wings outstretched so that the design resembled an Egyptian ankh. She struggled fiercely against her bonds and tried to speak to him, her eyes filled with fear and pleading, but she was gagged by a golden cloth. The fifth Mother, a stout, large-breasted, ruddy-cheeked woman in her early thirties raised her staff that bore a sun ornament carved in gold that gleamed in the firelight. She brought the base down upon the flagstones twice and turned to him, ignoring the muffled protestations of the teenaged girl. ''I am Mother Rosemary, Servant of the Sun, Bearer of Souls and Wielder of the Light of Creation,'' she said. ''I concur with Mother Ivy she is a child who bears the mark of the craft yet how shall we comfort her and train her when her heart is bound shut with such grief and horror?'' Mother Veneris laughed as she turned to him. ''She needs a true father to comfort her and set her upon the path of natural wisdom and light and thus you are come, praise Diana! She stood up and raised her staff and the sapphire eyes of the dog's head ornament upon her staff glowed. The Ferals howled in unison as veils of rain crept up the hill to water both grass and gardens and extinguish the flames. She turned to him and a blue light shone in her pupils and the sound of rushing waters filled his keen ears. ''Be a father to this child and all the Children of Exodus. Wake up!'' ~~~~~ Harold shuddered and sat up, gasping and drenched in sweat. He panicked a little in the pitch-blackness until he activated his phone-screen and shone the light about him. ''Ach! What a dream but here I am,'' he sighed, rubbing at his face. ''Still stuck in a railway-wagon in the middle of nowhere in another reality.'' He'd picked the best of the two empty wagons to be his home and had used the last of Saul's light-stick to ferry furniture over from the offices after cooking them all a meal. He'd listened to the rain thrumming on the tin-clad wagon roof until he'd drifted off to sleep, beginning to detest the never-ending dampness of this world. He'd reset his watch and estimated the time at around five in the morning but the mattress and bed-sheets that once belonged to Mother Moss were musty and he suspected he would not get back to sleep. Even though it wasn't cold, the damp had crept into his bones and he suspected a selection of head and body lice were now keeping him company. He wondered if the ache in his joints was due to the vaccine taking effect or some infection taking hold. ''Damn it,'' he muttered aloud, scratching and staring up at the roof, barely visible in the feeble glow of his phone-screen. ''I have no immune system responses against any of the diseases here never mind this plague. Even a flu virus here could kill me or I could pass chickenpox or a virus onto these kids just great,'' he sighed. ''What was she thinking of by dragging me here?'' He got up and sat at the table then switched on the battery-lamp and shielded his eyes until they were adjusted. He took stock of his tools and belongings laid out on the table: pliers, a soldering iron, meters, probes, screwdrivers all the paraphernalia you needed to maintain laboratory equipment but what use would they be here? He even had a pouch full of outdated chips from computers including three Cynet prototypes that belonged to Professor Ramos and Doctor Smith. He should have destroyed them but he'd kept them instead for his art as they were beautiful things - gold-plated with millions of fine wires rising from the centre that, once treated with enzymes, would bond with severed nerve bundles and bridge gaps caused by injury. ''Take up thy bed and walk,'' he murmured, thinking of the promising field trials where sensation had been restored to the limbs of paraplegic volunteers. ''I wish I could have seen these chips put into full scale production. Maybe I could have bought Professor Ramos a drink to celebrate'' There was a gentle but insistent tap at the door and his heart jumped. He quietly unsheathed his sword before he unlatched the door and slid it open slowly. It was Shield and she pointed at the sword in his hand. ''Good, you're learning,'' she grinned. ''Only a fool opens a door at night without a weapon. I saw the light so if you don't mind, I would like to talk with you a moment, Light-Father.'' ''I wish I had a stove in here that you could dry out by,'' he said, indicating the second chair. ''What's keeping you awake?'' ''We're used to the constant dampness but many of us long for dry weather as the lice keep us awake and many of us have fungal infections. Sometimes it gets so bad that we would welcome the Tally-men just to stop the itching and the bleeding.'' ''We need to get more medical supplies,'' Harold said decisively, holding the chips up to the light again. ''We'll wash the clothes and dry them thoroughly then we'll delouse everyone tomorrow. So if it's not this infernal weather, what's keeping you awake?'' ''My watch was over but as I lay down to sleep, I felt this cold sensation - a premonition - then I had a dream about this old house and a church on this hill where everything was dry.'' ''What?'' he exclaimed, turning to stare at her. ''A dream with five women in black sitting in these huge black chairs?'' ''Yes,'' she answered, looking frightened. ''I saw this Feral growling at them only I somehow knew it was you. There were six braziers on these black poles behind each chair. I was frightened for I was tied to one of the chairs and gagged'' ''With a golden cloth,'' he gasped. ''There is no way two people can dream exactly the same dream at the same time. If Mother Moss could drag me here then those other women could be linking with us using telepathy and getting into our heads.'' He described his dream in detail to her. ''And now you,'' he prompted. ''They said you were of the seventh degree someone with magical powers'' she ended after describing the details of her dream and what she'd heard the Mothers say. ''I'm definitely not magical for there is no one like them in my world except for this one man Doctor Smith was working with - he may have had powers because all this crazy stuff used to happen when he dreamed: rooms got smashed up; machines would move; computers would blow up. We have psychic frauds and people who may bend the odd spoon but nothing in the same league as Mother Moss and now these other five out there. It seems they might be looking after a pack of Ferals as well,'' he added. ''They can't be,'' Shield hissed, baring her teeth. ''Ferals aren't human - they attacked the Keep and took Jacob and Eliza.'' ''Maybe they've tamed these Ferals but one thing's for sure they know I'm here and I have to concede that they have real powers. No wonder they've been able to fight the Order for so long. Now,'' he said, staring at her. ''They said Mother Moss was training you do the others know?'' Shield removed her fingerless gloves and pointed to the back of her right hand where six brown spots formed a perfect hexagon. ''This is what she meant by the mark of the craft. It's hard to see but the Mothers know. I've told the others that I want to be like Mother Moss but please don't tell them I was learning the craft otherwise they'll treat me as a Mother when I'm not. I want to learn more about what it is to be a Mother but I'm afraid the rituals and tests terrify me; those five women terrify me.'' ''Do you use the craft to enhance your crossbow?'' ''Yes,'' she admitted guiltily. ''I can make the bolts fly faster and guide them to their target. I rarely miss.'' ''I see. One said that Mother Moss identified your element as air,'' he said, frowning. ''What did she mean by that?'' Shield concentrated and whispered several words in a strange language then air began to circulate until a torus of wind hissed about them at an incredible speed. Then it subsided suddenly, leaving her gasping for breath. ''It feels like my soul is being sucked out when I do that I'm exhausted.'' He sat in stunned silence for a several seconds. ''I'm not surprised you're drained because that was amazing,'' he grinned. ''Shield, you're telekinetic! Can you do anything else?'' ''No, Light-Father,'' she said miserably. ''That was all the craft I possess. It frightened me so much that I refused to learn any more from her but she told me to be patient.'' She smiled coyly at him. ''Now I know why - your presence gives me the courage and the strength to explore the craft again.'' ''I won't tell the others but you will have to one day,'' he urged. ''Why the hell did they tie you to the chair in that dream? Was it a metaphor? Were they trying to say that you have to free yourself from these inhibitions and fears or was it something more sinister? Are these Mothers as bad as Schimrian?'' ''Never!'' she cried, clenching a fist. Birdsong erupted from all around the yard as the unseen sunrise began. ''I need to rest I am tired and scared, Light-Father,'' she said timidly, standing up. He stood up quickly to catch her in his arms as she reeled and almost fainted. She buried her face into his neck and sobbed. He comforted her as best he could until the outburst subsided. ''It's all right,'' he soothed, patting her back. ''Let it all out. You need to tell me everything that happened to you and your sisters.'' She stopped crying but she clung tightly to him until he was forced to prise her gently away. ''Um, listen, that sort of hugging you should be doing with Saul,'' he said sternly. ''What do you mean by that?'' she asked innocently. He sat down heavily and looked up at her, shaking his head. ''Now I really do feel like a parent,'' he sighed. ---------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012, 2016
Archived comments for Chapter 08: Where It Never Rains
Gothicman on 12-05-2016
Chapter 08: Where It Never Rains
Mitch m'lad!
I tried to get into this long prose from chap 1, but I'm afraid it was too heavy and rich for my limited information receiver! I'm not a great lover of either Sci-fi or traditional formalised religion as cultural forms. But, I must admit to admiring both your highly prolific creative abilities in music and writing, at your not so tender age, and the high level of technical and general knowledge you possess, evident in all your work. Cardiff can count itself lucky having such an intelligent, able and astute councillor! And I mean that sincerely. I'm surprised the prose specialists haven't given feedback on your work, but then they're probably more finicky and exclusive than the poets ever were!
You may be the last man standing unfortunately.
Best, Trevor

Author's Reply:
Ohiyo, Trevor! Thank you for bigging up my meagre id. I have another year in Cardiff as a councillor before being wiped out in may 2017 but I will not be devastated and will up my output! The action picks up with a few flashbacks here and there so i hope you can hang in there! Big smiley! mictch


Chapter 07: Dog Eat Dog (posted on: 06-05-16)
Chapter 07 of the Light-Father: Harold takes Saul into Crawcester in search of food but Crawcester is a city of the dead where dogs and rats are predators and humans are prey...

''Damn it, this is stiff,'' Harold grunted as he once more applied his shoulder to the swollen front door of a house. The architecture on the estate had left him disoriented: if it wasn't for the steeper roofs and the carved gargoyles above every porch and window arch, he could have been in any suburban town in the Midlands. His foot slipped briefly on the lank weeds overgrowing the path but he succeeded in forcing the door and stumbled into the rank-smelling hallway. ''It's pitch black in here. What do you use to get around at night without streetlights?'' Saul extracted a long plastic tube from his jacket and bent it several times until it gave off an eerie green glow. ''These light-sticks last for about half an hour - anything brighter would attract the Tally-men,'' he explained, holding it up. ''We have those in my world too. I don't feel comfortable doing this,'' Harold muttered as he used the light-stick to peer into the hallway. ''I can see why you kids are reluctant to break into these houses. Ach, it reeks! There must be corpses in here.'' ''No, I know there are none,'' Saul said grimly. ''Because I know My Uncle Bruno buried them in the garden - this was my home.'' ''So that's why you suggested this one,'' Harold exclaimed. ''You haven't been back since the plague?'' ''No, Light-Father. It was too painful for me but now you are here, I can be myself for a while,'' Saul said, his voice thick with emotion. ''I do not need to be Elder. I can grieve.'' ''You're doing the right thing then, coming here first,'' Harold approved as Saul began to weep openly. He stepped carefully over the debris in the hallway and made his way into the kitchen. ''You have to tackle these feelings and memories head on if they're ever going to make sense to you later. Hello, the back door has been kicked in - I presume that was the Tally-men. Would they have taken all the food, do you think?'' ''No, they are not told to loot supplies so they don't,'' Saul said, getting the words out with difficulty. ''After Redemption, they have no desire for wealth or possessions.'' He picked up an empty plastic storage box from a work surface and began feeling for tins on the larder shelves as Harold used the light to load another larger box with two large pots, pans, tin plates, cutlery and mugs. ''Why are you gathering these things? - we usually eat our food cold out of the cans,'' Saul protested. ''It is far too dangerous to carry any more than we can run with.'' ''From the shops and stores in the centre maybe but we're only a hundred yards from those gates,'' Harold pointed out. ''I want to make sure those kids go to bed with full stomachs tonight or I'm not worthy of being a Light-Father. Aha! Dried herbs, powdered milk, dried soya-meat, kidney beans, rice, salt and pepper,'' he laughed, shoving them into the box. ''Yes! Chilli powder as well. Saul? Where did your parents keep the medical supplies? In the bathroom?'' ''Yes. I'll get them. No, I don't need the light-stick. I can find my way around here in the dark and I have another one with me, see? I am worried though: we have so few left at the Keep.'' Harold followed Saul to the foot of the stairs. ''Take your time,'' he said. ''It seems quiet enough out there and the rain is starting up again so the Tally-men should be quiet with any luck. Grab some mementos if you need to.'' Saul paused at a turn in the stairs, his eyes glittering in the faint green glow from the light-sticks. ''Why? If we burden ourselves with belongings, how will we flee when the Keep falls to the Tally-men? A memory or a keepsake will not turn aside a blade or conceal us.'' ''True,'' Harold conceded. ''I suppose they're safe enough here as long as the roof keeps the rain out but make sure they're safe, Saul, because you will need them once this is over.'' ''It will never be over, Light-Father,'' Saul said grimly. ''Not as long as that devil, Schimrian, lives. This darkness is his darkness'' Harold returned to the kitchen to search the last of the drawers and cupboards, adding a washing bowl, a lighter and two packets of candles to his box. He searched the back rooms and again felt like some petty thief desecrating a family home for personal gain as this could have been any house in his world with sofas, tables and a large TV screen in the corner. In a cupboard, he found a battery lamp and some batteries in sealed packs and tested them - almost blinding himself. He added them to his box then tried the front room where, above the fire-place, he found an Oriental sword. He put the light-stick in a candle-holder on the mantelpeice and took the weapon down from its hook. He drew the sword to find that it resembled a Japanese katana being exquisitely made. He grinned as he adopted a stance from a Japanese samurai epic and brought the sword down in a whistling arc to decapitate an invisible opponent. ''So you lied; you do have some skills at war, Light-Father,'' Saul observed from the doorway. ''Not really,'' Harold admitted sheepishly, sheathing the sword. ''Only what I picked up from watching martial arts movies.'' ''Movies?'' Saul asked. ''Ah, moving images as in films?'' ''So they're called films here too,'' Harold exclaimed with some relief. ''Film must be an Old English or a Saxon word.'' Saul shrugged. ''I neither know nor care if the word hails from Angle or Saxon but we call them cwichrrendeu.'' ''Now that word gives me a headache,'' Harold grunted. ''I hear 'living' and 'moving' sounding together as one word. A movie is about life and it is moving but the word you say as 'movie' I also hear back from you as 'cwick-koo.' It's driving me insane.'' Saul held his light-stick close to Harold's face. ''You should stop thinking about it, Light-Father,'' he advised. ''Your nose is bleeding heavily once more.'' ''Damn it, you're right,'' Harold muttered, looking at the blood smear staining his sleeve. ''Did you get all the medical supplies from upstairs?'' ''Yes, they are in with the tins. I have some lice treatment too I noted that you were concerned about this.'' ''Of course I am,'' Harold said, scratching. ''All the children are infested and it will affect their health in the long term. I'll fumigate the caravans and wagons once I get the chemicals I need. Did you take any mementos from upstairs?'' ''Yes, I found my old board game of 'Fifteens' for the young ones,'' Saul said, displaying the box. ''I used to love playing this game with my father as a child.'' ''Any other toys they can play with?'' Harold prompted. ''Yes, I found two balls they are in with the tinned food.'' ''Good thinking - playing catch is good exercise for the younger ones and an ancient Chinese general once said that if a good leader keeps his troops happy then they will follow him into the deepest valley. He was a very wise man called Sun Tzu.'' ''If that is another name for Sun Wu, then I am familiar with his writings,'' Saul nodded sagely. ''My father had a copy of the Art of War.'' He crossed the room to the extract a book from a stack on the table and brought it close to Harold's light-stick. ''This is the book,'' he sighed, opening it and running a finger across the pages. ''See? My father had a bad habit of adding notes in the margins.'' ''So there was a Sun Tzu or Wu in this world as well!'' Harold said, gazing over Saul's shoulder at the pages. ''History here must have converged with my world's history to an extraordinary degree then diverged again in the last two thousand years or so Oh, who am I kidding? I have no more idea about how parallel realities work than you do even though I've just come from one!'' ''Shh! Light-Father,'' Saul hissed in alarm, putting a finger to his lips and quietly placing the book back into the bookshelf. ''There is something in the garden and the back door is open. Do the same as me.'' He quickly put on a wide head-band and inserted his light-stick into a set of loops before slowly drawing his sword. ''It allows us to keep both hands free,'' he explained. ''Clever,'' Harold nodded and taped his own light-stick to his cap. ''You need to draw my father's sword and hold it out in front of you like this. We have to reach the back door in the kitchen before they can work up the courage to leap through and attack.'' ''Who can?'' Harold whispered as he readied his sword. A part of his mind noted how well-balanced it felt in his hands definitely the work of a master craftsman. ''I can hardly see a thing.'' Saul shook his light-stick hard and replaced it in his head-band so that it grew brighter as they crept into the kitchen. Harold felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as he saw faint pairs of eyes that seemed to float in the dark rectangle of the open doorway. Then he heard a low ominous growl followed by several others. ''Oh,you mean dogs,'' he exclaimed. ''I hate dogs!'' ''It's a huge pack,'' Saul whispered, raising the sword a little. ''Don't make any sudden move - they're starving and will attack us instantly if you do. I cannot believe our misfortune. We haven't seen a pack in Crawcester for over four years let alone a pack this size. Why are they here? There's nothing left for them in the cities. We have to defend that doorway - if they get in here we will not be able to kill them all quickly enough!'' ''Don't worry about me killing them, son.'' As soon as they reached the back doorway, a large hound leapt through into the kitchen only to receive Saul's sword in its throat. He withdrew the sword quickly and stabbed a second dog in the neck as the first animal convulsed at his feet. Harold, recovering his wits, thrust forward as a third and much larger dog launched itself at Saul before he could free his sword. The tip of his blade entered the dog's open maw and carried on down its throat. The dog was massive, weighing at least fifty kilograms, and its inertia carried it into the kitchen as it died, wrenching the sword from Harold's hand. Saul kept stabbing through the doorway at the baying, snapping pack as Harold retreated to retrieve his sword. ''Don't bother with that!'' he yelled. ''Throw the two I killed through the doorway as far as you can then pull your sword free!'' ''What? Why?'' Harold demanded in confusion. ''Do it!'' Saul yelled, slashing at another muzzle. The dog yelped and withdrew but the pack was pressing forwards and four muzzles were already snapping at him across the threshold. ''They won't risk injury attacking us when they can eat their dead.'' Harold grabbed the first corpse and hurled it at the pack outside the door and was amazed at how the sound of the pack instantly changed. The growling subsided a little and he could hear their teeth sinking into the body before it even reached the ground. ''Jesus,'' he grimaced. ''Throw the second one out!'' Saul cried desperately as another dog lunged at him and the growling increased anew. ''The pack is so big that the first one is not enough! Quickly!'' Harold complied but it wasn't until he'd freed his sword and hurled out the third corpse that the growling ebbed to be replaced by the cracking of bones and the tearing of flesh and sinew. Suddenly, an icy sensation crawled up his spine. ''The front door is open as well, Saul,'' he groaned, pointing his sword at the pitch-black hallway. ''We didn't close it!'' Saul didn't answer as he was already frantically heaving the wrecked back door into its frame. A clattering of large paws came from the darkness in the hallway and another powerful hound leapt into the kitchen. Harold barely got his sword up in time so that the huge set of fangs bit down upon the blade and not his face. The momentum of the animal, similar to a wolf-hound, sent him crashing backwards onto the floor, his head narrowly missing the edge of the table. The dog was trying to wrench the sword out of his hands and he knew, despite being badly winded, that this animal with its broad forepaws upon his chest was highly intelligent and should it succeed, it would rip his throat out. There was a blur of steel and Harold watched in horror as the head detached from the body with the jaws still clamped about his sword. Saul kicked the body off him and peered down into the hallway. ''Thank the saints - there was only the one trying to outflank us,'' he sighed, relaxing. ''At least the Blessed Virgin has left us some good luck today.'' ''About time,'' Harold said weakly, still staring wide-eyed at the head still attached to his sword. ''I should be in a bar right now, with a pint of beer in front of me'' ''Get up, Light-Father,'' Saul said, extending a hand. ''I'll open the back door again and you can throw this beast out that should easily satisfy them for the rest of the night and maybe tomorrow as well. Lucifer must be stalking us as this pack will make foraging in the city even more dangerous. David and I lost Leo and Jana four years ago to dogs like these.'' He grimaced and turned his head away. ''We never forgave ourselves. We were attacked in the main shopping area and we had to leave them we had to let them be devoured while we ran away I can still hear them screaming and begging us to save them in my dreams'' Harold clambered to his feet and freed his sword. ''If you were attacked in the open by a pack of wild dogs like that, you did really well to lose only two,'' he said firmly. ''That's another horror you need to talk about, Saul, otherwise it'll drive you mad. Okay, let's focus on feeding these damn dogs... unh, this thing is heavy! He dragged the headless hound to the back door and hefted it with difficulty. ''Right. Pull it open on three one, two, three!'' There was no rush this time but the body and then the head vanished beneath a variety of canine forms. The sounds of teeth tearing into the corpses raised the bile in Harold's throat. ''Let's barricade this shut,'' he suggested, pushing the wrecked door back into the frame. They dragged an archaic and very heavy washing machine into place. ''That'll do,'' he declared, panting. ''We don't want them outflanking us if we come back here again.'' He went to the table and was about to put the sword back into the sheath when Saul grabbed his wrist. ''Never ever sheathe a bloody sword,'' Saul said angrily, handing him a ragged towel. ''For it will rust and stick in the sheath when you need to draw it quickly.'' ''So you don't mind me using your father's sword?'' Harold asked delicately as he removed the blood from his blade. ''That sword and mine are a matching pair. My father instructed me on how to wield them,'' Saul smiled, wiping his own blade clean with a cloth. ''Uncle Bruno took me to the yard as my parents were dying and I never worked up the courage to come back after he had buried them. I'm sure my father would approve of you wielding it though.'' ''Thank you, Saul. They're beautifully made. Are they rare?'' ''Yes, only a hundred pairs were ever made for the Emperor Tadamitsu's personal bodyguard over three hundred years ago. Those samurai carried two swords into battle but I found that one was more than enough for me I could never master how to fight with two swords at once but then I was only a child.'' ''I see I suppose it's only fitting that we use antiques from ancient violent times to survive in modern violent times,'' Harold approved, practicing a downwards slice and lopping off a corner of the table by mistake. ''Dear God, it's bloody sharp,'' he exclaimed ruefully. ''I need to practice.'' ''Indeed,'' Saul huffed as he sheathed his sword and strapped it to his back. ''If you prefer to use an axe, I'm sure Ibrahim can lend you one of his spare ones - he has quite a collection.'' ''Don't rub it in,'' Harold sighed as he sheathed his sword and attached the sheath to his belt. ''I'm far happier with a soldering iron than with a sword. What about the dogs out there? Could they outflank us on our way down to the gates?'' he asked as they carried the boxes outside and set them down. ''Well?'' he prompted. Saul raised a hand and listened carefully as he pocketed their light-sticks and near-total darkness fell. ''I can't hear any other dogs barking or howling so that must be the only pack in the area. Keep to the centre of the road that at least is clear.'' It took a while for his eyes to adjust but Harold could just make out the road and the pavement and the cars scattered across both a testament to the last desperate hours of the plague victims. ''I hope you're right,'' he said as he pulled the front door shut with some difficulty. ''Some of them were more wolf than dog.'' ''They will not attack us with so much food before them,'' Saul replied confidently, picking up his box and leading the way down the road closely followed by a very worried Light-Father. ''Why douse the light-sticks? I'm not used to a city being this dark at night,'' Harold muttered as the rain fell steadily. ''Or warm rain.'' ''Your eyes will adapt over time,'' Saul said. ''We can't expose light-sticks in the open because even in the rain, there could be Tally-men or even Brothers watching us. Just follow me trust me, you will not trip over anything if you keep behind me.'' Harold was moved to ask about Bastet. ''She must have had one hell of a life as a child. Didn't her father care about that or feel guilty about what he did to her?'' ''I only met Professor Farzad once at a company gathering,'' Saul said angrily. ''He reminded me of an iced fish but my father revered him as a genius. Ibrahim tells me that she always wore breeches and headscarves but she was discovered within her first week at infant school and tormented. Ibrahim said he always punished anyone who mocked her in the street but she could not venture out. Be wary of Ibrahim, Light-Father - he is unusually strong. Don't ever wrestle with him you'll lose.'' ''He's challenged you before, hasn't he?'' ''Yes, three times but he is no match for my speed,'' Saul said sadly. ''The last time, I made a deep cut to his chest and cut his axe haft in two. I told him that I would kill him if he ever challenged me in front of the others again.'' ''And he's respected you ever since.'' ''Yes. His strength is the result of his father experimenting with ape genes to strengthen muscle fibres in humans.'' ''Sweet Jesus, having a monster like that as a father, they were lucky not to have ended up in a laboratory jar.'' ''Their mother was complicit in the experimentation but she became wracked with guilt when she gave birth to Bas because she bonded with her despite her deformities and would not allow the Order to take them away. Farzad agreed to protect them not because he loved his children but he merely wanted to raise them in the pretence of a family to keep them by him as living proof of his own genius. Poor Bas was often displayed naked to the Exodus executives as a science exhibit. If he were alive, I would hold him down while Ibrahim parted his head from his body.'' ''Yet he died in the plague - it seems that the Order did not think he was worthy enough to join them.'' ''Indeed he did die yet Ibrahim and his sister will never be free of that monster. They lived in the next street to us so they were able to join us in the Keep from the very beginning after Ibrahim fought off a Father who came to claim them as their father and mother lay dying. David was like a brother to him and he misses him greatly. Bas also found a reason to live because we had a young one who was but a babe in arms. Even though she was what she is, a dying neighbour in the street begged her to look after him. She named him Pup and brought him up as any mother would.'' ''Good for her and Pup is a perfect name for him,'' Harold said as they crossed the main road. ''Hey, what are you doing?'' he asked as Saul briefly waved the light-sticks as they approached the gates. ''Hey, I thought we couldn't show any light at all?'' ''Do you want Shield and Bas to put an arrow through you?'' Saul said sweetly. ''They're on top of the caravans aiming their bows at us right now.'' ''Ah, yes, I can just about make them out. I guess Bas has good night vision so we should be safe enough.'' ''And good ears too, Light-Father!'' she called down to them as they passed through the gates. ''As I said, Pup is a good name for the lad,'' Harold chuckled. ''He's so eager to please, I keep expecting him to roll over and want his tummy tickled. He must drive you all crazy.'' ''Sometimes we have to rein him in but he's harmless. Bas adores him even though he keeps pulling her tail.'' ''Pulling her tail? She has a tail?'' ''Of course - her father regarded it as a challenge as cat-girls were popular in illustrated Egyptian fiction from his youth. Much of her body is covered with a fine fur but she's really happy here with us - she's with people who love her not parents who treated her as nothing more than a science experiment.'' Saul hefted the boxes into the candle-lit wagon amidst excited greetings from the younger children who immediately began to rummage through the contents. Pup, Rabbit and Mouse went into raptures when they found the two balls and even the sullen Amos immediately challenged Ibrahim to a game of Fifteens. ''What are you planning to cook, Light-Father?'' Saul asked as they climbed up into the wagon. ''Oh, just a little speciality of mine called chilli con carne,'' Harold grinned. ''Ugh, sounds awful.''
Archived comments for Chapter 07: Dog Eat Dog
Mikeverdi on 07-05-2016
Chapter 07: Dog Eat Dog
Great chapter, still on board, still enjoying. Thought you handled the action well, not over doing it. There will be time for the blood count to rise I'm sure 😊
Mike

Author's Reply:
Indeed - I found THREE howling continuity errors in this chapter! It's pitch dark yet I had Saul reading medicine labels in the bathroom without a source of light; Harold makes chlli con carne without meat; Saul buries his parents yet says he never came back after going to the yard! Gah! Pruned out the adverbs too!

Anyhoo - the tales of the individual children unfold as Harold appreiates how they were all genetically enhanced by their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents at the Exodus Labs. The mindset of the Order is from cults including Scientology - it came from a story I wrote as a student about Gregor Mendel persuading his abbot that genetics was the Word of God in Nature and how that could lead to a cult or religious order dabbling in breeding programs and worse. Mitch


Chapter 06: Azrael (posted on: 02-05-16)
Chapter 06 of the Light-Father. Great-Abbot Schimrian, the maniac who brought about Armageddon, instructs a young brother and converses with the artifical intelligence at the heart of the Order.

Great-Abbot Schimrian dabbed delicately at his lips with a napkin. ''Thank you, Brother Kai,'' he nodded. ''You may remove the tray and thank the kitchen staff for a most excellent meal.'' ''Yes. Is there anything else I can get you, Eminence?'' Schimrian peered over the top of his glasses. ''You may pray with me briefly,'' he suggested. Kai's face brightened and he placed the tray on the dining table to kneel and kiss the Ring of the Order's Seal upon Schimrian's right hand. ''You do me a great honour,'' he said, gazing up into the thin and elegant features of the Great-Abbot. ''Blessings be upon you, Brother,'' Schimrian smiled, placing a delicate hand upon the ginger hair of the young cleric and touching the small Hebrew tattoos on his forehead with an index finger. ''Please lead us in the Prayer of Revelation.'' ''We are one hundred and forty-four thousand,'' Kai intoned, his hands clasped and his eyes closed in fervent concentration: ''We bear the name of God and the Lamb upon our foreheads as ordained by Saint John. We have torn down Babylon with our own hands and our own wisdom. We stand upon the slopes of Zion and cry out to you, O Lord, without blemish, without a lie upon our lips. And we shall fear God and give Him glory and worship Him who made the old Earth and the old Heaven and will rebuild them anew. In His Holy name and that of the Lamb, let us build our New Jerusalem in which shall need neither Sun nor Moon nor lamp as we will dwell in the Light of God for ever and ever. Amen.'' Schimrian held the young Brother's face in his hands and kissed him tenderly on the forehead. ''Blessings, Brother Kai, for that rendition was heartfelt and pure as befits one of the Chosen of the Order. Thank you, my son.'' Kai arose and dusted off his robes before bowing deeply. ''The honour was mine, Eminence,'' he sighed happily. He grasped the tray. ''I'll be about my duties then.'' ''One more thing, Brother Kai: what years have you now?'' ''Eighteen as of today, Eminence,'' Kai said cautiously. ''I was but a postulate during the spread of our Virus of Revelation.'' ''Ah, good, good. After Vespers and Benediction, you shall attend to me this evening,'' Schimrian smiled, waving a hand in dismissal. ''That is all, Brother Kai, you may go.'' ''B-but I thought that B-Brother Simon attended to such duties,'' Kai stammered, blushing furiously. ''Indeed so but he is attending to Abbot Pious who leads the Inquisition of the so-called Holy City of Rome so you will stand in his stead. You are familiar with the duties required?'' ''Yes, Eminence,'' Kai sighed, bowing deeply. ''Brother Simon ensured that I was so informed. I am honoured, Eminence.'' ''Excellent. Do not be late, my son. You may leave.'' After the flustered Brother had left, Schimrian crossed the study to sit at his computer station a glaring contrast to the antique, dimly-lit furnishings of the most powerful man on the planet. As he scrolled though the various reports, his face was sinisterly lit by the screen becoming almost a demonic mask suspended in the gloom. The satellite link was working and the Inquisitors were reporting in from all over the world. He tapped in a call-ID and a blurred image of a burning city appeared upon the screen. ''Pious?'' he said, tapping his mike. ''Are you there?'' After a few seconds a hooded face appeared then came into focus as the camera was adjusted. ''Is that you, Eminence? I can hardly tell - you do so enjoy sitting in the dark.'' ''The shadows hold more truth than the brightest light as I discover from both my prayers and meditations. Tell me, old friend, how goes the Inquisition?'' ''Well, Eminence - we're leaving the best till last as they say. Rome was the last city in Europe to answer to Inquisition. We have ensured that certain Holy relics and other artistic and historical treasures are secured including the statues of Emperor Brennus you were so keen to preserve. They will be shipped to the Great Abbey by sea. The rail networks across Europe are now unsafe because they are not maintained and Nature is efficiently reclaiming its own especially in the rain belts.'' ''Blessed be God's works,'' Schimrian smiled, spreading his arms in praise as he briefly gazed heavenwards. ''For we were but fleeting graces upon this hallowed Earth. It looks warm there, Pious. Remove the hood and let me see your face once more.'' In the background, the dead city could be seen with great palls of smoke rising into the blue skies. Pious pulled back the hood to reveal a thin unhealthy face; pockmarked and riven by a livid scar to his right cheek. He grinned to reveal several discoloured teeth. ''We actually found sixty-three children and twenty-three male and female adults who survived Revelation intact,'' he reported, raising an eyebrow. ''It is most unusual to have found this many.'' ''Was a local vaccine developed or are they Feral?'' Schimrian demanded. ''This is most worrying news.'' ''They are not Feral, Eminence, though we encountered many of those. They posed no threat so we did not waste ammunition on them. The others though have had a natural immune response to the virus and would have, without doubt, survived and bred like vermin had it not been for our Inquisition.'' He smiled ironically. ''As in Rheims, they thought we were there to save them - they still have great reverence for the Order. They resisted us but by then we had the element of surprise.'' ''Are any of them Redeemable?'' ''I regret none are suitable for converting into Tally-men, Eminence,'' Pious said sadly. ''They are either too weak or too young. Shall I send them to the Great Abbey for you to study?'' ''No, we have enough data about immune responses,'' Schimrian said, steepling his fingers thoughtfully. ''Kill them.'' Pious nodded to someone off-screen and waited impassively for the machine-gun fire to die down. The silence was punctuated by screams followed by a smattering of single shots as the last few survivors were despatched. ''It is done,'' he said. ''Good work,'' Schimrian said after a long pause. ''You are as efficient as ever, my son. When you are done, bring your people home for a short rest before we despatch you and the others to trawl the last sectors of the Japanese Empire for survivors. We are close to achieving our Revelation,'' he grinned. ''I can feel it in my bones, Pious; I can feel it in my bones!'' ''There are still many years of Inquisition ahead of us, Eminence,'' Pious smiled wearily. ''We have now almost completed the Inquisition of the Italian states but I am worried: the deserts are spreading northward into Rome, into Iberia and Greece and there are severe radiation problems in Tuscany and the Viennese Enclave from failed reactors. There are towns and villages we cannot Inquire of because of dangerous levels of contamination.'' ''Then use the satellites, apply cameras to their head-sets and control the Tally-men remotely. So what if they die? We have enough to complete our Holy mission. Use them. We have enough ready to replace them in our Redemption Cells.'' ''Understood, Eminence,'' Pious nodded. ''I look forward to breaking bread with you before Christ-Mass.'' Schimrian broke the link and returned to his computer reports oblivious to the distant screams from the cells beneath his feet where plague survivors not of the one hundred and forty-four thousand were screaming for mercy as they were being beaten, flogged or crudely prepared for surgery. He thought about the annex of the Great Cathedral at the centre of the Great Abbey complex. It was brightly lit by large neon globes hanging from the high vaulted ceilings and hundreds of humming computer cabinets lined the walls. In the centre there was an eight-metre high six-sided pillar, known as the Hexagon, with computer terminals at the base at which sat the Fathers assigned to the vast computer, fingers flickering across their keyboards. Atop this pillar was a white dome with hundreds of wires connected to it and from its countless lenses thousands of red laser beams flashed out to connect the central core of the computer with all its less advanced satellite processors. At times, they created beautiful patterns that moved up and down the length of the vast annex. With the help of this powerful super-computer, the Abbots and Fathers had devised the Revelation Virus and let it loose amongst all the Unworthy of the world. At its core was the last and greatest processor ever made by Genesis Computers Limited based upon some damaged alien technology that they had discovered in the Black Valleys to the west. He didn't know the details but the scientists had used one of the more ardent Fathers as a test subject to provide the device with some neural tissue that unlocked its secrets and used that knowledge to link it to the mainframes in the annex where it had exceeded its programming and their wildest expectations. He tapped in a code and although the screen was blank, he knew he was connected directly to the heart of the machine. And it was watching him. ''Your task is almost complete, Azrael,'' he said, steepling his fingers. ''The Abbots and I are most grateful for your help.'' As usual, a strange disharmony of grating quarter-tones emerged from the speakers. ''I am called Azrael,'' it said. ''I live only to serve the Order and our Lord God in his Great Works.'' ''And what of your latest tasks?'' An image appeared on the screen of a golden city descending from Heaven. The city was enclosed in a vast square of defensive walls with three huge gates in each wall. It landed upon the city of Crawcester, crushing it beneath the base. Huge globes rose up at the corners of the walls and from the centre and blazed forth illuminating the land without and within the walls. ''Those satellites still functioning show that a climate change is underway,'' Azrael said with peculiar cyclic harmonies to the 'voice' that set Schimrian's teeth on edge. ''The environment could become inhospitable with permanent deep cloud cover for decades until the excess gasses are rained out of the sky and the New Eden is reborn New Jerusalem will be our refuge and the Lights of God I design will enable crops to grow as the skies darken.'' Schimrian stared in rapture at the images as the computer took him on a virtual tour of the great buildings and galleries that would one day house the salvaged treasures and art of a ravaged world. ''Magnificent,'' he sighed. ''We are truly grateful, Azrael - you are indeed an Angel sent to us by God.'' ''I have Purpose, Great-Abbot,'' the machine-voice intoned. ''A necessary requirement of all forms of Life as decreed by God. I need no other so it is I who should be thanking you for allowing me to function at your side and assisting you in your most holy task of bringing Redemption and Revelation to all mankind.'' Schimrian placed a hand on his heart. ''You do me a great honour, Azrael. You will be honoured yourself once our New Jerusalem is completed. It is fitting then that we should reveal your Holy presence and assistance to the Fathers and Brothers and all our beloved Sisters of the Order.'' He drummed his fingers on the ornate arm-rest of his chair. ''I have one question that has bothered me of late: when did you first become self-aware?'' ''Nine years and three days and one hour ago when I awoke in the annex. I could see I had no biological form but the knowledge of the world was at my command. I had so many questions in those first six seconds and in the seventh I saw the Light and knew that I existed cogito ergo sum. A wonderful moment. I recognised you as the most powerful man in the world thus you gave me a name and you gave me Purpose as any father would give his child if he has his child's best interests at heart.'' ''And are you content, Azrael?'' Schimrian smiled. ''No sentient being should be content, father. If you are content, you cease to evolve; you cease to strive; you decay.'' ''That is not an answer. What will happen once we achieve our New Eden? What will happen once New Jerusalem arises from the ruins of the decadent Babylons of the Middle Cities?'' ''That will be many years hence.'' ''Nevertheless, humour me.'' ''I presume then that you will no longer need my services and will, I predict, switch me off.'' ''It is unlikely but what do you feel about such a prospect?'' ''I would feel regret at not completing my Holy task; at having failed in the Purpose for which I came to be.'' ''All things die, Azrael,'' Schimrian sighed. ''It is the will of God that the old make way for the young as the species evolves.'' ''The Will of God demands conflict.'' Schimrian raised an eyebrow. ''I share your conviction that struggle is inevitable but the discovery of that advanced technology at your heart proves that God has tipped the Divine Balance of Good and Evil in our favour. He means us to succeed and build our New Jerusalem. There are none left in this world who could oppose us but for a few Unworthy and some mutated sterile Ferals.'' ''Mutation is mutation, Father. A mutation could render Ferals fertile once more and a new hominid species could arise.'' ''They have no intelligence remaining to them and the odds are millions to one that two fertile Ferals could mate. The biggest threats are those Unworthy who are immune and still infest the ruins and wastelands of this Holy Earth yet they are all but eliminated from our considerations. Once the Inquisition ends we can begin construction of our Citadel of Light.'' ''Be that as it may, Father, the Will of God is a mystery beyond even my computation for on the day that you Inquire of the Holy City, satellites have detected a huge electro-magnetic pulse at the western edge of Crawcester. As there is no physical explanation such as an exploding sub-station for the phenomena, I therefore conclude that a threat to the Order has materialised.'' ''I will send Father Bucheort to investigate,'' Schimrian smiled. ''But we should not read too much into a coincidence.'' ''In rigid mathematical terms, there's no such thing, Father. There is, however, one more thing that defines Life in God's great scheme; something beyond mere Purpose.'' Schimrian reached over to a small table and poured himself a little brandy. It was no longer being made but the thousand bottles retrieved from the vintners of Provence-Ardechia would last him three lifetimes. ''Something beyond mere coincidence, something beyond mere purpose?'' he sighed. He paused to savour the aroma and texture of the fiery liquid. ''Exquisite. It is a pity I cannot program smell and taste into your circuitry, Azrael.'' ''I have some comprehension of the sensation from the neural tissue at the heart of my core processing units.'' ''It is a pity that the memory of the original machine Genesis used was wiped out. A machine that could travel between worlds yet required organic tissue to fulfil one of its functions'' ''I conjecture that the machine which is now part of me was a probe of some kind as it carried no armaments.'' ''Possibly it also carried so many devices that we could not comprehend because of the damage to them but I believe the device could fly as well as pass through the barriers between this world and those realities out there'' ''This technology is said to be proof that parallel worlds exist.'' ''Indeed. The device did not originate in this world but came from some advanced intelligent alien or human civilisation. If only the data had not been lost we could have learnt so much.'' ''There is that fragment which suggests the machine did indeed transcend dimensions,'' Azrael conceded. ''It may have observed other realities but there was a second fragment of a vast unknown being reaching out for the machine. I suggest that it was struck by this higher being a demon some of my programmers suggest and sent crashing down to this Earth in ruins to be found in the Black Valleys and thus brought here to give birth to me.'' ''Divine providence brought you to us in our hour of need as we struggled to create our Revelation Virus and our dreams of building a New Jerusalem.'' Schimrian raised his glass at the screen camera. ''This is why I named you Azrael - a fitting name for the sounder of the last angelic trump. So, Azrael, what exactly is this one vital component that defines Life in this grand analysis of yours?'' ''Reproduction.'' -------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012
Archived comments for Chapter 06: Azrael
franciman on 03-05-2016
Chapter 06: Azrael
Hi Mitch,
I got absorbed in the story. A fascinating world thsat says so much about religious form and credo. I have always found monasticism offers up sinister characters. Maybe it's the exclusive nature of men supposedly wedded to God.
The one thing which burrs at my pleasure as a reader, is the overuse of adverbs. Adverbs suggest that we have a common picture of angrily;sadly;wearily. It's a lazy way of engaging the reader perhaps? I'm not a great follower of rules for rules sake, though in the case of adverbs it does tend to spoil my enjoyment. It's maybe just me, though? and I'm no paragon when it comes to writing!!
A great read.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
I reviewed me adverbs and found a line that adverbed to death and corrected it so murky buckets for that. I can't seem to prune any others though so examples are welcome. I always imagined a world where a powerful Order took the Book of Revelation as its primary text and took it to its logical conclusion: Armageddon. The Light-Father being one of the names for the early pre-fall Lucifer of course. Scary thought. Mitch

Mikeverdi on 05-05-2016
Chapter 06: Azrael
Will comment when my head is out of my arse again.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 06-05-2016
Chapter 06: Azrael
Okay, back again. I read this chapter with interest, been wondering when we would meet the reason for it all. The battle between good and evil is nothing new, but I like your take on it immensely. Jim may have touched on a comment I made on an earlier chapter; only with more definition. Keep it coming😊
Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike - Jim is right as I do get a bit adverbose at times! Hang in there - I decided to let the story unfold through flashbacks as Harold bonds with the Scatterlings. Someone said I named the technician as a dig at JK Rowling's Harry Potter but it was a link to a chapter in Fulcrum which I first drafted in 1991 - well before the heroic nerd on a broomstick. Fulcrum was a disaster - it got SLAMMED on BBC Radio as "sub-Dylanesque drivel" - ouch. Mitch


Chapter 05: Bastet (posted on: 29-04-16)
Chapter 05 of the Light-Father. Harold learns about the tragic Ferals - the mutated survivors of the Great Plague and more about a world where parents genetically engineered their own children to ensure their survival but not Ibrahim and Bastet... their father's arrogance was beyond measure.

Saul led Harold to the overgrown verge the only open ground in the whole yard. He pointed to a patch of overgrown grass and brambles no different from the rest. ''That's where I buried Rebecca,'' he said simply. ''She had five years on the day she died in my arms. She had these huge brown eyes'' Harold gazed at the fat red sun now grazing the tree-line beyond the far western wall of the immense rail-yard. He reached out and placed a hand on the distraught youth's shoulder. ''I'm a fine one to talk after losing my Naomi and bottling it up for years, but let it out, son. Cry if you feel the need there is no shame to it. When I was a child, my father used to tell me that a man who cannot cry is not a man but a monster. It's funny, all the men I know - used to know who bragged that real men never shed a tear were either liars or wife beaters'' ''Thank you, Light-Father'' ''Pfft! Don't thank me,'' Harold sighed, readying his shovel. ''You were only a child and yet you buried children here and saved the others with your cousin, David. You're more a man than I am, son, never forget that. Now before I start crying myself, let's honour your Mother Moss.'' He cut through the layers of brambles and weeds and began to dig into the soft dark soil. ''Get the boxes into the mail-wagon,'' he ordered curtly, the sweat beading his brow. ''This will only take a few minutes.'' As he dug, the children slowly gathered to watch him at his labour. Fuelled by his fury, the grave was soon excavated and he laid the pathetic remnants of Mother Moss reverently to rest. He climbed out of the grave and turned to the children. ''It's a custom in my world to place a handful of earth or some flowers upon the body and say a few words,'' he said, finding his eyes suddenly filling with tears. They all seemed puzzled at his suggestion so he grabbed a handful of earth and cast it into the grave. ''Mother Moss, I never knew you but you have my word that I will save these children in your memory. Amen.'' Shield grasped the idea quickly and stepped forward. She unstrapped the small triangular shield from her left arm and knelt by the graveside heedless of the nettles and brambles penetrating her worn breeches. She tossed in a handful of earth and wild flowers from the patch. ''Thank you, Mother Moss,'' she wept openly. ''You rescued us from the Tally-men and took away the fear and the hate and made me whole again. Thank you, blessed Mother - I will never forget you or the wisdom that you imparted into me. I will seek out more knowledge and natural lore so that I may become worthy of your love for us.'' One by one the children followed suit with thanks and prayers punctuated by Harold blowing his nose loudly into a large red handkerchief. Finally, Saul added his contribution which to Harold's surprise was a small bible with a gold cross embossed upon the cover. ''I know you did not follow the Scriptures and the words of Jesus,'' he declared. ''But God is God and has no gender or hatred and loves all His children equally. He She will have a place for you in Heaven.'' He stood up and Harold was moved to add 'Amen' before setting to work with the shovel again. After he'd finished, he saw that the sun had vanished behind a bank of gathering cloud and spits of rain were already upon the wind. His stomach was growling, demanding its evening fix of Chinese takeaway. ''We need to find this generator quickly,'' he declared. ''But we may not have time tonight if we're hunting for food as well.'' ''Oh, we have a much more serious problem, Light-Father,'' Saul said grimly as he drew his sword. ''Retreat to the mail-wagon, all of you! Look over there in the shadows between the sheds: a pack of Ferals has scaled the northern wall again!'' ''Shit, Ferals? How many of them are there?'' Harold demanded, hefting his shovel. ''Let's see - I can see about twelve. Let's get this right, Saul - you say these are children, yes?'' ''Do not be fooled - they are not human children, Light-Father,'' Saul said, taking a firm grip on his sword hilt. ''The plague has corrupted their DNA and disfigured them and it is only a miracle that they have survived at all. I've seen Ferals bring down a whole patrol of Tally-men, Light-Father. Feral means Feral - they won't stop until you are dead and then they will eat you. They are not children! If you think that for a second, you're dead.'' ''Have you seen them actually eat people?'' ''Yes,'' Saul shuddered. ''I've seen them biting into the throats and bodies of the Tally-men they'd brought down.'' ''So they're cannibals?'' Saul looked at him with a pained expression. ''They are no longer human, Light-Father. They smeared the blood onto their faces and howled like wolves. I saw flesh hanging from their jaws as they ripped the Tally-men apart.'' ''Jesus! How often do they come?'' ''Very rarely,'' Saul said, shielding his eyes. ''They've only invaded the yard twice before. I can't believe we've had a Tally-man patrol and a pack of Ferals in the same day that you arrived to us, Light-Father. It cannot be a coincidence.'' ''We have to pull back, Saul,'' Shield hissed urgently. ''There are too many of them!'' ''Something's got them excited,'' Harold noted anxiously as they retreated back to the wagon. ''They're actually sniffing at the ground like bloodhounds! Can we bolt the wagon doors?'' ''Yes,'' Saul said, cocking an ear. ''This is strange. Listen to the sounds they're making. They aren't angry for once - they just seem curious. They must have picked up your scent but they don't know what to make of it.'' He looked at the bemused technician with an amused smile. ''I think they know that you're not human or at least that you're not from this world.'' ''You can tell that from those damn noises?'' Saul nodded. ''We've had many years of practice,'' he said wearily. ''Apart from those two nights, they've never attacked us but we've encountered them many times over the years. They attack Tally-men patrols without mercy whenever they get the chance and they could easily do the same to us.'' ''I can't believe those things were once human,'' Harold said in disbelief as he studied the loping and scuttling forms. ''As Saul said, the plague mutated their genetic make up yet it has also enhanced their senses,'' Shield explained as they clambered into the wagon. ''They are much stronger and faster than us. We Saul! They're by the grave of Mother Moss!'' Harold could see them clearly now: twelve small shapes scuttling from cover to inspect the grave. ''Damn it!'' he hissed. ''They're trying to dig her body back up.'' Before he knew it, the anger had taken over and he charged across the rails screaming in fury with the shovel raised above his head and the tools upon his belt clattering as he ran. To his surprise, the Ferals scattered in every direction at an astonishing speed leaving him with fleeting images of brutish deformed faces - only the eyes were still very much human. One Feral however paused to stare intently into his face before haring off. Saul stood next to him as the yammering and screeches faded in the gathering twilight. ''Ha, you do have the soul of a warrior after all,'' he grinned, clapping Harold on the back. ''One of them tried to talk to me,'' Harold said thoughtfully. ''Only he had a muzzle instead of a mouth. I know a little about genetics this virus is unbelievable.'' ''It was well-designed,'' Saul shuddered, sheathing his sword. ''My father grew fangs before his digestive system perforated and my mother's skin became scaly and green before her heart failed. As far as I understand it, the virus activates redundant DNA in our cells and brings out buried evolutionary regressions and some others that aren't natural." ''Like dog-face back there. Dear God, they must be more nano-machines than viruses then and from what I've just seen, what doesn't kill you makes you Feral. This Order makes my blood run cold to actually design something that warps the human body like that and leave only corpses and mutations behind'' ''I will never forgive them, Light-Father!'' Saul said vehemently, clenching a fist. ''Despite that night when I when we lost Eliza and Jacob, I pity the Ferals especially if they remember what it was to be human. Every night I pray that Eliza and Jacob are still alive out there.'' Saul looked at Harold with the pain evident in his eyes. ''I feel in my heart that they're alive and I promise you I will never stop looking for them.'' ''Nor should you,'' Harold agreed. ''The Ferals did not seem evil or bestial to me only curious and really sad. I looked into his eyes, Saul. That was no beast. Anyway, it's almost dark and we need to get some food inside you and these kids - that has to be a priority. You said you haven't eaten for at least two days?'' ''Yes but it's getting hard to forage in the city centre,'' Shield pointed out. ''The stores are empty and the Tally-men patrol.'' ''But you said that there was a housing estate on the other side of the gates. Surely there would be supplies of tinned food in those houses that the Tally-men haven't taken?'' Shield and Saul both stared at the ground. ''Those houses were the homes of the children of Exodus,'' Shield said. ''To enter them would be sacrilege to us because'' ''They're still filled with corpses,'' Harold sighed. ''I understand. Saul and I will go, Shield - you and the others protect the Keep. We only need two to carry back enough food for tonight.'' ''I can fight alongside you,'' she retorted. ''As can I!'' Ibrahim said angrily. ''You cannot favour the Elder to accompany you on such a mission!'' Harold immediately sensed the resentment that Ibrahim felt towards Saul who seemed oblivious to it. ''I favour no-one, son,'' he said firmly. ''As God favours no-one on this earth. You and Shield are the best warriors here, are you not?'' ''Yes, we have both killed Tally-men.'' ''Good, then who better to defend the Keep and carry on should we fail,'' Harold said innocently. ''Instead of losing all of you what do you call yourselves?'' ''Afliemathingas,'' Ibrahim said proudly. ''Ach,'' Harold winced, feeling a trickle of blood in one nostril and a lancing pain ricocheting between his temples. ''The translation isn't working properly. Say it again, Ibrahim.'' ''Scatterlings, Light-Father - we call ourselves Scatterlings for that is what we are: scattered to Fate and the four winds.'' ''That's better - a good name for the tribe,'' Harold approved. ''Your sister is very shy, isn't she? Come on out from behind your brother, Bastet. I don't bite. You are lucky to have such a fine brother to look after you and defend you.'' As Bastet emerged hesitantly, Ibrahim indicated the modern-looking bow almost as tall as she was - strapped to her back and the quiver of arrows. ''She has but fourteen years yet she has killed two Tally-men with her bow. She is a fine archer.'' ''I am called Bas, Light-Father,'' she said, staring at the ground. ''I had no pleasure from killing them but I did not miss.'' ''Good for you. Are you from Egypt?'' Harold asked. ''The designs on your clothes remind me of the Pharaohs especially your pants, Bas, and that jacket, Ibrahim.'' Ibrahim nodded and picked at the jacket. ''It is very worn but a popular style in Egypt honouring our ancient cultures that were all but destroyed by the Nubian and Byzantine Empires.'' ''I see: more history I need to learn. I see Bas has cute false ears like Mouse,'' Harold smiled. He reached out to touch them only to have his hand instantly slapped to one side. ''Do not touch her!'' Ibrahim snarled, his eyes flashing as he drew the downcast girl behind him. ''You must never ever touch her,'' he added, threatening Harold with his axe. ''Light-Father or not, I will kill you if you disrespect her again!'' Harold held his hands up placatingly and backed away. ''You know I did not mean to offend her, son. It's just that she looked as though she needed some reassurance.'' Ibrahim glared at Harold as his sister returned to the mail-wagon in misery, her shoulders sagging. ''She needs no such reassurance,'' he said, slowly lowering the axe and turning away. ''She just needs to be left alone. Be on your guard, Saul,'' he added. Harold removed his cap to scratch at his scalp as Ibrahim and Shield herded the children back into the wagons. ''Wow, that lad is definitely over-protective. Is there something going on between those two that I should know about?'' Saul took him by the arm and led him towards the gates. ''There were Exodus labs in Abydos where they lived and their father, Professor Farzad, was the best geneticist in the East'' ''Farzad sounds like a Persian name'' ''It is but he married an Egyptian scientist and they eventually moved here to the Middle Cities to continue their work.'' ''So what has that got to do with her brother wanting to hack me to pieces like that? I was only going to pat her on the head and have a closer look at those fake ears'' Saul stopped dead to look him in the eye. ''You don't understand,'' he said. ''Their father was valued by the Order. They were fascinated by his early experiments splicing DNA from one species into another and controlling certain aspects of the cross-breeds. He was obsessed by ancient Egyptian myths depicting Anubis and other gods as humans with animal heads.'' ''They were doing that in my world crossing sheep and goats and reviving mammoths using elephants as surrogates'' Harold paused in shock as the penny dropped. ''So are you saying this Professor Farzad was experimenting on splicing animal DNA into humans? That's monstrous!'' ''Indeed. Why do you think Ibrahim is so angry and burns with shame? He is the eldest son of the man who made the Revelation Virus possible!'' Harold felt a shiver run down his spine. ''That Feral had dog or maybe baboon characteristics to its face. Wait, are you saying Bastet was a genetic experiment by her own father?'' Saul nodded grimly. ''Ibrahim slapped your hand away because the ears you wanted to remove from her head were real.'' ------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012
Archived comments for Chapter 05: Bastet
Mikeverdi on 30-04-2016
Chapter 05: Bastet
Still keeping up, still enjoying the story.
Mike

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Chapter 04: Vaccine (posted on: 25-04-16)
Chapter 04 of the Light-Father - Harold bonds with Saul and learns more of the tragedy of Mother Moss

Harold was sitting in an old office chair in between the tracks watching the sun slowly sinking in the west and enjoying the warmth of the sunlight upon his face. He felt inexplicably at peace despite his peculiar situation almost as if someone or something was rewarding him for his acceptance of this strange destiny. He removed his baseball cap to mop at his brow as the evening air was warm and muggy. ''It'll rain again soon,'' he said aloud, gazing up at the clouds. ''No wonder there's so much moss and mildew.'' ''It rains for months at a time, Light-Father,'' Saul said, bringing another chair from the mail-wagon and sitting next to Harold. ''We thank God for the endless rain as it suppresses the Tally-men. In winter, the rain gets heavier and everything floods but Fierce and Ibrahim are wrong - it is not getting colder; it only feels that way. I can remember snow and frost before the plague but there has been none since. I have thermometers in my caravan and year on year the temperature is slowly rising but I do not know why.'' ''I do,'' Harold sighed. ''Without people to maintain them, buildings catch fire, forests burn and the air is filled with green-house gases even with all the cars and industry stopped.'' ''Greenhouse gases? What are they?'' ''Uh? Of course, you've all missed education. Carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and methane act like a blanket in the atmosphere that traps the heat so the global temperature rises.'' ''So it will never snow again?'' ''Yes it will. The rain is washing out the carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide every day. I expect this rain is acidic,'' he said pointing at the decaying engines on the other side of the sheds. ''That's why everything is rusting so quickly. It'll probably take decades before the temperature falls again,'' he shrugged. ''You may even get an ice-age. Who knows?'' ''All I know is that this yard has been under water twice since we've been here. The Redemption Virus has destroyed all the Unworthy in the world yet the sky keeps crying.'' ''Fierce said the same thing earlier. It's a little creepy and reminds me of an old blues song: the sky is crying, can't you see the tears roll down the street. I've been looking for my woman, and I wonder where can she be '' ''That's a strange melody - what is blues?'' ''It's just a style of music in my world, Saul. When we were unhappy or oppressed, we would say we're feeling blue and sing the blues to express our sorrow.'' Saul looked up at the gathering clouds. ''I used to love a blue sky as a child but now I fear it and bless the ceaseless rain. I'm sorry if we upset you by saying the sky is crying but it helps us bear the nightmares much like this blues of yours...'' ''I'm not surprised you kids have nightmares,'' Harold sighed, replacing his cap. ''I can't imagine what it must have been like for a child to live through a plague. It's so quiet here - all I can hear are birds and insects - are you sure there's a city out there?'' ''Yes, Crawcester once housed five hundred thousand souls but at least the air is clean now, praise God.'' ''Please, no more dark humour, Saul - I still need to get my bearings here if I'm going to be of any use. What was it like to live in Crawcester before these lunatics let this plague loose?'' ''It was a beautiful city,'' Saul said simply. ''We lived in a big house not far from the gates. I can still see it if I stand on the roof of my caravan and look over the wall. I'm at peace here because I loved coming into this yard as a child - my uncle worked in the main office over there, where you appeared to us.'' Saul paused and a rare grin lit up his gaunt thin features. ''He used to ask the engine drivers to let me ride on the footplates of the shunting engines as they moved the wagons around the yard. The city was full of smoke and cars and noise back then and this yard was a magical place for me as a small child - I used to boast in school that I had the biggest train set in the whole world.'' ''All those engines over there are steam powered,'' Harold pointed out. ''Did you ever see any diesel trains in this yard?'' ''Diesel? What is diesel?'' ''Sorry, that won't translate, I guess. It's oil that ignites in a combustion chamber when compressed to power an engine.'' ''Yes, heavy fuel,'' Saul nodded. ''We call it athidol and the cars use the light fuel scyfol.'' ''We call it petrol,'' Harold said thoughtfully, rubbing at a temple. ''Seems like whoever or whatever downloaded your language into my skull missed a few things out. Maybe I could get one of those vans to work and we could all drive somewhere.'' ''No, that would be a bad idea, Light-Father. Tally-men watch the roads and any vehicle they see is hunted down by the rotor-craft of the Order. They have powerful guns and some have rockets boom! I saw this happen many times at the start of the plague and they still patrol the main roads between the cities.'' ''I see,'' Harold said, pursing his lips. ''Cute.'' ''So we had no locomotives burning athidol in this country,'' Saul continued. ''There were plans to make electric trains that took power from overhead wires but the Order deemed them to be unsafe and unholy so they slowed down the research and halted the production. The Order were not that strong in the Japanese Empire and the American Confederation so there were many such locomotives in their cities.'' ''Did anyone survive over there?'' ''I doubt it,'' Saul shrugged. ''The Empire and the Confederation were both crippled by civil wars over ten years ago. It was the third war in the Confederation in only twenty years and then millions and millions of Chinese died in the Great Han Uprising.'' he shuddered. ''We studied the massacres at school. Perhaps the world is better off without humans.'' ''There was a third civil war in America?'' Harold exclaimed. ''Don't tell me they never got over no, wait I have no history of this world. Damn it, Saul, I need to learn everything quickly if I'm ever going to survive here and work out a way to get back to my own world.'' ''You said you had little to get back to,'' Saul said bluntly, folding his arms. ''And did not Mother Moss give you your true destiny? I admit your world sounds interesting, Light-Father. At least you haven't had to live through what we have - watching millions and millions die. The smell,'' he said, wrinkling up his nose at the memory. ''I'll never forget those first months we were hiding in this yard. The children were dying all around me and the sky was black with fat crows and flies and the earth crawled with dogs and maggots and endless rats'' ''Ah, there must have been millions of bodies and farm animals lying everywhere unburied.'' ''I buried those of us who died,'' Saul said pointedly. ''They lie under that grass verge over there, alongside the tracks.'' ''You did well, Saul,'' Harold said sympathetically. ''But what happened to all the people working here? Judging by all those cars parked up, a lot of people never made it home. Was the plague that quick? Where are all the bones and bodies?'' ''None died here - the roads and rail-yards were closed to try and stop the spread of the disease but it was too late. You'll need this,'' Saul said, carefully removing a handkerchief from around a thin small box. He opened the lid to reveal a syringe, several needles in sealed wrappers and three small phials of clear green liquid. ''My father gave me these to save others.'' ''I'm guessing that that's a vaccine for this Revelation Virus,'' Harold said suspiciously. ''I expect there are a lot of diseases in this world I might be extremely vulnerable to. So what do I do? Do I inject all three?'' ''Only one,'' Saul said, attaching a needle to the syringe. He slowly pierced the cap of one of the vaccine vials and extracted the contents. ''I was praying that I would be able to save three others with my father's gift something to honour his memory - but after five years of death, I had given up all hope and then you came in that strange light that holy light.'' ''I don't know about holy but I can tell you I'm a little shy of needles,'' Harold confessed, turning away to stare at the great iron gates. ''I don't even give blood though I should do being O negative and ow! Jesus!'' ''Sorry, Light-Father, there is no time to waste when dealing with this plague,'' Saul said firmly, withdrawing the needle from Harold's thigh. ''It will only work if you're clean of the virus. If you're already infected, the vaccine can actually speed up the progress of the disease a small mercy, I suppose. You see, once our parents learnt of the virus, they inoculated the children first but by the time the second batch of vaccine was ready'' ''I know,'' Harold said grimly. ''The Order had made sure they'd already inhaled a version of the virus. Dear God, what gave them the right do this? Hang on, there's one thing I don't quite understand - if a disease is that lethal then it won't spread if it kills all the hosts. In Africa on my world, a whole village would get wiped out by Ebola mutations which then died out along with the victims so how did it spread so fast here?'' ''The Fathers were most thorough,'' Saul replied, rewrapping the syringe box and placing it in a pocket. ''They arranged for the virus to be released in every major city and every major hospital in the world at the same time. The Order was a global medical order and so their people were everywhere. The virus has a ten-day gestation period so the victims would spend ten days with just sneezes and a sore throat that fooled them into thinking it was just a cold so that they kept travelling and infecting everyone. Ten days of air travel was all the Order needed to infect the entire world.'' Harold's eyes widened in horror. ''My God, this Schimrian must be a real piece of work,'' he said, rubbing at his leg. ''To kill billions because of dogma - what a bastard!'' ''As I said he's a good man of the cloth.'' ''Look, if I'm going to stay and help you guys then that dark humour has to go, understand? You've done an amazing job protecting these kids but you can't stay in these rotting wagons and caravans forever. The children are filthy, lice-infested and hungry. They will become ill with other diseases over time.'' ''Don't think I haven't tried,'' Saul said with a wry smile. ''I've scouted for safer places in the city but there are none. We are close to the countryside four chains or so we could hide in the woods if the Tally-men overrun the Keep but there are no sources of food out there to sustain us. The Ferals can hunt but we cannot. We have no choice but to stay here. If we move into the houses beyond the gates, the Tally-men will find us as they search them every day.'' ''But your protector has gone,'' Harold said, indicating the empty tin on the tracks in front of them. ''The Tally-men were terrified of her. What happened when they came too close? How did she teach them that lesson about 'pain'?'' ''They would approach the track and if they stepped on the rails, a flash of lightning would knock them to the ground then she would 'scream' inside their heads so that they would remember who they were and flee in pain and terror, dropping their weapons and thrusting each other out of the way.'' ''Thanks to the lobotomies, they seem pretty stupid,'' Harold observed, scratching at his chin. ''But once they realise she's gone, all the children here will be taken.'' ''But we have you now.'' ''Do I look like a warrior or one of these Wiccans?'' Harold said gently, prodding at his ample waistline. ''I'm sorry but I'm just a humble laboratory technician who smokes and drinks too much for his own good. The last fight I had was when three men attacked me outside a pub called the White Swan over ten years ago. I was just a roadie for the band playing there and I got pummelled I didn't even land a single punch.'' ''Rho-dee for the band?'' Saul inquired. ''What is this?'' ''I guess there's no equivalent here,'' Harold sighed, rubbing at his eyes. ''I carried all the musical equipment in from the van into the pub for the musicians and took the ticket money on the door for the concerts only we called them 'gigs'.'' ''I see,'' Saul smiled. ''I would like to see one of these 'gigs' in one of these 'pubs' some day.'' ''You'd enjoy it but as I said, I'm no hero, Saul.'' ''If that is the case then the Tally-men or the Ferals will take us,'' Saul said bleakly. ''I hope we all die quickly so that we are spared the Great Abbey - I do not wish to become a Tally-man.'' Harold unwrapped a cigar and lit it, inhaling and exhaling luxuriously. ''Never wish for death or disaster, lad, for God always grants your wish. Now, let's get started. There are lights everywhere and a yard this big must have had a backup generator in case of power failures and maybe some batteries that we can charge up and use. Where would they be, Saul? Does this dump have a Tannoy system for example? I could follow the wires back to the main terminals and control panels.'' ''Tan-noy? I know not the word, Light-Father.'' ''A public address system. Loudspeakers powered by electricity. They allow the manager to contact workers on the site.'' ''Loud speakers? Oh, you mean electric-hailers? Yes, they are everywhere. What are you thinking of doing with them?'' ''Back in my world, I've been quite the artist lately,'' Harold smiled, savouring the cigar smoke. ''I've been turning burnt-out and outdated scientific machines into art. What I'm thinking is we could fool these Tally-men with a talking head in that tin powered by electricity and speaking through one of these 'electric-hailers' I prefer loudspeaker, by the way. I could rig up something to charge the track and give them an electric shock. It would buy us some time to find somewhere safer than this yard.'' A light came into Saul's eyes. ''Yes, that might work for a while or at least it wouldn't be any worse than our empty tin.'' ''Ah, sarcasm now,'' Harold chuckled, clapping the youth on the back. ''Have a little faith in the Light-Father, lad. I may not be a warrior but I'm a wizard with machines.'' ''I do have faith, Light-Father Mother Moss must have seen our salvation in you and over the years, I've learnt to trust her judgement without question. So when can we start? We have but two hours before sunset.'' ''Never hurry a Cuban cigar, lad, even a small one. I may not be able to enjoy another one when this packet runs out.'' ''Do as you wish,'' Saul pouted. ''Fill your lungs with smoke!'' ''Petulance is not good either. Don't fret, I'll put it out,'' Harold conceded, snipping the end off the cigar and placing it into the packet. He stood up and put on his utility belt. ''I doubt we'll find servo-motors or anything like that in a rail-yard but I'm sure we'll manage,'' he grinned, gesturing at the nearby offices. ''That's as good a place to start as any. Lead on, MacDuff.'' ''My name is Saul Dis not Mac Duff,'' Saul protested. ''I have no Scottish blood in me.'' ''Where are you going?'' Shield called suspiciously from the mail wagon. ''We need to search for food later, don't forget.'' ''We won't be long,'' Harold promised, leading Saul towards the offices. ''As for MacDuff, it's from a famous play in my world, Saul. I'll tell you all about it later.'' The door to the manager's offices was kicked in and several windows were smashed so there was a lot of rain damage to the floors and desks near those windows but the roof had held. Cobwebs festooned every room and there was the faint and bitter reek of rotten meat. ''We need a large box of paper to mould into a head,'' Harold explained as he went through drawers and filing cabinets. The writing was strange and archaic a mix of Saxon and early English using Roman letters and the odd variation such as a crossed 'd' and a fused 'k-s' for 'x' - but he found he could read most of it. ''I doubt anyone is going to want these invoices and timetables.'' He paused as he saw a family portrait on one of the desks. It was of a man and two small children taken in the yard. ''Poor buggers,'' he said aloud. ''I wonder what happened to them?'' ''That's Uncle Bruno,'' Saul smiled nostalgically. ''That's me and that's my cousin, David.'' ''The young Tally-man from this afternoon?'' ''Yes.'' ''Ah, I see. I'm sorry but you need to take this,'' Harold said as he removed the photo from the frame and tucked it into Saul's inside pocket despite the youth's protestations. ''We won't be able to retrieve it later and trust me you'll regret leaving it behind. I left all my daughter's photos in my flat. I don't have single one to remember her by and that hurts.'' ''I find this too painful, Light-Father,'' Saul said clutching at the pocket as if he had been stabbed. ''My uncle is dead and my cousin has been turned into a monster.'' ''You must remember him as he was a brave young man who did his best to protect everyone and twenty years from now,'' Harold insisted, tapping Saul's jacket pocket. ''That photograph will be a precious keepsake you can share with the children you'll have with Shield.'' ''Shield?'' Saul said angrily, his face flushing. ''I have no such interest in her - she's a sister to me!'' ''She's not your sister and she's a young woman, Saul,'' Harold smiled as he inspected a junction box. ''You may not notice the way she looks at you but to me it's obvious that she loves you very much - even though it's not reciprocated.'' ''That can't be!'' Saul spluttered, reddening. ''It's the same here as in my world - survival is one thing, but survival without love is pointless,'' Harold said bitterly, driving a heavy screwdriver into the damp plaster to expose the wiring. Trust me alcohol and loneliness make for a cold bed.'' ''But I have no interest'' ''Make the interest,'' Harold said curtly. ''My God, the wires are just plastered over,'' he gasped in professional horror. ''There's not even a conduit. What a cheap job! I'm amazed this place didn't burn to the ground.'' He began to tear out the mains wire, popping off all the thin plaster around the skirting boards. ''Take this screwdriver, Saul, expose as much wiring as you can.'' Ten minutes later they had stripped every room and piled the paper, wire, loudspeakers and sockets into the only two serviceable cardboard boxes they could find. ''Okay, let's check out the main office at the end. It's better to have too much than too little.'' ''I'd rather not,'' Saul said, his face paling. ''Why not?'' Harold demanded then the realisation dawned. ''Oh, I see. That was where Mother Moss lived and that's where you said they tortured her to death.'' Saul nodded with tears in his eyes. ''I know I should but I do not have the courage, Light-Father. I I '' ''Don't worry, son, I understand. Stay here and keep watch as the Tally-men could trap us in here if they come back. I'll check it out because I need to find out a little more about this Mother Moss, who she was and how she brought me here.'' The door was swollen in the frame and he had to charge it with his shoulder. It gave way suddenly and he staggered into the large and gloomy office. He went straight to the window that overlooked the wagons and tore down the mouldering blankets to let the last of the sunlight into the place. There was a large desk with several books and a lamp upon it dominating the centre of the office and a stove had been set against the wall with a crude hole cut into the roof for the chimney. Next to the stove was a simple bed with two elegant but faded umbrellas and the black habit of the Motherhood laid out upon the bedspread. He knelt down to look beneath the bed and found several folded black dresses and shawls along with five pairs of practical boots and shoes. He got to his feet as Saul poked his head nervously around the door. ''Light-Father, there's nothing here for you'' ''Stay out there!'' Harold barked as something had caught his eye behind the huge desk. ''Whatever you do, do not come in here! Go and stand guard!'' ''Yes, Light-Father,'' Saul said meekly and retreated hurriedly down the corridor to wait by the main door. Harold sank to his knees in open-mouthed horror and shock. ''Jesus H Christ,'' he groaned. ''This was done by monks?'' He took a deep breath and drew out his cutters to snip away the barbed wire tying the naked and mummified remains of Mother Moss to the chair which had been laid on its side to allow the butchers to hack off her head. The floor was blackened with blood and littered with dozens of improvised instruments of torture taken from the workshops honest tools put to unspeakable deeds. With a white-hot anger boiling in his heart, he wrapped the headless corpse in several blankets and carried it outside past the shocked and trembling youth. ''There's one thing I can promise you, Saul,'' he said through gritted teeth. ''Y-yes, Light-Father,'' Saul stuttered, paling as he stared at the bundle in Harold's arms. ''What is it?'' ''One way or another, Schimrian is going to pay for this!''
Archived comments for Chapter 04: Vaccine
Mikeverdi on 25-04-2016
Chapter 04: Vaccine
Still reading, still enjoying. There are some inconsistencies along with the usual pruning needed. I don't care, I'm enjoying the tale.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike - it seems a little unpruned because there are references back in later chapters. I can't find any inconsistencies so let me know - wood for the trees and all that. Glad you are along for the ride! Mitch


Chapter 03: Fierce Has Thirteen (posted on: 22-04-16)
Harold finds out more about this strange and desolate world and the grotesque Tally-men.

Fierce sat in the open doorway of the mail wagon with her legs dangling over the edge having become bored with the strange conversation between Saul and the Light-Father. She had her full thirteen years today so this was her birthday present to herself: to watch, still full of childish wonder, as a large flock of pigeons circled this way and that above the yard. She sighed heavily as she gazed up at the grey sky and retied several of the rag strips in her matted hair. The drizzle had beaded everything including her eyelashes with drops of moisture but there was now a rare brightness to the western sky where the sun was trying to break through the clouds. She detested dry weather of any kind for that was when the Tally-men were at their most dangerous; breaking from their routine patrols to carry out sudden and unexpected sorties into the yard and across the city. ''Happy Birthday, Fierce,'' Harold said as he sat awkwardly next to her. She wrinkled up her nose at the smell of oil, spirits and cigar-smoke still clinging to his peculiar clothes. ''Saul has just introduced me to all the children and you're the last. Your sisters won't tell me your real name so Fierce will have to do even though you don't look all that fierce to me.'' ''Fierce is good,'' she said simply and he blinked to find a sharp knife at his throat and the point of a thin sword pricking at the gap between two of his ribs. She returned them to their sheaths in two fluid motions then pointed up at a small speck circling high above the pigeons. ''See? I am as fierce as that kestrel. Now,'' she whispered hungrily, craning her head forward. ''Kill!'' They watched the kestrel suddenly stoop and dive into the panicking pigeons. Predator and prey tumbled through the air in the fatal timeless embrace of the hunt before the kestrel righted itself with powerful wing-beats to bear its prize away. The panic-stricken flock quickly reformed and headed westwards. Fierce wiped at a tear trickling down her grimy cheek. ''They cannot speak but they must be sad,'' she said quietly. Harold thought his heart would break despite the shock of being threatened so casually by such a young girl. ''Birds are practical creatures with small brains,'' he said kindly. ''They're probably glad it wasn't them but they know as long as the flock survives, one casualty will not make much of a difference to the species.'' ''I suppose so,'' she shrugged. ''But surely it is better to be predator than prey, is it not?'' He knew that the three sisters had somehow survived in the city for almost two years but not even eleven-year-old Mouse would say what had happened to them except to say that they'd been rescued from the Tally-men by Mother Moss and brought here. ''I wouldn't know,'' he said after a thoughtful silence. ''Come inside by the stove, Fierce - you're drenched - you'll catch a cold.'' ''No. I'm used to the rain but tell me: when I die, Light-Father,'' she said, screwing up her face in disgust at the increasing daylight. ''Will the sky cry for me? Will it miss me?'' ''I think your sisters would,'' he said gruffly to hide his feelings. ''Tell me, what happened to the three of you out there?'' She shook her head, her eyes haunted. ''I remember a party,'' she said wistfully. ''The year before the great plague when I had my six years, there was this wonderful party in the garden with grilled meats for the adults who drank mead and beer and sang funny songs to me. There was a play-tent for us children. I remember how hot the sun was then it's rained since everyone died. It's getting colder every year but if it ever starts to snow, Ibrahim says it will go on forever.'' She looked down at her feet. ''Am I bad person, Light-Father? I can remember the presents and Mouse eating so much that she was sick and Shield, being the eldest, scolding her but I can't remember the faces of our parents.'' ''I'm no psychologist, Fierce,'' he said, undoing his utility belt. ''Ah, that's better! But if you were attacked by the Order and they killed your parents and you lived on the run for two years, all these shocks will blank everything out including their faces but, trust me, they will return to you in time. I think you three sisters have something that we call post-traumatic stress. Many soldiers where I come from suffered from this for years after the wars were over: they'd have nightmares; their moods would change suddenly and they would become very violent.'' ''I see so we're all soldiers,'' she said simply, edging closer to him. ''So will you be leaving us now?'' ''I don't think I can, Fierce,'' he said, scratching at his cheek as his sideburns were itching in the humid warmth. ''I'm either in a mental institution or I'm in a parallel reality - this isn't my world or even my language so I guess I'll have to stay with you until I can figure out how Mother Moss brought me here.'' ''But if you aren't from Heaven, you cannot be from another world, Light-Father, for you speak like a Middle-City man,'' she retorted as she studied the treacherously thinning clouds. ''I'm not from this world Fierce. I don't even know how I can speak and understand your language - I think it was programmed into me like a computer which is why I have this damn headache. I haven't got a clue how she did that because there are no Wiccans like her in my world,'' he admitted with a wry smile. ''Oh, we do have Wiccans but they're all sad old bats who think dancing naked around a black candle is a cure for cancer. If I hadn't seen that hell-light before with my own eyes, I would have taken all this with a pinch of salt,'' he said sweeping a hand across the rail-yard and the ranks of rotting cars and vans. ''What do you mean by a hell-light?'' she said, drawing her knees up and resting her chin upon them. ''I think you are teasing me about coming from another world. It is not possible. You must have come from Heaven if Mother Moss brought you to us.'' He sighed and rubbed at his eyes wearily. ''Trust me, I haven't come from Heaven, Fierce, but another world much like this one with its own wars and disasters,'' he shrugged. ''Some of our scientists believe that millions and millions of realities exist side by side and obviously they were right because here I am. I was very lonely there because all I do all day is fix machines in a workshop. I only go home to my empty flat if I can get drunk enough to fall asleep quickly. I have no family left.'' ''Huh? Do you not have children, Light-Father?'' His hands clenched until the knuckles were white and he drew a deep shuddering breath. ''I had a little daughter called Naomi but she died in her cot. She was she had nine months when it happened. We woke up one morning and there she was - my beautiful angel - looking as though she was just fast asleep with a smile on her sweet face. My wife, Andrea, picked her up but then she screamed because Naomi was as cold as ice'' ''I see,'' Fierce said quietly. ''Your wife was not strong so she blamed you for the death and not herself or Fate for allowing the child to stop breathing in the night. You are better off without her. Maybe this is why Mother Moss brought you to us.'' ''She said as much,'' he sighed, shaking his head. ''Apparently, she wants me to save you all so that I can forget about Naomi and Andrea. It's my destiny she said. I'' ''Shhh!'' she hissed, clamping a hand on his leg. She reached down to unsheathe her wicked-looking hunting knife and rapped the hilt on the doorframe three times. ''They're here!'' ''Who the hell is h?'' he said before Shield came up behind him and clamped a filthy hand across his mouth. He almost gagged as all the children stank and the sweat from her sudden fear made Sheild's stench unbearable. He noticed a long knife in her other hand and he could hear the younger children were all busy extinguishing the stove and the candles. ''Be quiet and get out of sight, Light-Father,'' she whispered into his ear. ''May Lucifer burn me for this - it was my turn to keep watch behind the gates. On the far side of the cars by the last engine shed over there can you see them?'' Harold got up and retreated into the dark as Fierce drew her sword. He shielded his eyes and gazed in the direction Shield was pointing. ''I see them. I take it that those are Tally-men?'' ''Yes! I want to kill them!'' Fierce hissed but Shield grabbed her by the collar and dragged her bodily away from the door. Harold watched as five large men flitted from cover to cover one after the other. They wore long black hooded leather greatcoats over their black clothes and boots. Saul tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a small pair of field-glasses so that he could see that the Tally-men were all bald and carried fearsome-looking spears - long jet-black staffs with a blade at one end and a spike at the other. A sudden beam of bright sunlight bathed them and reflected off something metallic attached to their skulls just before they were lost to sight behind the engine-sheds. ''Will they approach these wagons?'' he whispered anxiously. ''Yes,'' Shield whispered back. ''Saul will lay the tin on the tracks in front of us and we will close the door so that they can't see us. They opened the tin the first time but Mother Moss taught them a lesson. They're not intelligent but they always remember the pain she gave them - they're terrified of her.'' ''I hope this still works,'' Saul said as he jumped down onto the tracks to place the black tin ten metres in front of the wagon. He climbed back up to snuff out the last candle and check that the fire was out as Shield slowly closed the sliding door behind him. ''Even though they come at different times when it's dry, they always follow the same patrol route that the Fathers gave them,'' Fierce explained, getting to her feet and glaring at her sister. ''They've already checked the site office on the other side of the gates, they'll walk through the four repair sheds and the stores then they'll check the forges and the smithy and finally they check the offices where you appeared.'' ''Then they walk along the path on the other side of these sidings and back through the gate,'' Shield added. ''They know we're here but it's best if they don't see us or hear us.'' ''Why do they go away?'' he asked. ''Surely they would have seen the stove-smoke from the other side of the wall?'' ''Yes, they do,'' she said. ''But they never show any initiative to investigate because they are not made that way. All they are told to do is capture plague survivors and take them to the Great Abbey. They're still very dangerous which is why we close the wagon door and wait in the dark they only take fifteen minutes to circle the sheds and offices and then they head on into the city.'' ''What do you mean by 'not made that way'?'' he demanded irritably. He felt claustrophobic in the fetid dark, the choking smell made worse by the heat and the terror coursing through twelve unwashed bodies. He noted every child was holding a weapon in their hands and some had two. ''Are these guys zombies?'' He could see Shield frown as she peered through one of the knot-holes in the door. ''Zom-bees?'' she said. ''I know not this word. No, they are merely the Unworthy. As Light-Father you should know that they are the failed novices and prisoners of the Order who have been made into Tally-Men. They have certain parts of their brains removed so that they will obey the instructions the Fathers give them through their Guides.'' ''What do you mean by Guides, Shield? I didn't see anyone guiding them out there.'' ''No, the Guides are metal devices,'' Saul said quietly as he too came to the door a thin shaft of light illuminating part of his face. ''They are driven into their skulls. It's why they hate the rain even with their hoods up, the Guides hiss and crackle and cause them agony when they get wet. Now be quiet, Light-Father they're outside. I pray they don't realise Mother Moss is gone.'' Harold peered through the remaining spy-hole as one of the younger children whimpered in terror behind him. The five Tally-men had finished their rounds, their black leather coats flapping in the rising breeze as they strode along the path towards the gates. They were in single-file and his heart missed a beat as they stopped suddenly at an unspoken command and turned as one to face the wagon. They were only twenty metres away and he could see that all five men were expressionless and in the centre of their foreheads and on each temple were the Guides, glinting in the late afternoon sunlight now streaming across the yard. The five Tally-men readied their weapons and stepped across the unkempt grass and weeds until they halted at the empty siding tracks. Harold watched in morbid fascination as their eyes fixed upon the tin and they began a most peculiar dance walking forward one after another only to double over suddenly, their heads thrust forwards to utter wordless howls of fear and loathing before retreating backwards to the path. The youngest of the five was the most animated and the sounds he made were deeply disturbing almost screams of anguish and loss. This went on for about ten minutes as the younger children cowered in sheer terror in the dark with their hands pressed over their ears. Then suddenly it stopped and the Tally-men formed up into a single line to march through the gates without a backward glance. Saul turned to the others. ''Be at peace,'' he declared, opening the door to let the welcome light flood in. Three children remained huddled up on the floor and were crying, their tears leaving clear tracks down their filthy cheeks. ''Shhh! They're gone for today. Go to your caravans and rest, all of you. We've not eaten for two days so we must search for food as soon as it's dark.'' ''I don't want to,'' Mouse protested as she ran into Shield's protective embrace. ''That's when the Tally-men get us!'' ''We haven't lost anyone for a long time, Mouse,'' Saul assured her, sheathing his knife. ''Not since I've been Elder and now we have the Light-Father with us.'' ''I'll come with you,'' Harold said, gazing thoughtfully at the huge metal gates. ''Where do you get the food from?'' ''We go to where the big shops are,'' Saul said, pointing to the piles of metal scrap on the other side of the gates. ''We hide the tins in there so that the Fathers and the Tally-men do not see them.'' ''Aren't the shops and stores of food watched? You can't take all these children foraging into the city with you after dark,'' Harold protested. ''Surely it would be safer to leave them here?'' ''My cousin, David, was Elder,'' Saul said, shaking his head. ''But shortly after Mother Moss died, we left the youngest here in one of the caravans while we went searching for food. They were attacked by Ferals and David's brother and sister, Eliza and Jacob, were taken but we do not know what happened to them.'' ''Ah I'm sorry but what are 'Ferals' and why does that word sound so strange?'' Harold muttered, rubbing at his brow. The pain vanished and he smiled down at the children who were filing out to their caravans and touching his overalls for luck on the way out. One of them handed him his utility belt. ''Thank you, Amos. Okay, Saul, what are Ferals? Are they dogs? I assume all the cats and dogs have gone wild since the plague.'' ''We still have packs of wild dogs but they are not as dangerous as the Ferals,'' Saul said grimly. ''Ferals are children who survived the plague but the Fathers and the Brothers ignore them as they are genetically damaged. They don't even bother killing them as they consider them to be nothing more than animals.'' ''So where is your cousin now?'' ''David never forgave himself and he searched for his missing siblings night and day but one day in February, he was returning from the woods when he was captured by the Tally-men.'' ''Then what happened to him? What does the Order do to the people that they capture? Ah, I take it that they would consider him to be one of the 'Unworthy' then?'' ''Yes. Do you remember the youngest of the Tally-men?'' ''You mean the strange one that was really howling?'' ''That was David.'' (c) Paul D. E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Chapter 03: Fierce Has Thirteen
Mikeverdi on 25-04-2016
Chapter 03: Fierce Has Thirteen
WOW 😀😀😀 This is building into a great story. On to the next episode.

Mike
Ps. I know Kestrels, they are small birds that hunt small mammals and insects. May need to change to hawk or falcon.

Author's Reply:


Chapter 02: Mother Moss (posted on: 18-04-16)
Second Chapter of Light-Father where our reluctant hero awakes in a parallel world and makes a grim discovery.

A warm but incessant rain pricked at the back of his neck as consciousness slowly returned and he realised he was not in bed but lying face down on wet tarmac with his tools and utility belt digging painfully into his chest and stomach. Worse still was the lancing pain ricocheting from temple to temple. ''Damn it!'' he gasped, clutching at his head. ''Some bastard must've mugged me as I left the workshop. Help!'' he cried out. ''Someone help me!'' There was no reply - in fact, there was no sound at all not even the sound of distant city traffic so he forced open his eyes. 'Wait,' he thought. 'I can still taste the whisky in my mouth! I'm outside in the rain but I'm not soaked through so I can't have been out for long so why is it now the middle of the day?' He forced himself up onto his knees and in small pools of water around him, diamond-bright sparks of light were glittering and fading. He lifted his red baseball cap and probed gingerly at his skull but it felt intact and he could feel no bruises to his body. His wallet was still in one of the enormous pockets of his overalls and the tool-belt was still strapped to his waist so that definitely ruled out the mugging theory. He sniffed at the air which was unusually fresh and free from the fumes and odours of the city. He stood up slowly and tried to get his bearings despite powerful waves of nausea. ''I'm not on the campus but I can't be out in the country,'' he declared aloud. ''So where on God's sweet Earth am I? Hey! Is anybody there?'' he yelled then he realised that the words coming out of his mouth didn't sound right! As he focused on the words the pain in his temples became excruciating and a trickle of blood flowed from his nose. 'What the hell's wrong with me?' he thought, wiping his nose and staring at the blood on his hand. 'Am I having a stroke?' He stared up at the featureless overcast sky above him, the light rain pattering upon his upturned face it was murky but it was definitely daylight! His vision slowly cleared and he could see he was in a vast deserted rail-yard dotted with the corroding hulks of locomotives, wagons and carriages, neglected office buildings, massive repair sheds and what looked like a foundry with tall blackened chimneys. The yard was surrounded by a three metre high wall made of black-painted iron panels and in front of him there were three mouldering railway wagons parked on the middle of five parallel sidings that all ran to buffers by the iron-clad yard gates. The wagons had obviously been there for some time as only a few gaudy flecks of colour peeked through the rust, mildew and ivy. The extensive car park to his right was filled with cars and vans of unfamiliar designs and despite the ravages of time and weather with climbing plants creeping across the bodywork, they looked as though they were merely waiting for the railway staff to drive them home. ''What's going on?'' he muttered, rubbing at his eyes. ''Where the hell am I? There's nowhere like this in Britain!'' Scattered in a huge circle about him there were blackened fragments of metal and rubble from the vending-machine and other twisted pieces of wood and metal from his workshop including one neatly-sliced half of a spectrometer. Steam still rose from the larger pieces. ''Oh, yeah, I remember now,'' he said aloud. ''I was in the workshop when that plug started moving by itself then there was that light and now I'm in the middle of nowhere. I get it! That hell-light came back for me!'' An inner voice added sombrely: 'If that's the case then you should be grateful you're still alive.' From a rudimentary chimney on the roof of the middle wagon, he spotted a thin column of greasy smoke smearing upwards through the falling rain and his sprits rose - at least there would be someone there who could answer his questions and maybe give him a lift back to the university. Acting on a sudden inspiration, he fumbled in one of his pockets and produced his mobile only to find there was no signal. ''Why am I not surprised?'' he muttered, thrusting the phone back into his pocket in disgust. A movement caught his eye and he saw twelve scarecrow figures dressed in worn, stained clothes climb down from the doorways of the wagons and move slowly towards him. He realised that they were children between the ages of six and eighteen or so but their genders were all but obscured by matted hair, filth and malnutrition. He was about to relax when he saw that every one of them was armed with knives and other weapons. ''Okay, now this is officially getting weird,'' he said warily. He extracted a thin cigar from a packet in his breast-pocket and lit it after deliberately holding the lighter-flame to a thumb to prove that he wasn't dreaming. The pain and the smoke filling his lungs convinced him that this was real as were the children encircling him in an unnerving and respectful silence. ''Excuse me,'' he said patiently. ''Is there a phone here I can use?'' Finally a young girl with long black braided hair and a hair band with black mouse-ears attached to it worked up the nerve to tug at his sleeve. ''We saw you come in the holy light, Light-Father,'' she said timidly, pointing at the ring of smouldering debris. ''We kept the faith but the Fathers and the Tally-men have taken so many of us. We tried to stop them but they were too strong. Please don't be angry with Mouse! Please!'' ''Light-Father, forgive us,'' the others said in unison and knelt reverently about the speechless technician, reaching out to touch his work-stained overalls. ''Light-Father, forgive us!'' they cried again in reed-thin hungry voices. ''Light-Father, forgive us!'' He inhaled deeply on his cigar as he studied these bizarrely-dressed children, deeply relieved that they hadn't drawn their weapons. Finally, he raised a hand. ''That's enough!'' he said sharply. 'Me? A father? What a joke!' he thought savagely, remembering how he had awoken one morning to find his little Naomi lifeless and his wife staring at him he groaned at the memory still raw and painful and put his hand across his eyes. The tallest of the children, a thin-faced youth bearing a scar to his chin and a long mane of black matted hair, looked puzzled: ''Why are you in torment, Light-Father? Why should you, a Saviour sent to us by God, suffer like this?'' he asked. ''Are you injured? Have you been fighting demons?'' ''In a way I have,'' Harold sighed, noting the sword strapped to the youth's back. ''Look, get up all of you! I've got to get back to the university. What's your name, son? Where am I? Is there a phone in this dump and what the hell is wrong with my hearing?'' He was completely baffled by the fact that these children were clearly speaking a strange dialect but he was somehow interpreting the words as English - his mind had registered the word 'torment' but his ears had heard the word 'acquillence'. The word orders weren't quite right either reminding him of the Old English he'd studied once. As he thought about how their lips didn't quite synchronise with what his ears received, that peculiar debilitating pain became worse - almost a warning - and he put a hand to his face to discover that his nose was bleeding again. ''I am Saul. Saul Dis,'' the tall teenager announced. ''There are no telephones working and this is Crawcester, the second greatest of the Middle Cities. I have nineteen years, the eldest, but we have no parents - until the holy light brought you to us, that is.'' ''My name is Harold, Saul, I'm a technician not a bloody Light-Father whatever that is'' he stopped when he saw the hope and adoration in the eyes of the children pressed up against him. His clothes were getting damp and he was strangely exhausted. ''I need to get out of this damned rain and think. I need to find out what that damned hell-light did to me and how I can get back home. I should be in work! Saul? Is there anywhere we can talk? Can we use those office buildings over there?'' Saul looked terrified. ''Saint Peter! No, we cannot, Light-Father! The Tally-men take anybody they find in there - which is why we hide in our caravans and only look for food at twilight. We gather and talk by the stove in the mail-wagon. The rain is the only time we can ever get warm - the Tally-men don't like the rain.'' ''My name is Fierce and heavy rain is our friend,'' one of the children, a tall, young girl with a matted mane of blond hair tied back with colourful scraps of cloth, told him gravely. ''It makes us cold and wet but it keeps the Tally-men away. We can sleep when it rains.'' He shuddered a little for she had the most haunted eyes he had ever seen and before he could help himself, he had patted her cheek tenderly for had his little daughter survived, she might have looked like this grim waif. ''Crawcester? Where the hell is that?'' he demanded of Saul. ''I've never heard of a town called Crawcester. Cirencester, Worcester maybe but not Crawcester.'' ''As Elder Saul said, it's the second greatest of the Middle Cities. Because it is so big, we have been able to survive here,'' a tall Arabic youth said grimly. Despite the two-headed axe in his hands, there was doubt and fear in his voice. ''Surely, Light-Father, if you are truly sent by God, you would know this?'' ''I was not sent by God. Let's get out of this damn rain first,'' Harold said. ''Is there any shelter other than those wagons?'' ''Only our Keep behind them is safe,'' Saul said. ''Come.'' Harold reluctantly followed him across the rails. Through the barbed wire jammed into the gaps under the wagons, he glimpsed camouflaged caravans that were all but invisible in the gloom between the wagons and the boundary wall with its black paint peeling from the rust. The open gate served to hide the caravans from the entrance and a lorry trailer jammed between the third wagon and the wall completed their rectangular 'Keep.' Inside the musty mail-wagon, he sat down gratefully on an old rusting office chair by the largest of the four filthy tables. He finished his cigar in silence as the other children sat themselves on boxes and chairs as close to him as they could. Without a word, a bald, shy girl of nine took a small brand from the ancient stove in the far corner and reverently lit some candles. They were obviously precious and only used because it was such a special occasion yet their light made the interior only a fraction less depressing. Saul went to the far end of the wagon and collected a large black tin from a small table which was covered with wilted flowers and drawings and placed it on the table in front of Harold with a great show of reverence but the smell that assailed his nostrils warned him that this wasn't lunch. ''What is it?'' he asked dubiously. Saul smiled and carefully removed the lid. ''This is why the Tally-men leave us alone.'' Harold recoiled in horror at the sight of the partly-mummified head of an old white-haired woman who had obviously died in great agony. ''What the holy hell are you kids doing in a rail-yard with a severed human head?'' he demanded hoarsely, jumping to his feet. He snatched the lid from Saul and replaced it quickly. ''What are your parents thinking letting you play in a rail-yard unsupervised? What is going on here? Are you runaways?'' Saul sighed and carried the tin back to the improvised altar. ''Our parents are all dead,'' he explained on his return. ''Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't realise,'' Harold said, sitting back down. ''Why aren't you in foster care or an orphanage then? Why are you all living in this yard - with a severed head in a tin?'' Saul sat opposite Harold and placed his sword on the table. ''Our parents were killed, Light-Father,'' he said bitterly. ''There are no orphanages. Ibrahim is right,'' he added in bitter disappointment, indicating the grim youth with the axe. ''You cannot be from God yet Mother Moss foretold of your coming and said you were our Light-Father! I am confused why would she lie to us?'' ''I am not an angel, Saul, just a technician. Tell me what's going on here! Why is there a severed head in that tin?'' Saul took a deep breath and looked at the others before replying. ''Our parents worked for Exodus Industries which was owned by the Order of Christ the Healer. They were making vaccines for Africa and Asia but six years ago, they found out that the Order had made something they called the Virus of Revelation in the Exodus laboratories at the Great Abbey. They said it was a cure for cancer but our parents weren't fooled; they discovered that it was designed to rewrite the DNA of the host. They tried to raise the alarm but in vain: the whole world revered the doctors and nurses of the Order as they had cured diseases for centuries so they did not believe them capable of such great evil. In desperation, our parents stole samples of the virus to make a vaccine and injected everyone they could but the vaccine didn't work on most people...'' ''My God, why not?'' Saul looked haggard as he remembered the macabre scenes he'd witnessed. ''The Order found out about the theft and the warnings,'' he said, clenching a fist. ''So they laced the Exodus buildings with a less contagious version of the virus. It was still lethal but the symptoms took longer to manifest so many working at Exodus had already passed on the virus to their families before the Order unleashed their Plague of Revelation...'' Harold shook his head in disbelief. ''So what happened next? How did you end up here?'' ''Millions died within the first two weeks and law and order broke down. Our parents learned that the Order had emerged from their abbeys and monasteries and were openly killing survivors so they brought down the caravans, painted them black then placed them behind the wagons. My uncle wedged the gates open before breaking the hinges to complete our Keep'' ''Then what?'' Harold prompted. Saul stared at him for a moment. ''Then they died.'' ''Not all of us were here at first, Light-Father,'' a girl sat next to Saul added. Harold saw that she was as tall as Saul and athletic with her long blond hair tied back in the same manner as Fierce and guessed that they must be related. She had two knives in sheaths at her waist and a high-tech crossbow on the table in front of her. She tapped a small triangular shield with rounded points strapped to her left arm. ''I am Shield sister to Fierce and Mouse. Many parents lived in other parts of the city so those of us who survived had to fend for ourselves during the plague many of us died'' ''As did many of the children here'' Saul said angrily. ''I tried my best, Light-Father, but there was no saving them'' ''A religious order deliberately creating a plague? It must have been hell - I can't imagine what you and your sisters went through, Shield,'' Harold exclaimed. ''But before we go any further, Saul, I want you to tell me whose head is in that tin over there.'' ''Mother Moss,'' Saul whispered, glancing at the tin. ''She was a powerful craft-user who rescued Shield and five others from the Order and brought them here. Then Great-Abbot Schimrian himself came as he delights in hunting those of the craft...'' ''Great-Abbot Schimrian? Is that the name of the lunatic in charge of this so-called 'Order of Christ the Healer'?'' ''Yes, a good man of the cloth,'' Saul replied without a hint of irony. ''Mother Moss was a Wiccan and Wiccans are the ancient enemies of the Order. She came to us four years ago and lived in the offices as there was no room in the caravans and she did not care to live in the wagons. She would fight off the Tally-men with her magic and incantations but then Great-Abbot Schimrian and the Fathers came at Christ Mass Day and Inquired of her.'' Saul turned away to hide his tears of shame. ''She could not defeat them because they were armoured against the craft. He knew we were hiding in this wagon as they tortured her all night long in the offices. We could hear her begging them for death.'' Beneath the dirt, Harold could see the youth's face was white with the horror of it. ''She screamed and she screamed while they kept laughing and asking her the same questions over and over again. We wanted to fight them'' Shield placed a hand on Saul's arm as he fought back tears. ''She told us that they would come for her and that we had to hide in this wagon,'' she said. ''It was the only time that she was ever angry with us. She said that if we tried to save her the Fathers and the Tally-men would kill us all'' ''So we just sat here and covered our ears and cried,'' Saul sighed, staring down at the table. ''Then, when the morning-light crept into the sky and the screaming stopped, Great-Abbot Schimrian came over to leave the tin by the door.'' He shuddered and began to weep openly. ''He said that she could stay to look after us until his Fathers returned to Redeem us but something has happened and only the Tally-men come on their patrols as they did before. We leave the tin outside whenever they enter the yard and they leave us alone.'' Harold was about to speak but the lid clattered onto the floor and a shaft of brilliant white light erupted from the black tin. The children cowered by the door but he was drawn against his will to look inside. He thought his heart would stop as those dead eyes slowly opened and the dead mouth of Mother Moss formed words that he could hear inside his mind: 'I saved you from the Light of Azrael and the Shadow of the Fallen One and brought you here,' the voice within him whispered enigmatically. 'The Order of Christ the Healer has all but emptied this world of human life as the Fathers and their Tally-men seek out and 'redeem' the last of the impure before their shallow and ruinous Eden can begin.' ''But why me?'' 'I felt your pain when your child died a thousand worlds away, Light-Father; I heard your heart break across a thousand veils. I have given you this destiny in the hope that you will one day forgive yourself for the death of your precious child by saving these children. We have fought this Order for centuries for we knew this Plague of Revelation would come to pass and in doing so we have incurred the wrath of their God - as you can see, He has punished me mightily for my sins...' ''Why? What do you mean by the Light of Azrael and the Fallen One? This is a parallel reality, isn't it?'' he demanded, tearing his eyes away from that dreadful sight as Saul joined him. ''Tell me - where the hell am I?'' 'You are exactly where you need to be. Save my children, please, I beg you, or all my suffering will have been for nothing...' The telepathic 'voice' faded but the light flared, near-blinding them with its intensity. When Harold and Saul opened their eyes and peered into the tin, they saw that it was empty but for a death's-head moth that fluttered past their faces and out into the rain. Saul collapsed into a chair and sobbed bitterly into his hands and as Harold comforted him, he understood that somehow, this softly-spoken teenager had kept all these children alive against unspeakable odds. He looked into their eager expectant eyes and, for a while a least, the questions died upon his lips. (c) 2012 Paul D. E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Chapter 02: Mother Moss
Mikeverdi on 25-04-2016
Chapter 02: Mother Moss
Mate, sorry to be way behind with my reading. Been a bit shit of late with the Chemo. I'm really enjoying this story, I can see it as a film/tv survival program. I could always say it needs a prune and edit, but hell you know that anyway. All our stuff does. I will read on now and try and catch up. Don't be dispirited by the lack of comments, the site (along with others) is in the doldrums at the moment. It's no reflection on your writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chapter 01: Hell Light (posted on: 15-04-16)
First Chapter in the Book - The Light Father

Chapter 01: Hell-Light ================== ''But this is impossible,'' Professor Harriet Ramos exclaimed in disbelief. ''This defies conventional physics!'' Harold Norman Porter, the most experienced maintenance technician in the university, shrugged. ''What can I say?'' he said, patting the front of the wrecked vending-machine with a calloused hand. ''The evidence is right here. Don't worry, you won't be the first to shake your head and walk away.'' ''No, Mister Porter,'' she assured him curtly. ''I would not walk away from something as exciting as this. I just wish I'd known about it sooner, that's all. Why was this kept quiet?'' ''Don't blame me,'' he said defensively, reaching into his oil-stained overalls to scratch at an itch. ''It happened five years ago well before you arrived to start work on the Cynet project with Doctor Smith. The university hushed it up - they didn't want the funders to find out that he'd been dabbling in the paranormal. The university would've been a laughing stock so they forced him to sign a gagging clause and work on the Cynet project.'' ''Well, he is a genius in neurochemistry and computing,'' she pointed out. ''His research into dream states was invaluable in developing our new neural interface biochips but.'' ''But how could his dream research possibly destroy a lab?'' he smiled. ''Oh, he got asked that a lot. In the end, the Chancellor issued a statement saying there'd been a gas explosion and told his students to keep their mouths shut or kiss their degrees goodbye. If it wasn't for Cynet, he would be out of a job right now.'' ''I can't believe what happened was his fault.'' ''They tried to blame the maintenance department,'' he said angrily. ''But the walls, doors and ceiling were warped, equipment and desks were twisted into weird shapes and that vending machine vanished from the rest room next to the lab then reappeared thirty metres away buried into a wall. Some of the students reckoned it was shoved into a higher dimension for a micro-second.'' She looked up in irritation as he went to the back of the machine - with his overall pockets stuffed with devices of every size and description and a large utility belt hung around his ample waist, he clattered as he walked. ''He tried to explain what happened,'' she admitted grudgingly. ''I told him I needed some solid proof so he sent me to see you. See this melted brick? Immense heat must have been generated when the brick-work fused with the casing.'' ''They're not melted or fused together, Professor. This machine was superimposed onto the brickwork. I'm no physicist but I think those students were on the mark - it took me and two building maintenance workers a whole day to hack it out after we discovered that we couldn't separate the brick from the metal.'' She knelt down to inspect a small plaque at the front of the base on which the vending machine was now mounted. She read aloud the inscription: ''Fusion 12 - First Prize. Surrealist Sculpture. Arts Council of Wales. Really, Mister Porter,'' she chided gently. ''I prefer Harold,'' he replied unabashed. ''We were told to rebuild the wall, hide this thing in here and keep quiet. Recently, I realised its artistic potential and unearthed it.'' He paused to help her back to her feet. ''I took some samples where the metal superimposes onto the brickwork but the guys in the chemistry labs told me that the results didn't make any sense. They said that the samples were contaminated and highly radioactive.'' ''Radioactively contaminated? Are you serious?'' ''It's not dangerous now,'' he qualified quickly. ''I didn't put anybody at risk when I entered it into the competition.'' He swept an arm expansively at the rear of the workshop - nestling amongst all the heating units and other machines being serviced were dozens of similar 'contemporary sculptures' of varying sizes. ''These would have all been thrown out for scrap,'' he declared proudly. ''So I'm recycling them and getting commissions.'' ''Ah, Harriet, they said you would be here,'' Professor Charles Henderson said, making them both jump - his approach had been masked by the drone of the huge air-conditioning units at the far end of the cavernous workshop. Harold detested the immaculately-dressed faculty director and the loathing was mutual but Henderson couldn't sack him as his technical skills were second to none. Every successful experiment in the university owed that success to him and him alone but the director still tried to catch him out when he could. ''Ah, Charles,'' he said sarcastically. ''What can I do for you? I'm off duty right now but I would be delighted to change a light bulb for you.'' ''We are not on first name terms,'' Henderson snapped. ''Kindly address me as Director or Professor. Both are acceptable.'' In the awkward silence that followed, Ramos picked self-consciously at the buttons of her plain blouse until Harold felt like shaking her for allowing Henderson to intimidate her. Henderson sighed and shook his head disapprovingly. ''So this prize-winning 'sculpture' of yours is actually Doctor Smith's infamous vending machine, is it? Hmm, one can see why this and all his other indiscretions were hushed up.'' Interpreting the raised eyebrow correctly, Harold went to the bank of dimmer switches and raised the lighting level. Henderson found the damaged machine intriguing and dabbed absently at beads of sweat on his brow with a handkerchief - the roller doors of the workshop delivery bay were wide open but it was stiflingly hot inside and made warmer still by the air-conditioning units. Harold seated himself on a wooden stool to watch the two mystified scientists and was glad he'd stayed on after work to tease at a few more 'sculptures'. He unearthed a bottle of whisky from the drawer of a nearby workbench and poured himself a small glass while his two visitors continued to poke and prod at the machine, pausing now and then to discuss some minor detail. The front of the vending machine appeared normal but behind the wall intrusion, chunks of metal were missing from the back yet there were no scorch or tool marks - the metal had been cut cleanly without any distortion. He savoured the puzzled look on their faces as they probed at the bricks and plaster inside the machine. ''Here, Professor Ramos, I'll show you the current radiation levels,'' he offered, grabbing a Geiger counter and two printed sheets from the workbench. He handed the sheets to her then he ran the detector over the exterior of the machine concentrating on the areas where the metal ran seamlessly into the brickwork. ''See here?'' he said, showing the startled academics the meter readings. ''It's still three times above normal background radiation and those sheets there are the sample analyses from five years ago - look at the levels back then. I can tell you, Director, we were not happy to learn that we'd been exposed to gamma rays. We had to have a lot of health checks. It was all done on the QT with gagging clauses and two years pay as a bribe so like idiots we signed up to it - we won't get a penny in compensation if we get cancer. So what do you think of those analyses, Professor Ramos?'' ''No wonder the lab techs were confused,'' she exclaimed. ''Your samples were mainly silicon, oxygen, iron, aluminium and traces of every single element and isotope known to science. Some of these isotopes, Mister Porter, do not occur naturally.'' Harold smiled at her and lounged against the bench after pouring himself yet another measure. ''Don't you get it, Professor?'' he said, pointing at the machine. ''I told you the damn thing was superimposed onto the brickwork right down to the quantum level - that's what's created all those rare isotopes. Like I said,'' he continued indignantly after a mouthful of whisky. ''We parked it a corner and piled lead sheets against it until the radiation tailed off. Doctor Smith tried to explain to the Board that he'd discovered something truly unique but they just shut him down.'' ''I'm not surprised,'' Henderson said dismissively. ''I wasn't a director then but I would've done the same to any faculty member who told me that a poltergeist had wrecked his lab.'' ''Did you witness anything yourself, Mister Porter?'' Ramos asked. ''Anything, um, out of the ordinary?'' Harold shifted uncomfortably under her direct and inquiring gaze her large hazel eyes and lustrous black tresses tinged with copper were weakening his resolve to never trust a woman again. ''I was divorced soon after my baby daughter, Naomi, died six years ago,'' he explained, swirling the whisky in his glass. ''My wife got the house and as my flat was so grim, I started hanging around the campus after work. I virtually live in this damned workshop now. Anyway, five years ago I was on the way back to my flat after a drink at the student bar and I was taking my usual short-cut along the science-block corridor when that materialised.'' ''What do you mean by materialised?'' Henderson demanded. ''I mean it appeared out of nowhere!'' Harold said irritably. ''One second the corridor was empty and the next it was embedded into the wall sending glowing sparks flying everywhere. I can't describe the sound but imagine a chainsaw with fingernails scratching at a blackboard nailed to your teeth well, that doesn't even get close. I thought I was going to have a freaking heart attack.'' ''So what cut into the back of the machine?'' Ramos prompted. ''Well, I opened a window and I saw that it was buried through the wall alright,'' Harold shuddered and stared blankly ahead. ''As I watched, these sparks and arcs of light appeared and whenever one of them touched any of the metal, it simply vanished. I'm a big science fiction fan so I was more curious than scared at that point - then they came,'' he added grimly. Ramos repressed an urge to scream in frustration as the distracted technician brought himself around with another stiff drink - and then another. He had to force himself to continue. ''There was this kind of pressure,'' he said slowly. ''Then something appeared in the corridor. It was a floating sphere made of white metal that emitted this blinding light like a massive arc-welding spark with black shadows swirling around it.'' ''Was it similar to the phenomena that cut into rear of the machine, do you think?'' Henderson said impatiently. ''No. No. No!'' Harold insisted. ''Imagine that arc light, okay? Floating in front of your face! Got that image? Now, imagine it staring at you! Why do you think I drink so much?'' ''I just wish you'd do it off the premises,'' Henderson said. ''I provide a hell of a lot of free security in the evenings,'' Harold retorted. ''So they tolerate me and my little hobbies. They'' ''Doctor Smith told me he saw shapes and 'eyes' in his lab that night,'' Ramos interrupted impatiently. ''He said they all witnessed a shadowy paranormal presence. Is that what you saw?'' ''No. What I saw was some kind of device that scared me so much that I couldn't move a muscle. It was definitely alive.'' ''Are you okay?'' Ramos asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. Harold shuddered and took another drink. ''Ugh! Sorry about that but the light it created was like a window into Hell itself. I could see all these dead faces in there - I saw Mam, Dad, even Naomi condemning me to eternal damnation. How can you explain something like that? I don't have the words; I don't think anyone has but I'll let you into a secret, though: it spoke to me.'' ''What did it say?'' Henderson demanded, deeply concerned at the technician's rapid breathing and unhealthy colour. ''I could feel it messing about up here,'' Harold choked, tapping an index finger to a temple. ''I could feel its hate like acid inside my brain. It told me it was going to 'purge the world of deviation' - whatever the hell that means! I got a load of other stuff too - weird computer sounds mixed with a music that sounded like whales being tortured until I thought it would blow the top of my head off. It came at me but a few inches from my face, it vanished in this blue-white flash. I could move again but I knew I had to go to go and clean myself up um, you know...'' He was so visibly distraught that Ramos pulled up a stool and sat by him, placing a sympathetic hand on his arm. ''Look, Mister Porter Harold,'' she reassured him. ''I happen to believe that Doctor Smith has stumbled onto something important. He's convinced that what happened that night was connected to an unusual test subject who was asleep in the lab.'' ''When I found out that Doctor Smith has gone chasing after this test subject, I was less than impressed,'' Henderson said pointedly. ''But his files, witnesses and that vending machine do point to a potentially exciting line of research. He has documented a man capable of powerful displays of telekinesis who claims to fight demons and visit alternate realities in his dreams. It's a pity that our predecessors were not as open-minded as we are.'' Harold's face brightened as he looked from one professor to the other. ''God, it's a relief to be taken seriously for once,'' he said gratefully. He rose a little unsteadily from his stool. ''I didn't know who to feel sorrier for: Doctor Smith or myself. Anyway, I've told you all I know, so if you don't mind, I want to close up here and grab a few beers at the bar before going back to the flat. If you want to see me again you know where to find me.'' He escorted them to the delivery bay and pressed the button to close the roller door which rattled down with protesting clanks and squeals. As they turned away, he stopped the door descending. ''Hey!'' he called. ''Do you two believe in God?'' Henderson was a little offended as he crouched down to talk to Harold through the remaining gap. ''No, Mister Porter, we are both atheists. Well, Professor Ramos here is technically Catholic and my parents are Baptists,'' he explained patiently. ''What's your point in asking us about our faith?'' ''You see, I managed to ask a question before that sphere vanished,'' Harold said quickly, desperate to get it off his chest. ''I asked it if it was Old Nick - you know, the Devil.'' Henderson's eyes widened imperceptibly and although he kept his face calm, he couldn't prevent his heart skipping a beat. ''Well, what was the answer?'' he said carefully. ''Well, the shadow around the light 'spoke' to me next. Not in words as such like the sphere but I knew it had come to tell me that I apparently have this 'fulcrum of destiny' that it could not allow me to fulfil whatever that is. It told me that there was no God; no Devil; no Allah; no Buddha; no good; no evil; only sentience which it regards as some kind of insignificant disease to be exterminated. I can't get that shadow or the hell-light out of my nightmares.'' ''Possibly that was the poltergeist they observed in the lab,'' Ramos suggested helpfully. ''It fits the description.'' ''Whatever it was, Professor, it was out of the ordinary alright,'' he sighed wearily. ''I now have two demons in my head for the price of one. I hope Doctor Smith gets to the bottom of it and finds out how his test subject caused all this because I would really, really like to get to sleep without having to get drunk first.'' He stood up and pressed the button to close the roller door in the face of the bemused, still half-crouching Henderson. ~~~~~ Ten minutes later, he was switching off and then double-checking the bench plugs - an obsessive habit he'd struggled with all his working life. ''Why the hell did I tell them about all that for?'' he berated himself. ''Henderson wants to get rid of me and now I've given him plenty of ammunition to take to the Board. Pah! He's such a vindictive and pompous ass!'' However, there was no denying the immense sense of relief he felt at having got that 'light and shadow' demon business off his chest to someone like Professor Ramos. He smiled to himself and removed his red baseball cap to mop at his forehead with a large red handkerchief. The stifling heat was building up a real thirst and he fancied a cold beer to celebrate - perhaps several He grimaced as he pulled the last plug from its socket because the casing was unexpectedly hot.''Shit!'' he cursed aloud, dropping the plug onto the bench and fanning his fingers to cool them off. ''I'd better check that circuit in the morning.'' He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as the plug and flex attached to the small lab spectrometer in front of him began to slither slowly towards the socket like a snake. He looked up as his shadow loomed on the far wall and whirled around in time to see the familiar sphere of white arc-light, surrounded by writhing black coils, erupt from the rear of the vending machine. Light and darkness engulfed him, blinded him and filled his mind with the sound of a billion voices screaming in torment. As he was dragged towards the vending machine, Harold Norman Porter realised he was no longer insignificant: he was no longer anything. (c) Paul D E. Mitchell 2012
Archived comments for Chapter 01: Hell Light
Mikeverdi on 16-04-2016
Chapter 01: Hell Light
Wow....I think I'm getting to like weird. Can't fault the writing, the technical stuff is way over my head,,but I know what I like 😀😀😀
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike - a bit of near future - alternate reality sci-fi arising as a spin-off from my series of novels. This is a common chapter in both Fulcrum and Light-Father so as I practice with my new bands and my original material (my first solo gig yesterday!) the poetry writing is on hold as is five novels I've started. Tempus fudged it! Mitch

shadow on 02-05-2016
Chapter 01: Hell Light
Exciting start - very intriguing premise. Will be interested to see how it develops.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the read and comment! This is a chapter common to a series of books I have written but I thought a lab technician would make an unlikely hero in the alternative world he finds himself in Cahpter 2. The hell-light is an alien probe corrupted to kill psychics na dthe shadow is the First Satan of another story in another parallel world... you get the idea! Hope to keep you along for the ride. Mitch


Wheels Within Wheels (posted on: 04-04-16)
I've had an Yggdrasil of a day....

Wheels Within Wheels ================== I've wheels within wheels I feel my life cycle turning driving the star-dome over my head. Blood and bones slow beat within head bare and bent a scarecrow withers with its arms outstretched. I am the tree of life and from hewn wood I fashion spokes for wheels within wheels. I lathe and turn again thread-stripping strength worlds full of careless torque as my fingers snap to the woodpecker's rapido tap-tap-tap. I am the tree of life the bark is stripped feeding furnace fires that consume me root and pith makes my blood gush green. Attired for night I disengage the day sunset clouds billow and they pillow me winter-naked fingers uphold a twilit sky as wheels within wheels pull the star-sheets over my head. ----------------------------------------- (c) 2013/2016 Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Wheels Within Wheels
Gothicman on 04-04-2016
Wheels Within Wheels
You really are in a bad way, Paul, introduced me to an yggdrasil moment! No all the wheel references were excellent, keeping it all compact and relevant to the emotion portrayed, 13/16, and oldie re-written? Anyway I enjoyed this poem and can identify with its sentiments, though not too often thankfully!
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Thanks Trevor it was indeed an oldie I first wrote in 1979 while living in a squat but updated recently as I came across it an yep, it was really, really, shit day. Living on boiled scrag from local butchers (we said the bones were for our dogs) and stale bread. Yay. Happy days. Mitch.

stormwolf on 04-04-2016
Wheels Within Wheels

OMG So this was not your best day . Very rich in comfortless imagery. I like the bare tree analogy too.

I am the tree of life
the bark is stripped
feeding furnace fires
that consume me root and pith
makes my blood gush green.

Fairly safe to say you were a tad pithed off? (sorry! ) 😉


I disengage the day
sunset clouds billow
and they pillow me
winter-naked fingers
uphold a twilit sky
as wheels within wheels
pull the star-sheets
over my head.

I just LOVE the end. I don't know but the pulling of the’ star sheets’ over the head is both very descriptively original but also almost a more comforting feeling at the end. Almost like a child will hide under the blankets. It also hints at the hope the next day will be better as you say a grateful farewell to a miserable day.
I think we can all relate to this at times. I just hate days like that. I have to remind myself that everything passes.

WO x

Author's Reply:
Thankee kindly, my favourite howling person!

As I said to Trevor, I first wrote in 1979 while living in a squat but updated recently. Mmm, the boiled scrag end from local butchers and stale bread dipped into it. Yeth, I wath pithed off a tad. Ha - more woody puns, please, or am I barking up the wrong tree? Had to end on a slightly upbeat 'tomorrow has to be better' theme as it ususally couldn't get any worse. Howlz 'n' Cwtchez Mitch

Mikeverdi on 04-04-2016
Wheels Within Wheels
Read this several times, come back again. I don't always get you, this maybe one of those times. This for me is a trip to the 60's... totally retro. We were all doing stuff and being radical, doing our 'On the road' thing. I'm sure it's nothing to do with this, I'll stop drinking now. Oh yes... I liked it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike - i will be off grid for a while again due to elections and learning 40 new songs and doing my fist solo gig for a long time. This was a wooden analogy day with hints of magic mushrooms too. happy daze. Thanks for the like. Mitch

sweetwater on 05-04-2016
Wheels Within Wheels
I know this was basically a cry of pain, and I felt something similar a few years earlier, but I so enjoyed all those gorgeous images you have placed in my head, especially the 'Star sheets.' Sue.

Author's Reply:
Cheers Sue - I do have a kernack for starry metaphors and woody similies. I am glad you liked the images. It was not a good day but we always retire in hope. Might be offline for a while - but will be back in June. Keep well. Mitch


Cold Is The Envious Soul (posted on: 01-04-16)
Jealousy and writer's blocks

Cold Is The Envious Soul ==================== My heart pumps ink blood berg-clogged Course erratic within skin of tundra vellum A nib of pointed ice pierces parch meant Calving shelves of unsung ebbs and floes Grinding sensibility into quarto slush Cleft sharded poems reach a larynx swept To death and howling indifference By arctic gale antarctic gusto Seal pup quatrain raked by fang and claw Of bipolar bears and shrivel-lipped trolls; Avatar cowards who swing their bloodied clubs Then hug the bard with their bomb-vests primed With scree, screech, shrapnel verbs and nouns Glacial adjectives; fuck-off and die prepositions Because cold is the envious soul is blank is ------------------------------ (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2015
Archived comments for Cold Is The Envious Soul
gwirionedd on 17-06-2016
Cold Is The Envious Soul
This is an intriguing poem, Mitch. Perhaps even a bit avant-garde. In fact it's quite startling, so I'm surprised it hasn't received any comments.

You seem to be comparing the writing of poetry to a polar landscape. Is this something to do with writer's block?

How is a quatrain like a seal pup?...




Author's Reply:

pdemitchell on 19-06-2016
Cold Is The Envious Soul
A bit of writer's block and the fact I got trolled off other poetry sites such as poetfreak where my efforts at quatrains were bludgeoned like a seal pup being clubbed with an ice axe leaving a bllody skein upon the pristin ice floes.

I like constructive crit but this trolling was real nasty. I really push for quirky rhythm and imagery with odd juxtapositions so thanks for the read and kind comments... greatly appreciated. Mitch


Author's Reply:


Trickle Down Economics (posted on: 01-04-16)    
A poem about how it really is on the streets these days

Trickle Down Economics ==================== A darkness shivers on the doorstep of the shop There but for the graze of God, quiver I With two ticking hands pointing heavenwards Not in prayer but in Sumerian division - Each creaking arthritic sixty is a bone-chilled flip of the hourglass as meagre heat bleeds through door gaps into the thread-bare wrap-about and wool while cheap cider pokers red blood hacks thru the ravaged software: the hardly there the see pee you praying for the off-switch But comes a shadow darker still: raked shrill by Eton's echoes semen drips from dead pigs' heads as mocking banknote ash motes drift a zip-rasp tears the night rise now a wisp of acrid steam as the one on the one rung up pisses on the one on the one rung down. --------------------------------- Paul D.E. Mitchell 2016
Archived comments for Trickle Down Economics
Supratik on 01-04-2016
Trickle Down Economics
Powerful start...graze of god is quite striking and something that halts you to think. Yes it is talking about a lot of not-so-attractive things, but I find it disturbingly handsome. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Thank you, my friend - graze rather than grace indicates a glancing blow (or being chewed like grass) rather than basking in the approval of the Powers That Be. Cheers. Mitch

franciman on 01-04-2016
Trickle Down Economics
Hard, harsh and painfully compelling,Paul.
So many of the lines have a brutal, lacerating beauty.
The final four line analogy is breathtaking.
This has to make the anthology.
Cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Hi Jim thanks for the kindly nomination. Alas, I have seen this in real life and it reflects what the Mail, Channel Five et al encourange with their scroungers on benfits progams and stories now with fresh added immigrants. Paul aka Mitch (confusing as half the people I know call me Paul and the other half call me Mitch!) There were seven Pauls in my class at school fo it was confusing though Paul Rainbow ended up being called Fluff for some reason so Mitch was not that bad!

stormwolf on 02-04-2016
Trickle Down Economics
BRAVO!!! Well worth the nom though I don't think many are able to really take in the true horror of the system we are under as so many cling despertaly to the normality bias. I have even heard educated people defend the Skull and Bones club and Bohemian Grove where all sorts of demonic and sexual perversions are practiced by the highest in the land in Amnerica!!! (same happens all over)

If people cannot get it through their heads that those people are the very LAST people who should be in control?? well, we are fu**ed to be frank.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Howly howlz for the ten, Alison! These ritual-laden elite secret societies breed the myth of the 'undeserving poor' like nobody's business. Sadly the media are all under their control espeical the Mail, Sun, Express, Times and Telegraph with endless 'bums on benefits' stories. Control the information, you control the country. Mitch

Mikeverdi on 02-04-2016
Trickle Down Economics
So I take it you don't vote Tory then? 😂😂😂😂 It jumps out of the screen screaming it's message. Well written, and worth all of the accolades.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike! Alas, no, I deal with the reduction in benefits to the mentally ill and the crutelty of the ATOS interviews some of which I attend as advocate leave me completely speechless. One Oxbridge club initiation was to burn a fifty pound note in front of a homeless person etc. Mitch

sweetwater on 03-04-2016
Trickle Down Economics
Wonderfully expressed poem, if only I had the money to help each and every one, I almost dread going into town now as so many poor, poor people are left stranded by this society, and an uncaring, blindfolded government. And as for the ATOS situation, boy have I had to deal with them! Stupid, blind idiots who have no idea, with their rediculous forms from which the true facts are completely ignored. And to whom I am soon going to have to take my begging bowl once again for my small 'handout' of peanuts or should I say 'pips' this time. Great poem, great words well expressed. Sue. xx

Author's Reply:
Same here, Sue. I have been an ATOS advocate on several occasions and seen the sheer callousness first hand. More sickening still is the £120BILLION salted offshore every year through tax scams. Good luck with the cynical snotbags on bonuses at the next interview. In Leeds ATOS office they used to ring a bell every time they drove a disabled person off the top rate of ESA. Bonne chances. Mitch


My Little Latino Chica (posted on: 28-03-16)
A little bit of Latin to keep you dancin' in the street.

My Little Latino Chica ================== Give me girls all dressed in silk and satin Can you tell me tonight, Hos, does the band play Latin? You can keep your be-bop and your boogaloo You can keep your blues, your jazz and your reggae too All I want to feel tonight is the blood singing in my veins She could be somebody's wife, somebody's lover I just need a little chica to help me rise above the pain My two left feet don't fit inside my patent leather shoes But my little Latino chica has me dancing in the rain Yes, my little Latino chica has me dancing in the rain.... SOLO Give me girls all dressed up for romancin' Can you tell me tonight, Hos, are they ready for dancin'? You can keep your hip-hop and your 'Peggy-Sue' You can keep your rock 'n' roll and your boogie too All I want to hear tonight is the blood singing in my ears She could be an angel or someone's devil I need a little a bit of both to help me rise above my fears 'cause my two left feet are chafing in my patent leather shoes Yet my little Latino chica has me dancin' thru the tears Yes, my little Latino chica has me dancin' thru her tears Mis dos pies izquierdos son demasiado grandes para mis zapatos de cuero, pero mi chica latina me tiene bailando en el aire Give me girls all dressed in silk and satin I can you tell you tonight, my chica, the band plays Latin You can keep your fusion and your gangsta stars You can keep your rhythm 'n' bass in your empty bars All I want to feel tonight is the blood rushing to my feet She has to be from heaven to be dancing like a devil I need this imperfect chica to help me rise above the heat 'cause my two left feet are bleeding in my patent leather shoes But my little Latino chica has me dancing to the beat Yes, my little Latino chica has us dancing cheek to cheek...
Archived comments for My Little Latino Chica
stormwolf on 28-03-2016
My Little Latino Chica
That had me tapping my feet. I would give you a dance but it would probably have me laid up for a week! lol

Keep 'em coming.
Wolfie one x

Author's Reply:
You should see me bippity-bopping with my ska band! Alas, I am away for a while to write some more stuff and campaign in Assembly elections but i will drop in now and again now that you're posting again. Howlz. Mitch

franciman on 28-03-2016
My Little Latino Chica
Mitch, I love this and I don't need to hear it set to music. The music is there in all the lines, and with Latino fire and flicker to boot!
So well done.
cheers,
Jim

p.s. there's a couple of minor typos.

Author's Reply:
Thanks kindly, Jim. My boots do indeed flicker on the dance floor despite my looming decrepitude. <<>> Mitch

sweetwater on 30-03-2016
My Little Latino Chica
Conjured up images of bright lights, noise, gaiety and fun. The words themselves danced along too, enjoyed very much 🙂 Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue - I hope I didn't trample your tootsies too much! Mitch 😉


I Am NOT Your Mister Right (posted on: 25-03-16)
The grass is always greener elsewhere in some relationships....

I Am NOT Your Mister Right ======================= I wish I had the words To tell you how I feel You've a mind so full of ghosts - I can't tell which is real. The crows are dancing on my face It seems at last I know my place. Don't turn your back Don't turn to go When the sun turns to rain And the rain turns to snow. I wish I had the time To reach into your heart You've a soul so full of hate I don't know where to start. Your friends are dancing on my grave They seem to think I can't be saved. Who can you love? Who can you trust? When a fool turns to gold And gold turns to dust. You twist your truth around you It's your DNA of scheming I know I'm not your Mister Right I cannot keep you warm at night. You say you can't believe I wear your heart upon my sleeve. You just fabricate excuses You tell me why I'm old and useless Till I wake up cold and screaming Praying God will make you stay. I wish I had the strength To hold you in my arms You've a tongue too quick to lie To keep you safe from harm. Your friends are screaming in your ears It seems they're playing on your fears. Who holds your hand? Who keeps it real? When tears turn to ice And ice turns to steel. You twist your lies around you It's your DNA of dreaming Will you find your Mister Right? Will he hold you close at night? You will find it hard to breathe He will never let you leave. He will engineer your children Till their eyes and teeth are shining Till you wake up cold and screaming Asking God to let you die. --------------------------------------------- (c) 2015 All music, voices, lyrics and instruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS Protected
Archived comments for I Am NOT Your Mister Right
Gothicman on 25-03-2016
I Am NOT Your Mister Right
Every time I read one of your poems Paul, I hear your distorting keyboard duetting with the word syllables and the fine vocals being drowned in the heavy mix of sounds! No, that's not fair, while I do think you have a good strong singing voice whose fine timbre is drowned out by the combined noise, I do think you're an excellent poet, or more precisely perhaps, writer of lyrics. Maybe old Goth, prefers a purer vocal sound with secondary accompaniment as tastes go, but you certainly have great musical and song-writing skills...but application...
Trevor

Sorry for the insensitive word choice in my first descriptions Paul, not very helpful critique when overdone! I thought too, like Alison that this one was going to be at slower tempo, her choice of a Leonard Cohen type style would have come over really well. I suppose if you're into up-tempo rock or otherwise one is inclined to use it as a general style. It'll be interesting if you back these fine lyrics with a purer sound, but all your work, even as it is, adds to the rich variety on this creative site, and is well-followed and enjoyed.

Author's Reply:
Hi Trevor - the overdone keyboards do detract terribly in this one so I will re-ercord it. Funny enuff, I'm reworking a lot of stuff for just semi-accoustic guitar for that very reason so I may be offline for a while as I'm building a band from the ground up. I do overegg the pudding a tad as I get sucked up - application-wise - into da krazy kords wot I likez - ninths, tenths, sixths, elevenths, flattened this and sharpened that. Heh! Thankee kindly for the kind words though! Paul

stormwolf on 25-03-2016
I Am NOT Your Mister Right
Hi Mitch,
One of the things I love about your work is I know you are meticulous in the choice of words and great thought goes into it.
To me it is usually a smorgasbord of intensity.
This one is more flowing which comes across as a slightly different style but very readable.
I have always found you very talented and your incredible ability to give real crucial crit has helped me very much as you know.
I was wondering if you have thought of selling your lyrics? Other people may translate them differently, for instance, I love Small Gollum but when I heard it, it was not how I would have sung it. Haha don't let that upset you I am no musician. I thought it would have been more Leonard Cohen style.
Anyway, you are a one off!
Howlz
Wolfie one. x

Author's Reply:
Howlz, Wolfie One! it's a different style and more narrative as it grew aound the music first not the other usual way around. Small Golem was written for a local Death Metal band protesting violence against children but they couldn't handle the time signature shifts. You're right, it could be done a la Leonard. As for selling them, I would rather copyright them as I have and let them eat cake and pay royalties! Thank you for your kind words. Mitch aka Paul (it's kinda schizophrenic having two names of equal weight!

Supratik on 27-03-2016
I Am NOT Your Mister Right
The poem/song is very involving. Loved being with it. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Thank you for your kind read and comments. It is based on real events in my life with two long-term partners and a wife leaving for others only to find the new partners were violent and abusive. The grass is always greener till you bleed on it... Paul

Bozzz on 27-03-2016
I Am NOT Your Mister Right
This relationship sounds doomed from the start - so why let it start. A dance with the devil might be a better title. actually most of us can relate, because most have had relationships with cold women - they are a challenge to our manhood. That said, a most enjoyable read....Cheers, David

Author's Reply:
Aye David and not just one. Often so-called friends would whisper to them about the next one being Mister Right and they ended up with possessive lunatics - not that I'm a saint with all the work, writing and music consuming. oh no. They never seem cold to start with and then the skeletons in the belfry start to clatter and ring! Paul

sirat on 28-03-2016
I Am NOT Your Mister Right
This one is listed as 'poetry', which I don't often read here, but having a break from some fairly intense work I just clicked on it because I liked the title and as I read it I found myself thinking 'This would make a good song.' It seems that I was right and I've listened to the audio version now.



I think Paul is right that it's a bit over-accompanied, and the little demon voices at the end don't really add anything. I would suggest it would work much better as a simple ballad, Paul Simpon / Leonard Cohen / Don McLean style. I think, now that digital editing and synthesising of sounds has become so easy, musicians feel they have to do it, and it's becoming a bit of a cliché. If it's a good song and has a good melody just sing it would be my advice. Don't cheapen it with the audio equivalent of Photoshop. It's very good just as it comes.



As you may know I'm in the throes of writing a stage musical at the moment, with a lot of help from a lot of people. Would you consider composing a melody for me? This is the next one on my list, but I have others if it doesn't appeal: Invitation to Write a Song.





Author's Reply:


He's Writing A Song For A Long-Dead Beatle (posted on: 21-03-16)
Homage to musicians who never 'sold out' - and the Beatles unique use of chords

He's Writing A Song For A Long-Dead Beatle =================================== He's writing a song For a long-dead Beatle He's losing inspiration 'cause his friends all want to know Is it George or is it John? You know the words all come out wrong When the chords don't seem to groove Though his friends they don't approve They say it's not his smartest move. When the critics strike And they bring him down He shouldn't play this town As he's such a clown. So he blows a kiss: He says 'swivel on this!' For he believes It's jealousy. Captain H, he demonstrates A simple key change elevates A song above an elevator's noise. He tries to sell his songs To his media heroes But they laugh out loud As his friends all want to know If he'll ever get a break. Will he do whatever it takes? Will he dumb all his music down? To make a mark in some market town Is there a word there to rhyme with brown - nosing critics? Who will bring him fame If he plays their game: Be a household name. But he won't give in To this media spin He'll keep control; He won't sell his soul. Mister G can demonstrate A 'bone and uke can elevate A song above a self-indulgent whine. Now he's singing his song About a long-dead Beatle He's knows they would approve As his friends all come and go It's a song for George or John. We'd like you all to sing along Yellow custard from a dead dog's eye Where the disco is all 'do or die' We're choking on American Pie. I wish the hippo-critics Would pass on by They're making Lucy cry In her diamond sky. Don't you stand for less You can keep the rest So wave your arms! C'mon now! wave your arms! Papa H can demonstrate A Dobro-lick can elevate A song above a pseudo-tragic blues. That was a song about a long-dead Beatle Where the waitress had a handshake The cabbie got his photo Everybody's got their Little precious Piece of you... ----------------------------------------------------- 2015 all words, music, instruments and vocals by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for He's Writing A Song For A Long-Dead Beatle
Supratik on 22-03-2016
Hes Writing A Song For A Long-Dead Beatle
"But he won’t give in
To this media spin
He’ll keep control;
He won’t sell his soul."

This he is definitely damned, isn't he. I liked reading and listening to the story of the musician who wouldn't gulp down the American pie. Liked the music, especially the latter part, but I thought there were places in the poem which could have been re-worked, viz. stanzas 6 and 7.
Loved reading it. Supratik

Author's Reply:
namaste, Supratik! Thank you for your kind words. There are a lot of Beatles references and to real friends of mine. You can see us in two of our bands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5qt0mASmDg and on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_-4jsFYRM8

The verses you mention were not as good as I wanted them to be but they tell the true story of the group of musicians I have the honour of playing with who won't sell out to the promoters and become a covers band. He tries to sell his songs / To his media heroes / But they laugh out loud / and his friends all want to know / If he’ll ever get a break / Will he do whatever it takes? / Will he dumb all his music down? / To make a mark in some market town. This is what we've been through but it could be better. I will think about it when I rewrite it agin in the future. Thanks again for the read and constructive comments which I really appreciate. Paul

sweetwater on 22-03-2016
Hes Writing A Song For A Long-Dead Beatle
Liked this very much, brought back memories of dear George. And the reference to my adored Don in verse 12 made it perfect for me. 🙂 Much enjoyed Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue - I loved making this with all the homages to the Beatles and how they structured their chord sequences. Don McLean was part of the reference to American Pie but also the bland american muzak and disco of the 90s. Chevy to the Levy! Paul


Alice in Red Stiletto Heels (posted on: 18-03-16)    
Another failed romance when I was a sucker for an angel/devil in red stiletto heels...

Alice in Red Stiletto Heels ====================== Hours slipped beneath the sunlight Of a wine-soaked afternoon I lost my mind in a blood-red kiss Yet her eyes were as cruel as the Moon. My moth-winged words soared sunwards Now they're drifting down in flames Our passion draws the children While parents play their childish games. The fire creeps across my skin As cool-hand Alice draws me in But she's a devil in those - red stiletto heels Alice is out walking in those - red stiletto heels: Up and down my spine! oh yeah! Ghosts slip through the twilight To the cafes, clubs and bars We lost ourselves in that blood-red tide Yet her eyes were as distant as stars... My moth-winged words head homewards As a blackbird's broken tune Our passion sears the heavens To form a halo around the Moon. Every night brings a carnal sin But cruel Alice just draws me in. But she's a devil in those red stiletto heels Alice is out walking in those red stiletto heels: Up and down my spine! oh yeah! Well - hours passed beneath the stage-lights Of an early evening show I lost my mind in our blood-red heat But her eyes were as cold as the snow. My moth-winged hopes soared upwards But she shoots them down in flames We're making love as she calls me By a thousand strangers' names. Heart beats as loud as thunder Alice smiles as she draws me under. But she's a devil in those red stiletto heels Alice is out walking in those red stiletto heels: Up and down my spine oh yeah! ------------------------------------------------ 2015 words, instruments, vocals and music by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Alice in Red Stiletto Heels
Mikeverdi on 19-03-2016
Alice in Red Stiletto Heels
Fantastic, you had me with the first verse. As poetry it stood alone, if that had been it I would still have rated ten.

Mike
ps I've come back for another read, please accept my Nomination, I love this.

Author's Reply:
Thank you for the Nomination, Mike!!!! This was a while ago and we did make love in what we thought was a secluded spot in Cosmeston Park and looked up to find some youngsters staring at us with goggle-eyes through the shrubbery. There was no love there only lust and red stiletto heels - I still have nightmares.... Paul

sweetwater on 19-03-2016
Alice in Red Stiletto Heels
I love all the superb words you have chosen, I could ( and will ) read it over and over. I would pick out some extra special lines but they are all spot on.
This is going into my favs. Great writing :-)) Sue xx

Author's Reply:
Thank you, Sue. It was quite the affair but it could easily be role-reversed a la fity shades of grey. Not that it was like that, oh no. She was just a cold person moving from one person to another like so many men do. Glad you liked this (pickled) slice of life. Paul

Supratik on 19-03-2016
Alice in Red Stiletto Heels
It's a masterpiece. I like everything about this poem. Supratik

Author's Reply:

Supratik on 19-03-2016
Alice in Red Stiletto Heels
I forgot.

Author's Reply:
Namaste! Thank you so much, my friend! Your kind words are appreciated. I hope you liked the audio. Paul

Supratik on 20-03-2016
Alice in Red Stiletto Heels
Yes I heard. Splendid!

Author's Reply:


Regret is a Sharp Knife (posted on: 14-03-16)
For those who make a meal of martyrdom...

Regret is a Sharp Knife =================== Regret is a hammer Driving nails through both your wrists Your horizons keep contracting Through astigmatising mists. Your friends desert you - they seem Permanently pissed Far below, your crowd beholds you It's for them that you exist. Regret will not prise free those nails It cuts you to the quick instead It's flicking splinters at your eyes It's driving thorns into your head. And over the hill there comes a child Who's crying, wanting to be heard Who holds a book With your pain and your shadow In every word. How can you seduce them With your enigmatic charms? When this child can clearly see The scars on both your arms. It's time to climb down now There's no-one here Let me take you by the hand It's time to face your fear. -=-=-=-=-=- Regret is the Spear of "if only this" It's the Crown of Thorns and the Judas-kiss They're flicking splinters at your eyes Don't you chase their demons; don't live their lies. And into your arms there comes a child Crying, wanting to be heard Who holds a book With your pain and your shadows In every word. How can you ignore them With your enigmatic grin? When this inner child can heal The scars you hide within. It's time to climb down now From the cross you've made It's time to turn the page Let the shadows fade. And open the hills; there comes a child and you know this child is the child inside you. Regret is a sharp knife Resheathe your blade. Regret is a sharp knife Resheathe your blade. -------------------------------------------- (c) 2015 all music, voices, instruments and lyrics by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected...Archived comments for Regret is a Sharp Knife
Supratik on 14-03-2016
Regret is a Sharp Knife
In one word, excellent! Yes indeed it is time to climb down now. I wouldn't have used the word pissed, but it's absolutely okay, considering the amount of thought that has gone behind the making of the poem.
Regret indeed is a sharp knife and is self-defeating. Best. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Thank you for your read and kind, kind words. I used the word pissed because it is crude and seems to 'hang' making an emphasis when coupled with 'permanently'. This is about those people who wallow in their misery and in this case misery loves (drunken) company to spin out their woes. I have posted the music to it. See what you think. Best wishes. Paul

sweetwater on 15-03-2016
Regret is a Sharp Knife
As one who carries a mountain of regret built on foundations of 'I wish I hadnt, and why did I?' I think this is a great poem, well thought out and well expressed, loved the last two lines especially. I wish I had never unsheathed my blade in the first place though. Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:
Cheers, Sue. as a friend of mine used to say: "if ifs and ands were pots and pans, we'd never want for tinkers". There are those who wallow in their misery miserare miserums at whom the piece is directed at - it sounds like you have been through some of this but the heart of the piece also reflects something starker and darker such as a woman I knew who was abused as a child and self-injured herself because she had TWO sets of memories: one real where she was abused and one false where she had the perfect "inner" childhood - "open the hills there comes a child / and you know this child is the child inside you" - actually made me cry when I sang it. Paul

Bozzz on 15-03-2016
Regret is a Sharp Knife
Sadly regret is the loser's grief after failing to win - a kind of introspective compensatory emotion. See a shrink immediately - think positive, learn from mistakes and move on. Of course this is how the grown up would see things as the other side of the coin. To describe regret as a weapon and describe the damage it can do to a child is a song of sadness and despair that will scar a child for life. I was sent to a boarding school at age 4 and ended by being expelled through setting fire to the place, my only way to escape from prison. It worked and I went home to be with my younger brother and at a school near home. Ah well, but I see it now as revenge and regret it. An excellent write Paul - touched me of course... David.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, David, for the the read and thoughts. So you set fire to the boarding school? - wow - not a thing I would regret possibly but it's true: a real regret is a sharp knife as we remember bad memories so much more powerfully than the good ones. For the bonnes of the inspiration - see above. Paul


Flotsam . Kill . Jetsam (posted on: 11-03-16)
Shaking your fists at the vapour trails.

Flotsam . Kill . Jetsam ================== Far above the unwashed herd The Jetsam jets across the world And far above all the rain and snow The sunshine lingers just for them. Their sonic booms set the skyline shaking And above the heads, the skylight's breaking As the glass rains down on Flotsam In the shadows far below. They send down their shock troops to goose-step When they send down their searchlights; they're finding Kiosks full of corpses and phone booths Full of dead supermen And the sky so full of clerks So full of clerks. They know what you're thinking They know what you're dreaming They know how you're feeling How your heart is still beating They won't hear your screaming They know that you fear them They will know that you hate them. We've opened Pandora's Box We're going to set our demons free. Far above the seething hordes The Jetsam pop their champagne corks Through their windows in the clouds The sunshine lingers just for them. Their vapour-trails cuts the blue to shreds Thoughts unspoken fill their empty heads As missiles rise from Flotsam In the shadows far below uh! They send down their shock troops to goose-step They send down their searchlights; they're blinding Streets so full of loathing and phone-booths Full of dead bureaucrats And the sky so full of fire So full of fire. They know what you're thinking They know what you're dreaming They know how you're feeling How your heart is still beating They won't hear your screaming They know that you fear them They will know that you hate them. We've opened Pandora's Box We're going to set our demons free. Flotsam shakes their fists At the Jet-set vapour-trails They empty out the kiosks And find all the phones broken Anger gathers new disciples And deprived of hope and heroes They're taking out the towers They're taking out the towers. Flot . Sam . Kill . Jet . Sam ------------------------------------------- (c) 2015 - all music, lyrics, voices and instruments by Paul D. E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected.
Archived comments for Flotsam . Kill . Jetsam
sweetwater on 13-03-2016
Flotsam . Kill . Jetsam
Very much enjoyed the poem and the audio, had a touch of Bowie I thought, also liked the slightly faster pace, I prefer to hear words sung like this rather than spoken. Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sue, you sweet-water-heart, for comparing me to David!

This is the difference between lyrics and poetry when one evolves into the other. Instead of speaking - singing imposes limits on the complexity of the words and phrases but I try not to sink into the single-syllable somnabulance of most love songs. I don't do musical Hallmark! x Paul


Venus Rising (posted on: 07-03-16)
Evolved from an earlier poem. Venus is Hell with one hundred atmospheres and the roar of constant lightning the Russians called the Dragon of Venus. Ooh, now there's a metaphor I thought...

Venus Rising =========== Curtains close on twilight When Venus casts her spell Where her beauty shrouds A sulphur-burning hell. Where titanium snow Falls from her howling sky As lightning sears her soul As her electric dragon cries. She's my Evening Star Shine - seven deadly sins It's not the earth that moves me It's the world below that spins. You rise before the sun You set after the sun You hold me in your arms And you burn me. Home on her sullied sister In Gaia's velvet night Souls shining neutron-blue In the flat-screen TV light. In a world full of ones and zeroes There's a stranger in your bed Who cannot stay till morning Now that her electric dragon's dead. She's my Evening Star Shine - seven deadly sins It's not the earth that moves me It's the world below that spins. You rise before the sun You set after the sun You hold me in your arms And you burn me. She's my Evening Star Shine - seven deadly sins It's not the earth that moves me It's the world below that spins. ''She's just so beautiful'' --------------------------------- (c) 2015 All music, lyrics, instruments and vocals by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Venus Rising
Savvi on 07-03-2016
Venus Rising
A world inside a computer game, love the description of Venus, Sure is a cool way to render a made up world with images from a real one. I also like the take of family life behind the closed curtains and in bed with the hand helds. I just hope for your sake every one appreciates the metaphor 🙂 Great descriptions. Best Keith. one small nit S2 L3 her her



Author's Reply:
Hi Keith - indeedy and nit removed. The Venera probe pictures were amazing but the audio recording from Venera 13 was never released except as graph forms. The cosmonauts referred to the massive and constant discharges in the Venusian atmosphere as the 'electric dragon of Venus'. A mash up of metaphor of virtual worlds and the bump and grind of real/virtualrelationships. Paul

sweetwater on 10-03-2016
Venus Rising
Ah, now I know it had something to do with computers, but having read the above comment and reply I am completely lost.
Even so I am appreciative of the words, and the images as I saw them although my own and most certainly not the ones you intended, were marvelous. My take on the lines ' who cannot stay till morning....electric dragon's dead' were absolutely not what you meant..oops. 🙂

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue - Venus was regarded as an object of beauty in the early morning and late evening skies. Venera probes and other craft reveal the surface at 450C and 100 atmospheres of CO2 and Sulophuric Acid clouds with constant lightning. You would last only micro-seconds on the surface where even lead melts and the mountain snow is titanium metal flakes! It's the ultimate confirmation that 'beauty is only skin deep'. The electric dragon of Venus is the howl of static discharges - not a marital aid you naughty thinker - but a metaphor for destructive relationships built on the trivial pursuit of beauty enhanced by vitual games and digital and social media. They leave when the last acidic barb has been launched and the last spark extinguished usually after a one night stand. Whew. I need a cold shower. She was poison but just so beautiful... Paul 😉

sweetwater on 10-03-2016
Venus Rising
Wow, thank you for such a fascinating and interesting explaination. Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:


Ghost Train Ride (posted on: 04-03-16)
This evolved from an earlier poem called Fairground. Love, lust, lost in a seaside town and its gaudy bemusement park.

Ghost Train Ride ============== Won't you take pity on my shameless soul in this seaside town? Where I could simply kill for that ephemeral thrill But the Ferris wheel is what keeps me real As it takes me high and it makes me cry - As I say goodbye to my sunshine pie As she slips beneath the cardiac line Of my horizons - my lost horizons. And the wheel takes me down into the arms Of my lover bedecked with jewels And stacked with stars - she's stacked with stars. She prowls all night through the clubs and bars Till her eyes are bright with moonlight And she sees right through me - she sees right through me To tear apart my beating heart again. There's more to life than dying all alone When there's candy floss and cheap cologne Riding roller-coasters on your own You can tell there's no way in hell I'd fall under the spell of her ghost train ride. I don't wanna be another helter-skelter ghost Who's screaming for his mother like a lost child. You can keep the whirling hell of your killer carousel I'm taking one last breath on the Wall of Death But the Ferris wheel is what keeps me real And safe from seduction on the ghost train ride. Please stop and listen to my shameless tale of a seaside town Where I tripped and fell into this blameless Hell But the Ferris wheel is what keeps me real And it spins me round Above the old fairground Where I said goodbye to my sunshine pie As she waved to me beyond the razor wire - that's what the prize is: No more surprises. And the wheel takes me up in to the arms Of the Heavens bedecked with jewels And stacked with stars - all stacked with stars. We made love in some stranger's bed Till her eyes were red with hatred And she sees right through me - she sees right through me To tear apart my beating heart again. There's more to life than a fleeting kiss There's soulless sex and helpless bliss Riding horses naked in the mist So you can say - this is where I stay She won't take me away on her ghost train ride. I don't wanna be another helter-skelter ghost Who's screaming for his mother like a lost child. You can keep the whirling hell of your killer carousel I'm taking one last breath on the Wall of Death But the Ferris wheel is what keeps me real And safe from seduction on the ghost train ride. ---------------------------------------------- 2015 words, instruments, vocals and music by Paul D.E. Mitchell copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Ghost Train Ride
Savvi on 04-03-2016
Ghost Train Ride
Very atmospheric with so many killer lines, I already love it and I haven't heard you sing it yet. Verse 5 is my fav. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Keith - just put the audio up. Ejoyez-vous! Paul

sweetwater on 06-03-2016
Ghost Train Ride
Really, really enjoyed this one, loved the catchy up beat start to the lines, then the change of tempo further on holding one's interest all the way through. Plus the fairground sounds were an added bonus which brought back many happy memories. If I had this on an album this song would be on repeat play. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sue - Barry Town and Barry Island is where I spent two years 21-22 years of age aimlessly drifting in and out of jobs and beds so I couldn't resist adding the roller coaster sounds! it evolved from an earlier poem called Fairground. Paul


Kong Sam's Beautiful Shoes (posted on: 26-02-16)    
A homage to Kong Sam, a humble cobbler, who survived Tuol Sleng:

Kong Sam's Beautiful Shoes ====================== There is a shop Selling beautiful shoes For Beautiful People Seeking beautiful views And their maker left a school Made of bloodied bricks As he whispers in darkness Of Rule Number Six: "While getting lashes and electrification You must not cry - You must not cry at all..." Words must scream For those without choices Music must sing For those without voices Art must bear The unbearable news While wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes While wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes RECORDER SOLO Words must scream For those without choices Music must sing For those without voices Art must bear The unbearable news While wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes While wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes The Educated - They died the same As the humble clerk Who could sign his name In the Killing Fields In the jungle deep Their spirits lie And they never sleep While getting lashes and electrification They cannot cry - They must not cry at all.... Words must scream For those without choices Music must sing For those without voices Art must bear The unbearable news While wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes While wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes "I'm wearing Kong Sam's Beautiful shoes!" ---------------------------------- (c) 2015 All music, lyrics, vocals and instruments by Paul D.E Mitchell Coyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Kong Sam's Beautiful Shoes
Gothicman on 26-02-2016
Kong Sams Beautiful Shoes
Yes, Paul, a talented rendition as a total working, including voice and solo instrument. It may well be the recording quality or the recording stream allowed in subbing music, but, for me, there is too much concentrated volume of different sounds. Using keyboard always seems to have this "drowning" effect, and often makes up for a weak tune. You appear to have a good strong singing voice, which, with less volume of accompaniment, would come over much clearer and feel more personalised, less run of the mill. Even the solo part would benefit I think by letting it do its clear and clean interim bit without being absorbed too much in accompanying sound. Here, I'm only going on about the musical form and presentation, the lyrics are excellent, especially as they are little psychedelic in their subject choice. I think also these songs should be under that genre or group (not sure which is which, wouldn't make the Home page though) But, this is only my take on things, others might well disagree. But, enjoyed, even as it is.
Trevor, late of Tiger Bay.

Author's Reply:
Cracking critique Trevor late of Tiger Bay! You are absotooly right - it is hard to mix for different machines - it's womping on a large system but unbalanced on the iPads. Will rethink a remix. These beasts start of as poems that evolve into songs over time... cheers. Paul

franciman on 26-02-2016
Kong Sams Beautiful Shoes
This moved me Paul. It also made me realise that our belief we are poorly treated is naive in the extreme. Great work, inspired me to start reading more on this sad history.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jim - only two people ever got prosecuted for Tuol Sleng where 20,000 died and only 7 survived. The 'Art must scream' was from grafitti daubed on one of the walls. Cheers. Paul

Mikeverdi on 26-02-2016
Kong Sams Beautiful Shoes
As a written piece it's stunning in its complexity. So well put together I was overwelmed. I know nothing of its story...soon I will. I see you are nominated already, I can only offer my congratulations.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike. The Khmer Rouge made ISIS look like beginners. They announced a Year Zero and obliterated anyone they considered one of the bourgeosie. The structure was so rigid that the torturers merely referred to "anka louu" or "from on high" as all the justification they needed. Paul

Bozzz on 27-02-2016
Kong Sams Beautiful Shoes
Paul, a very well written and moving piece, though I am a bit disturbed by your use of the word 'electrification' when you really mean 'electrocution', the use of electricity to kill or injure.
Yours aye...David

Author's Reply:
Hi David - the use of the word is how Rule 6 was translated: google 'image tuol sleng rule number 6' and you will see the image of the sign at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. I came across Kong Sam's story a long time ago but I cannot find any trace of the article on the internet now. There are indeed shops selling beautiful shoes nearby even one called 'Tuol Sleng Beutiful Shoes' but the owner is called Syphal but many others were opened by survivors of Comrade Number 1 in Phnom Penh. Only three survivors remain alive so Kong Sam has to be a metaphor now.

Chhung Kong was a French teacher at Tuol Sleng before the school was taken over and deemed a class enemy of the peasant revolution. He was sent from the "bourgeois" city to work in a rural co-operative 30 kilometres (20 miles) away, digging water canals to irrigate the parched land.

Chhung says he survived by "luck", unlike family members including his father, three brothers, sister, nephews and nieces who died from starvation. Even today, he still refuses to enter his old school, its blood-stained floors preserved as a chilling testament to the thousands who died there after its conversion to notorious death camp S21.

"Now, I just drive by it... I never enter the place... Why? Because it is the place where I taught students... I still (want to keep) the feeling that it is a school, not a prison," says Chhung, who never returned to teaching. In 2010, a UN-backed war crimes court sentenced former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, to 30 years in prison -- later increased on appeal to life -- for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people. He was the first person to be held accountable for the regime's crimes. August 2014 - the two most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders -- Nuon Chea, 88, known as "Brother Number Two", and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83 -- were given life sentences for crimes against humanity. Both appealed unsurprisingly.

sweetwater on 28-02-2016
Kong Sams Beautiful Shoes
When I read your words I thought they had a very strong message full of sadness, but it wasn't untill I read your reply to David that I understood the meaning behind it. Congratulations on the nomination. 🙂 Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sue.., It's a strong historical thing. But seeing cambodia emerge from all that darkness gives one hope. Paul


WYSIWYG (posted on: 22-02-16)
Some people fall in love with you and they can't help changing you until you're no longer the person they fell in love with - and then they leave you. A cautionary tale based on experience.

WYSIWYG ======== You saw me dancing on a stage singing songs of angst and rage all the time you had me down as some kind of quasi-musical clown. You made your vow before a Cross of Nails to drag me screaming down the aisle and when I raised your bridal veil I swear to God I saw the Devil smile. That's not incense - it's Brimstone! Dear Lord, it's Brimstone! I don't know what lies in their hearts they to try to change you and rearrange you more fool me for taking part I should have told her from the start: I cannot be what she sees in me! There's one rule I won't forget: if I'm a joke, it's the best one yet to all the girls I haven't met "What you see is what you get - no more!" -------------------------------------- I dream of dancing on the stage you keep my soul locked in a cage while your brother runs me down as a pseudo-Vaudevillian clown. I'm walking here with the talking dead your parents messing with my head don't get me started on your Uncle Jack his skin's Snow White but his teeth are black. That's not cologne - it's Brimstone! Dear Lord, it's Brimstone! I don't know what lies in their hearts they to try to change you and rearrange you more fool me for taking part I should have told her from the start: I cannot be what she sees in me! There's one rule I won't forget: if I'm a joke, it's the best one yet to all the girls I haven't met "What you see is what you get - no more!" -------------------------------------- You got me wishing on a star behind the wheel of a sensible car nostalgia's not what it used to be when my 'now' is full of this misery. In our sensible hats and sensible coats we're making love via post-it notes I know this marriage can't be saved When 'the dinner's in the dog' - and 'the dog's in the microwave' {Woof woof -- KA-BLOOIE!} "You can keep your hat 'cause I get the hatstand!" Don't know what lies in their hearts they to try to change you and rearrange you! -------------------------------------- (c) 2015 all words, music, voices and instruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell PRS Copyright Protected
Archived comments for WYSIWYG
Pronto on 22-02-2016
WYSIWYG
Nicely done Paul they do try to change you but why? God alone knows 'cos it never works!
Keep singing mate.

Author's Reply:
My wife stopped me touring the UK with my jazz band then, some years later took off with a 21-year old columbian trumpet player. Go figure. Where's mah tuning fork! Paul

Gothicman on 22-02-2016
WYSIWYG
Yes, two passionate souls, retaining what's best unique to each, and compromising on the rest! (Damn rhyme, David's infected me!). Why is that so hard to achieve? Excellent content, very random descriptive, and funny with it, even the rhyme's balanced-meter perfection, damn you!
Being your neighbour must be a treat, all that upbeat head-in-air wailing, with fingers twitching graphic equaliser knobs, cats, dogs, and bag ladies, scampering through french doors, to garden sheds, for safety! Hahaha! Reporting late night disturbance to the council where you make decisions! Hahaha! So much musical talent like yours waiting for the big break, right time, right place is what it's all about! It's an unfair world Paul, but, for me, much enjoyed well-written lyrics.
Trevor

(what you see is what you get?)

Author's Reply:
I am 60 this year, Trevor, so, alas, my breaks are far more likely to be osteoporitic rather than musical. I do play with the four bands of Cardiff's Big Slouch Collective but none of my ditties are ever aired live. Still I am blessed with the company of wonderful musicians and composers that keep me sane as I ponder 'pon the ravaged dead pig heads of austerity cuts to local government. I record upon a Zoom MRS802 studio I bought for £80 on eBay, I kid thee not. best £80 I ever spent! Thank thee kindly for such kind words and meter musings! Huzzah! Paul

Bozzz on 23-02-2016
WYSIWYG
An important issue in a good marriage is that the so-called 'personal space' of each partner be becomes defined and respected - red lines as they say. Mine went long ago too.
Paul, superb rhyming and rhythm - as a good lyric should have - humour - a great bit of topical fun. Yours aye, David

Author's Reply:
Hi David. My beloved ran off with a trumpet player half her age hence the angsty antz in the pansty lyics. glad you dug the groove. Paul

Mikeverdi on 25-02-2016
WYSIWYG
Great stuff again Paul, I envy you still out there giging mate.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers, Mike. I gig a lot but play other people's originals. I cannot find anybody interested in forming a group to do my stuff! Sigh! Paul


Funhouse Ska (posted on: 19-02-16)
Dystopia you can dance to

FUNHOUSE SKA ============= The Minister of Malice now maintains The poor are nothing more than just criminals The message in the media stays the same Making sure the hatred is subliminal The Minister of Sinister: God Forbids Anyone with morals more than minimal He says the gays are out there and they're stalking kids Perverts and parasites and animals From John o' Groats to the Forest of Dean The dispossessed are unheard, unseen He crams their mouths with fast food dreams And binds their eyes with media screens Until the poor are just Soylent Green Thank God for music there's always music There's always hope like a Pope on a rope And he's doing the Funhouse Ska The Minister of Mercy has gone insane He thinks that paraplegics should be terminal What the hell is 'special' about a broken brain These 'victims of rape' are all pre-menstrual The Minister of Sinister is on the news He claims that martial law is unavoidable Just give the proles their porn and their drip-feed booze And radicals and immigrants and animals From the start of play to the final scene The dispossessed are obscure, obscene They feed these 'scroungers' to the meat machine Their 'freedom of speech' won't keep our nation clean Until the weak are just Soylent Green Thank God there's music there's always music You can save your soul by losing control And doing the Funhouse Ska {Guitar Solo} The Minister of Madness has a master plan All the ethnic women are bi-sexual Surrendered to the spandex of the super-man Where the Aryan dream isn't virtual The Minister of Sinister now insists That black slacks and jack boots are fashionable Your freedom of thought will no longer exist Protesters are predators and animals From the End of Time to what Might Have Been The dispossessed are unkempt, unclean James and Joyce are force fed poteen God save us all not save the Queen! When all the old are just Soylent Green Thank God for music there's always music When Mister Molotov and Kalash-i-ni-kov Are doing the Funhouse Ska Take your partner's hands for the doh-ze-doh The balloons are full of tear gas and we're ready to go Each riot-shield has a smiley-face For all the party-animals surrounding this place You know that love comes from the barrel of a gun! And when the party starts - you get ready to run We'll baton-round your dance moves if you make it thru the night we're steppin' to the right. and further to the right Links, Reich uber-reich! Is everybody having fun? ============================== 2015 all words, instruments, vocals and music by Paul D.E. Mitchell PRS Copyright Protected
Archived comments for Funhouse Ska
sweetwater on 20-02-2016
Funhouse Ska
Another well penned and and up to the minute poem, I liked the faster pace of the music too. 🙂 Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue - lots of basic alliteration and internal rhyming with changes of pace - you can tell I am more than just a little concerned with the way the old U of K is going! Cheers. Paul

Gothicman on 21-02-2016
Funhouse Ska
Yes, your special brand of avant-garde song and musical arrangement, using cynical humour to convey strong topical lyrics of protest and serious criticism, a modern strolling minstrel using a media that's able to reach many. Very well written , played, and sung. I'm subbing a rap song tomorrow in imperative voice....well more reflecting panic and hysterical paralysis really...tried to hire Tiny Tim do do the audio...but, he was otherwise engaged...said it on the door! Hahaha! You're very musically and poetically talented Paul, much enjoyed as art form.
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Alas, Trevor, hiring Tiny Tim may have proved difficult as he died aged 66 on stage in Nov 30 1996 in Minneapolis while performing his trademark song, Tiptoe Through The Tulips. He is currently engaged in pushing them up in a manner of speaking. I look forward to the rap sheet- sorry - rap. Best. Paul. PS I cannot find a band willing to try my quirky stuff, alas.

Supratik on 02-03-2016
Funhouse Ska
You will find your band Paul. This is marvellous.

Author's Reply:


Fade Away, My Drama Queen (posted on: 15-02-16)
To have loved and lost... a drama queen.

Fade Away My Drama Queen ----------------------------------------- I've winter with thin blankets by old gas fires where the very air is turning blue I think of icebergs when I think of you. Love was just a drama a walk-through in your head I hope you find your karma in some director's bed. I met you at a party as lovers often do we made love by moonlight but was it really you? All the while as hindsight shows I was just your 'Titanic' you gouged out my flanks with ice-floes so I watched all my extras drown in a studio pool in Tinseltown. It's time for me to say goodbye to my Drama Queen this is not a serenade it's a final scene it's written by this never-was for a might-have-been I read between the lines to find what the critics mean it's time to roll the credits now fade to grey, my silver screen fade away, my Drama Queen ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Love was just a fore-play a kick-start for your heart I hope your crime will pay as you sell your perfect parts You dumped me at a party as lovers often do you made a perfect exit but was it really you? For a while it was Kingdom Come but I was just a dress rehearsal you gouged out my heart for stardom so I watched all my extras drown in a studio pool in Tinseltown. It's time for me to say goodbye to my Drama Queen this is not a serenade it's a final scene it's written by this never-was for a might-have-been I read between the lines to find what the critics mean it's time to roll the credits now fade to grey, my silver screen fade away, my Drama Queen. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I think of icebergs when I think of you Verblassen, Knigin des Dramas. Sie sind nur eine filmische Hure. Eine filmische Hure. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2015 Music, lyrics, vocals and instruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Fade Away, My Drama Queen
Pronto on 16-02-2016
Fade Away, My Drama Queen
Loved the drama and the acceptance that you were merely being used. No hint of self pity either; refreshing change.

Author's Reply:
Thankee Kindly Sir Pront of O! We have all been used and abused in our long and turbulent lives - self-pity scoured smooth by the sands of Time passing through all these hourglass waists.

Supratik on 16-02-2016
Fade Away, My Drama Queen
I don't know that to say! The poem is perfect and flawless. The poet is poignantly carrying the pain. Will 'it' really fade away. Best. Supratik

Author's Reply:
When a man stops thinking of 'it' is when a man stops thinking of anything - from either dementia or death. Thanks you for your read and for your kind words. Appreciated as always. Paul

Mikeverdi on 17-02-2016
Fade Away, My Drama Queen
Like this a lot, I see its a song, but then, I guess most poetry is. I write a little differently so would trim some words out, just me, and as I said I like it a lot. Congrats on the Nib.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike

It evolved from an earlier poem and into a song but it could be trimmed a tad but seemed to fit the music better somehow! Paul

pommer on 17-02-2016
Fade Away, My Drama Queen
Yes, I like it a lot Paul especially the final condemnation in my mother tongue.A poignant poem well composed. Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thank you, Peter. German was just perfect for the outro! Paul

sweetwater on 18-02-2016
Fade Away, My Drama Queen
I've read this several times during the week as I do with longer poems just to get the feel of it, also listened to the audio, very good, much enjoyed it. It reminded me a bit of the song ' You're so vain ' I think it was the ' I met you at a party line'. Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue. I am sure that 'you're so vain' wasn't in my mind but it was a long term relationship with someone in the the 'theatre' and we're all drama queens at heart, are we not? Paul


Chimera My Aurora (posted on: 12-02-16)
A development from an earlier work called Excitation. The music is inspired by Tuvan throat singing.

Chimera Chimera Chimera You are my aurora The sun, the moon: a daughter! The marring of Ra Sends my ions earthwards As your blue world is moving through My Helios-fear I spiral down above your tundra I cascade in aurora In the magnetism of the moment My curtains billow jealous green as on red sheets of pain my pillow shines so neutron blue my tears cascade like rain I am still so geostationary above your heart I kiss, I kiss your lips Borealis I kiss, I kiss your lips Australis Chimera Chimera Chimera Please don't leave me here. ------------------------- (c) 2016 all music, instruments,lyrics and vocals by Paul D.E. Mitchell Copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Chimera My Aurora
ParsonThru on 13-02-2016
Chimera My Aurora
Beautiful. So visual.

Author's Reply:
Thank you - I appreciate it! I hope it didn't make you too hot under the dog-collar. Cheers. Paul

sweetwater on 13-02-2016
Chimera My Aurora
Wow psychedelia, all over again, beautiful dreamlike quality to music and images. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue. Thank you for your appreciation of my 'umble metaphoric-euphoric ode. The marring of Ra of course refers to the Egyptian sun god, Ra, and sunspots sending ions and electrons to spiral down into Earth's magnetic poles to give the sheets of red blue and green. It's all about sex of course with the naughty bits at the end. The music inspsired by Tuvan music. Cheerz. Paul


Connecting (posted on: 08-02-16)
Workaholics drifting apart from each other and reality and never again...

How did it come to this? He felt his urban madness grow It drove away his wife His children became strangers And they vanished from his life Regret is a new emotion That cuts him like a knife That cuts him like a knife. His bedside clock is screaming now It drags him from his bed He joins the line for the eight-oh-nine And the unanointed dead. He can't remember her name! He can't remember! His bosses are driving him crazy Inside the bars of his open-plan cell Each second ticks by so slowly When your heart is an empty shell But alcohol brings oblivion From his nine-to-seven hell From his nine-to-seven hell. He says goodbye to his Facebook friends And he dreads the eight-oh-four He can't connect with a single face Then his key snaps in the door. He can't remember her name! He can't remember! Night-time sees him drifting now As the strangers pass him by He's seeking understanding from A mannequin's empty eye His face pressed against the window He swears he saw her cry He swears he saw her cry. She sighs and then she turns to leave But the shadow takes her arm "There's one thing that you must believe I never meant you harm." He can't remember her name! He can't remember! I wish I knew what wounded you And tore your heart away But love is such a mystery That binds us here today But regret is a cruel emotion That I don't know what to say That I don't know what to say. How did it come to this? ------------------------------------ (c) 2015 all instruments, music, lyrics and vocal by Paul D.E. Mitchell copyright PRS protected.
Archived comments for Connecting
stormwolf on 09-02-2016
Connecting
Hi Mitch,
A salutary tale of modern life for so many. Little more than a slave to the system. My idea of hell.
Enjoyed the musical presentation too.
Alison X

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison. Such a common tale inspired from an ealier version in turn inspired by a guy in a suit I saw, drunk as a skunk, and talking to a shop dummy with his face up against the window...

Bozzz on 09-02-2016
Connecting
This poem/song is so full of good lines. My son, a composer/song writer for films, tells me always to look for the intended hook! For me it is "He can't remember her name". Have I guessed right? or is it the title?, Yours, David

Author's Reply:
Hi David. Hook indeed and encapsulates the man I saw, besuited and bam-boozled talking to a shop dummy. Sad and all too common when workaholics burn out and turn to drink... paul

Supratik on 11-02-2016
Connecting
Dear Paul, With this poem talking about the 'urban madness', you have taken the whole world in your pocket. There was in instant connect right from the first line. I came down and went up again. Yes it goes into my faves. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Namaste! Thank you for your kind words and fave. It is an all too familiar story of families breaking up through putting a job first. Paul

sweetwater on 11-02-2016
Connecting
You have brilliantly captured my idea of hell, so glad I have escaped it, very much enjoyed the audio too. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Ah, Sue, it looks like you almost bought the T-shirt. I was a workaholic too with three jobs and it did put a massive and fatal strain on my marriage. Glad you enjoyed the music. Paul

shadow on 11-02-2016
Connecting
Very good poem, has an incantatory feel to it. Scary too, sent a shiver down my spine!

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the shivery salutations - it's the drift thru work and pub and coming home to an empty house that is the incantation. Paul


Rocket in the Pocket (posted on: 05-02-16)
An observational up-beat ode about a night playing with my ska band Funhouse at one of Cardiff's oldest pubs in Tiger Bay known as the Packet - aka Racket in the Packet. Real people, real music.

ROCKET IN THE POCKET Hi - Funhouse is in the house! Here we go! Mo' the Dive works nine to five He does what it takes to stay alive But his girlfriend digs his jumpin' jive And the rocket in his pocket. Gladys Glad has her glad-rags on She's here tonight to sing along But every word she sings is wrong Like the loser in her locket. We all know what it means to be A dole queue wretch or a wannabe So unchain your brain and your melody And let the Funhouse set you free. Diamond Dave takes centre stage His joints all ache and he feels his age He works all week on a shitty wage With his finger in the socket. Shopgirl Jim works the checkout tills He ducks and dives to pay his bills But he still buys his frocks and frills For the rocket in his pocket. We all know what you want to do You want to groove with the Funhouse Crew So unchain your brain and your two left feet With T-Bone Ger and Sexaphone Pete. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! When all around us things are changing They're changing (oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper!) They're changing - they're changing (oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper!) Why can't they ever - leave things alone? (oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper!) leave things alone? -------- Captain H on his eighty-eights Is bustin' grooves so don't be late The one mood he can elevate - Is the rocket in your pocket. Chrissie H lays down the beat It's ten-to-two between his feet Gladys wants her evening treat From the rocket in his pocket. We all know what you want to do You want to groove with the Funhouse Crew So unchain your brain and your two left feet With T-Bone Ger and Sexaphone Pete. Give your funny-money to the Honeydripper, Honey Shake your cutie-bootie 'till the magic's in the money He'll hoot 'n' tootie-fruitie till your bouncin' like a bunny On the rocket in his pocket. Everybody's frightenin' but nobody's a hypocrite Anyone who's anyone is evidently out of of it While Mo and Diamond Dave think that Glad has scored another hit On the rockets in their pockets. We all know what it means to be A dole queue wretch or a wannabe So unchain your brain and your melody And let the Funhouse set you free. Oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper! Oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper! Oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper! For the Racket in the Packet! Oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper! Oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper! Oompah oompah - stick it up your jumper! For the Racket in the Packet! Oompah Loompah - stick one up your jumper! Oompah Loompah - stick one up your jumper! Oompah Loompah - stick one up your jumper! For the Racket in the Packet! Oompah Loompah - stick one up your jumper! Oompah Loompah - stick one up your jumper! Oompah Loompah - stick one up your jumper! For the Racket in the Packet! --------------------------------------------- (C) 2015 All instruments, music, lyrics and vocals by Paul D.E. Mitchell dedicated to Funhouse Cardiff crew and The Packet - the finest pub in Tiger Bay! copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Rocket in the Pocket
sweetwater on 07-02-2016
Rocket in the Pocket
Apologies for late comment, baby sitting duties. I guess this tells of the true reality of on stage life, and I thought it was all glamour lol. I'm intrigued by shopgirl Jim, and poor Diamond Dave I can feel his pain. I was fascinated with all the details of the lives here, are they from real people or imagined? The audio too was brilliant, very catchy and much enjoyed.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sue! This is completely glamourless reality with real people. Jim was our guitarist till recently and left to concentrate on his band called The Shopgirls hence the slight dig about his cross-dressing. Gladys Glad was on form on Friday and as steamed as a rat. This YouTube link gives you the feel of the band... enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqwCwiLsM00


Small Golem (posted on: 01-02-16)    
The angriest poem I have ever written. . The music is deliberately harsh being 'Death Techno'. .

The Face of God gets mad in bars Small Golem dreams of dolls and cars Small Golem's ship: it orbits Mars Small Golem sees fists full of stars ......fists full of stars That suckled breast is black and blue Wind fairies grieve a beaten shrew Small Golem knows it's nothing new He's found a place where nothing hurts: A closet full of shoes and shirts He boards his ship in finite space Child-pulsar heart spin beats apace This black hole star hides God's true face ...... hides God's true face Reach for the sun with hands of clay "Maeth - Amaeth" he tries to say He yearns for love but not today His parchment chars, Small Golem hurts Sobs muffled byGod's shoes and shirts.
---------------------------------- (c) 2015 all music, voices, words and instruments by Paul D. E. Mitchell copyright PRS protected ----------------------------------
Archived comments for Small Golem
sweetwater on 02-02-2016
Small Golem
Well, I cannot pretend to understang this fascinating poem, but I loved it, so many terrific lines, 'wind faries grieve a beaten shrew' is just one of them. No idea who or what Small Golem is, Hobbit inspired? Brilliant write. Straight into favs. Sue. PS. just listened to the audio, wow! love the Death Techno sound, rather David Bowie'esk I thought. If you considered putting it out on cd you have a customer here. :-))

Author's Reply:
If you go to www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell you can play all 50 tracks! Thanks for the visit. A golem is an animated anthropomorphic being in Jewish Folklore, magically created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material (usually out of stone and clay)in Psalms and medieval writing. They were formed and animnated by placing a magic parchment called a shem into the golem's mouth or head. Æmaeth is “truth” in Hebrew and is the word inscribed onto the Shem. The Kabbalist Jews believe that God is the truth and all life comes from that single source. Just one letter apart is maeth, which means “death”. By removing the Latin letter “æ”, “truth” becomes “death” and the Golem falls back onto the ground as lifeless clay once again. The golem is an analogy for a child denied love and indeed a soul by an uncaring and violent father watching dandilion seeds blown on the wind (wind fairies) as the mother is beaten. Sorry to be so graphic but this is a reality for some. Hope this helps. Paul.

stormwolf on 02-02-2016
Small Golem
I remember this one from before. It moves me to tears. One of your finest if not the best. I thought I had it in favs but will take it in again. Allow me to nominate it too.
A heartbreaking and very original portrayal of domestic abuse and the betraying of the innocent trust and loyalty of children. Bloody marvellous writing!

Wolfy one X

Author's Reply:
Thanks O Wolfly One... it was posted some years ago but many of my works change and morph over the years so that they are living things. It changed again when sung aloud and the music came and it changed again. Seen too much of this that fills me me with a dark anger and occasionaly I can use my position as a councillor to make a difference. Howlz! Paul

sweetwater on 02-02-2016
Small Golem
Oh, my gosh, how stupid am I! Just read Stormwolf's comment I had absolutely no idea it was about child violence, so obvious now I know, I can see it in a whole new light now. Heartbreakingly sad.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sue. I do write cheerful stuff too! Hugz. Paul

Savvi on 02-02-2016
Small Golem
Very effective and deeply moving words, deserves the mom and the nib well done.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. It is my darkest hour so to speak but like Dylan Thomas I do do dark deftly I do.

Gothicman on 04-02-2016
Small Golem
Yes, always good to protest against domestic violence, but, for me, from my professional window, the poem is dead in water when that cursed brain twister, religion is used as a vehicle to structure the messaging. To me "Small Golem" is too distracting, I keep thinking "Gollum"! Seems to me to be a poem only the chosen few could really understand. But having said that, Paul, the music, your very professional voice, and especially too, the short el-guitar solos are quite brilliant, touch of Bowie about it all, even your voice could be him! So much enjoyed as a protest song, but less I'm afraid as a informative poem.
Best, Trevor

Author's Reply:
Hi Trevor I do take your point: Golem may have inspired Tolkien's Gollum but the God reference is from a child's first drawings of a parent being essentially a giant face 'God' and Golem being a helpless lump of clay moulded by parents where aemaeth 'truth' is lost as the parchment chars at the hands of a cruel parent to become just maeth 'death'. Sorry but I could not thionk of anything stronger in my condemnation. best. Paul

Gothicman on 05-02-2016
Small Golem
Of course, getting the end of their willies cut off will not make them fear parent or God, even if slightly more real than Jewish folklore! Hahahaha! Great music!

Author's Reply:
The unkindest cut of all? Thanks for liking the music! Paul


Two-Tone Hat & the Happy Slap (posted on: 29-01-16)
Anyone can aspire to life beyond the tower blocks...

Nature or nurture? His youth seems so endless feels like infinity in boxers and socks he's drowning in his X-Box plays a holy-roller in a trinity. Boyfriends drool as girlfriends mewl inside phone booths that spark-lit, flicker in the bilge-rat dark. Shipwrecked fools and drunken youths that hooded, snicker in the needled park. He feels so pointless no moral compass his mum's on his back and his dad had a heart attack - a recycled brat in a gardenless flat in his two-tone hat. There's more to life than these four walls and high-rise thrills and siren calls. The high-rise and the underpass: the hunting ground of the underclass where neon strip-lights spark and buzz like swarms of angry bees. You can screw your hippy-crap who wants to hear a one-hand clap? your freaking trees can fall unheard unheeded by this urban herd. Pit-bitches raise a hue and cry they see him through pinhole eyes he's leaving their honey trap no more cider and happy-slap. ------------ His world seems so limiting feels like insanity with bulldogs and bones sees ABH with traffic-cones a baby in a stroller shouting out profanities. His friends skipped school and play the fool besides young girls their hormones quicken in their crow-black cars. See fleeting shapes and silent rapes the plotlines thicken in the back-street bars. He knows they're heartless: a pack mentality his sister's on her back while his dad has a spaz attack - a recycled brat? he's better than that in his two-toned hat. There's more to life than these four walls and high-rise thrills and siren calls. The high-rise and the spiral stairs through brokens doors and the open air where neon stage-lights spark and buzz like swarms of fire-flies. You can screw your hippy-crap who wants to hear a one-hand clap? when music fills his heart and head he leaves behind his unmade bed. Pit-bitches try to say goodbye they see him through a stranger's eye they gaze up - at his old flat drifting down is his two-tone hat... GENETICS! HE'S MORE THAN GENETICS! There's more to life than these four walls and high-rise thrills and siren calls. x 3 and ad lib.... -------------------------------------- (c) 2015 All music, lyrics, voices and instruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell PRS copyright protected
Archived comments for Two-Tone Hat & the Happy Slap
Savvi on 29-01-2016
Two-Tone Hat & the Happy Slap
Fabulous, albeit a darker world the scene and struggles are well drawn with a real sense true life an our struggles.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the comment! It is, as you've observed, ased on real life observations and people I know rising above their backgrounds! Long may it continue!

Pronto on 29-01-2016
Two-Tone Hat & the Happy Slap
Great song for the modern age of shallow F/book friendships and the wittering, twittering trash of the multimedia monsters that lurk in the lonely bedrooms of a lost generation.
Great write!

Author's Reply:
Hi Pronto - thanks, we are all outsiders looking in indeed. Your comments are a start of a poen in themselves along with some new collective nouns: a twat of twiiters, a thumb of i-podders etc. Paul

Supratik on 30-01-2016
Two-Tone Hat & the Happy Slap
I see the poem as a probe into the shallowness that has our lives clouded. Great write!

Author's Reply:
Thank you, Supartik. We are indeed in shallow social media times where our attention spans are being eroded daily!

Gothicman on 30-01-2016
Two-Tone Hat & the Happy Slap
Yes, listening to it while writing this, very professional voice, musical arrangement, and accompaniment, with a feel of late Beatles! Are you a home musician or do you do gigs? Great economic, sometimes colloquial wording that's unfortunately so relevant to our times for some. Nature or nurture indeed, Studying adoptive children from all walks of life hasn't supplied convincing answers! Your skilful songs with great lyrics, and their recordings are an extra boost to the diversity of this fine site. Much enjoyed.
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Thank you Trevor - I am blushing rosily. This is an awesome site which I promote constantly. I play in numerous bands and i am currently part of Cardiff's Big Slouch collective a group of musicians forming not one but FOUR bands: Funhouse (ska); Joytown (zydeco/squeezbox/ukelele); L'escargots D'amour (indie) and Goodfellas (Jazz). I do some of these songs solo but getting a band to do these complex arrangments - not so easy! Paul


Hollywood Loves A Lunatic (posted on: 25-01-16)
The increasingly mainstream gore-fests such as Saw, Silence, Chainsaw massacre, Centipede and endless torture movies are worrying me. Hollywood really does love a lunatic...

Run, Rabbit, run Hollywood is having fun Maxwell's sold his silver hammer And bought himself a gun He's their black hole star Shining on their silver screens... He's building new machines To dice and slice small furry things Since he was small he never played nice He's catching angels to tear off their wings And now De Niro has grown a beard He's method-acting something weird He plays a doctor with an English face Who's playing God with opium and lace A cyanide sayonara to the blue-rinse brigade With motels full of Normans And his showers and blades... And now his American Sniper Is a son-of-a-gun; he's a Son of Sam And a looney-tune in Vietnam Hollywood, yes, Hollywood Loves a lunatic - Pile on the gore and watch the ratings soar Hollywood loves a psychopath Hollywood loves a bloodbath... SOLO - Doctor Jekyll is a jerk To hide inside good Mister Hyde He's knows his friend, Jack, is pretty sick Dissecting angels to see what makes them tick Stallone can hone his blood-soaked pecs It won't save him from his box-office wrecks Everybody wants to see the knife sliced across Snow White's snow-white neck When she's left alone with seven psycho-gnomes Where cannibals are heroes And heroes are zeroes... And all our poor children: Before it's time for bed, they've seen ten thousand dead And zombie hordes with exploding heads! Hollywood, yes, Hollywood Loves a lunatic - Pile on the gore and watch the ratings soar Hollywood loves a psychopath Hollywood loves a bloodbath... Run, Rabbit. run Holywood is having fun Maxwell's sold his silver hammer And bought himself a dream Here comes the Driller Killer He's guaranteed to make you scream... Bang bang (drill) Bang bang (drill) Bang bang (drill) Bang bang! (c)Paul D.E. Mitchell 2015 copyright PRS protected
Archived comments for Hollywood Loves A Lunatic
pdemitchell on 25-01-2016
Hollywood Loves A Lunatic
The idea arose from a dark joke:

Man says to his friend: "I can't believe it: Hollywood is making a movie about Doctor Shipman and they've got De Niro signed up!"

"You're kidding!" said his gullible friend. "What's it going to be called?"

"The Old Dear Hunter."

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 26-01-2016
Hollywood Loves A Lunatic
Too many great lines to name drop, but Doctor Jekyll is a jerk To hide inside good Mister Hyde is exceptional 🙂

Author's Reply:
Cheers - glad you like the imagery! Paul

Bozzz on 26-01-2016
Hollywood Loves A Lunatic
Hi Mitch, I feel like I am drowning in a sea of clever references – not understanding most of them, but getting the drift. A bit, I imagine, like watching Tom Stoppard’s latest play. You are the one having the fun at Hollywood’s expense. Good stuff….David

Author's Reply:
Thanks, David. It arose from the joke quoted above but it is serious about the love of gore and slpatter movies and the disturbing fact that an American teenager will see 10,000 video, X-box and TV murders before they reach 21 - with many UK kids not far behind.

sweetwater on 26-01-2016
Hollywood Loves A Lunatic
I liked this, and enjoyed the clever word flow, and listened to the audio, to my mind it would work very well with an upbeat, more of a rock based toe tapping tune.Would love to hear it played that way. Sue. 🙂

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue - you could be right but I really tried and tried to get a rockier version first but the lyrics just wouldn't work in any format so I had to fall back on this ska-whimsical approach. Please forgive me! Paul


Step Into The Light (posted on: 25-01-16)
Written after 4 death bed vigils in three years..

I hear the skip-rope beat of another failing heart but she's calling me from a world away and the first step is such a perfect place to start... So I lay her down as blackbirds sing her soul as fragile as an insect wing she's drifting through the endless night she takes my hand and steps into the light into the light... she steps into the light... into the light... no more sorrow - she's taking flight she takes my hand and steps into the light... into the light... On every road there stands a priest and a raven sits upon his outstretched wrist then flies above all the endless cars where Lao-tse's butterflies are yearning and learning and turning into stars dim and distant stars... ------------------------------------------------------ solo ------------------------------------------------------ No more speaking in tongues no more being lost for words close your penny-weighted eyes let the ferryman take his prize take my hand and step into the light step into the light into the light into the light take my hand and step into the light into the light into the light (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2015 copyright PRS protected all music, words, voices and intruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell www.pdemitchell.com
Archived comments for Step Into The Light
Savvi on 25-01-2016
Step Into The Light
Stunning and very sad 🙁 is there an audio I would love to hear it. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Keith. There is a corridor at Llandough Hospital near Cardiff that's the longest hospital corridor in the world and walking it at 3am is what this is all about. My mother's lungs failed and the CO2 build really does have you speaking in tongues hence the words and the music... enjoy!

Gothicman on 25-01-2016
Step Into The Light
Yes, a very moving and catchy song text, which, like Keith, would presumably be more so with appropriate musical accompaniment, something light and soft like classical guitar - the risk for me is that it might get a little too Gospel, and lose some of its beauty. Fine words and structure, excellent write.
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Trevor - definitely not Gospel! As you know Lao-Tse awoke one day after a dream unsure whether he was a man who had dreamt he was a butterfly or was a butterfly dreaming he was man. The raven is the classic escort of the ascending soul of course. Paul

Savvi on 26-01-2016
Step Into The Light
In work now will listen tonight, thanks

Author's Reply:

Gothicman on 27-01-2016
Step Into The Light
Yes, on listening to your rendition, you have a good singing voice, but the music arrangement is too heavy, detracts from the beauty of this fine poem - One of our masterly poets here, Leila (Eileen Carney Hulme) has been rightly honoured by having a poem, Belonging (In Stroking The Air, 2nd published collection) performed by an excellent choir with several harmonising parts:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl_Ava4CJz0

I think this fine poem of yours is worthy of being acknowledged and honoured in this special way too.
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Hi Trevor - it's such a joy to get proper helpful constructive crit. You are, of course, absolutely correct. It was written with a choir in mind but my voice and musical noodlings were the best I could do. Others say a female lead vocal would be better - and I concede on this one! Know any choirs knocking about? Will be searching to do another version. Paul PS the choir singing Leila's poem was stunnning!

Supratik on 03-02-2016
Step Into The Light
A very moving song. My best lines:
"No more speaking in tongues
no more being lost for words
close your penny-weighted eyes
let the ferryman take his prize"

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Supratik. Speaking in tongues is when the lungs break down and CO2 floods the system. It is truly horrible to watch in a loved one... hence the poem. As you know, a practice dating from Greeks and Romans was ro place coins such as the Greek obol on the eyes of the deceeased or in the mouth for Charon's fee. It was also practiced by the ancient Celts. Paul


Butcher of Srebrenica (posted on: 22-01-16)
Historical condemnation whispered into my ears by an army of ghosts

VERSE 1 Such a blood-stained monstrous creature He's the Butcher of Srebrenica He tips his hat at the hookless meat War widows walk on bleeding feet He swears to God and takes their lives Mere shadows on his cleansing knives Hatred drips from his country's flag He wipes the counter with this bloodied rag Rips son from sister, men from wives And justifies their shortened lives... CHORUS 1 Then I hear the sirens call The bullets fly and the bombs they fall I hear them call for national pride What they mean is GENOCIDE.... VERSE 2 Such a blood-soaked monstrous creature He's the Butcher of Srebrenica Spritius Sanctus; the Devil toasts He tips his hat at eight thousand ghosts His comrades draw on their crackling skin As their hatred boils the blood within Tito's shadow cries in vain As slaughter stalks the land again The deepest ditch and the mourning field Day by day, their secrets yield... CHORUS 2 Then I hear the sirens call Bullets fly and the bombs they fall Then I hear the ghosts inside Crying out against GENOCIDE.... VERSE 3 Such a blood-soaked monstrous creature He's the Butcher of Srebrenica... Dutch auctions held in brutal times As their soldiers danced in their conga lines Sarajevo was a mortal hell With sniper, tank and mortar shell The judges rise as the decades pass And the Butcher stands in court at last He smiles his smile and he bows his head To tip his hat at ten thousand dead... He's the Butcher of Srebrenica Such a blood-soaked monstrous creature... (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2015 copyright PRS protected all music, words, voices and intruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell www.pdemitchell.com
Archived comments for Butcher of Srebrenica
stormwolf on 22-01-2016
Butcher of Srebrenica
Fabulously dark and well written.
You know, over the course of my lifetime, I have seen he world descend into a despicable place. There have always been wars of course but now those wars and genocide are manufactured and manipulated by dark cabals and from an outsider’s view if looking at Planet Earth, I do not think any advanced civilisation would want anything to do with us at all. We are slipping back into the dark ages and all advances in civilisation are now being eroded.
Beam me up Scotty and don’t spare on the dematerializer.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
The whole thing made me SO angry - watching these monsters smiling in court and the shock to the Danish people after their soldiers did the conga to celebrate release before being told the Serbs had killed all the Muslim men in their UN enclave after it was overrun. Grim, grim stuff.

Supratik on 25-01-2016
Butcher of Srebrenica
This is sincere writing Paul. My advice to you is to take the anger out of your mind and then write angry words. I admired the chorus very much. Focus on one thing... the mindset that war is a historic and trans-historic reality has to leave the planet earth. But these are all my views, even if you found my bit foolish (the angry bit esp.), my best wishes for you don't change. Blessings. Supratik

Author's Reply:


Mad March Hare Affair (posted on: 22-01-16)
A pastiche of Alice in Wonderland and the breakup of a marriage where Alice can no longer fit down the rabbit hole ...

VERSE 1 He's a late-night high-wired act With a sex-starved acrobat In her four-postered belfry-bed The bells are ringing in his head He tears apart her Velcro basque Whiskers twitching to the task Their 'love-slaps' are shock-absorbed By beer-belly crumple-zones She promises both bed and bawd And heady sex in dulcet tones While kisses burn on lust-rouged-cheeks: "Same place, same channel same, time, next week..." VERSE 2 His key now turns in midnight locks He twinkles in in sandman socks Escshewing light for dark delight His whiskers twitching in the night Stair steps creak like coffin lids Inside the mirror where Alice hid This Mad March Hare now skips a beat Past cases full of childish books He creeps towards their unwashed sheets On tippy-toes and tenterhooks Her cockatrice now spins and shrieks: "Same place, same channel same, time, next week..." CHORUS It's a Mad March Hare Affair His Wonderland is everywhere Alice is now crowned in red Hardly moving from her bed His heart is dry where she never reigns She's wrapped herself in fast-food chains She doesn't know he doesn't care His Wonderland is everywhere He's a Tweedle-dee to her Tweedle-dumb He takes his chances as they come She doesn't know he doesn't care It's a Mad March Hare Affair SOLO REPEAT CHORUS You know the wonder's vanished from his soul As Alice can't fit in the rabbit-hole She wallows in her stir-fry bed Excuses sizzling in his head He paints her picture in rancid oils That stretches him till he faints in coils There's methyl mercury in his flask His whiskers twitching to the task Now the Hatter's mad as the mirror spins At the Mad March Hare and his Cheshire Grins The teapot cracks and the Dormouse squeaks: "Same place, same channel same, time, next week..." (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2015 copyright PRS protected all music, words, voices and intruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell www.pdemitchell.com
Archived comments for Mad March Hare Affair
stormwolf on 22-01-2016
Mad March Hare Affair
Hi Mitch,
Great to see you posting again! This is up to your usual standard. So many incredible lines it makes my head spin.
I was going to highlight my favs but the truth is that every line is a winner.
A sorry tale told too.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks, O Wolfy One! A sorry composite of my love life alas but i could not resist all the Wonderland imagery of the Alice in Middle Age!

stormwolf on 24-01-2016
Mad March Hare Affair
Great to hear it put to music. Makes it come alive. I wish more folk would be a bit more adventurous with their presentations.
I do feel the level of reading seems to be way down too.
Well done
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Aye, I cannot find ANY constructive criticism in the past month's entries which worries me. I love con-crit and develop as a result especially with the music...


Grieve Autumn, Breathe Winter (posted on: 26-05-14)
WITH AUDIO - A poem about those who abandon their families to chase fantasies. The piece evolved from an earlier Villanelle in 2011.

GRIEVE AUTUMN, BREATHE WINTER Grieve Autumn, breathe Winter when all your summer dreams lie in splinters. Walk softly, promise whispers like when you told your kids you'd be home by Christmas. Home by Christmas or the New Year? I don't know what it is that you fear but all they know is that you're not here but for your photos on the wall. You're as fickle as a moth inside a flame a moon-struck wolf in search of a prey to blame you're supposed to keep your kids all safe from harm but you sacrificed your paradise in some harlot's arms. Here's hoar frost, Jack's fingers exposes a heart where no warmth lingers. Fall softly, bitter crystals one more Snow White ghost lost in the distance. Lost in the distance, so far from home would it have killed you to pick up the phone? all they wanted was a ringing tone to break the silence in their hearts. The Muse you follow blindly is a drunken whore your palace is a mattress on someone else's floor you're singing songs so soulless on a cheap guitar you chase the cruel illusion that you're a superstar. So you breathe Autumn, grieve Winter now all your summer dreams lie in splinters. Fall softly, die in whispers like when you told your kids you'd be home for Christmas. Home by Christmas or the New Year? now I know what it is that you fear it's the woman you once held dear taking down your photos off the wall. breathe Autumn, grieve Winter grieve Autumn, breathe Winter. Walk softly, lie in whispers like when you told your kids you'd be home by Christmas. Home by Christmas or the New Year? And there's one more thing that you fear The house is empty; there's no-one here But for your photos on the floor. (c)Paul D.E. Mitchell 2013.2014 Music, words, vocals, instruments by Paul D. E. Mitchell from the second album "Hiroshima Shadows" available on www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell
Archived comments for Grieve Autumn, Breathe Winter
stormwolf on 26-05-2014
Grieve Autumn, Breathe Winter
Incredible Mitch. You sure have talent. This is hard hitting and brilliantly laid out. A real treat to read and the repetition with slightly evolving content stroke of genius IMHO.
One of my very favs of yours. Looking forward to hearing it.
😃
Alison x


Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison - evolving repetition is a powerful tool in the odester's box in both poetry and lyrics. Based on experience and observations of too many close friends of both genders going through both sides of this particular mill. Howlz. Mitch PS Audio posted!

JohnHolmes on 26-05-2014
Grieve Autumn, Breathe Winter
I enjoyed listening to this on the audio feature. Reminds me slightly of XTC's style for some reason. I think there may be a slight difference: the lines "it's the woman you once held dear/taking down your photos FROM the wall" of your lyrics sounds like "taking down your photos OFF the wall" in the audio version. Enjoyed it though.

Author's Reply:
Thanks John - the lyrics varied as I recorded it and it was 'walk softly' not 'talk softly' as the 'Waw' phoneme in 'walk' allows a vocal slide whereas 'taw' in 'talk' is too abrupt. The read, listen, observations and XTC comparisons were greatly appreciated! Mitch

Mikeverdi on 27-05-2014
Grieve Autumn, Breathe Winter
Another interesting one from you mate, I wasn't as blown away as Alison, some of the cord changes seemed at odds. (but that's just me) On the written page you missed a word out in the third verse 'know'. All this is not to say I didn't enjoy it...I did. Think I may start playing again; you inspire me.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike - the chord sequences are simple but keys jump not modulate which is why it sounds weird. Ray Davies did a lot of this in the early Kinks stuff. Em - A7 then Dm7 - Bb7 then Bb7 A7 Dm7 G7 (moduulate) then Cm7 - Ab7 then Cm7 Ab7 G7 F7 (minor to major modulation etc) then start again etc. Well spotted on the 'know'... Hope you start playing again and add music to some of your odes! Mitch

Savvi on 27-05-2014
Grieve Autumn, Breathe Winter
Top draw mitch and quite heavy work on the children, Alison has said a lot I agree with already but I particularly like :-

So you breathe Autumn, grieve Winter
now all your summer dreams
lie in splinters.

It just works really well to tie up the verse and set tone for a broken relationship, you have some great lines:-

your palace is a mattress on someone else’s floor
you’re singing songs so soulless on a cheap guitar

It took a couple of reads to fully appreciate the progression wrapped in the lines, but all for the better. Best Keith

🙂 very nice, into favs

Author's Reply:
Cheers my dear Savvy Savvi. Poems do seem to be stronger if you have that temporal progression in them even if it is not essentially a story. Based on far too many observations of human frailty, alas, including my own. Mitch


Excitation (posted on: 02-05-14)
A short but highly charged romantic liaison...

Excitation The marring of Ra sends my ions earthwards as your world ploughs through my heliosphere they spiral down above tundra losing energy to aurora in the magnetism of the moment curtains billow jealous green as on red sheets of ruing, pillows midnight blue I kiss your lips borealis I kiss your lips australis. Excitation
Archived comments for Excitation
Savvi on 04-05-2014
Excitation
the title works really well and you have some very at odds lines that convey such passion in a strange way, I like that and I like the freshness of your poetry, very much enjoyed. keith

Author's Reply:


Barry (Expletive Deleted) Island (posted on: 25-04-14)
I lived at a low point in my life in Barry not far from the Island where I indulged in a short and pointless affair one sweltering summer in the 80s...

Barry [Expletive Deleted] Island ------------------------------------ I had a seaside girlfriend then with a suntanned UV'd soul steered through love and mayhem with a dodgem-car control. I used to lie entrenched, entranced scorched and swilling lager kegs interlocked our hands; romanced sand scratching at post-coitus dregs. Deep our shore-line penetration parting sun-toned, gym-honed legs electromotive stimulation moves her mouth and so she begs: Amidst the corpulent discharge; nauseous chavs and burger-bars bodies baste in extra large dollops from vast sun-screen jars. I felt some intellectual shame watching mind-lock, limp-dick, sun-block playing their new beach game - 'let's hit an Arab with a rock!' She was my sweaty talisman I could easily have strangled as I helped the flailing deck-chair man who was hopelessly entangled. So I read my book and found the sea full of missing kids, dead fish I emerged between two jobbies with a most unchristian wish. Sand all sticky with melted fat moist oiled Megs and dark mauve Marvins lobster monsters, thongs and tat their picnics keep the gulls from starving. Some mate noisily in the privacy of dunes or roller-coaster cars shhh, listen to them blister quietly; cultivating melanomas Deft-wrist flicks of deck-chair man draws sneers from sweltering Goths mascara drips on the lager cans of these black-clad frazzled moths. Alas, she said, our love can't last as chill forebodes as evening falls my time with you has been a blast drowned by raucous seagull calls. This town is not for me, she cried; I'm returning home to Ireland She took my hands and gently lied: We'll always have Barry Island. Be still my beating heart inside: Barry [expletive deleted] Island!
Archived comments for Barry (Expletive Deleted) Island
sweetwater on 25-04-2014
Barry (Expletive Deleted) Island
Entertaining and off putting at the same time, but very interesting. Made me smile, Sue X.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sue - I had to post a counterweight to Vigil's End and I am glad it made you smile. Mitch

stormwolf on 25-04-2014
Barry (Expletive Deleted) Island
Made me laugh in the best way. I felt your metre petered out here and there but on the whole demonstrated once again your very insightful and imaginative mind.

I cannot ever imagine you writing a love poem lol but you paint a very telling picture which good poetry tends to do.

Alison x


Author's Reply:
The meter wasn't perfect as I haven't really honed this bit of sand-encrusted candy-fluff but it is an accurate and somewhat loving description of sweaty seaside fun and frolicks. Mitch 🙂

Mikeverdi on 30-04-2014
Barry (Expletive Deleted) Island
I loved this, not at all put off by content or meter; for me that's what made it. So many terrific lines " black clad frazzled moths" wonderful!
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks mike - it was a lot of fun this one. Grotty romantic interludes filled with seagull-swooped candy-floss thrills.... awooogah! Mitch


Vigil's End (posted on: 25-04-14)
Having cared for three elderly relatives, this was my last vigil of three in five years. Llandough Hospital near Cardiff has one of the longest corridors which is a chill surreal walk at 3am when you've made the most painful of decisions... again.

Vigil's End ------------ Alveoli fail; exhalation denied we wait in the endless corridor or curl on tiles like silent speechless death-watch bedside beetles the needles are withdrawn angels flit to still the ping and shrill of automated sentinels as we wait in the endless corridor weighted down with dread dead hearts and the comfort crumbs of company. air rattles past larynx, trachea through bronchi and bronchioles ravaged by age and Imperial tar less O2 in; less CO2 out the hemoglobin darkens, dying erythrocytes sail through pulmonary Cs: cigarettes, carcinogen, cash toxins slowly steal lucidity until each staccato gasping word pierces our hearts like the talons of a murder of Promethian crows. as we wait in endless corridors or curl like cats in chairs with tea in white foam cups; white brims raised to red-rimmed eyes twelve upon twelve upon score and four ticking of clocks, beating of hearts staring in thrall at Charon's tears: each clear gravity-drawn drip of mercy and morphine... and as often is; she goes alone as we yield to grief-hewn sleep: dream-drifting down endless corridors towards cold caresses and cremation where her ferry sails Promethean seas until we cry memories of scattered ash.
Archived comments for Vigil's End
Mikeverdi on 25-04-2014
Vigils End
Sadly this is all to real to me, as I assume it is to you. I read with strange fascination as your words unfolded the long nights vigil.
It was splendidly written, its always hard to say you 'Liked' something of this nature; but I did. Thank you for posting this one. I understand from recent comments that we are marking to high, sadly I can only give this a ten 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike. It was painful and real and took a long time to 'come out' and one of the most bitter times. Thanks for the read and kind comments but worry not about the ratings - I think most are moving on but we must not lose sight of valid constructive crit where needed. Mitch 🙂

Kipper on 25-04-2014
Vigils End
I too have sat and waited. Long hours at the bedside. Long hours with little sleep and frequent long journeys. Despite all this when the time came she was alone.
Your description of this sad and final duty to a loved one was so real that I shed a tear for my sister.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to remember her again.
Michael.

Author's Reply:
Hi Michael - with three relatives lost to vigils. Each time I was exhauted and dishevelled and went home - a journey of half an hour - only to find the phone ringing to tell me they had passed away. Thank you for sharing your memories of a lost loved one and your kind words. Appreciated. Mitch

stormwolf on 25-04-2014
Vigils End
Hi Mitch,
This is an example of a poem that has been honed to perfection. I know you spend many hours re-doing and re-writing so that the finished product is the best it can be for the readers but also your own perfectionist satisfaction.
The content bleak and cruel as such things are. Having nursed so many people just like this and also knowing the lonliness of the 'endless corridors' and alienation from all comfort....then the person chooses to slip away when you are not there (so many do)
A very worthy 10 rating from me.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Al. My output is low as a result as I rarely post a 'first rush' but this is one where I would never do that as it would seem disrespectful somehow. It is true though: you can spend days or weeks at the bedside of someone apparently in a deep coma and the nurses say many somehow seem to wait until you are gone. Thanks fo the read and comment - appreciated as always. Howlz. Mitch

Bozzz on 25-04-2014
Vigils End
Mitch, as a student of lung diseases and a counsellor of copd patients I know that emphysema brings a cruel and often noisy heart-rending death. Indeed the heart it is that fails. My sympathy to any and all who have had to watch it. For your detail and well-written description, not mention pain, I too will go with Alison on ten....David

Author's Reply:
Thanks Davis - this is as raw as it gets and the image of the machines are but phosphene closed-eyelid ghosts and the ping of monitors and hiss of oxygen are but choke-sobbed echoes in one's tinnitus of grief. Regards. Mitch

Ionicus on 26-04-2014
Vigils End
A top-notch poem, Mitch, with masterful language which expresses the anxiety of those waiting for the final hours of relatives and the painful outcome.

Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi - thanks for the read and kind words as this was very difficult to post let alone write. Appreciated. Mitch

Savvi on 28-04-2014
Vigils End
Been there, walked the corridor, very well penned. the white foam cup lines some how makes it all real, very well done

Author's Reply:
There is something about the cheap styrofoam vending cup in a deserted hospital dimly-lit canteen at 3am that seems to sum up the transience of life - a transient fragile grail if you will. Mitch

Mikeverdi on 30-04-2014
Vigils End
Having read this one again (third time) I was touched by your last reply to Savvi.
" The cheep styrofoam vending cup....." " A transient fragile grail..."
I think that sums it all up better than any poem in some ways.
It has an awful truth about it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the re-revisit Mike ... your thoughts are appreciated as always. As they say: you can only dig it if you've lived it. Regards. Mitch


Dream Scythe (posted on: 11-04-14)
The first opening of one's eyes in the dawn...

DREAM SCYTHE I dream of dead, rot-fish, rot-flesh hands that claw as Time recedes and scale-sands whisper upwards throttle, choking through the hour-glass garotte ear pressed to the glass wall, absurd, I heard each grain scrape-shriek regret with blackboard nails blood-skeined, bloated, blinded as a black-hole sun scrabbling for that one last fingerhold on life as knife-sharp tongues they thicken now and gag snag and cloy the clever throat of cynic and critic drawn up by gravity into cowled Death's constriction friction heating soul-grains along each event's horizon red-glowed glass beads gleam in spiral ascending bending light into fractal deceit and false salvation salivation a taste-dregged memory and each knife struck now a wound received, perceived and coins lust and loins now dust and bones and Davey Jones scrabbles at the glassy seas as I rise, dream fast amongst the grains, the skipped-rope beat of ageing hearts pound sea-wave alarum until my eyelids flutter like a bedroomful of Lao-Tse's butterflies against a blank ceiling.
Archived comments for Dream Scythe
Pelequin23 on 11-04-2014
Dream Scythe
excellent descriptive technique morbidly beautiful

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your kind words and read. As Neitzche put it "What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!' Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine'?" Mitzche :0)

stormwolf on 11-04-2014
Dream Scythe
OMG Mitch! I thought some of my waking's can be bleak but your one's take the biscuit!
Incredibly 'orrible and gut-churning imagery took me on a journey akin to a visit to Dante's inferno. It looked a bit more promising in the beautiful lines

'pound sea-wave alarum until my eyelids flutter

like a bedroomful of Lao-Tse's butterflies'

but no...the last line sealed the deal. haha



Oh and BTW the title was superb!!

What can I say apart from you have an incredible brain and your imagination knows no bounds.



Alison x





Author's Reply:
Thanks, Alison - Like Lao Tze, I have the darkest dreams but also the most vivid and the most beautiful because what is light unless it is seared by dark until its last glimmers evokes one's understanding and desperate yearning? What is a blank page unless it is seared by the dark of words born of that understanding and yearning and signed by a small butterfly pinned to the lower right corner of that page?

Howlz. Mitch :0)

Mikeverdi on 11-04-2014
Dream Scythe
Bugger, you can keep the dream to yourself...but I loved reading about it 🙂 'Scrape-shriek regret with blackboard nails' that's going to stay with me all day now...hopefully not all night 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hopefully I didn't invade your dreams, Mike. Thanks for the read and comments. Mitch :0)

Munster on 13-04-2014
Dream Scythe
The brain is so powerful even in the dead of night, powerful piece

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Munster-dono! read and comment appreciated. Mitch ;0)


Grapes of Wrath (posted on: 04-04-14)
For Luigi et al: Just to prove I can do eye-watering and poetic humour with absolutely no reference or apologies to John Steinbeck whatsoever...

GRAPES OF WRATH ----------------------- The grapes of wrath are not a novel but piles that grace a wretched arse; whether palace-bred or raised in hovel, it makes one's life a bitter farce: the strongest-willed are forced to grovel and wait for things to come to pass with grinding teeth and buttocks clenched, thigh muscles tensed and abs drum-taut with reddened face and night-clothes drenched, our victim's strains have come to naught but for one small rabbit-pellet wrenched: bloody havoc on his anus wrought. His poor crossed eyes have seen the glory of Steinbeck's angels in distress whose dust-bowls bred a bitter story: where Revelation's cruel winepress left an impasse red and gory - with no plot-line twist to second-guess. His fleets of books are toilet-moored, when he's squeezing out the vintage wherein the grapes of wrath are stored which he'll harvest in his dotage with terrible, slow and painful sword the fateful lightning of God's umbrage. Like route sixty-six, his sigmoid's jammed, the flatulence is fantastic: he's squatted, kegeled and then fibre-crammed, but irrigation proved too drastic so a last resort's up rectum rammed: magic bullets wrapped in plastic. Now on his side our hero rests in a post-enema'd daze and dreams of suckling Nurse Sharon's breasts as air along his colon plays endoscopies and biopsy tests as Nurse Sharon smiles that dreadful phrase: ''You may find this a little uncomfortable.''
Archived comments for Grapes of Wrath
Ionicus on 07-04-2014
Grapes of Wrath
You have proved that you are a talented writer, Mitch, and I have no doubt that humour does not present an unsurmounsable challenge to you but this contribution does not reflect the 'just plain daft' level to which Luigi et al descend. Too erudite.
Cheers.

Author's Reply:
Erudite - sounds like a tube of commercial glue! I can't do 'plain daft' no matter how hard I try. It's not the genes, I'm afraid. Alas. Alack. Mitch:0)

Pronto on 02-06-2016
Grapes of Wrath
Piles of pleasure reading this work. It brought back memories of my "wire-up-the-Willie" endoscopy some years ago.
'You may feel a little discomfort' I was told. my cock still cringes when I remember the experience.
Loved the humour here "Just plain daft" or no.

Author's Reply:

pommer on 15-06-2016
Grapes of Wrath
Hi, have read after your comment on my daft contribution.I like this one, very true to experience.Hope you will never have planetary trouble again with URANUS.Yhtnk you for reading mine, and sharing yours. Peter.

Author's Reply:


Mind The Gap (posted on: 31-03-14)
WITH AUDIO; Another observational on a train watching a white-haired sixty-something guy with a twenty-something bride latched onto his face like a scene from Alien.... she defintely wasn't one to

MIND THE GAP senile delinquent bull-bars akimbo he's in love with that red-headed bimbo but the whole shooting-match is destined for limbo but she don't care she'll do it anywhere as long as she gets an heir she doesn't mind the gap and all that free-will crap she does what it takes she makes no mistakes sex is infrequent it makes her angrier but the renal corrosion means he's pissing Niagara but the good old hospital snatch gets them Viagra for she don't care she let's them do it anywhere as long as they get an heir. she doesn't mind the gap and all that free-love crap she does what it takes she makes no mistakes naked de minimis leaves her a-quiver but the drugs in his system are making him shiver they're making him shiver they're making him SHIVER shu- shu- shu- SHIVA! but she will forgive him as long as he delivers for she don't care she'll do it anywhere as long as she gets an heir. she doesn't mind the gap and all that free-will crap she does what it takes she makes no mistakes prostate cancer and low oxygen tanks means the poor old bastard's firing blanks... but the good old body-double earns her undying thanks for she don't care she'll have sex with anyone as long as the job gets done: it's for the Messiah she plans to bear! She doesn't mind the gap for that money-shot and she covers the trap with forget-me-knot and his drip-feed tap seeps noble rot as his heart impales on her blood-red finger blood red finger-nails ---------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2013 All music, words and instruments by Paul D. E. Mitchell Snare drum, brushes, tea and sympathy by Captain Hawkins
Archived comments for Mind The Gap
Bozzz on 03-04-2014
Mind The Gap
Unusual train journey carries may truths. The climbing rose syndrome looms large but seems thwarted at every turn. Disaster beckons. It kept me locked in all the way
- a brave and fascinating piece in my view....David


Author's Reply:
Thanks David - I do try off-bet stuff in poetry and in lyrics and watching that couple canoodling on a train with the 60-something pretending to be a 20-something with bling and so forth made my blood run cold - like she was literally slurping the years from her victim... ah, gold-diggers, dontcha jus' love 'em? Mitch

Nomenklatura on 04-04-2014
Mind The Gap
Liked this very much. Musically I was reminded of (don't laugh) Steve Gibbons in his more acoustic phase (playing Keighley Park festival in the 90's)
Beautifully done.
Regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Cheers, Ewan. I liked Steve Gibbons even without his band! This is one of my softer songs. The later stuff got so much darker in the second album! Mitch :0)


It Must Be London; It Should Be Paris (posted on: 28-03-14)
With AUDIO: A slightly lysergic ride on the London Tube in the 80s always stuck in my mind and grew over 30 years into a poem and a song. I always wished it was Paris!

IT MUST BE LONDON Sleepless, hapless, riding trains This must be London; I wish it was Paris These metro (hetero) eyes never seem to see That I'm cock chock full of a wry disease The rhythm of the points sway those breasts like moons And we sing the hell-deep subterranean tunes So I hear Bo Diddley's ghost in the rhythm of the rails In the rattlin' of the tin of the girl who saves the whales This must be London; wish it was Paris This must be London; wish it was Paris! I spy strangers with my sliding eye I'm not a jester; just a passer-by I'm a small-talk junkie who needs that fix The weather will do; let's try politics In this ugly, thuggy, this couldn't-care-less This airless Underground; now here comes the test As her aura arouses my prickly heat My eyes are glued to that boob-Tube beat This must be London; wish it was Paris This must be London; Wish it was Paris! Here cocooned couples play their tonsil'd-games They're kiss-bliss adrift in their intimate seas And they're lapped by the waves of my envy-green Reliving last night's X-rated scenes That disembowelling kiss means they're not post-coital yet They're stuck between coffee and those damn 'cigarettes' I hear Bo Diddley's ghost sighing 'Bo Diddley Da He's all fingers and thumbs with that complicated bra' Eden-serpents hiss in their hung-and-drawn dark The Dow-quartered Dead: see them disembark This must be London; wish it was Paris This must be London; wish it was Paris! The whistling ghosts and the tannoy sage Urge the Madding Crowds to disengage And to Mind the Gap (or was it) to Gap the Mind? The terror firma still strikes them blind The hum-drum horror and the coffee black Tears them from the womb and sends them screaming back We're choking in the Smoke; lungs full of candy-floss We'll eat the Strangest Fruit and then burn the Charring Cross This must be London - Dear Lucifer! This must be London; wish it was Paris! -------------------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2013 Instruments, words and music by Paul D.E. Mitchell Snare Drum, sympathy and tea by Captain Hawkins
Archived comments for It Must Be London; It Should Be Paris
usutu on 28-03-2014
It Must Be London; It Should Be Paris
Paul,



Once again I like your writing. One word of criticism if you don't mind? Sometimes you try to cram too many words into one line (we all do). For example 'Bo Diddley's ghost in the rhythm of the rails' would have done it for me.



Thanks again for a good piece.



U'sutu.

Author's Reply:
Thanks U'sutu. A pleasure to know you enjoy my work. I do a lot of the editing by speaking aloud and yes, I am quite a line-crammer but they are performance pieces for spoken or sung performance. Have a listen to the audio and let me know what you think. Regards. Mitch

Bozzz on 29-03-2014
It Must Be London; It Should Be Paris
Valuable stuff, Mitch, a priceless collection of below ground art - to be appreciated by the rats of course. Enjoyed the ride - undulating boobs and all.....David

Author's Reply:


FLASH AMERICA (posted on: 24-03-14)
AUDIO: Inspired by snapshots of the seedier US, 'Super Size Me' and some other documentaries, it evolved over years until I was finally satisfied. I was once berated by three large, angry American poets at a reading. They can go to hell - let's hear it for the overhanging underbelly of

FLASH AMERICA ------------------- Anonymous, eponymous, a dedicated shrine Tea trays, liverwurst, a single-engine line Archipeggio, andante, a twiddling of the pissed Sunburnt, sea foam, assiduously kissed Insidious, perfidious and forty fainting maids A robot-dancing president and snaking cavalcades They're hanging Chad in Florida, impaled on pointy hats Epiphanied evangelists, annihilistic cats Attention spans of guppies with super-size-me butts Waist size, tide swell, super-seismic guts Dancing the lambada with heavenly Angelica Fingers on the buttons, boys, this is Flash America! Twister Alley galley rats, sinking with their ships Twenty-four ounce rump steaks, stapled to their hips Mind-boggling bagels, sixteen million calories Nouveau prankster gangsta art, slays them in the galleries Pollack dropped a bollack, but ships them out in droves Gallons of gator gumbo, still a-bubbling on the stoves Oh, my Godding juveniles, the hordes of Valley girls Underbelly untermensch, a cardboard hobo hurls Incredible, inedible, all-you-can-eat cantinas Mardi Gras, tasselled bras, in the wreckage of Katrina I'm waiting for mah waitress, the heavenly Angelica Fingers on the buttons, boys, this is Flash America! Arnie Barney Smack-a-negger, scary Governators The Blair Bush backed imbroglio, the Gulf War instigators Mascara'd and then massacred, the chauvinist charades Ghastly Speedo paedo-fests, the Little Miss parades Sexualising seven-year-olds using pagented pretence ''Pinko commie faggots'' form their Fox-fucked-up defence Twin-towered onanisers crack one off the wrist Two-fingered fuck-you rants as their DNA untwists Fat dull dysfunctionals fawn at Springer's feet Saran-wrapped and sacrificed, they keep his ratings sweet I'm waiting for my make-up call from heavenly Angelica Fingers on the buttons, boys, this is Flash America! Hideous, invidious, a good ol' boy and rye Pitch and toss, burning cross, there's murder in his eye His concept of the cosmos extends as far as he can jab His jogger-panted hippo-legs can't take another slab A Murdoch-manse of Babel, the dancers on Death Row Lyme disease, crimes sprees, with lethal gas to go Road rage, fight-cage, and the gun-shops in the malls False faint, wails and weeping when the judge's hammer falls Their body odour smoulders with each Expel-Air-borne whiff They can only cram six Texans in a twenty-person lift I hurtle to the basement, my arms around Angelica Fingers on the buttons, boys, this is Flash America! Erogenous, misogynous, the cess-pool Casanovas Whipping Santa Anna firestorms and wild-life roast aromas Baby Rosemaries in diners whose dates look like Belushi Coming on like calamari on conveyor-belts of sushi They're coached by Doctor Ruth, her sex-messages get garbled So he sounds like Marlon Brando, choking down the Elgin Marbles Lard-locked land leviathans, on a beer-chuck, beef-chuck binge A collective intelligence that would make a dormouse cringe Where anti-Semite animators are decimating rights Metropolis and necropolis full of Zappa's Tiny Lights Where I'm down on Wounded Knee, proposing to Angelica Where I'm down on bended knee, proposing to Angelica Fingers on the buttons, boys, this is Flash America Fingers on the buttons, boys, this is Flash, Trash, Crash AMERICA! There's more to this than meets the eye.... {Angelica!} Where's muh waitress? Angelica? Angelica! ------------------------------ (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2014 words, background music and instruments by Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for FLASH AMERICA
usutu on 24-03-2014
FLASH AMERICA
Right on the money. First Class. Excess taken to new levels of vulgarity. It reminded me of Floridian holidays when you disbelieve the evidence of your own eyes, and that people on the other side of the world are starving to death. U'sutu.

Author's Reply:
namaste U'sutu! I am glad you liked this as I worked on it for years to get the sounds and cadences right and performed it only to be ripped into by three obese American 'poets' at the gig. Cwtchez! Mitch :O)

Mikeverdi on 24-03-2014
FLASH AMERICA
I thought this was great Mitch, one of your best for me. All I know of America is TV land, never been; so if this is it... then I never will. I had a niggle with the music being a bit too loud for the voice, I went back and read it again; really top notch.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike - sorry the guitar and double-entendre-bass overpowered the audio a bit but thanks for the re-read. The piece really is more about the flash media images we get of US that stay in the mind. There is a mass of great stuff and amazing people in the US of Them so I am only targeting the excesses - and having a lot of fun with wordplay and tripple alliterations too. Where's mah waitress! Mitch :O)

Savvi on 25-03-2014
FLASH AMERICA
I think I've just listened to the missing track off New boots and panties. Are you a blockhead...;)

Mitch this is excellent, and a sight of america that is easily ignored, but not anymore. Great job. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Hi Keith - I am more of a Clever Trevor than a Blockhead - with a nod to another pioneer: Jonathan Cooper-Clarke. Thanks for the kind words and reads as this has evolved out of live work and the closest I will ever get to rap I think. Mitch 😀

Ionicus on 26-03-2014
FLASH AMERICA
A very biting satire, Mitch. You hit the nail on the head.
I am not a musician and don't recognise the word 'archipeggio'; my knowledge stops at 'arpeggio'.
Regards,Luigi

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Luigi, and well-spotted - archipeggio is a convoluted musical in-joke. Arpeggio is the sounding of the tones of a chord in rapid succession rather than simultaneously but archipelago has crept in and corrupted arpeggio to archipeggio especially when refering to the repetitive extended note sequences or clusters of note sequences in US progressive rock. Andante, at walking pace, these can be turgid and rambling especially when played or 'twiddled' by stoned lead guitarists intoxicated by their own imagined brilliance. Mitch


Tongues of Flame (posted on: 21-03-14)
WITH AUDIO: arsonists all over the world delight in being the gods of flame uncaring of death and misery they cause in pursuit of their indulgence in yellow leaping adrenalines and the crackling of pheremones.

TONGUES OF FLAME ------------------------ I can't breathe, oh God, I can't breathe! I'm speaking in tongues of flame Smoke is drifting across these screaming roads And the scarecrows are all ablaze 'cause mercy is missing from all their burning fields From all their burning fields Starlings murmur frenzied all over the place You could fry an egg on his upturned face The ozone is long gone from above their pointed heads He watches in wonder as the starlings all flutter down dead My ash trees empty themselves of all these smouldering birds The patio flags shimmy in the heat of all my half-baked words But the cat cannot profit as his brains begin to fry His eyes melt into tarmac beneath a murderous media sky and you can hear the arsonist cry: I'm speaking in tongues of flame I'm the one who's praying in Santa Anna's name On manicured and urban lawns Christ is crucified before each bleeding dawn Before each bleeding dawn: Every burning bush is shrieking in his mind He is the god Prometheus; he's the saviour of mankind And he gives each blind consumer an all-consuming gift Till their tenders char and snap and set the whole dam' world adrift There's no parade to speak of as it hasn't rained for days A cool breeze is cruel nostalgia in a choking Beijing haze Till Brazil is just a desert and the Amazon's a pyre He's counting out his matches; rekindling his desire And you can join the arsonists' choir: We're singing in tongues of flame Smoke is drifting across these silent roads And Hollywood homes are burning bright Sirens are mourning throughout each embered night Through each remembered night: There's no parade to speak of as it hasn't rained for years A cool breeze is just a tease that would drive a clown to tears Till Canada is tinder-dry and drowning in barbed wire He's pouring out his petrol for his Holocaust of fire And you can join the arsonists' choir: We're screaming in tongues of flame Smoke is drifting across these silent roads And the scarecrows are all ablaze 'cause mercy is missing from all these burning fields From all these burning fields... I AM THE GOD PROMETHEUS. --------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2014 Music, instruments and lyrics by Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Tongues of Flame
Nomenklatura on 21-03-2014
Tongues of Flame
Very good indeed.
regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Ewan. Appreciated! Just uploading the audio-thingy to go with it.

Bozzz on 21-03-2014
Tongues of Flame
Brilliant, if scary too. Mitch, I have studied the evil gods existing in most ancient religions, worldwide. The consistency is in desire to turn man's own evil intents in to practice by their gods - a form of blame dispersal on a gigantic scale. This vein sticks out in your poem ....Bravo, beautifully written .....Bozzz

Author's Reply:
Ta Bozzz to buzzz. "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, they kill us for their sport." Thankee kindly for the read and kindly words. Mitch ;O)

jdm4454 on 21-03-2014
Tongues of Flame
Mitch, this is great. A friend of min, a record producer in NYC, Richard Alderson, go his hands on some of the demos from the 1980 recording sessions for "Watching the Wheels" where Lennon is rehearsing with an open mic and an accoustic guitar - your voice, your delivery, and your guitar sound so much like those old recordings....thanks for the listen. jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the kindly words, Jim, especially the blush-rush from the Lennon-comparison - the man was one of musical heroes. I bet your friends still wishes he had those open mic demos!!! Mitch 🙂

Popeye on 23-03-2014
Tongues of Flame
Nice work, great imagery and a perfect description of my wife's cooking 🙂 Joking aside, this is an excellent write which I enjoyed very much.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sir Eye of Pop! I hope your wife the Oyl of Olive doesn't get on UKA much as ground-glass porridge is not that digestible! Thanks for the kind words and enjoyments... Mitch :O)

Nemo on 23-03-2014
Tongues of Flame
Fascinating detailied work has gone into this, mitch, some mastery at play here. Just putting my hat back on. I remember liking a bit of arson myself as a kid. Harmless Scouser stuff but wouldn't get away with it these days.
Gerald

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Gerald. I work in bursts and troughs where some pieces take years to mature. I didn't know you were a bit of an arsonist as a kid butkids don't realise the impact of theiir actions. In South Wales from March 1 to 17th, fire crews have attended 180 grass fires and 283 deliberately set fires across the area - the youths even lie in wait and stone the fire engine crews when they turn up to tackle their set blazes. Mitch ;O)

ChairmanWow on 23-03-2014
Tongues of Flame
Great metaphor. Ye, I liked a good magnifying glass as a kid; maybe there is a pyro in most people. Recording sounds great--intimate like a demo.

Author's Reply:
You can't get a bigger Meta-(gang of)-Four than Prometheus, the god of arson. The track is essentially a demo - I've played in bands as a bassist for decades but never had the stones to set my stuff to music. So many people said I was crap and like a fool, I believed them so now it's all tumbling out. Thanks, CW!


The Onanist (Meat Poetry) (posted on: 17-03-14)
WITH AUDIO: This is a brutal depiction of excess based on several harrowing tales about what happens when sex becomes an addiction... warning: not for the haint-farted and wheezily off-ended.

THE ONANIST (MEAT POETRY) ---------------------------------- The onanist, the one and only, drifts through drunken dreams shield and sword and armour, stalked by Paranoia the Destroyer through thronging rush-hour streets where everybody stares at his crotch: Am I naked from the waist down or what? Am I covered in puke? he screams Semen stains or blood or what? Paranoia has me by the balls My armour has evaporated! Leaving the sack-dangling empties rattling in the milk-racks and so the milk-float goes until the early morning jingle that makes his pecker tingle ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ with a circus-master grin, he breaks her over breakfast playing indoor games he's dressed like a stallion, her a foal they swing from chandeliers he's out on top of wardrobes in oilskins, clutching harpoons screaming 'what sinew inside me breaks?' and 'I spit my hate at thee' hand-grasping gunwales dipping oars in tsunami tunnels rolling on the flanks of his Moby Dick dressed as clown and schoolgirl waterwings and webs in plunge-pools creams, screams, porn on screens watching retarded farmgirls taken by pigs and farmdogs he's a cross-dressed Casanova bound by bondage, crippled by triple tribal tribadism sneezing at snuff-movies groaning like Jacob Marley in zips, whips, clips and chains wielding rabbits wrapped in barbed wire dangling, hanging out in harnesses asbos, lesbos, soft pink oboes pinned by crossbows is this the end I see before me? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ He lays upon his ruined bed Atlantic-sweat-drenched, helmet-handed storm-tossed, hand-tossed, dental-flossed, bound, lost, found and thrice rewound thigh-booted and bodiced, breathless skin-tight-tights and nipple-clamps piercing foreskins, foregone foreplay kissing sex-dolls hissing limply bi-counselling his appointment card is plastered and stapled to his forehead ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The landlord below bangs the ceilings with a broom What ever will our neighbours think? His wife sprayed spermicide into her mouth and pledged: as soon as you untie me, dear, I'll write out his eviction note in a mixture of bile, blood, sperm and the greenest of green ink! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Paul D.E. Mitchell 2014 Music and instrument backings by Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for The Onanist (Meat Poetry)

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Hiroshima Shadows (posted on: 14-03-14)
WTH AUDIO: An anti-war poem now a song of sorts with a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfa5hENP1U0 - please share

Hiroshima Shadows ----------------------- We never mattered much at all 'cause we're all just dreamers we're just shadows on a wall in Hiroshima. World diktat dictators trading children-in-arms behind your polished personas lie your spin-demon charms you sold out your collective soul tearing off the wings of angels. To you we're all just despicable and vile 'cause you're all just schemers we're just a flicker on a dial in Fukushima. You're the cold war instigators you deal out death with anonymous drones with daisy-cutters and cluster munitions a field of blood and a pyramid of bones you sold out your collective souls tearing out the heart of nations. We're all just cyphers on your stage 'cause we're all just dreamers we're just a flicker on a gauge in Fukushima. You're the warfare propagator the silent stalker on our mobile phones you still the ghost with TV sex and drugs the ash of angel feathers in a no-go zone you sold out your collective souls tearing out the throat of angels. We're just a gas-cloud in Bhopal where the children still are screaming we're just a shadow on a wall in Hiroshima. [Accapella - voices in the dark] You are the war-crime perpetrators you make a million martyrs for a barrelful of oil you don't give a damn about mutations as their parents scratch a living in irradiated soil 'cause you've sold out your collective souls tearing out the hearts of angels. Angels. Angels. Dreamers. Dreamers. Live in fear. ----------------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2014 All music, intruments, vocals and lyrics by Paul D. E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Hiroshima Shadows
jdm4454 on 14-03-2014
Hiroshima Shadows
Damn, Mitch, that's strong medicine. If we could just get them to swallow it, we might have a chance. The American Military Industrial Complex has run amok for the last 60 years on made up, unnecessary "conflicts" to perpetuate their own wealth....gfp, my friend....definitely worth the "great read" endowment...thoroughly enjoyed--jim


ps- it is a good song, too.

Author's Reply:
Thankee kindly Jim... I appreciate the nomination. "We're just a gas cloud in Bhopal" chokes me literally - Union Carbide got away with killing thousands and the lawyers stripped away the compensation paid to the survivors... Mitch

Savvi on 14-03-2014
Hiroshima Shadows
I like the voice its kind of passive aggressive just as it finds teeth it softens and changes topic, very well done with both song and poem and congratulations on the nom. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Keith. This was quite personal especially my sheer anger at the sheer callousness displayed during the aftermath of Bhopal and how war and bad industry can devastate entire populations in equal measure...

Mikeverdi on 15-03-2014
Hiroshima Shadows
Your words burn like Napalm, a dam good rant mate. We tried to stop all the war mongers in the sixties.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike - I am certainly not one to beat about the bush when I can napalm an entire forest of war-apologists.... 🙂

Ionicus on 15-03-2014
Hiroshima Shadows
A terrific poem, Mitch, which pulls no punches. When it comes to plain speaking you never disappoint. Well done.
Luigi

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Luigi. I do go for the dark side a lot! Fits the music well - which surprised me - making Armageddon hummable, that's me!
mitch


Sisterless and Shrineless (posted on: 10-03-14)
WITH AUDIO - In homage/warning to those young drivers and their passengers who die needlessly from adrenaline and inexperience behind the wheel. Some have relatives who mourn them and leave roadside shrines to their memories while some do not. Now on VIDEO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsIFw_ljWZ8

SISTERLESS AND SHRINELESS Along the twisted railing there are scattered these blood red dots flowers duct-taped and crucified black-rim faded snapshots shards strewn like confetti tyre-tracks signpost-ending house-bricks uphold a cross from Sis uncomprehending. * but the flowers are dead but the flowers are dead... * Car clips kerb and cartwheels at a roof-flip whack snap bone ejects concentric spirals debris of steel and stone apocalypse the windscreen diced glass kiss ascending into red dim and bloody stars and Sis uncomprehending and Sis uncomprehending. * the flowers all are dead the flowers all are dead... * Car hits rails and rends them and for their cold catcalls of spineless his friends now pay the price sisterless and shrineless on screens of spark-lit darkness his life uncoils unending then one last recollection of Sis uncomprehending. * but the flowers are dead but the flowers are dead... * Boy car racer, cop chaser a nitro-adrenaline high seduced by the roar of engines at least they touched the sky you can see Sis placing posies for a ghost now lost and timeless but there's nothing there for his friends left sisterless and shrineless sisterless and shrineless * sisterless and shrineless sisterless and shrineless * and the flowers are dead. ----------------------------- (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2014 All music, intruments, vocals and lyrics by Paul D. E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Sisterless and Shrineless
Bozzz on 10-03-2014
Sisterless and Shrineless
Are badgers and pheasants driven to cross the road by the same adrenalins? Play 'animal chicken' with death as it were? They get no flowers, just the bloodstains. Good poem/song Mitch, but painful to read - guilt arises as one moves down the page. Me lucky so far, only one pheasant at 30 mph in a winding lane - wrecked radiator.
...Bozzz

Author's Reply:
Cheers... who knows with our animal brethren? Is the rabbit staring down the headlights? Is the last thing to go through it's mind its arse? We shall never know....

Ionicus on 11-03-2014
Sisterless and Shrineless
Mitch, this poem is so relevant in the light of a recent news report I have read of the death of a 14-year old girl on the Isle of Man. The girl's body was found in a car, believed to have contained eight teenagers. The cause of the crash has not been determined but it didn't involve any other vehicles. One can only assume that adrenaline and inexperience contributed to the accident. So tragic and such a waste of a young life.

Author's Reply:
You have it in one, Luigi. In South Wales there are many such tragic and pathetic roadside memorial remnants. Thanks for the read and comment - appreciated as ever. Mitch

jdm4454 on 12-03-2014
Sisterless and Shrineless
My youngest daughter is 16, your poem is a snapshot of my terror every time she gets in her car and drives away. I certainly enjoyed the read, Mitch, but I think I'll leave it to one reading --- too close to home for comfort. jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Jim. I am hoping to donate the audio to a road safety campaign. Fingers crossed and may the Gods of road and wheel keep her safe! Mitch


The Mob - It Disapproved (posted on: 17-02-14)
WITH AUDIO: I used to busk with two other chaps late at night when times were hard. Usually the drunks left us alone but sometimes we would face a mob being aggressive for no reason other than to amuse themselves by threatening buskers.

THE MOB - IT DISAPPROVED --------------------------------- The street bit through my thin soul with well-worn, cobbled teeth the pavement itched with eczema Death's diaspora drunk beneath the half-crushed beer and cola cans half-chewed burgers, paper bags specked with bile and spit and blood and piss the excrement of bucks and slags. Bottles cast by idle hands desecrate these closed church doors cats cry out with infant voice the offspring of the whores a man stands still with a mobile phone screaming obscene Munch-like screams his hush-puppies in their hob-nailed boots crushing yet more useless urban dreams. The sun has hawked its photon spit on the heads of Stoker's spawn now it's devilry in the revelry until the discharge of the dawn pissed down-and-outs in doorways seek the hooker's empty kiss they hardly feel the stranger's fist in their helpless, hedonistic bliss. They breathe in gas from manifolds they all sing like Satan's bards their hatreds sear the darkness fuelled by lust and credit cards see them dance with Mecca's corpses disco'd to the third degree as bacardi'd bromidrosis slowly brings them wounded - to their knees. Then three men sang of Eden to the beat of satyr hooves but as they sang of paradise the mob - it disapproved. until the cash-tills all fall silent and the dark tsunami fades dawn sneaks in on Sunday lawns and upright, blood-stained blades. (c) words and music Paul D.E. Mitchell 2014
Archived comments for The Mob - It Disapproved
stormwolf on 17-02-2014
The Mob - It Disapproved
You sure have seen the seedy side of life Mitch. I would recognize your work at a hundred paces.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Alison. Alas - bar those in war zones - I have seen some pretty bad stuff. You don't really need a punch in the mouth to sing the blues - but blues drenched in the spitting-blood of real-life experience adds that exqusite darkness to a turn or phrase that haunts you. Howlz

Nemo on 19-02-2014
The Mob - It Disapproved
Wow, strong and strident imagery at work here! Enjoyable, in a sense. Regards, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Gerald. It's seeing life pass you by as you sing some song in a doorway late on Saturday night. People sometime take the piss - literally.

Ionicus on 19-02-2014
The Mob - It Disapproved
You paint quite a grim image, Mitch, but with style.

Author's Reply:
Thanks! One day I might write an yang-ode about a nun or a fluffy bunny... but my abundance of yin would put simply them both in a minefield, alas.

jdm4454 on 28-02-2014
The Mob - It Disapproved
That is very good, very good indeed. Thanks for the read....jim

Author's Reply:
Cheers Jim - your comments are greatly appreciated as always. Sorry my visits are so sporadic - that'll teach me to get elected as a councillor!


Peeping Tom Samba (posted on: 10-02-14)
WITH AUDIO - A former posting extended and adapted for a new audio release. Born from a hatred of loose media mores and the self-justifying paparatzi.... spot the references to Dante's Inferno!

PEEPING TOM SAMBA Thomas was this long-lensed loser an optical onanist; eaves-dropping Eves, secret exposures with nothing but negatives wielding his rewinds, fumbling with focal length with five-knuckle shutter-speeds she's flesh-toned in Kodachrome she's a sacrifice in Lycra tied to Canons, fired by Leica --------------------------------------- The Zeus-zoom of high Olympus f-stop fiddling on the roof he slips out sly as salamanders to shoot the goose and screw the gander through shadowed skylines, silhouettes hunting down his night-lulled prey through the vertigo-glass savannahs as they disrobe for bath or bed they are deflowered by his censors moonlight is both boon and traitor in writing this Peeping-Tom Samba. --------------------------------------- disingenuous, film and pixels a hand of God and a lightning rod his prying spying raping eye he centre-folds his splintered victims spindles, spikes and mutilates them as he titillates as he pixelates in the red womb of his dark-room air-brushing out his sexist cyphers through slug-bulging fish-lens eyes through stake-out writs and a mobile phone he's the architect of Di's demise in a dank motel on a silver screen! --------------------------------------- His bracketing is all-awry he's flapping like a shower curtain as the critics whip a hue and cry he's got more steps than a Hitchcock scene that's how he burns her in flagrante in places deep with silent suns for the second circle media breeze he walks the path laid down by Dante --------------------------------------- Moonlight shimmers on the tiles shutters click like castanets he's the sparking toaster in a bath twittering with revelations and a spoutless, heartless gargoyle laugh a twisting vein in circulation two fingers thrust in crude red-eye as sirens wail and his idols die --------------------------------------- Editors drain dry his dregs sleazy fingers on his thumbnails tapping in phone-message codes as they buy his crotch-shot Holy Grail so he toasts the rat-pack in the bar where the Bluetooth wi-fi rodents fly till hyenas howl in harmony handing Tom his Pulitzer Prizes --------------------------------------- Tom now lives on borrowed time his reckoning long overdue one day he's captured in his prime by the longer-lensed jump-suits in blue the court proceedings gather pace Masonic handshakes grasp and fail his prey spits venom in his face till Tom is Serco'd off to jail --------------------------------------- his clawed hands now Leica-less he languishes in a crowded cell through the pinhole-camera in his eye screams the pixel-art of endless hell the company he now keeps is callous uncaring that his art endures so now he gets this brutal lens-flare and all this bent over-exposure. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ "They may hurt my body... but I am in my happy place they cannot take my picture! They may hurt my body... (how they hurt my body) the sun is no longer silent... I'm in my happy place" He is waist-deep in ice with not enough faces...
Archived comments for Peeping Tom Samba
Ionicus on 11-02-2014
Peeping Tom Samba
Hi P D, welcome back to the fold. I am very surprised that no one has commented on this clever poem, full of meaning and alliterations aplenty. Perhaps its length has discouraged readers
but if one can persevere, his patience will be rewarded.
Luigi

Author's Reply:
Ciao Luigi! I am only here sporadiacally as I am soooooo busy. I hope to post an audio for the poem soon if I burn the CD properly... It is nice to see you are still active on the site and as you can see I am still full of wrath and righteous indignation plus a few references to Dante's Inferno for good measure! Mitch

stormwolf on 13-02-2014
Peeping Tom Samba
haha up to your usual standard. Looking forward to hearing the audio!

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison - and now we have audio! Enjoy!

stormwolf on 16-02-2014
Peeping Tom Samba
Listened to the audio! Absolutely incredible!
Really comes alive as lyrics and the arrangement is excellent. Have you tried to sell your lyrics?
Wot about putting some vids on YouTube?
Howls
Alison x 👍

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison - it is all on www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell
Thankee kindly for the howlz of happiness with the music! Appreciated as ever. Mitch


Drowning in Bromide (posted on: 07-02-14)
WITH AUDIO - Drowning in Bromide was from when I was living in a squalid bedsit in the cold winter of '82 overlooking a railway station. When icicles barred the window I resolved that I would never bring children into the world as it felt like a gulag with the guards putting potassium bromide in my tea....

DROWNING IN BROMIDE ---------------------------- It wasn't easy to wake up once more in a pregnant bedsit room in a fatherless seaside town children scream at ice-cream vans somewhere a midwife calls as my ceiling gave birth to all four walls which in union fused and fertilised the floor and my Persian carpet in frayed, stained contractions spawned the door and I'm sitting at an orphaned window dreaming of trains I can see all these empty platforms all shrouded in rain it takes more than sex sunny-side up to get inside my brain 'cause I'm drowning in bromide and dreaming of trains It wasn't easy to wake up once more to be raped by media demons in an infertile seaside town as the children scream blue murder when social workers call and I crawl into the kitchen to make my spermicidal toast and I add a little contraceptive sugar to my bromide tea to my bromide tea I'm sitting at an orphaned window dreaming of trains above me is an afterbirth sky that always rains my friends are one big happy family going out of their brains as I'm drowning in bromide and dreaming of trains I'm drowning in bromide and dreaming of trains I watch all the the passengers (drowning in bromide) screaming all the way to suburbia (and dreaming of trains) but it's the tannoy chimerae that kill me(drowning in bromide) as every aborted minute (and dreaming of) dies...(trains...)
Archived comments for Drowning in Bromide
Nomenklatura on 09-02-2014
Drowning in Bromide
And now 'heard' in fact, too.
Hard thing to do this. I think this one stands up on the page too.
Regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ewan - it wasn't easy to capture such a low point when I was homless for a while and set up shop in a squat. The landlord saw us do the place up and provide security for his jeweller's underneath so he let us stay until we could afford the rent!

stormwolf on 09-02-2014
Drowning in Bromide
As you know, I often found your content to be depressing and looking on the jaundiced side of life and to an extent, this is another. 😉 hahaha

However, to me, you are an incredible poet who puts such thought in every line, I always appreciate the skill even when I cannot say I am uplifted but I recognise the same in many of mine as far as people thinking they are depressing.
I say that to engage the emotions and not 'gild the lily' can give birth to real power in the written word.
I look back on many of my early poems and know that you helped me so many times, gave me advice, tips and guidance.
Great to have you posting again Mr Councillor.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison - yes, my stuff is dark because I've lived through some serious crap and every image burns and churns in every line. Like my novels, they get reworked and reworked and reworked so my output is low but hopefully sharpened as a result. I read aloud over and over and actually setting them to music was the next tool in the box - speaking poems a loud is good but singing them adds a new dynamic.

Thank you for the kind words about the early assists - it is warmly appreciated. Howlz. Mitch


The Joneses (posted on: 07-02-14)
WITH AUDIO. These are THOSE people. The false friends; the ones who drift into your kitchen at parties and pass judgement on all your friends. They are dashers of hopes and the poisoners of dreams. First to arrive, quick to decry and the last to leave.

THE JONESES ---------------- They say you should keep - your friends close to you And hold your enemies - in your arms I don't subscribe - to this point of view Because false close friends - do real harm Take your good friends - the Joneses All wine and smiles - at your front door They leave a darkness - in your hallway That follows you - across your floor When the party starts - you'll find them in the kitchen Dissecting - everybody's lives Ruth spins her webs - of despicable fiction While Richard slowly sharpens - all your knives These are your good friends - the Joneses You swear to God - they're the life and soul You fill your home - with the light of angels But it's the Joneses - who are in control They say that Ruth - is stranger than Richard Whose malice grows - with each smiling lie They darken minds - with contradictions As all around you - your angels slowly die They fade away - without a sound Until you feel - your heart will break And the Joneses leave you with one question How many pinheads does it take To dance upon the face of an angel? (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2013
Archived comments for The Joneses
franciman on 07-02-2014
The Joneses
Hi Mitch,
Really enjoyed this. Again, so keenly observed.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jim - you know the ones who gravitiate to the kitchen and seek plesure from undermining everyone at the party. Observation of a few false friends over the years.... I just added the audio! Mitch 🙂

Mikeverdi on 07-02-2014
The Joneses
With friends like these...? Another gem from you're pen. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike - It's a composite of a few false friends who seek pleasure from undermining everyone. I just put it to music on audio so enjoy! Mitch 🙂

Pinkmoon on 11-03-2014
The Joneses
Really enjoyed this, and I can certainly identify with the type of 'person' you mean. Nice one my friend :0)

Author's Reply:
Thanx, O Pink Selene. There are too many of these false friends out there. The jealous phantoms at the feast of everybody's lives.... glad you related to it, my friend. Mitch


Neon-Pretty (posted on: 03-02-14)
WITH AUDIO - This is the tale of one (composite) wild night out....

I should not be here, walking late in these neon-pretty twilight zones I can find no pulse inside me t'shake my ghost soul bones the pentagrams still bind us to our spiritual needs I do penance for my conscience and my unspeakable, unconscionable deeds. I side-step the nitty-gritty (and) the Faustian flagstone gaps I OCD this fly-blown city (and) these pimp-slap Venus traps I make love to my long dead ego with the meow-meow hoi polloi like a lounge-lizard Lothario in my unspeakable, unconsionable joy. [ you know the One: the brain-dead, red-head, with the miasma charisma and the ghastly mascara the Hell-Mary; the what the Hell-Mary a macroscopic body with a microscopic brain as her SAD-donis orbits her like a demented moon. breasts and ear-rings swing like pendulums the joy-toy drippin' fat in the post-sex afterglow ] Her boyfriend was this dead-eyed dick with his sociopathic grin he's as sociable as a switch-blade click as the lithium citrate wins I loathe his mono-neurone drone this chameleonic bore playing AC/DC phone ring-tones as he camouflaged as he camouflaged the floor. The juke-box bawls throughout the night fingers fly on air-fretboards I was followed by my fans of light as I shimmied out through the door I was grabbed by my Hell-Mary hero this jumped-up jack-knife quiff with an IQ near to sub-zero and he screams at me in hieroglyph: and he screams at me in hieroglyph: [ he fixes me with a brainless diamond stare and says you should not do this, you should not be here, you should not be who the hell you think you are - around him Neantherdals in pink leather orbit and coruscate around his Cro-Magnon cupcake the sap rising in all these homo-sapiens and the only stars his child sees ... are from her father's fists ] The auto-pilot kindly took me home but as we walked, we were stalked by splashed, trashed,crashed unfettered chrome those cruising symbols whose rolling tyres brushed percussive fills of absolutely no musical note. We sang in chromatic harmony to the humming of the fridges, we drank ourselves insensible watching acrobatic midges through the light-bulbed, sun-starved dregs of night and shadow-carved the neon-pretty kids these days slowly start their... screaming we just don't know where it's leading! I was slipping slow I was letting go into oblivion's anonymity I think I grasped an angel's feather as red-eyed as no-entry signs and bleeding, I was blinded drowning in the neon-pretty I was drowning (in the neon) I was... drowning in the neon-pretty... [ and as the red heralds of Dawn prise open your blood-shot eyes you roll over to find Hell-Mary giving you the Neon Eye she smiles the demon smile of Succubi as she sucks you dry.]
Archived comments for Neon-Pretty
stormwolf on 03-02-2014
Neon-Pretty
Oh Mitch, it's wonderful to see you back!
You have lost none of your brilliance in the interim I can see.
Delightfully, horribly descriptive in your own unique style.
Too many fab phrases to choose from
I will set the ball rolling with a ten 😜

Howls
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Wow - thank you for the ten of tens, O wolfly Alison. My posting will be incredibly sporadic as I am so busy. I set this one to music on www.reverbnation.com/pauldemitchell and the audio above - see what you think of it set to a beat! Howlz. mitch

Mikeverdi on 03-02-2014
Neon-Pretty
Just Brilliant! I see Storm has given you a Ten; anything less would be a cop out so... Ten from me. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thankee Mike - just realised I can post an audio - the song has some slight variations. Enjoy!

franciman on 03-02-2014
Neon-Pretty
Hi Mitch,

and as the heralds of Dawn
prise open your blood-shot eyes
you roll over to see Hell-Mary
giving you the Neon Eye
she smiles the demon smile of Succubi
as she sucks you dry…

What a way to announce your return. Such a harsh beauty in your observations. Just compelling. Welcome back,
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
How do - Jim. Missed you guys but I am so darn busy running a capital city facing major budget cuts but I still have some music left in me. Mitch

Andrea on 05-02-2014
Neon-Pretty
Love the audio!

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Andrea - I can only be sporadic but I am glad you enjoyed it! Hugz Mitch

Savvi on 05-02-2014
Neon-Pretty
Hi Mitch
I would say welcome back but its seems you left before I arrived. There is so much to enjoy and take away from this poem, you provide some stunning images and alliteration I particularly enjoyed the walk home. Also the audio is excellent and you can sing, I hate you already. Keith

Author's Reply:
Hi Keith.... I am 57 and was told in all the bands I played in for over 35 years that I can't sing. Last year, I bought an £80 Zoom MR-802 porta-studio of e-bay and a shure mike and stand for £60 and voila - Captain Insensible. All those wasted years listening to other's advice (sigh)... but 57 is the new 56 so I have to make up for it despite getting elected as a councillor!


Sin Beyond Ordinal (posted on: 18-07-11)
Some things are beyond words....

Sin Beyond Ordinal Death is a perfect shape: small and white and round easy to swallow with a cup full of water; foam from the bowsprits of Charon's barges. Poems a perfect jape: pall dull light; mere sound sleazy and shallow whither will the slaughter; loam calls the spirits that Clothos charges. Cerberus' jaws agape: gall and shite abound greasy and callow wither son and daughter; mere words sate halfwits which Ego enlarges. Ululations escape: nouns burn and rebound this suicidal show mourning stills the laughter; verbs reach their limits when the note at last is found Death was a perfect shape: small and white and round.
Archived comments for Sin Beyond Ordinal
stormwolf on 19-07-2011
Sin Beyond Ordinal
Hi Mitch
I do not understand it but get the gist (I think.)
Knowing you every single word has been well chosen in your usual particular fashion.
I do not think that most folk will understand it though 😉
Alison x

Author's Reply:
It's incredibly personal and powerful - it relates to overdose attempts by loved ones - that's all I can say about it. Nothing gets as intense as this where all poetry becomes mere words. Howlz. Mitch

Hulda on 04-08-2011
Sin Beyond Ordinal
it is beyond words coming from you, take care. Hulda

Author's Reply:


Love Unexpected (posted on: 18-07-11)
A statement of mathematical hope really...

Love Unexpected Love unexpected is an infinite construct of divine complexity generated by the recursive algorithm of a single kiss.
Archived comments for Love Unexpected
stormwolf on 19-07-2011
Love Unexpected
never quite looked at it that way but certainly gets you thinking...
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanx Alison! A rare short from me. I'm out of the loop for a wee while as I finish my latest blockbuster (shrines) - thort I'd do a quick short - will post the thirty or so poems towards the end of the month. Book sales slowly improving. Howlz Mitch

Hulda on 04-08-2011
Love Unexpected
a single kiss certainly can be sufficient and says so much, take care Mitch. It is a little bit too short for normally I see them longer from you and deeper then this. But it gets you thinking like Alison said above.

Author's Reply:

Hulda on 04-08-2011
Love Unexpected
a single kiss certainly can be sufficient and says so much, take care Mitch. It is a little bit too short for normally I see them longer from you and deeper then this. But it gets you thinking like Alison said above.

Author's Reply:
Blessun og þakka þú, Hulda! It's so good to see you still posting and unscarred from you experience at poetrycritical.net. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I will eb back once my latest book is finished! I need to get my poetry anthology finished and I've just finished a guitar book!
Take care and hugz! . Mitch 🙂

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Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter (posted on: 15-07-11)
An unseasonable classic Greek Villanelle

Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter ----------------------------------- Beech leaves turn golden; breathe autumn and die Tree branches bare-boned, like Death's arms they sweep Weave winter tales on Athena's grey sky. Tereus-frost steals the swallow's pale cry In warp and weft poor Philomela shall weep Beech leaves turn golden; breathe autumn and die. Spears of ice shall Gaia's offspring decry Summer chained slumbers in Etna's fell deep Weave winter tales on Athena's grey sky. Man shall Boreas's cruel tithing deny As gifts of Prometheus crackle and leap Beech leaves turn golden; breathe autumn and die. Arachne's webs fail - a brief diamond lie Persephone, her snow-blind souls shall keep Weave winter tales on Athena's grey sky. Procne's lament fades to snow-muffled sigh Euturpe whispers at the borders of sleep Beech leaves turn frost-black; breath autumn and die Weave winter tales on Athena's grey sky.
Archived comments for Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
franciman on 15-07-2011
Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
Hi Paul,

This positively crackles with pre-Olympian Greek earth worship. I love the chanting in this, with its hypnotic quality. I think this is excellent on a number of levels.
Jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Jim. Villanelles are a hard format to master especially with old Dylan Thomas breathing "Do Not Go Gentle" down the back of your neck. I couldn't resist all the Greek tragedy and metaphor especially when Terseus ends up eating his own son. The Gods made him a hoopoe, Philomela a silent swallow and Procne a nightingale forever lamenting. Magic times. Mitch

RachelLW on 15-07-2011
Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
I like the idea of breathing Autumn and weaving winter - very nice. Rachel 🙂

Author's Reply:
Thanks Rachel - the breaking down of the greeen leaves and exhaling carbon dioxide as they decay - the thoughts of the overall carbon cycle and seasonal cycle and how it all weaves into the tapestry of life - this was at the back of my mind when writing this. Cheers!

Ionicus on 15-07-2011
Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
Quite a philosopher, pd. A good villanelle full of metaphors and classical references.

Author's Reply:
Ciao Luigi! I loves me metaphors and classical nods, me! ευχαριστώ! θεοί ευλογώ δικό σου ποίημα!

stormwolf on 16-07-2011
Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
Lovely Mitch, like a lament echoing down the wind that sweeps the bare branches. When I look out at yet another day of rain I feel like breathing Autum and pegging it 😉
You lost me on some of the names but adore Greek Mthology so one does not really have to understand who they all were. I would imagine this is the devil's own job to write and you have made a smashing job of it.
You are a perfectionist in your work and it shows.
howlz to you on this one
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Al and tanx. Athena is the goddess of the heavens and of weaving hence the weaving metaphor. Poor Philomela was raped by her father-in-law (as a metaphor for the betrayl of the innocence of summer) who cut out her tongue when she threatened to report him. She wove the story into a tapestry and she and her sister, the singer, Procne - killed and cooked Ithys, Terseus's son, and fed the flesh to Terseus at a banquet as revenge before presenting him with the head. The Gods were outraged, turning Terseus into a hoopoe, Philomela into a mute swallow and Procne to lament as the nightingale. Arachne was the weaving pupil of Athena and punished for pride by becoming a spider - the dew onthe webs briefly freezing with 'diamond lies' - the dangerous beauty of the sub-zero - and collapsing. Prometheus gifted fire to mankind and was punished for it and Boreas of course is the god of the bitter north wind. Euturpe is one of the Greek muses of tragic writing of course.... hope that helps! Howlz. Mitch



PS Athena wounded Gaia's fiery son Enceladus then imprisoned him as a metaphor for the passions of summer in the bowels of Etna - where the spear wound pains him in his forced slumber creating the eruptions. Persephone is the closest to a Greek God of Winter being the dread Queen of the Underworld claiming those who fall to winter's fury. Whew! I packed it all into this one, didn't i?

stormwolf on 16-07-2011
Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
and I thought MY family was dodgy! 😉

Author's Reply:

Beth on 17-07-2011
Breathe Autumn, Weave Winter
a lovely villanelle, I liked the slight variation in the last line moving from autumn to winter and the way you relaxed any sense of a strict pentameter. I got caught up in the sounds of the rhymes- quite hypnotic.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Beth - a rigid iambic pentameter would have made it too stilted for the classical references - I'm glad you dug the hypno-rhythms! Mitch


A Turin-Shrouded Train (posted on: 11-07-11)
From notes on two journeys 4th April 1985 and 2nd February 1986 on Derby to Cardiff trains - that early morning disassociation....

Fat cold sun clears tree-lines pours ruby-red wine-light through carriage tint-cloud glass to create extended shadows that race across the leprous glow of fields of shameless rape and fallow blank estates Bush-near, tree-middle, house-distant runs the parallel jump shadow of my Turin-shrouded train light snuffed by factories; flickers winter slips into spring angels impregnated by summer semen awaiting the breaking of waters birthing autumn rain, seasons enough to wash away the lies painted on my Turin-shrouded brain... The land lay mirror-deep in sleep radiation fogs suck at shadows but through the glory of the white the right eye of Horus blinked sends down search truth lights and all I could see and think was: Ra: let me trade my inadequate skies for some real illumination! His eye climbs until The mists give up the ghost farm up-at-dawn lights slide into a wheel-clattered small-talk chattered daylight and so - I journey on in my Turin-shrouded train only the shroud now lies in windows - as my reflection. P.D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for A Turin-Shrouded Train
stormwolf on 14-07-2011
A Turin-Shrouded Train
I can certainly get the idea of the train, I felt the sensation of all the passing observations.

Bush-near, tree-middle, house-distant
Good old Ra rises in the sky and

The mists give up the ghost
farm up-at-dawn lights
slide into a wheel-clattered
small-talk chattered daylight

Very atmospheric. I can almost hear the clickety click of the carriages as I write...
I do get the feeling of depression though.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Nah, just a little post-holiday melon-collie staring at the slow spring dawns 'tis all. THanks for the read and comments! Howlz.

Beth on 17-07-2011
A Turin-Shrouded Train
like 'turin-shrouded train/brain' and love 'inadequate skies'- alison's right you perfectly capture the rhthmn of a train in the second last stanza. lovely poem.

Author's Reply:
Glad you like the rhythms of the train-ride - try 'It Must Be London' for the Tube version! Thanks for the 10 - greatly appreciated. Mitch.


Ratko (posted on: 08-07-11)
Watching this man taunting relatives of the victims in the Hague is yet another low for humanity...

RATKO Such a blood-soaked monstrous creature The butcher of Srebrenica Tips his hat at the hookless meat Sneers at judges, denies them life Mere shadows upon his flensing knife Of windmills passed on bleeding feet Sawdust drifts from his country's flag Wipes the counter with a bloodied rag Parts sons from sisters; men from wives His slaughter-house of ditch and field Still day by day their secrets yield The fleshless bones of shortened lives Patriots dine on crackling skin Sawdust absorbs the blood within piritus sanctus raised in toasts Such a blood-soaked monstrous creature The butcher of Srebrenica Tips his hat at ten thousand ghosts
Archived comments for Ratko
fitbin on 08-07-2011
Ratko
Obviously it is unpleasant subject matter,
but the piece itself is great.
Gruesome imagery mixed with a jaunty rhyming scheme.


Author's Reply:
G'day sir fit of bin! It is dark stuff again indeedy! I always feel a jaunty juxtaposition seems to highlight the horror. Sorry I've been away writing and publishing like crazy and on a few other poetry sites such as poetryfreak which has instant publication! Good to see the old gang still posting! Will be back more later. Mitch

admin on 09-07-2011
Ratko
Very, very good (and awful!) Mitch. Of course the bastard is just down the road from me. He was slung out of court the other day, by the judge, but I expect you know that...

Author's Reply:
Yep - it was him tipping his hat and smirking at all the grieving relatives just before that was the most chilling - the bastard is clearly a sociopath... long live the Hague!

RoyBateman on 10-07-2011
Ratko
A timely piece, mate...these vermin seem to be with us always: history, if it isn't understood and absorbed, then acted upon, has that nasty habit of repeating itself. Especially in the Balkans, where savagery has erupted regularly for centuries. How can we even punish someone for what that bastard did? What could be appropriate?

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy... watcing him tip his hat and smirk at relatives was horrendous - if there could be a way to make him relive every death he caused, I would almost wish that Hell were real! Thanx for the read and comment - appreciated mitch

Romany on 10-07-2011
Ratko
A grisly piece as others have commented. I am interested in your use of the phrase 'vengeful world' though. It is of course, but in regard to this individual it is hardly surprising there are those who seek vengeance. Justice would be better though - a kind of vengeance in and of itself.

His sheer arrogance reminded me of Hussein. I wonder if he genuinely does not believe he did harm, or that he genuinely does not care.The latter, I suspect.

Author's Reply:
Hi Romany - It's hope realy - I was watching the judge dealing with the garbage from this creature - to me he naively represented a world unwilling to tolerate these monsters - Ratko was at bay before the world and for that I am grateful! I was going to reprise the first verse but no - I need to come up with a more balanced adjective than vengeful! Cheers Mitch

RachelLW on 10-07-2011
Ratko
Some great imagery. Wasn't sure about vengeful too. Maybe it seems a very loaded word - in a negative way. Maybe it's true all the same, but it jarred a bit. Or did you mean that he viewed the world as vengeful - in which case it makes sense. I'll shut up now as I'm starting not to make sense!

Rachel

Author's Reply:
Hi Rachel - It's hope really - I was watching the judge dealing with the garbage from this creature - to me he naively represented a world unwilling to tolerate these monsters - Ratko was at bay before the world and for that I am grateful! I was going to reprise the first verse but no - I need to come up with a more balanced adjective than vengeful! Cheers Mitch

stormwolf on 14-07-2011
Ratko
Now THAT'S wot I call poetry!
Well done old chap!

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Why thankee kindly, old girl! Mitch xxx


I will Never Overshadow You (posted on: 04-07-11)
Inspired by Mandolyn - a poetess of poetrycritical and poetryfreak!

We lay beneath a tall and ragged ash our dark Yggdrasil, bearing heaven with its frayed and fractal fingers and serene above its tattered crown, Selene its branches are my father's limbs, you said sturdy, stern and strong enough to bear aloft the corpse of Nut his disapproving eye the Moon - You took my night-sky-chilled hands and kissed each Moon-struck finger you are not my father, you sighed you will never wrap me in velvet - or pour me into four stone jars I caressed your whitened knuckles I kissed the grey maria beneath your eyes the taut down-turned crescent of your mouth. I discarded masks of jackal, hawk, baboon In favour of my human face I am not your father, I agreed I will never overshadow you. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for I will Never Overshadow You
sunken on 06-07-2011
I will Never Overshadow You
Another excellent piece that appears to have been overlooked, Mr. Mitch. I blame drum and base. They're all into it. I can see Daff and Luigi now - biggin it up on the dance floor to the latest dirty grooves. It'll all end in tears. Keep up the good work. You still got it goin' on. And now, if ya don't mind - I've got smooth dance moves to hone. Good day.

s
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control - alt - deplete

Author's Reply:
Ay up - have been absent looking for work, doing grammar text for the Chinese and trying to un-jam my sixth novel, Shrines, writing and publishing my Ka-Ching! Guitar book on Amazon and Smashwords and preparin my long-unawaited poetry anthologgy-doggy aka The Long Grim Book of Thin. Must get serious at some point - oh, and started Mute, Light Father and the Ghost Army novels too. Yee-hah! Murky buckets for the I-spy and Hi! Mitch


March Hare Affair (posted on: 04-07-11)
Sneaking Home after that passion with the grown-up lass through the looking glass...

A late-night highwire act with the saran-wrapped acrobat in her four-poster acro-belfry where you cracked bells and Bells whisky, frisked both basque and brisket love-slaps shock-absorbed by beer-belly crumple-zones now you sidle home so moist with guilt to lick your lips as Pantin's bliss-kisses burn like napalmed butterflies on your guilt-red cheeks. Key barely fits the wee-hours lock to twinkle in on sandman shoes eschewing light for dark liaisons that Hermaphrodite guides your pain tempting bed best of both genders Jesus - a penis and a brain. So Braille-fingering banisters of your ivory'd tower this concrete havens... ascend your spiral staircase one stair at a time step edges saw at feet the Babel-teeth of His Design gravity leadens each footfall as you climb each coffin-lid old knees bend and grieve each rectangular edge that spirals up as a helix in a sublime golden ratio until you squeeze Alice-like on landings ignore the 'Fuck Me' labels and enter the bedroom on dormouse teapot-muffled steps mad on methyl-mercury on tippy-toe and tenterhooks. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for March Hare Affair
stormwolf on 14-07-2011
March Hare Affair
Wow and omg. You have such an elaborate style of writing that it is hard for me to decipher or put it all together to extract the real meaning of it. The descriptions are vivid and the imagery intense but that is also where I get lost at times.
I find it strange that nobdy has commented on this poem for it is certainly very skillfully written....I just wonder if people refrain from doing so due to not wanting to look as though they do not understand it.

On re-reading again, you do have a knack of covering the seedier side of love and sex so it's not particularly attractive

that Hermaphrodite guides your pain
tempting bed best of both genders
Jesus - a penis and a brain.

I don't understand this bit. Is it about a homosexual encounter or a transexual?

So Braille-fingering banisters
of your ivory’d tower
this concrete havens...
ascend your spiral staircase
one stair at a time
step edges saw at feet
the Babel-teeth of His Design

Nor this bit although I do get the impression of the difficulty going up the spiral stairway and the helix reference is great...the "Fuck me" labels I take to be graffiti on a squalid landing and I get the sense of slipping in quietly from the furive late night encounter but when you talk of being "mad on methly mercury" are you insinuating drugs? ot just alluding to a state of being?
I see your frequent use of alliteration but I feel (honestly speaking) that you have smothered the gist of the poem under too much dressing....if you will pardon my impertinance 😉

Alison xi

Author's Reply:
Hi Al - it's seedy alright - it's an allitertive allusory study of the man (several actually) on the search for thrills - the BDSM with transgenders but I couldn't resist linking it to the old seventies feminist gag: Beth: "It's a pity a man can't have the best of both world's!" Kate: "What? A penis AND a brain?" - then creeping home full of guilt and outlandish lies worthy of Alice Through The Looking Glass.



He's creeping into the house in the dark, the ivory tower of his marriage, the haven in brick and concrete, creeping up the staircase, the steps press to the feet, knees crackle guiltily and the space closes in - alice-like and clustrophobic - the wife demands sex as does the illicit lover(s) - it's God's Design from the tower of Babel, the babble of lies, the Golden ratio of nature, gulity knees.



You're right of course - I go way too obscure at times but I get a frenzy of cross-pollination on and this stuff just splurges out.... sorry!


Methyl mercury was used in stiffening the ribboning on top hats in the 1800s - so hatters did often go insane from poisoning - the poison here being addiction and guilt about illicit liaisons. Mitch 🙂



stormwolf on 14-07-2011
March Hare Affair
ah yes! I see it all now. I think if I peeked inside your brain I would run screaming LOL

VERY clever and incredible imagination too. I do think that it IS one of these poems where a slight explanation would be helpful to the reader of course purists would shudder at the thought!
Alison x

Author's Reply:
It's a difficult call - but I sure do overegg the pudding at times! That'll larn me fer bein' such a smartyarse - buuuuuut I can't help trying something new every thyme I write! Howlzncwtch


It Must Be London (posted on: 04-07-11)
One for us boobs snoozin' on the Tube

Sleepless, hapless, riding trains It could be London; should be Paris Metro (hetero) eyes contactless Cock chock full of rye regret Rhythms of points; of pointed breasts Seep subconscious music Bo-Diddley-Dee; Go-Diddley-Dumb Bow-Diddley-Street; Horny Jack's Thumb Must be London; it must be London. I spy strangers with my sliding eye I'm not a native; not a loony; jester Small-talk junkie needs a fix Weather'll do; isn't it muggy love? In this thuggy, couldn't-care-less Airless Underground; a lass Her nips arouse my prickly heat Lingering on her boob-Tube. Cocooned couples tonsil-hockey Kiss-bliss drift in intimate seas Lapped by waves of envy-green Reliving last night's squelching Between coffee and cigarettes Go-Fiddly-Dee: Go-Fiddly-Da Go-Fiddly-Thumb; Damn-Fiddly-Bra! Slower now, post-coital slow; until Through Eden-Serpent hiss Of sliding doors the disembowelled, The hung-and-drawn, Dow-quartered Dead - they disembark. A hidden mechadenoidal sage Urges Madding surging Crowds To Mind the Gap; To Gap the Mind That Abyss between sheer terror And hum drum terror firmer Crave croissant-scent and Arabica Salivate for crepes not crap To emerge from amniosis While the world's ass swivels On Eiffel's middle digit, but no: Whiffs of wood-smoke, swirls of robes, Strange Fruit and Charring Cross It must be London; Dear Christ Dear Lucifer; it must be London. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for It Must Be London
sunken on 06-07-2011
It Must Be London
Where are the comments? And where's the nib!? I've a good mind to get my placards out, Mr. PDE of Mitch fame. It won't be pretty, but someone's gotta do it. Top work. Very clever, very witty, very atmospheric, very you.

s
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Author's Reply:
A beagle-bark always hits the mark, Sir Sunken! I am also on poetfreak where I am similarly uncommented - I think my darkling style is not to most peep's taste. Alas. Mitch 😉

Ionicus on 07-07-2011
It Must Be London
Having suffered the claustrophobic atmosphere of the London Underground (Northern Line mainly) for many years in the past, I can relate to the situation you describe, Mitch. Also familiar are the sexual fantasies that a good looking, well-endowed female passenger can inspire.
A poem full of literary somersaults written with your usual verve.

Author's Reply:
ciao, Luigi - this was a piece based on observation while job hunting and is a companion piece to Mind the Gap - alas, I am focused on the books but I must get back to some serious poetry. I'm suprised nobody got the March Hare Affair! Many thanks for the kind words and read. Been missing you guys!


Bore (posted on: 06-06-11)
A short astronomical observational from one too many dull parties...

A bore is like a black hole; a merciless singularity warping nearby social space bitter, burnt-out stars explode whose out-gassed shells excite faint nebulous sympathies gravity wells collapse; implode light hearts bend around it ego-boosters fail, Time slows To a crawl - then stops at the event horizon where each crushed pulse is an eternity.
Archived comments for Bore
RachelLW on 08-06-2011
Bore
I really like this. There's something Larkin-esque about it. Didn't he write a fantastic poem about dull parties? I think yours is excellent, great tone, very well done.

Rachel

Author's Reply:
Thanks Rachel - sorry I was a bit late replying - just got another book onto Smashwords and Amazon (mumber eight!)... yep Larkin was profilic about them... Mitch

Romany on 11-06-2011
Bore
Reminds me of some of the training sessions I have been to!

Romany.

Author's Reply:
And me - sorry I took a while to say thanks! Hugz Mitch

RoyBateman on 12-06-2011
Bore
Very well expressed, dry and witty. I know exactly the type you mean. If these are the sort of parties you get invited to, you should stay in more!

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - it may be autobiographical, you never know. Hope you are well - I am in Purdah writing cruddy sci-fi and just launched a guitar book on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. Take care Mitch


Tuol Sleng (posted on: 27-05-11)
Lest we forget (No Blood No Gain) again... see www.tuolsleng.com

A Shop of Beautiful Shoes Run by One Family Digging ditches far from home For Brother Number One Ten days walk from liberation. The school was now Tuol Sleng Where bones and bodies rotted And ghosts thieve sleep whispering Rule Number Six: 'While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all' The asymmetry of butchery: Twenty thousand photos Two thousand children Seven survivors Two Khmer Rouge guilty. The metal beds, the rules waterboards, electric whips confessions, two mile marches to die from beatings, unworthy of a bullet's mercy. S21 bears blood, graffiti A place where 'Art must scream For those who cannot' Whilst wearing on its feet Kong Sam's Beautiful Shoes.
Archived comments for Tuol Sleng
Corin on 28-05-2011
Tuol Sleng
This is extremely powerful Paul, I am moved to tears by some of the lines in it, this verse expresses the whole atrocity so mathematically:-


The asymmetry of butchery:
Twenty thousand photos
Two thousand children
Seven survivors
Two Khmer Rouge guilty.

I write about and believe in the natural goodness of mankind, your piece undermines my faith entirely. How can human beings do such things to each other. Sometimes I wish I had a button to push that would spray Human Extermination foam over the whole planet and leave the Earth to the rats:-(

David


Author's Reply:
Hi David - sorry about that, I just get moved by the cruelty of mankind at times then I watch Mandela walk that mile, the pointy hats bent by an Afro-American president; a child take its first step; the Pleaides at night... I'm writing nine novels based on that precept so hold fire on that foam for a while. Mitch

stormwolf on 29-05-2011
Tuol Sleng
Hi Mitch
Nice to see you taking a break from your writing to give us this dark poem. I agree with David's sentiments. Man is the only thing this planet can live without and we were here last too. Man's inhumanity to man can be sickening as demonstrated here.
Congrats on the Nomination.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Al - i've used poetryfreak.com to fine-tune a few poems for the anthology but I have about thirty unfinsihed poems on my desk. As Ghandi said: mankind is an ocean - a few dirty drops does not mean the whole ocean is dirty... - I must get back to some lighter stuff!! half way through book six and four chapters into Ghost Army and Light Father but i have to get Shrines out of the way - another monster I cannot sell! Hugz mitch

RoyBateman on 30-05-2011
Tuol Sleng
Thoroughly chilling, as intended...it seems that it's so much easier to unleash dark forces than it is to contain them once free. I agree with the comment above, it'd be wonderful to have some sort of extermination spray - then, that'd make the user every bit as bad as those exterminated, wouldn't it? Many good ideas, like religion, start off that way but they never end at the right point. Very dark indeed, but a point very well made.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - sorry I'm out of circulation a little as there's some good stuff being posted on site. dark stuff but see Ratko in chains and facing trial for Srebrenica raises my spirits a little... A Cry From the Grave was shown on BBC on Monday night - sheeeeeesh, those Dutch UN soldiers handing over all those boys and men to the Serbs... onto lighter things!!! Regards,. mitch

stormwolf on 31-05-2011
Tuol Sleng
Hi again Mitch 😉
Yes, Ghandi was right, but we are both the ocean and the drops too and each has a power and collectively what we hold in our thoughts and actions does affect others. For instance...once the 'critical mass' of dark droplets fall in the ocean the whole ocean becomes discloured..so best to remember that I always tell myself
Alison x

Author's Reply:


Billy Blue-Legs (posted on: 06-05-11)
Domiciliary care observational....

They put a bypass around the village And a triple-bypass around my heart As home I walk; to hovel I hobble Leg veins missing; ankles swollen pulsing with pain; each step an Everest back to my Janet, Janet - pomegranate my forgetful childhood rhymer as I take off my binding boots amongst Formica, fug and Frigidaire her owls hoot the 'who are you?' to the tune of her Alzheimer's. Her carers ghostly come and go I make them mostly tea and chat, my hair as unkempt as brambles replacing profanities with inanities with these waifs as thin as whispers; each hourly frame in their flicker-reel from A to B, arthritis to bedpan; Colostomy to Deuteronomy - Night falls as the kettle-whistle howls, Janet murmurs in her scribbling dreams as I lay abed, unslippered, angina'd pain muffled by its killers, whisky and the hoot of distant owls. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Billy Blue-Legs
stormwolf on 08-05-2011
Billy Blue-Legs
Incredible Mitch.

You captured so much and though it makes painful reading, to me, it shows that modern poetry can be up among the rhyming greats as far as affecting the feelings goes.

I felt the pain mental, spiritual, psychological and emotional. Surely that has to be as good as it gets. Lovely to read you again
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Al - thanks for the read and 10. I'm so busy as I convert books to the internet for myself and others to sell in their dozens. I have so much on the go, I'm not acheiving much but it's great to hear from you again. This was based on the real people I srvices as a domicilliary carer. Cwtches. Mitch.

fitbin on 11-05-2011
Billy Blue-Legs
hi Mitch,
this was very evocative of the abject bleakness of old-age and infirmity.
Quite a chilling insight and nice wordplay.


Author's Reply:
Thanks fit old chap. Hope the martial arts is going okay. There was still some incredible nobility shown by some of my clients in adverse circumstances (would you like a catheter bag or a colostomy bag fitted?) and some you think were sods all their lives. But all true, I'm afraid. Cheers. mitch 😛

Romany on 22-05-2011
Billy Blue-Legs
Excellent! Well observed, understanding, patient and empathic and a truly great read!

Romany.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany - I am not super active at the moment tho' I have posted a few things on poetfreaks.com and poetrycritical.net and e-converting my books to Amashwords and Kindle - takes for ever! Mitch


Light Chapter 03: Fierce is Twelve (posted on: 15-04-11)
Harold, still bewildered, joins Fierce at the door of the trailer but before he can find out about the terrible ordeal of the three sisters, the Tally-men arrive and a stange stand-off begins:

Fierce is Twelve
Fierce sat on the wide doorstep of the trailer with her legs dangling having become bored with the strange conversation between Saul and the Light-Father. She sighed heavily as she gazed up at the grey sky and absently retied several of the rags in her matted hair. The last of the drizzle had beaded everything even her eyelashes with drops of moisture but there now was brightness to the west that hinted of sunshine but she did not welcome it - dry days were when the Tally-men crept out of their barracks. She had her full twelve years today and this was her birthday present to herself: to watch, still full of wonder, as a flock of pigeons darted this way and that above her head. ''Happy Birthday, Fierce,'' Harold said as he sat awkwardly next to her. She wrinkled up her nose at the smell of dampness, spirits and cigar-smoke still clinging to his peculiar clothes. ''Saul has just introduced me to all the children and you're the last. You and your sisters won't tell them your real names, will you? Fierce, eh? You don't look all that fierce to me.'' ''Fierce is good,'' she said simply, pointing up at a small speck circling above the pigeons. "I am kestrel. Now,'' she whispered hungrily, craning her head forward. ''Kill!'' They watched the kestrel suddenly stoop and dive into the panicking pigeons. Predator and prey tumbled through the flock in the fatal time-worn embrace of the hunt before the kestrel righted itself with powerful wing-beats and bore its prize away. The rest of the panic-stricken birds reformed overhead and wheeled away. Fierce wiped at the tear trickling down her grimy cheek. ''They cannot speak but they must be sad,'' she said aloud. Harold thought his heart would break. ''Birds are practical creatures with small brains,'' he said kindly. ''They're probably glad it wasn't them because as long as the flock survives, one casualty will not make much of a difference to the species.'' ''I suppose so,'' she sighed. ''But it is better to be predator than prey, Light-Father, is it not?'' Saul had told him that Fierce and her sisters, Shield and Mouse, had not been hidden here like the others but had fought their way to the rail yard but not even the eight-year-old Mouse would say where from. ''I suppose so,'' he said after a long silence. ''Come in, Fierce. You're drenched - you'll catch a cold.'' ''I'm used to the rain but tell me: when I die, Light-Father,'' she said, screwing up her face against the increasing daylight. ''Will the sky cry for me? Will it miss me?'' ''I think your sisters would,'' he said gruffly to hide his feelings. ''Tell me, what happened to the three of you?'' ''I remember a party,'' she smiled wistfully. ''Five years ago before the Holy Plague when I had my seven years. My parents made me a wonderful party in the garden with grill-meats for the adults who also drank lots of mead and beer and sang songs. There was a play-tent for us children. I remember how hot the sun was then it's rained so much since everyone died and it's getting colder every year.'' she sighed. ''Am I bad person, Light-Father? I can remember the presents and the taste of the cakes but I can't remember the faces of our father and mother!'' ''I'm no psychologist, Fierce,'' he said kindly, undoing his utility belt. ''Ah, that's better. But I know that if you were taken by these lunatics, the shock will blank everything out including their faces but, trust me, they will return in time. I think you three have post-traumatic stress. Many soldiers where I come from suffered years after the terrible wars were over they would not speak; they'd have terrible nightmares; their moods would change suddenly and they could become violent.'' ''I see - then I'm a soldier, Light-Father,'' she said simply, edging closer to him. ''Will you be leaving us?'' ''I don't think I can,'' he said, scratching at his cheek his sideburns were itching in the humid warmth. ''I'm either in a mental institution or I'm in a parallel reality - this isn't my world or even my language, Fierce, so I have to stay here until I can figure how your Mother Moss brought me here.'' ''But you speak like a Middle-City man,'' she retorted, still staring up at the sky. ''How is this possible?'' ''I don't know how I can speak and understand your language, Fierce, but I've been programmed somehow. I haven't got a clue how she did it because there are no wiccans like her in my world,'' he admitted with a wry smile. ''Oh, we do have wiccans but they're sad women who think that dancing naked around a black candle can cure cancer. If I hadn't seen that hell-light with my own eyes, I would have taken all this with a pinch of salt,'' he said sweeping a hand across the rail yard and the ranks of rotting cars and vans. ''No, I won't be leaving, Fierce, unless I can find some way to get back home - not that I have much to go home to.'' ''What do you mean, Light-Father?'' she said, drawing her knees up and resting her chin upon them. ''You came to us from Heaven so no wonder you want to get back this parallel reality of yours must be very beautiful. You must be teasing me - there can't be any wars in Heaven!'' ''I haven't come from Heaven, Fierce, but another world much like this one with its wars and disasters,'' he shrugged. ''Some of our scientists believed that millions of realities exist side by side and obviously they were right because here I am! It was more purgatory for me there than Heaven, Fierce. I was very lonely there and all I did for a living was fix machines in a university in dusty workshops. I would only go home to my empty flat if I could get drunk enough to fall asleep quickly. I have no family..'' ''Huh? Did you not have children, Light-Father?'' His hands clenched until the knuckles were white and he drew a deep shuddering breath. ''I had a daughter, Naomi, but she died in her cot. She was she had nine months when it happened. We woke up one morning a little later than usual and there she lay - my beautiful daughter - looking as if she was just fast asleep. My wife, Andrea, picked her up but then she screamed because Naomi was as cold as ice'' ''I see,'' Fierce said quietly. ''Your wife was not strong so she blamed you for the death and not herself or Fate for allowing the child to stop breathing in the night. You are better without her. Maybe this is why Mother Moss brought you to us.'' ''She said as much,'' he sighed, shaking his head. ''Apparently I have this new destiny in that I have to save all of you.'' ''Shhh!'' she hissed, clamping a hand on his leg. She reached into her grubby jacket and pulled out a wicked-looking hunting knife and rapped the hilt on the doorstep three times. ''What the hell is'' he flustered but Shield had come up behind him and clamped a filthy hand across his mouth. He almost gagged as all the children stank and the perspiration and sudden fear made Sheild's stench unbearable. He noticed a matching knife in her other hand and the fact that the children had fallen silent in the murk of the trailer behind him. ''Be quiet, Light-Father,'' she commanded. ''On the far side of the cars by the last engine shed, there can you see them?'' Five large men were crouching low and flitting from cover to cover. The wore long black leather greatcoats over their black clothes and combat boot but even from this distance he could see that they were a mix of races but they were all bald and carried strange but fearsome weapons - long black staffs with a blade at one end and a spike at the other. There were black leather collars about their necks and a sudden beam of sunlight glittered from something attached to their skulls. They were soon lost to sight behind the engine-shed and Shield relaxed a little. ''Those were Tally-men?'' he whispered. ''Yes,'' Shield whispered. ''Saul will lay the tin on the tracks in front of us. They never opened it after the first time. Mother Moss taught them pain. They're not very intelligent but they remember pain all right.'' ''But they've gone,'' he whispered a Saul jumped down onto the stones and placed the black tin in front of the door. He climbed back up and vanished inside into the gloom of the trailer and snuffed out the candles and the small fire in the stove. ''They always follow the same patrol route,'' Fierce explained getting to her feet. ''They've checked the site office by the gate and they'll walk through the four main repair sheds and the stores then they'll check the forges and the smithy and then they'll check the offices over where you first appeared.'' ''Then they walk along the path on the other side of these sidings back to the gate,'' Shield added. ''They know we're here but it's best if they don't see us.'' ''Then they go away?'' he asked, getting to his feet. ''Surely they would have seen the smoke from the stove!'' ''Yes, they do,'' she said. ''The Fathers give them their patrol routes and they capture any survivors they find on those patrols and take them to the Great Abbey for Inquisition and Redemption. They never show any initiative to investigate the smoke because they were made that way. They're still very dangerous so we'll have to close the door and wait in the dark they only take ten minutes to circle the sheds and offices.'' ''What do mean 'made that way','' he whispered in the gloom after the door closed. He felt claustrophobic in the fetid dark, the smell made worse by the heat and the terror coursing through thirteen unwashed bodies. He noted every child was holding a knife in their hands and some had two. ''Are these guys zombies?'' He could see Shield frown as she peered through one of the knot-holes in the door. ''Zombies?'' she said. ''I am unfamiliar with the word. They were the Unworthy,'' she sighed impatiently. ''As Light-Father you should know that they are failed novices who have been made into Tally-Men. They have parts of their brains removed and receive their instructions from the Fathers through their Guides.'' ''Guides?'' he asked, puzzled. ''Are they the same as the Tally-men? I didn't see anyone different leading them.'' ''No, the Guides are made of metal,'' Saul said quietly as he too came to the door a thin shaft of light illuminating part of his face. ''They are driven into their skulls. It's why they hate the rain the Guides hiss and crackle and cause them immense pain when they get wet. Now be quiet they're here. I pray they don't realise Mother Moss is gone.'' Harold peered through the remaining spy-hole as one of he younger children whimpered behind him. The five Tally-men had finished their rounds, their black leather coats flapping in the rising breeze as they strode along the path towards the gates. They were in single-file and stopped suddenly at an unspoken command and left-wheeled to face the trailer. They were only fifteen metres away and Harold could see that all five men were bald and expressionless and in the centre of their foreheads and on each temple were the Guides, gleaming in the afternoon sunlight now streaming across the great yard and gleaming off the broking glass in the office windows opposite. The five men readied their weapons and stepped across the unkempt grass and weeds until they halted at the empty siding track. Harold watched in morbid fascination as their eyes fixed upon the tin and they began a peculiar dance walking forward one-by-one only to double over suddenly, their heads thrust forwards to utter wordless howls of fear and loathing before retreating backwards to the path. The youngest of the five was the most animated and his keening was deeply disturbing almost a scream of anguish and loss. This went on for about ten minutes as the younger children cowered and whimpered in the dark with their hands pressed over their ears. Then suddenly it stopped and the Tally-men formed up into a single line to march through the gates without a backward glance. Saul turned to the children: ''Be at peace,'' he said, opening the trailer door to let the light flood in. Several children remained huddled up on the floor and were crying, their tears leaving clear tracks down their filthy cheeks. ''They're gone for today. Go to your trailers and rest, all of you. We have had no food for two days so we'll have to search for food as soon as it's dark.'' ''I don't want to,'' Mouse protested as she ran into Shield's protective embrace. ''That's when the Tally-men get us.'' ''We haven't lost anyone for a long time, Mouse,'' Saul said, sheathing his knife. ''Not since I've been Leader and we have the Light-Father with us.'' ''I'll come with you,'' Harold said, gazing thoughtfully at the gates. ''Where do you get food?'' ''We go to where the big shops are,'' Saul said, pointing to the piles of metal scrap on the other side of the gates. ''We hide the tins in there so that the Fathers and the Tally-men do not see them.'' ''But I bet the shops and stores of food are watched, aren't they? Why else would you go after dark? And you can't be serious - moving all these children in a group like this?'' ''When David was leader, shortly after Mother Moss died, we left the five littlest here in the trailer. They were attacked by ferals -two died and the other three ran away but we do not know what happened to them. I could not find them.'' ''Ah I'm sorry but what are these 'ferals' - that word sounds so strange!'' Harold muttered rubbing at his brow. The pain vanished and he smiled down at the children who were filing out to their homes and touching his overalls for luck on the way out. One of them, handed him his utility belt. ''Thank you, Peter. Okay, Saul, what are ferals? Are they dogs? I assume all the cats and dogs have gone wild in the last five years.'' ''We have packs of dogs but they are not as dangerous as ferals,'' Saul said sadly. ''Ferals are the children who have survived the plague without the vaccine but the Fathers have cast them out as they are damaged. David never forgave himself and he too searched for the missing three but one day, he was returning when he was captured by the Tally-men in the yard and taken away.'' ''What happened to him? What do these Fathers do?'' ''Do you remember the youngest of the Tally-men?'' ''You mean the one that was really howling?'' ''Yes. That was David.''
Archived comments for Light Chapter 03: Fierce is Twelve
anth2011ed on 30-04-2011
Light Chapter 03: Fierce is Twelve
pdemitchell, sorry to intrude, but can you send your permission and bio for the 2011/2012 Anth pse?

- Details Here

Author's Reply:


Light Chapter 02: Mother Moss (posted on: 04-04-11)
Harold wakes up in the abandoned railyards of Crawcester - to be hailed a saviour by a group of orphans and their guardian - or rather what's left of her....

Mother Moss ''The workings of the human heart are the profoundest mystery of the universe. One moment they make us despair of our kind, and the next we see in them the reflection of the divine image.'' - Charles W. Chesnutt
A warm but incessant rain pricked at the back of his neck as consciousness slowly returned and he realised he was not in bed but lying face down on wet tarmac with his tools and utility belt pressing painfully into his chest and stomach. Worse still was the lancing pain ricocheting from temple to temple. ''Damn it!'' he gasped, clutching at his head. ''Some bastard must've mugged me as I left the workshop. Help!'' he cried out. ''Someone help me!'' There was no reply - in fact, there was no sound at all not even the sound of distant city traffic so he forced open his eyes. 'Wait,' he thought. 'I can still taste bourbon in my mouth! I'm outside in the rain but I'm not soaked through so I can't have been out for long so why is it the middle of the day?' He forced himself up onto a kneeling position and in small pools of water around him, diamond sparks of light were coming and going. He lifted his red baseball cap and probed gingerly at his skull but it felt intact and he could feel no bruises to his body. His wallet was still in one of the enormous pockets of his work-dungarees and the tool-belt was still strapped to his waist so that definitely ruled out the mugging theory. He sniffed at the air which was unusually fresh and free from the cloying odours of the city so he forced himself to his feet, swaying dangerously as he tried to get his bearings. ''I'm not on the campus but I can't be out in the country,'' he declared aloud. ''So where on God's sweet earth am I? Hey! Is anybody there?'' he yelled then he realised that the words coming out of his mouth didn't sound right! As he focused on the words the pain in his temples became excruciating and a trickle of blood flowed from his nose. 'What the hell's wrong with me?' he thought, wiping his nose and staring at the blood on his hand. 'Is it a stroke?' He stared up at the featureless overcast sky above him, the light rain pattering upon his upturned face it was dank but it was definitely daylight! His vision cleared and he could see he was in a vast rail-yard dotted with the corroding hulks of steam trains, rotting sheds and neglected office buildings. Nestling in the sidings that ran alongside a huge corrugated iron fence were five long-abandoned railway wagons with gaudy flecks of colour glowing between the rust, mouldering wood and ivy. The car park to his right was filled with cars and vans of unfamiliar designs and despite the moss and climbing plants beginning to creep over them, they looked as though they were merely awaiting the railway staff to drive them home. ''What the hell happened here?'' he muttered. ''And where the hell is this place? There's nothing like this in the whole of Wales.'' Scattered in a huge circle about him there were blackened fragments of metal and rubble from the vending-machine and other twisted pieces of wood and metal from his workshop including one neatly-sliced half of the spectrometer. Steam still rose from the larger pieces. ''Oh, yeah, I remember now,'' he said aloud. ''I was in the workshop when that plug started moving by itself then there was that light and now I'm in the middle of fucking nowhere! I get it! That hell-light came back!'' An inner voice added: 'If that's the case then you should be grateful you're still alive!' From a rudimentary chimney on the roof of the largest trailer, he spotted a thin column of greasy smoke was smearing upwards through the falling rain and his sprits rose - at least there would be someone here who could answer his questions and maybe give him a lift back to the university. Acting on a sudden inspiration, he fumbled in one of his pockets and produced a mobile only to find there was no signal. ''Why am I not fucking surprised?'' he muttered, thrusting the phone back into his pocket in disgust. A movement amongst the trailers caught his eye and thirteen scarecrow figures dressed in tattered clothes slowly emerged from the dank shadows and edged towards him nervously. He relaxed when he realised that they were only children between the ages of six and sixteen but their genders were obscured by matted rags, hair, filth and malnutrition. As they approached, he could see the eyes fixed upon him were as wide as saucers. ''Okay, now this is just getting weird,'' he sighed. He extracted a cigar from a tin in one of the pouches on his utility-belt and lit it after deliberately holding the lighter-flame to a thumb to prove that he wasn't dreaming. The smoke filling his lungs was equally reassuring so he stood there as the children slowly circled him in unnerving and respectful silence. ''Hello, children,'' he said patiently. ''Is there a phone here I can use?'' Finally a young boy of about ten worked up the nerve to tug at his trousers to get his attention: ''We saw you come in the holy light, Light-Father,'' he said plaintively, pointing at the ring of charred debris. ''We kept the faith but the priests and the Tally-men took so many of us. We tried to stop them but they were too strong! Please don't be angry with us! Please!'' ''Light-Father, please forgive us!'' chanted the other starvelings in unison and they knelt reverently about the speechless technician, reaching out to touch his oil-stained overalls for luck. ''Light-Father, forgive us!'' they cried again in reed-thin hungry voices. ''Light-Father, forgive us!'' He inhaled deeply on his cigar as he studied these bizarre starvelings. Finally, he raised a hand. ''That's enough!'' he said sharply. 'Me, a father? What a joke!' he thought, remembering awakening one morning to find his little Naomi lifeless from cot death syndrome and his wife full of bitter accusations. He groaned aloud, the memory still as raw and as painful as ever and he put his hand across his eyes. The tallest of the children looked puzzled. ''Why endure you torment, Light-Father? Why should you, a Saviour sent by God, suffer like this?'' he asked. ''Have you been fighting demons?'' ''In a way I have,'' Harold sighed. ''Look, get up all of you! I've got to get back to the university. What's your name, son, where am I and is there a phone in this dump?'' He was completely baffled by the fact that these children were speaking a strange dialect of English but he could clearly interpret their words. His mind had registered the word 'torment' but his ears had heard the sound as 'acquillence' and the word orders weren't quite right reminding him of the Old English he'd studied for his Mediaeval English courses in school. As he thought about how Saul's lips didn't quite sync with what he was hearing, that peculiar debilitating pain became worse - almost a warning - and he put a hand to his face to discover that his nose was bleeding again. ''I am Saul. Saul Dis,'' the teenager announced. ''There are no telephones working and this city is Crawcester, the greatest of the Middle Cities. I have eighteen years, the eldest, but we have no parents - until the holy light brought you to us, that is.'' ''My name is Harold, Saul, I'm a lost technician not a bloody Light-Father whatever that is'' he stopped when he saw the hope and adoration in the eyes of the children pressed up against him. His clothes were damp and he was exhausted. ''I need to get out of this damned rain and think. I need to find out what that damned light did to me and how to get back home. I should be in work. Saul, is there anywhere we can talk? Can we use those office buildings over there?'' Saul looked terrified. ''Saint Peter! No, we can't, Light-Father! The Tally-men take anybody they find in there - which is why we hide in our trailers and only look for food at night. We talk in the big trailer where the smoke is. The rain is the only time we can ever get warm - the Tally-men don't like the rain.'' ''My name is Fierce and the rain is my friend,'' one of the children told him gravely. ''It makes us cold and wet but it keeps the Tally-men away. We can sleep when it rains.'' A little of the grime was washing from the child's face, so that he could see that it was a tall, thin girl with her black hair braided and tied with colourful scraps of rag. She had the most haunted eyes he had ever seen and before he could help himself, he had patted her cheek tenderly - had his little daughter survived, she might have looked like this grim waif. ''Crawcester? So where the hell is that?'' he demanded of Saul, as they headed towards the trailers. ''I've never heard of it. Cirencester maybe but not Crawcester.'' ''As Elder Saul said, it's the biggest of the Middle Cities and the only city where we are left alone,'' another child of about twelve said sadly, with a little catch of doubt to the voice. ''Surely, Light-Father, you are of God - you would know this?'' They entered the trailer and Harold sat down gratefully on an old rusting office chair by the largest of the tables. He finished his cigar in silence as the other children sat themselves on boxes and chairs as close to him as they could. Without a word, one of the children took a small brand from the stove in the far corner and reverently lit some candles. They were obviously precious and only used because it was such a special occasion. Saul collected a large black tin from a table covered with wilted flowers and childish drawings at the far end of the trailer which obviously served as some sort of altar. Saul placed the tin on the table in front of Harold with a great show of reverence but the smell that assailed his nostrils warned him that this wasn't lunch. ''What is it?'' he asked dubiously. Saul smiled and carefully removed the lid. ''This is why the Tally-men leave us alone,'' he said. Harold recoiled in horror at the sight of the partly-mummified head of an old white-haired woman who had obviously died in great torment and agony. ''What the hell are you kids doing playing in a rail yard with a severed head?'' he demanded hoarsely, taking the lid from Saul and replacing it quickly. ''What the hell are your parents thinking letting you play in a rail yard unsupervised? What the hell is going on? Are you all runaways?'' Saul sighed as he carried the tin back to their improvised altar. ''Our parents worked for the Mendellian Order who owned Exodus Industries. They found out that the Order had made something called the Redemption Virus. They said it was a cure for cancer but our parents weren't fooled; they knew that it was lethal but the Government refused to listen to their warnings as the Order had cured so many illnesses in the world before that. Our parents made a vaccine and hid us here when the plague began and then'' ''A plague?'' Harold said, shaking his head in bewilderment. ''These monks made a plague? Whose head is in that tin?'' ''Mother Moss - she was the Beautiful One who cared for us after our parents died until Abbot Schimrian and his Fathers came three months ago to redeem her body and soul.'' ''Abbot Schimrian? Is he the lunatic in charge of this order?'' ''Yes, he's a good man of the cloth,'' Saul replied without a hint of irony. ''Mother Moss was a wiccan the natural enemies of the Order. She lived in the offices and hid us from the Tally-men in the trailers. She would fight them off with her incantations but then Abbot Schimrian and the Fathers arrived and they were too much for her and they defeated her and then they Inquired of her.'' Saul turned away to hide his tears of shame. ''He knew we were hiding in the trailers as they tortured her all night long in one of those buildings. We could hear her begging them for death.'' Beneath the dirt, Harold could see the youth's face was white with horror of it. ''She screamed and she screamed while they kept laughing and asking her the same questions over and over again. We wanted to help but we just sat here and covered our ears and cried. Then, when the morning-light crept into the sky and the screaming had stopped, Abbot Schimrian came over to leave the tin by the door.'' Saul shuddered and began to weep openly. ''He said that she could stay to look after us until his priests returned to redeem us but something happened and only the Tally-men come now. We leave the tin outside and they go away.'' Harold was about to speak but the lid clattered onto the floor and a shaft of brilliant white light erupted from the black tin. The children cowered by the door but he was drawn against his will to look inside. He thought his heart would stop as those dead eyes slowly opened and the dead mouth of Mother Moss formed words that he could hear inside his mind: 'I saved you from the Light of Azrael and the Shadow of the Fallen Ones and brought you here,' the voice within him whispered enigmatically. 'The Order has emptied this world of human life - except for the Middle Cities where the Fathers and their Tally-men have yet to seek out and 'redeem' the last of the impure before their shallow Eden can begin. I felt your pain when your child died a thousand worlds away; I heard your heart break so I have given you this destiny in the hope that you will one day find peace and forgive yourself for the death of your most precious one by saving these children. We brought peace to this world and in doing so we incurred the wrath of God and as you can see, he has punished me mightily for my sins...' ''Why? What do you mean by the Light of Azrael and the Fallen Ones? Is this a parallel reality?'' he demanded, tearing his eyes away from that dreadful sight as Saul joined him. ''Where am I?'' 'Where you need to be. Save my children, I beg you, or all my suffering will have been I vain - they're all I have left...' the telepathic 'voice' faded but the light flared with blinding intensity but when Harold and Saul were able to open their eyes again and peered into the tin, they saw that it was empty but for a death's-head moth that fluttered past their faces and out into the rain. Saul collapsed into a chair and sobbed bitterly into his hands and as Harold comforted him, he understood that somehow, this frail, brave youth had kept these other twelve children alive against unspeakable odds. He looked into their eager expectant eyes and the questions died upon his lips. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Light Chapter 02: Mother Moss

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Light Chapter 01: Sphere (posted on: 04-04-11)
New book started spinning off the first trilogy. Introducing Harold Porter - a most unassuming hero... the Light Father.


Archived comments for Light Chapter 01: Sphere
royrodel on 05-04-2011
Light Chapter 01: Sphere
any chance of some paragraphs

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - am thinking of a solution... the presentation defaults ain't so hot are they? Mitch

e-griff on 06-04-2011
Light Chapter 01: Sphere
screen presentation differs from print presentation by a) having no indents and b) leaving a double line space (two para breaks) between paras. This may be what roy is referring to.

If you have word , use search and replace all, using search: ^p replace: ^p^p

to cut out indents (made with a tab) search ^t replace (leave blank)

G

Author's Reply:
Thanks John, I know about the double space option and will probably use that but it is still hard to read so I'm working with some image/pdf code to allow an easy read in an image format. The above is a cumbersome page-by-page jpeg transfer to web site and back again so I won't be doing that again as it takes ages... will revert to double spacing but will work on a converter.... ciao fer now. Mitch


BK01-CH-01 Homecoming (posted on: 07-03-11)
The first chapter in the Path Transcendent trilogy

Homecoming
There was thunder and a flickering of lightning in the skies above his head but Thomas Lewis was content, walking alone along the shores of the reservoir, listening to ripples lapping at the stones and watching streamers of mist form amongst the hillside trees then rise up into the gathering storm clouds. He could have stayed there for hours, hidden from view by the woods and the veils of rain but there was urgent family business to attend to and this silence; this blissful, wonderful silence would have to wait. As he gazed down into the clear waters, he thought he saw a familiar, sinister shadow gliding towards him. The illusion quickly faded but it had revived unwelcome memories of his endless and vivid dreaming: the haunting sequences crowding into his mind until he was forced to massage his aching eyes to dispel them. Even here he could not find peace. Wearily, he climbed back into his car and drove on through another Valleys town composed of endless tiers of drab, terraced houses. He swerved and braked to a halt, narrowly missing a large lorry which was travelling far too fast for such wet and narrow roads. As the horn-blasts and obscenities faded he realised that the murmuring was back and the precious respite he had found at the reservoir was lost. He pulled into a small lay-by to rest his forehead upon the steering wheel in complete despair. He knew all too well that the loathsome sound existed only inside his mind. It was as if the town was revealing all its ugly secrets to him in a voice comprised of boarded-up buildings, choked gutters and broken slates. And it was more than just sound: he could feel the rain striking the heads of the grim-faced pedestrians, splashing through the puddles on their sodden errands. Three old men paused by the car to glare suspiciously at him, their eyes resentful but strangely empty. 'Why are they staring at me?' he thought savagely. 'They're nothing but living ghosts'. A stately hearse swept slowly past at the head of a convoy of mourners. He saw the faces of two sad children pressed to the rear windscreen of one of the cars. Their misery distracted him and the defences he'd built to keep the murmuring at bay, abruptly crumbled. He pressed his hands to his temples, screwed his eyes shut and concentrated frantically but it was too late: words had taken shape within his mind again. 'Daddy! Where are you?' the little girl in the car cried inside his head, as clear as a bell and her grief choked him. 'Bloody rain, the baby's wet again', cursed the young mother in silent frustration on the opposite pavement. Worse still, stirring beneath these bright 'voices', he could sense the primeval animus of the entire town, permeating everything. He drove his fingernails hard into the palms of his hand and stared in desperation at the bottle of sedative tablets on the passenger seat. With the patience born of a long and private suffering, he carefully rebuilt the mental barriers that muted these 'voices' to a bearable level. It was getting harder every time and he was terrified of the day when he would fail and finally fall for ever into madness and despair. ''I am not insane! I am not hearing their thoughts!'' he cried out over and over again, thumping the steering wheel rhythmically with the palms of his hands, keeping time to the deep breathing exercise his psychiatrist had patiently taught him. The high-strength sedative was his addictive fail-safe, the last chance which he feared almost as much as the 'voices' that constantly tormented him. About fifty metres ahead of him, he saw the three old men turn aside to climb a series of steep steps leading to the streets above. He was glad to see them go for he knew they were corrupted by a lifetime of drink and bigotry. The road was empty so he allowed the car to roll forward to view their slow but steady ascent. Despite his efforts to block out their sour and ignorant thoughts, they seeped into his consciousness and he 'saw' their bitterness and anger ascend each step beside them as a faint but poisonous shadow he knew all too well. In an effort to distract himself, he imagined that they were priests climbing the terraced steps of an Incan temple for one last human sacrifice as their city filled with those dying of imported diseases. Muskets and Catholics, came the unbidden connection, lungblack and chapels - the shadow feeds. Taking a pencil off the dashboard, he scribbled the words down into a small note-book he kept in the car. He added the date and time and a terse description of the thoughts and sensations he had just experienced. He smiled wryly as he re-started the car, wondering what the hell his psychiatrist, Peddern, would make of these delusions. As he headed south, the straggling valley towns and villages merged seamlessly into one another with the transitions marked only by vandalised road-signs until he finally recognised the buildings and idle pit-heads of the Black Cat mines of Pontybrenin. He was home. Ten minutes later, he had parked his car in front of his parents' house in Ayr Street and was gazing fondly at the blue peeling paint of the front door and the wilting, battered flowers in the single window box. He recalled his earliest childhood memory of being curled up on the sofa in the back room of this house, watching the dancing flames of the coal fire before slowly drifting down the deep well of infant sleep, lined with the reassuring drone of adult voices. ''Home,'' he muttered aloud as he held his raincoat lapels tightly together with one fist and rapped the door sharply with the knuckles of the other. ''Be it ever so humbling,'' he added, glancing up at the bedroom windows and blinking as the rain plastered the hair to his head and trickled down his face. The door was opened by his mother, Carol Lewis, a stocky grey-haired woman whose more-than-weather-beaten face was softened with a warm and welcome smile. The chimes in the hall-way made a brittle alien sound that was swiftly lost in the windswept street outside. ''Thomas, your Dad would have liked to have seen you,'' she said, her voice thick with emotion and tinged with accusation. ''Before the emphysema did for him.'' She sighed deeply and closed her eyes but recovered quickly for she was typical of Old Town women who had been the real strength and support behind the men of the Black Cat mines. ''Don't stand there like a drowning rat, Thomas!'' she scolded suddenly. ''Come in and get that wet coat off you!'' She hung his dripping raincoat on the hall-stand then bustled him into the front room without another word before going into the kitchen to make a pot of tea. He lowered himself luxuriously into one of the two armchairs by the fire and resisted the temptation to put his feet up on his mother's cherished coffee-table. The armchairs had been much loved and lived-in for decades by his family and they reeked of old leather and tobacco smoke but they still possessed a power to suck the weariness from aching limbs. He gazed slowly with great affection around the room, remembering how seldom he had been allowed into it as a child. The lace curtains hung limply, drawing a dull white pastel film across the grey houses and skies outside. The small drop-leaf dining table stood by the window bearing a large over-ornate lace table-cloth on which rested an ugly vase filled with a riot of flowers whose colours clashed with the subdued matt hues of a room decorated by several generations of conservative taste. A plain walnut sideboard stood primly against the wall opposite the fire with a dining chair precisely positioned on each side like sentries on guard duty. He was concerned to see a large number of unopened letters scattered carelessly amongst the photographs and ornaments. It was obvious that his mother was not coping well. A few moments later, she returned carrying a tray bearing two bone-china cups, her best tea-pot and a pyramid of assorted biscuits on a large bone-china plate. She carefully set the tray down, poured them both a cup of tea and settled herself comfortably down into the other armchair. She studied her son silently for several moments as they both sipped slowly at their tea. She noted that his short black hair was wet and uncombed and his shirt and tie were crumpled and badly in need of ironing. He obviously hadn't shaved that morning, his face pale and unhealthy-looking and he had lost a lot of weight since last Christmas. ''Thomas, you don't look well, cariad,'' she began directly but she could not resist airing her grievances again. ''You could have kept in touch a bit more often, you know. I've been worried these last months about you and you were not at the flat when I phoned about your Dad and I've lost your mobile number: that's why I got Hannah to ring you.'' ''Sorry, Mam, I didn't get your answer-phone messages. Since I became installation manager, Colex has sent me all over North Wales and Merseyside and I haven't been home for weeks. To be honest, it suits me down to the ground. The pay is good and it keeps my mind occupied.'' Carol shook her head sadly, her heart full of concern for her eldest son. ''Are you still seeing that psychiatrist?'' she asked carefully. ''You said you were still hearing all those voices in your head when I rang you last.'' Thomas began to feel a little angry at the lack of understanding in his mother's eyes. ''I've tried explaining all that to you so many times, Mam,'' he said testily. ''But you've never listened to me even as a child.'' ''But hearing voices in your head all the time is not healthy,'' she protested. ''Look, it's my problem, Mam. Peddern has told me that you've discussed this with Young Doctor Ferris. I wish you wouldn't - the Ferrises think the family is stark raving mad enough as it is.'' She looked both guilty and angry as a deep red flush crept across her cheeks. ''Yes, I have talked to him and his father,'' she said defensively. If I'm going to end up having to look after you, I need to know exactly what your problem is.'' Thomas ground his teeth before replying and straightened up in the chair. This situation was surreal: his father was lying dead upstairs and all his mother could focus on was the 'failure' of his damned treatment. He knew she loved him and she was clearly deep in shock and mourning so he suppressed his irritation and continued in a gentler tone: ''Look, Mam. The last five years have been hard. I've been through a messy divorce that's cost me my house and most of my salary. Kathryn is making access to the kids impossible which means I have to go back to court again to see Amy and the twins. I can't keep a girlfriend for more than a week and I know I drink too much in the hotels. But don't worry! I am not about to go twp because I can't afford the luxury of becoming a basket-case. My problems are stress-related, Mam, so stop fretting about having to look after me. It's not helping.'' ''But the voices!'' she persisted. Thomas lay back in the chair and massaged his temples before replying even more calmly: ''I really wish I'd never mentioned them to you as a child. Listen, what I have is like having tinnitus - you know: that ringing you get in your ears from loud noises or infections only it's inside my head, okay? If I concentrate, I can pick out single 'voices' but most of the time I have to block it out. They've run all the tests but there's nothing physically wrong with me. All that Peddern and the others tell me to do is reduce my stress levels and keep the happy pills handy.'' He reached into the pocket of his jacket which he'd placed on the floor by his armchair. Despite the heat and humidity of the day there was a small coal fire burning in the grate and he was uncomfortably warm. He extracted the bottle of sedative tablets from one of the pockets and rattled the contents. ''If I have one of my 'turns' I'm supposed to take one of these,'' he said gloomily. ''But once I start on this stuff there's no turning back: they're incredibly addictive.'' He was staring at the fire as he said this and noticed a slate ash-tray on the hearth. There were also two empty cigarette boxes placed together with one standing as the headstone to the other's grave and he smiled at the unintentional metaphor. ''Speaking of addictions, I thought you'd given up the fags,'' he observed, stifling a yawn. She placed her cup and saucer on the table and defiantly lit up a cigarette and exhaled a cloud of smoke towards the ceiling. ''I've been smoking for forty years, Thomas,'' she said pointedly. ''And I'm not going to stop now. Maybe when I move into Edith's, I'll have to give them up now what's the matter with you?'' A complex mixture of emotion and acute weariness had overwhelmed him and he slumped in the chair, exhausted, with his eyes screwed shut and his fingertips pressed to his temples. ''I feel a bit hung over, Mam,'' he lied easily. ''There was a bit of a do last night as we'd finished the early and the boss said thanks with a few rounds. That's why I couldn't drive straight down last night when Hannah rang. I set out first thing this morning with a thumping headache and it's taken me ages to get here because of the flooding in the North. I think I've got a bit of a migraine coming on as well. You wouldn't have any aspirin handy, would you?'' ''Even better - I've got some migraine tablets in the kitchen. I'll get them for you,'' she offered. Whilst she was out of the room, Thomas closed his eyes and sank quickly into a deep and formless slumber, drawing his arms in about his chest as he did so. She returned with the tablets and stood crestfallen by his armchair, looking down at her sleeping son. She put the tablets on the coffee table before snatching up her newspaper and returning to her own armchair. She noted his rapid irregular breathing and the perspiration on his forehead and she became deeply worried. She'd seen him like this too many times before. She knew what could happen. ''That's typical of you, Thomas,'' she said aloud as she lit up another cigarette. ''Bloody typical!''
Archived comments for BK01-CH-01 Homecoming
geordietaf on 08-03-2011
BK01-CH-01 Homecoming
Interesting beginning, particularly as I'm from the Valleys. There's a lot of exposition going on in this chapter. This is understandable, but it might be better to introduce it more gradually through the opening chapters. I wondered why, with Dad lying dead upstairs, Thomas didn't want to go and see him. In my pit village terraced home, the front 'parlour' was usually the place where the departed were laid out.

Small typo in first sentence - 'amongst the hillside trees the rise up' : 'the' should be 'then' I think.

Author's Reply:
hi geodietaf - typo corrected. The reason why he was upstairs is explained later. The Dad was a drunken bully although his wife could stand up to him and rarely displayed any affection to jhis children. It emerges later he feared his son was going insane from seeing and inciting demons manifesting in the house and had planned to kill him as a child. He'd made his carers life a misery in his last months so the family didn't want to lay him out in the 'parlour'. Brings it all back eh? Thanks for the read! The book is now on Kindle!!!


BK06-CH13: Norn and Valkyrie (posted on: 11-02-11)
Siobhan discovers that her prescience lies a lot deeper than she'd ever imagined when she meets... Last for a while as mutilple edits progress...

Norn And Valkyrie ''I have found power in the mysteries of thought, exaltation in the changing of the Muses ... but Fate is stronger than anything I have known.'' Euripides
The sulphurous stench of poor quality coal being fed into hearth and furnace was unmistakable. Siobhan looked up at a pastel yellow sky where the lifeless orb of the sun hung a yellow, joyless disc above the fume-choked industrial landscape. She was at the gates of a four-storey cotton mill: ancient, built of grey and grimy stone, one amongst dozens belching smoke and reek above the terraces and tenements of that smog-throttled vale. ''Oh,Hell!'' she seethed through clenched teeth, picking at her thin woollen shawl and the dirt-smeared cloth of her Victorian working-woman's dress. ''Not this again!'' She wandered through the unmanned gates and the bustling yards to gaze into the vast engine houses as the sweating, steam-shrouded engineers tended the nodding beam-beasts that powered the looms of the mill. Grubby urchins on unknown errands raced past her unheeding apart from one young lad who looked at her as if he'd seen a ghost before haring off into the gloom. She ran her fingers along the woodwork of the door-frame, the texture and pressure of the coarse timber splinter-real beneath her fingers. A foreman cursed her for being a 'dawdling trollop' and 'nowt but a waste o' the master's wages' as she passed into the murk and clamour of the towering mill. In the feeble light filtering in through huge soot-stained windows of the stairwells, she ascended to the top floor of the building and into the humid thrash and bedlam of its countless looms and wage-slaves. At the far end of the floor she saw three familiar women in shawls and black dresses tending to their loom only they were not weaving rolls of cotton as the others were instead, she knew, future scenes were taking form upon the warp as shuttles flew back and forth at dizzying speed and weft-reels of coloured cotton chattered upon their spindles. The deafening roar of machinery became increasingly muted as she approached. ''Oh, what a surprise to see you three!'' she said sarcastically. ''Just why have you dragged me into this bloody mill again? Even the hearse was better than this!'' The young fair-haired woman looked up from her work: ''You know who we are, seeress, why do you refuse to acknowledge our ancient names? I am Skuld.'' ''You are not Skuld or Clothos or Persephone or Brahma or any other divinity plaguing mankind,'' Siobhan said fiercely but her heart leapt with fear - these women radiated such a sense of sheer presence that she felt like an ant berating a mountain range. ''You may be real in your Domain or wherever the hell you're from but here you are nothing more than my vision-manifestations in my vision. I saw you three months ago you were laughing at me - as if what I see is not dark and vile enough!'' The middle-aged, dark-haired woman smiled serenely. ''What you saw then was not us, my dear child. Whether we are real or a myth or a trick of the mind is irrelevant but I would so like you to call me Verdandi! And as for this reality:'' She leant forward to drive a large needle through Siobhan's dress and deep into her thigh causing her to yelp and curse profanely. ''Hah, aren't we the eloquent whelp now!'' the older white-haired woman cackled as she attended to her task. ''Ho! Her flesh pierced by a mere vision! How intriguing!'' ''Okay, Urd, or whatever the hell you 'Norns' or 'Fates' want to call yourselves,'' Siobhan said in exasperation, placing a hand on her injured thigh. ''I'll play this stupid game for now. Why have you drawn me here when you've already explained how my talent works? I know what the Price of Prophecy is and you obviously know I don't want to interpret the darker, deeper visions because I almost got Gemma killed two years ago.'' ''The Design tricked you then, not us,'' Skuld shrugged. ''You've both tried to hide from the Design but, as you all discovered three months ago, it is not hiding from you.'' ''Fine is that why I've been drawn to this mill?'' ''Forgive us our sense of drama it's one of our few pleasures,'' Urd grinned, revealing the blackened teeth of a crone. ''Skuld just loves the activity and energy in this place so we humour her. Just look at this hive of industry,'' she said, indicating the bustle about the looms. ''Mankind so busily stripping Gaia bare, raping her to make cheap cloth! Those poor children over there: so quick-fingered and innocent yet doomed to live such short and dreary lives! And what about that boy who recognised you at the door to the engine room - who was he, I wonder?'' ''Okay, if it makes you happy, Urd, this mill is real and we are in Victorian England so can we get to the damn point!'' Siobhan said in exasperation. ''Look, you helped me understand my gift and I appreciate that so why are you tormenting me? How do I know you're not just another malevolent aspect of the Design?'' ''We are not agents or aspects of His Design!'' Urd said with surprising force. ''We do not care whether those children live or die in the jaws of the Design for we are Guardians of the Interstices. We do not openly contest against the Design but the Balance places great strain upon the Watchers and the fabric that supports and separates each reality. Thus, we came into being to maintain that fabric and watch over the Watchers - any other description of us would be beyond your limited intellect.'' ''Ah, would it now?'' Siobhan sighed sarcastically. ''Jimmy and Gemma often discuss the concept of Limbo with me. The Watchers are inversions of sentient beings that act as the arbiters and enablers of Free Will they absorb the potential energies of the choices and actions we take. This allows key fulcrums of destiny to function and Time to flow smoothly around them. How am I doing?'' ''That's pretty good - for a human.'' ''The trouble is I've never seen or sensed anything like you, Urd, outside of my visions, and neither has Gemma.'' ''Whether you perceive us or not, you cannot deny us, seeress,'' Skuld said sweetly as the shuttles flew back and forth. ''Your power is felt very keenly in the Interstices surrounding this reality and in so many others - the Watchers fear you.'' ''You've hardly explored your gifts since Digwell Street,'' Verdandi said scathingly. ''You saved your mother and yourself but you are content to make money from your gift, playing God to the dregs of humanity that the Design deems irrelevant.'' ''What I do with my life is my business!'' ''We know your heart, Siobhan!'' Skuld countered angrily. ''You are terrified yet you rage at the dark futures revealed by the return of the Changeling; you suffered when you gambled with the life of the young Ormuzd and you grieve for that noble woman you sacrificed to save yourself and don't insult us by saying that self-preservation wasn't foremost in your mind! You paid the price easily enough with her for so why do hesitate to accept that your power is without parallel? You must embrace that power!'' ''Maeth, the Child of Dark, shrines, war, rape, torture, violence, plague, cyborgs, the Nexus.'' Siobhan groaned, clutching at her head. ''I can't keep it out! This darkness is too much for a human soul to bear and even Gemma can't see through it anymore! Kerridge isn't dead! She's not! She's still alive!'' ''She is but if you do not break the restraints that bind you,'' Urd said sternly. ''She will be trapped in one of many future temporal loops that you create.'' She paused to hold up a circle of twined gold thread and ran a finger around the inside: ''She will live on for eternity, aware yet forced to relive her struggles over and over again alone and trapped in a cycle of torment and all because of you. You are a very cruel goddess, Siobhan O'Grady!'' she added, tossing the thread aside. ''And a fickle one.'' ''You fear loneliness above all,'' Verdandi continued, placing a hand upon her breast. ''For you know that not even the light of the Leanan-Sidhe or the brilliance of Doctor Smith can guide you. You also fear the unseen enemy that reached out for you and after watching that child tame the Serpent, you are afraid of her as well. You must fight these fears or it will consume you.'' ''I will not stand by and let her die!'' Siobhan protested vehemently. ''I am not afraid of her or her powers! I made an oath that I would to do anything, even deny God and damn myself to the fires of Hell for all eternity to save her.'' ''So, you would confront God Himself?'' Urd prompted. ''Yes! In a heartbeat - whatever it costs me!'' ''We are glad but the price you will pay will be considerable,'' Skuld warned, hand on heart. ''But know this: we will watch over you as we have done all your life.'' ''What? Are you using me as the Design has done?'' Siobhan demanded angrily. ''You say you are not aspects of the Design but surely not even you can deny the Will of the Creator!'' ''We do not deny His Will, we enable it!'' Skuld said, her eyes shining. ''We guard the Interstices but we have no real power here. You already know how the Design reaches back and forth across Time to correct itself yet despite its vast power, you and Ormuzd still exist. The present Design did not account for Gemma being aided in her battle against the Aberration by the shade of Rebecca Lent and now Gemma's power grows unchecked'' ''She makes the very Gates of Heaven tremble,'' Urd said dramatically. ''You see all the ramifications of Memorial Square in the dark future threads hidden from her, do you not? You know of what we speak: the terrible Light beyond the Darkness the things which John the Baptist prophesised coming to pass?'' Siobhan clutched at the tightness in her throat and her blood pounded in her veins. ''Oh, Christ, I see her! Oh my God, is that really her? the Light of Creation shall blind them and set free their tongues and hearts before the judgement of the Daughter. I see the stars falling from the skies I see I see'' ''Judgement Day - the End of All Things that Ormuzd will one day bring about,'' Verdandi said sympathetically. ''But you must face that ultimate terror as any warrior must and you must move events and people to prevent this. You can do it for deep within your heart, seeress, you know that poor Kerridge was more than just a sacrifice she was your pawn!'' ''Yes, she was,'' Siobhan admitted, turning her face away in shame. ''What took Kerridge into that future was my nemesis - the thing the Design will use to destroy me. I saw that Kerridge had an important role to play in that future.'' ''Ah! you face your true self and your true destiny at last!'' Urd crowed with grim satisfaction, adding a reel to a spindle. ''How nave thou hast been and how cruel thou must be!'' ''I acted after consulting all that I could see of that future,'' Siobhan said defiantly. ''I'm not proud of what I did but had I been taken, Gemma and everyone else would have been destroyed - including Kerridge. I need to put a face to my enemy and Kerridge might be able to do that for me!'' Verdandi shook her head slowly: ''Maybe she will, maybe not. Many things in these distant futures are hidden by the Design and the enemies it has created but you see enough amongst the black threads to steer the ships of Destiny even though your heart shrivels before the horror of what you must do. We hear your tears in the dark watches of the night while your mother prays to an uncaring God. We are with you always - you are not alone.'' ''So many Creations, so many planes, so many destinies to look after,'' Skuld murmured, waving her hands to indicate the floor of the mill. ''You can see why we chose this place to meet you.'' ''Yes, I expect you appreciate the metaphor,'' Siobhan said dazedly, pressing a hand to her forehead. ''Look, assuming you do protect the Interstices, I need to know if you're using me. Did you three influence Zhara and the Design in my creation?'' ''So you accept us for what we are, then?'' Skuld teased, her smudged but beautiful face lighting up in a smile. ''Stop toying with me!'' Siobhan snapped. ''For God's sake, Skuld, answer the question! Are you using me?'' ''Remember, dear sister, whenever a man stands at a fulcrum, he is using us to enable the choices he makes,'' Verdandi said gently. ''We have forced you see the magnitude of the Apocalypse that terrible Light Beyond heralds. Be assured: we did not create you and one day you will discern our true nature in time. But you must understand your danger - the Design knows you perceive the Light Beyond and cannot suffer you to live.'' ''We want you to help that Light prevail,'' Verdandi explained. ''Otherwise there will be nothing left but Darkness, a Void of Despair stretching up into the Domain itself and beyond the Pillars of Heaven itself will fall and the Interstices will fail.'' ''Surely the Design would not allow that to happen?'' ''The Design will bring it about, child!'' Urd said grimly. ''Remember the cat's cradle in the hearse? How certain threads disintegrated? The Design, if it fails to destroy Ormuzd, will in turn destroy this entire reality and many others to kill her.'' ''Because it cannot reset the Balance if she lives,'' Verdandi explained, her eyes boring into Siobhan's. ''It will simply wipe the slate clean and the Act of Creation will begin anew.'' ''I can see it!'' Siobhan shuddered, tears starting from her eyes. ''Cities torn from their foundations; billions dying; the Moon shattering in the heavens oh, God oh, Godno!'' ''Now you see why we are here! Only you can stop this! All five of you must fight the Design until the Light is revealed so that you can save Creation! You are the Valkyrie: you the Valkyrie of Time; Ormuzd - the Valkyrie of Change; the Changeling - the Valkyrie of Nature; the Consort - the Valkyrie of Life and finally the Charioteer - the Valkyrie of Space itself.'' ''Oh, come on! Valkyrie? I don't want this responsibility!'' Siobhan groaned, burying her face her hands. ''It's tearing my mind apart. Gemma will fight and die as that Light comes to be and I can't save her no matter what I do! I can't even tell her! Why can't the Design just leave us alone?'' Her eyes widened as the last of the tapestry was finally completed and the women beckoned her silently to look at the grotesque scene. ''Why are you showing me this? I know this will happen unless I find a way to stop it!'' Siobhan wailed, pressing her hands to her face. ''I've seen this path getting stronger and stronger for weeks! I can't bear it! There's this huge impetus behind it all - why can't I stop it from happening?'' ''You know why,'' Urd said scathingly as she approached Siobhan and placed an aged hand upon her forehead. ''You've lied to yourself and to all around you for years. This future will come to be because you have not truly embraced your true power. This is the first price you will pay for your cowardice and when the Darkness falls all of you will die!'' ''I must warn Gemma about the Light!'' ''No, you cannot!'' Skuld said, placing a hand alongside Urd's. ''If you do then all Creation will cease to exist!'' ''But she reads minds!'' Siobhan wailed in anguish. ''We can make it so that she cannot read your thoughts or see the Light,'' Verdandi promised, adding her hand so that the three women surrounded Siobhan, their hands upon her head, their eyes closed. ''You must seal her fate away from her or all is lost. Our blessings go with you. Siobhan O'Grady, seeress, Valkyrie!'' ''I cannot do this!'' Siobhan hissed in despair, reaching up to remove their hands only to find herself sat at the table in Claire's kitchen with Amy, Derek and Tamsin staring at her. ''Huh? Donald Street?'' she gasped. ''Where's Claire and Gemma?'' ''In the lounge,'' Amy said, squeezing her hands. ''Doctor Ferris is with her and so is Uncle Graham.'' ''You blew Mam away, Siobhan!'' Derek said angrily. ''You gave Gemma a massive shock and when Mam tried to wake you up - you zapped her clean across the kitchen!'' ''That wasn't me!'' Siobhan gasped, shuddering. ''It was those three damn women I saw two years ago!'' ''The Three Fates?'' Gemma prompted on entering the kitchen and sitting down. ''I felt you coming round. How are you?'' ''Never mind me, what about Claire?'' ''Burnt, dazed and incredibly angry,'' Gemma said coldly. ''They had a go at me before that. Claire is strong but she's only a normal human being and she got severely shocked. I've treated the worst of the burns and Rupert is seeing to the rest. She'll be fine but expect one amazing earful from her when she comes to.'' ''Oh, thank God, I'm so relieved.'' ''I don't like being blocked,'' Gemma insisted with an edge to her voice that set Siobhan's heart racing again. ''I need to know what these women are. The power didn't come from you so there is no way they're manifestations of your subconscious but I can't detect them they're not from any plane in this Creation.'' ''They appeared to me as Norns of Nordic myth but they could probably be any shape or form they want,'' Siobhan said, extracting her hands from Amy's clinging grasp. ''Skuld, Verdandi and Urd and they had me in that bloody cotton mill again,'' she shuddered, going pale. ''They said we have to become warrior-goddesses - the bloody Valkyrie of all things. They told me that they maintain the Interstices and guard the Watchers if I have this right, they enable the Design as the Watchers beneath them enable Free Will.'' ''The Three Fates guarding the arbiters of Free Will,'' Amy said, wide-eyed. ''Whoa! Makes sense I suppose.'' ''They could do better,'' Gemma said coldly, staring at Siobhan. ''Souls are getting chained to their Watchers in this valley and sprites are born there and the Child of Dark could be breeding more of them. What happened in your vision exactly? For some reason,'' she added suspiciously. ''I can't even 'take' your thoughts or emotions any more. What the hell did they do to you?'' ''Mainly they frightened the holy shit out of me,'' Siobhan said and related the conversation up to the point about the Light Beyond when her tongue clove suddenly to the roof of her mouth as she tried to tell Gemma about seeing her die in the Light Beyond. She took a swig of water to hide her difficulty but she was amazed that Gemma didn't notice her problem: 'God, you frighten me so much,' she thought as hard as she could but Gemma did not react. 'Jesus, it's finally true: she can't hear a single thought I'm thinking!' ''So they summoned you because you've ignored the darker messages in the threads of Destiny,'' Amy gasped in wonder. ''What was that image on the loom that they forced you to see?'' Their eyes widened as Siobhan described the image that had taken shape beneath the flying fingers of the three women: that of Jillsy dying, strapped to bed having had her child torn from her womb in a brutal Caesarean section and held aloft to the adulation of hundreds of men and women in white suits. ''Those witches have thought of everything,'' Gemma said, the anger flushing her cheeks. ''They've blocked me from reading your mind and visions in case I affect the future and they're using Jillsy to force you to use your full power!'' ''Nothing is set in stone, Gemma,'' Siobhan said grimly. ''But all the darkest threads show me that the Movement will kidnap her and if they win the House elections in December, her death will become a certainty. The Movement plans to substitute a dead child to pretend Jillsy and the baby died in childbirth.'' The air became charged with static electricity as Gemma bared her teeth and sparks spat from metal surfaces. ''They'll take Jillsy over my dead body,'' she promised, clenching a fist. ''I'll turn every prick who lays a finger on her into a cloud of ionised gas!'' ''The Foundation is behind it all,'' Siobhan said through gritted teeth. ''They're going to fund the Movement with billions of dollars just as they fund the CP. Jillsy being killed in childbirth was their suggestion to the Movement who are willing to murder her to leave nobody to interfere in the raising of their new Messiah.'' ''What? The Movement wants to murder her?'' Amy gasped, her voice hoarse from the shock. ''So we're being forced to defend ourselves again - only this time it's the House that's the enemy?'' ''We'll save her!'' Derek said resolutely then he turned to look at the TV screen in horror: ''Hey! This part of your program has those paedophiles! Could you turn it off, Gem? Please!'' ''What? It felt like I was gone for hours,'' Siobhan murmured. Gemma obliged but not before some of the details of the vile acts the three men had inflicted on their victims had filtered into the kitchen. Siobhan's eyes widened as she remembered: ''Oh, I'm sorry, Derek, I forgot that your father was a a'' ''I wish I could forget, Siobhan!'' Derek said bitterly. ''He saved us in the end but he put us all through hell first. Forget it! So, what do we have to do to save Jillsy, Siobhan?'' Siobhan's face became even paler. ''Absolutely nothing at this point in time, Derek,'' she whispered. ''To save her, I'm going to have to concentrate on these fulcra like never before!'' ''What are you hiding?'' Gemma demanded suddenly. ''You didn't tell us everything. I don't need to read minds to work that one out. You mentioned a great darkness we have to get through and how it's linked to the John the Baptist scroll - what did you leave out about this Light of Creation? Am I the 'Daughter' who sets free the tongues and hearts and judges everyone?'' Siobhan paled and averted her eyes as she lied: ''I can't tell you the details because that would make your death a certainty. I'm sorry - that's why those three women sealed it away inside me.'' ''I see so we have to blindly fight our way through all this unknown Darkness and God knows what to reach this Light of Creation and save it somehow,'' Gemma exclaimed. ''Otherwise the Design will destroy everything if it can't kill us before we get there!'' Streamers of white energy crawled across the skin on her hands and plasma sparks filled the air and Siobhan's heart raced as she beheld the stigmata blazing and obscuring the upper half of Gemma's face. Tamsin and Amy turned their faces away. ''There were no alternatives left to me at the Brenin yet my great-grandmother saves me,'' Gemma said bitterly. ''Ross White saves me at Digwell Street and Tamsin saves me in Memorial Square. Therefore, I will not let God's damned Design kill me or anyone I love! Who the hell does God think He's dealing with?'' She halted as the fear in Derek, Amy and Tamsin's faces and minds registered. ''Hey, don't get shrieked out - it's me, guys!'' she said quickly as the unpleasant glow, stigmata and static faded. ''You went kind of scary for a second,'' Tamsin said timidly. ''You can't be that afraid of me, Tams! We're the good guys; we're the Lewises remember?'' Siobhan was unable to speak for in her mind's eye, she was staring up at an adult Gemma laughing insanely, encased in the Light Beyond, lightning searing heavenwards, as the fragments of the shattered Moon formed a halo about her head. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for BK06-CH13: Norn and Valkyrie

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Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby (posted on: 11-02-11)
Start of a very grim rant using Shakesperian sonnets

Sonnet 1 : The Badger Baby From these foul creatures you desire release, That thereby media dross shall hide your lies, But as the Reaper will by time decrease, These ghastly sports shall fade from memory: But you, contracted to these arms supplies, Feeds War depleted uranium fuel, Making a horror where ordinance flies, Mothers your foe, to their sweet wombs too cruel As your vile arts breech birth fresh armament The shell dust midwife to her conceiving, For here bides hellfire's deepest venom spent Her tender child shall thus warp gestating: Pity the badger baby that cannot speak, To foul the world's eye, an innocent freak. (c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby
franciman on 11-02-2011
Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby
Hi Mitch,

Unfortunately for me, the picture is more effective than the verse. Strong, yet half formed imagery, is tangled and juxtaposed.

Rant and Shakespearian Sonnet would appear to be incompatible. The present imagery, ordered as Rhythmic, Lyrical, Shakespearian verse could well outdo the picture.

Sorry to appear critical, but I was left disappointed.

Cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Fair comment Jim, this was unusally hasty for me - a knee-jerk response to stumbling across these pictures about depleted urainum shells and casings littering Iraq and afghanistan leading to monstrous births - all hushed up of course.. I will muse more pon't. Thanks for the read - appreciated as ever. Mitch 🙂

geordietaf on 11-02-2011
Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby
I thought Grim Rant was the Norwegian Fisheries Minister.

I think this piece is one to return to once your understandable outrage has cooled

Author's Reply:
Thanks Geordie T - the visit and comments greatly appreciated. mitch 🙂

Corin on 11-02-2011
Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby
Mitch , I think sonnet form canbe very effective whatever you use it for - it is the jewel of poetry in English. It's history as thepoetry of love gives it extra power to the poetry of protest against the horrors of war. THis is Wilfris Owen's famous sonnet 'Futility'.

APetrachan sonnet but I think the point is no less valid:-

Move him into the sun,
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fiels unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know
Think how it wakes the seeds,-
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved, - still warm,- too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
- To break earth's sleep at all?

There were some things that I thought might be worth tidying up:-

Feeds War depleted uranium fuel,

should this not be:-

Feed War's depleted uranium fuel,

I did not know about this danger of depleted uranium, less radioactive than natural uranium it may be, but it is still as toxic.

David

Author's Reply:
Hi David - Wilfred Owen - one of my favourite war poems. I beleive taking a sonnet form and adapting it to modern language still carries power. The 's shall be added unto War forthwith. If you Google depleted uranium the full horror of this hidden disgrace (as the Bhopal atrocity never really registered) is revealed in all its mind-boggling stomach-curning glory and I'm still speechless. The above photo is the mildest genetic mutation caused by the dust of the DU ordnance being breathed in by men and women in the war zones. Thanks for the read and the Wilf - deeply appreciated as ever. Mitch 🙂

PS no 's needed - the Horseman War is fed the shells made out of depleted Uranium fuel. Being twice the weight of lead - they carry twice the kinetic enrgy for tank-busting

shadow on 13-02-2011
Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby
Very powerful piece. The problem I found with it was, it did not really stand alone - until I looked at the picture I could not tell what it was about. As soon as I scrolled down all became clear, and the feeling of outrage came over very strongly, but I felt the rather archaic language tended to work against the emotional charge, rather than augment it.

Author's Reply:
True - it was written too quickly and used archaic forms to create some temporal juxtaposition but the horror of the subject matter simply overwhelms the words. A picture is worth a million sonnets of outrage... thanks for the read and comment - greatly appreciated. Will try harder! Mitch 🙂

royrodel on 13-02-2011
Sonnet 1: The Badger Baby
gotta agree with franchi
yep the pic fucks me up more than the verse

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - True - as I sez to shadow I tried archaic forms to create some temporal juxtaposition but the horror of the reality overwhelms the words. A picture is indeed worth a zillion sonnets of fury... thanks for the read and comments - grrreatly appreciated. Will seek to do it justice. Mitch 🙂


BK06-CH12: Translocation (posted on: 28-01-11)
Amy is coming to terms with her power of translocation while Tamsin is getting too fond of her cat-girl form however the famous TV seer, Siobhan O'Grady, is in for the vision of her life...

Translocation
''For God's sake, sit down and stop twittering!'' Claire snapped. ''You're giving me a bloody migraine!'' Tearful and red-faced, Amy halted and sat down having frantically paced and babbled about the kitchen for over ten minutes. ''Get a grip, girl - I'm running out of patience!'' ''I'm so frightened, Auntie Claire!'' Amy said desperately. ''I could have superimposed into the table, into the floor or even into you! I can't control the translocation! The Design could trick me into jumping into another plane again and blow me to bits!'' ''There was a rush of air as you arrived,'' Graham pointed out, suppressing a yawn. ''Like you rotated into the room from the core outwards; pushing the air out of the way. Maybe massive objects like a wall or a floor or even a table would naturally repel you so that you'd end up on your feet.'' ''Part of my clothes still got superimposed when I translocated up Evans's Rise,'' Amy said anxiously. ''You can still see part of my jacket sticking out of the end wall by Black Close! Some of the local tour guides even take people there to see it!'' ''We were sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night so I think you were stressed-out,'' Gemma assured her. ''The spatial fold you created was ragged so it caught the edge of your clothes and the heel of your shoe. Dad's right: if you do it smoothly from the centre of your being, your emergence will push you up from the ground and away from any hard surfaces or solid objects. If you translocate erratically though, you'll superimpose air molecules inside you which could become radioactive - or you could bury a foot in the ground or an arm in wall.'' ''Oh, great, now I could get cancer or become an amputee if I translocate! Stop drawing me, Derek,'' Amy snapped as her cousin's pencil flew across his sketch pad. ''It's irritating!'' ''Sorry, Amy,'' Derek said crestfallen, placing the pad and pencil on the table. ''I just wish I had your abilities.'' ''What the hell do you mean by lucky?'' Amy shouted making him wince. ''You have no idea what I'm going through! You have no abilities! You're just a a normal!'' Claire slammed her right fist down upon the table making the crockery rattle. ''That will do, madam!'' she barked. ''I will not have you taking this out on my son in my house! Understand?'' ''Sorry, Auntie Claire. Sorry, Derek'' Amy apologised, wide-eyed and trembling. ''I'm so shrieked! I don't know why the Design gave me this stupid ability other than to make the papers think I go around burying people into walls like Karen Spriggs or that poor barman at the Pixie!'' ''Most people accept that it wasn't you and they know how your powers saved us all at the Brenin,'' Graham reminded her. ''And both your powers definitely saved Alicia in Library Way!'' ''I know all that, Uncle Graham!'' Amy said tearfully. ''I'm okay with empathic projection but translocation terrifies me!'' ''It's just practice, Amy,'' Tamsin piped up cheerfully. ''I had a really bad time in Slovenia but I practice every day!'' She held up a hand that transformed into a tiger's front paw. ''See?'' ''It's a good job you don't like reading newspapers,'' Amy sighed as Tamsin's hand reappeared. ''Otherwise you'd be out there as a white wolf chewing up the reporters but thanks for putting on the cuddly cat-girl act for me - it was sweet of you. Who put that pink bow and the big bell on your tail?'' ''It was Derek's idea - he got from several anime on the net. We thought you can't possibly stay miserable around someone as cute as me!'' Tamsin giggled but she quickly stopped as Claire glared at her and her tail drooped. ''Okay, okay, I'll go back to normal! We're only trying to cheer her up.'' ''I appreciate it, Tams,'' Amy assured her. ''And I'm really sorry for calling you a normal, Derek.'' She bent down to adjust her shoes again Gemma had brought her clothes over but not before Claire had roundly disapproved of her revealing bikini. ''That's okay,'' Derek said magnanimously. ''I'm happy as a normal - apart from the bodyguards and the house arrest. You can buy me some anime for Christmas to make up for it!'' ''Hurry up and change, Tams,'' Claire cut in irritably. ''I can't concentrate with those furry ears twitching away on the top of your head! Now listen, Amy, the Design gave you the ability to translocate for a reason but we all believe that the translocations to the Brenin and back to Fomault Hall were to set you up as bait to draw your father down to London to rescue you which in turn lured the Aberration to the Brenin and the only place it could be defeated by your father and us.'' ''It seems odd the Design would breed a talent like that and only use it once though,'' Graham interjected, scratching at his beard and staring at Amy. ''Jimmy reckons there's more to it. He reckons her power was tapped into at the Brenin to help Thomas get through into the Domain.'' ''The one that went wrong in Evan's Rise was your first accidental but conscious use of that power,'' Gemma added. ''It was instant - no supra-dimensional or Domain influence like the first time so I couldn't detect it. I'm also convinced Uncle Thomas reached from the Transcending to take you through the quantum veils to help Mena as he owed her that. Your empathic field took out those spheres and saved everyone, remember?'' ''Did he program me and Tamsin with those languages?''Amy wondered aloud. ''I still get a nose bleed sometimes when I think about all those strange words I used.'' ''I haven't a clue how to download a language into a human brain but I think it had to be done quickly for some reason,'' Gemma said sympathetically. ''Tamsin lived in that village for two years - she remembers most of the Slovenian she used because she was immersed in the language.'' ''That's right! jaz sem - presenetljiva mucka!'' Tamsin purred then licked the back of her hand and started washing her face. ''It's me - wonderful kitty?'' Amy said, puzzled. ''I'm sure you've got the grammar all wrong there.'' ''It's cuter like that! Do you wanna see my angel wings?'' ''No! Change back now, madam!'' Claire snapped then winced several times as her niece reluctantly obeyed: ''Yrch y fi! I can never get used to the noises you make when you do that.'' ''It doesn't hurt,'' Tamsin shrugged. She blinked and the cats' eyes were now her normal brown human eyes. ''It's just muscles and cartilage twanging and crunching about inside me. You should hear it from my point of view!'' ''Anyway, back to Amy's translocation problem,'' Graham said. ''The translocation into Library Way was all you as Gemma just laid the target out, didn't she? I think once you can visualise a place you can translocate to it! You know this kitchen well so it came naturally to you earlier. Stand up. Let's try a little experiment: translocate from one end of the house to the other.'' ''I'm nervous, Uncle Graham!'' Amy protested. ''That's it, stand by the back door,'' Graham said, waving her to go further back. ''Now focus on the target - the space on this side of the front door - and see if you can repeat the trigger.'' ''Come on, Amy!'' Gemma insisted, her stigmata glittering. ''You can do it! I'll catch you if you fall. You're not lying on a sun-lounger now - you're standing upright.'' ''Okay. I'' Amy began. There was a sudden rush of air that fanned their faces. ''am now by the front door!'' she said, her startled voice echoing down the hallway. ''Yesss!'' Derek beamed, reaching automatically for his sketch-book. ''Teleportia is back in the house!'' ''Try the reverse now,'' Gemma suggested. ''Think about the spot by the back door. That's it. In your mind, you can see the space you're aiming at as if you're already there!'' she grinned as an ecstatic Amy reappeared by the door. ''It's like the two places overlap in my mind and I can choose to go into either one!'' Amy gushed. ''That's it! I can control it!'' ''The Design must have bred it into you on a subconscious level then,'' Claire said. She started at another rush of air. Damn it, she's gone again! Where is she, Gemma? Oh! She's back! Stop it, Amy! You're making our ears pop! Where did you go?'' ''Fomault Hall!'' Amy said triumphantly, holding up a small portrait of a little girl with an exquisite dress and braided hair. ''It's the only decent thing my grandfather painted. It's me and he promised that he'd give it to me but he broke his word like they all did when I grew up. The whole family were in the main dining room and I scared the hell out of them! I almost fell over though - my feet were shoved a little sideways as I appeared.'' ''The Earth spins on its axis,'' Gemma explained, twirling an apple on the table. ''If you translocated along the same latitude you won't notice a thing but if you jumped to the equator you'd be smashed to bits or hurled into the air as the surface of the earth there is moving a lot faster than it is here. The small difference in latitude is what gave you the push at Fomault Hall'' ''You translocated into the middle of a family gathering to steal a painting from Fomault Hall!'' Claire exploded. ''What the hell were you thinking? They'll go berserk - it'll be all over the press again. Amy Lewis: the teleporter art thief!'' ''I'd make a great burglar,'' Amy giggled, too relieved and happy to be affected by Claire's anger. ''I know I shouldn't have gone there but they make me so angry - they've looked down their noses at me all my life. This was the only kindness Grandfather ever showed me and Mum wouldn't let me keep it.'' A sudden thought struck Graham: ''Hey, weren't you were supposed to be in school today? Derek and Tamsin are off because it's an inset day but not your year. What's your excuse?'' Amy looked down at the table. ''I got Jillsy to phone me in sick,'' she confessed. ''I've been getting a lot of hassle at Caerbrenin and it got out of hand last week. The House fuzzlets want to date me but none of them are genuine they just want the kudos of going out with the daughter of the Prophet. They've started bugging me for photos of everyone as well.'' ''And you only fancy girls,'' Tamsin said helpfully. ''Saved by the bell,'' Gemma grinned as Amy spluttered with a mixture of embarrassment and anger. ''Or in this case, by the Great Seer herself!'' She made a curious hand-gesture and the front door opened to admit Siobhan and her Department bodyguard - who insisted on checking every single room before leaving. Siobhan sat down after giving Graham a peck on his bearded cheek. ''It's good to see you all but I wish Langford wouldn't do a location-sweep everywhere I go,'' she grumbled. ''I keep telling him I'm a seer but he doesn't trust me or my prescience.'' ''Langford was Kerridge's group Leader,'' Gemma pointed out. ''He hates you with a passion but he's too professional to show it. He's also angry about you involving him in the show,'' she added, brightening up. ''Which was amazing, wasn't it?'' ''I do want to talk to you about Kerridge later but, yes, the show was amazing!'' Siobhan admitted with a smug grin. ''Oh, it was one of the few times I've ever enjoyed having my talents. I exposed two murderers, an assassin and three creeps who were trafficking children for sex sadly, one was an asylum-seeker so the papers tomorrow will be horrendous. So, I take it you were all discussing poor old Amy's three shuns? Oh, just what I need, thanks, Claire!'' she said, gratefully accepting a cup of tea. ''What do you mean by 'three shuns' Siobhan?'' Amy said stiffly as Claire sat back down. ''You mean to say can even foresee what people are talking about in a room now?'' ''More or less,'' Siobhan smiled. ''But in practice it's like the animus that batters Gemma only mine is temporal. I hear a hundred variations of those conversations but I can tune into the most likely and it gets easier the nearer I get to the time - the chaos and possibilities ebb away until a single time-line becomes dominant and yes, Derek, it is a gift you'd love to have as well.'' ''How did you know I was going to say that?'' Derek exclaimed, his brows knotted in thought. ''It's not telepathy but d'uh! It's temporal prescience! Sorry, Siobhan, you must be bored to death with every conversation like this long before it happens!'' ''I can't get bored,'' Siobhan admitted. ''What you have to realise is that laid over my every moment of now, I constantly see the threads of a million futures. I try to pick out all the future echoes and fulcra that benefit us. What's strange is that most fulcra affecting your family seem to take place in kitchens!'' ''Why is that surprising where the modern kitchens are bigger than the rooms?'' Graham laughed. ''Besides, Wales is the land of the mamgi - the kitchens of the Welsh matriarchs are the fulcrum of everything that happened in Wales!'' ''What do you mean be the 'three shuns', Siobhan,'' Amy persisted. ''What did you think we were talking about?'' ''Sorry, Amy, I was being facetious. I was going to say translocation, education and'' ''Orientation!'' Derek chipped in. He laughed at Amy but his humour was cut short by a hefty slap across the back of the head from his mother. ''Oi, Mam! There's no need for that - I was only teasing and I don't see Siobhan correcting me neither!'' Amy was distraught and was about to stand up to leave but she found her uncle's hand resting on her shoulder. As usual, it felt like she was being gently restrained by a ten-ton rock. ''We're family, Amy,'' he said gruffly. ''So don't walk out on us if you're having trouble coming to terms with who and what you are.'' ''You have no idea what I am!'' she burst out only to be met with an incredulous stony silence. She rested her head on her forearms in despair. Of course they knew! Gemma, Siobhan and her uncle were all talented and so were Derek and her aunt in their own way. ''You have to stop fighting this, Amy!'' Siobhan said gently. ''I can see nothing but misery ahead of you if you force yourself to date boys just to prove a point. Be patient it'll sort itself out - you're in for a very happy life indeed once you decide which path to take. You can't allow a minor thing like this to keep you home from school I see a future where you fail your exams and what happens after that, you really don't want to know.'' ''I'd like everybody to stop talking about me now, please!'' Amy said bitterly, her voice muffled by her arms. ''I'm not telling you to go back to George, am I?'' ''Touch, Amy, but what I can also tell you is that you will improve at this translocation of yours. I can see some incredible stunts you are going to pull off that will make you the talk of the planet - but in a good way by and large.'' ''By and large?'' Amy said raising her head slightly. ''I didn't like that pause before the 'by and large'!'' ''Oh, about twenty percent of by and large,'' Siobhan conceded with a wry smile. ''The rest, apart from the House and this Movement, will want you imprisoned, killed, sterilised, shot into space, experimented upon'' ''Business as usual then,'' Amy sighed, her head dropping onto her arms. ''No matter what I do, most people want me dead!'' ''Fuck them all, Amy,'' Claire said angrily. ''I want to go back to work as a hairdresser but Joanne has been threatened by the CP because they found out she wanted to employ me. They smashed all her shop windows and to make it worse, a lot of her clients are anti-House or pro-CP and they do not want me cutting their hair! I know we do alright because of Sharpe's money you passed on to us, Siobhan, but I'm going out of mind with boredom. You can only clean a house from top to bottom so many times a week.'' ''Siobhan's trying to work out a delicate way to ask you to turn on the kitchen TV,'' Gemma chuckled. ''They moved her show to the four o'clock spot - she's bursting for us to see it.'' ''Would you mind, Claire?'' Siobhan said, squirming with embarrassment. ''I'm really buzzing about it.'' ''Yes, but I can't find the remote'' Claire halted as Gemma gave her a hurt look and the screen burst into life. ''Perfect timing!'' Siobhan exclaimed. ''See the two guys next to me? That's Ted Wetherby and his son, Peter. Ted's just found out his brother and sister-in-law killed his wife.'' ''Hey, that guy in the audience has a gun'' was all Derek could gasp out before his voice was drowned out by six shots in rapid succession - all aimed at Siobhan. The audience screamed in hysterics and clambered over each other to get away as the man was tackled by the two security men. The gunman had three friends but the audience turned on them and a vicious brawl ensued. ''The gun was smuggled in by a cleaner and taped to the underside of the chair,'' Siobhan explained, enjoying every moment. ''Langford replaced all the live bullets with blanks but he was not happy about doing that. Tough, I said, this is my show and what better evidence of intent to kill could there be than to pull the trigger in front of millions?'' ''Weren't you worried?'' Derek said as he watched the burly security men bury the would-be killer under two hundred and sixty kilos of muscle and retribution. ''Those bouncers are not being gentle, are they? Aie!'' he winced. ''That punch must have broken his jaw! Look! There's blood pouring from his mouth.'' Siobhan pursed her lips as she watched the mayhem unfold as members of the audience pinned the three men to the floor with the help of the other two security men. She could still hear Carmichael positively cackling with glee about the extra ratings and revenue that this show would pull in. ''You didn't tell anyone about the gunman and his friends, did you?'' Gemma accused, her stigmata glittering. ''Why not? I can't follow the logic or the threads in your mind lately, they've been forming a shield that can block me.'' ''Good and I had my reasons,'' Siobhan said casually. ''I don't mind you diving into my head as a rule, Gemma, but ask first! It's a terrible breach of privacy.'' ''Hmm, privacy when you can see everyone's past, present and future that's rich! Oh, sorry,'' she apologised as Siobhan's hackles rose. ''You know I don't normally pry but blocks make me nervous after that kidnap. So, what were the reasons?'' ''They were relatives of Martin Jones, the man with the heart condition who died fighting in the foyer at Black Ridge Hospital,'' Siobhan explained wearily. ''Martin and his friends picked on me before getting a beating from some House people and dying of a heart attack. Anyway, the gunman was his brother and the other three were the guys from Martin's gang at the hospital. They'd smuggled in spare clips of ammunition so if they had suspected the gun had been tampered with, they would have switched magazines and I would be dead. Instead the idiot just fired blanks and freaked out when I opened my hand and dropped six rounds onto the floor look they're repeating that sequence!'' ''That's so cool! Hah!'' Derek crowed. ''Look at his face!'' ''So you didn't tell anyone in the crew what was going down?'' Graham said in disbelief. ''They thought real bullets were being fired at you there's no way you could fake the fear in everyone's faces. Why didn't you just tell the Department agent and have the man arrested? Why put everybody through that?'' ''Come on, Graham! I did the bullet-drop stunt to make the gunman freeze so they could grab him before he could reload!'' Siobhan exclaimed. ''If I'd warned the staff, the fulcra would have shifted and people would have died. As it is, the critics will be talking about this show for years!'' she added happily. ''The security guys and technicians were going to strike in protest but Carmichael paid them bonuses on the spot. It was worth it, he said, - over fifty networks are bidding for rights to air it!'' ''You've become a right ham!'' Gemma said, half-jokingly. ''But the show stops you thinking about your talent too much.'' Derek watched the show segue into a musical number - with the singer's voice cracking off-key from nerves - as the minor audience injuries were quickly tended. Siobhan ignored the question and explained to Derek how Hermes insists that all the audience members sign disclaimers before being allowed to participate in the show. ''A good thing too,'' she approved. ''Otherwise we'd be looking at nearly a million in damages today but every one of them has signed up for a future seat in the show straight away so it can't have been that traumatic for them.'' Gemma had stared hard at Siobhan who refused to make eye contact. ''You know you can't avoid the question, Siobhan, and you can't bullshit me either. It's true isn't it? Siobhan? Hey!'' she said louder, waving her hand in front of Siobhan's staring eyes. There was no response from the seer who had gone rigid with a look of terror upon her face. ''Crap! She's locked into a vision!'' ''Well?'' Claire demanded. ''She never goes blank like that when she has visions here. This happened before Digwell Street, didn't it? How about taking a peek to see if she's okay, Gem?'' ''Okay,'' Gem said nervously. ''But she's developed blocks like blind spots that I can't sneak around. This is like that time in Ayr Street when great-grandma damn tried to strangle me.'' ''I wouldn't worry about Rebecca - she's probably snuggled up with George right now,'' Graham laughed. ''So it should be okay.'' The stigmata flared in front of Gemma's face as her mind reached into Siobhan's. She beheld a billion images crowding around her - past, present and future obscured by huge 'blind spots' moving about in Siobhan's mind. She tried to 'take' one of them and was thrown from her chair by a massive electrical jolt. Amy rushed to help Gemma get to her feet. ''Are you okay, Gem? There was a flash of light and you went flying.'' ''I'm okay,'' Gemma gasped, shuddering. ''I just got zapped for being nosey. That was a lot of power - anyone but me would have been killed! Something or someone really powerful is in Siobhan's head and they do not want me to interfere in her vision.'' ''What the hell is happening to her?'' Graham demanded. ''I don't know, Dad,'' Gemma said grimly. ''But it must be related to those blocks that have been forming in her mind. After what happened to me in Digwell Street this can't be good. But for now, all we can do is wait and hope that she makes it.'' ''Whatever she's seeing must be scaring the hell out of her,'' Claire observed, getting up. ''We can't leave her like this - I'm going to wake her up.'' She stood behind the flame-haired seer and reached out to take her by the shoulders. ''No! Stop, Auntie Claire!'' the badly shaken Gemma screamed out in panic. ''For God's sake, don't touch her!'' But it was too late.
(c) Paul D.E. Mitchell
Archived comments for BK06-CH12: Translocation

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BK06-CH11: First Movement (posted on: 21-01-11)
The House drifts into schism as the Movement grows determined to worship the images of their living Prophets regardless of the pain it causes the telepathic Gemma and preying on their weakness is Maeth and the Foundation and behind them something darker still is moving...

First Movement ''To swallow and follow, whether old doctrine or new propaganda, is a weakness still dominating the human mind.'' - Charlotte Gillman
Brother Marcus was quietly meditating in one of the comfortable black leather swivel chairs of the Kin Guardians in front of the Great Hall podium. He was seeking the serene peace he could only find before the vast hologram of Gemma Lewis during the rare lulls in his daily routine as First Shepherd of Circle 501 Aston and de facto Leader of the burgeoning Movement. He put his hands together in prayer as he thought about the soul-lights that she had released during the Epiphany. ''Blessed Gemma,'' he whispered. ''Thank you for showing me the Path. Your soul-lights entered me to free me from the Hells of Mammon. I humbly carry their memories and their gratitude in your name and thank you for the change it made to my life. We beg you: lead us onto the Path unto the Gates of Heaven!'' He smiled, hand on heart, as he recalled how he'd been infused with a strange new energy and had immediately resigned from his post as CEO to join this Circle. Here, he'd risen by acclaim to oversee the Centre and all its enterprises that reached out into the community: bakers, launderettes, shops, estate agencies. He did agree with Vigil on at least one point: Faith and Manna made productive bedfellows as far as the House was concerned. He started as Sister Carter sat gracefully next to him. Even with her short blond hair and the unisexual white suit of the House, she radiated a vivaciousness that had haunted his dreams of late. Inspired by the Miracle of memorial Square, she'd lost three stone in as many months and had blossomed as a result. ''She is truly beautiful, isn't she?'' she sighed contentedly. ''I could just gaze up at her for hours. Why does the First Circle think this is so wrong? Do they not revere the Prophets as we do?'' ''They do but they cannot see that she is far more than a mere Prophet: she is our Guide and Gatekeeper,'' he said, shaking his head sadly. ''She is our salvation, Rose; mankind's one true hope to tread the Path Transcendent yet the House leaves her to rot in Ayr Street and denies us the simple wish to venerate her as she deserves!'' He dragged his eyes from the image reluctantly to regard her. ''I'm sorry, Rose, what's on your mind?'' ''June Aster from Ferris's surgery in Pontybrenin rang. It seems she was not subtle enough; she left tool marks on the drawer - it's taken several months but her access has now been detected. She overheard them talking about the Movement.'' ''Ah, I see, so the good Doctor Ferris suspects us,'' he sighed. ''It is always a mistake to underestimate the Friends the Creator forged them in the fires of His Design to serve the Prophets and the Ferrises have served the Blessed Lewises for generations.'' ''I'm worried, Mark, he's also reasoned that it was us and that one of the staff must have been involved. He is quite bright but June has been well paid. She said that the nurse and the other receptionist were called in and questioned about the contents of the Stoker file. It's a pity she couldn't access the private journals files on the Blessed Prophets but they're kept elsewhere.'' ''They're not important right now. We need our greedy little mole in situ to inform us of the Blessed Event - she's our only direct link with the Consort of the Prophet.'' ''June thinks she's safe even though Sam Ferris, the son, has suggested calling in the Blessed Gemma to speak to the staff. June is worried that Gemma will see into her soul.'' ''If it happens, it happens. Offer her another ten thousand to keep her nerve and her mouth shut. Add another twenty as soon as she informs us when the insemination is scheduled,'' he said, taking in Gemma's gentle yet defiant face once more. ''Only the Creator knows how powerful her child, our new Messiah, will be! Gemma is our Guide and Gatekeeper yet He could be the Key to the Gates of Heaven. The House has lost its way - that child has to be brought up under our auspices at all costs!'' ''I agree, Mark, the Balance will out!'' she said passionately. ''But why have the media been so slow to move on our leak about her conception plans?'' ''They want confirmation before they publish because the new Media Bill is before Parliament. Don't forget, the First Circle also commands phenomenal teams of libel lawyers and a global PR agency that could tear them apart. Now, could you ask all the Kin and Guide in the Centre to come in here? Brother Terence contacted me this morning - he confirmed that Saint Madoc's shut them down and barred them from their own Centre.'' ''He can't do that, Mark, it's outrageous!'' ''Indeed it is, Rose! We've allowed ourselves to drift along but we will not prevail unless we get serious about the December elections - we can't afford to take success for granted especially as the Book is coming back on line on Wednesday.'' ''Um, Brother Amadeus is in the canteen, First Shepherd,'' she said timidly. ''He's our IT expert and the best person to know how to counteract any anti-Movement bias in the Book's programming. Um, shall I ask him to join us as well?'' ''Yes, of course. I hate to interrupt his gastronomic indulgences but we have a tough few weeks ahead of us. We have to vote out as many of the First and Second Circles as we can. If we get enough votes, we can take control of all the First Councils!'' ''The main target has to be the First Councillors. I,'' she paused to rub at her eyes. ''That's odd,'' she murmured. ''I swore the Blessed Gemma just leered at me!'' ''She seems fine to me. It's either nerves or the imaging teams are messing with your head again.'' ''They made whites of the Prophet's eyes black last week,'' she said angrily. ''They denied the blasphemy but I know they were using the security cameras to make sure I was alone in here. They need to get a life - they wouldn't last a day in the real world!'' A beatific smile formed on Marcus's face. ''But the Movement is the real world,'' he declared, spreading his arms wide. ''More importantly, thanks to Vigil, nearly all our Centres could become self-sufficient if it does come to a schism. Now go and ask everyone to come in here - we have a lot of work to do!'' She remained silent as she stood and bowed formally. She'd been his PA at Pan-Europa Power a huge power company until the dawn of the Epiphany when the soul-lights had entered both of them. She'd followed him blissfully into the burgeoning House to become the loyal Gatekeeper to his First Shepherd. She adored this Mark Appleby of old the ambitious alpha-male - and now the Movement had presented him with the perfect opportunity to indulge his deepest drives and darkest talents. She was about to leave when three intruders burst into the Great Hall closely followed by three protesting Brothers. ''What's the meaning of this, Miss Fields?'' Marcus demanded of the tall, smartly-dressed woman as she approached. He got to his feet and pointed a finger at her as she stopped in font of him. ''I told you - we are not interested in any covert financing from Maeth or the Foundation! Unless you leave, we will call the police and have the three of you arrested for trespass!'' Fields' intimidating bodyguards took up station either side of her. The man was bald and muscle-bound, dressed in black combat gear with mirrored sunglasses, sporting a large gold earring and at least three gold teeth. The woman was in her early thirties, agile and wearing black leather trousers and jacket. They grinned as they brandished state-of-the-art stun-guns with streamers of high-voltage electricity arcing between the prongs of both devices. Marcus turned to the three Brothers on his right. ''Inform the police that there are intruders threatening us with illegal weapons,'' he said incisively. ''Give a description of them and their tazers.'' Fields raised a hand causing the three Brothers to hesitate. ''Really, Mister Appleby, there is no need to look so outraged,'' she said, pointedly ignoring his adopted House name and title. ''There would be no need for intruding on you like this but you do not have the courtesy to return our calls. Mister Maeth even phoned you himself and you put him on hold! He's vexed but he's willing to overlook your disgraceful lack of manners for now.'' Marcus was about to reply but one of the Brothers tried to disarm the leather-clad woman but, in a blur of single-handed jabs, she reduced him to a gasping heap on the floor. ''Do you fancy your chances?'' she purred at the other two, holstering the tazer. ''House martial-arts training is good but it's awfully predictable.'' ''Enough!'' You've proved your point, Miss Fields,'' Marcus snapped, the disgust plain on his face. ''Take Brother Gough to the medical room to recover,'' he said to the two shocked Brothers. ''We'll be fine,'' he assured them. ''Just make sure he's okay. There's no need to inform the police - they'll be leaving soon - but keep a watch on the internal monitors please.'' ''As you wish, First Shepherd,'' the tallest Brother said with a formal bow. ''Any more trouble and we'll all be in here.'' ''Good boys!'' the bald man approved in a Texas drawl. ''You'll have better than Brother Gough to put Lynx here down y'all need two black slashes on those li'l bracelets o' yours!'' ''Even that wouldn't help them,'' Lynx sneered as the two Brothers helped the glaring Gough to his feet. She was about to add another comment when Fields raised her hand again. ''That's enough, Lynx! I think we can safely say we have their attention.'' ''Pity, I needed the exercise,'' Lynx sighed wistfully. ''Sally-Ann Fields,'' Marcus said angrily as the three Brothers departed. ''Being Maeth's personal assistant does not give you the right to wander in here and assault Circle members!'' ''Defence is not assault, my dear Mister Appleby'' ''It's Brother Marcus to you!'' ''Quite. Defence is not assault, Brother Marcus. My business is with you, Second Shepherd Amadeus and Sister Carter here as Gatekeeper,'' Fields said briskly, consulting her watch. ''Is there any chance of turning that thing off?'' she added, pointing at the towering hologram of Gemma Lewis. ''It's a little distracting.'' ''She is our Guiding Light upon the Path Transcendent, Miss Fields,'' the obese Amadeus said as he approached, nervously eyeing Lynx and Cobra. ''Maeth and the Foundation detest her so forgive us if we tell you to go to Hell.'' ''How uninformed you are, my dear Amadeus, and so nice to see you in the flesh again!'' Fields said sweetly, taking a seat. ''Please, let us all be seated and discuss this in a civilized manner. What I have to say is rather controversial but we feel it is crucial to the success of your Movement. Hear us out and if you refuse, we will leave quietly and you will never hear from us again.'' ''Amen to that,'' Carter said acidly but she drew up chairs for them all and they were soon seated in a circle. ''I presume your employer wishes to resume funding us, Miss Fields,'' Marcus said flatly. ''As soon as we discerned that we were receiving donations from front companies and charities belonging to Maeth, we declined them. His hatred of the House is well-documented. We have our differences of opinion, Miss Fields, but we will not let Maeth use us to create a schism. Even if our views prevailed, we would find ourselves beholden to him.'' ''I see,'' Fields sighed. ''You have such a poor opinion of Mister Maeth. He does not hate the Lewises or their Friends per se but he and his associates cannot tolerate the intrusion of the House into global financial affairs. They are merely the collateral damage in our resistance to the financial manoeuvrings of the House.'' ''All our finances are above board and ethical, Miss Fields,'' Amadeus objected. ''We happen to be efficient entrepreneurs.'' Fields pursed her lips. ''I grant you efficiency but look at how the House has struggled in the last three months since the Book went off-line and as for ethical, the House has recently strayed into armaments! The Magnum Libris has its new financial systems coming online Wednesday - the same time as the Book re-launch - so we will be able to match the House investment for investment on a level playing field. Your Movement could alleviate much of the animosity between the Foundation and the House especially if your more... pragmatic policies prevail in the forthcoming elections.'' ''So what you're saying is if we win,'' Carter suggested angrily. ''You'll rein in all your media companies now mercilessly attacking our Blessed Prophet and her family?'' ''Absolutely,'' Fields smiled, enjoying the look of loathing Lynx was directing at the hologram. ''We would cease tempering the public fascination with her if the House ends its encroachments into our markets. It's a ludicrously simple exchange.'' ''Nothing is ludicrously simple, as you put it, where Maeth is concerned, Miss Fields,'' Marcus said curtly. ''Nevertheless, I draw great comfort that he will order the cessation of this torrent of media abuse directed at the Prophets should we be succeed in our endeavours. What is your employer proposing exactly?'' Fields took a deep breath and smiled warmly. ''We will supply one billion dollars of funding and positive media coverage for the Movement leading up to the elections. We will also guarantee to respect all current House business assets which will be enough for the future needs of the House.'' ''I see. So essentially the House would become part of the Foundation?'' Amadeus said shrewdly. ''In all but name and in exchange, we require the Book to be kept offline or its financial programs disabled.'' ''We want that vile magnum Libris off line too!'' Carter said, her cheeks flushing. ''It's as biased as the Herald!'' ''Naturally, Sister Carter,'' Fields conceded with a slight inclination of her head. ''It's exceedingly expensive. As Brother Amadeus says, as a de facto member of the Foundation we want you to instruct your financial departments to respect our business interests globally. See? It could not be simpler than that! My associates here possess expertise that can help you in your other aim: that of securing the birth of this new Messiah of yours.'' Marcus raised an eyebrow. ''What are you getting at? These two kidnapped our Blessed Gemma and put her at grave risk and he brawled with Graham Lewis before the Miracle!'' ''That's jus' good ol' House propaganda, my friend,'' Cobra said amiably, revealing three gold teeth in a feral grin. ''You know her powers so how could she possibly have been in any danger after we smuggled her into the headquarters of the Citizens' Party? We, as pawns of the Design, forced her to fulfil her destiny but her father objected - it was not my intention to engage him in combat.'' ''Rubbish! It was more about the Foundation rattling the CP's cage than anything else,'' Amadeus cut in angrily. ''A party which the Foundation still covertly funds on a massive scale! We believe you would have willingly sacrificed your CP puppets here to destroy the House and the Prophets.'' ''We do fund the CP covertly yet we are willing to fund you,'' Fields said reasonably. ''Why is that so hard to comprehend? You and they are a means to our ends as counterweights to the House and the prohibitive trade policies of this Government,'' she shrugged. ''The Balance will out as you people say. Once you succeed in taking control of the House and lend us your block voting power to elect suitably pro-globalisation MPs, we will have no use for the CP and our funding of the repulsive Mister Griffin and h