035 Those Who Watch the Sky - 35
35 – Children Seeking Their Own Sky 2
Where Elliot’s cleansing ceremony had become something the likes of which none in Foothold could comprehend, Link’s was anything but spectacular. Lacking Elliot’s flair for ceremony and the faith he had developed in Cardinal, Link simply sat on her knees and was bored by the whole ceremony. When called to look up upon the Light of Cardinal, Link felt nothing of any kind from the golden light that appeared above her. Disappointment however was a feeling that soon spread throughout the entire chapel as the light fell from between the scepter heads of the priests and vanished long before it reached Link.
“That wasn’t good, was it?”
Link blinked blankly as she looked at the empty space between the scepters and let out a nervous little laugh to try to break the tension. Her efforts were in vain as the priests simply shook their heads and one of them placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry child, but it would seem that her Eminence has not deemed you worthy. Fear not though, we will assure that you will live out what time you have left in comfort. We are not so cruel as to simply strip a child of Icarus of what life they have left.”
“I think you’re being a little dramatic. Just because you couldn’t do anything doesn’t mean that my life is over. I’m sure I–”
Rising to her feet Link did not finish her thought as the soldiers present all leveled their spears at her. The priest who had placed his hand on her shoulder hung his head sadly but he was not the one who spoke next. That honor belonged to a tall, middle aged, wiry icaran man of pale complexion with short dark hair above a long face with beady eyes hidden behind a pair of round glasses. Garbed in a white long coat that resembled a well fitted jacket merged with a priest’s cassock the man was obviously of the clergy as marked by the tri-cross that hung from around his neck. He also seemed to be in charge as everyone looked to him as he spoke. Link did not trust him however as she had not noticed him enter and he did not seem to have a reason to be there for her cleansing ceremony.
“I am sure you believe yourself invincible, it is a common misconception of children such as yourself.”
“No, your condescending tone is the result of you making assumptions about me. I already know that my infection isn’t normal and since you couldn’t help me that means I’ll just have to hunt down Hazel Sycamore instead.”
Leveling the wiry man with a defiant look Link failed to understand her situation. With numerous soldiers leveling spears on her in some isolated chapel in an underground labyrinth and her sword long since removed from her possession she was in no position to take any action. The wiry man understood Link’s situation far more than she did and he unfolded his arms enough to press the fingers of his left hand into his forehead.
“Perhaps I should educate you to the nature of your situation child. Whether you desire it or not you will be subject to our hospitality because of Hazel Sycamore and the unknown nature of your infection. We can not in good conscious allow you to wander freely across the face of Icarus in your condition. Perhaps though you will prove to be one of the few who has the strength of will to stand without her Eminence’s light. Even then I am afraid you will spend the rest of you days within our care should we fail to discern the nature of the infection of Hazel Sycamore’s making. Though perhaps you will be fortunate enough to be a valuable experiment and he will come to you to check on the progress of his work.”
“You can’t keep me here forever.”
With a heavy sigh the wiry man turned his back on Link and made to leave the chapel. As he departed, he reminded Link again of her situation.
“You are in the heart of a bastion of the Cardinal Church. We are the ones who give most Sa·B·ers the means to be Sa·B·ers. A simple infected girl such as you are of little consequence to us. Yet if you are to curse your fate then blame Sycamore.”
“My friends won’t let this stand. They’ll come to my rescue if I can’t get out on my own.”
“I would not place your faith in so fragile of bonds. Even then, your friends would be unwise to challenge the Cardinal Church should their fates be kinder than yours. We give the world stability and keep mankind from angering the Foreigners and welcoming their annihilation. What message would it send the people if the light that saves them were to come under attack by those who are so saved? However, I doubt that your friends will remember you in time as anything more than a fond memory. It is common practice after all to have Sa·B·ers head out immediately to prove their worth and ability.
“That won’t be necessary, the lil’ mouse has already been placed in my care.”
“Boulder Shrew, I do not believe you were called to take any Sa·B·ers under you wing.”
“T’s ‘cause I wasn’t tasked by the clergy or militia.”
The scene playing out before Melody was every bit as abstract to her as the cleansing ceremony and everything else that followed. The ceremony itself she was told was successful after the light summoned by the clerics had passed through her and into the chapel floor. She didn’t see how it helped her in anyway, though it did leave her feeling tingly. Regardless she was led from the chapel through the labyrinth with no one answering her questions about her companions until an elevator had taken her into a hallway with white plaster walls above a dark wood wainscoting. Dull electric lighting provided visibility and she was led silently down this hall past several doors and around numerous corners until she was led into a small waiting room. Several people of numerous races from icaran and nāti to any mixture of chimeric races possessed of any number of animal features waited within. Their order of arrival and appointment meant little to the cream armored soldiers who escorted Melody and they approached the reception desk where two nuns in white habits were sifting through paperwork and listening to a small radio hidden behind the wall of their desk. Interrupting the nuns, the soldiers declared that Melody was cleansed and ready to receive an assignment. It was at that point that a large chimeric man of dusky skin with a pig-faced head of a bull and a body at once powerfully muscular and distastefully rotund and engorged had interrupted.
Sauntering up to the nuns’ desk Boulder Shrew reached into the duster draped around his impressive girth and shuffled about for something within. As he did, he appeared to inadvertently sweep aside the coat and revealed the sizable custom hand cannon hanging from his hip along with the tomahawks from his belt. Melody did not believe he was being particularly subtle and wondered about his intention as he looked down at her from well above due to his greater than two-meter height and winked at her while holding a finger to his lips to shush her. He only looked at Melody for a blink however and no one else present seemed to be any wiser to his actions than a man fast asleep.
“Thar it is.”
Pulling out a small slip of paper from his duster Boulder Shrew with a grace that seemed unfitting of his size placed it on the desk between him and the nuns. Sliding it forward ever so much he offered the nuns a smile and winked at the soldiers. Lifting his hand to hide his conversation with the soldiers from the nuns he winked at them as he spoke.
“Yer job’s all dun now boys. Business needs and all have put your lil’ mouse in my hands now.”
“Curious that Choir would be interested in so unremarkable a Sa·B·er.”
“Don’ say that aloud Sister. They like to keep their business on the down low if you get my meanin’.”
Shifting his girth so that he leaned on the desk with his elbows Boulder Shrew chastised the nuns for their callousness. The nuns did not seem impressed by the playful nature of Boulder Shrew however and casually lit a match and took the flame to the corner of the slip of paper he had handed them. Boulder Shrew was not quite done with them though and smiled toothily in an attempt to keep the mood light.
“If you really must know what’s goin’ on, I advise you have a word with that Choir agent skulkin’ about of late. What’s his name again, Bird or something to that extent. I wasn’ really payin’ all that much attention when he slipped me that lil’ scrap and asked me to take any or all of a certain group of three that finally emerged from these parts. ‘Ave to admit I was ‘alf expecting the pretty boy he mentioned. Didn’t expect I’d get the mouse.”
“I’m not a mouse!”
“You are fer now Mouse. And me; I’m Boulder Shrew but you can call me one or the other. Seein’ how thin’s are though I think Boulder works quite well fer now.”
Corrected by Melody who finally determined that he was talking about her, Boulder pulled his attention off of the nuns and looked down at the harpy again. Though he gave her no say in what he called her his tone was purely amicable as he talked to her if not a little playful. There was no questioning he was particularly sly however as he glanced back behind him at the nuns.
“So, are we dun then Sister?”
The nun who had ignited the paper waited until it was no longer safe to hold it and released it allowing the flames to disappear with the slip before answering Boulder. Looking up at the chimeric man she stayed curt and consequently spoke with no concern in her voice.
“She is in your care now Boulder Shrew, though I remind you that though she has been deemed worthy of receiving her Eminence’s light that she is still but a newly cleansed Sa·b·er. …And looking at her likely still a child in mind as well as body.”
“You’ve nothin’ to fret about Sister.”
Hearing what he wanted to hear Boulder stepped away from the desk and spun about, placing his massive hand protectively on Melody’s back. There was a greasiness to him that made Melody’s skin crawl but the strength and kindness along with the warning that was conveyed through the hand that easily cupped her entire back from shoulder to shoulder caused her instincts to lock her in place. Receiving no resistance from Melody, Boulder flashed the nuns a toothy smile.
“I can assure you the lil’ mouse is safe with me.”
Sometime after Boulder had led Melody from the grounds of the Cardinal Church apex the wiry man who had informed Link of her fate sat at a desk in a massive empty room with concrete walls and two massive air fans in the wall above and behind him. His elbows rested on the desk and his chin on his interlaced fingers, a thoughtful expression on his face as a soldier in cream colored armor relayed the Boulder Shrew scenario to him.
“Your orders Lord Bishop.”
“Leave them be for now. We will observe them as necessary but interfering with them is unadvisable. As long as Bird draws breath we can not openly act against him. However, as his investigation into how the Sycamore cursed girl activated the dam and Dolmen progresses we will assist him as necessary, if only to distract him. If need be, we will distract him with the boy. To think that her Eminence would appear before so innocuous a child. Why now I wonder?”
“Perhaps the beast Lord Bishop. From what I understand it is not a Foreigner beast despite all appearances.”
“Is that so? Hmm… Then it is likely that Bird has already planned his next move. His presence has been troublesome enough, but it will likely become even more so for as long as we possess the Sycamore cursed girl. Such a shame she came to us while he was present. It matters not however. We will learn from her corpse if must be and none of Bird’s concerns for these children ending up in our affairs will save her if it means bringing us closer to her Eminence and the Light of Hope.”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater