039 Those Who Watch the Sky - 39
39 – Children Seeking Their Own Sky 6
“Please, take me as well Your Excellency Lord Bishop. Link’s condition may be a further test of me from Her Eminence and also seeing my willingness and ability to wield the power that she has blessed me with.”
“That won’t be necessary my boy.”
Reaching up Balgun placed a comforting hand on Elliot’s shoulder.
“That girl should not need anymore of your help at this time. If the Saint is testing you, it is likely in your patience and willingness to accept the aid of others. I intend to hang around for a while and would like nothing more than to speak with you about what the Saint has given you but it would be best if I saw to your friend. Please allow this old man to ply his expertise in these matters. Believe it or not, but I am pretty knowledgeable about Foreigners. Why I once exposed myself to poisons against Foreigner parasites to protect myself from them and as it turns out, these days I’m the one poisonous to them. A Foreigner given to your friend is likely an easy matter for me to resolve as long as she still has her sense of self about her.”
“All the more reason for me to go. If she’s fading then seeing me and hearing my voice…”
Trailing off Elliot’s words reminded him of the argument he had with Link when she first discovered that he was infected. Further back in his mind Cliff’s words rang out to him reminding him of the importance of not relying on an anchoring presence. The weight of those words crushed him and he hung his head for a moment. Balgun studied Elliot’s reaction with a concerned look and Elliot lifted his head again and offered the old man a smile.
“My apologies Master Balgun. In my desperateness to be there for her I forgot myself and the challenges of being Sa·B·er, or at least the infected… It seems you were right about where my tests lay, so I must ask you take care of Link for me. I know that she is saved from the Foreigner that possesses her, but she may need saved from herself. After speaking with you I wonder now if the cleansing ceremony would have even worked on her having already been saved. There might have been a failure of comprehension resulting in Link being mistaken as being unworthy. If that is true then she could have easily given in to despair.”
“Whatever the case my boy, it’s best you get some rest and clear your head. Or perhaps pray to the Saint for her continued kindness. For now though it’s best I go see what has transpired with my spectacled eyes.”
Having actively chosen to stay behind Elliot was left to wrestle with his concerns for Link’s wellbeing. So troubled was he though that he could not rest as Balgun had advised him and found his way to the one of the cathedral’s libraries after he was escorted back out of the underground labyrinth. Within he perused the contents of the library to research the fates of those who came to the Cardinal Church for salvation. He did not keep track of the time as he sought the answers to his questions and remained unconcerned even when he at last found a passage that addressed what it was he desired to learn.
“Those who Her Eminence has deemed unworthy of her salvation are doomed to become beasts of the make of the Foreigners. Mercy would have us end their lives, but such a mercy seems too cruel to inflict on the unworthy. Rather, it is our belief that the unworthy be at least granted a time of peace and comfort until either death or the Foreigner takes them. In those rare cases that one of the unworthy should conquer the Foreigner that possesses them then gladly will we return them to the world to find purpose in the second chance their strength has given them. Until one such of these three fates should occur they are kept within the care of the clergy and provided for in all matters within our power…
“Then Link should be safe. Thank goodness…”
Reading aloud the passage Elliot was brought a great deal of relief by the words contained within. Though they assuaged his fears and brought him peace they did not speak truthfully of Link’s tenday since the cleansing ceremony.
Where Melody was unremarkable and Elliot was of great importance, Link was for the Cardinal Church and the bishop her namesake to her father Hazel Sycamore. Not only was she a link to her father though, she was also a curiosity who held many keys to the knowledge of one of the Sowers of Chaos. This meant that neither her mind nor body were safe from the assault of the bishop’s loyal followers. Day in and day out she would be further and further interrogated, blood sample after blood sample taken. It was not long after that the bishop’s followers desired more immediate knowledge then what the waiting period for the results from her blood samples would provide and they moved on to trying to dissect her while she was still alive.
At first these depraved minds were quite successful at cutting into Link relying on healing magic to keep her alive while they worked, but nothing so powerful as to allow her to heal fast enough to interfere. The experiments and live dissections followed one after another to the point that her interrogation sessions would occur simultaneously. To Link the tenday felt beyond an eternity. It was as though her mind would give in to the hatred of mankind held by the Foreigner. Or perhaps her own as the line between the two was blurring.
Growing as fearful of herself as her tormentors Link tried to stop the experiment first by resisting and then just by sheer force of will. Eventually during one of the surgeries something incredible happened. The scalpel that was to be used to cut open her abdomen penetrated the surface of her flesh as it always did, blood spilling out across her belly as she wailed for them to stop only to be gagged as had become the norm if she did not retain her silence, but soon not only stopped, but bent and snapped in two due to the applied pressure of the surgeon. This little miracle did not provide Link with any salvation however as the surgeons simply became all the more fascinated by her body and tested the limits of her body’s ability to repel their attempts to cut her open. The number of lacerations and broken bones they inflicted upon her became uncountable and the pain became greater and greater fuel for the hatred seething within her. Then the night before Balgun’s descent into the bowls of the labyrinth beneath Foothold something happened.
“My word, what have you been doing down here?”
Stepping past heavily armed and armored guards that only stepped aside with an order from the bishop, Balgun, the bishop, and Bird entered a quarantined section of the labyrinth. The stench of blood flooded Balgun’s nostrils and he snorted in disgust.
“Things like this are the reason Choir exists Balgun, but I’ve read the reports about the study of failed Sa·B·ers here and nothing steps outside of the guidelines. Nothing except for this girl who doesn’t have any guidelines for her. I mean really, how could we? We’ve never dealt with a situation like this before where someone was infected by an altered parasite. It’s unprecedented.”
“And you took that as invitation to do what to the girl? She may be infected but she is still a human being so long as she retains her mind. Have your superiors forgotten that Bird?”
“You’re not wrong Balgun but I spent the money on a communication spell master and talked with them personally about what was likely to go down here before anything started. Problem is, since I took the initiative and they didn’t like the name Sycamore combined with an unprecedented infection they ordered me to give Verdant here the go ahead before shifting my attention to the dam and seeking out how they turned it on. Finding nothing out there is the only reason I could get away with getting you to come as your expertise would likely be the quickest way to get answers to all of our questions and maybe the first step to saving this poor girl.”
“You make the Cardinal Church sound so twisted and deplorable Bird. How many have we saved by sharing with them the Light of Cardinal?”
“And how many did your church kill over the years to achieve even that much?”
Balgun leveled a fierce glare out of the corner of his eye on the bishop and withheld not one drop of his malice. The Bishop shrank back under that glare but Balgun did not relent in his hostility.
“Lest you forget, I was there to see the fall of Lucir. I know the Sowers of Chaos as the people they actually are and not the monsters your propaganda paints them as. I know the history of the wars around Lucir and the church’s desire to claim the Light of Hope for their own as it was in ages past. I saw the pain in Mote’s eyes as she risked everything to save her home and fail. I saw the Light of Hope only bring despair and give rise to fears of the legend of Lucifal. That is why I told that young boy to stay away as the presence on him is like being next to Mote when she released the Light of Hope and tore the Poltergeist apart and reality with it. I did not desire to see that light bring such despair and lead to such destruction again.”
“You are being too melodramatic Master Balgun. At the very least I assure you that the cleansing ceremony performed on the girl was genuine and not staged for my ambitions as Bird likely believes. Had the ceremony been a success I would have never approved the research.”
“Would you now. Listening to that boy, Elliot, she was already saved and in all of my years of research the Cardinal Church has never tested to see what are the effects of performing their cleansing ceremony on someone who has already experienced it successfully. But just being next to Elliot I know he was not lying that the Saint or some avatar of her power appeared before him. Knowing that I can guess exactly how the cleansing ceremony for the girl went. That daft light you drop on people probably never reached her. And why would it? If she was saved by the Saint then her light would wash away such a pale imitation in an instant. You very well have tortured a harmless girl who should be out there starting her life as a Sa·B·er saving people instead of suffering down her like some lab animal!”
“Those are some strong accusations you are so carelessly throwing around Master Balgun. But I wonder if you will feel so strongly once you see the girl. Your time to do so is upon us after all.”
Motioning ahead of them in the poorly lit tunnels of the underground labyrinth, the bishop brought the groups attention to the wall of machine sentries before them. It was at least two units deep with one row facing down the hall prepared to turn away intruders and the other facing the door into what was marked as an operating room prepared to engage whatever awaited within should it emerge. Balgun paled at the sight of the operating room light being on and knew that what he found beyond would be heartbreaking no matter it’s form. Clenching his teeth and fists Balgun again turned angrily onto the Bishop.
“I risk my life as often as I am able in my pursuit of knowledge. I am after all a scholar who believes in the sharing of knowledge so as to better mankind and strive for a future of understanding where we do not challenge the Foreigners out of ignorance. The foolishness presented here in how you seek knowledge is appalling and reeks not just of ignorance but a failure to understand the value of knowledge and mankind. That you are a bishop overseeing this depravity speaks most ill of the Cardinal Church and its efforts to save mankind. But I shall hold myself back only to insults. You may have made a mess of things here but there is still knowledge, and maybe a life to be salvaged here and I will gladly use my knowledge to share with you how to accomplish both. I merely hope her hatred is limited to the Cardinal Church and that I’ll be able to speak with her.”
“Then you are prepared to enter Master Balgun?”
“With all haste. The girl is waiting for a savior and as I don’t wear your little crosses I just might be what it is that she seeks.”
“Then please Master Balgun, don’t let me delay you further.”
Extending a hand to invite Balgun to go ahead the bishop’s motion also ordered the machine sentries to part. Balgun glowered at the bishop for only a moment longer before spinning about to enter the operating room. Watching him go Bird yelled out after him.
“Good luck Balgun! Don’t get yourself killed cause I still need your help with my investigation!”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater