063 The Fractured Maid · 3
Athera Mountains - Lonely Root, fountain plaza
Early Autumn ~ Early Afternoon, distant showers and warm
Early Autumn ~ Early Afternoon, distant showers and warm
inch! What exactly were you thinking⁈”
On Icarus, the races of humankind were typically divided into three classifications. The most populous of these races were the chimeric, their features ranging from the prototypically human icarans mixed with bits of other animals to outright being humanoid animals. The maid with the blond ponytail and ruddy skin was herself split between an icaran from the waist up and a strawberry roan coated horse bellow. She was not large enough for an average adult icaran to ride, but her fiery demeanor and indignant disposition assured she would be worse than the worst of horses in need of breaking in. Chain was less interested in her natural features but instead took note of the red denim jacket she wore over a white, collared, shirt and the revolver style rifle she carried. She had an air of danger about here that Chain didn’t like and silently bemoaned rightly presuming that this centaur was the friend Finch was talking about; Maye.
“Maye, calm down. I was just showing compassion and helping someone in need like I was supposed to. Those bandits we found in the mountains wanted to sell her like an object just because she showed up with a Lucif–”
“Don’t say another word Finch.”
Holding out a hand Maye silenced Finch. Glaring at her young companion she spoke with an intensity that belied her hushed tone, the fountain behind failing to drown out her voice.
“Consider where you are and what it is that you are saying Finch.”
“Oh… Sorry Maye…”
Hanging their head, Finch looked down and kicked the ground bashfully. Maye did not seem to find Finch’s lesson finished and continued to admonish the child.
“This is because you can’t keep your head out of those confounded machines you love so much. I swear, for your sake I hope when you grow up that Father Icarus has seen fit to bless you with the largest bosom that any maid has ever had just to keep you out of those things and focused on your studies.”
Snapping their head back up Finch stared at Maye in utmost terror.
“How could you say that Maye⁈ Do you have any idea the torment that would bring me⁈ Being unable to work on machines would be hell as it is, but we’re Daughters of the Cardinal Church! I would cut them off just to spare myself and the church the humiliation!”
“You’re an icaran and Daughter of the Cardinal Church and you speak of willfully desecrating the flesh born of Father Icarus⁈ Have you lost your mind child⁈”
The conversation between Finch and May had long since taken a turn that made all of no sense to Chain. Looking at Drop floating in the air beside her, Chain found her confusion staring right back at her.
“I don’t understand what they’re saying anymore.”
“That’s because it doesn’t make sense.”
“It should be obvious why our words fall on your ears as though they are stones. You are a heretic and fortunate that Finch cannot think of anything but her love of machines yet she would have left you where she found you as she should have.”
“Maye~! What about compassion and that most people don’t know that consorting with spirits is heretical⁈ It’s not like they were everywhere before the Lucifalz appeared, and then there’s where I found her! She couldn’t–”
“No, it’s alright. It’s hard to tell with how you’re dressed, but you two are with the Cardinal Church aren’t you?”
“We are, but–”
Chain’s look was not cold so to say, so much as it was disappointed. Something about her expression unsettled Finch and Chain almost didn’t have to say a word to interrupt. As interrupting was her intention however, she did not refrain from speaking.
“I don’t know what you’ve been taught, but I used to think that the church were good guys too. Then when I needed help after being infected by the Foreigners, they simply chose to torture me.”
Finch was appalled but had no time to request Chain explain what she meant as Maye leveled her with an accusatory finger. Speaking contemptuously, the haughty centaur doubted Chain being anything but a deserving victim.
“As the heretic you are you could have avoided such punishment had you simply renounced your evil ways. That seems much too difficult for you though seeing as you walk with that thing beside you in broad daylight.”
“I doubt you care, but I wasn’t called a heretic until after I escaped from their torture.”
“Don’t think you can deceive me with your lies. A heretic would have never escaped from a bastion of the church. And if you were truly infected you would have never been anything more but cared for, but I know an Ambrosial Arm when I see one.”
“Ambrosial Arm? What’s that?”
“Enough with your lies, heretic.”
With nothing but accusations unaccompanied by any answers coming from Maye, Chain turned to Drop hoping the her that she knew to be a spirit and the likely cause of her being called a heretic might have an answer. Drop’s demeanor did not encourage confidence and she all but shrugged as she offered up what little knowledge she had.
“I’m afraid we don’t know anything about them except that they were built a long time. Mankind had already stopped communing with the spirits when they crafted them, and we only know of them for their influence on Ambrosia as they called forth Nectar to fulfill their purposes.”
“They sound pretty nifty.”
“I couldn’t say.”
“You two like machines?”
Finch piqued up as Chain and Drop contemplated the niftiness of Ambrosial Arms and attempted to interrupt. She did not fail to get their attention, but she also drew a wrathful look from Maye. Drop sighed for her larger counterpart allowing Chain to offer Finch an apologetic smile.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea if we keep talking. Your guardian doesn’t seem to like me one bit. And that’s fine, I’m not particularly fond of the Cardinal Church. So, I guess this is bye for now. Thanks for showing me to town.”
Finch took a step to follow Chain as the maid and her tiny double left but was stopped as Maye placed a hand on her shoulder. Looking back at the centaur maid, Finch’s eyes near watered with rage as her face flushed.
“This is your fault Maye! How do you hope to restore the people’s faith in Lady Cardinal when you constantly assault them⁈”
“That maid is a heretic Finch. She’ll pull people away from Her Eminence as much as my harsh demeanor. But consider the blame that you hold in this by bringing her and her devil here.”
“Now you’re blaming me⁈ Maye, you jerk!”
Pulling away from Maye’s grasp, Finch dashed away rubbing at her teary eyes as she ran. The scene made the centaur a sudden curiosity and she simply sighed and crossed her arms. Watching Finch run she spoke with a hint more softness to her demeanor than she had shown Chain she was capable of.
“You are especially susceptible Finch. I know exactly where you’re running to assuage your feelings and it is not the Light of Her Eminence. It’s for your own good that I’m so harsh. “
Athera Mountains - Lonely Root, Abandoned Church
Early Autumn ~ Midnight, distant thunderstorms and cool
Early Autumn ~ Midnight, distant thunderstorms and cool
Night had long since fallen on the sleepy mountain village of Lonely Root, but where the residents had long since retired for the night Chain joined the guards in remaining awake. Where the guards patrolled the gas lamp lit streets and the stone wall that protected the village, Chain sat with her arms wrapped around her knees and her back to the steeple of the abandoned, or perhaps run out, church that had become seriously overgrown with vines and moss. Looking up at the night sky and the planetary ring that she did not understand in the southern sky, Chain reflected on her day.
“What a day this has been. Waking up in a cave I don’t remember ever entering under a weird tree of light. Killing a bunch of bandits for the first time ever and my head being full of all the distance between my thoughts. Being attacked by the church as soon as I get to civilization, and not having any money to stay at the inn.”
“We could have returned to the cave and looted the bodies. The little one could not have stopped us since we were the ones chased off.”
Joining Chain on the church roof, Drop offered her a small comfort while highlighting a passed opportunity.
“Maybe, but I don’t know if I could trust my memory to get us back to the cave. I know you’re doing better than me and probably would have gotten us back fine if I couldn’t keep my memories in my head, but it’s still frustrating. And besides, we can do it tomorrow. For now we can make the church provide us with some hospitality since we don’t have a place to stay because of them.”
“But are we going to sleep? The confusion we feel looking at the sky and contemplating the lack of response from the villagers has kept our fractured thoughts quite occupied.”
“I just can’t figure out anything right now. I don’t really know where I am or how I got here, or how long I was out.”
“That is kind of difficult to say. No one seems to really know, not even the spirits, from who I talked with while trying to find a manner of you I could consider us.”
“And that’s just as confusing. When I close my eyes and try to put my thoughts together, they feel pulled all over the place to more of me than I should have ever been. I don’t know if I should follow those thoughts and find those distant mes, or try to figure out where in the world I am.”
“We could perhaps start by revisiting the Lucifalz tomorrow. Surely you heard our voice amongst the many others within it.”
“Maybe, that tree was really weird and I don’t think I want to go anywhere near it again. I guess we can figure it out tomorrow though. For now, I just want to focus on getting some regular sleep.”
Chain’s cape responding to its silent summon blazed into a life and whipped about in the night breeze before taking full form and falling around Chain. Snuggling into it, Chain closed her eyes and prepared to fall asleep atop the church. Drifting off though proved impossible as she heard a horse approaching the church from behind her. Pouting irritably, she got up and spied around the steeple to see who was coming.
Strolling down the road from the only inn in Lonely Root, the centaur Maye made her way towards the abandoned church’s front door below the steeple. Opening the double doors, she allowed the light from within to spill out into the night. Crossing her arms and both pairs of legs she leaned against the doorframe and watched whatever it was she saw within.
“Most impressive watching a centaur cross their legs.”
Chain shushed her double with a finger held to her lips as she had no desire to give away her location. Realizing her actions, Drop covered her mouth with both hands before swimming behind Chain’s shoulder. Bracing her hands on Chain’s shoulder, Drop leaned into her ear and spoke again but much quieter.
“What do you suppose she is here for?”
“Don’t know. Though if I have to guess the noises that have been coming up from underneath us all night are probably because of the other girl.”
“Finch? I wonder what she could be working on.”
Neither Chain nor Drop had an answer to the mermaid girl’s question and they could only watch Maye to see if anything interesting was revealed. Watching someone with any level of intensity though was bound to get their attention eventually and the two of them had to duck down quickly as Maye looked back and up from where she leaned in the doorframe. Not spotting anything she exhaled sharply through her nose contemptuously before turning her attention again into the abandoned church.
“You can stop pretending that you don’t know I’m here Finch. You’ve had more than enough time to sulk like a child, and now it’s time you get some rest. We need to confirm the best route back to the Lucifalz so its Light can be reclaimed.”
“I can sleep just fine here.”
“The guts of a Dolmen are not the place a young girl such as yourself should be resting.”
Chain and Drop could barely keep their voices down as they exchanged surprised expression at the word spoken by Maye. Wanting to lean over more to see if there truly was a Dolmen within it took a great deal of will power just to continue listening in on Maye and Finch’s conversation.
“What about the Sa·B·er from earlier? Where is she sleeping?”
“I doubt that heretic has ever been infected by the Foreigners. She was obviously wearing an Ambrosial Arm which means she is an adventurer and should be comfortable sleeping anywhere. You need to stop concerning yourself with that heretic and focus on why we are here; reclaiming the Light for Her Eminence.”
“I really wish I knew what an Ambrosial Arm is. It’d make explaining the nature of my Foreigner infection easier.”
Chain’s pouting and mumbling would not bring her an answer to her question, and neither would continuing to eavesdrop. As she was already invested in the conversation taking place below her though she felt no reason to seek out an answer to her question.
“I know it’s important to reclaim the Light of Lady Cardinal, but shouldn’t we be trying to foster goodwill as well so people stop chasing us away whenever we come to a new town? We should be welcomed not hated. We just want to help people and instead they blame us for everything including the coming of the Dark One who hasn’t even shown up. And what is that Sa·B·er going to blame us for after waking up under a Lucifalz. No matter what you say about her she isn’t going to recognize the world at all and needs our help.”
“You’re not going to give this up, are you?”
“Of course not!”
“It shouldn’t surprise me, but you really are such a child Finch. But, just to satisfy you we will speak with this heretic for your sake after we have contacted Mother Osprey.”
“Do you really mean it⁈”
“I am a Daughter of the Cardinal Church; my word is not so light.”
“Thank you, Maye, thank you!”
From wherever it was that Finch had been within the church she flung herself at Maye in a grateful hug. Maye sighed but allowed herself to relax and uncrossed her limbs. Gently rubbing the top of Finch’s head, she urged the girl to release her.
“Come now Finch. Our day seems as though it will be even busier than I had planned and we both will need our rest.”
Watching Maye and Finch head off towards the inn after Finch locked up, Drop grew curious about Chain staying where she was.
“Aren’t we going to follow them?”
Chain’s soft smile didn’t reveal her plans and was never intended to do as she dropped down from the church roof. Swimming down after her, Drop persisted in her inquiry.
“It seems the perfect time to pursue them.”
“Not really. If the centaur knew we were eavesdropping, she’d have a fit. Besides–”
Spinning around Chain turned her attention onto the front doors of the church.
“I want to know what she was working on in here. As far as I can tell it’s been abandoned so what could it be, I wonder.”
“I have a feeling our curiosity is going to bring us trouble.”
Cheerfully ignoring Drop’s warning, Chain easily broke the lock that Finch had secured the door with. Discarding the now useless padlock Chain proceeded to push open the large double doors and her eyes began to shimmer excitedly. Even without turning on the lights that Finch had set up within, Chain could easily tell what it was that lay in the dark before her.
“It really is a Dolmen! I can’t believe it. How did they she even get it in here?”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater