070 Encounters · 5


Encounters · 5
I



n Chain’s experience, the Cardinal Church could not be trusted. Everywhere she saw the Y shaped trio of crosses that served as the church’s holy symbol, memories of live dissections being performed on her flooded her mind. Isolation, darkness, fear and hatred all stirred within her and the Foreigner infection that made her a Sa·B·er felt like it would consume her to exact her vengeance. It made staying in the Chapel a difficult affair, but the nuns could hardly tell as her good cheer seemed to override any brewing negative feelings she possessed. There was also the possibility that Chain simply kept her mind occupied enough studying the literature of the library during the tenday it would take for the Chapel to travel from the Athera Mountains to Deep Root Colony. Whatever the reason, the only members of the nunnery that Chain interacted with were the teachers when they visited the library as she harassed them with questions. This lack of interaction was fine by most of the nuns, but there was one in particular who was not pleased by the whole ordeal.

The Chapel ~ Interior ~ Bowels
Early Autumn ~ Morning
Clear and warm outside
An unused corridor born from necessity
Repurposed for a use opposite the expectations of nuns
The whirring of machinery accompanied by the retort of gunfire
A gathering of little more than one   
A frustrated air filled with the acrid smell of gunfire  

Dressed in her white shirt and red denim jacket, Maye reloaded her revolver action rifle as she waited for the targeting sheet to return to where she waited. When it returned, she did not even bother checking her accuracy before replacing the shredded paper and throwing the switch that would take it back out into the distance. Lifting her rifle and looking down the barrel, Maye proceeded to fire all six rounds the cylinder could hold. Discarding the expended shells, she reloaded the cylinder in an instant with a speedloader waiting for her on a cart beside her.

“Someone’s shooting off steam today. I just hope you’re using practice rounds Maye. We don’t make that much money here.”

“You don’t need to remind me Finch.”

Maye’s tone was dismissive as she again emptied her rifle’s cylinder before discarding the shells. She did not waste anytime reloading but did not immediately fire as Finch snuck up in front of her to check the stack of discarded target sheets in front of her. Seeing Finch in her habit with her shoulder holster on immediately put an irritated expression on the centaur’s face.

“Finch… What have I told you about wearing your gun with your habit? It is disrespectful to the Sister Goddesses, Father Icarus, and Her Eminence.”

“So is a nun walking around the convent out of her habit.”

Finch did not seem to pay Maye’s warning much mind as she shuffled the sheaf of discarded target papers. Dismissive as she was, she was not without a counter for Maye and applied it offhandedly.

“At least I can just take my holster off, but you can’t really say the same.”

“Geh–!”

Blushing with aggravated defeat, Maye kicked the ground and turned her rifle downrange. The already shredded target paper was torn through six more times, and six more bullets embedded themselves in the brick wall that had been set up at the end of the otherwise unused corridor. Finch grew concerned as she looked at the results of Maye’s most recent shots compared to the results she held in hand.

“Maye, you’re really being overly emotional. Your shots are all over the place.”

“I’m trying to work through my emotions Finch. Now, why don’t you leave and entertain yourself with some crevice of the Chapel’s inner workings.”

“But I came down to practice as well.”

Setting up in the stall next to Maye, Finch had to climb up on the stand to affix an unused target to the clip that would take it down the track it hung from to the end of the range. As she finished, she tossed a switch in the stall and turned her attention to her revolver as the target retreated. Maye was in the process of reloading but was feeling antagonized by Finch’s actions.

“Perhaps I should be the one to leave then?”

“Don’t be like that Maye. You’ve been worrying everyone with your bad mood since Mother Osprey agreed to take Chain to the Deep Root Colony.”

“No one has anything to worry about from me. It is the heretic in our midst that should have everyone concerned.”

“Chain just wants to help her friend. That and she is a Child of Her Light. We can’t just ignore her. Besides, if the legends are true…”

“If a heretic were to partake in that fated battle it would turn the world on its head. How is the Cardinal Church supposed to reestablish the trust of the people and prevent future assaults by the Foreigners and the demon they worship. If the power wielded by that creature and its ilk were to be present mankind would seek out that power and repeat the cycle of bloodshed that calls forth the Dark One in the first place. Our efforts would be in vain should that come to pass.”

Both nuns lowered their firearms and stared each other down as they found themselves disagreeing again about Chain since they first met her. Finch was not so easily dissuaded however and had done some research of her own.

“Well, if Drop is so much trouble by being what she is, why not aspect her to Lady Cardinal’s Light? Spirits are Ambrosial creatures so we should be able to change her aspect.”

“Do you hear what you’re saying Finch?”

“Lady Cardinal unified the Sister Goddesses and Father Icarus, so why can’t Her Light unify mankind and the spirits?”

Maye could not believe what she was hearing and stared incredulously at her junior. Before she could say anything more however a voice echoed throughout the Chapel from its internal radio PA system.

­- All Seekers, your presence is required. Please gather in the Hall of Sight as soon as possible. -

The Chapel ~ Interior ~ Hall of Sight
Early Autumn ~ Morning
Clear and warm outside
A circular room too small for the numbers that visited
A great lens embedded in the floor
On its southeastern edge an intense light
A disbelieving hush filling the unused space
Even the stained-glass figures on high held in awe  

Bowing her head apologetically as she entered, Maye, now dressed in her habit, slipped into the Hall of Sight as smoothly as a centaur possibly could. When she finally positioned herself so that she could see the great lens in the floor she fell into as surprised a silence as the other nuns situated in the room. Seeing the last nun to arrive having become aware of the situation, Mother Osprey broke the silence.

“Mother Gosling, if you could please inform us what it is that we are looking at.”

“Of course, Mother Osprey.”

Stepping forward to the edge of the lens, a small nāti maid of many years encouraged everyone but Mother Osprey to step back. Walking around the lens to where the light appeared in the lens, Mother Gosling tapped it with her cane.

“You are all more than aware by now that this light represents a Lucifalz.”

Nodding heads and hushed agreements filled the room as Mother Gosling paused to allow the other nuns to confirm their understanding. One nun in particular however did not allow her to continue as they pressed her with a question.

“Does this mean that we will not be completing the journey to the Deep Root Colony?”

Chuckling softy, the old nāti maid shook her head.

“Your disdain for the Chainmaid is becoming as an eighth wonder amongst the Daughters of this hallowed hall Sister Maye. Your dedication to doctrine is wonderful, but perhaps too zealous. If you were not so blinded by your indignation you might have noted the direction of this light.”

Tapping the lens once more with her cane, Mother Gosling brought attention to the inlaid compass directions in the frame of the lens. The direction did not mean much to the gathered nuns on its own but combined with Maye’s query it was not hard to deduce the location of the Lucifalz which the lens responded to. There was at least one problem that put the nuns ill at ease though, and someone at last spoke up.

“Excuse me Venerable Mother, but are we not only a seven-day into this tenday continuous journey?”

“That is correct.”

“Yet, we have never detected a Lucifalz from so far…”

No further words were required for the gathered nuns in the Hall of Sight to understand what it was that awaited them and the unease within deepened. The unease however had to face the presence of Mother Osprey who rose her own voice to address the nuns gathered with her.

“It is a daunting task to be sure, but it is not beyond our duty. Those of us gathered on the Chapel are sworn to recover the Light for Her Eminence, Lady Cardinal and guide mankind back to the path it illuminates. We must face this Lucifalz as we have every other and free Her Light of the Darkness of the Dark One. And be warned that so great a Lucifalz could very well upset the Laws of Atheaeldre and Father Icarus. That which plagues those who have ventured to the Deep Root Colony is likely an Ambrosial Beast, or worse yet, a Dragon. But do not let these horrors dissuade you. We are the faithful bathed in Her Eminence’s true light, and we join a Sa·B·er, a Child of Her Light in meeting this Darkness. We cannot and will not be pushed back by the Darkness.”

Even knowing that Mother Osprey’s words meant that she would likely be fighting alongside Chain in Deep Root Colony, Maye could not hide her displeasure. She wore it on her face for the next three-day, all the way to when she found herself flanking Chain with Finch the morning they finally arrived. The air of anticipation coming from the Chainmaid only deepened her foul mood as she knew there was no controlling the whimsical maid who only thought of finding her friend. Maye’s sympathy for the man she believed long gone did not alleviate her displeasure, but neither emotion changed the mission that lay before her.
.


Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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