The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Church

Post your Errant Story, Errant Road, Exploitation Now, and Babylon Jones fanfiction here. Please note that Poe is not allowed to read it.

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » November 14th, 2015, 5:20 pm

Chapter Forty: Paukii and the Outlander


Meanwhile, in the Elven Territories:

The Outlander recovered from the misgate, and the disorientation that followed, slightly more quickly than the elf did, a fact that would cause Paukii some embarrassment later. An observer might have speculated that the reason was the long millennia of routine in Praenubilus Astu that dulled the elven senses to the possibility that something could go wrong, while the Outlander’s culture, like most human or near-human cultures, was predicated on the idea that things would go wrong. The observer would probably have been correct in this observation. Whatever the reason, his eyes had grown wide, he’d started to run, and he had covered twenty yards or so, toward such little cover as existed near the platform, before Paukii could react. That wasn’t enough to matter, of course. There was a surge of magic around the elf as soon as she was functional, and a Binding, similar to the one that still encased Cosmo (and, for that matter, the late Shem), wrapped around the Outlander, bringing him suddenly and painfully to earth.

Satisfied that, at least for the moment, she had the upper hand now, Paukii approached the human(?) cautiously, yet projecting the usual elven – well, “arrogance” would fit. Doesn’t look like an Errant, she quickly judged. The Outlander was shorter than the average human, and peculiarly wide at the shoulders, rather than tall and slender as Errants tended to be. The broad shoulders were attached to the longest arms she had ever seen on any non-troll humanoid. His legs, by contrast, were short and stubby, for which she gave thanks; if he’d been more normally proportioned, his running head start might have carried him outside the range of the Binding, and Senilis alone knew what might have happened then. The whole was encased in what looked like rags, but as she studied the man more closely, she realized they were animal hides. That was very odd indeed; she hadn’t seen a human wearing those since, well, since the first humans had been discovered far to the north, back when she was a mere child of two hundred or so.

Peregin or not, Paukii was not all that adept at reading the thoughts and emotions of humans from their faces, nor was her elven mind magic powerful enough that she could actually read the man’s mind. Still, there wasn’t much doubt in her own mind that what was showing on his features was a combination of terror and rage. Good; she could work with that. “Stay still,” she commanded in the Veracian language. “Who are you?” The Outlander who spoke rudimentary Veracian, alas, lay dead atop a travel platform on an island so obscure that even the elves had forgotten about it, and this man could only stare and then growl something incomprehensible but hostile in his own language. Paukii tried again in the Tsuirakuan tongue, then in both elven languages, and finally, in an obscure tongue of the Southern Continent that she’d picked up somewhere. No matter; the result was the same.

Paukii shrugged. This was going to take a specialist to sort out. Using a trick she’d learned from Sarine, of all people, she walked up to the man and touched his forehead. Magic flowed, with a low bzzt, and the Outlander began to snore. Good; it worked on him, so he probably was more or less human. He should be out for an hour or two, long enough to call in to the Hell Hole and get someone else out here. She unlimbered her communication device and checked in with the watch officer …

But she found herself doing more listening than talking, as she learned why Ramian hadn’t materialized along with her, and also, what her next mission would be.

----------------

“Ma’am?” the young airman who’d been sent to check on Rose said, after he’d knocked on the cabin door and a thundercloud dressed in Veracian robes had flung it open. “Is everything all right? The captain said –“

The thundercloud receded back into a Veracian nun, having failed to cast the lightning bolt that Rose very much wanted to use. I’m not going to shoot the messenger here, she thought. It’s not his fault that – that –

“Just tell the captain that I have some things to think about,” she told the youth. “And that I have no intention of being on indefinite standby for a diplomatic mission with the elves.” And if the people in the Pleasure Dome don't like that, then screw 'em, she thought, but did not say.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » December 9th, 2015, 11:33 am

Chapter Forty-one: Refusing the call


“I’ll miss you, ma’—Rose,” Cassie said, through a tearful hug.

Rose returned the hug, not with the overwrought emotion of a teenage girl, but rather with the genuine but reserved warmth of the motherly role model she was supposed to be. (She was hardly a reserved person, and there’d be a much more – expressive hug with Argus later, but that was different, of course, and now was a time for wearing the mask.) Truthfully, she’d come to rather like the young novitiate in their brief time together, somewhat to her surprise. She’d also been pleasantly surprised that her initial fear that this mission was intended to be terminally dangerous for the girl (and her) had been wrong. The worst danger they’d had to face together had been from the inexplicable lightning strikes on the small temple, which she’d learned had burned to the ground while the airship had been flying north. That hadn’t been the fault of the Millenarians, or anyone else in the Church. Had it?

The meeting with Kitaura had also gone surprisingly well, given the circumstances. It helped, of course, that they’d interacted fairly beneficially earlier, and that each had discovered that the other was willing to help put out political fires that their respective governments definitely wanted not to flare into major conflagrations. It also helped that his questions had either been general in nature, or such as to elicit from Rose an honest “I don’t know” answer, or best of all, directed at some of the same puzzlement she herself felt at the unexpected arrival of the near-catatonic Kazuo/Cosmo in the airship’s hold. They’d parted ways with a commitment to keep each other posted as appropriate, and Kitaura had presented her with his business card. Based on earlier experiences at the temple in Kiyoka, she was all but certain that this card was bugged, but she didn’t hold that against him, and she’d simply “lose” it at the earliest opportunity.

The meeting yet to come with the Patriarch’s man, however … She tightened the hug to an extent that made Cassie wince slightly. She knew Father Dragan, the man coming to meet her, slightly; a pompous, legalistic twit who insisted on doing everything by the book. Might that be turned to her advantage? Yes, maybe, if … She rolled an idea around in her mind long enough that she all but forgot that she still had Cassie encased in the hug.

Here he was now, with a pair of retainers who looked just as officious as the man himself. Rose sent Cassie off to her waiting father, noting that he was indeed wearing Mechanist robes as she had suspected, and tried to put on a cold, business-like expression. There was no time to put up her Empathy magic, but it hardly seemed necessary under the circumstances; she was pretty sure she knew what was coming next, and the three priests’ faces showed distaste clearly enough without magical aid.

Dragan, she was interested (and to no small extent, amused) to note, was doing everything possible to avoid eye contact with her as he went through the preliminary greeting rituals, staring fixedly at some point in space six inches over her head. (Is something sneaking up on me – or is the ceiling getting ready to fall? she wondered whimsically, although of course she knew the answer.) That wasn’t surprising. The Reformists were a minor denomination in the Luminositan Church, but she was still higher in their hierarchy than Dragan was in the vastly larger Orthodox bureaucracy, and he would know it. On the other hand, an Orthodox priest would feel more than a little condescension at talking to a “mere” nun, so how to resolve that conundrum? By ignoring the person being talked to, of course, and projecting his congratulations on the mission, as well as the “invitation” that brought him here, into open space. Well, that would soon change.

He was finally getting to the point, as he orated to the wall. “—You are hereby invited to join the mission of Our Lord Luminosita to wait upon the diplomats being sent by the godless elves. His Holiness trusts that you will accept this invitation, which will accord you the honor and privilege of a seat in His Holiness’ own compound in Emerylon for the next two years, or until the dealings with the elven infidel in this matter are concluded.” He finally peered down through the glasses resting on his beak of a nose, at the woman rather than at the wall, no doubt expecting a comparably ritualistic acceptance of this “invitation.”

Which wasn’t coming. Rose said only one word. “No.”

Dragan’s minions blinked at Rose in shock, but the older priest had seen this coming. He extracted a pipe from the folds of his robe, loaded and fired it, and began to smoke, a habit that Rose detested. (She was quite sure he was aware of that fact.) “Explain,” he said, the stilted formality replaced by undisguised hostility; well, at least he was looking at her now, as at a disagreeable bug under a microscope, rather than at the wall.

Well, let’s see if this works. And if it doesn’t… “Do you recall the third chapter of the Epistle to the Church at Delphiniel?” Rose asked, knowing full well that the answer would be affirmative; Dragan would be the type to have the entirety of the Founding Epistles memorized, without thinking for a moment about what they actually meant. She didn’t wait for his curt acknowledgment before continuing. “I quote from the ninth verse: ‘The priest of Luminosita must be a man of his word, keeping his vows and commitments though the whole world be ranged against him.’ I don’t need to remind you that decades of scholarship have confirmed that this applies to nuns as well.” She also didn’t need to remind him of one of the Commentaries of Bishop Nuria, marginalia to the Orthodox Veracian Church but a key founding document for her own Reformed sect: “It is thought that originally, this text referred to ‘the forces of Hell’ rather than ‘the whole world.’ However, over time, it changed, not least because of the difficulties in distinguishing the forces of Hell from the whims of the powerful.” Dragan was scholarly enough to get the subtlety there, and Orthodox enough to scowl through the pipe smoke at the hidden meaning; in Veracia, they didn’t get more powerful than the Patriarch, and he certainly had his, well, whims.

He emitted a large cloud of smoke before replying. “And what – vows and commitments might you have that interfere with this holy duty to our Lord Luminosita, Sister?”

I’ve got him. “You mean, this ‘invitation.’” It makes it easier that he used that little diplomatic nicety. “To answer, I made a solemn promise to preside over the weddings of three dear colleagues in Luminosita’s Service, back in Kiyoka.” That same Epistle, as both parties knew full well, made much of the solemnity of vows pertaining to marriage, a passage that was very much observed in the breach. (Notably, it did not explicitly forbid priests and nuns to marry; that was just tradition in the Orthodox Church, and that distinction had done much to keep the Reformists, Mechanists, and ironically enough, Millenarians from being declared Heterodox.) “I intend to keep these promises.”

Dragan waved his pipe dismissively, its stem missing Rose’s nose by less than its length. “Pffft. There are other priests and nuns in that temple, far more than the Faithful few of that heathen community need. Let one of them do the rites, make himself actually useful, and instead serve His Holiness yourself.”

Rose was starting to have trouble keeping her temper under control. This damned fool surely knew why the Kiyoka temple was priest-rich, and it wasn’t to tend the Luminositans of the town, quite the contrary. (May as call a nest of spies what it was; I was one of them, after all. Luminosita's Nethers, even a troll had figured that out.) “I keep my vows and promises,” she said coldly. “Against all the forces of the world. All.”

Give the man credit; his own face didn’t harden any more as he accepted defeat along with the implied insult. “Very well,” he said, tamping out the pipe (it had outlived its usefulness). “I don’t think I need to warn you, though, that this refusal will be viewed as a – career-limiting decision in the highest councils of His Holiness the Patriarch.”

I’m counting on it, you fool, thought Rose as Dragan and his flunkies left without another word. An hour later, she was on the way to the warp gate back to Kiyoka.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » December 18th, 2015, 10:51 pm

Chapter Forty-two: Meeting the parents

Meanwhile in Tsuirakushiti, as Sister Rose was preparing to enter the warp gate to return to Kiyoka and preside over two weddings, the groom in one of those weddings was finishing the time-honored ritual of meeting his bride-to-be’s parents.

“Now, you take good care of daughter, yes?” Tomitaro Yugawa said to Brother Farley, in his best broken Veracian, as the two of them stood in the doorway of the Yugawa family flat.

Farley was genuinely touched. There was no need for anyone present to step outside their native language; the Translation effects widespread in Tsuiraushiti would see to that. Yet the man made this gesture in honor of his future son-in-law despite a complete lack of proficiency in the language. Well, it would be easy enough for him to return the gesture; fluency in the Tsuirakuan tongue was one of the things that had caused him to be assigned to the mission in Kiyoka, after all. “Sir, you have my solemn word that I will take the best possible care of the woman we all love,” he answered in that language, with a slight bow of his head that, Kristi had assured him, would demonstrate precisely the right amount of respect for the father of the bride.

Behind Yugawa-san, Farley could see Kristi’s mother positively beaming at this exchange. “No, no,” Yugawa-san protested, again in broken Veracian. “You call me ‘Tom,’ you family now.”

Farley ruthlessly suppressed the grin that was trying to escape him; he knew full well that he wouldn’t be using the familiar name with this man until he and Kristi presented him with a Yugawa grandchild. Well, he’d be using it this once, but not again for a goodly while. “You are most kind, Tom, and I thank you for your welcome to the family,” he said, again in Tsuirakuan and with that slight bow. Beside him, Kristi smiled prettily as her parents both nodded their approvals that this gaijin would respond this graciously and gracefully. (He’d been well coached.)

He was going to get along famously with his in-laws, Farley was pretty sure. The Yugawas had come to the sky city from Kiyoka some years back, but by now they were solidly middle-class Tsuirakuans, matching his own middle-class upbringing in Saus. That meant the family flat was in one of the tall apartment complexes required by the sky city’s sharply limited real estate. It had been tiny by the standards of Veracia, yet tidy and orderly so that it felt roomier than it was. Part of that, of course, was because practically all of the Yugawas’ belongings were stowed in one of the several Pocket Dimensions in the place. Kristi had dropped a broad hint that one or two of those might make a pretty good wedding present; Farley would be moving out of the temple and she out of the military compound, into their own flat in Kiyoka, and while there was more room down there on the ground than up here, accommodations were still going to be “cozy” rather than “spacious.”

It also helped, he thought, that his future in-laws seemed to have no ill feelings about the Mage-Priest War. The Yugawas worked in positions having something to do with international commerce; Kristi had been vague about the details, probably because she didn’t understand them well herself, and the conversations over tea had focused on the lives and future of the young couple, not the older one, so he didn’t ask. Relations between the governments of Tsuiraku and Veracia could still be described as “strained,” but the mercantile profession here, themselves included, was clearly getting the idea that there was money to be made through good trade relations world-wide. (If only my own people would see that, Farley thought ruefully; life in Kiyoka had left him a fervent believer in international cooperation, but to say the feeling was not widespread in Veracia would be understating it.) Having a Veracian son-in-law wasn’t just a matter of accepting their daughter’s choice of a life partner; it was also good for business, and everyone in the household knew it.

The final point working in favor of a good relationship was the generally relaxed Tsuirakuan attitude toward marriage, and specifically, toward the religious end of weddings. If there was no God to swear one’s eternal marital fidelity in front of, why obsess over the ceremony of the marital vows? As long as the forms were observed – which, after all, was what this visit to Tsuirakushiti was all about – then the details of how to get the job done were a matter of taste. (This would have been untrue if the Yugawa family had been aristocracy rather than middle class; some of the tales Kristi had told Farley about the pomp and pageantry of upper-crust weddings had made his skin crawl.) The Yugawas were perfectly comfortable – admirably so, Farley thought – with the idea of doing the wedding in Kiyoka, and even in the Veracian temple’s garden, as long as the honeymoon and the rest of married life were satisfying to their daughter, since that was the important part. We could learn much from these people, Farley thought, not for the first time, as the young couple said their farewells, at least for another couple of weeks.

They had not even reached the thaumatic elevator, however, before they were hailed by a man in the unmistakable uniform of the Tsuirakuan Homeland Security forces. A quick glance passed between bride- and groom-to-be, recognition on neither of their faces, and mild suspicion on both. Before they could say anything, the man produced a quick, formal bow – Kristi’s experience-honed senses of Tsuirakuan decorum interpreted it as “unsure of social status, doing my duty, no problem” – and extended a small package. “Gift from Captain Kitaura,” he explained, a slight tremor in his voice as he pronounced the name. “He sends best wishes to the happy couple.” Another formal bow before Kristi and Farley could stammer their thanks, and he beat a rapid retreat.

The suspicious looks turned to frank astonishment, more intense on Kristi’s face than on Farley’s; how could such a mighty officer be taking an interest in the wedding of a mere corporal, and to a gaijin at that? Of course, neither of them knew certain things: that Kitaura knew that Rose would be presiding over the wedding; that he was all but sure Rose was going to somehow manage to “lose” the business card he had given her; and that if he couldn’t hear directly from her any more about what had happened with the hapless “Cosmo,” doing it via a bug on the wedding gift, as she confided in Farley (as Kitaura was confident she would; his sources in Kiyoka had made the workings of the temple clear), would do just fine, thank you very much. The couple didn’t even bother to check out the faint magical aura projected by the gift; almost everything in Tsuirakushiti had a trace of magic about it like that. Instead, they simply smiled, kissed, and headed down to street level, bound for the warp gate for the trip back to Kiyoka.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » January 10th, 2016, 12:10 am

Chapter Forty-three: Father Gaetan

Even after the years in Kiyoka, this place just doesn’t seem right to me, Sister Rose reflected as she entered the warp gate.

The gate in Saus was a considerably smaller affair than the ones she’d used in Kiyoka or Port Lorrel, even though from everything she’d heard, those gates were themselves small and shabby compared to what was in Tsuirakushiti. (I’d love to be sharing what Farley is experiencing now, she thought wistfully. Luminosita willing, I’ll be able to do that with Argus, now that he’s been restored to good graces there. Which doesn’t mean I’ll like its ostentation, though. ) Even if it was plebeian by Tsuirakuan standards, it was still gaudy by Veracian ones – standards of anything Veracian except the Church, of course. Rose was quite sure that was by design; the Tsuirakuans would want to make sure the “barbarians” were suitably impressed when they visited or used the thing.

She’d also suspected for some time that the Tsuirakuans had also intended the small size, even though she knew her own government had insisted on it as well. There were only a few gate openings a day, and most of them led to nondescript locations in Farrel or to Kiyoka, where she was bound. There was only one a day to Tsuirakushiti itself, and the Tsuirakuans carefully controlled the travel runes issued for that gate, to make sure that no gaijin were able to go except those on official business that the portalmages had very carefully vetted – all in the name of avoiding “provocations” (as the Church put it) that might heighten tensions. The fact that that served to minimize contact between regular citizens of the two countries, which might reduce tensions as they got to know each other, didn’t seem to enter into the equation. They’re as xenophobic in their own way as we are, Rose thought at the door of the building, not for the first time.

At least they were starting to tolerate Veracian culture, she thought as she stood in line to buy a rune. The ornate hall contained a small exhibit of Veracian “art” at one end, art that she was well aware was drawn from Luminositan religious practice, although the church’s sensibilities forbade display of an image of Luminosita Himself. If the Tsuirakuans chose to bill this display condescendingly as “folk art” rather than religious icons, what did it matter? At least it was there.

Rune bought, she was examining one portrait in this display, of a saint whose life story she’d probably known as a child but had forgotten years ago, when her reveries were interrupted by a high, male, but almost bird-like voice. “Sister – Sister Rose! I must talk to you!” This was accompanied by the thumping of a cane across the stone floor of the terminal, and she turned to face the speaker. Do I know this man? I should, but his name isn’t coming to me.

The speaker was elderly, small, and spindly enough to suggest a crane or heron, an impression completed by a beak-like nose and priest’s robes that billowed wing-like around him despite his slow pace. He squinted through horn-rimmed glasses as Rose moved closer to him. Who is this guy? she thought. I’m just sure I’ve dealt with him before, but – She stopped in mid-stride as the name came to her. Father Gaetan. And with that realization, she wasn’t sure she wanted to get any closer to him; indeed, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to be in the same building, or the same city, as the man.

Gaetan. A senior functionary in the Cardinal Inquisitor’s office. He had been assigned, Rose now remembered, to meet her, Argus and the others in Umbertiel, along with the memorably disagreeable Sister Bree, now inexplicably deceased in that small town. He’d been replaced in this role at the last minute, to Bree’s loud (at least in her private papers, which Rose had surreptitiously read) displeasure, by the even more frightening Father Blaise -- the man who had dominated her actions, and occupied her thoughts, for the last several weeks before her return to Saus. The man whom Rose and the others had followed to his death in the mountains of Goriel. The man who, if Rose understood her new friend Thérèse correctly and had been able to put all the pieces together, had joined the conspiracy known as the “Convergence” and was ready to sell out all of mortality, his own soul included, for a power that Rose could only guess at, but would never, ever try to know better.

That was quite a man to be replaced by.

She’d interacted with Gaetan earlier, under less … disquieting … circumstances, at some church inquiry regarding the Albigenish Incident, something to do with heresy among avowed Luminositans in the northern city. At the time, she hadn’t been far enough up the Special Forces food chain to play more than a bit part in that, and there was every chance she’d missed something, but Gaetan had struck her as rather less than the brightest light globe in the temple of Luminosita. However, no encounter with someone from the Cardinal Inquisitor’s office was to be taken lightly; they didn’t make social calls. She took the precaution of putting up her Empathy magic before moving to meet the man, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

Apparently he didn’t. “Sister Rose!” he twittered, leaving an amused Rose wondering for a moment whether he’d been out practicing his bird calls before he came looking for her. “Thank Luminosita you’re still here! I’ve been looking all over for you, and –“ His voice trailed off as he darted quick, nervous glances around him; the crane thought himself surrounded by eagles or other predators, from the looks of it.

Well, that wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. “What can I do for you, Father?” Rose asked, trying to keep her voice neutral as she paid attention to what the magic was telling her. But it didn’t take long for that magic to work as he continued his nervous, almost frantic scanning of the room.

“I’m – I’m scared, Sister,” Gaetan almost sobbed; and her magic told her that it was so.

Suspicion replaced in Rose’s mind by her natural compassion, she glanced up at the timepiece in the center of the room; the gate wouldn’t be opening for better than an hour. They’d have almost that long for a quiet conversation in the small shop or tavern or grill or whatever-it-was at the end of the hall. “Let’s get some tea,” she suggested, and she took the man’s arm to steer him there. As soon as the beverages were bought, he began to speak.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » January 22nd, 2016, 9:40 am

Aargh. Had a new page all ready to go, but it was eaten by the computer. I'm away from the master file at the moment, but will post something new probably on Tuesday. Sister Rose is still out there!
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » February 20th, 2016, 1:53 pm

[Sorry this has dragged a little owing to health issues. Incidentally, the next installment will be written from Gaetan's point of view.]

Chapter Forty-four: Fears

“I am scared, Sister,” Father Gaetan repeated, unnecessarily. “I am scared that the forces of evil that slew Luminosita’s faithful servants in my office may be coming for me.”

I’m not sure I want to hear this, thought Sister Rose, but she nodded as sympathetically as she could. “Which – faithful servants do you mean?” she said; Sister Bree would be one of them, although Rose wasn’t sure she was that “faithful,” but the others ... well, there was something to be concerned about, but not what Gaetan meant, probably.

Gaetan darted looks to the left and the right and even to the ceiling, although Rose couldn’t imagine what “evildoers” might be concealed in the domed upper hall. He sipped nervously at his tea, as though fortifying himself, before continuing. “You know about Sister Bree,” he said. “But the forces of evil also struck down Brother Cadmus in that godless foreign land where you endured service –“ Kiyoka, Rose guessed, although she wasn’t recognizing the name – “and most recently, Father Blaise, may he rest in peace.” Another bird-like glance around, and a sip of tea.

It was all Rose could do to keep a straight face. “I, um, know a little of Blaise. But who is Cadmus? I don’t think I’ve met him.”

It was Gaetan’s turn to try to keep a straight face, although a smirk kept leaking out; he was obviously proud of knowing something that Rose didn’t, even if his “knowledge” would prove shortly to be incorrect. “He was sent to examine the evil artifact that the infidels managed to sneak into – your mission, and it struck him down, just as Bree was struck.”

Now she understood. The desk in Egbert’s chambers, the one that we looked at before I went east. I remember that somebody got killed in the investigation. She shivered at the memory, unsure whether Gaetan noticed; that “somebody” could very easily have been herself or Argus or Brother Miguel. The fact that it was “somebody” from the Cardinal Inquisitor’s office came as news to her. Maybe that explained why the Inquisitor himself had taken an interest in events in Kiyoka, at least partially. There was the little point, however, that that death happened so quickly after Egbert’s panicked flight from the mission that there wouldn’t have been time for the Inquisitor to send someone from his main office in Emerylon. Cadmus, whoever he was, must have been in the country already, and that caused Rose to draw a conclusion she didn’t like. We were being watched – which I’ll have to keep in mind when I get back there, and Argus and I – She didn’t finish that part of the thought.

Still, there was something in Gaetan’s summary that wasn’t right. “But what does Father Blaise have to do with it?” she asked. “He – wasn’t struck down by the same forces of evil as Bree and Cadmus, and I don’t think the forces that struck him down are interested in you.”

“Ah, but the forces are the same, Sister!” Gaetan sounded almost triumphant, Rose thought. “I have seen the reports on his death myself, in the –“ He looked around to see if anyone was listening, and lowered his voice to a hushed whisper. “In the Heretic Knowledge Vault!”

Rose went from struggling to keep a straight face – no point in that any more – to fighting herself not to leave the table immediately and never deal with Gaetan or the Inquisitor, or much of anything else involving the church, again. After all, she’d written the after-action report on the death of Father Blaise; she’d been there. His death could scarcely have been more unlike what happened to the others. She’d come to the conclusion that his life hadn’t been much like theirs, either. She’d not only described Blaise’s death clearly and in terms that couldn’t be confused with Bree’s and now Cadmus’ ends; she’d predicted that exactly this kind of sweeping-under-the-rug was going to go on. And that was why she – was about to do what she was about to do.

Still, this man was hurting, after a fashion. She decided to give it one last try. “But I don’t understand how you could be connected to the – unfortunate victims of evildoers, other than just being in the same office, and there are plenty of people in the Cardinal Inquisitor’s office who aren’t in fear of their lives, aren’t there? Why are you?”

The triumph ran out of Gaetan’s face and voice and was replaced by simple fear again. “Because of what happened on the Southern Continent, and what I saw there when I went to investigate the deaths of Brother Carter and Brother Rendel.”

Now that declaration caused Rose to settle back into her seat. “Tell me more,” she said, taking a sip of her own tea.

Gaetan nodded, and he lifted his eyes to stare into a space and time far away. “It all started when we landed in Douaga..."
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » February 28th, 2016, 11:43 pm

Chapter Forty-five: Gaetan’s story (I)

I knew to expect false gods and their graven images when we landed in Douaga (said Father Gaetan); that was why we had a mission there after all, to spread the Gospel of Luminosita and rescue the people from their sinful ways. What I did not expect was how many of them there were, and how different. Why, just between the airship mooring – I would not really call it a terminal – and the mission, there must have been at least thirty idols, and none of them were alike. There were images of strange creatures that we do not have in Veracia, Luminosita be thanked! And others that were man-like in form, but had evil, twisted visages, the faces of demons which mock the race of men. Ah, they were fearsome, Sister, but I had the strength of Our Lord Luminosita to protect me from their evil influence – or so I thought. (A curiously – insecure statement, thought Rose as Gaetan continued.)

Three men from the mission were there to meet me, two of our brothers in the Church and one Douagan they had retained as a guide and interpreter, a man they called Giday, short and sturdy, and as I would learn, wise in the ways of the jungles of the Southern Continent. Their faces were drawn with sadness for the lost Carter and Rendel; I knew that the two victims of – whatever took them, were much loved in the mission. We exchanged greetings in Luminosita’s Name – and as we did, I became aware of something.

One of the idols – I can’t find another way of saying this, Sister – one of the idols was looking at me. It was one of the ones that had the misshapen, almost-human form to it, and it was close to the mission. A full ten feet tall it was, and near half as broad, with a leering mouth full of sharp, white teeth, the teeth of a predator. But what I remember most about it was its eyes. They were made of huge, red gems, and they glowed, or so I thought; later I would be told they were only catching the light of the sun, but it did not seem so at the time. I felt those eyes on me, as a deer might feel the eyes of a great cat deep in the forest on a moonlit night, and I was fearful.

“Startling, aren’t they?” said Father Blaise, for he was one of the men who had met me at the airship. I remember well: he was smiling, even though his countenance had been downcast only moments earlier because of the deaths of Carter and Rendel. “They do take some getting used to, but they’re quite harmless. There is no power in them, at least nothing to rival the power of Our Lord.”

I was glad for his words, to restore my wavering spirit, yet in them there was something that concerned me. “’They,’ Father? There are more of these demonic images that follow one with their ruby eyes?”

He waved his hand, whether to wave away my concerns or to taunt the idol I never knew. “Oh, they’re all over the place,” he said. “And the eyes aren’t anything as valuable as rubies, or they’d have been looted by now. Whatever these things are, nobody worships them any more. The locals think they’re relics from some ancient civilization.” Giday nodded at these words. However, his own expression was not as relaxed as Blaise’s. Did he harbor some left-over concern, from the superstitions of his ancestors on the Southern Continent? Again, I never knew.

“So no one worships these abominations?” I said, and Blaise shook his head. “No one.” That was pleasing to my ears. “Then no one will be offended,” I said (not sure, looking back, why I should care about offense), “if I – keep its eyes from following me.” I started to draw Luminosita’s Power to me, not noticing that Giday was looking at me now with alarm.

I am not a powerful spellcaster, Sister, certainly not as powerful as you yourself are. However, Luminosita has seen fit to grant me certain magical skills to assist in my inquisitorial work, and I recalled one of these magicks that seemed like it might be of use here. I prayed, was filled with Our Lord’s Power, and lo! a film of magic burst forth and covered the idol’s eyes, just as I had used it to blindfold heretics, or at least suspected heretics, during some of our inquiries.

Giday was looking at me now with horror, and Blaise himself seemed distressed at what I had done. “I’m not sure that was wise, Brother,” he said softly. But I did not care; I no longer felt the idol’s malign gaze on me; it was no more than an inert piece of rock. Perhaps that was all it had ever been. I did not answer Blaise, but asked to see the mortal remains of our beloved priests. A look seemed to pass among the other three men, before Blaise sighed, “Very well,” and we made our way to the mission – although I noticed that Giday kept looking back over his shoulder at the blinded idol, as though he feared that I had awakened an evil spirit there.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » March 8th, 2016, 11:38 pm

Chapter Forty-six: Gaetan’s story (II)

Sister Rose, who had been listening in silence (and keeping an eye on the clock; still plenty of time before the gate opened, she thought), picked this moment to interrupt. “Wait a minute. You’re telling me Blaise was sorrowful because of the deaths of Carter and Rendel when you first saw him. And then, minutes if not seconds later, he was all genial and smiling, ‘the good father’ we all want to see in our temples. And now, once again just minutes later, he’s getting quiet and secretive. That kind of fast, almost instantaneous emotional turnover doesn’t seem like the man I met in Umbertiel.” Nor the one I saw getting on that walking boat, after throwing big magic at us. “What’s going on there? And who’s this other priest? First I’ve heard of him.” Luminosita, please … not another Convergence agent-recruit…

Father Gaetan looked abashed. “Sorry, I should have mentioned the other man. He was Brother Hamish, a young priest then, and if I must say, something of a fish out of water. He had been called to the service of Our Lord Luminosita from a small village up north, in the Delphiniel area, and he was most uncomfortable being in a place like Douaga. He had very little to say the whole time I – was investigating. I think he is a good man, though. When the mission in Douaga reduced its staff, he was recalled to serve in a temple somewhere back toward his home town. As far as I know, he is there still.

“As for Blaise’s rapidly changing emotions –“ He spread his hands wide, his bird-like demeanor now suggesting a scared stork flapping its wings – “Do remember that he had recently had a most horrible shock, with the deaths of two of his most esteemed colleagues. Of course he would have been emotionally unstable.”

That, or practicing his acting on a nice, unsuspecting target in the church, Rose thought sourly. And when I get a minute, I’m going to check up on this Brother Hamish, now probably Father Hamish. Maybe he’s really just the parish priest that Gaetan claims he is. Or maybe he’s another Convergence sleeper agent. Or maybe he’s another one who died suddenly, “just stopped.” Or –

Notmyproblem notmyproblem notmyproblem, a voice in the back of Rose’s head told herself over and over.

The hell it isn’t, herself replied. The two sides of her personality reached a temporary détente and decided to drink some tea and let Gaetan continue with his story.

--------- -- -------------

There was nothing to learn from the mortal remains of Carter and Rendel that had not already reached Emerylon (said Gaetan). I do have some skills in forensic magic, and with Our Lord’s help, I was able to learn that Rendel had perished of an unknown disease, just as we had been told. He still had the blotches on his face from that, please don’t ask me to remember the body all that closely… But as for Carter, there was nothing more to say about the cause of his death. He had just – stopped, exactly as the reports we had received in Emerylon said he had. The souls had been gathered to Luminosita’s Presence for long enough when I reached Douaga that none of my forensic magic could learn anything about what they had experienced. That part of my investigations had reached a dead end.

Knowing this, I knew what I had to do next. “Take me to the place where the two men had the horrifying experience that started them on their path toward oblivion,” I commanded Blaise.

He may have been a powerful force in Luminosita’s service, Sister, and a man of courage and strength of character. (Or not, thought Rose.) But I could tell he wanted very strongly not to comply with this command. Of course, he had to comply; the power of the Inquisitor’s office is absolute on such things. Hamish stayed behind at the mission, and the other three of us set off.

You have traveled in the Southern Continent, so you know how primitive conditions are there, although I think our presence there, with Luminosita’s Power, has started to make some improvements since then. (That and an infusion of Tsuirakuan money, not to mention their own industry and ideas, thought Rose, but she did not interrupt.) The route to the site could hardly be called a road; it was simply a path through the forest. (So not on that tree-highway, Rose thought. Again, she chose not to interrupt, but that might be something to come back to.) Several times Giday had to stop and wield a large blade to clear vegetation from the path, and once a frighteningly large snake squirmed away when he did, upsetting me considerably. “Not to worry,” Blaise said, his mood seemingly better now than when we started out. “It’s a constrictor, harmless to pr—travelers as big as we are. A hundred-pace snake would be a different story.” I suppose I was a little reassured by that comment, but it did get me thinking: I had thought that Blaise had been reluctant to make this voyage because of the hazards of travel in the Southern backcountry. Yet here was a hazard that, I will confess, had me almost quaking with fear – and he treated it as a thing of no consequence.

So what was the reason for his unwillingness to go to that site? I pondered that question as we made our way through the jungle.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » March 28th, 2016, 10:54 pm

[Sorry this has been a while in coming; some real-world health issues, now under control, I think.]

Chapter Forty-seven: Gaetan’s story (III)

Come on, get to the point, Sister Rose grumbled mentally as Father Gaetan expounded. Her time was getting a bit short – soon she’d have to leave for the gate hall – and he was hardly telling her anything she didn’t know or couldn’t guess. She decided to try to speed things up a bit. “So let me guess,” she said. “You got to the place where Carter and Rendel were – afflicted, found another of these demonic statues, the biggest and fiercest yet, and its eyes flashed and terrified you and – yes?”

“Oh, it was nothing as trivial as all that,” Gaetan interrupted, both his face and his voice showing an expression that Rose, despite her Empathy magic and powers of observation, could not read. “Yes, there was a demonic statue, the biggest and fiercest yet, and its eyes seemed to flash. But by now I was strengthened by Our Lord Luminosita and feared it not. The other – forces, though…” His voice trailed off and he shivered.

Well, Rose hadn’t been expecting that. There was another gate tomorrow if there had to be. “Yes, yes, go on, sorry I interrupted,” she prompted, actually meaning it. Gaetan accepted this sort-of-apology without comment and resumed his narrative, although his voice was more subdued and halting now.

------------- - ---------------

I too thought there would be nothing more than another frightening statue when we got to the site (said Gaetan), and there was indeed that, in the largest clearing in the jungle that we had entered since leaving Douaga. It stood in the middle of the clearing, snarling hate for all things holy and good and Luminositan, but we ignored it, at least all but Father Blaise. He was braver than I was; he stepped boldly up to the idol, muttered a brief prayer to Luminosita, and then – Rose, the man actually slapped the idol’s face. I would never have had the bravery (or maybe foolhardiness) to do that. I think Giday and I were both waiting for a demonic thunderbolt to crash into the clearing and strike him down, and maybe even us too. But nothing of the sort happened – at least nothing immediately, anyway. I have wondered for years, though, whether what happened a few minutes later had anything to do with that act of insouciance … no, it couldn’t have.

“See?” Blaise said, rubbing imagined dust off his hand. (I noticed that he cast a Purification spell on it, just to be on the safe side.) “A harmless piece of rock, nothing more. We have nothing to fear from it. Now let’s get back to the mission.” He turned to go.

I, however, still had Luminosita’s Work to do. “One moment,” I said, holding up a hand. “In the name of the Inquisitor –“ to this day I wonder why I felt I had to remind him of that – “I should like to put up some specialized forensic magic, so that I can tell His Eminence that we have taken all possible steps to learn what befell our unfortunate brethren.” Ignoring Blaise’s protestations, I invoked Luminosita’s Power, and cast some detection spells that are secrets of the Inquisitor’s Office, which I cannot reveal, even to you. And then –

I cannot describe well in words what happened next, Sister. My magicks showed nothing, just as Blaise had been insisting that they would. But something happened in that place. There was a sensory component to it; a blackness, a stillness appeared in the clearing that I did not need my detection spells to sense. But whatever it was, it quite overwhelmed mere senses, and struck all the way to the essence of my soul. I’m sorry, that isn’t a very helpful way of describing it (better than you might imagine, thought Rose), but it is the best I can do. And then – then –

In the middle of the blackness, there appeared a glowing red form. It was terrible, Sister. Taller than any man had a right to be, it was a good seven feet high, and broader at the shoulders than any man. And its ears and face – they might have been those of an elf, but more likely, of a demon from Hell. (That part is interesting, Rose had to concede.) And this thing of evil was looking straight at me.

I am not a brave man, Sister, nor a magically powerful one, not as much as you, certainly not as much as Blaise was. So when Blaise shouted “RUN! I’ll hold it off!” and started to gesture and chant, I – I am embarrassed to say that I did precisely as he said, and so did Giday. We simply turned and sprinted into the forest. (Gaetan produced a sad chuckle at this point.) Magically powerful I am and was not, but in my youth I was a champion foot racer, and I was soon lost in the forest as magic thundered and crackled and roared back in the clearing.

How long I wandered there I do not know, nor do I know to what mortal but fleshly dangers I had exposed myself by foolish flight. After a time, Luminosita be praised, Giday found me, and we carefully made our way back to the mission. I was beside myself at abandoning the good Brother Blaise, but Giday spoke words of comfort – “Blaise-sir, he know how to get around here,” that kind of thing – and again, Luminosita be praised, because by the time we reached the mission, Blaise was already there, looking dreadfully tired but otherwise none the worse for wear.

“I put a Binding on that thing,” he explained once we had exchanged shocked embraces and regained our composure. “I don’t know how long it’ll last, but it’ll be long enough for us to get out of here.”

“But – but – that may be just the evil force that I have come to investigate,” I protested feebly.

“An evil force, I remind you,” said Blaise, “that was reaching to kill you, if I judged it correctly. Dead, you and I are of no service to Our Lord, investigation be damned. Now, if you’ll excuse my language, let’s get the hell out of here.”

I had no answer for that, and so it was; we quickly made our way back to Douaga, looking all the time over our shoulders for signs of pursuit and jumping in shock at every stray sound in the forest. And I never went back to that accursed place, although it raged in my dreams for weeks afterward.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » April 2nd, 2016, 1:28 pm

Chapter Forty-eight: What an idiot

What an idiot, Sister Rose thought as Father Gaetan wound up his narrative.

She sat looking at the man for a long minute after he finished, not trusting herself to speak. Finally she repeated Gaetan’s own words. “You never went back to that place.”

He was astute enough to catch the accusation in Rose’s words, or tone of voice, or something. “Why should I have? What happened there was not a thing of our Holy Church. Evil, hateful to man, yes, but heresy, a perversion of the teachings of Our Lord Luminosita, no. And therefore out of my, our, area of concern. The Cardinal Inquisitor’s office doesn’t get involved in the affairs of the infidels, like the godless Tsuirakuans, you know.”

And thank Luminosita for that, Rose thought. As much of a dog’s breakfast as the last few Patriarchs have made of our relations with Tsuiraku, just think if these imbeciles were doing it instead. But was there a guarded threat there against Argus, and therefore against me? No, I’m just getting into their own paranoid, byzantine way of looking at the world. I don’t need to do that any more. But this fool… She decided to give it one last try. “Look. Blaise obviously knew that place quite well, if he got back to the mission before you and the jungle-wise Giday did. And you yourself wondered why he didn’t want to take you there. Did it never occur to you to question whether he might be doing some things there that needed to be investigated?” As if that isn’t obvious enough now…

Gaetan looked outright shocked at this question. “Of course not, Sister! Blaise was a mighty man of God! Not to mention that when we were there, he risked his own life in order to give Giday and me time to escape! Why would the Cardinal Inquisitor want to investigate such a man?”

Rose facepalmed. “Remind me what the Inquisitor’s job is in the Church?”

“According to the Holy Scriptures, it is the Inquisitor’s sacred duty to –“

“Paraphrase and summarize,” she interrupted. “And quickly. I don’t have much time here.” Since you wasted it on this idiocy, when there are a large pile of issues that you hint at that would actually have been worth while to explore.

Gaetan looked annoyed, but he tried his best. “To look for heresy in the bosom of the church, and root out those practicing it and holding heretical beliefs.”

Rose started to repeat what she’d asked before – how could even as big a fool as this man ignore all the evidence that Blaise might be such a person, even back then? – but decided it wouldn’t do any good. Before she could think of a more –- constructive retort, the air filled with Tsuirakuan magic for a moment, as a projected voice summoned travelers to the warp gate, which would be opening in fifteen minutes. Rose stood up, but she couldn’t resist one parting shot. “If it’s any consolation to you, I think it’s strongly unlikely that the forces that wiped out Bree and Cadmus and Blaise and Carter and Rendel and Blaise and Amalric – and I don’t care what the reports in the Heretic Knowledge Vault say, I know that it’s ‘forces’, plural – are going to be coming after you any time soon.”

Gaetan looked relieved, if suspicious. “Wh-why is that, Sister?”

She started to give the real answer as she saw it, which was that Amalric’s sacrifice had wiped out most all of those “forces” except for Jamie Porter, who would have no interest in coming after an incredibly ineffectual, obscure priest unless she was paid for it, and who would do that? But what she said would bother her conscience until she finally confessed it to Sister Margaret back in Kiyoka, and received a token smiting in penance, never mind that it too was exactly the truth as she saw it.

“Because then they’d have to worry about someone competent coming after them instead, and they don’t want that. Now excuse me, I have a gate to catch.” Without another word, she walked out of the coffee shop and the entrance hall, leaving Gaetan blinking, and opening and closing his mouth silently, in her wake.

Twenty minutes later, she was in Kiyoka, and five minutes after that, in Argus’ arms.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

PreviousNext

Return to Fanfiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron