UKArchive ID: 36741mitch
Originally published on July 22, 2016 in Fiction
Chapter 28 of the Light-Father: As the storm rages, Harold learns more of the powers of Mother Moss as Mother Fern gets far too close for comfort. Suddenly, there comes unexpected hope and help...
“Tell me, Amos, what did you think of Mother Moss when she saved you like that?” Harold asked gently. “It must have been incredible. There you all were, about to be dragged off to the Great Abbey and certain death, when this old woman appears, takes out five Tally-men, a Father and two Brothers then makes a half-track go bouncing off down the road like a toy!”
“The others were so relieved that they cried but I felt nothing - no fear, no joy, no surprise,” Amos admitted sadly, staring down at Mjolnir. “Only the satisfaction that Father Alban and the others had been ripped to shreds. No offence, Mother Fern, but my mother used to tell me stories about evil Wiccans who had tried to destroy the Order of Christ the Healer for centuries so I knew what she was. On the other hand, I’d just seen the same holy Order murder my family so I didn’t know what to think.” He shrugged helplessly. “As she led us back into the shop, all I can remember is I thanked her for having the good sense to bring a torch.”
“You couldn’t feel anything meaningful at the time because your head was messed up by trauma. Given what had happened to you, it’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
“I know all this, Light-Father, but why do I feel compelled to talk to you about it all the time?”
“That’s because going over it again and again is part of the healing process. When I lost my daughter and my marriage, I went numb and turned to drink. My therapist told me that if you can’t talk about traumatic events in your life, your brain fills up like a kettle under a tap. You can’t pour the water out so no new thoughts or feelings can flow in and you become emotionally paralysed.”
“So I’m a kettle?”
Harold laughed. “Sorry, it’s a lousy metaphor but it helped me. Until then I couldn’t express my grief and guilt so I was well on the way to becoming an obnoxious alcoholic.”
“I think I get it,” Amos nodded. “I also remember wondering why Alban was taking so much pleasure in hurting Shield. What twists a man so badly that he tortures others for entertainment, Light-Father? Why are so many Brothers and Fathers like that? Even Mother Moss couldn’t explain that to me.”
Harold exhaled heavily. “That kind of evil is not something you can easily explain to a child, Amos. He was a sadist. Some are born that way but most sadists and torturers are made through violent upbringings or brutal circumstances that erase their consciences. They know they’re doing wrong but they revel in it especially when the Order gives them absolute power over their victims.”
“That’s because to them we’re Unworthy; less than human. Do you have anyone like Alban in your world?”
“Yes, far too many,” Harold admitted. “For example, a group of Germans in my world declared themselves to be the master race. Because of this ideology, they gassed and tortured millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and cripples. That horror only stopped when they were wiped out in the war they’d started or executed afterwards. With absolute power over their victims, these Nazis created the perfect environment in which sadists like Alban could flourish. It’s not just men either,” he added, glancing meaningfully at Fern. “Many female guards in their concentration camps became monsters that made this Alban look like a saint.”
“But he seemed to be so… excited by it,” Amos persisted.
“Be at peace, dear heart,” Fern interrupted gently. “Where did you learn of such things?”
“Mother Moss taught us about sex,” Amos said, blushing. “She told us we were children growing up without adult guidance and explained how we would become interested in the differences between boys and girls. She explained how everything works… biology and, um… how babies are made and so on…”
“Ah, that was wise of her,” Fern approved. “Shield is of an age to bear children and others will be soon.”
“It’s not something I’ve ever thought about,” Harold admitted, going as red as Amos. “I mean how to go about teaching children about the… ahem, things that adults do in private.”
“We could give them a practical demonstration,” Fern suggested innocently. “I’m sure it would be most educational.”
Harold glared at her and went an even deeper shade of red as Amos struggled not to laugh out loud. “Be at peace, Light-Father,” he grinned. “Mother Moss also explained to us how natural desires can be warped into things like sadism. I asked her such things because I’d found… um, picture books in that shop that showed people doing things… being tied up and… you know?”
“Ahem, yes, that was what we call pornography, ahem,” Harold coughed to hide his acute embarrassment. “We’ll have to go through the differences between the ‘acting’ in pornography and the reality of perverts like Father Alban and their victims when you’re a lot older. Please stop laughing at me, Fern,” he pleaded. “It’s obviously confusing him.”
“No, I think Amos is just teasing you,” she explained. “Mother Moss was worldly-wise enough to explain to him what those picture books were used for and the difference between those images and the merciless perverted evil of Father Alban.”
“Yes, now I understand the difference,” Amos assured him, tapping his right temple. “Everything is becoming clear to me and it’s all thanks to Mother Moss and you, Father – I’m happy now just being me and not this,” he added, drawing a finger down the livid scar upon his face.
Harold was stunned by the enormity of the unexpected compliment. “I cannot pretend I’m your real father, Amos,” he said, picking his words with the utmost care. “But I know he would be proud of what you are right now just as I am. So did Mother Fern show you any more of her craft inside the shop?”
“It was as if nothing had happened,” Amos said incredulously. “We went in, lit the candles, changed into dry clothes, sang some more carols as the girls played with the toys that Shield had brought them - only now there was this old woman treating our injuries and making soup and tea on the stove as if she’d been living with us all our lives. The girls were happy and even my sister smiled a little and went up to her for the cuddles I should have given her. She made us drink the soup and then we had the best night’s sleep any of us could remember. The next day, she brought us here to our new life at the Keep and that was that.”
“She sounds like a remarkable woman,” Harold smiled. “And she probably gave you a sleeping potion in the soup.”
“Probably,” Amos conceded. “I talked to her whenever I could but she despaired of me and kept saying I had to wait for you to find myself again. Despite the rain that never stops, she was always smiling and never seemed to worry when we went foraging except for that one day when she refused to leave the office…”
“Don’t tell me – that was the day when Leo and Jana were killed by that pack of dogs, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, four years ago,” Amos said grimly. “There were so many rats and wild dogs back then and the pack was huge, Light-Father – three times the size of the one we killed at the gates. They caught us in the open area before the museum. Ibrahim, Bas and I never forgave Saul and David for abandoning them even though the pair of them cried for days. I know Saul still hasn’t forgiven himself for their deaths even now - he still has nightmares.”
Harold looked up at Fern. “If Mother Moss could see into the future, I wonder why she let them go with you that day. I’ve read somewhere that true premonition is more of a curse than a gift because the seer is forced to look at all the possible futures and pick the least worst option no matter how terrible it is.”
“That’s one way of looking at it,” Fern agreed. “Maybe if they hadn’t died, Amos, something worse might have happened to you all on another mission but I believe some fates are set in stone - if they were meant to die then they were meant to die.”
“So God meant them to be eaten alive by dogs?” Amos retorted with a shudder. “It’s not how I would want to go or how I want to remember them. They were sweet ‘kids’ as the Light-Father calls us – Mother Moss should have saved them!”
“She tried explaining to us what her power was like,” Fern said, her eyes glittering in the pale lamplight. “We tried to understand her craft but we could not for Mothers are rare amongst the human race but seers like her are the rarest amongst the Mothers. She was more powerful than any other Wiccan, living or dead. In ancient times, she would have been worshipped as a goddess and some have argued that Mothers are descended from goddesses.”
“I-I meant no disrespect to her or you, Mother Fern.”
“No, of course not, dear heart, but she told us that destiny flows like a river of Time meandering across a plain carrying our lives along like pieces of driftwood. She said she could divert part of the river and its driftwood onto a different course for a while but she could not dam the current itself. She obviously knew that no matter what she did; whatever course she steered you by, Leo and Jana would die - so she made a dreadful choice to sacrifice them in order to save the rest of you. You were guided into a situation where the pack attacked them and let the rest of you escape.”
“Yes and I think I understand now,” Amos sighed. “We had no choice but to leave them behind or the pack would have attacked and killed all of us. What a terrible power to possess – no wonder she refused to bless us and see us off that day.”
“Now here’s a bleak thought,” Harold exclaimed, raising an eyebrow at Fern. “Imagine a Mother that powerful becoming as evil as Father Alban. She’d be unstoppable.”
“Indeed she would,” Fern agreed. “Why do you think the Motherhood has such lethal initiations and tests?”
Harold was silent for a moment before looking at Fern. “Mother Moss told Shield that you eliminated any Daughter who was evil or had the potential to become evil. Is that true?”
“Yes, it’s true - we kill them instantly,” Fern said frankly and returned his stare. “Regardless of who she is. Thus it has been for centuries but that all ends now for we are the last. So much history lost to the smallest of all living things: a virus.”
“The Order was motivated by the Book of Revelation,” Harold said. “I read that when I was a kid in Sunday school and even then I thought that the author was using hallucinogenic drugs. I don’t suppose you have magic mushrooms in this world?”
“Yes, we have mushrooms that distort the mind,” Fern nodded, folding her arms. “We use them in some of the initiation rites.”
“To make it impossible for any budding witch to hide any evil thoughts when she’s tripping,” he smiled. “Cute.”
“Tripping? I suppose they do stumble when intoxicated. We read their true thoughts when they are in a transcendent state and kill them if they harbour any darkness in their souls.” She stopped as Amos yawned hugely and his head drooped. “This tired boy needs to sleep. He doesn’t realise that he is exhausted from winning the greatest victory in battle that any warrior can achieve – that of defeating one’s own fears and demons.”
“I don’t feel very heroic,” Amos grumbled, folding his arms. “Just mean, cruel and troll-stupid.”
Fern placed her hands on his cheeks to stare deep into his eyes reminding him of that day when Mother Moss had done the same. “I can see this human devil, Pious, infecting your heart and soul,” she said sympathetically. “But the desire for revenge you now feel is natural and no longer a poison to you. If circumstances were any different, you would now be able to walk away from him and get on with the rest of your life.”
“But I can’t walk away from anything as long as Schimrian is alive, can I?” Amos replied miserably. “I would love to find this magical castle with the Light-Father and live happily ever after with my new family but that’s just an elf-wish a little child would have made in the dark before the plague ended everything.”
“Shhh. Sleep, my brave warrior,” she whispered softly and placed her right index finger upon his lips.
Amos slumped backwards but Harold was able to catch him and lay him down upon the cushions. He put a blanket over him and sat down on one of the chairs to study the sleeping youngster as Fern sat next to him. “Shouldn’t you be keeping watch?” he suggested archly – she had placed her own chair so close to his that their shoulders were touching and her faint musk perfume was wreaking havoc with his blood pressure and composure.
“As I said, the Ferals are watching,” she smiled, placing a hand upon his forearm. “Despite their disfigurements, they see in the dark and hear much better than I and besides I need some adult company right now. I haven’t talked to a man like this for an age as we Wiccans avoid contact with men – mostly as a result of so many of us being burnt at the stake. Um, would you like me to make you some tea?” she offered suddenly.
“If you and this blasted storm are going to keep me awake all night,” he said gruffly. “Then yes, I would like some.”
While she was gone, he sat lost in reminiscences about work at the university with a deep foreboding about the bio-chips that had been stolen by the intruder. Rain lashed against the office window, lightning flashed almost continuously and the ground beneath his feet trembled with each concussive peal of thunder.
“What are you thinking?” she demanded on her return. “Um, I’m sorry – I know I’m being selfish in keeping you awake.”
“It’s an impressive storm,” he murmured. He took the mug of tea and sipped at it as she sat next to him, raising his pulse rate once more. “Thanks but I could use something stronger and no, you’re not being selfish.” He paused to stare into the mug as a thought struck him. “I hope you haven’t put anything in this.”
Fern cradled her mug. “No drugs - just the finest Asian tea. I have no need to test you as your magic clearly heals not destroys. Look at what your craft has achieved,” she said, indicating Amos and Fierce who smiled contentedly in their dreams.
“For some reason, his sister going back to being called Surl has upset me more than anything,” he said frankly. “Probably because it’s the one thing I haven’t been able to change for her.”
Fern drank some more tea then smiled coyly at him. “I’ve searched her mind and there is no darkness or resentment towards her brother so you and Amos need not feel upset by her choice of name. I think she’s chosen to go back to being called Surl because she can sense the darkness that lies ahead…”
“I know. From what I’ve learned from the others, she may have the potential to be a seer like Mother Moss but…”
“True but you know how rare we are so what are the odds of two girls in one district showing signs of the craft, hmm?”
“Miniscule, I suppose, but what if Exodus scientists were trying to create powers in their own children in defiance of the Order?”
“I believe they obtained samples of our DNA and implanted those same genes and others into their children. Consider how these remarkable children are born fighters. Eliza and Jakob are the most powerful and skilled amongst our Ferals - their speed and co-ordination are well above the average.”
Harold rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “This is a lot to take in,” he said wearily. “We have an Apocalypse brought about by homicidal monks, geneticists experimenting on their own children, real witches and a sad alcoholic technician dragged from one reality to save the day in another.”
“I appreciate how you feel disoriented,” she said kindly. “But much of that will be down to homesickness.”
“A little,” he grinned. “I wish I had the power to take you there and show you some of the sights. Britannia is called Great Britain in my reality and we created history’s greatest ever empire which covered over a third of the world at its height.”
“Alas, this drowned land has seen so many invasions after the Great Flood and we lost our colonies in Africa. However, the Order ensured that Britannia never fell because this is the place where they’ve always planned to build their New Jerusalem.”
She told him of the centuries of sacrifice and persecution of the Mothers who even at their height two centuries ago had only numbered six hundred strong in the entire world. Wherever the Order went, a Mother would follow to try and disrupt and expose their manipulations of monarchs and governments - often at a great cost to themselves. “The last burning of a Wiccan in Britannia was only one hundred and twenty years ago,” she said proudly. “One of my ancestors was flogged for an hour before they burnt her at the stake. She’d exposed the Minister for Alms Houses because he was selecting poor and orphaned children for experimentation by the Order as part of their breeding programs.”
“They’ve got away with this for so long,” Harold muttered, shaking his head. “It’s a wonder they didn’t try to bring about Revelation decades ago.”
“Until this strange computer arrived, they did not have the weapon they needed to bring about Armageddon. The fools in the Vatican dabbled in genetics to mimic the Order and created the very monster that the Order needed as a sign to unleash the virus.” She looked bleak and tired. “We failed, Light-Father. We tried our best but humanity, all its civilisations and all its histories are now lost forever. The last of us have no choice but to follow the path that our sister had laid out for us even if it means our deaths. We have to place our trust in her craft.”
“I see,” he said gloomily. “Even if means me taking you, twelve children and two Ferals in a train to storm a fortress full of armed religious fanatics and Tally-men. What we need is an army, Fern, or we are all going to die.”
Jakob appeared in the doorway and growled softly, forming words that only Fern could understand.
“Thank you, dear heart,” she smiled and waved him away. “Go with Eliza and find places for them to sleep.” She turned to Harold and indicated the staff of Mother Moss that she had earlier placed upon the desk. “Look after this for her,” she urged, standing up. “She is destined to wield it whether she embraces the craft willingly or not. Now follow me.”
Harold accompanied her through the door and his jaw dropped. “Jesus H Christ,” he exclaimed. “I don’t believe it!”
Filling the entire western end of the shed were four Mothers, holding their staffs in their right hands and behind them stood over two hundred silent Ferals most of whom were holding weapons and bearing heavy sacks over their shoulders. Every single one of them stared at him as if awaiting his command to immediately storm the Great Abbey and destroy the men that had ruined their bodies and killed their families. He felt an electric thrill run through his body as he imagined them in action against the Tally-men and realised that they now had a fighting chance.
“You wanted an army,” Fern said. “Now you have one.”
(c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012-2013
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