I stood at the front steps of the old East Grand Baptist Church – the “Report to” address that I’d been provided. It was an old church, abandoned by a congregation that had fallen on hard times, and had been up for sale for a few years, but there wasn’t a sign currently. I wondered if that was permanent, or just temporary…
Delaying the inevitable? I stopped considering the structure and walked up to the front door.
Before I could knock, a deep voice with a thick German-ish accent addressed me from behind the door in Latin. “Signum?”
I sighed at the chosen pass-phrase. “Maleficum ne patiaris vivere dices.” I suppose someone thought they were being funny. Or not. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
A few days earlier
The incredulous look on my face would have explained anything the tone of my voice left out as I stared across the desk at the Reverend.
“Captain Mastrangelo specifically asked me to extend the invitation to you to spend some time with them. Although I’ll admit that I’ve been trying to encourage them to get to know you better.”
“Them” being the modern-day Inquisition that had come to town after suddenly having their mission in South America cut short after Halloween last year. Apparently they’ve been in town for a few months doing training, resupplying, and recovering from a long mission. Aside from a brief meeting in early May, the Reverend had kept me clear of any interactions with them. To say these guys were fanatical was apparently putting too fine a point on it. And they were all too conflicted about someone who has been marked by an archangel having powers they associate with witches.
“So what exactly are we talking about?”
“An extended weekend of training with them, which includes a special mass that they have me perform for them.”
I pondered the request for a minute. While I knew the continuing any association with these guys could put the local supernatural community in danger, there’s that old saw about keeping your enemies close. Not that they’re my enemies, but you get the point.
“Tell the captain I’d be honored.”
The Reverend blinked. “Matthew, are you sure?”
I nodded. “Yes. From what you’ve told me, they’re not going to do anything to me – and it can’t hurt for me to get to know more about them.”
“I had a feeling you’d say that.” He opened up one of his desk drawers and pulled out a thin manila envelope, and handed it across to me. “This is the mission briefing the Captain left for you. All the details are included as to what you need to bring, locations of training, and a rough outline of activities.”
The envelope wasn’t plain manila, like I first thought. It was made of a paper that was less refined, rougher, and the back flap was stamped with the chi rho monogram – the most ancient Christian monogram that symbolized Christ. I stood and thanked to the Reverend. “I guess I’d better go review this and get packed.”
The Reverend stood and blessed me with the sign of the cross as I left – our standing tradition. “May God stand between you and harm, Matthew.”
I mirrored the sign back. “In all the empty places I must walk.”
“Mateo, ¿estás loco?”
I sat across the table from Barbara in my loft as I was looking through the documents in the envelope. “Why does that term come up so often with us?” I quipped with a grin.
“Because one or both of us are. You’re going to go train with them?” There was genuine concern in her voice.
I shrugged. “They know about me. They already know about what I can do, but apparently I’m not on their list – yet – so why not take the opportunity to get to know them too? That way I can at least better assess any danger they might pose.”
“Might pose?” Although she was seated, I could hear her hands on her hips in her voice. “Matthew, from what you’ve said, they’re the modern incarnation of the Inquisition! How do they not pose a threat?”
I just looked back at her with a raised eyebrow.
She sighed with frustration. “You won’t know unless you get to know them.”
I reached across the table to grab her hand. “I’ll be careful. It’s only for a couple of days, and according to this information, we’re staying local. I’m sure I’ll be worn out, but otherwise I imagine I’ll be fine.”
I heard a heavy bolt or three being undone, and the door opened silently. “Mr. Consprite,” Arnold Schwartzenegger greeted me from the other side. Austrian – the accent is Austrian. He stepped back from the doorway.
I realized that even an old church must still have a threshold. “Guess I’m in the right place,” I said simply as I stepped through the doorway.
Well, I staggered through, as I felt my connection to my magical abilities get soundly bounced onto the sidewalk. The threshold was… stout. I’m not sure I could whistle up my minor light spell without a serious effort. Either the threshold on the old building was substantial, or these guys had been here for a while. I wasn’t sure which, but I saw the Austrian visibly relax as I caught my balance. “Wow,” I breathed. He grinned – it was kind of a frat-boy-hazing smile, and I was suddenly a bit more nervous about this experience. I put a smile on and stuck out my hand anyway. “Matthew Consprite.”
The Teutonic Tank ignored the gesture and motioned into the building as the closed the doors. “The Captain wanted to see you when you arrived.”
I held out my hand for a few seconds longer, and finally dropped it. Friendly isn’t going to play with these guys. “Lead on.”
My escort led me into the main sanctuary. It had been modified to more Catholic standards – I don’t pretend to understand all the trappings, but some of the fixtures and decorations were obviously newly installed. Most of the doors leading off of sanctuary were closed, but through one that was open I a saw a number of computer terminals – maybe some kind of operations center? I had no fear of hexing the technology with the threshold in place, but it sure didn’t look like a temporary set-up. A few other people were occupied with various tasks, and they all paused to look at me as we made our way to the front. Off to the side was an office that had once been for the pastor of this church, and was now occupied by the Captain. The Austrian rapped three times on the door and waited to be acknowledged. “He’s here, Captain.”
“Ah, excellent. Thank you, Corporal.” The Austrian saluted Captain Mastrangelo and walked away without acknowledging me at all. The Captain waved me in. “Pastor Consprite. I was pleased when the Reverend said that you’d join us.”
I came in and shook his hand before taking the seat he offered. Our contact caused my skin to buzz a bit – he likely had similar powers of faith as mine, but the denominational differences left some feedback. “Unless there’s a need for formality, Matthew is fine, Captain.”
“Under other circumstances, perhaps – but here, formality is order.” He waited for me to nod. “To that end, while you’re with us, you must have a place in our chain of command. You’ll answer directly to me or Sergeant Mueller…” He paused, and then continued. “Tu loquerisne Latine?”
There was a formality that I wasn’t quite used to, but I figured I could adapt. “Ego autem aliam dialectum.”
He smiled and switched back to English. “Excellent – that will save much time this weekend. We are from different countries, and not all of us speak English. Queso lingua Latina loqui.”
Latin-only for the weekend – that’ll hurt my brain a bit. <“Of course.”>
He glanced out the door of his office, and motioned for someone to join us. <“I’ll have you shown to your room. You understand that you’ll be separated from the rest of us, and for the time being, I’ll ask that you not leave your room without escort. Someone will always be close enough to hear if you need anything.”>
I nodded hesitantly. <“You need to get to know me, but you don’t trust me.”>
The Captain smiled grimly. <"You understand. I must attend to some administrative matters, but we’ll gather for prayers at 1000 and get started.>
I glanced at the clock on his wall, confirming that it was just after 9. <“What will I need?”>
<“We start with physical training. Dress however is comfortable for you.”> As we both stood, he raised a hand to pause me, grabbed a small book from his desk, and handed it to me. It was a book of prayers. <“We have them memorized, of course.”>
I took the book gratefully. <“I want to participate as much as I can. Thank you for this.”>
A young black knight was waiting at the door, and the Captain addressed him. <“Knight Adebayo, please see Pastor Consprite to his room.”>
<“Yes, Captain,”> he replied, and motioned for me to follow him. I picked up my pack and let him escort me to my “cell.” At least enough people knew where I was so that they’d let me go at the end of the weekend. I hoped.
My first day with the knights was pretty rough. Scratch that – it was brutal.
I consider myself to be in good shape, given how much I’m on my feet and on the street, but these guys were ridiculous. A long morning prayer session was followed by a multi-mile run, pushups, sit-ups, and other bizarre exercises I’d never heard of – what the heck is a burpee (other than a modern form of torture)? Fortunately, I had some time to myself in my isolated room to recover.
They did let me help with the preparation and clean-up for meals (the old church’s kitchen was still in good shape) so that I wasn’t completely isolated, but my attempts at conversation today were pretty much met with silence, other than orders and acknowledgments from the Captain and Sergeant. Some of the knights were obviously amused at my attempts to keep up with them, but others gave me encouraging nods or appraising looks as I pushed through. I figure that overall – for a wiry guy who lives in the city – I made a fairly good accounting for myself. Hopefully my muscles won’t hate me too much for whatever tomorrow brings.
I didn’t know my bones could hurt. God bless whoever invented ibuprofen.
Regardless, that didn’t stop a long second day of activity from getting started far too early. We set out on a forced march during the hour before dawn, trekking through the Tenison Golf Course to a stream that feeds out of White Rock Lake. We followed that south into the Great Trinity Forest – our training location for the day.
It was an ideal location, really – a wild swath of urban forest, most of which hadn’t been developed into usable parkland. The Knights had obviously been here a few times before, as our destination was a suspiciously isolated clearing. Target ranges and sparring circles were quickly set up for the day’s activities.
These modern-day knights were professional soldiers, no doubt. They all carried and used their silenced semi-automatic rifles with proficiency, tagging their targets from range quite accurately, all while on the move. Our first tension for the day came when Corporal Hoffman – my original Austrian greeter – tried to hand me a rifle to take some shots.
I held up my hands. <“I’m sorry – I don’t use guns.”>
He withdrew the gun, and glanced over at Sergeant Mueller, who nodded. <“Yet you fight.”>
I swallowed nervously and looked over at the Captain. He was watching the exchange closely and knew what my answer had to be. He nodded deliberately at me, so I sucked in a breath and much more calmly than I felt, answered simply. <“That’s true. Most of the time, I use magic.”>
The reactions I saw around me weren’t in surprise that I used magic, but some shock that I’d admit it openly amongst them, and the reminder caused a few weapons to start to point in my direction, and I noted that others reached for reliquaries that they wore.
I kept my hands down at my sides, and Captain Mastrangelo stepped in, waving the weapons down. I looked at him and addressed him directly. <“I understand that you normally fight against those that use magic.”> I pointed at one of the targets across the clearing. <“Would you like me show you?”>
Serious looks were traded amongst the gathered knights, but there were enough shrugged shoulders that the Captain allowed it. <“Once only.”>
<“I understand – I’ll only hit that target.”>
I refused to watch as the knights gathered in a semi-circle behind me. I mentally addressed my patron; I’ll be very disappointed if this is how I’m meant to go out. I lifted my clenched fist, focusing my will to coalesce light around my hand, and then I snapped it open, palm facing the target. “Habakkuk!” The coalesced light lanced out from my open palm, shattering the target and leaving a pinpoint scorch mark on the tree behind it. I lowered my hand and took a long breath before turning around, allowing the whispers behind me to start to fade.
There was a lot of nervous staring until Sergeant Meuller got everyone moving again. But now I noticed that every knight had a reliquary around his neck.
In addition to modern weapons, the knights practiced and used close combat techniques and swords as well. Sergeant Meuller led the close combat training, and I was pretty thoroughly trounced in that. I mean, not so much that I’d embarrass Conor for his lessons, but these guys were just so much better trained than me. The tension from my display of magic started to go away as three of them got their licks in on me.
Swords, I actually did OK at. The Captain is the swordmaster for the unit, and to watch any two go at each other with their wooden practice swords was pretty cool. I was more of a dark horse in this exercise. In my demesne, I’d actually been getting some practice with my rebar, and had also started practicing Bartitsu (a stick-fighting style famously favored by Sherlock Holmes). They had a wooden practice blade about the right size, and between my unpolished rebar street-fighting and Bartitsu, it was enough of a curve ball that I gave as good as I got – and that loosened some tension as well as they gave each other grief when I’d get a good hit in – or even win one of the exchanges.
By the end of the day as we marched back to the church in the post-twilight hours, I was sore and bruised – but I felt like I was starting to get to know these modern day Knights. They hail from various countries around the world – none from America – and various chivalric orders that I hadn’t quite gotten a handle on. The only common language they all share is Latin, and they’re all so fluent in it they can banter and talk just like any other people would with modern languages. Their dialect took a little adjusting to – their formal European version versus my somewhat bastard-Anglicized version, but I was catching pretty much everything that was said, and was having to repeat myself less.
Sunday was the Sabbath – a true day of rest. Aside from the planned mass in the afternoon, no training was scheduled, and other than minimal maintenance tasks, our time was our own. I quietly held my own Lutheran liturgy in my room in the morning, and was instructed to be in my full vestments for mass. I don’t pull them out much, but it was nice to settle into them, feeling very formal – right until the Knights came in for service.
They were in full armor, shined and polished (with some wear, indicating that it wasn’t just for show). Each had a tabard emblazoned with the colors and insignia of their order, and the Reverend briefly filled me on what they meant. The Knights Templar wore a white tabard with a red cross emblazoned on it. The Teutonic Knights tabard was similar, but with the cross in black, and of a different design. The third order represented was the Knights of St. John, and their tabards were black with a white cross in yet a different design. The lone exception was Knight Fernandez, who bore crossed hammers over a point-down sword on his white tabard, which reflected his role as the Armory person for the unit.
All of them also wore broadswords as part of their “uniform,” and as the service progressed, I noticed that the swords weren’t ceremonial either. Some of them even had a reddish substance in the nooks and crannies that I was reasonably sure was dried blood.
I’d been to Mass before, but this was… more. I don’t know how else to describe it. There was more liturgy, more formality, a much more intense homily (that’s a sermon for non-Catholics) than I usually hear from the Reverend. With all that, it lasted about twice as long as a normal service, but apparently the Knights only do it once a month or so.
I didn’t have a chance to speak with the Reverend afterwards, as the knights kept him busy with confessions and other conversations, so I just returned to my room to change, and then headed down to the dining hall to work on my diary (for a change of scenery).
I glanced up, startled as much about being approached as by the fact that it wasn’t the Captain or Sergeant. It was one of the “unranked” knights. <“Yes? Knight… Johnstone, isn’t it?”>
“Yes, sir.” He’d shifted to English, and his ‘sir’ sounded like ‘sair,’ a now evident Scottish accent in play.
I stayed in Latin. <“Are we ok to speak English?”>
He replied, still in his thickly accented English. “I cleared it with Captain Mastrangelo. He’d rather that everyone not be privy to the conversation, but it’s less suspicious out in the open.”
I blinked at that statement, but switched to English as well. “Well, that’s not ominous.” I smiled as I stoppered my ink and blew gently on my diary page. “What can I do for you, Mr. Johnstone?” I motioned to the seat across from me.
He took the seat. “It’s been bugging me since yesterday – when you cast your spell, did you say ‘Habakkuk?’”
I wondered when that would come up. "I did. How much do you know about magic?
He grinned. “Quite a bit – I’m the unit’s occult specialist.”
“So you’re familiar with focus words?” He nodded once, allowing me to continue. “I’ve found that there are descriptive Bible verses that help me mentally shape the energy I’m trying to control. That particular one is the latter half of Habakkuk 3:4: ‘…rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.’”
He looked at me carefully. “You use Bible verses to cast spells?”
I shrugged. “I suppose you could look at it that way. Some people use a foreign language, others just make up nonsense words. A long as it helps you shape the concept of the forces you’re trying to control, it doesn’t matter too much. I went with what I knew.”
“Interesting. So the magic is yours to wield as you see fit?”
“To a certain extent, sure. I’ve always felt that my magical abilities are a gift from God – no less or more than intelligence, physical prowess, or musical ability. In the last couple of years, though… there’s more to it.”
“Are you having to call on your abilities from another source?”
I blinked. That was really insightful. “Not directly.” I thought for a moment, choosing my words. “Let’s say that I’ve had some revelations as to the source of my abilities.”
He looked at me very intently for a long, awkward moment. “And? Who answers your prayers?”
I got a little indignant. “My prayers are directed to God, and I rely on Him for answers.” I calmed down a bit as I decided to answer him more directly. “My powers… come through an archangel.”
He seemed surprised by that. “Really? Which one?”
I was hesitant to speak his name – just in case it was his Name. “The watchman over Eden. The harbinger of the plague of the firstborn.”
It took me a moment to recall that Phanuel was another name from my research that led me to the identity of Uriel. “Yes.”
“How do you know?”
I opened my mouth to respond, and shut it suddenly. How do I know? Finally, I gave the only honest answer I had. “Faith. He’s not asked anything of me that flies in the face of my faith or the written Word of God. In fact, his insights have caused me to dig deeper into the Word to further refine my calling.”
“That’s fair, I suppose. Has he ever denied a request from you?”
I shook my head. “That’s not the way it works. These powers… abilities… were given to me to use. I have sought guidance through prayer to ensure that I’m using them well, and on occasion I’ve felt that I’ve been given assistance when the cause was just. I’ve not had an occasion yet where I’ve been denied access to those powers, but I have no doubt that if I stray too far afield or abuse them, they will be taken from me.”
“So it’s to your judgment, then?
“When it comes down to it, yes. Free will, as it were. Men with guns face the same choices and temptations.”
He pooh-poohed that analogy. “Oh, guns aren’t nearly as universally useful as magic.”
“Point. Great power, great responsibility.”
He grinned, obviously getting the reference. “So, in your judgment – have you broken any of the Seven Laws of Magic?”
Whoa. These guys really are in the know. “No.”
He smiled slightly – my surprise must have shown. “But you’re aware of them?”
“Oh, yes. Kind of Ten Commandments-light, with the ‘Thou shalt not.’”
“And they are?”
I frowned a little. “I didn’t know this was a quiz.”
He opened his hands in a placating gesture. “Humor me?”
I ticked them off as they came to me. “Things Thou Shalt Not Do With Magic for $2000, Alex: What are: killing, mind control, transformation of others, time travel, pretty much anything to do with Outsiders, necromancy, and…” Dammit, what’s the last one… “Oh, mind reading. In no particular order, and oversimplified, but those are the topics.”
Johnstone seemed to approve – I couldn’t tell whether he got the Jeopardy reference or not. “And you’ve never broken them?”
“No.” I shook my head emphatically. “That was one of my earliest lessons after my powers manifested.”
“Lessons? Have you studied Practical Kabbalah?”
The name tickled at my memory, but… “I don’t think so. What is it?”
“It’s a Hebraic magical tradition. You might want to look into it.”
I shrugged, trying to tamp down my peaked interest. “I don’t have a lot of contacts in the Jewish community.” Another religious magic tradition? “Could you tell me more about it?”
“Tell you what. Let me get through a few more questions, and then I’ll answer what I can?”
Surely a Knight is as good as his word. “Ok, that sounds fair.”
“Have you sought out omens or answers to questions with your power for personal knowledge or comfort?”
“Are you asking about … fortunetelling?”
“More or less.”
“Then no. But I’ve found that if I am pursuing truth, I can get guidance.”
Seeing his puzzled look, I painted in broad strokes the situation with the Losers Club from a few months back. The divination that I’d performed sought guidance in finding the perpetrators of the killings, who, while monster hunters, had caught a number of innocents in the crossfire. “That wasn’t for personal knowledge or comfort – it was helping to redress the offense committed against those innocents.”
“It sounds like you don’t tend to use your magic without significant purpose behind it.”
“It’s a tool in my toolbox. And I’ve seen the dangers of unchecked power in some of those that I’ve fought.”
“Have you ever conjured anything not formed of ectoplasm?”
I was puzzled by the nature of the question. “I haven’t conjured anything, let alone something other than ectoplasm. Is that even possible?”
“Let’s put a pin in that one as well. Have you ever animated unliving matter to form a homunculus, or golem?”
“No!” The implication of the statement was disturbing, and I wondered if the summoning of a demon or other spirit into a construct was what he was talking about, or if he was talking about pure animation? What the heck are you thinking? You can’t ask for those kind of details!
He smiled. “That was honest. Ok, last one. Independent of the dead, have you communed with Nevernever spirits via summoning, Daemon or otherwise?”
He grinned. “Angels excluded.”
I felt myself relax. “Summonings really aren’t my speed, so I haven’t done that. Communed? I suppose that depends on what you mean. I have had conversations with creatures of the Nevernever, like fairies, but I haven’t coerced any, or sought them out for advice.” I paused, and threw in. “My only contact with demons was the one that I’ve exorcised.”
He didn’t seem impressed. “It’s a fine line, but so long as you didn’t summon them, or initiate contact for the gain of knowledge, that’s the area of concern.”
We sat quietly for a few moments, and I finally asked, “Anything else?”
“Not at the moment.”
“So it’s my turn?” I asked, and he smiled slightly and inclined his head. “Why the 20 questions?”
“Pastor, you’re a smart guy – you know who we are and what we do.”
I nodded. “I do. Still… humor me?”
He laughed. “All right, that’s fair play. Our commission from ancient times is to protect the faithful from supernatural practitioners – those that take their abilities too far.”
“That sounds a lot like what the Wardens of the White Council do.”
He didn’t seem to quite agree. “They draw the line at the Seven Laws, which is a good start. We look further…. hubris is a problem inside or outside of the Seven Laws.”
I swallowed. Santiago… “With respect… who are you to judge?”
“We don’t.” His statement was simple and factual. “The Militant Orders are the instruments of execution, aye, but we do not seek to be judges within the Kingdom. Occasionally we investigate as well, but rarely. The task of Inquisition is given to another Order.”
I swallowed. Catholic church meant that… “Do you … get your orders… from the Holy See?”
He smiled. “Not often. But that all said, my order is in a unique position to see and judge such hubris. Do you know anything of the history of the Templars?” I shook my head negatively, and he continued. “You should. Suffice it to say for now that we are well, well familiar with the seductive lure of hidden knowledge and power that others lack.” He paused, lowering his head and his voice respectfully. “For our sin of Pride, we burned on stakes."
I grimaced. “Burned on stakes? Guess the folks your order ran afoul of gave you a taste of your own medicine?”
He looked at me carefully. “You know magical theory, Pastor Consprite. Remind me, what happens to lingering magical effects after a good dunking in flowing water and then incineration? The way witches are killed is not arbitrary or unnecessarily cruel. Those we lay to rest rarely rise again.”
I swallowed nervously again.
“I do, however, prefer bullets.” His face broke into a smile again, and although it was genuine, my feelings of apprehension about my training weekend were back in full force. But, our conversation continued, and he was quite open in talking about the previously pinned topics, and my apprehension faded a bit by the time dinner rolled around.
My visit wrapped up with another round of PT and some light unarmed sparring in the building’s gymnasium. Before I left, Captain Mastrangelo asked to speak with me, and I found him, as usual, in his office.
<“Captain. I hope I haven’t been too much trouble this weekend.”>
<“Not at all.”> He smiled. <“In fact, I think this was a beneficial opportunity for all involved.”>
<“I have to agree.”>
He switched to English, “I did have one last question for you before you leave us.” He pushed a newspaper across the desk to me. It was the Dallas Morning News from May 2nd, with the lead article about the 5 burned churches. “You came to see Reverend Kohler that morning – the day we first met. I assume that the fact that all 5 churches were named ‘St. Matthew’ wasn’t a coincidence?” He sat back in his chair, an expectant look on his face.
“No. It wasn’t.” I considered my answer carefully. “Those fires were set by followers of the Erlking’s Daughter, a powerful entity of the Nevernever. It was partly a message to me that she was stepping up her presence in the Metroplex, but she also used the power of those deaths to fuel a massive curse against someone else who had stood up to her minions as they invaded the area.”
“Minions?” He remained back in his chair, fingers steepled in front of him, but his gaze was intense.
“Yes, goblins of her court had been rampaging around the Metroplex for months. The goblins tend to favor unclaimed children as prey, so I and some others had been working to protect places that serve those children – orphanages, hospitals, and the like.” I stopped, remembering my encounter at Scottish Rite. “I ran afoul of some one time and beat them back – she holds a grudge.”
“And that’s all there was to it?”
“If only. We also found out that she was making a power play that would have seriously upset the local balance of power in the supernatural community. Long story short – we stopped her.”
He nodded, and we sat quietly for a while. I considered the topic in light of some of the revelations from the previous day’s conversation. “I assume that you’ve gotten Knight Johnstone’s report of our conversation yesterday?”
“I understand your focus on hubris. And there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if I’ve somehow made things worse by interfering and/or using my abilities. I’ve seen warlocks that let the power they wield go to their heads.” I paused. “The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I’m here to stand against those forces of darkness. If I hadn’t stood up to them and plied my abilities to help protect those that can’t help themselves, it wouldn’t be a few hundred dead in five churches – it would be hundreds or thousands dead across the region as the Hunt of the Erlking’s Daughter ran rampant because no one would stand against her.”
“And where you can’t protect?”
“Like the 5 churches? Then I am Go’el. Where there is no way to redress, there is retribution. I fulfilled that role, and the Erlking’s Daughter will trouble the faithful no more.”
“I wouldn’t have expected you to understand the concept of Go’el.”
“Until about a year ago, I didn’t. My angelic sponsor educated me, and I’ve done my own study in the Word since then.”
He considered that for a moment. “I appreciate your candor, Pastor Consprite.”
I looked at him carefully. “We’re on the same side, Captain. Our methods and the tools at our disposal are just different.”
I suppressed a sigh. “Well, regardless, this weekend has been enlightening. I’d like to work with you again sometime – or at least train with you? The other tools in my toolbox could use some sharpening.”
He smiled at that. “I appreciate that sentiment, Pastor. We keep the Reverend apprised of our schedule – just let him know when you’d like to join us.”
“I’ll do that.” I reached into my pack and pulled out the prayer book to hand to him. “Thank you for letting me borrow this.”
He shook his head. “Keep it – another tool for your toolbox, as it were.”
“Thank you.” I tucked it back into my pack and stood up. “If there’s nothing else?”
“You’re dismissed, Pastor. Go with God.”
So, of course, Barbara read me the riot act when she got a look at the various bruises and scrapes that I’d earned over the weekend, but she was also very interested as I told her about my experiences and conversations. I reported those back to the Reverend as well.
I guess my big takeaway from the weekend is that – as with many other things, the presence of the Militant Orders (not the Inquisition directly) isn’t all black and white. There are a number of supernaturals in the area who could easily be targets for them, but I could also see calling on them as allies if the need arose. They are a weapon – a finely honed and unbelievably dangerous weapon, but if they can be aimed carefully…
However, I can also see that Donna’ assertion about the inadvertent effect of my presence wasn’t too far off the mark. If I’m going to attempt to mend my relationships in the Freakshow, then my collarino has to come off again. I need them to see again that I’m part of their community, while continuing to carry my call and fight where I’m needed. While I’m not a threat to these people, there are associations I didn’t fully consider – how could I know that representatives of the actual Inquisition would come to town?