Cleansed By Fire, Part 9

For the previous installment of this story, click here

There is also a link under “Categories” in my sidebar for Cleansed By Fire, to more easily access all the installments of this novel; alternately, you can click on the “cleansed by fire novel” link under the Tags heading for this post (or click here) for a complete listing of installments.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 2, Women and Children (continued)

There was only one thing that truly frightened her: That point in the evening as she lay down to sleep and realized that the day was at an end, and she was about to give herself over to oblivion for several hours. Lyseena xec-Juris always wondered as that moment approached if she had truly done all she could have and should have that day.

Had she served the Trinity well? Had she honored the commandments and sacraments? Had she done her part in helping to bring her prayers of the previous night to fruition, or had she been slack? Would she go to sleep tonight with unfinished business she had no right to have left unfinished—and would this mean she had gone to sleep with a stain on her soul?

It always gave a special weight to memories of her childhood prayer of Now I close my eyes to sleep and pray the Three my soul they’ll keep; if my soul should fly before I wake may them and not the Devil take. Might any day bring a failure of faith so severe that she might die in the night and the Trinity would turn their backs on her soul?

Lyseena never prayed for less than an hour each night before she slept; sometimes two or more. If that meant she slept barely or not at all, she counted it a small price. She would pray that any failings in her past would be fixed, she would pray for wisdom and strength, she would pray for her family and colleagues and world, and she would pray for guidance.

It was never as simple as praying out of fear for her eternal salvation. It wasn’t even as simple as guilt.

She feared she would let her God, her Messiah and the Holy Ghost down. There were so many responsibilities she shouldered that she had ample opportunity to do so without even trying—or perhaps even noticing. She had a duty; a sworn one that she never quite felt the equal of.

One of the most important days in centuries was arriving soon. An anniversary so loaded with historical and metaphysical significance that it threatened to crush her spirit and her will. But she was a commander templar and she would not faint in her duty.

Lyseena had already been on her knees for nearly three hours. Her legs had long since gone numb and it would probably be wiser to simply sleep on the floor than to try to stand. In any case, though, her prayers were almost over. She had just finished praying for the souls of Adam Devan and Elisya Sutco even as she prayed that others in the pit would be able to take up the slack left by their absence. There was only one last thing to pray for tonight.

Father, Christ and Spirit, I serve you three and you rely on me, even as my three officers serve me and I rely on them. May Kevan continue to be the wind that lifts us all to serve with joy and without restraint. May Paulo continue to lead by the example of his pure dedication to vows and to Vatican. And may Maree continue to be the fierce and steady hand I need her to be.

She lay down then, deciding indeed to choose the floor over her bed tonight, and looked forward perhaps to waking to a new and better day in a couple hours.

* * *

Rarely did Kevan sup-Juris pray before bedtime. Or even upon waking. It was something he saved for Mass, as doing it at any other time seemed too much like an act of worry or weakness. Action was typically better. So while Maree spasmed at the end of a stunrod, while Paulo rode in a livery groundcar fretting whether he would find Gina awake or asleep, while Lyseena prayed on calloused knees, Kevan slept. There would be precious little sleep to be had in the coming days and it seemed to him that he would be in no condition to take action when needed if he wasn’t as rested as possible.

Unlike Paulo, Kevan dreamed well and vividly.

He always remembered at least one dream from the previous night with total clarity, though rarely more than one. What would stick with him from this night’s dreaming was the wind caressing the feathers of a pair of broad wings on his back, his parents on either side of him as a smile lit his face and he lifted a burning sword above the naked body of Adam Devan, telling the former logistics officer—with a perfect balance of malevolence and pity in his voice—”You may feel just a little prick when I do this.”

In the light of morning, he would wonder if it were stranger that he envisioned himself as an avenging angel or that he was doing the job of his brother, Lukas.

He would never pause to consider, however, why in his mind he had gelded Adam with such good humor.

* * *

If there had been any doubt in Maree’s mind that Stavin was serious about her going into work that next morning, it was erased as she groggily prepared a cup of caff in her kitchen and saw the livery slipcar waiting outside to take her there. Having long since reconciled herself to the decision she had made in the middle of her sleepless night, she gave a jaunty salute to the driver from her window, using the hand with her splinted finger. She didn’t wait to see if Stavin’s lackey responded.

Fifteen minutes later, she was showered and dressed and in the slipcar.

It would have been rather conspicuous for one or more passengers to accompany Maree. Likewise, putting her in restraints or searching her before she entered the vehicle. Stavin was counting on her loyalty to her family’s oaths and the safety of her cousins’ families to keep her in line at this point.

If only you truly understood where my family loyalties lay most strongly, Maree mused. Maybe if I had understood myself before last night, I wouldn’t have made the mistakes I’ve made.

A few minutes later, when the slipcar was out of sight of Maree’s neighbors, the driver enjoyed his very last breath and his very last heartbeat in the same moment.

When he had been relocated to the trunk, the car continued on its way to the slipgate station but with a new set of slipgate coordinates and with Maree trying to ignore the visions in her head of children burning alive in her cottage over and over again.

(This marks the end of Chapter 2. To view part 10, which begins the next chapter, click here.)


2 Responses to “Cleansed By Fire, Part 9”

  1. August 11, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Leave that Anon cat on my site along. He just keeps asking the same questions over and over again. He’s not trying to have a real discussion he’s trying to get justification for what he believes. I should forward you an email he sent me, but I dont’ want to violate his privacy. Anyway, I’ll actually read your post now since I do enjoy these novel excerpts.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    August 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Yeah, to be honest I realized too late it was Anon and didn’t even look at the name before posting my first comment. Shoulda paid more attention and let it lie…instead, did a knee-jerk. 😉

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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