Monday, February 18, 2008

Chapter 6: Witch

        The crowd of people hauled two woman bound to seven foot stakes. One was an old woman, in her seventies. The other was a young brunette, barely over 17 harvest. The old woman was cackling and crying out about the crowd being tortured for a thousands years and black death reigning from above, destroying the town.

        The young woman was shouting, "I'm not a witch."
        Caden heard about witches in temple service, but had never seen one before. He didn't know if he was actually seeing one right now. What he did know was, the old crone had the same shroud of darkness as Father Coteson, the undead Dragon Knights, and the Bandit leader in the forest. Yet the young girl, she didn't have it. She looked normal, like everyone else in the crowd.
        "Rilyn," said Caden. "I think that girl is telling the truth."
        "What? Why?"
        "Doesn't the older woman remind you of the bandit leader who vanished on the highway?"
        "Well, she does have the same eyes, but that's not all that strange on someone her age."
        "No, the black shroud."
        "What shroud?"
        "You don't see that darkness surrounding her?"
        "No," Rilyn said. "And the bandit leader had the same thing?"
        "Same with Father Coteson."
        "And the girl doesn't?"
        "Right," Caden said. "We have to save her."
        "So do you want to tell the angry mob that they got the wrong person?"
        "Follow me." Caden pushed through the crowd and ran down a side street.

        Caden and Rilyn emerged from an alley. They were at the temple mall. Large, flat, white stones paved the ground. The mob was already there, carrying the two women into the temple.
        "Damn." Caden punched the side of the alley. "I was hoping to beat them here."
        Rilyn noticed the cracks left in the stone from Caden's punch. "I'm surprised we got here when we did." Rilyn walked past Caden and onto the mall. "After all, you did try to take a short cut in a city you've never been to."
        "How hard is it to head towards the giant stone tower." Caden pointed at the white marble tower above the temple. It was the tallest building in Tinate.
        "Apparently it is," said Rilyn. "Judging from the number of dead ends you lead us to." He looked back at Caden. "What do you want to do now?"
        "Only thing we can do," Caden said. "We wait for the crowd to leave, then we speak with the Father."

        The sun was setting by the time the crowd completely disbursed. The Father was walking in the garden, tending to the plants. He wore the daily vestments of plain white shirt and pants under his black and silver coat. The holy, ten-pointed star was embroidered in gold on the back of his jacket. Caden and Rilyn walked with him as he moved through the garden.
        "So why don't you think she's evil?" he asked.
        "It's hard to explain, Father Achilleos," Caden said. "But I feel a fire in my gut telling me that this is the right thing to do."
        Father Achilleos stopped next to a flowering tree. He lifted a shriveled, rotting flower in his gloved hand. "This flower isn't evil, it'll soon be dead. Yet if left on the tree, the rot will spread to the other flowers. If left untended, the disease will consume more flowers and leaves, till the tree can no longer function. It won't die from the rot, but it will die from the loss. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Father Achilleos snipped the flower off and handed it Caden.
        "I wonder if that's true."
        "I will save her from the rot."
        "It's not easy, they have already been placed on the top of the Shrift Tower." Father Achilleos pointed to the white marble tower. "The only thing you can do now, is stand witness to her judgment by the goddess."
        Caden looked up at the tower. "Very well." 
        "You might get cut off with the flower you want to save."
        He walked into the temple. "I know."
        "Interesting boy you're traveling with." Father Achilleos turns to Rilyn. "Does he know about you?"
        "He knows nothing." They turn and watch Caden enter the shadows inside the temple.
        "Come, my child," Father Achilleos lead Rilyn into the temple. "I sense that you're in need of some absolution yourself."

        Caden stood on top of the spire. The roof was flat, with no walls on the outside edge. He was next to the chained women. The old hag screamed like she was being burned. The young girl cried. The wind whipped through his hair and clothes. Caden watched the sunset. When the last part of the sun fell below the horizon, the sky flashed green. Caden raised his arms and shielded his eyes. The wind picked up and he felt like he was going to be blown off the edge.

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