Inspection and Insurrection

Father Nathan gestures for Doc, Mark, and Brother Broderick to follow him back down the stairs.

Doc begins an Eye-Type message to Dr. Ritenrong regarding the scroll he promised. While this method of communicating is a bit of a strain at first, it becomes easier with practice and time. Doc's glasses, assisted by their brainwave reader, are learning his patterns and begin to identify whole words rather than single letters.

"I need a star chart," Doc writes.

Dr. Ritenrong responds by voice. "Star chart? What kind?"

"A simple scroll, with times, sizes, and distances."

"What for?"

"Trade for the women. Make it pulp or something fragile. Have Veronica airdrop it."

"Are you sure about this?"

"Just make it so it won't last long."

"Alright. Give me an hour or so. I'll call you when it's ready." Steve adds, "I hope you know what you're doing."

The next floor down from Father Nathan's parlor is a grand chapel, exquisitely ornamated. The large, detailed stained glass window depicts Lucifer's battle for Heaven as the abbot witnessed it. Friezes along the top of the walls illustrate the fall of the Archangel, as well as various stories from Genesis. The rich smoke of incense rolls from censers hanging from the ceiling.

Each flight of stairs ends on the next landing, which is a large circular area each floor of the main tower. The next flight down begins on the other side of the room. Each of these circular landings is decorated with flowers, vases, and religious statuary. The smaller, circular towerhouses are connected from this central area, as is the rectangular main portion of the abbey dug into the mountain side. The chappel is on the fifth floor up and the topmost of these areas dug into the mountain.

The fourth floor contains the monk's dorms. The tops of the towerhouse rooms begin to connect here. On one side of the fourth floor's main foyer, in the taller towerhouse, is a library. Next to it, through an arch that passes beneath the staircases leading to the chapel, is a workshop that smells harshly of horse-glue. A monk is brushing this substance on the edges of a stack of papers, about to bind it to leather. In the middle of the foyer is a pleasant rock garden with green and blue mosses and lichens, ferns, and a few edible mushrooms growing here and there.

The stairs down to the third floor descend along the mountain's side of the tower. The arch between the stairs leads to the nun's dorms. Attached to the foyer, which contains a statue of Mary, are three workshops. Two of them seem concerned with the weaving of cloth and tailoring of clothes, while the third, at the top of the shortest towerhouse, is some kind of apothecary. There is a gate between the central tower and the nun's rooms. It is locked.

Father Nathan calls out into the locked hallway. Women clad in brown robes and habits file out slowly from their rooms into the hallway, heads downturned and hands clasped. Doc is careful to look closely at each of their faces as they approach the gate, although the habit and angle makes it difficult to see clearly.

"Do you see them?" Doc secretly texts Thunderhorse.

"Nml0," he responds. Thunderhorse's Eye-Type interpreter is learning to spell as well as he.

Doc turns to Nathan. "Open the gate," he demands.

"Why should I?" asks Nathan.

"I am a physician. I want to inspect them closely and make sure they're in good health."

Father Nathan delays a moment. "This is agreeable." He finds some keys from within his robe and opens the gate. The nuns make no movement towards them.

Doc steps in. It startles him when the Abbot closes and locks the gate behind him. A swift look back reveals his intentions to be precautionary, not outright agressive.

The nuns line up against either side of the hallway, still staring at the floor. There's about a dozen of them. Doc walks between them, individually turning their chin up with his finger and giving them a good look. They're dirty from a days labour, but relatively hygenic, at least in the context of the time period. Their cheeks are sunken, on the whole slightly malnourished and overworked. He has one say "Ah." Their dental hygine is atrocious, as is to be expected.

One of them has fierce green eyes and dirty blonde hair. She's nearly a foot taller than the rest, and she looks as if she's ready to kill. She snarls as Doc lifts his hand to her head. He backs off. She glares menacingly at him.

"Jazelle!" comes Thunderhorse's voice loudly over Doc's headset.

"Jazelle?" Doc whispers to the nun. She cocks her head inquisitively. "I'm here with Thunderhorse to rescue you."

Her eyes light up. It's hard to say if it's excitement or rage. She nods knowingly, quietly and turns her head back down, glaring at Nathan through the corner of her eye.

Doc continues on down the line. Thunderhorse identifies Skye, a short red-haired beauty, pale and delicate but worn down with toil, and Tempesta, a wide-hipped burnette with giant doe eyes whose cheeks are the least gaunt, as they obviously had plenty of reserve. The rest are unfamiliar to him, and there are a great many missing from his tribe.

Doc returns to the gate. He has to ask Nathan to open it, but the abbot complies.

"Satisfied?" asks the old man.

"They're malnourished," Doc replies.

"Our stock is low right now and will dwindle until harvest season, so we must reserve our food for those whose tasks are most important. They get what they need to live and work, though. None of them have died."

"There are only three from Hilton where there should be many more. Where are they?"

"Ah, the Goeths? They have been most difficult. Many of them simply did not accept our way of life, and were punished. Several of them banded together in an attempt to flee, and killed one of my men. They were put to death, of course." He turns to point out a pair of skeletons, carefully wrapped in gold-leaf and hanging on the wall above the stairs behind them, their ribs broken and spread out like eagles' wings. "There have been no further incidents."

Doc can hear Thunderhorse breathing heavily over the headset.

Father Nathan continues. "Now what of this scroll?"

"I do not have it with me, but I have called for it. It should be delivered within the hour. Have one of your men watch for the black dragon. She will be dropping it off."

"You are in league with the dragon, then?"

Broderick cannot contain himself. "Oh, Father, forgive me! For I said a backwards prayer and called it up straight from Hell!"

"Relax, Brother." Doc interupts. "I summoned her, and she is not from hell. Remember our guardian angel? She's been keeping us safe from those evil agents that chased us from Nidaros."

"Oh. Yes." Brother Broderick looks confused, but easily accepts the reality presented to him, especially since the last couple days have made him question everything, anyway.

"I will assign one of my men to the task." With a snap of his finger, one of the Monks eavesdropping below runs up the stairs. Nathan gives him instructions, and the man hurries up to the top floor.

"Mark, you go with him," Doc says. "If you don't mind, Abbot?"


Mark nods in acknowledgement and follows the monk up the stairs, no doubt stopping at the wine carafe.

"Now, let us dine while we wait. You can tell me of your home and your journeys."

1 comment:

Doc said...

So far, so good...