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Apart from the occasional steps right and left, to avoid the still
headless people, Elias hadn’t shifted his position, but then again he
had seen worse in his time and he wasn’t under pressure to act either.
The Azanee girl was heaving a much harder time for sure, but as far as
he could tell she was doing well. The yells and curses of the
villagers were proof enough of that.
The icy air burned the skin and the wind made them shiver. Laiva had
given her coat to the other girl; she wouldn’t have survived for more
than a few minutes in her thin dress. Even with all the fires around,
she must have been extremely cold. Obviously the villagers didn’t care
too much about the health of their sacrifice. At least they didn’t
seem to be following them; they probably thought they wouldn’t get far
before freezing to death anyway and perhaps they were right. Laiva
wondered how they had managed to get even this far; what they needed
now was a warming fire, but the deep snow made even the thought appear
futile and the only houses probably were the ones they were running
away from. Laiva stumbled and landed in the soft snow, pulling the
other girl down with her. It wasn’t as cold as she had expected,
comforting even, surrounding her like a soft blanket. She felt so
tired all of a sudden; a bit of sleep surely wouldn’t hurt, would it?
Just a moment or two…
The sun was bathing the snow covered ground in its bright light,
bringing forth the most lovely winter day you could imagine. By now
the events of the previous night seemed nothing more than cruel
shadows; or, at least, so the villagers behaved.
The second they realized that their leader had died their
hostility had vanished, leaving nothing but harmless village people
behind. They could beat any butterfly with that metamorphosis; some
had even gone as far as kneeling in front of Elias once he took off
the white cloak and his red robes became visible. Now they were busy
reassuring each other that they had been against the priest from the
beginning and that they had never done anything wrong. As always,
there were only victims and no wrongdoers. And so many in one place,
you really had to wonder.
But there were more pressing matters at hand; Elias had
ordered them to bring the priest’s body into the house they used as a
kind of temple and put it on the altar. It wasn’t one of the pompous
altars you find in most places, with exquisite masonry and artful
paintings; in fact it was hardly more than an approximately oblong
block of roughly cut rock, limestone probably.
Maybe he was overdoing it a bit, but at least the place wasn’t
heated and, which was more important, it was almost shielded from the
eyes and ears of the villagers.
He went into the building, carefully locked the door and sat
down on a chair in a shadowy corner, the colour of his robes merging
with the darkness. Nobody ever realized that the colour wasn’t meant
to identify, but rather to obscure; unless you marched right up to
someone, you were almost never noticed.
Could it be the colour? Could that be the reason they did not
see the stains and splotches all over the altar; how else could they
ignore them? He saw all of them, every one a cry. And there were many
of them, far too many.
The priest opened his eyes; he wasn’t sure where he was or why he was
there, but he always went through that on waking up. Then he
remembered. An interesting experience, for sure.
He sat up and tried to move his arms and legs; everything was
normal, or as normal as possible at any rate. The coldness was quite
disturbing; the very core of his being, the fire of life itself had
ceased to exist, leaving a vacuum behind. There was no heartbeat, no
blood gently rushing through his veins, no breath. In fact, he
couldn’t even tell the difference between warm and cold anymore; the
stone below just was and so was the air.
Still, interesting. Remembering a pain shortly before his death he
groped for it and found a finger thick hole that he could literally
stick his finger into and…
A man emerged from the shadows in the corner of the temple.
‘Necromancy is against law, you know. The Order has strict
rules for dealing with it.’
‘The Order? The Red Order?!’ Elias sighed. Was it so difficult
to call things by their name? Was it really that difficult to say
‘If you like to call it that, yes, the very one.’
‘Not to speak of abduction, murder and I don’t want to know
what else. You are a shame to your profession. And that’s talking
‘I say whatever I think I have to say. Now, any last words
before I… erm… finalize your death?’
‘What about: Rise my children!’