Dismas Part 4 (Final)

I realize this is not a blogophilia post, but I need to finish the story up or else ruin my schedule.

Dad’s exploratory surgery turned into just surgery. They went ahead and hollowed out his prostate, so he’s staying a day or two for observation. The brother and I are going to see him tomorrow.

Also, my weekend surprise (that I had to move everything around for!) has been cancelled by hubby, which is fine because now I am going to spend Saturday getting Zapados, then the meteor shower, and Sunday we’re going to see Twister at the drive-in in Bellevue. I even bought the tickets already. wOOt!

Anyway, on to the rest of the story:

****

At last, the citadel loomed in the distance. What power Malick held outside of the world of vampires was unknown, but somehow he had managed not only to have train tracks cut across their land, but a grain elevator built right above. Though the presence of busy mortals seemed like a bad idea, it worked in their favor. The humans were unsuspecting guards during daylight hours and were long gone by nightfall. That vampires came and went at night, many by rail, was barely noticed and chalked up to farm business or some other nonsense. Unwilling to acknowledge anything that was really out of the realm of ordinary, humans were easy to roll over.

Unlike Malick.

Dismas’ stomach clenched as they slowed the horses. Inside Malick was waiting to cast judgement and pronounce fate. He glanced nervously to his companions, but neither met his gaze, as if looking into another’s fear filled eyes might compound their own terror.

Among the collection of buildings stood a stable and a guard. The vampire gave them long once overs, but said nothing as they dismounted. Noris clicked his tongue and nodded toward the building, signaling the need for the stable boy. The guard gave a grunt and then called the youth, a slinking human who was barely more than fifteen. With bent shoulders and down cast eyes, he hurried out to take the reins beasts’ reins.

As though they were just members of the masses, the guard ripped claim tickets from a roll and handed them over, so they could collect the horses later. Or that was the idea. Dismas was fairly certain they’d never see the animals – or the star strewn sky – again.

Still he followed Asher inside the small building marked Office in hand painted letters. The vampire that sat at the desk looked more farmer than fearsome, and an old dog lay sleeping near a cold potbelly stove. Though Dismas didn’t touch it, he knew the creature was as immortal as its owner.

Their receptionist motioned them to a door in the back, where stairs led down. Dismas’ heart sank with each step, and his unease grew. He could feel Malick below, like a pulsing bead of darkness that got heavier the deeper they went.

A guard stood at the bottom of the stairs, leaning bored on the banister. He snapped straight when he recognized them. “What are you doing here? Intruders!”

“No-” Asher began, but before he could finish five guards swarmed around them, bladed weapons raised menacingly.

“You thought you and your ilk could attack us again? Where are the others? Hidden outside? No matter. We’ll find them!” He motioned to one of his fellows who broke away to inform the others. Dismas knew the hateful bells would soon toll, and guards and Executioners would swarm up the stairs, expecting the blood of enemies.

“We aren’t attacking!” Dismas cried, conscious of Noris’ I-told-you-so expression. “We don’t know where the rest of them are!”

The guard scoffed. “Of course. We believe you. It isn’t as if you’ve betrayed us in before. Wait.” He rolled his eyes. “We’ll take them down to Malick.”

Dismas’ reply was a strangled sound of fear as they shoved him forward. Though not a dream stealer, he could feel the same terror radiating from his companions. They knew what this meant. They knew what Malick would do…

Noris suddenly dug in his heels and lashed out, knocking aside two of the guards. He sprang past them, racing for the stairs, but a third guard knocked him to the ground and pressed the point of a spear under his chin.

“Malick will kill us!” Noris cried desperately. “Please!”

The guard sneered as those Noris had knocked away jerked him back to his feet. “Then you shouldn’t have come back.”

No, Dismas agreed. No, we shouldn’t have.

The guards bound their hands, then dragged them through the door and down a corridor. Elevators, still something of a novelty in rural America, were lined up, the attendants waiting to whisk passengers to the different floors. Too small to fit them all, they broke up into groups.

Dismas captors stood inside the car, shoulders stiff, hands fidgeting, as they descended. Dismas wished there was a way to capitalize on their discomfort; to take advantage of it and run. But, trapped in the tiny capsule, there was nowhere to run.

The elevator stopped and the attendant opened the doors. “No trouble,” one of the guards huffed at Dismas before they dragged him out into the corridor. Hard wood floors and painted walls, peppered with doors, stretched in a long, straight line to finally curve out of sight. As they marched down it, a group of guards dashed past, ready for the fight that didn’t exist.

The guards pulled Dismas to a stop before a large set of double doors. Malick’s presence left his knees quaking and his mind reeling off old, familiar words.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

One of the guards knocked on the door and was answered in kind. The sound echoed, ominous and heavy.

“…He maketh me lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters…”

The doors swung open to reveal a cavernous room, the walls half lined with marble and carved white stone. Pillars loomed, and scattered candelabras threw crazy shadows on a row of chairs near the back where five figures were seated.

“…He restores my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…”

The guards half pushed, half pulled Dismas inside. Footsteps echoed heavy on the marble floor as they drew closer to the chairs, to the waiting masters, to the High Council.

To our doom.

“…Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

The guards stopped and snapped a salute, then retreated, leaving the three of them alone in the center, hands still bound behind their backs. Dismas’ kept his eyes on his feet, as though he was trying to memorize the scuffed pattern on the toes of his boots. Just beyond, in his peripheral vision, he could see the seated laps of the council. Celandine’s blue skirt and neatly folded hands, the vivid robes and dark hands of Obi. Heng’s light yellow robes, Eileifr’s sapphire clothing, trimmed in gold, and finally the deep scarlet of Malick’s dress, a single dark shoe peeping from beneath.

Though he didn’t look up he could feel their gaze on him, none so strong and dark as Malick’s. It was as if the ancient master could see through his skin and bone. To his very center. Like being with Kateesha only a thousand times worse.

“…I will fear no evil…”

“Master,” one of the guards ventured. “If they are here, then the rest of their army-”

Malick’s chuckle was soft, a summer breeze ruffling the leaves. “Relax, and be at peace. There is no army, no imminent attack, only three traitors who have crawled back to us on bended knee to beg forgiveness and protection from the one they once swore fealty to.”

“…your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”

Malick dismissed the guards with a flick of his hand, then addressed the three prisoners. “So you have returned, my children. Abandoned that quest which seemed so urgent and certain only weeks ago? Turned your backs on she you adored as both master and goddess? How fickle is your favor!”

“…Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…”

Asher shuffled forward. “She was never our goddess, s-sir. She…She convinced us to…When she spoke it seemed so clear but…”

“Yes,” Celandine said coldly. “She uses her will to weave a spell around weaker minds. A dangerous game she has played too many times.”

Malick’s chuckle came again. “You would fault her for using those gifts she was given.” His tone suddenly turned serious, and Dismas flinched as though he’d been slapped. “But such gifts should not be used against her father. For that there can be no forgiveness.” He stood. “Tell me, children, why should forgiveness that is denied her be given to you?”

“…Thou anointest my head with oil…”

“Because…because…” Dismas looked up to see Asher’s desperate expression.

“Because you only followed orders?” Malick suggested. “Because you saw the folly of your ways? Because you are sorry? What good does such remorse do? Will it bring back the dead? Those you fought, and killed in your revolt?”

Dismas felt the burn of Malick inside his skull and suddenly he saw the battle as it had been, saw Josiah laying on the floor in a pool of his own blood while the hateful bells screamed-

“Enough of this,” Eileifr interrupted. “They have returned. Their contrition is true, or you would have said otherwise. They will remain, though they are stripped of any rank they may have possessed before their departure. Guards, unbind them.”

Dismas heart stuck in his throat. He heard the guards footfalls as they drew close, felt as they tugged at and finally freed his hands, yet it was all far away, unreal. A dream that was happening to someone else. They were going to be put to death, not freed.

Malick’s chuckle was in his head, followed by his voice, “And yet you still breathe. Is not life full of miracles?”

Dismas was dimly aware of Asher thanking the council, and of Noris pulling him out the doors and into the corridor. The other two’s words flowed around him. They’d need to find new accommodations, reapply for their guard positions, try to claim any belongings they may have left behind. It was a list of tedious, tangible things that Dismas couldn’t wrap his head around.

He stopped, mid stride, and stared at his hands as if he’d never seen them before, at the half-moons at the base of his fingernails, and then his pale palms.

Asher and Noris stopped and came back to him. “Are you all right?”

Dismas met his companion’s gaze. “We’re alive. We’re actually alive. They spared us.”

Asher arched a golden eyebrow. “Yes. Just a moment ago. As I said they would,” he added with a note of smugness.

Noris scoffed. “It must have been a moment of divine intervention. Only the angels of heaven or God himself could turn such a verdict towards us.”

God. The God Dismas swore he didn’t believe in, yet prayed to all the same. Had it truly been his will? If so why? Why would he intervene for the sake of a monster? Did it matter?

Asher flung an arm around Dismas’ shoulders and they started down the corridor again. “We can share a room for today, but tomorrow I’m going back to reapply for a guard position. There should be some openings.”

Openings. Of course. And if they were lucky, if God was truly with them, they would get their positions back.

“…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Dismas crossed himself and prayed silently that Noris was right.

***

The brother sent Daniel back to me, so I just need to get mom to read it and then I can publish it. I even have the cover done. Now to start thinking of a cover and title for this one. Hmmmm….

Off to work on The Vampire Prophecy and then bed.

Have a finished story kinda day!

Jo 🙂

 

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About Joleene Naylor

An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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