Chapter 5 (incomplete)

From the beach of Calais to the warehouse in Seattle in an instant, the sand left behind along with any wetness. Ireul was up and about this time, drifting through the aisles of monitors checking on scrolling text and columns of numerical data. “What have you learned about our list of names?”

Ireul didn’t bother to interrupt her routine but projected her voice through a system near him. “You going to accept the answers I give or am I going to need to revert to a backup by the time you’re done?”

Olivier folded his arms. “I’ll give you that one. I’m fine. Or, at least I’m working on it.”

Ireul jotted and dotted some numbers into the air as she read them off a screen. “Figure out what was going or simply learning to let it go?”

He shook his head. “Maybe a bit of both. But it is a good question. I was thinking about it, why I felt so insecure suddenly. Every new case comes with ne w problems. I may be ancient and powerful but that isn’t to say I am all powerful. I’m not in to making that mistake.”

Ireul laughed. “Not like some people we could name.”

“Right. Them.” He paced in a small circle. “Every time I take on a new challenge I ask myself questions about if I’m the one for the job, if it wouldn’t be faster and better to delegate it to someone with the right skills.” He picked up bundle of wires from a shelf. “Do you need this for anything?”

Ireul swept past on the way to her next data station. “Nothing I am doing today, if you need it.”

He put the bundle of gold wire into his satchel. “Ideally, my intent in taking point is to determine who would be good for any given job.”

Ireul sped past again. “I get it. You are the great leader and its all very important.”

He smirked. “I’ll get to it. Every time I question my identity, I also question my purpose. We are our duty, our Office. I lose control of my self when I rethink the label. A side effect of choosing a purpose, adopting that shard of Creation.”

It was the dead of night in Seattle and the night sounds had ceased, leaving only the heavy thrum of the generators to fill any dead air his pauses left. “The difference here is how quickly it came on and the extent. Either I’m losing control because my chosen Office is something I’ve lost all faith in, or something else was affecting me.”

Ireul zoomed by again. “Hold for restart. Maybe take the moment to get to the point?” As she said it the power faded and the room became a pitch-black backdrop of warm air and fans spinning down. The generators idled and then everything sped up again as thousands of machines snapped back on.

“I wasn’t being insecure this time. Well, not at first. It was the Guardian. The message on the page was as much a cry for help as it was a plea for clarity. Whoever the Guardian is, their losing their sense of duty and self.”

Ireul floated in nearby, her face a skull of blue underlighting and harrowed eyes. “That sounds beyond switching teams or passing on the badge. That sounds like annihilation precursors.”

Olivier nodded again and reached into his bag. “Initially, I was worried about keeping this quiet while we find a resolution and save the girl. Now, I think we are going to need to rescue the Guardian before he takes her with. Finding their name has become priority two.”

“And priority one?”

“I doubt the wards I put up will hold that chaos in for long. I need to get back there with something more permanent before we have to get the Heavens involved to repair it.”

“Gah. I don’t like dealing with the Heavens and the agents it deigns to send to deal with us.” She snapped her fingers and a chair slid from a desk and settled beneath her. She floated cross-legged into the seat. “Let’s talk list.”

Olivier sat back into he chair that arrived to catch him. “I’ve got to meet with Leliel and Harahel later, too get more help on the wards. I suspect I’ll need more than gold filament, but it should at least save me some time.”

“It also helps that I’ve had it for years and its been soaking up residual power. I get you.” She leaned her neck to the left and then rolled it to the right in a slow stretch. “Now, about your list. A lot of names of first responders. Nothing flagged on any of them. Just people doing people things. The psychologists were tainted, but only the little bit that they all seem to be.”

Olivier nodded. “Jung did a number on the mental health profession by including the mysticism that invites powers and such. Still, better than the discipline sticking with Freud.”

They laughed together and then shuddered.

She continued, “The people to be wary of are the medium and the priest.”

Olivier waved his hand, throwing the sensation of sage and chipped paint into the air. “All her efforts did was to scratch the energy, riling up anything that might come through. More of a beacon than a ward and I’m not certain that is even the issue.”

Ireul exhaled, blowing the sensation to oblivion. “I get it. Angel of Knowledge here, you don’t need to walk me through it with visual aids.”

Olivier maintained an even, serious gaze. “Experience matters in a way that knowledge doesn’t always cover. As long as Christine Johnson stays out of the picture, the situation won’t degrade before I can get it stabilized.”

Ireul frowned. “If only she stuck with her birth name. Madame Zidania, as she now advertises herself, is likely to give us trouble.”

Olivier dismissed the notion with no further reaction. “And the priest?”

“Father Eoghan O’ Hugh is the real deal. First generation Irish. Born of the brother of a priest and entered into the seminary directly after confirmation. Spent his entire life in private schools and working his way up the internals of the Church. Moved to Georgetown in the early 70s, where he ran across your Mr. Wilks and he’s continued to grow the faith since.”

Olivier listened to the report with the same unwavering, rapt attention. “Yet another person I can’t exactly walk up to in the house if I’m going to keep any cover.”

Ireul leaned back in another languid stretch. “Worse. If you want to talk to him, and you do. You have to go do an Announce in the parish. True believers still operate by the old ways.”

Olivier stood up and the chair beneath him slid back to its position. I might strike that iron while I’ve still got a bit of advantage.”

“You taking anyone with you? I can get Ramiel to back you up. Or Raguel?”

Olivier paced past her. “I’ll stick solo for now. Lower profile. If I get Raguel involved, this whole situation gets dangerous fast. No. I’ll make a quick stop in the parish before dawn. Visions are always easier to swallow when partially awake.”

“Fine. Anything else I should be doing here?”

Olivier allowed his clothes to fall to the floor as he adopted a flowing white robe. “Keep my satchel on the hook and get me any extra information you can dig up on Joanna Milleaux-Pages, the Bearer of the Eye and the Constabulary of the Silver Known. And her grandfather one Gregor Milleaux.”

He didn’t wait for Ireul to respond as he stepped into the small bedchamber of Father O’Hugh. It was a proper cloister size and décor, though rebuilt in the middle of a city parish. Some of the authentic elements were from Europe and obviously painstakingly imported and retrofitted for the space. This aberration of wealth did not undercut the piety that permeated the walls.

The room was sparsely furnished. On the left of the room: a bed. On the right: a wardrobe. The simple bed was adorned with a straw mattress and a short wool blanket. The wall held a single brass crucifix. The wardrobe contained two robes, one for high mass and one for every day wear. A small end table, also imported from eastern Europe held an open Bible and a set of sandalwood rosary beads.

In the middle of the room knelt Father Eoghan O’Hugh reading his scriptures and praying before dawn like a good friar should. The Bible was open to Galatians, one Paul’s many epistles. Though he prayed silently, as all good men of the cloth and all believer should, the words rang out loudly to Olivier.

“Give me wisdom to understand. Give me the voice to be heard. Give me insight and succor through the day. I will dwell on this, and only this, all the week. For it is said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

He repeated the refrain then. And again. His demeanor remained still and pious but his tone, his want, grew stronger with each repetition.

Olivier stopped observing and let his adopted office flow over him. A crown of golden lights shown brighter and high. A deep pool of shadow and flames swelled the floor. He rose up a foot into the air and unfurled his six majestic wings. The wispy shadow of a sword resided at his hip but did not form. He held no weapon within his hands, but a fire raged above and below, his eyes shown with a dark light ringed with gold. He spoke.

“Father Eoghan Declan O’Hugh. I bring you not tidings, nor joy. I bring you a request only.”

The priest did not so much startle as cavort. The sense of joy that came from him bashed the trickles of fear well to the side. Still on his knees, he turned to face Olivier. He did not look up but also did not bow. He held a steady gaze at ankle level. He sniffed twice, holding his face taught as the burning musk of wormwood and juniper rose to meet him. The second sniff brought a twinge of a smile to the stalwart man’s lips. This was the scent of home, the moss and rain of a Cork morning with just a hint of wheat in the field.

He replied slowly, picking his words carefully despite a surging glee. “You are not of the Host, nor are you foul, or not totally foul. What name did Our God give to thee, messenger?”

Despite himself, Olivier felt a kinship with the priest. He accepted what was before him, even though he also adhered to strict traditions. He was wary, ready to act, but not willing to act before it was time. That he allowed the baptismal of a lax member was not an aberration or a refusal of his duty, it was a confirmation of the deeper calling he felt. Olivier intensified his appearance, slipping further into the Office. “I am the angel Olivier. Once Prince of Hell and vassal to the Morningstar. I now command the Third Host, those who follow their duty but stand for Creation, not for Heaven nor for Hell.”

Father O’Hugh placed his feet beneath him and looked into Olivier’s shining face. “I do not supplicate myself before a thing that does not serve the Father. But I will not turn you away. Like all lost souls, you may find peace within these walls.”

Proper man of God or not, Olivier had things to do, and the pomp was sometimes a poor way to convey urgency or intent. “I need not your shelter or your peace. I come with a request, will you hear me out?”

Father O’Hugh stripped out of his ed clothes and donned his plain robe. “I must tend to the duties of the parish. You have announced yourself and made your intent known. I ask now that you disguise yourself as the messengers to Sodom once did.”

Olivier cast aside his Office and settled to the ground. His robe, though still a brilliant white, did not scintillate or carry its own light source. “With your permission, I will change my appearance.”

O’Hugh nodded. “By the Name of the Son, I do grant you free reign in this House of the Lord. Take heed that you give me no cause to rebuke thee.”

No sooner were the words spoken then Olivier had already left and returned with his clothing and satchel. “Thank you, father. Now, about the reason for my visit.”

O’Hugh pushed his chamber door open and stalked into the outer hall. A dozen doors line the hallway, each containing a room of the same layout, though likely not the same imported furniture and materials, as O’Hughs. He began striking a cymbal on a hook on the wall. The doors opened almost in unison and the other priests of the parish came out. Despite the number of doors, only three other priests resided inside.

They lined up in front of the older man and Olivier.

O’Hugh regarded them with a hawk’s eye and a flinty jaw. “Eckles, your cassock is less than clean.”

The young man with square glasses and a cherry stain on his robe nodded. “I’m sorry, father. It will be cleaned at once.” He went back into his room and came out a moment later in a different cassock holding the other folded across his arm. “I will be cleaning, doe anyone else require their robes attended?”

O’Hugh nodded. “Consider them all soiled.”

Eckles looked about to complain but closed his mouth. “I will bear this penance in charity and light. Thank you, father.” He returned to his chamber and came out with several more robes and vestments. He hauled the mound of cloth to the end of the hallway and returned, going into each other chamber, save O’Hugh’s, one by one.

The other two priests stood at attention, apprehensive of what fate would befall them before morning rounds had even begun.

O’Hugh pointed to the taller one on the left. “Barton, you will take the confessional until midday.” Then to the ochre-colored priest on the right, “Lounés, prepare the morning meal for our less fortunate brethren. We are expecting at least forty.”

The man bowed and set off to the end of the hall where Eckles had just finished had just gone on his third trip.

The chores sorted, O’Hugh waved Olivier to follow. They talked as they headed through the living chambers and into the nave. “A poor showing for a guest, they lack discipline.”

Olivier commiserated, “They also saw nothing unusual. But don’t take it to heart. Those with the faith to see are few and spaced far.”

O’Hugh balked at the ease Olivier made the report. “If they had discipline, the world would be filled with fit priests ready to carry the Word as they did in the days before.”

Olivier shook his head. “It was never meant to be an army, only the few. You were blessed by birth, not so much by work. It is one of His ways.”

O’Hugh crossed himself. “I fear that you are here to do more harm than good.”

Olivier shook his head again. “I’m here to talk about Larua Wilks.”

O’Hugh crossed himself again as he passed the middle aisle on his way to the sacristy. “That poor child. I knew she was special when she was born. A child born to a woman in her sixties? This is the work of the Father. To see her in such a state, truly the Enemy also sees the good she will bring.”

They passed through a pair of curtains and then a door to enter into the sacristy. The room was expansive, taking up almost a third of the building and three stories tall. Several long tables lined with chairs took up the middle of the room. A desk and curio case on the north wall. The rest of the walls were covered in a bountiful library of old books.

Olivier didn’t try to hide how impressed he was. “It is rare to see so many texts in a house devoted so strongly to the seventy-three in one.”

O’Hugh allowed his own pride to show through. “Three is much old money in this town. I make certain that most benefits the community, but some I put to use here, where it will benefit the souls of those who seek.”

Olivier walked along the shelves noting the titles and editions. “Did you know that Laura was in danger, specifically, or ritually?”

O’Hugh fetched two books from the desk on the north wall and spread them out on a table. “No child should go so long beyond the Age of Reason without a baptism. It brings only evil and poison into a life.”

Olivier regarded the priest’s tone. For the first time since he had appeared, he felt a disconnect with the man. “It is not yours to judge. But your guilt is also misplaced, Reverend Father. You did what you could. If she was a target, there is nothing you could do to head off those plans. Know this, she had a Guardian, even so many weeks on.”

O’Hugh cried out, “Praise God! Praise Him and His mercy! I told them it was important that the protections of youth do not last. Oh, the joy I have to know she was not without aid.”

Olivier let the priest work off his ecclesiastical energy for a few more moments before interrupting. “What traditions did you teach the young girl, or her father from back in the day?”

The priest turned cold and silent. He crossed himself and pointed to the book on the left. “James refused to carry on his faith. He observed no saints or angels. His wife…” he trailed off. “She is not likely to have carried any traditions either, would that she had practiced Kabbalah or addressed her own faith.” Olivier was impressed again, despite the slip, the priest saw the value of belief, even when it fell outside the domain of his doors.

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