DarknessFalls

Storybook | Game

Changes

 

2

Visitors to the Order are not exactly uncommon; it is after all one of the largest art galleries in the city and freely open to the public. So the elegantly dressed woman who walked through the equally elegant wood panelled halls drew hardly a glance. She stopped by a particularly impressive Wyeth, chatting politely to the attendant. Who then left his post for a moment, returning with a very smartly dressed man who bowed very slightly. Then he and the woman walked together, along an elegantly panelled hallway and through a small unobtrusive doorway.

“Sacred Mother, you honor us.” The man who rose to greet her was silver haired, exquisitely dressed, his movements graceful and precise.

The woman smiled. “Such formality Adeptus?” she said. “You are still adeptus Nicholas, they haven’t come to their senses and promoted you have they?”

Nicholas smiled. “I like being adeptus”, he said, “it suits me fine. Now, Germaine, to what do we owe the pleasure? Refreshments?”

Germaine looked about herself. “Are the others not here?” She said. “I was hoping to speak to Hester at least, I haven’t seen her in so long.”

Nicholas shook his head. “I’m sorry”, he said, “this is a busy time, they are all about some business or other.”

Germaine studied him casually. “All?” She said, “well be sure to give them my regards when you see them. Now, my visit, I’m afraid, is not for pleasure.” She pulled a file out of her bag, the stamp of the public hospital clear on the top. She handed it to Nicholas.

“It’s not pleasant reading”, she said, “x-rays show hairline fractures healed and rehealed, scans show scarring of internal organs. Nicholas at the risk of sounding vulgar he’s been beating the hell out of her and he’s been doing it for years.”

Nicholas leafed through the file, his face hardening. “I am about to ask you why she has not gone to the police”, he said, “you are about to tell me that she is afraid to. I will then ask why she is afraid and you will tell me that he has threatened her with dangerous and powerful friends, who will wreak terrible vengeance upon her if anything unpleasant should befall him. I will ask you who those dangerous and powerful friends are and you will say us.”

Germaine smiled, a single eyebrow raising. “Very good Nicholas”, she said, “very good. Have you added telepathy to your list of accomplishments?”

Nicholas grinned and shook his head. “Merely logic”, he said, “why else would you be here?”

“Normally we’d move against this creep ourselves, but given that he’s one of yours...”

“Yes, thank you.” Said Nicholas. “I know the Accord that stands between the Order and the Sisterhood and I respect it, but you must know that I value our friendship far more.”

Germaine reached over and patted his knee. “Nicholas sweetheart you sound like you’re running for election,” she said,” but I do agree with you. Are you sure the others aren’t here? They’ve really left you all alone?”

Nicholas kept his face impassive, just the faintest of smiles, he relaxed his voice. “It really is just bad timing”, he said, “I’m sure they’ll be mortified to have missed you. Particularly Hester.”

Germaine smiled warmly. “I’m sure we’ll catch up soon enough”, she said, “in the meantime I can leave that unpleasant business in your hands?”

Nicholas rose. “You can leave it with us”, he said, “rest assured if he has done this and used our name to do it....”

Germaine took Nicholas’ hand. “I do value our friendship Nicholas,” she said.

“And I yours Germaine. And I yours.”

Nicholas watched her leave. Another figure stepped into the room. “Do you think she believed you?” He said.

Nicholas shook his head. “of course not, hell I wouldn’t. I don’t like lying to friends.”

The other figure nodded. “No”, he said, “it can’t go on. It is threatening the Accord.”

Nicholas picked up the medical file again. “It is,” he said, “it is. Right first things first. Put all seers on high alert, get every off duty seer we can scrape up into the building; we are about to be scried into the ground.”

“By the Sisterhood?”

“Of course by the Sisterhood who do you think? They will want to know what the hell is going on and I do not blame them. Next I want a meeting of all adepts. That’s all, everyone, no exceptions. This is not an optional attendance.and I want it within the next 24 hours; drag people in off sickbeds, from holiday, absolutely no excuses.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes. Have someone bring me the personnel file of Goran Ballas, if memory serves he’s a zelator. And warn the disciplinary sub-committee they’ll probably be needed. Oh, and one last thing.”

“Yes adeptus?”

“Order an enormous bunch of flowers. Something with gardenias.”

 

#

 

Nicholas’ heart sank. There were fewer than sixty people in the room. The Order had never fully recovered since the war, and it had always been selective but damn it to hell there ought to be more than this.

He stepped in front of them and they fell silent. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I’m sure you’ve all felt the bombardment.”

The room filled with muttering. Of course they’d felt it, it had been going on for hours. The sisters were testing, testing the Order’s resolve. And also testing for the others; any of the others could have picked up the phone and asked Germaine to stop this nonsense. Hell in a worst case scenario they could have gone to Black Tituba herself, although that would have been one extreme worst case. But they hadn’t. Fourteen hours of near constant probing and the others had said and done nothing.

“They know we’re lying,” said Nicholas. “They don’t know how yet but they do know that what they thought was their most reliable partner in the Accord is lying to them. It can’t go on gentlemen, it threatens everything. It threatens us.”

“Then what are you suggesting?” He couldn't quite place the voice but it didn’t really matter.

“I am suggesting,” he said, “that we formalise the arrangement we already have. I am suggesting that the running of the Order be delegated in full to a board of management elected by the adepts. I am suggesting that we take the Sisterhood into our confidence and tell them the truth.” Ok, here came the bombshell, Nicholas braced himself. “And I am suggesting that we inform Antoine of the situation and invite him back into the Order at the rank of Magister.”

There was less uproar than he expected. As he had expected the sticking point was Antoine. Could he be contained by mere adepts, would he try to take over the Order, lead it away from its historic role in the city. But the bond between Nicholas and Antoine was known, the bond between father and child had always been sacred and inviolable; throughout his banishment noone had dared deny Antoine access to his own child. And in reality they had to tell him; how could they not? The only question was who, and that question had an obvious answer.

“Very well,” said Nicholas, “I will inform Antoine, then immediately after I shall call upon Sacred Mother Germaine of the Sisterhood. I take this violation of our orders upon myself.

“No you don’t.” The adept who stood was one of the newer ones, still a little gauche, probably hadn’t even met the others. “I propose that Brother Nicholas be instructed by this meeting to do all that he has proposed to do. The responsibility will be ours, shared.”

The vote was unanimous. Nicholas felt a swell of pride in the Order. They would get through this, there may be rocky times ahead but they would prevail. “Oh gentlemen”, he said, “before we adjourn, there is a minor matter requiring attention. Apparently one of our junior members is accused of abusing his wife and using us to instill fear in her. He is alleged to have threatened her that if she report him to the police we will move against her. The allegations were made by the Sacred Mother Germaine herself. I promised that we would look into them and asked the disciplinary sub committee if they would examine the matter. Now I’m sure we all appreciate that they’ve had a busy afternoon but I’m hoping they’ve had time to look into it.”

Nicholas looked to the back of the room. “Have you?” He said.

“Yes sir.”

“And is he guilty?”

“Yes sir, he is.”

“Very well,” Nicholas looked around the assembled company, “I’m sure you all take the same position I do on being used as a tool to terrorise defenceless women, and I do remind you that this has been passed to us by the Sisterhood. Clear message?”

The vote was unanimous. Nicholas looked to the back of the room.

“Destroy him.”

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