Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Sixty-Seven



"Very well, we are related.  It would be unusual I suppose if we were not given the small number of people in any given Region that survived the Days and Destruction and its shadow the Chaos.  But the connection is tenuous at best and far into the past.  What does it have to do with me now?"

He eyed me like a curious raven.  "Cool.  Or cold.  But certainly not the useless pawn that my granddaughters painted you."

"Ceena and Tonya?  They decided to see me one way and refused to see me any other.  To the point of making sure I was never capable of being anything other than what they dictated."

He nodded.  "Perceptive you are.  And you have no idea how against the order of things their actions were."

"They were supposed to kill me?"

"No.  The opposite when it was determined there was no way to change the course of things that were coming.  They were to cultivate you and bring you over to our side.  In fact, after they discovered they were Damned, they were to adopt you and make you a daughter of our people."

I shook my head.  "I don't believe it."

"The fact that you don't tells me just how down a corrupted path they walked."  I shook my head again but he forestalled my objections.  "Ceena and Tonya were thought to be corruption free.  My sons showed no physical corruption and neither did their mothers.  They were born healthy and should have begat healthy children that could have lived free and normal lives ... and all they had to do was watch and report."

"Watch and report?  You did not order them to take a hand in destroying all of our husband's other wives and progeny?"

His face was momentarily blank.  "They ... they went that far down the path?"

"If you mean to their own damnation then yes.  And the proof is in their own handwriting as they marked the generation and its death in their own journals."

The old man sighed and nodded.  "I suspected they had a hand in some.  I tried to speak with them that time you came to visit.  To correct them back to the true path. But then they tried to kill you; and would have if I had not sent my mule to rescue you.  I almost had to reveal myself until I saw the two of you work together to escape the sucking sands."

"You?!  You were Nanny's owner?!"

"Hush child.  Yes.  My nephew thought it a fine joke to present you with the mule when you were forced to leave by your husband.  In truth the joke was my own.  She knew my scent and it allowed me to get near without your knowledge and watch over you to prevent any more such accidents from occurring.  I watched the antics of my granddaughters with disappointment.  They had such promise in the beginning."

My mind was swirling.  Ceena and Tonya's grandfather.  Nanny's owner.  And apparently my guardian angel ... a corrupted guardian angel.  I nearly allowed a hysterical laugh to take control of me.

I asked, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me to believe any of this?"

He snorted.  "As difficult as it was for me to believe that my granddaughters and their siblings would jeopardize everything we'd been working for."

That stopped me and I was silent as he continued his story.  "Our people have watched the Linders and the Harpers for generations ... and many others for that matter.  We ... meddled ... on occasion.  Or took advantage of natural events.  This was to keep the Harpers and Linders from coming together.  And to keep our own interests from being interfered with too much.  My granddaughters were given the task of watching The Linder - your husband and the two that came after him."

"Wait.  Were they also to keep me from begatting?"

"No.  It was a compromise between the two factions.  If a child did arise from the union it would be raised as one of our own and rather than a death angel wreaking revenge it might very well be our salvation.  A son would eventually inherit and become the Guardian of Tentuckia.  A treaty could be signed allowing more of our people to live on this side of the Great River.  You see Leeda Harper Linder ... our people are dying.  Or should I say they've always been dying but they are now dying in ever greater numbers.  Soon, not even procreation by adoption will be enough to keep us together as a viable group."

"Why are you suddenly dying?  A plague?"

"Plagues, corruptions, our people refusing to change the way and with whom they begat.  All of this and more.  Regardless of the root cause the result is still the same.  We are dying out as a people.  Fewer and fewer children are being born and of those that are too many are corrupted beyond permission to live.  My grandchildren were to be the first generation free ... but then I discovered the fools had returned to the old ways."

"Cannibalism?"

"That's one.  So is begatting with a close relative which only amplifies the likelihood of corruption.  My concerns were silenced by the Priesthood who were happy to have the people once again worshiping the Damned and under their thumbs."  He shook his head sadly.  "I could have lived with physical corruption.  It was the Soul Corruption that I and others could not abide."

"And again I ask, how does that apply to me now and for what reason have you sought me out."

"I had a dream," he said with a shudder.  "The voice in this dream filled me with terror."

I was beginning to wonder if the man's sanity was as corrupted as his body.

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