Axiom - February 2000
Suffer Not the Beasts to Live - karne
Lion - michelle
(page 11/18)

Suffer Not the Beasts to Live

'...shall claim mastery over the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fishes in the sea. And being made in the image and likeness of God and perfect in His eyes, man alone of the beasts was granted the gift of speech.'

The church is the tallest building in Havensford and easy enough to find - even in the dark. The side door is unlatched, as it has probably been all week - so I'm expected, if late. Once inside, I lurk for a while in the aisles; I'm not sure when the services start and I really don't want to walk in on a Mass.

Creeping on, I find her standing before the altar, a tall figure dressed in a grey habit. Perhaps she's praying, or more likely just thinking, but still I wait awhile before coughing softly.

"There you are!" The ankh at her neck glimmers as she hurries to embrace me. I return the hug with enthusiasm; it's been too long. "You got it?" Concern and hope vie in weary eyes. I nod, and shrug the panniers to the ground, unhooking webbing as I do so. The contents clink softly, vials of blue glass packed in lamb's wool for the journey. She carefully unswaddles one and holds it up before the candlelight. "How much did they make?"

"Eight thousand doses. We had an entire wheat crop mouldering in the caverns. Gods know if we'll ever get rid of the smell. Is it enough?"

She nods with relief and hurriedly rewraps the vials. "It will do. I've a hundred dead already and four times as many sick." I start to apologise for my tardiness, the unseasonable weather - but she stops me, touching cheek against mine. "Hush. I know." She hefts the panniers. "I'll get these to the healer - he trusts me enough not to ask questions."

"They accept what you preach?"

She winces slightly. "No... not really. Some listen, some even agree... but it's very slow - you can't change their beliefs overnight.'

"Are you in any danger?"

"No. Yes. Perhaps. Some.. " A loud banging on the main door distracts her. I can hear faint cries of 'Mother Katherine! Mother Katherine, please hurry!' "Another... You'd better go. Stay in the area, yes?" I nod and again we embrace. Then she turns towards the door and I return to my shadows and my thoughts.

'...there were those amongst the beasts who saw this gift and coveted it. And they conspired amongst themselves against man. Then, in the darkness of the night, they went forth and stole the gift that was not theirs to take. And with this loss did man become imperfect.'

'Lion', by michelleThen one evening, my fire warns me - charring wood and falling masonry, intense heat and dancing flames.

I wait for her that night, high on the mountainside with a small lamp as a beacon. She arrives from the night sky - a figure in grey - ankh incongruously still about her neck. Tired and deathly saddened she settles beside me. As I offer food, I can taste the smoke that clings about her. The waybread is tasteless, but easy to digest - meat would be better, but she's always queasy after a change and another fire is out of the question. She pulls at the bread, and silently I wait for her to speak.

"They burned the church." Her voice is bitter and rightly so.

"I'm ... sorry. Were they...?"

"Seekers? Yes." The word is spat like poison. "I knew they were around, they and their damn zealots collect like vultures but... They didn't have to burn it! I loved that church! An 'accident' no doubt, a 'sign from God!'" She snarls to herself for a while then slowly calms as I groom the ash from her wings. "Why is it always fire?" she asks plaintively.

"Who can say. I can't. I'm just glad you're all right."

"I was at no risk from fire. Still... we saved some lives and now I'm a martyr again. I just wish we'd had more time - mankind can't stand alone forever. Can they?"

'.. almighty became wrathful and cast forth both man and beast from the garden He had made. And so they scattered into the wilderness and man heaped curses upon the beasts that had wronged him and swore never to forget.'