Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part XI by Brian Joseph Johns

Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Breaking Point

Jasmer held onto his restraints tightly as if they'd somehow anchor him to consciousness and reality. He had to keep his mind focused on something other than his current situation. He had to turn inwards while keeping his awareness outwards for any opportunity to escape.

Having joined the Power Lords during the first Sanctum wars, he'd never experienced their methods of torture. Now that he was an enemy of the Culdar Rath and the twins, he'd been subject to the methods they'd held back from him earlier.

His torturer had been behind him the whole time, observing his mannerisms and behaviour and reactions. Jasmer had understood that magic could be coercive in many ways but he'd never experienced those ways as had been practiced by the Culdar Rath. He rested between their efforts to push him to the threshold of his resistance to pain.

"You see. Even you have your limits. The legendary Jasmer. Not so legendary as the Culdar Rath were led to believe. One no doubt in whom your true love, Yirfir would be disappointed? The legendary gentile man we'd all been taught to fear oh so much." the mysterious man behind him spoke.

"This is nothing as are you, for it is the people who evaluate the worth of anyone and based upon that person's will to effect the world. I am as I was always and will be. I am of my own and of them and what I believe without fail. They see through you and your manipulation. I am not legendary because of anything I've done, as I am not legendary at all. I am doing what is right by trying to stop you and your plans." Jasmer confronted the Culdar Rath interrogator.

"Those people of whom you speak are not here and they do not have the answers that I need. Yirfir must have them though I doubt that, for no Culdar Rath woman has ever held such knowledge." the interrogator implied.

"That is because you've doubted our greatest strength all along. Women. Men. Partnership. Men and women. Women and Women. Men and Men. That is your failing. You fail to recognize the greatest force in the universe and being while we preserve it in the face of all opposition because it has no boundaries as you present." Jasmer held himself fast against the retaliation of the interrogator.

"No less. You will break or she will break. It is written in our books so it must be done for what is written is truth if it is our writings." the interrogator spoke as if truth was written upon his lips.

"Truth is not what alone is written but what is and has transpired. The words are symbols of what is to come or what has been. As close an approximation as our language will allow. This is a resounding element that has prevailed the Aerth all and about. It is you who abscond with the pretension of what life is above all else though you none do understand truly life for you lack a concept of freedom. Love is freedom. If you do not understand one, you do not understand the other." Jasmer exclaimed defiantly.

"Then pain is your ruler Jasmer for you respond as one who fears pain." the interrogator cast again.

Jasmer clenched as his body was pocked with fungal growth that rooted into his skin. He screamed as it anchored into his muscle tissue and found latch into his nervous system. The acidic growth spread into his veins and throughout his body reaching with roots as tendrils into his flesh.

Jasmer shuddered in a volatile tremor of pain. Then the pain was replaced by soothing aloe upon his wounds by a succubus plant feigning the love of goodness and healing. He paused while the plant soothed his wounds.

"You see then how it works. You don't give us, we give you grief. You give us, we give you relief." the interrogator asserted to Jasmer.

"I see only but madness and a mad man at the helm." Jasmer responded though more reactive than conscious.

"Good. It sounds like we're making progress." the interrogator responded.

Jasmer heard a knock on the door, which was behind him and out of view. The door opened and someone spoke.

"Sir. They've breached it." the voice spoke.

"This is not the time for jokes. Are you certain?" the interrogator spoke apparently irritated by the interruption.

"The message came from the one of the throne his self. They are laying siege to the open walls of the Sanctum in their year of twenty nineteen." the voice continued the edge of excitement baited the interrogators ears.

"Well. We have much to celebrate it seems. That will be all." the interrogator ordered.

The door closed a moment later and there was a thick silence in the air as Jasmer's last hopes fell.

"Is this a ploy? Your plan to break me! You bastard!" Jasmer yelled as a tear slowly emerged from the corner of his eye and crawled down his face, like a scar.

The interrogator remained silent.

Jasmer tensed and flailed in his chair.

"Answer me you bastard! Answer me! I'll kill you!" he cried trying with all of his strength to break his bonds.

The interrogator knew he'd achieved his goal and waited for Jasmer's energy to wane so he could proceed to the next step.

Only Jasmer's quiet whimpers took the stillness from air. Despite his lack of willingness to believe that the Sanctum was breached, he knew it to be true. It was no ploy. The Culdar Rath had been planning this for nearly ten millennium after all. He was just another pawn to be pitched to the fire after the big game. Then they'd do the same with Yirfir, broken and listless. Jexelen and Thara would be for generations to come kept alive by the energies of the Culdar Rath and tortured to the very ends of their nerves. Then Nelony, Shaela and finally Mila would fall should they be found. Then there would be none. No others to stop this madness and the age of ignorance would reign supreme. He'd failed them. He'd failed himself. He'd failed everyone.

He was even a pawn in their plans during the first fall of the Sanctum though they could not break him then. He'd managed to protect the Librum Universalis Codex because they'd needed him more than he needed them. Their glorious plan. They'd known he would turn on them and return to his one true love, Yirfir's. There was no hope or point to continuing this charade any longer. They'd won and taken everything he'd fought so hard to protect. The worst part about it was that nobody would know it. Nobody would even know what had been lost because the records and history itself would be replaced with the words of the Culdar Rath and the Power Lords. The books of old would be gone and history would be wiped clean, like the day's lesson past from the great chalkboard. With the learning gone, only the yearning would remain though it would be purged soon there after. Without the romance of the soul to drive people to learn and understand, we'd be their servants, knowing only what they taught us. Remembering their stories, the real history gone forever.

"I will give you time to consider your surrender to us. Unconditionally of course. You need to be re-educated and you having served our needs before will be given the opportunity to do so again under our conditions. You may even be given Yirfir with whom to spend the rest of your life after her re-education. She will be much more pliable and likely more enjoyable too as such. Just as a woman should be." the interrogator spoke with a practiced compassion.

He'd broken the great Jasmer. He'd broken with the Sanctum's barrier. Now picking up the pieces was all that was left. He would make an asset to the Culdar Rath under their ever watchful eyes and guidance. As a broken man he'd accept them and repent for his actions against them and elect to become a new man again. Under the guidance of the Culdar Rath with his broken bride, Yirfir.

"I will give you time to consider your choices as you need rest. It will be much better than it was before Jasmer. Much better. Your bonds will remain until you give us your answer and a piece of information to show that our trust of you was is not misplaced. Sleep well." the interrogator disappeared through the door, which clicked shut as the latch fell into place.

A moment of time staid forever to Jasmer. He'd no more weight upon his shoulders. All that was left was to begin his new life amongst his new friends and wait for the return and re-education of his wife to be. All that had been lost would be reborn in their plan.

The Gavel Comes Down

A dress lay on the chair. Not carefully placed but draped over the back of it. On the floor beside the chair, one white stocking and a pair of trousers were intertwined, much like those who had been wearing them hours prior. A corset lay beside the bed alongside a pair of formal gloves. Beside them two pairs of undergarments, one men's knit undershorts and the other a cotton underskirt.

A shaft of light poked through the drapes which were drawn tightly. It painted a line of blinding sunlight on the floor climbing up the bed linens and across to Magistrate's hand. His hand twitched under its nearly burning warmth and he drew his hand up and onto Shaela's milky white hip. She sighed, licking her lips and opened one of her eyes enough to see his face next to hers.

He was already looking back at her, having examined every curve of her body and all the features of her face. Her long eyelashes fluttered at him as she blushed slightly still in the afterglow of love making. She'd not been with a lover for many years, at least six and she'd exploded with passion during their love making the prior night. She'd not felt this way about anyone before though she was frightened at how fast this was progressing. Her hand found its way up to his face, which had grown stubble of half a day's length. She played with it delicately and slid her fingers around the outside of his eyes playing with his senses.

He did the same only slower working his way back to her ear lobes and eventually down and onto her neck. From there he drew a line down the center of her chest between her breasts and then curving around to her left breast. His hand slowly climbed it towards her nipple, steering away at just the last moment before it had become sexual. His finger followed the line extending from her breast to the outside of her underarm and up and onto her shoulder. Finally he found all of the tender and sensitive spots on a path down her arm until he arrived at her fingers, which interlocked with his and lover's grasp.

"I wasn't expecting this you know." he said to her.

"I wanted it, but I was willing to wait." he continued.

She smiled and blushed keeping her silence.

"I want it all. All of you. Not just a night but a lifetime. I didn't want to rush it." he told her.

I know - she mouthed to him.

"When you leave. If you decide to leave. Please don't cut our ties. Let this continue to grow. We can slow down if you'd like." he said to her no stress or worry in his voice.

She only kept her eyes wide, her lips as red as her cheeks.

"Not even this nonsense with the Strangers, the hunt of the Wytch kind or the Mayor is going to get in the way." he said without sounding practiced or rehearsed.

"We'll get to the bottom of this issue. Today, I'm going to recommend to the Crown that we open up a formal investigation and support for Evan's law offices upon his return. The Strangers will no longer be absconding with the law enforcement authority of this colony. There will be justice for those of the Wytch kind. No more bounties. Only real law enforcement investigations and no laundering of one's sins onto those of the Wytch kind for profit." his drive and focus had found him and once again he believed.

He believed in love. In good and all that was right. Like Evan and the few remaining who had sense enough to continue the good fight.

"We'll get to the bottom of this..." he stopped when he heard a commotion just outside the door of his master bedroom.

The sound of his care giver arguing with someone just outside of the bedroom door broke their private moment.

"Damn it. What the devil has gotten into this estate?" he said as he reached for his cane.

He stumbled naked across to his wardrobe and withdrew two robes, tossing the silk one to her.

"This won't take but a second." he said smiling to her assuringly.

Just as he had wrapped himself in his robe the door burst open, apparently unable to wait for him to unlock it.

"What in the blazes is going on!" he demanded seeing his custodian in a scuffle with with another man.

Shaela turned quickly and pulled the covers over herself.

The two men danced around the room struggling with one another.

"We have a writ and orders for your arrest, Magistrate!" the man struggled against the custodian.

"What nonsense is this? How can that be? I haven't done anything but protect this colony and its..." a loud explosion filled the air with smoke as the arquebus in the man's hands went off.

The Magistrate ducked though the shot came nowhere near him.

Shaela heard the impact in the wall next to her just as the splinters of wood flew into her arm. She screamed in pain though more startled than injured.

Upon hearing her scream, the Magistrate brandished his cane like a club and advanced on the man.

He swung it down hard on the man's back, knocking him down and onto the carpeted floor.

"Shaela? Are you injured?" the Magistrate screamed.

"No, just splinters. I'm alright." she ran to him and wrapped herself around him.

"Yes. I want to be with you. Forever. And then some." she said, suddenly scared by the thought of losing him.

The Magistrate's face broke out into a joyous smile as a tear broke the dryness of his eyes.

"That's wonderful and you shall have me for much longer as will I have you forever, my love." he replied to her in embrace.

His eyes opened to see another man stepping into the room, an arquebus leveled directly at Shaela's back.

The Magistrate spun with all of his force, hanging onto and twisting Shaela behind him as the crude firearm came to life with an explosion.

The projectile impacted his spine just below his shoulder blades, immediately shattering two vertebrae and severing his spinal cord. His weight immediately fell into her arms and his life ebbed to his last struggles to speak, but only air escaped his lungs. He drooled as he slid to the floor dead his eyes speaking volumes of his love for her as they drained of life.

"My love! My love!" Shaela screamed at the top of her lungs.

She turned him onto his back and began pumping his heart with her hands, pounding him repeatedly.

"Damn you! Don't you die! Nooo. Please don't. die." she cried.

The man who'd been hit by the Magistrate's cane got to his feet as the other grabbed at Shaela's wrists.

"Let me go you bastards! You killed him! You killed him!" she cried as she struggled unable to get her wits about her.

"He's dead you bastards! You killed a good man..." she fell silent when the armed man struck her with the heel of his weapon.

"Damn whore. Tie her up. She's going to spend the night in jail. Then she's to be tried on charges of Wytch craft. A summary execution too from what I understand." the man said packing a satchel of black powder into the barrel of his arquebus.

"Get his body to the Church. Keep it quiet. We want all of this to be fixed afore three nights are done." he continued as he reloaded.

"What's that for?" his partner asked.

"Him." the man said pointing it at the custodian as he pulled the trigger.

Shaela, the Magistrate and the custodian. Three of them fell into a blackness from which only one of them would emerge.


The horses kept their pace despite their lack of water. Barris suspected that they'd been getting some water from the dry foliage the'd been eating during the trip but not much else. Most the trip had been dry and they'd spent the last two nights without any water themselves. Mila had found a small bush mostly devoid of fruit but they'd managed to get a few berries from it. They were bitter but had water nonetheless. She clung onto Barris as the horses stopped, not willing to go any further. Sato's horse just ahead had stopped as well as if the horses had come to an arrangement the night before. They had been traveling through a well worn forest trail that abruptly ended leading into the rough of dry and barren woods.

"A strike maybe?" Barris said as he stroked his horse's neck.

"Here honey." she passed him a cloth.

He brushed the sweat from the horse's neck and thought about feeding the horse the cloth before ruling the idea out.

"I've never seen anything like this." Father Wilsen told them stepping down from his mount, then helping Darben down carefully mindful of his wound.

Kathryn and Melinda stepped down from their horses, brushing them clean of burrs and sweat trying to coax them into continuing.

"They lack the water they need. Perchance they know of water in another direction?" Kathryn offered her suggestions.

"That is worth its weight more than any ideas I've heard." Melinda agreed in Kathryn's favour.

"I think they've been here before. They won't even turn. Something has their attention." Sato said aloud as he heard a branch snap from in the foliage around them.

"Who goes there?" Barris demanded.

"You are in our territory. Step away from your mounts and you shall not be harmed." A voice emerged from the foliage.

An arrow crashed into the tree beside them. It reverberated with its impact.

They all looked to the arrow, somewhat startled.

"Oh. I guess you mean business. Right then." Barris and everyone else stepped away from their horsed.

"Lilareth wislen hreeh." A lady's voice spoke from within the brush confidently and soothingly.

The horses proceeded into the brush and disappeared.

A group of aboriginal archers stepped out from the brush and from their midst, a familiar face.

"You have entered into the territory of the free Haven.
I am Nelony of the True." Nelony Theearin

"You have entered into the territory of the free Haven. I am Nelony of the True." the lady spoke.

"Nelony! I am so glad to see you!" Mila's arms opened as she ran at Nelony.

Barris looked to Nelony uneasily thinking about his nightmares and her dreams. He could hear the edge of abrasiveness on Mila's voice.

"Oh no." he mumbled to himself.

Nelony Theearin stood with a puzzled look as Mila approached her. The archers drew their bows, yelling at Mila to halt. She paused a moment looking to Nelony.

"Come on. We're friends from school. A long time. You remember our trip to France to rescue Yirfir? Our yearly dinner?" Mila smiled looking around to the archers as if she was trying to convince them of a truth both they and Nelony failed to understand.

"I've nought been from these shores. France? Is nought that afar into Europe?" Nelony asked Mila looking suspicious for some reason.

The archers tightened their grip upon their bows.

"Look. Stop playing around with me Nelony. Most of all, you stop making eyes at my fiance! Do you understand?" Mila burst no longer able to contain her disappointment with Nelony's behaviour towards her husband to be.

The archers looked to Nelony who returned their's just as confused. She quietly assured them that she'd not been an adulterer.

"You're husband? I beg your pardon, but I am not even familiar with..." Nelony tried to explain suddenly finding herself in the defensive against another Woman.

She knew from experience not to rattle a Woman scorned.

"Don't deny it Nelony. I know you've had eyes for him for some time. Do you know how many nights I've had to clean his body after you've jumped into his dreams and raped him! With the help of your forest fauna no doubt!" Mila said as her pent up frustration with Nelony's behaviour ran its course.

The archers looked again to Nelony who once again looked to them mouthing - do you believe her? She shook her head holding her hands up in front of her. The archers returned their inquiring gaze back to Mila as this opera played itself out.

Barris looked down shaking his head unsure of what to do. He fully supported his finance for certain but did not know how to broach the topic with Nelony and most certainly how to deal with it in a public forum such as this three hundred and fifty years in the past, in the middle of a forest, a hundred and fifty leagues from the nearest civilization. Mila being an artist had always dealt with such issues through her art. The last few days here had taken their toll on her patience as they had on her body. She'd not been able to wash for days and they were all suffering from borderline dehydration.

"You mentioned Yirfir. By what means do you know of a person by that name?" Nelony asked Mila.

"She's a spy sent by the hunters and the strangers to execute you Milady! We should restrain her here and question her at the Haven." one of the archers suggested obviously feeling a bit defensive on her behalf.

"Yirfir and I have been friends for a long time. She was one of my mentors at the school." Mila told her in disbelief that Nelony could not remembers this.

"You're Wytch kind then. You know the sacred weave?" Nelony asked Mila.

"She's a Wytch?" the archers looking startled once again drew their bows leveling them all at Mila.

"Yes. I am!" Mila scolded them.

"Then she is a sister of mine and of us all. We are the True. You shall find no persecution here." Nelony pronounced aloud.

"You just keep your eyes off of my husband! Soon to be husband. And don't play naive or innocent with me. I know you all too well Nelony!" Mila demanded not letting her guard down one bit.

"And you blokes keep your eyes off of my wife! Soon to be wife!" Barris told the archers.

Nelony turned an accusatory eye to them as they quickly denied any such action shaking their heads.

"And you keep your eyes off of my horse! My soon to be horse!" Sato said to the archers just to rub it in.

Nelony looked again to the archers inquisitively. They just threw their hands up in the air and walked away.

"I don't want any part of this." Father Wilsen nodded to the archers as they followed Nelony into the forest.

"We're with him." Kathryn and Melinda pointed to Father Wilsen as they assisted Darben.

Several archers took over for them and carried Darben on his trip through the brush to the Haven of the True.

As Mila and Barris strode beside Nelony into the Haven, Yirfir ran the distance from the north gate to the east to meet them.

"Mila! Oh Mila! It is such a great relief to see you!" Yirfir held her arms up and wrapped them around Mila for a warm greeting and hug.

"Barris! Sato! I am so glad to see all of you safe!" she coddled them looking healthy and energetic.

"We're fine just a bit thirsty. How are you? Have they been looking after you?" Barris asked Yirfir.

"Fine honey. Just fine. You've met the other...? One. The other one." she asked Barris and Mila.

"Uhhh, other what?" Mila asked.

"Nelony. The other Nelony. Its complicated you see. There's two. The old one and the new one." Yirfir tried to explain.

"Old one? What do you mean?" Mila asked her.

"One from this time, and our Nelony. They're related apparently." Yirfir explained as a runner brought a handful of organic canteens.

Yirfir handed them around and waited for them to finish drinking before continuing.

"You mean that's not our Nelony?" Mila asked Yirfir.

"No. Not at all. She's from this time." Yirfir explained.

"Then where's ours?" Barris asked.

"She's in an enemy camp. A captive. They think they've got the real leader of this... Haven. The leader of the True." Yirfir tried desperately to describe the events that had transpired.

Mila, Kathryn, Melinda, Barris and Sato took a break to clean themselves with water from the well. Mila was able to find some more clothing for them and through her combination of spell and art craft, she was able to make it quite comfortable and appealing. In the short time of fifteen minutes, she'd modified some forty sets of clothing for them and the residents of the Haven. Nelony had a scout deliver some of the clothing to those who remained in hiding in the storage caves a ways south. Kathryn and Melinda donned theirs immediately. Mila changed and freshened herself up as well, improving her mood and relieving much of her growing tension. Barris was overjoyed to be in some new clothes and clean after their journey. The outfit Mila had crafted for Sato resembled the traditional ceremonial garb of a Samurai or Ronin, though Mila would not say which. Sato accepted it gratefully and donned his clothing.

"I don't suppose you'd be interested in getting our new clothing a little dirty, would you?" Barris approach Mila admiring her pink dress finding it quite appetizing.

"Who says that we have to get dirty?" she walked around him once looking him over up and down.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and they embraced in a long and passionate kiss.

They moved to a dinner table where a hasty feast was prepared from some of the food reserves they'd retrieved from the storage caves where most of the Haven was now housed for their safety. Melinda had found Bethel, who had stayed behind to assist in case there were wounded or the remaining force needed a skilled healer. They embraced freely without the worry of persecution by those that had accompanied them or anyone else in the Haven. They sat beside one another and enjoyed a meal together for the first time since the madness of the hunt had begun. Darben was still in the care of one of the other healers and tucked away safely in a bed where he slept soundly under the influence of herbal medicine.

Yirfir explained how Jasmer had left three nights ago on a mission to see if he could find help to defend the Haven from the impending attack. She explained that she knew he'd be back soon but Mila somehow sensed she might be deceiving herself. Something had definitely changed and the air was rife with resignation. Yirfir had not explained that she'd had a nightmare where she was in an embrace with Shaela, when she felt a sharp pain in her back, before her vision faded to blackness and the sound of screaming. She secretly feared that Shaela might be dead and in one mode of thinking she was right.

Mila explained their travels and her vision about the Librum Universalis Codex and Nelony's deposit of Father Wilsen's diary there upon. She also explained how they'd found Father Wilsen in this time and were given food and shelter by his kindness and that he explained the true events of the night that had begun the Wytch hunt and the death of Widow Tanara Milaise. He had been a figurehead for a hunt that was built on a lie. An excuse for those in the know to dump their sins onto those left out of this special plan. A plan that she suspected that the Norbids or even possibly the Power Lords were in on.

"Milady Nelony. There is a message for you." a runner announced as he approached the table out of breath.

"Excuse me momentarily." she stood and spoke with him quietly.

Mila and Barris had observed a determinate difference between their Nelony and this worldly leader of the Haven. They had seen qualities that their Nelony had but was often too shy or afraid to express. This Nelony was neither fearful nor shy. She expressed confidence in her ability to make decisions and did not back down from confrontation or shy away from disagreement. Qualities their Nelony might develop in time once she'd overcome her self esteem problems. Mila thought it was like seeing the Nelony of the future and it made her long for her friend's presence despite her disagreement with her infatuation with Barris. Mila was still slightly embarrassed of her reaction towards the Nelony of this time and once they'd pieced it all together, the group had shared a laugh at Barris' expense. He thrived in it of course and Mila was so grateful that he'd taken that embarrassment from her. She pinched his thighs under the table and rubbed his leg lovingly. He bore it all and played jester for the reunion of friends. All for the saving grace of his future wife. Mila looked at him thinking about how much she loved him. She toned their intensity down for Yirfir's hope and sake. Jasmer would be here sooner than they'd know it. After all, he was one of the sole survivors of the original fall of the Sanctum. He'd both protected the Sanctum while it was under their control and then had brought them down by his love for Yirfir.

Nelony returned, interrupting the conversation around the table.

"We must go at once to the north gate. We may be doing battle. Be prepared for anything. Follow my lead." Nelony told them as they got to their feet.

Mila and Barris got up followed by Sato and finally Yirfir. Father Wilsen got up then came back for his looking glass which he had left on the table after showing it off to his audience. Kathryn followed him though beginning to feel fatigued from the ride and the events of the last few months.

The bunch had arrived at the north gate, a fort built up of timber that had been dropped into a trench and propped upright to form the walls. The gate itself had a parapet and catwalk that they could climb to get a better view of the situation outside the walls. One by one they climbed up and peered out over the tops of the gates into their future.

A large force of cavalry, munitions and foot sloggers covered much of the ground outside the Haven a good distance away. Nelony had estimated between six hundred to a thousand men with black powder firearms. There were two cannon teams as well which did not improve their situation. Out in front of the force were a group of what Nelony assumed to be the commanding officer and some advisors. Father Wilsen handed his looking glass to Mila. She scanned the force and the commanding officers seeing two familiar faces.

"They've got Nelony!" she said.

She handed the looking glass to Yirfir who immediately looked through it.

"...Jasmer. Thank goodness." she said aloud turning and hugging Mila and then Father Wilsen.

"They still think they've got the real leader of the Haven and the True. We should send someone to negotiate with them, find out what their terms are." Sato suggested.

"I'll go." Barris offered.

"No you won't." Mila told him firmly touching the amulet around her neck.

She'd already lost him once and was not about to lose him again.

"That doesn't make sense. We need a diplomat. Someone with sway." Nelony told them.

"Thanks a lot. I did pretty good with the guy we got these clothes from..." Barris defended himself.

"...I'll go." Father Wilsen offered.

"No Father. I think we need someone with a bit of a different stance than..." Nelony started.

"No. It makes perfect sense. I know the Commanding Officer. He was a member of my Church just before the hunt started. They know me. They know I'm a man of the Church. They won't fire upon me or harm me and many of them will listen to what I have to say." Father Wilsen explained.

"Like they did when this madness got underway! Elias! They put that knife in your hands! Don't you recall! They felled a Widow! What makes you think they won't fell a man of the cloth? We fled Sharlesbury for a reason!" Kathryn pleaded with him.

The frustration became visible upon her face and she folded her hands.

"Do we need Darben here to speak the sense that appeals to your ears and remind you about their orders? I will go carry him here before you right now. Don't do this Elias!" Kathryn pleaded with him.

"They used me as a figurehead Kathryn. Many things that happened from the night of Tanara's death onward were nothing more than public concoctions to elevate me as some kind of leader of this hunt. When they'd learned that I was against the hunt, they started setting up schemes to discredit me in the eyes of the public. To contradict others' support of my Church. I still have the support of some of the people. I can just as easily use the power they gave me to put things right! Don't you see! Something one of the hunters said to me once that has echoed through these ears far too long was and I quote 'we made you, we can unmake you'. I can also do the same with them." Father Wilsen explained his belief to Kathryn who shook her head.

"I'll go." Yirfir said.

"No way. Way too dangerous. We cannot afford to lose you..." Barris started.

"I cannot afford to lose him. It makes sense. I know the Haven after being here in this time for three days. I know Nelony and Jasmer. We can communicate in ways they'd never detect or see. If they attempted an attack, I could single handedly take out a sizeable chunk of their force before they could take me down. I can be charming for negotiations. I could even get inside their heads. It makes sense to have me conduct the negotiations." Yirfir explained.

"I have a better suggestion." Sato said with assuredness.

Ten minutes later three of them stood before the north gate.

"Are you ready?" asked the gate keepers.

"We certainly are. Father?" said Yirfir.

"It is rare that one is ready to meet their fate, betwixt the known and otherwise." Father Wilsen replied.

"Porter? Porter? What about you? You keep those bags safe!" Yirfir turned to Sato, a mischievous smile on her face.

"Yes M'aam. Yes most certainly." he purposely nodded many times cursing under his breath though ultimately grateful for the levity.

"What about you Mila?" Yirfir asked.

"Don't worry about me. I'll do fine if you need me." she said getting ready for what might be the art work of her life.

The gate opened and they stepped out and towards the biggest gathering of armed forces they'd seen in a long time. The gate closed up behind them and they began their trek towards the forces of the new colony army.

Barris kept watch up on the gate, looking through Father Wilsen's looking glass.

"They're proceeding. They appear to be fine. No sudden movements from their force. They're professionals maybe?" Barris looked to Mila and Nelony who both held out their hands for the looking glass.

"I think I'll let you decide." he said handing it to Mila.

Nelony looked at him.

"And you say that I am infatuated with you. I can't imagine how." she beckoned with a bird call and a moment later a small sparrow perched itself upon her fingers.

"Chictk che chek zhikt." she said to it, kissing it's head lightly.

A moment later it took off as Nelony spied their progress towards the Command position through its eyes.

"They're just about there." Barris said looking through the looking glass again, handing it back to his wife to be.

Yirfir and Father Wilsen arrived with Sato who was slightly hunched over, looking very timid and meek.

"Halt. The lady first. Step one forward and present for us your name. Family then given." one of the guards ordered.

Yirfir took a step forward.

"I am Jennine Yuri. Treasurer for the free colony of the Haven and the True." Yirfir answered.

"The bearded man next." the guard continued.

"I am Father Elias Wilsen, diplomat for the colony of West View and spokesperson therefore to and by." he answered as he stepped forward.

"Your servant." the guard said addressing Sato who concealed his disdain for the reference.

"Sir yes sir. I am Aikika Uasa. Most humble porter for the Haven. Oh yes." he said pouring his Japanese accent on thick.

Nelony watched their introductions from Jasmer's side. She giggled slightly upon seeing Sato's performance feeling giddy and struggled intensely for a moment, doing all she could to keep herself from bursting out laughing. She felt a great sense of relief upon seeing her friends at long last tears began to flow from her eyes. Jasmer held his silence showing no emotion whatsoever. Yirfir looked on finding it a little bit unnerving.

"What is the purpose of your travel here upon this day and hour Father Wilsen? Surely you've read the orders to remove the residents from this Haven." the Commanding Officer addressed them.

"I am here to assist in negotiations and to procure the freedom of the Haven as part of a deal and truce that will recognize its sovereign identity as a distinct culture and society within the colony itself, as ordained by the Crown and under their jurisdiction." Father Wilsen announced to the Commanding Officer.

"I see Father. I recognize your authority under the Church, but I question your moral authority operating as an agent of the Crown and on behalf of West View and the Haven. You do realize that you are in league with wanted criminals whose sovereignty has been denied by the colony and court of West View by official order of the Mayors of three townships under colony jurisdiction." the Commanding Officer responded.

"Under what charges are you making this accusation?" Father Wilsen addressed the Commanding Officer.

"Under writ as signed by our local Lieutenant Governor, representative of the Crown and authority of the colony. In this order and I quoth the Lieutenant Governor's words: The colony of Haven and the order of the True are not recognized as being a legal colony nor distinct peoples, indigenous or otherwise. We have received word of the Haven being used to harbour and aid wanted criminals of the colony, including practitioners of the Wytchcraft. This writ authorizes the use of force to evacuate and detain the residents and armed forces of the Haven and to enforce laws in accordance with those under the Colonies Of The Americas Act." the Commanding Officer rolled up the writ and sealed it in its sigil.

"The document you are reading from is a forgery. I have it in good confidence that the Lieutenant Governor has not nor have they ever signed and sealed any documents willfully executing orders against any indigenous habitation of the Americas. The Haven is just one such habitation. In the interests of peace and prosperity, I do hereby ask for a formal hearing in order to clarify the validity of this writ and your orders to be carried out in a court of law." Father Wilsen spoke confidently to the Commanding Officer.

"Father, begging your forgiveness. We are the law and the court of the colony. We represent the interest of the people and the evils that Wytchcraft and the ways of the people of the Haven represent to all citizens of the colony." the Commanding Officer looked around to his forces, some of which put their arms aside to clap this pronouncement.

"The interests of which people? All people?" Father Wilsen asked the Commanding Officer pointedly.

"The right people. Father. The right people." he replied looking around again drawing an applause.

"Then am I to understand that there must be wrong people? Who are these wrong people? By whose authority does one make such a pronouncement against another group of people?" Father Wilsen asked the Commanding Officer.

"That's easy Father. By the laws of the people and the good book." the Commanding Officer jumped right into Father Wilsen's territory.

"Do these laws condone murder? For I have it on higher authority that the good book does not." Father Wilsen asked the Commanding Officer.

"Of course not Father Wilsen. Of course they don't. Where are you going with this?" the Commanding Officer asked.

"Why the good Widow Tanara Milaise. You remember that night don't you?" Father Wilsen asked him looking right through him.

"How could one forget the night that started the hunt against Wytch kind itself and the almighty's right hand, Father Wilsen, who by his hands felled a demon that night." he said presenting the Father to his troops who applauded the Father furiously.

"They love to see blood spilled. Just not their own." Nelony whispered to Jasmer tensing under the pressure of the restraints around her wrist.

"I seem to remember a real killer putting the knife into my hands after having plunged it to the hilt into her abdomen. Nobody ever heard that part." Father Wilsen explained to the troops who fell silent.

"Yes. I would agree with you, but there are vermin playing amongst the giants these days you know. Vermin being small tend to get crushed, die and disappear while the giants get bigger. The path gets made for times that have yet to occur. Our time is coming as the times that have yet to occur have spoken to us. Have they not Jasmer?" the Commanding Officer addressed the once mighty Jasmer.

"Yes, I would have to say that I agree there. Some plans are made too far in the past to obstruct in any way by the time they come to pass. I would also say that this is not so much a question of right or wrong but whose side do you want to be on. The side that survives and writes the future history, or the side that dies and disappears with the truth?" Jasmer posed.

"I couldn't have put it better myself." the Commanding Officer turned to address Father Wilsen with a sinister look upon his face.

Yirfir's heart sank as Nelony looked to Jasmer like he'd just betrayed everything they'd fought for. Yirfir looked deep into Jasmer's eyes but could see nothing but an empty husk. Her lover was gone. The emotions hit her like a ton of bricks and her heart abandoned her silently amongst all of these hard faces.

The Commanding Officer reached reached into his scabbard to produce a blade. I was slightly tarnished though its volatility was pronounced by the way that the Commanding Officer wielded it. Looking purposefully to the Father and thrusting it into an imaginary point into the air.

The Father shuddered as he remembered that night and stared unblinking into the eyes of the real killer.

"You see Father, the truth is we are going to be the rulers here. In times to come there will be a great place of learning and that place will fall. Then it will be our time. The people who made that plan, forged it so long ago that they actually planned for it to occur in many places on the great calendar at once. That just as the times to come are not set in stone, nor are the times that have been. They can be changed to suit the present. So truth depends upon where you view it from. And when. The truth is that everyone that joins us will be absolved of their transgressions just as I was promoted for ridding Sharlesbury of Tanara Milaise and her husband before that. Everyone that follows this plan will be responsible for those transgressions. Even the transgressions of murdering those same people upon whom that blame is put. With them their truth dies only to be replaced by ours. The history that will be remembered will be the one that we write. So truth is truly subjective, Father Wilsen. Therefore you are a murderer. You killed the Widow who was responsible for bringing about the passage of Wytch kind through the colony with motive of improving her husband's crop yield during the harvest. I am sorry that you do not concur with that view." the Commanding Officer reached into his holster and drew his arquebus.

Yirfir's thoughts jumped to the Librum Universalis Codex and its records of all that is or was. It contained all of the events of history and times past since the craft was first mastered and taught by Lyra to her first initiates. It contained the pain and anguish of the trials of history and the joy of its successes and triumphs that every one of those who were part of the Sanctum bore as a weight upon themselves. The greater the imbalance and injustice that existed, the more that those of the Wytch kind bore in pain and the greater the good, the greater their ability to apply that energy into the balance through the weave.

"The Lord will not let this pass. Nonetheless I am not afraid to die or be murdered by your hand. I believe in a greater good and a greater truth." Father Wilsen defied the Commanding Officer's pronouncement.

The Commanding Officer was talking about a bigger plan. Something that had to be the designs of the Power Lords.

The Father's undelivered letter to Kathryn had triggered a seizure in some of those who bore that weight upon its addition to the Codex and its effects had spiraled through history, even to affect those of Wytch kind here and now. This true history was the most important purpose those of the Sanctum had, though it became manifest in the burden of pain and the enlightenment of joy resulting from all of history and all of its living creatures. When this weight became too much, the Order Of The Aerth Mother often became involved. Other beings and powers too, beyond even the vast understanding of the Sanctum became aware of such problems. Those who still lived from the land itself directly often received the signs first along with the fauna of every natural habitat and the health of life itself. The indigenous peoples too who'd lived for millennia dependent upon the balance of life and the land, received their signs through ceremony and vision quest.

"No Father. You are mistaken. I didn't murder you. Nelony did. As she did the lowly porter and then herself. She couldn't stand to live without her one true love. Barris." the Commanding Officer leveled the arquebus.

Yirfir immediately cast a spell giving pause to the events unfolding and the passage of time. Then as she had the prior nights, Yirfir stepped into Nelony's mind, to discuss with her what had happened before her arrival in the wilds of the colony. Time would pass much more slowly for them while they did.

Nelony's mind was a vast and beautiful forest with a lush waterfall poking its way up through a cliff face to caress the sky and a contrast to the tension she'd just paused. Nelony basked in a spring gently brushing water over her body, which was covered by a leaf and vine garment that had grown to her heavier renaissance beauty figure. He blond hair gleamed streaking down onto the leaves that covered her breasts. Yirfir marveled at the beauty surrounding her, much a contrast to their current confrontation.

"Dangerous is it not to speak at this time? Might they not know?" Nelony's head was turned away from Yirfir as she spoke.

"What we discuss here and now might change the outcome of this entire situation. You as the only surviving member of the Aerth Mother order should know this." Yirfir reminded Nelony of her connection to these most important of events.

"Then know you must and know you will. The end has come and passed. Kept quiet and from those of the Sanctum just as it was myself. And from her." Nelony spoke turning slowly to face Yirfir.

"Who?" Yirfir turned to see the other Nelony approaching.

"The other Nelony. Nelony Theearin of the Haven and the True." she strode up looking very similar to Nelony Ardbloem.

"Then the signs did come? How did we not know? What happened?" Yirfir looked to her Nelony.

"The signs came from the moment that Father Wilsen's letters had arrived. Sent to me by an anonymous sender by courier. My nightmares began from the night after receiving and reading them. I saw echoes of her battle here in this time. Her efforts to do justice against the Wytch hunters. Then the great Aerth Mother herself spoke to me and I had become the instrument of the end." Nelony explained about her experiences from the night she'd received the letters and records of death of the members of the Wytch kind.

"The tribes of the Aerth spoke with the Great Ones of old. The Ancient Ones. It had been decided that I was to deliver this judgment to the world. Yet I was followed and tricked though my memory is still hazy from that point. An island to which I had traveled was where the transfer of power was to take place. They'd followed me somehow and at the moment when the powers were to be bestowed upon me, they trapped me and put their own in my place. The Twins of the Culdar Rath." Nelony explained drawing upon the insight her recovery had given her over the last three days.

"Who took the power of the great well and the destroyer?" Yirfir asked looking to both Nelonys who stood beside each other.

"The Twins. Born from the same line interbred since Lorr and Lyra broke their bond and their love. Born twins each generation. The symbol of the Culdar Rath's connection to the original plan. They are now Gods among us all and in three hundred and fifty years from now, they will deliver the destruction of civilization much as the hunters are now eradicating the last of Wytch kind here. The Sanctum too will fall. Can you not feel the siege even as we speak from here in this time? You are the last of the loose ends, to perish in this time so that none would know of your existence. Then the new history would emerge with none to stop them." Both Nelonys spoke simultaneously, much like twins.

"The Commanding Officer is then a part of the..." Yirfir started her question only to be interrupted.

"Yes, my love. He is a part of our new rulers. The Culdar Rath." Jasmer spoke as he approached Yirfir.

She ran to him and wrapped her arms around him.

"What has happened to you? I could sense it from the moment I saw you through the looking glass. You've changed." Yirfir grabbed his upper arms shaking him as she spoke.

"The Sanctum is about to fall. We have failed and there is little hope. The siege is laying waste to the outer walls." Jasmer responded with little emotion.

"No! This cannot be! Every thing that we've fought to protect? It cannot end like this! It can't!" she screamed at him.

"It already has my love. It already has." Jasmer did what he could to console her.

"There is hope. The prophecy says that the Lyra's Twins will face the Twins of Lorr and should they overcome their wrath, hope may be restored but not before some are sacrificed. The greatest of Lyra's order will rise to stop this plan. This loss cannot be denied. This is the gift of hope paid for by Lyra's choice to abandon Lorr and the Culdar Rath and start the first orders of the Wytch kind. To preserve the land, the history and the creatures of the world against the Culdar Rath." the two Nelonys once again spoke simultaneously.

"Join me my love. I will protect you from the Culdar Rath. You are to be reconstituted to their ways as I have been, though you will not remember this life at all. It will be as if you were born from the moment the process begins. It is the only way for us to be together." Jasmer told her listlessly and without desire.

"I will never join the Culdar Rath or follow Lorr's plan. No matter how futile this gets we must never give up." she pleaded with him.

His visage started to dissipate as the real world began to stream in through fissures in her spell. Their forest surroundings slowly began to disappear, replaced by the volunteer troops of the hunters, also known as the Culdar Rath.

Yirfir realized that this situation was going to end in conflict despite her efforts to delay it and that she had to preserve them somehow and get them back to the Haven. They had not counted on Jasmer having changed sides again and Yirfir still found it difficult to believe.

She felt herself being tugged back into reality as her pocket of time fizzled. Time began slowly accelerating from the stand still it had been a moment ago.

The Commanding Officer's arquebus leveled at Father Wilsen in slow motion as time began accelerating to a uniform rate of passage.

Nelony jumped for the Commanding Officer in hopes of hitting him with her leg, only to fall flat to the ground.

Yirfir beckoned to Sato who had already began moving much faster than anyone could have anticipated. He dove over the first line as Yirfir pushed the Father to the ground.

The flash cracked the silence of the air as the shot impacted Father Wilsen's chest. Father Wilsen fell to the ground gasping, clutching at the gaping wound in his chest.

Sato crashed through the second line of men, quickly dispatching three men in succession with his fists to get to the Commander.

Yirfir began casting as Jasmer too let fly a bolt of restraining energy.

The blast hit Yirfir jarring her though she'd managed to shield herself from the bolt. She continued casting her spell trying to ignore the calamity around her.

Sato got to Nelony, picking her up from the ground and breaking her restraint just as the Commanding Officer grazed Sato with the same knife with which he'd felled Tanara Milaise.

Sato spun and immediately let fly a series of rapid punches sending the Commanding Officer backwards and motionless to the ground.

"I told you that Aikika Uasa!" he yelled at the Commanding Officer's motionless body.

The first three lines of troops leveled their weapons to fire upon the Haven just as the cavalry charged.

Just as the first shots were fired by the line of troops setting siege to the Haven, Yirfir's spell grabbed each of her friends by their innards, twisting them through space and ejecting them just inside the walls of the Haven.

Nelony got to her feet and began attending to Father Wilsen's wounds as Yirfir ran to the parapet.

Mila had watched the events unfold and quickly began casting a barrage of spells to have ready for their attack upon the Haven.

Nelony Theearin floated over the wall towards the oncoming cavalry, having dealt with many similarly armed hunters before.

They slowed a bit as they spied her menacing figure floating across the plains in the early evening daylight. A shoot of vine followed in the earth beneath her.

"Drambvath!" her arms directed a shockwave which sped from under her in a curve towards the Culdar Rath's cavalry.

It picked up dust and debris as the shockwave wall grew in size. The horses continued full tilt towards the debris as the riders braced themselves for impact.

The horses hit the shockwave unaffected by it or its debris though as soon as the riders hit it, they were thrown a good distance from their mounts. They rolled to a stop on the dirt.

"Sumbeleth!" she yelled to their mounts.

The horses looked to her, and then back to the fallen riders and then towards the Haven. They ran for the gates abandoning their riders and the force altogether.

"Get the gates!" Barris yelled to the gate guard.

He opened the gates as the horses approached.

"Now lets see how you do without your weapons!" Nelony Theearin screamed at the riders.

The riders got to their feet and charged Nelony Theearin drawing their weapons. As they did, the wooden shafts of their weapons suddenly came to life, a series of thorns of wooden slivers punctured their hands and they fell screaming in pain.

A volley of shells wizzed by Nelony Theearin, one grazing her side. She winced in pain looking to the troops that had fired upon her. They fumbled with their their loaders, pouring powder into the arquebus then the shot, packing it down with a pole.

Nelony Theearin turned to flee as they fired again, once again clipping her shoulder. She again screamed as she floated back up and over the wall when the real show began and Mila's spell burst to life.

The troops began marching towards the Haven as a tremendous line of fire like they'd never seen erupted from just outside the walls of the Haven. It was multiple colours and it flew through the air towards them. One of the colourful balls hit one of the troops exploding into a whistling spinning maestrom of firework colours. Another impacted just a few feet away sending another similar maelstrom into the air around them.

The smoke rose over the troops and soon they could not see or be seen by the Haven. The tremendous fireworks display continued as Mila climbed down to lend assistance to the others.

Father Elias Wilsen gasped hanging onto his fading life as Kathryn, Melinda and Nelony did everything they could to prevent his succumbing to his mortal wound.

"It is inevitable...<gasp> The truth is set right. Kathryn. Be well my love and live on. Live well and learn to love again." Father Wilsen looked to Kathryn at a point somewhere beyond her.

Barris had hopped down from the parapet to see if he could be of assistance in the Father's plight.

“Barris. I know that you have torment in you and that you've lost your faith. I do not profess to know your answers my friend and I'll never forget our conversation in the Church.” Father Wilsen spoke the words freely though still struggling slightly.

“I have my reasons to feel as I do and the examples of history to reinforce those reasons Father, though it is not your fault.” Barris said to the Father honestly.

“What you do not realize my son, is that despite your feelings towards religion or faith, that we are on the same side when it comes to our intense need to protect what is right, and not just to protect what is might. Two very different things. Within anything made up of many people, there will always be many different points of view. Even amongst those of like ideology. I have come face to face many times with those who felt my clergy was in err, sometimes by my superiors in the Church. I stood my ground in defense of what I felt was right even when it contradicted their views. It is my faith that feeds that and not just my faith in God or the divine nature of life, but in what is right and wrong. There are those who would have had my head had they known I was an amateur astronomer. Yet I believe that God does not want us to keep our eyes closed to the universe around us. That is to live in ignorance and ignorance is the cause of a great many problems in this world.” Father Wilsen said quietly to Barris as he moved in closer.

“All I know is that in the name of how some people use that belief and that book too, they have brought a great deal of undue and unnecessary suffering to people. Some who share those beliefs and some who have not suffered alike at the hands of others who misused those beliefs to cause harm. Casting the first stone at Women for the blame of original sin is something that I cannot concur with Father, and never will.” Barris said honestly to the Father.

“I know your feelings on this Barris, and so does God. That is what makes you who you are and you are the right man for one such as Mila. In our world, there are many ills and injustices that can happen amongst us. It is up to us knowing what we know to do something about it. Even if it stands against the doctrines of a belief you profess to be a part of. If in your heart and soul you feel it is wrong, then you must make your stand. Whether you choose to believe or not Barris, the Church and the clergy is not your enemy. Our enemies want us to fight amongst one another in a competition that cannot be decided, men or women, religion or science, monarchy or parliament, the old world and the new world, tradition or revolution. Pitting such ideas against one another is futile for there is no certain answer and only the grounds for brewing rhetoric. Rhetoric useful in producing thought, but not always in solving problems.” Father Wilsen explained to Barris who listened intently.

Sato stepped in and spoke.

“Forgive me for interjecting. I had a teacher once. A great and wise lady who hailed from China. She one day asked me: Which hand is better, the left hand or the right hand? I replied the right hand, because it was the one that I favoured. She grabbed hold of my right hand firmly clamping it in her grip. I used my left hand pull it free from her grip. She spoke again saying: Neither is better. You used your left hand to free your right hand. They both work together. When one is impaired, the other is required. I stand with both my left and my right leg. They need not fight nor do I need to make them compete to decide which one is better. The game of fools for certain. They are both required for me to stand. Ask one who has neither or does not have both and they will say the same.” Sato said to both Father Wilsen and Barris.

“A wise lady for certain. We waste a great deal of energy when we fight over things that can never be decided. A distraction from the real issues of life, freedom and the pursuit thereof. The wytch hunters used me in this way and employed deceit, murder and rhetoric to play the public and hiding the real monsters. This is what happens when we are distracted, fighting over things that have no sure answer. Some answers have definite resolutions and absolutes. Others do not and aren't always so clearly defined. How you navigate this road, is what makes you who you are. Religion, science and faith are merely your guides through it though that journey is ultimately up to you. The wytch hunters are exactly the monsters that they seek to hunt. They only seek to bury their deeds on another and to use rhetoric, public opinion and the casus belli to convince the public to go along with burning them at the stake or drowning them. I have seen that there are Wytches such as Mila that preserve life, truth and goodness. There are also Wytches that create mirth and deceit from the ranks of the wytch hunters, and whom hunt the Wytches such as Mila, Yirfir and your friend Nelony.” Father Wilsen shared his final insights hoping they would be enough.

“Casus belli?” Barris asked.

“It means the justification that one has in the eyes of the public, to execute justice over another member of the public. It is the manifestation of public opinion in regard to issues of one person versus another person and many people versus many other people. It could relate to a person versus another, a religion versus another, a country versus another. The people will side in favour of the Casus Belli. The measure of public support for conflict.” Sato answered Barris.

“Exactly. You Barris must not lose faith whether you believe in God, religion or whatever you choose to believe. You will find allies in many different places and within boundaries that others might have tried to keep you away from with the barriers of cliche or stigma. Some might say: never trust a politician. Others might say: don`t trust the government. Some might say: the Crown is the real enemy. Some might say: the Church is to blame. None of those statements is right at all. The truth is that within each of those ideas, politicians, government, the Crown, the Church or any boundary that you can make to group people by, there are people just like you who seek to accomplish what is right and some that might not be in tune with what is right for the people and freedom. For such people, it is like riding a horse where the horse and the rider each want to go a different direction to get to the same place. Each has certain ideas about what is in its best interests, but the other has insights that help the other know what is best for both. That is not to say that people are horses to ferry politicians around. It is to say that society has an idea of where it is headed, but cannot always see well enough to get there. A good leader might know how to get there keeping the interests of the people in mind, but might not know the people. When both work together and have each other's interest and trust and the protection of life and the living, great things will be accomplished and humanity will shine. Barris, don't let such barriers that are made by others prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. The wytch hunters use hate to ruin their victims and employ the hate of the God fearing public against wytches. Many of those the hunters had done this to were not even wytches. They are using and abusing an idea for its power and doing so to do great wrong. Do not let anyone turn that around on you.” Father Wilsen choked slightly feeling weak.

“Turn it around? What do you mean?” Barris asked as Sato stepped in.

“Some people might turn an idea around, to have the opposite context. There are many groups of people that do this to their enemies. So you taking a stance against the wytch hunters might be turned around to appear as support for them. In other words making your stance against actually mean the opposite.” Sato answered.

Kathryn, Mila, Melinda and Yirfir listened along with Barris.

“At the height of the hunt, I tried to use the power the hunters had given me to steer the public opinion against that of the hunters themselves. The hunters protected themselves by convincing the public that I was talking in opposites to confuse and expose the wytches. It became a sort of means by which the hunters kept the illusion that I supported their cause when I very much did not. The more I struggled to distance myself from their cause, the more they gave others the impression I supported them, and actually was against the very people I loved. Like Kathryn. Melinda and Bethel.” Father Wilsen explained perhaps getting the last of his pains from his chest.

“We were kept under the impression that he was the front line supporter of wytch burnings and drownings. He was very much a figure head used by the hunters to manipulate the colony.” Kathryn said as she leaned in close and rubbed the Father's forehead with a cloth.

“They did everything they could to keep me in their ranks and as that figurehead. Turn around was one method they'd used. Everytime I'd said something with which they did not agree, they would tell the public it was me speaking in opposites to confuse the unfound wytches.” Father Wilsen closed his eyes.

Mila kneeled beside him and began casting a suture to cover his wound though it was already too late. Her magic closed the gaping wound and the tattooed suture sealed it but not in time. He struggled against the tremendous pressure keeping him from his breath.

Mila felt tears in her eyes welling up and abandoning her dropping like rain on the Father's body.

Father Wilsen looked to Mila and put his hand to her face.

“You protect her Barris. You are a good man. I hope that some day you can look past the boundaries that others have beset upon you to see the truth.” Father Wilsen's eyes glazed as he spoke.

"A beautiful angel arrives to take me to the heavens... I wish that I could have married you to your love, Mila." he looked to Mila one last time and quietly died.

Barris wiped a tear from his eye, rubbing his finance's back with the other.

“He is at peace.” Sato spoke with reverence.

Nelony felt a tremendous relief from deep within her as the Father's pain subsided. The change had begun and Nelony once again felt like her old self completely since before she'd read the Father's letter to Kathryn.

Kathryn knelt beside Elias and kissed his cheek.

"Goodbye my love." she spoke quietly as the sound of the fireworks crackled into the evening.

"We need to deal with our problems out there!" Nelony Theearin arrived floating over the wall, falling to the ground exhausted.

"Anyone think to bring Jasmer?" Barris asked, startled back to their current situation.

"My spell didn't latch to him. He's one of the Culdar Rath now. He's our only way back to our time. He will know how they transferred us here and by what magic." Yirfir looked desperately from beside Barris' position on the wall hoping for any sign of his being.

"We must flee! We cannot hold the Haven against such a force!" one of the guards yelled as he spied a line of troops emerge from the smoke of the fireworks, which were still going strong.

"We must hold the Haven! At all costs!" Nelony Theearin commanded.

"Then we'll hold it!" Yirfir yelled climbing up and onto the parapet.

Continued in A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part XII

Copyright © 2018 Brian Joseph Johns