Confessional (novel excerpt) pt2
Since this was too long to fit into one post it had to be split into two parts. You can read part one here
‘You do a good job here, Brother Jonathan’ Tyer said, attempting to comfort his fellow priest but the words sounding hollow, even to him, nevertheless Jonathan responded.
‘We try, but all too often people don’t make it. The others, well we patch them up a best we can, sometimes they even make full recoveries, but mostly all we do is help them endure a little longer’
Tyer, not knowing quite what to say, opened his mouth to speak ‘You do what you can, that is all Ketch asks of anyone’
‘I appreciate the sentiment, but no Tyer we do not’ he replied as the corridor opened out into another ward, as he did so sidestepping a man who was in the process of being violently sick into a bucket. It was almost full and its contents were lapping against the edges, occasionally spilling over into rivulets of translucent green liquid that oozed down the vessels side and dripped onto the floor.
‘Too many our patients die from the preventable and everyday’ Jonathan continued dispassionately as they made their way down a narrow flight of stairs ‘had we got them earlier they might have, they would have, been cured. But they do not see our hands extended to assist them; they see the corpses emerging from the back door and stay away until it’s too late’
The words shook Tyer. Fool, he chided himself, what did you expect, Sudan incarnate striding majestically through the slums healing every ill with a single touch? Underfoot the stairs creaked loudly. Neither spoke. Eventually they reached a landing, which opened out into a makeshift corridor, the walls nothing more than sheets strung up along two ropes that ran parallel along the length of the room. They walked along it.
‘Tell me’ said Jonathan, changing the subject ‘How go things in the Salventine. It has been many a year since I have walked its halls.’ And there was a look in his eye that suggested it would be a long time before he would walk them again, Tyer understood it completely, ‘I hear Nestor is head of the middle council now’
‘A lamentable decision’ Tyer said, regaining, for the first time since he had enter the hospital, a tentative hold on his composure ‘but perhaps it will teach the council that next time they should elect someone based on their fitness for the job rather than the perceived ease of which they can be manipulated’
‘I take it things have not gone well then?’
Tyer chuckled; there was no humour in it. ‘You have no idea. Councillor Nestor is well on his way to dragging us back to the bad old days of the inquisitors.’
Jonathan lips curled downwards, his brow furrowed. Underneath his grime flecked skin muscles tensed.
‘Look’ Tyer continued his voice wavering ‘I don’t blame him, not entirely; in many ways it is the council who is at fault. They used him, every faction, every player with even the smallest streak of ambition, whispering honeyed words and thinly veiled threats into his ear until he couldn’t take it anymore.
‘Now he sees plots and treachery everywhere. He feels every mistake, every breach of church edict, is somehow his responsibility and must be rectified. The middle council has been purged; the few dissidents that remain keep quiet or else have been demoted to the lower council where they attempt to block some of his holiness’s more extreme motions. Sometimes’ he lowered his voice ‘late at night when all is still you can hear the screams; no civilians yet, thank Sudan, only those in the church who refuse to bend to his will, but I fear the time won’t be long in coming’
Tyer paused to let the impact of the statement sink ‘Of course the high council refuses to intervene’ here continued bitterly, flexing his fingers ‘they sit and debate their theology, as they should’ he added quickly ‘but they forget that beyond that which out immortal soul is destined to enter there is a realm of flesh and blood, and that it too is their responsibility’
‘I’m sorry to hear that’ Said Jonathan as they entered a small room, furnished with dozens of wall mounted shelves sagging under the weight of hundreds of well thumbed leather bound tomes. ‘I ran errands for him you know, when I was starting out; Collecting parcels, delivering letters, transcribing meetings, the usual novice chores. He encouraged me to set this up’ he made a motion with his arm that encompassed the space surrounding them ‘put in a good word for me at the council and procured me the funds, even reached into his own pockets when even that wasn’t enough. I was pleased to hear of his promotion, his more compassionate, humane approach seemed like just the thing the council needed. He was good man’
‘Yes...he was… Once upon a time.’ Tyer reflected.
‘Well Tyer, here we are alone.’ The door clicked shut. Jonathan’s hand retreated from the handle. ‘Now what was it you wished to tell me that you couldn’t in the presence of Brother Anderson?’
Brother Tyer cocked his head and considered his next words. ‘I believe some of it I have just covered; however unintentionally’ he hesitated again, a little longer than might be accidental ‘the church rarely pursues Doom-mongers like Brother Anderson. And for good reason, they tend to be cranks and raving lunatics best, deceitful charlatans at worse, and above all are far more dangerous to themselves than to anyone else, as evidenced in the case of Brother Anderson. People do not like bearers of bad news at the best of times, but they especially do not like them when the news they bear is false’
‘Councillor Nestor, I take it does not agree with this’ Jonathan said.
‘No, he most certainly does not. He believes that they out to undermine all the church has achieved.’
‘You see more of Brother Anderson and his ilk around than you used to’ Jonathan mused ‘He may just have a point.’
‘And do you really believe that?’ Tyer asked his pitch rising.
Jonathan shook his head still trying to reconcile his image of the kindly, if a little absent minded, old priest with the paranoid madman Tyer had presented him with. ‘The same thing happened when Emperor Julian was crowned. Doom Mongers have always gravitated around important dates and events, only to vanish almost immediately afterwards when the skies fail to rip asunder, and the all encircling sea to break through and wash all traces of life from this physical plain.’
‘Well put’ Tyer sounded relieved ‘but Councillor Nestor does not see things the way someone like you or I would. Which’ Tyer let the word linger in the air, tuning his head swiftly from side to side before resuming ‘brings us to the current predicament of Brother Anderson, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time if ever there was one
‘If it had not been for the riot he would have no doubt met some of Nestor’s men in a darkened alleyway, in fact I believed they tracked him down, or began doing so, once the ruckus was underway. The man that died, he was one of them, the others… Understand’ he was stumbling over his words now but appeared not to notice ‘that amongst those opposed to Nestor are a many just as questionable in their methods and it would come as no surprise to me if it was they, or men in their employ, who egged the crowd on and that when the madness was at fever pitch took the opportunity to capture some of Nesters underlings. Not that any of this helped Brother Anderson, as you yourself can attend a raging bull, once released, is a difficult beast to contain.’
‘A question’ Jonathan interrupted causing Tyer to flinch and clench his fists ‘Brother?’
‘Certainly’ the other priest said relaxing slightly.
‘Why do you tell me this?’ Jonathans tone was slow and measured, designed to calm and reassure as much as communicate ‘Surely such speculation is best kept to oneself?’
Tyer didn’t answer straight away. Instead he looked off into the distance, his pale blue eyes somehow seeing more than the four walls that surrounded them. The tips of his fingers withdrew from his palms, the white skin beneath returning to its normal soft pink hue.
‘True’ he said morosely ‘but there are knives in the confessional box these days, ears in every shadow. Accusing tongues bestride the corridors’ and how well I know it, he thought, and then speaking aloud said ‘I am under no illusions of what will happen to Brother Anderson once he arrives at the Salventine and it is wrong, but nevertheless I shall still deliver him to his executioners. I do not wish to share in his fate. I wish forgiveness Jonathan. No, perhaps that is too strong a word… I wish’ sweat beaded on his forehead ‘…I wish understanding. Grant me that at least.’
‘I understand’ For some reason Jonathan’s response left Tyer feeling worse than he had done before, nevertheless the put on a gracious expression and replied ‘Thank you. I have men waiting outside, you need not trouble yourself with shifting broth’
‘I shall have one of my assistant’s show them the Andersons room and provide them with a stretcher’ Jonathan interrupted ‘I assume you know the way back.’
‘Good, you can make your own way then. It does not do to dwell on those beyond salvation’ Jonathan said, and later on reflection Tyer wondered to whom he was referring ‘and I have patients to attend to. Fare you well brother’
He left, Leaving Tyer alone, hands trembling.
If you enjoyed this you can check out other excepts here
You need to be logged in to comment