I will be away for 10 days from September 3rd to 13th and so will not be able to post any of The Wolf Pack for that time. I am therefore posting Chapter 14 now. I will possibly blog whilst I am away assuming my ipad will let me!
Anyway, here's Chapter 14. I will try to post Chapter 15 before I go, but no promises.
I am working on Book 2, which is called The Never-Dying Man and I hope it will be out in October sometime.
The third day of her time with the Daughters of Sylissa was again spent in prayer and meditation except for the time in praise of Sylissa in the temple. The services were beautiful, if indeed the preaching was a little over long. Asphodel willed the day away. That morning, an acolyte had brought her the lilac sash and lilac-edged white robes of a curate, and she felt proud to be wearing it. She now addressed the acolytes as Sister, and they had to call her Curate Asphodel. (The few elven acolytes who were in Hambara used her full elven name and called her Curate Aspholessaria.) She found it a little odd not having to bow to other curates. She had to squash a sense of pride in herself, knowing that pride was not one of the nicer traits in people. This made her second day of prayer more bearable, and the knowledge that she would tomorrow be healing once more, and able to speak to people. (The rule of silence she found very oppressive.)
Asphodel’s second day of healing dawned, and after another long service at dawn, she made her way through the corridors to the infirmary once more. As a curate, she could now use the acolytes and give them simple tasks to do as other higher-ranking clerics had done with her previously. The day was passing quickly with a fairly busy morning when a young man came in. He looked around somewhat furtively, Asphodel thought, and then took a seat at the end of the queue to wait. He was obviously in some considerable pain, and Asphodel noticed that he was bleeding from a very nasty wound in his shoulder, although he was trying to keep it from being noticed. In her opinion, the wound should be attended to quickly due to the loss of blood and the dangers of infection if it were not cleaned, not to mention the shock that must accompany such a wound. However, the clerics all seemed to be ignoring or even actively avoiding the man. This puzzled Asphodel and she went over to him. As she approached him, the day’s duty vicar called to her. It was Vicar Weslon, and he was a very severe man; not quite what Asphodel thought of as a caring healer. Still, he was good at his job and she respected that.
‘Curate Asphodel,’ he said as she approached. ‘That man is not to be seen until everyone here has been attended to and then only if there is time, perhaps. Is that clear?’
Asphodel could not believe her ears. Was she being asked—no, told—not to perform healing on one who desperately needed it, and fairly quickly at that? This was against what she understood to be her vows. She dared not argue with the Vicar if she wanted to be released from the Daughters, but it worried her. However, she could not help but ask the reasons.
‘That man is evil,’ came the reply. ‘He is an assassin and has killed many people in his life. We cannot condone such, especially since the Most High wishes the elimination of all evil. By with-holding treatment, he is likely not to live, and so another of the evil gods’ minions will have been eliminated.’
With that, Vicar Weslon walked away to attend to a seriously ill woman.
Asphodel continued with her work, until suddenly she heard a cry from the direction of the assassin. She looked over in his direction. He seemed to be about to lose consciousness, and his wound was bleeding again rather more profusely. He was shivering violently even though it was warm in the infirmary, thanks to the hypocaust under the floor.
‘I cannot ignore a sick man, even if he is an assassin,’ thought Asphodel. ‘It is for the gods to judge us, not other people, Most High or not.’
So she made her way over to him in spite of her earlier instructions and did what she could. She performed a couple of simple healings that stopped the bleeding, and then she carefully washed and dressed the wound with healing herbs. She had just finished, and the man was thanking her profusely when she heard Vicar Weslon call her. He was extremely angry by the look on his face.
‘Disobedience,’ he spluttered. ‘Rank disobedience of an order by a superior. Go back to the House of Daughters immediately. The Great Father will hear of this. You are not to return to the Infirmary, but to remain in your cell. I will speak to the Great Father personally about this, and it may take a few days for him to see me and you will remain in the House of the Daughters until he sends for you. Pray, girl, for the humility to be obedient.’
He watched as she left the room and walked the corridors back to her cell. What was Sylissa doing allowing such disobedient girls into the ranks of the priesthood? How come she had not been weeded out before this, and why was she on his duty roster? Admittedly, she was a good healer for a newly promoted curate, but still, disobedience was disobedience, and he dismissed Asphodel from his mind until the end of his duty.
The next morning, Asphodel was surprised to be summoned to the office of the Great Father soon after breakfast, as she was praying in her cell. (She could not bear to be among other people just at the moment as she felt that they were all condemning her.) Maybe it was not about the incident the previous day? It was a bit quick for Vicar Weslon to have seen the Great Father she thought. The Great Father did not see lesser ranks very quickly as evinced by her own wait in the temple when she first arrived, and she thought that that would have been longer if Mother Caldo were not known to the Great Father. Still, she would have to go to find out.
She walked down the corridor approaching the office with some trepidation, and as she reached the door, the guard outside said, ‘You are Asphodel?’
She replied in the affirmative.
‘You are to go straight in.’ Then he smiled and said, ‘Good luck. He seems to be rather angry this morning. I hope it is not you he’s angry with!’
‘I rather think it may be,’ replied Asphodel, opening the door and crossing the threshold.
As soon as she saw that the Great Father was present, seated behind his desk, she fell to her knees.
‘Words fail me.’ The voice of the Great Father came to her from over her head. ‘Mother Caldo said you were defiant, but I did not fully realise how defiant. You disobeyed a direct order yesterday I understand, and you have only just come to us too!’
Asphodel said nothing. It was not permitted to speak to the Great Father unless told specifically to do so.
‘You were told not to heal an evil man, yet you went ahead and did so anyway. This in spite of the commands of the Most High, that we work to rid the world of evil in all its guises. That man would not have survived if you had not interfered, and another evil soul would be gone from this world to be judged and punished by the gods.’ Here he paused. ‘I do not know what to do with you at the moment,’ he went on, ‘Do you have anything to say for yourself? What is your excuse for your disobedience?’
Asphodel took that as an invitation to speak and answered quietly, ‘Your Holiness, when I took my vows, I swore to help the sick and injured wherever I may find them. I did not promise anything about selective healing, or only healing good people. The man was in need, and I fulfilled my vows. That is all.’
This seemed to infuriate the Great Father still further. Asphodel heard a chair scrape back as he got to his feet, and then heard him walk round the desk. She saw feet and a white robe edged in gold.
‘YOU—DISOBEYED—A—DIRECT—ORDER!’ The words were almost shouted at her. ‘YOU, A NEWLY PROMOTED CURATE, DISOBEYED A VICAR’S ORDERS!’
‘I obeyed my conscience and my vows,’ replied Asphodel, still in a quiet voice.
‘Now you speak before being given permission! Is there no end to your defiance?’
Asphodel looked up. It was forbidden, but she was beginning to become angry herself. Who was this pompous man in charge of the Church of Sylissa in Hambara? She saw in front of her a rather tall man, about 6 feet tall, with grey hair, thinning on the top. He was overweight, indicating overindulgence, and his round face was red with anger. Fortunately for her, he was not looking in her direction and so did not see her looking up.
‘Girl, I have decided.’ He turned towards the window. ‘You will join the Daughters on a permanent basis. You will take the vows of the order. You will learn discipline. You will be confined to your cell until I decide that you can once more take up the duties of a Daughter of Sylissa and then you will take your vows. You will, until that time, be fed only on bread and water.’
Asphodel forgot all protocol and surged to her feet. Her grey eyes were almost black with anger, and she could no longer contain herself.
‘You cannot force a free person to take vows they are unwilling to take. If you do so, those vows are null and void, and you know it. I will not become a Daughter of Sylissa. I’ve every respect for those who wish to take up that life, but it’s not for me. I cannot live that life, and I will not. I’m going to leave this temple now, and you will not stop me. I’ll become a travelling cleric and heal where it’s needed. It’s not our place to decide who will live and who will die, to put ourselves in the place of the gods. Surely if there is evil in the world the gods put it here? If we are evil, then the gods gave us that capacity. We cannot understand the gods and the way they work only do what we can. If this means that I do not progress any further in the ranks of the Church, then so be it. I’ll remain a humble curate for the rest of my days, but I—will—help—people. Whoever they are, or whatever they have done, as long as they have a need. Maybe seeing what good is, some bad folk may reform. That is surely better than condemning them to death, and surely much more pleasing to the gods.’ With that, she turned and headed for the door.
As she left she heard, ‘Yes, girl, that is right, you will remain a curate. No one in the ranks of the Church will test you for your advancement.’
She hurried down the corridor and into the temple. She did not pause to look at the magnificence, but swept through the main doors and down the steps into the late winter sunshine.