Chapter 16: The Land Without Footprints: Shadows Amongst Shadows

Posted: September 1, 2013 in Novel: The Land Without Footprints
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16 – Bann

“What is this silliness?” Father Tillicum tightened the yellow sash around his cassock, took the empty seat next to the Mystic. “Would God even know why I’d ever attack a little girl?”

With a finger Arkin picked at his teeth. “Then this discussion is over. The priest has never even come in contact with your daughter.”

A smile touched the corner of the priest’s mouth. “Lying is not one of God’s favorite crimes.”

Bann pushed his cup of urine aside. He no longer had a desire to eat or drink. “And what are His favorite ones.”

“The ones that He allows.” Father Tillicum laughed until Arkin joined in.

Presently, the room felt smaller. It was as if the conversation had some hand in shrinking it. The whole of Bann’s mind contained dark thoughts.

From the furthest door two boyish servants entered carrying the main course. On the table they set the roasted corpse. It had been a pregnant woman. Now just a Nahimanaian delicacy.

Of late cannibalism had become big business. Only recently the Mystic had created a human breeding farm to meet the demand. Rampant rumors of men impregnating their wives just so they could eat them circulated amongst the poor. Bann doubted any of the stories were untrue. After all, he’d eaten his own pregnant wife when the Mystic had cooked her.

“Nine months,” the younger of the servants informed them all before he left.

Like a butcher, Father Tillicum carved the belly and baby. “I hate to speak of serious matters in the presence of such a delicacy,” he said, plating the food, “but it is my duty to speak regardless of the situation.”

Politely polite, Bann refused. He’d eat himself before he ever ate another person again. In truth, he had never enjoyed the taste of human beings.

The priest spooned out extra juice from the broken womb. “Perhaps we should say a prayer before we eat.”

Back onto his plate, Arkin spit his food. “Make it quick, priest. I’m hungry.”

They all turned westward to the setting sun. Father Tillicum prayed for the rise of another and eternal health and, also, gave thanks to the hands that prepared the meal. Once he was done the Mystic demanded seconds even though he’d yet to finish what was on his plate. The priest hurried to serve more.

“We will have your true immortality by the end of the year,” Father Tillicum said as he sat back down.

“Six months,” Arkin corrected, before sucking at his fingers.

“Yes, six months.” The priest no longer sounded proud of himself. Bann pulled his eyes away from the dead, said: “Where will this true immortality come from?”

First, Father Tillicum chewed. “There is a plant that grows only in the desert. It is a sacred plant, a godly plant. Any disease can be cured by it, even mortality.”

“And how do you propose to find it in the desert?”

“We’ll travel. Thousands will die in the search but it will be worth it. Arkin has already given the command. As we speak, the desert grows closer.”

“And what if the cure can’t be found?”

“We will find it,” Father Tillicum said. “God puts the best cures in the worst places. Obviously Adam and Eve were ignorant of this fact because they plucked death from a stupid tree. They became like gods. Arkin will become God.”

Arkin banged the table. “I’m God already, you nitwit.”

“Yes, Mystic. Forgive my language.” Quickly quick, the priest stood, lifted his cassock and refilled his goblet with his own urine.

Bann thought he noticed a pair of testicles between the priest’s legs but he might’ve been looking for excuses to end the man’s life.

“Would anybody else care for a glass?” Father Tillicum said before he re-sat. “I always leave a little extra in my bladder just in case.”

Bann changed the subject: “How will you deal with the virgin crisis?” He reached across the table and pulled meat off the thigh. It was too early to look suspicious.

“Father Tillicum had the sense to take from Masago until our supplies replenish.”

Bann chewed, said: “Masago is a large country. But they’ve never truly done what we’ve told them to do. Right now a child queen rallies a group of rebels in the southwest quarters, it is said. How will you quiet her?”

“Death quiets everything,” Father Tillicum said. “If the bitch refuses to  hand  her  virginity  over  to  the  Mystic  alive  then  he’ll  take  her maidenhead when she’s dead.”

Arkin slurped juice off his plate. “Necrophilia has arisen in Masago. They developed something called farewell intercourse.” Bann didn’t want to know what that was. “I’ll fuck a dead woman just as soon as a live one.” Father Tillicum reached his hand back into the belly, came out with a little  foot, gnawed on it. “Does anyone even know the name of this so-called queen?”

“She’s  named  herself  the  Queen  of  Macawi,”  Bann  said.  “She denounces time and religion. She only enlists girls. Maims boys so that they cannot fight. It seems even women tire of passing from one man to the next like words exchanged from mouth to ears.”

Father Tillicum laughed. “Macawi? Where is that? How can she be a queen of a make-believe country?”

“How could the Pope excommunicate his own God?” Bann asked.

“In a false religion anything is allowed,” Father Tillicum answered. “Earth was not a place for true faith.”

Bann wondered how true the man was to his own faith. Sooner or later he hoped to find out.

Father Tillicum clasped his hands together. “Our prayers will be able to destroy this false state.”

“Immaterial things are hardest to destroy,” Bann said.

A full smile expanded on the priest’s face. “Then we’ll have to destroy the material that creates it. I’ve already enlisted your sons to command the army that will bring the Mystic’s harem back to full strength.”

“My sons?”

“Yes, they seem young enough to travel far distances and fight wild she-beasts. Though they’ll need your help for the knowledge they lack. Your daughter will stay here, of course. I’ve already planned a council on the subject tonight. The priesthood will decide if your daughter is worthy to bear the Mystic’s heir.”

“But there is a long-standing promise between Arkin and myself. You cannot have my daughter.”

Father Tillicum untied his sash, tightened it again. “Promises are easy to break since they lack material, no?”

The Mystic said nothing, kept eating.


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