Mercy – 01/01

Julian Terrin looked up at the sound of the abbey’s bells announcing the time: five in the evening. To him they always sounded as if they were welcoming him home. The Abbey of St. Atrice had been his home a mere five years, but he couldn’t think of a better place. The dark, ash-colored walls swept upwards gracefully, slowly turning black as the sun set behind them. When it was completely silhouetted by the sun the abbey took on a sinister and brooding appearance, contradicting the idea of sanctuary it offered. The spindly towers and gothic decorations reminded Julian of a sorcerer’s tower. But in any case—

“It’s good to be home,” a smiling voice suddenly declared.

Julian ignored the voice, concentrating instead on making his way towards the front door. He was tired and didn’t feel like talking to the voice’s owner anyways. This tactic never seemed to work, but right now he simply was not in the mood to—

“Are you ignoring me, Terrin?” It inquired, sounding more amused than offended. “Come on, it’s not like it’ll do any good. I’ll just keep talking and talking and talking and talking and—”

“Brother Julian!” A young man—still a neophyte—waved amicably as he walked towards the older priest. “How did your mission go?” He asked eagerly.

“—and talking and talking and talking and talking—”

“It wasn’t a mission, Mathias,” Terrin smiled, “I was delivering a message to St. Jerias’s.” The lad fell into step with him and pushed open the door, holding it until they were both inside before letting it swing shut with a heavy whump.

Mathias continued to stay close to Julian, like a puppy. “I know it wasn’t a mission,” he said hurriedly, “but did you see anything interesting? Did anyone try to hurt you on the way?” The youngster was convinced that brothers like Julian, who were often sent out on long trips, led lives like the protagonists of adventure stories. The fact that most of the time these trips were just message relays or requests for certain church services did nothing to change his opinion either. In his mind, something exciting was always waiting to happen—so long as you left the abbey.

“—talking and talking and talking and talking—”

“No, Mathias,” he answered after a brief pause, “I didn’t see anything interesting. Only the grazing hills in Nortire and the cattle and sheep enjoying the grass.” They were heading for Julian’s quarters which were located on the first floor near the library. The boy’s soft shoes made a shuffling on the stone floors while his heavier boots made a loud thud each time he stepped.

“—and talking and talking and—”

“I see,” came the reply, which sounded as if he didn’t see at all. Mathias took the priest’s pause to mean that he was holding something back, something important perhaps. He waited for Julian to bring forth this withdrawn bit of information, but was only rewarded with silence. “You would tell me if there was something, wouldn’t you?” The lad asked, glancing quickly at the older man.

“—and talking and talking and talk—”

“Would you be quiet?!” Julian shouted abruptly, able to take no more of the sing-song words being repeated over and over. Next to him, the boy looked shocked and confused at the outburst. The priest quickly grimaced apologetically and laid a comforting hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Sorry,” he said, embarrassed, “I’m just tired, I wasn’t yelling at you, Mathias.” He waved his hand in the air as if to dismiss the whole thing, “Look, just forget it, please. I’ll see you at supper and you can tell me what’s happened here while I was gone.” He waited, wishing he had controlled himself better.

A small pause, then a smile, “It’s not like anything interesting ever happens around here. See you at supper!” Mathias grinned and took off in the other direction, perhaps remembering some task that needed to be done.

Julian breathed a sigh of relief, glad that the boy had overlooked his harsh words and odd explanation. Still he was ashamed at his own lack of control.

“That went well,” the voice laughed, obviously pleased with itself.

“Shut up, Chemos,” the priest said irritably, walking swiftly towards his room, as if trying to lose the voice.

“Come on, it was funny! Now that kid thinks you’re crazy! Think of all the things you can do to scare him!”

“I don’t want to scare him, it would be nice to have someone that I could talk to around here. Thanks to you, I’m running out of brothers.”

“Ah, Terrin, you have no sense of humor at all. It’s a shame.”

Our father, who art in heaven—

“Are you praying again?” Chemos laughed, “You know it doesn’t work!”

–thy kingdom come, thy will be done—

His thoughts trailed off when he heard a second pair of footsteps walking beside him and he clenched his hand into a fist, annoyance becoming pure anger. “Go away, Chemos,” he said tersely.

Next to him was a tall, lean man dressed in chains looped many times around his body. Under the chains was thick leather which seemed to be sewn into his skin around the neck and on the arms. His thin boots clicked sharply next to Julian’s heavier ones. “You looked like you could use some company,” he responded airily, “and I wanted to stretch my legs.” He held up a hand to the priest’s stern glare, “I’ll disappear if we see anyone, don’t worry; I’m not stupid.”

Julian could hear his teeth grinding together as he tried to reign in his temper. “Are you at all capable of just letting me have a few moments of peace or is that too much to ask of you?”

“Oh stop being so mad about the kid,” Chemos slipped long hands into the pockets of his pants as he walked and rolled his eyes, “it’s not my fault you can’t keep it together. Though I am impressed; that’s probably the longest you’ve managed to ignore me before shouting. You’re getting better, Terrin, I’m going to have to find a new way of annoying you.” He grinned at the thought.

“What did I do to deserve this?” Julian mumbled to himself.

Chemos laughed wickedly, “Here we go again, the ‘woe is me’ act. Did you ever stop to think that maybe there isn’t a reason for everything, Terrin? Maybe your god let a demon like me possess you because you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For all you know you were just some poor idiot that was convenient—”

“Shut up, Chemos.”

The tired priest entered his room and slammed the door, hard. Of course it wouldn’t keep the demon outside, but it felt good all the same. Drained, mentally and physically, he sat down on the edge of his bed, then slowly lay down and sighed. He would have started praying again but that would only incite more jeers from Chemos and right now he just wanted peace. Unfortunately the only way to have that was to sleep. He was constantly denied any reprieve from the irritating games and the malicious jokes while conscious, but while he dreamt, he was relatively undisturbed. Closing his eyes he concentrated on the image of a serene lake with a little sailboat gliding across it quietly. It was a routine he’d practiced for years and more out of habit than anything else he fell asleep quickly. But just as he felt his mind slipping into slumber, however, he heard Chemos’s parting words.

“At least it wasn’t Marielle that was talking to you, Terrin. Sweet dreams.”

His dreams were far from sweet when he fell completely asleep.

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