The Case for Holiness

Kaelyn stood up and pulled Mason up. “I don't think...I don't think another attempt will help right now,” Mason said as he dusted off the seat of his trousers. “How is your head?” Kaelyn asked.

Mason rubbed the back of his head. “I think it's okay... Thank you.” Kaelyn reached up to feel where his head hit the ground. “The swelling is down...and I don't feel much internal trauma, but I'll want to check again in a day or so.” She stood back and smiled, briefly. “We figured out where Daisy is being held, and we got attacked by a demonic presence. Not a bad days' work.” Kaelyn said. Her heart was racing but she was trying to stay calm and efficient.

They started walking to town, side by side. Kaelyn felt guilty for enjoying this camaraderie so much, but she figured Daisy wouldn't mind. Daisy's heartbeat slowed in her ears, to a little slower than Kaelyn's own. She attributed that to the fact that Daisy was stuck and Kaelyn was walking. Hearing it like this was comforting to her. If she looked at their situation objectively it was still terrible: They were up against a crazy demon worshiper, and, to all appearances, his chosen object of worship as well. But now it was just a case of winning, not finding or wondering.

“I'm not sure who to talk to first,” Mason said after a while. “My Magister is very wise, but I don't know how much she knows about demon magic. Your master, that is, Master Colm, I know he's no longer your master, of course... the point is, I don't know how much he's studied that type of magic?”

“I don't know either. But I suspect it won't actually be either of our arts...we're missing the one person in town who actually focuses on the forces of evil.” Kaelyn said, hating herself for bringing Ellis into the conversation, but trying to be professional about all of this.

“Who... oh, Ellis? I guess so, yeah.” Mason said.

This is all stuff that I wrote over and over, false starts in the middle of the chapter. Keeping it here for NaNoWriMo purposes only.

Talking to Ellis took a little preparation. He was a good man, but he wasn't always the most personable. I'm almost sure I'll cut that previous line. "What does your magister think about the Church?" Kaelyn asked. Her own former master was a circumspect man, and humble, but she never felt that he was particularly devout, although Mama did go to church regularly. "Magister Sonja says that they follow a different faith where she grew up, and while the differences are not large, she's not entirely comfortable in our church." Kaelyn nodded. Faith had not been a major opart of her upbringing either. People in her home were often somewhat devout, but ugh, I don't like this part either.

Kaelyn and Mason walked up the hill to the Church. inside they found Ellis, methodically polishing the wood of the pews, moving slowly, cleaning each with great care. The old wood shone with a deep interior lustre and Ellis seemed intent on making that shine visible in every single pew.

“Can we help?” Kaelyn said as they entered. Ellis looked up and smiled. “There are rags on the fourth row back, and wood polish. Just a little, then buff it until the grain shows through. I've done the first six rows. Kaelyn ignored Mason's somewhat quizzical look and started buffing the benches, watching how Ellis did it, and paying attention to every nook and cranny, working slowly and methodically. She wasn't sure why, but she knew this was absolutely the right way to approach this situation.

At length Ellis spoke. “I foten find that doing a repetitive, simple task frees up the mind to contemplate bigger and deeper things; do you not find it so?”

“I have noticed that,” Kaelyn said, still working on getting each part of the bew celan, shining, and ready.

“Well then, with our hands thus occupied, what topics should fill our minds while we work? I suspect you have more questions about nature of the Divine and the Diabolic.” Kaelyn said nothing for a long moment. Finally she spoke. “Where do we fit in? I understand that the Divine and the Diabolic are at war, but why are we involved?”

“Why, we are both he battlefield and the prize.” Ellis said. “Although interestingly neither truly, personally benefits from gaining us. The Divine seeks our salvation, not to increase in glory but to let us do so. The Diabolic seeks only our misery, but you cannot ease suffering by increasing it in someone else.”

Mason remained steadfastly silent, working with less enthusiasm than the other two as he cleaned. Finally he spoke up.

“So where do we fit in? If the Divine is Orderly and the Diabolic is Chaotic, what are people?”

“We are free,” said Ellis. “The divine has all power but has chosen to let us do our own will. The Diabolic has no power, but wants to convince us otherwise, so that we may will fail to live up to our potential.”

“there is something there,” Kaelyn thought, but Mason had moved on.

“You say that the Diabolic has no power, but..if that's so, why is demon magic outlawed? What harm can it do if it's powerless?”

“All power has a cost, does it not? Kaelyn called it the 'principle of exchange', I believe?”

“Yes,” Mason said, cautiously.

Ellis put down his cleaning supplies for effect. “The cost of demon magic is the soul of the wielder. any power they achieve comes by burning away their own divinity, binding themselves tighter to the Diabolic.”

“you mentioned last time that a demon worshiper can't harm someone's soul,” Kaelyn said.

“I did, but perhaps I spoke too simply. Demon magic pretends to sidestep the need for payment for power. The allure is that you can pay the cost with another being, another person, perhaps. That you will gain what you want by destroying someone else. It's a lie, as is everything about demons. You can kill a person's body and cause great harm, but doing so will not consign their soul to torments. The only soul that is lost when you kill someone is your own.”

There was a certain satisfaction on Ellis' face as he said this that Kaelyn didn't like.

“Can the process be stopped?” Kaelyn asked. “ I mean, if someone is going down that road, can they turn around? Can anything be done to bring them back?”

Ellis looked slightly surprised. “The power of the Divine is infinite. Should such a one desire to change their ways, to turn their back on Diabolic whisperings, then..well, yes, I suppose they could be freed, and eventually saved.”

“You mean spiritually, you mean their soul would be saved,” Mason said, voice flat.

“Of course. Such is my domain of concern. Happily, the things that benefit the physical life of other people also help the spiritual well-being of both the giver and receiver. A person who cares for the sick lightens the physical load of the ill person, while also purifying and refining their own spirit, and the spirit of the person who has been helped.”

“Ellis, may I ask one more thing? I don't entirely know how to phrase this question, but if someone is lending their power to a there a way to neutralize that power?”

“Sojourner, and I sue yoru title for formality is needed, please understand that to the best of my knowledge such questions are purely theoretical. Direct practice of Demonic magic is against both temporal and eternal laws. And is indeed usually far mor work than any normal person would attempt. But the answer is the same as with any other art. If you want a healer's incantations to stop working simply convince the healer to stop incanting them. To stop a wizard from casting a spell incapacitate the wizard, or convince them to do something else.”

“And how do you stop a priest?” mason asked. Ellis smiled. “What would you have me stop doing? I have no claim to any power. Such gifts as I am occasionally given are at the will of the Divine. If you would stop me from preaching, you need to no more than walk out of the church.”

Mason nodded, turned and walked out.

Kaelyn remained a moment longer. “Ellis, there is a book that I found in Brant's room after he and Daisy disappeared. I have reason to believe that Brant is consorting with the Diabolic, and my, in the process, destroy Daisy's body and, based on our conversation ehre, his own soul. Is there any more direct help you can give us to stop this tragedy from coming to pass?”

Ellis nodded slowly. “Thank you for being entirely frank with me. But I ask you the opposite question I asked your friend: What would you have me do? I'm a priest. I can pray, I can study, I can teach, I can listen. I will certainly pray for your success, and I have faith that the Divine will give you such help as is needed in that Divine will. I do not operate in physical charms or symbols or sigils or powders or powers. I will listen to you, I will teach you what I know, but beyond that I fear my abilities are of very limited use to you.”

Kaelyn nodded, pushing down the frustration that was rising inside her heart. “I understand, thank you again, Ellis.”


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