Past The Witching Hour

  • March 12, 2006 at 5:30 am #1875

    (Thanks and XP to Egeria Fellows!)

    The weekly sermon had found her here. She was quietly rested on a stone bench, pleated there with her skirts, within a neglected little section of St. Paul's graveyard. Three hours past the witching hour found her the same. Though now within a guise of fog and dampness, and accompanied by a gaslit lantern if only to keep the hand rested absently upon it warm when it was not made busy working the end of her thickbraid loose with it's mate only to be done up again.

    His holiness had lost track of the time, cloistered away with the angel Melal and learning how to utilize the Gifts from the Lord that Elijah had begun teaching him. He'd been on his way out of the cathedral, when he noticed the faint glow coming from within the graveyard. Fearing little with an angel of the Lord, invisible though it was, by his side, he made his way towards the source of the light, and was surprised to find the blind witch upon a bench. “Why, Miss Fellows, we missed you at mass this afternoon.”

    She did not startle when happened upon, though for her own silent admission and the way in wich she pulled her shawl over otherwise bared shoulders suggested that he had snuck upon her. Or she had paid him little mind here. Octavius was the first and only thing to have been focused upon in the time since her arrival here, when previous company departed. When she was finished in this silent survey of him, she turned back upon the grave she faced, and nodded. “I hope then that I will not be missed any further…”

    “Oh? And why, pray tell, might you say that?” He looked to the grave her focus was upon, and saw nothing remarkable about it at first glance. “Have you been here long?”

    “I do not suspect that I will be going back there. There is little need now,” quiet resignation spoke to the grave as she swept her arm down to pluck a climbing weed from the stone, “The widow will not despense of me, I know of this now. Whether she wishes to or not. That, and I have much work to complete with the next season's start.” The tatter shawl was pulled close, knotted loosely, and forgotten while palms rested over her shift. “I have lost the hours, perhaps they were only a few. Perhaps they were more.”

    “Have you any idea how late it is, Miss Fellows? What in the Lord's name are you doing out here so late, dressed in naught but your shift and a shawl? If you'll pardon my saying so,” and he smiled slightly to himself, “you seem quite mad at the moment, sitting here like that.”

    “If I knew how late it was, then that would suggest that I cared to know.”

    He rolled his eyes. “Very well, Miss Fellows, I'll ask again and more bluntly: What do you think you're doing in my cemetery at such a strange hour?”

    “It was my understanding that you relinquish your strangle of parishioners when they passed. I did not know that you still had jursidiction when mortality expires. I could leave you to your lands, if you would like. Perhaps then you would care to weed?” A clutch of strangler ferns and milkweed was resting there between them, plucked either from the ground or the grave.

    He took a closer look at the grave, searching for the name, for some connection between the deceased and the witch before him. “Why are you here, Miss Fellows?” He sighed in resignation. “Is that truly so difficult a question to answer? You'll catch your death sitting here in the chill air like that.” Hm. That wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing.

    “I wished to be alone with my thoughts. Is that so difficult to understand? Or to see for yourself? There is no greater quiet than a grave's one. Though at least we both are able to admit that it would matter very little to either of us if indeed I did catch my death in a draft.”

    He stared at her for a short while, and then, finally, shook his head. “Would you mind if I joined you for a time, Miss Fellows?”

    “Do as you wish. I've kept worse company.”

    He blinked. That was, remarkably, rather surprising, coming from her. He took a seat upon the stone bench, though he kept some distance between them. “Would you care to speak upon it, Miss Fellows? Believe it or not, I have been found to be a comfort to many troubled souls ere now.” He wasn't being arrogant or trying to rub anything in, for once.

    “When I told you I would not be coming for sermons, Bishop, that would include confessionals as well.” Back to the grave, unmarked and meager as it was, though that was not to say that she had not made herself acquainted with it's occupant. “I found company here, some woman who came to mourn I suppose. Though I remained here when she had gone.”

    “I'm not asking for you to confess anything. I was merely offering an ear to your woes, Miss Fellows. There aren't many who find themselves in the midst of a cemetery at an hour such as this, apart from the departed. Any mourners who had visited must have left quite some time ago.”

    “Perhaps. I am no good gauge for keeping time, or to tell you how long ago the sun had set. I simply enjoy the quiet here. I suppose not many of the residents do once they find themselves here. So I will while I still may.”

    “And once again, even those living who desire peace and quiet rarely come to contemplate things in the midst of a cemetery, particularly not for as long as you must have been here, Miss Fellows. Are you sure there's naught you wish to speak of?”

    “I often do. I have since I was small.” A hand was placed over the lamp to gauge it's warmth, and drew away when staisfied that it possessed a good few hours more. The stolen heat pressed from palm to cheek, when her head had been delivered down by a slight bend. Whether a play of shadow or that of fate, pale eyes were stained by dark crescents of skin beneath.

    “And why is that? Why do you find such comfort in the abode of the dead?” His gaze was caught by a mark on her exposed shoulder, and he stared at it, curiously.

    “Old habit, I suppose. I find comfort here,” she turned to him, a slight smile curling at the mouth, “I see then the widow did not give you her usual sales pitch? I am surprised, she is getting behind in her years.” A drift in her thought quiet until she shared. “I took my first breath when my mother took her last. This is no great tale unlike any others, but it is my own. My father, who knows if he has found his grave in the seas yet or not, was a fish man and monger down at the piers. The days are early, the nights are late and family was naught so I would spend my days in the yards of St. Christophers, and when I did not find my death or a suitor in my earlier years, my father saw to it that I found the streets instead. And the widow found me from that, though she did not look to far. Contrary to her great tales of being sent from someplace far, or having been found in an orphanage – I simply remained a permanent fixture on her front stoop. From there I suppose I would have been taken into her home, or out in a corpse cart,” a shrug, “All to consider, I have found the company here more pleasant.”

    “Yet despite whatever ill is betwixt you and she, she did nonetheless take you in and grant you charity. There must be something to be said for that.” His eyes remained fixed upon her shoulder. “Perhaps your tale isn't so different from many of them, but it is tragic nonetheless. Tell me, does that have something to do with your resistance to faith and the Lord?” His eyes raised to hers for a moment, and he returned her slight smile with one of his own. “Dare I ask what her usual sales pitch goes like, or should I merely be thankful I've been spared it at least for now?”

    “If enterprise is philanthropy, I suppose then, yes. No, see has so many of them that I cannot keep track. Everything to her having been a familial relation to me to fantastical drivel meant only to bring the customers through the door.” From her satchel kept between them, she rummaged a moment in search of a tea biscuit. “Shortbread. Care for one?” The offering was wrapped and held there in the flat of her palm till it had been accepted or denied, before unraveling her own, “There are many reasons that some do not find faith. I have found it, it is simply not your own, and I could not even hope to explain it for myself. There are simply things that have led me to believe that I do not, nor could ever, share in your faith.”

    “Thank you.” He accepted the biscuit, and gave her a wry smile. “Need I worry about poison within, or are we beyond that now?” He began unwrapping it, though, not really serious in his question. “I would be interested in hearing about your faith, then, Miss Fellows. Whether it could be easily explained or not. Does your faith allow for belief in Him?”

    “Come now. What sport would there be in poisoning. Even housewives engaged in that with mice. There is no sport to it. It is a chore more than anything.” She smiled a bit more, not really jesting. “I cannot say that I have found him any different than I have found others. I told you I have no words, it is simply a feeling. Though in a small way, it can be said that I am blind to him. For my own chosing, from other matters entirely that have made me understood that some faith cannot be afforded.”

    “What kind of a feeling is it? And surely some words could be found, if you had the will to speak upon the matter.” He broke off a piece of the biscuit and ate it. “Why are you so strongly opposed to the idea of faith? What happened to close your mind so completely to the thought of it?”

    “You say that your God is benevolent. That he may complete a person, make them feel whole in spite of their sin. I find it hard to believe that if there was such a being, how much of such attribites may he possess to steal the sight and the mother from an infant. Or claim the young, make the old suffer. No, God does not take part in our lives as some may hope. I see him no differently than what heathens worship – a statue or a book. It is much the same. I just know that I am not meant for it.”

    “He is not always benevolent, and He works in mysterious ways. Who can question Him or His plan? Life upon this world isn't equal, and yet He loves all of His creations. Surely those whom he tests with more woes than others will have a more likely chance of entering Heaven, so long as they acknowledge Him and live their lives as children of the Lord.”

    “When you have seen the things that I have, Octavius, you learn that Heaven is as selective as the landed nobility. Do not think that all those that are forever intended to remain here on this earth after their passing, your purgatory, have not lived good and wholesome lives…that is simply the way of it.”

    “And can you pretend to know all about those who continue to walk this Earth? Do you truly believe you are in a place to judge them more accurately than the Lord? Whether or not you can see or commune with them, do you truly believe they are all being entirely honest either with themselves or with you?”

    “I see and understand them as you would members of your congregation. I do not judge them, I see them for what they are and what they have been. Do not tell me that even when an infant boy is found among them, that he has committed some great atrocity so as not to be accepted into his heaven. But, I do not wish to discuss theology any further, it is a tiresome subject and my thoughs have already been taxed.”

    “Very well, Miss Fellows, though I do feel that faith could be a comfort to you in times when you are troubled, as you so clearly are now.” His eyes fell again to the mark on her shoulder. “Tell me, Miss Fellows, are you aware of the mark upon your shoulder?”

    “Mark, sir?” A hand to this shoulder, a hand to that. “Pan grease or hearth soot?” A genuine concern as the tips of her fingers rubbed back over the blade, well off the mark in missing the serpentine etch stained there into the flesh.

    “Not that kind of a mark, Miss Fellows. The kind given to one upon birth.”

    “Well then, I cannot very well say that I have seen if for myself, now can I?”

    “I didn't ask if you'd seen it, now did I? I asked if you were aware of it. For while you've no sight of your own, you do seem to be aware of a great many things, after all.”

    “It has not been made known to me then. It is grotesque?”

    “It is in the shape of a serpent.”

    “Can you be so certain?”

    “Rather certain, yes. Your shoulder is rather exposed between your shift and your shawl.” He smirked. “Do you mean to tell me your knight never noticed it? No? Perhaps his attentions were too busy elsewhere.”

    “I'd ask you not to look then. I did not think I would have company….” Abraham. A vacant stare had no less capacity for tears than the sighted. To this, his words, she closed her eyes if only to keep them to herself, off and away to some distant or pleasant thought, “I'd ask you not to speak of him any further. He is no more my knight than he had been before we met.”

    “Oh?” This was news to him…so the old man had escaped from her clutches after all! “Forgive me, Miss Fellows, I didn't mean to pay so much attention to your exposed skin, my eyes were merely drawn to a mark so clearly indicative of the Morningstar. So, he is no longer your knight, then? What could possibly have happened? You seemed so happy together.”

    “I was, I would have hoped to have thought he was as well. But, I,” Egeria worked a shoot of weed into a knot, and then another, “I do not wish to cause him or his family anymore hardship or strife. It was never my intent…”

    “Oh? So you've caused him and his family much of it already, have you? What did you do to him and them? Unintentionally, of course.”

    “I do not wish to discuss it. It is not my place, I no longer wish to draw unwanted attention to him and his kin due to the nature of our relationship.” It was the kindest manner in which she could tell him to bugger off.

    “Isn't it already too late for that? You already spent so long flaunting your relationship with him, it's only to be expected that you would both receive some attention for it, wanted or unwanted.”

    “It is done with, Octavius!” An outburst of words to disturb the dead suited her far better than tears, though even they were not far from calling. Something had startled from her tone, causing a rustle of dried briars that trailed off into the westerly corner of the cemetary. When she had settled with a sigh, the noise was gone, “Revel as you may, just be glad that I cannot see it. I just ask you now not to be made to hear it.”

    “Revel? Miss Fellows, you mistake me entirely,” or not, “I am merely concerned to find you so down in spirits that you would sit here in the dead of night amidst naught but tombstones awaiting death. Surely there's something on your mind that it would aid you to speak of.”

    “It has been spoken. And if I were not to await death here, it would be in my quarters or while sewing dressing gowns. No matter how pleased you are with your own life, you await death as well, whether there is want or realization or not. Trust in me when I say, there is no need for your concern.”

    “Be that as it may, Miss Fellows, I can't just leave you here in the cemetery all night. The dead deserve their peace, too. And yes, we all await death, ultimately, but most of us don't do it quite so actively as you are at present.”

    “Then I will go. I am certain I am keeping you from someone's business or another.” She made ready to gather her things into her satchel, and snuff out the lantern light with a quick breath. “And to speak on the topic of business, I have gotten a considerable distance from mine. With the start of season and other matters I need to tend to, I am afraid that I cannot offer Miss Mor any further instruction. It is with deep regret that I must do this, but I trust you will relay the news to her.”

    “That was something arranged between you and her, ultimately. If you'll be unable to uphold your end of things, you should at least have the decency to tell her yourself.” He shook his head. “Look, Miss Fellows, I know you've no trust whatsoever of me. That being said, I do hope you'd take to heart the fact that you'd be best not to keep things entirely to yourself, and whether you've faith or not, I have provided counseling to many ere now, and would be willing to set aside our differences to do the same for you.”

    “I was to be the one instructing her, not the other way around. Decency or not, and we may speak of those matters at great length one day, you and I, I owe her no such thing. If you do not wish to speak with her then she would have wasted a long walk to find naught but a latched door at the end of her path.” Standing to her balance, taking her small gathering of belongings with her, “I do not require counseling from you, or any other. I require sense enough not to leave the shoppe next time for even a moment's fresh air. Now then, Bishop, whatever business dealing you have with the widow may be severed at your own leisure as I am certain in saying that I will not be hearing from you come Sunday and all of those to follow.”

    “I'll be certain to tell your knight as much, should he be looking for you. That you'll merely be locking yourself in the widow's shoppe, that is. And since you won't have the decency to tell Riley as much, I'll let her know that you've none of it to spare, and that making promises and giving your word means absolutely nothing to you.”

    “Most excellent. I thank you for saving me the breath of both counts. Good evensong to you then.” A nod, and she set off quietly through the scatter of graves.

    He didn't follow her, nor did he make a sound, but a wicked little smile plastered itself on its face, and would remain there for the duration of his journey home.

    March 15, 2006 at 4:13 am #2452

    Very interesting guys. Keep it up

    March 16, 2006 at 2:40 am #2453

    Neat scene! very cool.

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