Chapter 16

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ORIUS HUNCHED OVER HIS DESK, preparing the sermon for the fast-approaching Sunday. His thoughts rolled about, his mind full of distractions. He set his pen down, giving in to them. Staring at nothing in particular, he allowed his thoughts to wander and they went to the subject of his latest trouble. Bethiah had spent most of the day inside the safe room. She meditated more than a Buddhist monk. A smile brightened his features at the image. He remembered his own first days on Earth. They too had been haunted by shadows and blissful moments when he thought he could still feel, if not see, the light of Adonai shining down on him. Those days had gone. He felt lost in the space between being human and inhuman. Unable to die, he passed from place to place starting over, but never finding the way back. He didn't want that to be her future if he could help it by the use of his hard-won wisdom.

Rubbing his hands together, Orius tried to concentrate on his work. This life had given him responsibilities he took very seriously. The paper on his desk was half filled with scribbles he barely recognized. His eyes grew tired and his back stiff. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he picked up the pen again, determined to get his work done. Despite his resolve to the contrary, focusing on the task was simply not to happen that day, or at least right then. A different immediacy took hold of him. He rasped a delicate curse, throwing the pen down. His eyes settled on the phone and he lost all thought of the sermon. There was someone he needed to contact. It was a call he'd been putting off since the day before. Complacency took over with as he wondered why his brother decided not to bless them with a visit since the night she had arrived. If he continued to put it off, he might be risking a serious consequence. Morgentus wouldn't remain absent for long. Still, he hoped one of her own would come for her. It was a hope he still had for himself, but now that his brother had found him, it was quite unlikely to happen before the spoiled bastard destroyed them both. He grimaced, thinking of another group who might help, though he had refused their hand generations ago. Orius shook his head. No. He couldn't reach out to them now. That bridge was burned.

Orius reluctantly picked up the handset, then set it back fumbling for his address book. His mind was so full that he couldn't recall the number. Thumbing through the pages, he found the number and quickly dialed before he lost his nerve. Clasping his forehead in his hands, he turned his face down and shut his eyes. He could only hope this was the right thing to do. He was never very sure of the archbishop or his staff. They had their ideas about things, usually twisted by the dogma of men owned by some shade who dared walk the Earth to spite Adonai. The line clicked and someone greeted him on the other end. Orius lost both his thoughts and worry, so startled was he by the sudden voice.

"Yes, yes. This is Father Gregely Orius in Máriabesnyő. Might I be able to speak with Archbishop Geitz?"

The voice on the other end explained that the archbishop was quite busy that day, but he would check if Father Orius could hold one moment. Orius agreed. He eyed the rotary dial, rethinking the call once more. He wasn't sure he wanted to know if the man was a charlatan or not. The father had lived under the illusion of a supposed bond with another world for some time and it had done little harm. Who was he to question such things? After all, there he stood, a matter beyond the comprehension of the clergy, although they pretended to have the knowledge that qualified them to such authority. Even if they did lie to him, that was nothing compared to his mistake. He too once knew Mikhael, so it wasn't strange to him that someone among the multitude of souls in this world would also. After his fall, any human had better standing than he.

The voice on the other end returned to ask him to hold once more while he sent the call through. The phone clicked, went silent, and then rang. Orius thought to hang up. It was the last chance not to start down this path, before he saw the entire monastery embroiled in scandal. Was the bridge burned between him and the outpost? He muttered to himself, unable to decide.

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