Chapter 19

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ORIUS SPOKE TO A CURIOUS DETECTIVE in the broken doorway of his church. The police tried to make sense of the extensive vandalism, but he had few answers to their probing questions. In the early hours of the morning, he and the brothers had been woken by the guardians to be told the demon had returned. The time since did little to wake slumbering minds to the reality of what had happened. Exhausted and confused, they went to the church to find that a townsperson had summoned the police. The sirens pierced the night sky as they careened up the street to rescue the parish priest.

Despite their groggy uselessness, the police interviewed each brother, jotting down notes on all that was said. Others busily snapped photographs of the damage and discussed the damage in whispers of astonishment. Their demeanor was slow and stern at all times, despite the awe the scene should have inspired.

A few patrol cars carelessly parked on the street with flashing lights. The commotion of their arrival had woken whoever managed to sleep through the attack. It was just as well. Orius didn't relish the idea of having to explain his brother to the authorities. They would have him quickly committed.

Fresh from their comfortable beds, the locals stood in the open gate, inspecting the scene for themselves. Most hoped for a bit of scandal to brighten their dull lives. In response to their curiosity, a police line had been drawn to keep them back and to prevent spoiling of any evidence. To their dismay, the scandal they'd hoped for turned out to be spiteful devastation.

The state of the church was simply heartbreaking. Orius had spent two decades there, speaking from the pulpit and from his heart. He'd survived the war and the recent upheaval in their country. The church had also survived these events. Through it all, he'd helped the people of his congregation survive; he'd told them of a place he once knew and barely remembered, he'd assisted them in major life events, and bid them farewell when their lives came to an end. He'd served them regardless of the shadow they harbored or the light they fostered. Each was an atman who required respect. He merely hoped to reinforce that choice with the best chance of being right. Tonight, he saw the fruits of that labor smashed and spoiled on the ground. These were the things that aged him. His hair grew in grayer in recent years. He looked little more than fifty years of age to them, but he saw himself as a recidia closer to death with each day's passing. At least he assumed so, recidia aged through their experiences like normal duta with each proof of their lessening resonance, only then drawing closer to the death that would release them.

Though the books might not be salvageable, and the stained glass certainly not, the space was still well intact. Candles could be replaced. Someone would manage to get them more books and the village was likely to do what they could to make sure their pews were whole once more. Vandalism such as this was pointless in accomplishing the perpetrator's cause because it always served to bring the victims together in response. Indeed, this was a message and not an action to put them out.  Morgentus told them he could touch them whenever he wanted and that he wasn't pleased with them barring access to Bethiah.

Orius crossed his arms and nodded in response to another question. The detective was all business, as if he suspected the brothers capable of such an atrocity. He was so very naive for a human, with a very old and strict guardian. Orius rubbed the tips of his fingers together, thankful for the increased number of guardians. If they sent a shadowborn, it could make things very difficult for them. The man stared at him, waiting for a response, but Orius's attention was on the broken church. Orius's eyes, glowering with anger, swept over the room again.

"Thank you, Father, for your time. We'd like to have another day before you begin cleaning up. I understand your reluctance, but if we're to catch the men who did this, it'd be most helpful," the detective said.

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