"They killed Brother Rowley silently," said Elder Betenson, his voice cracking. "A...knife wound to the throat. They came over the walls at the northern tip of the point, where the cliffs are the steepest, exactly where we...where I...least expected them."
Jared forced down a surge of nausea with difficulty. He had seen the body, had run to defend the village when they realized what was happening. A Marmack had slashed the boy's throat savagely coming over the wall. They weren't alerted to the sneak attack until they heard screams from the women who were working nearby.
He had known Brother Rowley—not well, they were a year apart in age, Brother Rowley the younger. But he had known him, the way everybody knew everybody in Bountiful. Now that the battle was over it was becoming more and more difficult to stomach all of the violence that had occurred—not only that committed by the Marmacks, but the lives he had taken as well.
Elder Betenson was speaking to what was supposed to be a meeting of the Elders' High Council, but which had turned into a general gathering of nearly every man and most of the women in Bountiful. Those who couldn't fit into the Council chambers were lining the halls; every able-bodied person who wasn't manning the walls, tending the sick, or assisting with the last of the firefighting efforts appeared to be in or just outside of this room. The Bishop had made no move to throw anyone out.
Ever, from what he understood, which wasn't much, was resting in the infirmary. The women were abuzz over something she had done during the attack, apparently after Jared had left her with her buckets of water, but he hadn't had a chance to ferret out what it was yet.
He wondered if it had something to do with Sister Flowers, who was being escorted into the chamber now. He thought he had seen two boys carrying her away to the infirmary, but he hadn't been looking closely. She seemed fine now. Several other women were flanking her, one holding her arm, though it didn't look like she needed it. Her attendants seemed somewhat upset. One of them was whispering something in her ear. Sister Flowers, however, moved with purpose. An Elder gave up his seat on the bottom row of the stadium seating, and Sister Flowers sat down defiantly, one hand protecting the gentle swell of her belly.
Elder Betenson noticed her come in and faltered briefly upon seeing her. He cleared his throat and continued, looking like nothing so much as a guilty child admitting that he had struck a sibling.
"Elder Meacham was able to rally the rifle corps to the back of the village, and thankfully the apostates were defeated without further losses to our people. Every raider who set foot inside the walls of Bountiful lost his life for it," said Elder Betenson. "I can say that much, at least. Many of those outside the walls did as well."
Bishop Royce cleared his throat and interjected.
"For the, ah, benefit of those who have joined us, Elder Betenson, could you please report briefly on the state of our defenses now," said the Bishop.
"The watch has been tripled," he answered, "with every section of wall given equal priority. Additional braces have been installed behind the main gates. Every third man on the wall has a rifle, and the others have bows. Elder Blackham has recruited a second apprentice to assist with arrow production. The lanterns are burning brightly, and will be kept lit all night until further notice. They'll need a lot more than what they brought today to get past us again."
"And just why were they able to get past 'us' today, Elder Betenson," asked Elder Cardon, peering down from the dais at him over the heavy lenses that served him as eyeglasses. He said it snidely, as he said most everything, but for once the Bishop did not censure him.
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Exile: The Book of EverScience Fiction
Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned-the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few wh...