Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 52: Tea at the Vicarage

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon Mackenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae has been tasked by the Faerie Queen with the mission of investigating a renegade faerie lord named Melchior who has established himself in the city.

When Strephon attended church, which he admitted, was more out of a sense of nostalgia and a fondness for the Anglican hymnody that any piety, he went to St. Onesimus, a small neighborhood parish not far from his home.  The grand Cathedral of the Holdy Redemption, built on the medieval shrine from which the city took its name, was a bit too “High Church” for his tastes.  He preferred St. Onesimus, where he and Phyllis had been married and to which they had walked on pleasant Sunday mornings in his more ambulatory days.

Devon would not have approved of him visiting the church, which is why Strephon didn’t tell him.  The fae have a long-standing antipathy towards churches, largely stemming from the ancient war waged between the Children of Oberon and the Inheritors of St. Augustine.  To Strephon this was ancient history, but the immortal fae have long memories about these things.  Perhaps this was the reason why holy things dispelled faerie glamours, and were an anathema to the Fair Folk in general.  Strephon didn’t know; no one had ever told him why, just that it was the way things were.  He did not share this vulnerability to Sanctity, partially because of his half-human heritage, and partially, he surmised, because his mortal father had him christened, and the rite had conveyed a sort of immunization against it.

But the real reason Strephon didn’t want to tell his cousin was that if he did, he would have to admit that he wasn’t going to visit the Vicar, but rather the Vicar’s wife, Lydia; and he’d had quite his fill of Devon’s remarks about his social life.

In addition to being the vicar’s wife, Lydia Palmer was a member of  the International Sisterhood of Independent Sorceresses; a group founded by the Wobblies back in the 1930s in an attempt to organize the witches of England.  How she managed to reconcile this affiliation with her position as a clergyman’s wife, Strephon often wondered; but never felt impudent enough to ask.  He suspected that she found it expedient not to tell her husband about these things.

The International Sisterhood was never quite the political force its founders envisioned; witches tend to be independent-minded and treated the organization more as a social group.  Phyllis had been a member back when the two of them had been more active in the magical community; sort of an “honorary witch” deemed magical by marriage.  But that was long, long ago.  When Second-Wave Feminism hit the organization in the early ‘70s, it briefly took on a more activist role and successfully lobbied to have witches added to the Council.  About that time Strephon re-established his connection with the group in order to oppose a development plan to build a shopping center in Stillwell Forest, one of the large areas of parkland in the city.  He had met Lydia then and the two had remained cordial acquaintances.

“Mister Strephon, so good to see you!” the vicar greeted him.  “Lydia told me you would be dropping by.  May I help you in?”

“Yes, thank you.”  Strephon preferred to manage his wheelchair by himself when at all possible, but Albert was a good soul and allowing him to do this small charity was a charity in itself.  And the vicarage, like many old houses, were beastly difficult for wheelchairs.

“I wished to speak with your wife about donating some flowers to the Altar Guild.  It’s my mother’s birthday, you see.”  Actually, he wasn’t sure faeries even had birthdays; being immortal, they certainly didn’t celebrate them; but it seemed a harmless enough taradiddle.

“I don’t think we’ve seen you at service in a while.”  The vicar tried to make the remark sound casual, but as he was also trying to manhandle Strephon’s chair over the front steps of the vicarage, he couldn’t avoid a grunt in the middle of it.

Strephon expected the comment; it was, after all, part of the man’s job.  And he was certain that the vicar expected his reply:  “I’m afraid not, vicar.  I do find it difficult to get out and about these days.”

“Do you have a computer?  I’ve been putting my sermons and our Bible study outlines on our website.  I’m trying to convince the Parish Board to let me do live streaming of our services.”

Strephon tried not to shudder.  Did everything have to involve computers these days?  Still, he should have expected this too.  Albert always was a tech enthusiast.  When they had first met, it was cassette tapes, and then videos.

Fortunately, at this point Lydia rescued him.  “Albert, are you going on about your computers again?  I thought you were working on your hymn schedule.”

The vicar gave a guilty acknowledgement and excused himself.

“Albert hates selecting hymns and tends to put if off ‘til the last moment.  It drives our organist mad!” the vicar’s wife explained

“I imagine.”

“So he’s taken to doing it all at once, once a year, to get it all over and done with.”

Strephon agreed that this was quite sensible.

When her husband had left the room, Lydia quietly shut the door and turned to Strephon.  “Now then, why are you really here?”

NEXT:  Everything is Connected.

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