Laurence, leader of the Seraphim Council, focused on Salem, Angel
of Cities, giving her annual report to the Seraphim Council. Slums were
ripe for all manner of demonic Tether, of course, but one to Beleth? More
subtle than her usual style... he considered as he listened.
The Commander General of the Host spoke with one of the bodhisattvas, resonating as he did so, probing for the reasons behind his request to become a Saint. He had always been a fine teacher, and could make a good Saint if his purpose was clear enough.
The Archangel of the Sword spared a bit of energy to respond to an Invocation from a servant on Earth, deciding not to make a full-blown arrival, since the question was clarification of orders rather than anything dangerous.
The elderly Brother Laurence slowly padded through the halls of the monastery on his way back from Matins, trailing his younger brethren on the way back to their beds. A quiet night. Quiet enough to hear the whispers on the sidewalk outside. He stopped and listened.
"Keep it down, will you? They'll hear us!"
"It's midnight, who's gonna hear us? A church doesn't have security guards!"
"Don't know much about monks and their schedules, do you? Just shut up already -- okay, here's the door. They probably keep the gold stuff in storage behind the main room."
Teenagers. Males, probably three from their footsteps, though only two had spoken so far. They were trying to pick the heavy lock on the side door of the monks' residential areas. Not Magpies, then, and from the shades of uncertainty in their voices, almost certainly human. He paused on the inner side of the door and considered his options.
It would be trivially easy to put the fear of God into them -- they surely were not expecting to open that door and find a grinning, armored man with a sword on the other side of it, waiting to give them all an appropriate hiding for their temerity. However, that would be quite a flagrant violation of Role, and while the Symphony might allow a Servitor a bit of leeway in maintaining even the best of Roles, an Archangel was honor-bound to hold himself to a higher standard. He could have another instantiation call for a few troops to do the same, but that again would be accessing help that Brother Laurence would not have. No, best to deal with this as a simple monk. He had faced trouble before without calling for backup. He paused in front of the door, put his hands in the sleeves of his robe as an old man would do to keep them warm, and waited with a small smile.
In a few minutes, they managed to open the door. The one in front, who had picked the lock, looked up and managed to get out a loud "Holy --" before the second one, a taller young man with an ear piercing, clapped a hand over his mouth. The third one in back, a younger lad with a suburban look to him, stared at Laurence in shock.
"Good morning, boys," he said. "I could have opened the door, if you had but knocked."
"He's a guard?" said the kid in back.
"No, doofus," said the tallest one, "he's just an old monk. He's not gonna hurt anyone. He's the one that's gonna get hurt, if he tries anything stupid... like yelling. Understand, old man?" He released his lockpicking compatriot, who wiped off his mouth with a disgusted look and put away his tool.
"Now why would I want to do anything stupid?" asked Laurence. "There's no call for anyone to do anything rash."
The tall one with the ear stud pulled out a knife. "Take us to the gold. The crosses, the chalices, all that sh*t."
Laurence frowned. "Poor language, my son. Especially in the same sentence as 'crosse-' uh!" The leader of the little group had clipped him across the ear.
"Shut. Up. And take us to the valuables."
Laurence hesitated, resonating the three of them. The tall one had as little sense of honor as he had seen in a human for a long time. He would not hesitate to kill this old Vessel. The youngest one defined honor in terms of his superiors; filling this role at the moment was the tall thief, supported by previous adulation shown by the lockpicker. The lockpicker with the blond hair was confused about such things, but would do as he was told. "Very well," said Laurence. "This way."
A knife was pressed to his throat, then hidden behind him. "No tricks, old man."
"No tricks." Laurence led the three of them through the back ways of the monastery, avoiding the sleeping Brothers' cells; other humans would complicate things at the moment, and possibly lead to trouble he would find it problematic to solve without breaking Role.
After a short trip, lengthened by the insistence of the boys on peeking around every corner to look for ambushers, they arrived at a choir practice room. Laurence entered and stood before an oversized hymnal on a low display table, surrounded by risers and chairs. "Here. The greatest treasure in this Church lies before you."
The tall one and the youngest were incredulous, looking around for the expected gold-plated paraphernalia. The middle lad was a little more intelligent than the other two, and eyed the old hymnal appraisingly.
"What the hell did I tell you?" said the tall one. "I said no tricks. There isn't anything here!"
"Dude," said the middle boy, "I think maybe it's the book. It could be antique, maybe worth a lot of money."
"The book? The book??" Their leader strode over to the hymnal and glared at it. He looked up at Laurence. "This worth money?"
"Very little. But it is nevertheless the most valuable object in this place, that I know of." No lie, either. Laurence considered himself to have been miraculously privileged to be there on the day when the Choir had sung the hymnal into a new existence, their sheer human worship and love focusing on the great hymnal they all shared, turning it into a holy artifact.
The boys knew nothing of this, of course. Angered, the tall one drew his knife, then put it back. "Grab him," he ordered his friends -- lackeys, now. They hesitated, but he asserted his authority. "Grab him!" They did so, one holding each arm. He himself went over and closed the door. "I noticed these walls have soundproofing on them, you old fart. Not so smart now, are you?" He grabbed a music stand and threw the loose top off of it, walking back over to the hymnal. "See your stupid book?" He used the stand's stem to bash the book and its pedestal off the table, leaving it bare. Fortunately, the book was not damaged. "Bend him over." He hefted the stand as the two boys led Brother Laurence's old Vessel over to the table and pressed him down. "You gonna lead us to the stuff, or not?"
Laurence bowed his head. "I will not help you rob this place. It is my home. It is a place of-" he gritted his teeth as the stem crashed down on his back.
The tall one looked at him in surprise. "Tough old bastard, aren't you? We'll fix that." He raised his weapon again, ready to strike harder.
Laurence's Archangelic toughness was not helping here; it was only fueling the young man to greater brutality. In the fraction of a second between raise and drop, he let some of his self slip away from the shell it was inhabiting, leaving the old body as frail as it looked.
Round metal rod on flesh covered by cloth is deceptively quiet. Pain such as Laurence had rarely known flashed through his awareness at the slight *thump*, and he let himself cry out.
The Wrath of God screamed in him to stop this evil. Take up your blade, cut it out of the Symphony, do not let it infect others...
Focus. Maintain discipline. The sword is not your weapon here. Defeat the evil with the tools at hand...
A rib had snapped. This Vessel would die soon if he let it. He was preparing a replacement elsewhere, but was only ten years old there. Preserve the Role. Use the tools at hand...
A slight shifting in the Symphony sang about him. No, not sang... crackled. A tiny motion. It would never become a full-fledged Tether, but the potential was building for a Tether. To Nightmares. But surely it was not for Laurence, a celestial, who was not afraid anyway. It must be coming from one of the humans in the room. A moment's Disturbance would shatter it, do it, you have an excuse... no.
At hand. It was surely not the human administering the beating that was the source of the nascent Tether. Laurence reached into his awareness and used the Elohite resonance on the two humans holding his hands and arms down. The young one on his left was afraid of being caught, of what the older one would do if he let go. Selfish fear. The one of the right had some of the same, mixed with fear for his future. Selfish fear, fueling the forming Tether.
How did one fight Nightmares? If he suddenly rose up and tried to punish the boys now, he might very well push the Tether into firmer existence and get it noticed. His weapon would have to be, then, his vulnerability. Combat fear. We must calm their fears. Calm....
Laurence's eyes widened imperceptibly. In the midst of his pain, he sent a tiny prayer of thanks to God for His remonstration and instruction, before trying to apply the methods of the Archangel of Flowers.
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