The Apostasy Gambit

Session 6: Lazarus

Lazarus the Book Collector

Session 6: Lazarus

“So there I was,” he paused and took a sip on the tea. He winced slightly, the hint of citrus-flavouring seeming to have accumulated in that one taste. Putting the cup down again, he tried to refocus, “There I was,” he repeated, pausing, looking around at his audience as he allowed the mood to seep from his story into the real world, “naught but a knife in hand with a daemon to my front and a daemon spawn to my flank!”
Thirty pairs of saucer sized eyes looked back at him, “What did you do!?” came a voice
“Well,” chuckled the preacher, “What could I do? The Emperor would never have forgiven me to suffer those abominations to live! I charged the daemon!” He boasted, nodding his head as though to confirm his words were accurate.
A shocked gasp came up from the crowd, “Weren’t you scared??”

“Of course! Terrified! But while the Emperor’s work is not always glamorous, you know you have his gaze upon you. As I ran, I prayed, begged the mighty God-Emperor for even a fraction of his strength, and damned, double damned, and damned again the monstrosity before me” as he spoke he swept quickly to his feet, “I attacked with what I had,” he raised his hand high as though still clutching the cooking knife, “and the Emperor saw fit to answer my prayers!” he beamed, bringing his hand down sharply, “That blade sang with the Emperor’s wrath and as soon as its steel touched that foul mockery of life, the beast died – unable to exist in the presence of His will! Pestilent thing exploded…like a big balloon” he shook his head, “Rained its filth everywhere! Blood, puss, ooze…”, seeing some at the back looking appalled, sounds of disgust escaping their mouths “And I don’t mind telling you,” he said, shaking a finger and no one in particular, “It stank something terrible too!”
A few in the front row edge closer, “What then Brother Lazarus?!” asked one, leaning forwards, closer still.
“Our problems were far from over!” Lazarus confessed, taking his seat again, but leaning into his crowd, a serious expression on his face, “My comrade, Krell, had come to his senses – bless the Emperor for it – and was soon at my side, bringing his own brand of justice to those too weak to resist the taint of Chaos. As the spawn sought to make a pin-cushion of me, Krell reminded it that the Emperor’s fury knows no limits and soon it too had been sent back to face its new master’s displeasure!”

Lazarus looked at his feet for a second and sighed decided to skip Corvin’s fate from the tale, realising he must have looked doleful, he over compensated, jumping to his feet again with dynamic passion, “Suddenly,” he said, looking around at the crowd, “A door opened, and Krell and I were faced with one last threat to our lives! Some hateful union of man and fly – huge bulging eyes” he said, holding his hands over his own eyes to indicate the scale, causing a few shocked gasps and much muffled praying, “powerful, insectine jaws” he moved his hands before his mouth, mimicking the mandibles of a wasp or hornet, “And brought with it this smog…this evil, thick, blackness that turned the air into a soup, but still we pressed on!”
A few were thumbing rosary beads quickly, others looking to see those they had come with further down the front, checking on them. A few were holding hands with their neighbours, others had their hands over their ear, unable to take any more of the story, “Soon even seeing was difficult, but still we pressed on! Righteous in the Emperor’s work! And while we both received heavy injuries at the hands of this daemon scum – our blood spilt and our bones broken in His service – our mighty Emperor gave us the strength to purge the heretic from this universe! Cut its vile remains to ribbons we did…it had the painful death its kind deserve…” he nodded, leaning back, his story concluded.

A figure at his side rose and moved a little sheepishly to address the crowd, “Uh…well…Th..thank you, Brother Lazarus for that rousing story” the figure said, forcing a smile, “And I’m sure the Sunday School wish to say the same; don’t you, children?”
Twenty two young voices rang out in unison, “Thank you, Brother Lazarus”
“You are most welcome,” the Preacher said, aware for the first time of the dark scowls on the faces of the mothers at the back of the group, no doubt already imagining the next few, sleepless, nights of pushing his tale from their children’s minds.
“Uh…same time next week, children!”
The church emptied until on two men remained.

“A fiery story, Brother” said one. He was a tall man with a stoop, hard earned from a lifetime standing in the pulpit and bending to read fine text. For the same reason, his head jutted forwards slightly from his neck, giving him a somewhat vulture-like appearance. This was emphasised by his silver halo of hair and large, beakish nose.
Lazarus chuckled lightly, “It does no good to mollycoddle and shield, Pastor” he replied, “These dangers are out there, but one step away from those children. It is better they know now and prepare”
The other man simply said, “Indeed” and started to collect in the pencils and cushions the children had been using earlier. Lazarus moved to help and between the pair of them, the evidence of the Sunday School was gone within minutes. After that, the pair swept the chapel and spent some time in prayer.
An hour passed with not a word uttered.
Then Lazarus rose from prayer and asked, “Is there anything else I can do while I’m here, Pastor?”
The old man, still on his knees, hands locked in the sign of the Aquila, said nothing for a long moment before he opened his eyes and turned to look up at Lazarus. Again, he said nothing for a long moment, before he pushed himself to standing, “This is not a conversation for here…come with me”

He led Lazarus out, through the back exit, of the chapel and into the Pastor’s office. He circled around behind a large wooden desk and was seated, indicating that his guest should do the same on the other side of the table. The chair hinted that, at some point, the church had been rather wealthy – a chocolate coloured wood with deep red leather made up its bulk, but time had seen the leather wear badly, and the wood had been scratched, its varnish tarnishing.
“These are troubled times for my planet, Brother Lazarus…” began the Pastor in a strained, weary voice, “Internal strife threatens the very heart of Cindar, and while the army and the law-bringers focus on the battles in the streets, the real war is being lost…”
He took a key from around his neck and pushed it snugly into the top drawer of his desk, turning it slowly, then opening the drawer he sunk a hand in and brought out a book.

A familiar book.

“Ah…” Lazarus said stoicly.
“You know it?” the Pastor asked.
“I know it…an insidious work of fiction….”
“Just so…but it is out there!” The other man said angrily, pointing through the walls of his church with the corner of the book, “Out there on the streets, like a drug…being passed out and believed! As though the ecclesiarchy itself has issued this filth!”
“Then perhaps it is time for us to intercede? Work against this text’s spread?”
“What would be the point? We are but two men!”
“Two more than are standing in its way at the moment…” Lazarus offered with a shrug, “I am here for a few days, at least, and am most willing to help gather as many of these tomes as we can, Pastor. But I don’t know the city, and I don’t know where to start looking – so with your help, we might just be able to make a difference….”

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Gypsie

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