The deep hollows of the Womb of Unction sang with the reverberation of that bell’s toll, tolling for another soul committed to Perdition. A man of faith, Jonah understood this awe inspiring convention as a necessity of the Faith. But as a military man, a man who had once, when yet whole, brought God’s steely will to the heathen, he saw the lights dim with the energy drain that the electric rite required and inwardly shook his head. But one turbine remained on the mountain above, with half the order’s strength now dedicated to garrisoning its precinct.
The toll faded, seeming to be drawn like a reverberating serpent back into the cold root of the mountain.
Roland stood behind the muscle-piled frame of the giant, sword drawn, pressing the crosspiece into the kidney as the freakish heathen made eyes at the gathered Mamlukes—scores of their fiendish forms poised to rip this one asunder.
Jonah opened the outer gate, the once painted steel now shining in the dull light.
James, in a voice grown too used to the task, so that he sounded as if he were reciting his own malediction—pronounced the commitment as the Mamlukes neared the inner bars, some licking lips, others rolling eyes, many flexing sooty hands like fiends in the very Pit:
“You have scorned The Lord, Blasphemed Holy Mother Church—ever on the watch for some unfortunate wretch, The Wicked await. Thus This Sacred Order confer upon you this malediction, to be delivered into the toils of The Wicked.”
Without the usual nudge from Roland the beast-like man, painted with obscenities, stepped through the gate as his unkind greeters—his blood enemies—advanced to lay hand expectantly on the bars of unction, to which Jonah—as if by instinct—charged the inner gate. As the lights flickered low and the steel barrier hummed with energy the Mamlukes took a step back from the charged steel, which was known to send a man flying ten meters when he was so unwise as to lay hold the bars with hands that dared challenge his malediction.
Something of uneasiness crept across the face of the Mamlukes as the hairy, painted giant, his broad back to Jonah, but his hideous grinning face clearly beaming joyful satisfaction on the video feed—and came his deep, howling call as he strained at his chains, bending double to stress the slack links across his back.
“The big fooker’s gonna burst the links!” blurted Jonah, over the com for all too hear like some preAdvent sedant cursing a rival footballer squad.
Jonah powered down the inner gate so he could close the outer, the lights flickering as his track whined to a stop—for he had sent himself zooming down the track into a blocking position behind the open gate without thinking, even as Roland advanced within to drive his sword through the dissonant back—and the chains burst as the heathen howl took on a snarling quality and the Mamlukes startled to chattering alertness at the sound of a great roaring of voices to their rear.
James went to guard, seeming in shock and afraid as Roland broke his stupidly conceived gravemarker thrust in time to adopt the T-guard and save his face from the whipping length of chain—but to no avail, for the huge ingrate was upon him, squashing the flunky bother of Cumberland Unction—a man who had never made the grade in Jonah’s day—beneath his muscular bulk. No sooner had Jonah shouted to James not to enter to aid their lost, fool brother had the steel gate slammed shut, the lights of unction flickering as the big, bearded jaw flashed red on the floor and the nose of Roland was ripped off and spat away with a fountainous moan of whimpering defeat.
The giant was rising, sword in one hand, chains gathered in the other, slack chain yet hanging from his wrists and dragging from ankle shackles. Roland, still suffering far from Death's door, well within Satan’s wicked grasp, was slammed against the inner gate by the giant with one defiant arm and pinned against the bars with a big bare foot. The giant kept Jonah’s gaze as he laid the sword at his feet and tied himself to the inner gate, poor Roland writhing against it under foot.
“You heathen fooker!” screamed Jonah, all arage, “You want the juice!”
Roland’s gurgling screams mixed with the roar of the giant heathen as the charge calibrated to pain and repel coursed through their damned beings—and on came a surge of pale bodies crashing into the black and brown of the Mamlukes, a hundred and more heathen souls driving eighty sooty Saracens against the charged gate...
As the lights above dimmed, his sled whined to a dead stop and his pain management feed died, with the return of the pain that he had not known he missed—Jonah Heavener knew that he was the Devil’s very hand, and that The Order had led him down the accursed path, for before him, howled two hundred fiends, screeching their blasphemies and agonies like all of the black sheep in the folds of Hell as Jonah poured on the juice—his will against theirs, the turbine on the mountain above, their very God of Judgment.
And the lights went out.
The dim, insensate discs that Jonah had scoffed at when the Rector insisted he install them then came to luminous life—a life that he knew was but 20 hours—their weird glow illuminating the savagery beyond the inner gate.
Within the three meter section between gates the giant stood, holding Roland like a chained shield of human misery, holy sword in damned hand. This sight halted Jonah’s reaching for his 10-guage revolver.
James had the battle shakes, his sword held at the ready, praying to himself. To him Jonah shouted, “Step back here, boy, by my side.”
James countermarched to stand above Jonah, seething now in glorious pain in his mobility chrysalis, before the Darkie Gate, as the Shades for whom it was named were ripped apart by the more numerous Pales who had dashed them against the powered inner gate, most of the sooty Muslims shocked to drooling unconsciousness only to awaken as two or three Pales ripped them apart, used the steel bars to snap arms and legs and crush skulls, four, six and eight hands at a time. It was a pitiless slaughter. Most of the Shades were beyond life in a mere minute. Within a few minutes they had all been twisted and broken, caught utterly unaware between two fires.
Jonah felt sick and pained at his hateful hand in this, but whole as well. He’d level a mess of heathenry with his shot-revolver before they relieved him of his misery.
Duty, you damned sot.
Coms still worked. The Rector had to know, had to summon the Dictor and cleanse this rat hole out.
“Vector Heavener to Rector of the Cross,” he said as the video feed came to life on his retinal projector.
The haunting image of the Rector, with his mechanical peepers and kind face of gray, appeared before him. “Yes, my Son.”
“With all apologies, father, we’re good and fooked own here. Power down the gates if you get juice back. Even so, the way these beasties are bending their way through, they will be to your post before the Dictor might return. Let me suggest you flood us and make for the turret. I am sorry, Father for having failed you.”
The face seemed somewhat sadder than usual, the voice the same even tone of perpetual kindness, “Bless you, Jonah, my loyal brother in The Faith. Your struggle has not been in vain.”
“Thank you, Rector—back to my mess.”
Jonah blinked off the feed as he saw in amazement that two hundred strong hands could bend bars into human rat holes. The space between the inner and outer gate was now jammed with one tangled, packed mass of reeking, muscular humanity rocking the entire gate, two hundred hands and a hundred voices grunting and straining rhythmically.
“Bloody heathen fiends!” he screamed as the crashing gun in his hand tore gobs of flesh and blood and brain and hair from the great cage of grunting meat, which made not a lick of difference as the concrete above gave before their collective weight, the steel bent and the entire mess of heathen humanity spilled out on the floor in a scrambling human wave of hate, to pour over the cursing head and torso struggling to reload the shot-revolver.
It occurred to Jonah, as James fell in half next to him and the giant seized his old bald head by the feed-line housing, that there was scant time for mercy or cruelty in those blazing blue eyes. Jonah was just another twig to be snapped as this heathen hand busied itself with breaking the bundle of oath-bound men who were The Order.
It didn’t hurt in the least as the lights of the Womb of Cumberland Unction forever ceased to reflect from those dimmed eyes.
To be concluded in Malediction Song