Thy Father's Will Be Done
The candle flickered, fighting the darkness and the damp of the stone basement where Aldous Weaver hunched over a scarred desk, quill in hand. His fingertips were stained black, black like the sucking mire of woe in the stone basement of his mind. Memories of the darkest kind clawed at the cellar door. He dipped the quill back into the ink, his eyes straining to focus as he wrote.
An honest writer is the most virtuous of heroes; one who lies is the most deplorable of all villains.
Again he dipped the quill.
Those were the most important words I had ever been told. Words that would whisper in the wind as I lay awake and wept in those long nights at the beginning, and from the shadows of my soul the words would echo back. They were the sustenance that I sipped from under the boundless burden of the truth. To write lies that cloak the veracity of what dwells in the abysmal catacombs of the soul of man is a task for politicians and rogues of equivalent wickedness. A task that is tempting with its tantalizing lure to power and control, a task the weaker man will always prefer. To write the truth, to with no more than the oil lamp of one's own honest intent crawl ever deeper into the black abyss that is humanity, is the gravest of tasks.
These words belonged to my father. He gave them to me the night before they burned him alive.
Aldous paused for a moment to steady his trembling hand. He took a breath and blinked his burning, tired eyes. Then he returned his sword to his foe, returned the quill to the page for the thousandth time, knowing that he would have to do so a thousand times more. Frustration surged.
"Words. They are my only tool, my only weapon, yet they betray me." Aldous tossed down his quill. "Forever they betray me. This is not honesty." He glared at the parchment. "This is nothing more than a flowery illusion, masking the scent of the truth. Miserable. Bloody miserable attempt."
He needed this book, the book he would dedicate to his father, to be perfect. The whole book had to be perfect, yet after a thousand tries, the first page was still nothing.
The fire that gave him light to write his pages was the same fire that could burn them to ash and dust. When he put the edge of the parchment to the candle it caught and burned quickly. He got a glimpse of the last words--they burned him alive
--as the flames devoured the sheet.
He remembered as a small child watching men come from far and wide, men who called his father magnificent, brilliant, a writer unsurpassed.
After they burned him, the bastards burned his books. The priests said they were the words of sorcery, and so they must be burned along with the man who wrote them.
That was all ten years ago. Mother took her own life and a seven-year-old Aldous had been given to the church to copy scripture and pray until the day he died. But every day when Father Riker was not looking, Aldous would attempt to write his first page at his desk, a desk notched in the corner from years of dragging his anxious thumbnail across the wood. Aldous liked to think it was notched the way a warrior's axe was after a thousand battles. He fought his own battles with a quill and black ink, only a faint orange glow from the candle next to him lighting his path.
As of late he'd begun to wonder if his battle at the desk was enough. Could any battle ever be won with the metaphorical sword of the quill, or were all conflicts only solved with the true iron, sharpened and made for killing?
He looked at the candle for a moment. It danced, never tiring, always dancing was that flame. Aldous thought it must have been laughing at him. It shouldn't have been laughing, though; it had no right to laugh because they were one in the same, Aldous and the flame. Always dancing for another, and never for themselves.
Aldous muttered a curse under his breath.
"Aldous." He had not heard Father Riker come down the stairs. Father Riker was as quiet as he was old, and the man was bloody ancient. The candle flame jumped in time to the stutter of Aldous' heart, as if it too were startled. A trick of the eyes, just a flame.
"I pray that was a prayer you just uttered." The old man's tone was uneasy, and he fidgeted with his hands as he spoke.
Aldous remembered his first sight of Father Riker, straight-backed, stern, forbidding. He had changed over the years. Every day he seemed to lose a bit of the power he once had. His cheeks had grown hollow and the loose skin of his jowls sagged, his back hunched and his shoulders caved forward. He muttered to himself and darted glances at the shadows. He was melting day by day, in sanity and in flesh.
"Oh, it was, Father Riker, it was certainly a prayer," Aldous replied, trying to sound as he thought a pious lad should sound.
"To our great God of Light, I do hope so." Father made the symbol of the Luminescent, closing his eyes and tilting his head upward ever so slightly, and opening his palms to the heavens, the way one would embrace the warmth of the sun.
"Of course, Father Riker, for there is no other god to pray to." Aldous mirrored the gesture Riker had just made, all the while wondering what sunlight Father hoped to find in this dark basement.
Father Riker grumbled and walked forward to Aldous' desk so he could inspect the amount of scripture he had copied over the day and evening. Aldous was not sure of the hour, but it was most certainly late, for every other brother had long since been off to their evening prayers and then to bed. Only he and Riker were still awake.
Aldous had not copied much. He accomplished less and less each day, for he was growing restless, and in the few hours he slept, he was haunted by dreams, running from the howling wolves, hiding from the always watching ravens.
He was done being in this church basement, done copying out this indoctrinating drivel called scripture. There had been a time--not right in the beginning, but with the passage of months and years--a time where he found solace in the copying of the words, for the mundane repetition helped him take his mind from all his anger and rage. It helped cool the smoldering fire that was his soul. That time was gone, and again the fire was rising. He did not know what he needed, but it was something other than this basement and the scratching of mindless words on parchment.
Alas, there was nowhere to go. Leaving the church would mean he too would be labeled a sorcerer and suffer the same fate as his father, the same fate as his own discarded pages.
Aldous pressed the fingertips of his right hand hard into the table as he dragged his left thumbnail on the scarred edge of his desk. Leave me alone.
Father Riker remained.
He dragged his thumb with greater agitation, and a sharp pain bloomed. He had torn the nail, so far down it drew blood. Anger surged, at Father Riker, at himself. Heat bit at him, deep in his belly, then his chest and his hands. The surface beneath his fingers grew hot, and he jerked his fingertips away from the table.
There were four marks singed in the wood.
Something flared in him as he stared at the strange marks, a sharp flicker that burgeoned and grew.
Aldous stood and turned around to look at Father Riker, knowing he did not want the man to see the singe marks on the desk.
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