They sounded like someone’s idea of a cult from a horror movie. Looked it, too. Hooded black cloaks lined with red. Some guttural dead language chanted in monophony. Middle English or Aramaic, for all she knew. She recognized the sanctuary of the church, though nothing was lit save a couple of emergency lights near the exits on either side of the building. Flaming torches would’ve fit the intended mood better, but Penelope supposed they’d eventually set off the sprinkler system.
She knew she was supposed to be scared, but she wasn’t feeling it. At all. True Believers might have some weird, cobbled-together faith, but they seemed to lack the imagination to project the creepy vibe they were trying to…well…cultivate. Perhaps two dozen of them stood sheepishly among the pews, shifting from side to side as they chanted, Penelope in the shadows against the far wall.
The altar wasn’t even lit, so they were trying to make do with the ambient green light from the exit signs. She could tell the high priest, or whatever he was, from the antlers attached to his crown. Of course, antlers—that lack of imagination again. Antlers, moss, twigs. Nature as scary evil. Penelope sighed. A hunk of old silicon motherboard—that would be scary. He held a smallish, serrated sword held at his side.
And, as if on cue, the clatter and bleat of some hoofed animal arose from the back of the church and up the center aisle. From her vantage point in the shadows, Penelope could see it was a small, greyish-black goat being led by two acolytes. It looked as if it had already had about enough of this clownshow. Of course, the procession had to turn left to reach the priest waiting under the exit light, further negating the ritual effect. Idiots.
Seeing what was about to happen, Penelope glided silently in the shadows toward the priest. She circled behind the altar and waited a few feet behind him, trying again to parse the language he was barking in.
His brevity surprised her—after a line or two he raised the small sword over his head and brought it swiftly down towards the animal’s neck.
Both the goat and Penelope moved at the same time, the goat twisting and bucking loose from the grip of the acolytes. The priest’s arm thudded off one of their shoulders, knocking her down. The tip of the sword nicked the goat’s ear. It brayed indignantly and turned to bite the priest, its hooves slipping and scraping and clattering on the stone floor. The priest lifted the sword again. By that time Penelope was immediately behind him.
She reached up and grabbed the priest’s sword arm by the wrist, twisting it behind his back, the sword clanging on the tile floor. He fell on his back and scurried to escape. “Fuck this,” she thought. “No, no, no. Fuck this. Fuck you. Fuck all of you idiots.”
She grabbed his wrist again, leaning over him.
Her fingers clamped into his palm, her thumb over the back of his hand, she snapped his wrist without any effort at all.
She sneered into the priest’s horrified and screaming face, “No. Not here. Not this. Not you. You fucking pestilence. You have no fucking imagination.”
Taking a half-second to judge the angle of his knee, she lifted her leg and brought her heel directly down on him. He howled again as his patella cracked under her foot.
She picked up the sword.
She gripped his blond hair in her right fist and lifted him to his feet, spinning him so he faced away from her, pulled his head back and snarled in his ear, “You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to have this church. You don’t get to practice this ridiculous, throwback, brain-dead religion.” She held the sword to his neck.
And louder, to the rest of the robed figures, “Now go, brothers and sisters! Go and sin no more!”
She drew the blade across his throat, nearly severing his head from his neck. Blood gushed down his front and splashed on the floor. She let him fall, his head making a sickening sound as it hit the floor.
She leaned forward calmly and dipped her fingers in the pool of blood, brought her hand to her forehead, and drew the Star of the Azzine Church on her forehead. The screams of the faithful registered vaguely in her mind. She shrugged off her robe and stood naked over the priest, dipping her hand this time into the wet mess of his neck. She drew the Azzine spear on her chest, its shaft between her breasts, one spearhead at either end. She picked up the sword again and walked calmly after the fleeing worshippers, their panicked screams echoing off the high stone walls of the sanctuary.
Her bare feet made no sound at all as she walked.
@ellowrites @tvansantana #azzajonopenelope