I woke up in an unfamiliar bed with aching ribs once again.
“Do you plan on making a habit of this, Mr Stirling?” I heard Tom Beckman speaking. Evidently he had noticed me stirring.
“I’ll get them next time… I promise.” I croaked. Despite my big talking, I didn’t even feel capable of taking on the challenge of standing up, let alone fighting the assailants again.
“Miss Pour tells me that the assailants left after defeating you.” Beckman revealed. He also, possibly inadvertently, revealed that Verity had left out the key detail that she scared the two assailants off. I remembered what she had said just before I fainted.
Please don’t tell anyone about this…
She didn’t want the Church of Mammon to know about the photo, or more specifically the fact that she was using pieces of the photo for casts of Divitaetion.
“That’s right…” I said.
“We already believed the assailants be members of the Church of Mammon, but the fact that they were able to get to the gym suggests that they may be posted here in the headquarters…” Beckman mused, again also informing me of something: I was still at the headquarters of the Church of Mammon. Evidently some sort of medical wing, and a well equipped one from the look of things. “Still… why did they attack you?”
I had wondered that myself, though I hadn’t had much time to really ponder it between the fight for my life and fainting. Though there had been something…
“They may have wanted Verity…” I suggested. Indeed that seemed to have been the assailants’ intention until Verity herself thwarted that.
“But they would have had ample opportunity to take her once they dealt with you.” Tom Beckman said. He was right, of course, the story didn’t make sense when Verity’s effect on it went unmentioned. “Now Mr Stirling, I have another question for you.” Beckman ceased his musings and turned his attention to me fully. “What are you hiding from me?” He knew, or at least knew that there was something I knew. I felt my heart begin to pound but I steeled myself.
“What do you mean?”
“Do not play dumb, Mr Stirling, it does not suit you.” Beckman cut me off. “The story Miss Pour gave me does not make sense. If the assailants attacked you, they did so for a reason. So why did they flee, Mr Stirling?”
“I fainted, I don’t know.” I managed to say before Beckman cut me off again.
“Mr Stirling let me remind you that you are an acolyte of the Church of Mammon. Your allegiance is to Mammon and his Church, not to any one person. Not to a friend. Not to Miss Verity Pour.”
I looked Beckman in the eyes. He had trusted me with this task. Beckman had entrusted me with the responsibility to find out what Verity was using to cast Divitaetion, and now, by refusing to tell him, I was betraying the trust he had placed in me. I was betraying Beckman.
Verity had also trusted me with something. She had revealed a great secret to me, a secret that she wanted to hide from the Church of Mammon. A secret she wanted me to hide as well. By telling Beckman what I had seen and what I had learned, I would be betraying the trust she had placed in me. I would be betraying Verity.
And my father had trusted me with something. On my eleventh birthday he had given me that pen and said that from then on the fate of the family was down to me. He had trusted me with the task of rising in the ranks of the Church of Mammon. Beckman knew that I was lying to him, and if I continued to lie then there was no chance of me advancing any further. In fact it was unlikely that I’d be allowed to remain a part of the Church of Mammon at all. Both I and my family would be cut adrift and all the money that my father had invested in the Church of Mammon would be as dust to us. By lying to Beckman, I was betraying the trust my father had placed in me. I was betraying my father.
“Verity fought the assailants.” I said. “She was able to overwhelm them with sheer power and they fled.” Beckman did not move for a moment, he just stared at me, and then said “I see. She may be even more capable than we thought. But there is more, isn’t there?” He was right, there was more.
“I found out what she was using to cast Divitaetion before she learned it could be done with money…” I said. Beckman did not speak. “It’s a small polaroid photo of her parents. She keeps it in her pocket and can cast Divitaetion using small pieces of it.” Beckman’s eyes widened.
“Get up Mr Stirling. We must go and see Grand Elder Guyard at once.”
We left the medical wing, apparently located in the east building, and headed to the north building and up to a room that looked sort of similar to the lobby at the front entrance. It had a reception desk with a woman sat behind it. But this one, rather than having a glass fountain, had an imposing stone statue at the centre. I looked at the plaque at the base of the statue.
Grand Elder Jeremiah Guyard - Receiver of Divine Revelation from our Lord Mammon
“We need to see Grand Elder Guyard.” Beckman spoke to the woman at the reception desk while I tried to find the posture that would cause me the least pain.
“Do you have an appointment?” The receptionist asked.
“It’s vitally important.” Beckman ignored the question. After a few tense seconds the receptionist picked up the phone.
“Elder Guyard, Tom Beckman says he needs to speak to you.” A pause, presumably Richard Guyard was speaking. “He says it is vitally important.” the receptionist said. Another pause. “Very good Elder Guyard.” the receptionist put the phone down. “You may go through.” she said to Beckman. Beckman walked past the reception desk and the statue, and I followed. As we neared the wooden doors at the opposite wall, they swung open to reveal the room inside. I had seen many pictures and interviews with Richard Guyard, current Grand Elder of the Church of Mammon and great grandson of Jeremiah Guyard, founder of the Church of Mammon. He matched his pictures almost perfectly save for one fact. In all the pictures and interviews I’d seen, Grand Elder Richard Guyard was always smiling widely. He wasn’t smiling now.
“This better be important Tom, and who’s this you brought with you?” he spoke harshly.
“Grand Elder Guyard, this is Mr Hugh Stirling. He is a first level acolyte and he has made a vital discovery regarding the nature of the powers of Miss Verity Pour.”
“Her?” For someone who apparently thought she was a god in human form, Grand Elder Guyard didn’t seem to think too highly of Verity based on how he said that.
“Yes Grand Elder. It is about the source of her power.”
“Spit it out Tom, if it’s of vital importance then don’t waste my time.”
“Apologies. Miss Pour’s power of Divitaetion is not her own. She is casting it as we do but not with money.” As Beckman said that I saw the colour begin to drain from Grand Elder Guyard’s face. Beckman continued, “Instead, before she was found and brought to the Church of Mammon, she had been using small pieces of a photo of her family.”
“A photo?” Grand Elder Guyard threw up his hands. “Can you people just cast your magic with any scrap of paper, is that it?” Grand Elder Guyard was talking as if he didn’t understand Divitaetion. Did he not?
“No Grand Elder, I believe it is something else…” Beckman seemed to be choosing his words carefully. “I have a theory, Grand Elder. It is a theory that I have been considering for a long time, but the arrival of Miss Pour gave me an opportunity to try and verify it.”
“A theory? Excellent, what I need right now is baseless thinking!” Grand Elder Guyard said that a little too forcefully, even by the standard he had already set for this conversation. He was hiding something and Beckman knew it, and so he continued.
“Now that Mr Stirling has told me about Miss Pour’s photo I am sure of it. Divitaetion does not require money, it simply requires value.”
“You…” Grand Elder Guyard’s tone moved from anger to resignation. “You were always far smarter than I needed you to be, Tom.” He went to his desk. The door to his office closed behind us. He must have pressed a button. Then Grand Elder Guyard reached around his neck and pulled a key on a chain from under his shirt. Like everything else, the key was gold. Neither Beckman nor I said anything as he went over to a particularly large ornament on the wall behind his desk and inserted the key into a hole at its base. He turned and, with a click, the ornament swung like a door to reveal a safe behind it. Grand Elder Guyard entered a code and the safe swung open as well. He reached in and, gingerly, took out the safe’s contents. It was a few sheets of old and worn paper.
“If I may ask, Grand Elder, what are they?” Beckman dared to ask.
“These are the original writings of Jeremiah Guyard, my great grandfather, on Divitaetion.” Grand Elder Guyard said. “They are the only record of his first thoughts on Divitaetion, written before his famous letter in which he revealed what he had seen to his friend, and renounced hypocrisy and embraced the gift of Mammon.” Wait, even earlier writings by Jeremiah Guyard? Why hadn’t I ever heard of such a thing?
“Grand Elder… this document…” Beckman was almost speechless, “This is amazing! Why was it not published?”
“Because it reveals the true purpose of the Church of Mammon, Tom. It reveals what my great grandfather knew about the powers we now call Divitaetion. What he decided to keep a secret from all but the highest ranks within the Church of Mammon!”