“What?” Beckman immediately snatched up the papers and began to scour them. I anxiously tried to get a look at them from my vantage point too.
“It is my belief that it is sacrifice that gives a human power. When they are willing to offer up their most prized possessions to achieve their goals, a power thought to only belong to God is granted to them…” Beckman trailed off.
“Divitaetion is not merely for use with money.” Grand Elder Guyard said grimly, “Its powers can be accessed through the sacrifice of anything with enough value to the caster.”
I thought of how Verity had spoken about the photo. So softly. So quietly. As if she was ready to cry at any moment. That photo was the only connection she had to her father, and through sacrificing it, even a little piece of it, she was able to display powers far greater than any I had ever seen.
“But if such a thing is possible…” Beckman continued. He looked like I felt, as if his entire world was collapsing around him and he was desperately trying to rebuild it even as it fell, “Why keep it a secret? Why do we only use money?”
“Continue reading, Tom.” Grand Elder Guyard commanded. And so Beckman looked back down at the old sheets of paper.
“This cannot do…” he continued to read aloud, perhaps for my benefit or perhaps because he could scarcely believe the words he was reading unless he heard them in his own voice, “If the masses knew of this power they could cause great disruption and destruction. As such, the true depths of this power they possess must never be revealed to them. Instead I will teach this power with a specific source. A source that already exists and has already separated and ordered the world in terms of who deserves power and who does not…”
That was it then. Divitaetion was not power drawn from offering money, it was power drawn from offering anything with value to the caster. Money was something that had a value to everyone, but it wasn’t something that everyone had. Now Jeremiah Guyard could keep Divitaetion a secret from the masses, but then even when they discovered the power, they wouldn’t have access to as much power as those Jeremiah Guyard had deemed worthy…
But then someone like Verity… a poor girl from a small flat somewhere in the North West of England… her powers of Divitaetion, even when using money, were incredible! Why was that?
I remembered something Verity had said when we first talked in the dining hall.
“Of course it matters… Do you think I’d choose to be poor?”
Money had value to everyone, but to someone like Verity who had gone without so often its value was so much greater than it was to the members of the Church of Mammon. That was what made her Divitaetion so powerful! I had heard that apparently casts of Divitaetion were slightly stronger when performed in tense situations. No one quite knew why, but this would also explain it! The value of the money was greater to the caster when they desperately needed it!
“My great grandfather created the rules of Divitaetion to ensure that only those deserving of its power were able to access it.” Grand Elder Guyard said, snapping me back to the conversation in the room. “Though he still believed that Mammon would return, and that money was his gift to give order to our society.”
“I…” Beckman could barely speak. I wasn’t sure I had anything intelligible to say either.
Grand Elder Guyard had more to say, it turned out.
“It seems that Verity Pour is not Mammon in human form as I had hoped, but instead someone who has discovered the true form of Divitaetion…” he said, “Tom, find her and bring her here. She must be dealt with.” Dealt with? I couldn’t quite work out what Grand Elder Guyard was implying by that that.
“Yes Grand Elder…” Beckman paused, “And if she resists?” Grand Elder Guyard raised an eyebrow.
“Do you think that is likely?”
“Just a suspicion of mine.”
“Bring her in by any means necessary. Now go!” Grand Elder Guyard commanded.
“Come Mr Stirling, I have a feeling Miss Pour will be more compliant if you talk to her.” Beckman said as we left Grand Elder Guyard’s office. At some point a comment like that would have made me happy. Right now I wasn’t sure what to feel at all.
“Where will Miss Pour be at this time?” Beckman asked me as we walked.
“I’m not sure.” I looked at my watch, it was about midday. “She could be in the gym training, or in the dining hall.”
“We may have to split up then, to cover more ground.” Tom Beckman thought aloud. “I will go to the gym, you should go to the dining hall.” I nodded, then asked a question that had been weighing heavily on me.
“Are we doing the right thing?” It sounded stupid, positively childish, when I asked that out loud like that but… “The teachings of the Church of Mammon… they’re a lie… Grand Elder Guyard just told us as much… should we really be doing this?” The maelstrom of mixed feelings inside of me produced that question. Beckman did not answer immediately. Then finally when he spoke he said:
“The teachings of the Church of Mammon saved me. They saved me from myself and from the person I might have become. For that, regardless of if the teachings are a lie, I owe my life to them. As such, I will do what I must to ensure the Church of Mammon continues on, and will support Grand Elder Guyard with all of my being.” He turned to look at me, “Where do your loyalties lie, Mr Stirling?”
“I…” The man named Hugh Stirling stood at a crossroads. But the man named Hugh Stirling had been entrusted with far more than just his own destiny. “I am loyal to the Church of Mammon.” I declared forcefully. Tom Beckman nodded.
“Remember that, Mr Stirling. Remember that when you come face to face with Miss Verity Pour.”
By that point we had arrived in the courtyard, and thus parted ways. Beckman headed towards the east building while I cut straight across the courtyard towards the south building.
I didn’t even need to enter to find Verity. As I approached, I saw her leaving the building. It wasn’t only her though. Isambard, Faith and Trey were all alongside her. Faith and Trey were both carrying suitcases.
“Verity!” I called out. Verity saw me and stopped. The other three also stopped and glared at me. It was almost intimidating, but I soldiered on. “Verity, Grand Elder Guyard wants to see you immediately.”
“We know he does.” Isambard cut in before Verity could say anything. “But Verity isn’t going.”
“Can she not speak for herself?” I growled. This was enough of a struggle without having to deal with other people butting in.
“I’m not going, Hugh.” Verity confirmed. “I know what is happening and I cannot stay here.”
“I’m leaving the Church of Mammon.” she declared.
“We know about the lies, Hugh. We know now that Divitaetion is a power that anyone can access, and that the Church of Mammon have been withholding it for years!” Isambard was speaking now, with even more force than Verity. How had he found out? I’d only found out a few minutes before!
“And we know that Grand Elder Guyard will never let Verity live now that he knows what she is.” Faith joined in.
“We need to keep moving.” Trey said. Isambard nodded.
“Come on Verity.” He said. Verity did not come on immediately.
“You can come with us.” she offered to me.
I could go with them? I could go on the run with Verity? I could help protect her from Grand Elder Guyard and the Church of Mammon? I could…
I had already made my decision.
I took out a note and cast blade with it.
“Verity you are coming with me to Grand Elder Guyard now!” I yelled.
“You fool.” Isambard declared, and fired a coin into my side, almost exactly hitting the spot the assailant had already hit twice before. I collapsed to the ground. By this point you would have thought I could resist the pain but it never got any better. “You have never beaten us Hugh. Just stay down. Come on.” With that the four of them took off at a run towards the north building, leaving me once more curled up on the floor.
I had never been able to beat them? Dammit Isambard was an assailant! Faith must have been the woman we fought in the gym and… and Trey must have been the other assailant in Santa Barbara, since Faith was definitely still in Los Angeles that day!
With some grunting and cursing I forced myself to my feet.
“Mr Stirling!” I saw Tom Beckman running across the courtyard towards me.
“We need to go after them!” I managed to force out.
“Verity… Isambard, Faith and Trey… They’re the assailants! They’re escaping!” Beckman dashed away instantly. I forced myself to run after him. We ran through the north building. Julia was at the reception desk again.
“Have four people passed through here?” Beckman asked breathlessly, shocking Julia.
“Ah some people just ran by.” she managed to stammer. Beckman wheeled around and dashed out the main entrance. Again, I followed. On the pavement outside I looked around. No sign of any of them. They’d escaped. Beckman pulled out his phone and made a call.
“I need all available acolytes in the area to search Los Angeles for four rogue acolytes.” He barked, “Verity Pour, Isambard Poster, Faith Acre and Trey Beal.”
He finished the call then turned to me.
“Let’s search the immediate area.” I nodded and the two of us split up once more. Tom Beckman heading left and I heading right. Verity Pour was somewhere nearby, and I needed to find her.