Interlude - Petunia

Petunia knew why they'd moved her and her daughter into the stone room. She knew the evil priests would come for them soon. She knew what would happen next. But she did not let her fear show.

"We're going to be okay, Mama," her daughter Loretta said. "Jane will come for us."

Petunia turned to her daughter. Loretta—all grown up, and reassuring her elderly mother, but even in this shadowy room, Petunia saw the terror in her daughter's eyes.

There was no furniture. They sat on the cold stone together against the wall. Petunia pulled her daughter closer so that her head was on her shoulder. Loretta relaxed there, and Petunia stroked her hair. "Oh, Lotty, you've always been such a good girl. And Jane is coming for you, just like you say. She loves you very much."

"I know, Mama. She'll be here."

"She'll be here tonight, but..." Petunia felt a hitch rising in her chest. She broke off before she betrayed her sorrow. She had to be strong. There was work left for her to do.

"Tonight?" Loretta sat up. "Mama, are you getting your secret-sight back?"

"A bit. I can see a little of what this evening brings. Jane is close now."

Loretta's face lit up. "Really? Oh, Goddess, really?" She stood up, walked to the door and peered out through the rusty bars in its narrow view slot. "When? Did she bring an army?"

"Of sorts, I think."

It was good to see Loretta hopeful. Very good. Petunia had watched her daughter's hope fade down here in this shadowy prison. She deserved to smile. When the evil man came—and Petunia knew he would—Loretta wouldn't see her fate coming. She'd keep her hope to the very end.

Jane was near. Petunia sensed her. But Jane would be too late.

Petunia had been without her secret sight for weeks now. In the past, it had never been strong—just enough to sense when strangers approached or to find lost sheep. But tonight, here in this horrible prison, she knew exactly how things would unfold. She knew her captor and the lies he told himself. She knew he'd come for her and her daughter, his sacrificial lambs, but before Petunia died, she had a message to deliver—a message for a young woman with purple eyes.

Loretta retreated from the door. "Someone's coming," she whispered. "Do you think...?"

"No, dear. Not Jane. Not yet."

The lock clicked, the door opened, and several men in hooded robes marched through. They said nothing. Two caught Loretta by the arms and forced her back against a wall. Two others yanked Petunia to her feet and held her. The fifth stood beside the door. His face was hid in shadow, but a red glow illuminated the edges of his hood. He muttered a few guttural syllables in his own language, then spoke out loud. "High Priest Jarrock will be here shortly. You will not speak in his presence."

Petunia sneered. "High Priest Jarrock is a horse's ass. He's a pretender and a fool."

The man stiffened. "You would be wise not to say such things. The consequences of dis-respect—"

"The consequences are what? You'll kill us? Injure us? If I'm right, your almighty fool is coming to drain our lives away. We're dead anyway. Am I right?"

"Mama?" Loretta whispered.

"Don't fret, child," Petunia answered.

She kept her eyes on the Ord by the door. "If you harm us, we won't be no good to your fool of a master. You can't touch us."

The Ord said nothing, but Petunia sensed his loathing.

"Since I'm about to die, I might as well tell it like it is. Your master is an ambitious dunderhead who thinks an overloaded store of spark, a few words and a human sacrifice will make him God of the Universe. He thinks your prophecies have given him the formula. You're as likely to find the formula for turning lead into gold in a CrackerJacks box. He's so stupid, he—"

" Yekcht Vahn!" the Ord shouted. He stood still for a moment, then moved to Petunia, his hidden face so close to Petunia that she could smell his breath. "Silence," he hissed.

Petunia didn't flinch. "You want to hit me now," she said, smiling up at him.

" Ygra. Yes."

"Good."

The hooded man hung before her a moment longer, trembling with rage. The sound of feet on stone in the corridor shook him out of his paralytic rage. He retreated to the door. "You will be silent in his presence," he ordered.

"Like hell I will."

He spoke a few words in Ord. One of the men holding her nodded and pressed his palm over her mouth.

A tall shadowy figure appeared in the doorway. This one held a black aura, crackling with power. He had no hood, and his eyes gleamed in the darkness as if lit with yellow fire.

He was here. Petunia had known he would come, but she thought she'd get to talk to the girl first. She had to talk to the girl. Many lives would be spared this night if she could only deliver her message. It wouldn't save the world, but it could save a city and a lot of innocent prisoners.

The tall man stood in the doorway for a moment, appraising Petunia and her daughter. He did not speak. He nodded once, then walked towards Loretta. Petunia struggled, causing the Ord to tighten his grip on her face. She bit down on his finger, causing him to grunt with pain. She stomped her heel hard on his foot. He let out a surprised yip. Petunia wrenched her face free.

"Buffoon," Petunia cried as she wriggled, keeping her face away from her captor's hands. "Bully. Idiot man. You'll never be a god. If you don't die tonight, your own people will burn you alive before the week is over."

The tall man watched her, his eyes cold fire. He stepped away from Loretta and approached Petunia. By the time he reached her, her captors held her immobilized, two hands over her mouth. She stared up at the tall man with all the defiance she could muster.

An icy smile stretched across his face. He raised a hand, holding his palm an inch from her face.

This is it, Petunia thought. I was wrong. I was wrong about everything.

Another man, much shorter than the others, stepped through the doorway. He spoke urgently in the Ord language. The tall man twisted to face him. They spoke, their language a harsh, jagged babble.

The tall man withdrew, following the short man. Petunia's guards threw her against the wall as they followed their superiors out.

All left except the Ord who had spoken to them. He stood a moment longer in the doorway. He muttered, then said, "This is only a reprieve. Tonight, you will die." He slammed the door shut.

Loretta rushed to her mother's side. "Mother, what's happening. What are they going to do?"

Petunia straightened her dress, smoothed her hair and sighed. "Don't fret, Lotty." She patted her daughter's arm. "It's going to be okay. Jane's coming. Remember. Jane is almost here."

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page published 7/27/2017