Mother of Crow
By Jenny K. Brennan
Chapter 7 Fred, can we go now?Last updated: January 30, 2019 at 7:38 am [bctt tweet=”Ch7 from Mother of Crow, the novel I publish as I write, edit, revise, and despair. John and Frederico in a dark corridor. #houseofimp #fiction”]
The old man didn’t actually scream. Frederico heard it nonetheless. An echo of his own cowardliness followed him when he escape the monastery corridor with John. Despite the old man’s assurance of a painless death, Frederico was sure he heard the old man dying. Not from poison. From claws and razor sharp blades tearing him apart. Even when the small door closed., cutting off all sounds as well as light, he imagined it. His spine prickled in the need to move. Away from what would become nothing but death and carnage in just a few moments. He had left the old man to die and the shame burned him, urged him to turn around. To open the door back to his duty. To be with those who would all be dead within minutes of their betrayal. But damned the duty. He had done his part and look where that had gotten them. The abbot had known it would come to this. Even John hadn’t been surprised. The only one that hadn’t understood was Frederico. So blinded by his work that would somehow pay off. The guardians would keep them safe. Maybe even reward them for their loyalty. But of course it had been wishful thinking. If he just worked hard, made it happen. He would give them what they had requested and things would work out. He dropped that useless thought and grabbed John. The passage was dark, void of any openings to the outside or oil lamps. These waslls . Not even the simplest torches hung on these walls. It wouldn’t have halped as Frederico hadnt thought to bring anything to start a fire with. No torches, no lamps, no windows. For some inexplicable reason, that had been one of the odd things about the monestary that Frederico knew without knowing why and how he knew. That was the way it had to be and that was that. Trailinga hand along the rough stone wall, they entered the system of maze like passages running through the huge construction. Frederico brought up the mental image he had memorized years ago. It came willingly enough but it never dawned on him that maybe it was strange that he had done so in the first place. John clanged and banged his armour against the wall. But it couldn’t be helped. Another few steps and they reached another door. Without a word, John handed the ring of keys to Frederico who unlocked the door on his first try. Once through, he stopped and pulled John to the side. Panting, he carefully closed the second door behind them. Still quiet. He quickly examined the ring of keys and locked the door. He glanced toward the sound of John’s wheezing breaths.
“Don’t move.” Suddenly, all air seemed to leave him and his skin alternated between burning and freezing. He shivered, gasped for his next breath. . He gripped the ring of keys in a damp hand and pressed it to his chest. There was a hint of movement from his friend. A nod? A sob? Didn’t matter. For no reason at all, Frederico nodded with a stiff neck. His entire body felt like a rung out rag and he fell back to lean on the door. He stood there a long silent moment, before he heard a controlled breath from whom, he didn’t quite know. The oppressive silence slowly turned into a good thing. Something more blessed than cursed. He could breathe again and fifty inhales and exhales later, he thought that maybe they wouldn’t rip through the door and shred them both to bird feed. The door, none of the doors between them and the killing ground back there would protect them from weaponized guardians. That meant that they simply hadn’t noticed the door. Not yet and maybe not for a while. But those left behind wouldn’t be so lucky. What would happen to those who did not die instantly? That was another thing Frederico’s mind fought against. Fought and failed. His fragile control frayed at the edges and he turned to the silent John. Don’t move,” he said again to the monk who hadn’t moved. “It’s okay, John. Are you okay? John? This is not so bad, is it?”
After a moments hesitation, john said, “I’m not afraid of the dark, Fred.”
Frederico swallowed hard, not listening. Calming John could be difficult when he got that way. When the world became too much for the slow minded monk and he had to shut himself away from the others for a while. A soothing voice often helped. But now, he didn’t know what to say so he said, “Not so bad. We’re fine, john. It’s okay here. No birds, see?” His voice rose in pitch for every statement. His throat narrowed and words exploded into the air in strained bursts when he said, “No birds… here.”
“I know,” John said calmly. His voice was clear and careful, soothing a friend who was fast becoming hysteric.
Frederico continued, “They can’t get in here. The birds… out there… doing things.”
“Fred,” John touched Frederico’s shoulder, “I know, fred. They can’t come in here. You locked the door, remember?”
Frederico struggled to keep the monk calm. “ You know. I know. You don’t need be afraid. Not in here…”
“Stop it,” John snapped. Then he sighed and whined, “Fred, don’t whine. I don’t like it when you whine.” John sniffled, “don’t do that, Fred.”
Frederico stared blankly into the darkness for a moment of embarrassed recalibration of reality. He pulled a tentative breath and let it out slowly. “Oh,” he finally said, “sorry.”
John shrugged in the darkness and the metal parts in his suit jingled and scraped. “Yup.”
Both men took a careful step away from each other and the silence stretched.
. “Go?” Frederico finally said with a squeak in his throat that couldn’t have been his. A giggle escaped the big figure and Frederico collapsed in relief. He reached for the big dumb monk with an overwhelming feeling of love and hopeless responsibility warming and hurting his heart. He hesitated. They had to hurry. But would it be any safer to try to escape? Wasn’t it just as well to stay right there, in the dark, and hope for the best? The guardians would kill everyone and then go. They would search the … kill everybody. They would search… everywhere. Guardians did not leave jobs undone. They took their time…
Frederico jolted up straight. John’s whisper was not a question. And it mirrored Frederico’s own thoughts so precisely that for a moment he thought they were his own.
“Fred? Can we go somewhere else? Can we go to Severin’s house now?”
“Severin’s house. Yes, that’s where we’re going.”
Frederico didn’t have the heart to tell him that maybe it wouldn’t be that easy. He said, “Severin’s place. Sure thing, big boy.”
Frederico got John moving. With the corridors so narrow, one could touch both walls at once and that’s how they navigated . Only once did John walked face first into a closed door. He shook it off and grunted to Frederico to open it. After passing through each door, they locked it again. They moved quickly through several more doors, passed years of dust, they reached the final door in only minutes. “He’s dead now, isn’t he?” John said once they stood at the door. Frederico stood still, wondering if there was any point in hiding the truth from John. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes, John. I think he is.” He wanted to say something more but there was nothing more to say. The sign of the Mother made his fingers twitch. But they resisted the comforting gesture. There was no comfort to be had in empty symbols and hollow words. He tightened his fingers in a hard fist around the longing for ritual. The mother hadn’t been there for so long, for so many hopeless prayers. He touched his fellow monk on the metal clad shoulder and let his fingertips pull from the big man what he couldn’t find within himself. A measure of comfort. But also a sliver of innocence that had always shone so purely from the man who’s mind had never caught up with his body. A warmth that came from nothing and without reason, without shape or form, filled Frederico and he surrendered to the moment. “They are all with the Mother now, John. All safe. Safe on those wings of chaos, John. Safe.”
John said nothing. Frederico pulled his fingers away. “We trust this. We wish this. And she knows this.” Frederico mumbled the familiar phrases and waited. “And she will return.” He finished with his own desperate wish. He wasn’t sure he did believe it. But John might. And maybe that would be enough.
John mumbled the rest of the childish prayer, so softly that the words faded before finding a surface to bring them back. “Mother of Crow, save us for we are weak.”
Frederico smiled. “We certainly are.”
They turned to the door. Beyond it was the outside and the garden that the guardians did not know about. As far as he knew. Oh, Mother, you cruel bitch, you better save us now. He pushed open the door.
About the author
Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.