In some part of himself he can feel the awareness of this child, rocking itself gently side by side upon the blanket.
Chapter Fifteen — Sacrifice
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quire is in a gust of good humour.  Conny has been to see the girls and she says they’re not talkative, but Emily does seem to have recovered.  Two breakfasts of eggs and fried potatoes were sent up and both plates came back empty.
The Squire as he steps from the stable thinks it must be women’s problems, excitement of the wedding. Some kind of brouhaha, they are very close.  “Ready for a walk, boy!”  Skyler bounds down the path.
Another reason to think all is right with the world is a new leather attachment for his saddle, fitted and stitched, all done.  The new holder for his walking stick will also carry his Mauser so he can go walking and shooting out on the moors without having to carry the damn things on his back.
It’s the rehearsal this afternoon so they have to be in Weatherby by five.  There’s lunch and he’s thinking of a ride on Hasty to get away from all the bustle.  Edith is putting on a fancy meal for those staying at Mandalmane. They set the dinner for 30 minutes after eight to give the rehearsal party time to get back.  A quick bath and change before Weatherby.  Have to remind Horace.
The Squire deep in concentration hasn’t paid attention to the woman standing on the stone bridge.  “Magistrate, good morning. I noticed you approaching.”
“Good morning.”  The Squire raises his stick as a salute.
The lady in her early thirties looks somewhat familiar but he cannot place...   Hope!  Hope Tempest!”
“That’s correct, Magistrate?”  The woman gives him a questioning look.  “Hope Tempest, Bob and Abby Tempest’s daughter.”
She wasn’t someone who he would have picked to see this morning and a nervousness settles over him.  “I haven’t seen you, I don’t remember how long.  How is your father and mother?”
“Father’s well enough, thank you.  We had to find a new man for the business.  The old manager obtained a new position in Biddiford.  More money that we couldn’t match.  The new fellow seems to be doing well.  Mother still has to be looked after.  Father stays with her.  She takes on a great agitation if left alone.”
The Squire looks serious.  “I am sorry to hear that.  Out for a walk? Wonderful day!  We don’t get many on this worn old path any more.”
“It was her stay in Exeter that did it.  The Bedlamite asylum, where you sent her.  She wakes up in the night screaming.  She cannot seem to get over it.”
The young woman steps up to the Squire.  “My father and me, we cannot seem to get over it.”
“It was the letter, Hope!  I had to do what I did because of the letter.  Someone had to have taken the key.  It was never found. Not even in melted condition.  Your mother would have been charged for the crime of wilfully setting fire to the house.  She could have been hung for the murder of three people.”
“We had some news recently about the fire,” Hope steps back, looks over at the water.  “Unexpected news. Reason I’m here magistrate.  Not to have a walk.  But I heard you went this way most mornings when not doing in Biddiford.  I thought with the wedding tomorrow you might be out today.”
“You have some information about the fire.”
“Yes!  About the fire!  Quite the revelation it was.  I always knew mother never did any arson.  She and Rachel were best friends. Why would she set fire to her best friend’s home?  Nothing made sense.  Father knew it too.  But this explained things.  A man had seen what happened.  He came and told us about it.”
“A man!  What man!  Why didn’t he come forward!”
“He was a convict.  Escaped, he had been hiding out.  Come over moors to take ship.  He stopped by the stream late evening for a rest.  Ezekiel had seen him, given him food.  He decided to sleep in the trees that night.  He’d been asleep in the trees that run along the back of the stream when he heard some strange noises.  They weren’t loud, he said, but they were praying using strange words. He was frightened because it was so strange.”
“Who!  Who are you talking about, Hope?”
“Three of them, the man said.  Two men and a woman. As he watched they picked up a post of some sort left at the back of the house.  They also brought faggots from the back.  Then they went inside the house.  I asked if the door was locked.  He said he thinks they broke the small window by the door.  He couldn’t see.  He wasn’t going to get too close.  They lit the faggots before they went inside, he said. Suddenly the whole house was aflame.”
The Squire’s face has blanched.
“The man said he’d never seen anything burn like that house.  It was supernatural, he said.  He ran away.  He said he could have kept running all the way to other side of moors if his body would have allowed it.”
“Could I speak to this man?”
Hope gives him a peculiar expression.  “I asked him to come tell what he knows to you.  He says he’s not pardoned and he’s not going to speak to any magistrate.”
“You believe the man, Hope?”
“There was no reason for him to come speaking to us, Magistrate.  It’s been on his mind all this time, he said. He’d been asking about us and had to come and see us. He heard a woman, a bonny-sized woman in her prime, by the name of Tempest, had been put away for the moors fire.  There were only three of them out there that night, he said: an older man, a younger man, a lean young woman with little on her.  I looked to his eyes, Magistrate. My mother remained in that asylum for five years before father managed to get her out.  They say truth will come to light, Magistrate.”
“Why would three people burn down Ezekiel Keys house, Hope?”
“You know this isn’t any lie, don’t you, Magistrate.  You don’t want to hear truth because it would make you wrong, and wronged us.”
“I suggested under the circumstances of your mother’s blackouts and her madness your mother plead not guilty. The solicitor agreed.  Legally it was the avenue we both thought best to take. Abby would have been tried both for arson and murder.”
“If you thought she was guilty, you should have tried her, magistrate!”
“A court case would have caused your mother to suffer dearly.”
“She might have been found innocent, Magistrate.  Isn’t that what your laws and your trials are for, to find who is what?  Not that I’m saying you and your lot do a good job of it, because I know you do not.  Your lot is interested in the rich, preserving them, Magistrate.  Keeping them who has, having it.  Mother most times now acts normal, but she can’t bear to be alone.  Then there are the nights she screams.”
“I am sorry, my dear.  I am most sorry.  If I told you I was young.  If I told you...”
“Sorry won’t bring back my mother’s life, Magistrate, nor my father’s, nor mine if it comes to it.  I was only eight when you took my mother away, Magistrate Bexfield.  I had no childhood after that.  I was the child of a mad woman. We have paid the penalty for your judgement!”
“I wish I could speak with the man, Hope.  At least it would clear your mother in the...”
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, Magistrate.”   With that Hope passes him on the bridge, strolls off down the side lane that takes her out to the highway.
Harrow woods, little more than a copse, is ten minutes away. Following the path upwards, the ground underfoot is spongy with rain that came during the night.  The Squire, as a reflex, waves his stick in front of him as he walks, for the thoughts are heavy.
He wishes he could wave the thoughts away.  He knows his position of Magistrate...   But what can he do...   It is all done.  He is done.  Constance was right about him leaving.  He knows that now.  Twenty years too late! Beginning to feel the journey ever more tiring, he whistles for the dog, who way ahead has nearly reached the trees.
. . .
Miss Hooper has been brought to Farmer Hopkins’ large fields following the trail of her small detective.  She debates going further.  Packed soil at the side of the field she can walk upon but, it will make Shapanzi and herself very dusty.
Shapanzi examining a mole eruption, she calls to him. “Shapanzi, dear.  I must remind you, Gentlemen dogs do not smell moles, nor their holes.”
The sun inflexible in its fierceness she needs to take some shade. In a gathering of elderly oak, one oak has a thick, well-positioned branch in a low curvature, perfect for seating.  Miss Hooper tries the low branch to see if it moves.
It does not.  Behind her a second curving to rest her back. Shapanzi on her lap, the cool shade and quietness cause them both to doze.  Miss Hooper wakes to see the lady from Australia, Miss Ackrim walking towards them. Seeing them the lady turns begins to move away.
“Miss Ackrim,” Miss Hooper calls.  “This bough is big enough for two.”
“I’m sorry, Madam.  I hadn’t expected anyone to be here.”
“Please call me Gladys.  We’re both adventurers.  You have been to this shelter before?”
“Yes, Madam...   Gladys, I discovered this sanctuary, this shelter, some days past.”  The young woman places to her eyes a handkerchief.
“Something is wrong.  We are all Christians here,” Miss Hooper exclaims.
As Bella sits, the little Chinese dog climbs from Miss Hooper’s lap to Bella, starts licking her hand.  She pets it. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Going to do?”
“He says he is not coming back with me.”
“To Australia, you mean.”  Miss Hooper struggles to make sense of the words.
“I’m not from Australia, Madam...   Gladys.  My father has a farm in Dorset.”
“I must have been mistaken.”
“It’s all lies we told.  But we’re not here to rob or steal anything.”
“Who, Miss Ackrim?”
Bella starts to cry again.  “Bella Stanton, Gladys.  That is my name, Bella Stanton.”
“Who is not coming back with you, Miss Stanton?”
“Lawrence!  Lawrence Morton.  Mr. Coulter’s friend.”
“Does this have something to do with Keys family, Bella?” Bella stares at her.  “How do you know that?”
“I didn’t.  I thought that it might!”
“Miss Hooper!  Gladys!  You seem to know about things. Lawrence Morton is only here for what is owed.”
“Lawrence Morton is related to the Keys?”
“Caroline Keys is his mother.  Squire is his father!”   Bella bursts into tears.  “He says he’s not coming back to St. Pancras.  To where we live.  He says they are going to kill him.”
. . .
Dear Miss Adams,

As I have been informed, you are expecting to receive a missive, not from myself as such, but from him to whom I once obeyed.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
I seek in this letter to render null that epistle should it be received.

Please meet me where our encounter took place at the moors. The time one hour after the noon clock.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
Miss Samson is to accompany you and you should obtain a gun for your protection against my body should it be taken over, which I believe I will have the strength to overcome.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
I will not arrive with any weapon.   Miss Samson and yourself should not be in any peril.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
I do not believe that I have long to live in this body and so wish to consult you with regards to the child you will be bringing forth.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
As my seed, I claim and avow as parent alongside you, that I shall, in whatever existence I arrive, ensure to my utmost the child will recognise the divide of those who play on the right and those who play on the left.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
Within the spiritual conflict this child will face, I intend to present a match of truth.

I am your obedient servant,

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
Lawrence Elred Morton

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
Emily reading the letter that McBride has just presented to her at her bedroom door, hands the letter to Annabell.
“Mr. Morton wants to meet you?”  Annabell is stunned.
“I do not think we should go, Heart?”
“If that is your wish?”
“We will not go?”
“Mr. Morton states he does not believe he has long to live in this body.  For the child’s sake should we not speak with him one last time?  How will I explain our refusal to the child inside me?  Will he not ask of his Earthly father?”
Annabell cannot be more astounded.  “Heart, how do you know this is not a further entrapment?”
“I do not.  But I do not believe they will harm the child. If they harm me, they will harm the child.  You can bring a gun as he suggests, Annie.  That will be your protection. Do you have a gun?”
“We could take Uncle’s Mauser he uses for hunting.  He keeps it in his study.”  Annabell at the back of her thoughts has great foreboding.  But she knows Heart’s determination. She knows from the revealing yesterday this is not a casual circumstance.
Nothing here is an act of chance.  Heart cannot go to the meeting alone.  All that took place last night, each entwined in the other! She has to go.
. . .
It is a little after the hour of noon.  In the drawing room, Ronald back from his walk is engaging Constance with a little repartee. Unfortunately Constance is winning. “Gladys has to give Shapanzi his daily Swedish lesson.”
“The sleeve hound needs to be educated in more than one European language?”
“I’m afraid so, dear.  I have to say his bark is beginning to sound quite strange.”
“Gladys is learning Swedish herself in the process, that on top of her raising her French and Italian for our trip. I have told her it is unlikely she will need Swedish.  Her comment was, ‘Who knows where we will be after the trip to the Alps.’  We will stop in Paris, will we not, Knobs?”
“I would say so.  Wouldn’t miss the women’s croquet for worlds. Likely some Swedes.”
“There you are, Knobs!”
“I cannot see any point in staying here after next week, can you?”
“We can travel up to your place, we have reservations for the ship in a month.  When we feel like it take the boat train across, see Paris.  Maybe come back afterwards when everything is up and working properly.  If it ever will be.”
George knocks, pokes his head around the door, seats himself.
“Ah!  George!  We were just talking about you!”
“I hope you were kind?”
“We will be taking off for the summer next week.  Will you be staying here?”
“Yes!  I don’t think I will return to India.  Not now at least.”
“Good!  That takes some weight off my mind.  When we return, I believe we will be living in London.  The court is aware I will be absent the whole summer but I have decided to resign.  We will be back here to see you sometimes, if you don’t mind?”
“It is because of Meg I intend to stay,” says George.
“Yes!  Well, I have been managing the property all these years.  Time for you to step up.”
George smiles.  “You don’t mind then if I marry?”
“Is that your intent?”
“Perhaps early October, when you return from the Alps. If you will come?”
“I will.”
“We will sort out the dates late summer.  That seems to be best.  Meg will be the one to make the decision when of course.”
“Yes!  I will keep you informed of our itinerary.  Hotels we will be staying at for you to send post.”  Ronald smiles, “I can telephone, I forget that.”  
Constance gets up.  A sepia taken of Ronald and George’s father so many years ago seems to stare at her. At that moment, Miss Hooper bursts through the door.
“Oh!  Your ladyship, Magistrate Bexfield.  Please forgive me, but I must speak of what I know.  He has said they are going to kill him!”
“Going to kill him?”
“I promised Miss Stanton to keep silent if there is no reason, but there is a reason.  I am sure there is a reason, a reason why Shapanzi and I...”
“Miss Stanton.  Who is Miss Stanton?”
“Miss Ackrim, sir.  Bella Ackrim.  Only her real name is Miss Stanton the wife of Mr. Morton.  Mr. Morton is the son of Caroline Keys.  He says they are going to kill him.”
“Who did, Mr. Morton?”
“That is what his wife told me.  She was sobbing, sir. He said he is not returning to their home in London.  I think he has to flee or they will kill him.”
“Who will kill him?”
“I don’t know, Magistrate Bexfield.  All I know is that I just heard that Miss Annabell and Miss Emily have gone to the moors.”
George steps in at this point.  “You say Mr. Morton is the son of Caroline Keys?”
Miss Hooper looks quite abashed.  “That is what Miss Stanton told me, sir.”  She looks at Lady Middleton.  “Would you tell them, your Lady!”
Constance has gone quite pale.  “Yes!”  She takes hold of Ronald’s hand.  “Will it never be resolved?  Caroline had a child, George. She begged me to tell you only when you returned.  But there has been no time.  I did not know Mr. Morton was her son.”
“He believes he is your son, Magistrate Bexfield.”  Miss Hooper says.
“My son.”
“Yes sir.  Miss Keys was taken in by a family shortly after birth. She fell ill and during that time murmured certain words that a maid heard.  That maid has just spoken of it. Bexfield, was one of the words, and Popum, I believe.”
“Oh, my God.  I have to go to see my son,” George rears up out of the chair.  “He will be at the Coulter’s with Edward.”  With that the door closes.  George has gone.
“What is this about Miss Annabell and Miss Adams going to the moors?”
That moment Arthur looks inside, noting the worried expressions, he asks, “Is something wrong?  George was on the stairs.  Rushing by he said he has a son.”
“There might be something wrong, Arthur.  Stay here and listen. Miss Hooper, you are concerned about Miss Annabell and Miss Adams going to the moors.”
“I was just in the kitchen getting food for Shapanzi, sir. The butler mentioned to the cook that Miss Samson and Miss Adams have taken to riding out to the moors.  The butler said they appeared concerned.  He wondered if it had anything to do with yesterday.”
“It is unusual,” says Constance.  “The appointment at the church this afternoon.  The rehearsal!  Why the moors?”
“Yes, at five at the church.    Continue Miss Hooper.”
“Mr. McBride had seen the two young ladies on his way to the stables, sir.  Miss Annabell on her horse.  Miss Adams on the pony. Miss Samson had your rifle with her.”
“Holding my Mauser!”
“I don’t know, sir.  He just said rifle.  He spoke to the stableman who had overheard them mention the ruins out on the moors.  I had to come and tell you.  Especially after Miss Stanton saying they were going to kill Mr. Morton.”
The Squire has already rang the bell for the butler. McBride knocks, enters.
“Miss Hooper has told us you have seen Miss Annabell with my Mauser?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Has there been anything unusual this morning?  To do with Miss Annabell or Miss Adams?”
“Nothing that I know of sir.  Oh!  Yes!  I did take a letter to Miss Adams.  It came from the estate, sir.”
Miss Hooper has this awful almost mesmerized stare as she stands by the drawing room door.  “Lady Middleton, I think more there is to this than even I have spoken of.”
“My God,” says the Squire.  “It must be this business with Emily. Arthur, if you will accompany me, let us see if we can catch the girls.  Bring your pistol, old fellow.  I know you carry it in your luggage.  Stay here, Constance. Miss Hooper, take care of Lady Middleton.  This is for the two of us to go.”
. . .
Lawrence gets on his horse.  Riding from the estate to the ruins, images flow around him.  His aunt when he was a small child, her arms around him trying to protect him from a danger her mind could not accept.  Bella, her hands grasping him by the collar, holding him, desperately not wanting to let him go.  The old American Shaman comes into his vision: “I see your death.  I see your ghost.”
He knows they are going to kill him but long has been the time when he cared for his life.  Lawrence’s thoughts return to the last time he was at Hartlepool.  Contracts, provided by the great empires of commerce of the families had swelled the opulence of the mansion.
In that gathering where he was to bring forth the High Being, everything had been catered specific to each taste. Angulse Sherod knew with whom he dealt.
Those invited had discrimination not of the ordinary. Even of eating, his uncle’s import business could bring all they desired.  Lawrence himself marvelled at the richness, how the world served the families: blood crocodile soup, green lip Aotearoa mussels, Japan Sea Urchin.
Coffee of an extract none who drank ordinary coffee could every capture. Paprika cream from Hungary. Biryanis elephant steak. Tsukemono pickles.  Pounded silver, raw Kofte meat from Turkish nomads.  Sweet African honey bees marinated in pineapple nectar. Egyptian red-necked grebes.  Romanian lamb organ.
It went on and on.  Pine-nut pastries shaped like braids. Birch syrup.  Cozonac bread cooked by magic ritual. Magic was the essence.  Magic for them was always real.
From every corner ships brought fineries: Chinese red Reishi mushroom, Sumatra pear, rainforest Strangler fig topped with liquorice, anethole and wild plum.  Catering to their stomach is how Angulse insinuated himself to their world.
They would relax after the engorgement.  Fermented White Oak, Ox-Tongue tobacco.  For those of the inner circle, a special ambrosia boasting of the taste of burnt children.
And so those who came, endeared of the coven, each in their own way were prepared.
Then it was time.
The servants would remove themselves, dismissed not merely from the plush mansion rooms but the buildings. Members of the coven seeing that all workers were removed from the high-walled Hartlepool estate.
Only the coven and the exceptional guests.
A framed picture is turned, a new image brought from behind: Setekh, Egyptian god of drought and tempest.
Then another reveals the Norse god Loki, entrails of one of his sons binding him.  A third reveals Angra Mainyu, magnetizing humankind into its world of darkness.
All around the spacious hall images of the dark force legions: Inverted crosses, skulls staring — jewels blazing fire as replacement for eyes.
Shuriken dripping with poison.  Human bodies with no heads. The whore rides her seven-headed dragon, horns blaring as destruction takes place.  Cities in ruins, cities in flames, cities swallowed by gaping bowels of shifting Earth.
On a woodblock the words:
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of saints, and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream.
A heliogravure of Satan sowing seeds.  Satan throwing his women to all who might wish to partake and enjoy the lust.
A half burnt church engulfed in flames.
Partitions of the cryptic ceremonial hall are folded back, a flat marble stone revealed, the altar for that which will take place, the coming sacrifice.
Behind the altar three white nephrite steps, a chair, four gold legs of cloven hooves.  High at the back of the chair a golden face of an owl carved.
Behind upon the wall, His Satanic Majesty, Satanus, rearing gleeful in goat form.
Yet, even that is not the most awesome sight, for high above a huge gold dragon flies.
The coven priest signals for the clothing of Lawrence to be cut. Then all begin to remove their clothes.
Naked bearers bring a palanquin open at the top and sides to where Lawrence stands.  Placing himself upon its cushions the bearers bind his hands and feet to each pole.
The palanquin lifted upon the flat marble altar, lying naked, his member fully erect, stirred by two witches, the young goddess raises herself over him.  Nubile, naked, her blood-teats ready in their fullness, Lawrence suckles at the lactating breasts.
A carnal shudder as her body moves back and forth, his member twisting to her whim.
At a certain moment he roars.
In that instant, horns from another ether form, horns upon his head.
He roars with the bestiality.
Roars with uncaring.
Roars as the goddess withdraws,
As his member once again is exposed.
Roars as his seed spurts upwards.
Roars as it shoots high, high above him to where the dragon flies.
They watch those who surround him, and now they also begin their roar.
Lawrence has arrived at the ruins.  Miss Adams, Miss Samson wait.
“Mr. Morton!”  Annabell holds the rifle firmly in her hand.  It is pointed at him.
“Miss Samson!”
Emily, standing behind Annabell, calls across, “What do you wish to say to me about our son, Mr. Morton?”
“I will not let them have control of him.”  On his horse, Lawrence leans backwards.  “It may not seem that I am much in their presence, but they have their weakness. They have exposed themselves to me.  I will use it against them.  I will protect my son, Miss Adams.  They will not persuade him.”
“What do you wish from me?”
“Do not counter me.”   The last words are interrupted by two horses racing along the tradesman’s path.
Lawrence startled turns, jumps from his horse.  In that moment of distraction another takes possession of his body, another who runs to Annabell, grabs her rifle.
Three things take place as this stage will have it:
The Squire, having Lawrence point the rifle at him, reaches to the back of his saddle to his walking stick.
Its pointed iron spike now hurtles towards Lawrence.
In the same instant, Arthur, seeing the rifle pointed at Ronald, raises the pistol he holds, fires.
But not explained by ordinary nature, Arthur’s horse shies before the release of the bullet.  The pistol pointed upwards, the ball goes over Lawrence’s head.
As the iron point of the walking stick hurtles towards Lawrence, the rifle aims directly at the Squire, at his heart. Controlled by the demon Ecnerwal inside Lawrence’s body, the rifle fires.
The moment then stops.
Two men lay upon the ground.
Stick and rifle both have achieved their intent.
The Squire, heart seeping blood, has fallen from his horse.
Lawrence Morton’s skull cracked open at the centre by the iron point of the walking stick.
For Annabell there is no meaning.  All is to run to her uncle, to kneel, to utter the wail.
The wail of those who in their first grieving moment begin to grasp that which for the rest of their Earthly life will be unrecoverable loss.
Lawrence, his human light dissipating, forms his ghost.
He is stunned to recognise he is standing.  He stands, whilst he as he was lies crumpled, a corpse of oozing blood, crushed, defaced bone at his feet.
Staring at his body it is obvious he has separated.  Yet he wears the same clothing the body on the ground wears.
The thought comes of waters he has visited.  He‘s lain there and rested.  Lawrence finds himself by those waters.
Shock overcomes him and he falls into numbness.
Some hours or some days, he has no idea, he wakes to find himself lying near the waters.  He looks at himself. He still has clothing.
There’s no horse.  He did not bring himself here.  He is dead.
Upon the bronze throne he sits, the winged creature flying above.
The killing is to be done.
He watches a coven member set a blanket upon the flat sacrificial marble.  He watches the priest being given the infant by its naked mother, the goddess whom Lawrence has just been inside.  The priest places the infant upon the blanket.
In some part of himself, he can feel the awareness of this child, rocking itself gently side by side upon the blanket.
“To the glory of ‘The Other,”’ the cry is made.
“To the glory of ‘The Other,’ voices resound. Then as the baby lays prone, held by the coven priest, it only takes seconds.
A slight sound, though hardly a sound, for the priest has his hand upon the infants mouth.  Lawrence watches as the blood pours forth from the child’s heart.
The instrument of death is laid next to the child.  Those around step to touch the blood with their fingers, to place the blood into their mouths.
When all have finished, the priest, taking the dagger with both hands, holds it up, holds it until a brilliance, a seraphic radiance shines forth from the sacrificial tool.
“To the glory of ‘The Other’ all those kneeling around the altar cry.
Lawrence watches as the radiance beams into his heart.
© Kewe   All rights reserved.