Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reflections on Restraint

I was going to write this earlier, but I ran out of time. Now I'm glad I didn't.

The Elders called me in. So, after a very long day at work - Austin isn't snowed in, or even icy, but the power companies have hit us with rolling blackouts while they try to provide enough electricity to keep everybody in the rest of the state from freezing to death - I had to take a long detour before I could go home. Fortunately, Claire had a class to attend... but still, I barely made it back ahead of her.

Meeting with the Elders is... Well, for one thing, it's hard to describe. I mean, I can't tell you where I went; I can't tell you who was there; and I can't tell you too much about what was said. At least, I can't be too specific, and that makes it hard to record some of these events.

The other thing about meeting with the Elders is that it's terrifying. If your boss drops by and says, "I need to see you in my office when you get a minute," well, the worst you're likely to be facing is getting fired. Yeah, you probably worry, but you don't sit there wondering if you should change your name and leave the country instead.

The worst part is that they never tell you why they want to see you until you're there.

Anyway, the meeting: it was in a small conference room, with a big table in the middle, a flatscreen television on one wall, and a whiteboard on the other. There were five people there: myself, Mbata, and three of the Elders. Two of them still looked human - or human enough to pass, in their business suits. The third waited until the door was closed and our privacy was assured; then he let his features slip back to their natural configuration. Every once in a while, while the others were talking, he would wipe his eyebrows with his tongue. This was every bit as disturbing as it sounds, but it seemed to be an absent gesture. If it signaled anything in particular, I couldn't see what.

So the Batrachian watched, and the other two spoke. They were pleased, they said, that I had identified my attackers. The trio who ran me off the road were all three members of the snake cult, and at least one of them we'd known about already. Or rather, the Elders had known. Obviously they hadn't bothered to tell me.

Only the Elders don't want me to act against the snake cultists. They said I could observe them, as naturally I'd want to know what these people who'd tried to kill me were up to. If I learned anything interesting or identified other members of their cult, I was to inform Mbata. And if they did attack me again, I was permitted to defend myself. But that was it. I was not to make any sort of attack, mundane or occult, against any of the three.

I was not entirely happy about this, and I said so. That was when the Batrachian finally spoke up, in a horrible rasping croak. He said, "We do not require your happiness. Only your loyalty."

Well, they've got that. I'll watch, and if there's anything interesting, I'll report. And if I learn that the three of them - or any of them really - are going to take another shot at me, I'll be ready.

Because that will be self-defense.

Reflections of a Deranged Cultist is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any actual cultists, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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