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Kadary
by Lord Offler


A customer walked into the Kadary Bar. He moved over to the counter, and stood near the bartender. "A glass of water, please," he told him.

The bartender looked up from a glass he was polishing. "Oh, hi Jolve," he said. "You want water? No problem. Want me to put it on your tab?"

"No, I'll just pay for it now." Jolve took a meseta out of his pocket and placed it on the bar. The bartender took it, then filled up the now clean glass from a tap with water and placed it in front of Jolve.

"So where have you been the past couple of days?" the bartender said as he put the coin in his cash register. "I was starting to think you were sick."

Jolve shrugged. "Working mostly. The boss just received a new shipment of antidotes at the Supply Store, and he's been keeping me in to take inventory. Did I miss anything interesting around here?"

"Then you haven't heard the news?"

"No, what's been going on?" said Jolve as he raised the glass to his mouth.

"Town Council finally voted. Zio's Church is going to be demolished."

The glass stopped. "Really? When is it due to be destroyed?"

"The job starts tomorrow. I thought you might be interested to know."

"So all the Conservationists lobbying was for nothing?"

"Yeah, sorry about that. Some of them are out by the Church protesting still if you want to join them."

"Nah, what would be the use? I doubt Council is going to change their mind that easily."

"You never know, it might do some good. Anyway..." the bartender carried on delivering the last few days worth of news and gossip. Jolve listened, sipping his water, nodding whenever a question was asked, but he wasn't really paying attention. The bartender was right, the news had been of interest to him. A year back, when Zio's Church had held sway over the town, Jolve had been one of Zio's followers, and was fanatical in his devotion. After Zio's demise, Jolve had been one of the few to remain in Kadary, not having anywhere else to go. The townsfolk had been pretty forgiving towards him, since most of the had been under Zio's control as well. He'd gotten a job as a clerk in the Supply Store, bought himself a small house, and had for the most part been happy, until recently, that is.

For the past few months several members on the Council had been trying to pass a bill to have the Church of Zio destroyed. Their reasoning was that Kadary no longer needed the Church, but could use the land it was built on. At the same time, a group of citizens calling themselves Conservationists, Jolve among them, had tried to prevent the Church's destruction, saying that the Church should remain as a reminder of what Zio did to both Kadary and Motavia. The Conservationists had had strong backing on the Council, but apparently not enough. Jolve wondered how anyone could want to destroy such a landmark. Had the Council no emotions? For a moment, he actually considered joining the protestors the bartender mentioned, but thought better of it, sinc e it really wouldn't do much good.

Finishing the water, Jolve placed the glass down. "Thanks for the drink. I'd love to hear the rest of what you have to say, but I've still got work to do."

The bartender nodded. "Sure, but I'll see you tomorrow then, right?"

"Right, tomorrow," and Jolve walked out.

*     *     *     *     *

It was late in the night, and Jolve was strolling down the streets of Kadary, carrying a torch. He had been unable to sleep, and kept tossing around and waking up periodically. The thought that the Church would be gone soon had been too much for him to bear. He had to see it one last time, before he could never see it again.

He looked around as he reached the Church's courtyard. The statues at the front were damaged from a year of vandalism. A few signs left behind from the protest were strewn about, bearing slogans like "Save Our Church" and "Better a Dark Past than No Past". But the Church itself was still undamaged. Even a year after Zio's death, only the Council wanted to defile his holy place.

Jolve crossed over to the Church's doorway. The double doors were closed and locked now, but that was no problem to him. He withdrew a small crowbar from his pants pocket, placed it between the doors, and applied pressure. Zio may have been an incredible architect when he designed the rest of the building, but his knowledge of locks was limited. There was an audible snap, and the doors flew open, knocking Jolve back. He held still for a moment, hoping noone else had heard the lock break. The last thing he needed was to be arrested for trespassing. Luckily, everything remained quiet, so Jolve got up, and entered the building.

The Church had seemed eerie before, in the daytime, but at night it was outright frightening. Jolve shivered as he scanned the place with his torch. The place was obviously in need of maintenance. Layers of dust at least inches thick covered the pillars and arches. The candelabras were tarnished badly, showing none of their original shine.

Jolve walked around, examining everything. This was definitely not what he had expected. The place seemed too empty, cold, lifeless. He wondered why he had even bothered to come here. The place had decayed from what it used to be into a dingy, decrepit building. Having seen what he wanted to see, Jolve turned, and started to leave.

Unexpectedly, Jolve heard a voice call out to him. "Jolve, you have arrived!" it said. "Don't leave just yet, I haven't seen you in a year."

Jolve started, thinking a guard had snuck up on him. He prepared to run, and heard the voice again. "Why do you run? Don't you remember me?"

And Jolve stopped. He realized two things: that the voice was in his head, and that he had heard it before. He recognised the soft, angry tone. "Zio? Is that you?"

"Who else would it be? Please, stay, for I must speak with you."

"It can't be you though! You're dead! I must be going mad!"

The voice claiming to be Zio gave a mental sigh. "That is a long story Jolve. Stay, and I will explain."

Confused, Jolve leaned against a pillar, sending up a cloud of dust. "Okay," he said. "Explain then."

Zio began to speak. "When I was alive, and first started my Church, I built this place for two purposes. The first is simple enough: to give my followers a place of worship. The second is more complicated. I knew that there would be forces opposing me, so as method of protecting myself, should I be attacked, I surrendered part of my powers into the Church. When I was killed by the Hunter and his companions, my physical body was destroyed, but my soul fled. It rejoined the powers I left here at the Church. It took time, but my soul fused with the Church, giving me a body and a new consciousness. By then my followers had left, so I remained here, almost powerless."

Jolve shook his head in amazement. "So you are the Church then? But doesn't that mean if the Church is destroyed-"

"Then I am destroyed," Zio said, finishing the thought. "But as I said, I am not completely helpless. I have been able to read and influence slightly, very slightly, the minds of others. When I learned of what was to befall my 'body' at the hands of the Council, I started to take steps to defend myself. I found one who would have been sorrier than others to see the Church go, and influenced him to want to take action! He did the rest, forming that group you joined, what is it's name?"

"The Conservationists." Jolve provided.

"Correct, the Conservationists. Anyway," Zio continued. "It did no good. The order was passed to demolish me. I was forced to take desparate measures. And that is where you came in. I influenced you, to want to see the Church again when you were already upset over it. And here you are!"

"So you used me then," said Jolve. He was fed up after hearing Zio's story. "Why? Why do you tell me this? To confess that you have used people like puppets, even after your death?"

"I apologize if I have upset you," Zio said without sincerity. "But I believe it would help you to better understand my motives for what I am about to do."

Jolve became suspicious. "Do what Zio? What are you planning?"

"It's quite simple. You see, if the Church is destroyed, I must have a new body. And yours is perfect!"

Jolve suddenly became aware of something trying to enter his mind, some kind of mental probe. He resisted, trying to push it back, but it was too strong. It forced its way in, and started searching for a place to begin to grow. Jolve dropped his torch, which went out on the stone floor, and fell to his knees, clutching his head, mentally trying to force the thing out. The whole process caused a great deal of pain, and he had to fight to keep from passing out as well. Through clenched teeth he man aged to say "Why me Zio? Why choose me?"

"Because you were the last who truly believed in me, Jolve! It is so much easier to take over a mind that is more inclined to my way of thinking."

Jolve tried to protest, but knew Zio was right. He had always felt that if the Church still stood, Zio would never be truly dead. He had had no idea how right he was.

The thing had started to grow by now. He could feel Zio's probe starting to force him out of his own mind, making it harder for him to concentrate. He tried to speak again, and managed to gasp out a few words. "Why... do.. you..need ..to...live?"

Zio feigned astonishment. "Why, so I may serve my god once more, of course! How could you even ask that?"

Jolve was about to lose consciousness. As his vision started to dim, he said "Your...god....dead! Or...you'd....be....alive!

Without warning, Zio's probe retracted, losing all hold on Jolve, who collapsed to the ground, in shock from the unexpected recovery. He slowly stood up, shaking his head and recalling memories to make sure he was still him.

Zio was silent for a while, then exploded in fury. "That can't be! Dark Force can't be dead! He didn't leave me!" and continued with a mental scream that nearly sent Jolve to the ground again. Jolve recovered his balance, and took advantage of Zio's distraction. He ran as fast as he could out of the Church, through the courtyard, onto the street, and didn't stop until the scream was just a distant hum in his head. He stopped against the town wall to catch his breath.

When Jolve finally composed himself, he gazed at the figure of the Church against the night sky with nothing but malice. He would make sure to join the demolition crews tomorrow, no matter what. If need be, he would buy his own sledge hammer. He would do anything, just so long as he got to bring that place down. The Conservationists were wrong. Kadary didn't need the Church as a reminder. As far as Jolve was concerned, what he had just gone through was reminder enough.

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