"Vivien, it is my pleasure to help you. That's what I am here for. My door is always open. Well, metaphorically speaking. Quite often it's closed, if we are talking about things literally." Wilhelm gave a light chuckle and smiled. "But in all seriousness, Vivien, do not hesitate to come to me for whatever you may need, be it advice, or simply a captive audience to talk to. I am here to help you."
"You are serving under Ms. Amalric? My, Vivien, you certainly are privileged!" The priest's face took on a less jovial expression as he moved to the subject of Helena, although it was still caring and expressive, devoid of the harsh judgment or scorn Vivien had grown accustomed to as Helena's more-or-less default expression.
"Of course I know of Ms. Amalric - who doesn't? I imagine that she is a very difficult woman to work for, no? I know her type well, however, Vivien. Her type was very common back up in Sigmar. That's where she started out, did you know? Her first jobs with the church were during the Seven Year Crusade. It's both where she started, and where she earned her distinction. I won't pretend to know what sort of person she was before the war, but I would imagine that whatever she experienced up there changed her. I've heard the stories about her and her victories - and what they cost. I understand she's as harsh as the Vetrheim winter, yes?"
"I think, Vivien, that people like her are scared. I think they are scared, and that they are running from the source of their fear. I think most people are, Vivien. Too often, Vivien, people forget to confront the enemies lurking within them and instead focus on those lurking without. The hardest crusade of all is the crusade to conquer the self."
"Oh, but look at me! I ramble." Wilhelm laughed, "I think you get my meaning, though. Hero worship can be dangerous, Vivien, particularly towards a woman such as her. You cannot win the internal crusade if you are caught up in other people's crusades. The Law understands the importance of authority, Vivien, but I think it is even more important to understand the necessity of that authority being earned and deserved. Ms. Amalric is most certainly an important servant of the Law and deserves all of the accolades she has received, but I do not necessarily believe that her path is the only path by which one could have gotten to such lofty heights. Do not lose sight of yourself, Vivien. Your path is yours and yours alone - she cannot walk it for you any more than you could walk hers."
Lucille had slept badly the night they arrived back in Lareaux, even with the reassuring weight and warmth of her husband. Benoît had always seemed huge beside her. Huge and solid. She rose early, slipping silently out of the bed and smiling fondly as he shifted and grumbled sleepily at her absence.
Lucille resisted the temptation to go and watch her daughter sleep; she'd not yet seen Aurélie, her daughter having already been persuaded to bed before her mother arrived home. Instead she dressed in a soft plain tunic and wool leggings and left her husband with a kiss to the forehead.
She padded down the hallway in the gloom, not needing to see to feel sure of where she put her feet, silent as a cat. A modest L-shaped one storey wooden building, it was hers only in name. Benoît was the yeoman who worked the fields along with his tenant farmers. She was too often and for too long away to look after the household, and she had neither the skill nor the interest to do so.
She had missed it so. The rushes that carpeted the hard stone floors rustled slightly as she entered the ironically titled Great Hall. The dying embers of last-night's hearth fire bathed the hall in a soft orange glow, making the small room seem even more cramped. She moved past the dining table and ran her fingers lightly over the wood that had been smoothed and polished by countless meals. Comfortably at most it seated ten, uncomfortably you could just about squeeze another two people on the ends. They'd often supped with their entire estate; Jaquan and his two sons, Esmé and Robert, the de Navarre's, Father Jean-Claude Barre...
Not for a long time, though.
Lucille continued on, past the Great Hall into the kitchens and out into the balmy early morning air.
She hesitated outside the small chapel that stood against the woods that ran across their land, but shook herself and went in. Inside it was cool and dark, the stone underfoot radiating cold up through the soles of her shoes. She walked past the pews, each one carved with careful and exquisite depictions of celestials and saints, though they had clearly been worn down by the years. Each one was older than she was, and would remain long after she had gone.
She stood in front of the lectern, staring past it at the stained-glass window that dominated the far wall. It depicted The Saint in all His Holy glory. He looked at peace.
She dropped her eyes, collected one of the kneeling cushions that hung under the pews, and knelt before the image of her Saint. She clenched her fists, her knuckles digging into her thighs, and cleared her mind to pray.
It would be hours before Father Barre came to set up for the day. That was alright. She could wait.
Behind her, the sun had crested the horizon and spread tentative fingers of light over the lush greenery of her home. The servants had awakened and smoke was rising from the chimney in the kitchens. Farmers who had already been working hard for hours prepared for the new day, and a young girl named Aurélie crawled into bed next to her father and sleepily asked for her mother.
This is the sleepiest I've ever been while attempting to write Delilah. Hopefully she worked.
Ramirez, compromising position and all, was suddenly aware of a tall woman in the room. And the wings. A tall angelic woman.
She was stunningly beautiful, with long curly red hair, elven ears, an ample bosom, and a perfect face. Her body was clad only in a tight bodice and loincloth, leaving much of her perfect skin bare. On her left shoulder was tattoo of the symbol of Baator and of the Ninth. Her feathery wings seems almost blade-like as they terminated. Her wrists were adorned in numerous bracelets, and her ears similarly adorned with numerous piercings.
"You may call me Delilah. May I call you Ramirez?" She smiled. Her body language was enthralling. She moved with effortless grace and sensuality - but at the same time Ramirez was very much aware of a deliberateness behind her movements. It was something subtle but unmistakably predatory and menacing. He was acutely aware that she was allowing him to know that she could, if she so chose, end him before he even registered her moving to attack. Well, granted, he was kind of helpless at the moment. But even had he not been.
Delilah squated down by Ramirez, smiling flirtatiously at him and running one of her hands along his cheek. "You humans are so interesting." She purred with what seemed like genuine interest. "Shall I untie you, darling?" She turned to the other people in the room. "Leave."
Delilah was not the sort of woman who needed to, or did, repeat herself.
Ramirez made a friend?!
"I may not be in the best position for conversation at the moment. My lady. I'd be indebted to you if you'd untie me."
Her beauty was formidable, even more so than Helena's. In truth, Ramirez had never seen anyone who radiated charisma in quite the same way as his superior - or so he assumed - did. He'd heard stories, of course, but he'd always assumed they were old wives' tales or at least exaggerations. Yet the evidence for those stories was kneeling beside him.
What was she, anyway? A fallen angel?
"Of course, darling." Delilah smiled as she quickly untied Ramirez, again with a seemingly effortless effort. "Is that better?"
"Thank you, my lady, it is. Physical bondage is so inconvenient in social situations."
"May I ask why you've come to me?"
"You may." Delilah smiled as she stood up. "I understand you retrieved several tomes from your most recent outing with the Grand Crusader. I have come to take these books where they need to go. His will be done." She pressed up against Ramirez, draping her arms over his shoulders. "Did you want something else, Human?" She asked, her voice still full of sensuality and quiet menace.
"I think you know my interests, my lady. I will take whatever's judged to be my dues."
Although she was beautiful - obviously supernaturally so - Ramirez only felt physical attraction to her. She was too powerful and too corrupt to mean anything but a routine, though exquisite, fuck. Fun? Yes. Sublime? No.
"Of course I do." Delilah smiled. "Before the Law even the whispers bow down." She added.
She pushed off him gently, the smile still on her beautiful face. "They bore me. Your interests, that is. Although, I must confess. I am, at times, a bit jealous of you. You are living in a momentous time, when the fruition of one of His grandest plans will soon come to pass. The time of the kingdom is at hand. Soon you may come to experience a sliver of the glory and radiance that I have the the honor and privilege of knowing. Not in full, of course, for who could comprehend His true majesty? Glory, glory, hallelujah, His will is marching on!"
She spoke of Asmodeus not just with the slavish devotion and religious awe that all His knowing servants did - although that was certainly there in spades - but with a hint of what Ramirez could only recognize as romantic love and adoration.
All religious fanatics were the same in the end, weren't they? Delilah and Helena were exactly the same; exactly as obsessed with their respective friends on the other side. Asmodeus was an object of worship and compliance because everything turned according to His will. The powerful rose to the top and inspired worship. That's what happened.
"Immanentised be His Glory."