Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Eighty-Three

Urban didn’t know how many people he had killed. He couldn’t count it anymore. He’d gone numb, unable to reconcile what was happening inside the old halls of Na Creidmhigh. Most paths had been cut off, consumed by flames, or there was just too much death for him to even think about crossing the room. After what he’d seen, he couldn’t trust any of the bodies to stay dead. But, here he was, on the cusp of Oki’s church — then he’d face Carrick. At the end of their confrontation, he’d truly have to account for what he’d done.

The hallway was silent, deceptively so.

He pressed his hand, stained by blood and other cruel deeds. He entered Oki’s church, found it stained red, though her veins were empty and blood red water covered the floors. Explosions had originated here from what he could ascertain, but something much more heinous had happened here and he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to figure it out.

One thing was for certain: this was no longer a place of worship.

He skirted the shattered pews, stepping over the streams and broken glass. He made his way to the back of the hall when he heard something move, rubble shifting and cascading away. He turned, found one of the betrayers trying to escape being buried. Urban breathed out through his nose. Sern tried to grab Urban but he ripped from his grip, climbing over the wreckage and seizing the man by his jacket and pitching him to the ground. Glass shot up, water soaking his bloody clothes. The man turned on his back, raising his hands in defense as Urban approached.

“Look, man, I—”

Urban squeezed the trigger.

“Shit!” Sern shouted amidst shouts from everyone else.

Urban stood there for a moment, looking down on the man’s corpse. He then turned to his men, who had their weapons ready but not pointed at him, yet. He said, “This man does not deserve to be remembered. He betrayed us all when he chose Carrick over his brothers.” He spat at the body. “If you find any other traitor, they are to be shot on sight.” When he didn’t get a response, he kept his rifle down, but said without any emotion, “Are we clear?”

Slowly, the men started to nod.

Urban walked to the elevator and pressed the button. The mural of Oki split apart, welcoming him into the cabin. He stood there a moment, alone, then said, “Sern?”

Sern started at his name, turned from the dead body. His gaze danced around the elevator. “I don’t think all of us will be able to fit in there.”

“That’s why I asked for you.”

Sern nodded, made the smart move not to look back for assurance and he joined Urban in the cabin.

Urban instructed his followers, “Be ready for anything.”

They nodded uneasily, then the elevator closed and propelled Urban to his fate. The air between the two men was uneasy, the enormity of what he’d done a point of contention. He went to speak, but Sern spoke first.

“Was that absolutely necessary?”

Urban did Sern the service of not speaking immediately, even though he had no question about his decision. He pressed down the anger, smoothed it out, and made sure his voice was level when he spoke. “These men ripped apart the Family. Would you ever be able to trust someone who had betrayed you so thoroughly? These were my brothers. We had a common bloodline and Carrick, and by extension his lackeys, severed that.” His voice trembled, but he continued, “I will not let him get away. You can judge my actions at that point, but, until Carrick is held accountable, this is the path we’re on.” He looked up at his friend, tears in his eyes, but he didn’t wipe them away.

Sern nodded, his face stoic but Urban recognized that the man was with him. “Then let’s get the bastard.”

With each passing floor, the elevator dinged and this filled the silence between them. Trepidation coursed through him as they approached the top floor. He tried to keep his thoughts from reliving Gilpin’s death but it sat there, unbidden, and played over and over as he chided himself for not approaching this whole situation differently. He shouldn’t have stoked the fires, he should’ve gone straight to Keir, he should’ve—

The elevator faltered, the final ding sounded before the doors slid open, inviting the men out into the halls of Keir’s former office. He could see the blood stains from where he stood, but not into the main office. His body refused to move, then the doors started to close again.

He threw out a hand, catching the door and then the unease was broken and his purpose was clear. He pressed forward into the lobby, then realized something was wrong with the scene. Just like when he’d come to warn Keir, there were no guards.

He didn’t think Carrick would make the same mistake. He shook his head. Pulling the rifle into his hand, he approached the glass doors. Blood still stained the panels. Carrick hadn’t taken the time to clean up after his coup. Urban shook his head, trying to dispel the random thoughts tripping through his head. He put a hand on the door, then pulled it open to find—

An empty room.

Carrick had deserted his prize.

And left Urban to pick up the pieces.

Urban screamed into the empty room, while Sern stood stone-faced behind him.

Na Creidmhigh was his, in all its destroyed glory.

And Urban had been denied his prize. And his judgment.

He breathed in deep, staring at all the artifacts of their former life. He steeled himself against what was to come. He turned back to Sern, said in a rage-fueled voice, “Get the others. It’s time to gather Carrick’s followers. We have to find him.”

“What about the building?”

“This is our home now. As it always has been.”

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.