Father Nehemiah wasn’t entirely comfortable in the new church.
He had been told, by the kindly woman that cleaned the building, Mrs. Bao, that most priests didn’t last long in her city (and that was how she put it: “You priests, you usually can’t make it too long in my city. Don’t worry your head about it when you find yourself having to leave.”) As such, he was determined to, as the vernacular went, hack it.
The corpse-lamb was his first challenge, although not the strongest or worst he would face. The spirit of what he was told was a kirkevaren was quite visible to the naked eye, hovering around the freshly-blessed churchyard, apparently waiting for someone to die so it had something to protect once again.
While it waited, the kirkevaren had decided to guard everything else. The pews. The baptismal. The children in the nursery on Sunday. Sometimes it inserted itself into the stained glass window patterns for a while, another lamb in the wide field of them. It was, Father Nehemiah thought, bored.
It was tied to the land, Mrs. Bao and her husband, Bao-Bao, told him; it could not go very far from it. So Father Nehemiah pondered things that the spirit could do to keep it out of trouble.
Much, he pondered, the way he did with troubled teens in other cities. Much as he was soon to find he would need to with the fairies here.
The fairies. He’d thought the kirkevaren was strange – no other church he’d ever served in had had anything similar – but the fairies, they were downright malicious.
He found the first one pretending to be a corpse, hanging itself from the iron fence posts at the front gate, eyes bugging, tongue sticking out. “This place kills us,” the thing told him.
“Now don’t you be silly,” Mrs. Bao told the thing over Nehemiah’s shoulder. “It’s a place of love and faith, and if it harms you, that’s your own silly fault.”
That one had moved on, shamed into stopping its protest, but they kept coming. They would catcall the congregation as they came for Sunday services, shout obscenities at funeral-goers and wedding guests alike. If Mrs. Bao was around, she would shoo them off with her broom, but she was not always around, and they would not listen to Father Nehemiah.
“I don’t understand,” he asked the cheerful cleaning woman. “What is it they have against our Church?”
“They have a very long memory, these creatures,” she told him, “a reborn memory, in some cases. And some just take any chance they get to complain.”
“Much like every other person I know,” he sighed. “What can I do?”
“What can you do?” she echoed back at him, with a shrug. “They are faeries. They do not follow human rules.”
“Hrrm.” Father Nehemiah had the glimmerings of an idea. He lit some incense, murmured a few prayers, and went to speak to the kirkevaren.
The next time the faries came to protest the church, the kirkevaren was there, fending them off, defending the church from their complaints. Mrs. Bao smiled at Nehemiah.
“You’ll do okay. You’ll do just fine.”
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