“Behold, the symbol of our faith and the focus of our works.”
The priest opened the small, sturdy wooden box. The interior was lined with bubble wrap, and the relic lay on a thick velvet cloth. The relic gleamed as the priest held it up in the fading light of the sunset. The members of the small congregation stared at the relic, their eyes filled with longing.
“Be of strong faith and good cheer,” the priest intoned, “in the certain hope that our efforts will bring about the Second Coming of the Power that will light our way once more.”
The door to the shabby old building was yanked open and the Watcher barely had time to shout, “Luds!” An iron bar crashed down on her head. Rough hands shoved her aside and the enemy of the faith began to pour into the room. There were eight of them, all armed with iron rods.
The members of the congregation shrieked. Some pushed children to the side of the room to try to protect them. Others fought back as best they could.
The priest quickly closed up the ark of the relic as two of the Luds came for her. Having nowhere to turn, she set the ark on the floor and covered it with her body. The Luds rained blows on the priest with their iron cudgels.
“Your faith makes you weak!” one of the Luds shouted at the old woman.
Another Watcher sprinted in from the back of the building. A loud noise echoed in the small room, and the jeering Lud gasped and fell on top of his victim.
“Gun!” another Lud shrieked, and he and his fellow despoilers fled the building.
A congregant pushed the filthy body of the dead Lud off of the priest.
“Mother? Mother Kyra? It’s Aidan. Can you hear me?” He gently rolled the woman onto her side.
With her last strength, Mother Kyra pushed the ark of the relic toward Aidan. “Guard the symbol,” she whispered. “Keep our faith. Keep working.” And she died.
Aidan understood he had just been made the congregation’s priest. He looked around at his people. Those who had not been harmed were tending to those who were, and some tried to comfort the crying children. All eyes kept darting toward the fallen priest.
Aidan picked up the ark. He opened it and removed the relic; he held it out for all to see, in the final rays of the sun through the dirty windows, that it was undamaged.
“Mother Kyra has given her life to protect our relic and our hope. We will honor her memory by continuing the work she led us in. We will ever seek the knowledge for the Second Coming of the Power that will light our way once more.”
The congregants looked upon the relic, and despite their wounds and their terrible loss, they took heart that the relic was whole and that their dream yet lived. A few of them had the presence of mind to recite the response: “We will once again live in the light.”
Father Aidan gently replaced the 60-watt light bulb in its ark and closed it.