Home > Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(7)

Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(7)
Author: Katie MacAlister

"Yes."

I switched my examination from the church to the man who was leading me into it. He still looked sane, but if he thought he was the sun, perhaps it would be wiser to let him think I was going along with his claims until I could slip away.

The church did much to reassure my nerves. It, too, looked perfectly ordinary, and was pretty much as I had expected from my visits to other ancient Icelandic churches - a small anteroom that opened out into the main part of the church, narrow aisles running down the middle and on either side of two banks of pews. At the far end stood the altar. It wasn't until I was halfway down the aisle that I realized that something was wrong. The church was decorated with the usual crosses and symbols of Christianity, but over these had been thrown small black cloths embroidered with silver crescent moons.

"Uh-oh," I said, squirming out of Mattias's grip. Had I stumbled onto some strange cult? Were there strange cults in Iceland? I had thought they were pagans before Christianity swept through Scandinavia - perhaps this was a pagan cult? "I think this is far enough."

"Mattias?" A woman called out from the other end of the church, emerging from a room behind the altar. She was middle-aged, with salt-and-pepper hair, and eyes that practically snapped as she bustled down the aisle toward us. She continued in what I assumed was Icelandic.

"Kristjana, I bring the Zorya," Mattias interrupted her. "She is English."

"American, actually, although my name isn't Zorya. It's Pia, and I'm really terribly sorry to intrude, but I think Mattias has me mixed up with someone else," I explained to the woman. She looked perfectly normal, perfectly sane and unremarkable, kind of a plump grandmotherly figure. All but her eyes, that is.

Those intense dark eyes examined me for a moment before she asked Mattias a question.

"I am sure," he answered. "She bears the stone."

"You mean this?" I asked, holding up the silk bookmark.

Kristjana's eyes widened for a moment, then she nodded. "You are very welcome to our sanctuary, Zorya."

"Ahh, a light begins to dawn," I said slowly as my mental fog cleared. "It's this, isn't it?" I waved the bookmark around. The moonstone at the end of it glowed gently in the dim interior of the church. "That's where all the confusion comes from. I'm happy to tell you that this isn't mine."

"No, it isn't, it belongs to no one, but you are its keeper now, and you must guard it well. We have much work for you to do," Kristjana said primly. She gestured toward the back of the church. "You will come now and we prepare for the first ceremony. We were told you would be arriving earlier."

I glanced as casually as I could manage around the church. Relief filled me at the sight of the half-open front door. With an expression I hoped bore no indication of my intentions, I shuffled backward a few steps. "This is really a lovely church. I like the moons, they're pretty as well. Is that something your group worships?"

Mattias frowned a little as Kristjana watched me, her face expressionless. I hoped neither of them noticed I was still moving backward, toward the door, in tiny little baby steps.

"The Brotherhood are children of the moon, although we do not worship it," she said carefully. "We are of the light. We spread the light. It is through the light that we cleanse the world."

Hairs on my arms started to prickle at her words. I had no doubt now that I had somehow managed to get myself mistaken for someone expected by this odd pagan cult. They didn't look dangerous, but I felt it was wiser to make as few waves as possible before I dashed for freedom. "You spread light? You mean you do good works?"

"Through us, the light cleanses darkness from the world," she answered, her voice almost singsong, as if she was speaking a catechism. "Through us, the light purges evil."

"We definitely need less evil in the world," I agreed, and shuffled a few feet closer to the door. If either of them had noticed that the distance between us was growing, they didn't comment on it.

"The Midnight Zorya focuses the light, using the power on behalf of us all."

"You said that word before," I said, slapping a pleasantly curious look on my face. I took another two steps backward, reaching out with a hand behind me to feel for the door. I was still too far away to touch it. "What exactly is a Zorya?"

Kristjana didn't even blink. Mattias shot me a puzzled glance before turning his gaze on his companion.

"There are three Zoryas who rule the skies - morning, evening, and midnight. Auroras, they are called by the Westerners, but the Brotherhood call them by their true names."

"Auroras. That's really interesting." This had to be some sort of a pagan cult. Who else would worship the northern lights and the moon?

"Tradition says that the sun dies in the Midnight Zorya's arms each night, and is reborn each morning. That is why you must wed tonight."

"Whoa!" I said, stumbling to a stop. "Wed? Excuse me?"

"You must wed the sacristan, the sun," the woman said. She nodded toward Mattias. "The Zorya has little power until she has taken a husband and been recognized by the Brotherhood."

"Wed as in marry?" I asked, wondering if perhaps their English was not as good as I had assumed.

"Yes, marry. Zoryas are always wed. It is the way."

A horrible suspicion dawned that both relieved and annoyed me. "This is part of the tour, isn't it? You're not some wacky cult after all - you're just doing a lot of hand waving and mystical mumbo jumbo to distract my attention away from the fact that this is a blind date, right?"

"The Brotherhood are earnest in their intent to cleanse the world of evil," Kristjana said, an annoyed look flitting across her face.

"I can see you are." I crossed my arms over my chest, my relief that they weren't wackos mingling with my own irritation. However much trouble they went to, I wasn't inclined to go along with their silly production. "You can tell Audrey from me that I don't find it very entertaining. I may be on a singles' tour, but I'm not so desperate I'm willing to do some sort of role-playing thing, no matter how handsome the participant is."

Mattias's frown cleared. He smiled. "You are plump, but I like that. We will be good together sexually."

"Uh-huh," I said, unsure of whether I should be offended or amused by the scenario. At least I didn't have to worry that they were strange cultists who would perform who knew what sorts of acts upon my person.

   
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