The Collar turned to Jules, fallen from the shock of Ever's attack.
"What are you doing?" interrogated the priest, seeing the healer at the doors. It was only a moment before he would have escaped.
"Did you feel that?" the boy attempted to change the subject. "What was that?"
"Our barrier... it has fallen," stated the priest. "I must work to reinstate it; our few powers will be enough to stave them off until he arrives." With that, he tended to one of the women, lying motionless in the now dim ring. Jules, still impacted from the wall's fall, did not realize the words as the Collar spoke them.
"'He'? 'He' who?" he asked, picking himself from off the ground. Cowardice took over his newly cleared mind; whatever was happening outside suddenly sounded like something Jules wanted nothing to do with.
"A friend, a fellow innocent," informed the Collar. "Try as I might, we cannot keep safe forever. He was going to bring a new source for our protection."
"Things are crazy out there..." wandered Jules' mind, staring blankly at the doors. Slowly creeping with a slight sense of guilt, he decided to make himself useful and aid a nun while his magicks would still function. He could still not piece together what it was about this priest that bothered him, so he remained altogether cautious. "Father, will your friend be okay?" wondered he. "Without any protection?"
"He must be 'okay', son," laughed the Collar, moving onto another of the fallen women after the previous had resumed the prayer. "It is His will." Jules tried to understand what it was this priest was trying to tell him, but could not rationalize it. He stooped to the stony floor, his palm brimming with a gentle aura, but the nun unconsious beneath him remained still. Dismissing his magick, he now knelt to touch her, a touch cold as death.
"Father!" he exclaimed, beginning to shake the woman violently. "She is badly hurt! She may be dead!" He panicked. His healing abilities could only do so much; they had already failed on her. The collar did not change his pace or give any visible notice to the boy. He simply tended to another one of the black-dressed women and advanced to the next in the chain.
Jules could not be nearly so calm. He pulled back the long, concealing veil from the nun's face, not exactly knowing what he planned to do. Whatever it was, his unthought of plans were halted by a sudden stench that wafted by. His clenched, tearing eyes delayed the discovery of a parched, wrinkled, mummified face peeking from out the long, black garb. Shock overcame the healer; he dared not to move.
The Collar was not phased by any of this. Just as the others, he sat next to the woman. After a short chant, a sudden breath of life shot into the poor woman. The eyes filled with a dazzling white, and dead lips pushed out a dusty air Jules could recognize as a simple plea.
"Let me die." Jules jumped back, still transfixing his gaze to what once was a corpse. The priest just lowered the shroud and set her back to her task and moving on to his next one.
"She was dead," finally mumbled the ghost-white healer.
"Of course she was," answered the Collar. "They all are. They can do no evil now." He looked up to the boy, setting yet another nun up for her endless task. "They are perfect batteries of innocence, and far more agreeable like this," he went on. "They are much like you, save purer."
"I am nothing like them!" vehementhly denied Jules. He retreated, pressing himself against a pew. "Who are you? What is this?" assulted Jules repeated. "This is not white magick; this is... is... is... just sick!"
"Of course it is White," assured the Collar, unusually pleasant for the current predicament. "All magick derived from the Most High is good." He went on. "We all make sacrifices. Keeping them from Him is quite difficult for me," the Collar said, with some reflection. "Once my friend arrives, they can all rest; there will be no need for them to pray for our safety." Jules only looked onward, his eyes begging for the mad priest's ramblings to be explained.
"Son, we shall all be safe," he told. "The whole world."
Jules did not dwell long on this.
"You want to use this barrier," the healer attempted to reason, "across the entire world?" The priest nodded. "But, I saw what happened to my friends. If you were to..."
"Sinners," the priest harshly snapped. "It is of no concern what happens to them; they await a far worse fate in the next life." Jules stared onward into the Collar's face, contorted in rage.
"You could not actually... protect the entire world, could you?"
"But we could," replied the priest, whose expression returned to normal. "A great power has been unleashed upon the world. The sinners shalt not have it; the book will be delivered to us this day. We alone shall-"
"Book?" interrupted an increasingly worried Jules. The focus drew too much attention, which the healer tried to distract from with a quick question. "I mean, you don't know any of this will happen." As secretive as possible, he attempted to conceal the Tome even further from the father's eye. "I expected to be home today, wasting away the night. How can you say-"
"Those of earth are not meant to know the future," sternly stated the Collar. "Those of heaven, however..." Jules stood in awe.
"You mean... Him?"
"No," the priest shook his head. "A servant of His. An angel." This piqued Jules' attention. "Of sorts," muttered the Collar as a hasty addition. The thoughts flooded in.
"Father," started he. "Which angel exactly promised you the Tome?"
The lone man turned his head, taking in the whole of the devastation. Summoning a sudden gale, he took himself to the only clue, the only thing left amid the destruction. With searing fingertips, his arm thrust down, burning his grasp deep into the object. With a sudden jerk up, the pinkish mass was held level to the mage's view.
"I can wait," he told in a commanding tone. And, as soon as the Doc's lungs regenerated, the screams began. A carefree bolt smouldering his still exposed face put a quick end to that. "Speak only what and when I tell you," ordered the hyrid wizard, raising an eyebrow to the skull of the giant.
"Now, where did they go?"
The Keeper had lost the trail of the party some time ago. Few things could harm his other half, let alone fill it with fear, so avoidance of the Candyman seemed a wise choice. Coppers and Silvers were on constant patrol with the recent catastrophes and reports of entire squads being burned away, hindering his path little but proving a great nuisance. The rain literally made for difficult tracks. The Keeper wondered about any of it at all.
"You said we would have the Tome," he spoke into his spirit. "We don't."
"I am aware," hissed Ishmael. "We should have had the Tome by now," it lied. It only knew that the Tome would be in the Church at this time. It did not know that this was indeed the case. "Wait! I sense something." The Keeper stopped at his symbiote's request. "A Church... is there a Church?" The man looked at the deathly skyline.
"Yes," he returned, seeing the crux from afar. "Of what importance is that? We only need the book to seperate us."
"True, but it must be read within that Church," it again lied. The contents of the Tome were the darkest of black magicks; no matter how twisted, white magick was still its enemy. The spell would be ruined at so much as the book openning; rather, its power would be drawn with covers closed, still more than enough to complete his dark designs. "Once complete, we shall be seperated at last," hissed the spirit within.
This, it spoke true.
"Perhaps, the Tome is nearby that Church then. If the spell to free us is in fact to be cast at midnight, it cannot be far from it." With a mighty bound, the aeromancer flew toward the steeple.