Uncle Phineas is a “reaver priest” in a seacoast area known as the Eel. Reaver priests are in it for the money, but the reavers in the Eel have formed a coalition and use armed “churchwardens” to enforce attendance and tithing. The elderly Aunt Libby, a true priest from another area, has wandered into the Eel unaware of the Coalition’s illegal activities. A family of true believers has given her shelter–or have they taken her prisoner? When Uncle Phineas shows up at their door, they stash Aunt Libby in a carefully prepared hideaway in the basement.
Excerpt from Chapter 5 of EEL’S REVERENCE
Clare led me to the back wall and pushed open a door I hadn’t noticed. “Here’s the room,” she said.
It was plain, but pleasant, and lit by smokeless lamps. Bowls of flowers couldn’t quite conquer the riot of odors from the produce outside.
“Just help yourself to whatever’s out there,” Clare said. “If there’s anything else you need—”
“Clare,” Hilda called sharply.
“Coming!” Clare closed the door behind herself. I heard a brief gurgle and the sound of a broom. Dampness seeped an inch or so under my door and, with it, the heady smell of malted barley.
At the same time, from the cracks in the ceiling, sifted feathers of brownish-green. Fresh dill.
They were certainly taking no chances. They had scented my shoes and the hem of my cassock with mint and masked my presence with dill and beer. It seemed a bit extreme.
Why would they need to—
I could hear sounds from upstairs, muffled but audible. A heavy tread and a scrabble of wolves’ claws raised the hairs on the back of my neck. No one would even know I was here? Was I hidden, or trapped?
“Good afternoon.” Uncle Phineas’ brassy voice fell like hot metal through the cracks of the floor.
“Good afternoon, Uncle.”
“My, it smells lovely in here,” Uncle Phineas said. “Dill, isn’t it?”
“Sure, it’s the dill,” said Isaac. “I wondered. The wolves usually sniff around whenever they come in with you.”
“But, today, they can smell nothing but dill,” said Phineas, as smoothly as his husky voice could sound.
“We’ve been pickling,” said Hilda. “We’ll be sweeping up dill weed for days. It won’t hurt the wolves, I hope.”
“No, my dear lady, a transitory disablement only.”
“Won’t you sit down, Uncle?” Clare said. “Have some tea?”
“Thank you, no. I’ve come to baptize young Evrard.”
“Oh,” said Hilda. “We thought you told us to bring him to the temple this evening.”
“Now I can spare you the trouble.”
“Thank you, Uncle. Here he is.”
I wondered at her nerve. She would have to hand her baby into those monstrous arms, have to hear those beautiful words hacked to bits by that saw-toothed voice, watch those flaccid, liver-colored lips press her child’s forehead, and she would have to pretend to be sweetly moved. She must have an enormous capacity for deceit.
Of course, so must Uncle Phineas. I had no doubt he knew this charming family was lying in their teeth. He wanted them to believe they’d foxed him; he could catch them out more easily if he put them off their guard.
The wolves must have led the reaver to me again. Now what would happen, with no Reynold to tell what Uncle Phineas knew? If Uncle Phineas had had an impulsive tad beaten and a generous woman burned out of all she possessed with the eyes of Port Novo on him, what would he do in the depth of the woods, with only his wolves to witness?
EEL’S REVERENCE ($2.99 – cheap at the price) can be downloaded directly to your Kindle from Amazon. It’s available at Barnes & Noble for Nook and at OmniLit in other electronic formats. 🙂
WRITING PROMPT: If you needed to hide someone, where and how would you do it?