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Where The Hearth Is

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The vestry was cool and delightfully quiet after the hustle and bustle of the streets of Fortuna. He lay the parcel of newly purchased votive candles on top of the cabinet, carefully unwrapped the brown paper and selected a single candle, then placed all the rest in their designated drawer.

Absently, he called to just enough of his power to light the wick, then strolled into the church to place his offering in front of the altar. So deep was he in his thoughts that he did a double take when he turned around and finally noticed the black-cloaked figure prostrated on the floor, forehead resting on the lowest step at the foot of the altar.

“Far be it from me to discourage you from your devotions, my child,” he enunciated out loud, his priestly manner firmly in place. “However, I can safely say our god won’t mind you using one of the pews, or even a kneeler. That’s what they’re here for, after all.”

“I have no use for those ‘kneelers’ of which you speak, Father,” the hooded figure informed him somewhat haughtily, head still bowed in single-minded worship. “But I commend you for your compassion – may it earn you the favour and reward of the one true god.”

“And your devotions to you, my child,” he cleared his throat, eyeing the offering box standing at the other side of the altar. By the looks of it, the stranger was more likely to be a mere religious fanatic than a burglar, but one could never be too careful, especially here in Fortuna. “I’ll be in the vestry, should you require my humble services.”

“If you could fetch a bucket of fresh water for my good companion Master Hooves, I’d be most obliged,” the man called after him, almost as an afterthought. “He’s waiting outside as we speak, I trust you won’t mind me tying him to the gatepost.”

“Oh, is that your horse out there in the courtyard, then? I had been wondering. I shall of course make sure he’s well provided for.”

“Thank you, Father. May the blessing of the god be upon you.”

With a sigh, he retreated into the vestry, and rang the bell for his young manservant to attend to the task in his stead.