Once Sam entered the prayer room, he found Lottie sitting alone at a table. Lottie laid her wide scarf on top of her book to cover it. Sam sat down at the table across from her. He ignored her as he gazed up at the domed, stained ceiling.
“Excuse me Sam. Nestor told me I was allowed to have absolute peace while in the prayer room.”
Sam scooted his chair up further to the table to passively showcase the fact that he wasn’t leaving. “Yes, right. So now you seek peace after you led my friend into the Crescent and allowed her to be taken away by a troll. Indeed, peace shall be with you, Lottie. You are so deserving of it.”
Lottie sighed heavily. “Look, I am sorry about your friends. Hettie was exiled and yes Agnes is somewhere with that troll. Everyone here made their own decisions. I was just trying to make new friends.”
Sam rested his head on his palm. “By giving deceptive night-time tours of the Octo Trail? That’s how you make friends where you come from? So the twins, you gave them the choice about whether or not to enter the outer Crescent? I don’t believe that you did.”
“Sam, I am not finished with my prayer, it is very offensive to interrupt my prayers with your interrogation.”
“Agnes didn’t want you here in Kobo. Now Agnes is missing. Hettie is gone. You brought three children here without even knowing where they are truly from. Even a blind man could see that you are putting waves in the sea.”
“You know it’s a crime to harass someone mid prayer,” Lottie informed him.
“Do you feel harassed? My dear, it’s a crime in Bristol to interrupt prayer. This is Kobo. I was born here. I will question you all day and anywhere if I think that you are putting Kobo at risk. We already had one witch here.”
“Are you naming me a witch?”
“Please just leave me alone Sam.”
“You know people from Flaco usually don’t go around quoting Bristolian laws. But then you are well traveled. What’s this book that you were reading?”
Lottie got up to leave. “Goodnight, Sam. I will be telling Nestor all about this.” Sam tried to grab the book from her.
They struggled with each other for the possession of the book. “Let go of it,” Sam instructed Lottie. Sam took the book from Lottie and peered at the title.
“The book of law? Light reading? So you are the one that the knights of the Punishere were looking for. I wouldn’t have thought it would be you. This has been a very interesting day indeed. Now I have questions.” Sam ran his fingers along the side of the book. “I feel more powerful already,” he grinned.
“Sam, don’t open it. No!”
Sam opened the book and instantly his hands burst into flames. The book still open dropped to the floor.
“What do I do? Save my hands!” he looked in horror at his melting flesh. “AAAHHH!”
“You fool! I told you not to open it.”
A red light streamed out of the book hitting the ceiling.
“You are the future Punishere!”
Lottie bent down to close the book. Sam’s hands returned to normal. Sam wiped the sweat from his forehead. “What did you do?”
“I closed the book.”
“Wait till I tell Nestor! You are worse than a witch,” Sam insulted her.
“He already knows, I’m kin to the Punishere. Sit down Sam. You might have the shock.”
Sam sat down next to Lottie. He was starting to fear her but he wasn’t ready to retreat just yet. “You burnt my hands. It still burns.”
“Pipe down! The book burned your hands, not me. I told you to go away. Be glad it wasn’t worse. You had no right to open it.”
“I don’t understand. Why would Nestor let you stay here? He hates the Punishere.”
Lottie’s eyes began to tear up. “I just wanted a chance to have a life of my own for a while. To be just like everyone else until…”
“Alright. I’m listening. Until what?” Sam wondered.
“Until my brother Lafet dies,” Lottie answered.
“What happens when he dies?”
“I become the Punishere of Bristol. I don’t have a choice. The book of law will not leave me alone. It follows me. I tried to give it to my other brother Zedock. I knew my fate when we were sitting for last meal and the book floated to the table and plopped down right into my lettuce plate. My guardian tried to give the book to my brother but it came back to me. Zedock hasn’t said a word to me ever since. I left home because I think my envious brother may try to kill me.” Lottie tried to explain her current predicament the best way that she could. “I don’t expect you to understand.”
“I don’t think that I could. Your brother, he would try to kill you?”
“Yes, it would be an embarrassment for your sister to become the Punishere instead of you.”
“I can understand that thinking.”
Lottie wiped a tear from her cheek.
Sam was starting to feel sorry for her. “The first female Punishere.”
“Whenever Lafet dies I lose my freedom. I will only be known as the Punishere of Bristol village. That’s all for the rest of my life,” Lottie continued.
“Nestor thought it was safe to have you here?”
“Nestor thinks that if I’m the next Punishere then I can undo his punishment. His post vision. It’s a curse to him. Especially after his mistake with the witch.”
“So Nestor must be from Bristol not Kobo. Just like you’re from Bristol not Flaco.”
“Sam, you can’t tell anyone about any of this.”
“No one would believe me except for Rayden perhaps. I think I know too much. Nestor lied to us and is still lying.”
“I’m not even sure if I would be able to undo his punishment. It’s from so many years ago. I didn’t ask for any of this. I know Nestor suffers a great deal. I would like to help him if I can.”
“Kobo has suffered enough. I want to keep the peace for the children. I am sorry that I badgered you so much. Life isn’t easy for any of us.”
“I envy you being able to lead a regular life here. That’s why I came. You can choose who you will be. I can’t.”
“Can’t you refuse? Or just stay in hiding.”
You said the knights were here looking for me. There is nowhere to hide. It’s in my blood.”
“In your blood?”
“Yes, my ancestry bloodline.”
An idea was brewing in Sam’s head. “But blood can leak out of the body?”
“Yes, but it’s in all of my blood. It’s a part of me.”
“What if we could drain all of the blood out of you?”
“Drain my blood out? I would die. Sam, I hate to disappoint you and your fantastical mind but I’m part human.”
“Yes, but not ordinary human.”
“You sound like a fool. I’ve said to much.”
“Look, do you want to live a regular life or not?” Sam grabbed her right hand and gazed into her damp eyes.
“You heard me say that I could die?”
“Well, there’s a split chance. Or you could live, live free like us. Truly live.”
“Drain my blood then what?”
“Replace it with what?”
“What about sheep’s blood or a dead human’s blood?”
“Those are my choices, Sam?”
“Think about it Lottie. Then Zedock can be the Punishere if it’s not in you. Then you can go back to Bristol or Flaco, Ash, Sandor, Ondello or even Logoff a free woman. Or you can stay here with us.”
“You said I was causing too much trouble here.”
Sam smiled. “Those weren’t my exact words. I misjudged you.”
“Nestor expects me to help him as the Punishere. He won’t like us plotting otherwise.”
“Who cares about what Nestor wants? It’s about what you want. You can change your destiny.”
“Have you ever heard of someone draining out their blood before?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“A physician could do it. Maybe one from the Crescent or Logoff. If we can provide the gold.”
“We? You’ve never left Kobo, Sam.”
“It doesn’t matter. In Kobo we help eachother out.” Sam gave her an unexpected hug.
“They have done many questionable experiments in Logoff,” Lottie noted.
“Logoff it is then. So all we have to do is find a mad physician, who accepts gold. Easy!” Sam jubilantly slapped the table.
“A mad physician?” Lottie wrapped her scarf around her neck.
“Yes, surely, a sane one wouldn’t help us.”