Conan Goes to Church
by Arvin N. Prebost
THE CONFLICTING sickening-sweet odors of the women’s perfume set up a peculiar prickling sensation in his nose and made his narrowed eyes water as the church choir sang uncertainly, without conviction. The aroma reminded him of the cloying spices used by the smooth-tongued Stygian priests to mask the odor of the unwashed wretches who came to beg them, at a hefty fee, for an intercession with their mysterious animal-headed gods.
The long, polished wooden pews were plain and more suitable to his severe barbarian taste. But he could not help but notice that the priests and priestesses sat on gold-embroidered cushions of a color that set off their splendid black billowing gowns, perching there on their high daises, looking down over the negligible crowd.
“Aye, nothing has changed,” he muttered under his breath. “The women still smell like any two-shekel hard-eyed whore in any dust-covered street-hovel of Zamboula, and the effete priests still have the best cushioned seats for their soft flabby asses.”
The bejeweled woman next to him cast him a glance, saw his scarred, scowling, angular face, his corded neck, and his sun-burnt muscular hands. She looked away very quickly, the faint welcoming smile on her face fading so fast it reminded him of the last snows under the low evergreen boughs in his Cimmerian homeland disappearing under the blazing sun of May. She stood up and left, followed by a corpulent balding man, who was seemingly startled out of prayer . . . or sleep.
A plump young White woman, her strangely-grayish spiky hair cut short to her skull, wearing a man’s trousers, shirt, and work-boots beneath her open black gown, arose from her own soft cushion, walked mannishly to the podium, and spoke.
“Brothers and sisters, as God’s people, it is necessary that we prayerfully and contritely repent for the misdeeds and pride of our ancestors. Much misery has been caused by privileged Europeans, who went to other lands, acting out of greed, enslaving God’s children and despoiling the land. I would urge each of you to write to their” — she actually spoke this way — “representative and urge them to take up the cause of reparations to the African-Americans and other peoples of color who our ancestors enslaved, and from whose labors we are all unjustly benefiting from today.
“Let us all stand, in a gesture of conciliation and atonement, as the people of God, to show our support for this just and righteous cause.”
The barbarian sat there, blue eyes smoldering under his dark tangled hair. He did not stand.
His face was set as hard, cold, and sharp as the sky-tinted frozen falls of water in the lands of the Aesir, where the wolves roam unchallenged in the moon-glistened snow out beyond the walls of fire-warmed mead halls. Many in the standing congregation turned to look at him with looks of fear and confusion. A burly Black steward with a cross pendant and yellowish animal eyes came close to where Conan was seated and roughly gestured, indicating he should stand.
Through clenched teeth and with the baleful stare of the alpha-wolf, Conan spoke so all could hear: “I do not heed the guilted words of any soft, unsexed, muddled priestess — and I do not stand to show approval of giving more money to the Black wastrels that infect White lands.”
“You will leave immediately or I will call the authorities!” spat out the plump, work-booted White woman. “Elder Hartley, will you please show this visitor the door! You know what I mean!”
Conan slowly got up to leave. The large Black steward followed, at first maintaining a respectful distance. Just as Conan went out the door, pausing for a moment with eyes scanning the horizon and his back turned to the church, he felt a hard tap on his left shoulder. He turned right and ducked at the same time, avoiding the black fist aimed at his face. At the same time, he drove his own fist into his attacker’s ribs and prepared to strike again as the Black doubled over in pain. Conan raised high his fist to deliver a finishing hammer-blow to the back of the head — and then stopped, grabbed the creature by the neck, and simply tossed him into the thorn bushes.
“Aye, nothing has changed,” said the barbarian. “A good glass of ale, least of all! Now to find a cool oak-tabled tavern peopled by honest plain-speaking men who have calluses on their hands from honest work!”
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