By Karina Fabian
One of the things I like about working with smaller press is that they aren’t as worried if something has religious overtones. Neither of my publishers for my DragonEye books are Catholic, yet they loved the incorporation of the faith in the world and character building. I like to think that it’s because it is part of the world and character, rather than for preaching; and certainly, if I had started preaching, they would have caught me.
Still, it’s been fun to be able to put in scenes like this one in Live and Let Fly. Vern, my dragon who has been “drafted” into serving the Catholic Church, goes to Confession with a priest from Idaho who has never even seen a Faerie creature, much less a Magical. However, Vern and his group have just come out of a very dicey situation and are wounded in more ways than one, and Sister Grace has fetched a priest knowing the Sacraments will help:
“Well,” Sister Grace said with false brightness, “why don’t we leave these two alone to talk? Gene, perhaps you can explain to me why you’re not practicing your faith?” She grabbed him by the ear and led the crouching, staggering and protesting federal agent out. Heather swallowed a giggle, made an awkward curtsy toward Father Jacob (like she had learned to do for Bishop Aiden of Peebles-on-Tweed) and followed.
Which left me with a tongue-tied priest.
We stood there a moment like two kids being told to make friends while the moms went off to have coffee and gossip. He toyed with the strap of his bag. Some of the numbness in my wing and arm was wearing off, and my front paw had prickles. I lifted it some and splayed the fingers, stretching them out.
“Well!” He mimicked Grace in word and tone, then fell silent.
I decided to give us both a break. I jerked my head, gingerly, toward the tarp-covered hay bale. “Would you like to sit down, Father?”
“I—Yes! Yes, I think I would.”
I followed in his wake, doing my best not to reveal what each step cost me.
Once he’d settled, he reached into his book bag, pulled out his stole and blessed it. It seemed to give him confidence, because he managed a couple of sentences this time. “You’ll have to be patient with me, I’m afraid. This is the first time I’ve done something like this.”
“Heard Confession in a barn?”
He smiled. “Yes, yes. That, too.”
“Well, it’s new for us both. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been four days since my last Confession.”
“Really?” He sounded surprised, though that might not have had anything to do with my species. He spoke his greeting, and I began listing my sins. I decided to go easy on him and work up to the big ones, so I catalogued the usual things he’d heard a thousand times before: moments of greed, resentful thoughts about my pre-George predicament, my nastiness toward Kitty McGrue. Once I saw his neck and shoulders relax, I moved into the more serious ones. I started with my threatening behavior toward Phil A. Minion—sans the jokes, though I confessed that I still found it funny—then confessed to pouncing on Sally and scaring her out of ten years of life. Finally came the big one:
“I’m not quite sure what Grace told you about the rescue, but it got pretty dicey, and talking and making threatening pounces weren’t going to cut it. In the chaos, I…bit off a guy’s hand.” I waited for his reaction.
I didn’t get what I expected. “I’m sorry. I’m really quite new at this. Is eating another sentient being considered a sin for dragons?”
My lip curled in a smile. Good question. Points for the newbie. “For dragons under normal circumstances, no. But my case is…special.”
He nodded. “Go on.”
You know, this could be the beginning of a beautiful spiritual friendship. And he’d made it easier for me to say what I had to say next. “For a moment, I enjoyed it, Father. I really enjoyed it. Like I haven’t enjoyed something in nearly a millennium. And humans are not my first choice for a meal.” I shivered with the memory of how good it had felt.
“Grace did tell me a little more of what happened. You were not yourself then, were you?”
“Injured, poisoned, imprisoned, my friends threatened. And I was hungry. So, no.”
“You’ve been given a great temptation in a time of extreme physical weakness and mental distress. But you did pull back from the brink of greater sin. Having tasted that temptation—” He winced when he realized his words, but continued. “—you must redouble your efforts to resist it. I hope that makes sense?’
“A lot of sense.” See? I said to the Holy Spirit. How come you never do that for me when I ask for inspiration?