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This story won the free money poll!  It was prompted by Megan, who asked for the premise of one young person's opinions having control over a town, and it was sponsored by cloudiah and AnonSwede!  You really, REALLY need to read the Greenwitch before you read this.  Enjoy!

The Blood Gestaltist

All right, we’ll start from the beginning.  Gestaltism started during the worst of the Plagues, and it was focused entirely on the pragmatics of controlling outbreaks and putting down plague zombies and other supernatural entities.  It wasn’t originally a religion, but a way of practice.  The church came later, along with the teaching that belief powers supernatural phenomena and abilities.

The church always slanted young.  A lot of followers start as plague orphans, like myself.  But during my adolescence, the way the church treated its youth began to change.  It began actively seeking them out, training them very young, and grooming those they thought had potential.

I was one of those potentials.  My abilities flowered early and strong, and soon I was the most accomplished young blood Gestaltist they’d ever had.  No, not chalk; that was old-fashioned even when I was a boy.  Blood gave more power with less finesse, and it was far more impressive to watch.

The Church was thrilled, of course, and I quickly became a bit of a living advertisement, a symbol of the power of Gestaltism in the post-Plague world.  Teaching that unshakable confidence makes an unbreakable exorcist, they cultivated my confidence into arrogance, whether it was justified or not.

As their pet wunderkind, I was constantly showered in praise and acclaim, treated as a hero even though I had achieved nothing to earn it.  Oh, I had impressed many people with my ‘gifts,’ performed spectacles under carefully controlled conditions, but I had never exorcised anything in the field.  I was decoration.

It is one thing to be a prodigious child.  But no one is a child forever.  They grow up, and merely become skilled young adults with an inflated sense of genius.  A brilliant child is more tolerable than a pompous youth, and the Church’s attention wandered to someone newer, younger, and more talented than me.  It wasn’t hard; I wasn’t nearly as clever as I thought I was.

By that point, I was so bloated with self-importance that being treated as merely above average was intolerable to me.  Resenting what I saw as a lack of appreciation, I set myself to reclaiming the spotlight.

At the time, I was in my early twenties.  I had long since realized my tastes and predilections, which you are familiar with, and my minor fame had supplied me with plenty of young women willing to put up with any noxious personality traits.

Until then, I had never mixed my private tastes with my blood work.  Not out of any ethical considerations; it’d been merely distasteful to me to make such pursuits public.  But I was bitter and spiteful enough to think that such a voyeuristic spectacle would get people’s attention, and as long as I believed entirely in my own abilities, I was sure that nothing could possibly go wrong.

At the time, there was a young woman.  Her name was Linda, and she was a kind, generous woman.  She deserved far better, but she saw me as the master of her universe, and wanted nothing more than… to…

Excuse me.  This is more difficult than I anticipated.

I performed a blood work on her.  It went… badly.

I’m sorry.  Give me a moment.

No, Linda didn’t die.  She’s still at the central church. She has to live under supervision, because she’ll do anything anyone tells her, without question or resistance.  You could order her to kill herself or someone else, and she will joyously do so.

She doesn’t hate me.  She can’t.  And for that, I am forever sorry.

Of course, I was no use to her.  I had been stripped of my last name and was busy wallowing in narcissistic despair, until Dorothy Ives paid me a visit.

Dorothy Ives was a few classes below me, diligent but dull, and she’d completed her studies and become a teacher without attracting much notice from anyone around her.  I’d never paid much attention to her, but she had watched my rise to glory and fall.

She came in and told me to get up.  Kicked my bed, and when I blubbered some self-pitying prattle about there being no point, she asked, “Why didn’t it work?”

I didn’t want to think about anything but myself.  But treating me like the tedious child I emotionally was, she forced me to logically take the question on, and I finally came to the conclusion that she’d already reached long since: that arrogance alone does not make the exorcist.

When I threatened to return to despair, she kicked my bed again.

“Who taught you that belief works?” She demanded of me.

Then I understood that Dorothy Ives’s arrival wasn’t about me.  It was about the Church, and what terribly flawed lessons it was espousing.

“You’ll never vindicate what you did,” she told me. “So be useful.”

I gave up blood and the blade.  My final blood work was not far removed from what I’d done to Linda, only I had it performed upon me by a trusted friend.  He was the one who cut the binding stars onto my heart and the purification circles onto my hands.  It took away some of my desires and abilities, bound me to certain… standards.

On me, perversely, the work was a complete success.  Then I joined Dorothy Ives movement.

We never liked each other, but there was a healthy mutual respect.  I did the public speaking and relations, she did everything else, and for years, we gained steam, until it looked like we’d be able to achieve her goals.  Certain officials in the Church hated Dorothy Ives, but her reputation was spotless.

Then they found her shadow wife, hidden away for years in the cellar.

It was exactly what the Church had been waiting for.  They publicly exposed her, stripping her of her last name, and me of my middle name for collusion.  Then they forced her to bind her wife.

The public humiliation succeeded.  Dorothy Ives gave up fighting the Church.  I tried to manage things on my own, but I was utterly incompetent at logistics and the movement fell apart.

The church then gave me the following option: excommunication or exile.  I chose exile, took up the chalk, and became an itinerant exorcist.

That was about twenty years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  The money goes to Linda, anonymously.  I never returned to the church except for my yearly assessment, and for my friend to refresh the work on my skin.  Unfortunately, he died recently, and my binding is wearing out.  I dare not try to do the work myself, and there’s no one else I trust to tamper with my will.

The result, I suppose, is you.  When you manifested, I should’ve known right away what had happened, but it’d been so long since I wanted to hurt anyone that I didn’t recognize you.  And when I did, I lapsed.  At the time, I justified it to myself saying I had only given you pleasure, that I’d exorcised you as was right.  I told myself that it was a singular occurrence, that I would find healthier ways to cope with my urges and that if you continued to manifest, I could at least give you pleasure.

But then you saved me from the Angel of Joy and named yourself.  I could no longer dismiss you as a manifestation of desire; you were taking independent action, asserting your identity, doing things that I couldn’t.

Which meant that I had treated you abominably.  Which I then compounded by trying to avoid the subject as much as possible.  Yes, that’s why I stopped touching you.  I still want you, and I don’t want to lapse again.

Weather permitting, we should reach the central church tomorrow.  My behavior is inexcusable, but we can find a blood Gestaltist there, and you can have my binding redone.  That way, you can insure I never hurt you or anyone else again.

I’m finished.  There’s no more to say.

They sat in silence for a while.  Though it was still raining, the storm had calmed, and while Perfection still looked angry, she no longer looked furious.

“You’d let me bind you?” She asked.

“Yes,” he said. “If I’m a danger, then my whims no longer matter.  And you are in a better position to judge than me.”

“I’ll have to think about that a while.”

“Take your time.”

She thought for a moment. “Do you visit Linda?”

“If she asks for me.”

“But she doesn’t.”

“She doesn’t.”

Perfection nodded and got to her feet. “Okay.  Goodnight, Reverend.”

Alpert stood and scuffed out his wards with his foot. “Goodnight, Perfection.”

He backed away so that she could walk through the doorway without getting close to him.  She walked past him without looking at him, and they slept in different parts of the cottage that night.
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