High Priests of America
American history would tell the story of the famous Shaazgai family as follows.
In 1625 Macario Shaazgai fled from Spain, converted to Protestantism, swore loyalty to the English Crown, sailed across the ocean and founded the city of New Coalport in the colony of New England. With the influx of his old world wealth, Shaazgai drew the most capable and handy colonists to the port town that would over the centuries grow into a center of commerce, finance and education and become the seat of the Shaazgai family’s power.
The Shaazgais would not all remain in New Coalport, however, a branch of the family would travel far into the Wild West over the coming centuries, starting up numerous towns and enterprises and growing its wealth and influence far beyond its East Coast citadel.
⚞ ♥ ⚟
Telpoch awoke yet again in the body of another. But this time it was not in a crowded city or even a village of pale-faced bearded strangers. The people around him were barely lighter-skinned than the Mexica, had no beards and even dressed in a manner somewhat closer to his countrymen. Intrigued by what he saw, Telpoch repressed his anger, and instead of grabbing the nearest weapon and going out to find his mark like he always would, he lingered, watching and listening. He soon learned these people had a quarrel with the pale bearded men he’d seen before. The pale men were invading their land. The same thing had happened to his people, even though he had not been there to see it, his gods made sure he knew. The two shapeshifting priests had aided the invading pale faces then, and they surely were doing that again.
But he could not find the two demons in this tribe. They had to be among the invaders, and Telpoch felt tempted to rush off and find them, but he knew that alone, and looking as he did, he would be too easy for them to notice and dispose of. So instead, for the first time since he was set on this path of revenge, he spoke to the man whose body he occupied. Then together, as spirit guardian and mortal man, they addressed the chief of the village, and Telpoch explained the danger of the invaders and the tragic fate of his own people.
War was proclaimed, and the men of the tribe rode at dawn to strike down the foreign demons. Telpoch and his host led the way, as the young warrior knew where the pale faces had made their homes, and Telpoch could always recognize the two most dangerous man-shaped monsters he was hunting.
They rode into the small settlement with the first rays of the sun, and taking the unsuspecting demons by surprise, they slaughtered the lot of them, their women and their spawn alike. Telpoch was glad to notice his new comrades did not try to capture the enemies alive. This way, perhaps, this tribe would succeed where his own people had failed.
Among the chaos and violence, Telpoch tracked his mark, anticipation eating at him as he closed in on at least one of the accursed false priests. He heard loud cracks like small thunders, and saw his tribesmen fall, bleeding, and opposite to them, a single pale man with a woman’s face and a jaguar’s agility, running out of a house and towards a rearing frightened horse.
Telpoch knew Ixti when he saw him.
Letting out a war cry he threw a hatchet at the escaping man, and struck him in the thigh. Ixtli shrieked and tumbled over, gripping his leg. Seeing the warrior rushing towards him, Ixtli pointed a short rod at him. Telpoch ducked, realizing it was an aimed weapon. The loud sound went off, but he was unhurt. Ixtli swore and fiddled with the weapon. Telpoch leapt on him and, grabbing his hatchet, struck Ixtli on the head with the flat side of it. The man went limp, and Telpoch quickly disarmed him. Then, since Ixtli was still not moving, he checked his neck for a pulse. It was still there. Telpoch grinned.
When the carnage was done, the warriors gathered their own dead and collected the scalps of their enemies. They found Telpoch with the hogtied demon. Telpoch had also gagged Ixtli, to prevent the man from biting his tongue and bleeding out too early. He explained to the gathered war band that the captive was a sorcerer and a fiend who sowed discord, darkness and lies in his wake. He was a devious monster, that fed on the lives of the innocent, and he needed to suffer.
On Telpoch’s orders they guarded Ixtli, while Telpoch searched the white demon’s home and brought out a mirror. The other men were wary of it at first, having never seen something like it, but Telpoch assured them it was the same as water or metal, it could reflect, but it was in no way supernatural. He’d seen these many times in Ixtli’s other homes. Ixtli was vain and liked to look at his own reflection. Let him look now.
Telpoch set the mirror down, propped against the wall of the house, then crouched next to the tied and gagged prisoner. Ixtli groaned and stirred, then struggled violently as he fully came to.
Telpoch turned to him grinning. “Welcome back,” he said in Nahuatl. “Welcome to our lands, you self-adoring perverted freak. Let us show you the hospitality you are owed.”
He waved a few of the warriors over and told them to lift Ixtli into a sitting position so the demon could see his own reflection. Telpoch crouched behind Ixtli and gripped a handful of his chestnut hair. He made Ixtli look straight ahead at the mirror, and smirked, seeing the horror on Ixtli’s face, as he pulled out a knife and brought it to the pale demon’s forehead.
“I will scalp you now. Do not struggle, or my hand might slip, and I might cut off an ear by accident. Or your nose. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?”
Ixtli was crying now, shaking with terror and rage, straining against the ropes and the grip of the warriors around him, but they held him firmly, and Telpoch had tied him well. Telpoch smirked at their reflections in the mirror.
“And when we are done with that,” he said, tugging again on Ixtli’s hair, “I will pull your entrails out of your pale wanton arse, as a proper Mexica should do to a deviant like you. And then… if you still live, perhaps we’ll hang you by them for the crows to pick on. Now, how about that?”
Ixtli cried and howled against his gag.
Telpoch pressed his blade against the pale forehead and began cutting.
* * *
Many brave men of the Shaazgai family fell in squabbles with the natives of the new world, some through brutal torture and execution, which was notable at first, but soon became yet another in a string of grievances between the colonists and the natives.
Further enriched by the wealth of their Western ventures, the Shaazgais prospered, and when the city they founded became predominantly Catholic in the nineteenth century, so did the family. The Shaazgais were always adapting to the times.
Or to be more precise, the Shaazgais, or rather a Shaazgai, was manipulating the world to, over time, adapt to his whims. And his whim of the nineteenth century was to make peace with an old friend and finally bring him over the ocean and back into his life.
⚞ ♝ ⚟
And yet the old friend did not indulge that whim. Not for a very long time.
Back in the seventeenth century, Shaazgai thought their friendship unsalvageable, as his letters to the priest went unanswered for decades. Then all of a sudden, while trying to run a fledgeling frontier town on top of a lucrative fur trade post, he finally got a reply.
Apparently, Blaze had not ignored or eluded his letters. Having moved away from the Milan cathedral that Shaazgai had as his last known address, and into a smaller church elsewhere in Italy, he had simply not received them.
Reading the familiar handwriting for the first time after almost a century of separation, Shaazgai found himself crying at his crudely hewn desk. His wife at the time tried to comfort him, but he violently refused her attempts at an embrace and ordered her to bring him paper, pen and ink instead. The meek woman complied and did not try to touch him again. Her husband was a beautiful, brilliant, but extremely moody man, and she knew he hated being touched due to some traumatic events in his past. She hoped her love and patience could soothe him, and that eventually he would welcome her caresses. But he never did.
He hardly noticed her as once more he found himself able to reach, if with a huge delay and wait in between messages, his one true friend.
Blaze was still in Italy, still a Catholic priest, and still somewhat cross with Shaazgai for running away, converting to Protestantism and cutting off all communication. Shaazgai did not apologize, but wrote many questions about Blaze’s current circumstances: if all was well with him, how Italy was faring, and if he needed any service or support. He wrote flatteringly about the opportunities of the new world and embellished the good parts, trying to paint an appealing picture for his friend to burn up with the desire to shepherd a flock out here on the frontier with him.
Blaze did no such thing. He liked it very well in Europe right now, despite the Christians splitting and warring along the lines of their religion. Catholicism, which he preferred, was still stronger where he was, and he had no intention to cross the seas again so soon and preach in English to some unwashed Puritans. They could stuff their English Bibles where the sun did not shine. Those were not Blaze’s exact words, but that was the impression Shaazgai got from reading his letter.
He wrote many more letters to the priest trying to convince him otherwise.
Eventually, after bouncing for years between the Wild West and the legislating East, he moved back East to Coalport on a permanent basis, and in the early nineteenth century made sure that the Irish, the Italians and other Catholic immigrants came to New Coalport in the largest numbers, then forced the conversion of his own family. The Coalport Puritans were not happy about the developments, and Shaazgai was quite busy for a while, removing from power the public figures that would oppose him, while being a patron and supporter to the downtrodden Irish and Italians, helping the most eloquent and industrious individuals rise to prominence and reimagine the city as mainly Catholic.
It was not an easy or clean transition, but by mid-century he had succeeded, and through cunning manipulation and set-ups created a number of cases of very good press for the new Catholic immigrants. A heroic Italian firefighter here, a brave Irish night watchman there, a well-loved Polish nun running a hospital somewhere else. Those appealing little pawns, his marionettes, danced to a tune they could not hear, supported through their hardships by an anonymous patron. And inspired by their stories, soon enough the reimagined city was functional again, thriving even.
All this hustle and bustle drained Shaazgai, but he was quite happy with the results. He wrote to Blaze again, this time openly inviting him to come to his city, a Catholic city. But Blaze refused again.
Apathetic, Shaazgai drifted through the next several decades, focusing on being an attorney and tangling the young nation’s laws as best he could. Every loophole, every law or precedent that would for centuries pollute the lives of countless mortals he wrought in the service of his dark Master. And since the little incident when he had to flee Constantinople, Ahriman had been nothing but pleased with him.
He was beautiful, ever young and rich beyond measure. Whatever plans he made, he could make them reality. Except for the two things outside his reach that really mattered. One was bringing Blaze back to him, and the other was getting rid of Tecocol.
The vengeful Mexica was a bane of his existence, and unable to convince Blaze to resume their friendship, Shaazgai tried to at least resolve his other greatest source of misery. So one night, locked away in his study, he prayed for an audience with Ahriman.
The god of chaos appeared at his desk, lounging in Shaazgai’s fancy leather armchair, his feet on a stack of papers at the edge of the desk. He was wearing finely embroidered babouches. Shaazgai got a good look at them, kneeling before the desk. He did not recoil even as the unholy flames of purple and teal spread all around. Shaazgai knew by now that they would not burn the documents.
”When will you finally learn, Shaazgai, that it is your god that calls on you, and not the other way around? I truly should punish this insolence and make you remember that once and for all.”
“Forgive me, Master. But have I not served you better than most? Have I not built you a temple of words in this nation’s laws? Have I not designed the very streets and trails in the city parks to sing you praise in Avestan? What other servant has given you so much?”
“You serve me because that is your purpose. I have given you life and beauty eternal, and without me, you would have long turned to dust, and if I do not strike you for your hubris, it is only because you do please me. But I warn you that my patience is the very edge of the abyss upon which you are treading. You need to remember that turning to dust is always an option.”
Shaazgai prostrated himself in submission and said nothing more.
Ahriman shifted in the armchair a little, leaning forward, though as always, his image remained hidden in the smoke and shadows. “Now stop kissing the floor and tell me what this is about.”
Shaazgai sat up, but dared not look at his Master anymore. “The Mexica avenger, Master. He will not leave me be. In the passing centuries he had focused all his ire on me, and while I kill him first half the time, the other half he…” Shaazgai struggled with forming words, his stomach turned at the memories of what Tecocol did to him most recently. “He hurts me terribly, Master. Could you not obscure me from him indefinitely?”
Ahriman laughed, his cold mirth laced with poison. “Why on Earth would I do that? I have already agreed to conceal you from him for as long as you remain young. And you do not ever wish to live past your first wrinkle anyway, so what is the issue? If you really don’t know how to kill a man before he kills you, just end your life before he gets you, it’s as simple as that.”
“But when I kill myself too early, Master, it angers you! What will you have me do?” Shaazgai looked up at his dark god with tears of desperation in his eyes.
The shadowy flames coiled angrily.
“I don’t know, Shaazgai. As a lawyer, you thrive in the loopholes, so find the thin line between my anger and his arrival and keep on dancing. If I do not punish you, then you will know that you’ve managed.”
Shaazgai stared blankly into the swirling darkness. This was not the answer he had hoped for, but he did not dare ask for more. He bowed his head in submission. “Thank you for your time, Master. Forgive me for spending some of it.”
“Make sure not to call me for such trifle reasons again, or I’ll be sorely tempted to remind you what suffering can really feel like. Good old-fashioned suffering for years on end, and not your petty little agonies. Now, get back to what’s important and serve me.”
With that, the god of chaos was gone.
Shaazgai knelt on the floor of his study for a while, hugging himself, alone and hopeless.
⚞ ♗ ⚟
Shaazgai’s letters turned from thinly veiled encouragement to explicit invitations, to demands, to ultimatums. If Blaze did not come to him from Europe, he was going to come fetch Blaze himself.
Blaze did not believe it, until one morning in the summer of 1911, an unfamiliar man of blue eyes, expensive clothes and ragged looks banged violently on the door of his house and demanded that he pack up and go to America with him already.
The priest let him in but still begged to differ. He did not see why Shaazgai bothered coming all the way, when he had told him so many times that Europe was fully to his satisfaction.
“You are so high and mighty out there in America, I probably ought to be thankful that you came here in person instead of sending your henchmen to try and haul me there. Many thanks for that, Shaazgai, and you are free to stay for as long as you please,” the priest mocked. “But the answer is still the same. I’m not going.”
“This is not a question anymore.” Shaazgai ran a hand through his tousled hair. His eyes were rimmed with dark purple like he had not slept in days, but on his ever pretty pale face the exhaustion still managed to come out as charming. “You must come with me. Europe is on a brink of disaster.” Shaazgai did not look him in the eyes and narrated his reasons to the ceiling instead, leaning dramatically against a doorframe as he spoke. “Germany will wage war, and the rest will jump in, it will be a bloodbath the likes of which the world has not yet seen. You would not enjoy seeing it unfold. Let me save you this unpleasantness, for old time’s sake.”
Blaze snorted at his theatrics, but joylessly so. “War, what is war. We’ve seen so many. The war will end. I am old and tired, and I do not like to change places. You have brought me here, and this is where I intend to remain. It is not my fault you fled across the ocean.”
“It is your fault, but let’s set those old grievances aside. I have come here for you. Because I want the best for you, and the best for you would be to get off this sinking boat before the water starts filling your shoes. Just come with me, don’t be obstinate.” Shaazgai finally looked at him. He winced. “You had a good run here, but you will have an even better one across the pond, I give you my word.”
Blaze huffed. “You do not get to just show up after three centuries and decide what is the best for me. You have been plaguing me with your invitations to that New Coalport of yours for decades, even though you know how much I hate all things English and now, American. So who is obstinate here, really?”
“You are. You’re the one refusing a most generous invitation.”
“Why do you even want me there?”
“Why is not the question. When is the question, and the answer is decades ago, now, please, stop arguing and start packing up. I have tickets for our transatlantic voyage, and we only have so much time to get to Britain.”
“Well now that you finally said ‘please’, I suppose I have no other choice.”
Shaazgai looked him up and down. “Do I have to say it again?” he asked. His shoulders sagged. “Because I will.”
“Did you come here straight off the boat?” The priest did away with the sarcasm and changed the topic.
“You should have something to eat and drink. Come, this way.” He motioned into the house.
“I would actually prefer to start with the washroom, if you would be so kind as to point me to it.” Shaazgai followed him deeper inside the house.
“You know, I like it when you act like a human being.” Blaze’s expression cleared up a little. “It’s down that corridor and to the left. And it’s a very tentative maybe.”
“So you’re saying there might not be a washroom down there? I am crushed.” Shaazgai gave him a tired grin. “But it’s not like you’ll be living here any longer, so washroom or not, there I go.” With that he disappeared down the corridor.
Blaze looked after him, feeling bittersweet, suddenly reminded that this was still the same man who suggested him to acquire the antidote to poison from between his ass cheeks on their first night in Cholula. Now Shaazgai had taken the liberty of deciding for him, but when had it been any other way with him? Shaazgai had told Blaze in his letters that everything was ready for his arrival, and the priest did not for a moment doubt that it was like that. He didn’t want to go. But he would go. Because there was nothing in the world that Shaazgai hated more than sea travel, and if he had travelled across the ocean, just to go right back on the boat, then it meant he really wanted Blaze to come.
When Shaazgai came back, Blaze was making a meal for him.
“If you think I am going to board that abomination, you are sorely mistaken.” The priest gestured gravely to the window, where a car was parked outside the house.
“Nobody is giving you a choice. You are coming with me. Now pack your things, or I will pack them for you!” Shaazgai sat down at the table, and the moment Blaze set a plate with eggs and prosciutto before him, he started wolfing the food down. “You have one hour.” He went on chewing. “If you need letters sent, you can dictate them to my servant on the boat to England.”
Then he focused on the food, mumbling, “Damn, this is good.”
“Well then, eat up fast because you have an hour to pave the road from here to Britain with logs and roll that boat all the way to my house, because like I said, I am not setting my foot into that nightmare on wheels.” Blaze set a cup and a plate with sweet rolls in front of him. “Now, here’s your coffee.”
Shaazgai smiled at him and said nothing more.
* * *
As a matter of fact, Blaze did set foot in the automotive monstrosity. Shaazgai called it a ‘steamer’, and as he raced it across Italy and then France towards the English Channel, Blaze had ample opportunity to get used to the odd horseless carriage. More and more of them were appearing on the streets, and unlike those running on gasoline, Shaazgai’s steam car was at least fairly quiet and only scared horses and pedestrians when it whistled like a train on its driver’s command.
While Blaze remained grouchy throughout the journey. Despite agreeing to come, he was not happy about being uprooted from his church and life, especially this way, with no prior notice. Shaazgai had quarreled with him about it on the way, claiming he’d had at least several decades of the latter, but Blaze was as obdurate as Shaazgai expected him to be. He also made sure to complain about the car some more, though in the end he had to admit it was a fairly comfortable if a rushed journey overall, and they made it on time to Southampton where they boarded a behemoth of a boat called RMS Olympic.
The ship was like a floating palace with its own grand staircase, sculptures, mosaics and stained glass windows. The two men shared a lavish parlour suite with two bedrooms, a sitting room, two wardrobe rooms and a private bathroom complete with an actual bath. Slightly appeased by the luxuries, Blaze decided to make use of the latter. When he emerged refreshed and with his spirits lifted, he heard a strange noise coming from Shaazgai’s bedroom. The doors were closed but not locked, so he entered. The lights were still on and the noise proved to be an empty bottle rolling on the expensive carpet and hitting against the wall every now and then as the ship rocked gently on the waves.
While Blaze had been taking a bath, Shaazgai had managed to procure obscene amounts of alcohol from God knows where, drink himself into a stupor and pass out, fully dressed on his bed.
The priest frowned. The man looked terrible. Blaze had never seen him so tired and in such a disarray. He had been so grumpy about Shaazgai forcing him to go back to America that it was only now that he thought about just how little Shaazgai had slept. He had been driving them for two days, with stops that were hardly long enough. He got several hours of rest at best. Blaze was only guessing that he slept similarly little on the drive from Britain to Italy, and who knows if he had slept on the boat before that at all. Shaazgai and sailing had never gone hand in hand if their previous journey from America was any indication.
Blaze took Shaazgai’s shoes off and moved him to lie on the bed properly. He covered the man with the comforter, tucked a pillow under his head and left him to sleep.
He picked up the rolling bottle and then all other thankfully still mostly full bottles that stood here and there. He took them all away, and turned the lights off on his way out of the bedroom.
In the morning, when Shaazgai woke up, he was disoriented and hungover, but began instantly searching for another bottle. Not finding any in the bedroom, he reluctantly emerged into the sitting room to find Blaze seated in an armchair. The priest asked him if he wanted to talk about it. Shaazgai didn’t.
“Just give me the booze. I don’t do talking. I don’t do feelings. You know me. I’m a fucking steam engine of progress.” Shaazgai’s speech slurred, and even though for once the boat was not rocking, he swayed quite violently where he stood. “I am a fucking locomotive, and I need fuel.” He covered his bloodshot eyes with a hand and rubbed them for a long white. “Give me the booze, Blaze.”
“You can drink in the evening if you need it to sleep, I will not stop you. But it is day now, and it is not good for you. Let me save you this unpleasantness, for old time’s sake,” Blaze said sternly, looking at him with worry. He got up, intent on steadying the swaying man, but Shaazgai lifted a hand in protest and positioned himself in the doorway again, leaning heavily against it and pressing his forehead into it. He looked like a drunk hugging a lamppost, even though he had to be perfectly sober by now.
They stayed like this for a little while, Blaze standing, ready to come to his aid, Shaazgai silently but stubbornly refusing it.
“I need a drink,” Shaazgai said clearly. “I think it might help with the hangover.”
“A glass of water is what you need. Sit down, and I will pour you some.” He looked at Shaazgai sternly until the man left the door frame alone and reluctantly sat down in an armchair. Blaze nodded and brought forth a bottle of spring water, pouring its contents into two crystal glasses. Shaazgai scowled, but accepted a glass. Blaze sat down opposite to him. “I am assuming turning to alcohol is how you coped on your way to Europe, but I am here now, and I will help you through this.”
“I don’t need help.” Shaazgai lifted the glass to his lips, but his hand was shaking, and he spilled some on himself. He snarled, then downed the glass in one go. He looked like he was going to toss it into the wall, but then set it down on a table instead. He bent over and buried his face in his hands.
“But will you really turn it down when it is offered?” Blaze asked and poured Shaazgai another glass of water.
Shaazgai said nothing, and drank some more water, looking jaded.
“I think we need to talk. On my part, I apologize for being obstinate these past few days. You know how much I hate these kinds of spontaneous environment changes that you so like. I’m like a tree, I like to put down roots. Now that I’ve been uprooted, I am reconciled with it. But please be so kind and finally tell me, why do you even want me in America?”
Shaazgai looked away. “I missed you.”
Blaze frowned, he expected to hear anything but that. Then his expression cleared up, softened. “Alright, looks like we’re getting somewhere. If you missed me, why did you never write so?”
Shaazgai sighed. “I wanted you to come of your own free will. I guess that didn’t work.”
“Like I said, and you know perfectly well, I do not like change. You brought me to Europe, and I was content with the thought of staying there forever. You were the one who packed up and left.”
“It was the smart thing to do. We were getting too involved in each other. It could have ended far worse than it did. I…” Shaazgai hesitated. He still avoided eye contact, but Blaze could see the furtive stormy expression on his face. “I did not want to sabotage our partnership. And then I did, anyway. Bravo me.” He dragged a hand over his face, and stole a tired, hurt look at Blaze. “I couldn’t leave you in Europe for much longer. You are too kind for your own good, you would have suffered over the millions that are about to die, and I cannot have that.”
“So you did it because you missed me and out of the goodness of your heart,” Blaze noted, somewhat amused.
“Oh, so you need a catch!” Shaazgai snapped. “I’ll give you a catch-”
Blaze lifted an open palm. “Calm down. I do not care if there is a catch. There are other things we need to unpack before we even get to that.”
Shaazgai huffed, but the tension in his posture melted. “What more is there to discuss?”
“All the things you just said, for instance. You breezed through them in one breath, like it doesn’t matter anymore, but I know it does. We have been constrained to letters for a long time, but we are here face to face now. We can talk, rather than just recount things. So let us have a dialogue, rather than a monologue. We never talked about what happened in Venice-”
“Venice!” Shaazgai threw his hands into the air. “What about Venice? We went too far, got in too deep, had to backtrack, now here we are, back in a safe and sane place. Let’s keep it that way.”
Blaze looked at him gravely. “If only you had stayed in Europe long enough for me to find you again, we would have worked things out. I know you didn’t want to give me another chance to talk to you, but I’m assuming you also didn’t exactly mean to make me think you wanted nothing to do with me ever again. And yet you delivered it so believably back then that even I was fooled for many years after. Especially since you fled the way you did, no new address, not even a farewell. Now you’re telling me that you missed me, and that you’ve been worried about my wellbeing in the upcoming years, and I am inclined to believe that you mean it. I understand why you would like to keep things professional between us, and we can do just that, especially since you were right in Venice. I was already too old for this, and it’s probably for the better that we did not pursue a relationship. But is it really a safe and sane place where you talk of partnership, but not of friendship? I hope you know that no matter our disagreements, I am still your friend.”
Shaazgai finally looked at him. His bloodshot eyes did not blink, and his blank expression faltered, like the effort of will that went into keeping it together was too much for the hungover, exhausted man. Shaazgai finally blinked and looked down at the expensive parquet. “I am glad to hear that,” he said in the most toneless voice. “I… am… It is mutual. We are friends.”
The priest looked at him with worry but also with some relief. “Good. I hope next time you feel like avoiding a confrontation with me for whatever reason, I can count on you talking to me instead of fleeing to Europe.”
“Europe will be a bad place to flee to for a while,” Shaazgai said blankly.
“Yes. I’ll be stuck in America with you.”
Blaze nodded, satisfied. “Alright. Well then, I suppose now you can tell me about the catch.”
Shaazgai sighed. “Don’t be mad at me, and I understand if you’ll want to back out of this when you hear it, but Tecocol has been in America this whole time. He followed me West, and he never left me since. He is still there. From what I figured you’ve been safe from him in the last few centuries, and if you want to stay that way, I will not blame you.” Shaazgai hung his head, and his hair fell into his face, but Blaze could see the bitter twist of his lips that struggled to form a neutral line and failed.
Blaze’s expression darkened. “Why did you never even mention this in your letters? I would have come to America if you had told me he was there. Tecocol is our common problem. How many times did he get to you?”
“It doesn’t matter. I didn’t want you to come because of responsibility or honour, or other bullshit like that… I just want you there.”
“And I will be there now,” Blaze said solemnly. “But it does matter. I take it he did get to you, and I will make sure he pays for it. I wish I could have been there to at least try and protect you. You really shouldn’t have had to suffer this alone. You need to ask me for help when you need it.”
“I don’t need help. But… I could use a friend.” Shaazgai turned to him and after some struggle, managed to genuinely smile.
The priest smiled back, and they drank some more spring water to seal the deal.
* * *
Over the following week onboard the Olympic their reconciliation coalesced into a renewed friendship. They dined together in the first class restaurant, hung out in the smoking room, and sometimes the private promenade attached to their suite. Shaazgai did not want to watch the sea, and thankfully with a ship so large, sometimes it was possible to forget they were sailing at all.
They spent the time catching up. At least from the point of view of Blaze’s life in Europe. Once more, as they did on the boat to Spain, Blaze spoke, and Shaazgai listened, though the priest had marked that once they were on land again, he would very much like to hear about Shaazgai’s own exploits.
When Shaazgai would retire to his bedroom in the evenings, after seeking only moderate assistance from the vast array of spirits provided by the ship’s staff, Blaze would go up on the deck and look at the ocean washed by moonlight. As he looked at the dark waves crashing against the sides of RMS Olympic, his mind churned.
Judging from the letters they had exchanged, Shaazgai had a lot going on in America. And all that he had accomplished on his own, in service of his master and driven by his own ambition. He did not need Blaze for that part. But the fact he had not even hinted to Blaze that Tecocol was in the new world with him was alarming.
Blaze was now all too sure that the deaths Shaazgai had suffered at the avenging spirit’s hand in these last three centuries were not always quick ones. Shaazgai was strong-willed and, of course, he claimed to be completely unaffected by whatever had transpired between him and Tecocol, but the more Blaze looked at him now, the more he noticed the lingering traces of those encounters. Normally a salacious creature, Shaazgai now avoided touch. And the one time Blaze had on instinct touched his hip when they were sitting next to each other in the privacy of their promenade, Shaazgai actually shuddered and recoiled in animalistic terror, then tried to act like nothing happened. That night he also woke both of them up in the middle of the night crying and screaming, and it took Blaze a good ten minutes to reassure him that they were alone, and Tecocol was not there, before Shaazgai finally came to his senses and tried again to fake normalcy. Blaze refused to buy into that and stayed the rest of the night in an armchair next to the stubborn man’s bed. He felt anger rising up in him at the very thought. Anger and guilt, because he felt he could have been a part of the reason behind Tecocol seeking not just to kill, but to torture the other man.
Looking at the dark ocean, the priest resolved to find a way to put an end to the Mexica avenger once and for all, but his thoughts did not cease there.
If Shaazgai did not intend to ask for his assistance with this, then when would he ever ask for it? Shaazgai was too proud to show weakness, and he saw asking for help as just that. So what could he do to encourage Shaazgai to seek it when he needed it, even when he was too proud to ask for it or even admit that he could use it?
An idea finally struck on the fifth day of their journey, and Blaze broached the subject over dinner.
“I have been thinking about it,” he said casually as he cut his steak, “and you had a good point in Venice on another account as well. You really did do much more for me in Europe than I did for you back in Mesoamerica. I would like us to keep a better track of that in America. What would you say to a favor system?” He looked at Shaazgai, gauging his reaction. “Tit for tat, so neither of us feels indebted, and so that unreciprocated generosity does not breed resentment.”
Shaazgai looked a little guilty, no doubt recalling his own scalding words. Then he smiled mysteriously, and said, “If that’s what you want, then sure. It’s prudent to stay even.”
They clinked their glasses to it, and the deal was sealed.
* * *
On the shore another steam car was waiting for them, this time with a chauffeur. After several hours on the road, they arrived at a massive ornate gate, which opened for them on its own, revealing a long road through a pristine forest. Shaazgai explained that he kept the land untouched to have a buffer as the towns around New Coalport grew and got noisier. He would always have his island of privacy and quiet out here when he needed it.
When the trees finally parted Blaze saw a chateau the likes of which they had not encountered even on their way through France. The windows were burning bright, and the front of the immense but elegant house was additionally illuminated by hidden electric lights. The whole gorgeous image was reflected in a serene pond around which the steam car drove smoothly, until it stopped at the grand entrance.
There were people waiting on the stairs, several servants, as well as a few richly dressed variations on Shaazgai’s current appearance. Blaze realized this was the manor Shaazgai had previously advertised to him in his letters — the primary Shaazgai family residence.
As they got out, the servants swarmed the car and hurried away with their things, while the new Shaazgais accosted them with bored inquiries about their trip, including whether or not cousin Thomas had brought them any souvenirs from Italy. Shaazgai replied that he would have brought them some of that fine Italian ham, but they were already the biggest hams he knew. The men laughed about as humorlessly as they’d asked them about the trip before, then pestered them for a while longer, as Shaazgai guided Blaze through the massive halls of this house he built, over marble floors, through high arches and up stairs of solid limestone. The other Shaazgais had finally dropped off by the time they reached their destination.
A bedroom had been prepared for Blaze. It was furnished even more lavishly than the guest quarters in Shaazgai’s home in Spain. The bed had a tall canopy with black and silver curtains. The walls were painted gray and a few paintings hung opposite to the bed. The floor and furniture were of a dark wood, and all the colors were subdued, the only splash of color was a vase of white and purple lilac arranged beautifully beside one of the tall windows. The flowers looked freshly cut and gave the airy room a subtle fragrance. Blaze’s bags had already been brought inside and stood neatly by a far wall.
“Do you like it?” Shaazgai asked hopefully.
Blaze looked at him incredulously. “I am a simple man now. Simpler than ever since you left. As long as there is a bed to sleep on, I’d really be fine.”
Shaazgai looked disappointed.
Blaze rolled his eyes and made himself clearer. “Yes. It is very much to my liking. And the lilac is a nice touch.”
“Alright.” Shaazgai smiled. “That’s what I like to hear. Now that you’re comfortable, I want you to know the mansion and the staff are at your disposal. Anything you want, they will provide. You’re free to go anywhere, everyone will know you as my friend and a guest of honor. I hope you can entertain yourself exploring the house and the grounds tomorrow. I need a day to decompress. I should be back with you the day after tomorrow.” Shaazgai visibly relaxed, letting the tiredness show through now that none of his predatory family was in sight. “Tell me what you want for breakfast and when, and I’ll let you rest.”
“Eight o’clock. Anything will do,” Blaze said.
Shaazgai studied him for a moment. “Anything? Really?”
“Really. Let it be a surprise, just a normal one.”
“Very well,” Shaazgai snorted. “Goodnight, Blaze. And welcome to my domain. I’ll make sure you don’t regret coming here with me.”
* * *
The next morning, when he left his room, Blaze was greeted by a servant who led him to a table served for one in a lovely sunlit alcove with a view of the gardens below. It was a private space, and the servant said should Blaze prefer a more public area for dinner, that could be arranged. Otherwise this space was reserved for him alone. The priest was pleased with his spot. He assumed he would be introduced to other inhabitants later and did not mind the slow morning of peace and quiet.
His breakfast was ready, and still warm, including the freshly baked bread. There was a small hand-written note by Shaazgai, wishing him a good morning and praising the bread, the cheese and the wines and advising on the pairings of the latter two.
When Blaze was done with breakfast, he went for a leisurely stroll along the corridor that the servant had previously led him through, and gave the paintings on the walls a closer look. Many of the scenes were familiar to him. Here was the great temple of Cholula from a bird’s eye view, painted with impeccable detail and accuracy. Here was Toledo. Here was Madrid. And here Venice. The Venice painting presented the carnival, fireworks in the sky and revelers abound. And among them, a little to the side, a familiar couple watching the fireworks together.
Blaze marvelled at these paintings, and the history they carried, wondering if Shaazgai had them commissioned, simply watching over the true representation of details the way he remembered them, or if he had taken it upon himself to learn painting in the recent centuries. Blaze would not have been surprised if Shaazgai did, after all his drawings had been excellent even before. But the paintings varied vastly in style from one to another and knowing how busy Shaazgai always was, Blaze assumed these had almost certainly not been produced by his own hand.
There were many other paintings of places Blaze had not personally seen, but had heard of and now beheld in life-like detail. There was Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia from before it was modified by the Ottomans. Karakorum, the capital of the Mongols, with its famous silver tree. And a massive painting of an entirely unfamiliar but beautiful structure with a swooping arch in the center, that Blaze recognized to be Persian. Shaazgai collected many Persian relics. And Blaze guessed that like most of the places depicted in the paintings, the Persian palace no longer existed. It was a shame, the arch alone appeared to be a feat of engineering unrivaled long after the Persian empire fell.
Blaze felt familiar sadness, and as he walked along the gallery of things gone by, he could not help but believe that at least to some extent, Shaazgai shared that sentiment.
Among these extremely professional works of art, Blaze found one outlier. This painting did not present any buildings or remarkable natural formations. By comparison to the other, it was small, sloppy and abstract. While the others were detailed and realistic, this one had a dream-like quality. It showed a desert at night. The focus of the image was a shining humanoid figure engulfed in blue flames, staring longingly up into the starry sky. This phantasmagoric scene had to it a strange gravity. Like the fallen empires around it, it was a stepping stone of some sort. Painted not by a hired hand this time, but Shaazgai himself. A memory, Blaze recognized. It had to be. Shaazgai was never a man who indulged in fiction. If he hung it among these historic paintings, then it had to represent a real event he once witnessed.
The priest spent a long time looking at it, wondering who it was that Shaazgai had met in what — by its chronological placement and the landscape — Blaze had only assumed to be a Persian desert, and what was the significance of that event for Shaazgai. If he painted it, then it had to bear one.
After a while Blaze returned to the main hall on that floor and found a servant waiting by a closed door not far from the grand staircase. The man warned him in a hushed voice that Master Thomas’ rooms lay beyond, and that Master Thomas was not be disturbed until the next morning. Then the man amicably explained to Blaze the way to the library.
The library of Shaazgai’s American house was comparable in size to his entire palace in Spain. It had many levels and its own spiraling staircases to access them. The walls that did not host bookshelves presented carvings of nature motifs and an occasional statue of a beautiful young man with vaguely familiar features dressed as a hunter here and a philosopher there. Unlike the palaces of Europe that Blaze had seen before, there was not a single female form here. Only men and beasts. This was Shaazgai’s house.
There was another person in the library, a gray-haired beautiful woman, who bore a slight resemblance to Shaazgai’s current incarnation.
The woman took no notice of Blaze for a while and continued to pore over what appeared to be an ancient manuscript. She flipped the pages with careful gloved fingers and made notes in a notepad beside her. When she noticed him approach, she rose energetically, pulled off the gloves and offered him a hand.
“Gertrude. Shaazgai, of course. You must be Thomas’ friend, a pleasure to meet you.” She gave a firm hand-shake. Despite her years and delicate frame the woman appeared robust and strong. The only thing that seemed to be failing her was the eyesight. The thick lenses of her glasses made the spectacles slide down her nose, and the woman adjusted them as she spoke. “Finally, in all the years I’ve lived here the Lilac room is being used. I can’t believe I survived to see this day.”
“A pleasure to meet you, madame,” he said and introduced himself to her as well. Though names were of little consequence to him, it was only polite. Intrigued about the name of the room, the priest inquired about it.
“My late husband always insisted on fresh lilacs being set in that room. Whenever the season allowed, of course. Our son continued that tradition. And now Thomas, my grandson. I suppose it must be in the will somewhere. I heard from the servants it was done before my husband’s time as well. The lilacs were always there. But you are the first person to actually use that room. You must be a very special guest indeed. I am honored to finally meet you.” The woman smiled sincerely and studied Blaze like he was even more interesting than the book she was with before.
“Well I am honored as well.” He smiled at her. “I feel I will be coming back here, but I am afraid I will not leave once I get settled. So would you be so kind as to give me suggestions on where else to go before that? Your grandson is fast asleep, and he has advised me to explore in the meantime.”
“The gardens should be quite lovely at this time, and if it’s colder than it looks, there is an indoor garden on the ground floor. The first, second and third floor hallways have many masterful paintings. Very historically accurate too. The breakfast room on the ground floor has a piano and a harp if you play, there is an indoor pool, and if you ask the servants they can fetch you a horse from the stables, and I’m sure one of the younger boys would be glad to keep you company for a ride.” The woman perked up. “Oh, and there is the trophy room, it is next door from here, and what did not fit into the rest of the house aesthetically, is on display there. It’s quite the museum, really. But Thomas might be your best guide there, he’s got one of those famous Shaazgai brains, he knows everything. The majority of the family mostly inherits the looks, alas.”
Gertrude’s summary came back to Blaze’s memory time and time again as, exploring the mansion, he met the rest of the Shaazgais. They were all beautiful, of course. And they were not without wit, but their smiles were the kind of smiles Shaazgai bestowed on his unsuspecting victims and their words were politely calculating at best and thinly veiled mockery at worst.
Before long Blaze found himself retreating to the gardens, and then, after a lunch alone in his alcove, back to the library.
“Ah you are back, I knew you would be back, you seemed too positively human.” Gertrude laughed from her table. “Makes me wonder how my snakelet of a grandson managed to make a friend like you. I did not know a Shaazgai had that in him. Mind you, most of the women here are not much better. But the house is big enough, and they only all assemble on special occasions.”
Blaze could not tell her how exactly the man who was currently wearing the body of her grandson first met him, but he entertained her with a conversation on many other matters. The woman was quiet and intelligent and quite to Blaze’s liking. In his mind, he compared her to the ghost of the library itself. They spent the rest of the day in companionable silence, studying the manuscripts.
* * *
The next morning, when Blaze came to his windowed alcove for breakfast, Shaazgai was there, waiting. Prolonged exhaustion still lingered in his complexion, but his eyes were bright and his demeanour energetic. He welcomed Blaze to the table and eagerly inquired all about his impressions of the house and its inhabitants. The priest was grateful. He voiced his positive thoughts on the house decor and its many amenities as well as his honest opinion on the man’s relatives.
Shaazgai laughed merrily at the latter and admitted that his family was a thornbush. But that was to be expected if one wanted to cultivate roses.
When they were done with breakfast, Shaazgai led him eagerly into his study. It lay beyond the door that was guarded by a servant the previous day. Like all the other rooms of the manor, the study was huge, airy and richly furnished. The massive windows overlooked the pristinely kept grounds of the estate and the forest beyond. The room was otherwise quite bare. No paintings, no statues. The wooden panels on the walls were strict and severe in their design. It was a place devoid of distractions. The desk had no decorative items on it either. In fact, presently, the only thing on the large desk was an equally large map. It was spread open with crystal paperweights sitting on its corners.
“The city of New Coalport. At your fingertips,” Shaazgai presented the map to Blaze.
The map was indeed that of Coalport, but it was not all. The city map was overlaid with half-transparent parchment paper upon which the city was divided into a whole different set of districts, all labeled by Shaazgai’s own hand. The labels read: ‘Downtown East, middle class: Italians 34%, Poles 27%, Germans 20%, British 15%, Others 4%’, ‘Downtown South, poor: Irish 75%, Blacks 15%, Others 10%’, and so on. Several of the areas drawn on the parchment aligned with green zones on the map below and were labeled as ‘Unoccupied’.
Shaazgai beamed at the map and then at Blaze. “The empty zones are undeveloped, I have preserved several for you to choose where you want your new church. I assumed you would want Catholics, so I made sure it’s mostly Catholics settling around those areas. There is a wide choice of economic class, should you have a preference on that. I assumed you would want a safe, calm, middle class neighborhood, so I marked the few spots that offer that in red ink.”
Blaze stood there, plunged into a mild shock. He looked first at the man and then back down at the map. He watched the plans speechless as realization started sinking in. This was not just Shaazgai writing down the status quo. Shaazgai had been planning this out, he had been making this happen, for centuries perhaps, like he made his clan happen, like he had set each and every other of his schemes in motion in the past. Only this scheme was not the one for chaos. It was a perfect trap. For one stubborn old friend from across the ocean.
The centuries flew back before his mind’s eye, and the priest remembered once more how one evening in Venice Shaazgai had asked him if Blaze would move back from Milan if the man built him his own church somewhere closer. And then he remembered another night in Venice. The night when he was ready to accept that offer. The night that ended all nights that could have been.
Blaze could not find the right words, so Shaazgai filled the silence.
“I also took the liberty of sponsoring a number of aspiring architects capable of designing the kind of Catholic church you liked back in Europe. I recently ran a contest for designing a new church, and the submitted sketches and plans are all here too.” He patted a sizable stack of folders.
Blaze looked back at him now, the map forgotten. “I should have accepted your offer back then. The church you wanted to build for me.”
Shaazgai gave him a confused look. “Hm?” Then understanding flashed in his eyes, and he shrugged. “Well, I hope you will accept this offer.” He waved a hand at the map.
“Yes, I do.” Blaze smiled. “Thank you. For everything,” he said and took a step towards the man.
Shaazgai lifted his hands up defensively and took a step back. He looked at the floor. “No. Sorry. I can’t. I-” His features tensed like he was struggling to keep his composure. “I was held down just recently. Tortured. I can’t. No hugs.” Shaazgai took a few more steps back and sat down heavily on the corner of his desk. He turned away.
Blaze froze in his tracks. This one of Shaazgai’s excuses never to be embraced was more credible than any other before it. If Shaazgai was speaking up about this, his encounters with Tecocol must have been even worse than Blaze assumed. “I will try as I might to not let that happen to you again. And worry not. You are safe from me. For now. In the meantime, I will visit the suggested church sites and let you know what I think about them.”
Shaazgai did not look back at him, but his voice was steady again. “You’ll let me know right there. I will take you to each single one.”
Blaze snorted. “Do you not have a job to do? Or is it driving old priests around?”
“Old priests, no. Old friends, yes.” Shaazgai turned to Blaze and smiled.
And his old friend smiled to him as well.
* * *
Shaazgai stayed true to his word and personally drove the priest to the neighborhoods he was interested in. He also got in touch with the architect Blaze chose and made sure the man’s designs for Blaze’s church were entirely to the priest’s liking. Construction started almost immediately. It appeared everyone in New Coalport stood at attention the moment Shaazgai or even one of his several secretaries appeared in a room. Just as the perfect church had been arranged, so had Shaazgai provided Blaze with several suitable homes he could choose from.
Such an abundance of favors meant in their new system Blaze owed him big time.
But the priest knew just how he would repay his debt.
⚞ ♝ ⚟
It was 1924, and Thomas Shaazgai, early into his forties, looked not a day over twenty-five. He knew it. He checked his looks in a little pocket mirror every hour or so. One could take that for vanity, and yes, there was some vanity in it, but mostly it was a gut-wrenching fear of what would happen if he missed the first wrinkle and the vengeful spirit didn’t. Shaazgai was jumpy and irritable, constantly looking over his shoulder and carrying a gun with him wherever he went. Several guns in fact. And a few knives. He also thought of hiring bodyguards.
But before he went overboard with security measures, Blaze approached him with a novel idea. He owed Shaazgai for the church and the home, and all the smaller favors Shaazgai eagerly granted as his closest friend was settling down in the new world. Now Blaze had a plan how to keep Shaazgai safe. He was going to send out a call through the other world, announcing his presence and challenging the spirit to take on him — after all, Tecocol and Blaze had not seen each other for nearly three centuries. This way the priest hoped to draw the avenger out and kill him, while Shaazgai would sit this one out under his guard.
Skeptical, but desperate for a release, Shaazgai accepted. And that was how he found himself in a musty cellar under some rundown shack in the middle of nowhere.
He sat on a cot, armed to the teeth, staring intently at the rough wood board ceiling that creaked as Blaze paced across the shack above. The cellar had no windows and all the light was provided by several lanterns they had brought with them. Shaazgai insisted on having several of everything. He required redundancy and did not want to leave anything to chance. Many times Blaze told him to relax and assured him that he had it all under control, and maybe he did, but Shaazgai wasn’t the one in control, so he could not relax. He was so nervous he didn’t even touch the food he had brought with him just in case. It just sat ridiculously in its cheerful picnic basket on the stone floor next to his cot.
Tired from waiting, Shaazgai got up and also paced about, following Blaze’s approximate trajectory. He couldn’t have his legs heavy and sluggish from sitting too long. What if Blaze failed? He had to be at his best to fight the spirit then. He checked his guns. He patted his knives. He made sure the lanterns did not stand in the way and could not be easily knocked over should fighting erupt. The last thing he needed was to ingloriously die in a fire.
A different creak came from upstairs, and Shaazgai stopped, alert. So did Blaze.
For a long moment there was silence. Shaazgai held his breath and listened. No sound came from above for the longest time. Then a creak again.
Screaming in Nahuatl, then a loud slam, and all hell broke loose. Steps mixed with very loud thuds, crashing furniture, sounds of struggle, but also of something very heavy moving about. Shaazgai instinctively stepped further away from that noise. He did not want whatever was making all that ruckus up there to crash down onto him. He couldn’t figure out what the heavy thing was, and it unsettled him. His wide-open eyes darted around, following the sounds from above.
Finally the noises died down, a few more heavy thuds followed, then steps. Seemingly Blaze’s. Shaazgai pulled out a gun, readied it and aimed at the trap-door.
“It’s over. It’s me,” Blaze called out. He sounded worn-out. The trap door swung open.
“Show yourself,” Shaazgai demanded.
“I intend to.” Blaze descended the stairs. He looked somewhat disheveled, and his hands and forearms were covered with blood that did not seem his own.
Shaazgai breathed out a shaky sigh of relief and lowered his gun. “Is he dead? Is Tecocol dead?”
“And you are not hurt?”
“Not seriously, no.”
Shaazgai exhaled heavily and put his gun aside. His shoulders relaxed. He pulled out another gun, and another, and his knives. He put them all together. And on shaking legs he approached his one true friend.
“You appear to have paid off all of my favors in one go.” He wrapped his arms around Blaze’s neck and looked the man in the eyes.
The priest smiled and embraced Shaazgai, trying not to get the blood on his clothes. “I merely made some room for you to do as you please.”
Shaazgai snorted softly and kissed him.
Then he led Blaze to the meager cot on the stone floor. And for the first time since they came to America, in a crudely hewn cellar in the middle of nowhere, Shaazgai gave himself to Blaze.
* * *
Since then things returned to a kind of normalcy between them. They met every other week, or once in a few months. They made deals and exchanged favors, keeping each other close, but not too close. On some nights, Shaazgai coaxed Blaze into carnality, on others they were both content with just conversation. Shaazgai no longer attempted to run Blaze’s life, while Blaze rediscovered a sense of stability as his new home and congregation slowly grew on him.
Things were the way they both wanted them to be, the way they both saw most prudent. It was good, the arrangement they had.
And only sometimes, less and less often with the passing years, Blaze would go down to his basement and retrieve a locked box that otherwise lay hidden away from sight and mind. The priest would then open the box and look at its contents for a while, only to lock it and put it away again.
There was no point in wondering about what could have been. This here was nothing but a memento of the past that could not be changed.
As the lights went out and the priest’s footsteps faded, locked away in darkness, the brooch of a magpie with its wings spread in flight sat neat and all alone on a scrap of blue embroidered silk.
* * *
1984, New Coalport, USA.
Bartholomew Shaazgai walked up the steps of the church he built for Blaze, in the city he moulded to fit the man’s tastes, and lo and behold, inside one of the confessionals of said church, was the man himself. Shaazgai stepped into the confessional and knelt, smiling.
“Bless me, Father, for I’m about to sin.”
“And since when do you need a blessing for that, Shaazgai?” came a reply from the other side of the screen, as Blaze picked up the little game they played.
It was good to have the man at his side.
Well, now you know a bit more about Blaze and Shaazgai! If you enjoyed this story, please leave us a comment, it would mean the world to us <3
You can also take a look at their conversation in chapter 9 of City and the Beast with this new context, you will see parts of it in a new light.
And here is a very good song for these two;
Depeche Mode – Shake The Disease
I’m not going down on my knees,
Begging you to adore me
Can’t you see it’s misery
And torture for me
When I’m misunderstood
Try as hard as you can, I’ve tried as hard as I could
To make you see
How important it is for me
Here is a plea
From my heart to you
Nobody knows me
As well as you do
You know how hard it is for me
To shake the disease
That takes hold of my tongue
In situations like these
Some people have to be
Lovers devoted to
Each other forever
Now I’ve got things to do
And I’ve said before that I know you have too
When I’m not there
In spirit I’ll be there
Here is a plea
From my heart to you
Nobody knows me
As well as you do
You know how hard it is for me
To shake the disease
That takes hold of my tongue
In situations like these