Jayce Grist convened her Twelve at Heligan Garden in darkest Cornwall, amid mossy paths, ancient walls, and all the coiled magic of a blessed greenspace. Each of the dozen came by a different way -- motorbike, rail, Judi in her ultralight. Bart brought folding tables, Matthew-Levi his grandmother's fine Irish linens. Supper was potluck, for which Philippa caught a trout. Replete, they drowsed on Australian shiraz, picking through a bowl of pistachios in the evening shade of a towering oak.
"I've had an offer," said Jayce after the conversation settled. "Close it all down, shutter the ministries, drop the websites, everything. Enough dosh for us all to lay around in Majorca for years, if we keep our mouths shut."
"Corporate, religious, or political?" asked Simone, crystal beads glittering in her ankle-length hair.
"Consortium, actually." Jayce glanced around, brown eyes calm.
Judi slapped the table, spattering bright shiraz across the Irish linen. "Damn it, we're winning. Almost three hundred 4x4s torched in Winnipeg last week. And the tree bandits in Tokyo -- Great Mother, the plantings they've done. You couldn't stop this if you tried -- hundreds of thousands hang on your every word."
"And therein lies the problem." Jayce traced her finger through a scattered pile of salt. A helicopter clattered in the distance. "I have said enough."
Jayce stood, shrugged out of her bicycle shirt and racing pants until she was sky-clad, brown as a walnut and naked to the world, with only her silver athame -- her ritual knife -- dangling between her tiny breasts. The Twelve exchanged glances. They had expected no formal rites today.
The helicopter clattered past again, searchlight stabbing. Jayce walked down the tables, giving a kiss here, a hug there. Finally she pulled Judi to her chest, clasping her most beloved disciple so tight they both felt the pain of it. "Love comes and love goes, but the green world is forever," Jayce whispered in Judi's ear.
"Who did this?" Judi asked. "Who sold you?"
"In this life, everyone sells herself." Jayce walked away to a patch of rye grass beside an enormous stone head, broken from the statue of some Mediterranean goddess. The searchlight found Jayce there as she raised the athame and laid her other hand on the goddess's forehead.
Lightning stabbed down from the starry sky to the helicopter, then jumped to the athame, grounding through Jayce to the goddess and on to the patient earth.
Heligan Garden glowed as the Twelve were blown to the ground. Deafening thunder mixed with the helicopter's banshee spiral into a stand of yew trees.
The Twelve staggered to their feet only to be surrounded by Metropolitan Police SO10 commandoes bristling with automatic weapons. The yews burned, and the goddess head was shattered by a newly upthrust spear of holly, all spiked leaves and brilliant berries.
"Fecking ecoterrorists." A masked commando shoved his gun at Judi. "You lot won't see the sky again for a long time."
Judi touched the weapon's muzzle. A spray of flowers followed her fingers, spilling from the barrel like spring rain. Ivy lashed from the grass to twine the commando's legs. As one, Jayce's Twelve embraced their attackers, bringing them to the green.
The holly smiled.
Copyright © 2003 Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family and their books. In 2003, his work is appearing in diverse markets such as Realms of Fantasy, Writers of the Future XIX, and The Thackeray T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. For more about him and his work, see his website. To contact him, send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleven Went to Heaven