By Diana the Valkyrie
In which six souls are saved
Next day after Lauds (and a jolly good one it was too, left me really whacked out, they say no-pain, no-gain) and Nones, Nora beetled off to the kitchens to find out more about Septadecaherbis, while Sister Amanda and I cycled down to Borchester to whip Novice Evadne's boyfriend into action. I dont mean that literally, of course, a Sister of St Hilda would never use a whip. Fists work fine.
Amanda is really impressive on a bike. Those 38 inch thighs and long legs give her power and leverage, and it was only because she slowed down to wait for me that I kept up. "You don't have to show off, Mand, there's no-one here watching you." "God can see me any time" she pointed out. Well, me too, but you don't have to flaunt it. Well, not all the time. She'd have made the eight miles to Borchester in ten minutes if I hadn't slowed her down, but even with me puffing along after her it was only a 15 minute journey, I think I got the benefit of being in her slipstream. Sisters of St Hilda aren't exactly streamlined. About as streamlined as a tank, and weighing not much less.
We barged in to see what Vads and the kid were up to, but I didn't catch them at it. Vads was sitting demurely on the floor, legs folded under her habit; the kid was pounding on his keyboard, not really conscious of the world about him. Vads looked up when we came in, and shushed us. "He's concentrating, don't interrupt." "What's he doing?" "The web site.". I peered over his shoulder. "He doesn't seem to have done much." "Patience is a virtue", said Vads. The kid spun round, shaking his head. "No no. The three programming virtues are Laziness, Impatience and Hubris". Vads lowered her eyes and looked humble. Obedience, and looking submissive is one of the first things any Novice learns. I wondered if it was time to give the kid a couple of lessons in that. A few minutes in the nutcracker of Mandy's legs would produce a substantial change of attitude, I thought. Then I sighed. Maybe I could worry about his immortal soul later; right now there were fish that needed to be fried, and we were fresh out of oil.
"We need a name for the product. How about 'The Sisters of St Hilda's muscle development catalyst.'?" I asked. Mandy wrinkled her nose. "That's a bit long winded, don't you think Di? How about 'St Hilda's muscle catalyst'?" The kid chipped his two-pennyworth in, "Will people understand the meaning of 'catalyst'". Hmm, good point. "How about 'tonic'" "Muscle Tonic". "Yes, but we have to have St Hilda's in there, otherwise it isn't a brand name, it's just generic." "And anyway, I thought we were going to downplay the muscle bit."
Then Novice Evadne spoke up. "St Hilda's Iron Tonic". Short silence. "Vads, that's brilliant". Yes, well, he would say that, wouldn't he, she had him eating out of her, well, eating out of someplace. Chasuble, probably. Then the penny dropped. Ah. I see. Somewhat longer silence. "Could we get away with it?" "Sure, why not?" "But someone might notice" "If they don't, we'll rub their noses in it; we *want* them to use the abbreviation." "Yes, but would people actually buy a product called 'SHIT'?" I asked.
"YES!", said the kid. "That's the slang word for dope, we're kind of implying that this is such good stuff, it's illegal, except of course it isn't. And if French Connection UK can get away with the brandname FCUK, we ought to be able to use SHIT. And if it's controversial, all the better, it'll mean loads of free publicity."
I looked at Mandy, Mandy looked at me. I felt old. Retro. Last generation. This was not why I'd signed up to be a nun. So I said "Tell you what, kids. I'll put it to the Mother Superior, and if she approves, we'll use it. But I don't think she will. Us nuns have our dignity, you know." Vads, kneeling on the floor, grinned up at me. "I think she'll go for it, Sister Diana. She isn't the old fuddy-duddy that you think she is." I sniffed. "Maybe. We'll see. Come on, Mandy." and Mandy and I left.
As we got onto out bikes, Mandy said "Di, I don't like this. I feel, well kinda grubby, you know?" I knew what she meant, I was feeling a bit soiled myself. "Hey, tell you what, Mand. We've got an hour before we have to get back to the convent, what say we go save a few souls first?" Mandy cheered up at once. If there's one thing that a St Hilda's Sister loves more than anything else, it's saving souls.
"Down to the Ferret and Firkin?" she asked. I considered that for a moment, but no. "There's not that many sinners there these days, we've brought pretty much all of that flock into the Fold of the Lord already. I thought we might pay a little visit to that new Pool Parlour. I feel sure there's a bunch of stray lambs that need garnering." "Ooh, I just fancy a bit of garnering", said Mandy, rubbing a huge fist against a thigh that made even her fist look small. "Come on then Di, last one there's a miserable sinner ..."
She beat me by half a minute, if you put her on a generator, those thighs could power a small city. I rang the bell, and a small eyehole opened, an eye looked us up and down, and said "No women". When I say that, I don't mean that they eye spoke, I mean, er, oh bless it, you know what I mean. So I thumped on the door with my fist, made it shake a bit. The eyehole opened again. "We aren't women, we're nuns, Sisters of St Hilda, come to save your souls." "Fcuk off". But he didn't pronounce it quite like that. "Well, Sister Mandy, I'd guess there's quite a few souls in there that need saving. Is this door going to stop us?" "Not even slow us down", she said, raised a leg, leaned forward, and kicked.
The physics works like this. In leaning forward, there was the momentum of 320 pounds of nun moving towards the door. The kick, powered by a thigh that's about as thick as a fat man's belly, except it's also as hard as mahogany, concentrates that momentum. The contraction of the massive quad muscle turns sugar into kinetic energy, to an amount that's proportional to the mass of the leg (which, in Sister Mandy's case, is massive) and the square of the speed of the kick. The door didn't even think about it, flew backwards off its hinges and slammed into the wall on the other side of the room. The eye that had spoken to us earlier was sandwiched somewhere between the flying door and that far wall, and didn't seem to be at all interested in explaining to us that nuns weren't allowed in. So we entered.
The fog inside was like pea soup, and you could have cut the smell of beer into slices and used it to feed the poor. There were half a dozen men in there; weedy looking specimens, but every man jack one of God's finest creations with a soul that only needed a bit of spit and polish to come up spick and span, shining and new. Mandy stood by the door, or rather by the place where the door used to be, to discourage anyone inclined to miss the convocation, and I went forward to do the missionary bit. "Gather round, my children, and hear the Good News," I started. Five of them were staring at me like they'd never seen a nun before, and the other one was looking at Mandy. So I clipped him round the ear to get his attention, took his pool cue and started snapping it into pieces, and as he struggled to his feet, I continued. "Whosoever accepts God into his heart, will live for ever ..." I went on, giving them the standard pitch, "... cough cough splutter. You call this air?" I went to the side of the room, where the closed window was keeping God's pure air outside, heaved it up and open. Unfortunately, it was locked. Fortunately, the lock wasn't as strong as a St Hilda's Sister intent on bringing light and air to these lost sheep. Unfortunately, the glass was even less strong than the lock, and the window converted itself into a hole in the wall, glass all over the floor. Still, it let the air in, and I could breathe again.
By the time I turned back, two of the men had tried to escape past Sister Mandy. The hole where the door had been was six foot six high, Mandy was six foot five in her high-heeled platform nun-boots. The doorway was 32 inches wide; Mandy is about 34 at her shoulders, a bit more on the way down, and it wasn't until you got down to her legs that you could begin to see a gap that a man might bolt through. They headed for that gap, and it was possibly the worst mistake they'd ever made. You do *not* get between the legs of a Sister of St Hilda, unless you have a written invitation, and even then you'd want to be pretty sure that she was in a good mood. One of them was saying "urghh" while the other one said "unghh", and the noises were gradually fading to a whisper as they ran out of air. First one, then the other collapsed into a heap at her feet, and she kicked them back across the room into the group. She hadn't even unfolded her arms.
"Gentlemen" I said, exaggerating somewhat, "let us pray". I guess they didn't know what to do. "On your knees, boy!" shouted Mandy, and they got down fast, looking properly God-fearing. I led them in a short prayer, then we all sang "The Straying Sheep". And then I sat on the pool table and told them to gather round me while I told them about sin and salvation, and about sheep, and how each and every one of them was as precious to God as sheep are to a shepherd, and how they really didn't want to get culled in the way that a shepherd culls the sheep with foot-and-mouth in order to save the flock as a whole, and they'd have to renounce the sins of drinking, smoking and gambling, but it was ok to continue fornicating, because that's how you make babies, and then I stopped and asked "Who would like to be saved?" Silence. "OK, let me put it this way. Nil bonum nisi passus. Who would like to be culled?"
Threats of fire and brimstone always work better than promises of sweetness and light, and pretty soon they were all chorusing "Save me, Save me" and embracing salvation with a gladsome heart, so I led them in "I'll be a sunbeam", which is always a cheerful sort of hymn, although I'm blessed if I know what it means; I don't think I'd fancy being a sunbeam, not one bit. I mean, what do they eat?
Then Mandy came over and joined me on the pool table, which then demonstrated that it was not built to take the weight of two hefty nuns. The two front legs collapsed, sliding us both forward and onto the floor, which, of course, was where our little flock was already kneeling, and there was no way we could avoid tumbling on top of them in a big tangle of arms, legs, nuns and sinners.
After a few seconds, the world stopped spinning, and I found that somehow a hand had found it's way to just here, and there was another hand there, and Sister Amanda seemed to be having a good time too, and it was several minutes before we sorted out what went where and put the hands back where they belonged. By the time we extracted ourselves from the fray, four of the sinners looked seriously blissed out, and the other two had that battered and dazed look. "Well", I said, "I guess this prayer meeting is over. Now you folks keep your noses clean, know what I mean?" and Mandy and I got on our bikes and back to the convent.
I was right about Mater not liking the product name. She said "You cannot be serious" once, and used the word "blessed" about forty four times, and it was only the fact that we'd just saved six souls that mollified her enough so that I could crawl back to my cell and metaphorically lick my wounds while my ears stopped ringing. "Sisters - it's back to the drawing board on product naming. Our blessed and beloved Mother Superior is not going to take Shit."