Wednesday, March 28, 2012

658 - Epilogue: First Light

Guest Post by Kevin Duane
Goddess... lovely, of earthly, watery, and celestial frame, sepulchral, in a saffron veil arrayed, pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade; solitary goddess, hail! The world’s key-bearer, never doomed to fail; in stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen, and drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen; Leader, nurse, on mountains wandering, hear the suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere, and to the herdsman with a favouring mind draw near."

I close the book on the table before me, move it sideways carefully away from a wine stain.  This is hardly the time for books, at least not this evening.

I sit in the tavern - not the Fig, but rather a lesser relative of the species -- abandoning my good wife and her overly ferocious cat to the tender mercies of the Marble Palace staff, though I am drinking nothing stronger than kaf and my own thoroughly steeped introspection. 

It's been over a bead since I left the Marble Palace, on this first day, of the Forty-Eighth Year of the Present Age, where I somehow managed to weave through the maze of Haians, nurses, guardians, attendants, and an almost limitless number of potential sycophants and hangers-on seeking an audience with the Imperator, whom concerned Haians and medics feel the need to examine and re-examine, even if but to reassure themselves that the Divine Temple as indeed, preserved his life and health.  He is hail, but frail as if risen from a long illness.  Hungry.  Tired.  Scarred.

The sunburst of burn-scar on his chest, where the Ten cauterized deadly venom, will mark him far longer than the wine coloured birth-smudge his father bequeathed.

Now that it is certain he will survive, there seems to be an intense, almost frantic need for anyone even remotely close to a corridor of power to seek out the recuperating ruler and profess their unwavering and undying loyalty and devotion, even contrary to the imperative of celebratory feasting in the square.

The inconveniencing need for rest and recovery of his body seems to be a petty and unnecessary obstruction to this line of well-wishers – a line that extended from as far outside his chambers as his Grandfather and mother, Mahid both, can detain such an opportunistic mob.

How peculiar it must've looked to them, for me to arrive and be escorted past packed numbers directly to his bedside. If I had made note of the offers that were cried out to me to mention their name, pass on commentary for some commercial or political venture, or even kiss the wound in their stead, it would be a long list, but it surely would require me to have put something else in my kaf.

I am thankful that the overall emotion of the populace is one of a festive optimism instead of a doleful mourning. The survival of his ordeal with the Ten Tens would've merely been considered adequate to satisfy the cynical. When it was accompanied by an assassination attempt, I would say it indicated to most of his detractors that the boy did indeed have the makings of a leader if others were so enthusiastic to deprive him of his life for it.

When this act, in turn, was accompanied by a display that many are attributing to divine intervention, and to which I flatly refuse to offer any rational alternative explanation, partly to avoid diminishing the significance of the action, and partly to prevent any curiosity from those who would seek a repeat performance of the Ten’s proof of benevolence.

The boy is well, and will heal. No – not even that – the Imperator is well, and all of Arko will heal. He is no longer a boy, no longer a student under my tutelage. Standing at his bedside, in the surroundings of his friends and family, it brought forward in my mind the realization that I was no longer the tutor of this young master, nor was I even a fellow citizen of the Dominion, but in my role as a citizen within that body, I now looked upon him as the duly appointed leader of all my fellow citizens.

He looked at me, smiled and joked, and tried to hide his temporary frailness. I looked at him, smiled and joked in return, and tried to hide the frailty that I knew I would now carry for the rest of my life. When I suggested he might even have inherited some of his father’s tolerance to poisons, he took the matter as the joke it was intended to be, merely pointing out that I’d phrased it more directly than the dozen others who had already hinted the fact to him.

This ordeal definitely has changed him, if he can dismiss with gentle humor the burden of association that he has always felt in almost any linkage to his father. I see him in a moment of weakness, and I realize when he has recovered from these ordeals, that he will indeed possess a new strength, perhaps a new and fairer temperament – even onto his own opinion of himself.

It is the duty and the responsibility of all tutors to know when their task is complete; only the most compulsive and controlling use education and knowledge as a tether or a bridle, to carry themselves along beyond the grove of academia and into the real world. He has the companionship of family now, and the implementation of an empire to aid him in his tasks. For a moment I wonder if I will ever be this close to him again, save as a waving member of the crowd as he passes by.

I do not mention the other news I have had, while others have helped him prepare himself; many of my academic associates have plowed and plumbed through the archives of the Imperial Library, and several of them, focusing their attentions as is the wont of all unshackled intellectuals, to examining the contents of the Proscribed Archives.

It would seem foolish to do so at this time, when the new leadership has been confirmed – and reconfirmed – by the tangible intervention of the Ten Gods, to let him know of how much his future may be altered by the intervention of an ancient, moribund, singular God.

I have been reading the transcription of a collection of books, all of which seem to revolve around just such a singular mythology. The variations in the meticulous storytelling style indicate a large number of sects and philosophical factions, but these pale significantly to the number of languages in which the texts have been translated.

Philosophically, I find the work to be a collection of confused, misogynistic, paternalistic histories, which warrant a step back and make me realize how little different they are from our own time and place. It does seem awkward however to assign all of the attributes of benevolence and malignancy, of justice and appeasement, of omnipotence and forgiveness, to the actions of a single deity. I smile and think to myself that while nine gods may object to my sitting drinking in this tavern, the approval of the single God converts my presence here to an act of piety.

No, not even the portions of this collection the deal with the all too human responses to love and beauty, or the simple act of watching the sunrise, the sun set, and it returning to the place from where it rises again – but there is splendid poetry and wisdom in these words that requires the handiwork of no God at all. It is a frightening old book, drenched in blood and arrogance, but inlaid with priceless gems.

Paradoxically, while the book may be of little use to the understanding of any God, its layout and structure may serve as a key to unlocking innumerable languages that have fallen by the wayside over the ages, the knowledge within them rendered silent through incomprehension. These books may reveal the languages of our past, and give us a sturdier foundation of those eras than we have had.

We have built our civilization on the shoulders of ten Gods; one wonders what the future will be like when it can more accurately rest on the shoulders of billions of ordinary humans, scattered across the world, divided in languages, divided in faiths, and divided in everything but a need to not be alone in the universe around them. Will that foundation be any stronger if we build it with the knowledge of those distant from us in time and in tongue?

But as Katalas the Philosopher said in his ‘Odes’, ‘Hayel’s road is paved with the best and most perfect of intentions.  It is the act that makes the man, not the intent.’  So we shall see, in its own good time, what acts spring out of the eventual revelation of these multi-translated words, under the new Imperator’s sway.

Too much somber thinking like this requires more than a cup of kaf, and the chill breeze that accompanies the opening of the tavern door strokes these old bones as if to offer an invitation for something a little more bracing. It would certainly fit the mood of my fellow taverner's, of my fellow city dwellers, of much of the Empire, and probably half the world tonight.

I fish into my purse and find a gold chain. Unlike the Enchian coins, it bears no flat surface upon which shines the face of some ancient Sun, but that does not stop it from having a value recognized in any tavern the length and breadth of the world. If this chain were but a tenth its size, and the sputtering light of a single greasy candle filled the room, the barmaid could still have nimbly plucked it out of the air as I tossed it to her. My announcement for a round of drinks for the house meets with a heartfelt cheer, and when I am asked to propose a toast, I dedicate it with warmth to our new Reflection of the Divine Sun.

"He has cleverly provided us with confrontation, coronation, and assassination. Let his reign be long and just and prosperous, with never a need for re-election." I pour back the sweet amber-honey warmth, and smile again at those around me.

They drink to you today, Minis. Today they love you, tomorrow they may love you more, or love you less – depending possibly on how much more or less they love themselves. Nonetheless, you are theirs just as they are yours, and all of us together know not what the future will bring.

The barmaid brings me a refill of both kaf and mead, and knows that even though I have only worn away a small portion of that gold, that I shall not seek any change reimbursed, but that I shall share in the company of all here tonight. Trathila will understand.  We shall revel in this time to laugh, and await the dawn to see if truly nothing is new under the sun.


My heartfelt thanks to Kevin Duane for Ailadas's unique point of view. 


  1. Beautiful. =D

  2. Thanks GV! I'll pass that along.

  3. Truly glorious. =D & Egads!!! Please tell me they didn't uncover a copy of the BIBLE. Organized Christianity is the last thing these wonderful nations need. :)

  4. Probably Ailadas discovered a florilegium of the ancient books of the Bible, but you probably don't need to worry, given his tone while talking about them. They will likely disappear back into academia without a ripple.

  5. Was there really a need to insert the gratuitous slap at Christianity? Despite what makes the headlines, not all Christians are intent on bending others to our beliefs, and some of us actually do read and enjoy stories like EC. I found that paragraph to be an outright slap in the face and completely unnecessary in the context of the story - as a matter of fact, the fact that the author had to *go out of his way* to make that comment is even worse than the comment itself. What a turnoff in what should have been a wonderful reflection on what Minis has achieved!

  6. Dear Shel,

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. Which paragraph exactly was the 'slap in the face'? There were several musing about the books that Ailadas found. And the Ten Gods were based originally on the Christian Bible though they were seen as Ten Modern Prophets, at the time, who re-wrote things to suit their vision of God.

    1. I should also mention that the Christian references were put in there to allow the echoes of the Book of Ecclisiastes - one of my favourite books, aside from the Song of Songs -- to be referenced as the last line of the piece.