Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Joyous Occasion--Part 12

Justinian knocked upon the door to the Joyeuse Chapterhouse of the Knightly Order of the Sacristy of Saint Julian, then waited for it to open. It occurred to him--not for the first time--that what he was attempting might be folly. And yet, as he reconsidered it, he again was forced to admit that this was the only way he could think of that allowed him to fulfill both his vows to the Cthoniques, and his vows to his people and his gods. And even more than that, he realized he believed in what he was attempting. And sometimes, by the Seven, that was enough.

The door opened. To Justinian’s surprise, he found himself staring at the face of Arcadius Pi, a fellow Squire more noted for his love of sleep than his dedication to the Order. As Justinian watched, Arcadius’ bleary eyes spread in amazement. “Sigma?” he declared, then suppressed a yawn. “But you’re dead!”

Justinian frowned. “Dead?”

Arcadius finally allowed himself that yawn, and followed it with a scratch on his rather bulbous nose. “Well, good as dead, anyway,” he declared. “No one’s quite sure where you were. Constans Mu said you tried to pull a runner, but then drowned in the Murkenmere.”

Justinian gave a bleak smile. “Constans Mu is an imbecile and a bully who hates me.” He stepped inside the Chapterhouse. “So naturally, I’m touched you… give his word such credence.”

Arcadius frowned. “Well I didn’t say I believed him, I just said he said that.” Arcadius scratched his carrot-red hair and yawned again. “I don’t think pulling a runner would ever occur to you.”

“Well, thank you,” said Justinian with a nod.

“Yep,” said Arcadius, as he shut the door. “I even said so to him. ‘Justinian Sigma is incapable of even imagining such an idea’. That’s how I put it.”

As Arcadius gave him that smile that dared the viewer to guess as to whether it was dull or crafty, Justinian wondered if he was perhaps being mocked instead of complimented. He decided to simply let the matter pass. “The Preceptor,” he declared grandly, “will want to see me.”

“He’s in conference with the Prince,” whispered Arcadius, with a nod towards the Rectory

Justinian nodded, not believing his good luck. “Prince Amfortas will also want to see me.” Arcadius’ eyes widened. “Do you imagine I’d joke about this?”

“Not for long,” said Arcadius with a sigh. “Well, come with me. It’s your skin. Mostly.” He turned towards the Rectory and started to walk gingerly down the hall.

Justinian fell in step behind him. “Has the Prince been here long?”

Arcadius glanced at his fellow Squire. “Heard about the whole matter of the Easter King?” he asked. Justinian nodded. Arcadius stuck his hands in the pockets of his cloak, and shook his head. “Well, that’s what brought him here. Came as soon as he got the Eremites from the Concordat. They’ve been running the town, since they came.”

“I’ve seen,” said Justinian, frowning.

Arcadius frowned himself. “Can’t say I’m happy. Or most of the Order,” he whispered. “But the garrison’s been sent to the Keeps to glare at Skarvsky’s Janissaries, and… one takes what help you can get, eh?”

“I don’t know if I term the Eremites’… help,” said Justinian.

“You would if you’d been here for two months with them, and they outnumbered you three to one,” said Arcadius.

Justinian couldn’t think of a reply to that. As they turned down the hallway to the Rectory, he saw two men in purple and white uniforms standing at the door. “Prince’s men,” said Arcadius quietly. He walked towards them, and bowed. “Squire Justinian Sigma, here to speak with Preceptor Maximilian Rho, and His Highness Amfortas Pescheour, Prince of Durendel, Regent of Leonais, Grandmaster of the Knightly Order of the Sacristy of Saint Julian, Supreme Legate of the Holy Synod, and Lord Protector of the Free Cities.”

Both of the men looked rather surprised at that, with one--a thin man, with thin lips, and rather sparse grey hair--looking at Justinian rather oddly. But his companion--a black-haired man who just a tad stout--headed quickly into the Rectory. After a moment, he stepped out again, and silently gestured for Justinian to head into the room.

Justinian did so.

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