Saturday, November 21, 2015

Memoria Tenere

     “Archel!” bellowed Fraunx Adonis, “Archel, where in all of Iphi are you? Get in here. Now!”
     “Coming!” Archel shouted back.
     Standing with hands on his hips, impatiently tapping his right toe, Adonis stood in his foyer staring at the empty space above the fireplace. The boy slid through the oak doors. “About time. I told you last week I wanted that painting in here. Why isn’t it here? I’m here. It’s not. Explain.”
     Archel slapped his head, “oh, I forgot.”
     “You forgot? Forgot!” Adonis yelled, “what else have you forgotten? Have you forgotten your oath? Your duty?” The Chief Justice bitch slapped Archel who tumbled backwards. The boy grabbed his cheek, his eyes welling up. He bowed his head, waiting for the next blow which never came. “Go. Put the painting up,” Adonis spoke calmly, “finish your work. Then, take your forsaken lessons from that crotchety old man. You will learn that your duties come first. Or, with Mercury as my witness, I’ll apprentice you to the traders in Baroport. They beat boys into able seamen.”
     “I’m sorry, your grace,” Archel mumbled.
     “I know you’re sorry. You’re the sorriest servant in all of Templus de Ambros. I’ve never known a boy as insolent as you. Go!”
     Archel slowly backed away. He immediately went to the Chief Justice’s office where he dragged a chair to the wall with the painting on it. A few minutes of maneuvering freed the art piece. As Archel attempted to lower it to the ground the heavy painting fell. He scrambled out of the chair to check for damages, fortunately, the ornate frame landed flush with the floor. Archel nervously mumbled, “so lucky,” before putting the chair back. He hauled the gigantic picture through the office to the foyer, Adonis was nowhere to be seen. Archel leaned the painting against the fireplace, then left the Chief Justice’s chambers in search of a ladder, nails, and a hammer.
     At the groundskeeper’s shack Archel, banged on the door. No one answered, but the door was unlocked. The boy entered the shack, found a ladder behind a cabinet, the hammer and nails were on a workbench. As he was leaving, the groundskeeper walked in.
     “Whoa there, boyo. What do you think you’re doing?” the gruff man asked.
     “Hi, Mr. Field,” Archel began, “I’ve gotta hang a painting for Chief.”
     “Ah. Well, let me help you with that ladder. It’s the only one that’s working right now. You break it and it’s my ass. You know how bosses get.”
     “Yes, I do, Mr. Field,” Archel unconsciously touched his cheek.
     “Archel, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Patrick?”
     “I’m sorry. It’s just…habit.”
     “Let’s break it. Not all habits are good ones. If we’re around the Chief, by all means, call me Mr. Field. But, seriously, when we’re alone I’m Patrick. I can’t stand that ‘mister’ shit.”
     “Alright, Patrick,” it felt weird rolling off his tongue, “I’ve gotta hurry back, I left the painting against the wall. If Chief finds it like that he’ll beat me for sure.”
     “You won’t be a boy forever. Remember that.”      
     When they entered the Chief Justice’s foyer joking about their servility, they were unaware Adonis lurked behind one of the servant tunnel tapestries. As the Chief Justice listened, his anger grew. Adonis knew he could easily handle the boy, but the groundskeeper would take cunning and proof of misdeed. He’d need an assistant to set up the lumbering hulk.
     Standing in front of the painting, Patrick laughed, “how’re you supposed to get this on that wall? It’s twice your size.”
     “I got it down from the other one.”
     “Did you drop it?”
     The boy glanced around the room before confiding, “yes. It slipped.”
     “Figures.” The groundskeeper popped the ladder open, climbed up it, and asked Archel for the hammer and nails. After pounding three nails into the wall, Patrick climbed down the ladder. “Okay, boyo. Here’s what we’re going to do, while I climb up, you hold the bottom of the painting. Once it’s up, let me know if it’s straight. I might have to re-hammer. I’m always a bit off on the right side.” Upon finishing with the painting, Patrick Field said farewell, took his tools, and returned to his own work.
     Thinking he was alone, Archel sat down in one of the two big reclining chairs directly facing the shipwreck. The moment he was perfectly comfortable, Adonis ripped back the tapestry on the left wall, “who the hell do you think you are, boy? You’re no guest here. Get out of that armchair!” In terror, Archel leapt from the recliner, darted behind it, and stared at the ground in front of Adonis’ feet. The lanky Chief Justice covered the distance in three steps, by the ear Adonis yanked the boy out from behind the recliner, and slapped Archel repeatedly, “I told you, you’d learn your place. I don’t care if you are Imler’s favorite. You’re sworn to these courts and you will do your duties. These chairs are for honored guests. I told you to put that painting up. I know you got that filth to do it for you. You disgraced the Antigone bringing that swine in here. You disgraced yourself by getting him to do your work. Discipline. Obviously, I haven’t disciplined you well enough. Fine. After your library lessons, your real training will begin. You will learn to obey.” Adonis gave Archel’s ear a sharp twist, the boy yelped. “Go to the library, take your lessons, then come straight back here. I’ll know if you dawdle, just like I know you dropped my painting,” he growled as he slapped Archel’s head again.

     For his daily lessons, first Archel met his teacher in the library after which he spent sunsets with Kaiser Imler in front of the Phoenix Rose. King and servant did not speak until the Phoenix song filled the air. The sound echoed through the gardens as the Phoenix disappeared into the rose bush.
     “How goes your lessons?” Imler inquired.
     “I’ve never heard such tales, milord,” Archel quickly answered.
     “Do you know who teaches you?” Archel attempted to answer, but the Kaiser silenced him with the wave of his hand, “no, of course you do not know your honor in this task. Adonis, that insolent prick, has done nothing but hinder your education. The miserable twit was entrusted to teach you the ways of...” Imler caught himself and said nothing more.
     “Task? Ways?” Archel began feeling courageous, “you talk of people with tasks to teach me ways… what ways? Always circles. No beginning, no end. It’s all very confusing. Could you stop, think it through, and then tell me what you’re talking about in some kinda order.”
     “Ah, it’s a straight line you desire, eh?” Imler smirked.
     “It’d help. That old man has me so…” for lack of wording Archel pulled madly at his wild locks.
     “Aye. I remember that feeling well,” Imler chuckled.
     “Why ya laughin’?” Archel asked innocently.
     “When I went to my first lessons I thought it was a conspiracy to drive me crazy. Fintan did things that made no sense. I retaliated once. I wouldn’t recommend it. He’s obtained an arsenal of pupil punishments that make the convict cells look painless,” Kaiser Imler paused, “it’s said that the line and the circle are good traveling companions. Do you know why?”
     “What?” Archel spit.
     “Temper, boy. You know with whom you speak.”
     “Yes, my liege,” the boy huffed, kicked a stone, and shook his head.
     The Kaiser could do nothing more, he leaned back in a fit of laughter. His eyes welled up, his face turned red, he clutched his side, and his breath came heavily.
     “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” came from a voice Archel both recognized and feared.
     Kaiser Imler finished laughing before turning to face the unwelcome guest. “Ah, Meranti. I should have known you’d be where you weren’t needed,” Imler said.
     “My most humble apologies, your highness. I only wished to see what interesting bit of history unfolds before the prized Phoenix Rose,” the height-deficient fool answered, “I’ve been privy to such wonderful tales of her beauty. I wanted to see for be certain.” An ankle length eggshell white toga was draped from Meranti’s shoulders. The toga was loosely tied with a dark green belt, signifying his station as apprentice to the palace historian. At a mere 24 years old, Meranti did not have enough sense to ease out of the gardens. Rather, he waited, running his short pudgy fingers through his wavy black hair.
     “Meranti. You can’t believe everything you read. Even so, it’s time for you to return to the libraries. You have not finished learning everything those walls contain,” Kaiser Imler glared at the young historian, “while you’re there, it would do you well to listen to the sages, they know far more than the books.”
     “As you wish,” Meranti about-faced, stumbled over his sandals, and stormed off.
     Neither child, nor king could contain the bellyaching laughter dying to escape. From the south thunder roared. The roses whipped in the southeastern wind. Five seconds later lightning flashed.
     “We may have to postpone today’s lesson,” the king said while watching the gathering clouds.
     “Milord, I…” Archel began then stopped.
     “What is it?”
     “The day you, um, changed, I heard the Chief talking to someone named Rold about you, Rex Gryphus, and the Chief’s brother. I didn’t know the Chief had a brother. Did you? Just now I thought I heard that same man in Meranti’s voice. Is he also called Rold?”
     “When did this happen?”
     “As soon as I got back from your chambers…that day. They didn’t see me, so, they don’t know I heard anything.”
     “This stays between us. Do you understand? Tell no one else. You swear Adonis mentioned a brother?”
     “Say nothing. Tomorrow, same time,” with that Kaiser Rudolpho Imler disappeared down the winding paths of the Gryphon Gardens. 
     Archel watched his king leave, wondered if he had time for a snack, but decided against it. If the Chief found out he went to the kitchens before heading back to his duties, there’d be worse than a few smacks to the head. The boy gently touched his cheek, “I wish he’d lose them damn rings, they really hurt.”  

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