Saturday, October 1, 2016

Nomen Regis

     “Eheu! Rex morte est. Inquam, O Mercuri. Astra declive!” Celatrix Verna’s voice trembled, building as she timed her ‘declive’ to coincide with the chanters’. Holding her hands to either side of the podium, she raised them with the palms directed at Kaiser Rudolpho Imler’s wounded face as he lay in his lidless coffin. While slowly turning her upper body toward Archel, Celatrix Verna continued, “Ecce! Rex nasci est. Inquam, O Iphigenia. Sol oriens!” Her impeccable timing once again apparent as her words blended into the chanted ‘Sol oriens!’
     From the front row, Colonel Thompson and General Michaels bowed their heads, listening to the foreign words. Michaels leaned over and whispered, “you know what she’s talking about?”
     After elbowing him into submission, Colonel Thompson whispered back, “of course I do. Took it first year. Was 2nd in my class at Elite.”
     “I’ll tell you later. Now, shut up.”
     Osborne watched them briefly before returning his attention to the Celatrix who held her hands toward the young griffin. He couldn’t help but stare. Raised in a Merc family, Osborne was well-versed in the griffin legends and having attended Elite was familiar with the language. But, he was very, very rusty and heard the words without recognizing them. He sighed, should have paid attention. Maybe she’ll tell me, too. Don’t ask in front of the general. She’ll chew you out for making her look bad. He watched them, listening for the part he remembered, the part that every soldier, Merc and Militia alike, was drilled on. Then he heard it:  
     “Dummodo mihi fidei promittes, libenter tibi custodiaeque divei promitto,” the griffin Archel repeated after Celatrix Verna.
     The hair raised on Osborne’s body as he joined the room answering, “promitto!”
     Though time breached the wee hours, lights popped on across the typically resting City of Ambrosia. Residents closest to Sentinel Cemetery and the Templus de Ambros were the first drawn in by the chanting. They crowded into the cemetery and to the temple wall where a few parents helped their kids up. From there they could not see into the grounds, but they could see a colorful light dancing against a backdrop of Umbrian trees. The pulsing rainbow moved in time to the chanting. Residents slowly added their own voices to the maelstrom, “As-tra de-cli-ve. Sed, Sol or-i-ens.”
     New comers asked the standard set of questions, “what’s going on? Why are you singing? What’s with the lights?”
     To which a few received barely heard answers, “don’t know,” or, “got to be the Kaiser. Last they did this was his daddy’s time.”
     Many shop keepers reopened their stores, some eager to cash in on the sudden business, others altruistically intent on supplying the nearby crowd with support services, accessible restrooms, and potable water. Street vendors parked their vehicles anywhere they could fit and set up as the death of Kaiser Rudolpho Imler and the ascension of his previously unknown heir spread through Ambrosia City.

     “Praeceptorne Uno promittes?” Celatrix Verna asked the griffin.
     Bobbing his great eagle’s head, Archel nervously responded, “facio.”
     “Fas est.” Lowering her hands, Celatrix Verna bowed her head and closed her eyes. Once she’d stepped back from her podium, one of her attendants placed a white cape over her shoulders. The crimson-gold hem and a centered eye of Mercury stared at the congregation. A second handed her an ornate staff, decorated with phrases of power carved by her predecessors. Another took the Praeceptor’s weaved royal blue and white cord to Archel, who lowered his head, beak nearly touching the ground. To Cassie, a fourth brought Mercury’s Circlet which perfectly matched Mercury’s Bracelet in aesthetic beauty but came up zilch in magical properties. She lifted her head, opened her eyes and with intentionally slow steps maneuvered through the parlor. The newly frocked Praeceptor Archel followed, Cassie still by his side. Santos and Brimley discreetly walked a few feet behind the leading trio, while the minister pall bearers bore the weight of the Kaiser on their shoulders.
     At the entrance to the funeral home, Celatrix Verna paused, staring out the door’s window at two rows of chanters bathed in the full spectrum of pulsing colors. For the next ten minutes, she would lead the procession from the funeral home to the Phoenix Rose. She took a deep breath, then walked out the open door. One-by-one the parlor occupants trickled out, trailing up the minister-lined rainbow path. Each occupant came to face the intensity of the chant carried on the night wind by a city full of people who’d thrown their voices into the mix.
     Upon reaching the Phoenix Rose, Celatrix Verna addressed Cassie, “non potest.”
     “Tamen poterit,” the messenger replied.
     The Celatrix bowed her head, “vale.” Taking her staff to the Phoenix Rose, Celatrix Verna thrice circled the rose bush before setting the staff into the ground next to the crown-like gate that enclosed the bush. She pressed the staff into place with a grunt, then spoke into it, her voice rolling throughout all Ambrosia, “finis.” The quiet rolled in on a wave that started with the ministers and rippled through the streets. The moment she felt the tension rise, she said, “with great sorrow, we gather tonight to bury Kaiser Rudolpho Imler.” She couldn’t see the citizens gathered around the temple complex, even so, she knew they were there. Knowing that rumors run rampant among the uninformed, she continued, “by the blessings of Mercury, Kaiser Rudolpho’s heir stands before us.” As she spoke, a sunset of colors chased the Phoenix who climbed up the rose bush.
     Moaning and groaning Archel rocked back, threw open his beak and screeched with everything he had. The Phoenix met his cry with one of her own. The melancholy song of the Phoenix and the griffin entwined as it blew through the city. Residents shuffled from foot to foot, uncomfortably feeling the mourning song of the Gryphon bounce off their bodies. The longer he kept up the song, the weaker he became and the louder the Phoenix sang. His already twisted back was frozen, his tail whipped empty air, and his muscles uncontrollably twitched. The python’s tail receded, taking his lion’s fur and eagle’s feathers with it. He shivered then jerked wildly, his limbs realigning themselves. Archel silently screamed, then dropped to the ground. The Phoenix dove into the unconscious boy’s chest.
     The Celatrix gently applied pressure to her staff. A moment later, a whistling filled the sky, drawing everyone’s attention upward. Thirty seconds later, the source of the whistle exploded above the Templus de Ambros and white fire fell as if a blown dandelion. The explosives boomed, flying into the air and lighting up the night. During the fireworks display, two attendants monitored Archel. One covered the boy king with a cotton cloak, carefully ensuring that the royal blue and white cord remained around Archel’s neck. The other knelt next to Archel holding a goblet full of water and a loaf of bread.

     Three of the nine Justices of the Antigone Courts of Poterit Don, stood on the 2nd floor Templus balcony. They stared down into the Gryphon Gardens where a rainbow bridge of ministers marked the line from the funeral home to the Phoenix Rose and where they had a perfect view of the fireworks.
     “He’s dead.” Crimson Bohner whispered to Travis Scott. 
     “An heir,” Crimson and Travis said in unison.
     “We’re being toyed with,” he spit.
     “When do you think it happened?” Seeley Songtree wondered.
     “Doesn’t matter. They should have told us,” Travis said bitterly.
     “Do you doubt it?” Seeley asked.
     Travis looked at her, his lips and his eyes tightened, “I don’t know.”
     “Of course not,” Crimson answered, “I trust the Celatrix.” She glared at Travis, “you ‘don’t know’?”
     “I haven’t seen it,” Travis shrugged.
     Seeley and Crimson stared at him from their peripherals, then briefly met each other’s eyes. Believing that to be a moment of understanding, Seeley said, “can’t you have faith?”
     He spun toward her, his face bunched, “excuse me?”
     “You heard me. Faith,” Seeley said.
     “I’ve got faith in plenty of things. For other things, I require proof,” he said finally.
     “And this is one of those ‘proof’ times?” Crimson asked, holding her hands in the air and repeatedly drawing down both her index and middle fingers.
     He smiled at her, nodded, and then said, “I’m a Justice. I require the same genetic tests to be run on this so-called heir as I would for any paternity case that hit our docket. Requirements of proof are thus to protect all parties.”
     “Wow,” Crimson mumbled.
     “What?” Travis asked. “Think about it. Of all the estates in the realm, the Kaiser’s is the only one capable of throwing the regions into complete disorder. So, what’s good for the parts must be good for the whole.” He chuckled, “besides, after the day we’ve had? Someone ought to explain.”
      “I completely agree,” Crimson Bohner sighed.
     Watching the fireworks in silence, the three justices leaned against the rail of the second floor balcony, where they had one of the best views in all of Poterit Don.

     When the chanting started, the few Mercury’s Elite Guardsmen that were still inside HQ, trickled into the smoking pit on the roof, where other nearby government buildings partially blocked their view of the display.
     “What the hell is going on?” Kent growled.
     “Shhh,” Balin whispered to Kent.
     “You have to call me ‘sir,’ but you can shush me whenever you feel like it?”
     “Shhh,” Balin repeated. Then he pointed above the Templus, “watch.”
     Looking up was surprisingly painful, Kent’s head throbbed with the effort. No sooner did he get his good eye focused, then his head spun and his ears plugged. He lowered his gaze and waited for the spell to pass.
     “You’re not watching,” Balin said, his face pointed in the general direction of the fireworks.
     “I don’t feel so go—” Kent hit the roof with a shockingly loud thump.
     Balin grimaced, bent down and felt Kent’s neck for a pulse. Satisfied that the unconscious Bard was still alive, Balin picked Kent up and carried him off the roof, down the stairs and into the station’s Break Room. Placing Kent on one of the racks, Balin took out a chair and sat down with his back to Kent and his face to the door.

     The Phoenix flew out of Archel, his human body twitching helplessly as she began circling the rose bush, singing a haunting melody. The two attendants knelt by him still holding the bread and water. When he pried his eyes open and saw their offerings, he thoughtlessly grabbed for the water, chugging until his belly protruded and his throat protested. He sputtered and coughed up the water. After a moment, he pulled the cotton cloak tighter around his body, laid his head down, and closed his eyes. I can’t be, he thought. His mind played back their conversation, the mini download, and her promise that she’d tell him the rest some day. It took him the better part of a minute to get his courage up. He slowly stood up, facing the Phoenix Rose and Celatrix Verna, he said, “I am Kaiser Archeleus Imler, true heir to the Last Gryphon King, rightful Lord of the Unified Poterits, Mercury's Chosen One, Caretaker of Poterit Don.” He sagged under the expenditure of energy it took to release the words the Phoenix had just taught him.
     Dropping to her knees, Celatrix Verna called out, “pareo.”
     The dual line of silent chanters fell to their knees, repeating, “pareo.”

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