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Let it be known that I, Motley Agaral, Brother of the Holy Sect of the Golden Rose of Adea, am loath to write any narrative for self-posterity. I come from humble circumstance of the river valley and am in no way special except I survive calamities well. On my birth, the River flooded into the merchant district three miles distance, riding over fields, roads, homes, and temples alike, save for my mother’s home, which it went around. This lucky chance afforded me the status of miraculous and I entered the Order under these pretenses for my mother was poor and I, the last of seven, was conveniently miraculous.
No, the purpose of this narrative is to relate some of the calamities I have bypassed and to convey to some future reader that once a very pious Order stood on the Hill of Batriarch overlooking Adea, the Imperial City. How the last, I am sure, Barque Emperor lived, his faults, and his death, with some account of the True Faith of the Empire, including how the Empire ended.
I am no great narrator. I learned my letters from copying the Literature down everyday since six years of age. I taught the Hexaliturgy however, and was solidly grounded in the Faith as any man of the Faith was. I will explain then, the doctrine as well as I am able so that you, post-calamitous reader, can understand details that would otherwise be as mysterious as the jungles of Cedonia or some other far off place.
First, the Deity rests high above like the sun only brighter and more pure. It is He who melted the firmament so that it could drip down and harden as the Earth.
Next, comes Athis and Aramis, two celestial spirits divided from the Deity as yellow light is from a prism.
Third are the Great Spirits. Airy and of many forms, they are split from Athis and Aramis as Athis and Aramis are split from the Deity. These three encompass the spirit realms.
In the Earthly realms exist the Saints. Each Saint is the physical personification of a Great Spirit sent either by Athis or Aramis to do their work on Earth. At the Saint’s command are many lesser spirits.
Then there are the clergy, then the common people.
The Hexaliturgy, the Six Great Books of Saint Laci explains all of this. Written by the Greatest Saint just before the foundation of the Empire, it is the basis of Imperial doctrine. Its truth is what allowed the Empire to stretch around the Central Sea from Ayeguay to Cedonia, though sadly in the days of my narrative, the Faith and the Empire had weakened. Years before my birth, a particularly faithless cousin of the then Emperor, set on the Itinian Peninsula, a rival empire and by heresy spirited away half the land. This eastern empire lasted until the cousin’s death then it split into an eastern and southern empire so that three emperors now vied for the whole Barque Empire. War was the result and I was born into a world at war as the peripheral territories fell into barbarism and sections of the Imperial map went dark. The three empires drained each other of money and men in a slow bleeding that went on for generations.
At the start of this narrative, the 1301st year of the Empire, I had reached my forty-second year, and while walking to my daily sermon, heard good news about a great boon to the Empire.
My habit was to walk the path from the dormitories along the garden courtyard so that I could feel the morning sun on my face to offset the cold stone of the basilica of the Golden Rose. Our patron was Saint Ulrenus and a statue of him decorated the garden in plain gray stone. Ulrenus, a staunch taskmaster, looked sternly down on me as I went by. In the past, it was said, Ulrenus spoke from the stone, but those days were faded memories.
That day was particular because Yonas, the Pardoner, a fellow whose vulgar love of jewelry was compensated for his extreme piety, stood at the statue in contemplation of a silver bracelet that he toyed with on his wrist. He was fair-skinned and blond with short hair and a curly gold beard.
“Brother Motley,” he said in greeting. He had a serious voice. The Priest of the Square Temple kept him for mostly foreign functions, to visit the island nations and see that they do not fall to the heresy of the east.
“Pardoner Yonas,” I said, careful not to notice his heathen silver trinket. I met his eyes, silver to his brown. “A message for Priest Mab this early?”
“Yes, yes,” he said. “But you can hear it too. Our Emperor has destroyed the eastern army. The Square Temple wishes to have missionaries travel east to spread the Faith.”
“The Emperor defeated the army himself?” I asked skeptically.
“No. By the grace of the Saints, of course. The Emperor is just a boy. And a boy of thirteen-- well. No Empire should be without its generals.”
“That is truth,” I said. “Now, my homilies must be sung to the congregation.”
“Morning work,” he said. “I preach at night because that’s when the Saints’ Light protects the most.”
I smiled and gave nod to this nonsensical platitude and continued down the path to the sanctuary. The Temple of the Sacred Rose was not as grand as some of the temples in the city, certainly not as grand as the Square Temple with its burnished stone and marble columns. Our temple was plain, the lintels along the aisles made of dark stone and the floor mosaic tiles without any pattern, just blues dark and light. The circular chancel was so designed as to let light onto a single stone altar, everywhere else was in gloom. The effect of the design was that a priest or a monk entering from the garden would suddenly step out into the light without the congregation having any intimation of the minister until he arrived; a pseudo-magical effect designed to create an air of mystery. I myself would have been more inclined to make the design more honest, but I cannot deny the impact it had on the parishioner nor its usefulness on the mood, although I did wish I could have seen the crowd while in the light as the contrast was too much for the human eye to see into the shadows while at the alter. I preferred countryside sermons where I could see all the audience and could tailor the sermon to their reactions.
The audience was visible before I stepped into the light, however, and I looked at the people who had come up the hill for the service. Peasants with long woven hair and sun-darkened faces. Men and women both, but no children because the Sisters in the nunnery at the bottom of the hill were in charge of the youths while their parents were at service.
Many of my audience were known to me. The more important were closer, Erodes the Tax Collector stood near the front, his white hair braided to his nap. Next to him was Rochelle a minister for the Emperor, plainly dressed in a simple robe. Beyond were merchants and apothecaries and physicians, then the millers, bakers, and fisherman. Long it had been said that the blood of Adea were the fish of the bay and while all are sacred before the Saints, out of all animals only the fish has its own patron. The blessèd Saint Tullius kept fisherman as his own and, I do not doubt, saved many of the bravest from shipwreck and drowning.
I greeted each man and woman in the front as custom dictates, then retreating the copy of the Hexaliturgy from inside an alcove of the altar, began to speak. I did not yet open the book, but instead quoted a memorized story. As of now, I cannot recall what story I told on that particular day, but it would have been in the nature of serving a lesson.
These stories always started the service after which the Hexaliturgy would be read and discussed. Then a selection of the acts of Saints would be recited and the like. The service would then end with a prayer to the Saints and a query session where the congregation asked questions relating to spiritual matters seeking what Saint they should pray to. They were usually simple things; how to gain money or love, but a few were more serious. Rochele had lost his sister to whom he’d been close. He wanted to make sure the Saints guided her to the Great Spirits. I told him to pray to Saint Clomous because it was he who had seen into the light and who had spoken with the Spirits while he was alive.
I bid them all farewell after the questioning and turning saw the Priest of the Order arriving through the garden door followed by Yonas. Priest Mab had gained fame young as a soldier of the Empire. Turning in his middle years to the Faith, he had quickly been promoted to Priest of the Golden Rose. An old man, bent, with kind eyes and a pleasant tone, he rarely said service, but when he did there was a spark of the Divinity there few could capture.
“Brother Motley,” he said.
“Father Mab,” I said, inclining my head.
“Yonas has come to collect missionaries for the east. You and Brother Tigula speak the best.”
“An honor,” I said, feeling the honor, but also dismay as I had never been out of sight of Adea before. I had gone far into the country, but never so far as to be unable to see the top banners of the city walls.
“Good,” Yonas said. “We shall meet at the city’s eastern gate come noon tomorrow. His Imperial Highness believes religion is the key to controlling the rebels. Or at least his council in authority do.”
“I understand,” I said.
“Brother Motley,” Mab said. “Be prudent and pray often. The roads east harbor bandits. Imperial control is waning on every route.”
“Three prayers a day,” I assured him. “One for the journey, one for myself, and one for the Golden Rose.”
“Saints protect you, Brother.”
I retired to the dormitories to plan out the tomorrow and to arrange the many goodbyes expected of travel.
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