”Brother Angelus. ”
The priest stopped mid letter. He wished to finish it – beginning again in the middle of a calligraphic letter was damn near impossible if one wanted to maintain the otherwise required integrity of the letter – but he knew if he did, the other man would see it as rude, and one was not to be rude to a brother of the clothe. He exhaled quietly, inconspicuously as he had learned to do out of self-preservation, and placed his quill in the inkwell, lifting his gaze from the parchment.
It was Caius, a softspoken man who had the custodial duty of this particular portion of the church. Many times, he and Caius would regale each other with silent company as they went on with their holy business, late into the evening. Angelus was suddenly glad he fought the urge to abandon church etiquette.
”Brother Caius, ” he greeted in a temperate manner, his tone lifting at the end indicating his inquiring nature.
”Praefectus Diego has asked for your presence. ”
Angelus furrowed his brow. ”Is that so? ”
”He rests in the Rowa Courtyard, ” Caius informed. ”Awaiting you. ”
Angelus rose from the wooden bench, only now realizing his body had grown numb for the hours of sitting upon the hard surface, pored over a particularly boring scripture.
”Thank you, Brother Caius, ” he said as he brushed the wrinkles out of his robes. ”For the time you have taken to deliver this message. ”
The priest offered a small bow in response, stepping aside to let Angelus through.
”May Sanctus Pater be ever with you, Brother Angelus. ”
”And ever with you, Brother Caius, ” Angelus repeated back, giving back the obligatory bow, before making his way up the narrow aisle between a collection of bookshelves and desks, and pushing the plain wooden door of the Domum of Scribes open.
The stiffness of the interactions within the Sanctorum was something Angelus found stifling at first, but eventually, he recognized it as something of a benefit. If ever he was at a loss whilst taking with another member of the clothe, all he had to do was think of the stuffiest response possible. The stuffier, the better, really.
It was nothing like his grandfathers palace, where he had to memorize each official, each member of nobility or of council, and then, on top of that, the proper way they were to be addressed. Even within the line of succession for the throne – or, at least, during those times, since he was no longer deemed viable due to his place within the clergy – there could be consequences for any offense dealt, be it intentional or not. Such a custom seemed to defeat the purpose of the title emperor altogether, but Angelus supposed that kind of thinking was what often put him in hot water when he was still at the palace. You have too much Krov in you, his grandfather would murmur in disgust.
Perhaps it was true, he figured as he pulled at his collar. It was stifling out, and the heavy robes he was required to wear at all times when in the presence of any other pair of eyes didn help in any way. And while it was true that he had grown used to warm southern weather, he did not favor it at all. In his heart and mind, he knew how much he preferred the cold, bitter climate of the winter lands – but that was to be kept in his heart and mind. In the same way as his grandfather, if the Elders of the Sanctorum found out that he harbored such a treasonous desire, he would be lashed for favoring a heathen land.
Nearing the southern veranda, Angelus squinted his eyes against the high noon sun. The Rowa Courtyard, dissimilar to most of Casterias capitol, was covered with innumerous shades of green provided by hundreds of plan species- all medicinal in one way or another, or so Praefectus Diego said. It was the Fathers favorite haven within the church, and Angelus secretly believed it was because built on a foundation of deception, because he knew for a fact that the crimson lantana that flowered beautifully was a painful poison when ingested.
Upon entrance into the cloth of Pater Deus, Brother Angelus had been apprenticed to Praefectus Diego, the Prima physician of the Sanctorum. For five years, Angelus was trained in the art of medicines, but the moment the Elders caught on to his immaculate knowledge of calligraphy, he was immediately sent to the Domum of Scribes to transliterate the words of Pater Deus.
It was considered an honor to be chosen as a Sanctorum scribe, to compose into words the teachings of god. All priests, of course, could read, and most had basic writing skills, but few had the deftness required to be trusted with ink and parchment – the ink stores were limited throughout the year and parchment was of the highest quality, raising the price by thirty gold Specie more for a mere ten sheets.
In truth, Angelus preferred the challenge of medicine to mind numbing tedium of ink and parchment, but no one was to argue with the Elders. They were the vessels of Deus and to question them was to question god himself. And, obviously, that was not tolerated.
Stepping off of the stone pathway circumventing Rowa Courtyard, Angelus followed a winding path of soft moss deeper and deeper within the manmade jungle until he caught sight of his master. He sat on the edge of a marble fountain, beneath the shade of a linen canopy. In his hands was a small book, bound not by leather but by thin wooden boards, covered in cotton dyed a pale shade of rose. The priest couldn help but smirk. He was a bold man to be carrying about a romance novel so blatantly.
Angelus presence was noted immediately by Diego, who looked up and smiled.
”Brother Angelus, I pray the holy essence has brought you good fortune on this fine day? ”
”The holy essence is a good fortune in itself, Praefectus, ” Angelus answered without thought, approaching the thin, greying man. ”Brother Caius said that you wished to see me? ”
”Mm. ” The old man patted a space beside him on the lip of the fountain.
He needed no further persuading, as the shade of the canopy was something he desperately sought. And, more so, the bubbling water behind him emitted a cool breeze that would otherwise be nonexistent on the southern day.
”Upon your entrance to the church ” the Praefectus began, closing his book and placing it on the other side of his lap, before lacing his fingers together thoughtfully. ”You forfeited your past ways. ”
Angelus frowned. He never knew what to expect when Diego called upon him, but he knew what he shouldn expect. Family was one of those things, or so he thought. His throat tightened uncomfortably.
”Upon gaining priesthood in Sanctorum, ” Diego continued. ”You forfeited past affiliations so as to gain the ultimate relationship through our maker and our salvation, Sanctus Pater. ”
Angelus looked away from the man, fully aware that he had no control over his contorted expression at the moment. It unnerved him that the Praefectus was speaking in such encoded reminders. What was more, it unnerved him that this entire speech sounded like a presage of something with frightening magnitude. He wanted nothing more than to prompt his master to cut straight through to the point – he was not a child, after all – but it would be rude. It was clear the man was attempting to make something of a cushion for the eventual blow. Still, he couldn help but rock his left knee anxiously.
”That, in theory, Brother Angelus, includes sacrificing affiliation with your blood family. ”
The man stiffened, his pulse now thundering in his ear.
”I, however, tend to believe that the family we are born into on this earthly realm is but an extension of our maker. That He has gifted us innate relationships with others to provide us comfort and sanctuary through trying times. The sacrifice that one must give when accepting the cloth is not meant to be equivocal to sacrificing of the family affiliation that Pater Deus has so graciously gifted us. For, that would not only be a self-sacrifice, but also a sacrifice on behalf of every member of your blood, and what right does a lowly priest of Deus have to force such sacrifice upon another? Do you understand what I am saying, child? ”
”I… Yes, I believe so, Praefectus Diego, ” Angelus nodded, though its purpose was still unclear.
”Therefore, it can be surmised that this particular sacrifice of earthly affiliation is not meant to cloister you away from your family, as such would be a sacrifice of theirs. The sacrifice is meant to show Deus that you are willing to offer all that is dear to you for a chance that you may gain a transcendent relationship with Him. ”
Angelus let his eyes glide to the moss beneath his sandals, the movement of his knee getting jerkier with each passing second.
”That means that if your family is in need of you – for any reason, child, large or minute – it is your duty to bring them solace. ”
Angelus straightened and turned to his master. There it was. Something was wrong, as he gut-instinct had suspected.
”Just as they are your comfort and protection, Angelus, you are, by Pater Deus design, theirs as well. ”
”Has something happened to my brothers, Praefectus? ” Angelus demanded as hastily as humanly possible without betraying the neutrality in his voice. Or so he hoped, at least. His only saving grace was that Praefectus Diego did not punish him for his inevitable human nature.
”Not to your brothers, child, ” the frail man supplementing quickly to quell his growing apprehension. He seized Angelus gaze, too dark to be considered Casterian, with his own in a grave manner. ”But to your father, Angelus, he has passed on. ”
His pulse skipped a beat, a cold wave lapping through his body.
”My… is Nikolai okay? ”
Praefectus Diego placed a comforting hand on the priests shoulder. ”The vicar of the royal family sent a letter informing us that King Bozhidar died in his sleep. He was burned on a public pyre. Prince Nikolai – now king – led his service. ”
”Oh, thank god, ” Angelus exhaled, feeling stupid regardless. If the plague – an act of god – did not have the power fell his little brother, what was there to possibly worry about?
”Mm, ” Praefectus Diego hummed and nodded. ”Thank Deus, indeed. Devote this day He has given to you and acknowledge his magnanimity. Go to Locus Reflexionis and pray. Voice your gratitude, child. ”
”Yes, Praefectus Diego. ” Angelus replied, his thoughts still whirling uncontrollably. ”Yes, I will do so immediately. ”
”And when you have conveyed all of the thanks you possess, child,
” his master continued on.
”Make your way to the dining hall and tell them that I have approved for you an additional serving. You
e going to need your strength. ”
”Strength, Praefectus? ” Angelus enquired, furrowing his brow.
”We have fallaciously convinced ourselves that the eye of the storm was, in fact, an everlasting era of peace. But as you know, Angelus, when you are in the eye of the storm, you will inevitably have to enter it again if you wish to escape. We have much to discuss about this, and about your future. But, until then, ” the Praefectus concluded, placing two fingers on Angeluss forehead. ”May Sanctus Pater look down upon you with mercy. ”
”And let him turn no blind eyes to you, Praefectus. ” The blessing sounded far away, even though Angelus felt his lips moving.
When Diego withdrew his fingers, Angelus stood and took the two respective steps away from him before bowing in preparation for his exit.
”One more thing, Brother Angelus, ” his master added as he rose once again to look upon the old man. ”Tell no one of your fathers passing. ”
”Yes, Praefectus. ”
He didn know what else to say. He couldn press the matter, not now, since Diego promised to speak with him later on, but how cruel it seemed for the master to continue to poke at his already festering confusion.
”And while you pray, child, ask Pater Deus for holy protection. ”
The words gave pause to the young man, but, eventually, he was able to muster an appropriate – albeit repetitive- response.
”Yes, Praefectus. ”
Satisfied, his master gave a nod.
”Now, be on your way. ”
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