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Chapter 1 - The Road to walk.

Flamen William Manilaus

By Tomos JacksonPublished about a year ago Updated 6 months ago 11 min read
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Fr. William Manilaus closed the door to the school's library. It was the last day of teaching for a batch of students. They had finished their education and were within days, weeks or months from reaching the age of manhood and were ready to move onward with their lives, and, being the raucous youths that they were they were likely to spend their last few hours loudly dancing and singing in the streets of Atlas.

Learning from long experience that such times were inevitable William had long since learned that a safe refuge was the library, usually filled with students, it was at the end of a year that it was abandoned and avoided like a plague by the finishing students. Heading down the steps into the room William wound his way through the bookshelves all stacked with immaculately crafted books of red and green and blue covers all intricately decorated with finely woven tapestries of art in lettering and imagery. The worth of this library was greater in all probability than most senators of Atlas could afford if they liquidated all their other assets. A vast treasure trove of knowledge that was priceless in its value to the minds of those who cared. The musty smell of books filled the air and William took a deep breath of the smell as he made his way over to his usual spot where he had stacked some very interesting books of his own that he had been savouring for when he had the time.

So it was as much to his annoyance as to his surprise to find that, when he'd wound his way through the maze of shelves to his favourite spot, the space was already occupied. The occupant that lay across the recliner beside a large stack of William's chosen volumes was a dark haired young man with a pale complexion and intense green eyes dressed in the light blue toga trimmed with white that were indicative of a student. In his hands was a dark blue volume that seemed to have his full attention, though William could not see the cover properly due to the angle at which it was being held.

"Marcus?" William said, startling the young man, from his reading to look up at his tutor.

"Magister Manilaus," he replied hurriedly rising from the recliner quickly and a little flustered to greet his tutor and confessor, "I'm sorry if I shouldn't be here... I thought... never mind, I'll leave you in peace magister." Marcus made to put down the book he had been reading and beat a hasty retreat.

"No no Marcus my boy, stay and continue reading." William responded moving over and gesturing for Marcus to sit once again, "Forgive me Marcus, but I was just surprised to see anyone down here. I would have expected you to be with your friends celebrating your final day here."

Marcus hesitated to sit until a further insistent gesture from William enticed him to do so, albeit somewhat reluctantly. "Now, let us see what it is that has you down here rather than up in the taverns and villa's with your friends." Picking up the volume that Marcus had put down William read, "The Siege and Relief of Vrakos." He raised an eyebrow, "One we have studied already. And one" he added pointedly peering over the cover of the book at his now former student, "that might have merited a little more study from you at the time." Marcus gave a shrug and half grin of apology. William sighed as he put the book down, "well I guess they do say that its never too late to learn, though I've never been entirely convinced by that myself."

Marcus gave a small tilt of his head as he replied, "With respect magister, I did fairly well in my study of the siege as I recall, near the top of all the other students." William stood to put the book back on top of his reading pile "Indeed, this is true, but I have been your magister for the last decade now Marcus and I'm convinced that you should have been able to do far better. Doing 'fairly well' is not a goal to be sought after. Its a consolation prize for the mediocre, and you my dear Marcus," he said pointing a finger at his student, who sat straight and eyes dutifully downwards, "are not mediocre. You can do better..." William stopped and chuckeled as he sat down once again. "Forgive me my boy, it is not my place anymore to chastise you for your performance. You've done admirably and your family should be proud of you." Marcus inclined his head, "Your advice is always welcome magister."

William snorted "Well we taught you how to behave that's for sure, though if that was to our credit or that of your mother I'm sure is up for debate." Marcus gave a half smile at this. "Anyway, if I may return to my initial inquiry, what has brought you down here on this, of all days?"

Marcus looked off to the side for a moment hesitating before he responded. "I think... I think..." He shook himself and turned his gaze to look up at his tutor, "Well I guess I'm struck by the idea that its over."

This surprised William, "Well, I get that you are no longer a student here, but the library is the property of the Church, and as a former student you are always welcome to come back if you wish." William looked at Marcus closely as the boy nodded slowly "Thank you magister. You are very kind."

"Alas, I cannot agree with you," William replied, his gaze still focused on Marcus in a way that he saw made the boy feel uncomfortable, "were this my choice I would lock this place up and never let another soul enter in. However, the charity, and authority, of the Church is greater than my own and so I must give way to their wishes. However, it was not fear of losing access to these books that has you worried is it my boy?"

Marcus remained silent, but his eyes returned to the floor.

"Speak Marcus, you can tell me what plagues your mind, do not fear, my authority to scold you has recently expired. Besides, if it is something shameful, then my position as your confessor forbids me to disclose anything sinful you wish to get off your chest. Perhaps I could even be of assistance?"

Marcus considered a while before his mouth opened and then closed, before opening again. William remained patient and simply waited for Marcus to begin. Finally Marcus spoke, "Its just... I... I don't really know what comes next."

"Ah", William responded a faint smile curling his lips. "Indeed. The days of ease and youth are behind you, the days when others would make these decisions for you. Now you are become a man, the question and responsibility rests on your shoulders. Well do I remember this in my own time."

"Then you have answers?" Marcus asked hopefully.

William barked a laugh "Answers! No boy I don't have answers. Suggestions perhaps, but answers, no. Nobody has answers to what you should do, only what they think you should do. Only you can find the answers to your question."

"But how am I supposed to know where to look?" Marcus inquired, the hope that had been in his voice a moment before replaced by exasperation.

"Well," William began, "as I said I have suggestions." Marcus leaned forward from his seat with interest at these words. William continued, "I would have thought that the options for you were fairly obvious. I imagine you will look to assist your father and enter into politics with him, learning how to manage not only your personal affairs, but the art of statecraft as well."

William looked up in time to catch a brief grimace from Marcus as he sat back in his chair again, all signs of interest evaporating, "But I see that this does not appeal to you."

Marcus shrugged apologetically, "Forgive me magister, you must think me terribly self centered to scorn such a privileged life being handed to me, a life thousands would be grateful to snatch up given half the chance."

William's eyes flicked to the book Marcus had been reading. The Siege of Vrakos had been a great moment in the history of the Atlani people, always pressed by enemies on all sides, when their allies on the Isle of Vrakos just off the South Western coast of the Pleiades peninsular over which the Atlan Republic presided, called for aid, only a single newly levied legion had been available to go to their assistance. A mighty fleet of Poenician ships carrying a grand army had set sail to take the island, taking advantage of the disastrous defeat the Atlani and Vraken navies had suffered near the city of Helionisi at the hands of the combined navies of the Poenicians and the Morean Empire. The legion was required to hold the island until the Atlani had been able to rebuild their ships and relieve their allies.

"But you wish to write your own history is that right?" William responded, his eyes flicking back from the book to Marcus.

Marcus nodded, "Yes magister. You see everything I accomplish feels hollow. If I remain taking from the silver platter on which I was born I will never truly know what I can do on my own. Do I truly merit the things I am given, or am I feeding off the merit won me by my ancestors great deeds before me? How do I add to the platter of good fortune that my family provides for me? If I do not how can I teach my children to themselves add to the pile of glory that my household enjoys? If I or they cannot then it is inevitable that the fount of our honour will run dry. I do not wish for this to begin with me."

William nodded thoughtfully, before finally responding, "What do you want to do?"

Marcus stood and looked down upon the Siege of Vrakos. "I wish to serve the Republic, and serve my family. I want my name to be remembered by future generations, not least of all any children that I sire, and their descendants also. I want to live a life that means something."

"You wish to join the Legion." William stated.

Marcus blinked at William.

"Oh come now boy, don't play games with me. I come to see you at a time of what should be great celebration, indulging in the study of a great military triumph, then you speak of making your own way, of honour and the family name. I see that in your heart you know what you want to do. You are just the sort of fool they are looking for in the Legion these days."

"So you think I should do it?" Marcus asked.

"I think no such thing boy. I merely state what you are thinking and that it matches the wishes of the recruitment officers. I could not in good conscience recommend the military life to one so young and with so much opportunity at home." William's gaze fell to the book on the table between them, "Believe me boy," he continued not taking his eyes from the volume, "these books do not tell you everything about war. Oft times they are written by those with no experience of it, or they would think twice before they place it in so gilded a frame in narrative as they so often do."

"Magister, forgive me, but you speak as though you have seen such things?" Marcus asked curious now.

For a moment longer William continued to stare at the volume of the Siege of Vrakos, memories dancing in the back of his mind like flames.

Then he blinked awakening from his momentary lapse before plastering a smile on his face and turning to Marcus, "Speak to your father first, but if you choose to join then I happen to know that Sertorius Marius is recruiting three new legions from his own purse. He's a good man and a great leader and you could learn much from him. Additionally, the newly raised legions will be unlikely to see too much deadly action until they are more experienced. That should give you a chance to grow with the men you are leading."

Marcus looked as though he was going to press with his question and William braced himself. But thankfully the boy simply nodded, "Thank you for speaking with me Magister, I will speak with my father directly."

"Not to worry my boy," William responded, trying not to sound relieved as he said it, "I wish you luck with your endeavors."

Marcus gave the priest a brief bow before hurrying out the door towards the bustling streets of Atlas.

William sighed as Marcus closed the door behind him, "The folly of youth. It never changes." The priest's eyes alit upon the figure of an eagle set on the wall overlooking the library. Rising from his chair he knelt before it. "Lord, safeguard the son's of your people. May their arrows fly true and their swords never waver, keep forever your watchful eye on them, guide their spirit to right conduct and shroud them in your protection so that no evil will strike them."

With that William rose and returned to his chair, picking up The Siege of Vrakos and settling back into his chair.

It was a good read after all...

SeriesFantasy
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About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

I love how inspiring stories and character can be. I try and replicate that in my own writing to not only give inspiration, but also to encourage the reader to consider important matters through a more enjoyable and digestible fantasy lens.

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