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The Might of Heaven

Marcus

By Tomos JacksonPublished 3 months ago 18 min read
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Marcus explains his dilemma and the chaplain, though he admits no knowledge of command, says that the core of the issue resides in Marcus's fear and self centered concerns. Know his duty, think of others and their duty, and this will give him the clarity to see what he should do.

Maybe instead the chaplain realizes this but doesn't say, instead advising Marcus on how to ask for help without admitting fear, allowing him to save face and improve both in the eyes of others and in terms of knowledge.

This gives Marcus to have something to think on

Marcus exited the Praetorium mind still in a whirl, barely feeling the heat of the Atlani summer sun in the blue skies overhead. His eyes saw the paved streets and squat square buildings of the military sector of the Castra Custodia around him. Outwardly he maintained a calm demeanor, much practice on the parade ground as well his father's political background had, together, long schooled into Marcus the ability to hide his internal feelings from the outside world. But inside, a storm of thoughts raged in his mind like a thunder in his ears, blurring his vision with imagined scenarios conjured in his minds eye and his mouth felt as dry as the Southern deserts.

Once clear of the courtyard in front of the praetorium and the guards to its large entrance had closed the doors behind him, he blinked away the visions and shook his head to clear his mind.

"Command!"

That thought shot like a bolt of lightening through his mind reigniting his inner storm, but he straightened, took a deep breath and forcibly cleared his mind. Starting down the Via Principalis of the original fortifications around which the rest of the city had been built, Marcus headed towards the officers barracks, one set aside from the various legionary barracks that now served more as apartment blocks in this hybrid military and civilian urban area.

He tried to drink in as much of his surroundings as he could, attempting to drown his own inner mind. Mercatores arranging their wares, various colourful tunics, sandals or luxury goods for the more wealthy or extravagant customers The ringing of hammer on anvil from the Fabricae, or the sound of saws and hammers building, repairing or maintaining various areas of the town from the Ingeniarius and the acrid stench as the Coriarius worked leather nearby.

"Its not such a bad first assignment. The camp prefect would be there to see to the daily running of the Castra. Most of the work will be done by him after all."

Marcus shook the thought. Perhaps he should talk to Aemillius? After all, his experience would be invaluable to a new officer. Or would it lower Marcus in the estimation of the grizzled prefect? He couldn't be sure. The last thing he needed was for such a respected man to be given reason to doubt him.

What about the other tribunes? No, that would be much worse. To be left behind before a battle was going to be hard enough to bare in front of them, but to be seen to be so unsure of himself when givens a much easier, or at least safer task, would only lower him in their estimation.

Marcus felt trapped, pressure building in his mind as different ideas and fears crashed around inside his head and he was forced to navigate the storm alone and without instruction.

He needed to speak to someone who knew him well, who might listen to him and help him without being in a position where that person would feel it their duty to act on perceived judgements of Marcus's character...

Marcus immediately veered off back towards the center of the city from which he had been walking, past the various vendors and markets which he had previously sought to distract himself with, towards the tall spires striking up towards the sky, towering large over the rest of the city. Most Atlani buildings were squat and square, combining columns introduced by the Dryad's while they occupied the land with the newer invention of arches that the Atlani had themselves introduced. These combined with murials and paintings across them could allow for colour and pristine appearance to combine in an orderly and picturesque walk through the streets. The Cathedrals that had sprung up again after the restoration of mankind's authority in the area however, marked its idealism, reaching ever upwards to lofty ambitions, the width of each cathedral served only as a means of enabling greater height with great towers and spiked spires piercing ever upwards seeing to direct ones mind and ambitions upwards, away from the mundane of what concerned those who walked the earth below.

As he neared the mounting steps that led to the cathedral, Marcus could not help but stop to take in the majesty of the structure up close. The broad wooden doors carved with various symbols of the Salvatori, such as the winged Eagle of Custodia guiding humanity to the West away from the Nerthol, or mighty Toutheos obliterating the undead hordes of the necromancer Ildawr back in the Age after the guardians and Nerthol alike had been banished from the face of this earth and Custodia had gifted her being to mankind as its protector within their souls. Mighty marble statues of men with tall blades and shields were besides the doors, and more were carved into the white stone of the towers and along the walls arrayed as depictions of protectors of this sacred building to ward off spirits of the damned or those lost to the use of magic, or even of the Nerthol themselves. The windows, larger than in normal Atlani structures were of coloured glass depicting yet more holy imagery. Truly it was a fortress of holiness, a steadfast defense against the spiritual enemies that ringed the Atlani as tightly as their more mundane opponents.

Marcus took in a deep breath and felt his shoulders straighten and eyes lift with a sense of pride. It was a privilege indeed to be of so mighty a people with so strong a faith that could raise such a structure to the glory of the Creator and his servants. A monument to their craft and ambition in matters material, mental and spiritual to have such great structures as mark out for all to see the soul of Atlas, just as the the strength of the Legion marked the power of its arm and the Senate back in Atlas stood as a symbol of the mind of a Republic that ruled its people with beneficence and moral righteousness to the envy of all who sought to bring her down. That Marcus, as a tribune in the Legion was a part of this mighty endeavor of mankind was a constant source of strength.

Filled now with this new sense of confidence and purpose Marcus mounted the steps and pushed open the doors to the grand interior.

Marcus immediately felt the temperature drop from the inside, cooling significantly from the hot Atlani summer heat to a comfortable level, the shade of the tall limestone walls that gave its white appearance, prevented the heat's entry, while columns rose from the ground blossoming into arches which supported upper corridors that ran the length of the nave on either, the nave itself being filled with intricately carved wooden benches, then onwards up to the front of the building where the choirs would gather. Here the congregants would go up for the latter part of service into the semi circular area to gather around the main Altar in the center where songs would be sung and the priest would reenact the Distribution of Custodia that made her followers into full Munitus, or Mankind. The main altar itself was a 5 meter tall tower atop of which the figure of a golden eagle rested, wings spread afar, the tips of the feathers made of glass so that when the sun shone through the giant glass window behind the altar the light would hit the altar and seem as though light shone from the eagles wings.

Marcus felt the awe and majesty of the place lift his mind to heaven, for a moment his earthly concerns seemed far away in comparison. He paused to bow his head and offer a prayer, and when he finished and looked up again he saw a robed figure approach him in ecclesiastical garb.

Marcus bowed his head slightly towards the priest in greeting as he approached.

"Father. I have come to see if father Antonius Serenus could spare a moment for me?"

"I'm sorry tribune, but he is in the middle of his daily meditations. Could you come back later when he has finished?"

Marcus gritted his teeth, impatiently, "My request is somewhat urgent, could you ask him to spare me a few minutes of his time?"

The priest gave the tribune a weary look and looked him up and down. Clearly Marcus was not the first person to think of their condition as urgent. Finally relenting the priest sighed.

"Very well," said, "wait here and I will see if he can spare you some of his time."

"My thanks father."

The priest gave Marcus a somewhat doubtful nod to the tribune as though he didn't really believe this would be worth Serenus's time. However, this was a military city and Marcus held military rank with a battle looming. The priest could hardly risk that it wasn't a matter of serious import no matter how unlikely he thought it would be.

While the priest left him in search of Serenus, Marcus allowed himself to wander the grand structure and admire it. It was not the first time that he had been here, but nonetheless he found it inspiring each time, and combining that with the act of walking, helped Marcus to calm his troubled mind for the time being.

Antionius Serenus

Not long after leaving him, the priest returned, behind him came Serenus, dark hair greying as he aged from his middle years to the later, the feint sign of lines across his face beginning to show, but aside from that, still strong and young by comparison to others of the cloth that Marcus had known.

Marcus turned to fully greet the man and bowed once again. "Forgive me father, I would not normally be here at such a time, but I greatly wished to speak with you."

"Oh don't trouble yourself my boy," Serenus said with a warm smile creasing his lips, "in fact I welcome the change to my far to oft unbroken routine." Turning to the priest that brought him he said, "Thank you father Servillius, I believe I can handle this from here, see to it that the preparations for tonight's Datio Vitae are on time. I rather dislike leaving my congregants waiting beyond the allotted time. Its hard enough to teach a flock of soldiers and merchants without them wondering if they will be late for their dinner." He finished this with a chuckle and a wink in Marcus's direction, to which he responded with a knowing half grin.

Servillius bowed to Serenus, "Of course father." and with that he left Serenus and Marcus alone.

"Now my boy what is it that you wish to speak to me of?"

At this question Marcus hesitated. His mind filled with doubts, "What was he doing here? Serenus couldn't help him, he'd never been in the military before, what could he know about the responsibility Marcus had just been given? Serenus wouldn't be able to help him and his whole coming here would just seem stupid while getting him no further in dealing with the matter."

Clearly reading the young tribune like a book Serenus began, "I have been hearing rumors about the Legion heading out to deal with a Dryad incursion to the South. If you are concerned with the upcoming battle then I can assure you that such concerns are nothing to be ashamed of. With the number of men coming to me on the eve of their first battle, I'd be more like to feel shame had you no concerns at all!" Again he gave smiled at this which Marcus returned, though it was distinctly more shallow and distracted.

"Its not unrelated to what you have heard of, but not precisely what you have surmised either father."

"Oh?"

"You see..." again Marcus hesitated, but then pushed on, he'd said too much to back out now in any case, "Well that is I have not been chosen to go with the legion on its expedition, rather... Well rather I have been asked to stay here and take command of the castra."

"I see." Was all father Serenus offered.

"Its just that... Well I don't know if I can do it?"

"Yes I think I understand the dilemma my young soldier." Serenus said with a knowing nod.

"You do?"

Serenus gave Marcus a reproachful look, "Of course I do. Don't think that responsibility is only in the lives of the soldiery boy. This is a matter that arises in everybodies daily lives. In fact I suspect that you may have already delt with it, though not in this form or to this extent I grant you, at some earlier points in your life already."

Marcus blinked as the truth of what the priest had said to him hit.

Serenus leant forward, elbows resting on his knees as his hands articulated alongside his words when he spoke, "Let me show you. This is how you have been feeling since you were given this responsibility. It was handed to you somewhat unexpectedly, by a man commanding sufficient respect and or authority so as to prevent you launching into a protest."

Marcus nodded to this, still a little doubtful as, so far, given Marcus's tribune status and his military background this was all obvious to the most dim listener.

Serenus continued "Given the enormity of the responsibility, your mind quickly begins to fill with every conceivable possibility of what could go wrong, those failings then would cascade into contempt by all those around you from the highest authority aware of you, to the lowest soldier you have been given command over, until you are cowed and shamed by them into some grand blunder which will see the end of your career and the shame of your family."

Marcus felt his throat drying somewhat as Serenus laid it all out for him in the manner, the doubts and fears rising and becoming vivid in his minds eye once more, but he pushed it down and managed a "yes" in response to Serenus's questioning pause in the narration.

"Cowed by these fears you are also afraid that running straight to the nearest of your peers or others from whom you might expect support since going straight to them for help while appearing clueless will, you believe, earn you their contempt and only bring the afore mentioned issues to a head sooner than if you said nothing and kept your head down. However, saying nothing will certainly mean a catastrophe of one sort or another that have no doubt had played vividly in your imagination several times already and so you are trapped in an inevitable cycle of doom."

Marcus was beginning to wish he hadn't come, so far he'd had his fear laid out for him by the first person he spoke to on the matter with barely saying a word of his own. If his fears were so transparent then this inevitable doom would only seem to be coming sooner than he had previously feared.

"Uhhm... Right father," Marcus cleared his throat a little, "But what should I do about it?"

Serenus gave him a mischevious smile, "Fortunately for you my boy the solution is easy to know, though how easy to follow through will depend on you. However, this is for the best, since success, or even valiant failure will only serve to increase your own confidence."

"And that solution is?" Marcus asked, his interest and hope lit once again.

"Well quite simple once the mind is cleared. To deal with such fears and to calm the mind I like to try asking myself two questions with the understanding that fear can only be generated internally, and is not an outside force pressed against us." Serenus had been growing almost eager in his analysis of the problem, his eyes had a glint as he gave the problem his full attention seeming to enjoy the process of delving into the problem.

With the intensity in his voice starting to even push back Marcus's own fears with the thrill of investigation Serenus continued, "Baring this fact in mind the two questions we must ask are thus:" Serenus began counting them off with his fingers, lifting the first one before saying "One. Being that this fear must come from ourselves then what is its cause, what are the flaws within ourselves that this fear feeds from." the second finger came up, "Two. Once identified we must mentally isolate that fear in our minds from our thinking by asking ourselves 'Had there been no consequences to concern, or should those flaws have no hold over us, what course of action would I take to fulfil this responsibility."

"But," Marcus replied, still doubtful, "isn't one aspect of fear that it overrides the kind of analytical thinking that your method requires?"

"Well I would call what you describe more panic than fear," Serenus explained sitting up straighter and smoothing out his ecclesiastical garb, "and if we are in such a state so as to be unable to recollect and regroup our thoughts, then it would mean that there was nothing we can do anyway, we have lost control. That is where courage comes in, to shore up our mind to panic to allow us time to defend ourselves from it and find a solution."

"I see." Marcus replied thoughtfully. He looked back to the priest, "And... " He hesitated, not feeling entirely comfortable but determined to press onwards, "what do you think my flaw is that causes me to feel this way?"

"Well now my boy," Serenus said with another half amused grin, "that would hardly be for me to say. Your mind and soul are yours to care for, I might be able to guess, but I think that it would be better for you to overcome this one yourself." Serenus stood up and Marcus followed suit, "Still tribune, I think that in your particular case, the fact that you are already seeking to deal with the fear itself, rather than the possible futures you are fearing show that you are on the right track." A grim expression came across Serenus's face, "Never do demons have us more caged in our minds than when we seek to solve that which has not yet come to pass, rather than that which is right here before us."

"But isn't it prudent to prepare for future eventualities? We do so all the time, and it helps immensely to have preparations in place for those eventualities should they come to pass." Marcus replied, still not quite satisfied with the answers he was getting, and he wasn't ready for Serenus to leave with such unspecific advise.

"To a certain degree you are correct, but I would advise that you differentiate between those eventualities which are probable and those which are merely possible. This is where facts are useful, and it is often the point at which experience and education take the helm."

Serenus looked back from where he had come and gave Marcus an apologetic look, "Now you must excuse me tribune, loath though I am to return to dull routine, I must do so or else I will be playing catch up with the rest of the day."

Marcus was still looking for more, but seeing that he couldn't very well keep the priest from his duties, he simply nodded graciously, "Of course father. Thank you for your help, and I'll be sure to reflect on it. With luck we may have time in the future for similar discussions on such matters?"

"Yes." Serenus said with another warm smile, "Yes. I think I'd like that."

With that the priest took his leave, and Marcus sat back down among the pews in the nave of the great cathedral, letting his gaze rest on the altar for a while, allowing his mind to still for a moment.

Then he stood up and made his way to the door. If he was indeed at the stage of experience and education in order to find a solution as Serenus had said, then he could not rely to heavily on experience of his own, so education would be his first stop, the city did have a library which he could access so perhaps campaigns, sieges, of the past, as well as the military doctrines still used to this day could give him a grounding. Once he had a basic knowledge enough to at least pass off that he was competent, then he could approach the camp prefect and the Count for more detailed advise. That way it would seem as though he had a plan and was simply looking for ways to modify it, rather than appearing as though he was completely clueless and begging for help. I was probably set to be a long night ahead.

Marcus sighed at the thought, but was nonetheless much happier to have a plan of action in mind. With that he pushed open the large ornate doors of the cathedral and stepped out into the warm streets of Castra Custodia.

SeriesPsychologicalFantasy
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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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