“Hold it right there,” the gate guard stepped forward, three men behind him to back him up. “You can see all the people waiting to go into the city, but no one is going in there right now.”
“I have papers. I am Father Flavius. Deacon Galarius and I are approved attendants of Bishop Veritas.”
“Let me see…” The man took the papers and stared at them for a time, only moving his lips a little as he turned the pages. Lockhart, Lincoln, and Alexis waited patiently, but Katie imagined it was safe to ask a question to the other guards.
“What is happening in the city?”
One guard answered with a question. “Are you Arian or anti-Arian?”
“You mean, Orthodox?” Alexis butted in.
Another guard spoke. “The Arians are demonstrating for their belief.”
“More like a riot,” the chief guard interrupted and handed back the papers. “Your papers are in order. I can’t let your friends in right now, and I don’t have the men to send that can escort you safely to the bishop. You will have to wait until things quiet down. Gods know when that may be.”
Lockhart, Katie, Lincoln, and Alexis went back to explain things to the others. The travelers might have been allowed in under normal circumstances, since they declared their intention to visit and move on, but the Monks of Barke were not allowed. Every bishop could bring only two priests, three deacons, and a body servant, which already put the attendance at the council over two thousand. If every man, woman, and child who wanted to come entered the city, the city would be overwhelmed. There would be nowhere to house them and no way to feed them all.
“Understood,” Decker said. “Maybe we need to bypass the city and head straight to the next time gate.”
“No way,” Boston shouted. “I’m not going without my hug.” Sukki agreed with her sister, so Elder Stow kindly offered a suggestion.
“Perhaps if Father Flavius or Deacon Galarius know where he is located in the city, I may fly with one of them on my back to give directions and find him. Then we may be able to work out some way to make it safely back to the gate.”
“No, wait,” Boston said. “Let me try something first. I have never tried this before, so I don’t know if it will work, but give me a chance first.” Without explaining, she stepped off the road to where she could sit and have some quiet. Everyone else looked at Alexis, the former elf, to explain.
“All of nature, and the spirits of nature are connected, in a way. She can try to reach her god, or her guiding light in this world, as we should call the Kairos these days, and she may be able to message him. Hopefully, she will get a message back as to what we can do.”
People sat down to wait.
Bishop Veritas heard a knock on his door. He sat in a time of prayer and meditation since the streets quieted down for the moment. He did not want to lose the time of quiet. The knock came again, and he shouted. “Portos, please answer the door.”
A large Roman Sergeant came into the room and nodded. He sat behind his lord so he would not pose a distraction and removed his glamour of humanity. Underneath the disguise, he looked part imp, part elf, with maybe a bit of troll thrown in which accounted for his large size. It did not take long to make contact. He spoke when his bishop moved a little.
“It is a young red-headed elf maid. She says she and her friends, horses and all, are being kept out of the city because of the unrest. She wants to know how they can see you.”
The bishop sighed and stood. “Tell her we will come there,” he said and opened the wooden trunk he kept at the end of the bed, where he kept his old legionnaire insignia of rank in Constantine’s personal guard.
“It is quiet, but still not safe out there,” Portos said.
Bishop Veritas just nodded as he reached out to the second heavens and called the armor of the Kairos to clothe himself, and the weapons of the Kairos, which were needed all too often. “Gather a dozen of my friends from the legion camp, and we will make the march to the gate. Thus far, the Arians have known better than to interfere with army business. We should be safe enough in a large enough group.”
“Lord,” Portos saluted, the Roman way, replaced his glamour of humanity, and stepped out to fetch the required men.
“Be there shortly,” Veritas thought, before he shut down the communication with Boston. Talking long distance in that way tended to give him a headache.
The travelers waited for an hour. The sun headed toward the horizon by the time Bishop, that is, Centurion Veritas reached the gate. Before he did anything else, he called for the captain of the gate.
“Constantine is in Nicomedia. He will probably be here, probably this gate, late tomorrow afternoon with a thousand cavalry. I suggest you show your best face when he arrives.” He dismissed the captain and called for his bishop’s robe, which instantly replaced the armor he wore. Then he opened his arms to hug the red-headed elf that waited so patiently. Then he spoke to the travelers.
“You can’t come in. Just as well.”
Katie protested. “Tony and I were hoping to sit in on the council meeting.”
Veritas shook his head. “Bishops only, and besides, there is too much risk you might inadvertently say something. I have a hard-enough time keeping my own mouth closed. Listen, right now the Arians have taken to the streets. The emperor is away, and they have taken advantage of that, to demonstrate, not entirely peacefully. History says when some of the more radical ideas of Arius are read aloud in the council, even his ardent supporters, but two, have a change of heart. The truth is simpler, and has nothing to do with policy, or in this case, theology.”
“What is that?” Nanette asked, and Veritas smiled for her curiosity, and the fact that she asked before anyone else.
“The followers of Arius have behaved in a rude and disorderly way. Too many bishops won’t even consider the theological question. They will simply vote against rude behavior. How human of them.”
“I don’t get it,” Lockhart admitted.
“Consider your American presidents. Think about it. Most have been mediocre, like Roman emperors, I suppose. But a few have been rude and crude, and some have been fine, upstanding gentlemen. Generally, the rude ones have done great things for the nation and the people, but the people at the time have ended up hating them because they are rude. The gentlemen, on the other hand, have tended to do horrible things for the country and the people, but everyone likes them because they are nice. Go figure.”
“That is not always the case,” Alexis said.
“No. Not always. It is not one hundred percent. Some rude ones, like maybe Andy Jackson, almost bankrupted the country. Some gentlemen, like say, Calvin Coolidge, mostly just kept the government out of people’s business and everyday life. But for the most part, people don’t pay attention to what the president is doing, whether good or bad. They mostly just look at the person—the personality and vote accordingly. Stupid as that is, it is very human. The depth of policy is too much to think about. Basically, if they are polite, and seem to be a nice person, one who seems to care, that is all that matters. People vote for that, even if the person is a total tyrant who destroys the country and enslaves the people.” Veritas shrugged. “Watch out for the smooth-talkers.”
“What is Constantine?” Lincoln asked.
“A first rate general and mediocre emperor,” Veritas said, and went around hugging and shaking hands with all the travelers. “I’ll take Father Flavius and Deacon Galarius with me.” He called again to his armor, still decked out with the signs of his rank and position. “You take the Monks of Barke to keep the wraith at bay. We will go back to boring—super boring. You will need to go around the city and head to the next time gate. Any idea where it might be?”
“Somewhere before lake Tuz, or whatever it is called in this day,” Boston said, and admitted, “Lincoln and I figured it out while we were waiting for you.”
Veritas nodded. “A long walk, but probably less boring than I have to deal with. See you next time.” He turned, and walked off, without looking back.
A journey to Arabia where a princess of Aksum is ending one age and guarding the future. Until then, Happy Reading