Mad Gods - Predatory Ethics: Book I, page 1
Book I: Mad Gods
Copyright 2011 Athanasios
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Table of Contents
- Prologue -
- Monaxia -
- Triumph of Xos -
- Dangerous Words -
- Zealots -
- Predatory Ethics -
- Dark Genesis -
- Faith: Father Figure -
- Routine -
- Separate Views -
- Perspective -
- Vantage -
- Fight, Fight -
- Paper Trail -
- Meet The New Boss -
- A New Dawn -
- Dark Revelation -
- Brought To Light -
- Promise of Life Rewarded -
- Life Rewarded -
- Allotted Existence -
- Hell in a Handbasket on Wheels -
- Collision -
- Epiphalogue -
- More Predatory Ethics -
Book I: Mad Gods - By Athanasios
- Prologue -
TIME: MAY 29TH, 1960, ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Father Antonio Quentin searched for the Truth.
He glimpsed it walk through the crowds of people milling about the Istanbul streets. It stopped periodically as if searching for something or someone. One second he would be walking in an aimless pattern and the next the Truth was focused and intent. If Father Quentin didn’t know any better he would think the Truth was a madman or possessed.
Father Quentin did know better.
He knew about madmen and as a Vatican Slayer he knew about the possessed. He’d been sent to Istanbul to find the man he now followed. The Vatican only knew him as the Truth, a magician, and sorcerer who commanded the dead. Once Quentin spotted him however, he knew he was something far worse than a mere black magician. Decades before, Aleister Crowley had turned the world on its ear with a claim of black magician, yet the Vatican Slayers left him alone because he was a harmless blowhard who succeeded only in killing himself with the abuse of narcotics and hallucinogens.
The Truth at that very moment had a real name and was part of a family known to be members of the Black Nobility. He was Kostadinos Paleologos, the twelfth man to wear that name. The eleventh was the last Byzantine emperor who lost Istanbul centuries before. According to Vatican records the Paleologos family had fallen on worse times following their loss of position and empire.
Written in ages old parchment held in the Vatican’s Secret Archives, were accounts of unholy pacts to reclaim their former power and glory. It was whispered in those condemned texts that in every generation a member of the Paleologos clan came back to Istanbul to offer up the wandering souls of the defenders of the city when it was Constantinople. That the name, the Truth referred to something they would never share with their former subjects. They lied and cajoled them into damnation for their own goals. This was indeed the Truth, and he was a far greater threat than Quentin could deal with.
The day before he had called ahead to his superiors and requested a more direct response to the Paleologos threat. They dispatched a strike team to enforce the elimination orders for any member of the Black Nobility. Father Quentin saw his replacement amongst the crowd, stalking the Truth and leading his team to corner him in a desolate and quiet alley. Father Quentin turned and decided to let Mr. Paleologos find the Church’s Truth.
- Monaxia -
TIME: MAY 29TH, 1960, ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Istanbul bled history, images of ages past littering its streets. Medieval sculptures and mosaics stood among electric streetlights and movie posters. Kosta walked its crowds seeing the past amidst modern hustle and bustle and felt monaxia - a longing for home and family. Everywhere, he saw faded glory, and turned Istanbul to Kostadinoupoli: Greeks to Byzantines.
He returned to the city every year on May 29th. It was a duty handed down through generations of this family with brown eyes, and brown hair. They were successors to Athens, Sparta, and Rome. Pericles, Leonidas, and Caesars, evolved into the Byzantine Emperor. He was Christ’s Caesar and ruled by divine decree, undreamt of by later pretenders. France’s Napoleon, and England’s Charles paled in comparison to Justinian and Constantine. They were history, gone in every way but memory. Nothing remained as it was. No amount of prayer or hope could change that.
Kosta knew this and came to Istanbul, because there were souls still clinging to the history of their memories. Just as people prayed to God, Greeks felt monaxia and souls roamed Kostadinoupoli. To them, it was still 1453, and they fought desperately to keep their city. These unfortunates were unable to leave. They wandered and died in their memory. Over and over, they suffered lesser pain, than the total agony of death. They were terrified to face this absolute split from life. They were unable to accept the fact that they lived in history, because giving into its finality would utterly destroy them.
They were right. It was total destruction they feared - death. In order to stave it off, they existed in the past. Their frantic grasp of the belief that they would vanish kept them in Kostadinoupoli, when it was Istanbul.
Kosta and his family held no such illusions. They pitied the Byzantine ghosts, wandering their ancient, stone streets, but knew that history and Kostadinoupoli were gone forever. They were fabricated memory. They were similar, but not the past. A photograph isn’t the representation of reality we’ve come to believe it to be. God isn’t either. Our prayers make Him what we want Him to be. We’ve been told that history and God were and are, real, therefore, we believe.
Most in the Paleologos family believed. Even the extended families they married into believed in the Byzantine, Orthodox Theos: God. The Agelopoulos, Kazatzakis, Galanis, Gatzoyiannis and the rest believed like good, Greek Orthodox. Many envied that Kosta came to Kostadinoupoli every year - they didn’t call it Istanbul. Kosta rejected his uncles’ and cousins’ appeals to accompany him. This was something only he could do.
He looked up Yrebatan Caddesi and saw Hagia Sophia in the distance. The grand church was still distinguishable, between the later minarets and near the Ottoman, Blue Mosque. All about her, Turks, Greeks, Italians and too many others to list, walked on their individual ways. Some didn’t see the racial distinctions that Kosta noticed, but most didn’t care. They were that close to being racist and that far away from caring.
He ran a critical eye over them, trying to locate who didn’t belong, looking for someone who stood out from the living. Eventually, he did find her. She didn’t see cars or any of the modern details, which through the centuries, eroded a remembered life. Someone who walked with a shuffle to her confused step, as the world around her seeped into the past, clothing her senses. He approached the woman who saw no one. She didn’t see the modern slacks, blue jeans and neckties worn by the living. Her face and clothes were pale and colorless. Her dress, centuries old, fell on her in a shabby mess, beneath the kerchief covering her head. She didn’t speak when she noticed Kosta, but stopped abruptly, struck motionless. Her eyes were shocked wide and her mouth fell open in silence.
Kosta reached forward and, with a touch on her shoulder, knocked her into himself. She did not stumble romantically into his arms, but fell into his body and was absorbed. Through his eyes, she saw that Kostadinoupoli was gone, and was confused by the alien assault on her s
It was this way each time. He felt her internal chaos and let her adjust to his senses. He stepped out of his body and watched his head swing in every direction, reacting to the repeated blows to her memory. Slowly, he came back into himself; his consciousness enveloped her and explained.
Kosta began by sharing his thoughts, without the faulty translation of words, or the loss of context. Through their shared mind, she understood what no verbal explanation could impart. He revealed to her that she was dead. Nothing in her memory would help her, so she must pay attention to him. The quelling of her initial confusion allowed her to grasp his floating thoughts, amidst the storm of her senses. She experienced his mind as her own. She released her memories and moved forward from what she remembered. There was no going back. She moved with time and stopped festering in 1453. After moments, which seemed to last for hours or days, time and history finally lost meaning.
History and Kostadinoupoli no longer existed. They were no longer the anchors holding her, and she came to a unique peace. She wept when she found her children and family after her centuries of searching in Kostadinoupoli. They waited, just as she knew they would. All were gathered for paska, the Easter feast, laid out before them. Lamb turned on an open fire and she saw, smelt and heard that for which she longed. While she had lived in fragmented memories, centuries passed, but now in her paradise, it was all real, as she had known it would be.
Kosta smiled at her bliss and warmed to the peace that she gave herself.
She wasn’t the last. Two more souls still clung to history. This year for the Truth, there would only be three. Three souls would possess Kosta, who would then show them how to release their stubborn grasp on lives long past.
Since the fall of Kostadinoupoli, the Truth, a descendant of the last Byzantine Emperor, returned every year to guide spirits forward to their final rest. He never verbally spoke to them, but transferred his understanding and, by sharing his body, they understood that the world was no longer for the dead, but rather for the living.
Not every year was so light. Not all who were shown reality accepted it with little drama. Many still clung to rage and hate from their pasts. They still fought enemies and attacked them, even as they shared the Truth’s body. They still fought any who wanted to take their city. They still fought a six hundred year-old battle. Some of Kosta’s ancestors had been lost when they attempted to bring peace to the hate-mongers. They had lost control of themselves and, as a result, lingering hate had possessed the Truth.
Even after such loss, there was always another Paleologos, another Truth, ready to continue the mission. No calling was ever needed, and none was ever rejected. From the time at which they endured the fall of their city, the family had dispersed. They took jobs, married into other families and continued on with time and life, though they never forgot their heritage.
In every generation, a particular child would show himself to be adept in the Truth. It was never questioned, and only those properly compelled ever took the mantle. It came as naturally as eating and drinking. All of Kosta’s family - parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents - knew he was a Truth. The choice was no one’s to make. It came, as did his brown hair and eyes, squared shoulders, jaw and remarkable nose. He thought of this as he continued onto the next soul he would release, getting closer to Hagia Sophia.
One day, ten years previously, Kosta’s uncle, George, came with his bulbous nose, easy laugh and huge glasses to, tell him that he didn’t want to go on. He wanted Kosta to embrace their task and become the Truth. George knew that he, himself, wouldn’t see it to completion. His eyes sparkled, his smile tight, as they spoke. Kosta felt the same smile crease over his teeth at the memory.
His parents let them speak in private. They were always reverent when Uncle George spoke to him. They distanced themselves from the Truth, even their own son, never understanding the gift. His father even pitied him. They once told Kosta that they wished he had another fate. The Truth led a lonely life. Kosta’s father saw it firsthand with his brother, George.
That day, when Kosta heard that he would become the Truth, he felt a fear that he, as well, would be alone. Their task left no room for love or family. There was only the release of souls. This was merely an outside perspective. Very few people understood the full implications. Uncle George did; eventually, Kosta did as well. There was no room for self-pity. The Truth rejected all, but his particular task. It was that simple.
“It’s almost over now, ayori mou, kodevou meh, siya, siya, kodevou meh.” Uncle George chuckled at his terrible Greekglish. “Pack your memories and embrace your family. There is no need for any clothes or necessities, as everything will be provided at Alexandria. When we arrive, I’ll tell you everything.”
Kosta took a few minutes, putting three mementos into his left shirt pocket. They were pictures of his family. Of his parents and sister at the beach, around the paska - Easter feast, his sister’s baptism, and of them standing proudly in front of their restaurant. “I’ve got everything; I can go.” Kosta had already kissed his family, when he replied with a casual confidence.
“I know the hard part for anybody else.” Uncle George corrected himself, “The impossible, for anyone else, is, for us, instinctive. You’ll be taught how to maintain your life, so that you can complete our task. The arrangements have been made for you to look after all of our interests.” Kosta looked confused. “What interests?”
“Being the Truth is an all-encompassing job, ayori mou. You can’t flip pizzas in Restaurant Olympique in your spare time. You’ll come to understand this, as has every other Truth, and as have I.” The jovial man turned serious and Kosta listened intently. “The Truth, every Truth, must develop many skills, which free them to do their real work - releasing souls.” He continued, “A man will come to you after you’ve spent a while in Alexandria. He’ll teach you how to survive.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?” He held his breath, afraid of the answer.
“I can’t,” George stated. “I’ve decided to relinquish this task. I’m finished with it. I’ve done all that I can do.”
“Why can’t you show me these other skills?”
“I know how to survive; you need your own answers.” He smiled warmly. “You’ll do better that anyone can dream,” Uncle George assured him. “There are many who oppose what we do - those who don’t want peace for Kostadinoupoli’s souls. They’ve been working against us since before there was a Byzantine Empire.”
“The Catholics?” Kosta felt it in his stomach, as surely as the monaxia, about which the old Greeks spoke so bitterly. The Catholic Church had lived in the Byzantine shadow, since Constantine I moved the imperial capitol from pagan Rome to Christian Kostadinoupoli. Under his hand, Christianity had evolved from a cult, into the imperial faith. Through jealous centuries, they watched the Byzantine Empire grow to become the envy of the known world, spanning both east and west, Christian and Muslim.
The Byzantines never took part in Crusades. They lived in relative harmony, competing in trade with everyone around them. It was the ideal soil for the growth of a vibrant culture. This cast the stagnant Catholic west further into the dark. The Dark Ages were dark, because they lived in the Byzantine shadow, its light revealing their faults.
It went on until their Muslim neighbors no longer wanted to compete. In 1450, they wanted the golden city, wanted Kostadinoupoli, as their own. They tried bribes, cajoling and offered to let everyone live without harassment, as long as they left. All their attempts were rebuffed and, three years later, by force, they took what they couldn’t through either guile or diplomacy.
“The Catholics let it happen,” Kosta added. They exchanged parts of the story, just as every Truth did when they passed on the task. The retelling always renewed their determination to continue. Kosta already knew
In 1452, while still attempting diplomacy, Emperor John VIII, and the best of Kostadinoupoli, went to Venice for help. They met officials from both the church and the state and bartered for their lives. The Venetians asked for trade and tariff agreements, which were small, compared to the Catholics’ demands that the Byzantines admit spiritual obedience to the Papacy. After many negotiations with Doge, Cardinals, patriarchs and nobles, the Emperor ordered his delegates to accede every wish.
The Orthodox Patriarchs weren’t happy with forced fealty and shouted prophesies of doom to all who would listen. The coming invasion, near complete sale of their culture and impending church rebellion, proved too much for John VIII. He died a year later and left his younger brother, Kostadino, Constantine XI - a career soldier - to rule. His life, which had been spent fighting for his brother, only prolonged the siege. They tried to hold out for the promised help, but it never came.
Venice, Florence, Genoa and Rome let them die and inherited a percentage of their glory. For centuries, they had been business partners, because the Byzantines brokered east to west and vice versa. After such a long association with Muslims and Catholics, they lost their city and empire to one, their grandeur and wealth to the other.
Rome could now boast the sole divine voice of Christendom. The Pope was God’s only word on earth, but was just a fraction of the authors and editors of the Bible intended. Kostadinoupoli was the gateway for east and west, in both faith and commerce. That ended when the wily Venetians let them, and their glittering city, die at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
After the total annihilation of the empire, the refugees who survived fled to the west, their vitality fueling the Renaissance. Their culture’s death breathed new life into the west. Byzantine loss was Europe’s gain, finally allowing them to move from under the shadow. Without Kostadinoupoli‘s fall, there would not have been a Venice, Florence, Da Vinci, Galileo, Copernicus, Michelangelo, Newton. The tale of their beloved city’s fall was a mantra every Truth repeated. This conversation always exchanged with the transfer of one Truth to another. It reminded them that in Istanbul, those still in limbo, between life and death, deserved peace. They had fought long and hard, sacrificed, and lost, too much to be allowed to wander for eternity. They needed to continue on with their preordained fate. Remaining in history kept all fates still. It stopped their momentum. Many of those trapped souls might be reborn as pivotal individuals, over the course of time.