The Amphiots Chapter I.

10 Jun

Ranid Rolius had a horrific dream the night before his hiring interview at the Archivum. He was a child once again, and the victim of an Anuran street gang. Half a dozen large, muscular bullies with large orange armbands chased him through the early morning fog as he fled to the safety of the district Salamandrine school. Stones hurled from slings zipped past his head. One of them finally felled him onto the hard beton of the street, leaving him with a stinging head wound. As the attackers approached the injured student, the siren of a patroller wagon began to sound ever louder. The ruffians scattered as two adults jumped in and came to the rescue of the nearly unconscious boy.

The pair questioned him about the incident. He had better go home and miss school for the day, one of his defenders advised. No, protested the victim. He must show enough strength to continue and not surrender to violence. The adults helped him to his feet. Ranid still suffered torturous pain. He felt his head, then looked at the blood on his hand. The Salamandrine patrollers offered to accompany him to school. The youngster heroically replied that he was well enough to walk the rest of the way there. That afternoon he was supposed to play in a game of shinny, and was obligated to be present.

Ranid awoke in a cold sweat. He glanced at the illuminated time-ticker on his bedstead. The memory of what had happened to him over twenty years before grew dim. His mind concentrated upon the scheduled interview with the Praeposter of the Salamandrine Archivum. Every hope of his years of study depended on winning the research position he was applying for. Ranid leaped out of bed and began preparing himself for what lay ahead that day.

Throughout the land of Caecilia, religious zealots of the two opposed denominations were familiar with the name of Hyle Xalus, a rising star within Salamandrism. He had started as a humble predicant in a poor country parish, then was assigned to a slum oratorium in the capital. His rising reputation as an eloquent sermonic lector brought him to the attention of the hierarchy in his sect. This resulted in promotions to large, important congregations. His outstanding talent in preaching the doctrines of the Salamander led to a teaching professorship in the School of Predicants, where he aspired to becoming the Head Rector one day. But the career of Hyle took an unexpected, unforeseen turn when, out of the blue, the Salamandrine syndics placed him in charge of the archival library of their organization. A high post, indeed, but not the one that for years he had dreamed of occupying.

Hyle now doubted that he would ever climb to the Concilium of Syndics and exercise the highest power within the hierarchical structure. He had to be satisfied with being the headman of records and manuscripts, nothing more than that. After several years of supervising the Archivum, his low spirits and ennui became permanent, it appeared to him. What had he to look forward to? the Praeposter asked himself once again on the morning that Ranid Rolius came to see him about the job.

The young man who appeared exactly on time was unusually short and thin. His skin had a fulvous sheen, more yellowish than gray. Bright hesperidic eyes glowed with inner energy. As the two shook hands, the taller Hyle Xalus smiled warmly at the candidate. Ranid sat down and studied the older man for a moment.

Large and stocky, the Praeposter possessed taupe-colored skin of a darker gray than that of Ranid.

Xalus began the interview with a direct, abrupt question.

“Why do you wish to take this research position, brother?”

His hepatic eyes, dark and bloody, stared keenly at the surprised scholar.

Ranid leaned forward in his lockwood chair.

“I want to delve back to the time, a hundred and seventy years ago, when the Amphibiots divided into the separate denominations that exist today. How exactly was it that the original unity dissolved so completely? The general outline is known to all of us, but there are important questions that remain enveloped in mystery. These are not abstract, academic matters. I believe that the archival sources can strengthen our Salamandrine claim to priority in time. We existed first, and it was the Anurans who broke off in schism from us. It was our Institutor, the immortal Alsike, who discovered the true path of enlightenment. Our ancestors were the genuine, orthodox believers. It was the frog-worshipping Anurans who dissented and revolted, straying from the true track, which is ours.”

For a short time, Hyle Xalus made no reply, startled at the fervor of the candidate for employment. When he spoke at last, his voice was much slower and lower than before.

“What you say is extremely interesting to me. There can be no doubt that any research into the founding era is fraught with consequences for the faith we hold. It would be useful to us if your work could firmly, finally establish the proof of our historical priority. We would then have a powerful weapon against our enemies.”

“That is my foremost hope, sir,” asserted Ranid with determination.

“What would be your specific area of investigation, may I ask?”

“I plan to search all the papers of our founder, Alsike Caldus. How did he come to the concept of odyle energy within a particular amphibian species, as we recognize it in the Salamander? My goal will be to trace the process by which the Founder reached his conclusions. How did he create the system that we Salamandists adhere to today? That is what I want to clarify.

“I intend to show how straight was the road he took, remaining the True Amphibiot from start to finish.”

The Praeposter considered the situation for only a few seconds.

“Yes, you are the man we need for this vacancy. The project you described is exactly what can serve us in our conflict with the foe. I believe that your work here should start immediately, brother.”

He rose, gesturing to the overwhelmed Ranid to follow him. They went to the large repositorium where the records of the Salamandrine organization were stored.

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