Chapter V.

12 Jun

Caudo Eximius was the most senior and powerful magistral in the Salamander Organization. No other syndic was near him in stature or personal authority.

The tall, gaunt skeleton moved slowly with deliberation as if existing on a different level from others. His eyes had an eerie sherry color, his short hair was a clean snowy white. Everything about him was distinctive and impressive. It was obvious that he considered himself magnificent and important.

What kind of emergency can there be in the Archivum? the elderly official asked himself as he made his way to the magnificent office he occupied as the Capitular of the Salamandrine faith. The message from the Praeposter had requested this meeting to take care of some urgent problem at the Archivum. What sort of trouble could be expected to arise among the stacks and piles of scripta? wondered Eximius.

A long career within the Organization’s hierarchy had taught him many hard lessons. Cruelty has its uses. In fact, it was in many situations a necessity. One had to know when to apply brutal harshness to a situation. He had learned to nurture pitilessness within himself. Yet ruthless violence was often over the line, mainly because it did not work. Excessive force could easily turn counterproductive, if it was carried too far. He had learned from experience that each case was different. But in general, a moderate, reasonable degree of pressure got things done in the high, important post that he occupied.

Hyle Xalus, with Ranid at his side, entered the great temple building made of agate, sand flint, and silica where the Salamandrine faith had its main executive offices. This mountain of a structure was called the Citadelle. Hundreds of clericals worked at high, slanted xyloid desks. On the highest floor of the castellum was the office of the Capitular, to which the pair of visitors climbed by a spiral stairs of cast iron.

A famulus led them into the spacious sanctum of the supreme leader. They were told to sit down on soft fanteuils and were served cups of jequirity by this servant. Their wait continued, a sign of respect for the figure they had come to see.

Without fanfare or introduction, the old man slowly entered the chamber. As the Capitular approached them, Hyle and Ranid rose to their feet, placing their cups on a small tabular. “Please, be seated,” said the syndic. He nodded to the famulus, who brought over an official cathedra for the high magistral to sit in, then left the room.

“What is it that you wish to see me about?” asked Caudo Eximius, staring directly at Hyle. The latter introduced Ranid, then described in detail his two discoveries. At first, he spoke slowly and hesitantly, but as he went on his statements grew firm and definite. Finally, the narrative by the Praeposter came to an end.

The Capitular studied Ranid for a time, then asked him a question.

“It is all as he describes?” His face had taken on a pinkish glow.

The researcher cleared his throat, then began in a quiet, uncertain tone.

“Yes, the contents of the two diaries are exactly as just presented. There can be no doubt about what the words written there mean. They speak for themselves.”

“And what is their significance and spiritual meaning? Can you reveal that to me, young man? I doubt that is possible for anyone not versed in the science of hermeneutics. That is a special talent for interpretation that only long experience with sacred texts can bestow on one. I believe that neither one of you has acquired that capability. Since it will have to be used on these two diaries, let me think a moment so that I can provide a preliminary symbolic interpretation for the two of you.”

The pair from the Archivum remained mum as the great magistral cogitated to himself. After several minutes of thought, the old man began to whisper in a low voice to them.

“The history of the Amphibiot faith in this land of ours was much different from what conventional books say about it. Long before the Great Schism between Salamandrites and Anurans there existed a certain very small particularistic sect that was centered upon the limbless lizards and apods. There is no trace of it in any official versions, but the group was there. Yet its role was a crucial one. It was the earliest specification of one species of amphibians as the messenger of the odylic power and energy. As these discoveries show, this tiny sect played an important part in the thinking of our Institutor. It was these Apodics who guided his early spiritual course.”

Caudo Eximius said nothing as he looked back and forth between the two men. He seemed to be preparing himself to make a weighty statement, a spectacular clarification of the whole subject before them.

At last, he rose from his official chair and stepped closer, until he stood next to the two fauteuils.

“I cannot avoid telling you a private, concealed secret. Not a word of it can ever be exposed to anyone else. Is that understood?”

Both visitors affirmed that it was. Each promised to keep silent about what was to be revealed to them.

“You are now pledged to absolute secrecy,” said the Capitular. “Never forget that.”

He returned to the cathedra and seated himself again.

“We of the Salamandrian leadership have always possessed a secret knowledge meant only for a small number of chosen ones. The syndics who direct our organization share in this hidden matter. I myself, as Capitular, participate in this deep mystery. Every one of my predecessors in this office had knowledge of this concealed arcanum. It has been passed on down the generations, starting with our Institutor, who served as the Founder and Originator of our faith. I only bring this out before you today because of what this young scholar has now run across in the Archivum.”

He looked intently at Ranid, then continued.

“You mentioned the diary of Breg Omphalus as well as that of Bufe Ascaphus. Neither of those two individuals has any place in our official history. Yet they were both forces that helped make our Founder what he became. They molded his thinking into the specific form it took. Between the two of them, they made our system what it now is: an outer shell and an inner core that differ profoundly between what they hold to be true.

“As was revealed in the diary of Bufe Ascaphus, our Originator found his link to the odyle while he was alone on the water off the coast. This evolved into his doctrine of the axolotl, the sacred salamander. He turned against his friend and mentor, keeping secret this event. Why was that? Why was a radical break with Bufe made necessary under these new circumstances?

“His faradaic instruments told him that the axolotl was the keystone, the conduit to the odyle. But at the same time, the notary named Breg Omphalus was able to convert him to a very old belief, that in the primitive apods.

“How was this dilemma solved in the thought and conscience of Alsike Caldus? How was the gap bridged between the one and the other, the salamander and the apod? How did our Founder make a consistent, integrated whole out of his binary mode of thought?”

The Capitular stopped to draw a long, deep breath. The two visitors gazed at him as if in hypnotized states. What was he getting at? What was the leading authority implying?

“Alsike remained, till the end of his days, a secret Apodic but a public Salamandrite. It was impossible for him to draw a mass following to the lowly lizards. That special faith was kept for the few chosen for high authority in our denomination. This configuration became solidified into permanency with the Great Schism. The war against Anuranism necessitated stricter secrecy. The inner kernel of Apodic belief had to be protected from exposure and attack. This conflict continues today. So does the secret dualism that can never be acknowledged. We are a mass faith that contains an arcane inner brotherhood. The many are directed by the few, of whom I am one. No one beyond the high leadership knew this truth until you stumbled upon it within the bowels of the Archivum.”

Absolute silence ensued, until Hyle Xalus spoke up.

“What will our future hold, now that this knowledge is also ours?”

Caudo Eximius gave as sympathetic a look as he could.

“The two of you will continue, of course, in your present posts. There must be consultation among the syndics. What I believe will happen is that both of you shall be invited to join the Apodic grouping at the center of our organization. That will entail initiation into the secret inner faith. You shall both become adepts in the hidden spirituality. That will take time. For the present, continue to work with patience at the Archivum. When everything is settled and decided, I myself will come to you and guide your progress. I can foresee organizational promotions in the future for both of you.”

Suddenly he shot up out of his chair of high office and abruptly dismissed them. Neither visitor said anything to the other as they departed. They were both stunned and disoriented by the revelation just made before them.

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