Chapter XXXIV.

27 Jun

At the appointed time that morning, Eleth moved onto the speaker’s rostrum and began the official convention.

“Sisters and brothers. I herewith proclaim the founding congress of the Conjoining Association opened. Warm greetings to each and every one of you who have come to the Hypogeum.

“We know why we are here. What humans have dreamed of and striven for over many ages is now within grasp. The true, proper path to sanctification and enlightenment can be seen. It has become available to our generation.

“All of us have grown up as Amphibiots, of either the one variety or the other. We know their doctrines and principles, yet have long felt the inner spiritual emptiness of both of them. The deep morass of the rest of the population of Caecilia was also ours until we were awakened to a greater truth, a higher understanding. And now we have come together to express the message we have all received from the swamps of our country. We have conjoined ourselves into something greater.

“Our present task is clear. These teachings must be made available to all. We deserve the same rights and privileges as the older streams. Our duty today is to elevate ourselves through organization, mobilization, and aggressive recruitment. All of us know what we have to do.

“This morning the floor shall be opened for statements and proposals from our delegates. Then, this afternoon, several of our pioneers will come to the rostrum to present their ideas.

“Once again, I welcome all of you who are gathered here.

“Bless and keep you, dear brother and sisters.

“I hereby open the First Congress of the Conjoiners.”

Loud cheering filled the Hypogeum to its highest rafter.

Ranid sat at his desk in his room of the depot hotel, going over the notes of his afternoon speech. He realized that what he planned to say would ignite an inextinguishable fire. At the center of the coming conflagration, he readied himself to reveal what Alsike Caldus was thinking when the Great Schism occurred.

How was he going to phrase his provocative revelation?

I cannot speak too fast or too harshly, he told himself. My goal must be to communicate a disturbing message while maintaining my emotional links with the audience.

Again he went through every point that he was to make that afternoon.

Meantime, preparations he knew nothing of were going on throughout the capital.

Capitular Caudo Eximius had had little sleep the prior night, directing the actions of the Salamandrites. He was going to prove that the Conjoiner claims concerning Alsike Caldus were lies. A river of pamphlets was to be released to overthrow the assertions of Ranid Rolius. The old, traditional faith was to be confirmed, with the Institutor at its center. The Conjoiners were to fall and fail.

Eximius was simultaneously confident and worried.

His plan appeared clear and clever, but it might fail without good luck.

Timing would surely be decisive in deciding the final outcome.

Only after Ranid made his claims public, was the counterforce against him to go into action. The war would then be on.

It was difficult to have to wait. There were spies in the Hypogeum who were to report when Rolius was finished making his surprise revelations. That was the moment he was to give the signal to release the pamphlets to the press and the public.

Eximius envisioned a renaissance of Salamandrism after the exposure of Ranid’s falsehoods. That would be a sweet revenge on this renegade, he gloated.

But something of unnoticed importance was happening at that moment.

Dera Devre, in a cloak of red and green, was entering the central magneto-train depot and heading for the hotel that served as Conjoiner headquarters.

Once in the gigantic terminal, strangers directed her to the right location.

A Conjoiner told her which floor and room number to seek out.

“Thank you,” she said as she went toward the levator that went up to where Ranid was.

The sound of the door zumbido interrupted the man working on his speech notes.

Ranid rose and went to see who it was. He was unprepared to see Dera standing there.

“Come in,” he mumbled, then closed the door behind her.

“I have something of importance to tell you,” she began. “My brother, whom you have never met, has committed a rotten act meant to harm you and your cause.”

He asked her to take a chair while wondering if she were fantasizing some exaggerated drama.

“Talem, my baby brother, is head secretary to the syndics of the Anurans. He learned from what I told him about your research in our family archive. For reasons of his own, he looked at those letters and reached opposite conclusions. He decided to thwart any attempt by you to publicize your interpretation of the position of Alsike Caldus. He went to the Capitulary of the Salamandrites and gave him the letters, hoping to bring about an alliance of the two major movements against you and the Conjoiners.

“There is now a scheme to denounce and disprove your message as soon as you present it to the convention. This is aimed at leading to the swift disintegration of what you have started.”

Ranid, still standing, drew heavy breaths of air. Only when his mind was back in equilibrium did he venture to speak again.

“I am deeply in your debt, my friend.” He moved to his desk and picked up his notes, looking them over a moment.

“I shall have to revise my remarks to the convention,” he said, nearly to himself.

Dera stared as the man she had tried to rescue threw the stack of cards into the trash barrel on the floor of the hotel room.

Ranid, resting a short time on the futon in the room, reviewed his history with both major poles of the Amphibiot faith.

All these years, I have restrained myself from aggressive steps, concealing what I know about the secret Apodists who run the Salamandrine faith. An inner sense of propriety inhibited me from making what I knew public. I hid what I had uncovered about that conspiracy in order to protect the reputation of Alsike Caldus as a great figure in Amphibiot history.

But today, with the Conjoiners close to victory, I shall be denounced as a liar and forger of letters. Shall an untrue libel be the weapon of our ruin? Are we to be the victims of trickery?

A new idea now rose in the mind of Ranid.

He was going to have to do what he had for years avoided, what he had considered impossible to carry out.

An invisible boundary had vanished and he had to place all the cards he held on the table now.

Ranid rode to the Hypogeum in a specially hired jitney. He asked Dera to accompany him. Both of them kept silent on their trip to the middle of Caecilia City.

Once they reached the subterrane convention hall, he took his companion with him through a back entrance, up to the raised platform where he was to give his address. “Take a chair up here,” he told her. “You will be surprised at what I tell this audience.”

The hall, filling up after the noon recess, was ready for the second session.

Eleth rose and began the proceedings. It took him only seconds to introduce the main speaker of the day, of the whole convention.

Thundering applause rang through the Hypogeum as Ranid rose from his chair and advanced to the podium.

When sufficient silence prevailed, he began in a powerful, ringing voice.

“Sisters and brothers in the faith, I am gratified to be present to talk to you on this historic occasion.

“We are here today to inaugurate a campaign to win the Amphibiots of Caecilia to the united, consolidated faith we hold to. Our train is on its way. No one can stop our progress. We are an army assured of our victory.

“But there are matters from the past that cannot be ignored, but must be faced. I myself have lived as a Salamandrite and as an Anuran, first the one and then the other. I received experience on how each stream functions. I possess a unique background that led me to Conjoinism as solution to the corruption and conflicts of the past.

“Yes, I speak of corruption that appalled me in earlier years of life.

“Let me tell you of a secret that is hidden at the core of Salamandrism, first of all.

“There is an unknown, invisible cabal that has from the foundation of that movement ruled its syndics from behind a curtain. No one sees or hears these phantom chieftains. They form an unseen circle whose teachings are an arcane form of Apodism.”

Ranid proceeded to describe the secrets of the conspiracy he had uncovered years before and until that moment kept to himself.

He described the power that the Apod group exercised from its height.

The stunned audience listened as if turned to stone. A new, unfamiliar history of the Amphibiot multiple rainbow was heard for the first time. People heard a version of history totally unknown to them until now.

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