Tag: cynic

An Unholy Book, Part Five

Cynic, Going Postal

The Cardinal

One morning, some two years after these events had passed, a small sleek haired man wearing spectacles and sober   clerical garb, sat alone in a cool room, at a highly polished desk, looking out over an extensive vista of  gardens and trees ending in a view of hillsides which in the right light could appear purple. This of course was  His Eminence Cardinal Xavier Ximenes, known familiarly as Doublecross, not, we must hasten to add, because he was  of a notably treacherous disposition, but because he liked to joke that as a Prince of the Church he bore the  weight of both sacred and secular concerns and it was reflected in the initials with which he annotated  documents.

As his fingers slowly played with his prized family heirloom of an antique fountain pen, so much more impressive  than the goose feather quills used by his secretaries and other scriveners, his mind and gaze turned from the  view over his palatial gardens where his servants toiled amid the splashing and tinkling of carefully contrived  fountains, to the three documents in front of him. One was the notorious ancient magazine or ‘Unholy Book’. The  second was as detailed an analysis and commentary upon it as the troubled Father Mendoza had been able to  compile. The third was his own note on the matter. He had determined that all three should be kept together in a  locked leather briefcase in a secret archive, and he hoped that none of them would again see the light of day  until long after he and all those involved were dead, if ever. He could have destroyed the magazine as almost  every other remnant of this remote past had been destroyed, but had decided not to do so for a variety of  reasons.

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An Unholy Book, Part Four

Cynic, Going Postal

The Crisis

The priest was even more alarmed, for the souls as well as the bodies of everyone involved. The theological implications of these developments appalled him. He felt responsible, and knew that the Church would hold him responsible, for unleashing a pack of heresies to endanger the souls of very many people. He foresaw that he would be condemned as a heresiarch and probably burnt, if the mob didn’t do it before he fell under the condemnation of the Church. He was surprised at the speed of developments. These people had not had more than a glimpse of the magazine. They had not even seen its contents before they fell into the clutches of error, and errors moreover which were not even those stated in the text so far as he had been able to guess at the contents.This in itself was suggestive of an immense power to cause evil. He continued to be tormented by imaginations, visions or hallucinations which he believed were sent by the Devil. In one he became, or was forced by the mob to become, the Priest of the Book, being borne across the country as leader or prisoner of the dionysiac rout, preaching a mad collection of vile heresies to the mob as it laid waste to towns and villages, plantations and estates, robbing, burning, raping and looting as an ever swelling horde, until disease, dissension, starvation and finally an army of nobles and professional soldiers put an end to their existence, and his own. A variant of this was that the mob succeeded in overwhelming or converting the entire country and he became hailed as the founder of a new religion which would be spread across the whole world by his successors. In another he was martyred by the mob and managed to become both martyr and heresiarch and also to end in hell burning for eternity. None of his imaginings contained any hint of salvation, although he now spent all his waking hours in heartfelt grief and prayer, for everyone around him including the mob and all those unknown to him who would be affected by these terrible occurrences, as well as for his own soul.

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An Unholy Book, Part Three

Cynic, Going Postal

The Holy or Unholy Book

Huge excitement was felt throughout the district in the following days as news of the amazing discovery  reverberated throughout the villages and estates. People flocked to see it or talk to those who had seen it.  Tales about it spread rapidly, and lost nothing in the telling. Ladies and gentlemen were allowed into the  house to see it as it lay in state on a table in one of Don Roberto’s waiting rooms, under constant armed  guard. No one but the priest was allowed to touch it, but once a day he would approach and slowly turn the  delicate pages under the awed gaze of the assembled gentry. At other times, to prevent the peasantry from  becoming too clamorous, they were allowed to file slowly past it when its table had been carefully borne  outside and placed on a veranda under additional guard. Many of them genuflected or crossed themselves as they  passed the magic book, muttering prayers.

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An Unholy Book, Part Two

Cynic, Going Postal

The Old City

The next day he made some notes of the stories which his host and his fellow guests had told him. Don  Roberto was pleased by the priest’s interest in his family and in local history and offered to show him  some places of interest on his estate. He was well spoken and reasonably well born, with the manners of a  gentleman and connections to high ecclesiastical authority, and his visit allowed a diversion in the  somewhat monotonous social routine of country life; so the Don was pleased to entertain him for a few days  and to gratify as far as he could his interest in old books and antiquities.  The priest on his mule  accompanied Don Roberto and several of his men on horseback. As the Don talked and pointed out places of  interest Mendoza felt his pride and love of this harsh landscape made and kept fertile and beautiful in  places by the unremitting efforts of men.They passed through several villages where the peasants bowed  respectfully to the Don, who greeted them affably, enquiring after their families and their concerns. In  one they dismounted to accept the offer of mugs of locally brewed beer from the headman. The priest well  knew that at best these villagers would be barely literate and would be most unlikely to possess any books  either old or new. They might however have an interesting legend or folktale to tell, so he asked the  headman whether there were any interesting stories connected with this place. His persistence was rewarded  when after telling a couple of ghost stories, the headman became more thoughtful and said, “Of course  Father, there’s also the ruins of the old city. We don’t like to go there. Some people think that the  ghosts live there. Certainly only ghouls or bandits or slaves would be willing to live there.” The priest  glanced enquiringly at Don Roberto, who laughed and said, “Its not far off our route home. We can visit  there on our way back, to satisfy your curiosity. There’s really not much there. Just some old walls,  broken down houses and faint outlines from the Old Times. If we leave now you can see it before dusk. What  he says is true though – the peasants won’t go near it, although there’s a few slaves who hang around it.”  Don Roberto and Father Mendoza thanked the headman for his hospitality, and after Mendoza had given the  villagers a blessing, the party rode away.

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An Unholy Book, Part One

Cynic, Going Postal

Man and mule were both hot, tired and thirsty as they moved slowly through the harsh landscape of dusty scrub and dry grass sprinkled over its low undulations interspersed with dry valleys and flat topped mesas.The thorny cacti in particular repelled the man, although he was accustomed to them. They appeared to him as upthrust fingers of Satan arising from Hell, contorted into obscene gestures and writhing to grasp sinners to be dragged down to destruction. An idle thought came to him that a flower at the tip of one of these fingers was like the chalice of an unholy communion being sneeringly offered to him by the Evil One. He wondered whether such fancies were themselves delusions of the Devil, snares to divert his soul and distract his mind from holiness and duty, or whether they might be an obscure indication and warning that evil had laid a strong hand on this land and its people, and more of it was about to flower.

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The Constantinople Campaign, Part Two

Cynic, Going Postal

Next morning Richard and his manservant Dixon, who had accompanied him throughout the campaign, and given a  good account of himself in battle at Richard’s side on several occasions, were driven in a two horse carriage  to the airfield outside the city where the great airship Bismarck was tethered. They went aboard, and as Dixon  settled Richard’s baggage into his cabin, Richard checked that the trunks and chests of soldiers mail and  diplomatic baggage for which he was responsible had been properly stowed. He exchanged greetings with his  colleagues from Yorkshire and Wessex, who were about similar business, and whom he knew well.They nodded to  their equivalents from Serbia, Montenegro, some of the north Italian city states, Spain, Portugal and France  who would be landed before they reached Britain,stopping at Winchester, Tamworth and York.The Scandinavians  would be the last to leave before the airship finally reached Berlin. Richard was looking forward to the trip.  He wanted to get home to visit his family, but he knew from experience that the food, drink, service and  conversation were likely to be congenial. He intended to talk to his foreign colleagues and obtain what news  and gossip was available, particularly anything that might be useful for his intended book about the war.It  would be pleasant to sit with good companions, enjoying a meal, or a fine vintage as they chatted and looked  out over the landscape moving slowly beneath them.

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The Constantinople Campaign, Part One

Cynic, Going Postal

The Eagles’ New Eyrie

The celebrations had been spectacular and prolonged. Everywhere one looked there seemed to be flags and images of double headed eagles, in various combinations of gold, black, silver,white, red, yellow and blue – a heraldic extravaganza on a single theme. They had been carried as standards by the troops as they marched in procession through the streets. They served as backdrops to the Royal and Illustrious personages who had traveled so far to greet each other, be seen by their troops and attend long and magnificent, if little understood, services in the incense scented cathedral. They were threaded across the streets, around squares, over doorways,in trees, and most thickly and colourfully draped over the front and from the minarets of Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace. Indeed, the utility of the minarets as flagpoles had helped to preserve them, against the desires of those who had wished to demolish them as Islamic excrescences spoiling the original design. The firework displays had also featured these magnificent birds in many colours. The cannon had roared victory salutes, the eminent personages had driven around in their carriages of state to the cheers of the crowd – not many of whom were locals, the lesser persons had enjoyed the free food and wine.It was certainly a historic occasion, the celebration of the liberation of the great city of Constantinople after well over a millennium under the Mohammedan yoke. No doubt the new day would bring it’s headaches, hangovers for the simpler souls and knotty matters of diplomacy, protocol, strategy, logistics, planning and business for the men who made made things happen; whilst the remaining Muslim inhabitants were mustered again in their work groups to continue their new campaign to clean up the accumulated grime and repair the neglect of centuries, under the orders, eyes, boots, fists and canes of their new German masters.

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Then and now, 1215 and 2017

Cynic, Going Postal

Recently I read Dan Jones book ‘Realm Divided’, which is about the political situation of  England in the year of Magna Carta, and pondered the comparison with today.

Then, there was an oppressive  but politically weak king physically at war with many of those  who were rich and powerful and who constituted the community of the realm, whilst he was  embroiled in difficulties in Europe and an ambiguous but influential relationship with its  main institution. 

Now we  have a weak leader fighting an unconvincing election against an unpalatable  opposition, while embroiled in an ambiguous and acrimonious relationship with the main  institution of Europe. Then of course, it was the Papacy. Now, it’s the EU, which like the  Papacy of old, claims the loyalty of most of the clerisy – the media having taken over the  functions of the Church.

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The Portuguese Connection, Part Three

Cynic, Going Postal

No one in Europe (or Brazil) had wanted to re-discover the Americans. The old Americans had left the most appalling historical reputation. They were thought to have been the most evil and degenerate people ever to have existed and to have spread their evil around the world by force and fraud (that Machiavellian pair). It was rumoured that one of their last Presidents had been an imported monkey, wafted illegally and umconstitutionally into the Presidency by skullduggery and chicanery (that well known firm of Washington lawyers and lobbyists), secretly a convert to Islam who had promoted Islam within America, allowing them to kill Americans and destroy buildings in American cities, whilst sending his troops to harass and torture Moslems abroad. Any craziness was believable of the Americans. Most assumed that the Americans had further degenerated into the Mexicans, and no one wanted to encourage them.

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The Portuguese Connection, Part Two

Cynic, Going Postal

It was the Portuguese who brought rumours to Europe of the cannibal Mexicans and their attacks on the  Caribbean and the South American coastland. They also brought news of the first great disaster in this war,  the capture, sack and carrying away for sacrifice and consumption of the inhabitants of the old city of  Cartagena. The news, which was of mild concern in Europe because of the developing economic links, caused  scandal and uproar throughout Brazil. No one knew how it had happened, but rumours soon spread that the city  had been betrayed, or that the Mexicans had infiltrated it and bribed some of the garrison, or that they had  found a weak spot or gate left unguarded by laziness or inefficiency or corruption. The war was not going well  for the Brazilians. They were on the defensive, dispersed across a vast region, unable to concentrate against  a much more mobile enemy who could attack anywhere, and incapable of mounting a strong invasion of Mexico to  destroy the source of their problem. Although they tried to create and deploy a navy of small craft, drawn  from their fishermen and coastal traders, these ships were seldom in the right place at the right time and in  sufficient strength to defeat the raiders. This did create opportunities for European traders to winkle their  way into the coastal trade and sell their goods to people who could no longer obtain local products, even  though some of these ships and sailors were seized and press-ganged into the Brazilian navy. The Mexican  raiders had established temporary and permanent bases and hideouts on the Caribbean islands, and started to do  the same on the coastlands of South America, so clearing them out was a task which would have taxed Pompey.

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