Week 41, 2019
El had been an outsider since the moment he rejected the Empire and entered the rebellion.
The general staff was elated when they were informed that he was ordered to leave military service and enter the priest hood. Regardless of the fact that this was yet again, another transcendent movement for him between the castes.
They had spent their entire lives in his orbit, and they were eager to be free of him.
The Imperial Cult reached down and pulled him up.
It was another unprecedented event for the entire Empire to celebrate; his rise from the status of a rebel and outcast, to the most exalted class of being; a Priest of the Imperium.
El’s followers throughout the Empire grew by an order of magnitude.
Once again, he started on the lowest rung of the religious orders.
He was an oblate.
He was given the mark of humility, tonsured as any beginner would be.
In his new position, he had more rank than all of the generals with whom he had formerly served, though less power.
His home planet became a place of pilgrimage
And though he had experienced a life of opulence as a Field Marshall and as a chief administrator, the world that the priestly caste dwelt in was different by an order of magnitude.
The luxuries were understated, they were simple, even for the priest at the lowest level, there was not even a hint of want or need.
It was required that he take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
These vows were virtually meaningless in the context of the wealth he was surrounded by and had access to, regardless of whether he owned that wealth or not.
Simple and abundant, food and drink were everywhere, the finest of everything.
Every novice was required to take the vows, but depending on the track they were on the vows were not necessarily for life.
After the age of maturity, after their time of training and education, after a period of service as an acolyte most members of the priestly caste would return to their home worlds to support their families and their dynastic ambitions.
Some would remain in service, a few others would join the austere contemplative societies where they would continue to live selflessly in service to the Continuum and the Collective which they aspired to
El entered the sacred order without any thought for himself or his future.
He had no family to return to. He was alone, independent, with no thought whatsoever of his safety or security in his new role as a priest.
He accepted it like he had accepted everything he had been asked to do since his resurrection.
El was initiated into the mysteries and his eyes were opened.
He became, once again, a servant. It was a position of familiarity and comfort.El preferred the regulated life.
He was the oldest novice ever to be tonsured.
He was wise and he was quiescent. He facilitated rather than competing with the ambitions of his peers.
As with every other aspect of Imperial life, the priesthood was divided, first by gender, and then into classes.
There was no escaping these divisions.
Men and women each had their province of control and influence, and yet women were always subject to men.
There were two basic divisions within the priesthood. There were the officiants of the sacred rites, and there were the holy orders, forming the service societies and contemplative sects.
As with every other strata of the Empire, whoever you were, wherever you went, you knew your rank, and you were bound by protocol in relation to it.
Every member of the priestly class had some choice as to what path they wanted to pursue, though in reality most people were governed by the needs and desires of their families.
The vast majority of priestly power resided in its bureaucracy, the management of its land holdings and the officiation of the temple rites, to which every citizen of the Empire was bound.
When faced with the choice of which path he wanted his career to follow, El went deep, as was characteristic of him. He became a brother and followed the contemplative sects into the paths of mystery, austerity, and aesthetics.
He wanted to do more than officiate rituals or manage a temple, he wanted to discover the meaning of existence.
He felt that at long last he would find a place of peace where he could age, and end his days in quiet.
He was always a conformist at heart. That was the secret to his success in leadership, though he did not know it.
Leaders conform to the expectations of their followers, they are shaped by them, their ability to represent those expectations is why they are trusted.
We find among the greatest leaders those who have the most felt need to belong.
From his youth in the rebellion, during his years in the resistance pursuing his quest for justice; El was obedient, a follower, not always of people but to the multitudes and their ideals.
He had been the unparalleled leader. His commitment to deliver what the people desired and expected of him, what they expected of the Empire, and of the faith, this drove people to him.
He was a follower of ideals. He did not give the people a voice, he was their voice.
When he spoke from the heart, it resonated in theirs, because their feelings and desires were one and the same.
In relation to his principles he was relentless, unquestioning. His ideals were like pillars made of diamond, as clear as daylight and as solid as foundation of a world.
He never wavered, and that is why he succeeded when he was returned to life, when he ended his rebellion and went into service for the Empire.
The role he played was different, it was different on an order of magnitude, but he followed it with the same simple conviction.
El believed in his heart that the fate of the people, of trillions of people rested on the proper function of government, and that peace and prosperity would follow for everyone if each and every person obeyed its dictates.
Then he met a woman, a Sister and he fell in love.
While he would have preferred to remain in the holy orders of the contemplatives, that was an impossibility.
His following stretched across the million worlds of the Empire. The people clamored for news of him, in its absence they wove stories and legends of their own.
After years of servitude and study, he was initiated into the mysteries, and ordained into the order of the priesthood.
He became an officiant of the sacred rites.
The temples he served in were overflowing with people, people who would spend years on pilgrimages to receive his blessing.
El was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues, all of whom were eager to trade on his fame.
Every day he carefully reenacted the rituals and repeated the sacred chants, which the people were taught would carry them to eternal life. He reenacted the rituals for himself and on behalf of others who believed that they would open the gates of the Continuum to their dead and dying loved ones.
The Imperial Cult sent him on his own pilgrimage, he visited thousands of worlds.
El handpicked the coterie who attended him.
The loving sister went with him everywhere he travelled.
They stole time together in the quiet moments of the evening, in the deep of space, on the trek between worlds. He told her stories of his youth, and the rebellion, of his service as a soldier, of the sacred moment when he had been returned to life.
Her name was Imogene, she was from an exalted family, jaded and skeptical of all the sacred rites, as most of the priestly class were, but she was not skeptical about him.
They were passionate for each other, they were loving and kind.
His affair with the Sister was illicit, but he loved her, and she loved him.
When he looked at her he could not tell the difference from the one woman he had loved more than any other, his rebel wife, a hundred years past, she was her twin, separated only by time and distance, class and caste.
Imogene never cared a bit for the rules that bound her ancient house. Like most members of the ruling families in the priestly caste, she was a nihilist.
While he cared only for her.
They had both sworn vows of chastity, vows which she believed were meaningless long before she took them, knowing they were not binding, having been given proof of that when she was seduced by the officiant who presided over her initiation.
Such vows, as far as she was concerned, were for appearances only, and were only meant to be a tool for the governance of those on the lower rungs of the social order.
A death sentence could be served for such violations of the rites. Those few people who had been convicted of those crimes were actually being punished for other reasons, for political concerns.
As a novice she celebrated such executions with carnal delights, reveling in the slaughter of illicit lovers.
His willingness to break those vows, and the anguish it caused him, captivated his audience in the Collective.
It was out of character, it was unpredictable. There was a great potential risk to both him and her.
The Continuum ensured it would continue.
His followers multiplied.
With the blessing of the Collective, and by the favor of Continuum, he had advanced in rank among the religious orders, and in the hierarchy of the priesthood.
He had advanced despite his carnal crimes or because of them, he would never know.
It was a favorable development in the narrative of his life.
As far as the Collective was concerned, during his time in the priesthood his story had begun to tire, this was not dissimilar to his tenure as an administrator when he served in the armed forces.
Now in the context of his romance, thousands of intriguing dramas sprang up in relation to him.
Throughout the Empire millions of El’s followers took to extremes to demonstrate their love, and faith in him.
Planetary rebellion sprang to an all new high since the time he left military service, and now Revolutionary movements were being carried out in his name, and rebel forces now included former members of the military caste who wanted to see him elevated to the Imperial throne.
The details of these conflicts were not reported to him, he was aware of them and did what he could from his position in the priesthood to quell those conflicts, but he was no longer a general and therefore his influence was limited..
He was a monk and a priest and he was in love, engaged with a member of a royal house in a passionate affair.
He did not want to be bothered with the responsibility to resolve those conflicts.
His thoughts were only for Imogene.
The Continuum loved the intrigue of his cover-ups.
They made him a bishop, and overseer of the flock, and then a Cardinal, in order to free his time, to give him the space to develop his relationship and sink deeper into his desires.
The masses, knowing nothing of his transgressions, adored him even more.
They made him Abba, the head of the most exalted religious order, the most secretive and the most influential, they positioned him as the head of the Imperial Temple, answerable only to the Emperor himself.
El was fully actualized, he had become the most powerful figure in the Empire that the Empire had ever known.
Part Six, The Empire
Chapter Thirty-nine, Priest
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
Like it, Follow it, Share it!