01 - Chapter 1 - Primus Inter Pares By: Kendall Boyd
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Primus Inter Pares  



Chapter  2  -  A Secret Among Friends



I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth 

-- Isaiah 45:19

Aurelius roused himself from the deep sleep that had overtaken him as he had prayed. Had he dreamt of the man sitting on the edge of the bed or was his mind playing tricks on him after a long day of priestly functions? He pushed up from his kneeling position to find his legs had gone to sleep. He moved into a sitting position on the chest to stretch his legs to get the blood flowing. How long had he been out?

After a few moments, feeling returned to his legs. Gingerly, he stood to remove the priestly garments he had worn to perform the coronation. Aurelius opened the chest, and then removed the stole from around his neck. A dear friend specifically made the chest for his priestly garments when he had been elected archbishop. A wry smile tugged at his tired face as he thought of the man.

Carefully he folded the stole into fourths and placed it in the chest. The layers of the priest's clothing could be overwhelming at times and he was glad to be getting out of them. The chasuble came next, a sleeveless outer vestment worn by the officiating priest at mass. He exhaled as he felt the weight of the garment removed from his shoulders.

As he did, he felt a prickling sensation at the base of his neck. Massaging his neck with his left hand, he figured it was from the time spent praying in the same position. The sensation seemed to subside as he massaged it a little longer, then he ignored it to continue disrobing.

Yet before he could untie the cincture around his waist, the prickling feeling at the base of his neck swept over his entire body. Suddenly alert, Aurelius felt the presence of someone else in the room. He turned to see the door was closed, but he had the uncanny feeling someone was about to enter the room. He looked about for a weapon, but finding nothing of substance to ward off the intruder or the feeling, he prepared for the worst with empty hands.

For a long time he stood there, ready for anything. But nothing happened. The sensation remained, but no one entered the room. After scrutinizing his chambers one more time, he stepped to the door. He slowly slid the bar to unlock the door expecting at any moment for something to happen. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, with the door unbarred, he opened the door to a semi-darkened chapel. The candles on the altar cast an eerie glow about the chapel. Shadowed corners made it difficult to see clearly throughout the nave.

Shaking his head, he knew something was amiss. Taking one of candles from the altar, he searched the chapel for the intruder. Aurelius thrust the lone candle into every darkened corner in hopes of finding the cause of the strange sensation. Nothing. Quietly he returned the candle to its place on the altar and continued to his room.

Stopping at the threshold of his open door, he glanced back into the chapel one last time. First it had been the dream, now this. "I must really need some rest," he said out loud as he stepped into his quarters.

"You probably do," a voice said startling him. He jerked his head toward where he thought he had heard the unseen voice. It was a man, that much he knew.

"Who's there?" he questioned looking back into the chapel. He could see no one.

"I'm here," the voice whispered nearly in his ear.

Aurelius' eyes widened at the closeness of the man's voice. Quickly turning to look in his quarters, he saw a man looking into his chest of priestly garments. "Step away from the chest, those aren't your things!"

"I have enough of my own garments to want even more. Does wearing all these 'priestly garments' make it hot?" the man asked finally looking up to face Aurelius.

Aurelius nearly choked when he saw the face of the man. "Were you here earlier?"

"What? No salutation or greeting for your old friend?"

Aurelius ignored the comment. Instead, he resumed untying his cincture. "Would you mind helping with this?" He shrugged his shoulders downward as he let his alb fall behind him. The man stepped behind Aurelius to hold the alb as he stepped out of it. "Thank you." He slightly felt the prickling sensation again as their hands momentarily touched before Aurelius took the alb from the man. "I see you have taken time from your Temple to join us today," he commented coolly.

"You know it takes a good portion of my time."

Aurelius studied the man he called his friend. The dark hair was starting to gray around the temples, though his friend was slightly older than he. But the dark eyes had always held him enthralled. "We, that is my brother and I, are glad you are here," he said finally.

"Where is your good brother, the High King?" the man said taking a seat on the bed. He watched as Aurelius folded the alb.

"He is probably feasting," Aurelius replied placing the alb into the chest before he closed it. He took a simple monastic brown robe from another chest and pulled it over his head. "You did not answer my question."

The man hooded his eyes. "No, I just arrived."

Aurelius' eyes widened at the man's reply. "You did not come to me while I was praying?" he posed with concern.

Arching an eyebrow, the man responded, "No, why not tell me what happened."

"This is no time for your stalk and hunt games."

"I honestly do not know what you are speaking of," he responded quietly.

"Orin, I know you support the king and I in establishing an independent church free of the Bremagni patriarch's clutches, but this is no time to be coy," Aurelius said forcefully.

"I am not being coy, I am being honest." Orin stated. "Now tell me what happened while you were praying and maybe we can get to the bottom of this."


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