Symposium of Bad Ideas Part 1
Considius smiled as he leaned over the broom’s handle, content with making this corner of the Nest orderly; a pile of bandages and blond hair in the trash, a fancy leather satchel with blunt scorched implements and oiled blades laid on top. His corner. He was still uneasy at the sound of pipes, but was slowly easing to the Underworld estates. With time he could get used to living like this. That would be nice.
Metallic ringing and subdued complaint came from a corridor nearby. Reacting to the abnormality, Marcus reached out for a knife and pocketed it. Leaning over the threshold, he wondered if the lemurs would come inside the Nest if the Tribune of Shades was the one summoning them. Pushing that to the back of his mind, he advanced to confront the intruder and found himself facing Diodorus.
The Hellenistic pirate had his elaborate cloak folded twice underneath his arms, clutching it against whatever bulky things he carried. Diodorus smiled nervously at Considius, the older man raising an amused eyebrow.
“Fancy finding you here, barber! The young lawyer rode south with such haste after his pale mistress marched north that I assumed the Nest was already empty.”
“It is. However, there are so few of us around the Urbe; those that remain must be vigilant.” Considius crossed his arms. Diodorus fumbled with his cloak, freshly cut flowers and leaves falling as he tried to cover up something made of bronze and copper. “Who knows whom could exploit their absence.”
“Good, good, happy to know that.” Diodorus nodded as the barber continued talking. “Now, if you excuse me, I have collected some of the rare ingredients that Crows grow here. Underworld flora has amazing and unique proprieties. Salvé!”
“Including that?” Considius pointed with his chin towards a fancy glass bottle poking from beneath the cloak, halting the pirate as he tried to retreat.
“Curse it, I guess evils are now out of the box.” He revealed it as plum wine. “It would be wasted, all alone, without anyone to drink it.”
Marcus stepped aside, looking inside his room. He pointed towards stacked clay cups.
“I’m not telling her if you don’t.”
They quickly found themselves laughing around a stone table in the garden; their jokes were only interrupted by wine singing as it was poured.
“This has been a fortunate encounter.” Diodorus admitted. “I was wondering when I would meet you again; I was looking forward to know you better, Marcus.”
“Oh?” The barber wondered, putting his cup down. “Among all of the Crows, singling me out? I do not know if I should be concerned or flattered.”
“Is it odd? You seem to be the most in tune with what the people of Rome want its Republic to become.”
“I’m just a barber.” Considius shrugged. “I try to be an attentive and good citizen, take care of my corner of the world and do what I can for those that end up at my door; I am often impulsive and keep overreaching in my efforts. There you go, now you know Marcus Considius.”
“I believe he is all that, but he is much more, is he not? He is also the Umbrae Tribunus.”
Considius pondered about the accuracy of that.
“It is just a title, it is not who I am.”
This horrified Diodorus. He emptied his cup.
“If you honestly think that, then I should be even more afraid than I already was.”
“You fear me so much and yet we can enjoy drinking together.” Considius refilled Diodorus’ drink.
“The way I see it, the brave face their fears, the lucky can avoid them; the wise try to understand what they fear so they no longer have to risk being brave or lucky.”
“That is very logical. So is fearing what I am; I share your concerns.” Considius admitted.”I do not fully understand what my future holds.”
“Are you feeling lucky or brave?” A smiling Diodorus inquired.
“Let’s try doing things your way; I would rather be wise.”
“There we go.” Diodorus topped both cups. “Where shall we start?”
Considius scratched his chin.
“I’m confused with all this non-sense with the names; how come that when I met Lidia I immediately knew she was Aeneid, the Triumphant of Aeneas? It seems to be the same with every other Triumphant, I never had to introduce myself as the Tribune of Shades either. What is going on?”
Diodorus blinded Considius with a mysterious smile.
“Remarkable thing to ask. Those are names they bound into themselves from the soul of mankind, the world and the higher spheres; that is why they are immediately known to anyone that gazes upon their Triumphant expression - they own them as much as their current wielders.”
“I continue to not understand. Bind them? How? And where they come from?”
“Traditional Triumphant metaphysics states that mortals have three Fates, three names: the one they take alongside their first breath, the one they wear through life and is enshrined in the mouths of others, the one that slips silent as their lungs empty for the last time. However, there is a fourth name, the secret name, to many cultures the sole true name - for it scoffs at the spatial and temporal limits of mortal life and its sequential experience of reality. There are more words for this fourth name than there are stars; the Etruscans and your people call this sole transcendent, eternal aspect of the self “Spark”.”
“But what that has to do with the goofy names?”
“The Triumph can shine in the heart - or spark - of those that accept the ultimate truth: nothing that is eternal really exists; the only true existence belongs to the atoms, and even their conformation and nature is mutable. Once you internalize that, you stop thinking about how existence defines you: you instead open yourself to what can be made real and you can express that through the act of existing. The spark, non-existent but as real as you are, opens you to other realities of possibilities, the collective subconscious and even the platonic realms. Of course, there is a toll required to manifest such wonders upon the ephemeral existence: you must tear down the walls between your Ego and them, accept it as part of you and allow it to be expressed through you. The fragile names of mortals make excellent and obvious sacrifices; that is why everyone knows the names dragged back into Existence - they rip and bleed through reality, resonating within the spark of every witness. Such display leaves no space for doubt or subtlety: anyone knows that they are gazing upon something that transcends the chains of mortality: Aeneid, Umbrae Tribunus, Hermes Trismegistus, etc.”
Considius’ eyebrow raised, his head aching; to him reality was all about meat and hair - even his Triumph was about justice in balancing life and death. Diodorus brought too many metaphysical concepts to the table.
“If every mortal has three names, that means all of us already had to sacrifice ourselves for power.”
Diodorus confirmed with a nod.
“Three names a Triumphant can give, three seals can be bound to a spark. The spectrum is diverse: in one extreme we have Aeneid and Tabula Rasa, humble in abilities but safe in their identity and relationship with the self; on the other end we have Quirinus Niger Fulminator, someone or something that sacrificed so much that they barely act human, a prisoner of the myths and legends chained to their spark.”
“Wait.” Considius reached the logical conclusion. “But there is the spark itself; there is a fourth name you can give.”
Diodorus seemed extremely uneasy at the suggestion.
“There is no such thing as a Four Names Triumphant. It is impossible: if a human sacrifices their eternal, transcendental core in exchange of something, what is there left of them? It is not like they give up humanity, it is like they never were - not human, not them, not anything.” The pirate kept quiet about the speculation that many of the supposed Three Names were actually mere shadows, cast across time by the burning spark of a Four Names. Considius did not need to lose sleep over that terrifying hypothesis.
Considius seemed to have other worries. He emptied his cup. He refilled. He emptied it again.
“Is that why you were so afraid? You think I already gave away too many names?”
“It is part of the reason; it is reversible but dangerous, a balance that needs to be maintained or the results can be catastrophic. This fragility is part of the reason why I want to learn more about each of the Crows. I want to know the man you are before you vanish into yourself, Marcus Considius.”
“That is fair; it is also fair that you tell me how many Triumphant names you hold.”
“I will not lie; there is a trick to it.” Diodorus reveals. “I put a myth inside a myth, all tying together in a major legend: so I have one, two and three names. I am the Magus, the one that must wield the mantle of Hermes Trismegistus, which being Thrice Great enshrines the powers and responsibilities of three distinct but united entities. This conjugation is only flimsily tied to my spark, denying me a normal Triumph; only three things I can bind to myself: something I learned without being taught, something that I got through trickery and which would break if taken by force, something offered without being requested.”
Diodorus seems embarrassed. Plum wine loosened his shame.
“I was outmaneuvered and tricked by a nascent Triumphant; I did not plan for them to emerge and include me in their Triumph, severely depleting my power. Which is pretty bad, because my duties and potential remain the same.”
“So that is why a rogue like you still hangs with an idealist like Lidia.” Considius was amused.
“Can be. Or everything I told you was wrong or a lie and I’m here for the long con.”
“A risk we have to take.”
“Do you?” Diodorus riposted. “I know why I am here, but you don’t have to. Why are you not going after something else with your Triumph? Why are you content with assisting that ugly foreigner? I thought Romans valued freedom more than most.”
What did Considius want? He pondered as his fingers circled around the cup, cradling it as the most precious thing in the world. His goals were ambitious in their simplicity; there was really one thing he could want for.
“I need to see my family once again.” He squeezed both hands around the cup as tears rolled down his cheeks. “I want to know that they are safe.”
Diodorus grabbed his hands, taking the cup away from the barber; he approached as he caressed his wrists.
“Hey. Why don’t we talk about that? I’m here for you.”
“There is so little I can do. I do not know where they are.” He swallowed, crying and sobbing as he thought about the worst case scenario. “I know they are not among the shades, nor has death touched those around hem; the plebeian Underworld would known otherwise.”
“At least that.” The pirate reassured Considius.
“What could I do, even if I knew where they are?” The barber pointed out, forcing laughter as he cleared the tears. “Rush in like a fool? I got them in too much trouble already. Not even to mention what can happen to others; who am I to say that my pain selfishly justifies putting even more people in danger? That is not the lesson I want to teach my children, that is not how I love them. We have made so many sacrifices as a couple, all to make the world in which we live a bit better, all out of civic responsibility to our Roman and Campanian communities. If I want to remain true to that love I should stay here, working the streets and preparing for when an opportunity allows me to act.”
“There are different ways to help those we love. By cultivating friends and caring for others, for example.” Diodorus tapped Considius’ arm and got up.
“Indeed. Besides, they can probably do better on their own than with me. I know what I can do to help here; my Triumph barely works beyond the sacred limits of Rome, I cannot do anything that my wife could not manage on her own . Specially if they are in the country, somewhere far from urban opportunities.”
“I travel all around the major trade centers and I have a lot of friends on Eastern shores. I will be looking for your family.”
“I am grateful, Diodorus.”
“It does not come out without strings attached.” The Greek smiled. “Unconditional hospitality is more of Lidia’s thing; I need the Triumphant to Umbrae Tribunus to first do something for me.”