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Phoenix of Motes
Act 10: Jubal McClinton, Notary of Oaths
© 2024 James LaFond
Dawn, Marsday, Third Day of Sepulcher
The Phoenix shaped lantern above the Hall of Scot heroes, as they liked to think, cast a lurid glow as motes of spark dust from the torches in the wall brackets danced their lifelong dance in the glower of that purer light.
‘How like sparks we are, we men,’ mused Jubal, who tried to live up to his appellation of Deacon in consideration of the plight of mankind under Heaven.
The mess hall of the House Thrax thudded with the meaty fists of the twenty and one men who sat along the long bench table toasting Saint Mars for deserting the Empire of the Demons to serve Christ and God. It was an excuse to drink, and, besides, the Chaplain was gone up river towards the lakes on some conspiratorial journey. For he had directed Jubal, the humble Notary, retired early after but one win and a loss to match, to fill his station in his absence. The Chaplain of House Equis was likewise, he had been informed by Bird, the Chaplain’s slave, agone up the same road.
‘We are all here: Deacon Pike, the brewer, most important Scot at this table, Fresh Bob, Bill and Blake the twin Deuces, the four Primos, making as many chiefs as Indians, without even considering the dignitaries and: yes, we gimp souls…’
Jubal’s soul trailed off a bit towards purgatory, where he half hoped he ended up, Heaven not sounding like fun at all: trainers John and Wright, physicians Boyer and Sutler and the armorers O’Mare and Cheesestock, together with Deacon Pike and himself, counted 8 maimed souls to weigh down this house of but 21.
Aptus Rex and his three undermasters: Bond, Blackie Senegal and Tahiti Joe were the bosses of swords while the Three Dread Scots were escorting the Chaplain up country. Jubal was obsessed with their weakened state among the Manhattan houses, with half of their strength, the other 24, on deployment with the Bishop in the East Indies, fighting half-assed Muslims there.
The occasion for the thumping of fists on table, was, of course, the return of their meat-headed Legate, Max, who delegated every decision but skull-smashing and throat-cutting and crook-thumping to Jubal, or passed it up the line to the Chaplain.
‘So we are now 22… and a half?’
Max stood framed in the doorway, interrupting the beer breakfast, which was only permitted by Max when the Chaplain was away, grinning over their provisional holiday, again, only observed when Chaplain Barnes was away. The giant of them all loved standing in the doorway, hands on hips, as his elbows nearly touched the door frame, soaking up the adulation.
He was bleeding and minus his helmet and plus a tyke, who was branded and outfitted with Max’s own belt and dirk. The men cheered and Aptus Rex called, “A tale, a tale to tell, the taller the better!”
Max pushed forward the little man, tiniest gladiator anyone had imagined, let alone laid eyes on, and grinned, weary from some carousals of the night before, with various Patrician dames no doubt, as he flung a tied sack of a purple drapery that must have held a hundred pounds in gold on the table and declared, “Your honored Legate spent the night splitting fair Patrician legs, while the freshest of our kind watched various doors, all to collect my funerary fund. You won’t have to groan with me as a thump-your-lesson trainer, a fumble-fingered armorer, kill-you-with-scotch physician, or...heaven knows, y’all mugs don’t need a brewer deacon, what with Pike here, and I ain’ never read me no Bible. Besides, Rex here is smarter then I ever was before the first time I got my head bashed in.”
They sat gape-mouthed, for there was no Scot scheduled to fight in the Censorial Sands this Carnival day. It was to be a team fight between boxers and rodmen what they were all likely to avoid lest they be fined for jeering. The recent lack of Saracen and Heathen captives had quite slackened the Censorial roster.
Rex spoke, “Max, what?”
The big man was happy to the point of his face near splitting, “Holy Writ Litigation death match with my bastard brother, Rex Born! Never could hit that prick with grapeshot—looks as lively as our own Rex here. Y’all should bet that stake against me and fill the coffers. Besides, I’m lame to crippled, about done.”
With that the giant sat down at his place at the head of the table, “Sides, Chaplain Barnes knows. He and the Knight’s Chaplain, up river now, patching things up over me gettin’ my throat cut in a few days.”
He took Rex’s mug and drained it, “Glad you lads are staying away from the scotch for breakfast.”
“Max,” yelled Jubal, “You can’t!”
“Shoot, signed en done for, Jube. Look, y’all, lookey here,” and he grabbed that tyke by his belt and tossed him up over the table, and damn if he didn’t land on his feet in a killing crouch!
“You all wanted a tale? Well I’ll give you a tale, the Making of Minicus Thrax—look at ‘im, was up all night watching my dame humpin’ back and still lands on his feet like a cat. He will be the best sword of Scots yet!”
“Max, no!” he yelled, but his voice was drowned out by the rude applause and the call for a yarn without pause…
Half the morning was gone and the miniature gladiator among them had grown on Jubal, by the time he, as acting barrister and Notary of Oaths did all that could be done to give Max’s impulsive adoption of this tiny mobster, four years younger than any gladiator had been indicted, a chance at standing before the ire of Chaplain Barnes. Jubal suspected that the Chaplain would make of this something of a first communion and save the back branding for age 11, at the youngest, as a kind of confirmation.
The lad obstained from beer when it was offered and expressed a desire to learn to read, write and cipher. Max, First Sword of House Thrax, had also been the first gladiator on record to have given away his Fates Crosses, worth a fortune in this moneyed world, to a pack of whores. The entire lot of them signed the petition made out in Max’s and Minicus’ names that their newest member be permitted to remain in the house as an assistant to the armorers, trainers, Deacon and, to Jubal, the Deacon who acted as Barrister and Notary at the present time. So many ideas were bandied about the table for finding a productive place for Minicus, that it seemed a shame that likely orphans had not already been inducted at such an impressionable age to learn the ethics of the house and be trained up as proteges of the sword.
By the time that the unseen sun had risen to its full height above the bustling city, Jubal McClinton, Deacon of the House Thrax and Notary of Oaths, called for the draining of the last mugs and Noon Prayer, thinking in the back of his above normal keen brain, that House Scot was onto something that might in some future time be likened to a blessing, perhaps from Christ himself, though the men at the table accounted this an intervention, most likely, from Saint Mars.
Brand of Victors
spqr a novel
Flaxen-Haired Lady of Strops
logic of force
song of the secret gardener
crag mouth
the first boxers
the combat space
within leviathan’s craw
z-pill forever
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