Book III: Chapter 21
Was my cover blown?
It sure seemed that way because the Pope was pointing towards me and talking about finding a traitor and all eyes were suddenly turned my way.
Luckily for me, I did not get a chance to try to defend myself, for in my shock I did a most ignoble thing – I actually spit out my beer!
Now this is one occasion where drinking alcohol clearly saved me – for even as I tried to recover my wits, a waiter was already beside me with a towel, cleaning my robes and helping me to save face.
As it turned out, I need not have worried too much – for the crowd was not looking at me, nor was Pope Benedict really pointing at me.
(Heck, I don’t think anyone even noticed my faux pas with the beer).
In reality, they were all looking at the wall behind me – or more specifically at one of the many dark hallways that were carved into the stone wall…
As it turns out, the one indicated by The Pope just happened to be behind the section I was sitting in.
(Gee, I guess I have a guilty conscience, huh?)
Joe’s next words then uncovered the mystery, “My Brothers, down that particular hallway is a room which holds inside it two… rats.” Here he paused for effect. “And one of them is our former Brother — Professor Alan Zarus.”
Gasps went up from the crowd and I too tried to act surprised (but surely you know by now this was the REAL reason why I was here tonight, right?).
“With him is his… girlfriend – Miriam Magdala.” The Pope spoke on. “If you don’t know her, don’t worry – she’s not important.” And then with an ominous snicker, “And she won’t be around much longer anyway.”
A Brother at my side, one Colonel McGubbins, prodded me with an elbow and a wink, smiling knowingly at the pope’s dark humor.
For my part, I ignored McGubbins (he always was a bit of a lout) and instead turned inwards to my own thoughts.
If Lazarus and Mary really were in some makeshift holding cell here in Whitby Abbey, then the fact that they were on site while a Brotherhood meeting was taking place was more than enough to seal their fate.
Yet even as I began to plot how to rescue my friends, Joe soon began reading a list of my friend’s so-called “Crimes against The Brotherhood” – with the crowd catcalling in reply.
When Benedict finished, Dr. Ma’bus again took the stage. I was not surprised when he recommended that Alan Zarus be impeached, nor by the loud cheers that answered him.
“They’re taking a vote.” McGubbins’ lascivious anxiety was showing as he gave me an unnecessary commentary between his own applause. Then, after only a short pause, “It’s unanimous!”
I watched as the crowd looked to Ma’bus for further guidance.
McGubbins smiled and pretended surprise, “Oh my, how unfortunate for Brother Zarus — Ma’bus just flashed a thumbs down!”
I wondered if my friends could hear the jeers filling the room?
Yet, more importantly, I wondered what Ma’bus had in mind – could he be contemplating another bout with the Chairs of Woe?
By now, the crowd was working itself into a frenzy, and as we reached the height of our blood-thirsty passion, Pope Benedict again took the stage.
“Brothers,” the Pope raised his arms, “I know you are anxious to destroy these traitors, however let’s not forget the REAL reason why we are gathered here today.”
We waited with baited breath – what else could there be?
“We have the privilege to witness a sight never before seen upon this earth.” Joe proclaimed. “For today – TODAY! — we shall see the birth of Our Savior!”
Now The Brothers cheered even more wildly than before.
“The Coming of the King.” McGubbins babbled out. “Hallelujah!”
“That’s right, good sir.” The Pope acknowledged McGubbins, causing the fool to get an even bigger ego, yet before the latter could puff himself up further, Joe bellowed, “Halleluiah indeed — for I call you all to bear witness to the Coronation Ceremony of Ghaz al’ Ridwan Ma’bus as… EA Incarnate!”
At that I nearly spit out my beer – again.
This is unprecedented!
I’ve been a Brother off and on for nearly 1,700 years, yet I’ve never actually seen anyone crowned as EA Incarnate.
Truth be told, I always thought it was just a made up rank, for the moniker that Joe proposed for Ma’bus was the equivalent of calling him a god on earth.
According to my knowledge of Brotherhood lore, the last known EA Incarnate lived more than 5,000 years ago – yet no source ever revealed who this early persona might have been and some said it was a being from another planet (do we have any Alien Astronaut theorists in the house?)
EA Incarnate? I silently mouthed the words. Oh no. This is not good.
Even still, I kept my wits about me and used the commotion of the wild celebration that followed to leave my seat and make my way down that dark hallway where (I hoped) my friends were being kept.
Unfortunately I didn’t know that Colonel McGubbins followed me.