“You know my friend, it doesn’t matter how long I live, for I fear that I will always feel like I am out of place. You may find yourself in agreement with me on this fact and I won’t condescend you by saying that our struggles, if you care to call them that, are different. I promise you, I’m not that truculent. Let’s walk for a bit shall we? I’m here waiting to meet an old acquaintance, but to be honest I’ve never enjoyed his company.”
“Sir” a voice chimed in, seemingly from nowhere.
“Alastor has asked me to bring you to him, will you come inside.”
“Well, he is the host; I’ll make my way up to him.”
“Very good sir.”
A large glass door opened which gave way to the foyer of a magnificently ornate marble of several different colors. The floor of the entryway was a map of the world (also in marble) and had a compass rose at the center which was comprised of a milieu of gemstones.
“Ah the grip of money, what a shame. I cannot help but think of the people that could have been aided with the money this map took to construct. It nauseates me when I think of how much Alastor spent. It serves no further purpose than to be degraded with the mud and dirt that visitors leave all over it. Excuse me my friend, I must attend to urgent business.”
“Maldanis, please come in.” called a voice from the top of the spiraling double staircase which lay just beyond the ornate foyer.
“Alastor, there was no need to come greet me. We’re far from formalities such as this. I know the drill.”
“Nonsense, my brother, I know we’ve had our differences but come now, I’m expecting good news from you. I might as well show my appreciation and drag my ass out of my quarters to greet you. Come up here and let’s talk business.”
“Well I’ve never been one to keep you waiting” Maldanis yelled to the top of the stairs as he made his way up. Finally, he reached the top of the stairs and made his way into Alastor’s study.
“Alright, so you’re here, at long last, may I offer you a drink so that we may toast this monumentous occasion”?
“No that’s alright I’d rather not tonight.”
“ Come now, you’re a Christian not a wet blanket, have some lavation.” Alastor jokingly ribbed. It was clear he had been celebrating a little bit in anticipation of his guest’s arrival.
“Let’s just get down to business shall we.” Maldanis implored not wanting to be there longer than he had to.
“Alright, alright, I know better than to try and change your mind. By now you think I’d have learned, for heaven sakes.” Alastor cringed momentarily after realizing his word choice, “There are rocks that change more than you do once your mind is made up. You know I’ve always admired that and hated that about you since we first met. You were so adamant and I, mistook you for a fool.”
“Well I’m going to take that as a compliment. Lord knows that my word is my bond. I take pride in having a strong conviction. Having said that, I’m afraid that you seem to have mistaken my presence here. I’m disinclined to help you and the rest of the C.O.F..”
Hearing these words, the giddy and slightly inebriated smirk that has once enveloped the face of Alastor began to slip. Instantly he became more somber. “Disinclined? What did you mean disinclined? Myself and the rest of the congress were all under the assumption that you were just taking time to vote on this. To overcome your feelings and make peace with your conscious. Surely you don’t think that you will be able to stop us do you?”
“Stop you? I don’t intend to let you start. I maybe the only one of the congress that believes that I will be judged for my actions in this life, but surely the rest of you cannot feel right about even thinking about doing this?
“Thinking about it? I can’t believe this, you’re one of us, hell you were the one who founded the congress. I can’t believe that you’re actually going to try to stand in our way. We are among the most wealthy and influential people in the world. We can and will do this with our without you, but we would much rather do this together. Otherwise we will be forced to stomp on your head and leave you in a wretched heap as we’ll advance the dreams of our kind.”
“I thank you for your hospitality, my only wish is that you would have listened to the things I’ve told you over these many years.”
“Oh come now, you really think that I want to hear about your God and your fairytale of salvation? Let me fill you in Maldanis. Men like us, we are a lost cause, we might as well rule this world while we are here. One thing I’m certain of is this, men of our condition will not see your so called heaven.”
“No one is lost, all it take is to give yourself up and find your true purpose in life. No matter how far gone someone is, they can always be brought back.” Maldanis extended a hand towards Alastor as he spoke. Alastor resented the friendly gesture.
“Leave, I don’t want to hear anymore from you. I will tell the congress of your decision and then that will be it. From now on you will once again be an outcast in this life. You fool, you finally found people who were like you, you preached friendship and family and you do this to your own kin? It will be lonely out there and I promise you this, you will lose this war. We will not take prisoners once it is all over and you will be forced to watch.”
“So says you Alastor. Make no mistake, I will never shutter to do what I know is right but I am sorry to have ruined your evening. However, I feel compelled to promise you this, even if it is not God’s will that I prevail against you, I will stop you and the rest of the congress.” With this very calmly spoken yet menacing comment, Maldanis arose from the gold encrusted chair which had been offered to him by his previously jubilant host and began walking towards the door of the study. “By the way my old friend, it is never too late to change and when you are willing to let go of who you are. Then and only then you will find that you will become who you were meant to be all along.”
Slowly walking down the staircase of marble he has just ascended only minutes before, Maldanis took a look around the home of Alastor. Even being a man who did not care for ostentatious things or possessions, he did have to admit that the interior of the house was stunning. The floor of the room was checkered like a chess board, with massive slabs of black onyx and white marble that were glistening in the chandelier light. They almost appeared to be opalescent when looked at for long enough. Looking at the megalithic chess board, Maldanis appreciated the irony he found in the current situation. “Huh” he sighed, looking around once more at the lavish display of wealth. “For those who are of this world are sure to perish with it.” Arriving at the front door, Maldanis called out to Jacob (Alastor’s butler, who he had previously been welcomed by).
“Yes, sir”, Jacob emerged from his own quarters.
“I just thought you should know, my friend, things between me and Alastor have just gone south. I doubt I’ll be returning here and while I’m not sad about that. I would be remised, if I didn’t tell you that you are quite a remarkable person. I hope you choose to strive for all of the things I see you being able to accomplish in your life.”
“That’s quite kind of you sir, but I’m not sure of how much a butler can accomplish other than serving someone else.” he hollowly replied.
“Come on now, that’s no way to act. I’m not sure of your beliefs my friend, but if you ask me, you are meant to be right where you are. But just in case you doubt that, here”, Finishing his sentence, Maldanis reached into his pocket and stuffed a small rectangular piece of paper into Jacob’s hand.
“What’s this?” Jacob asked flipping the piece of paper over to examine it.
“It’s a vote of confidence. I want you to have the advantages that I didn’t have when I was where you were in life.”
“Mr. Maldanis, I’m older than you and I doubt that we have had the same struggles in life.”
“That’s not what I’m saying Jacob, but I want you to use this check sparingly. I want to both help you and teach you, from this one little scrap of paper. When you learn what I know you will, you will find out that, that’s all that it is, just paper and nothing more.” Looking deep into Jacob’s eyes, Maldanis took the man who appeared to be at least five years his elder by the shoulders and gave him a very tight hug. After an appropriate time of embrace, Maldanis turned and opened the door to leave.
“ Sir” Jacob sounded a little dismayed.
“Yes “ replied Maldanis turning to see the recipient of his gift.
“The check is blank”, Jacob called out rather concerned.
“I know, that’s the beauty of it. So think about it my friend, you’ll come to understand, I have the utmost faith in you. Who better decide what you’re worth, then you.”
It was a hot night as Maldanis walked to the car parked waiting for him at the end of the driveway. Maldanis, had grown up very humbly and from that he had always appreciated the finer things in life. Even to this day, Maldanis would close his eyes and think back to his childhood every time Daniel ( his scoffer) would open the back door to the Rolls Royce so that he could climb inside. “Just going back home” Daniel asked, as he approached the car.
“No I’ve got some thinking to do, why don’t you just take the rest of the night off.”
“If you insist” Daniel exclaimed in a happy voice, which he tried to mask. Maldanis loved to walk, not because he enjoyed the exercise but because he enjoyed its solitude.
After walking several miles, Maldanis reached his front door. The events of the evening weighed heavy on his mind. He did not relish the thought of what lay in the future. Wearily he made his way to the kitchen and began to boil a pot of water so he could make tea. Maldanis moved into the living room when the tea was ready. It was by far his favorite room of the house, on account of the glorious fireplace that it contained. Most nights Maldanis would sit in his favorite chair, pull it up close to the roaring fire he had created and simply sit for hours staring into the fire’s wisping fingers as they danced in front of his eyes.
“How the hell did this thing get going?” A voice said, breaking Maldanis out of his stoic trance. “Oh, Maldanis, I didn’t know that you were home. When Daniel said you were out wandering I figured you’d be out all night.”
“Ah well tonight was a little different I’m afraid Asher. Please come sit if you’re not fixing to do anything else.” he motioned to a chair that sat a little ways from him, yet still right in front of the fire.
“So where did you go tonight?” Asher asked as he was sitting down into the chair.
“Ah, I had to take care of some business with Alastor.” Maldanis sighed and took a large sip of tea.
“I’ve never liked that guy he is just bad news if you ask me.” Asher said with a disgusted look on his face. “I still don’t know why you even know that guy”
“Haha” Maldanis replied in a throaty chuckle as he also tried not to cough up his tea. “That is a conversation best saved for another time, for now we will leave all such subject matter in the past where it belongs. All I can say is meeting Alastor was very regrettable.”
“Well I hope that you tell me someday. For as long as I’ve known you, I’ve never understood why you
would care to be around such an evil and corrupt person.”
“You don’t know the half of it Asher. That being said, you’re better than judging him. Some of us just have things happen to us in life that drastically impact our perspective and pervert our sense of right and wrong.” Maldanis stared into the blazing fire which seemed to have him captivated.
“You’re a better man than me. He’s a lost soul and I’d prefer that he stay that way.”
“I think you’d be surprised by what I am sometimes Asher. Think about a candle, my friend, illuminating the darkness without discrimination. That is how I’ve found it best to live my life. I once knew a man who taught me to live that way. Even when he had just been attacked by someone who wished to take his life, he forgave them and wound up befriending them.”
“So what happened to him”, Asher asked.
“He died a horrid and undignified death .I grieved over him for several days. Yet, in many ways I felt responsible for his untimely demise. He is one of the people who helped to make me what I am today.”
“Despite his deeds and goodness, he still died no better from it. How is that fair? I hope the person who caused him to die got theirs. Some people are too far off to deserve help.” Asher objected.
“No, it doesn’t matter how you start out, it’s all about how and where you finish that is what really matters. Had I been able to give him the knowledge that I have now, maybe things would have turned out differently. Having this knowledge, it is an obligation to spread it to anyone with ears, so that they might hear.”
“Regardless, I hope that Alastor rots in the deepest circle of hell. Whatever he gets it too good for him.”
“I understand you zeal my friend. I know that Alastor has harmed you. He has harmed many other people. However, I still hope that Alastor is not too far gone to be saved.” Maldanis gazed directly into the fire without blinking.
“I just don’t get your sometimes” Asher exclaimed. “How can you claim to be a man that fights for good when you refuse to take a stand against what is wicked? It’s as if you don’t care. Either that or you’re a coward, you just like the sound of your own voice. You talk about doing good all the while you don’t really care because you have your money, you have everything you want.” Asher slammed his fist on the arm of the chair and toppled it over backwards with his leg before storming out of the room. “You’re a fool Maldanis, a well versed fool.”
“Asher, I just want you to know, that you don’t have to understand. I just want you to know that I love you.”
Asher scoffed and stormed out of the room. “Here I am, alone once again. I am thoroughly versed in being isolated, it seems like it has been several lifetimes of isolation that I’ve endured. Regardless of the struggle though, I must give credit to the Lord for helping me to pull through it all. Even during the times when I did not know him. I admit I feel a deep, deep empathy for Asher. I have not gone through what he has but I know the feeling of loss and being wronged. Those who show no remorse for the lives that they destroy will no doubt meet their end just as their victims. However, in time I will share more about myself with Asher and hope that he is able to understand. It pains me to keep things from him, but the time is not right.”
Another large sip of tea was consumed before a long pause. “No matter how long I live on this earth; I still find some things to be more alluring with time. Fire for instance; it is an acute and apt metaphor for human nature as a whole. Depending on how it is created and fed, it is capable of creating beautiful things. Yet if it is neglected it can destroy everything in its path. A single spark in both can create something that spreads at unparalleled speeds and just a quickly can be snuffed out barely leaving a trace. My favorite part of the metaphor though, is the intensity of fire depending on the fuel source. Although we cannot see the things that fuel human actions, the actions themselves do shine a light onto the type of intensity.It saddens me to see the current state of the world, where too few if any people are living life with white hot intensity. This is another reason why I am patient with Asher; right now he is not being fueled by healthy things. I pray I am able to change that for him because I know the sorrows of having the fire go out all together.”
Standing up from his chair, Maldanis took a handful of baking powder and cinnamon from a jar that he kept next to the fire and threw it onto the burning logs. The fire ceased and filled the room with the aroma of cinnamon. Dousing the fire, Maldanis lifted his head and looked at the portrait of a woman hanging above the fire. He momentarily stared into her mystical green eyes.“Good night my love” he said to the painting, “I shall be seeing you soon.”