The Name of Guardian
A tall man, clothed all in white, a golden mask covering his face, sat across from the blue-robed Keeper.
"I do not think I can carry out the will of the Guardians,” said the Keeper. "The gravity of this task – I am barred from sleep, mostly, and my dreams – fevered, sick with anxiety..."
"You doubt the clarity of our vision?" asked the golden mask.
"No, it is not that. Rather, its...utility. I am wracked with uncertainty. The future you predict, that you have seen unfolding as fact – I cannot swallow it. I see so many avenues for error; human error. There are too many ways to derail such a glorious dream, it is – it is too easily maligned, too easily bent to run counter to its intended path."
"You think we plan harm?"
"No! Again – it is not your intentions I question. Your intentions are...beautiful. But intentions are only words! Their manifestation, through action – this is an entirely different beast."
"Keeper. Speak plainly. Where do you doubt?"
"Very well, I...Mentor, it is not the vision I question, nor the intent the Guardians have projected. Indeed I can envision no better world, no brighter utopia. But the path towards this future, the steps which must be taken...here is where I struggle to see things as do you.
"I still have not, can not, make the connection between my task, between the specific actions proposed, and the intended outcomes. When I imagine the consequences of our plan – when I try to reconcile the intent and the action – I cannot. That is where I waver."
"You were so certain before. The last time we held council you were eager as a praised child."
The Keeper bowed his head.
"Yes. I remember. But I was blinded then, blinded by the brilliance of the Guardians' vision. I – I wanted to believe! I have always wanted to believe."
The Guardian studied the Keeper’s haggard face.
"Now is your time; the time of testing, the bone valley through which only the faithful can pass."
The Keeper plucked at the pendant around his neck. The encircled Torch glimmered in the low lamplight.
"You ask so much of me, too much! It is an invisible violence, to believe...to believe without reason – that is to invite great folly, surely, it is the way to madness!"
Here the Guardian paused, and bent closer to the man in blue.
"Keeper. I am – saddened – to hear this. We thought so highly of you. We thought you were strong where most men are not. Your position in the Wheel, your duty, your power, we granted you these on faith. We believed in you, then. Your father, he..."
The Guardian reached for his mask. His hands lifted it clear of his face, and he looked the Keeper clear in the eyes. Hectar gazed upon that face, drinking in its details.
It was a plain face, ordinary, one you would not look at twice in the streets. The cheeks were ruddy, the brows bushy below a balding ring of grey hair. Kindly wrinkles hung in folds below moist, black eyes.
It was the face of a medicine-man, a face one naturally took comfort in, that one wanted to trust.
Dipping that smiling face towards the Keeper, man to man, he said: "Theolibras. You are the son of a great man; a philanthropist, a Senator! If Sybillus were with us now he would tell you what he once told me. Hear me now, Theolibras; we – I – believe in you. You have the strength to carry out your task, to complete its every last detail with the exacting perfection which is your hallmark. You have proven it, time and time again.
"Do not doubt your worth! Do not question your superiority! You and I, we have no time for the little magics of the mundane. Those formless masses who still swim in the muck of mundus...those who spill and waste their vitus sancti, they are below you, Theolibras, and so quite naturally you have been elevated above them.
"You – you are a Keeper, you are liber aggregor. You have a duty, the sacred duty of saving them from themselves, without tearing them from the swamps of ignorance in which they prefer to wallow.
"You are close, now, to ascension. The tiers of the Guardians are within your grasp. Take this final step, prove yourself this final time, and you are become one of us – an artificer, a fully realized man! Your father has given you every advantage he could, often at great cost to himself. We Guardians have sacrificed much to place you here. Do not disappoint us! Not now!
"For you, the light has never burned brighter. Carry out your duty, Keeper, and let the great light in, so that it may fall upon your Wheel.
"The fate of nations is hung from your fingers. Join the ranks of the great."
Some chord was struck in the Keeper. His back hunched forward, and tears dripped from his cheeks. The gentle face of the Guardian watched over him, patted him on the back.
"I am sorry. I have been weak, I have put all our plans in jeopardy! My father – he, oh, how he would have lashed out at my weakness, at my hesitance. Thank you, Mentor, thank you for sparing me from the whip. I – I will do it. I will trust not in the Guardians, or in intentions, but in you. Your wisdom has guided me through so many fires."
"Yes," said the smiling man, his hand clasping the back of Keeper's neck. "This is but one more fire.” He laughed. "Ironic, no, these words we sometimes choose?"
The Keeper shook free a last dry sob and then sat up straight. A new purpose shone in his face, it permeated his entire frame.
"All these words without action," he said, firmly, "they are as meaningless as the host of prattling sages under the tents across the river. Here, while the people are engaged, here we can work the true magick of right action – without resistance!"
The Guardian beamed down at his disciple.
"Verily," he said. "The Chautauqua is many things, and one of them is a great distraction.
"Yet; remember! Your primary function is to produce Authority. Of late there has been much questioning. Torchbearer, do not forget the role which binds you to the New Order, or your true title of Warden of the Wheel, which you swore would eclipse all others bestowed upon you. Liber semper carceri!
"Your charge is binding. Maintain this cage. Begin again in the aftermath."
"Yes, Mentor. Semper fidelis."
With that the Guardian rose, donned his golden mask, and with a final touch on the shoulder, left the Keeper alone in the chamber.