The Glass Key Part 2 | Liam Pender

The Glass Key Part 2

Liam Pender

Historical Factions Award Part 2

Synesius meditated quietly on his balcony. His thoughts seemed more profound when imagined under a blanket of stars. But tonight, he could not focus.

A gaggle of nearby voices had grown so loud the philosopher felt compelled to respond.
“Couldn’t you restrict your protest between sun up and sundown?” Synesius hollered wryly at the congregation that had gathered below his apartment.

“The men do not ask for much only what is rightfully due as children of the lord,” The familiar voice of a priest replied.

Synesius scrunched his lip, annoyed. He had asked a small favour of Loukios that morning and the priest was already back to collect in the evening. No doubt the priests demands would be ten times the value of the small glass vial he had requested. The seemingly thoughtful man of god appeared to be just another charlatan.

“Do I have a choice in the matter, priest? Or has your god sent one of his shiny fairies down with commands that I must trust your word on?”

“I would caution you Synesius, you wander very close to blasphemy,” Loukios warned.

“I’d hate to be accused of imprecision. I wholly admit to blasphemy,” Synesius smirked as he spoke, a little proud of his own wit. “But I offer my profanity as a free lesson to all you susceptible little fish who believe a pregnant 15 year old when she says she is still a virgin.”

A rustle of voices murmured through the crowd and a scruffy bearded man a stepped forward.

“You must be very brave sir,” he said. “Only someone very brave or very stupid would yell insults at men carrying torches outside his home.”

A second scrawnier man holding torch bustled out from the crowd.

“Maybe Mr Philosophy wouldn’t be so high and mighty if he was homeless like the rest of us,” The scrawny man chided as he threw his torch into one of Synesius’ windows. The philosopher didn’t wait to see the curtains set ablaze. Realising the danger, he scurried frantically to the room where the torch had landed.

The unique smell of burning papyrus and ink filled him with dread as he entered the chamber. The desk he had been reading at an hour before was now a ball of fire. The ancient scroll that had sat atop it consumed by flame. Synesius fell to his knees with the weight of what had been lost. His stomach tied into knots. The scroll, written by Plato, had been guarded by the city’s library for seven centuries. The young philosopher would never be forgiven by his peers. Synesius closed his eyes ready to let the fire take him.

Loukios watched paralytic as the inferno engulfed the philosopher’s home. Flames spurted forth from windows as if they were trying to escape the house. The emanating heat combined with the chaos of the evening had eaten away his desert learned stoicism.

“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” he rambled, his voice laced with regret. “I brought these destitute men here, Synesius, so you could show them kindness. So they could feel loved. Instead I have brought them insult and you, destitution.”

The thud of a young woman kicking at the front door interrupted his monologue.

“Junia!” he shouted as he ran over to his sister. “What are you doing?”

“We need to save Synesius,” she answered, determined.

“I will, but you should run and warn the fire brigade.”

“I can help you here,” she pleaded.

“No, it’s not safe,” Loukios rebuked her as he kicked the door open and rushed into the building.

The priest moved with purpose through the smoked filled house, dodging flame and falling debris. But slowly polluted air seeped through the cloth covering his mouth and he began to cough. His steps were laboured by time he reached an unconscious Synesius. Loukios heaved Synesius over his shoulder with one loud grunt.

Loukios struggled back towards the front door. But just as he drew near to the exit the ceiling collapsed before him spraying dust into his eyes.

Everything went dark. Loukios tried in vain to clear his vision.

“God save us,” he whispered.

The priest stood frozen amongst the flames. Effectively blind and carrying another, he waited for a miracle. Time passed reluctantly and the heat surged. The surrounding blaze began to scorch his skin. They were going to die.

A firm grip suddenly grasped his own free hand. Carefully he was led outside into the dark of night.