30 May 2017 10:17 PM (fiction | marginal prophet)
Corinne, in enough of a daze she had no business riding, hailed an iron horse, though they were half-way able to handling themselves now. She arrived at office of Atlantic Communion and Control, checked in with the enchanters on her current team, made a few calls around the business unit, and fell back in to her normal rhythm.
Her desk, covered in burn-down charts and user stories, anchored her to the real world, and she spent a few hours making sure that everyone involved in the current project agreed on exactly what that project was. She settled down for a late lunch when Bill, the principal enchanter, sidled over with a sadistic smile.
“So, what'd y'think?”
Corinne looked at him blankly.
“Of the play! Maximilien and the High Priestess! It's still number one.”
Corinne remembered the play and rubbed her face as if to ward off an oncoming headache. “I think I should never have told you I studied history as well as metamagic. Do you talk me into watching these things just to make me angry?”
Bill took a step back out of range, “I like to see people impassioned on the subjects of their expertise.”
“Well,” she sighed with a shake of her head, “Apart from whether it was good as a play, the Götterdämmerung simply wasn't like that. The gods didn't put up much of a fight— it was only a few hundred years ago! How do people not know this?”
Bill slouched against a wall, not trying very hard to conceal his amusement at the rant he had provoked.
“Sure, Lavoisier kicked off the age of reason with his creation of a quantitative, analytic thaumaturgy. That got people thinking they didn't actually need the gods around to improve the harvest, call the winds, speak over long distances, or even kindle a fire without resorting to flint and steel, that's true. The war against heaven was one-sided, though. You can't have a prosperous center of trade if prophets are constantly popping so your city is ripped stone-from-stone by grapevines and everyone is driven mad with joyous blood-lust to go attack their neighbors. All the cults stowed anyone with a real connection to a god safely away where they could be watched and supervised and kept from harming commercial interests.”
With a raised finger, Bill asked, “But what about the New World? Massachusetts and all that?”
“Sure! That's the other alternative. Once a godly civilization goes beyond wandering tribes it has two choices: ossification and theocracy. The English threw their Enthusiasts out and didn't want them any closer than the other side of an ocean, and you know why? All the movies made about the Enthusiasts' Kingdom of Heaven aren't gruesome enough. They downplay it because nobody living now would believe it. There are reasons why big chunks of New England and Mesoamerica are uninhabitable and cordoned off. Theocracies are impressive, but if they don't fracture into pieces and destroy themselves with civil wars, they end up violently collapsing due to everyone living in them who isn't insane being put to death.”
“So, you're saying there wasn't actually much fighting?”
She shook her head, “No. There was fighting, but it was, with rare exceptions, men against men. Even when the cults used magical weapons they were mostly thaumaturgic. There weren't enough prophets around and even those who were alive lacked the cultural support for real power. The cults had secularized themselves long before Maximilien decapitated the Vicar of the Sun and lead his army out of France to make war on the rest of the gods. He just burned down a structure that had strangled itself.”
Bill started to speak, but she shushed him. “My sandwich is gone and your time is up. If you aren't here for a planning session, get lost.”
He went back to work and so did she. By the time she finished up for the day she had put her dream completely out of her mind. She was outside waiting to hail another iron horse when a young man came up to here. He was thin and small of stature; his eyes were red as if he'd been crying. He shuffled close to her reaching out to grab her sleeve. Corinne's stomach tied itself in a knot and she slapped his hand back. “Don't touch me!”
The youth pulled his hand back and retreated into himself. He stammered, “Th-the m-m—”
Corinne, thinking he must be some harmless panhandler with a mental defect, felt guilty and felt around in her handbag to offer him some change. He continued speaking, “m-most holy has sent me—” his eyes welled with tears as he seemd silently to beg her forgiveness “—to anoint you a prophet—”
An icy spike of fear went through her and she ripped her hand from her bag to punch the youth with all her strength. Her fist found his face and coins fell everywhere, ringing on the pavement. Corinne turned, her fingers sore, and ran as fast as she could.
She could hardly believed what had happened and her mind thrashed between a panicked “I just beat up some poor, homeless guy!” and a darker fear it was reluctant to put into words.