Aquila, The Cathedral of San Corvo d’Aquila di Cyanihim
How old was I when I lost my faith? Fifteen? Sixteen? Or was I younger? The Testimonium teaches that we are a brotherhood. That all of mankind is Of God. It tells us that all that is wrong with the world, and with mankind, are holdovers from a broken world, ruled by the followers of the Triumvirate, or by the Witchkings. No, I think I was younger.
The Cathedral stands at the center of the Church District, a massive landmark, dwarfing all around it. It rises 230 feet into the air, and the duomo even higher still. It is a monument to the glory of God and a testament to the ingenuity of mankind. Outside, members of the Ordo dell’arte operate small puppet theaters, putting on morality plays or tragedies. Not far there is a circle where they perform mummer’s plays, their faces hidden by the elaborate masks they where. The walls of the cathedral are adorned with murals, painted by masters of the craft, they depict stories from the testimonium, and tales of the many venerated saints. Most notable among them, my namesake, the patron saint of Il Ordo dell’arte, San Corvo d’Aquila. Light filters in through the stained glass faces of holy men and, the images of angels carrying out their mandates from God almighty. The light is warm and it paints the interior of the church in hues of green and blue, and yellow and red and I would be lying if I said that the entire thing weren’t beautiful. Rumors filter through the city that the cathedral is riddled with secret passages and false walls which lead to rooms, repositories for all of the secrets that the Cyanihim have learned, and those they keep to safeguard mankind on the path to a perfect, sinless world. It is all beautiful and mysterious, and though I feel small in the near empty cathedral… I am not moved. I do not feel the ever watchful gaze of Cyaniel upon me, watching me, and why would I?
As I sit in silent contemplation, staring up at the masked visage of the archangel,I hear another enter through the heavy cathedral doors. I hear the footfalls long before she comes to take a seat beside me. She is tiny by comparison, her dark ringlets cascade about her shoulders and frame her face. She smiles softly and that smile brightens her face, her green eyes, shrouded in charcoal dust as is customary in our homeland, sparkle like polished emeralds. It is all a stark contrast to the elegant black dress and the high collar which she wears. She is my closest friend, practically my sister. We have known each other for ten years now, and few make my heart swell the way Lady Genevieve Baines does..
“Corvo, mIo caro amico,” her time in Rogalia has not changed her Hestrali accent, “I think this is the last place I expected to find you.”
“Si… Mi bella, amica, it’s good to see you. I didn’t realize you’d returned to the country.” I smile warmly as we share a hug, “It is good to see you. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, Corvo. How is Marco?” she asks as we separate from our embrace.
“Marco is Marco. He does everything he can to keep himself busy. He hates his mind being idle, he gets bored too easily. Of course I am the same way.”
“Is that why I’m finding you in a church? Because your mind hasn’t been idle?” She smirks, but her voice betrays only the slightest hint of concern,
“No… maybe… I just wish I knew what determined if we were worthy of their attention or not…”
“Corvo, why would you think that?” suddenly, her smile is gone, “Why would you, of all people, think you aren’t worth the attention of the divine? Before my father acknowledged me, when I was living on the streets, you made sure I was safe! You made sure I had food and clean water! How could you think you’re not worthy?”
“Do you remember when I told you about why I came to live with Marco?” I fold my hands, head bowed slightly as I look at them as I that night.
“You told me your parents had died in a fire.” Only the slightest hint of uncertainty edges her otherwise sympathetic voice.
“Si… they died in a fire.” I say the words and it’s as if I’m once again that ten year old boy, “What I didn’t tell you is that I was there, in the house when it started.”
Genevieve’s face is serious, her eyes are like cool jade stones, as she fixes me in her gaze, “What are you saying, Corvo?”
I turn my head to face her, “I had been downstairs, working on my letters and my numbers and… I must have fallen asleep. When I woke up, I was drenched in sweat, and there was fire everywhere. At first I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. Heat and light and smoke… it was all so disorienting. I heard mama scream for help and… I ran to the stairs. The wood collapsed between the stucco. I heard papa yell down to me, to go get help.” My voice cracks, and I try to swallow the lump in my throat. I barely register the tears that threaten to spill over, staining my face, as I continue. “Immediately I ran from the house. I pounded on the doors of the neighbors, I screamed for help… people came with buckets as quickly as they could, drawn from the well or from rain barrels… but it wasn’t enough. I kept trying to run back inside and people held me back. I screamed… I begged God to do something, anything. I pleaded to help them but they held me, grabbed my wrists and refused to let go. It’s likely the only reason I survived that night at all.”
Genevieve’s face is still, but in her eyes, I can see the shock, Only a handful of people knew the story, and she is only the first to know who is outside of my family, and the church who’d taken me in, “I’m sorry, Corvo… I didn’t know. Is that why you feel like you don’t… deserve divine help?”
I close my eyes for a moment and take a deep breath, “How can I think anything else? If a ten year old boy, begging God for help to save his parents isn’t worth the attention of God or Angels, why would it be any different when that same boy is grown and is more capable?”
“I suppose that makes sense,” she said, smiling softly and she placed a hand over mine, “For what it’s worth, God’s never given me anything either. All the good anyone ever did for me came with prices attached, or it came from people like you. People who gave a damn.”
“Marco… he’s the same way. When I got here, he told me not to lose faith in God, not to abandon the church or it’s teachings, but to recognize that we cannot depend solely on God. He told me that each of us, by virtue of action or inaction, are responsible for the state of our souls. Our salvation is ultimately our responsibility.”
“It makes sense,” she said as she placed her hand on my shoulder, “What do you say we get out of here? I’m supposed to meet my father for dinner and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind hosting one of the ‘infamous’ di Talmerin family.” She stands and offers me her hand up, I take it, gratefully.
“Si… I think I’ve spent enough time in the church today.” Rising to my feet, I clear my throat, and smooth my coat, before we make our way outside. Stepping out into the early evening air, we can see the sky is painted in hues of pink, orange, and violet and it silhouettes the ships down in the port and the isles of La Sorelle in the distance. I cannot help but smile at the beauty of that sunset as a voice, obscured by an ornate mask drifts over to me.
“Perhap then, these tragedies which strike us, seemingly at random, are actually the hand of blessed, all seeing Cyaniel, setting our feet upon the path we are meant to tread, that without such a push we could not have found.” Genevieve and I look to where the voice is, and we see a pair of masked men at a puppet stage. The stage adorned by pebbled painted white, against a deep blue backdrop, and one of the puppets alone on stage, monologuing. The two of us share a look and look back to the puppet show. I wander over and drop a handful of silver into their donation box.
“Grazie, signore. May Cyaniel guide your feet upon the path.” whispers the masked priest who, for the time, is not acting.
“Buona sera,” I say, turning away. “I think I’ll take my chances on my own,” I leave unsaid as we leave to join Count Baines for supper.