Whatever the doctor had given him, it worked wonders. Silas slept all afternoon and into the night, not waking once. He woke up at around midnight, rewound his watch, then went back to sleep, his head still foggy, and slept fitfully until morning. When he woke up, though, the calming effects of the medicine had worn away and left him more depressed than ever. He felt nauseous and lightheaded – almost incorporeal. For a while he thought about how lovely it would be to die. He’d had enough of all this. It must be the after-effects of the drug, he realized, though that didn’t make him feel any less like dying.
Waters was back, playing solitaire on the floor again. Someone brought down breakfast for both of them and Waters shoved it under the bars. Silas didn’t feel like eating. He didn’t see the point. But after a while, he got up and forced down the bread and cheese and felt better despite himself. Waters talked about bat infestations while he ate. He seemed to have a unique perspective and strangely personal story about everything. Silas never replied, so Waters eventually stopped talking and left him alone with his thoughts. Not that his thoughts were any better company.
Silas’ father had said he would be back in the morning, but it was past ten and he still hadn’t come. It was odd how familiar this little cell and the dark basement were becoming. In some ways it seemed like it had become his entire world, while his own life – the boarding house and his office at the college and the classrooms – seemed so far away it might have been another man who’d lived it. Maybe it was. Maybe he’d turned into someone else entirely. He didn’t feel like himself anymore. He felt really odd. It was probably the drug.
At 11:15 two men walked down the stairs and he thought he recognized them.
“Lord Carson wants Mr. Lawrence upstairs,” one of them said to Waters.
Silas felt his heart skip and his throat tighten.
“Alright,” Waters yawned and pushed himself up off the floor.
“If it’s all the same, I think I’ll stay here,” Silas said, standing to his feet.
Waters unlocked the door and swung it open, going back to the floor where his solitaire game sat half-finished.
“Come on, Mr. Lawrence,” said one of the men.
“What does he want with me?” Silas asked, casually backing up to the farthest corner of the cell possible.
“How should I know?”
“I don’t suppose you could go ask?”
The man sighed and pulled out a revolver.
“You know who my father is, don’t you?” Silas asked, his voice a little higher than he would have liked. “You can’t shoot me, and you know it.”
The man chuckled and put the gun away. He turned. “Waters, you know how to get him out?”
“Try saying ‘please’?” Waters suggested.
“Please, Mr. Lawrence?”
“Look,” said Silas. “I’m not going anywhere unless you tell me what Carson wants with me.”
The man seemed to weigh it in his mind.
“You know what he’ll say if we go up and ask,” said the other. “He’ll put us on cleaning duty for weeks.”
“I know…” the first man sighed. “Hey, Mr. Lawrence, how about you come quietly, and I give you two dollars?”
Silas stared at them. They were trying to bribe him? What kind of idiot did they think he was?
“Three dollars?” the man asked hopefully. He tilted his head and spoke in a low voice. “I could sneak a bottle of whisky down?”
“No, you are not going to bribe me with –” Silas paused. “What?”
“Oh, hell,” the man sighed.
They both strode into the cell, cringing. Silas dashed for the door, trying to knock one of them over, but he was too big and all he did was run into him. He put up a good fight and bloodied one of their noses and landed a good hit to the other’s ear, but eventually they pinned him to the floor, tied his hands behind him, and dragged him out the door.
“I was rooting for you,” Waters said as they walked by.
“That’s really splendid of you,” Silas snapped.
One of them shoved him toward the stairs and he went, but tensed as they neared the top. It was close to lunch, so there was a good possibility that the hallway would be deserted again with everyone preparing dinner.
One of the men pushed the door open, and Silas followed him out, stepping into the daylight. As soon as one foot was in the hallway, he darted toward the front door. The man behind him gave a shout and they ran after him while Silas was realizing he hadn’t thought about how to get the front door open or what to do after. He raced for it anyway and slammed into the doorframe, twisting to turn the knob.
He actually got it open, and even took two steps onto the front landing before they jumped on top of him. He looked out at the sky and the snow and the trees and the glorious sunlight as long as he could before they slammed the door shut. His shoulders slumped. He hadn’t exactly expected to get very far, but it was still disappointing.
They dragged him to the study where Lord Carson sat reading. He looked up and raised an eyebrow at the bloody noses and red faces.
“Mi’lord,” huffed one of the guards.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” Lord Carson said.
He gestured and they stepped back to sit on the couch at the other end of the study. Silas glanced at the closed window wondering how much it would hurt to jump out of it.
“Calm yourself, Mr. Lawrence,” said Lord Carson. “I only wanted to relay a message from your father. Won’t you sit down?”
Silas frowned and remained standing.
“Count Lawrence had an emergency meeting come up, and couldn’t be here this morning, so he sent a message. Here,” Lord Carson laid a note on the desk.
Silas walked closer, but without his glasses, the page was blurry. He leaned closer to it, squinting, to make out the letters.
I’m sorry I couldn’t be there this morning. Please relay your choice to Lord Carson. He will make the necessary arrangements, however you may choose, and I will be there tonight at 6:00 sharp.
Silas relaxed a little. “I see,” he said.
“You’ve had time to consider. I think you’ll find your choices most lenient on account of your relationship to the count.”
“Lenient,” Silas repeated.
“And what should I make arrangements for?” Lord Carson asked. His face was frozen in an expression of forced friendliness.
“I have to choose this moment?”
“It would be…” a muscle on his face twitched, “best.”
Silas took a breath. “I don’t know anything about this… organization of yours. I don’t know what I would be committing to. You can understand my hesitation.”
Lord Carson sighed with distaste. “I suppose that is understandable. I can give you a manual for new initiates. If you read that, would you be better able to come to a decision?”
Lord Carson got up and went to a file cabinet, opened it, and took out a thin manual. “I must inform you this information is of a very secret nature,” he said in a quick monotone, as if repeating a memorized phrase. “You are not to speak of this to anyone outside of the Order or share or reproduce any information regarding its contents. Reading it may mean that, should you choose to wait for an investigation, even if cleared of guilt, you would be monitored closely by members of the Order. Should you ever speak of this to anyone…” he smiled the first genuine smile since Silas had arrived. “Well, let’s just say even family relations wouldn’t be much help to you then. Understood?”
Silas shuddered and gave a quick nod.
“Do you have any other questions for me?”
Silas paused. “I… I need to know… if the violinist had been a member of the Fellowship, what would have happened to him?”
“The Fellowship are monsters, not men. They don’t bear thinking of, and as a member of the order, it would be your duty to report anything you find concerning them.”
“It’s not as if we don’t offer them a choice,” Lord Carson flicked a speck of lint off the desk. “In fact, we have several Fellowship members in our pay – they can choose to serve our cause if they wish, though most are so bent on rampant and bloody anarchy they’d rather die. But we always give a choice.” He gave Silas a piercing look.
Silas swallowed. “Mr. Waters says that what happened in… in my case, rarely ever happens. Is that true?”
“Oh, yes. We always learn who someone is before we take action of this sort. Civilians are left out of internal matters. If they fall under suspicion, an Order member will befriend them and investigate matters. Our organization would hardly be a secret if what happened in your case happened very often.”
“Because a member of good standing identified you as one of the perpetrators of the experiment sabotage, you were in possession of a Dascyleum Text, and your behavior was extremely abnormal. Staying in library basements for hours, keeping the book hidden away in that satchel while anyone was around, swapping the covers and hiding the true copy, trying to escape even after your father interceded for you and gave you an opportunity to clear your name.” Lord Carson smiled. “We can hardly be blamed for determining you’re a member of the Fellowship.”
“I’m not,” Silas frowned.
Carson continued smiling. “Of course, not.”
Silas’ throat was dry and the air in the study suddenly felt stifling. “I’ll take the manual and read it.”
“Good. Let me know your decision within an hour. The count will be here at 6:00 and we will proceed in whichever way you choose.” He leaned back in his chair. “You know, I was thrice offered promotion to count?”
“I’ve been a part of the Order for a very long time and have accumulated more honors than most. But I refused the promotion. Do you want to know why?”
Silas really didn’t.
“It’s because I am very good at what I do. I have been hunting Fellows for longer than you’ve been alive, and I am not boasting without grounds when I tell you I have a sort of… sixth sense where Fellows are concerned.”
Silas forced a faint smile. “That must be very helpful in your line of work.”
“Yes. It is.” Lord Carson beckoned to the men on the couch. He handed the manual to one of them. “You may go.”
Silas followed them back downstairs and sat on the cot after they’d untied his hands. He felt instinctively for his glasses in his jacket pocket and was a little surprised to find them there and unharmed. He put them on and looked at the front. The Sovereign Order: An Introduction, it read on a plain paper cover.
“What was that all about?” Waters asked.
“He wanted to know what I’d decided.”
“I need to read this.”
“What is it?”
“The manual they give you at initiation.”
“I think I still have one of those somewhere. Always thought it was funny they gave one to me. They knew I couldn’t read. Must just be protocol.”
Silas had forgotten Waters couldn’t read. “Why did you never learn to read?”
“Never had the time, I s’pose,” said Waters. “Worked in the factories as a kid and joined the Order when I was fifteen. Since then, I never ran into the need to.”
Silas shook his head, baffled. “Well, I’d offer to teach you myself, except that I hate you.”
“That’s fair,” Waters shrugged, though he looked a little hurt.
Silas looked at the front and back covers, then flipped to the first chapter.
The Sovereign Order has gone by many names throughout the centuries, and sometimes by no name at all. One thing we hold in common with our ancient ancestors is the unifying goal of world order and peace. The modern iteration called the Sovereign Order was founded in 1821 with the organizational motto of Pax Dominio. Our Order protects civilization and the peace it brings.
The book didn’t say much more about the overall purpose of the order, but the later pages did outline the basic workings. The Order was organized in a hierarchy named after the feudal ages. There were basic members, who donated a certain amount to the order each year and did simple tasks like carrying messages or contributing skills if they had certain expertise. Next were squires who worked directly under knights in a manner much like army privates. The knights led teams of squires and organized them to carry out commands from higher up.
Barons oversaw districts – Silas took it that Lord Carson was the baron overseeing the Boston area – and there were one or two allocated barons per district, depending on its size. Next were counts, who oversaw regions in councils of seven. Apparently, there was a syndicate of them there in Boston if his father was a count. Higher than that was a group of seven dukes who governed whole nation-wide territories.
Finally at the top was an emperor, who was the ruler of the entire order. While the dukes advised and worked alongside him, his word was law. Since he had worked his way to that position, he was considered worthy to make the best choices on behalf of the entire organization. He could not be voted out or deposed, and the next emperor only took his place after he had died.
The Order was also regulated by a fascinating points system. To move up in rank, members had to accumulate a certain number of them. Half the book was a detailed listing of which deeds were worth how many points. Many of them were for participating in Order holidays.
Year’s Beginning Commital………………………5 pt
Night of Power………………….........………………5 pt
Duke’s Day……………………..........………………. 5 pt
Week of Death Vigil……………......………………5 pt
Some of them were downright strange.
Miscellaneous Noble Action………………….….50-600 pt to be awarded by superior
Memorization of Codex………..........................….200 pt
Skill of Fruit Cake Baking………………………5 pt
Skill of Flower Arrangement……….…………5 pt
And some of them made him pause.
Report of Un-lawful behavior……………....………10 pt
Report of Fellowship member…………….....…… 10 pt
Turning in Dascyleum Text for Destruction……800 pt
Silas shook his head. “I find it hard to believe this has been going on for centuries and no one has ever noticed,” he said, looking up at Waters. “If there really are members all around the world.”
“People don’t notice what they don’t look for,” Waters shrugged. “And we keep things pretty hush-hush.”
“By kidnapping uninvolved people?”
“Would you stop going on about that?”
Silas looked back down at the book and read the rest of it from cover to cover. It was still vague on what the overall purpose of the order was, and there were a few things in it that struck him as disturbing, such as the mandate to turn in Fellows, but it wasn’t as if he would ever run into one if Carson and Waters were to be believed. And maybe everything was true about them. Maybe they really were a cult that would be better eradicated. His father wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a good one, and he would never be a part of an organization that persecuted innocent people. If he supported it, there had to be good reason.
And perhaps being a part of the Order wouldn’t be terrible. $15 wasn’t much each year, and the few meetings he’d have to go to could easily be excused as school board meetings or late-evening research at the library. He could keep on in relative ignorance of the workings of the Order and it would barely impact his everyday life. His father had apparently been a part of it since even before Silas was born, and Silas hadn’t even suspected.
Someone walked down the stairs and Silas realized it had been an hour already. He knew the choice he had to make, but he still felt a wave of panic at each footstep on the stairs. He flipped the book closed and took his glasses off, letting out a slow breath.
“Lord Carson wants–” the man started.
“You can tell Lord Carson,” Silas interrupted, wearily. “That I agree to join the Order.”