In Part I of “The Burning Flame,” Brutus escaped the mountain of Belmont to find his son, Lorenzo. On the mountainside, Brutus finds a body scorched by plasma blasts. It looks just like Lorenzo and, knowing nothing of mirrorbeasts or the outside world, Brutus assumes it is the slain body of his son. He returns with the body to the guarded entrance of Belmont, trying to understand and trying to remain faithful to . . .
The Burning Flame
BY FRASIER ARMITAGE
Brutus neared the force field that shielded Belmont’s Gate.
His child’s corpse weighed heavily in his arms, and he struggled to reach for the device Julius had slipped him. He replaced his breathing mask over his mouth and pressed the device. The force field’s amber glow flickered before extinguishing like a dying ember, and the huge gate opened automatically, its grinding gears churning in a metallic scrape.
The Gatekeeper towered before Brutus, gripping his axe with hands of iron.
Brutus emerged from the mountain’s mist with Lorenzo in his arms.
“What do you seek?” the Gatekeeper asked.
“I come to return my child to the flame.” Brutus’s voice could barely be heard.
“None may pass.”
Brutus shook his head. It was that kind of talk which had killed his boy. His brows knitted together, contorting his face into a rage. “Tell me, if I were not permitted entry, why did the amber haze disappear? Why did the gate open for me?” Brutus asked.
The Gatekeeper pondered for a moment. “The gate has never opened for anyone.”
“Which is why you must let me pass.”
The Gatekeeper shook his head. “I must speak to the Council of Belmont first.”
“Speak with Councilman Julius,” Brutus said. “The Hoodsman will permit me entry. Tell him . . . ,” Brutus choked on his words. “Tell him . . . I have my son.”
The Gatekeeper spoke into his robe. Brutus fought back the bloodflame surging through his veins, urging him to wrench the limbs from the Gatekeeper and shoulder his way past. None would prevent him from returning Lorenzo to the fire below the mountain.
“Let him pass,” a voice called from behind the Gatekeeper. Antony stood panting, bent with his hands on his knees. “The Council wishes to see you, Brutus. Quickly.”
The Gatekeeper lowered his axe and stepped back. Brutus hurried with Antony through the levels and the smoke, down to the pillars. Antony didn’t speak a word to Brutus. He knew better than to stir the coals of a flame that was already too wild.
Up through the lift, the gears whirred. Doors opened. Brutus carried his son into the circle of robes.
“You disobeyed our order, Brutus.” The Council’s spokesman flashed his fingers in a ritualistic gesture.
“Then you should have left me on the mountain,” Brutus said. “Why did you allow me to return?”
“We are not without pity for you, brother. Besides, it is our creed that all who flout our ways be judged within this circle.”
“You would dare judge me?” Brutus yelled. “You who worship at an altar of sin!”
The Hoodsman glanced around his fellows. The shadow beneath his hood revealed no features, concealing his open jaw and the disbelief across his face.
“You worship flame, but your fire has done this to my boy.” Brutus held his hands towards them, forcing them to consider his son’s charred remains. “Look at his flesh. Look at it! See it scorched, as though he had fallen into the molten river. Your fire promised me that I would see my boy, and look! It has devoured him and spat him back out. And you dare to tell me that I have sinned, when you would have left him like this! Left him to rot beneath the fury of that torch beyond Belmont which sears the sky!
“Had you stayed inside the mountain,” the Councilman replied, “you would never have
known his suffering. It is your own impudence which has brought this grief upon you.
Sentence shall be pronounced.”
“There can only be one sentence,” Brutus interrupted. He laid Lorenzo’s body on the ground and removed his breathing mask. “The sentence of death.” Brutus pounced towards the Councilman and slammed the mask into his hood. Blood spurted from where his face should have been. Brutus’s hands clasped at his throat. Years of mining trained Brutus’s grip, and the Hoodsman’s neck snapped beneath the pressure. He collapsed to the ground.
Around Brutus, robes flew. Hoodsmen attacked the fellows at their side, gowns flapping like wings as ornate blades sliced neon red through the chamber, and blood spilled into the circle. After the carnage, a stillness settled, and Julius emerged, peeling back his hood.
“Brother,” Julius said, “you truly are a fire. Too long has it taken to rid Belmont of its traditions. Your name shall be remembered for all time, alongside Portia the Great, our Guardian and Founder. Behold, Brutus the Wise, our Fire and Liberator.”
The remaining Hoodsmen stepped over the bodies of their fallen comrades, crowding around Brutus.
“My son.” Brutus reached through the litany of robes and crumpled Lorenzo’s body to his chest. “I ask to send him down the river, so that he may rest.”
“Brutus, my brother, you need not ask our permission.” Julius tore the robes from the body of their former leader. He wrapped the garment around Brutus’s shoulders and bequeathed him a ceremonial knife. “I hereby appoint Brutus to the Council of Belmont. Let the word go out among the people. There shall be a ceremony at Thinveil, where we shall send our fallen kinsmen to journey along the river of fire. The whole city will attend. Lorenzo will be given a noble procession, my brother.”
The Councilmen performed their solemn gesture in unison.
“Now, go,” Julius said. “Go to your family.”
Brutus staggered to the lift and back through the habitats. He coughed and sputtered as the smoke infected his lungs, but he cared not.
The airlock washed him clean of smoke as fresh air pulsed against his skin. He drank it in, soothing his throat where smog still festered. Beyond the threshold, Ophelia stood, her hands covering her mouth.
She shrieked as Brutus entered the hab.
“What is this?” she cried. “Sylvia, Rodrigo, leave us!” The children ran from the room, too afraid to question their mother.
“My love, I am sorry. But we have only a short time to prepare him for his journey downriver. I could not stand to embalm him anywhere but our home.”
“Who is that?” Ophelia demanded.
“Do you not recognize your own child? I’m so sorry, my darling wife. I thought I could return him to us, but I was mistaken.”
Ophelia’s eyes widened. “No. You get that creature out of my hab!”
“Creature? How dare you speak of Lorenzo that way!”
Ophelia quivered, her pale body thrashing as she reached for a kitchen blade. “You get that thing away from me, or I shall kill it!”
Brutus laid the body in the airlock and stepped between Ophelia and his son. She lunged at the corpse, but Brutus caught her hand and snatched the knife away from her.
“Get it out!” she shrieked. “It is not my son! My son lives. He lives, Brutus!” Her crimson eyes bled tears.
Brutus nodded. “I gave you hope, and you are not ready to let go of it.”
“Can you not see? You have brought a stranger into our home. My son lives. Where is my son, husband?”
She shook in his hands, and he released her. Ophelia paced through the hab, her limbs shivering, and she muttered her son’s name over and over.
A chime signalled from their door.
“Come,” Brutus said.
Julius entered, stepping over Lorenzo. “Brutus, I came to assist you with the embalming.”
“You are most kind, brother. But I shall wrap him myself.”
“Get it out of here!” Ophelia screamed.
Brutus rushed to Ophelia and leaned to her ear. “Leave us.” He signalled to the door, and Ophelia fled from the room.
“Does she know your son will sail the river with a hero’s honor?” Julius asked.
Brutus shook his head. “Ophelia does not believe that is our son. Look at her. She’s riddled with a maddening hope that he still lives.”
Julius raised an eyebrow. “And what of you, Brutus? Has hope abandoned you?”
Brutus flung the robes from his shoulders to the floor, covering Lorenzo’s body with it. He returned the kitchen blade to its place, and grasped the decorative knife of a Councilman, fixing it to his waist upon the cord which sheathed it. “May I ask you, Julius, why you are really here?”
Julius nodded, and removed his hood. “You are shrewd indeed, my friend. I came to find out what you intend to say at Lorenzo’s mourning. You shall have the whole of Belmont before you. What will you tell them?”
Brutus shrugged. “What would you have me say?”
“That there is yet hope, Brutus. That Lorenzo dreamed of a day when fire might pass beyond these walls, and Belmont might take its place among its brothers, in a world beyond this tomb.”
“You seek peace with the world, Julius?”
The Hoodsman nodded. “It is written: ‘We must sow peace.’”
“Is it not also written that ‘There is no peace without sacrifice’?”
Julius took Brutus by the arm. “You speak truth, brother. I am sorry that the sacrifice which will bring us peace is yours to bear.”
Brutus pointed to Lorenzo. “You really think there can be peace in a world which can do that to a child?”
“You must see the future, Brutus. You must dream of what Belmont will become. Can you not see the fire of Belmont purifying the world of its fear? Of its hatred? The flame feeds all, and when it does, we shall bask as one in its heat and light. Speak of this. It is what Lorenzo would have wished.”
Julius turned to leave.
Peace. His son lay dead and Julius preached of peace. More lies.
Heat blazed through Brutus’s mind, devouring it. He snatched at the ceremonial blade. Its neon laser hissed. “No!” he screamed as he buried it in Julius’s back.
Julius cried out, but Brutus stifled it with his hand.
“I am a flame, Julius,” Brutus whispered. “I shall burn through this mountain and consume the world. And when the world is turned to ash, only then will there be peace.”
Julius’s eyes bulged. “Brutus!”
A twist of the blade snuffed the life from the Hoodsman, and he slumped to the ground beside Lorenzo.
Thinveil struck, and the city gathered in the lowest depths of the mountain. Behind breathing masks, the whole of Belmont crowded in the antechamber. At the far end of the cavern, a ledge fell away to the river of magma which flowed beneath the crust of the Globe. Beside the ledge, a group of Hoodsmen stood, blessing the embalmed bodies at their feet.
Brutus approached from among the Hoodsmen and peeled back his hood. A horn blasted.
He raised his arms and the people fell silent.
“Hear me, brothers and sisters,” he began. “There is fire and family, and that is all. This is the creed which we have lived by. But my family has been taken from me. Not even my wife has the strength to witness the Great Passing today, choosing exile in her hab rather than bestowing her blessing upon our child. And so I grieve with you, my brothers and sisters, for the loss of my son.”
The people stamped their feet, and a thunder boomed around the cavern.
“Is it a coincidence,” Brutus continued, “that on the day Lorenzo was taken from us, a scourge robbed us of our most beloved Councilmen? If the flame has sent us an omen, it is better to heed it. But what meaning could there be in the death of one so young?”
“I have searched the runes and the oldest writings for an answer, and I see the fire’s wisdom in the words of my friend, and our beloved Hoodsman, who is no longer with us. Julius was the finest of men, with the noblest of hearts, and dreams greater than the smoke we breathe.”
“He once told me that if a fire cannot spread, it dies. There is truth in this. My son believed these words. As do I. Do you not agree with Julius’s wisdom?”
Again, the people stamped and slammed their chests.
Brutus nodded. “Julius saw a future beyond the mountain. And who among us has not yearned for what lays beyond these walls? The priests tell us that segregation is purity. But segregation has trapped us, and stopped us from spreading. Consider the mountain. The ore which we refine must first be mixed with stone and impurity. Only after it is mixed can it be refined. This sustains it. And so, too, must we think beyond this chamber if we are to sustain our ways, lest the fire die.”
Brutus coughed on the smoke in his lungs and turned his filter to its maximum output, tasting fresh air to calm his chest.
“Portia the Great,” he said, “the Guardian, and our city’s founder, established a policy of separation so that we might not leave this mountain and crave the delights beyond. We could never abandon the mountain, for every flame needs to be stoked, and that is why we must not lose sight of our ways. Yet, it was never Portia’s intention to prevent us from growing. Like a flame, we must spread, or the dream of Belmont will be over.”
The crowd gasped. A murmur rocked the chamber.
“Think of the children. My own, Sylvia and Roderigo, play games. They laugh. They live. As do your own children. But they will all end up as Lorenzo if we do not act now. Julius appointed me as Brutus the Wise. Heed my warning. If we remain trapped, more will die. We will suffocate in our pride. My son’s death has brought an end to the old ways. If we fail to take the lesson of his passing, then we too shall end up dead, with no-one left to sail us on the river of fire.”
The people roared with one voice. They beat their breasts and stamped so hard the stone beneath them splintered in cracks.
“I make a pledge to you, faithful Belmontians,” Brutus yelled, “that this day shall be the spark which sets the world ablaze. I shall not rest until our fire has burnt through the mountain. Our fire will judge those beyond this city. Any who take our ways to heart will be purified by the flame. And any who do not will choke on its smoke. We must consume the world. Now is our time. Who is with me?”
The crowd erupted in a cheer that shook the walls. A chorus of arms raised, saluting Brutus.
He waved, and it calmed the people. The remaining Hoodsmen behind him stirred.
“There shall be nothing hidden from the people,” Brutus cried. “Any of our leaders who refuse to lower their hoods to the people’s wishes will find their heads floating upon the lake of fire. What say you, Councilmen?”
The Hoodsmen glanced at one another, before they lowered their hoods and bowed before Brutus. The crowd’s frenzy grew, heat from their flailing arms matching the lava below.
“It is settled,” Brutus said. “Our fallen family will feed the fire, and our kilns will rage all the better for it. But let us not fashion our ore into farmer’s tools or hover-barges. Let us forge weapons for ourselves, the likes of which no army can resist. And let us take the purity of our crusade to any who would question our ways.”
From among the crowd, verses of chantrock broke out. The same chant he had heard once before. “We are the mountain, and you are the flame,” they sang. “Rise and burn. Rise and burn.”
He lowered his son, along with the other bodies, over the crevice. Magma licked their limbs away, until they were no more.
“I am the flame,” Brutus sang, responding to their chant. “I am the flame, and the fire rises.”
If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe Folio series, and then Frasier’s “The Voice of Beasts.”
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
Act 1: Night of the Rocket
- “Pillars of Smoke” by Frasier Armitage
- “Shadow of the Dunes” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Towers of Whitehall” by Jim Hamilton
- “The Beast Below” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross
- “Kite Night” by Matthew Cross
Act 2: Nights of Revelation
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 1″ by Frasier Armitage
- “The Voice Beasts–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Sands of Change–Part 1″ by Shanel Wilson
- “The Sands of Change–Part 2″ by Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Principle” by Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 1″ by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Shambles” by Matthew Cross
- “Interrogation” by Matthew Cross
- “The Burning Flame–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- You just read: “The Burning Flame–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Song of Thieves” by Frasier Armitage
- “The View from the Wall–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The View from the Wall–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Bounty” by Matthew Cross
- “Feral Fields” by Jeremy Wilson and Shanel Wilson