This week I have another fellow Indie Author who was kind enough to sit and answer all my questions with well thought out answers. I’ve skimmed through his book and have it on my TBR, I have to say, it sounds interesting. Go ahead and check out his book and his blog. You won’t be disappointed!
1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m Athanasios. I’ve been creative all my life and have always striven for outlets to express it. I’ve tried strict Fine Arts, including drawing, painting and sculpture. I’ve tried graphic arts, illustration and animation, and I’ve had a measure of success in all of them.
The one form of expression I feel the most comfortable and immersed in is writing. I’ve grown up all over Canada and Greece. I’d moved every year of my formative school years so I’m pretty solitary and have always relied on myself for my entertainment and feedback. I’m no longer alone and live with my wife, 3 cats and a dog in eastern Canada.
2.) How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing most of my life. Since early high school. I was enthralled by fantasy, sword and sorcery creators like Michael Moorcock, Robert E Howard and comics. I wanted to elicit that type of wonder.
3.) Do you have a preferred genre that you read? Is it the same as what you write?
There is currently no one genre I read. Although it is predominately documentary, or academic. Specifically Joseph Campbell, Elaine Pagles, Robert Lomas, Tom Harpur and many more who write about early Christianity and divergent religion in general.
4.) What is the title of your book and where can it be found?
My book is Mad Gods. I have different versions of it at amazon kindle and at my own website.
At mad-gods.com I’ve got my original available at ebay titled Mad Gods Author Edit.
I’ve also got each individual chapter with illustrated cover at ebay titled Final Edit Chapters.
At amazon kindle I’ve got the full, edited version of Mad Gods called Mad Gods Redux at 2.99.
I’ve also got the story split into 5 volumes to have it available for less. Each volume is comprised of 4-5 chapters including title page illustrations.
5.) Describe your novel in 15 words or less.
Revelation is crucified when the Antichrist refuses destiny and escapes Dark Nobility & Catholic Church.
6.) Where did the inspiration for your story come from?
Religion in general. I grew up being scared out of my wits by the Exorcist & the Omen. They were released in theatres in 73 & 76 respectively, which made me 9 & 12. This was in my formative years before I began thinking for myself & got out from my traditional Greek parents beliefs. I wanted to go past those fears & began looking into whatever was known about the two characters therein: Satan & his darling son. The further I looked into it the more scared I became so I left it alone for a while. I didn’t even consider it apart from giving myself the willies every couple of months when I gave both some thought. The idea as to how much fear they caused stayed with me. I didn’t like it but I knew it was powerful.
7.) How long did it take you to complete this novel from concept to published?
Just about ten years. It’s gone through many incarnations. First the title Mad Gods is an appropriation of the Joe Cocker album Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Never had it, never heard it, but I saw it in an old record store & thought it was a cool title. It stayed with me till I wanted a title for an earlier comic book version that I called Mad Gods & Buried Children. It was about a giant guy, a natural hulk who was also scarred badly in his youth. Due to his abnormal size he was thought of as a monster, a damned creature that had to be a creation of the devil. So the Antichrist hadn’t come into my mind until way later in the Mad Gods & Buried Children timeline. So this huge hulking guy, Bear, comes along in my imagination with this terrible childhood. That’s the buried children part. So I follow the ideas in my head till since he was considered a monster & was damned, creation of the devil, yadda, yadda, yadda, that’s when I thought, why isn’t he the Antichrist? I also didn’t want him to be huge but wanted him to be beneath notice, an everyman, all the more insidious because he could be anybody, look like anybody. Medium height, medium build, brown hair, brown eyes, no discernible racial characteristics, nothing impressive or frightening until you find out he’s the Antichrist.
8.) When you sit down to write, how does that process go? Do you outline or just let it evolve?
I have to have a plot, so I outline but it’s just used as a direction, I don’t have to stay with it but I need it to know which direction to go.
9.) Are there any aspects of writing you struggle with?
Finding the time to write. I have a day job where I can do a lot of the preliminaries and promotional parts of indie authorship. Yet when it comes down to doing the grunt work of pulling the tale out of my head I need quiet. I can do my job, graphics and video editing listening to music, or watching some television, or documentaries on my computer and have no problems with concentration. Writing, however, is totally distracting. I can’t do anything else. I can’t listen to music, or watch anything on computer. So it’s difficult to find a place to concentrate on it. It’s getting better, though because I can work on the train on my way to and back from work.
10.) Are there any aspects that you simply glide through?
Most of the time outline and plot construction is pretty easy.
11.) What sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
First of all I don’t think it can comfortably fit into any one genre. So far in my reviews I’ve gotten horror, occult, action adventure, dark fantasy, historical fiction, paranormal, supernatural.
It is certainly not for children or the faint of heart, timid or dogmatically religious. The fact that it doesn’t fall into a predetermined genre is the biggest reason why it’s different from most books.
More to the point of what sets it it apart from most other books that it could be compared to is that it takes the paranormal or occult theme of the Antichrist and reverses it bringing the duality of man, & woman, to its final evolution: Good/Evil – Christ/Antichrist or as I like to write it Xos/AntiXos.
12.) What is the location of your story setting and why did you choose that place/time?
There is no one location. It starts in Istanbul, goes to Sparta, Alexandria, Argentina, Rome, The Vatican, New York, San Francisco, the roads and highways of North America and northern British Columbia, Canada.
I didn’t specifically chose them as they were dictated by the characters and the story’s evolution.
13.) Your main characters, tell me about them. What is their back story? How did they find themselves where they are now?
The two main characters are Kostadino Paleologos and the Antichrist who Kosta names Adam. Kosta is a descendant of Byzantine Emperors and for most of his life he has done what was expected of him.
He was born with unique psychic, paranormal abilities to control and manipulate the dead and the paranormal, occult forces in the world. Those were put to use in returning to Istanbul every year to release trapped souls of the defenders of the city when it was known as Kostadinoupoli and conquered by the Ottoman Turks. He is told by the last soul he releases, his direct ancestor Emperor Kostadino XI that he must find a unique book, called the Idammah-Gan Codex. This book leads him to find and kidnap the Antichrist from his original parents. He takes him because he wants this innocent make his own choice of whether he will destroy the world as his destiny in Revelation demands or if he instead will live an ordinary life. Kostadino is in a rare position to empathize with the Antichrist, with Adam. He spent his life following his destiny and it left him alone and wishing for a life without the terrors he lived through and had to combat. Adam learns from Kostadino that he can control his own destiny and not be a slave to it. Adam realizes controlling your own destiny is not easy, it is one of the most difficult tasks anybody can attempt, because you must fight every force known and unknown trying to wrest this control back. Kostadino’s and Adam’s decision puts them at odds with everybody from Luciferians, Templars, Illuminati, Catholic Church and Free Masons.
14.) I’d like to know more about your book. Tell me all about it.
At its core Mad Gods is about responsibility. At one point Adam states it outright: “It’s everybody’s fault; nobody is innocent. Everybody grow the fuck up! We’re no longer infants or children who believe that muscular men control the weather or that strong women have dominion over fucking or crops. We’re not adolescents who need white-haired geriatrics and horned, cloven foot throwbacks to clash with each other, leaving us in the middle of their fight. We are all responsible for our own actions, both individually and collectively. There is only one golden rule: Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” This might denote that Mad Gods tries to prove that there are no such things as deities. On the contrary, they exist because we made them, for we don’t want the responsibility of destiny we want to give it over to our leaders, whether they are politicians, philosophers, priests, or gods.
15.) What do you want readers to take from your writings?
I want people to think. An early review of Mad Gods, by Patrick D said it best: “The author also has a unique perspective on world and life events. His writing is very thought provoking and there were several times I paused in introspection because of what this author wrote.” I can’t get any better than that. Mission accomplished.
*Awesome review by the way! Congratulations to you!*
16.) Are more books to follow or is this a stand alone?
Yes, Mad Gods is only the first of a series titled Predatory Ethics. Mad Gods deals with my first experiences with religion: contemporary Christianity with its champion the Catholic Church, and its opposite with its favourite Luciferian or Satanism. Sequels will have Adam as the now universal saviour, deal with Paganism, Buddhism, Islam, Hindu, Shinto and throughout there will always be the Illuminati and Dark Nobility.
17.) Where can readers find you?
I can be emailed @: firstname.lastname@example.org. My website with all the links to every incarnation of Mad Gods is right here.
Adam’s blog is found here.
18.) What are 3 random things about yourself that readers might like to know.
1- I’m a Howard Stern fan in the truest definition of the word. I listen to him every day and love every minute of his show. I haven’t missed it since I first heard him when he was broadcast in Montreal in 1998.
2- I can cook, and well. I’ve been doing so since I was 12 years old and learned everything I could in my family’s restaurant.
*Oooo. A man who cooks! I thought I had the only one, now I find out there are two! Awesome!*
3- I am a fully independent adult, i.e. I can mend my own clothes, wash them and myself without help or supervision. I clean, vacuum, do windows, mop, feed the animals, clean the litter-box, walk the dog.
I don’t need anybody to do anything I can’t, because I can do it all.
19.) What do you do in your down time? For fun.
I watch a lot of television, documentaries and movies. I also do a lot of my own home repairs, that may not be fun but when it’s done it’s very gratifying.
20.) How about letting me have a sneak peak at chapter one?
You asked for it. Here’s Mad Gods, chapter 1.
– Monaxia –
TIME: May 29th, 1960, Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul conjured images of ancient history. Medieval Christian sculptures and mosaics stood among electric streetlights and movie posters. As he walked the city’s streets, Kosta Paleologos saw the past amidst the modern hustle and bustle and felt grief, called monaxia – a longing for home and the familiar, which deepened in Istanbul. Everywhere, he saw faded glory, and turned Istanbul to Kostadinoupoli. Greeks to Byzantines.
Every year, he returned to the city on May 29. It was a duty, which had been handed down through generations of this family with brown eyes, monaxia and brown hair. They were successors to Athens, Sparta, Macedonia and Rome. Pericles, Leonidas, Alexander and Caesars, from Julius to Constantine, evolved into Byzantine’s Emperor. He was Christ’s Caesar and ruled by divine decree, undreamt of by later pretenders. France’s Louis and Napoleon, England’s Henry and Charles, paled in comparison to Justinian and the First Constantine the Great. They were history. They were gone in every way, but in memory. Nothing remained as it was. No amount of prayer, hope or monaxia could change that.
Kosta knew this and came to Istanbul, because there were souls, still clinging to the history of their memories. Just as people prayed to God, Greeks felt monaxia and souls roamed Kostadinoupoli. To them, it was still 1453, and they fought desperately to keep their city. These unfortunate souls were unable to leave. They wandered and died in their memory. Over and over, they suffered lesser pain, than the total agony of death. They were terrified to face this absolute split from life. They were unable to accept the fact that they lived in history, because giving into its finality would utterly destroy them.
They were right. It was total destruction they feared – death. In order to stave it off, they existed in the past. Their frantic grasp of the belief that they would vanish kept them in Kostadinoupoli, when it was Istanbul.
Kosta and his family held no such illusions. They pitied the Byzantine ghosts, wandering their ancient, stone streets, but knew that history and Kostadinoupoli were gone forever. They were fabricated memory. They were similar, but not the past. A photograph isn’t the representation of reality we’ve come to believe it to be. God isn’t either. Our prayers make Him what we want Him to be. We’ve been told that history and God were and are, real, therefore, we believe.
Most in the Paleologos family believed. Even the extended families they married into believed in the Byzantine, Orthodox Theos: God. The Agelopoulos, Kazatzakis, Galanis, Gatzoyiannis and the rest believed like good, Greek Orthodox. Many envied that Kosta came to Kostadinoupoli every year – they didn’t call it Istanbul. Kosta rejected his uncles’ and cousins’ appeals to accompany him. This was something only he could do.
He looked up Yrebatan Caddesi and saw Hagia Sophia in the distance. The grand church was still distinguishable, between the later minarets and near the Ottoman, Blue Mosque. All about her, Turks, Greeks, Italians and too many others to list, walked on their individual ways. Some didn’t see the racial distinctions that Kosta noticed, but most didn’t care. They were that close to being racist and that far away from caring.
He ran a critical eye over them, trying to locate who didn’t belong, looking for someone who stood out from the living. Eventually, he did find her. She didn’t see cars or any of the modern details, which through the centuries, eroded a remembered life. Someone who walked with a shuffle to her confused step, as the world around her seeped into the past, clothing her senses. He approached the woman who saw no one. She didn’t see the modern slacks, blue jeans and neckties worn by the living. Her face and clothes were pale and colorless. Her dress, centuries old, fell on her in a shabby mess, beneath the kerchief covering her head. She didn’t speak when she noticed Kosta, but stopped abruptly, struck motionless. Her eyes were shocked wide and her mouth fell open in silence.
Kosta reached forward and, with a touch on her shoulder, knocked her into himself. She did not stumble romantically into his arms, but fell into his body and was absorbed. Through his eyes, she saw that Kostadinoupoli was gone, and was confused by the alien assault on her senses. She saw nothing familiar, no one she knew, heard no known language and saw the impossible. Carriages moved by themselves. Light shone without sun or flame. Nothing made sense to her.
It was this way each time. He felt her internal chaos and let her adjust to his senses. He stepped out of his body and watched his head swing in every direction, reacting to the repeated blows to her memory. Slowly, he came back into himself; his consciousness enveloped her and explained.
Kosta began by sharing his thoughts, without the faulty translation of words, or the loss of context. Through their shared mind, she understood what no verbal explanation could impart. He revealed to her that she was dead. Nothing in her memory would help her, so she must pay attention to him. The quelling of her initial confusion allowed her to grasp his floating thoughts, amidst the storm of her senses. She experienced his mind as her own. She released her memories and moved forward from what she remembered. There was no going back. She moved with time and stopped festering in 1453. After moments, which seemed to last for hours or days, time and history finally lost meaning.
History and Kostadinoupoli no longer existed. They were no longer the anchors holding her, and she came to a unique peace. She wept when she found her children and family after her centuries of searching in Kostadinoupoli. They waited, just as she knew they would. All were gathered for paska, the Easter feast, laid out before them. Lamb turned on an open fire and she saw, smelt and heard that for which she longed. While she had lived in fragmented memories, centuries passed, but now in her paradise, it was all real, as she had known it would be.
Kosta smiled at her bliss and warmed to the peace that she gave herself.
She wasn’t the last. Two more souls still clung to history. This year for the Truth, there would only be three. Three souls would possess Kosta, who would then show them how to release their stubborn grasp on lives long past.
Since the fall of Kostadinoupoli, the Truth, a descendant of the last Byzantine Emperor, returned every year to guide spirits forward to their final rest. He never verbally spoke to them, but transferred his understanding and, by sharing his body, they understood that the world was no longer for the dead, but rather for the living.
Not every year was so light. Not all who were shown reality accepted it with little drama. Many still clung to rage and hate from their pasts. They still fought enemies and attacked them, even as they shared the Truth’s body. They still fought any who wanted to take their city. They still fought a six hundred year-old battle. Some of Kosta’s ancestors had been lost when they attempted to bring peace to the hate-mongers. They had lost control of themselves and, as a result, lingering hate had possessed the Truth.
Even after such loss, there was always another Paleologos, another Truth, ready to continue the mission. No calling was ever needed, and none was ever rejected. From the time at which they endured the fall of their city, the family had dispersed. They took jobs, married into other families and continued on with time and life, though they never forgot their heritage.
In every generation, a particular child would show himself to be adept in the Truth. It was never questioned, and only those properly compelled ever took the mantle. It came as naturally as eating and drinking. All of Kosta’s family – parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents – knew he was a Truth. The choice was no one’s to make. It came, as did his brown hair and eyes, squared shoulders, jaw and remarkable nose. He thought of this as he continued onto the next soul he would release, getting closer to Hagia Sophia.
One day, ten years previously, Kosta’s uncle, George, came with his bulbous nose, easy laugh and huge glasses to, tell him that he didn’t want to go on. He wanted Kosta to embrace their task and become the Truth. George knew that he, himself, wouldn’t see it to completion. His eyes sparkled, his smile tight, as they spoke. Kosta felt the same smile crease over his teeth at the memory.
His parents let them speak in private. They were always reverent when Uncle George spoke to him. They distanced themselves from the Truth, even their own son, never understanding the gift. His father even pitied him. They once told Kosta that they wished he had another fate. The Truth led a lonely life. Kosta’s father saw it firsthand with his brother, George.
That day, when Kosta heard that he would become the Truth, he felt a fear that he, as well, would be alone. Their task left no room for love or family. There was only the release of souls. This was merely an outside perspective. Very few people understood the full implications. Uncle George did; eventually, Kosta did as well. There was no room for self-pity. The Truth rejected all, but his particular task. It was that simple.
“It’s almost over now, ayori mou, kodevou meh, siya, siya, kodevou meh.” Uncle George chuckled at his terrible Greekglish. “Pack your memories and embrace your family. There is no need for any clothes or necessities, as everything will be provided at Alexandria. When we arrive, I’ll tell you everything.”
Kosta took a few minutes, putting three mementos into his left shirt pocket. They were pictures of his family. Of his parents and sister at the beach, around the paska – Easter feast, his sister’s baptism, and of them standing proudly in front of their restaurant. “I’ve got everything; I can go.” Kosta had already kissed his family, when he replied with a casual confidence.
“I know the hard part for anybody else.” Uncle George corrected himself, “The impossible, for anyone else, is, for us, instinctive. You’ll be taught how to maintain your life, so that you can complete our task. The arrangements have been made for you to look after all of our interests.” Kosta looked confused. “What interests?”
“Being the Truth is an all-encompassing job, ayori mou. You can’t flip pizzas in Restaurant Olympique in your spare time. You’ll come to understand this, as has every other Truth, and as have I.” The jovial man turned serious and Kosta listened intently. “The Truth, every Truth, must develop many skills, which free them to do their real work – releasing souls.” He continued, “A man will come to you after you’ve spent a while in Alexandria. He’ll teach you how to survive.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?” He held his breath, afraid of the answer.
“I can’t,” George stated. “I’ve decided to relinquish this task. I’m finished with it. I’ve done all that I can do.”
“Why can’t you show me these other skills?”
“I know how to survive; you need your own answers.” He smiled warmly. “You’ll do better that anyone can dream,” Uncle George assured him. “There are many who oppose what we do – those who don’t want peace for Kostadinoupoli’s souls. They’ve been working against us since before there was a Byzantine Empire.”
“The Catholics?” Kosta felt it in his stomach, as surely as the monaxia, about which the old Greeks spoke so bitterly. The Catholic Church had lived in the Byzantine shadow, since Constantine I moved the imperial capitol from pagan Rome to Christian Kostadinoupoli. Under his hand, Christianity had evolved from a cult, into the imperial faith. Through jealous centuries, they watched the Byzantine Empire grow to become the envy of the known world, spanning both east and west, Christian and Muslim.
The Byzantines never took part in Crusades. They lived in relative harmony, competing in trade with everyone around them. It was the ideal soil for the growth of a vibrant culture. This cast the stagnant Catholic west further into the dark. The Dark Ages were dark, because they lived in the Byzantine shadow, its light revealing their faults.
It went on until their Muslim neighbors no longer wanted to compete. In 1450, they wanted the golden city, wanted Kostadinoupoli, as their own. They tried bribes, cajoling and offered to let everyone live without harassment, as long as they left. All their attempts were rebuffed and, three years later, by force, they took what they couldn’t through either guile or diplomacy.
“The Catholics let it happen,” Kosta added. They exchanged parts of the story, just as every Truth did when they passed on the task. The retelling always renewed their determination to continue. Kosta already knew the story, but loved his uncle’s embellishments.
In 1452, while still attempting diplomacy, Emperor John VIII, and the best of Kostadinoupoli, went to Venice for help. They met officials from both the church and the state and bartered for their lives. The Venetians asked for trade and tariff agreements, which were small, compared to the Catholics’ demands that the Byzantines admit spiritual obedience to the Papacy. After many negotiations with Doge, Cardinals, patriarchs and nobles, the Emperor ordered his delegates to accede every wish.
The Orthodox Patriarchs weren’t happy with forced fealty and shouted prophesies of doom to all who would listen. The coming invasion, near complete sale of their culture and impending church rebellion, proved too much for John VIII. He died a year later and left his younger brother, Kostadino, Constantine XI – a career soldier – to rule. His life, which had been spent fighting for his brother, only prolonged the siege. They tried to hold out for the promised help, but it never came.
Venice, Florence, Genoa and Rome let them die and inherited a percentage of their glory. For centuries, they had been business partners, because the Byzantines brokered east to west and vice versa. After such a long association with Muslims and Catholics, they lost their city and empire to one, their grandeur and wealth to the other.
Rome could now boast the sole divine voice of Christendom. The Pope was God’s only word on earth, but was just a fraction of the authors and editors of the Bible intended. Kostadinoupoli was the gateway for east and west, in both faith and commerce. That ended when the wily Venetians let them, and their glittering city, die at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
After the total annihilation of the empire, the refugees who survived fled to the west, their vitality fueling the Renaissance. Their culture’s death breathed new life into the west. Byzantine loss was Europe’s gain, finally allowing them to move from under the shadow. Without Kostadinoupoli’s fall, there would not have been a Venice, Florence, Da Vinci, Galileo, Copernicus, Michelangelo, Newton. The tale of their beloved city’s fall was a mantra every Truth repeated.This conversation always exchanged with the transfer of one Truth to another. It reminded them that in Istanbul, those still in limbo, between life and death, deserved peace. They had fought long and hard, sacrificed, and lost, too much to be allowed to wander for eternity. They needed to continue on with their preordained fate. Remaining in history kept all fates still. It stopped their momentum. Many of those trapped souls might be reborn as pivotal individuals, over the course of time.
Kosta was often reminded of this initial talk. He found himself remembering his uncle, this year more than any other.
He still searched the crowd, looking at all the living passersby, but not finding anyone worth his attention. There were years, his uncle had warned, when there would be many. He had even warned that Kosta’s preparation wouldn’t equal the desperation that some of the souls would have for contact with reality. For too long, they had existed in memory, not knowing their hunger, their monaxia, for life. Kosta attracted them with his empathy and insight into their despair. He watched each go from ignorance to bliss, resignation or terror. Each and every respective destination was unique. Their destination was determined by their beliefs. Whatever they believed that they deserved for decisions they had made, and how they had lived, was the end which they finally faced.
There was one who steadfastly refused the Truth. Over generations of Truths, stubbornly, he only saw what he wanted. At times, he glimpsed all that went on around Hagia Sophia, saw the minarets and new inhabitants of Kostadinoupoli. Kosta found him haunting the grounds around the very church at which he had been patriarch during life. Patriarch Athanasius didn’t want to let go of the past. He didn’t want to let it die. He wouldn’t let it pass to memory, for no one would then remember the defenders of the city as they were. No one would remember that they were successors of Hellas and Rome. Only history might recall the brilliance and grandeur that had been coveted by the medieval world.
He saw Kosta and rushed forward to rail at him. In Kosta, he saw what remained of the emperor, who had sold them to the Catholics. He was the ruler who had let an upstart church, from a provincial city, become their master.
“Why do you return to take souls away from their homes? There is no one left!” he spat. “You’ve brought more ruin on us than your cursed ancestor ever did!”
He brought Kosta up with a start, echowing the thoughts expressed during the final talk with Uncle George. The patriarch retold how John VIII, and later Kostadino XI, unified the Orthodox and Catholic churches, in hopes of military aid, which never came. Patriarch Athanasius led many citizens in open protest against the decision. Centuries after the ruin that befell them, Athanasius felt vindicated by time. It was the same discussion every Truth shared when he took the mantle fate held for him.
“I know what you think, Patriarch, and you might be right.” Kosta spoke to the invisible presence and drew stares from those passing. “You chose to stay, and that, alone, is your choice. You hold no sway over anybody. They made up their own minds; they made their own choices.”
“Why do you return and take those who fought so hard to defend their homes? Haven’t they been through enough?” Athanasius labored, exhausted from the effort of existence. Now that he was alone, he didn’t have the energy to go on.
“I’ve only tried to help those who want my assistance. They see the Truth and go to their judgment, which they have chosen.”
“What kind of a devil are you then, to judge thus?” He couldn’t comprehend how Kosta could be so presumptuous.
“I’m no devil and I don’t judge. They see the Truth and they see whatever they have already chosen as judgment.”
“You’re no angel then. I’ve seen enough of whom you’ve sent screaming into hell to know that you’re no angel.”
“Why do you say these things? I only show them the Truth. They’ve already judged themselves.” Kosta felt the presence of the man and hung on his every word. In life, and even now, he commanded respect, reverence. Athanasius could only try and hold onto whatever he believed. Kosta pitied that the patriarch, having lost everyone else, was also losing the consciousness to which he’d clung, in frenzied desperation, for centuries. With every passing second of isolation, he was dissipating. He was becoming less substantial and joining the all-encompassing ether.
“Even if they go to Satana? How could you damn them?” His anguish brought him back from the fading shade to which he was slowly drifting.
“How did the church?” Kosta shot back, without thinking.
“We were God’s will on earth!” the patriarch was outraged. “How dare you?”
“Your power came from the Emperor. No other could deal with God, except through him.” His response was shocking, even to himself. Kosta had never felt this authority, which lent credence to his argument. He was all that was left of the imperial office and proved it to the patriarch.
“You are no emperor, only pale remnants of the office,” he shot back, petulant.
“I’m enough to remind you that your church switched masters, quicker than a whore at an orgy. Once the city and emperor fell, they prostrated themselves before their new masters.” Kosta’s initial pity quickly turned to irritation, in response to obstinance of the old ghost. “Don’t pass any judgment on me when you can’t stand under the weight of the same.”
“You lie! That could never be true! Liar!!” he screamed in despair, refusing to listen. He simply could not, would not, believe.
“It was survival, Patriarch! I don’t fault them for it; it was what they had to do. If they hadn’t, there would be no church. It would’ve died along with Kostadino and his city.”
“You bear more than just his name. Your blood has the same arrogance.” Athanasius, not used to disobedience, forgot that the Paleologos were the few people whom he must obey.
On the Istanbul street, Kosta’s exchange appeared to be a monologue. He attracted attention and many people gave the man a wide berth. They suspected that he was mad, and avoided looking, but there was one who couldn’t take his eyes off of him. A priest, with military bearing, watched intently from the shadows as Kosta continued talking, as it appeared, to no one.
“I’m sorry you don’t see and won’t listen, but finally, it’s irrelevant. What I do is necessary, in order for those souls to find peace.”
“You’re damning them!” he screamed, but Kosta ignored him.
“I’m completing the duty which has fallen to the Truth. What the emperors have always done.” His words were firm.
“Ioanni and Kostadino damned us all when they gave into the Pope’s weakling church!” Athanasius railed, though he was slowly losing momentum.
“It was the only way! They needed the Catholics’ help!”
“None came! It was all for nothing!” he sobbed, feeling the full weight of the Truth. “No help ever came.”
In a bare whisper, Kosta asked, “Are you now ready?”
“They left us to die. Like lambs to slaughter.” He pleaded, “Kostadinoupoli will rise again, won’t it?” This forlorn, impossible hope escaped his lips. He wished that by saying it out loud, he could make it so.
“You’re history, you and Kostadinoupoli.” Athanasius heard Kosta’s response and knew that it was true. He nodded and left, finally reduced to nothing. Kosta felt absolutely nothing from the patriarch’s thoughts. No heaven, no hell. There was nobody waiting for him from his past. He went into total emptiness. A void.
Minutes later, Kosta continued past Hagia Sophia, down Yerebatan Caddesi and Ordu, to KocaMustafapasa Caddesi and the Yedikule Fortress. It was quite a walk, past grand Byzantine stone, still standing next to apartment tenements, with lines of wash drying on inset balconies. As he went from Koca Mustafapasa to Yedikule Caddesi, the buildings were medieval, two or three stories with overhanging upper floors and exposed, unpainted wood. Almost at the fortress, he passed a squat, stone construction that housed a convenience store, selling film and gum to tourists, on their way to the towers of Yedikule.
Kosta went between the tower, built by Theodosius I, another by Theodosius II, and past the five put up by order of Memhet the Conqueror. There stood Porta Aurea, the once Golden Gate. It was since bricked up, becoming a small doorway, through which a tall man could barely walk. Its gilding was gone. The mosaic Christ no longer presided over its lintel. It had been removed by the city’s conqueror, who had demolished it when he heard that angels kept the final emperor safe beneath its span. They said that he feared that if he left it intact, one day, Kostadino XI would return, saber in hand, and reclaim his city.
It had been a nice myth, which mere wishing could not make true, despite the hopes of the Greeks. They prayed that one day, Istanbul would be Kostadinoupoli and, once again, they would be Byzantines. No Truth had ever had that illusion. Until now, the task had never included their ancestor.
The Truth knew that his final charge was the armored figure, striding towards him from the once glittering gates and through the ruined stone walls. Beneath heavy brows and the steel crosspieces of his jeweled helmet, Kosta saw his grandfather’s eyes. They both recognized familiar features in each other as Kostadino XI faced Kostadino XII.
“It’s almost over for us. We’ll see if the Truth can finally have a life,” Kosta addressed his namesake.
Regret shook the emperor’s face from side to side. “No, I’m sorry, but there will be no rest for you. The Truth’s task will continue.” His eyes softened under his heavy brows.
“They always said that my task would be complete when all the defenders of the Golden City knew peace. What else do you want from me?” he yelled. “Haven’t I done enough already?!”
“No. Your current task has ended. You are to take on a different task – one that Plathon began years before our ruin.” He stated this with an effortless authority, against which Kosta fought anxiously. In life, this man’s word had always been taken as fact. His requests, never questioned, were carried out without thought of opposition. Kosta did more than think.
“What new task? Nobody spoke of this; I wasn’t told!”
“Nobody knew. It was only to be entrusted to the final two emperors when we unified the churches. It was to be the first step to unifying them all.” He replied without ceremony and his tone never hinted at the enormity of Plathon’s scheme.
“All the churches? Unifying all religions in the world?” Kosta wished that his bafflement had struck him mute. He prayed that this wasn’t real, rather one of his many nightmares. “You can’t be serious.”
“They’re all one. Many opposing faiths are merely alternate interpretations of God. They’re more similar than they are different,” bartering his point and putting the explanation down as currency.
“What am I supposed to do with that?” Kosta saw no value in his words. “What do you want me to do!?” He couldn’t believe this turn of events. He had never fully dreamed of a normal life, but in the last few years, he had allowed a glimmer of hope shine through. That tepid thought was drowned in the tidal wave of confusion, with which he was now confronted. “Plathon chose you to tell me,” Kosta stated.
“You wouldn’t have listened to anybody else.” He confirmed the clever path, which the old teacher, Plathon, had chosen to take.
“Why should I listen to you? Why can’t I go ahead and live life like everyone else and have a family? Why am I always Uncle Kosta?” He gave full reign to his frustration. “Why should I sacrifice anything more!?”
“I sacrificed everything. I could’ve left and lived luxuriously in any European court for the rest of my days,” he countered, unmoved by his descendant’s plight.
“You would’ve been a spectacle. You would have been little better than a performer – an amusement for courtiers and pampered nobles.” Kosta could never see the once Byzantine Emperor presiding over any lesser post. Pride would never allow it. The highest rank in the world could condone nothing less.
“That doesn’t sound terrible. I would’ve been alive. Instead, I chose to die here, with my city and my people. I had to wait centuries to talk to you.” He added, returning to an earlier point, “If I hadn’t been the last soul, you wouldn’t have even listened.”
“What is it that you wish to tell me!?” Kosta exhaled, exasperated.
“Return to Mystra. Find Plathon. He will tell you what you must do,” the emperor concluded cryptically.
“Why can’t you tell me?” This confused Kosta more. What could they be expecting that they couldn’t say all at once? The build-up from his namesake, and this final edict, dictating that he must seek out another, was anticlimactic. He was enormously disappointed.
“I can only convince you to continue to another task after the Truth is done here,” he answered.
“What does Plathon want? What’s he after?” Kosta asked.
“He wants to continue what began on our trip to Venice. Where he convinced Cossimo de Medici to start his collegio, when we sought their help.” His eyes shifted down, remembering the betrayal that followed all the false promises by Doge, Medici and Cardinals.
“Where they promised aid, which never came.” Kosta poured salt on the wound, further bowing the emperor’s head.
“Yes.” His whispered answer boomed with the regret of centuries, emperors gone and a culture squandered, left to die. A culture built on commerce and diplomacy, not conquest. They watched as the west went on Crusade after Crusade, never, themselves, taking active part in war. It wasn’t good for trade, for which they were envied, their success and confidence despised as arrogance. Those, under their shadow, coveted their wealth and position in trade, and in Venice, bartered with them, winning them over with false assurances.
“Their Pope and Cardinals assured us,” he stated.
“They let you die to take your place. The Pope usurped your place as the Word of God, and Venice became the wealthiest and most envied city in Christendom.” Kosta added piteously, “You died so that they could inherit a fraction of your glory.”
“You’re right. They wanted our wealth and our place.” He took the blows and, unconquered, added. “The aid we expected was only one reason we didn’t just let the sultan have the city. The other was our teacher’s plan.”
“Georgios, Gemistos Plathon.” Kosta counted out the obscure name. “That’s all you can tell me? You died, sold out your culture and people for that?”
“We were desperate. We had no other choice, but we also saw an opportunity to further Plathon’s scheme.” He had never had to argue like this, to explain himself to any man.
“You want more of my life for something you won’t explain? I’ve done enough! I won’t do that!” Kosta turned away, his rage shaking his shoulders and neck. A second later, he added in a conspiratorial tone, “What if I don’t finish the Truth?” The emperor looked horrified. He continued, “The Truth’s job ends when the last soul of Kostadinoupoli is put to rest. You won’t say why I must go on.” Grimly, he finished his final bargain. “If you don’t tell me, you’ll never leave your city. You’ll stay with the Tourkos forever.”
“You are a Paleologos. Do whatever you wish. I’ve passed all the lifetimes, about which your family laments, and you complain of sacrifice?” The last emperor, the Dagoses, passed his descendant’s fury. “You don’t know what sacrifice is! If it is your pleasure to make me squander eternity here, because you don’t want to shoulder any more responsibility – to be a man – then so be your pleasure, sir!!”
Both men now faced each other, and had they been mortal men, they would no longer be talking. One a specter and with no physical form the other a normal man with a corporeal form couldn’t put their hands on each other. Their fight would remain one of wills, thoughts and words.
“Know this, your obstinance puts all creation in danger. What you refuse will still go on, even without your help or involvement.”
“What is it!?” he screamed. “Tell me!!”
“It is your choice – if you want to be a part of the sublime spectacle, or watch it engulf the world as Revelations foretold,” Kostadino XI answered, undaunted. “Plathon is the only one who can tell you and he’ll only appear if you agree to the task!!”
“If I don’t? What then?” The question was sharp and naked, lacking his previous guile.
“I don’t know that either,” the emperor replied to Kosta as he began to turn away.
“I’ll find him in Mystra then? Where?”
“Follow the signs that Plathon left for you centuries ago.” He watched as he turned completely and began walking away. He didn’t ask if he would return and give him the same rapture, which the other Byzantines had earned. He was at the Truth’s mercy, waiting, hoping one day, he take pity and allow him to have peace. Three steps away, he turned. His face was darker than the night which condemned him.
“You could’ve prevented most of this…”
“Nobody could have prevented any of it,” the Dagoses interrupted, further infuriating the Truth.
“Then lessened it, but you let it all happen!!” He rushed at him. “Because you saw an opportunity!? You vicious, cold bastard!”
“I am no bastard!! My mother was a queen and my father was an emperor! You whine and complain like a scullery maid, a common woman!” The emperor’s face twisted in contempt. “Why aren’t you wearing a dress?”
“Asshole!” Kosta yelled, eliciting a baffled expression from his namesake. “I’ll go to Mystra and I’ll find Plathon, but you’ll stay here!”
“I won’t beg for release, you dim speck of my blood,” he derided Kosta. “You’re merely a fraction of anybody who defended this city. You’re weak and I’m ashamed that you are of my line.” He spit on the ground and walked away.
Each word struck Kosta harder than the last and he was, in turn, ashamed. He tried to find Kostadino XI, but he had disappeared. Every Truth had always known there was no room for self-pity. Their job’s is their responsibility and must be dealt with accordingly. Complaining will only make things worse. He chided himself a tebely, lazy and looked ahead to finding the departed imperial tutor at Mystra.