Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Chapter 8 - Part A

Atlantis was still confined to her own chambers.  She had almost given up hope when hope finally arrived in the form of an envelope. She clutched the small piece of folded paper in her hand.  Yesterday, Drey, Marria’s husband had arrived at her chambers with a small carved wooden cube the guards had allowed it through on the pretense that it was a gift, but Atlantis recognized it as one of Drey's famous puzzle boxes, that the children in the palace, followed him around and begged him to make.  They were lenient, knowing that Drey was a recent widower, and let him pass a few private words with the Empress.  The guards studied his gift briefly after Drey took his leave, but discarded the small box as only artistic. Trying to contain her calm demeanor, Atlantis nonchalantly took her leave of the guards in the garden and returned to her private chambers.  It was a design that she was familiar with, and after sliding her fingers over the smooth corners, she opened the box easily.  On a carefully folded piece of paper, he’d written a short note.
    Marria alive. With Ryder.  Do you need help? What was lost is found again.
    That was it.  The message said nothing else, but brought such a surge of hope that Atlantis actually smiled for the first time in days.  Deep relief coursed through her.  Marria was alive, and Atlantis was awaiting rescue of some sort.  Atlantis lounged on her porch watching for the change of the guard, puzzling over the last line.  Her eyes scanned the garden and came to rest on the hydrangea bushes.  She and Marria had once spent an hour there looking for Atlantis’ Grandmother’s hair comb, when Marria had finally found it caught in the lace of Atlantis’ shawl.  Every time after that, when Atlantis was missing something Marria joked they should look by the hydrangea bushes.
       Atlantis watched for the change of the guard.  It came about every two hours or so, and for a brief period of about three minutes the hydrangea bush near Atlantis’ back gate was not guarded.  It gave her enough time to slip out, meander toward the gate, drop the box beneath the bush and be walking back by the time anyone returned.  Atlantis wasn’t sure how she would write her entire plight on a piece of paper that small.  She finally settled on four sentences.
    Forced to marry Andoran. Coup. Trust no one. All alone and in the dark.
She hoped her message was clear.  She hoped that either Drey or Marria would be able to piece together her meaning.  She didn’t want them thinking she was desperate, only that she had no way to fight back.  At least it showed that she had no part in this plot.  She knew that Drey would be by sometime today to pick it up.  She just hoped it was soon.  Over the past few days things had been quiet, for her at least.  Andoran hadn’t been back, and for that small blessing she was greatly relieved.  Part of her wondered why he hadn’t been back, but she’d decided that the coup of an Empire was likely a great deal of work, and in case he ever did she’d taken to carrying a letter opener tucked into her hair.  She assumed there were plenty of laws to change, and people to convince or execute for treason.  Knowing her people, Atlantis imagined that Andoran was getting more resistance than he bargained for.  
    Around lunch time Anya bustled in with a tray from the kitchen.  Atlantis sat obediently and ate the soup and salad.  They were two of her favourites, but she couldn’t get very excited about them.  She hadn’t been allowed to eat with another soul since her incarceration had begun.  Anya bustled around her quarters.  She was in and out of the closet several times before she spoke.
    “Looks like you won’t have to be all on your own so much anymore, my Lady.” Anya bubbled.
    “Really?” Atlantis asked, looking up from the scoop of vegetable soup resting on her spoon.
    “Well, once you and Emperor Grey are married, he won’t have to be so worried about you.  That’s my thinking anyway.  He’s asked me to prepare the Klein Hadar, you’ll be wed tomorrow.” She said, her voice carrying a hint of hope.  Like everything would finally be getting back to normal.  
    “Are you sure he said, tomorrow?” Panic rose in Atlantis’ chest.  Why was Andoran rushing things?  Not a week ago, he’d said it would be more like a month before they were married. Marria wouldn’t have time to enact her plan.  Anya laughed, almost nervously as she flitted back to the dressing room.  
    “I just imagine he wants to make things official.” She twittered.  Atlantis narrowed her eyes.  
    “What’s going on Anya?” Atlantis asked, standing as Anya exited the closet once again.  She froze.
    “What do you mean?”
    “Why is Andoran suddenly in a rush to marry me?  Tell me what you know.” Atlantis’ voice held steady, she held Anya in her gaze.  The girl shifted, nervously running the scarf she was holding through her hands.  Anya sank to the small stool she was standing nearby.
    “Oh, my Lady,  I don’t think it was supposed to get out, but the entire Empire is just buzzing.  Emperor Grey’s claim to your hand has been, well, disputed I suppose.” The words nearly burst from Anya. “Lord Tryst will be so angry if he learns that I told you anything.” She shook her head, pressing her hand to her throat.  Atlantis shook her head, kneeling in front of Anya, she pressed her hands on her arms.  
    “You must tell me everything.” She insisted.  Anya glanced toward the door, betraying her loyalty to Atlantis.  Anya spoke in a hoarse whisper.
    “Just yesterday, Emperor Grey received word from the Ryderron Empire.  They called his claim to the throne counterfeit as his only legitimate source of power is marrying you.  Apparently, the lost Prince, Horatio Ryderron has miraculously reappeared and he is exercising the right of his childhood betrothal to marry you.  Andoran believes that if you are already his wife by the time Ryderron arrives the matter will be settled, and the Prince will be turned away.” She spoke quickly.  Atlantis sat back, her hands trembling. Could this be true? Her stomach plummeted to her toes, and she felt sick.  She was conflicted by equal and opposing emotions. Which was worse? To marry Andoran, or a man she’d never met.
    “They’ve picked a fine time to butt their noses in.” Atlantis muttered. “Where did they find this Prince?”
    “The rumor is that he’d received some threats against his life as a small boy, and so his family hid him away with his parents until the threat passed.  He is going to be in Khal Manar as as early as tomorrow evening, and  Emperor Grey is afraid.”
    “What do the people say?” Atlantis asked her voice had fallen into the same whisper, crossing her arms over her chest, she paced in front of Anya.
    “The people are not content with Emperor Grey’s rule.  It is strict and harsh, and many have lost jobs and family members.  Anyone who speaks against him disappears, they don’t like that he’s severed trade with the rest of the universe.  They are unhappy with his treatment of you, and some rumours have even leaked that it was his own army that attacked the city, and then saved you from it.” Anya whispered, her eyes on the floor.
“And what of this Ryderron Prince? What does he want with me?” Atlantis asked. Anya shook her head, sadly.
“That is what I know, my Lady.  We must prepare your wedding gown, and the Klien Hadar.” Atlantis nodded dumbly.  Excitement clashed with terror deep in her heart.  Perhaps she would win back her Empire after all, perhaps it would come at a cost she didn’t recognize before this, but it would be worth it.  She bit her lip and followed Anya into the deep recesses of her closet.

    Nicolai’s head was pounding.  In the last three days, he had contacted his father’s family, met excessive amounts of his own extended family, seen a tearful reunion between his father and his grandfather, claimed his right to marry Lady Empress Atlantis Talerian because of his childhood betrothal.  He was now back on his ship, escorted by highly advanced Ryderron warships, trying to plan, much as a general would, how he intended to rescue the Empress and save her Empire from certain destruction.  It was enough to make any sane man want to crawl under his bed and simply hide for the quiet of it all.  He was now being addressed as “You’re Highness”, even by members of his own crew, and it was making him pace and shout randomly at people who didn’t deserve it.  He had replaced his uncomfortable ceremonial clothes with his old uniform trying to hang on to the very edge of his sanity, and had transferred several imperial calls to Kuri, who told the callers he was not in.  The buzzer at his door sounded.
    “Come in.”
    “Your Highness,” Kuri greeted him as she stepped through the door.  Nicolai groaned.
    “Is there a problem?” She asked, quickly.
    “Kuri, three days ago I was Captain, or Nic.  Can’t we just stick to that?”
    “May as well not fight it, Sir.” Kuri pointed out quickly.  She thrust a piece of folded paper in his direction.  “Lady Marria said you needed to see this.” She said. His eyes scanned the writing on the folded piece of paper.  Knitting his eyebrows together, he glanced at Kuri.  “When did you get this?”
    “Less than ten minutes ago, give or take.” Kuri shrugged, “You’ve been getting an influx of messages over the last few hours.”
    “Can the acting Emperor do that?” Nicolai demanded, thrusting the paper at Kuri.  The man was crazy.  According to Marria’s inside information, the Emperor planned to marry Atlantis the day before Nicolai arrived in order to set himself up as the rightful ruler.  
    “I suppose he thinks can do whatever he likes.” Kuri’s eyes scanned the message. “He did take over the empire after all.”  
    “We’d better get there early.” Nicolai muttered. “Tell navigation we need to speed up, we need to be there by tomorrow.”
    “I don’t know if this refurbished engine can take it, Sir.”
    “I know, Kuri.  Just give the order.”
    “Yes Sir.”
Nicolai closed his eyes again and rubbed his hands against his temples.  Now they would be going into a fight.  At least that was something he knew a little bit about.  He had discussed strategy with the best strategic minds in his grandfather’s empire, and there would be more meetings in the next fourteen hours.  He thought it would be best if Atlantis didn’t see him, and Andoran for that matter.  The last thing anyone wanted was one of them to recognize him, and blow his cover.  Of course, it was more reality than cover, but Nicolai hadn’t quite accepted that yet.  At least this information could help them formulate a plan.  He’d never busted up a wedding before, but now was as good a time as any.

    Atlantis was waiting when Andoran arrived the next morning.  She was clad in one of the most ostentatious gowns that she owned.  It was the best thing she could figure for a wedding dress, a tight bodice with an off-the-shoulder scooped collar and sleeves.  The gown itself was layer upon layer of white tulle and silks.  The long gloves on her arms only left the smallest gap of skin open, around her neck she wore a diamond and silver necklace dripping down almost to the collar.  Her hair was pulled gently back, and curled, held in place by diamond studded pins.  The only veil she had belonged to her mother.  Anya had tucked it in at the base of her curls.  She had chosen not to wear the Klein Hadar.  She would not support Andoran’s bid to a royal wedding by wearing the emblems of her people.  The very sight of him brought a lump to her throat.  She tried to keep her hands from trembling.  The night that he attacked her came rushing back, and she blinked back tears from her eyes.  How could that have been Andoran?  Still, her perception of him had changed almost entirely.  He looked stiff and old, as if his rise to the throne had aged him several years in the past week.  
    “My Lady.  You are beautiful.” He offered stiffly, without a smile. She nodded and accepted his arm.  She knew the courtroom would be full of guests, that all the trimmings had been taken care of, thrown together in the last minute to gratify the image of the new Emperor.  Her stomach turned as he led her to the court room.  She hadn’t been there in well over two weeks, and the place almost seemed foreign to her.  As they approached there was a flourish of trumpets.  She heard the hush of the crowd settle and held her head high as the huge doors opened.  She glanced into the room.  The guests standing to welcome the bride and groom were less than she expected, but it was almost a relief.  She could imagine that they were all supporters of Andoran.  She and Andoran walked in slowly, observing ceremony, her eyes rested on the front of the room, two large stands of flowers had been set up on either side, she recognized the flowers from the garden.  In between them, the priest waited.  As they walked closer, Atlantis recognized him.
    The priest, a man who’d been vying for a position on the high council for as long as Atlantis could remember, stood before them, wearing ceremonial robes and insignia.   He was smiling with a slick confidence that Atlantis could see right through.  She was sure that he had readily accepted the position on the high council in return for support for Andoran, a hasty, unpopular marriage between the former reigning Empress and Khal Manar’s new Emperor.  She was sure that they couldn’t risk upsetting the already fragile will of the people, who were still unsteady under the new government rule.  
    “My Lord Emperor.” The man bowed slightly. “My Lady.” He addressed her properly according to her new title.  
    “Seranin.” Andoran greeted him briefly, quietly, Atlantis knew that something unspoken had passed between them.  The priest took the greeting as an opportunity to begin.
    Atlantis studied him closely. The priest had narrow, bony hands that clutched the Holy book.  He began to read the sacred scriptures, and the lines nearly broke Atlantis’ heart.  She’d always read them to herself expecting to be marrying a man that she loved.  Speaking vows to become her husband, Andoran still inspired nothing from her.  Further, his face was darkened by the stark reality of what he had stolen from Atlantis.  She desperately commanded herself not to hate him, and even more, not to fear him.  She repeated her required lines, her hope fading with each passing moment.  Perhaps Marria hadn’t gotten the message.   Perhaps it was too late.  
    “And if anyone before Ohar, believes that this royal couple should not be united under the bonds of love in holy matrimony, let them speak now, or forever be silent under the promise of Ohar, and support this union.”  The priest stopped, barely waiting half a breath before continuing.  Atlantis was having trouble focusing on the sound of the man's droning voice. There was a faint pounding coming from beyond the closed door, rhythmic, at first, Atlantis thought it was in her head, but it persisted. Guests began to notice, to turn their heads and look, Andoran's face flushed, he gripped Atlantis' hands tighter, soon the priest could no longer be heard over the stamping boots against the marble floor. The doors burst open, and guests began to get to their feet and shout their displeasure and protests.  They went silent when a man bearing the Ryderron standard called out.
    “In the name of his Majesty, Emperor Ryderron, of the Ryderron Empire this wedding is in contempt of a betrothal contract still in effect after twenty three years.” The man’s voice carried over the silence.  “The Prince Horatio Ryderron contests the marriage of his betrothed to another.”
    Andoran’s guards had gathered near the front of the court room, placing a human wall between the advancing Ryderrons and Andoran himself.  Tryst was at Andoran’s side immediately, almost as if he materialized out of nowhere.  Andoran grabbed Atlantis and pulled her backward as Tryst stepped in front of her.  She tried to see the Ryderron prince, the man bold enough to stand against Andoran, but his face was obscured by an overly large hood.  He was dressed in black, trimmed with silver, and from her stance, looked more menacing than prince.  She yanked her arm, desperate to get out of Andoran’s grasp, but he held tight pulling her from the room.  
    The air in the room was stiff with silence, as the two powers faced off against one another.  The wedding guests had grown silent, watchful, as the Ryderron party advanced further into the room.  
    “The Ryderron claim is not binding, as Atlantis was a child when this agreement was settled, and her guardianship later changed from her father to her grandfather.  You have no rights here, Prince Horatio Ryderron.” Tryst stated for Andoran, his voice echoing loudly around the room.  
    “The fact of the matter is, that Lord Grey is attempting to usurp power from the house of Talerian, and you need your marriage to Empress Talerian for your claim to stand.” Nicolai answered back from beneath his hooded cloak sounding more confident than he felt.  
   "What do you know of it?" Andoran barked. "It's already too late, she's mine." He backed toward the door, and signaled for his guards. Nicolai and three of his guards launched forward, to follow Andoran, but they were blocked by Tryst. The man held up his hand.

      "Your Highness, let's talk about this.  There's always room to negotiate." Tryst offered, gesturing for Nicolai to follow through the same door that Andoran had just left through. Nicolai nodded, desperate to get through that door, to get to Atlantis.
 As the door, Nicolai reached for his weapon. A force brought him to his knees, his weapon clattering to the ground, beyond his reach. A sharp pain branched over his shoulder knocking him to the floor.  He heard the sharp cries of his men as the ambush became fully clear.  Andoran had known, and had planned for this.  Pain screamed through his shoulder, as Nicolai  grasped for anything that would give him a fighting chance.  Coming up empty handed, he sprang to his feet and launched himself into the middle of his attacker.  They struck each other with a grunt, but the clang of the metal pipe Tryst was holding clattered to the floor.  Nicolai pinned him to the ground.  His hood was flung back over his head.  
    “She belongs to Andoran now.” Tryst spat at Nicolai, struggling under his grasp.  “Can’t you understand that?  They’ve been together ever since Grey saved her from herself.”
    “Where is she?” Nicolai demanded. “My ship is under orders to engage your fleet if I do not return.”  Tryst looked up at him from the floor.  His eyes narrowed.
    “Wait...I know you.”  Tryst choked. Nicolai pressed him harder into the floor, gritting his teeth. “You’re no prince, you’’re that Captain.  I’ve seen you with the Empress.”
    “Where is she?” Nicolai shouted this time.  Tryst laughed.  
    “Andoran has her.”  He rasped.  “He has had her.  She isn’t yours.  She has married him.” Tryst taunted him. Nicolai shouted, half in frustration, half to alert any of his guard still standing. But the sounds of battle beyond the door were becoming more distinct, the shouts joined by blasts from weapons.  He gripped the long pipe that had originally belonged to Tryst, and ran toward the open door at the far end of the room.  He had to find Atlantis.  A scream echoed down a long corridor flanked on one side by ceiling to floor windows.  As he passed, an explosion in the stratosphere caught his attention.  His fleet was already engaged in a battle with Grey’s forces.  He heard another scream, echoing down the corridor.  Nicolai raced after the sound.
    Atlantis wrenched her arm from Andoran’s grasp.
    “Andoran, stop! Stop this!” She demanded, her voice nearly frantic.  She’d had enough.  He’d dragged her through nearly every back corridor that she knew the palace had, Atlantis was tired, she wanted this charade to end. “Andoran I know about the Ryderron Prince.  I know that I am betrothed to him and that he challenges your right to the throne.” Atlantis blurted, halting Andoran in his tracks.  
    “I don’t care what you’ve heard.” Andoran snapped, snatching her wrist back. “You’re married to me.  Betrothed or not, that Prince can’t do anything about it.”
    “According to you, I’ve stepped down to let you rule.  You have no power outside of me. By breaking my connection to the throne, you’ve left yourself with a false sense of security.” Atlantis cried.  The truth tasted sour to him.  She could tell by the look on his face.  His eyes filled with a black  hatred, and he lunged at her, striking her cheek, making her teeth clatter together.  A cry of pain escaped her, and anger exploded in his eyes.  He struck her again, equally as viciously, her eyes rolled back her in head and she sank to the floor in a mass of tulle.  Andoran sucked in a deep breath, adrenaline coursing through his system.  He wiped the extra saliva from the corner of his mouth.  
    This was how Nicolai found him, leaning down over her crumpled body and his heart nearly stopped in his throat.  He couldn’t tell if she was breathing and panic overcame him.  He lunged at the man he knew as Andoran, tackling him to the floor with a yell.  Andoran roared back at him and flung him off almost immediately.  He hurled himself toward Nicolai taking him tumbling and rolling over the ground.  Nicolai saw the glint of a blade flash in the air as it plunged down toward him.  He rolled to try and escape, but the fire of a cut to his arm burned into his flesh.  Nicolai cried out, kicking up against Andoran and sending him sprawling across the floor.  Andoran and Nicolai circled each other gasping for breath.  Nicolai's head was swimming, the blow he'd taken from the knife in his arm was making him dizzy, making him sweat.  His stomach turned over and he tried to keep his vision clear, and focused on Andoran.  It was clear that both of them had settled themselves into a lifestyle that didn't include hand to hand combat on a regular basis.  Sweat beaded across Andoran's brow. 
    "What could you care about this Empire so much that you are willing to die to stop me?" He demanded.
    "I love her." Nicolai answered steadily, watching Andoran's movements, trying to anticipate his next attack.
    "You don't know her!" Andoran shouted, and lunged again, striking Nicolai with his fist.  Nicolai stumbled back, and catching his balance blocked the second and third hit from Andoran's relentless fists.  For a moment he thought that if he could answer properly, Nicolai hoped there was a chance that he could talk things out with this Andoran; but as he saw the glint of a knife flash through the air, he knew the time for talk had expired.  He tried, briefly.
    "You don't have to do this."
    "She is mine!" Andoran lunged at him again, catching his blade on Nicolai's chest.  He sliced upward, as Nicolai fell back. He could feel the hot sting across his skin, and felt blood soaking through his shirt. Andoran screamed his rage and ran at Nicolai again. Nicolai caught Andoran's arm holding the knife in his left hand, and threw his fist into the man's jaw, Nicolai turned the Andoran, using his momentum against him. Andoran stumbled and losing his balance he fell, smashing his head against a tall candelabra and crashing to the ground.  Nicolai breathed deep again, waiting for Andoran to recover.   But as Nicolai remained ready, watchful, it became apparent that Andoran wasn't moving.  Nicolai approached slowly, kicked the knife away that had clattered to the floor, and noticed a trail of blood starting at Andoran's temple, and running down his face.  It was apparent that he'd struck a sharp edge, he wasn't moving.  Nicolai sank back on his haunches, and tried to calm the nerves in his stomach.  The adrenaline coursing through his system was making his hands shake.  He made his way slowly to Atlantis where she had crumpled in a haze of tulle.  Her eyes were still rolled back in her head, and she was unconscious.  He could tell she was breathing, he buried his face in her hair, relieved.  Cradling her, he pressed his lips to her forehead.  He thought he said, "I love you." but he wasn't sure if it was once or twice, or if he even said it at all. 
    "Captain?" The shout came from the corridor, and Nicolai answered back.  Marria cleared the corner with her husband, a doctor and several other guards on her tail.  "Oh thank God, you're here. They surrendered." She blurted, trying to catch her breath.  Nicoali nodded.  The doctor shouted to some attendees who had come in the back, and they laid Atlantis on a stretcher.  Nicolai watched her go.  Marria was surveying the scene.  The doctor was now bent over Andoran's body.
"You're bleeding, Sir." Marria touched the rip in his sleeve.
"I am." Nicolai nodded absently.  "I am."

Monday, 28 January 2013

Reaching for the Stars - With only a Step Stool

What's your dream?

I used to love when people asked me that, because I could say "My dream is to be a writer."  It is true, it's what I've always wanted, to write down these vivid pictures that play themselves out in my mind in pieces of story.  Through highschool, and University, I would sit in my non-writing classes, and listen to the teachers, but write my own stories - instead of notes.  Hearing and reading stories has inspired me to reach into the depths of my own imagination and weave tales that interest and excite people, that captures their minds and hearts very much like mine have been by similar tales.  It's as easy for me to tell a story as it is for me to lean back and close my eyes. I've completed two "books" so far, I started writing when I was about sixteen - they are simple, poorly edited stories that come from immaturity, but always a point of pride that they are complete. The dream to write hasn't faded, it's just become bigger, stronger, compelling me, challenging me to write better, to capture the heart of my reader more completely. I want to write in such a way that people forget they are reading a story, and instead feel they are living it.  These are lofty goals to be sure, and I know that I haven't arrived yet, but they push me forward slowly.  They dare me to dream that one day I could see my own works in print.

But, a dream is only a wish if you aren't willing to do the work to reach it. Hand in hand with the world of writing, there is the world of publishing, something I am discovering isn't quite as easy as it sounds.  I am happy for the resources at my fingertips, but at the same time it's terrifying to really consider what "getting published" means - rejection and criticism, which is maybe why I haven't explored it before. From what I can tell at this point, the road is long, but not impossible. I am making baby steps, and doing at least a few things right, but suddenly a dream centered deep in my heart has become a matter of faith and concentraited effort that will require sacrifice.

So, if you, dear reader, ever feel compelled to write a response to the tales I've written here, either positive or negative, please do. Compliments are the sweet joy that propels and builds my confidence, and criticisms are the grit and struggle that comes from introspection and investigation as I work to sharpen and build my craft into something beautiful.

I would encourage you, as well.  What is your dream? How long has it been there, and what do you hope to do with it? Invest in it, even if you don't believe you will see the return...invest.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Chapter 7 - Part D

    Once Nicolai felt the imminent danger had somewhat passed he docked the ship in Shar Riel.  The port was busy, it was easy to blend in, and it wasn't too far away from Khal Manar.  He told the docking master a partial truth, saying that they’d come from a far border outpost of the Empire.  It seemed that no one was looking for Marria, that she was lost on a list of dead or missing.  Nicolai hoped that secret was well kept.  So far as the condition of the ship, better than new; but Nicolai just couldn’t bring himself to leave the Empire without knowing that Atlantis was at least secure.  According to his doctors, Marria had made excellent progress, and they had been comfortable to release her to her own quarters.  That was another issue.  Eventually he would have to figure out what to do with his guest.  She couldn’t stay forever, and after receiving news that her husband was well at the palace, she hardly wanted to.  
    He was standing on the bridge, pouring over some information about Atlantis  that Kuri had brought to him.  The door behind him slid open.
    “Permission to come onto the bridge, Sir.” Marria asked, smiling.  She was leaning heavy on a crutch, favouring her right ankle, but the bruises and cuts had come a long way in healing.
    “Of course, my Lady.  It’s nice to see you up and about.”
    “I’m eager to hear news from home, Sir.  I was hoping we could discuss my return home.” Marria hobbled onto the bridge.  The bridge was empty except for a few of Nicolai’s crew.  They greeted Marria in turn, Nicolai ushered Marria into his office.  He offered her a chair, and sat. He was hoping for the chance to talk to her.  He was troubled by the news reports that continued to pour in.
    “Can I offer you something to drink, my Lady?” He asked, reaching for his own seat.
    “No, thank you.” Marria was looking around his office as Nicolai poured himself a cup of coffee.  Her eyes came to rest on the photograph of his parents and brother on his desk.  “Is this your family?” She asked, her eyebrows drawn together.
    “Yes, we were in Palasis together on vacation last year.”
    “Really?” Marria mused, studying the picture closely.  She glanced at Nicolai, her eyebrows still drawn together.  “What did you say your last name was?”
    “Ryder. Why?”
    “Did you grow up on Khal Manar?”
    “We moved around a lot when I was younger.  I don’t think we were in the Manarian system always, but I went to school on Ellsidore.” Nicolai replied, sorting through some of the articles he’d gathered from Kuri.  Marria was shaking her head.
    “Your family looks so familiar to me.  I can’t place it.” She muttered.
    “Well, we are all tragically good looking.” Nicolai smiled at his own joke.  Marria nodded in mock agreement.
"Of course." She said, she was beginning to look at ease.
 “Have you seen the latest reports?” He asked.
    “I know that my husband is alive, and that Atlantis is alive. Beyond that, my information is scattered at best.  The doctor would like me to rest, unfortunately my pacing is getting in the way.” Marria looked at the articles expectantly.
    “The biggest news is that Atlantis is engaged.”  Nicolai chewed on his bottom lip, trying not to show Marria how much it bothered him.  
    “What?” Marria asked, reaching for the article.  “Is this news source credible?”
    “It’s been confirmed by almost every other station." 
    "Who is she engaged to?"
    "Andoran Grey."
    "Andoran Grey," Marria repeated, looking up from the articles, her face bewildered. "Why Andoran?""
"They all say the same thing, that the Empress is now engaged, and in a strange political move she has decided to relinquish all of her power into the hands of Andoran Grey.  The papers don’t really know what to make of that.  There’s a lot of speculation but not a lot of solid information.” Nicolai reported."That's where things get foggy.  The palace has made no official statements, so it leaves a lot to the imagination.  There also seems to be some issues about censorship.  Certain papers printed articles this morning demanding answers, and later retracted those articles."  Marria was shaking her head as if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
    “Why would she do that? I mean, why would she do either? She doesn’t care for Andoran, not like that.  And relinquish all power? Something is wrong here.  Atlantis is proud, particularly of her heritage.  She always dreamed of marrying a man that she could rule her empire jointly with but it doesn’t make sense for her to give up all power.”  Marria shook her head.  She studied the picture that had accompanied one particular article. “All I can think is that she is showing signs of  duress.”
    “Oh?”  Nicolai reached for the picture.
    “I don’t know, she looks strained.  Do you have the video file of this speech?” Marria asked.
    “I think somewhere.” Nicolai nodded, moving to find it. Looking over his electronic pad he found the file and played it for Marria.  As she watched she, nodded, taking mental notes.  The nodding turned to silent pointing, as if she were agreeing with herself, and she began to commentate. 
    “Do you see the way she is holding her hands? She is gripping that podium like if she let go she would fall off.  She's pale and she stumbled over her words, she is never like that during speeches.  She looks tired, like she hasn’t slept well.  The way Andoran is standing next to her is as if he was trying to remind her that he is present.  There is something very wrong, Captain.  Very, very wrong.” Marria chewed her lip, and reached out to play the recording one more time.  Nicolai’s door buzzed again, and he called for entry.  Kuri came in holding a hand written message.
    “This is for Lady Marria, Captain.” She said, handing Marria the envelope.  I believe it’s from her husband.”  Marria smiled instantly, reaching for the letter.  She cradled it as if it were sacred.  “It just came in.”
    “Thanks Kuri.” Nicolai nodded gratefully.  Nicolai watched Marria’s eyes hungrily scan the letter.  She read it at least four times before looking up at him.
    “He’s alright.” She reported breathlessly, a blushing smile raising over her cheeks. “He sends word of Atlantis too.  He’s been keeping a watch on things at the palace, as much as possible without being noticed.  He said that Atlantis has been a prisoner in her own quarters.  Every now and then Andoran or one of the higher officials will go in, but not that often.  No one who works for Atlantis understands why the sudden change of affection and power.  The people in the palace are concerned for her.  They are worried that she’s been hurt, and that Andoran is hiding the fact and using it to his advantage.  He says that one of the army generals is a traitor to Atlantis, and has taken sides with Andoran.  He says to all appearances, Atlantis must feel that she has no other way out, that she’s lost the love of the people.  He is keeping an eye on things but is worried about being caught.  People have been disappearing who seem to support Atlantis as the Empress, instead of the Emperor’s bride.  He has spoken to some in the army who believe that they are still fighting for Atlantis, but he knows that the traitor is pulling the strings.  Things are not well at Malbrandor Palace.” Marria finished grimly.  “It sounds like we’ll need to raise an army, to bring back her power.”
    “I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many with access to an army.” Nicolai shook his head.  The worry had started to gather in his chest.  He shouldn’t have left her.  She was alone now, engaged to a man who was beginning to sound like he was crazy, and Nicolai couldn’t reach her.  She hadn’t left his thoughts in days, as a matter of fact, sleep was becoming even more difficult.  He wanted to hold her, to assure her that everything would be alright, and here she was swept up in some silent coup, and he couldn’t even reach her.  He blamed himself for refusing to listen to what she had to say.  Of course things were complicated, she was the ruler of an Empire.  Marria shook her head.  
    “Though this hardly seems the time, Captain, I need to return to my quarters and rest.  I need to think this through.  Would I be able to meet with you later?  We’ll think of something we just need a little more time.” Marria said positively.  She leaned on her crutch and made her way out of Nicolai’s office.  He buried his face in his hands.  He knew they needed a more time, but that was the problem. Atlantis would be married in a few days time.  It was now that they needed to act.  

Marria clutched the documents tightly in her hand as she wobbled back to the Captain’s office.  Some rest had done her well. The Captain would never believe it.  In fact, she scarcely believed it, but her source couldn’t be wrong.  Not about this.  She was out of breath when she finally pushed the buzzer outside of the Captain’s door.  Barely hearing his permission to enter, she burst through the door.
    “Captain!” She blurted, thrusting the papers in his direction.  “You are 28 years old?  Your father is 57 and your mother is 55, am I right?  Your brother is at least three years younger than you, correct?”
    “Uh...four years...” Nicolai stammered, his throat dry. 
    “No, I need to know for sure.” Marria demanded.
    “Uh....”Nicolai paused a second time, considering her facts. “Yes.” He said finally, sounds right.
    “Your last name, it’s Ryder?”
    “Have you ever met your paternal grandparents?”
    “Your father’s parents, have you met them?” Marria repeated as if he hadn’t understood.
    “No, I haven’t.  My father isn't close with his family, but I think they passed, many years ago.” He shrugged.  His father had never really talked about his own family.  Nicolai had grown up surrounded by his mother’s relatives.  It had always been that way, and when he’d questioned it, his father had only told him that it was complicated.  Nicolai had shrugged it off.  He figured his father would tell him when he was ready.
    “Unbelievable.” Marria shook her head.  She thrust a photograph down on Nicolai’s desk.  “Is this your father?” She asked.  Nicolai regarded the picture carefully.  It reminded him of one of those ‘historical times’ photos that people got at amusement parks and things like that all dressed up like they were from the past.  He studied the faces.  His father’s was obvious, as well as his mother’s.  His father was dressed in a military type suit, standing straight behind an older man.  He was wearing a sash across his chest, indicating a house, and on his head a golden circlet was tucked into his hair.  His mother was dressed in a ball gown, wearing the same sash, and gloves to the elbow, she looked incredibly distinguished.  On her own head a small diamond tiara.  There was an old man in the photo, and his wife, and two other younger men and women who seemed to be their wives.  In the arms of the old man at the center of the photo, was a baby, so wrapped in blankets that it was difficult to see the baby’s face.  Nicolai’s mouth was dry, like chalk.  He squinted at the picture, trying to distinguish the real from the fake.  
    “That looks like him.” He admitted, narrowing his eyes as he scrutinized the photo.  “And that looks like my mother.” He said, pointing to the woman next to him.  “Younger, but definitely my Mom.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen her dressed like that.”
    “You’re absolutely positive?” Marria questioned.  It didn't make sense, he'd never seen this photo, but it wasn't faked.
    “Yes.  Positive.”  Nicolai confirmed.
    “Then this baby, is you.” Marria pointed to the picture.  Nicolai shook his head.
    “I got this picture from the historical archives belonging to the Denelorian Empire.  This is the royal family, they are the Ryderrons. They continue to be the royal family to this day.”  Marria said, eagerly.  Nicolai laughed out loud.  
    “I’ve heard of them, but, I’m sorry my lady, there’s something wrong with your information.  I’m not a member of any royal family.  I grew up on Ellsidore, in a small house overlooking a bay.  My father was a doctor, and my mother was a nurse.  They both worked every day of their lives for what we had, they never had anything just handed to them.  Besides I think someone would have mentioned it.”
    “That’s just it.  No one ever mentioned it and I think I know why.  Captain, I’ve grown up in circles of people who serve in palaces all over the galaxy.  Frankly, Captain, you are somewhat of a legend.”
    “I don’t understand.” Nicolai shook his head as if all this new information rattling around was refusing to sink in.
    “Captain, I had an Aunt who worked for this man, your grandfather,” Marria pointed quickly to the picture. “Your father was the heir to the Ryderron throne.  He and your grandfather never quite saw eye to eye on matters of state.  While your father was on tour with the army, he married your mother, much to your grandfather’s surprise.  Your mother was a commoner.  Your grandfather accepted your mother, and eventually you were born.  Your grandfather didn’t want to let this deviation from royal blood to happen again, so he made arrangements with Atlantis’ grandfather, that the two of you would be betrothed.  You were children.  Shortly after that, you and your family disappeared.  There was no clue to your disappearance, just before you all were assumed dead, a letter arrived for your father’s brother, giving him the appointment of heir.  The search for you resumed, but your family was never found.  Eventually you were assumed to be dead.” As Marria reported the story to him, it was like a fairy tale he was hearing for the first time.  He shook his head.
    “You’re telling me that Atlantis Talerian and I are betrothed to be married?” He finally asked.
    “I thought you said we were assumed to be dead.”
    “You were.  But, they never found your bodies, obviously.  Your uncles never produced any other male heirs of appropriate age, so Atlantis remained betrothed to you, but only in name.  She was free to pursue other interests, but it was always understood that if you were ever found, the betrothal would be back in effect.” Marria explained.  Nicolai said nothing.  He was trying to absorb her words.  “Don’t you see?” Marria spoke excitedly.  “This could be the answer that we have been looking for!  Andoran’s claim on Atlantis is broken.  He is not of royal blood, and you have the previous claim.  Andoran must recognize your prior claim on Atlantis, he must.  It is our law.”
Nicolai was nodding slowly. “So, you want me to just parade in there and tell this Andoran Grey that he can’t marry Atlantis because I am already engaged to her?”
    “Precisely.”  Marria nodded vigorously.  
    “A fine plan except for a few minor points; first, I have absolutely no proof of this claim, second, the extent of my army reaches the walls of this vessel.  Even then, my people are paid, and I doubt any of them are highly trained in hand to hand combat. Third, do you understand what we’re talking about here? Me, ruling an empire.  Just off hand, that’s a little frightening.” Nicolai ticked the reasons off on his long fingers.  Kuri, who had been in and out of the room, and had a staunch ability to listen to several conversations at once had already picked up the gist of the conversation.  
    “I agree with her, Sir.  You can’t just sit here with that kind of information and do nothing.  I’m not sure how much you pay attention to politics around here, but I can tell you one thing, if that Andoran Grey is in charge of things our livelihood is pretty much extinct.  He will likely ban intergalactic trade to and from the Manarian Empire, he believes that the Empire can be self sufficient and should be.  He wants to reduce trade and even travel from other planets.  The man would have happily been born in a bubble.” Kuri reported seriously.
    “How can you be sure of that?”
    “I’ve been watching him for some time.  I was always happy to know that the Empress never fully agreed with him.  I can’t see him as a benefit to the Manarian Empire in any way.”
    “She’s right.  Can you talk with your father?” Marria asked. “Get him to confirm this?”
    “Yes.  I think so.” Nicolai drew his eyebrows together.  He had a good relationship with his father.  It seemed like this was something major that he would keep from Nicolai, but he supposed that everyone was entitled to a past.
    “Good.  If he can confirm any of this, then I have some contacts in the Ryderron court.  I’m sure that we would be able to arrange an audience with your Grandfather at the very least.  Perhaps they can give us the help we need in winning Atlantis back.”  Marria rose slowly on her crutches and hobbled out of the door again.
    “I will tell Juno in navigation to fire up the engines and plot a course for the Ryderron Empire.  We can always turn around if this turns to nothing, but it would be better to be half way there if this pulls through.” Kuri nodded in partial salute.
    “Ok....ok.” Nicolai reached for the small screen to communicate.  He took a long moment to collect himself and his thoughts, to try to put words together the best way he knew how.  He didn't feel betrayed, but he wasn't sure what he felt...overwhelmed, maybe... 
    “Hello!” It was his mother.  Pretty as always, her curly, sandy hair cropped short, and a breezy scarf around her neck.
    “Hi Mom.” Nicolai smiled, happy to see her, almost forgetting why he'd called. At his parent's home the sunshine was pouring in the small kitchen, and it looked to be just near dinner time.
    “How are you Nic?” She asked, scooping up some fresh  greens from the garden and carrying them to the sink.
    “I’m alright. I need to talk to Dad, is he around?”
    “He is. George! Nicolai needs to speak with you.” She called.  “He’ll be right here.  Tell me, how are things going for you? We haven’t heard from you in a while.  Are you back on the Nikao yet?”
    “Yes, the repairs are all finished up, she’s better than brand new.”
    “Glad to hear it son, here’s your father. I’m off to Mrs. Delgar to give her some of this lettuce.  Talk to you later, Love.” She blew Nicolai a kiss and swiftly left the camera.  Always moving, always doing and always in a hurry, that was his Mother.  His father, by contrast moved more slowly, more deliberately.  His gentle eyes smiled at Nicolai.
    “Good to see you, Nic.” He said, pulling over a stool so that he could sit down.  He reached for a knife and ripe tomato and started to slice.  “How are things in your corner of space?”
    “Dad, I have something I need to talk about.” Nicolai settled back in his chair.
    “Well, maybe I should call your Mother back here, she's better at talking.” George Ryder smiled kindly, his eyes laughed.
    “I need to know if you have a connection with the House of Ryderron.”  Nicolai blurted the words straight out.  The knife in his father’s hand paused. “Dad, I wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t important.  I met a girl...well, she’s more than just that.  I think I’m in love with her, and I think she’s in danger.  We have to help her and this might be the only way.  She's Atlantis Talerian.”  Nicolai explained hurriedly.  His father nodded, he looked Nicolai in the eye, and for the first time ever Nicolai felt something regal about his gaze.  This wasn’t ground he’d expected to cross today.
    “I suppose you’ve heard most of it already.” His father sighed.
    “I’ve heard an abridged version, but I’d like to hear it from you.” Nicolai said evenly.
    “On the day you told me that you were going to be a star ship captain, I wondered if you and I would be having this conversation.” His father paused, as if wanting to get the details right. “A very long time ago, I was a prince and the heir to the throne of the Ryderron Empire.  I had good parents, whom I loved, but could never quite see eye to eye with.  My father in particular.  When I turned twenty-three, I had finished my mandatory service in the army, and my father believed that it was time for me to get married.  He told me that he’d arranged a marriage for me with a princess from a nearby world.  I knew her, I had grown up around her and I didn’t think of her as a wife.  We got into a huge argument.  I told him that times had changed and I should be allowed to marry a woman that I loved, He disagreed and told me that my duty to the Empire was to marry as soon as possible, and into appropriate stock.  Whatever that meant.  I told him I would never marry her, not as long as I lived and I would rather rot.  My mother intervened.  She could see things beyond the royal court the way that my father never could.  She convinced my father that I was still young, that I should be able to leave for a year, and do my own growing up.  If I fell in love on my own, then they would work to accept that.  If in that time I didn’t, I would agree to marry the princess who would by then be twenty one, and of appropriate age to marry.  
    So, I left, on my world adventure, out on my own.  I lasted a whole week.  I was on a small village road on a bicycle, when I steered wrong to avoid a pedestrian, lost control going downhill and crashed the bicycle.  I broke my leg and was taken to the town doctor.  Your Grandfather.”
    Nicolai smiled and nodded.  “I remember that part.” He said.
    “You just got the abridged version.” His father continued. “Your mother was my nurse, and she was wonderful.  I stayed in that little village and I learned everything I could.  I loved to watch your Grandfather work with people and heal people.  Even more than that, I loved to watch your Mother care for people, and pretty soon I found that I really did love her.  She didn’t know who I was, but I proposed, and after I explained things to her and she started talking to me again, and we were married, my year was almost up and I had to return home.  I brought your Mother with me.  In my eyes she was perfect, she had no courtly ambitions and only appreciated every moment.  She was beautiful and innocent, and after my father got over his initial fury she made it difficult for even him to dislike her.  We settled into a strange little life.  I continued to study medicine as an interest, and your mother found places where she could use her nursing skills to be of help.  The people adored her.  I thought everyone did, and I thought everyone had forgotten that she was not of royal blood; and everyone had, except my father.  We announced that she was pregnant, and everyone was overjoyed, and later when she had a son my father was ecstatic.  I thought everything was going the way it should, until one day at around your first birthday when my father surprised me.  He told me, that in order to preserve your royal status he had contacted the Talerian Empire.  The crown prince’s wife had just given birth to a baby girl, my father had met with the old Talerian Emperor, and the two of them had drafted a betrothal agreement.  The agreement could not be undone.  I was furious with my father.  I stayed up night after night with my attorneys desperate to find some way to break the contract, but it was impossible.  The only way was for you to die.  I spoke with your mother, and chose the next best thing.  
    We arranged to go and meet the family that you would be betrothed in to, and along the way, we had our shuttle disappear.  We started in Shar Riel, moved to Khal Manar and eventually, after they stopped looking for us settled in Ellsidore.  We sent word to your Mother’s parents for them to join us, and I mailed one letter to my brother Andrew, next in line to the throne.  I told him that we would not return and that I was abdicating the throne and giving it to him, by rights.  We were found, once, by my brother.  He had resumed the search wanting to be sure that the letter was authentic.  He swore to keep my secret and returned home.  I became a doctor, your mother stayed a nurse.  I delivered your brother, and we lived a happy life.  You and he were able to do what you wanted to do without threat of having a marriage over your head that you didn’t want.  That’s who you are, Nicolai.” His father stopped, and reached for a glass of water.  Nicolai inhaled slowly.
    “You never told us this?” The question was obvious.
    “I wanted you to grow up and be what you wanted to be, Nic.  Not what they wanted you to be.  I wanted to see if you lived your life if any of this would ever matter.” He paused. “I suppose it does, after all.”
    “Do you think I’ll be able to contact your...I mean my grandfather?” Nicolai asked, his mind turning to matters at hand.  He barely had time to believe it was true let alone sort it all out.  His father nodded slowly.  
    “I think so.  He never held anything against you.  I’m sure he’ll have a few words to share with me.” George said, scratching the top of his head.  He rubbed his hands over his face.  “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
    “I fell in love with Atlantis Talerian.  That’s a long story, and I’ll have to get back to it one day, but I didn’t know it was her.  We fought and I left her.  Now she’s in trouble and I need to go back.”
    “Ohar be with you, Nicolai.” His father nodded at him, and the link went dead.  Nicolai didn’t even have time to process the severity of what his father had said.  He called for Marria on the ship’s intercom system, and told him that he had confirmation of her story.
    “Thank you, Captain.  That’s all I needed.” She said.  Things seemed to be looking up.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Les Miserables - A picture of Humanity in need of Grace

Growing up, I fell in love with Musical Theater, I mean what was there not to love? Handsome, dashing men, and not only did they dance, but they danced like they did it all day, every day, like even when they were showering or making eggs. They made adventure breathless, and even in the face of lost causes, unrequited love and certain death they could sing, and when they did the entire world stopped to listen. So, when I saw that Les Miserables was going to be in theaters, I was thrilled, and now, after seeing it, continue to be amazed not so much by the surface singing and production which was brilliant, but instead by the depth of the story that Victor Hugo wanted to tell.

Though as a teenager I researched and read anything I could get my hands on about Les Miserables, the story, the performers, and what was going on in each of the songs - I once picked up a volume of the book, and found it was bigger than my Bible. Since I hadn't quite made it through that, I figured there was little to no chance of making it through Les Mis. So, I stuck to entwining myself in the poetry of the songs. As I learned about how to look into poetry, I found that this was so much more than just a story about a con man, a prostitute, a little girl and a revolution, this is a story of forgiveness and redemption.

I have always been struck by the similarities between Jean Valjean and Javert. Though the classic protagonist and antagonist, the depth of these characters is astounding - and they are two sides of the very same coin.  Valjean is released on parole after twenty years in prison, and after failing to reestablish his meager life, he is taken in by a kind priest. Desperate Valjean runs, and steals from the priest, opening up for himself the perfect opportunity to be sent right back to prison.  Instead of reacting the way most of us do when violated, the priest does something unexpected.

Constable: You maintain he (the bishop) made a present of his silver...
Bishop: That is right. But, my friend you left so early, surely something slipped your mind. You forgot, I gave these (candlesticks) also, would you leave the best behind? ...and remember this my brother, see in this some higher plan, you must use this precious silver to become an honest man, by the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness, I have bought your soul for God.

To me, this is what Christ does for people, and the Bishops actions show Christ. The Bishop could look at Valjean in the face after Valjean is caught with what is clearly the Bishop's silver. Instead of condemning Valjean back to prison, the Bishop loves him instead.  He looks beyond and sees what Valjean may become instead of what Valjean believes that he is, a common thief. Something changes in Valjean,

Valjean: Yet why did I allow that man, to touch my soul and teach me love? He treated me like any other, he gave me his trust, he called me brother. My life he claims for God above, can such things be? For I had come to hate the world, the world that always hated me...He told me that I have a soul, how does he know? What spirit comes to move my life? Is there another way to go? I'll escape now from the world...Jean Valjean is nothing now, another story must begin. 

The change in his life isn't easy on Valjean, though he tries to live his own life by the example that the priest set, it isn't always simple and he makes his own mistakes.  Embracing forgiveness - especially the kind that Christ offers, when one looks back on their own life, isn't necessarily something we all want to face. When we look back we focus on the things we've done wrong, and truly believe that those things are far too big to ever be forgiven. These thoughts are echoed in the character of Javert. Though I believe that Javert is what he considers to be a "good man" at heart, he cannot accept forgiveness for a past mistake, nor can he give it.

Javert: I've hunted you across the years, men like you can never change...Men like me can never change, men like you can never duty's too the law...Every man is born in sin, every man must choose his way...I was born with scum like you, I am from the gutter too.

Javert's own sense of righteousness, and belief in an unforgiving God, has propelled him into a form of religion that demands that if he follows the law, then he will be redeemed from the sinfulness of his own life.  Since it is impossible for him to find forgiveness, and reconcile himself with grace, there is no way that he can do any different for Valjean.  Javert bases his life on "works" - or doing the things that make him think that he will pull himself above condemnation, making him worthy. Valjean on the other hand, has to live with a lot of grace.  He is forced into hiding his true identity, but at the same time, is conscious of the fact that he must do what is right, even when what is right sacrifices his own happiness.  When he meets Fantine, and ultimately condemns her to a similar fate, for a similar non-existent crime, just as he was wronged thirty years earlier, he believes that he has to make up his wrong to her, which ultimately blesses him with a daughter.  When he is confronted by Javert's announcement that another man has been accused of Valjean's crime, he knows that he must step in and right that wrong despite the fact that he will face the accusation of his peers, would lose his position and his wealth all in one night.

Valjean: Who am I? Can I condemn this man to slavery? Pretend I do not see his agony?... Can I conceal myself forever more? Pretend I'm not the man I was before?...How can I ever face myself again?My soul belongs to God I know, I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone, he gave me strength to journey on, who am I?

This is something that Javert can't reconcile to himself. Instead of seeing Valjean's act of mercy toward him as a kindness, he sees Valjean having dominion over him.  To look at the acts good or bad in his life, he can only see that Valjean has somehow bested him, instead of changing, like Valjean did.

Javert: And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years? My heart is stone and still it trembles, the world I have known is lost in shadow, is he from heaven or from hell? That by granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so? 

There is deep sadness in his words for me. Yet, turning away from grace and forgiveness happens many times in this life.  Javert felt that the world he lived in, believed in could not be changed, and so believed that the only honorable way to justify himself was to bring it to an end. In the end it was that he didn't know that grace and forgiveness intersect and rock our personal sense of righteousness, and shake us to our very core.  The resulting change though not easy to reconcile at first can take an unforgivable life and propel it into grace.

Valjean: One day more, another day, another destiny, this never ending road to Calvary...

This line always struck me, and stood out to me.  It reminded me of a Bible verse, Luke 9:23 "Then he said to them all 'whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross daily and follow me." Every day, living for Christ, following Christ takes work, for me it means checking myself when I am about to speak, treating people with kindness especially those I have judged, and growing, slowly growing every day.  When you live in grace and forgiveness, you can extend these to those around you in any circumstance, for it has already been extended to you.

all the sins we see

He raped me. My friend, sweet and gentle, said it straight out like she was talking about the movie we'd seen not too long ago toget...