Another excerpt from the upcoming project. Paying a little RAW tribute as well.
A gavel struck wood. It was starting. They led the candidate into the center of the room. He was wearing a white tunic with one sleeve. A noose, or as the brothers called it, a “cable tow”, was fastened around his neck and dangling loosely on his chest.
The Worshipful Impirator’s voice echoed in the room, “Do you feel that?”
A long, ceremonial sword was placed against the candidate’s chest through a slit in the tunic’s fabric.
A drop of blood fell from the place where the tip of the sword pressed against the candidate’s flesh.
The ritual continued.
Cargill’s apron was sitting funny on his waist. It was heavy. The sigils and emblems on it were made of lead and they tugged it at an angle that was uncomfortable. He’d lost himself in thought as the The Impirator was leading the candidate through the oath, which acknowledged his understanding of the punishment for divulging the secrets of the initiation ceremony.
"… These several points I solemnly swear to observe, without evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation of any kind, under no less a penalty, on the violation of any of them than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark, or a cable’s length from the shore, where the tide regularly ebbs and flow twice in 24 hours and being branded a willfully perjured individual, void of all moral worth, and totally unfit to be received into this worshipful Lodge."
They Impirator licked his lips as he recited the oath for the candidate to repeat, his forked tongue darting out from between his teeth. Sloppy. Even though the candidate was blindfolded it was still risky business to go around flaunting his reptilian tongue in full view of the other apprentices in the room. None of them had noticed, surely. Still it was a careless move and one that Cargill would have to bring up at the next Lodge meeting. Worshipful Impirator or not, there’s no excuse for that sort of indiscretion.
The Grand Lodge of Upper Bavaria was founded in 1767. Within seven years it had managed to sabotage wheat crops, kicking off revolutionary fervor in France. Within eight years of its founding it had managed to start a revolution in the American colonies. Its control of the British East India Company allowed it to push the English government to unload surplus tea on its New World colony, yet it was G.L.U.B. agents who disguised themselves as Indians while dumping that surplus into the ocean in protest.
Within ten years the Lodge had cemented itself as the orchestrating force in Europe, North America, and the Indian subcontinent. By the time the first Opium War had finished it had its hands firmly wrapped around China’s throat as well.
Ostensibly secret, theories abounded about the many conspiracies that the Lodge was involved with. Some true, some blatantly false. All of them were encouraged by the Lodge, though those who published them were smeared as fringe lunatics. All of which had the effect of creating an air of mystery and danger, enhancing the brand of the Lodge, while simultaneously shutting down any real scrutiny before it had a chance to snowball.
Two centuries of mostly unchecked power had the effect of turning several high ranking members into lizards. Cargill’s tongue split sometime in the mid eighteen hundreds. Boaz The Younger, the current Worshipful Impirator had only recently started to develop scales. Boaz The Elder, his older brother, had fully transformed around the same time as Cargill, fueling a bit of sibling rivalry.
In the banquet hall after the ceremony, Cargill sat at the far end of the Master’s table and poked at his roast pork with the tip of his knife. Its color was off, perhaps a little grey. The whole affair was off-putting, you’d think that an organization of their stature would be able to find a decent catering company.
"Your brother was flicking his goddamned tongue again, Boaz." Cargill said, trying not to think about the pork.
"He’s just excited, I’ll talk to him." Boaz was a thin man, tall and sallow. A sharp contrast to his rotund little brother. Not bothering to make a pretext of eating the pork, he asked, "How are things going? With the goat?"
"Mostly according to plan. In fact the building is fully occupied, we’ve got all of them in one place."
"Nobody suspects … ?"
"What would they suspect? It’s all just a series of uncanny coincidences as far as they’re concerned. I mean, that Mel woman, you could hit her in the face with the fiery fist of Jehova and she’d convince herself that she’d bumped her head on a lighbulb."
"Irrational skeptics. The best."
Boaz closed his eyes, as if in thought. Cargill watched him breathe, his chest slowly rising and falling, and marveled at how reptilian he’d become over the years, and how much the process had sped up over the last ten or fifteen.