Prologue: 14 Words

In that book which is
My memory…
On the first page
That is the chapter when
I first met you
Appear the words…
Here begins a new life

-Dante Alighieri
from La Vita Nuova

Welcome welcome, space mutants of Rigel 7; I'm so glad you have come. Another exciting fun-filled sexy week that by the end will have you saying "Thanks for all the awesome!"

If for some reason (possibly relating to kidnapping and/or a coma) you missed yesterday, it was International Read Poetry to Someone You Love Day. Seeing as it was (coincidentally; I swear!) also Kaida's birthday, I went all out and suggested many a fine poem. However, just about anyone could benefit from such a great day, as I especially made sure to have poems that you gals to read to your fellas. (But dudes, let's be honest: you read women poetry for one reason and one reason only; and if you don't know that reason is…send her on over and I'll explain it to her (in a totally platonic way, of course (I wonder if there's any chance I'll get away from this? (is it just me, or does Hyperion use waaaay too many parentheticals?))):)

Today is also a great day, as it is International Muppets and Meatballs Day. (And if there's a better combination that doesn't honey-scented massage oil and a turkey sandwich, I don't want to hear about it.)

Couple of quick notes before the main picture starts playing:

1) If you are looking for each July archived days, they can now be found in one handy dandy place!
My favorites include the god-test, Dogfight, and of course Simon Sez.

2) Over on Monkey Barn, I rave on and on about the wonders of freeze-dried crispy fruit while at the same time encountering a mathematical conundrum that will have you banging your head against the wall. (While you're there, make sure you check out the rest of the site, as many a strange dog picture has shown up.)

3) I have decided to run my novella on the home page. Started in 2004 as a Halloween story about Fagin Dupree, it grew to an experiment to see if I could write 12 monthly episodic chapters, each one a separate adventure. (Indeed: for the first few I refused to even look over previous chapters for reference, something you'll probably notice.)

Before long Fagin Dupree was a huge hit and I found myself writing twice as often, and taking more time to connect the chapters. By the end, I had a neat little book. (To put it in perspective, the 26 chapters ended up being almost as long as the first Harry Potter book.)

I'm thinking about going back and rewriting the entire thing, but first I wanted to give you a chance to read it. Some of you read it back in 2005, while others of you are new, (and some are named Koz, who inexplicably chose to wound me deeply by not reading the first time around). The point is: this is your last chance. Once it's over I am taking down the posts and the next time you see Fagin he will cost you 12.95.

I won't be publishing chapters every day, as I still have a slew of movie reviews, topical columns (and dare I say more than a few Hyperion After Darks), but for a few days a week take the time to get to know Fagin Dupree (or get to know him again).

This first part was written months before the idea of a story formed, and became the prologue. Enjoy!



Prologue: 14 WORDS

Fagin Dupree was not having a good day. Truth be told, he was also not having a good week, month, year, or life. Fate had dealt Fagin a cruel hand. To have been born of a mother obsessed with Dickens is one thing, but for that mother to name her only child Fagin Ebenezer Evremonde Dupree?

That was just sadistic.

Fagin had grown up taunted and teased by the other children. (I will leave it to your imagination what they called him.) It did not help that Fagin was a sickly child, desperately bad at sports, and fond of reading everything he could get his hands on; three character traits not prized highly in the Killing Fields known as Grade School.

So, Fagin had a bad childhood, and it did not get any better as an adult. Sneered at by co-workers, taken advantage of by, well, everyone, and the women…let's just say that Fagin Dupree was not one to inspire much yearning of loins from the Double-X chromosome set.

All that changed with Deelea Jensen. She was smart, she was funny, she was beautiful, and best of all; Deelea liked Fagin. Looks were not important to her, and if Fagin lacked a certain manly grace, to Deelea he made up for it with his impressive amount of arcane knowledge.

And so, Fagin was happy for a short time in his life.

Until today.

Deelea had shown up where Fagin worked as a Historical-Restoration consultant and delivered the news; she was breaking up with him. In a total panic Fagin fled the scene to the one place in the city that could give him comfort: the ancient manuscript section of the library.

It was here Fagin often came after a horrible day; basking in the obscure texts, luxuriating in the smell and feel of the old books, and just feeling at home.

Today Fagin hunted blindly, his eyes awash with tears. Fagin pulled out a volume of forgotten lore about giant rabbits. He opened the book, and that is when the Parchment fell out.

It was old, ancient even, and worn but well preserved. Fagin recognized its age and value immediately, and the Restoration expert in him knew such an artifact should be under glass.

He happened to notice the words on the outside: Ultimus Casus. Fagin might not be a winner, but he knew his Latin, and suddenly an irresistible urge took over him to open the parchment and see what was inside.

Perhaps it was the crummy day. It could have been his love of all things old and mysterious. Maybe it was just fate that he found it, but Fagin Dupree decided to open the Parchment.

Carefully he slipped open the clasp, wondering how such a treasure came to rest here....


The Parchment may well have existed for millennia. We start our travels with the Parchment at the end of the Second Crusade. One of the Templar Knights found the Parchment in Jerusalem, in the catacombs of the Temple of Solomon. The first knight to read the 14 words enclosed (history does not record his name), promptly pulled his sword from its scabbard and slit his own throat.

There was some confusion as to what had happened (and some accounts say, a few more dead knights), but eventually one of the Knights read the 14 words and immediately set off for Rome to speak to Pope Innocent II. Soon after that meeting, Innocent issued a Papal Bull declaring the Knights Templar Omne Datum Opimum, a law unto themselves.

The Parchment remained in the Templar Knights' possession for some time, and then in 1307 it was lost. (Soon after, Pope Clement and French King Phillip IV ordered the Knights all but wiped out.). The Parchment has passed from person to person since then, mostly causing the result of that first night, occasionally leading to other events. A few highlights:

In 1478, a mild-mannered Dominican friar named Thomás de Torquemada came into possession of the Parchment. He read the words, and immediately set out to bring about the Spanish Inquisition, surprising all who knew him. (Although to be fair, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.)

In 1517, a priest came by the Parchment in Wittenberg, Germany. It was later that week that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church.

In 1770, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came upon the Parchment, and went on to become the greatest composer who ever lived.

In 1850 a young girl named Jenny Lind came into possession of the Parchment, and went out and became the Swedish Nightingale, admired and loved all over as the world's greatest singer.

Vincent Van Gogh actually came upon the parchment twice. The first time he read the words he went out and dramatically altered his painting styles; creating some of the most indelible works in all of human history. A few years later, Van Gogh found the Parchment again, read those 14 words, and shot himself in the chest.

In 1913, a young man in Vienna had just failed art school, and was dejected and despondent at his future. He happened upon the Parchment one day, read those 14 words, and young Adolf Hitler suddenly had new purpose.

In 1968, a troubled young man born "no-name Maddox" came upon the Parchment and its message. Inspired and excited, Charles Manson went out to show the world what he had learned.

These are just some of the people who have encountered the Parchment and its contents. Is there a theme to these people? Perhaps.

Fagin Dupree did not know any of that. Nevertheless, he saw those 14 words, and they burned into his brain. He would never forget them as long as he lived.

He also knew what he must do.

Just then, there was a knock at the door to the ancient manuscript vault. Deelea poked her head in, looking sad and worried.

"Fagin?" she said quietly. "Can I come in? I wanted to talk about this afternoon with you. Would that be okay?"

Fagin looked at her for a moment; expression unreadable. Then he broke into a big grin.

"Sure thing, darling. You come on in. And close the door behind, you. It's a library and…we wouldn't want to disturb anyone."

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