The Seat of Destiny – Part 1

The Seat of Destiny is a short story I wrote several years ago which is currently on sale on Amazon as an e-book.
Since the story is over 6,000 words I’m breaking it into 2 parts.

A powerful artifact affects all who sit upon it bringing success to some and disaster to others through 2000 years of history.


The Seat of Destiny

29 AD

The carpenter rubbed the stone in smaller and smaller circles, smoothing the arm of the sella to the consistency of fine cloth. He knew that attention to detail was what made a good chair; his father Ioseph had told him this many times when he was a mere apprentice. The sella curule he was creating would serve as the travel chair for a powerful Roman and the details would make all the difference.
The other men in Nazareth did not appreciate the fact that Yeshua was willing to create furniture for the Romans like his father had before him. To them, he and his father were traitors, working for the occupying Romans. He understood now what his father had taught, that the only way to avoid the claws of the eagle was to appear small and weak, yet of benefit to the eagle. A wise man did not dare the giant to step upon his head unless he was strong enough and cunning enough to cause the giant to topple through its action. Yeshua was a wise man, he knew his time was coming; he would go forth from his village and change the world, but not yet. Today his mission was to finish carving the beast faces on the legs and smooth the arms of the sella curule that the Roman Publius had commissioned for his patron in Rome.
He bent close over the lamb’s face he was carving. The individual hairs could be discerned so precise was his carving skill. Moishe had once said that Yeshua’s carvings were so lifelike that you could see them moving from the corner of your eye. Yeshua had once become so enamored of one of his carvings that he had breathed life into it. The wooden horse had whinnied and tossed its head on the plaque until Yeshua’s mother had discovered his conceit and chastised him soundly, reminding him of his place in the world. The only life his carvings exhibited now was that provided by the viewer’s imagination.
This was to be his last commission before he left home. Mother had wept and torn her hair when he announced the planned beginning of his ministry after the harvest but he would not be dissuaded. He was a grown man, home long beyond the time he should have gone forth into the world to find his fortune. His mother feared for his safety, knowing that he must go forth to preach among non-believers and foreign infidels; he knew that he must be about his life’s work.
The carving was complete and Yeshua once again took up the stones and began to polish the wood. Over and over he stroked the grain, taming it, making it smooth and pleasing to the touch. The chair seemed to glow with an inner light, so beautifully did he finish the surface. The final touch was the leather seat and flexible leather back.
He stood back from the shining wood and smiled; the chair was beautiful, Publius would be truly thankful. A bag full of silver shkalim would be his for completing this beautiful travel chair. The silver along with everything else he had saved over the last year would help his mother take care of herself until he was settled in his ministry and could afford to bring her to his final home.
Yeshua put away his carpenter’s tools for the last time and called for his mother to join him for dinner.

235 AD

The journey to Germania had been long and arduous for Emperor Severus Alexander. Even the Emperor of Rome could find travel through barbarous country strenuous. It was rather difficult to find marble baths and cushioned couches in the tents of the Legions.
Severus had traveled to Germania with several of the most powerful legions of Rome to finally put an end to the battles with the wild tribes. He was prepared to crush them if needed but would welcome them with open arms into the Empire should they see reason and surrender and, of course, pay sufficient tribute.
Severus dismissed his body slave after she had finished his sponge bath and draped him with fresh garments. There was time to draft a letter to his mother before he was to confront the barbarian chieftains who were being escorted to his presence at this very moment.
The Emperor’s writing desk was of rare woods from Egypt with golden fastenings. His travel chair was of fine olive wood and had served him for many years. It had traveled with him to afternoons at the Coliseum and supported him during his time with the Legions; even though it was a lowly travel chair he considered it one of the most comfortable seats he possessed. As Severus lowered himself into his trusty chair he heard a popping sound and with a loud crack, he crashed to the ground, the chair and his dignity suffering severe damage.
“Slave,” he screamed as he rolled on the ground amid the wreckage of his chair.
The slave tasked with waiting on Severus rushed into the tent and visibly blanched upon seeing the Emperor on the ground.
“Master you are hurt,” cried the slave as he rushed forward to provide his own body as a platform for the Emperor to use to regain his feet.
At the slave’s cry, one of the legionnaires stationed at the door of the gigantic tent stepped through the flap, sword half drawn. Seeing the struggling Emperor and abased slave the soldier quickly moved forward and offered his arm to his overlord.
“Thrice damned chair,” Severus shouted as he struggled to his feet. “Slave, remove that trash. You, soldier, fetch me a new chair immediately.”
Severus Alexander stood as tall as he was capable and put all his authority and indignation into his voice. He needed to regain his composure and his dignity even at the cost of these underlings.
“Now, damn it,” he barked when the legionnaire did not immediately jump.
“Yes Imperator,” the soldier said and trotted from the tent.
Several minutes passed while the slave removed the shattered chair. Severus had calmed from the indignity of the fall but was now beginning to become incensed that a new chair had not immediately appeared. He was considering calling for another soldier when the tasked legionnaire reappeared through the flap.
The man must have run to do Severus’ bidding as a sheen of sweat coated his face. The chair the man carried was beautiful. The wood appeared to be olive wood just as had composed his old chair but the wood seemed to glow, so finely was it finished.
As the soldier set the chair in the place of his destroyed one, Severus approached almost reverently. All trace of his annoyance fled from his mind, this chair was a work of art, far beyond even his former chair.
Severus could see delicate carvings along the legs showing pastoral life, no doubt from one of the Empire’s territories. The seat and back appeared to be supple leather, the color, and smoothness of a Nubian woman’s skin.
“Where did you find this beautiful chair,” he asked.
“Imperator,” the soldier snapped to attention, pride in his voice. “This chair has been in my family for more than a century. My father and his father before him carried it to war in service of the Empire.”
“More than a century? But it looks almost new,” Severus said in a near whisper.
“Sir, the Gods have smiled on this chair. It always remains beautiful with only the slightest cleaning. My family would be honored for Caesar to use it.”
Nodding, Severus turned and sat in the chair. He stroked the arms, smooth as silk and felt warmth spread through him as if he luxuriated in a warm bath. Joy suffused his face as he relaxed into the embrace of the chair.
“Yes, an outstanding chair. What is your name soldier?”
“Sextus Publius, Imperator,” the soldier barked, somehow pulling himself to even straighter attention.
“Sextus Publius, a good name. Sextus, you have served your Emperor well,” Severus removed a gold ring from his left hand and extended it toward the soldier. “Take this as a token of my good will. I shall sit only upon this chair for the duration of this campaign.”
The soldier accepted the ring, worth more than a year’s pay to a simple soldier, knowing that he could never sell such a thing. He would treasure this gift of the Emperor more than the chair of his father.
“Leave us now,” Severus said in a sleepy voice. “We must prepare to receive our barbarian visitors.”
When the chieftains of the Germanic tribes were brought before the Emperor Severus Alexander the officers of the legion were expecting their leader to make the savages grovel and bow before Rome. Instead, when the hairy, filthy men were escorted into the Emperor’s presence they were greeted warmly, like friends, by the Emperor who sounded like a man who had partaken of too much smoke from the medicinal plants used in the far eastern reaches of the Empire.
Severus bid the chieftains to sit with him and spoke to them as equals, all the while stroking the arms of his new chair. Smiling cherubically, the Emperor offered compliments to the men and in a turn of affairs, instead of demanding tribute, he offered bribes to the barbarians to end their hostilities. One of the ranking officers, Gaius Iulius Verus Maximinus, questioned the Emperor’s choices and was waved aside as if a foolish child.
Peace was finally made at the end of the negotiations but among the senior men of the Legions, peace was to be a thing of the past. They grumbled among themselves and soon the Prefects, Tribunes and even the Legates of the assembled legions gathered to discuss the insult to the Empire that had been delivered.
Grumbling turned to anger. Anger turned to mutiny. Soon the leaders of the Legions gathered to discuss what to do. A leader only rules while his subjects allow and on this day the ranking men of the legions of Rome decided that Severus Alexander was no longer fit to be Emperor.
As the Legions traveled to Moguntiacum where Severus declared he would visit his mother and share the news of his bringing of peace the men gathered to vote for a new man to declare Emperor.
The men nominated Gaius Iulius Verus Maximinus, a Thracian, as the new Emperor. Maximus had risen through the ranks and was well respected by the men and the people of Rome. He was of the opinion that the Germans should have been taught the lesson of fear and put in their place rather than bargained with as if Rome were a whore haggling for a better status with her pimp.
The Legions revolted in Moguntiacum and Severus was assassinated, along with his mother. His possessions were dispersed among the men. A new Emperor ruled Rome and the wondrous chair disappeared once more into the mists of time.

312 AD

Emperor Constantine was worried. Maxentius outnumbered his forces two to one and with their backs to the river, presented a nearly unbeatable force. Most of his officers could offer no further insight into how to prosecute the battle; they felt it was in the hands of the Gods.
Constantine crossed the enormous camp to the tent of the Legate Titus Lucius to consult the seasoned warrior once more on the best strategy.
“Imperator,” Titus said with pleasure as he rose. “What brings you to my humble tent?”
“Titus, my friend,” the Emperor said. “I want to discuss this battle again. I refuse to believe that only the Gods can help us.”
“Please, Caesar, take my chair for yourself,” Titus fetched a small wooden stool for himself as he motioned Constantine to the carved folding chair he had just vacated.
Constantine settled into the finely crafted chair. It was warm and quite possibly the most comfortable chair in which he had ever sat; quite a feat for a travel chair.
The Emperor stroked the arms, smooth as silk and felt himself relax.
“I see why you enjoy your tent so much Titus, this is the most comfortable chair I’ve ever encountered.”
“Thank you, sir.” Titus smiled across the table. “I bought it from the son of a senator who claimed it had been in his family for generations. Obviously, it’s too new for that to be true but I think it was money well spent. It truly is the most relaxing chair that I own.”
Titus spread a map of the region and placed markers representing Maxentius’ forces as their spies had indicated.
“As you can see Caesar, Maxentius is well situated.”
Titus added markers to represent the various units of the Legions.
“Our forces are much weaker although I know my men; they are better trained and will fight hard. I cannot believe that the Gods will not smile upon us.
“It’s well and good to hope for the blessings of the Gods, or even the Christ that many of the men now worship,” Constantine said. “I for one want a plan. The Gods always stand on the side of the best prepared after all.”
“Too true Imperator,” Titus said. “Let us see what we can devise.”
The two men spent the next several hours playing out combat scenarios on the map and as the moon set, Emperor Constantine rose with a yawn and, feeling as prepared as he could be for the battle, wandered back to his own tent to get some sleep.
The Emperor’s sleep was restless. Constantine tossed and turned on his ornate bed, his activities so violent that his slaves considered calling for the physician.
As dawn neared, Constantine suddenly sat bolt upright in his bed with a shout.
“With this sign you shall conquer!”
He looked around the tent in confusion, his eyes finally focused on the terrified slave.
“Fetch the Centurion of the watch. I have new orders for the Legion.”
The slave fled the tent, shouting for the Centurion as he ran through the camp. A short while later the Centurion arrived with several other senior officers in tow to find a dressed Constantine drawing on a piece of parchment.
“Imperator,” he began.
“New orders,” barked Constantine. “I have had a vision of the God Christ. He has told me how to win this battle.”
The assembled men looked unsure but none were brave enough to say anything to their agitated Emperor.
Constantine held aloft the parchment displaying a strange symbol. The center of the symbol was a slanted X bisected with a vertical bar, the top of which was hooked.
“The men must all place this on their shields. No man must defer from this. The Christ appeared in my dream and told me that by this symbol, this Chi Rho, I shall conquer.”
He looked around at the confused and fearful faces surrounding him.
“I know this sounds crazed but I tell you as your Emperor that I have seen a true vision of the God and if we obey we shall be victorious.”
“As the Emperor commands, so shall it be,” declared Titus Lucius who had entered as Constantine ranted.
The officers dispersed shouting orders and the morning turned to a flurry of activity as every man in the legion painted the Chi Rho on his shield. That day, the Legion of Constantine marched against the greater force of Maxentius and despite the odds crushed the opposing force driving Maxentius into the Tiber where he was drowned.



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