General Fiction posted May 21, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
The Literary Characters Guild fights on.

Caesar, Wherefore Art Thou

by Wayne Fowler

“Merlin, Merlin!” “Oh Merlin.” “Mr. Merlin!” the cacophony of callers was disruptive, to say the least.
Merlin, the wizard of renown, lately the human character serving as author Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, appeared before the clamoring throng, each intent on soliciting Merlin’s services as the conjurer-of-authors.
“Yes, yes. Calm yourselves.” Merlin silenced the mob, his hands and arms settling them down. “Now I know that all you have been killed by your most recent author. Yes, I know they should not have done it. They have not all yet learned that they should only terminate those whom they have, themselves, developed. Justice, you deserve. And justice you shall receive. But one at a time. I am only one wizard. But if you elect me president at the next election …”
Literary Guild members, those whose fully developed characters were accepted into the membership, hired themselves to authors, serving in the roles applied for. Unbeknownst to most writers, who endeavored to develop a character, say a private detective, they found Sam Spade at their doorstep, willing to perform as whomever the writer wished. The Guild member got resumé-building work, while the writer received the benefit of a professional willing to artfully advance the plot. As Harry Dresden, a step beneath his preferred immortal characters, Merlin’s hand was in the stew, so-to-speak, and he could socialize with old friends.
“Now who is first? You there, wearing a robe. Yes. You. Come with me.”
As the man, obviously a rich Roman patrician, followed Merlin, the crowd dissipating. “I was killed,” the man said.
Merlin gave him a skeptical eye. “Obviously. The details…” Merlin beckoned him to proceed with his fingers.
“Julius Caesar, I was. My author was the Bard, William Shakespeare.” With that, Caesar crossed his arms over his chest. “The character call-out sounded as if for parties: wine and women, maybe some flashback battle scenes, mostly orgies, and such.” His arms remained across his chest without the slightest animation of his hands or fingers. His eyes darted across Merlin’s face, left to right, and back again, lingering on his face hardly making eye contact.
“Not much into history, are you?” Merlin asked, believing the man a fool.
“Look here, you,” Caesar said, defiantly uncrossing his arms, his hands firmly set onto his hips. “I represent a significant block of votes. Every soldier in every war harkens to my voice.” Caesar stopped short of threatening Merlin’s campaign, but the implication was clear.
“And who do you think would sit in impartial judgment of the great Bard of Avon?” Merlin’s eyes demanded Caesar’s capture, locking them still. Caesar’s pupil grew to ripe fullness.
His lips on the edge of quivering, Caesar squawked, “No poets, not a one.”
“Now, how might that appear?” Merlin said, “Shakespeare judged by what, mathematicians?”
Caesar’s jaws flapped soundlessly. Finally finding his voice, Caesar offered suggestions. “Maybe one who predates Shakespeare, Homer, or Cervantes.”
“Homer and Cervantes,” Merlin said. “And I’ll find someone else. Right here in one hour.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Merlin began, an audience appearing at the trial for the first time. “As the tribunal, we have the famed Homer, author of The Iliad.” Muffled gasps were heard among the attendees. “With him is Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. And C. S. Lewis…”
Caesar erupted, “Children’s fairy tales?” he shouted.
“Rest easy, Julius, lower your sword. Mr. Lewis is far more than The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, it might be telling that you didn’t know that.
The Iliad and The Odyssey are the oldest western literature,” Merlin continued. “Welcome Mr. Homer. We hope you find our little affair entertaining. And Senór Cervantes, bienvenido. I hope you are able to follow our proceedings.”
Cervantes indicated that he could understand perfectly. “Si, my friend, but I am yet to see what my tilting at windmills has to offer.”
“Senór, yours is the oldest western novel known to man. Rest assured your opinion is valued here.
“Now, Mr. Lewis. Your wisdom and judgement is honored throughout our land and our Guild. Welcome, kind sir. What we’re asking you gentlemen is to listen to the claim of our deceased member, Julius Caesar, who was killed by his author, William Shakespeare in his play by the character’s name.”
“Quite familiar.” Lewis said. “If I may a moment with my colleagues.” In a blink, the two more ancient writers nodded understanding. “A question, Mr. Merlin.”
Merlin nodded Lewis his liberty.
Addressing Caesar, Lewis asked, “Mr. Caesar, tell us please, your highest military rank prior to accepting the title role for Mr. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.”
After a moment’s pause, he replied, “Captain. I was a captain of the defensive forces of York.”
“Of York? Our own York? And your name, sir?"
“Captain Reginald Pierce. It was written by Sir Wellesly.” Noting the blank stares, he added, “It only reached regional acclaim.”
“And your other military service? On the Queen’s navy, perhaps?”
Caesar shook his head.
“Dare say I,” Shakespeare injected, conjured by Merlin for the trial’s begin, but speaking for the first time, “Why engage you, would I?”
“I knew the tongue, your rhythm and inflection. I’ve studied your work from your quarto plays of the nineties, and your first major play, Richard the Third.
“So you were a fan, were you?” C. S. Lewis surmised.
“A rube!” The shout came from the audience, which was at once disappeared by Merlin.
“Even school children in Spain knew the fate of Julius Caesar,” Cervantes said. “Could a student of the play in England not know such. Is that possible?”
No one answered, least of all Caesar.
“I accept the concept of your Guild,” Shakespeare said, a modest bow toward Merlin. “As most writers, I’m certain, we believe in our own arrogance, that we create our own community of souls. It is possible, nay probable, that in haste, we sometimes err.”
“Hah! Not quite so eloquent on the brunt side of the lectern, your writing table, are you?” Caesar charged.
His lips smiling, his eyes stabbing daggers, Shakespeare replied. “The pen, hireling, preserves its own eloquence. Yet I venture interrogation: whose thrust struck closer the heart, Brutus or Cassius?”
Smirking, Caesar blurted, “Brutus, of course. Where the knife plunged, we don’t know, but at Brutus’ stab, Julius gave up the ghost to his closest friend.”
“YOU KNOW NOT WHAT YOU SPEAK, NOR WHOM YOU SPEAK IT OF!” Shakespeare settled himself in an instant. “You are as ignorant as my audience first. Naught of you heard a word beyond the murderous action scene! None had the clarity to listen. To a man you have fallen to the simplest of slight-of-hand, a magician’s misdirection. Why think you all that I wrote Et to Bruté but to distract? A falsity? Antony, you fool!
“Antony thrice offered the crown to Caesar. Antony heard the soothsayer’s warn to Caesar. Antony witnessed Caesar’s weakness. Antony accepted the merest of pretenses to absent himself on that of most fortuitous of days. And it was Antony who sealed Rome’s doom in the form of Caesar’s death. With his eulogy he guaranteed the fall of Rome to civil war. And why think ye I even note Octavius’ ambitions, Cassius’ dreams, and dear Brutus’ love?
“Antony, the famed speaker-over-the-dead eulogizes Brutus, declaring Brutus, the murderer of the Republic’s hero, declaring Brutus a hero in Julius Caesar’s stead.” Shakespeare bowed to the audience’s silence, expecting applause.
After a moment, Merlin looked to the tribunal.
Homer and Cervantes began a slow, rhythmic clap, joined in a few beats by Lewis, who with a nod from the other two, stood to pronounce judgement.
“The case is made. History is sufficient to judge. Julius Caesar did not survive the Senate. That this imposter would have us to believe he was to enjoy …” Lewis spat the word, as if scraping its residue from his tongue … “enjoy a vile Caligula feast lies a close second to the denial of his claim of innocence. He is deceased, and is to so remain.”
With that, Lewis dropped his gavel to the bench surface with the hammer’s retort, disappearing himself as well as the other two tribunes and the Bard.
Merlin glared at Caesar the moment it took for him to fade into nothingness.

Literary Guild - literary characters organization. Once accepted into the Guild, members contract themselves to authors, actually applying in response to authors' unconscious character calls.

Merlin-the-Wizard has been called upon to use his powers to bring authors to court.

Previous cases:
Magwitch v. Charles Dickens in Great Expectations
Newt v. Larry McMurtry in Lonesome Dove and The Streets of Laredo
Cinderella's father v. Charles Perrault in Cinderella
Sherlock Holmes v. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Final Problem
Jennifer v. Eric Segal in Love Story
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© Copyright 2022. Wayne Fowler All rights reserved.
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