Months, a year?, ago’s Geek Question of the Day had to do with personal identities. When I said that the fictional character I most identified with was Fidelias of the Codex Alera, Charlie, and quite a few others, demanded an explanation. This is that explanation. Thank you for being patient as my other responsibilities kept me from writing this sooner.
Fair warning: Spoilers for the Codex Alera. Seriously, don’t read this if you haven’t finished the entire series. Part of what I talk about doesn’t happen until the end of First Lord’s Fury. So if you want to, or are currently, reading Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon, et al, don’t read this story.
Fidelis: always faithful. This is one of those Latin words that has been absorbed into the English language in our mottos and as the root for other words like “fidelity.” Used as the name of one of the First Lord’s (king’s) Cursors (spies), it immediately imparts the sense that this man, the lord’s own spy can be trusted. No matter what.
So the introduction of the rebel camp and its intrigues leaves not only Amara, but the reader, reeling. “The man is named Fidelias! How can he be the traitor?!”
Let me tell you the story of a girl. A goody two shoes little angel who tried to please everyone all the time. Especially the authority figures in her life. Part of pleasing authorities meant pleasing God. And since God said He loved the girl and wanted her to go to Heaven, she took the necessary step. Oh, there’s no doubt that the girl asked Jesus to save her from her sins at the age of seven. But, like most children who come to God in faith, she had no idea how to actually live that in her everyday life. This was not the fault of all of the excellent examples in her life.
This is the same place that Fidelias found himself straight out of Cursors’ Training at the Academy. Wanting to serve the First Lord. Having a little bit of training under his belt, but not really having the discipline and experience of living that life day in and day out.
Then Life happened to our young girl. Trials, tests, disappointments, triumphs, joys, wounds, heart breaks, successes, fears, missteps, and everything else that happens to everyone. The girl battled on, learning from each fall and bruise and scrape. Gaining confidence in each win and accomplishment and victory.
And then a day came. She looked around at the world and began asking questions. Why did there have to be so much pain? Why so much loss? Why so much hate? If Christians are supposed to be representatives of Christ, why aren’t more of them acting like they serve the King of Kings?
Fidelias found himself here. We’re not sure when the questions began for him. But we know that he recognized the fall of the House of Gaius in Septimus’ death. Fidelias is introduced to us as an old man in a young man’s game. He’s disillusioned. He’s tired. He’s worn out. And he’s questioning the First Lord’s right to rule. So he looks around for an alternative. The next best thing. The option that seems to mostly line up with his view of how the world should be, even if the details are a little distasteful.
The girl began compromising in small ways. Maybe just this once, here, there. Until those that met her didn’t recognize her for who she was, an ambassador of Christ. She looked like so many other people her age: searching, examining, exploring. She settled for the option that most appeared to fit her ideal, but found a few of the details a bit hard to swallow.
The stories diverge here. While Fidelias began to openly go to battle with the First Lord’s enemies, the girl’s rebellion was much quieter and not such a fierce departing of her roots. The Spirit was still there, whispering to her, keeping her from burning herself beyond reparation of her reputation. But those that loved her the most saw her pain. They knew she was running down a dangerous path.
In the course of Fidelias’ work for the Aquitaines, he put on an identity that had been of use in the past: Valiar Marcus, a captain in the Legions, retired hero. Fidelias said it took him a few weeks to put Marcus’ face back on, to get used to the feel of the identity that was so beloved by the people. Even though he accomplished it, he said it didn’t fit right at first. Because his view had changed so much.
This frequently reminds me of the song “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves: “But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned;
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned.” Fidelias had taken on a view of Alera, the First Lord, and Truth that he would never have dreamed of when he was Valiar Marcus. Sure, Marcus may have been given the “Valiar” honorary title, but, in reality, he was more faithful than Fidelias ended up being, so he earned it more than the cursor half of himself did. So Marcus cannot fathom the decisions Fidelias has made; they no longer fit each other.
It is there, in the Vale, that Marcus encounters Rufus Scipio, a third tribune logistica with little training and even less ability to stay out of trouble. Lightning strikes and suddenly, Marcus sees Scipio for who he really is: Gaius Octavian, the heir to the throne and the most talented strategist he’s ever known. Hope. It’s here that he has a choice: serve The Captain, or continue on his mission from the Aquitaines.
The girl had a choice one day. Someone hit her with lightning (though not as literal as what hit the First Aleran), and she saw exactly who she was and what she had been destroying slowly. So was she going to serve Christ or continue on her own way?
Fidelias began to make quiet decisions, day after day, reinforcing his devotion to The Captain while walking further and further from the life he’d developed for himself.
The girl began making the right choice moment by moment, separating herself from the temptations that had pulled her off course.
And then the declaration is made. Marcus and Gaius stand on a bridge, in the dark. Fidelias says, “You and I can never be made right again.” To which Gaius quietly replies, “No, but you and Octavian can.” Fidelias chooses to pick up the Cursor’s Silver Bull, for Octavian. In that moment, Fidelias falls away and only Marcus remains.
The girl and an older woman stand on a stoop, in the dark. The wise woman told her exactly what she needed to hear: “Truth is not based on your feelings; it is Truth no matter how you feel about it. All you can do now is move forward, leaving behind the things that keep you from Him.” And as the girl pondered that, she made a decision. She would no longer be the girl that sought out the second best option. She would only follow after the first. She would willingly serve Christ, for Christ’s sake, though she she was unsure about whether or not she could ever view God the same way again. That road had been closed off to her while her back was turned.
Marcus, and the girl, both serve their chosen King faithfully. But, though we are free to choose, we are never free from the consequences of our choices, even though from our past. Marcus was revealed to be Fidelias. The girl was revealed to be a self-righteous know it all.
Fidelias hung on a cross, a vast ice land barren of life surrounding him. Octavian asks him how he wants to be remembered. He wants to be remembered as someone who stayed dedicated to the realm, the kingdom. Tavi replies with, ““Fidelias ex Cursori is dead. His name is black and ruined. The labor of a lifetime, gone. You will die in service to me, laboring under another name, a name that will be heaped with well-deserved honor and praise. I sentence you to die knowing that the First Lord who should have crucified you is instead granting you trust that a fictional man deserves far more than you do. Fidelias’ death is mine. But Marcus’ life is mine.”
The girl stood in a room, anger and strife swirling around her. She asks those around her how they want to be remembered. The answers vary, but the girl, now a woman, looks to her husband. They nod in agreement. Their lives are no longer their own. They’ve given their whole lives, and even their future deaths, to the service of a Savior who deserves much more than they can give.
As Marcus shed the constraints of the life of Fidelias, the girl shed the constraints of a life lived to please everyone around her. Just as Marcus’ life was now wholly dedicated to serving Gaius Octavian, the girl’s life was now wholly dedicated to serving Christ Jesus. And as Marcus began a new life that would have a greater impact than all he’d done before, the girl began a new life that would have a greater eternal impact than all she’d done before. “Joy comes in knowing we have pleased the One we are serving.” But that joy, that dedicated service, would not be possible without the grace. The grace of Octavian to give Fidelias a new name. The grace of Christ to give the girl a new nature.
Grace, grace, God’s grace! Grace that will pardon and cleanse within! Grace, grace, marvelous grace! Grace that is greater than all my sins!