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STONE LEGION



 

 

Stone Legion ©

 

Imagine being instated into a fraternity where gladiatorial-combat is recognized as an art. A society that stands apart from University supervision and where the ‘boy’s regime’ creates its own body of law in a fellowship that redefines the meaning of hazing. Fighting was a trait inherent to the society’s nature that existed under the name Stone Legion; an estranged college fraternity that defines its own moral constitution. Its members, once friends, now fight against one another as hopeful contenders to earn their place in the society. In the spirit of honoring the ancient Romans, they compete against each other in The Arena Challenges, sword-combat that takes place during the fraternity’s founding month of October.

 

Each game occurs on a Friday. A day reserved in recognition of virility in honor of the Roman society’s patron god, Mars. Pledges are urged by fellow fraternity brothers to tap into their primal instinct; those who prevail in the fight to be christened on Halloween as brothers. As they compete through each battle, Christian Daye, a devoted society member, becomes distrustful of a pledge whose motive becomes suspect to exposing the society’s past. Soon, he is divided between the forces of ‘brotherhood’ and conscience, as agony and assault propel him to take a stand in which he must fight against this destructive league of brotherhood alone.

 



 

Excerpt

Two years prior

 

“Down. On your knees. Don’t stand until I say so.”

 

His voice came at me with the same commanding bullwhip administered by an Armed Force officer, barreling at me with a blunt force. I normally don’t follow orders like a dog, but I make the exception this one time. Tonight, I'm being honored for something I've worked hard for so long to accomplish, and my kneeling is an integral part of the ceremonious act that recognizes it.  So I gladly do as I’m told. I keep my mouth shut, I stay nailed to the ground and wait for the well deserved grand finale to this evening.

 

Less than an hour ago, I underwent the toughest fight of my life. Ruthless as they are, my brothers pitted me against my best friend in the final round that was to test the physical and mental capacity of my own endurance. Through the entire process, my mind never left the eponymous brass ring that would be my reward if I succeeded.

 

My friend, forced to his knees like the rest of us, throws a harmless punch to my side. Even though he's the strongest among the best of us, tonight he lacks the strength to make it have any deserving effect. But that doesn’t matter right now. We've already proven ourselves to each other, to our brothers and to every spectator here that witnessed our combat. There were enough egos burning to run a power plant. We survived the battle that made us the men who we are now; men who knew how to fight the good fight and come out winning without ever having to accept defeat in grace.

 

That’s what the headmaster said to us from the very beginning; "Defeat brings disgrace. There is no bowing out in grace." And with that concept of shame supplanted into our psyche, the very idealism made its intended psychological effect; there was no way we were going to disgrace ourselves, our sponsors and disappoint the headmaster.

 

Both our sponsors prod us to our feet, steering us in the direction of the north wing; the location where the other pledges that have made it into the society stand in wait. They swear, they belch; they make rude noises and offensive gestures.  Bruised and battered, they still have enough energy left to celebrate the victory. What matters most now is that they made it in.

 

Pledge. How much I hated the title and all the crude insult that weighed me with it. But that was about to change. In a matter of minutes, we would all go from being the pledge class to society brothers.

 

Peter Romero, the headmaster, makes his entrance and the assembly of brothers falls silent. The bantering ends, bringing all comical antics skidding to a deafening halt. He is carrying a box that he brings with him to the north wing where the statuette of Mars stands. The statue is enclosed within a makeshift casing of iron bars. Even though he is conceptually invincible, he is nothing more than an icon: a fragile piece of concrete that can easily break, obliterate to pieces, sending his existence, along with a portion of our sanity to fragments.

 

When Peter reaches it, he tactically places the closed box on a wobbly table alongside the statue for the indoctrination. As the velvet box is opened, a gleaming display of gold chains is revealed, each one catching the flame light of a distant torch. One of the brothers, Luke, Peter's most loyal guardian, stands faithfully by his side, waiting until Peter lifts the box and places it in his hands. With the box now held open in a steady grip, he follows Peter as he makes his way down the aisle, moving from one pledge to the next, bending in his reach to drop the platinum gold necklace over our heads.

 

It feels like a coronation and it’s a phenomenal high. With every fight, every drop of blood that I was willing to spill, this gold chain never left my mind. The Mars amulet, the male symbol that rests on my heart at the bend of the chain was the fuel that drove me to earn my place here tonight.

 

Now comes the advent of induction where the sponsors place their right hands on our shoulders. And like a marriage, like a man entering the priesthood, we make our vows to be faithful; to give allegiance to the fraternity, to each other, and to the god Mars.

 

And it was on that very night that Mars, the god of war, archangel to this fraternity and patron god of the Roman Legion, became my father.

 

Present Day

 

We did it again. Each and every fraternity brother who willingly took part in the deed with pleasure. Shortly after the indecent incident took place in early September, rumors started flying all over campus as to how the society would get even. Everyone who knew about 'the incident' were divided into one of two camps: those who despised us and the remaining few who admired our fraternity. The ones who loathed us reveled in the disgrace that it brought to our society. The ones who held us in high esteem eagerly waited on our retaliation.

 

Strangely enough, we felt the pressure to live up to their expectations. In just two weeks' time, we finally gave our supporters the satisfaction they were so craving. Despite what anyone else says, I’ll swear on my honor that it wasn’t our fault, the other fraternity asked for it and we reacted in the only way that any dignified person would in our situation.

 

Temple University knew the society well enough to expect this kind of behavior. After school officials threatened to take away our charter last year, forgetting we no longer had one for them to confiscate, we made a bogus promise that we would never behave badly again.

 

And they believed us. They didn’t think we would be stupid enough to do anything this early in the school year. Well, we did.

 

The feud between the two fraternities had been ongoing for several years, but the gags we played on each other had always been relatively harmless and no vulgar acts against the opposing society had ever been made.

 

My fraternity brothers and I always felt that they were imitators: an existing fraternity who tried to replicate our society, even though this fraternity was only seven years old in comparison to the twenty some odd years they had over us.

 

They tried to duplicate our customs, but lacked the acumen to put any of it into practice. They tried to imitate our trademark of The Games from The Arena Challenges, games we obligate our pledges to perform during the month of October, but they lacked the talent to become skilled at it.

 

Everyone knew they were asking for trouble when they vandalized our sacred court at the fraternity house and smashed Syliva to pieces, the symbolic mother to this fraternity. I know. We’ve heard it many times before from people outside the society. She’s only a statue and a figure from Roman mythology. But we took it a little too personally when they urinated all over her face and scribbled obscenities on the statue. The brothers took one look at the offensive scene and decided that revenge had to be taken.

 

We knew immediately who the culprits were since one of them was stupid enough to leave his pin behind when it ripped off his jacket. The poor cad, he probably noticed it was gone the next day. He had no clue as to how he would come back to reclaim it without us ever finding out.

 

Well, we found out, and we came looking for them.

 

Late one night, about a week later, we dressed ourselves in black attire to sneak into the fraternity Chapter house. Since they were having a party the following night, we drained our bottled urine into a keg they had stored in the basement. It was our way of letting them have a taste of us. After doing this, we lit the den on fire. 

 

Now fortunately, no one was hurt from the fire and no one died of ammonia poisoning. The only consequence that our actions had in making any effect was when the fire partially burned the east wing extension to the house.

 

Now they have to pay several thousand dollars to repair the damages. And they’re trying to pin the blame on us to pay the expenses. Fortunately, the fire department came in time and no one was hurt. This was due to Wayne Keeney making the call, the only brother in our society left with a conscience. The most important thing was that we got our point across to them.

We haven’t heard another slander from them since. And I don’t think we ever will.

 

Since they squealed on us, we still had to answer to the President at Temple University, Judd Coleman and convince him that we had nothing to do with what had happened. Before meeting with him, we met with each other in a private fraternal gathering and synchronized our story. Through the years, we learned to perfect this to an art for the simple reason that we’re constantly getting ourselves in and out of trouble.

 

Our fraternity, Stone Legion, or, Legio Puteal, as is the Latin translation, is the most controversial fraternity on campus; the most hated by school authorities, respected by naive undergrad and the most difficult to enter. Even I feel innately fearful towards the brothers. They have an inherent nature to be ruthless. You either become one of them, “the bother’s lot”, or you leave the society, and no one leaves without facing 'the Code'. So we all learned real fast that it’s just easier to stay.

 

In recent years, fraternities have severed ties with our society because of some of the problems we have been causing. Consequently, other fraternities have followed suit and cut off their affiliations with us as well. Although they seem to have somewhat of a two-fold relationship with us that exists both privately and publicly. Privately, they admire our unorthodox philosophies.

 

Publicly, they keep a distance. They worry about their reputation. They fear the consequence of what authority figures like Judd Coleman might think of them.

 

And while other fraternities require students to maintain a 3.0 grade point average, what matters most to the Stone Legion society is whether or not the brothers like you. If they think you have the caliber to make a good candidate, they’ll vote you in regardless of your grades. I was fortunate to be accepted because this society is in a class of its own, a breed unlike any other. It’s not even a Greek fraternity but a Roman society whose gods are from Roman mythology. Our fraternity symbols are from the Latin alphabet. Any guy on campus will testify to its singularity because of our uncanny customs.

 

Yet there are others who completely disagree with our way of doing things. They don’t like ‘the Games’ we engage in because they think it promotes a hostile environment. We maintain a position that the pledges can come and go as they please and that no one forces them to do anything.

 

When you enter a fraternity like ours, you've already made the choice. You know what you're in for and you have a pretty good grasp on what to expect. By now, you’ve heard the rumors and suspected there’s probably some truth to it. We’ve even been bad enough to have the press report us to the public. But you decided to try out for the society anyway. Basically, after a long reflective bout of careful consideration, which I hope you've given at this point, you’ve decided you still want in; you’re ready to pay the price.

 

Every so often as I walk through campus, I hear pieces of what people are saying about us. Besides the few remarks that make fun at the society, there are those in discreet groups who secretly admire us. You hear them recanting their version of some rumor that’s been circulating around campus for years. Things they’ve heard about the headmaster, maybe even his temperament. They delve into open discussion about the Games the pledges are required to play and all the ridiculous nonsense that only the palpable juice of a rumor could give. Stories which I know for a fact aren’t true.

 

Then there are those whose divergent philosophy runs incongruent to ours; the ones who profess that a fraternity should accept a person for who they are rather than what a person proves they can socially or moronically accomplish. This could be one of two things. Either these people haven't been accepted into any fraternity that they've rushed or they're just simply bigoted towards fraternity life. It has to be one or the other as far as I’m concerned.

 

So here we are once again, the Stone Legion fraternity standing before Coleman’s desk while he hollers, yells, shakes his finger at us and every so often, loses his temper and swears. Alongside him is Ray Jordan, the President of the fraternity whose kegs we urinated into. Not only is it humorous to watch Coleman boil over with rage, but the fact that we have the ability to bring out the worst in him is priceless, though we're careful not to laugh in his face.

 

The brothers act on practiced cue. We stay calm, keep our composure and pretend to sympathize with him. We agree that such an act is atrocious, the sick bastards, what were they thinking? (whoever they are) and maintain that we had nothing to do with it.

 

 

Where were you last Tuesday night around 11:30 pm?

 

In a fraternal gathering with Beta Psi Phi.

 

And you maintain that you didn’t start the fire?

 

Don’t forget the urine in the kegs.

 

I’m getting to that, Ray!

 

I beg you’re pardon. Piss in the kegs?

 

Don’t get smart with me, young man.

 

We’re not Sir, we’re just trying to understand the allegations.

 

Can Beta Psi Phi attest to your being there?

 

They certainly can. Call them and ask.

 

And he did. Coleman wasted no time, picked up the phone on his desk and ordered the secretary to contact the Sorority advisor. When he reached her, she explained to him (just as we had rehearsed) that we were with her sorority at the fraternity house in Havertown on the night the incident took place.

 

Now we owe Beta Psi Phi at least two gatherings to be scheduled sometime in November and December.

 

The women of the Beta Psi Phi sorority have been dying to get a TGI Friday with us for sometime. The most recent event we cancelled with them last April before the school year ended for the summer break.

 

TGIF's are held on Fridays where Sororities and Fraternities have the opportunity to meet and get together. Beta Psi Phi is the least popular sorority on campus and most fraternities usually cancel their scheduled TGs with them at the last minute. To do so ahead of time would force them to reschedule and the point is to get out of it altogether.

 

We gave them our word. We made a deal with them and have every intention on following through. They held to their end of the bargain so we’ll hold to ours. We owe them that much. But it would be a mistake for them to expect anything more from us in the future.

 

When Coleman finished speaking with the sorority advisor, he hung up the phone with an angry slam on the cradle. The look on his face conveyed absolute defeat. Clearly, we had put her up to it but given the iron-clad alibi, he was unable to dispute it.

So with an exasperated waive of the hand, we were cleared of the accusation and dismissed from his office.

 

He hated us. Anyone could see that. Even his secretary Michelle Benson, a 70-year old pinched face woman with an archaically stiff, aqua-net sprayed beehive, scowled disdainfully in our direction as we filed out. She came to know us well for the many visits we paid to his office.

 

Through the years, the society had beleaguered him with so many problems that his hair was prematurely graying. He was tired of our antics and seized any chance to incriminate the society. He wanted to see it fold, plain and simple.

 

He wanted to maintain the University’s stellar reputation. While some students caught the attention of the Inquirer for their dedication to causes like habitat for humanity, the society was garnering negative press from the same media through its reckless pranks that were, ok, I’ll admit, moronic at times.

 

The odd thing was that we never reciprocated the sentiment. In spite of what he felt towards us, we respected him. We actually enjoyed convening with him on these matters. That’s probably why he despised us.

 

The fraternity always held its cool under recrimination. We were too cunning to ever get caught. That was our trademark. United by challenge and strengthened by opposition. We use it as a drill that only bonded the brothers together.