By now, a great deal of activity was swirling around the room. A number of official looking men darted in and out. The general occasionally conferred with a few other soldiers, whom I assumed were his aides. Some of the soldiers who’d originally escorted me left the room as others relieved them. Every-so-often someone would sneak a glance at me. During all this time, I sat alone in the middle of the room and waited.
Finally, the general said something to a young soldier standing to his right and made a motion with his hand. Two guards approached me, took me by my arms, and lifted me from my seat. Then with the general in the lead, we walked through a door on the left side of the chamber. As General Zakaria led the way he was followed by the young soldier who seemed to be the general’s personal aide, me, and the two soldiers who held me by my arms.
Once in the room I noticed that the fat woman – Mathilde – and the two young boys, Luc and Jon, stood in one of the corners. There were no doors in the room other then the one we passed through. This room also had a floor to ceiling window and the same stone balcony that was outside the first room extended to it.
The general walked over to me. The two soldiers on either side of me stepped back. He looked deeply into my eyes. When he raised his hand and reached out to me, I shivered and backed up ever so slightly, afraid that he might strike me, but he gently put his hand on my shoulder.
“I can’t be sure if you’re telling me the truth or if Abbot Gude is right about you making up tales, but I suspect that you’re being truthful. I’ve lived a long time boy, and have seen too much for any one old man. Maybe you are a solution for us and I intend to find out. No one will harm you. For now you are under the protection of the High Council of Kalas and me as their instrument. My order will be circulated throughout the province especially to the members of the Holy Office. They won’t like it, but I hold the upper hand this time.”
“These boys will minister to your needs, my young lord, and if anyone denies you what you ask, they will have to answer directly to me. You will still be restricted in your activities, but I extend my hospitality – such as it is – to you”
“Sir, I am no one’s lord. I am just a boy and I did tell you the whole truth, I swear.”
He looked down and his face softened. It wasn’t a smile that he showed me – I suspected that too many years of battle had almost taken away his ability to do that anymore. But it was a warm, fatherly look nonetheless.
“Well my boy, you do have an aristocratic look and air about you and from your... uhm… character and appearance I would say you certainly are something; although whatever you are has yet to be determined. I hope we can find out.”
“I don’t want Luc or Jon to be hurt because of me,” I blurted out, my eyes landing on the boys. I’d been thinking about the slap that Mathilde had given Luc.
“And they won’t be. If anyone harms them, their head will adorn a pike in the center of the square.”
He shot a glance toward Mathilde who turned red, cast her eyes to the ground and stepped back. Once more, he looked down at me.
“You know, my little lord, when I was just a young soldier I remember…”
He was cut off mid-sentence by a loud crash, followed immediately with angry and frantic shouts, all emanating from the other room. At first I couldn’t see anything, but the unexpected activity distracted the soldiers guarding me, and I moved toward the door we’d passed through.
What I saw made my eyes grow wide in disbelief. One of the large windows over looking the square was shattered; shards of broken glass lay every where; some of the men in the room had been cut by the flying glass and many were now laying on the floor bleeding. One of the ministers – the very one who had read the general’s order to me – was lying dead in a growing pool of blood, a long sharp shard of glass buried in his throat.
My disbelief grew, for standing on the table was a young man. He stood with a strikingly regal and commanding poise. His fair but slightly tanned skin glowed like an ancient marble statue. His short brown hair framed a dangerously handsome face and he looked like a young god. His green eyes flashed with anger. In his right hand was a dagger; in his left hand I could see that he was gripping a short sword.
He was dressed in a short tunic, with leather trimmings. He had on what looked like a leather kilt that came just above his knees. His legs were bare and he was wearing sandals on his feet. An emerald bracelet clasped his right ankle. His thin but muscular body was wrapped in a small amount of shiny battle armor that covered him in strategic and vulnerable places. It had to be lightweight, because suddenly the wings on his back stroked hard and he was hovering above everyone’s head near the high ceiling of the chamber.
More soldiers charged into the room, including two archers who took up positions to shoot down the winged boy. I could see his eyes darting around the room as if looking for something. Then he swooped low, looked through the door, and into the room to where I’d been taken. His eyes caught and held mine as soon as he saw me standing near the doorway.
One of the archers knelt, nocked an arrow and was about to draw it when he fell back to the ground, the boy’s dagger embedded in his chest. Then the young angel swooped down, lighting back on the table I’d first seen him standing on, and grabbed the jewel-handled dagger that lay there. He quickly pulled it from its sheath and held it tightly. Then he jumped up, pulled in his wings, did a roll and tuck in mid-air and landed at the entrance of the doorway no more than two feet from me.
I stepped back, but was in awe at the sight before me. A bit taller than me, he appeared to be about eighteen. The angry look faded from his face as soon as his gaze met mine. His face softened and showed me a look both worried and concerned. For some reason I suddenly felt calm as he reached out his right hand and gently placed it on my shoulder. Then he bent down, looked closer at me, and gave me a warm but worried smile
“Jamie, are you all right? He said taking his hand from my shoulder and putting it gently to my face. Caressing my cheek lightly he frowned as he touched the bruise where the man had slapped me. “What have they done to you?”
I looked into his handsome face and almost melted. I couldn’t believe the feelings I was experiencing as he stood next to me. Before I could answer, the second archer moved up behind the angel boy and I gasped. By then the archer’s arrow was ready to fly. The boy, seeing the alarm in my eyes, whirled to see what was wrong. He saw the archer and leaped into the air above our heads as the arrow prepared to leave its bow.
“Get down!” I yelled to the boys, whom I suddenly realized were now in the line of fire.
Luc hit the floor but Jon, being deaf, couldn’t hear my shout and Mathilde quickly grabbed him from behind, using him as a shield. Then the arrow punched into his chest and drove him backward against her. Luc screamed as he saw his brother take the arrow – so did I. A few hours before this silent little boy had tended to me after I’d been dragged to the palace, but now he lay dead at Mathilde’s feet.
To my amazement General Zakaria’s face filled with rage. I watched in surprise as he swiftly plucked his dagger from its sheath and skillfully threw it across the room at the woman. Mathilde took the dagger squarely in her chest. She shrieked and slumped over. A pool of blood quickly spread out from under her fat body. For a moment I just stared as the boy jumped to the ground and slammed the door. It had a locking bolt that he quickly shot it into its hole, sealing the room.
The two remaining guards in the room drew their swords. The boy wasted no time thrusting the jeweled handled dagger into the throat of the one nearest him. As the man hit the floor, blood spurted from a severed artery in his neck and sprayed against the wall. Over the boy’s shoulder, I could see the second guard advancing on him. But the boy, in a blur of kicks and jumps and wings, was behind the man in seconds. Before I could blink his short sword was buried deep in the man’s back and the soldier fell to his knees, frothy blood bubbling from his mouth.
Now the only people left in the room who were still alive were the general, his aide, the winged boy, Luc, and I. The boy continued to brandish his sword. The general’s dagger was now in Mathilde, but he still had his sword. The general’s aide was without a weapon, as was I. Luc crouched on the floor looking into the eyes of his dead brother and sobbing, oblivious to everything else.
The men on the other side of the door were beginning to recover from the initial attack and began banging loudly and fiercely on the door, calling the general’s name. The general and his aid stood silently against the wall. The General appeared cool and distant, unaffected by the welter of violence and blood of the last few minutes.
The boy came over to me and put his arm around me. For some reason I knew he meant me no harm. In fact his embrace felt comforting and reassuring to me. Since he was taller then me I turned and looked upward once more, staring into his striking green eyes. Now in close proximity I was able to get a longer and better look at him. Lightly muscular yet thin, his face had the soft and delicate beauty of a young and handsome boy not quite approaching the verge of early manhood.
“Jamie, are you all right?” he asked in a soft and calming voice.
He’d called me Jamie…was that my name?
“Jamie, what’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine, no one hurt me. Why do you call me Jamie? Is that my name?”
“You don’t remember, do you?”
I stared blankly at him.
“I was afraid of that, after the orb… damn, and it was the snake too! Jamie. I can explain later. You just have to trust me, really trust me.”
I slowly shook my head.
“Look at me Jamie.”
I was still in a daze and looked over at the corner where poor little Luc crouched sobbing over Jon’s body.
“JAMIE! LOOK AT ME, NOW!” the boy shouted at me.
I looked at him.
“NO! Really look at me… into my eyes.”
I stared into the boy’s beautiful green eyes, was caught in their gravity and began to feel my mind being sucked in. Images too numerous to concentrate on or understand flooded into my consciousness. In some ways it was like my encounter with the dog yet in other ways it was so much different and so much more. Instead of the confused mass of emotions and feelings I’d experienced when I entered the mind of the dog, I could sense calm resolve, a will of iron, and a spirit so pure and kind that for one brief instant I became intoxicated by it.
In the jumble of thoughts that crammed into my head one name, NIC, exploded and with that explosion came the warmest and deepest expression of love I had ever felt. It was so strong I started to totter on my feet and he put his arm around me.
“Nic!!! Your name is… Nic… and my name is Jamie... and...”
“Yes Jamie. I’ll explain more later, but we have to go. RIGHT NOW!”
“Where are we going?”
“Out of here Jamie, now!”
“But how? We’re trapped in here!”
“Out the window, just like I came in.”
“We’re going to fly out – you know – fly!”
“But I can’t!” I shouted, “I don’t know how!!! I tried to move my wings but…”
Then I stopped as Nic bent down and his lips were on my forehead, kissing me. As he did, a warm feeling of deep love welled up inside of me.
“Jamie, I know this is all confusing, I’ll explain it all later I promise, but you can fly – and you can do many other things as well. But right now you must fly. You have to concentrate. You have to try.”
By now the men were banging on the door with an even greater fury and I knew that it was only a matter of moments before they would break through and come flooding into the room. Nic raised his short sword and pointed it at me. I jumped back in fear, but before I could move away from him he moved quickly and deftly around me and with a few strategic slices cut through the fabric of my beautiful robe, turning it into a short tunic.
“There, you can’t properly fly with a long robe on,” he said.
The sounds at the door were getting louder. The general and his aide were against the wall. Nic glared at them. Then the general unclasped his sword belt and let it drop to the floor. He raised his hands and was now defenseless. Nic quickly approached him and suddenly I was afraid.
“No Nikki, don’t! He never hurt me!” I shouted.
I didn’t know why I called him that, but for some reason it just seemed right, like I had been doing it for a long time. Nic turned to me and surprised me by smiling, but then he turned back to the general and gave him a stern look.
“I’ll spare you for his sake,” he was pointing at me, “but I warn you now: do not follow us.”
“Don’t worry lad, I’ll buy you some time.”
Buy us time? What was the general talking about? Wasn’t I supposed to be his prisoner?
“Come on Jamie, time to fly.”
“NO NIC!” I shouted as once again a surprisingly defiant tone crept into my voice.
He stopped and looked at me, shocked at my tone of voice.
“No, I won’t leave Luc, he is just a poor servant boy, he helped me and because of me his brother is dead. He goes, or I stay.”
“Come on, Jamie. We can’t take him. We have to go immediately!”
Suddenly there was a loud crash followed by a crunching sound. I snapped my head to the right and watched as the door began to splinter and give way before my eyes. Once more my heart raced, but I forced myself to look from the door back to Nic. I gave the boy who had seemed determined to rescue me at all costs a long cold stare. Then still looking into his eyes I pointed to Luc curled into a ball sobbing over the body of his murdered brother.
“He goes or I stay.”
Nic glared back at me. I returned his glaring gaze with one of my own.
“He goes or I stay,” I firmly repeated.
For a second Nic said nothing, but then I could see his face soften as he gave me a warm and loving smile
“You can be so obstinate my little angel, but I guess that’s why I love you. Fine, we’ll take the boy.”
“His name is Luc,” I said, with a cold and serious tone in my voice.
“Right, Luc,” Nic repeated
What happened next occurred in just a few brief and fleeting seconds, but in my mind that time period will always seem like hours. With one quick movement, Nic reached behind his head and slid his short sword into the sheath that he was wearing on his back between his wings. Then he placed the jeweled handled dagger in the scabbard that was strapped to his side and bounded into the corner of the room where he grabbed the still sobbing Luc.
In one quick fluid movement, he picked up a chair that was near the little boy, and threw it with all his might. There was a loud crash as one of the windows shattered in hundreds of pieces He gestured for me to follow him and we ran to the balcony, just as the door behind us was reduced to splinters and a horde of angry, armed soldiers rushed in.
Even though he was holding little Luc, Nic jumped onto the railing of the balcony with ease. I looked in fear as the soldiers began to climb onto the balcony through the shattered window. Slowly and carefully I climbed on the railing and looked down five stories, to the cobblestones of the square below. I was dizzy from the height and scared to death.
Nic was ready to take off when Luc squirmed in his arms, causing the young angel boy to fall back off of the railing and onto the pavement of the balcony. One of the soldiers lifted his sword to strike, but in that very second I screamed “NO!” Jumping down from the rail, I flung my hand out toward the soldier. My hand began to glow, and then something like a lightning bolt leapt from my out flung hand and knocked all the soldiers to the ground, unconscious. I just stood there stunned and unable to move!
I was utterly amazed at what had just happened. I looked down at my hand. The glow coming from it rapidly faded before my eyes. I wanted to analyze what had just occurred, but I didn’t have time to think about it. By then Nic had recovered, jumped back onto the railing, secured Luc under his arm and jumped.
“Now Jamie! NOW!” he called back to me.
But for some reason I turned back to where I had thrown the fire bolt. Looking back into the room across the pile of unconscious soldiers, I could see General Zakaria standing there with his aide. Our eyes met and we stood silently staring at each other. I could hear Nic calling to me to jump, but his words were becoming fainter in my ears as I concentrated on Lord Zakaria. Once more my mind, seemingly acting of it’s own accord, without any effort from me, reached out to the general.
For a few seconds our eyes remained locked, as my head was flooded with images. Then the general’s gaze intensified. It was almost as if he realized what was happening and I could see his eyes widen as I tapped into a long hidden memory buried deep within his mind. As the image took firmer shape, my eyes opened wide and I could feel my heart pumping faster. I was both mesmerized by its clarity and shocked by its subject, but then it collapsed into nothingness when I felt a hard sharp thump against my back.
Nic was hovering above me. He was clutching Luc, who was too stunned to struggle or even move. The boy had used his sandal-clad foot to kick me in the back between my shoulder blades and knock me out of my mental daze. The action had worked and I recovered my senses as the mental fog I’d been in quickly evaporated.
“JAMIE!” Nic shouted in a voice that was almost hoarse.
I struggled onto the railing of the balcony and looked down. I swallowed, ready to jump, but then I heard my name being called. It was coming from the room we had just escaped from.
“Jamie, here… for you.”
Once more it was the general. He took the amulet from his pocket and threw to me. Reflexively, I caught it and then without even thinking, put it around my neck.
“Good luck, little angel.” Zakaria shouted.
I stood for a few seconds, paralyzed and shocked at the general’s actions. Then I remembered the image I’d seen. Once more I stood frozen and looked at the tall and imposing figure still staring intently at me. It was then that the general simply nodded his head at me and turned away.
“Jamie JUMP!” Nic frantically shouted to me one final time.
Without pausing to consider what I was about to do, I closed my eyes and leapt from the railing. The air rushed past me as I dropped, and I waited for the ground to end my fall, all the while thinking about the foolish mistake I’d just made. As I quickly plummeted toward the ground, I knew the only flying that would be occurring would be that of my spirit fleeing my battered and smashed body once it hit the paving stones surrounding the building.
But then suddenly I wasn’t falling. Something happened, something frightening and strange – I was flying… really flying!
My wings just took over, at first it was as if they had a mind of their own, but then as I started to rise with every powerful stroke, I knew that somehow my brain was the engine making them work. It wasn’t something I could analyze or even think about under the circumstances, and the fact was at that very moment, I really didn’t care. I just knew that somehow I was now rising upward instead of falling to my death. I still didn’t know quite how, but I perceived that a part of my brain that hadn’t been working was suddenly illuminated – partly due it seemed from the thoughts I’d received from Nic when I looked into his eyes.
“Come on, Jamie,” Nic shouted over his shoulder. “Follow me.”
So with Nic in the lead, tightly clutching Luc, and me following behind, we flew from the city of Tardon as the sun began to set and night swiftly approached.