The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie

Part II - A Gathering of Angels

Chapter 8


The very act of flight was exhilarating, but its greatest advantage was always the fantastic view it afforded us. As we were beginning our descent, Nic and I decided it might be prudent to take a few moments to survey both our surroundings and the huge edifice we were rapidly approaching. And since it hadn’t taken us that long in flight to get to the abbey, we still felt strong enough to continue our aerial reconnaissance. Accordingly, we dipped lower and carefully began to circle the large structure while at the same time hoping to evade detection, which was one of the disadvantages of being out in the open in the bright sunlight with a clear blue sky to our backs. It was a bit risky, but I knew that the more we could learn the better our chances would be once we were on the ground inside the abbey looking for what we hoped would be an orb.


Although our current view gave us a better understanding of the situation below, I knew that we’d have to be aware of both our time in the air and the energy it took for us to remain there. While flight came naturally to us, it was also a very strenuous activity. Our wings and body strength allowed flying, but after taking a number of flights since awakening from our coffin, Nic and I soon realized it wasn’t something that we could sustain for long periods of time. Flying required us to be in top physical shape and rapidly expended our energy, so just like a human sprinting as fast as he could in a race, there was a point when our strength and energy would wane and we’d be forced to land and rest.


After trial and error, we came to the conclusion that we could travel up to what we guessed were approximately ten-mile flights without being forced to rest for long periods of time, but anything longer became more difficult and tiring and required extended recovery time. So although our wings were useful, we concluded that they’d never been intended to carry us for long distances. And while flying was fun and exciting, the demands it created on our bodies made walking our usual and favored mode of travel.


Altitude was another factor. As we flew higher, the air got thinner and colder and after one long flight during which I almost lost consciousness from the cold and lack of air, we realized that we would also have to restrict how high we could safely venture. We may have had wings with feathers, but we weren’t birds; we were boys with wings who could fly. As long as we kept that in mind we were usually fine, but whenever we would break the rules of altitude and distance we found that our bodies paid the price in pain, and fatigue.


All of those things went through my mind as we circled the abbey. And even though I wanted to get a good look at what we might be up against, I knew that Nic would be calculating how long we could safely continue without dangerously sapping our strength for a mission where it would be critical that we remain in the best physical shape possible. Even so, I was glad that we’d chosen to conduct our aerial survey and my eyes widened at the incredible sight stretched out below me.


The abbey had been built less than twenty feet below the summit of the highest peak in the surrounding range. It appeared to have been placed there as if by magic. The mountain itself was very sheer and steep. Most of the top part of the mountain had been carved out in order to construct the abbey complex, but the impression it gave from the air was that it was just hanging off the side of the mountain.


We approached it from the south. To the right and left, were the East and West sides, respectively; the North side was the sheer face of the mountain itself.


It was enormous. Around the three exposed sides of the abbey was a high stonewall at least one hundred feet high and possibly twenty or thirty feet thick. On both sides, the wall eventually butted up against the back face of the mountain itself making it almost impossible to scale or enter by force. I could see battlements, towers and walkways built directly into the great wall. Large stone buttresses against the interior of the walls added additional strength.


At first glance, there appeared to be no visible means of egress to the massive compound. I could see no road, trail or climbing path of any kind.


Then I caught sight of a thread-like path that led up to the abbey on the southern slope. As I looked closer, I could see a very small archway and a fortified gate. The path appeared to allow only single file movement and the archway was built in such a way as to allow entrance to only one person at a time, thereby making it quite easy to control who passed over its threshold.


A large army would never be able to scale the mountain, maintain a camp, and attempt to lay siege to the Abbey. It was clear to me that even a small force of men could easily defend this fortress. Whoever had built it certainly believed in keeping whatever was within its walls secure.


Inside the wall were many structures, both large and small. The most impressive building was a large church or cathedral. It had a beautiful carved limestone façade and a great arched doorway lavishly detailed with carvings and designs. Ornate twin bell towers on either side of the front archway reared high into the air. A copper clad roof covered what almost certainly had to be a large interior space, and at the far end of the roof a massive copper and tile-covered dome loomed over the whole cathedral. To the left of the cathedral was what appeared to be a chapter house; although not as big as the church itself, it was no less impressive.


The chapter house, which undoubtedly would be home to the abbot, was almost as long as the church itself, but not quite as tall: at least three or four stories high in various places. Made completely of cut granite, its ornate facade with arches and columns was imposing.


To the right of the cathedral were a number of long, three-storied, red brick buildings with tile roofs – they appeared to be dormitories or living quarters. In front of the church was a large plaza that was paved in cobblestones. In fact, the entire ground surface within the walls of the abbey complex was covered in these stone blocks, creating a paved area that stretched from wall to wall to wall within the confined space of the abbey.


In the center of the plaza, almost five hundred feet in front of the church, was a slender spire that thrust high into the air – overtopping even the bell towers of the church. In fact, it was the tallest structure within the walls of the abbey, and the perfect place to use as a lookout tower.


There were also other structures and buildings, large and small, in addition to workshop areas, storage sheds and others I couldn’t readily identify. I shook my head in wonder as I viewed this incredible complex created by the hands of men in such an inaccessible spot. All too soon our flying tour ended and Nic motioned for us to descend. During the time that we’d made our circling flight I hadn’t noticed any one looking up at us, and while I wasn’t completely sure, it appeared for the moment we’d eluded detection.


Slowly and silently we glided below the treetops and eventually landed on the ground. When we finally stood once more on the forest floor, with our wings no longer beating, I still couldn’t shake the sight of the abbey from my mind.


“Niklas, that place is impenetrable.”


“Yes Jamie, for normal men, but not for boys with wings.”


“True, but even when we get in, how are we going to locate the second orb? And not only that, there are so many buildings and structures within this place, how will we ever know the right way to go or how many people are living there so we can avoid them?”


“Well Jamie, we locate the orb by following its energy compass. Are you able to detect it?”


“Yes, I can.”


In fact, I suspected that I could feel it even more strongly then Cody. Since I’d absorbed the essence of the red orb, I was now even more sensitive to the presence of the second one. I had no doubt that an orb was being held within the abbey it’s low pulsating hum almost seemed to call my name.


“As far as how many people are inside, who they are, and where we must go? Well, we’re just going to have to do the best we can. But I know that if we’re careful Jamie, we can succeed.”


“I believe you, although I have to admit that the whole thing frightens me.”


“Yes I know what you mean. I can’t help wonder if we are taking on more than we should,” Nic said, “but we’ve come this far and I don’t intend to turn back now.”


“Well Nikki, do you have a plan?”


“Yes. I think we ought to wait for nightfall. Then we fly over the wall and follow that amazing energy compass in your head so that we can locate the orb.”


“And if we meet resistance?”


“We fight, Jamie.”


“I was afraid you’d say that.”


After our discussion, there wasn’t much else to talk about. We made a crude, temporary camp and rested. Our flight hadn’t been long, but we were both very tired from the energy we’d expended. We only carried a small amount of food and water with us since we wanted to travel as light as possible, so we knew we would need to eat what we brought and then rest in order to regain some of our strength. After a cold meal, Nic made a crude bed for himself and lay on the ground. At this altitude and under the heavy cover of trees, it was a bit cold. I snuggled close to him for warmth. He wrapped his arms around me and I got goose bumps as he kissed the back of my neck.


“You’re tickling me.”




I lay in Nic’s protective embrace thinking about our upcoming assault on the abbey, and about my previous encounters with Abbot Gude.


“I’m scared Nic.”


“I know Jamie, so am I, but we have to try and get the orb somehow. I know it’s important.”


“You’re right. I just hope we can get it and leave as quickly as possible. You didn’t have to face that old man. There’s something very frightening about him.”


“Well, you stood up to him Jamie, and survived. You’re a lot stronger then you realize. Now let’s get some rest. In a few hours we have to be ready.”


With those words, Nic held me even tighter; I could feel his warm breath on the back of my neck. I felt safe and secure in his arms, and soon I was fast asleep. I awoke to Nic’s gentle prodding.


“Time to get up Jamieboy, we have something to retrieve.”


I got up, shook the sleep from my head and followed Nic to an open area – or at least one that had less tree cover. It was near one of the tower battlements that rose up from the massive walls. Stroking our wings we jumped and were quickly in the air. We flew over the great wall, and in a short time were in the plaza of the Abbey complex. Our feet touched the cold stone paving blocks and I knew that our mission had begun. At first it didn’t seem like anyone was around. There were no guards or soldiers. Then I remembered that we were in an abbey, and there probably wouldn’t be any soldiers. I also noticed that there weren’t even any monks to be seen. I breathed a sigh of relief; maybe this would be easier than I’d first thought.


Once we were orientated in the plaza, I paused and took a better look at our position. The cathedral was ablaze with torch and candlelight – both around the plaza and inside the church itself. While most of the abbey seemed dark and quiet, it alone appeared to be the center of some sort of activity. Nic walked toward the massive structure and then climbed up the stone steps that led to the great archway and entrance. I followed behind at a short distance. The heavy door had a smaller door built into it and he quietly pried it open. After slipping silently through it, I could hear chanting. Nic continued on his course into the cathedral; I swallowed hard and followed. I was scared and remained close to Nic. Standing in the narthex of the church, behind a large column, we remained unseen.


The cathedral itself was magnificent. Archways and barrel-vaulted ceilings soared overhead. Mosaics, frescos, and marble columns with gold leafed capitals could be seen throughout the building. Inlayed marble tiles in intricate patterns covered the floors. Nic carefully peered around one of the large columns. I pressed against his back and folded wings and looked around him. He reached his arm behind his back, took my waist and drew me to his side. He smiled and kissed my forehead, more to reassure and calm me than as an act of love. I felt his strong arms around my waist as he held me close. Although I was scared and could feel my heart pounding wildly, I knew that as long as this angel boy was alive I would always be safe. We silently stood there and continued to survey our surroundings.


At the apex of the church was a large congregation of monks dressed in the same type of black robe Abbot Gude was wearing when I first met him. They were chanting and seemed to be performing some sort of ritual. There were other monks or priests sitting and standing around an altar. They were dressed in ecclesiastical garb. There was incense, candles, chanting and ritual and even though Nic was embracing me, I was becoming increasingly worried.


To the right, in full ecclesiastical regalia, was Abbot Gude. He was sitting on a tall throne with a small canopy above it. Though I couldn’t make it out from our position, I could see some type of coat of arms tooled into the green leather that covered its high back. His shriveled body was draped in official robes, and on his head perched a miter. He wore white gauntlets trimmed in red, encrusted with jewels and embroidered with a crest. On the ring finger of his right hand was a large ruby ring in a setting of diamonds.


Nic tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for us to go back outside. We backed away from the column we were hiding behind, and headed out the door. Nic quietly shut it behind him.


“It looks like they’re occupied right now, so let’s make our move quickly and get out of here.”


“I’m all for that Nic. I feel the orb is this way.” I pointed toward the chapter house.


“I feel it too Jamie, and I think you’re right.”


We walked quietly down the cathedral steps then made our way toward the building next to the cathedral. The chapter house was a magnificent structure. It was built of large, polished stone blocks. Surrounding it was an iron fence; small bronze angels sat atop every post. The large gate that normally secured the fence was open. We walked through the gate and up the steps of the chapter house. There was a portico attached to the front of the building. We walked beneath it, to the massive oak door that led into the building itself. The heavy door slowly yielded to Nic’s pressure.


No matter where we went, everything seemed to be open. Remembering where we were and how impossible it was to enter this abbey/fortress, I surmised that locks on doors might not be as necessary in such a secure place. Then I smiled to myself, thinking `Unless the infiltrators are winged boys!’


Once inside the front hallway of the chapter house, we beheld an interior of great beauty and splendor. Every so often, we would pause for a second, just staring at the sights before our eyes, then back at each other in total awe and amazement. The high arched ceilings were made of beautiful, dark, hand-carved wood with exquisitely detailed inlays. Many of the bas-relief carvings were covered in gold leaf. The floor and walls were polished marble. Hanging on the walls in this front hall were large tapestries, depicting various battle scenes. I was surprised to see that many of the participants in the battles were angels.


There was a large arch in the front hallway that led further into the building; flanking the archway loomed two great and massive marble statues of angels. These two statues stretched at least twenty feet high. They were standing on large, polished obsidian pedestals. The angel on the right was dressed for battle and held a golden flaming sword high in the air above his head. The angel on the left wore some sort of crown and he grasped a golden lightning bolt, holding it as if ready to hurl it to the ground.


Both figures had stern, angry looks on their faces. Even though these objects were only lifeless statues, I instinctively edged away from the fierce stone figures as we walked past them, but even as I did, for some reason I was drawn to their faces. I would have sworn that the one with the sword looked a little like Nic, only older. Nic grabbed my tunic, pulling me along, until I pushed thoughts of the angel statues from my head and followed him.


We entered a great hall. There were many torches set in wall sconces spaced all about the room, giving bright illumination to the scene before us. Hundreds of candles burned in gold candelabra, adding their flickering light to the bright glow in the room. The ceiling was covered in jeweled mosaics. The marble of the walls was pale ivory flecked with gold. The floor was also marble, black shot with silver. Hung on the walls were lavishly detailed tapestries, again showing scenes featuring angels. Apparently a room for ceremonies, there was a large raised platform at the far end of it; a throne similar to the one the abbot had been sitting on in the cathedral had been placed on it. Behind the throne was a huge fresco showing a fantastic scene of angels and men fighting some fierce battle in a strange, foreboding landscape. Above them, sitting in the clouds, were angels observing and even seeming to comment to each other on the scene below them.


On the right and left sides of this large chamber were doors that lead to other parts of the building. At this point I became confused. While I could still feel the energy of an orb, it wasn’t completely clear to me from which direction it was coming. I motioned toward the right side of the hall. Nic nodded in agreement and moved to the door set into the wall on that side of the room. On the other side of the door, we found a long hallway. Candelabra lined both sides of this corridor; I noticed it had a barrel-vaulted ceiling covered in light blue tiles and inlayed gold stars. Between the candelabra were hung long, narrow tapestries depicting strange and fanciful beasts. The hall ended in a large and heavy set of doors.


As we made our way down the hallway, Nic continued to pull me along when ever I became mesmerized by one of the tapestries and the mythical creature it depicted. Finally we reached the large, double doors. Nic grasped the thick iron handle of the right door and yanked it open. The heavy door slowly swung on its hinges and we stepped through. Once we entered, I stopped and blinked my eyes in disbelief, and gasped.


We were standing on the ground level of a great library and scriptorium. Around me were shelves of books, bound volumes, and folios. The room was a large rectangle with an open atrium in the center that reached all the way to the ceiling. There were at least six levels above our heads, and from where I was standing on the ground floor; I could see that the shelves formed aisles of books extending far back into each level.


I walked past the manuscript copying desks that bordered the perimeter of the open space around the atrium and stood in the center of the floor. The marble floor was tiled in an unusual inlayed pattern that looked almost familiar. I turned once more and looked down the rows of books until they disappeared into darkness, and wondered how many volumes this grand library held. Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? A million?


Curiosity overwhelmed me as I crossed the atrium floor and tentatively ventured down one of the aisles. Every so often there would be a break in the shelving and a small alcove would appear where a desk and stool stood with ink, quill, and paper, ready for copying manuscripts. In other places, there would be a chair where one could sit and read.


This was an incredible library, and the more I explored it the more amazed I became. The sheer size of it and the number of books, manuscripts, and records were astounding. This place was filled with a vast collection of knowledge that seemed to stretch back through time itself.


I turned, walked back to the atrium, and looked up. Above me hung a great stained glass dome. The ceiling around it was decorated to look like the night sky, and I could see heavenly bodies rotating among fields of stars. On opposite ends of the open atrium area were two great, spiraling staircases that ascended to the top level. They connected to all of the upper floors, opening out onto each of the levels. Around the open space on each level was an ornate system of brass rails and balustrades.


I began to climb one of the spiral staircases to the next floor. Nic motioned for me to come back, but my curiosity was overwhelming – I had to get a better look at this amazing place. I climbed the spiral staircase and eventually ventured all the way to the top level. After stepping off the staircase, I stood at the railing and looked down to the floor below. I couldn’t believe my eyes: I could see why the pattern, when I first looked at it, seemed so familiar to me: there, emblazoned on the floor itself, was the same pattern that was tattooed on my upper leg.


Just like my tattoo, the design on the floor had three concentric circles. Within the inner circle there appeared the same three figures, a snake, an eagle, and a dragon each holding onto the tail of the other. The middle circle was an identical swirl of decorative knots, and the outer circle was divided into twelve equal sections. But while my tattoo had only the figure of a snake with its distinctive symbol drawn under it in one of the twelve sections, the design on the floor was complete, having a figure and symbol in each of the twelve sections.


From my vantage point, I could see a bat, a bear, a tiger, a wolf, a dragon, a snake, a lion, a hawk, a spider, a unicorn, an owl, and a scorpion. Each animal also had a symbol directly under it and each symbol was a rendered in a different color. The snake looked exactly like the one on my leg and the symbol under it was colored red. The bat’s symbol was light blue and the owl’s symbol was purple.


Awed and eager for more, I left the railing and turned back to peer down the long aisles of books. Fascinated by what I was seeing, I began to walk down one of the aisles, continuing to marvel at the enormous number of books in one place. Occasionally, I would stop and pull out a book or unroll a manuscript. Some of them I could read and understand, others were written in languages of which I had no comprehension. Some of the manuscripts and books contained only symbols; others were simply pages of numbers. Almost all of the material I looked at appeared to be quite ancient.


As I kept walking down the aisles formed by the shelves, I began to notice that it was getting darker the farther away I got from the center of the library where most of the candelabra and torches were located. By the many windows and skylights that I could see, I imagined that during the day there would most probably be enough light to see without additional illumination. But at night, artificial light was only concentrated in the center of the atrium. This made sense, since fire near the books could have been disastrous.


I was bedazzled by this wealth of knowledge and information laid out before me. I kept walking among the treasures of wisdom that surrounded me. At this point, I’d totally forgotten Nic and our mission. I was fascinated with what I was seeing. I picked up a beautifully hand illustrated manuscript and was lost in thought as my fingers traced the raised gold leaf and carefully inked letters.


“It’s very beautiful, isn’t it?” A soft voice said from behind me.


Startled, I jumped so high that I almost began to flap my wings and fly. I dropped the manuscript on the floor and it rolled away from me. Spinning around I came eye to eye with an angel sitting at one of the copying desks. He appeared to be about sixteen. He had a fair, handsome face. His smooth skin, brown eyes, short black hair and thin body were in direct contrast with the magnificent set of wings that emerged from his back. Nic had ivory wings tipped in sparkling gold. I had white wings that were shimmering and iridescent. Cody’s white, silver and blue-tipped wings were absolutely beautiful, but this angel was the most surprising of all. His long, graceful, white wings were tipped in black and red. The sight was absolutely breathtaking. His red and black tunic trimmed in gold enhanced the effect. He was wearing black sandals and around his right ankle was a shimmering ruby bracelet – similar in style to Nic’s emerald one.


“I have one here that’s even more detailed in design, if you’d like to see it.”


I just stood there with my mouth open, shocked.


“Well, would you like to see it?”


I continued to look at the angel boy. I tried to speak but couldn’t. The shock of finding him in this place, coupled with his striking appearance, rendered me speechless. For a brief second his eyes searched mine in a look of recognition, as if he expected me to know him, but it quickly faded as I stood there showing him a dumfounded and shocked look of surprise.


            He extended his hand to me. “Hello, I’m Charles.”