The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie

Part II - A Gathering of Angels

Chapter 10

 

I glowered at the old man standing before me in his long black robe. His appearance was unchanged from the first time Iíd seen him in General Zakariaís provisional offices. The only difference now was the smile on his face.

 

Unfortunately for us, that smile was by no means an inviting one. His lips were curled up in a sneer, giving him a look of evil satisfaction.

 

"Now I have three demons in my abbey."

 

Gude walked a little closer to us, but remained at a safe distance. I suspected that even though he had us out numbered, he continued to fear Nic; a fact I noted because I observed that his black robed monks surrounded him, no matter where he moved.

 

I was pushing down feelings of panic as I realized how desperate a situation we faced. The cold knot in my stomach wasnít telling me anything I didnít already know: we might never leave this place alive. Gude might spare Charles because of the scholarship he possessed and the knowledge he might be able to discover for the old monk, but I remembered that the abbot had made it perfectly clear to General Zakaria that he wished to use whatever means necessary to extract information from me. And there was no doubt heíd feel the same way towards Nic.

 

I looked down at Charles, lying on the floor motionless. Although heíd managed a few rasping words moments before, he was again unconscious. Maybe red-and-black angels did have the power of healing, but he still looked terrible to me. His face was a dark blue color and there were angry red bruises around his neck. Glancing over to Nic, I saw a similar bruise on his right cheek, and a small amount of blood still oozed from the side of his mouth. From his guarded movements, I was sure that his body was sore from his fight with Loran, but I was relieved that he appeared to be otherwise fit.

 

The truth was, I wasnít feeling all that well myself. First, the absorption of the Orb of the Bat had racked my entire body, and while itsí effects hadnít been as strong as the Orb of the Snake, I was weak and my head was throbbing. My ears were ringing, and small black specks floated across my vision. Adding insult to injury, I was also very sick to my stomach.

 

On top of that, the confrontation with Loran left me even more drained. I was still on my feet, but the truth was I really felt like lying down next to Charles. One thing was clear: as sick and tired as I was, I knew that the abbot would cheerfully make me feel much worse.

 

I started to observe Nic glancing furtively around the room with his eyes. The others, including Gude, didnít notice his subtle actions, but as his mate I knew only too well that he was sizing up the situation we were in and while I wasnít sure what he might have in mind, I knew that he had no intention of simply surrendering to the abbot and his fanatical cronies.

 

Gude stood there with his arms folded across his chest and continued to gloat. I could see that he was enjoying his sudden good fortune. His wrinkled skin sagged around his eyes as they turned into narrow slits.

 

"Weíll make sure youíre all comfortable for the night in the cells of our dungeon, and then in the morning we can begin our work. Zakaria was a fool to think that he could oppose the Holy Office."

 

As Gude talked, I looked at Nic. His eyes were now riveted on mine. I knew what he wanted me to do and I began the process of trying to enter into his mind. Gude continued to prattle on about some nonsense dealing with the Holy Office, but his voice was becoming increasingly faint as I began to scrutinize the mind of my mate.

 

It only took a few seconds and while Nic voluntarily opened his mind to make it easier for me, I was surprised to see that I was definitely getting better at performing the skill. After studying what Nic had shown me, I calmly exited to find myself once more back in the room, standing before the Abbot and his minions.

 

The abbot had been speaking for some time, but I hadnít heard a word. As I refocused I caught a few of his closing remarks, but wasnít really worried that I had missed anything important. I already knew what the abbotís agenda was regarding us. I was much more concerned about what was going to happen in the next few seconds. I turned and looked at Nic. His eyes said it all. I nodded slightly at him. He nodded back and his bleeding mouth flashed the tiniest of smiles.

 

In one orchestrated motion, we both reached down, Nic on Charlesí right and I on his left. We grasped the unconscious angel under his arms and began to lift him up. Initially to Gude and the monks, it must have appeared that we were merely helping him to his feet, but as we started to get him up Nic shouted "NOW!" and I knew it was time. In an instant, Nic shot out his free right hand and hit the abbot in the face, knocking the old man flat in mid-word. The sight cheered me to no end. I grinned and winked at Nic.

 

The monks were shocked into momentary confusion. While some bent to the floor to assist the abbot, the others panicked upon seeing their leader hurt. Nicís move was bold, and it allowed us just enough time to begin stroking our wings as we continued to lift Charles. In seconds we were in the air. But Charles, who was only barely conscious, still proved to be almost dead weight.

 

It was hard to get him airborne, and the height we were able to attain even by furiously beating our wings was not that great. It took some serious effort, but we eventually managed to gain enough height to fly above the heads of the monks and over to the door. We came down hard, almost dropping Charles like a stone. And while Nic and I both stumbled as we landed, we were still on our feet, firmly hanging onto Charles. When I was finally able to glance at the red and black angel, I saw that he was once again slightly conscious.

 

"Charles, I know this is hard, but help us as much as you can, please!"

 

Charles looked at me and tried to nod his head, but it lolled more to the right as his chin dropped to his chest. Then he weakly raised it again and with one eye half open looked at me.

 

"The book, Jamie!" His voice was so low and rasping, I could hardly understand him.

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

"Please, the book." He coughed violently after these words, and I could hear that he was still struggling for breath.

 

At first I didnít understand, but then I remembered the small leather volume heíd carried with him from the library. As his words registered in my head, I realized that the book was back in the room with Gude and the other monks. I was also sure that by now the abbot and his monks were probably beginning to realize what had just happened. I had a terrible feeling that it would be only seconds before they would be after us.

 

I looked down at Charles. He was struggling to remain conscious. Once more, he tried to raise his head, and once more it fell. His appearance made me think of a broken doll.

 

"The book, please," he choked. "Itís very important."

 

"Alright Charles, Iíll try, but I canít promise anything."

 

I couldnít believe the words that were coming from my mouth. Ahead of us was possible freedom, behind us lay Gude and his monks. It was the last place in the world I wanted to go.

 

Nic frowned at me, but I released my grip on Charles as he took up the slack. Then I jumped and was airborne, but only for as many seconds as it took to get back into the room. Gude was still on the floor being tended by some of his followers, but I could see that Nic had managed to knock the Abbot unconscious.

 

As soon as I landed, the monks realized I was standing in their midst. The look on some of their faces went from surprise to anger. I frantically began to look for the book. One of the monks charged towards me and I leapt back into the air. Just as I was gaining some height I felt a cold hand grip my ankle and I was pulled downward. One of the monks, taller then the others, had managed to reach up and grab me.

 

I struggled to break his grip as I kicked my leg and stroked my wings with all my might. I gave one mighty kick and my sandal struck something hard. I heard a groan and my leg was free. I was about to escape when I saw the small, leather-bound book lying in the corner of the room. And although I wanted more than anything to be out of there, I swallowed hard and swooped down, reaching out my hand and scooping it up. But the room was crowded with furniture, objects of art, and now a mob of angry monks. My wing brushed against a large statue, I lost my balance, and bounced off the floor. I hit the side of my head on the corner of a table, and for a few seconds saw stars.

 

This was not going very well. I shook off some of the pain, clambered to my feet, and turned just in time to see a few more monks heading toward me. While I wasnít as strong as Nic, I was stronger than most normal men. I looked to my right and saw a large vase sitting on a table near me. I thought I might try and throw it, but a monk charged me and as I jumped into the air to get out of the way, my foot hit it and it crashed to the floor.

 

It was then I remembered I might not have to resort to physical force. I certainly wasnít Nic when it came to fighting, but I did have powers he didnít possess. My feet now back on the floor, I took the book Iíd been holding and slid it into the corded sash tied around my tunic. Then I stood before the advancing monks and flung out my right arm as I quickly formed a fireball in that hand. Since I was trying to achieve the maximum effect as quickly as possible, I wanted to make sure everyone could see what I was doing.

 

As soon as the spinning ball of white lighting appeared in my hand, I hurled it to the ground a few feet in front of me. Although I knew what to expect and shielded my eyes, the flash was still blinding and the loud explosion that followed shook the room, causing me to lurch forward before I caught myself and staggered to a standing position. I looked down at the ragged crater I had blown in the floor, around its edges thick white smoke curled into the air. My display created the reaction Iíd hoped it would. As I glared at the monks standing on the other side of the smoldering hole, looks of fear crossed their faces and they scrambled back. In that brief moment of confusion, I lunged into the air and darted back to the door where Nic supported a sagging Charles. Once there, I dragged his opposite arm over my shoulders, helping Nic support him. I could sense that Charles was mustering all the strength he had left Ė and that it was fading rapidly.

 

"Charles, I have the bloody book, ok? Now we have to move! I know youíre injured, but please try to help us as much as you can," I shouted at the mostly unconscious young angel.

 

He rallied a bit at my words and then tried unsuccessfully to raise his head. But not before he looked at me and then down to the book tucked in the golden cord around my waist. He managed a half smile as he looked into my eyes.

 

"Thank you, Jamie."

 

I didnít respond. Part of me was angry with myself for being so stupid as to make the attempt that almost got me killed. Part of me was scared to death that every breath I took would be my last as the monks regrouped and prepared an assault. Nic was shouting something at me, but I had no idea what he was saying. I noticed that we were standing at the entrance of the same long corridor that weíd first journeyed through. Nic lifted Charles a bit higher, pushing onward, and we retreated down it as quickly as possible. Actually, we were trying to run while dragging Charles, who was doing all he could to remain on his feet. We must have looked ridiculous. We made our way to the changing room, then back into the ceremonial room. Brushing past the curtains behind the throne, we ran out on to the stage, past the throne, and back into the main atrium of the chapter house.

 

Gudeís monks were in close pursuit, only seconds behind us. Nic and I looked out toward the main entrance of the chapter house, through the door that weíd originally entered and could see even more monks rushing though the gate, toward the main entrance where we stood. Realizing that theyíd effectively blocked our way out of the front of the building, Nic shouted a command and we headed in the direction of the library, the monks at our heels.

 

Being pulled along by Nic, we finally found ourselves back at the library. Once across the threshold, we lay Charles down and slammed the large oak doors. Nic turned the lock and slid the large bolt into place. Now we were locked in the library. It only took seconds for the angry pounding on the door to start as the monks attempted to gain entry. Nic was leaning against the door. We were both gasping for breath.

 

"Jamie, thereís only one way out," he said, pointing upward.

 

I just stared at him in surprise and disbelief. But Nic grabbed my arm and pulled me further into the library. Soon we were standing in the open atrium of the library with its dual spiral staircases. He looked up and pointed, then explained his plan. I twisted my neck and head upward. Far above our heads was the stained glass dome that covered the atrium and my eyes widened as I began to understand what he was suggesting.

 

"But Nikki, thatís just crazy!"

 

"Do you have a better idea, Jamie?"

 

"No. But we have Charles and he canít fly."

 

"We can and we will. You can do itÖ I know you can and you know you can! And besides we donít have anymore time Ė theyíll be through that door any second. Now letís get up to the highest level."

 

Nic and I went back to where Charles lay and picked him up. Heíd lapsed back into unconsciousness, and I guessed that the energy heíd expended getting to the library was too much and he was now spent. But he wasnít the only one. I was exhausted. We carried Charles to the center of the atrium. We stopped and I looked at the long spiral staircase rising six floors above our heads and ending at the top level of the library. I couldnít believe that we were going to climb it, and with an unconscious angel.

 

It was a struggle trying to maneuver Charles up the stairs. His large wings only served to further hamper the process. With much difficulty, we trudged toward the top level of the library, dragging, pushing and carrying the young slender angel whose body seemed to get heavier with each step we took. I was eternally grateful that Nic was as strong as he was because heíd been required to perform the majority of the heavy lifting and climbing, and I knew that Iíd surely not carried even a quarter of the load. But even though Iíd been the junior partner in the endeavor, I was still out of breath and gasping for air.

 

At last we were standing at the top level. We reached the railing and paused, looking down at the floor so far below us. Once again I could see the inlayed image on the floor Ė the same image that was tattooed on my leg. For a few seconds I just leaned against the railing trying to catch my breath. But Nic would have none of it.

 

"Come on Jamie. Now we climb on the railing, lift Charles up with us, and jump."

 

"Nic, this is CRAZY. Iím exhausted, youíve been hurt and Charles isnít even conscious. We canít possibly do this. And even if we do manage to jump off and actually fly with Charles, weíll kill ourselves trying to smash through that stained glass dome."

 

Nic stopped, and stared at the floor for a few seconds. Finally he looked up and shot me a look such as Iíd never seen on his face; it was full of anger, strength, determination and courage, all rolled into one look and shining in his eyes.

 

"Listen to me." He grasped me firmly by my shoulders. "First Jamie, we have no choice, itís either try this or die. You KNOW thatís true. Second, Iím the king and youíre the wizard: we must fulfill the prophecy Ė we must follow our destiny. And third, I love you more than anything in the world. I know that the two of us are each half of a greater whole and that we can do this together. What you have to do now is truly believe that."

 

During all the time since we had awakened, Nic and Iíd joked about being king and wizard, but had never really taken it seriously. Now, looking into his determined eyes, I knew that something had changed. Maybe it was meeting Charles, or the greatness of the abbey. It may have been his encounter with Loran, or an accumulation of all that had already happened to us building into one great crescendo. But I could see that at that very moment Nic really believed Ė no, KNEW Ė that he was the king and I, the wizard. Even though we didnít have any idea what the prophecy was, it was his intention that we were to fulfill it and find our destiny.

 

Then he did something that may have seemed totally unexpected under the circumstances, but it was completely in character for the loving and caring boy that he was. He took my shoulders, gripped them even firmer and kissed me. It was not just a quick kiss, but a deep and long, passionate kiss. I could feel one of his strong hands holding onto my back and drawing me even closer to his body. I gave into his embrace and pressed closer to him. His other hand made its way down to firmly press against the small of my back. I was breathless yet energized. I could feel his love as I rubbed against his strong body and I could taste him as our kiss continued.

 

As quickly as heíd started this interlude of passion, he ended it. Once again he was holding me by my shoulders and looking into my eyes with a cold and serious look.

 

"Itís time for courage, little boy. You can do this. I know you can, so donít be afraid. Lift your head up and do this! Not for me, or Charles, or even Cody & Luc, but for yourself. Show these bastards you are the wizard. Show them your courage, that they will fear you as they should."

 

For a second, I just gazed back into the fire and the love for me in his eyes. While I didnít completely believe in myself, I knew I believed in the boy who had risked his life for me not once but twice. Returning his gaze with what I hoped was a look of resolve, I nodded my head.

 

"Yes Nic, Iíll try."

 

"No Jamie, donít try Ė DO! Öand NOW!"

 

We climbed on to the railing overlooking the floor. It was hard to keep steady on the narrow beam, especially while trying to hold on to Charles, but when you can fly there is no such thing as fear of falling, so I just concentrated on keeping my balance and not falling off too soon.

 

Nic, with great effort, managed to get Charles, who was still unconscious, up onto the railing with us. We both teetered on its edge, trying to hold on to him. From below we could hear loud thuds as the great door of the library was being battered in. Nic looked at me and I knew it was time.

 

"I love you, Jamie."

 

"I love you, Nic,"

 

"Now, JUMP!"

 

We sailed off the railing with our wings flapping furiously. We were falling; Charlesí dead weight was just too much to carry. I knew I wasnít strong enough.

 

"Head up Jamie," Nic shouted to me. I could see he too was straining.

 

I closed my eyes, held on to Charles with all my strength and stroked my wings till I thought my heart would burst. As the sweat beaded on my forehead, I wished with all my being that I would have the strength I needed to accomplish this impossible task. It was then I began to feel Charles get lighter, but I knew that was impossible Ė if anything he should be getting heavier. And suddenly I felt the power of the orb of the bat and itís sure knowledge of flight rush through my body, flowing into my wings. That final surge of energy turned the tide. Our descent was arrested and we rose toward the dome, picking up speed.

 

I wasnít really looking forward to hitting a thick leaded glass dome at high speed, but I knew it was our only chance of escape. As we moved faster and faster towards it, I remembered Nicís orders and concentrated my mind as hard as I could on the dome. At first I really didnít know what to think about, but then as we got closer I began thinking about the lead came between the glass pieces, and how easily the dome would give away if those joints were very weak and soft. It must have worked. As we approached the dome I could see it starting to sag under the weight of the heavy glass. Just then we hit it full force; it shattered away from us, sending brilliantly colored glass flying out into the sky to rain down on the chapter house roof like hail, and I felt the cool rush of night air as we rose high above the chapter house.

 

Except for a small twinge from the top of my right wing where it clipped part of the outside of the dome frame, I was unhurt. I looked back down, only to see a large hole where the dome had been and angry monks rushing into what now was an empty library as the last few shards of glass fell to the floor.

 

"Nic, how are you?"

 

"Iím fine Jamie. How about you?"

 

"I think Iím fine too." I couldnít disguise the wonder in my voice.

 

"Well come on, we have to get over the wall and into the forest."

 

No one knew that better than me. I didnít need Nic to remind me, especially since Charles was once again getting heavier by the second. It took all my strength, focus, and effort to maintain a grip on him and beat my wings. Although I was struggling to hang on to Charles, I cast a quick glance down at the plaza below. Torches borne by bands of monks now illuminated the entire area. They hadnít yet caught sight of us, as they were frantically running towards the chapter house.

 

Beating our wings even harder, we managed to gain a bit more height. This allowed us to get out of the direct light from below and make it easier to avoid detection, although I couldnít help thinking that the monks must have heard the dome shatter as we crashed through it.

 

"Hurry Nic, I canít hold him much longer."

 

My arms were starting to ache. I knew that Nic was probably holding his share of Charlesí weight plus a good deal of my share too, but any extra strength I originally had at the beginning of this escapade had long since dissipated.

 

"Please hold on Jamie," Nic called out to me, "weíre almost there. Itís only a little bit further. You can do it."

 

We continued to fly until I saw the massive walls of the abbey just below us. We cleared them and then began a rapid descent into the forest.

 

"Hold on just a little longer Jamie," Nic encouraged me. "We have to get into the forest a bit deeper so they canít find us."

 

We continued to fly, but our trajectory was definitely towards descent Ė and a very rapid one at that.

 

After clearing the walls and going some distance, we headed into the forest. It was dark except for the light of the two moons, so it was hard to navigate. I could feel the tops of the trees brushing my feet and legs.

 

"Carefully Jamie, I know heís heavy, but take your time descending. We donít want to break or injure our wings."

 

Nic was right; a quick drop into a dark forest with hundreds of branches could easily damage our wings. And though my arms were shaking, and hurt so badly by now that I could have screamed, I obeyed his orders and slowed up. Even so, I occasionally brushed against a branch or caught my leg on a limb, but soon we were on the ground. Gently we lay Charles down. Then Nic caught me in his arms and hugged me. I was gasping in pain and fatigue, and the spots in front of my eyes had gotten bigger. My knees were threatening to fold and dump me on the ground.

 

"That was magnificent, my love. I knew you could do it." His voice was tender but jubilant.

 

I was so pleased that Nic was proud of me, and I leaned closer to him.

 

"I think this is where we left off earlier, Niklas."

 

From somewhere, I dredged up a spark of energy and began a deep, long kiss with my angel boy that took my breath away and made my toes curl. When it was over, Nic just stood there holding and hugging me. I could feel his warm breath against my ear and the soft calm sound of his voice, though ragged now with fatigue.

 

"I love you Jamie."

 

"I love you too Nic."

 

We broke our embrace. It was almost pitch black in the forest, so we moved Charles to a safe place under a tree. By now the expenditure of energy from our adventure had drained both of us completely. Knowing that we would have to rest, and hoping that the monks wouldnít find us, we lay down next to Charles. Nic wrapped his arms around me and held me close.

 

I lay back, resting my head against him and looking up into the clear starry sky. High above, the twin moons silently made their way across the heavens Ė Argon in his eternal orbit of protection around his smaller brother, Ajax. As I stared at the two moons and recalled the story Luc had told me, there was something I felt I should be remembering, but after the day weíd just experienced I was utterly exhausted, and within less then a minute after laying my head on Nicís chest I was fast asleep.