The world was warm and full of light when we awoke. I couldn’t help smiling when I looked over and saw Nic still sleeping peacefully. I lay watching him for a few minutes. He was physically handsome, but his true beauty came from the many positive qualities deep inside him. That he loved me was the greatest feeling in the world, and I felt myself to be the luckiest boy alive. As I began to sit up, Nic slowly roused, stretched out his hand, and gently rubbed my back.
“How’s are you this morning?” he asked.
I didn’t have to turn around and look into his face to know he was smiling at me.
“Not sure. I had a few bad dreams. It seems that someone was trying to attack me; he kept claiming to be royalty… some kind of a king. I was a bit suspicious.”
“Yes, best not to trust someone like that,” he said giving a little chuckle, while continuing to rub my back.
For about two minutes I sat next to him thinking only of the warmth of his touch and trying to block out all the thoughts and fears that constantly filled my waking hours. At first it worked, my worries held at bay as Nic’s strong, firm hand expressed in touch the love he felt in his heart, but slowly they crept back into my mind as I began to ponder once more everything that had happened to us since we first awakened in our coffin.
“Nic,” I said, turning to look at him as a small frown came to my face.
“Yes?” Nic, seeing that I was suddenly turning serious, stopped his gentle massage and took on a serious look of his own.
“We really don’t know what we’re doing, do we? I mean we’ve woken up in a place we don’t know, we come from a past we can’t remember, and we’re wandering this land aimlessly. I know the others think we have a plan, but the truth is we don’t, and I’m tired of pretending we do.”
“I know, Jamie. I keep hoping something happens that will actually help rather than hinder us. That somehow or someway, our memories will return. Every time you absorb an essence from an orb or we suddenly remember some small thing from long ago – like the day we came upon Castle Rood – I hope that we’re getting closer to answering the questions that keep building up. Charles has been a help in giving us some history, but he really hasn’t been able to give us the answers I want.”
“Yes, I feel the same way. So what do we do?”
“We keep moving on. We keep hoping that the next orb you absorb, or the next angel we find, or the next place we visit brings us more answers than questions. There’s really nothing else we can do, short of allowing ourselves to be taken prisoner by the monks, to be tortured and killed because of a religion that, for some reason, regards us as demons.”
“You know Niklas, the only real reason I go on every day is because I see you leading the way, like the king I know you are.”
“Well Jamie, the only reason I do lead the way is because I can’t ignore the love of the boy who was buried with me and who walks by my side every day.”
I sat staring at Nic for a few seconds without speaking. There was nothing I could put into words after what he had just said, so instead I reached out my hand and gently laid it on his cheek. I bent over and kissed him lightly on the lips. And although we had just experienced a night together in love, the feeling that came to me in that kiss was far greater than anything we had done the previous night.
The moment was broken when Cody came hurrying over, smiling brightly and wishing us a good morning. Nic gave me one final smile and stood up, wishing Cody a good morning and giving his usual morning orders as we ate breakfast and prepared for another day of travel.
Sleeping out on the open plains was very different from living in the forest. We sat quietly on the ground, enjoying a quick breakfast as a gentle breeze blew over us. As I looked at the others eating, a thought jumped into my head. I quietly turned to Charles.
“Charles, I just have one question before we leave this morning. Why are you the only one of us who remembers Küronas, and the rest of us don’t recall even one thing? I still can’t understand why we don’t remember more of our past.”
“Well, part of that’s because all of you spent such a long time in the stasis units. I was also held in stasis, but by different means.”
“Why was that?”
“To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure, but it’s the only explanation I can come up with as to why I remember a bit more then everyone else. Otherwise, I don’t have any logical explanation.”
“Charles, I still can’t stop thinking about what Loran said about us losing our memories.”
“You mean Cold Sleep Memory Loss Syndrome?”
“In the Abbey Library I read that it was said to be one of the effects of long term stasis, but I can’t tell you much more.”
“But what exactly does that mean?”
“It means that you were held in stasis for a very long time Jamie. It was never intended that we would endure Cold Sleep for that long. The original plan was for all of us to be in stasis for only about a hundred years.”
“You mean that Nic and I were in our coffin for one hundred years? I can hardly believe that.”
“Well, that was the original plan. We were all meant to awaken in about one hundred years. By then the civilization of the Enlightened Ones would have collapsed. Once we emerged after our one hundred year long sleep, it was to be our destiny to rebuild the world.”
“So what happened? We woke up too soon? I asked.
“Uhm… No Jamie, we woke up very, very late.”
“And by late, you mean…?”
“Well, as I said, after we were put in stasis, we were supposed to emerge after a one hundred year sleep. Your stasis units were programmed to bring you back after that period of time had elapsed. But from my best estimate and research in the library, we’ve all been asleep for over twenty five hundred years.”
“Twenty five hundred years! Charles, I’d be crazy to believe that.”
“You can believe it or not Jamie, but it’s the truth. Look at the condition of this world: it’s an old world. Many centuries and two full millennia have passed.”
I shook my head, but suddenly, out of nowhere, I was mentally transported back to the city of Tardon and standing in the chamber of General Zakaria. There, once again, I heard the words of the decree echoing within the room… Signed and sealed in the city of Tardon, the province of Mar on this the 3rd day of the Month of Ram, 2562 years after the fall of The City of Light…
“But how can that be?” I wondered aloud, overwhelmed by this new information.
“I don’t have an explanation. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but it has happened and we have to come to terms with it. In that long period of time, while we slept, many things that we could never have predicted have occurred. Great kings and armies have marched across this world, battling for land, wealth, and power. Cities have risen, and fallen, and then risen once again. The land has changed, and its people have changed. It seems that the only thing left of the Enlightened Ones are their crumbling ruins. And on top of everything else, there’s the rise of a strange and very dominant religion that looks upon us as demons.”
At the mention of religion, I frowned. Ever since my original encounter with Abbot Gude, images of the frowning old monk were never far from my thoughts.
“But then why do you remember more things, Charles – things that we don’t remember?”
“I don’t know, Jamie. Maybe it’s the fact that I wasn’t in stasis the way you, Nic and Cody were.”
“Why was that?” I asked.
I noticed that everyone was beginning to move out.
“Remember Jamie, you said you only had one question. From my count, I’ve already answered at least six. I think it’s time to begin moving.”
I frowned, but Nic was already heading out of the camp with the others, so I stopped questioning Charles, and we both followed behind the rest of the group.
We continued our journey for a few days without any unusual incidents. As we traveled through the open fields, we found it a bit harder to protect ourselves from the sun that beat down on us, and the wind that blew across the vast open fields most of the day. As much as I hated to admit it, I was starting to miss the dark, quiet forest.
It was again a time of constant movement. And although we weren’t running as quickly as we had when the monks were on our trail, we still moved at a rapid pace, covering as much ground as possible. Nic kept assuring me that even though we really didn’t have much of a plan he really was fairly sure he knew the direction we must head, so we followed his lead, since we were all very anxious to find Küronas.
We traveled as long and as far as possible during the day, then quickly made camp in the dusk, ate, and fell asleep, only to repeat the process day after day after day.
It was during this time of travel and very little discussion or talk between us that I was able to think harder, and to work on accessing the knowledge and powers of the orbs. Nic would usually lead the way, and I would always be close by him. Although we didn’t speak much doing this time, we noticed that we both felt better whenever we were within sight and quiet speaking distance of each other, just in case quick action would have to be taken. Charles would usually stay with Luc and Jonathan, making sure the younger ones were safe, and Cody would always bring up the rear.
Some of the time I would think about Luc’s brother Jon, or remember one of the many crazy incidents regarding Damian and suddenly miss him, but as the silence grew longer, I began to play a mental game inside my head. One day, as I was daydreaming and not thinking about anything in particular, I accidentally discovered that the knowledge of the amulet in my head, mingled with the essences of the orbs and my ability to read minds, allowed me to send my mind into a dive just as a falcon dives to the earth from the sky to catch a small field mouse. In my case, I could mentally dive for whatever facts, knowledge, or information I could find.
I was getting fairly good at this seemingly trivial exercise, and as I mastered the technique I gradually began to discover some of my capabilities. Charles had been right: even from what little I could comprehend, the essences of the three orbs that I’d already absorbed imparted tremendous power and knowledge. And while I couldn’t really use it very well, there were things I could learn and tap into. In fact, that was how I first learned how to use The Screen.
One day we’d stopped for our midday meal. Usually we would save whatever scraps were left from the evening meal and eat them when we would take our midday break. The previous night Cody had made a delicious dish with a bevy of quail that Nic had caught, and that afternoon we were sitting on the ground surrounded by miles of open fields as a warm breeze gently blew over the plains.
I’d been performing my little mental game of diving and retrieving, diving and retrieving when suddenly I grabbed a small mental tidbit and pulled it up into my conscious mind. <ACCESS SCREEN> was all I’d found. I was prepared to toss it aside, as I often did with snippets of information I would occasionally dig up that didn’t really seem attached to anything.
But just as I was ready to delete it from my conscious thought, it started to blink on and off in my mind’s eye. As I concentrated harder it seemed to be flashing red, and then green, and then back to red again… <ACCESS SCREEN>… <ACCESS SCREEN>… <ACCESS SCREEN>…
For a minute I thought I was hallucinating. But then I concentrated on what I was seeing and yes; it really was flashing red and green. <ACCESS SCREEN>… <ACCESS SCREEN>… I tried to reach out with my mind and touch the blinking thought. Every time I did though, it would be red and I was thwarted. Finally, I paused and counted the seconds between red and green. I started to pick up a distinct rhythm. <ACCESS SCREEN – red>… <ACCESS SCREEN – green>… <ACCESS SCREEN – red>… <ACCESS SCREEN – green>…
On one of the cycles I grabbed the <ACCESS SCREEN> just as it turned green then instinctively held out my hand, and POP there right in front of me was something that looked like a large sign. It was made up of multi-colored light. There were some markings and symbols on it along with written words, and an occasional mathematical equation… a small bit of what I was now looking at appeared to make sense to me, but most of it seemed like nothing more than garbled nonsense.
Charles, who’d been sitting closest to me, jumped when the lighted sign appeared. The others, who were sitting at various angles around me, were unable to see what I was viewing.
I later learned that the secret for others to correctly view the sign depended on the angle of viewing and the ambient lighting available. I could always see the image perfectly because it was directly in front of me. The best way for someone else to view it was to stand directly behind me and look over my left or right shoulder. As a person moved more to the right or left the image would begin to fade because the surrounding light would do something to make it disappear, and if someone was standing directly in front of me all they would see was me staring off into space, without a clue as to what I was looking at.
Eventually, everyone was crowding around trying to get a better look at the large shimmering sign floating before me. At first, I was mesmerized just as they were, but then the questions began. Questions I couldn’t answer. The large colorful ever-moving sign was now becoming a distraction to me as my companions continued questioning me. Then I noticed that down on the lower left hand side of the sign was a red colored symbol flashing on and off. I focused my mind on it. <SCREEN OFF> it was flashing in my brain. I again concentrated harder on the <SCREEN OFF> symbol and in an instant it disappeared into thin air.
“What was that?” Nic asked.
“I don’t know, Nic.” I said, still a bit in shock myself.
As we’d been traveling toward Küronas, I hadn’t told my companions about the little mental exercises that I played in my mind. I could walk for hours without talking, or would sit staring blankly toward the horizon when we took breaks. I’m sure everyone thought I was just daydreaming or deep in thought. So the day I learned of the screen everyone was surprised when I told them of my silent mental drills and what they’d now produced.
As I was giving my explanation, Charles began to beam at me, one of the largest smiles I’d ever seen him give. He ran to his pack and produced a small, red, leather-bound book. It wasn’t very thick, and I could see that it was worn with age. Suddenly I realized that this was the book Charles had gone back to get when we rescued him from the Abbey library. It was the same book that I’d retrieved from the room of angry monks when Abbot Gude and his followers had cornered us, after our encounter with Loran and the Orb of the Bat.
Charles, still smiling, handed me the book. “I knew you could do it, Jamie.”
I took it and looked back at him, a bit puzzled.
“No Charles, this is important to you.”
“Oh no Jamie, it’s more important to you.”
“But it’s the only book you took from the library. You even insisted that I retrieve it after you were almost killed by Loran and we were in danger of capture by the monks. At great personal peril to myself, I might add.”
“I wanted it for this very day Jamie, for you, and I’m very happy this day has finally arrived.”
“What’s so bloody special about it?”
“It’s a guide to help you learn how to properly use the new power you can now access.”
I looked down at the book and slowly opened it. Its pages were yellow and brittle, but I could see writing, letters, symbols and numbers on them. They matched many of the things I was looking at when the sign first opened and flashed before my eyes.
I looked back at Charles who was still smiling at me.
“So you’re telling me this is some kind of a guide for using the thing that just appeared in front of me?”
“Yes. I discovered it totally by accident one day. A monk brought me a large pile of materials. Among the books, charts and scrolls I discovered this book. After paging through and seeing mostly lines of numbers and letters under headings that read “Access”, “Security”, “Defense.” Because I couldn’t readily decipher it, I laid it in my discard pile.
“I wasn’t really doing research for the monks – although that’s what they thought. I was doing it for myself. I hoped that I might escape or get rescued and I knew any knowledge I gained could only help me. So when ever I came across things that made no sense to me I didn’t waste a lot of time on them. My goal was to gain as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time.
“So, as I said, after examining the book I deemed it interesting, but not very useful in gaining me additional knowledge. Then shortly after setting it aside there, in the same pile, was a parchment that seemed to explain what the book was about. The parchment described a device – organic in nature – that could be introduced into the brain and would have the ability to develop and grow while attaching itself to specific cells and areas of the brain. The parchment gave me a clue to the book, but even with that information, the book was just as unintelligible to me as it was when I first examined it.
“Since it was the end of the day and knew I’d be locked in my cell for the night, I picked up the book and asked one of the monks to keep it near by. For some reason, even though I couldn’t understand any thing in the book, I had a feeling about it because I remembered once in Croal’s laboratories overhearing one of Croal’s assistants talking very excitedly about some new discovery recently made.
“It had something to do with altering the cells in a brain, and some kind of library they were attempting to create that would allow this altered brain to access it. Then another of the assistants mentioned that he thought there was more to it then that. That this device could not only store information, but also act as a control unit – controlling defenses, security and the Mirror Gate System.
“So when I saw some of those same terms, it caused me to remember that day long ago and I while I wasn’t sure, I thought it might be important. At first the monk who was in charge of giving me the material ignored me, but when I told him that I thought the book might be important to finding more creatures like me, he suddenly took an interest and placed the book on a shelf close to where I sat. Two days later, you and Nic came to the abbey.”
I sat quietly, listening to Charles explanation with both wonder and worry.
“Is my brain altered as you call it?”
“Yes I think so. Only Imperial High Seraphim’s can accept the essences of the orbs, or the knowledge of the amulet, and only they can use this device you’ve just discovered is a part of you.”
“Is there something in my brain? Like some kind of a machine?”
“I don’t think so. I think if anyone looked at your brain and any of ours, they would look the same and there wouldn’t be some machine placed in your head. Croal could alter cells; he was a master at it. From what I know and have learned the truth is, no one really ever knew just how talented he was – even Jonas. I think he kept much of his knowledge hidden, for fear that he would be forced to use it in evil ways. He was also very secretive toward the end of his life.
“You were created in his private laboratory, and were kept away from most of us. You lived with Croal in his villa. There were always rumors of a large staff living there, working on a project for Croal.”
“Well, I don’t remember any of it.” I said as my fingers played with the head of the snake bracelet; I was quietly reminded of Damian.
“Just take the book. It’s of no use to me. I don’t understand it, but maybe you will.”
I nodded my head and placed the book in my small pack. Our midday meal had ended, although I’d been so involved in what had just happened to me that I hadn’t eaten a thing. Nic got us all up and we moved onward. As we began walking, Cody came up to me and gave me some dried berries.
“I know you didn’t eat anything, so I saved these,” he said.
I thanked him and chewed on the berries while walking behind Nic, my mind reeling from all that had happened only an hour before.
But now I had the book, and had discovered a new power. So in the weeks ahead, as we progressed on our journey across the windswept and open plains, I continued my mental exercises of diving and retrieving during the day. Then in the evening, before and after supper, I would take out the book and experiment with The Screen – as I had begun calling it.
Slowly I started to learn how to use it correctly. I discovered how to turn it on and off quickly, how to cloak its light, and how to make it larger or smaller. I even learned that I could display it only in my mind, so that someone standing right next to me wouldn’t even know that I was accessing it.
I learned that somehow it was tied into the knowledge of the amulet, and the orbs I’d received. I also discovered that the amber orb – The Orb of the Owl – had allowed it to be switched on and made it possible for me to use.
I was quickly finding out that it was a powerful tool for a wizard. Even though it didn’t confer any magical powers on the user, it imparted something even more important – information, and the ability to access a vast library of accumulated knowledge. It was the key to a reservoir of what had been placed there centuries ago by Croal, and his team of scientists, philosophers, historians and technicians. In some ways I felt like I was carrying the entire library from the abbey and much more in my brain; always available and ready to use.
One night after a session of working with the screen, I returned to the fire. The others were still sitting around, and I joined them. This time I sat next to Luc. Although human and the only one of us who was not an angel, I loved and cared for him no less than any of the others in our group. He and Cody had become good friends and they seemed to share the same sense of humor.
Looking at him sitting there by the fire, I realized I’d never regretted for an instant my insistence that we take him with us when Nic and I escaped from the provisional headquarters of General Zakaria. Once I was comfortably seated next to him, I put my arm around him.
“Thank you Luc,” I looked at him and smiled.
“For what, Your Grace?” He had a puzzled look on his face.
“Just for being such a good friend.” I bent over and kissed him on the cheek.
He blushed slightly and then smiled a shy smile.
“Thank you, Your Grace, I’m happy to be with you. I was scared when we started, but this is a great adventure. I only wish…” he paused and cast his eyes down for a second, when they met mine again I could see that they were wet with tears. “I only wish that Jon was here…he and Jonathan would have really liked each other.”
At first I didn’t understand, but then I realized… of course, Jonathan was blind and Luc’s brother Jon had been deaf. I hugged Luc a bit tighter.
“I know Luc, I wish he was here too, but you’re here with us now and you’ll always be safe with us.”
Luc remained quiet, but for the rest of the evening he snuggled close to me and I kept my arm around him or would occasionally stroke his hair. I could sense that he was in need of love and compassion and I did all I could to let him know how much I cared for him.
As I sat with Luc I suddenly remembered something from my session with The Screen. Turning to Charles I addressed him.
At the sound of his name he turned to face me.
“Charles, what’s an Icarian?”
Charles smiled. “I see you’re learning how to use the book I gave you. I’m guessing that you got that information from The Screen”
“Yes, actually I came across a reference to Icarians when I was accessing some information from The Screen.”
“Well Jamie, we’re Icarians.”
“Really? How so?”
“I’ll tell you.”
Charles grinned, and began to address everyone around the fire. Although at the beginning of Charles’ and my conversation, everyone else had been talking among themselves or engaged in other things; once it became clear that Charles was going to give us more information regarding our past, I could see that all activities had abruptly ceased and everyone’s eyes were now on the red and black angel as he began to speak.
“There was a well-known tale quite familiar to the Enlightened Ones. It was not original to the civilization that founded Küronas, but had been taken from another ancient civilization’s mythology, many millennia removed from the world of the Enlightened Ones. It was a story that always fascinated Jonas and it was said that he related it to his students and assistants many times. It was one of those assistants who eventually told it to me.
“The story was about a man named Daedalus and his son Icarus. According to the ancient tale, in a great city – not unlike Küronas – there lived a skilled craftsman and inventor named Daedalus. One day he took his nephew named Perdix, as an apprentice. Perdix proved to be such a brilliant craftsman that Daedalus killed him in a jealous rage. After his crime, Daedalus fled to another land called Crete. Minos, the king of Crete, hired Daedalus, who created many ingenious inventions while in the ruler’s service. His work included a great labyrinth – a mazelike building, which imprisoned a fierce flesh eating, man-killing monster, called the Minotaur.
“Every year, a sacrifice of young men and women was made to the Minotaur. They were placed in the labyrinth where they wandered up and down its endless corridors in an attempt to escape, but they were always hunted down and killed by the Minotaur, and none ever achieved their freedom.
“King Minos had a beautiful daughter named Ariadne. One year when the sacrifice was to be made, a youth named Theseus was chosen to be part of the group that was to be sacrificed. Theseus had come from another land. He’d seen and fallen in love with Ariadne and she with him, and with the help of Daedalus and Ariadne, he was able to slay the Minotaur.
“Daedalus then helped Ariadne elope with Theseus. As punishment for the crime, Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his young son, Icarus, in the labyrinth. Daedalus knew that Minos controlled any escape routes by land or sea, but Minos could not prevent an escape by flight. So Daedalus used his skills to build wings for himself and Icarus. He used wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of birds’ wings.
“When their wings were ready, Daedalus warned Icarus to fly at a safe altitude. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax of his wings, and if he flew too low the sea could dampen the feathers. In either case he would be doomed.
“Once they’d escaped Crete, Icarus became exhilarated by flight. Ignoring his father’s warning, he flew higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy fell into the water and drowned. Minos pursued Daedalus to another land, but it is said that as revenge for Icarus death, Daedalus killed the king by scalding him in a specially constructed bathtub.”
“Because of Jonas’ fascination with this story, he chose to call our species Icarians. And once re-established, the old kingdom of the Enlightened Ones would be called Icaria.”
“Jonas often said that during the integration of our species into society, we’d have to remember Daedalus’ words and try not to fly too close to the sun or too near the sea. It would be difficult he said, but the Icarians would only succeed if they maintained balance intellectually, philosophically, and ethically in trying to achieve self-actualization and a harmonically balanced society.”
“Uhm, so we’re Icarians then?” Cody asked.
“Yes.” Charles answered. “And our kingdom is Icaria.”
“Charles, did you know Jonas?” Nic asked. “You always talk about him, and also Croal, as if you knew them well.”
After Nic asked his question I looked to Charles in anticipation of his answer, and although not completely sure of what I saw since it happened so quickly, I thought I caught Charles biting his lower lip. Then he paused for a few seconds and looked down at the ground. And while not actively trying to read his thoughts I could sense an inner struggle being waged in his mind.
“Yes, I knew Jonas and Croal. They were both amazing, but each was very different from the other. Croal was a great scientist, and his mind was always working. I often got the impression that he could solve problems in his sleep. But, he was also very human. He was kind, and always enjoyed jokes and stories. No one could ever have a discussion with him that wouldn’t end with his telling at least one, if not ten, stories. He constantly went off on tangents, but would always come back to his original point.
“He worked very hard to help us succeed. In fact, he died in his laboratory, working up to the very end on genetic combinations.
“Jonas was also brilliant, but in a different way. He was much quieter than Croal, and more thoughtful. Where Croal was impulsive, Jonas was methodical. Everyone was upset when he died,” Charles said, his voice dropping almost to a whisper
“What? Jonas died before Croal?”
“But I thought Jonas was younger than Croal?”
“He was. There was an accident in one of the laboratories. Something went wrong, and Jonas was killed. The accident came at a bad time. I remember that it caused a bit of chaos for some time after, but then the project seemed to come back on course, and here we are, proof that it worked.”
“I thought you were the first Icarian?” I looked at Charles and frowned.
“And how old were you when Jonas died.”
“I don’t remember.”
I could feel a frown form on my face.
“As I told you before, I was the control subject. I was allowed to grow and mature in a normal fashion, but once the maturation process had been perfected, Croal and his team could take an embryo from one cell to a fully-grown organism in a matter of months. I was the first, but many came after me, including Loran and his consort, Alexander. They were, in fact, the first mating pair.”
Mention of my brother peeked my interest. “What about Loran and Alexander? Why and how did Alexander die? And how did Nic and I come into being?”
“Unfortunately Jamie, this is one of the areas where I haven’t any knowledge.
“I really wish you did,” Nic said.
“I do too, Nic,” Charles answered.
After Charles explanation, we were all very tired, so it was decided that we should get some sleep. As we prepared to go to bed, I sensed Luc’s longing to remain with me. I could feel that the little boy needed to feel loved and cared for, so I spent the night curled up next to him. Nic, taking my lead, slept with little Jonathan and both boys slept soundly with slightly older angels by their sides. In the morning, we arose and continued our journey.