The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie

Part II - A Gathering of Angels

Chapter 20


Traveling on the open plain where both our movement and view was unobstructed, we made swift and steady progress toward the source of the energy signature, which grew in strength and stridency with every advancing footstep.


“You know,” I muttered to myself under my breath, “Just once I wish we really knew where we were going, instead of always being led by things we know nothing about, or can’t control.”


“What do you mean?” Cody asked.


At first, I was startled by his question. I hadn’t expected a response from anyone – having made the remark to myself mostly out of frustration regarding our current situation. And though I continued to walk along side him, I turned my head and noticed that Cody was giving me a questioning look.


“Well, I mean…” I fumbled for the words. “Look Cody, we just emerged from an enormous and dense forest, and we’re walking across an open plain. The abbey where we rescued Charles sat on top of the highest mountain in a vast mountain range. In that same place was a large valley with a great river running through it. Just think about it, Cody: all these places have names, and all of them are in relation to each other. I can’t help but think that if we just had a map, we would be able to see where we are. Yet here we are wandering around in the open wilderness, basing our travels on hunches, feelings, and unseen pulses of energy. I’d give all these urges up for one good map in a heartbeat.”


“What about the thing you can do in your head to get information, Your Grace?” Cody asked. “You call it The Screen right?”


“Don’t think I haven’t tried.” I said, feeling a bit more dejected. “I thought maybe there would be a library of maps, possibly with descriptions of places, and maybe there is, but it’s still too new to me. I haven’t been able to discover anything.”


“It’s possible you really do have the information, and in time it will emerge like some of your other powers have emerged and grown,” he added.


“It is possible Cody, but I can’t say for sure. That’s why I wish I had something tangible in my hand.”


Cody looked at me and nodded his head, and while he agreed with me, I didn’t find much comfort in the fact. I was just so weary of all the uncertainty. And the more we walked, the darker my mood became. From the time Nic and I had emerged from our coffins, it seemed that all we’d done was struggle to survive. As I walked along next to Cody, I seemed to get more depressed with each step I took.


After another hour of travel, we came to an area where the grass thinned and finally gave way to barren earth. The clay soil was hard and dry, without any trace of moisture – undoubtedly the reason it was so devoid of any life. As we walked further into the barren plain, I began to notice large cracks running in long parallel lines across the arid ground. Looking toward the horizon, I could see that this desolate land appeared to stretch on before us as far as my eyes could see.


An additional hour passed, and we were well into the desiccated plain. Suddenly overcome with a strange sense of déjà vu, I paused and scanned my surroundings more closely. It only took a few seconds of examination for me to realize that I was looking at the very same place I’d walked in my dream. The barren landscape stretching out toward the horizon was just like the place where I’d come across the strange outcroppings of rock, and where I’d fought a ghost in the rocky grotto with its cool and refreshing spring. The only difference was there were no outcroppings of rock like I’d encountered in my dream, and I couldn’t see a mountain range off in the distance.


By now the sun was high in the sky and beat relentlessly down on us. The back of my neck burned under its scorching rays, and my sandal clad feet began to get uncomfortably hot as the ground began to radiate back the heat imparted to it by the hot rays of the sun. But the further we progressed, the louder the sound grew inside my head. Every so often I would confer with Cody, who walked beside me, also listening to the strange, whirring hum.


Yet another hour passed as I trudged and sweated under the merciless glare of the sun. Looking around once more at my surroundings and feeling utterly hopeless and depressed, I stopped walking.


“That’s it,” I said to no one in particular. “I’m not going forward one more step.”


Cody, who had been to my right, stopped and looked back at me.


“What’s wrong, Your Grace?”


I just stood there, shaking my head. A few seconds later, Nic was at my side.


“Is something wrong, Jamie?”


“Yes,” I said. “I’m tired.”


“Well, we can certainly rest for a bit, although it’s not going to be very comfortable in this heat.”


“No Nic, you don’t understand,” I continued. “I’m tired of all of this: the walking, the monks, the hiding, the fighting, Damian dying, and most of all the fear. You can all just go on. Follow Cody, he can hear the sound just as well as I can. I’m just tired of everything.”


I could feel tears come to my eyes, but I turned my back on them all and stamped my foot. I was furious at myself for giving them all yet another chance to see me cry. Waves of misery and anger swept over me. Putting a hand over my face to hide my tears, I was beginning to walk away when I felt a hand grab my arm, holding me to the spot as though I’d been anchored. I tried to jerk away, but could feel Nic’s firm grip and I knew my chances of breaking away from him were slim. I wanted to scream and demand that he release me, but I couldn’t muster the energy for it, so I just stood there crying. Gently Nic removed his hand from my arm and embraced me from behind, pressing my wings to my back and hugging me tightly.


“I know Jamie,” he said softly in my ear. “I know that it’s a lot to ask of you, but what else can we do? Now turn around and look at me.”


He began to turn me around, but I resisted him.


“Jamie, please look at me,” he said in a gentle and quiet voice.


I turned and faced him; my hand fell away from my face and he could see the tears streaming down it.


“I love you so much,” he said, and I could see his own eyes becoming moist. “Jamie, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to make you happy. I want nothing more than to make sure you’re always safe and well cared for.”




“No, listen. Since we first awoke, how do you think I’ve felt? I woke up from a long sleep lying next to the most perfect boy in the world, and I feel so lucky to have you. I hold you in my arms every night not believing the gift I’ve been given. Whether I have a memory or not I do know one thing – I love you and always have. Yet I make you sleep on the ground, lead you into dangerous situations and can’t even provide for your basic needs.”




“You are a wizard, and you deserve a palace to live in, but I haven’t been able to provide you with even a mud thatched hut. How do you think I feel? I have a boy who can throw lightening bolts, open barred cages, and even read minds! And what do I do? I fight. I try to protect you, yet under my protection you vanished after absorbing the Orb of the Snake, you were hurt in the monks’ attack, and you almost got killed at Castle Rood. So I can’t help but wonder how good I am, even trying to perform that one, simple task.”


By now my tears had stopped. I looked into Nic’s eyes, shocked and surprised at what I was hearing from the one person I always knew was one hundred percent sure of himself.


“Nic, how can you say that? You’re our king,” I began. “You’re my king, the king of my heart. I’m always the one who’s the problem. I know I get mad and lose my temper. I know I sometimes act without thinking things through. I know I’ve stupidly put myself into harm’s way. But none of that is your fault. Niklas, without you I’d be completely lost.”


I moved closer to him and drew him to me, holding on to him as tightly as I could.


“I love you so much Nikki, and I’m such a problem for you.” I shook and laid my tear stained face against his chest, wetting his tunic.


For a few minutes we stood locked in our embrace. Then I broke it and once more looked up into the young and handsome angel’s face – the face of my life mate.


“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can see I’m overreacting. I’ll go on; I am really getting tired of it all, but I will go on. Ok?”


Nic looked down at me and nodded his head.


“Ok, Jamie, but please remember I’m here by your side in this quest. You don’t have to feel alone. If we really are a partnership as Charles tells us, don’t forget that I’m the other half. I know I can’t answer all your questions or solve our problems, but I’ll never leave you or stand by and not defend you. Whatever strength I have is yours.”


“I know that Nic,” I said, giving him one more hug. “I always have.”


For a few seconds more he gazed into my eyes, then he put his hand gently on my cheek, bent down, and kissed my lips. Straightening back up, he looked at the rest of the group who had been standing off to the side, watching the drama between King and Wizard unfold.


“Alright then,” he said to no one in particular, “Lets go. Maybe we can find the source of this energy pulse and maybe we’ll even get a few answers instead of more questions.”


“That would be so nice for a change,” I said, wiping the salty tear streaks from my face.


As we moved forward, Charles approached me from behind. As soon as he was close enough to touch me, he put his hand on my shoulder.


“I understand how you feel,” he said. “Other than Lance who just joined us, I think we’re all a bit discouraged. None of us expected the events that have unfolded around us these past months. And unfortunately Jamie, I think there will be even more.”


“I think that’s what has me discouraged the most, Charles. It’s not just everything that’s happened to us, it’s the fact that I just don’t see an end in sight. If I only knew we had a few more days or weeks, even a few months I could live with it – knowing there was an end to all of this. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it. I used to fantasize about it, but I can’t even bring myself to do that anymore.”


Charles took his hand from my shoulder and quietly nodded, “I know, Jamie. I’m with you there.”


My sudden outburst had distracted me for a while from the growing sound of the energy pulse, but once I was refocused on it I was surprised by how loud it was in my head. A quick consultation with Cody confirmed my hunch, and we forged ahead at a more rapid pace.


As we walked, the bright and crisp notes of a flute suddenly broke the silence. As the tune began to waft through the air I looked back to see Luc had taken out his flute and was now blowing into it. Over the course of our journey, Cody had fashioned it for him and even taught him how to play.


It all started when we’d come across a small stand of dead trees while we were journeying through the forest. The trees had been dead for a long time, and it looked as some type of blight or plague of insects had attacked them. All their bark had sloughed off, and some had toppled over and were decaying on the forest floor.


We’d stopped near them to eat our midday meal and just as we were preparing to leave Cody walked to the lifeless grove and gathered a few of the smaller branches. I noticed that he took care to pick only ones that were perfectly straight, without holes or knots. I could also see that the ones he chose were hollow inside – probably bored out by insects.


Later that evening after we’d eaten and were sitting around the campfire listening to Charles, Cody asked to borrow Nic’s dagger. Nic asked him what he wanted it for, and when Cody explained, Nic produced a smaller knife he’d found in an old barn a few days after he and I awakened from our coffin. Over the next few nights, working quietly after our evening meals, Cody carved a simple wooden flute.


I was amazed at his skill in fashioning it. Although when asked, he didn’t really have a good explanation as to how he knew how to do it, other then to say when he saw the wood it reminded him of a flute and for some reason he knew how to fashion one. What was even more amazing was when he put the instrument to his lips and began to play. The sharp and shrill little tune was both lively and entertaining.


On subsequent nights he fashioned a second flute, and over time taught Luc how to play it. Occasionally they would entertain us with duets, other times one or both would play it to ease the boredom as we journeyed. Now Luc was playing one of the bright and catchy tunes Cody had taught him. I recalled Cody telling him it was called The Prince’s Folly. Looking at the little boy, I gave him a smile. As soon as his eyes caught mine, a huge grin appeared on his face and his playing ceased. Still showing me a happy face, he put the flute back to his lips and resumed playing.


While Luc played, we trekked forward until we came to a spot where the intensity of the energy pulse appeared to be the loudest. I called a halt, as the rest of the boys stopped walking and Luc slipped his flute back under his belt.


“It’s here,” was all I said.


“Are you sure?” Nic asked as he approached me, while surveying the desolate wasteland with a searching look on his face.


Looking around, it was fairly obvious that this spot was no different from any other part of this dry and lifeless place we’d been treading for a good part of the day, yet there was no doubt that there was something close by that was generating the sound.


From the moment we’d entered and then journeyed through the desolate flatlands, I’d quickly become aware of occasional boulders and stones that dotted the land. To my eyes, this spot appeared to be no different than any of the other ground we’d covered, with the possible exception that there were a few more rocks and boulders littering the ground than we’d previously encountered. But though we searched for something that might point to the source of the increased energy pulsations, there really was nothing to distinguish this spot from any other in this flat and barren landscape.


“Well, there’s definitely something here,” I said turning to Nic as Charles joined us, “even if we can’t see it, although I have to admit that it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard.”


Cody, who’d been walking around poking about some of the larger boulders, voiced his agreement.


“I’m sorry that we can’t say for sure exactly where it’s coming from,” I added, “it’s just not as obvious as it was when we came across the orbs or the coffins. In a way, it seems to be diffuse and not as focused as the other pulses were.”


“He’s right,” Cody added. “With the orbs the vibration is strong and distinct. With the coffins, it’s loud and overpowering, even though they’re buried in the ground. But this time it’s different.”


“So you really don’t think it’s either of those things?” Nic asked.


“I can’t say no for certain Nic, but it just isn’t the same as either the orbs or the coffins,” I said, examining the barren landscape for any kind of clue as to the source of the vibrations.


For a few minutes we simply walked around the area looking at the ground, listening for any subtle changes, and kicking the occasional rock, but to no avail. I was beginning to think that this would be a mystery similar to the trap door in the forest floor, when I heard a small shout and turned to look behind me. There, standing near a few medium sized rocks, was Jonathan. He was bent over as if he were trying to look under the rock pile – something I knew was impossible since he was blind. But he called out again, and I made my way over to him. Charles, who’d been standing a little closer, got there first and after bending over to take a look for himself, stood up shaking his head in amazement.


“I’m not sure how,” he said, “but Jonathan’s found a hole. It was hidden under this pile of rocks.”


I bent over, and sure enough, I could see a small hole mostly obscured by the mound of rocks. In a short time, between Nic, Charles, Lance, Cody and Luc, we cleared the stone pile away from the hole and were standing over it.


It was a small hole, barely large enough to put a hand into – so small that it was impossible to see how deep it went or if it held any thing of importance. The more I stared at it, the more it seemed like the burrow of a small animal. Cody approached the opening, bent down, picked up a stone and threw it into the hole. The crisp and distinct TING that we heard indicated that he’d hit something, possibly metal.


“There’s something down there,” he shouted excitedly.


Picking up another stone, Cody once more tossed it in, and this time we all paid closer attention. Just as before, his efforts were rewarded by a low, echoing metallic TING.


“There is something down there,” Luc said excitedly.


“Yes, that’s obvious,” Nic answered. “And from the echo and the time it took for the stone to make contact with whatever it hit, I’m guessing it might be large and possibly deep.”


Charles nodded his head in agreement.


“Well, it’s too small for any of us to crawl through,” Nic continued, “and besides, it’s pitch black down there, so without a torch or candle we’d never see anything anyway.”


“But I could...”


A small child’s voice piped up behind me, and I turned to see Jonathan staring into the hole.


“I think it’s too small for even you to get through.” I said looking down at the little angel boy.


“But we might be able to make it little bigger,” Cody quickly said.


“Yes,” Luc said, voicing his opinion. “I think we can make it big enough for Jonathan to crawl through.”


“Absolutely not!” Charles shouted.


“I completely agree with Charles,” Nic quickly joined in. “We have no idea what’s down there, how large or small the space is, or how deep it goes. If he crawls in to that hole he may never crawl out. Do I have to remind everyone about what happened at Castle Rood?”


“And I have to agree with Nic and Charles,” I said quietly.


My first thought at Luc’s suggestion had been of Damian, and how easy it would be to lose Jonathan in a similar misadventure. The snake-shaped bracelet that I now never took from my arm was a small worthless bauble when weighed against the high price that it had cost.


“But it might be very important,” Luc said, now sounding disappointed that we might abandon the hole just as we’d been forced to abandon the door in the forest. “Let’s just see if we can make the hole a little bigger.”


“It would be a shame to have come this distance and not at least try,” a second voice added.


I turned sharply toward the direction of the voice and realized that it was Lance who had spoken.


“I do agree with the King and Wizard about the dangers, but we could possibly make an attempt,” the young, golden-winged angel said in his usual shy and quiet voice. In fact, he’d spoken so softly, I had to strain my ears to hear him speak.


Nic stood silently staring at the ground for a long time, not moving or speaking and it was obvious he was lost in thought. Finally he looked up at all of us and nodded his head in agreement.


“Alright, we’ll see if we can make the hole larger, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time on some task that at best may end up being a waste of time and at worst could cause injury to any of us.”


Almost before he finished Cody and Luc were on their knees madly digging into the earth with their bare hands.


“Wait,” I shouted. Everyone stopped and stared at me. “Before you rip the skin off your hands, maybe these will be helpful.”


I paused then closed my eyes and held out my hand. After a few seconds of concentration a few scoop-like devices appeared on the ground directly in front of me. I took a deep breath, and with my arm wiped the sweat from my forehead.


“How did you do that?” Luc said as he stared wide-eyed at the shovel-like devices.


“Practicing,” I quietly said, and glanced at Cody who returned a broad smile.


“It’s The Screen, isn’t it Jamie?” Charles quietly said as he came up behind me. “It’s teaching you how to do things, right?”


I gave Charles a knowing look, but remained silent.


After a few minutes the hole was large enough for any one of us to crawl through. At that point Nic ordered a cessation and those who’d been digging stopped. Then we all gathered quietly around the hole.


“Well?” Cody asked impatiently. “Is one of us going to go in?”


Nic continued to stand looking into the hole, and then he bent down trying to get a better look. After a few seconds, I joined him. Although the sun was high in the midday sky and shone brightly all around us, its light only illuminated a scant few feet into the hole. What lay further and deeper waited in total darkness.


As Nic slowly stood up, I could see that he remained lost in thought.


“It’s pitch black down there and impossible to see,” he finally said. “We can’t risk sending someone down there to stumble around and get hurt.”


“But I’ll go.”


Once more the childish voice of Jonathan spoke up.


“No Jonathan.” Charles said kneeling down in front of his brother so that he was face to face with him. “It’s too dangerous. I couldn’t bear to lose you after just finding you.”


“Charles, all I have to do is go down and pull the big stick.” Jonathan said as he stared blankly at his older brother.


“What big stick?” I asked, now kneeling down next to Charles and looking into the little boys face.


“The big stick that will open the door. It’s right on the other side of the hole,” Jonathan said.


“How do you know that?” I asked


“I can see it.”


I looked over to Charles and up to Nic, who was standing over us. The frowns that registered on both their faces weren’t a good sign.


“But Jonathan, how do you…”


“No, absolutely not!” Nic said, cutting off my question to the little boy.


“I’ll go, Your Highness,” Lancelot said.


Nic turned to look at Lance. I could tell he was about to say something, but Lance bowed his head and continued.


“It might be something of importance, Your Highness. If it’s as Jonathan says, then it’s just at the end of the hole. I can go through and see. If there’s nothing there, I’ll immediately come back out.”


Nic looked thoughtfully at Lancelot. I could tell he was thinking.


“Ok,” Nic said. “You can go, but only to the end of the hole where it opens up in to the larger space – that is, if there even is a larger space. If you find this stick or whatever Jonathan is talking about, then we can make a decision on what to do. If there’s nothing, then I want you to return immediately. Remember, we don’t have any ropes to lower you down, or pull you out if you get into trouble.”


Lance nodded his head in agreement, and then he walked over to the hole, bent down and peered into it. After about a minute of quiet reflection, he stood up and approached Jonathan, and knelt down beside the diminutive red-and-black angel.


“Tell me what you see,” he requested. I was amazed at how kind and gentle his voice sounded as he addressed the little boy.


According to Charles, Lancelot was a Royal Throne – a fierce, warrior-like battle angel, yet all I’d seen from him so far was quiet respect and deference. If anything, he appeared to be shy and unassuming, not at all what I would have imagined when picturing the kind of creature Charles had described to me.


Jonathan began speaking to Lance, who suddenly arose. Taking the tall angel’s hand, the little boy advanced toward the hole. Once they were near the opening, Lance again dropped to one knee and bent his head toward Jonathan. Jonathan rested his hand on Lance’s shoulder. Lance, in turn, put his arm about the little boy’s waist, and listened intently as Jonathan related in great detail what he saw when he looked into the hole.


“At the end of the hole there’s an opening,” he began. “At the opening there’s a big stick in the ground. If you move it, the door will open.”


“What door?” Cody asked.


“Shhhh,” Nic said, and I could see that he’d been intently watching and listening during Lance and Jonathan’s conversation.


“Just pull the big stick,” Jonathan repeated.


Once Lance realized that there wasn’t any further information to gather from Jonathan, he removed his arm from around the little boy’s waist, edged closer to the hole, and then crouched down, peering into it. All of a sudden he was on his stomach in a prone position and starting to crawl into the hole. As he entered I could see his wings brushing against the sides of the hole. Some loose dirt fell from the top of opening onto his back but it didn’t deter the boy, who just kept crawling.


“Be careful, Lance” Cody called out, a look of concern on his face as more and more of the tall angel’s body disappeared into the hole.


I stood near by, watching intently until only Lancelot’s sandal clad feet were visible. I blinked and suddenly even they too were gone – swallowed into the dark void. After about a minute of silence, a muffled voice called up from the hole.


“It’s impossible to see down here, but I think I found what Jonathan was talking about,” he shouted, his voice eerily coming from the black opening in the ground. “I’m going to pull on it and see what happens.”


“Just be careful,” Nic, who was kneeling now, bending down in front of the hole, shouted. “If anything seems amiss stop immediately. Do you understand?”


“Yes, Your Highness,” Lance shouted.


I smiled to myself when I realized that even though it was completely dark in the space he now found himself, and Nic couldn’t possibly see him, just by the tone of his voice he most probably had bowed his head in respect to the King of Icaria when he answered him.


“Ok,” the disembodied voice once more rose from the black hole. “I’m going to pull on it now.”


For a few seconds, it seemed that everyone had stopped breathing. Then there was a low rumbling sound that appeared to come from deep within the earth and I began to feel the ground vibrate through my feet. Suddenly the cracked, dry earth in front of us gave way as a large gate or trapdoor opened and lifted to the sky directly in front of us. I’d been standing the closest to it when it began to open – much like the shell of a giant clam. And I’d been forced to jump back a few feet.


I stumbled for a second until Nic caught me in his arms and steadied me. I stood wide-eyed as the door broke through the surface of the ground and with a loud screeching and grinding sound continued to rise skyward. The grinding sound quickly took on a harsh scraping and whining tone, which continued until it abruptly stopped with a loud click and a snap that sounded like a large tree branch cracking in two.


Cautiously we all walked over to the large opening that had been created. The door, now looking even more like a large clamshell, cast a cooling shadow over us, much like a canopy. Looking down into the hole, I could see steps – maybe twenty in number – descending into the earth. At the bottom of the steps, Lancelot stood looking up at us, calm and resolute, but if I read the slightly wide eyed look in his eyes correctly, he too had been surprised and shocked at what pulling Jonathan’s stick had accomplished. As I looked to his left, I could see the very stick that Jonathan had described, which in the light of day looked to my eyes more like a large metal lever than an actual stick.


By now all of us were staring down into the large opening, looking from Lance, to the stick, to the stairs, to the walls making up the room that the battle angel had uncovered. Nic, who seemed to be the first to regain his composure, gave Lance a small smile.


“Well done, general,“ was all he said, but I could tell that even within the short time he’d known and interacted with Lance, he’d grown to respect and trust the young battle angel.


“Thank you, Your Highness,” Lance replied, executing a bow of the head. And in his actions, I could see that Lancelot shared the same admiration and respect for King Niklas that the rest of us did.


Nic was the first to begin down the steps adding in a calm and steady tone of voice, “Let’s find out what this is all about, but remember: stay together, and no foolish moves.”


Within seconds he was standing next to Lance. I followed right behind while the others made their way behind me until finally we were all standing in the underground chamber. My immediate reaction, once the understanding that we were underground really hit me, was to look up from where I’d come. The cloudless blue sky was beautifully framed by the large opening of the hole, blocked only partially by the giant clamshell-like door.


Then I pulled my eyes away from the opening above and began looking around the chamber we were standing in. The most obvious thing about the room was that it was quite small. The walls of the chamber were constructed out of handset, polished stone blocks laid in alternating courses that seemed to have no mortar between the joints. When I touched one of them, the warmth it radiated and the sensation I felt transmitted from my hand to my brain was a feeling far different from any stone I’d ever touched.


Backing away and staring at them for a few seconds, I got the impression that while these blocks were fashioned to look like stones, they’d been made from something entirely different. Examining them further I could see that they were so closely placed, it seemed to me, that the thinnest knife blade would not slide between them. The stone itself was a dark charcoal-gray color, and I could understand why it had appeared so dark when we first looked in.


Other than the stairs and the large stick Lance had pulled on to open the door, the chamber appeared to be completely empty. Its only other feature was that of a door set into the wall directly opposite the stairs. Walking over to the door and putting my hands on it I could see and feel that it was heavy and made of metal. The door was made of the same material as the trap door in the forest floor. Cody stepped over to stand beside me. He, too, placed his hands on the door, and then turned to look at me. He didn’t say anything, but I could see by the way he was looking at me that we were both in agreement.


“Well?” Nic asked, sounding slightly impatient.


“It’s a bit louder now, and definitely lies beyond this door,” I said.


Cody nodded in agreement, then added, “Yes, but it still doesn’t sound like a coffin or an orb.”


Now it was my turn to nod in agreement with him. I took a few steps back and stared intently at the large door barring our way. I could see that while it definitely was a door, its appearance was different from that of any door I’d ever seen. It was the size and shape of most doors, and it sat on hinges within a frame, but that’s where the similarity between it and other doors ended.


For one thing, although I could see the dust of many years on it, and I knew it to be quite old, its burnished surface was without mark or blemish. Taking my hand and brushing away some of the dust covering it revealed a bright and shiny surface. And I found it hard to believe that something so old could look that new.


The door also had a strange handle located in its center – if in fact the term ‘handle’ was even appropriate, since it was round and looked like a wheel. Asking me to step aside, Nic approached the door, gripped the wheel, and attempted to turn it. But after a minute of great exertion he couldn’t get it to budge. Soon Lance joined him, but together even with all their strength brought to bear on it they still couldn’t get the wheel to move a fraction of an inch.


After a number of abortive attempts Nic told Lance to stop. Leaving the door, Nic began a methodical sweep of the room. After a few minutes of searching the chamber, Nic picked up a metal rod he found lying in one of the corners of the room. He took it and jammed it into the wheel. Using the rod as a lever both he and Lance pulled with all their might, and making a sharp scraping and screeching sound, the round wheel slowly turned. I heard a SNAP as the latches holding the door slid open and locked into place.


Once the wheel couldn’t be turned anymore and it was obvious that the latches were completely open, Nic pushed against the door with all his strength and ever so slowly, groaning and creaking as if in loud protest at being violated, the heavy metal door began to move. There was a screeching sound as it swung open and gained momentum swinging wide on it’s hinges, followed by a loud dull thud as it slammed against the wall of the second room.


Now that the second chamber was open we crowded around the doorway and peered in, but quickly discovered that it was too dark to see very far. The walls appeared to be fashioned from the same dark stone, and now that we were further away from the light of the sun, the room was cloaked in dark, inky shadows, making it impossible to see how large it was or what it held.


Once more Nic looked at me. I turned to Cody who nodded back at me in agreement.


“It’s further in there,” I said, turning back to Nic. “Although I’m surprised that none of you can hear it by now.”


This had puzzled me. With all of the energy pulses we’d heard before, Cody seemed to be the one most sensitive to their energy while I seemed to be the second most sensitive to the strange pulsations. Also, both of us seemed to sense them long before anyone else did. But eventually, everyone – except Luc – became aware of them. In fact, the noise generated by the coffins was so intense, Charles commented that it was giving him a headache.


This time, it seemed that although we were very close to the source, the others couldn’t hear anything related to the pulsing sound of energy Cody and I were experiencing with ever-growing intensity.


We’d been standing before the open door for a few seconds, but as soon as I gave Nic my nod, he wasted no time and stepped through the door and walked into the room. The instant he put a foot across the threshold, the room became bathed in a strange yellowish light, and we all gasped in amazement at the sight before us.


The room was much larger than the chamber, but it wasn’t empty like the first room. Instead, it was filled with objects of all shapes and sizes. The most obvious was the furniture. There were chairs, tables, footstools, cabinets and many other interesting and unusual pieces. Around the perimeter of the chamber I could see statues, a number of paintings and a few mirrors.


In one section of the room, large and small chests were stacked to the ceiling. And laying everywhere, interspersed amongst everything else, was an array of decorative pottery, objects fashioned from glass and an assortment of metal implements. In fact, the room was so crowded that except for the small space in front of the door where Nic stood, there was little room to move. Peering over the vast collection of objects I could see yet another door set into the wall on the opposite side of the room.


“Whatever is giving off the energy pulse isn’t in this room,” I said with complete certainty.


“It has to be coming from beyond that other door,” Cody added.


Without saying anything, Nic wasted no time in starting to move some of the furniture out of our way in order to get to the next door. But there were so many things blocking it that I knew it would take a while to just clear a path. While the work progressed around me, my curiosity grew as I studied some of the objects occasionally handed to me as we moved them out of the way.


Much of the furniture was richly carved and gilded. The gold leaf that had been applied to it shimmered in the dull yellow light that illuminated the room. Some of the most ornate pieces were set with jewels and polished pieces of stone. An assortment of large mirrors – two of them enormous ovals of polished glass, each with a carved dragon encircling it, made to look as if it were curled and ready to strike at the person standing before it – glowed in the reflected light from the gilded furniture.


There were a few statues of young angels – one with a sword ready to slay a second angel laying at its feet, another fighting a strange half-man, half-animal beast – along with statues of other bizarre creatures, each looking stranger than the next. Even the glassware, pottery and metal pieces were highly decorated and expertly crafted. The sight was not only amazing, but also hypnotic.


By the time the path was finished Nic, who was trying to gather everyone together, found me lost in thought, examining a beautiful glass goblet I’d picked up. The bowl of the goblet was etched and frosted to give the impression that tendrils of ivy were growing around it; the lip had a thin gold band encircling it and gold and silver enameled swirls were placed on the etched ivy tendrils, giving an appearance of flowers just ready to burst forth into bloom.


The stem was fashioned in the figure of a great snake wrapped around the body of a fierce, winged dragon, locked in mortal combat as each tried to overpower the other. Both figures were fashioned out of richly colored glass in what seemed to be a hundred different colors and hues. The base, while thin and delicate, appeared to be quite strong. It also had gold and silver swirls enameled onto it. As I stood turning it over in my hands, I could see by its expert design that whoever fashioned this had been a craftsman of the highest order.


After looking about the room, Nic shouted at me to join the others by the door as soon as his eyes caught sight of me, but I was so mesmerized by the goblet that I didn’t rouse from my study of it until I felt his strong hand clasp my arm and begin to pull me across the room. As he did, the goblet fell from my hands and shattered into a hundred shards, sharp and richly colored. I looked at Nic, who was frowning at me and then down at the floor at the sparking splinters of what was had only seconds before been the exquisite goblet. I instinctively reached down to touch one of the larger pieces. It was part of the dragon’s head, but once more I felt Nic’s vice-like grip on my upper arm.


“Leave it, Jamie,” he said, and I could detect a hint of annoyance in his voice.


As my mind once again focused on where I was and our task at hand, I accompanied Nic to the door. By now, everyone was gathered around it. Quietly I stood before it, and then reached out my hand to touch it. At first glance it appeared to be a normal door. It was made of a dark heavy wood, and unlike the first door with its complicated opening and closing device, it only had a simple handle, gilded in gold and fashioned in the shape of a lever that when depressed, snapped open.


“What is this place?” Cody said, looking at Charles inquisitively.


“I don’t have the faintest idea,” Charles said, sounding a bit annoyed. “I already told you that I don’t know everything.”


“You could have fooled me,” I muttered sotto voce.


Charles shot me a quick glance and frowned. I could feel my face and ears turning red – I hadn’t thought he could hear me. Nic ignored the comment and continued to stare at the door.


“It looks as if someone used this place to store, or maybe even hide, these things,” Charles continued. “No one could actually live in this room; it’s so cluttered and piled high with all of these objects and furniture. Look how long it took us just to clear a path to the door.”


“I wonder what’s behind it.” Luc said in eager anticipation.


“I guess there’s only one way to find out,” Nic said reaching out his hand and gently depressing the handle on the door.


As he did, the latch clicked open and the door, with a slight push, swung on its hinges into the next room. After opening it, Nic moved to step through the door, only to stop when Lance touched his arm lightly.


“Your Highness, it is for me to do,” Lancelot said softly.


“I think I can walk into the room without any trouble,” Nic said.


“The wizard charged me to protect you, and you even agreed,” he continued in his calm and steady voice. “It’s important that I carry out the command I was given.”


“He’s right, you know,” I said, looking up at Nic.


Nic frowned, then nodded curtly, and Lance warily stepped into the room. The same yellowish light that illuminated the previous room suddenly blinked on. Looking carefully around, Lance finally waved to us to join him.


After I passed through the doorway with the others, I could immediately see that this room was even bigger than the one we’d just come through.


In addition to furniture and objects of art, there were a number of shelves against one of the walls that were filled with hand-tooled, gold accented leather bound volumes. It was also obvious that this chamber wasn’t as cluttered or crowded as the previous room. It was, in fact, more artfully arranged, and the disposition of its furniture and accoutrements gave the impression that someone may have used it at one time as a room devoted to comfort, study and possibly relaxation.


I began to walk around the room, occasionally running a hand over an intricately carved piece of furniture or carefully picking up a small sculpture and examining it. The others seemed to be doing the same thing, and I watched Luc pick up a small jeweled box and shake it while Charles sat on a plush and comfortable-looking, blue and gold velvet covered bench with gilded legs carved to look like those of a lion.


“This is incredible,” a voice called from behind me.


I turned to see Lancelot picking up a beautifully decorated porcelain figurine fashioned in the shape of a large lizard.


“Look at how beautiful it is,” he continued holding it up for the rest of us to see.


As I examined it from my position a few feet away from him, I could see that indeed it was a magnificent piece. It had been fashioned from clay, but after the artist created it, either they or another craftsman had decorated and embellished it so artfully with an array of glazes and colorful paints that it looked as if it were a living creature, ready to scamper across the floor, its forked tongue slithering in and out of its open mouth.


I was also a bit surprised to see that once more Lance – our common battle angel – appeared to be much more than a simple, well-trained fighting unit. He seemed to have a remarkable eye, an innate knowledge, and a true appreciation for objects of great beauty and value. I continued to watch his behavior as he carefully and discriminately chose the most beautiful and finest objects to examine, sometimes making interesting and informative comments regarding them. Just as he was about to examine yet another exquisite piece of glassware, Luc’s voice cut through the air.


“Look,” Luc squealed as he held out a tiny wooden chest in his hand. It had been made to look like a much larger chest, with an arched lid and metal straps holding it together.


Moving up next to him, I looked down at the small box lying in his outstretched palm. It was made out of dark, polished wood and its lid was fastened with a delicate golden latch that when clasped shut, looked like a small bird drinking nectar from a flower. Pulling the latch open and raising the lid on its hinges, we peered into it.


“Oh,” Luc gasped as his eyes fell on the object nestled inside it.


“Mmmmm,” I murmured as I stared at it. I removed it, and held it in my hand. It was a large ring, beautifully cast and carved to resemble a lizard in a curled position. Stones of various colors adorned it, and they sparkled madly even in the dull light of the room. I tossed it lightly in my hand, feeling its substantial weight. Whoever it had been made for must have been rather large, with big hands. I put my fingers into the ring and immediately discovered that I could easily fit three of my fingers into the hole that had been made for just one finger.


Carefully I put it back in the box, closed the lid and told Luc to put it back where he got it.


“We’re in enough trouble already,” I said looking down at the little boy. “We don’t want to be accused of stealing someone’s property.”


“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Charles, who’d apparently heard me, interjected. “Who ever put these things here or used them at one time has long passed into the dust of history,”


“Maybe so, Charles,” Nic called out from across the room, “But Jamie’s right. None of this belongs to us, and even if we wanted to take any of it, dragging it with us would be impractical.”


Charles made his way over to Nic and began to speak to him, but their voices faded as my eyes strayed over to the bookcases lining one of the walls of the room. I headed toward them, carefully making my way through the maze of furniture and art that separated them from me. I could see that most of the books had been bound in either red or black leather. Each volume had an intricate gilded spine with carefully hand tooled designs and patterns. Just as I began to reach out and pluck one of the more ornately decorated red leather bound books, I heard a shout from the other side of the room and quickly turned in its direction.


“Here, right here,” Cody said, turning his head and speaking to everyone in an excited tone of voice. “The energy is coming from here!”


Looking across the room at him, I could see that he was standing near something very large that had been placed in one of the far corners of the room. And even in the dull glow of the yellow light, I could easily make out what appeared to be a large gray object, quite different from any of the highly ornate and decorated furniture in the rest of the room. Once my concentration was focused on it, I couldn’t deny the low steady hum that it was emitting.


As I stood staring at it from across the room, it looked like a very large cabinet or wardrobe. But as I crossed the floor, quickly moving toward Cody, I could see that I might have been mistaken. The first thing that caught my eye was that unlike every other piece of furniture, including the chests and storage boxes in the other room, the large rectangular object I was now examining was completely devoid of design or decoration. It was extremely plain looking, and once I got even closer it appeared to be almost out of place amidst the other finery in the room.


Standing next to it, I became aware of just how large it really was. It was much taller than me. In fact, it was much taller than Lancelot, who at this point was the tallest of all of us. In addition to its height it was massive. Its bulk and size alone would have made it quite difficult to move. And it seemed to me that from its shape, size, and utilitarian appearance, it was, in fact, some type of storage cabinet.


I reached out my hand to touch it, and my fingers were met with the cool hard feel of metal. Staring up at it I realized that I’d been wrong about it being totally free of design, for I could now see that etched on each door was a primitive line drawing of a person. Each figure took up a large part of each door panel, and as I examined the figures more closely, I could see that the figure on the right appeared to be clasping the hand of the figure on the left – their grasp only interrupted by the seam running down the middle of the cabinet. In addition, both figures’ free hands were raised upward in a gesture of greeting, or maybe warning!


Across the top of the cabinet was a small metal plaque. It was fashioned of copper or bronze, was highly polished, and gleamed in the pale yellow light shining throughout the room. The plaque stretched across both doors and was bolted in place with two very large and ornate fasteners that were made to look like two identical leaves. It too was split in half along the seam of the door in order to allow the doors to open.


Looking closer, I noticed something written on the plaque and moving as close as I could while straining my eyes, I could see letters deeply carved into its surface. Just like everything else about the large gray metal cabinet, they too were plain – but clearly etched into the plate, without flair or embellishment, were the words Le Gemeaux.


Even though the seam ran down the middle of the cabinet and there were hinges on each door panel, there didn’t appear to be any way to open it. It had no handle, lock or clasp. Luc must have sensed my puzzlement.


“Your Grace, look,” he said, eagerly pointing to the right side of the cabinet.


Walking around to the side of the cabinet he was standing against I looked down and saw a small protrusion similar to those that had been on all of the coffins. My eyes widened. By now everyone was crowding around the cabinet.


“What do you think Nic?” I asked, looking up at him with a questioning gaze.


“Not counting ours, the first coffin brought us Cody,” Nic said, “the second Damian, the third Lancelot and Matthew. So far, the only one that proved troubling was Matthew, who seems to have joined with Loran. Maybe we’ll open this and there’ll be nothing. Maybe we’ll find something long dead – remember, Cody had a dead companion in his coffin and Damian was near death when we found him.”


At the mention of Damian’s name, I frowned. Every time I thought of him, I still felt a painful sadness rise up from deep within my chest. Nic must have noticed the sudden change in my demeanor, because suddenly he had his arm around my waist and was pulling me toward him.


“He didn’t die because of you, Jamie,” he softly whispered in my ear.


I took a deep breath. In my heart I knew Nic was right and we all had been part of circumstances that were often beyond our control, but I still felt badly about it. Looking up into his light green eyes, I took his hand and squeezed it.


Cody quickly broke the mood.


“I think we should open it. Even if there is an angel like Matthew, there are seven of us.”


“Yes, and one is a blind child of eight, another is a boy of twelve, and you and Charles certainly aren’t warriors, which leaves Nic and Lance to do the fighting and me to possibly try some magic, which I still haven’t really mastered. Those are great odds.” I said rather sarcastically as I looked around at my friends.


Every one was silent after my little outburst, but then Nic broke it.


“I guess we take the chance, although from what the two of you say the energy pulse you’re hearing is definitely not the same as anything we’ve ever heard from the other coffins or orbs.”


“No, it’s not,” Cody said, “but I do think we should try to open it.”


“You mean you think I should open it.” I said frowning, gently reminding everyone that so far I was the only one capable of accomplishing this feat.


“I think we try and open it,” Charles said ignoring my remark. “Everything we’ve done has had some risk. At least here we can open it under our terms and hopefully we’ll be more prepared for what we find inside.”


“Very well,” I said, looking at Nic, who slowly nodded his head.


I walked around to the side of the box that held the now familiar protrusion and placed my hand on it, but nothing happened. Frowning I took it off and placed it once again on the same spot. Still nothing occurred. I was beginning to think that it was damaged as I continued to try – each attempt meeting failure. I even focused my concentration on my hand as I placed it on the strange metal bulge for the tenth time, but nothing happened.


“As you can see, it’s not working,” I said exasperated as I looked at everyone crowded around me. “Nothing I do will make it open.”


It was then that Nic, who was standing next to me, bent down to get a better look at the protrusion. Casually he placed his hand in the same position and suddenly there was a sound of metal grating on metal. After about a minute of screeching and grinding, there were six loud clicks, one after another, followed by silence.


Everyone stood, eyes darting from the cabinet to each other. I gave Charles a puzzled look. Nic just shrugged. Suddenly there was a soft whirring sound, and we all watched as the doors of the cabinet began to open.


At first the doors opened very slowly letting the light of the room fall into the large box, but then it seemed that something holding them gave way and they sprang open. As the contents of the cabinet were illuminated, I was speechless, but apparently I wasn’t the only one, for as I turned to look into the faces of my companions, I could see they were all standing perfectly still, their mouths agape at the sight they were viewing.


In the cabinet stood two boys. And although the doors had completely opened, they still remained sealed from the outside world – protected by a thick sheet of glass that covered the entire opening of the cabinet. Their eyes were closed as if in sleep.


The most obvious thing about them was that they were arrayed in armor quite similar to Nic’s, but among their trappings were some of the most exquisitely fashioned pieces of battle dress I’d ever seen. Their thin, highly decorated armor was made of burnished gold with silver trimmings. They each had a long sword strapped to their back, a short sword belted around them and a dagger strapped to a leg. Leaning against the inside of the cabinet next to the boy on the right was a pole topped with a three-pronged weapon that looked like a great fork. Its tips were menacingly sharp and wicked looking. Leaning against the other side of the cabinet near the boy on the left was a strange looking spear – its handle shaped to look like the body of a slithering snake. In addition to the light body armor they wore, each boy had a short cloak draped over one shoulder that was dark red in color and embroidered with the golden figure of what appeared to be some type of great lizard.


They were each wearing fine leather sandals and around both their right ankles was a beautiful gold and amethyst bracelet similar to Nic’s emerald one. Two small, lightweight shields, identical in design, leaned against the back of the cabinet – one behind each boy. They were also fashioned from gold with silver trim and each had the same ornately designed, lizard-like animal embossed on them that was embroidered on the boys’ short cloaks.


Their wings, while not as large as mine, were every bit as big as Nic’s. As I moved closer to examine them, I could see they were snowy white with dark lavender and gold feather tips. By now I was standing almost with my nose to the glass and as I carefully examined each boy I realized that they appeared to be identical twins.


“Nic, look at this, they’re…”


But then, I stopped. As I’d begun to speak, I turned my head to look at Nic but suddenly realized he was the only one of us who didn’t appear at all shocked or surprised to see the two boys locked in the cabinet. In fact he had a rather strange look on his face.


“Nic, what’s wrong…?” I began, but suddenly stopped when a loud snap and then crack sounded through the chamber as the glass enclosing the boys shattered and fell to the floor in hundreds of tiny pieces.


It happened so fast I didn’t have time to shout or jump back. Some of the glass sprayed against me, but all of the pieces were very small and rounded and as I stepped back and examined myself I didn’t appear to have been cut or injured. Moving back even further I shook my head as some of the small glass pieces fell from my hair.


Looking up into the cabinet, I saw that the glass had been shattered from within. One of the boys had taken his short sword from its sheath and smashed it against the glass. He now stood at the very front of the cabinet looking out at us; his twin was also awake, standing next to him and clutching his short sword as well.


At first, nothing happened. The boy on the right turned and looked at the boy standing beside him. After a few seconds of staring at each other they both broke into a smile that certainly wasn’t like any normal smile I was used to seeing. While they weren’t the evil and menacing smiles of Abbot Gude or Loran, they didn’t strike me as being open and friendly ones, either. As they bared their teeth, I could see something that looked like cunning, guile and possible mischief in the grins they exchanged. Even their eyes flashed a knowing look, as if they had the ability to read each other’s minds.


After a few seconds, they turned their attention from each other to those of us in the room. I watched as their gazes darted about, landing on each one of us for just a few seconds. I could tell that at the same time, they were also very consciously and deliberately taking in their surroundings, from the number of people standing before them to the layout of the room. Then I watched as two sets of eyes focused on Nic, and in an instant they leapt from the cabinet and charged toward him, brandishing their swords and reaching for their daggers.


The attack didn’t seem to come as a surprise to Nic, who advanced towards them with a speed equal to theirs. Everyone else backed away, trying to avoid the swinging swords and stabbing dagger thrusts – everyone except Lancelot who, sword suddenly in hand, jumped with ferocity into the fray. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Charles grab Luc and Jonathan, dragging them away to the far wall of the chamber. Suddenly the air was filled with loud ringing clangs as metal smote metal again and again.


The twin angel boys were lightning fast, their swords a blur as they thrust and parried with Nic and Lance. Nic stood his ground and gave as good as he got, but I could see the sweat begin to bead on his forehead and then begin to trickle down his face as he matched them move for move. The twins, on the other hand, appeared cool and calm. It almost seemed as if they were just warming up, instead of having already fought for a few strenuous minutes.


After a series of particularly impressive moves, the one fighting Lance managed to knock the battle angel’s sword from his hand. It skittered across the floor, banging and clanging until it hit the far wall of the room and came to a rest.


In a maneuver of surpassing strength and skill, the stranger grabbed Lance and flipped him on his back. It happened so fast that I wasn’t even sure how he’d managed to execute the maneuver, but the groan that come from Lance as he lay on the ground looking up at the ceiling indicated it had been painful.


As I looked at the grimace on Lance’s face I could only imagine how much a fall directly on his wings must have hurt. Seconds later the angel had his dagger at Lance’s throat and I heard Cody gasp. Standing unmoving with the dagger poised to cut Lancelot’s throat, the angel held him at bay, ordering him not to move, while giving him an arrogant and confident smirk. His smirk faded rapidly when the dagger was suddenly torn from his grasp and went flying across the room.


I watched in amazement as the boy’s arms suddenly snapped down to his sides as if gripped by some irresistible force. He frowned and struggled, to no avail. Lance, taking advantage of this momentary lack of attention, sprang to his feet and snapped into position for hand-to-hand fighting. He looked puzzled when the stranger failed to respond, and stepped carefully over to him. The richly attired angel appeared utterly incapable of movement, and Lance stretched out his hand and gently pushed on his chest, watching as his erstwhile attacker teetered briefly and then fell heavily sideways, to lay unmoving except for his eyes, and the rise and fall of his chest. Even now, he didn’t appear afraid, only disgusted by this turn of events.


Amazed at what I’d just witnessed, I turned toward Cody and discovered him standing there, an intense look of concentration on his face.


“Wow,” was the only word that escaped from my gaping mouth. Then as I recovered from my surprise, I added “But how…?”


“Practicing,” was his only response.


In the meantime, the battle between Nic and the other twin continued. I’d never seen such fierce fighting. Even Nic’s fight with Loran couldn’t match the scene of mortal combat playing out before my eyes. Both Nic and the unknown angel gave no quarter. Swing after swing and thrust after thrust flew and sliced through the air. But then I watched in shock as the other angel made one reckless, concerted charge toward Nic and much to my horror I saw Nic suddenly falter and stumble. In that instant, his opponent’s sword sliced through the air with a mighty downward swing, struck Nic’s sword and knocked it from his hand. Without hesitation, he dove at Nic with the point of his sword aimed for one of Nic’s eyes, meaning to run it through into his brain.


“Nic,” I screamed, watching the other angel’s sword get to within a fraction of an inch of my mate’s eye.


But just as I was ready to throw the stunning lightening bolt I already held at both of them, Nic ducked away from the advancing blade, spun around and grabbed the boy from behind in a great hug. Then, lifting the cursing and shouting angel above his head, he slammed the boy down onto the floor. There was a low thud followed by an equally loud groan and the boy’s sword dropped from his hand. Nic sprang on top of him as the boy stared ceiling-ward into Nic’s face.


For a few seconds, Nic glared down at his attacker. The angel boy did the same, still grimacing from the body slam Nic had executed on him. Then, with Nic’s face directly over his, he raised his head, pursed his lips, and gave Nic a kiss on the lips.


My eyebrows shot up nearly to my hairline as I saw Nic move back from his attacker, smile down at him and begin to laugh. Within seconds the angel Nic had subdued was also laughing hysterically while the angel held fast on the floor by Cody’s power, upon hearing the laughter, grinned ferally at Cody and also burst into peals of laughter.


I blinked, and then blinked again.


“He kissed him!” I shouted, turning to look at Charles, my eyes wide in amazement.


        “Did you see that? He kissed him!”