The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie


Part IV – 'A Crown of Thorns'


Chapter 46


Having made a previous trip into the Abbey, I used my hard-gained knowledge to plan our route of entry. Taking the lead, I flew to the northeastern corner of the fortress; it was the section of the abbey wall with the least number of towers and battlements. Choosing that spot would bring me out on the right side of the tower that rose from the center of the courtyard, in front of the cathedral.


I’d recalled that the tower had a canopy on its right side, partially covering the observation balcony that wrapped around the tower. I suspected the canopy had been constructed to make it easier for the sentries occupying it to keep watch without the rising and setting sun hampering their view. It was my hope that the canopy might be lowered for the night, shielding our approach from the eyes of anyone who might be standing watch in the tower. 


The light of the two moons – both thin crescents in the night sky – cast just enough illumination for me to see the outlines of the high walls of the abbey. Stroking my wings as noiselessly as possible, I quickly gained altitude. In less than a minute, I found myself at eye level with the top of the massive battlements. No watch lights, and no sentries – it was an oversight the inhabitants of the abbey would regret. Hovering for a few seconds, I glanced over my shoulder to see David and Cody close behind. I hovered silently and waited for them to catch up with me. 


“So this is where we enter?” Cody asked. 


“Yes, I think it’s the best spot,” I whispered. “But first we have to see if anyone’s about.” 


Although it was late at night, I was sure there would be a sentry in the tower. I hoped we might be lucky and the monks might be having some evening service in the cathedral – that distraction had allowed Nic and I to enter the abbey unseen before. As I looked over the top of the wall and the battlements, I saw a few figures in the square. There was a lantern burning in the tower, but its light wasn’t very bright, and I couldn’t see if anyone was inside, standing watch. 


Hearing no immediate outcry, I rose a bit higher and hovered above the wall until I was directly above it, then began a slow descent until I felt my feet make contact with the top of the wall. I stopped the movement of my wings and immediately dropped like a stone onto a broad walkway. As I hit the esplanade, I quickly fell into a crouch – David and Cody, following my lead, did the same. We stayed that way for a few minutes looking down into the courtyard and up into the tower. Still seeing no one looking down on us, I was beginning to feel cautiously confident that we hadn’t been spotted.


David landed softly near one of the towers. Creeping over, he stood and pressed his body tight against it. I could see it afforded good cover while permitting us a commanding view into the abbey. When he motioned for us to join him, Cody and I carefully scurried across the wall and soon we stood beside him – pressing our bodies against the cold stone face of the tower, just as David was doing. 


A bit more concealed, we slowly stuck our heads around the side of the tower and stared directly into the abbey compound. A few torches burned here and there, islands of light in the darkened courtyard. A large bonfire sent sparks soaring into the night sky, casting a circle of illumination in the central area, and I could see a few monks moving about the Abbey complex. Walking rapidly through the courtyard, their dark-robed figures seemed to float in the dancing light of the bonfire. None of them seemed to be moving with undue urgency, and I breathed a sigh of relief. So far, we were undetected. 


Looking closer at the scene, I also observed a number of men in the square who weren’t dressed in clerical garb. They appeared to be either workers or servants and they were involved in various activities, but in the dark of night, even with the light of the bonfire, it was hard to know exactly what they were doing. Taking a deep breath and allowing my mind to open, I was surprised when I detected feelings of worry and fear in the air. Looking beyond the courtyard, I could see that the cathedral was dark, and I cursed silently as my hopes of finding the monks distracted by a religious ceremony evaporated. Moving further into the shadowy umbra of the tower, the three of us whispered our plans. 


“So what do you think, Jamie?” David said. “You’re the one who’s been here before. Any suggestions?” 


For a few moments I stood thinking. Then a flash of intuition entered my mind. 


“Give me a minute,” I said to both boys, and then quickly explained what I was about to do. 


Moving stealthily around the tower until I had a good view of the courtyard, I cleared my mind and began to concentrate on one thing: the beating of Jonathan’s double hearts. At first my concentration was disrupted when the sounds of my own hearts and those of David’s and Cody’s filled my mind, but I quickly tuned them out using a trick I’d learned during my days in Konassas.


It had begun as a simple game between Jonathan, Luc, and I – similar to a game of hide and seek. Jonathan, with Luc’s help, would hide and I would have to find him simply by listening for his double heartbeat. At first I found the task impossible, always hearing every single Icarian heartbeat simultaneously in my head. But over time, I learned to tell the subtle differences between the heartbeats of each of my friends. I also eventually mastered distance and direction. Now, standing on the abbey wall, I found the game I’d always thought of as a simple entertainment done solely for the amusement of Jonathan, was becoming a serious exercise in my attempt to find him, with life and death consequences. 


“I hear him,” I finally said to David and Cody. “He’s over in that direction.” I waved my hand, pointing beyond the cathedral. “But I can’t make out exactly where he is. I’m going to need to get down into the courtyard and move about. If I can walk around a bit, I think I might get a better sense of direction and location.” 


“Then we have to fly down into the courtyard,” Cody said. 


“Yes, I don’t think there’s any other choice,” I said. 


“In that case, it’s my turn to lead,” David said, noiselessly drawing his sword from its scabbard. “I’ll fly down. When everything’s clear, you can join me. Wait for my signal.” 


“And if it’s not clear?” Cody asked. 


“Then I’ll make sure it is,” David said with a wicked smile, and in a low whisper added, almost to himself, “I can’t wait to give Miro all the bloody details.”


“All right, we’ll wait. Be careful,” I said. 


Before the words were out of my mouth, David grinned and leapt from the wall with his wings at full stretch, quickly disappearing into the shadows. For a full minute there was nothing but silence. It was soon broken by a series of grunts and the scuffle of feet, followed by more silence. Finally, we heard a low whistle that sounded like the chirp of a bird. Peering over the edge of the wall, we saw David looking up at us and motioning us down to him. The bodies of four monks lay at his feet.  


Flying down to meet him, my foot brushed against one of the dead bodies and I recoiled – not from touching a corpse, but from getting so close to the source of the malignancy that radiated from this place. The horror of what they’d done to Luc and the kidnapping of Jonathan had drawn me here, but I despised the fact that I now found myself in a pit of vipers and vermin. 


At David’s suggestion we moved the bodies closer to the wall allowing us greater safety and cover in the dark secluded shadows. 


“All right Jamie,” David asked. “Now what?” 


I stood before the two of them in silence, quickly realizing that throughout our journey to the abbey I’d been thoroughly consumed with rage, anger and grief. For although our goal was to rescue Jonathan and I’d discussed our entry into the abbey with Brotus and the boys, the reality was I hadn’t spent one minute attempting to formulate a plan. 


I knew Jonathan was in the complex – his double heartbeat still beat in my head. Unfortunately, I had no idea of his exact location. Except for my foray with Nic into the cathedral and chapter house of the abbey, I realized that I was completely unfamiliar with the large complex. In addition to the many buildings – large and small – above ground, I was sure there were underground rooms, passages, or even tunnels that connected buildings or parts of the abbey in an underground maze that I could only guess at. I pushed down a momentary sense of panic, and thought hard. 


“Jamie?” David said, giving me an inquisitive look. 


Turning from him to Cody, I saw the same questioning look on his face. After a few minutes, I realized we couldn’t just stand there. We had to do something – and quickly. Looking down at the lifeless body of one of the monks, I bent down and began to untie the rope sash around its waist. 


“What are you doing?” David asked. 


“What does it look like I’m doing?” I snapped back.


“If you have a plan Jamie, I think now would be a good time to tell us,” he whispered as anger crept into his voice. 


Standing up I looked at both of them. “Yes, you’re right. Sorry. All my thoughts have been of either Jonathan or Luc. You’ve risked your lives to help me, but even more, you’re my comrades; you deserve a proper plan and explanation,” I said. 


David nodded, “Good. Look Jamie, I know how you feel. I want to run from the shadows this instant and kill as many of them as I can, but if we do that, they’ll kill Jonathan for sure.” 


“Don’t think I haven’t already figured that out,” I said. “But listen, if we can get into these robes, it might get us across the courtyard and into the cathedral. See how dark it is? When we first got here, I was hoping that the monks would be conducting one of their weird services, but now I’m glad they aren’t. See how the cathedral is connected to the chapter house and lots of other structures in the complex?” I said pointing to the large edifice sitting across from us. “I’m even willing to bet that there are crypts, passages, and underground tunnels leading to and away from it. If we can get in there undetected and I can listen for Jonathan’s heartbeat, I can probably localize it. We might be able to get to him without even encountering a single monk. We’ll have the element of surprise.” 


“Well, I wouldn’t mind meeting a few along the way,” David said. “I didn’t come here to shake their hands. Luc deserves a proper revenge.” 


“Don’t you think I know that?” I said, boring into his eyes with my own. “I cursed Ferra for what she showed me, but if she were here right now, I’d kneel at her feet in thanks. I want them all dead.” 


“Ferra? What are you talking about?” Cody asked. 


“It’s not important,” I said, forgetting that I hadn’t confided in either of them concerning my meeting with the mage of Tahkor. “Lets get their robes off, and we’ll pull them over closer to the base of the wall. It might give us a few more minutes,” I added, once more bending down and beginning to strip one of the bodies. 


“But what about our wings?” Cody said. 


“Just get their robes off,” David said. “I’ll take care of the tailoring.” 


Bending over the lifeless bodies of the monks, we began to take off their robes. It was a hard task, since there were others about in the courtyard. Although we tried our best to be quiet, every so often we’d be forced to stop and hide in the shadows whenever someone would pass nearby. In the end we managed to get them undressed. As I started to slip on one of the robes, David stopped me. With a few swift strokes of his dagger he opened the back of each robe, making them much easier for us to put on without having to maneuver them around our wings.  


“All we need is to give the right appearance,” David whispered. “If they get close enough to realize who we are, they’ll get a taste of cold steel.” I nodded as he gripped his sword tighter. 


After what seemed like forever, we were finally wearing the robes. The length of mine was far too long and I had to bunch it up quite a bit and tie it with the rope sash that all of the monks wore around their waist. Glancing at Cody, I noticed that his robe came from a large, obese monk. He wound the rope sash around himself twice, but he still seemed to disappear in its voluminous folds, and if the moment weren’t so serious I might have laughed. The sleeves hung a few inches over all of our hands, but at least our wings were partially hidden. 


David didn’t seem to mind. His training had kicked in and all he cared about now was successfully executing our mission as quickly and safely as possible. I watched as he pulled the hood of his robe over his lowered head and stepped out into the courtyard. Cody and I did the same.  


There was activity in the courtyard, but it wasn’t crowded. The light of the bonfire cast a bright glow in its center – further away, the courtyard was covered in shadows. David moved confidently ahead, but stuck closely to the shadows. Cody and I followed quickly in his wake. Although I walked so as not to draw suspicion to myself, I remained self-conscious of the large, ill-fitting robe wrapped around my body. Every so often the course cloth would snag on my wings, and I winced in discomfort. 


At one point a small group of men carrying torches moved toward us. I swallowed hard, waiting for David to attack, but at the last minute they veered to the side and made their way toward the bonfire. After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at the steps of the Cathedral. 


Sticking to the shadows, David scurried up the steps and quickly stepped into the darkness of the overhanging arches framing the main doors. Pressing his body against the stonewall in an attempt to remain inconspicuous, he motioned for us to follow him. Within seconds, we stood next to him. Looking out into the plaza, I observed the same type of activity we’d first seen from the wall and sighed in relief – apparently no one had seen us or noticed anything unusual in our activity. 


Standing in front of the massive oak door of the cathedral, I was beginning to wonder if coming here with David and Cody had been such a good idea after all. In my anger and grief over Luc’s death and my fear for Jonathan’s life, I’d been quick to race from Konassas. David was at my side, and I couldn’t have asked for a braver or more courageous partner, but Cody and I weren’t warriors. Separated from Nic, I suddenly missed him, and a pang of fear crossed over me. Even Brotus, who would have been a great asset at the moment, was far below us at the foot of Mt. Savat. 


“Let’s get out of the open,” David said, rousing me from my thoughts. 


Pushing on the door, it swung freely on its hinges and we quickly stepped into the darkened narthex of the cathedral. Once inside, we shed the heavy robes and shook our wings. David quietly pushed the door shut and Cody scooped up the robes we’d abandoned and stowed them inside a nearby cabinet. As David started to walk out into the church I held up my hand, motioning for him to wait, and began concentrating with all my might. As usual, I was first overwhelmed by the sound of the great double beats within my own chest that boomed in my ears. It was mixed with David and Cody’s heartbeats and posed a distraction I knew I’d have to deal with. Concentrating even harder and listening more selectively, I was soon able to tune everything out but the one sound that mattered the most. From far off I heard a distinct LUB, LUB, DUB, DUB, LUB, LUB, DUB, DUB – the faint beat of an Icarian heart… Jonathan’s heart,


But even as the beats became clear and distinct, I was startled when another sound flowed into my brain. It was completely unexpected, and took me by surprise. I blinked in wonder; I could still hear the sound of Jonathan’s heartbeat, but instead of hearing an isolated sound, it seemed to be floating on a sea of noise that was low-pitched and rumbled in my head. It flowed and ebbed with the sound of the little angel’s heartbeat. But while it was odd and unexpected, I had more things to worry about than an auditory aberration, and I quickly discounted it. 


Standing in the narthex of the cathedral, trying to ascertain the direction and location of Jonathan’s heartbeat, I remembered the last time I’d been there – with Nic. Scared and frightened, I’d hidden behind him as we crept into the cathedral. Nic wasn’t around to hide behind now – that worried me. For a few seconds I thought of him and the army he was leading, moving steadily toward the abbey. For all I knew they might be camped below us in the valley. Almost I reached out to find him, but I curbed the impulse. Moving back to the task at hand, I drew closer to David and Cody. 


“I think I can locate him,” I said, “but he seems to be somewhere underground. We’re going to have to go into the main body of the church.” 


Nodding their agreement, the boys followed as I exited the narthex. Crossing into the open space of the cathedral, I made my way up the aisle toward the apse and the high altar that rested there. The great church was just as I’d remembered it, with its ornate frescos, marble columns, and beautiful stained glass windows. All around me were statuary and intricate carvings. Candlelight illuminated the apse of the church and reflected off the polished marble, affording just enough light for us to make our way up the aisle with ease.


I continued up the nave ahead of David and Cody, and I could see in their faces that they were amazed at what they saw as they took in the cavernous space around us. Above our heads soared great stone arches and vaulted ceilings. The quiet space was large – filled with dark shadows and strange shapes. I continued my march until I stood in the apse directly in front of the altar. To my left stood the tall and stately Abbot’s chair where Gude had been sitting when I first encountered him conducting one of the church’s many rituals. His coat of arms was tooled into the green leather that covered the high back of the throne. Above it, a green velvet canopy hung over the throne itself.


Pausing there in the silence, I could tell that the beat of Jonathan’s hearts had grown a tiny bit louder. But although I was almost touching the front of the plain table-like altar, there was nothing to indicate that Jonathan was near. Easing around it, I found myself looking up a grand, freestanding marble structure near the back wall of the apse. At first I thought it was another altar – more ornate than the simple one that stood in front of it. On closer inspection though, I concluded that it was some type of ornamental piece placed there for no logical reason I could guess at. With David and Cody at my right and left, I walked slowly and silently towards it. 


The large marble edifice stood about forty feet behind the altar and created a large arc around it. It formed a great quarter circle on the floor. As I approached it I could see that it rose above my head to a height of over one hundred feet. On either side of it were two great angels, both genuflecting and facing toward the altar. Each angel held a massive golden candelabrum. Each candelabrum held over twenty large candles and they were all lit.  


I walked up to one of the kneeling figures. It was four times the size of a normal man. Standing before it, I looked up into the face of the silent marble statue and suddenly felt an unexpected breeze brush over me. Looking about, I realized that it was flowing from one of the sides of the structure. I began to walk around to it, and I discovered an open space in the wall, the source of the breeze. Following the slight draft, I could see an archway carved into the back wall of the apse. Pointing to it without a word, I led David and Cody to it. 


Reaching the archway I looked through it to find a smaller chapel hidden there. Stepping through the arch, I realized this was the crypt chapel of the cathedral. As I walked up to the chapel altar, I looked down to see large, carved slabs of a darker stone inlaid into the pale, marble floor. Each bore writing carved into it; as I looked closer and started to read the inscriptions placed upon them, I began to realize that the names of each and every one of the former abbots of Eagles Rock were carved into them. I also could tell that the sound of Jonathan’s heartbeats had grown in strength and volume – although there was still no sign of the littlest Icarian. 


David gave me a puzzled look. “It looks like a dead end to me,” he said. “Are you sure you’re hearing his heartbeat?” 


I didn’t answer, but following a hunch, I got down on my knees and pressed my ear against the cold hard stones of the chapel floor. It was then that the distinctive double heartbeat became its loudest.  


“Of course,” I said, more to myself than my companions. “This is a crypt.”  


“So?” David quickly replied giving me a doubtful look. 


“The bodies of the former abbots are all resting here, probably in a subterranean chamber beneath our feet. They might have Jonathan there. Or it might be a way for us to get to him. The sound of his heart is coming from below ground – maybe directly under us.” 


“But how do we get there?” Cody asked. 


I didn’t answer, but instead began looking around the chapel for stairs, a doorway, or anything that might afford us access into the crypt. Finding nothing, my frustration boiled over as my temper flared. In anger I pounded my fist on the floor against a slab that listed the name of one of the dead abbots. As I did, I noticed another throne, similar to the one in the main cathedral, but much smaller. It sat against the wall directly behind the altar and was elevated on a small stone platform. 


I walked over to it. There was a small space around the back; from this space, I could feel a rush of air coming from a crack in the wall – a hidden doorway! 


I tried to move the throne, but even though it was not the same height and size as the one in the main church, it was still quite large and far too heavy to budge even an inch. David joined me, but even his Royal Dominion strength proved ineffective. Cody, who had been watching us, approached and put his hand on my shoulder. 


“This is one of the reasons I came,” he said quietly. Ordering us back, I watched his face become a mask of intense concentration. The throne began to shake, and when I looked closer I could see the reason it was shaking was that the stone platform it rested on was beginning to move. Still concentrating with all his might, Cody closed his eyes. The stone platform continued to move as it made a rasping, scraping sound against the paving stones on the floor. Then, to my amazement, the whole platform slid forward, revealing an iron trap door. Gripping and pulling on the heavy ring set into the door, David pulled it open to reveal a set of stairs leading down beneath the floor of the chapel. 


Peering into the pitch black hole that formed the stairwell, I could see nothing. Almost without thought, I held out my hand and produced a small ball of light. The stairway was quite small and narrow. I extended my hand and increased the luminescence of the glowing ball. As it lit the way, I could see that the entire passage way and the staircase was made of stone, and that it spiraled down to a lower lever. Because of the way it corkscrewed into the depths of the earth, from where I knelt I couldn’t see where it terminated. For a few seconds I simply stared into the depths of the dark staircase. Taking a deep breath, I finally stood and began to walk down the stairs, slowly descending into the crypt. There was a scuffling sound behind me, but I didn’t have to look to know it was David and Cody following close behind.


The staircase must not have been used in a long time, for there were cobwebs hanging from the walls and the stairs were dirty, and dust covered. With each step I stirred up a cloud of dust. I sneezed a few times as the thick dust entered my nose. The smell coming up from the crypt was damp and musty. 


I carefully made my way down the spiraling stairs until I found myself standing in the open crypt itself. Although I was now below ground, the space around me was impressive. As far as I could see and fading into the deep shadows, there were large stone sarcophagi spread out before me. Walking up to one, I lowered my hand that cupped the glowing ball of light to get a better look. The stone container before me was large enough to hold a man. It was intricately carved and decorated by a master sculptor. On its lid was carved the effigy of a man in clerical garb, lying in repose. On the front of the large container, words had been engraved. Bending down, I got close enough to read them.

Tarman of Antros

Arch Abbot

1504 – 1571

Eternal Rest and Salvation

Be Unto You, Brother 

Each of these stone boxes contained the mortal remains of one of the abbots of Eagles Eyre. The light coming from my hand only lit a small area of the crypt, so I couldn’t see how far it extended, but I was sure it was a large space. Picking my way through the dark crypt I searched in vain for an exit, for although I wasn’t sure I would find one, I was most definitely sure that Jonathan’s heartbeats had gotten even louder.


Walking slowly and carefully through the crypt while trying not to trip over the many sarcophagi around me, I continued on. Finally I came to the back wall of the crypt, only to be met with the cold, damp stone that formed it. I walked its length, looking for any type of opening, and holding a glowing ball in my hand to illuminate my search. Just as I was about to give up, I found a small archway built into the wall. It was low, and I had to bend down to look into it. I thrust my hand out and saw that it led into a long, low, and narrow tunnel. I bent down, then climbed through the arch and entered the tunnel. Once in the tunnel, I’d just resumed walking when, looking ahead, I noticed a faint light. Pausing, I glanced back to make sure Cody and David were following close behind. When I saw them scrambling through the archway, I continued on.


As I got closer to the light, I could see that the tunnel opened into a larger room, lit by torchlight. An iron gate that sealed off the tunnel from the room blocked my way. I put my hands on the gate and waited until I could feel the heat begin to flow through them – it reminded me of the time I’d rescued Jonathan from the cage when first we’d met. The iron was old and rusted; in a short time, the gate was bending and the lock snapped. David pushed open the gate. Its hinges creaked in noisy protest, but easily yielded to his efforts.


Once through the gate, we found ourselves standing in a small chamber. The light from torches set into wall sconces illuminated the space and I noticed that the air was not quite as damp. At one end of the chamber stood a stone staircase that went both up to the floor above and down to another level, further below ground. I assumed that the one going upward led back up into the cathedral. Maybe this was how the coffins of the dead abbots were brought down from above, into the crypt for interment.


“We’re still under the cathedral,” I said to Cody and David. “If we go up those stairs, we’ll end up somewhere inside it.” 


“Then we should probably go down to the lower level,” Cody said.


“Yes, Jonathan’s heartbeat is even stronger now,” I said, then added, “I think you’re right, Cody. I’m sure he’s on the level below.” 


Extinguishing the glowing ball of light, we walked to the stairway and continued to descend even further under the great church. From this point on, everything was well lit, with torches set in wall sconces every few feet. When I finally reached the bottom of the stairs, I found that I was standing in a small room with a low, arched ceiling. At the opposite end of the room stood a heavy oak door.


I walked over to it and laid my ear against it, listening. By now, the beating of Jonathan’s heart was even louder. It was also racing much more quickly than before, and I suspected that he was either scared, hurt, or possibly in grave danger. I placed my hand on the heavy iron handle and pulled, but it wouldn’t budge. David also tried, but without luck. 


Once more Cody stepped forward, and I was never happier that I’d agreed to bring him when I heard a click as the door’s mechanism snapped open, followed by loud but muffled thuds as the heavy bolts in the door slid back. Gripping the handle, David pushed and the door groaned a low moan as it opened.


After crossing the threshold, I discovered we were standing on the top landing of a stone staircase. I paused – the sense of blackest evil was almost overwhelming in its intensity in this room. A railing surrounded the landing so that no one entering through the door would fall, since the stairs lead down to the left and right, into a large, high-domed chamber. It also appeared to be the only way in and out of the room. Looking down I could see that from where we stood we were about thirty feet above the floor.


It was a torture chamber. On the walls hung wicked and ugly looking instruments – all created for the sole purpose of inflicting the maximum amount of pain on a living body. Scattered throughout the room were other evil-looking instruments of cruelty.


As I surveyed the scene before me, I saw Jonathan sitting in one of these devices; it looked like a chair, but it was made of iron. He had been locked into it; his arms and legs were strapped down with heavy iron bands. His right cheek had a light bruise on it and there was a small cut on his forehead, but his injuries looked old – possibly incurred during his kidnapping – and it didn’t look as if he’d been further harmed… yet! The chair he sat in had no back, and I guessed that he’d been placed on it purposefully, since it afforded easy access to his wings.


His wings had been drawn back sharply and pinched with a small, clamp-like device. A sharp hook attached to a rope from a block and tackle dangled above him. Fearful that it had been used on him I shivered, but calmed when closer examination revealed it had probably just been put into place and hadn’t been employed on the little boy. As I looked at his face, I could see dried streaks of dirt mixed with tears on his cheeks. I longed to reach out my thoughts and tell him he was not alone, but I knew his reaction might give our presence away.


In addition to Jonathan, there were five others in the room – three monks, and two Knights of Sarjanus. One of the monks was pulling on the block and tackle, trying to move it into place. Two others were standing by, looking on. The first knight was assisting the second with a bellows and a very hot fire in what resembled a blacksmith’s forge. Looking more closely, I saw that the second knight was heating an iron bar that sported a sharp, pointed end. As the first knight pumped the bellows, the second man made sure the bar was glowing red-hot. 


To our advantage, our targets – for so I thought of them now – were so intent on their vile activities, they neither heard nor noticed us. Creeping stealthily down the steps, I stopped when I got to the floor of the chamber. David moved in front of me and gripped his sword, while his other hand drew the long knife strapped to his leg.


“Enough,” one of monks next to Jonathan said, calling out to the two knights near the fire. “We were ordered to begin as quickly as possible.”


“I think you’re finished for the day,” I said in a quiet tone of voice. 


As I spoke, the knight holding the iron bar swung around, looked up at me, and dropped it to the ground. It clattered on the floor with a loud clang. The monk pulling on the rope let it go and also turned to look at me. The other two monks backed away. 


Hearing a scuffling sound behind me, I turned and looked up the stairs. On the landing above us stood four more blue-uniformed knights. David rushed into the center of the chamber. I followed close behind. Cody moved to the side and waited. The knights on the landing ran down the steps toward us, but once they were on the floor of the chamber they stopped and stared as us, along with the five others who had been preparing to torture Jonathan. 


Suddenly everyone’s head snapped around and looked upward when the sound of a slamming door filled the chamber. Once more I could see that Cody, who’d been calmly standing to the side, had an intense look of concentration on his face. The sound of the slamming door was followed by a loud click, and then a scraping sound as the iron bolts slid into their sockets, sealing the door.


Still staring intently at the door, Cody’s soft voice echoed through the silent chamber. “No one will be able to get in, or out,” he said, continuing his intense concentration. 


The smile that crossed David’s face made me think of a rabid dog, eager to attack. Looking at the monks and knights, I quickly scanned their minds. As I did, I realized that the knight who’d been holding the iron bar and three of the four who’d just come into the torture chamber, were the very ones who had broken into the palace, killed the guards and Luc, and kidnapped Jonathan. 


My blood boiled as raw emotion tore through my mind. Not just content to watch David deal with them, I first sent each of them a mental image. It was a vivid one, of me sitting beside a small boy around a fire on the open plains of Harren. Once a sweet and comforting memory, now all it did was mock and torture me. I glowered at them, pouring all the searing, raw pain and anguish I carried within me directly into their minds. In that memory I was giving Luc a hug and kiss and speaking to him: “…but you’re here with us now, and you’ll always be safe.” 


The truth was, he hadn’t been safe with us. I’d forced Nic to rescue him in the city of Tardon, only to have him slaughtered like an innocent lamb by these monsters. Looking about the room into their eyes, they returned my gaze with puzzled looks when they realized that I was smiling at each and every one of them.


“Yes, actually, I’m quite sure of it,” I continued in a barely audible voice. “You’re all definitely done for the day.” And my smile transformed into an angry glare. 


Once more I sent a thought slicing into each one of the monk’s minds; they started to scream as they clutched their hands to their heads. I intensified my thoughts and reamed my mental energy deep into their brains. At my slight nod, David charged like a hungry lion released from its cage, blades flashing in the torchlight.


It was at that moment that all the instruments of torture that were hanging on the walls began to clatter and shake.