The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Part IV – 'A Crown of Thorns'
When he reached the wall, Charles turned and waited for us, tapping his foot a little impatiently. The light breeze meandering across the courtyard plucked at the hem of his cloak, swaying it to and fro. As I drew closer, I could see that he was looking at me quite seriously, and he drew himself up into a formal stance.
“Charles…” I began, but before I could continue he genuflected before me and then bowed his head deeply – almost touching his forehead to the ground.
“Lord Protector,” he declaimed in a formal tone that not only surprised, but also frightened me. “The time has come for you to assume your mantle.”
Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out an object. Raising his head to look up into my eyes, he extended his arms to me. Resting in his open palms was a short, golden rod. I blinked when the bright sunlight danced across its golden shaft, revealing deep silver inlays and sparking answering lights from the assortment of gems and precious stones that encrusted it.
“The Baton of Office, Lord Protector,” he said, once more bowing low.
“Charles,” I said in a shaky voice, “Stop this, you’re scaring me. If this is your idea of a joke…”
“Please take the baton, Protector,” Charles continued as if he hadn’t heard me. “You have earned the right by blood, by honor, and by deed, to wield it. I stand in the place of Castor, who is no more. I stand in the place of Garus, who is no more. I stand in the place of Jakobus, who is no more. Would that they had seen this day, but alas, it was not to be.”
With a hesitant hand, I slowly reached out and grasped the golden baton. Bringing it close to my face I examined it. I received a jolt as the familiar feel of it in my hand knocked at the locked door in my brain behind which lay the inaccessible memories of my mind.
Rising, Charles bowed once more. “I have fulfilled my promise,” he said to no one in particular. “All here are witness to it.”
“What do you...?” I began.
But before I could say another word, Charles continued, although now his voice resumed its usual tone and his stance became again informal and relaxed. Moving closer to the wall, he pointed to a spot on it and called me over.
“Place your hand here,” he commanded.
“Place your hand here, Jamie.”
I looked at the spot where he was pointing, and noticed a round metal plate embedded in the wall. I cautiously lifted my hand and placed it on the disk just as Charles had instructed, and suddenly a portion of the stones in the wall simply vanished, revealing an opening and a descending stairway.
“It’s keyed to you, Jamie,” Charles said, as he began to walk down the stairs. He paused and looked up at all of us still standing in the daylight.
“Please, won’t you join me?” he said. Then he turned and continued his descent.
At the bottom of the stairs, we came to a broad, open landing. To the left of it there was another set of stairs going further down into the earth. By the time we’d all reached Charles, he began to descend the next set of stairs. Once again, we all followed him.
This pattern repeated itself a number of times as we moved deeper and deeper underground. Finally we arrived at the bottom of the stairs and stood in front of a door. To the right of the door was another disk, looking identical to the first, embedded in the wall. Once more, Charles asked me to place my hand on the plate, and it slid open with a quiet whoosh. After walking through the doorway, I saw that we were now in a very small room, illuminated by a sourceless, dull, yellowish light. Against one of the walls of the room stood a large glass cylinder, resting on a stand. The cylinder had colored buttons on it, and lights that would occasionally flash.
“This is where I spent the last twenty-fire hundred years, Jamie,” Charles said.
“What are you talking about, Charles?” I asked.
“A long time ago you asked me about my coffin and I told you I wasn’t buried in a coffin in the ground, like you and Nic. This is the stasis chamber where I slept.”
I walked over to the device and looked at it. I put my hand on the cylinder; it was quite cold. It also emitted a low, throbbing hum.
“We’re now deep within Mt. Savat,” he said. “The abbey is many hundreds of feet above us.”
Once more the tone of his voice changed to a more serious and formal one. “Your Highness, Your Grace,” he said, looking first at Nic and then me, “what you are about to see has been waiting for you for the past twenty-five hundred years.”
As he spoke, he walked over to a door in the wall to the left of the cylinder. Beside it was another of the now familiar metal plates. It was imbedded into the wall just as all the others had been. This time I didn’t wait for Charles’ instructions as I stepped over to it, and pressed my right hand against it. Quickly and quietly, it slid open. One by one, we filed through, and found ourselves in an enormous cavern cut into the hard granite heart of the mountain.
For a few minutes, I just stood and stared, beyond speech. I could tell, when I glanced into the faces of the others, that they were experiencing the same effect. When the cavern was created, the builders had purposely left part of the rock behind in order to create thick, heavy pillars. The pillars were massive and rose many feet high into the air. Eventually, as they reached the ceiling, they melded into a series of barrel-vaulted arches. The effect was like standing in a huge church, but the columns and arches of this church, with its great vaulted ceiling, seemed to stretch on forever. The ceiling itself was plain and unadorned, but the columns were intricately carved.
This immense cavern was bathed in the same dull, yellowish light that illuminated the chamber where Charles had slept through the centuries. It formed such a large open space that it was impossible to see how far back into the mountain it extended. The entire effect was a bit breathtaking and as I stood there, I felt dwarfed by the extreme size of this enormous space. But while the great vault was indeed large, it was by no means empty. What made the space even more interesting and puzzling were the hundreds upon hundreds of coffins that had been lined up in long, precise rows as far as the eye could see. There were more than I could count, and they seemed to extend forever in long endless columns, like an army of soldiers in precise formation. The other strange fact was that the doors of every one of them had been opened and they all stood empty and silent.
“Oh, it can’t …” I heard Charles moan, and his hands rose to cover his eyes, as if afraid to see what stood before him. “No, it cannot be…” His voice was hoarse with shock and disbelief, and as I watched in surprise, he began to rock back and forth.
“What is this place?” Nic said, turning to Charles and seeming to ignore the red-and-black-winged angel’s obvious distress.
My eyes followed Charles who, seeming not to hear Nic’s question, moved to one of the columns and sagged against it. In all of the time I’d known him, even during the discovery of Luc’s murder and Jonathan’s capture, I’d never seen him so devastated, so undone.
“This simply can’t be,” Charles continued speaking to himself as if in a trance.
“Charles, what is it? What’s wrong?” Nic asked again. And I could tell by the tone of his voice that he, also, could see the anguish in Charles face as he repeated his questions in a soft and soothing voice.
“Our worst nightmare has come true and all hope is ended,” Charles said, in such a low and quiet whisper that I had to strain my ears just to hear his voice.
Walking over to him, I put my hand on his shoulder. Nic moved up next to me. General Zakaria, Lance, and the others gathered around. Charles eyes were cast down, and he was staring at the ground. He kept shaking his head and quietly muttering to himself; tears rolled unchecked down his cheeks, falling to the ground. I had never seen such behavior from the one Icarian I could always count on to be cool, calm, and dispassionate. Watching his extreme reaction, I began to realize that our fortunes had just gone from bad to worse.
“Charles, please!” I pleaded.
Slowly he lifted his head and looked at us. A deep, long sigh came from his lips. “I’ve failed,” he whispered, more to himself then those of us gathered around him. “Jonas, I’ve failed you.”
“Tell us what’s wrong,” Nic said. “Charles, tell us what this place is and why you keep saying you’ve failed.”
For a few seconds Charles simply stared at Nic. Finally stood upright then turned and looked down the long rows of empty coffins.
“As the end of the Enlightened One’s civilization approached, the pace of the work to create the new race that would inherit their legacy increased to a fever pitch,” Charles said in a quavering voice as he leaned once more against one the heavy stone pillars. As he continued to speak, his voice firmed and he slowly stood and adopted what I thought of as his “lecturer’s stance” – feet at shoulder width, head up, and eyes forward. It seemed to me that he gained strength from the familiar task of explaining mysteries to us.
“As many Icarians as possible were created, but a great argument arose amongst the scientists who were working on the project. By this time, Jonas and Croal were long dead. Alperton of Niçan was chosen to be the head scientist. He had been one of Minoton’s youngest students many years before, but after the troubles caused by Minoton, he eventually went over to Jonas and helped on the Icarian project. Many on Croal and Jonas’ team distrusted him. They feared that he brought the attitudes and beliefs of Minoton with him. During one of the scientific meetings often held by the scientists, it was Alperton who argued that the team needed to opt for defense, instead of intelligence and the ability to govern.
“Work on preserving the princes and key members of the royal houses continued, but at a much slower pace. Eventually all the royal houses were secure, but they were only to be marginally populated. The same was true of the scientific, philosophic, diplomatic, and scholarly classes.
“Alperton successfully argued that after one hundred years of turmoil and disorder, civil order and peace would have to be established. After that was done, the Wizard and King could repopulate the royal houses and grow the classes into viable societal structures. So, using Alperton’s plan, the remaining scientists fashioned the vast majority of Icarian Thrones to form the military class.”
“Did you say thrones?” I asked – my eyes growing wider. “Don’t you mean Royal Dominion Thrones, Charles?”
“No, I mean thrones. They worked around the clock to fashion angels that would eventually form a mighty army for Icaria. As they created them, they also matured and trained them in the arts of war, and killing. I never quite understood the process since I never knew what a Battlecom was until I saw the one that Cody found back in Konassas. I knew that some type of training was conducted, but until I saw the Battlecom, I had no idea how it had been accomplished.
“My suspicion is that there were quite a few of them built in order to handle the large number of battle angels that were created for the Icarian army. They probably created them, matured them, and then moved them to other areas for training – that’s why Konassas had one. Once training was accomplished, they were placed in stasis.
“So they created an army, trained its troops, and brought them back here?” Nic asked.
“Yes, that’s exactly what happened.” Charles relaxed his pose and crossed to stand next to Nic.
“I already knew this,” I said quietly.
Charles raised an eyebrow, but Nic remained impassive.
“From your studies with Andrew?” Nic asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
At that point, Prince Andrew joined us. “Jamie, it’s just like we studied. A great militaristic and warrior class was created.”
“Yes Andrew, you’re correct,” Charles added. “And now my worst fears have come true.”
“What do you mean, Charles?” Nic asked studying Charles’ face, as if he could read an answer there.
“We’re standing in the main stasis chamber of the army of Icaria,” Charles began. “This was to be your army, Nic. It is the army of the Royal Clan, of the House of the Crown. Into this cavern were placed the sleeping bodies of over eighty thousand battle angels – all of them Thrones, and all of them highly trained killing machines – to serve the King, and establish order in a chaotic world.”
“Eighty thousand!” Zakaria shouted. “We were only able to gather a small force for our assault on Eagles Rock.”
“I know,” Charles continued, still shaking his head in disbelief.
“But they’re all empty,” Nic said as he walked over to one of the coffins and slammed its open door shut.
“Yes, completely,” Charles said, again covering his face with his hands.
“What are you saying, Charles?” Nic placed his hand on Charles shoulder. “Were they somehow killed, did they die over the twenty-five year time period? Did they awaken early and leave?”
“No, they were fine – just as I was. They remained undisturbed for well over two millennia. You saw how we got in here. It was Jamie’s hand – actually his unique code – that removed the wall above us in the Abbey, and it was his code that subsequently opened all the doors that led here.”
“What are you saying?” I jumped to my own defense. “I’ve never been here. I didn’t know this place even existed.”
“No Jamie, of course it wasn’t you,” Charles went on. “The code to open all of these areas lies with only one of the clans – The Clan of the Wizard – The House of the Imperial High Seraphim.”
“Yes, but that’s my clan,” I began.
“Correct Jamie, and at present there are only two angels in your clan. You….”
“…. AND LORAN!” I shouted, reeling at my own words.
“What are you saying, Charles?” Nic interrupted.
“These chambers were sealed for over twenty-five hundred years and then they were opened by an Imperial High Seraphim.”
“Loran,” I whispered.
“Yes Jamie, it was Loran,” Charles said. “I never thought about it until now, but that’s why he was there the day you found me and the three of us encountered him in our search for the Orb of the Bat.
“Loran knew that an army of thrones was here, and he was looking for it. Jamie, you thwarted him that day, but I suspect he returned and was eventually successful.
“A few months ago, I was awakened from my stasis. What caused my revival and why it occurred after twenty-five hundred years instead of the original planned one hundred year stasis is a total mystery to me. But after I revived and regained my strength, I ventured up into the Academy. Of course, I had no idea that such a long period of time had elapsed, and instead of emerging into the old Academy, I found myself in an abbey complex, surrounded by monks.
“I was brought before Abbot Gude, and when he discovered that I had knowledge of Icaria and could read many of what they perceived as ancient and holy texts, he preserved my life in the hopes of learning as much as possible from me. I was taken prisoner within a few hours after I revived, and was never able to get back down here. But still, I could not have revived the army alone, since I’m not an Imperial. I couldn’t have opened any of the chambers. About three months after my resurrection and capture, you and Nic found me, but after our fight with Loran we were forced to flee the Abbey, and we didn’t have the means or ability to get back in. During that time, I’m sure Loran paid more than a few visits.”
“So what you’re saying is that Loran came back here, gained access to this place and awoke the army?” Nic asked, his voice calm and quiet, as though just checking the facts.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Once here, it was easy for him to end the stasis, and as soon as the army of thrones was revived, he took command of it. As an Imperial, I’m sure he convinced them that he was their rightful leader. By then he had absorbed quite a few of the orbs himself, so he could have demonstrated some of his power. That fact, and the tattoo, would probably have convinced them.”
“I’m sure he was quite persuasive.” I said bitterly, thinking back to the incident with Lance and Matthew and how quickly Matthew, the Royal Throne buried with Lance, had been willing to pledge allegiance to Loran, even in the face of King Niklas.
“So Loran now has an army of eighty thousand battle angels under his direct command?” Nic asked.
“Yes,” Charles quietly whispered.
“Eighty thousand… eighty thousand,” Zakaria kept muttering under his breath.
“Then we’re lost,” I said, tears coming to my eyes.
Nic came over and put his arm around me. “We’re not lost until we die or we give up, Jamie. We’re not dead yet, and I have no intention of giving up.”
“Well said!” David shouted.
I looked up into Nic’s soft, green eyes.
“But Nic, eighty thousand Thrones…”
“We will not give up,” Nic said, as he laid his hands on my shoulders and looked deeply into my eyes. “We will not give up!” he repeated again, his voice low and intense.
“But how did Loran get eighty thousand thrones out of the abbey?” Cody asked. “Wouldn’t anyone have noticed?”
“And with an army like that, why didn’t he take over the abbey for himself?” Lance interrupted.
“He doesn’t care about the Academy of Eagles Rock,” Charles said, “he never did. His only interest was the thrones. Look how remote this place is in relation to any town or village – even a small one. The capitals of the kingdoms are all far away from here. This is a desolate place. It was chosen for that reason. Loran is interested in strategic locations. In his mind, this place is a long abandoned school now filled with religious fanatics. The library is the academy’s greatest treasure, but Loran cares nothing for that; if it served his purposes, he’d burn it without a moment’s thought. He accomplished his goal of reviving the thrones and left with them as soon as possible.”
“But how…?” I began.
Raising a hand to silence me, Charles began to walk down one of the long aisles, past row upon row of now empty coffins. As we followed behind him, he began to speak.
“When this space was created, the first step was to cut a great shaft into the mountain from the north side.”
“The most inaccessible side?” Nic asked.
“Yes.” Charles continued walking on ahead of us. “As the engineers burrowed deeper into the mountain, they expanded the shaft into the large chambers we’re in now. Here’s the original shaft.”
By now we’d traversed the length of the cavernous space and were standing before a wide tunnel. It too was bathed in the same dull yellow light – created by a series of sconces placed at set intervals down the long corridor. I tried to look down the shaft as far as I could, but when I peered into it my view was restricted when it veered sharply to the left. The tunnel was wide enough for twenty men to stand across. And while it wasn’t as huge as the cavern, it was just as impressive. The rock walls had been polished to incredible smoothness and when I touched on I it felt as if I were rubbing my hand against polished glass.
“This is where they exited the caverns,” Charles said entering the tunnel and disappearing around the bend.
We all entered the tunnel, following behind Charles as he traversed its length. Everyone was silent as we took in the enormity of the amazing engineering feat we were seeing. Ahead of us, Charles stopped where the tunnel simply terminated in a dead end. Standing silently before a polished wall of solid rock, he waited patiently for us.
Upon our catching up with him, he looked at me and pointed to another metal disk on the wall. I walked over to it and placed my hand in the center of the disk. There was a grinding sound, the ground shook, and slowly the wall pulled away. After a minute or two, we found ourselves no longer standing in front of a rock wall, but at the entrance of the tunnel.
“And this is how they left,” Charles added quietly.
I was beyond amazement, and blinked at the sight. There was a small landing that jutted out before terminating in thin air. I carefully made my way out onto it. Nic followed behind, and we stood looking out onto the vast Sirenese mountain range. There was a light breeze, and unable to resist the urge I leapt from the platform and stroked my wings. Once in flight, I turned back to look at Nic, and the place I’d just been standing.
The sight was amazing. The tunnel entrance was hundreds of feet above the valley floor – carved into the sheer face of the north side of Mt. Savat. It would have been impossible to see or even get to from the valley below or the abbey above. It simply opened onto empty space – the perfect place for someone with wings to jump off and soar away.
Flying back to the platform, I hovered for a few seconds until my feet were again on solid rock. Nic stepped over to me, and putting his arm around me, he walked with me until we were both standing in front of Charles.
“All right, Charles, now is the time. There are no second chances here.” Nic’s voice was hard and commanding. “I think it’s time that you tell us everything that you know, or at least let us know if there’s anything that can be done.”
Charles looked into Nic’s eyes, and then he turned his head and looked into mine. I could read the doubt on his face.
“Nic’s right, Charles. He’s my king… he’s the king of us all, and I’m his mate. We’ll fulfill our destiny to the end, or we’ll die trying. There’s no other option.”
At my words, Nic hugged me tighter. He bent down and kissed my neck. As his lips left my warm skin, they brushed against my ear. “Well said, my love,” he whispered. I took his hand and squeezed it.
“There is one very small hope remaining,” Charles said. Turning his back on us, he strode back down the tunnel and started across the empty cavern. “Follow me,” he called back over his shoulder.
Quickly following after him, we traversed the length of the large cavern. The further along we went, the more I was totally amazed at the sheer size of it. We continued walking past row upon row of empty coffins – I could never get used to Charles’ term of Stasis Units, since they certainly looked like coffins to me. Every so often we would come upon one with the corpse of an angel in it, similar to the dead angel we had found buried with Cody. They were shriveled and mummified, and their wings were dry and brittle, like dead leaves long fallen from a tree.
Charles picked up his pace, jogging down the long corridors between the rows of empty caskets, and I found myself racing behind him. Zakaria and Brotus had long since run out of breath and were walking slowly, far behind us.
Finally, we reached the far wall of the cavern. It was solid rock. Charles stopped and started to examine it more closely. He began to walk the length of it, running his hand across its smooth face. Occasionally he would pause and examine a section as if he were searching for something.
Although the wait to me seemed like a long time due to my mounting impatience, the truth is that within a few minutes of looking, feeling, and examining the face of the wall, he paused. Crouching down he began to examine one particular section of the wall more carefully. As I stood by, watching in puzzlement, he reached down to unfasten the ruby bracelet from around his ankle. I had originally seen it the night Nic and I found him chained to the copying stand in the Abbey library. He always wore it on his right ankle, and I’d never once seen him without it. It seemed similar to the emerald one that Nic always wore on his ankle, so I thought of it simply as ornamentation. But now, as Charles began to open it, I noticed that the highly elaborate and ornate clasp was actually a key.
He quickly unfastened the clasp, removed the anklet, and just as quickly inserted the key-like clasp into a small hole in the rock face. I heard a click as he gave it a quick turn, and suddenly ten feet of the rock wall slid to the right, revealing another stairway. I looked at Nic in disbelief. Charles, without a moment’s hesitation, started down the staircase and one by one, we all followed. At the bottom of the stairs was another door, and once again Charles placed his key into the lock. There was another of the familiar metal plates on the side of the wall, and he directed me to place my hand on it.
“We have to do this one together,” Charles said, and I placed my hand on the metal plate while Charles turned the key at the same time. I heard a soft click, and the door swung open.
We entered a space illuminated by the same yellow light we’d encountered elsewhere. Once more I could see we were standing in a large chamber, although this one was much smaller than the great hall of coffins whence we’d just come. While this room also had an arched ceiling, it was small enough that there was apparently no need for pillars to hold the ceiling up. Instead of stretching on as far as the eye could see, this chamber was compact enough that all four of its walls were easily within view.
Just as in the cavern above us, this room also held a series of coffins, but their number was far fewer. As I looked around, I guessed there were about five hundred crowded into the space before us. But the difference between these coffins and those we’d just seen was that they were still occupied. I slowly walked from coffin to coffin and peered into them. I wrinkled my nose as I noticed that they were twice as large as the other coffins. It was then I realized what the difference was – these coffins were the same larger size that Cody and his companion’s coffin had been – and as I peered into them, I could see that each and every one had two tall, majestic, and silent angels sleeping in them. They all looked to be similar in size, stature, and appearance. Their wings were slightly iridescent like mine, but they also had deep purple highlights at the very tip of each feather.
Although my own wings were quite large, their wings seemed to be of matching size. I immediately started to envision the great wingspan these angels would have when they extended them, and I could imagine what they would look like unfurled, ready for flight. As I continued to walk from coffin to coffin, I began to realize that I was gazing upon a new class of angel, one that I’d never before seen.
“Magisterial Seraphim, of the House of The Imperial High Seraphim,” Charles quietly said, almost as if he were reading my mind.
“What are they?” I asked again.
“Access your mind link, Jamie. Search for Magisterial Seraphim, then Imperial Guard, and finally Order of the Protectorate.”
I stood quietly before one of the coffins as I turned on the screen in my mind… after a few minutes of silence, I suddenly jumped back and shouted, “They’re from my own clan. They’re my personal army!”
“What, Jamie?” Nic asked, giving me a searching look.
“Nic, these angels are the Imperial Guard of the Wizardry. They are sworn to obey and protect the Wizard of Icaria at all cost.”
“Yes, that’s correct,” Charles said. “And we managed to keep them hidden. All that work,” Charles continued muttering under his breath, “and the high sacrificial price that we paid – but we did it.”
“What are you saying, Charles?” Nic asked.
“Nothing,” Charles said rousing from his thoughts then quickly added, “Jamie, keep accessing your link.”
I could sense quiet undercurrents of conversation begin to buzz back and forth between the others in the room at my words, but I remained silent as I continued to access more information.
“Charles, is it true that they’re mating pairs?”
“Yes Jamie, within each stasis unit is one mating pair. They’re bound to each other for life.”
Everyone’s eyes were on me. I was looking at The Screen and talking at the same time, so it seemed like I was just staring into vacant space. They were all used to it by now, but I could sense that there was excitement, worry, and curiosity darting about the room. I continued to study the screen and as I did, I began to tell my companions what I was learning.
“The Imperial Guard of the Wizardry was formed using the Magisterial Seraphim, a class of Icarians that was created as part of the Clan of the Wizard. Their entire design is centered on three key elements:
“The first is their skill and ability as great warriors and soldiers. Out of every class of Icarian created, they are superior in physical strength, stamina, and ability. For example, they can fly longer, higher and farther without frequent rest, or even food and water. They’re lightning fast, and quick in battle. They can run, jump, and maneuver with great ease. Their entire metabolism is designed to consume and use energy with the greatest efficiency.
“The second element is intelligence. They’re quick to learn, and they absorb and comprehend new skills and tasks at a rapid pace. Their ability to use reason and logic is quite impressive, and their cognitive and intuitive powers are phenomenal.
“The third and final element is their love and loyalty, not only to the Wizard and their own mate, but also the preservation of their honor. They would sooner die than bring shame or dishonor to their Clan – The House of the Imperial High Seraphim. The same is true where their mate is concerned. Each pair forms a joint battle unit, fighting side by side. Each fights for Icaria, and their mate. As they fight, each will defend the life of the other at all cost. This combination of love and loyalty makes them ferocious and unsurpassed in combat. It would be a great dishonor for them to allow their mate to be killed or to even have their mate see them defeated, so each one will fight to the very death to preserve both their mate and their honor. Because they mate for life, the life of the other is more precious than their own individual lives, for in their eyes, the death of a mate brings both dishonor and loneliness.”
“Disunion,” Cody gasped.
“Yes, the worst fate a mating couple can experience,” Charles quietly said. “For most Icarians, death would be the preferred option.”
“What an incredible combination,” Zakaria said. “Because each fights for the life of the other, and neither wants to dishonor or shame themselves or their mate, they form the perfect battle unit: strong and determined, fearless and brave.”
“Exactly,” Charles added. “This is more than just an army. So Jamie,” he continued, giving me a long and serious look, “would you like to awaken your army?”
“I guess,” I said hesitantly. “But how?”
“Just continue to access your mind link. Do you have the book I gave you?”
“Ah… yes… I have it right here,” I said as I began to pull it from my tunic.
The book that Charles had insisted that we take when we had first been at Eagles Rock so many months ago had been my constant companion ever since he’d given it back to me. It was quite thin and very compact, and I always carried it with me as a quick and handy reference.
“Good. Go to the pages marked COMMAND, and follow the instructions.”
I did as Charles asked. While I’d used the book constantly from the time Charles gave it to me, there were still many things in it that I didn’t understand. When I’d first began working with the book most of it was unintelligible to me. Endless strings of numbers and letters formed a type of code. With the help of the knowledge from the amulet and the orbs I was able to decipher some of it, but there had still been whole sections that I couldn’t understand. Then after my absorption of the Orb of the Dragon something opened a long dormant memory that told me that most of the book was based on a complex code based on prime numbers. How I knew that and understood the concept was beyond me – but I did! From that point I was able to access more of the information from the book, yet it still spoke of things that had little or no relevance to me. Such a section was the one marked Command that Charles now asked me to access.
Doing as Charles suggested, I opened the book to the page listed COMMAND. Suddenly, the words that I’d looked at so many times before made sense. The first time I’d come across this section, I was totally confused. It was filled with sentences describing activating units and command codes, along with a chart on garrison, division, and battalion structure, so I just ignored it. And as I continued to use the book in conjunction with the screen, I always skipped over it. Now I realized that it was a sequence of commands and actions that had to be correctly performed to activate the coffins of these Magisterial Seraphim, thus bringing to life a small, but highly effective army.
Everyone waited as I continued to go back and forth from the screen to the book. Finally, after accomplishing a sequence of events using the screen in conjunction with the book, an entirely new area of my brain seemed to open up. As it did, I felt a bit dizzy. I must have wobbled back and forth for a few seconds because I could feel Nic gently put his hand around my forearm, steadying me.
“Jamie, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing Nic, but the most amazing thing just happened. Somehow, I know what to do next.”
“As long as you’re all right Jamie; you were really swaying back and forth for a few seconds. I thought you’d fall.”
“I’m all right Nic, just let me finish. I really know what to do.”
“Ok Jamie, then proceed.”
And in fact, I did know what to do. After inputting the original sequence I’d gotten from the book, a totally new screen had emerged. At the top of the screen were the words <DEFENSE>, <OFFENCE>, <SECURITY>, and <PROTECTION>. Then a blinding red flash went off in my head. I realized that the flash had come from the power of one of the orbs acting in conjunction with the knowledge of the amulet, and a whole new mental vista unfolded within my mind. It was the sudden flash that had made me unsteady on my feet for a second or two, but now I was acutely aware of the world around me in a new and totally different way. The new screen began to flash the words:
<CODE INSERTION>… <CODE INSERTION>… <CODE INSERTION>… again and again.
Quickly I paged through the book… something seemed familiar, but I couldn’t make a connection at first. Then a realization dawned on me, and I went to one of the pages of the book containing all of the equations; at the top of the first page of equations were the words ‘SELECTED CODES.’ I began to enter one equation after another. As quickly as I entered each one, the word <INVALID> would flash, immediately followed by the large red letters <CODE INSERTION>. I quickly ran through the first two pages of equations and reached the top of the third page. No sooner had I inserted the very first equation at the top of the third page than a blinding white flash went off in my brain.
The second screen changed, and a new third screen appeared in my mind. The words <COMMAND AND CONTROL> were boldly displayed in large blue letters at the top of the new screen. Below it, flashing on and off in bright red letters, were the words CHOOSE FUNCTION. As I watched, the functions scrolled down, listing themselves as:
I quickly went to <ACTIVATION SEQUENCES>. Immediately another new screen emerged:
<AGRAMON DEFENSIVE GRID>
<AGRAMON CONTROL GRID>
<IMPERIAL GUARD> immediately caught my eyes and I accessed it. After a few minutes of reading in silence I smiled, turned off the screen and looked at the angels, allies, and friends that stood around me.
“I’ve got it,” I said as I flashed them a grin. “And not only that, I also understand a few more things about the Imperial Guard of the Wizardry. In the process of accessing this new information, I seem to have opened up some entirely new areas of my brain. When I can find some time in the next few days I’m going to do some studying, but for now I’m ready to awaken the Imperial Guard.”
“The first thing we are all going to have to do is stand back,” I began. “Once the sequence is started, it can’t be stopped. It will cycle through to its logical conclusion, which is the revival of all of these angels. I think that their resurrection will be similar to Lance and Matthew’s. By that, I mean that they will revive quickly and will be in a defensive mode. As you can see they are all armed, so I suggest that we don’t do anything to startle them.”
I walked over to one of the coffins and wiped some of the dust from the glass.
“These two are the leaders,” I said.
“How do you know that?” General Zakaria asked.
“Look at their coffin: it’s slightly larger than all of the others, it’s a different color, and their dress is a bit different – their armor is more decorative, and their swords are different than the others.
“When I activate the sequence, I intend to enter their minds. I want to know what they are thinking. From what I’ve just learned from the screen, these angels are more attuned to the wizard than any others. I think that my mental presence will have a calming and reassuring effect.”
“I hope so, Jamie,” Nic said. “These Imperial Guards, as you call them, look rather formidable. I’d rather not risk a confrontation.”
“Neither would I, Nic. That’s why, when the sequence begins, we’ll move to the side in a group and act as non-threatening as possible. Now, is everyone ready?”
There was a collective murmur of agreement from the group. I stepped in front of them, took a deep breath, brought up the screen, and began to speak in a firm and clear voice:
“Acknowledge sequence WIZARD,” and then I began to recite a long series of numbers and letters.
“ACKNOWLEDGED,” a disembodied voice, sounding a lot like the one from the Battlecom, loudly rang out.
I noticed the entire group startled a bit and moved a step or two back as one unit.
“COMMAND?” the metallic sounding voice continued.
“Resurrection Sequence,” I answered back.
“ACKNOWLEDGE STATUS. DEFENSIVE MODE INITIATED?”
“Status: Seraphic House, Final Clan.”
“WARNING: CORRECT SEQUENCING REQUIRED. YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS.”
At those words, I caught a low whirring sound coming from above my head. I didn’t have to look up to know what it was. From the information that I was rapidly assimilating, I knew that some sort of weapon was now trained on me. One false command or sequence of numbers would now result in my immediate vaporization into billions of molecules.
“WARNING: CORRECT SEQUENCING REQUIRED. YOU HAVE 20 SECONDS.”
I took another deep breath and turned around. Everyone’s eyes were riveted on me, and I could see Nic giving me a look of deep concern.
“WARNING: CORRECT SEQUENCING REQUIRED. YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS.”
“Sequence: Icaria, Jonas, Tower, Abbot, 5552565.
“SEQUENCE RECOGNIZED. IDENTITY?”
“Tank #47662, Lot #33334.”
“USER MUST PRODUCE KEY.”
“Key: Icaria, Jonas, Guardian, Wizard, Protectorate 55545.”
“Full and complete, all sectors, immediate response.”
“PREPARED TO INITIATE RESURRECTION SEQUENCE ON COMMAND.”
I stepped back into the group, and stood behind Nic – almost hiding, much like a little child hides behind an adult when he’s afraid.
I took Nic’s hand and held on to it. In a quiet but forceful voice, I shouted, “Initiate!” and squeezed Nic’s hand with all my might.
“RESURRECTION SEQUENCE INITIATED,” the voice stated.
I began to hear a hissing sound that increased in volume.
General Zakaria gave me a worried look. Nic, who had by now put his arm around me, was digging his fingers into my shoulders. Charles looked ahead, as if lost in thought. Lance placed his hand on the hilt of his sword while Cody reached out and squeezed my other hand. I could tell that everyone was holding his breath.
A strong vibration started, deep within the ground. A low, rumbling sound joined the loud hissing, and the yellow light that had been illuminating the room suddenly got brighter. Without warning, a loud klaxon sounded, making everyone jump a little, and began to ring intermittently.
Then, almost as quickly as it had started, all sounds and vibrations ceased – total silence again filled the chamber.
“RESURRECTION SEQUENCE COMPLETED,” the voice boomed out across the chamber.
And with those words, all of the doors on the coffins slid back and opened.
Within seconds of their opening, there was a collective murmur throughout the chamber, followed by a flourish of activity as suddenly one thousand Magisterial Seraphim climbed from their coffins. It was a sight to behold. As each pair of angels was revived, they jumped to the floor of the cavern and stood stiffly at attention motionless with one hand at their side, and the other on the hilt of their swords.
Now that I was looking at them alive and awake, I could see that they were even more impressive fully conscious and ready for battle. Their wings were beautiful, and their wingtips nearly brushed the ground. They were all tall and thin, but quite muscular. None of them appeared to be over twenty years old.
Each angel was wearing a battle tunic that was made of extremely fine material with some golden and purple threads woven into its fabric, and there was a small amount of finely embroidered ornamentation on the hem and sleeves of each angel’s tunic. The armor that covered their chests was thin and light, but also highly ornamental. It was silver, with gold accents glinting whenever they moved.
They were also equipped with swords and daggers. About half of them also held some type of spear-like object. As they stood at attention, I could see that their bright and alert eyes were looking straight at us.
The pair of angels I’d originally perceived to be the leaders walked slowly over to stand directly in front of us and I could see that they were giving our group a cold and clinical appraisal. Because I’d entered their minds just as they were brought back to life, I knew that they were not only on the defensive, but also more than a bit curious about the current state of affairs they were confronting.
The angel to my right gave us a puzzled, searching look and began to speak: “I am Esteban, commanding officer of the Protectorate of the High Seraphic House. I seek the Wizard.”
Everyone was silent. As I looked around, I could see that even Nic and Charles were surprised at the sight they were witnessing. I could also sense an increasing feeling of uneasiness spreading though the ranks of the majestic Seraphim, and I knew that they were beginning to take a more defensive posture.
The second angel, who’d shared the coffin with Esteban spoke: “I am Bastian, life mate of Esteban and Captain of the Imperial Legion,” he said. “I, too, seek the Wizard.”
By now, I was firmly seated in each of their minds and I knew that if action weren’t soon taken, these two angels and their troops would begin an assault on us.
“The Wizard stands before you,” I said from behind Nic and Zakaria.
I stepped out from behind my companions, and walked up to the pair of tall, handsome angels.
“Then where is he?” Esteban said.
“Right here before you,” I said. “I am the wizard.”
I could tell that he was both puzzled and skeptical. His mind was full of confusion. Here stood a young boy angel who now claimed to be The Wizard of Icaria, his leader and commander.
He stood there silently looking down at me, and as he did, I brought the palms of my hands together, and then I slowly pulled them apart. As I performed this action, a bright light coalesced in the empty space between my hands. I continued to separate them even more and suddenly I was holding a bright sphere of glowing light. I moved my hands apart even further, and now it appeared that I was holding up an orb made entirely of light.
Quickly the fiery orb began to shrink in size, and disappeared. As it did, what remained in my hand were two objects that looked like small golden coins, or medallions. Each was shaped like a small circle, and had two wings emerging from it on either side. In the center of the coin was a large purple gemstone that was decoratively cut, with many facets. As I moved my hand the gems sparkled, reflecting back the light from around the cavern. Both angels looked down at my left hand where the medallions now rested. I picked up one of them and handed it to Esteban. I did the same thing with the second medallion, but this time I handed it to Bastian.
“Your commission,” I quietly said.
Each angel took the medallions and placed it in a hollow spot that perfectly matched its outline on the armor that covered their chest.
Now both Esteban and Bastian looked intently at me.
“And our command?” Esteban asked.
“I validate your command,” I said.
And as I spoke the words, I placed my left hand over the medallion on Bastian’s chest, and my right hand over the medallion on Esteban’s chest. A glowing light glimmered briefly under each of my hands. When I removed them, the large purple jewels in the medallion glowed brightly. Each angel looked down to his chest, at the now glowing and pulsating jewel embedded in their breastplates. Esteban put his hand on it and gently touched it. Bastian slowly looked up from the sparkling jewel over to his partner, who returned his stare. Once again, they both turned and looked at me.
“You have the commission,” Esteban continued, “and you have the right of command. But do you have the proof?”
“I do,” I answered.
I walked a step closer and pulled up my tunic, exposing the tattoo on my right upper leg. He bent down to look at it. Then he reached out his hand and touched it. It felt like a small shock of electricity had passed between us. The angel must have felt it too, because he quickly withdrew his hand and stood, pulling himself back up to his full height. Still reading his thoughts, I could tell that he remained confused. But I'd done my research well, using the new information I'd been given when I entered the access codes I had gotten from the book.
In accordance with the ritual, I’d just presented him with his commission and validated his command, which was my duty as the wizard. I’d also shown him the tattoo, which I could tell impressed him, even thought I knew he was questioning the fact that it was not complete. He took a step back and put his hand on his sword. I knew what was coming, and stood unmoving. The others in my group continued to stand in silence as they all stared at me. I could see that Nic had his hand on his dagger. I quickly entered the mind of my king and mate and told him that everything was fine.
I knew that both the future Commander of my army and the Captain of my private guard were about to begin a carefully orchestrated ritual. I heard metal rub metal as both angels drew their swords from their sheaths and held them out to me. Then Esteban fixed his eyes on mine and began to speak: “To command this army, you must be willing to sacrifice everything you have, and everything you are. Are you willing to make such a sacrifice?”
“I am,” I responded quietly but firmly.
“Do you offer the rubric?”
“Whence comes it?”
“The Liturgicon of Agramon.”
“And will you answer straight and true?”
“I will answer both straight and true.”
With that both Esteban and Bastian advanced toward me, swords drawn as if ready to attack me.
Esteban was now standing in front of me to my right, Bastian to my left. They both stared at me as if they were trying to look into my soul. My chest was now within inches of the points of each of their swords. Once more Esteban broke the silence, but instead of human speech, the lilting tongue of Icaria was on his lips.
“Wizard of Light, Wizard of Dark,
Speak now the words from deep in your heart.”
I looked up into his dark brown eyes and responded to his question.
“I seek an army, an army of gold;
I seek an army created of old.”
Esteban continued, the Icarian tongue cascading like a song from his lips.
“We are such an army, created of old,
but we seek a leader both fearless and bold.
Courage is needed, and honor required,
but more precious than that is great love and desire.”
I now took a step forward, directly into the unyielding points of their swords. I could feel the sharp, metal tips push against my tender skin, but I knew that I had to continue, and once more I spoke to the two angels.
“I stand in the shadow of Agramon’s spire;
I go to the tower and rekindle the fire.
I come to the gate, the one now locked fast.
I stand in its shadow, the gate none may pass.
I order it open. I command it, ‘swing free.’
It shouts to the sky as it opens for me.”
As I spoke the words, I pushed my body a bit further onto the points of the swords. I winced as I felt the razor-edged tips penetrate my skin, and I felt a trickle of warm blood run down my chest. But I knew that we were far from done, and that the next few minutes would be crucial. I could not afford to be distracted.
Bastian was the next to speak:
“Then give me your orders,
and speak your command,
and show why I should now bow to your hand.”
I closed my eyes briefly; the sword blades were sharp and painful, but I continued:
“From the dawn of The Tower,
through the Dukes of old,
I come with a mate of Agramon’s blood.
I stand at the entrance of knowledge and truth;
The vessel before you will give you great use.
The Houses will stand, the circle will join,
Its life will take hold as it flows from our loins.”
Esteban now continued:
“You speak your words true,
you speak your words well,
but how may we know if you’re of heaven or hell?”
I replied with the ritual response:
“My blood is my life; my blood is my love:
take mine right now as a pledge of my love.”
Suddenly Esteban withdrew the tip of his sword from my bleeding chest and lifted it high in the air, while his mate Bastian did the same. After a minute pause, both blades whistled down to stop abruptly a hair’s breadth from my neck, and then moved that last distance till the razor-edged steel just kissed the skin at each side of my neck, just below each of my ears.
I was standing with a very sharp sword blade pressed into either side of my neck. My tunic was stained red with the blood welling from the cuts they had inflicted to my chest. They were quite painful, but I knew that if I moved even slightly, the razor sharp edges of their swords would quickly and easily cut into me.
Nic had a look of shock on his face. Again I entered his mind and told him not to make the slightest move.
“Say it,” Esteban said loudly.
I swallowed hard and began to speak.
“Orange is for vision, the gift of great sight.
Violet is for courage, to continue the fight.
The Bear to be honest, the wolf to be fair,
The Bat to be open, the Lion to care.
The Dragon for valor, the horn to be pure.
The wisdom of Purple, the one that is sure.
Green to be fearless, Yellow to be bold,
And Black, that was crafted before the world was old.
These are my tools of the craft I now weave;
Now take you my blood, that you may believe.”
“Then choose your fate,” Esteban continued,
“And choose it quite well,
for you can choose heaven, or you can choose hell.
Our blades can soon take the life that you treasure;
they will open your veins and drain a full measure
So choose, great Wizard: choose life or death.
Will you give up your life to prove this last test?”
I looked up into Esteban’s eyes as I began to feel the sharp blades of both angels’ swords cutting into the sides of my neck. I felt a warm trickle of blood begin to flow down, pooling momentarily above my collarbones. He returned my stare with a cold, piercing look of his own, and I continued.
“I seek not great glory, I desire not fame.
I seek not riches, or personal gain.
I offer a gift for the blade of your knife;
I offer it freely: the gift of my life.”
“So give us your choice,
and choose wisely this day,” Bastian said.
“For the choice that you give us determines your way.
Do you offer your blood to end Icaria’s strife?
Is it so important that you offer your life?”
Both angels were pressing the blades even harder into my neck. I began to feel faint, but I had no intention of ending the ritual, so I looked into Nic’s beautiful green eyes and gathered together the strength that I found there and wove it into my answer. Tears came to my eyes when I remembered – really remembered – how the words I was about to say had come to be fashioned, what they truly meant, and what would have to be done in order to see them through.
“Icaria’s no country, neither power nor desire;
it’s thoughts and ideas, that your heart will catch fire.
It’s not a great kingdom, or a powerful throne –
Its power is wisdom, and knowledge alone.
“It’s growth of the mind, and peace in the soul.
It brings true fulfillment, when grasped as a whole.
Those who desire it must be willing to fight,
and willing to die to make the wrong, right.
We don’t ask for freedom – that is our right;
it existed before the kingdom of light.
We honor the truth; we honor the dead.
I honor the blood our great heroes have shed.
“I stand in defiance.
I stand at the door.
I stand with my honor.
I will bow no more.
So for its sake only, without terror or fear,
I pledge you my blood, and my life that is dear.
“For although I hold it more precious than gold,
My life, for Icaria, I give you to hold.
Look closely and deeply, as deep as you can,
And see that I give you all that I am.”
Esteban’s eyes continued to bore into me and he resumed his part:
“Say it loud, for all now to hear:
Icaria first, or the life you hold dear?”
“Icaria first, and Icaria forever,”
I shouted at them and walked forward, allowing the blades to cut even deeper into my skin.
Suddenly the swords were removed from my neck. Esteban and Bastian had now dropped to one knee in front of me, each one’s sword held before him with the point on the stone floor and one hand on the cross guard, the other hand fisted over his heart, bowing deeply. The elbows of their long wings almost touched my face as they bent their heads in deep obeisance.
I looked down and could see blood soaking into my tunic, but I remained standing.
“All hail His Grace, The Wizard of Icaria!” they shouted. And with that, the chamber was filled with a great, deafening sound as one thousand Magisterial Seraphim, in one united voice, shouted “Hail, the Wizard of Icaria!” as they all fell in unison to one knee, their positioning identical to that of their commanders. At their words, I heard a tiny click in my mind, and suddenly a niche that I hadn’t even realized was empty, was brimming full with the lives of each one of these angels, the Wizard’s Own.
Nic walked over to me. As he approached, Esteban and Bastian leapt to their feet, their swords pointing directly at him.
“No!” I shouted. “This is King Niklas of Icaria, your king and my mate.”
At those words, they immediately sheathed their swords and bowed.
“Your Majesty, forgive us, but now that we have been bound to the Wizard, we are sworn to protect him at all costs.”
“As am I. It is Esteban, yes?”
“Yes Your Majesty, I am Esteban and this is my mate, Bastian. Forgive me; I know as the mate of the Wizard of Icaria, you’re also honor bound to protect and defend him, but we are his personal army, bound to him until death.”
“What just happened here?” General Zakaria asked with a puzzled face as he approached Nic and me.
As Zakaria advanced, Esteban again put his hand to his sword hilt. I raised my hand to him.
“Wait, before we have to go through this each and every time, Esteban, please allow me to introduce everyone here in our group.” And one by one I introduced Zakaria, Brotus, Andrew, David, Charles, Cody, Lance, Jonathan and the other officers and members of our group.
“So what did just happen here?” Zakaria repeated.
“You have just seen the first official, ritualistic ceremony of Icaria ever preformed.” Cody stepped forward. “It was taken directly from the Liturgicon of Agramon. And by the way, Jamie,” and I could see he was beaming a proud and radiant smile at me as he handed me a small piece of cloth, “you were letter perfect.”
“Thanks Cody,” I whispered back to him, “but those swords against my neck were highly motivating.”
I took the cloth from his hand and began to wipe the blood from either side of my neck. I had to admit that I felt a bit lightheaded.
As head of the Diplomatic House, along with being Chief of Protocol, Cody was well versed in the rituals of Icaria, so I took his words as a high compliment.
“This was the ritualistic bonding ceremony of the Wizard with his army,” Cody continued. “Jamie had a specific script to follow; even the change of one word or phrase would have meant death for him.”
“Really?” Charles asked.
“Oh, tell me that we have found something else that Charles doesn’t know!” I laughed, and clapped my hands.
“Well, I don’t know everything,” Charles said with a frown. “And I certainly don’t know all the rituals and ceremonies. I was not schooled in any of it. Protocol is Cody’s function, and all the rites and rituals rest ultimately with the Wizard.”
“No need to be defensive, Charles,” I said. “It’s just always refreshing for the rest of us mere mortal Icarians to see that there are some things that you don’t know.”
I could see Nic smothering a chuckle. I went over to Charles and hugged him.
“Hey, you weren’t the one with the swords stuck in your neck, Charles,” I whispered in his ear. I felt his body relax, and even with his face against my own ear, I could feel him grinning.
“Well, you did a great job, Jamie. However, I should note that you’re getting blood on my tunic.”
“Yes, but I did it only with your help. I’ve never regretted going back after that book. As for the blood on your clothes, it’s too bad – if you don’t like it, launder them.”
“Come on everyone, let’s get back up to the surface,” Nic said. “I don’t think that anyone will argue against the fact that there’s much planning and discussion that needs to be done. And not only that, my mate needs a bit of attention to his wounds.”
“I agree, Nic,” I said. While not deep, the cuts were painful. They were still bleeding, and I was anxious to get them treated.
The others had begun to head back in the direction we had come from, weaving their way through the labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, and stairways.
Nic remained behind, with the Imperial Seraphic army and me.
I turned to Esteban. “We have much to discuss, Commander.”
“There is nothing further to discuss, Your Grace. You are the wizard; you have offered the proof. We serve at your pleasure, to the death.”
“Yes I know, but much has occurred during your long sleep, and you must be informed of the situation.”
“Of course, Your Grace.” He bowed deeply, as did Bastian. “But we are yours to command.”
“Very well,” I smiled at him. “Then I command that all of you accompany us to the surface.”
I took one step forward and even though Nic was holding me up, my knees folded and I pitched forward as the world around me tilted, turned black, and slid away.