CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-FIVE
Nelson landed with Alex Hargreaves on his right and Mari on his left. Bestat was standing about a foot away. Aphrodite and Abi were talking to Bestat while Hedone and Artemis stood behind him.
“We could not agree on where to start,” Bestat said as she walked to Nelson. “Because we can, we thought we’d bring you to a few sites to see how you feel or is something stands out to you.”
“Where are we?” Nelson said.
“Looks like Troyes Cathedral,” Alex said in a low voice. “Your Bernard’s remains were moved here after the Abbey at Clairvaux was destroyed.”
“Do you feel anything here, Templar?” Nyx whispered from the shadows.
“A little sick from the jump, but other than that — no,” Nelson said.
They were whisked away. They landed in tall conifers looking out over some kind of complex of new and historic buildings. Nelson’s grip slipped but Alex helped to steady him. They clung to branches of the tall old trees.
“Clairvaux,” Alex said in the same low voice. “Bernard built an abbey here in 1100 AD. He died here and was buried here. By the late 1600s, the abbey was in ruins. They rebuilt the complex in the 1708; moved his remains to Troyes Cathedral in 1728.”
“Why does it look like a prison?” Nelson whispered.
“It is a prison, at least part of it is,” Alex said. “Maximum security. The remains of the original abbey are still there among the newer structures and the prison.”
“What do you feel?” Nyx whispered from the shadow.
Nelson shook his head.
“Be certain,” Nyx said.
“My friend Leslie picked this site as the place to start,” Nelson said to the shadow. “She said that most people believe the hoard lies in the catacombs below the old abbey.”
“And?” Nyx’s voice came out as a hiss.
“Nothing,” Nelson said. “I don’t think it’s here but. . .”
Nelson shook his head.
“No,” Nelson said with a shake of his head. “Can we go to the ruins?”
In a breath, they were standing among the ruins of the old abbey.
“Can you make us invisible?” Alex asked. “Those guards don’t look so happy to see us.”
Alex and Nelson became invisible.
“No one can see us,” Nyx said.
“Like a hallucination,” Nelson said softly.
Alex laughed. Nelson felt a pull coming from his right. He began to move in that direction. The Goddesses, Mari, and Alex followed closely.
“I feel. . .” Nelson whispered.
A man appeared in front of him. Gasping, Nelson stepped backwards. He would have fallen over if Artemis hadn’t caught him.
“Stead on, Knight,” Artemis said, her voice filled with mirth.
“Thanks,” Nelson said to the Goddess.
“What do you see?” Alex whispered.
“A man,” Nelson said. “He’s wearing a habit, you know like a black robe, with a Templar cross on it. Red cross. He’s moving his lips, but I cannot hear him.. Mari, do you see him?”
Mari shook her head and looked concerned for Nelson. He looked at Alex. She shook her head. The rest of the party also shook their heads. Bestat moved in front of Nelson.
“Show yourself to one, you must show yourself to all,” Bestat said.
Nelson jerked to look at Bestat. He was not used to being so believed and trusted. A waft of smoke blew out of her mouth. The smoke covered the man in front of him.
“I can see him,” Alex said. She drew her hand gun. “Show yourself.”
Abi stepped to stand next to Bestat. Abi simply sniffed in the man’s direction. The man became visible to everyone. The little party shifted to ready mode.
“Equitem Templarii!” the man said.
“Who are you?” Nelson asked. “What do you want?”
The man’s voice was either garbled or he simply made something up or possibly he was speaking a language that no one in the group knew.
Nelson looked at Alex. She shook her head.
“Fine,” Nelson said, still irritated. “Abi? Aphrodite? What is this man?”
“A remembered dream,” Aphrodite said at the same time Abi said, “What modern people call a ‘ghost.’”
Aphrodite and Abi looked at Nelson.
“He has been waiting for you for a long, long time,” Abi said.
“For me?” Nelson said.
Abi nodded. Nelson turned to look at the figure. Artemis let loose an arrow from her long bow. The arrow went through the figure and landed on the ground beyond him.
“My team is telling me that they can see a heat signature in the outline of a man,” Alex said. “Raz says it looks something akin to an EMF reading.”
Nelson scowled. Alex softly hit his arm with the back of his hand.
“They also tell me to tell you to put in your earbud,” Alex said.
“My what?” Nelson asked.
“Your satellite linked earbud,” Alex said. “On your hair tie?”
Nelson’s hand went back to touch the hair tie he’d put in about a thousand years ago when he got dressed that morning. He’d seen the knob on the hair tie but thought nothing of it. He pulled the band out of his hair and looked at it. Sure enough, it was an earbud communicator.
“Where did they get this?” Nelson asked.
“I gave it to them,” Alex said. “We didn’t have a ton of time to prepare so we improvised.”
Nelson put the earbud communicator in his ear and tied back his hair.
“Hello?” Nelson asked.
“Oh great,” Leslie, his office mate said. “Look at where this thing is standing.”
“Looks like rubble,” Nelson said.
“It’s either a crypt or possible an entrance to catacombs,” Alex said.
Nelson heard the same information in his ear.
“Is your team at Seth’s house?” Nelson asked.
“Quite possibly,” Alex said. “The maps we had are there.”
Nelson looked at her for a moment before turning back to look at the man.
“Does he look like the guys in Indiana Jones?” Alex asked.
“Oddly, no. Surprises me too,” Nelson said. “He’s shorter, squater, and also thinner — like he hasn’t eaten, maybe ever.”
He thought for a moment.
“Anyone speak Latin?” Nelson asked. “I learned it as a kid but. . .”
He looked around and everyone was nodding. Artemis made a show of rolling her eyes at him.
“Okay, okay, fine,” Nelson said with a chuckle. “Let’s see if we can get him to talk.”
Nelson stepped up to the apparition.
“Speak now,” Nelson commanded. “So that we can all hear!”
The man’s eyes flicked to Nelson. Looking confused, he scanned Nelson’s face. He muttered something.
“He thinks that you are Saint Bernard,” Bestat said.
Her voice sounded like it was whispering in his ear. He turned to look for Bestat and saw that he hadn’t moved from her spot a few feet away.
“I can hear his mind,” Bestat said, in his ear.
“I am Guy Semaines, son of Pierre Semaines, heir of Bernard of Clairvaux and the Order of the Templars,” Nelson said in French. “And you, brother?”
The apparition looked confused at Nelson’s speech.
“You were right, originally,” Bestat said in his ear. “He speaks Latin.”
Nelson gave a slight nod.
“Guy Semaines,” Nelson put his hand on his chest, “me fili Petri Semaines, heredis est ordo Templariorum.”
The apparition nodded.
“Loseph frater,” the apparition said putting his hand on his chest.
“His name is Joseph,” Alex said. “He’s a brother, possibly a monk.”
“Explains the costume,” Nelson said. “I’ve reached the extent of my Latin. Can anyone translate?”
“I can make the words coming out of your mouth come out in Latin,” Mari said.
Everyone shot the fairy surprised, disbelieving looks. She shrugged.
“What?” Mari asked. “I was born to be the wife of a King. This comes with the territory.”
Abi and Aphrodite grinned. Artemis laughed. Hecate moved to stand next to Mari.
“Do it,” Bestat commanded.
Hecate whispered to Mari, who nodded.
“I am looking for the gifts left by Saint Bernard.”
Nelson’s mouth moved with the Latin words, but he clearly was not in control.
“Can you help our quest?” Nelson’s mouth asked.
He turned to look at Mari.
“That is super creepy,” Nelson said. “Can you do this with anyone?”
“I have a few politicians that. . .” Nelson started.
“Enough,” Bestat said. “Focus knight. We must get this done before we raise too much attention.”
“Nyx is covering us, but she cannot do that forever,” Hedone said.
“Sorry,” Nelson said.
“He’s speaking,” Hecate said.
“What did he say?” Nelson asked.
“I didn’t get it,” Hecate said. She looked around. “Anyone?”
The entire party shook their heads.
“Speak more slowly,” Nelson said. “We are not understanding what you’re saying.”
“It is my accent,” Brother Joseph said. “I am from Wales. The Roman words get stuck in my mouth.”
“Speak Welsh,” Bestat demanded.
“Ma’am,” Brother Joseph said in Welsh.
The Brother bowed at her command. While Welsh was unintelligible to Nelson, at least it sounded more familiar. Nelson nodded. It was a second before Mari’s magic began to work.
“I have something for the heir,” Brother Joseph said. “For your quest.”
“Where is this thing?” Nelson asked.
Brother Joseph nodded and disappeared.
“Fuck,” Nelson said.
Everyone shifted with irritation.
“Should we follow him?” Artemis asked.
“Give him a moment,” Abi said.
“I can hear him fumbling around below us,” Bestat said. She turned to the group. “Anyone see him?”
Abi nodded but everyone else shook their heads. They waited to see if Abi would say more. After a moment, Brother Joseph reappeared.
“I remembered. . .” Brother Joseph said.
“You remembered?” Nelson asked. “This is a quest, Brother Joseph! How could you forget?”
“It’s been a long time!” Brother Joseph said. “I’ve been waiting here for centuries! You can’t expect me. . .”
“Fine. Fine,” Nelson said. “What did you remember?”
“I must challenge you to a task before giving it to you,” Brother Joseph said.
“Why?” Nelson asked. Hearing himself, he knew that he sounded like a whiney teenager. He cleared his throat and attempted to sound knightly. “I demand that you give me the reason, Brother.”
Nelson glanced at his companions to find them rolling their eyes at him. He shrugged.
“I have to determine if you’re really the heir!” Brother Joseph said.
“Have you had a lot heirs?” Nelson asked.
“You better believe it,” Brother Joseph said. “Lately, someone shows up almost every day! Sometimes, many a day! That’s a lot more work than I bargained for and. . .”
“Okay,” Nelson said. “I appreciate for all of your hard work. I know that the Order appreciates all of your efforts.”
“Well. . .” Brother Joseph started. “I guess that’s okay. You sure look like him.”
“He is my heir,” Nelson said. “What is my task, Brother?”
“Your task?” Brother Joseph asked. “What task?”
“The task I must complete to get whatever help it is that you said that you would provide if I completed the task!” Nelson said the words with more than a touch of anger in them.
“Oh. Right.” Brother Joseph looked off in to the near distance. After a moment, he looked back at Nelson. “You need to kill the dragon.”
“What?” Nelson asked at the same moment Bestat and the others looked horrified.
“Kill the dragon and I just might give you the. . .” Brother Joseph said.
A slow rumble came from Bestat’s chest. Brother Joseph shot Bestat a nervous look.
“Why must I kill the dragon?” Nelson asked. “Is it written down somewhere? An order from above?”
“She scares me!” Brother Joseph said.
Nelson growled in frustration.
“This is a waste of time,” Nelson said to the group.
“You have no right to deny the male heir of Saint Bernard!” Hecate said, stepping forward. “He is the rightful heir and you know it. Look at his face! His armor! His swords! This quest has been sanctioned by the Order of the Templars! You have no right to deny him your assistance!”
“Back away from me, witch!” Brother Joseph said in a squeak.
“Ugh!” Hecate said turning so that her back was to the monk. “I agree with Nelson. This is a waste of time.”
Nelson felt his body spin around. He raised his index finger in recrimination. A string of unintelligible scolding Welsh came out of his mouth. The Brother looked terrified and disappeared again.
“What was that?” Nelson asked.
He scowled at Mari, but she wouldn’t catch his eye. He turned to look at the rest of their team. No one would catch his eye. Hedone cleared her throat and pointed behind Nelson.
“He’s returned,” Hedone said.
Nelson turned in place.
“It is here,” Brother Joseph said.
Brother Joseph held out a single sheet of rolled up papyrus. Nelson reached for the papyrus.
“No!” Bestat yelled.
As Nelson’s finger touched the parchment it began to disintegrate. Their little quest party gasped in horror as in a moment, the parchment was gone.
“It couldn’t cross time,” Mari said.
“Dried out with age,” Alex said, shrugging. “It happens all the time.”
For a moment, no one said anything. Brother Joseph looked confused at destroyed papyrus.
“Hold on,” Hecate said.
She held up her hand like it was holding a dial. She rotated her hand to the left and time moved backward.
“Stop,” Hedone said.
“It is here,” the Brother said, again holding out the parchment.
“Don’t touch it,” Hecate said.
“Can you hold it up so I can read it?” Nelson asked.
Brother Joseph gave him an angry look, but unrolled the parchment. He held it up.
“Fairy?” Bestat asked.
Mari clapped her hands and Nelson was holding a replicate of the original parchment.
“Is it accurate?” Bestat asked.
“Of course it is,” Mari said, looking a little offended.
Hecate put her arm over Mari’s shoulders. Hedone kissed the fairy’s cheek.
“I am grateful for all of you,” Nelson said.
He looked down at the parchment in his hand. He scowled.
“What is it?” Bestat asked.
“Gibberish,” Nelson said.
Alex pulled the page from Nelson’s hand.
“It’s code,” Alex said. “Can I. . .?”
“Of course,” Abi said.
She pointed to Aphrodite to help. The Goddess and Alex moved away from the quest party to work on the sheet. After a few minutes, they sat down among the ruins to rest and wait for the document to be decoded. A few minutes turned into hours. Nelson fell asleep in the sunshine. He was roused by a jab from the end of Artemis’s long bow.
“Ow!” Nelson said, getting to his feet.
“Toughen up, Knight.” Artemis raised an eyebrow at him and they both laughed.
Artemis nodded toward where Alex and Aphrodite had been working. He turned to see them walking back together.
“Okay, I think we’ve got it,” Alex said.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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