CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-FOUR
Tuesday evening — 6:02 p.m.
Nelson felt a wave of cold come over him when his father got out of his car. As Pierre approached, Nelson felt the dark that had consumed his father as if it was an ice shard in his back.
“Papa!” Nelson said.
He turned to wave.
“I hope steak is okay,” Nelson said, in French.
“I brought some of our wine,” Pierre said, replying in their native tongue.
“Our what?” Nelson asked with a laugh. “Wine?’
He hugged his father. In a traditional greeting, he kissed his father’s cheeks. A white mark formed on his father’s skin where his lips had pressed his father’s cheeks. Nelson felt his heart squeeze with worry. Pierre leaned to look at the steaks.
“Don’t worry,” Nelson said. “Blane made the rest.”
“Will he be joining us?” Pierre asked.
Nelson shook his head, “Just us.”
“Good,” Pierre said, clapping Nelson’s back. “It’s nice to see you. I wasn’t sure after the last. . .”
“You are my father,” Nelson said. “I love you.”
Pierre’s eyes welled with tears. Nelson put the steaks on a plate and nodded Pierre into his carriage house.
“I thought you’d be in the big house by now,” Pierre said.
“I did too,” Nelson said with a nod.
He went into the small kitchen to plate their dinner. He’d already set the table so Pierre opened the bottle of wine and let it rest. He poured a glass of wine from the bottle Blane had already prepared.
“What is happening?” Pierre asked nodding toward the house.
“Oh,” Nelson said with a grin. “Jake went away for a week and came back with this amazing plan. Unbelievable. They’ve nearly completed the tricky parts. Everyone is very excited.”
“When will it be ready?” Pierre asked.
“Two months,” Nelson said. “Maybe more. I’m not sure. It’s going really fast now, but you never know when there’ll be a hiccup.”
“Of course,” Pierre said.
Pierre walked to the other side of the kitchen counter.
“I noticed that some of my maps have vanished,” Pierre said.
Feeling guilty, Nelson blushed and looked up at his father.
“Sorry about that,” Nelson said.
“Mari?” Pierre asked.
Nelson nodded. He had wanted to talk through the quest over dinner so he said little. He could feel his father’s eyes upon him. After a moment, his father sighed. Pierre appeared to weave a bit before grabbing the edge of the counter.
“Are you okay?” Nelson asked.
“Just a little weary,” Pierre said. “I can’t seem to catch up on sleep. Maresol has had me into see Dr. Bumpy and the hospital. Everything tests out okay but I feel. . .”
“Like there is a heavy weight on my soul,” Pierre said under his breath.
He shook his head and looked at Nelson.
“Are you taller?” Pierre asked. “Wearing lifts?”
Shrugging, Nelson showed Pierre his running shoes.
“You look. . .” Pierre started and stopped talking.
“I look?” Nelson asked.
“I was going to say that you look like my father,” Pierre said. “But really you have my father’s body. . .”
“And Bernard’s head,” Nelson said. “Lucky he’s dead so he can’t miss it.”
Pierre grinned at Nelson’s joke. Nelson brought the plates around the counter to the table. Pierre pulled out his seat and sat down. Nelson sat down across from him. Pierre poured the wine he’d brought.
“How is this ‘our wine’?” Nelson asked.
He held up the glass and looked at the wine. Pierre grinned at his son.
“The order owns many acres of grapes,” Pierre said. “This is Templar wine. I thought it might. . .”
“I apologize,” Pierre said. “I get exhausted easily.”
“Let’s eat,” Nelson said.
Pierre gave him a quick nod. They ate in silence.
“I have something I need to speak with you about,” Nelson said.
Still chewing, Pierre looked up at Nelson.
“I assumed,” Pierre said, set his utensils down and picked up his wine. “What is it?”
Nelson swallowed hard. He instantly felt like he was three years old.
“I am pretty sure we aren’t talking about you getting some poor girl pregnant,” Pierre grinned. “The usual father worry.”
“No, not that,” Nelson said.
Pierre began to cough. One cough became deep chest coughs. Nelson went around the table to his father. Pierre bent over with coughs.
“He is dying,” Bestat said.
Nelson looked up at her and nodded. With his look, Pierre looked up. He gasped and was on his feet.
“Dragonne!” Pierre said.
In one swift move, Pierre pushed Nelson behind him. Bestat snapped her fingers. Pierre stopped moving.
“Well, that’s not going to work,” Nelson said.
“Neither will these antics,” Bestat said.
“Undo this,” Nelson demanded.
With a shrug, Bestat snapped her fingers again. Pierre dropped to the ground. Appearing suddenly, Hedone dropped down to Pierre. Her golden light revived him. They were able to get Pierre back into his chair.
“What is this?” Pierre asked.
“It turns out that you were right, Papa,” Nelson said. “I have to go on the quest for the Templar hoard.”
“Treasure,” Pierre said with a nod. He looked at Bestat and Hedone. “Why do you agree to this now? Are they forcing you?”
“My father is dying,” Nelson said.
“Your father?” Pierre looked confused. His hand went to his chest.
“You’ve touched an object that steals light,” Nelson said. “It belongs to Nyx, the Titan of the Shadows.”
Nelson could feel Nyx was near but couldn’t see her.
“She is here,” Nelson said. “Can you see her?”
Pierre looked up. Pierre’s face shifted to a look of open awe.
“The Templars took some objects from me,” Nyx said. “You found one of them. Touched it.”
“I am sorry,” Pierre said, still speaking French.
Nyx touched Pierre’s arm.
“Never be sorry to me, Pierre,” Nyx said. “You have done only what was right. Never faltered from what is true. Love. Honor. You are well known and loved.”
Pierre began to softly weep.
“I’m so tired,” Pierre said.
“All that do what is right get exhausted,” Nyx said. She looked up at Nelson. “Your father and I are old friends. He has spent many long hours in the shadows.”
Unsure what that meant, Nelson simply nodded.
“I have to find the hoard,” Nelson said. “Nyx says that the object called the ‘Adam’s Apple’ will neutralize the object and restore you to health.”
“Don’t risk yourself for me,” Pierre said, his sorrow shifting to terror.
“I am a Knight of the Templars,” Nelson said with a shrug.
Pierre’s eyes riveted to Nelson’s face.
“I’ve tried to be everything else,” Nelson said. “I thought that being gay would keep me from being a knight. I thought that if I focused on saving lives, I’d never have to be a knight. I thought that. . .”
“The dragonne taught me that I am what I am,” Nelson said with a sigh.
Pierre looked up at Bestat. She gave him a beautiful smile. He looked away for a long moment before turning back to his son.
“How can I help?” Pierre asked. “I will go with you to the ends of the earth.”
“I know you would,” Nelson said. “I know.”
“You must be the knight,” Mari said to Nelson, appearing at his side.
“I cannot take you, Papa,” Nelson said. “I can only take a female.”
Pierre gave a searching look Nelson before scanning the faces of Bestat, Mari, Nyx, and Hedone. He gave a soft nod.
“Who is going?” Pierre asked.
Nelson helped his father back into his chair.
“Two Titans — Nyx and Hecate,” Nelson said.
Pierre gave a sharp nod.
“Two of the originals — Aphrodite and Abi,” Nelson said.
“Yes, good choices,” Pierre said.
“One Greek God – Hedone;” Nelson said with a nod.
“Two,” a female Goddess appeared in the space. “I am Artemis. With your permission, Knight, I would like to come.”
Nelson looked first at Hedone, who nodded. Mari’s eyes were big and she nodded. He looked for Bestat to find her hugging Artemis.
“Okay,” Nelson said, feeling a little overwhelmed.
“I know a bit about this hoard, Knight,” Artemis said.
“Nelson, please,” he said.
“You will have to take on this quest as Guy Semaines,” Bestat said. “Your birth name was picked for its power. It may save you before the end.”
“She’s right,” Pierre said with a nod.
“Guy,” Artemis said holding out her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise, I think,” Nelson said.
Artemis grinned at him.
“Who else is in the party?” Pierre asked.
“Just two others,” Nelson said. “They are coming to — Mari, who you’ve met, and Alex Hargreaves. Do you know her?”
Pierre gave a nod.
“One fairy and one human,” Pierre said with a nod.
“And me,” Nelson said. “Alex and Mari are here to protect me.”
“Good,” Pierre said.
“We will walk time,” Hedone said.
“What does that mean?” Pierre asked.
“It won’t seem like we’ve been gone very long,” Hedone said.
“We need to find the hoard and neutralize the objects before all light fades from the world,” Nyx said.
“All light?” Pierre asked.
“Yes, Papa,” Nelson said. “That is what you touched.”
“Some Nazi crap,” Pierre said.
“What can I do?” Pierre asked. “How can I help? You cannot ask me not to assist!”
“We thank you for the use of your maps,” Bestat said. Ever the diplomat, Bestat stepped in to ease Pierre’s mind. “They were most useful last night.”
“You know where to go?” Pierre asked.
“We know where to begin,” Bestat said.
“Please, there must be something I can do!” Pierre said.
“You are the head of the Orders of Templars,” Bestat said. “You must sanction our quest.”
“What?” Pierre asked.
“Task your knight to this quest,” Bestat said. “Give him the full power of his Templar blood.”
“I will need my sword,” Pierre said.
Mari disappeared and reappeared with Pierre’s sword. Pierre held the sword in his hand and looked at it. He waved Nelson down to his knees.
Pierre placed the sword on one of Nelson’s shoulders.
“Non nobis,” Pierre started.
The rest of the questing party appeared. Pierre moved the sword to the other shoulder. The other’s joined Pierre in the Templar battle prayer.
“Domine, non nobis, sed nomini Tuo da gloriam,” Pierre said.
Pierre fell to his knees and repeated the prayer in English.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Thy name give glory,” Pierre said in a soft voice.
A flash of bright light came from nowhere. Pierre leaned backward. Nelson moved to stand, but found that he was wearing the solid armor of the Templars. In one hand, he held a shield. In the other a heavy helmet. His casual clothing were gone. He was now wearing clothing was now made from velvet and silk. Feeling like he was inside a Disney cartoon, he closed his eyes and opened them again a few time. He looked up to see that the entire party was now wearing armor. Alex Hargreaves put her hand on his shoulder.
“Need some help getting up, Knight?” Alex asked with a grin.
“Please,” Nelson said.
She held out a hand which he leveraged to move to standing. The heavy armor settled into place as if it were made for him specifically. Alex nodded and moved to stand next to Artemis.
“In the name of all things holy, the Order of the Templars sanctions your quest,” Pierre said. “Come home to me, son.”
Pierre looked up at the others.
“Bring him home to me,” Pierre said. “Whatever happens. Bring him home to me. Please.”
With that, the questing party disappeared from Nelson’s carriage house.
Pierre stayed kneeling in Nelson’s dining room for a long moment before getting up and sitting at the table. Just in front of the placemat sat three golden apples which seemed to glow with light. He felt an instant longing for them. Without thinking, Pierre ate the apples in quick succession. He suddenly felt stronger, healthier.
He got up to cleaned up the meal, but somehow found himself in Nelson’s bedroom. He lay down on Nelson’s bed and waited for his son to return.
Tuesday evening — 8:12 p.m.
“Blane just called,” Maresol said.
Teddy, Nash, and Noelle looked up at her. Nelson’s co-worker, Leslie, and Ava came in from the dining room at Seth’s home.
“What did he say?” Ava asked.
“He said that Heather wasn’t at dinner so he went to Nelson’s home,” Maresol said. She looked off for a moment to catch her emotions. “He found Pierre sound asleep in Nelson’s bed. Blane tried to rouse him, but he was too asleep. He called Jake and 911. Pierre is on his way to the hospital.”
“I will follow him,” Maresol said. “Blane said that Nelson went to Bestat Behair’s home last night. She and Alex believe that they know where to start based on some old maps.”
“Nelson told us,” Leslie said. “We worked with the starting point most of the day. We think we’ve found a way there.”
“Good,” Maresol said. “Blane said, ‘It’s time to do your thing.’ Whatever that means.”
Leslie and Ava nodded at the same time Nash, Noelle, and Teddy nodded.
“I am going to the hospital,” Maresol said.
Seth’s father, Bernie, came out of his room carrying a book.
“I’ll go with you,” Bernie said.
“They will need you here,” Maresol said.
“Why?” Bernie asked.
“To help Nelson in his quest,” Maresol said.
“They won’t need me right away,” Bernie said. “Our friend needs us first.”
Maresol looked visibly relieved. Bernie set down his book and reading glasses. They grabbed their jackets and left the house. Ava locked the door behind them.
“We set up the dining room,” Ava said to Nash, Teddy, and Noelle.
Noelle went into Sandy’s room. Sandy was sitting on the couch with Aden. His arm was around her.
“It’s starting,” Noelle said. “We’re meeting in the dining room.”
With Aden’s help, Sandy got up. Noelle ran out of the room. Sandy and Aden followed her. Leslie walked behind the kids. Ava and Leslie had hung the copies of the most pertinent maps on the walls of the dining room. Aden helped Sandy into the chair next to Teddy. He moved his computer so that she could watch.
“Can you check the tracker?” Leslie asked Nash.
Nash pointed to Teddy’s laptop.
“How did you get a tracker on him?” Aden asked.
“He’s growing his hair out,” Teddy said. “We created one from a hair tie. He agreed to wear it. He must have put it on before he left.”
“Alex said that she would clip an earbud to the band,” Nash said. “We should be able to talk to him.”
“No video?” Aden asked.
“Alex has one,” Teddy said. “My guess is that her team is talking to her right now.”
“They would never let her go without them,” Nash said.
“Can we get the feed?” Ava asked.
Nash sat down on the other side of Sandy. Aden went to look at the maps on the wall. Leslie nodded.
“Got him,” Teddy said. “He still has the tracker we gave him.”
“He’s where we thought he’d be,” Sandy said.
“What happens now?” Noelle asked.
“We wait,” Nash said.
“We watch,” Teddy said.
“He’ll make contact with us if he needs something,” Leslie said. “We’ll contact him if we learn something.”
“Video?” Ava saked.
“Maybe,” Nash asked. “I’ve asked. We haven’t heard back.”
“Hey, be quiet!” Teddy said. “I’m picking up something.”
They fell silent.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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