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January 2020

Chapter Six Hundred-Seven: As if we needed another God

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-SEVEN

Nelson and Alex landed in the front yard of a small home. Mari stood just off the side. With her sword drawn, she looked around to see if there was a threat.

“Where are the others?” Nelson asked.

“We’re taking a little beak from them,” Mari said, slipping her sword into its scabbard.

“What?” Alex asked turning quickly to focus on Mari.

“Why?” Nelson asked.

“Let’s get inside,” Mari said.

Mari looked around again.

“Are you expecting someone?” Alex asked.

“My father should be here soon,” Mari said in an obvious distraction from the question. “Inside.”

Mari opened the door, and they went inside. Much to Nelson’s surprise, the house was exactly what it looked like a small two bedroom, one bathroom home. It had hardwood floors and a wide open view of the Irish Sea from the back of the house.

“Nice,” Alex said. “My brother-in-law lives. . .”

“Next door with my sister, Edie,” Mari said.

“Edith is your sister?” Alex asked. “I guess I should have known that. You don’t look anything like each other.”

Mari nodded and went into the kitchen. Nelson leaned into speak to Alex without Mari hearing.

“Mari was raised to marry a man from another kingdom,” Nelson said, softly. “He was killed before they were able to marry.”

Alex nodded.

“My mother couldn’t find a role for Edie so she gave her to my father’s human family,” Mari said. “Edie was nearly a hundred before Abi started training her.”

“A hundred?” Alex said in a low voice to Nelson.

He nodded.

“They are ancient,” Nelson said in a low voice.

“Anyway, I’m also recovering from all the ‘crazy magic’ to change my looks to be suitable for some king or another,” Mari said. “My friend, Sissy, has been helping me become myself. Do you know Sissy?”

“Sandy’s sister?” Alex asked. “She’s a lovely girl.”

“I’ve met her but I don’t know her,” Nelson said. “She’s been in Paris since I’ve been dating Blane.”

“Why are we here?” Alex asked, moving into the kitchen.

“I needed to talk to you where they can’t hear you,” Mari said.

“They are goddesses!” Nelson said, taking a stool at the kitchen counter. “They can do whatever they want.”

Mari set a tea kettle on the stove.

“This is the Isle of Man. Man is short for Manannàn, my father.” Mari said, attending to a tea pot. “They can’t come here unless someone in the Queendom gives them permission. And even then, their powers are not effective here. Abi may come and go as she pleases, but she is not what I’m worried about.”

“What are you worried about?” Alex asked.

“Biscuits?” Mari asked.

“I’m still full from our London stop,” Nelson said.

Alex nodded.

Mari poured boiling water over the teapot and filled the milk pitcher. She carried it out to the sitting area.

“I’m sure you’re thinking that this must be gross because I’m never here,” Mari said. “My brother Keenan lives here most of the time so there’s a food delivery every three or four days. Some of my father’s heirs live on a farm nearby. They keep us in food and milk and everything yummy.”

“I’ve met Keenan,” Alex said. “He seems young to live on his own.”

“Technically, he lives with me,” Mari said. “But he is young and old at the same time.”

Mari smiled.

“You cannot imagine how annoying living a court can be,” Mari said. “That’s why we have these houses. They were originally built for my dad’s human family, but most of them moved away for jobs.”

Mari shrugged. She gestured to the living room and they went out to sit in the living room. In the doorway, they saw that Keenan was now sitting in a chair reading a text book.

“How was school?” Mari asked the boy.

“Good,” Keenan said, turning his eyes to Alex and Nelson. “I go to human school during the day and fairy school at night.”

“Sounds like a lot,” Alex said.

“I like to learn,” Keenan said. “At human school, I get to learn Manx and about computers. At fairy school, I get to learn about magic and being a fairy.”

“My brother, Fin, is pushing our little Queendom into the modern world,” Mari said with a nod.

Mari poured tea into four tea cups.

“Dad’s here,” Keenan said without looking up from his book.

The door swung open on an ocean breeze. The house filled with the smell of salt and open water. A dark skinned man stepped into the small house. His presence seemed to invade the very corners of the house and into Alex and Nelson.

“Knock it off, Dad,” Keenan said, still not looking up from his book.

“Sorry,” the man said. “Old habit.”

“No problem,” Alex said.

Mari poured her father a cup of tea. He sat down in a chair. They each focused on doctoring their tea. After a sip of tea, Alex set the tea cup down.

“While it is very nice to meet your little brother and your father,” Alex said, “I’m wondering if you can tell us why we are here.”

She looked at Mari’s father.

“We took a detour from our quest for the Templar treasure,” Alex said.

“We are aware,” Keenan said, setting his book on the table. “My father is the Manannàn.”

“The God of the Sea?” Alex asked.

“In the flesh,” Manannàn said. “We’ve met before, I believe, Alexandra Hargreaves.”

Surprised, Alex fell back in her chair. Nelson raised an eyebrow at her.

“You remember me?” Manannàn said.

“I do,” Alex said, softly. “Thank you.”

“Of course,” Manannàn said warmly.

Manannàn looked at Nelson.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Nelson said.

Nelson looked at Alex, and she shook her head.

“This is the knight?” Manannàn asked Mari.

She gave a nod.

“I like him,” Manannàn said. “I am glad you are guarding him.”

“Thanks, I think,” Mari said.

Manannàn turned toward Nelson. He gave a slight nod.

“I am an ancient God,” Manannàn said.

“Celtic,” Alex said. “God of the sea.”

“That would be me,” Manannàn said. “My daughter asked me to come and speak to you about your quest. Delicious tea, my dear.”

“Wonderful,” Nelson said.

Alex nodded.

“Thanks,” Mari said, blushing. “My own special blend.”

“You are on a quest for Bernard’s hoard of jewels and whatever else,” Manannàn said.

“We retrieved a collection of art and other items from a salt mine in Poland,” Alex said. “One of those items destroys light, including the sun.”

“Yes,” Manannàn said. “I am aware of it. Belonged to Nyx.”

“She said that it and its counterpart were stolen from her,” Nelson said. “The Templars took the object we call the ‘Adam’s Apple’ leaving this other item out in the world.”

“Do you know where it is?” Alex asked.

“I do,” Manannàn said. “I also know that without my help, your quest will fail.”

“Why is that?” Nelson asked, irritably.

The fairies and Alex raised their eyes to him.

“I apologize,” Nelson said. “I had no intention of going on this ‘quest.’ Now that I’m here, it seems to be a series of misadventures and a lot of waiting. I feel revved up and exhausted at the same time.

“Sounds like a quest,” Manannàn said with a nod. “When I was human, we shoved off from Africa in a skiff with my wives and children. We were looking for a better life for ourselves and our people. We landed here, on this island.”

Nelson gave him a slight nod.

“That was a lot of waiting,” Manannàn said with a grin.

Not sure how to respond, Alex and Nelson simply focused on their tea. Mari got up to refresh the pot. When she returned, it was clear that she was ready to get down to business.

“Dad?” Mari asked.

“Yes, Marigold,” Manannàn said. “I will get to the point.”

Mari poured more tea while Alex and Nelson waited for the God to speak.

“The rest of your party is on Bardsey,” Manannàn said.

When Nelson looked confused, Alex whispered, “It’s about 100 miles South of here. Couple of miles off the coast of Wales.”

“From this point forward, you will be asked to prove yourself as the heir,” Manannàn said.

“Haven’t I already done that?” Nelson asked with a shrug. “I’m here, in this get up, and. . .”

“A knight must prove himself at every step,” Manannàn said.

Angrily shaking his head, Nelson swallowed some of his tea.

“That’s not his rule,” Mari said. “That’s just the way quests go. The knight has to prove himself all the way through.”

“It’s why so many knights don’t survive their quests,” Keenan said.

Nelson and Alex turned to look at Keenan and then Mari. She nodded.

“I was thought maybe my dad could help us even out the odds,” Mari said.

“How would he do that?” Alex asked.

“The way most humans even out the odds — with information,” Keenan said, gesturing to his books.

There was a knock on the door. Mari got up to answer it. A dark skinned woman came into the house. The tall and thin woman reminded Nelson of someone but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Mari and the woman hugged. The woman held out a tin which made Mari grin.

“This is my niece, Ne Ne,” Mari said. “She is Fin and Abi’s first daughter.”

“You may know my daughter, Yvonne, or my granddaughter, Tanesha,” Ne Ne said to Nelson and Alex.

Nelson and Alex nodded in near unison.

“I brought some of the biscuits that my granddaughter makes,” Ne Ne said. “She kindly gifted me her recipe for what she calls, ‘Chocolate Crinkles.’”

Mari set the tin on the table and opened it. A wonderful chocolate smell wafted from the cookies.

“We have a lot to get through in a very short amount of time,” Ne Ne said. “I thought the sugar might help.”

Unsure, Nelson and Alex picked up cookies. Nelson took a bite and groaned.

“These are my favorites,” Nelson said.

“Yes, Tanesha said that you like these ones best,” Ne Ne said with a grin.

Ne Ne moved into the living space. Keenan moved to get up so that she could sit but she waved him back into his seat.

“It’s nice to stand,” Ne Ne said, standing near the hearth. “I sit too much.”

“Just let me know,” Keenan said.

Ne Ne nodded.

“My granddaughter is one of our chief librarians,” Manannàn said. “Did you bring. . .?”

“Yes, Manannàn,” Ne Ne said.

Ne Ne opened the bag she had slung over her shoulder to show that it was full of books. Alex held out her hands for the books, but Ne Ne simply smiled.

“As I said,” Manannàn started as if there had been no interruption, “from here on out, every step will be a test of your abilities and knowledge as the heir. According to my daughter, neither you nor your father have any idea what the stages of this quest look like.”

“That’s true,” Nelson said. “No one seems to know.”

“I do,” Ne Ne said. She looked at her father. “Have the Templars lost access to their texts?”

“Yes,” Alex said. “I’d never seen an actual Templar map until this week and the ones I saw were woefully incomplete and inaccurate. Primative.”

“It’s likely that the originals were burned when the Templars were burned,” Ne Ne said. She looked at her father. “This is why my father created our libraries.”

“To acquire and curate the knowledge of the world,” Manannàn said. “That’s the motto I came up with.”

“Catchy,” Nelson said.

Manannàn grinned.

“After Nelson and I talked, I tried to find information about this quest,” Alex said. “I was unable to find any information that wasn’t some kind of confabulation. If you have information — any information —, I would love to see it.”

“Of course,” Ne Ne said.

“Father? Will you speak to our knight?” Mari asked.

“I will,” Manannàn said.

Ne Ne, Keenan, and Alex moved to Mari’s dining room table. Soon, they were deep in conversation leaving Mari, Nelson, and Manannàn to drink their tea. Manannàn set his cup down.

“What do you know about Bardsey Island?” Manannàn asked.

“Nothing,” Nelson said. “I mean, Alex just told me that it’s an island off of Wales and about 100 miles from here. South.”

“It was a destination for people of the Christian religion,” Mannanan said.

“More than 20,000 saints are buried there,” Mari said with a nod.

“You will be asked to raise these 20,000 saints,” Manannàn said.

“What?” Nelson asked. “How. . .?”

Manannàn raised his hand and Nelson stopped talking.

“Please, there’s a lot for you to hear and we have little time,” Manannàn said. “Listen now.”

Manannàn’s voice echoed through Nelson’s head. He nodded.

“The penalty for not being able to raise the saints is death,” Mari said.

“This is why my daughter brought you here,” Manannàn said. “And called us together. I take it that you have no idea how to raise the saints?”

“None what-so-ever,” Nelson said. “No clue.”

“They might not want to kill you, but that is law,” Mari said.

“What do I do?” Nelson asked.

“Your human friend is learning everything there is to learn about Bardsey,” Manannàn said. “But you must memorize the incantation to raise the saints.”

“Memorize?” Nelson asked. “Easily. I’m good at that.”

“Good,” Manannàn said. “There’s more. Before you leave here, I must tell you that the actual location of the hoard is in the middle of the Mediterranean sea.”

“What?” Nelson asked leaning forward.

“You will only be able to find it if you know where it is located and how to get there,” Manannàn said.

“Another test,” Mari whispered loudly.

“That’s crazy,” Nelson said. “It’s a place that you can only get to if you know where it is? It’s like something out of a movie.”

“You’re on a Templar Quest,” Alex said, turning to look at Nelson from the table. “That is something out of a movie.”

Nelson shook his head in an attempt to clear what felt like cobwebs from his brain. Manannàn said something to Mari in a language he didn’t understand. Mari scowled. She put her hand on his head and the clogged feeling in his head vanished. She said something to Manannàn in the same language.

“You had a spell on you,” Mari said.

“What kind of a spell?” Nelson asked.

“One that clogs your thinking,” Mari said. “You’ve been acting odd. Like a petulant child.”

“I feel like a petulant child,” Nelson said. He put his hand on his chest. “I didn’t feel that way as a child.”

“I thought that you were just tired or upset,” Mari said.

Manannàn said something in the foreign language and Mari shook her head.

“May I?” Manannàn asked, holding out his hand toward Nelson’s head.

Nelson leaned forward and Manannàn touched his forehead. Nelson felt as if the water inside his cells rushed to celebrate the joining with this man. For a moment, Nelson felt a tremendous peace. Manannàn pulled his hand away. He said something to Mari.

“We can’t tell who or what put the spell on you,” Mari said. “Our concern is that there is a member of this party who is sabotage in you.”

“Why would they do that?” Nelson asked.

The door burst open and a figure stood in the doorway. Mari and Alex were on their feet in a moment.

“Because they want the world to end,” the distinct voice of the creature named “Bestat” said.

Manannàn was on his feet. He rushed toward the figure.

“Stop!” Nelson screamed. “She’s. . .”

Laughing and talking at the same time, Bestat and Manannàn held each other tight. Alex sat back down to read the book that Ne Ne was discussing. Mari remained standing. While they had been fairly hostile to each other in the quest, Mari and Bestat hugged like old friends.

“How did you find us?” Nelson asked.

Bestat gestured to the cookies. She went to the table to greet Ne Ne and Keenan with hugs. With the greetings out of the way, Bestat turned to Nelson.

“We have almost no time,” Bestat said. “I came to tell you that you, Guy Semaines, are in grave danger.”

“From inside the quest?” Mari asked.

“From the quest itself,” Bestat said. “This quest is designed to kill the heir. I don’t know why, but it is. Each time you succeed, you will become more stupid, more foggy, and less able to move forward. The heir must be able to withstand it all, but the magic is strong — too strong for one person.”

“The quest was designed to pick the best of a group of heirs,” Ne Ne said. “No one thought that there would be just one.”

“We have much to do,” Manannàn said.

“Then let’s get it done,” Nelson said.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Manannàn said.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six hundred and Six: A little blood

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-SIX

“Okay, I think we’ve got it,” Alex said.

Bestat held out her hand, and Alex gave her the sheet. She read the page and looked up at Alex.

“Do you think it’s right?” Alex asked.

Bestat nodded.

“Can you speak with my son?” Bestat asked.

Alex touched her ear.

“Teddy?” Alex asked. She looked at Bestat.

“I’m here,” Teddy Jakkman said.

Bestat was Teddy’s father Zack Jakkman’s life partner. Teddy’s mother was no longer in the picture. Bestat had stepped in to mother Zack’s children. Teddy, his brother and sister adored Bestat as much as she loved them.

“We need the maps that you made on your computer,” Bestat said. “Particularly the one in the South of France.”

“Of course,” Teddy said. “Did you bring phones?”

“No,” Alex said. “But Mari’s here.”

Alex turned to Mari, the fairy.

“Can you bring me my work tablet?” Alex said. “It’s hand held and works with the satellite. My assistant, Dusty, should know where it is.”

“I’m here, sir,” U.S. Army Sergeant Alexander Roger Ulysses “Dusty” Cummings III said. “Raz, me, Troy, Margaret — we’re here at O’Malley’s house. The rest of the team are getting ready in case you need us. Except Vince, of course, because of his shoulder. You know, from the mine.”

“He’s here to boss us around,” U.S. Army Captain Andrew “Trece” Ramirez said. “But not to do the work. Of. Course.”

Rather than comment, Alex laughed.

“Thank you, Sergeant,” Alex said.

“Sir,” Sergeant Dusty said.

“The fairy is coming to get my work tablet,” Alex said.

“Won’t she break it with her electricity?” Sergeant Dusty asked.

“Why would I do that?” Mari asked.

Dusty squeaked with surprise at her sudden appearance. Alex heard Mari’s voice over her earbud. Alex looked up and saw that Nelson was following all of this on his earbud. He looked terrified. Alex walked over and grabbed his arm

“Steady on, Knight.”

Not ever sure what that meant, Nelson gave a simple nod.

Mari appeared with Alex’s tablet and a paper bag.

“Maresol said that you should eat,” Mari said with a shrug.

Nelson opened the bag and found two turkey sandwiches, two apples, and some small bags of potato chips. He gave a sandwich to Alex, who set it down. Nelson ate his sandwich in three bites.

“Why is that apple red?” Artemis asked.

Nelson grinned and tossed the apple to her. She grabbed it out of the air, took a bite, and gave a huge smile.

“Delicious,” Artemis said.

“Okay,” Alex said. “Bestat and I made a map of this area last night.”

“What is it?” Nelson asked.

In a breath, he was standing on the rich dark soil of a fertile field. The night was moonless. The dark had the inky quality brought by Nyx. He squinted to make out the building in the dark night.

“This is my mother’s family farm,” Nelson said. “You should know that they are. . .”

A woman and two men wearing full Templar armor ran out of the barn. They charged toward the group with their swords a loft.

“Can I kill them?” Artemis asked in a soft voice. “Hey Knight, is there another apple in the bag?”

Nelson pointed to the trees laden with fruit on the edge of the field. Artemis grinned.

“No, you cannot kill them,” Abi said.

“Let us deal with this,” Hedone said to Nelson.

“Get behind me, Nelson,” Alex said in a soft voice.

He shifted slightly behind her.

“I can fight,” Nelson said.

“This quest is bigger than you,” Mari whispered.

“There are things in play here that you simply wouldn’t understand,” Abi said.

She moved to stand behind him. She nodded to Artemis and Aphrodite. “Nyx.”

“We are protecting you, Knight,” Artemis said.

The Goddess of the Shadow appeared in front of the three Templar warriors. The warriors reeled back with surprise.

“You will abandon this,” Nyx said. “Now.”

She opened her hands and darkness surrounded the Templars. Aphrodite stepped forward and the darkness disappeared. Shocked and sensorial confused, the three Templar warriors stood, shocked and silent.

“Your turn, Knight,” Artemis said.

Nelson stepped out from behind Alex.

“I am Guy Semaines, son of Pierre Semaines, the head of the Order of the Templars,” Nelson said, in French. “I am heir to Bernard of Clairvaux. Templars — we are here on a matter of great importance. You owe me your fealty and allegiance.”

The three warriors looked at Nelson and blinked.

“We were warned that you would arrive,” the younger male said. “You are here to steal from us.”

“How can I steal from you when I own it all?” Nelson asked in the most arrogant voice he could manage. “I own this land. That house. Everything around for a hundred miles belongs to me — the heir of Bernard of Clairvaux.”

“This is a sanctioned quest by the leader of the Order of the Templars,” Hecate said. “You have no right to stand in our way. You should be helping the heir, not standing in his way.”

The leader of the three pointed his sword at Nelson.

“Because of you, the Order is in disarray,” the man said. “You murdered our fathers, brothers, nephews, and sons.”

“Before they killed us in our beds,” Nelson said.

Nelson saw Bestat gesture to Hecate. They slipped to the side of the Templar warriors.

“Only after you murdered my mother,” Nelson said. “Maimed my father. I am only here due to the sacrifice of my mother.”

“My sister,” the elder woman said and spit.

Without warning, an image of a happy couple with their six month old baby appeared in the field. The image was as clear as if they were watching television. The image bent in an arc around the three Templar warriors. The scene unfolded to show Nelson’s parents death. The magic was so complete that one of the warriors threw up at the gore.

Nelson lowered an eyebrow at Mari. She shrugged.

“They are assholes,” Mari said.

“Assholes or not, we are running out of time,” Nyx said. “Dragon! Get what we need! Fairy?”

In a blink of an eye, Bestat slid to the three Templars with a claw out. The long claw nail slid past the Templars throats. A drop of blood from each of them fell toward the ground. Bestat was once again standing with the quest party.

Mari appeared in front of the warriors with the original parchment. Their blood splashed on the parchment.

In the next second, Nelson felt a prick at his neck. A drop of his blood fell onto the stone that Nyx had taken from Mari’s sword.

“We’re done here,” Hecate said.

They were suddenly standing on the street of a modern city.

“Where are we now?” Nelson asked.

Bestat nodded toward a terraced house.

“I have lived here since the 1600s,” Hecate said moving toward the front door of the middle row house. “Shall we?”

“They survived the great London fire and the wars,” Mari said under her breath to Nelson.

“Imagine that,” Hecate said with a grin as she opened the door.

The members of the quest went inside.

“Looks like a museum,” Nelson said under his breath.

Mari pointed to something on the wall. Nelson turned to see that the head of the Historic Society was none other than Hecate. She grinned at them and they went upstairs.

“They won’t know we were here,” Hecate said. “Please — humans feel free to use the facilities. Our friend Hedone has gone out for food.”

Nelson went to use the restroom. He checked the place where Bestat had pricked him for his blood. There was a small scar in the shape of a heart. He washed his hands and face before returning to the group. When he came out, there were platters of delicious food and servants to take care of them. The servants looked right through him, so he figured that they were there to serve one of these Gods.

“He’s back,” Hedone said.

The Goddesses, Titans, Mari, Bestat, and Alex turned to look at him.

“What did we do with the blood?” Nelson asked, sitting down on a soft couch in front a platter of food.

“The parchment had ancient magic in it,” Bestat said. “It needed the blood of Templars to stabilize it. Once done, we had to set the compass.”

Nyx stepped out of the shadow to hold up the compass stone. No longer clear and light blue, the stone was now deep blue with threads of silver through it.

“Your blood transformed it, Templar,” Artemis said.

“Why didn’t we do that at home?” Nelson asked. “I’ve had the stone for almost a year.”

“We don’t know how long the charm will hold,” Bestat said. “Best to charge the stone when we are ready.”

“And?” Nelson asked. “What does it mean?”

“It means that we are close,” Hecate said.

“Good,” Nelson said.

“Eat now,” Bestat said, picking up a piece of thinly sliced rare beef. “Rest.”

“I thought we were in a big hurry?” Nelson asked.

“We’re in a time pocket created by Hecate’s home,” Hedone said, appearing by his side. “We are here to give you and Alex some time to refresh yourselves while we wait.”

She leaned forward and quickly made a kind of sandwich for Nelson from a roll and some poached salmon. She gave him the roll.

“Eat, sleep,” Hedone said and got up from the couch.

He took a bite of the meat filled roll and watched. The Goddesses and Titans were clearly friend, of a sort. They laughed with the dragon as if she were one of them. Abi sat down next to Nelson.

“How are you holding up?” Abi asked.

“I’m confused, but okay,” Nelson said.

“Yes, I imagine that’s true,” Abi said.

“When will we know it’s time to go?” Nelson asked.

“The compass,” Abi said. “You don’t know Nyx, but I can assure you that she is sitting and staring at the compass. We won’t miss it.”

Nelson nodded. Alex sat down on the other side of him.

“Eat,” Abi said.

“I usually don’t eat while on mission,” Alex said.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Abi do something, he wasn’t sure what.

“This does look delicious,” Alex said. She leaned over and picked up what looked to Nelson like a tuna and mayonnaise sandwich. “How did you know that I love these?”

Abi simply grinned. Alex ate her sandwich with great joy and poked around on her work tablet.

“How do you just accept all of this stuff?” Nelson asked Alex under his breath.

Alex turned and looked at him for a long moment. She shrugged.

“I guess I’m used to it,” Alex said. “Being in the military is a little bit like being around magic. Things happen that you don’t expect. You have to go here or there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen asleep in one location and woken up somewhere completely different. Sometimes our destination changes while we’re in the air. It’s crazy, but it works.”

Alex nodded to Abi.

“These are people will keep us safe,” Alex said. “I check that I’m safe. That you’re safe. We will have to be active soon enough. May as well enjoy our down time.”

Alex shrugged.

“A tuna sandwich is just a bonus,” Alex said with a grin.

“Why?” Nelson asked.

“I don’t get to have them when I’m working,” Alex said. “My teammates hate the smell. So I have them at home. It’s really my favorite. The only thing better than this is a tuna melt.”

Nelson grinned at her.

“Has Blane ever made you one?” Nelson asked.

Alex grabbed her stomach and groaned dramatically. Nyx appeared suddenly.

“Are you ill?” Nyx asked.

“No,” Alex said looking up into the gorgeous face of the dark. “Just being dramatic.”

“Humans,” Nyx laughed and dissolved into the shadow.

Alex gave Nelson a look out of the side of her eyes. Nelson grinned. They settled into a kind of quiet kind of contemplation.

“What are you thinking about?” Nelson asked Alex.

“Making lists,” Alex said. “This is fun and everything but we’re due to deploy in a week or so.”

She looked at Nelson and smiled.

“I have a lot of fun things to get in before then,” Alex said with a grin and a wiggle of her eyebrows.

“Like what?” Nelson asked.

“My friend Ji is talking about moving to Denver again,” Alex said. “He’s a master martial artist. We’re supposed to take them to look at houses this weekend. He and I will spar. Colin too.”

Alex nodded to Nelson.

“Your turn,” Alex said.

“Oh,” Nelson sighed. “We’re working on a cold case set in Grand Junction. Very hush, hush because of the players involved. I was wondering what the solution will turn out to be. Ava and Seth. . .”

Nelson looked at Alex to be sure that she knew who he was talking about. She nodded.

“They are so great at digging up details that no one thought about before,” Nelson said. He looked at Alex. “We’ve solved every case so far.”

Alex nodded and sighed.

“It’s amazing how saving the world never fits into my plans,” Alex said under her breath.

Nelson laughed. They fell silent again.

“There’s a lot of waiting with my work,” Alex said.

“Yeah?” Nelson asked.

“We usually play cards,” Alex said.

Nelson raised his hands and leaned back.

“I will not play cards with you,” Nelson said.

“What?” Alex asked, laughing. “Why?”

“Max says that you’re even better at cards than he is,” Nelson said shaking his head. “I’ve played with John and that was brutal. I will not play with you.”

Alex laughed.

“I can’t believe that we know so many people in common and never met,” Alex said.

Nelson grinned.

“What do you think you’ll do when all of this Templar stuff is over?” Alex asked.

Nelson turned to look at her.

“You’ve been this ‘heir’ all of your life,” Alex said. “I just wondered what it would be like for you it was over.”

“Help my father disband the organization,” Nelson said. Nodding to where Hedone, Hecate, and Artemis were talking. “Make sure to get the items in the hoard back to their rightful owners. Turn the properties over to the French government.”

Nelson shrugged.

“My father had plans to disband the organization,” Nelson said, “I mean, before all of this.”

“You won’t miss it?” Alex asked. “I mean, there are probably thousands of men who would have loved to be the heir.”

“That’s because they don’t really know what it means,” Nelson said.

Nyx appeared in the middle of the room.

“More later,” Alex said out of the corner of her mouth.

“Time to go,” Nyx said.

“Where?” Nelson asked.

His words were lost in the rush of movement and spinning chaos that was traveling by fairy.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Five: Brother Joseph

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-FIVE

France

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.

Nelson nodded.

“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.”

Nelson nodded.

“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?”

Mari nodded.

“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.”

Everyone nodded.

“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...


Chapter Six Hundred and Four: Et in nomine tuo

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. . .”

Pierre sighed.

“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. . .”

Pierre sighed.

“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.”

Nelson laughed.

“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. . .”

Nelson shrugged.

“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.

Nelson nodded.

“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.”

Maresol nodded.

“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...