Chapter Six Hundred and Nine: Castle of Soure
Chapter Six Hundred and Eleven: The Sword of Jacques de Molay

Chapter Six Hundred and Ten: Friends help friends

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-TEN

Marlowe School

Denver

“Did you hear?” Nash asked while stifling a yawn.

“About the quest?” Charlie asked.

“Nelson, Alex,” Nash said. He leaned in, “Templar treasure. They appeared again. Portugal.”

Charlie raised an eyebrow at Nash. Scowling, he shook his head and looked away. Charlie had been sitting with his back to a school wall napping in the sun during their lunch recess.

“You’re grumpy,” Nash said.

Charlie shook his head at Nash.

“What’s going on?” Nash asked.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Charlie said.

“Try me,” Nash said.

Nash gave Charlie a moment to collect his thoughts. When Charlie didn’t say anything, Nash nudged his leg with his foot.

“What do you want?” Charlie asked, angrily.

“Today’s the anniversary of your dad’s death,” Nash said.

Charlie’s head jerked to look up at Nash. Charlie blinked at the bright sun. Nash moved over so that Charlie’s face was covered in shadow.

“Sandy’s still healing,” Nash said. “Sissy’s in France.”

Nash nodded.

“You probably feel like there’s no one around who could understand your pain,” Nash said.

Charlie nodded. Nash dropped to a crouch.

“I can’t say that I understand what your specific situation is exactly like,” Nash said. “But I know the feelings you are feeling all too well. I’m willing to listen.”

Charlie didn’t look at Nash.

“You can talk to me,” Nash said.

“And say what?” Charlie asked. “My dad is dead. He was dead yesterday and he’ll be dead tomorrow. I. . .”

Charlie sighed.

“Last year wasn’t so hard,” Charlie said. “I don’t know why it wasn’t hard. I was happy. We were all together in that stupid tiny apartment. Sissy was finally where she should be. Tink, too. I was learning to read. Everything seemed so exciting. Good. Hopeful. But this year. . .”

Charlie looked at Nash.

“You want to use,” Nash said.

“Fiercely,” Charlie said. “I did heroin for the first time right after my dad died. I know it sounds dumb, but I miss it, you know, like it was my best friend and not my worst enemy.”

Nash reached out to Charlie, and Charlie took his hand.

“I feel like such a loser,” Charlie said.

“Well, you’re not,” Nash said. “Sandy always says, ‘Your feelings are real. . .”

“They are just not true,” Charlie said in unison with Nash.

Nash nodded.

“Listen,” Nash said. “I don’t have any advice for you.”

“I don’t need advice,” Charlie said.

“What do you need?” Nash asked.

“I wish I knew,” Charlie said with a sigh.

Nash sat down next to Charlie. For a long while, they sat together.

“What are you doing?” Charlie asked finally.

“I’m just being with you,” Nash said. “You know, like heroin.”

Charlie laughed and put his arm over Nash’s shoulders.

“Did it work?” Nash asked.

Charlie looked at Nash. He grabbed Nash’s head and kissed his forehead.

“Not really,” Charlie said. “But somehow, I feel less alone. And that’s a very good thing.”

“There you are!” Tink’s voice came from around the wall. “We’ve been looking everywhere.”

Noelle and Teddy came around the corner just after Tink.

“Seth is here,” Tink said. “He wants to take you out this afternoon.”

Charlie shot Nash a look that would curdle milk.

“I didn’t know,” Nash said raising his hands. “I’ve been sitting here with you.”

“Come on,” Tink said.

Tink held out her hands, and Charlie let her help pull him up. Tink held him tight. Nash scrambled up after him.

“I’m so sorry about your dad,” Tink said. She scanned his face. “You look like you want to use.”

“I did,” Charlie said. He nodded to Nash. “I think I’m okay now.”

“You’d better get to the office!” Noelle said.

Charlie nodded and started toward the office. The other children followed him close behind. When they arrived at the office, they saw Sissy standing next to Seth. Everyone rushed to Sissy. Seth hugged Charlie.

“How did you get here?” Tink squealed.

“Seth was in Paris talking to Ivan and Otis about going to Russia,” Sissy said. “He suggested that that we surprise Charlie. I’ve just been to see Sandy.”

“How long are you here?” Noelle asked.

Unsure of what to do with her hands, Noelle clenched them in front of herself. Sissy kissed Noelle’s cheek, and Noelle threw her arms around Sissy. They held each other for a moment before Sissy stepped backwards.

“I’m here just today,” Sissy said. “I have to get back tonight.”

“So glad you’re here, Sis,” Charlie said, hugging his sister.

“Come on,” Seth said.

“Let’s get out of here,” Charlie said.

He raised a hand in good bye to Nash and nodded to the others. They walked out of the building and to Seth’s parked car.

“You think that he’s okay?” Tink asked.

“I think he’s going to be,” Nash said with a nod. “Hey, did you hear?”

“Alex and Nelson appeared,” Noelle said. “We know! We’ve heard you tell us about a million times!”

Nash grinned, and the others laughed.

“Hey, you kids need to get to class!” the hall monitor yelled.

They trotted down the hall to their classroom.

~~~~~~~~

Spain

Nelson landed in yet another Spanish site. A wave of exhaustion came over him. He collapsed on the grass and sucked in a breath. He was exhausted and could feel the sickness beginning to rise inside of him. He rolled on his side and vomited until his stomach was heaving. He passed out.

Sometime later — a minute? Two days? — Alex Hargreaves put her hand on his forehead.

“He’s burning up,” Alex said.

“I’ll take him,” a foreign voice that sounded like Bestat if she were speaking through a cardboard tube. “Stay here. Tell the others. We’ll be back.”

Nelson felt as if he’d been picked up by. . . His mind believed that he was flying on the large eagles like Sam and Frodo.

“I’m not done. I’m not done. I’m not done,” Nelson tried to reason with the enormous eagle.

“Sleep now,” the enormous eagle demanded.

And he did.

The next sound he heard was Blane talking to a woman. His eyes fluttered open.

“Sick,” Nelson whispered.

No one paid any attention to him. He felt a small body climb up onto him. He opened his eyes to see Blane and Heather’s son Mack standing on the table he was lying on.

“Sick,” Nelson said.

The child nodded. The child held out his hand, and his brother climbed up onto the table. A toddler, Wyn climbed up Nelson’s chest so that his head lay against Nelson’s heart. Mack climbed between Nelson’s legs.

Nelson fell into his first peaceful sleep since this entire ridiculous escapade had started. He woke when Wyn was crying. He felt the warm body of the toddler being lifted off him.

“But Dad!” Mack said. “He needs our help!”

“And you’ve helped,” Blane said. “He needs some adult help.”

“Can I stay?” Mack bargained. “I won’t get in the way.”

“No, son,” Blane said.

“But he can’t eat an apple!!” Mack screamed at Blane.

“Oh honey, you have the best heart,” Blane said, picking up his weeping and screaming son. To someone Nelson couldn’t see, he said, “I’ll be right back.”

“Of course,” a Russian accented voice said. “I will start.”

“Please do,” Blane said.

Nelson heard Blane carry a screaming Mack away from the room.

“Hello, Guy Semaines,” the Russian voice said. “We have met before but you likely don’t remember me.”

“Jill’s father,” Nelson mumbled.

“Yes, something like that,” the woman laughed. “I am Angjelika. My family comes from a long line of healers from. . .”

“Russia,” Nelson mumbled. “Jill. . .”

“I’m right here,” Jill said. She grabbed his shoulder. “We’re waiting for Mike and my sister, Megan.”

“Don’t trouble. . .” Nelson said.

“Friends help friends do their most impossible tasks,” Jill said. “We are your friend, your human family. We are here to help you do what is nearly impossible.”

“Where else would we be?” Anjelika asked.

Tears squeezed from Nelson’s eyes.

“I can’t,” Nelson said. “Too weak and the world will end and. . .”

“You will not fail,” a strong male voice said from the doorway.

“Perses,” Nelson mumbled.

“You know me?” Perses asked.

“I’d recognize you anywhere,” Nelson said. “Terrifying.”

Anjelika laughed.

“Shh,” Jill whispered. She put her hands around his head. “Let us help you.”

“Let it in.” Nelson heard Mike’s voice and it made him smile.

“I’m Megan,” a woman said, leaning over his body. “You are very ill.”

The woman reached up and closed his eyelids. He was powerless to open his eyes.

“AIDS,” Nelson said.

“It’s something else,” Perses said.

“Something older,” Bestat’s voice came from the corner of the room.

“Moorish,” Perses said softly.

“Sleep now,” Jill said.

“Are we ready?” Blane’s voice came into the room.

“Please,” Anjelika said.

Blane kissed Nelson’s forehead, and that’s the last thing he remembered.

He sat up with a gasp.

“Where am I?” Nelson asked.

“There’s a good question.” Alex Hargreaves’s voice was suddenly next to him.

“Blane, Jill, her mother and the rest. . .” Nelson said.

“They were able to help you and then you needed sleep,” Alex said. “Bestat brought you back here. Can you eat?”

“I’m starving,” Nelson said.

Alex held out a cup full of mouth watering broth.

“Drink this,” Alex said.

He swallowed the warm liquid down.

“Where is everyone else?” Nelson asked.

“Resting,” Alex said. “We pushed too fast and hard. Even the Goddesses are exhausted.”

“Not you?” Nelson asked.

“I’m used to it,” Alex said. “But I slept and have been eating. Just staying in one location feels like a luxury.”

“The bouncing around from place to place is a deadly,” Nelson said.

Alex made a soft, empathetic sound. She gave him another cup of broth, which he drank down. Sitting up, he realized that he was naked.

“Clothing?” Nelson asked. “My Templar garb?”

“It was filthy,” Alex said. “My clothes, too. The servants cleaned it.”

“I don’t know how I feel about servants,” Nelson said.

“I understand,” Alex said. “Bestat is taking over our care. Her people are more accustomed to helping humans.”

Alex nodded to the broth.

“It’s delicious,” Nelson said.

“Bestat’s people are not slaves,” Alex said. “They are paid with money, longer life, family good luck, and other things.”

Nelson gave a slow nod.

“Where are we?” Nelson asked.

“A home owned by Aphrodite, of all things,” Alex said. “It’s very quiet and so lovely. The grounds are filled with a bounty of flowers of mysterious origin. My room looks right out over the ocean.”

“We’re in the middle of the ocean somewhere,” Nelson said.

“Yes,” Alex said. “She swears that it is still Spain. I’ve never seen this island marked on any map.”

Alex shrugged.

“I’m glad that you are on the mend,” Alex said. “We have a lot more to do.”

Nelson sighed.

“You think we’ll make it?” Nelson asked.

“A couple of hours ago, I didn’t,” Alex said with a smile. “Now, I think we’re going to be just fine.”

“What changed your mind?” Nelson asked.

“You,” Alex said. “You’ve rebounded from some plague you picked up at one of these sites. It’s only a matter of time before. . .”

The door opened with a slam.

“It is time to leave,” Hecate said. “You will have to return to Spain with only the Roman Goddesses. Can you do it?”

Nelson closed his eyes for a moment before looking up at Hecate. He nodded.

“I just need to get dressed,” Nelson said. He looked at Alex. “Any else to eat?”

“Of course,” Hecate said. “I will speak with your attendants.”

Hecate nodded and closed the door.

“That was almost too easy,” Nelson said.

“They feel badly that you got so sick,” Alex said. “They’ve been pushing us really hard. It’s no wonder you got ill.”

“You didn’t,” Nelson said.

“I am immunized against everything,” Alex said. “Me and Max are ridiculously healthy.”

Alex shrugged again.

“Shall I leave you to dress?” Alex asked.

“Would you mind?” Nelson asked.

“Not at all,” Alex said. “I’ll be right outside.”

She stood up and started toward the door. She stopped and turned back.

“Don’t fight the attendant,” Alex said. “They are actually amazing.”

Nelson nodded. Alex left the room and two tall, thin brown skinned men came into the room. They helped Nelson from the bed. They gave him a cloth, wet with lavender water, to clean himself. They wiped his back and feet. They helped him into his cleaned undergarments.

He was standing in his boxer briefs when the attendant held up an amulet on a thin necklace.

“This is from the mistress,” the attendant said in Egyptian accented French. “She spent all night looking for it. It belonged to one of your ancestors. The mistress believes that it will help to keep you healthy.”

Nelson lowered his head and the man put the necklace around his neck.

“You must not tell anyone about it,” the attendant said.

“The other human?” Nelson asked. “I can’t tell Alex?”

“She has one, as well,” the attendant said with a slight bow of his head. “From her ancestors.”

“Good,” Nelson said. He nodded. “That’s really good.”

“Yes,” the attendant said. He put his hand on Nelson’s heart. “Listen to me now, I am going to speak very quickly. Nod if you understand. Shake your head if you do not. You must act like you are simply getting dressed.”

Nelson nodded. The attendants looked at each other. The younger of the two attendants handed Nelson his pants.

“This quest is designed to kill you,” the older attendant said. “More than you can know, you are to die. No one is to find the hoard. This is how it’s designed.”

Nelson gave a nod.

“You must complete this quest,” the older attendant said.

Nelson nodded. The other attendant passed him a cotton wrap around shirt. Nelson put it on as the older attendant continued.

“You allowed yourself to become too ill,” the attendant said. “You must not do that again. You risk everything. The Russians were able to bring you back. There’s no reason for you to get so ill.”

Nelson tipped his head to the side.

“Yes, I realize that I’m saying that the quest is designed to make you sick and that there is no reason for you to get sick,” the attendant said with a nod. “None.”

“Why?” Nelson asked.

“You have friends,” the attendant said. “Friends who are willing to help you do hard things. Friends who will help you stay healthy and well. You are loved. So loved.”

Nelson’s eyes welled with tears. The other attendant gave Nelson the over garments to his Templar gear.

“Never doubt,” the attendant said. “These Goddesses will kill for you. They risk themselves for the quest. They will help you.”

Nelson nodded.

“You need to ask,” the attendant said. He hit Nelson hard in the chest with his pointer finger. “Ask.”

“I will,” Nelson said. He nodded sincerely.

“You must know that this quest is different,” the attendant said. “No Templar ever went on a quest alone. No Templar went on a quest for reasons other than to line his own pockets.”

“I am not so different,” Nelson said. “I am here to save my father.”

“Doing something for someone else,” the attendant said with a nod. “This is why you’ve made it so far. No Templar has ever going out on a quest for someone else. They were just not like that. They simply were not.”

Nelson glanced at the younger attendant and he gave a nod.

“Yes, young man,” the older attendant said. “We both knew Templars.”

Not sure what to say, Nelson focused on getting dressed.

“We are your attendants,” the man said. “Call us. Any time. We will appear. One of the gifts of serving the Madam is the gift of a kind of magic — very powerful, very secret. No one would dare to defy us. We will protect you. Care for you. Until you reach the very end of this quest or die.”

Nelson nodded.

“Thank you,” Nelson said.

The attendants finished dressing him, including putting on his shoes. They left the room without saying another word.

“Ready to go?” Hecate asked as Nelson stepped into the doorway.

“I am,” Nelson said.

He looked at Alex, and she nodded. They were whisked off to the next Templar site.

Denver Cereal continues next week...

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.