CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-TWELVE
U.S. Army Lieutenant Alexandra Hargreaves awoke with a start. She was naked, tucked under her husband’s arm, in her own bed. She closed and opened her eyes.
How did she get there?
She tried to remember. They had been standing on the grassy field of Castle Ponferrada in the early dawn. “They” consisted of a bizarre collection of mythological creatures, Goddesses, and even a Titan. She had been standing next to Dr. Nelson Weeks, who turned out to be a good friend of her husband’s. Dr. Weeks was also Guy Semaines, Templar or possibly head of the Templars. Grand Master? He’d said as much but he was also. . . It was hard to keep track of all of the things the handsome man was an expert in.
She turned to look at her sleeping husband. His curly hair was clipped close. Knowing she wasn’t going to be home, he’d not shaved before bed. With his even stubble, he could give any sultry male model a run for their money. She loved him in a way she could never explain.
Feeling her eyes, he opened his eyes. In the dark light, his cobalt blue eyes looked nearly black. He squinted at her face and then smiled. He leaned his face forward to kiss her.
“What a wonderful surprise!” Dr. John Drayson said. “When did you get home?”
“Just now, I think,” Alex said, shrugging her eyebrows. “I seem to have been set into bed.”
“Lucky me,” John said. He stroked her face.
“How long have I been gone?” Alex asked.
“You left after dinner tonight?” John asked. “You don’t know?”
“Hecate said that we would ‘walk time,’” Alex said. “I don’t know what that means, really.”
“You mean that you’ve been off on a quest?” John asked, sitting up.
He turned on the light to look at her.
“More than twenty castles in Portugal and Spain,” Alex said with a sigh. “We spent a weekend at on an uncharted island that belongs to Aphrodite. We raised some saints on Bardsey Island. Met the real Merlin, even.”
“You were off the coast of Wales?” John asked.
“London, too.” Alex nodded as she sat up and leaned against the headboard.
“We spent time on the Isle of Man in the company of the Manannàn,” Alex said.
“What?” John asked. “The actual Celtic god?”
“You know him?” Alex asked.
“My mother’s favorite Celtic God,” John said with a shake of his head. “At least that’s what Rita used to say. ‘If you cannot worship the Catholic God, you can pray to Manannàn.’ I still do that sometimes.”
Alex grinned at him.
“He exists?” John asked.
“What’s he like?” John asked.
“Amazing,” Alex said. “Beautiful. Gorgeous to look at and. . . I don’t know, he has this sense of goodness about him. The goodness of the sea, I guess. I felt so safe, sort of like loved but more like this sense that I actually existed. I don’t know how to explain it.”
John gave her a searching look, and she shrugged.
“Why did you see him?” John asked.
“His daughter is Mari took us there without the Goddesses knowing,” Alex said. “Mari is Edie sister. Manannàn is Edie’s father, too.”
John fell back against the bed board. Edie was married to his just-older-than-him brother, James.
“Okay, my mind is blown,” John said. “You think Jimmy knows?”
“I do,” Alex said.
“Sneaky bastard,” John said, with a grin.
“Sometime in prehistory, Manannàn tasked his people to create a library of important documents from history,” Alex said. “I spent a very long time, felt like days, reading ancient books and maps about this quest for the Templar hoard.”
“Nelson has an eidetic memory,” John said.
“He’s amazing,” Alex said. “He sucked up the information like a vacuum cleaner. I have to tell you, we were right in the middle of this quest. I have no idea how I ended back here.”
John gave Alex a saucy grin.
“Oh yes,” Alex said with a smile. “I’m sure you’re right.”
He moved toward her at the same time their daughter, Máire, screams could be heard over the baby monitor.
“Mommy! Mommy! I want my Mommy!” Máire screamed.
Alex looked at John.
“She’s always inconsolable the first night you’re gone on mission,” John said. “But then, we all are.”
“It’s a huge sacrifice,” Alex said.
“One we are well prepared to make,” John said with a nod.
They slipped out opposite sides of the bed at the same time and began dressing.
“Wyatt was ill this evening,” John said. “He thought that he picked it up when he was at the kids’ school for reading time. Seemed like the flu. I would expect. . .”
Joey, Máire’s fraternal twin, squealed as Máire threw up.
“I’m glad you’re here,” John said with a grin as he pulled on his pajamas.
“Me too,” Alex said. “For vomit and diarrhea and all.”
He held her tight for a brief moment before they left their bedroom to help their twins with the flu.
“I know where it is,” Nelson said. “I’ll just need some help getting there.”
Or at least he thought he had. He remembered Alex Hargreaves laughing. The Goddesses too. But now. . .
He was standing in a long dark corridor that appeared to be underground. The hallway was made from hand hewn blocks of solid stone. He turned to look at the wall itself.
He was inside some kind of archeological. . . something.
“Hello?” Nelson called.
His voice echoed down the corridor. No one responded.
Where were the Goddesses? Where was Alex? Where was Bestat or. . .?
“Hello?” Nelson called again.
Nothing stirred. The air was completely still. The dark of the hallway pressed into his flesh. His nose picked up the scents of ancient incense, dust, and decay. In an attempt to confirm that he was underground, he touched the wall.
It was cold. Frigid.
He was buried alive!
Panic coursed through his veins. He fell to his knees to catch his breath.
“Hello?” Nelson asked.
No one, not even Bestat’s amazing attendants, responded. He was alone in the dark buried under hundreds of tons of rubble and dirt. He shivered with fear and cold.
His hands instinctively tucked themselves into the pocket of his tunic. To his surprise, there was a Zippo lighter in his pocket. He took out the lighter out of his pocket to look at it.
This lighter had belonged to his friend, Jax. It held the emblem of his Special Forces team on one side. It held a hand painted Templar cross on the other side. Nelson had painted the cross to protect Jax. Of course, it didn’t help when he was murdered. Nelson swallowed back the sorrow and rage that came with losing Jax. His fingers closed over the lighter.
He should have the light. The love of Jax’s life had kept most of Jax’s possessions. The last time Nelson saw the lighter, it was sitting on the mantle at the home they’d shared together. Nelson wouldn’t dream of taking it. Yet somehow, it was sitting in his tunic pocket.
Trying to sense if some magical being was with him, he looked around. Maybe he wasn’t as alone as it seemed.
He grinned at the thought. He’d missed the fact that there was a torch on the wall next to him. For a moment, the doctor in him debated the potential cancer implications of the torch.
He groaned at himself.
“Man of action I am not,” Nelson said out loud.
He took the torch down from the wall. Jax’s Zippo lighter sprung to life. The torch was ablaze in a moment.
“Love you, Jax,” Nelson whispered and put the lighter back into his pocket. “Here goes nothing.”
He took the torch down from the wall and took a step forward. And then another.
Nothing happened, so he kept walking. He’d gone about twenty feet when he was forced to make a hard left. Up ahead, warm yellow light spilled from a room or hall.
“Maybe the Goddesses are waiting for me there.” As soon as he said them, he knew that his words were not true.
He was truly alone for this phase of the quest.
“Oh Blane,” Nelson whispered. “I. . .”
His mind flooded with the joys of his current life — the light falling on Blane’s face, Mack and Wyn’s open love and laughter, Hedone in her cupid form, and Tres, the younger brother he never knew he needed. His work friends were more like family than friends. Hanging out with his father at the art museum, eating mussels and too much wine at some ridiculously priced restaurant, and. . . He smiled as image after memory reminded him of how much waited for him at home.
That is if he ever got done with this bullshit.
He gritted his teeth. His mother had given her life for him. His father had fought all of his life so that Nelson could live a free life unencumbered by this history. His father was right this moment fighting for his life.
This was something he simply had to do.
He was born for this moment. He pushed aside his panic and went down the hallway to the room. He paused at the doorway before stepping into the room.
He wasn’t sure how he knew what it was, but he knew that he was smelling ancient magic. His hand instinctively went to the talisman that Bestat had given him.
It was still hanging around his neck. Relief coursed through him.
He was still protected.
He took another step and the door behind him disappeared. He turned to look at where he’d come from. The door had been replaced by the same block wall.
“I was born for this,” Nelson whispered to himself.
He walked forward. The room around him transformed into a medium sized chapel. Ancient wooden benches appeared at either side of the aisle Nelson happened to be walking down.
Nelson squinted. There was a man kneeling at the front of this chapel.
In fact, the front of this chapel appeared to be a kind of altar to. . . He wasn’t sure.
As he walked forward, the scene in front of him became more clear. The kneeling man was wearing Templar garb similar to what Nelson was wearing. To the side, there was another man — younger, maybe a teenager. He held the sword of Jacques de Molay point down against the stone floor. This man was fit, strong. He looked like. . .
“Papa?” Nelson whispered to the man standing to the side.
The man’s stern face broke into a broad smile.
“Non,” the man said with a grin. Continuing in ancient Frank, the language of the Templars, the young man said, “I am your grandfather’s great grandfather.”
He put his hand on his chest and instantly withered to a skeleton. He removed his hand and returned to this young age.
“I am also Peddra, my son,” the man said.
“Ancient Frank for Pierre,” Nelson said. “My father’s name is Pierre.”
“He carries my name, my son,” Peddra said. “I am the Weapons Master to the Grand Master.”
Peddra nodded to the sword in his hands.
“This is only an illusion,” Peddra said. “I believe that you have the Grand Master’s sword, son.”
Nelson took out the sword.
“My son, the Grand Master,” Peddra said, his voice filled with pride.
“My mother gave her life for me, grandfather,” Nelson said.
“Why do you think that you are here?” Peddra asked with a nod. “Her sacrifice and love for you are the power that make all things possible.”
Nelson gave a slight nod. He gestured to the man kneeling at the altar.
“Jacques de Molay,” Peddra said. “We have been waiting for you for a long, long time.”
“For me, grandfather?” Neson said. “Why?”
The man at the altar turned to look at Nelson. As Nelson watched, the man’s visage shifted from some kind of marble statue to a living man. The man started to get up, but groaned.
Nelson instinctively went to the elderly man’s side to help the man to standing. The man sneered at Nelson and shook him off. As soon as he was standing on his own, the elderly man weaved until finally finding his balance.
“Jacques de Molay,” the man said. He looked Nelson up and down. “So you are the male heir of Bernard of Clairvaux.”
Nelson blinked. Jacques de Molay was speaking ancient Frank with a thick accent that Nelson couldn’t place.
Nelson realized that the man expected a reply.
“N. . .” He caught himself in time. “Guy Semaines, sir.”
“Your relative?” Jacques de Molay.
“As prophesized,” Peddra said, with a nod.
“Yes,” Jacques de Molay said. He looked Nelson over. “You are bigger than I would have expected. Softer. Stronger.”
“You are smaller than I expected, older,” Nelson said evenly.
Jacques de Molay laughed, and Peddra smiled.
“Why am I here?” Nelson asked.
“You are questing for the hoard?” Jacques de Molay asked.
“I am looking for an object that will save my father’s life,” Nelson said.
“In the treasury?” Jacques de Molay asked.
“Yes, sir,” Nelson said.
“What have you found so far?” Jacques de Molay asked.
Nelson took the jar filled with dirt from Bardsey Island from the inside pocket of his tunic. He took out the chain mail shirt from his backpack.
“This is mine,” Jacques de Molay said, softly. He looked up at Nelson. “May I?”
“Of course,” Nelson said.
Jacques de Molay pulled the chainmail shirt on. He sighed. As the air expelled from his lungs, he grew younger. In a matter of moments, the last known Grand Master of the Templars became a young man.
“Perfect,” Jacques de Molay said with a wide smile. “Now, we have a lot to do.”
“To do?” Nelson asked.
“How many quests have you been on, young man?” Jacques de Molay asked.
Nelson shook his head.
“By the time I was your age, I had been on more than twenty,” Jacques de Molay said. “I’d killed more than a hundred infidels. I. . .”
Jacques de Molay shook his head and looked at Peddra.
“You are not ready to be the Grand Master, my son,” Peddra said.
“I’m not?” Nelson asked.
Peddra and Jacques de Molay shook their heads.
“I don’t have time for this,” Nelson said. “My father is dying! I can’t. . .”
“You are not ready,” Jacques de Molay said. He stretched to his tallest and screamed, “You are not ready!”
“How do I get ready?” Nelson asked.
“We will teach you,” Jacques de Molay said. “When you leave this place, you will be ready to find the hoard, ready to be the Grand Master of the Order of the Templars. Ready to replace me.”
“You must be willing,” Peddra said.
“Do I have a choice?” Nelson asked. “The Goddesses aren’t here. Alex either. Mari clearly couldn’t come. I am trapped here.”
“We are all trapped by our personal histories,” Peddra said. “You have a chance to become something great.”
“I’m not great already?” Nelson asked. “I am the only male heir to Bernard of Clairvaux!”
“You may be great, but you are not ready show your greatness,” Jacques de Molay said. “Are you willing to get ready?”
“Willing to learn from us?” Peddra asked.
Nelson looked down at the stone floor. Like the rest of the castle, these blocks were hand hewn from stone.
“The only way out is through,” Nelson said, softly.
“You are willing to learn?” Jacques de Molay asked.
“I am willing to learn,” Nelson said. “To get ready. Any idea of how long will I be here?”
“As long as it takes,” Jacques de Molay said.
“But. . .” Nelson said.
He found himself standing in a historic smithy. The heat was oppressive. There were nearly naked brutes of men stoking the fires. Peddra stood in the center of the smithy.
“Make me a sword,” Peddra said. “This is your first task.”
“You’ve done this before?” Peddra asked.
“Since I was five year old,” Nelson said.
Peddra put his hand to his heart and then moved it toward Nelson, who bowed his head to receive the blessing. After a moment, he stood tall and got down to business.
“What kind of blade? Hilt? Material?” Nelson asked. “Special? Magical? Or just a sword?”
“It’s up to you. Use what you find,” Peddra said. “I will be here to assist, should you need it.”
“We are all here to assist you,” an obsidian skinned hulk of a man said in perfect Frank. “It’s our honor to help build a Grand Master.”
Nelson nodded to his ancestors and got to work.
While Nelson learns what he needs to know, this story line of Denver Cereal will be on hiatus. This story should return in July. In the meantime, we are rolling back the years to the origins of Denver Cereal.
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