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Arkady stared impassively at the man across the desk, noting with detached interest as the sweat beaded on the man's brow. The frightened minion looked like a rat caught in a trap, an image not helped by the man's beady eyes and weak chin. "So the book has arrived at the Luna Foundation, has it? What about the armor?"
"It's been taken from it's display case, Mr. Arkady. No one at the museum is talking, but it's almost a sure bet that the shield and chain-mail were sent to the island as well." Vincent McComb shifted nervously in his chair, frantically going over the details of his investigation in his mind. When Arkady had approached him to track down a shipment from the Middle East, McComb had been surprised. It had been flattering to think that a man of the wealth and position of Victor Arkady might need the services of a former Customs officer, especially one with a reputation as tarnished as McComb's. It had only been after he had reported that the Luna Foundation was in possession of the items that the real nature of his employer had come through. But by then it had been too late to back away, too late to do anything but try to comply with his new master's wishes.
"I don't suppose you have any contacts on Angel Island, do you Mr. McComb?" Arkady commented coldly.
"No sir, but I still have friends on the dock. I can find out if the people on the island come or go. Maybe I can cash in a few favors, get someone into the house who won't ask too many question "
"That won't be necessary. I think that your services are no longer required, Mr. McComb. Please see my assistant on the way out of the building. She will see you are paid what you are owed." Akady turned away from his visitor, effectively ending the interview. McComb rose awkwardly and left as he had come in, trying not to break into a run as he reached the door.
Arkady waited until the relieved investigator had closed the door behind him, then tapped his intercom. Another man entered, absently brushing bits of lint from his coat. He was tall and lean, with cold eyes staring out of a acne-scarred face. The faint image of a scar was visible on his face, running from the corner of his right eye to his jaw. He glanced at his employer quizzically.
"Thomas, see to it that Mr. McComb gets everything that's coming to him." Arkady commanded, reaching for a file on his desk. "Oh, and Thomas ?"
"Try to make it look like an accident this time. No sense in giving ourselves away too early in the game."
Thomas pulled a sleek stiletto blade from his jacket and gingerly tested it's edge before sadly replacing it in it's sheath. "Yes, Mr. Arkady. What ever you say."
On Angel Island, the Legacy members were no further along in their investigation than when they had begun. Alex had taken the journal to scan its pages, reasoning that the computer could probably translate the book's Latin text faster than Derek. It had not been an easy argument to make. While Derek freely admitted his translating skills in Latin were not up to par, he had been surprisingly reluctant to relinquish the journal. Yet he had not been able to explain why it was so important that he read its entries. He had finally given in after Alex had agreed to allow him to see the translation as soon as it was completed. It had taken her the better part of the day, but the scanning portion of the task had finally been completed. Alex skimmed over the text as the computer began to print out it's translation. She had randomly selected a few entries to run through the special program, arbitrarily selecting the last entries to translate first. The pages so far had made for interesting reading from a historical standpoint but had not as yet shed any light on the mysterious symbols on the armour and shield.
"Any luck?" Nick asked, walking past the hologram into the computer room.
"Not really. Mostly it's a journal of this particular Templar's life in Acre before the cities fall to the Muslims. Most of one section is just vignettes of life in the city during the siege. The last few days he seems to have developed this obsession with a woman he saw in the street and one of his fellow soldiers. He talks on and on about seeing this other man, Damien de Lancie, with this beautiful woman whose name he never mentions. " Alex gently turned the journal's pages with gloved hands, her fingers gently touching the weathered parchment.
"Sounds like a major case of jealousy to me." Nick commented, skimming over the printed translation in front of him.
"I think it had as much to do with the culture of the Templars as with this particular man's obsession. I looked up a description of Templar life at the time and technically neither he nor his friend would have been allowed to be alone with a woman, not even their sisters or mothers. In their order, to have been alone with this woman, much less to speak to her, would have been a violation of their vows of chastity."
"You're kidding!" Nick replied, looking up at his friend in amazement.
"No, I'm serious. Many of the Templars held themselves to this very rigid code of conduct. Yet the author of this journal seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time looking for this woman and watching her and his fellow soldier. It's kind of strange, especially when you consider there was a large armed force just outside his gates trying to kill him and his order." Alex picked up the next page of the translation from the printer and read it carefully. "Oh, this is interesting!"
"What is?" Nick asked, taking the page from her hand.
"This entry was made three nights before the city fell. Laurent, that's the man writing the journal, was called to his commander's chamber for a special meeting. The summons comes from the Master of the order, who has also summoned several other young knights as well as men at arms."
"Does he say what it's about?"
"Yes. He gives a brief description of the event. Strange, there seems to be nothing else after that. It looks like this is the last entry in the journal. I wonder what happened after that meeting?"
Derek sat in the darkness, the photos Philip had taken of the old shield and armour held loosely in his hands. He stared at the symbols on both items intently, willing himself to see their pattern. But it was no use, nothing about the symbols from these grainy photos made any sense. He leaned his head back with a sigh and closed his eyes in fatigue. Suddenly, the vertigo which always preceded his visions struck, leaving him dazed. All around him, the sounds of the empty house changed. He could hear voices speaking in tongues not heard in centuries. Yet they were familiar somehow. He opened his eyes and looked around at the tableau in front of him. Men in battered leather and chain mail sat around a make-shift table, staring at something he could not see. Behind them, lined up against the wall, sergeants and men-at-arms, their faces weathered and worn clustered together nervously. On the far end of the table was a man whose face was hidden in the shadows of his cowl and bandages which covered him from cheek to chin. Beside him was a man in chain mail leaning exhaustedly against the table. The man looked up at him in desperation.
"Laurent? Did you hear me? We must move the armour tonight, lest those who traffic with the Devil find and solve it's riddle."
Derek put out his hand to touch the bundle in front of him, seeing the links of chain mail a portion of a wooden shield uncovered before him. The hooded man leaned into the torch light, reaching out quickly to stop him. He grasped Derek's wrist in a firm grip then gently pushed him back. Derek looked up startled then gasped in surprise
"Derek? Derek, are you all right?" Philip asked, gently shaking his friend awake.
"The eyes." Derek murmured, stunned. "The same eyes!"
"Whose eyes?" Philip replied, concerned.
"Violet eyes so deep you could drown in them. Why didn't I see it before? They have always been here, always guarded the secrets concealed by others." Derek looked up at the young priest with amazement. "Where are Alex and Nick?"
"In the lab. Derek, are you sure you're all right?"
"Yes, I said I was fine." Derek replied, waving off his young friend impatiently. "I must get that journal back. Somewhere in it's pages, there must be a record of a meeting held to discuss hiding the armour and shield which held this great secret, whatever it is. I must read those pages." He rose from his chair and started off down the hall, the worried priest in tow.
"So what does he say about the meeting?" Nick asked, taking each translated page from Alex's hand as she finished with it.
"Looks like the Templar's Master decided to send the armour and shield away from Acre days during the height of the siege, to protect it from forces he was afraid of. Laurent doesn't say what these forces were, only that his fellow Templar's were afraid for their secret." Alex read through the entry in silence, her expressive eyes wide as she reached the end. "Nick, look at this! Also present at the meeting where the man that Laurent was so obsessed with, Damien de Lancie and his younger brother Philip." Alex read through the entries quickly, handing each page back to her partner as she finished. "Something he discovered about them that night left him shaken."
"Well, he was pretty hot about this de Lancie guy making time with this woman, whoever she was. From these earlier entries, doesn't look like he had a much better opinion of the younger brother. This entry Derek translated says the younger brother, Philip, wore bandages across his face to cover some sort of burns. Listen to this entry:" Nick began to read from the page before him, giving voice to words written in another time and place by a fellow soldier." Philip's injuries keep his face hidden from all save his brother. He fights at his brother's side always, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. No one of us has ever looked into his eyes, yet many have reason to be thankful of his skill with the bow. Many of the enemy have reason to curse his name. Yet still, I am uneasy in the presence of such a mystery in human form." He put the page back on the desk, a bemused look on his face. "This guy's almost as paranoid as I am. This Philip de Lancie probably just had a complex about being scarred for life. I mean, those burns were probably pretty bad. Maybe he just didn't want anyone to pity him for what had happened. I could understand that."
"But that was not the real reason his face was concealed." Derek said, walking through the holograph with Philip at his heels. "He was hiding a more important secret than the condition of his face."
"Which was?" Alex asked, glancing quizzically at Philip.
"I believe that Philip de Lancie was not Damien de Lancie's brother but his sister. A woman in the garb of a young nobleman, sent along with her brother to insure the survival of the clues imbedded in that armour and shield, clues to a treasure the Templars had found and spirited out of the Holy Land for safe keeping. But taken to where? That is the puzzle we must solve."
"Wait, Derek." Nick interrupted, his eyes reflecting the confusion felt by the others. "Isn't that a hell of an assumption to make, that just cause some guy had his face hidden by bandages he wasn't really a guy at all?"
"Philip de Lancie had violet eyes, just like the woman that Laurent Dubois was obsessed with, the woman he saw with Damien de Lancie in the streets of Acre. There could not be two pairs of deep violet eyes in that God cursed city on that day."
"How do you know that?" Alex asked gently, laying a hand on her friend's arm. "There's no description of the man's eyes in any of these pages we've translated. How can you know they were the same as the woman in the street?"
Derek stared at his team in frustration. "I know what I saw!" he exclaimed, then stared down at the table in sudden confusion. "I saw in my visions?" He saw the look of concern that passed between his friends and smiled ruefully. "That sounds quite mad, doesn't it?"
"You're not mad. A bit difficult sometimes, but definitely not mad." Philip replied, poking at the piles of papers on the table in front of him. He lifted one of the translated entries and read through it quickly. "Alex, Nick, look at this."
Alex took the page from his and scanned it's lines. "This is the rest of the entry from the night before the fall of the city. The computer hadn't finished translating this one when I read the first part. In it, Laurent Dubois talks about preparing a shipment of artifacts to be sent to his father's home in France in the care of his fellow Templars and of his shock to discover that one of his brothers at arms was in fact a woman! " Alex quickly shuffled through the rest of the pages, arranging them by date of entry. "Look here's another one. This entry is dated the day the city fell. I could have sworn that other entry was the last one in the book."
"No, that's not possible. I he died at the walls of the city. He couldn't have made an entry in his journal on that day." Derek pulled on gloves and lifted the ancient text onto the table, carefully opening the tome to the last entry. "See, this handwriting is different from that which made the entries that came before it."
"What does the entry say?" Nick asked, leaning over the table to get a better look at the translation.
"The city has fallen, but the secret is safe. The keys to the puzzle sail onward to another shore and we remain behind to bury the dead. That which was hidden within the walls of the Temple of Solomon marches on to it's new home and we remain to comfort the dying. Those of the old faith stand to protect those of the new. Soon it will be our time to return to the mists, to wait again for the time when we will be called to arms again, my Lord of Light and his Lady of the Moon. We will come again." Alex read the words aloud, feeling their magic as she spoke. Looking up, she could see that her friends were as intrigued by the simple phrases as she was. All, that is, except for Derek.
Derek felt the words flow through him like water, washing away the vestiges of confusion and anger. He could feel the vertigo that proceeded his vision yet was not troubled by it as he had been before. The walls of the mansion disappeared, melting into visions of bright sunlight, high walls and a desperate battle. He could feel a tremendous pain in his side and looking down, saw the bright blood flowing from a wound in his belly. A dead Saracen lay sprawled to one side of him, a sword impaling his body. Derek looked up to see a figure standing over him, a figure with deep violet eyes.
"Lay still, mon amie." Her voice came from everywhere at once, blocking out the sounds of the desperate struggles around him. "You are badly wounded."
"I am dying." He replied, reaching out a bloodied hand to the specter standing over him. "Who ?"
"My name has changed as has the world. But for now I am Marianne. I wish there could have been more time. Perhaps in another lifetime " She gently pushed him back, removing his chain mail shirt and coif and covering him with his own cloak. None of the combatants who raged around them took the slightest notice of them, as though they existed apart from the world around them. The woman gently smoothed his hair back from his forehead, her fingers cool against his sun burnt skin. She brushed a kiss across him mouth and he was surrounded by the scent of wild roses. The pain receded as the darkness closed around him, yet he could still hear her voice, soft and sweet and very far away. "Another time, chevalier. The prize is safe. You and your brothers have saved it. If you remember nothing else in your next spin of the wheel, remember that. And remember me. I will always remember you. Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten."
"Derek?" Philip knelt beside his friend in concern. Derek's eyes were fixed on some distant point, seeing something no one else could see. They had all seen him have one of his precognitive visions before, but none could remember it overwhelming him as this was. Slowly, their precept's eyes focused on the young priest before him.
"Something was sent to his father, to Laurent Dubois's father, some artifact that the Templars were willing to guard with their lives. A secret they dared not write openly about for fear that others would steal it away from them. That is what we must find and protect from Arkady. Something that the Templars found in the Temple of Solomon when they first made their bed in Jerusalem." Derek looked across at Alex, trying to focus on the present and not the past. "Alex, find out what happened to the Dubois family holdings. I doubt that what we seek would still be in France, not after the arrests and destruction of the Templar order. But it's as good a place to start as any."
Arkady looked up as his employee entered the room. "Well, what did you find out?"
Thomas stopped in front of the desk and looked down at his employer. "A package was delivered to the Luna Foundation a few days ago. No one at the messenger service that delivered it could seem to remember where the package had come from originally. But it was about the size of a large book."
"So, the Legacy has found the journal, have they? Well, it won't take them long to translate it. Then they'll run off to secure the "item" and we'll be right behind them." Arkady smiled, a cruel cold smile that frightened even the hardened mercenary before him. "Soon, everything I've ever wanted will be mine and the irony will be that it will be the Legacy who provides it."
Alex sat in front of her computer screen, her eyes scanning the data she had uncovered on the people mentioned in the manuscript. She hadn't expected to find much. Documents which dealt with the time period in which Laurent Dubois had lived simply weren't found in great abundance in the Legacy's data bases or on the Internet. There were a few references in histories written about the time which referenced older, primary sources but of course none of those sources were available for long-distance viewing. There had, however, been more information on the Net about the Templars than she had expected. Different Web sites had housed lists of references and whole articles about the elusive order which she had downloaded for later review. She frowned at the screen as yet another search on the Dubois family name came back empty.
"Any luck?" Nick asked, sliding into a chair beside his friend.
"Nothing. This family might have had land and titles but as far as history goes, they might as well have not existed. There is nothing in the references I can find in the computer to tell me what might have happened to them." She closed the link to the Legacy's databases with a sigh. "I'm afraid that the only way to know anything more about them is to go to France in person and look up the ancestral estate."
"It doesn't sound like you're looking forward to that!" Nick commented.
"You remember what happened the last time Derek sent me to France. I found a dead body in an alley in Paris. Last I heard, the Paris House still hadn't recovered from it's brush with the Dark Side." Alex reached back and took a printout from the laser printer behind her and started to read the information again. "But maybe there is another way. I have a friend, Nancy Arthur, who's doing a semester in the Sorbonne, getting a Ph.D. in Art History. She's an amateur genealogist so maybe if I tell her what I'm looking for she can go the area where the family came from and look up some primary documentation for me."
"Think she'd do it?"
"Nancy loves historical puzzles, especially ones that deal with family histories. This kind of a search will be right up her alley." She quickly logged into the Legacy's email service and sent off a message to her friend.
Nick fired up his computer and began again to try to trace where the journal had been shipped from. So far, the delivery company had been less than helpful. All anyone could remember was that the package had appeared in their offices with the Luna Foundation's address on it. No one could remember where it had come from or when it had first arrived. Nick and Philip had looked over the brown paper the journal had been wrapped in but had found nothing to identify where the shipping office was located. It was beginning to frustrate the ex-SEAL that he couldn't find the answer to this puzzle. With both their tasks taking up most of their concentration neither research noticed the figure standing in the darkest corner of the computer room, watching and listening as they proceeded with their quest.
In another part of the house, Philip was giving the shield another look, hoping to find something he and Nick might have missed before. "You've kept your secrets well." He mused to himself, brushing a speck of dust off the face of the wooden shield.
"Too well, I'm afraid." A voice from behind him agreed.
Philip turned, startled, to look into a pair of brilliant violet eyes. "How did you ?"
"Get in here?" Marianne finished his statement with a slight laugh. She was dressed as she had been when she had first seen Kat, in a short white tunic with half-moon's hanging from her ears. Her long hair was bound up away from her face, and she carried a quiver of arrows and a bow with her. "I guess I forgot to give Winston back his key when we were here last. Now there was a man with a problem! But that's a story for another time. Have you guessed yet what you're looking for?"
"No." Philip replied slowly, inching his way towards the intercom on the wall. "Why don't you just tell me what it is we're suppose to find?"
Marianne smiled sadly. "That would take all the fun out of it, now wouldn't it? Look at me, priest. Look into my eyes and hear only my voice." Her eyes seemed to glow suddenly with an unearthly light. The young priest found he could not tear his gaze away from their overwhelming power. "I was never here, priest. You and I never spoke. Go on with your work. This never happened." She melted back into the shadows, leaving the man in front of her staring at the spot where she had stood.
Philip blinked suddenly and looked around him. "Now, what was it I was going to do?" He thought, looking up at the intercom. "I must be more tired than I thought. Well, just one more go at it and then I'll turn in." He turned back to the shield and began his search again.
Arkady slammed the book shut and tossed it across the room in frustration. He had read this particular account of the Templar's history dozens of times, yet it still infuriated him. The author of the little known tome was his ancestor, one of the first of the family to traffic in the Dark Arts. He had been a wily character, this ancient historian of evil. Somehow he had been managed to worm his way into the confidences of the King of France's Chief Inquisitor and so had been allowed to assist in the questioning of the Templar leaders after the Paris House had been taken. Yet despite his added "assistance" none of the men had broken. The secret they had sent from the Holy Land remained a secret despite all attempts at persuasion. It had only been by the sheerest luck that his ancestor had discovered the journal and had been able to trace it's author to the family of Dubois. But by then, the old man had disappeared with the item in his charge, leaving behind his lands and wealth.
"Is there a problem, Mr. Arkady?" His secretary asked, peering furtively into the office.
"Did I call for you?" Arkady asked coldly, turning to stare out of the window.
"No sir, but I thought I heard "
"Don't think, that's not what I pay you for. Has Thomas returned from his errand?"
"No sir, not yet. Shall I send him to you when he does?" The secretary slowly backup up, closing the door as she went.
"Yes, immediately." Arkady continued to stare at the skyline in front of him until he heard the click of the lock. Then he rose and retrieved the book he had been reading. He turned back to the section which spoke of the journal and smiled grimly. The volume had been one of the prizes of the family's collection of artifacts until recently. No one in his employ could say with any certainty when it had disappeared from the vault in which it had been kept. Nor could anyone tell him who had sent it to the Luna Foundation. "No matter." He thought, "This will turn out in my favor. Derek and his little group of do-gooders will finally solve the secret of the Templar's treasure, then I will reap the benefit of their work. And I will finally have me revenge on Rayne and the Legacy." He sat basking in the glow of his evil thoughts.
As the mists curled around the Legacy House, the two figures which had been prowling its hidden corridors met in the garden, each carrying information for the other.
"Well, little sister?" Damien asked, moving to stand in the fading light of the setting sun. "What did you learn from the priest?"
"That they are no closer to finding their destination then they were when this game began." Marianne replied, leaning against the sturdy old tree which graced the garden's perimeter. She laid her small horn bow against the tree's trunk and released her silky hair from it's bindings. Damien watched in appreciation as the woman's hair fell like a gleaming cloak over her white tunic.
"You always did have such lovely tresses." He mused, shivering as the light began to dim. "I had better luck with the woman, Alex. She has a friend in Paris to whom she has given a task. The task to look up the Dubois family and perhaps find where they might sought sanctuary when the trials began."
"That will take weeks!" Marianne replied crossly, pulling an shaft from her quiver and peering down it's length, her bright eyes unaffected by the fading light. "We haven't that much time. Arkady may already be digging for the treasure. We should just go and fetch it back to Avalon."
"We can't little one. It doesn't belong to our world. All we can do is make sure that it's put in the care of those who will not abuse it's power until the time of the coming. And Arkady isn't any closer to the sanctuary then these people are. If he were, we would know. But you're right about one thing. It will take weeks, maybe even months to trace the family of the Templar who carried the secret. We can take no direct action in this matter, but perhaps a little indirect action ?"
"You are so devious, my brother. I wonder where you acquired that trait?"
"One picks up many talents over the millenniums, dearest." Damien replied with a laugh, his form slowly melting back into the shadows. Marianne gave the darkened house one final glance before she buried her arrow, head first, into the damp grass and strode off into the night, leaving her bow to be retrieved another day.
Alex walked into Derek's office the next evening, a frown on her face. "I've done as much of a search on the Dubois family is possible at long distance." She began, worriedly scanning her mentor's tired face. "Are you sure you're up to this?"
"I'm fine." Derek replied, putting aside the translated version of the journal he had been reading. "What did you find out?"
"Laurent Dubois had an older brother who died while Laurent was in the Holy Land. His father Maurice survived both his sons by some years. The family fled France when the Templars were arrested on order of the King because of charges that the Dubois were shielding the Order."
"Where did they go?" Nick asked, slipping quietly in to the office behind his partner.
"No one knows but there are rumors that many of the Templars took the order's treasure to Scotland. There have been stones found there that bear marks similar to those found in Templar castles. Maybe that's where they took whatever it was that they were protecting."
"The armour and the shield were the keys to that treasure?" Nick asked.
"Part of the key." Philip answered, entering the office with a ledger in his hands. "There is still one more piece to the puzzle missing. The message encrypted into the shield and armour seems to be directions to a place, a vault of some sort, but there is no clue as to what was in the vault. There have always been legends about what the Templars found in the Temple of Solomon when they took it for their headquarters in the Holy Land. Some of those legends formed the basis for the charges of witchcraft that were leveled against them later by the King of France." Philip rubbed his tired eyes, then retrieved his notes. "Pity we don't know what this important item was."
"But we do know." Derek replied calmly.
Nick stared at his Precept in surprise. "What do you mean ?" he began, than stopped and looked at the pages of translated notes in front of him.
"The Templars were housed in what was the Temple of Solomon." Derek replied, his eyes fixed Nick. "Somewhere in it's depths they found a relic, an item so important to their faith they were willing to die to a man to protect it's secret. I suspect that some of them went even further. They had been exposed to knowledge of arcane arts in the Middle East that they had never experience before. Manuscripts and wisdom that had been protected and added on to for ages was suddenly there for those among them who had the desire to study. When the battles began to go against them, when the Templar leadership began to see that their cause was lost, I think they used that arcane knowledge to call ancient spirits from the mists of time to aid them in guarding the one thing that they would have gladly given all their wealth and power to protect."
"You're thinking of the Legend of the Grail." Philip commented.
"I thought that the link between the Templars and the Grail was only a literary one, from the story "Parzival" by von Eschenbach." Alex replied. She looked up and smiled at the startled look on her Precept's face. "I decided to do some basic research on the Templar's while I was waiting for the computer to finish it's search on the Dubois family. It mentioned that author and the story in one of my reference books."
"Very good Alex." Derek replied. "But many such legends have a basis in fact."
"The Grail?" Nick asked, doubt creeping into his voice. "This I'd have to see to believe."
"Is it so much easier to believe in the growing of a demon from a bit of horn than to believe that the cup of Christ exists?" Derek asked quietly.
"You know that was different, Derek." Nick replied stubbornly.
"Why was it different?" Derek asked, leaning across the desk to stare at his young friend.
"Because the damn thing was standing right in front of me, that's why. I could see it. Hell, I could even smell it. It was real."
"The cup may be as well." Philip commented, moving to stand beside the desk. "Can you image what forces, what power it might grant whoever possess it?"
"There is also the possibility that the treasure this family was guarding was more earthly in nature." Alex interjected, looking down at her notes. "According to the web site I scanned while looking up information on the Templars, the Treasurer of the Order disappeared with many of their ships and the order's coffers before the King was able to seize the main house in Paris. No one has ever been able to account for the fortune that once belonged to the Templars, although there have been the occasional stories of priests in small French towns digging up vast sums in their church's basements. Arkady wouldn't turn his nose up at profiting from the recovery of such lost treasure."
"So what's our next move?" Nick asked impatiently. "Do we go to France or Scotland or what?"
A muffled knock on the door interrupted the debate before it could begin. Dominick, the house's ever watchful butler, entered and handed Alex a message then move quietly out, whisking a discarded drinking glass out of the room with him.
"What's that?" Nick asked, quizzically.
"Remember I told you I was going to ask my friend at the Sorbonne to check on the history of the Dubois family for me? Most of what I needed to search that would pertain to them wouldn't be in material available to the computer. I didn't expect to get a reply so soon." She read through the short note. "This is strange. My friend says that papers dealing with the Dubois family showed up on her doorstep hours after she read my message. She's not sure if the documents are genuine or not, but that much of what I told her was in the computer was verified by these pages. According to what was in those documents, the family packed up what they could carry and moved to Spain, where the order was not persecuted and had changed it's name to the Knights of Christ. There is mention of a little town named "Las Rosales", where an old church is supposed to have certain symbols painted on graves in its cemetery that have been linked to the Templars." Alex quickly ran a search on the computer, locating information on the city in question. "It appears to be a rather remote village in northern Spain, near the border with France. Nothing but mountains, caves and sheep from that I can tell from this description. Why would they have taken the treasure there?"
"Many Templar churches in Spain were built beside deep caverns. Perhaps that's why Dubois chose this place, out of all the area the Templars controlled, to take prize." Derek's eyes quickly scanned the information Alex had called up, paying particular attention to the geographical description included in the article.
"This smells like a trap." Nick stated, his body suddenly tense.
"How would anyone known that I had asked my friend for help?" Alex asked practically, handing the faxed pages to Nick.
"Maybe our mysterious friends have been watching us again. I have a feeling they have their own agenda that we're just being used to complete."
"Or maybe they are just as anxious for Arkady not to find this treasure as we are." Philip suggested, playing Devil's advocate.
"So do we go and check out this church or do we continue to do more research?" Nick snapped impatiently, annoyed with the young priest's peaceful viewpoint.
"We go to Las Rosales." Derek answered decisively. "Nick, get the helicopter ready. We'll take a Legacy jet to Spain and hire a car to take us to the village. Alex, call Rachel and tell her where we'll be going. Kat's been ill so I doubt she'll be able to go with us." The group quickly scattered to their respective rooms, packing swiftly for their unexpected trip. Nick logged into the Legacy network and quickly called up a jet to take their group across the ocean. It would take a few hours to get it from it's hanger in Toronto to San Francisco and get it ready for it's long trip. But at least they wouldn't have to be at the beck and call of the commercial airlines. He called the private airport the Legacy used to board it's various aircraft and made the necessary preparations for the arriving jet.
"Yes, Mr. Boyle. We'll have the jet ready for you as soon as possible." Jeff Armstrong replied, making notes on the pad in front of him. The call to refuel the incoming flight had caught him just as he was preparing to leave for the evening. He hung up the phone and reviewed the set of instructions he would be leaving the next shift. The plane probably wouldn't get here for another few hours and by then he expected to be sound asleep in his comfortable bed.
"There a problem, boss?" Jimmy Taylor asked, wiping his filthy hands on an equally filthy cloth.
"No, just a plane coming in that needs a quick turn around. Whole nine yards, checkout and refueling, that sort of thing. Looks like some people from up at the Luna Foundation are making a trip to Spain."
"Lucky them." Jimmy tossed the greasy cloth in the nearest trash bin then walked out side towards the parking lot. Just around the corner, and out of sight of the office, was a pay phone. He quickly dialed the number that his old friend McComb had given him, hoping the old man hadn't been exaggerating his employers generosity.
Arkady's assassin Thomas laid the receiver back on it's cradle, a cold smile on his face. His employer would be very interested to hear that someone from the Luna Foundation was making a trip abroad. He hummed to himself as he made the call, absently making note of the name of the man who had provided the information. He wondered if anyone would notice another accidental death by drowning.
Derek and Nick arrived at the airport early, each anxious to begin their journey. Alex had received a phone call from her friend in Paris and had indicated she would join them before they left. Philip had elected to wait for Alex, using the time to make arrangements with his Diocese to cover his duties while he was gone. Once at the airport, Nick quickly began a check with the plane's crew of the craft's operations. Derek walked to the end of the private runway, trying to clear his thoughts in preparation for the search.
"I do so love the night." A woman's voice floated out of the darkness just past the runway lights. Marianne stepped from the shadows, her long coat brushing the ground behind her. Everything about her was shadows, from her dark pants and boots to her black silk shirt. Only her violet eyes seemed to shine out of the darkness, piercing him with their intensity. "So, you begin a quest, chevalier? Where does your journey take you this night?"
"I think you know as well as I where we will go." Derek replied, unable to tear his eyes away from her.
"Spain is pretty this time of year. Or so I have been told." She walked up to him and reached up to run her fingers through his wavy hair. "What a lovely thing you are, chevalier. You could almost make me forget my vows. But then, I never could make you forget yours, could I? How many times in that long ago place, in that forgotten past did I wish to save you from your human fate, to keep you for myself. But your vows to your Order, to your brothers were too strong. So all I could do was watch you die." Marianne leaned across the small space which divided them and kissed his mouth, enjoying his reaction to her boldness as much as the action itself. She felt his hands on her waist, steadying them both as he responded to her caress. Around them, the mists rose from the darkness, covering them from the view of the others on the landing field. The music of the night birds and the wind singing in the trees filled the empty space around them, flowing over and around them like a wave.
Derek broke from the embrace first, pulling away enough to see her face. "I remember that time and that place. Am I that man, that Knight who died in the streets with you at his side?" He ran his fingers along her cheek, touched by the sadness in her eyes.
"Does it matter?" she asked softly, her breath warm against his face. "Your journey this day will take you to peril as great as that which you witnessed as the Templar Knight. It maybe that History will repeat itself yet again and you will be called upon to lay your life down for your brethren or for your faith. Even now, an evil minion of the creature called Arkady waits to follow you to your goal and strike you down for his master. There is danger all around you, chevalier, and I can not interfere with your destiny unless you let me."
"How?" he asked, frowning.
"Take this." She removed a silver chain from around her neck. The pendant was in the shape of an arrow, so perfectly formed that Derek could almost swear he could see the feathers move in the breeze. "Wear this around your neck. It will be a beacon to me. With this I will always be able to find you, no matter what darkness covers you, no matter what evil surrounds you. Call on me and I will come."
Derek slid the chain around his neck, shivering at the touch of the cool metal against his skin. Somewhere far in the distance, he could hear a familiar voice calling his name, yet he was loathe to answer. Marianne smiled and gently pushed him away, backing in to the swirling mists. As he watched, her figure seemed to blend with the fog, becoming indistinct from the darkness until there was nothing left of her before him but her perfume on his fingers and the taste of her kiss on his lips.
"Derek, didn't you hear me? Alex and Philip just got here. We've got to go." Nick called out, walking swiftly to his friend's side. He had been calling his precept's name for several minutes and not getting a reply. When he saw him standing on the edge of the runway he had assumed that the older man was in the throes of another vision but now he wasn't so sure. Derek didn't have that unfocused look that usually came with his visions. "You okay?"
"Yes. I'm fine. Nick, has our flight plan been filed already?"
"We'll have to change it on route. Arkady knows that we're going to Spain. We have to try to buy ourselves some time before he decides to move in on us." Derek looked back at the edge of the airfield, his eyes scanning the receding mists with an unfathomable look. Then he turned and moved quickly back to the aircraft, his stunned cohort in tow.
"That wasn't wise, little sister." Damien commented grimly, moving to where his sister stood in the edge of the mystical path.
"Perhaps not." Marianne replied, her hands clasped tightly behind her back. "But the last time you gave me no time to save him. This time I must at least try."
"We may not interfere. We may poke and prod them on to the right path but in the end the battle is theirs and theirs alone." He turned and began to walk back along the misty path, then turned and looked back at his warrior sister. "Come." He commanded, holding out his hand. She turned and stared inscrutably back at him then preceded him up the path, ignoring his outstretched arm. He sighed in mock irritation then followed her into the mists, mentally preparing for the hunt that was to come.
Once the journey was underway, each member of the team settled in to prepare for the search in their own way. Alex and Philip huddled in the back with a laptop and various research books the young priest had insisted on bringing with him. Their whispered conversations made no impact on Derek, who sat alone in his seat, lost in thought. His fingers twined around the pendant at his neck, reminding him of the conversation at the airfield. Nick, who had begun the journey in the cockpit, finally wandered out and assessed the situation. In his opinion, everyone was being entirely too quiet.
"So, Philip, tell me about the Grail. What's so special about it that Arkady would be interested in getting his grubby hands on it?"
"Legend has it that it's the cup which Christ used at the Last Supper, right?" Alex replied, looking up at the young priest.
"That's one of the legends. Some people say it has no physical substance at all, that it's merely a metaphor for a relationship with the divine. Others say that it is a cup which Joseph of Arimathea used to collect the blood of Christ after the crucifixion It supposedly has great power such as healing and restorative ability and the ability to bestow immortality to the person in possession of the cup. Some say it can give the possessor of the cup the ability to communicate with God or to have knowledge of god. It's suppose to be invisible to evil or unworthy eyes and have the ability to it those that are deemed worthy of God's grace. There are even those who say the Grail legend goes back even further than that, to the time of the Celts. Some Welsh poems even speak of cauldrons which have much the same gifts that the Grail is suppose to posses."
"So we are looking for a cup, maybe, or a cauldron with the ability to heal, grant immorality and great knowledge?" Nick asked skeptically.
"But I thought I read that the Grail was supposedly buried somewhere in England?" Alex reached for one of Philip's books and flipped to a page marked with a strip of paper. "Yes, this is what I read. The most well known of the legends dealing with Joseph of Arimathea that Joseph and his sister and her husband left Jerusalem and sailed to France. Joseph left his sister and his brother-in-law and sailed to England where he set up the first Christian church at Glastonbury. Most stories tell of him hiding the Cup somewhere near by. The church at Glastonbury is still associated with the Grail legends to this day."
"If you were trying to hide something valuable, wouldn't you encourage all manner of false stories about its whereabouts? People would be looking for your treasure in every spot except the one you actually buried it in." Philip leaned across his seat and took back the book from Alex. "What ever the truth is, Arkady believes that this item will give him great power. And he must believe that the Templars had this treasure at one time or he wouldn't be interested in trying to find it"
"We only have our mysterious visitors word for the fact that Arkady has any interest in this item at all." Nick reminded his friends, looking to see what effect his words would have on Derek.
"He would want it even if it didn't grant him immortality or great knowledge." Derek mused, staring out of the darkened windows. "It would please him no end to destroy an icon of faith." He closed his eyes tiredly, his hand absently playing with the arrow pendent around his neck. The others watched quietly as their exhausted leader slipped quietly into a deep sleep then moved to settle themselves in for the long flight ahead.
Arkady's hired killer smiled grimly as he sat in the private jet bound for Spain. The boy at the airfield had given him excellent information as to the flight plans of the Legacy jet. It had almost been a shame to kill him. But his employer didn't like complications, and considering what he had planned for the people in that other jet, it was the only solution available. The kid hadn't even seen it coming. He had been so intent on counting his reward that he hadn't felt the killer slip behind him and touch him with strong and skilled hands. He had been unconscious before he had even hit the ground. The police would find the boy in his locked garage with a hose leading from his exhaust pipe to the interior of his car and a Dear John letter in his lap. They would, incorrectly, assume that it had been a suicide. It had taken a little time to get all the details right but it had been worth it. No one could trace him to the unfortunate man. It was all very neat and clean.
"Neat, perhaps, but not very clean." A voice commented from the aft section of the plane. Thomas whipped around, gun in hand, to see a fine mist forming where there had been nothing but empty seats before. A man emerged from the mist, wearing a leather jacket and cradling a sword in his hands. The smile on his face was almost as cold as the gleaming metal of his weapon. "Hello, mate. Bet you're wondering who I am, aren't you?"
"How did you get on this plane?" he growled, his weapon aimed squarely at his adversary's chest.
"Security is rotten, dear boy. My sister could explain a few things to your Mr. Arkady about how to guard his crafts but I doubt she has any interest in doing so. She doesn't much like your employer. Can't think why, I find him highly amusing myself. So predictable. He sends a dog to do a man's job. Well, we can't have that, can we?" A glow suddenly seem to envelope the man, surrounding him with light and heat. The smoke alarms in the cabin began their piercing whistle as the seats behind the intruder suddenly caught fire, enveloped by the heat rolling from his body. Thomas coolly lined up his shot and squeezed off a round, catching the man squarely in the chest. To his horror, nothing happened seemed to happen. Nothing except the more heat seemed to roll of the figure in front of him, melting plastic seat covers and eating up the available oxygen in the cabin. Thomas choked as he backed up, reaching for the oxygen mask which had fallen from the ceiling, only to recoil as the mask melted in his hands. He tried to scream as his flesh began to burn, blisters forming along his exposed arms. The plane began to buck in turbulence, seemingly seized by a giant hand. Thomas fell, his chest heaving as the heat robbed him of the air his lungs demanded. The last sight the mercenary would ever see before the darkness claimed him was the blue eyes of this angel of death, looking down at him with amusement.
."Couldn't you have just cut the man's head off?" Marianne's voice floated out of the shadows as the woman appeared beside her brother. Around her, the cabin's interior settled back to it's undamaged state, showing no sign of the conflagration that hand threatened to engulf it. The prone figure of the dead killer at their feet was the only sign that anything untoward had occurred in the aircraft. The dead man's skin was still smoking, giving off the foul odor of cooking flesh. She kicked it over on its back roughly, then looked back up at her companion. "You've been shot, by the way."
"Wouldn't have been as amusing." Damien replied with a smile. "You do want Arkady to make a personal appearance at this hunt, don't you? What better way to issue the invitation than to present him with his minion dead by mysterious causes before he ever gets to Spain?" He looked down at the powder burns on his silk shirt with a frown. "Damn, that was my favorite shirt!"
"You always make things too complicated." Marianne sighed, frowning down at the body. "Well, at least Derek and his group will have some time to make their search before Arkady catches up with them." She bent down and tucked the dead man's gun back in it's holster, noticing the other weapons he had secreted upon his person. "I thought we weren't suppose to interfere."
"This isn't interference." Damien protested. "This is just leveling the playing field. That soldier your knight errant has with him might be good, but even the best of fighters can be taken out of the game by a blow from behind. This way, all the players are out in the open and know each others faces. Makes it much more interesting this way." He started back into the aft of the ship, the mist again forming around him. "Coming?"
"I suppose so." She replied, looking around to make sure there was nothing else that needed to be put back in its place. Then she rose and stretched, like a cat just awakening from a nap. "I'll be glad when the final portion of this hunt begins." She mused, following her brother into the darkness.
Now go e-mail Mary and tell her what you think!