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Title: Scorched Earth
Author: Petrovic, Walter D.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Scorched Earth" ***

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Copyright (C) 1980, 2004 by Walter D. Petrovic.



			   SCORCHED  EARTH
		   A Future History of Planet Earth

		      By:  WALTER  D.  PETROVIC

		       walter.petrovic@3web.net

		     (c)   Copyright  1980 + 2004

		    Note from Author:  April 2004


This was my first novel committed to paper during my initial year of
college 1979-80.  I was studying Film Production with the goal to
becoming a screenwiter/director.

Life rarely allows most of us the opportunity to achieve our life-long
goals but this did not stop me from pushing-on with my writing.  I
recently realised that the real joy of writing was not in the money
and fame that comes with publication but the thrill that comes with
the appreciation of something that is a monumental undertaking - such
as, that of writing a book.

I do aspire to be published at some point, but for now I wish to have
the world-at-large read my works and hopefully to enjoy them.

I only request this one thing from the reader - please drop me an
email to let me know that you have looked at my work and your honest
(and critical) opinion of my material.

Please enjoy, and I thank-you.

Walter D. Petrovic



THE  FORGOTTEN  HISTORY  OF  OUR  WORLD


APOCALYPSE - THE BLUE INFINITE

The idea simply was.  The single Spirit had begun what was to be the
test for its being-its endurance and tolerances.  It was set into
motion by great hands and the power of will, churning the infinite
matter and energy and bringing into being the stunning light of a
living state.  Matter collapsed into itself, separating from chaotic
waters the vapours, the gases and ice-imploding into a bottomless
abyss that collected everything into one single focus-and not
excluding the pureness of the energy itself.

Everything was brought together at one point and at one instant-fire
and the waves, also.  Everything was made grand and rock hard, held
together by their infinite natures and limits.

The Universe simply was.  All its heavenly bodies were compelled to
turn and to make their way into infinite end, while they grew in nature
and in kind, making their firmament and their gleaming lights to be
awakened at their first moment of life-their first day.  Time had
begun, and with its cycles of night and day, seconds and light years,
stellar light joined the spheres in moments so brief as to deny
comprehension, in a time that spanned infinite dreams.

Light was life.  With this life, the ages passed into a third order.
As if a single day had passed twice from awakening, the heralding joys
of this new-found life had permitted growth to those things named
leaves and trees-the fruits by which the life to come would consume and
hitherto live.

Perpetuation . . . assurance by tiny seed that beat with life in a
harmonious pulse, the genesis of a new life within the ground that
would grow to feed the firmament with breath and thus tempting more
life to be.

The further ordered time had lapsed.  In passing as if five thousand,
thousand years flashed by instantly.  In these times the Universe was
seen as it reeled and smiled, content with the pleasures of being.
Freedom had taken its accounting.  Life left the dark waters for the
light of  land.  Propagating in their kind they were of dual sexes,
soon to cover the expanse of their terran home.

The Thought knew itself.  The Thought was life.  The Thought prompted
into Its Being the struggle to survive in the harshness of its new
awareness and substance.

Flesh came from the earth.  Blood coalesced from the dew of morning
and eyes that could see the new wonder were carved from the Sun's own
rays.  Intelligence sprang from the swiftness of the clouds covered by
the veins and hair, born from earthly grass and breathing with the
life of the wind's own spirit.  Each substance could feel and find
meaning for its life.  The flesh heard, the eyes saw and the souls
could smell the life to its fullest beauty.  The veins of life knew
the touch of life, and the currents of blood tasted life's
sweetness. Bones claimed life's stature through endurance while new
thoughts explored their cravings and their urges.  They knew their
pleasures and their joys.

Man was the life and death that followed.  The thoughts that served
him well in understanding his infinite life had set him to prey upon
his own kind and in falling from his cosmic grace, he found mortality
through his love for woman.

He cleaved only to her.  He obeyed and honoured only her.  He
permitted his gift to fail him for a suggestion that there was more to
life than the bliss of a simple and peaceful being.

There was more than long life and contentment in a world of fruitful
abundance, to use at their slightest whim.  Yet, all this was to pass
away from sight when they allowed their manners to fail them.   Whims
of habit overtook them and tore them from the eternity of the Universe
and its Grand Thought.   The Grand Thought that no longer would care
for them, but indeed set them onto a path of struggle for survival.

Impatience reigned on a tiny speck of universal dust.  The Earth
suffered from that day when curious questions began to jab at its
Heart, and to tear into the very atoms that insured existence.   Life
was aware of impending mortality and that life, which called itself
Intelligent and Humanity, had turned its struggle to live into one of
greed and self-fulfilment.

Millennia passed, witnessing countless struggles between the
intelligent human beings who warred over arid and barren parcels of
land which could be traversed by foot in a fraction of a day.

Love was locked out of the hearts of men, and hate was to ravage the
civilized. Hate and greed tempted all whom were alive to hurt their
own kind, and to hurt their stellar home, as well.  Through six
thousand years, minds and souls searched for truth but turned their
hearts away, from the few which had come to help them. They allowed
their violations to stain and bloody their souls.  They carried on as
if nothing could touch them in life, or in death.

Mankind took command of everything and like maggots devouring rotting
flesh, grew in knowledge and in material things until the very essence
of life itself was at their command.

It became an unsure and frightening time in the Earth's history.
Mankind had now realised that the total destruction of everything that
they knew, and craved for, could happen within minutes.  It was
destruction that they, themselves, could cause through the slightest
whim ruled by hate. Through pangs of anxiety, the Earth itself spewed
forth fire from its bowels. The land shook and called its children,
that circled close to her, to come and fall to her bosom and to cry
with her.

Even the Earth, the mother, waited anxiously for the Idea and the
Essence to intervene.



GINN-JULY 2011


A MOVEMENT TO FINALITY

The Twentieth Century was ravaged by bloody wars and more people lost
their lives than in all the wars and all the murders that took place
since the dawn of history, and the ancient account of the first murder.

Paranoia reigned on the Earth.  Great multitudes scurried about in
panic searching for shelter and trying to live without substance or
material things.  Individuals watched the great Nations rise up against
each other 3/4 pulling in all smaller nations to fight beside them,
thus perpetuating the global conflict.  Twice were such great wars.
Many smaller wars were the same, though thoughts in such conflicts were
suppressed by being called  "police actions!"

Tensions formed between all peoples.

Politics, economics and retarded beliefs set the course for the world
to crumble.

Latent barbarism that peeked through the veneer of intelligence and
civilisation was set to push the world to its final conflagration.
Then, at the verge of bloodshed and misery, nature itself began its
assault.  Dozens of man named Apollo Asteroids, which circles the
Earth, had been moving closer and closer over the millennia, unseen by
the naked eye.    Ignored by the stupid and the intelligent alike,
these rocks fell to the Earth in great fury, blasting the entire
surface of the great home.

False prophets cried to the people to repent of their sins, for God had
come.  They hid themselves in shelters and in mountains afraid of
mortality, to be punished for being hypocrites while hoarding and
hiding great wealth for use in later times.

When all was done great cities were laid waste and disease moved across
the land and seas to visit all people.  A billion individuals perished
in the cosmic catastrophe.  A billion more dropped dead from the
diseases that could no longer be controlled.

When normality finally returned those who remained alive united to
rebuild the planet. People of absolute opposing views on Politics,
Religion and life in general, let their hate go from them and so began
civilisation anew.  However, each of the sides still had their own
future plans and desires.  Soon thereafter everything was rebuilt and
they resumed in their previous and hateful ways.  The people, called
Communists, still had cravings to rule the entire world.  Those, called
peaceful and democratic, were not far from similar aspirations.  In
utter stupidity, arms were again manufactured for defence.

Trusting no one, the people called 'Americans' resumed in their secret
building of great subterranean cities across the face of the North
American Continent.  These were the cities that were conceived and
under construction since the great destruction of two Japanese cities
during the period called World War II.  Having been the wealthiest of
the Earth's nations, the Americans continued with their early nuclear
war survival plans, designated as "Proposition Blue".  It was this
proposal that expedited the construction and populating of those cities
named the Omega Sub-Ground Installations: (O.S.G.I's).

Constructed near more populous areas and connected by underground
pneumatic travel tubes, each city was designed to host some one
thousand individuals made up of the chosen elite.  These were the
scientists, artists and other members from the intellectual community.
The 1950's through the 1980's saw the building and populating of seven
O.S.G.I's at the following locations across North America:

                OMEGA 1 - SOUTH:        Near Eldorado, Texas

                OMEGA 2 - NORTH:        Near Burke, South Dakota

                OMEGA 3 - WEST:         Near Pioche, Nevada

                OMEGA 4 - EAST:         Near Toronto, (Canada)

                OMEGA 5 - CENTRAL:      Near Manhattan, Kansas

                OMEGA 6 - ATLANTIC:     Near Atlanta, Georgia

                OMEGA 7 - PACIFIC:      Near Vancouver, (Canada)


Greatly endangered in the asteroid disaster of the late Twentieth
Century, most the cities still survived.  Only two cities were utterly
destroyed:  OMEGA - 2 and 5.  These cities were amongst America's
greatest achievements, next to their endeavours in space.  All the
cities were under strict military control, watching the intellectuals
and providing them with necessities, to keep them content.

In the first years of the 1990's, however, many of the scientists in
these cities were made aware that a nuclear war was inevitable.  Unable
to control their own consciences and knowing that billions would die,
so that they could live, they rose up against the military and passed
out of these cities and into the public.    They published a document
which they called their "Blue Prospectus".  This "Blue Prospectus"
revealed their government's survival intentions.  With adverse feelings
towards their respective government, the masses marched on their
capital demanding equality to enter these, but nothing was
accomplished.  The solar catastrophe had occurred and the reasons for
their mass discontent were subsequently forgotten.

By the end of the 1999, just over a full year following the asteroid
destruction of the Earth's surface, mankind had managed to rebuild
their cities and start life anew.  Enjoying totally new styles of
living, no individual was really poor.  The technological advancements
during that year of peace were astounding and the entire world now
benefited from them.

New sources of power were discovered following great tectonic upheavals
caused by the impacting asteroids;  small, crystal-like minerals were
pushed to the Earth's surface.  Their properties were pure and
vigorous.  Their radiation became useful for everything imaginable.

Remaining secret, those Americans that survived on the surface and
those from the O.S.G.I's, converted their power sources to utilise the
new crystals.  Entire cities were powered by two crystals, no larger
than walnuts.

Plans were formulated to build colonies in space, beginning with
orbital stations and finally lunar and Martian colonies.  These
colonies were to be powered by the new crystals and materials for
building the colonies would come from the asteroid belt; the very
origin of the Earth's cataclysm.

Laser instruments, of innovative design and use, were built to take
advantage of this new crystal power.  Many of these lasers were used
for medicine, however, and only a few thousand weapons were developed,
for the police.  The police rarely used them, having been given
electrostatic guns that inhibited nerve synapses, and in that manner
had several non-injured reprobates to their list of captured.  The
laser weapons that were not used by the police were channelled into the
O.S.G.I's, to be taken care of by the city administrators.

During these years of revived human civilisation and technology, there
came a movement of great intensity that called for the disarming and
dismantling of all destructive weaponry around the world.

The Communist nations were prepared to agree with America and its
allied nations. Although there were internal conflicts within the
Communist nations, leading to their eventual fall, the governments that
emerged from the revolutions eventually fulfilled many promises and
commitments to which they were previously committed.

Both great nations dismantled their arsenals and the Americans remained
quiet regarding their O.S.G.I's, never recalling those who were
assigned to live within them.  Not many years following the fall of the
Communist Nation, called The Soviet Union, another Communist nation
called China, started to experience similar internal problems.  Young
people and those wishing to have an easier life for themselves, rallied
and called for their nation to be more democratic and capitalistic.  By
the turn of  the Twenty-first Century new borders were drawn all about
the planet.  New cooperations and friendships were formed, even between
those people that were considered as past enemies.

Religious societies began to gather strength about the planet, and new
societies formed daily.  Their influence and power started to influence
the politics of the nations where they formed and soon many of these
people were in control of those nations.   Religious dogmatism had
overtaken the sensibilities of most people that were alive.  The
polarisation that had formed in religious belief was greater than any
political ideology.  Fighting had ensued everywhere and lead to another
great war.

New weapons were produced utilising the new found crystal energy.
These new weapons were used.

Violence and war waged on.  In the final year, the religious societies
openly confronted the politically controlled military, everywhere.
Through subversion, propaganda and assassination, these societies
panicked the world's population, further forcing the planet's people to
take sides.

Every group called themselves "The Saviours Of The Earth," believing
that they were sent by God Himself, to turn the planet into a second
Eden.

Not a single soul was saved.

Millions died, and many more perished in subsequent plagues and
famines, which spread throughout the entire world.

The surface of the planet was virtually destroyed.  Only those people
that had some natural protection, and those who remained in the
O.S.G.I's survived.

For many centuries the survivors, underground, were put into cryogenic
suspension to await the day they may walk and live upon a newly healed
Earth.



GINN-NOVEMBER 2027


THE NEXT AGE:  THE PREDECESSORS

A thick mist encircled the Earth for many years, slowly dissipating as
it radiated out into space.  The greater portion of the world was
devastated; a population of billions, reduced to several million
score.  Once great cities were wiped clean from the face of the
earth. Those that were spared stood like majestic mountains. With
time, they also crumbled away, turning into gigantic mounds that were
loosely held together by rusty girders, brittle concrete and broken
glass.

Bands of strange-looking humans roamed the face of the land foraging
for the scarce and much-valued commodities of food and fresh water.

In the years following the deluge, the surface dwelling survivors died
out from exposure to radiation and to the adverse climactic conditions
that were inherited from the global fall out.

The progeny of the survivors became strange in appearance and behaviour
until they all became new forms of humans, evolved from mutants, to
small hybrid races which soon became as distinct and individual as
those humans that lived in the late Twentieth Century.  The
amalgamation of these races found that great tension had formed between
them, due to their differences in appearances and forms of speech, and
so they broke away from the main body of humanity and headed for their
own select areas of the continent.

Many of these new races of humans ventured forth and eventually
established unique civilisations.  One race went to the extreme western
part of the North continent.  Everywhere, they found small pockets of
survivors and conquered them.  They looted their food stores and used
those people as slaves;  so becoming a feared band of humans that
resembled upright, and very dark featured, apes.  They called
themselves the Teniqués.  Those in the east were afraid that the
Teniqués would begin to move back their way but although they were
warlike, they stayed put and were soon forgotten.

Concentrated cells of normal humans were still alive.  They were the
ones who lived in the mountainous regions of the continent and although
most became larger in size than normal humans, they were the most in
resemblance to the people living during the Twentieth Century.  They
were hunters and gatherers, moving from valley to, in both the eastern
and the western mountains.  These were amongst the first people to be
conquered by the Teniqués, in their move westward.  In the east, there
was also a race of perfectly normal looking humans called the Sëdash.
They were a group of hermaphrodites that were compiled and exiled by
the rest of human mutants, who disliked them, since they most closely
resembled the previous normal humans. The hermaphrodites wandered for
many years until a place to settle was found.  They began to build a
culture that they based on total
equality between individuals.

Yet, the Sëdash soon became intolerant to any other forms of human.
They developed a belief that they were divinely chosen to be "superior
and perfect,"  and so they enslaved and mistreated those who happened
to trespass on their city boundaries.  For mating, only the true
hermaphrodites were allowed to propagate.  After several generations of
regulated breeding, a pure-bred race of hermaphrodites was formed.

There was another similar band of humans in the eastern part of the
northern Continent.  They called themselves the Palatkans.  Their
appearance was much like that of lepers.  They had segregated
themselves from the main stream years before the great cataclysm.  They
congregated in long strips of semi-fertile land on the floor of lengthy
canyons.

Following several generations of their offspring, they bore a race of
ugly and canker-covered beings that developed a culture of cannibalism.

They believed that all the other humans were left on Earth for them to
sacrifice to their gods, then to feast.  They were aware of a life
force that permeated everything and that was significantly concentrated
within the flesh of humans.

Many such bands of human beings were alive, over the entire face of the
Earth.  Most of these peoples contained and confined themselves within
special areas of land and rarely ventured out.


Six centuries passed since the cataclysm.

Lack of productivity and raw stock caused the remaining human people to
further mutate into odd looking things.  Civilisation had also
regressed into a primitive form.  Much of the Earth reverted into the
appearance of the primitive and the primordial, awaiting the moment to
be reborn.

The Earth was not alone in its anxiety for rebirth.  There were nearly
one quarter of a million true humans that waited, also, to be reborn
craving to, once more, walk the mother Earth's surface, and to begin
life anew.  In six hundred years of waiting, the population of the
Omega SubGround Installations grew.  To extend the food and water
rations, the major part of the personnel was placed in cryogenic
suspension vaults upon attaining the age of thirty-five.

Most, of age, personnel stayed to be suspended in animation but some
were granted the permission to leave the cities and try to reestablish
life wherever they could find hospitable environments.  Contact was not
kept with those who had left. Only on hearsay did anyone know how these
people fared.

Many headed towards the eastern shoes where they successfully took up
oceanic livelihoods, and so began the city, later to be called,
Besten.  Others made their way to the mountains and met up with other
bands of self-exiled people. They took to herding goats, and sheep;
and whatever other animals that were left alive, they could catch to
domesticate.

The people took to catching and taming the Continent's greatest animal
mutations: gigantic eagles that were as high as trees.  These people
learned to fly them and use them as beasts of burden.  These agrarian
peoples were called the Krolalins and the Virunese.

The time had come, in the O.S.G.I's, where all those people in
cryogenics were awakened. They organized into groups of thousands then
left to set up individual and distinct villages, towns and cities.

The Earth was becoming clean again.  Air and water sparkled with
freshness and the entire world returned to green.

The only people to stay in the O.S.G.I's were the scientists, carrying
on with their work (in every field), as it was done in the Twentieth
Century.  With those that left and built cities, these cities adapted
to a simpler way of life and craved not to progress much in their
technology.  They did not crave to progress very much in their
technology.  They did not want the responsibilities that went with
having technology.  They found that they were just as happy without it,
and their attitudes were civilised enough to accept and give their
blessings to those still utilising the ancient ways.  By 2500 C.E.,
many of the O.S.G.I's were back to a comfortable size of around four
hundred people.  Some O.S.G.I's lost people so readily and quickly,
that a few had become abandoned and forgotten.

All those who left the cities tried to track down some of their old
comrades, heading in the direction of newly established settlements and
subsequently joining with some of them.

The surface cities began to grow and the O.S.G.I's were beginning to be
emptied, with only a few hundred older people remaining in some of them.

In those Omega cities, that were still densely populated, power
struggles often took place. Some of these people who became the
leaders, by force or otherwise, set up a form if thought that denied
the life and events of the Twentieth Century.  Some even went as far as
stating that the Twentieth Century never happened, and so proclaimed
themselves as Kings, Queens and other types of monarchials because they
were descended from the intellectuals who "made the world" what it was.
 During this period, everyone that was a descendant of these people was
given the title "BLUE" -- from the old Proposition Blue code since they
were from the Great Line of Knowledge.

There were men, in the BLUE, who disagreed with the idea that the
Twentieth Century never happened, and long debates were engaged to
discuss it.

These debates and periodic skirmishes were the original cause for the
initial emigration from the cities. Similar events sparked moves in
each of the Omega S.G.I's.

Reginald Jones was a BLUE who opposed the "never happened" dogma, and
his life was, at several times, threatened.

Reginald was suppressed from speaking in the city parliament and seeing
that he lacked any other option, he removed himself from politics and
searched for a wife.

He wasn't successful, though, since his public image had made women
avoid him, for fear of being ridiculed.  As it had happened, many
centuries and aeons ago, a man had been denied comfort for-want-of a
fundamental principle way of thought. Reginald became lonely.

Then in 2542 C.E., Reginald found a baby boy abandoned in a genetics
lab when he was going to work.  Announcements were made for the parents
to take the boy back but soon it was found that the two teenagers
responsible for the child had run away from the OMEGA 4 EAST City.

They were never found and Reginald's need for companionship made him
adopt the child and so he became responsible for him. He gave him the
name of Hosea, who grew up to be a brilliant man and a great political
leader in the OMEGA 4 EAST City.

Hosea became the most powerful man in the city's parliament, keeping
tensions at bay, but allowing the people to think freely.  He had
allowed debates to continue, concerning the existence of the Twentieth
Century and he had, himself, held to the belief that there was a
civilisation that they had descended from.  He had computer disks and
video tapes, books and photographs all showing the life as it was in
the ancient past.  This was proof.  It was proof that could never be
used but Hosea was the kind of man that was eager to see what
conclusions would be brought by his colleagues by just using logical
reasoning.

A conclusion, of sorts, had been found.  It was a forced conclusion and
had occurred at a time the people of the city were looking for some
real direction.

Hosea had been electrocuted at age of ninety-six, while he was trying
to make improvements on solar-electric power sources.  He was well
known for this pursuit within his city.

Hosea's first son was named Cano and when he was young he exhibited a
strange spiritual aura and it was an unanimous decision, by the city
fathers, to have him trained at the Monastery of St. Tobias, outside
the city.

In 2580 C.E., at eighteen years of age, Cano completed his studies of
religious history, and other related topics, at the monastery.  He
became a spiritual healer and a leader, and he later changed his name
to Canon Di'Vaticanus.

He was a well-liked man, at first, who seemed stable and secure
considering that his mother, Hosea's first wife Anna, deserted both of
them when Cano was only twelve.

She had travelled to BanGor where she had become the High Priestess of
the Cults, since she was able to endure the rains, without allowing
herself to fornicate.  All her daughter-descendants replaced her as the
High Priestess.  Anna was an ecologist while at the OMEGA 4 East City
and she had developed a counter-agent that let her and whomever else
took the drug, capable of tolerating being caught in the rain without
having instantly become sexually deranged.

In 2600 C.E., Hosea married his fourth wife (having lost both his
second and third to early death).  Her name was Ruth and she was
regarded as the best in her field of Aging research.  In fact, in the
same year of their marriage, Ruth had made a break-through by
perfecting a drug that retarded the ageing process.

The first human to test the drug was Hosea when he became mortally ill
and with the taking of the drug he miraculously recovered.

The drug was primarily kept for those in the Line of Knowledge but Ruth
had sold some to other people in the city for certain favours and
services.

In 2601 C.E. Ruth bore Hosea's second son named Gavin.
 During the same period when Ruth was giving birth, Canon spoke out
against the age retardant drug calling it "evil", and in late of the
same year, Canon disappeared with a stock supply of the developed drug.

A few years later, Ruth was imprisoned by Hosea for infidelity and he
took her formula away from her.  When Gavin turned sixteen, he left the
OMEGA 4 EAST City and travelled to the southernmost part of the
continent where three huge highlands surrounded a lush valley that was
the city of Pomperaque, in Lower Phoride.  He made his home on the
highest mountain and changed his name to the name of the mountain and
became, for the city of Pomperaque, a great oracle.  A seer and a
prophet whose visions always came to pass.  He never seemed to die or
grow old; he never had a wife or children, abstaining from all sexual
contact.  He kept himself pure in mind and body, while he prayed to the
one great Living God, to which the majority of Twentieth Century man
prayed.

The years passed, then in 2630 C.E., Hosea married his fifth and final
wife, Margaret, who in 2635 C.E., gave birth to twins, Richalé and
Dioneza.

The following year, Margaret died trying to give birth to a premature
baby that also died, and two years after that, Hosea was killed in an
electrical mishap.  During the subsequent years, the twins grew and
each had entered their own peculiar studies.  Dioneza studied telepathy
and when she turned fifteen she was asked to join the OMEGA operations
Council as a reward for her progress, unsurpassed by anyone of her age.
She, like Hosea, kept the title "BLUE" from her name.

When Dioneza received her appointment to the council, the Canon
Di'Vaticanus returned from his forty-nine year trek in the wilderness
of the Northern Continent.

He was eighty-eight years old but he only looked like he was
approaching forty.  He met his pretty half-sister and immediately began
having sexual designs on her, wanting to procreate with her and to have
her carry out many of his strange requests.

With her telepathic ability, she saw into his mind and knew exactly
what kind of a man he was.  She saw in his mind the memories of the
forty-nine years that he spent away from Omega 4 EAST city.  She had
seen that he studied ancient prophesies and obtained his fulfilment
from history but she also saw the destruction of his spirit with his
fall into accepting all forms of depravity, especially those of a
sexual nature.  She had seen his encounters with men, women, children,
animals and all manner of mutated freaks -- all in his attempts to
reach total spiritual awareness.  After Dioneza had asked a friend to
be her protector, the Canon turned to hating her and cursed her with a
violent death.  He had no problems finding other diversions. Young
companions he desired came to do his bidding, and soon he had the young
Janis Topler beside him, wherever he went.

Janis soon became pregnant with his child and eventually gave birth to
him in mid-2651 C.E.

Soon, thereafter, Janis was banished from the city and Canon took the
boy into his care, baptising him as Canis Topler.  In late of that year
the Abbess Mariot, from the Abbey of Our Holy Virgins, brought to Omega
4 EAST an eleven year old girl, with a story about finding her as a
baby during a sojourn at a distant Hermitage.   It was a beautiful baby
girl, wrapped in elegant and costly cloth, and resting within a cradle
overlaid in gold.

She had named the child, Sunshine, since there was the glow and light
of life which shone from the child's face.  She now had brought the
girl to the city to have the child tested.

It was a brilliant child.  She could not speak, however, and this
bothered the Abbess Mariot.   She also wanted an explanation for the
child's speedy growth.  At eleven years of age, the child already had
the appearance of a full grown woman.

Canon lusted after her.

Soon, Sunshine gave birth to the Canon's son.  He was called Daey and
he proclaimed the boy as the long-awaited Saviour.  He pronounced that
the new promised millennium had finally begun.  This was the new age of
humanity; the year he called "ONE".

Canon compiled a book of Laws that he had told everyone was given to
him by the great God, Himself.  He called the book "The Canon's Laws",
and announced that with his receipt of this book, that all which had
occurred in the "pre-history", had never happened:

         "The Past is nonexistent.  This is never to be questioned,
          and no investigation is permitted to be conducted, in pursuit
          of the question of history.  History begins with "ONE".
          Only that which, henceforth, occurs from the year ONE will be
          recognised as history.  Death, by torture, is the punishment
          for this Law's transgression."     

                                                        (CANON 3:18)


This passage was of the first of Canon's Laws: These Laws, to be
followed to the letter, were to be punishable upon the fear of the
most imaginable painful torture.  No Law was more, important than that
of the CANON.  All were the Prime Law, and all punishment was
eventual, excruciating, death.  As the child, Daey, was reaching his
first year of age, Canon sacrificed the most beautiful and the most
precious of his possessions, in honour of the child's birth.  This
most precious possession was the child's own mother, Sunshine.  In the
weeks that followed, the child weakened and also died, and the death
was kept from the people.  There was a great fear that the population
may panic if they were to hear that their "Saviour" had died, while
still in infancy.

While Dioneza studied telepathy and tried to avoid Canon, her twin
brother, Richalé, studied many subjects but he mainly concentrated on
the forbidden topic: History.

Richalé wanted to compile facts to prove, without doubt, Canon's claims
to creating the Universe, the Earth, and all of existence.

In 2660 C.E. Dioneza had found repulsion towards all men, and although
she had yearned for children, she wanted no man to bed with her.

Due to her status, in the city, she was given the permission to be
artificially inseminated from her choice of genes, preserved from the
time of Omega 4 - EAST's construction.   She had chosen a sample which
was labelled as "David Sannstein: April 1995".   The city's parliament
had overwhelmingly accepted her choice and granted her the permission
that was necessary, for her to use the sample.   All the records that
were kept in the gene bank were obviously ancient.   From what was
understood contained within the ancient records, David Sannstein was an
Engineer, some 650 years ago.  This was several hundred years before
"ONE".

Dioneza presented her brother with this fact but nothing ever came of
this knowledge.

Richalé married a girl that he had studied with, at the beginning of
the same year that Dioneza was artificially inseminated.

Months before Dioneza's birth to Dorin, Richalé and his lovely wife,
Dianna, had quadruplets.

Just after Dioneza bore Dorin, Richalé left the Omega 4 - EAST City,
with Dianna and his children: Roman, Daphne, Tatum and Wind. They
journeyed for the city of Besten, on the Eastern seaboard of the
continent.  During this century few of the O.S.G.I's were still
inhabited.  All but the Omega 4 - EAST city and the Omega 7 - PACIFIC
city were abandoned and were utterly forgotten.

In the East, Canon's personal religion had subdued the people's belief
and knowledge, and everyone in the Omega 4 - EAST city began to think
that their city was nothing more than a temple built to Canon.

There were a few citizens that opposed Canon's Laws and some of these
were publicly tortured to death, but some had escaped the wrath of, the
now-hated, Canon.

Many people, dissatisfied with Canon's rules fled the cities to settle
in the small villages and towns that dotted the land.  Canon, however,
sent emissaries to all of these surface towns and cities, and soon they
began to rule over them.  Most of these places submitted to the ways
that Canon had forced upon them.  Only Besten kept up with the
rebellious stand against the Canon, but soon, only underground cells of
rebels fought the new rule.

Richalé's daughter Daphne became involved with the rebel leader
Montgomery Bartlett and married him.  Later, the Bartlett line was to
become the strongest in Besten.

Dioneza had avoided execution by the Canon, her half-brother since she
had the favour of the city parliament and since she had told Canon that
if she dies, her protector would surely kill him.

Canon did not have her killed, yet he had prevented her from ever
speaking in public by having his men begin riots whenever she called a
public audience.

In 2676 C.E., her son Dorin, who was now fifteen years of age, had
illicitly procreated with a thirteen year old called Bernice.  Soon
after the birth of Martin, however, Dioneza had the two youngsters
married and they had no more children.

At seventeen years of age, Bernice was put into cryogenic suspension
when it was discovered that she had developed a terminal blood disease.

That same year, Martin, who was four years old, wad discovered to be a
genius and Dioneza took to training him in the ways of biology and true
history.  To Canon's disapproval, Martin began to delve into the study
of the real past, utilizing Dioneza's computer library.

In 2683 C.E., Dorin made a break-through in light energy emission and
began to improve the old police stun weapons, enabling them to utilize
a laser capability, as well.  This study also infuriated the Canon but
he did nothing.

Just after Dorin's break-through, Dioneza, who was now forty-eight, was
raped and brutally murdered by Canon's bastard son, Canis Topler.

When Martin was nineteen, in 2695 C.E., he became a top-ranking
scientist in the areas of anthropology and archaeology, after
graduating from Advanced Technical Training in the Sciences. Martin
headed an archaeological expedition to Alugean and there uncovered a
huge computer library complex.  He ordered his team to keep the find
secret from anyone at the Omega 4 - EAST city, in the event Canon was
to find out and have the library destroyed.

Martin received the title of "Blue" after his name, because of his
great intellect and he did not abstain from using it.

Four years after his discovery, Canon disappeared and his Monks
announced to everyone that they saw him turn into a being of light and
that he ascended to heaven in a golden chariot.

Canon Di'Vaticanus was declared a God and the monk that was his second,
named himself the ArchBishop.  His name was Morgan.

Morgan had the same powers as the Canon Di'Vaticanus and only answered
to the Canon, for his decisions.


Martin was married three times in his life, though he only had children
with his second and third wives.

With his second wife, Lilian, he had a son called Carter and with his
third wife, Joan, had triplets: Liona, Aria and Thirst.

In 2760 C.E., Carter went to Alugean, following his father's,
directions and found the computer library.  He stayed there for several
years and studied, alone.  Liona, Aria and Thirst left the Omega 4 -
EAST city for BanGor when they were twenty-three, so that they could
learn the ways of the world, but they never survived.  Only one of the
three reached BanGor, having met up with a wandering tribe of Teniqués.
 Only Liona, made pregnant by a Teniqués, arrived in BanGor and was
granted an act of abortion by the High Priestess (the great, great
granddaughter of Hosea Jones's first wife, Anna).

In 2780 C.E., Carter left Alugean and wandered about the continent,
going through Laurentine and then through BanGor in 2785 C.E., where he
sojourned for a short time.  He represented himself to the High
Priestess Lucaea (the third generation granddaughter of Anna), with
whom he became close and eventually sexually coupled, unaware of their
near relation by blood.

In 2801 C.E., they produced Smith and before she exiled Carter from
BanGor, she charmed from him a quantity of the youth drug  -- the
formula which was passed down to him through his father.

In his exile, Carter went to Virune where he later met and married his
first wife, Dee'inth, who was seventeen.   Carter was seventy-four at
his first marriage, but he only resembled a man of twenty-four, having
taken the youth drug for so long and he manufactured more after Lucaea
took his supply away.  There, he became a most important man,
organising and turning the city into a powerful city state.

Jessuum Benitar came down off the mountain and told Carter that they
were related, that both came from the loins of Hosea Jones.  Jessuum
told Carter that his real name was Gavin Jones, the son of Hosea; the
fourth generation great-uncle to Carter.

Jessuum told Carter that Lucaea was his relative, as well, and that
Smith was a product of an incestuous coupling.

When Carter heard this, he was determined to get Smith back.  In 2817
C.E., Pomperaque split in two, and was engaged in a civil war.
Dee'inth and Carter's son, Calvin, left for Virune.

A few years later, Carter unified and strengthened Pomperaque, and then
proceeded to invade BanGor.

Carter executed the already dying Lucaea and Smith came along
willingly, back to Pomperaque.

Dee'inth and Calvin were sent for in 2822 C.E., but they refused to
come.  Dee'inth had married again, to a man called Balfour (who had a
grown son called Empal).

Two years later, carter married his second wife Freida Dilaano, who had
a daughter Miri.  Carter and Freida had no children, and after a year
of marriage, Smith took her daughter Miri as his wife, and they went to
the Virgin Mountains for their honeymoon.

Several years of peace in Pomperaque went by and in 2900 C.E., Carter
died.  Soon after Carter's death, Smith headed a campaign to unite
Lower Phoride and in short of a decade, succeeded.

In 3001 C.E., Smith and Miri went on a vacation to the Virgin
Mountains, while she was pregnant with their first child.

They were both fairly aged in years, although their physical and mental
make-up was still fairly young due to the age retardant drug which was
passed down to them.  Smith was one hundred ninety-eight and Miri was
one hundred ninety-four, but both looked to be only in their
mid-thirties.

On their return, Miri had experienced the pains and when they rested,
one afternoon, she gave birth to Smith's first son, Manguino.

During the birth, Smith was walking about in the woods, following the
distant crying sounds of a baby.  He soon found it.  It was a baby boy,
swaddled in a sackcloth and left in the skull of a lion, by small
stream.*


  So it happened that Smith gave the child the name, Brook Scullion-Blue
  (because of the circumstances surrounded the foundling).  *The baby
  was left there by the great, great-grandson of Wind Jones (one of
  Richal's daughters). Guiness, and his wife Joanne, while trying to
  escape from a band of Plains slave traders, left their baby to Fate's
  caring heart and Smith was led to it.

                                     Testament of Ginn 10:17


Miri accepted Smith's request to adopt it as their own, since it was
similar in age to their own first born, Manguino.

When Smith returned to Pomperaque, Jessuum Benitar once again came down
from the mountain and revealed to Smith who the child really was.

Since the foundling was from the same line as Smith, Smith regarded it
as a son, as equal to that which had come from his own flesh.


At his deathbed, Smith gave his blessings and the land to both of his
sons to rule.

A promise was made by both sons, to rule the land with a strong hand
and a kind heart, and they received Smith's blessings of material and
spiritual power.

The birthright and the sceptre continued with the BLUE.


                "... and it came to pass, that in a time,
                one was chosen as the one favourite to live
                with love, whilst the other died; and in the
                eyes of God"   
                                        PILLARS 93: A 11


PART  I:        THE  SCORCHED  EARTH


CHAPTER  ONE

Another day ended.  Sol, once again, retired its eternal radiance from
man, as it has in its never-ending cycles of dawns and dusks, witnessed
by all the generations.  In its greatness, it survived all of Terra's
hardships and afflictions and it was a living monument to forever.

No one seemed to look to it for comfort any more.  The faces of women
and children didn't reflect its brilliance, since no one had reverence
for its good any more. It was a mindless disregard that was sustained
and nurtured by the generations of man that survived.  For almost a
millennia they forced themselves into ignorance and then blamed it on
the chaotic destructions that scorched the earth and that burned the
human spirit.  Nowhere, it seemed, was there anyone of power willing to
point-out a way to betterment.

Trust knew not any man who was strong enough to deny the utter
discontent that trembled in the hearts of men without freedom.  To
almost every man, innately loomed a feeling of utter hopelessness.


In a dark room of the Blue Mountain, atop Bimini Hill, sat a
middle-aged man of high station.  He was a man richly endowed with
great wealth, majesty and power, and he held the people's respect.
This man had taken pride in his accomplishments but he had become
saddened by his inability to present himself to the citizens in the way
that they revered him; as living strength.

Brook had long since known the problems of the noble land in which he
lived and reigned.  He pondered its past and its future while he
aimlessly stared out of the window at the warming sunset.  In his mind
flashed a memory of an old writing that expressed in an awesome detail
the fear and the agony of oppression that the whole world must have
felt in the final days, when the prophesied great abolition had come to
pass.

Entranced, his thoughts were prolonged as he sat and watched the sun
disappear into the earth; its light casting a reddish hue over his
light beard and reflected cooly from his vacant blue eyes.

His mind embraced time.  It drifted along its tenses, all at once, as
if they were all merged into one music; a music that played
continually, along with the troubled voices that cried, only to him,
for help.

Caught up within his own thoughts, he payed little attention to the
servant boy that set a drink on the table by his chair.

Without a word the boy flamed the gas torches and the room no longer
remained dark.  Quickly, he left the room.

"The sun was resting," thought Brook, as he reached for the chalice of
ale beside him.

He took a drink and the ale soothed his soddy thirst, and his parched
manner, much like the milk of a mother's milken breast soothes a
distressed babe, thus letting it sleep.   But Brook could not sleep.

Brook waited for the moon and he finally welcomed its cool radiance at
midnight when he saw it rise over the junipers.  Its silvery light
reflected its beauty off the scanty layers of the farming terraces.

Brook's eyes were fixed on the view outside his window.  He tried to
envision himself living a thousand years ago gazing out of the same
window, marvelling at the sights that may have been there.  In his
heart, he recited a badly remembered poem that was written just prior
to the War of Wars:

                A torn heart dying within the mind
                A failure to the reckonings  --
                Yesterdays, todays and tomorrows."

He lifted the palms of his hands to his sweaty face desperately trying
to keep from screaming out his tortured agonies.  He believed that he
couldn't tell a soul about the truth concerning the past.  He knew that
the Law was explicit:

                "The Past is non-existent.  This is never to be
                 questioned, and no investigation is permitted to
                 be conducted, in pursuit of the question of history.
                 History begins with "ONE".  Only that which,
                 henceforth, occurs from the year ONE will be
                 recognised as history.  Death, by torture, is
                 the punishment for this Law's transgression."
                                                        (CANON 3:18)


He turned his eyes away from the window and rose out of his chair.  He
slowly paced to a large cabinet beside the huge entrance doors.  From
around his neck, he brought forth a key and placed it into the slot of
the cabinet door then slowly opened it.  Inside this cabinet Brook
kept, what he liked to call,  "his gadgets."  There were rows of
buttons glowing like coloured embers. Brook applied pressure to several
of the buttons.

Quickly, long drapes on the far wall rolled away and revealed a blank,
white, wall that soon began to produce pictures that moved like life
itself.

The images were of fire and of raging destruction.  There were scenes
of huge cities that stood majestically on the horizon one moment, then
falling into mountainous piles of rubble, the next.  More pictures
showed fat people, conspiracies, death and misunderstandings.  Every
kind of unimaginable horror played upon the wall.

Brook sighed to himself, as he remembered the rest of the poem:

                        "His music ends ...
                         His silence devours his soul,
                         Caging his ever-diminishing days
                         In a way that any man could lose
                         His assurance in himself,
                         And 'why?' he is!"

Then he slowly repeated to himself the words that were the Law:
"The Past is non-existent", but he couldn't allow himself to believe
this, especially with the truth revealing itself in front of him, at
this moment.


He felt a cold tightness within his chest when he let himself think
about his ancestors and the way that they destroyed themselves.  Their
greed for wealth and their crazed megalomania was the cause for the
deaths of millions.  He saw these men die, in the pictures that
played-out right before his eyes.  Once more he slowly breathed out the
words:  "The past is non-existent."

He cautiously looked around so that no one would hear him, if only by
chance, as they passed in the hallway.

He remained in private thought.

He sat back down in his chair and closely watched the horrific and
colourful images that danced on the wall.  "How can a truth be hidden
for a thousand years?"  he wondered.  "For a thousand years no one has
even imagined that the very fabric of life itself, had nearly become
death for every living thing beneath the sun."  He looked at the fiery
scourge projected onto the wall, then lowered his head and pondered
heavily. How could he tell his people in Phoride, the truth about the
past.  That the knowledge about it was subdued by fanatic religious
rulers, in their attempt to subjugate total control over them.  Fear
for the Divine Punishment made them surrender their faith and submit to
the worship of a handful of man, as their gods.

Brook had long been a powerful man.  He was one from the Great Line of
Knowledge, yet he wasn't like most of those other men.  In his heart he
heard the multitudes of voices that screamed and cried out their pleas
to him, to reveal the truth and thus lift the burdens from their backs
and let them live in peace.

His soul embraced everything that he knew was right and to himself, he
nodded an agreement.  The time had come to be strong again and to no
longer sit idly by and watch evil, as it has its own way in his land.


He moved back in his chair when he heard the sounds of the Monastic
Guard, marching in the city square and the painful screams of men and
women, that echoed between the buildings and out towards the hills.
Brook knew that these people were being blasted by with the
lightning-like bolts from the Guard's electrophoric weapons.

His strong and gentle hands slowly rose to his face as he sank down
into his chair.  He set his elbows on his knees and he cleaved to the
thoughts within his mind, trying to force himself to remain in the
deepest meditation.  He felt the hours pass, until dreams soon began to
visit him, making him lose himself and his worries to the mask of the
night.  With the coming of his last conscious breath before sleep, he
recalled some of the words that his father said to him, upon his
deathbed.

"Brook, my son ... do not let the land become troubled. Don't be afraid
to fight because the horrifying torments of war can become a tool that
may prevent future afflictions."

Brook was asleep and everything in the room was left unveiled for any
eye to see.  Although the pictures on the wall had ceased, everything
was left in open view.  Each thing presented a danger to Brook's rule
and power.

The cool breezed night soared into dawn's amber glory.  The sun slowly
began to illuminate the room and a robed figure carefully crept in,
much in the manner of a thief, yet it didn't take a thing.  It had
moved softly and with purpose towards the white wall, where it drew the
drapes shut.  Then it moved towards the cabinet where it closed its
doors with a faint click, and again left the room in much the same
manner as it had entered.

The sky was cloudless and the sun warmed the land with its radiation.
The sparrows outside the window chirped their hellos, while they basked
in that life giving light, before they took to flight for the day.


Boy, the servant, carefully walked into the room and looked about in
wonder; this was his usual facial expression, before he drew on enough
courage to wake his lord Brook.  He carefully delivered a pewter basin
full of water, for his master's morning washing.

He called to Brook several times in a meek tone but with no response.
Moving closer, and touched his master's forearm, again calling Brook's
name.  This time, however, the boy called in a much louder and
demanding tone of voice.

Brook quickly stirred from his deep sleep and for several moments just
stared at the boy with an indifference that somehow seemed to be forced
from himself.

Brook cleared his throat and sat up in his chair.  He prepared himself
to play the Lord once again, but on this day he had decided, that the
long and horrible game would come to an end and that he would truly be
master, as it was his right.

He sat up in his chair and in his usual manner coughed a few times
before he spoke.  Boy stepped back a bit when Brook coughed but he
quickly returned to him, and slightly bowed his head to him.

Brook coughed once again then took a deep breath as he looked about the
room then back at the boy.

"What is this call, Boy?" boomed Brook.

"Pardon, Sir, but the lady had asked me to wake you." answered Boy.  "I
have brought water to wash the sleep from your eyes."  He lifted the
basin up to Brook where, after a moment he splashed the scented water
up into his face then dried himself with the towel that hung over Boy's
arm.  "Your wish -- my Lord!" uttered the boy, obediently leaving
Brook's presence as the Lady entered the room.  She carried a large cup
and as Boy passed her she smiled at him and told him that he could go
into the garden until he was needed again.  He smiled in reply and
thanked her, then hurried away.

Lady Dearborne was in a happy mood.  She smiled warmly at her husband
as she approached him with the cup full of broth.  She extended to him
her fair hand and when in reach, he took it gently into his own and
guided her to his side.  Her smile beamed as she bowed to him then sat
down on the floor by his feet.   She gently placed her head against his
knee after giving him his broth.  He drank it and sighed, and stroked
her hand as she hummed a lovely tune for him.

He looked at her, taking in all her beauty, regarding her many years of
love and loyalty with much pride.  He believed that no man on Earth, in
the past, present, or likely to in the future, felt as he does.

Dearborne was a vibrant woman, twenty-nine years of age, with beauty
unsurpassed by any other in Phoride and the surrounding kingdoms.  Her
long brown hair ended in curly locks that fell in front of her and that
decorated her creamy neck and shoulders, enhancing the fair, light
smoothness of her bosom, which emerged from her low cut gown like the
pinkish eggs of the great Kenttitian Eagle.  Her totality glistened
like the polished marble god-statues from Laurentine.

When she spoke, her voice was reminiscent of a loon gliding over still
water, during an early morning mist.  Her words displayed generations
of knowledge which she had taken to her heart and mind, over her
seemingly few but happy years of life, with her Lord Brook.

She ceased her humming as she ran her hand across her husband's calf.
With affection, he returned the caresses to his love; his hand gently
rubbing across her silky hair.

She spoke without looking up at him or breaking the rhythm of her
strokes.

"You were not to bed, again, last night.  I was worried and came down
here to call you.  You were asleep.  I didn't want to disturb you  --
but it doesn't matter." she said, then she looked up at him and smiled.
"I know that you were not keeping yourself apart from me."  Brook moved
his hand to her glowing face, stroked it and smiled at her. He gave her
a longing kiss.

"I'm sorry, my sweet." he finally said as he helped her up off the
floor and onto his lap.  He wrapped his arms around her waist and she
put hers about his neck.  They kissed one another, and held it for the
longest time.  "Did you close the drapes over the wall, and shut my
cabinet door?" he asked her.

"Yes!" she answered loyally and put her head on his shoulder.

"You've done that so many times, and yet you have never asked me
anything about their nature.  Somehow you seem to know they should not
stay exposed, for the random eye to see!"

"It's not my privilege to question what you do, or why you do it. My
place is here, at your feet, my love!" she told him in a voice that
assured him of her potent and loyal love.

Brook kissed her hand.

"No, my love! Your place is not at my feet, but at my side.  Even so,
my place is your place.  It has always been and always will be.  I love
you, Dearborne!"

"And I love you, my dearest Brook!" she responded and his trembling
heart was calmed by the tranquillizing inflections in her song-like
voice.

An hour passed by as they sat together.  Dearborne was on Brook's lap.
Neither one said very much of anything to the other.  Only in touches,
kisses and embraces, and the volumes of thought that passed between
them, did they say anything.

They kissed each other again and she turned her body to converse with
him more directly.  She told him that the ArchBishop sent a messenger
earlier in the morning before he was awake, with a request that she
would try to get him to the Cathedral, to speak with him.

"The ArchBishop," she told him,  "wonders why you haven't answered his
calls to a conference, earlier.  It's been weeks since he asked you to
the cathedral.  This morning he sent word, to me, to persuade you to
see him."

Brook instantly became disturbed and let her off his lap.  He stood up
and slowly walked over to the window.  After a few moments of silence
he turned to her and in a loud, angry, voice spoke his mind.

"I do not entertain business with such a man.  I hold no men like him,
in regard, as friends _ or anything else.   I shall not go to him, from
my own will, and if he cannot move his bulbous body to come here, I
will not exert myself for him."  Brook's voice echoed about the stone
room, its bass quality full of contempt and hate.  Then he noticed that
he had frightened her, because her face became drawn and startled.
After a moment, she spoke in an uneasy manner.

"My love, that ... that's not proper.  The ArchBishop cannot be treated
like that ... He's the --"

Brook quickly stepped towards her and put his hands on her upper arms,
interrupting her train of thought.

"-- He's the biggest hypocrite that has ever lived.  He's a
megalomaniac who has always taken advantage of these people in Phoride.
 Yet, I have stood by and watched it, and allowed it.  What's to become
of it all?"

He dropped his hands from her arms and embraced her.  Then, in a
breathless whisper, while his eyes were closed, committed himself to
subdue the powers that the ArchBishop thought he had under his
command.Dearborne, worried and confused by her husband's quickly
changing moods, held him closely to herself.

"What is wrong, Brook?  I feel like something severe bothers you.  Tell
me what trouble's
you, my love."  she pleaded in a concerned voice but, for a while, he
did not answer.  He stepped away from her and moved towards the window
again, and said nothing.  Dearborne thought that Brook was going insane
and she prayed to her fullest ability that she was wrong, and that she
was just entertaining foolish and childish ideas.

On the streets were the sounds of people; talking, laughing, buying and
selling, and going about their daily routine; which, in more cases than
not, was just trying to survive.  In the distance, from the direction
of the Cathedral, came the horrific buzzing sounds of the Monastic
Guard's electrophoric weapons.  The sound was like the drone of a
million panicked mosquitos, swarming in a mass confusion.

Brook's eyes filled with tears and Dearborne looked towards the window.
 Silence took command of the room.  Dearborne slowly moved towards the
window, touched Brook's forearm and looked at him with her big brown
and compassionate eyes.  He placed his hands upon her, then they
embraced until the nightmarish sounds of the ArchBishop's weapons died
and the sounds of the children, playing in the streets, filled the air
in its place, again.

Dearborne knew that there was a change in Brook.  Never before has he
cringed under the sounds of the ArchBishop's weapons, and the results
of them thereof.  Soon, Dearborne cried, too.

Brook eased his embrace on her.  He stroked her hair and kissed the
tears from her eyes until she stopped crying.

"It is time, my love."  Brook finally said in a low tone.  "It's time
for me to tell you about all these things here, with me."  He motioned
to her the whole room and what it contained: the shelves of books, the
cabinet, the small statues, the white screen and the musical
instruments beside it, in the corner.  "After all our years of
marriage, I will tell you about these things that my father, Smith
Blue, left for me to use, to keep my rule strong in Phoride."

She dried her eyes with a handkerchief that she took from her sleeve.

Brook guided her to every part of the room and explained to her the
uses which every item had during the time of the Twentieth Century,
over a millennia ago.  He explained to her that the statues were the
likeness of the rulers during that time.  He told her about how these
men's search for wealth and power plunged the whole world into a bloody
conflict that escalated into a cataclysmic holocaust, that almost
wiped-out every living creature from the face of the Earth.  He had let
her know of how only a few handfuls of people survived and how they
were able to rebuild the world and civilisation, to what it was now.

He disclosed how these people took the best of both simple living and
great technology, to make a better and more ordered life on Earth. And
he recounted to her how he was descended from a line of knowledgeable
men called "scientists", and how the idea of such men was lost over the
passage of a thousand years, that eventually became thought of as a
royalty.  The faction name, "THE BLUE" had become thought of as
nobility and so was its adoption for a surname lineage, to which was
now his.

Dearborne asked questions about many things.  Things that even Brook
had long ago asked himself, because he was never able to obtain the
answers after his father died, and there was no one else to ask.

All he could do was speculate and read some of the old texts, that
explained some questions but never in enough detail to warrant full
understanding and satisfaction to his churning curiosity.

Dearborne now understood why Brook kept this room so private, allowing
only the two people closest to him, in his life (she and Boy), to
enter it.  She now knew why she thought it necessary, those many
times, to close the cabinets, and drape-over the wall, when Brook fell
asleep and left them in the open.  Brook was aware that all this
knowledge would be misused if it were in the hands of someone like the
ArchBishop and his puppet legions.

Brook had mixed emotions about his life and his own power.  Although he
and Dearborne had been married for thirteen years, this was the first
time that he divulged so much dangerous knowledge to her.  In Phoride,
as elsewhere in the world, the way of life has been one of mistrust and
suspicion.  Yet, Brook knew that she would tell no one because there
were many things that they shared and neither one has revealed them to
anyone else.

When Brook finished telling Dearborne most of the important details
about the gadgetry, they stood at the window for a long time and just
stared at the town, and its people.

The Monastic Guards patrolled the streets while the people went about
their day-to-day activity, buying and selling items that they took to
the market.

As far as the eye could see down the street people were busy making
their livelihood.  They talked and laughed with one another and rarely,
if ever, paid any mind to the black-clad, helmeted guards that policed
the area.

Children played in the streets.  Some of the daring one tried to
actually annoy the guards who, like zombies, went on their way without
showing the slightest hint of aggravation.  Afraid of being punished
for their children's misdeeds, parents beat their children for everyone
to witness.  They did not want the "Almighty's Angels" (as they guards
were often called), to pour their wrath upon them.  They felt that
their children's bloody noses and cut lips were enough to show their
respect, and submission, to the rule of the Almighty.


Brook put his arm over Dearborne's shoulder and stroked her hair.  He
set her small and delicate hand into his other, and held it tightly.

Turned towards her, he saw a few shiny tears slide down her rosy
cheeks.  "They are the ones that I must now tell." he said, pointing
out the window at the children.


CHAPTER  TWO

The streets were alive with people vending their goods.

The mid-morning was always the busiest time of the day in Pomperaque,
and should it have been anything else?  Afterall, this city had been
the capital of Phoride for some five hundred years. The routine had
always been the same. At sunrise the people brought their goods out
into the major streets, where they bought and sold amongst one
another.  When noon-time came around they all gathered their things
together and returned to their homes and rarely, if ever, emerged
again until the evening when they made their way to the taverns and
theatres.

But even in the evening the city wasn't as alive as it was during
mid-morning.  This was a time when people spoke to one another and
laughed at little humours that they created and therefore strengthened
the social bonds between themselves.  Men drank and talked at the
cafes while their women stayed by the stands and kiosks, exchanging
goods and talking also.


Sometimes someone came along and bought something with gold bits, which
was surprising and not very common, since the usual manner that the
people carried on their business was in barter and in copper.  However,
the attainment of gold was short-lived.

Every day at noon, one of the ArchBishop's tax clerics went amongst
those who received gold and exchanged it for copper bits. Usually, the
exchange wasn't just or fair.  The town's people were most often given
two bits of copper for every one bit of gold.  Rarely they received
five bits to one of gold: that was a great achievement in everyone's
eyes if someone were capable of bringing it about.  This was dangerous,
however. If someone haggled for anything over five bits of copper to
one of gold, they were threatened with Divine Punishment -- for their
sin of greed -- unless they payed a fine, which always equalled the
exact number of gold bits that the merchant possessed.  Thus was the
usual mode of business and economics for Pomperaque, and the rest of
Phoride. All this was the common practice of the surrounding provinces,
and kingdoms; which the ArchBishop directly influenced.

It was one such morning that Dearborne went out into the streets with
Boy, to do her marketing.  It was the third day of the week and not the
second day, which she usually took to do her marketing, and everyone
was happy and pleased to see her because they all thought that
something bad had happened to her.  The merchants weren't prepared for
her absence on the second day and all of them questioned her for a
reason why she missed her usual day.  She just smiled and told them
that she wanted to be with her husband, and they sent their
heat-warming greeting to him.

For the thirteen years that she had been married to Lord Brook, she
always marketed on the second and fifth days of the week.  The sudden
change in her market day created a great stir in the hearts of the
people. Now that they could see that she was well, they rejoiced and
treated her with sweets and fruits, and gave her things to take to
their Lord and sovereign, Brook Scullion Blue.

Like every day, the streets were filled with people.  Their goods were
spread about the ground on blankets, or on top of carts, or set on and
around the kiosks in the city square.

Dearborne and Boy made their way down the street towards the square,
which was the liveliest part of town during any time of the day.  It
was here where the best produce and meats were to be found during the
morning market hours.  It was here that the highest quality foodstuffs
were brought in from every part of Phoride and elsewhere.

Also, in the city square, jewellery and fine garments were sold and
there were amusements for the people.  There were games and
story-tellers, and machines were there to thrill the children. All
these amusements carried-on throughout the entire day and night.

Boy carried a large basket and was slightly ahead of Dearborne.  They
both walked slowly and looked around the different stands, at the
various things of interest.

Dearborne smiled her greetings at some council men that sat at tables
outside the café.  Business carried on in its usual manner, the sounds
of livelihood resounded throughout the streets and into the other
regions of the city, out towards the Hill People, who were the free
farmers of Phoride.  There was some kind of commotion down the street
but it didn't appear to be any different than usual to Dearborne, and
she paid little attention to anything but her own thoughts, anyway.

She had never known about the holocaust that had occurred over a
millennia ago.  She had known that something cataclysmic happened but
no one could ever find out the whole story because it was a taboo
topic, according to the written Laws of Canon; which denied any kind of
knowledge about the past.

She was confused by the Canon's Law, which said the past was a
disillusionment.  Afterall, there were history books and subjects at
the Blaisaman, right here in Pomperaque.  The Blaisaman had, at one
time, been one of the largest learning institutions of its kind,
anywhere on the Northern Continent.  This was the very place that
Dearborne and many other "Prominents" completed their studies.  She
remembered the extensive teachings of history and how it had
influenced and changed life in Phoride.  Only now, four years after
she had received her Darmaclust, she realised that even in the highest
levels of study, no one knew, or at least there was no one who would
disclose their knowledge, about the history prior to a thousand years
ago.

She never questioned why this was so at the time and apparently, no one
else questioned it either.  She hadn't realised that there was no
written or taught history, concerning that period before the officially
declared beginning of the world.  The only stories that were told to
the scholars, about the before-time, was that there was a fiery chaos
in the cosmos, before the Almighty created the world and its first
earthly family.  But anything that was taught to the student-scholars,
even concerning this, was very limited.  Still, there were no
questions.

Dearborne couldn't believe that anyone, not even she, thought to pursue
the topic any further than that which was told to them.

She came out of her thoughts for a moment when she noticed that Boy had
wandered-off somewhere and without her permission.

She reconnoitred the square; the different stalls and the kiosks then
saw him standing with some pretty town's-girl, of the same age.  Both
watched some dark-skinned woman, with golden hair and sapphire-like
eyes, levitate herself and many other weird things, including some of
the audience, on the fringes of the stage.

About to call on him, she heard some quick steps behind her and a
familiar voice that calling her name.

"Lady Dearborne!  Good morning, my sweet friend." said the voice.

She turned quickly to the caller and smiled as he reached her, and
kissed her hand.

"Miel, my dear friend, how are you?" she asked him in a surprised and
happy manner.

"I am fine.  My wife is well, too!  She just birthed our twelfth child
a son!" he beamed with pride.

"My, my!  You do keep yourself active!"

"Yes!  That is why I could not answer the invitation to your
anniversary celebration."

"You are coming, are you not?"

"Oh, yes!  Of course, I'm coming.  I wouldn't miss it for anything."
he assured her.

"And Aria?

"I don't know yet.  She doesn't recover from child baring as quickly as
she had at one time.  Nevertheless, I will be there."

"Well, thankyou ... Brook and I shall watch for you!"

"Goodbyes till then!" he exalted, then after he kissed her hand again,
he walked off in the direction of the café, and shouted greetings to
some men sitting at the nearest table.

Dearborne turned and called to Boy.  He glanced over his shoulder to
see her waving him in with her hand.  He motioned to the girl to stay
where she was and ran over to Dearborne.

They strolled over to Empal; the biggest seller of fruits and
vegetables, herbs and spices, known on the face of the continent, and
perhaps in the whole world.

He greeted her and Boy with the usual good-hearted smile, and warm
hello.  Then as always, in his brawny Virunese accent he asked about
Brook, his favourite Lord, while he slowly filled Dearborne's basket
with the best of his produce.  In turn, Dearborne asked about his
family -- his daughter in particular, and unobserved slipped several
gold bits into his hand when they shook.

Dearborne wasn't the only one of the nobility to do this.  Many others
had done it, as well.  Not because of pity or any such sympathies but
rather s a show of respect for his strength and his odd position in
their society.

Everyone in Phoride, except for the ArchBishop and his train of
followers, admired his position against the ArchBishop when he was
requested for Gaena, his daughter, to bare the child of "The
Almighty".  He refused to allow his daughter's virginity to be taken
by anyone other than a mountain tribesman and so immediately arranged
a wedding to take place between her and her betrothed love, Tucker.
Tucker was a Krolalin Mountain goat-herder.

Although everyone overpaid Empal for his services, he was forced into
near poverty when he dared to live in Pomperaque or anywhere else in
Phoride, for any lengthy period of time.  This was caused by his
obstinacy towards the ArchBishop.  In the beginning, after a few months
of hardship he returned to Exendria, the capital of Virune.  He rebuilt
his fortune, and later returned to Pomperaque.  Since then, he had kept
to a cycle of return to Exendria.  Like a migratory bird, he headed
North every summer then returned to Lower Phoride in the winter.

Even though extensive and constant travel was difficult on most people,
it didn't seem to affect Empal in a very harsh way.  In fact, he soon
came to enjoy his cycled migration because he made a greater fortune
selling his produce during his travel than he did selling in either
Pomperaque or Exendria, combined.  Now, in his seventh cycle, he had
accumulated more wealth than what the ArchBishop could dream of taking
away from him; in fines, taxes, licenses or tariffs.  Brook had dared
to veto the ArchBishop's plan for all merchants, farmers and artisans
to pay a monthly tribute to the church, to encourage the building of
roads, buildings and the like.

Brook knew that no buildings would ever come out of the plan and that
it was just another one of the ArchBishop's ploys to keep the people of
Phoride poor and ignorant.  His veto helped all the working class
people in the land and also greatly boosted the economic strength of
Phoride.  He made it the wealthiest and most powerful land on the
Northern Continent.  And all of this was begun by the will of a simple
old man, who chanced his standing up to the ArchBishop's tyrannical
order of life.

Dearborne and Empal said their farewells and he asked her if she will
be back on the fifth day, as usual, but she shrugged unknowingly and
smiled a good-bye at him.

Boy carried the basket for a while until Dearborne saw that he
occasionally looked back to where the town's-girl stood, waiting for
him to return to her.  Being a kindly woman, she took the basket from
him and let him go to the girl, telling Boy that she would not need him
for a while.

She was pleased to see Boy and the innocense of childhood that he, and
all those like him, possessed.  Their's was the future.  This, she
understood through her husband's guidance.  She knew that it was the
responsibility of the Elders to prepare a secure and stable life for
their children.  It was this idea that caused Brook to become so
sensitive to the uselessness of killing the transgressors of the Canon
Laws:  those laws, more than half of which, were written only to
benefit the Great Church of The Almighty.

She was saddened when she realised that Boy, and all those of his age,
might not have any kind of future at all.

She continued to look at the boy.  Her mind remained deep in thought
about him and his vague tomorrow.  She almost cried.


"He's a hardy boy, Lady Scullion-Blue!"  A sudden, slow and taring
voice, that sent a cold flush down her back and that raised the small
hairs on the nape of her neck, came from behind.  She quickly turned,
and when she saw that it was the Cardinal Allen, she curtsied to him
and kissed his hand.

"Is your household faring well, my child?  asked the Cardinal.

"Yes, Cardinal Allen.  We are happy for our blessings." she moved away
from him.

"I am happy for you ... I am surprised to see you in the market today.
It's not your usual day?" his voice sounded scheming and distrustful as
he eyed her.  Dearborne felt uneasy, as if she were being prodded or
groped by someone.  She felt as if swarms of army ants were crawling
over her entire body, and were devouring her alive.  She didn't answer
right away.  She quietly looked to see if Boy was still by the stage
but he had moved with the girl to another one, where some magician made
small animals and shapes transmute in their appearance.

Dearborn turned back to the Cardinal and answered.

"No, it's not my usual day for marketing.  I stayed home with Brook,
yesterday!" she said.

"No doubt talking about raising a family -- I wager?"

"Yes!  That is so!  We feel that we are now prepared for children."

"True, true! -- Just a few days ago I was speaking with some of the
Brothers, at Halls, about you and Lord Brook.  We prayed that you may
soon be blessed with many sons.  All of us look forward to your sons'
future attendance at out vicarage."  Dearborne became somewhat
disturbed and briefly lost her pleasant smile.  She answered him in a
subdued, but still obviously denying tone of  voice.

"Yes!  Definitely that!" she said then became silent, once again.


Cardinal Allen slowly looked over Dearborne's whole body and sighed.
He imagined the pleasures that he could experience if he were to bed
with her; to meet her full mouth with his and to touch the full
softness of her bosom.

Dearborne moved her long hair allowing it to fall upon her breasts,
covering herself from the Cardinal's intensive gaze.

After a few moments of silence, Cardinal Allen glared into her eyes,
and in a dishonestly gentle voice, asked her if she cared for
refreshment.  She couldn't but answer him, and soon she tried to smile
as she conceded.

"Shall we sit, then?" asked the Cardinal and escorted her to a vacant
table at the café, where several of the men sat about, eyeing them and
mumbling with questioning discontent and accusation.  Soon, however,
they returned to their talking and did not pay attention to the Lady,
and the Cardinal, sitting nearby.  They resumed their previously gaiety
and laughter, and heavy-handed talk.

A large, blond tavern maid soon came to the table.  She toted a tray of
dirty tankards.  With a big smile, she winked at Cardinal Allen then
looked at Dearborne.  She chuckled a little when he smiled back at her.

"How you, Cardin' -- What do?"  she asked.  Her eyes jutted back and
forth between him and Dearborne.

"A small rose wine, please." she finally said.

The tavern maid grinned, then once again winked at Cardinal Allen. With
a quick and brisk "it's good!", she left them.

The strange commotion that boomed on the street most of the morning,
had grown and spread right down to the café where they sat.  Cardinal
Allen wasn't too disturbed by the loud shouting of some young man and
the discontented, riotous mob that shouted back at him.  He was
preoccupied with his interest in Dearborne.  They said very little at
the table or at least, nothing that was of any great significance.
Dearborne watched the crowd as they started to throw stones and ripe
fruit at the you man, and Allen watched Dearborne's breasts rise and
fall with her every breath.

Once more, he continued his deceit and his lecherous manner.

"Ah, yes!  Lord Brook is a very lucky man, to have wed such a woman as
you!"

Dearborne became even more upset and she began to fidget.  She looked
around to see if anyone was listening; most were interested in the
young man that was creating the disturbance, and Miel had long since
left.

"If I had not become a man of the Almighty, I could have wed such a
precious fawn.  I, too, could have cleaved to a woman whose blood boils
for only the one man that she loves."

Dearborne was surprised by what the Cardinal had said to her.
Uncomfortable, she tried to speak while she looked around to make
certain that no one else heard him.

"Cardinal Allen -- I pray, explain the meaning of that remark, or I
will have to tell Brook!"

"I beg your forgiveness, if I have offended, my Lady.  It is known
throughout these lands, that women who drink of the rose, are warm and
passionate to those men that they love."

He looked at her and smiled, his one gold tooth reflecting the sunlight.

No one else, in the café, heard their exchange.  Their attentions were
rivetted on the disturbance that rumbled a little ways down the street.

The tavern maid brought the drinks, served them, and winked at Cardinal
Allen before she left.  "Enjoy, Cardin'!" she said, then went to serve
someone else.

"I'm sorry, Cardinal!  I misunderstood the intent behind your words."


Cardinal Allen bowed his head and smiled at her a forgiving little
smile.  In his norm, he turned his own decadence around and once more
had come clean.

"The mistake was unintentional, my child.  Let us pray that this does
not happen again." he clasped his hands and lowered his head.

Dearborne bowed her head, as well, and sighed.

The Cardinal, however, did not pray.  He looked up at her and only
thought about how wonderful she was, and the joys and the pleasures
that Lord Scullion must feel when he takes her.  He thought about the
intense heat that he felt, just sitting near her; watching her smooth
glow and the inviting look in her eyes, as if saying  "I will take you,
my Lord Cardinal."   But soon his thoughts brought him back to his
place, as it was, at Halls.  There was the devotion that he had to
show, and the tributes that he had to give, to the other brothers
there, and also the obligation that he had to The Almighty, Himself.
He sighed and said "amen" and Dearborne echoed him.

"I must leave you, now, Cardinal." she continued with a silent
hesitation.  "Thank-you for the refreshment, and of course the
compliment."  She saw him, still over by the magician and the girl.
She called to him and before he came he kissed the girl and waved to
her even though she stood right beside her.  She giggled and Boy ran to
Dearborne when she called to him again.

"Here I come, Lady!" he shouted as he ran to her.  Along the way he
stumbled and dirtied himself, but he sprang up quickly and continued.

Cardinal Allen took her hand.  She spun around in surprise and faced
him.  She glared at him as his voice, heavy and wet, filtered into her
mind.

"Before you go, my Lady, please do not forget to request a visit with
Lord Scullion.  The ArchBishop does very much wish to see him."  She
pulled her hand out of his, in a slow and obviously repulsed manner.
She than walked away.  Boy ran after her and she handed him the basket
of fruit and vegetables.

As they headed in the direction that they had come from, the commotion
that was down the street was now before them.  They tried to make their
way to the main boulevard but when they made it, Dearborne stopped to
see what the problem was.

People pushed and shoved one another and screamed obscenities at a man,
about Dearborne's age, who jumped up on the magician's stage, knocking
the magician to the ground.  Throughout the clamour and confusion, the
man yelled at the people, but no one listened.  He finally had to hit a
few individuals, sending them careening to the ground, in order that he
could stay on the stage.

"Listen!" he yelled.  "Listen -- Hear Me!"  Now, on stage, the noise of
the crowd heightened.  Every single person screamed at him.  Most
screamed insults and profanity while others screamed at him calling him
a blasphemer and a heretic.  Some men tried to pull him off the stage
but he kicked and swung his fists, and made a mark on their faces.

The man lifted a tattered book into the air to show the people, and
yelled in desperation at the people to listen to what he had to say.

"Listen, people of Phoride!  Hear the truths that have been!  Listen so
that you too may know!"  he screamed.

The anger of the people was coming to a boil and some men shouted as
loud as they could at him.

"What truths?  Words that we don't understand?" hollered one, in anger,
back at him.

"Blasphemies and heresies to destroy our faith in The Almighty!"
shouted another.

"We don't listen to lies! -- Remove him!"

"These are not lies. These are truths, of the great things that had
once been and can be, again!" pleaded the man from the stage. The
murmur of the riotous mob grew; people yelled to others to take him
away and kill him, and to close their eyes to his devilish words.

"Hear me, friends!  Hear the words of the "old ones" from that age that
had vanished! -- Hear of those who have been in shelter, and who waited
to be born again.  All of you are the witnesses to them, to reason and
to understand them, again!" said the man on the stage as he waved his
book in the air, over his head.

Dearborne and Boy moved into the shadows of the adjacent street.  She
was curious to hear what the man had to say.

Cardinal Allen still stood by the café table and watched some woman
grab at the leg-bindings of the man's sandal.  Allen waited.  The woman
screamed.

"This demon tempts us!  Call the Almighty's Angels to destroy him!" and
Allen pulled from his habit a small flat, triangular device and passed
his forefinger over its surface.  Instantly, bells echoed throughout
the street and the roar of the mob died down as they moved back, away
from the stage.

Two tall male figures, dressed totally in black, with dark helmets and
shiny metals adorning them, entered the square in haste, beside the
café.  Cardinal Allen pointed a bony finger at the man on stage and the
two monastic guards stepped up to the stage and drew their weapons on
him.

The man on stage was certain that they would fire upon him.  He knew
that he couldn't allow his book to be taken from him, for then no one
would ever see it.  He quickly took a glass ball from his hip sack and
threw it down at the guards.  A twangy sound echoed though the air and
the man fell from the stage, to the ground.  The glass ball that he
had thrown down poured-out a grey green smoke, giving him the chance
to drag himself into one of the nearby alleys.

The monastic guards stopped in their tracks.  Their guns were still
pointed up towards the stage but they did not fire any more.

The mob, aimless and panicked, ran into one another and screamed in
horror that they were blind.  Others fell to the ground and crawled
off, crying and praying to the Almighty to deliver them from the evil
that had befallen them.

Cardinal Allen ran off in the direction of Halls, still rubbing his
forefinger over the surface of the device.  The roar of the mob
subsided, giving way to the eerie sounds of the bells that echoed
through every part of Pomperaque.  As Allen approached Halls, he fell
over his habit, dragging behind him, and in final desperation, made it
through the gateway and collapsed by the fountain in the courtyard.

Amidst the confusion in the city square was the man's body.  It dragged
itself into a doorway, his hand cupped over the open fist-sized wound
in his side.  The intolerable pain made him sway out of the doorway and
onto the cobble-stone street.  He dropped his book as he tried to stand
up, and vomited into the gutter before he passed out.

Some figures quickly rushed towards him.  One of them grabbed the book
and concealed it with their clothes, as they took him under the arms
and quickly spirited him away.


Overlooking pomperaque stood Mount Benitar the rock of wisdom.  There
sat a man of wisdom, who watched everything that occurred in that great
city.

The man of the mountain was not pleased with what he witnessed taking
place over the centuries.  Alone, he contemplated his descent into the
valley.


CHAPTER  THREE

Some birds chirped outside, perched on the branches of the giant
junipers, hidden by the shadows of the leaves, hiding from the heat of
the afternoon sun.

A breeze gently sighed through the window, the lace coverings flapped
about their hangings, animating them into a lively dance and scattering
the shy sunlight that intermittently peaked into the room.

The room was large and fragrant with exotic incenses.  The blue and
white of the polished Lazurite walls pleased the eye, as did the
intricately carved sandalwood furniture and bed frame. All of this
added a most natural aura to the naked smoothness of the marble and the
stone, utilized throughout the building.

In the white, fur-lined bed lay a man.  His upper torso was propped up
by blue satin pillows, stuffed with fluffy swans down.  The pillows
showed the unmistakable signs of dampness, from his sweat.  He lay
still, tiny beads of sweat streaming from his brow.  His nostrils
flared with each painful breath that he took.  A blanket was drawn up
to his waist.  His arms rested on the blanket's end and to his side.
His chest was circumscribed by clean bandages that held a herbal
poultice against the wound in his side -- an attempt to relieve his
pain.

The sounds of people outside returned to normal.  Business carried on
in its usual way and the people carried on in their usual disarray.

Outside the room, in the hallway, was heard the whispering voices of a
man and a woman.  The woman was describing an incident that had
occurred within the city square, that had injured their guest.

Within the room, the man on the bed stirred and woke up.  He tried to
sit up quickly but let out a deep, painful groan as he again lay back.
His pain subdued him in silence.  The voices outside the door hushed
for a moment and the man's voice was heard again.  It speculated that
the injured man, in bed, may have regained consciousness.

The man in bed touched the bandages and grimaced in pain.  He was
motionless in the bed and looked about the room.  The exquisite,
luxurious beauty of the walls and patterned ceiling, with the many
crystals hanging from it suggested  "home".  He looked towards the
window, just in time to see a tiny swallow turn and fly from the ledge,
and a red-breasted Bourbon, was balancing on a branch and singing its
aria to him.

The latch on the door clicked as it was opened.  The man in bed, lifted
his head for a moment and watched three people approach him; the
smaller one carrying a tray of food and drink.

For a long time, silent looks were exchanged between them all.

The cautious servant placed the tray over the man's lap and helped him
to sit up.  He placed another cushion at his back.

The man looked at the food and at the others, until finally, the host
smiled and took a bite from the food and sipped the drink.

"Eat, my friend!  You will not heal quickly if you do not eat."  he
said, then stepped away from him.

The man in bed devoured the food as if he has never before eaten.  The
host and his wife glanced at each other as they watched him.

After a minute, the injured man suddenly stopped and looked at the
others who stared at him while he at.  There was thick quiet until the
injured man spoke, with a serious mistrust, in the tone of his voice.
        "Where is my book?" he asked.

The host smiled at him and looked over to his wife.  "Your encyclopedia
is safe, my friend."  answered the host, as he slowly neared the bed.

The servant helped him sit up more comfortably in the bed when he
showed too much pain, trying to so do by himself.

Suspicion burned in the injured man's flaring eyes.  He questioned his
host further.

"Who are you to know of such books?"

"I am the sovereign of Phoride -- I am called Brook Scullion.  This is
my wife, Dearborne and our ... servant, Boy!"  said the host, the Lord
Brook.  He continued.  "We know of that book, and about much more!"

There was quiet again for a few moments as their injured guest drank,
his thoughts and fears sculpted across his wide hirsute face.          "No!"
said Brook.  "It happens that we have common interests and like goals.
You, however, have a strange courage, trying to speak out your
knowledge.  This is dangerous! -- No, my friend, if I were to kill you,
it would be like preventing a cure for a rampant plague!"


Dearborne neared the bed and looked at him while she explained to him,
how he came to be there, in the room.

"I was in the market today.  When I was leaving I saw you, shouting and
waving a book over your head, but no one listened.  I did not leave,
for the sake of curiosity, then after you were hurt, Boy and I brought
you back here."  when Dearborne finished, a small, thankful smile
drifted across his face, then finally grew into a sincere completion
when Boy added his thoughts.  "You're heavy!" she said, rubbing his
arms.

Brook stood right up against the bed and checked the bandages.  He
sighed and shook his head in disbelief.

"You are a very fortunate man.   Never before have I seen anyone
survive a blast from those --- "

" -- Electrophoric guns!"   interrupted the man.

"Yes!  You know much of the last millennia!" he smiled.

"I do, sir!  So do others from where I come.  I am Lloyd Bartlet, and I
am from Besten."

Brook turned to Dearborne.  They looked at one another, their
expressions bordering on apprehension, puzzlement and a somewhat odd
pleasure.

"Besten?!"  Brook ejaculated with surprise.

Lloyd nodded his head and with a smile, he detailed.

"Besten, the  'Hopeless City',  as the ArchBishop calls it.  We have no
tyrant rulers there and no monastic institutions, and because of this
we are called  'evil',  by him.   Well ..."  he shrugged at his
thought.

"Why are you here, if Besten is so free?" asked Dearborne, confused and
now becoming interested about his motives.

Lloyd took another drink from the goblet on his lap tray while Lord and
Lady Scullion waited, in anticipation, for him to explain why he had
come to Phoride.

Boy stood by.  He watched and listened.  His face showed its usual
bewilderment.  He handed Lloyd a large napkin and Lloyd wiped his
mouth.  After the wiping he sighed and finally explained his presence
here in their land.

"My people (my father, Harvard Bartlet, especially), had sent me to try
to alter the ArchBishop's trade embargo on Besten.  I suppose that I
went about it the wrong way by trying to talk to the people first!"

Brook put his hand on Lloyd's shoulder and assured him that he made no
mistake.  Dearborne agreed with her husband's opinion and she released
her suspicions.

"It wouldn't have made much of a difference.  Actually, avoiding the
talk, directly with the ArchBishop probably saved your life and I
believe that you may be fortunate enough to have created a question in
some of the citizen's minds.  Your injury, I suppose, may be considered
a payment for giving men new ideas!"

"I think it to be a little too expensive!" added Lloyd, with humour,
laughing at his own pains and inequities while he touched his bandaged
chest.

They continued their palaver throughout the afternoon and into the
early evening.  They learned many intricacies about one another; about
their individual lifestyles and their social ideologies.

They discussed the progress that had occurred through the many
generations that grew and nurtured along with it the disease of
corruption and immorality;  the same diseases that were present in all
civilised peoples.  These powerful progression had meant the inevitable
downfall of all the great Empires which once reigned on the Earth.
From the first humans that walked upright, to the last of the brave
that went into space, in the late Twentieth Century, it had been the
same until the fall of man, in his greatest conflagration.  Brook and
Lloyd exchanged little bits of knowledge about the Twentieth Century
and the three great wars that were fought.  There were endless columns
of living flesh, where people were herded like animals by other people,
and transported to large camps. While there, many who were not
fortunate enough to die, were made use of in the endless experiments of
new drugs, surgical techniques and endless studies of the individual's
body tolerances to torture.

The atrocities, that every war carried with it, seemed to grow and
spread.  They were pandemic.  Yet, these atrocities were allowed to
continue, where social morals degenerated further with every proceeding
conflict and the outrageous brutality that was let to worsen, by the
lack of authoritative controls on those madmen.  They spoke of the
GREAT NATION's  'Proposition Blue'; devised in the last half of the
Twentieth Century, to preserve human life, in the event that global
annihilation would become reality.  Learned men and women were chosen
and assembled, and were taken to subterranean cities.  There, they were
to carry-on with their work and with their lives, in the perfect safety
of their restraint.

In the years that proceeded, and no major wars were fought, the young
chosen became old and were replaced by newly chosen young
intellectuals.  They too, continued in the sealed cities.

Lloyd reached for his book and opened at a particular spot.  He had
read aloud to Brook; Dearborne and Boy listening:

        "Two generations of the Proposition Blue personnel lived-out 
         their lives, underground.  In the Omega 1-SGI, restless
         dissention had spread when the time of the last global war
         had finally come to pass.  When the news of war spread
         through the ranks of The Blue, many scientists forcibly left
         their protective cities and went out into the world to let
         the common people know of some meagre ways to protect
         themselves during the inevitable nuclear strikes and the
         subsequent fallout.

         Some scientists published papers, that they called "The Blue
         Prospectus".  It told the world about their government's
         secret cities and it made demands for regular people to be
         admitted into them, also.  The people then rebelled, all of
         them wanting in.  In the Far and MiddleEast, the Red Forces
         fought.  They had left death and destruction in the wake of 
         their advancement towards (what was then) the world's
         greatest, and most Holy of cities.

         The masses were terrified.

         At home, people fought amongst one another, crying at the
         terrible lies that the men in power told to them.  They
         desperately tried to understand why some of them were not
         allowed into the "Proposition Blue" standards. The final
         chance to allow one young worker from each of the State's
         counties, an admission into one of the seven Omega SubGround
         Installations.

                                          FLIGHT FOR SALVATION
                                          GINN -- 2030


At dusk, as the twilight colours gave way to darkness and the pulsing
stars, Brook and his guest had sup and continued with their exchange.
Dearborne and Boy attentively sat by one another for many of those
passing hours.  They said very little but listened a great deal.

Lloyd told Brook of a great vault that was uncovered in the centre of
Besten by historian scholars, many years ago.  The vault contained a
great number of books, journals and visual ribbons which showed the
dire panic of the masses when the first bombs began to fall upon their
cities.

Pictures showed masses in exodus to the mountains just before the
escalation.  Those people who left early, during the desperately
unsuccessful peace negotiations, had made it to the safety of the
mountains, where they hopefully found some degree of protection from
the deadly fallout.  Those who waited and moved too late, perished in
the desolation that came to pass. And the world cried, for the final
prophesy was not fulfilled.  The Son of Man had failed to return and
put a stop to the killing, the persecution and the corruption.  Some
people died from their lack of Faith, while other stayed with the hope
that His return was still to come upon them, a little while later.

Their talk lead them into their own historic backgrounds, to the sum of
knowledge which was allowed by the original Canon Di'Vaticanus, in the
middle of the Twenty Seventh Century.  He declared that this two score
and eleventh year (2651 C.E.), was the beginning of the long-promised
millennium, as heralded by the ancient prophets.  His declaration was
made after an eleven-year-old girl gave birth to a son.  The
eleven-year-old was a foundling in an abbess hermitage, left there by
someone who could not care for her.

"She was found, wrapped in richly garb and placed in a golden cradle.
As the girl grew she became beautiful, like the sun.  She shone with
inner light.  Her hair was white -- shiny like snow and iridescent like
the moon.  Her olive-skin flesh colouring contrasted her naturally
reddened mouth and she possessed dark, almost black, almond-shaped
eyes. Her beauty was near Holy and many men felt a jealousy within
themselves when they just looked upon her.  Then, at eleven, she was in
size and stature, and appearance, to that of a full-grown woman; she
birthed a son.  This son, the Canon had proclaimed as a "Saviour" and
sought to conduct a sacrifice in honour of the child, but he told the
world that nothing was precious enough for this.  It was soon
determined, however, that there was one thing of great value, in all
the land; the boy's own young and beautiful mother.  In the shortness
of time, and as if for the redemption for her death, the boy became
weak and also died.  The child's milk of life was taken from him and
nothing else would sustain him.

The child's death was hidden from the ignorant masses and all the
people believed in a falsity for nearly a half millennia."  Lloyd
recounted the story about the foundling that came to be called Sunshine
by the old Abbess Mariot, in the common year of 2640.  This was the
same little girl that resulted the subsequent formation of the
spiritualism that has been followed for the last four hundred years.

As the twilight evening gave way to the dark of night, Brook told
Lloyd about his own lineage, following it as far back as he was able
to, and confessed to him the peculiar ancestry that he had with the
Canon Blue.  He explained that his father's line originated with the
woman Dioneza, the half-sister of the Canon. In 2660 C.E., she had
agreed to be artificially inseminated with Twentieth Century seamen
from a physicist, who was called David Sannstein.  He confessed to
Lloyd that this wasn't really his own line and that he didn't know
from where his line actually stemmed.  Brook admitted, truthfully,
that he was a foundling.

He spoke about that one day, long ago, when Smith Blue and his wife
Miri were returning to Phoride, from the Virgin Mountains.  Miri was
heavy with child and in that mid-summer's afternoon in 3001 C.E., she
gave birth to a son and called his name, Manguino.  In a thankful rest,
while his wife nursed the newborn, Smith Blue walked in the woods,
following a babbling stream and a strange distant sound which was like
the crying of a babe.  And in his curious search, he came upon a
hollow, where there was a child, wrapped in a sackcloth and left within
a lion's skull.  Smith gave the baby to his wife; seeing the baby
abandoned and crying from hunger.  And upon seeing the unfortunate
child, Miri brought it near to her milk-laden breast and let it suckle
beside her own son.  Having hearts of gold, they accepted the babe to
their bosom as their own, and Smith called his name, Brook Scullion;
after the fashion that he had been found -- by a stream, lying in a
lion's skull.

As midnight approached, they talked of their governments.  Lloyd
proudly explained to Brook, Dearborn and the quiet Boy, about the
Democratic system of government that his people accepted from the
ancient Twentieth Century.  In Besten, the people found it the most
suitable form of rule for a civilized people.  And even though, in the
beginning there was corruption and immorality, their land had
eventually overcome it all and soon gleaned a people of extreme honesty
and cooperation.  It had made Besten a very powerful, and important,
centre on the northeast coast of the continent.

Lloyd became depressed when he thought about the Phoridenes closing
their minds to the knowledge that he tried to give to them, and he
experienced repeated visions of the monastic guard's electrophoric guns
wallop him over and over again with their charges.

"My people hoped, that if the Phoridenes were to know the truth about
the past, they would rally to oppose the ArchBishop.  Maybe then, he
would resume trade with Besten and the other territories so affected."

Brook thought that Lloyd's people had a logical plan but he also saw
they were too innocent of the facts about the man in the great Halls
Cathedral.

"The hopes of your people are too great!"  Brook prepared an
explanation that shattered any hopes that Lloyd may have had for the
success of his mission to Phoride.    "These people of Phoride ... they
are ardent followers of that weasel at Halls.  They follow him as if he
is a god.  It has been that same way, since the time of Canon.  This
following has been an deviation, in this land; this worship of him as
some Almighty, who is nothing more than a man -- a madman!"

Dearborne now broke her long silence and also commented about the
people.

"They are all children, in mind, and follow the ArchBishop as if he is
their father.  To keep this maniacal worship, he has banned citizens
from acquiring knowledge; limiting their scholastic learning to the
monasteries and to the Blaisaman, and limiting only this to his own
supporters' children.  These places and their people are controlled by
him.  He prefers to keep the people as ignorant as he can, for his own
ease to rule them."  her voice quivered from her constricted soul.

Then, to Lloyd's amazement, Boy joined the conversation.  His
bewildered expression left him, as his hopeless and saddened voice
carried right into the hearts and minds of the adults, in the room with
him.

Brook turned to Dearborne, surprised.  His eyes questioned her for a
reason for Boy's interjection.  "Everyone does what they are told or
they are made to suffer!" said Boy.  He rose to his feet, looked at
Brook and Dearborne and walked about the room.  He continued to speak
his mind while the others quietly listened.  "Not long ago, the
servant-girl of one of the Cardinals -- she was just older than me --
refused to bare the Cardinal's holy child.  With that refusal came her
death, because the Cardinal declared that she will, therefore, never
have children ... and in the view of all the people at Halls, and the
Phoridene Council, the Cardinal had his vicars cut open the girl and
all she had inside was pulled out and thrown to the floor.  She did
not die right away.  The Cardinal wanted her last sight to be the
death of her entire family."  Dearborne turned away from what Boy had
described.  The horrible sight of the execution had returned to her.
She and Brook were required to attend the execution -- as was their
slave, Boy.

Brook went to her and embraced her.  As he consoled her, Boy continued,
his eyes on the brink of bursting into tears.

"Then, they said that she was a demon and impure, and displayed her
naked at Halls, for all of Phoride to gawk at."

Boy stopped and lowered his head but his expression showing a
determined refusal to cry.

Lloyd was horrified by Boy's story and under his breath he could just
sigh,  "Barbaric!"

Brook and Dearborne held each other, tears slowly dribbling down their
cheeks as Boy went to them for comfort, as well.  To Lloyd's surprise,
he watched them embrace the child.

"But why? -- "  Lloyd pleaded.  "Why, my Lord, would such an atrocity
be done to so young a girl?  What was there to be gained by such
barbarity?"  he wiped his eyes as he thought of his little sister,
still in Besten, and imagined that this could also become of her, if
they lived in Phoride.

"Lloyd, my friend ... the ArchBishop has made some strange laws, that
I could not veto.  One such law was that the refusal to bare a child
by a monastic was a sin, punishable by death.  Nothing could be done
and fear prevented me from asserting what powers I do have over him,
at Halls.  More of Phoride follows his words and requests than they
follow mine.  My power is possessed just out of respect for my Blue
heritage.  He, with whom I had ruled, died early in our lives.  Our
co-sovereignty, that we promised to Smith Blue, died as well.  It was
I who united Upper and Lower Phoride but that Almighty ass of
hypocrisy and immorality, took hold of my people's hearts."

Brook became very angry and felt so vulnerable and alone.  He stood up
and moved away from Dearborne and Boy.

"He banned all forms of learning, unless all the teaching was conducted
by his monks, in the monastery.  I tried to oppose him with all my
power on that resolution.  All I accomplished was the formation of our
small Blaisaman.  The masses listened to him when he told them _ "The
Devil is in Knowledge, unless that Knowledge was conveyed by a
righteous man of the Almighty" ... but as you see Lloyd, we know the
real devil."

Lloyd came to realize Brook's thoughts and confirmed them with a nod.
He could see that Brook had some real influence in the local government
but no real power.

For the first time since the afternoon, there was a still quiet in the
room.  A morose presence hung in the air and it felt cold and ugly.

Outside, the people began to yell and scream in ecstasy as the warm
drizzles finally began to pour on them.  Their moderate prolificacy
grew stronger with the coming of the rain; where the men chased their
wives and daughters, their mistresses and their whores, out into the
streets.  In their uncontrolled lust, they rolled around in the mud,
like swine, and fornicated with anyone or anything nearby.  It mattered
very little to them whether it was man, woman, child or animal.  That
rain was the ill-begotten legacy of the Twentieth Century war.  The
rain fell only once or twice a year in Lower Phoride.  It was the same
rain that caused the beautiful vegetation to grow into its remarkable
splendour.  Throughout the year, the green would survive by the
watering from the artesian seas beneath the ground, until the next rain
came.  Some citizens eagerly waited for the rain to come, on that one
day or night, where they believed that the evil within them would be
fully satisfied and would leave them if they allowed themselves to be
fully indulged in whatever manner of perversion happened upon them,
during that season.

There were those who were afraid.  Mothers, who didn't want to see
their innocent ravaged, hid in their homes until the rains passed, and
after the rain, those who hid came out into the streets.  They wouldn't
be afraid of the pools and puddles because the rain lost its strange
properties shortly after touching the ground.

When the rains eventually ended the hiding people would emerge to see
their naked friends and relatives in their frenetic prurience.  They
would walk amongst them, covering their mouths and noses from the stink
of the forced orgasms produced by their uncontrolled reaction to being
caught in the rains.    They would gather-up the injured and cart-away,
to the incinerators, those that had died from their over-exertions.
The legacy of the rain was a strange one caused by the chemical
intermixing of, the now weakened, radiation and the bacterial layers
that encircled the world high in the atmosphere, released by that
unspeakable war so many years in antiquity.


Several hours passed in conversation within Lloyd's room.

Dearborne cradled Boy, now asleep.

Brook and Lloyd devoured the contents of the book Lloyd had brought,
and Brook reciprocated by showing Lloyd some of the materials and
relics that he had in his possession.

The rain, stopping not long before, had resumed.  This time it was
coming down harder, stealing the attention of the two new friends, as
they read.

Dearborne, quietly sitting and relaxed, was jolted by a flash of
lightning and a loud bang of thunder that quickly reported itself.

Boy awoke, startled.  He looked at his surrounding then jumped from
Dearborne's lap and ran towards the window.   He pulled a large panel
of wood over the open window to prevent the rain from entering the
room.  But the rain fell of him.

At once, Brook commanded him to lock himself in his chamber and slide
the key out beneath the door.  The boy quickly ran from the room, in
haste to follow what Brook had instructed.

Lloyd, Brook and Dearborne were silent in their concern.

They exchanged several glances of worry about Boy.

"These rains are an evil necromancy over this entire continent.  We
also experience the rains, in Besten; although, my people do not go
into it willingly.  We have set aside gardens, throughout the entire
city, for those to go, if caught in the rain.   We are compassionate
towards the cruelty of the madness."

Dearborne looked worried.  She touched Brook's hand and questioned him
about her fears for Boy.  "Will he be alight?" she asked, as he face
lost its flushed highlights.


A pounding sound was heard down in the distant hallway.  It was coming
from Boy's room.

"He made it to his chamber in time.  Now he tries to come out.  He will
have to struggle with the rain's curse until it wears off. It is good
that Boy is young and he was not fully soaked.  Fortunately, the
recovery should not take long."

Dearborne worried for Boy, since he had never-before been touched by
the rain and, as far as she knew, he was far too young to have
experienced any of extreme, or absurd, sexual drives.

The rain caused his body's glands to react by generating vast hormone
secretions, and he convulsed in an insatiable erotic lust, while he
poured out on the floor, by the door, by his own hand.

To calm Dearborne and suppress her worry for the boy, Lloyd and Brook
continued to talk.  Brook told his guest that he recently taught his
wife all that he knew about the Twentieth Century, revealing to her the
secrets from that now forgotten time.

"Have you taught anyone, other than Lady Dearborne, about the past?"
inquired Lloyd.

"Not as of yet, Lloyd!  But I am prepared to teach the boy, for I
believe that he is ready to understand."  Brook answered.  "We have no
children of our own and though it would be wonderful, without is truly
best.  Our lives are too short and petty in the existence of this world
of miseries.  Dearborne is also spared a terrible fate by the monastics
who are not permitted their lustful intercourse without the potential
of a birth."

Lloyd did not believe in Brook's notion of life being so miserable.  He
tried to give him a small dose of Bestenese faith.

"That is the very same way that the Old Ones had spoken in Besten, but
they found that our lives could be as long as we wished.  And our lives
could be worth while, too!  This may even be our religion.  If not, is
at least the attitude that we possess!


Lloyd closed his eyes and yawned.  The talk that they have had, since
that afternoon, was tiring even though it was fulfilling.  Now he was
weary.  A need for rest could be seen in Brook's face, as-well-as in
Dearborne.  They glanced at one another with tear-soft eyes that craved
sleep.

Dearborne checked Lloyd's bandages before they prepared to leave him.

"You will be fine.  You are fortunate to survive those evil
electrophorics.  Maybe the true God is watching over you!" she said as
she took Brook under the arm.

"Rest ... tomorrow we will talk some more."  Brook commanded.
"Tomorrow, if you can move around, I will show you more things that you
may not have seen before."

"Thanks to you, both _ my friends."  exclaimed Lloyd.

Lloyd fell to sleep once he lay back, and his saviours left the room.


CHAPTER  FOUR

The rain fell throughout the night and into the early morning hours.
Just before dawn, the rain had stopped and the sky filled with rainbows
as the sun rose over Carter Pass (named after Brook's grandfather, who
made Pomperaque a powerful city-state, nearly two centuries earlier).

On the streets were the people who hid from the rains, in the dry
sanctuaries of their homes.  They came out and gathered up their
friends and relatives, that laid about in the streets half or entirely
naked.

Some were still in the dreadful perverted poses brought upon them, by
the rain.

The gatherers wore masks while they tried to separate those individuals
still connected in their copulation.  They wore the masks to keep the
abominable stench of the human and animal excretions, from reaching
them.

The heat of the morning sun made the horrid reek worsened to an
overwhelming degree.

Medical men and women walked about and offered aid to those injured in
the deranged mass orgy.  Most were young girls and boys, killed by the
frenetic desires of those who found it more to their pleasure to
fornicate with the bodies of the dead; after having experienced the
added excitement of killing them; with their fists or anything that
they could find, to use as weapons.

There were men and boys, dead or dying from excruciating pain, after
having their genitalia bitten off by some nymphomaniac harlots and
other erotopathic bitches -- some of who also died, choking while
trying to swallow their prizes.

In the final reports given to Brook at noon, eighty-eight citizens were
dead.  Forty-three were women (ranging in age from fifteen to forty),
twelve were men (mostly around fifty years of age), and the rest were
children (boys and girls, six to fourteen).

Brook was saddened and alarmed, for this rate of mortality was the
highest seen in Phoride for almost three hundred years.  He still
waited for word to come to him, from Upper Phoride and he didn't want
to think of the numbers there.

The reports of those injured critically and seriously were also high.
Their numbers reached close to two hundred; again, mostly comprised of
children.  Many boys developed venereal chancres and scores of young
girls would now, never be able to bare children.

Even those who were slightly injured had reddened mouths, anus and
genitals covered with runny infections.  The more painful pustules
erupted with yellowish-brown, jelly-like fluids that seeped from them,
resembling the softened putrefaction of carrion.  The most frightening,
and eerie, result of the rain was the affects that it had on the human
spirit.  After the rain, there was always a deathly hush over the
entire city.  Only the gag-like breathing of those hundreds recovering
from their scourged vainery, could be heard.  This lasted for several
days and sometimes continued for weeks.


There were no regular markets and no trade occurred.  At night, the
quiet was gravely frightening and it gave the entire land the
atmosphere of a necropolis.  The buildings were the tombs and the
people inside were the living dead.

No one ate for days.  Most could not eat from the stink of the
ejaculations and blood that still covered the streets.  The sight of it
all caused nausea on its own accord.  Those who were injured didn't eat
either for they knew that the good food would quicken the runs of pus,
as the poisons were forced out of them, and their pain would become
even more unbearable.

The clean-up of the dead and injured was hurried on this day because
soon after the sun rose, the heat of the day was intense and by noon,
the carcasses of the animals that had died from the rain, began to rot.
By now, the sane, unscathed citizens began to remove the corpses from
the streets and cart them off to the incinerators for burning.

Many vicars, cardinals, novices and other coenobites helped those on
the streets.  They administered first-aid and prayed for their souls'
salvation.  But they were the last to appear on the streets that
morning, after they cleaned-up their own mess at Halls.  Within the
Quadrangle of the Cathedral, all the members were locked-in during the
rain, with dozens of whores and other town's wenches, that were
promised good food and a place to stay for one month, in return for
their services when the eagerly awaited rain finally arrived.

These merry women adored the great Halls Cathedral.  It was the most
enormous structure in all of Phoride and the other lands on the
continent.  The structure reached for the sky.  Its lean, slender
appearance was capped by a crystal and gold ornate dome, with a spire.
Buttresses flew out, all about from the slender central pillar; where
at its base, tall and wide copper doors majestically opened and closed
as people walked in and out of the main chapel.


Extended behind the pillar and into an oval shaped building was the
area of the monastery, serving as the dormitories, rectories, scholarly
libraries and private rooms for the monks.  This residential building
also housed the ArchBishop's office, wherein he conducted all his
business of decision.  Although this was one day of heavy mourning and
discontent, there were plans at hand, and there were thoughts to be
exchanged.  All this was owed to the ArchBishop's ill-at-ease feeling,
that was brought on by Lord Brook's refusal to meet with him for such a
long time.  The ArchBishop was always in his office, seated in his
leather chair, rumpled in holy softness, and able to turn in full
circles on its rounded legs.  The ArchBishop was the same age as Brook
but his hair was darker and the lines on his face were less defined.
They framed his jutting, hairy brows and silvery-grey eyes, with a
sculptured precision.

His physique reminded one of a defeated athlete.  His paunchy flab
lolled about his waist like Saturn's rings, and the texture of his skin
lacked softness, appearing course and strangely tight.

His clothing shimmered in rich extravagance as he sat in his chair
dressed in his ethereal garb made of the finest white satin.  His black
surplice, thrown over it, opened on the front and revealed his bulging
gut as he sat.  On his head rested the constant sign of authority, his
tall white and gold mitre, studded about with rare jewels, gifted to
him by the Heads of other lands.  Across the desk from him sat the
Cardinal Allen.  Unlike the great ArchBishop, he was more modestly
clothed in the handmade magenta habit, that all the other Cardinals and
monks wore within the monastery walls.

The ArchBishop in his chair, listened to the choral chants coming from
the chapel.  The melodic resonance was made by the dozens of novices
and vicars as they sang their praise to the great forces of the
Almighty.  They gave their thanks for their lives, their homes, their
food and the virgins sent to them, for the pleasures of administrating
their blessings to them.


During the 'Praise to the Almighty' hymn, the ArchBishop, with his
greatly inflated ego, listened in quiet and not tolerating
interruptions.  Afterall, their praise was being made to him alone, and
he felt obliged to listen to them.

The chants echoed throughout Halls and its Quadrangle.  Soon, all the
senior monks joined in the melodic praise from wherever they were;
whether in their gardens, in their stalls or strolling along the
colonnade beneath the dormitory buildings.  After a few minutes the
whole area around Canon's Butte, where the Halls Cathedral stood, was
filled with this song.  This was the only sound heard, making its way
through to the rest of Pomperaque, as it struggled out of its misery.

The office seemed to have an identity all of its own.  On the walls
hung the likeness of the Archbishop and the ancient Canon
Di'Vaticanus.  On the number of shelves about the room were placed
rare and antiquated texts that dealt with their faith, and there were
equally-rare statues of long-dead saints; those whose names were all,
but few, forgotten.

As the 'Praise to the Almighty' ended and another hymn began the
ArchBishop sat up in his chair and resumed the talk that he was earlier
engaged in, with Cardinal Allen.

"I am pleased that you had found an opportune time to speak with her."
he said in his roguish, powerful voice.

"Her thoughts seemed preoccupied, when I first spoke to her.  I
finally asked her to arrange the visit with Brook and Your Holiness,
but that disturbance had occurred in the square and I do not know if
she remembered to tell her Lord Brook.  We should have had a reply by
now!"  Cardinal Allen relayed to the ArchBishop his brief encounter
with the lovely Dearborne.  He also admitted to him, the desires that
he felt for her, during it all.

The ArchBishop smiled, his evil, butterflied lips turned up on each end
while the rest of his mouth stayed unchanged.  His eyes sparkled with
intrigue and cynicism, and with the knowledge of predictability.

"Our Lord Scullion never replies.  I really don't expect him to -- now,
more than usual, and we would waste our time to go to him.  We would be
told by his wretched servants that 'He is not in, call again!'.  Then
I, like a fool, would wait for another time.  Now, more than ever, we
must strive for an alliance between us.  His power is a great danger to
mine and he knows it deep inside his heart.  His is a presence to be
feared in Phoride!"

Cardinal Allen seemed confused by the change of the ArchBishop's usual
attitude towards Brook Scullion.  He couldn't see the true feelings in
his Master's eyes and he didn't know whether he was frightened or just
being careful about the great sovereign of Phoride.

Allen stood up and went to the window that was behind him, across the
room.  He looked out to see a number of the monks' service-wenches.
They all lounged naked by the courtyard fountain, recuperating from
their follies in the rain the previous evening.  Beside them were a
number of young novices and some messeigneurs.  He looked over to a
picture of the ArchBishop and sighed in a breathless manner, until he
finally looked straight ahead again and nodded to himself in approval
of his proposed thought.  He turned to the ArchBishop.  When their eyes
met, he knew that maybe Allen had designed a cunning solution.

However! ...

"Why don't we just dispose of our Lord Scullion?  Then we will have no
threat and you will be the supreme One, in Phoride!"  he shouted to his
Holiness.

"But, my loyal Allen, I already am the most supreme.  Why do you think
that he hasn't told the Phoridenes about the ancient people?  He has
the proof, just as we do; and because the citizens regard him as highly
as they worship me, care must be taken to keep him alive.  Our
advantage lies in my hope that he does not know the extent of his
power."

"That is odd, your Holiness!  If he indeed has the power, the ability,
to destroy your authority, then we do not fare well.  You remember the
other rebellions against you, you Holiness?  He, too, can destroy our
position of power.  He can be just like Martin of Ohigh, Hudson of
Netheda, or maybe even like Harvard Bartlet of Besten.  And don't
forget the single disobedience by those people, like that Virunese pig,
Empal.  Our unity has become weak and their's has grown!"  Cardinal
Allen worked himself into a frenzy.

The ArchBishop, with a cool attitude towards the talk of his imminent
downfall, calmed his loyal servant and set him straight as to the
workings of Brook's mind, and the probability that nothing at all would
happen.

He lifted his hands and gestured for Allen to stop.  He smiled and
swayed his chair to and fro while he spoke.  Cardinal Allen slinked
back towards the desk.  Apparently, his nervousness was greater than
the Almighty's himself.

"You worry too much.  I still have Phoride under control, my
favoured-one.  I have the advantage over our Lord Scullion.  As I said,
I don't suppose that he knows the full extent of his power and the
people are also unsure.  Confusion! ... Confusion, Brother Allen, is
our ally. If he tries anything against us, we shall call him a
blasphemer, and he does not want this."  he smiled at his own
deductions, but Allen did not appear to be very pleased.

"Scullion has ruled Phoride for as long as you.  Do you really believe
that this man, who has ruled for nearly thirty years would cower at a
charge of blasphemy?"

The ArchBishop laughed as he arranged his surplice, folded beneath his
gut.


"Yes, I do believe it, most favoured.  He thinks that the people follow
only me.  I proved this to him when I passed the Canon Education Law.
He will be controlled ... in time."  He leaned back in the chair, a dry
squeak cut the choral hymn in the background and nurtured the evil
mechanism within the room.

The singing in the background moved further into the distance as the
monks shifted to a different section of the building. They chanted the
appropriate hymns in each of the spiritual rooms.

Allen spoke of Dearborne once again.  He seemed to be angry and oddly
annoyed about her apparent inability to produce Brook's offspring over
the past twenty years.  They were the only couple in the land to be
together for such a long time without begetting children.  Everyone
questioned that but the answers were always the same.  They weren't
ready, and are young enough to wait some while longer.  Allen made his
fun of the man, Brook.

"What of his wife, Holiness?  What of her chastity for these past
years?  What a coward he is, to be wed to one so fair, as she.  Twelve
years of marriage and no children, and you do not allow Our right, to
have her bare one of Our Holy children."

"Hush!  You will have the chance, my most loyal friend.  But we must be
vigilant for the appropriate opportunity."

Allen smiled at the ArchBishop's approval and with eager ears waited to
know when.

"You are right about the length of their marriage, with no children.
Soon they have celebrations of their joining.  We shall attend. You may
have her obey your whims, at that time, but not before and not after.
The time will make itself available to you, then!"  finished the
ArchBishop.

"May humbled thanks, Most High and Wise." said Allen as he quickly
trotted to his master, the ArchBishop and kissed his hand.


"Enough, Allen!  You tire me!  Go and make the necessary preparations
and give it your fullest attention."

"Yes, Your Holiness!" and after his bow, he left the Almighty to his
own thoughts, as he listened to the chanting choir, again drawing near
as they made their way to the upper spirals of the tower.

He relaxed in his chair and patted his belly.  He stretched and sighed,
as he leafed through some papers and tabloids.

Soon, he delved into deep contemplation about Brook and himself, and
their respective positions in the land.  Through his mind ran a
whirlwind of thought that concerned the so-believed misfortune in
Brook's power.  He felt uneasy over the total disunity that could
occur, if the mobs of Phoride rose up against him.  It could happen if
the past were revealed, as truth, in place of the Canon's
'disillusionment'  commandment.  What if they accepted it?  He wondered.

He remembered that he attained his rule of churchly affairs after the
death of his father.  He remembered that he had to discharge the
promise made to his father, after he died, and so changed Phoride and
all the adjacent lands, to meet his own needs.  His need was to receive
the fullest devotion and love from every individual in Halls, and the
realm, and to bask in their worship of him, as their god.

He slowly got up and walked about the room.  He took off his surplice
and hung it in a chiffonnier then, before he closed it, he drew from a
small compartment a large napkin, scented with the essence of Nethedan
lilacs.  He touched it to his nose.

The choir echoed in the background.  The heavenly hymn that they were
singing was 'God's Tribute to Canon',  the first over-praised god of
the continent.


Listening to the choir, the ArchBishop's spirits were lifted, as if he
were the Canon and the praise was to him.  Although he had been
considered as a god in Phoride, for nearly two score years, he was
still envious of his great-grand-ancestor; for what he had accomplished
had set the method for those gods after him, to follow.

He smiled heartily as he thought to himself, about the total
unadulterated domination of whatever he chose to control, and whenever
he chose to control it.   And once, he spoke aloud to himself.
"Phoride and its all, are mine!"  He clasped his hands as he walked
about the room and to the window.  He looked out at the naked women
lying by the fountain.  Around them were young monks rubbing
palm-butter on the ladies' bodies, to prevent the sun from burning
their overused flesh.



The hours flew by in their relentless journey to forever.  Already they
had passed into the afternoon.  The ArchBishop still looked down at the
fountain, where some more regenerated, sweat-greased ladies and some
horny vicars were at it again.  He was slightly angered when he saw
their folly.  He knew that he would have to take disciplinary actions
on them.  He had told them, many times before, not to play with their
guests in open view.  But this thought, however, didn't deter him from
looking at the shapely objects below.

Soon, there was a rap at the door and it slowly opened.  The ArchBishop
turned to see who it was.  It was the Cardinal Levy; a large brawny
Nasin man, similar in age to the ArchBishop, but balding.  His face
always seemed blue from the perpetual shadow of hair, that grew with
phenomenal quickness.


In front of him stood a pretty young girl about fifteen years old.  Her
large, frightened eyes flitted from side to side.  Her heart pounded
within her chest.  Her delicate but firm breasts rose and fell with
each breath that she took, and the fair skin on her arms and legs were
dotted with goose-bumps.  She had a sense of alarm and apprehension
within herself, as she stood in that office.  She had never before seen
the ArchBishop, and only one hour ago, she was summoned to appear
before him.

What had she done?  What sin had she committed?

She felt like crying but she couldn't.  She was terrified at the
questions that ran through her imaginative mind.  She feared punishment
for whatever she had done, and she dearly wished that she knew what
that may be.

"Will there be anything else, Holiness?"  asked the Nasino.

"Yes.  Bring food and drink within the hour!"

"Yes, Holiness."  said Cardinal Levy, then left them both in his office.

The ArchBishop stayed silent as he looked-over the beautiful young
woman.  He stepped closer to her, but she inched backward and up
against the door.  She held the veil that she wore over her head and
shoulders, tightly in her hands.

He stopped his advance towards her, to let himself take-in the full
extent of her pure, young beauty;  the tresses of gold that hid beneath
the veil, the soft roundness of her form and the delicate prettiness of
her bare feet and shapely legs.

Her large, sky-blue eyes, reflected the objects in the room and shone
like sapphires when they caught the sunlight that beamed in, from the
outside.

The choir still chanted in the Cathedral.  The voices of all those men
rose into the groins of the chapel within, and then echoed out towards
the town.

The ArchBishop grinned at the girl and asked her name but she did not
answer.  Her fright robbed her of her speech and after he asked her
twice, in a soft and kindly manner, he at last boomed harshly.

"What is your name, my child?"  he ordered and moved closer to her.  

She showed nervousness when pinned up against the door with nowhere
else to move.  She began to speak, her melodic voice trembled and
stuttered.

"My name is Mercedes, Holiness! -- Please, please do not hurt me!  I
don't know what sins I have committed but please, I repent them!"

He smiled again and put his hands on her shoulders.  He assured her
that he would not hurt her.  However, he soon began to fondle her,
rubbing her shoulders and neck with his fore-fingers.  She said
nothing.  She stood still as if frozen, her heart jumping inside her
while the choir crescendoed into the finale of their 'Hymn To The
Virgins!'  He reckoned her, his sparkling evil eyes sized-to-mind and
personal passions, her plump and full mouth that glistened with the
juices of youth.

"Sh-h-h-h!"  he commanded her in mock gentleness.  "You are not here to
be punished, my darling child.  You are here to be blessed."

By the gentle, fatherly sound of his voice, he quelled the fright from
her, and from her confused, unsure expression, emerged a trifle, but
still apparently trusting smile.

"Bless me, Holiness?  I do not understand.  Why bless me?  I am no
one!"  she told him in a half-happy, half-honoured tone.

He smiled at her as he affectionately took her dainty chin into his
hand and told her the reason for her being brought to him.

"But you are someone, darling Mercedes.  You have been chosen on this
day, from all the fair maidens of this land, to mother my Holy Child."

She felt cold again and went aback.  His hand dropped away from her
chin as he slid the veil off her head.  She slowly shook her head and
touched her uncovered, golden-fleeced hair, unable to believe that her
god would ravish her.  And she tried in every way, to prevent what she
feared would happen and she pleaded with him.

"My god, I cannot!  I am promised to another, and to him I am to give
my chastity.  Forgive me, Most High Lord.  The honour is great but I
cannot accept."  she looked down to her feet and waited to be
dismissed.  She had thought that her appeal to him about her betrothal,
would touch him, but instead he was angered by her disobedience to his
charge.

"You can't refuse, my child!  To refuse suggests that you are possessed
by a demon of vast impurity!"  his voice echoed throughout her mind.
She was frightened again and did, so desperately want to leave but she
had to listen.

"To refuse is to pronounce death upon yourself, and you do not want to
die ... DO YOU, my darling Mercedes?"

Her mind spun with twisted visions.  Jugglers played with her eyes to
amuse those watching.  Acrobats flew over her netted bowels and
wrestlers squeezed the living soul from her heart.

In a desperate craze, she fell to her knees and grabbed his sweaty
hands and kissed them with terrorized respect.  She grovelled at his
feet and further pleaded with him, to choose another, more worthy than
her.

"Oh, please, Holiness -- don't do this to me!  Let me give my chastity
to my promised, Hartford.  Then you may come in, onto me!"

The ArchBishop's indifference to her pleading grew, as did his anger.
He had wanted her for days, ever since his searchers showed him a
likeness of her, swimming alone in the crater lake.  She would be his
best, he thought.  Of all the others, she is the most beautiful and
would bring to him the highest fulfilment and the heartiest offspring.

"You cannot bargain away from a privilege!"  he told her.  "This is a
favour done for you.  All the world will look to you in praise and will
worship you.  You will be proud when you hear the people shout their
homage to you ... 'Paise Mercedes, Mother of Grace!'.  Don't you want
this?"

She continued to beg her position but he paid no attention.  She
repeated, over and over, "please don't do this to me!",  while
embracing him, still down on her knees.  She cried and tried to regain
her breath but her spirit weakened and totally fell to the surrender of
his ultimate dominance over her.

"I Am the Almighty.  You must obey me!"  he barked at her, as he leered
down fixed upon her eyes.

Mercedes cried hysterically.  She allowed her body drop all the way to
the floor.  She turned limp and helpless like a weak little kitten with
no hopes of survival.

The ArchBishop bent down to her and took her face into his hand.  He
wiped her tears with his scented napkin.  He gently seized her by the
shoulders and slowly lifted her, and the choir in the background grew
stronger in volume.  He embraced her and his hands groped for the
lacings that kept her clothing closed around her.  Then for a final
time he rumbled at her, eagerly trying to make her realize that what he
was about to do to her, was a blessing and not a violation of her body,
as some were sure to regard it.


"You will thank me one day, my lovely child.  You will bare my son or
daughter -- the child of god -- and the world will pay fealty to you,
and you will be happy."  and, as he finished his self-forgiving
reasoning to her, he ran his hands over her breasts and down to the
smooth roundness of her hips.  He kissed her mouth and brought his
hands to her shoulders where he moved his fingers beneath the material
of her garb and disrobed her.  Her dress fell, in around her feet,
revealing her silky smooth whiteness.

She still cried but her hysteria left her, just as did her spirit and
her self-value, turning her into a submissive bag of flesh that rattled
with blood and bones.

Like a child's rag doll, she gave pleasure to her master while he toyed
with her until, at long last, he lifted his white satin frock.

The choirs' hymn-sing rose to a grandiose peak that resonated
throughout the length of Halls, then stopped.

On the other side of the monastery were the libraries and the
private-roms for learning.  Daily, in those rooms, novices and the
youngest vicars learned their history of the Canon and all that was
necessary to be known, as men of the Almighty.

Cardinals were usually the most learned of the monks, given to train
the younger and inexperienced in the ways of life, love, worship and
rule over the peasantry.

While the ArchBishop made his studies in his office, so did the novices
and grade vicars.  They learned the proper methods for the torture of
rebels and the demonically possessed.  They learned that which assured
the longest, most painful and lasting punishments that insured against
quick death.

Then there were those who taught proper methods of seducing and
satisfying women.  The Cardinal Allen was one such instructor, in this
what he called 'an art'.

In a dark room filled with books and artifacts, the Cardinal Allen was
having  and instruction session with one of the young vicars named
Tohm, and a slanted-eyed wench, from Lÿnondan, called Ssidel.

On a large rumpled couch lay Ssidel, with Tohm, clumsily balancing
himself overtop of her as he took is instructions in making Allen's
pronounced 'art'.  Ssidel lay there.  She didn't make a sound or move a
muscle.  She seemed dulled to what was happening and poor Tohm was once
again becoming frustrated at his failure to please her.  He felt
ashamed at his adolescent inabilities, since this was his third time at
his class and the third at his failure.

Tohm begged Cardinal Allen, with all his heart, to tell him what he was
doing wrong and requested him to demonstrate that was in which he does
it, and how he manages it so well.

Allen showed him, over and over again, until the Rogjan chanted from
the chapel spire, calling the monks to their evening prayers to the
Almighty;  to ask him for his blessings on their food, and on their
other necessities.


CHAPTER  FIVE

The days passed.

The streets of Pomperaque were silent for most part and only now the
people were slowly recovering from the ordeal that was brought on them
by the rain.

Lloyd, too, was recovering for several days, ever since Dearborne and
Boy dragged him home.  Now he strolled from room to room and through
the hallways, stretching his stiffened legs and getting to know his new
surroundings.

He wore an ivory-coloured frock and a black puma-fur vest, over which a
long, dark-blue cape hung down, to keep him warm.  The day was oddly
cool and cloudy and some feared that the rains would fall again.
Others, however, knew that this wouldn't happen. The rains hardly ever
fell again after a few days of warmth and clear skies that followed the
first and usually last rain.

Lloyd stopped at the end of the hallway, and looked out the window at
the panoramic view of the city of Pomperaque.  Everything was dry,
including the distant farm terraces.


One would never believe that rain fell in the city because the rich
land soaked up the water and dispersed the rain's potency into the
vegetation, which already seemed to be a meter taller than what it was
a few days before.

People were in the streets.  They worked in groups of five or ten,
called Keys.  They were pulling up unwanted weeds and grasses from the
hard ground and from around the buildings.  Although the rain had
blessed the crops and forests, with quick growth, it also cursed the
city-people with the task of removing the unwanted, thick undergrowth
from the streets. That job sometimes took them several days to
complete.  They threw the extracted vegetation into carts and hauled
them over to the organic recycling factories, outside the city.

He looked straight ahead and saw the great Halls Cathedral, standing
tall and solitary atop the butte, on the other side of the valley.
That lovely valley had many stone and mud buildings, in rows on the
different levels of ground that at one time served as agricultural
land.  Right in between him and Halls was the town square where just a
few days ago, he nearly joined his ancestors. Now, for the first time,
he saw the enormous distance to which Dearborne and Boy had to drag
him; secreting him, to the Blue Mansion. The feat induced a respect in
him, for his frail-looking hostess.  That lady that had as much
courage, as she had beauty.

Down the hallway, from where he came, he heard a noise and turned
around to see what it was.  One of the chambermaids went into the room,
that was his to recuperate in, to clean it and change the bedding.

Coming from behind her, towards Lloyd, was Boy.  His walk had just a
suggestion of purpose as he neared the man that he and Dearborne had
rescued from death.

"Good morning, sir!"  said Boy, while still quite far from him.


Lloyd smiled and returned the salutation, allowing Boy to give him the
message that he obviously carried with him.

"My Lord requested me to take you to his private room, sir!"

"Right away?"  asked Lloyd.

"Yes, sir.  If it pleases you?"  continued Boy.  "Very well, my lad,
lead the way!"  Lloyd accepted and Boy guided him around the hallways
and down some stairs, to Brook's private room.  His viewing den.

Lloyd was astonished to see the polished walls covered with rare
paintings and tapestries, and rows of statues dotted each side of the
hall, separated by varying spaces.

Some of the paintings were very old indeed and Lloyd didn't even try to
imagine the dates of their making, but some he did recognize
immediately, as late Twentieth Century, organic-colour pictographs.

He had only seen one other such painting, and that was in the ancient
great vault library, unearthed in Besten. He was impressed by the
wealth of the prehistoric items that Brook chose to display, without
fear of exchanging words with the great feign master of the butte.

Lloyd was greatly confused about Brook's fear of the ArchBishop.  If he
really was afraid.

He thought to ask his host about the thoughts that he possessed about
it all.

Soon, Boy stopped walking and motioned with his hand towards two
gigantic doors of oak and iron.  He pounded three times on it before he
opened it and allowed Lloyd to enter.

When Lloyd walked into the room, Boy closed the door and left for
Dearborne's parlour.  Lloyd hadn't the chance to thank him but he could
see that, to Boy, it didn't make much of a difference.


Brook was sitting in his high-backed chair, in the middle of the room.
His back was to the door and this seemed to be quite odd, to Lloyd,
when he thought that a man who was afraid of someone, would not sit in
such a way, as to lend an advantage to his opponent.

He stood at the door and looked about the room, at the far curtained
wall, the huge cabinet, the statues and several musical instruments in
the far corner.

"Come in and make yourself comfortable."  said Brook.

"Thank-you, my Lord!"  he answered, and from beside the doors, with his
stronger hand, pulled a tall wooden stool to the Lord's chair.

Brook looked at him with a smile and welcoming face and Lloyd pointed
to the musical instruments and smiled.

"You play music?"

"No!"  answered Brook and continued.  "No!  They were my brother's.  He
played, and beautifully.  It was like the great God had entered his
hands and his voice filled the walls of this place as if it were made
up of the voices of a hundred seraphims.  When he departed, these
stayed as a reminder to us all of Manguino's goodness."  Lloyd couldn't
decide the meaning behind those feelings expressed by Brook.  His words
impressed with thoughts of sorrow, respect and praise, and yet his tone
was utterly opposite to them, and seemed as if it were being subdued by
him.

There was no mention yet, why Brook called him to his side and he
didn't think that it was to talk about the memory of his brother.  Then
he remembered that Brook offered to show him some materials of
knowledge from the Twentieth Century and about the past millennia, when
he recovered.

He looked at the shelves of books adjacent to the cabinet and along the
wall to the left of the entrance.  However, all the books on the
shelves were of this age; by poets and literary artists like Maxxwel,
Bothelli, Croii, Lapinz and Argynossti.  There were no encyclopedias or
such books from antiquity and Lloyd grew alarmed and wary.

"You were going to show me some things that you have about the ancient
land?"  asked Lloyd.

Brook smiled and winked at him.

"My, you are eager, aren't you?"

Lloyd remained quiet and Brook started to show him the promised
antiquities.

"Look around you, Lloyd.  The knowledge within these pages will never
again be conceived by man's mind, and they will be forgotten, if
suppression is continued by that almighty megalomaniac."

"But, my Lord, all these writers are from our own time."  stated
Brook's guest.

Brooked grinned, touched his shoulder and pointed to one of the books
on the shelf behind him.

"Look inside that book!"

Lloyd looked at the shelf and grabbed for the book.  He glanced at
Brook to make certain that he took the correct one and Brook nodded,
still smiling.  With his eyes, he motioned for Lloyd to look inside.

Lloyd eyed the title and his face showed frustration, as his voice rose
in annoyance.

"You joke, my Lord!  This is poetry.  'Djenaud Smarte" ... it's not
even very good poetry!"

"Look inside."  Brook ordered once more.  "I never imagined you to get
annoyed so easily ... maybe you are afraid -- or untrusting?"


Brook's words seemed to cut deeply into Lloyd's conscience.  For a
brief moment he had forgotten that he was saved from sure death by
those of this household.

He quietly opened the book and thumbed through a few pages.  His eyes
finally flamed as he read the actual title page:  "ELEMENTS OF
DEMOCRACY".

Lloyd looked up at Brook in silent apology.

"All these books are like this one!"  Lloyd stated with certainty, but
lost his countenance when Brook confessed to him.

"No.  Unfortunately, there are just a handful scattered throughout the
others here.  But I do have one book that surpasses them all.  That
one, the one I have hidden, is my prize.  However, there are other
things that I want to show you first!"  and he rose from his chair and
moved to the cabinets.  When he reached them, he turned and showed his
key to Lloyd before he unlocked and opened the doors.

"Yes, my friend ... I have much to show you.  And I suppose that this
one would be the best to show to you first."  The doors of the cabinet
flew open.  Lloyd's eyes fixed themselves into a stare on the rows of
buttons and meters, marked with numbers and letters -- some with
familiar and other with unfamiliar symbols.

In the centre of the unit's structure hung a flat, dark-glassed panel,
and when Brook pushed some buttons, writing began to appear across it.

                'ARCHIVAL TAPE #371.4931-T
                ... entry - October 13, 1982.
                -- Planets line up in even axis, on one side of the sun.
                -- Earth experiences catastrophic gravity changes,
                   resulting in quakes and unusual tidal activity.
                -- Parts of many continents are submerged following
                   sudden ocean rise.

        _ * for further information, select video record m-oo10-1982."


Brook offered Lloyd to  push the buttons in the select numbers on the
rectangular board and then waited for results, but nothing happened.
Brook then turned him around to the wall opposite them, that was draped
with a large dark curtain.

"The curtain will move to reveal pictures that move."  explained Brook.

Lloyd watched the wall and the drapes covering it, pull back, into the
corners.  On the wall, he saw the large white screen and moving
pictures that he recognized as ancient video tape.

From the cabinet came a man's voice and pictures on the wall, matched
what the voice was describing.

                'Shuttles were sent into deep space to record the
                 phenomenon of the planets, in our solar system,
                 aligning on the same side of our sun.
                 The world watched as the planets drew closer in
                 their conjunction and in their gravitational
                 resistances, every one of the planets experienced
                 their own fatalities.'

In the utmost quiet did Brook and Lloyd stand there listening to the
tinny voice.

                'Mercury began to rotate in quick revolutions and
                 Venus experienced a contrary orbit, and fire
                 storms engulfed its surface.   On Earth, ocean 
                 levels rose and fell drastically with every passing
                 hour, and the land was disrupted by quakes and great
                 upheavals as the planet changed in its polarity.
                 Soon thereafter, the surface was pounded by
                 thousands of small but devastating asteroids.'


The men couldn't believe the sights that were being presented to them,
and they couldn't decide what was more terrifying -- the descriptions
or the actual pictures of the cataclysm.

                'Volcanic eruptions broke the surface of Mars.
                 Jupiter's red spot increased in size until it
                 covered the planet's entire centre.  Saturn
                 increased in its tilt towards the sun.  Uranus
                 wobbled like a balloon in a breeze and Neptune
                 captured Pluto and its moon Charon, claiming them
                 as its own.'

"This is truly remarkable!"  said Lloyd, his expression was bewildered
like Boy's usually was.  He smiled at Brook, and Brook tipped his head
towards the screen, telling Lloyd with his actions to keep watching.
He did.

The strange voice undulated from the cabinet, as more moving images
were vomited onto the screen.  The voice made a commentary on the
Earth's people joining together, to dig themselves out of the solar
cataclysm of 1982.  Then the screen went blank and immediately a drone
came from the cabinet, and more writing was printing out onto the
black-glassed panel.

                'ARCHIVAL TAPE #371.5039-D

                ... June 5, 1986
                -- As it has been feared for three decades, the final
                   conflict has happened.
                -- Following their defeat from the Chinese, in May,
                   the Soviets flowed south into the Middle-East, and
                   laid seige to Jerusalem, after a great battle on
                   the plains of Megiddo.  As it was Biblically
                   prophesied, Armageddon had come to pass.

        -- * for more information, select video record OA-06-1986.'


Brook punched up more video playback and taped images continued.  The
pictures showed people in massive exodus, heading for the highest
mountains that the could reach.  They tried to find some kind of
shelter from the radiation fallout because, the two great nations:
China and the United States of America, foolishly agreed to the use of
limited nuclear warfare.

Then, on the screen, there were cities falling into piles of rubble,
after they were hit by missiles.


People were in confusion over the horrible death. The excited
commentator explained the state of tension in the world and made the
situation sound hopeless.  His message was, that the end had come.

The screen went blank and silence hung over the room, giving a cold and
eerie feeling to both men.

"Every time, it is the same for me!"  Brook admitted.  "My heart is
torn apart at the pains that I see."

Lloyd's in awe expression had left him.  He too felt as Brook did, full
of sorrow and anger.

"If only there was some way to change what had happened."  he remarked,
and slowly shifted back to Brook.

"They were supposed to be civilized.  They could have prevented that
war but instead they chose to rid their problems by trying total
genocide.  They accumulated great knowledge and possessed god-like
powers through their machines.  But they used the earth as their toy,
until, like
infants, they broke it."

Lloyd sat down, removed and folded his cape over the back of Brook's
chair.  Silence held both men as they collected their thoughts, forcing
into their own hearts a coldness of indifference to what they observed.

Lloyd shattered the annoying silence between them as he stood up and
went to Brook, by his cabinets.

"What do you call this machine, my Lord?"

"I do not know the actual name, but I call it my gadget.  My father
gave this one to me and told me of a hollow mountain, where there is
one that is much greater.    Unfortunately,   the ArchBishop has one,
too."

Lloyd, calmer now, watched the projected images of the destruction and
misery with Brook.  He revealed that they also have gadgets like this
one, in Besten.  It was yet another artifact unearthed from the vault
library, there.

"The ancient peoples called them computers, I believe.  Knowledge could
be given to it and later, one could retrieve it again, if needed.  The
Prominants of Besten had only just begun to understand their workings
and uses, when the ArchBishop banned trade with us.  So we had to
divert our attentions to becoming self-sufficient."

Lloyd pushed some buttons on the flat key pad and the black-glass panel
displayed some more words.  The white screen again showed the rapid
images.  The growth of human life and their transportation, throughout
the suppressed history of their people (up to the Twentieth Century).
All this flashed by in a matter of minutes.

Lloyd and Brook resumed their conference while they watched the screen.

"Maybe he heard about the excavation and what was found.  Maybe this
frightened him."  Brook considered.

"If so, then why did he impose the embargo on us?  Surely he'd know
that would only infuriate us; and if we did have something to hurt his
power with, do you suppose that we'd hesitate to use it?"

Brook shrugged unknowingly and smiled as he delivered a quick-witted
answer.

"I didn't say that he was a smart man!"  he said, then they both
laughed.

Soon, the note of conversation once again became serious.

"Why hasn't he tried to destroy your computer?"  asked Lloyd.


"He knows that I won't use it!"

Lloyd was confused by Brook's reply, and Brook explained to Lloyd his
reason for not using the computer against the ArchBishop.

"My people would not be able to understand this machine.  So, if I were
to use it against the ArchBishop, he would surely turn around and call
me an evil sorcerer, out to befuddle and possess the citizens' minds
and souls."

"But the people,"  Lloyd interrupted,  "They know you well and they
look up to you.  Certainly they would like to see the Almighty thrown
down from his authority?"

Brook shook his head and paced around.

"I have no guarantees about this and I don't want to engage in a civil
war, even if indeed there are enough to back me.  I do know in fact,
that at least, half of Phoride will back me!"  he explained, then Lloyd
added.

"I am surprised that he hasn't tried to destroy it.  If you were to get
half of Phoride to join with you, I am certain that Besten, Virune, and
even some of the Krolalin and Ohigh, would unite against that tyrant!"

What Lloyd said was true. Many of the territories would, without
question, join with Brook.  However, Brook explained to Lloyd that, if
he did allow the other regions to join him, they too could eventually
become a threat to his rule.  Lloyd tried to quell Brook's fears.  He
promised him that the Bestenese do respect his powers and his
abilities, and that they all would, with all their hearts and souls,
fight to help him keep his rule.  "I play weak to buy me time.  To
think."  Brook confided.  "I don't doubt that I could destroy him but
it would be at the expense of too many lives.  I united Upper and Lower
Phoride some twenty years ago.  Then, there were many that died.  Now,
I can't see them divided, and I will not be the instrument to cause it."

"I understand!"  is all that Lloyd said, breathing out a wet sigh.

Brook weighed all his reasons for not rising up.  He expressed that, if
he did indeed decide to go against that pig at Halls, that  evil man
would have received prior knowledge of it.

"I found ears in the walls and I removed them all.  Since then, I have
stayed inside and made certain that there were no more intrusions or
listenings.  Some of his robed geese came here once, and they did try
to ruin my gadgets, but they couldn't open or break into the cabinet.
It is made of three strong metals and is overlaid with oak, inside and
out."

Lloyd began to understand Brook's position.  He is a very powerful man,
successfully intimidated by petty fears.  Fears as trifle as being
called a blasphemer or sorcerer but most of all, the fear that the
unity of Phoride would fall because of him.

Their attention was focused on the screen, at the images of flying
machines.  Great metal monstrosities that shrieked when they flew, and
that were able to carry countless numbers of people to amy place in the
whole world.

"They were remarkable, weren't they?"  Lloyd admired them, proud to be
descended from those who built them.

"I would think that we are the most remarkable."  Brook's noting
puzzled Lloyd for a moment.  "Afterall, we have survived our
forefathers' murder of each other!"

Lloyd smiled, realising that his Lord and master made a good point.

"Yes,  I suppose that I've never thought of us in quite that way!"

The morning passed quickly while they spoke.

Brook showed Lloyd more taped recordings left for those people who may
have possibly succeeded the holocaust and deluge.  One of those
successors was Carter Blue.  He found the machine in Angaent, on his
way to Pomperaque, and used it to make the city a powerful state, in
itself, and so becoming its ruler and leaving it all to his own
offspring.

Brook showed to Lloyd the dozens or so books from the Twentieth
Century, that dealt in a wide range of topics.  Some of the books that
Brook possessed included those on Architecture, History, Mathematics,
Art and also Theology.

Lloyd was impressed by the preserved quality and the information
contained within them.  In just a few books, Brook had a good example
of what the ancient people were like, but what Lloyd waited for, with
such eager but patient anticipation, was the book that his Lord had
been so mysterious about.

"I'm still amazed,"  Lloyd began,  "to see someone with the power to
save the world from a madman, lack the will-power to accomplish it."

Brook felt ashamed of his inability to show the definite power that he
possessed.  But to keep peace and unity in Phoride, he had no choice
but to sacrifice his presence to that of the Almighty ArchBishop.

He tried to explain that to his guest, but he did not want to make
himself look like a coward.  He only wanted to show his caution.

"I stayed within the walls of this house.  I watched for intruders who
would hardly hesitate to hide little listening devices for that great
weasel.  After he realized the motive behind my seclusion, he stopped
his spying.  Later, he used my own vigilance to make me seem like a
recluse.  But now, my friend, I can once again walk the streets of
Pomperaque because you are here to hold my place."

Lloyd, loyally bowed his head in trust-worthy acceptance, and
apologised for his unjust implication that Brook was a coward.  Brook
forgave him for speaking so because he knew that, in his heart, Lloyd
didn't really mean it.

"Providence had thrust us together.  You and I, Lloyd, will work
side-by-side, to return to this land its forgotten freedom and
greatness.  We shall teach others all that we know.  This is the only
way to change the ArchBishop's hold on my people."

Lloyd agreed.

His anticipation also grew to see the great book that Brook promised to
show him.

Brook made his way to a shelf near the white screen.  From one of these
shelves he removed some books, slid a panel away and pulled out a
large, dark book.

"If ever I am defeated or destroyed, you must care for this place and
this book."  Brook instructed.

With a silent breath, Brook made a confession to Lloyd, along with a
request for a service that would take him a life-time.

"I must ask a favour of you, my friend.  If I am not granted the
opportunity and time to instruct Boy in what I know about the previous
millennia, you must take over for me, and you both must leave this
place." Brook sounded very peculiar.  Lloyd wondered about that; his
mind engaged in waves of thought, while he tried to explain to himself,
the reason for Brook's request.

"I do not fully understand, my Lord.  You want us to instruct your
servant.  Why?"  Lloyd asked, confused by Brook's behaviour.

"Yes.  We must teach all those like him and especially him because,
Lloyd,  Boy is my son!  He will succeed me when I am gone.  Which, I
pray, will not be too soon."

There it was.  The one great secret about his life, that he had finally
confessed, and to this man, who was still nothing more than a wounded
guest in him home.

Lloyd was muted.  He had wondered for several days about the boy.  He
noticed how the boy was allowed to speak his piece, during his first
night with them, but he never guessed that this was the reason for it.
He waited to hear more.

"My Dearborne tried to keep this truth from me, for all these years.
The boy knows, too.  His grandfather taught him well, how to behave
before me.  But I still found out!"

Lloyd eagerly listened, for a while, forgetting about the great book
that he was holding in his hands.

"He arrived here by caravan when he was nine, as a servant for
Dearborne -- a gift from her father, Loebh of Hennai.  However, I did
wonder when she was more than just pleased to see him, and then without
question accepted him.  I wed her in Hennai during a trade conference
and the I came back here to Pomperaque to prepare for her to join me.
But it was almost a year before she came here, and I didn't find out
until just last year, that she gave birth to my son but didn't bring
him."  Brook observed Lloyd fondling the large book that he gave to
him, earlier.  Lloyd was deeply enthraled by the story and he wanted to
hear more.  For a moment he forgot about the book.

"Why didn't she bring him, or at least tell you about his existence?"

"My problem with the ArchBishop had existed long before I married her.
This was the reason that I went to Hennai.  I wanted to unite the
smaller and independent states with Phoride but, in most part, I failed
because of that almighty swine.  Wile there, I met Loebh and his lovely
daughter.  When we met, our love was obvious to us, like an exploding
star, and we married immediately.   She was only sixteen and I was
thirty-five but her father openly welcomed my offer of marriage.  She
did not object and we were wed.  I revealed to her that we couldn't
have children right away.  I suppose that she was afraid to tell me,
later."

"How did you find out?"  Lloyd inquired with a sly tone.

"Loebh sent word to me last year.  I don't know why he did it, but I am
grateful."

Lloyd smiled and shook his head in a manner which suggested disbelief.
He got up from his chair and went over to the window.  He peered out
and sucked in a few deep breaths of air then turned to Brook and
laughed.

"You know, I came to Pomperaque for one reason; to alter the
ArchBishop's mind to the trade embargo on Besten.  Now, all this.  It's
amazing!"

Brook also laughed at Lloyd's humorous view of the way that his
original mission had changed.  His presence had brought Brook his
freedom from staying in the Blue Mansion.  All this happened after his
struggle, while he tried to tell the people of Phoride about the
ancients from which they were all descended.

Lloyd had become the catalyst for Brook's resurgence of strength.  His
presence had that special chemistry that worked Brook's will into its
new power, and both men new for sure, that Brook would no longer remain
in his dormant retreat.

Lloyd finally began to examine the book, feeling the quality of its
cover and the raised gold lettered title.  In breathless stupefaction,
he commenced to read it aloud.

"THE HISTORY OF NORTH AMERICA -- TO 1986 C.E.!"

"Yes. This book is the proof of the ancients, of our land, and of that
great civilization before our own millennium."  Brook admitted to
Lloyd.  He pointed at the book that Lloyd was now leafing through, and
then moved to his high-backed chair and sat down.   "That book can make
those who are learned, at the Blaisaman, join my ways again.
Eventually they will all teach for me, from that

book.  That, can destroy the ArchBishop, but first I must find some who
will follow it!"  Lloyd smiled in awe, marvelling at what he read, and
almost, as if in love with the book, he sighed a spiritual praise.

"My God!"  he breathed.  "This looks like it's complete, right up to
the end of it all."  He stopped for a moment to collect his wonderment,
staying with the aghast manner that he began with.  "This is greater
than anything that I have ever seen.  It's greater than anything that I
know of in besten.  With this book, my Lord, we possess the means by
which to unite the whole world!"  Lloyd intermittently lingered on a
page, reading it aloud, then followed with the usual spellbound glance
at Brook.  Each time he reaffirmed that they were within reach of
destroying the almighty, the ArchBishop.

Soon Brook became annoyed and in a comparable tone of voice, ordered
Lloyd never again to call that maniac at Halls, the Almighty.  Lloyd
didn't anger.  He just apologized to Brook and promised never again to
do it.

"We can bring this whole continent together, under a friendly
democracy.  The Virgin Mountains people of Dantoga, the Virunese, the
Elkinii plains people -- all would join you.  Somehow, I feel that even
the Teniqués homosimians from the west, the Palatkan lepers, and maybe
even the dual-sexed S_dash would join with you!"  Lloyd's excitement
filled the room, and as Brook listened to his dream, his heart also
pumped the blood of freedom and unity, through his veins.  He felt
alive, once more.

"Everything can be, as it was for our ancient fathers.  But we must not
rush into this quick change.  We must court the people and slowly
introduce the concept to them.  I don't want to destroy whatever unity
we may already have.  We must do it with logic, and I believe that
changing the ArchBishop's embargo with your land may be the safest
place to begin!"

"I agree!"  said Lloyd.  "Phoride doesn't receive any of our goods
either, due to his insane monopoly."

Lloyd moved over to his master and friend, from the window and sat on
the stool beside his chair, while he still leafed through the great
book.

"I should not have allowed his embargo against Besten.  It was wrong
and I am sorry.  I wasn't in the position to alter what was to be!"
declared Brook, breathing deeply as he looked to the window at the
Blue, cloudless, afternoon sky.  The skies were clear and the fear of
another rain had passed.

Lloyd understood Brook, now.  With this understanding he told Brook not
to fret and that he was thankful that Besten was an ocean port, and
that they had an abundance of fish and other goods coming into the
city, by that means.

"My Lord, we must fight for what we believe in.  I realize that there
have been many wars that the earth has seen.  You, yourself, had once
forcibly united Phoride and made their lives happier than what they
knew."  His understanding was saturated with talk of war.  Brook looked
right into his guest's eyes and shook his head.  He did not want war.

"War shall always be, my Lord!"   Lloyd was insistent.

"Maybe, but there can be revolutionary changes without battle.  My
father had once told me, that diplomacy was always better-sought and
best fought.  Only if diplomacy fails, is war necessary!"  Brook
explained his view to Lloyd, who was in agreement but again illustrated
the futility of talk.  "Always, my Lord, there is diplomacy that may
prevent war, but always there are many who don't care to listen,
because it may be hurtful to their own interests!  To them, wealth and
gain is put high above love and life!"

Slowly, the difference in their views pulled them apart, and a trivial
argument began between them.  Brook became emotional, and rose from his
chair.  He turned to Lloyd and loudly, took the dominance of his room,
which lasted only a moment until Lloyd interrupted him.

"War doesn't solve a thing, no matter how it is fought.  The taring up
of the ground, the ripping apart of the young mens' bodies, the death
... death ... DEATH!"  Brook built up to a frenzy giving his views.
Lloyd refused them.

"The realization of wastage is understood, but as our fathers tell us;
here, in this book, 'no cost is too extreme when trying to attain
freedom!',  and I do believe that to be so!"

Silence.

Both stared at one another with heated, flaring eyes.  Their faces were
contorted in strain and sweat leaked in huge droplets from their brows.
 Then Brook sighed and put his hand on Lloyd's shoulder.  He spoke
calmly.

"Young men should not be made to fight and die for the discontent and
hate of the old men in power; who create a war, in the name of God,
Love or Freedom.  It's all an excuse to them.  Can't you see that?

Lloyd didn't answer.

"Most of the ancient wars were fought because of the dislikes between
the men in power.  Many of the wars, in our times, were the same.
Countless numbers of young men died without knowing what they were
fighting for.  What is worse, Lloyd, is that the common folk had
suffered the most, and they weren't even supposed to be involved!  Do
you understand?"

Lloyd was still silent, his mouth agape and mute or reply to the truths
that Brook was preaching.  He nodded and bowed his head, as he
surrendered his view, with a final thought.

"War is necessary, sometimes!"  was all that Lloyd said.

"True, my friend!  The souls of mankind burn on this hellish ball, this
scorched Earth of ours.  Some day we will be able to extinguish those
who cause the fatal spark.  Until then, I will not let my hatred of the
ArchBishop, to become one of those sparks."

Throughout the afternoon, Lloyd and Brook continued to talk.  Their
emotions toned down somewhat, to a level of trust and friendship, and
mutual exchange of knowledge.

Brook freely gave his knowledge to Lloyd without the demand of payment
and Lloyd accepted it, promising that he would in turn, give it to
Brook's son, and continued to instruct him until the sum of both their
knowledge or until one of them was expended.

Brook taught Lloyd to use the computer and showed him the locations of
the seven Omega Sub Ground Installations, strewn about the continent.
These were the same installations that were abandoned several centuries
ago, after civilization was reestablished on the land.  Brook showed
Lloyd the location of the great library vault that was still hidden
near one of those installations.  It was the same gigantic vault that
was closed down just prior to the great holocaust.  It was a vault
carved deep into a mountain of solid granite, southeast of the Omega 4
- East SGI, at the head of the Krolalin range, to the north.  The
mountain was known to them as, Alugean.

"There's enough food there for one man to live on for half a century.
If ever something happens to me, Lloyd, take the boy there.  Go there
and learn as much as you can, and then teach the Bestenese people, and
try to teach mine.  If nothing happens to me, I will send both of you
there, anyway, and you will learn."  Brook ended his instructions and
Lloyd promised him, that when fit to travel, he would leave with Boy
and not return until Boy willed it.


The day seemed short to those in the Blue Mansion.  After the Lord, his
Lady and their honoured guest had supped, they all retired to a
parlour-like room.  That room was Dearborne's equivalent to Brook's
viewing-den.

She reclined in a large comfortable chair, soft and padded in cushioned
splendour while she rolled some yarn into a large ball, and hummed to
herself a mellow little tune.

Brook stood in the corner of the room by a small cabinet.  He poured
wine into some glasses and motioned to hand the glasses to Dearborne
and Lloyd, who sat on a sofa near her at the window.  Lloyd looked out
the window at the setting sun.  He watched and listened to the people
coming out of their homes and heading for their evening fun-spots.
They had weathered the fretting indulgences brought to them by the rain
and they now behaved no differently than they had for months before the
rain.

Brook, with a silent tip of his head to the beloved wife, handed her a
glass of her once-favoured wine.  She graciously accepted it from him
and stared at the glass.  Her face exposed an expression of anxiety and
fear, afraid to drink, as if the glass of that delicate beverage had
been laced with some kind of poison.  He gave to Lloyd a glass also,
breaking his concentrations of watching the columns of people below, as
they headed for the centre of Pomperaque, to their taverns and
theatres.  The Lord lifted his glass and saluted those close to him,
within the room, with a toast to freedom and unity.  They echoed him.

Lloyd kept his stare on the street, and Brook was curious as to what
interested his guest so much.  He looked at Lloyd several times, and
every time he just stared out into the street.  He seemed somewhat
intoxicated, although he only sipped once, at his wine.

Brook understood that Lloyd was only longing for his home in Besten.
He knew that the thoughts of his homeland and his near death, in
Pomperaque, had chilled his mind and made him dopey.

Lord Brook emptied his glass of wine and sighed, the sound of it
resonated throughout the room.  He spoke, imitating a burly Bestenese
accent that grabbed the attention of both his lovely wife and Lloyd.

"Ah! -- 'What sweet sustenance we have in our thirst, for the smooth
wisp of truth found in a rose'!"  said Brook, as he quoted one of
Besten's most renown poets.  Lloyd glanced away from the window and
smile at Brook.  Their rapport showed in their eyes and they didn't
need to speak.  Brook looked at Dearborne and saw that she didn't react
to his poetry recital.  Instead, she began to develop mannerisms of
someone who is disgusted.  He thought that she just didn't approve of
his jest.  Lloyd noticed a strangeness in her, too, but he thought that
it wasn't his place to say anything.

"At least you don't quote that Djenaud Smarte, my Lord.  You have
taste!"  Lloyd made ready to make some fun, if the Lord cared to jest,
himself  -- and he did.

"Yes.  Moreye was a great poet.  I remember that he once jested about
Smarte.  He said, 'Smarte could only write if intoxicated by the aroma
of a peasant's chicken-house, and that's why he lived in one'!"  Brook
was amused as was Lloyd.  He sat up better as not to spill his drink
while he laughed.  He soon added to Brook's jest by conveying to him a
game that he learned in Besten, while he was still young.

"We once played games in Besten.  Some Elders told us that these games
were very old but our own familiarities could be used to make them
humorous, to us.  My father, Harvard, taught me this one and I found it
funny.  The game goes like this. Someone appears at your door and
knocks.   The one inside asks, 'who is there?', the outsider answers
with something and the insider asks again, the outsider's name and
'who?'   Then one outside answers in a humorous manner."

To Brook, the explanation of the game, was funny enough for him,
because Lloyd began to take on a nature of a lad, Boy's age.  Finally,
after Lloyd explained to Brook the game, he demonstrated it to him.  He
told Brook what to say as the insider and the joke commenced.  Lloyd
rapped on the wood of the chair's arm-rest, that represented the door.
He then pointed to Brook.

"Who is there?"  asked Brook.

"Djenaud Smarte!"  Lloyd replied.

"Djenaud Smarte, who?"  asked Brook again, after being cued, once more.

"Djenaud as smart as I am!"  said Lloyd and he laughed.

They found this cute little game somewhat interesting and continued to
play it for a while until they ran out of names that could be made fun.

Brook soon became restless, when he saw that Dearborne wasn't reacting
to their humour, without even the slightest grin.

Lloyd resumed his stare out the window.  His spirited smile vanished
from his face as quickly as the wine vanished from his glass, that he
still held in his hand.

Out on the streets were groups of children walking together.  Some
chewed on the intoxicating seeds of the Orumen flower.  Lloyd shook his
head in disenchantment just as Brook also looked out the window and saw
the same.

"Sweet children playing in the streets, grow up to become hated by
their own kind.  And soon they grow to hate themselves!"  said Brook,
as he turned to Lloyd and Dearborne, then further, "Is that not so?"
the room was silent.


After a quarter-hour, while she slowly and perfectly wound her yarn
into a tight ball, Dearborne finally broke the silence.

"You cannot blame the children, my husband! They are all good.  Only
circumstances change them.  The times devour their innocent little
souls and burn into their hearts the hatred that grows as they do!"

Brook walked about the room and motioned to Lloyd, with his glass if he
would like some more wine, and he accepted.  He took Lloyd's glass and
poured himself and his guest some more wine.  He glanced at Dearborne's
glass, but she hadn't yet taken a single swallow from it.

"I don't blame them, my love.  The devil -- the evil -- is in all of
them.  They discover it during their transitions.  Some of these
mischievous children discover their good and their evil, and some find
it to their advantage, that evil is of more benefit to them.  So turns
the world."  Brook exclaimed to his wife and gulped his wine.  He
studied her for a few moments, in puzzlement, and wondered why she
hadn't touched her wine.  Then, as if his thoughts touched hers, she
stopped rolling her yarn and put the glass to her precious lips and
like a little bird, took a sip.  However, Brook saw that she was not
enjoying it and he worried that something was wrong, but he didn't pry
her with questions.  He felt that she would eventually come to him
herself, when she found the time to be right for her.

Lloyd, on the couch, still peered out the window at the street.  He
kept an open ear to the exchange between his host and hostess, and he
slowly drank his wine.  In the distance he noticed some of the farmers
irrigating their farm terraces with water, mechanically drawn from the
Artesian reservoirs beneath the city.

Throughout the evening, from the time the sun had begun to drowse until
it finally bedded-down for the night, Brook paced about the room.   He
was deeply into his thoughts, and he occasionally surveyed his beloved
wife, Dearborne, and also his guest Lloyd.  Lloyd maintained his stare
out the window during this lulling tide of time.  Mesmerized by the
beauty of this land, he still longed to see Besten again.  Brook
empathized with Lloyd's sentiment and left him to it until he felt that
Lloyd's thoughts, were causing him to brood and Brook did not want to
see people, brooding in the house.  He recognized that Dearborne was on
the verge of breaking under the strain of trying to prevent her own,
and he did not want to see Lloyd in a moody state.

He finally sat at the end of the couch that Lloyd was on, choosing the
end closer to his wife.  He stared at Dearborne, then at his other
side, at Lloyd.  His voice attained the quality of a seer.  "The days
pass too quickly, for one to hold-onto the precious moments in life,
however trifle and few!"  he stated with the strength of compassion,
understanding and love, and in his ultimate wisdom, he imparted to
those close to him a morbid idea.  "We must all one day die -- and may
it be in peace, and with God!"  When he finished, he saw a shiny tear
trickle down Dearborne's flushed cheek.

She sipped at her wine once more, put it on the table in front of her
and pushed it away.

Brooks and Lloyd watched as she set the drink down, and for a while,
the only sounds that were heard in the parlour were that of breathing
and the rustling of their clothes.  He observed her and he loathed to
see the torment that churned within her beautiful eyes.  He finally
found it within himself, to question her behaviour.

"Something troubles you, my Love? Don't you like the drink?"  he asked,
with worry.

Lloyd reckoned the Lady and her glass, drawing a feeble connection
between them, that he thought was the reason behind her moody behaviour.

"Why don't you drink your wine, my Lady?  I know of no woman in the
land that dislikes rose-wine.  Some may drink it more than others, but
all like it!"  Lloyd requested, seeing in her eyes that his observation
his its mark.

She stared at her glass, her eyes burned with contempt therein, and she
shrugged in utter abomination,  as she, in a nauseated tone, answered
her guest.

"I am quickly acquiring a distaste for it."    she said, then carried
on, as she met Lloyd's eyes,  "I am acquiring a distaste for the rest
of Phoride!"

Brook raised an eyebrow in surprise when he heard his lovely Dearborne
speak so.  He leaned forward and put his gentle hand, lovingly on her
forearm until she set her own hand overtop of it and leered into his
eyes.

"What is wrong, my love?  charged Brook, growing hot with worry.  Their
eyes became one entity, emanating from both their minds and so joining.

Lloyd got to his feet.  Still at the window, he aimlessly gaped out
through its portal and added to the earlier tracings of thought
regarding his intuitive lore.  And, as if in riddle, he recited to
Dearborne, who understood his conjecture.

"There may be certain disillusions that are regarded as factual, by
some people?"  he said, and she agreed.

Dearborne put her ball of yarn to one side and issued from her chair.
She peered at her Brook, for a long time, apprehensive at whether or
not to tell him the heavy burden that she carried within herself.  She
still clutched his hand.  He felt her tremble like a cold little
kitten, and his eyes pleased to her, to reveal her thoughts to him and
gain strength from his willingness to be receptive.  She told him
everything.

"It is something that happened the day that I brought Lloyd to this
house!"  and she told him everything about Cardinal Allen's advances on
her.  Brook's forehead wrinkled as he listened, his brow rose, and
sweat flowed from it.  His lips pursed in anger, and she saw anger
emanating from his eyes, along with the storms of worry there, also.
Lloyd was poised, still listening to her.  "He later assured me that
this was not so and I apologized.  I don't know why!"  her voice
quivered as she began to cry.  "I don't know why?"

She carried on, repeating that she didn't know why she had apologized.
Her words became snarled under her gasps of breath.  Lloyd stepped
towards her, to give assistance and Brook embraced her tightly trying
to impart to her his stalwart volition.

"That Devil's dog has soiled your spirit!  He shall pay.  He shall
never corrupt again!"  promised Brook.

"He did nothing to me," Dearborne admits.  "It's only what he had said
to me when I was drinking my rose wine ... how a woman is hot-blooded
towards her lover if she drinks from the rose." she continued to cry
while she held on to Brook as if he was a cliff and beneath her was a
bottomless void.  "Now I cannot enjoy wine, and my mind is frightened
of him!"

Lloyd was quiet.  He watched Brook's attempts to sedate his Lady.
Through Lady Dearborne's words and actions, Lloyd now grasped the full
meaning of the struggle and pains in the hearts of those who saved his
life.

"I understand, now, my Lord!"  Lloyd ejaculated in prehension.  "The
perversities from mind, to body, to earth.  The almi ... the evil
ArchBishop's salvation of the world is DAMNATION!"

"Now you know why I need you to help me, in my cause.  Even after I am
gone!  You know why you must ... teach ... all that we know -- "  Brook
appealed knowing the assured outcome to his requests.


"Yes!"  was all that Lloyd answered with.  It was enough and clear,
and proved his loyal promise to one man's vision of freedom and unity.

"You will be alright, my love!"  Brook promised Dearborne.  "Telling me
frees you from your trials.  Rest easy now!  Lloyd will stay with you.
I must go and sort this incident in my mind.  I must prepare myself to
confront that miscreant at Halls."  he touched Lloyd's arm and without
words asked him to keep Dearborne company while he retired to his
thoughts. Lloyd complied.

Brook kissed Dearborne and with his hand, gently wiped some of the
tears from her face, then without further delay, left the room for his
den.

Shortly after Brook left their presence, Lloyd and Dearborne quietly
sat on the couch and when she finally stopped crying, she thanked Lloyd
for being so good in staying with her.  Lloyd promised that he was
pleased to serve her and that he could never fully repay her entire
household for their help in rescuing him from his near fatality in the
square.

She was quiet for the longest time.  Lloyd remained beside her, also
quiet.  His manners dictated to him to be polite and not question her
thoughts, but after some time of quiet meditation, she requested of
Lloyd to be a judge on her actions in telling Brook about what had
happened between her and the Cardinal Allen.

He thought for a few moments and told her not to fret because she did,
indeed, do what was necessary.  He told her that her husband had the
right to know about some perverse chancre of a man, who had practised
his lechery on her.

"I am glad that I told him this!" she admitted.  She felt much better
and less guilty from fear that she was an inspiring factor; that she
was the cause for the lecher to come forth to her as if she were a
harlot.  She continued.  "I don't know that I should've told him now.
Maybe earlier would've been better.  I was frightened.  I did not want
to see him confront the ArchBishop out of rage, for my sake.  I did not
want to leave this house for that reason!"

Lloyd touched her reassuringly and in a soft but powerful voice, lifted
this new burden from her mind.  He soothed her fear of Brook's
confrontation with the ArchBishop.

"Don't worry, Lady!  He will be careful with that vermin.  He has
motivation, now, to release Besten from the economic blockade, and he
has his personal grievances to settle.  The ArchBishop will not know
how to cope!"

"My husband is brave, Master Bartlet.  Because of you ... because of
myself and because of all those like our Boy, I see him in the throws
of changing this entire land."

More silence crept into the room.  Dearborne was turned towards Lloyd,
her face filled with an enigma that wanted to break free from her.  He
knew that in her heart, she had something else that was very, very
important for him to know.  In recent days that passed, he had seen it
in her face.  Now, however, it was most prevalent and in their
intimate, profound faith, in one another's trust, she finally gave him
her private testimony.

"I must tell you something, Lloyd."

"Your servant, my Lady."

"I see our lives closing-in on us, in this place.  You, my loyal
confident, must carry on for Brook, for us, if something evil occurs!"
she made a familiar request to him.

"I understand, my Lady!"  he replied.

"I wish that you really do."  she stopped for a second to collect her
thoughts and courage.  "I pray that you keep what I now have to tall
you, private and between us!"  she said.  Lloyd waited in anticipation,
guessing at what she was going to tell him.  "Our servant, Boy, is
Brook's and mine, natural son."  she finished and observed a trifle
grin spread over Lloyd's face.  Somehow, he had anticipated correctly,
and he felt himself to be the most privileged of men, to have such high
trust and confidence bestowed on him.  A fortunate man, who not more
than a week ago was dragged into their house, a near-dead stranger.  He
nodded his head to her, and took her hands into his own.

"Yes!  I was curious about the similarity in his appearance to him and
Brook!  I wondered at the worry that you both expressed in him, the
evening of the rain, and also the privileges that you both indulge him
with."

Lloyd, however, did not tell her that he already knew that which she
had told him.   As before, he found that it was not his place to inform
on that which should be done by someone closer.

"You will stay here, won't you?"

"I will, for as long as I am permitted, my Lady.  I do owe my life!"

She thanked the eternal God that they were blessed with this man's
presence in their home, and then commenced to tell him more about Boy
and the fact that Brook didn't know that Boy was his son.

"He was born Boyce Loebh Scullion-Blue, in my father's land of
Hennai."  she revealed to Lloyd, and he listened with interest to, the
already familiar parable.


CHAPTER  SIX

The mask of darkened night had passed-over and covered the face of the
land until, the rising sun, brought into play the motions of the
morning life.  People's voice covered the singing poetry of the sparrow
and the cooing of the falcon-cranes, that glided on high, with the gods.

As the night progressed, Brook sat in his viewing room and pondered the
problems that he knew were destroying the unity of his beloved land.
This pretty land that had once surged with the majesty and splendour,
created by his father, descended from The Blue.

When the day broke, Brook emerged from his diversion of thought.  His
mind and soul were determined to make strong his rightful rule in the
land.

With Lloyd at his house, knowing Dearborne was safe, he made his way to
Canon's Butte to the Halls Cathedral, and the ArchBishop.

The streets were crowded with people that morning, for the Week of
Jubilee began on that day.

Slowly, he trod on the walkways by the emporiums and through the
square, where he gave his  'good days!', to Empal and other loyal
friends who stepped aside, and let him pass without a struggle.

He spoke to his subjects during his walk, and offered some bits of
confidence to them and received some in return.  Strength returned to
him and his apprehensions about his meeting with the ArchBishop
decreased in severity.  With his faith in good and his will prepared to
conquer evil, through a show of strength, he replaced his insecurity.

But evil played the game well and the roles of strength were weighed in
a balance by patience and peace.  Both were prodded and teased by
temptation and mistrust, and attempted to tip the scales in favour of
the incubation.

Brook stood in the confines of the cleric's office and looked out the
window at the water fountain below, where the vicars and novices pruned
the grass and floral scape, and had some fun.  They bathed their white
skins on this day, allowed for this Week of Jubilee to be without their
habits when within the walled grounds of the Cathedral.  Their abundant
loin-clothes flapped about in the slight breeze that blew off the ocean
nearby.  So close, in fact, that one would be able to see it from the
windows of Halls' southern most parts.

Brook waited a long time.  He was apprehensive about seeing the
ArchBishop.  After all the times that Brook denied his own conference
to him, he was now himself being refused the immediate audience that he
demanded.

Brook became nerved and enraged but he knew that he'd dare not leave
now, for it would show defeat on his foe's ground and on his foe's
terms.  He knew, that to choose the humility of his waiting for a
subordinate, would moreso be forgotten than if he were to retreat from
the stand-off with the ArchBishop, and his weapon of time and patience.

He brewed hateful thoughts within him mind.  He cursed and prayed for
God's vengeance to be his, upon the entrance of his adversary.  He was
aware of the ignoble egotism in the ArchBishop, with his delusions of
holiness and the calling of himself:  "The Almighty".  But Brook knew
what excrement this holy man really was and the utter evil that he
possessed, inherited directly from the ancient Canon Di'Vaticanus.

He waited and then waited some more, nearly reaching a point which
lacked a noble virtue.  Brook waited until the ArchBishop bounded in
through his iron-twined door, as if he were a majesty himself.

They stood far apart and silent.  The entire length of the room loomed
in silent space between them while they just glared at one another.

Finally, the ArchBishop's ill-meaning smile skirted his face as he sat
down behind his desk.  He never took his eyes off his Lord and master
Scullion, until he was first to speak.  Brook waited for the most
heartless sign of homage, if he was to receive one at all.  He never.

"How are you, my ... brother?"  mumbled the ArchBishop.  His voice
carried overtones of mockery, intended to disturb.

Brook moved to the man's desk, his eyes fixed on his brow and the evil
smile, which looked as if painted onto his face, until he, too, finally
reverberated.

"You tread on soft ground, brother!  Your delusions of grandeur have
carried your mind off into another space."

"I don't understand?"  the ArchBishop's smile left his face momentarily.

Brook laid his palms on the surface of the grand cleric's desk top and
mocked him in turn.        "What?" Brook laughed.  "The Almighty not
understand something?  Come now brother ... I was made to wait here too
long, and for you!"  He lifted his hands from the desk and made his way
back towards the window.  "Maybe I should have you tried.  Made an
example of; should I not, my dearest brother?"  He reached the window
and looked out of it to the fountain below.  The same time, he slightly
grinned, knowing the effects that he caused to come over the
ArchBishop's mind.  No sooner did Brook finish speaking, did the cleric
challenge him.

"Make yourself clear, Brook.  State your business and take your
leave!"  blurted the man in the holy garb.

Brook's grin left him as he swung around and poked his hand into the
air, in the direction of the religious leader, and stared right into
his now pale eyes.

"You are but a mere man -- and not even so -- and you can bleed!"  He
ceased for a moment and saw a spark of fear flame over the ArchBishop's
face as he twitched in his chair.

"Yes, my brother ... You can bleed.  Wouldn't a real god be immune to
bodily injury?  A real god would not sit on his ... broad alter and
live off his people, growing fat from their love and their worship and
yet give them nothing in return.  Not only that ... you had sent for me
-- so, unless you inform me as to what you want ... you may take your
leave!"

"Good speech.  State your -- "

" -- Your tongue will be silenced either by my command or by my hand,
Manguino!  I shall give you leave, if I care to, and for good."
Brook's words, the strength of their usage, greatly startled the great
ArchBishop who sat back in his chair and blinked aimlessly as the
sovereign continued, after some silence.  "Word has reached me, that
you are starving several of the united districts, in the north, with an
embargo on their trade!  As of this moment that will cease and with
that, extra trade will commence between Phoride and Besten.  It has
been long enough, that you have had your petty vengeance on them."

"You agreed on that embargo!"  Manguino advanced.

"Yes.  Now I change my mind.  Your 'will' be ... none!"

Brook turned his head and focused his eyes upon Manguino.

Silence clutched the room again.  Brook stood majestic and powerful in
the presence of his brother.  The evil high priest, Manguino, was now
totally disturbed by Brook's show of strength and power.

"It would not have made a difference!"  Manguino said as he pushed
himself from his chair and moved over to where his brother stood.

"I will make the difference now!  As of this moment." Brook shouted at
him.  "You ... you may only follow.  You will not be permitted to
exercise your power unwisely."

The sovereign's judgement had been made and the idea frightened
Manguino and choked the room with a silence that removed hope of the
existence of any breath.

Manguino turned back to his desk.  The silence created a term of
indecision in him that he had not experienced since before Smith Blue
died.

As if against his will, Manguino found himself leafing through some
papers on the corner of his desk, desperately trying to formulate a
plan in his mind to rebuke Brook.  Instead, however, he found himself
writing and signing a retraction to the trade embargo.  He stretched
out his hand, holding the document in offering, to Brook.

"How do you mean this return of trade to take place?  By the week,
month or year?"  asked Manguino, his tone sounding significantly
defeated.


"By month.  I suppose that this would be reasonable!"  An expression of
shock came over the ArchBishop.  He whined like a child, then took
control of himself and finally showed his anger.

"Reasonable?  Treating them like our masters and that, you say, is
reasonable?"  he stopped for a moment and wondered if Brook was indeed
sane, then laughed a little in a half-hearted manner.

Brook proceeded.

"Yes, I believe that a monthly caravan should suffice.  They would
prove more profitable to us as our friends than as our enemies."

"Why don't we send them goods every day?  mocked Manguino.

"Careful, Manguino!  You tempt the wrong feelings in my heart.  Anyway,
if Phoride could survive the strain, I would consider daily caravans.
And now onto another annoyance."  He looked at Manguino with
contemptible eyes, intended as prejudgment on his brother.  "I shall
not tolerate any further words between the Cardinal Allen and my wife.
If I learn that he speaks with her, or another other woman of my
household, just once more, I will have him arrested and whipped until
death."   he turned to Manguino and sneered a grin suggesting a
pleasurable thought.  "I might even do it myself!"

"I don't know what you are talking about!"  defended Manguino,
seemingly innocent of the fact that the Cardinal Allen tried to force
his will on the Lord's spouse.

"Oh?"  is the only response Brook made, then added,  "Well, make
certain you do not continue with this ignorance, within your own ranks.
You would not appreciate the subsequent consequences!"  Manguino
lowered his head and looked to the floor, but in realization of his
defeated mannerisms he quickly straightened and eyed Brook as he moved
towards the door of the office.  He opened it and before making his
exit, he quickly turned to give him one last icy glare.


"You will never again keep me waiting."  commanded the sovereign and
Manguino tipped his head with unwanted compliance, realizing this
meeting was a bounty in favour of his rival brother, Brook.

Manguino, the grand.  The great ArchBishop of all Phoride and the
continent, slowly dragged himself back to his desk and sat in his
chair.  Back in it all the way, he breathed heavily a few times and
contemplated the last few minutes that had elapsed and Brook's conquest
of wills.  'What to do?',  was the only question that paraded about
Manguino's mind.  Finally, the answer came to him.  He would have his
revenge in a short fortnight, during the celebrations to commemorate
the wedding between Brook and his beloved Dearborne. Cardinal Allen
will have his pleasure on that night and so would the ArchBishop
entertain his satisfaction.  He will have the triumph over his noble
brother, in the midst of the highest citizens of Pomperaque.  He would
ruin his brother forever.  He smiled to himself and mumbled under his
breath, and the gleam of a maybe victory flashed across his eyes.

"Yes, that would be perfect."  he said and repeated it, then with this
he proceeded to scribble on some clean paper, a request for
accompaniment to some select cardinals, for that evening of
merry-making.

As the great keeper of Halls set his plans of abasement to honour his
brother, another man was alive as a loyal servant, keeping true his
word to his master.

Sitting in Brook's chair, in the viewing den, Lloyd leafed through the
large book.  The night before, he sat up to all hours and listened to
the Lady Dearborne as she conveyed to him the circumstances surrounding
her husband's apparent meekness, and their son, Boyce.  While he read
the great book he remembered what Brook had told him about his noble
heritage, and the emergence of the elite group of people, that followed
the global devastation long ago.


Lloyd observed the details of the colourful pictures that showed the
way of life in the age before the time of chaos.  He read the ancient
lines which spoke of the great rulers of that time.  Those men that
tried to prevent war at any cost, and others who wanted it, at any cost.

His eyes loomed across the words spoken by the great presidential
leader of this ancient land.  His thoughts that were spoken the very
day that his life was taken from him by an assassin, hired by some
warmonger.

                "We're called a civilized people.
                 Let us behave as civilized people.
                 Do not let war shatter our tiny planet
                 for the benefit of just a few, who would
                 profit from it -- become rich and powerful
                 from the death of those weaker than themselves.
                 Let us seek a world unity -- a brotherhood of love
                 -- before it is too late ... before we give our
                 all, for nothing!"


Lloyd sighed.  The power and spirit behind those words still rang true,
even to this day.  Where every land was under its own governing
directions, ruled by no central idea or council and indeed, being
nothing more than a communal feudalism.

He continued to turn the pages of the great book, THE HISTORY OF NORTH
AMERICA, and stared in amazement at its details, almost right up to the
very day of the holocaust.  That detail was mainly in the last few
pages which appeared to have been put into the book, at a much later
time.  He saw that someone did not want a noble life, a great
civilization, to die and be forgotten forever.  How, to him, the book
began to take-on an almost holy aura that drew him deeper and deeper
into the words' strength, until a tear issued from his eye and slowly
meandered down his fleshy cheek.

He wiped the tear from his cheek, in one motion of the back of his
hand.  Boyce rumbled into the den carrying a tray of food and drink,
and quietly set it on the table by Lloyd.

"I have brought you food, my Lord!"  informed the boy.

Lloyd looked up from the book and smiled as he thanked the boy and
requested him to join in the eating.  Hesitant, the boy suspiciously
looked at Lloyd with questions in his eyes. He nodded and smiled, then
boy finally moved to the corner and brought back a stool, and so sat by
him.

Lloyd motioned to Boyce to take some food and not knowing what else to
do in this circumstance, he took a piece of the roasted fowl and smiled
before he bit into it.

"Thank-you, my Lord!"  the boy exclaimed.

"You are welcome."  returned Lloyd, and continued.  "Say, Boy.  You
will call me Lloyd ... I have had enough people call me sir and Lord!"

"Thank-you ... Lloyd!"  Boyce responded, startled by the show if
friendship offered to him by the injured man that he helped to carry
back to the Blue Mansion.

They ate the dinner.

They didn't say much to one another while they ate.  Lloyd resumed his
reading of the great book and the boy looked-on at Lloyd's changing
expression, his eyes almost bursting into a fall of tears, throughout
it all.

Lloyd looked up from the book, at times, and caught the boy's eyes
locked onto him as he read.  "My Lord Brook promised to teach me to
read that,"  Boyce stated, "but he has not found the time!"  He looked
hollow for a moment and a feeling of loneliness seemed to hover over
him until Lloyd, with a compassionate voice, grabbed the boy's craving
for some adult rapport.

"Brook had asked me to teach you.  Would you like that?"

"Yes."  Boyce's answer was short and direct, and full of obvious
excitement.  He continued to eat.

"I spoke to Lady Dearborne yesterday."

"She's a very nice lady!"  added Boyce.  He looked up at Lloyd and
smiled, and Lloyd just laughed.

"That she is, Boyce, and you are very fortunate that she and Brook are
your parents."

Boyce was astonished. He stopped eating, looked at the meat that he was
holding then slowly dropped it back onto the tray.  He stood up and
aimlessly started to walk a few steps away from Lloyd.

Through the hush of the room could be heard the sounds of life
echoing-in from off the streets.  There were short playful screams of
the little girls being teased by the boys.  Boyce faced Lloyd.  After
eyeing him for a time, he finally spoke.

"She told you? -- Why?"  he said, as if in order.

Lloyd nodded.

"Will you tell my father?"

Lloyd's face showed apprehension, and he answered the boy.

"No, I won't.  But I have a strong feeling that he may already know."
he ceased for a moment and grinned a little.  "Afterall, you do look
more like him with each passing day."


Once again there was a short silence between them but it was broken up
by some sighs and a welcomed laugh from Boyce.

"Yes, that is true.  Perhaps that is why he asked you to teach me?"

"I cannot begin to know what goes on in someone's mind, but that just
may be, my young friend."

With their confirming smile and nod, they acknowledged their new
friendship.

There was a powerful understanding which formed between them.  The
presence of it could be felt within the room and it was then that Lloyd
made a suggestion.

"Shall we start the lessons?"

Excited, Boyce nodded that he would like that.

"Can you read?"

Boyce shrugged with an embarrassed grin.

"I know the old alphabet ... my grandfather taught me, but I can't
understand very much.

Lloyd showed his understanding with a nod, and begged Boyce to sit
again on the stool, and when he did, Lloyd handed him the book.

"I will do what I can to teach you, young Lord."  Lloyd promised then
allowed Boyce to leaf through the pages to familiarize himself with the
contents.  He turned to a large and colourful map and began to read
slowly:

                "The North American continent stretches between two
                 oceans and from the northern icecaps to the southern 
                 tropics.  Its land varies from mountains and prairies,
                 to dense marches and arid deserts.  The people of
                 North America are united under a political ideology
                 known as DEMOCRACY, which prime advantage
                 lies in the FREEDOMS given to each individual citizen."


Boyce finished his time consuming and irregular method of reading and
smiled as he looked up at Lloyd.  He waited for a response.

"You did well, Boyce!"

"Tell me, Lloyd ... are we Americans?"

Lloyd quietly pondered the question for a moment then eased back in his
chair and tried to answer his anxious pupil.

"In some ways, yes! Every one of us cherish freedom and would like to
be proud of our land, rather than collect into small individual
districts and territories which are hostile to one another!  Lloyd
finished, feeling that he had adequately answered the boy's question.
He waited for another question, which came quickly.

"I can't understand, how such a strong land could be destroyed?"

"Every living man wanted power.  There was tension and there were wars
and the people lost faith in those who governed them.  Then came the
final war.  Those who were greedy and survived and those who were of
great intellect, took command of the land.  Both called themselves
Kings, Queens and Lords.  Both, to some extent, ruled with fear.  We
still have this, but there are some men that are sore from this dark
heritage.  Men like my father and your father."

"And I, also!"  stated Boyce, his face lighting up with the spark of
freedom that touched his spirit.

"We all learn, my friend,"  said Lloyd.  "you now learn about a once
hectic life and subdued value.  We now have only these memories and
there are some men that would even deny us this."

Boyce shook his head, understanding what Lloyd meant and then followed
the motion of his hand that instructed him to continue reading. This
time he read the leaflets, added by some obscure person:

                '... in the final decades of the Twentieth Century, there
                  came to power, in their world, men of questionable sanity.
                  These men called themselves THE SAVIOURS OF EARTH,
                  believing  that they were sent by God to make Earth
                  into a second  Eden.  Yet, not a
                  single soul was saved.  Millions died,  and many
                  others had perished in the subsequent plagues that
                  spread throughout
                  the entire planet, after the scourging  battles.  The
                  only way for great nations to survive, was to wage  war.
                  The final years saw the greatest of all wars, fought
                  in the ancient Holy Land called, the Middle-East.
                  It was God's will, at the beginning, that the war of
                  the end would be fought at that sacred place.
                  Armageddon heralded the end of mankind.

                                            GIN  --  AUGUST 27, 1986'

The Seer watched the life there, with a teased curiosity, and he
foresaw a postponement to his visit;  so stayed upon the mountain.

What he was seeing, was of deep interest to him.


CHAPTER  SEVEN

During this dark night, the city of Pomperaque was by no means quiet.
Everyone in the city was in a jovial mood, celebrating this day, their
great sovereign's anniversary of marriage.

All the people rejoiced.  They gave their tribute and praise to their
Lord Brook Scullion-Blue and his wife, Dearborne, for their fifteen
years of being together.

Music blared from the hills to the buttes, and far off over the sea to
the islands and down, deep into the distant valleys.

The people sang and danced around, and they ate and drank everything in
sight.  Everyone made friendly times, and they made gentle love
throughout this commemorative evening.

In the city tonight, everyone was enjoying their life.  Almost
everyone, anyway.

Manguino was ill-at-ease over the love shown to Brook by his people,
and there was another that could not climb out of the abyssal pit of
her despair.

Mercedes could not find merriment within herself.

The beauty of this child was withered away from her, since that
fortnight ago, when Manguino blessed her with his favour.

She suffered greatly from her tortured soul and impregnated body.  She
had spent the most part of this evening alone in the gardens, in the
back of the Blue Mansion.  Although she was escorted to the Lord's
house by her betrothed Hartford, she had left him for the comfort of
the sedating gardens.

Alone, she strolled the cobble pathways between the rows of hedge.  She
paced over the tiny wooden bridges that spanned the midget streams
meandering about the entire estate.

The party was picking up inside the mansion and there were a few
betting with each other on whether, or not, the ArchBishop would
attend.  However, they soon forgot their bets as they became more
intoxicated.

Hartford was searching the mansion for his darling Mercedes, unaware
that she was troubled.  He thought that she was just playing with him,
teasing him to find her.

This wasn't the case, though.  She was outside, under the stars,
thinking and praying to God for strength.

Mercedes was no longer walking.  She had sat down on a wide marble
bench outside the glass flower house.

Here, with the moonlight beaming through the leaves of the trees over
head, her face was modelled by the shadows thereof, and there
occasionally glistened shiny tears that slid across her face like
meteorites that flashed by in a starless midnight sky.  She mourned for
her loss.

From a hanging terrace above her head, loomed a figure of a man,
keeping himself in the
phantom shadows, so that he could not be seen and still be able to
watch whatever activity would be below.

He observed the fair young woman below, and wondered who she was.

Lloyd watched her ever since she first entered the garden and since the
first moment, he heard her sobbing and crying, and rubbing her eyes.

He wondered how such a pretty thing could be so miserable, and he felt
ultimately inadequate by not being able to lend her assistance, or at
least, his shoulder for her to cry on.  He didn't know who this young
woman was but he felt as close to her as he's ever felt to anyone.
Somehow he empathized with her even though he didn't know what her
troubles were.

He felt miserable now.

Several times he wanted to call out to her but he knew that if his
presence was discovered there, by some coenobite, it would mean the end
of his life, and it would mean great trouble to his host for harbouring
a sinner.

He thought to climb down the tree, by the terrace, and then approach
her with his help, but his physical condition still prevented him from
such over-exertions.

So he just stood there on the terrace, blending into the shadows, as if
he was one himself, and continued to watch the lovely woman below as
she sat all alone with the melancholy hugging her moonlit face.

Lloyd took a drink from his glass that he was holding.  When it caught
the light of the moon, it twinkled like a diamond set by an open fire.
Mercedes didn't notice the moon reflecting off Lloyd's glass while she
sat on the marble slab.

The night was beginning to take on a chill.  Mercedes' short bursts of
breath were illuminated by the moonlight.  The breaths quickly passed
in and out of her, in strangled gasps.

She whimpered, cutting the delicate music emanating from the house and
cutting a notch into Lloyd's already pained heart.

Lloyd was over-head and yet he wasn't there, and he watched the
beautiful young woman destroy her own spirit.

He wished that he knew her thoughts and yet he couldn't imagine what
they could be.  Little did he know the pain that her heart and soul
were struggling to overcome.  Little was he aware of the agonies that
gnawed away at her, from inside -- put there by the great god of the
land, the ArchBishop.

Mercedes could hardly tolerate it any longer.  She could feel the
absolute Evil, drawing strength right from her spirit.  The Evil grew
stronger as it fed off the will residing in her emotions, and so killed
them.

The Evil killed all the love within her, including the love towards her
beloved and promised husband, Hartford.

She believed that she could not go to him soiled, even if so turned
that way by the Almighty ArchBishop.

Her virginity, raped from her by a god, destroyed her fragile spirit
and maimed her belief in the True God.  Yet, with this belief of her's
weakened, she still tried to pray.

A tiny voice issued from her.

Lloyd's ears perked and his heart beat stronger.  He could hardly hear
her but her voice was like a nightingale, and he forgot the pains from
his own wounds as he concentrated to hear her over the music coming
from the inside the mansion.

It was a prayer from her heart.


Lloyd felt uneasy as he listened and he could smell the stench of Evil
lingering in the night air.

While Mercedes prayed, she heard the ArchBishop's course voice
repeating through her mind, saying to her that he will bless her.  She
knew that she was stained with the kiss of Evil and she prayed to the
True Living God, to forgive her.

Captured in the slashes of lunar light that filtered through the leaves
of the trees above Mercedes, Lloyd thought that he saw a momentary
glint of metal.

Her voice became louder, struggling in hiccoughed gasps.

"Oh help me, God!  Do not turn your eyes away from me, for I must
destroy the demon that was milked into me; and yes, myself, for letting
it be within me!"

She lifted her clenched hands into the air and Lloyd finally saw what
she was holding.  A shaft of light broke the tranquil conformity of
darkness and he knew that it could be nothing else but a dagger.

He stepped into the moonlight and looked don as he heard her hurl out
some more desperate words.

"Oh God, do not anger at the taking of my own life.  Forgive me, Lord,
and accept my spirit!"  she announced.

She plunged the dagger deep into her own chest and pulled it down
through to her belly.  Her twinging body dropped to the ground.  While
in weak convulsions she thrust the dagger to its limit, then lay
motionless.  Lloyd dropped his glass, its breaking sounding like a the
chorus of mourning angels, and he looked upon the scene, in horror and
breathed out a word as his eyes were enveloped in tears.

"NO!"  was all that he said, and he sank down to his knees and clasped
his hands.

Her light and silky gown was dyed in the warm scarlet of her own blood
flowing, steadily, from her heart.

Lloyd prayed.  He could do nothing to save her.  By the time that he
realized her intentions, it was too late.  On the terrace tiles, he
prostrated himself to the great, true and living God.  He prayed for
forgiveness, for not helping her, and then prayed to God to accept the
girl's spirit and forgive her for her act.

Inside the mansion, many guests waited for their sovereign to make the
first toast of the evening, while Lloyd made his own salute to the
girl, whose name he did not know, that he watched die this night.

Lloyd was the first one to mourn for her, and in some strange way, he
believed that God mourned for her after him.

The ballroom was full of people that were having a good time. They were
all laughing and dancing, and making conversation with one another
while standing near the many tables full of food and wine.

Boy was running around, letting guests into the house and serving
others with refreshments.

Hartford still searched aimlessly for Mercedes, and he constantly asked
Boy if he knew where she was.

Boy finally became annoyed and told him to stop asking because he never
saw her, but he did promise to tell Hartford when he did.

After that, Boy went and served two of Brook's most loyal friends with
some stronger spirits.


Miel and Cassta were already quite drunk but they didn't like to admit
to such a thing.  Only if they ever reached the point of utter
unconsciousness did they admit to being 'somewhat intoxicated.'  Now,
however, they were fine.  They were in a happy state and so they made
jokes to each other.

"I do so wish that Brook had more of these gatherings."  said Miel.
"This is quite a party, Cassta!"

Cassta laughed while trying to swallow his drink, so letting some spill
onto his shirt front.

"Yes.  It's almost as interesting as those parties that I host!"  he
said in return.

Miel had a comical expression aimed at him, resembling 'shame on
Cassta', but he couldn't hold it very long because Cassta crossed his
eyes at him.

"You credit yourself too highly, Cassta!  One would begin to think that
you are the Almighty, himself!"  A few people, standing nearby, were
amused by what they heard. A couple of others, however, were offended
to hear the Almighty's name used in vain.  These high-nosed people
hated their comrades' drunkenness, but when they tried to sit, in
chairs that weren't there, they realized that, on such a gay evening as
this, no one could restrain themselves from drinking, at least a little
bit.

"He hasn't shown up yet, Miel.  So, you suppose that he'll come
tonight?"  Cassta asked about the ArchBishop.

"Maybe he will after Brook's toast."  replied Miel.  "But if he
doesn't, you will owe me three gold bits!"

Cassta laughed a little and touched the side of his nose with the back
of his hand.

"He will be here, Miel.  I heard rumours that he will make a speech
suggesting Brook and wife's propagation!"


"Ah -- Brook will never stand for that!"  said Miel.  "They are better
off without children, anyway!  Children are nothing more than a
novelty!"  he laughed and Cassta joined in.

"Novelty?!"  Cassta exclaimed.  "Is that why you have twelve
'novelties' of your own?"

Their laughs were the loudest in the area.  They rocked back and forth
almost falling over themselves.

Miel spoke in reply to Cassta's marking question.

"My WIFE has no self control over herself!"  he said.

While they laughed there was a sudden spontaneity of cheering and
clapping as Brook ascended a flight of stairs with his beautiful
Dearborne, and followed by Boy, carrying a tray with two golden goblets.

Brook stopped and turned towards his citizens and they all bowed and
curtsied to him in respect.  He tipped his head to them in acceptance
of their fealty to him.

He lifted his palms to them and the room murmured into a hush.

"On this night of my love, I want to propose a toast!"  Brook said to
them.

They all bowed to him and spoke together.

"With pleasure, Lord!"  they all said, then quietly waited for him to
begin.

"Tonight we are all equal.  We are human beings; and with this all, I
toast to each of you, the wish of a long life, liberty and happiness!"
He toasted his guests in a manner that wholly reflected his nobility
and the audience hailed him.

"To you, Lord Scullion-Blue!"  they extolled and lifted their glasses
to him before they drank.  As they all drank their toast, a loud voice
called to them from the entrance.

"ALL KNEEL!"

Everyone turned and saw that it was a cardinal, heralding the
ArchBishop's entrance.

The room was gripped in a breathless silence.  The ArchBishop had
indeed come to this formality, clothed in a splendour never before seen.

The majority of the guests did kneel to him.  Only Brook, Empal, Cassta
and Miel (with their families), abstained from the kneeling to the
Almighty.

Manguino was not pleased when he saw this, and he became extremely
angered when Brook spoke to the people, so putting him in a lowly
position.

"Friends! _ Tonight rejoice for us!"  said Brook pointing to Dearborne
and himself.  "There is no need to kneel before anyone on this happy
evening! -- Is this not so ArchBishop?"

Brook itched Manguino's patience and with a slight grin waited for
Manguino to respond.  He looked around the room at the people and heard
Miel and Cassta laughing.  This made him red-in-the-face but eventually
he looked up to Brook then raised his hand, signalling to the people to
rise.

Miel and Cassta were amused and shared some of their views of the
ArchBishop with Empal and Tucker, when they joined the two men.

The Archbishop continued to look at Brook for several moments, while
Brook and Dearborn joined their citizens in their mingling on the floor.

Music started up again and so did Hartford's search for Mercedes.  He
was now becoming exceedingly worried.

They had made plans to address Brook and Dearborne, after the toast,
and ask them to attend their wedding as honoured guests.  Now, however,
Hartford couldn't ask Brook with Mercedes' delicate presence there to
ensure a favourable acceptance.


He searched some more.

Boy had disappeared for a few moments.  He went out into the garden for
some fresh air.  Hartford would soon find out where Mercedes was all
evening.

Nobody paid much attention to Boy when he came back from the outside,
carrying an odd expression of horror and bewilderment.

Miel and Cassta spoke in loud voices, not caring who heard them speak.
Miel was paying Cassta his betted three gold bits; wagered on the
ArchBishop's attendance.

"Our Almighty looks disturbed, Cassta!"

"Yes -- He looks as though his holy sceptre has been plucked!"
ribbed Cassta and so received a laugh from Miel, Empal and Tucker.

"Or else, his is in a place, other than his hand!"  added Empal.

While they laughed to almost exhaustion, a couple women approached them
and they paired.  Now that the wives were back the two men quickly
lapsed into civility.  Gaena put her arms around Tucker's arm and Aria
faced Miel with a light-hearted disapproval showing in her eligant face.

"Aren't we merry, tonight?"  remarked Aria pushing some hair from
Mile's eyes.

"Ah, my darling wife.  Cassta and I made a god-like humour!"  he said
then glanced over at Cassta.  Both began to laugh again and especially
loudly when they looked around and caught Manguino's glare as he
listened.

"Are you two children drunk again?" Aria asked with a smile.

Cassta and Miel looked at one another and both pointed at one another
as they answered.

"He's drunk ... I'm not!"

They carried on some more then Cassta put his arms around Miel and
Aria, mostly to keep himself from falling down, and looking at the
others there, he slurred a question.

"Tell me, friends! -- Have you ever heard the story about the wandering
Vicar?"

While he told his friends the humorous story, Manguino separated with
his small envoy made up of Cardinals Allen and Levy, and the Vicar,
Tohm.

There was an aura of treachery and deceit about them as they distanced
themselves from the rest of the guests.  Manguino turned to the
Cardinal Allen, who seemed very excited.  Like a child, he pranced
around the ArchBishop since their arrival, waiting for the ArchBishop
to give his acceptance to him concerning his honour-paying to the
lovely Dearborne.

"I don't care what you do, Allen!"  the ArchBishop began.  "I do not
care!  However, if you are discovered, I will not do a thing to help
you.  I will not know what you are doing, and I will denounce you as a
demon, if I am thought to be involved!"

There was a momentary silence between them while Allen made account of
all that Manguino said.

"I understand, Your Grace, but do not worry.  I shall move like a snake
and strike just as silently."  promised Allen.

"You behave more like an unsatisfied rabbit, my friend.  Be careful,
and find your own way back to Halls."  Manguino gave Allen his final
instructions just as he saw Dearborne make her way to the Mansion's
upper levels, to where the bed chambers were.

"Thank-you, Most High!"  hailed Allen, then slowly made his way to the
stairs and the upper floor.

Brook stood by the banquet table having a drink and chewing on some
fruit that his dear friend Empal had brought, for the festivities.


Many of the guests went to him to pay their personal respects and
congratulations, on his fifteen years of marriage to Dearborne.

Soon, he stood alone for a while and looked about the entire hall and
saw that the people were enjoying themselves, and he smiled in his
heart seeing Boy running about serving the people with drink.

He'll be a great leader one day, thought Brook.  All great leaders must
serve their people and therefore keep them content and happy.  He
continued to watch the boy for a while them made a silent wish aimed at
Boy.  Take those troubles, my son, and learn how not to inflict them on
your subjects.

From across the room, Miel and Cassta were looking at Brook.  They saw
the man's face expressing deep thought and they assumed that he had his
mind on Dearborne.

"He has a dainty flag to decorate his royal mast, doesn't he?" Cassta
commented.

"Yes, but this flag he runs up at night instead of the morning."  Miel
responded.

They both sighed as they went over to the banquet table to get some
more to drink.

Music was playing loudly and the people danced, waltzing in circles and
walking about in promenade.

Hartford went up to almost everybody on the floor searching for his
beloved Mercedes, but everybody shook their heads in their regret for
not seeing her.

Boy was walking towards Brook as did Hartford.  He asked the Lord Brook
the same question as he had been asking everyone, this evening.

"Excuse me, my Lord.  I wonder if you have seen my Mercedes?"

"Yes."  said Brook.  "She's a lovely girl, and you both look very good
together."

"I am sorry, Lord -- I meant, that I have lost her at the party
tonight.  Do you know where she is?"  Hartford asked again.

"No, I don't, Hartford.  Have you looked in the parlour and checked the
water-closet?"  Brook suggested.

"She's not there!"

Boy came up to both men.  He didn't say a thing but Brook knew that
something was wrong.

They exchanged glances at one another and briefly Hartford became pale,
then forced a smile.

"You've found her?"  he asked.

Boy looked over at Brook then back at Hartford, and nodded.

"She ... she is in the garden."  the boy said, swallowing each word.
"She is dead, Hartford!"

Hartford lost all colour in his face and his pupils dilated to
pin-prick size, then he ran outside to the garden.

"Oh God, NO!"  Hartford had finally found his lovely betrothed, dead.
He embraced her limp body gently into his arms and took the dagger out
of her body, hearing it scrape against her exposed ribs.  He set the
dagger to the side and kissed her cheek and he wept.  Then, as if her
own body cried for Hartford's pains, a tear crept forth from her eye,
mixing with his own tears and flowing towards the arm-length gash in
her chest.

Hartford moaned and rocked back and forth; for with her death came the
death of his world.

Brook was disturbed and directed Boy to prepare a chamber upstairs for
Hartford and Mercedes.

Boy went forth and paid no attention to Lloyd standing up on the
balcony, looking at the crowd.  In his eyes were tears and he too was
pale from his witness.  In his mind swirled whirlwind thoughts of the
demonic masturbation that came out of Halls and touched every living
thing with its Evil impurity.

He could not keep all that he saw, from his mind.

All laughed and were enjoying themselves, while outside was an
innocense was forced into the obscurity of loss.  What had happened to
his own love, in Besten, those few short years ago, had been replayed
before him, this night.  It was a terrible loss brought on by someone's
whims of power and glory.

He heard Boy's voice telling Dearborne about the problem that happened
and that Brook ordered a chamber be prepared.  Dearborne was heard
making her excuses to a couple women that she was talking to in her own
bed chamber and went into another room with Boy.

When out in the hall, Lloyd bowed his head solemnly to the lady and she
returned with a nod.  From his expression, the Lady Dearborne was sure
that he knew something about the problem that Boy mentioned.

She finally found out what the problem was when she was preparing the
one room with Boy.  She was saddened by what Boy told her he had found
in the garden and she imagined how Hartford felt.  Yet, Dearborne
herself could not cry for Mercedes. In her lifetime she had seen too
many deaths, most of which were associated with Halls, in one way or
another.  This must be another death caused by someone at Halls, she
believed.

Downstairs, Hartford carried Mercedes into the ballroom and Brook
immediately threw his cape around her.  He didn't want anyone to know
about her death this evening and so tried to hide the wounds.


Hartford's eyes were glazed-over and Brook knew that Hartford wasn't
aware of his surroundings any more, so Brook guided him up the stairs
and to the room.

Brook gave his leave to his guests and bade them to continue with their
merriment, and most of them did.

Miel and Cassta felt uneasy.  Although they were in a twilight
drunkenness, they knew that something was wrong.

Manguino made his way over to the stairs, smiled to himself and shook
his head in a slight displeasure.  He knelt down and with his finger
dabbed a little red circle of blood that he was certain was the girl's.

"Oh, you naive girl."  he said to himself.

Cassta noticed Manguino's actions and pointed them out to Miel.  It
didn't take much effort to figure out that the great ArchBishop was
associated with the trouble that they saw.

They decided that they would check on their Lord a little later, to see
if they could help with anything.

The discontented guests soon began to feel uneasy and many of them left
the mansion, until there were just a few Prominants left there,
finishing off the rest of the food and drink from the tables as if they
were beggars at a God-sent feast.

The music began to die down and soon the great ArchBishop also left
with Cardinal Levy and the Vicar Tohm, knowing that he didn't have to
add his own planned attack on Brook.

Upstairs, Hartford had gently set Mercedes down on the bed and stared
at her.  Brook, Dearborne and Boy looked on as Hartford continued to
weep, in convulsive sobs.

"She is dead!  She has taken her own life, but why?"  Hartford was
asking while Lloyd stood outside the chamber door listening.

Unseen, Lloyd crept into the room and sat in the window behind the
curtains.

Hartford continued his lament for Mercedes.

"Why?"  he asked.  "Did I displease her?  Did she not love me any more?
-- Oh, God!  I cannot understand!?"

Brook put his hand on Hartford's shoulder hoping to console him to some
degree.

"Listen to me, Hartford!  Her death is not your fault."  said Brook.
"I am told that her love for you was greater than anything in the whole
world.  Something else made her ... Hartford believed Brook, and so did
Lloyd as he watched the moon rise from behind Canon's Butte,
silhouetting the Halls Cathedral as if it an ancient mausoleum.

Cassta and Miel entered the chamber silently.  The misfortune of the
past few minutes had a sobering effect on them and they were silent, no
longer laughing and no longer making fun of trifles for their
amusements.

Hartford's mumbling scared everyone in the room and the two men didn't
know how to react.  They just stood there quietly, their mouths agape
and their expressions showing a dumbfoundedness.

"My only love.  She's gone and I cannot breathe!"  Hartford gurgled
with irrationality. Mercedes' death finally began to work on his head.
"My wife to be, will not be, she isn't -- is she?  There is nothing.  I
am nothing.  Is all nothing?"

Dearborne looked at Brook with frightful worry and she took his arm.

"He's delirious!"  she said.  Brook saw Miel and Cassta enter the room
earlier and now motioned to them to approach.  Without hesitation, they
drew near.

"My friends, take Hartford down to the parlour and let him rest!"
Brook requested and his two most loyal subjects obeyed him.

They took Hartford, one under each arm, and carried him down to the
parlour, Boy leading the way.

It was obvious that Hartford wasn't aware of what was happening to
him.  His face was pallid and his eyes were glazed-over.  He was no
longer existing on a mutual level with anyone in this world.  Within
his grief-afflicted mind and mutilated soul, he searched for that
which he had lost.

Brook and Dearborne were alone for a moment, so to speak, since they
were not aware of Lloyd's presence, while he quietly sat in the window.

"It is so quiet, Brook. The guests have gone!"

"Yes." confirmed Brook.  "The flavour of this celebration had become
very bitter!"

How true, thought Lloyd as he looked at Halls in the distance, knowing
from experience that the cause of this night's misfortune, originated
there.

"I'm sorry for tonight, my love!"  said Brook.

Dearborne's moistt eyes calmed his heaving spirit.  She did not blame
him for this evening's tragedy and she knew that his apology was really
intended as pity for the loss of such a precious and innocent soul as
Mercedes was.

With this, Brook turned and went out of the room.

Lloyd's heart ached with the burden of his witness.  He saw Mercedes,
inside his mind, thrusting the dagger into her heart, over and over
again, and the visions of this mingled with his memory of witnessing
his own betrothed Charnan, at her death.  This evening devastated him.
Mercedes reminded him so much of his beloved Charnan.  She had the same
golden hair and smooth, fair skin.  Her beauty was only surpassed by
her innocense.


Lloyd's mind travelled while comparing the two women and his two most
painful experiences.

Through a small tare in the curtain, Lloyd saw Dearborne lift her head
from a prayer that she had made for the body and spirit of the departed
Mercedes.

She was starting to turn and leave when she sat heavily into a chair by
the bed and started to cry.

Lloyd was ready to reveal himself to her, to talk and console her, but
he couldn't show to her his own weakness.  He cried, too.

Brook was down in the parlour with Miel, Cassta and Hartford.  The
three men stood apart from Hartford.  He was put on the couch, reclined
and withdrawn, and he appeared to be as inanimate as the furniture.

Hartford, the young man with so many years ahead of him, was no longer
alive, in the normal sense of the word.  He did breath and occasionally
twitched, and tears periodically migrated in a clean path down his
face.  Yet, this unfortunate young man lacked the spirit of life found
residing in every human.

The men held back their tears, looking-on at Hartford with pity and
remorse.

"At this time we cannot lose our wits,"  Brook told Miel and Cassta.
"for there are only two people in all of Phoride that could be
responsible for this."  he glared at the men with cold, angry eyes.
"They shall pay for it!"

The other two men tried to swallow the lumps that blocked their throats
and when Cassta spoke, his voice burbled.

"I must prevent my beloved ..."  he cleared his throat and continued.

"I must keep her from taking her own life.  She is dainty and
beautiful.  We are pledged to marry."

"We must protect our women from our own clergy  -- that's shameful!"
Miel added.

"I will not let my Ledo die like Mercedes, and God knows how many
others.  I will honourably join her tomorrow!"

"You are correct, Cassta.  Something must be done to suppress
Manguino's evil ways."  said Brook.

Miel added his own thoughts and sentiments about the ArchBishop's
immoral methodology.

"He has gone too far, this time.  Unlike the other suicides, this one
wasn't isolated.  This time, a girl's death affected several scores of
people."

Cassta clutched Brook's upper arm.

"Lord, would you oversee my wedding tomorrow?"  Cassta asked him and he
nodded, accepting.

Brook turned on to his concern for Hartford.  He moved to Hartford and
covered him with a long cloak that was over one of the chairs.

"I think that we should leave him to rest now!"  Brook suggested and
Miel questioned in worry.

"Should someone stay with him, Brook?"

Cassta volunteered to watch Hartford, wanting to help in whatever means
he could but Brook was aware that there was nothing that any one of
them could do for him.  He appreciated his two friends' concern for the
remnant that Hartford had become, but he didn't want them to stay
needlessly, and having the situation under control, he excused them.


"Miel, your wife probably waits for you.  You should go."

"Yes, my Lord!" nodded Miel.  "You will call me if I am needed?"  Miel
asked and Brook affirmed.

"You too should leave, my friend."  Brook said to Cassta.  "I realize
that it is late, but I suggest that you go speak to Ledo.  Give to her
father my responsibility."

"I will leave you, then.  Thank-you, Brook!"

Both men left as Boy walked into the parlour.

"Lord?"  he hailed Brook.  "The guests and musicians are gone now!"

"Alright, Boy.  I will be in my den, for a time.  Keep watch on
Hartford and call me if anything changes!."  Boy sat in a chair
opposite Hartford and he didn't take his eyes from him.

Dearborne was still in the same bed chamber with Mercedes' body.

Lloyd still hadn't calmed enough to talk to her.  He continued to sit
in the window and listened to her lovely voice singing a sad little
tune.

Lloyd wasn't the only one listening to her sing.  Outside the door
lurked the Cardinal Allen.

He had seen Brook repair to his den and Allen knew that he would not
re-emerge for some time.  He thought that he had enough time available
to himself to receive his total fulfilment from Dearborne.

He listened to her sing as he moved closer to the door and finally he
entered the room in silence.

        "The days pass by... Our lives are brief... To death we all 
         do cry,
         We live in grief... Through all the days -- "

Dearborne sang but her words were shattered by the splintered voice of
the Cardinal Allen, finishing-off the verse.

        "For we all know... We'll one day die!"

Startled, Dearborne swung around and stood facing him.

Lloyd was startled also and he peered through the tare in the curtain
again.  There stood the man who almost had him executed a fortnight
passed; the same man that had made the fair Dearborne to feel dirty.

"Why haven't you left yet?"  she demanded of him, and he just smiled.

"It's a pity, is not -- I mean, the girl's death."  he began.  "You
know, fair Dearborne, the ArchBishop has very good eyes for beauty but
he does not understand the mind of women.  He pushed too much.  He
should influence, not frighten."  he kept smiling as he moved a step
closer to her.  "He has only one child to my thirteen, and that child
is a cripple, in its mind."

Dearborne had finally taken hold of herself and spoke out at Allen.
"Get out, you wretched weasel!"  she shouted but this inspired Allen to
move closer yet.

"You will be wholly happy to mother my fourteenth."

"I should say not."

"Oh, my dear, you will submit!"  Allen's voice sounded of excited
promise.  "Since you have neglected to bare children to your line with
Brook, I (or any other of the Almighty), has the right to have you bare
a child from him.  This right I claim and demand from you, and by the
law, even you cannot refuse."  he took another stride to Dearborne and
behind her she took hold of an empty vase.

"I am above the law, now leave or I shall call my husband!"  she was
terrified.

"Really?  When Brook goes into his room, he can hear no one.  So he
finds out about this 3/4denial will be made, and without proof, you
will not be believed."  He made a final advance on her and took her
into his arms.

She struggled them slammed him in the face with the vase.  Yet, nothing
happened.  What's more, it seemed to have inspired him all the more.

He reached out for the part in her blouse, tore it then began to knead
her exposed breasts.

Lloyd flew from the window when he saw that the vase did Allen no harm,
and now forcibly threw him off from Dearborne.  He stood in front of
her and watched Allen pick himself up off the floor, several yards away.

The expression on Allen's face was dismay and fear.  For a moment he
thought that Brook had returned, but now he saw who it was.

"It's you.  How can this be?"  demanded Allen.

Lloyd gave him a heated glare.  "My maker didn't want me, at that
moment.  And if you do not leave, he may want you, now!"

"Move away."  commanded Allen.  "This is not your affair!"

"And it shall not be yours!"

At this, the Cardinal Allen rushed Lloyd.  Lloyd with all his force
summoned, fisted Allen in the forehead.  The crazed Allen still
attacked as if he didn't feel any ill effects from being solidly
squared in the head.  On his second rush, he caught Lloyd in the ribs
with his head.  

Lloyd lurched forward, in pain, as he got Allen in the throat when he
wrapped his arms about his neck.  He spun around and heaved towards
the floor, unto his knees.  Allen didn't move any more, his neck
snapping into a splintered mush.

Lloyd slowly rose, holding his injured side, and he walked away from
the body without hardly a care for what he had done.  "Are you injured,
my Lady?"  he asked, while he took off his vest and gave it to her to
cover herself.

"Yes!  You helped me just in time, thank-you!"

"I should have been there sooner.  I was sitting in the window since
the girl's body was brought in here.  I'm sorry but I just couldn't
move sooner to help you!

Dearborne looked away from him.  She focused upon Allen's lifeless body
with a feeling of absolute relief.

Lloyd spoke some more, trying to give explanation for his lateness.

"I had seen her take her own life, my Lady!"  he pointed to Mercedes'
body and tried to keep his tears from her.  She listened and slowly
returned to looking at Lloyd.

"She was sitting on the bench, beneath my terrace.  The moon was out
and when I finally realised what she had in her hands, she had killed
herself.  I couldn't save her."

Dearborne put her head against his arm revealing to him that she
understood how he felt, but she didn't really until he told her that
story about his own love, Charnan, who died the same way.

In the morning, Brook was told about what had happened and he some
Totemen from the Phoridene Council, take the Cardinal Allen's body back
to Halls.  With the body, Brook included a letter to Manguino demanding
that he keeps the death issue in its place and not to make any trouble
by it.  He reminded Manguino of the promise that he made to him
concerning Allen.

Brook had admitted himself to be Allen's executioner.

In the Blue Mansion, Lloyd and Boy were told to prepare for their
journey to the north.

Brook felt that there was no time to lose.  He had a feeling of
impending doom, and not only that, he wanted to be safe.


On Mount Benitar, the wise man also knew that something would happen.
He saw all the signs.   Soon, he thought -- soon it would be time for
him to go down to Pomperaque, again.


CHAPTER  EIGHT

The events that had occurred over the passed few days affected almost
everyone in Pomperaque and other parts of Phoride.

In Gothal, the Holy City, the nuns at the Abbey of Our Holy Saint
Mariot, performed a funeral service for Mercedes and most everyone from
Pomperaque, and Gothal itself, turned out to pay their respects.

The day before the funeral, Cassta and Ledo were married in Gothal by
the Abbey Mother and Brook presided over it.  The ceremony was
performed in secret, in the name of the True Living God, and just a
small number of friends attended.  Miel was there with Aria. Empal was
there with his family, and the greatest of Pomperaque's Prominants,
Brook and Dearborne, were there.

Everyone was happy at the wedding and somber at the funeral, as it was
normal to be.

There was anger in the eyes of some of the coenobites when they found
out that Ledo had married Cassta.  They could now do nothing to her.
She was indeed above their rights of having her bare a Holy Child.
Cassta saved his darling Ledo, just in time.

To most, however, the saving of a life or a soul meant little when
compared to the loss of one such innocence as Mercedes.  All that there
was to benefit from salvation was the relief that it brought to the
saved, and those close to them.  Relief, by itself, had no real value.

Good and Evil each made their own laments.

While mourners and wailers cried for the death of an innocent young
woman, so did the monks at Halls, cry and mourn for the brutal death of
their best and most respected Cardinal Allen.

As it was; a customary show of respect to a dearly-departed coenobite,
a pure woman was chosen to be entombed with the body.  This chosen
woman willingly accepted requests made to her to share her eternity
with the dead cleric, and carried with her the love and honour of each
individual member at Halls.  The love and respect was given to her,
through physical sex, by each monk, before she was taken to the tomb
with the deceased brother.  While the corpse lay in state, there was a
room set aside, adjacent the big hall in the chapel. The chosen women
lay unclad in soft beds and each was fornicated with by each individual
at Halls; from the lowest novice to the ArchBishop himself.

Prior to the monks looking upon the body of their dead brother, they
entered the room and gave their all to the woman.  During the
copulation, the men repeatedly chanted:  "Take this to our friend; a
sign that we love him!"

At the end of the day, when all the men had gone through with their
ritual respect, they took the limp, unconscious woman and set her on
top of Allen's dead body.  Both were then carried to the grotto, in the
cliffs at the ocean's edge, and were sealed inside, forever.  From the
moment of the bodies' entombment,  all those that were in Halls
Cathedral abstained from any and all normal human functioning for three
days.  During this three day period -- a further show of respect for
their dead -- no one ate or had sexual intercourse and during this time
they kept themselves from sleep, and prayed for the Cardinal's soul.

From the Cathedral spires the Rogjans called out to the countryside
some cantorial chants, announcing and honouring, and strangely, even
canonizing the Cardinal Allen.

On the evening of the third day, all those residing at Halls made
preparations for a day of feasting, and at sunrise the feeding began.
To enjoy this day to the fullest, the coenobites brought to Halls a
caravan of women from Iÿnondan and they caught up from their three day
celibacy.

Everyone was fulfilled, promising their living spirits to Allen's
resurrection as they reflected on his well-rounded life.

After their observations of praise, Manguino and Tohm repaired to the
office to speak of their friend.  Of all the brothers at Halls, they
two knew him best and regarded him most highly.

"How he will be missed by all!"  Tohm told Manguino.  "Most everything
that I know, he showed me.

"Even the few, and greatest, amongst us falter.  He made a mistake and
so paid for it."  Manguino explained to Tohm that Allen's obsession to
inseminate Dearborne overtook him.  The manner of his death, however,
greatly puzzled him.

"I would like to know how such a dainty woman as she could break the
neck of a man as physically powerful as Allen?"  questioned Manguino.
"I don't believe that Brook had killed him."


"That is something we all ask, Your Grace.  We must bring them both to
justice, regardless of guilt!"  Tohm was speaking like his teacher.  He
didn't care, now.  He just wanted Allen's death avenged.

"I agree, but it's said that Allen was caught forcing her and Brook
himself admitted to the killing our friend.  Yet, I know that he's
lying."

"Would you like to know my thoughts?"  Tohm asked Manguino.  "I believe
it was that northern man, that had disappeared, who was the man that
killed Allen.  What perfect place to hide from us -- at the Blue
Mansion!"

The Archbishop's eyes glared for a moment but refused this idea.  He
speculated that the dissident was long gone from Pomperaque by that
time.

Tohm, however, carried on until he began to convince Manguino of his
idea.

"We must bring the Lady Dearborne to trial then, if only trying her on
the basis of her refusal, as your subject, to bare his Holy Child.  We
can try Brook on harbouring a dissident and charge him with heresy."

It didn't matter to Tohm about the deaths of more people.  As far as he
was concerned the whole of Phoride could be sacrificed to avenge
Allen's murder.

Manguino wanted no more bloodshed.  He couldn't trust Brook either, and
he had to decide.  Brook's show of power, as of late, had made him seem
greater and more beloved, by the people.  Then there was the letter
that he sent with Allen's body.

                        Manguino

                        My promise fulfilled, Brother.
                        Recompense shall not be tolerated.
                        Let it pass for the good of your
                        own condition!

                                       Sovereign Lord B. S-B.

He, as ArchBishop, wanted to fold, and pass on this retaliation, yet,
just couldn't convince Tohm of that desire.

His views to go ahead, seemed more sound and he was urged by Tohm, like
he was urged by Allen so many times before.

"She is Lady Dearborne Scullion, Tohm; Brook's wife -- you do
understand?  You did hear me tell Allen that night, I am not
responsible for him -- even though I did wish him success."

Tohm's impatience poured out of his soul.  He sighed heavily cutting
into Manguino's line of thought, and in leathery breaths, filled the
office with his hostility.

"We cannot hold back, Your Grace.  We must act, now!  We must take this
scourge of the earth, this Brook Scullion, by total surprise.  We have
to make the Phoridenes to believe that Brook and his wife are Evil, and
that they should be punished under the Canon Laws, for their crimes."

Manguino nervously paced around as he listened to Tohm's inspiring
confidence and need for justice.  This was building excitement within
his heart.

"He is not a clean man, my great one.  Let us storm his house and find
the proofs of his blasphemies and sacrilegious practices.  Let them
receive their judgement from you!"

The ArchBishop shook with excitement.  His whole body trembled, the
layers of fat migrating all over.


He sat at his desk and glared with passion right into Tohm's eyes.

"Yes, yes! We could do it, no matter how great our Lord Brook is.  We
must plan, Tohm.  We have much work to do!"

The ArchBishop was finally sparked.  He absorbed Tohm's passion and
ferocity, and what's more, he no longer feared his brother.

Tohm continued.

"Our Almighty can be swayed to see his practicality.  It is grand to
have a god in your confidence."  Tohm sank to his knees and prostrated
himself before Manguino.  "Let us go, my Almighty!  Let them feel your
wrath!"

Manguino stood up from his chair and with fire burning in his eyes, he
slammed his fists on his desk.

"Yes -- they shall feel my wrath!"

He turned.  Facing Tohm, Manguino then lifted the front of his robes.

Tohm looked up at Manguino and smiled then his head disappeared under
Manguino's robes.


CHAPTER  NINE

Over a week had passed since the feast-day at Halls, and once more the
city of Pomperaque seemed to have returned to normal.  There was,
however, a feeling of apprehension that loomed over the city, though,
but no one really gave it much thought.

Pomperaque was relatively quiet.  The markets and bazaars weren't as
lively and there seemed to be some kind of event, at Halls.

As far as most people were concerned, there wasn't anything obviously
wrong.

No one noticed the reek of conspiracy rising from the depths of hell to
fill the masses with a weakness that soon took them over.

The nature of the day sapped the power of spirit from everyone, and
they all were vulnerable and passive like sheep.

Brook and those in his household had behaved oddly this day.
They were loose with their thoughts and spoke out without cares or
fears for anything or anyone.  Their hearts felt light and Brook had
felt at ease and he believed that since Manguino had not avenged
Allen's death by now, he had indeed followed Brook's order to 'let it
pass'.

All day Brook was in his viewing den with his wife, Lloyd and Boy,
going over a map of the Northern Continent, showing his guest and Boy
the route that they would take to the great library at Alugean, near
the port of Angaent.

They were close to each other -- now more than ever -- because Brook
had revealed to Boy and Dearborne that he had known for a long time,
that Boy was really his son.  He had made Dearborne and Boy very happy,
and they felt relieved that Brook had accepted it, in secret, for so
many years.

In the den, Dearborne stood apart from the man.  She stood at the
cabinets and pushed buttons on Brook's panel, when he gave her the
word; and then the men stood at the screen tracing out the route on
different maps.  Each map was a more detailed version of the sections
showing that way to the mountain.

Brook had made plans with Empal to fly Lloyd and Boy to Virune, on his
Kenttitian Eagle, during some night when they wouldn't be seen.  That
night was soon approaching them and they still had some things to learn.

Nearing the late afternoon, Brook showed to his son and to Lloyd a
passage-way that ran underground in two directions, built by Carter
Blue as a precaution against a personal attack.  These passage-ways
were still in good condition, leading north to the Joenine Forest and
just south to the inlet which leads to the ocean.

Both routes were safe and quick, but Lloyd and Boyce  would take the
northern route to a clearing where Empal would be waiting with his
eagle.


The passage-way ran under the Blue Mansion from Brook's den and the
viewing wall was the hidden door that gave access to them.

Brook demonstrated to them the working of the door and showed to them
the bracing that they would use to buttress the door; in the case of a
sudden attack and an insured escape would be necessary.  Lloyd shrugged
off these things feeling them to unnecessary to his knowledge, but Boy
absorbed every word that Brook said, as if those very words were his
life-giving air.

Brook finalized what he thought to be the most important things for him
to convey.

"Boyce ... my son.  Learn whatever you can at the Alugean Library.
Know the truths about the past then return to Phoride.  You will
inherit this land from me, and you will become a great man."  Boyce
listened with intensity to his father because he knew that he was
communing with a great mind.  Boyce nodded to him with silent promise.

"Rule with kindness and love, but don't allow men of evil, men like
your uncle, the ArchBishop, to tread over you and grind you into the
earth."  Brook breathed for a moment then briefly looked away from
Boyce.  "I have been too kind and have allowed too much to pass into
being.  Now, it's difficult to fight the evil."

"I promise you, that I will follow your words, father!"  promised
Boyce, and Lloyd gave his word to Brook, as well.

"I shall watch over him, Lord.  I will guide him to do what is right in
accordance to the oldest book's ten laws, and my people shall help us!"

Brook forced a grin and slowly nodded.

"Good!"

He motioned to Dearborne and told her to activate, on the panel, the
playback for pictures of Alugean.

"I must make certain that you know the entrance to the inside of the
mountain.  Watch and remember, since this will be the final time I will
show you."

The pictures flashed on the screen, showing recognizable landmarks that
are in the vicinity of the entrance and finally there came the picture
of the entrance itself.  It wasn't very large and was almost hidden,
and there was one small panel such as that which Brook's gadgets have,
and from that panel, entry would be gained into the library.

"Remember,"  Brook told Lloyd and Boyce.  "the numbers that must be
pressed are these:  Seven, Two, One, Nine -- count to five and then
press One, again -- the vault door will open.  Inside there is enough
food and water, that you will not have to worry about running out for
your duration of stay.  There are enough supplies there for both of you
to live on for twenty years, and more."

"We will stay there fifty, if need be!"  Boyce promised.

"You will try to unite the lands in the north, with Besten?"

Lloyd nodded affirmatively, answering Brook's question.

"They will all help me, I trust, when the time comes.  They understand
my intentions."

Far in the distance there was a riotous sound.  It came from the street
and Dearborne rushed to the window and peered out to see what was the
cause of it.

"Brook!"  she suddenly screamed out Brook's name, but could hardly say
anything else.  Brook went quickly to the window, and Boyce and Lloyd
went with him.

When they saw what was making its way down the street, all that was
heard was a deathly silence in the room, being filled in its place by
the sounds of impending violence.

"My God!"  Brook said, his voice shattering with devastating uneasiness
and fear.


Boyce looked, too.  His heart jumped within his body as he looked at
the frightful expression on the adults' faces.

They all watched the ArchBishop and a dozen monastic guards and clergy
march up towards the mansion and disappear as they reached the main
door beneath them.

"I can't believe that Manguino is here."   Brook started.  "Yet... I am
not surprised.  I understand my dear brother."

Dearborne took Brook's arm.

"What will we do, Brook?"  she pleaded with him.

He looked at her and the other two men.

"Lloyd and Boyce must leave right now, and you must leave with them."
Brook said to Dearborne and made his way to the viewing wall.  He
tugged at one of the drape-cords and the wall swung open to a space
that was just large enough for the book case where he removed the big
book from its hiding place.  He beckoned Lloyd and the others.  Lloyd
and Boyce quickly went to him but Dearborne moved from the window to
the room doors and locked them.

Pounding sounds could be heard echoing throughout the mansion, followed
by the blaring twangs of the electrophoric guns.

Three successive bangs were heard as the wood and stone main doors
cracked and buckled under the strain.

"They're inside."  Brook said, with acceptance.  "Dearborne, come!"

He handed the book to Lloyd and looked between him and Boyce.

"Care for this book, and use it to teach those in your land.  They will
not doubt its truth."

"I will."  vowed Lloyd.


"May God watch over you!"  Brook blessed his son and Lloyd then
stretched his hand to Dearborne to approach him and take it.  She did.

"I will miss you, my love."  he said to her and kissed her.

"I will not leave you, Brook.  Boyce must survive for us and there is
Lloyd to watch over him.  We ... we are no longer important."  She
embraced Brook and met Lloyd's eyes when doing so.  She slowly lowered
her eyelids as to say to him that she is staying.  He pursed his lips
and nodded to her.

Brook, still embracing Dearborne turned to Lloyd and gave him a
desperate and hopeless little grin.

"You two will leave now.  My Dearborne will stay by my side.  Go now,
the devil will arrive soon."

Just as Brook finished his thoughts to Lloyd, there was a tinny and
hoarse voice come from behind the door.

"Break it in!" it commanded.  It was Manguino.

"Quickly, leave!"  Brook said to Lloyd, leaving Dearborne and pushing
Lloyd and Boyce through the ajar passage door.

"Father ... !"  Boyce began but Brook stopped him.

"You must go, my son.  There's nothing that you can do!"

They stared at one another, and without further words, with an
understood good-bye, they finally left.

Brook patted Lloyd on the back and instructed him to blockade the
passage door with the buttress. He did so.

There was a blasting twang and the door splintered apart.

Brook quickly turned towards his gadgets and frantically started to
press buttons, turn knobs and adjust levers.

The ArchBishop entered with his men and Brook took Dearborne behind him.

Three of Manguino's Angels grabbed Brook's arms and they put one of the
shiny metal armaments under his chin, and another clasped Dearborne
around her entire body pinning her arms to her sides so she wouldn't
move them.

Manguino grinned at Brook and gave Dearborne a quick look-over.

"Hello, Brother!"  he said.

"You bastard!" Brook spitted-out at him, in return.

"In error as always, Brook.  I am the true son!"

Manguino motioned his hand to the vicar Tohm and Tohm thrust his fist
into Brook's stomach.

Brook struggled for a moment until Tohm proceeded to bravely punch him,
all-the-while the Angels holding him.  Brook then slumped over in
unconsciousness.  Dearborne had turned her head away, through it all
and then saw that he was limp on the floor.

" _ And you my darling sister!"  Manguino said as he neared her.  "The
small, barren field will finally be ploughed and seeded."

The ArchBishop ripped her blouse from her body, her breasts were
exposed to the air, and each man standing there saw their rosy purity.

She began to scream out and she tried to wrench herself free from the
guards who hugged her arms to her sides.

Manguino grabbed each breast with his hands, clutching them until she
hollered and cried in the utmost pain.  She kicked out but she couldn't
hit anyone and Manguino let go of her.  From her pale nipples issued
whitish droplets, mingled with blood, which slowly ran down her ribs.

Manguino ordered two of his Angels to force her to the floor, and they
each held her legs down while the first Angel continued to hug her arms
to her sides.

The great ArchBishop smiled at her.

You may even like it, Lady Scullion!"

He got on his knees then bent over.  He licked the white and bloodied
droplets from each of her breasts and smiled at her when he finished.

He pulled the dress from around her hips, taring her undergarments, all
in one quick motion.

"Very pretty!"  he said to her, and she heaved with her body to get
loose but to no avail.

"Ah, spirited!"  was the last thing that he said to her as he lifted
his habit and moved closer.

Brook opened his yes and tried to get up to help his beloved wife, but
Tohm kicked his head back to the floor and Brook saw Manguino invade
Dearborne in the moments before his lost consciousness.

During the ArchBishop's blessing, Brook's gadgets whirred and clicked,
but little regard was payed to the commotion.

Dearborne trembled under her humiliation and was spared the finish when
she, also, lost consciousness.

Self-satisfied and drenched with sweat,and stained with his own orgasm,
 Manguino looked up and smiled.  Only then did he realise that the
great mechanical thing in front of him was aflame and smoking.  He
shook his head when he finally noticed.

"You have been an annoyance, my dearest brother!"


On the mount, the Seer cried.

There was nothing that he could do to prevent what was to be, but now
it was his time to descend to Pomperaque. He stood on the highest
overhanging cliff, spread his arms to the mild evening sky and threw
himself off.

"With the i-cam-raff I come -- by the will of God!"

As he fell towards the city, he transformed into a beautiful and large
swallow, and gently glided down to Pomperaque's towns-square.


CHAPTER  TEN

On the following day, word had gone to all the citizens of Phoride,
calling them to the town's square to observe the execution of a high
official, set for sundown.  The high official's name was not given.

Most of the men and their male children had obeyed, what was a command
to attend.  Knowing well, who the unnamed official was to be executed,
all but a few of the Prominants had left their wives at home.

That was a direct symbol of their disobedience towards the ArchBishop.

Manguino had not regarded the petition sent to him asking for a pardon,
for Brook, based on the Canon's Law and its declared punishment.

No one believed the allegations towards Brook and his wife, but they
could do nothing to help him. There were many monastic guards watching
the whole city and they had made it very difficult for any large groups
of men to meet and talk.


At sundown, large numbers gathered in the square and waited.

They all looked at the two spreader-arches set on a platform, about a
meter high, to one side of a large podium and the entire square took on
the appearance of a theatre stage.

There was an uneasy silence there.  With all the men and boys crowded
together, the silence had an almost unnatural aura to it.  Nothing was
said.

Soon, several messeigneurs and cardinals came out of nowhere with the
ArchBishop.  Three walked on each side of him, as if guarding him from
approach, and each man carried a club with spikes protruding from them,
and Manguino carried a scroll of parchment enveloped by a black lash.

Everyone in the crowd watched as the ArchBishop approached the podium
and the others swung their clubs from side to side.

Lloyd and Boyce watched the event also.  They hid themselves in the
shadows of an alley and were able to see the entire square without
revealing their presence.

Manguino was apparelled in a festive garb as were his men, and when
they reached the podium, they helped him up the steps to it.

He grinned and spoke.

"People of Phoride! -- We are all gathered together this day to rid the
earth of two blasphemers who think themselves above the law."  he
shrieked to them.

Boyce was becoming anxious.  He wanted to leave but he knew that he
couldn't.  What's more, Lloyd forced him to stay.  He knew that it was
cruel to make a child witness his parents' execution but Lloyd hoped
that Boyce would understand why Brook allowed it all to happen.

"He's the one that should be killed."  Boyce said to Lloyd, trying to
keep his tears from showing.  They listened to Manguino carry on.


"The Almighty cannot allow any insubordination towards himself and the
institution that he created for you all.  These two will be made an
example of.  You all will see to what an end disobedience results!"

He slid the black lash off from the scroll and unfurled it.

"Bring the demons!"  ordered Manguino.

Several of his men walked over to the platform and slid a door open and
dragged Brook and Dearborne from it, and pulled them to the foot of the
podium.  When before Manguino they forced Brook and Dearborne to their
knees but they stood up immediately.  They would not kneel and after
several times of their being forced to kneel, and their rejection to
comply, they were permitted to stand.

Manguino glared at them and gave them an Evil little grin.  He
proceeded to read the scroll to the public.

"The former-ruling Lord of Phoride, Brook Scullion-Blue, and his wife,
the Lady Dearborne Scullion-Blue, have been found guilty of possession
of ancient, sacrilegious manuscripts, and of pictures of Hell."  he
paused for a moment then proceeded.  "In refusing blessing from men of
the Almighty, and the performing of sorcery, leading to the subsequent
death of the High-Cardinal Allen -- they are now charged with
practising their subversions against the Canon Laws and the citizenry
of Phoride."

The people were quiet and most had tears in their eyes, and they all
knew that everything that was said about their Lord Sovereign was not
true.  Yet, they could do nothing for the square was too well-guarded.

Brook gave a longing look to Dearborne.  Both knew what was upon them
and they both

knew that they could not change what was happening to them.

They felt dead, already.  They were both beaten very badly.  They were
scarred and bruised and Dearborne's body was violated by each and every
coenobite, hurting her to the point where she could hardly walk, or
even stand.

Their faces were pale and drawn with blackish-blue rings circling their
protruding eyes.  Both were dressed in torn and dirty course-woven
sackcloth.

Both were made to smell bad, having excrement, from Halls, thrown over
them and large insects,  and vermin of every kind, crawled all over
them.

But now, after nearly twenty-four hours of severe torture, they could
no longer scream out in horror of their state of being.

"They pleaded innocent to all their charges.  In lack of their
confession to these charges, they are found to be guilty and I now
pronounce my sentence upon them!"  Manguino tried to keep from smiling
to himself, his ego inflated with pride at the idea of judging his
respected brother.

Miel and Cassta were in the crowd.  They looked-on and tried to see
some way to help them but there was absolutely no way to do so.  Too
many guards were positioned in all the key places and no one could
enter or leave the square now.

"May God help them!"  Cassta exclaimed and Miel pulled on his shirt to
quiet him.

"Before I pronounce sentence, you may speak!"  Manguino told Brook.

Brook looked up at him with huge blood-shot eyes, then turned to the
people.  He lifted his bound hands into the air as a gesture of plea.

"I do not accept the kneeling of one man to another, since no man is so
deserving."  he cried out to the people, and circling above the square
was a large swallow that was loudly singing.  He

kneeled before Dearborne as he still spoke to the people in his loudest
possible voice.  "But I do kneel before this dear woman because her
love had made her brave and she accepted my woes onto herself."  he
cried out and there was a gasp from those in the audience.

He stood again and took a few steps forward.

"Stay true, my friends of Phoride.  I now die but my lineage is not
following me in death."

There was a murmur in the audience and Manguino became nervous and
started to look worried.

The swallow that circled overhead was now on the ground behind the
people; and Boyce watched with Lloyd, as it turned into a man, dressed
in robes of chamois material.  They watched him move into the crowd.

"Yes, my brother, Manguino.  If you truly were a god, you would know
that there is, indeed, a progeny between my wife and I.  We have kept
him from all the eyes of Pomperaque and he will soon avenge our death!
You, Manguino -- you have committed the crime!"

"Enough!"  Manguino screamed out an order, aimed at Brook.

"Burn in Hell, Devil incarnate!"  Manguino began to enter into a fit
when he heard this from Brook.  The people were also disturbed by it.

Most of the people that were in the crowd didn't know what this Devil
was, but those that did know explained that it was the name of a
legendary Being who was the ultimate Evil, and was actually Evil itself.

Manguino was shocked to realise that so many knew of Devil.  That was
forbidden knowledge and it wasn't taught at the Blaisaman.  'How?', he
wondered?

He motioned with his hand at Brook and several of the guards grabbed
him and Dearborne

and spread both out, on the spreader-arches, making the wrists-bonds
tight to the point of drawing blood from them.

Boyce began to tear, as Lloyd held to his arms.

"Even now your father is instilling doubt in the Phoridene's minds
about the ArchBishop!  Your uncle will be obsessed with fright for a
long time!"

Suddenly from behind Lloyd came a hand and a hiss of air.  He turned
around quickly, ready to defend his and Boyce's life, if need be, and
saw that it was Empal.

"It's dangerous to stay here any longer, my friends!"  Empal said to
them.

"A moment!" demanded Boyce and Lloyd nodded in agreement.

"Alright, but if I could find you here, anyone can!"

They understood but they, nevertheless, stayed longer.

Although the Angels were brutal with Brook he continued to yell to the
crowd.

"Look at your Almighty now, my people.  See him squirm in his
discomfort.  See that he is only a man, and nothing more.  Do not
submit to his will.  Unite against him or he will destroy you!"  Brook
struggled as he yelled, shaking the entire arch to which he was tied.

"Enough!" screamed Manguino, hoarsely.  "You have said enough ... and
that is enough from you!"  his incoherency weakened his control.

He raised his hands to them and the Angels ripped the stinking
sackcloth from their victims' bodies and began to bludgeon them.

The mob's voices died down and all were dumbfounded, as they beheld the
torture.

"Prepare execution!"  cried Manguino.  "For their transgressions of
Canon Laws, I now pronounce the only sentence possible on these two --
DEATH TO THESE SINNERS!"  he yelled.


The crowd was mute.  They watched Brook's and Dearborne's naked bodies
writhe and convulse in pain as they bled from huge wounds made on their
bodies by the Angels' studded gauntlets and the messeigneur's spiked
clubs.

There were a few women within the audience who fainted from what they
saw and many had slowly begun to walk away.  They refused to watch
their best and most beloved leader slain by someone whom they didn't
understand, or like very much.

"Remember this day, people of Phoride."  Brook forced himself to say as
he began to lose his breath, then with his last ounce of strength he
blessed them all.  "May the True Living God have mercy on you all!"

He stopped struggling from his stretched out bondage and watched
Manguino raise his hand, then drop it.

The Angels had raised their electrophoric weapons and when Manguino
dropped his hand, an eternal twang echoed throughout the land.  Brook's
and Dearborne's bodies trembled and shook violently then, in a short
order, just hung there swinging back and forth.

"Quickly, now.  We must leave!"  urged Empal and they finally made
their way across town, heading north to the Joenine Forest where Empal
had left his Kenttitian Eagle.

Manguino stayed at the podium for a while and gloated over the dead
bodies of his rival brother and his lovely wife.  With him were several
of the guards and messeigneurs, waiting to escort him back to the
cathedral.

Soon, a large figure approached him and began to speak to him.

"I had foreseen this event!"  said the man.

Manguino looked over at the man and he became pale, as if he just died.


"Jessuum Benitar!" exclaimed Manguino.  "Why are you here, I haven't
seen you since ... since Smith's death."

"My mourning for your father is over.  I now mourn for Brook."
Manguino climbed down from the podium and cautiously and shyly
approached him.  Jessuum continued.  "What had occurred here today, my
little man, will never be forgotten.  You have done something that will
never leave you, and I see the eventuality and inevitability of
vengeance."

The ArchBishop began to fall over his words but then slowly said what
was on his mind.

"Then tell me, Seer, you are prophetic -- who and where is Brook's
offspring?"  Manguino waited eagerly for Jessuum's reply.

"I cannot tell you directly and you know this.  All I can do is dream
and you must decide what it means to you."  he said.

"Tell me, then!"  he demanded from Jessuum and he tipped his head
showing that would consent to an answer.  He began to chant.

                "There is a man on a trek to a place
                 Where the sky is touched by
                 A legendary grace.
                 There the little one learns to face
                 His long road back, uniting the world
                 In its promised Peace!"


Jessuum broke from his stare and slowly turned, and looked back at the
Almighty ArchBishop.

"That's all for now, I must depart!"  he told Manguino then began to
walk away.

"Wait!"  squealed the ArchBishop.  "Why do you leave?"

"Patience is a quality that you are not endowed with.  How unfortunate!
 I will be near, when I am needed!"

Jessuum walked away from the ArchBishop headed for no place in
particular.


MIDDLE:  THE  PROMISE,  FULFILLED

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The deaths of Brook and Dearborne had not meant the death of the
world, or even that of Pomperaque.  Life endured as it was seemingly
meant to, and the evil that lived in their time had carried on, as
well.

There came a frightening peace in Pomperaque, as there was a
frightening quite, since no forms of dissention or negative thought was
permitted under Manguino's own amendments to the Canon's Laws.

Public gatherings of men (as were private meetings), were not wholly
forbidden, but the numbers of men that gathered was limited to no more
than four at a time -- unless there was a city conference called for
meeting, in the town's square, by the ArchBishop's own request.

Even the Phoridene Council was forbidden to convene without the
presence of the ArchBishop Manguino, or a tribunal of Cardinals
representing him.

The brisk activities of livelihood that had once occupied most of the
morning hours began to fade away and break down in pattern and even
the children that once played in the streets around their parents'
stalls and kiosks, no longer did so in their usual fervour.

Very few people carried smiles as they once did, in the days prior to
their best and most beloved sovereign's execution.

The smiles that the people kept from their faces had equalled that hate
and distrust that they carried in their hearts for their great
Almighty, ArchBishop Manguino.

There was a very odd change in the lifestyles and habits of the people,
not only in the city of Pomperaque but throughout the entire great
states of Phoride, as well.  The entire population had become somewhat
indolent, apparently not caring for what happened to them from day to
day.  The whole city of Pomperaque walked about the streets in a glazed
daze, with blank faces and empty hearts as if they were in a purgatory
of sorts.

Whatever there was to Pomperaque's night life, was now gone and
forgotten and even the rains that were once eagerly awaited throughout
the year, were left to come when they came, and the people kept
themselves from partaking of it when it happened.  Even harlots and
satyrs, of which were once many in the city, had let their passions
leave them.

With all those immoralities that had carried on during Brook's rule,
those acts of perversion and indecencies that he tried so hard to curb
his people from delving into, were now halted by themselves as if in
honour for the deaths of their two great and courageous martyrs.

Manguino did not understand what was happening to the people of Phoride.

"They're allowed to do what they please, to whom and with whom they
please, and even how they please, and yet why don't they do anything
but walk around as if they are all without spirit?"

Manguino asked that question of each coenobite at Halls, from the
Cardinals that ranked just

beneath him, to the novices and children training in the monastery.  No
answer was given to him and no speculations were entered into.

In the first several years following Brook and Dearborne's execution,
many of the city's Prominants and even some of the peasantry, secretly
sent their female children to some of the larger cities to the north,
away from the watchful, lusty eyes of their god.

As if in desperation to produce his own line of gods, his own
offspring, Manguino had brought to him young girls and women to play
favourites to him, and to bare his holy children.

He had proclaimed though a decree that when upon entering the age of
ten, all virgin girls, to the age of twenty-one, would be brought to
Halls to be trained by his followers in the ways of life.

While as the first years passed, the females between these ages that
were brought to Halls, had been personally attended to by Manguino.

His lust for the flesh of young women soon became weak and his acts
were only made on the women purely to satisfy his desire of producing
from them his offspring.  Yet, with the dozens of women that he had
made pregnant not one of the children were free from some kind of
degenerate deformities -- much like that of his first offspring, now in
his twenties.

Through the first days and weeks of birth many of the children died on
their own, and some of the women, seeing the monstrosities that they
bore from the ArchBishop, had been shocked into eerie cataleptic states
of being.

Manguino could not accept the horrible children coming from him and he
cried to his physicians to cure him from what he believed was certainly
a curse put on him by Brook; but when they could find nothing at fault
with either him or the women that he had copulated with, he had the
remainder of his children, with the women that bore them, burned alive
at the city's incinerators.


However, Manguino's mind strained even at this subtle act, for not a
scream nor even a gag was heard to exude from any one of those that
were slaughtered.

Manguino turned to being ill and he spent the major part of the next
several years in a state of listlessness.

He had sent some of his Cardinals to various parts of the continent to
find and bring back for him beautiful and strong females, no matter
from what race they were taken.  Manguino had believed that there had
to be at least one female, amongst the human-like species inhabiting
the northern continent, capable of producing normal and strong children.

He had placed in charge of this mission his regular hunter in these
sorts of endeavours; the Nasino, Cardinal Levy.  In his silent Nasino
manner he compiled a force of coenobites to do their god's bidding and
they spread over the continent collecting females and teaching
Manguino's ways, as well.

By the end of the following year, hundreds of human-like females and
true human women were herded like cattle to Halls Cathedral, by only
half the force sent out to collect them.

Some of the women were bought by these coenobites but most were
snatched from wherever they could be found.  Those not suiting the
ArchBishop's specification were made to indulge those who had found
them, then they were discarded or disposed of, depending on what degree
of pleasure the hunters had experienced with them.

Within the first weeks, nearly seven score females were brought back to
Halls and the ArchbIshop immediately began administering his blessings
to those who were most to his liking.  To his amazement, some became
pregnant, came to full term and gave birth within several weeks while
other appeared to have a infinite gestation, until they also gave
birth.  Finally, all those that the

ArchBishop bedded had given birth, with the same horrid results -- and
the same end became of them.

When Manguino desired to turn again to young girls from the city, there
were very few to be taken.  The choice were married-off by their
kinsmen early in their lives and only the homely and very ugly
remained.  Those were the ones that were not wanted by any man; some
not even during the season of the rain.

Manguino, feeling that he knew the nature of the imaginary curse that
he thought was put on him by Brook, took those ugly girls and women and
set himself ready to have them give themselves to him.

One day, there came to the ArchBishop the most unsightly of these
wretched-looking women.  She was squat and balding.  Her body was
covered with thick black hair, similar to the hair of the Teniqués.
She had yellow irises and a runny pustulated mouth, and thick stringy
mucus constantly flowed from her huge nostrils.

Her laugh ran course through men's ears and the town thought of this
woman as a witch because of her formidable looks.

There wasn't a single piece of skin on her body that was clear from
open sores, and yet she was of the prize of looks from the ugliest of
women in Phoride.

However, this woman (if one chose to call such a hideous rind, by that
word), had one quality that most all of the others that the ArchBishop
bedded had lacked.  She was clever.  She made herself seem worldly to
Manguino, the man whom she had secretly loved for so many years.

When Eckma was summoned to Manguino he could hardly look at her without
wincing and she didn't hesitate preparing herself to have her hour of
delight with him.


She took off her rags and stood before him squeezing parts of her body
attempting to excite him and growing in excitement herself.

Manguino was surprised that she was so eager and willing to let him in
and he thought, that maybe a woman's willingness was the key to
ensuring him healthy offspring.  He readied himself to invade her body,
for the little that he thought it worthy.  Then, Eckma refused to let
him come in onto her and he could not understand this.

Now, as it was that Eckma was very clever, she tried not to anger her
beloved Manguino and she sat him down on the bed near her and caressed
some of his parts while she explained why she refused him so suddenly.

"I have been a virgin all my twenty-eight years, my dearest
ArchBishop."  she said to Manguino.  "I had always wanted children but
what I wanted more was ... you!"

Manguino looked at her and felt a disgust that he could not shrug, but
her gentle caresses, which made him grow with excited impatience
soothed him, as well.

"What do you mean by that?"  he demanded and as she smiled a creamy
rheum flowed from her nostrils to the corners of her mouth.

"I had loved you since I was a little girl, and I wished and prayed
that some day I would have the pleasure, and the honour, of being
blessed by you.  But I believed that was all just a foolish dream."
she said and she smiled again, with a clear tear issuing from her eyes.
 "I had also dreamed of being wed to you, my true love."  she added.

He grew to completion and she continued to caress him and he felt a
powerful but uncomfortable urge to invade her.  He was becoming sure
that the woman's willingness was the key
to his product of normal progeny, but when he pushed her down on the
bed, and was just on the

verge of having her, she pushed him off from herself.

"Steady woman, you can't refuse me!"  blurted Manguino as he dripped
onto the covers by her hand.

"I do not refuse you, me hoped-for love, but welcome your all into me
-- with an open heart -- but I would hope to suggest to you one thought
I had dreamed an age ago!"  she said.

"What thought, woman?"  he demanded of her, becoming frustrated and
quickly becoming limp.

"The dream had shown me that you could not have the offspring of your
heart's desire;  and then there was me, with you as the objective of
love, to my own heart's desire, calling me to your bed.  But, in my
dream I saw that you had wed me.  With the union between us and my own
desires towards you, we produced many children of godly quality!"  she
looked up at him as he turned away from her to wipe himself, and she
cried.

"What now, Eckma?" asked Manguino in a voice oddly resembling a distant
compassion, as never before heard coming from his lips.

"I know that a marriage with you could never be.  Forgive me for even
thinking such a thing."  she said and looked at him, right into his
eyes.  "You may do with me to your pleasure."

Manguino stood there for a moment and looked at her lying on the bed,
her eyes closed and her large legs lying slightly apart.

He thought, what an odd feeling it was to have a living human woman
love him so.  He imagined what a love from a beauty would be like and
he envied his now dead brother, because of his wife, and he envied all
the wedded couples in the whole world.

He had never given consideration to such a union, but he thought, maybe
it is time?  Maybe

that is what was necessary, for him, to have proper children?

Manguino went over to his chamber doors and pulled a small rod out of
the wall, summoning a servant to attend to him, and then he went over
to Eckma and took her naked cankerous body into his arms and kissed her
mouth, smearing some of her pus onto his own lips.

"You will be my wife, Eckma and I will love you, and make love to you,
with more intense passion than I have ever, with anyone."

Soon, an attendant knocked on the door and Manguino ordered him to
enter.  When the servant saw his god lying by that unearthly ugliness
and passionately caressing her, he very nearly fell faint but he looked
to the floor and waited to be ordered.

"Seek Cardinals Levy, Tohm and Jordas and bid them prepare the chapel
for my wedding, and have the Rogjans announce this from the city
spires!"

The servant couldn't say a thing.  He just nodded then backed out
through the doors, closing them after him.

Immediately, he ran to the dispensary and vomited violently into a duct
there, and Polis, the physician, gave to him a drink of medicine that
stopped the lad's affliction.  He explained to Polis about Manguino's
strange taste, and his even stranger request, then he went off and
rounded up the three Cardinals; conveying the message and telling them
who the bride was to be.

"The Almighty had made his choice.  Let us abide with his requests!"
suggested Cardinal Tohm, and they went to prepare for the ceremony.

Throughout the afternoon and evening the Rogjans sang out the news to
Pomperaque, and for the first time in years, since the executions of
Brook and Dearborne, did the people laugh and rejoice for their
Almighty ArchBishop -- and his misfortune.


Manguino was pleased and happy to see his beloved people having a good
time and enjoying themselves, even though he had no idea that the
celebrants were really mocking him.

At the wedding, a few of the Cardinals and others that were there could
look upon the bride as she and Manguino emerged from their wed-eve
initiation chamber.

Cardinal Tohm was the ArchBishop's second during the ceremony, and
Cardinal Jordas had performed the ceremony of unity.  The ceremony was
the Bonds, performed to consecrate the union of two in marriage.  The
couple was fused together as one entity for all of eternity, by promise
of eternal love and full allowance to life together, regardless of
hardships that may possibly happen between them.

Now Eckma knew she was safe from death, no matter if she had children,
and regardless of their appearance.

The bond between them; the cutting of wrists and the joining of them
through the drinking of each other's blood, assured the cunning female
that her life was her's and that she was Manguino's, forever.

At the completion of the wedding ceremony, this one where the bride and
groom were married in their naked flesh, the men of  Halls were to pay
their tribute and honour to the bride by the kissing of her genitalia.

Although Polis gave all those attending a potion of medicine to keep
their stomachs calm, most of the Cardinals still felt gravely ill
whilst in Eckma's presence.

All the novices, vicars and Cardinals that passed by the wedded couple
bowed down, on bent knee, before their new god's consort.  All kissed
the sagging brownish flesh that dangled from between Eckma's legs, in
a single and complete sweeping motion.  And even in this brevity, a
vast portion of them quickly ran out of the wedding hall to take full
account of their week's food intake.  Only Cardinal Tohm summoned
enough nerve and will to take Eckma about her hips in a sustained
embraced. He kissed the lips of her genitalia until a small split
formed in one of her many scabs, letting a thin brownish fluid dampen
his mouth, chin and eventually to soak his beard.  Some of the
stinking pus found its way into his mouth and Tohm, obviously and
ceremoniously, swallowed it in full.

"You truly were trained well by Cardinal Allen, my dear Tohm!"
Manguino whispered to him, then kissed him on the mouth.

The wedded couple were carried to their marriage bed, prepared with
sweet smelling linen and the entire room was decorated with many
pleasant flowers.

When they were left alone, Eckma produced a good sized vile from her
vagina and she held it up for Manguino to see.

"What is that, my darling?"  asked Manguino.

"It is a small bottle of rain water."  she answered.  "If captured in
glass, the water of the rain retains its potency."

"Why do we need that?  Put it away!"  he ordered but she refused.

"Your promise of intense love to me must be aided by this, my love.  I
know I am ugly and this will help the both of us, immeasurably."  she
said.

Manguino finally nodded, and after entering her body, she opened the
vial and poured the contents over both their genitals.

Very little was seen of the newly wedded couple over the next couple of
weeks.  They stayed in their wedding chamber and consummated their
promise.


The people of Pomperaque returned to their blank and lifeless style of
living, knowing well that their ArchBishop Manguino had indeed found
his true love.


CHAPTER  TWELVE

The years passed after the fateful executions in Pomperaque.

The years also passed for Boyce and Lloyd, studying the ancient ways in
the Alugean library.

Since Besten was close by, Lloyd had at intervals gone there to see his
family and obtain some news of events in the city of Pomperaque.

The first years were depressing for the young Boyce, trying to grow up
without his real father and terribly missing the kindness, and love,
from his beautiful mother, and at times, turning frustrated in not
having others of his age to play with, and little girls to pretend
being in love with.

Then it happened, that after several years of stay at Alugean, Boyce
grew to manhood, possessing a quick mind and agile body, trained to
full perfection by the guidance of his mentor and friend, Lloyd
Bartlett.

When Boyce was nearing his eighteenth year and he knew his studies of
the past, as-well-as

remembering his promise to Brook, and his manly body could hold up
against the sharpest blows delivered by Lloyd, Lloyd took him to his
father in Besten to meet his father and mother, Harvard and Rae
Bartlett.

Harvard was pleased, beyond words, to meet Brook Scullion-Blue's only
son and he treated him in the manner much befitting a King.

Several months after their acquaintance, Boyce trusted Harvard enough
to tell him that the ArchBishop was really his uncle; Brook's brother.
This news, however, didn't disturb Harvard Bartlett because he divulged
to Boyce, his own knowledge about his own ancestral relationship to the
ArchBishop and indeed to Boyce himself.

"We are much like cousins far removed, yet not removed so far as to
keep me content."  Harvard told Boyce.  "I am the fifth generation
descendant of Daphne Jones, daughter of Richalé, son of Hosea Jones.  I
am from a line of the male twin.  Your family of Carter, is on the
other hand, from the line of the daughter twin, Dioneza.  We are
related, so as to say, in common knowledge and theory about our
ancestral line."  Harvard took a large rolled piece of animal skin and
spread it out before Boyce to let him see a genealogy of their common
family roots.

"I see the broken line of my father.  He is not a true Blue
descendant."  said Boyce but not without pride.

"Yes, we know that he was a foundling and we also know who his real
parents are."  Harvard told Boyce.

Boyce was amazed and he smiled, eagerly waiting to hear more.

"My son conveyed to me a story told to him about your father, and in
fact it was told to him by your father.  He said, that your father was
found by a stream swaddled and left in a skull of a lion."

"Yes, that is so, my Lord Bartlett!"  Boyce fervently confirmed.

"From the line of Wind Jones, daughter of Richalé, son of Hosea Jones;
we have her forth generation great grandson, Guiness with his wife
Joanna, pursued by Elkinii plains slave-traders.  Having given birth to
a son, they continued to run through the Virgin Mountains trying to
escape the slaver.  Knowing that they would be caught, they wrapped the
child in the sackcloth of Joanna's apron and hid him by a river in a
lion's skull, where Smith soon found it while his own wife was in heavy
labour baring a child.  Beside their own son Manguino, the adopted
Brook (giving him such a name as he was found), was raised by them as
their own."  Harvard finished the account, according to his knowledge
of it and eyed Boyce for a moment, admiring how the young man was
absorbing everything that was being said to him.

"Is that why my father was not evil?"  asked Boyce.

"Many of us believe so."  confirmed Harvard then continued. "The evil
seed befell your uncle, the ArchBishop Manguino through his
grandfather Father's incest with Lucaea.  As you had studied alone in
Alugean so did Carter study, and then he left the great library to
learn from the world.  He reached the land of BanGor, to the east,
that was and in ruled by a cult of high-priestesses that are directly
descended from Anna, the first wife of Hosea Jones (yet not from
Hosea's own loins).  Carter had fallen into relations with the great
granddaughter of Anna and their product was Smith, your father's
father.  Anna's evil seed was passed through Smith to Manguino.  As
Anna and Hosea's first son Cano turned evil, into being the Canon
Di'Vaticanus, so did Manguino become the ArchBishop!"

The fascinating story made Boyce wonder if the old times with Hosea
Jones were any different than the times now, since he knew more about
the Twentieth Century history than he knew about his own.  But now
from what Harvard had told him, he better knew who he was and declared
that he was ready to prepare for his return to Pomperaque.

Within the next several years, from 3055 C.E. to the end of 3058 C.E.,
the entire northern continent joined under an idea of unity and love.
Under the leadership and guidance of Harvard Bartlett, Lloyd and Boyce
became figure-heads of the community.  They increased the prosperity in
the land two-fold over a period of three short years and they built up
a fighting army as powerful as any that had ever fought on the earth.

Soon, the northern nations and dominions were uniting into one power
that came to be called the Northern United Alignment.  It was a union
of free states consisting of Besten, Virune, Krolalin and several
smaller city states (Netheda, Ohigh and Elkinii), and from these united
areas came an army of one million strong, on land, one hundred thousand
strong, on sea and seven thousand strong, in the air.  Each of the
major united nations controlled their own special force of power.
Virune, under the leadership of Empal, trained and took command of the
air using the giant eagles that they had learned to domesticate.
Krolalin trained their land army to use whatever weapons were available
to their utmost potential, as well as developing a land cavalry that
was twenty thousand strong.   And there was Besten, a sea-faring people
who adapted easily to naval warfare with a force numbering one hundred
thousand men.

Bestenese scientists were let into Alugean to search the library
contents for plans on which to build weapons, like those used by the
ArchBishop's monastic guards.  With much difficulty and lack of proper
equipment and resources, the developments were made but they never
seemed to progress very quickly.


For the generals and leaders, suits of rubber, leather and gold
plating served as armour protection against electrophoric and laser
shock.  Although not superior in strength to hold up against constant
jolting, they at least served the person to live while in their
retreat, if hit.

Monastic spy activity in the north warned the ArchBishop Manguino that
an army was being formed that could potentially be used gainst him.  It
was an accurate speculation seeing that the spies didn't really know
what was being planned or even who was doing the planning.

On the first word of such a mounting of forces and arms, Manguino
demanded that an army be compiled for him and every eligible male from
fifteen to fifty was ordered into training, for war, while the women
between twenty and thirty were formed into separate fighting forces.
Even the ladies from the Prominants took over working then men's jobs,
since they were the only ones to be permitted to stay at home.

After two years of nothing happening in the manner of war, threats or
anything else of great aggressive significance, those of the Prominent
class were allowed back to their social life-styles while the rest were
coerced into staying in the forces.

Those Prominants who were sympathetic to Manguino's rule, for whatever
self-centred reason, stayed on as his generals.  They were even so
powerful as to order all those at Halls, to do their bidding;  all
those at Halls except for Manguino.

With the final preparations taking place with the Northern United
Alignment, ambassadors were sent to the hostile states and lands
between Besten and Phoride, and there asked them to follow them to
freely pass through without harassment or troubles.

Agreements were signed with all these states including the ones that
were thought to be the most difficult; Palatka, Sedar, Nolunge and
Flinnd.


The time was at hand when the two men would leave on their long journey
back to Pomperaque.  Although the signed agreement of passage was to
make the route shorter for the two men, the distance was still great
and would require many days of travel.


CHAPTER  THIRTEEN

In Pomperaque, several years had passed since Manguino's marriage to
Eckma and although they had indeed produced children of normal looks
and awareness, they never lived passed a couple of months.

Since the marriage, Manguino hardly ever involved his mind with the
affairs of Halls, or of Phoride.

During the rains, very large glass tubs of water were collected then
taken to Manguino's bed chamber and poured into a huge glass pool, and
there the ArchBishop indulged in violent sex relations with Eckma, to
the point of drawing blood from one another.

In the few years after their marriage, the physician Polis had
discovered that Manguino suffered from a venereal cancer and there was
a fear of death, but Manguino told Polis to search for the answer in
Brook's machines.

"My cure lies somewhere within those gadgets, Polis!  If you value your
own life, find it!"

Manguino threatened him.

Polis spent entire days going through the mechanism in his search for
the answer and then he found something.  It was a formula to retard
aging.  He wondered if it would cure his master and thus took it to him.

Lacking trust, Manguino ordered the injection to be given to Polis
first and then to Eckma.

The aged Polis's hair took on its once younger hue of auburn and Eckma
lost her open sores and rheumatic nose, as well as gaining hair on her
head while losing it on her body.

Seeing that Eckma now looked like a normal, yet still fat woman, and
even somewhat appealing, he had several shots given to him every day
until Polis devised a capsulate form of taking the drug.

With the new found youth and beauty, in himself and Eckma, Manguino
indulged in the pleasures of the flesh with his wife, which now was
indeed much more pleasurable for him.

Eckma became pregnant again, and Manguino was certain that his child
would be the ultimate, due to the drug that both of them were taking.

Minding the rule of the state and church, was the Cardinal Allen's
eldest son.  He, too, was now a Cardinal.  His name was Orren and he
was  the child born to Allen, and some forgotten mother, around 3034
C.E.

Now he was twenty-five and he managed the kingdom for Manguino, while
Manguino indulged in his debauchery with Eckma, and also with others of
both sexes.

Orren took over for the deceased Cardinal Tohm who had gone to visit
the barbaric Palatkans, the lepers, to entice them to join Phoride as
an advance army in case there was an attack from the north.  With
their agreement to do so, they ate him, so bonding the contract with
Pomperaque.

As in many times before, in periods of crisis and great tension,
Jessuum Benitar appeared in Pomperaque to give its ruler a word of
foreseen troubles.

Jessuum had not approved of the ArchBishop, of what he was, or what he
had become, but it was his duty to give warning to those rulers of
Phoride, whether they were good or evil, and all prophecies were given
in dream parables and these frustrated Manguino.

In the eighth month of Eckma's pregnancy, she and Manguino still
carried on in the glass pool of rain water and since the great
ArchBishop wanted to converse and play at the same time, he summoned
Jessuum to his chamber.

Jessuum stood majestically over the pool of water, keeping his chamois
robes from being fouled by the water, while watching the crazed
ArchBishop fornicating with his now better than homely wife.

The sight was the most disgusting abomination to this ancient and noble
man, who could see into the future.

"I must leave soon, Manguino.  I must go from this place -- so would
you please consent to take it out and speak with me?"  asked Jessuum.

"I will finish soon my trusted Seer.  Have food and drink, and I will
be with you soon."  answered Manguino paying little attention to where
Jessuum was.

"I have not eaten for a fortnight and I will not eat, nor drink, till I
leave here.  I cannot foul my body or my spirit by the uncleanness
of this place.  I shall wait for you in the chapel for one hour -- but
no more!  It will be your own choice whether or not you hear what will
be."  said Jessuum then turned and was gone.


Uneasy, the water no longer had an affect on Manguino and so he climbed
out of the pool and put on a surplice and headed down to the chapel,
leaving a trail of water behind him while Eckma circled the pool and
drank some of the scum from the surface of the water.

When Manguino reached the chapel, there was a line of monks parading
through the halls and chanting a hymn exhorting the spirits of the
passed dead monastic men.

He came upon Jessuum Benitar looking straight into a small group of
young boys who were sternly placed on their knees for prayers,
undoubtedly as a disciplinary action by some higher cleric teacher.

"What have you to say to me, Seer?"  demanded Manguino.

"Don't speak to me in such a tone, Manguino.  In a spit you could be no
more and there is no one who would grieve."  Jessuum responded.  "You
have been given, and you have taken, many wonderful things that you
have never given thanks for, to the one true, Living God."

"If you were not the Seer for me, for my father and his father, I would
not permit you to speak so in my cathedral."  stated Manguino in an
angered voice and Jessuum grinned.

"Do you feel better, now that you have made a threat -- so petty, as
it was?"  Jessuum put Manguino in his place and gave him the feeling
of being a child.  "I do not like you, Manguino and I do not approve
of that for which you stand.  I despise your crude manners and even
cruder methods."  Jessuum backed away from the stench of the
ArchBishop's body; the stench that was caused by the over-use of the
same filthy rain water.  Jessuum resumed.  "Should the people of this
great land lose their fear of you, my son, no one would be here when
you needed them, to fight for your precious stick of flesh.  Not a
single citizen would kneel to kiss your fruit for the redemption of
their sins."


"What have you to say for our tomorrow, Seer?  You tire me with this
worthless palaver about my indulgence."  ordered Manguino, scratching
at his manhood.

"Very well, impatient god of these ignorant people.  This is the final
time that you shall hear words from my dreams, given to you.  Hear this
and hear it only once, and remember!  Commit it to paper if you will
but remember it.  Tell the court of the Prominants, if you will, but
never ask it to be repeated to you, for on that day when that request
is done, so should it be the end of your rule in Pomperaque."
Jessuum's eyes glowed with the fire of wisdom and the light of
knowledge.  His brow poured forth an anxious sweat while Manguino stood
by smiling with less than no faith in what he was told -- even if he
cared to think of the meaning behind it.

                "Four great elements, ride on high
                 Come from the greatest fears inside.
                 All suspicions end with feast
                 Of gilded skins and threaded beads.
                 Foul water there is all to drink
                 And wine does burn with chocking stink,
                 Of dying corpses bleeding free
                 And refuge cut off, from the sea.
                 And where to run with hearts that tare
                 Leave not your sight, from the air.
                 Black feathers from his shoulders peer
                 As promised by that Holy Seer,
                 Shall come and take his place that day
                 And rule the city where he once did play.
                 The great one falls in the bloodied sand
                 And is soon forgotten in the land.
                 The bones of his body are never found
                 But his breathing body yet is sound."


Manguino stared at Jessuum for a moment then sneered.

"What do I make of that?  It was quick and as senseless as all your
other dreamy riddles.  How could my fore-fathers trust you?"

"Do you remember those words, Manguino?"  Jessuum asked him.

"Yes, but what should I care?"  Manguino asked.

"Then ... repeat it to me -- once ... if you can!"  demanded the great
Seer and Manguino did indeed repeat every word to no great avail of
knowing their meaning.

"You play alone, now, Manguino!"  said Jessuum and he bound out of the
chapel.

Manguino ran after him to question him on the meaning but Jessuum
Benitar was gone.

Manguino, in a maniacal craze ran about the teaching rooms and ordered
the scribe-vicars to make copies of the words, and he recited the
puzzling riddle until he found every word copied onto paper, then he
returned to his bed chamber and saw Polis give to Eckma a capsule of
the age retardant drug, and she drank it down with the water from the
pool in which she was still wading.


BIPARTITE: JOURNEY BACK TO POMPERAQUE

CHAPTER  FOURTEEN

3058 C.E. commenced with the onset of those in Besten who were in the
final throws of preparation for the invasion of Pomperaque.

Throughout the year, while the plans for invasion were being finalized,
Harvard Bartlett ordered the armies into a building programme, to make
Besten and the other major cities in the alignment larger and more
beautiful than imaginable.

The men in the armies welcomed the building programme that Harvard had
engaged them to do.  They didn't want to feel the anxiety and the
excitement of war until the war itself was fought.  So the men, as they
created great architectural masterpieces, left their worries of death
while they welded their concentrations on this new work.

In the days, weeks and months that passed, Besten and many other cities
grew to a majesty, remembered only from the clouded, nightmarish dreams
of the late Twentieth Century.

The northern cities became the jewels of the continent, and from all
around the continent, every type of human went to them to purpose trade
and alliance, and many treaties were entered into and signed by the
respective parties involved.

Lloyd and Boyce discussed, with Harvard, the proposed routes that they
had some choice on which to use, on their way back to Phoride and
Pomperaque.

Boyce was eager to return and take what was his, and Lloyd also felt
that now would be the best time since the ArchBishop had also begun a
great building programme in Pomperaque, soon after Besten commenced
with their's.

In Pomperaque, Manguino's spies described to him that Harvard
Bartlett's army was being used to build up the cities, and that they
grew at a surprising rate.

On the advice from his wife Eckma and several of the noble Cardinals,
Manguino thought that the idea of an army building force was brilliant,
and he thought that Besten had engaged itself in such a programme only
to rise above Pomperaque, as an economic power.

He set Phoride's entire army to work in building the city into one
great mass of moving machinery and light.

Using the knowledge available in the gadgets that had once belonged to
Brook, towering buildings were built and were powered by currents of
energy -- electricity.

Light illuminated the evenings in the city of Pomperaque from tall
glass posts that were filled with conductive gases that glowed when
energy was passed through them, and the citizens travelled around in
little propelled carts with wheels that were set upon endless tubes of
steel that also utilized the same electrical forces.

The city's incinerators were converted to produce the power since the
furnaces constantly

burned some kind of waste material throughout the entire day and night,
and huge storage batteries, such as those in the Blue Mansion, were
built to preserve energy for emergency use.

Pomperaque grew into a grandeur never before seen by those living
there, and it hardly took a year to complete.

The sudden boost in the lifestyles of those in Phoride made many of
Phoride's citizens, from the peasantry to the elite Prominants feel
alive again, and many returned to praising Manguino.

Manguino was proud of his own brilliance and praised himself.

He had taken notice of the words spoken to him by the Seer, Jessuum
Benitar, and his spies' news about the north compiling an army was all
he needed to order the male citizens into a compulsory army of his own.

Throughout the first years of the arms build-up all the women, even
those wives of the Prominent elite, had to do the work of their
husbands, as-well-as their own domestic chores while their husbands
trained to fight a war which gave no indications would ever be fought.

Now, however, the new city of Pomperaque stood as a monument of
strength, and with this, Manguino released the Prominent men from their
service duties and most of them returned home to their wives and
families.  Only a few of the Prominents, who had personal gains from
staying in the service, remained as the generals.

There was an odd contentment in Pomperaque and the people had a
tolerant and even kindly regard for their Almighty ArchBishop, and they
thanked him for improving their lives, unaware that the improvements
were all made for his own benefit, and not really intended for them.

The entire Northern United Alignment heard of the progress that
Manguino forced in Phoride and they also heard about the common
people's change of heart towards him.  Now they all favoured him.

Harvard, thought, felt confident that the Alignments' forces could
annihilate the Phoridene armies, and before his son and Boyce left
Besten for Phoride, he wished them God's speed and safety.

"We will send Empal with word of mobilization." Lloyd said to Harvard.
"It is a long way back to Pomperaque but we should save several days in
travel, taking this shorter route."  He pointed-out the route on a
small map while they made their final plans.  His finger etched the
line through Krolalin's Dark Forest and other possibly hostile lands.

"Take care in those places."  Harvard cautioned.  "Though these nations
are small and have agreed to let you pass, we cannot trust them with
their promises.  Remember, some are friends of the ArchBishop.  In
consideration of this, you will first go to Alugean and get proper
weapons to carry on your trip."

Boyce and Lloyd both agreed to Harvard's request and they left on their
long journey, on foot.

It was unanimously decided that the men's journey would be taken this
way in order to confuse the attention of any spies that were watching.
Machine travel, and even travel by horse, would have directed attention
upon them.

A small performing caravan was sent south, as were tinkers of every
kind, and all knew their purpose for going to Pomperaque.

Lloyd and Boyce made their way slightly to the south-west towards
Alugean where they were to check the production of weapons and receive
some for their personal use during the trip.

When the height of people leaving Besten was reached the two men left
the city for their day's jaunt to the vault library in the Alugean
Mountain.  To break the stress of their exertions, they spoke of many
things during their first day of travel.  The talks were mostly
centred on what they thought Pomperaque would look like after all the
changes.  Another topic that lasted them was their views on Manguino's
illogical assumption that Brook had cursed him and that it was the
cause for his women baring him monstrosities.  They spoke of Eckma and
her, one day, turning into an almost appealing woman and Boyce
speculated that the ArchBishop had found in Brook's gadgets the
formula to the age stunning drug -- originally designed by the fourth
wife of Hosea Jones, called Ruth.

While the day waned and Alugean grew larger, and closer, Boyce and
Lloyd shared a worry that they both had about the invasion that they
had planned.

It came to Boyce's mind early in the day that, when the war was under
way, many innocent women and children would probably be caught up in it
and would die.

Lloyd understood Boyce's feelings but knew that nothing could be done
about it; but Boyce really knew that Lloyd wanted to taste vengeance
through the death of one particular woman.

Lloyd considered Eckma an evil woman.  A woman of tasteless love that
sank into deeper evil through her marriage and violent consummation.
He knew that the loss of those many ugly and pretty children, at their
birth, drew no tears from her.

Lloyd wanted to see her die, with her child and with Manguino, and yet,
he did not want to kill them himself, although the temptations was
great for him to do so.

His reasoning for this judgement of her was simple and Boyce accepted
it.

"This past time that she gave birth, Boyce, she gave birth to twins.
One was the beautiful son child that both she and the ArchBishop
desired.  The other twin, whatever sex it was, was drowned in a pool
of water by its mother, because it was hideous looking."  Lloyd
explained to Boyce.  "She held that child's head under water, watching
it writhe and convulse, and she enjoyed watching it die, since she had
never before killed something that was alive."  Boyce was quiet and he
just listened.  "What's more, my friend, the water was rain water.
Can you imagine?"

They turned onto a short path that lead to the hidden entrance doors
and Lloyd punched-in the numbers as taught to them by Brook, a decade
earlier.

"I remember the rain that touched me.  It wasn't much but it made my
sanity depart from me.  I can imagine how it must've been for the
child, drowned in such fluid."

Lloyd also remembered that night when his injured form was given
comfort.  It was the night when Boyce first proved his courage by
isolating himself in his room after the rain fell on him.

The doors of the entrance slid open and they walked down a lengthy
hallway that was dark, but also oddly shiny, until they came into an
enormous cavern that hosted a number of gigantic machines of knowledge,
and around them were a number of Bestenese scientists learning how to
operate them.

They made their way to the other side of the busy cavern to a flight of
stairs and descended them until they came out to a large area that at
one time had stored food and other supplies.  Now it was converted to
the production of weapons, and all the other contents that were once
within were taken down to another storage level.

They sat down their gear then headed to where the labs were and walked
into one.  The endless number of workers, that worked on weaponry in
front of them, paid little mind to the two men.

Inside the lab doors the two men stopped, looked at a red light and
became encircled by a smoky mist that smelled like flatulence.

They held their breaths until the smoky mist subsided and a green light
came on, and with it the door before them slowly swung ajar.  The full
smelling smoke had actually made their bodies and clothing free of
bacteria, since what they were now entering was a very clean area.

Just as they pushed the door all the way then closed it after they were
in, one of the supervising technicians, in charge of small side-arms
production, approached and welcomed them.

"My Lords Bartlett and Scullion-Blue, welcome!"  said the tall dark man
in the white plastic oversuit.  "You are here just in time.  We have
two little gems to give you!"

He offered them the direction of the test lab and they went to it.

"It seems that my father has sent to you some more men, Burman?"  Lloyd
questioned Burman, in passing.

"Yes, Lloyd.  They have been invaluable.  Already we have attained a
forty percent increase in our production levels and only three percent
of that is rejected as battle perfect."  Burman sounded proud and Boyce
was pleased.

Boyce remembered the day that he and Lloyd first set foot inside
Alugean.  It was a huge lifeless place full of silence, machinery and
cratesful of supplies.

They went into the test lab and watched a half dozen men and women
trying out the strength of the small, hand-sized weapons.

Twenty meters from them were sheets of different materials, that came
down automatically after the weapons were tested out on each piece of
the materials.

Materials of plastic, glass, wood, splintered and burned up after a
single blast of the small guns that had both laser and electrophoric
capabilities built into them.


The power of the small weapons evenly cut into the strongest metal
slabs that they had on which to test these devices.

Burman was pleased to flaunt the devices that he helped to construct
and both Lloyd and Boyce were impressed.

Lloyd looked at the weapons and tested the weight in his own hand.  He
fired a shot of the electrophora at one of the foot thick pieces of the
wood and it splintered into a countless number of pieces.

"I'm glad that the ones I was hit with, when you found me, were not
like this one."  Lloyd commented to Boyce with a slight grin.

Boyce studied the weapon for a moment switching it from the
electrophoric to laser, and back again until he was satisfied with its
performance.

"These guns, Burman -- they use the same source of power for both
elements?"  Boyce questioned Burman.

Burman looked confused for a moment and questioned Lloyd with his eyes
and Lloyd knew what it was that had confused Burman.

"Gun, is an ancient term for such a weapon of aggression."

Burman then remembered that word 'gun' and he answered Boyce letting
him know that its power source was indeed common for both settings.

Boyce was satisfied with the answer, and so was Lloyd, since he had
thought of asking a similar question.  Now both of them knew that, once
the source of power was used up, that was the end of that energy cell.

They each took a belt case and a spare cell, as their armament for the
trip.


They did ask Burman to show them some of the larger-gauged weapons that
were to be used in the invasion and these had a strength five times
that of the small hand guns.

Everything seemed to be going well with the production and already the
weapons were being sent all through the Northern United Alignment, to
the armies that would get two more weeks, so it was hoped,  of training
with them until the invasion.

Impressed and fully satisfied with what they saw, they made their way
back to the upper levels of the mountain.

"We have prepared your quarters for tonight."  said Burman.  "You will
find food and baths, and if you wish, women can be sent to you at the
completion of their shift?"

"No, the food and baths will suffice!"  Boyce told Burman.  "We depart
early and we should rest -- unless you would prefer some company
tonight, Lloyd?"

Lloyd smiled at them both.

"Maybe, but they'd probably tire me too much and that would make the
trip harder on both of us!"

"We'll find out if that means 'yes', later!"  Boyce joked with Burman,
and all three of them laughed.

"Good sleeping then, my friends!"  hailed their host then left them go
to their chambers.

They thanked him and entered.

They both bathed before eating and Boyce put on some sweet sounding
music from a time long before the Twentieth Century, and they lay down
on their respective couches and listened.

"Of all that we found in this place,"  Boyce began,  "the music archive
must've been our greatest discovery."

"True!"  was all that Lloyd said and they fell asleep.


CHAPTER  FIFTEEN

The next day came early.  The two men woke up in the hour before dawn
and after having their fill of good food for breakfast, they readied
themselves for their long trip to Pomperaque.

They made up a list for the rations supervisor to fill for them before
they were to leave Alugean.  The list was common to them both and they
were comprised of field hiking packs full of dried meats, fruits and
vegetables, two four-litre water sacks and two electric lights.

When Lloyd and Boyce finished giving Burman and the library steward the
final details of how and when they would be notified about their own
advance on Pomperaque, they left the city, hailed with luck from each
worker within.

It was an unusually hot day and it wasn't yet nine o'clock in the
morning.

Not far from Alugean, they took their first break by a stream and
sucked back a few healthy gulps of water from their sacks.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the air felt thick to breathe as
they slowly advanced south.

They took to walking in the shade of the trees that were all around
them on their path, and only after Boyce noticed a dragonfly fanning
itself on a boulder, were both of the men aware that there was a
strange lack of insect life.

The men didn't speak.  Boyce just pointed to the big beautifully
coloured insect and Lloyd knew what was on his mind.

It seemed, to the men, that they were stopping every few minutes to
drink their water but they did indeed walk a long distance, losing
sight of Alugean several hours into the afternoon.

All the vegetation around them was dry and brittle, especially that
which was under foot.  The trees and shrubs, however, were still green
and were waxy looking, and sap ran sown the bark of some of those trees.

Their feet burned and it wasn't until the late afternoon that they
finally came across a stream that was to give them some relief.

They stayed at the little river for an hour, partaking of its fresh and
crystal qualities, and Lloyd caught, with his bare hands, a couple of
good-sized fish for their supper.

They built a fire and a shading lean-to by the water's edge and there
roasted the fish, then ate them.

When they finished they speculated on the distance that they had
travelled and they looked at their maps, putting them fifty-five
kilometres from the library at Alugean.  This surprised both of them
and Boyce joked, remarking that the entire walk must've been down hill.

They knew that they had several hours of sunlight available to them,
but both agreed that the time would be better spent in search of a
proper shelter, where they could sleep that evening.


They doused the fire and scattered the materials of the lean-to,
limiting the evidence that someone was there, in the chance that
someone was following them.

Although no one followed, their caution spurred them into a steady pace
that allowed them to gain a good distance with each passing hour.

It wasn't until dusk that Lloyd caught sight of a large hole in a
hillside, which was overgrown with trees and other vegetation.

Since the sun was sinking quickly, Boyce agreed to Lloyd's decision to
check it out as a possible shelter for the evening.

It indeed was a cave and it was incredibly large, and the floor of the
cave was relatively smooth, as far down as they could see.

Their curiosity was sparked by the looks of the cave opening, and they
couldn't see any ledges or nooks until they went further into the cave.
 Then before them they saw a huge hole, that stretched into darkness.
Normality, Boyce threw a rock into the hole but it was never heard
hitting the bottom.

There was light in the cave since the entrance faced towards the west
and the setting sun.  They each took out their electric lights anyway,
but the beams of light could not illuminate the other side, if there
was another side.

To their right was a large road, seemingly joined to the smooth surface
that ran through the entrance, so they began to walk on it.

"I wonder where this leads?"  Boyce thought to ask, not expecting to be
answered and especially with Lloyd's remark.

"Hell, maybe?"  he replied.

This annoyed Boyce, but more from not really having a concept of what
hell was supposed to be.  He could not imagine that which had been
described in legend since the dawn of man _ both times.

He sometimes shone the light onto the wall to their right and Lloyd
shone his straight ahead so that they wouldn't fall into nothingness if
the road was to suddenly end.

"Maybe we should head to the entrance, Lloyd.  We have been here for
some time."

"I thought I saw my light reflecting off something just ahead.  We'll
head back after we check that."

Boyce nodded to resuming and as they neared that which was returning
Lloyd's light, Boyce shone his on the wall again and lit a large black,
cube that didn't look like it was made of stone.

"What is that?"

Lloyd stopped and looked at it, then went over to it.  He touched it
and set his fingers into a groove that he found on the side.

"I don't know, but -- "  he pulled on the groove and half the cube,
which was hinged, flew open.  "It seems to be opening!"

There was a row of six small levers and beneath those was one large
dusty one.  Lloyd tried to move it but it didn't budge.

He sighed then dropped his pack to his feet and drew from it a small
axe, gave the lever a good slam them tried it and he pushed it right
around until it stopped.

There was a sudden rush of air followed by a screaming whirling sound,
and the entire place became lit with dim yellowish light.

They turned to face the direction of the light and were totally
flabbergasted by what they saw.

In the utmost of awe, both stood with their mouths agape and were
silent as their eyes combed the entirety of the huge pit that extended
far below them, with the road on which they stood, spiralling in a
terraced fashion down to the very bottom.

Throughout the immense hole, there were huge machines; dormant and
silent.  Only God knew for how many years this place had been abandoned.

Lloyd saw that which had reflected his light earlier.  It was a huge
yellow hauling machine, several dozen meters away from them and covered
with faded writing.  It had many large, black wheels and a gigantic
load bin, still filled to the limit with whole rocks, many of them
larger than either of the two men.

"This is a mine!"  Lloyd began to explain to this companion.  "It's
odd, though, that this place would be mined like this?"

"Why do you say that?"  Boyce was puzzled.

"This style is called an open-pit mine, yet it's in this small
mountain.  That is why I think it's odd.  Shafts are usually dug for
mining in mountains or for something that is found very deep!"  Lloyd
pointed to the floor of the pit, maybe a kilometre below them.

"I would like to go down there, but we don't have the time.  Let's get
back."  Boyce suggested.

The shrieking whirl suddenly stopped and there was no more drafty air
flowing about them and the lights went out.

"I suppose that we'll have to go back now?"  Lloyd chaffed, picking up
his pack.

They lay back on the flat, even floor of the cave, using their water
sacks as pillows.

Bluish starlight filtered into the cave and it was barely enough to let
them see one another.

They stared up into the dark of the ceiling and thought about what they
had just found.

"What a strange and fantastic place!"  said Boyce.

"Have you noticed that this entire road, that runs to the floor of this
mine, has been carved right out of the rock?"  Lloyd was formulating a
theory about the odd method of building such a place.

Boyce remained quiet, knowing Lloyd well-enough by now, to let him
continue with his thoughts.

"They must've used lasers, like ours!"  he continued.  "How else could
they make it's surface so flat and even all the way down?"

"I was thinking, Lloyd ... wouldn't this great hole make an interesting
city -- like the Alugean library?"

They both were quiet for a moment, reflecting on Boyce's idea, until
Lloyd resumed.

"I'd wager that both places were made by the same people!"

The silence that came next lasted until morning when Boyce and Lloyd
were snatched from their dream states by the shrill cawing of some crow
on a boulder outside the mouth of the cave.

Bleary-eyed, the men got to their feet and stretched until they were
fully awake, but still relaxed.

"What a noise to wake up to!"  Lloyd complained.

"Oh, leave it be.  It's not hurting anything!"  Boyce gurgled.
"Besides, at least we can get an early start today."

They left the cave and sat on the big rock that the crow had vacated.
They took some food out of their packs and filled their bowels with the
fuel for a rest.

Their curiosity and sense of awe had made them go back into the mine.
They were in there

only briefly while they took some notes and made some calculations
approximating the overall dimensions of the mine.

They marked the location of this sight on their maps and then proceeded
on their journey back to Pomperaque.

Not very far from the mine there was a wide, rapid-moving river that
they had to cross before they continued their trek overland to the Dark
Forest which spanned most of the northern part of the Virgin Mountains.
 It was a part of the land where no one lived since it was too hostile
for any groups of people to settle.  Only hunters and criminals roamed
those desolate areas.

Lloyd and Boyce tried not to think of what lay ahead.  They were given
the choice of what routes to take and they chose the shortest and most
perilous way.

They were beginning to see more wild life now, some larger than they
had ever seen before.

They knew that they were nearing the Dark Forest because of these
signs. The forest was home of every kind of titan-like animal, many of
which were devilishly ferocious.

They came over a rise and there they rested because, across the small
aspen rose an escarpment a few hundred meters in height.  To keep on
schedule, they had to scale the escarpment walls by evening.

Overhead, a black bird was circling, quickly nearing the ground with
each successive round, until it finally came to rest in the top of a
tree between them and the cliffs of the escarpment.

It cried out in dry sounding quavers and flapped its wings in a
silly-looking manner before it dropped itself off the tree and flew
over to the cliffs.

"Funny!"  voiced Boyce.

"What?!"  Lloyd asked him, thinking that maybe he did something worthy
of being made fun.


"That's the second raven they we've seen today, and I wasn't aware that
they were indigenous to this area."

Lloyd didn't even notice the bird until Boyce pointed-out its presence
to him.

"Maybe it's lost?"

Boyce shrugged at Lloyd's suggestion.  He watched the bird fly over the
scarp ahead and he sighed with envy.

"Too bad we don't have wings to fly over that thing!"  Boyce said about
the escarpment.  "I don't feel up to the climb."

"I can do without it, also, but we can't go around it; that would take
too long."

Boyce looked at Lloyd with a perplexed expression.

"Why did I agree on taking this route, anyway?"

Lloyd grinned and closed his pack while he spoke.

"It's shorter, for one thing."  Boyce began.  "I wonder, at times, if
we will make it there, by taking this way?!"

He drank some water then slung the sack around his neck and shoulders,
and Lloyd did the same with his pack.

They both got on their feet and looked at the escarpment then started
in its direction, pacing themselves steadily and surely until they were
quickly on the other side of the aspen, and were standing at the base
of the escarpment's towering cliffs.

"Looks high!"  Boyce's brief comment drew a look from Lloyd until he
finished his thought.  "But -- we can't turn back now!"

He laughed for a moment then looked up.

"You know, if someone told me, back when I was a boy, that I would be
climbing an impossible rock when I was twenty-one, I would have laughed
in their face."  Boyce continued to laugh, watching for Lloyd's
reaction.

"At least you're young, my friend.  I'm nearly twice your age, so this
trip is that much harder for me!"

"Strange,"  Boyce began.  "this thing, Fate!  It made us friends
through your hardship, kept us as friend through my own, and now we're
going to a place where we will engage in battle... and maybe die,
together."

Lloyd gave him a strange look of disgust and shook his head.

"If I didn't know you better, I'd swear that you were still reading
Djenaud Smarte."  he said to Boyce.

"Knock, knock ..."  Boyce smiled and then gave Lloyd a pat on the back.
 "Who'll go first?"

"I will have to go first.  I've done more climbing."  answered Lloyd.
"Watch where I put my hands and feet and climb up the same way."

Boyce nodded in silence and Lloyd gave him a concerned looks as if to
calm him.

They began to climb the escarpment which was almost a straight vertical
rise of brittle rock.  Several times Lloyd lost his footing on the
rocks that flaked off with every inch that they climbed.

They had set for themselves two goals, the first being a wide lege
about half-way up, and the second was the flat summit itself, where
they were to sleep when the evening came.

By late afternoon, after a slow and painful climb that almost claimed
them both, they reached the ledge and took off their packs.

Boyce looked down over the edge and he felt a chill go through him.

"If I wasn't so tired, "  he said.  "I think that I'd get sick."

Out of breath, Lloyd laughed and looked down himself.

"You never ... you never get used to it, Boyce."  He lay flat on his
back and saw how far they still had to go.  "We can't rest here for too
much longer or we'll lose the strength to finish the rest of the way!"

He lifted his arm towards the summit and let it drop down again.

"I would rather have gone by caravan."  Boyce sighed.

Exhausted, Lloyd grinned and slowly rose to his feet.  He helped Boyce
up onto his and they put their packs back on and started up the
cliff-face, gain.

As it was Lloyd's experience in climbing a few times before, the
second-half of the climb was a little easier for him.

Boyce had also found the next part easier to scale, losing his hold
only briefly, near the top.

The skies were beginning to take on a purple-orange colour as the sun
fell behind the clouds far on the western horizon.

Summoning the rest of their strength they finally reached the flat
summit.

It wasn't until an hour passed, and the sunlight was gone, but for the
dimness left over, that the two men stood on their feet and cleared an
area on which to sleep.

The skies were turning to black velvet, with the diamond stars covering
every space and some galaxies were seen lingering far behind some
brighter stars.  Directly overhead, a galaxy of fingernail size seemed
to slowly pass over as they both lay back and watched it.

Meteorites streaked across the sky ever-so-often and Boyce told Lloyd
that they were angels racing one another through the heavens.

It was a clear and beautifully warm night, and a splendidly colourful
borealis shined in the north-western sky.

Neither one knew when they fell asleep, and neither one woke up until
noon the next day, barely noticing that they were being baked by the
sun.

Every bone in their bodies cracked and there wasn't one muscle excluded
from feeling the brunt of their climb.

Nothing much was said between them while they ate.  When they were
through, however, Boyce praised God, and turned to Lloyd.

"I just thought of something."  he said and Lloyd waited, interest
shining from his eyes.  "We could have cut holes into the rock face
with our lasers!  The climb wouldn't have taken us half the time!"

"I considered that before we started to climb."  Lloyd admitted to
Boyce.

"Why didn't we, then?"

"It would have been too simple and you would not have valued the skill
of the climb if we made it without the hardship and sweat.  Climbing
this escarpment is much the same as striving for a goal in life -- you
do understand what I am trying to say?"  Lloyd finished.

"Yes, Lloyd, I do!  You are teaching me things that you haven't
promised my father you would teach to me.  Nevertheless, I am grateful."

The two men spent the day on the escarpment looking at the land that
stretched for miles on each side of the precipice, but their main
interest was in the land that was set directly ahead.

The Krolalin Mountain Range was before them, with the chain of desolate
old mountains at the head of the Virgin Mountains.

They sat on the southern part of the escarpment and stared at the
awesome sight.  It was a mammoth forest canopied by clouds.

There was the river before them, flowing through a channel that it dug
out of solid rock over its many years of erosion.  Its banks sloped up
from there, on each side, with short underbrush on this side of the
river and the forbidding Dark Forest, on the other side.

Lloyd had Boyce hand him a pack and from it he took a dark cylindrical
case that he opened.  He pulled out from it an instrument of glass and
light metal.

He pulled the instrument apart and put it up to his eye, pointing it in
the direction of the river.

Boyce quietly watched him for a while.

"Is that one of those distance aids for the eyes?"  he queried.

Lloyd smiled taking the thing away from his eye and showing it to him.

"It's called a telescope.  To see further an clearer you pull it out,
like this."  he showed him and Boyce knew right away what it could be
used for.  "It is compressed for easier packing and travel.  A very
handy toy, I might say!"

He handed the telescope to Boyce and told him to look at the river near
the huge rock and tree, an he did.  He saw a cable there, stretched
across the river from one rock to another on the other side.

"That's what we're crossing on."  said Lloyd.

Boyce gave him an odd look as if asking him, 'why?'.

"We can't swim through that tempest.  The current would rip us to
shreds and we couldn't control a float on her either."  he said.  "That
wire cable is all we have."

"Who put it there?"

"I don't know, really.  All I know is that when I was maybe nine or
ten, some hunters came to my father with new of its existence.  We came
with a couple of Virunese to see it and it didn't look in very good
shape."  Lloyd took a breath that shuddered slightly.  "I had to carry
a thick rope to the other side and back in order to strengthen it until
some others were sent to replace it with a new cable."

"Why did you have to carry the rope?"  asked Boyce.

"I was the smallest and therefore the lightest, but I could feel the
thing under my weight the further I went."  Lloyd smiled reassuringly
and took a gulp of water.  "I've been over it a dozen times since then."

Boyce continued to look through the telescope at the other side.

The Dark Forest didn't look any more welcoming closer up and Boyce
wasn't looking forward to going through it.

The Dark Forest was densely overgrown with titanic sized trees, the
diameters of which ranged from one to ten meters in thickness.  They
were extremely tall, too.  So tall in fact that most of the forest
ceiling was constantly hidden in the clouds, which never seemed to
dissipate.

No one knew the actual height of the trees in the Dark Forest because
of the clouds.  Over the years, folk lore and tales had formed about
their origin and formation.  Mythical civilisations of evil gremlins
were said to have built a city up in the trees and kept it shrouded
from human eyes by the soupy canopy of clouds.  The same lore explained
why the entire forest teamed with hostile life; that which was the
gremlin king's way of venting his anger on the world and on mankind.

"We'll stay here today and sleep.  Tomorrow, when fresh and strong,
we'll go down there and carry ourselves across to the other side."

Boyce bore a pensive smile to what Lloyd had said.

"Lloyd?"  he began.  "Exactly how will we get down from here?  Will we
have to climb?"

Lloyd grinned at Boyce.

"It's easier climbing down!"  he answered and watched Boyce's facial
colour draw away.  "Really! -- We will climb down part of the way."

He got on his belly and leaned over to the edge of the cliff and
motioned to Boyce to do the same, and he did.  He pointed to a large
ledge that was about the width of a forearm, which continued on to a
piece of this big rock where there was a gentler slope and a path down
to the base.

Boyce shrugged and smacked his lips as he looked beyond the path and
straight down to the base of the escarpment, strewn with rock and
dotted with dry bush.

"That's still a climb!"  he said.

"I would guess twenty meters!  I like to think of it as a morning
exercise."

They rested on the summit through the rest of the day and talked about
their past decade together, as friends, and they discussed the great
city of Pomperaque and what it would be like when they finally reached
it.

Their second night came to them on the scarp, hardly different in its
beauty than the night before.  The only noticeable change was that of
the full moon, which was big and bright.

Each man was silent and rolled about in his own thoughts.

Boyce laboured with the vision of Brook and Dearborne's executions,
being played repeatedly in his mind while his uncle, Manguino, watched
with murder-hungry eyes.

He wiped the tears from his eyes and took the telescope that was
beside Lloyd and put it up to his eye.  He aimed the instrument at the
moon and was amazed at the details that he saw on its surface.

Lloyd had his eyes rivetted on the moon, as well.  His mind played with
him, showing him the memories of Mercedes' suicide mingled with that of
his own beloved Charnan's death.  His tears never formed, though.  With
his, at one time's ease to mourn, all he had now was the respectful
love and praise for her.

He never married since his betrothal to her, and rarely did he ever
have relations with women.  The only woman since Charnan, who
interested Lloyd in the slightest, was his father's maid-servant,
Torella.

She drew and teased his desires from him, until with her scalding
passion gave her body to him, before she left the Bartlett household
with a wandering artisan.

He never found out whether it was Torella's desire to leave or his
father's desire to expel her; so to keep him from fraternising with the
lower-classed help.

Lloyd's second love was removed from him and since that time he had
never again engaged himself with thoughts of love and passion.

He was deeply depressed and Boyce's voice was the welcomed hammer that
shattered his flagonful of thoughts.

"Have you ever wondered about the moon's perfection, Lloyd?"  asked
Boyce and Lloyd responded with a questioning mumble.  "There are large
holes on the moon and mountains, larger than any in Krolalin."

Lloyd turned on his side, faced Boyce and reached for the eye-glass.
He looked at the moon and agreed with what Boyce had said.

Boyce continued.  "It's strange how it looks so warm and beautiful by
our own eyes, then so

cold and empty with the telescope.  The stars, also!  They just hang
there, each a sun like our own!"  he finished and they both sighed.

"It's truly beautiful!"  Lloyd added.

"Remember our studies, Lloyd?  Wouldn't it be some life to sail between
those worlds?"

Lloyd expelled some air and he sounded in agreement.

Soon, the men fell asleep and travelled the uncertain routes between
the stars in search of those precious things that they had lost in
their youth.

Those harmonious dreams were fleeting, yet blessed moments of comfort
given them by the love of God.


CHAPTER  SIXTEEN

Morning saw the men eat little and collect their possessions, in their
preparation to make their descent to the floor of the other side.

Carefully, they hung off the edge and made their way, a hair and
a-breath-at-a-time, until they reached the narrow ledge.

Reaching the ledge didn't take the two men very long and they sat on
it, with their legs dangling over its edge while they ate their
breakfast.

The rest of the way would be quicker and easier because, to their left
the ledge soon became a wider path that gradually made its way down,
coming out at the river, very near to where the cable was anchored.

While they ate they watched a Kenttitian Eagle fly over them with a
rider.  It was heading south over the Dark Forest and they thought that
it was Empal on his way back to Pomperaque.

"Do you think it's him?"  Boyce posted.

"If it is, he'll be in Pomperaque by sun down."  Lloyd replied.

They didn't eat too much food for breakfast, conserving it for when
they needed it most, after walking for several hours without a rest.

They packed up their stuff and made their way slowly until the ledge
became the path and there they quickened their pace, finding that they
soon came down to the river, whose noisy roar grew stronger the nearer
that they came to it.

They sat down their packs and tested out the cable.

Although it looked rusty and brittle, it still had seemed to support
the weight of both of them.  That was near the anchoring and Lloyd
wondered how the middle and other side would hold out.

The river was indeed fast, pulling air over its surface as it flowed
along, making the banks seem somewhat windy to the two men.  The air
passing over made the huge cable buzz as it vibrated, sounding like
some of the sustained orations chanted by the monks at Halls.

They sat on a couple of rocks by the water and observed the river and
cable for a few minutes, trying to draw the courage to start across.

Suddenly, both men were thrown off the rocks that they sat on but they
didn't know by what.

They gave one another a couple of curious and worried glances and Boyce
hollered.

"Was it an earthquake?"  he yelled.

Lloyd shrugged and they watched the rocks slowly rolling away and then
digging themselves into the mud at the water's edge.

Lloyd moved over to Boyce and told him in aloud voice, trying to
overcome the roar of the river, that the rocks on which they sat on
must have been living rock.

Neither man had ever seen one of those strange mutations until now.

They had always thought that the stories about the strange rocks were
nothing but stories, but they really were able to buck a man from off
their backs.

They became calm now, and they knew that once they crossed to the other
side, they would have to become more careful.

These rocks that they had encountered were passive, but on the other
side of the river the beast were all but shyly submissive.  In fact,
they would attack their own shadows without the slightest forewarning
that they would do so.

The day before, Lloyd and Boyce discussed the possible perils that they
would encounter, not knowing for certain since very few men had ever
successfully passed through the Dark Forest.

Now, however, no more discussions could keep them from trying to cross
the river, and they knew it.

"We can't sit around here forever."  yelled Boyce.  "We have to cross,
so I'll go first!"

He put his pack on and tied it to himself and Lloyd grabbed his arm as
he moved towards the cable.

"Why do you want to go first?"  he asked him.

Boyce just smiles at him.

"I'm lighter than you are.  Besides, you went first on the climb."

Boyce turned to the escarpment and pointed at it.

Lloyd put his other hand on Boyce's shoulder and nodded his head to
him, approving the decision that the young man had made.

Lloyd tied his own pack to himself and they went over to the cable
where it was anchored to a huge boulder.

Boyce reached up and pulled on the cable a few times.

"Be careful!"  Lloyd hollered to him and slapped him on the back.

He eased himself along.  First sliding one hand out then his other
until his hands were together.  He kept to this method but half-way
across he began to tire and he hung there motionless for a moment.

The cable didn't vibrate with that odd tone any more, and Lloyd became
worried for Boyce.  Within his heart he egged him on and he prayed that
God would grant him strength to make it the rest of the way.

He was relieved to see Boyce continue to pull himself along and after a
short while made it across.

Lloyd watched Boyce drop to the ground and not move for what seemed
like several minutes, until he sat up and took the pack off.

He waved to Lloyd from across the river and Lloyd waved back.

He watched the cable vibrating, more now than before with the buzzing
evening-out into a low tone.  He stepped up on the anchoring rock and
looked at the wedge that held the cable in the rock, and it was moving
about a little.

He waved over to Boyce and pointed to the anchoring and Boyce went to
the anchoring on his side, looked at it and pulled at it.  He then
waved to Lloyd to make his way across.

Lloyd was unsure of the crossing.  The anchoring on this side seemed
very weak but he had no choice but to go over.

Once he grabbed the cable it lost its bass-tone hum.  He didn't ease
himself along, however,

seeing the wedge showing itself more and more.

He began to wish that they had a rope that Boyce would've strung across
to strengthen it for his crossing.

He threw one hand and grabbed the cable, then followed by throwing out
his other hand far in front of the first while he tried to keep his
body straight.

He kept his legs firm and straight, though, and the cable moved very
little, yet on the last dozen meters he felt the cable give way.

A booming twang was heard accompanied by a whistle.  He held on to the
cable and for an instant saw the other end recoiling towards him while
he was pulled closer towards Boyce's side of the river.

Unable to hang on Lloyd fell and Boyce hid behind a big rock trying to
keep the snapped end of the cable from cutting him in half with its
whip-like action.

The end finally fell into the water and Lloyd had made it to the bank
of the river having fallen only a couple of meters from the shore.

Boyce came out from behind the rock and helped Lloyd onto the rocks
nearby.

"Are you hurt?"  shouted Boyce.

Lloyd breathed heavily and shook his head.  The only thing that was at
fault with him was his torn clothing and scraped hands.

They spent the evening at the river's edge, trading off on staying
awake throughout the night, guarding from attacks from animals, but the
night was calm.

The only hostilities that the two men experienced through the night
were the horrific sounds of wild animals fighting somewhere deep in
the forest.  The noises were so great that they, at times, drowned out
the roar of the river.  To their relief, however, not an animal was
seen.


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Morning took a long time, so it seems, coming to the two men.

They were both awake by the time the sun rose and by the rime that it
was fully light, they had finished eating and made their way into the
forest.

It was a perfectly clear day out by the river, but the odd clouds that
towered over the forest were still there and they were maybe even
thicker than the day before.

At any rate, the inside of the forest had a night look to it.

The trek through the forest was the part of the journey that the two
men wanted most to do without.  They were afraid of the forest because
they knew very little about it.

The veil of mystery and the stories of horror and evil, surrounding the
place, didn't make their nerves any calmer.

Not much time went by since they had entered the forest.  All was quiet
inside and they

began to feel easier until they came across a gigantic, ox-sized
carcass of a rabbit that was being devoured by huge larvae as large as
big rats.

They didn't know the nature of the larvae, whether or not they attacked
their prey or just fed-off of dead animal bodies, so they both took
their weapons and carried them as they continued.

Soon after, the men heard a strange grating sound overhead that got
louder and louder.  As the sound became louder, so it changed, sounding
like the beating hooves of stampeding horses and finally like a droning
whistle.

"Maybe it's the gremlins!"  Boyce joked.

Suddenly, before them was a small swarm of hornets, larger than
anything that they had ever seen, flying straight for them.

Lloyd shouted to Boyce to dive to the ground and he immediately did it,
always trusting that Lloyd had a good reason for telling him to do such
a thing.

When Boyce threw himself to the ground Lloyd pointed his weapon at the
swarm and shot into it.  The laser setting managed to hit and kill only
one hornet which was the size of a human head.

He quickly put his weapon on the electrophoric setting.  By then Boyce
had already set his weapon and shot into the swarm that moved towards
Lloyd.

A bunch fell to the ground dead, and after Lloyd killed some more, the
few that were left took off for the clouded tree tops.

They both got up and looked at a couple of the hornets twinging on the
ground as they died.

They bent down and prodded one with a stick and saw that it had a
stinger that was about five inches in length.  Its mandible was large
and sharp, too.  It looked as if it was able to snap a hand off at the
wrist. They looked around to see if there would be another attack.

They continued to walk, hoping that the direction was still south,
since the only way that they could assume that they were heading south
was by taking a straight line right through the forest, ever so often
looking back from whence they came, in order to make sure of their
direction.

They made steady and rhythmic their jaunt through the thick underbrush,
keeping their eyes open for anything and everything that could possibly
be harmful to them.

They kept walking, not stopping for a rest or a drink.  They didn't
speak or look at one another, either, although each knew exactly where
the other one was at all times.

The forest seemed to be slightly brighter the further they went into it
but this boon to them soon passed, also.

It soon became very dark again and they knew that it was time to find a
place of shelter where to sleep.

They were fortunate to find a resting place not too much further into
the woods.  It was an outcropping of rock that was fairly high and
there was a recess in the rock, some ways up.  Over the recess there
was an over-hanging piece of rock, which would be a nice guard against
the condensing moisture that was beginning to fall now.

Boyce set his weapon on laser and blasted holes into the rock, to make
the climb up to the recess easier for them.

The recess was large enough for only one person so when they climbed up
to it they carved out a much larger hole.  It was smooth and warm in
the shelter that they made.  The cutting edge of the lasers warmed the
surrounding rock while they melted a strong smooth surface on the
ceiling and walls.

It was another night spent in trading watch by each man, keeping guard
from the ferocious animals that stalked their prey at night.

They were high enough up the rock, though, to be safe from most
animals, so they hoped.  They remembered the size of the rabbit and the
hornets, and they couldn't really presume safety even that far up.

What made the watch worse for the two men was the utter lack of light
that prevented them from seeing anything, including their own hands in
front of their faces.

They used their electric lights only when they heard noises that were
nearby, but they never saw anything.

Throughout the entire first day in the forest, Lloyd and Boyce barely
said anything to each other, or even stopped anywhere to eat or to
drink.  The evening was quiet, too; the only things said between them
happened when they relieved one another from their watch periods.


CHAPTER  EIGHTEEN

The forest began to take on a lightness and Boyce knew that it had to
be morning.  He had stayed on his watch longer, letting Lloyd sleep
because he knew that Lloyd needed more rest, being thirty-nine years
old.  Boyce didn't mind sacrificing his sleep to let him rest longer.
God knew how much Lloyd had sacrificed in his own life to fulfil his
promise to Brook and Dearborne.

When Lloyd woke up he asked Boyce why he didn't wake him for his second
watch period.  Boyce answered that he had just lost track of time.

Lloyd knew that Boyce didn't tell him the truth, but the topic wasn't
pursued any further because he was grateful for the few extra hours of
rest.

They finally spoke for a while as they ate their first meal in the
forest.

"I don't like this place!"  admitted Boyce.

"We'll have to tolerate it.  We still have a day's walk ahead of us."
Lloyd said to him and took a bite of meat, then continued.  " -- If
we're lucky!"

The woods were noisy, continuing from the night, but the men now felt
safer because they could, at least, see much of what was around them.

Growls were heard all about them, and birds screamed and fluttered
around.  One huge bird flew past their line of sight, soaring silently,
then with a loud screech, quickly rose into the clouded tree tops.

"What a damned place this is!"  Boyce stressed.  "It is so ungodly."

"It may be but it's the legacy given to the world by the ancient men!"

Their attention was diverted when they heard a gagging roar and grunt.
With it there was a loud shriek, like a scream, and they looked at each
other with puzzled and surprised eyes.

"That did not sound like a scream that a bird would make!"  Boyce
suggested as he got on his knees, drawing his weapon and trying to
follow the unusual sound.

It came again and was getting nearer and more frequent.

The, there it was.  To their utter dismay, there was a woman running
out of the thicket of brush some twenty meters away.

She constantly turned to look behind her.  The bushes waved and buckled
as if a herd of elephants were breaking through in the same direction
that the woman was running.

Lloyd hollered out to her, calling her to run towards the cliff where
they sat, and then they saw what was running after her.  It was a wild
pig the size of a horse.

It advanced more quickly on the woman, now that she was in the open.

"Drop to the ground!"  Boyce yelled at her several times until she
finally did it.

Before the pig came upon her in its rampant and hostile charge, Boyce
fired a laser at it split the pig's skull in two.

Lloyd quickly climbed down from the ledge and ran to her, picked her up
and ran towards the cliff just as the pig fell from its momentum.

He guided her into the notches in the cliff face and push her up along
the way.  At the ledge Boyce took hold of  her arms and pulled her up.
She looked at his face for a moment then lost consciousness.

Lloyd and Boyce were ready to leave before this strange woman happened
along.  Now they felt a duty to stay with her until she came to.

They wrapped her in Lloyd's blanket after touching her skin and finding
that it was ice-cold.

Lloyd looked at the woman and made a comment to Boyce about her beauty
and strangely frail-looking quality.

She wasn't very tall yet her build was slim and firm.  Her hair was
very long and dark, shaded with copper highlights and her shut eyes
were oblong and appeared to be larger and slightly slanting.

Her whole face had a serious beauty about it, the patches of dirt, here
and there, made little difference to its overall appeal.

Lloyd was taken with her.  He didn't know whether it was because of her
beauty or because she was in the middle of this most naturally hostile
place on the northern continent.  Nevertheless, he found it very hard
not to look at her.

Boyce had found her extremely attractive, also, but the idea of this
woman's presence in the forest made him wonder about her.

"She is beautiful!"  Lloyd began.  "I wonder who she is; how she came
to be here?"

"I question her being here, at all.  She's a day's journey from both
the river and the end of this forest.  How has she survived here?"

Boyce was becoming nervous about her and he disliked her due to his
mistrust.

"How she had come into the forest, is another point."  Lloyd added to
Boyce's train of thought.  "We shall find out, but until then let's
enjoy her beautiful company."

He leaned against the ledge wall and kept his eyes on her until he
poured some of the water from his sack, into his warm hand and ran it
across her face.

She stirred and opened her big green eyes.  She looked at Lloyd leaning
over her and Boyce staring at her with frozen eyes.

She looked about at the recess in which they all were in, and she took
an excited deep breath and then shivered.

She seemed frightened.  Lloyd took her tiny trembling hand into his own
and spoke to her.

"We're friends."  he said then helped her sit up and look at the wild
pig, that didn't move any more.  "See -- it's dead!"

Lloyd pointed to the animal then handed to her his water sack, and she
nearly drowned from her incredibly quick drinking.

She gagged and coughed and Lloyd pushed her forward and rubbed the
centre of her back.

The woman soon caught her breath and quietly looked at her two gallant
saviours.

"My name is Lloyd Bartlett and this is Boyce Loebh ..." something kept
him from finishing the whole name and Boyce was relieved.  "... we are
making our way to the south."

"We are in a hurry to get to our destination, so we took this route.
It is shorter by several days."

By the manner of Boyce's speech,  Lloyd knew that Boyce didn't want any
details of their journey to be revealed.

"You almost had yourself stomped into the ground by that animal.  What
are you doing in these woods?"

The woman looked to the dead animal and at Boyce.  When she spoke, she
turned to Lloyd.

"I was running."  she said, and the two men eagerly listened.  "My
father is an over-lord.  He wanted to force me into a marriage with a
Teniqués.  I refused and he had me whipped and branded."  she pulled
the single support strap from her shoulder and exposed the breast of
the same side, that looked scarred, with the symbol of a trident burned
on it.

Lloyd lifted the shoulder support back onto her shoulder covering her
up.

They stared into each other's eyes and Lloyd felt warm from the glow
emanating from her.

She took the blanket from around her, dropping it to around her hips
where it no longer covered her.

She only wore the single piece of clothing, made of a dark, thin and
short fragment of material.

She was barely covered but for her torso, and she didn't wear anything
as undergarments.

She put her hand on the upper, inside part of her thigh and when she
brought it away there was blood on her fingers.

Boyce just sat back and watched the strange unfolding of her story and
actions, all of which were aimed right at Lloyd.

"Are you hurt?"  Lloyd asked with much concern.

"I have a small gash in my leg!  It must've happened when I was being
chased by that!"  she pointed at the dead pig.

"Here, let me take a look!"  Lloyd offered to assist, genuinely feeling
concerned for her.

He took some water on a strip of cloth that he had in his pack and
wiped the wound clean, then wrapped the wound with the same cloth.

Although Lloyd was an honourable man, gallantly aiding a distressed
female, he could not keep himself from glancing at her naked
extremities.

"Does it hurt very much ..."  he stopped and with his eyes conveyed a
question of need to know her name.

"My name is Grenadine."  she said and Lloyd echoed with a smile.

Boyce was annoyed by what he saw.  Everything was kindness and
appreciation between them, but he felt that something was at fault.

"I'm alright."  she said and she made a little smile that poked a hole
into Lloyd's heart.

"Can you walk, Grenadine?  We wish to resume our journey soon and we
don't want to leave you behind."  Lloyd asked her.

Grenadine nodded to him and they packed up the two packs and climbed
down.

Lloyd gave Grenadine his blanket and she wrapped it around her body
into a kind of dress that looked like it was made for her.

No seam showed and no string or thread was used to keep it together.

Boyce walked behind Lloyd and Grenadine, keeping all his attention
focused on the woods and making certain that they continued to walk in
a generally southern direction.

Above them the tree tops were still hidden and sounds like mute
whistling came from there.

Boyce began to believe in the gremlin lore and the evil that was
supposed to be associated with it.

If it wasn't for the woman travelling with them, Boyce believed that
they would have been out of the forest by this time.

Grenadine limped very little but she held on to Lloyd's right arm at
all times.

Boyce didn't like that.  He saw that Lloyd would have a very slow
response in drawing his weapon if it became necessary.

They kept walking and never stopped for a rest.

Grenadine didn't ask for any rest and Boyce had thought that, for a
woman, that was peculiar.

With every hour that passed, and they made it further through the
forest, Boyce trusted that woman less and less.  He couldn't tell this
to Lloyd, however.  His preoccupation with Grenadine would have made
him unreasonable towards Boyce's views about her, so Boyce kept his
thoughts to himself and kept his wits about himself.

Lloyd and Grenadine talked to one another throughout the entire
distance travelled since they left the rocky ledge where they slept
last night.

Lloyd had forgotten an agreement that they made way back in Besten when
they chose this route.  It was Lloyd's suggestion, too.

"We should keep as quiet as possible when going through the Dark
Forest.  We won't draw as many wild animals to the sounds we make."

Boyce remembered those words each and every time that Grenadine's
bird-like laugh reverberated through the trees.

There was huge crashing sound that came from their left side, and it
wasn't far from them.

They stopped in their tracks and silently waited.

Lloyd had briefly lost his interest in Grenadine and he looked at
Boyce's angered contours, yet he didn't understand them.

They stood still for several minutes, looking about.

Lloyd made Grenadine squat down and he readied his gun for defence.

He and Boyce looked around their immediate proximity but saw nothing.
They became edgy.

Lloyd looked at Grenadine's calmness and helped her up from the ground.
 He was proud that she could keep her courage when their's was waning.

Boyce watched both of them with amazement as they sluggishly milled
their way in their intended direction.

He followed once again being the eyes for the entire party.

Time passed and the forest grew dark for the second time.  Night was
again, at hand.  Boyce was not at all pleased.

"Lloyd!" Boyce cried out.  "We should seek a shelter!"

Lloyd nodded to him and they reconnoitred the entire area around them,
in search of some place.

The only shelter available, with any degree of safety offered to them
was a gigantic bird's nest.

"Should we try it?"  Boyce asked with his answer already suggested in
his tone.

"We couldn't find better in this light!"

With Lloyd's answer, they took out their lasers and sliced several
dozen rungs into the tree leading up to the branch with the nest.

"Well?"  Boyce thrust his hand up at the tree.  "Tonight we'll be
sleeping with the gremlins."

Grenadine gave Boyce a strange glare of disapproval and Lloyd smiled
because he thought it looked amusing.

"We go up in a moment!"  said Lloyd then went a few meters from the
tree to urinate.

Boyce came up beside him and did the same, taking his first opportunity
to speak to Lloyd about the girl, since they took her along.

"Your mind hasn't been on the journey."  he told Lloyd.  "This place is
dangerous and you've fully dropped your guard."

Lloyd didn't say a word while Boyce spoke.

They both finished urinating and Lloyd began to turn but Boyce stopped
him.

"Haven't you given any thought on how or why she came to be in this
forest?"

Lloyd was still quiet in such a way as to seem like he was ignoring
Boyce.

"You don't believe that story that she gave us, do you?"  Boyce
demanded and answer.

Look, Boyce!  She's a very nice and beautiful woman.  We can't leave
her here to die!"

"Yes, Lloyd, but don't you see? -- She shows no apprehension about
being in this place!"  He stopped his monotonous whisper and pointed to
her.  "Look at her Lloyd, does she look frightened to you?"

Lloyd glanced over at the woman but he couldn't see what Boyce was
talking about.

All he could see was Grenadine leaning against a tree with her arms
crossed and her eyes staring straight ahead.

Lloyd walked away from Boyce and soon was helping her climb up the
rungs towards the branch where the nest was resting.

Boyce watched them climb.  He was disturbed when Lloyd never came back
down to get his pack.

Boyce put both packs on, one around each shoulder and he slowly made
his way up the tree and then swung his legs astride the branch when he
reached it.

Lloyd and Grenadine were already reclined in the nest when Boyce took
the packs and set them inside the nest with them.

From his pack Boyce took out his cape and electric light.  With a
little food and his water sack, he made his way to the butt of the
branch and sat against the trunk of the tree.

With the final particles of light scattering through the forest, Boyce
scanned the area to make certain that no animals were in the vicinity.
He looked up into the clouded tree tops and wondered about the lore of
the gremlin kingdom and whether or not it was true.

It was dark now; pitch and silent but for occasional sounds of
night-birds whistling through the trees and, at times the sounds of
rocks being overturned by large and hungry animals looking for grubs.

Many hours had passed since Boyce took the first watch.

He was finished slowly eating his food and keeping awake because he
didn't dare risk leaving them defenceless.

Hours later, Boyce crawled along the branch to the nest, having his
light on it so that he wouldn't fall from it.

At the nest, he was ready to call Lloyd to his turn at watch, and he
came upon them when they were at the height of love making.  Grenadine
was  obviously the aggressive one.

He turned off the light and crawled back to the tree trunk, and leaned
up against it, throwing his legs around the branch to keep himself
stable.

Something, he thought, was happening to his friend.  Lloyd was
behaving oddly and not like himself, and what's worse, Boyce didn't
know how he could help Lloyd.


CHAPTER  NINETEEN

Lloyd stood up in the nest, stretched and tucked his tunic back into
his pants.  He looked over at Boyce wrapped tightly in his dark cape,
staring right back at him with withdrawn eyes.  His face was pale and
his lips were dry and slightly cracked from the trifle breeze that
filtered through the forest during the night.

Lloyd tipped his head to Boyce and Grenadine peaked over the rim of the
nest and look at him, as well.

Lloyd and Grenadine shared some of his rations and Boyce began to
straighten up from his uncomfortable night of sleeplessness.  His legs
dangled off the branch while he sprinkled water on his hand then patted
it over his face.

Breathing coarsely and heavily, Boyce looked over at Lloyd and
Grenadine setting their clothing in order, and he looked way when he
saw Lloyd kiss Grenadine's hand.

Boyce lifted his pack around his shoulders and then threw his cape
about himself and climbed down the tree.

It was an eerie peacefulness on the ground and he felt very ill-at-ease
all by himself.  He took his laser from his belt case and seared some
marks on a few dozen trees, heading in a straight line, south from the
tree in which they spent the entire night.

Lloyd watched Boyce walk in the direction of the blazed trees and he
knew that Boyce was going ahead, alone.  He climbed down from the tree
with his pack and Grenadine, on his back.  Her beautiful legs and
delicate arms tightly clutched him about his body, and she sensually
rubbed her lips on the back of his neck.

They followed the trail that was hastily marked by Boyce, who was far
ahead by the time that they started.

For their own protection and welfare, Boyce knew that they had to hurry
out of the forest.  This place was taking its toll on the both of them;
Boyce with his potent strength and Lloyd with his immobility of
character.  He was certain that their safety was only assured by the
speed of which they could make it to the other side of the forest.  A
third night would surely taken them, thought Boyce.

Many hours were spent in Boyce's struggle to make the other side.  His
weapon was drawn at all times and in his speed he shot several large
animals, regardless if they motioned to attack him, or not.  He
couldn't chance any friendly influences in this forest.  He could not
trust this place of legend and mystery while he worried for his friend,
helper and teacher, Lloyd Bartlett, to make it to the other side.

On the other side was an immense canyon, stretching to each side of
him, as far as the eye could see.

There, far to one side, was a swinging cable bridge connecting the two
sides of the canyon; they were certainly a kilometre apart.

He waited at the place that he came out of the forest, for about an
hour.  Then, as if beckoned back into the forest, he followed his
markings back towards Lloyd and Grenadine.

One half hour into the forest, Boyce saw Lloyd and Grenadine leaning
against a large boulder, embraced and oblivious.

Grenadine was in front of Lloyd and she was kissing him while,
unnoticed, a large pack of dogs came out of the shadows of the trees
and made their way towards them.

Lloyd didn't see the dogs and he didn't even hear some of them snarling
as they neared.

Boyce saw the dogs quickly move upon them, and he saw that Lloyd didn't
have his laser out of its case.  There was no time to warn them.

He rushed down on one knee and set his gun on the electrophoric
setting.  He fired into the middle of the pack of dogs.  Several fell,
kicking as they died.  A few others howled into a whimper and scurried
away. A few of them turned and advanced upon Boyce.

Lloyd looked up and saw the dogs run towards Boyce.  In a sleepy daze
he drew his laser and pointed it at the dogs.  Just as he was firing
Grenadine grabbed his arm and pointed it towards the ground, allowing
the laser to gouge a large hole into the earth.

Unsure of what had actually happened Lloyd slowly focused his eyes upon
Grenadine.  As he stared at her he was transfixed upon her green eyes
which began to change to a shiny rust colour as she slowly began to
back away from him.

Once more he fired several rounds at the dogs, vaporising one that
committed to a jump upon Boyce, giving the young man the chance to duck
and roll away.

As Boyce rolled he came to rest upon one knee.  He raised his laser,
bracing his wrist with the other hand.  The power cell within the laser
was dead and one dog was too near to him for either he or Lloyd to kill
it from the positions they were both were situated.

Boyce, fearful of this circumstance, still remained calm.  His eyes
scanned the ground about him.  Quickly he had noticed a large tree
branch resting inches from his left hand.  Without much plan or thought
Boyce scooped the tree branch with his left hand sending it in flight
towards his right hand.  As surely as rises the sun the branch found
its mark. He wielded the stick high over his head as he sprang to his
feet.  He stood with his feet placed far enough apart for a sure-footed
balance and allowed the stick to come crashing down upon one of the
dog's as it hurled itself towards him.  A thundering crack echoed about
the forest as Boyce found the mark of the dog's back, crushing it into
a bloody pulp.

Lloyd, now achieving a sense of sobriety, shot at a few more of the
dogs and failed to notice Grenadine moving away from him.  She picked
up a jagged rock and flung it towards Lloyd's head.

Without surprise at what he saw, Boyce quickly sprang off of his feet
and lunged towards Lloyd.  But the rock found its mark hitting him
behind the left cheek before Boyce knocked him to the ground.

Boyce reached him as he had sunk to his knees and toppled to one side.
But Lloyd did not lose consciousness.  Boyce lifted him onto his lap
and Lloyd's head shifted over, his eyes seeking the beautiful waif,
Grenadine.

Their eyes caught each other; Lloyd's displayed his broken heart and
Grenadine's showing a satisfied mania.

Before them both, Grenadine broke into a shrieking laugh and fell down
upon her hands and knees.  In their amazement and horror, she began to
transform into a large black wild bitch.

She growled at them, foam frothing and flying out of her mouth.  Sharp
and moonlight white fangs glistened, only out-shined by the ruby red
glint of her eyes.  She sprang directly at Boyce catching him in the
chest.

Boyce tried to fend her off by flailing his arms, but he was weakened
by the shock to his body, knocking the air from him.

With glaring, burning eyes and the flash of the lightning white teeth,
she howled then violently thrust at Boyce's throat.  Boyce grabbed her
head inside his bent elbow and attempted to turn her over.  When he
finally got her beneath him, he tried to clamp her snout shut with his
left hand.  In a frenzy but yet in control Boyce made a search of the
ground for Lloyd's laser, which had dropped when he was hit by the
rock, but he wasn't able to find it.

Boyce suddenly let go of Grenadine's snout, rolling quickly away from
her then in a blink of an eye moving into a standing position and
defenceless.

Grenadine got onto her feet as well and growled as they both stood
there staring and circling one another.

Once more she leaped in Boyce's direction but this time the loud twang
of an electrophore resonated about the woods.  Lloyd had fired at
Grenadine.

Lloyd crawled over to Boyce.  He was lying on the ground with
Grenadine's lifeless but, again, human body draped over him.  He rolled
her off from him and put his hand on her chest. In an instant he
reached over for Boyce and did the same, then sighed with relief when
he found him still breathing.

"Boyce ... you're alright!"  was all he said.

Boyce silently nodded and spent the next few moments trying to catch
his breath, and Lloyd kept a watchful eye for any more dogs.

Boyce sat up and they just looked at one another.  Nothing was said.
Nothing had to be said.  Both knew exactly what had happened and what
was, was.  Lloyd understood what was on Boyce's mind.  He knew that
Boyce could see the potential danger over the last few days, but had
nevertheless, allowed it to manifest.  He, himself, should have
realised the danger especially with her unafraid attitude, at the tree,
the last evening.

Lloyd pointed his laser at her body.  He severed her head then shot a
large hole into her chest where he dug out her heart with his bare
hands.

Boyce made it to his feet and staggered about the area until he found
the laser that he dropped early into the struggle.  He finally found it
near the body of the dog that he killed with the tree branch.

He tucked the gun into his belt case and surveyed the woods.

Several dogs were still pacing to and fro watching Lloyd mutilate
Grenadine's body.  They watched as he dug out her heart and stuff it
into her dead mouth.  They quickly ran off into the woods when he threw
her head at them.

"Let's get out of here."

No sooner did Boyce suggest their departure that they began to run
through the forest, following the markings he had made earlier.

At the end of the forest they were still running.  Boyce lead the way
to bridge and entered a few steps into it.

"Is it safe, I wonder?"


"It has to be safer than what we had just left!"  Lloyd admitted,
pointing in the direction from which they came.

It was at this point that the yelping and growling sounds of many dogs
began to echo from the forest not very far away.

They looked at one another and shrugged in unison as they began to run
across the bridge.  They laughed as they ran especially when the bridge
began to swing wildly with every step they took and they prayed to the
one true living God to strengthen the bridge until they made it across
the canyon.  The other side of the canyon seemed to move farther and
farther away and the chasm below them became bottomless to their minds.

They pushed on.

Lloyd looked back to see the distance that they had made to this point
and there, also making their way across the bridge, was a pack of
blood-hungry dogs.

"This is very disconcerting!"  Boyce commented.

"Hold on, Boyce!"  Lloyd ordered then stomped his foot on the part of
the bridge directly behind them and the shock wave travelled back
towards the dogs upsetting the lead dogs balance and footing, forcing
them off the bridge and into the chasm.  A couple others dropped when
Lloyd shot at them, but this seemed to egg-on the other dogs even more.

In seconds the shock wave returned to their side of the bridge making
both of them nearly lose their footing.

In short order the two men regained their footing and their balance but
only to see the relentless dogs steadily, and quickly coming nearer.

"We'll have to do this the hard way!"  said Lloyd then motioned to
Boyce to follow what he does.

They wrapped their arms about the tension cables that held the bridge
up and they wrapped their legs about the support ropes which held the
partly rotten wood that was the bridge.  Lloyd then drew his gun and
shot into the middle of the bridge just ahead of where the dogs were
now encroaching.

The bridge split.  Wood splinters flew everywhere.  The dogs tumbled
hundreds of meters to there deaths on the chasm floor.

Grabbing for the tension cable with his gun hand, Lloyd had released
his gun as the bridge head they were hanging on to recoiled towards the
opposite cliff wall of the canyon.

Both hit the wall hard, their eyes closed as if that would cushion the
pain of impact in some way.

When the bridge moved no more, they opened their eyes and checked to
see if the other was still there.  Their eyes met and with a reassuring
nod they looked up and slowly started to climb.

Although the distance they were climbing was not far the tangled mess
of the bridge was difficult to negotiate and both were near to
exhaustion from their battle, and their run.

Lloyd's cheek was bleeding but his hands each stretched and searched
for the next rung and his feet each found its mark, though it was all
through a virtual unconsciousness.  What kept him going was his memory
of the promise he made to Brook and Dearborne; it was the promise he
had, once again, rememebred.  It pushed him onward to his success and
he continued to climb as he felt a self-embarrassment for their
predicament.  He had allowed the memory of his promise to escape his
mind when he was with Grenadine and now he was sorry.

Lloyd had made it to the top and Boyce pulled him up to the edge and
dragged him over some flat rocks.  There they both lay for rest,
staring at the immense evil forest from which they came, looming on
the other side of the canyon.

"Let's not do this again!" Boyce pleaded, with a grin.

Both passed out.


CHAPTER  TWENTY

The sun slowly ascended in the east, appearing to rise from the distant
end of the canyon, giving light to the rocky gap, through to its other
far end.

Boyce opened his eyes to see some birds flying overhead.   He quickly
sat up but after he saw they had made it across the bridge he felt more
relaxed.  He stared back, at the immensity of the Dark Forest and its
perpetually clouded tree tops.

Now he wondered, more than when they were inside the forest, if the
mythical lore about the gremlin city, in the cloudy tree tops, was true.

Lloyd now sat up, as well, and with hazy eyes looked towards the
forest, too.

He glanced to Boyce who wasn't looking at him at the time, very much
intent in his study of the canyon.

"That place will get a man -- one way or another!"  Lloyd said waiting
for a response from Boyce.   "Boyce ... I can't begin to say how sorry
-- "

" -- Let it be, Lloyd!"  Boyce cut into his apology, but not in a
manner suggesting disrespect.  "You weren't yourself and nor was I.  I
suppose the forest reached the both of us."

Lloyd nodded and sighed as he stared towards yesterday's events.

"It was an awesome teacher, my friend."  Boyce began.  "It taught us
what we feared the most.  It taught you the pain of loneliness and duty
and it taught me that fighting, and killing, is unavoidable."

Lloyd placed his hand firmly on Boyce's shoulder, offering a silent
thanks for his understanding and forgiveness.

"I know the need that you had for the company of someone like
Grenadine.  I suppose the forest knew that and used it against you.
Yet, it didn't have the power to turn us against one another!"

Lloyd felt ashamed of his behaviour of the last few days but he did
believe that Boyce was genuinely sympathetic about it all.  He also
knew that Boyce was right about the Forest using fear against its
trespassers.

Boyce finally looked away from the Forest and riveted his eyes on Lloyd.

"Your father told me about Charnan."  he admitted to Lloyd.  "I can't
tell you how very sorry I felt about that.  That's the only reason that
I am able to understand."

Lloyd's eyes glided down to his hands.  "I began to fall in love with
her."  he confessed, remembering how soft and smooth Grenadine's skin
was to his caresses.

" She was very beautiful ... too bad she was a gremlin."

"She was a lycanthrope."  Lloyd corrected.  "In ancient times they
called her kind, werewolves!"

"Whatever she was, Lloyd, I will never dismiss myths or legends after
this trip."

Far across the canyon the winds carried the howling cries of the dogs
that never made it to the bridge, in pursuit of the two men.

Through the telescope Boyce peered at the other side of the canyon at a
scant few dogs that paraded back and forth, and then throwing
themselves off of the cliff to join their dead comrades below.  He
passed the glass to Lloyd.

"The parts couldn't survive without the rest of the body."

Boyce listened and nodded at Lloyd's insight.  It was personal to his
friend, but Boyce understood the consequences of the dogs'suicide.

"Instead of living with the loss, knowing they would bare great
loneliness, they decided to die rather than carry on by themselves."

Several hours after the sun rose high in the sky, the two continued
south on their journey back to Pomperaque.

The next five days were relaxing and uneventful, in comparison to their
trek through the forest.  Many animals were seen along this path but
none seemed hostile -- to the men's relief.

They only had the one weapon left between them.  Physically, they were
becoming weaker with each meter that they travelled, but regardless of
their discomfort, they relentlessly carried-on.

On their eleventh day of travel they came across a God-sent farming
community where they replenished their food and water supplies.

There they spent the evening listening to tales of a once great nation
before the great scourge of man.  They already knew all the truth, but
they didn't anticipate the stories events, and they both kept their
knowledge to themselves.

They knew that Manguino's spies and his influence were already reaching
into the hearts of little towns, such as this one.

A small skirmish broke-out in the town that night.  It was all about
the tales of the old ways, but Lloyd and Boyce laughed at the fisticuff
like it was part of the story being told, and later graciously accepted
an offer by an older man to spent the evening on his farm.

"The loft in my stable is dry and very warm."  promised the old man.

Refreshed, with a new supply of food and water, they continued south
until two days later they saw the Sedarin capital on the horizon of the
Sedarin Plateau.

They spent the evening on a small mesa several kilometres from Sedara
and the next morning they made their way into the heart of the city.


CHAPTER  TWENTY-ONE

Entering the city, Lloyd refreshed for Boyce the details and customs
that were peculiar to the Sedash.

"They're hermaphrodites, but some exhibit qualities that are more
inclined to one, or other, sex to which we are accustomed."

"How can you tell which is which?"

"You will be able to tell."  Lloyd grinned.  "They wear obvious
clothing, and the two distinct types do carry themselves in a
noticeable manner.  Plus their title will be the give-away.  Those
hailed as 'Mas', in their name are the more masculine type.  Those that
are the more feminine are addressed as 'Dam'."

Lloyd recounted the basic formalities of custom for Boyce and explained
that these people were not known to be very hostile. Yet, just as they
neared the city centre they were surrounded by a dozen of the city's
Eminent - the palatial security force.

"You are not of our people!"  accused one of the guards, pressing the
tip of their lance up against Lloyd's throat.  The others did the same
to Boyce.

Surprised by this, the two men stared at the main guard, and expressed
their displeasure at the aggressive halt of their path to the palace.

Lloyd took the point of the lance into one of his hands and
nonchalantly moved it away from his throat, then cleared it before he
spoke.

"We are from Besten.  We have permission to pass through your beautiful
city!"  he said.

"We know nothing of such a thing!" yelled the main guard, then
ordered.  "Follow!"

"They are 'Mas'?"  Boyce guessed.

"Yes!"  confirmed Lloyd, as the guards took their supplies from them.

"No speaking till you are given permission!"  ordered the guard.

The two men began to follow the lead guard but were stopped momentarily
by another one who ripped the belt case from around Boyce's waist.

They were escorted to the palace of the Sedash ruler, Mas-Trephor.

Under a strict watch, they were forced to sit for several hours. That
was to be their wait for an audience with the great ruler of Sedara.

During the lengthy wait to see Trephor, there was a Dam that brought to
them some food and drink.  The guards refused to let her through at
first, but then as if they had no choice, allowed her entry to see the
two men.  She served each one individually but said nothing to them.

The men glanced at one another when she handed them some goblets of
drink.

"Don't drink it, yet!" Lloyd whispered.

He took Boyce's goblet and took a sip from it, then soon after took a
gulp from his own.

"Can't be too cautious!" Boyce whispered back at him and the Dam
hermaphrodite smiled.

"I assure you both that the drinks and the food are quite safe.  If you
do not believe me let me drink."

Lloyd examined his server.  From the slight form he guessed sixteen
years of age, and from the look of those bright green eyes, he soon
nodded to Boyce that he could drink.

"I am Dam Lehnar. I am the Dam offspring of Mas-Trephor."

She bowed her head to the men and Lloyd introduced himself and his
friend.  He told her that they hailed from Besten, but didn't burden
her with much more.

The response excited her because she had heard many interesting stories
about that fantastic city and it was always her wish to one day attend
the Blaisaman there.

"My apologies for your detention.  I will go now to Trephor and ask
that your petition be expedited."

"It would be our greatest appreciation if you did so, Dam-Lehnar."
Boyce kindly smiled at her.

She smiled back at him then turned and hurried down the long hallway
adjacent to the room in which they were being kept. In a very short
order a page entered the room and summoned the two men to appear before
Mas Trephor.

Lloyd was beginning to realise why these people were behaving unlike
the reports of their non-hostile ways.  They had arrived in Sedara at
the time of the month when the major part of the population was in
their phase of inconceivability; as relative to their menstrual cycles.

It was during this week-long period of time that was usually set aside
for public exhibitions.  Prisoners and slaves were violently beaten
and raped, and even killed during those festival days.  These
violations became

a part of the Sedash culture, where they tried to display their
superiority over the one-sexed humans.

Trephor, as the ruler, usually molested the first prisoner of his
choice, so opening the week-long celebrations.

Throughout the regular times of the month, violations took place
regardless, since the Sedash had found great pleasure and entertainment
in the inflicting of discomfort on their subordinates.  The reports of
their non-hostile ways were less than accurate.

Gallant gentlemen as they were, self-taught in the presentation to
those who are royal, they both went down upon one knee as they bowed to
Mas Trephor.

"Stand!"  Trephor's voice cut like a blunt knife through old leather,
and although it had an underlying female quality, its hoarseness made
both Lloyd and Boyce assume that the voice was practised into being
more masculine over the years.

They rose and faced Trephor, still remaining quiet.

"You are handsome men.  We welcome you to our court of Sedara.  We ask
you stay and rest with us before you continue on your journey."
Trephor stopped for a moment then leaned forward on one elbow, letting
a portion of his wrinkled breast show through the lynx wrap that he
wore.  "Where are you two lovely men going?"

"Gothal, your majesty!  We are scholars from the Blaisaman at Besten,
called to Gothal to teach the children there -- in the ways of alchemy
and medicine."  said Lloyd.

Boyce stood there quietly not reacting to anything that Lloyd said.

Lloyd continued.  "And may I, also, modestly add that we are quite
proficient in the arts and in literature."

Dam Lehnar was seated to the left of Trephor, at all times, and she
stared at Lloyd with a

warm and affectionate eye.  She was displaying attraction to him since
the first time that she saw him.  Now, with her believing that he was a
scholar for the Bestenese Blaisaman, she was sure that she loved him.

"We were to be allowed safe passage through your lovely city, Mas
Trephor.  There is an agreement between our two nations."  Lloyd
continued.

"Yes, friends.  There was an agreement but we were not told who was to
pass through here, or where they were going.  You may rest here for a
day or two, if you care to, and you will be escorted to our southern
perimeter."  Trephor was being quite congenial.  "Until then, anything
that you desire you may receive at your request!"

Boyce bowed his head slightly to Trephor never removing his eyes from
the leader's face as he thanked him.

Lloyd bowed also and Trephor gave them a dismissing nod.

"Escort our friends to the state-room!"  he commanded to the guard.

When they exited the royal hall, Trephor called to another guard and
whispered to him.

"Do not let them out of the state-room.  I want them here for the
festival the day after tomorrow!"

Dam Lehnar's comely face lost its radiant gleam when she realised that
her father was truncating the agreement signed with Besten.

"They are beautiful and smart men.  The prime specimens of their kind,
perfect for opening this month's celebration."

Lehnar was panicky and afraid for Lloyd and his companion.  She knew
that at the celebration they would be tortured and most probably killed.

"Trephor?"  Lehnar pleaded with her father.  "Do not hurt these two
men."

"I cannot permit them to live, Lehnar.  They are dangerous and they are
men.  They lie like demons and would sooner cut out your heart than to
give you a nice greeting."

"But one pleases me, father."  said Lehnar.

"Which, my dearest -- the young king or his faithful teacher?"

"Young king?" Lehnar was astonished by what she heard.

"Yes, Lehnar. That young man is a king.  He is called Boyce Loebh.  He
carries himself like a powerful leader, and that older one -- he is a
brilliant man, but not a scholar.  The Bartletts are leaders in Besten
-- not students of knowledge."  he told her.

"Bartlett pleases me, my dear parent.  Will you spare him for me?"

"I will give him to you my sweet daughter.  My designs are for the
young king -- that one possessed this remarkable weapon!"

Trephor took from his lynx wrap a small device.  It was Boyce's laser
gun.  He turned to Lehnar and showed it to her.

"Scholars do not carry such things on lengthy journeys.  They just use
their minds to defend themselves."

He lifted the gun towards the door, at the other end of the royal hall
and fired a burst of the electrophore.  The stone doors blew off their
hinges and crumbled into dust.

"Yes, indeed.  I do so want that young Loebh!"

"And, Bartlett?"  pleaded Lehnar.

"He is yours. Do with him, as you will!"

The men had bedded early, after taken into the state-room by the guards.

Aside the fact that the men had fallen asleep early, they didn't wake
up until noon.

Now, during their first day of stay in Sedara, Boyce and Lloyd weren't
aware that they were being held captive.   They slept much of the
morning away and relaxed most of the afternoon and evening.  they
didn't care to leave their chamber and when they requested something to
be given to them, their request were carried out without a word.

The following day found the men waking early and by noon they were
beginning to feel restless.

They tried to leave their state-room but the guards just asked them if
they could bring something to them.  But what the men wanted was to
just go outside and walk the city.  It didn't take long for them to
realise what was happening to them.

"It seems like Mas Trephor intends to keep us here.!"  Lloyd had said
to one of the guards, but received no reply.

It was to their fortunate circumstance that Dam Lehnar had come along
and caught what Lloyd had said.

"My dear Mr. bartlett, you are not being confined."  she said to him,
in a soft tone of voice suggesting sincerity.  "Here, walk with me and
I will show you our gracious city."

"Thank-you, Dam Lehnar!"  Lloyd accepted her invitation but before he
left he moved close to Boyce and whispered to him that the Sedash knew
who they were.

Boyce responded with a nod and motioned for him to go with Lehnar.

Throughout the day and evening, Dam Lehnar escorted Lloyd to various
parts of interest in the city.  Many of the sights that she showed him
dated back to the time of the first colony of hermaphrodites that
established a settlement on the Sedarin Plateau.

In the late evening Lehnar took Lloyd to the theatre and they watched a
very graphic account of the Sedash becoming a great and powerful people
in their region.  There was much violence and bloodshed.

Lehnar sat very close to Lloyd during the evening.  He noticed it
immediately and prayed that another situation would not develop with
her as it did with Grenadine.  He also did not feel sexually inclined
towards Lehnar, even though she was predominantly feminine and was
generally speaking, pleasant to the eye.

Shortly after midnight Lehnar took Lloyd back to the palace. They
continued to stroll through the gardens where she was showing Lloyd the
various statues that dotted the path.  All were of hermaphrodites in
erotic poses.  She was hoping that he would become interested in her by
what he saw.  The opposite was true.

"I must thank you for your kindness, Lehnar.  Boyce and I appreciate
the gracious hospitality that you and your father have extended to us
during our stay."  Lloyd was starting to become diplomatic.  He wanted
the stroll to end soon because he was afraid that Lehnar would begin to
expect something from him that he was incapable of giving to her.   "If
you ever come to Besten, it is my hope that you will enjoy yourself as
much as I have!"

He thanked her and she began to melt for him.  The tone of his voice,
expressing his gratitude and trust, made her want him all the more.
She had also become very sad, knowing what Trephor had planned for the
both of them.

"I feel that I love you, Lloyd!" she announced to him.

He tried to keep any emotion from showing.  He tried not to give her
any impression of his feelings in regards to her declaration.

"I am very flattered, Dam." he finally replied.

She looked at him as they walked back towards the garden entrance to
the palace, and before entering she took his hand.  She kissed him on
the cheek then asked him a question that made him feel very uneasy.

"Would you mind it very much if you were to live in my city?"

Lloyd wasn't at all perplexed by her question.  It was a clear
invitation and it clearly displayed her intentions towards him.

He slowly turned away from her resuming his way to the state-room.

"Besten is my home."  he answered her.  "My family and friends are
there.  You do understand?"

"Yes.  I understand.  It seems that you pure humans will never accept
our kind!"  she said.

"Please, Lehnar ... don't speak that way.  Man is strange in his ways.
I suppose that is why the world is, as it is.  We all have our own
peculiarities and these are what set all people apart.  With some this
creates love.  With other people, only hate."

She took all her view of him as he spoke and she wished that he was a
Sedash, like herself.

"I don't hate the Sedash, and I do like you."  he resumed.  "But
because of our physical differences I would have difficulties in giving
you the love that you seek."

She let her head tip forward, her chin resting on her chest.  She
understood exactly what Lloyd meant.

"You are attractive, Lehnar.  You will find someone else.  That person
will be much better suited for you than I could ever be."

She glanced at the state-room door as they finally reached it.

"Tell me, Mr. Bartlett ... is that young man a good king?

Lloyd didn't respond.  His eyes were enough to question her about how
she knew who they were.

"My father knew the both of you from the very start.  The young one
carried himself with great nobility, and you always look to him for
approval."  she continued to reveal to him her knowledge of them.

Lloyd quietly laughed as he answered her.  "Do you really believe that
if my friend were a King that we would surely travel the trade route by
caravan, rather than travel by foot?"

"My father taught me, methods can often be misleading."  she said.
"Then there is that strange and powerful weapon that your friend
carried.  It is not the compliment of an intellectual."

Lloyd took Lehnar's chin in his hand and gazed deeply into her eyes.

"You certainly are an inquisitive one!"  he said to her, trying to
sound praising.  "We will talk more of this tomorrow.  I will then
explain to you who we are.  Now it is late and we both better get some
rest."

She smiled with acceptance and Lloyd kissed the back of her hand.

She left him as he entered the state-room and realised for the first
time since he was standing with Lehnar that there were no guards.  He
momentarily became concerned for Boyce's safety.  He looked about the
dark room until he saw him reclined upon one of the divans.

Boyce was still in the state-room.  It was obvious that he had been
there all this time without being bothered, but it mildly confused
Lloyd that Boyce didn't notice that he was left unguarded.

He quietly shut the door to the room and began to remove his tunic.  It
was then that he noticed, under the crack of the door, light and the
movement of feet.

One shadow crossed the light, but only one.

He bent down and looked along the floor under the crack of the door and
saw the callused feet of one guard on each side of the door.

Lloyd now knew for certain that they were no longer as safe as he hoped
they were.

He quietly went over to Boyce and touched him on the shoulder.

Boyce got up quickly and before he had a chance to say anything, Lloyd
hushed him.

"We're in danger, Boyce."  he whispered.

"I know!" Boyce replied then closed his eyes in sleep again.

Lloyd was surprised by the answer but he remained quiet.

Boyce was capable in observing dangerous situations.  Afterall, he
noticed the problem with Grenadine so Lloyd now trusted him all the
more.

"We have been watched every moment since we arrived here.  There are a
few guards below our window and tonight, at the theatre I overheard
some of the Sedash speak of their festival."  Boyce's keen senses
picked up much as Lloyd discovered in his whisper.

"We have at least two guards at the door!"  Lloyd informed him and then
told him about Lehnar's mention of their suspicions about Boyce being
king.

"They have rescinded the contract!"  Boyce stated and Lloyd nodded
affirmatively.

"What now, Boyce?"

Boyce eased back and looked at the shadows dancing on the ceiling.

"Festival begins tomorrow night."  Boyce started.  "That gives us
several hours to sleep.  This is my suggestion, for now."

"Sleep?" echoed Lloyd, questioning.

"If we're to run tomorrow, we don't want to run tired."  said Boyce.
"You taught me that!"

He smiled at Lloyd and wished him an easy and fulfilled sleep, and both
quickly nodded off.


CHAPTER  TWENTY-TWO

It wasn't until mid-morning when Lloyd and Boyce finally awoke.

Boyce stretched and went to the window, catching sight of several
guards marching back and forth, occasionally looking up at their window.

Boyce smiled at Lloyd and pointed down to the ground.

He went back to the table and sat down.

"Well, Lloyd!  What should we eat?"

Lloyd smiled at the ease by which Boyce took the situation and he
leaned over the table to him.

"You're calm enough to eat?" he asked.

"We need strength for later.  So, while we still have this mock service
from these people, we should accept it in our own mock way.

Lloyd grinned from ear to tear then went to the door and opened it.  He
thrust his head into the hallway and told the astonished guards to
bring some food and drink to the room.

It would be very difficult to leave the room this day.  They had to
wait until dark before they could try anything but dark was many hours
away.

Dam Lehnar came around in the afternoon dressed in a snug, short white
dress with open shoulders, and she sat about with the two men for
several hours listening to Lloyd making up more details about who they
were and where they were going.

Finally, Lloyd took her hand and told her that all that they had told
her was nothing but lies.  He told her that they were sorry for lying
to her but it was a matter of their safety and need to stay alive.

Then came a want for a favour.

"You told me the other night that you loved me?  If you do, let us go.
Help my friend and me to escape the festival opening tonight."  he
asked her.

"How do I help?  My father has me watched, too!"

"Try to get our supplies to us and before the guards come, to take us
to the stages, divert their attention and we will try to make out way
out of the city."

"I may be able to get most of your things." she promised them. "I can't
recover your weapon, however.  My father carries it with him."

"We don't care for the weapon as much as we care to take our leave from
the city."  said Boyce.

There was silence in the room for a moment and Lehnar soon stood up.

"I promise you both that I'll see what I can do!"

With this Lehnar left the state-room and the two men sat back and
waited.

Sunset was just a couple of hours away and Lehnar had been gone since
the thick of the afternoon.

They were worried that she either couldn't get their supply packs or
she went against them by telling her father about their plans.

Regardless of their anxieties, however, they waited for her to come
back to them.

As the sky began to darken and the hours quickly gained speed, and
Boyce and Lloyd became more restless and nervous.   However, their long
agitated wait was rewarded, for Lehnar had finally come back to their
room with just one of their packs.  The pack was Lloyd's and much of
what was inside was still there.  Only the telescope and its case was
gone but the change of clothing and the maps were still inside.

Lloyd kissed Lehnar and thanked her.

Boyce had also kissed her hand.

"Thank you so very much, Dam Lehnar!"  gleamed Lloyd.

"There are no guards at your door.  I told them that I will watch you
both and that you would still think that they were outside the door."
she said to them.  "Leave the palace through the garbage chutes and
make your way in the shadows of the fire alley."

"Thank-you for your help, Lehnar."  Boyce said graciously and she
smiled.

"That alley will take you to the southern plateau and don't stop until
you have reached the Divider's Ridge.  My people still stop their
pursuit there, if they will follow you at all."

"You are as helpful as you are beautiful, Dam Lehnar!"  Lloyd
complimented her.

"Take care, my friends!"  she said, and the men made their way out of
the room and down the

hallway to a closet door, and they found that they inside of the closet
had no floor.

Lehnar came out of the room and after Boyce, and Lloyd, jumped into the
hole, she closed the door behind them then went to her own room.

They hit bottom in a pile of rotting fish.

"This stinks!" Boyce acknowledged.

They looked around themselves trying no to breathe as they saw the
mouldy pieces of bread and meat and other food-stuffs that have been
down there for a good lengthy time, which only God could know for
certain.

They exited the garbage stores and found themselves in a narrow passage
with an open ceiling.

This must be the fire alley that Lehnar spoke of, they thought, and
bent down low, they slowly but steadily made their way down.

A quarter-hour later they were at the end of the alley, and to each
side of them they saw the walls of the city extending in a forbidding
manner.

It was very dark now and only the stars were giving the men enough
light to run by.

The plateau spanned kilometres before them, and in the distance they
saw the small rise that Lehnar called the Diviner's Ridge.

They ran and kept running.  Silently they covered countless meters of
ground with each breath that they took.

They had to make it quickly to the ridge but they also had to watch the
ground for holes and crevices.  If one, or both, were to fall into one
of them, they would surely be caught and returned to Sedara.

Behind them they now heard a great commotion and the city of Sedara
became lit up like a sun.

Trephor was looking for them and they knew it.  They were both tired,
almost to the point of expiration but they wouldn't stop, lest they be
caught.

It was very dark, and although the stars shone enough light to guide
them to their destination, they couldn't tell very well if they were
being chased by Trephor's army.

Sedara, behind them, emitted substantial light to produce silhouettes
of anyone following them, but because of the size of the outer walls of
the city, the two men couldn't see their pursuers until they were
almost upon them.

Their hearts beat heavily within their bodies.

The pounding was hard and they soon wondered if their hearts were
moving around in their bodies.  First their chests throbbed, then the
sensations moved to their stomachs and legs, then into their necks and
head.

Over and over they were becoming weary and they felt like only the
beating of their hearts had been pumping their legs the few extra
kilometres to the rise.

Boyce looked back and then saw that they truly were being pursued.

With heavy breaths that wheezed and gagged he told Lloyd that they were
being chased, but Lloyd kept his head about his and was steadfast.

"Just a little further, my friend!" he urged.

"I'm with you!" Boyce assured him, in three short gasps.

With strength summoned from the deepest recesses of their souls, they
began to run faster and steadier, and the ridge that was once distant
began to move closer and closer with each

successive stride that they took.

Behind them, the light of Sedara shrank and the stars revealed a small
cloud moving in the same direction as the men.

The cloud was Trephor's army.  Some were on horse-back but the major
part of it was made up of infantry, running as the men ran.

The faster that Boyce and Lloyd had run, the lesser ahead they thought
that they were going.

Lloyd turned his head for an instant and saw the small hermaphrodite
army, in hot pursuit, gaining ground with every second that expired.

In his heart Boyce prayed that they could make the crest of the ridge
before they passed-out, and there it was.  The ridge.

"Oh God, lend us strength!"  he gulped to himself.

The sounds of horses and feet grew louder and louder.  The
hermaphrodites were nearly upon them.  Abruptly the men lost the sounds
of the army as they lost their footing and they plunged into a drop in
the ground, then lost consciousness.


CHAPTER  TWENTY-THREE

When they came to the sun was already high in the sky.

On his back, Lloyd looked up at the sheer face of a cliff some dozen
meters in height and the way that he now felt, he knew that the climb
up would be difficult.

Boyce was lying on his stomach and he was regaining consciousness,
too.  He soon tried to push himself up off the ground and this he
tried a few times.

Lloyd heard him finally stagger to his knees and he called to him.

"Boyce!"  he said.  "Are you hurt?"

"No -- just a little sore!"  he replied.

"Look at that!"  Lloyd pointed to the cliff and upwards.

Boyce looked at it then he said the same thing pointing in the opposite
direction.

Lloyd looked and there he saw rolling mountains and shrubs and deep
gullies of rock.  What he saw was the tail end of the great Krolalin
Mountain Range that swung down from the north to the south-west.

They made it over the Divider's Ridge, and the Sedash troops did not
pursue them.

Still feeling somewhat exhausted, Lloyd and Boyce didn't eat anything
when they awoke.  They saw that it was late in the morning and they
still had a long way to go before reaching Pomperaque.

They kept their pace steady as they headed south, keeping to the ridges
along the route which they were taking so as not be vulnerable to
possible ambushes if trapped in one of the dry river beds.

The sun was beating down on them and they found the heat very intense
and uncomfortable; yet, between the Dark Forest and Sedara, it was a
welcomed blessing of peace to them.

They gained a good distance as they walked and observed the nature
around them; amazed at God's handiwork.

Boyce saw a black bird flapping from tree to tree. He wondered if it
was a crow, having seen a couple other crows throughout the journey,
and when he heard its mocking caw, he knew it to be so.

"Lloyd?"  Boyce began. "Do crows travel in groups, pairs or singularly?"

It was an odd question, thought Lloyd, but he did see the crow and he
knew that so did his friend.

"I really don't know!"  he admitted.

"Do you think it could be the same crow from the mine?"

Lloyd shrugged, not caring one way or the other.

The day slowly passed by while they hiked through the countryside, and
night was only a few hours away.

Boyce had told Lloyd that it was to their benefit to stop this day's
travel early and rest longer for tomorrow's walk.

On his advise, they stopped beside a trickling brook and built a small
shelter and a fire, and had their first meal of the day.

They were both tired but they knew that they could not rest until
they've reached Pomperaque, and indeed until Boyce regained his
rightful position in Phoride.

They slept under the breezy, starry sky and were blessed with peaceful
dreams that put them both apart from hate and struggle.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

For the next two days the men took to walking quickly and for long
periods of time, without any rest.

They would wake, have some food then head south to Phoride, and they
wouldn't stop walking until it was almost pitch dark night.

They only had one pack between them and they took turns carrying it.
Every several hours that elapsed, one would hand the pack to the other
while they walked.

They were making good time and were covering long distances with each
day that they walked.

They never stopped to eat food, they ate while they walked until they
reached the Serpent Strip; the land of the leper race.

In the three days that Boyce and Lloyd travelled from Sedara, they
covered over one hundred eighty kilometres (a remarkabl sixty
kilometres per day, of walking).

The men cast their eyes on the city of Palatka, sitting in the distance
on the floor of the Serpent Strip.

It wasn't an impressive city, made up of squat clay buildings that were
cube-shaped. Yet, there was something about the whole place that made
Lloyd and Boyce feel very ill-at-ease.

Boyce thought that they felt that way because of the hermaphrodites'
renegging on their agreement passage, signed with Besten.  He was
afraid that the Palatkans would be the same way.

Lloyd was more optimistic about this leg of their journey.  He told
Boyce that he shouldn't jump to any conclusions about trusting the
Palatkans.  Nevertheless, Boyce was hoping to convince Lloyd to circle
around the Palatkan territory.  He argued that going around the Serpent
Strip would only take an extra day's journey, but he believed it would
be peaceful, as-well-as uneventful.   His other argument was the notion
that they could replenish their supplies with wild fruit and they could
kill game for food, along the way.

Lloyd finally agreed to Boyce's prodding suggestions and seeing that
his judgement for such things, throughout the course of this trek, was
indeed good.

Off to one side of the rock mound on which they stood they found an old
lion's den.  There they secreted their pack and they went to sleep.

The trip would be more or less uphill for a while since the Krolalin
Range split into two parts; a smaller chain running all the way south
to Pomperaque and its three rises of land surrounding it: Bimini Hill,
Canon's Butte and Mount Benitar.

They knew that they were close to their destination, now just a week's
journey away.

They weren't going to take the chance that the Palatkans would turn on
them, as well.

Tomorrow they would circle the strip, endeavouring to avoid further
injuries and wear to their bodies.


CHAPTER  TWENTY-FIVE

It was in the morning during the men's second wave of sleep that was
coming over them in the before-dawn hours, that a cawing shriek was
heard coming from overhead.

The sun wasn't out yet, although it wasn't totally dark.

The men had, at least one hour of sleep left to them before they were
to wake and make their way around the strip.  At first they tried to
ignore that squawking but it soon became so frantic and intense that
they could no longer bare it.

Boyce's slight affection for the single crow he had seen flying around,
during their journey, was quickly waning and he quickly sat up to see
where it was and shoo it away.

He opened his eyes and saw six male figures standing around the opening
of the den.

"Lloyd, we're surrounded!"  Boyce screamed out to him and Lloyd quickly
sprang to his feet when he saw them.

"Lloyd!"  Boyce called out and Lloyd answered him quickly.  Boyce
continued.  "This is getting ridiculous!"

"I would say so!"  replied Lloyd.  "We should've thought twice before
charging our friends, here!"

The men took their capture in stride with the rest of their delays, and
Boyce laughed.

"Under the circumstances I couldn't see being cordially invited."

One of the hunters poked Boyce in the ribs with the end of his club and
Lloyd watched.

"I guess that means silence?"  Boyce jested.

Lloyd and Boyce were quiet while the leper hunters took them into the
heart of Palatka.

Hung in discomfort, they heard the sounds of life get louder until they
saw buildings and people pass them on each side while they were carried
deeper into the heart of the city.

The haul into the city finally ended and they were dropped to the hard
ground, and plumes of dust lolled about their heads.

When the dust settled from in front of their faces they saw a pair of
scabby and puffy, sandled feet before them.

Each man slowly leaned backwards as far as they could and looked up at
the tall body of a heavy set man, dressed in plain-looking robes and he
was fanning himself from the heat.

"Release them!"  said the leper and several of the hunters cut the
ropes and the two captives got up from the ground beating themselves
clean from the dust in their clothing.

"Thank-you!"  said Boyce.

"Yes!"  echoed Lloyd.

They looked at one another for a long time, then the Palatkans that had
them released spoke.

"I am Urre, ruler of this race!"  he said then proceeded.  "I will ask
you why you attacked my men?"

Lloyd and Boyce glanced over at each other and Boyce spoke.

"We seek forgiveness for that aggression!"  he said and the Palatkan
ruler waited.  "We slept on the hill and when we woke we saw your men.
Unaccustomed to seeing Palatkans, we undertook to defend ourselves.  We
are sorry!"

Boyce finished and Lloyd felt ill because of Boyce's statement about
the Palatkan's appearance.

Urre had an insulted expression and from behind him came a sedate and
shy voice.  It was a man's voice yet it was very gentle.

"Are you the travellers from Besten?"  asked the man.

"Yes!" answered Lloyd.  "I am Lloyd Bartlett and this is my friend and
apprentice, Boyce Loebh."

"They are the ones we have agreement, to let pass through Palatka!"
said the man.

"Hold your tongue, Munsen!"  ordered Urre.  "They had broken their
agreement with their attack upon our people."

Boyce and Lloyd looked at one another, realising that they were in a
predicament.

"Take them to their cells." ordered Urre.

Several Palatkans grabbed Boyce and Lloyd, and dragged them off to one
side of the city, to the cliffs of the canyon where huge dungeon-like
cells were made for Palatkan prisoners.

They were cold and dingy rock cubes, barren of anything on which to
rest on and to keep warm with.

The cells smelled musty and there were unrecognizable things written
on the walls and ceiling, and some were even seen on the floor when
the layers of dust were kicked up by the men's pacing.

"You should never have said that we weren't used to Palatkan
appearance!"  Lloyd scolded Boyce then sighed.

"I was being honest with them!"

Lloyd put his hand on Boyce's shoulder and tried to console him, from
his error.

"It's alright, Boyce.  Maybe we can talk to Urre and see if we can
apologise properly."  He moved away and looked out of the hole in the
rock door.  "Until then, we should make the best of this place."

"It is so cool in here but outside the heat is blistering!"

"Wait until his evening.  It'll be worse in here."

Lloyd came away from the door and leaned up against one of the walls
and huddled himself into a ball.

"Better get some sleep now because it will be too damned cold to sleep
later tonight!"  Lloyd instructed Boyce and he went down on the floor
and tried to sleep.

It was difficult but they finally managed to fall asleep and after
sunset, Munsen came to them with offers of warm blankets and a hot
broth of cooked fowl.

He called to them several times and Boyce finally got up and went to
the rock door.

Lloyd also had gotten up and went to the door.

"I am Munsen, the high-priest of Life."  he said to them.  "I was told
that you will be in our rituals of Life and Energy, after-tomorrow."
Munsen told them.

"I will make a tough meal, my friend!"  Lloyd promised to him.

"You know of our ways, then?"  Munsen urged for clarification.

"Yes, we do!"  Boyce said. "Would there be any way for us to appeal to
Urre, to honour the passage agreement?"

Munsen looked down and shook his head.

"I am afraid that our Lord Urre had never intended to allow you
passage."

Lloyd and Boyce glanced at one another and Lloyd sighed.

"You were right, Boyce!"

"I had brought for you blankets and hot broth to drink.  Your cells
will be unbearably cold by dark, and these should help!"

He pushed the blankets through the hole, followed by the large amphora
of broth.

"I am truly sorry that it's not very much, but it is all that I could
get for you!"

"At least we'll be more comfortable before we die!"  Lloyd commented in
a sarcastic tone of voice.

"Please don't!"  pleaded Munsen.

"I am sorry!"  Lloyd was apologetic, realising that this man was really
and sincerely trying to be kind.

"Listen!"  he told them.  "Long before we had your Bestenese Emissary
come to have us sign the agreement of safe passage, I had a
dream-vision about it and about you."

Boyce and Lloyd eagerly listened to the man.

"I saw that Urre would not honour the agreement.  Now, I set in motion
a plan to throw him down from power if you did come and if you were
captured.  You came and you were captured."

"What is your plan, Munsen?"  requested Boyce.

"I have many friends that are, at this very time, arming themselves
for our attack tomorrow.  If we succeed in destroying Urre's rule, you
will be given supplies and be allowed to go freely, and in peace."

"What if the overthrow fails?"  Lloyd had wondered listening to Munsen
speak.

"I have other friends that will risk their lives to free you, if the
rebellion fails."

"Why?"  Boyce was confused momentarily and he needed to be given a
reason why someone, who they didn't know, would die for their release.

"I had seen the doom and destruction of Palatka with your deaths, and
so if you had but a hair harmed on your heads.  Palatka must have peace
with you, Boyce Loebh; yet, I don't exactly understand why?"

Munsen's reply fit into the men's understanding.

Somehow Munsen knew these prisoner's importance and he knew that their
harm would mean the extinction of his civilization.

"We engage our uprising tomorrow.  When you hear commotion and
thunderous booming, keep low to the floor.  We have found a way to make
a burning substance that is explosive.  It can shatter rock and kill."

"Please take care and may the true living God bless your victory."

"If we believed in Him, I would hope that it would be so!"  Munsen said
and before he left he told them that he would try to see them once more
before the battle, and then he left them.

"He has a leader's compassion!"  Boyce stated.

They wrapped themselves up in the blankets given to them and they drank
the broth.

They fell sleep and the blankets helped to keep some of the chill from
them and they managed to get some sleep, though uncomfortable as it
was.


CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

A beam of dusty light shone into the oubliette of the murky rock vault
in which the men were being kept as prisoners for tomorrow's ritual of
Life and Energy.  Some of the sun's rays moved across Lloyd's face and
he turned his head away before he opened his eyes.

He gave a deep and hollow sigh that gurgled from the catarrh that
settled in his chest, from the night spent on a cold and damp floor.

He opened his eyes and watched the sunshine glisten off the frosty rime
that painted the walls and ceiling of the cell.

He gave Boyce a few pats on the back and he soon woke up in a similar
condition.

"Do I look as bad as I feel?" he asked Lloyd.

"I could ask you the same!" he replied.

Lloyd slowly got to his feet, not a single part of his body escaping
the rheumatic cracks that such adverse sleeping conditions bring upon
one.

Soon, Boyce attempted to stand up, too and his condition was not much
different that Lloyd's.

He let out an exasperated gasp as he stood up, half hunched-over.

"Oh!" he moaned.  "You would think that Palatkans would want to eat
healthy people!"

"I could use another ewer of that hot fowl-broth, that Munsen brought
for us last night."  Lloyd mentioned as if hoping that someone would
hand him some through the hole in the cell door.

"My sentiments ..."  echoed Boyce.

Both of them simultaneously began to bend and move their arms
frantically, and then their legs.  They didn't miss a part of their
body that ached.  They had to exercise themselves or else the arthritic
pains would never leave them.

Later, each of them took turns basking their chests in the rays of
sunlight that penetrated into the cell and soon they were both able to
breath freer, and more easily.

"I'd rather be eaten than spend another night in here!"  Boyce offered
the statement as something easy to think about, but it turned to annoy
Lloyd's own thoughts and fears about it all; he had taught Boyce about
the fact that the Palatkans cut up and ate their victims alive.

He still kept that fact to himself, needing Boyce's strength of
ignorance to keep himself from going mad.

The sun was higher in the sky and they waited for someone to come and
bring them food, assuming that prisoners were also allowed to eat.

Then their relief finally came.

A hooded Palatkan priest walked up to the vault door and gave each of
the men a small pail of broth and a long stick of bread.

"Munsen conveys his best wishes and a hardy appetite."  said the hooded
man then he came

closer to the hole and whispered to them.  "We shall let you go free
very soon, friends.  Do not worry!"

The message was brief and strong, and with the wholesome food given
them, they believed that they soon would go free.

The silence was disquieting in the city and Boyce and Lloyd both knew
that it was now or never, that the uprising would be put into action.

They waited eagerly and they could see that the day was slowly losing
time, the sun already disappearing overhead from their view.

Then it happened.  Near the centre of the city, a plume of hot red fire
and smoke of purple, black and blue, rose in force up into the sky,
with the roar of a hundred thousand thunders.

Screams soon followed the sounds of buildings crumbling and the men
watched the citizens of Palatka running about aimlessly, caught up in
the uprising between Urre's army an the high-priest's advocates and
friends.

On the flat top of one of the cubed clay buildings stood Munsen and he
hollered into the midst of the city towards Urre's palace.

"Give us honesty, purity and freedom! Give us your life and we shall
spare your families!"

He lifted a cylindrical package into the air and put an ember to it,
then threw it.

Momentarily, a great whoosh was heard and dust and rock spewed all
about the area and towards the cells, to where Lloyd and Boyce watched.

They dove to the floor and covered their heads, but in short order
looked up at one another.

"That's why he told us to keep down!"  yelled Boyce.

"I presume so!"  Lloyd returned.

They looked to the cell door and saw a hair-line crack running down the
centre of it.  Boyce touched the crack then pointed to it after he
nudged Lloyd with his elbow.  Lloyd followed to where Boyce pointed and
nodded his head.

"We'll be free ... "  Lloyd began. "providing we have a couple more
blasts like that one, but let's get our backsides to that wall and keep
close to the floor!"

"As Munsen said!"  Boyce grinned as he pointed out the obvious.  "If we
had our electrophore-lasers, we'd be out of here a long time ago!"

Lloyd lost the last few words that Boyce said.  Outside their cell was
another blast.  This one was louder, and this time they heard the door
start to give-way.

Lloyd crawled towards the wall and stood up, edging close to the window
to look out.  From his vantage he could see scores of Urre's archers
shooting at their enemy, just below the palace battlements.

Screams, explosions and sounds of stampeding people and animals
continued through the afternoon and evening, and finally, very late
into the night, the panic seemed to subside then totally fade away.

The only sounds left were that of burning buildings and cracking rock,
and the sounds of the Palatkan multitudes crying and moaning.

The battle was over and the men wished to hear news of Munsen and
whether his uprising was a success.  They were up on their feet and
both peered out of their cell window. They watched the city burning and
the people's attempts to bring their small holocaust under control.

It didn't happen right away, but following a quarter hour watching the
scene, both had realised that there was no sound except for the
physical movement of the citizens.  No one cheered.

There was no one making speeches or announcement.  There was no one
about shouting direction for the people to mount their rescue of the
city, from fire.

The fires were the priority, and the bandaging of the seriously hurt in
the fighting.

The sky was illuminated by the blaze of the fires. When the night gave
way to the sun's morning rays, there was hardly notice that a new and
majestic day had begun.

For many hours, Lloyd and Boyce kicked at the hair-line crack in the
cell door but couldn't smash it in two.  They couldn't get free and in
the quickly approaching daylight they knew that there was no hope.

Soon after the sun rose in the distant end of the Serpent Strip, and
the two men were morosely seated on the dusty cell floor, the door fell
open and there before them stood three Palatkans.

The two young women each had a horse by its' reigns, in one hand, and a
large travel pack slung around their arms.

The same young man, who had brought for them the previous morning,
stood before them now with a golden goblet of wine in each hand.

He handed a goblet to each man and they held them for a moment,
silently waiting for something to be said.

At the edge of a burned out clay building, a crow was picking at a
piece of garment showing under a pile of large rocks.

It didn't caw of flap its wings nervously, but Boyce had seen it just
the same, and he pointed to it, never saying a word.

In the eye of the young leper man, a tear was forming until it was
finally born onto his cheek

and trickled into the dry crusts of his face.  He kneeled before the
two men.

"That was our friend and leader, Munsen.  His own sacrifice assured,
for us, the death of Urre."  he told them and they listened, very
saddened.

"What is your name, my friend?"  Boyce asked him.

"I am called, Virgil!"  he answered.

"Rise up, Virgil, and rule this place with peace and compassion.  See
life and all its energies for what they really are.  Make your own
power and forces of life, through love, compassion and trust ... and
never again will you need to eat human flesh in hopes of attaining it
all."

Virgil rose to his feet and looked at the two men, in such a way as one
master would look with respect to another.

"We drink to Munsen and his vision of peace."  hailed Boyce and he
lifted the goblet to his lips to drink.

Lloyd touched his forearm but Boyce shook his head slightly, then
nodded at Lloyd, to drink as well.  Lloyd complied with his request.

"With the trust I show to you, in drinking this, which may otherwise
have been poison, so it shall be a reminder of the trust that you will
seek and find."

"With all the power given me through my promise to Munsen, I now let
you and your friend go freely and in peace, through Palatka."

They bowed to one another and Virgil helped the men put the travel
packs about their shoulders and then up onto the horses.

They pointed in a southern direction to a pass that lead up through the
cliffs of the canyon but before they urged the horses on their way,
Boyce turned to Virgil.

"The Palatkans truly are a beautiful people.  May you multiply and
become a truly great nation."

Boyce blessed his new and goodly friend then motioned to Lloyd to ride,
and they kicked their heels into the horses and galloped towards the
pass in the cliffs.

Behind them, Virgil and the two young women watched them ride away, and
the crow that had picked at the rocks, lofted into the bluish skyway
and soon disappeared.


CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

They rode the horses hard and steady, each day and in their five days
of travel they managed to cover over seven hundred kilometres.

The last five days, since they left Palatka were the safest and easiest
five days of travel since the day they had left Besten.

The horses were strong and they made good time. The few rests that they
had along the way were enough rest for the horses, too.

Boyce was pleased that Pomperaque was soon within his grasp and Lloyd
was pleased that Manguino would soon feel his death, like the common
man that he is.

Ahead of them stretched the lush and friendly Joenine Forest.

Each man could still remember the glen from which Empal helped them
escape to Virune, then on to Besten.

The beauty of Upper Phoride was just as Boyce had remembered it.

"I know my way from here!"  he said to Lloyd as they slowly rode
through the forest.  "Shall we go to the entrance of the Blue Mansion's
underground passage?"

"No!" Lloyd answered quickly.  "It would not be safe and it may draw
unnecessary attention to us."

"You are right."  Boyce agreed.  "We'll stop at Gothal for a while.  I
must see if the Abbey Mother from the Abbey of Our Holy Saint Mariot,
is still alive."

"Is it wise to do so?"  Lloyd questioned.  "I mean, she may now be a
spy for Manguino."

"Lloyd, she believes in the same God as we do.  She always has and she
dislikes Manguino.

Lloyd sighed and soberly warned Boyce.  "You'd better be right, Boyce.
We've come too far to be stopped now."

They rode some more and near the late afternoon of their fifth day out
from Palatka, the two men spotted Gothal and its main, and most
majestic monastery, the Abbey of Our Holy Saint Mariot.

It rose out of the ground like a living being.  A refuge across the
crystal River Clains, that crossed their path before them.

"There must have been rains here, recently."  noted Lloyd.  "The river
has swelled some and is moving faster!"

"It's so lovely this way."  was all that Boyce care to respond.

"That it is!"

They rode towards the river and slowly proceeded to cross it.

They were on the other side of the river and there they briefly stopped
to take-in the beauty of their surroundings.

Suddenly, the horses beneath them were frightened and they bucked,
without warning, and several men came out of nowhere, and proceeded to
beat on Lloyd and Boyce.

In a nearby tree, was a crow, as dark as midnight, and it squawked and
cawed when the men got to the other side of the river, and it watched
the other men attack.

In frenzied excitement it eyed the struggle that took place at the
river's edge, and its shrieks were echoing throughout the entire forest.

Caught unawares, and while weakened by their journey, the ambushers
knocked both men unconscious and took all of their possessions,
including their two horses, and their clothes.  The left them both
naked, lying unconscious and bleeding, half in the water and half on
the river's bank.

The crow left the tree and went to where the two men were sprawled.
It crowed and flapped its wings around Boyce's head, and began to tug
at his hair with its shiny beak.  Some bloodied hair hung from the
crow's beak, but there was no movement from Boyce.

They lay in the water for some time until several women came walking
along the river from Pomperaque, leading a cow.

The women were members of the Abbey.  Three were abbey sisters, the
full nuns, and with them walked two novices.

They were discussing the good fortune of their being gifted a cow by
the Prominent, Miel, in the market that very morning.  Then they heard
the frantic crowing and one of the novices looked for the origin of the
noise and saw Lloyd and Boyce, motionless at the river's edge.

She ran to the bodies and turned one over onto its back. Her eyes
opened wide and she could not believe the beauty of this young, but
badly injured man.  She checked his body for broken bones and severe
cuts.  She did the same with the other body, taking the same care
inspecting it until the other novice and the three nuns came to help
her.

She returned to the gentle handsome man, the younger of the two.  She
put her ear against his
muscular chest and sighed with relief when she heard his heart beating.

"This one is still alive!"  she said as if relieved.

"This one, as well!"  the others confirmed about Lloyd.

The pretty novice ripped her plain white dress and wet it in the river
then wiped the young man's cuts and bruises.

He stirred but never came to.

The other novice ripped her dress, too, and rendered care to the other
man.  The third nun looked around, keeping a vigil in the event that
those that did this to these two men might return and inflict further
harm upon all of them.  She held onto the rope that was tied around the
cow's neck.

"We have to take these men back to the Abbey, my children!"  the first
nun told them.

The other non-avowed, with her big beautiful eyes, questioned the
safety of doing such a thing but the nuns accepted taking the men back
to Gothal.

The crow was still hopping around Boyce's body but the young novice
didn't chase it away.  She helped the other four women lift the men
onto the cow and they took them back to the Abbey, inside of Gothal.


CHAPTER  TWENTY-EIGHT

One day passed by and the men were still in an unconscious state, just
as they were in part of the following day.

Since the late afternoon, when the five women found the men, the novice
first to be at their care, stayed and watched over them -- especially
Boyce.

She counted away the hours while they just lay there, pale and unaware
of existence.

It wasn't until the middle of the afternoon of this second day that
Boyce stirred and the young novice was there. She wet a clean cloth and
wiped the sweat from his head and face, and watched him slowly open his
eyes.  As she went to wipe his face once more, he took her hand into
his own and felt its delicate softness.

"Can you hear me?"  she asked him in a whisper.

"Yes!" said Boyce and he tried to get up but the couldn't.

"You will be alright soon, but now just relax."

He looked around the room, which he was in, and on a window ledge he
saw the crow that he had been seeing since they left Besten.

He couldn't take his eyes off the novice and he touched her face once
more.

"I am real!"  she told him.  "My name is Lilith."

"You are very beautiful, Lilith!"

She smiled at him.

She was happy that he liked her appearance because, since that day when
she found him and his friend, by the river, she was in love with him.

"My friend?"  he asked her.

"He is fine.  Some sisters are looking after him!"  she told him and he
smiled, taking her hand.

"This is the abbey, then?"

"Yes!"  she answered.

He held her hand and lapsed back into a deep sleep after sighing with a
relieving breath.

"What are you called?" she asked him but he didn't reply.

She kissed his hand that clutched her's.  She kissed him on the
forehead, too, and stayed with him for another night.

Lilith was slumped on the floor beside the bed.  She was asleep but she
was still holding on to Boyce's hand.

Boyce stirred and opened his eyes.

He was sore all over and his head throbbed.  He touched the small gash
on the side of his head, with his free hand, then he became aware of
the hand that he was holding.  He looked down to where the pretty
novice was, her face resting on the bed, like a sleeping angel waiting
for a waking kiss.

He stroked her hair and her cheek until she, also, finally woke up and
accepted his gentle caresses.

"How do you feel today?" she asked him, getting up off the floor and
sitting at his side, on the bed.

"I can imagine how Grenadine feels!"  he muttered.

"What?" she asked him but he never answered.

"You are Lilith?"  he checked and she nodded.  "I am Boyce!"

She smiled at him.

"Boyce!"  she repeated.  "That's a beautiful name!"

"In comparison to yours, Lilith, mine is but a name like barren dirt."

"I am flattered!"  she thanked him with shyness.

"I, also!  To wake to a beauty such as yourself is indeed a blessing
from God."

"You have been unconscious for a couple of days now.  Do you remember
what happened?"

He looked around the room and saw a crow perched on the window sill
outside.

"It was strange, but we crossed over the River Clains and I heard that
crow making a racket."  he told her and pointed at the crow. "Suddenly,
several men came out of nowhere and the next thing I know I'm gazing
into your lovely eyes!"

She took his hands and pressed them into her own.

"You'll be fine, in a day or so.  Then you'll be well enough to get out
of this bed and walk about."

A knock came at the door then it opened.

One of the sisters that helped to find the men brought into the room a
fairly large tray full of food, and she helped Boyce to sit up for
eating before she exited the room.

Lilith sat closer to Boyce and gently began to feed him.

"Are you hungry, Boyce?" Lilith inquired.

"Yes, I am!"

Boyce enjoyed the attention being paid only to him by this wonderfully
beautiful girl, and as the day carried on and his feeding was done, she
sat by his side and spoke with him about all manners of things.

In the late afternoon, when Boyce was telling Lilith about his life in
Besten, the door of the chamber slowly opened and Lloyd walked in.

Boyce saw him and forced himself to sit up.  He smiled.  He was happy
to see Lloyd and, at that moment, was also happy to realize that his
trust in the women at the abbey was warranted.

Lloyd had his left arm in a sling and his open tunic revealed a
bandaged chest.

"Did you hurt yourself, my friend?"  Boyce asked him, sarcastically.

Lloyd smiled and he soon saw that Boyce had no bandages around him.

"How are you faring?"  Lloyd asked him, looking at Lilith.

Boyce took Lilith's hand into his and smiled at her as he answered
Lloyd.

"I am fine, but I was told I should rest for a day or so!"

"I was told the same!"  admitted Lloyd.  "But I am older and must keep
moving lest I become immobile."

"Next time, we'll fly!"  Boyce joked with his friend and they both
laughed.

A nun marched into the room and put her hands on Lloyd's shoulders and
turned him around to face the door.

"Out of bed, again!  I did ask you nicely to stay in bed and rest.
Didn't I?  Now come with me!"

She nagged at Lloyd for leaving his room, obviously not being the first
time he did so and both Boyce and Lilith laughed as they watched her
parade him out the door.

"You have a strong friend in ... Lloyd, is it?"  she said, making
certain that she remembered Lloyd's name correctly.

"During times like these, one must be strong."  he told her, putting
his hand around her waist.  "He is my right arm, and I am his!"

The crow was still outside the window but it was now no longer quiet.
It squawked and pecked at the glass of the window pane and they stopped
speaking and looked at the bird.

They were annoyed at being disturbed in such a manner but Lilith didn't
show her aggravation.

"Your pet seems disturbed about something!"  Lilith said to him.

"It's not my pet!"

Lilith became puzzled and told him that she and the other four women
found it hopping around on the ground and on his back when they found
them.  They presumed that the crow was a pet and let it come to the
abbey with them.

"Let it in!"  Boyce told her and she slowly went over to the window and
opened it, pushing the swinging pane enough to let the crow hop in.

It stretched its wings and cawed then flew right to Boyce and hopped
around on his lap.

"It's a very strange bird, I think.  I haven't seen many crows, only a
few during my childhood, then I see this one throughout my entire trip
from Besten."  He told Lilith, about his odd feelings towards the bird
and the sudden affinity that seems to have formed between them.

"Lilith, will you push that small table over here?" he requested to her
and she didn't hesitate to do his bidding.

When she brought the small table to the side of the bed, he took the
crow on his wrist and set it down on the table.

They talked and watched the bird make a joking spectacle of itself and
this continued through to the evening when Lilith collected some of the
dirty compresses that she used on Boyce when he was unconscious.

"I must leave now, Boyce.  The Mother Abbes had given me chores to do
when you are well enough to be let alone."

Boyce lost the smile that he had on his face.  He rolled his eyes and
gasped while he stretched out his hand to her.

"But, I'm not well, Lilith!"  he cried to her, hoarsely, and she
laughed at his sweet attempt to keep her near to him.

"You are a very silly man."  she told him then went over to him and
kissed him on the forehead.  "You're sweet, too!"

"Will I see you later?"  Boyce asked her in a solemn voice and he took
her hand.

Smiled and nodded.

"You will be on your feet tomorrow and we can walk in the garden."  she
promised and he kissed her hand while he gazed right into her
beautifully large brown eyes."

"Sleep easy and may your dreams be sweet!"  she said.

"They will be sweet ... I will dream of you!"

Her heart was beating heavily and her quick breaths passed through her
like burning spears when she made her way out of the room.

She felt uplifted, as if she was no longer of mortal body but of
spirit.  She knew that Boyce was beginning to feel for her; it was the
same as she felt for him, at the river, and saw his face.

Inside the room, Boyce continued to stare at the doors through which
Lilith exited and the crow beside him bounced up and down, flapping its
wings and crowing in its unusual 'zoar-caw, zoar-caw'  manner.

"She's a gem, crow!"  Boyce spoke aloud and the crow continued its
usual, strange squawk.  "I am pleased to see that you agree with me."

He let the crow sit on his arm and he looked at it for a silent moment
before it continued to caw.

"You are a strange bird, crow, and you sound strange, too.  Shall I
keep you as my friend?"  he spoke to the bird as if he believed it
could understand him, and the crow cawed back to him as it balanced
itself on his arm.  "Alright."  Boyce continued.  "You are now my new
companion and my friend.  Now, what shall you be called?"

He looked at the bird, in an odd way as if wanting the bird to tell him
its name, but the bird just crowed at him: 'zoar-caw, zoar-caw'!

"Very well, crow.  I will call you Zoro!  Do you like that?"

The crow stopped cawing and bounced up and down on his arm.

"Now sleep, bird.  We have a great day before us!"

He set Zoro on the table and he slowly sank down into the bed and fell
asleep.


CHAPTER  TWENTY-NINE

When daybreak came, Boyce didn't hesitate waking and getting out of his
bed.  He made his painful way to the window and looked out onto the
majesty of Gothal.  Below him many nuns were already awake and working
on the vegetable gardens, and fruit groves. Over to one side was the
flower and tree garden and there was a group of nuns maintaining its
beauty through their trimmings and cultivating.

Lilith walked into the room and Boyce slowly turned around to greet her.

Zoro only looked at her when she came in.  He was very quiet and
squawked only once when he sensed someone at the door, but otherwise,
he didn't make a ruckus.

She wheeled a small cart into the room, laden with a variety of foods
for Boyce to dine on.

"Will you eat with me?" he invited her in.

"Yes, thank-you!"

They spent a long time eating breakfast then, when they were finished,
Lilith had Boyce get

back on the bed and she looked him over once more to make certain that
nothing was at fault with him.

"I'm just a little sore now, that's all.  I can walk!"  he informed her.

She helped him put some clothing on himself and she showed him around
the abbey; through the school and chapel and through the library.
There they heard Lloyd having an aggravated discussion with a nun,
about the poet, Djenaud Smarte.  This made Boyce laugh because he knew
that Lloyd didn't think very highly of that particular poet.

Lilith knew that the opposite was true of Sister Rhonta and she could
hardly keep from laughing, herself.

"Listen to them!"  exclaimed Boyce.

"Does Lloyd dislike Smarte as much as Sister Rhonta admires him?"
Lilith asked him.

"It certainly sounds like it!"  he said then listened some more to the
highly vocal discussion between his friend and the sister.

Soon, however, Lilith lead by the hand, to the garden and there they
walked about for several hours and told one another some other about
themselves then they sat on a marble bench in a cosy gazebo.

Boyce had fallen into a mutual love with Lilith and each of them were
aware of it.  Now, however, was the first time that they had voiced
their feelings and no one else was anywhere in the garden to disturb
them, accept for Zoro, quietly watching them from a tree top.

"I love you, Boyce!"  Lilith revealed to him and he gently embraced her.

"I love you!"  he also admitted, and they embraced each other's wanton
bodies and kissed each other's lonely lips for the first time.

Their time together was brief and yet their love for one another bonded
them together so strongly that their spirits became fused as one.

Boyce felt dishonest in keeping most of the truths about himself, from
her, and he now decided to tell her every detail and account of his
life, and why he came to Phoride.

Lilith also told Boyce more about herself revealing to her love that
she was the daughter of the Laurentine Consul, Debran.  To keep her
innocent and safe of monastic validations, he left her at the abbey
before going on to Pomperaque.

Boyce learned that this young man was more than just a beautiful, dark
hair and dark-eyed novice, waiting to turn seventeen so that she may
take her vows and become a full fledged nun of the abbey.

That was a wish of her father, Debran.  The only way to save her from
the lustful designs of some carnal coenobite at Halls, was to have her
become a simple and uninteresting sister.


CHAPTER  THIRTY

A week passed by and although Boyce and Lloyd had recuperated they
didn't make plans to leave Gothal and its peaceful atmosphere.
However, near the end of the second week, both Boyce and Lloyd were
visited in their dreams, by the spirits of Brook Scullion-Blue and
Dearborne.

To Lloyd, Brook's vision reminded Lloyd of his promise and his destiny
to help Boyce attain his rightful place as the Lord Sovereign of
Phoride.

Boyce's vision urged Boyce to leave Gothal and take Pomperaque and the
rest of Phoride, away from Manguino.  To that vision urged by Brook,
Dearborne urged Boyce to hold Lilith close to his heart and to take her
as his wife; his Lady of the Blue.

Boyce conveyed his dreams to his beloved Lilith and he asked her to be
his wife.

With all he heart and spirit, she promised herself to Boyce, as his
wife.

In the days following the proposal, Boyce and Lloyd made plans to enter
Pomperaque and how they would begin their recruitment of the common
people to Boyce's side.

The plans were finalised and two days before they left Gothal, the
Mother Abbess married Boyce and Lilith, in a private ceremony performed
at the tomb of Brook and Dearborne.

With all their love shared between each other in their consummation of
marriage, Boyce promised to return for her when his duty was
accomplished and his invasion of Phoride was successful.

He did not want to leave her and her heart couldn't let him go but
Lloyd promised Lilith that he would watch out for Boyce and she somehow
knew that Boyce would be safe.

Lloyd found it difficult to leave Sister Rhonta.  Their utter
differences of opinion towards Djenaud Smarte brought them close
together to a point that resembled love for one another.

Although such things weren't permitted of the full ranking nuns, Rhonta
gave Lloyd a kiss before the two left for the gates of Pomperaque, not
very far away.

They were given their old clothes and some dirty travel packs full of
clean clothing, food and two sacks full of copper and gold coins.

They looked like they travelled for years from some unknown place on
the world, to Pomperaque.

On the morning of their fortnight's stay at the Abbey of Our Holy Saint
Mariot, the men left the abbey for their short walk to Pomperaque.

The five women who brought them into Gothal also watched them leave and
the Abbess Mother, Mariot, blessed them in their promised mission and
its hoped-for success.


PART  II:  THE BIRTHRIGHT AND THE SCEPTRE


CHAPTER  THIRTY-ONE

Patches of wispy-like clouds passed over the moon, in the humid night
sky.

Pomperaque was unusually quiet this night and the star-gazing Cardinal
Orren had noticed it.  He also felt ill-at-ease, this night.

With pale blue eyes he looked at the moon for most of the evening and
after midnight he saw an odd sight in the northern skies.  It was a
vision that he did not want to accept.  At first he thought that his
tired eyes were causing the vision but the corresponding feelings that
he had when he saw the strange sight, made him take notice, and he
reported it to the ArchBishop.

Orren was one of the most trusted Cardinals in Manguino's legion of
coenobites.  He had all the qualities of his late father, Cardinal
Allen, and this was fitting, as he was the great sainted cardinal's
eldest of thirteen sons.

Cardinal Orren had gained the favour of the ArchBishop, not only
because of his decent from Allen, but he had saved Manguino's life
when some oppressed peasant attempted to kill him several years ago.

For his reward, Orren was given the command of Phoride's armies and he
became somewhat of an administrator, in place of Manguino.

He resembled his father, Cardinal Allen, so closely that many were led
to believe that when Allen died, his soul entered into the body of his
first-born son, Orren.  With this belief came Orren's high honours and
unquestioned obedience from those around him.  He was conscientious and
he improved on Manguino's spy network, spanning the continent.  He
wanted to know anything and everything about the other states and
kingdoms, realising that Manguino's concentration on producing progeny
with Eckma left his rule and life vulnerable to hostility.

Now, Orren had never before played on his intuitive impressions
concerning threats against the cleric rule, but this night had actually
frightened him.

It was late when he went to call on the ArchBishop Manguino, finding
him in his usual circumstance with Eckma -- even that late at night --
and being accustomed to it all, Orren didn't hesitate to reveal his
vision to him.

He pounded on Manguino's chamber doors until he was told to enter and
while he watched his master, and Eckma, in the glass pool, he paced
around them recounting the details of his vision.

"I had been startled this evening by a sight in the sky, my Almighty!"
Orren told him.

"What kind of sight?" asked Manguino while he sucked on Eckma's neck.

"I was watching the moon and from behind a cloud, I saw the Mons!"
Orren revealed.

"Now how is it, Orren, that you hadn't seen the Mons when there was a
personal threat upon me?"  queried the ArchBishop.

"Mons is an omen of threat to all -- not just to one.  It's an omen of
war.  What's more, a great

war.  I was not the only man to see the Mons.  Several others have seen
them, too.  Peasants and Prominants, and some of our own Monks saw
them."  Orren told Manguino.

Manguino took Eckma's breast from his mouth and he looked at Orren with
annoyed eyes.

"Do the Mons tell of what kind of danger may befall us?"  Manguino
demanded.  "If so tell me.  If not, find out!"

Orren took all his strength to keep from showing anger against
Manguino, then he spoke calmly.

"The Mons are a portent of doom and destruction, my ArchBishop.  The
visions came to us to warn us and to have us prepare for surprised
aggression."

Manguino listened to Orren but didn't feel threatened by what Orren
thought he had seen.

Manguino was certain that nothing would happen to his rule.  Jessuum
Benitar promised him before giving him the puzzling prophesy:

                "Tell those of your court, the Prominants, if you will,
                 but never is it to be repeated to you, for on
                 that day when that request is done, so should it 
                 be the end of your rule in Pomperaque."


Manguino remembered and he told Orren about it, but Orren didn't
believe in Jessuum Benitar's words.

"As long as I do not hear the prophets' words again, all will be well,
and since I will not ask it to be read to me, I shall be safe."
promised Manguino.

"Do you believe in a prophesy that may have no merit and dispel that
which your most

trusted servant, and others, have seen?"  Orren was angered and spoke
in a booming voice.

Manguino bobbed in the water and Orren just stood there.  Both were
quiet until Manguino came out of the water and wrapped a robe about
himself.

"How did you see the Mons?  Single, coupled, regimented?"  Manguino
requested to him to tell more of his vision.

"There were four separate apparitions, great one.  Each was a knight of
his own colour -- black, red, white and ashen.  Each rode on a horse of
their same colour.  They came from behind thin clouds, and made their
way towards the city and its heart.  Yet, as they reached the roof tops
of the city, they vanished."

The account assured Manguino that nothing was amiss.  He knew, as well
as anyone, that doom only came if the Mons were seen to ride through
the main streets of the doomed city.

He told Orren not to worry about the Mons, ensuring him that everything
would be fine.

"We are safe, as long as we don't become stupid, Orren."  Manguino
calmed down.

"Could I be granted the privilege to study that prophesy that Jessuum
gave to you?  he made a small plea to Manguino and was to do so under
the condition that he doesn't read the prophesy aloud!

Orren also asked Manguino for his permission to mobilize the Phoridene
Army, as a precaution, but this he wasn't given to do because of
Manguino's belief that they were under no threat of overthrow.

Orren left Manguino to continue his obligation with Eckma, and he was
more disillusioned now, with Manguino's attitude, than what he was when
he saw the Mons.

He never went to sleep that night.  He had all his Generals meet with
him in his own chamber, and with them, he decided to have the armies in
battle-ready status, as a precaution.

Orren had never proceeded against Manguino's orders and better
judgement, but this time it was unanimously agreed between his men
that, to be safe, they should pay heed to the Angels of Mons.


The next morning was beautifully sunny and warm.

Lloyd and Boyce had walked for about two hours, from Gothal, before
reaching the northern gates of Pomperaque.  Pomperaque was truly
different than they remembered it to be when they left it, some eleven
years ago.  There were hardly any horses and carts in the city.  Most
of the transportation was made up of large cumbersome cars, with
wheels, that ran along metal tracks.

The city was highly mechanized and all the machines were powered on
electrical energy, and there were few things in the city that were
old.  Everything was newly built and only a few years old.

Some of the few older buildings in the city were the Halls Cathedral
and the rundown, and abandoned Blue Mansion.  Also, the town square was
just a renovated version of the old square and the men walked through
it remembering the way it used to be.

At the very spot where Brook and Dearborne were executed there was a
marker made of precious metals and it was put there by the citizens of
Pomperaque who never wanted to forget the two greatest people that had
ever lived as Phoride's elite.

It wasn't a large marker.  Manguino had forbidden that.  He also forbad
the writing of specific sentiment, or the placing of names.  All the
marker said:  "May they be forgiven in the next life."

Zoro bobbed up and down while sitting on Boyce's shoulder and it cawed
in a frantic manner.  Due to its behaviour, then men moved away from
the monument and off to one side of the town

square where there were many vendors busily selling items such as food
and clothing, jewellery and home-stuffs.

The men slowly walked from kiosk to kiosk and they checked some of the
goods being sold until they finally came upon the kiosk where Empal had
his goods displayed.

The market brought back memories for Boyce; remembering the fun that he
used to have when he was out with Dearborne.

Empal's kiosk was in the same place as it had always been.  This
brought for Boyce some degree of security and stability, and it also
helped his confidence to go ahead with the plans that have been made
for his retake of Phoride.

Empal had seen the two men and was now finally relieved from the worry
that he had for them throughout the passed month, since they left
Besten.

He knew that they were supposed to have arrived in Pomperaque long ago,
having taken the shorter route, but he knew that there had to be some
good reason and he was certain that they would be told to him.

He saw the strange crow perched upon Boyce's shoulder and he saw how
dirty and ripped their clothing was.  Other than their wandering
appearance and their stale smell, Empal thought to himself the
traveller's prayer of thanks, to God.

They came up to Empal's stall and they stayed around there for a while
choosing fruits that were the ripest and biggest for their price.

"You have good fruit here, old man!"  said Lloyd, as he picked up an
apple and bit into it.

"Would you trade or pay money, for that?" asked Empal as he pointed at
the apple.

Zoro jumped down onto the stall, from Boyce's shoulder, and started to
pick at some grapes

and corn.  Empal waved it away and he looked somewhat annoyed.

"We'll have that, which my bird began to eat, and a kilo of apples, and
two pomegranates!"  said Boyce.

"I don't wish to sound less than trusting, sirs, but I would care to
see my payment first."  Empal stated while he looked at them with
wariness.

A huge monastic guard came to Empal's kiosk and glared at the two men,
and Empal.  He saw the strange crow, now back on Boyce's shoulder and
squawking at him.

In a booming, but tinny sounding voice, the guard spoke to the
strangers and Empal.

"Do these men give you trouble, Virunese?"  he asked Empal.

"No!"  he answered.  "I just wanted payment for my goods before I give
it to them!"

The guard looked to Lloyd, who took another bite from the apple that he
had in his hand.

"Pay the man, vagabonds!"  ordered the guard as he put his right hand
on the case of his electrophore.

He watched the younger of the two men throw a gold bit to Empal and
Empal put on a half-happy, half-surprised expression, while he filled a
small basket for them.

The guard turned to Empal after he saw the gold coin thrown to him.

"It would be wise not to judge strangers on their appearance, vendor.
You never know what wealth you may accumulate from them!"

The guard started to walk away and Boyce laughed a little to Lloyd and
Empal, then the guard turned around once more and showed Empal a small
triangular device, slowly rubbing his finger over it.

"Don't forget to pay the tax cleric when he comes around."


The guard continued to walk away from the stall and Empal filled the
basket with the rest of the fruit that the two men ordered.

Boyce cautiously winked at Empal and spoke to him in a taunting voice.

"Old man ..."  he said.  "Where can my friend and I get lodging and a
bath?"

Empal stopped for a moment and looked around, then he pointed across
the square to a small side-street.

"Down that way is a tavern called The Lion's Skull Inn.  The owner
should be able to put you up there for a few days.  Just tell them that
Empal sent you."

"We are greatly obliged ... Empal!"  exclaimed Boyce and he took the
basket of fruit and they made their way around the square to the small
street where the tavern was located.

Boyce had thought it to be an odd sight, seeing some of the old
familiar people, who were now older, still working their same kiosks,
and some of the stage shows that he remembered were still exhibited for
the people, but now just a little different and less spectacular.  Of
course, he thought that they lacked spectacle value since he was now
older.

He turned around for a moment and looked towards Empal, standing with a
tall Cardinal beside him.  The Cardinal was collecting the church's
share of the tax.

They made their way slowly to the tavern and when they got to it, they
walked in and headed for the flat-table and he ordered a mug of cider.

When the tender brought to him the cider, Lloyd stopped him and asked
him for lodging.

"Tender!  We are strangers in this city and we would care to stay here
in the inn.  Empal, the vendor, said that you may be able to have us?"

The tender was going to tell them that there weren't any rooms
available, but Lloyd's mention

of Empal's name, and the leer that Lloyd gave to him, made him
reconsider.

"I do have one room that you can both use.  I'll take you to it when
you are finished here!"  he told them.

Lloyd downed the cider immediately and the tender shrugged then showed
them to their room.

"My name is Cavander!"  said the tender as they walked up the stairs to
a room at the end of the top hallway.  "If you want privacy, this is
one of my best rooms."

He lead them down the hallway then motioned for them to stop while he
went into a large room, which was obviously his own, and brought out a
large bundle of bedding.

Once inside their own room, Cavander closed the door and looked at them.

"I know who you are, and why you are here!"

He kneeled to them and kissed Boyce's hand.

"I'm your servant!"  said Cavander.

"To your feet Cavander."  ordered Boyce and helped him to his feet.  "I
will not be like Manguino to have men, who are in most cases better
than he, to kneel before him."

"I hope that we can trust you, and count on you for support!"  said
Lloyd.

"Whatever you ask of me I shall do, even if it means to lose my life
for you!"  promised Cavander.

"The main thing I ask of you, Cavander, is that you do not treat us as
our status.  This I ask of you even so to the point of treating us as
lesser than peasants."

"It is important that you do this!"  added Lloyd.

"I will do your bidding!" nodded Cavander, then he took the bundle of
bedding and from

inside it brought out a small cask and a smaller square box.

He opened both containers and the two men saw their contents.  The cask
was full of gold bits and the smaller square box had two
electrophoric-laser guns, like those which they had lost.

"You will need this while in Pomperaque, masters!"  Cavander echoed to
them what Empal had told him they were to be used for.

He was ready to leave their room after he made the beds for them, and
he was about to open the door, he looked straight into Boyce's eyes.

"We all loved your father and mother, my Lord!"  he said.

Boyce nodded to him.

"Yes, I know, Cavander!"

Cavander sighed then left the room and the two men decided to sleep
through part of the afternoon.


By the time that dusk came around, Boyce and Lloyd were awake and they
had a nice bath down the hall.  They dressed in clean clothes then went
down to the tavern and had something to eat and drink.

When they were dressing they discussed with each other their needs to
start recruiting people and their only conclusions were to either risk
being given away by some satisfied follower of the ArchBishop, or to be
killed by some desperate sorts who would take them for spies or just as
troublemakers.

Their final decision was to start with the lower classed folk of
Pomperaque; those who

usually had to steal in order to survive.  These were the oppressed.

Moreso than going down to the tavern to eat and drink, the two men went
down to the tavern to flaunt their moneys and so to entice some
criminal types to come and rob them.

They weren't going to walk the streets of Pomperaque this night.
Instead, as soon as they ate, and listened to some of the common folks'
songs about the history of Phoride and its heros, they returned to
their room and waited for their, hoped-for, late-night visitor.

The moon had already traversed most of the night sky and morning wasn't
too long from coming.

It wasn't until about two hours before dawn that the men heard the
sounds of uninvited guests entering their room.

Boyce quietly took to the door while Lloyd slowly crept to the window
and they both waited for the predicted rush that the visitors would
make into the room.

Then it happened.  Both door and window flew open and the expected men
rushed into the room and dove onto the beds jabbing into them with
knives.

Lloyd and Boyce allowed the men to stab the beds for a while until they
realized that there wasn't anyone in the beds.

Now, Lloyd switched on their portable electric light and illuminated
the bed and two scruffy-looking young men.

"Trying to rob someone is one thing, killing is quite another!"  Boyce
said to them and suddenly the two men rushed Boyce, thinking that only
one of them was in the room and when they came very near, Lloyd
punched the men and took their knives from them when they were on the
floor.

They rushed both men this time but Boyce and Lloyd's training to fight
hand-to-hand, helped them to quickly subdue the two robbers.

The four men just looked at one another while Boyce had them seated in
a corner,  Lloyd covering both of them with what the men knew was an
electrophore, of sorts.

"Are you two the ArchBishop's spies?"  one of the criminals asked Boyce.

"No, we're not!"  answered Boyce, then he took a small sack of gold and
poured it out on the nearest bed.  "We are grateful that you accepted
our invitation to join us here!"  he added to them.

The two criminals looked at one another and they both knew that they
were tricked into coming.

"It seems to us both that you dislike the ArchBishop Manguino!"  Lloyd
said to the two men.

"We are not the only ones that feel his tyranny!  There are many, but
only a few of us try to do anything about it, in whatever way that we
can!"  the larger of the two criminals said in a voice that started to
get louder.

"Now there's no need to scream, my friend.  We are not unlike
yourself."  Lloyd said to him and then he put away his gun.

"We would like to hire your services and buy your loyalty!"  proposed
Boyce.

"Loyalty cannot be bought, but what do you offer?"  asked the larger of
the two criminals.

"We offer to you this gold,"  Boyce pointed to the gold on the bed.
"and we offer to you honourable positions in the new government.  If
you accept you must follow both of us blindly or else you will be
killed.  If you do no accept we shall hand you over to the monastic
guards and have you charged for whatever crimes you have committed, or
even those you haven't committed."

"You give us a hard choice."  said the smaller man.

There was a brief quiet in the room while they all exchanged looks.

"Hard choices ..."  Lloyd began.  "are often-times the choices most
worth making!"

The bigger criminal stood up and folded his arms upon his chest.

"It seems we are inclined to accept your offer ... Masters!"  he said.

"Very wise!"  Lloyd responded.

" -- And in this new wisdom, you will be our compatriots and will not
address us as master."  Boyce expressed his intent of partnership.  "I
am called Boyce Loebh, and this is Lloyd Bartlett."

"I am Mingo, and this is my brother, Bix."  said the larger man,
pointing to the smaller man.

"Mingo ... Bix;  a new era has dawned in Phoride with your
acceptance to serve this man."  Lloyd said to them, regarding Boyce.
"In the shortness of time you will be told all about this young man and
our plans to depose the ArchBishop."

Bix got up off the floor being helped by his bother.  They both turned
slightly, and faced Boyce.

"On this new day you have become honourable warriors -- the lieutenants
of the only son of Brook and Dearborne Scullion-Blue -- heir to Phoride
and the protector of the Northern United Alignment.  This is Boyce
Loebh Scullion-Blue."  Lloyd finished.

Mingo and Bix gawked at Boyce then kneeled as they whispered his name
in surprise.  They new his great and respected name.

"Do not kneel, my new friends!  We are all equal in the eyes of God.
In battle, don't fight for me, but fight for the freedom of Phoride and
for your families -- as I will fight for the same.  And from this time
forward call me only by the name,  Boyce."

"We pledge our lives to you, Boyce!"  Mingo and Bix hailed Boyce as
they slowly stood up.


CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

Pomperaque woke up and Mingo had left Boyce and Lloyd's room, with
Bix.  They had denied themselves the gold offered by Boyce and they
set out to meet many others like themselves, to encourage them to join
Boyce's cause.

Lloyd and Boyce caught themselves a few hours of sleep between the time
that Mingo and Bix left, and Empal came to their room.

Empal had come to the room in order to receive his instructions from
Boyce concerning the finalization of the invasion plans. He had also
come to tall Boyce about the blue Mansion, since he wanted to know if
it was possible for him to purchase it.

Empal came to their room that day carrying a large basket of fresh
fruit, as if he was delivering the fruit to a buyer, and he woke them
from their sleep.

When Lloyd let Empal into the room, he embraced both Lloyd and Boyce
and welcomed them properly back into Boyce's city.

When the formalities of welcome were observed, the two men sat with
Empal and ate the fruit that he had brought along with him, while Boyce
listened to Empal's detailed first report that was assigned to him
before they left Besten.

"The Blue Mansion has been sacked by Manguino's vermin before your
parents' bodies were even laid to rest."  Empal told Boyce.  "The great
building has been left unattended and abandoned since the time of their
death, and although it had been put on the market, there has been no
one interested in buying it."

The needed information that Empal was reviewing for Boyce, was
depressing but Boyce was satisfied to hear that the Blue Mansion could
still be his home.

He was strangely happy in realising that his old home was still his and
available to him, but even though he legally held it as his own, to
keep Halls from knowing who he was, he would have to buy it.

Empal was glad that he had finished giving his report.  Now he could
have his two friends recount their journey to him and possibly explain
to him the reason for the tardiness of their journey from besten.

Boyce and Lloyd didn't leave out a single detail about their trip.
Unusual as it was, Lloyd told of their meeting of Grenadine and his
reactions to her.  He told the story with such honesty that there was
almost a feeling of melancholy in the room when he finally came to
telling Empal about her death.

Empal could see, in Lloyd's face, that the woman called Grenadine had
really left her mark on Lloyd's heart and he sympathised with him.

On the other extreme of Empal's sympathy for Lloyd, so was Empal's
ultimate delight in

hearing the news of Boyce's marriage and to such a girl like Lilith;
daughter of a Laurentine Consul.

Empal had envied them, listening to their adventures and their
victories over danger and evil.

He had mentioned to them that he wished that he was young, like them,
so that he could've made the journey with them.

"We would have cherished your company!"  was the statement that Boyce
made to Empal's wish, and it was enough to make Empal feel the
importance that he held with both Besten and Virune.

"What of the Nolunge and Flinnd?"  asked  Empal.  "Did those two
peoples let you pass through their lands or did they go back on their
word, also?"

Empal questioned with curiosity, since they told him that Sedara and
Palatka both rescinded their signed agreement of passage with the
Northern United Alignment.

"Everything was smooth with those two nations.  They are learned and
cultured peoples and they honoured the treaty."  said Lloyd.

"Yes!"  Boyce added.  "And I would like to send to them a token of
appreciation after Pomperaque becomes rightfully mine!

It neared noon when Lloyd and Boyce decided to mill around the town and
finally go to Halls for a look around the lands-office.

Empal left them and returned to his stall where he opened it to public,
later than usual.  Oddly enough, no one had really noticed his late
opening since it was an off-day for market and there weren't as many
people buying goods in the towns square.

When Boyce decided to go to Halls, he and Lloyd split up.  They did
this for two reasons, namely; to keep anyone from possibly recognizing
Lloyd, and have one supporter free to come to the aid of the other if
there arose a situation where one might be imprisoned.

Lloyd had a task to do, which was to save time for him and Boyce, from
having them to do it together.  This task was the locating of Miel and
Cassta -- two of Brook Scullion-Blue's most trustworthy and loyal
friends.

Boyce had hoped to seek out these men and persuade them, and their
families, to follow him into forming a new rule that would prevent a
monastic institution from governing the land.

Lloyd's job was just to find these men's residences and make a brief
observation of whether, or not, the men and their families could still
be loyal to a Blue rule.

Boyce, with Zoro on his shoulder, slowly made his way up Canon's Butte
with his travel pack containing a small cask of gold bits.  When he
reached the top he looked at the enormity of the Halls Cathedral, which
touched the blue sky above him.

The front gates were open and there were hordes of people walking
about, doing business.

At the gate sat a notary vicar and he had all those who entered the
cathedral state their name and reason for going in.

Boyce went in and the vicar stopped him and asked him to return.  Boyce
did as he was asked; the vicar wanted Boyce to sign in the visit logs.

"What is your name?"  asked the vicar while he stared at the crow on
Boyce's shoulder.

"I am Boyce Loebh!"  he answered promptly.

"What is your business here?"

Boyce smiled and looked around when Zoro cawed a few times.

"I am here to see the estates Cardinal.  I would like to buy some
property on which to live."

The vicar looked at Boyce suspiciously then proceeded with the
questioning.

"You don't have a request for an audience with our estates Cardinal.
If you care to wait, he may be free to see you!"

"I will wait!"  Boyce exclaimed, then he went over to a tree where a
long rock post had fallen-over, and he sat on it.

The notary vicar rang a small hand bell and a young novice ran to the
desk where the notary sat.  He was given a slip of paper and some
instructions.  He ran off into the Cathedral's quadrangle and not too
long after that, ran back with a slip of paper that he handed to the
notary.

The notary vicar looked over at Boyce and Boyce noticed it.  He got up
the fallen post and walked over to the notary.

"It will be a while but the estates Cardinal will see you."  the notary
vicar told Boyce.

Boyce leaned over to him then pointed over to the post where he was
sitting before.

"Tell me when he'll see me.  I'll be over there!"  he said then slowly
made his way to the rock post and then reclined on it.  Zoro stood
watch on his chest.

The wait wasn't very lengthy and soon one of the novices came over to
him and woke him up.

"It's your turn!"  the novice informed him, and taking his pack with
him, Boyce entered the Cathedral grounds, following the novice and
ending up at the door of the lands-office.

The boy left him there and knocked on the door before entering, not
caring to wait for permission to do so.

The office was strange-looking for a lands-office.  It had two floors
and was full of books on both floors.

In the middle of the office was a rather large table where the estates
cardinal was sitting with

his nose in a large book in which he was writing something.

He finally looked up from his book after Boyce sat down in a chair
opposite him and Zoro jumped down on the table in front of him.

Overhead, standing against a railing, on the second floor, Cardinal
Orren looked down at the strange young man and his even stranger pet.
He wanted to hear what this wandering fool wanted in his office.

"You are Boyce Loebh?" the estates Cardinal asked him.

"Yes!"

"How can we be made of service, Mister Loebh?"  the Cardinal asked him.

"I am looking to buy some property with a habitable building on it.
What I am seeking, is something that is quite large."

The Cardinal looked at him for a moment then stood up and went to a
flat shelf and brought back a large portfolio of sketches.

"I have here some twenty sketches of sturdy buildings on good property.
 Of course, most are probably out of your wealth capability."

"I would like to see whatever you have available regardless of the
cost!"

"Very well!"  submitted the cardinal and he handed Boyce the archaic
looking portfolio.

Orren, from above had grown a little more suspicious and mistrusting of
Boyce.  What's more, Orren detested Zoro's presence.

Boyce was dressed in clean clothing and he didn't smell as bad as when
he first stepped into Pomperaque with Lloyd.  He really loved his
loyal women in Gothal for giving their dirty clothing back to them.
It was that necessary little detail which helped to cause confusion in
many people's eyes.

For sure Orren didn't understand how a rogue like Boyce could be so
unaffected when he was told that he would most likely not be able to
afford that which he sought.

Boyce went over every drawn likeness of the houses that were available,
seeming quite uninterested in any one of them, including the Blue
Mansion, which has had passed over.

"They are all well and nice, Cardinal, but I am searching for a large
place with atmosphere.  I, and my friend, are artisans and scholars,
and we were hoping to use such a building, in-part, to expand your own
Blaisaman;  where we could teach the arts and other human studies."

The Cardinal sat down, at his side of the table, and questioned him
further about his proposed academy.

"Do you have a license to teach in Pomperaque?"

"Not as of yet.  I was planning to come tomorrow to inquire about a
license."  answered Boyce with an odd confidence that, in a way,
inspired the Cardinal.

This same confidence inspired Orren in another ways -- it made him
angry.

Orren had read the prophesy given to Manguino by Jessuum Benitar and
somehow he felt that maybe this man, below him, had something in common
with it.

"I am planning on bringing to Pomperaque many diverse people from all
over the continent."  Boyce let the Cardinal know.  "I am personally
fond of philosopy and I would like, at the very least, half of the
building to be devoted to that topic."

"Very well, Mister Loebh!  I can only suggest one place that could be
large enough to house such an academy.  But I must inform you, that if
you want it, you must also buy the all the land on which it stands!"

If there is plenty of land, reasonably priced, I would be happy to take
it.  We need the land to display works done by our students of
sculpture."  said Boyce.  "Can I see a sketch of this land and house?"

The Cardinal laughed a little and Zoro cawed, and bobbed up and down.

"You have seen the drawing already!"  the Cardinal informed him, and he
took it out from the portfolio and handed it to him.

"I passed this by because it doesn't seem large -- in the drawing, I
mean!"

"Come with me and I will show you the real size, Mister Loebh!"

The estates Cardinal stood up and so did Boyce.  He led Boyce up a
spiral staircase to the second floor and Zoro flew to the top railing
beside Orren.

Zoro was spooked by Orren and he quickly flew to a window on one end of
the floor.

Soon Boyce and the estates Cardinal arrived at the same window and the
cardinal asked Boyce to look to the far side of the valley.

"The rise, over there, Mister Loebh, is called Bimini Hill.  The entire
mount and the Mansion which stands on it was once the estate of several
sovereigns of Pomperaque and Phoride."  the cardinal said to him.

Boyce looked out the window, mainly to play along with the Cardinal but
also it was the first time that he saw the majesty of the Blue Mansion
in this vantage point.

"Oh, yes.  I saw that place coming into the city, but I didn't realise
that it was the same land as on the sketch.  You are right.  I probably
couldn't afford to but that."  Boyce stopped for a moment to look out
the window the continued with a simple curiosity.  "How much is the
lands-office asking for it?"

"Seven hundred gold bits."  replied the Cardinal.

"That is a great deal!"  exclaimed Boyce.

"Seven hundred gold bits is for the Mansion and the land on which it
stands!"

There was quiet again, except for Zoro's occasional 'zoar-caw'
squawking, and then he flew out of the window, towards town.

Cardinal Orren peaked through a shelf of books that touched the
ceiling, and he saw Boyce quickly turn to the estates Cardinal and nod
his head to him.

"I think that I will buy it then!"  he ejaculated.

"Good!"  said the Cardinal.  "Let us go down to my table and write up
the papers!"

He took Boyce back down to his table, and while making their way down
the stairs the Cardinal asked Boyce in what manner he would be able to
pay.

They stopped on the spiral staircase and Boyce took the cask of gold
from his pack and opened it for the Cardinal.  The cardinal was amazed
and pleased.

Above them both, Orren looked at the gold with surprise and contempt.
He felt certain that the crow man was not to be trusted.

When the papers were drawn up and Boyce counted out seven hundred gold
bits to the Cardinal, he left Halls Cathedral and headed for the Blue
Mansion, with his key.

Before he made his way up the path to the Mansion, he first stopped at
the inn and had a drink while he waited for Lloyd.

Lloyd soon came into the tavern and sat down with Boyce, at a table.

"Did you buy it?"  he asked him.

"It was easier than I thought it would be!"  he said, showing him the
key.

Lloyd smiled at Boyce.

"I found our friends' homes and I overheard the younger man, Cassta I
believe it was -- saying to someone that he was getting tired of this
life in Pomperaque and he was planning on moving to the Elkinnii Plains
and live there!"

"Good!"  sighed Boyce.  "We still may be able to get the numbers that
we need within the city."

"I had seen Mingo, earlier, and he told me that he had convinced a
dozen of his peasant friends and relatives to join us.  They are out,
this very moment, looking for more of the oppressed to come in with us."

Boyce smiled with delight.  He was happy because he had the Blue
Mansion back and now the throng of peasant farmers that are willing to
risk their lives for Boyce, son of Brook Scullion-Blue.

"If we can get Cassta and Miel to our side, they may just be able to
get for us the Prominants that we need to join us."

Boyce had much hope and belief in his father's friends.

He would truly feel the power of a ruler, if those men served him as
they served his father, he thought.

Cavander approached the two men and asked them if they wanted anything
more to drink, or if maybe they were hungry.

"No!"  said Lloyd.

"You can help us, however, if you have some time and friends who would
like some work for a few hours!" inquired Boyce.

"What do you want done?" he sarcastically asked.

Cavander was playing in the way that he was asked to act before Boyce,
treating them as lesser humans.

"Now, Inn Keep.  There's no need to bite off our heads!"  Boyce
commented.  "All I want is some help to move into my new house."

"And what new house may that be, may I ask?"

Lloyd was having a good time listening to the performing that Boyce and
Cavander were doing and a few times he could hardly keep from laughing
a little.

"It is the house on Bimini Hill!" he exclaimed with a proud smile.

Cavander was delighted beyond words when he heard that the heir to
Phoride had successfully reacquired his own estate.

"How do you come by purchasing that?"  asked Cavander in an extremely
agitating voice that was really beginning to bother Boyce.

"I had gold -- so either say that you will give me help, in my moving
into the house, or take your leave from me!"

Cavander smiled but only a trifle.  He knew that he had actually
annoyed the son of Brook Scullion and he also knew that he could not
give him an apology while in public.  He had, therefore, kept the
taxing down, from that point onwards, and agreed to have a few men help
him whenever he needed them.

Boyce and Lloyd made their way up to the Blue Mansion, after Cavander
had agreed to give them help.

It wasn't a long way to walk to get to the Mansion's door, but the once
gradual path leading

up to the top of the hill was now rugged and grown over with
vegetation.  The entire property was like this, from lack of use.

For a decade, since the executions, no one had been known to go up to
the Mansion.  Even coenobites had, for some reason stayed away from it.
 But it didn't matter now, because it was all Boyce's again.

They had finally made their way to where it all first happened.

Boyce's heart beat faster and faster, the nearer that he came to the
door.

"Here it is, Lloyd!"

Lloyd saw Boyce's excitement as he put the key into the lock and turned
it.  He also felt a certain presence looming over the entire hill, as
soon as they set foot upon it.

For Lloyd, this place had a different meaning then it had for Boyce.
For him it meant the extension of his life which may have been cut
short before he even had a chance to realize what life was.  It meant
the love and the admiration that he had for Brook and Dearborne, and
this place was a reminder of evil's earthly triumph over good, through
death.

"Would you have ever believed that I'd be back here?"  a tear issued
from Boyce's eye as he spoke and Lloyd cleared his throat, trying to
keep from Boyce his own feelings about it all.

"It was predestined, Boyce!"  he said then touched Boyce's shoulder to
urge him to open the door and enter the house.

Boyce hesitated for a moment longer then smiled a little, and with a
sigh he opened the door.

There was a sudden but slight whoosh at the door, as air rushed into
the vacuum of the house.

It was dark and quite cool inside the house, in comparison to the
intense heat outside, on this
particular day.  There was also a foul smell within which would have
been more suitable for a

slaughterhouse.  It was sour-like odour mixed with the linger type of
stink of boiled chicken feathers.

They walked into the huge entrance hall and looked around the bare grey
walls, and at the cracked ceiling covered with cobwebs.

"No wonder no one had come here since it was closed up!"  said Boyce,
his voice echoing far into the distant rooms, along with the clip-clop
that their boots made on the solid wood floor.

"With enough helpers it won't take us long to make it liveable, Boyce."

Boyce nodded as he heard Lloyd's sentence carry throughout the
mansion's vast number of rooms.

They walked further through the mansion going from the kitchen, to the
ballroom, Dearborne's old parlour and to Brook's private den.

Every room, every corner of the great house was the same.  The house
was empty and stripped of anything of value, and of anything without
value.

Blue-green lazurite no longer adorned the walls.  There were no more
crystals hanging from the ceilings, no more carpets were on the floor
and there were no sculptures left in the hallways.

Only years of dust could be seen inside with the shells of hundreds of
dead insects and arachnids strewn all over the place.

The windows of the mansion were still intact but they were so yellow
and dirty that barely enough light penetrated into the interior, let
alone having anything seen through them.

Lloyd took a knife from his belt and began to scrape some of the years
from off the panes of glass in Brook's viewing den.

Shrieks echoed throughout the massive structure, as the dirt gave
resistance to the knife grinding into the glass, but soon the windows
of the den were cleared of dirt and the light of the afternoon sun
shone through the cloud of dust suspended before the window.

Boyce jabbed Lloyd's knife into the seams and catches of the window and
then pried it open with a creak that seemed to force itself into their
very hearts.

They just stood there and looked at the once beautiful room that was
nothing more than a void now.  Absolutely nothing was left in the house
after the monastic sacked it.

"Manguino is truly a mad dog warranted of dying!"  said Lloyd.

"This was such a beautiful place, once!"  was Boyce's only response.

Suddenly their came a loud shriek at the window and it made both men
jump back in fright.

"Zoar-caw!"

Both men sighed when they saw that it was only Zoro perched at the
window.

"It's only Zoro!"  said Boyce.  "I wondered where he's been all
afternoon!"

While Lloyd and his friend looked over the house and decided what they
needed to clean up and move in, Cardinal Orren was making his own
assessments.  His assessment, however, was not of buildings, but of the
two strangers that came to Pomperaque, from the north.

"I had finally received a report from some of our spies in Besten, and
I found out that these two men had left Besten a little under a month
ago."  Orren said to the ArchBishop.

The ArchBishop sat in his chair, at his desk, in his office as he was
asked to by Orren for the meeting with him today.  Orren wanted the
meeting this way because he was tired and somewhat repulsed, by seeing
Manguino and Eckma fornicating, almost every time that he spoke to
him.  Now Orren knew that he had Manguino's attention, and he listened
to Orren.

"Since they've left Besten they walked south west then disappeared
until they were seen passing through Flinnd on horseback.  Now they
had entered Pomperaque, apparently to stay!"  continued Orren while he
tried to find fault with the two strangers from Besten.

"Fine, Orren.  I agree that we should not trust these men but I can't
understand why we have to be this fearful of them.  How can two men
pose us a threat?"

In his typical way Manguino had once again failed to see a potential
danger.

As in any nation, the greatest threat, almost always, seems to be from
strangers.  Since they were not known ... so Orren also believed.

These two strangers were not known.  Except for their names; Boyce
Loebh and Lloyd, and also the fact that each man carries with him a
substantial wealth, without the slightest fear of being robbed, no one
really knows who they were.

Then there was the crow that was the younger man's pet.  It was a
strange pet that, to Orren, seemed to be as great a threat to Phoride,
as the two men were.

Yet, for all their feelings, neither man could quite understand why
they felt uneasy with these two men's presence.  They gave no
indication of being treasonous and they had even taken up a peaceful
residency within the city.

They heard the story of their wanting to set up an academy of arts and
philosophy, to be run as a part of the Phoridene Blaisaman;  but the
fact that the Blue Mansion was bought, had both monastic men worried.

Orren had been studying Jessuum Benitar's prophesy, made for Manguino,
but it was odd and open to innumerable interpretations.

Manguino himself had been wrong many times about the prophesy, seeing
the doom of Halls, and the rest of Pomperaque, through natural
elemental causes:  fire, water, earth and air.  Yet, with the several
natural disasters that befell Pomperaque since the executions of Brook
and

Dearborne; the earthquakes tidal waves, the three-day hail storm and
the great fire of four years ago  -- that almost burned half of Phoride
-- before the rebuilding, the great city had always seemed to survive.

Cardinal Orren refused to believe in whatever the Benitar prophesy had
to say.  Like his father, years ago, he only believed and trusted in
what he could see, feel, hear and smell, and touch.  Anything that was
beyond those senses were just illusions.

Orren had seen the Angels of Mons several nights ago, and he knew that
they meant an impending doom, but he believed that the doom would not
be that great since the Mons did not ride through the main streets of
Pomperaque.

Since time immemorial; from the first time that vision had foretold
doom, in the years before the nonexistent holocaust which ravaged the
world, the mons had been an accurate omen that warned those who saw
them, of incalculable disaster.

"I am apt to disregard Jessuum Benitar's prophecy, Almighty.  It is
difficult to understand and can be made to mean anything, but the Mons
that I had seen,  came in the night prior to the men entering the
city."  he said.

Manguino laughed a little when Orren said that to him.

"You are just like Allen was.  You only believe in what you see and
nothing more.  Now, tell me ... how many strangers came into Pomperaque
-- or to Phoride, for that matter -- on the same day as these two
Bestenese came?"  Manguino asked him.

"There were many, your grace, but these men have something about them,
something that I just can't explain!"

Manguino laughed and told Orren not to worry because nothing would
happen unless he

asked for the prophesy to be read to him.

To make Orren feel better and calmer, Manguino offered to him a
suggestion that he find himself some virgin and have his tensions
relaxed through her.

"You'll feel much better!"  he told Orren.

Orren left him, angry and unsure of his own suspicions.

He went back to his chamber and tried to study the prophesy some more,
trying to use his logic this time.

Manguino also went back to his own chamber and jumped into the pool of
rain water which Eckma was already wading in, and drinking the scum off
the surface before he entertained his pleasure.


CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

With Cavander's help, along with some of his friends that were enlisted
to the cause, the Blue Mansion began to take shape as the smooth clean
structure that it once had been.  Having the clean-up and all the
detailed restoration take place over several shifts, the great estate
began to resemble its old grandeur, with every hour that passed by.

Hundreds of litres of blue-green metallic paint was mixed and the walls
inside the house were painted, and the local craftsmen -- those masters
working with rock, metal, glass and wood, designed and reconstructed
duplicates of everything that was once inside the house.  All the
duplicates were made from the memories, of that house, that Boyce and
Lloyd carried with them over the last decade.

Boyce ran about the entire estate with Zoro perched on his shoulder and
he supervised the workers with every detail that they were doing.  He
wanted everything just as perfect as he could have it.

Lloyd ran around and did the same, but this all was really Boyce's
dream and destiny needing fulfilment.  All he was there for was to
ensure Boyce's succession.

Dearborne's old parlour began to look more and more like it did on the
day before the execution, and Brook's den had been reconstructed nearly
to the last detail, the only item excluded from it all, being the
computer that Brook had called his  'gadget'!

The land and its gardens were weeded and replanted with plants, and
flowers, from all over Phoride.

The change that took place on Bimini Hill was so great and quick that
the citizens of Pomperaque began to notice a strange presence emanate
from it.  Such a presence was unknown since the time that the Blue line
had ruled from there, and now it was back.

During the night time, working only by the light from the stars and
moon, and by the pole lights of the city, the outer walls of the Blue
Mansion were painted with the purest white paint that could be mixed,
and the following night they were polished until the whole building
gleamed.

Many days had gone by but the building was finally ready to move the
rest of the necessities into it.  Most of the furniture, and other such
things, were especially build within the house or garden, for the man
for whom it was being made.

Boyce and Lloyd were pleased beyond their knowledge of words, to
express how they felt.  They knew that what had once been the home of a
good, kind and strong man, was once again going to be the home of a man
that would be as well-loved.

All those that put in their time and love for Boyce, knowing who he
was, were pleased in their accomplishments and they gave praise to him
in a grand ball that was given for him, and for Lloyd, when everything
was finally completed.

Many people from all walks of Phoridene society were invited to the
mansion for the ball.

Curious to see who these men were, many of those citizens that were
invited had eagerly accepted to attend the ball at the new Blue Mansion.

Most of the guests were surprised upon entrance to the great building.
Memories were rekindled and many citizens had tears in their eyes and
lumps in their throats. It was remarkable that no one commented on the
Mansion's old sameness during any part of the ball.  Not a single guest
questioned Boyce, or Lloyd, about how they made everything in the house
to be as it was years ago.  They just took it in stride and tried to
have a good time; and for the first time, in a very long while, the
Phoridenes did enjoy themselves.

Amongst the guests invited to the ball were Miel and Cassta, with their
families, and several higher coenobites from Halls.  They were Manguino
and his wife, Orren, Polis and Cardinal Levy.

Miel and Cassta came to the ball for much the same reason that everyone
else did, curiosity.  When they came in, it was as if they walked
through some door that threw them back into time, to the night when the
Mansion saw its last festive night, the evening of Brook and
Dearborne's fifteenth anniversary of marriage.

When they saw Boyce he looked familiar to them but while at the ball
they didn't discuss it.  Only once that night when they came to meet
the two men, Boyce had mentioned that he would like to speak privately
to them the next day and they had agreed.

The arrangements had been made so quickly that their entire intercourse
seemed to take place in the span of time it took the men to shake hands.

That was Boyce's only contact with the two men, all evening, and later
Empal mentioned to both men that it would be to their benefit to listen
to and to respect the young man called Boyce

Loebh, and that made both men wonder since they knew that Empal
wouldn't say such a thing to them unless it was serious.

Manguino and Orren had walked through the Mansion and finally Manguino
ended up at the room which was once Brook's private viewing den.  That
was the room Brook and Dearborne had been taken from before they were
executed.

Manguino felt discomfited standing there and Orren couldn't help but
notice it.  Everything in the house was just as it was before it was
ravaged by him and his men, thought Manguino.  He was petrified to open
the door and looked inside but Orren had never seen the original room
and what it contained, so he bound into the room and looked around at
the rock walls, drapes, shelves of books and the large wooden cabinet.

The room was beautiful; decorated with small statues and paintings, and
although it wasn't an identical duplicate of Brook's den, it closely
enough resembled it to warp Manguino's mind back to when he had the
cabinet opened to his view and saw Brook's computer.

The ArchBishop had finally summoned ample courage in order to enter the
room and he let out an exasperated breath which sounded like he was in
pain, when he saw the room.  He quickly stepped over to the book
shelves and read the names and titles on the books:  Lapinz,
Argynossti, Smarte.  All were identical to those books that Brook kept
there.

"This is some room!"  said Orren and oddly glanced over at Manguino.
"What's wrong?"  he asked the ArchBishop.

"This room is hardly different than Brook Scullion-Blue's was, so long
ago.  How did these men know what was within?  How did they know what
was in every room, within this house?"

Manguino trembled as he spoke then he looked at the far curtained wall
and went over to it.

He violently pulled the curtains away from the wall exposing a dingy
grey.

"Why did you do that, your Grace?" asked Orren.

"This wall was supposed to be white in the centre.  If it was, I don't
know what I would've thought!"  he answered.

He looked at the large wooden cabinet near the entrance and went to
it.  He tried to open it but it was locked.  He shook his head towards
Orren then punched at the cabinet doors.

"Just like Brook's, always locked until the day that I finally knew for
sure what was inside!"

Manguino was feeling ill and angry, and most of all frightened.

"You were right to suspect these men, Orren!"  he told the cardinal.

There was a sudden angry and loud voice blaring from the entrance to
the room.

"What are you doing in here?"  It was Boyce and he majestically trooped
into the room and glared at the ArchBishop.  "I don't mind if the
guests roam around the house, but I do mind if the guests try to
destroy the things that are within the rooms!"

"We are not destroying anything, my young friend!"  Manguino assured
him while he was leaning against the cabinet.

Boyce looked around the room and saw the undraped wall.

"Why is that curtain pulled away?"  he demanded.

"Why isn't that wall white?"  asked Manguino.

"White?"  questioned Boyce.  "Was it white, originally?"

Manguino nodded his head.

"I wish that I would have known this, earlier.  I want this place to be
as authentic as possible to its original interior!"

Orren and Manguino looked at one another with puzzled eyes and Boyce
continued.

"I had found out the history of this place from a few of the towns'
people and I had decided to talk to a few of the people who have been
within this house when it was lived in by the ruling Lord.  I had every
detail of their memories reconstructed.  My academy will have the
atmosphere it needs, to inspire our artisans and great thinkers."

"What's in here?"  Manguino demanded of him, touching the cabinet with
a few pats of his hand.

"Nothing is in there!"  replied Boyce.

"Open it for me!"  Manguino threw another order at Boyce.

"I don't believe that I am obliged to do so without being given a
reason for my opening it!"  Boyce denied obedience to them, knowing
exactly who both of these men were.

"If you are to live in Pomperaque,"  said Orren.  "you must learn to
obey the ArchBishop.  He wants you to open that cabinet and you will
open it!"

Boyce put on a bewildered expression then sighed, nodding his head as
he went to the cabinet.

He took a key from around his neck and put it in the slot of the
cabinet door.  His actions with the key, and the manner in which he
used it to open the doors, disturbed Manguino but he made himself think
that Boyce was told about the way that Brook handled the cabinet key.

Boyce slowly opened the cabinet to reveal the empty interior.

"There!"  Boyce exclaimed.  "I had told you that there was nothing
inside!"

The ArchBishop Manguino breathed more easily when he saw that the
cabinet was truly empty as this stranger called Boyce, had truthfully
told him.

"I would think that you would like to mingle more with the common
folk."  said Boyce.  "I had heard some rumours that you, ArchBishop,
don't present yourself to the people as much as you should!"

Orren didn't like what Boyce had said and he was ready to say something
to him until Manguino stopped him by raising his hand.

Manguino made for the door and Orren followed him.  It was obvious that
the Almighty wanted peace, for now, and Orren held to his respect of it.

However, before the two men totally exited the room, Manguino turned
around and saw Boyce closing the cabinet doors.  He smiled at Boyce and
asked him a question while Zoro flew into the room and to his shoulder.

"Tell me, Boyce Loebh ... do you know what was inside the cabinet?"  he
asked him.

Boyce shrugged and a squawk came from Zoro.

"No, I don't!"  he answered.  "Apparently no one knows.  It ruins the
authenticity -- I feel.  Besides that ..."   Boyce smiled back at him.
"... it must have been something that really annoyed you."

He stared right into Manguino's eyes than asked him if he would tell
him the contents of the cabinet, but Manguino just continued to smile
and left the room without telling him.

Boyce let Zoro onto his left forearm and stroked him while the bird
balanced itself.

"That, Zoro, is a man that ancients called  'an ass-hole'!"  he said to
the crow.

Zoro cawed, as if answering, and Boyce left the room with him, too.

Downstairs, the party was coming to an end and Lloyd was saying
good-bye to everyone, and he reminded Mingo and Bix to bring their
friends over to the Mansion tomorrow for their first class.

Late into the night everyone was finally gone and the two men felt
extremely good in having their confusion tactics work on those who were
unfriendly present here on this night.


CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

The following morning the men went to market and sew Empal.  They
bought from him some of his special fruit from the lands to the west,
called Ïÿnondan, and they asked his opinion of last evening's gala.

Empal was pleased for its success and he told them that many others
thought so, as well.  He also told them that Miel and Cassta were
expecting them in Gothal for a luncheon.

Boyce was ultimately pleased because he had a chance to see his wife
and Lloyd was also glad for being able to see Sister Rhonta, to argue
some more Smarte with her.

The two men went to the town stable and borrowed a couple of horses and
rode into Gothal, as soon as they finished their talk with Empal.

Gothal was close, just a few kilometres from Pomperaque's northern
gates but Boyce pushed the horses hard to reach Gothal as quickly as
possible, Zoro riding all the way on his shoulder.

He went to the Abbey of Our Holy Saint Mariot, where Lilith was staying
and found her in her job today, tilling and trimming the flower and
tree garden.

She was grimy from the dirt and heat but the sister in charge of
today's work let her off her job, under the circumstances, and Lilith
had a very quick bath before going to her husband, waiting for her in
her bed.

Rhonta was happy to see Lloyd but all they did was talk while she was
in a room repairing some clothing.

She was a full nun, as she was when she cared for Lloyd until he
recuperated.  For the innocent kiss that she gave to Lloyd when he and
Boyce left Gothal, for Pomperaque, she was highly reprimanded and she
was made to work in the abbey kitchens until just recently.

Lloyd was disappointed, and she was probably more disappointed than he
was, but they were both mature enough to understand the circumstances
in which they both lived, so both made the most of their time by
talking.

At noon, Boyce left Lilith's bedroom and went to the Abbess's private
dining room where Miel and Cassta were both waiting for him.

Lloyd wasn't there and Lilith stayed in bed, waiting for Boyce to
return while she pictured in her mind the account that Boyce gave to
her about his reintroduction to Pomperaque.

He walked into the dining room with Zoro and the Abbess Mariot (as all
abbesses were called Mariot, since the first one that found the child
called Sunshine, so long ago), was serving the table where the men sat.

She curtsied to Boyce and left the room as both Miel and Cassta took to
their feet and watched him approach them.

They both came from behind the table and they embraced Boyce with tears
streaming from their eyes.

"Empal had told us who you are, Boyce Loebh Scullion-Blue!"  said Miel
between sniffles.

"We didn't know that our great friends had any children, Master
Scullion!  Where did you stay as a child?  How is it that your father
didn't tell us?" Cassta asked desperately.

"I remember both of you so well, Cassta and Miel.  My father only had
two friends that he trusted with his life!"  said Boyce.

"How do you remember us, Boyce?  We had never seen you before this
day!"  Miel's tears subsided allowing wonder to dry them.

"I was hidden before everyone's very eyes and there wasn't a soul in
all of Phoride that knew.  Only Empal was told and that was just before
my parent's death."  said Boyce and he then proceeded.  "I was Boy, my
parent's servant!"

Astounded, the men kissed Boyce's right hand and they didn't even pay
attention to Zoro cawing at them.

"How it is to me, now, to realise that a great ruler truly served his
people!"  Cassta praised Boyce.

"I had once served, both of you, with things of substance and now it is
time for both of you to serve me."  Boyce's voice sounded demanding.

"Yes!"  the men echoed one another.

"We kneel, humbly, before you Lord Scullion-Blue."  promised him as he
and Cassta went on their knees.

Boyce put his hands on each man's shoulders and told them to rise.  He
let them know that

they had no obligation to kneel before any man, even if that man was
their leader.

"From this time on, neither you, nor any of those who you persuade to
join me -- to help me reclaim Phoride in the name of my father -- shall
kneel before me.  Only God, who speaks to men's hearts deserves to be
knelt before.  I am not God.  I am just a man and because I am just a
man, I need loyal friends to help me regain my birthright an share my
sceptre with me, in this land."

"Only a truly God-sent leader would speak that way.  We will die for
you, Boyce!"  Miel vowed and Cassta nodded to Miel's offer.

"You did not die to protect my parents,  old friends!"  Boyce sounded
stern, his voice mirroring the guilt felt by both for their passiveness
when action was the necessity.  And Boyce continued,  "But I will die
for you, if it be so ordained."

Both of the men's heads sank down upon their chests in a visible shame,
and both had weepy eyes.

Boyce motioned for them to return to the table.  They sat down and ate
the banquet that was prepared for them by the abbey sisters and they
discussed the plans that Boyce and Lloyd had agreed to with the
Northern United Alignment, concerning the invasion of Phoride.

Boyce told the men that it will be their job to find loyal and
trustworthy Prominants that would join his side in order to abolish the
canon rule forever and return him as their heir apparent to the Blue
descent.

Everything was agreed upon.  Plans were set and fealty was paid through
vows and oaths, and when the meal was finished, the men returned to
Pomperaque.

Boyce returned to his Lilith's bedroom and made love with her once more
before the invasion was to come over this troubled land, and so
separate them for a while longer.

Zoro squawked, having been left out in the garden by Boyce before he
went to Lilith.

Zoro flew back to Pomperaque and circled it until Boyce and Lloyd left
the abbey for their second time.

Risking another reprimand, Sister Rhonta kissed Lloyd good-bye when
Lilith did the same to Boyce.

When the men returned to Pomperaque they rode right for Empal's stall.

Zoro had already soared down onto Boyce's shoulder when they road
through the town's gates, and to Empal's kiosk, Boyce let Empal know
that the invasion could commence.

Empal knew the rest.  He had made his plans with the alignment, too.

This was the day that Empal would fly back to Virune and Besten, on his
Kenttitian Eagle, and tell his people and Harvard Bartlett that it was
time to mobilize the armies for their advance on Phoride.


CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

The days and nights passed by with an odd swiftness that has never
before been seen or felt.

Boyce and Lloyd didn't appear to do much else than run the learning
sessions in the Blue Mansion, catering to whomever, and from whatever,
class they were from.

One cardinal attended the first two days of the academy's opening and
he reported to the ArchBishop Manguino that everything was being
handled straight as in the Blaisaman and that political ideologies were
discussed as philosophical arguments rather than as private opinions.

Everything in the academy was normal and there were no conspiracies or
treasonous talk being made within the mansion and so the cardinal
stopped attending the classes there.

The second day after the cardinal stopped coming to the classes Boyce
and Lloyd finally began to teach all those enlisted to their cause,
about the Twentieth Century civilisation.

The great book that Brook had given to his son and Lloyd, was passed
around to each person that knew how to read the written English, which
had survived to some extent, since that fallen age.

Those capable of reading the book, read it aloud to those who could
not, and all those who had been made familiar with the ancient book,
gawked at the wondrous pictured in the book.  The pictures were of
strange machines that could fly and ships that travelled space, and
there were pictures of giant buildings that touched the skies.  They
were great hollow mountains made by man, out of glass and steel and
rock.

The most loyal and m of the more intelligent students were taught how
to battle, hand-to-hand, with someone.  They watched the hours of
demonstrations presented by Lloyd and Boyce.

However, due to the lack of time available to them to train, all that
they could do was watch Lloyd and Boyce's movements, then later teach
other; again, by demonstration and example.

Several months of military training were condensed into a week of
intense study and what's more, Halls never knew what was happening.

Throughout the two men's instruction, Zoro was present, relentlessly
perched; either on a piece of furniture on upon Boyce's shoulder.

To many of those loyal citizens there to learn Boyce's knowledge, Zoro
became a symbol of freedom from the evil monastic rule.

Boyce, with his interesting pet, had become quite popular in
Pomperaque, the word passing throughout the entire land of Phoride in a
manner that resembled that of legend.

Orren was certain that the two men from Besten presented a clear and
present threat to the ArchBishop and his established rule on this
continent.  He couldn't allow his feelings to go without notice and he
discussed the prophesy, given to Manguino by the Seer, Jessuum Benitar,
with other cardinals who specialised in the interpretation of scripture
and prediction.

All of them agreed that the Seer's words were indeed strange and non of
them could agree on

their exact meaning, so the Cardinal Orren took to examining the
recorded text by himself.

With every subsequent reading of the words, Orren became more
frustrated and less did he succeed in his understanding of any of it.

He hoped that he would soon free whatever hidden meaning was held
within the vision that Jessuum conveyed to Manguino when he began to
degenerate his power and standing, for the sake of copulating with
Eckma.

Pure thought and logic slowed Orren's perspective for the explanation
of the prophetic forecast.

It happened one night that something that resembled an answer came to
Orren, and it was a strange coincidence that Manguino had glimmers of
thought that were similar.

In their like dreams, certain lines in the prophesy seemed to repeat
themselves and both Manguino and Orren began to realise their meanings.

The lines that held the most clarity for them were:  'Four great
elements, ride on high'  and  'Black feathers from his shoulders jut'.
These lines reflected the omen and possibly even the new strangers.
However, there was no proof that they were upon the correct
considerations.

The next day that ArchBishop and Cardinal Orren confided to one another
about their dreams and about the interpretations that came to them
thereof.

Manguino told Orren that he heard the prophet's chant repeating itself
through his mind and peaking in clarity and volume at certain lines.

Orren had said the same thing to the ArchBishop and they discussed
their dreams, and what they thought their dreams meant, over the span
of several hours since they woke.

Both men were eager to strip clean the text of the prophesy in order
to reveal, to themselves, the long awaited answer.

"I understand the Mons, Your Grace!"  Orren blurted out to the
ArchBishop.  "It was the night before the two strange Bestenese entered
Pomperaque.  I saw the Mons."

Orren paced about the ArchBishop's office, and Manguino sat at his desk
in his respective garb, listening to the great Cardinal Orren.

He walked back to the desk, from the window, lifted his palms before
him as if weighing the air that he passed through.

"The Mons were four, each on a horse, and each rider was clad in armour
and was the same colour as the horses.  They were in the sky.  So I
believe now that our Seer's predictions may be true.  The Mons are
these four elements that ride on high."

Manguino sighed and rocked back and forth in his chair.  He was pleased
to have made some head-way in answering the puzzling prophesy.  Yet,
somehow he felt that there wasn't enough proof to be able to point to
Boyce and Lloyd and say that they were involved.

" 'Black feathers from his shoulders jut' ..."  said the ArchBishop.  "
... is strangely similar to that Boyce Loebh and his dirty crow.  There
is one point, however, that has me question if that is so."

He stood up and moved around to the front of the desk and sat on it.
He motioned with his hands as he spoke to Orren, giving him his
explanation and other questions concerning it.

"That odd crow rides on Boyce Loebh's shoulder, it doesn't just from
it.  Shoulders are mentioned instead on of shoulder -- this may be
misleading!  It may be making us seek the reality of the forecast by
invoking within us our own dislikes for these men."  he said to Orren.

Orren nodded and then shrugged while the chair on which he sat gently
swivelled to and fro.  He looked right into the ArchBishop's eyes as he
thought that the ArchBishop may actually be right.

"I understand your thoughts.  We don't want to make it a habit of
unjustly accusing those people that we do not trust only in order to
quell our own fright.  Both of these Bestenese are popular with the
people as being great teachers.  My men have reported to me no
treasonous news about them."

Orren raised himself from the chair and went over to the chiffonnier
behind Manguino and poured himself some wine.

"The Mons just rode across the Phoridene sky.  They never rode in the
streets.  Whatever happens will be minor."  he said to Manguino before
he gulped the glass of wine into his gut.

"We should keep our wits about us and look for some strangers with
black feathers either growing out of their shoulders or adorning their
apparel."

"I will get some of my men to watch out for that happenstance."  Orren
promised his master.  "I will also put the Phoridene army on
battle-alert.  I feel that to be the prudent action."

"We should wait, at least for a few more days and I don't believe that
the army will really be needed."

Orren became tense and he Questioned the ArchBishop's reasoning for not
letting him ready for defence.  Afterall, Orren was in charge of the
army.

"We don't need tension between ourselves, Your Holiness!"  Orren
finally said.  "We have to be ready for anything.  The people of this
city, and outlying towns and villages, have been behaving very
strangely in recent times.  They don't seem to be expressing their
dislike for their living conditions and over-taxing.  They wane in
their fear of you.  Something is very wrong."

"You are surely like your father, Allen, was.  You worry too much,
Cardinal.  We should not worry about anything.  We are strong and no
sane person would try anything against us.  I am god of Phoride, and
of this hemisphere.  Gods cannot be harmed."

The ArchBishop has always been thought of as a god, and has been made
to be worshipped as much but he had never before shown that he believed
it, too.

Orren left his presence and called a necessary meeting with the higher
cardinals and convinced them to back his giving his army a full alert
status.

Later, Manguino called on Orren to bring the two strangers to his
office for questioning.  He was seemingly having second thoughts about
his own suspicions but, being a god, he didn't admit to it.

That afternoon Boyce and Lloyd came to Halls to see the ArchBishop.
Boyce had Zoro on his shoulder and it was making a great deal of noise,
listening to it echo throughout the cathedral and looking as if it was
enjoying itself.

Lloyd felt uneasy because this would be the first time that the members
of Halls could see his face clearly and he prayed that no one would
recognize him, from that day in the square, a decade ago.

They entered the ArchBishop's office with a majesty and saw Manguino
sitting at his desk with Orren in a chair off to his right side.

"We are pleased to have this visit, my friends!"  said Manguino and he
smiled.  "We would like to congratulate both of you on your successful
start with your school.  I may be interested to attend some of your
lectures one day soon, but before I do, I would like to know something
about your backgrounds."

Boyce and Lloyd looked at one another and Zoro jumped off of Boyce's
shoulder and glided to the window.  Boyce and Lloyd waited for a moment
and Lloyd knew that he had to speak since he was the older of the two.

"We are honoured to appear before you!"  said Lloyd and he moved closer
to the front of the desk.  "Thank-you for your notice and maybe with
your satisfaction we may be able to join our academy with the
Blaisaman?"

"Anything is possible!"  exclaimed Orren in a snide voice.

The men didn't understand the tone coming from Orren but they took it
in stride.  They didn't want anything to anger them this afternoon
since they were supposed to be intellectuals, not barbarians.

Both knew that it would be difficult to keep their anger subdued but it
was necessary for the success of their years of planning for the
take-over of Phoride.

"I would like to know of your educational background!"  Manguino said
and motioned to both of them to sit down and they did.

"We had many years of study at the Blaisaman in besten and we have
travelled and studied, in many other places before deciding to come
here."

Boyce spoke slowly and steadily to the ArchBishop and Orren, trying to
ensure that each word sank into their minds.

"How long did you travel and how did you come to be in our city?  You
have not been seen travelling along the known caravan routes and this
makes us curious."

Orren was the type of man that dove right for the heart of whatever he
wanted to know.  He could not engage in side-stepping discussions
because they became dull and took too long to reach the information
that was desired.

"We have been travelling, fairly extensively for almost ten years now.
We have been to nearly every part of this continent, always taking
routes that were not extensively used."  said Lloyd.

"Just as our trip from Besten to your city."  said Boyce.  "We
travelled as directly south as we could, going through the Dark Forest,
Sedara and Palatka.  In fact, we were just leaving Palatka when Urre's
government was toppled!"

Lloyd wasn't pleased with Boyce telling these two evil clerics about
their taking the passage through the Dark Forest.  He saw the two men's
expressions when Boyce told them that.

"How very interesting that you survived passing that inhospitable
forest."  jeered Orren.

"Yes, it was interesting,"  began Boyce.  "but it wasn't as dangerous
as our avoiding of the Elkinni slavers."

Lloyd felt better now, and more at ease.  Boyce was adding some fantasy
to the truths that he had told them earlier.  He was satisfied that
Boyce was handling the situation and so he relaxed more.

There was a shaky silence that rippled through the mood in the room.

All four men had experienced it, and when it came about, Zoro became
spooked and flew out the window and back to the Blue Mansion.

As it flew back to the Mansion, Empal was coming down, on the
Kenttitian Eagle, to the clearing in the Joenine Forest.

Zoro swooped up into the air and after displaying some silly-looking
acrobatics, he soared down to the roof tops of the mansion.

Only Orren saw Zoro fly out.  Boyce an Lloyd were both too busy keeping
their thoughts in

line while in their hosts' presences, but this effort of their's
appeared to be to no useful avail.

Orren had come right out to them and told them both about his idea
behind a prophesy that they had been given.

Manguino sat back and studied the men's expressions but didn't see too
much that was odd or revealing.

"I must tell you both that we do not like your presence in Phoride.  We
do not trust you, but in so long as you keep to what you have been
doing you will be tolerated."

Boyce felt like laughing and he had to ask the cardinal exactly what he
meant.

"I meant to say, "  Orren replied.  "that you will continue to teach in
accordance to those rules and methods, as are followed by other
learning institutions, within our domain.  No personal thoughts or
opinions concerning the certain 'questionable' topics, will be allowed."

"You two are doing fine as academicians but we do not want to find that
treason is being discussed at the mansion."  added Manguino.

Boyce and Lloyd said nothing, they just bowed their heads in
submission, necessary as a sign of protocol.

They stood up and bowed to the ArchBishop and waited for their
dismissal from his office. Following a few moments of intense glaring
between themselves, Manguino gave them leave and they left.

Orren walked around to the front of the desk and made his way to the
window and looked down to the interior of the quadrangles where many
novices reclined, near the fountain.

"Can you believe their supposed travels?"  Orren asked but more as a
statement.

"You never know with the human animal, my loyal friend.  Men have lied
since their

dawning.  There is no such thing as truth, only variations of an
accepted lie!"  commented Manguino.

"We should have asked how they survived their passage through the Dark
Forest."  said Orren, then he gave a little laugh.  "Maybe the gremlins
helped them through."

Whatever the case may be, Orren, I am not certain that they should be
totally mistrusted.  They do not appear to have a threatening quality
about them."

"I still believe that we should keep them both under surveillance for a
while."

"Alright.  Do that, for your own benefit and arrange for me a social
evening.  I want to celebrate my safety."

Orren wanted to disapprove his request but he knew that Manguino would
only get someone else to do it for him.

He agreed and left the ArchBishop's presence, to carry though with the
order.


CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

When Boyce and Lloyd returned home, Zoro flew down to his master's
shoulder from the mansion's roof top.

"Zoro!  There you are!"  said Boyce.  He had wondered what had become
of him, at the cathedral.

They went into the house and soon found Empal waiting for both of them
in the room that was Brook's viewing den.

He had come in through the underground passage from the Joenine Forest.

"Empal, our dear friend!"  said Boyce, and he and Lloyd shook hands
with him.

"I'm surprised that the passages, beneath this place are still in very
good shape."  he said.

"Have you told the alignment to mobilize for its advance on Phoride?"
asked Lloyd.

"That was why you sent me back there, and I have done your bidding."

"Very good, General!"  praised Boyce.

"I had also brought some things for you.  A gift from Lloyd's father,
Harvard."  he told them and Lloyd wondered what his father could
possibly send to him and Boyce from Besten.

Empal opened the passage door and went in, soon coming back into the
room with two large and heavy looking sacks.

"This is yours, Boyce!"  Empal said handing him one of the large sacks.

Lloyd took the other one when handed to him, and when they opened up
the sacks, what they found was the beautiful sight of armour.

The armour was of gilded gold, bolted onto sweaters made of woven lead
and steel, fitting perfectly over the wearer's form, as it was the
nature for such armour to behave.

Electrophore-laser rifles were in each sack with two energy cells for
each weapon, and to supplement fighting, arm-length tempered sabres
were given to them, as well.

Both men received helmets characteristic of their own personalities.

Lloyd had received a helmet made of silver, symbolising steadfast
loyalty and promise to serve.  it had a low fall to the back and the
front, covering the forehead was square and moulded into the figure of
a computer.

Three great spikes jutted along the centre crest of the helmet from the
frontal section to the hinges of the fall.

Boyce's helmet was also very impressive.  It was perfectly rounded and
was made of thick gold.  The round front section, that covered half of
his forehead, had a horizontal, oblong inset of the bluest sapphires
that could be found and on the top back of his helmet was a cluster of
three long plumes, of straight blue horse-tail hair.

Each single knot of hair was of a slightly different shade and hue of
blue, and when the light hit the clusters, they all shimmered like a
clear waterfall.

"Your father has exquisite taste!"  Boyce said to Lloyd.

Lloyd nodded and Empal continued to help the men to remove a large box
from each bag, and the men opened them.  Within each box was a shiny
cross bow.

"These are beautiful!"  sighed Lloyd.

"I wonder if we'll use them?"  asked Boyce.

"Where will you keep these things?"  inquired Empal and Boyce smiled at
him, raising his finger to the air.

He took from around his neck a key and put it into the slot of the
cabinet doors and opened them.

The cabinet was empty but Boyce pushed a part of the back panel and the
inside compartment swung around to reveal the men's maps and hand guns.

Everything was hung on certain hooks and the entire case was beautiful.

Before Boyce was to close the cabinet, Empal took out of Boyce's sack
one more piece of armour.  It was a body harness with shoulder
protectors made of gold and long strips of black onyx, resembling
feathers.

Boyce and Lloyd laughed a little when they saw the beautiful Virunese
air command epaulette.

Empal wondered why they were laughing at the gift that he had included
for Boyce.  He was somewhat irritated and insulted by it until he was
told the reason.

"Black feathers jutting, Lloyd."  Boyce grinned while he spoke.

"I thought of Zoro when I first heard them say it!"  admitted Lloyd.

"I believe that they did, too, but it didn't fit their interpretation.
That's why they called us to talk to them."  said Boyce.

He put the epaulette-body brace into the cabinet and swung the interior
around to the empty false front, and he closed the cabinets.

"Later this evening Tucker and his cousin Tellis are flying in two
eagles for you."  said Empal.  "He will bring them to the back of the
mansion, on the base of the hill.  No one will see them there or think
of checking there."

Empal conveyed to them the expectant time of arriving invasion force,
letting them know that most of the main fighting force would be in
Phoride within a week, with the second wave being a day behind.

Zoro cawed.  He enjoyed looking at the shiny metals of the armour but
the discussion that took place afterwards was making him restless.

When Boyce asked Empal to stay for supper, Zoro flew out the den's
window and flew around Pomperaque for a while until he disappeared.


CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

There was a great dinner party at Halls the next evening.

Orren was against the idea of having it but the ArchBishop apparently
was very warm for his idea.

It has reached the point for Manguino that his whole days spent with
Eckma in the act of fornication was beginning to tire him.  He wanted
an interesting diversion in order to get his life to seem fulfilling
and exciting once again.

Orren didn't participate.  He went up to the cathedral's spire early
and watched the sky for hours.

At the height of the gala this evening the urge returned to Manguino
and he left his higher cardinals to entertain the guests while he took
Eckma back to their chamber.

When they entered the chamber, disrobed and were just to get into their
pool, Manguino looked to the window and saw Jessuum Benitar standing
there.

"Jessuum!"  exclaimed Manguino, walking towards him, still naked.

This was quite disturbing for the prophet but he said nothing about it.

"I thought that I'd never see you again!"  Manguino said to him.

Jessuum looked about the chamber and saw Eckma staring right into his
face while she stroked the nipple of her left breast.

He looked away from her and turned slightly away from her direction
while he spoke to the ArchBishop.

"I come to ask if you remember the prophesy that I gave to you, once
upon a time?"  he asked Manguino.

"Yes, and don't repeat it to me!"  Manguino replied in a hostile voice,
then continued.  "But, you can tell me something, Seer.  Are the two
men from Besten, Boyce Loebh and that Lloyd friend of his, part of that
prophesy?"

"I am not here to inform one someone, or to falsely accuse another."
answered Jessuum.  "I am here to tell you that you will soon answer for
your life and for all those things which you have done throughout it.
Be warned and prepare yourself!"

Manguino began to stomp in anger and he boiled with a fit of temper,
brought on by Jessuum's strange way of frightening -- by not saying
very much.

He turned back to Jessuum but Jessuum was gone.  This made the
ArchBishop even more angry.

"Where'd he go?"  he hollered.

"Out the window!"  Eckma said in an apathetic tone.

Manguino looked about the window and saw nothing but a little bird
circling around the windows below him.

"That strange man will be the end of me!"  Manguino said, then he
sprinted back to the pool, jumped in and had his usual violent sex with
Eckma.

Up in the spire of the cathedral, Orren was staring at the moon and at
the rest of the sky; and not long after midnight he once again saw the
Angels of Mons coming towards Pomperaque, from the northern sky.

They were the same four Mons that he saw before but this time they all
separated and descended upon the streets of the city.

However, the Mons did not ride the streets.  They did, in fact, ride a
meter above them.

Cardinal Orren was nervous and frightened beyond his reasoning and he
couldn't sleep.   He spent the remainder of the night in his bed
chamber reading the scripted words of Jessuum Benitar, to see what more
he could recover from its cryptic verses.


CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

The week was nearing its end and the invasion force, including the
intended second wave support, would soon be pouring into the northern
perimeters of Upper Phoride.

Boyce and his right arm, Lloyd, ran around the mansion and parts of
Pomperaque wishing all those who were voluntarily enlisted to their
cause, the greatest of luck and they let them know that the forces
would be along.

Everyone knew that they would be the advance lines that were to try and
take Pomperaque, and the rest of Phoride, from within.

They had all noticed a sudden concentration of monastic police, walking
the streets and securing certain important streets and buildings.

Mingo and bix were worried that those at Halls knew something but Lloyd
had explained to them the prophesy that the Seer from Mount Benitar had
given to the ArchBishop and they were becoming lunatics because of it.

"Just relax, men.  They will wait until they see more signs in the sky,
like there were last night.  They will interpret those as bad omens.
They expect a takeover that is more supernatural than a take-over made
by the discontented people of this city."

Lloyd somehow made sense to them and they became calm again and they
were sent to round up all those who offered their support to Boyce and
they took them to the underground passage running beneath the Blue
Mansion.

Lloyd and Boyce had gone to the other side of Bimini Hill, at its base,
where Tellis was keeping the two eagles calm and happy.

"Beautiful, are they not?"  asked Tellis and the two men nodded with
admiration and helped to feed the majestic birds.

"I am amazed that men could domestic them!"  Lloyd said in a soft
exclamation.

"They are fit for kings to fly!"  Tellis looked at Boyce when he said
that and Boyce was pleased by it.

They made their war up the hill when they were finished with Tellis and
they didn't go into the mansion right away.

They were silent for the most part, while climbing, but when they came
to the back of the mansion, where the beautiful garden was, they sat
down on a warm marble bench and reflected on the past for a while.

"We have gone through much in our lives."  Boyce said as he sighed.
"Now, the hour approaches.  I hope that I will take Phoride as mine --
as we had promised my father."

"Those were great years."  agreed Lloyd.  "We learned much, and have
seen more than the most men see in ten lifetimes."

"That is so, my friend.  What's more, we could never have done it
without you and your family.  I needed your guidance and you obliged by
giving me the fullest possible education that you could."

"I had learned just as much through your help, Boyce."  said Lloyd,
with a degree of modesty that made what Boyce had said before, less
than fantastic.

As the two men talked so did Orren, at Halls.  He had a private council
with the high cardinals and he arranged with all of them to bring into
Pomperaque, the entire monastic army.

It wasn't unusual that all the high cardinals would give their consent
to Orren's requests.  They, too, had seen the strange signs in the
skies and each one of them had their own ideas concerning the meaning
to the Seer's prophesy.

When Manguino found out about the armies being put on a battle alert
status he was enraged.  He didn't want to have a battle because he
believed that the city had nothing to fear.  Only he, he thought, had a
threat on his life and rule.

Jessuum Benitar had told him that he would answer for his actions and
that he should prepare himself, but in that, there was no indication of
war.  He had imagined that the ancient Christ would judge him.  That
was odd since he had kept that ancient religion from the people, as did
the Canon Di'Vaticanus, from so long ago.

The ArchBishop didn't know what to do and no one could give him advice
that sounded sane.  His prophet didn't come to him any more and he knew
that it was his own fault for being lewd towards the only one who could
possibly help him.

He should've controlled Phoride and his life differently, he now began
to think.  He thought that he could have had the same power, as he now
has, if he had half as many people executed and had partaken less in
his debauchery with whatever women he could invade, under the excuse
of wanting progeny.  Maybe he cursed himself, and it wasn't Brook's
curse that produced horrid creatures and idiots as his children.

He wondered if he could save himself if he got to his knees and prayed
for his forgiveness from the True Living God, which he still didn't
love or believe in.

He promised to kill no more or crave to look upon or participate in
sexual obscenities with women and, like a few untold times, with men
and animals.

He didn't know how to react to Orren himself.  Orren had been rash and
quick i having all his men take their respective positions in the city,
but Manguino couldn't tell him why he should not have done it.

Boyce and Lloyd saw the interesting manoeuvres of the Cardinal Orren's
army, all stationed facing outward from the city, waiting for an attack
from outside.

There was news from Orren's spies in the north.  The messages stated
that the Bestenese army had disappeared.

Orren waited for an invasion.

All the activity amused Boyce and Lloyd.  They predicted that the
monastic army would be called to defense ready alert when the
ArchBishop's spies informed Halls about the move south by the Northern
United Alignment forces.  The surprise attack from within the city
would take Orren's army, totally by surprise.


In the evening the ArchBishop called Orren to the office and Orren
became impatient during their talk.

Orren wanted to go to the spire and watch the skies again, but Manguino
wanted to talk about himself and his thoughts about the prophesy.
He came to the office with the prophesy rolled up in a sheet of
off-white paper.  He had read the words some more this afternoon and
became angered at the great ArchBishop's naivete of it.

He stormed into the office and just stared at Manguino.

"With the drug that Polis had developed from the old formula,"  said
Manguino while staring out of the window,  "I thought that I would live
forever."

He looked at Orren for a moment and thought about the remarkable
resemblance he had to his father, the late Cardinal Allen.

"I do so love power.  Anything that I wanted I would get, no matter
what it was!"  he said to Orren, then looked out of the window again.

Orren came closer to him.

"So are the benefits of having no one above you to be afraid of, Your
Grace."  he told Manguino.

He laughed and with wet eyes he continued to speak in a soft voice
while he rubbed his groin.

"Power is beautiful.  If I demanded to someone to kiss my scrotum, it
would be done.  If I commanded someone to rub my refuse over
themselves, or even to eat my refuse, it would be done."

Manguino's tone of speaking was soft and had a pleasurable quality
about it, as if the imagery that he was conveying to Orren was
pleasing to himself.

Orren felt disgusted but tried not to let it show, and he began to
speak of something other than the fantasies that go with power.

"You do not have to worry about being overrun, Holiness!"  he told
Manguino.  "My army is out there ready to die for you, if necessary."

"That would be a beautiful sight to see, I think.  I will bless each
one in paradise when they die."  he muttered.

"My men also fight for the survival of our ways, in Phoride."  Orren
reminded the ArchBishop that there was more than just he, as a reason
to fight in Pomperaque.

"There has been a great error on your part, so I believe!"  Orren said.

"I cannot make errors!"  the ArchBishop rebuked him.  "Watch your
words, Orren.  No matter if you are my most favoured cardinal I will
have you killed if you continue."

"Have me killed, then!  If you can find someone who will do it!"  Orren
threatened back to his master.

Manguino was angry, and like a child, he turned his face back to the
window and pouted as he stared out.

"I have found that the prophesy is clear, and yet we all have sought
interpretations."  he explained.  "Yours is an error of trust.  You
have disregarded the two Bestenese and their crow, and you have
disregarded my vision of the mons, as being omens of our destruction.
I am prepared for anything, even if you are not!"  he blurted at
Manguino.

"Prepared!"  Manguino screamed.  "Prepare yourself! -- that's what
Jessuum Benitar said before my ejaculation!"

"You are behaving as if you are mad, Manguino!"  Orren pointed at him
as he drew nearer.  "It's not becoming of someone of your greatness."

"Yes, I see that -- and I also see that you are not kind towards me
while I am troubled about what is being done to me!"

Orren shook the written prophesy in his hand and he returned to a
steadier and more controlled way of speaking to his master.

"We can only see that which is written but after it happens."    Orren
sounded as if he understood the prophesy and he wanted to reveal his
knowledge to Manguino.  "I have read about my vision of the Mons, that
bird on the stranger's shoulder, your trust of the two men and your
feast afterwards -- "

" -- What are you talking about?"  Manguino interrupted him.

"I am talking about the prophesy, Your Grace.  It is clearly states and
no interpretation is needed."

There was a convulsive silence in the room.  It lasted only for a blink
of an eye, but seemed like an eternity.

"Let me see that, Orren!"  he demanded.

Orren unravelled the document and read aloud from it:

                 "Four elements, ride on high
                  Come from the greatest fears inside.
                  All suspicions end with feast
                  Of gilded skins and threaded beads -- "


Manguino began to stomp his feet as he screamed at the top of his
voice, that carried through every part of Halls, for Orren to stop.

"Stop.  Don't read it!  Don't read it!"

He rushed to him but tripped on the robe that he was wearing over his
naked body, and Orren skipped to another familiar part of the
transcript.

                "Black feathers from his shoulders jut
                 As promised in the Holy verbal blab
                 Shall come and take his place that day
                 And rule the city where he once did play."

Manguino raved, screaming to Orren to stop reading the words out loud
to him.

"Stop it, you fool!  You don't know what you're doing!"

Suddenly there was a silent spell, after Manguino went down on his
knees and pounded the floor with his fists.

Far in the distance the cawing of Boyce's crow, Zoro, was heard as it
circled around the city in a frenzy.

Orren helped Manguino to his feet and they went over to the window.

The moon was out and it was full, its light filling in the shadows of
the buildings made by the city pole lights.

As they watched, red streaks began to etch themselves across the
surface of the moon.  It looked as if it was bleeding and very soon the
entire surface was red.

Manguino and Orren both felt ice-cold as they watched the four Angels
of Mons appear before the moon and ride towards the city.

The sky around the Mons flashed with lightning that was absent of
thunder, and overhead they saw a great comet slowly pass into the
horizon.

They fell aback as if hit by a huge boulder.

"What happened?"  cried Manguino as he held on to Orren's arm.

Orren pushed him away and as he got to his feet he felt the floor
tremble beneath him.

"It was an earthquake, or maybe it wasn't -- I don't know!"  said
Orren, a little bit irritated by Manguino's effeminate actions.

They thrust their heads out the window and watched the Mons slowly walk
their horses through the streets.  The horses' clip-clop echoed
throughout the city, replacing the thunder when the lightning flashed.

Halls shook, but the rest of the city appeared to be calm and oblivious
to the signs.

"You are truly stupid for reading the manuscript to me.  I have told
you many times, never read it to me.  I made that a law.  You have
brought doom to Phoride."

Cardinal Orren listened to the ArchBishop and when he was finished,
turned to him.

"How you have ruled Phoride for such a time is beyond me, Manguino, but
if you will, I will take responsibility for whatever befalls this great
land."  he promised Manguino, then added.  "You go back and practice
your bestial arts with Eckma, and with whomever else strikes your
fancy.  I have served you for a long time, and I will continue to serve
you until one of us dies!"

He huffed towards the office doors before he exited the room and he
stopped.

"Jessuum should've warned me about you!"  Manguino hollered at Orren.

"You can go fornicate with Jessuum, as well.  He may just give you the
pleasure that you have been searching for."

Orren slammed the door of the office and Manguino turned his head and
looked out of the window.

Zoro was flying around squawking his head off while the stars, in the
dawn sky, began to fade away.


CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

Something strange had taken place over the last couple of weeks in
Pomperaque and the rest of Phoride, as well.  Under normal
circumstances, something like this happening would have been welcomed
by those at Halls, especially if they were the monastic guards -- the
police force.

Cardinal Hint, who headed the guards, had made a report to Cardinal
Orren, that there has been a steady decrease in crime within Phoride
over the last few weeks.  He added a footnote to that by telling Orren
that many of the known criminals had disappeared, not to be found
anywhere in Phoride.

Orren had revealed this observation to Manguino when he went to his
office to tell him that he should start arming himself.

Manguino listened to Orren, even though Orren was beginning to get on
his nerves, and he agreed to prepare himself.

"I wouldn't have to do this if you didn't bring on this craziness!"
the Archbishop said to

Orren, making certain that Orren knew that he would never be forgiven
for his act of disobedience towards him.

"I had considered these criminals some time ago, when the renovations
of the Blue Mansion were taking place, and those men used them.  It
strikes me as odd that these criminals have begun to vanish.  There
must be a reason for it!"

Orren paced around the office then sat down in the large chair in front
of the ArchBishop's desk, as he spoke.  He watched the ArchBishop's
face.  It was a as stern and rugged as he once knew it to be and Orren
believed that Manguino had accepted what was happening to Phoride and
himself.

"It's my opinion that we need a show of merciless strength, here in
Phoride, in order to avert internal rebellion."  Manguino finally said
to Orren while he stood before him.

Orren looked up at him from the chair and had an expression of deep
thought.

"How do you suggest we do this, Holiness?"  Orren inquired.  He was
calm and she still respected Manguino, even though the problem between
them was severe a few nights ago.

"Those criminals that have not disappeared;  Cardinal Hint's men will
round them up and take them to the square for execution."  he answered
Orren.

Orren's expression still showed deep thought and he took a deep breath
and sighed.

"Do you think that executing those criminals is a good idea?"

"I have had enough people executed to be sure that I am doing rightly
with this decision."  answered Manguino.  "It's too late, anyway, to
turn compassionate!"

Orren thought so, too, and he made a little jerky nod and rose to his
feet.

"I want you to do it, immediately, Cardinal Orren!"

"I had presumed as much, Almighty One!"

Orren exited the office, heading for his own command office near the
defence room.

He dressed in his command uniform and headed for the defence room where
some high cardinals and officers waited for him.

His uniform was impressive and frightening.  His helmet was high and
sickle shaped, that went from the front to the back.  On the crest of
the helmet, below the sickle, was a small ridge that looked like the
knots of a rope.  Sticking out from these knots were many barb-like
pins, about finger length.  It looked menacing when it was on his head
and especially when he wore his chromium armour with it.

He stepped into the defence room and stood at the front of the room
beside a large table.

"We have been instructed to take and execute what criminals we can find
and use this act as a show of our strength.  The Almighty feels that by
doing this, it will deter any possible rebellion from within the city."

Cardinal Orren stood there, resembling a majestic statue of a demigod,
waiting for the men that he spoke to, to ask him questions.  To his
surprise, the men in the room accepted the ArchBishop's suggestion and
so were not opposed to the performance of the order.

"Seeing that there are no questions or statements to be made, we should
go ahead with the order, immediately."

Orren left the room and went up to the cathedral's spire and gazed over
the entire city of Pomperaque, as-well-as some of the surrounding
countryside.  The beauty of the panorama before him faded within his
heart.  What he observed was no longer that to which he had become
accustomed.  Everything looked dark and ominous even with the sun
shining brightly overhead.

Scores of criminals were rounded-up and chained.  They were herded,
like cattle to a slaughterhouse, to the town's square.  Many of them
guessed what was going to happen but they couldn't believe it, and
yet, there was a remarkable absence of fear within them.

The citizens of Pomperaque were already beginning to gather in the
square.  They, too, displayed no great fear.  This disturbed Orren to
his very core.  He was certain the people would be touched by the
event.  There have been countless executions in Phoride, ordered by the
ArchBishop, but always there was some semblance of trial.  This time
all the deaths were to be summary but there was no outcry.

The criminals knew that something unpleasant was about to happen.  They
realised, immediately, there was no trial.  Nevertheless they remained
calm and oddly curious to what was about to happen to them.  Not one of
the criminals -- man or woman -- struggled against the monastic guards
who were fastening their arms and legs to the shock wall.

Word had finally reached the Blue Mansion and the hundreds of men
within its underground passages.  Everyone had a friend or relative
that was about to be killed.  Many felt they could no longer wait with
their new leaders, to prevent the carnage.

Soon, five of them made their way out through the shorter passage, to
the south east, to where the sea coves on Canon's Butte hides the exit.

Mingo, Bix and three other men circled around the butte and through the
back streets on their way to the square.  They merged with the crowd
forming there then remained in their one place, watching everything
that was transpiring and waiting for Orren to arrive.

Orren was riding slowly from Halls and could be seen approaching, like
a demon on a cloud,

his armour glinting ominously with every fall of his horse's hooves.

Boyce was told by Cavander that Mingo, Bix and several others had gone
to the square.

"They were afraid for their people, my Lord.  They couldn't wait for
you!"

For a moment, Boyce was angered.  Lloyd, as well, especially when they
found out that those men had taken with them the new electrophore-laser
weapons, issued to them.

"I suppose this changes our plans somewhat!"  Lloyd stated.

"It does but we'll have to go with it, now."  Boyce replied as they
made their way to the viewing den.  "I sent Cavander to keep them from
using their weapons too soon, in case something goes wrong and helps
Orren's army to prepare itself for our attack.  I just pray that he
gets to them quickly."

"That was a wise precaution!"  Lloyd praised Boyce's tactical handling
of this little inconvenience.

They entered the viewing den and Boyce opened the cabinet and its
secret space, revealing their treasure of armour and weapons.

They donned their armour and set their weapons in their respective
holsters.  Their laser rifles were strapped onto their right legs, the
hand guns on their right hip belts and their sabres were hanging on
their left side.   They were ready for battle and they quickly made
their way down tot he rear base of Bimini Hill where Tellis was keeping
watch on the eagles.

Tellis was not surprised with their requests for him to prepare the
birds for immediate flight.  He didn't ask any questions or said a
word.  He did what he was told and he waited for further orders.

The saddle harnesses were quickly but effectively put on the eagles
and Boyce ordered Tellis to go to the passages and order all those
inside to attack the army and the guards near the centre of the city.

Tellis ran up the hill and into the mansion.

Orren had arrived at the square and he quietly looked at the people
while Cardinal Hint and his police, the monastic Guards, were grouping
the prisoners into fours and lining up two on each side of the shock
wall.

Motorized freight cars moved near to the square and slaves were brought
also, to heave the carcasses of the prisoners into the cars for
shipment to the city incinerators.

Orren straightened up and motioned to the executioners and several
dozen criminals were killed, each group of four being brutally forced
in front of the wall, and attached to it, after seeing their friends
killed.  Yet, even with this, the people in the square did not respond
with fear.

Orren motioned again and the executioners stopped.  He turned tot he
people and hollered to them.

"It was a divine order ... every criminal should be executed.  It's an
example of what will happen to anyone that is disloyal or rebellious to
the ArchBishop's ways."  he said to them.

Mingo and Bix had tears in their eyes and the three other men moved to
the back of Orren without being seen.

"Conspiracy and treason will be dealt with harshly, in the same manner
as you all witness here, today.  There will be no trials and even those
who are only suspected of wrong doings towards Halls, will be executed."

Rising up behind the Blue Mansion were the two men on their eagles,
riding on the base of the eagles' necks.  They circled overhead,
surprisingly unnoticed by those below them, and they were soon joined
by Zoro, circling with them.  Boyce was pleased to have Zoro near him,
as luck.

Orren ordered more criminals to be killed and a dozen more men fell
and were thrown into the freight cars as if they were piles of
excrement being shovelled into a pit.

There was aloud cry that came from the midst of the crowd and everyone
turned to it.

"DEATH TO ALL AT HALLS - DAMN THE ARCHBISHOP!!"

The cry was coming from Mingo and he began to fire his
electrophore-laser towards Orren.

Orren was hit a few times but wasn't hurt, the chromium armour
protecting him from the blasts.  He was astonished to see that this
man, who he recognized as the thief, Mingo, possessed that kind of
weapon.

Soon, several more blasts were heard and Mingo fell dead, along with
his brother.  The others charged Orren, creaming death-cries, but Orren
swung his horse around and brandished his sword at them, cutting them
down, too.

"Get their weapons!"  Orren ordered the nearest guard and the guard
fetched them, but when he reached the dead men, there were no weapons
at any one of the five bodies.

"Everyone here will die if those weapons are not recovered!"  he
threatened.

Above him was heard a ridiculous cawing and Orren looked up to see
Boyce and Lloyd, in battle dress, gliding down towards him, with that
wretched crow beside them.

Lloyd screamed down to him.  "Will you die as easily by my hand, as did
your father?"

Orren's eyes studied the two men's battle garb and he saw Boyce's
feather-like, black onyx epaulettes.  His attention, however, quickly
focused upon Lloyd.  An instant hatred overtook him at Lloyd's
admission of killing the Cardinal Allen, his father.

"You will die, whoever you are and whatever devil had sent you here!"

"It is obvious that you are a progeny of a whore and a mad dog,
Orren!"  Lloyd screamed down at him.  "Get on your knees before the
son of Brook Scullion-Blue."  Lloyd yelled to him and pointed at
Boyce.

A buzz rang through the crowd but it sounded both panicked and somewhat
pleased.  This caught Orren's attention, immediately.

"I kneel to no man!"  maintained the Cardinal.

"You do when you kiss the ArchBishop's anus!"  Lloyd taunted Orren and
Zoro cawed in a frenzy.

"You will die, scum!"  declared the Cardinal.

"We will see, little man -- and my name is Lloyd Bartlett!"

When he heard the name, Orren knew that this was the son of Harvard
Bartlett, and he was indeed the one that killed his father.

Lloyd brought forth the rifle from his leg holster and shot at the
Cardinal, toppling his horse out from under him and sending him into a
pile of corpses heaped beside the shock wall.

Orren got to his feet and ordered the guards to shoot them down but,
Boyce took his eagle and flew to the east, over the butte.

It was a godsend to Boyce that the armies of the alignment had reached
the Joenine Forest.

The commotion had drawn curious eyes from those religious citizens of
Gothal.  Lilith had a perfect view of the assembling army and she
finally caught sight of who she knew to be her beloved husband, with
Zoro still by his side.

Boyce landed and arranged for a short aerial battle to divert the
monastic force's attention from the army that would charge into the
city by surprise.

There was only some dozen eagles for this stage of the attack.  The
scores of eagles that were to fight were scheduled as the second wave
that were to arrive tomorrow, but at least the cavalry was only an
hour away.

Boyce hoped that Halls wouldn't know what hit them even considering the
strange forewarning that they had for the invasion.

While Boyce was quickly taking charge of the operations from the
Joenine Forest, Lloyd had flown across the open ocean to find the
Bestenese navy.  Before long he found them.  The fleet was amassing
several kilometres to the south east of the Phoridene cost.

He landed on the flag ship and let the fleet commander know that they
could make their way to Phoride, for a landing and their attack.

He soon made his way back to Pomperaque.

By this time, one of the high cardinals suggested to the ArchBishop
that Lloyd had not flown out to sea for no reason and that there was
probably an armada out there, somewhere.

With this suggestion, Orren was ordered t secure the coastline and he
had one man placed every twenty meters on the southern shore.

If any kind of attack was to come from the sea, these soldiers would
sink the modes of transportation, while still in the deep, annihilating
the enemy.

Boyce was flying back towards the city as the sun began to make its way
towards the far horizon.

Lloyd flew back to Halls and fought, from the air, with a few of the
monastic guards that were there, keeping the ArchBishop safe.

Manguino was watching the entire show but he felt no real emotion for
either side.

Cardinal Orren had come back to Halls after the two men flew off.  He
watched the battle

with Manguino and he was frustrated and furious.

"Look at those stupid fools!"  he said to Manguino about his own
guards.  "They don't know what to do but die like rats in a burning
pit."

"I do not worry.  We will be victorious here, as always!"  said
Manguino, actually believing it.  "I will give each of my men some of
my godly power and I will fight through them!"

"You do that -- but meanwhile I have to find some way to destroy their
birds.  Now their cavalry has come in.  We have to regroup without
their aerial observation of it."  huffed the cardinal.

"Why don't we just shoot the birds?  That shouldn't be too difficult!"
Manguino suggested.

"Our weapons don't have the range to shoot the birds that high up!"

He sat down for a moment and removed his great helmet and ran his
fingers though his sweaty hair.

Manguino went to his desk and opened a side of it revealing a hidden
recess.  He took off a couple support bolts, a huge cross bow, similar
to those that Boyce and Lloyd possessed.

He took it to the window and aimed at Lloyd's eagle as he soared by,
and he shot the longest and thickest arrow, right at the bird.

The arrow pierced its way right though the bird and it convulsed in
mid-air, and began to fall.

Lloyd was caught by surprise for a moment but he glided the bird to the
road leading up to Halls.

He jumped off the great bird before the bird buried itself into the
soft earth at the road side and he ran for cover as the guards, station
above upon the quadrangle wall, shot down at him.

Boyce swooped down from above and wiped out the men from the wall and
Zoro cawed in victory, directed at Lloyd.

He and Boyce waved back to one another and Lloyd ran to the centre of
town, followed by Boyce, above him.  By this time the great mass of the
people that congregated down in the square were embroiled in the
battle.  Few were fighting on the side of Halls and the square was
quickly secured.

Orren sent several of Hint's men, mounted on horses, to pursue Boyce.
Each of them carried a cross bow and they road headlong towards the
town, after Boyce.

The entire city was nightmarish in appearance.  Like an abstract
picture, a foggy dream, it was dark out but parts of the horizon was
purple and orange colour, and it looked like it was aflame with yellow
and blood red.

The entire sky was filled with birds, most of them white in colour and
they shimmered when their flapping wings caught the remaining twilight
and hurled it back towards Phoride, and Pomperaque.

Boyce flew by a tall building and set down on the flat roof of another
nearby.  He looked over the ghastly empty city and announced his mind
to it.

"PHORIDENES!  Come out and fight for peace!  Come out and fight for the
memory of your beloved Brook Scullion-Blue!  Come out and fight, for me
-- his son!"

He took off from the roof top and quickly rose and swung around the
tall building again.

Lloyd watched him from an alley near the square and he also saw the
horsemen with the cross bows.

They dismounted and took a circular position, facing outward and
upward.  They raised their cross bows into the air and waited for Boyce
to get closer.

Lloyd took aim with his electrophore and shot them but before they
fell dead, two of the men let go with their arrows and their arrows
found their mark.

Boyce's eagle writhed in pain and heaved in the air and Boyce could not
control it.  The bird collided with the tall building nearby and threw
Boyce over the rock railing of the building's main balcony.

Lloyd watched it all and soon became extremely worried when Boyce
didn't show himself, and there was the Cardinal Orren riding to the
square with five other men, their own electrophores blazing their trail.


CHAPTER FORTY

Lloyd was extremely concerned for his friend so he sprinted over to the
building, to help him.

It was almost totally dark when he reached the building.

Lloyd saw that Orren and the five other horsemen weren't far off, and
as a matter of fact, were so near that s he climbed up the stairs
inside the building, he could hear Orren's order to his men, to bring
him the head of the enemy leader.

Lloyd couldn't let this happen.

He finally made it to the balcony and he peered through the gaps in the
rock railing as the horsemen dismounted and headed towards the
entrance, below.

Lloyd couldn't bring Boyce to consciousness.  Boyce had been hurt and
Lloyd knew that  he was passed out because of the pain.

Boyce's entire left shoulder was bleeding through his armour.

Lloyd had to get Boyce back to the mansion and have him bandaged up
there.  First, however, he had to make the squad below him less of a
threat.  He drew his gun, leaned over the railing and started to fire
down on them.  He managed to kill two of the men but the rest
retreated with Orren, out of range from Lloyd's weapon.

When they became calmed and after they regrouped, they charged the
building but then quickly turned and retreated back to Halls.

Lloyd was astounded then he looked up into the dark northern skies
towards the strange thunderous clapping and searing whistling.  He saw
a great squadron of Kenttitian Eagles being led by Empal.

The eagles circled the city over the square.

The men controlling them weren't aware of Boyce and Lloyd below them,
but they did see Orren's squad (or what was left of it), quickly
withdrawing to the relative safety of Halls.

Some of them attacked Halls and others continued to circle.

This gave Lloyd the perfect opportunity to take his best friend back to
the Blue Mansion.

Boyce had luckily regained consciousness and got to his feet with
Lloyd's help.

"I saw you crash into this building."  Lloyd told him, then gently
touched his shoulder.  "Does it hurt very much?"

Boyce painfully looked into Lloyd's eyes and smiled.

"Just when I laugh ..."  he said, then continued.  " ... what do you
think?"

They smiled at one another and Lloyd helped Boyce to slowly descend
the stairs, while he watched out for the enemy.

For further protection he had Boyce keep his helmet on and his gun out.

The thrill of the fight and the accident was still with both men and
Boyce didn't really feel the pain in his shoulder because of it.

He was sluggish in his movement but he didn't have to be totally held
up by Lloyd.  All he needed was to be steadied by his friend while they
rumbled up the road, back towards the Blue Mansion.

They were just about to reach the door of the mansion when there was a
sudden escalation of fighting centred around Canon's Butte, but slowly
spreading to the mansion's side of the city.

The Virunese were firing electrophora and lasers down at the monastic
army that had a regiment of archers that were quickly grouped by Orren
for the fight against the eagle power.

There was a huge, hot orange colour rising from behind Halls and the
butte.

Lloyd felt devastated because he knew that the colours could only mean
the unsuccessful landing of the Bestenese navy.

The great glow of the sky suggested to him that most of the navy was
burning.

Bursts of laser shot over Halls from the other side.  At least some of
the force had landed and was engaged in a battle and Lloyd did so wish,
with all his heart, that his friends from besten would be triumphant.

He helped Boyce into a large room that faced Halls.  The room was being
used as a hospital, to help those who were severely wounded.

Boyce was cared for by Cavander and it was good news for both him and
Lloyd.

Boyce wasn't very badly hurt, only having cut up his shoulder like a
deep scrape.

Cavander told him that he would have to take it easy for a few hours.

Lloyd agreed with Cavander that Boyce should get some sleep, promising
Boyce that he could handle the situation out there.  Boyce was sure of
that and subsequently submitted to their request for his rest.

The fighting that was at the butte and the square had now spread to the
mansion itself.  Several companies of men were inside the mansion, kept
there on the off chance that the mansion would be subjected to a siege
and they all readied themselves when they saw that the monastic army
was steadily moving closer to the building.

The Virunese, on their eagles, were dropping out of the skies, being
shot down by both electrophoric charges and arrows.

The fighting continued unbroken and soon those within the mansion were
trying to keep the ArchBishop's armies from getting within reach of the
doors and windows.

The outside of the building was pitted with holes and cracks, as well
as burns, caused by the bolts of electrophora and laser heat, from the
enemy.

From all those men shot down from the sky, Orren had commanded that
their weapons be taken and used on them.  Soon the two armies were
closer to equal in their advantage over each other, but Orren's men
fought harder as if the devil was in each of them.

Boyce slept as he was asked to and he didn't seem aware of the trouble
that was breaking all around him.

Lloyd had gone through the wall in the viewing den, taking the short
underground passage to the cove exit, on the shore behind the butte.

He took off his helmet as he looked across the glassy ocean and saw
that a few ships retreating from battle, while most of them burned on
the rocks which rose out of the water.

The bodies of dead Bestenese were everywhere, with only a few of the
bodies being those of the monastic armies.

He noticed that the powerful weapons, made for Boyce's cause, were
nowhere to be seen, and he had no doubt that the enemy was now using
them.

He looked up at the evil shape of Halls, reaching to the pitch black
sky above him.

Monastics were no longer keeping an eye on the shore line.  They
believed that the Bestenese would never come back to shore for more of
the same defeat that they had already suffered.

Lloyd was having doubts about seeing those who retreated, coming back
for another go at out-flanking the ArchBishop.  He didn't blame them,
though.

He put his helmet back on his head and slowly walked to the base of the
butte and started to climb the rocks.

The take over of Pomperaque, which both Boyce and Lloyd wanted to
accomplish with the minimum of blood shed had become a blood bath.

Unknown to Orren's army, half of the Krolalin cavalry was held back
from the initial battle.  Now, however, under Tucker's capable
leadership, the cavalry charged through Pomperaque from the north and
began to annihilate the army that had the Blue Mansion under attack.

Orren retreated, with a few other high cardinals, back to the Halls
Cathedral.  They were soon followed by monastic lieutenants leading
their own battalions back to the relative safety of Halls' quadrangle.

The men, fighting from the inside of the Blue Mansion, were relieved to
see the cavalry because the energy charges that they did have in
reserve, for their weapons, were all drained of their power during the
battle around the mansion.

The cavalry spared a few dozen charges for the men within and a small
celebration was started to express their pleasure at still being
alive.  Everyone took the opportunity to eat something while the
retreat armies stayed away planning their next attack phase.

Lloyd had found his way into the Halls Cathedral and trying to keep
himself from being see, he searched as many rooms as he could, looking
for manguino or someone that was closest to him.

Tucker had made a decision to attack the Halls Cathedral with the help
of Empal and what was left of the Virunese air support.

Word was sent to the Bestenese commander of the retreating naval fleet,
which was comprised of only five ships (from an original compliment of
fifty), and he agreed to give his landing another try, but farther up
the shore.

The attack was swift and they caught Halls by surprise.

Tucker's cavalry hit them straight on while Empal's air force struck
them from above, and the navy hit them from behind after the cliffs on
the butte's north eastern side.

The battle escalated into a full conflict, and soon, both sides no
longer had any power left in their energy cells.  This didn't stop the
battle however.  In fact it spurred the fighting into more of a
hand-to-hand mode, with swords and supportive cross bows.

As the fighting continued and turned more bloody, the moon began to
rise over the Joenine Forest, adding a silvery-blue light to the arena
of fighting, and giving the entire city the look of a necropolis, with
bands of demons fighting over its control.

Boyce was looking out the window of the hospital room and was wondering
how Lloyd was doing in battle.

Lloyd was wondering if Boyce was awake and fighting, but soon, this
wondering left him when he found the largest and most luxurious looking
bed chamber of those that he'd looked into.

He silently crept into the room, making certain that he wasn't seen,
and he slowly walked while he cautiously drew his sabre.  He looked
ominous in his armour and parts of it did scrape and screech with
every step that he made.

"Come in!"  said a ratty feminine voice.

Eckma was in the chamber with her and Manguino's only living child.

The child was less than a year old and there was nothing physically
wrong with it, and it acted normally but to Lloyd the child seemed to
have a presence of evil emanating from it.

It wasn't a weak presence of evil, either.  It was much like the light
of a candle in a dark void, even seen for miles.

He followed the voice until he passed through some heavy blood-red
drapes and saw Eckma lying naked on a huge round shaped bed, with the
child beside her.

Cardinal Polis, the physician, hadn't given her a capsule of the age
retardant drug, because of his prior commitment to the war.  Now, sores
were returning to many parts of her body and she picked at them.

Lloyd felt nauseous looking at her doing it and he didn't particularly
get very excited when she took to stroking the fleshy layers of her
vagina with her forefinger.

"The stories about you are true ... you are foul looking!"  he said to
her.

She sat up quickly with anger on her face, only to recline again, with
a smile.

"Come to my bed, dear warrior.  Let me touch you!"  she called him to
her and almost unnoticeably spread her legs a little wider.

"Cover yourself, bitch.  Man was not meant to fornicate with animals!"

She still smiled.  She was apparently moved by him.

Besides Manguino, Lloyd is the only other man that she has felt like
taking into herself.

His toughness and gruff manner towards her made her quiver all over
with anticipation.

"You can hit me, if you so wish.  You can rape me.  I will not make a
sound even if you decide to bludgeon me!"  she told him.

"You wretched evil hag.  You sexless bacterial malignancy!   One such
as you cannot be allowed to live!"

Lloyd grabbed the baby by its leg and cut the baby in half, in front of
Eckma's eyes.  After he did that, he cut the halves in half and did so
again.

Eckma was terrified of him now and as he went for her, with his sabre,
she let out a curdling scream that carried above the battle noise and
throughout all of Halls.

Eckma became hysterical until Lloyd silenced her similarly to ridding
the earth of her evil child.

Manguino was watching the battle from his office window and Orren
called the battle tactics from a balcony, halfway up the side of the
cathedral.

Both men heard the horrific scream and both of them left their
positions and quickly went towards Manguino's bed chamber.

Lloyd had entirely hacked up the bodies of Eckma and the child until
all that was left of them was bloody flesh, severed bones, and pieces
of internal organs strewn all over the bed.

Manguino and Orren met one another in the long hallway that led to the
main chamber and they didn't say anything to one another.  They just
continued on their way until they reached the ArchBishop's room.

They bowled through the door and pushed their way through the curtains
to where the bed was.

Lloyd, in his beautiful armour turned around when he heard the noise
and he saw the cardinal dressed in his battle garb and Manguino in his
robes.

Manguino didn't seem to be overly disturbed seeing that his wife and
child were mutilated.

"Thank-you!"  Manguino said to Lloyd.  "I was getting tired of her,
anyway!"

"May the true living God forgive me for murder but evil must be
destroyed.  In my life I served my God and I served my earthly king and
friend, Boyce Loebh Scullion-Blue.  In death I shall only serve my
God!"  stated Lloyd.

"If you will!"  replied Manguino to Lloyd's statement, the looked at
Orren and pointed his finger at Lloyd.

Orren raised his cross bow at Lloyd.

"The murder of my father, the Cardinal Allen, is avenged."  he said
then he shot Lloyd.

Lloyd didn't fall though.  He stood straight and firm; his blood
gushing from where the arrow penetrated his armour, right through to
his back, and he even spoke.

"Your father's death was its own revenge!"  Lloyd said to Orren, with
blood spattering from out of his mouth.  "You will not live Orren."
Lloyd fell to one knee and Orren shot him a second time, nearer the
heart, but lloyd continued before he fell forward.  "You won't lice in
the next life!"

While Lloyd lay dead on the floor, in a pool of scarlet that spread
about him, Orren put another arrow into his cross bow and shot the body
once more time.

When he did that a surprising shriek was heard and Zoro flew around the
room three times.

Orren ran after it brandishing his sword, trying to hit it in mid air,
but Zoro flew out of the window and towards the Mansion.

There was a very long pole that kept a canopy of lace up over the round
bed, and Orren

pulled it down.  He cut off Lloyd's head, after taking the gallant
helmet off of the corpse and he shoved the head onto one end of the
pole.

Orren and a party of men then made their way slowly from Halls to the
Blue Mansion, carrying the pole with Lloyd's head mounted on it.

The fighting had subsided, and the electric twang of the electrophore
weapons was no longer heard.  Only far in the background there could be
heard the tinny sound of hand-to-hand sword fighting.

At the base of the cobbled walkway, leading up to the mansion, some
twenty meters from the main door, Orren and his men planted the headed
pole and left it there.


CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

The first rays of sunlight illuminated the wisps and billows of smoke
that rose from the damaged city.  With every passing minute the sun
rose higher into the morning sky, lighting the pole that was standing
at the head of the cobble walkway.  Soon, there was enough light to
reveal the head that was on top of the pole, bringing out of the
mansion several dozen men including Boyce, carrying his cross bow in
his left hand.  His left shoulder was in great pain but he was forcing
himself to make use of it.

He walked out tall and straight, and from somewhere above, Zoro flapped
his way down onto Boyce's other shoulder.  It made no sound as the men
slowly walked towards the pole, with Lloyd's head mounted atop it.

There was an odd, colourful aura around the head, probably caused by
the play of the sun's light, but Boyce believed, with his whole heart,
that it was God's presence blessing his dead friend.

The sounds of battle started up again in the distance.  Electrophora
blared and thunderous sounds followed.

Looking in the direction of the battle's origin, which was north, Boyce
and his men saw laser light being shot into the air, and they knew that
it could only mean one thing -- the second invasion wave had arrived in
Pomperaque, as planned.

Boyce fell to his knees and wailed, mourning his fallen friend and
teacher, while he still held onto his cross bow.

His cries rose above the thunderous clamour of combat that was drawing
nearer to the city.

The young sovereign finally rose to his feet again and looked at Halls
with an ultimate contempt that he summoned from his soul.

His eyes had tears in them, and they were red and painful looking.  He
spat on the ground and took his sabre from its casement and lifted it
to the air.

Boyce took a few steps passed the head of his dead friend, and in a
voice that carried through the entire city, he yelled at those in Halls.

"Dirt of the world! -- Fornicators of men and animals! -- Oppressive
son-of-whores and satyrs! -- Welcomers of saturnine thought! -- You
foul children of Satan!"  Boyce cussed at them.  "Maybe you all die in
the most prolonged and torturous pain!"

The fighting stopped as the battalions came upon the centre of the city
and heard Boyce's booming anger shake all that was around.

Zoro quietly left Boyce's shoulder and then disappeared, unnoticed.

"Prepare yourself for damnation, Manguino.  You will die, Orren!"

Boyce's hollering sounded like a promise, more than it did threatening,
and he slid his sabre back into its scabbard.

He began to walk towards Halls with the men that came out of the
mansion with him.

Those coenobites at Halls were all lined up on the wall of the
quadrangle looking towards Boyce, when he yelled.

Cardinal Orren stood in plain sight and watched Boyce slowly approach
with his men.

Manguino had listened to Boyce, also, from his office window and he was
discomfited by it.  He waited for Orren to return to his office.  He
needed advice on what to do with himself because he could not easily
think on his own.

Orren waited for Boyce to reach the wall where he stood and he had
ordered his guards not to fire at him.  He stood on the wall dressed in
his chromium armour and impressive helmet and he stared at Boyce as he
stood at the base of the wall in his own majestic armour and helmet.

This was the first time that Orren actually had a good look at this
man's battle garb.  This time he was certain that he saw on his
shoulders the black wing-like epaulettes bringing to mind the  'black
feathers'  line, in Jessuum's prophesy.

"We had known from the beginning,"  said Orren.  "that you were not to
be trusted!"

He looked at Boyce while he spoke and Boyce had a strange smirk on his
face when he responded.

"It only means your own downfall, and don't stay under the
misconception that you will live to see the end of this day!"

Orren laughed at Boyce, pointing at him, at the same instant.

"Your threats will lead you to the same end as your Bestenese friend!"
said the cardinal.  "It is to our utmost disappointment that the
ArchBishop didn't let us destroy you when we first suspected you!"

Boyce shook his head in defiance.

"My uncle Manguino has never been very intelligent, and you can cease
that elitist way of talking because it doesn't become you!"

There was silence for a moment while they exchanged hate-filled glares.

Boyce took a deep breath and called Manguino out to fight.

"Manguino!"  he called then waited.  "Uncle! -- Come and we will settle
this war's outcome between ourselves!"

There was no answer and Boyce looked at Orren, laughing menacingly at
him.

"He will not answer you!"  Orren told Boyce.  "He will not fight
either, and why should he?  He has hundreds of us to fight you for him!"

"Then let me fight each of you until only he remains!"  Boyce said
provokingly.

Orren shook his head at Boyce and tisked at him.

"Don't you know about the laws of nature, son of Brook?"  he tauntingly
asked him.  "The strong survive while the weak die!"

" -- And my God's universal law says that  'good shall destroy evil'
-- so shall I destroy you, and all those who follow you!"

There was silence again, for a brief moment until Boyce yelled to
Manguino again.

"My uncle, ArchBishop!  Coward of the world and Evil incarnate.
Come and do battle with me, alone!"

Once more there was no answer from within the cathedral.  This time
Orren was bothered by it.  The people could not be allowed to see the
ArchBishop as a coward.  He looked down at Boyce then mentioned to some
of his high cardinals to come nearer.

Boyce raised his cross bow at Orren, and Orren's men did the same
directed back at him.

"I will see him, Boyce.  We will speak again within the hour!"

Orren and two of his high cardinals left the wall and Boyce waited for
Orren to return.

Before Orren went into the cathedral he told his high cardinals to
watch Boyce from another vantage point in insure that he doesn't attack.

"If he attacks, destroy him!"

The order was plain and simple, but Boyce didn't attack.  Even when his
men suggested to him that they charge all of them with surprise.

Boyce didn't want to.  He knew that something grave would occur if he
did something.  Anyway, he had come too far to let stupidity ruin all
the sacrifices that he and his dead friend had made, in order to regain
the Blue sovereignty.

Orren entered the ArchBishop's office and saw him standing at the
window dressed in a purple robe with a scarlet surplice thrown over it.

He didn't say anything for the first while but he eventually glanced
over at Orren then looked out the window again.

"I wonder what it would be like, to be killed by a relative?"  Manguino
asked but not looking for any answer.

Nevertheless, Orren moved closer to him and asked a question in the
same manner.  "How did it feel to kill a relative?"

Manguino grinned and slightly turned to the cardinal.

"I've wondered that for ten years!"  he said to him and he snickered
under his breath.

Cardinal Orren went over to the window and faced Manguino peering
through the window.

"You don't want to fight him?"  Orren stated to him.

Manguino just looked at him and whimpered.

"Where can I go, or what's more, when and how?"

Orren thought for a moment then sighed.

"The old place ... the citadel at Tannisea, but you will have to go
alone and around the southern coast."

"The route to Tannisea is long and dangerous, Orren.  Especially is the
southern coastal loop is taken."

Orren touched Manguino's shoulder.

"It's either that or you have to fight Boyce!"

"That's quite a choice!"  said Manguino.

"I will take your place while you get along to Tannisea."  said Orren.
"I'll send you word when to return.  That son of Brook Scullion-Blue
cannot win."

Manguino took a deep breath and looked out the window again when he
heard Boyce's voice calling him out to fight.

"Your time is running out, Manguino.  Come fight me or Halls will
crumble, never to rise again!"

Orren looked out of the window, too.

"I told him, an hour."  said Orren.  "I think that he is trying to
frighten you!"

"He's his father, all over again."  Manguino stated to Orren then
leaned his head against the wall by the window.

"Prepare yourself to leave.  When I fight him, all will watch and you
will be able to get away."

It was strange that Orren was seemingly guiding the ArchBishop's life.
After all the years that Manguino, as ArchBishop, was the undisputed
ruler of Phoride, he had fallen to a level of mind that very closely
resembled that of an idiot.

Orren has really been the one man, who had been controlling Phoride
since Manguino's marriage and unending fornication with Eckma.

Orren didn't care on way or the other about his idea that the
ArchBishop's unending years of debauchery and perversion had effected
his mind.  Whether or not that was true was beside the point, right now.

This god's survival was at stake.  He couldn't let someone like Boyce
show that he was nothing more than a physical and mental weakling.

Orren helped Manguino pack a survival travel bag and saw him off at his
personal tunnel that exited, at an isolated cove, on the southern most
part of Pomperaque.

With good-byes that were neither sad nor elated, the Cardinal Orren
closed off the passage and went back to the courtyard, in front of the
chapel.  He was dressed in his same battle armour and before leaving
the safety of Halls' enclosed quadrangle he instructed his high
cardinals to destroy Boyce and his men, if he is beaten.  He also told
them to destroy the entire city of Pomperaque is he doesn't survive the
combat with Boyce.

Boyce had given Tucker and Empal similar instructions, as well, but
Boyce's instructions didn't call for the total destruction of his city,
if he lost against Orren.  His instructions only called for the
destruction of the Halls Cathedral.

"Let not one stone remain standing on this butte!"  he told them and
waited until his rival came to him.

He finally heard the heavy gates of the wall clang and screech open.

He watched the huge doors swing inward and soon after they stopped
moving, he saw his personal rival come out ti fight him.

There was a great disappointment and feeling of being cheated in
Boyce's heart when he saw that the man he was about to fight was the
Cardinal Orren instead of the ArchBishop Manguino.

"What's this, Orren?  I had called on Manguino to fight with me." Boyce
said in anger.

Orren drew nearer, his chromium armour reflecting the morning sun.

He was carrying a cross bow in his left hand and he looked as if he was
equally matched, weapon-wise, with Boyce.

Many of those watching Orren slowly walking up to Boyce were frightened
that Boyce would not survive.

Orren looked ominous and indestructible and even though Boyce looked
like a formidable opponent, his friends were not certain that he would
be victorious.

"I want Manguino here before me, immediately!"  Boyce demanded and then
took a few steps towards him.

"As far as you should be concerned, I am the ArchBishop!"  Cardinal
Orren told him calmly.

Boyce slowly came closer to Orren and he prodded him with his cross
bow, and with a strangely provoking little smile on his face.

"Am I to take Manguino's cowardice as the surrender of Halls and
Pomperaque, to me?"

Orren was somewhat disturbed by what Boyce said to him and he pushed
Boyce's bow away from himself.

"You are out of your mind."  said Orren.  "Halls will never surrender
to you, or to anyone else.  So long as I live, so long as anyone within
those walls lives, Halls will not surrender!"

Boyce glared right into Orren's eyes and spoke to him as if he was a
little boy.

Orren was annoyed by it all but it helped to build his hostility
towards his young opponent.

"I like watching grown men like you and Manguino throwing little
tantrums of temper.  What is interesting is that these tantrums affect
the entire state; where, to relieve your own tension, you have innocent
men, women and children murdered."

Boyce stopped for a moment, watching Orren's reaction to what he had
said and saw that he was irritating him.

"You and my uncle put my mansion under siege and yet we left Halls
alone.  We could've destroyed Halls before this war even began!"

Orren interrupted Boyce's momentum by showing his hostile nature.

"You did have Halls under siege!"  hollered Orren.  "That friend of
your, that Bestenese, Bartlett ... he had come into Halls and had
brutally murdered the ArchBishop's wife and son.  That is why I must
kill you.  I have to avenge their deaths for him as I have avenged the
death of my father, Cardinal Allen, by killing his murderer!"

He pointed down the road towards the Blue Mansion and the pole with
Lloyd's head on it.

"You prepare yourself to die, then!"  announced Boyce.  "I have to
avenge deaths, as well.  I must avenge the deaths of Brook and
Dearborne and my friend, Lloyd!"

He threw his cross bow to the ground and drew his sabre from its
scabbard.

"Senseless bloodshed is not the way to fight a war, Cardinal Orren.
Battle, like this, can be the only way!"

They circled around one another, their eyes locked together in an icy
stare.

"I take a different view, young Scullion-Blue!"  blurted Orren.

"I know -- so much is the shame!"  replied Boyce just as Orren swung
his sword down at him.

Boyce caught the attack with his sabre and he spun around deflecting
Orren's sword out and away from him.

Orren momentarily lost his balance but regained it in time to defend
himself against Boyce's attack.  They moved around a large area while
they brandished their blades at one another.

Boyce's men watched-on in worry and with heated excitement, many of
them twitching and grinding their teeth with each whiz and clang of the
blades.

The coenobite army watched-on also but they didn't display concern for
Orren.  Each man's face was expressionless, and they made no movements
throughout the fight.

"You fight well!"  Orren complimented Boyce.

"Thank-you ..."  Boyce grunted.  " ... and you fight, like a pregnant
old woman!"

He hurled his sabre horizontally at Orren, but Orren came down on it
sending the end to the ground and slashed-out at Boyce.

Boyce lurched back in pain.  The armour plating on his chest had a
large gash in it and blood was spurting out from the cut.

"You will soon die, Boyce.  Be still and I will end it painlessly!'
Orren offered to him.

They stood there gasping for air, hunched over a little as they just
stared at one another.

"So long as I have breath, I shall fight you!"  Boyce promised to his
opponent.

"Suitable!"  Orren agreed.

Orren stepped closer and lunged at Boyce.

Boyce shrank backwards, out of the way and managed to land a blow over
Orren's back, with his damaged sabre, but all that happened was that
the blow dented and cracked the armour.  The force of the blow,
however, was enough to send Orren toppling over.  He landed face down
and Boyce went over to him.

He stood over Orren for a moment then helped him t his feet only to be
pushed away by him.

"You are a stupid young man."  Orren commented.  "I would never have
helped you!"

Boyce, holding his side with one hand, smiled and staggered backwards a
few steps.  "Yes, I know!"  he added.

Boyce now attacked, brandishing his sabre over and over, rotating it
fervently and not giving Orren the chance to make a good swing back at
him.

Orren fell back to the ground several times, and Boyce chopped at him,
then stepped back.  The rhythm of his movements were monotonous and
anticipatory, making Orren to constantly step backwards.  It was all
Orren could do to defend himself.

Then, Boyce stopped and squatted, and glared at him.

Orren slowly made it to his feet, the armour from his own left arm
totally ripped off of him and the bloody flesh just hanging off of the
bone.

With great pain Orren forced a smile at Boyce clutching his profusely
bleeding abdomen.

"You are getting better!"  Orren said to Boyce.  "But why didn't you
finish me off?"

Boyce smiled.  "I am having too much fun ... besides -- I am giving you
the chance to live and to surrender!"

Orren shook his head and Boyce knew that he could not reach a
compromise with Orren.  Now, he had to try his hardest against this man.

Orren felt the same way.  He now realised that Boyce was trained very
well for this kind of fighting.  It was then that Orren's mind was
illuminated to all that has occurred up to this moment.  He understood
the prophesy and he could see the truth behind his killing Lloyd.  Yet,
he also understood that there was now no turner back or reconciling.

"Be on your guard!"  Orren warned with a hint of affection and
admiration in his voice.

"And you!"  echoed Boyce.

Orren lunged at Boyce but quickly withdrew as Boyce pitched forward at
him.

The move momentarily confused Boyce and catching him unaware for an
instant, but he quickly fell to the ground and rolled forward a few
times to escape the deadly reel that Orren had followed him with.

Dust flew up from the ground as Orren gouged the earth with his sword,
again missing Boyce.

Boyce came to his feet slowly and was smiling, and Orren nodded
complimentarily to him for anticipating his tactic.

They continued to fight and the time passed.  Soon it was an hour
passed since they had started to fight.

They hadn't said very much after the first hairy tactic that Orren had
tried on Boyce.  The rest of the time was spent in offensives and
countering, each man trying to out-think and out-skill the other.

Boyce would wave his sabre at Orren only to change his direction at the
last second, while aiming at a totally different part of Orren's body.

Orren soon caught on to it and he played the game according to Boyce's
rules, but both men

were exhausted and weak from a loss of blood.

Boyce's men were extremely worried about him and throughout the hour of
combat they winced and cringed with each grind on the bashing blades.

Each of the men had scored blows against the other, but none of them
were of sufficient force to do much else than dent their armour.

Just as those warriors, that were watching, thought that their leader's
fight neared an end, and an end for Boyce especially, Boyce pushed on
and disarmed Orren.

He stood there feeling stark naked and he waited for Boyce to run him
through.  Instead, Boyce slackened his sabre off to one side.

Breathing heavily, Boyce lifted his sabre to Orren and asked him if he
wanted to continue with bare hands.

"You are mad!" Orren answered him then got to his feet.

Orren was first to charge head-long into Boyce's stomach, the top part
of his helmet gouging into Boyce's wound.

Boyce grabbed Orren's helmet and twisted it until Orren sank to his
knees and pulled himself away.  The helmet came off and Boyce threw it
off to one side.  Boyce then took his own helmet and threw it beside
Orren's.

Orren looked up at Boyce who was now bowed-over, and while breathing
heavily he held on to his injury.

"Maybe we should stop now and pick up where we left off, tomorrow!"
Orren joked.

Boyce shook his head.  "So long as we breath, we fight.  We agreed,
Orren!"

Boyce ducked as Orren came upon him, and he was sent flying over
Boyce's back.

Boyce caught Orren's injured arm and pulled on the flesh that hung from
it.  Orren screamed in his utter agony, rolling on the ground with his
gauntlet clutching his totally damaged arm.

Boyce was in great pain, too, but he stood on his feet and approached
Orren, still on the ground.

He was entirely covered in a coat of dust and his face and hair was
caked with dirt and partially drying, clotted blood.

He was coughing mouthfuls of dust that he had sucked up in his painful
gasps while rolling around on the ground, and Boyce threw the handful
of flesh to the ground beside their helmets.

Boyce looked down at Orren, now breathing steadier with cleaner
mouthfuls of air.

Their eyes welded their gazes together and boyce felt sorry for his
adversary.  He saw that Orren could not speak from the pain, but he saw
in his eyes the unmistakeable plea for mercy -- the mercy of being
totally released from the pain and agony wrought by an injured body,
and mutilated confidence.

Boyce knelt down and took Orren about the head, embracing him.

"Somehow you seemed to be more different than any of the others at
Halls!"  he said to Orren.

Boyce then quickly stood up while still holding Orren's head tightly in
his arms.  He made a very quick jerking motion and spun around
simultaneously.  By the time Boyce was fully on his feet Orren's neck
was snapped.

The act was painless and quick, and merciful,  and Orren did not
struggle while it happened.

Boyce gently lowered Orren's limp body to the ground by his feet.  He
bowed his head to look at his dead opponent and he preyed to the true
Living God to forgive both him and Orren for their transgressions in
life.  He then looked up at their two helmets and at the three birds
that picked at the flesh that he threw to the ground beside them.

Suddenly, Boyce heard a muffled whistling sound and a cold stabbing
pain penetrated him from the back.

The high cardinals were carrying through with Orren's final wish, to
destroy the city and all those who lived therein.

One of the archers shot Boyce through the back with an arrow, from a
cross bow.

Tucker led a charge of the cathedral forcing the guards to withdraw
into the chapel itself.

Empal ran to Boyce's limp body and pulled the arrow out, breaking off
the point.

Cavander soon came along after seeing, from the blue Mansion, that the
fight between his master and the Cardinal Orren was over.

He helped Empal take Boyce back to the blue Mansion, leaving behind the
two warriors' battle helmets and swords, and the three birds that
picked at the flesh that was once part of the living Orren's arm.


EPILOGUE:   THE  REVELATION

Lilith had been summoned immediately on that day when Boyce was
severely injured.  Without hesitation she came to the Blue Mansion with
Sister Rhonta and together they patched Boyce's critically wounded body.

For a fortnight Lilith stayed by her beloved husband's bedside caring
for him and praying to the great and true Living God to spare his life.

Rhonta had spent her time also praying, but her prayers weren't all
taken up with requests for Boyce's recovery.  Her prayers begged for
forgiveness, for feeling close to a man such as Lloyd, and for feeling
a deep personal loss with his death.

She prayed for guidance and strength to forget him and soon she only
prayed for Boyce to heal and be as he was when he was at Gothal.

All of Pomperaque prayed, as did Gothal and the Northern United
Alignment.

Even Jessuum Benitar, atop his great mountain, kept himself from food
and sleep for the fortnight, while he prayed to God that Boyce would
recover from the wicked hardship that he had

experienced since his birth.

Then, one morning, Jessuum saw a great white dove glowing brightly as
it emerged from the sun, and the beautiful bird was being ridden by a
small boy.

The little boy on the dove circled Pomperaque three times and an array
of trumpets were heard echoing throughout the land.

Jessuum sighed with relief and threw himself off of the mountain and
turned himself into a dove.  He circled the great dove, with the boy on
its back, and he heard the boy call to him.

"Henceforth, all will be well!"

The dove then soared back to the direction of the sun and disappeared.

That same morning Boyce rose out of bed and woke his loving wife, who
was asleep at his feet.  They embraced and kissed one another, and
Boyce wiped the tears of love from Lilith's eyes with his kisses.

When they settled into each other's arms, and all was truly well, word
was sent out of the Blue Mansion to the rest of the northern continent
announcing that the sovereign of the entire northern continent was
alive.

Gifts of homage and loyal praise were sent from all parts of the
continent to the Blue Mansion.

Pomperaque was not the same as it was during the time of Brook, or of
the ArchBishop Manguino.  As was instructed, Halls was totally
destroyed.  Not a rock was left standing on Canon's Butte.

The rise that had been known for centuries as the Canon's Butte, looked
more like a small, round mountain.

An edict was made to all the citizens of the northern alignment, that
from the day of Halls' destruction, no more building would ever be
allowed to take place on the rise of land that now was called, 'Lloyd's
Hill'.

With the help of his wife Lilith and his trusted friends Empal, Tucker,
Harvard Bartlett and Cavander, Boyce began a program of building and
social reforms for the entire continent.

Knowledge was made free to everyone who was interested in learning the
truths about their past and many citizens did partake of this freedom.

The poor peasant class was taken care of an they all became a new class
respected farmers that now loved and enjoyed producing food to feed the
multitude.

Many of the unreasonable taxes were abolished and the citizens were
permitted to give Boyce's new government whatever they felt they could
spare for the governing welfare of the entire land.  The people, having
the freedom of paying taxes, had allowed the land to grow quickly
through their generous contributions to the government.

The entire continent was transformed into a grandeur that was never
before heard of, in the history of mankind.

News of this remarkable civilization spread throughout the world, and
many before unknown nations, sent ambassadors to Pomperaque to
negotiate a union with them.

Knowledge had made quantum leaps and bounds, and ideas and technologies
that were once lost were rediscovered and improved upon by a new
generation of scientists.

That knowledge that was once use for evil and sinful purposes, was put
to use with only good intents.

The most part of planet Earth had become one of universal love and
trust.  There was no prejudice between the diverse types of people
that were the descendants of the survivors of the great world
holocaust, and all places became lands of having, rather than
have-nots.  The world economics was engaged to follow an ancient
scriptural term that suggested that it was better to give, than to
receive, and the people's prolific giving spread material possessions,
as well as necessities, to every single individual.  Every living
person had that which was needed to survive by being given gifts of
it.

Gifting became proper and there soon came to be a life that became
happy and alive, rather than miserable and morbid.

One could not tell the difference between the wealthy and the poor
since everyone lived modestly, but well.

Even Boyce Loebh Scullion-Blue, living in the Blue Mansion lived
modestly, not selfishly keeping the mansion only to himself, but having
citizens stay with him for some specified lengths of time, if they so
wished.

All was peace.  All was love and evil only had control of those few who
did not accept the new ways.

Truly, a new age of understanding and cooperation had come to man by
man, and their love for the one victor over damnation.

Jessuum Benitar watched the growth of the world and was pleased and
excited with the abundance of life and treasure of love an trust.

He went down to Pomperaque because it was his time to speak with Boyce.

He went into the Blue Mansion and found Boyce and his beloved wife
Lilith, in the viewing den; watching images on the wall, of the ways
life once was like in the world.

They sat and talked for hours and Jessuum gave to Boyce an account of
the thousand years that had passed by since man's greatest madness.  He
told Boyce about his roots and confided to him his own true name and
relationship to him.

"I was born Gavin Jones, the son of Hosea Jones and his fourth wife,
Ruth."  he told Boyce.  "You come from the line of Hosea Jones and his
fifth wife, Margaret, and their daughter Dioneza (twin sister of her
brother Richalé)."

He described to Boyce his intricate line of descent that reached right
back into the Twentieth Century through Dioneza's artificial
insemination with sperm saved from that age.

Boyce was impressed with his seventh generation great uncle Gavin,
called Jessuum.

Jessuum explained to Boyce that he had been alive since Hosea's time
and had never aged _ a gift given to him by God, at his birth.

Hours after the story of their relationship, Jessuum finally told him
that he was here to tell him of something that would make the earth the
envy of all worlds.

"You have done well, my son!"  Jessuum told him.  "You are good and
have fought, not for your own gains, but for the gains of the entire
world."

Boyce listened with anticipation and Lilith was amazed, as if she was
living through a dream.

"The scriptures have promised that the Son of the true Living God would
one day return to establish His kingdom of love and happiness.  I am
here to tell you that the day of His coming is at hand."

Jessuum stopped for a moment and saw Boyce smile a little and give
Lilith a loving glance.

"What will you do on that day, Boyce?"  Jessuum asked him.

"I am not a god and could never be one.  I would gladly step down from
my rule to submit to

a way of life as promised through Him.  I will patiently await Him, and
try to rule my people as best as I an able until that day when He comes
-- then I will rest."  promised Boyce.

Jessuum shook hands with Boyce and bowed to him.

"You are surely a king among living men and may God bless you with the
strength to deny evil, a single breath!"

Jessuum walked over to the window and transformed himself into a large
crow.  Glancing back at Boyce he squawked a few times.

"Zoar-caw,  Zoar-caw!"  his crowing echoed about the room, then he jump
from the window, to fly back to his mountain.

Boyce had thought that Zoro had been lost, too.  Yet, he was neither
with him nor gone far from him.  Jessuum's concern had guided him
through the most demanding times of his life and now he left him to
rule with Lilith, until the Son of Man returned.


Jessuum looked down on Pomperaque, and the world, with tear-filled eyes
of happiness and contented fulfilment.

"His truly will be a wiser rule!"  Jessuum said to himself then he
turned into a great bird of light, ascended into the sky and
disappeared.


THE END


SCORCHED  EARTH

A Novel
Written By:  Walter  D.  Petrovic
(c) Copyright  January 1980 + April 2004
Committed to MSWord 6,  April 1998
Approximately  111,591  Words
WALTER D. PETROVIC
walter.petovic@3web.net





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