• Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:26 pm

Whatever confusion Charlie might have felt was swept away at the sight of the charging horseman. Whether dream or reality, he did not have the time to consider. The adrenaline surged through his system (or perhaps he only imagined that it did?) and a clarity of purpose enveloped him. His instinct could only lead to one course of action.


He turned from the horsemen and started to run, tugging his companion along with him as he passed by. Thoughts flashed through his mind ? escape, find cover, go, go, go!

His eyes darted from side to side looking through the gloom for anything that might slow his pursuers ? a copse of trees, a scree slope, perhaps a thick patch of gorse. And while he looked, his legs pumped hard, feet pounding the earth, lungs screaming, one hand bunched in the robes of the priest. Determined at all costs to evade those that followed and to keep this man by his side?.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 12:22 pm

Fortunately it was Scotland and there was no shortage of growth and stray boulders to duck behind, however, unfortunately it was Scotland and the highlands were not geologically ideal for running. Charlie, effectively tugging the priest along fled through the dewed grass with earnest. His careless scramble was costly, however, and a missed step as he pivoted for a patch of growth sent him and his companion rolling like sacks of bones down a hillside into a rocky valley below.

It was uncertain how many rocks, bushes, and stumps Charlie rolled over before finally coming to a tumbling halt in a dry creek bed, but it was certainly enough to cause every muscle in his body to weep for help. The Italian was out cold, broken skin on his temple leaking blood onto his cheek.

Upon first inspection nothing on either of them was broken or missing. There wasn't much time to investigate more, however, as the sound of the horses pounded nearer, now eclipsed by the hillside.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 10:43 pm

Had the horsemen seen them fall? He had to assume so, although in the darkness he could not be sure. Regardless, his battered and bruised body was in no state to run far. Even if he had the strength, he could not bring himself to abandon this priest, who certainly seemed to be on his side.

He cast around desperately for somewhere to hide up, perhaps an overhang in the bank of the stream bed. Surely the horsemen would have to slow in this treacherous terrain, and those few precious seconds might give him time to hide. Taking care not to hurt the priest, and yet needing to work in a hurry, he grabbed the fellow by the cloth material on his shoulders and dragged him towards the edge of the creek into the best shelter he could see. He then crouched down low over the limp body and held himself as still as possible, hoping that in the gloom the riders would continue on past.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 8:05 am

Quick thinking brought Charlie to a massive log of a once-monolithic ash. Propped up slightly by its own broken and dead branches, there was plenty of room to hid both of them under the log and skeletal arms of the fallen tree. As he tugged the priest under, his head turned and a low moan came from his mouth.

The clatter of armor complimented by digging hooves crackled over the hillside until a dreaded voice belted, "Hold!"

The shouter was British, but with a very odd accent. A southerner, perhaps.

The charge stopped and painful silence transcended. With only faint chuckling of armor, the presence of the calvary was very near. Then, in plain view of Charlie's hidden position, horse legs crept by and the paused. The rider, invisible, kept the horse directly in front of Charlie's tree for what seemed to be hours and days, but was likely only a few seconds.

Another voice, younger and with a Welsh twinge spanked, "He's gone to Bram's."

"Right. Onward, then," the leader said.

His horse lifted a hesitant hoof and after a pause galloped up the hill resonating away into the distance.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 5:26 pm

Charlie had barely dared to breathe as the rider paused, just a few metres from his hidden position. He could feel his heart hammering away in his chest, so loud it seemed to him that surely the rider must hear it. As the mounted knights galloped away, he resisted the temptation to raise his head to watch, and instead held his position underneath the fallen tree.

The pounding of hooves fell away, but still Charlie did not move, waiting instead for his heartbeat to stabilise and straining his ears for the slightest sound that would suggest his pursuers were still close by. As he calmed himself, the aches from his battered body asserted themselves over his falling adrenaline levels. He clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes tightly shut to fight off the pain. A clear head was needed, and he could not afford to be distracted by his complaining body.

As his mind relaxed and his eyes scanned his surroundings, he was forced to confront the situation that he found himself in. For the second time today he found himself in a time and a place that he could not explain, wearing some unusual medieval costume and accompanied by a priest with a thick Italian accent. The sounds and smells of a wintery London morning had been replaced by the fresh air and open spaces of the Scottish highlands.

For a few seconds, Charlie felt hopelessly lost and utterly alone, before a moan from the unconscious priest brought him to his senses. Pull yourself together, old chap. No point feeling sorry for yourself, let?s just see what happens here, and I?ll wake up and be back in London town before you can say....ah, stop talking to yourself. Think. What the hell am I going to do now.

For all his aches and pains, the priest was clearly in a much worse state. Charlie tried to manoeuvre the prone body into a more comfortable position, and knelt forward to look into the man?s face. He brushed the hair from his eyes and took a moment to listen to the man?s breathing. He reached out one hand and gently pushed back one eyelid with his thumb, looking for signs of life. ?Signor, wake up, can you hear me?? He spoke softly whilst shaking the man?s shoulder and gently slapping his cheek. ?I really need you to wake up, Sir?come on?.come on.?

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2005 11:02 am

Distant resemblance of life entered the priest's eyes as he came into consciousness. Immediately aware of a massive headache in his skull, he sat up and leaned over in pain. After a moment he finally reacted to Charlie and with earnest eyes placed a firm hand on his shoulder.

"We must flee, Signor. The knights will be found. The Bruce is not strong enough to stop the Church or the British . . . he can't even unify the Scots. It is no longer a fair place to hide. They've discovered you and Bram. It will not be long before the Bruce is discovered too.

"Your identity is out, Signor. Do not fear for the Knights or the treasure, save yourself first and the others will find you once they are safe."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 12:21 am

The sincerity in the priest?s eyes was startling, and for a few seconds Charlie held his gaze, concentrating on the man?s words, trying to comprehend the implications of what he was hearing.

Should he play along with this dream, or try to fight it? He could not help but be scared at this abrupt change in his surroundings, but Charlie was not one to panic easily. He focussed on quelling the butterflies fluttering around his stomach, and chose his words with care, to reply to the priest.

?It?s too dark to flee. We will wait until the sun starts to rise before moving off. Rest, we will leave shortly.?

How could he give voice to his confusion and ignorance without appearing an idiot?

?I want to ask you a few questions. They may sound?unusual to you. But please, humour me, and answer me directly and honestly. Pretend that I banged my head in the fall and have forgotten the answers?.

Charlie kept his voice as calm and measured as possible. He did not want to appear simple, but could think of no other approach than to ask direct questions.

?Firstly, what is my name? By what title do you know me??

?You say they have discovered Bram and I. Who is ?they?? And why do they hunt me??

?Finally, what ?treasure? do you speak of??

?Please be truthful with me, Signor. I need you to answer these questions for me.?

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 11:06 am

The priest gawked at Charlie as he spoke. Confusion complicated by distress washed over his face like white paint.

". . . what has happened to you . . . ?"

Trying to shake away the surprise he swallowed heavily and then leaned forward.

"Did they drug you? Surely you are not safe. It cannot be."

He paused and tried to collect what was surely thousands of bombarding thoughts.

"You are Sir Lombard . . . well, that is your alias of course. You've never told me your true name. You are the Grand Master of the Knights of the Rose and a . . . descendent. The Arcani, you are a member of the Gnarus Arcani. Please! You must remember! The whole effort is lost if you do not remember! The Pope will destroy you! He's already taken 200 Knights. The Bruce can be trusted to hold your treasure until you are safe.

"You can take the Nordic routes west. The Scots will give you ships, perhaps enough to take the treasure with you. Please, you must remember! There are things that no one knows but you!"

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 11:25 pm

This last comment could only be answered with an ironic snort from Charlie ? things that no one knows but me, and I don?t have a clue what those things are! He sat back wearily in the dirt, resting his head back against the decaying log, and closing his eyes.

So he was Sir Lombard! How noble, how gallant that sounded. He did not feel much of a Sir, crouching in the mud on a Scottish hillside. More of a peasant perhaps?. Lombard ? derived from the region of northern Italy he supposed. What did that tell him? Nothing really, he was still utterly confused.

Gnarus Arcani? Clearly Latin in derivation. If only he had paid attention in Latin studies at Oxford, rather than wasting his time flirting with the lecturer and planning the weekend debauchery. Thinking of Oxford reminded him that he had been there less than 24 hours ago, and thinking of that brought back the memory of today?s wild events, and forced his complaining brain to focus on the here and now.

I?m having a dream. It?s a weird dream, no question, but a dream none the less. I am Sir Lombard, Grand Master of the Knights of the Rose, member of the Gnarus Arcani. I have no idea what that means, but heck, it sure sounds exciting! This poor sod with me seems to hold me in high regard, and seems dedicated to keeping me safe. That?s a good thing. A large mob of heavily armoured thugs on horseback are hunting me down. That?s not a good thing. Right, Sir Charles of Lombardy, stop acting like a fool, and start acting like a knight. Take control of the situation. On your feet and let?s go?.

His eyes opened and he focused on the hillside in the distance. He swivelled his head towards the priest and locked eyes with the distressed man. Nodding once, confidently, and rose to his feet. He made an effort to stand tall, with his back straight and his shoulders back. He brushed the worst of the dirt from his tunic and straightened the leather clothing as best he could. Might as well look like a knight, even if I don?t yet feel like one.

?We will return to our campsite, recover our gear, and then head for the coast. Here take my hand?? Charlie reached down and pulled the man to his feet. A light grin crossed his face.

?Don?t worry about me, Signor, I?m just a little dazed. I?ll be fine.? He placed a reassuring hand on the man?s shoulder and moved off towards their camp.

?Where is The Bruce now? And Bram??

?Oh, and I must confess that I have forgotten your name.? He suppressed the laugh that threatened to emerge. Call yourself a knight, and you don?t even know your manservant?s name!

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:19 am

What was a fleeting moment of relief on the priest's face collapsed into desperation again.

"I am Ambrose! Your confidant! Signor, there is no time to return, that is Bram's stronghold there. The Bruce is there waiting. . ."

The sudden appearance of a rider on a white horse stopped Ambrose in the middle of his words. Black armor with a crimson cape towered ontop of the horse as the rider removed his helm letting long black hair fall over his shoulders. A white face starkly contrasted emerald eyes.

"Now, now, Lombard. You know better than to trust a Scot don't you?"

"Robert the Bruce!" Ambrose barked, "Why have you left the fortification??"

The Scottish lord reached his hand out toward Charlie. "Because, fool, that's where they think I am. Come Lombard, your ship is waiting."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 12:00 am

Robert the Bruce, legendary King of the Scots. Not an anonymous priest like Ambrose, or a fabled lord like Sir Bram, but a real historical person! So where did this information place him ? late thirteenth, early fourteenth century? Charlie?s grasp of English history was a little vague, but at least now he had a handle on the time and place in which he found himself.

Despite his surprise at coming face to face with The Bruce, he actually found it rather reassuring ? a solid, tangible fact on which to base his understanding of his situation. A distant shoreline of reality to aim for, to escape this ocean of uncertainty, of unreality, that he found himself adrift in.

The confident, fearless, devil-may-care Charlie of old was beginning to reassert itself, and for the first time that day, he could feel his control re-establishing itself.

He placed his hands on his hips and looked up at the armoured knight. The confidence was strong in his voice as he spoke.

?Did you bring me a horse to ride, Robert, or am I expected to ride behind you like a small child? And have you left Bram in his castle all by himself, or is he also out roaming the countryside??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:53 am

"If you behave as a small child you shall be treated as so," bantered the Bruce, "You are lucky we have even a single horse, now get up here before I order Ambrose to drug you.

"Bram is well protected and so are you, if you come with me. I have a fleet waiting for you and every trinket of the Order's worth are in the holds of those ships."

Ambrose nodded with unkempt excitement.

"Please Sir, you must go now. I can secure the loose ends here."

"The Vatican is close to finding me out and with the English on my arse, I've little room to keep you. The Nordic path will lead you to a land far away from Europe.

He paused with a knowing smirk, "Perhaps your arrogance will not allow you to ask what I want for in return for safe passage, a fleet, and the release of your wealth, so I'll just say it up front.

"I need you and your knights in a single battle that will break with dawn."

Ambrose was outraged, "That was not the deal, Bruce!"

"Shut it, Ambrose. The pious know nothing of money and politics. Lombard is aware that even a Christian gesture comes with a price."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2005 7:04 pm

Ambrose?s outrage at Bruce?s price was not shared by Charlie, who of course was totally oblivious to whatever deal had previously been struck. Here was just another twist in this increasingly plausible and vivid dream?

Charlie allowed a brief chuckle to escape his lips. ?Well there?s no need to be rude Robert! Of course ? never trust a Scot, right? Very well. You will have my assistance in your battle tomorrow. We?ll leave the English with a bloody nose before setting sail.?

Every sentence spoken taught Charlie new facts about his situation. He had knights! Men of his own to command. If the priest?s words had not been sufficient, here was further proof that Lombard was a man of some importance. Where those knights might currently be was still a mystery, but he assumed that would become apparent in good time.

He reached up and grabbed Robert?s hand. He slipped one foot into the stirrup, and hauled himself up to sit behind the Bruce. Looking down at Ambrose, he swept his hair back behind his ears and gave a forlorn smile, sorry to be leaving the man behind.

?Take care of yourself Ambrose. May god watch over you.? Where those last words came from, Charlie had not a clue. He rarely used the lord?s name, except in profanity. ?I?ll see you again?.?

He clutched the back of Robert?s tunic to hold himself steady. ?Let?s go??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2005 10:00 am

Riding into darkness a celestial yellow-glow wrapped the scene into a dim, but painful pounding in the back of his head. Pounding dissolved into throbbing and before it could register, Charlie's eyes were open.

He lay on his back, on a spring-mattress placed precariously against a stone wall. The room around him was lit with the morning and concert of colors splashed inward from the stain glass window across from him. A simple pine dresser held no decorations, save a crucifix hanging above it. An unwashed sink dripped lazily into the basin and the distinct smell of cats intruded.

Apart from his headache, all was well. A nun stood over the sink apparently cleaning a rag. As she turned her aged face lit up with a gentle smile.

"Ah, you are awake! You've been out for hours, I was beginning to think my prayers fell on deaf ears."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2005 1:02 am

It took a moment for his surroundings to register in his brain. These lurches between realities were still disturbing enough to require a period of mental adjustment. One hand clutched at the fabric at this chest ? a wool tunic, or a cotton shirt?

He propped himself up on his elbows and surveyed the room again. The elderly nun appeared pleasant enough, but his experience of religious figures today had been rather mixed. He considered her face for a few seconds, seemingly trying to decide whether she was a kind-looking nun who might help him out, or a kind-looking nun who would biff him on the back of the head if he did not cooperate.

?Excuse me for asking?? he said with a slightly impatient tone, ??but where the bloody hell am I??

He swung his legs around onto the floor. ?Pardon my profanity and all that, but if you?d had the sort of day that I have?well you?d be swearing too. Holy orders or no holy orders?.?

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 8:51 am

"St. Annes," she replied plainly and brought a damp cloth to his head.

"Father Ambrose is terribly upset that he injured you, but from what I understand, you were about to walk off with a 6,000 year old secret. He's not usually that way."

Smiling, she said, "You've been out for quite some time. The father will return to check on you in an hour or so.

"Were you having bad dreams? You were rather restless."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 7:29 pm

The cool liquid soothed his aching head. It was difficult to maintain a sense of anger while being nursed by a gentle, mild mannered old lady, but he persevered.

?Oh, upset is he? Upset that he slugged me in the head with a heavy blunt object? The poor man, perhaps I should go and apologise to him! Maybe make him a nice cup of tea to sooth his troubled conscience.? The sarcasm dripped from his lips, but the nun?s quiet demeanour was hard to resist, and he started to feel like a naughty little boy having a sulk.

He remained silent for a moment, trying unsuccessfully to maintain his indignant rage.

?So where is St Annes? And how did I get here from St Dunstan?s?

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2005 6:21 am

"We are on Kennington Lane in Lambeth. Father Ambrose brought you here in his car. Many years ago he worked in this church before moving onto the Roman Curia.

"I know you must be upset, but it was for your own benefit. Father Ambrose protects very important information for the Church. I'm sure you understand."

"I will find you some lavender tea, yes? That will help your nerves. Are you hungry?"

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:23 pm

Charlie considered the information carefully, intrigued by the twists in the tale. Perhaps Father Ambrose was a descendant of the Italian who had been such a help to Lombard? The name was unusual enough that there must be some link, he felt.

Was he hungry? At that moment, sitting on the edge of the bed, a low steady growl emitted from his stomach, and he immediately patted his tummy with one hand to suppress the noise.

He gave a sheepish grin. ?There?s your answer?please excuse me.?

?My name is Charlie. Charlie Hargreaves. I?m sorry, but I don?t know your name. And I hope I wasn?t too rude before. It?s awfully hard to be angry at you when you?re being so nice in return.? Charlie was beginning to feel like himself again, and being nasty to old ladies was certainly not normal behaviour for him.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:24 am

?It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Hargreaves, I am Sister Garner.?

She smiled and bowed her head before exiting and returning with cheese and bread. Behind her was a very red-faced Father Ambrose. Humbly, he crept forward and cleared his throat.

?Your head doesn?t hurt too much, I hope. I apologize for my brash behavior, Lord save my soul. You were speaking of things you should not know about and it was absolutely crucial the Church had possession of that shield.?

Knowing his apology was very meager in weight of his actions he looked at the floor and gestured to a nearby chair.

?Do you mind if I sit? Perhaps we can talk this through.?

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 12:44 am

?Do priests get defrocked for assaulting members of the public? Perhaps I should call Sister Garner back in here for protection in case you lose your temper once again?? The priest was obviously contrite, but Charlie could not resist taking a dig at the old man, even if just for a short while.

Feeling that his point was adequately made, Charlie could feel his curiosity overwhelming his anger. He raised his eyebrows and gestured to the chair with his chin.

?You sit, and I?ll stand. You?ll excuse me if I keep a little distance between us.? He wandered over to the stained glass window and tried to peer through. The morning sun through the glass bathed him in a rich array of oranges, reds and blues.

?Before you clobbered me one, I had quite a long list of questions. I?d still like the answers to them, so yes, let?s talk this through. You go first ? tell me everything.?

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2005 10:07 am

"I'm afraid I can't tell you everything," he said with a sigh when a sat, "at least not until I've learned how you came upon the knowledge you did. Many things you know, no one has known for many centuries.

"I am a member of a very select group. A knighthood, in fact, beginning sometime around the 11th century. We have a very long and a very private tradition and remain one of the few knighthoods supported by the Vatican. In truth, we have become somewhat of an army for the Vatican. Of course the word 'army' is quite subjective.

"We are protecting some very dangerous secrets. If this knowledge gets out it could undermine the entire Catholic Church. A collapse of Christianity as we know it.

"For your own safety, please drop this and move on. Surely, you would like to get back to your regular life. This is no place for young and, pardon me, but brash people. Men spend their entire lifetimes learning and coping with this. It is not up to me to disclose it to you, but to simply show you the way out of it."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 12:40 am

Charlie stood calmly during this little speech, quietly taking in what was said, interrupting only with a snort and little smile at being called ?brash?. When the Father had finished speaking, Charlie remained standing and thought through his response, conscious somehow that what he would say next was of the utmost importance.

?The thing is Father, I?m not sure that I want to find the way out. Getting back to regular life would be fine, except that I don?t have a regular life anymore. I left my college room two nights ago for the last time, and came to London with no job, nowhere to stay and no idea of what to do next. I?m already at a crossroads, and what I?ve learnt today is the only clear signpost I have for what to do next.?

?In all honesty, between getting chased by German spies, assaulted by clergymen, and unearthing centuries-old conspiracies, this has been undoubtedly the most intriguing and satisfying day of my entire life.?

Charlie thought about this for a moment, and continued with a wry grin, ??although, when I was 14 years old my encounter with Annie Gardener in her father?s hayloft was perhaps more of a defining moment in my life.?

Glancing up at Ambrose sitting there in his dog collar, he realised the inappropriateness of this last comment. ?Sorry Father, off subject a little, didn?t mean to embarrass you.? He winked, remembering the torment he caused his Sunday school teacher in his childhood.

?Anyway, the point is that today?s fun and games has got me hooked, and I?ve no intention of just walking away. If you won?t tell me more then I?ll just have to find out for myself. And knowing how ?brash? I am, I?ve no doubt that I can find out.?

He leant back against the wall and crossed his arms across his chest. ?You and your fellow knights may have been guarding your big secret for hundreds of years, but frankly, I don?t think you are doing a very good job. I know plenty from just one day on the job, and our Deutsche freunde seem to have plenty to go on as well. Maybe you and your fuddy-duddy friends need a bit of youth and vigour to help you out.?

?Come on Father Ambrose, spill the beans. We both know I?ll find out more in the end. Let?s save us both some time and effort. Let?s start with the shield?.who?s crest is that??

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