• Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:58 pm

Leaving Charlie?s words in the air for quite some time, Ambrose looked at him unblinking. The stare was finally released as he moved his eyes to the floor, perhaps resigning, collecting his thoughts, formulating a decision. Ever slightly, he reached his hand up to his temple, letting out another sigh. Without changing posture, the priest, reached down into a nightstand and open the drawer.

In a brief moment one could suspect he was pulling a weapon, but he, instead came up with what appeared to be homemade wine in an unmarked jug. Taking a swig he passed it to Charlie.

?Well then. You will need a drink before we proceed.?

After he was certain Charlie was settled, Ambrose leaned forward on his knees keeping close eye contact. His aged blue eyes remained steady and voice calm.

?Civilization as we know it is going to end inside of fifty years. The Vatican knows it. The British government knows it. The Americans and Russians do too. My knighthood is one of many organizations who operate outside mainstream society to prepare for the end of the world.

?There is much more to disclose, but to do so I will have to receive a vow of secrecy. In short, I will need to induct you into this organization.

?Now is your chance to move away from this. After induction, everything about your old life is gone. You will be a ghost. Everything you know and love will no longer matter. Do you really want this sort of responsibility??

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:11 am

Responsibility?. my favourite word, was the first thing that flashed across his mind. It was a word that would normally have him running a mile in the opposite direction, but on this occasion, he realised, it was something that he actively sought, and indeed welcomed.

?That?s quite a claim, Father, and you?ll understand if I reserve judgement until I hear more. But if the world is to end, and I have no doubt as to your sincerity, I have to ask myself ? would I prefer to know about it and have time to prepare, to do something about it? Or would I prefer to live in ignorance until the day arrived??

?Only a coward would choose ignorance Father?.and I?m no coward.?

?If what you say is true, why should I care about my old life, about finding a career, about getting drunk and getting laid? Truth is, my old life is pretty stale. Sure I have lots of fun, but it?s all rather empty, nothing I can?t walk away from.?

He looked down into the open wine jug, and saw his reflection looking back at him, wavering in the ripples of blood-red wine. It was the face of an innocent, untouched by responsibility and worry, blind to the hardships and realities of the world.

This is who I used to be, he thought to himself, but not anymore.

He shook the jug gently in his hands and watched as the image wobbled and cracked, before disappearing forever in a torrent of crashing waves. He looked up into Father Ambrose? eyes, an older, more mature man than he had been just a day earlier.

?You have my vow. Tell me what I need to do.?

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:27 pm

"Very well," he said resigning, "Get some rest tonight and come back here no later than 7 in the morning. There is an annex behind the chapel that is unmarked."

He enunciated his words to make sure nothing was lost, "You must shower and shave before you come and you should be thoroughly cleaned. Wear no odors of any kind and put no treatment in your hair. Wear your nicest suit. Bring linens, something comfortable to lay on."

He paused for quite some time before saying, "And if you have not been baptized under the Roman Catholic Church, wear a black tie with your suit. If you have been, wear a red tie.

"And finally, don't be late. It will be a very, very long day."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 11:50 pm

The rest of the day passed in the blink of an eye for Charlie. He had proceeded from St Anne?s across Waterloo Bridge, along the Strand, and then north through the backstreets to Covent Garden. The walk took him a little under an hour, and the frosty conditions worked wonders for clearing his head.

Did he really want to proceed with this initiation tomorrow? There was a grain of uncertainty at the back of his mind that he could not dislodge. His determination to uncover the truth of the conspiracy was undimmed, and he realised that what was bothering him was the whole religious side of tomorrow?s proceedings. He had of course been baptised and later confirmed in the Church of England, but for the former he had been just six months old, and for the latter the expectation of his parents had far outweighed the apathy he had felt towards the ceremony.

Do I even believe in God?, he wondered. He had long ago determined that Sunday mornings were for sleeping, not for attending church, and any vague belief that he once held had long ago disappeared in the blitzkrieg of parties and socialising at Oxford. He imagined that the initiation tomorrow would probably involve some pretty intense religious ceremony, the idea of which left him cold. Was there an inkling of guilt involved? A reluctance to participate in a ceremony that for him would be little more than a sham? Priests, he knew, took their faith most seriously. Could he really take part, knowing that his belief was paper thin?

The answer came to him as he finished his shopping in Convent Garden market.

I can take part, whatever my doubts, whatever my disbelief. I need to know the truth, and if I have to swear an oath to every god under the sun, then that?s what I will do. The ceremony tomorrow ? it?s just words to speak to get closer to the truth, to find out what has been happening to me. And if God does exist, and gets upset with me for my foul sacrilege? Well, there?s plenty of time to repent later.

And with that little matter of conscience settled in his mind, he completed his shopping, and returned to his lodgings near to St Dunstan?s.

He had awoken early the following morning, and had crept through the boarding house so as not to wake the other guests. The plumbing in the shared bathroom had made a terrible racket as he ran his bath, but there was little he could do to prevent it. He had bathed and shaved in accordance with the instructions of Father Ambrose, and had dressed in his suit, taking care to select a black tie from his small collection.

A taxi had brought him to Kennington Park with plenty of time to spare, and he had time to compose himself before the chill air drove him towards the church complex, and in search of the unmarked annex.

  • Laveaux, PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:22 pm

The bony branches of cherry trees along the main walks in Kennington Park stood frozen over a snowpacked surface. Few walkers were out early on Friday but those that were, wore heavy wool coats to protect from an westernly wind stubbornly pinching faces and hands as it bit through.

Just beyond the park was the 19th century complex that held St. Anne's Catholic Church. A non-descript area, not home to a cathedral, but still resident to a popular parish and school, had a rather busy morning. Children fled into their classes while nuns herded them. Priests roamed the grounds to collect thoughts or make certain nothing was out of the ordinary.

Inside one of the few unmarked buildings on campus was an empty room holding only a crucifix and alter. Meager windows allowed the January air in and the complete lack of carpeting kept the room even colder. It was in this annex that Charlie was asked to arrive.

Father Ambrose was there to meet him in ceremonial cassocks. Next to him was the surprising stature of a cardinal. Red robes poured onto the floor as a powerful gray face peered out as a monolith. His eyes were closed but it was clear he knew Charlie arrived, because he snapped both wrists around opening his palms upward as a gesture for Charlie to give him his hands.

"This is Cardinal Galleon, he will be performing the rites."

Galleon opened his eyes and stared deeply into the young man.

"God be with you my son. Before we begin do you have any questions on what lay ahead your initiation?"

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 11:51 pm

The cardinal certainly had an imposing appearance, but Charlie had taken the time to compose himself before entering the annex, and had no intention of appearing hesitant or intimidated now. He stepped forward, placed his hands in the upturned palms of the cardinal, met the man?s gaze, and spoke in a confident voice.

?I?m an inquisitive man, Father. If I start asking questions now, you?ll still be answering them come lunchtime. So, why don?t you give me a one-minute summary of what will take place, and then let?s just get started shall we??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 4:53 pm

The monolithic face cracked with a momentary smile. Galleon glanced over to Ambrose and nodded, holding his smile and then back to Charlie, allowing his face to melt into passive trust.

"Very well. From the river of one effort many tributaries forged forward. It was the will of the Soverign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta to sanctify the Holy Will of the Order and to protect Christendom from will against God.

"There is a rising resistance from the West that challenges the Will of God and so the Knights must protect the Will far more actively than ever before.

"This is the initiation ceremony to the Neophyte Caste wherein you shall learn of the Pillars of Truth composing this order's tradition. You will have access to information unobtainable to common man and our secrecy will be given to you under the highest trust. Violation of this trust shall have the highest consequences.

"This Order will not make you Catholic, but you will soon understand the benefit of joining the Vatican at your earliest convenience.

"Knowing, quite bluntly, that initiation means you are bound by your life as a warrior of the Catholic Church, do you have hesitation on proceeding?"

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 12:30 am

Charlie had never faced a more serious question, a great duty was being placed upon his shoulders. He could sense his heartbeat rising as the threat of retribution rang in his ears. But he was committed to this course of action, and would not hesitate now.

?Father, I am no Catholic, but I do believe that it was the will of God that brought me here today. And the will of God cannot be denied or fought against. I have no hesitation in proceeding.?

Was that convincing, he wondered? He knew that his voice had been steady, but a tension was growing in his gut that he mentally steeled himself to ignore.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 9:35 am

The Cardinal smiled and said, "Well, you shall learn the practices of the Church in time. Such as referring to Cardinals as 'eminence' and not 'father'. Let us begin, shall we?"

Letting go, he raised both hands high and chanted in Latin for a very long time before finally resting his attention back on Charlie. He gestured for Charlie to follow and they approached the alter and crucifix. At the alter was a small dish of water.

Father Ambrose timidly spoke, "I ask faith from the Church of God in Charles Hargreaves' name."

The Cardinal then stepped forward and pointedly breathed onto Charlie's face, then he made the sign of a cross on his forehead and chest. Next Charlie found a morsel of salt placed in his mouth.

Ambrose whispered, "You must declare your faith in God, son."

After it was done, the Cardinal made the sign of the cross three times with a stream of water on Charlie's head.

"Charles Hargreaves, I baptize th Receive thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."

Putting a white cloth over Charlie's face he continued, "Receive this white garment, which mayest thou carry without stain before the judgement seat of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have eternal life. Amen."

He lit a candle and proceeded, "Receive this burning light, and keep thy baptism so as to be without blame. Observe the commandments of God: that, when Our Lord shall come to His nuptials, thou mayest meet Him together with all the Saints and mayest have life everlasting, and live for ever and ever. Amen."

Father Ambrose then handed Charlie a white tie.

The Cardinal, suddenly took a large broad sward from the alter and gestured for Charlie to kneel. When he did, he placed the sword on either shoulder and then pointed it directly at his chest.

"Shouldst thou become a traitor or perjurer, let this sword remind thee of each and all the members in arms against thee. Do not hope to find safety; whithersoever thou mayest fly, same and remorse as well as the vengeance of thine unknown brothers will torture and pursue thee."

"Take this oath, son," the Cardinal said, ""I, Charles Hargreaves, now in the presence of Almighty God, the blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed St. John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, and all the saints, sacred host of heaven, and to you, my Ghostly Father, the superior general of the the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, do by the womb at the Virgin, the matrix of God, and the rod of Jesus Christ, declare and swear that His Holiness the Pope, is Christ's vice regent and is the true and only head of the Catholic or Universal Church throughout the earth; and that by virtue of the keys of binding and loosing given His Holiness by my Savior, Jesus Christ, he hath power to depose heretical kings, princes, States, Commonwealths, and Governments and they may be safely destroyed. Therefore to the utmost of ray power I will defend this doctrine and His Holiness's right and custom against all usurpers of the heretical authority and all adherents in regard that they may be usurped and heretical, opposing the sacred Mother Church of Rome."

"I do now denounce and disown any allegiance as due to any heretical king, prince, or State, named faith other than that of the Lord Jesus Christ, or obedience to any of their laws, magistrates, or officers."

"I do further declare that I will help assist, and advise all or any of His Holiness's agents, in any place where I should be, in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Ireland, or America, or in any other kingdom or territory I shall come to and do my utmost to extirpate the heretical Protestant or Masonic doctrines and to destroy all their pretended powers, legal or otherwise."

"I do further promise and declare that, notwithstanding I am dispensed with to assume any religion heretical for the propagation of the Mother Church's interest to keep secret and private all her agents' counsels from time to time, as they intrust me and not divulge, directly or indirectly, by word, writing, or circumstances whatever but to execute all that should be proposed, given in charge or discovered unto me by you my Ghostly Father, or any of this sacred order."

"I do further promise and declare that I will have no opinion or will of my own or any mental reservation whatsoever, even as a corpse or cadaver (perinde ac cadaver), but will unhesitatingly obey each and every command that I may receive from my superiors in the militia of the Pope and of Jesus Christ."

"That I will go to any part of the world whithersoever I may be sent, to the frozen regions north, jungles of India, to the centers of civilization of Europe, or to the wild haunts of the barbarous savages of America without murmuring or repining, and will be submissive in all things whatsoever is communicated to me."

"In confirmation of which I hereby dedicate my life, soul, and all corporal powers, and with the dagger which I now receive I will subscribe my name written in my blood in testimony thereof; and should I prove false or weaken in my determination, may my brethren and fellow soldiers of the militia of the Pope cut off my hands and feet and my throat from ear to ear, my belly opened and sulphur burned therein with all the punishment that can be inflicted upon me on earth and my soul shall be tortured by demons in eternal hell forever."

"That I will provide myself with arms and ammunition that I may be in readiness when the word is passed, or I am commanded to defend the church either as an individual or with the militia of the Pope."

"All of which I, Charles Hargreaves, do swear by the blessed Trinity and blessed sacrament which I am now to receive to perform and on part to keep this, my oath."

"In testimony hereof, I take this most holy and blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and witness the same further with my name written with the point of this dagger dipped in my own blood and seal in the face of this holy sacrament."

The Cardinal handed Charlie a golden, ruby-studded dagger and a ornate copy of the Bible.

"With blood from your palm, enscribe your name on this Holy Book to seal your place in the Order."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 9:49 pm

The ceremony dragged on for what seemed an age, and Charlie could feel his mental energy sagging. The long spells of Latin chanting, the bombardment of dire warnings and threats, it was almost too much to take in. He could feel his brain reeling from the onslaught it faced.

After a while he stopped listening to every single word, trying to detach his mind from the overwhelming intensity and menace of what was being said. Instead he allowed the sense of the words to wash over him, his mind understanding the gist of what was spoken, without having to confront the explicit warnings that were being given.

This is just a ceremony, he told himself. It?s just words. Don?t take it literally.

But as the ceremony wore on, it was hard to escape the realisation that he was in over his head. While not quite believing the threats that were being made, he could not shake the feeling that he had fallen in with some very scary people. Their apparent dedication to a two thousand year old cause hinted at a fanaticism that he certainly did not share. He was forced to remind himself that he was here for a reason, and would not be put off by redundant threats.

When the Cardinal finally finished speaking and handed him the dagger, Charlie had rallied what remained of his battered mind, and was able to concentrate on what was being asked of him.

The blade was heavy in his palm as he faced the Cardinal. He knew without question that he was at a turning point in his life. Could he back out now? What were the consequences of changing his mind after so much had been revealed to him? Clearly the men in front of him would be furious, perhaps even violent. The thought disturbed him. But what disturbed him more was the prospect of returning to a ?normal? life, and leaving this day behind him. He knew, with a clarity that astounded him that he could only go forward from this point on, never backwards.

He closed his eyes tightly as the blade bit into his left palm. The pain was intense, but soon passed, and he could feel the dampness under his fingers as the blood welled up in a thin line. He allowed a few drops to attach to the point of the knife, and awkwardly wrote his name inside the front cover.

With an enquiring glance up to the Cardinal, he handed back the knife and book, and then clasped his hands together to stop the bleeding.

?What now, Eminence??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 8:20 am

...Captain? ... Captain...? Prince Sinclair .... ?"

Distant creaks echoed around him. The heavy groaning of an old ship as it bore its way through the ocean. Tumbling and rocking. Screaching and thumping. Lantern-light flickered around and when his eyes opened, he was lying on top of an unkempt bed. A large window behind showed the an eternal moonlit sea. There was a desk with maps, ink wells, and quills. Just beyond was an oak table and six chairs. It could not be mistaken for anything else. Charlie was in the Captain's quarters of a very old ship.

Standing above him was a rat-faced man with scraggling whiskers that tried to jump from his chin. His unwashed clothes smelled as such and he carried a lantern.

Charlie was wearing a nightgown and every muscle in his body hurt.

"I'm sorry to wake you, Captain, but I must check your wound."

There was a bandage on his upper arm, apparently from something painful, because as he came to consciousness, phantom slashes radiated from there.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2005 11:43 pm

Charlie?s first thought was ?here we go again?.

The change of scene was abrupt and totally without warning. Yet this was the third time that he had gone through such a quantum leap, and he was learning from each experience. On both previous occasions he had felt totally lost, and his ignorance of the situation had left him a virtual passenger. And yet both times, the dream had eventually ended. This time, he decided, he would not panic. Go with the flow, Charlie. Learn what you can, and enjoy the ride.

Enjoy the ride! He was perhaps crazy to attempt to take pleasure from the experience, but his easy-going personality inevitably shone through, and he could not worry about his situation for too long.

He heaved himself up into a sitting position, wincing as he tentatively placed weight on his injured arm.

He spoke with all the confidence and gusto that he could summon.

?No need to apologise. I?d rather lose some sleep than lose my arm!? A brief worrying recollection of the inadequacies of medieval medicine pulled him up short, and his smile faded. ?Umm?I?m not going to lose my arm?am I??

He held out his arm, allowing the man to do his work. While the sailor examined the wound, he allowed his eyes to wander the cabin, taking in every little detail to deduce where, and just as importantly, when he might be. He glanced at the clothes on himself and the sailor, he studied the furniture, the wall coverings, and looked for any instruments or tools that might give some clue as to his whereabouts. When the man had left he would go to the desk and examine the charts. Until then, he felt a need to make conversation, and endeavoured to do so without making a fool of himself.

?I slept too long. Do you know our position? Are we far from shore??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 1:29 pm

After putting a poultice on his arm, the crewman chuckled.

"Shore?? Captain, there is only one man in this room who knows where land is and I'm not him. Perhaps the Captain has had too much wine this evening. 'Tis not my matter if he did.

"And don't be worrying about yer arm, Captain. You are in good hands. The best in the North Atlantic."

He smiled briefly and cackled unctrollably, "The only one in the North Atlantic."

Very tickled about his joke he continued to the cabin door, "Will you need anything else, my Prince?"

As he inspected the room, he saw a pile of maps and documents on the desk. One letter, in particular, was sealed. The crewman noticed the inspection and said, "You asked to bring the Bruce's letter from the hold. Perhaps it is safe to open it now?"

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:17 pm

Charlie moved his shoulder from side to side, testing the boundaries of mobility in his wounded arm. Now, how had he come by the wound?..

His musings were interrupted by the sailor?s mention of a letter from the Bruce. His eyes flicked up sharply to the crewman, and then to the letter on the table. ?Perhaps it is now safe?thank you for the treatment.?

The sailor left, closing the oak door behind him. Charlie pulled himself to his feet, and staggered unsteadily to the table. The rocking of the floor under his feet was unfamiliar to his shore legs, and he stumbled painfully into the corner of the desk. He pulled back one of the chairs and sat down hard. Before surveying the charts and papers in front of him, he took a moment to compose himself and think through his situation.

Am I the same person as before? I was Sir Lombard, now I am Prince Sinclair and Captain of this vessel. Lombard was an assumed name, I recall. Perhaps Sinclair is as well?

I was to fight a battle with the Bruce..perhaps that explains the wound?and then take ship for?where?

There were clues to be deciphered, he knew. It would just take a little lateral thinking to reach the answer?..sitting there with his eyes closed, deep in thought, a sudden smile broke his lips. The pieces of the jigsaw rushed together as his childhood history and geography lessons came back to him. Bingo, I?ve got it!

The Bruce had spoken of the ?Nordic path leading you to a land far away from Europe?, and here he was in the fourteenth century, adrift in the north atlantic. The Americas would not be discovered by Colombus for another 150 years, but he recalled that the Vikings had likely discovered the continent many years before. The Orkneys, Iceland, Greenland and then North America. This must be the Nordic path that the Bruce spoke of.

Charlie opened his eyes, certain that he had cracked the puzzle. Now, would the papers in front of him confirm his explanation? Excitedly, he pulled the charts towards him and scanned them furiously for confirmation. The sealed letter could not be ignored either, and he grabbed it, broke the seal, and pulled out the contents, ready to have more secrets revealed to him.

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