• Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:21 pm

Green Park was near deserted so early in the morning ? a few officer workers scurrying to their desks, an occasional dog-walker disgruntled to be out in the wet (not that the dogs seemed to mind), a team of gardeners preparing the flower beds for Spring planting. Charlie Hargreaves was slumped on a park bench, his hands in his pockets, watching his cotton pants dampen in the morning drizzle. He supposed he should move on before he was soaked head to toe, but the idea of sitting in the rain whilst everyone else dashed for cover amused him. So he sat and smiled at the world, wondering what on earth he should do next.

He had arrived on the early morning train from Oxford, and without anywhere immediate to stay, nor any clear plan of what he was to do, he had headed to the park to rest his feet. Last night, he realised, had been the first New Year's Eve for many a year that he had not celebrated. Perhaps this was a sign of his growing maturity, that he had stayed at the college to pack his suitcase and tidy his room, rather than join his mates at the local hostelry. He grimaced theatrically at the idea, 'Charlie my boy, there's still life in you yet, you old dog!'

Perhaps he should walk up to Soho for breakfast. That was always quite a lively area, and as good a place to look for lodgings as anywhere else. At that moment, the heavens opened, and Charlie grabbed his suitcase, dashed for the cover of a large oak tree, and waited there for the rain to pass.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 1:26 pm

The tree Charlie found shelter under was one of several dozen that borded a concrete path through the green acreage of the park. He was not alone under the sweetly smelling branches. A chubby-faced man with a bowler cap and three-peice suit was seated on the ground, leaning against the trunk with his eyes closed.

His extreme stillness was likely due to a night of heavy drinking. Charlie's sudden appearance next to him did not affect the man's slumber in any way.

A small manila folder rested in his lap and his limp hands sat on top of it. Other than that, he seemed to have no possessions around him at all.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 4:02 pm

Well, Charlie thought to himself, at least someone had a good time this New Years Eve! His mind flitted back to some of the strange places he had awoken in after a heavy night on the brandy or port platform 2 at St Albans train station, the library at Trinity College (in the philosophy section if he remembered correctly), in the bottom of a punt tied up at Cherwell boathouse, and once in a dormitory at St Hildas, from where he had been chased by a furious matron wielding a poker from the open fireplace. A quick, loud laugh burst from Charlie?s lips at the memory, and then he remembered the sleeping fellow by his side, and clamped one hand over his mouth to stifle the noise.

'You' ll catch a chill in this weather if you sleep there too long'. Charlie slid his back down the tree, until he was sitting on his haunches next to the fellow. He reached his hand across, and gave him a gentle shake on the shoulder. He spoke a little louder, ?I said, you?ll catch a chill, old chap?.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:52 am

Charlie's recollection of his flamboyant escapades with liquor threw a chuckle into the air, but it did not falter the chubby-faced man in the slightest. It wasn't until Charlie gently tugged on his shoulder did the man move at all. But not in the way one would expect.

He collapsed onto his side, his arms falling uselessly over, the momentum tossing his manila folder onto the grass. It was only then realized that he was not resting against the trunk as much as he was propped there. It also then became sickenly apparent that this man was not breathing.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 3:02 pm

The realisation that the gentleman was not breathing sent a shockwave through Charlie's system. He sat back hard with his hands behind him on the ground, his breathing quickened and the colour momentarily drained from his face. He was aware that all the muscles in his body were suddenly tense, and he made a conscious effort to pull himself together. Was the man really not breathing? Was he sure about that?

Charlie flashed a glance around the park, looking for anyone nearby who might be able to help. Seeing no-one, he swallowed hard, his tongue thick and dry in his mouth, and pushed himself forward. He reached ahead, rather hesitantly, and leant over the sprawled body to feel the man?s neck for a pulse.

Please let him not be dead, he thought to himself, I must be mistaken, he?s just sleeping?yeah, keep telling yourself that old boy...not dead just sleeping?

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 12:57 pm

There was no one else in the immediate vicinity. The sudden mist that had sprung up with the brief downpour made visibility uncertain beyond a few paces. The sound birds twittering in the tree broke the monotony of the drizzle.

As Charlie examined the man, he found that there was no pulse and his flesh was quite cold to the touch. There was no telling how long he had been sitting there, dead.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 3:04 pm

Charlie?s fingers rested on the man?s neck for as short a time as possible, and then he pulled his hand back, and nervously rubbed his fingers clean against his jacket. With the mist closing in, the outside world seemed to disappear, and Charlie felt isolated and alone.

I suppose I should get some help, he thought to himself. Was there a police box on Picadilly, across the park? Or perhaps outside Buckingham Palace or St James Palace? Almost certainly, but in the light mist he was not confident of the quickest route, or of finding his way back to this poor fellow. No, better to stay here for a few minutes and wait for a passer-by to arrive.

He caught sight of the manila folder lying in the damp grass to one side. Should I take a peek, he wondered, perhaps this would give some clue as to who the poor gentleman is? I?d rather busy myself than just sit idly by a corpse until someone passes by. So Charlie glanced nervously around again, and then grabbed the folder. He opened the front cover and scanned through, looking for something that might identify his fallen comrade.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 3:38 pm

The folder contained a small stack of curious documents: several maps, some hand-drawn in hasty scrawl, some torn from the pages of notebooks and one printed quite professionally on a sheet of lightweight paper; some notebook pages in what may have been Latin or Greek... or something else entirely; and an unsigned note in English with the words ?Meet Noon St. Dunstan?s Rear. Ambrogio.?

Most of the maps looked to be of the coastal areas or of London proper and bore notations in German. The most foreboding was a partial London map labeled ?Target Area A?. Though not all locations were labeled, it appeared to show the sites of major war-time bombing activity in East London as well as a clear map of the various tube stations in that area.

The sound of ambulance sirens cut through the air. It sounded fairly close to where Charlie stood.

Closer still was an ear-splitting shriek. A woman in a thick shawl nearly stumbled upon Charlie and his ?friend?. She took one look at the young man crouched over the incapacitated gentleman and ran off the way she had come. ?Help! Murder! Help!?

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:35 pm

The contents of the folder were certainly intriguing, and Charlie found his fingers were tightly gripping the pages as he read. Was this man a spy? A government agent? Perhaps a RAF intelligence officer?

His concentration was broken, first by the clanging bell of the ambulance, and then immediately after by the scream of the woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere through the fog. At her shriek, Charlie jumped to his feet, taken aback by her appearance and reaction.

?Madam, no, it?s not?.? he started to say to her fleeing figure, before he realised how suspicious he must have looked. His initial instinct was to run, to escape into the mist and leave this nightmare scene behind him. But instead he swallowed down his panic, took a deep breath and tried to think calmly about his situation. I?ve done nothing wrong, just found a body in the park, was going to call the police any moment, I?ll just tell them what I have found, the authorities can take care of things.

He quickly closed the file, placed it back on the ground next to the unfortunate gentleman. He stood up, called out ?Over here! Over here!?, and waited for the ambulance to find him.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 8:31 pm

The sound of the ambulance drew near. But how could they know to come? Had someone discovered the body earlier and simply left to make a call? Or perhaps they were answering another call nearby.

A voice called through the mist, from beyond the trees off to Charlie's right. "Signor! You cannot let them catch you here. Quickly, bring the map!"

Over toward the street, the ambulance could be seen pulling almost right up onto the grass. It knocked over a waste bin before coming to a rather reckless stop.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 4:32 am

The voice from the trees threw Charlie into momentary confusion. Signor??? An English park, maps with German notation, and now an Italian calling to him What the devil was going on? And how indeed had the ambulance arrived so quickly? There was little time to think, and Charlie was forced to act on instinct.

He grabbed the folder from the ground with one hand, and with a last desparate glance at the approaching ambulance, set off at a run for the voice in the trees. What on earth am I doing, oh please let this be the right thing He pushed himself hard, eager to reach the safety of the treeline and mist...

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 11:46 am

A last look back at the ambulance showed its doors swinging open and its occupants emerging. A driver, a nurse and two attendants. Something was wrong though. Were pistols standard equipment for ambulance personnel? German machine pistols? The small patch of the park disappeared into the mists.

Charlie continued his flight into the fog, managing somehow to evade the trees that suddenly appeared to be more numerous and less manicured than he had initially thought. A hand reached forward to offer support and a hand up...

...onto the platform of a canvas-covered, horse-drawn wagon.

?Quickly, Signor, we must get you to the Abbey.? The voice belonged to a short, middle-aged man with dark hair, a long curled mustache and thin goatee. He was wearing what appeared to be a costume of some sort. Hose, leather slippers, a muslin shirt. A wool sash bearing the device of a white shield with three rosettes.

The file folder that Charlie thought he?d been carrying turned out to be a piece of gold-embroidered fabric wound round a wooden baton.

The sounds of a heavy thunderstorm filled the sky overhead. It clashed with the ringing out of blade striking blade that came from back in the park, and with the clopping sound of horse hooves as the wagon lurched into motion.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 2:53 pm

Charlie needed little assistance and he heaved himself into the back of the carriage and landed on its floor heavily. "What's going on Sir?" Charlie started to say unitl he caught sight of the man's attire, and confusion grabbed hold of him. "I'm sorry, are you off to a fancy dress party?"

The clash of blades distracted him, and a glance at the baton that seemed to have appeared in his hand, threw him completely. Normally so suave and sophisticated, Charlie could do little more than mumble incoherently "Who...what is...WHAT IS GOING ON?"

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 4:27 pm

The baton, a simple wooden rod topped on each end with a bronze bulb, was wound round with a thick piece of fabric that was richly embroidered and fastened with a crimson ribbon. The little man seemed completely oblivious to Charlie's reaction.

"We must meet with Padre Ambrose. He has assured me that he has the perfect means to get the map over to Eastern lands. Then we will sail with the key for Sir Bram's outpost up north." Suddenly he looked at Charlie in concern. "You are injured? You should have said so, Signor. Let me help." Indeed Charlie's brown doublet was sliced right below his chest and blood was welling up from a wound. The Italian continued speaking as he produced some cloth and began applying it to stop the bleeding. "I do not know how the Papists found our meeting place. Someone will pay dearly for that. I would that we had time for you to rest after your long voyage, but we must now move with all speed."

Charlie found himself slipping into unconsciousness, partially from shock and partially due to the motion of the carriage. Darkness crept in at the corners of his vision while the Italian continued his one-sided conversation...

... Charlie awoke to the slightly bumpy rhythm of a London bus ride. He was sprawled over two seats in the rear of an otherwise empty bus, the file folder clutched securely in the crook of his arm. Up ahead the driver was cursing colorfully about some manner of delay in the street ahead.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 5:33 pm

Sometimes you wake feeling lost and confused, not knowing where you are, and it takes a few minutes for reality to assert itself. Charlie felt that now, a dislocation from his surroundings, an uncertain fragment of time while his brain struggled to get itself in gear. He lay on the seat momentarily, accustoming his senses to the familiar sounds of bus travel - the uneven vibration of the engine shuddering through his right ear, the gentle screech of the brakes, the muttering of the driver in his cabin.

He picked over the fragments of memory, trying to unravel his dreams from reality. The dead body, German machine-guns, the stranger in the mist, the baton and the wound. His fingers subconsciously probed his chest, feeling for where the wound had been. Clearly he had been dreaming, and yet?it all seemed so real.

He was starting to doubt his memory of all those events, when he noticed the manila folder under his elbow, and he sat up straight on the seat. It was real! Or?parts of it, at least.

Charlie peered through the window, trying to identify his surroundings. Heaven only knew how long he had been on this bus for. ?Excuse me, what bus is this? Where are we headed to??

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:05 pm

"Drum in the field! We're off to Ding Dong, by the school. Take a look at this bloody mess." The driver had pulled the bus over and parked, all set to take a walk outside. Then he spotted Charlie.

"Sorry fella. Didn't think anyone was still on me ride. You alright? Maybe some fresh air'd do you better than lyin' cross them seats. We're not going anywhere for the time bein'."

He gestured outside. Traffic had come to a standstill due tyo some manner of obstruction up ahead. There was the sound of a work crew hammering away at concrete.

"Dunstan's Hill then - what's left of her."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:46 pm

Charlie?s knowledge of London was far from perfect ? was Dunstan?s Hill in the City somewhere? The name sounded familiar, and it took his somewhat disconnected brain a moment to remember why. He opened the folder and flicked through until he found the note ?Meet Noon St. Dunstan?s Rear. Ambrogio.? Was there a connection? Surely, this could not be a coincidence?

?Well Charlie, you wanted adventure, and you seem to have found some!? he whispered under his breath. He desperately needed some time to think, a moment of respite where he could relax and take in what had happened to him. He clambered to his feet, tucked the folder inside his jacket, and headed for the door to see what was going on.

?Um, there wouldn?t be a church around here somewhere, would there?? he asked the bus driver, ?And would you have the time on you??

  • Author: The Ambassador, PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 7:22 pm

"Church, eh?" The bus driver looked Charlie up and down, "Hmm, looks like you been on a bender, hmm? Hmm!?" The driver tried to lift the spirits of Charlie, who probably looked like he had hit the sauce or something and wasn't having the greatest of days.

The driver gave up rather quick though, "Well, this bus ain't getting 'round that anytime soon." He said with a jerk of his up the road. "Ah, bugger--but, but yeah, there's a church 'round these parts somewhere. Don't exactly know where." He said scratchin' his head. "There's a general store, just up ahead, this side of the road. Ya might be able--yep you can, you can see right there. They got a tele, probably call get yourself a taxi. Church can't be far from here, shouldn't cost ya more than eight or nine cash. They prolly tell ya more 'bout the church. Well, I believe we part here friend, lemme get your luggage."

The driver went to an undercarriage and grabbed bags that looked familiar to Charlie, "Just up ahead, friend." He said setting the luggage at his feet, and pointing again to the store in plain view. "I better get back in the bus, the god lord knows I'll take the walk with ya, and it clear up just as I get there. See ya 'round."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 12:01 am

My bags! Thank heavens! Charlie thought to himself. He had no recollection of even getting on the bus, let alone storing his bags in the undercarriage. He had few enough belongings as it was, without worrying about finding a change of clothes.

?Righto, thanks for your help?, he touched his fingers to the brim of his hat in thanks, and nodded at the kindly driver, ?have a good day now!?

Charlie looked around again, seeking some landmark that would identify his location ? perhaps a street name, or familiar monument. He stood in the street for a moment collecting himself, breathed in and exhaled a deep breath, and then picked up his luggage and strode purposefully up the street to the shop. The shop bell tinkled as he pushed open the door, and he looked around for the shopkeeper.

?Good morning Sir! Perhaps you could help me, I?m more than a little lost I?m afraid?.might I find a St Dunstan?s church hereabouts? Oh, and would you have the time on you??

I?m guessing you might be American, Ambassador? Forgive me for being a pedantic Brit, but we have ?shops? in England, not ?stores?. Very Happy

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 8:08 pm

Charlie found himself on Lower Thames Street. The fog and smell drifted up from the river, giving the area a somewhat gamy air. The sign at the shop on the corner proclaimed ?St. Dunstan?s Necessaries?

The gent behind the counter was busy having a chat with an elderly woman. He broke off the discussion to greet the new customer. ?Eh, right. Happy new year, young man. Fog got you turned about??

?Church is brisk walk north round the corner. St. Dunstan?s Hill, St. Dunstan?s Church. Still a bit rough in repair, I?m afraid. You here to see the excavatin???

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 8:55 pm

?Er, no....just meeting a friend there actually. What are they excavating for? Bomb damage is it?? The City had suffered in the bombing raids during the war, and signs of the carnage were still evident in many streets.

Was he really meeting someone there? The note had said ?Meet Noon St. Dunstan?s Rear. Ambrogio?, and in the excitement Charlie had leapt to the assumption that the meeting was scheduled for noon today. It occurred to him then that he had no idea when the note was written ? perhaps it was days, weeks or months old. Perhaps the unfortunate gentleman in the park was Ambrogio, and he had not had the opportunity to deliver the note. Don?t dwell on the park, Charlie old boy. He was dead before you found him, nothing you could have done?.well you didn?t need to run away, did you? Charlie found his mind wandering, and realised he had disturbed the shopkeeper and his customer.

?Well, please forgive the interruption, Sir, Madam.? Another tip of his hat and a friendly smile, and he departed St Dunstan?s Necessaries. His grumbling stomach reminded him that he had not even had breakfast today. I?ll find myself a little teashop, have a good cuppa, and maybe a nice bit of bacon to start the day with. And of course, a nice quiet corner table somewhere would give him a chance to read the folder in more detail?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 1:35 pm

"Couple lads came in earlier. Seems they done found a tomb or something under some damaged paving." The oldster seemed happy to get back to his conversation with the other patron as Charlietook his leave.

Stepping out to the street, Charlie found he could make out the tall spire of St. Dunstan's. The church itself was only a short walk. Even from a distance, one could see a crew gathered at the front of the building. Several bombings had hit the old house hard and the steeple was pretty much the only thing standing proud of the old structure.

Across the street, and a decent distance from the noise of the "excavation" crew, was a sturdy townhouse with a fresh layer of soft rose paint and a sign declaring it "M. de Lys, Guest House and Pastry Shoppe". There were tables set out between the house and the street proper where two or three couples were enjoying breakfast or tea and cakes. A tall matronly woman with greying hair pulled back into a braided coil and a slightly false smile was fluttering from table to table ensuring her guests' satisfaction.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 4:11 pm

A grin crept across Charlie?s face, and a spring appeared in his step, as he read the sign above the shop. The tables lined up on the pavement reminded him of any number of Parisian bistros and caf鳮 How nice to have a little spot of France in the middle of London, he thought. Certainly the Thames was no Seine, and Marble Arch no Arc de Triomphe, but, he felt, London was improved immensely by a little Gallic influence. And certainly, no nation appreciated le petit dejeuner quite as much as the French.

As he reached the shop, he removed his hat out of courtesy, nodded to the patrons, and took a seat at a pavement table. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath, as he imagined the aroma of freshly baked croissants, drifting deliciously through the morning air.

?Quel bel 鴡blissement vous avez, Madame?, he called to the waitress, [What a beautiful establishment you have, Madame], and waited for the menu to arrive?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 11:53 am

The woman turned at the sound of Charlie's greeting. The slightly strained smile she had been wearing melted into one of honest delight. She took a quick moment to excuse herself from the young couple she had been chatting up.

"Bonjour, Monsieur ,? she replied in French, ?What a delight that you speak French so well!? She quickly ran her eyes from customer to suitcase and then met Charlie?s eyes with an appraising look. ?Do you seek a room, Monsieur? We do have two available for a couple of days. A rarity, as many people seem to have come into town for the holiday. Ah, but first let me see to your immediate needs.?

She clucked at the young man?s slightly rumpled appearance. ?Perhaps something more substantial than a few pastries for you??

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 11:37 pm

?Madame, my French is mediocre at best?? Charlie said with a mock, bashful look on his face (though he was secretly delighted with the compliment), ??I fear that my crude English accent ruins your most beautiful of languages.? The old Hargreaves charm seemed to work on women of all ages, and he seldom missed an opportunity to sweet-talk older ladies.

At the mention of a room, a smile crossed Charlie?s face. ?Is my need for a room so?how do you say?obvious? Madame, I arrived in London only this morning, and have nowhere to stay. I would be delighted to stay with you for a few days. Ah, please excuse me bad manners...?

Charlie stood, removed his hat, offered his hand, and bent low to kiss the back of hers. ?Enchante, Madame. I?m Charlie?.Charlie Hargreaves. A pleasure to meet you.?

?I?m sure you make the finest pastries in London, so perhaps a few of those, and caf頡u lait would do me just fine, merci. And then perhaps after I have eaten you could show me my room, and tell me the rules of the house.? And then, thought Charlie, I can have a few quiet moments to myself to study this file?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 7:31 pm

Charlie?s charming comment was well-placed as it produced a look of supreme satisfaction, as well as a slight blush to the lady?s cheeks. ?You do flatter me, Monsieur. French is but my second language. Perhaps when you have lived as many years as I you will speak it with the same ease, no??

A light mezzo-soprano laugh escaped her lips at the young man?s reaction to the room question. She looked pointedly at his luggage. ?Not many customers bring their bags with them for a simple meal and a stroll.?

His bow and introduction were well-received. She in fact seemed as if folk were commonly introduced to her in such a manner, so regal was her response. ?Well met, monsieur.? She switched to English to continue. ?I am Muriel... Muriel Layton.?

Just then a lad in his teen years, wearing a white apron, popped up at Charlie?s side. The woman continued as if the timing were intentional. ?And this is Tobias. Tobias, Monsieur Hargreaves will be staying on with us for a few nights. Please see to his needs for breakfast, and when he is done show him to my office. Monsieur Hargreaves, it has been a pleasure. I look forward to showing you around , but I hope you will forgive my departure as there is work waiting for me inside. Adieu.?

Mrs. Layton went by way of several other tables to make sure everyone was attended to before ascending the steps into the house proper. Tobias, meanwhile disappeared without saying anything else. He returned in a flash with a serving tray laden with all that Charlie had requested . ?There you are, Mister Hargreaves, sir. Anythin? else I can bring for you? Shall I take your things in for you??

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2005 11:07 pm

Charlie retook his seat and stretched out his legs underneath the table. The arrival of Tobias with his breakfast was bewilderingly quick, and Charlie had barely had time to light the cigarette that had appeared between his fingers while he waited. He carefully tucked the rolled-up fag into his front jacket pocket for after breakfast.

He swept his hair back behind his ears with one hand, and reached into his pocket for a coin as the young boy placed the food on the table. Leaning forward, he tapped the coin on the table twice to get the boy?s attention, and then slipped it into Tobias? pocket with a friendly wink.

?Wonderful service young man, you do Madame Layton proud,? he said, a look of wry amusement on his face. ?Now, none of this ?sir? business?my name?s Charlie, and that?s what you?re to call me, right??

Charlie nudged his suitcase out from under the table with his foot. There was nothing of great value in there, and the precious folder was tucked inside his jacket. ?Thanks Tobes, just chuck it on the bedroom floor somewhere would you.?

His university years had ingrained in him a natural inclination to give people nicknames, and provided it was used with an appropriate dollop of good humour, the recipient generally took to their new name with ease (at least, his good friends Tugger, Shorty, Wicksy and Bertie had). For some reason he had always remained just ?Charlie? to his friends ? his given name of Charles was used exclusively by his father when the old man was trying to make some point or other about his lack of adult responsibility.

He caught himself before his reminiscences overtook the more important matters. Once Tobias had left to serve other patrons, he took out the manila folder and placed it in front of him. A quick glance over the shoulder satisfied him that no-one was near enough to see, and he started to read the contents more carefully. He kept one hand on the corner of the front cover, ready to close the folder immediately should Tobias, Muriel or anyone else venture too close. He started with the very first document, and read through line by line, trying to piece together the significance of the file, searching for clues that might tell him who the file belonged to, or when it might have been written?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 5:00 pm

The boys face lit up at Charlie?s display of generosity. ?Yes, sir. Thank you si-, er... Charlie?? He seemed hesitant to use a paying customers given name. It went against manners that must have been trained into him for a while now. ?Thanks, Charlie. If you need anythin? else, I?ll be around. Just whistle.? He took the proffered case and made his way to the front steps of the house.

Aside from the maps and diagrams, there was precious little to go on. A few pages in German with notes detailing the writer?s search for a ?map? and a ?key?. There was a list of various London churches and a shorter list of churches and cathedrals in France. Most of the locations had a line drawn through them. St. Dunstan?s had been circled. There were also circles around two of the Paris locations.

There were some older pages that were barely legible. These mentioned a ?Messenger returned from the Sea? and his ?interception at the Palace? and flight ?to the Lea?... none of it made much sense as it was written in a variant dialect that Charlie had not encountered before.

Two crisp white type-written sheets seemed to be in the best shape, but these simply bore several lines of characters typed out in an order that made no sense.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 7:01 pm

His inspection of the folder?s contents provided more questions than answers, and he found himself thoroughly confused by what he read. His earlier fantasies of German spies and wartime intrigue now seemed to be wide of the mark, as the writer seemed to have more of an interest in churches than army barracks. It was all most peculiar, and Charlie had little aptitude for puzzles and riddles.

Charlie?s brow furrowed and his eyes lost focus as memories of this morning?s events came flooding back. On the back of the carriage in Green Park, his rescuer had mentioned a map and key. What had he said? Charlie found that he could remember word for word: ?He has assured me that he has the perfect means to get the map over to Eastern lands. Then we will sail with the key for Sir Bram's outpost up north.?

Now, how could he recall those words so vividly if it were just a dream? And yet, he had awoken on the bus, with no recollection of how he had got there.

?Deep breaths, Charlie? he whispered under his breath, ?let?s try to rationalise this. ?

Perhaps, he thought, he had panicked, fled the park with his head in a tizz, then jumped on the first bus that came along. Maybe he had half-noticed the references to the map and key during his first quick read, and then fallen asleep on the bus and the references had manifested themselves in his dreams.

Well, that all seems rational enough, so let?s just work with that until things are a little clearer, he thought to himself. Even so, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself of this version of events, he could not hide the disquiet that he felt inside. I don?t panic that easily. I don?t lose control. That Italian chap in the costume? He was there, he did speak to me, the baton, the horse and cart. It was so real?too real?it did happen, I?m sure of it!

A car passing along the street woke him from his thoughts, and his eyes snapped back into focus. His caf頡u lait, he realised, was cold, and a glance behind him revealed that some patrons had left, and new ones arrived, without him noticing. The file lay open in front of him, and he folded it closed and thrust it back into his jacket.

?Tobes!? he called, with a wave of his hand to attract attention, ?I?m off for a while to walk off breakfast. Could you tell Madame Layton that I will return later??

Too much delaying, Charlie, you know you are dying to investigate this church, so lets get going shall we. He stood, flicked a few errant crumbs off his pants, and seeing the church spire across the rooftops, set out to have a look. Let?s see what mysteries St Dunstan?s holds?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2005 8:11 pm

Morning went on as usual for the folk breaking fast on the little street. Some came, some went. Most spared not a glance for the confused looking gent hunched protectively about his folder. Charlie did catch some wisps of conversation. A young man was reciting a sonnet to his table companion. Two odd little old ladies were carrying on an animated conversation in Italian. A rather exhausted looking laborer had stopped by for a cup and a rest. He was regaling Tobes with the story of a hidden tomb that had been turned up somewhere nearby...

The lad pulled himself away from the tale to answer Charlie's call. "Yes, sir! I'll let her know. Enjoy your walk."

The spire of St. Dunstan's rose tall and proud, intact in defiance of the destruction that had rained down upon the little parish. As Charlie drew near, he could see that the rest of the building had not faired as well. The main structure was in ruins, although much of the outer walls remained intact. The focus of attention was the walk in front of the building. Fallen rubble had been removed to reveal a great crack in the flagstones. Men had roped off an area around the danger and were clearing bits of rock away onto the bed of a nearby truck. Some official looking men in suits were conferring at the front of the crowd that had gathered for a look at the curiosity. The voices of two lads, both about eight or nine, carried from a shed that had been erected on one side of another ruined building nearby.

"We should give it those men. Maybe there's a reward."

"I found it! I want to keep it. Uncle Perry might know what it is."

As Charlie passed near them, the argument turned into a physical tugging match.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2005 12:49 am

Charlie had been hoping that the church grounds would be so quiet that he could amble around in his own good time, and have a good snoop. Clearly, the crowd that had gathered around the crack made that more difficult, and interesting though the find undoubtedly was, with so many workmen around it might be hard to see what they had discovered.

Fortunately, the overheard conversation caught Charlie?s ear, and sounded equally as interesting. Taking care to walk quietly, he ambled over to the shed and observed as the conversation turned into a squabble. A wry smile crossed his face as he recalled the numerous battles and disagreements he always had with his younger brother, Edward.

Now, what had these two urchins uncovered?

He leaned against the doorpost of the fence, and took a coin from his pocket (bribing young boys often seemed to work). He held up his hand, and manipulated the coin between his fingers, making it dance around and across his knuckles, up and down the fingers.

?There may well be a reward young man, depending on what you have uncovered?, he said loudly enough to disturb the quarrelling boys. Catching their attention, he turned his head to face them, letting his coin dance for a few more seconds where it could clearly be seen.

?Let?s see what you?ve found, and I?ll tell you if it?s worth anything,? he said with a wink and a friendly smile on his face.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:53 am

One of the vehicles parked nearby was an ambulance, although there did not seem to be anyone in need of medical attention. However, the spirited argument pulled Charlie's attention from such observations. the two boys might have been brothers, both had curly waxen blond hair. One was a few inches taller. And both looked as if they?d perhaps been digging ditches , covered with dirt and dust.

The lads seemed too wrapped up in their argument to notice the man until he moved closer and produced a suitable distraction. The shiny coin drew their eyes almost immediately. Charlie's attempt at making it dance, however gracefully it had started out, resulted in the coin falling to the ground.

The older boy pounced on the coin with glee. He held it up for both Charlie and the other boy to see. ?Ha! Look what I found. ?n? I didn? even have to dig it up outta some coffin.?

The shorter lad was concealing something in a closed fist held behind his back. He managed to look quite put out that he hadn?t seized the opportunity. ?No fair, Sandy, it?s my reward. You canna just take it like that.?

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2005 4:47 pm

Damn, he?d have to practice his coin-twirling some more! Nevermind, it was only money...

The lad, Sandy, seemed to have excessive levels of pluck. If he had spoken to an adult like that when he was nine, his father would no doubt have had something to say with his belt. Still, he had to admire the youngster. In Charlie?s experience, insolence could get a young man into all sorts of trouble, but confidence was often enough to escape the trouble later.

Charlie shook his head slowly, an amused look on his face. ?Pretty quick reactions you have there, son. Keep it.?

He pulled another coin out of his pocket and held it up. The younger boy seemed a little more inhibited by the presence of a strange adult, so Charlie addressed his second remark to him.

?And here?s a second coin just for you, but only if you show me what you have found, and tell me exactly where you found it.? Charlie waved with his other hand, gesturing the boy towards him.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 5:05 pm

Sandy accepted the compliment with what would have been an indifferent shrug - had he not been beaming gleefully. "Yessir."

The other boy was clearly tempted by Charlie's offer. Yet he held back for a bit. Sandy whispered a few words into his ear. His eyes widened. "Promise you willna tell anyone what I found?"

"Just show 'im, Neddie. He'll be in as much trouble as us."

A reluctant Neddie stepped closer and held out his hand. There was a little metal object in his palm. It was shaped like a shield and painted white. Three red rosettes were the only decoration on the badge.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:10 pm

Charlie crouched down on his haunches, to bring himself down to Neddie?s level, intending to make himself less threatening to the still wary lad.

?May I....?? he asked, making eye contact with the boy, and gently reaching out to pick up the object.

He held it up to the light and studied it as closely as he could, turning it back and forth eager to notice the smallest detail in the design, to gauge the possible age of the object, and what material it might be made from.

?And where did you find this, Neddie? In the grave was it? Where all those men are digging? Jeez, you boys are pretty brave to be digging around in there. It?s lucky you didn?t disturb a goblin or a troll, or maybe the ghost of Jack the Ripper. He was from around these parts you know?? Charlie said this last with a faint smile, not wanting to scare the lads, but happy to pull their legs.

A thought occurred to Charlie ? an alarming thought at that. He remembered seeing the ambulance outside, and it suddenly dawned on him that he had seen another ambulance this morning in similar unusual circumstances.

?How long?s that ambulance been here, boys? Did you see it arrive??

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 10:18 pm

Whether Neddie trusted Charlie or was simply too frightened to hold on to the treasure, he relinquished it to the adult. The little badge was brittle. The painted was scraped in places. The design seemed familiar somehow.

Quickly, Signor, we must get you to the Abbey. The voice echoed strongly in Charlie's memory as he handled the shield. There were no obvious inscriptions and the material was an indeterminate alloy of some sort.

The boys actually laughed at the threats of a goblin or ghost. "Mister, none of those things'd be welcome on Holy Ground. Don? you know anything. And what makes you think it was a grave. Looked to me more like a cellar. Didna see any coffins." Neddie's confidence in his "knowledge" and eagerness to prove himself as brave as had been mentioned overcame his fear of the stranger.

Sandy looked across the street to the parked ambulance. " 'Bout a quarter hour... maybe. Makes no sense - there wasna anyone injured. And no nurses in the truck, just those men in suits."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2005 10:36 pm

Quickly, Signor, we must get you to the Abbey A tingle passed down Charlie?s spine, as he remembered that the gentleman in the park had been wearing a sash, decorated with the shield and three red rosettes. Now there could be no doubt in Charlie?s mind ? the trip on the cart really had happened! It still made no sense, but he could no longer pretend that it had all been a dream. Something most peculiar was happening here?and Charlie had somehow got himself caught up in the middle of it.

The arrival of the ambulance was rather disturbing, but thinking back, Charlie was pretty sure that the occupants could not have seen him in Green Park earlier that day. The mist had been too thick, and he had set off from the body before the ambulance had arrived. They might have caught a glimpse of his back disappearing into the trees, but surely nothing more.

The badge was still sitting on Charlie?s palm, and his instincts told him that what he was holding somehow held the key to unravelling this mystery. His fingers snapped shut, trapping the badge inside, while his other hand held out the second coin to Neddie.

?Neddie, I?m going to hold onto this, and find out what it is. And when I find out, I?ll come back here and tell you all about it. Now, here?s your reward Neddie, you boys run along, buy yourself some sweets.?

Charlie lifted himself back onto his feet, and moved to the shed doorway. Looking out, he surveyed the crowd that had gathered to see whether he recognised any of the ambulance staff from the park. Judging himself to be safe amongst the gathered onlookers, he wandered out, and casually approached the crowd to see what was so interesting.

He nudged a fellow in the crowd, and asked in a friendly tone ?What?s going on here then? Dug something up have they??

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 11:09 am

The children, having earned what they considered quite a reward, seemed happy to let Charlie go with the prize.

Out in front of the old church, Charlie became part of the crowd. The hole in the ground was being guarded by four men in military uniform. Surrounding them was a small crowd of suspicious locals and a band of workmen who were removing two large bundles from the pit and loading a nearby truck. Two men in expensive suits (who looked vaguely familiar to Charlie) were arguing with a couple of the guards.

Across from the crowd, on church grounds, was a rather worried looking priest. He was trying to reassure a couple of aged parishioners and still keep an eye on what was happening.

The young man whom Charlie addressed was all to eager to speak. "It looks to be quite a mess here. They were clearing some fallen stones when that bit of earth caved in and opened up part of the church cellar. Only instead of repairing the damage, these soldiers showed up to rope it off and demand the workmen wait until the government man got here to take a look at it. And it looks like they've disturbed some sort of burial... only it wasn't a grave so they said it was some kind of foul play. Now they're cartin' everything off as 'evidence'. The old church marms are furious, and Father Ambrose over there is quite upset."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 9:59 pm

The mention of Father, or Padre, Ambrose triggered his memory, and for the second time in the last ten minutes he was forcibly reminded of his peculiar memories of earlier that day.

?Upset is he?? he said, his voice calm, ?I?m not surprised with all this kerfuffle. So what did they find ? bodies is it? I don?t see why that would cause such a stir, this is a graveyard after all.?

Spotting the two familiar looking men, Charlie continued to listen to the gentleman, nodding encouragement as he told his story. Where had he seen those two before ? in the ambulance perhaps? And why were they arguing with the guards.

Charlie decided that a little subtle eavesdropping might be in order, and with the crowd of locals milling about, he wandered through the onlookers, angling to get closer to the arguing men. He kept his eyes on the activity at the hole in the ground, appearing to a casual onlooker as though he were just manoeuvring for a better view of the proceedings.

He tried to get within earshot of the familiar looking men to overhear their conversation with the guards, aware that with his head down and his eyes on the hole, the brim of his hat ought to shield his face should the men look his way?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2005 5:31 pm

Charlie tried to get closer to the two odd men without being noticed. It was difficult, but he managed to get within a few yards of them. Apparently the argument was about what was being done with the things recovered from the underground chamber. The workmen had been loading them onto a truck fro transport, but the two men in suits were presenting some sort of documents saying that the recovered artefacts should be handed over to them.

Looking up at just the right angle caused Charlie to have yet another unsettling memory overlap. The two men had been in the ambulance. And one of them had definitely been carrying an automatic pistol.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 8:43 pm

Clearly there was great danger for Charlie here. He was fairly certain that he would not be recognised from the events in the park, but with pistols involved it was better to be safe than sorry. What else could he do here? Excuse me Sir, would you be looking for these documents by any chance? No, a ridiculous idea, he had no intention of meddling with these men unless he had no choice.

Casting his eyes around the site, they settled on Father Ambrose, still trying to calm his parishioners. There was something lost odd happening today, and Charlie reflected that on his own he had little chance of solving the mystery that he had become caught up in. Perhaps the Father could help.

Charlie moved off through the crowd, again keeping his back to the gentlemen from the ambulance. He approached Father Ambrose and waited patiently while the parishioners continued to express their concerns. He stood conspicuously to one side, hoping to catch the Father?s eye and grab a quiet word with him.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 3:24 pm

Fortunately for Charlie, the once-armed German paramedics with expensive suits were preoccupied with their heated discussion with the London police and didn't notice his movements. As he arrived he heard what the perishers were saying.

"They can't take him, Father. . ."

"What if they find out..."

The comments were hushed as Charlie arrived. Father Ambrose greeted him with a weak smile.

"Yes, my son, you are curious of the police I am sure. You needn't fear, this church will still be preserved in all of its glory. Is there something I can do for you?"

A voice peeked out from deep in Charlie's consciousness. As if a memory, but being triggered forcefully from below. The trigger was the statement "find out".

. . . keep it hidden . . .

It was a distant woman's voice and delicately Italian. The moment fleeted as quickly as it came.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:57 pm

Charlie faltered momentarily, confused as to where the memory had come from. A jumbled fragment of the morning?s events, or perhaps something more concrete?

Either way, the Father was clearly expecting a response, and he had not the time to arrange his thoughts more clearly. ?Act first, think later? was how his father described him, and the observation was true enough. The consequences of approaching Father Ambrose would resolve themselves, and his mouth was moving before his mind had a chance to halt it.

?Yes, Father Ambrose. I wonder whether I could have a quiet word with you?? he took an obvious glance left and right at the parishioners, and continued with emphasis in his voice, ??in private.?

?Excuse me ladies, terribly sorry to interrupt? he said apologetically and sincerely, and raised his eyebrows to them, hoping they would take the hint and leave.

?Father, if not now then perhaps as soon as you can manage. It is terribly important??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2005 3:21 pm

The earnest response earned Charlie a great deal. The nuns quickly took their leave and a curious expression on Ambrose's face held no veil on his concern. Gently leading the young man away from the site toward a more private location nestled beneath the precarious awnings of the bombed church, he said quietly.

"What is it, child? Do you know something of what is happening here today."

After a pause and further consideration he added, "Have we met before?"

Indeed the face of the priest was rather familiar, as if related to someone famous or a passing meeting from years prior. Far enough away from the strange Germanic ambulance crew, they were secluded enough to proceed candidly.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:39 pm

?Have we met? Uh, I don?t think?uh, maybe?not sure actually?

The plan to discuss matters with Father Ambrose had been decided and acted upon so quickly that Charlie had not had time to decide exactly what he was going to say. He would probably say something he regretted later, but there was no time to worry about that. The words came out quickly and Charlie could do little to contain the excitement in his voice.

?Father, I have already had one rather unnerving run-in with those gentlemen today. I have no idea who they are or what they want, but they are dangerous, and I really need you to tell me what was discovered in your church yard??

Charlie?s mind raced. ??and what this means?. His fingers fumbling around in his pocket came across the small metal shield, and before he knew what he was doing, he had drawn it out and held it up for the Father to see.

?And if the name Sir Bram means anything to you, I would really like to know who he is.?

?And there I go blurting everything out, and you?ll probably think I?m crazy and call those government men over but that would be a really bad idea, so if you can help me then please say so, otherwise forget you ever saw me and I?ll be on my way.? Charlie drew a deep breath and a smile and chuckle broke out on his face. ?I am having a very, very unusual morning Father. I cannot begin to tell you so strange this day has been??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:29 pm

The priest's face decolored from a Welsh drab to a dead man's ivory. Unblinking wide eyes stared at Charlie as he spoke and in a moment a stumbled back. Collapsing completely onto his knees, Ambrose inhaled slowly and muttered beneath his breath, ". . . it can't be. . ."

Catching his breath and what little color he had to begin with returned. He stood and with hands far more firm than a simple abbot would apply, he grabbed Charlie by the forearm and dragged him several meters away and ducked into the remains of a dislodged and bombed-out basement. Going down a few steps they were completely hidden behind nearby debris and the collapsed walls of the lower chambers.

"I haven't heard the name Bram in many, many years. Knowledge of him died a very long time ago. You have uncovered a very ancient secret. You hold what those Germans are looking for.

"I must return it to its proper owner. May I?"

Ambrose cupped his hand as a gesture to receive the shield.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2005 7:54 pm

Charlie had been expecting a few words of advice, and perhaps a guarded explanation of the churchyard excavations. Instead, he was greatly taken aback by the priest?s extraordinary reaction, and for a moment rather unsure of how to proceed. The surprise though was quickly overtaken by a feeling of intense satisfaction ? there were answers to be had here, and for the first time today he was the one in control!

His fingers wrapped tightly around the shield and he withdrew his hand. ?I?m sorry Father, but no. If this is really so important then I will not hand it over until you tell me exactly what is going on here.?

Charlie peeked quickly over his shoulder to ensure they were alone, and then lowering his voice, he caught and held Ambrose?s gaze and said firmly:

?I want to know why, two years after the war finished, there are armed Germans charging around London, searching churchyards.?

?I want to know who you had arranged to meet here at noon?. Charlie had the handwritten note in the file in his pocket, and knew it to be true.

?I want you to tell me all about Sir Bram, and what this shield is the key to, why the Germans want it, and why you are so desperate to keep it from them.

?Most of all, I want to know how I got caught up in this, and why the hell these memories keep popping up in my head!?

Another glance over his shoulder, and Charlie took a deep breath and continued.

?We need to go somewhere we can talk in private. Your parishioners are no doubt wondering what has happened to you. Where can I meet you, and when??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 1:01 pm

Ambrose stared at him with no expression, save an open mouth. His eyes narrowed and the evidence of sweat began permeating the skin above his temples.

Barely above a whisper he said, "I see."

Glancing for the briefest of moments behind Charlie's shoulder, instinct took over the young man and without realizing he turned to look and see what Ambrose was looking at.

The dreaded words only then hit Charlie's ears.

"Forgive me, Father."

There was a painful thud on the back of his neck and then darkness.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:59 pm

"... Signor.... Signor... you must wake.... please..."

The world faded in around him as the smell of an open-air campfire illuminated his nostrils. The pain in his head was a distant throb, quickly subsiding to consciousness.

"... they found us... Signor!"

It was night, or at least early morning. A smoldering campfire brought an Italian man into view. He wore cassocks of the kind that hadn't seen the Catholic Church in hundreds of years. A trimmed goatee decorated his wide-eyed face and his black hair was pulled tightly back into a tail.

Charlie's own clothes were, once again, not his own. A wool tunic covered leather leggings. Brisk and humid air overcame him and before he knew it, he was pulled up by the unknown priest.

A rolling hillside, surely belonging to the Scottish highlands stretched before him. Two hills over was a single well-built medieval tower. Firelight from the awnings suggested there were people residing in it.

The danger the priest warned about manifested itself as a Calvary of charging knights crashed down a hillside behind them wearing full plate armor, a royal crest, and torches.

  • 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??

  • 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.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:49 pm

The charts he grappled showed an equally impossible and startling image. It was an extaordinarily accurate map of the world. The entire world. North and South America displayed in brilliant details, even including islands of the Caribbean and more, rivers such as the Mississippi and Amazon. The map was dated 1267 and drawn and the distinct English name "Roger Bacon" appeared next to the date.

Robert the Bruce's letter was even more compelling,

"To be read by Henry Sinclair 1st Earl of Orkney, Baron of Roslin, and Lord of Shetland,

I'm glad you can at last lose your name Lombard. It was a terrible name that likely an advisor made up for you. Sinclair is far more suited and as I expressed before Black Friday you should be proud of your namesake. Your father was a true warrior for Christ and a leader of the Christian world.

These men in Rome know only their greed. They have no service to man or God. I'm sure it does not surprise you that I have been excommunicated, but with an ever growing Anglican presence in Scotland I fear my religious allies are changing for the better anyway. Forgive me, I did not write you to discuss politics. Your mission is far too important.

Do not fear for the knighthood. Those that survived said nothing before Phillip took their lives. Even Molay, upon his deathbead, passed a curse upon Phillip and the Pope. I've received news that the Pope has fallen ill. I know not what mystical forces are at foot, as you know, I've never been invited into the knighthood. This to my own pleasure, as I now have a kingdom to run. Besides this, I will help reestablish the knighthood in Scotland under Scottish Rites. Using your knights' eternal knack for building with ancient secrets, we shall be a society of masons. There are already plans afoot for creating lodges throughout Europe and our reformation can, at last, begin.

I must express eternal gratitude for God's work in the battle. The very sight of the red cross caused the British to turn and flee. They knew you wuld have Edward's head on a platter if you came near. Scotland owes her freedom to you.

Now to more serious business. I trust that by now you've found mappamundi. This was passed on through your lodges in London and given to me in secrecy just before Black Friday. I believe that some of your knights anticipated it and knew they could only trust the Bruces. Their trust was not in vain. I must admit, it surprises me that there are lands far west. I hope that with this map you can establish a new colony for Scotland and the Templars. A place where you can keep your secrets safe and the treasure hidden.

After you arrive please tell me of this New Scotland so that I may assist you by any means necessary.

I hope this New World will embrace you and that Scotlands name will triumph in history.

Yours in arms, Robert the Bruce 1327

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:21 pm

Charlie sat back in his sate, dumbstruck by what he had just read. It scarcely seemed possible. That Vikings may have discovered North America was easy to believe, but this? The entire western continent discovered, explored and mapped two hundred and thirty years before Columbus!

I need a drink, he thought to himself, and looked around for a bottle of something?anything! help sharpen his mind.

Did this actually happen, or is this a different past? History as it may have been in a different world under different circumstances? Perhaps this [i]did happen, but my ship is going to sink in a storm off Newfoundland, with all hands, the treasure and this map lost forever.[/i]

Now there was a cheery thought, and a good reason to resume his hunt for a bottle of whisky, rum or whatever strong liquor would normally be found in a Captain?s cabin. He found himself consumed by the same confusion that occurred with all of these episodes. Ultimately, in this time and place, he had no means of confirming the reality of where he found himself. Dream, hallucination, or mystical flashback ? he could not tell. All he could do was go with the flow and see where the story took him.

Treasure! He imagined a hold full of gold bullion, exotic jewels, ivory horns and silver plates. There was something that he could focus on. He climbed unsteadily to his feet, determined to make his way to the hold to see what they might be carrying.

He opened the cabin door, stepped out and closed it behind him. He followed his nose up to the deck, and stood their taking in whatever sights confronted him, and waited in the hope that an eager seaman would approach and offer to help him.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 10:36 pm

The cabin had ample supplies of rum or at least some sort of sugar alcohol, as well as Scottish ale and spirits. Having no problem at all with discovering the drink, he was also immediatley met with a crew member as he stepped foot on the deck.

It was night time and oceanic briskness penetrated his skin. The sky was clear however and a steady wind brought haze away enough to see a staggering array of stars. The sails were stiff with the wind and a red cross was painted from top to bottom on the master sail.

The crewman was a young boy, perhaps twelve, dawning worn and unwashed clothing.

" 'ello Cap'n, up so soon? Dawn won' be here for an hour, sir."

Another crewman stepped up, this one more smartly dressed and at least in his twenties. A worn uniform with the Campbell tarton wrapped around his chest. Kilt and all, he looked as if he stepped directly from the highlands.

"Cap'n, we're six knots, up from last evenin'. The wind keep up, sir, we'll be swimmin' at 8 by high noon."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2005 9:43 pm

The Scotsman?s words meant little to Charlie, but he made the pretence of understanding. He cast what he hoped was a wise-looking glance up at the sails and rigging. Seeing the canopy of twinkling lights above, he wished that he had learned the constellations and could gauge their position from studying the stars. Heaven help them if he were in charge of the boat for too long ? he could not navigate, could not read a sea chart, and could barely remember his starboard from his port. Well, the bluff would have to continue?

?Good, good?.we?re making good progress.? He guessed that the sailor was playing an important part in running the ship, and chose not to take him from his post. Instead, he gestured to the young lad.

?Grab a light lad, and escort me down to the hold?.if you?d be so kind.? Let?s see what treasure awaits?.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 3:21 pm

The bluff was sufficient and the Scotsman went back to work believing he was in good favor with the captain. The cabin boy was ecstatic to be of service and gripping a nearby lantern reeled across the deck toward the bow. The hold was just below the third mast.

Lifting up the hatch, the boy crawled down the ladder and held the light up for his captain.

Waiting eagerly he said, "Time for more wiskey then? I spied a crate just over here, last eve."

As he went back for the spirits, his lantern lit up the hold. There were two dozen very large stone crates lined up on one side, while the other side only held typical wooden crates and barrels. Upon closer inspection, ornate hieroglypics marked the sides of the crates.

One nearby crate was slightly askew. A pile of ancient scrolls could be spotted inside.

Come around, then. Come along.

A gentle thwap on his cheek brought a new world into view. Gothic arches spread out above and he was once again in the comfort of a bed. This time, the concered face of Father Ambrose came into focus.

A pounding thud resonated inside his head.

"You fell straight back," Ambrose said, "hit your head on the floor. Are you alright?"

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 9:26 pm

The episode had finished again, revealing a few more clues to the jigsaw, but leaving him with more questions than answers. It was becoming frustrating, these little glimpses of the past, and the constant blows to the head certainly were not doing him any good. Charlie looked up into the worried looking face.

?Are you sure you didn?t punch me out again, Father?? It was a cheap shot, and he knew it. Seeing the look on Ambrose?s face, it was hard to suppress his satisfaction that the verbal punch had landed where he intended it.

Enough silly games though. Before he went?wherever it was he had been?there had been important business to attend to.

?The initiation ? is it over? How long have I been out for?? He looked for a window, hoping to gauge the time of day by the light coming through. Despite the headache, he propped himself up on his elbows. The throbbing in his head complained at the movement, but it was hard to be taken seriously in a conversation when you were flat on your back. The additional height he gained from the manoeuvre at least raised him on a level with Ambrose, and better able to speak with some authority.

?One thing to be said for your friendly cardinal ? he knows lots of long, scary words, and he?s certainly not afraid to use them. I imagine I probably fainted in sheer naked terror of the man. I fear that if I sneezed without permission, he would set a pack of ferocious inquisitors on my tail to hunt me down.?

He closed his eyes as a wave of dizziness passed.

?So what happens now, Father? Do I go back to my old life until someone calls upon me, or are you whisking me off to some long forgotten monastery in the mountains for further training? Whichever, I could certainly do with something to eat, and perhaps a nice mug of beer to wash it down with?.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 1:12 pm

Relieved Charlie was okay, the priest took the jab in stride.

"You've only been out a few minutes. The Cardinal has left me to tend to you. Tell me . . . are these sorts of blackouts common? You've told me before about some strange events. Perhaps I can shed light on it."

"It is a very old ceremony. I wouldn't fear for the inquisition they no longer exist."

But the quip earned Charlie a smile from the priest.

"The truth of the matter is, the oath is a sacred one. The fear of God is one tool to make sure the secrets learned in the knighthood are kept secret. Where would we be if the secular world was abusing God's knowledge?

"And welcome to the Catholic Church, I might add. You'll have to take some lessons on various rituals, but they are easy enough. And although it isn't required, it helps to read the Bible from time to time."

At his last remark the priest sighed, "Well, due to the nature of the recent days I fear you will start work right away. You will meet a team in Scotland on a very important mission. I will give you the night to gather your things and say farewell to your loved ones. You will not see them for a very, very long time."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2005 10:05 pm

?Scotland? In the middle of winter?? Charlie snorted in disdain. ?Hardly the glamorous, international, jet-setting secret society work I was expecting, Father! You don?t perhaps have some work on the French Riviera? Or the Greek Islands??

The stony face of Father Ambrose was answer enough.

?No? Well, you can?t blame me for trying can you. Very well, Caledonia here I come. I assume you?ll sort me out with plenty of cash and some vague idea of what I need to do there??

?In the meantime, yes, I have had a number of blackouts recently.?

Charlie rubbed his hands together and pursed his lips while he considered what he wished to disclose. Although his recollections of years gone by were becoming increasingly coherent, he was having a great deal of difficulty reconciling those events with his present situation. The Knights of the Rose appeared to be sworn enemies of the Pope, and yet he had just sworn allegiance to another knighthood who apparently were devout supporters of the Vatican. So who were the good guys here? Bram, Sinclair and The Bruce opposing Papal oppression, or Ambrose and Cardinal Galleon opposing German spies? And why was the Ambrose of olden times against the Pope, but the Father Ambrose in front of him committed to defending the Pope and the Catholic Church? Such mysteries?..Charlie selected his words with care.

?So, I have been having?.dreams?.of Sir Bram and the Knights of the Rose. I?m not sure who they are, whether they are good guys or not. But I know they are connected to that shield that I found. Perhaps you can enlighten me, Father...? And Charlie leant back, resting his head against the cool stone wall, and wondered how much Ambrose would reveal, and whether his words would confirm or contradict the visions that Charlie had been having.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:19 am

"Rose is a euphemism for the Holy Grail. The men you are dreaming about are the Knight Templars. They are the order that we feel are most abhorrent. Heathens and sodomites."

He looked down, as if trying to figure a puzzle out.

"The shield had one of their many symbols, namely the symbol they chose after the Order disbanded them. You may recall the image of two knights on a horse? That was the Templar's hayday. After they were tried for heresy they fell into a secret world and often described themselves as protecting a rose. Protecting a very secret knowledge. The Holy Grail. You see, it is not a cup at all, but knowledge. A very ancient knowledge and one that the Church tries to protect.

"They took the knowledge without the consequence. Like thieves in the night. The Templars recklessly stomped all over the planet not earning their place in things. We've spent centuries trying to stop them.

"Bram was the Grand Master of the order after Molay was killed."

He paused in distant recollection.

"I too have memories, my son. But, it is because I was there. 633 years ago. So, you see. This knowledge I speak of can be very powerful."

With a smile he added, "I haven't aged a day."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 5:41 pm

Charlie listened as Ambrose described the work of the Templars. It was rather disappointing to hear them described as ?heathens and sodomites?, as their cause had seemed rather noble and heroic in his visions. Perhaps it was his Church of England upbringing that led him to subconsciously approve of any anti-papal activity?.and yet here he was newly admitted to a secret Catholic knighthood. The world was truly an ironic place?.

The talk of secret worlds and secret knowledge exasperated Charlie, and he threw up his hands in frustration.

?Riddles! Father, why must you always talk in riddles? Why will you not tell me straight out what this secret knowledge is? Stop being so vague all the time!?

At Father Ambrose?s last statement, Charlie craned his neck forward in surprise. ?You were there!? he exclaimed.

?What do you mean? How is that possible?? Could Father Ambrose be experiencing similar visions to his own? So it wasn?t all in his own mind. He wasn?t hallucinating, or going crazy ? others experienced the same thing!

?Tell me straight Father. How is it possible that you have memories of events many hundreds of years ago? It just doesn?t make sense.?


Ambrose blinked. His outburst was well taken and it only took a brief hesitation before he proceded.

"Very well. This secret knowledge. I trust your schooling told you once about the Library of Alexandria? Imagine all of those scrolls and tomes compiled and stored in a single collection so valuable the civilized world would start wars over it.

"Maps. History. Rituals. Everything passed down from the world before our own. Documents written by the Atlanteans themselves."

He leaned in close.

"Knowing how to breathe correctly allows one to continue the process beyond your average person. Knowledge in those tomes has kept me alive all of those years. You too will learn how to be immortal.

"But, eh. One thing at a time."

--Laveaux 02:04, 6 February 2006 (CST)

A thoughtful expression crossed Charlie?s face as he digested this information. He had been hoping for a more revealing answer, but this was just as opaque as Amrose?s normal statements.

?So..?, he said sombrely, ? are actually 700 years old because a scroll recovered from the lost city of Atlantis taught you how to breath properly. Interesting..??

The heads of the two gentlemen were very close as they discussed these forgotten secrets, and Charlie?s face betrayed a solemnity and gravity he reserved for only the most serious of conversations.

??interesting?but I haven?t heard such a cock-and-bull story since my dear mother told me that the moon was made of green cheese.? He delivered the line as dead-pan as he could, his frustration manifesting itself in acute cynicism

Charlie sat back and frowned as he considered his next question.

?Tell me of the end of the world. How is it going to end and what are you?.us?doing to prevent it.?

?And please don?t mention Atlantis again unless you absolutely have to.?


"Don't mention Atlantis??" The priest gawked, "But that's the whole point!"

Ambrose collected himself and then after a thought tried again, this time much cooler.

"Ten thousand years ago there was a continent in between Europe and America. A very influential civilization lived there influencing not only Meso-America but Egypt itself. They were technologically advanced and spiritually illuminated. That is not to say their rule wasn't ruthless and imperical, but they did have the knowledge that rooted the Greek, Egyptian and Mayan worlds.

The Earth was struck by a meteorite right at modern day Charleston. The impact lowered the global temperature, collapsed the ocean floor, sunk the Atlantean continent into the Midatlantic Ridge, and knocked the Earth's axis 17 degrees. The North Pole moved from Greenland to where it is now and compounded with the fact the Gulf Stream now had access to the Atlantic Ocean, North America and Europe turned from Arctic to Temperate in a matter of hours.

"You don't have to believe me. Look it up. You will find the impact crater just where I described. You will find the evidence of water levels changing and the collapsed ocean floor. You'll even find the global temperature drop and evidence in both the Egyptian and Mayan calendars. There's a reason they've found Mammoths frozen in ice with food still in their stomachs. The polar shift was so sudden the creatures barely had enough time to sit down before they were suddenly in the Arctic Circle."

He paused, taking a breath.

"This impact made the Earth's axis unstable. We've known that it could fall into another shift, perhaps worst than the last. Recently we discovered evidence that this will happen sooner rather than later.

"Now listen closely. Everything I say is necessary to understand your role in this. If you cannot get past your short-sighted experience on the world we should stop this charade right now. Everything you know is wrong. Especially everything you are absolutely sure about.

"Can I proceed?"

--Laveaux 13:51, 28 February 2006 (CST)

The long, thin cut across Charlie?s palm chose that moment to start stinging, perhaps irritated by the grimy sweat on his hands. Charlie glanced down and rubbed the wound gingerly, taking care not to encourage the bleeding to restart. Seeing the cut reminded him of that knife that he had wielded, the oath he had taken, and the long interminable ceremony that he had endured. Father Ambrose was correct ? he had undergone the initiation to learn about the mysteries he had experienced, and although his scepticism could not easily be ignored, he did owe Ambrose a little more patience.

He looked back up.

?Forgive me, Father. It?s a little difficult to take all this in. Please continue ? you have my full attention.?

--Orbost 23:47, 8 March 2006 (CST)

"That is all that can be said for now," he said resigning to a stifled yawn.

"You must prepare to go to Scotland. There is a document we must find from the Bruce's. A map."

Ambrose began walking from the chapel into the rooms in the back, assuming Charlie would follow as he spoke.

"We believe Robert the Bruce held precise records on where Henry Sinclair hid the Holy Grail. It so happens that some academics from Israel uncovered some of the Bruce's belongings last night. I've assembled a team to recover those items and deter the academics from proceding any farther."

He stopped and looked back at Charlie to emphasize his next statement.

"If we can find the Holy Grail we can discover the exact events of the first Polar Shift. That will be the only way to prepare us for the next one."

--Laveaux 11:17, 13 March 2006 (CST)

Charlie followed Ambrose along the aisle of the chapel, trying to make sense of his mission. The mention of Henry Sinclair took him greatly by surprise, and he inadvertently faltered in his footsteps, before quickly resuming his pace. His memory flashed back through his conversations with Ambrose ? no, this was certainly the first time that Sinclair had been mentioned.

Was the map that Ambrose spoke of the same ?mappamundi? that he?Sinclair?had been given for his voyage across the Atlantic? Perhaps the Bruce had a copy made for himself before entrusting the original to Sinclair?

Charlie?s mind raced as he listened to Ambrose, trying to marry up what he was hearing to the visions that he had. Why was Sinclair now spoken of as an enemy when in his dreams Ambrose had been, apparently, a faithful servant of Sinclair? And was Charlie confusing the Ambrose of today with the Ambrose of yesteryear?

?One moment, Father ? you?ve lost me I?m afraid. Henry Sinclair? He would be another Knight of the Rose I presume. Did you know him also??

--Orbost 18:36, 23 March 2006 (CST)

Ambrose stopped in his steps and looked back with a curious expression. It wasn't quite skeptical nor was it accusitionary, but somewhere in between.

"Not just another Knight of the Rose. Henry Sinclair was the Grand Master of the Knights Templar and one of the founders of the Scottish Rite. He was also the first European to colonize in the New World."

After a pause he said, "And yes, I knew him. I betrayed him. We all did. Sometimes the Lord's work weighs heavy on the conscience."

--Laveaux 21:46, 27 March 2006 (CST)

The sincerity in Ambrose’ voice touched something in Charlie’s soul, and he felt moved to offer some words of consolation. He clapped a hand on the priest’s shoulder and gave a sympathetic squeeze.

“Father, you may be 700 hundred years old and wise beyond words, but let me tell you what I have learnt in my 22 years. Philosophising before lunchtime only leads to indigestion and poor skin. Serious thoughts like that should only be made on a full stomach, or preferably not at all.”

A glint in Charlie’s eye betrayed the good humour in his comments.

“Anyway, how am I getting to Scotland, and who am I meeting when I get there? You will need to give me a thorough briefing so that I don’t make an absolute fool of myself on my first mission.”

--Orbost 21:00, 26 April 2006 (CDT)