Previews

Islands of the Mind

Morgan’s Knot – A Serial Fantasy

Episode VI†

By

Eric T. Stiller, Jr.

Adrian was mesmerized by the serene intensity smoldering in the ancient seer’s eyes. Orana’s words echoed around the stonewalls of the cave like thunder rippling through the darkness, the tones and syllables reverberating in a strange hypnotic rhythm in his mind, “It is good that you believe in yourself and have a strong spirit, you will need it.”

The young seer bowed his head, accepting the inadequacy of his powers. In spite of the lessons that allowed him to survive, he was acutely aware that he was a student sitting at the Master’s knee. There was little doubt that the imminent instruction would push him beyond the challenges he encountered on his short but furious journey into the secrets and the Powers, including his skirmishes with Zepallo. Visions of dark caverns and evil creatures crept through his imagination and he struggled to push those terrors back into the shadows.

It was not that he was frightened of imminent nightmares, rather, the anticipation primed him to reach into that well of inner strength that loosed a rush of adrenaline coursing through his system. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled and his muscles tensed, his body ready to spring. All of his senses were open, prepared to collect information, aware of everything around him…the trickling of running water, the emblem on the wall, the echo of birds singing softly, the rhythm of his own breathing and the thumping of his heart beating in his chest, the quiet crackle of the fire, the beam of light streaming through wispy pinion smoke, the glowing pink aura, a bloated feather boa surrounding Orana’s diminutive frame, and wise passion in her emerald eyes.

He could feel her energy swaddling him in a warm embrace but her spirit were burrowing into his soul and he knew there was nothing he could hide from this woman.

“Ah, you feel it, don’t you?”

Adrian raised his head and met her stare.

“You feel those chemicals churning through your body. Every sense is primed to take in everything around you…sounds, smells, temperature, the movement of the air across your skin, the taste of the tea that lingers on the palette, the texture and rhythm of the energies, and the slivers of light flowing into this dark chamber. If there was movement anywhere close by, you would know instantly whether it was incidental or a threat. Your heart is beating rapidly and your mind is totally in tune with your surroundings. You can feel our auras exploring each other, yet, although we are the only people in this cave, you’re uncomfortable.”

“It isn’t so much that I’m frightened. It’s more a sense of anticipation of the unknown, because I have no idea of what’s coming next,” replied Adrian, quietly.

“The object of your instruction is to multiply these sensations by an infinite scale, touching not only your immediate surroundings but the entire world through all the planes, and then to teach you to synthesize your conclusions to produce something useful. Some of the situations you’ll encounter will be frightening but understand that the only enemies that you’ll have to defeat are the demons already living inside your soul. I understand that you were raised to be a nice young man but I also know that, given the choice between fight or flight, your instinct is to stand up for what you believe in and your gift is that you will always see the steps before you…even blindfolded and bound, you will find the path.” She paused, “Consider the next few days as your opportunity to take a grand spiritual voyage, making excursions to various islands of your mind.

I had the advantage of knowing that I was a seer from the moment I was born. You, on the other hand, wasted the formative years of your life, through no fault of your own, but we’ll have to go back to the beginning to teach you things you should already know!”

Before Adrian could reply, Orana melted and the cave disappeared. He found himself sitting crossed-legged on a smooth, open plain and he was completely naked.

The young seer gazed around a white world sweeping into the horizon, merging into the sky and the source of the brilliant light radiating from all directions. There were no sounds, no smells, no taste, and nothing to touch. The warm air was not moving and there was nothing that might offer a sense of scale or direction. Even the ground beneath him had no texture. It was simply flat.

Resting his hands on his knees, palms up, he drifted into the meditative state that he learned from Simian. He opened his inner senses, exploring his surroundings, and recognized that he was truly alone in a world that had yet to be created. Perhaps the first lesson was to fashion his surroundings with the things that were most dear, the world as he might design it.

Before he could concentrate on that single thought, his entire life flashed across the white sky like a spiraling coil of film, each frame a scene, a moment, and it was all happening in reverse. He saw his friends, his fellow seersorb, the animals and their plane, the battle on the island, Ponte’s library and the Golden Crystal, the House of the Four Seasons, the inside of the lairs of the Dark Forces and the pulsing red that had held his spirit captive, the Wailing Wall and the Basilica in Rome, the Island of the Children and the world under the sea, and all of his challenges and adventures from the first day he arrived on the Morgan’s Knot. Farther back, his memories roamed through his home on the bay, the children who attended his school, the sensation of piloting a sailboat, his father’s strength, and his mother’s warm embrace.

He could see every detail of his bedroom, his favorite toys, his books, and his teddy bear lying on his red bedspread. The salt air blowing in from the bay billowed the curtains like the veils of angels, as his mother used to whisper as she cradled him in the rocking chair, and the morning sun created long feathers of gold that crept across the blue carpet on the floor. Suddenly, he was an infant with no cares in the world other than being safe, warm, and well fed.

He opened his eyes and took in the endless white plain, bare to the horizon in every direction, except, in the distance, he could see a small dark lump. He stood and began to walk to it, realizing that his powers went missing along with his clothes, when he landed in this desolate landscape. With nothing against which he might gauge distance, walking across the white plain seemed slow and futile, so he started to trot and then to run as fast as his legs would carry him.

Finally, breathlessly, he approached the object of his fascination, fell to his knees, and realized that it was moving. It was a baby. He knew that face from the pictures his mother kept in a frame by her bed!

Adrian stopped and stared at the tiny child lying on his back, smiling, and gurgling with baby sounds. The infant sat up and then stood, as it matured into a toddler wandering around in circles, flapping his arms like an infant bird learning to fly, while singing a lullaby that he heard his mother sing, and continuing to grow.

Within minutes, the child became a mirror image of Adrian and he stared into his own blue eyes with curiosity and wonder. His other self giggled, as he continued to develop into a young man with long blond hair that slowly turned gray. Tiny creases formed around his eyes and mouth but his body remained strong and firm.

He noticed the scars on his right leg, as the other Adrian slowly became an old man, who stooped slightly and moved with some difficulty, favoring his injured limb. A mane of white hair tumbled down his back and a long beard appeared on his wrinkled face. His blue eyes still sparkled but they looked tired, sad, and wise.

“Am I you?” inquired Adrian.

The old man gazed at the boy with a glare that affirmed his impatience with the question, “You already know the answer. I am you as you are me.”

Adrian smiled, “So, we live to be old?”

The old seer grunted, “Growing old isn’t what it’s cracked up to be!” He brushed back his hair to reveal scars on his forehead and behind his ear, turned his back to expose more, and lifted battered arms to bare numerous wounds on either side of his chest. “We have paid dearly for the privilege!”

“I would assume that my battles are not finished.”

“You’ve only survived the initiation!”

“Zepallo?” asked the young seer.

“And others…as you will learn, the Dark Forces are layered like an onion, as deep as the sea, and more sinister and evil than you might ever imagine. Their tentacles reach into places that will truly astonish you. You’ll learn the necessary lessons at Orana’s hand but they’re merely preparation for all the challenges we face in the future. Even she can’t teach you everything that you’ll need to know. A lot of it will come to you at the moment when you see the real challenge and the true path to understanding the reality behind the commotion. There are no rules that apply to the things we must do and no one ever gave us a guide book!”

Adrian paused, “Is there joy in our life?”

The old man smiled sadly, “Life is filled with joy and wonder. It’s everywhere and in everything. It’s in every child’s smile, every animal that you will encounter, every day that ends without a battle, and every calm moment that you enjoy. Looking back on it all, I’d say that you should be thankful for every normal day. Days when nothing happens, when you could be bored, when things are confined to everyday routines, those are most precious.

We all take life for granted. New days arrive with every sunrise. Used-up days disappear and are replaced. We just assume that this pattern will go on forever and we don’t pay enough attention to the little things that are the very reason for our struggles. Take the time to enjoy the most simple moments in life. That’s what it’s all about.”

“I notice a great sadness in your eyes,” whispered the young seer.

“We’ve paid a heavy price for our beliefs,” replied the old man, quietly.

“Was it worth it?”

The old seer pressed a crooked finger to his lips for a moment, as he thought about the question, then burst out laughing, which took a while to ripple through his system, “I honestly don’t know the answer to your question. We’re not finished yet!”

“You know what I mean!”

“I know, I know. I’ll tell you this much, we succeed. Whether the price that we’ve paid for insuring the survival of the Powers was worth it…yes, I guess it was. There’s something else that you must know and that is that you should take the time to really know the people you love and show them how you feel. When you get to be my age, they’ll all be gone.”

The old man made no attempt conceal the grief in his eyes. Adrian focused on his family, his friends, and all of the people and animals who inhabited his world. He could not imagine outliving all of them, let alone surviving to be this ancient person standing before him.

“How old are you?”

“How old are we?” corrected the elder Adrian. “Well, I guess I’m approaching three-hundred years. We have great-great-great-great-great grandchildren. There are hundreds and I have to confess that I only know a few of them. You’ll find two things that inhibit your ability to move about the world. The first is that this body will eventually tire, small wonder after all the punishment we put it through, and the thought of spending time alone becomes more appealing. The second is that we become infamous. Everywhere I go, I’m mobbed by people who want to touch me or to be touched by me. They seem to think that we have some magical power that will save their lives or cure their illnesses or make them rich. We don’t.”

The young seer knew the feeling, as he was always unnerved by the notoriety that resulted from his missions. He could not imagine having to deal with it for the rest of a very long life, “We are shy, aren’t we?”

The old man snickered, “That’s a nice way to put it. Yes, I still don’t like being recognized. The things that we’ve accomplished had nothing to do with chasing fame or fortune. As you already know, we did it because it was the right thing to do. As you have so often said, ‘There is no other choice’.”

Adrian nodded, “If there was only one thing that you could tell me, one thing that might help me through the hard parts that lie ahead, what would it be?”

The ancient seer sat down on the white ground and crossed his legs, “Listen to your heart, it won’t lead you astray. Give love but don’t expect it in return. True love is found in the act of giving from your soul and you will know great love in your life.”

The old face suddenly crinkled into a mischievous grin, “You already have the love of your life. You just haven’t realized it yet but you will.”

Adrian was stunned. He was certainly attracted to Morgan. She was beautiful and one of the few people that he felt completely comfortable with…and there was Alius, who was more like a sister and a partner than a girlfriend. He thought about all of the girls and young women in his life and really had no idea who he would choose, if that decision had to be made in this moment.

The old man watched the subtle changes in the expressions on Adrian’s face, as he worked through the problem, “Don’t waste your time on this, you’re a bit young to be considering these things. Just know that, throughout your life, the women hold the key to your happiness and your success…and your survival, for that matter. Love them with all your heart and, when the time comes, the answer to this puzzle will become painfully obvious.”

“I’m confused. I thought that Orana said I was going to learn all of the things that I missed as a child?” inquired Adrian, sitting to face his older self.

“All the things that you missed are already inside you. They’ve always been there and you’ve been smart enough to follow your instincts, your hunches, that feeling in your gut. You had no reason to develop your talents until you reached Morgan’s Knot, because our dear mother neglected to inform us of these wonderful gifts, but we always knew there was something different about us, didn’t we?” The old man’s face crinkled into a knowing smile, “You’ve done well but it will get harder as you go.

I think the lesson that you’re supposed to learn from our conversation is that all of those powers course through your system but no one has ever given you any instruction about what to do with the talents that you’ve already discovered, let alone those you have yet to learn. You just need to let your energy flow out into the world around you. It will move like ripples on a pond, flowing out to touch everything and everyone in your field of focus, and those vibrations will return with information that your senses can interpret.

Our battle with Zepallo is a good example. We knew he couldn’t win before the first blow was struck but you also knew that he would survive.”

“So, Zepallo is not truly defeated?”

“No, he will rise again and he’ll become more powerful and frightening than your last encounter. Those, who held him in check, went down in that submarine our friends destroyed. There’s no one to keep him from pursuing his dreams of world domination. He’s a wild child sowing seeds of destruction without restraint and there will be none, other than you.”

“I guess I knew that when he saluted me, after our battle on the island.”

“That salute was his way of saying that you’ll duel again. He showed respect for your powers but rest assured, he’s not finished with you. There’s more to all of this but I’m afraid that we’ll have to learn it as time goes by.”

Adrian started to protest but the old man smiled and patted him on the knee, “Rules of the game and all that!” He paused to gaze around at the infinite whiteness, “I’m sure the reason that we are having this little chat at the beginning of your instruction is that you must understand that you, and you alone, are the sole sentinel who stands in the way of the Darkness. Certainly, you will have help to win many battles and you’ll drive them deeper underground but I’m not sure that we ever actually win the war.

You’ll lead the World to long periods of peace and the people and animals will recognize you as a savior. Don’t let it go to your head. It means nothing. See your triumphs for what they are…momentary pauses in an ongoing campaign. Enjoy those times…and use them to renew your strength, to expand your talents, and to be with those you love. After all, they are the reason that we do the things we do. You should also know that each battle will demand more of you than the last. As you grow, learn, and develop your strengths, so do your adversaries.”

“So, what’s the key?”

“The key is something that Master Chi has already revealed to you, ‘If you truly believe in the Power of the Light…if you truly believe in yourself, you’ll never be defeated.’† That’s what makes us different, we really do believe.”

“Will that belief be tested?”

The old man burst out laughing, “Of course it will be tested! You’ve already been challenged and you know the feeling we get just before going into battle. Your fear and your doubts will save your life. It is in those moments that you will truly see the course that you must follow, just as you did when you faced Zepallo over the eastern ridge of Morgan’s Knot. You knew he couldn’t defeat you and your whole being was focused on that evil smile on his face. Everything else disappeared and, in that instant, you both knew that he could not win.”

“That was strange. I wasn’t really afraid of what might happen because I already knew the outcome in my heart.”

“That’s it. You knew and you will always know. All of these other things, that you’ve learned or will come to understand, are inconsequential. They’re just tools that you’ll develop and use to your advantage. It’s our ability to see through the chaos that sets you apart.”

Adrian felt a sense of confidence flush through his body. He sat up straight and faced himself.

“Don’t get too full of yourself. There will be many times that you’ll doubt your own capacity, your judgments, and your powers…and there will be failures and setbacks. Our lifelong depression is debilitating but you’ll learn that your escape from that state is accepting the truth…when you truly see, you’ll find your focus. There will be times when you’ll wish to be just a normal person or that someone else would take on your responsibilities. You already know that you can’t be ‘normal’, you can only follow your path and do your best…and you will pay dearly, in spite of this knowledge.”

The look on the old man’s face was sad and, at the same time, strong and determined. Adrian stared into his old blue eyes and felt that strength flowing between them. He wanted details but knew that this conversation was being presented to guide him through the other lessons that he was about to endure.

“It’s strange, but I’m not afraid of facing our enemies. I’m more afraid of losing those who mean the most to us.”

“That’s as it should be and another reason that you will find success. You have to defend those who are special to you and, in the process, you’ll free the people of the world from the one thing they can’t escape, Fear.”

“Fear?”

“Yes, Fear…with a capital ‘F.’ Look around at the world that you’re living in…not Morgan’s Knot or the Island of the Children…but the real world. What drives everything? Fear! Fear of not having enough or accomplishing enough or not being enough. Fear that someone or some group will come along and take your possessions, your love, or your life. The governments, the religious institutions, and the giant corporations use fear to control, mobilize, and suppress the masses. It’s the driving force in this world and you must find a way to put an end to it. Believe me, it’s the best thing that we do, although…at the time, we don’t realize that our efforts will result in that freedom for everyone else. It just happens.”

Adrian was dumbfounded. How could he possibly affect the things that everyone else in the world felt? That’s impossible!

“I can see that you doubt what I’m saying. Don’t. It’s a waste of time and energy. Just understand that removing fear is one of the things that we have to accomplish in this battle between Light and Dark. It won’t happen because you plan it. It will happen because you’ll do what you feel is right and true. It’s as simple as that.”

“No pressure there!”

“There is no pressure in what I’m telling you. It’s simply the truth.”

“That’s been and will always be the motivation behind the things we do,” replied the young seer. “Our powers depend on that belief.”

“Now you’re seeing. Don’t get hung up on the eventual outcome or benefits of your efforts. Just do what you must.”

“What will you do now?”

The old seer paused and reflected on the question, “I don’t really know. I’m sure that we’re not finished with the things that must be attended to, the times change but hatred and evil still lurk just beneath the surface and rear their ugly heads when we least expect it. I’ll admit that I’m getting a bit tired. I’ve thought that I might move in with Orana and let some of the youngsters take on a more public role but I’m not sure that she would consent.”

“Orana’s still alive in your time?”

A sly smile crept across his lips, “We’re both taking lessons from her, aren’t we?”

Young Adrian was speechless. He stammered, “You’re taking lessons from Orana?”

“I guess you inspired me to reach a little further and, I have to say, there are some wonderful things that we never dreamed possible…but, then, you have enough to worry about for the moment!”

The boy stared into the old man’s eyes. There was so much there and yet, Adrian felt he was hiding parts of it, important parts, perhaps. “When I get to be you, will I be proud of our accomplishments?”

The old man sat up straight and looked directly into the young seer’s eyes, “Yes, you will be proud…but you’ll also be humbled…happy to have known love, sad to have outlived it…proud of the changes that will happen in the world during our lifetime but nostalgic for the…I don’t know, innocence and wonder of our initiation into the Powers and the Balance. Maybe that’s it, the Balance I mean. Life balances out. There’s more good than evil. There’s more love than hate. What you put into life is certainly returned many fold but there’s always a price to pay for the things that we hold most dear. I’ll leave it at that. Let’s try to leave the world in balance with itself before we go. Fair enough?”

With a wink, the old seer vaporized into a rainbow mist drifting across the plain in a dissipating cloud. Adrian was left alone in the white world to contemplate his future, pondering the question, “And how are we going to do that?”




Islands in the Sky

Morgan’s Knot – A Serial Fantasy

Episode V

By

Eric T. Stiller, Jr.


Far too addled to focus on his studies, Adrian closed his book of sonnets and set it aside, lost in a conflux of visions and memories tumbling and tangling through his mind. While awed by the wonder of the creatures populating the plane of the animals in perfect balance, he suffered the looming threat of Legio Obscurum’s quest for domination of the real world in the very core of his being.

The true miracle of life on this planet and immanent terror, at the hands of an invisible army, were the stuff of fantasy to the rest of humanity. After exposing the secrets in New York, he wondered whether mankind would see the incident as some curious entertainment or a glimpse into the promise of our future?

Gazing around the room in utter distraction, he spied the pouch hanging on the back of the chair at his desk, untouched since his return from the destruction of Zepallo’s underground complex and the invasion of the United Nations. There was a bulge in the bag, the Black Book that he snagged from the floor of the Dark Lord’s lair. It was smaller but, certainly, as heavy as the Book of Wisdoms. The metallic cover reflected the warm light, cast from the orb hovering above his headboard, as cold and dull.

“I should have given this to the Professor,” he thought, fingering the Book and sensing the bristling static of dark energies. A surge, from somewhere deep inside his consciousness, raised prickly goosebumps on his skin and warned of danger. “Raffe said this Book contains the history and the future of all of the Powers. I wonder whether it might give us a glimpse into the plans of Legio Obscurum?”

Adrian’s fingers tingled as he lifted the cover and stared at facing pages, swirling like smoke under glass. The numbing chill, suffered when he first suffered the dark power radiating from the conical black mountain on the island or when he was close to Zepallo or the Black Crystals, raced up his spine to detonate at the base of his skull.

There were no familiar figures wandering about the pages, so he asked, “Where is Zepallo?”

The haze on the folio churned into roiling storm clouds, propelling little waves crashing against the edges to flow back across the Book in pulsing hypnotic ripples. Slowly, two colorless eyes emerged from the smoke and a deep voice replied, “He is here, he is everywhere.”

“Tell me about Legio Obscurum.”

“A seer of our domain would understand our history and affairs of state. The secrets the uninitiated will discover in this Book reach back to the beginning of evolution and forward to the end of times. Are you sure you want to know the answer to your question.”

“Tell me!”

“Long ago, there was a global battle between the Dark and Light. Accepting the prospect of terminal stalemate after a thousand years of war, the Dark Forces withdrew to restore an underground civilization that has since expanded to dominate every country on the planet. Efforts to regain control of the political, religious, and economic powers required centuries of diligent patience, but the time is nearing when the Dark Forces will overwhelm the Light. Whisperers have been placed in positions of power and influence and it is only a matter of time before they will be freed to fulfill their directives.”

“What countries will begin this conquest?”

Cold eyes stared for a long moment, “A better question might be which countries will not join in this revolution? There are very few not approaching total dominion from within by the emissaries of Legio Obscurum, under the direction of the Council of Ollapez.”

Adrian stared at the pages, dumbfounded by the response, “How can this be?”

“Look at the major powers. Each of the industrialized nations is being transformed into a two-class society, comprised of those who control and those who serve. Individual rights and liberties, the very foundation of Western civilization, are being withdrawn or abridged in the name of security. Radical elements from every religion in the world are leading their flocks toward oblivious compliance. Loud fanatical voices, claiming absolute devotion, have gained more attention than those who are truly devout. Cries of, ‘Believe as I believe!’ and ‘Either you stand with us or you stand in our way!’ echo in a hundred languages from all sides of every conflict or disagreement throughout the world. Scientific research is dwindling, as funding is managed and controlled by those who serve, and the media is filled with stories containing subliminal messages, that are slowly desensitizing the masses to the coming carnage and their subservience to the Dark Powers. There will be great battles but, in the end, every society in the world will turn to our leaders for salvation, because there will be no other viable alternative.”

Adrian stared into the eyes in the Book. “Will those who defend the Powers of the Light prevail?”

“The evidence suggests complete capitulation.”

Adrian realized that the book was depleting his energy. He gasped for breath, exhaustion draining down through his body, the same sensation that he felt when he spent too much time inside a Crystal.

The young seer reached to close the Book but noticed that the eyes had changed from gray to Zepallo’s cold blue glare. Pale bony hands reached out to grab his blue robes, dragging him headfirst into the smoky pages of the Book.

He heard Zepallo’s growl, as he plunged into a roiling black void, seer“There are some things a young should never attempt. Reading from my Book is one of them!”

Adrian curled into a ball, tumbling through a raging tempest with no sense of time or space. Rumbling thunder chased furious tangles of icy white lightning crashing through an eternal emptiness that swallowed his screams in a deafening roar.

Zepallo’s laughter blared above the din, “There’s no one to hear you, let alone save you!”

A wedge of giant ravens dove on the boy with talons flared, their eyes blazing golden beacons in the murky swirling vapors. Smothering him in a pall of flapping wings and screeching terror, the huge birds lunged to peck and tear at his robes, jostling to shred bare flesh, until a brilliant flash scattered them into the squall. He plunged through the vicious storm, dropped into the jaws of a massive serpent, through rows of glistening teeth and streams of sour saliva, down a slimy caustic gullet, and out into the abyss again.

Zepallo’s cruel whisper hissed, “You asked my book to show you the future and now you will witness the apocalypse!”

A glistening ring appeared in the churning gloom as Adrian unfurled himself, mesmerized by the globe of Earth, a dull jewel veiled in a grimy haze, slipping into dark sky from eclipsing the sun. Jagged lightning rippled with the intensity of a million flashbulbs firing through the dark shroud obscuring the planet and gigantic orange fires glowed, here and there, black smoke billowing from the darkened capitals of the world.

“This is the Earth after the great war. In most places, civilization and governments have collapsed. The populations of the greatest cities are fleeing to the countryside, searching for any form of sustenance and shelter from the acid rain falling from titanic storms spawned by the fires. The world, as you knew it, no longer exists. History has been erased and a new civilization will rise from the ashes, under the care and nurturing of the Council of Ollapez,” thundered the Dark Lord, with a sinister laugh. “Think of it, without the encumbrances of art and literature and music or the mind-numbing blather of the world’s religions, the population will worship the teachings of a universal testament and bow to the wisdoms and justice bestowed by the Dark Lord. For the first time in history, everyone everywhere will worship our truth, as citizens of the new global order.”

Volcanoes erupted along the junctions of the tectonic plates and hurricanes swirled across the oceans in a parade of colossal pinwheels. Monster tornadoes erupted from storms ravaging the continents in a swirling dance of death and destruction. Icebergs clogged the seas near the poles, raising the tides hundreds of feet above normal, pushing brackish water far inland along every coast.

The clouds dispersed and the remnants of the great cities appeared as smoldering skeletons of their former splendor. The streets were empty of traffic, or people walking along the sidewalks, or children playing, and there was no evidence of the bustle of urban life, as it persisted for thousands of years. Once thriving, churning metropolitan centers were deserted, save black-robed sentinels marching in regimented columns, searching to purge any pockets of resistance. Loud speakers blared, “You will march with us or you will be eliminated!”

Starving citizens, concealed in subterranean sewers, cellars, and tunnels, fell in behind the troops and struggled to keep up. In desperation, parents abandoned their children along the gutters and were instantly clothed in the black robes of the Dark Forces, as they joined the pounding cadence of the procession. Screaming children were collected by a second squadron and transported in black buses to schools, where they would be indoctrinated into a dark world order and raised to become loyal soldiers for the Council.

The vision dissolved into the conical mountain on the Island of the Children erupting with violent explosions. Deep orange lava flowed across the island, enveloping the pyramid and the plaza, surging through the tunnels to clog the underworld and entomb the Red Crystal, ensuring no survivors.

Morgan’s Knot appeared and Adrian moaned helplessly, as herds of animals fled across the fields to the beaches to join his family and friends, just ahead of a firestorm racing across the island. Fifty or sixty seers flew in loose formation through charcoal clouds to confront hundreds of dark warriors riding giant black ravens in a massive assault over the ridgeline. A blazing barrage of charges flew from one side to the other, annihilating waves of warriors, until only a handful of Zepallo’s guards endured. The few remaining Positive Crystals exploded, with enormous eruptions of golden sparks and embers flaring into firestorms. One by one, the positive vectors dimmed and disappeared, leaving only shimmering blue-black arrays buzzing across the planet.

~

Adrian’s mother peaked around the edge of his door to find him slumped over a strange black book, his forehead resting on the pages of the metallic journal.

Sara tiptoed across the room and slowly pulled the book away. It was cold and heavy and the pages appeared to be covered with billowing smoke. Her hand tingled with dark static, as she closed the cover and placed it on his night table, before rolling her son back onto his pillows.

His forehead was cold but he was sweating profusely and did not stir as she moved him. Sara leaned over to kiss him and realized that his breathing was very shallow. She shook him but his body was limp and his eyes rolled back into this skull.

In a panic, she rushed downstairs, told the rest of the family about Adrian’s condition, and called Dr. Stevens on the messenger in George’s study. “Please come quickly, Adrian is unconscious and I can’t wake him!”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” replied the Doctor.

As an afterthought, she dialed Ponte.

“Ah, Sara, how are you?” The Professor’s smile deflated, “You look worried, what’s wrong?”

“Adrian’s unconscious and I can’t wake him. He was reading from a strange black, metallic book.”

“A Black Book?”

“Yes. I don’t know where he got it!”

“I’ll call Alius and we’ll be there directly.”

~

Alius flew through the vectors to the observatory and landed on the front stoop, just as the Professor opened the door. “I know we’re not supposed to use the vectors but, if you’ll grant me permission, it’ll be even faster and probably safer than your red trolley.”

“Alright, let’s go,” replied Ponte. “Sara said that Adrian was reading from a black metallic book. Do you know anything about this?”

Alius gasped, “Oh my, I saw him pick up a black book, while we were in Zepallo’s command center. I’d forgotten all about it, until you mentioned it.”

“If he’s been reading from Zepallo’s Black Book, this is far more serious than I might have hoped!”

Alius placed her hand on the Professor’s shoulder and zipped along the vectors, landing near the garden at the House of the Four Seasons. They rushed into the old stone farmhouse and up the stairs to Adrian’s room, where they found the family gathered in panic.

Dr. Stevens was leaning over Adrian, listening to his heart. “He’s just barely breathing and his pulse is extremely slow. He’s running a fever but this is not like an infection that we usually see in children. I don’t know what’s wrong with him!”

“I think this might be the result of exposure to the dark energies,” said Ponte quietly, padding across the room to Adrian’s bed to pick up the Black Book from the nightstand. He opened the cover and stared at the smoky pages. “Now I’m certain that this is not a medical condition.”

Alius whispered, “It’s steeped in the dark energies. I felt the chill, when we entered this room.”

Sara slumped against Adrian’s father, John,† and gasped, “Oh, no!”

Dr. Stevens ripped the top sheet off the bed and tossed it to Elsie, who was standing with George near the door. Soak this in cold water! At the very least, we have to try to get his temperature down before the fever causes brain damage!”

Elsie rushed into the bathroom, stuffed the sheet into the tub and ran cold water until it was sopping wet. The Doctor tore off Adrian’s robes and his Aunt bustled across the bedroom to wrap the sheet around the young seer.

“I think we’re going to need some help from our fellow seers,” exclaimed Alius, escaping through the darkened hallway, down the stairs, and out the kitchen door to sit on the steps, blinded by tears flooding down her cheeks. She closed her eyes and concentrated on Simian, Raffe, and Mary, “If you can hear me, we need your help and we need you now!”

She took a deep breath and settled herself, forcing her respiration to become light and shallow, crossed her legs, and commanded her body to feel as light as a feather. Slowly, the little seerseer rose a foot above the steps and, in deep meditation, cleared her mind of everything except the Thai , Sky. In the depths of her consciousness, she pleaded with the tiny woman. “I know you can hear me. I know you’re aware. Please come quickly, Adrian’s dying!”

Alius was startled out of her state, as Simian materialized beside her. “I felt you through the vectors. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Adrian. Evidently, he was reading from Zepallo’s Black Book. He’s unconscious and I think he’s dying!”

The old Jamaican wrapped his arms around the beautiful young seer, “I promise that we will find a way to save him.”

With a kiss to her cheek, he raced up the steps and disappeared through the kitchen door. Alius tried to concentrate but it was no use. She buried her face in her hands and wept.

A soft touch on her shoulder roused her and she looked up into Mary’s gentle eyes and Raffe leaning in behind her. “What’s happened? We both felt a disturbance and knew something was happening on Morgan’s Knot. We got here as fast as we could.”

“Thank you for coming. It’s Adrian. We think that he was reading from Zepallo’s Black Book and he’s unconscious. Dr. Stevens is with him but The Professor thinks that this isn’t a medical condition!”

Without a word, Raffe ran up the steps, while Mary sat down beside Alius and wrapped her arms around the girl, who buried her face in Mary’s shoulder and sobbed.

Suddenly, the air around them stirred and a glow appeared at the bottom of the steps. Alius looked up and was enchanted by Sky’s soft smile. She could not restrain her relief and stood to absorb the warmth of the tiny woman’s aura, “Thank you for coming. Adrian was reading from Zepallo’s Book and he’s unconscious.”

Sky hugged her and looked up at Mary, “This is serious. He’s suspended in the dimension of the dark energies. Zepallo tried to control Raffe’s mind, now he’s stolen Adrian’s spirit!”

The three women rushed through the kitchen and climbed the stairs to Adrian’s room. Molly and Megan were hugging in the doorway, weeping. They shuffled aside to allow the three seers to enter. John was trying to hug an inconsolable Sara, who was kneeling next to the bed, sobbing into his pillow. Dr. Stevens, usually calm and composed, looked helpless, and Ponte was absently drumming his fingers on the cover of the Black Book.

Alius introduced Sky to everyone in the room. The tiny woman walked over to the bed and brushed her hand across Adrian’s forehead. She lifted his eyelids and peered into his lifeless stare. Finally, she placed her hand on his chest and felt his heart beating very slowly.

Turning back to the group, who were staring anxiously, she said, “He’s been pulled into another dimension. It’s a dark plane that sustains the world of the Legio Obscurum. Several of you accompanied me to the plane of the animals. While that place represents everything good in nature, this dimension is the embodiment of everything evil in the world.”

“The good news is that Adrian will not die, at least not as long as Zepallo and his comrades can use his energy, his spark of life. For the moment, he will remain in this state.”

Sara wiped her eyes, “Can we get him back?”

“I don’t know but we’ll try,” said the Thai seerseer’s, kneeling to wrap her arms around Adrian’s mother. Sky looked around the room and paused, for a moment, staring into each eyes. “We will try.”

~

Zepallo leaned back in his chair and stared at the smoky apparition spinning above the center of the round table. He gazed around at the twelve Ministers of the Council of Ollapez, “This is lightning in a bottle. If he’s allowed to live in his world, he’ll become the most powerful and dominating seer on the planet. As it is, we have only to find a way to transform his energy into something useful.”

“In its present state, his spirit and energy will only live as long as his body remains alive,” sneered Wonac, the hulking Dark Master and Minister of Military Affairs, sitting across the table from Zepallo, waving his hand at the swirling golden mist, quivering at the stroke in the calm air.

“I can promise you that his family and friends on Morgan’s Knot will do everything in their power to maintain his life. He’s a hero and a savior in their eyes.”

“Perhaps it would be easier to just let him die,” snarled Ptolemy, an ancient and domineering dark seer and Minister of State with a gray beard that swung back and forth like moldy fog as he spoke.

“You miss the point, Master. I’ve battled with this seerseer several times. He’s responsible for connecting all of the nodes, the destruction of our facilities on Ice Island, and the more recent embarrassment in New York. He led the animals into the United Nations and showed the world the promise of the Balance. The young prince possesses an energy that goes far beyond anything that any of us have ever encountered in our campaigns against the Forces of the Light. This has the potential to unite them in triumph.” Pointing to the spinning haze, he added, “Look at this little cloud. It glows with life, with power and potential. It is truly unique in all the planes. We must consult the texts!”

With that, he opened a small black orb, revealing a central core that pulsed with a scalding deep red glow. He nudged it beneath the golden cloud, gently sucked the haze inside, twisted it closed, and placed it at the center of the table, before he stood.

“Let us endeavor to discover a means to not only control this energy, but to use it for our purposes. Each of us should delve into the deepest chapters of the Dark Texts. This is a treasure and an opportunity that only comes along once. I would suggest that, if we are clever, turning his spirit could lead us to a final triumph. Let us begin!”

Ptolemy did not stand but gazed across the circular table at Zepallo impatiently. His old eyes blazed with indignation at the brash upstart’s brazen audacity, “The Council has acquiesced to your ambitions in the past and suffered severe losses. The existence of our society has been revealed for the first time in history and this child played you for the fool in front of a worldwide audience. The Masters have agreed to our path and we will proceed. If we can find a way to use this energy to our benefit, fine. If not, then we will dispose of this problem, so we can move on to the next phase of our campaign. There is much to do and we have little time to waste.”

Zepallo fingered the black orbseer on the table. “The fact that this boy- found the means to defy my stature should stand as reason enough to pursue this matter. Although he is young, I’ve felt his power. We must find a way to turn him to our advantage.”

~

Adrian realized that he lacked his five senses and, yet, he was aware of smoky rage drifting around the cavern. It was not that he could actually see or hear but, somehow, he sensed tensions flaring in the tangle of auras flailing around him. His consciousness was pummeled by deep murmurs and fiery emotions, like cranky patrons arguing in whispers, as they inspected a priceless piece of art in some hallowed museum.

He felt the sensations of his body, while grasping that he was barely connected to the living corpse, lying on his bed in The House of the Four Seasons, desperately clinging to life. With every ounce of concentration, he tried to will himself back to his home…to himself, but he knew that he was trapped in this strange and terrifying dimension. He thought about his fellow seers and wondered whether they were aware of his current state. He saw visions of Alius smiling, her white hair flowing around blue eyes glistening with her perceptive glint. Mary and Raffe appeared in blue robes and Simian, peeking over his little glasses, laughing with his entire being.

Suddenly, all of his friends joined hands in a circle. Sky was talking to the group in gentle tones, guiding them toward total concentration. He imagined standing in the middle of the ring, turning slowly, staring into their eyes, one by one. He felt they were trying to find him and he gathered all of his energy in an effort to respond. “I’m a hostage in this strange suspended state. Please come for me, I want to go home!”

His essence swirled into a tight whirling funnel, as his energy was drawn into a fierce red glow, and then there was silence.

~

Sky led the seers into the cold night air and arranged them a circle, pointing to ignite a blazing fire erupting from the frozen ground to warm them. They joined hands, as she spoke very softly, “Concentrate on Adrian’s energy. We’ve all felt it. It’s very strong. See him in your mind and allow your spirit to explore the dimensions. He’s out there somewhere and we will find him.”

The group closed their eyes, as Sky repeated quietly, “Adrian we know you’re out there. We’re trying to find you. Speak to us.”

After a few moments, Alius’ eyes opened wide, “I hear him. He wants to come home!”

Sky replied quietly, “Listen again, where is his voice coming from?”

Alius retreated to her meditation, whispering, “It’s far away, like a voice echoing from a great distance through a tunnel. In a way, it sounds muted, like sound traveling through water. It’s not his voice, yet I know it is. Does that make any sense?”

“Yes, it does,” smiled Sky. “If you had to point to it, which direction is it coming from?”

Alius raised her hand, wavering between east and southeast. Suddenly, she frowned, “It’s gone.”

Ponte stood in the doorway to the kitchen, hesitant to interrupt their sťance. He plodded down the steps, to stand before the group and address Sky,† “I am Professor Ponte, Keeper of the Powers on Morgan’s Knot. We’ve developed a system that allows us to monitor the vectors, all of the vectors. I don’t know whether it would be of any help, but perhaps we could get a fix on the location of their lair by watching for disruptions in the dark vectors. If Alius is correct, we should begin that search by looking to the east or the southeast.”

“That’s a place to begin,” replied Sky. “Adrian’s body is in good hands and, other than moral support, there is nothing more we can do to help here. I would suggest that all of you accompany The Professor and search the vectors and the Books for any hint of their location. There are some people that I must see but I promise, I’ll be back in a little while.”

With that, she bowed her head and vanished.

The four seers surrounded Ponte and flashed across the island to land in the parlor of the observatory, startling Ester, who was standing in front of a feeble fire in a lavender dressing gown, with a floppy knitted cap and fuzzy pink slippers.

“What’s happening? I awoke up to find you gone and now you appear with all of the seers, but where’s Adrian?”

Ponte walked over and wrapped his plump arms around his tall slender wife, “Adrian was reading from Zepallo’s Black Book. We think that the Dark Lord has stolen his spirit. His body is lying in his bed and he is just barely alive.”

“Oh, my,” gasped Ester, bursting into tears. “We must find a way to get him back!”

Simian and Mary joined the hug, “That’s why we’re all here. We just left Sky and she’s gone to find more help. For the moment, we have to use all of our powers to try to find Adrian.”

Alius and Raffe walked into the dining room and opened the Books, as Ponte pulled himself away from his wife and powered up the messengers, “Ester would you put on some coffee? And make it strong!”

© rick stiller 2016