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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 2019