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Islands of Wisdom

Morgan’s Knot – A Serial Fantasy

Episode VIII

Former President Bartlett accepted his new role without hesitation, although convincing the Secret Service of the need for a change in their security procedures involved far more thumb-twisting than persuading the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down at the same table or convincing both Houses of Congress and the members of two opposing political parties to agree to pass any measure that might benefit all mankind.

With all the other commitments and requirements of an ex-president, he could only dedicate three days a week to his new position but the rewards far outweighed the imposition and he cherished the time he spent in this endeavor. Spinning his chair, he turned to bask in rippling rays of golden sunlight cascading down through the blue waters of the northern Atlantic. An endless school of silver tuna, shimmering daggers, glinted close to the glass and, beyond the third dome, he could see divers moving massive curved beams into place for the newest bubble being constructed for this city beneath the sea.

Although most of the world would never know of his new title, he was as proud of it as he had been when he took the oath of office as President of the United States, Chancellor of the International School for Seers and Keepers. Given his druthers, the title might have included wizardry or magic, for he still viewed the Powers of the Crystals and the things these people could do as magical, but he was pleased and honored that he had been asked to help organize the institution.

His years in the Economics Department at Harvard provided a model for the structure of the school but offered nothing to define the scope of concepts and information that were required to reach the level of Master Seer or a first-class Keeper of the Powers. Those who achieved that lofty status had invested their lives in the quest and, now, they were trying to break it down into actual courses that followed a definitive path, compressing decades of experience into a five-year program.

After the battle over the North Pole, seers and Keepers from all corners of the globe descended on Morgan’s Knot, taking up every spare bed on the island, congregating around the observatory, arguing over the obvious and ominous technical advances of the Dark Forces and the lack of a unified effort by the Forces of the Light to merge their collective knowledge to counter the next confrontation that was sure to come.

There were too many ideas and opinions to reach a consensus or to develop a plan of action. After two contentious weeks without progress, Adrian and Alius brought the former president to mediate, under the guise of providing a short tour of Morgan’s Knot and the wonders of the Powers. Bartlett was still unsure about how they managed to transform time, so no one at the house on the Cape knew that he was missing, something to do with that little blond girl, Kelly, who repeatedly asked to sit on his lap and kept fiddling with an old pocket watch.

While everyone else crowded into Ponte’s parlor, kitchen, and hallways, spilling out onto the lawn and the path beyond, five seers and five Keepers sat at the dining room table for three days, before an accord was reached. Bartlett grasped the concepts in short order and pushed the negotiations forward with absolute focus on the question, “What is the best course of action to give us the greatest opportunity to impede or defeat the Dark Forces and develop the wonders of the Powers to benefit all mankind?”

He never wavered, listening patiently, as endless opinions were proposed, discussed, and noted. In the end, they decided on a foundation of coordination and education. Sky, Master Chi, Mary, and Simian accepted the task of building a curriculum to immerse young apprentices and expand the knowledge and powers of every seer, while Dadeus, Sir Isaacs, and Master Jung assumed a similar challenge to develop laboratories to facilitate the education of aspiring Keepers. Ponte and Nanchez chose to act as coordinators in gathering the technologies and techniques from every Keeper on the planet.

The ancestry of every seer would be traced back through centuries to see whether there might be others who, like Adrian, never discovered the source or purpose for their special talents. Jofre, George, and John volunteered to oversee the construction of a cluster of new domes that would become the center of knowledge. In addition, everyone agreed to expand Adrian’s campaign to educate those who lived in the real world, especially the children, for, in the end, the responsibility for the future would become their burden to bear.

Systems were being constructed to connect every Keeper with instantaneous communications and the sum knowledge would be brought together in an atmosphere modeled after the ancient library of Alexandria, where the world’s recorded wisdom, from Greece, Rome, Persia, Egypt, and empires across the globe, was collected, translated into all the major languages, and made available to the finest minds of their time.

It was a bold concept that demanded a unified effort and absolute commitment from everyone involved but it was the only path that offered a chance to defend the Powers and life, as we know it, against incessant assaults by the Dark Forces.

The former president faced down countless enemies and sent young men and women into battle to preserve freedom and democracy but, as Sir Jonathon informed him almost five years before, this adversary was the real force behind the puppets, who carried out those barbaric campaigns.

The old spy’s husky Scottish accent still lingered in Bartlett’s memory of that late-night conversation in the Oval Office, “These are the people who live in the darkness, who’ll not be satisfied to control one country or even a major empire. These demons want to control the entire world and rebuild it on a model shaped by the Devil himself. We have no defense against their powers or their weapons and there is only one group on the planet that has any chance of stopping them.”

“And who might they be?” inquired the president, who might have been even more skeptical had the authority not been Sir Jonathon.

“The Forces of the Light.” He paused, “I don’t know enough yet, because they exist in a world that we don’t see. I know that’s confusing but it’s my understanding that they’ve always moved within society, without anyone really noticing that they were any different than the rest of us. Just as the Dark Forces live in a shadow world, I’m convinced that there are places on the Earth, where societies of these people live and work to defend everything that you and I believe in. I just have no idea of where to look. There certainly isn’t any evidence in the archives of the intelligence community.”

He sipped his Scotch, “There have been myths and legends for thousands of years about these two forces facing off against one another in gargantuan battles that were recorded as fable, because the realities were far beyond our capacity to accept them as truth. From what I’ve deduced, there are places in history where man made giant leaps in technology, architecture, social organization, and belief systems, transforming seemingly insignificant clans into empires. I would offer Egypt, the tribes of Central and South America, China, Greece, Rome, and, Atlantis, if you care to indulge in myth as history, as a few examples. On the other side are those dark periods, where humanity seemed bent on consuming itself…Germany, Cambodia, Kosovo, Africa, more than a few episodes in Central and South America…for that matter, our ancestors who administered the Dark Ages and the white settlers who pillaged the New World.”

“So, you’re saying that those periods that reached either extreme were somehow the result of the struggle between these two phantom forces?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying!” thundered his aging roommate. “It’s there for the finding in the history books and it continues to this day.”

The president sat back in his chair and took a sip of his drink, “You know that I’ve always been a student of history but…what you’re saying is outside the boundaries and constraints that our version of academia has created for itself. I’m not sure that I want to believe you but it solves so many mysteries…”

“The point is that we need to learn much more about these conflicting forces and find a way to do what we can to support the Forces of Light.”

“I agree,” said President Bartlett quietly, musing on the insight. “The future of mankind might well depend on it. If you’re willing, I’d like you to undertake this investigation…personally.”

The old spy’s eyes crinkled into a sly grin, a shrewd smile that brought them to the brink of being expelled from the university more than once, back in the day, and sipped his whiskey before he replied, “I’ve been thinking about retirement anyway. Give me what I need and you’ve bought yourself a new secret government agency. The opposition would have a field day with this one!”

The two men shook hands. Sir Jonathon stood almost a head taller than the president but shared equal admiration and respect.

~

Zepallo was suspended inside a gray bubble in the incubator beneath an artfully constructed artificial coral reef in the Caribbean Sea. Special circuits equalized his internal energies in a process that would take weeks, if not months to complete.

The wave of power that rolled off the spire above the ice castle at the north pole caught the Dark Lord, in that instant before he moved into the safety of the vectors. His habit of exposing himself to the enormous intensity of the Black Crystals was legendary. Unfortunately, the pulse born of the energies of all the Black Gems overloaded the fragile tangle of nerves within his body. The Doctor could not be sure whether there would be permanent damage, should he be lucky enough, strong enough to survive.

Beta and Gamma were both in critical condition, although with the advances the medical team was making, it was entirely possible they would recover. The clones were being cared for in the infirmary and he would check on them shortly.

Outside the sphere, in the purified ocean water of the incubator and alongside the gray bubble containing his Master’s body floated smaller, iridescent green balloons nurturing the surviving embryos in various stages of development, from the damaged center in the Savu Sea, south of Indonesia. The new lab was not fully functional but he was pushing the technicians to finish preparations as quickly as possible, so they could begin production with the DNA samples that had been replicated and delivered to thirteen of their installations around the world for safekeeping. Of the seventy-five infants, he had only been able to save thirty-three but they were healthy and thriving in their new home.

Memories of that day still made him queasy. His escape depended on quick thinking and good fortune. He was not a man of action, not one to lead the troops, rather he prided himself on using his mind to overcome impossible tasks and untangle the riddles and mysteries of life.

Moments after a wave of positive energy crippled their defenses, pods of whales crashed through the facility, smashing into the domes, one after another, until cracks appeared and the ocean rushed in. Their effort had been synchronized with the power surging through the circuits and the coordination of the attack indicated planning and execution worthy of the finest military minds in conjunction with rational beasts.

The Doctor gathered as many of the embryos as he could manage, moved several other physicians, nurses, and the babies into a mini-sub that was docked in an interface near the nursery and slipped into the vast vacuity of open water.

The facility in the Savu Sea was the only one damaged, although it was not destroyed, and demolition and repairs were already underway. Renovations were nearing completion in New York and the Caucuses, three new compounds were under construction, and this new incubation center was already in use.

The campaign had failed and, in the days since the battle, several distinct groups were maneuvering for political position. Each maintaining a diplomatic cloak of invisibility, should Zepallo survive and reclaim his throne. They had witnessed his retribution and none relished the idea of provoking his wrath.

One thing was assured, the Doctor’s expertise was needed now more than ever. His knowledge provided security and, in this time of flux, he found that comforting. No matter who assumed power, the technology for the production of clones would be an integral part of the future.

~

Alius found Adrian meditating, floating a foot above the floor in the observatory. Sunlight skimmed through a slim slit in the curved doors housing the telescope, slicing through dust hanging in the still air, tracing a silhouette of the young seer in a slender golden arc on the worn planking of the floor. With his arms outstretched and his legs crossed beneath him, the shadow resembled a cross within a crescent, a symbol known through thousands of years as the emblem of the Forces of Light.

Adrian opened his eyes and slowly descended to the floor, “I sensed you coming…”

“I’ve been worried about you,” whispered Alius quietly.

“I was thinking about Orana and trying to find her energy…” his voice trailed off, distracted, as if something new had crept into his mind.

“And what did you find?”

“I feel her in exactly the same way I felt her before she died. It’s as if she’s in her cave in the plane of the animals.”

“Maybe we should go and find out,” sighed Alius. “We haven’t had a day off, since long before the battle and, I don’t know about you, but I was scared that we wouldn’t succeed…that, maybe we wouldn’t survive…”

Adrian stood and wrapped his arms around the little blond seer, “You saved me and, as long as we’re together…we’ll protect each other.”

“That’s what worries me. Raffe and Sky were injured. We lost lots of other seers and warriors, including Orana, and she might be the greatest loss of all.” She paused, looking up at the magnificent telescope, “When you and I fought on the mountain, the Powers seemed huge and the world that we were fighting over was confined to this island. Now it’s become something else…there’s no innocence about it, no sense of wonder. It’s about survival and we’re in the middle of an arms race between opposing sides - each using science, technology, and wealth to claw ahead of the other. Isn’t this exactly the same thing that happened between the United States and the Soviet Union or the nations of Europe before the World Wars?”

“Yes, it is,” smiled Adrian, “but it’s also been repeated many times throughout history. With each new discovery, each new weapon, one side or the other gained leverage and battles were won or lost. I understand the Keepers point of view but I want to be very sure that the seers learn to use the Powers, not just the technology. They need to learn to think, to feel, to move boldly when the time is right, and when to wait.”

“They also need to believe in The Balance with their spiritual cores. We must defend it…” Alius’ eyes filled with tears, “Can we go to the animals? Please?”

“Alright,” said Adrian quietly, taking her hand and moving into the vectors.

The streaming colors were vibrant and there was no hint of the grating of the dark energies, as they passed into the plane of the animals and landed in the golden meadow.

Unis and the herd of unicorns were not in the pasture and, other than a warm wind rustling the grasses and trembling through the leaves in the trees, there was only silence.

Alius whispered, “Not a creature was stirring…”

“This is strange,” replied Adrian. “This world is always filled with the sounds of life.”

“Maybe we should go to the cave,” suggested Alius.

They levitated above the trees, up the side of the mountain, and landed on the path at the entrance to the cavern. Adrian smelled the smoke of a pinion fire wafting from the entrance, “That’s the smoke from her fire!”

He took Alius’ hand and led her into the darkness. After several turns they could see the glow of the flames and Adrian started walking faster but Alius grabbed his shoulder, “Wait! Look just in front of you!”

It took only a fraction of a second for his eyes to shift focus from the end of the tunnel to two inches in front of his nose. His breath moved an intricately woven silken web that stretched across the width and height of the passage. A surprisingly loud voice called from just above his head, “It would take years to devour something your size!”

Adrian looked up to find a rainbow-hued spider leaning to inspect him. It’s feet glowed electric green, its hairy legs an ocean blue, the body was as yellow as the sun in the morning, and the eyes glowed with the intensity of two red beams in the darkness. “Why have you spun your web to close off Orana’s cave?”

The glowing spider scampered across the web to face the boy, “To preserve her memory! Why?”

“Perhaps we should start over,” said Adrian quietly.

Holding on to the web with its two hind feet, the spider leaned out to within an inch of Adrian’s eyes, four of its legs clawed at the air between them. “Why would we want to do that?”

“Because…I’m Adrian, a student of Orana’s. We were there when she died.”

The spider leaned left and right, inspecting his eyes. “I believe that you are telling the truth, but why have you come here?”

“Because I…felt her…her energy, as if nothing had changed, as if she was still alive.”

“What is it that you want?” asked the tiny predator, scurrying across the web to bundle up a moth who made an unfortunate turn in search of the flickering flames.

“I guess I just need to sit by her fire and learn to believe that she’s really gone.”

“That shouldn’t be any problem.”

“But how do we pass into her chamber without destroying your beautiful web?”

“Oh, come now…that should be easy for a seer!”

Alius giggled and took his hand, moving into the vectors and back again on the other side of the barrier. Adrian turned around to find the spider waving with its front legs and laughing raucously, “You are a seer!”

“I have a question. Where are all of the other animals?”

“Ah, you noticed, very good. They’re having a meeting on the plain,” said the spider, who stopped waving and stood very erect.

“What are they taking about?”

“They’re discussing whether there is anything that the animals can do to stop man from destroying the Earth.”

“What do you mean?”

“The melting ice at the North Pole flooded thousands of square miles of coastland, destroying the habitat of all sorts of creatures. It will be years before things get back to normal. Accommodations need to be found for them elsewhere and there’s already a great migration. It’s all so…unsettling.”

“So, when Zepallo thawed the polar ice, it affected the plane of the animals?”

“Obviously!”

“Are you saying that the weather is the same in both planes?”

“Of course, it is! The physical world is exactly the same…the ocean currents, the weather patterns, and the global warming. That’s what they’re talking about, how to stop the pollution that will destroy us all.”

“I never thought about that,” said Alius.

“Me neither,” replied Adrian, “but it does make perfect sense.”

They turned into the chamber to find a large, fresh fire burning in the pit. There were no coals and the flaming logs had yet to form ash. Songbirds provided melodies that echoed through the cavern and a long slender shaft of gilded sunlight filtered down through the smoke to the spot where Orana always sat, her hair fanned out around her, her aura shimmering, a small knowing smile on her lips.

The two seers sat down on a blanket next to the fire and the silver tea service appeared before them on the flat rock. There were two cups, a tiny pot of honey, and the tea in the pitcher was hot. Alius poured the amber liquid into the cups, added a few drops of honey, and handed one to Adrian.

The flavor exploded inside his mouth, a rush of sweet and bitter traced the hot liquid as it coursed down his throat into his stomach. He had forgotten about Orana’s tea. Slowly, the sensations and memories of her lessons crept through his body and overwhelmed his mind. He gazed with total focus at the emblem on the wall, was aware of the rippling sound of running water, the mesmerizing song of the birds, the sweet scent of the pinion smoke, and the determined thud of his heart beating in his chest. Allowing his senses to reach out, he knew that, other than the rainbow spider and Alius, of course, there was no other living creature nearby, except… the energy of Orana. The sensation was strong and, at first, he assumed that it was just being in her space but there was more to it than that. Some part of her was still here.

Adrian felt her eyes burning into his soul, her energy reaching out to embrace him, just as she had before his lessons started. He flashed through the white world and watched himself grow from an infant to a very old man, he flew through the jungle, out over the blue-green ocean, crashing down through its surface to the cold depths of the world where life began.

“What just happened,” asked Alius, as he gasped for breath.

“I just went through a very fast version of the lessons that Orana provided for me. I can feel her. She’s here…somewhere.”

“I’m almost as sensitive as you are but I don’t feel anything, other than a very strange numbness from this tea.”

Adrian touched her hand gently, closed his eyes, and concentrated. His body lifted above the blanket and an electric blue aura radiated around him. The sunbeam moved across the fire and wrapped around the glowing egg surrounding the young seer like a snake constricting its prey, but gently…ever so gently, its light so intense that Alius shielded her eyes and turned away.

The cave filled with thousands of hummingbirds, the buzz of their wings droned behind the sharp echo of their chirping, as they swooped around the fire pit. A lustrous vision of Orana appeared in their fluttering wings, her white hair flowing around her like a flaming shawl, her eyes gentle but strong, her lips curled into a curious smile, “What is it that you seek?”

Adrian spoke but felt as if he was hearing his own words from far away, “I felt you…I guess I couldn’t…or didn’t want to believe that you were really dead.”

The quivering apparition of the ancient woman smiled, “I am here.”

“But…are you…?”

“I am living but certainly not in the sense of being alive. There are some advantages…”

“I don’t understand,” replied Adrian quietly.

“You saw my body die but did you see my spirit or my energy disappear? No, you were too busy seeing with your eyes instead of with your heart!”

“But…I saw you…”

“You saw what I intended for everyone to see. I am far more powerful, if they presume that I’m dead, that I can no longer affect the battle one way or another!”

The young seer was confused. “I’m afraid you’ll have to explain this to me.”

A third cup of tea appeared and the ghost seer sipped from the tiny teacup and returned it to the china saucer with a steady hand. “Alright, I’m surprised that you haven’t figured this out for yourself. Just as there are many planes in the real world, there are many realities in the spiritual world. Our energy never ceases, it just moves from one reality to another, just as you can move from the real world to the vectors or the plane of the animals. There are several other planes that you need to learn about when you’ve time.

Anyway, back to the subject…it is to our advantage for the Dark Forces and our own comrades, for that matter, to assume that I died in that collision with the flying saucer. What a wonderful way to go! Spectacular, certainly spectacular!” She snickered but her eyes were deadly serious, “As far as anyone else is concerned, I’m dead, but to you, my young student, I will make myself, my knowledge, and my talents available, whenever you might need me. There is much to do and little time to do it in.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, now that you mention it, I do suppose that time is a bit different on this side of the looking-glass…let’s leave it at this…you won the battle. You managed to stop that maniac and to kill Alpha, as well as many of their troops, but Zepallo and the two surviving clones will be back. You inflicted heavy damage to one facility but they’re already back in production at another and they’re building more around the world.”

“The Keepers are organizing themselves and they’ve started a school for seers and Keepers on Morgan’s Knot, where they want to bring together all of the knowledge and technology in one place. Sort of a research library.”

“It’s about time, although I do blame myself for isolating various groups from each other. I always thought that it provided an additional layer of security…perhaps I was wrong. We’re only a half-century behind the enemy, the Keepers have a lot of catching up to do.”

“We got President Bartlett to be Chancellor of the school, to help organize everything.”

The ancient seer smiled, “There are many powerful people in the real world, who would be more than willing to offer any assistance they might, if they’re asked in the right way.”

“We’ve got an attorney in Washington who’s helping us fight against Zepallo’s holdings in the financial markets.”

“That one is the devil. If he can’t figure out a way to buy it with somebody else’s money, he’ll steal it. Either way, he won’t be satisfied until the world is transformed into a very dark place. I grew up a child of the Dark Ages and spent the better part of a thousand years fighting to see that those mistakes are never repeated. Now it’s your time to lead the battle.”

Adrian withdrew, as the words resonated through his body and touched his soul, “I’m sure I’m not ready to take your place.”

“You won’t be taking my place. You’ll be making your own. That’s what your lessons were about, that’s what your life has been about…learning to believe in yourself. As you will learn, there are many fine and talented seers in the world. You’ll need their help but you will lead, you’ll see the vision and the path and find the strength to follow it. I knew that from the first moment you entered this cave.”

“But how…?”

“You’ve learned to listen and you’re just beginning to learn to see. Seeing along the vectors is only a small part of the talent but that’s why we’re called seers. In time, you’ll learn to see beyond the moment, into the future, as well as the past, through the planes and the various levels of reality. That vision is a heavy burden that you must carry with you like a sack of coal across your back but you already know that once you begin the journey, you can never turn back.”

“How do I find you?”

“You already know the answer,” smiled Orana. “You knew to come here, you felt it. Open your senses and I’ll be there, always.”

She closed her eyes and slowly disappeared, a wisp of smoke in a faint breeze, and Adrian settled back onto the blanket. Alius was in a deep peaceful sleep, lying on her side with her hands beneath her head. The young seer leaned over and kissed her forehead.

“What just happened?”

“I don’t know. We were drinking tea and then you curled up for a little nap,” said Adrian quietly. “I think we should be on our way.”

He held her arm, as she struggled to her feet, brushed back her white hair, and rubbed her eyes. “I wonder what was in that tea? All I remember was a bright light and then you waking me.”

“You didn’t miss much,” laughed Adrian.

“What did you do while I was asleep?”

“I meditated and learned that the Dark Forces were only bruised by our efforts. They’re in full production again. Alpha is dead but the others survived.”

Alius pressed her palms to her temples, “My head hurts. I don’t think that I’m quite myself at the moment but I do think that we need to inform our friends.”

~

The two seers found Unis and the other unicorns standing on the ledge overlooking the valley that meandered through the mountains to the horizon. A great din roared from an enormous congregation of animals covering the grassy plain, filling the rivers, hovering in the trees, and crowded on the rocks for as far as the eye could see.

The two seers stood next to Unis and bowed to the herd. Adrian turned and asked, “What are you discussing?”

The beautiful unicorn leaned close and whispered, “Many of our friends are worried that the destruction that man is causing to the environment is beginning to affect our way of life.”

Alius said, “I don’t blame them. We honestly did not know that the physical things that happen in our world also happen here.”

“There’s an old saying that a butterfly sneezing in South America causes hurricanes to be born in Africa. I’m afraid that we are all dependent on the same water, the same air, and the earth beneath our feet…it’s all the same world.”

“We’ve tried to make them understand and I think that some of the children see what we’re trying to teach them. They rose up and stopped the fighting for a little while and they’ll become the moving force in the next generation. It’s the adults in power, they don’t see or care about the damage that’s being done by their campaign to consume the last bits of useful materials from the four corners of the Earth for maximum profit.”

A warthog shouted, “If they destroy the world, we all die!”

“If it’s us or them, I vote for us!” hollered a young screech owl standing on a low sweeping limb of an ancient oak.

Alius whispered, “What do they mean?”

Unis bowed her head, her gleaming horn pointing out at the herd, so her mouth was turned back towards the seers, “They’re talking about invading your world and killing everyone they can find.”

Alius gasped, “They can’t be…?”

“Yes, they can. There are political forces within our community, just as there are in yours. If the wrong crowd gets enough support, anything is possible.”

Adrian stepped to the edge of the precipice and raised his arms above his head. A thundering roar reverberated across the valley as the animals recognized the young seers they followed into battle more than once.

“You know me, as I know you! We’ve fought side by side against the Dark Forces and we’ve been victorious!” He lowered his voice, “I understand your fears and your frustrations with the changes that are occurring in the environment. There are many humans who are working to change the way the Earth is being treated and they are just as worried as you!”

The animals remained politely quiet, although there were a few comments and catcalls. “For the first time in history, all of the Keepers and all of the seers of the Forces of Light are gathering together to share their knowledge and coordinate their efforts to defeat the Dark Forces. We’re constructing a facility that will house all of the information and techniques that have been gathered over the centuries. Students will come to the school from every point on the planet and they’ll leave with a complete understanding of The Balance, joining together to fight for all that is true and right, and dedicated to making the world a nurturing home for everyone.”

There were murmurs flowing through the crowd. Adrian raised his hands, “I know your power and I respect your position but I must ask you…no, I must beg you to give us a chance to begin this process. The Dark Forces would welcome an invasion and the disruption to our way of life. It would provide them with the perfect opportunity to take over and the end result would be darker than any of us might fear. There is another way, we must stand together!”

The young seer sensed a change in the energy coursing through the valley, it moved out across the hundreds of thousands of faces peering up at the ledge. A raucous chanting rolled through the animals, “Soon, soon, soon.”

Gerald, a handsome lion who helped defend Morgan’s Knot, stepped onto a rock directly beneath the ledge. “First, we all have great respect for you and we hope that you know that we will support you at any time in the defense of The Balance, but you also have to understand that all of us are concerned about the world around us. It’s changing dramatically and not for the better.”

“I understand exactly,” said Adrian, “and I will do everything that I can to change the way things are being done in my world. We’ve found that the Dark Forces are involved with many of the industries that are spewing filth into the environment and we’re moving to foil them wherever we can make an opportunity. You have to understand that this will take some time but I promise you that I will find a way to make people see the danger.”

“That is all that we could ask of you,” replied the stately lion. “It is your brethren that cause us concern. We’ll give you until a year from this day. Come back to us on that day and we’ll discuss the progress that has or has not been made. Is that fair?”

Adrian smiled, as he bowed to the huge menagerie, “I accept your most gracious offer. Thank you.”

Gerald roared and the crowd began to disperse through a dense cloud of dust that rose up, painting the sky a crimson red that yielded, here and there, to slivers of gilded light spilling over the western mountains.

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