XXXXI – WTF!!! or Who’s Shooting At Whom?!

So it was, once again, off to see my peculiar host. As we ascended the gentle incline toward the citadel I noticed that things were decidedly a lot more active than was usual. Terran guards were everywhere with Valparta soldiers underfoot. Even the Seraphim, those most stoic of warriors, seemed somehow unsettled as they assisted in whatever was going on. I knew about the murders of course but I had been led to believe they had occurred within the citadel grounds proper. Not this far down the hill.

Within minutes I saw what the ruckus was all about. Several bodies blocked our way and the Constabulary was only partially succeeding in redirecting foot traffic away from the scene. As we drew closer, two Cherubim rushed up to Amara, talking in hushed, hurried whispers. The next thing I knew I was yanked dead center of my escort, all of whom had drawn weapons and where looking keenly about. But not before I saw one of those lying dead in the road.

Lucifer!!

I went cold at the image of the terrible warrior lying there; nothing left but smoking ruin. Without thought for personal safety, I tore my way through the Cherubim ranks and rushed over to the body, only to be lifted off my feet and wrenched back by none other than Amara.

“Stay here!!!”

Her eyes blazed in an excellent imitation of Tiny’s glowing orbs and her muscles were as tense as steel. I could tell from the way she had grabbed me. I was being continually reminded of how strong these Cherubim really were. I snarled back at her and stopped. The look on her face told it all. Grief and fury were written there for all to see. Then the world exploded behind me. In a blinding flash with no sound, Lucifer’s corpse vaporized into a human silhouette of smoldering ash.

“That is how we protect our secrets in death. Nothing remains for an enemy to exploit.”

The voice was choked in fury, grief and disbelief. I turned, expecting Amara to be that voice but it wasn’t. It belonged to another warrior standing to my left. Another golden Amazon I really wouldn’t have cared to cross swords with. As for Amara, she was once again calm and, seemingly, under control. The scarlet fire in her eyes betrayed her. She strode over the one of the Cherubim and was demanding an explanation. Thus satisfied she returned to our ranks and spoke to all of us.

“Our Captain (she nodded to the black form on the road) and some of his Seraphim guards were on their way to meet us at the Roman camp. No one knows for certain except that it may have been to reinforce our party. Why that is, I don’t know. As he descended the hill he was struck by a bolt of energy from a then unknown source. It was powerful enough to actually ionize the air in Lucifer’s immediate vicinity. His guards were killed instantly. He staggered and was able to return fire, but two more strikes took him down. Several other Seraphim returned fire but struck only buildings. (I could see the smoke and steam rising from several holes in nearby walls.) Upon arriving at the shooter’s location, they found a heavy weapon. Subatomic scans revealed the assassin.”

We all held our collective breaths as we waited for her to continue. It was only seconds in coming. Amara seemed truly stunned at the killer’s identity. She uttered only one word through clenched teeth.

“Sevadrassa!!!”

A cry of rage erupted from those around me. It took a moment or two for Gus to fill me in and, for an instant, I regretted getting the information. It seemed, according to Gus, that the Sevadrassa were renegade Cherubim who had joined Abraxas in his quest for power. Great! Now I had hostile Cherubim to worry about as well.

In the next instant, all Hades broke loose. There was a roaring, crackling thunder and a blaze of blue light. The guard who had spoken to me earlier landed on top of me, throwing us both violently to the ground. As I rolled her off I saw that she wouldn’t ever be talking again. Her head was missing. Only a charred stump of a neck remained. The rest of the squad was returning fire and the area was ablaze with the beams of multiple weapons firing at whatever had opened up on us, I meanwhile had grabbed the Amazon’s holstered weapon and was doing quite a bit of shooting myself. I don’t think I hit anything, or anyone, though. Within seconds it was over, though, to me, it had seemed like the better part of an hour from start to finish.

There were more bodies when the thunder died down. Several Seraphim and at least two Cherubim, that I could immediately see, were dead and several more of each group wounded. I stared at the weapon I still clutched in a clenched fist and shook. My native view of things was clashing with my new-found knowledge. To my Roman view, I had just wielded the lightning of Jupiter, while Gus was trying to explain to me that I had simply fired a standard Cherubim blaster. Golden fingers gently pried the weapon from my frozen hand and a husky feminine voice reassured me.

“Are you all right General? Open your fingers and release the weapon please. We don’t want it going off accidently do we? Breathe. That’s it. all is well.”

My senses started to troop back to their assigned positions and I found myself looking into the eyes of Amara. Concern shone in her face as she gently took the blaster from me and shoved it into her belt after making sure the safety was on. How I managed to unlock the safety and fire that thing I was never quite able to figure out until sometime later. I would use such a weapon again.

Amara helped me to my feet and, as I dusted myself off and determined that everything I had started with was still there, explained.

“Four more Assassins. These didn’t get away. Someone must want you dead in a really bad way General. I was right. They were Sevadrassa. Damn them!!”

Now I was really pissed! I was quite sick and tired of my Titans and I being the targets of every nutcase in the Underworld. I said so through gritted teeth.

“Tell . . . Merlyn . . . to get . . . his ugly . . . face down here. NOW!!!”

My voice does carry, especially when I’m really angry. Heads snapped up and even Amara jumped back a bit. I stood there, a granite column of sheer, cold, shaking rage. my muscles bunched and the veins stood out on my arms. Not even Amara, it seemed, wanted to get within range of my hands.
My only though of the moment was ‘damn you Merlyn! I’m gonna get answers NOW!’ Those answers, unknown to me, were only moments away.

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXXX – A Goddess Walks Among Us?

(Note from the author and editor – it appears that if you do not have an ad-block on your computer, you will get links to ad-sense in the body ot the text of this chapter. If you are foolish enough to click on such spam, you deserve what you get. I hope our readers are much more intelligent than that.)

I thought and slept for the next seven days. Most of my waking hours were spent absorbing and sorting out what Gus (I had to name the thing in my head to keep thinking straight) had been feeding me. The experience was both exhilarating and traumatic at the same time. I was learning about a part of Earth’s history that turned my own world view on its head. I had also gained knowledge of the solar system and how it worked that was light years ahead of my contemporaries.

On the outside, when I talked and ate with my men, I had to consciously revert to my old manner of speech. This was becoming more and more difficult and I did slip occasionally. Fortunately, I don’t think anybody caught on. I watched Actius very closely to see if he noticed the slips, but he acted oblivious to any goofs on my part. If he was acting, it was a damned good job.

The big spoiler in my new memory was the realization that my original mission had gone belly up. My men and I were now trapped in a war we had known nothing about when we started out on this little junket. One thing was for sure. Going home right away was definitely not an option. For one thing, I doubted that, under the present circumstances, we would even be able to make it back alive. If we did, what might we bring back with us to the destruction of everything we knew and loved?

Also, there was Actius. I had to find out where his loyalties lay. Was he a traitor waiting for the right moment to do us in, or had he somehow gotten himself trapped in a conspiracy he didn’t dare talk about? I had to find out which was which. Fast!

Then there was Merlyn and his unspoken agenda. Why had he given me this storehouse of information so freely? He had to have known the consequences to me of such an action. I might not be able to go back to Rome at all. Not with what I had in my head. My people were nowhere nearly capable enough to handle what I now knew.

With that came one of my biggest griefs. I would never see Tiny again. That seared a burning hole to the center of my heart. Damnit! I would get back home to Tiny and Little Brother, and not all of Hades would prevent me from doing so! With that thought, the soldier in me took control. Right now though I had other priorities to deal with. Tiny, Caesar, and Rome would have to wait. I had a monster of a mystery sitting on my shoulders and I was damned well going to solve it.

So I kept on thinking, and planning. The more I thought about things, the worse things got. There was a piece missing somewhere that I couldn’t find because I didn’t have the whole picture. I’d have to go back to Merlyn for more of the pieces. And, of course, there was Actius.

I sat by the fire pit for long hours musing and my men were smart enough to know my mood and stay away. I drank, ate and gabbed with them at meal time but, otherwise, kept pretty much to myself. Then the next surprise fell in my lap.

On about the eighth day after our arrival in Avanwy, I had just woke up and was getting dressed when a ruckus broke out outside my tent. I went outside to see what the matter was and was greeted by a very unexpected sight. In the open space, close to the fire pit, my men were staring slack jawed at a very impressive sight. At least twenty armored figures stood there in disciplined formation led by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Even from a distance I could see that she was at least as tall as Lucifer. She even looked like one of his close kin. One major difference was, where Lucifer’s hair was midnight black, hers was a bright, almost blinding, red. In contrast to her hair, her skin was a dark golden hue similar to Merlyn’s. More mysteries. As I drew closer, I could see that her exposed skin was absolutely flawless. No blemishes whatsoever. Her eyes were slanted in the oriental style, and her lips made me ache. Through Gus (that little spoiler) I already knew who and what she was. Amara, A captain of the Cherubim, and Merlyn’s favorite messenger (the old pervert).

It was pretty obvious she was here for me, although I couldn’t fathom a reason for the escort. She saw me approach and turned to meet me. She really WAS tall. My face came up to her chest which, under normal circumstances, would have been a supreme joy indeed. However, all I could think about at that moment was that I was going to get a sore neck if I got much closer. I wasn’t used to looking up at someone’s face. I stopped my approach and tried to say hello.

She beat me to it. Her voice was low and musical with a tonal quality that made every Legionnaire within earshot stop as though petrified. I was entranced. Leading me by the arm, we headed over to the fire pit and sat down. Meanwhile her escort had not even twitched a muscle that I could see.

“Greetings General Varus. I trust you are well and pleased with our accommodations?”

I stared into her emerald green eyes like an idiot and was barely able to pull myself back to reality.

“Uh . . . yes. Quite comfortable actually. Thank you for asking.”

Her lips curved upward in an amused smile.

“I’m sorry. I forget the effect my . . . presence . . . has on non-Eldethi. Please pull yourself together so we may have an intelligent conversation.”

Her words had the same effect as splashing cold water in my face. I focused with a start. WOW. Her ‘effect’ was an understatement. I’d never before behaved like that in the presence of a woman. Any woman. Once again Gus jumped in and explained that my reaction to Amara was caused by Cherubim ‘Glamour’. It was a built in defense used to confuse a foe long enough for the Cherubim to win the fight. The Cherubim women had more than their fair share of the effect, and seldom turned it off. Knowing this, I focused on Amara and our conversation. She apparently had seen my pause and knew that I was being brought up to date. Her next words confirmed it.

“Your crystal is keeping pace I see. Good. I won’t have to break things down for you. I’m here to take you back to Merlyn. We’d best get moving. He doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

I jerked a thumb in the direction of her escort.

“Why all the Muscle? Afraid I might try to escape or something?”

She actually looked worried.

“It’s for your Protection. There have been . . . incidents.”

Now I was beginning to get worried. Incidents? What in Hades did she mean by that? When I broached the question, she looked even more unsettled.

“I’m not supposed to tell you this but you have the right to know. In the past three days, twenty-two Eldethi have been found . . . murdered. My squad is here to make sure you reach Merlyn alive.”

Holy &%$#!! Twenty-two murders? And me apparently on the hit list? More questions damnit! Also, why was Amara not supposed to tell me? I was going to get to the bottom of this once and for all. The first task, however, was to reach Merlyn in one piece.

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 1:10 PM  Comments (1)  

XXXIX – Reality Shift?

Sitting there bathed in the glow of an elder science with Actius babbling excitedly away, I had time to pause and reflect. Such moments are rare in the life of a soldier and mine was no exception. For over twenty years I had marched in one campaign after another, quite frequently bathed in the blood of foes and friends alike. But never, until recently, had I been given any reason to doubt my ability to carry out my sworn duty as a soldier of Rome.

Now I had many questions to ask. Questions seemingly without simple answers. Who were the Eldethi really and what role had they played in shaping Earth’s destiny? Where did the seemingly human Terrans fit into all of this? The Valparta were one of the greatest mysteries of all. Where had they come from and what hand did they hold in this deadly card game? What myths were truly myths or forgotten history? A war had been/was being fought on a scale which boggled my mind, the stakes of which I had not even the dimmest of understanding.

Most of all, what was Actius hiding? He was keeping something from me and I had to find out what he was hiding. The thing in my head was of little or no help. I was discovering that all the knowledge in the world didn’t do any good if there was no basic foundation upon which to build. I knew what I knew but was having trouble grasping what I knew. So I sat in front of that cursed ethereal lamp/fire pit and tried to get things back into some semblance of order. Too much time had been wasted swinging at shadows in the dark. I did know one thing without understanding how I knew. Time was running out. For me, my men, Rome, this underworld, this world.

While all this was trampling through my skull I had been oblivious to everything around me. As I slowly returned to the world around me, I became aware of a not so subtle change. Silence. Actius wasn’t blathering anymore. My second in command was sitting across from me staring with an intensity I had come to know all too well.

“You alright General? You’re awful quiet over there.”

I looked at Actius, being careful to let my face betray nothing of what I was thinking. I hated doing that, especially to a man I had trusted for so many years.

“Just thinking.”

“About . . . ?”

Thus came my turn to lie.

“A lot of things Actius. The damned mystery that brought us here is getting worse instead of better.”

Actius’ face had become just as unreadable as mine. I didn’t know whether he had caught on that I had caught on or that he was being sneaky on his part. I figured the latter. I let him try and draw me out.

“What did Merlyn have to say. You were up there at least half a day. We were getting ready to come and get you.”

All I could think of at that moment was ‘how thoughtful of you’. I was ashamed the moment those thoughts entered my head. These men had served with me for some time. Many of them for years as we fought side by side. Mistrust was beginning to eat away at my vitals. Whom could I really trust, and who was keeping deadly secrets? Actius continued.

“Learn anything of value up there? Like, how to get out of this growing mess we’re in?”

Here came the tough part. Would he know if I was lying? Only one way to find out.

“Nope. The guy talked nothing but gibberish. He showed me around his place, we gabbed, had dinner, got drunk. He offered me a bed for a couple of hours to sleep it off, and then that gold guy you saw me with brought me back here. Damn confusing!”

His next words rocked my world.

“Uh . . . boss? You came in alone. When we met you, nobody was with you. You were holding a map and looking the way you look when directions don’t add up. You said hi, issued a couple of orders, and stomped over here where we’ve been ever since.”

Huh!!! What the Hades . . . ??? Who was kidding whom here? I knew with unshakable certainty that I had arrived there with Lucifer as my guide. Also, I had, to my knowledge, issued no orders whatsoever. What game was Actius playing? Worse yet, what if some of my memories of the last day were faulty? What did I or didn’t I really know? If my own memories had become suspect, we all were in real trouble. No. I knew what I knew and I proceeded on the assumption that what had happened was reality.

Besides, I had inescapable proof of the reality of my own memories. Have those of you who might be reading this missive spotted it yet? Aw . . . c’mon! It’s right out there in front of you. No? Okay. I’ll tell you. I knew that what I had gone through was real be cause my language skills had improved by at least five hundred percent. My inner friend was responsible for that. All my life I had preferred, despite Big Brother’s attempts to the contrary, the language patterns of the common soldier. Speech was simpler and more honest that way. Senators and other crooked types spoke fancy. Not me. Now I was sounding like Quintus. It was with this sure knowledge of my own reality and rightness of things that I looked across at Actius and KNEW that my closest friend of many years was now a traitor. My blood began to boil, but I kept my rage in check and extended the hangman’s noose out farther.

“Well, glad to see things have settled in here. We need the rest. Time to rethink our strategy. I’m gonna go to bed and really sleep this time.”

My second in command looked and nodded. I could have sworn he was relieved to end the conversation. As I stood up and walked away toward my tent, I fancied I could feel Actius’ eyes boring a hole into the back of my head. Well, I thought to myself, I’ll deal with that bastard later. Time to hit the sack and clear my head. Wrong!

Chapter XXXX

Published in: on January 11, 2012 at 12:29 PM  Comments (3)  

XXXVIII – Who’s Kidding Whom?

What I had just been told threw out everything I had believed in, the philosophers taught, or the priests preached. Our whole concept of the world and our place in it would have to be rewritten. I really hadn’t wanted to hear Seth’s words but I was left with no choice it seemed. Good thing I listened because, as I was later to discover (the hard way, as usual), that unwanted knowledge would be crucial to my race’s survival on planet Earth.

As Seth told his tale, the little voice in my head was filling in the fine details as fast as my host could speak. I was burning out. Fast. Seth noticed because, with a look of concern on his face, he paused in his narrative.

“You don’t look so good Varus. I’m sorry. I’ve been a thoughtless host. I forget that you’re new to all of this mind science of ours. You have to be near exhaustion. Lucifer here will escort you to your quarters and we’ll continue after you’ve rested a bit.”

I wasn’t going to argue with the man. I’d never felt so tired in all my life. At a signal from Seth, Lucifer gestured me to follow him. As we walked slowly out of the palace (I thought I had a long stride, but Lucifer could have easily outpaced me had he chosen to do so) the Cherub stayed close to me in case I started to wobble. No way was I going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me fall to the floor. I gritted my teeth, sucked it up, and strode out of there as though I was fresh as a daisy.

It worked only for a short distance. By the time we’d crossed the courtyard and were heading toward the barracks where my men were staying, my legs began to feel like they were weighted down with chains and I was getting a bit lightheaded. Then I felt a rush of energy and my weariness slipped away from me as though it had never been. It was then that I felt a hand placed lightly on my right arm. I looked at the hand, then at Lucifer who was smiling that enigmatic smile of his.

“Thought you might need a pick me up. You were looking pale as a sheet and wobbling all over the place. There’s no shame in that General. I’ve seen Terrans and even young Eldethi collapse after one of Seth’s sessions. The fact that you can even stand at all is a credit to your race and, especially, to yourself.”

That made me feel a little better. A little, but not much. My macho ego just couldn’t accept the idea of me having ANY weaknesses what so ever. All my life I’d been so used to being the biggest, strongest, nastiest predator around, that what was currently happening to me was beyond my life experience. And the idea that Lucifer had to power me up enough to stand was a thorn in my already bruised ego. It was then that I came to the utterly grim realization that I was going to have to rethink my place in the world.

Hell, I was in a place where even a bunch of furry dwarves were tough enough to kick my tail if they so chose, let alone two races of men so far above my current abilities that any kind of real competition was just plain laughable. It was with these thoughts swirling through my head that we reached the camp. I hadn’t even realized we’d gone the distance until I found myself walking into my camp.

Alone.

I looked around and Lucifer was nowhere to be seen. This wasn’t Lucifer’s first, or last, surprise he had in store for me.

No sooner had I set foot in camp than my men mobbed me, abuzz with questions. Bulling my way through them I headed for the center of the camp and what should have been the main fire pit. It wasn’t there. In its place was a glowing yellow orange disk putting out light but no heat. I looked at Actius, who had sidled up to me.

“What in the nine hells of . . . oh. Eldethi science again. Got it.”

Actius was positively beaming with pent up enthusiasm.

“Y’ oughta’ see how these things work Varus. You can fold them up into a packet no larger than a fist and you don’t get burned. No heat. A lot better than lugging wood around or stripping land. I could make a fortune selling these things back home.”

My predator instinct went off. For a brief moment during Actius’ monologue, there had been a strange gleam of . . . something . . . in his eyes. It had been so brief that, had I not been looking at him the entire time, I wouldn’t have spotted it. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Actius was lying. I didn’t know WHAT he was lying about, but I was damn sure going to keep my eye on him ’till I found out. I kept my mouth shut and let him go on.

“Also there’s a whole bunch of other stuff here you need to see. Entire beds that fold up like the fire pit. Lights that shine without lighting ‘em. Food packed in small tins like ours except they heat up when you open them, complete with things to eat the food with. Beats using our knives. They even have bread wrapped to stay fresh no matter long you carry the stuff.”

I would’ve been more enthusiastic about all of these wonderful discoveries, except that, thanks to my little voice, I already knew about them, and that split second gleam in Actius’ eyes. Had Seth’s people done to my second in command what they had done to me? If so, why wasn’t Actius telling me about it? One thing was for damned sure. He knew a lot more than he was telling. The implications of such a thing was something I definitely didn’t need at that moment. I chose to ignore my suspicions and act just as enthused.

“I’ll have to check all this out, but right now I need to sit down and eat. I’m pooped. How are all the rest of the guys? Especially the wounded?”

I brought this up because I had noted that, as we neared the Ethereal lamp (fire pit) everyone but Actius had skedaddled back to whatever they had been doing before I arrived. That left just the two of us alone to talk. Even Philos and Marcus were staying clear, which was unusual in itself. Did they also know something I didn’t? Or was I just being paranoid? I decided to err on the side of caution. Watch everybody until I knew precisely what the hell was really going on.

Chapter XXXIX

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 1:55 PM  Comments (4)  

XXXVII – Fables Shattered

However the golden armored Cherub by my bedside did.

As my fist raced towards Merlyn’s rather prominent nose, something happened that had never happened before. It was stopped. Stopped with such force that my shoulder was nearly dislocated from it’s socket. through the haze of pain and stunned surprise I also felt a soreness in my right wrist, caused, I discovered, by the grip of a golden armored hand. I followed the hand to it’s golden armored arm and, finally, to the grinning face in charge of it all.

“Bad idea. Please don’t hit my master. It wouldn’t go well for me if you did.”

The satyr face in the (what else) golden helm smiled from ear to ear, reminding me of something from the Netherworld. Gently he released my thoroughly bruised wrist and stood to his full height. The guy was at least seven feet two inches tall and by his looks, not quit human. I knew what he was of course, thanks to my ever present crystalline companion. A Cherubim. One of a cadre of elite warriors sworn to the House of Ra. Artificially created super humans born and bred for protection and, if necessary, the kind of warfare beyond the capabilities of the very formidable Seraphim.

During all of this, Merlyn, who had jumped back from my assault, had regained his composure and was watching the tableau with a bemused expression.

“Nasty punch you have there Varus. I hope Lucifer didn’t injure you with his rather quick defense.”

Tent pegging once again dominated my thoughts as, massaging my wrist, I glared at my host, sudden death in my eyes. Meanwhile Lucifer stayed by the bed in a relaxed but ‘jump to immediate attack’ stance. He was definitely intimidating so I controlled my immediate urge to throttle Merlyn. However, I was going to get answers to this latest series of events and said so.

“I’m getting’ kinda’ tired of all this #@%^$. What in Hades did I just dream, who are you really, – ‘cus you aren’t just a damned paper pusher to be sure – and what’s really going on around here?! Answers NOW or me and my boys are pullin’ up stakes and findin’ our own way home!”

I think at that moment that Merlyn knew the cat was out of the bag. Sitting there, he had the look of a little kid who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. With a deep sigh he nodded his head and proceeded to explain.

“First of all you can’t leave. Now hold on and let me explain! You’re right. my name isn’t Merlyn. That’s just a title for what I do here. I’m Seth, second son of Amon-Ra, and little brother to Abraxus, cursed be his name. I’m eighty seven thousand years old and one of the few Eldethi survivors of the ‘Day of Fire’ which decimated this planet and ended our rule.”

Well, I’d wanted answers and he’d given me quick satisfaction. But, there was a lot more coming. Seth continued.

“Your crystal could give you all you need to know, but your brain is still learning how to fully utilize it. I can explain much more quickly. You may as well relax. This is a pretty long story.

Your people, the Humans of your surface world, are not the first Human race to evolve on this world. There is now nothing left of us or what we built on, or in, the surface. The firestorm that swept across this planet so long ago ensured that, so don’t go looking. Our people came into existence some forty million years ago. We owe our existence to Someone from the stars. A master scientist and biologist named Eldethis and his assistant Lilith. They were from an even earlier Humanity newly come to this world.”

Despite my little information buddy my eyes must’ve started to glaze a little, because Seth stopped and looked at me with concern. I told him to continue. We’d catch up as he went along.

“Eldethis and Lilith’s People had come from a larger world than Terra, sorry, Earth and they were having a tough time surviving in this planet’s lighter gravity and thinner atmosphere. In short, they were dying out. A colony of thousands had slowly but surely been reduced to hundreds. The only option left to them was to leave or perish. They chose to leave. Eldethis and Lilith chose otherwise. At the time, they were experimenting with the planet’s fauna to try and produce a Human type that could survive on this world. In secret, the two scientists had discovered a way to keep their own biology running indefinitely. No one knows precisely what they did or why they didn’t pass their discovery onto their fellows. Some believe that it was Lilith who dissuaded Eldethis from revealing their research. However it happened, their people left for the stars while they stayed behind to continue their grand quest. After an eon of endless failures and tragedy, they succeeded.”

During all of this my little crystal buddy had caught up and begun to fill in the gaps in Seth’s story. The more it told me, the more appalled I became. According to Seth and my crystal friend, Men were not first in the world after the Gods, but rather the latest in a series of would be planetary rulers. In fact, it seemed that the so called ‘Gods’ had gone underground and had been hiding here all the long years. So much for the histories of the sages and priests of my time. All this flashed through my mind while Seth continued his oration.

“Finally, after long years of trial and error, failure after failure, the two scientists stumbled into success. Multiple attempts to mix their DNA with different local animal species had met with continued failure. it was Lilith who discovered the a certain group of great apes were compatible and able to produce a fertile species of mutant apes. These simians, it turned out, were not apes at all but rather a new family of Humans later to be known as the Eldethi. My people Varus. So it was that the career of the first Terran Human race had begun. If Eldethis had been able to see the future and the consequences of his and Lilith’s action, he might have aborted the experiment and prevented our existence. If he had though, your people would never had been born. No one could have known the tragic fate of his creations and of the races who followed us. Of the Terrans who were created in the image of their ‘masters’ and the Humans who were born out of one day of absolute hell on Earth.”

The cold chill that had been growing during Seth’s narrative got colder still.

Chapter XXXVIII

Published in: on September 24, 2011 at 2:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXXVI – Rude Awakenings

There I was. Sitting in an immense room far underground, talking with some joker who kept dancing around something he was obviously very unwilling to talk about. Thus far I’d been able to worm some valuable details outta’ him, but I was getting the very nasty sensation that I was only cracking the surface, so to speak. Forcing my attention back to the conversation, I listened on as Merlyn continued.

“Faded out there for a second, did you. Understandable. You’re getting an awful lot dumped into your lap at one time. Where was I? Oh yes! After Abraxas left home for parts unknown; to where we didn’t know until it was far too late to do anything about it; he began to gather about him an ever growing army of the disaffected, ambitious, and; to tell the truth; downright insane.

To this, his scientists added to their growing ranks a very terrible weapon indeed. The Nephilim. Crystal creatures like the Seraphim, they were cast in a mold suited to their master’s twisted sense of purpose. You’ve met them, so there’s no need to elaborate. Suffice it to say, Abraxas was preparing for no less than the conquest of the entire world, as well as the complete annihilation of my entire race. He felt he could control the, to him, inferior Terrans. We, however, were another matter entirely. Against us, despite all of his preparations, Abraxas was still heavily outgunned, and he knew it. What to do? The answer was fairly simple. Sow the seeds of unrest and discontent among the ranks of the Great and High Lords of Terra. If he could bring some of them over to his side, his chances of success would greatly improve.”

Okay. As I’ve said many times before (trying to convince myself I guess) I’m a pretty bright guy, as Romans go. However, the current topic of conversation was slowly frying what was left of my mind. Too much esoteric info ‘way too fast. How in Hades was I going to be able to sort all this out with no frame of reference?! Merlyn sensed my confusion and (I was extremely impressed with his awareness of my problem. Turns out he was expecting it.) came up with a unique solution.

“Your eyes are glazing over again. Hmmm . . . I’ve got an idea if you’re up for it. It’s obvious it isn’t your intellect that’s lacking. From what I’ve observed, you’re smart and you think VERY fast on your feet, unlike most soldiers who just have incredibly fast reflexes. The problem here is lack of perspective. Until your mind is updated to our level, you’re going to stay hopelessly lost. Therefore I’d like to try something, if you’re game.”

Didn’t like the sound of that. Update my thinking processes? I kinda’ liked my processes just as they were, thank you very much! Still, Merlyn was right. Although I generally knew what he was babbling on about, he kept throwing in things that threw me off balance. Fact was, I couldn’t afford to be half in the dark all the time. Bad military thinking. Merlyn continued.

“What I have in mind is painless and doesn’t alter your thinking processes at all. You gain a lot more information and I don’t have to constantly keep stopping to explain things. Also, you’re going to need what we have to give you if you ever hope to get home again.”

That sounded vaguely like a threat. Still, he was right. Also, this wasn’t about just me. I had two hundred Titans counting on me to get them back home. I decided to go for it.

“Whatever you got in mind, I guess I don’t have too many choices here. So . . . how does your idea work?”

“Simple. You just go to sleep. While you’re snoozing away, we painlessly put this in your head and, when you wake up, you’ll have access to all we know.”

Merlyn stuck a glass disc under my nose and told me to look through it. What I saw was a tiny crystal held in place by metal clamps suspended from the rim of the disc. That crystal looked awfully big to me. How was he going to shove that thing into my head without screwing me up. Didn’t look painless to me. Before I could say a word, Merlyn stopped me cold.

“I can guess all of your concerns. What you see is not the crystal’s actual size. The lens you’re looking through magnifies the size of objects approximately one thousand times. In reality, that crystal would be invisible to your naked eye. As I said, when you awake, you won’t even know it’s there. And the procedure WILL be painless. I guarantee it. All you have to do is go to sleep. Shall we get on with it then? The sooner this is done, the faster things will clear up for you.”

Merlyn lent me his bed for the process. The person he brought in to do the implant thingy was about five foot six, red haired, with a large chest partially hidden under her robes. Nice side benefit. Shoulda’ known, however, that Merlyn had planned it that way to distract me. Something hit me in the arm and I was out cold. Still, my last conscious memory was of me staring at that lovely chest.

I dreamed. I was told later that what I dreamed was the crystal downloading data from the Central Memory Archives or Brain Central as everyone called it. To this day it still feels strange talking about such things so easily. Anyway, my dream took the form of me floating, bodiless, high over the surface of a world I somehow knew to be Terra/Earth. Great cities were thinly scattered across the continents (something else new), their massive towers reaching up to touch the very heavens. Flying chariots were everywhere, and I knew with my new knowledge that they were mechanical vehicles using a combination of solar and nuclear power (as each new word popped into my head, a complete definition of the term came with it; handy, that). The machines were lightning fast and extremely maneuverable, being thought controlled, with manual controls present in case of emergency.

Most of the largest cities were clustered in and around a long, titanic basin. A disturbing feeling of terrible familiarity came over me as I studied the outline of that place. Then it hit me like a punch in the teeth. I was looking at the great Mediterranean Sea minus the leagues of water I knew so well! What time of the World’s history was I viewing!! The answer came swiftly thanks to my little crystal. This was my world one hundred fifty thousand years before the Roman era. Nothing of this age was known in my time.

Names from forgotten ages poured into my already overtaxed brain. Avalon! Lyonesse! Asgard! Mighty Atlantis! Stygia! Amon-Ra! Abraxas! Seth/Set! Anubis! Cerberus! Tethys Basin! The Great Temple of the Maker! The Triad! Lilith! Genesis War!! And on and on and on.

It was when I chanced to look to the heavens to break that stream of knowledge that my completely overtaxed mind almost shut down. Night had fallen and the stars were out as normal. But there were two moons shining in the sky!! What in Hades . . . !! One Moon was smaller than the other much larger sphere which I recognized as the moon I was familiar with. At a second glance I saw that there where subtly disturbing differences to Luna’s bright face. Some of her well known features were missing.

As for the other, smaller moon, it was already racing across the sky as if in a hurry to get somewhere. I noted that it was grayish in color and reflected light poorly. (Knowledge continued to pour in at a steady rate. Available when I needed it.) As the smaller companion of Luna raced across the heavens, it was dimmed for a split second, then continued along its way. I didn’t know what I’d seen until Merlyn explained it to me later. What I was unknowingly looking at were Terra/Earth’s long lost rings. Dim and sparse, they were already beginning to fade in that age. They would be wholly gone by my time.

While all of this joy was going on, I began to hear a voice. A faint whisper at first, it grew louder and louder. It spoke but one word. Varus. Varus! VARUS! And I was awake. I sat up and groggily looked around. It was with some disappointment that I saw that my busty female friend was gone. Staring at me with concern etched on his ugly mug was Merlyn.

“The way you were thrashing and moaning, I was afraid that, somehow, You’d suffered brain damage. Thank the Maker you’re alright.”

He never saw my fist coming.

Chapter XXXVII

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 5:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Note From Ye Olde Editor

The few people who are reading this may be wondering why chapter postings have been extremely slow lately. You few faithful deserve an explanation which will be on Make A Wish Upon Tomorrow. I will apologise in advance for the rambling of it, but I do hope you will read it.

Published in: on July 17, 2011 at 9:35 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXXV – Out of the Skillet, and . . . !

As on other previous occasions, I’ve paused in this opus to comment on some of the really weird and bizarre things I’ve run into and seen on my little quest. Merlyn’s study was no exception. We walked through a paneled wooden door and into an area about the size of the floor of the Roman Coliseum. Okay; maybe I’m exaggerating somewhat, but not by much. The place was actually octagonal in shape rather than circular, but a good gladiatorial contest could have been fought in that room with plenty of space to spare. What was it with these people and their preoccupation with size? I know I’ve brought up this question at least once before but, #@%^$ it, something just wasn’t right about the proportions around there. The fortress I was in seemed to be designed for wide open spaces, not for underground caverns. I intended to ask Merlyn about it as soon as possible.

As for the room itself, somebody’s decorator had gone wild with the martial theme of the place. Suits of the same wild designs I’d seen in the hallway lined the walls, while paintings (at least I think they were paintings. They seemed to be a little too real for my comfort. Something about the foregrounds and backgrounds bothered me no end.) were hung everywhere in no apparent pattern or style. Most were outdoor scenes (no caves or tunnels in any of them) depicting battles between armies the like I’d never seen, or imagined, before. ‘Course, I was a stranger in an even stranger land, so what should I expect?

Of furniture there was, strangely enough, very little. A massive desk, cluttered with all sorts of paper and whatnot, crouched against one wall with a massive chair angled in front of it. Toward the center and a bit to one side, was what looked to me like a visitors nook. Several chairs of a faintly Roman design were clustered about a table made of a dark material I couldn’t place. Against another wall off in the distance was what appeared to be a sleeping area. Nothing of interest there. I looked up to stare at a domed ceiling at least one hundred feet high and covered in what appeared to be a crystalline material that gave off a subdued blue white light. The apex of the dome gave off a brilliant light too painful to look at for more than a few seconds. Lots of questions there.

Looking down I saw the floor covered in tiles arranged in a vast version of the design I’d seen in the hallway.

While I was gawking at my surrounding I began to get the feeling I was being watched. Sure enough, Merlyn was standing a couple of feet away, watching me with an amused expression. I was tempted to wipe that smile off of his face but stopped myself. First, I was a guest in his home and, second, I had the very uncomfortable feeling that, if I tried anything in that direction, he could probably wipe the floor with me. I wasn’t used to that kind of feeling. After all, I was used to being the strongest, toughest trained killer around. Merlyn was so thin he didn’t look like he could outfight my mother, but I remembered the strength of his grip when we first shook hands. A cold shiver traveled up and down my spine. Another reaction I wasn’t used to.

Merlyn, for his part, didn’t seem to notice my discomfort or what was going through my mind. He waved in the direction of the nook and we both sat down. The chairs were a lot more comfortable than I expected. Fat cushions. Merlyn snapped his fingers and, from seemingly nowhere, a large bottle of something green appeared accompanied by two large goblets. He poured two hefty droughts and the discussion began. I decided to beat Merlyn to the punch and start things off. He, for his part, just sat there and smiled his annoying smile.

“Nice place y’ got here. Must be a bitch to maintain.”

My little gaff had no noticeable effect on my host. His answer ignored my shot.

“Welllll, actually, my home pretty much takes care of itself. Pretty handy considering the amount of administrative work I put in a day. But my home’s cleaning skills are not what is uppermost on your mind. Why don’t we skip to the chase and get down to the matters at hand.”

So much for small talk. I tried again.

“Okay. What’s really going on here, and don’t give me that ‘it’s taboo’ crap that Enoch tried to dump on me. Who are you people and how in @^%$& blazes did you wind up down here? Also, who are those Nephiwhatiz and why did they come after Rome?”

Merlyn’s smile went grim.

“Good questions. To start with. To put things as to the point as I can, you and yours have been dragged into our little war. The reasons are, as yet, unclear, but like it or not, you’re in this as deep as the rest of us down here. Maybe more as our enemy seems to want what you have.”

“And that is?”

“Wide open spaces. The surface. I suspect the attack on your palace was a test run, so to speak. They wanted to see how capable you were of repelling an attack from our world. Your immediate and, if I may say so, totally unprecedented counter stroke threw them off balance.”

This was getting a little chilling, but I had to find out more. In any case, Caesar was not going to very happy about my report when, or if, we got back.

“Let’s clear some things up. Who’re ‘they’ you keep mentioning?”

“‘They’ are a cabal of enemies we’ve been at war with for further back than I’ve been alive. And, believe me, I’ve lived longer than you could possibly imagine. Or comprehend.”

This little cryptic dance Merlyn was doing was bringing back my old headache. The one I’d had since this nightmare campaign had begun. I was gonna’ get answers even If I had to shake them outta’ the guy.

“More specific please.”

Merlyn didn’t look at all happy. He let off a sigh and continued.

“Simply put, we’re at war with my brother Abraxas and a trio of would be gods. This ‘Triad’, as we refer to them, were once mortal humans like us until they found a way to transcend their physical bodies. Since then they’ve been trying to enslave anyone who isn’t perfect in their eyes. Bringing faith to the natives, so to speak. As for Abraxas, he was always a power hungry snot who wanted his way or no way. Trouble was, he was the most powerful member of our family after Father and Grandfather. Since he couldn’t control things at home, he headed off with a group of followers and set up his own little realm. It was total war between him and the family after that.”

That headache suddenly ramped itself up into major pain. What in Hades had the Titans and I walked into, and would we, and Rome, be able to walk out of it in one piece?

Chapter XXXVI

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 12:54 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXXIV – The End Of One Journey And A Deepening Mystery

(Once again I’m late with this opus. I’m finding, as I get older, that my body has become more susceptible to minor things like spring colds and the ever present flu. Thus, the last two weeks have been miserable and incapacitating. Spring, obviously, is not my best time of year. Once again, I’m sorry for this latest delay. To those of you (especially one couple) who have been following these adventures, my sincerest apologies. Off we go again.)

We had finally reached the entrance to the main tower of Ellatan. Like everything else in this underground world, it was huge, ornate and imposing. The builders of this door seemed to have had an overdeveloped fondness for gold which covered the entire front in base reliefs of epic proportions. During my journey it never ceased to amaze me how these people loved big things. For someone who lived in underground caverns, you’d think small would be the order of the day. Must be an ego thing. Go figure.

Passing through, we entered a large hallway which traveled off into the distance. Now, I’m just as fond of walking as the next guy, but I’d been doing a lot more lately than I felt was my allotted share. Anyway, back to that hallway. The whole thing was made of rock black as a moonless midnight. Where they got the stuff from, I was, at the time, unaware. At regular intervals, a dark wood covered that rock in thin rectangles, in front of which stood massive stone statues of warriors in some of the most fantastic looking armor I’d ever laid eyes on. Each warrior leaned upon a huge great sword whose hilt was adorned in an eye burning array of gems. These people might live underground but poor they weren’t.

The floor was made up of octagonal flagstones arranged in a complicated heraldic design. It was a blue orb with filled in areas of green, being gripped in the left front paw of a crimson, sitting Hippogriff. I didn’t catch the significance of the design until later. When I found out what it meant, I was none too happy. At the time though I remember thinking that this Merlyn had to be some kind of really important big shot. ‘Course this giant fortress couldn’t be his home, right? Boy was I wrong! Anyway, we stopped halfway down that hallway as the door at the far end slowly opened. Out walked a robed fellow who I took to be the head butler or something. I said as much to Enoch.

“Say, Enoch. Why’s the staff coming out to meet us? I thought we were going to see this Merlyn guy.”

When will I ever learn to keep my big foot out of my fat mouth. Enoch was not amused. He shook his head and glowered my way.

“That’s no member of the palace staff. He’s Merlyn; Governor of this entire region of Avalon. If you value your life, don’t forget that.”

Sticking my foot in my mouth is one thing, being lectured is another matter. It took a good chunk of my self control not to fall back on the handy tent peg solution.

However, I was in someone else’s house so I had to play nice. No stomp and mangle. Not yet, anyway. After all, I was a Roman, so I had some manners. During all of this, Merlyn had reached us and took my right hand in a VERY firm grip. Gods! This guy might be as strong as yours truly. Merlyn was my height and close to my build, far as I could see from his robes. He looked to be about my age. Maybe a wee tad younger. Hard to tell with these people. He smiled a big toothy grin and spoke.

“Ah Varus! At last we meet! I’ve been waiting quite some time to talk to you face to face instead of through intermediaries. You’ve had quite a time getting to us. Just glad you made it in one piece.”

Okaaay. What did this guy mean by ‘waiting quite some time’? I didn’t know we’d been expected. I said so.

“Hmmph! Just how long have you been ‘expecting’ us?”

He grinned even wider and gently laughed.

“Ooh – – – about since you were born. We couldn’t be sure it was going to be you specifically, but – – “

“WAITAMINUTE!! What do you mean, since I was born?! What kind’a setup is this?!”

Merlyn drew back at my outburst and Enoch’s right hand went for his sword. Thanks to tried and true reflexes, I grabbed my hilt at about the same time. I stared Enoch down.

“Don’t do it buster. I like you but I won’t hesitate to carve you up if I have to.”

Enoch snarled.

“You started this!”

Merlyn interrupted this eruption of ‘who’s tougher’ before things got bloody.

“Why don’t you and I go into my study and talk about matters over some wine. Think you can stop being a Roman General for a while?”

I was about to snarl something back when I got it. Humor. All in good fun, right?

I eased back on the fury and gave out with a forced smile. Enoch relaxed and went back to attentive attention. Merlyn waved me forward. I was very curious but cautiously uncomfortable. Why was I suddenly feeling like an ox being led to the slaughter?

Chapter XXXV

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXXIII – A Long Walk, A Strange Taboo, And A Near Brawl

As we walked further up the hill, I paid close attention to some of the structures that had come into view lining both sides of the road. Unlike the clear road further below, the upper areas were a jumble of buildings, some with strangely lettered signs hanging out front. I had a pretty good hunch what this district was, but I thought I’d better confirm my suspicions with Enoch.

He obliged.

“This is the Great Lord/Terran outer marketplace. Here my people can take advantage of both the Terran and Valparta trade. The little guys feel less threatened here than they would in Ellatan and everyone profits.”

Thought so. Still the place seemed to have grown a bit haphazardly. That was my second question.

“Enoch. What’s with the slum look. If business here is so good, how come things don’t look a lot more prosperous?”

Enoch sighed, looking as though I’d asked him a dirty question. After a moment, during which I thought I might have offended him, he responded with some hesitation.

“The . . . merchants . . . here are Half Castes who don’t comfortably fit into Great Lord or Terran society.”

I started to ask the next logical question, but was stopped in my tracks by Enoch’s raised hand.

“Let me explain. Please understand why I hesitate to talk about this subject. What I’m going to tell you is a taboo subject among everyone. Great Lords, Terrans, and Valparta alike. I only talk to you and your people about it because you come from the surface. Outside.”

Enoch stopped, took a deep breath, and continued.

“The Half Castes are the children of . . . matings . . . between Great Lords and we Terrans. Such actions are forbidden by both Great Lord and Terran law and custom. The punishment for such liaisons is exile or death. Death is usually preferred as almost no one would willing want to be exiled out beyond the forests. In the wild lands you so recently traveled through.”

Remembering the Titans’ recent adventures, I had to agree with Enoch. That trip had been no picnic. I started to return to the subject at hand and was, once again, stopped by Enoch’s upraised hand. That action of his was starting to get on my nerves. My thoughts strayed, once more, to tent pegs. Enoch continued.

“I’m already violating custom by talking about this. If you want to learn more, you’ll have to ask Merlyn. He has more authority to talk about such things in any case. Also, I’d greatly appreciate it if you didn’t mention my name during that discussion. Such information as I have revealed to you can be a possible career ender, and I value my career very much, thank you.”

“No problem. Didn’t hear a word you said. A Furry told me, okay?”

Enoch nodded and we continued our walk in silence. Well, almost silence. I could hear my men talking about this and that as they gawked at the scenery around them. I figured, let them talk. Better for them to get it out of their systems than jabber all night in camp.

During Enoch’s and my talk we had arrived within range of Ellatan’s main gate. As it opened, I was once more amazed at the sheer mass and size of that door. Passing through the wall tunnel, we came out into Ellatan’s courtyard where we were greeted by more black armored guards. If I had been less a soldier than I was, the sheer number of troops present in that courtyard would have had me wishing to be somewhere, anywhere, else. However, I was a battle hardened warrior with nearly twenty five years of combat experience. I was also a Roman General and had to set an example for the rest of my men.

Speaking of the Titans, my men once more made me proud. They stood in formation and stared down the Terran soldiery surrounding them. Hands on hilts, they made it abundantly clear that, if the Terrans wanted a fight, they’d get their wish. In spades. Not wanting to start a ruckus, I turned to them and spoke.

“Easy boys. Stand down. Let’s not start anything with our oh so gracious hosts. After all, it is their courtyard. No need to bloody it up. Be one hell of a mess to clean up.”

Acteus and crowd chuckled and relaxed. I could see their point though. All this escorting around with a major armed force surrounding us had been slowly getting on my nerves as well. I hoped that my Titans willingness to break some skulls would get our hosts to ease up a bit. The same idea seemed to occur to Enoch. In his own language, he spoke to that massed force which immediately dispersed. Even Enoch’s own detachment seemed to relax somewhat.

That’s when Enoch spoke up.

“With your permission my men would like to show your Titans the barracks they and you will be staying in.”

I nodded to Enoch and, facing my men, spoke to Acteus.

“Go with ‘em. Get set up and get some rest. I think Enoch wants me to go with him, so I’ll see you later.” *I hope.*

Acteus nodded and off my men went, escorted by only two of Enoch’s guardsmen. I guess our little show of defiance had hit home after all.

My men thus taken care of, Enoch and I continued our walk to the main fortress. I was getting closer to Merlyn and some long overdue answers.

Chapter XXXIV

Published in: on April 23, 2011 at 1:00 PM  Comments (1)  
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