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  

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