Book Two: The Voyage of the Templar Guardians

Coming in 2019! The saga continues… here are just a few excerpts from the new book.

DSCN2398The bowels of the earth wrenched below the continent of Europe propelling the wyvern egg eastward through the underground stream. Wet darkness engulfed Adam in a faint pulsing of life — a horrific suffocation seized him, depriving him of all other sensations. Was he dead, or not yet born? Confused, he felt faint shapes of thin wings floating in the abyss, under extreme pressure— melding creature and telluric current into one essence of stone and fire.

It was as though his very essence were compressed into some new substance   — no longer Adam de Dalrymple of Scotland, but some newly emerging creation yet to be unleashed upon the earth.

In panic, he struggled to extricate himself from the fluid pulsations of the metamorphosis

Then, in a blast of white light and a sea of screams, he felt the earth shake. He emerged, pressed through a crack in the earth’s crust, through which the underground stream vented into an ocean floor in a jet of heated water. The wyvern egg landed on the seabed  near the eruption, with the shell encasing him softening slightly as it cooled.

Suddenly, he gasped. Pain jolted Adam into new awareness as a bolder rolled toward him. Where was he? Beyond the rocky shoreline, he saw a city built of white stones shaking. Obelisks, and columns lining the harbor front toppled, crumbled around him. Offshore, a tower, taller than anything he had ever seen, swayed, but did not fall. Men scrambled along parapets and clung to trees as currents of water receded, emptying the harbor bed and laying sea creatures and ships bare in the sand.

Adam cried out, but he only heard the rush of water being drawn out of the harbor into the sea. Then came the silent wall of water, taller than the sail masts of ships, inundating much of the city and drowning all in its wake who could not swim. Only the great Library of Alexandria withstood the flood and the Lighthouse tower survived the the massive wave. To Adam’s horror, wide eyed bodies floated around him in the thousands. Death was everywhere.

Then he heard a voice say, “Lad! Ye’ve slept way past sunrise! What’s wrong with ye?” Sir Iain hurriedly wiped the fever from Adam’s face with the corner of his soot covered mantle. “Ye’re burning up! I only left ye for a few days to help yer pa with final preparations at Dalrymple Wood and now look at ye!”

Adam awoke disoriented and shaken. He swung his arm randomly, hitting a stray helmet laying in the mud. “Sir!” and fell back unconscious. Cinders fell like rain in the dreary morning, choking the air.

“Sergeant!” Iain barked “ I gave ye strict orders to keep this lad from harm and now he has fallen ill. We must keep the regiment moving if we are to avoid contact with the English.”

Sir Iain surveyed the smoldering village on the far side of River Teviot. Odor of slaughtered sheep littering the scavenged field mingled with mutton that had been roasted over the pyre of a humble croft. Starving English soldiers were left to scavenge like snarling curs, raiding cellars, granaries and gardens of their victims.

“Make a bed for the squire in the back of this covered cart and ye best tread lightly the remaining way to Melrose Abbey. He’s been too long exposed to the elements.  Why has he been left to walk instead of riding his horse?” Sir Iain grabbed the Templar sergeant’s filthy collar with both fists and lifted him by it.   “Where is his horse? Ye’ve given the lad no reprieve and now ye’ll receive none! If he survives the coming days to Melrose, perhaps yer penance will be merciful. But if he perishes along the way,” Sir Iain growled, “ye’ll be executed for treason and denied unction.” As second highest Templar officer in Scotland, Sir Iain seldom allowed his temper to run so fierce. But the notion of the lad dying from neglect was unconscionable. Too much was riding on Adam de Dalrymple’s safety!

Sir Iain released the sergeant and lifted Adam from the soggy ground. A lay brother assisted Sir Iain in removing Adam’s his soggy cloak. “Bring fresh clothing for him; anything warm and dry will suffice.”  The lay brother returned with a wool sack and laid it open. Once they situated Adam in the cart and covered him with mounds of wool, the Templar regiment rode toward eastward toward Melrose Abbey.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnly the brightest stars penetrated Scotland’s mid-summer night sky. A bright meteor burst into the midheaven, reflecting in the inky waters of Scotland’s Firth of Forth.  Two flat-bottomed skiffs pitched against white-capped swells, heading towards the hermitage isle of Emona.

Shivering from the dowsing of frigid water, Hannah de Dalrymple leaned into the stiff breeze as she gripped her hood against the salty wind.  Startled by the sudden flash of light overhead, she directed her attention upward and watched the flaming orb fall toward her from on high in a miraculous lingering blaze. The flare lasted only moments, but  its duration and trajectory toward her very person shook her from her sullen grimace.

Such a spectacle provided only temporary relief from her frustrations as waves lashed the small boat. Hannah twisted her hands into the folds of her favorite sky blue woolen skirt and held her plaid cloak close to stave off the chill. But she could not seem to contain her long locks of riotous red hair and also remain upright on the narrow rail seat of the shallow boat. Looking up to watch the meteor did not improve her stability.

Soaked, chilled to the bone and disillusioned, Hannah turned to the oarsman behind her and demanded testily, “Where are ye taking us in this sham of a…” A blast of cold water crashed over the bow of the boat and hit her in the back of the head.

“Och!” Drenched, her teeth began to chatter. She wiped the salt from her face with a damp sleeve. Every dip of the skiff’s bow splashed more cold salt spray of the North Sea.

The Egyptian Prince Djeru acknowledged the unpleasantness of the situation, “The moon provides minimal light for navigation on this mid-summer’s eve. And the falling star bodes ill for our mission. Have patience.”

Hannah pretended not to hear, “I’ve no idea where ye’re taking us or any clue as to the larger plan for leaving Scottish shores.  Then ye set us adrift instead in these wee vessels?”

Prince Djeru of Alexandria responded calmly, “For yer safety, James de Douglas and yerself need be ushered into the care of the Scottish Templars at the behest of the Lord of the North. ’Tis the Templars who provide for yer lodgings. Although I escort ye to yer interim abode, I answer only to Lord Lair Eagan of the North. Now take care with yer tone.”

Hannah scowled into the palpable absence of festival fires along the shoreline, then wiped the salt spray from her cheek. “The countryside should be filled with firelight of summer solstice celebrations. ’Tis highly unusual for our people to be shrouded in such darkness,”

Heavy oak oars sliced mesmerizing circles in inky water, making barely any sound, when the oarsman answered.“Ye speak truth, lass, but the kingdom mourns. How can we celebrate when Scotland’s sovereignty is forfeit? The fire of the Scottish spirit flees into the shadows.”

Prince Djeru said, “Silence!  English watchmen posted along Edinburgh’s quay might hear ye!”

Hannah clenched her teeth,“I concede that taking risks in these rough waters by night must portended wider difficulties.”

Hannah kept silent in the skiff, while swells pressed relentlessly toward the windward shoreline of Emona isle. Hannah heard a haunting moan of ever-turning windmill blades in the near distance.  “We must be nearing land and civilized company,” she whispered to Djeru, who did not respond.   All was otherwise dark and eerily quiet. The scrape of grist mill stones on the island’s shore set Hannah’s nerves on edge. “Jamie, do ye hear that?”  She could barely see James de Douglas, who struggled to brace himself against every dip of the other skiff’s bow.

“We’re almost to shore, my lady. Keep yer wits or we’ll be discovered.”  Said Djeru.

The oarsman kept rhythm rowing toward their destination, when out of the darkness came a wave that caused the skiff to suddenly list sideways and over turn. In an instant, Hannah found herself submerged in stygian suffocation. With only the gurgle of seawater in her ears and  airbubbles to orient her direction, she struggled to right herself and ascend to the surface. She fought against her heave wool garments that had protected her from the unseasonable cold, now weighted her down and threatened to drown her. In a glance toward a spec of light, she cast a silent plea for help. Seconds seemed like hours, as she battled the urge to gasp for air, sinking in tangles of wool plaid.


 

DSCN2400Sir Iain passed through the sacristy and the lady chapel, searching for a private place to pray for guidance on addressing today’s gathering. With the Templar Master of Scotland absent, he was left in charge of more than managing Templar military forces.  The abbeys and guilds also looked to him for leadership and he not now idea how to comfort them.

The newly carved wooden door connecting the lady chapel to the church swung stiffly on its wrought iron henges, scraping against the slate floor. Sir Iain cringed at the reverberation throughout the partially constructed nave. Delicate slender windows filled the newly completed choir portion of the cruciform church with simple cistercian architecture of light. Smoke curled upwards. Sir Iain marveled at the stone-carved prophets and angels keeping watch high among the painted stars strewn across the vaulted ceiling.

Traditionally, this most holy day of summer was a time of great celebration, but war had changed everything. He surveyed the church interior.  The eastern sector of the new church was finally habitable. His mantle brushed the step as he knelt before the new marble statue of St. Katherine of Alexandria, standing majestically beside her broken wheel. He felt St. Katherine’s eyes bearing down on him, but why? Might she assist him?

A cistercian monk clad in un-dyed wool approached the high altar and greeted Sir Iain with a silent nod. He whistled slightly out of tune under his breath as he stacked sacrament bread beside the chalice of wine for the coming eucharist. The  monk seemed oblivious to the sorrows of the outside world; but then, what could be more important than partaking of the body and blood of Christ?

Emptying his mind of worries proved difficult. Try as he might, Iain could not shake his resentment of Brian le Jay’s conspicuous absence. It was as if the Templar master was intentionally withholding his support to the very men who answered to him.

Then a dark thought crept into Iain de Douglas’ prayer with new clarity. Why had he not seen this treachery before? However distasteful the notion might be, it made sense that Brian le Jay was more than an Englishman by birth; he was an English sympathizer, a traitor to Scotland.  Iain had long suspected that Brian le Jay’s political ambitions far exceeded his sense of duty to Scotland. Sir Iain gazed up into St. Katherine’s somber face. Yes, Brian le Jay planned to deliver Scotland into English hands and even no one could stop it. Then the Häling came to mind.  It was not crucial, now more than ever to find haven for them beyond Scottish shores.