Yells of anger and frustration mixed with orders from military officials rang throughout the town. About thirty to fifty men, warriors, were ransacking the small town, leaving no stone unturned. They were desperately looking for something. A young girl, dressed in gray and white linens keeping out of sight of the soldiers, eventually made her way to a walled in compound; a temple. She stepped into the temple on the edge of town, closing the large, wooden doors behind her. Making her way into the inner building, she moved in, again closing the next set of large doors behind her. Girls her age waited within, they looked to be young, the youngest perhaps only fourteen the oldest probably in her mid-twenties. The other girls approached her swiftly; anxious to find out what was going on outside their protective walls. "Adeline! What is happening? What have you seen? Thank God you are alright!" The young women bombarded her with questions.
The girl told them all in hushed tones, trying to keep their location quiet. "Sisters, a large garrison of soldiers are in the town, ransacking and taking prisoners, although I know not what they want."
They knew their location was far from hidden and that eventually the soldiers would reach them and very possibly desecrate their temple. Suddenly a small side door at the front of the sanctuary opened, and an older woman in brown and white cloth with a gray veil covering her face entered. Several of the sisters, frightened by the events outside their walls, rushed to the front side of the sanctuary to meet the woman. "I know what we must do; they cannot get their hands on it, to do so would nullify everything that we as protectors and sisters of the Divine Creator have worked so hard to obtain." The Woman announced walking quickly in the door.
"What are they after, Mother Superior? Someone here in the temple?" A novice spoke up.
"No, something. We have little time…" The older woman spoke, moving in haste to the foremost altar of the sanctuary. Though she was older her stature was straight and regal, even in her haste, the Mother Superior seemed to glide rather than step across the floor.
"What should we do Mother?"
"One of us whom the Creator has chosen shall take the object of utmost importance and flee, that is our only choice." She turned on a heel and stepped toward the altar.
"But where can she go, the girl who is chosen? Where can she go that the blackness will not find her?"
The Mother Superior had turned away as the young novice spoke; taking no notice of the question she was posed. She walked up the white marble steps to an altar, twisted the emblem on the cross above the altar and pulled it out; reaching inside she pulled out what appeared to be a bundle, wrapped in cloth and tied with old brown twine. The Mother Superior placed the emblem back in and restored the altar's cross to its previous image, looking exactly the same as it had before. Mother Superior stepped back towards the frightened group of women. Still sitting in the back was one of the older acolytes, perhaps twenty-three years of age, quietly praying. Mother Superior looked at her with a sympathetic smile, as if she knew all along that this girl would be the one needed for the task. The Mother moved through the young women around her toward the entrance of the sanctuary and stood before the praying sister, "Child?"
The young woman ceased her prayers and looked up; her face was soft and pale with a few scattered freckles. She had auburn hair, meticulously straightened and covered by a veil-like white cover. She raised her soft blue eyes up, looking toward the Mother Superior, frightened, yet her voice remained calm, "Yes Mother Superior?"
"My sweet child, ever since you were brought here as an infant, the Creator has told us both that you are special…"
The noise of the soldiers grew closer, signaling to them that the search would soon be fulfilled.
"Check the temple." The muffled order could be heard loudly through their thick, ancient walls.
Looks of common confusion and anxiety ran across the faces of the young women in the sanctuary, Mother Superior, who had turned her head toward the sound of the voices, now looked back at the chosen young woman. Her look spoke that there was to be little more explanation; now the young sister would have to do what she was told, without instruction.
The large wooden doors at the back burst open and several soldiers came marching in.
"Take it child, run." The Mother superior cried out, with a sudden movement and a wave of strength they had never seen in the woman, Mother Superior pulled the girl from her seat and pressed the bound cloth against her bosom.
The girl gazed at the Reverend Mother with a look part anxious and part remorseful, and then looking behind her, stuffed the object into a canvas bag next to her. The girl threw the bag across her shoulder and ran to her left towards another small side door. The soldiers were still several yards away marching in through the large wooden doors at the back; four or five of the soldiers saw her run and rushed passed the others near the altar in swift pursuit.
"You there, girl, HALT!" one soldier ordered.
"Go after her and bring what she carries to me," yelled the direction of their leader, announcing his entrance into the temple as he stepped across the threshold and onto sacred ground. As the shadowed man crossed the threshold he stopped, shaking with a small tremor, but quickly recovering himself he moved on down the central aisle.
"Head to the sacred grove, there you shall find the path to take." Mother Superior shouted after the young woman as she dashed through the doorway, five or six soldiers rushed past her as she spoke. They were now only yards behind the young woman.
The shadowed man stepped into the light of one of the stained glass windows high above, dressed in fine gilded armor he made his way down the aisle, his features still hidden in shadow, silhouetting him in darkness, though a patch across his heart indicated his status as a general. As he moved further into the light his features became visible. The General's skin was ashen and his eyes solid with no irises, completely black. The general scanned the room, finally setting his gaze on the Mother Superior; her own stern, unshaken reflection looking back at her through his shining, ebony eyes, held within dark, sunken sockets.
"You're lucky The Dark One wants your kind alive or I would strike you down where you stand." He mentioned toward the Reverend Mother, a menacing smirk across his gaunt face.
Just as quickly as his smirk rose, it faded, and a gloved hand slapped the Reverend Mother across her face. Gasps of shock came from the other sisters.
"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." Mother Superior asserted, turning her red cheeked face back towards the General, wearing a look which could only be described as fearlessness.
"We shall see," The General smirked again, "Take them away, The Dark One will want these infidels near."
A few of the seemingly endless soldiers stepped forward and began to herd the sisters out of the temple, noises of destruction and their sobs permeated the air. Mother Superior marched forward, head held high, her expression stoic, but with tears welling in her eyes. She would not let the soldiers, much less her charges see her agony, as everything she worked for crashed and burned around her. But in her heart she knew there was still hope, and that the battle was only just beginning.
The girl made her way through the maze of hallways that finally led to the back side and exit of the temple and ran out into the woods, hearing only the words of Mother Superior. 'Find the sacred grove? she thought. I have never even been there.' She ran onwards following only the gentle tug of the Divine Creator leading her on deeper into the forest. Sounds of the soldiers in chase grew rapidly closer. She quickened her step; however with every stride the growth became thicker, she continually maneuvered to dodge branches, leaves and other foliage which threatened to break her quick pace enough for the warriors to catch up; and according to Mother Superior, being caught was the worst of all fates, actually, she would say being caught with the bundle she protected was worse. Suddenly she bursts through into an open space. Green and lush with life, this area was indeed a wonder, and quite the secret, even amongst the sisters. She had found the sacred grove. Silence and peace filled the space with nothing but a singular altar erected for the Divine Creator at the center.
"Now what?" She spoke aloud. This has got to be it. Show me the way, Lord!
'Pull the cloth out.' Spoke the still small voice of the Lord into her heart.
Years of training had made her attuned to His voice.
Reaching into her pouch, she pulled out the bound cloth, quickly unbinding the package, she found it to contain a single, black, leather bound book. 'This is what they are after?' She thought.
'Open it,' came the command.
She opened the book and appearing before her, gold, glowing words, as if being inscribed on the blank, open page for the first time. The Sister watched with amazement.
It read, only blood engraved upon the altar shall open the way between worlds.
She looked around her for a sharp object. "This sharp rock will have to do" she sighed, picking up the sharp shaving of an old rock. She winced, cutting deep down her forefinger, but she would not risk failure by not spilling enough of her blood. She stuffed the book with the cloth back into her bag. Stepping up to the altar she squeezed blood onto the recesses in the altar.
"Where are you little wench?" A soldier called, from several yards away in the brush.
'Nothing is happening!' she began to panic.
'Engraved,' the Lord spoke.
She heard his voice and looked over the altar and there, on the large upright stonework of the altar carved into the stone, she saw was the symbol of The Creator. Inspiration revived in her and she placed her finger on the symbol. Squeezing, the blood pooled from her cut as she winced. She quickly rubbed it into the symbol and stepped back.
"Come on!" she whispered, impatience growing.
Before her eyes the blood absorbed into the stone engraving, like water into a sponge. A white light filled the symbol, rapidly growing brighter until finally the entire grove was encompassed in its light.
The warriors had noticed.
The blinding light faded and the altar was gone, replaced with a doorway open upon what resembled a market in a town, only it appeared from nowhere.
'Go,' demanded the ethereal voice.
She glanced back over her shoulder to see the soldiers break into the clearing, and she ran in through the door. The doorway began to vanish, but not before the men chasing after her had followed her in.
The door closed and the altar and grove were all that were left. All was again silent and still. No sign that anyone had occupied the grove seconds before remained.
Boom! The ignited cannons echoed off the surrounding hillside announcing the opening of the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur Colorado. Hundreds of Faire goers entered the park. Some dressed casually while others donned costumes, all excited for a day of medieval frivolity.
Many got into character as inhabitants of this ancient festival, greeted by members of the royal court. A few of these were a group of 'gypsies' in the middle of a coronation of their 'Queen'. In actuality, it was a group of friends decked out in Medieval-Renaissance costume, bestowing a crown to Holly, the woman who had been like an aunt to many of them. They had purchased the crown and all pitched in to pay for its not small cost. In the group of friends there were five young men, Michael, Josh, Andy, Phillip, and Sean, and four young women, Jessie, Cassie, Lena, and Kristin.
After the Queen was crowned, they made their way through the front gates and into the faire, further getting into character as part of the Festival. They began their day wandering around and enjoying the sights, shops and most of all, the food.
"I'm going to watch the joust." Michael remarked. "We've never watched it before, at least not when I've been here that I can remember."
Michael was 24. He worked for an oil company, shipping and receiving. He was pretty much proficient at anything athletic. His brown hair nearly covered his eyes; he might almost look 'emo' were his hair the deciding factor, but almost everything else about him looked like a regular 24 year old guy from Colorado. Fairly tall, medium build, handsome face, and a half smirk which might look awkward to the naked eye, but to those that knew him, it was one of his signature facial expressions.
"I don't see why not, it would be nice to rest my feet for a bit." A middle aged woman with long silky strawberry red hair, answered. This was Holly, the newly "proclaimed queen" of the festival, and the 'matriarch' of the group.
"I think I'll go too," Phillip remarked. Phillip, Michael's younger brother by about a year and a half, was tall, semi-muscular, dirty blond and handsome. He walked toward Holly and Michael, and then turned toward the others. "We can meet up near the entrance when we're through, cool?"
"No problem, we'll meet you there. Don't get yourselves into too much trouble." Kristin responded.
So the three of them stopped to watch the joust and be a part of the ancient rights for manhood. Sean left to take sword fighting lessons while the girls, Josh, and Andy, moved on; looking at more of the shops, joking with each other as usual, and watching with interest the acts and performers around the festival.
'Hurry, you are running out of time.' the girl thought to herself as she continued her flight from the soldiers, ever on her heels.
The large market faire she witnessed had many oddities. It looked in part like a large town marketplace, but there were also strangely dressed men and women around, some stranger looking than others. It also seemed to be more of a festival than a market place, as she had thought when she first laid eyes on it through the doorway in the grove. A woman and man passed by her on wooden stilts, while she ran past a canopy which seemed to contain royalty and their court who looked unfamiliar to her. She continued running, unaware of where she was going or what she was supposed to do. "Lord, show me the way," she whispered in lost exasperation.
She suddenly saw a tailor shop calling itself "costume rental," understanding her need to blend in become lost in the crowd, she ran quickly inside to shed her habit, dawn a new attire and hopefully lose her pursuers.
She ran straight to whom she thought the proprietor might be, at the front bar. "Sir, I am in need of a new dress, I however am short of coin and have nothing to offer. But in your eyes I see good, so I will tell you who I am. I am Sister Rose Marie, a Sister of Prophecy. Please, if you will, please allow me a dress so that I might escape my pursuers." Rose Marie spilled out in one breathe, followed by a gasp for air.
The proprietor, confused but obviously smitten by the young woman's appearance and character answered, "Sure thing, My Lady, you're obviously with the festival, so just go into the back room, pick something out quick and bring it back at the end of the day. …Maybe then you and I can get a drink or something to eat or…"
"Oh thank you sir, thank you!" Rose Marie interrupted him and ran towards the back of the establishment, swooping by to grab an entire nearby rack and pull it into the dressing-room to quickly change, ignoring the man's implications.
Quickly changing, and with a smile of thanks to the proprietor, Rose Marie, the Sister of Prophecy, left the establishment with her new wardrobe and precious package.
Halting mid point to listen to 'the madrigals', a group of five beautiful singing women, Josh stood, listening to the wonderful sound of their flawless harmony and thinking, in a sad sense, about his life. Josh was 23, having the desire to aspire to more great things, he was apathetic about life. He contemplated his situation as the women sang. His job was not the only reason for his sadness, some of it seemed unknown, even to him. It was a dissatisfaction with life or something he guessed, a desire to do something more, to be something more. He was interrupted, mid thought, as he was slammed into and struck to the ground with a solid thud. "What the devil is…?" Josh yelled out seconds after he was struck down, but looking up, he found he was unable to finish his statement.
Instead of finding a dead beat drunk or the impertinent teenager who had knocked him over on his back, he found a stunning woman with auburn hair and pale blue eyes. She sat on top of him in black and green dress, a beautiful combination which accentuated her good points, of which there were many.
"Oh I'm sorry," She said in a light and unfamiliar accent, still slightly flustered. Sitting up and dusting the dirt off her shoulders.
"No, no I'm sorry" he said even though he surely didn't mean it. She had run into him, but so far he wasn't too upset about it. "Are you alright?"
"No, I'm being pursued…" She blurted out.
"Okay, but are you hurt?" Josh unconsciously ignored her statement.
"I do not think so," She examined herself quickly.
She was wearing black leather, knee high boots, a black and green maidens dress, embossed with gold and silver leaf and a sage green overcoat loosely tied over her small frame, adorned with silver designs along the seams and a hood.
"Well thank goodness for that." Joshua smirked looking her once over. Josh was a big guy with red hair. He was about six-foot and heavy set. His weight was one thing that often times made him self-conscious. Surprisingly, especially to him, he began flirting with this mystery woman without as much as a self-conscious afterthought. 'The magic of being at the Renaissance Festival,' he quickly thought.
'Give him the book; these are some of the ones foretold by prophecy.' The ethereal voice spoke to the girl's heart.
'Really Creator?' She prayed, looking down curiously at the smug young man smirking up at her, obviously smitten. 'They can't be.'
'Trust me, they will be, now hurry.' His calm voice consoled her and urged her on, causing her heart to beat a little faster, making her anxious.
'alright, here it goes' "Here," she stated, reaching into the bag hanging over her shoulder and pulling out the bound leather book.
'Speak to him the portion of the prophecy they need to know.'
"What is this?"
"Never mind that just listen to my words," She grabbed his poets' shirt and pulled him close, "I don't have much time."
"Okay." Josh was stunned while at the same time beside himself. This was hot.
"Please listen to my words."
"I am listening." He replied in earnest. It certainly wasn't every day a beautiful woman knocked him on his back and conversed with him in such seriousness. A seriousness, Josh thought, that seemed to be unrehearsed. But surely she must be one of the actors for the festival.
She began to spout off in some sort of rhyme, speaking quickly but clearly, so as not to miss a word.
"There unknown in ages past
A threat still lies in shadowed eyes
Be careful now whom ye seek
For the darkness is far from weak
He comes in shadow, mist and flame
Devouring all who do so claim
To fight for truth in Savior's Name
Heed my words be truly wise
Be wary of the shadowed skies
When darkened eyes thou do see
Know the beginning of prophecy has come to be."
She paused, apparently done with her poetry. For a moment she just stared into Joshua's eyes, as if she was waiting for him to say something. Joshua didn't realize what she was waiting for, but he had already forgotten all she said. Her gorgeous blue eyes pierced through him. He only wished now that she would tell him her name and that she wasn't just playing a part, although more and more he couldn't be sure. In what seemed an eternity for Joshua and at the same time not nearly long enough, she let him go and shoved her book at him, "Here take it."
"What are you talking about?" He began to hand the book back, seriously confused at the entire situation.
Yards away to Josh's left, Phillip, Michael and Holly approached them, returning from the joust. "Hey you guys missed an awesome jousting match the black knight did this thing where h . . ." Michael stopped mid-sentence as he realized what an odd situation was at hand before them. A mystery girl straddled Josh, who lay dumbstruck on the ground holding a book. Lena and Kristin watched the situation curiously, laughing to each other as Josh and Andy gawked at the beautiful young woman.
"Hey Josh, who's your friend?" Phillip approached a few more steps, talking to Joshua but not breaking eye contact with the young woman who looked up at him. He smiled and slightly nodded his head toward her. Their gaze probably only lasted a few seconds, but it seemed much longer to Josh. Jealousy began to rise in him, and then he wondered why he was jealous for this girl he had just met. Actually, he still hadn't even gotten her name.
A single raven cawed overhead, circling them from fifty feet above. The young woman looked up at the raven and then over her shoulder. Josh was grateful for the distraction which finally broke Phillip and the young woman from their staring contest. Her eyes grew wide, a look of urgency spreading across her face.
'They have spotted you, GO!'
"They found me, I have got to go!" She cried, turning back toward Josh. "Do not let them get this book, for the sake of the Divine Creator take the book!" She shoved it back towards him, knocking him from his position propped up on his elbows again onto his back, and further pushing herself up off of him and onto her feet.
"The fate of all He has designed rests on you, all of you, please promise me you will not fail." She looked around at the group amassed around her, and then back at Josh with what he could have sworn was a slight grin, as if there was something comedic about him.
"Promise me!" She shouted, putting an instant stop to his theorizing.
"Alright, I promise." He replied more than a little confused.
"They are after me; I must go… I pray we shall see each other again." She looked around her once again and turned opposite the direction she had come from.
"Who is after you? Stay, maybe we can help." Joshua said a little louder than he had planned. Funny, the only thing he hoped for right now was that she didn't think he was yelling at her.
Definitely smirking this time she turned back and answered, "You are far from ready; right now the best way you can help is to keep the book with you, safe. Don't worry, in time you will help." She ran off, disappearing into the crowd.
They all gazed after her except for Andy who watched in the opposite direction towards a commotion on its way toward them "This doesn't look good," he squinted to see who now would emerge into the square.
A group of soldiers dressed in full battle leather and armor pushed their way through the crowd. "She went that way, go! Go!" One of the soldiers shouted.
But she had already faded into the crowd
The soldiers pushed past the group, not noticing that the item they sought was now in the possession of these unaware commoners. The soldiers continued, disappearing into the far end of the crowded square.
A few moments of silent confusion passed before the Madrigals began to sing again and talking resumed.
"Well that was wizard." Jessie chimed in her usual manner letting the moment pass.
"Uh ... So what just happened? Anyone?" Andy asked.
"I have no idea." Joshua said turning back around and looking at the book. Something was telling him this was no acting gig, and that she was no ordinary girl.
"What's the book?" Phillip outstretched his hand, "May I see it?"
Joshua reluctantly handed the book to Phillip, still a little put out about him flirting with his girl. Had he just thought that? 'His girl?' he hardly had a two minute conversation with her, and failed to get her name. But his mind, no his heart kept saying, my girl, my girl… Phillip unwound the leather cord holding it closed and flipped through the books flaking, aged brown pages. "It's empty." He said, confused.
"What?" Joshua exclaimed still sitting fully off the ground hand outstretched towards the book.
"Yeah, completely blank." Phillip handed the book back toward Josh. "Careful, it's a lot more aged than I thought, pretty brittle."
Joshua took the book from his hands and flipped through it himself, in complete shock.
"Well at least she was attractive." Andy remarks.
"Pschh!" Lena scoffed, "She was alright."
Long seconds passed as all four of the men looked at her. "Okay, Okay, she was beautiful… and her dress was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!"
"I concur," Kristin gave Lena a knowing look. "So what do we do now?" she asked, flipping her bangs out from in front of her left eye.
"What else can we do? We wait." Joshua answered. But for what he did not know.
"Get out of here and get some dinner?" Cassie suggested.
Sean approached from his sword lessons looking strangely at Josh who was still half lying, half sitting in the dirt. "Uh, what's going on guys? Typical Josh moment or…?"
"I'll explain on the way, bro" Kristin replied to her younger brother, "I'll at least try and explain what I can understand."
"Well, you guys ready? Let's go get some dinner and then see what happens." Phillip determined for the group.
"Sounds good to me," Josh responded, through his eyes showed that his thoughts were miles away.
"Alright buddy, up off your dirt, let's go." Phillip helped him up off the ground and the two followed the others toward the exit.
Josh and Phillip walked in silence, Phillip concerned over Josh's silence, and Josh pondering over what just transpired. This had just been thrust at him, and from what the young woman had said, some of the others too. He mainly rode in silence back down into the city, his mind still focused on the beautiful girl and the words she spoke to them. None of them had any idea what was to come, what was to happen, and how all of them were destined to encounter a coming darkness. This empty book in their hands was just the beginning.