Summary: An ancient civilization terraformed Planet X, later called Earth. The civilization is long gone, but the ancient knowledge is secretly passed on from generation to generation. In 1590, George Hunter, initiated by Master Edward, becomes one of the twelve guardians who form the grand council. George, now guardian and keeper of the truth, has to flee England. With the help and in company of Jonathan Britten, he travels to Spain to meet a fellow guardian. They are lured into a trap, however. A man has disappeared, a precious object was stolen, and George and Jonathan are chased. The ancient knowledge is about to be misused.
The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and a spirit of anticipation was hovering over the waters.
Our spaceship arrived 65 million years B.C.
We had crossed the universe in hope of finding a new world to live in. We were on a mission. 350 men had been sent to an inhospitable planet.
Planet X, later called Earth, was a target picked by our experts. The planet’s location in the universe was ideal. Planet X was chosen for terraforming. The planet’s conditions were perfect for our race.
Life would come to an end on our home planet Adon. Our sun was dying and would burn our planet, although we still had eons to live a comfortable life. Our experts, however, had calculated the remaining lifespan. It was short compared to the time that had already passed since our race had settled in on Adon. Therefore, the grand council had decided to prepare our emigration.
Several planets had been chosen for investigation. Planet X had proven to be the best choice. There was only one problem. Planet X was inhabited by wild creatures, dangerous and coldblooded reptiles.
Our primary task was to eliminate the dinosaurs.
Our shuttles landed on the planet and we explored the surroundings. After several cautious, yet thorough investigations, we decided to take drastic steps. There were far too many reptiles to eliminate them step by step. Countless herds and individuals lived in every corner of the planet. They were many. They were huge and fast and they were wild and dangerous. We were 350 men against millions of coldblooded creatures. We decided to take the only option that made sense. We decided to eliminate them all at one single blow.
We detached a moon from the orbit of Mars with the help of our special and advanced technology. Missiles steered it into the direction of Planet X. We observed the controlled impact from our spaceship. Before returning home, we orbited several satellites that would transmit their observations to our home planet. Through a worm hole we returned home.
About 65 million years passed by.
Our life expectancy is much longer than the average life expectancy of a modern human being. The lifespan of a human is short. It’s just the blink of an eye from our perspective. Our lifespan is shorter now, however, since we settled in on Planet X. While we lived for eons then, from the perspective of a human being, our lifespan shortened to 10,000 years on an average after only two generations. None of our experts had foreseen this effect. It became a major issue when we came back to Earth about one million years B.C.
Our satellites had observed Planet X’s progress. The impact had eliminated the dinosaurs. It had had severe effects on the planet’s atmosphere, flora and fauna. In the course of almost 65 million years the planet had changed considerably. Only few reptiles had survived. Warm-blooded creatures inhabited the planet. They had originated from small animals that had lived during the time of the dinosaurs. They were the product of evolution. We had foreseen this effect.
The controlled impact had changed the planet’s conditions in the way we had planned it. It had fuelled evolution. Evolution is the same always with the same conditions on a planet. So, about one million years B.C. a creature lived on Planet X, a creature we had expected to find there. It was not a monkey. It was not a modern human being. It was a primitive man with limited brain capacity. Those creatures had bred well. Many of them lived in a region now called Africa.
We decided to return to Planet X and build our first colonies. We had set a schedule, and we would meet it. Life on Adon was still agreeable. But life on Adon would come to an end.
3,500 men arrived in two spaceships. 3,000 of them descended to Planet X, while the remaining men stayed in the spaceships on orbit. 1,000 of the 3,000 built a colony in South Africa; 2,000 built the first capital on Earth, the name that was now assigned to Planet X.
Eden, the first capital city, was built in the land of Ur. The splendid city was built between Euphrates and Tigris. While Eden was embellished on a grand scale, the second crew located the gold mines in South Africa and started to drive tunnels. Gold was the metal we needed most. Our technology was based on it. This is why it became so precious and adorable in later times.
While the engineers constructed and erected our basal colonies, the medical scientists examined, tested and analyzed several individuals of the primitive monkey-like creature living on Earth. All examinations proved to be promising. So the grand council of Eden decided to take the next step of terraforming.
The council decided to make man in our image and in our likeness. But man was not supposed to be self-aware and he was supposed to die after a brief period of time. His lifespan would be just the blink of our eye. We decided to create man in our own image. We created men by genetic engineering.
Those human beings looked a lot like us because we had implemented several of our genes. However, those beings were simple and ignorant. We used them for working in the gold mines. Their work was not productive, however. They needed constant guidance and supervision. After a few months practice, we realized our creation was a failure.
After long discussions, the grand council of Eden made a bold and risky decision. We decided to create man a second time. The newly created man was intelligent and self-aware. He was aware of life and death and of good and evil. And his work was productive. His lifespan was still short and we did not change this. So, in the eyes of man, we lived forever. He came to terms with his fate, yet he never accepted it. Man strives after immortality.
As time passed by, the race of Adon and the race of man mixed. Their descendants formed one single race, the race of Earth. Terraforming was completed. 65 million years had passed. Our mission was accomplished.
As time passed by, the new race of Earth more and more forgot about the knowledge that the race of Adon had brought to Earth. It’s not entirely lost, however. The chosen guardians have guarded it ever since the time Eden was erected on Planet X. The knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. Though secret and hidden, Adon’s knowledge is still alive. Many found it and many more will. One day, many years from now, the race of Earth will regain the ancient knowledge. They will know how to use it. And they must because one day in the future the race of Earth will leave their home planet to find a new home in the universe. This is the course of evolution.
The grand council of Eden held its final meeting in the year 6,000 B.C. It was decided then to divide Earth into three sections. Each section would be ruled by a different ruler. Each ruler would seek to keep Adon’s knowledge alive. Each ruler would seek to hide it from ignorant eyes for meanwhile the race of Earth outnumbered the original race of Adon. The men from Adon still were the rulers of Eden. But they were few, an elite, compared to the number of descendants that had originated from mixed race couples.
It was then that the grand council of Adon declared that their mission was accomplished. Only chosen individuals would be taught the full knowledge of Adon to pass it on from generation to generation. The race of Earth would now develop and grow on its own. The guardians would watch and only interfere if absolutely necessary.
The first three rulers were the first guardians. Those rulers were the ruler of India, the ruler of Sumer, and the ruler of Egypt. The knowledge was placed in three places to make sure it would survive. The realms of India, Sumer and Egypt lasted for a very long time. Egypt was the most successful. But even Egypt’s rule and power ceased to be.
But the ancient knowledge is still secretly passed on from generation to generation. You have to dig deep, however, to find it, decode it and decipher it. It is not impossible, though.
“Those are the ancient words,” Master Edward said, putting aside the scroll.
He looked at George silently, measuring him.
“Now it’s time I pass the knowledge on to the next generation. I pass it on to you, George. You have studied for fifteen years. You are ready to receive the ancient wisdom and keep it secret until you’ll find someone to whom you will it pass it on.”
They looked at each other for some time quietly.
“I will keep it secret, Master Edward. I do understand the danger. Mankind is not yet ready to learn the truth. It must not come to light.”
Master Edward shook his head slowly. He looked into the dark chamber for some time absent-mindedly. The light of a single candle flickered. George heard the rain outside.
“No, George, mankind is not yet ready to learn the truth. Many more centuries will go by until mankind is ready to understand it.”
Master Edward paused for a moment. Then he smiled vaguely.
“At least, that man, I always forget his name, Nicolaus Copernicus, I think, he studied the universe and he said that the sun was the centre of our solar system.”
Master Edward smiled almost wickedly.
“He was a little step ahead. Don’t you think so, George?”
“Well, yes. The church denies this truth. What if someone told them that there were millions of suns and planets out there? What if someone said that many of those planets were inhabited by intelligent beings? Beings far more developed than mankind is. They would not believe it. It’s heresy. Anyone who made such a statement would surely be sentenced to death. Burned on the stake, most certainly. What if someone tells them that many of these beings know how to leave their planet and travel in spaceships? What if someone tells them they are able to travel here? What if someone told them that millions of years ago those beings came to Earth and terraformed the planet? I mean, look at the people, Master Edward. They do not even know about dinosaurs. People would panic.”
Master Edward smirked.
“Well, George, this is exactly why we must keep it secret. People would certainly panic. This would result in Armageddon.”
He looked pensively.
“The ancient race left us a warning, George. Read the last chapter of the Bible.”
“I read it,” George said in a serious voice. “Every guardian knows he would be responsible for this world’s devastation, if he chose to untimely reveal the ancient truth. Luckily, all of them so far were honourable men. None of them revealed the secret. They kept the secret for thousands of years. They were men of strong will.”
Master Edward smiled mildly.
“Not all of them kept it secret, George. A few of them failed. They tried to take personal advantage of the ancient truth. But they never succeeded because the ancient law says that a man who failed as a guardian shall be destroyed by his fellow guardians quickly and without a warning.”
George blinked. His heart jumped and his face turned pale.
“You know all that, George. We have discussed it many times. I taught you all. There are several guardians in every corner of the planet. They know each other’s names. And they watch each other as closely as they watch the world around them.”
George looked at Master Edward in wonder. Master Edward bent forward. He lowered his voice.
“I have not yet told you all, George. And you have not yet seen all. But it is time for you now to learn the final secret.”
Master Edward rose from his chair slowly. George gazed at him for a moment, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Then he jumped to his feet quickly and helped the old man.
Master Edward nodded at him gratefully.
“I will pass away soon, George. I sense my end is close.”
He made a gesture with his hand when George opened his mouth. George looked to the floor awkwardly.
“Come, George,” Master Edward said.
He crossed the room and opened an old wooden door. George followed him. They climbed the staircase that led to the top of the tower. George had accompanied Master Edward often. They had often watched the stars from the top of the tower. None of the other people living in the castle knew of this staircase. None of them ever entered Master Edward’s chamber because they were afraid of him.
Master Edward was called a mage. He had been Duke Raleigh’s counsellor for almost sixty years. He had counselled the duke’s father and the duke’s grandfather. Master Edward was 93 years of age. He had outlived almost three generations. People said he was immortal. They were afraid of him. Even Duke Raleigh shuddered when the old man entered the council hall once a month to discuss the horoscopes with him.
Master Edward’s advice had always been correct. He had foreseen every event. The Raleighs had learned to trust him. Although sorcery was a serious crime in the 16th century, none of the Raleighs had ever handed Master Edward over to the authorities. His advice was welcomed. The Raleighs considered themselves lucky to have a powerful mage with them. The current duke did not remember when Master Edward had arrived at the castle. He had been around always. And the duke assumed he always would. He had already introduced Master Edward to his first born son, a six year old child who had started to cry at the sight of the old man. The duke had slapped the child’s face which had resulted in even louder yells. He had apologized to Master Edward. He was sure that once his son was duke, Master Edward would still be there.
Master Edward had explained to George that the scroll he showed to the duke contained drawings of horoscopes he had made about sixty-five years ago. He had shown the same scroll to any of the dukes every month in sixty-five years. None of them had ever noticed.
“They need something to hold in their hands while they listen to me,” Master Edward said to George. “They look at the drawings in amazement. They don’t speak Greek and Hebrew. And they don’t understand the symbols. So it’s all very magical to them. They always keep nodding while I talk to them. They think I do complicated calculations day and night for their sake. They provide me with food and clothes in return and a considerable amount of money every month. I told them I needed the money for I had not yet managed to turn stone into gold. They are not very happy about it. But they are well aware that no alchemist so far has managed this task. They think it’s either impossible or incredibly difficult. And they don’t want me to waste my time with useless efforts. They told me to rather calculate the monthly horoscopes. My advice is correct always. This is a tremendous benefit. I helped the three dukes to increase their wealth, power and influence immensely.”
“But how do you know what is best to do?” George asked.
Master Edward smiled.
“I watch what’s going on, George. I watch the people. They are selfish and egocentric most of the time. They talk, babble and gossip. They can’t keep any secret for a long time. It’s very easy. I talk to two or three persons every day, preferably in the kitchen. I listen to the speakers in the council carefully before I speak up. And I look into the mirror. Thus I know which advice is the best advice.”
George looked surprised.
“You look into the mirror?”
Master Edward chuckled. He winked and George frowned a little. He was sure the old man had fooled him. George soon forgot about the mirror.
Therefore, his eyes widened when Master Edward opened a hidden door on top of the tower, mumbling something about a mirror. Edward had never seen this hidden door. Another staircase showed up behind it. The stairs led down. Master Edward moved ahead, and George followed him quickly.
The stairs led to another door. Master Edward pulled out a key of his pocket and opened it. The door swung open. They entered. George spotted a wooden table, a wooden chair and a black mirror on the table.
“This is the mirror,” Master Edward said almost casually. He closed the door and locked it.
George gazed at the dark mirror.
“It’s black,” he simply said.
“It’s not activated,” Master Edward said.
He crossed the room and gently touched a button at the bottom of the mirror. The mirror turned bright instantly.
George gazed at it in utter astonishment. He approached slowly and bent forward cautiously. He gazed at the white screen for some time.
“I can’t see my face,” he said finally.
Master Edward snickered.
“No, you can’t see your face. It’s not a usual mirror. Look, George.”
Master Edward touched another button. A green square appeared on the screen. George swallowed hard. Apparently, Master Edward was not only a watcher but also a most powerful mage.”
“Silence,” Master Edward said seriously.
He turned back to the mirror and spoke in a very distinct voice. He spoke to the mirror. And he spoke Hebrew. Master Edward had barely stopped speaking, when Hebrew letters appeared in the green square on the screen.
“Read them,” Master Edward said.
George bent forward. The letters were written distinctly. The words were easy to read. George read aloud.
“There is written what you said aloud a minute ago,” George said, astonished. “The letters are written so clearly. It is a wonder.”
He turned to Master Edward.
“What’s this all about, Master Edward?”
Master Edward looked at George pensively.
“Well, George, I told you of the ancient equipment. The race of Adon brought here many things. I showed you drawings, very exact drawings. It’s hard for us to understand them or even imagine the machines. But here, George, you see one of the ancient machines. It’s still working. Not all is lost and has disappeared. There are secret places where many of the ancient machines are still kept. And always two of the guardians hold that special knowledge those ancient engineers had. They know how to repair and keep working these mirrors.”
Master Edward gave George a serious look before he continued.
“This is the most difficult knowledge, George. Many years of training are required to learn how to keep the mirrors running. We have lost many mirrors over the years. The number of engineers dropped when Ancient Egypt ceased to be. Ancient Egypt had preserved the knowledge so well. Unfortunately, Egypt had to give in to Rome’s power. The mirrors were taken to secret places. They need to be stored properly in special locations. Only the engineers know where to find these places.”
George sat down on the chair and looked at the mirror in awe. He reached out his hand, then stopped and looked at Master Edward hesitantly.
Master Edward nodded.
“Touch it cautiously, George, on the side. Don’t press a button.”
George nodded, and then slowly reached out his hand. He touched the side of the mirror. It felt hard and cold. Tears came to George’s eyes.
“It’s all true,” he said in a whisper.
“Yes, it is, George,” Master Edward said seriously.
He watched George for a while, smiling slightly. He was sure now that George was a worthy successor, a guardian who would never betray their cause.
“Come,” he said quietly.
George got up and stood beside Master Edward.
“Watch carefully, George. I’ll show you how to work with the mirror.”
For several hours, Master Edward explained the mirror. It worked with solar energy. The back of the mirror needed to be exposed to the light, preferably the sun, and every week for at least three hours. Master Edward explained that he had arranged the table and the mirror in a way that the sun shone on it from noon to afternoon. He explained that the mirror had to be turned carefully on the table as the sunlight fell into the room in different angles in the course of the year. He showed George how to open the green square and record his words.”
George wiped his eyes.
“It’s just amazing, Master Edward,” he said. “I’m so very grateful you picked me as your apprentice. It was hard often. I had to study so many things. And it was certainly not easy to believe all that you told me about the ancient race of Adon. But, strangely, I always felt your words were true. It was my biggest wish to learn. I felt I did not belong in this world until you found me.”
Master Edward nodded and smiled.
“You were nine then, if I remember correctly. Yes, yes, I crossed your way accidentally. Or maybe it was fate. I remember this young boy, so hungry to learn and know the world. All the questions you had…Your father apologized. But I felt delighted. I asked your father if he could imagine you picked up a career as a scholar. He gazed at me in disbelief. But he was not too sad when we left, just you and me.”
George looked at Master Edward, sadness in his eyes.
“Yes, he ordered me to pack my things and go.” George swallowed hard, and then he straightened. “I’m twenty-four now. A man, not a boy. And I have a path to go. I can never go back. Never. I would never belong in this world.”
Master Edward looked into the room for a while with darkened eyes.
“This is the fate of a guardian.”
He looked at George.
“But a guardian is strong, George. He can cope with it until the end of his life. Not even torture or a disease or a fever will make him reveal the truth.”
Master Edward smiled briefly.
“Even if you talked, they would not believe you. It’s too fantastic. You’d be more in danger, if you talked of goblins, elves, or dragons.”
Master Edward shook his head slightly.
“Believe me, George, you are much happier as a guardian than as a normal man, in particular in these backward times.”
Master Edward stepped forward and touched a button.
“Enough for today. I’ll show you more tomorrow.”
George was barely able to sleep. His thoughts were running wild and all sorts of emotions were running through his body. When George finally fell asleep, his sleep was fitful and restless. He dreamed of the mirror. The mirror spoke to him.
Exhaustedly, he entered Master Edward’s chamber the following day.
“I see you had a hard night,” the old man said with a smile. He rubbed his hands.
“Be ready for the most magical power, George. I’ll show you how to speak with a fellow guardian.”
Again, Master Edward led George to the room with the mirror. He touched the button. The green square opened and Master Edward spoke Hebrew words in a distinct voice.
“You must speak Hebrew. This is the language we speak. Though you might try also in ancient Greek. But I’m not sure the words show up correctly. We have been having problems with Greek for thirty years or so.”
Master Edward fell silent. He looked at the mirror. George’s eyes followed his look. His heart jumped and his hands trembled slightly. Words had appeared on the screen.
Master Edward turned to George.
“I sent a message to a fellow guardian in India. It’s afternoon there, while here in England it is still morning. You always must consider this, George. We have talked about the time differences already.”
George listened with half an ear only. He nodded slowly, gazing at the screen.
“Who is it? Has he a mirror also?” he asked, turning his eyes at Master Edward.
“I told him to activate his mirror at this time of the day, his afternoon, to show you the effects of the mirror. All fellow guardians know you took the oath, George, and they approved it. Had only one voted against you, I would not have showed you the mirror. I would have made you a guardian second grade; this is a man who holds most of the knowledge, yet not all of it. I would have returned my mirror to the engineers. And I would have died without passing the full knowledge to the next generation.”
Master Edward swallowed. He wiped a tear from his eye. George looked at him with widened eyes. He stood silently for a while, just gazing at the fragile old man. Then he stepped forward and took Master Edward’s hand gently.
“I’m happy and very grateful, Master Edward, that the grand council of Eden -since this is what the guardians are - found me worthy to hold the secret knowledge of Adon.”
George also swallowed. And for a minute or two, the old man and his young successor just looked at each other with an awkward smile. Master Edward finally nodded.
“Come, George,” he said in a low voice. “I’ll show you how to communicate with a fellow guardian. And tonight I will reveal their names and their locations to you.”
After two weeks of training, George knew how to use the mirror. He had communicated with the other guardians, eleven men, who lived in different parts of the world. Some of them lived in European countries, others lived far away: India, China and the Americas. They all typed in Hebrew, although they spoke different languages. But Hebrew was the language that worked best with the mirror.
This final revelation had changed George’s life considerably. He now was aware that the ancient truth was living knowledge, knowledge that had been spread all over the world. It had been guarded for thousands of years.
However, although secret, the knowledge had influenced every religion in the world. Master Edward told George the truth was plain to see for everyone if people opened their eyes and read the ancient holy books carefully and unprejudiced. Unfortunately, people tended to believe only what their priests told them. The priests, however, were not able to figure out the truth. Or if so, they did not tell the truth to the people. They told them that God had created mankind and that man had to fear God. Or the gods. It very much depended on the local beliefs.
George was awestruck. His world had enlarged. And he felt blessed, in a sense. But he also felt like an outcast. He was barely able to walk the streets of London for some time. England in 1590 seemed to him so way backward in time. More and more he became aware of the responsibility Master Edward had entrusted him with. He understood he had to live an isolated life. He would have to choose his words carefully. He would have to avoid telling too much to the wrong people. And he would have to find a safe place to live, a place where he could hide the mirror from curious eyes. His only friends would be the unknown men, the guardians. Most of them lived far away in different locations all over the world. Only three of them lived within travelling reach, one in Spain and one in France. The man in France was also an engineer. Had the council not accepted George, Master Edward would have returned the mirror to this man.
“I have spoken to a man you can live with,” Master Edward said on a snowy day in December.
He stood by the window of his chamber and looked outside. George watched him silently. Master Edward had become more fragile. They both knew that he would not outlive the winter. Both of them had not touched on the topic. Now Master Edward raised it.
He turned to George.
“This man is open-minded. He knows I hold a secret knowledge. I met him several times over the years and I could not hide it entirely from him. He thinks I’m a scholar, a wise man, an initiate. There are many orders, George. They all claim to hold a secret truth. And they do, in a sense. Over the centuries, curious men have figured out part of the knowledge. I told you that you can figure it out on your own. But these men will never have access to the mirrors. And they figured out only part of the truth. They speak of a mystery, some spiritual goal. They are right, in a sense, since our goal is to grow and to reveal the truth some day. But none of them knows of the ancient race of Adon and where they came from. They rather speak of God and angels and heavenly beings. Some of them believe in demons of all kind. All of that is true, in a sense. But they can’t see the fact that the race of Adon travelled to this planet in spaceships and erected colonies. The first city on Earth was Eden.”
Master Edward paused.
“Eden will always be a spiritual place to them, the ancient paradise. Mankind is not yet ready for the truth. Well, what did I want so say? Yes, I spoke to this man. He thinks I’m a member of a spiritual order. He lives in London. His name is Jonathan Britten.”
George looked at Master Edward without saying a word. He felt cold. He was aware that their mutual time had come to an end after fifteen years. George shivered inwardly.
Master Edward looked at him calmly.
“It is time, George,” he said seriously.
“When do I have to leave, Master Edward?” George asked in a low voice.
“On Saturday,” Master Edward said. “You will take the mirror with you. “Jonathan Britten lives on his own in a big house in London. You will have two or three rooms of your own in a separate wing of the house.”
“Why does he do that for me?” George asked.
“Because I saved his life,” Master Edward said. “He was a young boy then. Eight or nine years old. He lived with his mother. His father had died already. He had left a lot of money to his son. Jonathan had private tutors. His education is excellent.”
“It was about fifteen years ago. I had just come back from France. I had met my fellow guardian there. The mirror had stopped working and the man had repaired it. I came back to London. Night had already fallen when I arrived. I was looking for an inn. I was hungry and wanted to have a meal there. I wanted to return to the duke’s castle secretly because I was carrying the box with the mirror. I did not want the duke or anybody in the castle to take notice of it. Well, I planned a brief stop in an inn.”
“My father’s inn,” George said.
“Actually,” Master Edward said pensively. “Actually, I met you and Jonathan on the same day. Interesting, indeed.”
Master Edward looked into the room for a while thoughtfully.
“Interesting, indeed,” he repeated. “Well, right in front of the inn, I met Jonathan’s mother. She hurried towards the inn. She was desperate. When she spotted me, she asked me if I or any of the people inside knew where to find a doctor. I told her I was on my way to the inn also and did not know who was inside. Why, good woman, I asked, why do you seek a doctor in an inn? Because none of the doctors in the quarter opened the door when I rang the bell, she said. The only place I know that is crowded with people is that inn. She looked entirely lost and confused. So I asked what had happened to her. She told me her son had a fever and was about to die. She had done whatever she knew she could do to stop the fever – and that is little in this backward time, you know, George – but the fever had not stopped. So she needed a doctor. Not that any of those doctors would have been able to stop the fever. That was what I thought. But I did not tell her.”
Master Edward smiled faintly.
“Well, you know, George, we also discussed some treatments and cures that have been passed on from generation to generation. It was against my plans. I carried the mirror. But I felt obliged to try and help her son. That woman was a good woman. And she was desperate. So, I followed her. I examined her son. He had influenza. Nothing unusual. His mother had applied compresses to his legs, cloths she had filled with snow that she had carried into the house from outside. But, you know, cold water and snow won’t heal a heavy influenza.”
“I had taken along on my journey several remedies, just in case I fell ill. But I did not need my remedies. So I picked out the right one and asked her to make a tea of it. Oh, that woman, she was truly frightened. I’m sure she thought I was a wizard or sorcerer. I still see the fear in her eyes. She took the herbs hesitantly. But then she nodded and muttered that God the Lord had sent her to the inn to meet me there. So, apparently, there was nothing wrong with making a tea. I told her that this apparently had been God’s plan. I left all the herbs to her, and then I returned to the inn around the corner. That’s where I picked you up.”
George smiled vaguely. Master Edward returned the smile.
“I went to her house a week later. The boy was doing fine. They both were so grateful, the boy and his mother. And the boy was a curious boy, hungry to learn. I saw it in his eyes. Had I not yet chosen my apprentice, maybe I had asked Jonathan to follow me.”
George looked up.
“I made the right choice, George,” Master Edward said calmly. “After I had treated the boy, I returned to the inn, although Jonathan’s mother had provided me with food in return for my help. But something forced me to resume my way. So I went back and entered the inn. I only ate some cheese. That’s when you sat down at my table and out of the blue asked me hundreds of questions.”
“I was fascinated by your sight. I can’t say why,” George said with a smile.
Master Edward nodded.
“I made the right choice. But, apparently, Jonathan’s fate and your fate are entwined. I went to see Jonathan and his mother every three months for an hour or two. We became friends. The mother was grateful. She always cooked a meal for me, a meal much better than the meals in the castle. And Jonathan asked me the same questions you asked me that night. I told him a little. His mind is bright and he figured out many things as time passed by. But, of course, he has no idea of the ancient knowledge.”
Master Edward paused.
“Jonathan’s mother died three months ago. Jonathan grieves. He is alone in the house. There are a few servants, of course. But he is very much on his own. A young man, grieving and without close friends. I asked him to do me a favour and lodge another friend who did not know where to go to in London. He hesitated, but then he agreed. Jonathan knows that I will do him no harm. I won’t send a dangerous stranger to his house.”
“You can live there, George until the beginning of summer, at least. You may stay longer, perhaps. You know you can’t stay with me any longer, George. You must leave and take the mirror with you before I pass away and the duke and his people start to investigate my chambers. You will leave in two days, on Saturday. I then will clean up my chambers and hide what needs to be hidden, and destroy what needs to be destroyed. I sense that I have only little time left.”
George moved out on Saturday. For the last time, he went on top of the tower to look out from it. Master Edward had accompanied him. They stood quietly for some time.
“Well,” Master Edward said finally, “It is time, George. We better go and fetch the mirror. I already put it into a box. You have to handle this box with care.”
George nodded. Slowly, they approached the door that led to the hidden chamber. A box was placed on the table. It looked like a wooden box that was used to transport books or large amounts of paper.
“I wrapped the mirror up in several cloths,” Master Edward said. “And I put hay into the box. You have to be cautious, nonetheless. It’s only a short way to go now. But you might be forced to transport the mirror again and maybe over a longer distance.”
Master Edward took a deep breath.
“I’m sad to see the mirror go. But I always knew this time would come some day. Come, George. Pick it up. It’s not too heavy.”
George stepped forward and took the box. He turned back to Master Edward and their eyes met. George swallowed and tears filled his eyes. Within a few minutes he would be gone and they would never see each other again.
“I thank you for all, Master Edward,” George said, his voice almost breaking. “I see the path that lies ahead of me. And I know I must walk on it until the end, may it be bitter or sweet. It won’t be easy to always move on. But you showed to me that it is not impossible. I truly admire you, Master Edward. You accomplished a task only few men would be able to fulfil.”
George fell silent and looked at his master. Master Edward smiled faintly.
“You will accomplish this task, too, George,” he said. “I have no doubt. And, who knows, perhaps we meet again in this world or in the world beyond.”
George noticed that Master Edward’s lips trembled slightly. He felt it was time to leave. The knowledge had passed on.
Master Edward led George to the gate of the castle. A carriage waited for him. Master Edward took both of George’s hands and looked him into the eyes firmly.
“May you do well, George. Never forget you are in a line with hundreds of honourable and responsible men. They all did their best to keep the secret a secret. And now will you do until it is time for you to pass on the ancient knowledge to another man.”
Again, they looked into each other’s eyes. Then Master Edward stepped back and nodded at the driver of the carriage. The man opened the door. Master Edward nodded at George. George returned the nod, and then he put the box and his luggage into the carriage and climbed in. The driver closed the door. George looked out of the window. The carriage started to move. George’s eyes rested on
Master Edward’s pale face until the carriage turned around a corner and the old man was out of sight.
George felt a lump in his throat. He closed his eyes. Now he was on his own. He felt lost and alone. He struggled hard to not cry. However, he could not help it. Tears filled his eyes.
Half an hour later, the carriage stopped in front of a large building. The driver opened the door.
“Arrived,” he said briefly.
George climbed out of the carriage and looked at the house. It was old, yet well-preserved. It was a mansion. The owner must be wealthy man, George thought.
He had not seen the man who had approached him. George jumped a little when he heard an unfamiliar voice.
“Good afternoon,” the man said, smiling at George. He held out his hand to him.
George took the offered hand and nodded at the man.
“George Hunter. Master Edward sent me here. Jonathan Britten, I assume?”
“Yes,” Jonathan Britten said, measuring George. “Master Edward asked me to provide you accommodation. And I gladly do that favour for him. He never asked for anything in return. So it is just fair I help a friend of his.”
They looked at each other for a few seconds.
Jonathan Britten was tall. He had fair hair and blue eyes. His face was pale. He was dressed in an elegant jacket. Jonathan smiled. But George saw the grief in his eyes.
George felt slightly uncomfortable. He was dressed in simple trousers and a simple tunic made of cotton. Jonathan Britten had tied back his blond hair, whereas George’s dark hair fell to his shoulders and now and then covered his eyes.”
George cleared his throat.
“I thank you very much, Mister Britten. I did not know where to go to. I had to leave within two days. So…”
Jonathan Britten raised his hand. George fell silent.
“No need to explain, Mister Hunter. Master Edward told me you won’t bring along a lot. We can talk about all this perhaps later when having dinner together. Now, please, come in. I will show you to your rooms.”
George nodded. He picked up the box with the mirror and the bag with his belongings. Then he followed Jonathan inside. The entrance hall was grand and splendid. George felt insecure, yet he looked around curiously. He winced a little when he realized that Jonathan Britten watched him closely with an amused smile on his lips.
“I look forward to having dinner with you, Mister Hunter. I think we might have a nice conversation.”
Jonathan smiled again.
“I guess Master Edward might be right. He told me to not seclude myself. He said I would enjoy your company. I did not believe him. I cannot enjoy anything. You must know that my mother died three months ago. Unexpectedly. I’m grieving.”
“My condolences,” George said in a low voice. “I do not mean to bother you, Mister Britten. I feel pretty lost and lonely myself. So I understand your feelings. I understand you’re not happy with me being around.”
“Oh, no,” Jonathan said. “I’m happy you came here. In fact, I am. Like I said, Master Edward told me to socialize, now and then. His advice was always very accurate. So I do not have any doubt this time. Let me show you to your rooms.”
George nodded. They climbed a staircase and walked down a corridor. At its end, they turned to the right and entered another hallway.
Jonathan turned to George.
“There are six rooms in this wing of the house. Just have a look and pick the ones you like. I could imagine you want a study, a living room and a bedroom.”
George looked at Jonathan in disbelief.
“One room will do, Mister Hunter.”
Jonathan gave George a questioning look, and then he smiled.
“Just pick the rooms you like, Mister Hunter. One room, two or three, just as you please. My rooms are on the other side of the house. You’ll get there when you turn to the left at the end of the corridor. The dining room you’ll find downstairs. As well the parlour and the library.”
“I see,” George said vaguely.
They stopped in front of a door.
“Have a look at this room,” Jonathan said. “My uncle used to live here when he came for his visits. My uncle died many years ago. My mother had all the rooms in this wing renovated. But I think this room is the most beautiful.”
Jonathan opened the door and led George inside. George looked around in the large room. The furniture was splendid. So were the curtains and the carpet.
“Very beautiful,” George said.
“It has a separate bathroom behind that door. A maid will take jars of water there every day. You can even have a hot bath there, if you wish so. There is a bathtub in it. But I suggest you go to the bathhouse, if you want to have a hot bath. Just ring the bell about one hour before you want to go there. A maid will prepare the bath, heat the water and so. It’s more comfortable there. Would you like to have a hot bath? I could tell the maid to prepare it,” Jonathan said.
George looked at Jonathan for a second without saying a word. For a moment he thought his host was obsessed with bathing. Then he blushed. Most likely, he realized, Jonathan had praised the bathhouse in order to convince him to take a hot bath.
“Yes, I like this idea,” George said awkwardly. He wondered if it had been a good idea to lodge with Jonathan Britten who apparently appreciated cleanliness and good manners.
George looked around again, feeling awkward and out of place. Finally, he looked back at Jonathan and found that the handsome man looked very insecure.
“I apologize,” Jonathan said in a low voice. “My words were disrespectful. You must think I ordered you to have a bath. You must think I’m very impolite.”
“Well, yes. I mean, no, Mister Britten,” George said. “It is definitely a good idea. I have never been to a place like this. I fear I don’t fit in here very well. And I’m afraid I cannot dine with you.”
Jonathan looked upset.
“No?” he asked. “Why not? Do you go out? I was truly looking forward to it.”
“Well,” George said. “I would like to dine with you very much. But I fear I have not taken along any elegant clothes. I mean, I do not posses any elegant clothes that I could wear for dinner.”
Jonathan blinked, and then he smiled.
“Of course,” he said. “How inconsiderate. Master Edward told me that - due to the circumstances - you’ll arrive without belongings.”
Jonathan looked at the box and the bag.
“It seems you had to leave behind most of your things. It’s no problem at all. I can provide you with clothing as long as you stay here. I have many clothes. And I would not mind.”
Again, they looked at each other awkwardly. Then Jonathan smiled.
“I’ll send a maid to the bathhouse. She’ll knock at your door in an hour and take you there. She’ll take along some clothes. Please, do not feel uncomfortable. I’m a wealthy man and I have many things. But I can give them away easily. I much more appreciate the company of a friend.”
Jonathan blushed slightly.
“Perhaps we can start all over again, Mister Hunter? May I invite you to have dinner with me at six o’clock?”
George nodded and smiled faintly.
“I look forward to having dinner with you, Mister Britten. Thank you very much.”
Jonathan gave George a brief smile, and then he turned around and left the room. George looked around again. Then he moved to the window. He drew aside the curtain and looked outside.
“Master Edward,” he muttered. “I have a feeling that I’m not prepared.”
The maid knocked at the door an hour later and led George to the bathhouse. It was located in the backyard. Everything was prepared. The bathtub was filled with hot water and several soaps and towels were arranged on a wooden table beside it. The maid placed a bunch of clothes on a chair, and then she left the bathhouse, smiling at George as she shut the door.
George undressed and climbed into the tub. The hot water felt good. George had not had a hot bath for many years. He was used to clean up with cold water from a bowl. George leaned back against the rear of the tub and closed his eyes. He thought of Master Edward and he wondered what the old man was doing. He wondered if Master Edward missed him. George definitely missed the old man. Time passed by and George fell asleep almost. He opened his eyes when he heard a voice from outside. The maid asked if he was ready to go back to the house.
George asked her to wait a couple of minutes. He cleaned up, climbed out of the tub and dressed swiftly. George felt uncomfortable with wearing Jonathan’s clothes. He hesitantly opened the door. The maid smiled at him.
“I’m sorry,” George said. “I forgot about time.”
The maid’s smile broadened. “My name is Christine,” she said. “Please, ring the bell in your room whenever you need my help. Mister Britten asked me to be at your service.”
“Thank you, Christine,” George said, smiling at the girl. She was young, maybe sixteen or seventeen years of age.
“I’ll lead you back to your room, Mister Hunter,” Christine said. “The house is big and you easily get lost in it.”
“I thank you again, Christine. In fact, I feel overwhelmed a little. It is all new to me.”
Christine didn’t reply, yet cast him another smile. Then she turned around and crossed the yard quickly. George followed her quickly. Christine led him inside, up the stairs and to his room. She opened the door for him.
“Mister Britten is awaiting you in the dining hall in half an hour, Mister Hunter,” she said. “Just go down the stairs, cross the entrance hall and enter the last room on the right. If you need anything, just ring the bell.”
George nodded and thanked her. Christine left and George went to a mirror on the other side of the room. He looked at the man in the mirror. The sight was unfamiliar. George turned around awkwardly and left the room. He descended the stairs. The door to the dining room was opened. George stepped inside hesitantly. Jonathan Britten stood by the window. He turned around and looked at George. A smile spread on his lips.
“You’re looking good, Mister Hunter,” he said. “We are about the same size. So I suspected those clothes would fit you well.”
“Except the shoes,” George said, returning the smile.
“Too big or too small?” Jonathan asked.
“Too big,” George said.
“Oh,” Jonathan replied.
“It’s not a problem, Mister Britten,” George said hastily.
“I’m Jonathan,” his host said. “Would you mind calling me by my first name?”
George hesitated. “No, I would not,” he said finally. “My name is George.”
“Well, George,” Jonathan said. “Let’s sit down and have dinner. Don’t feel awkward. I myself have not had dinner with someone else for many weeks. I need to get accustomed to it myself.”
They sat down at a round table that was already covered with fine glasses and exquisite plates and silverware. The door opened and two maids came in with trays in their hands. They placed bowls and dishes on the table. They poured them wine and served a soup. Then the maids left the room.
“Enjoy your meal, George,” Jonathan said. “It’s vegetable soup. A simple soup, but I like it very much.”
He nodded at George. They started to eat silently.
“I want you to feel at home, George,” Jonathan said finally. “I know that Master Edward sent you here for a reason. A reason I do not know and do not require to learn. I very much trust in Master Edward.”
“I was surprised myself,” George said. “I lived with Master Edward for fifteen years. Only a few days ago, he told me that I must leave instantly.”
Jonathan looked at George.
“You need not tell me, George,” he said. “For whatever reason he sent you away and sent you here, it is not my business.”
“But I want you to know,” George said. “I fear he sent me away because he wanted me to be in a safe place.” George paused. “Master Edward fears he will die very soon.”
Jonathan put down his spoon. He studied George’s face.
“I know of his fears,” he said calmly. “He came to see me about one week ago and asked me this favour. He spoke of his coming death. I refused to believe him first. But he told me to not deny the facts. He is a very old man. Some people believe he is immortal. It’s nonsense, of course. He’s just a very old man. A man is considered old at the age of forty and nobody is surprised when a man dies at this age. Master Edward is 93 years old. It is an almost wonder.”
Jonathan paused and then continued.
“I fear his fears are true. He looks very fragile. I noticed his skin had turned very pale, very white. My mother’s skin had had the same colour a few days before she died.”
“How old was your mother?” George asked.
“She died at the age of 43,” Jonathan said. He looked at George with darkened eyes.
The door opened and the maids entered the room again. They served vegetables and chicken pie.
“I’m sorry,” George said. “I was blunt.”
“No, you were not,” Jonathan said. “I told you my mother’s death was unexpected. Well, it was not. Many people die at my mother’s age. And, in fact, she was sick and she looked very worn. She died of influenza. She suffered three weeks. It wore her out entirely. Not even Master Edward’s herbs could save her. It’s just…”
Jonathan fell silent.
“Yes?” George asked.
Jonathan looked up.
“It’s just…She was the only person who fully understood me. Besides Master Edward, of course. I felt so lost when she passed away. I can’t overcome my grief.”
“Only little time has passed,” George said softly. “You need to take your time, Jonathan. It’s only natural.”
Jonathan nodded. “That is what people told me. I have only few friends, you must know. Actually, I have no friends at all. They are rather acquaintances. I do not want to bother them with my grief.”
“There are things we cannot share with others,” George said. “I understand you well.”
Jonathan looked at George for a while.
“You keep a secret you cannot share with others, don’t you?” he asked finally.
“Master Edward entrusted you with a mission. That’s why he sent you away and asked you to hide,” Jonathan said.
George looked at him with surprise.
“Is it so plain to see?” he asked in a low voice.
“I was just guessing, George. But I know Master Edward. He would not have sent you away without a serious reason. Master Edward is a very wise man. But I know he kept the most hidden from me. People are afraid of Master Edward. The duke considers him a mage, a sorcerer. But he depended on his advice. So he did not inquire him. But he most likely would inquire his assistant.”
“You mean…” George started.
Edward smiled. “Well, it is plain to see. Duke Raleigh would not want to see the secrets go. I doubt he is afraid of you.”
“No, he isn’t,” George said. “I have spoken to him only on a few occasions. He asked me to convey messages to Master Edward. But, you are right. The duke knows that I lived in the castle for fifteen years and he probably suspects that Master Edward shared his knowledge with me.”
“Well, he did share his knowledge with you, I suspect,” Jonathan said with a smile.
George gazed at him.
“You are definitely right. What if they find me here?”
“So the knowledge is worth while looking for you?” Jonathan asked.
George’s face turned pale. Jonathan had seen through him within the briefest of time. George suddenly felt insecure.
“They won’t find you here,” Jonathan said calmly. “Only the driver of the carriage knows where you are. He is one of my servants. I’ll send him to Edinburgh tomorrow. My aunt lives there. My mother left her several items. The man will take them there. He won’t return before the end of February.”
“You almost seem to be cold and calculating,” George said.
“I am surprised myself. I spent my days in my room until yesterday, giving in to my grief. I am surprised I am able to scheme plans.”
He looked at George.
“I was selfish, George. I can see it clearly now. I wallowed in self-pity. I should feel ashamed.”
Jonathan lowered his eyes.
“I deceived myself. Yes, I grieve for my mother. But I also wallowed in self-pity. Master Edward was right when he said a little company would help me see things more clearly,” he said in a low voice.
George watched him silently. He felt for Jonathan. Jonathan was smart and he was honest. Jonathan looked up and they exchanged a smile. The door opened again. The maids served dessert.
“How about we have breakfast together tomorrow, George?” Jonathan asked when they had finished their meal. “Then I’ll show you around in the house.”
George and Jonathan quickly developed a daily routine. They met in the morning and had dinner together in the evening. The remaining hours of the day, however, they spent separately.
Jonathan usually sat in the library, reading books and thinking about his life and how it had changed since George had moved in with him. George mainly spent the days in his room, sorting out things and making plans for the future. He needed to find a safe and isolated place where he could activate the mirror. He did not dare to activate it in Jonathan’s house.
They sat in the library one morning and Jonathan explained his plans for the day when suddenly, Christine, the maid, rushed into the room.
“Mister Britten,” the girl said in a trembling voice. “A man rang at the door and delivered a letter. He asked me to hand it to you without delay. Look, Mister Britten, the address is written with blood.”
Jonathan rose from his chair stiffly. He took the letter and turned it in his hands.
“Where is this man?” he asked. His voice sounded alarmed.
“He turned around and ran down the street,” Christine said. “He disappeared. I have never seen him before.”
“Thank you, Christine,” Jonathan said.
He gave her a nod and the girl left the room instantly.
Jonathan looked at the letter. George watched him. He felt alarmed, too.
“The words are written with red ink. It is not blood,” Jonathan said.
He opened the letter and pulled out a small piece of paper. His face turned pale when he read the words.
Jonathan looked up.
“George, you must leave instantly. Master Edward sent this letter from a hospital where they have taken him to.”
George rose to his feet. He felt like fainting.
“What happened…” he started.
Jonathan raised his hand.
“He’s close to death. No one can help him now. I’ll pray for him when this is over.”
“What…” George said.
Jonathan’s eyes rested firmly on George’s face.
“George, Master Edward came to see me and my mother secretly. No one knew he was in touch with us. Neither my mother nor I have ever told anybody that he is a friend of ours. That’s what he asked in return for his medical treatments. Of course, we agreed. We never asked him why. But I had my suspicions. I suspected he did not want to endanger us as people thought he was a wizard or sorcerer. Well, it seems that someone found out about his visits. Master Edward writes – I can barely decipher his handwriting – that Duke Raleigh is looking for the apprentice who had disappeared without a word. George, they have taken Master Edward to the hospital about an hour ago. The men who took him there told him that the duke will come here in the afternoon.”
“He’ll come to your house, Jonathan?” George asked in disbelief.
“He’ll come here to question me, most certainly. And perhaps search the house. I could refuse to let him in. But this would only raise his suspicions. And while I talk to him, his men might very well search the house. What could I do? I could not stop him. I live here alone with only five servants.”
“Who found out about it?” George asked.
“I have no idea. They spied on him. Although he was careful when he left the castle – he never took the direct way wherever he went to – it was probably not too difficult to follow him.”
Their eyes met for an instant.
“I have no idea where to go to,” George said.
“What kind of secret is it that you and Master Edward keep?” Jonathan asked. He sounded almost sad.
“Its revelation would wreak havoc, Jonathan,” George said in a stern voice.
Jonathan just nodded.
“So you must leave, George. I’ll hire a carriage that will take you to Dover.”
“Dover? Why?” George asked, feeling startled.
“Because Master Edward wrote: France. I suspect that is your destination.”
George winced slightly. He understood fairly well. Master Edward wanted him to find the guardian who lived in France.
Jonathan watched him closely.
“You understand his message?”
“He wants me to find a man in France. Unfortunately, I have no idea where he lives.”
Jonathan kept looking at George. Then he crossed the room and threw the piece of paper into the fire.
He turned back to George.
“But you know a way to find out about his location?”
George blushed. It was plain to see. He needed to find a hiding-place. He needed to activate the mirror.
“I know a way to find him,” he said in a low voice. “But I cannot travel to Dover. I need to find a more secret passage.”
“Go and get your things, George,” Jonathan said. “I’ll be thinking about it.”
George left the room and hurried up the stairs. He felt hot and cold at the same time. He realized what it meant to be a guardian. It was a bitter realization. Forever he would run and hide. No man would ever be his friend and his life would be a lonely one.
While Jonathan hastily packed his things and pulled the box out from under the bed, Jonathan paced the room, his thoughts running wild. Out of a blue, he stopped.
“Why not?” he said, and then rushed to the door. “Christine,” he called out loudly.
George descended the stairs. He stopped short at the sight of Jonathan giving orders to Christine.
Jonathan fell silent when he spotted George. He approached him quickly and shoved him into dining room.
“What is going on, Jonathan?” George asked nervously.
“I’ll tell you. Sit down,” Jonathan said.
“George, I’ll hire a carriage that will take you to King’s Lynn. You are right. They probably suspect you go to Dover and take a passage to Calais. They might already look for you there. You left the castle ten days ago. I’m pretty sure they sent men to Dover the following day. It’s easy to find you there. They just need to watch the ferry boats.”
“So why will he come to your house then?” George asked, entirely confused.
“They have not yet found you. They suspect I know where you hide. They won’t find you here and they won’t believe a word I say. And I know for sure that they will wait for you in Dover.”
“Why?” George asked.
“Because Master Edward wrote: Send him away. I’ll say France.”
“Well, yes, he wants me to go to France.”
“No, George. Master Edward was in a hurry. He had no time to write his instructions clearly. It hit me like a bolt from the blue.”
George gazed at Jonathan. He rose from his chair.
“George, Master Edward suspects that the duke will question him again. Master Edward will say that you went to France.”
George sat down again.
“My god, I almost ran into ruin,” he said.
“No, George. I almost sent you into ruin. I misunderstood Master Edward’s message. I should have given you the letter to read it yourself.”
“So what am I going to do?” George asked helplessly.
“Like I said, I’ll hire a carriage that will take you to King’s Lynn. I sent four of the maids away. They won’t be around this afternoon. Only Christine will be here with me. I instructed her. She knows exactly what to say.”
“King’s Lynn then,” George said silently.
“Yes, George. You will lodge in an inn. I’ll give you its name. It belongs to Christine’s father. You will leave in a few minutes. We’ll meet in King’s Lynn in two weeks.”
“We’ll do what?” George asked, entirely confused.
“I’ll travel there, too,” Jonathan said. “We’ll find a way to leave the country.”
George gazed at Jonathan.
“Jonathan, you cannot come with me,” he finally said, his voice trembling. “You cannot.”
“But I must,” Jonathan said. “I feel obliged to take you to a safe place. Master Edward wanted you to be in a safe place. He thought my house was a safe place. It has proven it is not.”
“This is nonsense, Jonathan,” George said, rising from his chair. “I’ll leave without you.”
He turned away to leave the room. Jonathan placed his hand on George’s arm. George turned his head. For a moment they looked at each other. George was shaken by conflicting emotions. Part of him wanted to leave instantly, part of him wanted to stay and not let go this friendship.
“George,” Jonathan said. “I feel like I was waiting for this moment all my life. A moment of importance, a moment that makes my life worth living. This is it, George.”
George’s lips trembled. And then, against better judgment, he nodded.
“Alright, Jonathan, I’ll see you in King’s Lynn in two weeks.”
Jonathan smiled and squeezed George’s arm. And then they left the room quickly.
The carriage had already arrived. The driver was a grumpy and almost deaf man. Jonathan put his bag and the box with the mirror into the carriage and then climbed in. Christine stood in the doorway and watched him leave. Jonathan closed the door of the carriage. George looked out of the window. They exchanged a final look and smile.
The carriage started to move. It turned around a corner. George nervously looked at the piece of paper that Jonathan had given to him. He read the name of a man and the name of an inn.
On a cold and rainy day in January, George arrived in King’s Lynn. Night was already falling when he entered the inn ‘White Swan’. The room was crowded with people, and George felt like an intruder. He spotted a stoutly built man behind a counter. George approached him and asked his name. The man looked at him with surprise.
“My name is Liam Donald. I run this inn. Can I help you?”
George handed him the letter Christine had written quickly.
“A letter from my daughter? I have not heard from her in a while,” the man said.
He opened the letter and read it, ignoring the calls of his guests.
Liam Donald looked up.
“You’re a friend of hers? Is she in trouble?”
George shook his head.
“She’s in good health. And I’m not a friend of hers. I met her in Jonathan Britten’s house. I was his guest for a while. Unfortunately, I had to leave in a hurry for King’s Lynn. Mister Britten asked your daughter if she knew a safe place to stay for the night. She recommended her father’s inn.”
Liam Donald measured George suspiciously. It was plain to see he didn’t believe a single word.
“Mister...,” he said, and then looked at the letter. “Mister Hunter, I have been running this inn for thirty years. I cannot be deceived. I have seen too many people, some of them honest, most of them wicked and false. You better tell me the truth.”
A man approached the counter and held his mug out to Liam. Liam impatiently made a gesture with his hand. A boy of maybe fifteen years hurried to him swiftly. Liam ordered him to take care of the guests.
“Come,” Liam said to George.
He pointed at a door and moved towards it. George followed him. Liam led him into a backroom. An elderly woman was inside.
“Marianne, please leave us alone,” Liam said.
The woman looked slightly puzzled, yet left the room without a word.
“My wife,” Liam said. “She’s sick and can’t stand the crowds. Hopefully, she’ll be better soon. I need her help in the inn.”
He paused, and then cleared his throat.
“Sit down, Mister Hunter, and tell me the truth. My daughter seems to trust you. Maybe I’ll trust you, too. Maybe I won’t.”
George put his bag and the box with the mirror on a table. Liam Donald looked at George’s belongings thoughtfully.
“Well,” George started. “I had to leave London in a hurry. Someone is after me. I was hiding. I stayed with Mister Britten for a few days. Unfortunately, his house proved to be not a safe place. I had to leave.”
Liam Donald rubbed his chin. He looked at George.
“Two more questions, Mister Hunter. Who is after you, and why?”
“Duke Raleigh is looking for me. I lived in his castle for fifteen years. I worked with one of his counsellors. My master was taken to hospital only recently. He’s going to die.”
“Did you attempt to kill him?” Liam asked. His voice was calm.
George looked up, startled.
“No, no, I did not kill Master Edward. He is old. He is 93 years of age. He is a good and wise man. Master Edward sent me away two weeks ago. He anticipated his coming death and he wanted me to not be around.”
“May I ask why?” Liam asked. He studied George carefully.
George was nervous. He gazed at the box, and then swiftly turned his eyes away from it.
Liam approached the table and placed his hand on the box.
“Your master sent you away. He wanted you to take this box to a safe place. Am I right?”
“Well, yes, you are,” he said.
George felt silent. Another man had seen through him in the briefest of time. George felt miserable. He thought of Master Edward and he swallowed hard.
Liam sat down on a chair opposite of George.
“Whatever is in this box, it must be of great value. Did you or Master Edward steal it from the duke?”
George shook his head.
“No,” he said. “This box belonged to Master Edward. He gave it to me. Duke Raleigh is trying to steal it from me.”
Liam nodded thoughtfully.
“Well, I don’t want to get into trouble, Mister Hunter.”
“My name is George,” George said.
“I don’t want to get into trouble, Mister Hunter. But I fear I have already gotten into it. Answer truthfully. Is my daughter in danger?”
George looked at Liam Donald. Liam’s eyes rested firmly on George’s face.
“Hopefully, she is not,” George said seriously. “Master Edward sent me to Mister Britten in order to stay with him for some time. Jonathan Britten was a friend of Master Edward. Unfortunately, the duke found out about my hiding-place. Master Edward sent Mister Britten a letter from the hospital. He asked him to send me away instantly.”
“I fear, Mister Donald, the duke questioned Mister Britten and possibly questioned your daughter as well. So, you see, I cannot answer your question truthfully. I hope she’s safe. I swear to you that Jonathan Britten will take care for her safety.”
Liam looked into the room for a while.
“I do believe you, George,” he said finally.
He rose from his chair abruptly.
“Follow me. I’ll take you to a chamber beneath the roof. You’re lucky. The room is free. You can stay for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll talk again.”
Liam pointed at the box and George’s bag.
“Take along only your bag. Marianne will carry this box upstairs some time later.”
George gazed at Liam for a moment, and then hesitantly rose to his feet.
Liam gave him a piercing look.
“Whatever is in this box, it must be of great value. Do not tell me. And do not show the box to others. Do not show it to the men in the next room. Most of them are greedy rascals. Many would kill you without a feeling of regret, if they suspected that box of yours was of only little value.”
“Thank you, Mister Donald,” he said seriously.
“My name is Liam,” Liam said.
Liam showed George to a chamber. It was small. And it was cold inside. There was only a bed, a table, a chair and a small wardrobe.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Liam said, giving George another measuring look. “Come down to eat and drink,” he added, “Don’t let the men down there think you hide yourself. Come down.”
George nodded. Liam closed the door.
George sat down on the bed for a few minutes. He felt lost. He thought of Master Edward. It seemed to him he had left the old man many years ago. He thought of Jonathan Britten and his big mansion. It all seemed far away.
“A life can change a lot within a few days,” George said to himself.
Then he straightened and left his chamber. He entered the public parlour and approached the counter. Liam welcomed him cheerfully and handed him a mug of beer.
“Cheers to you, George,” he said loudly. A few guests turned to George and Liam and then joined in the cheers.
“A visitor from London,” Liam said loudly, leaning in to a few of the men at the counter as if confiding to them a secret.
“You know my daughter Christine works in London as a maid in a very noble house. The girl was truly lucky. Left one year ago, rather ran off, and stumbled into that noble man Britten. He picked her up, sort of.”
The men snickered. Liam smiled broadly. And George felt very uncomfortable.
“Lucky chick,” a man said. “But I’m puzzled, Liam. Is that man her new gallant?”
The men looked at George curiously. George blushed at their stares.
An old man patted George on the shoulder. “Don’t be awkward, young man. Love is a beautiful thing. It makes you feel dizzy, first. And then it drives you mad.”
Liam leaned in to George.
“My old friend James. His wife ran off twenty years ago. She drove him mad.”
“I have recovered, Liam,” James protested.
“You grew an even heavier drinker,” Liam said drily.
James ordered beer and so did the others. George mad a step aside. Liam leaned in to him.
“Well done. They won’t suspect you of anything but going after my daughter.”
George smiled faintly. Liam smirked.
The door of the backroom opened and Marianne entered the room with George’s box in her hands. George winced slightly. The men watched her cross the room.
“Step out of my way,” Marianne said in a hoarse voice. “I’m sick. And I want to open the box Christine sent me. She sent me table cloths, fine cloths, for Christmas.”
“She’s a good girl,” James said. “Your daughter is a good girl, Liam. She has not forgotten her mother.”
The men fell silent for a moment.
James raised his mug. “Cheers,” he said aloud. The men resumed talking.
Liam leaned in to George.
“His daughter ran off with a stranger. They never saw her again. Her mother couldn’t cope with it. She grew bitter. She made James’ life a living a hell. Then, one day, she killed herself. They found her dead in a river. She drowned herself. It drove him mad. James said she ran off with a stranger just like their daughter had done. He can’t see the truth. Or does not want to.”
Liam’s eyes rested on George’s face. George nodded slowly.
“I have been running this inn for thirty years,” Liam said. “I have seen many things.”
George nodded again. And suddenly he felt he had stepped on the right path. Fate had taken him to the right place.
“Some people cannot see the truth,” he said to Liam. “They cannot see it because it would harm them. Some truths must never be revealed. Or only when the time is right.”
Liam nodded seriously. And, for the first time since they had met, a smile played on his lips.
“Wise words, young man. But very true,” he said seriously.
He gave George another look.
“You are looking tired, George. Go up and rest. We’ll talk tomorrow.” Liam looked around briefly. “They won’t miss you. They are dead drunk.”
The following days passed quickly. George spent the days and evenings in the public parlour. He got acquainted more with Christine’s parents and also with a few men who were regular visitors to the inn. Now and then, one of the men asked George when he would return to London, and they were surprised a bit to hear that he planned to stay for about two weeks. However, they soon stopped inquiring him and got accustomed to his presence. The men went back to their daily routine.
George was growing nervous, however, as time went by. He wondered if Jonathan truly would show up or if he maybe had changed his mind. George decided to wait for Jonathan until the appointed day. Then he would leave on his own and find a way to escape the country.
He was having lunch in the inn on Sunday, when the door opened and Jonathan stepped into the public parlour. Nobody was in the room. Liam was outside, and Liam’s wife was in the kitchen.
“Jonathan,” George said, rising from his chair.
He looked around in the room briefly, before turning his eyes back to George.
“I’m known to keep a promise. George, how are you doing?”
George returned the smile.
“I never doubted you words. Well, I admit I was nervous. I’m happy to see you again, Jonathan. Come, sit down. I’ll ask Christine’s mother to bring you food and wine.”
“Indeed, I’m hungry. I was on the road for three days. I hardly ever stopped. I came here on horseback.”
George had already headed for the door to the kitchen. He stopped short.
“On horseback? You came here on horseback despite the bad weather? Jonathan, it’s snowing. You must be frozen.”
Jonathan smiled, and then nodded.
“You’re right. I feel frozen. But I wanted to come here as quickly as possible.”
The front door opened and Liam came in.
“That brown horse outside? Is it your horse, sir? It’s in a bad condition.”
Jonathan turned to Liam and held out his hand.
“Good day, Mister Donald. Yes, it’s my horse. I would be pleased if you took care for it. I’m Jonathan Britten. I have a letter for you from Christine.”
Liam stared at Jonathan for a moment. Then he looked between Jonathan and George.
“So you are Mister Britten. Why did you come all this way to my inn?” he asked suspiciously.
Jonathan raised his hand.
“Calm, Mister Donald. Everything’s fine. I’ll explain it to you in a while. May I have a hot meal first, if you do not mind,” Jonathan said.
Liam measured him again, and then he nodded.
“Very well, sir. I’ll see to your horse and my wife will serve you a meal,” he answered finally.
Liam disappeared into the kitchen. George and Jonathan exchanged a look.
“Sit down, Jonathan,” George said.
Jonathan took off his hat and coat and placed them on a chair. He sat down opposite of George. Jonathan looked at the fireplace and rubbed his hands.
“It was cold and it was not a comfortable journey. Now I’m glad I’m here. I’ll tell you what happened before I left,” he said.
Liam’s wife Marianne entered the public parlour with a tray in her hands. She looked at Jonathan nervously.
“Good day, Mister Britten,” she said in a low voice. “Please, let me know...is anything wrong with my daughter?”
“I can assure you, ma’am,” Jonathan said, “Everything is fine. I’ll explain all to you and your husband after I had lunch. I’m hungry. This soup smells good.”
Marianne smiled faintly. She put a bowl of vegetable soup, a plate with bread, a spoon, and a glass of wine on the table.”
“It’s just vegetable soup,” she said.
“My favourite soup,” Jonathan said, smiling at her.
Marianne nodded shortly.
“Thank you, sir. Enjoy your meal,” she said.
Marianne joined her husband who was standing by the front door, watching them.
“I’ll see to the horse,” Liam said, and then left the inn.
Marianne went back into the kitchen.
George leaned forward.
“What happened, Jonathan? Did the duke question you?”
Jonathan started to eat quietly for a while. Then he answered.
“He showed up in the afternoon. He asked me if I was a friend of Master Edward. I said he had not been a friend exactly. I said he had given advice to my mother and me regarding medical treatments. Duke Raleigh was not particularly interested in my account. He interrupted me impatiently and straightforward asked me if I knew of your whereabouts. I said Master Edward had told me he had an apprentice, but I never had met that man. Before the duke was able to ask another question, I asked him why he was looking for Master Edward’s apprentice. I told him Master Edward had told me only two weeks ago that said man would leave for France. A pleased grin appeared on the duke’s face. He apologized for bothering me, and he and his two companions left instantly.”
“Duke Raleigh isn’t a clever man. He had already questioned Master Edward in the hospital. The old man had told him you had left for France. I told him the same. The duke was certain he had heard the truth. It didn’t occur to him that Master Edward had warned me maybe.”
Jonathan finished his soup.
“I had an eye on him,” he continued. I had my informants, rather. Duke Raleigh sent six men to Dover the same afternoon. They had not returned to London until the day I left for King’s Lynn.”
“What about Master Edward?” George asked nervously.
“He was still alive when I left,” Jonathan said seriously. “He’s not in good health, however. I did not dare to go and see him in the hospital. I suspect that he’s still under watch. But I sent him a message. I sent one of my maids to the hospital. She found a way to speak to him briefly. I asked her to tell him that everything was fine. The girl told me that Master Edward had given her a faint smile and nod. He did not speak to her. She sat by his bed for a couple of minutes, and then she left. I’m very sorry, George, but I fear we cannot do anything for Master Edward but pray for his peace and soul.”
Jonathan leaned back and looked at George. George felt miserable again. He gazed into the room for a moment. Then he looked back at Jonathan.
“I owe him everything. I wish I could do something for him,” he said in a low voice.
“You must find a safe place, George,” Jonathan said. “That is what Master Edward wished for you.”
“Yes,” George said. “But I have no idea of where to go and how to leave the country. The sailing ships don’t leave King’s Lynn in winter. I asked Liam about it.”
“I found out about that also. We need to hide here for some time and must leave as soon as the weather is changing.”
“Won’t anybody miss you in London, Jonathan?” George asked.
Jonathan shook his head.
“I sent letters to my friends. I told them I left for Edinburgh to visit my aunt. She’s my mother’s sister, my only relative. I told them I felt the need to see her again before she might pass away also. My friends will shake their heads. But they got used to my depressed moods in the previous months. So, they won’t investigate.”
“What about your servants? What about Christine?” George asked.
“Gladys and Christine will stay. The others will find new employments soon. I wrote recommendation letters,” Jonathan said.
“They’ll stay?” George asked.
Jonathan smiled briefly, anticipating George’s thoughts.
“I rented the house,” he said. “It took me two days to find a man with a good reputation. I found one finally. My mother used to go to mess in the local church. The chaplain knew of a cleric who had come to London from The Netherlands. He was looking for a house. Well, the man was hesitant at first. He thought my house was too big for him. But when I told him the rent, a relative small amount, he was overly pleased and promised to take care of the house.”
George nodded thoughtfully.
“Jonathan, you must return to London soon. You cannot leave everything behind and leave it to an unknown cleric,” he said.
“I do not leave it to him. I still own the house,” Jonathan said.
“But who will take care of the house? Who will pay the servants? You surely have duties and responsibilities there. Jonathan, I must leave and find a safe place for me to live. I must travel far maybe. I may never return to England. Jonathan, you must return soon. You cannot just leave.”
Jonathan looked at the table for a while.
“Yes, George,” he said finally. “I must return some day, at least to fix things and wind up affairs. But I hope you will come with me. I don’t want to see you travel in a far away country and never return.”
There was an awkward silence, both of them dwelling on their thoughts for a while.
“How about we go step by step?” Jonathan asked finally. “Let me help you find a good and safe place, George. That’s what I owe to Master Edward. It is also my wish.”
“Agreed,” George said with a small smile. “I’m feeling selfish. But I’m feeling lost and I appreciate your company, Jonathan. So, yes, let’s make one step and then think about it anew.”
“Yes,” Jonathan said seriously. “I...”
He was interrupted by Liam who entered the inn.
“The horse is fine, sir,” Liam said, measuring them. He stepped closer. “Sir, you said you had a letter from my daughter.”
“Thank you for reminding me,” Jonathan said, rising to his feet swiftly. He took his coat from the chair and pulled a letter from a pocket.
“Mister Donald, I will be absent from London for some time. I rented my house to an honourable man, Jorit Wintjes, a cleric from The Netherlands. Christine and a fellow maid are in the employ of Mister Wintjes. I arranged that.”
He handed Christine’s letter to her father. Liam took it and read the address. Then he nodded briefly.
“I’ll read it to my wife,” he said, turned around and disappeared into the kitchen.
“Liam is having suspicions,” George said. “He saw the box with the mirror and he suspects it contains something of value, something Master Edward entrusted me with and something Duke Raleigh is after.”
Jonathan looked at the door to the kitchen pensively.
“We’ll better leave tomorrow, George. It must be very peculiar to Liam that I came here to meet you. He suspects you of fleeing the country. And he suspects me of helping you. And he’s right, isn’t he? I’m sure Liam does not want to get involved in what must seem to him a very illegal matter. He won’t inquire because I took care for his daughter. But we better do not try his patience.”
“I need a horse, Jonathan. But I fear we cannot travel far in winter.”
“Let’s ask Liam if he knows someone who will sell us a horse,” Jonathan suggested. “Once we bought one, we’ll ride north for a while and look for a place to stay. And then we’ll discuss how we will proceed.”
Liam returned a short while later and asked if Jonathan wanted to stay in the inn for the night. They asked him regarding the horse and Liam promised to take them to a friend of his, a farmer who might want to sell a steed.
“So you’re leaving tomorrow?” Liam asked. He tried to hide his thoughts from them. But his voice clearly showed his suspicions.
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “We’re quite in a hurry and cannot stay any longer.”
Liam nodded, looking between them.
“I won’t inquire, sir. It’s none of my business. I’ll take you to Gordon, the farmer, tomorrow morning. Shall I see you to your room now?”
Jonathan agreed. He rose to his feet and picked up his luggage. Liam had carried two bags and the saddlebags inside. Liam showed Jonathan to a room beneath the roof. It was opposite George’s room. George followed them.
“It’s cold in here,” Liam said. “So you better come down to the public parlour later. Mister Hunter used to spend the days downstairs.”
“We’ll come down in a while,” George said.
“Thank you, Mister Donald,” Jonathan added.
Liam left. Jonathan and George entered the room that Liam had assigned to Jonathan.
“It will do for a night,” Jonathan said, looking around.
“It’s a comfortable room, Jonathan. I imagine we’ll have to stay in less comfortable rooms soon.”
“We need to scheme a plan that makes sense,” Jonathan said.
He sat down on the bed. George took the only chair.
“The ferry makes the trip from Dover to Calais despite the rough weather,” Jonathan said. “That’s why Duke Raleigh’s men are waiting there. The ships from King’s Lynn won’t leave the harbour in winter. I had not considered this. I thought we might leave from here to The Netherlands.”
“The first ships will leave by the end of March, provided the weather is good enough,” George said. “That’s what the men, visitors to the inn, told me when I asked them about it.”
“So we cannot but wait for good weather in some hidden place, and then buy a passage,” Jonathan said pensively.
“Isn’t it dangerous to stay close to King’s Lynn?” George asked. “Duke Raleigh will find out that you have left London. His men are waiting for me in Dover in vain. They can easily guess that you joined me. And they’ll know that we cannot leave the country until the weather has changed. They might suspect we headed for King’s Lynn, hiding close to the town and waiting for a passage.”
“You’re probably right,” Jonathan said.
“They might even question Christine again and find out that her father owns an inn in King’s Lynn. They might come here and question her parents.”
Jonathan looked at George.
“Tell me, George. What is it all about that box? What is in this box that Duke Raleigh is after?”
George folded his hands, unsure what to answer. Finally, he took a deep breath.
“This box contains a very precious object that I need to hide in a safe place. However, Duke Raleigh has no idea of it. He’s not looking for the box. It would be a disaster if he ever found it. Although I doubt he would be able to make use of the object. Duke Raleigh is looking for me because he suspects that Master Edward taught me all his secret knowledge, which, in fact, is true. As you know, Jonathan, Master Edward knew a lot about healing. He was able to find a cure for many diseases. Master Edward was the duke’s political counsellor. He always knew how the political parties in England and in the whole of Europe would act and react before anybody even had a clue. You know they considered him a mage. That’s why they are afraid of him. I was his apprentice. The duke knows I share Master Edward’s knowledge and he wants to use it for himself. He’s afraid I’ll sell it to somebody else.”
“And will you?” Jonathan asked. “I mean you left. I know it was Master Edward’s wish. But why should you want to leave, George, if not for that?”
George laughed. His laugh sounded almost bitter.
“No, Jonathan, I must leave for some reason I cannot tell you. I could easily be Duke Raleigh’s counsellor. It’s easy to give him good advice. Well, I think I would have left, nonetheless, since I do not like the duke and his family. But I have to leave for a particular reason.”
“Which reason, George?” Jonathan asked. His voice was tense.
George looked up and met Jonathan’s gaze.
“I took an oath, Jonathan, to never tell anybody of it. I committed my life to keep a secret Master Edward confided to me. I must not tell to anybody until the end of my life, except to only one person who I will have to choose.”
Jonathan leaned back a little. He looked to the ground.
“Well then. I won’t ask you again. But I will keep my promise and help you to find a safe place,” he said. His voice was low and sounded sad.
George felt guilty. He was torn. Various emotions ran through his body. Finally, he rose from his chair and sat down next to Jonathan.
“Jonathan,” he said in a low voice. “Master Edward never told you of this secret in order to not endanger you. But he considered you a friend. He trusted you and he entrusted you with a mission. He asked you to help me. He placed his trust in you only. I also place my trust in you. And I consider you my friend. But I do not want to endanger you either. I should have sent you back to London for your own safety. I did not. Master Edward would blame me for this. Again, Jonathan, go back to London tomorrow and forget about me.”
Jonathan turned his eyes to George. His look was confused and his lips were trembling slightly.
“I won’t leave you alone. I cannot. I felt like I was waiting for this moment all my life. A moment of importance, a moment that makes my life worth living. I already told you, George.”
“Alright,” George said softly. “Let’s find a hiding-place tomorrow, and then I will tell you a little more. I cannot reveal the secret to you. But I can tell you what Master Edward taught me before he revealed it to me. Alright?”
Jonathan nodded slowly. He kept looking at George, and then a smile appeared on his face.
“I feel I’m on a mission, George. It sounds weird. But I feel as if I am trying to shed light on something. I don’t know how to say. There’s darkness over the surface of the deep. But I feel a spirit of anticipation that is hovering over the waters.”
George looked at Jonathan with surprise. A smile showed on his lips. He felt an impulse to lean in and touch Jonathan. He felt a feeling he had never felt before. It was soft and sweet and confusing him. It was intense. And George gave in to it and placed his arm around Jonathan’s shoulders. Jonathan looked into George’s eyes. Confusion showed in his eyes also, and he felt slightly tensed. For a few moments, they just looked at each other. George’s heart beat wildly and Jonathan was barely able to breathe.
Then they heard footsteps outside and a knock at the door. Jonathan straightened and George rose to his feet and sat down on the chair. George looked into the room, trying to calm down. He realised his cheeks had blushed. Jonathan cleared his throat.
“Yes?” he asked loudly. “Come in, please.”
The door opened and Liam’s wife Marianne looked at them.
“I made tea, sirs,” she said, looking between them awkwardly. “It’s cold upstairs. I was just wondering if you wanted to come down and have some tea.”
“A very good idea, ma’am,” Jonathan said, rising to his feet. “How about we go down, George?” he asked, looking at George briefly.
George saw that Jonathan’s cheeks had blushed also.
“A very good idea,” George said. He rose stiffly and walked to the door.
They followed Marianne downstairs. The public parlour was heated. Jonathan and George sat down at a table. Marianne brought them mugs of tea.
“I’m happy Christine is doing fine, Mister Britten,” she said quietly. “I’m grateful you did not dismiss her. My husband told me you rented the house.”
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “I need to accompany Mister Hunter. I promised it to an honourable man. He is close to death. It was his last wish.”
Marianne looked at Jonathan with surprise.
“So that is why you came here. My husband has weird thoughts sometimes. Troubling thoughts.”
“I already feared he had suspicions. I sent Mister Hunter to you, and then showed up myself. You must think something mysterious if not illegal is going on.”
“Forgive me, sir,” she said, barely audible. “We got used to be cautious. Many strange visitors come to our inn.”
“You do well to be cautious,” Jonathan said. “However, Mister Hunter and I do not have bad intentions. We’re travelling north to convey the dying man’s message to a certain person who lives far away from London. I agreed to accompany Mister Hunter. It is just far too dangerous to travel on one’s own in winter. And besides, my aunt, my only relative, lives in Edinburgh. I can visit her. Mister Hunter can hand over the parcel to Master Edward’s nephew. And I guess, in the beginning of April, we’ll be back in London. I cannot stay away from London any longer. I need to arrange and see to things.”
Jonathan took a sip, and then leaned back comfortably.
“I just wished we’d find a comfortable guesthouse on our way tomorrow.”
George listened to Jonathan’s words nervously. He cast him several warning looks which Jonathan all ignored. Finally, George leaned back in his chair and gazed into the chimney fire. He willingly kept calm, yet inside he felt angry. Jonathan had revealed their plans to Marianne, apparently without even noticing he gave away secret information.
Marianne finally went into the kitchen. George kept gazing into the fire, his lips compressed.
“That was just perfect,” Jonathan said cheerfully.
George didn’t reply.
“Just perfect. Don’t you think so, George?” Jonathan asked him jovially.
“Perfect, indeed,” George replied drily. “You gave away everything.”
Jonathan laughed heartily. He leaned forward with a smirk. George frowned at him.
“Can’t you see, George? If Duke Raleigh shows up here to question them, he won’t learn anything that is not the truth. You left London to hand over a parcel. And I accompanied you because it was Master Edward’s last wish. My aunt lives in Edinburgh. I told everyone I would travel there. They will believe Marianne when she tells them that we headed for Edinburgh.”
Jonathan rubbed his hands.
“Liam and Marianne won’t be in danger. And we will have plenty of time to find a hiding-place.”
He lowered his voice.
“We just need to travel north first, just in case someone follows us for some time.”
George relaxed. He studied Jonathan’s face.
“What?” Jonathan asked.
“I thought you were a soft and delicate man. However, I am stunned by your shrewd cleverness and subtlety.”
Jonathan’s smirk turned into a grin.
“I am surprised myself,” he said. “I almost feel I am a different man since I have met you, George.”
Jonathan fell silent. His cheeks blushed again. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably. Finally, he reached out for his mug and took another sip of tea. He looked at Jonathan who watched him anxiously.
“Your excuse is perfect,” George said with a smile.
A smile appeared on Jonathan’s lips.
“I suggest we travel north first,” he said. “And then we’ll ride to Liverpool where the big vessels are at anchor for the winter.”
George nodded. “Agreed,” Jonathan. “We’ll vanish without a trace.”
George and Jonathan left the following morning. The farmer had sold them one of his steeds. They spent several days on the road and reached Liverpool at the end of the following week as they had planned. They found a room in a small guesthouse close to the harbour. Their host, an old and grumpy man, had no interest in them. George and Jonathan were more than pleased with the man’s lack of interest and curiosity.
They went to the harbour looking for a ship that would leave Liverpool in spring. They soon learned that the first sailing ships would leave in the beginning of April. Most of the ships were English vessels that were aimed to sail to Ireland or the Americas, places George and Jonathan did not feel inclined to go to. One vessel only raised their attention. It was a Portuguese sailing ship that was overhauled in the harbour. The Portuguese captain had decided to stay in Liverpool for the winter, but he and the crew were eager to leave England as soon as possible. They planned to leave on a good day in March. Alvaro Garcia, the captain of the ship, agreed to take Jonathan and George on board. He told them he would send one of his men to their guesthouse and inform them as soon as he decided to leave Liverpool. It was mid-February by now.
Jonathan and George kept hiding in their guestroom. The first days passed quickly. But then they got bored and a certain tension rose between them. Neither of them had mentioned the incident in Liam’s inn, but they watched and studied each other secretly. However, they didn’t reveal their thoughts until the tension grew almost unbearable. George finally broke it on a cold day in the beginning of March.
He stood by the window and Jonathan was stretched on the bed. George turned his head briefly and looked at Jonathan, and then he straightened and left his place by the window. He sat down on the bed next to Jonathan.
“We need to talk, Jonathan,” he said in a low voice.
Jonathan didn’t reply. He just looked at George.
“I can’t stand it any longer,” he said finally.
George sensed the warmth radiating from Jonathan’s body. He felt overwhelmed by Jonathan’s physical presence and his perception was focused on it. George didn’t reply. He just moved his hand and placed a finger on Jonathan’s cheek. Jonathan blinked, and then he closed his eyes.
They felt almost sad when a man came to their guesthouse and told them that the Portuguese vessel would leave Liverpool on the following day. George and Jonathan bought food, paid the rent of the room and sold their horses. Early the following day, they went on board of the vessel ‘Isabel’.
Alvaro Garcia, the captain, welcomed them and a boy showed George and Jonathan to a cabin. It was small and narrow and had only two bunks, one above the other. Jonathan put his bag in the top bunk.
“I don’t think we need the upper bunk,” he said, smiling at George. “Put your bag there also.”
Neither Captain Garcia nor the seamen were very much interested in George and Jonathan. The captain never invited them to have dinner with him. A ship boy brought food and water to their cabin. George and Jonathan spent most of their time in their room.
“I feel almost like in prison,” Jonathan said one day.
“Two more weeks. Patience,” George replied. He knelt on the floor. He was examining the box with the mirror.
“The journey is rough. I just hope no harm is done to the item in the box,” he said.
Jonathan was leaning at the cabin door, watching George.
“What is in this box?” he asked.
George turned his head to him.
“It’s a mirror. Well, not exactly a mirror. Kind of a mirror. I don’t have a better word for it,” George said reluctantly.
“What kind of a mirror?” Jonathan asked. “What is it all about that you have to flee England and take this object with you?”
George looked at the box. He felt the urge to open it. And then, without further considerations, he took his knife and started to open the box.
Jonathan stepped closer.
“What are you doing?” he asked, feeling startled.
George looked up.
“I’ll show it to you. You must know.”
Jonathan placed his hand on George’s arm.
“Stop it, George,” he said nervously. “You told me you must not show it to anyone. Don’t unveil your secret inconsiderately.”
George shook his head. He continued opening the box. Finally, he took off the cover. He gazed at the hay that covered the mirror.
Jonathan knelt down beside George.
“It’s a precious object,” George explained. “Master Edward wrapped it into several cloths, and he stuffed the box with hay.”
George removed the hay slowly until they saw a dark blue velvet cloth. He looked at Jonathan briefly before he started to unwrap the mirror. Jonathan watched him attentively. George carefully placed the mirror on the floor of the cabin. Jonathan looked at the black object.
“I have never seen such an object,” he said finally. “I have never seen this material. What is it? Chinaware? And it doesn’t look like a mirror at all. It’s a casket,” he said.
George shook his head.
“It’s not chinaware. I don’t know what it is made of. This is a secret also. It looks like a casket. But it’s not. You can open it, though. I’ll show you. Please, Jonathan, lock the cabin door.”
Jonathan rose to his feet and locked the door. George placed the object on the small table by the window.
“I’m not sure it will be working,” George said. “It needs sunlight every now and then to work properly. It has been in the wooden box for many weeks and has not been exposed to the light.”
Jonathan looked at the object in confusion.
“It needs sunlight?” he asked.
“Yes, like the trees and plants, animals and human beings. Neither men nor animals nor plants prosper in the dark.”
“You mean this object is a living thing?” Jonathan asked bewildered.
“Not exactly,” George said. “I need to activate it. I need to press a button. Then it springs to life. It needs sunlight to stay alive. I don’t really know. I could imagine, once activated, it may live forever, provided there is enough sunlight. However, Master Edward told me those objects can break.”
“There are more of them?” Jonathan asked in a low voice.
“That’s what Master Edward told me,” George just said. “Well, I can activate the mirror and I can stop it. The master of this object is truly its master. It can’t live without the master’s consent.”
Jonathan gazed at George. His face turned pale as he listened to George’s words. George turned his head and their eyes met.
“What’s wrong, Jonathan?” George asked.
“So, it’s all true about Master Edward and you being mages?”
George studied Jonathan’s face. He was feeling insecure. Had he done the right thing? His eyes rested on Jonathan’s face for a while. Then George shook his head.
“Master Edward wasn’t a mage. And I am not a mage either. We just know of things that are unknown to most people. And we swore to keep this knowledge a secret. It would only disquiet people. You are already feeling worried, aren’t you, Jonathan?”
Jonathan nodded briefly. Then he straightened.
“Carry on, please, George,” he said. “I trusted Master Edward and I will trust you, too.”
George opened the casket. Jonathan’s eyes widened. He gazed at the buttons and the black screen.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Look, Jonathan,” George said with a smile.
George pressed a button. The screen brightened. A cry escaped Jonathan’s mouth and he stepped back. George turned his head to him.
“It won’t do you any harm, Jonathan,” George said. “Take a closer look.”
Jonathan approached the table with the mirror hesitantly. He looked at the brightened mirror intently.
“Is it illuminated by the sunlight?” Jonathan asked. He sounded confused.
“I don’t know exactly,” George said. “Master Edward told me it needs sunlight to work properly. I need to press this button to make the plate shine.”
Jonathan examined the mirror for a while. He was fascinated by the illuminated screen.
“Well, this casket or mirror is truly a precious thing,” Jonathan finally said in awe. “I perfectly agree with you, George. Duke Raleigh must never find it. This shining mirror is worth a king. Just imagine this plate shedding light in a king’s hall. It’s far more impressive than the light of hundreds of candles.”
George looked at Jonathan and was about to explain that the mirror was not intended to shed light and replace candles when they heard a noise outside.
“Lunch time,” Jonathan said. “The ship boy is coming downstairs with our lunch.”
George looked startled.
“Please, Jonathan, stop him. He must not enter the room.”
Jonathan jumped. “Of course”, he said, already heading for the door. “I’ll stop him in the corridor. Put that casket back into the box.”
Jonathan unlocked the door and stepped outside. George looked back at the mirror. He pressed another button and the green window opened on the screen. George looked at the cabin door quickly, and then he leaned forward and spoke in Hebrew. Letters formed on the screen. George gazed at them, wondering if any of the other guardians were sitting in front of their mirrors at this very moment and would read his message. George told them in brief words that he was on a sailing ship and was travelling to Portugal.
George kept looking at the screen. He was stunned that the mirror was still working. It had been in the darkness for months. And there was only a very small window in the cabin.
He heard Jonathan speak to the ship boy. Jonathan told the boy that George was sick. He asked the boy to go back to the kitchen and ask the cook for a bowl of chicken broth. George heard footsteps. Jonathan apparently followed the boy down the corridor.
Suddenly, new letters formed on the screen. George bent forward excitedly. The Spanish guardian replied to his message. He told George he was glad to hear from him. The guardians had already feared he was dead and the mirror was lost. The Spanish guardian told George to leave Lisbon instantly after their arrival and travel to Toledo in Spain. He asked him to contact him again immediately after his arrival in Toledo. He asked him to take good care of the mirror. George spoke aloud. His message formed on the screen. He told the Spanish guardian he would do exactly what the man had suggested. Then he spoke the secret words that ended the communication.
George heard footsteps again. He pressed a button quickly. The screen went black. George closed the mirror. The door opened and Jonathan stepped in with a tray in his hands. Jonathan looked at the mirror, the box and the hay on the floor.
“Hide it,” he said. “The boy will be back in a few minutes.” He placed the tray with food and water on the table.
They wrapped up the mirror, put it into the box and stuffed the hay into it. George placed the cover on the wooden box.
“Master Edward tied it up. We’ll need stout cords and we must watch the box carefully once we have left the ship,” George said.
Jonathan picked up a few straws from the floor and threw them into a bucket. He didn’t reply. Then they heard a knock at the door.
“Lie down. I told him you were sick,” Jonathan said in a low voice.
George lay down in the bunk quickly. Jonathan opened the door. The boy entered the room and looked at George curiously. George had placed his hands on his stomach. The boy put a bowl on the table.
“What’s wrong with him?” he asked in broken English.
“Just an upset stomach,” Jonathan said. “He ate all of the rancid cheese we got yesterday.”
“Aye,” the boy said with a grin.
Jonathan opened the door and made a gesture with his hand. The boy left instantly. George sat up.
“Let’s eat,” Jonathan said, crossing the room.
He sat down and took a piece of old bread.
“I can’t wait to arrive in Lisbon. The food is disgusting. Beans and brawn again. Come, George, eat your chicken broth.”
George sat down on a stool and eyed the broth.
“I doubt it tastes any better than the beans,” he said.
They shared their meal quietly, and then pushed away the plates and bowls.
“Two more weeks,” George said. “I was thinking, Jonathan. We’ll better leave Lisbon right after our arrival.”
“Why?” Jonathan asked bewildered.
George didn’t reply straight away. Jonathan studied his face.
“Where does this casket, this mirror, come from, George? Who made it, and why? What is the purpose of it? And why do you hide it?”
George leaned back against the cabin wall.
“It was made in a far away country. And it was made a long time ago. This ancient civilization perished. It perished long before Egypt, Greece and Rome were powerful nations. Almost all is lost. Only few items remained. And only few people know the true tale,” George said calmly.
Jonathan’s eyes rested on George’s face. He was thinking.
“I know of tales that speak of ancient and mysterious lands,” Jonathan finally said. “Those tales sound fantastic. And I never considered them true. Had I not seen this shining plate, I would think that you and Master Edward were some weird occultists. Not mages, sorcerers or wizards. Mind you, I am a rational man. I knew Master Edward and I trusted him. I know you and I trust you, too. And I saw that object. For all these reasons, I do believe your words, George. And I’m beginning to understand. Master Edward knew the truth behind the tales. And so do you, George, right?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes, Jonathan. And now you know more than is good for you,” he said calmly.
Jonathan nodded slowly.
“I now understand why you were hesitating to tell me of it. I must admit, George, I can still not figure out what it is all about. So, you are carrying an object with you that is, well, thousands of years old? You said it was made before Egypt, Greece and Rome even existed.”
“Yes, this is true,” he said.
“You are saying that a nation made an object that turned the sunlight into a bright light shining from a screen,” Jonathan continued. “They didn’t use candles and oil lamps then?”
George was hesitating.
“There’s more to it, Jonathan,” he said. “The mirror is not a lamp.”
Jonathan studied George’s face.
“I cannot imagine its purpose, George,” he said in a low voice. “I fear I am an average man whereas you are not.”
They looked at each other for a while.
“Who or what are you?” Jonathan asked finally.
George reached out and touched Jonathan’s hand.
“I’m just an ordinary man. I would work in my father’s inn, if I had not met Master Edward.”
Jonathan nodded barely visibly. He squeezed George’s hand.
“I’ll tell you more of it, Jonathan,” George said. “Think of your tales. You are a very educated man. You can figure out a lot of it yourself. A lot is written down. But people cannot read between lines. Just trust in me, Jonathan. We need to leave Lisbon and go to Toledo in Spain.”
“Toledo in Spain,” he said. “Alright then, George. Let’s go there. I won’t bother you with questions again until we’ll arrive in Toledo. And I will think of all the ancient stories and tales that I have read and heard of.”
He picked up the tray from the table and walked to the door.
“I’ll take the tray back to the kitchen and then I’ll go for a walk on deck,” he said.
“I’ll try to find some strong cords in order to tie up the box,” he said.
Jonathan nodded, and then left the room. George sat down again on the stool, pondering. He had revealed part of the truth to Jonathan and he had shown him the mirror. George bit his lips. He had sworn to never do what exactly he had done only one hour ago. His inconsiderate action had enlarged the danger. If anybody questioned Jonathan, part of the truth would come to light. George shook his head. They would never believe it, unless someone already knew part of the truth and was clever enough to figure out the rest. George suddenly looked frightened.
“Who would that be?” he said to himself. “The ancient tales are just ancient tales. I’m not in danger. Duke Raleigh has almost certainly given up on finding me. Nobody knows of the mirror. Nobody is after me.”
George rose to his feet and left the room. He made a few steps, but then he stopped. He suddenly felt cold. George had a sense of foreboding. He went back and locked the door.
The Portuguese ship reached the harbour of Lisbon two weeks later. It was a sunny day in May when George and Jonathan left the ship. Spring had come, and the temperature was already high. They had not foreseen the climate in Portugal. Dressed in heavy clothes and carrying their luggage, George and Jonathan walked down a cobbled street and soon started to sweat.
George put his bag and the box with the mirror down. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and breathed heavily. Jonathan watched him.
“We need to buy more adequate clothes,” Jonathan said. He studied the people that passed them by. “Let’s ask a local where we can find a tailor or a shop.”
“Let’s find a cheap hostel first,” George replied. “We must leave Lisbon as soon as possible. But I agree. We need to buy clothes for the summer. And we need to buy provisions that we can take along.”
“I suggest we look for a hostel first. We better leave this area. The harbour is not a safe place. We need to take care of the mirror,” Jonathan said with a nod.
George agreed. He looked around and spotted two old women.
“Let’s ask the women,” he said.
They approached the women who were dressed entirely in black. Jonathan spoke to them. The women just gazed at them with widened eyes. An elderly man approached them and spoke to George and Jonathan rapidly, making wild gestures with his hands.
“They suspect we are villains, I think,” Jonathan said. “We look ragged. And we apparently have just left a ship in the harbour.”
The women curiously watched the scene that was unfolding. More people gathered around them, all of them talking loudly. The man spoke to George and Jonathan again. His voice sounded angry. Suddenly, a young boy stepped forward. Jonathan recognized him.
“Manuel, the ship boy,” he said.
Manuel talked to the man. The people listened eagerly and pointed into different directions. Manuel turned away from the man and approached George and Jonathan. He smirked.
“They are afraid of strangers. All strangers are thieves, robbers and murderers,” he said. “I told them you are probably looking for a hostel. Are you?”
“Yes,” Jonathan said, feeling relieved at the sudden help. “Manual, can you help us?”
Manuel tilted his head and smiled at Jonathan. Jonathan raised his eyebrows, and then he understood. He nodded.
“Half a silver coin, Manuel. You’ll get it as soon as we have entered a decent hostel far away from the harbour.”
Manuel clapped his hands and turned back to the crowd. He switched from English to Portuguese and back, apparently boasting with his language skills. One of the old women stepped closer and talked to Manual vigorously. The boy pouted, but then he smiled. He turned back to George and Jonathan.
“She scolded me for being a loud mouth braggart. But she knows a place where you can go to. Her son and his wife run a hostel in the outskirts. I’ll show you there. Come,” Manuel said. “Follow me.” He walked on instantly.
They walked for almost an hour, passing small houses and gardens. The sun was high, and George and Jonathan sweated heavily. Suddenly, Manuel stopped and pointed down the street.
“It’s down there.”
A few minutes later, they arrived at the hostel. Manuel opened the door and walked in. George and Jonathan followed him hesitantly.
Manuel called out. A woman came down the corridor. She looked between George and Jonathan, and then turned to Manuel. The woman and the boy talked for a while. Then Manuel turned to George.
“How long will you stay?” he asked.
“Just one night,” George said.
“No,” Jonathan interrupted. “Two nights. Please, George, we need some time to buy clothes, food and horses.”
“Alright,” George said with a nod. “Two nights then.”
Manuel talked to the woman again.
“She agrees. She wants you to pay in advance for one night. It’s half a silver coin for one night. Breakfast is included. If you want to have lunch or dinner, you must tell her in time. It’s not included,” Manuel said.
The woman pointed down the corridor and walked on. Jonathan quickly pulled a coin from his pocket and gave it to Manuel. The boy returned a nod and with a final greeting left the house. George and Jonathan picked up their luggage and followed the woman. She led them up a narrow staircase to a tiny room with a small table, a stool and a bunk bed.
An hour later, they had lunch downstairs. Jonathan asked the woman, Luisa, where they could get some new clothes. After several attempts and much gesturing, Luisa finally understood Jonathan’s question. She showed them to her neighbour Annabel whose son had left the country and had left behind his belongings. The two women argued and talked for a while, and then pulled shirts and trousers out of a wardrobe. Annabel was content with one silver coin.
A short while later they tried on their new trousers and shirts in their room in the hostel.
“George, you look like a native in these clothes and with your dark hair. Almost like a native. Your skin is too pale,” Jonathan said.
“This will have changed in a couple of days under the scorching sun,” George replied with a smirk.
“We’ll probably get food and water for our journey from Luisa. But how do we travel? I have not seen many horses. They have donkeys rather.”
Luisa’s husband later told them that only few people in Lisbon had horses. And the horses were expensive. So, George and Jonathan decided to leave Lisbon by foot. They bought a donkey the following day. The animal would carry their bags and the box with the mirror.
They left Lisbon the following morning and turned north-east.
They walked for several hours that day, just resting in the shades for an hour or two at noon. They felt exhausted when they lay down to sleep. And the following two or three days weren’t any better. But slowly, George and Jonathan got accustomed to walking. Their daily walk became a routine.
They talked about Master Edward. George soon realized that Master Edward had unveiled part of the secret knowledge to Jonathan. Jonathan, however, apparently thought his knowledge was common knowledge. George asked him if he had ever talked about these things with his friends. Jonathan laughed and told him that his friends were mainly interested in chasing young and beautiful ladies. He had often felt bored in their company. That was why he had never considered them true friends. Jonathan told George of his life in London, the people he knew and the people he liked and disliked. George once more realized that he had lived a secluded life. They also discussed Duke Raleigh’s plans. Jonathan was sure the duke had lost track of them.
Their conversation turned to the mirror again. George told Jonathan that Master Edward had gotten the mirror from his own master. The mirror had been passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years.
“I cannot say how exactly the mirror works,” George said. “And I’m certain Master Edward did not know it himself. He told me of a man who knew more about it. This man lives in France.”
Jonathan looked at him with surprise.
“But he did not want you to go to France and seek this man. Why?”
George looked ahead for a moment before turning his eyes back to Jonathan.
“He feared the duke would find me and get hold of the mirror.”
“And why do we go to Toledo?” Jonathan asked.
“Because we’ll find another man there who is initiated into the secret. I do not know his real name. And I don’t know if he knows how the mirror works in detail. But he knows the mirror exists for he has one himself.”
Jonathan stopped walking.
“What?” he asked surprised.
“We already talked about it,” George said. “This is not the only mirror. There are more of these objects. All of them are hidden and guarded well.”
George fell silent. For the first time, he had mentioned the word ‘guard’ and he instantly felt uncomfortable. However, Jonathan seemed not to pay attention to this particular word.
“I can hardly believe it,” Jonathan said. “You’re saying an ancient civilization constructed those objects? And there are men who hide them?”
He turned to George excitedly.
“How many mirrors, George? And how many men? And what exactly are those mirrors used for?”
“Not too many mirrors and not too many men, Jonathan,” George said quietly. “Those mirrors are used for something that I will show to you when we will have arrived in Toledo. I cannot show it to you now. I must not. It’s far too dangerous.”
Jonathan’s eyes showed confusion and excitement at the same time.
“I cannot grasp it entirely. No, I cannot grasp it at all. But it’s all so exciting. It seems to me I have discovered an entirely new world. I feel like the men who discover new lands and continents. I cannot explain it well.”
“I know how you’re feeling. I feel like this also. I see the world we live in and it seems to me like a stage. A play is staged and the spectators are drawn into the play. They are entirely absorbed into it. They forget that it is just a play. They forget about the backstage. They cannot see it. They don’t want to see it. All they want to see is the play that’s going on. It’s dangerous to interrupt the play. The spectators would grow angry and enraged. They don’t like troublemakers.”
The expression on George’s face was serious. Jonathan swallowed the words he was about to say. His mind was working.
“So it’s better to not interrupt them and not bring the backstage to their attention?” he asked finally.
“Yes,” George simply said.
“You are certainly right, George,” he said calmly. “Think of Copernicus. Think of all the men they killed. They were burned on the stakes, beheaded and quartered.”
“Yes,” George said.
They exchanged a look.
“I understand,” Jonathan said slowly. “These mirrors must be hidden. The knowledge must be a secret for the safety of those who know of it and for the safety of the people, the nations and the societies. People would not be able to cope with it.”
“Yes, Jonathan,” George said. “They would either be afraid of the mirror and would seek to destroy it, or they would want to possess it and use its powers for their own advantage. “
George took a deep breath.
“People are not ready for the truth. So I must guard it until the end of my life and then pass it on to a younger man.”
George fell silent. He realized that his hands were trembling. His face turned pale and he felt cold despite the scorching sun. The truth dawned on him. He had revealed the secret. George swallowed.
“I broke my oath,” he said in a low voice. “I told you everything. I’m no longer worth to be a guardian. All I can do now is confess it to my fellow guardians and ask them to take the necessary steps.”
George’s voice broke and he moved on stiffly. He suddenly turned to his left and walked into a corn field. George sat down. He gazed into the distance. His mind was empty and his heart felt like stone. George’s hands started to tremble as suddenly Master Edward’s face appeared in his mind. Master Edward looked at him gravely. He had guarded the secret all his life. Even in the face of death the old and fragile man had struggled to keep the ancient truth a secret, whereas he, George, had given away all only a few months after his final oath. Shame and guilt weighed on George heavily. Tears filled his eyes. George covered his eyes with his hands.
Jonathan watched George with growing concern. His heart beat fast as he realized the meaning of George’s words. Jonathan also felt cold and almost terrified. He followed George slowly. He approached him hesitantly and knelt down beside him. Jonathan touched George’s shoulder softly.
“George,” he said. “I will never mention a word to anybody. I swear it by my soul. And if it is your wish, I will never again mention the mirror to you. George, please, look at me.”
George turned his eyes to Jonathan. His look was haunted.
“George,” Jonathan whispered. “What will they do to you if they find out that you told me the secret?”
George’s lips trembled.
“Master Edward told me that only few guardians failed. Their fellow guardians knew how to find and silence them. They observe the rule. Those who fail will be killed.”
George looked at Jonathan.
“I failed and I will bow to their judgement,” he said. His voice was barely a whisper.
They gazed at each other, a multitude of emotions running through their bodies, conflicting thoughts crossing their minds.
“Again, I swear by my soul that I will never mention a word to anyone,” Jonathan said. His voice was toneless, but his look was determined.
George shook his head.
“I will go and see my fellow guardian in Toledo and I will confess all to him. I must, Jonathan. I must go there and hand over the mirror. This is my duty and my final task,” he said.
George’s voice broke off. Jonathan took George’s hand.
“I will go with you then. I’ll ask for the same sentence, since I’m guilty, too. I tempted you to reveal the secret to me. You wanted me to stay in London. I followed you. I chased you for I fell in love with you. This is a truth I cannot hide either.”
Their eyes locked and then fear and confusion were replaced by mutual consent. Jonathan embraced George. They now knew for sure that they had a common goal. Wherever their journey would lead them to, they would go there together.
They continued their journey. They walked for several hours each day. They met people on their way, mainly Portuguese and Spanish people travelling to or from Madrid. But barely ever they joined a group. They moved from town to town and village to village. Now and then, they bought food and hay for the donkey. The weeks passed by and finally their journey came to an end. A man told them that Toledo was near.
George said that they needed to find a hidden place.
“We could easily walk for another two or three hours,” Jonathan said with surprise.
George shook his head.
“The time has come, Jonathan. I need to open the box and activate the mirror. I’ll show you how to use it.”
Jonathan didn’t inquire. He just nodded and looked out for a place. He finally spotted an old shed on the other side of a crop field.
“How about this shed?” he asked. “We can hide behind it. I think we would hear if somebody approached it from the road.”
“It won’t take long. People don’t travel at noon. I have not seen anybody on the road for an hour at least.”
They led the donkey into the crop field, crossed the field and moved around the shed. Jonathan watched the road while George unpacked the mirror. When George called out, Jonathan sat down beside him.
“The light flickered,” George said. “I suspect it needs sunlight. Luckily, there’s plenty of it. Let’s wait a few minutes.”
“You are right, George,” Jonathan said. “It seems the light is less bright.”
They gazed at the screen for a while. Then George took the mirror and placed it in front of him.
“Alright, Jonathan,” George said in a tensed voice.
Jonathan gave him a questioning look.
“My fellow guardian in Toledo sent me a letter. He replied to my letter that I sent to him from the ship.”
Jonathan narrowed his eyes.
“What?” he asked.
George straightened and took a deep breath.
“I cannot say how it works, Jonathan. But this object is not a mirror. We call it a mirror. But look at it. It apparently is not a mirror. It is not a lamp either. This object is used for sending letters.”
Jonathan’s mouth opened slightly and his look was blank.
“Keep quiet, please, Jonathan,” George said. “I need to press a button, and then speak to the object in Hebrew. Hebrew is the language the objects understand. I spoke to it on the ship when you had left the cabin. I got a reply from the man in Toledo. He has a mirror also and he had activated it just the moment I spoke to my mirror. Luckily. Thus I was able to read his reply. He told me to send another letter one day before we arrive in Toledo. I suspect he had his mirror activated all the time, waiting for my letter. Quiet, please.”
Jonathan gave another brief nod. He gazed at the screen intently.
George pressed a button and the green window popped up. Jonathan winced. But he kept his eyes on the screen.
George spoke in Hebrew. Letters formed on the screen.
A stifled moan escaped Jonathan’s mouth. George raised his hand and Jonathan pressed his hand on his mouth quickly.
A few minutes passed. They did not dare to move. And then new letters appeared on the screen. George bent forward and read them. Jonathan’s eyes widened and his heart beat wildly. His lips shivered slightly. He realized he felt horrified. He almost panicked. Frightened, Jonathan looked between the screen and George, unsure what to think. He fought against the panic willingly.
George suddenly nodded and said a few words. He waited another couple of minutes, just looking at the screen. Then he pressed a button. The screen went black. George closed the casket, wrapped it up in the velvet cloths and put it back into the box. He stuffed the box with hay, and then put the box into a basket cautiously. He covered the box with hay and placed a small bag with bread on top. Then George sat down next to Jonathan and looked ahead. He remained silent.
Jonathan breathed heavily.
“Tell me what you think,” ‘George said finally.
“It frightened me,” Jonathan said in a low voice.
George turned his eyes to him. He measured Jonathan.
“Are you afraid of me now?” he asked.
Jonathan shook his head slowly.
“I just cannot grasp it, George,” he said in a whisper.
“There are twelve men in every corner of the world, Jonathan. These twelve men have a mirror each. I’m one of them. We can send us messages. I have not done it often. Only twice on my own. But Master Edward showed me how to do it.”
“Twelve men and twelve mirrors,” Jonathan said, feeling dizzy.
“Master Edward suspected there were more than twelve objects. They lost some of them. Master Edward said that the man in France knows how to repair them. I suspect that there are others also who know how to repair them. Those are the initiates of the highest rank. Although such a concept like ranks does not really exist. But you can imagine that the knowledge of these men is of immeasurable value.”
Jonathan gazed absent-mindedly into the distance for a while. His face was pale and he looked like fainting.
“You said an ancient civilization constructed these mirrors, I mean these objects. You are saying there are a few men today who know how to build and repair them. My god, George. Those men would be considered gods.”
“No, they would be considered demons. They would be killed and the objects destroyed because people would feel horrified. A few smart persons would want to use the mirrors for their own advantage. They would chase the mirrors, kill their owners and finally destroy the objects for they would not know how to use them properly.”
Jonathan nodded. He wiped his forehead.
“Why have those objects not been destroyed anyway? They are a danger to all who know of them.”
“It was then that the grand council of Adon declared their mission was accomplished. Only chosen individuals would be taught the full knowledge of Adon to pass it on from generation to generation. The race of Earth would now develop and grow on its own. The guardians would watch and only interfere if absolutely necessary,” George said in a stern voice.
“What?” Jonathan asked. His lips trembled again.
George looked at Jonathan intently.
“Those are the words Master Edward spoke to me. Many more words he spoke to me. I learned them by heart. The name of the ancient civilization was Adon. The race of Adon ruled on Earth for a very long time. Once their mission was accomplished, they decided to leave the race of Earth on its own. They chose the guardians. The guardians would watch and only interfere if absolutely necessary. The guardians hold the full knowledge. The guardians know the whole truth. Nothing was lost as time passed on. The last council was held in 6,000 B.C. The knowledge was passed on for almost 8,000 years from master to apprentice.”
They exchanged a long look. Jonathan looked at George as if he saw him for the first time.
George sat silently, waiting patiently. Finally, Jonathan spoke.
“The name of this ancient civilization is Adon? Adon is a name of the Hebrew god,” he said.
“Is this why you need to speak to the object in Hebrew?” Jonathan asked.
George shook his head.
“It works best with Hebrew. Master Edward told me it worked with other languages also. I think it originally worked with the language of Adon. The Jewish people adopted the name Adon. They know part of the truth, yet not all of it. They remember the ancient race of Adon only vaguely. This ancient race must have seemed to them like gods.”
Jonathan nodded in understanding.
“It makes sense,” he said. “The race of Adon lived on Earth thousands of years ago. And only a memory is left. Tell me, George, what happened to them? Their culture must have been far more developed than that of other nations, the Roman and the Egypt culture for instance, and ours, of course.”
Jonathan leaned back against the shed and again looked absent-mindedly into the distance. He felt overwhelmed and still could not grasp it. George smiled. He leaned in and touched Jonathan’s arm softly. Jonathan just looked at him. A faint smile appeared on his lips.
“The people of Adon found it impossible to spread their knowledge and teach every single man and woman,” George said. “It was not their intention. It had never been. They gave up their culture voluntarily. The knowledge was taught only to chosen individuals. They were called the guardians. They were sent into every corner of the world. Every master chooses an apprentice. Every master passes on his knowledge. Generation for generation. Twelve men always hold the full knowledge. Twelve men always will.”
Jonathan nodded slowly.
“And you are one of them,” he said.
“I did not choose my fate,” George said. “I was chosen. I accepted my fate, however. I swore an oath.”
“I feel very honoured, George, that you trust me so much.”
Jonathan sat up.
“So we will meet another of the twelve guardians in Toledo?”
“I told him we’ll arrive in Toledo tomorrow. He asked me to go to an inn called ‘Burro Rojo’. He asked me to ask the bartender for a woman called Maria Ines. She will show us to his place.”
“So you told him that I will come with you?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes, I told him. But he did not inquire about it. I suspect he will be watching us in the inn. If he decides he wants to meet us, Maria Ines will be around. Otherwise, we’ll probably ask for that woman in vain.”
“I cannot describe my feelings,” Jonathan said. “I feel overwhelmed. Weird thoughts are crossing my mind. But I cannot make anything of them. George, you must tell me more of Adon someday.”
“I will, Jonathan. How about we stay here for the night? The shed provides shelter. Let’s stay and move on tomorrow morning. We’ll be in Toledo in the afternoon.”
Jonathan nodded. He leaned back against the shed and folded his hands. His look was almost dreamy, and a smile played on his lips.
“Do you remember what I said to you in London when you wanted to leave and wanted me to stay behind? I said that I was waiting for this moment all my life. A moment of importance, a moment that makes my life worth living. This is it, George. That’s what I said. I said it to you again in Liam’s inn. And now I say it to you once more. All this makes my life worth living. I am incredibly grateful, George.”
Jonathan’s voice trembled. He raised his hand and wiped a tear from his eye. Almost ashamed, he looked at George and smiled. George returned the smile. He moved closer, leaned against Jonathan and took his hand.
“It’s an incredible story, I know,” George said in a low voice.
“But it is all true,” Jonathan said. “This moment is majestic.”
He sighed. George squeezed his hand.
They sat in silence for a while. Then Jonathan turned to George.
“I have been thinking. You told me on the ship that I could figure out the truth myself, at least most of it. Adon, this word caught my attention. My mind is working. Does the Bible reveal the truth, George?”
“Well, I doubt you can figure it out entirely. But let me know your thoughts.”
He smiled at Jonathan. Jonathan brooded.
“I thought of the story of Eden. Eden is the place where the first man and woman lived. Eden was a heavenly place. God had provided Adam and Eve with all they needed. They lived in happiness and abundance.”
George looked at Jonathan expectantly. Jonathan leaned forward.
“I was just thinking. Was Eden the place where the ancient Adon lived? Was Eden a city between Euphrates and Tigris and not just some mythical place?”
“Yes, you are right, Jonathan,” he said seriously. “Eden was the first capital on Earth. The Adon erected Eden as their capital.”
Jonathan nodded in understanding.
“I suspected it. But Adam and Eve failed and God banned them from paradise and left them on their own. Another coincidence, isn’t it? You said the Adon left the human race alone.”
George nodded again. He gave Jonathan a questioning and encouraging look.
“Go on, Jonathan,” he said calmly.
Jonathan’s eyes showed excitement. But suddenly his face turned pale. George lifted his chin a bit in anticipation.
“That would mean...,” Jonathan started, his voice low and trembling slightly, “...it would mean that God and the Adon are just two words for the same...” He stopped abruptly and fell silent, gazing into the distance in an almost state of shock.
George waited patiently.
“Adon means God, in fact. So...” He turned his widened eyes to George.
“The humans considered the Adon gods. That’s it, isn’t it?”
Another insight struck him
“God created man. Oh my god, George. The Adon created man?” Jonathan asked in a whisper. He looked at George nervously. “It’s heresy, George.”
“This is one of the reasons why we keep the truth a secret,” George said. “Who would believe it? Who would understand it? Just imagine what would be the result of such revelation?”
Jonathan gazed into the distance.
“So, there is no God?” he asked. He sounded lost and frightened.
George squeezed his hand.
“I do believe that there is a god, Jonathan. I believe in a higher being and in a higher love. But the Adon were no gods, although they must have seemed to be gods to the human beings who were naive and simple.”
They sat in silence for another while.
“How did they create man? I cannot imagine it. Did they use some kind of magic?”
George shook his head.
“No. At that time, a very simple being lived on Earth. A primitive man. Not a man like you are or I am. Not a man like any other man on Earth today. The Adon knew how to change this simple being into a smart and clever man.”
“They taught that simple man their knowledge?” Jonathan asked helplessly.
“They did, yes,” George said. “But they also knew how to improve his body, make his body more appealing and his brain work faster. I cannot explain how they did it. I cannot really imagine it myself. But they formed that being in their image. We very much look like the Adon.”
“They mixed their blood and his blood?” Jonathan asked. His face showed an expression of disgust as his mind was working. “I cannot help but think of breeding horses,” he finally said. “It is disgusting me.”
“Oh, well, Jonathan, I don’t think you dislike a good horse. And you don’t object to horse breeding.”
“But I object to breeding men and women,” he said vigorously.
“I do not like this idea also, George,” he said seriously. “Just try to free your mind for a while.”
Jonathan clenched his fingers. He took a deep breath.
“I do not like the idea and I feel the urge to dismiss these thoughts. But, please, George, carry on.”
“The Adon created man in their image. The humans bred and their numbers increased. The Adon were only few. Their number was soon little compared to the number of humans that lived around them.”
“Their fault only,” Jonathan said defensively. “Why did they create the humans then?”
“Life is reborn in many ways,” George said mysteriously.
“What do you mean?” Jonathan asked, sounding almost angry.
“The Adon were only few, Jonathan. Too few to survive on Earth for a long time. That’s why they mixed with the humans they had created in their image. Their descendants formed one single race, the race of Earth. Thus, they survived.”
Jonathan looked shocked.
George squeezed his hand again.
“It happens all the time, Jonathan. Members of one nation mix with members of other nations. It is a natural thing. Males and females fall in love and they do not acknowledge any barriers, barriers of rank and racial barriers or whatever.”
Jonathan nodded slowly.
“Well, yes, you are right. Master Edward told me of the rise and fall of nations. He told me how societies and nations merged in the past. Beliefs and convictions merged also. We talked a lot about the Greek and Roman cultures. He taught me what they had in common. Yes, cultures merge and thus develop. And yes, people of different origin fall in love.”
“Why did we fall in love?” Jonathan asked, changing the topic out of the blue.
“I cannot say, Jonathan,” he said. “But I’m very glad we did.”
They didn’t speak for a while. Then Jonathan nodded.
“One more thing,” Jonathan said finally. “You said the race of Adon erected the city of Eden between Euphrates and Tigris. So they had not lived there always? Where had they come from then?”
George took another deep breath.
“I feared you would ask me this. Well, this is the weirdest part of the story maybe. I do not expect you to believe it.”
“Just tell it,” Jonathan said, now looking curiously again.
“The Adon were the first race living on Earth. Earth, however, was not their home. Their home was elsewhere. They came to Earth a long, long time ago.”
Jonathan’s smile disappeared. His eyes looked blank for a moment. But then his mind started working again. And then he started to laugh aloud. He laughed almost hysterically.
“George, I beg you, don’t carry it too far. Don’t tell me they lived on the moon first.”
He stopped laughing, though, at seeing George’s grave and serious look.
“No, don’t tell me they lived...” Jonathan started. He fell silent.
George turned his head and looked at the sky.
“What do all the myths say, Jonathan? Where does God live? Where did all the gods live?”
Jonathan swallowed hard. He gazed at the sky intently.
“No,” he simply said.
“Yes,” George replied.
George studied Jonathan’s face. Jonathan didn’t take his eyes away from the sky. They had talked all afternoon. The sun was low meanwhile.
“Jonathan, it's a proven fact that the moon, Venus and Mars and other planets, are out there. Copernicus showed that the sun is the centre of this system. The planets revolve around the sun. The moon revolves around the earth. You know that, don’t you?”
“They knew this truth in Ancient Greece already,” he said.
He looked at George out of the corner of his eye. George watched him.
“Carry on,” Jonathan said in a low voice.
“The Adon lived on a planet far away from Earth. Their home is very far away. The light of our sun cannot reach it. They found out that their home would be destroyed entirely for some reason. There was no way to rescue their planet. So they had to leave it. They had vehicles that were able to travel between the stars. I cannot imagine it myself, Jonathan. Those vehicles were like huge ships. The Adon learned of the upcoming destruction of their planet many, many years before the inevitable would happen. So, they looked for a new home. They looked for a new place to live in. They finally found Earth which they considered a good place. The earth, however, was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep.”
Jonathan turned his head to George abruptly and lifted his chin. George raised his hand.
“I know these words are written in the Bible. Just let me finish my story. The Adon found a way to cultivate the planet. It took them a very long time. But finally plants had grown again and new animals lived and also that primitive man I already mentioned. Many years had passed. And the time had come. The Adon had to leave their planet. They travelled to different places, since Earth was not the only planet they had cultivated. One party travelled to Earth and settled on it. They erected their capital called Eden.”
There was a long silence between them. Both of them looked at the darkening sky. George mused on Master Edward’s words. He felt deeply connected with all the masters before him. And he felt connected with the Adon and their home so far away, their home that had long since been destroyed by a hungry and cruel sun. George wondered where the remaining Adon had travelled to. He wondered if somewhere between the stars another earth existed where more descendants of the Adon lived. Perhaps there they had passed on the secret truth also from generation to generation. Perhaps another young man sat behind a shed talking to his beloved right now. George was awestruck. And he could not help but sigh.
Jonathan gazed at the sky, the revelations sucking in slowly. His view of the world had collapsed entirely. Never would anybody or anything be able to restore it. Forever he would live in doubt. Forever he would feel secluded from the world around him. At the same time, the wonder unfolded. And Jonathan was in awe of it. He felt little and unimportant and, at the same time, chosen by – he was unable to find a word – fate maybe, or God. Tears came to his eyes and ran down his face. Yet Jonathan didn’t sob. He did not even move.
The sun had set when slowly they came back to reality.
“They can’t punish you for telling me the secret,” Jonathan said. “How could they punish you for lifting my life and filling it with happiness and abundance?”
George turned his head to Jonathan. They exchanged a smile. George took Jonathan’s hand. They sat for a while longer, and then they fetched their blankets and fell asleep under the dark sky. George saw the stars twinkle before he drifted to sleep. Jonathan gazed at the black sky. He imagined a huge and bright vehicle cross the nightly sky. It looked like a splendid carriage drawn by fiery horses. A man stood upright and held a streaming banner with the word Adon written on it. Jonathan fell asleep and a strange yet beautiful dream unfolded. Jonathan smiled.
Still in high spirits, they moved on the following day. They reached Toledo in the afternoon.
George and Jonathan walked down a cobbled street, leading their donkey along. People passed them by. Some looked at them. Most of them, however, ignored them.
Toledo was small. But the glorious past still hovered over the town. Jonathan and George admired the buildings, many of them constructed in Arabian style.
“It looks all so entirely different, compared to the English towns,” George said.
“Yes, it’s very different from any English towns, even London,” Jonathan agreed.
They walked down the street, unsure where to go to.
“We better ask someone to show us the way to that inn,” Jonathan suggested.
They asked a young woman. She did not understand them at first. But suddenly she laughed.
“Burro rojo, sì, sì senores,” she said and pointed down the street.
She spoke rapidly in her native tongue. George and Jonathan just gazed at her. Finally, Jonathan shrugged and gave her a sad look. The woman laughed again, and then beckoned to follow her. She walked down the street and turned around several corners. George and Jonathan soon were entirely lost. The woman stopped in front of a house. The sign on the door showed a red bull. The woman laughed again and nodded as Jonathan thanked her several times. She turned away, hurried down the street and soon was out of sight.
“I guess this is the inn,” Jonathan said, pointing at the sign with the bull.
“Come, let’s enter and ask for that woman Maria Ines,” he said.
“Wait,” Jonathan said. “I better stay outside and watch the donkey and the basket with the mirror. We better don’t carry the box with the mirror inside.”
“You are right,” George said. “How inconsiderate. I’ll enter. Hopefully, she is already around.”
Jonathan fastened the reins of the donkey to a bar, and then sat down on a rock near the entrance. George entered the inn.
The public parlour was almost empty. Three men sat a table and had a meal. Two more played some kind of game at a different table. They looked up briefly, and then continued eating and playing cards.
George looked around. He didn’t see a bar-tender. So he sat down at a table, studying the men. No one entered the inn or left it. George waited for several minutes. Finally, he addressed the men. They didn’t understand him as he had expected. They talked to each other, and then a man rose to his feet and crossed the room slowly. He opened a backdoor and called out a name. The man went back to his table. He and his companions ignored George.
George felt uncomfortable. He studied the men’s faces again, wondering if any of them was a secret spy and watching him.
Several minutes later, a stout man in his forties entered the public parlour through the backdoor. He spoke to the men at the table. One of them replied and pointed at George. The stout man, apparently the owner of the inn, approached George and addressed him in Spanish.
George shrugged and explained in English that he was looking for a woman named Maria Ines. Since the man didn’t understand him, George merely repeated the female name several times. One of the man playing cards looked up and studied George curiously. The other men had stopped eating and also watched what was going on. Suddenly, all of the guests spoke at once. They made quite a fuss. George watched them helplessly.
The owner of the bar made a sign to George. George understood he was expected to wait. The man left the inn through the backdoor, but soon returned with an old man. The old man crossed the room, stopped in front of George and leaned in to him.
“Habla,” he said.
George gazed at him and the men in the inn watched them attentively.
The old man coughed, and then sat down opposite of George.
“What you want?” he asked in broken English.
George sighed with relief.
“Good day,” he said. “I’m looking for a woman named Maria Ines,” he said, speaking each word distinctly and slowly.
The old man furrowed his brows, as if thinking hard. Then he smiled. He turned to the men in the inn and explained to them in rapid Spanish what he had learned from George. The men discussed for several minutes. Then the old man nodded and turned back to George.
“Woman Maria Ines,” he said. “Many womans.”
George thought about the man’s reply, and then he understood. He was unsure of what to do now. His fellow guardian had given him no further information on the woman he was looking for.
The old man also seemed to be absorbed in thoughts. The other men had fallen silent and watched them.
“No woman,” the old man said finally and shrugged pathetically.
The other men also shrugged and turned back to their conversations. The owner of the inn left the room through the backdoor. The old man rose to his feet and followed him. George remained sitting for a couple of minutes, and then he stood and left the inn.
Jonathan looked up curiously when George stepped outside. George walked up to him.
“They don’t speak English. An old man only understood my question. As far as I understood, there are many women named Maria Ines. They apparently did not know who I was looking for. She either has not yet shown up, or perhaps this is the wrong inn,” he said in a disappointed voice.
“I don’t think your fellow guardian gave you wrong directions. Let’s sit in the shades over there and watch the inn for a while. We arrived early. Perhaps, she’ll show up later in the afternoon or maybe in the evening,” he said.
They led the donkey across the street and tied it to a pole next to a trough filled with water. George and Jonathan sat down near the through. Jonathan unpacked bread, cheese and apples. They started to eat.
Half an hour passed. People looked at them curiously, yet hurried on quickly. George and Jonathan had just finished their meal when the old man left the inn and crossed the street. To George’s surprise, the man now walked quickly. The man approached them.
“Come with me, senores,” he said. “Maria Ines. Hurry,” he added when George and Jonathan gazed at him with surprise.
The man beckoned to follow him. George and Jonathan rose quickly. The man showed them down the street and moved around a corner. They walked for several minutes, and then the man stopped in front of a house in Arabian style. It was painted in white entirely.
“Wait,” he said, and then entered the house.
A few minutes later, he returned with a boy who took the reins of the donkey. He led the animal away. The old man beckoned them to follow him inside.
They entered a large entrance hall. The walls were painted red and blue and the floors were mosaicked. It was cool inside and the air smelled of an exotic scent. A flower fragrance filled the hall. The old man pointed at a staircase.
“Maria Ines,” he said.
George and Jonathan looked up. A woman dressed in black stood on top of the stairs. She wore a bonnet and her face was veiled. She descended the stairs slowly.
Maria Ines and the old man exchanged a few words. Then the old man nodded at George and Jonathan and with no more words left the house.
Maria Ines stopped at the bottom of the stairs and turned to George and Jonathan. They both gazed at the veiled figure. Two or three minutes passed in silence. The flower fragrance was everywhere.
“Buenos dias,” Maria Ines said finally. Her voice was soft and dark.
“Buenos dias,” George and Jonathan replied. They had learned the greeting on their long way to Toledo.
“Did you bring the mirror I asked for?” Maria Ines asked almost casually. Her English was pretty good.
George was about to reply. But Jonathan raised his hand and stopped him from answering. George fell silent and gave Jonathan a confused look.
“Please show us yours first. Thus we know we delivered the right object,” Jonathan said.
George looked at Jonathan, feeling baffled. Maria Ines didn’t reply at once. George and Jonathan exchanged a glance. Finally, the woman spoke to them.
“I have never seen the mirror myself. But a good friend of me will arrive for dinner and then will show you his mirror,” Maria Ines said calmly.
“Bien,” he said.
The woman nodded slightly.
“Please follow me. I’ll show you to a room upstairs where you can refresh. I’ll provide you with clothes. My friend will come here at about nine in the evening and will have dinner with you. I won’t be around,” Maria Ines said.
She lifted her hand briefly, turned around and ascended the stairs. George and Jonathan followed her. The woman led them down a corridor to a big wooden door. She opened the door and pointed inside. George and Jonathan entered the room. The woman closed the door behind them.
“She’s gone,” George said. “What’s this all about?”
“I suspect she just acted as intermediary,” Jonathan said.
He stepped further into the room and looked around curiously.
“An almost palace,” he said with surprise. “Look, George, the delicate furniture and carpets.”
“The room reminds me of your library,” George said, taking in every detail.
“This is all very exotic. I doubt my library has an aura like this.”
“It has,” George said. “I feel the same aura of peace and tranquillity.”
The room was half-dark. The window shutters were closed. Jonathan opened one of them. Light fell into the room and the room looked even more splendid. Jonathan smelled the same flower fragrance that had already filled the entrance hall.
“What a beautiful place,” he said with a sigh. “I feel delighted. We have seen so many shabby, narrow and small rooms smelling of any bad smell you can imagine.”
He was interrupted by a sudden knock at the door. Jonathan responded.
The door opened and a girl came in. She carried a bunch of clothes and put them on one of the large beds. Without looking at them, she opened a wooden door in the rear of the room. George and Jonathan heard subtle noises. The girl stepped back into the main room and opened the door to the corridor. Two boys came in and carried buckets of hot and steaming water into the back room. A minute later, the boys and the girl left.
“God,” Jonathan said, hurrying towards the door to the back room. He sounded delighted. “Come, George,” he called out in a happy voice.
George crossed the room and walked through the door. Jonathan was undressing. In the centre of the room stood a large bath-tub filled with hot and steaming water. Flower petals floated on the water’s surface. A seducing scent filled the room. George gazed at the scene in almost disbelief. Jonathan had meanwhile undressed and climbed into the tub cautiously.
“Aah,” he moaned when he sat down in the hot water.
He closed his eyes for a while, a smile spreading on his lips.
“I feel like in paradise,” he said.
George also cleaned up. Then they put on the clothes the girl had placed on the bed. The clothes were made of fine and exquisite silk and cotton. The shoes were made of leather.
“I cannot believe this,” George said. “How did she know the size of my shoes?”
“I have no idea. She seems to be an expert regarding men’s clothes. Look, my jacket fits me perfectly.”
They admired each other and admired themselves in a big mirror.
“An almost paradise,” George said. “Almost too perfect, I dare say.”
“Do not belittle Maria Ines’ hospitality,” Jonathan said. “She’s a perfect hostess. I just wonder how she looks. Her face was veiled and she was dressed in black. Do you think she is grieving?”
Jonathan stopped short and his facial expression changed.
“I have not thought of my mother for a long time. Shame on me,” he said seriously.
“I have not thought of Master Edward much also,” George said. He sounded embarrassed.
They sat down on one of the large beds.
“Too much has happened,” George simply said.
Jonathan nodded slowly.
“I feel like many years have gone by. But, actually, only a few months have passed.”
“My life has changed entirely,” George said.
“So has mine,” Jonathan said. “And we cannot go back in time.”
“No,” George agreed. “We can only look ahead.”
They sat in silence for a while until suddenly Georg’s stomach rumbled loudly.
“We ought to eat something. Let’s see if we find some food in here. Dinner is late here.”
They rose to their feet and examined the room. George spotted a bowl filled with various fruits.
“That will do,” he said, taking an orange. “I did not know this fruit. But I like it.”
“You get them everywhere. They are more common here than apples.”
They sat down in two chairs at a small table and started eating the fruits.
“I’m really tired. I ought to be excited, though. In a couple of hours we’ll meet your fellow guardian. I can’t almost believe it. I’ll meet another adept.”
They spent the hours talking about their journey. The first two hours passed quickly. But then their conversation slowed down. They were waiting for the upcoming meeting. Their excitement grew, and also some kind of fearful anticipation.
Night had fallen meanwhile. The sky was black and the air had turned cool. George and Jonathan stood by the window, looking outside. They almost jumped at a sudden knock at the door.
Jonathan responded. The door opened and Maria Ines stood in the doorway. She wore the same black clothes and again her face was veiled.
“Senores,” she said in her soft and dark voice. “My visitor has arrived and is ready to welcome you.”
George and Jonathan straightened. Jonathan picked up his jacket that he had taken off again. He put it on while George cast another look in the mirror. Then they crossed the room and stopped in front of Maria Ines.
Maria Ines made a graceful gesture with her hand. Then she turned around and moved to the staircase. She descended it slowly. George and Jonathan followed her. Maria Ines led them to a door. She opened it and pointed inside.
“Enjoy your meal and this evening,” she said.
George and Jonathan entered a dining room. Maria Ines closed the door behind them. George and Jonathan looked around. The walls were painted and decorated. The furniture was expensive. Fine carpets covered the floor.
A man stood in the room and looked at them. He was tall. His hair was black. And he had a black beard also. The man wore a white robe that covered his body down to his feet.
“Buenas noches,” the man said in a dark and sonorous voice. “My name is Noah bin Jaqub. I am expecting you.”
Jonathan and George greeted back and bowed slightly. They measured the man. And the man measured them.
Then Noah bin Jaqub addressed them in Hebrew. Jonathan saw that George’s cheeks flushed. George replied. Then Noah spoke to him again.
Finally, Noah gave them a nod. He made a gesture with his hand and pointed at a round table in the room.
“Please sit down and have dinner with me,” he said.
George and Jonathan sat down hesitantly. The man clapped his hands loudly. The door opened and three veiled women stepped into the room. They carried bowls filled with food and jars with water. A delicious and exotic smell filled the room. The women served them quietly. The table was covered with plenty of dishes filled with all kind of food, vegetables and meat, rice and grains.
Noah spoke to George again in Hebrew. George explained to Jonathan that he was expected to point at the food he would like to taste. A servant would fill his plate with whatever he desired to eat. Hesitantly, Jonathan pointed at some vegetables and a meal he thought was made of chicken. George followed his example. And then Noah bin Jaqub ordered his meal.
Noah told them to enjoy their meal. They all started to eat in silence. The situation was somewhat tense.
Then Jonathan pointed at a bowl. The maid servant served him instantly. Noah had stopped eating and watched Jonathan curiously. Jonathan saw his curious look and immediately felt uncomfortable. Nonetheless, he continued to eat. He led his spoon to his mouth. And then he coughed and his face turned red. Noah laughed cheerfully. Noah pointed at the jar with water. The maid servant filled Jonathan’s glass. Jonathan emptied it at one draught. George looked between Noah and Jonathan embarrassedly.
Noah still chuckled. He spoke to George. A smile spread on George’s lips. He leaned in to Jonathan.
“You have just tasted the spiciest meal they know to cook in Spain,” he said.
“I can verify this,” he said, his voice still hoarse.
The incident apparently had lifted Noah’s mood. He ordered more food and ate with relish. He pointed at the bowls and explained their content. The situation grew more relaxed. And finally they had finished their meal. Noah clapped his hands again. The maid servants took the bowls, dishes, plates and glasses and carried them outside. Another girl entered the room again and brought small glasses and a jug filled with tea.
“Peppermint tea,” Jonathan said.
Noah smiled. The maid served them tea, and then left the room. Noah leaned back in his chair.
“I feel honoured that you enjoyed the meal. Once again, I welcome you,” he said in his sonorous voice.
He spoke in Hebrew and he asked George to translate his words.
Noah introduced himself. He was an Arab merchant living in Toledo. He travelled between Toledo and the Arab lands. He spoke several languages. Noah told them of Toledo, its history and past. He told them of some Arab towns that neither George nor Jonathan had ever heard of. Noah’s narratives were pleasant and diverting. George and Jonathan had soon forgotten about the mirror. They were truly interested in Noah’s tales and stories. Then they told him of their sea voyage and their journey from Lisbon to Toledo. Two hours passed quickly.
Neither of them touched on the purpose of their journey. George just said that he had been a wise man’s apprentice, and Jonathan told Noah that he had lived in London. But Noah did not inquire them. He listened carefully, a polite smile playing on his lips always. And neither George nor Jonathan felt inclined to tell him more details. They sensed it was not the right place and not the right time.
It was already way past midnight when Noah suddenly changed the topic of their conversation. He spoke of the following day and his duties. George and Jonathan sensed it was time to end their meeting.
“I wished I could see more of Toledo,” Jonathan said almost casually.
“I’d be pleased to show you around. But, unfortunately, I am busy tomorrow. But if you like, I’ll send a man to your house. He’ll show you around in Toledo. I’d be honoured if you were my guests tomorrow evening. I invite you to have dinner with me in my house.”
George and Jonathan agreed and expressed their thanks. And then Noah clapped his hands.
This time, a young man entered the room. Noah rose to his feet and expressed his thanks to George and Jonathan. He told them a servant would come to Maria Ines’ house at half past eight in the evening. He would take George and Jonathan to Noah’s house. Then Noah left the room with a polite smile and a final nod. The young man followed him.
George and Jonathan were alone. They exchanged a puzzled look.
The young man returned several minutes later and made a gesture with his hand. He led George and Jonathan to their room, opened the door for them, said a greeting and left.
George and Jonathan sat down on a bed, feeling entirely perplex.
“What do you think?” George asked finally. “He took his leave quite abruptly.”
“That’s perhaps how they do it here,” Jonathan said. “I was puzzled myself.”
“He did not ask a single question,” George said.
“No. And I felt not inclined to tell him more than I had already. I sensed it was wrong,’” Jonathan replied.
“I had the same feeling,” George said. “But Maria Ines said he would show us the mirror.”
“I think Maria Ines has no idea of it. I’m quite certain he told her what to say and tell us. She had order to invite us to her house or send us away, depending on our answers.”
“Do you think she is his wife?” George asked.
“I don’t think so,” Jonathan replied. “He came to her house to meet us. She’s a relative maybe.”
They mused for a while.
“I’m not so sure Noah is your fellow guardian,” Jonathan said finally. “He might well be just another agent.”
“He invited us to his house tomorrow,” George said.
“Don’t expect him to show us the mirror tomorrow,” Jonathan said. “Noah is testing us. But I have not yet figured out his plan.”
“What did he tell you in the beginning? I saw your cheeks flushed,” he continued.
George turned his eyes to Jonathan.
“He repeated the message I read in the mirror,” he said.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow.
“Would your fellow guardian reveal his secret message to anybody? Noah most likely is your fellow guardian then.”
“Not necessarily so,” George said. “I told you all. He might have a confidant also.”
“Whoever this man is,” Jonathan said, “he must be sure that you are Master Edward’s apprentice since only you spoke Hebrew. He must suspect that you told me all. But I cannot say how he will react. His mind is hard to read.”
“I watched his face and his hands. But they revealed nothing. He kept his hands calm and he always smiled. His eyes also revealed nothing.”
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “He invited us to his house at least.”
“And he’ll send a man here to pick us up and show us around in Toledo,” George said.
“Another spy perhaps,” Jonathan replied. “We’ll better be careful to not reveal anything.”
“Who was that old man in the inn? He apparently waited for us. But he didn’t reveal it when I spoke to him in the inn.”
“Too many spectators and listeners inside,” Jonathan said, thinking. “I think that neither the old man nor Maria Ines know the true reason of our visit.”
“But we could have revealed it to them,” George said. “Isn’t a long line of agents very dangerous?”
Jonathan turned his eyes to George.
“I’m pretty sure Noah spoke with the old man before the man showed us to Maria Ines’ house. And Noah most certainly spoke to Maria Ines before we met him in the dining room. I’m sure, if we had revealed too much, he would have refused to meet us.”
“Yes. If I had revealed anything to the old man or Maria Ines, I most likely would be dead already.”
Jonathan rolled his eyes and smiled.
“That’s why fate wanted me to be your companion. I stop you from talking too much.”
“You did not accompany me into the inn, after all,” George said with a frown.
“I trusted you,” Jonathan said, giving George an encouraging smile.
“If you had not sent me to King’s Lynn, I would have not made that tedious journey,” George said.
“Yes. Most likely Duke Raleigh would have captured you in Dover,” Jonathan said drily.
George eyed him. Jonathan smiled a pleasant smile. George punched him. And Jonathan laughed aloud. George joined in.
“Oh, we’ll better be quiet,” Jonathan said after a while. “It’s late. We’ll wake Maria Ines and whoever sleeps in this house.”
“We’ll better rest. We need to walk again tomorrow. When will this man show up and see us around in Toledo?”
“Noah didn’t say when. I suspect in the morning before the sun is high. Yes, we’ll better rest now,” he agreed. “I’m certain we need to get up early.”
The sun had already risen when they awoke the following day. They cleaned up and dressed. Jonathan opened the window and looked outside. George stood by the door, listening. They wondered whether they should leave their room or better wait for someone to take them downstairs.
Only a couple of minutes after Jonathan had opened the window, they heard a knock at the door. Jonathan responded and opened the door slightly. A maid servant stood outside and greeted them. The woman pointed at the staircase. Jonathan nodded and the woman moved towards the stairs. George and Jonathan followed her. She led them to the dining room downstairs.
The woman pointed at the table and nodded at them. George and Jonathan sat down. A couple of minutes later, two other women served them breakfast, milk, bread and fruits. George and Jonathan ate quietly.
They had just finished their meal, when Maria Ines entered the room. She was dressed again in a black robe and bonnet. Her face was veiled. She greeted them. George and Jonathan rose to their feet.
Maria Ines told them that a man waited outside the house to show them around in Toledo. George and Jonathan thanked, and then left the house. A young man stood near the entrance. He greeted and bowed slightly when they approached him.
“My name is Ali,” he said in English. He had a hard accent. However, he smiled at them and nodded eagerly.
“You and I, Toledo, go,” he said.
“We are pleased to meet you,” Jonathan said politely.
Ali nodded, still smiling. George and Jonathan exchanged a quick glance. Their look showed their doubts.
“I doubt he speaks English,” George said.
“We need not talk to him. Let’s just follow him and visit the city. But let’s be careful. And we better keep an eye on him and on what is going on around us.”
George nodded his agreement.
Ali walked up and down various streets. He pointed at beautifully decorated and painted houses.
“Very good,” he said whenever they stopped to have a closer look.
“Yes,” Jonathan replied drily at his elaborate explanations.
Ali stopped in front of shops and pointed at the goods displayed: silver daggers and swords, brass pots and kettles, fabrics made of cotton and silk. They walked around for an hour. Then Ali stopped in front of a market stall. He pointed at oranges and touched his mouth.
“Very good,” he said, smiling broadly.
“Yes,” Jonathan said.
He took a coin from his pocket and bought six oranges. He offered two of them to Ali. The man took them, still smiling. He peeled them and started to eat. Then they moved on. They walked for another half an hour.
“I’m pretty sure we have seen this shop before,” George said as they passed a building.
“Yes,” Jonathan said.
George glanced at him.
“Sorry,” Jonathan said. “I’m meanwhile used to say ‘yes’ only. Yes, I noticed it also. It’s the third time we pass this shop.”
“The third time already...,” George said. He sounded bored.
“Yes,” Jonathan said.
“Very good,” Ali said cheerfully.
“Very good,” Jonathan said politely.
“Yes, yes,” Ali replied.
George and Jonathan exchanged another quick glance. Again they stopped in front of a building. Jonathan looked to the sun that was high meanwhile. He wiped his forehead, exaggerating the gesture. George gave him a faint smile, and then sighed loudly and took a deep breath. Ali looked at them, and then looked to the sky.
“No very good,” he said.
He beckoned them to follow him and moved down the street swiftly. He almost hurried down the street.
“The tour is finished,” George said.
“Yes,” Jonathan replied drily.
Ali led them back to Maria Ines’ house. He opened the door for them and smiled broadly.
“Thank you very much,” George said. He nodded briefly and entered the house.
Ali’s mouth opened slightly. Jonathan took a coin from his pocket and gave it to the man, smiling as broadly he was able to.
“Very good,” he said, stressing every word.
“Yes. My name is Ali,” Ali said.
Jonathan looked at him slightly baffled. Then he smiled broadly again.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “Thank you, Ali.” He nodded and entered the house.
Ali looked at the coin and smiled contented.
A maid servant showed George and Jonathan back to their room. The woman put her folded hands against her cheek and closed her eyes. Jonathan gazed at her.
“Sleep,” George said drily.
“Yes,” Jonathan said.
The woman smiled and turned away. Jonathan closed the door.
“I don’t think I want to sleep,” George said sourly.
“Yes,” Jonathan said.
“I beg you, Jonathan, stop it,” George said in an unnerved voice.
“Sorry,” Jonathan answered.
He sat down on a bed.
“I think she wants us to have a siesta. You know they rest in the afternoon.”
“I’ve learned this on our journey,” George replied. “But I’m hungry. The bowl is filled with oranges. But I don’t want another one.”
“I fear we need to be patient,” Jonathan said.
He took off his jacket and then stretched on the bed. George finally followed his example. Against their expectations, they drifted to sleep.
They awoke at a delicious smell that filled their room. Jonathan sat up.
“George, get up. Lunch time, probably.”
“Lunch or dinner, whatever,” George said in a muffled voice. He sat up as well. “I can’t get used to their meal times.”
Jonathan had already put on his jacket. He opened the window.
“Quick, George. I opened the window. I’m sure they’ll knock at our door in a couple of minutes.”
Like he had suspected, a maid servant knocked and led them down to the dining room. Water and a vegetable soup were served to them. The meal was finished with peppermint tea. Then a woman led them back to their room.
“I feel like in prison,” George complained. “And I’m still hungry.”
“Patience,” he simply said.
The hours passed slowly. George and Jonathan felt bored.
The sun had already set. Jonathan stood by the window and looked outside. George ate his third orange.
Finally, they heard a knock at their door. Again, a maid servant led them downstairs. Another man waited outside the house for them. From his gibberish they understood he would lead them to Noah.
Noah’s house resembled Maria Ines’ house. The entrance hall also looked much alike. George and Jonathan looked around while waiting to be welcomed. A door opened and Noah stepped into the hall. He bowed and showed his polite smile. He greeted them kindly and asked them to enter his dining room.
The dinner procedure started again. Bowls and dishes were served. This time two young men served the meals.
Noah told them of his business. George and Jonathan listened patiently. The conversation went on. George was occupied with translating the sentences forth and back. Jonathan nodded politely and showed an amiable smile. Inwardly, he wondered what this was all about. He secretly watched Noah and studied him.
They finished dinner and then had peppermint tea again. Jonathan tried to keep his patience. George nodded at Noah’s remarks. But his look was almost blank and he felt tempted to gaze into the room absent-mindedly.
They both jumped when Noah, out of the sudden, asked a question in English.
“What did Master Edward teach you, George?”
George straightened and Jonathan leaned forward.
Noah raised his hand.
“Tell me, please,” he said.
“Master Edward taught me many things,” George said reluctantly.
“I know this,” Noah said seriously. “I have talked to him often. We used our mirrors.”
“So you have one also,” George simply said.
Noah switched back to Hebrew. Jonathan looked between Noah and George with a questioning look. George didn’t translate the words for him. For a couple of minutes, Noah and George talked. Their voices were serious. George’s cheeks had flushed. Noah’s facial expression was serious also and he nodded gravely several times. Then Noah raised his hand. He said a sentence and George nodded. George turned to Jonathan.
“He asked me to translate what we have just talked. He is my fellow guardian and he has a mirror. Master Edward and he exchanged messages. They used their mirrors. Noah knew many details that only that Master Edward knew and I know. I trust he is a fellow guardian. He wants to show us his mirror as a proof.”
Jonathan straightened at this revelation.
“I may see it, too?” he asked insecure.
“Yes,” George said. “I told him all. I told him that I revealed the secret to you.”
“What did he say?” Jonathan asked nervously.
“He said he watched us. And he listened to his inner voice. It told him that fate chose you and me,” George said.
“His inner voice,” Jonathan repeated.
“That’s what he said. He said his inner voice has never betrayed him in fifty-six years,” George said.
Jonathan looked between George and Noah doubtfully. Noah’s black eyes rested on him. His look was piercing and amiable at the same time.
“Fine. I’m ready to see his mirror.”
George spoke to Noah again. Noah clapped his hands. The young man entered the room and took the glasses and jug from the table. Noah rose to his feet.
“Please, follow me,” he said in his sonorous voice.
Noah led them to a study upstairs. They entered. He locked the door and opened a cupboard. He took out a locked box. Noah placed it on a desk. He opened it and took out the mirror. He put the object on the desk cautiously. He opened it and pressed a button. The green window showed up on the screen. Noah spoke to it in Hebrew. They all looked at the screen for a couple of minutes. Then letters appeared in response to Noah’s letter. Noah read them aloud, and then he spoke a brief word and pressed a button. The screen went black. Noah closed the mirror and put it back in the box. He locked the box and put it back in the cupboard.
“He sent a message to a fellow guardian he had asked to activate his mirror and be ready tonight. The man lives in India. It’s early in the morning there. The man stayed up all night to do us that favour,” George said.
Jonathan just nodded. A shiver ran down his spine.
Noah turned to them and pointed at the door. He led them back to the dining room. George and Noah talked again. Jonathan watched them.
Finally, they departed. George and Jonathan did not talk until they reached their room in Maria Ines’ house.
“Maria Ines is his sister,” George said. “Her husband died many years ago. He had asked her to live with him. But Maria Ines refused. She prefers to live on her own. Her decision is very courageous. Women usually do what their father, husband or brothers tell them. But Noah respected her wish.”
Jonathan just nodded.
“Noah’s father was an Arab merchant. He married a Jewish woman. That’s why Noah speaks Hebrew,” George continued.
Jonathan looked at him. George guessed his thoughts.
“Yes, he married a Jewish woman to have an excuse to speak Hebrew in his house. Noah’s grandfather had also married a Jewish woman. This arrangement goes back many years to one of Noah’s ancestor who lived in Jerusalem, yet had to flee the town and country because of the crusades.”
Jonathan nodded faintly.
“The secret truth and the mirror stands above everything else,” George said in a grave voice.
Jonathan nodded again.
“You need to leave your town, your country, your family and friends. You need to give up your entire life, if that is necessary to keep the truth alive,” George said in a toneless voice.
“Just what you did,” Jonathan said. “Just what I did,” he added in a low voice.
“I think this is one of the reasons why Noah trusts us,” George said.
“And what are we going to do now?” Jonathan asked.
“Noah will think about it,” George said. “The fellow guardians live in different countries all over the world. Thus they gain maximum information on any progress and developments. The grand council will decide on my fate. Noah is confident, though. He says that I most likely will not be punished for revealing the secret to you. If everything turns out well, the grand council will choose the place where I need to live in order to best support our network.”
Jonathan again nodded faintly.
“Won’t you be part of their discussion?” he asked. “You’re a member of the council as well, after all.”
George’s look was confused.
“I...” he started.
“Something’s very wrong,” Jonathan interrupted him.
“Why so?” George asked, looking at Jonathan nervously.
“You told me the council always observes the rule. Those who fail will be killed. Don’t you think it’s somewhat strange they don’t inquire you and rather talk about a place where you might live and support the network?” Jonathan asked.
They looked at each other.
“You’re right,” George said in a low voice. “I read the message Noah sent to my fellow guardian in India. He just wrote that I had arrived. And the man’s response was only short.”
Jonathan narrowed his eyes, thinking.
“Noah told you some lies. He made up the whole story. But why so?” he asked.
George shrugged. He felt uncomfortable. He had a sense of foreboding again. This time, however, he was not able to shake off the feeling.
Their sleep was restless that night. And the following day they felt anxious and nervous.
Two days passed. They didn’t hear from Noah. George and Jonathan spent their days mainly in their room and the dining room of the house. The beauty of the place slowly faded. George and Jonathan grew more and more restless. They had not seen Maria Ines for two days. A maid servant led them upstairs and downstairs, to and from their room. George and Jonathan more and more felt imprisoned.
“It’s not a prison. But I feel imprisoned,” George said with a frown.
“We’re free to go everywhere,” Jonathan replied. He sounded unnerved.
“So why don’t we just leave the house?” George asked.
Jonathan shrugged. “Because we’re waiting to hear from Noah.”
He stood by the window and looked outside. George joined him. They looked at the beautiful garden behind the house. The trees and flowers were watered. The flower fragrance filled the air.
“We have travelled for many months and we were able to help ourselves. So why do we sit and wait for whatever is going to happen?” Jonathan asked.
“I’m going out,” he said in a determined voice. “I can’t stand it any longer. Think about it. Come with me, Jonathan.”
“You’re right. It is annoying me. Let’s go for a walk. I trust we find the way back to the house on our own.”
They put on their jackets, left the room and descended the stairs. Nobody was around. George looked around briefly, and then he opened the front door. Unhindered, they left the house. They exchanged a look.
“It was almost too easy,” George said.
They pushed aside the unpleasant feeling. They walked down the street slowly and moved to the centre of Toledo. They recognized the buildings and shops that Ali had shown to them. The walk distracted them from their brooding thoughts.
Suddenly, they spotted the inn “Burro Rojo.” George pointed at the sign.
“Let’s enter it,” George suggested.
Jonathan agreed and they stepped inside. The public parlour was almost empty. Only two men were sitting at a table and playing cards. George recognized them. The men looked up and gave them a brief nod. George and Jonathan sat down at a table. The owner of the inn didn’t show up.
George’s bad mood returned. He frowned.
“Siesta,” Jonathan simply said. “Those two perhaps take care of the inn.”
Just when he had finished his sentence, the men stopped playing cards. One of them addressed George and Jonathan.
“Maria Ines?” he asked.
George nodded with a smile.
“We found her,” he said. “She lives in a house in the south.”
The man eyed him. He had not understood.
The door opened and a man entered the inn. All of them turned their eyes to him. George and Jonathan looked at the man with surprise.
Ali, their tour guide, had entered. He spotted them. Ali greeted and smiled broadly. The other two men watched them curiously. One man spoke to Ali. They exchanged a few sentences. Ali explained something with vivid gestures, and then Ali and two men broke into laughter.
One of the men nodded at George and Jonathan. He grinned a jovial grin and said something in rapid Spanish.
Ali leaned in to George and Jonathan.
“Man says Maria Ines very good.”
“Yes,” Jonathan said, feeling annoyed.
“Maria Ines,” Ali said. He made coarse and vulgar gestures.
Jonathan blushed. And George leaned back and swallowed.
Ali continued his explanations. The two men joined in. And finally George and Jonathan understood. They tried to explain to them that Maria Ines was the best whore in town.
“Very good,” Ali stressed his physical explanations.
Jonathan looked at Ali and straightened.
“Noah bin Jaqub?” he asked.
Ali eyed him for a moment. Then he understood the question.
“Maria Ines and Noah bin Jaqub,” he said, nodding forcefully. He made another vulgar gesture.
Ali winked at George and Jonathan, and then talked to the two men in the inn. They all laughed loudly.
“They apparently think we’re Maria Ines’ suitors,” Jonathan said in an indignant voice.
“Some customers the merchant Noah invited and sent to his preferred whore to amuse themselves,” George added drily.
“We are complete fools,” Jonathan said.
George gazed into the room. His cheeks were flushed.
“Noah is my fellow guardian, Jonathan. He has the mirror. He speaks Hebrew. He spoke to another fellow guardian using the mirror. He knew of Master Edward and he knew too many details. He just wanted to hide the fact that Maria Ines is a whore. So he said she was his sister,” George said.
Jonathan narrowed his eyes.
“I’m not so sure anymore, George,” he said. “I felt truly uncomfortable with his family history. I mean his father, his grandfather and ancestors marrying Jewish women. It’s just absurd. Do you really think those men would have been considered Arabs?”
“But why did he say so?” George asked feeling confused.
“Because he‘s not your fellow guardian,” Jonathan said. “He just wanted you to trust him. That’s why he made up this Hebrew family thing. Thousands of years, you know...”
Jonathan fell silent. And then he rose to his feet abruptly.
“Oh, my god. They kept us waiting because they wanted us to leave the house out of boredom. Thus they can enter our room and steal our mirror.”
George looked at Jonathan with surprise. Ali and the men looked at them curiously.
“We need to go back instantly,” Jonathan said.
He turned to Ali and held out a coin.
“Maria Ines’ house. Please show us there quickly,” he said.
“Maria Ines. House, casa. Go,” he said when Ali cast him a questioning look.
Ali’s face brightened and he headed for the door. George and Jonathan followed him quickly. Ali led them back to the house within a few minutes. He walked down lanes and alleys and turned around corners that George and Jonathan had not yet seen. They arrived at the house. Jonathan gave Ali two coins. George and Jonathan hurried inside and up the stairs. They entered their room. Jonathan knelt down and looked under the bed.
“The box is gone,” he called out in consternation. Jonathan panicked.
George felt numb. He had trusted a stranger. He had been deceived. Again he had failed. George clenched his fists and bit his lip. And then he grew enraged. George shouted and started to swear.
Jonathan watched him. George fell silent abruptly. He looked around, and then headed for the door to the bathroom. George dashed inside. Jonathan heard a noise. And then George returned triumphantly. He held the mirror in his hands.
“What?” Jonathan asked, entirely perplexed.
“I don’t know. I had a strange feeling when I awoke. I had dreamed of the mirror. Someone had destroyed its box. That’s why I put it into the cabinet in the bathroom. I wrapped it up in a cloth and placed it under the cloths in the wooden cabinet. I thought they found it. But it was there. They have just taken away the empty box,” George said.
“We must leave at once, George,” Jonathan said. His voice sounded almost hysterical. “They’ll be back soon. They’ll find that the box is empty.”
George looked at him.
“Yes, you’re right. It’s strange they have not yet returned. They must have taken away the box only a short time before we came back.”
Jonathan nodded. He had already started to put his clothes into his bag. George put the mirror on the table and also packed his things quickly. He wrapped the precious object up in his jacket and cautiously placed it into his bag. Ten minutes later they descended the stairs. Against their expectations, no one stopped them from leaving the house.
“Noah’s house is in the centre of the town,” Jonathan said. “Maria Ines’ house is in the south of Toledo. Let’s go farther south and leave the town,” Jonathan said.
He looked to the sun and calculated their direction. It was late in the afternoon. Jonathan pointed down a street.
“That way,” he said in a determined voice.
George and Jonathan walked fast. They almost ran. George pressed his bag against his chest.
“They surely will find us,” George said out of breath. “We have no idea of where to go to.”
Jonathan gave him a determined look. His face looked resolute. George saw a militant look in his eyes.
“That way,” Jonathan said again. His words sounded like a command.
George felt slightly taken aback. But then he nodded and moved faster. He followed willingly.
They soon had left the small town. Nonetheless, they continued moving on quickly. They hurried down the road as if being haunted. Luckily, only few people came their way. They cast them curious looks. George and Jonathan finally slowed down.
“Those people we met...” George said out of breath, “...they could tell Noah that we’re hurrying south.”
Jonathan put his bag on the ground. He looked around.
“Let’s hide behind those bushes,” he said. “We need to make up a plan.”
They left the road and sat down behind the bushes. The sun was setting.
“You are right, George,” Jonathan said. He was thinking hard. “We left the town, at least. It was the shortest way out of it.”
“And it’s most likely the way they come to find us,” George answered. “They meanwhile must have found out that we fled and took along the mirror.”
“Why don’t you activate it and send a message to your fellow guardians,” Jonathan suggested. “We know the object works in the dark also for some time.”
“I cannot do that,” George said. “The others apparently trust Noah. They would tell him we fled. They must think he is their true fellow guardian and I am the fraud.”
“How could he deceive them?” Jonathan mused. “I mean I’m sure now that he’s not a guardian. But where is the true guardian? How did Noah get the mirror? Did he kill the man?”
“I have no idea,” George said. “He knew too many details. He cannot just be a simple thief. He knew how to activate the mirror. Someone must have instructed him.”
“The true owner or his apprentice maybe,” Jonathan said. “Whoever he is. Noah has that mirror. And he wanted your mirror also for whatever purpose.”
“Perhaps he wants to sell it to someone who seeks might and power,” George said. “He apparently does not want to give away his own mirror. But he’s after mine. Master Edward told me that a few guardians failed. They became selfish and wanted to use the mirror for their own advantage.”
“We must find a way to contact the other members of the council,” Jonathan said. “We need to know if Noah is the true owner of the mirror or if he is an apprentice or if he found a way to steal the mirror and unveil the secret truth.”
“It’s dangerous, Jonathan,” he said. “I suspect they rather believe Noah and not me.”
“We can’t wait and sit all night,” Jonathan insisted. “We need to move on in the dark of the night.”
George nodded. He unwrapped the mirror and activated it. The green window appeared on the screen.
“Can’t you just send a message to that man in India? It’s late there. But perhaps he is still awake and has activated his mirror,” Jonathan said.
“Very unlikely,” George said. “But, if you wish so, I’ll try.”
George leaned forward. He spoke a single word aloud. A symbol appeared in the green window. George nodded.
“It’s his sign,” he whispered. “Each of us has a specific symbol. It’s the Indian man’s symbol. So the message will reach only him. Quiet now, Jonathan.”
George spoke two sentences in Hebrew. The letters showed up on the screen. George kept gazing at them. Jonathan did not dare to interrupt.
Several minutes passed. George glanced at Jonathan and shrugged. He looked discouraged.
“Just a few more minutes,” Jonathan said. His voice sounded tensed.
And then, suddenly, against their expectations, letters formed on the screen. George and Jonathan leaned forward nervously. George read the message and then replied. Several messages were sent forth and back. Jonathan watched, feeling more and more excited. Then George spoke a final word and closed the mirror.
He turned to Jonathan.
“We’re lucky,” he said seriously. “The man was around. In fact, he was eagerly waiting for me to contact him. He told me that the true owner of the mirror was a man called David ben Isaak, a Jewish rabbi. My fellow guardian fears that David was killed. He received several messages in the past six months from Noah. Noah was David’s apprentice. But Noah was a young man in his twenties. That was what David had told him. My fellow guardian became suspicious when the wrong Noah told him that David had died out of a sudden and had not been able to have him confirmed as his successor by the grand council.”
“My fellow guardian, his name is Ashok, said that David had introduced his apprentice to the mirror two years ago. Ashok and Noah had communicated often. Ashok became suspicious when Noah sent messages, yet did not reply to what Ashok had asked him a short time ago. Ashok had wanted Noah to send him some specific reports. Ashok continued to communicate with Noah, but he was cautious and did not reveal any secret details. Ashok was alarmed even more when Noah told him that I had contacted him. Master Edward had told Ashok that he felt close to death. In fact, I remember that Master Edward spoke to Ashok while I was present. Ashok couldn’t figure out entirely what happened after Master Edward’s death. But he correctly suspected that I had to escape the country. He waited for me to contact him or the others. But I did not. So he feared for my life.”
“I should have contacted all of them,” he finally said in an almost sad voice. “But I did not. Instead, I contacted the false man.”
“You did not know this,” Jonathan said calmly. “We could not go to France. The ship to Portugal was the first ship that left Liverpool. We arrived in Lisbon. Toledo was the only place we could go to. What did Ashok advise you?”
“He’ll wait for a message from Noah. He’s sure Noah will tell the others that I am a fraud and stole Master Edward’s mirror. He’ll ask them to let him know where I am in case I contact any of the others. Ashok will inform the others. They won’t tell Noah where we are headed for.”
“Where are we headed for?” Jonathan asked.
“We won’t leave, Jonathan. But Ashok will tell Noah that he sent us to France.”
“I don’t understand,” Jonathan said. He was feeling confused.
“Ashok told us to find a hiding-place and wait for his instructions. But he said that I need to find a way to get the stolen mirror back. David’s mirror must be either hidden or destroyed,” George said in a toneless voice.
“I see,” Jonathan said calmly.
They sat in silence for some time.
“I just cannot figure out who the wrong Noah is,” Jonathan said finally. “Like you said, he spoke Hebrew. He knew many details. He knew how to activate the mirror.”
“I’m thinking about this also,” George said slowly. “He knew many details, yes. But I told you that you can figure out a lot of the secret truth yourself. You just need to read the ancient tales with an open mind. And we did not speak of the Adon, actually, Jonathan. We did not touch on that part of the story. I cannot say if he knows of it.”
“He spoke Hebrew. But that is not the point also,” George continued. “It was just a way to make us feel secure. No, what is far more important is that he knows how to use the mirror. Who did instruct him?”
“I can only imagine that he found out about the mirror and forced either David or the true Noah to show to him how to use the mirror,” Jonathan said.
“He knew that David was a master and Noah was his apprentice. He knew of the grand council. He knew of Ashok and the others. He was into the secret very much. Yes, he knew too many details. He cannot have figured it out by himself,”
They fell silent again.
“I can only imagine that either David or his apprentice told that fraud all and showed him how to use the object,” Jonathan said. “He either forced them both or one of them to do so. Or they or one of them told him all voluntarily,” Jonathan said.
“Someone must know of David and his apprentice. Ashok told me that David was a Jewish rabbi. He must be missing. People in Toledo must miss him,” George said.
“Or the wrong Noah spread some lies and rumours. Perhaps he said David and Noah left Toledo for good,” Jonathan said.
“I cannot believe they disappeared without anybody wondering,” George replied.
“Remember, we left London and King’s Lynn in a hurry. We told the people a bunch of lies,” Jonathan said.
“But those people noticed we left out of a sudden. And they most likely remember our foul excuses and lies,” George said.
Jonathan nodded slowly.
“You are right, George. We need to find the people who heard the foul excuses and lies. Either spread by David and Noah, or spread by the fraud,” Jonathan said.
“We need to hide the mirror, and then go back to Toledo in disguise,” George said. “I doubt it is a good idea to question Maria Ines, although I very much would like to.”
“No,” Jonathan said. “This woman knows nothing. How about the old man in the inn? And how about Ali?”
“It’s just they don’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish at all.”
“We need to find an interpreter,” Jonathan said, “A man or woman we can trust.”
“How would we know who we can trust,” George said. “They all have deceived us.”
“I have no idea yet,” Jonathan said.
He rose to his feet.
“Come, George, we need to find a hiding-place. We’d better find it fast.”
They picked up their bags. George held his bag with the mirror tight and pressed it against his chest. Jonathan walked ahead. George followed him. They moved down the road. It was dark. Only the light of the half moon illuminated the night. They walked slowly. Now and then they winced at a sudden noise. But it was just an animal each time. They heard the usual sounds of the night. Nobody followed them.
They walked for about an hour until they arrived at a fork. The main road led ahead. A narrow road led to a dark forest.
“This way?” George asked in a whisper, nodding at the wood.
“Yes,” Jonathan said.
They followed the narrow road that soon turned into a path. It led directly into the wood.
“It’s too dangerous to move into the forest,” Jonathan said in a low voice.
Everything was silent. But he could not help feeling slightly afraid. Jonathan felt his heart pounding wildly. Nonetheless, he moved ahead. George followed him. They walked alongside the forest. An owl cried. The trees rustled. George and Jonathan felt tensed.
Jonathan stopped abruptly. George almost stumbled into him. He tightened the grip on his bag.
“Over there,” Jonathan said in a low voice.
George narrowed his eyes and looked into the given direction.
“A forest cabin,” Jonathan said. He moved ahead.
Slowly, they approached it. They listened for some time, yet didn’t hear a sound. Jonathan tried to open the door cautiously. The door wasn’t locked. Jonathan pulled it open and looked inside.
“Empty,” he said. He sounded relieved.
They entered the hut and looked around. It was dirty and smelled bad. But there was nothing inside but a mug someone apparently had forgotten.
Jonathan half closed the door and they sat down on the dirty ground.
“Yesterday we lived in an almost palace. Here we are today,” Jonathan said.
“We must think of a disguise, Jonathan. Where do we get clothes?” George asked. He sounded frustrated.
“We put on our old clothes and hide the clothes Maria Ines’ gave us. We also need to hide our bags and the mirror. On the way back to Toledo, we must buy maybe jackets and hats,” Jonathan said.
George remained silent.
“Rest now,” Jonathan said softly. “I’m wide awake still. I’ll watch out and I’ll be thinking.”
George mumbled a reply, and then lay down on the ground. His muscles burned and he felt tired out. He was certain he could not fall asleep. Thoughts of fear, guilt and shame were tormenting him. After a few minutes, however, he drifted to sleep.
Jonathan listened to George’s steady breathing. He thought about Noah and his intentions. He didn’t realize that he also drifted to sleep. Leaning against the wall of the hut, Jonathan fell asleep.
They woke at dawn. The sounds of the morning disturbed their sleep. George and Jonathan rose to their feet stiffly. Their backs hurt. George felt cold. He sneezed.
Jonathan opened the door of the hut. They examined the hut closer and shuddered at the dirt inside. They left the hut quickly. Luckily, they found a little creek. They drank the fresh water.
Jonathan wiped his mouth.
“How about we hide our things in the forest?”
George shook his head.
“The mirror needs to be put in a safe place. It must not get wet. Rain would do it harm.”
“We must take it with us then,” he said. “I doubt it will rain soon. It has not rained for many days. But we cannot be sure of that, of course. I don’t like the idea, though,” he said.
“Neither do I,” George replied.
“How about we get us some clothes on our way back to Toledo? We better don’t travel the main road. We could ask for food and clothes at a farm outside of the town. We return to Toledo at night. I think it’ll be far less dangerous,” he continued.
“I just don’t like that we need to take the mirror with us. But I think we have no other choice.”
Jonathan put his money into the inside pocket of his old jacket. They had put on their old clothes and looked rather ragged.
“The man in the inn and Maria Ines saw us in these clothes,” George said.
“That’s why we have to buy new jackets and trousers. If we cannot buy one, we will have to steal them,” Jonathan said.
The determined and martial look had appeared on his face again. George looked at him quietly.
They went back to the main road. Quite a few people were on their way already. They carried baskets with fruits and vegetables. Some of them carried baskets with eggs and hens.
“They are going to the markets in order to sell their goods,” Jonathan said.
He stopped short. George tightened his grip on the mirror. It was wrapped in one of George’s old shirts.
“What?” George asked.
“A thought occurred to me,” Jonathan simply said.
He just stood and eyed the men, women and children walking down the road. George eyed Jonathan. Several minutes passed. The people cast a quick glance at them, yet didn’t pay much attention. Suddenly, Jonathan straightened. A middle-aged man, a woman and three younger men passed them by, a family apparently.
“Let’s follow them,” Jonathan said. “The sons are about our age. You’re dark haired also and tanned. I’ll put on my hat. The watchmen won’t see my fair hair when we pass the gate. We’ll pass it right behind this family. The watchmen will just see another mother, father and their five sons.”
George looked at Jonathan doubtfully. Yet he refrained from answering. George nodded. They walked behind the family. Jonathan put on his hat that he had taken along from London. George gave him another doubtful look.
“I fear this hat does not look very Spanish,” he said.
“I’m still working on my plan,” he simply said.
They had left Toledo in a hurry. They had hastened and hurried. Now they walked back slowly. Thus it took them more than two hours to arrive at the town. They approached the gate slowly. George looked at Jonathan’s hat again. His heart was pounding fast.
They caught up with the family walking in front of them. Jonathan suddenly turned to George and asked him to hand him the mirror. George was hesitant. But then he gave the object to Jonathan. Jonathan placed it on his head and held it tight. George’s heartbeat almost stopped at the sight. Jonathan breathed hard as if carrying some heavy object.
They were close to the gate. George spotted the watchmen. Four men eyed the people attentively.
Jonathan made a quick step. He walked right behind the Spanish family. George followed his example. Then he made a few quick steps and walked right next to the Spanish woman. The woman glanced at him confused, but then turned her eyes away quickly.
They reached the gate and at a steady way passed it. Jonathan bent forward a little. George showed a blank face. When they passed the watchmen, he laughed and nodded at the woman as if she had just spoken to him. The woman gave him another puzzled look. She moved closer to her husband. George slowed down and moved at Jonathan’s side. They had passed the gate without difficulties.
George and Jonathan turned around a corner, and then disappeared into a narrow lane.
“That woman must think I’m insane,” George said.
“Don’t worry about that,’ Jonathan said. “We don’t have the time to. We need to find the Jewish quarter and inquire about Rabbi David.”
“I remember I saw a synagogue when Ali showed us around,” George said. “It was not far from where we bought the fruits.”
“There was a shop next to the stall. They sold cotton and silk,” Jonathan said. “I remember the plate on the wall of the shop. It showed a raven.”
They hurried up and down the streets, feeling watched and haunted by Noah or his agents. They grew even more nervous as time passed by.
“Stop it,” Jonathan said and stopped abruptly. “We’re acting foolish. We’re panic-stricken. Let’s start again, George. Toledo is not that big. We must walk slowly and look out carefully.”
George agreed. They walked down the street again and stopped at every corner, looking into the alleys left and right.
“There’s the market place,” George said. “The fruit seller was on the market place. I’m sure of it.”
They approached the place and at the same time spotted the shop with the plate.
“We passed there two times. I didn’t see it,” Jonathan said in a perplexed voice.
“There’s the synagogue.” George said.
Still feeling haunted, they looked left and right, and then moved to the synagogue slowly. They stopped in front of the building.
“Let’s see if we can get inside,” George said.
They approached the door. Jonathan seized the doorknob and pulled on the door. To their surprise, it opened. They entered the synagogue and closed the door. They looked around in the dim light. The medium sized room was only illuminated by candles. George and Jonathan felt slightly inhibited. They just stood gazing into the room.
“Can I help you?” someone addressed them from behind.
George and Jonathan turned around quickly. An old man stood in front of them. They were unable to say where he had come from.
“We’re looking for Rabbi David ben Isaak,” Jonathan said in a whisper. He spoke Hebrew. He dared not to speak aloud.
A sad expression crossed the old man’s face.
“Rabbi David died six months ago,” he said. “He was ill with pneumonia.” The old man shrugged. “He was a good healer. But he could not heal himself. He left his wife and six children.”
George and Jonathan exchanged a look.
“Can you tell us where we can find them?” Jonathan asked. “We feared to hear such bad news. Can we speak to his son Noah?”
The old man widened his eyes and stared at them. Then his eyes narrowed and an angry look appeared on his face.
“Are you friends of him? Why would you want to speak to this miserable creature? He left Toledo the night his father died. He was not at his funeral and he did not come back to comfort his mother and his brothers and sisters.”
“What are you saying?” George asked with sincere surprise. “He left on the day of his father’s death? Has anybody heard from him?”
“No,” the old man said. “Nobody has heard from him. And nobody wants to hear from him or ever see him again.”
The old man frowned and was about to turn away from them.
“Wait,” Jonathan said. “I beg you. Please listen. We’re suspecting that something happened to Noah. We don’t think he left voluntarily.”
The old man turned back to them and looked at them suspiciously.
“Why should I trust you? You are not Jews although you speak Hebrew. But you entered the synagogue. Leave me alone,” he said.
“Please,” George intervened. “We suspect that Noah was killed or taken captive by a man who stole a precious object from Rabbi David. Noah knew of this object. He knew how to use it.”
The old man turned pale. He looked left and right quickly. Then he stepped closer.
“And now you want to steal that object, don’t you?” he asked.
“No,” George said seriously. “I need not steal the object that belonged to Rabbi David since I have a similar object myself.”
The old man made a step back. He looked confused. He looked left and right again.
“Who gave you that object?” he asked suspiciously.
“My master gave it to me. His name was Edward. He died a few months ago,” George said in a grave voice.
The man’s eyelids flickered. He turned his eyes away for a moment. Then he looked back at them.
“Come,” he said. “I’ll take you to my house. There we’ll be safe. There we can talk.”
The old man turned around and moved towards the door of the synagogue. George and Jonathan exchanged a look, and then followed him. The man crossed the market place and turned into an alley. He stopped in front of a small house. The man looked at them again for a moment. Then he entered the house. George and Jonathan followed him.
The old man led them to a study. It was filled with shelves. And the shelves were filled with scrolls and leather-bound books. Jonathan looked at them curiously, but he didn’t dare to step closer to the shelves. George watched the old man.
The man pointed at two chairs. He sat down on a chair at his desk and measured them. George and Jonathan sat down also.
“I’m Rabbi David’s brother Samuel,” he said. “My brother died of pneumonia. He was a great healer. But he was not able to heal himself. He was a wise man, a studied man. He held a knowledge that is lost in this world. He never told me all of it. But as the years went by, I learned a bit of it. Our father was his master. My brother was introduced into a secret truth by my father who himself was introduced into it by his father, my grandfather. It is a long line. The truth passed on from generation to generation, from father to first born son. My brother was the first born son. So he was introduced to it. My brother and his first wife had only daughters. David’s first wife died about twenty-five years ago. He married again. Noah is David’s first born son. David initiated Noah into the secret. I knew they shared a secret knowledge. But I respected the tradition. I was not chosen to learn the truth.”
The old man smiled faintly.
“You can imagine, however, I learned a bit of it as time passed by. For instance, I know my father had given my brother a very precious object. My father had always kept it hidden. And so did my brother. I never saw this object. But I knew the place where my brother had placed it.”
The old man looked between George and Jonathan. His face showed a sad expression.
“I went to his house after his funeral. Noah was missing. I went to the secret place. I won’t tell you more of it. Let me just tell you that the object had disappeared. I had proof of it. Since there was no sign that anybody had broken the lock, I suspected that Noah had taken it from its secret place. I suspected he had left Toledo and had taken the object along. What a shame and disgrace. You must know my family had guarded the object for more than two thousand years.”
He looked at George and Jonathan. A proud expression showed on his face. Yet, an angry and sad expression replaced it.
“Perhaps it was not wise to give away this information to strangers. Perhaps I failed like Noah did.”
“Neither you nor Noah failed,” Jonathan said in a grave voice. “We saw Rabbi David’s object only recently. A man showed it to us. He said his name was Noah. But I doubt it is his true name. He’s in his fifties and he lives in a splendid house. He told us his sister’s name was Maria Ines. We spent a few days in her house. Noah, the wrong Noah, invited us to stay there. But we learned only recently from a man, who called himself Ali, that Maria Ines was a whore and Noah her suitor.”
The old man looked at them startled.
“Maria Ines? A woman dressed in black? She wears a veil always?” he asked, his voice almost trembling.
“Yes,” George said, nodding. “We did not see her often. Noah came to her house. We had dinner there with him. He then invited us to his house. We had dinner there again and he showed us the mir-, the object. Yesterday, we went for a walk. When we came back to Maria Ines’ house, we found that a box was missing. The box contained the object that was given to me. But, fortunately, I had taken it from the box and hidden in some other place. It’s over there, wrapped in my shirt.”
Samuel’s eyes widened and he gazed at the wrapped object. His eyelids flickered again.
“Wrapped in your shirt,” he repeated George’s words. “How careless, young man.”
“We didn’t know where to hide it,” Jonathan said. “We left Toledo instantly after we found the box was missing. We suspect that Noah, the wrong Noah, has stolen it. He must have found out meanwhile that the box is empty. And doubtlessly he is chasing us.”
Samuel stared at Jonathan, and then he nodded slowly.
“Good you left instantly. I know who that man is who you are talking of. His true name is Hasan bin Mujawid. He is an Arab merchant. He came to Toledo about fifteen years ago. He brought Maria Ines with him. Her true name is Sayyidah. She changed her name to Maria Ines.”
Samuel leaned back and took a deep breath. George and Jonathan watched him and listened attentively.
“Maria Ines is not an honourable woman. So Hasan could not marry her. But, for some reason, he never gave up on her. He is a visitor to her house often. Rumours spread quickly,” Samuel said, smiling faintly.
He leaned forward.
“He’s clever and smart, scheming and devious. I can’t really understand why he invited you to stay in Maria Ines’ house. Like I said, rumours spread quickly. Many people must already know that you stayed with her.”
Jonathan looked at Samuel, thinking.
“I think it was a clever plan. Just imagine. If we had not left Toledo, we would have made quite a fuss on the incident. I mean the stolen box and the stolen object. Who would have believed us? People would have laughed at us. Two suitors of a whore claim that someone stole a precious object from them. Many people knew we lived there. Many men could have entered the house and could have stolen the object.”
Samuel nodded slowly.
“Yes, you are right. You would have had no chance to get the object back. And Hasan would have disappeared.”
“He spoke Hebrew,” George said.
Samuel nodded again.
“They came to Spain from Jerusalem. Hasan speaks Hebrew and Arabic.”
George and Jonathan exchanged a look. George leaned forward.
“Samuel, Hasan showed us David’s object. How did he get hold of it?”
Samuel’s face turned pale again.
“Yes,” he said in a confused voice. “The lock was not broken. Someone must have given it to him. Noah must have given it to Hasan.”
Samuel’s look turned sad.
“Noah is a traitor,” he said.
Silence fell for a while.
“I don’t think he is,” Jonathan said finally. He scratched his head, thinking. “I can’t tell you why, but I don’t think he gave the object to Hasan voluntarily. I rather think that Hasan forced him to give it to him.”
They all looked at each other.
“And then he killed Noah,” Samuel said. He sounded startled.
“I’m not so sure of it,” George said. “I doubt Hasan knew how to use the mirror. I rather think he held Noah a captive and forced him to explain to him how to use it.”
“The mirror?” Samuel asked with widened eyes.
“We call it a mirror. It’s not a true mirror, though,” Jonathan said.
“This explains a lot,” Samuel said in a low voice. “A mirror is truly a precious object.”
George and Jonathan gave Samuel a questioning look.
Samuel smiled faintly.
“I cannot explain that right now,” he said. Samuel pondered. “But how did Hasan know that David has this mirror?”
“The truth is a secret truth,” George said. “It is difficult to unveil it. But it’s not impossible. With an open mind and many years of studies, you can find out the truth, part of it, at least. I never thought the secret of the mirror could be unveiled by a man who is not an adept. But perhaps Hasan found out about it.”
“Or Noah revealed it to him,” Samuel said in a sober voice.
“Do you think Noah would have revealed it to a stranger?” Jonathan asked.
“Not to a stranger,” Samuel said, lowering his eyes. “But maybe to someone he loved. To someone he wanted to impress. He might have revealed it to Maria Ines.”
“What?” George said in disbelief.
Jonathan gazed at Samuel.
The man looked up. His cheeks had blushed.
“It’s a disgrace. Oh, yes, it is. Noah went to see that bad woman. He fancied he was in love with her. He’s a young man. Maria Ines is only a few years older than he is. She was only thirteen when she came to Toledo with Hasan.”
“Thirteen?” George asked.
“Yes. She started young. That was what Hasan wanted her to do.”
“This is just disgusting,” Jonathan said.
“I suspect you are a wealthy and studied man,” Samuel said, his eyes resting on Jonathan’s face. “Only few are that lucky.”
Jonathan lowered his eyes. “I see,” he mumbled.
“So you think Noah revealed the secret to Maria Ines? Indeed, she asked us if we had brought our mirror,” George said.
“But how did she know of your mirror?” Samuel asked excitedly.
“Because I sent a letter to Noah and announced our arrival in Toledo. Hasan got the letter. So he knew of our journey. And he got prepared,” George explained.
“But how did Hasan get that letter?” Samuel asked. He looked confused.
“Show the mirror to him,” Jonathan intervened. “We need to contact Ashok anyway.”
George gave him a doubtful look. Jonathan nodded. George unwrapped the mirror reluctantly. Samuel watched him. His look was almost frightened.
George placed the mirror on Samuel’s desk. The old man leaned forward and studied the black object curiously.
“I have never seen an object like this. It does not look like a mirror. Is it a casket?” he asked.
George shook his head. He turned the object slightly. Sunlight fell through the window and on the object.
“It needs sunlight to work properly,” George said.
Samuel nodded. “Oh,” he said.
George opened the object. Samuel gazed at the black screen.
“The mirror has turned black,” he said.
George shook his head. He pressed a button and activated the object. The screen flashed. Samuel jumped from his chair and retreated into the room. He gazed at the object in horror. Various emotions crossed his face. And then he started to pray. But then his facial expression changed and he looked at the object in awe.
“My family was chosen to guard a very precious object. Now I do understand. It is similar to the Ark of the Covenant,” he said.
George and Jonathan gave him a questioning look.
“God communicated with his chosen people with the help of the Ark of the Covenant,” Samuel said.
“Indeed,” Jonathan said. “This is very true. Indeed, this is a similar object. But we do not communicate with God.”
An expression of horror crossed Samuel’s face again. George raised his hand.
“I’ll show it to you, Master Samuel,” George said. “Don’t be afraid. Please step closer.”
Samuel approached his desk and looked at the illuminated screen. He cast a glance at George.
“Once upon a time, people lived on Earth. Their civilization was highly developed. Their knowledge surpassed ours. They constructed these objects. This civilization is long since gone. Only myths and tales tell of those people. And only very few objects remained,” George explained.
Samuel hung on his lips. He nodded slightly.
“The secret knowledge and these objects were passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years,” George continued. “Only twelve men are initiated into the secret. Twelve men always. They live in every corner of the world.”
“My father was one of them. And my brother,” Samuel said in a whisper. He looked at George with widened eyes. “And so are you two,” he said.
“I’m George’s apprentice,” Jonathan said.
The old man blinked and George looked at Jonathan with surprise. Jonathan nodded confidently.
“Your master does not look that old,” Samuel said, studying George closely.
“I’m not that old,” George said, smiling faintly. “But I cannot explain this right now.”
Samuel nodded. “I see we need to talk about many things,” he said in a whisper.
“This object can be used to send letters,” George continued. “Every adept has a mirror, and we can send us letters.”
“Oh,” Samuel said confused.
“I’ll show it to you,” George said.
He pressed another button. The green window appeared. A surprised cry escaped Samuel’s mouth. George raised his hand.
“Silence, please,” he said.
Samuel nodded. He glanced at Jonathan who stood right behind George. George started to speak in Hebrew. And then Hebrew letters appeared on the screen. Samuel started trembling. Jonathan hurried towards him and helped him sit down on a chair. George had pressed a button and now turned to Jonathan and Samuel.
“What...” Samuel started faintly.
“It’s not a magical thing,” George said. “It’s just an object to write and send letters to someone else. They arrive in almost no time.”
“This is magical,” Samuel said.
“Not so much,” Jonathan replied.
George smirked. “You were afraid, too, when you saw the mirror for the first time,” he said.
“Yes, I was,” Jonathan admitted. He sat down on the chair next to Samuel. “Just think of the Ark of the Covenant. The Jewish people were chosen long ago to guard the most precious object that had remained.”
Samuel nodded slowly.
“I’m certain the Ark of the Covenant is still hidden in a safe place. This object on my desk is a smaller version, I guess,” he said.
“I think so...” George started.
He was interrupted by an incoming message. They all gazed at the letters that formed on the screen. George read them, and Samuel leaned forward curiously.
“I sent a letter to a fellow guardian and the man wrote back,” George explained.
“And what did you write and what did he answer?” Samuel asked excitedly. “Unfortunately, my eyes are bad and I cannot read the letters from the distance.”
Jonathan looked at Samuel. The old man apparently had overcome his fear in the briefest of time.
“I asked him if he had any news regarding Hasan. I explained to Ashok in short what we learned from you. He told me that Hasan contacted him yesterday. Hasan told him that I was a fraud and had stolen the mirror. Ashok told Hasan that he had received a message from me. He said I had told him I was on my way to France.”
Samuel gave George a questioning look.
“That was our plan. I cannot explain this right now,” George said.
“I see,” Samuel said. “Where is this man Ashok?”
“In India,” George said. He was deactivating the mirror.
“India,” Samuel said. “And he can help you? I see he can. With the help of this object. And you say my brother had a mirror also?”
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “Noah knew of it. He even knew how to use it. He had communicated with Ashok. Then Noah disappeared and Hasan contacted Ashok, pretending he was Noah.”
“So Noah must have instructed him,” Samuel said.
“And hopefully he is still helping him with the mirror,” Jonathan said.
“He disappeared almost six months ago...” Samuel said.
“I suspect that Hasan wants to get hold of all remaining mirrors. If Noah was wise, he has not yet revealed the names of all adepts and their locations,” Jonathan said.
Samuel looked into the room. He nodded slowly.
“If he was wise enough,” he said in a severe voice.
“We must get hold of David’s mirror. Hasan must not keep it,” George said. “And we must free Noah if he’s still alive.”
Samuel rose to his feet.
“I’ll send someone to Hasan’s house to investigate and find out if he is around. Wait here, please,” he said.
Samuel left the room quickly. George and Jonathan sat down.
“I just hope it was wise to reveal it all to him,” George said.
Jonathan nodded. “I don’t think we had another choice.”
Ten minutes later, Samuel came back. He sat down again.
“We cannot do anything but wait,” he said. Samuel leaned back and closed his eyes.
George and Jonathan exchanged a look, and then they leaned back also and looked into the room silently.
An hour passed. Then they heard a knock at the door. Samuel jumped to his feet and opened the door. A young man stepped in.
“My grandson Benjamin,” Samuel said. “What did you find out, Benjamin?”
Benjamin looked from his grandfather to the two strangers curiously. Then he started his report.
“Hasan sent his wife and children to a relative in the south of Spain about three weeks ago. He is alone in his house except of a few servants. I spoke to a maid servant. She told me that Hasan had invited two men to have dinner with him a few days ago. She has heard the two men lived with Maria Ines.”
Benjamin stopped and looked at George and Jonathan. Samuel nodded at Benjamin.
“The woman told me Hasan was in a bad mood yesterday. He was angry and enraged. Ali had come to his house. And then Ali left in a hurry.”
“Ali?” Jonathan asked. “We met this man.”
“Ali is Hasan’s agent. He does everything Hasan wants. Hasan pays well. Ali is ruthless. You better don’t cross his way.”
“Continue,” his grandfather said. “Did he transport anything to or from his house?”
“I cannot say,” Benjamin said. “The woman did not mention it. But she said that Hasan had retreated to his secret chamber in the morning and had not yet left it.”
“A secret chamber?” Samuel asked.
“She suspects he has gone crazy,” Benjamin continued. “Nobody must enter the chamber. It’s on the second floor. Neither his wife nor his children must enter it. And none of the servants, except of a young man. The chamber is locked anyway.”
“And this young man has never told the others anything?” Samuel asked.
“No, Jamal is deaf-mute and simpleminded. That’s what she said. Hasan spent a lot of time in the chamber a couple of months ago. He still spends one or two hours in the chamber every day,” Benjamin said.
“And nobody tried to find out about that chamber?” Samuel asked. His voice was excited.
“They don’t dare. Hasan can turn violent. The woman suspects he is hiding someone because she saw Jamal take food to the chamber. She suspects Hasan is hiding a young girl from his wife. It’s said he prefers very young girls. And he visits Maria Ines less often,” Benjamin said.
“Anything else?” Samuel asked.
Benjamin was thinking.
“No. I could speak to this woman only briefly. Hasan sent the other servants away. They’ll be back tomorrow. I can go there again tomorrow,” he said.
Samuel shook his head.
“Don’t go there again unless I’ll tell you. But, please, stay around, Benjamin, I’ll need your help tonight,” Samuel said.
Benjamin gave him a questioning look. Samuel looked at George and Jonathan. They both nodded.
“Benjamin, please come here again at about midnight. And take your dagger with you. I know you know how to use it,” Samuel said. His face looked very determined.
“Grandfather?” Benjamin asked slightly worried.
“I cannot explain it right now,” Samuel said. “Please, be here in time, Benjamin.”
Benjamin nodded. He looked from one to the other. His look was confused. But then he nodded again.
“I’ll be here in time, grandfather,” he said.
Benjamin left. George, Jonathan and Samuel looked at each other for a while.
“I don’t think we’ll find a better opportunity to intrude unseen into Hasan’s house,” Samuel said. “I hope that Benjamin won’t be forced to use his dagger. But we need someone to protect us.”
“Do you really want to accompany us?” George asked.
“Of course, I will,” Samuel said in a determined voice. “I’m certain Noah is still alive. But we must not wait any longer.”
“I agree with you, Samuel,” he said.
Samuel offered them to stay in his house until midnight. They spent the day talking. In the evening, they had dinner. Then they decided to have a nap. Samuel led George and Jonathan to a small room and handed them blankets. Samuel retired to his own room. George and Jonathan lay down on the floor. However, they were unable to fall asleep.
Night fell. They were waiting. Time passed slowly. Finally, they heard footsteps outside the room. Then they heard a knock at the door. Jonathan opened it. Samuel and Benjamin stood outside.
“I told my grandson that we go and free Noah,” Samuel said.
Benjamin nodded. His look was determined.
“My grandfather told me that Hasan abducted Noah and holds him captive. I swore to free him tonight. We must be very careful, though. I cannot believe that Hasan is entirely alone in his house. I suspect that Ali is around and keeps watch. But I know the place. Do exactly what I will tell you.”
Jonathan nodded. George picked up the mirror.
“Where do I put the mirror?” he asked.
“I’ll put it into a safe place,” Samuel said, reaching out his hands. “This house is old. There are many secret places.”
Samuel left the room with the mirror in his hands. Ten minutes later, he came back.
“I won’t tell you where I put it,” he said. “So none of you will be able to reveal its place. Just in case something unexpected is going to happen,” he said.
George and Jonathan exchanged a brief look. Samuel smiled.
“I can read your mind. It’s a risk we must take. But I’m certain Hasan will not inquire me.”
Benjamin gave his grandfather a questioning look. Samuel just shrugged.
“We must act quickly. And then you must leave my house instantly. Hasan won’t dare to investigate my house or inquire me. My family will protect me. I have a big family,” Samuel said.
“I’ll take you and Noah to my house,” Benjamin said to Samuel. “But let’s go now. We can’t wait any longer.”
They left the house in the dead of the night. The streets were empty. They moved on quickly. After a few minutes, they arrived. They watched Hasan’s house from the distance. They hid in the darkness.
“Any intruder would enter the house through the door that opens to the kitchen,” Hasan whispered. “It’s a simple wooden door. I used it this morning. It’s easy to break. And no one can see it from the street. I’m sure Ali is in the backyard somewhere. “
They gazed into the direction Benjamin pointed.
“Look,” Benjamin continued. “There is a stone wall to the right of the balcony on the first floor. I was thinking. George, Jonathan, can you climb up there and enter the house through the balcony door on the first floor while I cross the backyard and distract Ali?”
Jonathan looked at the balcony doubtfully. George nodded instantly.
“Yes,” George whispered back. “Provided his family is absent and Hasan is not in the room with the balcony, this plan might work.”
“It’s his wife’s room,” Benjamin said. “The maid told me Hasan’s wife and his children were absent. I trust her words. I don’t think Hasan is in her room. But that’s a risk we must take. ”
Benjamin opened a bag. He handed George an iron bar.
“You must break the wooden door. The window has bars.”
George nodded. He weighed the iron bar in his hands.
“What if Ali gets hold of you?” Samuel asked in a low voice.
“I’ll watch out,” Benjamin whispered. “You will help me, grandfather?”
“What?” Samuel asked. His voice sounded startled.
“We will wait until George and Jonathan have climbed the wall. Then I will enter the backyard and you, grandfather, will knock at the front door. Make a fuss like a drunkard would. Hit at the door and shout loudly. The maid won’t dare to open the door. She will call out for Hasan. Just be careful to disappear into the night before he opens the door,” Benjamin said in a low voice.
“I can do that,” Samuel said. He straightened.
Benjamin took two daggers from his bag. He dropped the empty bag on the ground. He handed one dagger to Jonathan.
“Listen carefully. Hopefully, Hasan descends the stairs to the ground floor when he hears the drunkard outside. Then you must act quickly. Move to the second floor and break the door to Noah’s room in case Hasan locked it. It is open maybe, if you are lucky. Otherwise, use the iron bar. Free Noah and take him to the balcony on the first floor. We don’t know of his condition. He is weak maybe. But he must climb off the balcony and the stone wall. That’s the most dangerous part. I’ll try to help you as soon as I’m done with Ali. But I cannot promise I’ll be there in time.”
They looked into the night for a moment.
“I’ll do whatever I can,” George said in a determined voice. He fastened the iron bar to his belt.
“So will I,” Jonathan said. He pushed the dagger in his right boot.
“We must succeed,” Benjamin said.
He made a step forward and pointed at the house.
“George, Jonathan, climb the wall,” Benjamin commanded.
George and Jonathan nodded. They approached the house quickly in the shelter of the night. They climbed the stone wall and moved closer to the house. The stone wall ended at the wall of the house. George looked up and saw the side of the balcony above him. He measured the grids. George stretched and seized the bars of the balcony firmly and bit his lip. He put his left foot against the wall of the house. He tightened the grip on the bars of the balcony and pulled himself up. He seized the railing of the balcony. His muscles burned. He paused for a moment. And then he pulled himself up entirely. George bent over the railing and pushed his body on the balcony. Immediately, he stood and looked down to Jonathan.
Jonathan looked up. The task seemed impossible to him. But then he stretched also and seized the bars. Like George had done, he put his left foot on the wall of the house and pulled himself up. Yet he felt unable to lift his arm and seize the railing of the balcony. George watched him. He bent over the railing and reached out his hand.
“Quick,” George whispered. “Do not think. Just do it.”
Jonathan reached out one hand and pressed his foot against the wall. George seized Jonathan’s wrist. He pulled with full force. Jonathan seized the railing with his other hand, and George pulled Jonathan’s body over the railing. They fell and made a noise. Instantly, they stopped moving and listened into the night.
Everything was silent. But then they heard a loud noise. George and Jonathan rose to their feet and looked down to the street. They saw a figure approaching the house. The man, Samuel apparently, shouted wildly in Spanish. Another figure crossed the street silently and disappeared out of sight.
“Quick,” George whispered.
He pushed and pulled on the balcony door. It was locked. But the lock seemed to be weak. George loosened the iron bar from his belt and placed it against the lock. When Samuel shouted loudly again, George hit the bar against the lock. The lock broke instantly. George and Jonathan entered the room.
The room was empty and dark. It was only illuminated by the faint light that fell through the balcony door, the faint light of the stars. George and Jonathan crossed the room slowly and leaned against the door to the hallway. They listened attentively.
Samuel’s shouts grew louder. He hit at the front door furtively. Suddenly, George and Jonathan heard a woman call out fearfully. They heard footsteps in the corridor. Someone passed the door. The woman called out again. She was close. But her voice grew weaker as she hurried down the hallway. George opened the door to the corridor cautiously.
They heard another voice, a man’s voice. The man called out angrily. The woman replied. They spoke Arabic.
“Hasan and the maid,” George whispered. He fastened the grip on the iron bar.
Jonathan pulled the dagger from his boot.
Then they heard footsteps again. Hasan descended the stairs. The maid followed him. George made a sign with his hand. He and Jonathan hurried down the corridor. They reached the staircase. Hasan was downstairs and shouted at the man knocking at his door. George and Jonathan ascended the stairs to the second floor. They moved fast but quietly.
They reached the upper corridor. George pointed down the hallway. They hurried down the corridor. They opened doors quickly and looked inside. The rooms were empty. Finally, they stopped in front of the last door on the right. George seized the knob and turned it. The door opened instantly.
“Good,” George hissed.
They entered the room. The room was lit by a candle. They looked around quickly and spotted a man on a chair. His legs were tied to the chair. He gazed at them with horror. Jonathan hastened to him with the dagger in his hand. The man’s eyes widened.
“Quiet,” Jonathan commanded.
He took his dagger and cut the ropes.
“Can you walk, Noah?” he asked.
“Who...?” he started.
“Quiet,” Jonathan said again. “We must leave instantly.”
He looked to George. George had approached the desk in the room.
“We must leave, George,” Jonathan said in a stern voice.
“Yes,” George said, turning to him. “But I will take this with me.” He held David’s mirror in his hands.
“We can’t carry it,” Jonathan said. “Leave it behind. We must go.”
Meanwhile, Noah had risen to his feet. He had overcome his horror and hastened to a corner of the room.
“Put it into this bag,” he said. “The mute servant took oranges to my room and left the bag here.”
George and Noah put the mirror into the bag. Jonathan hastened to the door. He stepped into the corridor and listened attentively. Hasan still shouted and the woman shrieked hysterically.
“Quick,” Jonathan hissed into the room.
The others joined him. Together they ran down the corridor. Jonathan hurried down the stairs. George and Noah followed him. They had just reached the first floor when they heard forceful steps come up the stairs. Quickly, they turned around the corner and hastened down the corridor. Hasan shouted something. He had stopped on the first floor. George, Jonathan and Noah stopped running and pressed their bodies against the wall. The maid responded to Hasan’s shouts. She also ascended the stairs. Samuel still knocked at the door. They heard a clashing. Hasan apparently had taken a sword from a cabinet or from the wall. He descended the stairs. The woman shrieked again. They heard her voice and her footsteps. She retreated into the dark corridor.
George made a sign to the others. They quickly moved on and entered the room of Hasan’s wife.
“Did she see us?” Noah asked fearfully.
“I cannot say,” George said, already moving to the balcony door.
Jonathan joined him there. Noah looked at the door to the corridor, but then he followed them swiftly. They stepped outside. George looked over the railing. A figure stared up to them.
“Quick,” Benjamin hissed.
George bent over the railing and handed the bag to Benjamin.
“The mirror,” he said. His words were loud enough for Benjamin to hear.
Benjamin took the bag and carefully placed it on the ground. He looked up again. Jonathan had urged Noah to climb over the railing. Noah clung to the railing and let his body down to the stone wall beneath him. Benjamin seized his legs and helped him. Then Jonathan climbed over the railing. As soon as Jonathan had reached the stone wall, George climbed over the railing. He left the iron bar behind.
They all moved along the wall. At its end, they jumped down to the ground and instantly ran down the street. They ran for several minutes. Benjamin led the way. Finally, he stopped in front of a building. He opened the door and they hurried inside. Benjamin locked the door. A door opened and a man with a candle in his hand entered the corridor.
“What is going on, Benjamin?” he asked. He stopped short when he spotted Noah.
“I must leave again,” Benjamin said in an urgent voice. “I must help grandfather.”
The man, apparently Benjamin’s father, looked between them helplessly. Noah approached him.
“I’ll tell you all,” he said.
Benjamin left the house again. Noah spoke to the man in Hebrew. The man’s eyes widened with fear. But then he made a sign to George and Jonathan and led them into a small living room. Meanwhile, Benjamin’s mother and his brothers and sisters had joined them in the corridor and now followed them into the room. They all sat down on chairs, a divan and on the floor. And they all gazed at Noah in disbelief as he recounted his story. Noah told them that Ali had captured him when he had visited Maria Ines to inform her on his father’s death. Ali had taken him to Hasan. And Hasan had forced him to enter his father’s house on the funeral day and steal the mirror. Hasan had kept him a prisoner in his house and had forced him to instruct him how to use the mirror.
“You were tempted by the evil and you gave in to it,” Benjamin’s father said in a severe voice. “It is a shame that others must risk their life to free you and get the holy object back.”
Noah blushed and tears filled his eyes.
Benjamin’s father rose to his feet.
“I must go and seek my father and my son,” he said in a severe voice.
He was about to go and get dressed when they heard the front door open. Benjamin and his grandfather entered the room. The old man was out of breath and looked completely exhausted. Benjamin’s mother hurried to him and led him to the divan. The children who were sitting on it rose quickly and stepped aside. Benjamin’s mother urged Samuel to lie down. She covered him with a blanket. The old man closed his eyes. He still breathed heavily and his eyelids flickered. Benjamin’s mother looked worried. She sat down on a chair next to him.
“What happened? What happened to him?” Benjamin’s father asked in a severe voice.
Benjamin gave a detailed report. He recounted what had happened to his grandfather after Hasan had descended the stairs with a sword in his hands.
“Hasan opened the door and grandfather ran down the street. Hasan ran after him. Grandfather shouted wildly. He cried for help. Hasan had almost approached him. A few soldiers had just left an inn and walked down the street. They heard grandfather’s cries and Hasan’s shouts and they quickly approached them. The men were drunk and gasped for a fight. They attacked Hasan and stabbed him.”
Benjamin fell silent. Everybody gazed at him in a state of shock.
“Grandfather started running again. He turned around a corner. There I ran into him. I asked him to wait for me. I ran to where the cries had come from. The soldiers had moved on. Hasan was lying on the street. His body was covered with blood. He is dead. I hurried back to grandfather instantly. And then we came here as fast as we could.”
They all looked at Samuel who was still lying on the divan with his eyes closed. Benjamin’s mother touched Samuel’s forehead gently.
“How are you doing?” she asked in a soft voice.
Samuel opened his eyes and looked at them.
“I’m feeling very tired. What happened to Ali, Benjamin?”
Everybody turned their eyes to Benjamin.
“He won’t be able to use his right arm for some time,” Benjamin said. “I stabbed his arm and I knocked him unconscious.”
Benjamin’s father straightened in his chair.
“I think we won’t be able to find some sleep tonight. So, how about we start again? Tell the whole story again, please.”
Benjamin’s mother rose to her feet.
“I will make some tea,” she said. She left the room, but came back after a few minutes.
They talked for several hours. The smaller children, one after the other, fell asleep. Her mother carried them to their rooms. She also left after she had heard the story. Samuel also drifted to sleep. George, Jonathan, Noah, Benjamin and his father talked until early in the morning. Finally, Benjamin’s father rose to his feet.
“We must rest now,” he said. “Benjamin, take George and Jonathan to your room. Grandfather sleeps well. We will not wake him. Tomorrow we must decide on what we must do. And we must inform Noah’s family.”
They all agreed. And thus ended the night.
The following day, Benjamin went out to investigate. Rumours had spread. It was said that Hasan had been murdered the night ago. Someone had broken into Hasan’s house. Hasan had chased the intruder. The intruder had possibly killed him. Ali had disappeared. Some people rumoured that Ali had been the murderer. Nobody spoke of Maria Ines.
Benjamin’s father and Noah went to Noah’s house. His mother embraced Noah for a long time and said that she had never believed that he had left them for good.
George and Jonathan agreed to contact Ashok and the grand council. They informed Noah on their decision. Noah was willing to hear the council’s judgement. George sent a message to all his fellow guardians. He reported in detail of what had happened. Noah also gave a detailed report. Ashok asked George and Noah to wait for the council’s decisions. They had to wait two days until Ashok sent another message on behalf of all adepts.
The council had sent a message to Noah. They had thoroughly discussed his failures and mistakes. However, they had decided to give him another chance. Noah had to renew his oath to his fellow adepts. He had to speak the oath to George who confirmed it to the council. Noah was obliged to contact George and Ashok once a week. Should he fail again, however, the council would pass the sentence that had always been passed when an adept had failed. Noah understood the meaning of this message. And he confirmed it.
The grand council also decided that George and Jonathan should return to London. They accepted Jonathan as George’s apprentice. George was obliged to pass on the secret truth to him. Once Jonathan had spoken the oath, he was obliged to seek an apprentice himself and initiate this man into the secret truth.
George and Jonathan left Toledo in July and travelled to France. They reached Calais in the beginning of September. They crossed the channel and arrived in London a few days later. They learned that Master Edward had died and that Duke Raleigh had found a new mage he was highly satisfied with. Jonathan moved into his house again. And George moved in also. Christine, the maid who had helped George and Jonathan escape the country, left in winter that year. She married and moved to Brighton.
George and Jonathan lived a secluded life. George taught Jonathan all he knew and Jonathan swore the oath to the grand council. They kept in touch with Noah and Ashok. As the years went by, a few of their fellow guardians died. But each of them had passed on the secret truth in time. Their apprentices took their place and joined the grand council. At the age of thirty-six, Jonathan was asked to teach Greek to a young man. The young man was smart and his thoughts were uncommon. He studied a lot and he told Jonathan of his very individual interpretation of ancient tales and stories. This young man, Jeremy, became Jonathan’s apprentice.
George and Jonathan lived a happy life, although their life was uncommon. They often felt like outcasts. But they shared a secret truth and knowledge. And they belonged to a group of twelve extraordinary men.
As time passed by, the new race of Earth has forgotten about the knowledge that the race of Adon had brought to Earth. However, it is not entirely lost. The knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. The chosen guardians have guarded it ever since Eden was erected on Planet X. The guardians will watch and only interfere if absolutely necessary.
Though secret and hidden, Adon’s knowledge is still alive. Many found it and many more will. One day, many years from now, the race of Earth will regain the ancient knowledge. They will know how to use it. And they must. Since one day in the future, the race of Earth will leave their home planet to find a new home in the universe. This is the course of evolution.
© 2010 Dolores Esteban
First published at GA Gay Authors - Gay Quality Fiction