Chapter 3 The Prevost
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. – Ian Fleming
That same night at the Cathedral, Prevost Benefix sat hunched over an ancient book. A pair of thin-rimmed glasses were perched on his long nose and he was making a faint whistling noise as he read. A small blue-gray kitten was curled up on the table purring. Together they sounded like a little locomotive. The long-burning candle had started to gutter and wax dripped all over the holder. Magitech glow-balls were currently in fashion, but Benefix still preferred the warm friendly light of an old-fashioned flame. He liked the smell of the slowly melting wax. He looked up briefly as he heard heavy steps on the wooden stairs.
“Come in, come in, old friend!” he said, pushing his glasses back up his nose and taking a sip from the mug at his elbow. “I was hoping you would come tonight.” He smiled at him, “How do you always know when I want to see you?” he asked, carefully replacing the mug on the table. The cat raised its head and looked at the newcomer.
Jian Ridder gave one of his rare, smiles. He was truly pleased to see the old man. “How are you? Still digging through these old texts in the dark, I see,” he commented, stooping to enter the low-ceilinged room and leaning his battle axe against the wall.
“Yes, yes, indeed, still digging,” he replied, gently closing the old, dusty book and turning to greet his friend. He gave him a searching look, noticing for the first time a touch of gray at his temples in an otherwise unruly mop of black hair. Looking closer at his face he saw the faint beginnings of lines starting to trace their mark on his deeply tanned skin. So, Jian was showing his age. It didn’t matter; for on all the five continents or wide, wide seas, there was no one he trusted more. And he was going need someone trustworthy in the days ahead to be his eyes and ears. And arms and legs too for that matter. Yes, indeed, his days of gallivanting around the continents were over. It was good to know someone dependable. Leaning back and smiling he said lightly, “You’re looking fine.”
“You look busy,” Jian replied glancing around the book-cluttered room. “Why is it you do all this stuff yourself? You’re the Prevost of all Validian and you speak for all the continents. Don’t you have someone to do your digging for you?”
Benefix shrugged, “You know better than that, Jian. This is what I love to do. I do it because I want to; it interests me to read these old texts.”
“Well, I thought you would be overrun with G.L.O.B.Es pouring into the city for the vote. Aren’t you supposed to be officially keeping them safe?”
“The President has a committee that takes care of all that,” Benefix answered waving his hand as if at some random fly. “All I really do is provide space to lay them all out on Voting Day and walk around shaking hands.”
Jian grunted. He knew the Prevost did more than that. “I heard they found one buried in an avalanche. Any word on whose it is?”
“Not yet, but it was found at the bottom of Stone Mountain, so there aren’t many towns around there it could belong to. Someone will turn up. That’s not what concerns me right now.”
“Okay, I know you’re burning to tell me. So what are you looking for in all these old texts?” asked Jian.
“A reference to these earthquakes we’ve been having. Did you know, every single country has been having its share of disasters too? There’s something odd about that.”
“If you say so,” said Jian, “I’ve heard about the floods and hurricanes, but it might just be coincidence. Some things happen just because they happen, you know.”
Benefix laughed, “I know you think that. But it just so happens, that I don’t. I think things happen for a reason. Now take these disasters for instance, there is something familiar about them. Like a story or a legend I’ve heard before, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“More like a fairy tale,” muttered Jian. “This idea that everything has happened before and will happen again. I’m not sure I buy into your Prevost view of things.”
Benefix sipped from his mug some more. This was ground they had covered many times in the past. “And I think that these stories will lead us to an inevitable break through that will allow us to bring back the old ways. I believe that we Prevosts are meant to discover the secrets that will return us to they way things were before. That is why we’ve gathered all the ancient texts here. There’s so much evidence,” he opened his arms wide to take in the book-crammed room, “We were once much more advanced, you know. And it’s not just on our world. There are Prevosts from other planets who have noticed the same phenomenon. No one seems to be quite as far along as they used to be.”
“Only if you believe the old texts. They could so easily be fakes or works of fiction. After all, no one knows who wrote them or even when.”
“Now, now, you don’t believe that! These are real. There are too many of them to be fakes, and they’ve been so carefully preserved. Besides, some of the magitechnology actually works. Look at the Cargo Conveyer and King Chelten’s airship. These things were all found by the Prevosts in old texts. And… they… work!” he said giving emphasis to each word with a sharp rap on the table. “And more is being discovered every day. If they were fakes, the magitechnology wouldn’t work,” he finished triumphantly.
“Well…” began Jian.
Benefix interrupted him, “And the same plans occur on all the planets. We are not the only ones to have airships and Transcontinental Trains. That can’t be a coincidence! At one time, communication among the worlds must have been much more commonplace. Maybe there were Gateways on all the continents, leading to all the worlds. A complete network of portals! Think of that!”
“Yeah, I know,” said Jian good-naturedly. He waved his hands and spoke in a dramatic voice, “The Mission of the Prevosts. Well, I will remain skeptical of that if you please. But if you’ve got something I can do to help the people of Aydreon get back on their feet after these disasters, well, I’m here to help. What can I do?”
Benefix clapped his hand together and got back to business. “Actually, what’s got me thinking is not that we are having disasters, it’s why we are having disasters.”
“So we are having some strange weather, it could be caused from anything. It’s a big planet you know.”
“Here, look here, I found this the other day. It’s not in such good shape, mind you, but I think we can figure it out. Now, where did I put that….” His voice trailed off as he dove off the chair into a dusty, dark corner of the room, “It’s here, wait just a moment, I know I saw it just…over…here…”
“I can wait,” replied Jian, settling himself in a chair and leaning back, propping his feet on the table. He knew it might be a minute, maybe a half an hour before the Prevost found what he was looking for. He stared off into space, noticing the one wall in the study that wasn’t buried in clutter. Despite his words earlier, Jian had a deep respect for the Prevost. He liked the way Benefix cared for all people, no matter who they were or what they had done. Benefix was always ready to give someone a second chance. And somehow, people were always willing to do whatever he asked.
It was these ideas of his that were hard to accept. Jian was not one to believe in the Origin Planet Theory. People and cultures were too different. It was hard to believe that they had once all come from a single planet; had been ruled by one government. Just look how hard it was trying to unify the five little continents of Aydreon! People resist those kinds of things, Jian thought. They would never come together as a single entity the way the Prevosts hoped; the way they believed things used to be. He was quite sure that this upcoming election was going to prove him right. But he liked and trusted Benefix. He had never steered him wrong, and Benefix had given him plenty of second chances. The other Prevosts, well they were another story. But wherever Benefix wanted him to go, he would go, even if it was through a Gateway to another planet.
“Aha! Here it is,” exclaimed Benefix, uprighting himself and tugging on the loose green tunic he favored when he wasn’t wearing official robes. Waving a yellowed scroll he exclaimed, “Knew I had it here somewhere! I was reading this the other day and it talked about disasters.”
“Was it talking about your study?” Jian asked innocently, glancing around the untidy room with its stacks of chairs and crates of texts and scrolls.
“Ha ha” said Benefix coldly as he pushed papers, hardened wax and other bits of debris off the sturdy wooden table and laid the scroll down, careful not to disturb the cat who had gone back to sleep.
Look at this,” he said. Jian looked down and saw that the yellow scroll was covered in beautiful script but had a lot of holes in it. This is what he saw:
N nows when, but happen it will,
e passes but Ayd stands still.
unknown be freed,
To will take deed.
“It looks like alphabet soup to me. What does it mean?” he asked.
“Well, I told you it was in bad shape. Here, let me make it a little clearer.” Benefix took a scrap of paper from one of his many pockets and neatly slipped it under the scroll. “I’m just guessing of course, but this is what I think might be missing.” The paper underneath had been written in red. “There are still some blanks, but you can get the gist of it.” Jian looked again.
No one knows when, but happen it will,
When time passes but Aydreon stands still.
______ places unknown must then be freed,
To save our planet will take _______ deed.
“Lovely, are you going to enter it in this year’s poetry contest?” asked Jian.
“You’re not taking this seriously,” replied Benefix plaintively.
“Well of course I’m not,” exploded Jian. “Aydreon stand still? Of course we’re not still, if the planet had stopped rotating I’m sure we would have noticed by now!”
“I don’t think that is what it is referring too,” said Benefix gently. “I think it means we’ve stopped moving in our orbit around the sun.”
“Preposterous!” shouted Jian. “Someone would have said something about it. A National Astronomo- thingy person would be in all the newspapers!”
“Maybe, or maybe they know and are just afraid to say anything. Think about Jian, we are so far out in the solar system, it takes us eight and a half times longer than all the other planets to make it completely around the sun. We could be stopped in orbit for months before anyone would really notice.”
“And you think that’s what’s happened, we’ve stopped orbiting the sun and it’s causing all these problems?” Jian asked meaning to sound ridiculous but somehow sounding convincing to himself instead.
Benefix smiled. “Yes, now you’ve got it.” he said simply.
“And you want me to, what? Get the planet moving again? Hang on, let me grab my lever and I’ll do that for you,” said Jian, sarcasm dripping in his voice.
“No, that’s not what I need you to do for me.”
“Well, then what?” Benefix had asked him to do many things in the past, but they were usually more of the “fetch or deliver” kind. True, some of the places he’d had to go had been very difficult to get to and sometimes he had encountered difficulties getting back out again, but so far he’d never been asked to go into outer space.
“Right now I just want you to listen. Listen with an open mind. Come here, look at this map,” he said as he unrolled a much newer piece of parchment.
Jian looked at the map Benefix had laid out and saw it was a diagram of the planet Aydreon, laid out flat with its five continents huddled close at the center and the vast oceans around the edges. It had been zapped with some kind of magitechnology so it not only showed the geographic location of each continent but also the weather, conditions and the population spreads. These numbers and figures were constantly changing on the map. On looking closer he saw the capital, Medford, smack in the middle of the center continent Validian. Around the edges he could see the seismic disturbances showing up.
“Now, let me show you something. This is what started me thinking.” As the old man spoke he took out a thin light pencil that began tracing lines in purple on the map. “Here, where we are, Validian, we are having earthquakes. It all started here. I believe they are a warning, shaking us awake to the upcoming peril.”
“Validian has always been susceptible to earthquakes,” objected Jian, “It lies right along a plate border.”
“True, but those are carefully monitored and there’s been no slipping of plates recently. These earthquakes came completely out of the blue. And they are not in the right place, see here and here,” he pointed with his purple light along the edges, “That’s not where the earthquakes usually originate. No, these are unusual, and no one expected them.”
“Not the first time the United Geologic Society has been caught napping,” muttered Jian. “For all their newly discovered magitech, I don’t think they know how half of those gizmos really work.”
“Wait there’s more. See, here,” he jabbed the pencil down on a continent to the west. “The second thing to happen was the volcanic action in Marcadia. Now that volcano has been dormant for more than a century, why would it suddenly become active?” Benefix peered into Jian’s face. “It’s been putting forth a lot of ash and steam and the Prevost there thinks an eruption is imminent. All the neighboring towns have been evacuated.”
“Maybe the earthquakes triggered it,” said Jian, the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes deepening.
“Yes! Yes! But not in the way you think.” Benefix motioned Jian to look at the map again. “Now look the third thing to happen was in Jakodan. Remember hearing about the flashfloods?”
Jian straightened up. “Everybody heard about that, but it’s not unusual to have floods in the springtime. The mountain snows melt and cause trouble every year.” He thumped the map on the last two words for emphasis.
“But not trouble like this. The floods this year were bigger than has ever been recorded AND the mountains are still filled with snow. The spring thaws have not really started yet.”
Jian scratched his chin but said nothing this time. “ And you can’t blame those on shifting plates,” continued Benefix, feeling like he was finally getting through to Jian. “And finally there’s the freak weather in Freisland and Gliadax. The ocean water is much too cold to be spawning hurricanes at this time of year,” he pointed his purple light at the ocean temperature that showed up on the map. “And while tsunamis do sometimes hit Freisland after there’s been an earthquake in Validian, this tsunami came from the eastern side of the ocean, not the west where the plate boundaries are. So what started that?”
Jian sighed and sat back down. He was prepared to dispute all this; write it off as a coincidence. “All right, suppose I concede that it is a lot to be happening all at once. What does it all mean?”
“I think this scroll is trying to tell us what it means. The ancient people knew a lot about Aydreon. They recorded everything in these texts and scrolls. All we have to do is read and understand.”
“If they were so wise, how come they let all that knowledge get lost?” asked Jian reasonably.
“There’s a lot more in this text. Look at this next part,” Benefix said ignoring the question. Again he slipped a piece of paper under the scroll to fill in some of the holes.
First but middle the firm ground shall shake
Then the buried volcano hot fire will make.
Floods will come from both river and seas,
Winds will blow and level houses and trees.
“What do you think about that?”
“Sounds pretty bad.”
“Sounds exactly like what’s happening you mean. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, it’s all here. And just look at the order, first the earthquakes. The earthquakes in Validian happened first,” Benefix pointed at the map again, “We are in the middle. Then the volcano, Marcadia’s volcano started acting up after the earthquakes. The floods, the hurricanes, all happened just as it says it will in this scroll!”
“But you’re just guessing what these missing words are! You don’t really know!”
Benefix stopped in the middle of reaching for the scroll to frown a little at Jian. “What does it take to convince you?” He compressed his lips. Sometimes Jian could be so hard-headed.
Jian sighed and sat up. “Look, Benefix,” he began in a conciliatory voice then stopped to look over at the door.
Benefix had opened his mouth to interrupt when a small metal bell began jangling from a string along the top of the door frame.
“Dag-nabbit,” muttered Benefix. “That’s the door. Make yourself comfortable, Jian, there’s more tea on the stove. Help yourself. I’ll be right back.” Benefix got to his feet and began to stiffly climb the stairs in the dark wooden passage. The blue gray kitten, suddenly alerted that its master was leaving jumped down and followed him quietly on its oversized kitten paws.
Benefix could hear the bell ringing again and also a loud thumping from the Cathedral door as the guard began to pull back the heavy beams that fastened it. Now the guard was talking in muted tones to someone at the door. He quickly ascended the last few steps and quietly shut the book-lined panel that concealed the entrance to his private study. He hastened to arrange himself at an elaborate desk and assumed a more official look. The cat jumped on his desk and curled up into a ball. “Down, Cat,” hissed Benefix, picking up the cat and putting him on his lap under the desk and out of sight. There was a deferential knock at the wooden door. It opened. “Delivery for the Prevost,” intoned the guard in his bell-like voice, half in and half out of the room.
“Come in, come in,” said Benefix. The guard crossed the room and laid a large envelope on the desk. It was embossed with seals and ribbons and looked immensely important. But it wasn’t another G.L.O.B.E like Benefix had been expecting.
“Will you be needing anything else tonight, Prevost?” the guard asked.
“No, no thank you Christoph, you may lock up. I won’t be long here,” answered Benefix.
As the guard left the room, his large feet stamping, Benefix carefully unsealed the envelope. Despite its many layers of seals and wax, the message inside was comparatively brief. Benefix replaced the letter without smiling in the envelope and left it on the desk, making his way back down slowly to his study where Jian was waiting, Cat following in his footsteps.
Jian looked up as the Prevost entered with a speculative look in his eye. “Has something happened?” he asked.
“Things are happening all the time!” snapped Benefix. “What I’m trying to get you to see is that we are in a crisis.”
“Okay, all right,” said Jian pacifically. “I’m listening. What do you need me to do?”
Benefix smiled and reached out to squeeze Jian’s arm. “I know I can count on you. I need you to find someone for me,” he raised a finger up and resumed his seat, “A hero in fact.”
“A specific hero or just any hero I can find? The streets are littered with them,” Jian said sardonically.
Benefix looked at him over the tops of his glasses and unrolled the scroll again. “The streets are probably where you are going to have to look. Listen to this,” Together they looked at the next stanza.
The savior; a foundling, most recently found,
Without “something” buried beneath the_____ ground.
Animal friend visits the past with a touch,
Free the sanctuaries and save them he must,
Jian spoke softly, “A foundling? You mean a nemo. What can you expect a nemo to do in Validian?” he asked looking up in wonder at Benefix. “And where do I find him, if he’s buried?”
“I think the prophecy is saying he was buried, but now is found.”
“That’s not much to go on…” said Jian hesitantly.
“True and this next line, it doesn’t mean much to me,” Benefix shook his head, “’Animal friend’ and ‘visits the past,’ most mysterious.”
“You think these sanctuaries it mentions are the ones from legend?”
“Yes, I do.”
“But no one knows where they are either. Or even if they exist anymore! And this is the person you want me to find? A nemo? What could he do to help find the sanctuaries that I couldn’t do better myself?”
Benefix nodded. “Yes, Jian it’s true. You are most capable, that’s why I’m asking you for help. I don’t know why it has to be this person in the prophecy, it’s just what it says. Maybe it has to do something with ‘visiting the past’. The key to the sanctuaries you know as always said to be found in certain objects. Whatever the reason, the first step in doing this is to find this person.”
“It could be anyone,” Jian protested. “You’re not even sure it’s someone in Validian!”
Benefix nodded. “I know it isn’t going to be easy. Just,…just keep your eyes open, okay. Anything you hear about someone, I don’t know, rescued from the rubble of these terrible earthquakes, or someone showing some strange symptoms. Check the houses of healing, talk to the clean up crews. I feel like we have to get started.”
“Why? What is it your not telling me? What else is in the prophecy?”
Benefix sighed, “I don’t know Jian, that’s just it. There’s a lot more here, but it’s hard to read. What I can understand from it so far is that all of Aydreon is going to be shook apart unless we can free the sanctuaries.”
“And you think all this has happened before, and is happening again, don’t you?”
Benefix just looked at him silently. “Don’t you have any proof, something tangible to show that we might be living out this… this prophecy?”
“Besides the natural disasters happening just as the prophecy predicts, I do have one other piece of evidence,” answered Benefix, “I just received word, the Gateways are broken.”
“We’re cut off from the other planets?” Jian asked incredulously.
Benefix nodded. “Yes, it’s as if we are not in the correct location and the Gateway isn’t lining up. No one can get in or out.”
Jian was silent. As if finally convinced, he got up and picked up his battle axe. “Right then, let me go see what I can find out.”
"This extract remains the exclusive property of the author who retains all copyright and other intellectual property rights in the work. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced or used by any person or entity for any purpose without the author's express permission and authority."