Dusty, Jonas, Antoine, and Hooch are off to the next go round to find the second stone. Where is their next adventure? Egypt! Taking full advantage of Queen Deva LaDevia's generosity, they fly first class, stay in exquisite hotel presidential suites.
After a death that hits too close to home, Dusty finds she has to continue on. No time for tears when the world and her possible love interest - though she swears it's heartburn - Travis Knight, are in danger.
What secrets unfold in Egypt that takes them through the pyramid? "I wonder why they don't put that on the tour?" Kings, princes, Egyptian lore soon plague them as they try to find the stone and save Travis... before Seth gets tired of waiting and fulfills his promise of painting the walls with his blood.
Mont Blanc, France, 2014
The serpentine dance between light and dark is eternal. It ebbs and flows, always in a delicate balance of grace and chaos. Few men are privileged to witness the scale tip. Fewer still are cursed with the duty to center it back. Deep within Mont Blanc, overlooking the Aosta Valley of Italy, four men gathered in a circle. Ankle-length brown cassocks, tied around the waist with golden corded sashes, identified them as monks. Identical forearm tattoos of a flower, winding around a knife, confirmed their sect; the Order of the Blood Rose.
Brother Dominic LaMonde kissed the silver crucifix hanging from his neck. “The prophecy has begun,” he said, brown eyes regarding the other three with sadness. “The first piece of the bloodstone has been found.”
Staggered murmurs from the other men echoed around the stone chamber, stopping only when Dominic raised his hand. “I prayed that we would not be the ones to bear this burden, but…” Lowering his shaved head, he huddled within himself a moment, before casting his gaze to the sky. “His will be done.”
The others followed suit, raising their eyes to Heaven. “Amen.”
Brother Thomas Aquilla stepped forward. The youngest of the four, his green eyes held a mix of fear and determination. “We must alert the knights,” he said, knowing the four-hundred-mile journey to Perugia would be dangerous. “Allow me the honor.”
Dominic regarded the man carefully, before nodding. “Take the drawing. Show it only to a knight.” Clasping Thomas’s shoulders, he gave the man a weary smile. “God be with you, my brother.”
The Church of San Bevignate
Arriving in the middle of the night, Thomas found the church locked. Built by The Knights Templar between 1256 and 1262, the structure had become non-secular, welcoming all. Exhausted from the journey, Thomas sighed and glanced up at the star-filled sky. “Forgive me,” he whispered, before expertly picking the simple deadbolt. Dipping his fingers into the holy water, he crossed himself, then quietly entered the old building. “Hello?” Only his echo answered, bouncing off the high-reaching vaulted ceiling. Carefully making his way to the pulpit, he marveled at the church’s sober interior, admiring the frescoes along the way.
Typical of Templar architecture, the structure was rectangular with a square apsidal chapel connected to the east side. One fresco, at the top of the altar wall, bore a large cross with two smaller crosses surrounded by nine stars, representing the founders of The Templar Order.
As he got to the altar, Thomas called out once more. “Hello?” Again, receiving no answer, a sigh escaped his lips. Turning around to leave, he found himself on the wrong end of a gleaming sword held at his chest. Falling to his knees, hands clasped together, his head lowered in supplication. “Bloodstone!”
Sir Francis de Molay’s jaw dropped, his sword still trained on the cowering figure before him. Satan had many tricks up his unholy sleeve. “What did you say?”
“Bloodstone,” Thomas repeated, raising his sleeve to identify himself.
Seeing the symbol, burned into the man’s flesh, Sir Francis lowered his weapon. “Rise.”
Summoning all his remaining strength, the monk pulled himself upright and smiled, seeing the pale face of his longtime friend. “Hello, Francis,” he said before stumbling forward into the man’s arms.
Catching him, Sir Francis turned the man’s face to the light. “Thomas?” Brows narrowed over light blue eyes. “How did you get in here?”
Thomas winked. “You know I wasn’t always a priest,” he said, before passing out.
He woke on a straw mat, flickering torchlight dancing off weeping stone walls. At his side, a chalice of water, some dates, and a small loaf of bread. Sitting up, he gulped down the refreshing liquid, consumed a few dates and tore the loaf in half. After a few moments, his strength started to return enough to follow the hushed whispers. Sir Francis and three others, spoke in quiet tones, not noticing Thomas’s presence.
“How can we be certain this is not a minion of Lucifer, sent to weed us out?”
“Yes, it wouldn’t be the first time. I just heard from–”
“Enough,” Francis said, holding up his hand. “I have known Thomas since we were both children, terrorizing fruit vendors in the streets of Turin. If he is here, and if what he said is true–”
Turning, Francis hurried over to his friend. “Thomas, you shouldn’t be up yet. You need rest, food, and–”
“There is no time, Francis.” Leaning on him, the monk shuffled over to the others, eyeing each in turn. “I am no pawn of the devil,” he began, supporting his weight on the rough table. “But his plan to destroy humanity has been set in motion. The first stone is found. The Order of the Blood Rose humbles itself before the warriors of God and asks that you gather your armies to stop the vile creature.”
Francis closed his eyes. 800 years ago, The Knights Templar were an army. Fighters for a cause they found just, none could withstand their fierce determination and skills in battle. They amassed fortunes from plunder, developing the foundations of banking which serve the world to this day. Feared by King and Pope, their order was disavowed, their members scattered around the world, their fortunes depleted. Now, only a few hundred remained, their focus on keeping mankind ignorant of the supernatural forces at work in the modern world. Of all the formidable terrors foretold by prophets, from John and Revelations to Nostradamus and his vague quatrains, the only one truly feared among what remained of the knights, was the one most humans knew nothing about. The Bloodstone Prophecy.
Opening his eyes, Francis sighed, running a hand over his troubled face. “Where do we begin?”
Reaching into his robe, the monk removed a rolled-up drawing. Unfurling it, he laid it out for the men. “Our prophet, Brother Dominic, had a vision. In it, the beast called forth the first piece. He sketched his likeness on this paper.”
Examining the drawing, Sir Francis pursed his lips. The unanticipated image staring back at him was not a hideous beast, but a man. “Your prophet is certain of this?”
Thomas nodded. “And there is more. The creature can walk in the light of God’s glory.”
Francis balked at that. Some 300 years ago, a small band of knights happened upon a burned-out home in Sussex, England. It had been rumored to house an ancient vampire, one of his children, and a mortal woman. They found nothing but charred bones and an ancient tome in a locked metal container. The astonishing book told fanciful tales of vampire lore, including a story of the stone Cain used to kill his brother. It went on to prophesize about a day when mankind would be destroyed, and vampires would rule the world. That text laid the foundation for how The Knights Templar came to possesses such intimate knowledge of the supernatural world, and how it might be defeated. One of the rules concerning vampires was their inability to walk in the light of day. “That is not possible,” Francis said, shaking his head. “They cannot withstand sunlight.”
Thomas shrugged. “This one can.”
Sir George, the eldest of the four, looked at Francis, his one good eye not yet clouded by glaucoma. “If one can, it is safe to assume others may, as well.”
Francis nodded. “Agreed. To this point, light has been our only true ally in the war against the undead. Now, with this revelation, I fear we have lost any edge we may have had.” Taking up a small cup, he drank from it, letting the water sooth him. “I had hoped to be old and gray, or dead when this came to pass.” Setting the cup down, he turned to Thomas. “Please wait here.” Exiting through a hidden passageway, he was gone only a short time. He returned, carrying an oblong gold box, a foot wide by three feet long and eight inches deep. Setting it on the table, he kissed the crucifix he was wearing then opened the container. Inside rested a piece of ancient bloodstained wood, just a few inches smaller than the beautiful box.
“Is that…” Thomas said, eyes wide as the knights bowed their heads.
“Crux Commissa,” came the quiet reply. “The wood upon which our Lord hung in his final hour on Earth.” Closing the box, Francis ran a hand over the shining surface. “The enemy of man shall be bound to the Lord’s will, through the instrument of our salvation.” Taking a moment to lead them in prayer, he ended it with a repeated, “Amen,” then turned to Thomas. “Do you know where this creature is right now?”
Brother Thomas Aquilla smiled, reached into his robe once more, and handed Francis a map. “We do.”