Thawban bin Jalalu-d-din bin Davud Al-Ganem, Knight-Lord of the Order of the Wind of Allah, had witnessed Marty’s battle with the Death Knight Melek-Zolmat – a Champion of the Darkness – and had revised a few assumptions… Whatever-it-was that walked their streets in the guise of an overweight Shughliri was no mere merchant who had learned to defend himself. Whoever – and whatever – “Marty” might be, he was at least as formidable in his own way as the fey lord that he accompanied. About “Jamie” and the “Abbess Esther” he was not yet sure – but it seemed likely that they were no mere sinecurists.
To accept the aid of creatures they did not understand was desperately dangerous, and perhaps not merely to the body! To rely on them so might be an immeasurable folly! What would be the price of such aid? Were the circumstances not so terrible no sane man would consider it for a moment!
He had initially discounted the story that “Kevin” had wielded holy energies on his way into the city. The Fey were not holy men, and Kevin did not even pretend to be such.
Then “Kevin” had revealed that he was carrying two holy artifacts of legendary power – sufficient to double the area protected by the holy men and the Temple’s aura – but why did sacred artifacts tolerate the touch of a fey? Where had they come from? Minor relics were everywhere – almost every holy man left one or two behind – but such things were symbols and foci of faith, not fonts of sacred power in their own right! Of Great Relics there were but twelve;
Four of Revelation: The Scrolls of Moses which instructed, The Staff of Moses which led, the Ark of the Covenant which shaped, and the Stone of Creation – later known as the Seal of Solomon – that was the foundation and binding of the world.
Four of Wisdom: The Sangraal which healed, the Spear of Longrinus which purified, the True Cross which defended, and the Iron Crown of Empire that had been forged of the three nails.
Four of Judgement: the Black Stone in the Kaaba in Mecca which purified and absorbed the sins of men, the Sword of Muhammad which brought justice, the First Koran – dictated by Gabriel to Muhammad – which brought salvation, and the Jug of Muhammad, from which flowed the mercy of Allah!
From whence came two supernal Gems of Light, like the Star of the Magi brought to Earth? Were they perhaps artifacts from before the flood? Was he to believe that the Zoroaster had been a prophet after all? The boy had referenced “Three Silmarils” – perhaps the emblems of the Three Kings of the East? What would be the gift of such things? Sacred Power, Magic, and Life? Were those the forces the boy called upon to lend strength – as it had been reported that he’d done several times – to those who fought by his side?
If the realms of the distant East had Great Relics of their own – which Thawban doubted; they did not follow ANY of the true Prophets – the tales had not reached the West, and surely tales of wonder would have accompanied the relics that embodied them!
The questioning priests had recorded what Kevin had told them – but in that was naught but more confusion:
“In another world, in another realm, in the twilight before the light was divided from the darkness, the Creator sent forth his children beneath the stars. One of those children, Feanor, a mighty craftsman and wise before he later fell to folly, bore witness with his kin to the first light of creation. He wrought mightily, and preserved a part of that light within three gems – the Silmarils. Two of them passed into my keeping some time ago – and you have need of that light here, in this world, where the darkness rises from the Quilopothic planes.”
Kevin and his companions had served well in revealing the madness, treachery, and blasphemy of Doctor Lichstein of the Hospitiliers – but that was a small thing compared to the siege and what association with the fey might cost.
He had consulted the sages about “Kevins” words to the Priests of the Mount and to the Round Table Conference. About the meaning of “Yesod”, of “Quilopothic Planes”, and of the “Worlds of Yetsirah”. Such things were found in Jewish mysticism, an insane tangle of worlds and higher realms. Were the gems Kevin carried perhaps indeed from other worlds? How could that be? Allah had created the Earth, and set it at the center of the cosmos.
The fey were many things – immortal, soulless, and capricious, masters of shapeshifting, illusion, and transformation – but they were unable to directly lie, bound as they were by their names and promises. They were, or had been, restrained by the Pact – barred from the lands of men without invitation by the Decree of Augustus, forced to return to Avalon after brief periods by the Decree of Claudius, and forced to be upfront and reasonably honest about the costs of their gifts by the Decree of Justinian.
They did not give gifts freely – and yet Kevin had set his servants to providing supplies and healing where there was need without even being asked to do so, revealing no price, and demanding no return.
Lacking souls, they could not directly touch them, or share the deeper levels of their power with men – but Kevin did so. He even granted his “recruits” the power of Shapeshifting – an unholy mixing of men and beasts – while directly claiming that they retained their souls.
The fey avenged the slightest insult and refused to be questioned – while Kevin and his friends seemed to take such things as amusing, and freely admitted that their explanations were incomplete, claiming only that they were “too busy to take the time to fully explain”.
Keven had bowed to the Presence Light.
Thawban had made sure to have a few agents in the contingent of Priests who had gone to speak with him. And their report was madness.
Death was the fate of all men – but Kevin had claimed that he could recall the dead who perished in his service, that such service was temporary (if “for a few centuries”), that the powers and youth he granted were theirs perpetually. He claimed that he was not from Avalon, that he was from another world, and that many worlds were threatened. He claimed that he did not fit the usual classifications – rules which had gone unchallenged for millennia.
Would even a fey lord dare to counterfeit a discussion with the Guardian of Eden? Even if Kevin would so dare, why would he want to bother or to ask him along? He could have arranged some far more public illusion – and one better-designed to build trust – if that had been his desire. It was not like what he had seen would somehow cause him to unthinkingly trust the boy – if anything, it had simply raised more questions – and what else would explain a river of holy water? That could not have been faked; it still ran beneath the city!
It also almost eliminated the possibility that Kevin was a demon or spirit of evil in the guise of a fey. No such creature could have survived a river of holy water for so long, much less with no outside sign or disturbance in his sacred aura.
But – if what he had seen had not been an illusion daring and strong enough to defy his Aura of Truth, his will, and his doubts, Kevin and Marty had spoken to an Angel as to an equal, had not been rebuked for it, had been using their true names in defiance of the nature of the fey, and the angel had agreed that they came from outside the world!
What lay beyond the borders of the world?! What was “the Unified Church of the Core Worlds”? What was the “House of Roses”? What was an “Opener”? How could one of those three sources of authority – or even their combination – exceed the ancient authority of the Emperor and invalidate the Pact?
Perhaps… Could Kevin be half-human? Such creatures – having a rightful claim to life upon the Earth – were not entirely bound by the Pact. It would explain why no fey fitting his description appeared in the ancient tales; the fey might change their appearance, but never their natures.
If “Kevin Sanwell” was indeed his true name…
According to the scholars he’d consulted, The name “Kevin” was from the distant west, from Ireland – an island upon the borders of the world, where the Storm and the End of the World sometimes reached (as it boiled constantly along the edges of Avalon). It was a form of “kind, honest, and handsome birth”. In may ways, Ireland lay beyond the borders of the world, and was a place of magic.
“Sanwell” was a place in Britannia, a place of legend that, according to some accounts, predated the creation of the Garden of Eden and the World. An ancient spring, and a place of magic that had watered the land for millennia. A place, according to the scholars, which had been at the center of a strong holding since before the Empire. A place that Claudius, the Fourth Emperor, had visited briefly during a campaign and had then hurriedly returned to Rome from – to issue a decree against fey remaining in the human world for long.
No fey lordling could appeal to men so, or lend them strength by mere words, as one born to rule. That power was the heritage of the leaders of men. Was that the source of Kevin’s power to both defy the Pact and to channel the power of the fey into them? Did he stand between both worlds, a heir to power in both?
As for “Jamie”… She appeared to be little more than a common guardsman – skilled, tough, and with some strange abilities – but mortal enough overall, and strange abilities were not exactly unheard of.
The “Abbess Esther” was a powerful healer, definitely wielded sacred powers in her own right, certainly did not seem to be fey – and often seemed quite disapproving of her companions! Yet she was obviously no chance acquaintance; she also seemed to know far more than she revealed – and Kevin, Marty, and Jamie sought out her advice, rather than having taken the chance to avoid her, which would have been no great feat in a city so crowded as Jerusalem.
Why would a true holy woman accompany a fey lordling and whatever-it-was in the form of a plump merchant? Why would they allow it? Perhaps he should confront her… With the approach of Death, time had abruptly grown short.