James McKenzie sat in his office at the University contemplating what had happened, and how his life experiences had brought him to this day. He sat with fingers interlaced, index fingers on the bridge of his nose and his thumbs pressed to his lips.
James was a strikingly handsome man. Red hair, slightly graying at the temples, a full close-cropped beard, horn rim glasses, the picture of a scholar. Under that mild exterior was an accomplished Wizard and Sorcerer, Knight of the Order of St. Michael, and a Watcher. He had chronicled all that had transpired in the life of Tamara Jenkins. He had married her several years ago when he was forty years old. Tamara was thirty then and had just finished her Ph.D. in Archeology and was now one of the most renowned in her field. She was also the direct descendant and heir of the powers of Semiramis, the sorcerer-queen of ancient Assyria and defender of the free people against the powers of the Fallen and their minions.
James thought back to his boyhood, working with his father and all the lessons he had learned. His father was a second generation American. The family had migrated in the early nineteen hundreds, processed through Ellis Island and had settled in the Appalachian Mountains.
Growing up, James had been surrounded by books, taught several languages by his father including Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He had been raised to be a scholar, at the age of thirteen, his father seeing his natural talents, then began to train him in the magic arts. His father also was a Watcher and Knight of the Order, and James was an adept student, almost a savant.
He spent hours with his father, learning the magic arts, learning swordplay, and learning the role of a Watcher and the training to become a Knight of St. Michael. He waited until his sixteenth birthday to tell him of his heritage. He was Tuatha de Dannan, the royal line of the ancient Irish Kings, imbued with power from God himself to defend the weak, fight the Fallen, and protect the people from the evil in this world.
The origin legends of all the royal bloodlines were riddled with myths and legends, but the truth was that all of them were descendants of the Guardians or the Fallen. In ancient times, the Guardians and the Fallen had comingled with humans and had fathered super races, inclined to magic and possessing great powers. Their descendants had been destroyed once and then the bloodlines were re-established. Giants had once roamed the Earth and were descendants of them as well.
James McKenzie was a descendant of one of those bloodlines as was Tamara his wife. Only their descendants were capable of wielding the powers they did, and even though it was called magic by men, it was actually a natural born ability to access the spirit realm and manipulate the physical world. The purer the bloodline, the abler they were to manipulate and bridge the realms. James was a direct bloodline descendant from the Tuatha, his father had taught him the lineage, the history, and the truth of who and what he was.
The visit to Nebo had increased the ability he already had to bridge the realms. It wasn’t magic, it was ability, and being able to see into the spirit realm which coexisted simultaneously with the physical world. Everything in the physical world had a counterpart in the spirit realm and was influenced and guided by it. Some, like James, were the agents of Athair, the others were followers and agents of the Fallen, like Barnwell. The fight had started in the spirit realm and had spilled into the world of men when Azrog and his followers were banished to the physical world. This one event had caused the creation of the Watcher’s, the Order of St. Michael, and the bloodlines that became the royal families the world over. In some places, it was whole societies devoted to the Fallen, others to the Guardians and had formed the basis of myth and legend all over the world.
The Olympians, Norse Gods, other deities, both good and evil, all real and all very much alive, had influenced mankind for thousands of years, now it was coming to a large battle soon. This time though, it wasn’t going to be a battle in the spirit realm, it would be a battle in the physical world and would be in plain witness of humanity unless they could stop Barnwell.
James’ father was very thorough in his education of the history of their family. Where they came from, how they got to Ireland, their relationship with the Guardians and the need to keep his true identity a secret at all times. Caladan had chosen James as his replacement as the guardian of the Archive for this very reason. Caladan was his direct ancestor and the responsibility for the Archive was familial.
As James sat pondering all the events leading up to the trip to Nebo, he thought about what Pythia had said, Barnwell had learned a secret way into the Oracle and didn’t face the trials. James wondered who had shown Barnwell how to access the Oracle without climbing the mountain face and facing the danger of the trials. The climb to the Oracle had been exhausting, clinging to a rock face and fighting for every inch you climbed. Several times the group had nearly plunged to their deaths when a rock would give way, a hand or foot would slip, or a peton would suddenly pop out of the rock and leave someone dangling on the end of a rope. Each trial had its own set of dangers and as they climbed and faced the trials, they had grown weary and tired.
Pythia said they would need to enter the Underworld and prevent the Magus from taking the arrows they would find inside of the sarcophagus that held Nimrod. It was a prison, he had been the last man granted the powers of the Necromancer by Azrog, and he was a mighty foe to Guardian and Sorcerer alike. Ihk Bin retrieved the arrows and stopped the Magus, removing Nimrod into hiding for safe keeping, Nimrod posed a major threat if set free from the prison that held him.
As James sat in the office a thought came to mind. The Oracle was at the top of a solitary mountain, no access from any side, the climb was the only ascent approach; magic was purposely nullified, and the only way to go there was to climb. Yet the Guardians and Ihk Bin could come and go as needed and Pythia never mentioned how they traveled to and from the mountain top. James experienced an epiphony, Barnwell had been taken there by one of the Fallen through the spirit realm. It was the only approach to the Oracle not requiring a climb or facing the trials.
James locked up his office and went to the Fortress, he sought out Tamara and the others and when he had them all together, he explained what he had deduced. Barnwell hadn’t climbed the mountain or faced the trials because one of the Fallen had taken him to the Oracle. They knew how to get to Pythia without facing the trials because they traveled through the spirit realm to get there. James and Tamara had spent three and a half years in Nebo, and learned how to accomplish this from the Guardians.
Getting to Pythia was a simple matter of opening a doorway into the spirit realm, stepping through, and exiting on the other side at the Oracle. James told them they needed to return to the Oracle and question Pythia again, they had missed something when they were there and had overlooked a very important question. This time only James and Tamara would go, he told the others to prepare for a direct attack. Barnwell had been quiet too long, and to be prepared to battle a Necromancer.
A Necromancer, the most vile and evil of all users of magic, prone to killing, and the desire for ultimate power drove them to destroy all around them, and eventually they destroyed themselves by the power they sought. James was sure Barnwell would reveal himself soon, and when he did, the destruction following him would be devastating.
Tamara prepared the Fortress for an assault, prepared the sorcerers there for a pitched battle. Yuri who had come at her request with one thousand Berserkers would defend the stronghold from the attack. He was her vassal and was loyal to her as his queen. He would sacrifice himself and all the Berserkers to keep the Fortress safe if needed. Yuri, a giant of a man, skilled not only as a shaman but a cunning warrior had been by her side through many battles and had proven himself repeatedly. Tamara always felt safer when Yuri was there. Standing head and shoulders above all the others, he would make himself a target for the main attack when it came. He carried a sword made for him by the Dwarves of Yggdrasil, and it was made of silver steel, the toughest metal known and it had been engraved with runes and imbued with magic, a weapon of immense power, a sister sword to Excalibur, carried by Caladan.
Once the defenses were set and the defenders prepared, James and Tamara left to meet with Pythia. James knew to find Barnwell, retrieve the bow, and keep Kronos in Tartarus meant they would have to descend into the Underworld again and this time face Hades. Pythia held the answers they needed and this time James knew the questions to ask. James opened the doorway and he and Tamara arrived at the Oracle as if they were taking a Sunday stroll.
Pythia was startled at their sudden appearance, she always knew when someone approached because of the power surge that came from someone facing one of the trials. Barnwell had appeared the same way. Pythia asked them what they came seeking and James replied, “Answers.” Pythia inclined her head and they all sat down and James began his inquiry.
“When Barnwell came seeking the location of Odysseus’ Bow, how did you know to tell him where it was hidden?” Pythia paused, took a deep breath and explained.
“When Apollo and Poseidon took the bow to Atlantis, they told my ancestor where they had hidden it. For three thousand years, the High Priestess of Apollo has passed the location on to her successor. When Barnwell came, Apollo had instructed the first Pythia to tell him the location of the bow. We weren’t given the location of the arrows of Hephaestus, only the bow.”
James and Tamara looked at each other with a surprise. Apollo had known this day would come and prepared the Oracle and her descendants for this day. James then asked her the question he came to ask, “Pythia, where did Ihk Bin hide Nimrod?”
Pythia shook her head, she didn’t know. Then she looked at the two of them and said, “Seek Medusa, she knows the location, but be warned, she is with eleven of the most powerful Titans, all searching for Barnwell and the bow. If she retrieves the bow, she will unleash Kronos to exact refenge on the Guardians. If you can convince her of the error of her vengeance, you will succeed in keeping Kronos imprisoned.”
Tamara sat thinking, and then a new question arose, one which must be answered. “Pythia, what would happen if Nimrod was the one to gain control of the bow? Could he be convinced to hunt Barnwell instead of releasing Kronos?”
Pythia thought on this for quite a while, and then she sought the inner sanctum of the Oracle itself, there she posed Tamara’s question and when the answer came, a shadow crossed her face, followed by a serene smile. She knew what to tell them now and what they must do to stop those who sought to release Kronos.