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The Brotherhood Chronicles: The Golden Key

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« on: 03 April, 2008, 09:33:28 pm »

Chapter 1:

     As the storm raged on outside, the small man made his way down the dark hallway. The ancient tapestries, now tattered with age, hung delicately to walls cast the already gloomy building into a disparaging darkness. The rain cast eerie reflections on the walls through the windows, further adding to the man's already delicate state. The wet newspaper in his hand had the headline printed in French; "Homme d'affaires riche trouvé mort dans la chambre à coucher," with a picture of a middle aged man lying prone on the floor with blood falling in pools around his wrists. The man's hand began to shake as he reached a large oak door.

*  *  *  *  *

     He knew what had to be done. He was in his library when he got the call; "Benson is dead. We've been breached. Meet me at the House is two days. Come alone." The last part of the message worried him the most. If he was to come alone that could only mean that they had been breached from within. If that were the case then he needed to recover his piece; that would be the first thing someone would look for. His piece had been kept safe in a vault in Switzerland, but Benson hadn't been so secure with his. The fool had decided to safeguard his piece in a private vault in his house. Stupid man. That piece was most likely the cause of his murder.

*  *  *  *  *

     He opened the big oaken door and entered into the vast circular room. The large church ceiling towered above. Five other doors were positioned evenly along the walls; each similar to the one that he had just entered through. On the floor was a gigantic mural depicting a fountain enclosed in a hexagonal structure capped by a rounded dome and supported by eight columns. Standing the middle of the room was a man dressed in a large black trench coat with a lighter sports jacket and white dress shirt with a tie on. His face was hidden behind a shadow cast by his bowler hat that he **** low over his eyes. "Are you alone?"
     "Yes. No one knows that i'm here," replied the man with the newspaper.
     "You were followed," It was more of a statement than a question.
     "I thought I might have been for a time. Thats why I was late. I wanted to be sure."
     "Do you have your piece?" He said it a little too fast for the man with the newspaper's liking.
     "That depends. How do I know I can trust you?" The question was sound. No member's of the Brethren were ever to meet per the codes of the Brotherhood. A meeting was only called when the Trail was awakened. The Brotherhood had many secrets, but the Trail was by far the most dangerous of those secrets, and both of them knew that.
     "We've been compromised, Moris. You know what that means. We can't afford to have doubts now. All that matters is that we reach the first marker before the betrayer; therefore, i've booked you the first boat to England. You leave in 12 hours."
     "12 hours?" said Moris, "Do we really have that little time?"
     "Once the first marker has been activated we will have less that a week to finish the Trail before--"
     "Yes, yes, i know that," Moris interrupted him, "But whoever this is needs all the pieces of the Key to activate it, though. He couldn't possibly--"
     "They already have four of the pieces."
     "They? You mean there's more than one?"
     "There are three of them, and now they have Benson's piece," At this the man looked behind him as though he had just remembered something. When he looked back he spoke with an air of urgency, "We're out of time. Here, take the ticket. I'll meet you at the marker. This meeting is over. Adu' my friend"
     At that he turned and left leaving Moris alone with a ticket and a warning that he may have any one of three members of the Brotherhood trailing him. As he left the ancient building he felt invisible eyes following him to his car three blocks away. He got into his car and put the paper and ticket onto the seat next to him, as well as a gun that he had been holding hidden beneath the newspaper.
     Moris wondered to himself if he had made the right choice to trust the man. As the troubling thoughts of trust stuck in his head, he started the engine. As he drove off a figure moved from the shadows and got into a nearby car that was driving by. The race had begun.



i'll update this as i go along. Tongue
« Last Edit: 04 April, 2008, 04:47:40 pm by The White Knight » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: 04 April, 2008, 09:19:00 pm »

Chapter 2:

     The boat didn't look like much. It seemed tiny in comparison with the other commercial liners at the pier. Its appearance reminded Moris of a storm-worn dinghy. It appeared as though it had been painted blue at one time, but now its paint had become chipped; worn by years of use at the hands of rather--unscrupulous characters. It had, at one time or another, been a pirating vessel and, thusly, seen plenty of fights in its day.
     The man waiting to meet Moris looked the part: large built, with tattoos running the length of his right muscular arm. The scars covering his face had been hastily sewn up in a rather grungy procedure resulting in most of them being half healed giving the large man a vulgar and unclean appearance. He **** a ratty tank top that clearly was too large for him and showed more of his chest than Moris would have liked. On his belt hung a large, imposing hunting knife that the man fingered as he looked over his newest cargo; "Well wot we gots here?"
     "I was told that this ship would alot me safe passage to England," replied Moris.
     "England, huh? Now what wud ya be go'n there for?"
     "That doesn't concern you," at this point Moris took the ticket he had been given out fo his coat pocket and held it so the dangerous looking man could see, "I was given this and told to meet your ship here. Savy?"
     "Well..." the large man pondered over the situation for a few minutes. it seemed as though he was trying to decide if Moris was incredibly brave or just monstrously stupid. When Moris held the man's gaze the man mad his decision; "Oh, ey, i'm your man! Though i'd think ur friend wud at least have de nerve to show 'is face to see ya off."
     "Unfortunately he's indisposed at the minute. Shall we continue?"
Moris knew he had very little time and he did not want to spend most of it sitting here discussing as mediocre a topic as this. He quickly boarded the vessel and made his way bellow decks. He ignored the Captain's questions (for that was who the large man was) about his business in England that was so important. Instead, he spent most of his time in his private cabin--set as part of the agreement made with the captain--studying charts, trying to determine the exact location of the first marker so he could avoid wasting anymore unnecessary time.
     The trip was relatively uneventful. Except for a brief bought of seasickness, Moris refined most of his time to analyzing charts and reading over ancient manuscripts. By the time they made port, he was certain of the location. He left the ship without even recognizing the captain's last attempts to discern why he had come all this way in the dead of night. But Moris didn't care about the captain. it was inconsequential what happened to him so long as the first marker was left unactivated.
    As Moris left the boat he missed the conversation between the ship captain and a dark man who Moris had mistaked to be one of the crew members:
    "I wasn't able to get any information from him. Why is it so important to know where he's going?" said the captain.
    "If the stories are to be believed," said the man, "He could very well lead us to a very special lock, and an even more important key."
    "Key?"
    "You don't need to worry about that. Here's you money. I suggest you stay close. I may need your help again before this is over."
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« Reply #2 on: 21 April, 2008, 09:01:38 pm »

I only read the first chapter, but it's very well written. I didn't quite understand it at first, but I'm sleepy. I'll read through it again tomorrow.
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« Reply #3 on: 22 April, 2008, 08:22:22 pm »

More!
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« Reply #4 on: 22 April, 2008, 08:25:53 pm »

More!

THATS WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR!
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« Reply #5 on: 22 April, 2008, 09:05:05 pm »

Chapter 3:

     It was easy to get lost in this kind of town. Though it was easily one of the smallest villages Moris had visited over the years, it still managed to confuse him. The winding streets and countless back alleys made navigating through the village near impossible. He knew where he had to go, the small cemetery marked just outside of town, but nobody in town could tell him its exact location. Whoever he asked either grunted or shrugged their shoulders and walked off. Moris could clearly see that he wasn't going to get anywhere...fast. His few excursions out of the village proved fruitless as he would wind up just getting lost for hours and wind up back where he started. But he refused to quit; "Someone in this God-forsaken town has to know where the cemetery is," he thought to himself.

     Disgusted by his failures and the lack of support he was getting from the villagers, Moris made his way to a local tavern he had seen when he got off the boat. As he entered the bar, to his surprise, someone called his name; "Moris?" Caught off guard by hearing his name, Moris looked around for the source of the voice. To his astonishment, he saw another member of the Brotherhood sitting in the corner by the door. Moris remembered from their brief introduction years ago by his father to refer to him as Byron. From what Moris could remember from past excursions with Byron, the man was a sniveling coward of a man. Though not outright evil, Byron would not hesitate to leave you for dead given the chance. "Byron? What are you doing here?"

     The question sounded fake, even to Moris. He had a very good idea why Byron was there. He quietly bet himself that Byron was probably hiding the four pieces under his large coat now; though even if he was it would have been impossible to tell due to the man's enormous girth. Byron's beady eyes darted from his face to his coat pocket. They both obviously knew what was going on, and neither one was going to let the other know.

     "I see you're looking well," started Byron. The man was never at a loss for words.
     "You as well. What brings you out here?" Moris replied, testing the waters to see how much Byron suspected.
     "Afraid I can't tell you that. Top secret and all. But you knew that, of course,"
     "Of course," The Brotherhood always worked in secret. It was law that no more than two members ever work together on a single assignment. Any breach of this code led to an inquisition by all members on those who broke the rule to begin with.
     "Its odd that both of us would be workin' in the same place, though? Anyone else with ya?" At this, Byron moved so he could see behind Moris to check and make sure he didn't see anyone he might know.
     "No, I'm alone. Though I could use your help," This was going to be the tricky part, convincing Byron to trust him; "I'm looking for an old cemetery thats supposed to be somewhere outside of town. No one here seems to want to help me. Do you have any idea?"
     "Actually..."
     "Really? Can you lead me there?"
     "Uh...," Byron looked around nervously; "Sure, just let me 'pay' for my drinks,"
Byron walked to the bar and handed something to the bartender and walked back.
     "So who's ready to find a cemetery?"

     As the two men left the bar, a woman who had been cleaning glasses behind him turned, "Well?"
     "Its taken care of. He'll get Moris's piece and then start the marker. Once its done, we'll kill any witnesses left."
     "That includes Byron, right?" The man thought for a minute. The thought had crossed his mind before. The rat was too much of a liability to be left alive.
     "Yes... No survivors."
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« Reply #6 on: 19 March, 2009, 11:20:35 am »


MORE MORE MORE!!!
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« Reply #7 on: 26 March, 2009, 11:05:58 pm »

god, i haven't worked on this in almost a year... should probably continue it.
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« Reply #8 on: 27 March, 2009, 04:21:23 pm »

god, i haven't worked on this in almost a year... should probably continue it.

Yes! Yes yes yes! Thats right!!!! DO IT!!!
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« Reply #9 on: 27 March, 2009, 05:18:26 pm »

Chapter 4:

     The path leading to the cemetery was not an easy one. The winding dirt road seemed to have been roughly carved through the dense brush. Once this path may have been a beautiful tail leading to the mens' destination, but no more. The years had not been kind. Centuries of neglect had allowed the foliage to grow onto the path and form thick walls of branches and leaves on either side of the trail. A perfect place for a trap.

     Moris was wary of his surroundings, sure that at any moment he would meet an untimely demise. Adding to his concern was the man he was following. Byron was not what he would call a 'friend' by any stretch of the imagination; had Byron not been a member of the Brotherhood, he would have gunned him down years ago. Yet here he was, blindly following the man down a deserted path that he claimed lead to the towns cemetery. And how did he know this was the way? Had he been here before? Moris didn't like the situation at all.
     "So how far off do you think we are?" he asked.
     "Oh, not far, not far. Maybe another mile at most," the man replied without turning around.
     "Mmm...," He didn't like this. Byron had been leading them for over an hour now down this road and he was starting to think he had been set up, "So how do you know this is the right path?"
     "I've got sources. Don't worry, this is definitely the right path." They continued walking for what felt to Moris like hours until they turned a sharp corner and almost lamed into an old iron gateway. The suddenness of the discovery surprised both men. The gate itself was impressive given the surroundings: a 30-foot high wrought iron gateway, topped with elaborate scrollwork. Both men gazed up at the top of the gatway clearly stunned by what they saw: an emblem of a fountain exactly like that of the Brotherhood. The ornate fountain was exactly like the mural on the floor of the House, having six columns capped by a rounded dome. The only difference with this design was the single ruby set in the center of the dome.
     "This is it. The location of the first seal!" As the words came out of Byron's mouth Moris knew he had been set up. He quickly turned to the larger man, removing his gun from his pocket.
     "What did you just say?"
     "Err..."
     "Ok, talk. Why did you know how to get here? How did you know about this place?" the questions started pouring out of him. He was fully prepared to shoot Byron if he refused to cooperate.
     "Look, there's a very simple explanation for all of this. I-" Moris fired a shot at the man. Byron could hear the bullet fly past his ear.
     "No games Byron. Talk!" he narrowed his eyes, focussing on the man.
     "I-" but before he could finish Morris felt a strong force hit him from behind. As he fell to the ground he had just enough time to see a large figure step towards Byron and hit him with the butt of a pistol before blacking out.
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« Reply #10 on: 27 March, 2009, 05:45:37 pm »

this one was kinda short... i haven't written for this in a while so i needed to remember what was happening in the grand sceme of things. hopefully the next part will be longer.
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« Reply #11 on: 30 March, 2009, 11:27:47 am »

Understandable. It was a while, at least 120 days when i posted.
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« Reply #12 on: 22 January, 2012, 07:55:53 pm »

I'm continuing this. it won't be nearly as long as I hoped, and I'm re-doing a few of the later posts, but Its going to be completed.
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« Reply #13 on: 29 January, 2012, 09:30:20 pm »

The Brotherhood: The Golden Key
By Henry Moss
   
   As the storm raged on outside, the small man made his way down the dark hallway. The ancient tapestries, now tattered with age, hung delicately to walls cast the already gloomy building into a disparaging darkness. The rain cast eerie reflections on the walls through the windows, further adding to the man's already delicate state. The wet newspaper in his hand had the headline printed in French; "Homme d'affaires riche trouvé mort dans la chambre à coucher," with a picture of a middle aged man lying prone on the floor with blood falling in pools around his wrists. The man's hand began to shake as he reached a large oak door.
   He knew what had to be done. He was in his library when he got the call; "Benson is dead. We've been breached. Meet me at the House is two days. Come alone." The last part of the message worried him the most. If he was to come alone that could only mean that they had been breached from within. If that were the case then he needed to recover his piece; that would be the first thing someone would look for. His piece had been kept safe in a vault in Switzerland, but Benson hadn't been so secure with his. The fool had decided to safeguard his piece in a private vault in his house. Stupid man. That piece was most likely the cause of his murder.
   He opened the big oaken door and entered into the vast circular room. The large church ceiling towered above. Five other doors were positioned evenly along the walls; each similar to the one that he had just entered through. On the floor was a gigantic mural depicting a fountain enclosed in a hexagonal structure capped by a rounded dome and supported by eight columns. Standing the middle of the room was a man dressed in a large black trench coat with a lighter sports jacket and white dress shirt with a tie on. His face was hidden behind a shadow cast by his bowler hat that he wore low over his eyes. "Are you alone?"
   "Yes, no one knows that I'm here," replied the man with the newspaper.
   "You were followed," It was more of a statement than a question.
   "I thought I might have been for a time. Thats why I was late. I wanted to be sure."
   "Do you have your piece?" He said it a little too fast for the man with the newspaper's liking.
   "That depends. How do I know I can trust you?" The question was sound. No member's of the Brethren were ever to meet per the codes of the Brotherhood. A meeting was only called when the Trail was awakened. The Brotherhood had many secrets, but the Trail was by far the most dangerous of those secrets, and both of them knew that.
   "We've been compromised, Morris. You know what that means. We can't afford to have doubts now. All that matters is that we reach the first marker before the betrayer; therefore, i've booked you the first boat to England. You leave in 12 hours."
   "12 hours?" said Morris, "Do we really have that little time?"
   "Once the first marker has been made active we will have less that a week to finish the Trail before--"
   "Yes, yes, i know that," Morris interrupted him, "But whoever this is needs all the pieces of the Key to activate it, though. He couldn't possibly--"
   "They already have four of the pieces."
   "They? You mean there's more than one?"
   "There are three of them, and now they have Benson's piece," At this the man looked behind him as though he had just remembered something. When he looked back he spoke with an air of urgency, "We're out of time. Here, take the ticket. I'll meet you at the marker. This meeting is over. Adu' my friend"
   At that he turned and left leaving Morris alone with a ticket and a warning that he may have any one of three members of the Brotherhood trailing him. As he left the ancient building he felt invisible eyes following him to his car three blocks away. He got into his car and put the paper and ticket onto the seat next to him, as well as a gun that he had been holding hidden beneath the newspaper.
   Morris wondered to himself if he had made the right choice to trust the man. As the troubling thoughts of trust stuck in his head, he started the engine. As he drove off a figure moved from the shadows and got into a nearby car that was driving by. The race had begun.

*****
   
   The boat didn't look like much. It seemed tiny in comparison with the other commercial liners at the pier. Its appearance reminded Morris of a storm-worn dinghy. It appeared that it had been painted blue at one time, but now its paint had become chipped; worn by years of use at the hands of rather--unscrupulous characters. It had, at one time or another, been a pirating vessel and, thus, seen plenty of fights in its day.
   The man waiting to meet Morris looked the part: large built, with tattoos running the length of his right muscular arm. The scars covering his face had been hastily sewn up in a rather grungy procedure resulting in most of them being half healed giving the large man a vulgar and unclean appearance. He wore a ratty tank top that clearly was too large for him and showed more of his chest than Morris would have liked. On his belt hung a large, imposing hunting knife that the man fingered as he looked over his newest cargo; "Well wot we gots here?"
   "I was told that this ship would allow me safe passage from England," replied Morris.
   "England, huh? Now what wud ya be go'n there for?"
   "That doesn't concern you," at this point Morris took the ticket he had been given out of his coat pocket and held it so the dangerous looking man could see, "I was given this and told to meet your ship here. Savvy?"
   "Well..." the large man pondered over the situation for a few minutes. It seemed as though he was trying to decide if Morris was incredibly brave or just monstrously stupid. When Morris held the man's gaze the man mad his decision; "Oh, ey, I'm your man! Though I'd think ur friend wud at least have de nerve to show 'is face to see ya off."
   "Unfortunately he's indisposed at the minute. Shall we continue?"
Morris knew he had very little time and he did not want to spend most of it sitting here discussing as mediocre a topic as this. He quickly boarded the vessel and made his way bellow decks. He ignored the Captain's questions (for that was who the large man was) about his business in England that was so important. Instead, he spent most of his time in his private cabin--set as part of the agreement made with the captain--studying charts, trying to determine the exact location of the first marker so he could avoid wasting anymore unnecessary time.
   The trip was relatively uneventful. Except for a brief bought of seasickness, Morris refined most of his time to analyzing charts and reading over ancient manuscripts. By the time they made port, he was certain of the location. He left the ship without even recognizing the captain's last attempts to discern why he had come all this way in the dead of night. But Morris didn't care about the captain. It was inconsequential what happened to him so long as the first marker was left unactivated.
   As Morris left the boat he missed the conversation between the ship captain and a dark man whom Morris had mistaken to be one of the crew members:
   "I wasn't able to get any information from him. Why is it so important to know where he's going?" said the captain.
   "If the stories are to be believed," said the man, "he could very well lead us to a very special lock, and an even more important key."
   "Key?"
   "You don't need to worry about that. Here's you money. I suggest you stay close. I may need your help again before this is over."

*****

   It was easy to get lost in this kind of town. Though it was easily one of the smallest villages Morris had visited over the years, it still managed to confuse him. The winding streets and countless back alleys made navigating through the village near impossible. He knew where he had to go, the small cemetery marked just outside of town, but nobody in town could tell him its exact location. Whoever he asked either grunted or shrugged their shoulders and walked off. Morris could clearly see that he wasn't going to get anywhere...fast. His few excursions out of the village proved fruitless as he would wind up just getting lost for hours and wind up back where he started. But he refused to quit; "Someone in this Godforsaken town has to know where the cemetery is," he thought to himself.
   Disgusted by his failures and the lack of support he was getting from the villagers, Morris made his way to a local tavern he had seen when he got off the boat. As he entered the bar, to his surprise, someone called his name; "Morris?" Caught off guard by hearing his name, Morris looked around for the source of the voice. To his astonishment, he saw another member of the Brotherhood sitting in the corner by the door. Morris remembered from their brief introduction years ago by his father to refer to him as Byron. From what Morris could remember from past excursions with Byron, the man was a sniveling coward of a man. Though not outright evil, Byron would not hesitate to leave you for dead given the chance. "Byron? What are you doing here?"
   The question sounded fake, even to Morris. He had a very good idea why Byron was there. He quietly bet himself that Byron was probably hiding the four pieces under his large coat now; though even if he was it would have been impossible to tell due to the man's enormous girth. Byron's beady eyes darted from his face to his coat pocket. They both obviously knew what was going on, and neither one was going to let the other know.
   "I see you're looking well," started Byron. The man was never at a loss for words.
   "You as well. What brings you out here?" Morris replied, testing the waters to see how much Byron suspected.
   "Afraid I can't tell you that. Top secret and all. But you knew that, of course,"
   "Of course," The Brotherhood always worked in secret. It was law that no more than two members ever work together on a single assignment. Any breach of this code led to an inquisition by all members on those who broke the rule to begin with.
   "Its odd that both of us would be workin' in the same place, though? Anyone else with ya?" At this, Byron moved so he could see behind Morris to check and make sure he didn't see anyone he might know.
   "No, I'm alone. Though I could use your help," This was going to be the tricky part, persuading Byron to trust him; "I'm looking for an old cemetery thats supposed to be somewhere outside of town. No one here seems to want to help me. Do you have any idea?"
   "Actually..."
   "Really? Can you lead me there?"
   "Uh...," Byron looked around nervously; "Sure, just let me 'pay' for my drinks,"
Byron walked to the bar and handed something to the bartender and walked back.
   "So who's ready to find a cemetery?"
   As the two men left the bar, a woman who had been cleaning glasses behind him turned, "Well?"
   "Its taken care of. He'll get Morris's piece and then start the marker. Once its done, we'll kill any witnesses left."
   "That includes Byron, right?" The man thought for a minute. The thought had crossed his mind before. The rat was too much of a liability to be left alive.
   "Yes... No survivors."
   The rain poured down on the two men as they made their way along the winding dirt path out of the town. They continued walking for what felt to Morris like hours until they finally made their way to an old iron gateway. The gate itself was impressive given the surroundings: a 30-foot high wrought iron arch, topped with elaborate scrollwork. Both men gazed up at the top of the structure, clearly stunned by what they saw: an emblem of a fountain exactly like that of the Brotherhood. The ornate fountain was exactly like the mural on the floor of the House, having six columns capped by a rounded dome. The only difference with this design was the single ruby set in the center of the dome.
   “I think we’ve arrived,” Byron always had a knack for stating the obvious.
   “Right. We need to make sure we’re not the only ones here. We could be walking into a...trap,” his sentence trailed off as he heard the click of a pistol. It didn’t surprise him, but he was angry all the same, “You traitorous bastard.”
   “Sticks and stones. Give me your piece and nobody has to be hurt.”
   With the gun aimed at him, Morris was in no position to argue. Reluctantly, he reached into his coat pocket and produced the golden shard. Smiling, Byron slammed Morris’ temple, rendering the man unconscious. When he awoke, he found himself alone in the darkness, muscles groaning in agony. Looking around, he saw a faint light coming from one of the tombs dotted about the decrepit cemetery. Struggling to his feet, he made his way across the graveyard, holding onto tombstones for support along the way.
   The tomb itself housed a long staircase. In the back of his mind, Morris remembered this place from his youth, having visited it with his father. Making his way through the damp tunnel, he grew closer and closer to the light source. He saw Byron moving near a small stone, muttering to himself. As he was making his way towards the sniveling man the room suddenly started shaking as if from an earthquake.
   “What did you do?” He had to yell to hear himself over the noise, but also out of sheer shock at what the man had done. Turning around suddenly, Byron fired a shot at Morris, missing by a wide margin before bolting past him through the door. Holding onto the door frame, Morris could only watch as the fat fool ran from the tomb. It was a mad dash out of the crumbling grave, but that was only the beginning. He barely made it out before the building came down behind him. Byron was gone, and he was all alone in the dark cemetery.
   Suddenly, a bright light shone from one of the tombstones, a large obelisk without any markings on it. The light appeared to be coming from the tip of the stone, shining down at the ground. The image was a boot, but deformed, stretched and morphed. Morris noticed it instantly to be an interpretation of Italy, but with a single island marked off the southern coast. This was the next location. Byron had fled before realizing the importance of activating the lock. Now he had the upper hand. Struggling to his feet, he started making his way back to town. He had a train to catch.
   The entire time Morris spent getting his ticket and boarding the ancient iron steam train he couldn’t help but feel as though he was being watched. The whistle blew, indicating for passengers to begin boarding, the billows of white cloud rising slowly into the sky. He suspected Byron to be close, keeping tabs on his every move. This time, however, he wouldn’t be caught off guard. A pistol concealed in his bag, Morris found his seat on the steam locomotive, keeping an eye out for Byron or any of his other brethren.
   Using a newspaper to cover his face, he prepared himself for the ride. There was no faster way to reach the step of the journey, and he was sure Byron knew this. Even if the man had not waited around for the map, he had to have some knowledge of where to go next, the next step in the puzzle. Through all of his focus, he was still surprised by an elderly voice over his shoulder, “Ticket, sir?” Startled, Morris began reaching for his papers when he noticed Byron moving from the back of the car. Grabbing his pistil instead, he pushed the elderly man aside and ran after the traitorous scum.
   Byron immediately realized the threat and pushed several people out of the way, making his escape from car to car, trying to find some exit. Morris stayed on his trail, however, not letting his former brother out of his site. As children, the members of the Brotherhood had undergone strict training, including tracking and subduing targets. The sweat dripped from both men’s brows, breath heavy on their lips. Byron was running out of train, and he knew it.
   As the two men moved from car to car, they were observed by another man. His brown trench coat his fire arm. Following the two of them since the cemetery, the man knew that his moment would come soon when he could take his prize.
   Byron opened last door finding himself in the final car. There was nowhere to run now. Morris burst through after him, “No more running. Give me the key.”
   “I can’t do that. Our future depends on it.”
   “Stop talking. Give it me or I’ll shoot,” Morris raised his gun and aimed it at the cowering man. Slowly, Byron reached inside his coat and pulled forth the complete key. All six gems gleamed in the light, the gold shone revealing the inlaid design of a snake winding around a large tree with water flowing from its branches. Morris gazed at the treasure momentarily before grabbing it from Byron, “Now, I’m afraid you won’t be making it to the second marker. I need to correct what you’ve done.” As he pulled back the hammer on his pistol he heard the sound of the door opening behind him.
   The man in the brown trench coat stood in the doorway, pistol pointed at Morris, “It looks like I’m bothering you gentlemen at a bad time. Drop the gun. I’ll just go ahead and take that key from you now.” He motioned with his gun for Morris to place his gun on the ground and then hand him the gold object. Once he had complied, the man forced him back next to Byron, “Well, gents, looks like neither of you will be making it to the next marker.”
   “You’ll never get away with it. We’ll find you,” Byron said.
   “I don’t think so,” the man said before firing two shots at the men. They ducked and managed to barely avoid death as the man with the brown trench coat ran. Managing to catch a glimpse of the man as he jumped from the train, they saw him landing near a man with a motorcycle. As the chugging train pulled away, they could only watch helplessly as the trench coat wearing man rode off across the countryside.
   “Who the was that?” Morris was tired of not knowing what was going on. He grabbed Byron and slammed him into the side of the car.
   “He’s one of my contacts,” Byron sputtered out, “I don’t know why he would do this. He must have been payed to steal the piece from us.”
   Frustrated, Morris released Byron, “Tell me everything. Now.”
   “Here’s what I know,” he started, “I was contacted a month ago by one of our brethren. He gave me lists of names and told me to contact each of them, promising each a substantial payment for their compliance. The only way to drag out the conspirators was to activate the first marker. I was told to travel to Rome once I had met with you and obtained your piece of the key.”
   “You didn’t think about the consequences of activating the first marker?” Morris said, “You fool, you’ve doomed everyone! Do you at least know who ordered all of this?”
   “No, I was only contacted by letter,” Byron said, “It was marked with the Brotherhood’s sigil. No doubt it was one of us.”
   Morris brushed his coat down, grabbing his pistol and returning it to his pocket. They had been used, betrayed by their own. They would reach Rome within several hours, but for now there was nothing they could do. As the train chugged on into the night, The two men shared what knowledge they had, agreeing that when they reached their destination action needed to be taken. The fate of the world was depending on it.
   The station at Rome was immaculate; white marble floors and columns lined the terminal as the engine pulled to a stop. Thick smoke surrounded the train as the brakes screeched loudly. Even before the smoke had cleared, Morris and Byron dashed off, bags in hand as they raced to the location Byron had been told.
   “It should be close,” Byron said as they made their way through the winding streets, past tourists and famous statuary of gods and heros. As they rounded a final turn, they came face to face with their destination, the Pantheon. The towering structure loomed overhead, marble pillars reaching above the crowds of people moving in and around the ancient structure.
   “I’m supposed to meet him here,” Byron said, “There is most likely a trap waiting. You follow me at a distance. We’ll try to see who’s behind this.”
   Morris nodded, feeling the gun in his pocket. It was dangerous with all these people, but there was nothing he could do about it now. Watching Byron move through the crowds, he eased his way past the tourists, using his training to hide himself within the masses. The two men made their way inside, scanning the large, open room for any familiar faces. As they pushed their way across the room, both men spotted him at the same time. Standing in the corner, he was alone, admiring one of the empty openings where the statue of a god once stood, “Its good to see you. Did everything go as planned?”
   “Yes,” Byron responded, “the first marker has been activated. I obtained Morris’ piece and fled, as you said.
   “Good. I knew you would,” At this, the man turned around. Byron adjusted his posture slightly, not expecting who he saw.
   “Richard. So it was you. Well, have any of the traitors revealed themselves yet?” He was nervous. Richard was the eldest member of the Brotherhood, just over six feet tall, he wore black dress pants and shoes with a grey, tweed jacket, black undercoat and a white button down shirt underneath. His face was gaunt, with a thick, brown mustache and bowler hat on top. His eyes were deep and probing, watching not only actions but expressions and emotions as well.
   “I believe one has, yes,” There was a menacing quality to his voice, a malicious enjoyment in introducing his captive, “I believe you’ve met Morris.”
   Turning around, Byron watched, confused, as the man in the brown trench coat from the train brought Morris forward, one hand pushing a gun into his back. The man smiled broadly,    “Found him sneaking around outside.”
   “Good job,” Richard said, “it appears that we’ve managed to catch two conspirators in one go.”
   Byron looked back confused, “Two?”
   “Yes, Both of you. You’ve served your purpose, my brother, but there is no place in the future for either of you.” Pulling out a gun, he fired at Byron, hitting him in the chest. The sound echoed through the large hall causing everyone to duck and begin yelling. Byron fell to his knees as the Pantheon erupted into chaos. Smiling, Richard began aiming at Morris next. In the confusion, however, he was hit by a large American man who was trying to flee the building. As the gun slid from Richard’s hand, Morris spun around and away from the gun on his back, elbowing his captor in the head. Swiftly disabling the man in the trench coat, he bolted for the exit, getting lost in the crowd.
   As he ran into the streets, Morris’ mind raced. It had been Richard who had met with him and revealed the conspiracy. He had been the one to send him to the first marker, not to stop it, but to allow for all the pieces of the key to come together. He had then hired an assassin to steal the key from them on the train and kill the one carrying it. With Byron dead, he was alone. The only lead he had was the map from the cemetery. As a member of the Brotherhood, he was given extensive topographical and cartographical training. He was particularly familiar with this region as it was the birthplace of the Brotherhood, centuries ago.
   The island marked on the map was in fact a dormant volcano, Ferdinandea. The volcano, though mostly submerged, had a small amount sticking above the surface forming a small island. It was there that Morris knew he’d be able to stop Richard.
   To reach the island, Morris was forced to rent a small row boat. The ship itself was  worn and leaking, with barnacles encrusting the sides. Still, it was his best bet now to reach his destination. Though the island was not far off the shore, he found himself working hard to ensure that water did not leak through more than it already had. Switching between rowing and shoveling buckets of water out of the base, he finally landed on the volcanic island.
   Though the lava had long since ceased flowing, the smell of sulfur was still heavy in the air. As he made his way to a small opening in the nearby rock wall, he couldn’t help but notice that the sand resembled ash. The dark cavern was cool and moist in stark comparison to the landscape outside. As Morris made his way deeper inside, he found stairs, carved into the rock by hand. Slowly making his way down, he began hearing voices, faint at first, but growing louder the deeper he went till he could finally make out Richard. Peeking around the corner, he watched, awestruck at what he saw: The two men were standing in a large room, greater than even the Pantheon. At its center stood a magnificent tree, three stories tall, enshrined beneath a golden archway. On the tree were red gemstone fruit, shimmering from the light shining through holes in the roof as well as the torches on the wall. At its base was a vast pool filled with clear blue water that was ready to overflow at the slightest touch. In front of the structure was a pedestal where Richard now stood, holding the completed key in his hands.
   Morris pulled his gun out and readied it as he watched his brother. There was no time to wait. Stepping out from the doorway, he yelled, “Drop your weapons and step away from the Fountain.”
   Startled, both men turned, the man in the trench coat setting his gun down. This was it, what the Brotherhood had been created for, what they had sworn to protect.
   “Why have you done this?” Morris asked, “You know what this place is. We cannot allow it to be activated.”
   “We were taught many things,” Richard set the key down and began walking slowly towards Morris, unfazed by the gun in his hands, “What do you think this place is? A pagan temple? A lost treasure? No. This is only one of many fountains, all over the world. America, India, Russia, Australia, the list goes on. These fountains are gifts. Gifts that we have ignored for long enough. I have done the research. I found them, all of them, and I came to the realization that what we stood for was a lie. That the secret we swore to uphold was simply holding back man from achieving immortality. The Fountain of Youth! This is the tree from which Adam and Eve first bit into the fruit of knowledge. Just imagine what we could do with such power!”
   Morris took a step back, gun pointed at Richard; he was getting too close, “You betrayed me, Byron, Benson...all of us. You hired assassins and killed your own brethren. And for what? Immortality? The world isn’t ready for this. Humanity will tear itself apart for one of these fountains. You can’t-”
   “You don’t get it. With this, we can become gods! Already we are superior, why should we not be allowed to live forever? This Brotherhood could rule the world, not try to protect it from the shadows. Thats why I killed Byron. The sniveling rat was not deserving of my new order. Same for the rest of them. Their honor clouded their judgement, just as it clouds yours. We should be kings of men!”
   “No. The ability to live forever should never belong to anyone,” Morris replied, hand beginning to shake. Richard was mad, and he needed to act, “If you do not stop now I will kill you.”
   Richard only smirked at the idea, “If you had any intention of killing me you’d have done it by now,” turning back, he moved over to the pedestal and reached for the key, “if you’ll excuse me, its time for me to become a god.”
   The gunshot rang through the hall, reverberating off of the walls and almost deafening all three men. Looking down at his chest, Richard could only stare at the growing red stain on his shirt, “Y-you...” He couldn’t even get his final words out as he collapsed to the ground, key still in hand. Still shocked at what he had done, Morris stood there, paralyzed as the man in the trench coat ran for the exit. The echo finally stopped as the gun fell from his hand. It took a moment for him to regain his composure and walk over to the body of his friend laying on the floor. Looking down, he took a brief moment to let what had just happened sink in. The Brotherhood was gone, leaving him as the only remaining member. The only one left. Picking up the key, he held it in front of the pedestal, contemplating what would happen if he were to finish Richard’s work.
   The tree loomed above Morris, its gemstone fruit shinning, enticing him for a bite. All the stories of his youth, the legends his father had told him as a boy, were in this room. He knew what needed to be done. Raising the key above his head, Morris threw the ancient symbol of his fraternity to the floor, causing it to shatter apart into shining, golden pieces.
   As the key broke, a large rumbling began to build beneath the chamber. Realizing that it must have been a failsafe similar to the marker in the cemetery, Morris turned and ran, dodging chunks of rock and magma as it fell from the ceiling. The floor fell out from under him as he ran, threatening to drag him down to the fiery depths of hell. As he reached the stares, Morris turned and took one final look at the Fountain. As the earth fell away around it, the sacred tree burned, the gemstone fruit falling into the ever-still waters of its base. Whatever this place had been, he thought, it was truly incredible.
   He was barely able to escape before the cave collapsed, sealing the temple shut. Quickly moving to his boat, Morris looked back at the island as the lava began flowing down its side and into the ocean. Finally, he stopped rowing and watched the even unfold. It had been a long journey, and now it was at an end.

*****

   Looking back, years later, Morris realized that some of what Richard had said was true. The Brotherhood, though noble in idea, was a foolish endeavor. No matter how well they had tried to hide secrets from the world, eventually humanity would find them. In the end, some secrets should remain hidden.
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"The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me." ~ Ayn Rand
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