Prophecies of a False God
The Aurora soared high above Catania, a city on the east coast of Sicily, until the master of the unique flying machine, Phileas Fogg, gave the orders for his manservant to set their ship down in the Italian city's outskirts in order to keep from drawing attention to themselves from Catania's citizens.
As usual, Passepartout was the first to awaken in the mornings as the sun arose and stood at the ship's helm as his master emerged from his room and gave him the orders to set the Aurora down. Both Rebecca and Jules walked out into the ship's main room as it landed, ready to explore the city as the small group prepared to set out to collect food and supplies for their continuing journeys ahead.
Passepartout spoke up saying cheerfully, "We have landed, Master; Miss. Rebecca and Monsieur Jules. Today looks like it will be a beautiful day."
In his usual demeanor, Phileas gloomily responded, "You say so every morning, Passepartout, when in fact, there are many mornings when you are indeed wrong."
"And yet, you admit that there are some mornings that are indeed beautiful, do you not, Phileas?" Rebecca asked her cousin as Jules stepped around her and admired the sights of the city in front of them.
"I admit no such thing, dear cousin," the leader answered smugly.
Jules seemed to be ignoring his friends' typical banter as he said, "I have always wanted to come here to Sicily. Alexandre has always spoken very highly of this country, including this city, especially of the women here."
Phileas replied, "Monsieur Dumas always speaks very highly of the women in every city he has visited, Jules."
"You're right, but nonetheless, I still wish to see this city's sights," Jules responded.
"And see them, you shall, dear friend," Rebecca answered and then she leaned in and softly kissed Jules' cheek with compassion. "Come along, Phileas; Passepartout. You heard Jules. Shall we see what Catania has to offer us?"
As they arrived in the center of the city, after walking in from its border, Phileas replied, "I can't imagine it is much, seeing as we are now below that ominous looking volcano."
Jules smiled at Phileas' disgruntled attitude and answered, "Do not worry, Fogg. It has been over two centuries since Mount Etna has erupted and there are no signs of it doing so again anytime soon."
"We appear to be lucky that you have come along with us on this journey, Verne, if not to do more than to appease our minds of our concerns," Phileas said in an almost mocking tone as they came to stand in front of a large fountain. "Passepartout, go off and gather the supplies we need to continue on in the Aurora. Then, meet us in an hour in front of this statue. Rebecca and I will get us something to eat for breakfast, while Verne, if he wishes, goes off to look around."
"Just be careful, Jules," Rebecca responded with concern. "Knowing our luck, you never know the kind of trouble we could run into here. I can only hope I am wrong."
Jules looked around at the people staring at them as they walked through and answered, "There is no need to be so suspicious of every place we visit, Rebecca. I am sure the people here are as friendly and hospitable as Alexandre said."
As the youngest member of their group walked away, Rebecca replied softly with fear in her voice, "I hope you are right, my friend."
"Come along, cousin," Phileas responded as Passepartout walked off as well. "I am sure Verne is right and that you worry needlessly. Let us find someplace to eat. Passepartout's last meal was hardly satisfactory."
Around the time that they had all agreed to meet back together, Rebecca and Phileas arrived back at the statue to find a large crowd gathered as they were listening to man giving a speech, at first in Italian and then began it again in other languages for those that were not native to Sicily. As the speech went on, the crowd began to grow fearful and as many of them knelt down before the man and began to cry out to him, or to their gods, in prayer.
"Passepartout, what exactly is this man saying that is causing such a growing fear and outrage?" Phileas asked as the valet walked up beside him and Rebecca. "Do you understand this man?"
The Frenchman answered, "It appears, Master, that these people here believe this man to be some kind of prophet, who claims that the volcano…"
Passepartout was suddenly interrupted when Jules walked out through the crowd as he shouted out, "How dare you claim yourself to be a prophet and lie in order to scare these people into believing in a false God! You should be ashamed of yourself and any of the rest of you who are in league with him."
"How dare you, young man, for coming here and claiming that this man is not a prophet, when you have no idea of the things that go on here, as you are clearly not from around these parts!" a man from the crowd called out angrily in the prophet's defense as he stepped forward to face off against Jules. "What right do you have to say otherwise?"
"I may not know why all of you believe that this man, who stands before you spouting off this nonsense, is a prophet, but I do know that what he is claiming will happen is a lie," Jules continued while he spoke out to the people as Phileas, Rebecca, and Passepartout moved forward to stand beside him in his own defense should the situation become ugly. "He claims he saw in a vision that the volcano outside of your city will erupt within two days time and that you all need to kneel down in prayer before a man you say is a god to plead with him for his mercy, as well as prove to him that they are worthy of his mercy by offering up your precious things and by making sacrifices in his name. I know for a fact that his vision is false, as science allows me to know that when a volcano is about to erupt, the earth below your feet will tremble and that ash will blanket the entire city days before the destruction occurs, giving all of you time, should you all believe in the warnings, to evacuate."
Another man from the crowd shouted out, "You lie! Mateo speaks the truth and has for years since the destruction of our crops in the famine."
Jules replied firmly, "I know science and unless the destruction you all believe is coming is manmade, then that volcano will not erupt, which makes this prophet and your so called god, a false prophet and false god, who are taking advantage of your fear to get whatever they desire."
"You must believe what Master Jules Verne here speaks," Passepartout responded to hope of trying to help his friend.
"No, they mustn't," a man dressed in a uniform, which led the small group of friends to believe that he was a man of whatever laws they had within this city, answered firmly, as others dressed the same way began to surround them, causing both Phileas and Rebecca tense up and move to stand between them and Jules. "This young man the three of you are protecting now is under arrest."
Phileas drew his sword as he asked angrily, "Under what charges?"
Jules gently placed his hand over Phileas' arm and said softly, "Don't, Fogg, please."
"I suggest you listen to your friend," another one of the men in uniform spoke up again. "He may be smarter than what he initially appeared to be."
"He is under arrest for slander against our god and for causing a disturbance amongst the people of our city," the first officer continued.
Phileas raised his sword once again as he replied steadfastly, "You will take our friend over my dead body."
Jules turned to look at him and his other friends and responded, "Let them take me to their prison, Fogg. I will look nothing, if not guilty if we were to fight against their law enforcers. They will see no reason to believe in anything that I've tried to say."
"Jules, I…" Phileas tried to say until Jules cut him off.
"You need to find out whatever it is going on here and find a way to stop whoever this self-made god and prophet really are, or these people are going to lose everything they have," Jules whispered so that only his friends could hear him. "I'll be all right."
Phileas lowered his sword, but continued to glare at the lawmen as the lead officer placed iron shackles over Jules wrists and said, "Your boy here is smart. We'll be in touch about his sentencing. Until then, I suggest you stay silent or we will have the three of you arrested as well."
The Foggs and Passepartout watched as the men led their friend away and then Phileas looked over at his manservant and spoke up saying, "I want you to follow them and find out where they are taking Verne, but whatever you do, do not let yourself be seen. Rebecca, you and I are going to find out exactly what's going on here."
"And how exactly do you plan we do this?" Rebecca asked as Passepartout swiftly and silently walked off to follow after their friend.
"We do as we always do," Phileas answered smugly. "We protect each other and then make everyone involved in this chaos pay."