Chapter Twelve: Mixed Blessings
The Knights of the Archangels, now having their War Council filled and each legion has its commander prepare for what was to come. The week after Christmas the Pope announced the rejoining of the East with the West. The Church was now united and the great schism ended. The word went out to every Knight in North America to gather together as quickly as they could in Fargo. The time for Knights of the Archangels to begin their crusade had now begun.
It was that January when the great plague emerged. It started in Georgia and no one knew how bad it would get before the end. It was officially called a genetically modified version of small pox. It was lethal to exactly one-third of everyone that was infected. Those who were most inflicted were the very old and the very young. Over the course of the year the world would see no more babies or young children. The oldest people on average would be in their fifties. In a matter of a few months the world’s population was reduced by almost two billion people. The death would not end there either.
At 1:02 PM on the 22nd of March that year an earthquake struck that could be felt across the continent. The land that was once known as California shared border now with Siberia as the tectonic plates shifted the land mass north. It actually created a huge land bridge that connected North America to Asia that was never seen before in the history of the earth. The eastern seaboard was affected by hurricanes that left millions dead and left the survivors homeless. Natural disasters weren’t the only things they ended lives in America.
There was even more death caused because of the countless people murdered by soldiers who were attempting to keep the peace. They were ordered to kill anyone rioting or protesting the President including the way he ran the country. Many American soldiers began leaving the service as they could not bare to murder innocent people. The government of the United States was on the brink of collapse as the economy was in shambles and there were too many people dead.
Europe was not unaffected by death either. They lost several million people in more terrorist attacks done by the group calling themselves the Hand of God. They destroyed London, Amsterdam and even attempted to destroy Rome by where caught before they were able to detonate. After that failure they took the streets and started fighting openly. They targeted anyone and everyone that were unlucky enough to be on the streets at the same time as them. It didn’t matter to them who was killed; they seemed to only care about the killing. They were eventually found and dealt with by a new group of public defenders.
They called themselves the People’s Army and they were led by a man who called himself Leif Cuir. He gained a massive amount of popularity in Europe and was asked to speak at the new home of the United Nations in Geneva. The U.N. moved there about a month after the bombing of New York. He delivered a stirring message about how they need to come together in order to survive. His popularity seemed to grow daily as he helped with humanitarian aid and his efforts on behalf of Israel.
Israel was attacked and besieged for three weeks by Turkish forces shortly after Christmas. They were able to repel the much larger force but only after what seemed like a miracle. The Turkish commander misread the battle strategy used by Israel and attacked early in the hopes of a sneak attack on Jerusalem. Israel didn’t leak false information and no one knew for sure where it came from. The direction the Turkish forces took played right into the plans of the Israelis with great surprise to them. The Israeli forces were able to counterattack and repel the invaders. The nation of Israel was more war torn than ever. The attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah increased during the war and as a result Israel was weakened.
The United States was too weakened to be able provide aid to anyone in the world and couldn’t even help themselves. Leif Cuir used his newfound influence to rally what was left of the nations of world to come to Israel’s aid. Turkey’s surprise attack on Israel left the whole world trying to figure out its motives. They were an Islamic nation but never expressed interest in attacking Israel before but many suspected that was only because the United States could not stop them. It wasn’t long before Leif Cuir had so much popularity that he was asked to lead the surviving nations of the world.
Leif Cuir claimed he had very humble origins. He said he was born to an impoverished family in the former Yugoslavia. He spent most of his youth trying not to get killed in that war torn region as the war there claimed his parents as causalities. He left that region at the age of 19 when he attended the University in Vienna, Austria. He studied political science and history eventually getting a degree in both. He then went to work for the University teaching history. He was also a self proclaimed communist as he spent a good deal of time in his youth behind the iron curtain.
The events of the world did not go unnoticed by the Order of the Archangels. The fact that they were gathering in one place was almost unprecedented in their history. The seven legions were altogether in one place for the first time since the Order’s founding. They called them all forth just before travel broke down with the rest of the world. Their total forces number just about seven hundred pushing the Seminary was way above capacity. They had to set up a large number of cots in the gym area and even in a few of the classrooms.
The dorms were all doubled up including Amanda’s room because Anthony’s aunt Sister Ann Marie came to stay there just after Christmas. Anthony’s aunt was assigned by her Convent to assist the Knights when they started their campaign and others would join when they were needed. She was trained in the practice of battle field medicine and was also a very talented cook. She enjoyed the time together with Amanda and they really bonded quite well.
Anthony and Amanda were granted permission to marry and soon the preparations were in order. Anthony didn’t know where all of his family was exactly. Jim sold their mother’s house shortly after the funeral then returned to Fargo where he would visit Anthony as often as he could. Bart took off after their mother died for parts unknown. Rebecca was still in Texas and no one had heard from her since the funeral. Theresa moved in with school friends and didn’t stay in contact with the rest of the family that much. Anthony did convince Jim and Theresa to attend as they were his only family in the area.
Anthony and Amanda decided that they wanted a traditional wedding and they would not see other after midnight the night before the wedding. Anthony would spend the night down in one of the classrooms instead of his dorm. A few of the Knights that he was closest to decided that he needed a bachelor party. Anthony didn’t like the idea of drinking the night before his wedding but went along with it. They were all in the dining hall toasting to Anthony and playing games.
They decided it was fun to watch a couple of squires fight each other with practice swords. They placed a few friendly bets and had a good old time. The only Knight present that didn’t partake in drink was Kelly which is something Anthony found to be quite odd at the time. Anthony never asked Kelly why because he noticed Kelly never talked about his personal life. Anthony would regret the drinking the next morning when he woke with the first hangover of his life.
Amanda felt it was very odd not having Anthony there to talk to before bed. Sister Ann Marie and Theresa kept her company. They stayed up late telling embarrassing stories about Anthony when he was a kid. Amanda felt it was it quite endearing when she heard Anthony would get up early in the morning to wait for their mom to get off work. His mom worked nights as a nurse at the state hospital in Jamestown. Anthony did that for quite a few years and only stopped doing so after his father died. Amanda fell asleep easier than she thought she would and felt inexplicable joy when she woke up in the morning.
They coordinated their movements the next morning with a little help from Jonathan who was also Anthony’s best man. Amanda had no one to ask to be her maid of honor so she asked Theresa to take that role. Amanda and Theresa were waiting outside the dorm and kept themselves entertained by going over the ceremony again and again. Amanda was nervous about saying the wrong thing or walking in the wrong direction so she insisted on Theresa helping her memorize as much as possible.
Anthony was sitting in the Sacristy before the ceremony and couldn’t stop his nervousness from getting the better of him. His head slightly pounded from his hangover and he took a few ibuprofen earlier that were only now starting to work. He was rocking back in forth in his seat while tapping his foot anxiously. Jonathan was there watching and laughing. “I would have thought you would have been really excited.” Anthony stopped moving and looked up at Jonathan.
Anthony pushed the pain away in head as he spoke, “I am excited man. I am about to give myself away to another human. After that happens I won’t be able to think of myself in a singular way anymore. From now on every decision I make will be for both of us. I am just adjusting myself to that a bit.”
Jonathan smirked, “Ahh I get it now. So are you nervous about other things? Like tonight?”
“Not going there dude. I love ya like a brother but I am not talking about this.” Anthony could not contain his laughter as he finished talking. Jonathan laughed right along with Anthony when they saw Father Byrnes enter.
“It’s time. Jonathan, you join the others outside. Anthony, you come with me.”
Anthony entered the church and went to his place by the Altar. Father Byrnes stood near Anthony while Father Dunn and Bishop Samuels stood behind the Altar near their Seats. Anthony heard the music start to play and in came Theresa being escorted by Jonathan. They walked all the way up to the front and took their places on each side of the Altar. Anthony then looked to see Amanda coming through the door. She was wearing a plain white dress with only the pendant he gave her for jewelry. Her hair was down and curled around her face. Her veil was sheer white as well. Anthony felt a sudden rush of emotion as she walked towards him and he could feel a tear rolling down his cheek.
As she approached she didn’t say anything but she reached up and wiped away his tear. He would swear later to his fellow Knights that he wasn’t crying and there had to be something in his eye causing it to water. The whole mass and ceremony were more beautiful than either of them could have ever asked for. Anthony wouldn’t tell anyone this except Amanda but it was the proudest moment of his life. It meant more to him than even becoming a Knight. The entire wedding ceremony went by too fast for Anthony, who felt that these little moments in life were the ones worth holding onto. After the ceremony they went down to the cafeteria for the reception where they enjoyed pot roast and mashed potatoes for dinner.
The reception allowed the Knights to come together one more time in celebration of life that showed them exactly what they would be fighting for. The simple joys of living turned out to be some of the greatest reasons to fight. Yes, they were concerned with saving souls and protecting people from needless suffering but life without the little things hardly seemed worth living. They feasted, danced and shared in fellowship.
The reception ended just before midnight with Anthony and Amanda driving off to enjoy their first night of marriage together. Anthony had reserved a room at a local hotel so they have some privacy that night. The room wasn’t anything fancy, but it was clean, affordable and best of all not at the Seminary. They were so excited to be alone that Anthony forgot to grab their overnight bag leaving it in his truck. He soon found himself with his head on his pillow while he was holding his wife. He was without any worry for the first time in a very long time. He drifted off to sleep with not a thought in his head.
Anthony was standing outside the Seminary feeling completely helpless. The home he loved was burning and he could hear his fellow Knights screaming inside. He looked down and saw he was wearing his wedding tux and Amanda was by his side in her wedding dress. He looked up to see the sun was high in sky. Despite the fact that the Seminary was surrounded by Death Knights compulsion got the better of him causing him to run towards the inferno. He felt the heat on his face as he tried to find an entrance in a part that was not burning. He drew his sword from its scabbard and swung it at a window. Upon doing so the heat trapped inside caused a huge fireball to erupt out the window directly at Anthony. He could feel the burns across his body as he tried to crawl away. Amanda was screaming as she knelt beside him. He was about to speak when the Death Knights surround them, grabbing Amanda dragging her away. He then slowly came out of the dream.
He woke up and almost immediately he grabbed for the phone. No dial tone. He knew what he must do and wasn’t going to waste any time. He woke Amanda up and explained quickly what was going on. They both got dressed and left without checking out with the front desk. They got down to his truck to see it was about to be towed. Anthony ran up to his truck and stopped the tow truck driver from leaving. “WHOA, where are you going with my truck?”
The tow truck driver was a burly bear of a man who spoke with a gruff voice saying, “I was ordered to come here and tow this truck. I don’t question these kinds of things when it comes from the police. Apparently you have a lot of parking tickets that have gone unpaid.”
Anthony made no effort to hide his frustration as he said, “I don’t have any unpaid parking tickets because I have never gotten a parking ticket period.”
The man shrugged saying, “Take it up with the guys down at the impound lot.” The man turned to walk away so Anthony grabbed his arm. “Will you at least allow me to get something out of the truck?”
The man jerked his arm to release it from Anthony’s grip then said, “Yeah sure, make it quick. I have a lot of stops to make today.”
Anthony retrieved his overnight bag and sword that he left down here the night before. He had Amanda follow him back inside the hotel once again. He got their clothes out and instructed for her to change as quickly as possible and pointed to the bathroom. They met up back outside the hotel. “We have to run back to the Seminary as fast as our feet can carry us. The phone lines are down and I doubt we will be able to hitchhike across town. I think the attack won’t happen until noon so we have to get there as quickly as possible.”
Amanda felt sad leaving her wedding dress behind in this hotel. She hoped they could come back here to get it sometime. They were thirty blocks from the Seminary and even if they ran the whole way it would take a little while to get there, especially with Anthony carrying the bag and his sword. They started their run north making it a few blocks before the gauntlet fell upon them. There in the street in front of them two cars collided and a huge explosion sent them falling on their backs. As Anthony got to his feet he could feel that hot, cold sensation in his head and turned around to see three Death Knights behind them. “I didn’t think this would be easy but this is ridiculous.” His only advantage was speed as their armor would slow them down. He decided that running was the wiser move at this point. He helped Amanda to her feet, grabbed her hand and then they ran around the accident scene. They got a few more blocks north when they saw the streets were blocked by a crowd of people.
“What’s going on? Why are these people here?” Amanda asked and got her answer soon enough. The people in front of them were all wearing armbands that showed the insignia of the Peoples’ Army. The crowd noticed them and almost immediately started throwing rocks. Anthony pushed Amanda to the side and did his best to deflect the larger rocks with his sword. He turned to see the Death Knights were closing in on them. He looked around and saw an alley way open down the block. He grabbed Amanda’s hand and ran towards the opening. The crowd followed them and one landed a hit with a rock on Anthony head. He reeled forward but was able to keep his feet underneath him.
Amanda started pulling him as she ran faster and faster. He was able to shake off the blow to his head after a couple of moments. They reached the other side of the alley and saw more people to their left coming towards them. “Jesus have mercy on us please.” Anthony said as they were running out into the street. On their right was a city bus coming right for them. Anthony and Amanda got across the street in enough time to avoid the bus. Once on the other side of the bus Anthony noticed the door to the bus was broken down. They stopped at the entrance to the alley because in the alley way ahead of them was three more Death Knights staring them down.
Their options were getting more and more limited so Anthony was looking everywhere for a way out of this. Anthony looked to his left and saw a house with a fenced in yard but the gate was too close to the crowd. He looked to his right and there he saw a fenced in yard that had a gate that was far enough away from the crowd. With Amanda’s hand still firmly in his grip he pulled her towards the gate and kicked it down. He saw the only way out the other side was to go through the house. He let go of her hand as they got to the house so he could open the back door. He was not the least bit surprised to find it was locked. He stepped back and kicked it down as hard as he could.
They ran through the house much to the surprise of the people inside of it. They got out the front door and on the street in front of them was the same crowd from before. They cut up the sidewalk and ran as fast as they could. The bus they saw earlier was now on the sidewalk chasing them. Anthony looked back as he ran and figured that they only had a matter of a few seconds before it ran them down. He pushed Amanda into some bushes and stepped onto the boulevard. He waited until the bus was upon them and he jumped into its open door. After getting his bearings on the moving bus he went towards the driver. He stepped forward throwing punch knocking the driver out cold. He threw the driver out of the bus and yelled for Amanda.
She was aboard the bus in a matter of seconds. Anthony never drove a bus before but had seen them operated many times. He looked at Amanda and said, “How hard can it be?” It was already in gear so he pushed on the gas pedal and the bus moved forward. “Finally some luck.” He managed to get the bus on the road and in the right direction. The crowd was behind them thankfully enough. He managed to get them onto the main street that headed north towards the Seminary. Anthony saw cars speeding up behind them in some kind of pursuit. One car slammed into the side of the bus. Anthony steered the bus against the car and the car went off the road hitting a huge spruce tree. Anthony heard the impact behind but did not turn to look.
Another car came up and did the same thing only this time Anthony was not able to counter it because a tire blew on the bus. Anthony did everything he could to keep the bus from veering off the road and was barely able to do so. The bus was a lot harder to drive now as Anthony struggled with the steering. He sped the bus up to an even higher speed as they came to the turn onto the road that would lead to the Seminary. Anthony was trying to turn the bus when out of the corner of his eye he saw another car approaching.
The car came from their left as they were crossing the intersection and slammed into the middle of the bus. Anthony had the bus at a speed of about 40 miles per hour and with that momentum the bus spun around. Amanda was flung into a window and hit her head hard. Anthony was ejected out of the bus flying about 20 feet before he hit ground. He was dazed but managed to look up to see the bus tipping over and finally coming to a stop. He struggled to his feet and stumbled over to the bus finding Amanda unconscious on the ground but still inside the bus. He kicked out the front window, grabbed Amanda and pulled her to safety.
He looked around and saw nothing. No crowd, no Death Knights, nothing. He picked her up flinging her over his shoulder and started walking towards the Seminary. They were only a few blocks away from the Seminary, so close to safety. He constantly looked around as he walked. He would not be surprised again. He had carried for three blocks before she regained consciousness. He set her down on the grass and asked, “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, my head hurts but I think I will be fine after the headache goes away.” She rubbed the back of her head as she spoke.
Anthony then asked, “Can you walk?”
“Yes I think so.” She replied.
He helped her to her feet and they started walking together. He looked up and saw the sun wasn’t that high in sky yet and realized that time was still on their side. He felt that finger of hot and cold playing inside his head again. It was a strange sensation that he would never get used to feeling as it was something he found to be rather disturbing. He turned around and saw what he thought could be the same Death Knights that he had seen earlier. Anthony looked at Amanda and realized it was time for him to stop running. “Run as fast as you can. Tell the Knights about the attack. I will hold the line here.”
Anthony could see the fear in her eyes as she said, “What? Are you crazy? There are three of them.”
“The fight is inevitable. Your hurt and I can’t carry you the rest of the way. Your only chance of making it is if I make a stand here. They want me, not you. Charles is dead so the threat to you is gone.” He looked back to see the Death Knights were already about twenty yards from him and yelled, “Go, GO NOW!”
Anthony watched as she turned and ran away. He turned to face his enemies. They were advancing on him in a staggered pattern. He drew his sword and suddenly wished he had his armor. He saw them slow their pace as they moved in perfect unison. The one closest to him swung his sword down lowering his whole body aiming for Anthony’s leg. Anthony jumped forward over the swing and when his foot touched ground his twisted himself so his back would roll over the back of the first Death Knight. As he hit the ground on the other side he brought his sword down chopping off the arm of the next Death Knight. Its arm fell to the ground and started to twitch. There was neither scream of pain nor any sign it noticed what happened.
He swung his sword around cutting the Death Knights legs out from underneath it. It fell to the ground twitching like it was having some sort of seizure. The third Death Knight moved in and swung for Anthony head. He barely noticed the attack in time and couldn’t move completely out of the way of the swing. His left cheek was cut deep as the slash came across his face. He lost his balance stumbling backwards. He regained his footing but the pain was searing through his face. His eyes moved between his two remaining opponents. They both moved towards him at the same time.
Anthony swung his sword towards the one on his right stopping its advance. He pivoted to his left barely missing a swing from the enemy. He stepped directly at the Death Knight blocking another attempt forcing his enemy’s sword into the ground. He stepped forward, turned the sword in his hands and stabbed upwards through the chest of the Death Knight. His sword went all the way through to its hilt. His momentum carried him forward and he fell over landing on top of the Death Knight. His back was exposed to attack and before he was able to move he heard a thump behind him. He rolled over to see Jonathan standing there and the last Death Knight was beheaded. Jonathan then swung his sword chopping off the head of the Death Knight that was twitching on the ground. Anthony stood up and retrieved his sword from the corpse of his fallen enemy.
“Thank you my friend. We have little time.” His face felt like it was ripping as he spoke.
Jonathan patted Anthony on the back as he said, “Don’t speak anymore until we can your face at least stitched up. Let’s get back to the Seminary and get you taken care of my friend. We must prepare for the attack.”
Anthony nodded and followed Jonathan back to the Seminary. Anthony went straight for the class room where Sister Ann Marie set up her clinic. Sister Ann Marie got quite a shock when she saw his face the blood trickling from the wound. She stitched him up the best she could. She warned him to be careful while speaking to avoid tearing the stitches. She applied some local anesthetic numbing his cheek which allowed him to move his jaw without too much pain.
He gave her a hug and went to his room to where his armor was waiting for him. Amanda was there and she helped him with the armor. She tried not to stare at wound on cheek but couldn’t help herself. She could not stop the look of worry from showing either. She was clasping together the links for his cuirass when Anthony grabbed her hands. He kissed her as passionately as his numbed up face would allow. She sighed deep as she finished with the last link and sat down the bed.
Anthony went over to his desk, opened the top dresser drawer retrieving a piece of paper. “I wrote this a while ago because I knew this day would come. Please read this after I leave.” He kissed her one more time before exiting the room.
She sat there for what seemed like an eternity to her. She realized for the first time what was really going on in the world. She got through the continent shattering earthquakes. She saw the oldest and the youngest die in the plague. She even made it through the occupation from the U.S. military. It all hit home as she realized there was no going back. This is the world now and it full of dark forces capable of pure evil. She finally got up to get the note that he left her after she calmed herself down.
I know things are hard and nothing I can say can really make anything better. All I can really do is strive to make this world a better place for you. My promise to you is that one day this will end and God willing we will have peace. I may be shown the future but I do not know all ends. Only God does. Take comfort in prayer and never give up. I go now to fight a battle to help ensure we have a future. If I don’t do this we may have nothing to look forward to and I wish I could tell you why this is happening. I just know that it is happening and it’s up to us to do something about it. I suppose you might ask why it’s up to us to do something. I am not going to say it’s because we were chosen by God, although that may be part of it. It’s up to us to take care of this because we are here. This is our world and we cannot allow those who would do us harm to do so unchecked. There is evil in this world and if someone doesn’t stand up to it, well you know how that goes all too well. I love you with my whole heart and soul.
She folded the note neatly then put it in her pocket. She promised herself to that she would keep this letter forever. It would become her secret source of strength that would help her get through the toughest times that were yet to come. She decided if this war was going to happen she would not sit idly by and do nothing. She wasn’t a Knight but she could still do something. Her only skill she had to offer was first aid. She could do that at least. Without another moment going by she left the dorm room and went straight to Sister Anne Marie’s clinic.
Sister Anne Marie was more than happy to have the help. Her fellow nuns had not had the opportunity to join them yet so it would be just the two of them. Sister Ann Marie went through various types of wounds and how to deal with them. She showed Amanda how to stitch a wound by having her do it on an orange. She wasn’t that great at it but it would be better than not being able to do anything at all. She showed her the rest of the clinic and where she would find supplies because in the heat of the battle she would have little time to show Amanda anything. When Sister Ann Marie was done she asked Amanda to join her in prayer. They both knelt down in front of the Crucifix and prayed that this battle would go well.