Chapter Seventeen: A sign of things to come.
After another week of nightmares and long talks with Amanda the Council finally summoned Anthony. His state of mind was getting more and more estranged from everyone he cared about. His anger seemed to grow daily despite his best efforts to “just let it go” as Amanda suggested he should. He found himself quite eager to not only defend his actions but ruffle a few feathers because of how long he had to wait. He may not be able to take out his anger on Charles but that isn’t going to stop him from sharing his pain.
Anthony approached the conference room and stopped just outside for a moment before actually going inside. He wanted to make sure wasn’t rushing in too quickly to avoid seeming eager. He entered into the room and found the Council very welcoming. He was expecting them to be cross with him about getting captured but the general feeling in the room was one of relief. He suddenly felt ashamed that he was ready to start a fight with his brothers. He sat down in his usual chair and said, “So what have I missed?”
Sir Shawn spoke first, “I hope you don’t mind us giving you time to recover before we called you back here. We wanted you to be in better shape before we proceeded.”
Anthony relaxed a little before saying, “I was expecting you guys to be mad at me for getting captured. So no I don’t mind if you kept me away for that reason.”
“Why would we be mad at you?” Gabe asked with sincerity.
Anthony sat there ashamed of himself as he explained, “I was guessing because I went to rescue Amanda without at least consulting the rest of the Council. I had this whole big defense planned out for it and everything.”
“We know about that and yes it didn’t make anyone happy. You need to understand that we are just as human as you. Gabe is married too and has said he would have done the same thing in your shoes.” Sir Kelly said then cleared his throat before continuing. “You put no one else is danger and acted on behalf of your wife. It’s very natural for you to want to protect her. We only wish you had told us because we could have helped you.”
Anthony raised his hands as if to say he had no choice as he said, “I actually foresaw myself last year saving her by myself. I didn’t plan on being alone but that is why I decided to act. I never saw what would happen after I saved her but I knew I would save her. I know I could have waited but she could have been dead by the time you guys got there for all I knew.”
“We understand all that. Just try to keep us in the loop in the future if you can.” Sir Andrew said with a great deal of concern in his voice.
“Alright. So what’s next on the agenda?” Anthony asked.
“We want to know everything that happened while you were captive.” Sir Kelly said with a flat, suspicious tone in his voice.
Anthony explained everything from beginning to finish not leaving out a single detail. He told them he was drugged so his memory of the events could be skewed because of that. He felt it to be quite therapeutic to get everything out because keeping it all just made him angrier as time passed. He noticed that as he was speaking that each one of them was paying close attention to his every movement as if they were studying him. It made him more than a little uneasy but finished his story anyway. As he finished speaking he noticed that Kelly was leaning over to Alexander whispering something.
“What’s going on guys?” Anthony asked with an accusatory tone his voice.
“We have everything we need now. You can go.” Kelly said his voice sounded very stern.
Anthony’s emotions started to come to the surface as he said, “What? I am still a member of this council aren’t I?”
“Yes and you need time to heal. We suggest you make an appointment with Father Byrnes for some post traumatic stress disorder counseling.” Alexander said with a great deal of concern in his voice.
“So you guys are just going to shut me out? Has this ever been done before in the history of the Order?” Anthony was clearly upset and his body language showed his defiance. His hands were clenched tight as if he was ready to punch someone.
“No but we have never been at war before. Trust that we are doing this for your own good.” Kelly replied.
“Alright if this is the will of the council I will obey.” Anthony exited the room with a gait that showed his anger. Anthony was halfway to the dorms when Kelly finally caught up to him. Kelly placed a hand on Anthony’s shoulder and turned him around. Anthony stood there with defiant eyes directed right at Kelly. Kelly returned his stare but wasn’t confrontational. Kelly took a really deep breath before he spoke. “Do you know how bad P.T.S.D can be?”
“No idea. I am not a soldier like you. I was never trained in how to deal with this.” Anthony said with a hiss in his voice.
“This may not come as a surprise to you but I don’t like talking about myself. When I choose to do so you should listen.”
Anthony couldn’t remember Kelly ever talking about himself. Kelly trained him in the way of the sword for months yet not once did he talk about himself. Anthony always thought it was odd the way Kelly avoided this subject whenever it was brought up. In the present situation Anthony thought it was even odder that Kelly decided to talk about himself but decided to heed Kelly’s advice.
He made sure he spoke with respect as he replied, “Go ahead, I am listening.”
“As you already know I am a military man. I spent ten years of my life serving the country that I love. I was an Army Ranger and fought overseas in Iraq.” Kelly paused there and thought for a moment. Anthony was very interested in hearing more.
“There was a young man named Philip who was fresh out of basic training with us. I took him under my wing immediately. He was so eager to prove himself to me that he often acted without thinking. You remind me of him quite a bit. We were in a convoy traveling to Mosul when an I.E.D. went off on the roadside. He was sitting right next to me on the truck….” Kelly paused again only this time it was because he was getting worked up. Kelly fought back tears managing to keep his eyes from watering too much.
“Shrapnel tore through the side of the truck and nearly took his legs off. It was a huge mess of torn flesh, broken bone and blood. The blood was everywhere as we worked on keeping him alive. I held his femoral artery with these two fingers to keep him from bleeding out.” Kelly held up his left hand indicating his index finger and thumb. “We got him all the way back to base alive but the doctors couldn’t save him. I found out later they even amputated his legs in an attempt to save him.” He stopped speaking and closed his eyes.
Anthony was at the edge of the proverbial seat as he said, “Oh my. I am so sorry Kelly.”
“I am not finished. After that tour was up I opted out of the Army. I had originally planned to go career, get my twenty years in and retire with full benefits. After Philip died I didn’t have the heart for it anymore. When I got home I had trouble adjusting back to civilian life. I would have nightmares almost nightly after I got back. I was drinking pretty heavily on a daily basis and was almost to the point of killing myself. I then met Father Dunn who was a military Chaplain. I was at the Veterans Administration hospital in an alcoholic stupor when he approached me. He showed me a better way of dealing with my pain and eventually got me to go to church. After a few years of sobriety he invited me to join the Order then later asked me to be a member of the Council when Sir George Wilhelm decided to retire from the post.”
Anthony was dumbfounded. He always looked up to Kelly because he was his mentor, his trainer. He had a great deal of respect for this man and always admired his silent, friendly demeanor. Kelly was always fair and never rushed to judgment on anyone or anything. Kelly had the ability to see everyone’s strengths and weaknesses; which are what made him a really good teacher. Anthony’s fists unclenched for the first time since he was in the conference room and felt an odd trickling of warm liquid running down his fingers.
“Look at your hands man. It’s pretty obvious that you need help with this.” Kelly said as he grabbed Anthony’s hands to show him the damage done.
Gratitude showed in his voice as he said, “Amanda was right and so are you. I will do as the Council as recommended. I certainly don’t want to end up hurting myself or others. Thank you Kelly for sharing your story with me.”
“We need you more than you know. Which is why we need to make sure your head is in the right place before you come back to us again.”
Anthony stood up straight and saluted Kelly while saying, “Understood Master.”
“Training is over. I am not here as your Master. You are my friend and if you ever had a doubt about that it was a mistake.” Kelly said this then departed Anthony’s company.
Anthony stood there for a while processing everything that his friend has just told him and decided that the time was right to ask for help. He always tried to do things on his own and realized this was too big for him. He started walking towards Father Byrnes’s office with his head down. He felt so ashamed of himself for being in this position. He had no idea of what he was going to tell Amanda when he saw her later. He noticed he wasn’t bleeding anymore as he got to his destination. He knocked on the door. “Father Byrnes, it’s me Anthony.”
“One moment Anthony. I am just finishing up with someone else.” Father Byrnes replied.
A few moments later the door opened and Marcus was exiting. “Howdy dere hos. How ya doin?”
Anthony managed a genuine smile as she said, “Pretty good. How are you Marcus?”
Marcus looked towards Father Byrnes and said, “Betta now.”
Anthony afforded himself an understanding smile. “I understand completely.”
Marcus slapped Anthony on the shoulder as he walked away. Anthony knows Father Byrnes has the ability to say things like no one else. Anthony thought that if Father Byrnes was telling him he was about to do die he would do so in a way that would make him happy to hear it. He walked inside the office towards his usual spot where he sat down. He hasn’t been able to talk at length with Father Byrnes in a month which is definitely something he missed. Father Byrnes finished writing his notes on Marcus as Anthony waited patiently. “So how have you been Anthony?”
Anthony sighed then said, “Not so good Father.”
“This I know. I know what you went through while in captivity must have been difficult.” Father Byrnes said with the utmost compassion in his voice.
Anthony was unable to make eye contact as he said, “You have no idea Father. I knew this was war but I didn’t realize until now that I didn’t know what war was.”
Father Byrnes calmly replied, “War is the ugly side of human nature. Wars have been fought over many things in the sordid history of humanity and sadly not all of them were good things. So what happened to you?”
Anthony was unable to control the shudder that went through his body as he said, “I was drugged, branded and tortured.”
“Branded with what?”
Anthony opened up shirt and said, “The mark of Remus.”
Father Byrnes eyes went wide and for a moment lost his voice. He managed to find it again and what he said was not what Anthony expected to hear. “This is a most grievous sign. Do you know what that mark signifies?”
Anthony shrugged then said, “I think Remus has chosen me for something but not even Amanda knows what for sure.”
Father Byrnes stood up and walked over to his book case. Anthony noticed a glass box which he assumed contained the ancient scrolls Father Byrnes once mentioned to him. Father Byrnes opened the box and retrieved the scrolls. He unrolled the scrolls on his desk then started reading through them looking for something. Anthony felt incredibly nervous as he could do nothing but watch. Father Byrnes found the spot on the scroll that he was searching for and looked up to Anthony.
“I am very sorry young man. If I understand this correctly it has auspicious tidings for not just you but for all of us as well.” He showed Anthony the scroll which was written in Latin. “I am sure you remember some Latin from school, correct?”
“Yeah, some. It wasn’t my best subject though.”
With a serious tone in his voice Father Byrnes said, “Vir electus infamere et mors or ‘the man chosen to bring ill repute and death’. Look at the space just before that line.”
He scanned the page seeing the mark of Remus then reluctantly asked, “What are you saying father?”
“You are the great betrayer and you will bring death to us.” Father Byrnes said almost matter of fact like.
“I would never betray the Order. This can’t be right.” Anthony stared down wondering if it was even possible. His eyes started to dart side to side as he tried to process this shocking news.
“The scrolls have never been wrong before so there is no reason to think they would be now.” Father Byrnes sat down in his chair with his eyes fixated on Anthony.
“No. It’s wrong now. I dedicated myself to the Order and I don’t see any scenario where I would willingly betray it.” Anthony said focusing his eyes back to Father Byrnes.
Father Byrnes set the scrolls down and said, “It does not go into specificity about how you will betray us but you definitely will.”
“This certainly explains why Remus is so interested in me. He must think the same thing.” Anthony cleared his throat and pointed a finger at Father Byrnes. “You are both wrong. I would rather die myself than betray anyone.”
Father Byrnes returned Anthony's stare and said, “I believe you. So now you know why Remus has targeted you. All that he has done was meant to goad you into betraying us. Interesting approach when you think about it.”
Anthony scoffed and said, “I am glad you think my misery is interesting. Knowing what he wants me for doesn’t really help me. He has made my life hell for years, he even killed my father. He is evil. That’s all I need to know.”
“So you think you can change the future?” Father Byrnes inquired.
“I have before. I saw the Seminary burning at the hands of the Death Knights and I stopped that from happening.”
Father Byrnes narrowed his eyes and said, “Yes you stopped that and therefore we can assume that the future is not set. We are given possibilities of what could happen and we must make the right choices to either avoid it or make sure that it happens. However, everything that the scrolls have said would happen have happened.” Father Byrnes leaned back in his chair and sighed. “You are reckless and have always chosen danger over knowledge. This is a recipe for disaster.”
Anthony shook his head before saying, “That’s not true. I once chose to help Charles rather than defeat him in battle. I chose to let him beat on me until I realized conversion wasn’t an option anymore.”
Father Byrnes voice was stern as he said, “That is choosing danger. We could surmise if you defeated him that day that you may have gotten your point across. Choosing not to fight is not choosing to avoid danger. You allowed yourself to get hurt. How could that possible mean you chose knowledge over danger?”
Anthony sat there stunned at this revelation. He had always assumed the opposite and didn’t even question whether it was right or not. He decided he should reevaluate every choice he made over the last year to double check. Was he really bound by his first decision to seek out danger or knowledge? He felt like he had no choices anymore and he was just a pawn being moved about on a chessboard. He started to accept the possibility that he may end up betraying his brothers someday. “I guess it may be possible that I might betray everyone. You should notify the Council and have them remove me from the Order immediately.”
Father Byrnes waived his hand dismissively as he said, “That is not an option that anyone would consider. You are perhaps the strongest seer the Order has ever seen which is why we must keep you close. The other possibility in all of this is that you were given that mark to make us distrust you. Remus may know the writings on these scrolls very well and did this as a ploy. He definitely wants you that much has always been clear and his dark designs may go beyond simple betrayal. As always we need to pray and ask for guidance.”
“So there have been others before me and Jonathan huh? I guess I always figured there was considering Jonathan told me there were always two of us. I inferred from that there had to have been others at least in the past.” Anthony said as he sat back up straight.
“Yes. Who do think wrote these scrolls in the first place?”
Anthony nodded his understanding, “Another seer. I suddenly don’t feel as special anymore.”
Father Byrnes sounded annoyed as he said, “Your feelings are irrelevant; however, two are chosen every generation to take up the sacred role of seer. You and Jonathan are all we currently have for insight into the future but Jesus said no servant is greater than his master. Remember that when the time comes.”
“What time?” Anthony asked.
“You will know when. Trust me.”
“You know I am really starting to get annoyed with always being the last to know stuff. Especially when it applies to me.” Anthony said as he crossed his arms.
“I do apologize for that but there is a time and a place for everything. I never thought I would have to lecture you on Faith.” Father Byrnes cocked his head to the side in a way that suggested his annoyance.
Anthony was eager to change the subject as he said, “Well I think we got a little off topic here Father. I came here to talk about my PTSD and I think we just made it worse.”
“You need to offer up your sufferings to God. It is really as simple as that. You have had a really difficult life and you made it through your humble origins. Do you not see what you need to do?”
Anthony nodded his head as he said, “Yes I really do. So what do we tell the Council about the other thing?”
“The Truth because that is all that matters now. I believe you would never betray us knowingly. As a said this may just be a ruse set up by Remus.”
They ended the session there with Anthony coming away feeling a lot better. He made his way to the church where he sat in front of the Tabernacle. He sat there without a single thought in his head while he stared at the golden case in front of him. He contemplated for a long time asking God for something but never had the courage. He got down on his knees to pray and with folded hands said, “God if there is any way you can take this ability away from and give it to someone more worthy I would be very grateful. If I end up betraying You and my fellow Knights I pray now for forgiveness. I don’t know if it will happen or not so I can only ask for you to use me to do your will.”
He continued to pray for a long time before he finally made his way back up to his and Amanda’s room. She was already asleep so he just snuggled right up next to her. He gently rubbed her hand with his right hand. He felt truly grateful that God sent her to him. She was the rock that helped set his course straight again. He realized he had many rocks; Father Byrnes, Jonathan, Kelly and Amanda. Take any one of them out and he would meander aimlessly on the natural flow of this life. He drifted off to sleep as he watched her and a new terrifying dream would come to him with bad tidings for what was to come.