Chapter Nine: Pomp and Circumstance.
The time for the ceremony came faster than Anthony would have liked. He wished he could spend just another hour or two cuddling with Amanda by the river. He found himself in the Sacristy getting ready for the ceremony thinking about all the times he was in here putting on the robes of an acolyte. Today, he was given special robes to wear for the ceremony that reminded him of something a monk would wear. It was plain with no markings, black in color and he was also given a necklace with only a wooden cross.
He was instructed to hand his sword over to Father Byrnes when he arrived at the Sacristy. He was pretty anxious to get this done as he wasn’t one who liked ceremony when he would be the center of attention. He stood in the doorway with Amanda right by his side as he watched Knights entering into the Church wearing full body armor that looked like the same armor he saw in his dreams. He would later find out there were thousands of Knights worldwide but only a few dozen could be found locally. Anthony was amazed with how awesome they looked but was shocked when he saw Bishop Samuels come through the front doors.
He nudged Amanda and nodded his head in the direct of the Bishop. “That’s Bishop Samuels. I had no idea he would be here for this.”
“I take it that he is a pretty important person, huh?” Amanda responded.
“You can say that, he’s a Bishop.” Anthony chuckled.
“I am not very familiar with anything religious, hun. Explain this to me.”
“The Church has a hierarchy, which is its organizational structure. The Pope is the leader and his place is in Rome. Under the Pope there are Cardinals who have such tasks as electing new Popes when a Pope dies. There are Archbishops who are in charge of a large area called an archdiocese. The Bishops are under them and they run a diocese. Priests and deacons are under the Bishops.”
“Seems so confusing, how do they keep them all straight?” Amanda asked.
Anthony smiled, “Practice. They have had 2000 years to get it all worked out.”
Father Byrnes entered the Sacristy and announced, “We are ready for you now. Wait. Where is Jonathan?” The words were barely out of his mouth when Jonathan came running down the hallway.
He was breathing heavy, “I am here. I just lost track of time.”
“Time is something you should never lose, Jonathan.” He then turned his attention to Amanda.
“Go ahead and go inside. You will need to sit on the left hand side behind the Knights.”
“Thank you, Father.” She said and departed Anthony’s side.
Redirecting his attention to Anthony and Jonathan Father Byrnes said, “You will need to remain silent until asked to answer when the Vows are taken. Bishop Samuels will be swearing you into the Order. When the Ceremony starts you will walk in slowly towards the Altar. You will stop at the steps leading up to the Altar and kneel on the first step. When the Vows are done you will stand up and face your brother Knights. That is all the instruction you will need for the ceremony but before we can begin I will need to hear your confessions. I will start with you Anthony.”
After they each confessed their sins and did their penance Father Byrnes positioned them just outside the door to the Church. He told them to wait for the music to start and then they may proceed inside. Anthony stood there rocking on his heels and noticed Jonathan was perfectly calm. Anthony chuckled then said, “This is just like when we used to serve mass together. I never knew how to keep still and you wouldn’t move a single muscle.” Jonathan smirked and nodded. The music began so they entered the Church doing as instructed, approached the Alter and kneeled on the first step.
Bishop Samuels came over to them and placed a hand on their heads. “These two brave men have been chosen to join us on our Holy Crusade against evil. They are the seers that will help the Order to defeat the enemy. They have been blessed by St. Raphael and been invited to join his Legion here on earth. If there is anyone here that would object to this speak now.” He gave them a moment of silence and when satisfied that no one will speak he continued, “The swords please.” Anthony was expecting to be dubbed right here but was surprised when the Bishop put the sword in their hands so they would hold them up. “They who would be squires in this Order, I now ask you to take your Vows before God and his Knights assembled here.”
“Do you reject Satan?”
They both replied, “I do.”
“Do you reject his evil works?”
Again, they replied, “I do”
“Do you swear to uphold the rules of the Order?”
Again, they replied, “I do.”
“Do you swear to obey the Knights above you and to listen to those beneath you?”
Again, they replied, “I do.”
“Do you pledge your actions, your lives and your Sacred Honor to your fellow Knights?”
Again, they replied, “I do.”
He then said a silent prayer over them. “Rise and be recognized, Squires of the Order.”
They both stood up and turned around. The Knights and Priests that were in attendance began to cheer and applaud them. They both felt a little embarrassed. They were then motioned by the Bishop to lead the recession out of the Church. They walked directly to the dining hall where they were told that a feast was prepared in their honor. They were instructed to hang their swords on the places on the wall behind their seats. Anthony would later find out this was one of their oldest traditions. They would keep their swords near them at all times, even during meals, in order to stay vigilant.
Amanda was provided a seat next to Anthony and she couldn’t get to his side fast enough. Bishop Samuels was at the head of the table and lead them all in prayer before they sat down to eat. They all ate hungrily as they were served roasted beef and chicken with all the trimmings they could ever want. As they ate one of the Knights made his way to the podium to speak on recent events. He spoke on how they lost several hundred Knights in the terrorist attacks and that humanitarian efforts have been organized to help any survivors. The weight of what happened has finally sunk into Anthony. He did his best not to think about it before but the thought of millions dead made him lose what was left of his appetite.
He turned to Father Byrnes and asked, “So now that we are Squires what do we do now?” He was obviously desperate to take his mind off of things.
“You will learn, my dear boy. There are three things you are required to do now. First, you will learn the history of the Order. Second, you will train in the ways of Knight in such things as swordplay and etiquette. Third, you will have to find a job in the community in which you will serve others. There are few you can choose from that are sufficient. You will do all of this on top of completing your high school education. You will remain here as a student but not as a Seminarian, obviously.”
Anthony nodded his understanding then said, “How is this going to work with Amanda here? The Seminarians are sure to notice her.”
“We have that all taken care of and we will speak on this later.” He then turned his attention to Amanda, “Rest assured young lady that we will take care of you. Anthony has personally vouched for you but while you are here you will be encouraged but not forced to develop a spiritual life. Is that ok with you?”
“Yes it is. I figured that would happen anyway because of what this place is. Thank you for letting me stay here. I really have nowhere else to go.” Amanda's word kind of fumbled out of her mouth to show how nervous she was addressing a priest much less her current benefactor.
Father Byrnes bowed his head to her and went back to eating. Anthony was satisfied for the moment but was worried he wouldn’t really have that much free time this school year. A job, extra classes here at the Seminary all add up to him not having a life. He hoped Amanda would have the patience to deal with all of this. The feast was concluded with another prayer from the Bishop and they were on their own time again. Anthony led Amanda back outside to his place by the river. They sat there holding each other close as the river went on its merry way.
“You heard what Father Byrnes said about all the extra stuff I will have to do this school year, right?”
Amanda nodded as she said, “Yes I did. What does that mean for us?”
Anthony took a deep breath before saying, “It means we will have less time together than usual. I hate that idea as much as you do but it’s necessary for me to complete my training. If you get the same job as me then we could work together. We should have time on weekends and at night to spend together but not a great deal of it.” He paused for a minute before asking, “Are you ok with this?”
“I have no choice but to be ok with it. I know what you’re doing and I now it’s important to you. I will support you even if you decided to dig ditches for a living.”
He couldn’t help but smile. “There is something you must know. This isn’t just important to me. This has to do with events bigger than both of us. The world is changing Amanda and soon it will be completely unrecognizable by anyone who lives here now. I don’t know if I am supposed to tell you anything about this or not but since I haven’t been told I can’t.”
He paused and she took the hint asking, “What’s really happening here, hun?”
“The end of the world. Literally these are the times of Tribulation spoken of in the Bible. Some would call it the Rapture but that isn’t the right way to look at it. The events that are coming are not singular events that have been transcribed in the good book. If I remember correctly it said there would be plagues, earthquakes, wars and death. These things have been happening throughout our history. There is one thing that has not happened yet and that is the Church reuniting. I imagine that it will happen soon enough though.”
“How do you know all of this?” She asked with childlike curiosity.
“I was a Seminarian for three years. We were taught many things. Well, that and I have been receiving visions the entire time I have been here.”
Her eyes went wide. He realized that he had not shared his secret with her yet. “Visions of what?”
“The future. I have received three different types of visions. There are those that see far into the future letting me see things that will happen. There are those that happen just before something really bad is about to happen that will allow me the chance to change things. The last kind is the only one I have when I am awake. They come when I am presented with a choice of whether to seek knowledge or danger. Those are the most unpleasant ones might I had.”
“Wow. You have been living with this secret all alone?”
Anthony nodded then continued speaking, “Jonathan knows but that’s only because he has them too. He and I are connected in this way. When one of use has the last kind of vision so does the other, but we don’t necessarily see the same thing. He described it as the difference between the light and the dark. The two possible ways something can happen.”
She held him closer as she said, “Wow. I bet you thought you were going crazy before he said anything huh?”
“Yes I did. He just told me about all this two days before my birthday. I am still adjusting to be honest with you.” He paused and took a deep breath. “You are the first person not involved that I have told and you may be the only one I ever tell.”
She couldn’t help but blush. “I feel special, but then again with you I always feel that way.”
He smiled at her. “Circumstances in my life aren’t going to be any easier than they have before but with you here, I feel like I can do anything. Climb any mountain, even cheat death. I love you with my whole heart and soul Amanda.”
She kissed him on the cheek and remained quiet for quite some time. They watched the sun fade away into the horizon together. She realized now more than ever that she was safe and for once in her life she could enjoy something. She had herself a good man and place to live free from worry. She decided it was time to tell Anthony everything about her story. The fact that she has family out there and where she grew up are the biggest things she wanted to share. She would wait until the morning to say anything, because right now they were blissfully content.
She decided to wake Anthony up early the next morning in the hopes they would be first ones up and out of bed. She packed her bags on the chance he might send her away once he knew everything. She walked slowly as she went around into his part of the dorm suite. She could see the light barely visible from around the curtains. She sat on the edge of his bed and watched him sleep. She couldn’t help but wonder if he was having a vision right now. She wondered if he was dreaming of her telling him her story. It was a scary thought so she took a deep breath. She decided that it was worth risk and nudged him with her elbow and said, “Wake up Anthony. We need to talk.” He slowly but surely opened his eyes.
“What’s going on Amanda?” He said groggily.
“I decided it was time to tell you all about myself. I want to tell you my story now.”
He couldn’t help but think this wasn’t the best time yet said nothing to her about that. “Alright. If you feel you are ready, go ahead. I am listening.”
“I was born in Jamestown as you know and I was actually raised there. I have an older brother named Scott and twin sister named Angela. We had a happy childhood for the most part until my father died. My mom found a new man rather quickly and he was something different. He didn’t have time for us kids and was only interested in what she could do for him. That man was Remus. He became my stepfather when they married which wasn’t even six months after my father’s death. That’s when things really got bad for us.” She stopped there as she started to twist her hands nervously.
He reached out placing a hand on hers saying, “It’s ok babe. I am here with you.”
She took a deep breath. “He changed our family dynamic so much. We weren’t allowed toys or even play time. He made us clean and clean and clean. If we ever complained he would torture us in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I grew up to be obedient at all times. He took us on what I thought was going to be a vacation but instead we went to somewhere in the Middle East. We stayed there until he decided it was time for us to go back to Jamestown which was about the time you left to come here. He told me that I was important to him and that I would help him bring about your ruin. He was obsessed with you because his father told him he had to get you. He once said that you were the weakest link in a chain and he was going to break you. And in doing so that would cause the rest of the chain to fall apart. I had no idea what he was talking about until now.”
Anthony’s mind slowly began to process this information. He was still waking up but understood everything she was telling him. He squeezed her hands gently letting her know he was ok with what she was telling him. Her eyes started to well up with tears as he pulled her in close. He held onto her for a long time. She pulled away and reached into her pocket. She pulled out an old worn photograph. She looked at it for a second then showed it to Anthony. She was maybe 4 or 5 in the picture but he recognized her flame red hair. He saw she was holding onto a man’s arm the same way she would hold onto his arm.
Anthony looked up at her saying, “Is this your dad?”
She kind of shrugged as she said, “Yeah. I don’t remember too much about him. He died shortly after this picture was taken.”
His eyes conveyed his concern as he said, “I am so sorry babe. I know how that feels. How did your father die?”
“A car accident.” She replied.
Anthony missed the obvious correlation to his own father’s death because a different thought popped into his head. “Remus married your mom? That would make him at least, what, 40 by now? He looked as young as me when I saw him.”
She shrugged again saying, “Yeah he never seemed to age.”
Anthony, while trying to process everything a bit more asked, “Where are your brother and sister?”
She thought for a second examining his face then said, “My brother never came back from the Middle East and my sister was sent to attend to business in Europe somewhere. Remus said I had the best chance of getting to you because he said my sister wasn’t as pretty as me. Although, I always thought she was prettier.”
Anthony’s mind raced with questions. One that stuck was, “How did you meet Charles, or should I say why did Remus choose Charles?”
She sort of flinched, as if she really didn’t’ want to answer that question but she replied saying, “He knew you were friends with Charles and decided to turn him against you. It didn’t take much convincing because Charles was already upset with you. He agreed to do it if Remus promised to give him me. Remus found it to be quite humorous that he turned him for such a low price.”
Anthony snorted, “He obviously didn’t know what you were really worth then huh.”
She laughed at herself. “Yeah sure, something like that.”
Pressing further, hoping to find out as much as he could, Anthony asked, “I remember the morning after the night I slept in your bed right after the 4th of July. I came back up to your room and could hear you talking to someone. I am guessing that it was Remus but I was wondering how you were talking to him. Did you have a radio or something?”
She shook her head saying, “No. Remus can talk to me in my head. What’s the word for that?”
“Telepathic?” he replied.
She replied quickly saying, “Yeah that’s it. I usually thought my responses to him but I chose to speak out loud that day because I wanted you to hear me. I guess I was hoping you would either figure it out and help me or think I was crazy so you would leave me.”
Anthony got up while she talking and was brushing his teeth at the sink. After he spit out the last of the tooth paste he said, “Lucky thing for you I was willing help. By the way, why were you naked?”
She lowered her head before saying, “Remus wanted me to seduce you but the way you closed the door really fast I figured that wasn’t going to happen.”
“Seduce me? His big plan was to help me get laid? Wow, whatta guy.” Anthony laughed.
“He wanted me to get you to fall into sin. Something about making it harder for you to be the link in the chain that you were meant to be.”
Anthony sat there and contemplated what that meant. He knew that the Order was a religious organization and Faith was important aspect of being in it. He knew that if he committed a sin that he could just go to Confession and be forgiven. Maybe what Remus wanted was deeper than just any one sin. Realization dawned on his face. The answer was obvious. Remus wanted Anthony to fall away from his Faith altogether. Sinning was the easiest way to do that. Anthony’s thoughts were racing so much that he didn’t realize he was speaking out loud when he said, “If I fell then what would become of me?” This question would buzz in head for a very long time.
She spoke at barely above a whisper saying, “I never found out what he wanted to do after he got you to fall, I’m sorry hun.”
Anthony walked over to her, placing a hand on her shoulder he said, “It’s alright but we have to tell Father Byrnes about this. He needs to know everything we know about Remus. We can edit out the really personal stuff if you want.”
Her voice was much louder when spoke again saying, “We can tell him everything. I don’t want to hold anything back from him because he was nice enough to let me stay here with you.”
Anthony excused himself from the room to go use the bathroom. Everything she told him kept running through his head. He tried to distract himself with his usual morning routine. It felt really odd to be back here at the Seminary when he had convinced himself not that long ago that he would never be back. He got back to his room to find Amanda waiting patiently for him, still sitting on his bed. They agreed to go talk to Father Byrnes about all they discussed that morning. He remembered as they walked towards Father Byrnes office that Jim was expecting him to call. He let Amanda go in without him as he used the phone at the front desk.
He chose to disclose as few details to Jim as possible. He wouldn’t lie to him but didn’t quite know how to explain everything without sounding completely insane. After he was done on the phone he joined Amanda in Father Byrnes office. He sat back and let her do most of the talking, adding little notes here and there. As they were talking there was a knock on the door. Father Byrnes got up from behind his desk, walked over to the door and opened it. Jonathan was standing there. He looked right at Anthony and said, “You ready to start training?” Anthony imagined the look on his face was like that of a deer facing down the headlights of an eighteen wheeler. He looked at Amanda and shrugged then turned back to Jonathan saying, “I guess, let’s go.”