Chapter Fifteen: The Plan.
Ferdia was in his element. Behind him on the bedroom floor were stacks of books; poetry, encyclopedias, dictionaries. A large computer desk accommodated more books in perfect piles, and neatly arranged sheaves of written notes and color printouts. He was finishing the translation of the runes on his grandfather’s cube when the call came in. Skype appeared on the computer screen, with the message:
Ferdia put on his headset and answered. Mark’s face appeared on Ferdia’s monitor.
“Hey Ferd! You’re there.”
“Well, you did say you would call at exactly 10 am.”
“Yeah, I did – dunno why I’m surprised; you’re so OCD!”
“I’m not OCD! I hate it when people call me that.”
“Oh yeah,” Mark laughed, “what are you doing with that stack of paper then?”
Ferdia was unconsciously lining up a stack of paper with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. He snatched his hands away. Mark grinned at him.
“There’s nothing wrong with being neat. Anyway, is Niamh online?”
“Yeah, she is. Hang on, I’ll invite her in.”
Through the webcam, Ferdia could see Mark working away at his PC. After a moment, Niamh’s face appeared beside Mark’s on Ferdia’s screen. Her eyes looked puffy and red. Ferdia started to say, “OK, let’s get started …” but Mark interjected:
“Hey Niamh, are you OK? You look like you’ve been crying.”
“Oh, it’s Mira. I know she’s been gone over a week but I just can’t get used to it. I keep thinking I hear a cat’s meow and I run to the windows – or downstairs – but she’s not there. I can’t figure out how she kept getting out. My dad’s searched every ditch along the road but there’s no sign of … of her … body.”
Niamh burst into tears again. She buried her face in her hands and wept bitterly. All the boys could see was the top of her head as she sobbed. Her voice came through their headsets:
“Oh God, I miss her so much.”
Ferdia wasn’t a cat person but he could see how much Mira had meant to Niamh, and he felt for her. He supposed she might even miss Mira as much as Mark missed his dad. He shifted in his chair and cleared his throat. He didn’t know Niamh very well and crying made him uncomfortable. He cleared his throat again, and said:
“Look Niamh, err … maybe you want to do this later, or something.”
She grabbed a tissue and wiped her eyes, then blew her nose. Eventually, she looked up and said:
“No, no; let’s do this. I need something to take my mind off her.”
“Are you sure? We can do this any time.”
“No, I’m grand. Really. C'mon, let’s get on with it.”
“OK, well … yes, let’s do that. OK …”
He cleared his throat again.
“Right, well some strange stuff has been going on and it is time we pooled our information and got to the bottom of it. I’ve created a shared folder online on Google Drive to keep all our notes together. Just before you called I finished transliterating the runes on my grandfather’s cube and put the translation up. Here’s the link.”
As the link appeared on Skype, they clicked on it and the Google Drive folder opened in their respective browsers.
“Can you see the file? It’s called Cubes.”
Mark and Niamh both nodded.
“OK, go ahead and open it. We’ll read through and see if we can make sense of it. I’ve got some ideas but I want to see if you come to the same conclusions.”
Mark and Niamh opened the file.
Against the sable backdrop of the night,
The starry actors glide across the stage.
In jeweled costumes sewn with threads of light,
They read their parts, then turn tomorrow’s page.
The earthly audience watches from the dust,
As cosmic players tread Forever’s boards.
Our bearing on our travels we entrust,
To these bejeweled heroes of the Gods.
The Hunter leads the lambent stellar ranks;
His faithful Dogs attending his foray.
His hunting grounds are Danu’s fertile banks;
The Unicorn and Hare, his timeless prey.
The Hunter tempers Man’s conceited traits,
And teaches him the limit of his worth.
And Man in turn has sought to emulate,
The august Hunter’s works on austere Earth.
There were several minutes of silence as all three read the verses. Niamh’s brow was furrowed. Mark was shaking his head slightly and mouthing the words as he read them. Niamh took a breath and started to speak, then stopped. She looked at her screen again then said:
“Stars. It’s talking about the stars.”
Ferdia grinned and nodded his head.
“Yes, or more precisely constellations given that it talks about travelers getting their bearings from ‘bejeweled heroes of the Gods.’ I’m even more convinced now, having read the verses on Granddad’s cube.”
“But what’s ‘The Hunter?’”
Mark cleared his throat and said, “It’s the constellation Orion.”
Ferdia nodded again. He knew Mark would get this. Fintan had been teaching Mark about astronomy since he was old enough to look through the telescope.
“Why Orion?” asked Niamh.
“Well, Orion was known as The Hunter by the Greeks. The ‘faithful dogs’ must be the dog constellations Canis Major and Canis Minor, which are very close to Orion. The Unicorn and Hare are Monoceros and Lepus, which are right next to Orion. He’s often shown hunting them in old drawings. I’m not sure what ‘Danu’s fertile banks’ are, though.”
Ferdia’s grin widened.
“That’s the constellation Eridanus, the river,” he said. “It was identified with the Celtic goddess Danu.”
Mark slapped his forehead.
“Of course. How could I miss that? Eridanus ends right by Orion’s left foot at the star Rigel.”
Niamh was still looking puzzled.
“What does the last verse mean, then?”
Mark shrugged. “I haven’t a clue. Ferd?”
Ferdia wrinkled his nose.
“I’m not sure. It talks about mankind being humbled by Orion, for some reason, and trying to copy him or represent him on Earth in some way. I don’t know what it means, though. I think we’re going to need the rest of the cubes to get to the bottom of it.”
“So there’s not much more we can do with this for now?”
“I don’t think so. Let’s look at everything else that’s happened and see how it all links up. I’ll create a new document.”
Mark and Niamh saw the document appear on their screens and start to fill with text. Ferdia typed as he talked, documenting the events that wove their lives together in an uncanny web.
“OK, Fintan disappeared on Christmas Day. He had one of these mysterious cubes. Granddad Vincent also disappeared on Christmas Day. He also had a cube. Far too unlikely to be coincidence; agreed?”
“Agreed,” said Niamh and Mark in unison.
“OK, good. Now we come to the priest. Another connection. Niamh saw him die in the lighthouse cellar, and Mark has told us his father recognized him. Niamh, Mark also tells me you’ve remembered what the priest said to you before he died.”
Niamh moved closer to her camera.
“Yes, I’ve typed it up on my PC. I’ll paste it into the Google document now. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, though.”
The priest’s final words, as transcribed by Niamh, appeared on Ferdia’s screen. He read through it looking puzzled.
“Well, you weren’t exaggerating when you said it didn’t make sense. It rambles all over the place.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty weird. The priest said someone called Magus was trying to get free from somewhere. When I asked him who he meant, he recited that nursery rhyme to me. He told me they – whoever ‘they’ are – had banished Magus, and forbidden people to talk about him. Now he’s coming back, and no-one remembers the danger.
“He said the Sentinelium – whatever that is - had been infiltrated and destroyed, and that he was the last Proctor in this tír. Magus’s people killed everyone except The Mason. He got away through the Saiph – whatever THAT is - to join the Felkynd Allegiance.
“He then said I had to find The Mason’s Apprentice, someone called Oisin.”
At the mention of Oisin, a strange look came over Mark’s face. He went pale and moved back from his camera slightly. Neither Niamh nor Ferdia noticed. Niamh continued:
“This Oisin person has to follow The Mason – through the Saiph, I guess. He needs a thing called The Index to do that, and the Index is in four pieces, called Tetroi. I thought he meant people at first, but he said they’re not people; not anymore.”
She wrinkled her nose.
“None of this makes any sense. Anyway, the Tetroi are called The Mason, The Templar, The Nobleman and The Cleric. The priest said that last one belonged to him.
“He tried to tell me where his Tetros was, but he was …”
Here Niamh swallowed a few times, and made several attempts to continue. Eventually she found her voice:
”He was … dying; and it came out really garbled. He said if I was truly penitent it would be right under my nose, and that I’d need a key. He said the ‘the falls are the key. The falls along the way.’”
Ferdia knitted his brow and his eyes glazed over. Mark recognized the expression and knew what was happening: Disconnected scraps of information were spinning through Ferdia’s head and organizing themselves into a coherent whole. Mark could almost follow the process by the expression changes on Ferdia’s face, and he knew the exact moment it all crystallized. Ferdia’s face relaxed and his eyes regained their focus. He looked directly into his camera and said:
“I know where The Cleric Tetros is.”
“Really? Wow! How did you figure it out?”
“Well, if a priest is going on about someone being truly penitent, he’s talking about confession. I believe the Tetros is hidden in or around the confessional in his church.
“But what’s that bit about the key?” asked Niamh.
“Hmmm … I don’t know. I need more context. If we were there, it would probably be obvious. It’s also obvious that the Tetroi he’s talking about are the cubes Fintan and my granddad had.”
Mark still looked a bit green when he spoke:
“I think you’re right. And I think my dad is The Mason.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Niamh.
“Because I’m the Mason’s Apprentice. I’m Oisin.”
Niamh’s mouth fell open.
“But your name’s Mark.”
“Mark’s my middle name. My real name is Oisin. My mum wanted to call me Mark, but Dad put Oisin on my birth cert. Some family tradition, or something. My mum went mental. She hates the name, and she always called me Mark. It kind of stuck.”
“This makes perfect sense. My granddad Vincent is a member of a society called the Knights of Leinster. He must be The Templar. Which means… Oh God …”
Ferdia looked extremely upset.
“What is it?” asked Niamh.
“The priest said that Magus’s people had killed all the members of the society except The Mason. That means my granddad is dead.”
“Oh, Ferdia; you’re right. Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Ferdia turned away from the camera for a moment. The others could see him fighting tears. Mark felt worried. This was all becoming too real and immediate.
“According to the priest, I have to get the four Tetroi, put them together to make a device that will let me follow my dad through one of these portals. But why?”
Niamh looked sympathetic.
“We don’t know why, Mark. The priest didn’t say. But if this apprentice really is you, you won’t have to do this on your own. We’ll go with you, won’t we Ferdia?”
Ferdia found his voice.
“Y … yes. Of course, we shall. I have to find out what happened to my granddad too. In the meantime, as I see it, we have three things to focus on.”
Ferdia typed a bulleted list into Skype:
* Who is The Nobleman?
* Where is the priest’s church?
* What is the significance of the character Simon Magus?
“So, The Nobleman - who is he? We know who all the other Sentinels are - or were – but we have no clues to his identity; and no way of finding the fourth Tetros. So let’s leave that for now.
“Item two: Where is the priest’s church?”
“I have an idea about that,” said Mark. “When dad and I saw him, he was crossing the road towards the village church. It’s got to be the church he meant.”
“Yes, that would be most likely. What was the name of the village?”
“Oh, what was it? I remember it was near Tullow; umm… Ferrisfort, I think.”
“OK, one of us needs to get to Ferrisfort and get that Tetros. You could cycle down tomorrow, Mark.”
“What? No way; it’s miles! It took us hours to get there in the Porsche.”
“Well, maybe you could get Bree to drive you. Or maybe Niamh could go.”
“There’s no way Daddy or Martha will take me anywhere. I’m still in the doghouse.”
“Didn’t my mum tell them about the broken lighthouse key?”
“Yeah, but they still don’t believe me. I don’t think they want to believe it – it’s too weird for them. God, they’re so boring and ordinary.”
“Don’t you mind that they don’t believe you?”
“Meh, not really. I worried about it for days and argued with them, but I don’t care anymore. They’re stupid.”
Ferdia interrupted: “Mark, will you ask Bree to take you?”
“Yeah, she’s still beating herself up about not believing me. I reckon she’ll take me anywhere if I ask.”
“Good, so that just leaves this Simon Magus character. I know that name. It occurs in biblical writings and Celtic mythology.”
“How do you know all this stuff, Ferd?”
“I read a lot, Mark. I have a photographic memory. It comes from being neat and organized!” He looked pointedly down his webcam. Mark threw his eyes up to heaven.
“What I’m impressed with, is how well Niamh remembers what the priest said.”
Niamh looked pale.
“I … didn’t at first, but then I woke up from a dream and it was all there. I wrote it down.”
“What kind of dream was it?”
“Well … this is going to sound crazy, but I dreamed that me and Mira flew to the Old Lighthouse, straight through the walls, and back to the night the priest died.”
Ferdia looked pained. “’Mira and I’,” he muttered, “not ‘me and Mira.’”
Niamh ignored him. She looked thoughtful.
“You know what; that’s the same night she disappeared.”
Ferdia was reading the document again.
“This rhyme; is that all there was to it?”
Niamh nodded. “Yep, that’s it. It sounds like a nursery rhyme. It’s a bit dark for kids, though.”
“Well, nursery rhymes were used to pass fables and warnings to children. They were often quite gruesome and scary. From what the priest said, this one is about Simon Magus coming to take over Ireland. Most nursery rhymes are well known, but I’ve never heard this one before. I wonder if there’s anything about it on the Internet.”
Ferdia googled the first line of the rhyme.
“Hey, I got a hit. There’s only one match – www.themagusconspiracy.com”
He clicked on the link and the website appeared. The page title read:
THE MAGUS CONSPIRACY
How an ancient and powerful cabal rewrote history.
Further down the page was a link. It read:
’Spiteful, sinful Simon Magus.’
The role of Magus as the bogeyman
“Guys”, he said, “you’ve got to see this.”
He pasted the address into Skype and they clicked into it. As they explored the site for themselves, Ferdia clicked on the link containing the first line of the rhyme.
The page that appeared looked like an unrolled piece of old parchment with a rhyme inked on it in old lettering:
Spiteful, sinful Simon Magus
brought his armies to enslave us;
opened gates from tír to tír,
rent and robbed and razed for years.
Tír na nÓg and Tír faoi Thuinn
and Tír na mBan succumbed to him.
But when he came to take this Land
he met with more than he had planned.
For in those days our minds were schooled
by four cabals that vied to rule;
Clerics, Gentry, Templars, Masons
all with converse rhymes and reasons.
Simon thought we’d be divided;
sinful Simon was misguided.
Through common threat they found agreement;
Simon was detained, defeated.
Now exiled in an empty tír
Simon counts the endless years.
Held behind a sealed sidh,
the death of kings provides the key.
But we must ne’er e’er forget
this dread enchanter’s mortal threat.
For if the factions break their trust
the lock will crumble into dust
and Simon Magus, evil seer
will once again invade our tír.
Niamh’s voice came through Ferdia’s headset:
“Hey, have you seen that poem about Simon Magus?”
“Yes, I’m reading it now.”
“All that stuff about tírs and sidhs – that’s what the priest was talking about.”
Mark cut in. “My dad used to talk about ‘tírs’ too. He talked about things happening in this tír and not happening in other tírs – whatever that means. What’s a sidh, though?” He pronounced it ’sidge.’
“It’s pronounced ’she,’ Ferdia said. Niamh was nodding on the screen.
“Yeah, I read about them in children’s story books. They were mounds of grass, or sometimes circles of stones or mushrooms. The faerie folk used to use them to go between this world and places like Tír na nÓg.”
“Yes, the poem mentions that – and two other places; Tír faoi Thuinn and Tír na mBan – The Land under the Waves, and The Land of the Women. All those places are from Celtic mythology.”
“But if it’s all just fairy stories, why has my dad disappeared? And your granddad? And why did a priest have to die? And why the secret room; and all the secrecy about the Tetroi?”
“Maybe it’s not mythology, Mark. See what it says on the top of the page, ‘How an ancient and powerful cabal rewrote Irish history.’ Maybe all the old Irish stories about faeries and giants and monsters were true, and the cabal rewrote history to remove them. Maybe your dad and my granddad are mixed up in this cabal.”
“What’s a cabal?” asked Mark.
“It’s a group of people with a particular agenda or goal. Secret societies are often called cabals. Maybe my granddad and your dad were part of a secret society.”
“Or maybe the cabal is the men who locked me in the lighthouse,” said Niamh.
“Maybe they’re all part of the same cabal,” said Ferdia.
There were a few moments of silence as Niamh and Mark digested the implications of this. Eventually, Mark snorted. When he spoke his voice had taken on an hysterical edge:
“I don’t believe any of this. If some organization changed all the history books, which just sounds really stupid, where are all these faeries and giants now?”
“I don’t know, Mark. We’re just guessing. Whoever set this website up knows about it, though. I’m looking for contact details on here at the moment.”
Ferdia clicked through several pages on the site then gave a sharp intake of breath.
“Mark, Niamh. There is something else here you need to see.”
He pasted a link into Skype and they both clicked on it. They both gasped.
On their screens was a photograph of the website’s owner. He was middle-aged and somewhat unkempt. He held his right hand out, palm-up towards the camera.
Sitting on his hand was the fourth Tetros.
There were several moments of silence then Mark said:
“He must be The Nobleman.”
Ferdia shook his head.
“I don’t think so. This website is trying to expose the cover-up the society perpetrated when they changed history. I think The Nobleman is dead and the person in this photograph acquired the Tetros somehow.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I am going to contact him and arrange to meet him. We need to get our hands on that Tetros. You are going to go to Ferrisfort and get the other one.”
“Ferdia, don’t be crazy! This guy could be dangerous.”
“No. I don’t think he is. I’ve read the website. This man is a lone voice in the wilderness. He’s looking for allies.”
“You’ve read the whole website? When? We’ve only been looking at it for ten minutes.”
“I speed read. Look, we need that fourth piece. I’m going to contact this person and tell him a little of what we’ve learned; pique his interest. It looks like he lives in Dublin somewhere. I’ll arrange a meeting and get that Tetros from him.”
“I’ll figure that out when I meet him. There’s no need to discuss this any further. I’m going after this Tetros; you get the one in Ferrisfort. Contact me when you have it. Niamh, I hope your cat comes back.”
And with that, Ferdia disconnected.