Father Gary Ross entered the newly rebuilt Saint Mary’s Parish and strolled down the hall, almost floating on a cloud of assurance. He’d just been promoted as bishop of his brotherhood, the Sagittarius Archdiocese just two months ago after defeating Venom Darke—the reason for the building’s destruction, and something Gary had been praying for since being an initiate. Ross’s face gleamed as he passed by the sanctuary and shot a quick glimpse at another Priest walking toward the entrance.
The Sagittarius Archdiocese had been in existence for almost a thousand years. Its history dated back centuries to Father Silas—who had originally been a powerful practitioner of sympathetic magic before delving into the power of reason. He was also the first priest to discover the Horoscape dimensions, which was the home of the Great Architect—a Beyonder that had protected the Order ever since.
Ross’s accomplishment had been mounting despite his encounter with the dark sorcerer Venom Darke that almost cost him his life. He helped the immortal Bloodstone put an end to the New Age crisis and thwarting the Arachne’s plan of taking over the Archdiocese.
Yes. Ross’s faith was stronger than it had ever been.
The Archdiocese was his anchor—a prevalent fixture in his life without waver.
He stood in front of his office, stuffed his right hand in his pants, and yanked out a set of keys. The new bishop unlocked the door and pushed it open with a shoulder and flicked on the lights. He let out a deep breath, almost like air was being let out of a tire.
The Great Architect was also a primary fixture in Ross’s Order. He was a god that Ross and his brethren prayed to often and served. He even stepped in on their behalf to fight their battles. The Great Architect ruled the Horoscape dimensions…four realms of magic and mystery that Venom Darke wanted to take over and subjugate.
A small pile of paperwork sat on the edge of Ross’s desk. Books and several magical artifacts were stacked neatly on the shelf against the wall, on the left side of the room. The new bishop slipped out of his jacket and hung it on the coat rack behind him. It was a few inches taller than he was.
Ross stood behind his desk and cleared his throat. He’d been doing paperwork for almost a month, but it was a price he paid for his promotion. He let out a short breath.
A stiff knock at the door grabbed the new bishop’s attention. He looked up and furrowed his gaze, pulling his focus away from his work.
“Come in,” his voice shot across the office
The door opened and behind it, stood an older, bearded man, short in stature, with a slender frame. He was also clad in a clerical garb.
Ross stood while the visitor sauntered into his office.
“Dorian?” Ross removed himself from behind his desk and took a step toward his visitor.
“Father Ross.” He nodded with respect. “It is such a pleasure to see you again.”
Ross reached out and gave the older man a firm handshake.
“How have you been?” Dorian took a step back.
“Everything is back to normal at least.” Ross shrugged. “And, there is more good news—the Archdiocese decided to promote me to ‘bishop’.”
“Congratulations.” Dorian widened his face with a smile.
“Thank you,” Ross said. “What brings you by here?”
“I have need of your help.” Dorian lowered his tone.
Bishop Ross moved closer to Dorian. “What is it?”
Dorian placed his hands behind his back and paced the room. “It’s the Eye of Chorus. It’s missing.”
Ross straightened his posture and folded his arms. “The Archdiocese briefed me about it when I was in my first month as a Priest. It’s an ancient relic—a gem that once it is in the possession of the individual, it gives that person the ability to tap into his human spirit.”
Dorian nodded. “Then you of all people should understand that if it is in the wrong hands, it will prove deleterious to all involved.”
All Ross could do was nod. A flashback zipped through his memory—something that he desperately tried to forget. His parents were Presbyterian ministers and strongly believed in God. It wasn’t until Ross came along his mother fell into a Post-Partum depressive episode. It was something he prayed to the Great Architect—he even sought consultation about it.
Dorian forced out a breath. “It has been in existence for six thousand years.”
“Is the Eye the cause of the Age of Reason taking place?” Bishop Ross folded his arms.
“No. The Age of Reason was about banishing magic altogether,” Dorian answered. “Be that as it may, Bishop. The Eye is missing, and I come to you for your aid in getting it returned to us.”
Ross nodded. “I will do what I can.”
“The Eye of Chorus was once in the possession of a powerful mage known as Chorus. He was its sole protector before being killed in the Codex Vanicanis wars. His spirit remained a part of it somehow. Some of the mages believed he cast some type of spell over the relic itself, while others thought it had foreknowledge of Chorus’s death and gained possession of his spirit,” Dorian explained.
Ross stared at Dorian as if a luminescent furnace of light emanated from the heavens and surrounded him.
Dorian was a high-ranking initiate of an elite order known as the Seventh Star Lodge. It housed some of the most powerful hierophants in the world, and it was founded on Thaumaturgy precepts. Unlike the Archdiocese priesthood, Seventh Star Lodge inductees were powerful Omni-magic users, but kept it a secret from the general populace.
“We try not to involve ourselves in a war that may put our identities in jeopardy. That is why I came to you. I knew you were back in town and I had no other place to turn,” Dorian explained.
“Shall we?” Ross escorted the hierophant out of the office.
After Ross locked the door, he ushered Dorian down the corridor.
“I was told Simon Dresher used to be a part of your priesthood at one time,” Dorian blurted out with his voice echoing down the hall.
Ross nodded. “Yes.” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to admit that.
“Your Archdiocese did designate him as its Defender of Realms, am I correct?”
The Defender of Realms title was given to a Priest, designated by the Sagittarius Archdiocese Order, to defend not only the Earth realm, but the Horoscape realms against threats of a preternatural nature. The very first Defender of Realms was Father Augustus, who protected the Horoscape realms against the Meggoth…a wraith that escaped from the Paradox dimension.
“Yes.” Ross let out another sigh. “We did.”
“What happened with that?” Dorian inquired.
“Dresher wasn’t spiritually strong enough to handle the responsibility,” Ross told him.
Dorian’s eyes met Ross’s. “I am sorry.”
Ross almost shrugged. “It isn’t your fault, Dorian. Simon Dresher wasn’t called to hold the mantle, and it showed in his actions.”
The pair passed through the church’s vestibule and exited the building. They shuffled down Lake Street and ended up on the corner right underneath the Merchandise Mart train station platform. Other individuals were scampering up and down the station steps while a small crowd gathered on the station platform waiting for their train.
Bishop Ross shoved his hands in his pockets and braced himself for the stiff, northwest winds. They slammed against him without mercy, as traffic pushed through the neighborhood. A couple of motorists honked their horns with impatience, trying to make the changing traffic light.
Dorian examined the neighborhood. He wasn’t necessarily familiar with city life, for it was the first time he’d been exposed to it. The traffic light flashed green. The duo strode across the street and vanished into the morning crowd.
As they tromped along the street, pushing against the stiff breeze, Dorian apprised Father Ross of the situation. “Brahmin, and Adept of our order is missing. It is believed he had something to do with taking the Eye, but that would be nearly impossible without…a higher up helping him.”
Father Ross wanted to ask about Simon Dresher, but feared the answer. He needed to contemplate on that situation longer.
The Seventh Star Lodge stood in front of Bishop Ross and Dorian like a mountain on a great island. Ross’s face creased as he stared at the edifice planted before him and almost gleamed with awe. The sun’s rays shimmered off of the plate glass windows, which were marked with strange, hieroglyphic-like designs. Statues of the Order’s ancestry stood affixed on the roof of the temple, damn near making contact with the heavens above.
Ross turned to Dorian and came close to frowning. “Why are we here?”
“There are a few people I want you to meet.” Dorian shot a quick squint at Ross and then shuffled ahead of the new bishop. He pushed the seven-foot door open.
The Bishop followed the old man inside.
A low, heavy sound echoed through the foyer as Dorian closed the door behind him. Ross followed Dorian into the hallway.
Ross felt a bubble of spiritual power envelop him and close itself around him. Paintings of individuals clad with hooded cloaks positioned themselves in a circle were laid out on the wall across from the bishop.
Dorian and Bishop Ross entered the chamber. While Ross watched the old mage flick on the light, the young bishop grew silent, allowing his thoughts to do his talking for him. He’d grown accustomed to doing that. Ross’s heart rate relaxed as the spiritual presence comforted him.
The chamber had a few books on ancient, magical rites, incantations, and information on different realms, alternate universes and dimensions stacked on a shelf leaning against the wall on the room’s right side.
Bishop Ross stepped into the middle the room and dropped his gaze. A circle riddled with odd symbols formed on the floor. He knelt and examined it, as it stuck out to him like a third head on an alien life form.
The symbols were stained in a bluish tinge, carved in more hieroglyphic-style writing. Ross had never seen it before and it made him ponder. Did each member of Dorian’s brotherhood have to stand in the middle of it in order for the symbol to provide them with any type of mystical protection?
The chamber filled up with members of the Order. They gathered around Dorian, while keeping their attention on their visitor.
“Bishop Ross, I’d like you to meet my Seventh Star brethren,” Dorian lifted his voice. “Kheldan, Willow, Cephas, and Rhulan.”
“Nice meeting you all.” Ross extended his hand with a slight reservation in his heart.
Each of the initiates shook the bishop’s hand.
“This was where the Eye of Chorus was kept all of these years,” Dorian said. “The Sanhedrin commissioned us to guard it and keep it from getting anywhere beyond this lodge.”
Ross nodded and stepped out of the circle. He folded his arms and looked around the room once more as the hierophants gathered around Dorian, busily talking of the missing relic. Father Ross kept his silent vigil until he had heard enough.
“I will do what I can to find out what happened to the Eye.”
The bishop nodded to the group and then turned and made his way out of the chamber. As he passed through the hallway and entered the vestibule, he pondered the disturbing information given to him by the members of the Seventh Star Lodge. He stepped outside of the lodge and ambled to the next corner as the motorists honked their horns with the sound penetrating his ears. A cool breeze pushed against him, sweeping a few pieces of debris from the pavement, into the street.
He hadn’t seen Simon Dresher since his last encounter with the mage Venom Darke. Ross didn’t have a clue where Dresher could have been hiding and couldn’t care less, but the relic—the Eye of Chorus did give Ross some fascination the more he thought about it. Where would such a gem be? If Dorian or anyone from the Seventh Star Brotherhood had it in their custody, how could it have vanished seemingly without a trace? And what was Simon’s part in all of this? A feeling of trepidation flooded Ross’s soul as the traffic light turned green. Ross hurried across the street and continued onward.
Ross cast his gaze to the heavens. The clouds hovered over the entire Chicago skyline. A gray blanket of dimness blanketed the neighborhood while Ross withdrew his attention from the skies and focused it ahead of him again. He made it around the corner and cut through Chicago Avenue.
He cleared his throat again, bracing himself against the harsh winds from off the lake. The new bishop was used to it since he’d been living there for a total of five years. The Archdiocese decided to build a church in the city and never looked back, despite the bloodthirsty, ruthless gang known as the Skulls targeted them.
That didn’t bother Ross either.