Authors: Daniel Blackaby
Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Christian, #YA, #Fantasy, #Christian fiction
Cody strolled deeper into the chamber, examining the vast assortment of treasures. He paused before an elegant royal coat on a hanger. The purple tone gave the robe a kingly appearance. Cody pulled it over his shoulders. He couldn’t help but walk with an exaggerated strut—he needed to find a mirror.
“All, hail, Lord Cody Clemenson! Noble Book Keeper and powerful creator! All foes quake before him!” he exclaimed in a booming voice.
“Hail!” said a gentle voice in response. The unexpected sound sent Cody leaping into the air. Blushing beet red, he yanked off the coat. He lost his balance and stumbled into the coat hanger behind him, sending it clattering to the floor.
Standing before him, wearing her gentle smile, was Princess Eva.
“Eva! I didn’t see you…you scared me! What are you doing here?” Cody asked exasperated while using his foot to nonchalantly flick the purple robe out of sight.
“The same reason as you—to hide away,” Eva replied softly. “I come here often.”
“How do you know I’m hiding? I didn’t…never mind. What is this place anyways?” Cody questioned as his breath settled back into its regular rhythm.
Eva was an enigma. He had only shared an extended conversation with the modest Princess one other time—the night she had appeared unannounced at his chamber to warn him that her siblings were dangerous. The counsel she had offered had been wise. Cody felt surprisingly comfortable in her presence and the tension in his muscles ebbed away.
“What it once was is no longer,” Eva replied as she motioned to a stone structure in the room’s center. The rustic construction, surrounded by a mosaic platform, resembled the periscope of a submarine, with the shaft opening at face level—one of Atlantis’ famed tunnel-phones.
“In ancient days this was the royal communication chamber. But this channel has long since been decommissioned. Now it’s no more than a storage closet for things that belong nowhere else…like us,” she finished with a tender smile.
Cody stroked his fingers along the polished surface of the appliance. “Where did the channel lead?”
Eva hesitated before answering. “It’s the prototype; the first ever constructed. It leads, or rather, it
, directly…” she paused again as Cody leaned forward in anticipation, “to the throne room of El Dorado.”
Cody stumbled back a step, rubbing his dazed eyes. His surprise morphed into anger. “You mean…we have direct communication with El Dorado…and nobody informed me?! Don’t you understand what this means?” Cody didn’t wait for a reply; his face was already at the chute. “Whoever hears this, I demand to speak to your prisoner, Jade. Let me hear her voice! Answer me…ANSWER ME!” Cody bellowed.
Eva placed her hand upon Cody’s clamped fist. “I was trying to tell you; this channel hasn’t been used in a thousand years. It’s either caved in naturally or El Dorado filled it in centuries ago. I’m sorry.” Cody suddenly felt embarrassed by his impulsive theatrics.
“Don’t be ashamed. Jade would have done the same for you,” Eva comforted, as though reading his thoughts.
Jade would be stronger. She’s always been stronger
, Cody thought bitterly. He scanned the room, anxious to change the subject. “What’s this for?” he asked, grabbing the first object within his reach.
Eva smiled, offering no resistance to the shift. “One of my favorites; another of Lamgorious Stalkton’s long-forgotten experiments. It’s called
The Speaking Sands
Cody examined two pewter bowls and a small, transparent vial containing white sand. Eva chuckled. “I’ll show you.” She set the dishes on the floor. Removing the vial’s lid, she poured sand into each basin and began tracing her finger through the sand in one of them.
“I still don’t und…” Cody reeled in his tongue and rubbed his eyes to assure they hadn’t been deceived. Within the second bowl lines were carving through the sand on their own accord. Eva stood and joined Cody in looking at the two dishes that now perfectly mirrored each other in displaying a jagged mountain range sketch.
Cody glanced to Eva in surprise. “Excuse me?” The Princess stared back blankly. “I didn’t say anything.”
“You must have; I heard a…”
This time Eva’s eyebrows elevated as well. The voice was being projected from the tunnel-phone.
“I thought you said…” Cody began but Eva cut him off. “It’s not
Cody stepped to the chute and cleared his throat.
“It is I, Cody Clemenson, Book Keeper and protector of Atlantis. I demand to speak to Jade.” He grimaced, having sounded painfully more timid than intended.
A rumbling echo sounded in the distance. Then a puff of dust blasted from the shaft like a deep cough, as though foretelling the coming reply. “This is certainly an…
surprise. What an honor to meet the Book Keeper at last.” A chill ran down Cody’s spine. The voice was beautiful. It had the purity of a child and the melodic chime of a songbird. Cody felt drawn to the voice like the seducing call of a siren.
“Where’s Jade? Who are you?” Cody probed, fighting to break the spellbinding trance. Neither Cody nor Eva released a single breath as they awaited the reply. The distant rumbling came bouncing down the tunnel. Cody clenched his sticky fists. “One who has eagerly awaited meeting you,” replied the angelic voice. “It is I—the Golden King.”
THE MAN’S EYES FELL to the gleam of the smooth dagger. The cloaked figure reclined in the chair across from him and continued to pet the circular blade as though it were a lazy house cat. He gave no heed to his counterpart’s discomfort.
“Is that really necessary? I won’t conduct business with a weapon pointed in my face, Mr….” the agitated man questioned. His words dangled in the air like a fishing lure.
“Agent Two. That is my name,” the other responded flatly as he continued to stroke his blade.
, perhaps your master is accustomed to lording his power over the meek; but I trust he is prudent enough not to underestimate me. If I deem our arrangement has lost its luster, then I
walk, regardless of who or what your master presumes to be.”
The figure in the chair raised his head for the first time. “Indeed,” he replied, offering no further response. The indifference in the bladed man’s voice infuriated his listener, although he concealed his rage behind an equally stoic expression. He took a seat across from the agent.
“Our bargain stands? I have your master’s word that it shall be as promised?”
The hooded one nodded. When it became apparent that no further words would follow, the man leaned forward toward the agent and spoke in a whisper though they were alone in the dim room. “Levenworth has conceded Lilley. Our forces blockade themselves within the fortress at Flore Gub. As for the Book Keeper, he remains set on El Dorado to rescue his lady friend. His creation powers remain relatively unspectacular. Queen Cia remains in control; however, her grasp is weak and opposition from her twin brother awaits but a push. As they are equal heirs to the vacant throne, uprising is inevitable.”
Agent Two raised his blade to inspect the polished surface. As he did, light beams reflected off its surface. Extending his finger, he pressed it lightly against the dagger’s edge. Instantly a bead of blood bubbled out and rolled down the weapon.
“CROSS appreciates your cooperation. You say nothing that has not already been seen by our Master’s omnipotent web—but your loyalty has been noted, as has your willingness to sell out your own people. Be assured, when the time comes, you shall be rewarded handsomely: The Forbidden High Language words will be yours. As for the royal family, it is being…
handled. Agent One
is seeing to it personally.” The hooded agent raised his gaze from his blade. “Above all else, keep your eyes on the boy. He is the key to everything.”
The Point of No Return
FEAR GRIPPED CODY like a merciless leech, sucking every ounce of courage. The haunting words hung suspended in the musky air—the words of the Golden King. Cody’s tongue sagged under the weight of the sticky saliva foaming in his mouth.
“What have you done with Jade?” he murmured.
After a moment, the tunnel-phone rumbled to life. “Ah, yes. Jade…such a pretty girl. A shame I must torture her—keeps shrieking your name, day and night.”
“You’re lying!” Cody yelled without conviction. The image of Jade confined to a cramped, desolate prison cell filled him with wild rage.
“Am I?” the Golden King replied steadily, his voice trailing off. Cody tried to swallow, but could not.
“Cody?” came a weak voice. “Cody? Is that…really you?” Cody’s eyes welled. “Yes, Jade! It’s me! It’s me! Tell me you’re okay!”
“Cody?” replied Jade faintly. “Cody, please help me. Please…” her voice drifted away.
“That was…touching,” returned the calm voice of the Golden King.
“What have you done to her? If you touch
on her head I swear I’ll…” Cody stopped, his mind swirling too fast to pull his words together.
“If you want that question answered—you will have to come see for yourself. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to welcome you to my throne room. In fact, you have
to do so. If you are not standing in my court by dusk on the seventh day—your Jade will suffer a most agonizing death. You will come to El Dorado.” Cody clenched his hands into tight fists. He knew, as the King did, that it was true. There would be no more delays, no more excuses—Cody was going to El Dorado.
” Cia cried. Her perpetually calm face contorted into a fusion of anger and fear. “You
with the Golden King!?”
Cody stood defiantly before the Queen’s throne.
The shadow that drifted over him was accompanied by a familiar, exotic scent. “Indeed. Your actions were ludicrously foolish,” Prince Kantan uttered, circling into view. “You’ve done nothing but affirm his wishful suspicions. What was once his elated hope is now his assurance; he now knows without a doubt the extent of your affection for Jade; that you would do anything, or go anywhere, to rescue her.”
After the Golden King’s ultimatum, Cody had shouted into the tunnel-phone several more times to no avail. The Golden King did not respond, not that Cody expected he would; the terms had already been set—the next time they spoke would be face to face. It was a challenge Cody was ready to oblige.
“He’s right. I won’t stay here and let Jade die. Seven days—the clock is already ticking. You may be Queen of Atlantis, but I’m not your subject. I’m a Surface-Dweller—not an underling. There’s
you can do to stop me.”
Cia’s heavy glare remained solid; her pencil thin lips pressed firmly together and her jaw clamped. All the while, Prince Kantan remained motionless, eyeing Cody with raw contempt.
The Queen stood. She took a purposeful stride toward Cody. “My subjects trust me both for their safety and for the protection of our glorious city. Sending you to the Golden King as our only feeble hope for victory accomplishes neither.”
Cody readied his rehearsed protest, but Cia continued. “
…” her eyes shifted boldly to her brother before returning to Cody, “I suspect this mission will take place—commissioned or not. Therefore, I relent. But you will not be going alone.”
ATLANTIS. CODY FELT LIKE A CHILD after the Christmas fervor subsides and the excess of new toys no longer captivates. Weaving down the dusty alleyways of the Inner-City, he sensed a thousand scrutinizing glares directed toward him. The looks teemed with disappointment, despair, and blame. His inability to prevent the fatal ambush and preserve their fallen King’s honor had not gone unnoticed.
A droning gong propelled sound waves across the city. Like an obedient pet, Cody knelt and began chanting the Hymn of the Orb: “Hail the Orb of holy light, humbled we by its eternal might, hail the Orb, let it shine forever bright…”
As he mechanically uttered the refrain for the seventh time he looked around. Most people were kneeling as expected, although many mouths were unmoving. Several other citizens hadn’t even slowed their pace and ignored the gong’s call entirely. One woman passed with exaggerated strides and a brazen face. As Cody uttered the closing amen, two bodies pushed past. The scarlet sashes around the men’s torsos left no doubt to their identity—Enforcers: grunt men of the AREA.
In an instant they were on the insubordinate lady, tackling her to the ground. When the dirt settled, the woman’s head hung feebly on her shoulders and her hands were bound. As the Enforcers dragged her away her swollen eyes met Cody’s. Without strength to speak, she mouthed, “Is
worth fighting for?”
Cody broke the stare, resuming his path, anxious to leave the troubling scene—Atlantis was crumbling into chaos.