Brother Alexander, 1869
Alexander Lyonhart’s sharp knife sliced through the middle of the thick salmon’s body, splitting it into two pieces. It was beautifully marbled with a good amount of glistening fat. His stomach grumbled as he continued to cut it into smaller pieces.
The tall brown-haired young man’s dark eyes gleamed with determination as he sped up his food preparation.
There were only a couple of hours of sunlight left. Alex wanted to prepare dinner before total darkness took over. He and his friends, apprentice mapmakers at Stone Academy, were tasked to survey the mountain area to find acacia trees. So far, they had no luck.
“Alex, hurry up with that thing, will you?” Connor Goldsmith growled. “I’m about to die of famine here!”
Connor closed his green eyes as he made noises with his spoon.
"Don't be such a drama queen." Alex shot a half-angry look at Connor. “This is art, my friend. You can’t make me rush.”
“I reckon that I can.”
“Really? Is that a challenge?”
Alex stuck his knife on his cutting board and grinned at Connor. “All right then. I want you to remove its guts. Clean it out for us, will you?”
The shorter man let out a nervous laugh. “Or, you could let me see how you do it so I can evaluate.”
“I thought so, wimp,” Alex chuckled. He knew that Connor wasn’t the kind of guy who could handle seeing blood. “You may be good with school work, but this is where you fail.”
The crisp mountain air felt good on Alex’s face as he tossed salmon pieces onto the makeshift grill. The sizzling sound was like a food choir singing their praises.
A firm hand gripped Alex’s shoulder. Turning around, Alex saw that it was Jonathon Enduren, one of his classmates. They just called him Jon for short.
The burly Asian man rubbed his hands together hungrily. “That looks good. I’m so hungry, guys.”
Alex heard a scoff from behind Jon. It came from Brian De Chronos, his fourth friend on their area scouting trip.
Brian had long red hair that went down to his shoulders. He wore a black cowboy hat and a black jacket.
“Fish again, Alex?” Brian sighed. “Three days straight. I’m getting sick of the taste.”
Alex smirked. “Wait a minute. You were the one who forgot to pack extra bullets for hunting. Luckily, I know to catch these things, even without a fishing rod.”
“Luckily, I brought some real food.” Opening his leather bag, Brian pulled out a jar of honey flavored beef jerky.
Jon grabbed the jar and gobbled up a piece of jerky. “Hold on. You had this the whole time and didn’t let us know? Jesus.”
Brian reached for the jar, but Jon was just too quick. Much to Brian’s annoyance, he ate another strip of jerky before giving the jar back.
Laughing, Alex went back to the grill and divided the salmon among the four friends.
“Listen, guys,” Alex said. “I know that we’ve been tracking down the acacia trees for almost a week now and that you’re all exhausted. But I think we’re close.”
Everyone else was quiet. Alex could only hear the chewing of fish in their mouths.
Brian sighed. “I doubt that there are any around here. Let’s just head back and tell Robert we couldn’t find any. It’s all just oak trees.”
Jon nodded in disapproval. “I don’t think the old man would appreciate hearing that.”
“I’ve gotten perfect grades so far,” Connor said. “It’s going to be his fault if we don’t find them.”
Brian snapped at Connor. “Well, whatever. If we don’t find those trees tomorrow, I’m heading back to town to see my wife. I’m sure that one of the other teams will find it.”
Alex got in between Brian and Connor and poured himself a glass of water. “Guys, calm down. I’m pretty sure that we’ll find those trees soon.” He climbed up on a rock and raised his glass. “You hear that, acacia trees! We will find you!”
Connor laughed. “Yeah, sure. There goes my grades.”
The four friends finished their dinner and cleaned up. As the sun disappeared from the horizon, they started to set up their tents. The full moon shone brightly in the sky, almost smiling at them.
As Alex unpacked his tent, he thought he heard a rustling sound in the forest. Almost like footsteps.
Connor, Jon, and Brian all stopped setting up. They must have heard it as well.
Alex reached into his pocket for his knife. The others did the same.
The rustling sound was heard again. Louder this time.
Then, to Alex’s surprise, a trail of light appeared in front of him. It led to the forest.
Not knowing why, Alex felt a warm magnetic pull toward the trail.
As Alex walked the trail, the other three followed him.
The trail’s light became brighter and brighter. It almost seemed like Alex was walking on a trail of gold.
The four friends stopped when they reached the end of the trail, which had a Boulder glowing with gold and silver light.
All around him, Alex saw that he was surrounded by acacia trees, blooming with glowing white roses.
Connor’s jaw dropped as he took in the sight. “My God. Am I dreaming?”
Alex thought the same question. He wondered if he was in a vivid dream. He heard a man’s voice coming from the Boulder. “I see that you’ve been led to the right place.”
Gold and silver dust collected into the shape of a person, an old silver-haired man who was wearing a white suit and a golden tie. He reached into his jacket for a golden pocket watch and smiled. “Ah, yes, I’m right on time. I’ve been looking forward to our meeting.”
Brian shielded his eyes from the light. Alex stepped forward and shook the man’s hand. “My name is Alex. These are my classmates Connor, Jon, and Brian.”
The old man smiled. “Yes, I am aware.” He placed a hand on the Boulder and closed his eyes. “You may call me the Architect. You four have been chosen.”
“Chosen for what?” Alex asked.
“To be the keepers of a wonderful gift.”
“What kind of gift?”
The Architect reached into his bag and pulled out an old leather book with the symbol of the sun and the Greek letter Alpha etched in gold. He handed the book to Alex. “This Ritual book belongs with you now. Take it.”
As soon as he touched the book, Alex felt a warm feeling spread throughout his body. His hands glowed with white light and his eyes soon followed.
“Alex!” Connor shouted. “Your eyes are lighting up!”
Alex turned to Connor. “Yours too!”
The four friends looked at each other. Their eyes all glowed with white light.
A few moments later, the lights faded. The Architect smiled at them. He handed Alex an almost dead, wilting white rose. “Focus on your intentions, Alex. Heal this flower.”
Alex nodded. He imagined the flower blooming again. Light escaped from his fingertips and engulfed the rose. In mere seconds, the flower bloomed again.
Connor, Jon, and Brian looked stunned. Alex was speechless.
“The Ritual cannot be destroyed.” The Architect smiled. “With the power, you can do many wondrous miracles. I trust that you four can handle it.”
Alex stepped forward. “Architect, I have so many questions. Please, teach us more.”
“I’m afraid that I must go now. Let the Ritual book strengthen your bonds.”
The Architect turned around, turning into gold and silver dust. His voice lingered as he disappeared. “Do not worry. I’ll see you again soon. I trust you all to keep this all a secret.”
Connor gulped and rubbed his eyes. “Uh, guys, did that just really happen?”
Jon and Brian nodded. “Yeah.”
Alex walked over to the glowing Boulder and placed the Ritual on it. He turned to the first page. It showed a moving image of a man lifting a rock by looking at it, something that astonished Alex. He’d never seen a picture in a book move on its own.
“What do you reckon it means?” Brian asked.
Alex turned around and looked upon a small rock. Focusing on the rock, Alex’s eyes flashed with white light. The rock levitated from the ground and floated midair, rotating ever so slowly. Alex broke his focus and the rock thumped on the ground.
Excited, Alex turned to the next page of the Ritual. On it, there was another moving picture. A man was appearing and reappearing on different areas of the page.
Alex was puzzled. What could it mean?
Alex showed the picture to Jon, who stared into the page. He seemed to understand what was going on.
Jon closed his eyes and he disappeared into light. He reappeared ten feet away from Alex.
“Woah,” Jon opened his eyes. “That was amazing!”
“That’s impossible,” Alex heard Connor’s voice in his head.
“What do you mean it’s impossible, Connor? You just saw it happen!” Alex told him.
Connor backed away from Alex. “Did you just read my mind?”
Alex imagined himself talking to Connor. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Unbelievable,” Connor’s mouth dropped. “You talked to me, but your mouth wasn’t moving.”
“It’s called telepathy, you guys.” Brian said. “I read about this at the library. I just didn’t think it was possibly real.”
Alex laughed and looked at Brian. “And yet, here I am, talking to you through your mind.”
Brian’s eyes narrowed as he chuckled. “This is beyond my wildest dreams.”
Alex turned to the Ritual. Without anyone touching it, the book turned itself to the next page. Sure enough, there was a moving picture of a man sending thoughts to other people.
“Hang on,” Connor scratched his chin. “If we have all those powers the book showed us, maybe we can go back to town by thinking about it.”
Alex laughed nervously. “That’s too far. I doubt it’ll work.”
“And I say that it will,” Brian said, putting his hands on his hips. “I’m not afraid like you.”
Without hesitation, Brian closed his eyes.
“Wait, Brian! Hold on!” Alex tried to grab Brian’s shoulder to stop him, but he disappeared into white light. He had no other choice but to follow him.