Chapter Seven: The End Game

Little is written in Lucian’s journal over the proceeding four decades, other than he now resided in a care home in the UK, his waning health and advanced years having taken their toll on his frail body. Now in his nineties, he recalled vividly the far-flung and incredible exploits of his youth, and the friends he had known and lost. He had never married and, as I was to discover, lead a reclusive life on the border of a small village on the Cornish coastline.

Sadly, Lucian died the day before I arrived in the UK. What awaited me on reaching the care home, however, was a revealing letter he had written a week prior to his passing. This, he had entrusted to his primary care nurse with explicit instructions to hand it to me on my arrival. Here, in its entirety, is the letter he had written to me.

Dear Mr. Blattch,

It is with deep regret that I could not be here to greet you in person, as I have long been an admirer of your work. I know you to be a man of honor and courage and a seeker of truth and justice. It was because of these qualities that I sent you the package containing my journal.

You are probably wondering how I could possibly have known that our paths would not meet, and that I would die before your arrival. The simple answer is, I was told by someone. That ‘someone’ visited me recently, accompanied by a man who introduced himself as Matheus Pereira, a Brazilian brother of the Divine Blade. He went on to introduce his female companion as Aliz Elek, the child Francisc and I had rescued from the vampire, Caius.

To say I was taken aback would be an understatement; not least because the woman standing before me was no more than thirty-years-old. The Aliz we had rescued would now be in her mid-eighties. But greater revelations were yet to come during our reunion, in which I learnt of her involvement and, more crucially, her role within the Divine Blade. She is no ordinary sister, to the brotherhood, Mr. Blattch, as you are about to learn. She is an intelligent and psychically gifted individual; and it was through one of these gifts they had managed to locate me.

I believe that it is through her abilities, and others like her, that the Divine Blade will weather the tide of the Intunecatii’s latest onslaught against the brotherhood, whose numbers are decreasing alarmingly throughout the globe. Under Aliz’s aegis, and in response to this threat, the Divine Blade have created a sub-branch of the Fox division, which they call ‘the Numinous’. This sub-branch is made up of others like Aliz. Imagine it, Mr. Blattch; an entire unit of psychically gifted spies!

Aliz outlined her own particular gifts to me. The first was her ability to read auric fields. These invisible energy fields, she told me, surround all living things. They are structured and can be deciphered by a trained auric reader. From an examination of their color, density, and bio-plasmic composition they can deduce many things, including the true nature of an individual; be they good or evil.

It began to dawn on me how powerful an ability like this is. For centuries, the Divine Blade have feared the penetration of the brotherhood by agents of the Dark Ones. Having the ability to vet individuals in this manner would effectively subvert the danger of infiltration.

The second gift she possesses is her seemingly innate ability to project her spirit to anywhere she chooses. I believe the term for this is known as astral projection. This, she admitted, was how she had managed to locate me.

As you may recall from my journal, Mr. Blattch, on the night Francisc and I rescued Aliz from the vampire, Caius, she referred to him as ‘the black bubble man’ and of being ‘somewhere else’ when Caius was feeding from the other children. It would seem that what she was describing was the negative energy field surrounding Caius’ body. Her remark of being ‘somewhere else’ was undoubtedly her ingenuous way of telling us her spirit had vacated her body, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to escape the horrors of her confinement.

The question uppermost in my mind at the time was why they were telling me, a man not long for this world, of these things? That’s when she told me of an even greater power in their possession; an artefact so incredibly powerful it could bestow immortality on those who drank from it; a gift, she told me, she had accepted from a most unlikely source. I understood now the reason behind her youthful appearance. She offered this endowment of eternal life to me – a gift I refused. I have lived my life in the belief I would one day be reunited with my beloved Ileana, and no inducement could ever keep me from that goal.

You are no doubt wondering, as did I, what this incredible artefact is, and from where it came. It is the Holy Grail, Mr. Blattch, the vessel from which Christ’s disciples drank at the last supper and into which His blood flowed at His crucifixion. Moreover, it has been held in secret by a brother of the Divine Blade. That brother’s identity, and more besides, will be revealed to you on the day of my funeral.

May God go with you.

Lucian Dragomir.

In keeping with the funerary rites of the Divine Blade, Lucian’s body was cremated and his ashes were to be taken back to his homeland. I later learnt that this custom of immolation in the brotherhood was a preventative measure against being resurrected by the Dark Ones.

I had expected many to be in attendance at Lucian’s funeral, and wasn’t disappointed by the turn out. They were from all walks of life; many owing their continuing existence to Lucian’s bravery and fortitude in the fight against the Dark Ones. Their eulogies were, at times, heart-rending affairs. Now, more than ever, I knew his incredible story had to be told to a far wider audience, and to reveal to an unsuspecting world the threat posed by the Intunecatii.

I had almost given up hope of making contact with Aliz Elek and the mysterious brother Lucian had alluded to in his final letter, when I was approached by the soft-spoken Aliz. Then came the unexpected bombshell; the man accompanying her introduced himself as none other than Francisc Servruasa.

As a journalist, I had developed an instinct to read the subtle signs given off by people who were handing me a line. It wasn’t the case here. This man believed and meant every word he said. As further proof of his identity, he produced a worn photograph from his coat pocket and passed it to me. It showed what he professed to be himself and Lucian posing outside the training ground in Hungary on the day he received the gladius. Aliz assured me that these were indeed the heroes she remembered rescuing her from the vampire, Caius.

As our talk progressed into the afternoon I learnt of the secrets that Francisc had so assiduously hidden from Lucian and the brotherhood; they being that he was an immortal, and that Caius was his sibling brother. If Lucian had uncovered these truths, questions would have inevitably arisen as to how Francisc had become an immortal, and why he hadn’t shared this with the brotherhood. Sensing that I, too, was intrigued by his motives for remaining silent on these matters, he opened up.

His life as an eternal, he told me, was something of a curse. Due to his unchanging and ageless nature, he was forced to live a relatively solitary and nomadic life. Long-term relationships were out of the question for that very same reason. For nearly two-thousand years he had lived as a wanderer, rarely allowing himself the luxury of developing meaningful relationships with the people he had encountered on his journeys. The one constant which gave meaning to his life was the brotherhood and his unending conviction to bring about the downfall of the Dark Ones.

I asked him why he had kept his secret from the Divine Blade. In response, he paraphrased the words of John Emerich Acton, “Power corrupts”, Mr. Blattch, he said, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was right of course, and he feared the consequences of an immortalized brother being corrupted by their god-like status.

‘Then why did you chose to take on the mantle of an eternal, Francisc?’ I enquired. He responded by saying that it had been forced upon him by circumstance. This circumstance, he told me, began when he caught Caius in the act of stealing an artefact from the reliquary which he had been tasked to guard. During the confrontation, Francisc learnt that his younger sibling had been approached by a Dark One who had offered him immortality in exchange for one of the relics. In the ensuing argument, Caius stabbed him and fled, leaving him lying in a pool of blood. Near to the point of death, and wishing to avenge himself and restore his family honor, Francisc poured water from his waterskin pouch into the Grail and drank from it, thereby sealing his destiny.

I quizzed him about what he knew of the enigmatic ‘shadow man’. He smiled knowingly and looked me in the eyes. ‘Everything.’ he said, matter-of-factly, ‘You see, I’m the shadow man.’ Pre-empting my next question, he confessed a paternal feeling towards Lucian. He saw in him the kind of son he could never have. But, like any father, he wanted to see the kind of man he would become. On several occasions, he knew he had been spotted. Knowing that it was only a matter of time before he would be caught out, he stood beneath the Chestnut Oak in Maryland, and made the painful decision to walk away from Lucian for the very last time.

If my career has taught me anything, it’s always check your facts and never take anything for granted. With that in mind, I asked Aliz if she would give me an impromptu demonstration of her auric reading abilities. She happily obliged me. After staring at me for a moment, she held her hand close to my chest and told me, ‘There’s something lodged near your heart that shouldn’t be there.’ She was right; it was a Glock 9mm round from the drive-by shooting that almost cost me my life. The surgeon had thought it far too risky to try and remove it. There was no way she could have known this without access to my private medical records.

Inevitably, the matter of the physical evidence Lucian had promised came to the fore. To gain access to it, involved a twenty-minute journey up the coastline to Lucian’s home. On our arrival, I was shown a hermetically sealed container inside of which was a late 4th-century manuscript purportedly covering the history of the Divine Blade. These were eventually sent off to the University of Westminster’s Research Lab for multispectral analysis. They proved to be the genuine article.

Further disclosures came during my brief stay at Lucian’s home. During a conversation between myself and Aliz, Francisc slipped out of the room. Moments later, he returned. In his hand, he held a Roman shortsword; the very weapon Lucian had used to slay Caius. Inserted into its ivory pommel was a dowel of dark wood, a relic that Francisc assured me was taken from the cross of Christ and which gave the blade its power of indestructibility. To demonstrate its capabilities, he took me into the garden where lay a section of steel railway track that Francisc had procured for the demonstration. With a single blow, he cleaved it in two. Remarkably, the shortsword’s blade was completely unscathed by it.

By now I knew Francisc was the guardian of the Grail, but no amount of inducements could dissuade him from keeping its location a secret. I asked for photographic evidence of it. He turned down my request on the grounds that the no-one but himself knew what the Grail actually looked like, and it was this uncertainty that afforded it some protection against those who coveted it.

Despite all I had seen and read, doubts still lingered. Was I being drawn into an elaborate hoax? If so, to what purpose? I had tried to maintain an open-mindedness throughout, but now my sense of objectivity was being put to the test. The truths and principles I held regarding the nature of reality were being inexorably eroded. Like a drowning man, I clung to the straw I thought would keep me afloat in a sea of infinitely disturbing possibilities.

It is often said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Thus far, I had not been presented with any truly unequivocal evidence to quell the doubts in my mind. In a dramatic and spine-tingling act, however, Francisc ultimately provided that which I sought.

As he, Aliz and I walked along the lofty promontory on the morning of my departure, Francisc sensed my unease and asked what was troubling me. On telling him, he paused for a moment and walked to the edge of the cliff. Looking out to sea, he turned and smiled before leaping from the headland to the rocks seventy-feet below. My stomach churned as I peered over the edge and saw his shattered body lying at the foot of the cliff face. ‘Don’t worry’, Aliz said, ‘He’ll be back soon.’ With that, she took me by the arm and lead me back to the cottage in a state of shock. Ten minutes later, Francisc entered the cottage, his body completely unscathed. Apologizing for his dramatic display, he went to change out of his wet clothes.

To my readers, I submit this warning: There are things in this world beyond our limited comprehensions. They are the stuff of legend; the arcane personifications of our fears and the terrors that haunt our dreams. We disavow or ignore them at our own peril. I have committed myself to taking up the clarion call of the Divine Blade, who stand as a stronghold against the gathering storm that threatens to overwhelm us all. Who among you, I ask, will do the same?