When he arrived at the barracks area he found Hugh and Planche seated at a round table in the common area. Several other soldiers lounged in the area either playing cards or watching a movie on television. Hugh and Planche rose as Billy entered, and he made a beeline to them.
“You seem to have survived your encounter with the colonel as well,” Hugh said, pronouncing the rank in a distinctly foreign manner. He wondered if that pronunciation was because Hugh was French or because he just liked it sounding different. He decided it was probably how the French pronounced the word and let it go at that.
“Yeah, I’m in trouble right now, but I thought you guys were in jail or something?” Billy asked. Planche smiled and Hugh clapped him on the shoulder as they all returned to the table and sat down.
“We have earned our release mon ami. We are free men, once again,” he said. “So, tell us, how did you manage it so quickly?”
“Well I really didn’t do anything. The colonel just lectured me about obeying orders and all,” Billy started. Hugh began waving both hands to stop and Planche grimaced.
“No, no, no. How did you manage to get into the spiritual world, what you call the Ether I believe. How did you do it so quickly?” Hugh asked. Planche nodded his agreement with the question.
“Well, it didn’t happen so fast. I didn’t get it right away, and it took a while before the praying worked, but then I saw Theliel and there I was,” he said. At that moment, First Sergeant Wilcox entered the room, scanned the faces and instantly shifted course when he saw Billy sitting at the table. He came directly over and took the fourth seat without asking.
“Gents. Sorry to interrupt, but I need Billy here to tell me how he got into the Ether without using the gear,” First Sergeant Wilcox began explaining, then he looked directly at Billy and added, “Orders. You understand.”
“We too were interested in these things,” Planche said.
“Yes, young William was explaining exactement, exactly this to us,” Hugh added and then fell silent as they all waited for Billy to continue.
“Like I said, I just started praying the Lord’s Prayer over and over. It didn’t happen at first, but then I felt like someone was staring at me, and when I opened my eyes Theliel was there,” he said. “She vanished as soon as I stopped praying and I was reaching for her in the store room, so I tried again.
“It didn’t happen again at first but after a bit I was in again and this time I just kept praying,” he finished.
“So fast,” Planche whispered.
“Fast? What do you mean,” First Sergeant Wilcox asked.
“It typically takes a novice many years to make their first foray into le monde spirituel, the spirit world,” Planche said.
“And young William here has even manifested a shield of faith his first time out,” Hugh said, causing Planche to stare at Billy slack-jawed again.
“So? I don’t understand. Billy here was tested as maybe the strongest potential guardian ever seen. It’s why he’s in the program,” Wilcox said.
“You don’t understand, First Sergeant,” Hugh said, turning his focus away from Billy. “No Templar ever recorded has his level of abilities. He’s taken his first step only and already he’s technically ready to petition to join the companions.”
“What are the companions?” Billy asked. He wasn’t sure he wanted to join them just yet but Hugh and Planche had been so helpful to this point he should at least see what they were.
“The companions are a group of warriors studying the skills you and your friends are using via the technologie you use here,” Planche explained. “It is the main body of foot soldiers used to fight the Adversary and from whence all Knights Templar draw their squires. Any who wish to become a knight must first join the companions and be trained, but not all who join them become knights.”
“He’s being trained right here,” First Sergeant Wilcox said, bristling slightly at the insinuation. “He’s doing good right where he is.”
“Your training is worldly, secular in nature, mon ami. Do not take it to heart what Planche has said,” Hugh said, trying to disarm the situation. Billy wasn’t sure why the first sergeant was getting upset. Wasn’t learning new stuff a good thing?
“Isn’t learning new stuff a good thing?” Billy asked, giving form to his thoughts.
“Well yeah, but these guys ain’t even American,” Wilcox said to him.
“What is your point, First Sergeant?” Planche asked, now bristling himself.
“Oui, what is your point Sergeant?” Hugh repeated leaving off the honorific in the rank.
“My point is our priority is finding Robert Dante so he doesn’t kill more Americans. I don’t know what your priorities are. You aren’t one of us,” he stated flatly to the two men.
“You should broaden your world,” Planche said. “We wish to find Dante as well.”
“Yes,” Hugh added, sitting back and waving a dismissive hand at the implication the first sergeant had just made. “But we are more interested in the master and not the servant.”
“What? What do you mean?” Billy asked. He didn’t understand why everyone was getting so upset with each other, weren’t they on the same side, fighting the demons and Dante together?
“Dante is a symptom of the problem,” Planche said flatly. “He is a casualty, a wound to be treated. Nothing more.”
“Exactamente,” Hugh agreed.
“Huh?” It was the first sergeant’s turn to be confused, but Billy was right there with him.
“The demon who was revealed to us while inside Dante’s heart is the true problem. It is he we should be concerned with and not his human lackey,” Hugh said. “Defeat him and you defeat Dante.”
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.
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