Betrothed, p.4
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       Betrothed, p.4

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice
 
CHAPTER FOUR

 

  "I see you two have found each other," came a voice.

  Caitlin and Caleb, in the midst of their embrace, both spun at the voice, startled. Caitlin was shocked that anyone could have snuck up on them so quickly, especially given their alert vampire senses.

  But as she stared back at the woman standing before them, she realized why: this woman too, was a vampire. Dressed in all white, wearing a hood, the woman lifted her chin and stared back with piercing blue eyes. Caitlin could detect a sense of peace and harmony coming off of her, and she let down her guard. She felt Caleb let down his guard, too.

  The woman broke into a wide smile.

  "We've been waiting for you for quite some time," she said, in a gentle voice.

  "Where are we?" Caitlin asked. "What year is it?"

  The woman only smiled back.

  "Come this way," she said, turning her back, and heading back out through the low, arched doorway.

  Caitlin and Caleb exchanged a look, then followed her out the doorway, Ruth at their side.

  They walked down a stone corridor, twisting and turning, and it led to a set of narrow stairs, lit only by a torch. They were close behind the woman, who simply kept walking, as if assuming they would follow.

  Caitlin felt a desire to ask more questions, to press her on where they were; but as they reached the top of the staircase, the room suddenly opened up into a magnificent sight, taking her breath away, and she realized they were inside an enormous church. At least that part of the question was answered.

  Caitlin once again regretted not having listened more carefully in her history and architecture classes, regretted not being able to tell at first sight exactly what church this was. She thought back to all the magnificent churches she'd visited - the Notre Dame in Paris, the Duomo in Florence - and couldn't help thinking that this reminded her somewhat of them.

  The nave of the church stretched for hundreds of feet, had a tiled, marble floor, and had walls adorned with dozens of carved, stone statues. It had soaring, vaulted ceilings, climbing hundreds of feet high. High up were rows and rows of arched stained-glass, flooding the church with a soft, multicolor light. At its far end was a huge, circular piece of stained glass, filtering light into an enormous, gilded altar. Spread out before that were hundreds of small, wooden chairs for worshipers.

  But now, the church was empty. It seemed as if they had the entire place to themselves.

  They walked across the room, following the vampire, and their footsteps echoed, reverberating in the huge, empty hall.

  "What church is this?" Caitlin finally asked.

  "Westminster Abbey," came the woman's voice, as she continued walking. "The coronation seat of Kings and Queens for thousands of years. "

  Westminster Abbey, Caitlin thought. She knew that was in England. London, in fact.

  London.

  The idea of being here hit her like a wave of bricks. It was overwhelming, awe-inspiring. She had never been here before, and had always wanted to go. She had had friends who had gone, and had seen pictures online. It made sense to her that they were here, given this city's long medieval history.

  This church alone was thousands of years old - and she knew that this city had a lot more like it. But she still didn't know the year.

  "And what year is it?" Caitlin asked, nervous.

  But their guide walked so quickly, she had already crossed the huge chapel and ducked through another arched door, forcing Caitlin and Caleb to hurry to keep up.

  As they entered, Caitlin was surprised to find herself in a cloister. There was a long, stone corridor, with stone walls and statues on one side and on the other, open arches. These arches were open to the elements, and through them, she could see a small, peaceful courtyard. It reminded her of so many other cloisters she had been to; she was starting to see the pattern of their simplicity, their emptiness, the arched walls, the columns, the well-cared for courtyards. They all felt like a shelter from the world, like a place for prayer and silent contemplation.

  The vampire finally stopped and faced them. She stared back at Caitlin with her large, compassionate eyes, and looked otherworldly.

  "We are at the turn-of-the-century," she said.

  Caitlin thought for a moment. "What century?" she asked.

  "The sixteenth, of course. It is 1599. "

  1599, Caitlin thought. The idea was overwhelming. Once again, she wished she'd read her history more closely. Previously, she had gone from 1791 to 1789. But now she was in 1599. Nearly a 200 year leap.

  She recalled how many things had seemed primitive even in 1789 - the lack of plumbing, the occasional dirt road, the people rarely bathing. She couldn't even comprehend how much more primitive things could be two hundred years further back. Surely, it would be far less recognizable than any other time. Even London would probably be barely recognizable. It made her feel isolated, alone, in a distant world and place. If it weren't for Caleb's being there, by her side, she would have felt completely alone.

  But at the same time, this architecture, this church, these cloisters - it all felt so recognizable, so familiar. After all, she was walking in the same exact Westminster Abbey that existed in the 21st century. Not only that, this building, even as it was now, was already ancient, had already been around for centuries. At least that gave her a touch of comfort.

  But why had she been sent back to this time? And this place? Clearly, it had some great significance for her mission.

  London. 1599.

  Was this the time that Shakespeare had lived? she wondered, her heart suddenly beating faster, as she imagined, just maybe, having the chance to actually get a glimpse of him, in the flesh.

  They walked silently down corridor after corridor.

  "London in 1599 is not as primitive as you think," their guide said, glancing at her with a smile.

  Caitlin felt embarrassed that her thoughts had been read. As always, she knew she should have been more vigilant in guarding them. She hoped that she had not offended this vampire.

  "No offense at all," she replied, reading her thoughts again. "Our time is primitive in many technological ways that you are accustomed to. But we are, in other ways, more sophisticated than even your modern time. We are extremely knowledgeable, and scholarly, and books rule the day. A people of primitive means, maybe, but with a very sharp intellect.

  "More importantly, this is a crucial time for the vampire race. We stand at a crossroads here.

  You have arrived at the turn of the century for a reason. "

  "Why?" Caleb asked.

  The woman smiled at them before entering yet another door.

  "The answer to that is one that you will have to find out for yourself. " They entered another magnificent room, with soaring ceilings, stained glass, marble floors, adorned with enormous candles, and carved statues of kings and saints. But this room was different than the others. It had sarcophagi and effigies placed carefully throughout, and at the center sat an enormous tomb, dozens of feet high, and covered in gold.

  Their guide walked right up to it, as they followed. She stopped before it, and turned to them.

  Caitlin looked up at the magnificent tomb: it was large, imposing. It was itself a magnificent work of art, plated in gold, adorned with intricate carvings. She also felt an energy coming off of it, as if it held some importance.

  "The tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor," the vampire said. "It is a holy place, a place of pilgrimage for our kind for hundreds of years. It is said that if one prays by its side, one will receive miraculous healings for those who are sick. See the stone, by your feet: it has been worn from all the people kneeling here over time. "

  Caitlin looked down, and saw that, indeed, the marble platform had slight impressions around its edges. She marveled at how many people must have knelt here throughout the centuries.

  "But in your case," she continued, "it holds eve
n more significance. " She turned and looked directly at Caitlin.

  "Your key," she said to Caitlin.

  Caitlin was baffled. Which key was she referring to? She reached into her pockets, and felt again the two keys that she had found thus far. She wasn't sure which one the woman wanted.

  She shook her head. "No. Your other key. "

  Caitlin thought, puzzled. Had she forgotten some other key?

  Then, as she glanced at the base of her throat, she realized. Her necklace.

  Caitlin reached down, and was amazed to realize it was still there. She gingerly removed it, and held the delicate, antique silver cross in her palm.

  The vampire shook her head.

  "Only you can use it. "

  She reached out and gently took Caitlin's wrist, and guided it towards the smallest of keyholes, at the base of the pedestal.

  Caitlin was amazed. She never would have even noticed that keyhole otherwise. She inserted the key, turned it, and there was a gentle click.

  She looked up, and saw that a tiny compartment had open in the side of the tomb. She looked at the vampire, and she nodded solemnly back.

  Caitlin reached up and slowly pulled out a long, narrow compartment. Inside, she was shocked to discover, was a long, golden scepter, its head adorned with rubies and emeralds.

  She reached in and extracted it, and was amazed at how heavy it felt, at how smooth the gold was in her hands. It must have been three feet long, and made of solid gold.

  "The holy scepter," the nun said. "It was your father's, once. " Caitlin looked at it with a new sense of awe and respect. She felt electrified holding it, and felt closer to her father than ever.

  "Will this lead me to my father?" she asked.

  Their guide simply turned and headed out the chamber. "This way," she said.

  Caitlin and Caleb followed her through another door, and down several more corridors, passing the medieval courtyard of another cloister. As they walked, Caitlin was surprised to see several other vampires, dressed in white robes and hoods, walking through the halls. Most looked down, as if lost in prayer. Some swung incense decanters. A few who passed nodded their way, and continued on in silence.

  Caitlin wondered how many vampires lived here, and if they belonged to her father's coven. She had never realized that Westminster Abbey was a cloister, in addition to a church. Or that it was a resting place for her kind.

  They finally entered another room, this one smaller than the others, but with high, vaulted ceilings, and natural light pouring in. This room had stark, stone floors, and in its center sat one remarkable piece of furniture: a throne. Mounted high up on a pedestal, at least fifteen feet high, sat the wooden throne, a chair which was extra wide, with arms that sloped upward, and a back that angled on a triangle, coming to a point in the middle. Beneath it, on its corners, sat two golden lions, designed to look as if they were holding up the chair.

  Caitlin examined it in awe.

  "King Edward's chair," said the vampire. "The coronation throne for kings and queens for thousands of years. A very special piece of furniture - not only for its place in history, but because it holds one of the keys for our kind. "

  She turned and looked at Caitlin. "We have been guarding this throne for thousands of years.

  Now that you are here, and now that you have unlocked the scepter, it is time for you to take your rightful place. "

  She gestured for Caitlin to ascend the throne.

  Caitlin looked back at her, shocked. What right did she, a simple girl, have to ascend such a regal throne - a throne that had been sat on by kings and queens for thousands of years? She didn't feel right going anywhere near it, much less ascending its huge pedestal and sitting on it.

  "Please," prodded the vampire. "You are entitled. You are The One. " Caleb nodded at her, and Caitlin slowly, reluctantly, climbed up on the huge pedestal, carrying the scepter. When she reached the top, she turned and delicately eased herself into the throne.

  It was made of hard wood, and didn't give. As she leaned back on it, she rested her hands on his arms, and could feel its power. She could feel the thousands of years of royalty, who had received their crowns in this very spot. It felt electrically charged.

  As she looked out the room, fifteen feet higher than everyone else, she felt as if she towered over it, over the world. It was an awe-inspiring feeling.

  "The scepter," said the vampire.

  Caitlin looked down at her, puzzled, unsure what she wanted her to do with it.

  "In the arm of the throne, you will find a small hole. It is meant to hold it. " Caitlin looked down, closely, and this time saw a small hole, just wide enough to fit its exact diameter. She reached up and slowly inserted the scepter into the hole.

  It sank all the way down until only its head sat above the arm.

  Suddenly, there was a soft click.

  Caitlin looked down and was amazed to see a tiny compartment open at the base of one of the lions' heads. Inside, sat a small, gold ring. She reached down and took it out.

  She held it up, staring.

  "The ring of destiny," said the vampire. "It is meant only for you. A gift from your father. " Caitlin stared in awe, holding it up to the light, watching the jewels sparkle as she moved it.

  "Place it on the ring finger of your right hand. "

  Caitlin slid it on, and as she felt the cool metal, a vibration went right through her. She could feel the power coming off of it.

  "It will lead the way. "

  Caitlin examined it. "But how?" she asked.

  "You need only inspect it," the vampire said.

  Caitlin was at first puzzled, but then examined the ring more closely. As she did, she noticed a fine, delicate engraving all around the band. Her heart beat faster as she began to read it. She felt immediately that it was a message from her father.

  Across the Bridge, Beyond the Bear,

  With the Winds or the sun, we bypass London.

  Caitlin read the riddle again, then read it aloud, so that Caleb could hear it.

  "What does it mean?" she asked.

  Their guide only smiled back.

  "This is as far as I'm allowed to take you. The rest of the journey is yours to discover. " Then she leaned in close. "We are counting on you. Whatever you do, don't let us down. "

 
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