Jadde ndash; the fragile.., p.25
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       Jadde – The Fragile Sanctuary, p.25

           Clive Ousley
 
Nardin blinked in the glare of the unnatural light that filled the lower library. As his watering eyes adjusted he made out rows of benches built along two walls, on them sat strange glass infilled boxes. Small lettered slabs were connected to each by a white root. Padded seats were neatly tucked under the benches before each glass-eyed box.

  He stood routed to the spot, the light of Jadde beamed down and he hardly dared move. He allowed his eyes to stray to the centre of the huge room where great banks of books were located on metal racks. The racks were built above the ground and Nardin saw small wheels beneath them which locked into tracks. Immediately he surmised each rack could be moved against another to create the maximum storage space. All you had to do was pull a rack to create space to browse the book shelves within.

  Steth extinguished the oil lamp and strode into the room as if he owned it. Then he took a volume from the nearest shelf and smiled.

  ‘Any idea what Quantum Physics are?’ he laughed as Nardin shook his head vigorously. ‘Neither do I, nor any of the priesthood for that matter. The text this scripture contains is full of numbers in strange combinations. I came here when my master confided of this place. I examined this book for a day, and finally decided it was a code – a huge and clever one which refused to reveal anything of Jadde at all.’

  Nardin decided to go back to basic concerns before he dared move.

  ‘This light – someone is already here?’

  Steth chuckled, ‘No, it has always been as this. Jadde has hidden an enchantment here somewhere and her magic powers many things. Most of the strange devices she once used have been destroyed by age, but as you browse you may discover some that still contain enough of her spell to work.’

  ‘Jadde has decided it is safe for me to move.’

  ‘Of course. I believe this room is her work; just waiting for the right time for a chosen one to rediscover its secrets.’

  ‘Who will she approve of? She obviously favours you.’

  ‘And because I have let you into her secret, she now favours you. So relax and make yourself at home, as you have in the scriptorium above.’

  Nardin dared to take a step.

  Then another.

  Two more steps and he reached the book racks and Steth. He started to read faded writing on the spines of the scripts stored there. ‘Chaos Theory’ announced one. ‘Modern Engineering Mathematics’ said another. ‘The Science behind Splitting the Atom’ another mysteriously stated.

  Steth interrupted his examination. ‘Let me show you how this library is organised. Then I will show you how to leave and operate the wall mechanism in the top library.’

  The priest led the way through the glaringly bright but deathly silent room. Nardin was sure the unnerving silence parted with a whisper as they moved deeper into Jadde’s Repository – for that is what he had already christened it. The first rack he examined was labelled, ‘Advanced Mathematics’. The next was ‘Aeronautics’ and so it went on past ‘Biography’ to ‘Earth Sciences’ then ‘Ecology’ and ‘Reference’ and on to many, many others. At last they reached the far end where some recognisable subjects appeared. This last rack announced, ‘Poetry’ then ‘Fiction’. The bench opposite this rack had a selection of dusty volumes stacked untidily as if someone had been reading and left urgently, never to return.

  ‘Now before we leave, we must deal with some business.’ Steth looked deadly serious as he turned to face Nardin. His hands were now clasped loosely before him causing the cloth of his priest’s habit to hang in folds about his arms and shoulders. ‘You will need to spend more time down here than your outside life allows. So I have convinced the Abbot that I need an assistant to help research the origin of an ancient evil that may threaten us again. He has agreed, and because you have a wife and children relying on your hunting and growing skills, he has awarded you a bursary to provide for your family.’

  Steth stated an amount which amazed Nardin; it was almost as much as the award given to the recipient of highsense ability. Then Steth capped it all by saying. ‘This will mean you no longer hunt or involve yourself in menial tasks. You come here to study every day. I mean down here, not in the scriptorium. Then every evening you go home to your family.’

  Nardin was stunned, it was everything he had wished for, he almost felt guilty of his hidden objective to aid Malkrin and avenge Cabryce. But he would accept, for it was a giant step forward. He would also ensure he didn’t betray this kindly priest and his fellow conspirator Sire Josiath.

  ‘You are more than generous Sire, I will endeavour to find the information the priesthood requires.’

  ‘I know, Assistant Nardin. You are the most suited for the task, for I am too old and woolly headed to focus for the long periods needed.’

  Nardin knew the deal was sealed. Steth had promoted him from apprentice to assistant and he felt a warm glow spread through him at the welcome responsibility. He desperately needed to start proving his mentors trust.

  ‘Show me the exit and entrance spells then I will start immediately.’

  Steth chuckled and pottered back toward the entrance door, then glanced back over his shoulder. ‘It grows late Assistant Nardin and it is time for an old man to take his sleep and for you to return to your wife.’

  He turned then paused and pointed above the door, ‘You know of clocks Nardin; that one needs no winding and is always accurate. From it you can tell when to leave – otherwise night and day are meaningless down here.’

  Nardin nodded and reluctantly followed him through the door they had entered from. Steth closed the door.

  ‘You see there is a red and green button on the wall.’ He pointed to the left of the door in the corner at chest height. Nardin saw a small box glowing in the two colours. He looked closer; the two protrusions could be pushed.

  ‘The red should be pressed on exit. After thirty seconds it turns off Jadde’s light and activates a wheeled metal guardian that emits a bee-hive hum. It does nothing to threaten this place – and will not harm you. The ancients devised the guardian to maintain this library in some mysterious way.’

  ‘And the green one?’

  ‘Ahh – you did not see me press it when I opened the door?’

  Nardin shook his head in puzzlement.

  ‘When you enter, it activates Jadde’s light and silences the bee-hive hum.’

  Steth pressed the red button and used the oil lamp to guide their way back to the scriptorium, where he showed Nardin the secret of the pivoting wall.

  ‘I wish you a good night Assistant and I will see you first thing tomorrow.’

  Nardin hardly realised he had taken the winding track downhill to his home. He entered noisily in his excitement to tell his family of their elevation in status.

  The next day he was back in the scriptorium at the exact time he would have joined the hunters leaving town. Steth was already in the room sharpening a quill pen and preparing ink.

  ‘I have a small gift to aid you with the scripts in the lower library,’ Steth announced immediately. He produced a strange metal frame with a hand grip; the centre was filled with thick glass.

  ‘Some of the texts in the lower library, are faded badly, this will aid you.’

  He demonstrated on a parchment containing his spidery scrawl. The words leapt in size in front of Nardin’s eyes.

  Nardin smiled, by now used to unexpected revelations.

  ‘Thank you Sire, I can see this will be of great use.’

  ‘It has been handed down from generation to generation of librarians, and is greatly treasured as the insignia of our position. It’s a glass magnifier, look after it Assistant.’

  Nardin nodded his thanks and Steth gestured him to his task. Nardin hurried to the rear wall, keen to start his ‘research’ – another ancient word he had picked up from Steth.

  He pressed the green button and entered the room below, and heard the guardian retreat into its cavity to sleep. Then the deathly silence worried him and the absence of windows made it fe
el like a tomb. But the realisation that it was a repository of living knowledge not a place of dead irrelevance comforted him.

  He had already decided to examine a book from each rack to familiarise himself with an overview of the rooms contents. He ignored the first section called ‘Mathematics’. He had no interest in numbers and certainly not complex codes needing a lifetime to unravel. So he started on the next section down entitled ‘History’ and pulled out a volume called ‘A Brief History of the World’. It was thick and heavy and not at all brief. The pages were yellowed and brittle, the text was grey but contained some very intriguing pictures and he read the volume all day, marvelling at the diversity of humanity that had lived before Edentown even existed. He wondered where in the world Cyprusnia was actually situated. When he had browsed to the end of the book he wondered whether any of the great cities and lands mentioned still existed outside Cyprusnia’s boundaries. He surmised they could only be ruins.

  And then he wondered whether Malkrin had already come across the remnants of twenty-first century man and his civilisation. His head felt full of new terminology and concepts. The following day he moved to the next rack entitled ‘Technology’ and began to learn of the evolution of labour saving inventions from the wheel to steam engines and beyond to the digital age. But the digital age was confusing . . .

  Steth shook his shoulder and he nearly dropped the glass magnifier. He had not heard him enter.

  ‘Come on Assistant it is time for you to return to your family. Give me a progress report tomorrow.’

  They went upstairs and as he reached the scriptorium Nardin felt bleary-eyed but expanded in a way that he would never have thought possible.

  The next day he finished a book on the history of modern inventions and took down a volume called Digital Technology, and by the end of the day realised the glass fronted boxes were computers and worked out how to switch them on. But each one he tried was lifeless, and he did not have the knowledge to bring them to life. An element of frustration confounded him for the first time.

  Days flowed into one another, he abandoned ‘Technology’ for ‘Spiritual’ and realised there had been an awful diversity of competing religions. There was no mention of Jadde descending to alleviate mankind’s pain. He assumed the books were written before her coming. He found the Holy Bible and then the Koran but neither contained even an acknowledgement of the Goddess Jadde. He hoped to find an account by someone that served Jadde in the same way that Jesus Christ’s disciples had once worshipped him or the followers of Mohammed had served the great messenger of Allah. He filed for later contemplation a sudden conviction that Muslims and Christians had served the only true God.

  He moved to the ‘Politics’ section and within a day moved on.

  At home his wife confessed to being bored of his attempts to expand her awareness. But his children were enthralled – before Rose insisted he concentrated on teaching his sons to hunt whilst she taught home skills to their daughter.

  He spent the next day in Jadde’s repository a little depressed at his failure to be a good father, but the gathering of new knowledge soon extinguished that. Nardin skipped the final rack, the Poetry and Fiction sections, after ascertaining their content. His search could not be distracted by anything unreal. Maybe in years to come, he thought hopefully. Then he swung a previous rack over its roller track and realised he had skipped an important category. It was entitled ‘Biography’ and it appeared to have the most probability of finding personal accounts of mankind’s demise and even possibly details of how the great Goddess had redeemed humanity. Biography spoke of the lives of real people, and he was sidetracked by some of the incredible personalities that had once served the ancient civilizations in a multitude of ways.

  He adopted a mantra, apparently part of a speech by a great ancient called Winston Churchill. ‘Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.’ He found himself muttering it every time he failed to find any reference to the great Goddess.

  The following weeks saw him return to all the racks and re-browse each section. Steth compressed his search into reports for the Abbott.

  Late one day he gave up with the reference section and was about to move back to the history shelves when he had a sudden intuitive thought and looked up to the highest shelf in the rack. Although appearing as empty as all the other rack tops, he thought he ought to check along all the tops from above, just to be sure. The ancient librarians must have been as lazy as other ordinary folk, and disinclined to pull over steps to climb, store and bring down volumes. That was why the top shelves were all empty – he was certain. But what about on top . . . Nardin pulled over a pair of light metal steps he had previously spotted in a corner and erected them in the centre of the Biography rack.

  After four upward steps he peered along the rack tops.

  All were indeed empty and covered with countless years of dust. It was worth a look, he thought in disappointment, and was about to step down when at eye level the dust appeared raised at the far corner of the Geography rack top.

  He moved the ladder and reached over. Then disbelievingly held a dust coated volume, very small, it fitted snugly into his hand. Obviously the library’s metal guardian was unable to clean up here. Knowing this, someone generations ago had hidden the volume where only deliberate searching would spot it. He rubbed the dust off the book cover; it had a plain dark grey cover unlike any other book. The page binding was glued into the cover itself in a method he had already learnt was called ‘perfect binding’. The cover was embossed in gold with the words.

  Air Force Memo

  He recognised the symbol for The United States Air Force which was embossed below the three words. He had no idea what the symbol meant, he had come across it in an encyclopaedia, he resolved to research the Air Force’s purpose later.

  He thumbed the faded pages. It was a handwritten personal account, a well used notebook called a ‘Diary’. And within was a firsthand account in a fine spidery hand. Nardin confronted many unknown words, then he realised they were slang which he had not previously encountered in the official books.

  Then toward the end of the notebook the Goddess Jadde started appearing in the scrawl. She was mentioned in capitals as correctly the author had given her special significance.

  He slipped the book into his pocket. He couldn’t leave it behind, it was too important to risk leaving near the guardian, and too late to get engrossed now.

  He closed the hidden door above and woke Steth up and wished him a good night. The old man put his hand fondly on his shoulder and asked how the day’s research had gone.

  ‘Still no sign of anything useful,’ Nardin said, the lie covered his excitement completely.

  Nardin strolled back to his comfy home as if it had just been another day’s hunt. Rose welcomed him and he relaxed with his family before ordering his children to bed. Then he dare not examine the book in candlelight, fearing an accident and imagining an awful bonfire of pages. Also poor light made his eyes ache recently and he realised the reading was beginning to affect him.

  The next morning he woke with a start, sunrise was just breaking and had woken the birds. Bright light spilt across his bed where he lay entwined with Rose.

  The book.

  It stabbed his mind, that’s what his subconscious had woken him for so early. He gently removed Rose’s arm, dressed and quickly washed. He guessed he had an hour before his family woke. So he pulled up a chair next to the window, opened the book and began to read the first page.

  The Mission Diary of Lieutenant Edward Morris-Tailt.

  And on the line below.

  Third strike Eagle Squadron Fifth Air-force

  And then a third line

  July 2044 - Aug 2046

  Nardin turned over each page of neat lettering, noticing that a new set of numbers had been entered after most paragraphs. He started reading ten pages before Jadde entered the account – to try to understand the strange t
erminology before relating it to her glorious deeds.

  Flight mission 104 –- Bomb run.

  Central Command has received reports of another new nest of quarter-men. They’ve tunnelled in deep but hopefully the new AS-486 bomb will destroy the bastards.

  Post-mission reconnaissance shows we disturbed them like ants from a nest. Took extra fly past for HD video and observed them milling around in demented frustration. AS-486 failed to destroy enough mutants.

  Mission 105 – Repeat bombing.

  Dawn raid when the mutants are most active above ground, a second attempt for AS-486 to destroy them. Looks like a failure, no complete kill.

  Mission 106 recce. We failed. X-ray and infra-red photos show they’ve just dug deeper – the fiends. They’re remorseless and never tire. If only the politicians had decided to destroy them earlier, our country could have been saved. But political correctness and over-sensitivity have destroyed us instead.

  August 28 – 30th

  My F26 bird now down for maintenance, parts hard to come by.

  It meant nothing to Nardin, the use of unrelated letters and numbers were meaningless. He guessed they represented the type of flying machine and possibly weapons.

  He skipped two pages and tried another entry. Then paused, of course, they were in chronological order; someone was detailing battles and summarising the results as they happened. Was Morris-Tailt a victorious warrior – it didn’t appear so. He read the next entry, dated a short time later.

  Sept. 15 – 17th

  Mission 231. Delivered Bunker-Buster with new acid-spreader added to munitions.

  Sure, we got some, rest milling around in distress. They’ve found some SD40’s and are firing back. Luckily none locked on.

  Mission 232 recce for last mission.

  Limited success shown in digital vid, some bodies, macro pics shows their outer shells melted. Good result; we’re all buoyed up.

  Nardin skipped a couple more pages.

  Mission 378 Acid-destroyer- plus.

  Could this be our last chance, they’re all around the base, only the auto artillery keeping them at bay. Fuel for only one more mission, if we find the head bastard perhaps they’ll lose co-ordination.

  SD40 hit Smithson. Good man, evil luck. Mission result inconclusive.

  Nardin skipped a page of the same style of entries and came to a long passage in the same hand, but hesitant and shaky. He blinked, his eyes were hurting already.

  June 30th 2046

  Lost comms with central command: must have been overrun. We’re going to break out tonight. Destroyed the last of the F26’s – No munitions, no fuel, no mission info.

  Just heard Washington is swamped by quarter-men and no transmissions coming from Los Angeles, or Frisco.

  God help America.

  July 6th 2046

  We’re told nukes only partially work; apparently they tried them on the Big Apple. The kill zone gets them; but further out the radiation just seems to breed more and they pour invigorated from deep rents in the ground.

  July 11th

  We had a locator transmitter with us and an AH64 Apache picked us up. Never been so pleased to see a chopper in my life! Apparently we’re having success with a new acid projectile. Someone’s distilled a super concentrated corrosive acid and contained it in new hardened plastic cases ideal for handheld auto weapons. Rumours say there is a new genetic pathogen bomb being tested. They say it locks onto their DNA and they die quickly.

  General-commander Jadde is fighting back. She’s flying the last F26 all the time and appearing everywhere, spurring on the troops.

  I’m to be her escort in our only modified F28. It’s time for payback.

  Passionately Nardin read all the entries that included General-commander Jadde in the wording.

  July 30th 2046

  The Tn24DNA pathogen bombs and artillery shells are working. Jadde is our country’s savour, she personally flew the last remaining cargo bird to pick up the first consignment from the boffins at Second-chance Experimental Station.

  August 10th 2046

  Searching out and targeted more nests. Dropped all Tn24DNA. Complete quarter-men kill – for sure. General-commander Jadde has personally ensured the research results were broadcast world-wide. No response from Europe, China, Brazil and India but initial results from Australia are hopeful.

  God bless America.

  The Goddess’s title lodged in Nardin’s mind; was it another ancient person taking her name and adding a strange title? ‘General-commander Jadde was victorious, the quarter-men defeated . . .’ He leafed through the pages again, there was a lot more but it was an account of survival after the victory, and dealt in detail about how the survivors gathered and formed a community in two mountain resorts.

  Could one have been Cyprusnia, but where was the second?

  His eyes blurred and he looked away as Rose appeared.

  He would have to read more back in the library.

  ‘Nardin, you’re up early.’ Rose floated over, sleepy eyed and curious. ‘What have you there?’ she inquired.

  ‘Just a book. A very strange one.’

  He slipped it into his habit pocket. It was time for something to eat and then to continue in the priest’s library. His familiar surroundings blurred, he had to rest his eyes.

  Later that morning he had the diary open as he sat in one of the hard plastic chairs in the library. He had the strange passage open in the account, and squinted, willing his eyes to focus as he reread unbelievable words. It involved the death of General-commander Jadde thirty one years after the war account.

  It was the end of his belief in Jadde as a Goddess.

  Jadde was only human. Although possibly the greatest person who had ever lived. Despite his sudden atheistic transition he read on, fascinated by the power of her will.

  General-commander Jadde’s organisational powers and sheer dominating authority have pulled the survivors together, and they have at last prospered. She has saved a war-bird, useless without parts and fuel (how I wish I could again fly it). I have noticed how the younger people with no living memory of the struggle look at the dead bird in awe.

  Nardin flicked through more praise.

  It is the tenth anniversary of her death. My friends and followers decided to haul the war-bird up the mountain slopes. We stood it near a mountain tarn as a memorial to our saviour.

  He read on, summarising to himself. Morris-Tailt stated the defunct war-bird was also placed as a warning designed to remind people of what happened when foolhardy arrogance created the quarter-men. What a Tarn was, Nardin had no idea. He thought it a place of worship but could not be sure. Her body had been laid to rest in the tarn with great ceremony. He imagined a huge ornate tomb on a mountain summit guarded by a large sculptured bird. The tarn was where she had spent her last days; the mountain views had given her great peace as she reflected on her life’s work.

  Nardin quickly browsed the following pages where Morris-Tailt concentrated on praising Jadde’s accomplishments. There were breaks in the accounts where the writer skipped months, then years. The hand slowly became shaky as Morris-Tailt aged beneath Nardin’s questing eyes. Nardin’s vision blurred again and he blinked; then shook his head. There was an abrupt break here. He read the last line again.

  Before her death Governess Jadde had set up a foundation for a new beginning and new skills, the old people never . . .

  Nardin tried to focus and for a moment the page became clear and he held the book close to his nose. Pages had been ripped out. He read on after the break.

  . . . Jadde’s people have now occupied both villages, the old complex and the higher accommodation blocks that were once a health spa called Highnirvana. The higher village is dedicated to learning about the power of the mind through meditation. The old research complex accommodation is now a thriving farming and hunting community where food is caught and grown for both townships. Because Governess Jadde had a special interest in meditation and d
eveloping powers of the mind, people have flocked to the higher community hoping to emulate her. Inspired by her lead, disciples have achieved mind disciplines of erratic power. Only the most talented are selected, the others return to the lower community. Jadde would have been deeply proud of them all.

  Nardin realised his Cyprusnia was the farming and hunting community. The other must be situated much higher in the mountains at a place named by Jadde as Highnirvana.

  Morris-Tailt had concluded his account with his own epitaph.

  And now twenty two years after our saviour Jadde’s death I have bowel cancer and just the strength left to complete this journal. I commit this true account of our saviour Jadde to our ancestors to hold for all time as a warning against the blight of unregulated research and unregistered genetic experiments. I sincerely hope with all my heart the mutants never re-emerge to ruin the proper order of our lives. Let this account be a lesson, and at the same time a story of great courage and devotion to the human race.

  I bid you farewell and good luck

  Lieutenant Edward Morris-Tailt

  And beneath the farewell another hand had written in a more hesitant style.

  To whom it may concern.

  If you are searching this repository of records for a resolution to the quarter-men plague that again places Jadde’s peoples in jeopardy, then search ‘Theology’ and read the books Divine Justice and Ethics for a Morale Life. There you will learn whether you have a real need to rediscover Jadde’s weapon. If you have no other choice, I beg you not to use the weapons lightly, for they are capable of destroying an entire race. If you decide the quarter-men are STILL inherently evil then you will find clues to take you to the solution of your problem.

  Kristopher Falconfeather

  Nardin’s vision swam and he blinked to refocus. It was a monumental document. If the priesthood realised it existed they would confiscate it and possibly even kill him. Sire Steth could be trusted but what of the Abbot and the Brenna? Were the rumours of approaching evil actually the return of the quarter-men? He feared that was the case.

  Nardin’s eyes remained blurred and for the first time he feared he had done them irreparable damage. He prepared to inform Steth of his discovery. As an afterthought he hid the diary inside one of the defunct computers as a bargaining point should the priesthood turn on him with his discovery.

  The room remained blurred and he groped his way to the light switch. The door burst open sending him spinning onto the cold tiled floor.

  ‘Assistant did you not notice me open the door?’ Steth’s voice asked in concern.

  Nardin rose on an elbow and stammered, ‘my eyes . . . I can’t see . . . too much reading . . . lights too bright.’

  ‘Let’s get you up to a comfy chair; a bowl of cherry cordial will revive you. Then we have an urgent development to attend.’

  ‘I have a discovery to report Sire.’

  ‘Concentrate on recovery first my assistant.’

  Nardin managed to grope his way up the narrow winding stairs as Steth closed the library door and followed him. The dark stairs soothed his vision and a little focus returned.

  A draft of the sweet cherry drink revived him as he nursed a bruised elbow. Steth sat opposite him in his padded chair in the scriptorium, when he thought Nardin sufficiently recovered he carried on.

  ‘Whatever you have discovered it must wait. I have both good and further alarming news.’

  ‘Of Cabryce?’

  ‘No, of Malkrin – he has returned to the border.’

  Relief washed Nardin – his friend was alive. And then he realised Malkrin needed to know what he had discovered: urgently.

  ‘Malkrin has a band of strange people with him and a caged devil. The Brenna have been alerted and Erich Gamlyn rides with a troop to confront him.’

  Nardin tried to focus on his mentor and failed.

  Steth stood and grabbed a cloak. ‘We must go there, to prevent any bloodshed. Come Assistant, there is no time to lose.’

 
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