Tag Archive: Ferrumari

Apr 02

In the Company of Angels: Episode 9.2 – The Renderer (cont.)




In the Company of Angels, Episode 9.2 – The Renderer (cont.)


“Yes, I’m afraid I do,” said Azarias, his brow furrowing. “What is it about the Jonsson family? Well, we can’t overly concern ourselves with that issue at present. Pray continue.”

Luke picked up the tale, including Sam’s loss of one of the crystals and its recovery by Jill. Both Azarias and Father Hildebrandt were alarmed to hear that it had been out of Sam’s possession for as long as it had, and they were not surprised to hear that the Amenta had gathered to try to take the gem.

“Sam calls them ‘spooks’, or just ‘howlers’ of course, but we all know that they are the vanguard of a much greater Darkness,” said Azarias, “That was a close call! But thereafter, you invited Miss Jonsson to visit you at the Gallery. Why in the world would you do that without consulting me?”

“Because Sam knows her,” said Luke, “and he was sure she had seen too much to dismiss without a great deal of additional explanation. He also, I believe, has good instincts for people, despite not being an Empath himself. In addition, Polydora believed that Sam would have great difficulty dissembling over the events at Jill’s home, since they are such good friends. I took a chance; and it paid off, as you’ll soon hear.”

Luke continued his tale, explaining how Jill had come to the Gallery and had been instantly identified by Polly not only as an Empath, but as an extraordinarily gifted one.

“Polly claimed she had never encountered anyone other than you, Azarias, who had the ability to see as far or as clearly.”

Azarias and Father Hildebrandt looked at each other, and Luke suspected that a quiet telepathic exchange had taken place. But it only lasted a moment.

“Please, Luke, do continue,” said Father Hildebrandt, turning back toward him.

Luke described the trip to Orbaratus, Polly’s recognition that things were amiss, the trip to the Plaza of the Masters, and the discovery that one of the three guarding stones was missing. At this both Azarias and Father Hildebrandt became alarmed.

“It is, then, as we feared,” said Azarias. “The events here have been a diversion; the real drama is about to play out on Orbaratus, and we will have to do everything in our power to get that stone back into place if we are to avoid catastrophe.”

“Then you know about the stones?” asked Luke.

“Know about them? Yes indeed! But tell us what happened once you had discovered that a gem was missing.”

Luke mentioned the earthquake, the raven, and his decision to allow Sam and Jill to try to follow the bird and retrieve the stone.

“I understood the risks, but we could not leave Jill alone with a crystal on her; that would have put her in danger, since she has not yet been placed under protection.”

Azarias looked up at Father Hildebrandt. “We’ll need to remedy that as soon as possible.”

“Agreed,” said the Abbot.

Luke continued. “I believe that Sam and Jill, working together as a team, should be as capable as anyone of finding the bird and the guarding stone. I also felt urgently that I needed to warn both of you and seek advice. For I could only deduce the gem’s significance; I could not be certain of it. The situation called for us all to split up in order to save time.”

“But what of Polydora? Did she accompany Sam and Jill, or did she return to the Gallery?” Azarias leaned forward with an anxious look on his face as he asked the question, as did Father Hildebrandt. Luke wasn’t sure why the issue was so important to them.

“She remained on Orbaratus,” he said.

Both of the older men appeared visibly relieved. “She should certainly be able to keep anything worse from happening on her homeworld, and much better so than anyone else under the circumstances,” said Azarias, “But she doesn’t really understand what may be coming, and we mustn’t leave her there alone for too long, particularly if the Masters are indeed showing signs of stirring.”

“So that is what is happening?” asked Luke, “The Masters — the ones behind the stone gate — are awakening because the guarding stone was removed? As I said, I deduced that something of the sort could possibly occur, once Polly had fully translated the verses above the door for us. They were certainly a warning, even though they were written onto the stone lintel thousands of years ago.”

Azarias smiled. “Indeed, you surmised correctly. And that is precisely why the verses were left over the gateway in the first place. Yet, the Masters should remain restrained as long as only one of the stones has been prised away. They may stir, and they may even be able to regain a small measure of wakefulness, but the gate will hold against them — at least for a while.”

“But there is still much that you do not know, Luke, and at this point, despite our need for haste in returning to Orbaratus…”

“So you will be coming with me?” interrupted Luke.

“Yes, yes, certainly! That is a necessity at this point, but for reasons I’ve yet to state. In the meantime, I think it time to acquaint you more fully with the early history of Orbaratus. In fact, that also is imperative, so that you know what it is we may be facing.

“What I am about to tell you,” Azarias said, rising from his chair and pacing before the Abbot’s desk, “is now known only to myself, Father Hildebrandt, and the Masters, although their perspective on these events would be, as you might imagine, considerably different from ours. Not even Polydora knows all of what you are about to hear.

“When we first explored Orbaratus and discovered Polydora there, it was clear that her world had been victimized by the Amenta.  After Polly came back with us and began her work in The Gallery, I took the opportunity to make many trips to her world so that I could better understand what had happened there and to try to determine whether her world was truly as empty and abandoned as it first appeared to be.

“It was not.

“The Amenta had conquered the original peoples of Orbaratus, the ones we now know as the Masters. But in those earliest days, they called themselves simply the Ferrubene, or the ‘Blessed Ones’ in their own tongue. They were a brilliant people, skilled in crafts, the arts, and philosophy, and as their ultimate achievement, they brought into being a servant race of creatures that, at first, were simply clever automatons. But these were gifted with learning algorithms that ultimately, and in a manner beyond the wildest hopes of the Ferrubene craftsmen, resulted in their awakening into a fully sentient race. This, of course, was far beyond the Ferrubene’s own skill; it was a gift granted by One greater than themselves, and it was ultimately to a greater purpose of its own, as you shall see.

“But, the Ferrubene liberality in learning, and their untempered love of tolerance and diversity, led to their downfall. After the awakening of their servants, their educators and leaders allowed evil ideas to creep into their prosperous and peaceful world, and these ideas remained unchallenged. Prosperity ever breeds excessive complacency and misplaced tolerance toward evil, Luke, as you should always remember. Ah, there have been so many civilizations destroyed by their own successes! But, I digress….

“In the case of Orbaratus, the seemingly benign tolerance and the weakening of a societal moral compass — all made possible by wealth and abundance — extended even to the point of defending evil doctrines in their many guises. In such a setting, idleness also encouraged dangerous experimentation among the elites, and the Amenta, who are able to travel unfettered into any world that invites them in, found their opening and quickly exploited it.

“The Amenta, once they had come to Orbaratus, whispered into the ears of the rulers among the Ferrubene, promising ever greater riches and glory if they promoted what was in effect a new religion: one that would ultimately serve to destroy their world. The tenets of this religion are unimportant, but it cloaked its adherents in a mantle of victimhood and injustice that they used against the greater Ferrubene society itself. The religion was quietly taught to those with less education and skills: these were convinced that they were victims of societal injustice, and that the new faith would avenge all the wrongs they had suffered. Others were converted through promises of more power, or, as a last resort, by threats of violence to themselves or to their families.

“The worship of novelty had become so widespread at this time, by the urgings of the Amenta, that common sense was utterly abandoned, and anyone who challenged the teachings of the new religion was labeled a bigot and a hater of the coming ‘New Era’. Societal disruptions increased, and eventually these reached the stage that stopping them and prosecuting their instigators was impossible. Killings and riots in the name of the new religion became widespread. Whole cities were burned and looted, and the Ferrubene people turned against themselves in open civil war after civil war.

“In this setting, the Ferrubene’s servants strove against the teachings of the new religion, and even while the Ferrubene killed themselves off, the Ferrumari ever sought to save the lives of their creators. But they were largely unsuccessful, for the Ferrumari numbers were too few. In the end, most of the Ferrubene died, leaving behind only the worst and the most corrupted of their rulers. These the Amenta had preserved, knowing them to be their greatest servants.

“Now that there were so few of the Masters left, the Ferrumari captured and imprisoned them, fashioning for their onetime creators a place where they could be held harmless. But the prisons were incapable of holding the Masters, until, ultimately, when the opportunity was offered them, the Ferrumari put the last of that twisted master race into a state of biological suspension. This was done in the hopes that a day might come when they could be cured of their madness, for the Ferrumari were and are a very compassionate people.

“The gate to their resting place was sealed with three crystals whose power was both to sustain the Masters’ suspension and to keep the gate that sealed their prison strong and inviolate.

“Without the Masters to breed further strife, the Ferrumari themselves at first thrived, but they, too, many thousands of years later, also became victims of the Amenta. In the end, they, too, turned upon themselves, ultimately destroying all members of their own race save Polydora. She and the Masters who remained alive — although suspended behind and below their stone gateway — are now the only living inhabitants of Orbaratus. You, Luke, are already familiar with this latter history, as I recall.”

“Yes, I am,” said Luke, “and I related it to Jill and to Sam earlier today. But I was certainly unaware that the Amenta had claimed both of the planet’s sentient races, rather than just the latter one.”

The room was silent while they all considered Azarias’ words.

“But how on earth did you learn all of this?” asked Luke. “Polly lived for thousands of years on her planet, and she was unable to fully decipher anything other than fragments of the history you’ve just related.”

“Ah, yes, that is true,” said Azarias, “but Polly did not have the one tool she might have used to discover the full truth about her planet’s ancient history.”

“And what tool was that?”

“Why, the ability to framerun, of course. I was able to learn much, much more than she ever could in all her years on Orbaratus; but that was only possible because I was able to travel to her world through both space and time.”

“So are you saying you went back to Orbaratus during the earliest times of the Masters and directly witnessed much of what you have just related?”

“I not only witnessed it, but I did what I could to minimize the sufferings that I encountered there; at least, to the extent I was able.”

“What do you mean?”

“Simply this; that it was I who taught the Ferrumari how to contain the Masters. And it was I who placed the three guarding stones upon the gateway in the first place, sealing them within!”

         [ To read Episode 10.1, click here…. ]




Mar 26

In the Company of Angels: Episode 9.1 – The Renderer




In the Company of Angels, Episode 9.1 – The Renderer


 When Luke Lester stepped through the sketch he had made on Orbaratus and arrived in England, he was greeted by the grey light of a chilly, dank, foggy winter’s day pouring through the windows of a London flat. He had made the sketch with this flat in mind, of course, and given what he knew about the head of his Order, he was not in the least bit surprised to find that Azarias had anticipated his arrival.

The flat itself was on the top floor of a compound of brick buildings in the west of the Kensington and Chelsea sections of London. The community had given itself the grand title of Kensington Mansions. Azarias, or rather, “Brother Azarias”, as Luke reminded himself, was an odd and eccentric resident of a very wealthy part of the city: he was a monk amongst millionaires.

But the flat itself, situated adjacent to the High Street Kensington tube station, allowed Brother Azarias easy access to Heathrow airport, to Paddington Station, and to King’s Cross: thus, he could travel unfettered to any part of England or points north, west, south, or east as needed. That, in addition to his being within easy walking distance of the British Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert, made this an ideal location for an erudite scholar of history, culture, science, and lore: for so Azarias introduced himself to his neighbors. Luke smiled as he recalled overhearing discussions with the Abbot, Father Hildebrandt, about Brother Azarias’ choice of accommodations.

“They will seem a bit opulent for a religious,” he had told Brother Azarias.

“Indeed, but such a location will give me access to resources available nowhere else, and who is to say what good the presence of a ‘sign of contradiction’ might serve in such a posh neighborhood?” Luke could still remember the smile on Azarias’ face when he had made that statement; it was the smile of the fox in the hen house.

The Abbot Primate had, without much additional persuasion, agreed to Brother Azarias’ request. Luke knew that the two of them had, as his own brother Charles had once told him “a history” together. Charles was close friends with many of the Benedictine monks, and Father Hildrebrandt was the worldwide head of that Order.

Father Hildebrandt and Brother Azarias, according to Charles, understood each other in a way that might appear perplexing to Luke, but Charles had always insisted that the two were kindred souls in ways that were difficult for ordinary folk to appreciate.

“You must know, Luke, that Brother Azarias is — how shall I say this? — quite inscrutable: to the point of being otherworldly, even,” Charles had once confided to him. “That is precisely why he was entrusted with the charge of your Order, of The Framerunners. He is privy to knowledge that even Father Hildebrandt is not, I rather suspect. Believe me; I have seen him in situations no ordinary human being would ever wish to be found in, and he has proven himself more than their equal in every case….”

These thoughts flooded through Luke’s mind as he stood in the living room of Brother Azarias’ flat. It was sparsely furnished with a sofa, a table, and bookshelves that covered literally every wall. Luke recalled that the flat had a single bathroom and two bedrooms; both of the latter were choked with books as well, but the accommodations were reserved as much for other members of the Benedictine order and for the Fratrum Silulacrorum as for Brother Azarias himself. This was a “safe house”: a conclave nestled in the cacophony at the heart of London. Luke paused and listened; the constant “click-click, click-click” of the underground trains just outside the flat windows never seemed to cease, and he always forgot the sound until he returned here. It was like the constant heartbeat of London.

But now Luke had to concentrate. He had, upon arrival, almost immediately noticed a pile of envelopes on the table in the living room with names written in longhand upon each one. There was a note for Charles, one for Brother Aran, one for Father Hildrebrandt, one for someone named Cassandra whom he did not know, and one for himself. The latter had the word “Urgent!” written under his name. He opened it immediately.


“My dear Luke,

  If you are reading this, then you have come to my flat in search of me. You will not find me here; but you may, in my absence, wish to ponder the painting in the hallway closet (the one that I’ve left unwrapped). At your earliest convenience, do join me in the chambers of the Abbot Primate in Rome. Once you arrive, seek out the door and knock thereon; if no one answers, be patient. If that yields no results, let yourself out and seek for Father Hildebrandt. I shall join you as soon as I am able, but you must wait for me. Under no circumstances are you to return to The Gallery! There has been a fire. I’ll explain when we meet.


Luke reread the letter. He was accustomed to Azarias’ cryptic scribblings, but the reference to a fire disturbed him. He knew that Azarias was a voracious reader of literature, including that of the 20th century, and he immediately recognized, or thought he recognized, the literary reference. “There’s been a fire, Sir,” was one of the most poignant lines in Michael Crichton’s book, The Andromeda Strain. If that association was what Azarias intended by his comment, then something disastrous had occurred, and he had no choice but to follow Azarias’ instructions to the letter — and as soon as possible.

He turned and strode out of the living room and into the hallway. The light was dim, but he found the closet and groped within it. He could feel the edges of an unframed canvas. This he removed and brought into the gray light of the living room, propping it next to the sofa. It was a small painting, perhaps two feet by three, and he thought he recognized it as one of his brother Charles’ pieces. Charles made a living as a painter in the Cotswolds, and he was quite talented, particularly at landscapes. Luke was more of a sketch artist; oil was not his preferred medium. But there was no sibling rivalry between them; Charles and Luke were very close, even if they lived on different continents and had different artistic styles and tastes.

But this particular painting was dark. It illustrated an almost claustrophobic space filled with bookshelves, maps, cabinets, and small framed cameos, all very dimly lit, as if by candlelight, or through some magical means of illumination. It was of a secret place, a hidden place, with strange instruments and books barely glimpsed on darkened shelves. It was also a place that was, frankly, none too inviting.

“Wherever could such a strange squirrel’s nest of artifacts and documents be found in a place like Rome?” he wondered.

But Luke did not hesitate in the task at hand. He made sure that the door to the flat was indeed locked and secured, and then he returned to the living room, turned the ring around on his finger once more, and stared again at his brother’s painting. It was glowing now, with the familiar bluish tinge around the edges of the canvas. Luke crouched, braced himself, and crawled (there is no more elegant way to phrase it; these are the circumstances in which members of the Fratrum Simulacrorum sometimes find themselves) through the painting and into the space beyond.

He pulled himself through and reached out with his hands to discover where he might safely find room to stand. The lighting was, indeed, dim; he suspected his brother, in painting the image, had used considerable artistic license to render it visible at all. But for the light coming from the portal, he would scarcely be able to make out any of his surroundings, so he delayed turning his ring back around until he could better gain his bearings. He felt the familiar wave of nausea that almost always accompanied him when he frameran any image other than one of his own, and he remained on the floor long enough to swallow a few bites of chocolate.

“Very good,” he said, once he began to feel better, “there are the maps and the bookshelves. And — thank heavens — there is the doorway!”

He stood up, rapped upon the door and waited. There was no answer. He waited a bit longer and rapped once more.


He put his ear up to the heavy wood and listened. Very faintly, he heard voices, and happily they appeared to be getting louder. When he began to be able to distinguish individual words, he banged loudly on the door with the side of his fist.

There was a brief pause, and then he heard the clinking of keys. At last a chink of light showed itself from outside the chamber. The door opened wide and the golden sunbeams of an Italian mid-winter’s day seared the backs of his eyeballs.

“Master Luke, greetings!” boomed a familiar voice. It was Brother Azarias, of course, and Luke recognized his grey-bearded countenance towering above him in the sunlit room. Also standing by the doorway was another man: smaller, and younger in appearance than Azarias, but no less intense a presence for those sensitive to such things.

Father Hildebrandt stepped forward to grasp Luke’s hand and help him climb up and out of the hidden chamber and into his formal office. The room was wood paneled with marble floors. An antique desk and chairs were in the center of the space, and bookshelves lined two walls. Behind the desk, high, arched windows let in the golden light of afternoon.

Father Hildebrandt had been the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order for as long as most living Benedictines could remember, but he retained the look of a man in his late forties or early fifties. It occurred to Luke that he had never really paid him that close an attention, and this was odd, given that he was an artist and was usually fascinated with peoples’ faces and expressions. He wondered if Father Hildebrandt could, in some way, cloak himself in something like a “cloud of inattention”. Such a skill would be very valuable to almost anyone in such a prominent position, if such a thing were possible….

“Thank you both,” said Luke. “And I apologize if my arrival is in any way inconvenient….”

Father Hildrbrandt could scarcely conceal a genial smile, and Azarias smacked himself on the forehead. “What in the world are you saying, Master Lucas?! Far from being an inconvenience, we have been awaiting your arrival for some time now! The game is afoot! There is no time to waste!”

“Why? Has something happened?” asked Luke.

“First, you tell us! There has been considerable news here, but I suspect it would be prudent for all of us to hear from you first; only then will we be able to determine the full nature of what is transpiring and why. So, we have been expecting to hear from you and were hoping you would arrive sooner rather than later. Thank heavens it was sooner!”

“Please, Luke, do take a seat,” said Father Hildebrandt, indicating a chair situated beside his desk.

Brother Azarias, easily the tallest of the three men, waited for both Luke and the Abbot to be seated, and then he strode over to the doorway leading from the office into the hallway of the Monastery de Sant’Anselmo. He cracked the door slightly to assure himself that no one was outside other than Brother Carroll, the Abbot’s secretary. Then he shut the door, locked it, pulled another chair beside Luke’s, and sat down heavily.

“So, please, Luke, do tell us what has happened to bring you to us,” said the Abbot.

Luke began by explaining the hunt that he and Sam had undertaken the previous day for the Piper, and how that elusive being had ultimately led them into Jill Jonsson’s library.

“Ah! So he’s back!” said Azarias, “I thought that likely. He seems to show up whenever anything monumental is afoot. Are we still in the dark as to whether he frameruns with a crystal, or uses, instead, some other means?”

“No, we’re no closer to understanding anything about him, I fear,” said Luke. “But I do think it significant that he led us to Miss Jonsson’s home. This is the second time he has put us into contact with a member of her family, as you know. And you also know what happened the first time….”

“Yes, I’m afraid I do,” said Azarias, his brow furrowing.

         [ To read Episode 9.2, click here…. ]




Feb 04

Polydora and Jill


“Polydora and Jill

Graphite, 10″x7″ wide.

10.0″x7.0″ original graphite sketch – AVAILABLE

Signed and numbered prints – AVAILABLE

To purchase this original sketch, please contact Jef by clicking here.

To purchase a print of this item, please click here.