Tag Archive: London

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…. ]




Mar 09

The Framerunners – Newsletter for March, 2015

What’s new on the website?

There a brand new section on the website, under the Stories menu, entitled Vignettes. From that page, going forward, you’ll be able to find short scenes and portions of tales that may or may not ultimately end up in the longer stories. There are only a couple posted there now, but I hope you enjoy them! Some of these may end up being teasers for upcoming story lines, but there are no guarantees! That said, if you really, really like a particular vignette, let me know and perhaps we’ll explore some aspect of that scene going forward.

I have continued to be remiss in keeping the illustrations for each episode posted in the online gallery (located at http://jefmurray.com/framerunners/the-gallery/ ). But, I am including a link on each episode image posted that will allow you to order prints, if you are interested in doing so. If you don’t know the name of a sketch or painting print that you’d like to have, you can reference the episode in the description. I will once again promise to try to update the gallery more regularly going forward!

Where are we now?

Episode 7.2 has our Framerunners spread out between three different worlds. Polydora is still on Orbaratus, and presumably Luke Lester is in London. Meanwhile, Jill and Sam are attempting to find out more about the raven and to see whether it, in fact, is responsible for the theft of one of the guarding stones. They have only just learned that not only have they returned to earth, but that they have time traveled: to Oxford, England in 1946!

If the above is confusing, you can read all seven posted episodes from the beginning by clicking here: http://jefmurray.com/framerunners/in-the-company-of-angels/ and then clicking on Episode 1.1. At the end of each episode is a link pointing to the next in the tale.

Where are we headed?

In Episode 8.1, Jill and Sam remain with the Professor in England, trying to discover the whereabouts of the raven and how it manages to framerun, and Sam comes up with a novel way of locating the raven’s nest.


How else can I get involved?

We have set up a discussion page on Facebook, but I seem to be the main person posting to it at present. That said, our email list continues to grow, and a number of folk have now been posting comments and questions after the episodes themselves. Please feel free to do so! I’m happy to answer questions as long as I don’t reveal any spoilers (about this I’ve been warned quite sternly by a couple of readers ;-). I’m also happy to get feedback on the new Vignette tales. Let me know if these intrigue you, and if there are favorites, we may end up exploring those scenes more in the future.

I’m continuing to try to learn about homeschool groups and YA literature groups to try to introduce The Framerunners (www.TheFramerunners.com) to new readers. If you know of young readers in your families or community whom you believe would enjoy these stories, please have them join our email list and/or like our FB page, or feel free to let me know about them! List information will never be shared with anyone else for any reason, period.

In any event, if you are continuing to like what you’re reading, please spread the word! The more folks involved, the more fun it is for all of us!