CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE
Nelson didn’t respond so Blane kept talking.
“We were heading back when she admitted that she was homeless and pregnant,” Blane said. “She wasn’t even talking to me. She was talking to Jill. Well, you’ve met the girlfriends. She told them and I just said ‘You can live with me.’ I don’t know why I said it. Honestly, no idea. It just came out of me.”
Blane took the on ramp to the highway.
“Of course, she thought I was joking,” Blane said. “She’d been betrayed enough to know that people say things that they don’t mean. She gave me every opportunity to turn back, but I knew I was doing the right thing. She came to live at my house. I don’t know why, but I insisted that we own the house together. I even bought her the diamond ring she wears. We got married by my insistence. Seriously. It was weird, but everything was just so honest and true.”
“She is a Goddess,” Nelson said.
“No, it wasn’t that,” Blane said. “It was me. I wanted to do it, more than anything else I had ever wanted. When she moved in, she hadn’t even been in Olympia for … a thousand human years or more. I was in the middle of the Interferon treatment for Hep C, sick as a dog. She was about six months pregnant. I didn’t think I would survive. That’s when she told me about her mother and father.”
“What did she say?” Nelson asked.
“She told me that her mother was hiding from her father,” Blane said. “Her mother had been brutally abused by her grandmother. Of course, Heather’s grandmother adored Heather, which made everything more painful and complicated. I said something like, ‘Sounds like Hedone.’ And she said, ‘Yes. That’s me.’ I’m pretty sure she thought that I wouldn’t remember. I was that sick.”
“The next day, I asked her about it,” Blane said. “She wasn’t working, and I was off work for this treatment. I had her give me acupuncture just to keep me alive. So …”
Blane fell silent. They drove for a while before Blane sighed.
“She finally told me all of it,” Blane said. “Of course, it was literally thousands of years of living, but we had time. Weeks passed. We agreed to ask her grandmother to come to see her, you know, before the baby — Mack — was born.”
“Aphrodite,” Nelson said.
“Her,” Blane said. “When Heather’s grandmother saw that I knew, she told Hedone that it was time for her to shed her secrets. They made this agreement that Hedone would be honest about who she was and Aphrodite would no longer chase Psyche, Heather’s mother.”
Blane glanced at Nelson.
“Honesty,” Blane said. “It wasn’t easy, but it set Hedone free.”
Blane felt Nelson’s eyes on his face.
“Your soul longs to be free, Nelson,” Blane said. “You deserve to set this burden down.”
Nelson didn’t respond. After a moment, he cleared his throat.
“You’re right,” Nelson said. “I will tell you. Everything.”
“We’ll see what happens next,” Blane said. “There’s water in a bottle under your seat. Take a drink.”
Spent from his strong emotions, Nelson took a long drink. He held the water bottle out to Blane, but Blane gestured to his soda. Nelson finished the bottle and stuck it next to the two others under his seat.
“Start at the beginning,” Blane said and immediately added, “For you. The beginning for you.”
Nelson thought for a moment.
“Tell me about Pierre,” Blane said. “What is his family like?”
“I’ve never met them,” Nelson said. “That’s a part of all of this. I’ve never met any of them, except my mother’s grandmother. My father said that she is no longer living.”
“I see,” Blane said. “No wonder you don’t know how to tell all of this.”
“Why?” Nelson asked.
“It’s not formulated into a story yet,” Blane said. “That’s how it was for Heather too. I was like that before Celia got me, well, and AA. Why don’t I ask you questions? That might get you started.”
“How is Pierre’s family connected to the Templars?” Blane asked.
“My father’s family were the Templar’s Weapon’s masters,” Nelson said. “You see, most of the Templars were killed outright for their land. There was this idea that the Templars had a lot of gold. Once they were no longer in power, people came for their gold or what they thought was their gold. Well, maybe it’s really what was gold at that time — land, homes, possessions.”
“But not your father’s family?” Blane asked.
“No one knew they were involved,” Nelson said. “My father says that no one really cared. Their skill was unique and necessary so no one really cared. ‘If they had sold weapons to the Templars, who could blame them? The Templars had cash so why not?’ That kind of thing.”
“Did the Templars have a lot of gold?” Blane asked. “Have a lot of gold?”
“That’s the question,” Nelson said. “I don’t know. I don’t think my father knows either.”
Nelson looked out at the scenery passing outside. They’d left the Denver suburbs and were now traveling up into the mountains.
“But …” Nelson said. He took a breath and let it out. “The money, the gold, that’s a part of all of this, too.”
“How so?” Blane asked.
Nelson shook his head.
“Too much?” Blane asked.
“Let’s go back to the story,” Blane said. “Your father’s family were weapons makers. Blacksmiths?”
“Yes,” Nelson said. “Smithies.”
“Can your father make a sword?” Blane asked.
“Yes,” Nelson said. “I can as well.”
“Really?” Blane said.
“I’ve made a few,” Nelson nodded. “I have one that I made in college. I think my father has the others.”
Nelson looked at Blane.
“I gave one to Enrique,” Nelson said.
“That’s where that came from,” Blane said with a slow shake of his head. “What did he do to deserve such a gift?”
“He paid me,” Nelson said. “I needed the money. It’s not a very good sword. It’s not sharp nor will it hold a sharp edge. It’s just a standard broad sword. He wanted it for the Gay Renaissance Fair or something like that.”
“I remember,” Blane said.
“I don’t know if he still has it,” Nelson said.
“He doesn’t,” Blane said. He looked at Nelson. “Jake took it. It’s at the Castle. You are welcome to it.”
“Really?” Nelson asked. “Technically, I’m not supposed to make weapons for ‘fun.’ I just needed the cash.”
“You are welcome to it,” Blane said.
“How did Jake get it?” Nelson asked.
“Jake went to talk to Enrique about getting my stuff back,” Blane said. “I’m not exactly sure what went down, but Jake came home with the sword.”
“And not your stuff?” Nelson asked.
“Nope,” Blane said. “Enrique had a party and burned it all.”
“Everything?” Nelson asked.
“Everything,” Blane said. “But get this — Enrique is still pissed about Jake taking the sword.”
“Still pissed?” Nelson asked. “You’ve seen him?”
“He has this idea that I can’t live without him,” Blane said. “He came to the hospital when I was in isolation for a month. That’s the last time I saw him.”
Nelson scowled at Blane.
“I had he removed by security,” Blane said. He snorted a laugh. “That was the final straw. That is until he wants something else.”
“Wants? From you?” Nelson asked.
“What did he want the last time?” Nelson asked.
“He’s infected,” Blane said. “He wants to do the procedure I went through.”
Blane glanced at Nelson. He watched the muscle in Nelson’s jaw work.
“Are you jealous?” Blane asked with a laugh.
“Angry,” Nelson said. “He is such an asshole. How could you …?”
“Good question. But not one that’s really relevant.” Blane cut Nelson off. “He’s my past. Jake, Delphie, Heather, our children, and maybe even you are my present.”
Nelson scowled but nodded.
“You were telling me about Pierre,” Blane said. “Your family are weapons makers.”
Nelson glanced at Blane before continuing.
“Pierre will tell you that he is a weapons maker now,” Nelson said. “His father, my grandfather, worked on nuclear weapons. His father told him that he needed to work on modern weapons. It was his duty to keep the family current. So that’s what he does for a living.”
“Your grandfather is gone?” Blane asked.
“Yes,” Nelson said. “Cancer from the radiation. My father’s mother is gone as well. He has three sisters. One of them is a blacksmith.”
“Can women be involved in this Templar thing?” Blane asked.
“Sort of,” Nelson said. “I mean, I don’t really know because I’ve been hidden away from all of it, but according to Dad, girls have a role to play.”
“Breeding sons?” Blane asked.
Nelson laughed and nodded.
“I haven’t met my aunt, you know, the blacksmith,” Nelson said. “But according to Dad, she’s pretty tough. My guess is that she’s involved in the order.”
“The order?” Blane asked.
“Order of Solomon’s Temple,” Nelson said. “That’s what the Templars are, officially. But again, my family are weapons makers. Or my father’s family. We made the Sword of Truth.”
“Oh yea?” Blane asked.
“It was said to have been commissioned by Ares, the God of War,” Nelson said. “I asked him about it, you know at dinner, but …”
“What?” Blane asked.
“He seemed more interested in eating me,” Nelson said. “And not in a fun way.”
“But yeah, my father’s family made all of the weapons of acclaim,” Nelson said. “The sword that Perses wields, you know Jill’s father?”
“I know Jill’s father is Perses the God of Destruction,” Blane said.
“He carries the Sword of Death,” Nelson said. “It’s said to be lethal to any creature who even looks upon it.”
“But not the maker?” Blane asked.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Nelson said. “My father says that my ancestor was asked to make a weapon for an ancient God. My ancestor refused saying that the God would just kill him when it was made. Why bother? They haggled for a very long time. Years. Finally, the God agreed to give him protection from any of the weapons he made. That’s passed down in the bloodline.”
“Any idea what ancient God that might be?” Blane asked.
“Chronos?” Nelson shrugged. “Have you met him?”
“Not yet,” Blane said with a laugh.
“We’re not sure he’s still among us,” Nelson said.
“We?” Blane asked.
“The Templars,” Nelson said. “When they went to Jerusalem, they discovered that the Gods walked among us. They found the three fairy Queendoms …”
“Four,” Blane said.
“Four?” Nelson said.
“It’s complicated,” Blane said. “Go on.”
“Well, that’s just it,” Nelson said. “It seems that this ancient and secret knowledge all lives at the Castle.”
“We should ask Abi,” Blane said. “About Perses sword, that is.”
“Abi? The partner of that fairy prince? Uh, Prince Finegal?” Nelson asked. He blinked a few times before saying, “Wait, you’re not saying that she really is the first woman?”
“She and Gilfand are the first,” Blane said. “That’s just a fact.”
“What happened?” Blane asked.
“Just frightening,” Nelson said. “She was joking with me about … and she’s … Do you think she knew what I am?”
“Probably,” Blane said.
They fell silent. They continued on the I-70 past lush pine tree forest.
“Maybe I should ask her about you,” Blane said.
“Okay, how did it work?” Blane asked.
“What?” Nelson asked.
“We’re talking about your father’s life,” Blane said. “How was he brought into the order?”
“Oh,” Nelson said. “It’s a family thing. In the 20th century, you’re not brought into the order. You’re born there.”
“Both of your grandparents?” Blane asked.
“Of course,” Nelson said. “The blacksmith thing is passed from father to son. My father says it was just something that went on at home. But the order …”
Nelson took a breath and his hand went to his chest.
“Easy,” Blane said. “We’re just talking about things that happened a long time ago.”
Nelson took a few more deep breaths to calm himself.
“No one will hear you,” Blane said. “You’re just talking to me.”
“How can you be sure?” Nelson said. “Gods, Goddesses, and …”
“Because I am charmed,” Blane said. “I am the consort of a Goddess. No being can fuck with me. It comes with the territory. I wouldn’t be surprised if you carry the same charm.”
“Really?” Nelson asked.
“How many apples did you eat?” Blane asked.
“Three,” Nelson said.
“Maybe,” Blane said. “But back to your story — you were just here with me talking about your father’s childhood. I love your father. So what’s the problem?”
Nelson nodded. He took a breath and started again.
“When he was four or five, the children of his age were taken into a kind of after school program,” Nelson said. “Children from other families left in the order, that is.”
“Like J-school for Jewish kids,” Blane said.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Nelson said. “He said that there were five or six of them. Four girls and two boys. So six, I guess. My mother was one of the girls. His best friend was the other boy.”
“His gay best friend?” Blane asked.
“Right,” Nelson said. “That’s a part of this story, my story.”
“Do you know who the other people in the class were?” Blane asked.
“One is high up in the French government,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what. When I was a child, my father used to watch French television. He would point to her and say that she was a friend in the order. She is his age. One is married to the head of a national party. She’s younger than my father.”
“So the Templars are everywhere,” Blane said.
“Basically,” Nelson said. “It’s a very small order. There aren’t that many families left and over time people die off.”
Blane didn’t say anything, and Nelson fell silent.
“We were talking about your father,” Blane said.
“Yes,” Nelson said. “My father and mother met when they were young children. He used to say, ‘Le moment où nos yeux se sont recontrés mon âme fut complète.’ That’s something like, ‘My soul was complete the moment we saw each other’ or something like that. The connection between them was immediate. Even their Templar teachers noticed it right away.”
“It sounds like a good thing,” Blane said.
“No,” Nelson said. “Someone from my mother’s family could not be in a relationship with a blacksmith. No. No way. It was not something that could happen.”
“Why?” Blane asked.
“My mother …” Nelson sighed. “Her birth, the birth of her parents and back to the 1100s — it was all planned.”
“Yuck,” Blane said.
“You are an American,” Nelson said with a smile.
“We’ve been all through that,” Blane said. “So who is your mother? Who was her family?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Nelson asked.
They drove in silence. Blane glanced at the clock and six minutes had passed. He scowled.
“You are sincerely the most annoying man,” Blane said.
“How so?” Nelson said.
“Who was your mother?” Blane asked.
“Oh, sorry,” Nelson said. “I was just thinking about her. She died when I was ten months old. I’ve never seen even a picture of her. She is … was …”
“Why no pictures?” Blane asked.
“I thought it was because my father was cruel,” Nelson said. “He told me yesterday that he was protecting me. If anyone knew that she was my mother …”
“Goes back to …” Blane started.
“Yes, who was my mother?” Nelson asked. He turned to look at Blane. “What do you know about the Knights Templar?”
“Nothing,” Blane said. “Uh, they are French? Indiana Jones? Three Musketeers?”
“Le Trois Mousquetaires was set in the 1600s,” Nelson said. “You’re five hundred years too late.”
“What do you know about them, Nelson?” Blane asked in a mock interviewer voice.
“A lot,” Nelson said. He nodded. “Basically, after the First Crusade, a lot of European Christians were traveling from Europe to the ‘Holy Land,’ Jerusalem basically. We have this idea that they traveled on horseback from Europe.”
“Suffering for their pilgrimage,” Blane said.
“Exactly,” Nelson said. “Mostly, they traveled on boats. They landed at Jaffa, just south of modern day Tel Aviv. These tours for mostly wealthy people but a few poor pilgrims came along. It was … uh … for lack of better words, stylish, to go to Jerusalum.
“The first years, it was a safe journey. But soon it became dangerous for Christian travelers,” Nelson said. “At first, the Knights Templar were there to protect these travelers. They took up residence in the King’s home at the Temple of the Mount. The Temple of the Mount was built on Temple of Solomon. Thus the name ‘The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon’ shortened to the ‘Order of Solomon’s Temple.’ That’s their actual name.”
“Well, ours but I’m not really …” Nelson looked at Blane and saw that Blane was scowling. “No really, my father kept me away from all of this. I only know the stories.”
“And have had the training,” Blane said.
“Whatever,” Nelson said. “You asked about my father.”
“Yes, do continue,” Blane said.
“The Templars needed weapons so they went to my father’s family,” Nelson said. “As I said, they’d been making weapons since … a long time, so it was no brainer to make the family the weapons masters.”
“What did your father’s family get for their work?” Blane asked.
“Commissions, certainly,” Nelson said.
“This is zealot work,” Blane pressed.
“Sure,” Nelson said. “They found a way to fight for Christ, to be soldiers for Christ. But for me? For my father? It’s just family stuff.”
“One of the founders of the order was a man named ‘Andre de Montbard,’” Nelson said. “It’s a little complicated but he was born in 1097 and Bernard of Clairvaux, you know Saint Bernard, was born in 1090”
“Okay?” Blane asked.
“You don’t recognize the name ‘Saint Bernard’?” Nelson asked.
“No,” Blane said. “Should I?”
“If you knew anything about the Templars you would,” Nelson said.
“What do I need to know?” Blane laughed. “I have you!”
Nelson grinned. He reached over and took Blane’s hand. They smiled at each other.
“So Andre?” Blane asked to encourage Nelson to speak.
Nelson swallowed hard, nodded, and continued his story.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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