Lords of Freedom is an exciting new novel including adventure, realistic action, surprising insights, and a touch of romance. Enjoy a new chapter every week. Prior chapters can be found here.
Lords of Freedom—Chapter 8—Mission
On the patio outside his home, Xan examined the two snake skins he’d taken on his journey through the hidden canyon. After being stretched out on racks, they were completely cured at last and ready for display. He’d thought a lot about what to do with the two skins, during the past few days, deciding, at last, to hang them on one of the great room walls. There was a perfect spot for them, near one of the hanging pictures of a river.
Despite how deadly each snake had been, they were handsome creatures, not to mention capable foes. Both he and Sheba had learned much, fighting them, and the encounter had marked the beginning of their mutual bond.
Sheba spent the nights now in the nearby canyon, finding an abundance of deer and mountain sheep to hunt. She did not however travel with Fredrik and Xan on the boat each day, to and from the training arena. Instead, she had her own route there and always arrived first, usually stationed at the head of the pier, waiting smugly.
Today was a rare treat, with no training scheduled—the first training-free day since his arrival. He’d thought himself in top shape, living off the land, even with the modest cabin roof over his head, but he’d soon realized he wasn’t in fighting shape at all. That was coming, however, with several weeks’ worth of training behind him. His muscles were developing more, as each exercise honed them, his reflexes were quickening and foreign skills were beginning to feel familiar.
The lower level pool was a welcome treat each night, and Fredrik had shown him a collection of therapeutic salts that could be added to the water. Xan had also developed a personal routine: a swim in the lake each morning at dawn, then some meditation as the sun rose, before changing into dry clothes. After soaking in the pool each night, before going upstairs for dinner, he’d meditate again, running over all he’d learned that day, in preparation for the next.
He saw Sheba, slipping through the trees as he reached for the back doorknob. The cat looked like a flitting shadow, despite her size, and he hadn’t heard a rustle as she passed. She too had developed new skills, in going through the training sessions, but most of all the two of them were meshing on the makeshift battlefield, into an impressive team.
Xan hung the two snake skins on the great room wall and stepped back. Tilting his head, he nodded; they were perfect there. He left the great room and headed for the library, where Fredrik was sure to be. He wanted the steward’s take on the great room’s new décor.
The library was empty though, but walking between the shelves, Xan saw that one of them was out of position—the one that operated on a hidden lever and served as an unseen door. With a shrug he stepped through, wondering what Fredrik was doing in the underground portion of the house.
When he’d first seen the lever, after breakfast one morning, he’d been quite surprised to see the library bookshelf swivel smoothly out, when Fredrik unveiled and pulled the lever. As he descended the stone stairway now, he recalled that morning again—how he couldn’t resist telling Fredrik that he’d always wanted his very own cave, as they stepped into one.
Fredrik had played along. “We know that Xan, and here it is, easily accessible but well hidden in your new home. There are many pleasant surprises here, but you will need to explore later or you will be late for the meeting.”
On the boat, sailing toward the Hall of Truth, he’d said to Fredrik, “I don’t understand why I’m being treated so well and given so much. I haven’t done anything to deserve all this, and I don’t believe it’s good to get something for nothing.”
“It is a good thing that you feel that way. If you expected to receive more than you are willing to work for, you would not have been invited here. I will help you to understand. How much is one person worth?’
“Solomon and I have discussed this; the potential of one person is infinite.”
“Exactly, and as Royal Guardian, you will save millions.”
“How can that be?”
“Trust me Xan, you will see. In fact, you will start to understand in today’s meeting.”
The meeting was conducted in the Hall of Truth, with Thoth, Ma’at, Sekhmet, Jartan, Solomon, Xan, Sheba, and Fredrik present at the round table.
Thoth called them to order. “The purpose of this meeting is to explain who we are and what we do. Three precepts are the foundation of our work. I will now state those precepts.”
“First: Freedom is essential for happiness, progress, and fulfillment.
“Second: Violation of freedom results in suffering and misery.
“Third: Our mission is to help, defend, and teach those who seek and fight for freedom.”
Thoth went on to explain each of the foundation precepts in detail.
Then all three Lords stood and made the following affirmations:
“I, Thoth, King of Knowledge, Measurement, Balance, and Justice confirm my vow to uphold the three founding precepts connected with my calling as a Lord of Freedom.”
“I, Ma’at, Queen of Truth, Harmony, Morality, and Justice confirm my vow to uphold the three founding precepts connected with my calling as a Lord of Freedom.”
“I, Sekhmet, Queen of Fire, War, Healing, and Protection confirm my vow to uphold the three founding precepts connected with my calling as a Lord of Freedom.”
Thoth continued, “Because of our exalted station, interaction with mortals must be limited in order to avoid interference with their freedom of choice and ultimate fulfillment. Therefore, we need dependable and capable mortals, such as you, Xan, to conduct our operations in mortal worlds. Your primary responsibility will be to go among various inhabitants to help, defend, and teach those who seek and fight for freedom.”
During the quiet that followed Xan’s mind raced over everything he had heard. He still felt unworthy and overwhelmed but the light of understanding and commitment burned within him as he declared: “I, Alexandros love freedom and vow to uphold the three founding precepts by carrying out your operations to the best of my ability as instructed.”
Sheba then looked at each personage at the table, with a lingering gaze on Alexandros, as her voice rang out in each of their minds. “I, Sheba, Regal Guardian, love to run free and will fight with you.”
Pleased, Thoth smiled at all gathered. Then he sobered. “We must warn you about something else. We have a common enemy who fights against life, light, and freedom. Wherever he rules, suffering and chaos follow. He is real and entices others to follow him, usually by appealing to their vanity and greed or preying on a lust for power. On every mission, you will encounter evil rulers who oppress and destroy. Men such as these are his followers.
“He has many names, some of which are Set, Lucifer, Abaddon, and Typhon. We call him Devourer. He devours freedom, life, and prosperity, and he and his servants will fight against you and try to destroy you at every turn. He usually will not reveal himself but will work through deception and trickery. He is a liar and a murderer. If he is unable to destroy you he will seek to discourage and divert you. Beware of his power and influence, but remember we will not allow him to tempt you beyond what you can resist. If you resist him he will flee from you.”
Pondering the events of the day, Xan continued down the last few stairs into the cave that comprised the underground level of the house. He had yet to encounter the Devourer and did not expect to while in training. He wanted only to keep Thoth’s warning firmly in mind, to be prepared when the confrontation did come.
He found Fredrik in the cave, standing by a collection of glowing rocks kept there. Between the glowing rock collection and the stairway ran a small stream with a bridge to cross over. Also, there were three tunnels leading off, one exiting toward the canyon, one to the rear of the property into the forest, and one leading downward that had not yet been explained.
Fredrik smiled, straightening from the collection of rocks. “Hello Xan. Is there something you need?”
“Just your opinion, if you have the time.”
“Certainly; I was about to head back up to the library anyway.”
Fredrick crossed over the bridge, and the two made their way back up the stairs. Fredrik closed the hidden bookshelf door and followed Xan into the great room. As Xan stepped to one side, the steward took in the cured snake skins hanging on the wall.
He nodded approval, moving through the room for a closer view. “Very nice indeed, Xan, and they match the river picture perfectly.”
“I’m glad you approve,” Xan said with a nod of his own.
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