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DRUIDICAL TREASURE

An 8 part, illustrated semi-fictional novel, loosely based on the movie National Treasure, and set at Carleton College. The author enlisted current Druidic students to act out the scenes and take pictures of the campus to give the story extreme realism. The story conveys the author's opinions and viewpoints, and there are several parts of the story that are fictions or extreme exagerations, and you should check with the author before believing any specific part of the story. Enjoy. To comment on the story, send e-mail to mikerdna@hotmail.com

Part One, Chapters 1-5 Posted 5/12/05
Part Two, Chapters 6-9 Posted 6/30/05
Part Three, Chapters 10-12 Posted 8/14/05
Part Four, Chapters 13-16 Posted 9/28/05
Part Five, Chapters 17-20 Posted 11/7/05
Part Six, Chapters 21-24 Posted 1/1/06
Part Seven, Chapters 25-28- Posted 2/2/06
Part Eight, Chapters 29-32 Available 3/17/06


. SERIAL STORY: PART 1 of 8

Matt

Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE
Part One of Eight

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a felow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


Foreword

Nestled serenely in the Cannon River Valley about 35 miles south of Minneapolis is a small Midwestern private liberal arts college called Carleton in the city of Northfield. For about a century and a half, the Harvard of the Midwest has been renowned for its fierce intellectual reputation, powerful Ultimate-Frisbee teams and dedicated generous alumni. But as we'll read here, there are deeper currents and mysteries that abound under the bucolic mask of Northfield's slogan; Cows, Colleges and Contentment. This is a story of two adventurous students seeking to lift the veil and uncover a hidden Druidical treasure in an eight-part story. It is nearly entirely fiction, with only a few actual historical figures thrown in. There are many unfounded suppositions and assertions, but do not let that interfere with your enjoyment of the story.

Chapter One: Sean and Matt

It was approaching Thanksgiving, and Carleton students had finished their fall 10-week trimester and were eagerly looking forward to the six-week winter break, until New Year's would bring the winter trimester. Outside, it was still a balmy 14 degrees, by Minnesota standards, with only six inches of snow. In Burton Hall's basement dank dining lounge, dozens of students who had not taken the last bus to the airport were bitterly resigning themselves for a rather dull long period stuck on a mostly vacated campus over an unsatisfactory brunch.

Two of the students, Sean and Matt, were unusually vocal in the dismal atmosphere. Sean, a lanky, dark-haired junior, dressed in conservative dark clothes, stood and slammed the table glowering at Matt with misplaced rage.

You just don't understand, Matt, he growled. If my father's business doesn't recover this spring, and I don't find a scholarship, there is no way I'm going to be able to pay for my tuition next fall. I might as well quit now and begin a job and start saving money. You're lucky, you have a football scholarship.

Matt leaned back and raised a finger in protest, Hey now, you know, I only learned football after I got here, I had to work hard to excel in that sport. Carleton only let me in because of my All-American-Cricket athletic status in high school...

Not much competition there, eh? Sean sneered.

All I'm saying, Sean, pressed Matt with wide spread hands and a disarming smile, is that there are other alternatives to responsible, dull wage earning to pay for things.

No, there aren't, short of a lottery ticket miracle, Sean waggled a finger back and forth, and I have tried four of your crackpot money schemes already. Counting off his fingers, he continued; Student-run pizza company: Failed in two weeks. Selling vacuum cleaners door to door: that just sucked. Escort service for us to accompany St. Olaf College Women: Embarrassingly failed, not a single call.

That was your fault. But that one was fun to try, eh? Matt raised his eyebrows pointing at Sean.

Sean continued, Finally, Internet start-up company: neither of us know how to program. Eight hundred dollars down the tubes. Why should I listen to another plan? Sean morosely stirred his soup.

Hey, now Sean, I know I haven't come through before, and my own football scholarship might be downgraded this spring, so I've been really thinking about this carefully, too. Matt pulled out a copy of the weekly Carletonian newspaper and spread it on the table pushing it towards Sean. Read this advertisement. Right there. No really, look at it.

Sean Sean reluctantly put down his cheeseburger and glanced at the article as if he were being offered a steaming hot pile of doggy poo.

    The claimant at Carleton should seek his loot.
    May your spirits find the message divine.
    Go and seek your spiritual roots
    and read a round the truth between the lines! -1963.

Huh? What's this? The grammar's messed up. A treasure hunt? Sean tapped angrily on the article.

Yeah, a treasure hunt. Pretty cool huh? It should be real easy, just like Indiana Jones. Matt effused with his eyes in the distance, his hands cradling piles of imaginary gold coins. Or at least, that's what Sean hoped Matt was thinking.

Helloooo! This is not time for 3rd grade games in the backyard. At least 99.9% of treasure hunts never pan out and you end up a dry skeleton on some desert mountainside. And you don't remember that Indiana Jones nearly died a dozen times in those movies, and I prefer not to come close, not even once, so call me crazy. No wait, I'm going to call you crazy!

But Sean, most of the time, they didn't know where to look, or if they did, it was already gone. We know it's here now, and someone wants to give it to us.

Okay, Matt. Assuming this is not just some prank, by you or someone else, why do you need me? Sean asked with visible control, stabbing some beans mercilessly on the plate.

Sean, you're smart. Me, well, I've got enthusiasm and charm. Matt said self-evidently.

Uh, huh. Tell you what, okay, let's just look into it, Sean said, and then cut in sharply as Matt began to smile broadly, AND! If it is some kind of prank, we kick the crap out of the kid. In the meantime, I'm going to get a job in the dishroom this break and maybe over at a restaurant downtown, like a sensible impoverished student.

That's reasonable, when do we start? Matt asked striking a Herculean pose in lumberjack flannel, one that caught the admiration of a small clutch of first-year women nearby.

Why not now? We got six weeks of these awful cheeseburgers coming during break, and I already can't bring myself to finish this one. Sean picked up his tray and put it on the conveyor belt and Matt followed.

Where do we start? Matt asked.

You really do need me, don't you? Sean asked archly, slapping his hands together and rubbing them together, Why, the newspaper office!

Chapter Two: The Curious Advertiser

Sayles The student center was also filled with dejected students, reading textbooks, poetry. They were neatly distributed across the room, imbibing large quantities of coffee and tea at little round tables on the wooden parquet floor of a converted basketball court. As the two men entered, the students all looked up hopefully as if waiting for somebody, anybody interesting, then shook their heads dismissively and resumed their reading. After checking their ornately framed glass-doored mailboxes, Matt and Sean bounded up the stairs to the second level.

Upstairs in the student union, past a room of sleeping campus security guards, was a humming suite of I-Macs, and a few pretentious students with dreams of the Washington Post and Watergate. One budding reporter had a pencil perched on her ear, and she working on the copy for the next issue.

What can I do you for, mate? Sarah drawled in a vaguely Australian accent, split between the fear that it might be another complaint and the hope it was a hot scoop; but anything was okay to fill up a dreary day of winter break.

It's about an advertisement in your last paper. Sean said, and handed over the clipped article to her. We'd like to contact this person. Who is it?

Oh, yeah, Julie told me about this chap, she said flippantly, flashing a big crooked smile at Matt, but not even looking at Sean. You see, this fellow apparently drops off an envelope at the office every year in October and asks for the advertisement to be placed. Now mind you, we at the prestigious Carletonian usually don't place advertisements of this sort in without a good reason.

Because they're usually cranks, right? Sean pressed staring at Matt, who winced.

She waved her hands in the air, Yeah, cause they're mungo whackos! But this fellow, he always drops us 2,000 smackers along with it. She said with a grin.

What's a smacker? Matt asked.

Great Sean slapped him sharply up the side of the head and continued, So either he's a rich whacko or he's rich philanthropist? Eh? Either way, what's his name?

Don't know. There's never been a return address or left his name, she looked at him with beady eyes, Do you think there's a story here?

Sean looked nervous, like a hunting lion sensing another lion across the savannah eyeing the same zebra, Um, probably not. Come on Sean, we've gotta go to the chapel. God left a message on my voicemail to visit. I wanna pray!

Huh? Matt said while being dragged away, waving over his shoulder at Sarah who winked, happy that the day had at least one perk in it.

After they left, Sarah, picked up the phone and made a call, and bellowed at her fellow reporters, I need to go out for a while, cover me while I'm gone. She grabbed her backpack, scarf, mittens and parka and strode out of the office.

Huh? Why, nothing's happening. Fred said bored.

Chapter Three: Going to the Chapel

Carleton's Jack Frost was here in full force, and freezing people's nose hairs together as soon as they stepped outdoors. Racing a detour around the outdoor ice rink -full of stumbling screeching broomball players- in a blinding flurry of snow, the two students reached the Skinner Memorial Chapel, a large gothic building with a soaring square tower. With a slightly running start Matt rammed his shoulder against the heavy oaken door and pushed his way in and heaved it closed it behind them, against the grasping claws of a howling wind.

Why are we here? You're not religious. Matt asked in the dim lighting.

Yeah, hardly anyone is at Carleton. We're here to get answers. If there is even one person on this campus who knows about religious groups, it's gotta be the chaplain. Sean looked impressed with himself, puffing and preening a bit. Matt nodded and they shook off the snow and trudged to a small nondescript arched paneled door, with a sign, The Chaplain is in. They knocked politely. Someone cried, Just a minute! There was some curious shuffling and a TV clicked off. Come in!

They opened the door of the long narrow cluttered office, practically wall-papered with books. An erudite-looking man with a small moustache in his 40s was sitting on a stuffed leather chair with a large book on his lap, apparently studying intently with earmuffs on.

Welcome, friends. Come over and sit down. He gestured to some chairs. They went over and sat down, dripping on some papers that creeped out from unstable piles of books, perhaps in search to escape the impending avalanche. He was excited, as if he hadn't had a visitor in weeks.

Father, Sean began...

Charley The chaplain patronizingly tsk-tsked, I'm not Catholic, just call me Charley. He insisted.

Charley, we want you to promise to keep this confidential. Sean said straightly.

Of course, your communications with me are fully protected under the full might of Minnesota law, Charley said with great consolation.

Fine, Charley, we want to know what this means. Matt interrupted and slapped the article on the desk.

After reading the article, the confused chaplain frowned and said, I'm not sure I understand.

Sean piped in. It's simple, we think that there is a treasure on this campus, and we want to find it.

I see. Are you sure you wouldn't rather seek to put your efforts to winning greater treasure in heaven. I know you're young, but there are more important things in life we could talk about...

No. Uh uh. Not now, Sean said. Sorry, Charley, but I don't want any of that metaphoric-treasure crap, excuse that phrase, I want cold hard cash right now before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Are you going to help us or not? Sean declared with crossed arms, then smiled slyly, pulled out three ten-dollar bills and placed them by the lamp, and pretended to forget about it.

Charley was taken aback and stroked his chin, Well, golly. I don't know. Let me think. About five minutes passed, and then a few more passed, while Sean began to drum his fingers and develop an eye twitch. Matt's eyes begin to roll and he started to drool surreptitiously from the side of his mouth.

Charley... Sean said annoyed, tossing up his hands.

Charley looked up with surprise and rubbed his moustache, Oh, sorry, just got distracted by the question of evil, money, roots, you know. It's all connected together--oh, sorry, your question, yes. Charley got up and went to a shelf, hunted about for a bit, and pulled down a big hefty orange book, Well there's a distinct possibility that I know which group might be related to your strange search, and Oh my, aren't they kind of strange too. He set the open book on the desk and pointed to its cover page. I think you're looking for something related to the Reformed Druids of North America, the RDNA.

The who? Matt asked.

You know, your friendly neighborhood Carleton Druids. Charley reassured him, pointing at the printing history on the inner page of the large tome. Look here, the RDNA was founded 1963 at Carleton College. And this symbol here is called a Druid sigil, see the circle with the two lines piercing it, I remember your clue says 'a round the truth between the lines'. Circles are round, aren't they, and this group is very spiritual, odd, but spiritual. He rocked back and forth on his heels, admiring his own cleverness, but the two men stared at him blankly.

Sean wiped his nose and dryly asked, You mean these Druids don't espouse virgin births, ominous stars in the sky, unsubstantiated non-medical healings of beggars, reports of executed homeless folk who come back from the dead, and disappear before hard evidence can be gathered? Sean asked.

Chaplin's This wasn't the first time Charley had faced this ascerbic line of inquiry. Working on a campus, he'd developed a thick sking, and Minnesota had given him some protective blubber too, so he just mildy smiled, Exactly, the RDNA are entirely level-headed and semi-rational, nearly myth-free. Charley covertly picked up the bills and slipped it back into Sean's pocket. You can keep your 30 pieces of silver. You should go see Iain Knoll, sophomore I think, he's listed as their contact this year. Nice kid. Tell him Charley sent you.

Sean looked a bit suspicious, Is this group culty or something?

Don't think so, they're kind of like Outdoor Unitarians according to their books. Charley waved at five large tomes stretching across the entire shelf. The Druids spend much of their time drinking tea, arguing on inter-faith issues and traipsing about in the woods. Imagine that on a wet campus of secular braniacs!

Thank you, Charley. Have you seen that symbol anywhere else on campus? Sean inquired, his knee nudging the desk, slightly shoving a few books perilously closer to the edge.

Well, no, this campus, as you know, is littered with strange rocks and hills, but downtown in Northfield, you should go to the Contented Cow and have a drink, he said with a forced smile and a Yoda-like inscrutability.

Sean forcefully faked a smile in return and tapped Matt on his wide shoulders and they daintily threaded their way to the door and Matt closed it firmly, rattling the flimsy wall. Inside the room, they heard first one book, then another hundred fall in succession, and then a peaceful aftermath and some dust came out from under the door. A faint Damn it was muttered inside.

Monotheists really are People of the Book, eh? Sean smirked. Sean and Matt hurried off to return to their dorms to change for an expedition to the downtown of Northfield, a half-mile away.

Chapter Four: The Contented Cow

The The Contented Cow was a small bar tucked around the corner from the 130 year-old Archer House Hotel on the riverfront of the Cannon River. Not more than 30 yards upstream, there was a waterfall which once had turned the paddle-wheel machinery of the Malt-O-Meal cereal factory, turning out cheap knock-offs of popular brands.

As usual, there weren't many people out, and so they pushed into the mostly empty pub and whipped the door shut as the few people glared at them for bringing in the blast of harsh weather. This faux-Irish pub served the students of St. Olaf and Carleton College well, in addition to the residents of Northfield, who were referred to by the students rather contemptuously as simply townies.

After showing their IDs and getting two Guinnesses, they picked the far side of the room away from a taciturn fiddler who was sawing away on some sad tune. They sat facing the river that was still not entirely frozen here yet, due to the turbulence from the waterfall. They reviewed the steps so far, and Matt suddenly stiffened, his jaw dropped, and he looked out the window pointing.

What's that Sean? he gasped.

Sean slowly looked up from his beloved mug and tried to figure out what was so dang important out there. Snow. River. Squirrel. Bridge. Snow. Bridge! His mouth dropped too. He'd never been on this part of the riverfront before, and probably wouldn't have noticed it even then, but there was a small footbridge spanning the Cannon River, decorated with a few hundred cast-iron Druid sigils like the chaplain had described, although the parallel vertical lines did not quite pierce or protrude from the interior of the circle.

bridge Oh - my - God. Sean said, got up and stumbled to the bar. He caught the bartender's eye and asked him who built that bridge there.

His false Irish accent slipping frequently, the bartender stopped drying the mugs. Eh, I don't know that. Wait a minute. Alex! Come here me laddie. A young redheaded boy stuck out his head out of the dishroom. These gents want to know who built that bridge there.

Um, I did, guv'ner, Alex scratched his head, embarrassed at Sean's quizzical glare, Well, I mean, I helped the construction team build it for work last summer, I did.

Who designed it? Who paid for it? Sean pressed the washboy.

I'm not sure, but I think the Temple paid for it. He said scratching his head.

Temple? There's no synagogue in Northfield. Sean said puzzled, searching his memory.

No, the Masonic Temple, over there, across the river. There are about a half-dozen men's clubs in Northfield, you know, like the Elks, Mooses, Odd Fellows, VFW, Loons -- The Masons came over, set the corner stone of the abutment, but some fancy architect chose the design, I think. I overheard him talking once.

Sean shooed the boy off and smirked at Matt to his left. Matt looked plain confused. So, who are the Masons?

Who are the Masons?! Sean said slapping his face his hands emphasizing how obvious this fact of pop culture was, The inheritors of the treasure and traditions of the banned Order of Templar Knights, who reportedly insidiously controlled late Medieval Europe! Matt's eyes had glazed over. Alex looked confused at where the conversation was going and shrugged and went back into the comprehensible situation of the dishroom. Sean pulled Matt back to the window, and said in whispered confidence. I've got a plan.

Matt looked up with hope. Sean paused, hashing out the last details in his head. You remember the Reformed Druids? Matt nodded.

Aren't they the ones that you're worried about?

I'm not worried.

You're not?

No, because, you're going to infiltrate the Druids, not me. Sean said and finished his mug.

Looking around him, Matt whined, What just me? Well, what are you going to do? Matt said a little flustered.

Well, you have a photographic memory, right? Therefore, you need to go through that big shelf of books that the chaplain claims is their literature, I'll just skim the Internet a little for connections. As for me, I'm going to join the Masons. Sean waved a hand in the air self-importantly, My cousin is in the Order of DeMolay, so I think I have a better lock on those guys.

drinking Is it ethical to join a religious fellowship for ulterior reasons? Matt said chewing the corner of his thumbnail.

I'm the ethics major, leave that to me, Sean snapped.

So what should I do? Matt asked.

Go see this Iain guy, their Archdruid, schmooze with him, get the inside scoop on that group. If anyone still knows about this treasure, he'll probably know. Sean sipped some more, Me, I'll work the Mason angles, read the super-secret texts off the Internet, and find out what they know about any other large construction works they might have done in Northfield around or since 1963. Let's compare notes in December after a few weeks, I'm going to be busy doing dishes like Alex for awhile in the cafeteria.

Sounds good to me, said Matt, more than a little concerned, also signaling for the bartender. Hey, Sean, you see that girl playing music.

The skanky 30-year-old lady, uh huh, Sean said dead-faced, knowing what was coming.

I think she thinks I'm hot, Matt said without a touch of doubt, flashing a smile and a wave at her, which she returned. Sean hid his face in his hands, muttering into his mug.

All right, why don't you go over there and see if she wants to fiddle with your bow? Sean suggested. Matt stared for a minute, slowly making the connection, and smiled and got up. The waitress came over with the two full mugs, and expectantly waited. He's paying. Sean smiled.

Chapter Five: Conspirators' Long Consultation

Seand A few weeks later in mid-December, Sean and Matt met down at the Reub'n'stein, for a greasy old-fashioned burger and a coke, secluded in a high-backed wooden pew-ish booth, each eager with information to share. In the adjacent room, raucous pinball machines and pool tables in use provided inconstant background counterpoint to the soft country music on overhead speakers. Snow softly collected outside, so cold that it squeaked when you walked on it.

Well what did you find about Masons, Sean? Matt inquired, confident that he had the more interesting info, but courteously allowing Sean to go first, visibly trembling with enthusiasm.

Well, it's about what I expected, Sean said sipping. Masons are like most fraternal groups. It is a self-congratulatory body of mostly older men who work largely on community works, socialize and occasionally have simple pseudo-mystical initiatory rites laced with elementary folk psychology about personal development; performed in an interfaith manner, outside the reach of the reach of divisive churches of by-gone ages, not too much unlike the Reformed Druids. In fact, there were also a few fraternal 'Druid' organizations that date back to the 18th century too, modeled on Masonry. Matt paused, as an attractive waitress sauntered by. I've already gone through the First and Second Degree. Next month, perhaps, I'll become a Free and Accepted Mason of the Third Degree and I'll know a lot more then, but I've basically read through most of their literature online, official and the scandal-seeking exposee, so I know most of the hidden lore already. They are mostly good folks, except Greg at the Temple, who's a real jerk, and none of them seem involved in any world-class plots or schemes, just plain old townies.

That's all? Matt asked, and Sean nodded. Any direct connections to Carleton yet? Matt inquired, also noting the waitress, who despite the thick winter padding had nice wrists and cheekbones.

Masonic Yes and no. From my scant research on the Internet, Reformed Druidry has 10 orders, like the York Rite of Freemasonry, but basically it has three primary orders, with the rest being largely honorary, right? Matt nodded. And this Druid sigil, is rather similar to the circle with a dot in the middle emblem, which is a Masonic sun symbol for God, flanked (not pierced) by two vertical lines, which represent the two Saint Johns, whose festivals are, get this, St. John the Baptist on the summer solstice and the other St. John on the winter solstice.

Matt looked up with surprise, Well, that is kind of Druidic.

Yes, indeed. Sean said pleased.

Matt commented, So, I think there might have been a bit of a Masonic connection, but it doesn't run very deep. I mean, Fisher (the first Archdruid) never incorporated the initiatory passwords, handshakes, and mumbo-jumbo of the Masons. For inspiration, he seems to have drawn mostly on archaeological and historical sources here and there, and Frangquist, the third Archdruid, did most of the deeper Celtic research later.

Sean assented, munching on french fries, That seems reasonable, they probably borrowed from many sources.

Matt read his notes, Maybe, the Masons influenced the early RDNA founders to be obsessed with building altars as written in the Chronicles during the first year, but after Fisher resigned, that impulse fell away, it seems. Some of the altars were quite large and mortared together, and that sounds Masonic doesn't it?

Sean nodded, noting this down, I guess so. The Masons, as the heirs to the Knights of the Temple, have a myth of being the recipients of the secrets of the building of the Temple of Jerusalem, and it shows up in the symbolic architecture of their temples and lodges, but little for Druids, who haunt the woods. Sean opined. Now, I dug around a lot with my new friends, and there was never apparently a Carleton chapter per se of Masons. However, one of the construction companies called Snosam Inc., with obvious Masonic affiliations, was integrally involved in the layout and construction of the original college campus and later trail works in the Arboretum. However that company went bankrupt in 1966, and its last owner died shortly thereafter, and the employees moved to Illinois and most are probably dead of old age by now, so that's the end of that lead. It's entirely possible they could have incorporated some clue in the architecture here, but I don't know how to find it. Sean could see that Matt was about to burst, How's your end going with the Druids? Then he turned off one ear and concentrated on finishing his burger as Matt gushed forth from the straining floodgates.

Sean, this is just so cool, Matt clasped his hands together beaming, one word spilling over the next, I'm kind of getting into the observation of nature, even in winter, and its personal questing for Awareness part rings kind of true, and now I'm also Second Order so far, but I have to wait until May for vigiling for the Third Order, leaning closer to Sean, and there seem to be some secrets associated with that ordination ceremony, but 99 % of the information seems pretty open to the public. With my photographic memory, I read the entire 2,600 pages in two days, no problem there, except the Gaelic and Japanese portions, and mind you I haven't processed all the information well yet, but, you know, it works for me somehow. Kind of odd that such a free-spirited group that's suspicious of texts becoming dogma, that they should write so dang much. Sean raised an eyebrow as Matt groped for words. Oh, I'm making a cloak. He held a strong grin, awaiting Sean's reaction.

Sean spit out part of his sandwich, Why do you need a cloak? This is the 21st century, Sean reminded him.

Cloaks, are -useful, you know, Matt said unconvincingly, then added, and quite warm.

Sean seemed to accept this line of argument, Sure, whatever it takes to blend in with those guys, go for it, but I don't need one. All, I've got is this apron from the Masons, which I'm altering to add pockets... Sean stopped trailing off. How big a group are we talking about in the RDNA? Sean readied his notepad for the factoid.

Matt Matt held out a printout, About 3,000 past members over 40 years, with about 80 percent from Carleton, by the loosest calculations and definition of 'Druid'. There doesn't seem to be more than 10-20 core members at a time in this grove, or just about 1 or 2 % of the student population, but I like to think of them as the salt or spice that livens the pot here.

Trust me there's plenty of live pot around here already, Sean smirked in a knowing way.

What do you mean?

Sean changed the subject, With the continued advertisements in the paper every Halloween for years and the lack of awareness about Masonry, by golly, perhaps the treasure hasn't been discovered yet? Sean trailed off.

Yeah. According to their history, it seems Fisher and most of the original founders at Carleton pretty much abandoned their missionary activities by the late '60s, leaving it to other Druids to carry the torch, mostly here at Carleton, but Larson went to Berkeley to start an alternative version they called Neo-Pagan Druidism, so I've been concentrating on the early works by the Founders and compiling a shortened list.

Yes, it's quite possible that none of the successor Druids would know of the treasure. I checked with the Carleton Senate, and it appears the Druids have been rather hard-up for funds since the 1970s. Sean paused thinking, rubbing the stubbly beard on his chin. When do you suspect such a break happened?

They both hushed conspiringly as the waitress came and refilled their cokes and walked off.

Well that's just it, Matt hissed in a puzzled voice. As you read in Fisher's interview in the compilation, Fisher, the first Archdruid, felt a bit alienated by the time Frangquist, the third Archdruid came into power in 1964 or '65. Fisher thought he was taking the Druidry a bit too seriously, and feared it turning from a pseudo-religious simple fraternalistic system of inquiry and becoming something like a religion. I think the break happened that early, since Fisher graduated in 1965 and went off to the Episcopal seminary.

You mean the founders may actually be the only ones who know where the treasure is hidden? Sean had forgotten his meal already, and it was congealing in the cold restaurant.

Yeah, I checked out their careers with the Alumni society. You wouldn't believe the amount of information they have collected on all of us, they put the FBI to shame! None of them seem particularly wealthy, and I chatted with a few of them about the subject indirectly by phone, but they thought I was talking about some metaphysical reward, and didn't seem to be evading me or hiding anything, but they mentioned something about a Druid curse, too, but wouldn't elaborate. Fisher, however, is not returning his phone calls, and apparently hasn't been successfully contacted since the early '70s by many people, not even the Alumni Office. He's a bit of a recluse, especially when the subject is Druids. He's the most likely suspect.

Hmmm. Do you think Fisher has hidden a treasure for a more 'worthy' future successor to claim to circumvent Frangquist's lineage? I mean, he certainly wouldn't pass it off to Larson and those Neo-Pagan California Druids, right? Sean spoke a little more quietly as the waitress passed again.

I really think so, Sean, Matt mused, then he tapped the table, This is all interesting supposition, and quite possible, but I'm still confused, like where should we go from here? I mean, where would Fisher hide the clues so that a true Druid, by his definition, could find them, but a bad Druid wouldn't see them?

Hmmmm. I don't know. Conspirators think in odd ways, trust me, I've started a few hoaxes myself. For example, there was this cannon on a campus at an Ivy League school about 20 years ago, registered as a National Historic Treasure, and one spring morning it just disappeared. There was just a big hole in the ground and an enormous pile of dirt next to it. Well, the FBI was called in to investigate the disappearance and noticed that there were no tracks or damage to the surrounding grass, so nothing must have lifted it out of the ground, with its heavy foundation, or pulled it away.

A helicopter? Aliens? Matt offered?

No. And no sensible clues at all, Matt. Well, it was dangerous to leave such a big hole in the middle of a busy campus, so they began to fill the dirt back in, and their shovels hit something hard. Guess what? The cannon was there, right inside the pile of dirt! Sean smirked as Matt laughed and cola spewed out of his nose, and he rolled in semi-shocked pain at the sensation.

When he recoverd, Matt blorted, So, you're saying the clues might be right before our eyes, say in the historical texts, something anyone would have access to, but not notice, and we just need to read them and spot something out of the ordinary?

Sean Exactly, Matt, Look at the clue from the newspaper again; 'A great treasure awaits its claimant at Carleton. Go to your spiritual roots and read a round the truth between the lines!' Those roots could be referring to something below a tree at the original grove site.

Yeah, Druids dig trees...

But it's too cold to dig now, so maybe it also means one of the founding documents, penned by Fisher himself. Did you bring that anthology with you? Matt nodded and pulled out a big 900-page orange book and dropped it on the table, which shook a bit, and began leafing through the index.

See here, the index shows the date of all the documents, and each document's author is listed under the title. We really don't have many documents written by Fisher. Actually, Frangquist was the big writer and document producer. However Fisher did pen the constitution in 1963, wrote a few sermons, composed the original liturgy (which we have a few examples) and added a few meditations to the Green Book, mostly from Hindu sources, it says. Anything else is lost.

That's a start, but these are not photocopies, and might have a different layout than the originals. Sean complained.

Well, this anthology is just a portable, well kind of portable, copy of the Druid Archives, Matt supplied.

Where are the Druid Archives?

This guy Mike, who collected the big anthology, re-established the archives right here at Carleton again in the 1990s, in the basement of Gould Library, Matt smiled broadly.

Maybe we should contact him, you know, he could be a valuable source of information, Sean rubbed his hands as a cold gust of wind entered the store brought by new customers.

Can't. He's gone, away to Korea or Japan right now, I tried to reach him, Matt sighed.

Well, the archives should be open about now, and they might even have more documents written by Fisher that aren't included in the anthology, and Fisher looks like the key to this puzzle.

A family came in and sat in the adjacent booth and a baby began to cry while its mother and uncle tried to soothe it.

Let's finish up here and go check it out. I also need to check my e-mail at the campus. My father should be sending me an update on how his company is doing.

Sean and Matt cleaned up, paid the bill, carefully bundled up and yanked open the door and staggered into the snowstorm that was picking up in intensity. Nobody really marked their departure as memorable in this glorious adventure. If they had looked carefully, they would have seen in their clenched eyes the dreams of quickly-won treasure. But it would turn out that things are not as easy as they first seem.

END OF PART ONE OF EIGHT

Tune in next issue, for the further adventures of Sean & Matt.



. SERIAL STORY: PART 2 of 8

Matt

Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE
Part Two of Eight

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episode

Two poor undergraduate juniors, Matt (a Cricket & football star) and Sean (a philosophy major), are spending winter vacation under-employed at Carleton College in rural Northfield MN. Desperate for money, they follow up on a mysterious ad in a newspaper that implies a great treasure was hidden at Carleton for the future rightful heir of David Fisher, the founder of Reformed Druidism. Following a tip from the campus Chaplain, Sean infiltrates the local Masons, while Matt goes ga-ga with the Druids. From the various clues they discover, they decide that only possible solution to the mystery is to check the original written materials by David Fisher, which are stored at the Druid Archive Collection.

The previous episode can be read in the entirety in the Beltane Issue at http://www.rdna.info/newmissal37.html

Now let's re-join our protagonists at the Druid Archives.


Chapter Six: The Druid Archives

The Carleton's library was a squarish four-level brick building that you oddly entered on the top floor and then descended to the other levels. This is because the library stood carved into the side of the hill that overlooked a valley which cradled the twin frozen ponds of Lyman Lakes and its two islands. Each island was linked to the land by small arching quaint wooden bridges. Beyond Lyman, the massive Arboretum stretched to the horizon, as the sun was setting at 4:30 PM. Being normal students, Matt and Sean had never left the main campus to explore that wild frontier, and certainly not in this type of weather. Semi-arctic winter keeps you focused on your destination. In front of the library, an enigmatic back-lit stone arch, which loomed upwards from within a circle of patron-inscribed stone blocks like a brooding sentinel. Sean wished he could find such a patron to help support his studies during Senior year. Even in the wintertime, everywhere you looked across the campus, odd large stones popped out of the snowy mantle, like prairie dogs on the alert in the South Dakota plains. Sean always had the creepy feeling that they were watching him.

Entrance Sean and Matt passed through the winter airlock and reached the warm interior of the library with relief, and immediately began to frantically shed layers of clothing that they draped over a nearby chair and went to the librarian who directed them to the basement level. Four levels down, there were no students, and the shelves were lined with the least popular books and musty old geological maps. Along the wall were a few quiet padded benches, perfect for quiet snoozes during the middle of a long research session at night.

The Carleton Archives' main office was the only light that was currently lit on for the entire floor. Like moths before the torch, Sean and Matt approached the room and went in through the open heavy oak door. The walls of the greeting room were festooned with the odd souvenirs of 150 years of eccentric college kids. Wooden ducks, trophies, class photos and yearbooks lined the walls. A large wrap-around desk was cluttered with various neglected projects that were attempted by the archivists during the peaceful winter breaks, when visitors were scant. In this bright room, a darkly-clothed female student looked up from the shadows, rather surprised at the sudden company in mid-December, much like a man on a deserted island receiving paratroopers. She quickly resumed her accustomed dismissive disdain. Her dark makeup hid her features, as did the various piercings and long tresses of blue-black hair.

Matt smiled and irresistibly pushed a bell directly in front of her marked, Summon the Archivist, and said, Hi.

Hi, my name is Dylan Llewellyn. Can I help you? She asked, apparently not wanting to, but unable to avoid the basic courtesy of her job description,

Sean stepped over, We'd like to do some research on... How could he describe this? Sean felt stupid even asking.

...on what? Her eyes drilled into Sean, but then turned to Matt's gaze. There they rested, completely captivating Matt who smiled wider than Sean thought possible, with a look of wonder of a deer on the highway facing an oncoming truck at night. Her scowl evaporated slowly.

...on the Druids. Well, Matt here, Sean shook Matt. Matt waved. Matt is a Druid doing research on the founder, uh, David Fisher, Sean fumbled and Dylan pounced, eager to dismiss him.

Dylan, Have you read the Anthology? She interrupted him, spinning a pencil on her finger, obviously a bit bored. We get a lot of people here inquiring about Druids. The records from their collection are a bit of a mess you know, and most of the interesting stuff is already in the anthology collection, so you should start there. It's on the library shelves, and you can download it at http://www... She was interrupted in return by Sean.

Yes, we've already read it, or Matt did. But, you know, he's a history major, so we'd like to see the original documents, make contact with the past...

She thought about this and conceded, I see, sorry I barked at you. I'm bushed doing my own research here for my Comprehensive Thesis on the roots of the patriarchal value system in the Roman Church in the second century, mostly Pauline but also some... sorry to ramble...ut I understand your position, I'd like to go to the Vatican's vaults myself, but those are as tight as they come. Hey. Sit down. Sean and Matt sat by some Trivia contest trophies. You see the problem really is, that I am a student worker, and the actual full-time archivist is down in Antarctica on an expedition with students for winter break, retracing the legacy of the former explorer and Carleton president, Professor Gould.

Antarctica?! The two men exclaimed on cue.

Yeah, well, Yule-time is the warmest time of the year down there. Southern Hemisphere and all. So he won't be back with those students until, like, January 10th next month when classes resume here. In fact, another fellow, Stephen was in here, researching early Druidism, maybe you could talk with him in January, and do some collaborative research, he is quite knowledgeable. Normally the archives are open during winter break, but I don't have authority on my own to let you muddle about in there now. Sorry. She crossed her legs, leaned back, and spun a wooden drum stick and tapped the desk in an annoying staccato.

Well, gosh. Matt said dejectedly, making sad puppy eyes. That seemed to work, because her demeanor changed.

Druid Hey, you guys are Druids right? They looked at each other and nodded convincingly, and she leaned over conspiringly, Why don't you guys look into Wicca instead? These Druids are kind of small potatoes, if you know what I mean, magically. You guys are philosophy-of-life, storytelling and chuckleheads all around. Now, Wicca has it more together, and there are lots more books out there on it, and I even know a coven or two in the town, she looked coyly at Matt, If you're interested in Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca. Matt looked confused and had no idea what to say.

What's the difference between Wicca and Druidism? He asked, inquiring student that he was. Sean merely looked at his watch, dinner would be open soon he thought.

Oh, it's night and day, literally, you know. Wicca is mostly a ceremonial magic system, Druidry is mostly a system of inquiry and celebration. Wicca focuses on the phases of the moon, Druidry on the seasons of the sun. Wicca is duotheistic and Druidism is eclectically pantheistic, usually. Different foci, you see, but kind of parallel in construction drawing on similar myths; plus we give most Christians the hee-bee-jee-bees. Matt smiled and nodded on, following this. So, Matt, it's a totally different way to explore, you know, you should keep your options open, there are many more Wiccans after college than Druids, and you can stay indoors, where it's warm. You would enjoy that. She finished on what she thought was its strongest point in Minnesota with a raised tattooed finger.

Matt Oh, well, sure, that all sounds good to me, Matt began, warming up to the idea. Sean cut him off.

Hey, what am I here? Chopped liver? Sean protested.

Please, don't talk like that, I'm vegetarian. Dylan frowned.

Shaking with impatience, Sean nudged his friend, Stay on target with me, Matt. Turning to Dylan, What's really interesting, but we'll focus on Druidism this year, it has, um, something we think is valuable, uh, for us, that we're looking for. Dylan raised a plucked eyebrow, rubbing a swollen puffy ear. And so, maybe next year, we'll do that, cause, but we're really open to all that.

Dylan pouted a bit, Hey, no problem, it's cool. Lots of people cross-register you know, just a matter of time.

So we can't get into the archives this month? Matt asked warmly, bringing the conversation back on track.

'Uh, no, I already said that, cutie. Dylan quipped, chucking him under the chin, Today's the last day before Christmas week vacation, and the library will close soon, at 6 PM. I have to lock up early now and go home at 5 PM. I'm going to Wales to see my relatives for festivities tomorrow.

Need a ride to the airport? Matt offered, jangling some keys.

No. Maybe later, I actually have my own transportation, she smiled. Well, good luck on your research, and I hope things work out for you guys next month, with everything and all.

Dylan's Sean and Matt got up and started to leave. Matt noticed that Sean was looking around at the displays and the three heavy locked doors behind Dylan. Dylan collected her things and ushered them out, delicate golden chains on her waist noisily clicking, and locked the office door and went to the staircase, returned and handed Matt a slip of paper, If you have any questions later, about Wicca, or anything, just give me a buzz. She smiled darkly and gracefully clomped away in heavy dark snow boots.

Matt are you thinking what I'm thinking? Sean whispered.

Yeah, she thinks I'm totally hot. Matt chuckled with one hand planted on his hip peering proudly at the e-mail address on the paper, which he then lovingly folded and carefully filed into one of the pockets of his interior layers of clothing.

No, no, Matt, Sean said, amazed at the tunnel vision of Matt, We need to go back to my dorm room and get some tools and get back here quick. Sean looked like he was going through an internal checklist.

Tools for what? Matt asked, doggedly falling into step behind as Sean strode away.

We're breaking into here tonight!

Chapter Seven: Out for a Constitutional

As they crossed the campus to Sean's room in Davis Hall, a dorm for the more cultivated party-goers on Campus, Sean was peppered with questions from Matt.

Burton What are you talking about? We can't break in, Matt complained to Sean's determined back ahead of him. Sean didn't slow down at all.

Why not? I've got the tools and a sure-fire plan. Sean said over his shoulder as they approached the dorm.

Matt caught up and blocked Sean. Hello? Cause we'll get kicked out, Matt stood his ground firmly as Sean plowed forward, agilely ducking around him, ignoring his protest.

Sean raised a finger, Only if we get caught! They entered the dorm and went up to Sean's room, the hall was as quiet as a tomb, as he noisily unlocked the door and went inside. Sean rummaged through his closet, tossing odd items in a small backpack and changing to even darker than normal black clothes. There that's everything, Sean said and rubbed his hands gleefully together. Now, let's go get your cloak.

Huh?

Walking Sean laid an army on Matt's shoulder, speaking slowly, as to a child, in small words, It looks like that silly thing might prove useful after all.

Sean and Matt stopped by Burton Hall and Matt changed clothes at his wood-beamed raftered room, and grabbed his cloak. A few minutes later they were back in the library, shivering. Follow me, Sean advised. Matt followed with an un-necessary, but impressive, flourish of his cloak and the two went to the second floor to some large trashcans. It's 5:30 now, so, jump on in. They'll close in a half hour.

What are you talking about? Matt looked at him.

We'll wait in here until 6:00 PM, then after the final security sweep, we'll sneak into the archives. I do this all the time in the Assassin game, it never fails, they named me Sneaky Sean.

Matt thought about this carefully, shrugged, and climbed into the big trashcan.

Hiding Now don't move or your name will be...

I'm, Russell? Rustle, get it? Matt beamed and shook in the trash with delight, making crunchy noises. Sean did not appreciate canned humor.

No, your name will be Mudd! Sean piled trash over the top of Matt, then slithered into the other can and wiggled the garbage up to the top, up and over his own head, firmly sealing it. Then they both waited.

And waited. Time passes slower than an election year when you're in a trash can. A small eternity passed, and then both heard the hard bootsteps of an approaching security guard, which came, paused for a moment at the water fountain for a century or two, and then the heard the harsh static of a walkie-talkie. Breaker, this is Andogje Palavi down in the library. All floors check out, I'm coming out and activating the security system. Out. The clicking footfalls moved away, climbed the stairs and disappeared. Five minutes passed and then a klaxon sounded for five seconds and a blanket of silence fell resoundingly. After a pause, here and there around the library, little click sounds emanated from odd corners, as the alarm sensors kicked on.

Security Sean stuck his head out like a groundhog and looked around cautiously into the shadows. All clear, Matt come out. Matt's can shook a little, rocked, and fell over with a clang, spilling trash all over the floor along with half of Matt's upper torso. Matt groaned and crawled the rest of the way out of the can.

Idiot, youlll get us caught doing crap like that! Sean thundered.

Matt stumbled trying to stand and came over, Dude, I can't feel my legs and arms, it's like 33 degrees down here.

Do you know Scottish Rite Masonry has 33 degrees? Sean commented, walking over.

Really?

Yeah, but the first three are the same as those of the York Rite, which has 10 degrees.

What's the First Degree like? Matt asked.

Up I'm glad you asked for it, this is the sign of the first degree. Sean's arm swung widely, and in mid-arc it slapped a hand across Matt's face, to end by his own chin. Matt winced, looking a bit hurt and angry.

Uh, huh, I think the only degree I'm going to want is my bachelor's degree. Matt groused.

Sorry. Sean said, only half apologetically. Now we're here to do business. This library has a few dozen infrared and motion detectors, according to my roommate's friend who did security detail last year. No cameras until 7:30 PM. The heat sensors aren't very sensitive, and can only detect a change warmer than 10 degrees above or below the ambient room atmosphere, or any movement over a slow crawl. Sean was digging in his backpack. Now, we're going to have to just cross this floor, through many scanned areas, to the air-conditioning duct over there without being detected. That's where your cloak comes in handy.

Um, Sean, I hate to break it to you, but I haven't got the invisibility thing down yet, you know. That's Harry Potter stuff, you know, not Reformed Druidism. Matt explained patiently.

What I'm actually thinking of a different movie. Think Predator when Arnold dips himself in mud to evade the Alien's infrared vision. Science, not fantasy.

Hey wait, you said 'Mudd' before, I don't want mud on my cloak, it's brand new, protested Matt. This is high quality wool, I don't want it damaged.

We don't need mud, all we need is this! He whipped out two silver space blankets and motioned for Matt to remove his mantle. He pinned the twin shiny blankets to the interior of the cloak, stood under the cape and said, Voila! an anti-thermal invisibility cloak! Now get inside. Matt entered into the heavy cloak, and Sean closed it tightly and pinned it shut. Now as long as we move slowly, even an icy mammoth could pass by these sensors theoretically without being detected. No shaking or sudden movements. We're going to gracefully shuffle across the floor, let's go. The cameras will come on in about an hour or so and it will be harder to move about undetected.

The Sean and Matt started to slowly step out of the recessed cubby hole onto the carpeted floor. All they could see was the floor illuminated by Sean's flashlight held in his teeth. They moved at a glacial pace, Sean's ears perked for the security alarm that would spell the end of his academic life at Carleton, and force him into the great unknown of life-without-a-plan, one year earlier than expected. Their arms soon began to cramp from the stress of holding up the dense woolen garment, knowing even a small shake might bring doom. Spasms that they had thought had gone away from the trashcan returned and doubled in intensity. Yet, they did make it, weaving ever so slowly around furniture like some blind wooly shambling shibboleth from a bad Cthulhu story.

Ventilation I think we're almost there, hold on, just a few more steps. The carpet edge appeared at their feet, followed by slate flooring, indicating the destination. We're there. Okay you can relax. They collapsed on the floor, throwing open the suffocatingly hot steam-box of a cloak. The level was mostly unlit, and Sean's flashlight was focused on a metal panel on the wall. Sean handed the light to Matt and began unscrewing the wide panel and lifted it and set it down firmly and flatly on the floor. He stuck his head inside, took Matt's light and looked about and swung his feet and sat half-way in.

Now I don't know if this is going to work, but wait for my signal Geronimo! and he disappeared, leaving a frightened Matt in the pitch dark.

Chapter Eight: Pressing Research

Taking Matt waited listening. There was a skidding noise, a few 'uumphs!' and a final thud about 20 feet down on the first floor below. After a short pause, Sean called up, Throw down the cloak! And then come on in. Matt pushed the cloak in which fell more or less noiselessly and shimmied his larger frame into the hole and fell, slowing his descent by pressing against the smooth sides. He soon reached the bottom of the shaft and it split off in two different horizontal directions. It was about three feet wide and high.

You know, I've always wondered if these ventilator ducts were really so large. It's surprising that they are just like in Dr. Who and those science fiction movies. Sean mused to himself. Come on, this way, and don't get too close to me, the supports may not be strong enough for both of us. They inched their way in a prone crawl about 40 feet and another grate in the floor appeared. Sean opened the panel, crawled past it and lowered his feet and then hung from the ventilation system and let go, falling about 10 feet. Matt followed behind him, falling a little less gracefully, knocking over some furniture. Sean fiddled with something in the dark and flicked on a switch and Matt looked around. They were in a huge underground warehouse of the archives. Shelves stretched about 120 feet long and about 12 feet high and were on rollers, and pancaked flat into the corner, like a giant slumbering accordion.

A There were several crates, boxes, gold-tone shovels, paintings and statues all about; each with an untold story. Sean looked carefully at the index on the end of each shelf and found one, and began to crank a wheel with all his might to roll the shelves, one by one, over far enough to enter and went down the line to the very end, pulled down a few gray boxes and began leafing through the contents. Meanwhile, Matt was inspecting the various crates, including a rather large wooden one with some large stenciled German shipping instructions in black on the side and CONT: ARK./ COVEN on the other side It was firmly nailed shut. But something golden and glittering was inside and the wood container felt warm. He called out to Sean.

Hey, Sean, there's a box here labeled 'Arkansas Coven,' could that mean something? He yelled, but no reply, I think I read that there's a Reformed Druidic Wicca group in Oklahoma descended from the RDNA! Might be related!

Matt, you dunderhead, get over here, we're looking for treasure! Sean bellowed, I need your help here, now. We're researching Druids from the '60s, not Witches from the '80s. Focus, man! Matt reluctantly obeyed, and the faint static sound on the periphery of his sense disappeared as he left it, probably just from the cooling vent overhead, and he ran to join Sean.

Searching There's a lot of stuff here. Right, now, we're looking for an original constitution, or anything written by David Fisher. Now here's a recently-made index by that researcher Stephen, and it seems that Fisher's liturgical materials are simple photocopies of photocopies of the original, from the look of the various black edges on them. Sean held up another piece of paper, inviting Matt to look, However, this here, this is the actual 1963 Constitution signed by David Fisher, and this is his original 'Book of Faith' epistle. Sean handed them to Matt, Matt, go run and make a photocopy and bring me back the originals, and hurry.

Matt ran over to the copy machine, and turned it on, and made copies and ran back. How much time do we have?

Archival About 15 minutes until the cameras turn on.

And then, what do we do? Matt asked, looking at his watch.

Hopefully no one will be watching. We just slowly walk out, just like we came in. All doors in the library and offices open out from the inside without needing a key. Emergency safety reasons. Sean said, carefully replacing the originals with the photocopies, in case that Stephen guy comes back next January to do more research. And, if he is also a treasure hunter, he'll be sorely disappointed. Sean smiled. That's all of them, I think, according to Stephen's index.

Matt grabbed Sean's arm, Sean, I feel really bad about doing this, I a historian, English minor of course, and we shouldn't be taking primary documents out of the archives.

Holding up the documents, Sean puzzled. Yeah, uh huh. Don't worry. We'll take them back in January after we've inspected them thoroughly for clues. Matt came over and took one and pulled out a Bic lighter and lit it and held it behind the paper, illuminating them.

I don't see any hidden lettering, like you know, invisible ink! Perhaps... Matt's words were cut off by a stern recorded voice overhead.

Intense heat source detected. Initiating preliminary containment procedure. They looked up and saw a fire detector flashing.

Shit! they said in unison, and extinguished the lighter. Both turned towards the entrance side of the shelf. A large metal plate fell quickly from the ceiling with a jarring clang, blocking off the open ends of the shelving aisles. A generator kicked to life, a powerful throbbing noise was heard, and the shelves began to shake.

Flashing Without exchanging words, they both knew what the other was thinking, the horror of a hundred action films impinging on their version of reality. The shelves were being mechanically closed, pancaking shut like a pressed accordion, and they saw them perceptibly sliding along the floor. They shuffled along with the moving shelf toward the wall. First one, then another was reaching the far wall, and locking into place with a heavy thud, and six or seven on their other side were coming towards the fully closed compact emergency position.

We gotta get out of here! Sean cried, stuffing the papers in his shirt.

Where? The entrance's blocked! Matt whimpered looking around.

Sean yelled, Then we need to make one or hop into an empty shelf... He stopped, pointing up. There's space up there over the shelves. Up! Matt! Up! They began to scramble up the bookshelves, knocking off books and boxes. Sean poked his head up. There was no more slack down the line of the cases, it would be closed in a few seconds. Below him a few books were being crushed and/or pushed up by the slanted base-shelf scoopers, like cow-catcher-grills on a run-away train, buying him only a few precious seconds.

Fire Matt climbed on top and helped Sean clamber up, who suddenly yelled, YAAAARRGGH! Whirling motors whined under stress. Sean's left snowboot was caught in the shelving, and they both yanked hard, eventually freeing it. Sean was unable to right himself, My ankle, I think it's broken! It had only been about 40 seconds since the alarm had sounded. As the shelves snapped shut, the room began to fill with a light, noxious, airy dry green foam from various nozzles in the ceiling that obfuscated the exits of the rooms from sight.

Drowning We gotta get out of here, now! Sean repeated, they scooted to the edge of the shelves and dropped down. Sean noticeably in pain from the 10-foot drop this time. As he opened the archive vault's door, an alarm went off.

Containment breach detected, the fire alarm is being activated. Followed by a shrill oscillating klaxon that vibrated their head's inner-ear painfully and left them perceptibly wincing and twisting, hands futilely over their ears.

Which way?! Matt asked, confused. He had never spent much time in the library before, and the foam in his hair was beginning to run down and blind his eyes with a burning sensation.

Winding There's an emergency exit on the second floor stairway, the guards are coming from all the way across campus, entering on the fourth floor. He paused, It's a fire alarm, they have to call the fire department first, let's move! We have only seconds. Matt began to run, remembered Sean, returned and hefted his cloak and threw Sean's arm over his own shoulder and they both began to stagger through the two or three archive doors, trailing foam behind them, heading to the stairwell, no doubt tripping several motion detectors.

They laboriously hustled their way up one step at a time in the stygian, pitch darkness punctuated by a blinding strobe-like alarm flashing and that incessantly disorientating piercing alarm. They had reached the second floor, and the emergency exit, when they heard yells and cries from the top of the stairs. Matt and Sean leaned on the door, which didnt open. In the next light flash, they read 5-Second Delay Before Opening.

Fire alarm tripped somewhere in the basement. A loud distant ordered, Flashlights on, let's go! And the heavy echoes of the steps were hustling down towards them. Every Teutonic bootstep brought the possibility of security guards and expulsion maddeningly closer.

Our Keep pushing, let's go. Nine Mississippi, Ten Mississippi. Come on, damn it! Just when the guards would come around the winding staircase, the door popped open, and the two fell outside, and they whipped the door around and slammed it shut, which went unheard in the infernal din. Despite being 7:00 at night, the white snow picked up the soft reflecting light of Northfield's lights bouncing off the cloud, giving everything a surreal twilight-quality of peace. They breathed once or twice, Matt rolled Sean onto his cloak, and began dragging him away from the library and disappeared into the relative safety of the spruce trees at a nearby parking lot. Un-noticed by them, a shadowy figure from the forest watched them and slipped away into the night towards the deep Arboretum.

Chapter Nine: The Hidden Text

It was a long time before they got back to Davis Hall. Back in Sean's Edwardian-era dorm room, they locked the door, a bit paranoid that someone somehow might follow and punish them for their heinous disregard for college etiquette and archival policy. When their breathing resumed a normal rhythm, Sean fished the documents out of his shirt, snapped on a desk lamp and began to peer at them, sifting through each word carefully as if he had discovered the sequel to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Sean Matt tried to peek over his shoulder frequently with knotted eyebrows, saying words like Hmmmm helpfully and pacing the small dorm room. He had a sudden thought. You know, Sean, if we had NOT gotten out of that shelving, or had crawled into an empty shelf and it had closed, we could have been, like, stuck there for a few weeks, before anyone found us, dead of starvation and dehydration. Dude, we'd be... like, history, in that archives.

Matt, don't talk like that. I don't like irony. He snapped, fingers in his ears, focusing harder.

Why not? He's a good writer... He trailed off, because Sean wasn't listening again. Eventually, Matt got tired, sighed and went to pour himself a little whiskey toddy, humming happily at the clear amber liquid's graceful sloshing in the cup. Meanwhile Sean fumed and fussed behind Matt's back, turning the document over, inverting it, holding it up to the fluorescent and black lights, lemon juice, a hairdryer, and a dozen other tricks he learned from the Internet to no avail.

Damn it. Sean's voice was dejected and a tone higher, nearly hysterical from lack of sleep. His throbbing left ankle wasn't satisfied with just ibuprofen, and it rested in a wastebasket of iced water. It's just a constitution and the epistle is little different. It looks like any standard constitution for any Carleton group, a strange group, yes, but still an ordinary constitution. What could be so damn important about it?

Matt's Sean threw his arm over the chair, turning and glowering at Matt, It's the same words as the one in the ARDA collection, just blue ink with differing line breaks. If a secret message is encrypted by positioning, we may never figure it out, we might need a template with holes in it to read the message or something like an algorithm to skip letters in a certain sequence. Maybe we're barking up the wrong oak tree with our line of reasoning?

Encrypted? Back in the 1960s? No way! You watch way too many spy movies on TV. Matt pooh-poohed, then tilted his head and tentatively jested, hoping that it would lighten the mood. I heard a joke about George Bush at the debates in 2000, who when asked what was an Algorhythm, he said, 'monotonic and repetitive.' Sean merely scowled at the unwanted distraction. Matt then snapped to attention, Hey, wait a minute, let me see it again, Sean.

Will you shut up! Okay! Fine, you look at it! Sean roared and his hand grabbed Matt's collar and pulled him towards the desk. Matt was startled and spilled his tumbler all over the desk.

Matt Bloody hell, Matt! What have you done, idiot! You ruined my roommate's keyboard. Do I have to teach you the second degree now? His eyes darted back to the document, whose edge was soaked too and wrinkling a little, Oh my God! We have to return that, you know. Sean shouted, stood up, shaking Matt as best he could for a sputtering, apologetic Matt, but then Sean sank into his chair despondent, dabbing up the whiskey with a shower towel.

Sorry, man, I've always had trouble holding my liquor, Matt apologized. Dang, Masons are grumpy, he thought.

Sean grimly mumbled, Oh, what's the use? Maybe I can go to a community college to finish up. Illinois State, here I come. Then his eyes lit upon a soaked corner of the constitution, which glittered a little strangely. Was it just his crusty sleepy eyes? He looked closer, and something seemed to be darkening under the paper.

Matt, look! Sean flipped the constitution to the reverse side and tiny flowery-script words were slowly appearing under the yellow stain.

Give me some water! Matt ran to the bathroom and came back with water. Sean dappled some on the page. Nothing happened. More whiskey! Sean bellowed. Matt looked up.

Black But it's expensive, he whined.

Damn it, Matt, so is Carleton! More whiskey! Sean generously drizzled about a half cup of whiskey over the document and like a bobber floating to the water's surface, the words stretched across the previously blank page in swirls and curlicues. My God, the paper or ink must be somehow chemically treated to react only to whiskey. Who could devise such a thing? Sean pulled out his reading glasses from a pocket and squinted furiously at the text.

It makes sense, he said in a self-congratulating pose, The newspaper ad said, 'May your spirits find the message divine.' And Fluid Druids love their booze.

Sean Actually only on religious occasions, Matt observed pedantically.

And let me guess, you are very religious? Sean asked and Matt acknowledged the point, tossed his shoulders, smiled, rather flattered, with blushing cheeks.

Well what does it say? Matt said crowding Sean by the table's light, as Sean scanned the document between trembling hands and wiped his brow.

Wait a minute, will you! It's in really fancy calligraphy, but I'll try to read it. Sean then struggled at first, but began a rhythmic chant.

      Congratulations Dear Brother,

      To claim the treasure you must surmount many fears
      For great it has grown over four hundred years.
      Mending the souls from the journeys of sages
      Rich is the tithe drawn from his wages.

      Two tenets there be in our Druidic code
      Tall pillars and strong, 'tho their base may erode.
      Between them you'll rise to great heights
      A name they will give to show the next site.

      Summer Our voices were carried on the wings of the birds,
      Borne on the winds, our words were far heard.
      Look under the speaker for the sign of the clan
      Whose leader now knows a key to the plan.

      Those Cursed children who seek their salvation
      Live apart from you in a higher pure nation
      Safe in those castles that are built of strong stone
      Clothed in white samite with faces of cold bone

      High o'er the heads of those deep in prayer
      Bestruck by the gods and polished by the air,
      Known only well by the folk of the sky
      Use wits to reach there or learn how to fly.

      The Queen of Hearts in spring holds sway
      None can resist her green charms in May.
      When the maypole rises and drama ensues
      Below her blue skirt lies her precious clue.

      When black and white are one day in line
      When all forms of God are known to be divine,
      Sight the two and carefully through them peer
      The path to her cave will be sharp and clear Druidess

      Deep in the earth, her tunnel will twist
      When all seems done our leader has been missed.
      One bard has a harp, the rest but a lyre,
      Which of them built the Wonder of Wiltshire?

      Great are the Earthmother's charms to be sure
      White, firm and round and full of allure.
      Seek the middle path and where it will lead
      Look under the stone of the zealot's last deed.

      Finally you know to whom you must meet
      Stare fast at him or he will certainly cheat.
      His journey is endless, but no longer will roam
      Not all that come here will return to their home.

      Yours in the Mother,
      David H. Fisher

There was a hush then, as they savored the experience. There is no feeling in the world like finding a real treasure map. It makes even the Easter Bunny and political parties seem plausible. There was a long pregnant pause, and finally Matt exclaimed anticlimactically, Wow, that was a whole lot more complicated than I expected.

Yeah, said Sean suddenly had a headache to accompany his inflamed ankle, Damn Druids! This thing's chock-full of riddles. Why do Celts have to be so darned clever?! I was so hoping this would be over quickly. You know, 'The treasure under the teacher's desk in Laird 202.' Something simple like that. This cursed Fisher must be testing us in some perverse way to make it so damn difficult. Sean slapped a stack of papers off the desk, and he span around, It must have been written right before he graduated, and he must have been in a mean mood. At least that epistle by Fisher has no hidden text to plague us any further, I just tested that one.

Discussing Matt tapped the document, Sean, did you notice the handwriting is a little different on the last four verses?

Sean just shrugged in response. Yeah, perhaps they were written by the other founders, like each one wrote a verse or something?

Why don't we just solve the last riddle, and skip all the ones in the beginning? Matt offered, quickly typing up a copy on the computer.

No, we probably should start at the beginning, or we'd be wasting our time. Each riddle probably leads to the next one, unless he's just yanking us about for some twisted fun. Sean paused. However, I think the first quartet is just a description of the treasure, a warm-up, you know to get us hooked, and the second verse is the first actual clue, so let's start there. Sean noticed that as the whiskey dried, so also did the letters began to fade away again, even the yellow stain disappearing, leaving an unharmed white paper.

I'm going to order some pizza, this might really take awhile. Matt said, turning the heat up a little on the room's thermostat. You know, next month when school resumes, we should return the originals, right?

Sure, whatever, Matt. Sean was making some sort of an imaginary list in his head, Tomorrow we're going to need to buy some supplies downtown. Sean mused rubbing his chin.

What kind of supplies?

Generic treasure-hunter supplies. Oddly, Sean sung the next words, I'm making a list and checking it twice.

Winter Happy Solstice, Sean. Matt said.

Yeah, you too, Matt, Sean quipped, and surprisingly, he meant it.

You don't get Christmas presents like this every year! Matt burbled.

That evening, they worked out a long list together, puzzled over the riddle, ate pizza and around 2AM., they called it quits, without any hard results to comfort themselves. Sean hobbled across the room, rolled off to sleep on his own bed, and Matt closed the pizza box and sleepily took Sean's roommate's bed, not noticing that the green foam on his clothes was staining the sheets. He dreamed of great piles of gold coins, but his reality after he woke would be even grander.

END OF PART TWO OF EIGHT

Tune in next issue (Aug 1st), for the further exciting adventures of Sean & Matt.


. SERIAL STORY: PART 3 of 8
Matt
Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Fiction written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE
Part Three of Eight

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episodes

Two poor undergraduate juniors, Matt (a Cricket & football star) and Sean (a philosophy major), are spending winter vacation under-employed at Carleton College in rural Northfield MN. Desperate for money, they followed up on a mysterious ad in a newspaper that implied a great treasure was hidden at Carleton for the future rightful heir of David Fisher, the founder of Reformed Druidism. Following a tip from the campus Chaplain, Sean infiltrated the local Masons, while Matt went ga-ga with the Druids. From the various clues they discovered, they decided that only possible solution to the mystery is to check the original written materials by David Fisher, which are stored at the Druid Archive Collection. They met the mysterious secretary, Dylan, but access was denied. With amazing ingenuity and great personal risk, they steal some documents from the Archives and discovered a lengthy poem holding a cryptic blueprint to the treasure written in disappearing ink. The previous two episodes can be read in their entirety at http://www.rdna.info/treasure.html

Now let's join our protagonists as they try to solve the second quatrain of the large riddle.


Chapter Ten: Obelisk Obstacles

Sean For the next few days, while Sean's ankle recuperated, Matt went out on a post-Christmas-sale shopping spree for items on their treasure-hunting list. The first day back, he dropped off a armful of DVDs to keep the bed-ridden Sean occupied, including the Tomb Raider, Mummy and Indiana Jones series, which he said, Might be helpful. He felt that action heroes oddly never seem to sufficiently draw upon pop-culture to deal with threats and disasters (like normal folk). They would not get a poison dart in the neck from a booby-trap by the same mistake! Then he left again for a few of the more unusual stores in the Twin Cities. Sean interspersed the videos with dry readings of RDNA anthologies, the Masonic Monitor, some phone calls, and struggling with the riddle's many verses of clues. Naturally, he was bored to tears.

Sean felt better by the 28th of December and walked gingerly to Matt's room to see the purchasing progress. Matt had neatly built up two separate piles of gear like something from an REI photo-shoot; heaps of rope, cameras, shovels, pickaxe, first-aid kits, backpacks, Swiss army knife tools, water bottles, tents, and a dozen other strange items.

Matt, why do we need a bull-whip and a crucifix? Sean said fingering them.

Um, standard equipment, I think. Matt shrugged, And it's cool. Do you think we will need this service revolver?

No, I don't think so. How much did all this come to? Seam dreaded the reply.

Nonchalantly, Matt picked up a mountain of receipts, and replied, About $3,500, I think. Your card is maxed out, dude. Don't worry, I covered the last $400 myself. But it's a good investment. Sean's jaw dropped, and he developed an uncontrollable eye twitch. But the usual explosion of anger surprisingly didn't happen.

Uh,. . .huh, he managed to stay calm. Sean knew his father would be calling in a few days about this, but this fellow, Matt, had saved his tusch from expulsion a week ago during their break-in at the library, and well, they did have a hot lead on a reputedly fantastic treasure. Hopefully, he could find the treasure quickly and pay off the principal of the credit card, before the interest swamped him.

How's the ankle, Sean?

Decent enough, I think.

Well, then, we got the gear, we got the riddles, and I've got enough enthusiasm for both of us, Matt effused, What do we do next, Mr. Riddlemeister?

My name is Ridmeister, Sean began to sort stuff into their backpacks, Well, I've been thinking. Let's pack up and head outside. Here's verse two again:

    The Two tenets there be in our Druidic code
    Tall pillars and strong, 'tho their base may erode.
    Between them you'll rise to great heights
    A name they will give to show the next site.

Off Sean motioned and they picked up their packs and marched outside, their foothold a little uncertain because of the ice that had formed in the previous footprints in the snow trail, as a gentle snow began to fall. Meanwhile, Sean talked despite the clawing cold air on his throat, Now on the surface of the riddle, it looks like an extollation of being a virtuous Druid by following the two basic tenets of Druidism which are. . .

Matt supplied the text by memory,

    The object of the search for religious truth, which is a universal and a never-ending search, may be found through the Earth Mother, which is Nature; but this is one way, yea, one way among many.

    And great is the importance, which is of a spiritual importance, of Nature, which is the Earth Mother; for it is one of the objects of Creation, and with it we do live, yea, even as we do struggle through life are we come face to face with it.

The distant woods on the horizon grew closer slowly, as it took three times as long to go anywhere in the deep snow.

Yeah, right, all that. Sean stopped at the entrance to the Lower Arboretum after crossing Highway 19, which separated the Campus & Upper Arb from the Lower Arb; which was closer to the river. He assumed a lecturing pose of a professor, Now, both of those tenets and the riddle are about searching, directing us to search nature; yada yada yada; which leads me to think that we should be looking outdoors, the favorite haunt of Druids, right? Matt nodded, and the two continued towards past the oasis of the forest-enclosed tennis courts. Behind them, their footprints began to fill in with fresh snow. The 'tall pillars' may be referring to actual pillars, and many buildings on the campus have pillars, but not in pairs. And, why choose the word 'erode?' Well, after checking with the grounds department, there is only one place where two pillars are next to each other, and anticipating Matt's inquiry, and they are right there before us. Voila! They rounded a stark green bend of pine trees and Matt saw it.

Mystery Sean waved his hand before them at the landscape of the 100-foot-wide Cannon River dividing and running down the center of the Lower Arboretum's forest in front of them. Beyond the beach they were standing on, they could see a large wooded island in the river. On both sides of the island and on the opposite sites of the Cannon River, were pairs of obelisks. Smooth and tall, about 25 feet high and tapering towards the top. They stood watch over the river like foreboding giants on an eternal guard duty.

What are they? Matt gasped in the freezing air that had frosted his nose hairs already. The feeling was similar to how a lion felt running into an electric fence in the middle of a savannah; one that wasn't there the day before.

They are abutments to hang suspended wire bridges to and from the island, and to cross the river. He began sketching a map with a stick in the snow. According to my friend Greg on the grounds crew, the hanging bridges were damaged by groups of cross-country runners running in unison on the bridges in the late '80s, and later finished off by those amazing floods in 1993, that turned the entire Lower Arb into a massive lake. There should be some clue on them, and I'm suspecting up on the pinnacles, 'great heights,' mentioned in the poems. So we're going to have to scale them.

All of them? Matt was in dismay.

I hope not. Now as you can see, three of the four pairs are pretty solidly on dry ground, but those two over there, are now in midst of the river due to extensive. . .

The River erosion, Matt exclaimed.

Exactly. So let's concentrate on those two today. Now the river's not completely frozen near them, and it looks about three feet deep over there at the base, five feet from the shore, in really cold water, so we'll have to wade out, but we can't use a ladder with that kind of current, it'd just be swept away and unsteady.

So?

So, we think, Sean said unhelpfully.

Maybe we could use a telescope from a tree?

No climbable trees with good vantage points.

Cut handholds into the side of the pillars? Matt offered.

Would take too long, and it looks kind of slippery.

Matt slammed his right mitten into his left palm, Maybe we could try back-to-back pushing our feet off the opposing twin obelisks? Like in a Batman episode I saw, when they're stuck at the bottom of a well.

By You know, that might work. Get out the rubber waders. Sean pulled out the hip waders and dropped off their backpacks on the snowy banks and they waded out slowly. The two obelisks were about four feet apart at the base, maybe five feet at the top. They locked arms, pressed their backs together, and put a foot up and began to ascend jerkily towards the top, but after about eight or ten feet, Sean got tired and his footing was getting uncertain.

Uh, Matt, this won't work, get ready to drop on three. 1 . . 2 . . 3! They dropped eight feet with a large splash, Matt was a bit unsteady, but Sean flailed about and nearly fell over, and Matt grabbed him from tumbling dangerously into the main channel of the river, to be swept away mercilessly by the undertow below the ice. That was an unpleasant fate, Sean didn't want to contemplate again.

Holding his thumping heart in place Sean wheezed, Thanks, Matt. I guess that's not going to work. I think I've got some water in my waders, and my left ankle hurts again, let's get back on the river bank. Sean made it back on the shore and poured the water out of his boots and grimaced at his cold toes, changing socks quickly. Always pack extra socks and underwear, his father had told him.

Why would he choose obelisks? Matt asked with a frown, rubbing the sides of the obelisk with his mitted hand.

Masons have this persistent fascination with Egyptian and Greek symbolism, like columns and obelisks. I think traditionally, those are considered to be phallic symbols, and signs of strength and nobility, kind of like how they designed the Washington Monument over in D.C.

Well, I wished these were ribbed, then it'd be a cinch to hold on to it. . . Matt muttered.

Sean looked up at him in near-joy, as close as his reputation permitted, Matt, that's it! You're from Oklahoma right? I want you to make a lasso and rope me the top of both of those obelisks. Matt nodded seeing where it was going, And now I'll wade out and attach a rope around the obelisk and cinch it tight, since it's tapering it won't fall down far. Now a few loops in each circlet for hand and footholds. Maybe six or seven loops for each obelisk, spaced every two or three feet. Then at the top we'll securing a long rope by lasso to pull ourselves up, resting at the rings every few feet or so to steady ourselves.

That's pure genius! Matt exclaimed.

Sean sniffed, Of course, how'd you think I got into Carleton? The winds from the snow storm now began to blow hard spraying the sharp granular layer of snow-ice off the surface of the drifts and into their eyes.

Does They had plenty of rope and over the next hour or so, many lengths of rope were prepared. They both agreed that Sean was more nimble, so he did the climbing. The initial lariat was still tied on to the top of each obelisk and Matt tied a safety rope onto Sean in case he fell in the river again. Sean pulled himself up the right side obelisk first and reached the top in about 10 minutes, obviously tired, resting his feet on each of the rings, which slipped down a little at first, but held fast afterwards.

What do you see up there? Matt shouted from the shore.

Nothing at all. It's absolutely smooth. No markings at all. I don't see any pigments or lettering. I'm coming down.

Sean worked his way down and hopped into the water; safely this time. Let's try the other one. And began to laboriously scale that one by coiling a rope around it in sections, in the same manner, thankful his frozen foot was regaining some feeling, but he was also feeling pins and needles as it thawed.

Anything? Matt called, a bit worried. It was nearly sunset, 4:30 PM in Minnesota.

Sean swayed on top, No, nothing, dejectedly, Well, just some scratches on the edges, but that's the only difference from the last one!

Scratches, huh? Matt bellowed.

Yeah, isn't that strange? I mean, we get floods here all the time, but nothing like flood-wood would have scratched the top of this tall pillar, not this badly.

They paused. The powerful river coursed by them, deadly cold, urgently rolling its way to the Mississippi and thence to the wide ocean, minding its own business, filled with chunks and floating sheets of ice. Sean had secured the rope around his waist and was leaning back to relieve the strain of the position. A few minutes passed as Matt was searching for something at the end of his consciousness. He'd seen that before, but where?

Hey Sean, are those scratches in any kind of pattern?

What Well, kind of, I guess, in groups, like one or two or three, sometimes straight, some at angles, possibly hewn by primitive tools. Is it a code or something?

Sean, I think it's a Druidic alphabet, but I need you to make a copy and we'll look it up later. Do you have a pencil and paper? Make a rubbing; that would be the best record. Sean nodded from the top, it made sense to him.

Gotcha, Matt! Sean wrapped the rope once more about his waist and secured it with his teeth, pulled out a sheet of paper and pencil from an interior pocket and began rubbing furiously the edges of the apex of the obelisk. For a second he looked back towards the edge of the grove of pine trees and he thought he saw something shadowy slip into the trees. Probably just a deer. He looked down at Matt and yelled, There, that's it! I think I got all of them. I'm coming down. He stopped repelling halfway down. I'm going to cut off the top rings to cover our tracks. Sean did so and when he got to the base, despite his fatigue, he climbed up again and removed the rings off the first obelisk.

Let's get back inside. Matt pulled him back to shore and they shucked their waders and hobbled back to the campus, very cold. You know the sexual implications of all this are quite striking, Sean. Why, in my anthropology class. . .

Matt, let's just keep this between the two of us, all right?

Yeah, sure, Sean. Matt smiled knowingly. How's that ankle?

Fortunately, it's gone numb again. Sean stopped at the grove of pines and stopped. Matt, do you see those footprints in the pine trees? Those are rather fresh tracks, don't you think?

Matt peered down and put his boot by them for comparison. Looks like a size 9. Probably just a townie out for a walk... That's odd, they trot away for about a few yards, then disappear by that tree. Matt looked up, nope, no one up in the tree branches.

Double The two stood there, gazing for a moment, then mutually shrugged, Are you hungry, Matt?

Sure am, how about pizza, double pepperoni?

Make it triple, and I'll pay.

Chapter Eleven: The Mystery of Karl

They were exhausted when they returned, but Matt fired up the computer and the heater and Sean took care of the gear, hanging it up to dry out, while Matt did some googling on the Internet. In a few moments, Matt printed out a few pages and showed it to Sean.

The That alphabet is called Ogham, take a look. The ancient bards would record music on sticks called 'ceolbran, or 'music sticks' with marks, and people would write names of people and tribal boundaries on the edges of rocks up until the tenth century in the Celtic countries with slashes and dots, like an ancient Morse code. He tapped the page with a smile, Fisher would have certainly known about this. It's common knowledge to any mediocre researcher of Druidism, even in the 1960s.

Sean scratched his head, trying to wrap his head around the alphabet, So, it's a recording system, like a 'bar code' on groceries?

Actually, Sean, I like to call it a 'bard code', but yes, Matt smiled, chuckling to himself, immensely amused at his own wit to the exclusion of the world around him.

Sean winced, perhaps at his ankle or the pun, So what does it say? Is the message in English or Irish? Matt shrugged, and looked at the rubbings and scribbled next to them for a few moments, scratched his head, turned the scratches upside-down, and continued again for about ten minutes, meanwhile Sean ordered the inevitable winter-break pizza. Matt finally held the rubbing up to Sean, and read the Latin alphabet translation:

    UMUSTSEECOUTCARL

It's probably 'You must seek out Karl', because there's no K or Y in Ogham, I think, they don't use many consonants. But, who is Karl, anyway, Sean? Matt puzzled.

Sean looked out the window, arms clasped behind his back, appreciating the falling snow, brilliant as it entered the lamp's cone-of-light outside. He responded over his shoulder, I don't know. Maybe he's a local Mason or faculty or staff member here at the college?

Well, we might as well re-read our material, and let's do a word search on the file to keep it simple, eh? 'K-a-r-l' and 'Northfield.' Matt hit enter and waited a few million nanoseconds, Looks like a lot of links with Carleton, with a radio station here, since we're west of the Mississippi their call-signs all start with 'K', get it? KARLeton! I remember Fisher's interview stated that he worked at a radio station here, too. What's Fisher's riddle poem say for the next clue?

A Sam pulled out a printout of the poem, and read it slowly;

    Our voices were carried on the wings of the birds,
    Borne on the winds, our words were far heard.
    Look under the speaker for the sign of the clan
    Whose leader now knows a key to the plan.

That sure does sound like a description of a radio station to me, doesn't it? Matt laughed, rubbing his hands.

It sure does, so let's go down and check it out tomorrow. As he was re-coiling the remaining rope, he said, Thank goodness this next part is going to be indoors.

They both stayed up late trying to work out the next couple of clues, but they didn't make much sense of it, and decided to, again, go one step at a time; which like the proverbial cow, would eventually make it to the market at its natural pace.

Sayles The next morning, Matt knocked at Sean's door and the two walked to the student center. A dark area against the pale oak flooring caught Matt's eye. Yes, there at a table in the nearly empty auburn hue of the room at lunchtime. It was Dylan, dressed in black, again. She gave Sean the creeps. Sean tried to restrain Matt, but it was too late.

Hey Dylan, remember me? Matt waved too exaggeratedly to be ignored by even the most averse spectator. Dylan weakly waved back and Matt sat down at her table where she was drinking coffee and gnawing on an untoasted bagel.

Hey, you're back from England already?

Wales, buster, she snapped.

Oh yeah, Wales. Heh, heh. Did you do a lot of sightseeing, you know, nudging her shoulder, Wales-watching. She broke form and actually smirked, an expression that made Sean cringe at its unnaturalness.

Oh, it's always fun. She leaned over a bit conspiringly, Hey guys, did you hear that someone broke into the archives a few days ago?

Matt No, they both said as convincingly as possible, but perhaps not well enough, because Dylan's thin black eye brows shot up and narrowed a bit. There weren't many students here over break. Whoever they were, they tripped the fire detector and flooded the archives with fire-fighting foam. I spent a few days wiping off some artifacts down there, but the papers are all fine, due to their boxing. You guys are sure you don't know anything about it? She asked staring at their eyes, for hints of lies.

They both put on straight faces, waved their hands, flustered, and looked about in disbelief.

Well, whatever, but it's going to impact your research. Police think the thieves were trying to steal either Frederich Schiller's bust or searching for rock samples, valuable ones, they said. There were a lot of boxes of rare mineral samples from the Geology department's section of the shelving knocked down by some klutz, and the area will be off-limits until maybe even February, due to clean-up and police work.

Ah, shucks, man, griped Matt on cue, swinging a fist.

Shucks? Which decade are you in? Sean thought and threw up his hands, This sucks, can you help us get in a little earlier? Sean implored half-heartedly, but of course he didn't care anymore; mission accomplished.

Dylan Fat chance of that. I think they suspect me, too, but I was overseas by that point, so my part-time job is protected for next term. Thank goddess, huh? She rolled her eyes here and gnawed further on her cream cheese bagel.

Hey, do you know where the KARL radio station is?

Sorry to tell you, it's gone, baby, Dylan smiled sipping her triple latte, enjoying the shock on their face. We have a new radio station, KRLX FM and a KRLX AM station. I'm a DJ too, you know, I play inspirational music.

Inspirational? Really? Matt delved further into her eyes, already inspired.

Yeah, you know, Nine-Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, the Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, she waved her hand, None of the depressing stuff. Matt nodded dreamily, twisting a foot back and forth reflexively.

Sean leaned in to rescue Matt's lost conversation thread, Um, so they use the same studio as before right?

Nope, she said awoken from the shared dream, Eric, he's the archivist, right? He says that KARL station was dismantled back in the '80s. All the equipment was removed, relocated and updated. I think the original broadcasting booth is still locked up in Willis Hall; which is one of the oldest buildings in Northfield.

Sean looked confused and upset, Whatcha talking about Willis?!

krlx Oh, yeah, Willis was the highest elevated point for broadcasting back then, so the antenna was set up over there, and it was the old student center until the 70s. She toyed with her cup, and turned back to Matt, You know, we have a slogan at KRLX which is at the end of the broadcast spectrum, 'KRLX 88.1 FM, it's better on the bottom.' Nice, eh? Perhaps we could do a joint show together. She growled, wagging an eyebrow.

Matt grinned like a jackanapes, Mrs. Llewellyn, I do believe you are trying to seduce me.

Her dark eyes locked on his, she snarled, You little fool, I've already succeeded.

Oh, I think it's a mutual draw, Matt teased and there was a rather long pause, at least in Sean's excluded opinion.

Sean slapped him on the shoulder, Matt, old buddy, we need to get going here,.. Uh.. Dylan, nice to see you again. A reality show is coming on in a few moments. Come on, Matt. Matt looked up dazed and grunted and scrambled to his feet, waving at her over his shoulder as he was hustled away. Dylan sipped her coffee and flicked her black-manicured fingernails in a dismissive kind of 'goodbye' manner.

But Sean, whined Matt, Who cares about reality shows, our real life is getting way more interesting?

You should be really more interested in finding that treasure trove than going after hers, Sean snapped, jerking Matt's bulky frame along. Matt dug in his heels and struck a pose:

a

    Never try to put a price on a lady's hand,
    Or a word of wisdom that you learn,
    'Cause you'll end up a single lonely man,
    And dumb as dirt no matter how much you earn.

Matt smiled with satisfaction wagging a finger at Sean, Just made that up, you know, I'm inspired!

Come on Solomon! Sean grinned pointedly, We're going to Willis, now, before they lock it up for New Year's.

They hopped out of the student center, without coats on, and ran as fast as the ice permitted to Willis; which had a soaring rounded tower, with a steep slanted conical slate roof, a broken clock and a disheveled American flag, possibly a few decades old.

Willis I take philosophy classes all the time here in Willis, yet I've never been to the top floor, so that's where it must be. Sean said rubbing his hands vigorously to increase circulation.

Sean, how come you take all these philosophy classes but you don't get any wiser? Matt asked.

When did you become such a great judge of character? Sean snapped instinctively, but the question did hit him hard. Are you your brother's keeper, or something? Sean groused as they reached the fourth floor.

Well, perhaps, now wait just a minute, we can talk right? Ah, college life, when serious issues can intrude on daily life. But I mean what's the basis of Masonry and Druidry, eh? No really. Matt stood still waiting for a real answer, so Sean gave up and actually thought for a minute.

Brotherhood, booze and ballyhooing, Sean stated, then reflexively wise-assed, not necessarily in that order.

Mostly, at first, Matt pushed Sean on the chest with a finger that reminded Sean, uncomfortably of the first-degree ceremony, So before you talk about my priorities, you keep that in mind.

Not knowing where this came from, Sean sputtered, Yeah, all right, dude. Whoa, this stuff is getting pretty serious for you.

No, not serious, Matt said, just important. Don't get me confused on that subject. But, hey, shouldn't we go back to the dorm room and get the crowbar or something?

It's my time to lecture you, Matt, Sean smiled, glad to recover momentum, waving a thin spray of wires from his pocket, It doesn't also take a big solution for a big problem, a big hunk of metal is unnecessary when you have the rightly-crafted small tool.

Matt's mouth moved quietly, lock picks! Hot dog!, you really know how to use them?

lock Of course, Sean knelt by the door for a better look, How do you think I planted all those alarm clock toy bombs in the Assassin game last term? Now, keep watch over at the stairs, I will need a few moments.

Matt stared down the stairs, but nobody was coming into the building at this time of the year, and he heard a few clicks and curses, then a ka-chunk, and he turned around and Sean was smiling, with an ajar door and gesturing to go in.

The two entered and quietly closed the door behind them, and groped the wall to find a light switch and flipped it. A wan light from a 30-year-old light bulb dimly lit the dusty, round room, which had a small window on the conical roof, a few wires sticking out of the wall, a desk with many holes drilled in it for cables that were gone, a wooden chair and not much else but the lonely memories of a forgotten room of a past age.

Man, even the air smells like the 1980s. I think this place might still be haunted by Van Halen, Matt mumbled. Everything has been taken out, like Dylan said. What are we looking for?

Sean read the poem on a printout by flashlight again.

    Look under the speaker for the sign of the clan
    Whose leader now knows a key to the plan.

Sean strolled about the room for a few moments. I think I've got an idea. Sean crawled under the desk and scoured around, Hey, I got something here. Take a look, Matt. Matt with boyish excitement, jumped under the desk, crowding Sean a bit with his bulk. Sean pointed to a large word, deeply cut into the underside of the desk table, and then inked in with indelible black marker.

DENMAD, Matt breathed out, eyes locked in the awe of the moment, but a bit confused, and a bit angered. The two men mumbled something incomprehensible, and rude.

Well, that's awful short isn't it? Sean spat distastefully, But what the hell does it mean? Sean got up and paced the room like a tiger in a zoo cage.

Matt crawled out slowly and had a scared look on his face, Oh, Sean don't you see? Read it backwards.

Sean paused in mid-step, speechless.

Chapter Twelve: The Cursed Children

Without more ado, Sean and Matt slipped out of Willis and sprinted back to the dormitory of Davis Hall, Matt losing his balance once on a slick patch and falling sputtering in embarrassment into a deep snow bank, but they made it inside without frostbite or too much discomfort, and returned to Sean's dingy room, but a dark air over their muted conversation.

DENMAD - DAMNED, huh? Sean thought aloud, Do you think Fisher was referring to the Druids, the group he started himself? That's real harsh, man.

Wait, what's the next clue again, Sean?

Well, look here, the last verse and next verse are related,

Well,

    Look under the speaker for the sign of the clan
    Whose leader now knows a key to the plan.

    Those Cursed children who seek their salvation
    Live apart from you in a higher pure nation
    Safe in those castles that are built of strong stone
    Clothed in white samite with faces of cold bone

Whoa, you're right, Matt looked depressed, I mean, if the Druid's founder is dissing on his own group, that's a big blow to their self-image. Does he think the Druids are, like Devil's Spawn, or something? Has he turned his back on them so coldly?

Sean shook his head, I don't think so, I mean, yeah, he had to renounce the Druids when he went into the Episcopal seminary, but you said yesterday that in his later letters in the 1970s, that he had returned to holding a kind of benevolent patronizing old-codger position towards the Druids.

Yeah, but that poem was written back in 1965, he might have been more emotional at that decisive point in his life, Matt cautioned.

Sean Well, why would he leave the treasure to the Druids then, if he didn't like the way they were going, Matt? Sean asked, scouring the text for other meanings.

Cycles, man, I mean what comes around goes around. Eventually, perhaps he believed, the Druids would return to the course he believed in. Perhaps he took an oath of celibacy and poverty and didn't have anyone else to give the treasure to? Matt suggested.

Possibly, but why not just give it to his church, then? That doesn't make sense at all. 'Live apart from you,' that kind of implies another group here besides the Druids. After all, it's the Druids who are likely to be the ones to find the message, isn't it?

I guess we'll know the answer to that when we reach the end of these riddles, now, won't we? Matt raised his hands up to the ceiling, then dropped them and pointed hard at Sean, Okay, for argument's sake, let's say there is another group, and Fisher wasn't bitterly remonstrating the Druids, then who would it be? Show me that text again.

Salvation is a mostly Christian concept, Sean suggested, Perhaps he's referring to a Jesus group on campus?

What about the castles? Matt emphasized, I know the 'Lord is a mighty fortress,' but so far his clues have been to actual locations, right? Most of the buildings on the campus are concrete or brick, rather squarish or artsy-fartsy.

Oh yeah, Sean mumbled and thought. Maybe he's referring to a torn-down building, or a place that isn't on campus, maybe there is some kind of castle in Minnesota, nearby? I'll search the Internet for some locations. Matt nodded with this logic and repacked some of the gear, and patched up some holes in his cloak with a needle and thread, while Sean fumed and tapped on the keyboard unproductively for an hour. Matt turned on the TV to watch some football.

Hey, Sean, the Vikings are on, Matt called pulling out some munchies and pop from the fridge.

I don't like football, and I'm too busy.. Sean paused in mid sentence at a sudden thought, did a quick search, Matt look here! Jabbing the monitor excitedly as his character permitted. The castle is here in Northfield, on the campus!

What are you talking about? Matt said sleepily looking up from the game. I've never seen any castles around here.

Not on Carleton Campus; on the other one, Sean chuckled, How clever! It's at St. Olaf Campus, across town, almost all of their buildings are built of granite blocks and crenellated on the roofs, like a castle!

A Matt's attention was piqued, And all the folks there are really Lutheran, and Scandinavian, with stereotypically pale complexions. That's got to be where the next clue is located. No Carl in his or her right mind would go there, or join a group of Oles.

Right. So, I don't think the 'Cursed Children' the riddle is referring to means the Druids, it must be referring to a group of Oles at Olaf. This 'DENMAD' and their leader must have a key to the riddle. But who are they, and why did they convince Fisher to give the key to them?

Matt stopped pacing and pulled up with a thought, I believe Isaac Bonewits (the guy from California) claimed that there were some historical documents from the United Ancient Order of Druids at St. Olaf, which he thought might have influenced Fisher's concepts. Maybe Denmad is connected to them and brainwashed Fisher?

I don't think so. That seems ridiculous to me, Oles and Carls just didn't interact much in the 1960s, and they still don't even nowadays. Sean was wrapped in thought, arms folded, leaning his head against the wall.

Wow, Sean. One answer to this riddle, only seems to produce more questions, it's so. . .Druidic, Matt spoke with a bit of misty vision of revelation of something in his head.

It's a pain in the ass, that's what it is. Sean grumbled, And I have no idea how we're going to convince this clan's leader to hand over the key.

Clan? Do you suppose it's a branch of the K K K? Matt was worried and quite serious.

No way, that doesn't fit Fisher's profile at all, he was too progressive for his time, Sean said, arms crossed, tapping his fingers on his shoulders, he picked up his heavy jacket and went to the door. Let's go. We need to ask some advice again from our nosy reporter friend.

Sarah Matt followed along as they returned to the student center, and surprisingly Sean led him to the Carletonian newspaper office again. Sarah was there, talking on the phone with one hand and pasting a headline for the first issue for the New Year on her computer layout with her free hand. She saw their shadow in the doorway blocking the weak light of the wintry sun.

Hey guys, you still hunting down that strange philanthropist's clues? She said with a quirky smile and knowing eye and winked, Come on, I know you are, tell me what you found.

Sean took the lead, rather than let Matt give it all away, Well, kind of, we think he or she may be sending the messages, um, from St. Olaf.

Olaf? Sarah said seriously, taken aback, Why would Oles be asking Carls to pick up some money? They usually steal beer from our campus parties.

We don't know, they might be mixed up with a group calling themselves 'DENMAD.' Have you heard of them?

Who She frowned and took the Palm stylus from behind her ear and chewed on it thoughtfully, tapping her cheek, and said, Well, let me take a look, in our old file cabinet. She began leaving through some folders, Dangerous AnimalsDean of StudentsHere we go, DENMAD. She pulled out a few articles, skimmed them and showed them to Sean and Matt on the counter.

Looks like DENMAD has occasionally caused trouble on this campus, leaving graffiti stencils on doors of religious groups' leaders' doors for a few decades, about once every three or four years, sometimes stenciling with herbicide the letters DENMAD on the Hill of Three Oaks, really ticking off the Druids way back in the '70s and '80s. She tapped her foot while Sean read, turning to Matt, So, what?, are these guys paying for those ads, cause that's kind of freaky.

Well, we're not sure. But I think we're going to try to join them and find out more information, confided Matt. I remember now, that there were rumors of guys dressed in white robes that would disrupt Druid services awhile ago in the '80s. Sarah looked mighty uncomfortable at him.

Whoa, mates, better watch out, these obscure religious groups can be dangerous; you don't want to get in between some kind of War of the Illuminati you know.

No problem, we're getting quite good at it, Matt assured her, smacking a fist into his open hand.

Well, okay, as long as you're careful, she resumed smiling, You know, you guys might want to become reporters; you have a nose for stories. Tell you what, I'll check my sources at Olaf''s newspaper office and see if I can find a contact for their group, but you'll never fit in over there, like that, she said sizing the two up.

Why not? Sean asked.

Sarah You're not blond and you're not wearing dress shirts, she said, stating the obvious. You guys are obviously not too busy, so come over to Burton 424 tomorrow, and I'll give you guys a bleach job. She saw their hesitation, and laughed, If you do it yourself, your hair will probably fall out! What's it going to be?

Sounds good, right Sean? They both shrugged apathetically.

And, she added, I want a piece of this inheritance thingy, too. She shook her hand, Nothing much, how about a nice dinner when it's over? Anyplace away from the Marriott food service would be fine. She stuck her tongue out, and pretended to choke, glurting and laughing.

END OF PART THREE OF EIGHT
Tune in next issue, for the further adventures of Sean & Matt.


SERIAL STORY

Matt .

Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Fiction written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE
Part Four of Eight

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episodes

Two poor undergraduate juniors, Matt (a Cricket & football star) and Sean (a philosophy major), are spending winter vacation under-employed at Carleton College in rural Northfield MN. Desperate for money, they follow up on a mysterious ad in a newspaper that implies a great treasure was hidden at Carleton for the future rightful spiritual heir of David Fisher, the founder of Reformed Druidism. Following a tip from the campus Chaplain, Sean infiltrates the local Masons, while Matt goes ga-ga with the Druids. From the various clues they discover, they decide that only possible solution to the mystery is to check the original written materials by David Fisher, which are stored at the Druid Archive Collection. They meet the mysterious secretary, Dylan, and access is denied. With amazing ingenuity and great personal risk, they steal some documents from the Archives and discover a lengthy poem holding a cryptic blueprint to the treasure. A harrowing climb in the Lower Arboretum and a series of clues lead their search to the foreboding St. Olaf College across the town on small forest-girt mountain, where Matt and Sean seek for a circumspect ill-rumored group known only as DENMAD, who holds the next key on their journey. The previous three episodes can be read in their entirety at http://www.rdna.info/treasure.html or in earlier issues of the Missal-Any.

Now let's join our protagonists as they visit the ivory towers.


Chapter Thirteen: The Castles of Stone

New Year's Day came and went unnoticed by the two men and they made plans for their trip to St. Olaf. They devised false identities, bleached their hair, got out some clean pressed shirts and black ties, and shaved cleanly. They hardly recognized themselves in the dormitory lounge's mirror. Olaf started up January classes a few earlier than Carleton, so they decided it was good to get this part over with quickly, as class-loads at Carleton would soon inhibit their investigations.

Well, They unplugged Sean's Pontiac from the engine-block heater in the tiny student parking lot and slip & slided over to St. Olaf, up a steep twisting road of the small mountain, past Bavarian-style off-campus wooden cottages, pressing into the woods, and then up by large fortress-like buildings that towered above and around them, like a German fairy tale. Most Carls didn't have cars, so they were amazed at the sheer number of parking lots ringing the campus. They reminded him of the elaborate stacked rice paddies hewn from the side of Japanese mountains.

Matt got out and looked around at the muffled and well-insulated tall students; the Oles. It had the creepy clean feel of the 1950s on the campus, naivete was thick in the air, and he could not the slightest whiff of cynicism. Women in heavy dresses walked demurely in their boyfriends' sports jackets, giggling, with actual perms and bobbed hair-dos.

Oh my, it's like the Stepford Wives here Sean, I'm afraid of getting roped into a Tupperware party, Matt edged back to the car and whispered, Let's go back to the 21st century.

This No, much more like 'Village of the Damned.' We're going to go through with this all the way, Sean continued in a Sam Spade imitation, And by the way, remember my name is Bjorn Jorgellsson, and yours is Sven Eigerdor. Stay in character, and we'll get home safe. He pulled out a slip of paper that Sarah had given him. We're looking for Jared Hargorson in Thorsson Hall. He's the contact that our friend, Sarah, found for us.

Hey, Bjorn, Matt said carefully stroking his own new curly platinum locks, You know this one? What's the best way to drown a blond?

Ja, I've heard that one. Put a scratch-and-sniff sticker on the bottom of a swimming pool. Let's go. Sean walked by, and Matt stalled behind him, disappointed. With the aid of a map, they navigated the spiraling streets that encircled the plateau on the hilltop, and came to a dorm on the edge of a forest, with yet another amazing sledding hill that plummeted down to the plains below, with a few trees here and there in the middle, heavily padded with straw, showing the signs of several impacts on lower branches, even ten-feet up the tree. They soon confronted the dormitory's prim chaperone at the entrance, registered in a book with an old quill pen, and went to room 332 and knocked.

Brother The door opened and a 6'8 blond giant opened the door and greeted them, there were four more tall students, male and female inside, striking uni-sexist in an ABBA sort of way, the room speaking in low voices. Welcome, Lena said we might have visitors, you are Bjorn and Sven? Sean and Matt nodded. Ja, why don't we go to the lounge to talk, we can pour up some coffee there and we can work on your application. The Aryan archetypes filed out of the room in lockstep and sat in unison on the couches, men on the left, women on the right.

How shall we begin? Jared asked, arching his fingers into a steeple.

Sean explained that Matt and he were transfer students from St. Augustus College up north and wanted to be in a good Christian group, to have strong community with the faithful.

Ja. That's good. Jared said, and there was a soft chorus echo from the group. But we should be honest with you, we hate you. The others nodded, Very much.

What? You've just met us. You hardly know us, sputtered Sean, fearing things were not going to be easy.

Oh, sorry, reassured Jared, But we hate everybody.

I don't understand. Christianity is based on love. Isn't that kind of prejudiced?

two Jared smiled and tugged on his lapels, No, it's easy, St. Hubert says everyone is a sinner, so although we love the sinner, we really hate the sin in everyone, and we hate everyone equally, so that's not prejudice. Sean glanced warily at Jared and the coffee-slurping Oles with that look we reserve only for babbling mendicants on streets warning that fluoridated water is a tool to control our minds.

All of them? Sean asked politely.

Yes, even the repenters, right Sister Olga? Jared asked as if inviting her to recite the Baltimore Catechism, for she began to recite something by memory.

Yes, Brother Jared, 'For repenters, although forgiven by God, will sin again, and may be lying to us about repenting, therefore their possible sins should be hated either preemptively, or just in case of prevarication.' She smiled pleasantly and sat down and began to knit again on some socks with a passion.

Finding Indeed, Sister Olga. Jared turned to Sean. Now, Bjorn, you must understand that although we hate all these people, it is not for us to hurt anyone, unless God tells us to do that, rather we simply choose to remind them frequently that they are damned and doomed to writhe and burn in the fiery pits of hell, and to say so as pleasantly and frequently as possible.

You even hate each other? Sean asked with a raised eyebrow.

Of course, we also hate each other, just a little less equally, Jared said pointing at one man who was whittling a duck out of a block of willow wood, You Brother Aric, you're a sinner and I hate you a lot, you'll be a crispy hotdog for Lucifer if you don't watch out!

Aric smiled and returned, I hate you too, you big sinner! Mephistopheles will use your head as a toothbrush!

I see... That is... quite reasonable, Brother Jared, Sean said embracing the tenuous logic for himself. We would also like to share this good news to others who don't know how to hate themselves properly, and I already hate Brother Sven here deeply.

This That's joyous news, Hallelujah! The other Denmads rose in a wave wriggling their fingers in the air then snapped three times. Like our founder, St. Hubert told us, 'Baptize all who join you again, so that you can be sure, just in case.' So we should baptize you presently, Sister Helga, go prepare the robes and cut a hole in the lake, we shall have a celebration today.

Hail Jesus! Matt cried, unaware of the dire implications of those instructions.

Excuse the excitement of Brother Sven here, Brother Jared, Sean said, pushing Matt back into his chair. But, it's still January, shouldn't we wait on outdoor baptism until spring?

Jesus will come like a thief in the night, for we know not when he will arrive. Better do it today, just to be sure. We don't want the devil to get you tonight, do we? Jared smiled.

Tonight? What's tonight? Sean asked, as Olga and Aric grabbed their hands and pulled them back to Jared's room.

Why, we're going to hang you from a tree! Jared crowed and everyone cheered.

Chapter Fourteen: Baptism by Ice

Interesting, Sean and Matt were soon bedecked in long white robes with big purple crosses on their chests and a heart mark on the back with three bloody nails embedded in it. They were led out to a windswept, snow-flurried lake on the plain below Thorrson Hall, as snow-heavy clouds rolled in from the west over a pale, pathetic afternoon sun. A dozen pale-faced Denmads were garbed in identical attire at the edge of the lake, while two were vigorously pulling up and down on an ice saw. An eight-foot by eight-foot block of ice, two feet deep, was dislodged and pulled out of the lake by picks and hooks, glistened for a moment, and soon refroze to the snow in a minute or two.

Sean didn't like the looks of this, but he was greatly outnumbered and this would be over quick, he hoped. Matt was already chattering from the persistent stroking of the wind on his flimsy robe. The congregation formed a circle around the square hole in the ice.

Oh Lord, we thank thee for bringing us a new hateful recruit to bolster our numbers, to do thy work. Jared motioned towards Sean and Matt. They approached the edge, and Jared stepped into the waist-deep water without any discernable reaction, and Sean and Matt tried likewise. The cold water immediately found its way through their garments and stung their skin as they heaved in a raspy breath from total shock.

A We will baptize you fully in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, who warms our hearts. Jared said and grabbed their shoulders and plunged them deep below the frigid waters, and intoned, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and was interrupted by Helga.

Brother Jared, shouldn't that be the Holy Spirit? She asked in a perplexed state, pulling out a small booklet. Jared looked confused, while Sean and Matt began to struggle a little, after being under for about 10 seconds.

Good question, Sister Helga. Let's consult the St. Hubert's Book of the Blessed, I think you should refer to page 26, the full text should be in there, Jared hinted. Meanwhile, Sean and Matt were not enjoying the view of the muddy lakefloor and had begun to panic. Sean couldn't feel his arms, and swung them by rote memory to where he thought Jared's hands might be, clawing at them without mercy.

There's Oh yes, Jared, you were right the first time, it's the Holy Ghost, Helga said, Just wanted to be sure, of course.

Of course, Sister Helga, Jared glowed, and just as the crazed struggles of Sean and Matt had begun to loosen and slip away, he pulled the two out of the water, just as they were about to heave in a lung-full of nitrous farmland water. The two sputtered while Jared crowed, Looks like the devil put up a good fight with you two. You must have had a lot of sins. Now you must choose a Christian name.

Ack, sputtered Sean, I'll stick with Bjorn.

Fine, you are Bjorn again! and all the Denmads stretched their arms in the air and wiggled their fingers, snapping them sporadically. And you, Brother Sven?

How about Anencephalous, he's an obscure second-century Christian, not too bright, but very devout? Matt asked.

Excellent choice. Rise Brothers Anencephalous and Bjorn to the First Degree! More cheers and snapping ensued, as the two stumbled onto the snow banks, and Sean whispered to Matt whose hands were blue and clenched, I'm not going swimming during winter again! They were wrapped in blankets and then hurried off back up to Thorsson Hall where Brother Jared offered to help their numb fingers undress to take a hot shower in the dorm bathroom.

No, that's fine, we'll manage fine, Sean dismissed them.

Of course, you do not want to besmirch our eyes with the filth of your rotting mortal shell, we fully understand, then they departed. One or two of the females looked a bit disappointed at Matt through the closing door.

Showers Sean locked the door and staggered into the shower fully dressed, and cranked the lukewarm water, which seemed boiling hot in comparison to the lake. Matt went into another stall and began to warm up and yelled, Brother Bjorn, I actually feel like 10 degrees right now, he shouted over the shower stall. What's next?

I don't know, Anencephalous... why did you pick that name?

Brain was frozen, and that's what my history report last term was about.

What happened to him?

Oh, let's say he lost his head in a difficult situation, Matt smiled, He's the patron saint for people with headaches, apparently he never had one again.

You're dying and have visions, and you think of a history paper?

Yeah, Matt muttered, but it's a good thing they left, they'd have found out that only our heads were bleached, eh? He chuckled behind the shower curtain.

I still haven't figured out the connection with Fisher yet; why did he hook up with all these nutballs? Keep you eyes open for any clues or links. Sean hissed.

a They didn't have long to wait, for there was a polite knock and Sean opened the door and found a pile of white shirts, white pants and white socks outside and pulled them in, and they changed, putting them over their thermal underwear. A small congregation took them to the dining hall where Sean and Matt had white fish, potatoes, cream of mushroom soup and some milk. Afterwards, they were left alone in the lounge for a while, by which time their fingers had stopped tingling and had regained full movement. Sean kept reminding himself, that these kooks were not normal Christians, but that things couldn't get any worse, or could they? Naturally, it was already becoming quite dark outside at 5 o'clock.

These Come. The trees await. Sean and Matt looked at each other, and grabbed their coats and followed the Denmad crowd of Oles, who bore large flaming pine torches, as they paraded deep into the woods of the hillside, until they came to a clearing with a large tree, lit by a ring of torches planted around its base.

Jared, stomped twice, poised himself dramatically with a stiff arm before him and bellowed to Sean and Matt, who stood only two feet away, Behold, the Tree of Suffering!

Chapter Fifteen: The Tree of Suffering

Sean and Matt looked at each other, Do we really have to suffer?

Of course you do, you wouldn't want our Lord to suffer by himself, would you? Jared said methodically, In order to understand his ways, we must emulate his ways. You're lucky this is January, our summer ascetics are much worse with the real nails, but the tree is too frozen now for those, you'll have to settle for ropes. You still do want to join us, do you not?

Of course we do! Matt enthused, before Sean could slap him.

Technically, Then, bind them to the tree! Several strong arms grabbed and lifted Sean and Matt and wrapped them face-first against the eight-foot-girthed trunk, so that their feet dangled below, kicking the tree, about two feet off the ground.

Um, Brother Jared? Who taught you this marvelous system of torture? Sean asked in obvious discomfort, as the ropes settled entirely the wrong way in his crotch.

I told you before, Brother Bjorn. St. Hubert of the church of San Bernardino of California. He came here in 1964 and taught of the three ways of day and one of night, giving us the Book of the Blessed and the Book of the Tree Vigil, and told us that righteous Hate will frighten the weak to our faith. This tree vigil is the way of night, is it not? See how much you are learning already!

I see, so was St. Hubert an Olaf student too? Sean asked grimacing.

No, our records say he came from 'another place', that is all they say, he came and we were enlightened. But his place of origin is not important, for his message is true, and surely comes from God. Now, we must leave you, and not trouble your meditation vigil with such triffling matters. Returning to invocatory speech, Know His suffering, on the cross, the Tree of Life, and we shall return after the agony is beyond your mortal tolerance to finish things. And then he added privately, I so envy you guys.

With Jared's theatrical gesture of pointing to the exit with two palms and a bow, the crowd of Denmad processed out of the grove, snapping their fingers inside their mittens. The last departing Ole snuffed the torches placed around the trees with a snowball in her hand. Their bobbing torches receded into the forest, leaving the two in near darkness, except for some pinpoint icy stars in the clear frosty sky. Sean thought he saw just a touch of a dancing blue aurora borealis towards the north.

Carleton You know Bjorn, Matt said to Sean, turning his face from the tree and spitting out some bark and trying to smile, I never figured you to be a tree-hugger type.

Shut up, groused Sean, I'm deep in wedgie country now, a place I will be glad to introduce you to later, and snow is falling off the upper branches down my neck. He shook vigorously, but hardly moved, except to slip further into discomfort, and causing more snow to fall on his head and shoulders.

Matt noted, I'm glad that Nordic Club isn't a Greek Fraternity, we'd probably have to do some kind of gladiator combat with lions! I wonder what a Celtic Fraternity would do?

That's obvious, drink whiskey and argue a lot to nice rousing music, just like the RDNA. I don't know how a group like Denmad can last 40 years, built only on hate, Matt.

Having an enemy is a good unifier of a group, a good dictator can always find someone to persecute, Matt sagely observed. I'm sure they lose a lot of members, just like the Druids do, but in this case, these escapees get over their anger and wise up. There are always more fools to replace the smart ones who leave.

It's really hard in moments like this, ouch, to realize that all Christians aren't quite as screwed-up as these guys. Did Fisher really plan all this? Sean griped bitterly.

David I'm sure the Denmads changed over time, just like the Druids did. Did you hear that part about St. Hubert? Matt insisted. I think David Fisher's middle initial is 'H' and his interview mentioned he was born in San Bernardino.

Sean forgot his pain, What? Are you saying that David Hubert Fisher wasn't brainwashed by this group into going to the seminary?

Yeah, I think it's entirely possible that Fisher actually founded this group too. Robert Larson, the California Druid missionary from Carleton, he says Fisher failed to start some other secret groups before setting up the Druids. He paused to shift uncomfortably, Perhaps he also made a few groups AFTER the Druids also. After all, he was creative and turning more Christian by 1964.

That kind of makes sense. It really does at this point, thought Sean. I think I understand what you're implying, ouch, perhaps Fisher set up Denmad here at St. Olaf to protect a key to the riddle, ouch, because, no right-minded Druid at Carleton would ever join these nutballs! And vice-a-versa. Neither side would, ouch, have all the keys to the puzzle, but would perpetuate the clues for the future heir.

Matt croaked, That makes sense, Bjorn, ouch, but although I really dig being with this tree, I don't see yet what the key to the puzzle is.

Sean, sadly groaned, Me either, we're really in a bind aren't we? he morosely chuckled.

Matt chuckled, Hey, that's the spirit, that's a good one. Keep it up! We'll need humor trying to figure out what to do next. You know I'm at the end of my rope!

Anything to avoid the pain, Sean complied, I'm entwined to agree with you, what-the-hell-is-your-name?

Matt snorted, Heh, heh, Anencephalous. Matt heard a soft kerplump landing in the snow from Sean's side.

Sean I think, oh damn!, my boot fell off! Sean cursed a few unprintable words and said out of a pressed face, What the hell is it about my left foot all the time?! He wiggled his freezing toes to keep the circulation going. By the way, I don't know who this John the Baptist fellow is, but I want his head on a silver platter, for starting that baptizing tradition.

It's taken out of context. Baptism sounds like fun in the desert, eh? Too bad the tradition spread north. That brought Matt to a serious mode of thinking. Sean, I've been thinking that I need to talk to you, are you busy?

Not sure, I'm all tied up, now, ow! He chuckled painfully, getting a bit delirious, Oh, okay, go ahead, I'm not going anywhere.

You know, I'm thinking that stealing that document may have cursed us, then anticipating Sean's rebuff, No, I really do.

Okay, let's agree that we'll stop stealing documents, starting tomorrow. Sean sighed heavily, It's situations like this that makes me dislike religions and fraternities. Sometimes, I really think most religions are just like mental viruses, that self-replicate themselves in viscous circles of illogic' once you swallow and accept some tasty sweet bit of fluff, and are all too easily transmitted to other sane people by those already infected. Why am I doing this?!

There Well, that's a reasonable thought, but maybe it is our fault for starting our search in the winter, you know, Fisher clearly set up a Time of Sleep from Halloween to May Day when Druids were supposed to refrain from activity in the Arb, cause it's too damn cold. All this would have been easier in the spring, you know, but NO, you had to impose your schedule over the natural timetable of Nature, that's why we're here freezing our butts off with this tree! Matt was huffing now.

Um, Matt, calm down, Sean was worried, he hadn't seen Matt get this worked up since Willis, but Matt didn't seem quite done yet. Must be a Druid thing, he smirked.

It's And another thing! Matt wiggled in anger, futilely trying to gesture, About this infiltration business, I'm getting a little ticked off by your attitude towards the Masons and Druids. He paused. I mean, you've taken a lot of oaths, just like me in the Druids, and yet you are still more concerned about money. Wouldn't they be upset you revealing those entrusted secrets so easily to a friend, even me?

This is all about money, Matt, that's why we're doing this. Sean reminded him in clear slow words. Besides, those are mostly silly secrets, from days when they were persecuted by the Catholic Church and Inquisition. They're cute, but not important, really anymore in this age.

Can the anthropologist studying the tribe in the Amazon so completely distance himself from the festivals and wisdom of the people he is studying? Is none of it sinking in, or is it like rain pouring off a cold stone? I just don't know about you, Sean.

Hey, Matt, he considered, you, know, I like to pretend I'm above all this stuff, but the Masonry is reasonably well integrated, and they do put a lot of effort into helping out folks, after realizing how limited we are by ourselves. I got that. It's cool. It's just I can't accept the drama of it all, I'm too grounded... In reality, I think, to let myself go, you know to immerse myself in it without reservation.

Matt seemed glad to break through a little, and spoke softer, Yeah, I know you do, I just wished you acted like it more. You're a bit too rough on the edges for those around you.

Heh, it looks like you're getting good at reading the edges of rocks and people now, aren't you? Sean chuckled.

Ha, just a little, seriously, you just have to pay attention and be aware of what's in front of you, like, now, there's this big tree in front of me, and I've been tied to it for a few hours, yelling at my friend. If we survive the night, we'll have great stories to tell our grandchildren.

Sean grimaced, If I can't readjust myself, I ain't going to have grandchildren. They both chuckled and grew quiet.

Gold So what are you going to do if we get rich, Matt?

Raise lots of kids, volunteer overseas, and have good times with my friends?

And if we don't find the treasure?

Same thing, I think. You have to make a plan with your life that doesn't revolve around money. Money may make those things happen a little faster or easier, but you can't rely or put your hopes on it being there. Matt said, How about you, Sean?

I don't know, I could avoid doing crappy jobs that I don't like, I suppose. I'm not vain enough to think I can buy love or respect. I guess I'd use it to help others, you know, less fortunate folk.

That's nice, Ghandi, now come on with the truth! Matt said half-seriously.

After I get a huge screen TV, a couple cars and a few summer homes, of course!

Matt chuckled, Yeah, there's the Sean, I mean Bjorn, I know!

They passed another hour or two occasionally trading jokes, then got tired, and just listened to the raw overpowering silence of a breezeless midwinter night and the unmoving tree next to them, punctuated by the grating of twisting ropes as they futilely reshuffled their position in search of comfort and keep their circulation moving. Pain became commonplace, and they no longer paid it much attention as their head swayed, filled with a cloying endorphin haze as time became meaningless.

Matt began to drift dangerously toward sleep, but at that time, a dim light in the forest caught their eye, and it bobbed behind the pine branches, getting larger and larger. It was Brother Gestalt, a short strawberry-blond 5'10, who they had met at dinner, he was bearing a large book and a knife at his waist. Sean was really worried when Gestalt planted the torch in the snow, held the book up in his left hand, and unsheathed the knife, raised it high and incanted, You have completed the Second Degree of Suffering, and it has been decided that it is I who will release you from these mortal coils, Sean couldn't see what Gestalt was doing behind his back, but he clenched his teeth awaiting the falling blow that must come.

Chapter Sixteen: Up the Hill Without a Paddle

Sean Sean and Matt tensed, eyes resolvedly shut for the inevitably end. I'm too good-looking to die young, Matt whispered in a open-destination prayer. Instead, the knife sliced easily through the ropes and Sean fell sloppily, like a sack of squished tomatoes on the snow, limbs numb and unusable from both the cold and the ropes. Matt soon followed. Gestalt sheathed the blade and held the book over his head, its inlaid jewels glinting in the torchlight. Sean struggled to an upright sitting position rubbing his wrist with his mittens.

My No, you must not speak, but you must read this Book of the Tree Vigil, for it lays clear the key to your path. Gestalt reverently handed the book over to Matt with a bow from the waist. In a moment you will open it, and on the first page you will see the face of the devil who afflicts you. On the second page, only the purest of heart will be able to read the secret slogan of our most holy order. Go ahead and try. After the book has been read, Gestalt pulled open his backpack and a half-dozen paddles riddled with cross-shaped holes fell on the snow, you will go through the Paddy-Whack Gauntlet and then must subjugate the Goat of the Evil One to complete the Ceremony of the Third Degree of Denmad at dawn soon!

Sean looked at Matt with distaste at that prospect and then perused the ornately-bordered sturdy cover and was startled, elbowing Matt in the ribs to take a look. Matt opened the heavy leather-bound book with thin wooden pages held by iron rings. There were only two pages, the first had a light-weight flexible mirror on in, that reflected his visage back at him. Deep, man, real deep. Matt smiled and turned to the next plywood page, which was absolutely blank, but chipped on the edges in an odd way...

Gestalt continued on automatic with half-rolled-back eyes in joy, Yes, of course you are impure and do not know the answer, for this is the way of humility, for none of can know all the secrets...

Matt blurted rhetorically, Hateful are their ways, from the morning to noon, and in the late evening, their sins would make you swoon.

Gestalt's jaw dropped and he jabbered, You can see those words?

Matt Sure, can't you? Matt proffered the book to Gestalt who leaned closer squinting at the wavy grain of the wood, then with a quick, 360 degree reverse spin, Matt slammed the heavy book into Gestalt's head, who staggered backwards with a indignant squawk and fell down dazed and sprawled awkwardly. Sean stared in amazement at Matt.

Have you lost your mind? Sean gasped, We agreed not to steal sacred documents anymore!

No, let's get outta here, Sean! Matt grinned apologetically, Besides, it's not 'tomorrow morning', yet!

You really thumped that Bible-thumper. Kind of ironic, eh? Sean sneered.

He'll be okay, but the rest of them will come soon. Matt turned, pulled on Sean's arm heading to the trail in the deep snow. Sean stumbled behind him, as they raced left and right and left at various forks in the trail. After a while, Matt didn't seem to know where to go, and re-emerged in the clearing with the Tree of Suffering, but Gestalt was gone. In Gestalt's place, there was some blood left on the deep imprint from his body. Matt stopped while Sean heaved for breath beside him.

Matt,... You're lost?... Aren't you? he wheezed.

Um, yes.

There they are! cried some voices about 400 yards away in various directions.

Well we're found now. We'll never outrun them in this snow, we're up a creek without a paddle. Matt muttered, winded.

That's it! Sean beamed and grabbed four whacking paddles in the snow and pulled out something from his pocket.

Duct tape? Matt queried.

Your Yep. Sean murmured as he quickly lashed the paddles to his feet, You, a Druid, should understand it. Duct tape is like the Force, it has a dark side and a light side, and it binds the universe together! Sean then motioned to Matt and similarly attached some make-shift snowshoes onto his feet too. Let's go, on the other path this time. Stumbling a little at first, they soon were running high on top of the snow's crusty surface, four times faster than before. Their dark forms were easily seen against the white snow from a great distance, and they heard the raging voices of the Denmads following behind, barely keeping pace. They rounded one corner and saw Jared in a clearing before them, blocking their trail on cross-country skis, tossing something up and down in his hand with great relish.

We meet again, Anencephalous and Bjorn. You are backsliders! Jared yelled, and laughed. I have heard what you did to Gestalt, and we are most displeased.

What's that you got there? Sean asked nervously.

your Casually, Jared replied, A hand grenade.

Sean's jaw dropped, Where the hell did you get that?!

'Seek and you shall find.' My roommate told me that buying a grenade from my brother's army buddies was rather silly from a personal protection perspective, but it does so come in handy, and they are cheaper by the dozen. He smiled and dangled it by the pull-ring, And they're made in America!

Sean turned to Matt, I don't like this, Matt.

Au contraire, mon frere! Jared chuckled, I think you're going to like this. Let's just say you'll 'go to pieces over it'.... Aye, it should do the Job well, for; 'By the breath of God they perish, And by the blast of His anger they come to an end!'

Matt smiled and muttered to Sean, Job 4:9 Matt was stamping his left foot oddly.

So you do know your Bible well!

Just because I'm a Druid, doesn't mean I don't know the Bible. I've read quite a few Good Books, Matt raised a mitten to begin a lecture, I think that quote was taken out of context...

these Jared cut him off, Druid, eh? Well, then I feel less compunction for using this! and Jared pulled the pin and flung it right at the two men. A rump-whacking paddle was suddenly in Matt's hand, he twisted and thwacked the grenade with a mighty crack, splitting the paddle in two with a perfect cricket-bat swing. The blow sent the grenade rebounding towards the incredulous Jared who turned and slipped as he dove for the cover of the trees. Snow and several bushes flew out of the ground, showering the area with dirt, bark, ski-shards and perhaps, yes?, a little blood?

When the shockwave ended, Sean cried, Bloody good shot, old chap!

Matt, a bit deafened, yelled back at Sean, We should check and see if he's okay.

With acid in his voice, Sean gritted, Tell you what, Matt. Let's allow the rampaging mob check on him, and we'll mail him a get-well card tomorrow!

Waving the broken paddle, Matt dejectedly stated, Sean, go on without me, my paddle is busted.

A No way, give me your foot, Matt. Sean bound Matt's left foot onto his right foot, grabbed his high shoulder, and said, Damn this deja vu, again! You said Druids like to work in threes, right? Well, start running! Outer, inner, outer, inner, out, in, out, in! The two started to build a rhythm and were soon only slightly slower than the furious slipping and faltering approach of the pursuing mob, which was mired by the deep snow. Yet the frenzied mob did slowly gain on them, and when the mob was less than 150 feet away, Matt and Sean reached the edge of a precipitous slope, shining icily in the moonlight. They barely halted in time at the sudden edge, staring down at the near vertical cliff-like slope, that plummeted into heavy forest below.

Sean kicked off the paddles. Snowshoes are worthless here, Matt! Should we jump or fight?

Again, Neither, Sean. Matt opened up the enormous book and placed it firmly at the edge of the chasm and sat down on it, holding the edges of the two covers. Hop on!

So, we're choosing suicide! There's a reason Masons go only to 33 degrees, because 88 degrees is too steep!

No, we're just doing more backsliding! Matt smiled triumphantly, You forget that I've never lost the luge yet in the Carleton Olympics?

Sean looked doubtful, then turning at the irate torch-swinging posse bearing down at them, yelling Hate! Hate!, Sean quickly climbed onto Matt's lap.

Grabbing Sean tightly, Well, you should know, I've never attempted such a slope with my clothes on before..

Yeee-haaah! GO! Sean yelled, and pushed the snow, and like a lead balloon, they plummeted down the slope, escaping just out of reach of a few Denmads that threw themselves at the two men as they disappeared over the edge. The wind suddenly drove icy needles into their face as they clung to their make-shift toboggan, veering towards some vicious stumps.

The Matt tightened his grip on Sean and bellowed, Don't move, Sean, let me steer! Trees on the slope whizzed by, perilously close, slapping their faces with low branches, but Matt deftly shifted his weight left and right, shooting off showers of ice crystals, occasionally getting a face-full of pine needles, turning around once or twice, and sliding backwards towards certain death more than one time.

And While going backwards, Sean saw a few Denmads jump over the cliff, only to spin haplessly on their backs and painfully wrap around some trees halfway down. The rest wisely chose not to follow.

This Matt merely yee-hawed all the way; screaming in delight! Eventually after another 20 harrowing seconds, the slope began to level off, and they slowed down to mere maniac speed. Three minutes later they slowed to the point where, Matt thrust out his boots and brought it to a halt. Sean staggered to his feet, swaying from the adrenaline rush.

When he collected himself, Sean said, Okay, let's work our way towards the lights of Northfield... we'll get my car later... They are probably...looking for us now. Sean began to bush-whack through the trees in the general direction of downtown lights, branches whipping his face, ears hearing shouts behind in the forest, sometimes close, sometimes far. They eventually broke through the tree cover and stumbled onto a small neighborhood of apartment buildings and followed the slight declination until it came to the Cannon River, crossed the bridge to the Carleton side of the town, and safety.

Chapter Seventeen: Code of the Druids

They soon reached Sean's dormitory and flicked on the light in his room.

Okay, Matt, explain yourself, I think we were getting really close to figuring it out, why did you blow our cover?

Matt looked sheepish but then remembered his reason, and pulled out the battered book. Look at the book's cover again, you saw something in the pattern didn't you?

Sean looked at the remnants of the book, Dang it that ride down the slope has really messed it up.

Yeah, but we'll still have to return it later, but they sure won't be happy. But you can still read it, right Sean?

Back Yes, I thought it was the Masonic Alphabet, but how did you know what I was thinking, and how did you know their secret slogan? He asked with disbelief and slightly narrowed eyes.

Matt posed and polished his nails, The scratches on the edge of the blank wooden page were just another Ogham inscription from Fisher with the slogan I read out. But it also said, Matt pointed to the scratch marks, one letter at a time, YOUR KEY IS WRITTEN ON THE COVER. YOU NEED SEARCH FOR CLUES NO FURTHER. He handed the book to Sean, who made an apologetic face, and asked Sean, So, Mr. Mason, they say 'you can't judge a book by its cover', but we need your opinion on this cover, or we're really stuck.

Sean leaned close and scratched his head, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. He began carefully transcribing the strange angular symbols from the cover, and tidied them up. What could it possibly mean?

Sean held out the sketching of the code, Here's the message from the book's cover. What do you think?

code

Matt shrugged, I don't know, it's all Greek to me.

After a short while Sean nodded, Well, it's not Greek, you were right earlier; this is a Masonic Code, perhaps the same one I played with back as a kid under a different name, from a popular cryptography book for kids. I didn't have many friends, back then, and couldn't crack the social code of school, so I doodled often with these kinds of spy games. I had no idea then that the Masons were once using it, but a fellow Mason last week mentioned a code at one of our get-together meetings, something about involving squares. He finished sketching something, It's quite clever, but actually very simple.

Are you sure you should be telling me this secret, Sean? Matt asked with an arched eyebrow.

code Yeah, that's old-time stuff, no one cares about anymore, modern Masons use 64-bit encryption software now. Please, notice the four glass jewels in the corners on the cover, and how the message's coded squares and angles run along the edge between the jewels.? Sean traced the pathway. Knowing Fisher it's probably another quartet of verse, so we have four lines of text. He pulled out a magnifying glass, and Matt leaned over. Notice the blue inset jewel in the upper left corner has an X on it, the other three are yellow, the upper right has a # on it, the lower left has a # with a dot in each square and the lower right has another X with a dot between each angle.

Okay, I see that, but how does that help? Matt said.

Well there's a total of 26 spaces between those lines, one for each letter of the Roman alphabet to be inserted in a pre-determined order. Now the question is in what order are the Xs and #s to be arranged? For example # #* X X* or X#* #X*? Notice that one of these jewels is not like the others, three yellow and one blue, perhaps in that there's a clue.

Matt snapped his fingers, You remember back at Olaf he said, 'Three ways of day and one of night?' That is also invoked in the Druid liturgy when consecrating the whiskey, and Fisher came up with that wording. There are three yellow jewels and one blue gem, so I'd say that seems a good connection.

I Sean nodded, That's probably the underlying meaning, but we still don't know which part of the day (i.e. jewel) to start with for cracking the code.

Well, Druids always go clockwise, or sun-wise, and according to the Druid calendar systems at Carleton, night always proceeds day (Book of Customs), kind of like the Jewish holidays, so I'm guess it is X # X* #*, midnight-dawn-midday-dusk, which seems logical since 'X marks the spot' to begin, right? The philosophical implication is that we begin in a period of darkness and proceed towards the light.

That's good, that actually follows some Masonic initiatory patterns too. Matt, let's try that order then, Sean stuttered, quite impressed, Now once arrange the keys in the proper order, you simply plug in the alphabet letters left to right, top to bottom, in this direction.

code

So, Sean continued, when you do that, the code looks like this. He showed Matt the key.

code

Now, let's look at the little squares and angles starting with the blue jewel in the upper left corner and spiral around the book cover, and I think I can detect some unintended spacing still in here; Sean scribbled furiously but soon looked upset. He held up the decoded text to Matt, frowning, Well, it almost works.

MN TJE CEGMNNMNG FRPI TJE DJAQEH YE BMB RECEH
CWT YJEN PF FREE YMHH, TPGP TJERE MS NP TRPWCHE
FRPM TJE DRUQT WQ TP TJE JEAZENS UPW IWST NPY RMSE ANB TRAZEH
ANB GRAC TJEMR SUICPH MF TJMS QWVVHE UPW YPWHB WNRAZEH

I don't know, but it still looks like gibberish to me, Sean. Matt sighed and pulled his hair.

Some of the words like TJE is probably THE and FREE is okay. TJERE is THERE, so I think we're probably really close to cracking this code. The problem is why didn't Fisher use the correct Masonic decoding pattern?

Perhaps he just forgot? Not everyone has a perfect memory, Matt pointed out, You said that he didn't have a very extensive Masonic background, so maybe he invented a different order/pattern to plug in the alphabet rather than left to right, top to bottom?

I Oh great, so which way is it? He launched his pencil over his shoulder, I'd rather not spend fifty hours playing trying to play re-arrange the letters to get them in the right order. He scribbled some more, Maybe it has something to do with the liturgy, like North-South-East-West, or he was a reporter at KARL, so maybe it's NEWS, North-East-West-South, like a lightning bolt? No, that can work with X and X* but doesn't work with the nine spaces of # and #*. No, it just doesn't seem consistent with Masonry or Druidry. I'm at a total dead-end here.

Matt frowned, Wouldn't he keep it simple? You told me those Masons believe in the principle 'As above in the heavens, so below on earth,' namely that the actions of geometry reflect celestial events and vice-a-versa, so maybe the clue to arranging the jewels reflects the alphabetizing order, that would be most consistent wouldn't it? Besides Druids don't think in a linear fashion like Masons, because Nature abhors straight lines, preferring gentle curves...and in most labyrinthine matters, the path eventually curves to the center. That's my guess how he might have thought.

Sean snapped the other pencil he was chewing on. Something was clicking, but he couldn't figure out what. Maybe. No. Could it be? Like perhaps another clockwise motion? That would be consistent in pattern with the order of the Xs and #s. Sean didn't look or wait for Matt's half-hearted shrug, but resumed scribbling on the notepad. That's it Matt, if you do a spiral insertion of the alphabet, it works in this manner:

code

Which produces a key like this:

code

Sean smugly turned, Now, Matt, you said, Druids like to ask each other questions and let them find their own answers, right? Well, then, I'll allow you put it together and see what the puzzle says.

Matt began to plug the letters into the list of symbols again. Matt smiled as the message began to appear one letter at a time.

Don't

I Oh, Sean! It does work, and it's quite deep in implications for reflection. Let's go to there and find the object he is referring to, but let's do it Wednesday, I need to get my text books tonight and tomorrow is the first day of winter trimester classes.

Yeah, and besides, Sean added, Our roommates will come back, and would get suspicious if we leave all that gear lying about our rooms!

Matt smiled nodding, opening a flask of whiskey, You know, it's almost as if we're in a mystical dialogue across the barrier of time with this guy, Fisher, in some sort of way. Oh, and this Fisher guy is certainly not an infallible founder, did you notice he spelt 'their' wrong?

END OF PART FOUR OF EIGHT


SERIAL STORY Part 5 of 8

Matt .

Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Fiction written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE
Part Five of Eight

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episodes

Our two poor undergraduate juniors, Matt (a Cricket & football star) and Sean (a philosophy major), are spending winter vacation too under-employed at Carleton College in rural Northfield MN. Desperate for money, they follow up on a mysterious ad in a newspaper that implies a great treasure was hidden at Carleton for the future rightful spiritual heir of David Fisher, the founder of Reformed Druidism. Following a tip from the campus Chaplain, Sean infiltrates the local Masons, while Matt goes ga-ga with the Druids. From the various clues they discover, they decide that only possible solution to the mystery is to check the original written materials by David Fisher, which are stored at the Druid Archive Collection. They meet the mysterious secretary, Dylan, and access is denied. With amazing ingenuity and great personal risk, they steal some documents from the Archives and discover a lengthy poem holding a cryptic blueprint to the treasure. A harrowing climb in the Lower Arboretum and a series of clues lead their search to the foreboding St. Olaf College across the town on a small forest-girt mountain, where Matt and Sean seek for a circumspect ill-rumored group known only as DENMAD, who holds the next key on their journey. Barely escaping with their life, from the clutches and strange initiation rites of the extreme Christian group, they decode a Masonic cipher on the cover of an ancient book they stole from DENMAD. This leads them to yet again pursue their treasure search at Carleton's chapel.

The previous four episodes can be read in their entirety at http://www.rdna.info/treasure.html or in earlier issues of the Missal-Any at http://www.rdna.info/news.html


Chapter Eighteen: The Catacombs

It turned out to be several days, before their busy schedules allowed Matt & Sean to resume their treasure search, now that they had cracked the devious code on the stolen book. It was now Winter Term at Carleton College, and by a suspicious coincidence, the lovebirds, Dylan and Matt, seemed to be sharing the same Introduction to Women's Studies class in Laird and Early American Literature of the 19th Century, and were study partners for a few projects, that occupied more and more of his free time. Matt often chided Sean for avoiding the soft subjects in his course selection and worrying more about hard cash. Sean retorted that he could read the classics at his leisure in his retirement when we was more worldly and wiser, rather than waste valuable tuition on them now.

Sean During the first week back, a lot of students from the west coast, especially the first-years, wore a shell-shocked face for a few days, as they had previously thought that +10F was bitterly cold when they left in November, but could not comprehend that temperatures had dropped further to a regular -15F, not even factoring in the ever-present wind chill that hungrily burrowed into the thickest jacket for a trace of warmth to devour. Despite this, Broomball leagues flourished on the Bald Spot as the students stomped and slid in boots with brooms instead of hockey sticks across a miniature frozen pond. As always, furtive attempts at having the campus-wide 12th Annual Nude Winter Olympics finally came to fruition on an unusually warm day of +16F, with a great deal of unusual, quickly performed sports, blued skin and, of course, the aftermath of a free commemorative T-shirted group photo for the yearbook.

Sean and Matt were leaving a circle of friends at the student center in the afternoon and during the parting formalities after checking mailboxes, Sean began to make really exaggerated gloved handshakes with his friends, who then winked at each other, muttered odd phrases, and laughed. Matt looked a bit disturbed at that, but shook his head sadly and followed Sean out the door, his cloak swishing dramatically on purpose, like an exotic bird ruffling in mating season.

Matt and Sean were headed for the Skinner Chapel discussing odd matters, Hey, did you hear, I won the co-ed luge-sled for the third consecutive year at the Olympics last week. I totally lost control at the end on a bump and Dylan and I, we really crashed and burned on the ice. He laughed and began to yank up his shirt, bearing tempting flesh to the waiting wind-chill to pounce upon, That practice at Olaf paid off! Do you want to see the scars?

Sean held up a hand, and patted Matt on the shoulder, No, that's fine, congratulations. Let's focus on our financial future here. Matt readjusted his gear back under his large billowing cloak, that surprisingly hid the pickaxe and crowbar underneath. As this was Carleton, nobody really paid any attention to a mammoth, black-cloaked man and his skinny shorter companion, eyes painfully half-shut, for warmth, in February.

Sean They popped into the archives and asked a different secretary to see the Druid materials and without incident were able to reinsert the borrowed copy of the Constitution and Epistle without being noticed, and they re-emerged outside and they both breathed a sigh of relief. Most of the damage from the foam and fire-suppressors had been repaired, although several large unmarked crates were missing and appeared to have been moved to safer storage.

So, Matt, you're not still upset or angry about the Constitution and stuff?

Matt smiled weakly, No, Sean, I'm sure you've learned from the archive debacle, and as for other stuff, well, I've gone... beyond that. He gazed strangely at the sky, So beautiful isn't it, the sky? One never knows when it will be one's last one.

That's not the only thing you've been seeing lately is it, eh? Sean shoved Matt lightly, and the gear on his back clinked noisily. Ah, I'm just kidding you, maybe after you're done romancing Dylan, in those pointless English classes, you'll help me find my tuition money for next fall?

Hey, Dylan and I are just good friends, and I enjoy her for the good company. She really has a secret soft side, just like you Sean, and she smuggled a black kitty into her dorm room too, named Machka. Noticing Sean's look of displeasure as Matt prattled on and on about her, Matt noticed Sean's distraction, Eh? It looks like Masons can turn green as much as Druids, eh, Sean? Matt elbowed Sean in the ribs, She says she knows the chapel well, because she's in choir, believe it or not, and lets the cat run wild in there, causing all kinds of hijinks. I learned about some interesting hiding spots from her.

I see, Sean said sourly, I don't like cats, I'm allergic to them.

Glen Don't worry, she won't be in there today, remembering something, his arm snaked out of his cloak and held Sean by the shoulder, Hey, how about a wee shot of Glenfiddich whiskey, as a reward for returning the Constitution to the Archives? It'll be good for your constitution, too!

I love Glenfiddich! Sean beamed, the day suddenly seeming brighter as he postulated that amber fluid.

I thought you did, but your roommate says it's not that good, Matt said a little doubtful.

Alex, my roommate doesn't know Glenfiddich from Jack Daniels. Where is it, anyway?

Not many people use the lower level catacombs of the chapel anymore, too moldy they say; almost every religious group now reserves rooms in the new student center. Nowadays, only the Druids use the place during the winter months for meetings, because it is too cold to go outside until spring during the Time of Sleep. They have a storage closet down there for storing Druid gear... and Glenfiddich, I've heard.

Okay, They entered the chapel and shook themselves snowless and stomped a bit on the doormat. They then descended a long winding stone staircase deep down to the basement. The walls looked vaguely damp, glistening in the low light, with a touch of mildew in the crevices. It was about 55F all year here, being so far underground. Sean felt uneasy, as if he was being watched by somebody...or something. God was low on the priority list at Carleton, and apparently also for campus security, as there were no locked doors or cameras anywhere. Nobody would be down here, even the janitors seem to have abandoned it to the rampaging dust bunnies and fluttering cobwebs.

So who's going to go down the creepy corridor first? Sean asked.

I will, come on! Nothing to be worried about, it'll all be over soon.

What's down there? Sean asked, his voice echoing down the hallway.

Come on, Sean. It wouldn't be a real adventure, without a visit to a burial vault, now would it? Matt smiled darkly. That encrypted clue said to check out the crypt of the chapel, right? That's where we're going, and I know where the Druids keep their whiskey there for the services, a fortunate coincidence for us on a chilly day. They won't miss one bottle of Glenfiddich. But maybe I should go alone and check it out, your asthma...

No, my asthma is okay. Sean said coughing reflexively, I love Glenfiddich! Just one bottle won't be missed, and it will shake off this chill. But, Matt, I don't like dead bodies, Sean mumbled.

Chairs Of course you don't like dead bodies, that's one of the few normal things about you, but you'll soon have to come to grips with your mortality, just like all of us, Matt chided. But, it's not really a 'crypt', it's just a dark and dingy room, once used by various groups for small Protestant services instead of the main hall upstairs. Sean entered a doorway, and Matt did his best to impersonate a 1940's radio horror story narrator. They do joke about the original chaplain being buried under the small altar though. Sometimes he likes to come out to stretch a bit on nights like this...

Sean scowled, but his heart beat a little faster as he came through the doorframe and looked around. It was a 30-foot by 10-foot room, with some folding chairs and an altar at one end and a roughly built concrete-block wall behind it. Matt posted Sean at the doorway.

Matt, said Sean, why are all the seats so dusty, don't the Druids use this room?

Oh, Sean, Druids prefer to stand up, and besides it's only the first week of winter term. The room hasn't been used in months.

A Matt went to the plain altar and looked behind it with a flashlight and pulled out a yellow steel key. Here we go! He went to a door at the back of the room, unlocked it with the key and led Sean past a pile of discarded concrete blocks. The thundering chapel furnace in a nearby room made it difficult to hear each other talk, It's over here, Matt yelled and opened another door at the end of long hallway. Sean went in, and saw there was a single bottle of Glenfiddich in an otherwise empty small room, hesitated and felt Matt's heavy hand on his shoulder, rudely shoving him fully inside.

What the hell's going on here, Matt? Sean looked up incredulously at Matt's guffawing bulk.

Matt began to giggle a bit too disturbingly high-pitched and snorted darkly, It's all over for you, Sean. Sean freaked and broke out of Matt's grasp and boltd past him, scrambling back down the same corridor, looking over his shoulder as Matt bellowed in laughter from the darkness. Sean's flight came to an abrupt jarring stop as the slammed into two large imposing men in dark cloaks at the entrance to the crypt.

Paul Sean's eyes blossomed wide in terror, he looked up jaw agape, but relaxed at the sight of the faces of his fellow Masons from the Temple, Paul, Peter, brothers, I'm glad you're here, Matt's gone crazy!

Peter turned to Paul and said quizzically, Brother Paul, do you see another brother here? All I see is a coward and eavesdropper. Paul concurred and the two grabbed Sean and began dragging him inexorably back into the darkness, towards Matt, who stood with arms crossed by the empty storeroom.

What's going on here, Paul! Peter! Are you in on this too?

They tossed his scrawny body back into the whiskey storeroom and the two stood broodingly behind Matt, like a trio from a WWF poster, arms crossed over their chests, their faces impassive.

Matt, how do you know these guys? Sean exclaimed looking furtively about him in the faint light for another exit.

Matt smiled nonchalantly, Well, Sean, you see, the connection between Druids and Masons runs deep, ... far deeper than you ever suspected. Bwa ha ha ha!

Matt, you're a Mason?! Sean pointed in disbelief.

Sean's Matt pulled out a mason's trowel from under his cloak, Yes, and we've become very disappointed with your unauthorized handling of our secrets to your friends. He paused, motioning to the concrete blocks, and Peter and Paul began transferring them over to his feet. Matt held up a tray full of concrete paste, You can relax. You don't have to worry about graduating next year now, and this will be the last mortarboard you are going to see, now, we're going to ... uh, cement a conclusion to this problem.

Matt began to put two and two together quickly, his hands gripping the wet, grimy wall beyond him reflexively. You can't be serious, he swallowed hard, people will find me.

We're quite serious, Sean. Matt began to mix some mortar in a bucket. And nobody comes down here anymore, and it's too noisy and the walls too thick to hear you. Besides, this is the only key to this area, which I borrowed from the chaplain, and I'll hold on to it for... a few months. But don't worry, I'm sure the whiskey, will keep your spirits up... for a while. And, I think I can finish our little... project... up by myself now. Matt chuckled to himself, closing the door and locking the key and scraped the mortar for the first layer of blocks over the doorway.

Just Sean pounded on the door, yelling mostly incoherently. Peter opened the little window in the door, and the beating subsided. Sean, I wondered if you realize the full gravity of this situation?

I do!

And do you realize all the secrets you've leaked already? Paul added. Sean began to pour forth a litany of half-remembered revealed customs and such, and after three minutes he came to a halting end. Matt's wall of blocks had already reached the window level, and he tapped Paul who was leering maniacally through the tiny window.

Sean Excuse me Paul, move over a bit, I need to finish the wall.

Oh, just one more question for him, Matt, Paul yelled over the incessant din of the furnace and Sean's moaning.

Okay, go ahead, but I have class in a few minutes, Matt said stepping aside, tapping his watch.

Sean, do you have any final words? There was a short pause.

I'm so sorry, can... can you forgive me? his voice wavered inside.

Paul looked at Peter, who shrugged, and Paul leaning over to the window simply said, Yeah, okay.

Sean looked up incredulously, as Matt knocked the blocks down with a kick and unlocked the door, pulling a trembling, uncomprehending Sean out of the room, and led him out to the crypt's folded chairs. Peter and Paul slapped Sean on the shoulder, laughing jovially to cheer him, while Matt went back and brought out that bottle of Glenfiddich and produced some dusty glasses out from inside the altar and poured everyone a toddy splash. Sean looked chastened and morosely stared at the floor, but took the proffered drink and downed it without thinking, and slowly began to grow a little angry and addressed the men.

DAMN IT! What was that?!

Paul tapped Sean on the knee, and said, Sean, my brother, we like to call that giving you the Third Degree, mind you, it's not our orthodox traditional way to administer the Ordeal, but I think it's been most effective, don't you Peter? Peter chuckled. The essence is, of course, to realize your dependency on the assistance of others and the obligations of brotherhood, and our inherent mortality, which are to help them act with honor, right Peter? Peter nodded. So, we hope that you can come down to the Temple tomorrow for the associated lectures and we can do all the formalities of inducting you as a full Free and Accepted Mason. Oh, jeez, look at the time, I've got to get back to work, let's go, Peter. The two took another swig and chuckled. No hard feeling, right friend? Sean weakly grinned and waved at the chuckling men as they took off the cloaks and handed them to Matt, who turned and saw Sean still glaring at him. Matt raised a hand to fend off Sean's growing outburst.

Sean Now before you ask, let me explain. Matt said, laying down the cloaks on a chair, pouring another cup of smooth Glenfiddich for Sean, First, I didn't tell them about the treasure. Second, all that about Druids and Masons was poppycock, of course, and third, the Druids have never used this room. You see, I felt unable to convince you to redirect your life-course, without a touch of death, so I went down to the Temple and explained a few matters and they suggested we give you a little shock. This prank is based on Edgar Allen Poe, just so you know, and you should read more of the classics from 'silly English classes', you know, it's good for your health! Surprisingly Sean took this all in stride.

Matt, I'm still very upset, but I think... I understand why you did that, he said unclenching his fists, but you owe me a large pizza tonight, and we'll have to polish off the rest of that whiskey.

It's a deal,... brother.

Sean chuckled, I guess I always knew you were a rather Po' actor, and now I know you are also a Raven lunatic. Are you going to pull a trick like this again?

Nevermore, Matt chuckled, then Matt looked up startled and glanced around, Did you hear something?

No, you're not going to spook me again. But what about the puzzle? Sean said, completely forgetting why they were there in the first place.

Oh, that! I came down a week ago to search. Look under the altar, there's another key in there taped to the underside.

Sean went over and reached under the desk and yelped and jumped back, holding his shaking hand, squawking, Eiyaaa!

What's wrong, Sean? Matt asked concerned and approaching.

Something furry is in there.

Really? Matt looked amused and reached under the altar and pulled out a large bronze key in one hand and the other held out a sleepy black kitten. Now what on Earth is Machka doing in here? The cat pawed at him playfully and had a hair brush strapped onto its back, and Matt snoogled with it.

What's that doing there? Matt said pointing to the animal.

Why silly, Matt said with a broad grin, it's a catacomb, what else would you expect down here?

Charlie There was a knock on the door, and the two turned around, the chaplain was there, heavily leaning on a cane. He had a wide grin.

Hello Sean. Oh, Matt, did it all work out?

Yes, Charlie, thanks for giving me the okay on this little prank, Matt said with good spirits, hiding the second key, and holding up the whiskey, want a shot?

Don't mind if I do, Charlie said taking a shot glass.

What, you're in on this too? Man, this is how people get paranoid about conspiracy theories! Sean griped.

Ah, Sean, my laddy, Charlie said, downing the shot, Next time you tip someone, don't tip the books or one day the scales will be tipped against you. Charlie put down the shot glass, wiped his lips with his sleeve, and looked around. Matt, you'll clean up and lock up on your way out, right? Sorry, I have to run off to a humorous dinner with a Rabbi and a priest at a bar. Matt nodded. Charlie waved and left.

Sean turned to Matt, Where do we go from here? What's it say again? He pulled out the clue from the constitution reading the appropriate verse:

Birds

    High o'er the heads of those deep in prayer
    Bestruck by the gods and polished by the air,
    Known only well by the folk of the sky
    Use wits to reach there or learn how to fly.

Matt had an idea and flicked on the flashlight under his chin, shading his face demonically, and intoned dramatically, striking a pose with his finger pointing up to the ceiling We must go up to... the Tower of Power! Bwa ha ha ha! He flicked the light switch on and off to simulate lightning, while Sean rubbed his chin and considered how to best get his satisfactual revenge later on this perfect dolt.

Chapter Nineteen: The Tower of Power

Skinner Sean and Matt cleaned up the crypt and Matt deposited the cat in a warm pile of cloaks, where it quickly returned to sleep. They proceeded up to the main floor of the chapel and climbed another flight of stone step to the second floor, and Matt pointed up. In the ten-foot high ceiling was a robust trapdoor with a large keyhole in the corner. Matt maneuvered a stout oak table underneath the trapdoor, climbed up and unlocked it, pounded the door until it broke a crusty seal of disuse and pushed the door up and it flipped open on a hinge with a large thud on the floor above. He placed a chair securely on the table and climbed in, with Sean following behind.

Once inside, Sean looked around and saw that they were at the base of the interior of the chapel's seven-story tower. The walls loomed up around them, perhaps climbing yet another five stories. It was a large hollow tall space about 30 feet by 30 feet on the floor, with two-story-tall open stone windows in the walls, covered by chicken wire to keep out birds. Some large bells swung a little from massive ceiling mounts, long since replaced in use by an electronic system of speakers. The cold January winds blew through and swirled snow and debris. The weak rays of the setting sun were still strong enough for Sean to see a set of primitive rungs going up a wall with another trapdoor at the very top. Sean felt sick and woozy as some vertigo began to unbalance him; and he leaned against a wall, breathing heavily.

Climbing You okay, Sean? Matt said with obvious concern, Sean nodded with his eyes closed. You know we have to climb up there, according to the clue on the book cover.

Yeah, just give me a moment. You'll be the death of me yet, Matt. Sean breathed slowly and went over to the rungs and recoiled. Ah shit!

Huh? Something wrong?

No, Matt, I mean, shit. Bird shit all over the place. These rungs have old bird nests on them too!

Dang, this treasure hunting sure is hard work, isn't it?

Yeah.

Matt rubbed his chin, turning his flashlight on the rungs, I guess during the summer, the birds find a way in here. That's going to make it harder to climb. Bird shit is acidic too, might have structurally weakened the rungs. We'd better prepare for it. Matt shifted oddly and somehow unloaded his gear bag without removing his cloak, stepped away and began digging through the pile and pulled out some harnesses. Despite what went on down there, I have absolutely no intention of losing you Sean, I'm not bright enough to do this solo, so slip on this climbing harness and lock a carabineer onto every few rungs, in case you... uh, slip on something.

Sean The two geared up and began to slowly ascend the ladder, locking onto every other rung and releasing the old rung. After about 10 muscle-wobbling minutes they reached the top, and Sean pushed open the trapdoor, which was unlocked, and scrambled onto the roof and rolled onto his back, breathing hard, while the sky yawed in odd directions to the accompaniment of the pounding tympani in his ears. Matt came next and walked to the edge of the three-foot-tall raised lip, gazing at the magnificent view of the buildings of the City of Northfield stretching one way with its 14,000 people (only 13,993 souls if you consider the lawyers, so the joke goes), and the enormous wooded arboretum on the other side of the campus, with a glimpse of the Cannon River running down the side of it, like a silver icy ribbon below a black lattice of bare tree branches.

Sean sniffed his mittens with a unhappy face, I'm going to have to replace these.

You know, I think I can see the curvature of the Earth from up here. Matt noted and spit over the side of the wall. The spit, naturally, froze in mid-fall and bounced off the roof of the nave below, clattering onto the snow below. Sean crawled over in the howling wind and looked out for a second, thought better of it and slid down to a safe and stable sitting position. Matt joined him shining the flashlight on the bronze key from the altar.

Hey Sean. More Ogham is scratched on the side of the key, take a look, Matt said, now accustomed to secret codes as if it was a commonplace fact of life as reading the morning paper. He read the words slowly;

A When you are in doubt
You need not pout
For the place to start
Seek Samhain's heart

Sean shrugged, and looked around the roof. There were four spires, one on each side of the tower facing the cardinal points. On each of them was a cross-shaped lightning rod which was securely bolted in place. Each of them was of a slightly different length. The puzzle tells us to take the symbol of Denmad, which must be one of these cross-shaped lightning rods, but which one?

Matt walked around and wiggled them, and noticed that when he pulled one, it tilted a little and clicked, and one stone in the middle of the floor was slightly raised. Matt went over and stepped on it, and noted that it could be depressed. Out of a corner, something flashed, and a projectile whizzed by his ear. Matt found it on the floor and held it under his flashlight. It looked like a dart with a wicked barb, smeared with some type of tacky goo. This is just like a 'Tomb Raider' puzzle that I did last summer on a computer game. I think this might be a poison dart for making a wrong selection. I don't like poison darts.

Ye Really? Sean said in a doubtful voice, What kind of priest would install poison darts in a church?

Depends on his parishioners. Yeah, according to my dozens of games and extensive movie experience, there are basic adventuring patterns to death traps, so if we push the center stone, it should reset the lock for each attempt, then we pull the crosses in the right order, and then step on the center stone again, and we should unlock something. If we're wrong, then we get more poison darts. Fun eh? At least, because it is winter, sowe don't have to worry about hordes of flesh-eating scarab beetles crawling out of a secret chamber! Ha ha ha!

Yes, delightful. May I remind you that you make a bigger and tastier target, Matt?

Well, fortunately, there are only about 24 logical permutations that we have to work through, if each is pulled only once, Matt rubbed his mittens, lapping up the challenge, But, I'd rather get it right on the first try, cause it's mighty damn cold up here, and I don't want to die. What do you think the right pattern is, Sean?

Sean thought carefully, Well, now. What's the 'Samhain' he's referring to? That's Halloween right?

Three Yes, said Matt began to ramble instructively, At the original Samhain service in 1963 at the end of the summer half of the year, Fisher invited everyone to think of their ancestors, and perhaps call across the veil between this world and the Other one, and one person began speaking in tongues and prophesizing, according to tradition, that there would be three stones; which some later believed to be the assassinations of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remember that, Sean acceded.

But, do you know, Sean, we still have the text of Fisher's meditation from that Samhain? Matt pulled a ragged copy of the Druid Chronicles out of his backpack and opened to the Book of Customs, chapter 7. If I remember correctly, ah yes, here it is, in the line at the center of the poem, 'The sun, the bright fire of day, withdraws his chariot; his face is veiled with clouds, and the breath of the north wind walks the land.' So I think we should start with North. Matt lay low on the floor, then reached up and pulled on the northern cross. He paused, looking for death darts, but none came out, so he exhaled in relief. Okay, but what's next?

Sean thought for a while, and pulled out his Masonic cipher, Maybe this is the actual point where we should use the four directions of the Druid service; where they call to the winds at their services to divine whether the vegetable sacrifice has been accepted? It didn't work in decoding the message on the book cover, but it just might work here. Matt nodded, went from the North to the southern cross and pulled it, then crawled to the East, then the West. He returned to the center of the roof and looked at Sean, then resolutely stomped pushed down on the center stone, which sank deep into the roof and locked down. The bolts holding on the southern cross mechanically unscrewed and the stout metal pole clanged harshly onto the stone floor of the roof. Sean grinned and picked it up, a bit surprised himself that it was so easy. It was about six feet long and one inch thick with a sharp spike on the bottom and a simple cross-beam halfway up.

Minnesotan What do you think we are supposed to do with it? Sean said looking on its smooth surface for any telltale Ogham. There was none, not a clue. Totally smooth, but discolored from a few lightning strikes and pocked from the elements. Wasn't Fisher reputedly almost hit by lighting in 1963?

Yeah, for invoking a curse, I think, at the time. Matt shrugged, Well, I don't know what to do next now, so I guess we'll have to go on to the next clue of the main puzzle in the Constitution tomorrow. Matt looked around at the other poles, and finding no clues, returned to the trapdoor and waved Sean over, Let's get down and go back to the dorms. Sean nodded and they laborious descended. As expected, going down was even more harrowing, as they couldn't see where their footholds below, but nothing like a Hollywood cliff-scene hanging by one arm developed. That rarely happens when you're being very careful. They resealed the trapdoors to the closed position and put the key back under the altar.

As they left the chapel, Matt parted with Sean, remember to take the kitten, and put it into a large interior pocket of his own cloak, and left to go to return it to Dylan. Sean went back to his dorm room, lay on his bed and curled up, still a bit shaken by the events of that evening and fell into a deep sleep without going to dinner. His dreams were disturbing, but he awoke with an odd feeling of resolution, not too different, he thought from Ebenezer in the Christmas Carol, except he still felt rather greedy and unfriendly.

Chapter Twenty: What Lies Beneath

A few days later, after Sean's official initiation into Third Degree Masonry, Sean met with Matt again over in Matt's room. Sean swaggered in and slammed a piece of paper on the desk and handed Matt a pen.

Matt blinked from his bunk-bed, What's this?

Matt It's a pen, and that is a confession, Sean said stabbing a finger on the document.

Heh, Sean, I'm sorry you're still taking that prank so hard, but I've already admitted it to you. Matt said looking over the document a bit sleepily.

Not for that, Sean waved, It's a joint confession that we are both on a treasure hunt, and a dangerous one, and an agreement to split the rewards fifty-fifty, including our next of kin, when we get any. Sean crossed his arms and waited.

Do you think that is really necessary? Matt looked a little shocked, his palm on his cheek.

Sean paced the room, After those shenanigans, and watching 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' on cable TV, I realize that the greatest danger in treasure hunting is not poison darts, rattle snakes and malaria, but it is betrayal and greed from one's closest partners. If only you and I know about this treasure hunt, then both of us will be under enormous pressure to double-cross the other as we get closer.

But we have only one cross, Sean... Matt joked holding up the tubular cross from the tower.

I'm serious Matt, Sean laboriously sat down with a pained expression, I haven't read much literature, but there are a few things in life that a man or woman cannot have too much of; counting on his fingers, wealth, health, sex, power and cable channels. Matt nodded gravely. So for your protection, and mine, we need to entrust this document with a neutral third party, in case the worst of our human nature gets the best of us.

Dylan About this time, Dylan came in the room, with her kitten in her arms. Sean scrambled to hide the document as well as he could without drawing obvious attention to it.

Oh, Sean-baby, you don't need to hide anything. Everyone in the dorm knows you two guys are up to something. The muddy boots, the digging tools, the odd hours, the skulking. Really macho stuff, I think. However, Patricia, the Mormon on this floor, says you're digging up corpses for the Druids, of course. She stood behind Matt and began kneading his sore shoulders. Besides, Sarah the newsgal is my friend, and she told me you were looking for some kind of treasure. she said, enjoying the mounting concern on Sean's scowling face. Oh you men are easy to read, you know. By your panicky reaction, I can tell that she was telling the truth. Don't ever try to play poker. But don't worry, I'm too busy to be in on your schemes, so don't mind little old me.

Matt scribbled his signature on the document, sealed it in an envelope, and handed it to her before Sean could stop him. Hey Dylan, hold on to this for awhile, say until next year, and don't open it. She slid the white envelope into a dark pocket in her jacket.

Don't open it, riiiight... No problem, you guys going treasure hunting this evening or do you want to catch a movie, Matt?

Can I get a snow-check on that? Matt asked.

Sure thing, Mat, but we'll go tomorrow, okay, there's a good film coming out called, 'National Treasure' with Nicholas Cage by Disney Productions and I think you guys might like it. Dylan picked up the cat and went back to the door, turned and added, I don't know about finding bullion, but you guys seem like the only gold bricks around here, so I'd recommend that you don't give up your day jobs while you run about on your snark quest. Then she tactically slid out just before Sean could retort cleverly.

You told her, didn't you? Sean accused, leaning angrily over Matt, hands on his hips.

No, man, it's like she can read my mind, Matt protested waving his hands in a spooky way over his head, and there aren't many pages in there, you know.

Well, she seems reliable enough for now. Let's move quickly to the next clue tonight. Here's the verse from the Constitution puzzle;

beltane's The Queen of Hearts in spring holds sway
None can resist her green charms in May.
When the maypole rises and drama ensues
Below her blue skirt lies her precious clue.

Um, Sean, don't you remember back on the Tree of Suffering, I clearly told you I think we should wait until spring for outdoor shenanigans, and it's not even March yet. Sean wasn't listening; in fact, he was already inspecting his backpack and attaching the stolen steel cross on to it and cinching the straps down.

Yo, I start my senior year in August, six months from now, and I can't afford to wait around, Matt. Sean snapped, We've been pretty lucky until now, but I think if we run up against a brick wall or dead-end, we might need the extra time to overcome that obstacle.

All right, but what do you think the clue means? Matt asked, stifling a yawn.

Well, despite the figurative connotations, every clue so far has led us to a physical location described in the clue. Sean rolled out a large map of the campus on the floor and suspiciously looked out in the corridor and kicked shut the door. You know a lot more than I do about the Druidical locations and geography of the arboretum, and I asked you a few days ago to inquire about Beltane festivities and their locations. Tell me what you've found.

Matt leaned over the large geological map of the Arboretum tracing from various landmarks. Well, Sean, Beltane or May Day was once traditionally held here on the Hill of Three Oaks every year to welcome the start of the summer half of the year, but due to the annual big Spring Concert (held usually on the same weekend) the Druids have been celebrating the Maypole Dance over in the Stone Circle Grove over here in the Upper Arb. Matt pointed to the various locations. Sean looked pleased and was looking firmly at the circle's location, but Matt interrupted, However, I don't think that Fisher is referring to the DRUIDIC Beltane services.

Sean looked baffled, What do you mean? Who else is celebrating May Day?

Matt preened himself, and pulled out a corncob pipe and chewed it between sentences, Well, except for the odd wiccan in town, no one IS celebrating it NOW, just the Druids. But, I noticed in ARDA 2 on page 538, there is a photo of Mai Fete in the 1950s and when I talked to Dylan last week, she said that from the 1920s to the mid-1960s, the theatre department and various women in town would have a Festival of May on Mai Fete Island and enact a simple drama or play. He pointed at an island in the middle of Lyman Lakes with his pipe-stem. And I think Fisher would have been plenty aware of that back in the 60s. What do you notice about its shape?

A Sean studied the map and stood up with a start, It is heart-shaped! Why that means the blue skirt...

Is actually the ring of water around the green grassy island. Yep. I was told by Dylan, that the island used to be heavily shrubbed until the late '90s, and a favorite haunting place of young couples on romantic trysts away from the lights and ears of the dorms, but not going as far as the distant Arboretum. I'm hoping to test that out in a few months...

Sean protested, But the poem says, 'below her blue skirt' and I have no interest in going into cold water again after that baptism fiasco at St. Olaf College. I simply don't have any scuba gear. Maybe we'll just have to wait until the spring thaw, after all. Sean and Matt's excitement both ran into the problem and their spirits sank. The ice wouldn't be gone until March or April, and the water wouldn't be comfortable until May or June. They sat for a while kicking their heels and silently fuming, then Sean sat up and took the pencil out of his gnawing teeth and said, Dam!

What's wrong, Sean?

Not damn, dam! Unless there was no water!

Huh, what?

Matt, those are man-made lakes, and there's a dam that they occasionally open to drain the lakes for dredging them deeper from years of silt accumulation right, I heard about that in a biology class.

Yeah, so you're saying we need to open the dam, drain the water, and then inspect the base of the island at our leisure? Matt slapped a fist into his open palm. That's a dam good plan, let's go take a look tonight!

Sean smiled and they grabbed their packs and went out into the stygian night, as it was a new moon. They trundled down to the base of Lyman Lakes and looked at the dam, whose trickling flow-over had made an enormous spray of ice reaching down to the creek at its base. They found the locking mechanism, but he noticed with a depressed sigh, The turn-wheel is wisely missing, there's just an inset square depression. We need to get the key to open it, but I don't think we'll be able to steal that easily.

The A few cars sped by obliviously on Highway 19 near the frozen waterfall, going a prudent 35 mph with the icy roads. Matt looked at the square for a while, dropped his pack and he pulled off the cross that was strapped on his back.

Sean sighed, Um, Matt, this is no time to get religion. Praying won't help us here, Sean groused.

Sean, never underestimate the power of the cross, Matt snickered. And pointed to one of the ends of the cross-bar, Look here, this one is a bit squared off, and perhaps, just maybe, he inserted it in the square, and it snuggly fit in with a bit of wriggling. It fits, he said simply.

Well, open it, it's 8 p.m. now, and there's a lot of water to drain... Sean urged Matt.

Okay. Matt grabbed the far end of the cross and firmly planted his feet on the round boulders nearby and began to pull the lever clockwise. At first, nothing moved, and he pushed it the other direction, to unseat the screw a little, then heaved it back clockwise, his teeth clenched in concentration. The screw mechanism jerked slowly at first, then turned easier and easier. But no water came out. Sean looked dejectedly at Matt.

The ice must be blocking the sluice gate. Matt nodded, stepped over, and using the sharp point on the cross, began ramming it into the ice to little effect. Growing frustrated, he pulled out a mattock and began laying into the ice, using the cross as a spike, held wincingly by Sean, shielding his eyes from the shards of ice that splattered up. Without warning on the tenth blow, the ice shattered, and a torrent of water exploded out horizontally in a torrent, shooting chunks of ice all directions with hundreds of gallons of green sludge and the occasional carp pouring out. Matt fell back heavily with a big grin on his face. Oh yeah, who's your daddy! Woo hoo!

Good job, Matt, now let's come back around 3:00 a.m., and we'll see about peeking under that skirt.

The They went back to their dorms, and early in the morning, meeting at the student center, Matt being 20 minutes late, as usual. They trudged down the hill towards Lyman again, and Matt looked stunned. Um, Sean, the ice is still there.

He was right, of course, the ice being about eight inches thick was still spread around the two islands and the narrow lake, even though the supporting water had completely drained from the dam. Sean looked unfazed, Then we'll just make a hole and go under it. Crawl, if we have to.

Um, Sean, you remember I told you that I don't like to get mud on my clothes, and the bottom of the lake is pretty slimy, and... his words were cut off with a dropped hand of Sean.

You've forgotten that it's winter in Minnesota. Five hours of -20F weather, means there is a nice thick layer of frozen mud there now. Sean polished his mitten ends and blew on them. Matt smiled back and they went on to Mai Fete Island by the charming little arching wooden bridge.

Which side of the island should we start on? Matt asked.

Trying I'm going to be daring and suggest the north side, since that seems to be Fisher's favorite. They went to the shoreline there and Matt began to swing the mattock, while Sean again held the cross as a spike at arm's length, and soon they had made a three-foot-wide crack, and they slid diagonally down the frozen mud and under the ice. They both crawled in and looked around. The mud was covered with a gritty layer of ice, like a dirty ring on a bathtub. The ice above was mostly clear and they could look up and see the clouds reflecting the light of the city's nightscape that gave their skin a smurf-ish blue hue. Like a giant tutu on a ballerina, the ice stretched out from the sides of the island. Sean hoped that the ice would continue to support its own weight and not crash down and bury them until a dire spring thaw, a thought that prompted him to hurry Matt. They crawled around the base of the island until they found what seemed to be a drainage culvert. But, of course, there was no reason for a culvert on an island only 80 feet wide.

Your turn to go down the creepy corridor first, Sean suggested, and Matt glowered back but laid on his back and scooted and shimmied head first into the now drained, but icy, tunnel out of the sight of Sean's flashlight. After a minute or two Matt called for Sean to join him, and Sean wiggled down the pipe, approaching Matt's flashlight after about 10 feet. The culvert began to rise up a few feet and suddenly space opened up around him, and Matt looked around at a small round room with an arched cement roof, about four feet high, like an igloo.

You know Sean, Freud would say climbing obelisks and crawling in tunnels are metaphors for....

Sean snapped, You know, Matt, sometimes an obelisk is just an obelisk, and a tunnel is just a tunnel!

Some Well, still, this domed chamber is pretty cool. I feel like an Inuit, huh, Sean? Matt joked, but it was a poor joke and he got no response. Matt sighed and pointed to some beaver skeletons and piles of sticks, and ran his flashlight over the walls and the low ceiling. It'd make a nice dorm room, with a new coat of paint, maybe a nice round Hobbit door on the top.

Uh, huh, something's over there, Sean observed and they crawled over to a corner where there was something painted on the ceiling. Sean crawled off, and Matt followed, still jabbering.

You know, Sean, I have heard legends of undersea cities in the Celtic lands and crannogs in lakes, but I never thought there might be one here on the campus, actually like this. The strokes had been crudely applied with a black ink by a thick brush on the white concrete, with a Druid sigil, then an arrow, then a cross and then an arrow, then a black circle under a convex curve.

Below the picture was a verse in ogham, which Sean copied down while Matt held the light steady. He then read his translated notes aloud:

five

You have one symbol but it will take two
To find it you'll need to vigil the night through
Follow the winds through the five famous trees.
In the last, you'll find the second of the keys.

They both looked at the words, Sean mused, Well, we know that Fisher withdrew a bit from the Druids at the end of his junior year, and after graduating in 1965 he went to the Episcopal seminary, which would explain the movement from the sigil to the cross, and each seems to be on some sort of pedestal. It looks like that might be a cave he's pointing at the end, perhaps an encouragement for us to become a hermit, or a reference to the tomb where Jesus was buried, or Dead Sea Scrolls, or Shamanic cave meditations? Sean trailed off, realizing he was on wild tangents.

Matt reminded him, Although there may be metaphysical implications, remember again, everything has led to a physical location, so I'll look around with the grounds crew for natural or artificial caves in the region. Remember the line in the master poem: 'The path to her cave will be sharp and clear'

Sean was locked deep in thought, turned to Matt and asked, Hey, Matt, when did you say you were going to do your solitary Druidic vigil for the Third Order Priesthood?

Oh, Druids don't usually vigil between Samhain and Beltane, so we're not scheduled to do anything until May.

Why not?

Sean Because, Sean, winter is cold, depressing, and there are no pretty leaves to look at. Matt smiled condescendingly.

Sean sighed deeply and groused, It looks like we have to wait three months until your vigil for the next clue. But in the meantime we need to do some research on trees.

That's a lot of time. I was thinking about something, Sean.

Oh yeah? What?

I should really become a Mason, so that you don't have to inappropriately reveal secrets to me anymore. In a strange way, it is really as much my fault as yours. Would you put a good word in for me?

Of course, Sean was surprised, then paused as if summoning some deep inner strength for the next sentence, And for good measure, I'll join your cult... I mean club. They can't be half as whacked as the Denmads and Masons are, and at least they have a kinder sense of humor.

That'd be cool, Matt smiled and shook Sean's parka-clad shoulder.

Sean grinned, Do I need to bring a chicken or a goat?

Oh, Sean, you silly, we're REFORMED Druids, we only use vegetables and leaves. He leaned over conspiringly and whispered, But, I've heard odd rumors that one grove in California offers up mushrooms, which you know have cellular properties and biochemistry of both plants and animals. I find that most disturbing...

Sean chuckled. He then paused at the culvert to go back outside, then said with a deadpan face, You know, Matt, we'd better put the water back in the lake before somebody notices it's gone.

END OF PART FIVE OF EIGHT


SERIAL STORY Part 6 of 8

Matt
Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Fiction written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE
Part Six of Eight

. In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episodes

Our two poor undergraduate juniors, Matt (a Cricket & football star) and Sean (a philosophy major), are spending winter vacation too under-employed at Carleton College in rural Northfield MN. Desperate for money, they follow up on a mysterious ad in a newspaper that implies a great treasure was hidden at Carleton for the future rightful spiritual heir of David Fisher, the founder of Reformed Druidism. Following a tip from the campus Chaplain, Sean infiltrates the local Masons, while Matt goes ga-ga with the Druids. From the various clues they discover, they decide that only possible solution to the mystery is to check the original written materials by David Fisher, which are stored at the Druid Archive Collection. They meet the mysterious secretary, Dylan, and access is denied. With amazing ingenuity and great personal risk, they steal some documents from the Archives and discover a lengthy poem holding a cryptic blueprint to the treasure. A harrowing climb in the Lower Arboretum and a series of clues lead their search to the foreboding St. Olaf College across the town on a small forest-girt mountain, where Matt and Sean seek for a circumspect ill-rumored group known only as DENMAD, who holds the next key on their journey. Barely escaping with their life, from the clutches and strange initiation rites of the extreme Christian group, they decode a Masonic cipher on the cover of an ancient book they stole from DENMAD. This leads them to yet again pursue their treasure search at Carleton's chapel. After a few pranks, they overcome a few dangerous obstacles in the chapel then discover a hidden chamber under a lake which leads them to the conclusion that only by Matt's becoming a Druid priest, will the quest continue forward.

The previous four episodes can be read in their entirety at http://www.rdna.info/treasure.html or in earlier issues of the Missal-Any at http://www.rdna.info/news.html


Chapter Twenty-One: Beltane Follies

Carleton Sean and Matt had a few months to wait until the winter half of the Druidical year had ended, so that Matt could vigil to solve the next clue on their quest. The first dull week off from the search was rough for Sean. After so much danger and excitement it was hard to sit still, since he lacked the doting distractions of the heart that occupied Matt. As usual, Sean invested his restless energy into washing plates in the cafeteria dish room and making job applications for summer internships. The following weeks passed quicker and quicker. Spring break came, and Sean did nothing decadent or exciting, as is actually true for most college students, despite what the teenager movies imply.

Sean and Matt spent a week talking with people in the geology department and going around the Goodhue and Rice counties looking for natural caves, but couldn't come up with anything suitable within 50 miles. Sean even went to the student pub on campus, called The Cave, which had brought in trashy garage bands for 40 years, and still served 50 cent beers which were far worse than the performers. But nothing developed from that angle of research, except a hangover.

As the temperatures began to peek above freezing in late March, not only did the snows begin to reluctantly recede, but so did the heavy jackets, cloaks and woolen hats of the besieged students. When the weather reached 40 degrees, hordes of joyous cabin-fevered students began to strut about the campus in shorts and T-shirts; the same ones who would have shivered at the same temperature in the fall. But now to them, 40 degrees seemed like sultry weather from Barbados, due to the buildup of some mysterious antifreeze in their blood, and a good layer of college blubber from lots of food and not much exercise.

The Not wishing to rely solely upon Matt's prodigious memory, Sean had begun reading the Druid Anthology, snorting at the superstitious parts, but in a few spots, perhaps nodding at a passage. As he promised to Matt, Sean took a literary survey of 20th-century America, and spent less time on medieval history. Because it was his junior year, he was beginning to consider what project, his comprehensive exercise (comps), he would undertake for his history major, which would absorb much of his senior year's free-time. That is if he did have a senior year with his shaky finances. And yet, all too soon it was the end of April and the first flowers were beginning to come out and students seemed a lot friskier and friendlier than ever before. Finally, during the latest of their weekly winter-time conspiratorial meetings at tbe labrynth on Stewart Isle in Lyman Lakes (hard to be overheard in the remote location), Matt said, Beltane is on Saturday, this weekend, if it doesn't rain...or snow, so be ready, with a sly look and left.

While Sean was going to classes that Friday after visiting a reclusive friend in Goodhue, he saw two young women run up to him and they stopped. He didn't recognize them in their summer clothing, but it was Sarah and her roommate Patricia.

Sarah, Hey, Sean-arooni, just the chap I wanted to see, she said grabbing his light sweater.

Um, hi Sarah, Patricia, what's up?

She ran some fingers up his collar and held him firmly by one shoulder, Not much. Yeah, you know all the girls think your new 'adventurer' look is real cool.

Behind Sarah, Patricia gave a supportive thumbs up and winked, Matt can search for buried treasure with me, anytime. She growled.

Patricia! Sarah said in false shock at the giggling junior, then sobered up and leaned closer, Bad news for you, Sean. You're a marked man, you know that? Some tall, blond guys, Oles maybe, have been walking around campus asking a lot of questions about a beefy fellow and a scrawny sidekick.

Scrawny? he asked petulantly.

Yeah, well that's what they said, she said, letting go and flipping out a notebook, I talked to one of the blokes, right Patricia?, A Norwegian-type guy, who.... Sarah was interrupted.

No, way, he was definitely Danish! Patricia blurted.

Like Hell he was, did you see his ears? Sarah shot back.

Sean rubbed his face with his hands in sudden exhaustion as the argument continued. Only in Minnesota would such an argument be pertinent, but it soon ended, and Sarah continued, Well, it's lucky for you guys that you dyed your hair back, that'll buy you some time, but you apparently took something of great value to them, and they want it back, and I think they want to collect some interest too.

Sean Well, .... Sean stammered.

No, you don't have to tell me, yet... I do want the scoop on all this when you're finished your little quest and can reveal it all. Until then, watch your backs, especially Matt's, he's far easier to spot in the crowd than you. Gotta run. Ta ta, Sean! And they dashed away towards the stately Leighton Hall. Sean stopped for a moment, but for the rest of the weekend, he felt paranoid and was constantly looking over his shoulders, and jumping anytime he saw a blond in the crowd, but nothing happened of note until the next day, on Saturday.

Against his better reason, and driven by curiosity, Sean attended the Beltane festivities at the Stone Circle of the Upper Arb, on a warm Saturday afternoon. There were rumors that stone circles appeared in odd places over the years at Carleton, many with no visible marks of construction equipment, as if they just sprouted out of the ground like mushrooms in an autumn rain. A few years ago, a free-spirited student named Irony had relocated a few stones from the Hill of Three Oaks to this distant oak grove off the beaten path in order to lower the incidence of vandalism by drunken students. The twelve stones were about man-size and sunk into the ground with a large trilithon dolmen in the middle, where various foods were laid out at the Beltane feasts.

Carleton He hadn't been there long, when a few students ran off into the nearby woods and came back with a 40-foot maypole, dug a hole in the ground, pulled out various ribbons to the top and then planted the pole firmly, with many ribald comments. Other students casually filtered in, a few that Sean had seen on campus occasionally, a few obvious hippie-wannabees and a few seemingly reasonable folk. They spread blankets and performed the most basic act of sun-worship, they sun tanned, enjoying the deliverance from the winter months. One particularly harried fellow came in, Iain Knoll apparently, and began delegating tasks to the indolent revelers and preparations were eventually completed when the piper came and the maypole was danced, and one lady grabbed Sean off his vulture-like posing on the rock, and made him join a round or two before choosing yet another suitor.

Grapsing Donuts were hung from trees and folks tried to catch them in their mouth while being tickled with their hands behind their backs. Ladies skipped around as only elementary school and college women can do. The busy fellow, definitely called Iain, eventually corralled the folks into one location, and read a quick service of ten minutes, noting that the summer half of the year had arrived, flowers were blooming, and passions were ablaze, and that the day should be spent being merry. Interestingly enough, a light breeze appeared from nowhere when the cardinal directions were faced and invoked, and Iain called forth anyone wishing to become Druids, and Sean discretely jumped into the midst of a small crowd of eager folks. A few words, a sip of whiskey and it was done, and Sean went back to the food bar to find some food, and noticed a harper had begun telling odd stories off to the side about people selling their souls for musical prowess, and he migrated there, wondering what his new Druid-hood meant. Such a difference from the rigidity and formality of Masonic initiation, he thought, and no bum-whackings with paddles like the Denmads.

Dylan There was a horn blast and Matt and Dylan processed out of the forest from different directions, dressed in medieval garb, heavily patched in a few places. Dylan, for once, was dressed in a non-black outfit, an elegant light blue dress with pink slippers. Matt was sporting some type of Shrek ogre costume, heavily adorned with sewn-on green leaves, looking a bit like the Jolly Green Giant. Iain met them by the altar stone and informed them that they had been elected the May Queen and Oak King of the Day, sprinkled some whiskey on each of them, and the two were sent packing off into the fields and forests with a screeching chorus of well-wishers to reawaken the fertility of the Arboretum by whatever means they could devise. Not knowing anyone well, but recognizing the food, Sean relied heavily on the drink to pass the time, and actually dozed off for a few hours against a small stone while others frolicked and played games. When he awoke, Matt and Dylan were standing over him, looking slightly tussled, Matt's suit missing many leaves. The sun was beginning to set, and all the revelers had left Sean to sleep off his booze. Someone had lain a blanket over him to keep him warm in the coming chill of evening.

Dylan Wake up Sean, it is almost time to go to the Hill of 3 Oaks for the evening's bonfire. Do you like the grove's traditional royal garb, they say it might be 40 years old. Matt shook his clothes so that they rustled, a leaf of two falling out.

Sean yawned and before he thought, asked, What took you two guys so long? Hey, I don't suppose that 'blue skirt' also has a clue under it?

Dylan smiled and leaned forward, hands on her hips, reciting her line, The Queen of May is called that because she may or may not... Sean picked up the allusion.

Matt intoned, Of the Oak King they ask Woody or Woody not? he said, then they joined in chorus, But instead jump ye over the fire hot, and take your partner to a soft quiet spot! and most disconcertingly giggled, for a moment lost in each other's presence, to the discomfort of Sean, who felt that Druids did not always work well in threes.

Slightly blushing, Sean changed the subject, Whatever, your vigil is still on schedule for tonight? I've been waiting also for three months, you know.

Yeah, Iain says he'll take you to a traditional starting point in the Arb to walk around a bit, I think it might be an important custom from Fisher's period, Dylan quipped.

How do you know about Fisher? Sean's eyes narrowed, Hey I thought you were a Wiccan, what's with all the Druidry and prancing about?

Tossing her raven hair back, knocking a few stray oak leaves out of her tresses, Well, you work with what you've got, honey, and the Druids have the best party in the spring, and I do get around quite a bit... to different groups. Looking at the sunset, she said, Good night, Matt, have a good vigil, I've got a paper to write! And she was gone into the twilight, running light-footed in the woods. Sean watched her leave, as one would admire a fawn coursing gracefully in the woods, and he felt like chasing her as a wolf, but shook his head to awake from that daydream.

Matt Well, Sean, Iain said you could accompany me out to the starting point at 8:00 p.m., but I would have to leave you at midnight, for the greater part of the vigil must be without people.

Pity to spend a night like this alone, eh? Sean poked

Matt spoke in a strangely calm and slow voice, Sean, one thing you'll learn, is that in Nature you're never alone; and besides the Gods walk beside us at all times, although sometimes in our blindspot.

So, you really like this cult? Sean asked archly.

Well, I don't think it's a cult... Matt protested.

Cultists never do. Sean smiled assuring him.

No, come on, man, I did a seminar on modern religions, and these Druids don't fit the standard pattern for a cult in my textbook. See, there is no charismatic, all controlling leader, no fixed doctrines, a very fluid choice of deities, no membership fees, lack of conducive attendance, emphasis on personal exploration, loose group dynamics, no drugs and no paranoid withdrawal from society. It's very low-key and it would be a crappy way to design a cult, but it seems like the perfect business model for sloppy artistic exploration of world religions.

I know, I read the basic literature online too, I just wanted to tease you. These Druids are just weird outdoorsy Unitarians with a touch of Masonry, I think. Sean said.

Well, yeah, except women are more integrated and no one here thinks that they are Masons. Matt paused, Fisher was also in that order like your cousin, and Nelson was a Mason in his later years, I think, but no one else has mentioned them in the literature about sigils or structure since then, until 1996, and then only in general terms, so perhaps this Mason angle is overblown.

Sundial Sean grunted and clapped his hands together, a little bored, Matt what time is it?

Matt looked intently at his wristwatch, which had a miniature sundial on its face.

Uh, Matt, that won't work at night.

Sure it will, he shined a flashlight on the sundial, it's 7:45 p.m. We're to meet Iain at Farm House soon, let's go.

Sean stared at him, expecting him to laugh, but Matt turned and left with a serious face. They left the raucous revelers, who were enjoying a towering bonfire on the Hill of Three Oaks, and their two shadowy figures were swallowed by the night.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Wind in the Trees

Matt's looming cloaked figure was a lumbering dark spot in front of Sean barely visible against the dark background of the night woods. Sean was not particularly gifted with night vision, bumping into Matt occasionally whenever he unexpectedly stopped to enjoy the nocturnal vista. Below the college's water tower, a very tired-looking Iain was there in a mauve cloak waving at them as they arrived at the edge of his vision. Sean guessed that cloaked figures are few in the woods at night, and usually friends of Druids.

Iain Evening, friends. Sean, I'm glad you entered First Order, I think it's the biggest step, actually. Iain greeted them warmly, Let's go this way. He led them across the highway to the Lower Arb, talking with Sean, I'm very grateful that you have helped Matt through many trials over the last year. A good friend is a great help in trying times. So much of Druidism is spent solitarily, that we sometimes forget our obligations of brotherhood and sisterhood. Lots of raccoons and critters out tonight, don't let them startle you.

They reached a deeply sandy pathway, wandered past an unlit old white farmhouse and after a wall of trees they came upon an enormous natural prairie stretching far away. A narrow trail bisected the long expanse of head-high grasses which swayed rhythmically in the gradually strengthening winds and the skies looked a bit turbulent. It seems traditional for there to be unusual weather during a vigil night, so please be careful what you do or ask for, for magic is afoot.

What did he say about magic feet? Sean whispered? Matt shushed him.

They reentered the trees and began to take a confusing series of curved trails, up and down hill, through marshes and stands of pine trees, until they finally came to an enormous dead tree trunk 14 feet around, and only 20 feet high, lacking most of its original branches. Iain patted it sadly.

Upland This was one of the remaining giant elms of the Eastern Woodland Forest that were once one of the three dominant trees in America. Like the chestnut, the elm has fallen to a blight and most don't live past 20 years, more or less vanishing from our forests in less than a generation in the 20th century. However, you'll notice that a young elm grows next to this dead giant, and so Druidism continues onward. He cheered up at this point and continued, A few years ago, an old-time Druid visited and told me that this was the best place to start a walking vigil, and so I'll leave you two here to wander for a few hours and then I'll meet you, Matt, at the arranged location at midnight for your tending of a fire through the remainder of the night, and to impart a few last pieces of advice. He paused as if he wanted to add something, then shook his head, Strange things always happen out here, good luck. Iain smiled and gently bowed to Sean and shook his hand, as if expressing the turnover of Matt's safety to him, then whipped his cloak around him and passed more or less noiselessly into the woods, rather than sensibly taking a trail, and soon was gone from their senses.

Matt inspected the little elm tree, So, Sean, we're here after three months, what do you want to do now? I wonder who planted this elm, it's only about 10 years old?

We'll know that when we finish all the riddles, right? Sean whipped out a flashlight, whose head was covered with a taped-on red filter to avoid blinding their eyes' delicate night-vision. He read the poem again.

You have one symbol but it will take two
To find it you'll need to vigil the night through
Follow the winds through the five famous trees.
In the last, you'll find the second of the keys.

Now, Sean stated, I researched through most basic Celtic mythology, and there are just oodles of legendary trees, but naturally none of them are in America, and just about every tree is sacred in some aspect to the Druids, and was encoded in their Ogham alphabet, so that's not very helpful. Oak, hawthorn and ash are a famous triad motif, but we're to look for five trees, so again, not very helpful, although the seeds of an ash tree are called 'keys.'

That's all true, Sean. Matt said wondering where it was going.

Sean smirked and raised a finger, But of all the Fisher-era texts, there is only one document that refers to wind and five trees and that is the 'Song of the Earth Mother,' the one I heard today at the service, so please sing it for me. A one, a two and a three... Matt began singing a little self-consciously on autopilot, as the song was done at nearly every service.

Matt O Earth-mother!
We praise thee that seed springeth,
that flower openeth,
that grass waveth.
We praise thee for winds that whispers.
through the graceful elm,
through the shapely maple,
through the lively pine,
through the shining birch,
through the mighty oak.
We praise thee for all things,
O Earth-mother, who givest life.

Matt's eyes glistened a little by the end of it (obviously not enough sleep, thought Sean), as his deep voice ended on a reverberating low note that filled the dark night. Meanwhile, the winds had picked up a little more in intensity, whipping his hood off his head and playing with his hair. So you think we need to follow a sequence of trees to find the secret key? But which direction should we go from this elm? I don't know which way is north or south.

Well, I doubt that its north this time, but the sun set over that way in the west. And I thought you were a big fan of Bob Dylan! This time it was Sean's turn to answer in song, a bit off-key, The answer, my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind. The wind howled a bit coming in from the west and blowing to the east.

Matt arched a brow and rubbed his chin,Sean, I don't know how much you drank today, but are YOU seriously suggesting we follow the winds?

Sean chuckled, Well, actually, the winds are pretty darn consistent in direction throughout the year in Minnesota. Indeed, this is the way a Mason or Druid would proceed, facing the rising glory of the morning, in hopeful waiting of new life. So let's go east, young man, and find that maple tree.

Maples Matt looked a little embarrassed, Um, Sean, I don't know what a maple tree looks like.

What! Sean nearly stumbled in shock, How can you be a Druid if you don't know what a maple looks like?

Well you see there are Druids who have green thumbs, and there are Druids who like to contemplate the concepts of Nature. I'm one of the latter ones.

Well you know what a Canadian flag looks like, right? That's a maple leaf.

Oh, I know that, but it's May, Sean, and the maple leaves are still locked in their buds, so I'd have to make a guess based only on their trunk's appearance, and I wouldn't want to 'bark up the wrong tree' if you know what I mean.

Sean was quiet for a minute, took a few crunchy steps in the woods, and said with enthusiasm, Hey, every tree tends to still have dry leaves at its base in the spring, so we'll just look for a big tree with maple leaves under it! Matt clapped his hands and smiled, patting Sean's shoulders, for a moment he looked like he was going to kiss him in joy, and the moment passed uncomfortably and was forgotten.

Pushing into the forest, scrabbling through unseen (but quite prickly) underbrush, they followed the wind, and about 100 feet or so their flashlight showed a large number of half-decayed maple leaves around a wide smooth-trunked tree. They passed through another stand of pines, with a particularly large one in the midst of their path. Soon afterwards, a tall eerily white-barked birch shone in the stygian depths of the woods. After about 10 minutes of totally draining bush-whacking, they reached the edge of the trees and looked out among an enormous field of dried standing corn stalks, eight feet tall. Sean glumly scanned the field looking for trees, and began returning to the forest Looks like we ran out of trees, Matt. Maybe we should go back a bit and try again. Matt halted him and tapped him on the shoulder and gladly pointed at a tall, massive oak tree in the middle of the corn.

An Matt, I could have sworn that tree wasn't there a minute ago, Sean said suspiciously, trying to look at it from the corner of his eyes, as if it would disappear if he took his eyes off it.

Ah come on, Sean, trees don't just walk around, he smiled, You're as blind out here as a mole at nighttime underground with sunglasses on, admit it, and I think you've been watching too much Tolkienn. Sean rubbed his eyes and went over to the large-limbed tree, perhaps centuries old, and walked around it, and called to Matt.

What's all this corn still doing up? Sean asked, snapping a bone-dry stalk and swinging it about irately.

Matt had a quick answer, Probably the College has just purchased this field to expand the prairie project, and asked the farmer not to plough the corn stalks under, but rather to let the prairie naturally creep in and take over. Sean began to circle the tree's massive girth, looking for something out of the ordinary.

We're looking for some sort of symbol on this tree, maybe in the branches or under a root, Sean instructed him, swaying his flashlight back in forth in a searching pattern. Matt yelled out suddenly, gesturing strongly in the gloom from around the tree's girth.

Sean Over here, Sean, I found a hole in the tree! Sean ran over, and indeed the tree was hollow with a one-foot hole about six feet up. Matt held Sean's foot and gave him a boost, and Sean stuck his arm in reaching about inside, hoping there wouldn't be a rabid raccoon or grubby rot-worms inside. The expression on his face changed in surprise and he began pulling something long and heavy out of the opening. It was a four-foot steel pole with a Druid Sigil on the top and bottom, facing up and down. Sean stepped down, this pole must weigh 40 pounds, he thought.

Great job. Okay, Sean, let's get back in the forest and work our way back to the campus. They reentered the forest path after pushing through the line of trees and were beginning to work their way downhill towards the Cannon River, when they heard voices and saw torches in the distance.

Sean I heard voices over in that direction! cried a familiar voice that was uncomfortably close and they heard approaching running footsteps. Sean stood transfixed like a deer in the headlights, but Matt grabbed him and threw his dark cloak around them and hunkered down to the ground, a few feet from the trail. The footsteps of an unseen mob ran past them and continued down the pathway.

Sean couldn't resist looking and sneaked a peek out of the cloak at a tall blond man dressed in white shirt and shorts as he disappeared into the woods around a bend. Good thinking, Matt, fortunately our modern generation has a short attention span, and they'll give up soon if we just stay here. Sean felt Matt nodding behind him, then he heard someone say something in the distance that froze his heart.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Minions of the Maize

A familiar voice, that of Jared pierced through the quiet veil of the dark woods, about 30 yards from the two hiding Druids, We know they are in the area. Everyone divide the area off into quadrants, pattern delta-alpha-lambda, and search every nook and cranny, they could be hiding, but there is no hiding from the eye of God!

Sean whispered, Damn it, these guys are really organized! Nobody should be out in the middle of the Lower Arboretum at 9:00 p.m., unless these Denmads escaped from the boozy Spring Concert on the Hill of Three Oaks this afternoon. We've got to get into the standing corn and make a dash across for the highway, but quietly.

I hope they aren't STALKING us, eh? Matt whispered.

Cut the corny jokes.

Okay, Matt said crisply, Let's go, I haven't heard any voices lately.

angry They got up and noiselessly as possible, they picked their way through the trees, back to the fields. As they were surmounting the barbed wire deer fence, Matt's cloak got caught on the wire and he dropped the heavy iron pole which fell in slow motion, clanking off a rock at the edge of the field and rolled out of sight. The distant will-o-the-wisp torches in the forest stopped for a moment, voices exchanged and the bobbing torches began converging on their position.

Run! hissed Sean, bursting into action, heading for the field.

But the pole. Matt said, groping the darkness.

Forget it! We'll come back for it later.

Tree The two began ploughing through the tall dry corn, back in the direction of the oak tree. They broke into what they thought was the previous clearing, looked up, and there was nothing but a circle of flattened corn. Sean stood there shocked. Matt, I think we're lost. Sean gulped and looked around, as the wind picked up the chaff of the corn stinging their eyes.

Jared Indeed you are lost, on a dark pathway far from the Lord's light, but we bear a sample of it, said a voice of a man stepping into the large clearing with a half-dozen folks, and more behind them. I hate to say it, but we never finished your induction service, and you have desecrated our Holy Book and taken it from us. The winds had reached a furious pitch, nearly extinguishing the torches and the corn swayed violently and the cloud cover seemed to be lowering for a storm, rumbling menacingly.

Sean recovered his composure, Most sorry about that, old chap, Sean quipped, pressing his back against Matt for safety, knowing they were vastly outnumbered, trying to recall his three lessons of fourth-grade karate class, We'll mail that back to you tomorrow.

A There will be no tomorrow for you, demon spawn! Jared shouted him down. I am the instrument of God and I am here to invoke His wrath, and may His hand smite you for your sins! They threw their arms up yelling, We curse you, we curse you, we curse you! surprisingly cheerfully, obviously enjoying it a bit too much! At that moment there was an ear-splitting crack and lightning struck in several spots in the field, and a few trees fell down, ablaze like ballerinas twisting gently to the ground. The Denmads looked shocked, screamed in fear, falling to their feet, scrambling aimlessly around the clearing, deafened and in panic, as the lightning continued to rain down mercilessly all across the arboretum and campus in the distance, one strike coming remarkably close to the clearing.

More They dropped their torches and fled, even Jared, and the dry corn immediately shot up in flames in several spots in the field, whether from the lightning or the torches, surrounding Sean and Matt who belatedly began running away from the ring of flames towards the center of the field. The flames were being magnified and pushed relentlessly by the wind across the fields almost as fast as they could run. Up ahead, a few flames caught their eye, and a steady wall of flame, apparently from a felled tree blocked off their escape and was headed in their direction. They looked about in the midst of a raging sea of fire closing in on them on all sides. There was no way out.

Coughing in the smoke, Matt turned to Sean, What should we do?

I don't know! Sean barked, his eyes streaming with tears from the irritation of the smoke, But I'll say one thing, if you think you were hot stuff before, that's nothing compared to when that wall of fire hits us! He bent down choking, stumbling in the hazy field of dust. Matt we're in big trouble, if those flames keep coming, we're going to be lucky to escape with just third-degree burns!

Smiling weakly, his face orangily illuminated by the approaching flames, Do you think that will be sufficient for the Masons' initiation? Matt chuckled weakly while wheezing. Sean, Matt chokingly bellowed, Wait, I've got an idea, when a train... is going to hit your stalled car,... you run AT the train, not away from it, to avoid the impacted debris.... (Cough) We should go run into the wind and fire.

Prairie That sounds crazy! Sean yelled, But I sure can't think of anything better to do, right now! Better a fast death than a slow one, go out with a blaze, I always say!

Good, hold on. Matt hiked up his cloak and they wrapped it around themselves and turned to the approaching 40- foot tall inferno coming at them, and both swallowed and started charging towards the flames. Just when they were about to meet the roaring inferno, they leapt forward and were briefly suspended in time, surrounded by a universe of flames and blasting hot air that seared his cloak below them, setting the wool ablaze, rippling from beneath by the hot rising air. Then after a few seconds they hit the ground with a bone-crunching jolt, bouncing off in odd directions, rolling further through the holocaust, and finally began rolling through the crispy brittle black corn stumps still blazing for about five yards, and suddenly the blast of heat was gone, and Matt threw off the blazing wool cloak, whose foul sizzling stench of burnt wool, was overpowering what was left of their sense of smell. They looked around at the vast charred landscape as the wall of fire proceeded down the field eating up the remaining corn, leaving smoky swathes of black stalks behind it.

Tarnation, we been from the frigid grip of Nordic Hel to the fiery furnace of Italian Hell, and yet we still live. Matt murmured in awe, We truly live in a narrow tenuous comfort zone between ice and fire.

They were alive, and quite aware of it, and after making sure all their pieces were still all right, they got up and shook themselves off. Their adversaries were gone and after about thirty seconds, first one drop of rain, then another fell on the sizzling earth, and a light mist descended from the lightning-bedazzled sky. Sean jogged over and retrieved the iron bar with the Druid sigils. The two walked towards the distant lights of the campus and Northfield, and soon they crossed a wide firebreak and they found the virgin prairie was still unharmed on the other side. The grass was slightly dampened by the rain, and Sean and Matt were quickly soaked. The residual lightning periodically strobe-lit the road ahead for them. Then, they heard that voice again.

Jared, Where do you think you are going? Matt and Sean turned, and there was Jared and a fellow brother staring with total contempt and hate, pale and flustered about 50 feet away. When are you going to accept God's judgment and obediently die? Behind the white robed Jared, the familiar face of Gestalt was providing obseqious nodding and threatening gestures.

Seam found his composure, Damn it, when is this night going to end?! Hey, fellow! You're the one who asked God to smite us. Seems like he doesn't have very good aim when it comes to dishing out his vengeance, so be careful next time! He chuckled, mud-smeared hands on his hip.

You won't get away this time, Jared threatened, and in his hand he had something that sparked, a stun gun, in the rain? I hear that you Druids customarily like moving stones, huh? Well, we True Believers have an old-time custom about stoning that we also find quite moving. So, I'm going to escort you down to the riverbed, where my fricasseed followers are waiting, with a lot of rocks, and we'll have a grand old time, down by the riverside.

Bull Sean cautioned Matt back and something big and large lumbered itself into their viewing range, snorting its displeasure in the rain. It was a bull! Perhaps disturbed from his late night grazing in the fields. Sean's gaping startlement at the behemoth was broken when he saw something fly past his peripheral vision and there was a sharp crack, and something struck the bull on the flank, infuriating it into a bellowing roar. Two more cracks sounded in quick succession and the bull began to stomp and snort looking for its assailant. Sean turned, and saw Matt flailing it with a bull-whip, waving the tattered remnants of the red inner lining of his cloak, yelling Ya, ya! The idiot! Sean thought admiringly, certain, he was going to get them killed in a new unexpected manner.

The bull charged Matt and he dodged it somehow, more by luck than grace, rolled to the side and stood up as the bull turned around and he stood firmly with the cape, and pulled it aside at the last moment. Matt cried out, as the bull passed, Ole!Ole! That left the bull staring squarely in the direction of Jared and Gestalt, the Oles, and the bull's dim eyesight locked on Jared's white shirt in the darkness.

Jared looked fazed, but half-heartedly intoned, Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the fields;

Psalm 8, I think, a favorite of Fisher, Matt whispered behind his palm to Sean in the pouring rain.

The Lord has put nature under the dominion of man, I need fear no beast if my faith is strong! The bull unloaded a pile of dung, dug the earth and began to clomp slowly forward with increasing speed at the wildly gesticulating man. His assistant, Gestalt, grabbed Jared stating, Perhaps we should do further exegesis on that passage in the original Hebrew, Brother. NOW! The two began to break into a blind scrambling retreat as the bull rushed past Sean and Matt who crouched down to avoid being seen. The bull and the two white-robed folks disappeared over the hill, screaming and yelling. Sean and Matt, pleased at this turn of events went the opposite way double-speed, walking fast. They had no idea when the bull might come back, or if it was the only one. They soon found the pathway leading back towards the highway and crossed over to the water tower.

Sean looked up at Matt who handed him the backpack, Well, Iain was right, Matt, strange things really do happen on vigil nights. I can make it back to campus from here. I don't think Jared will be bothering us again tonight.

Matt Oh I don't know, Sean, I haven't seen anything supernatural out here yet! Matt said dryly, sounding more than a bit disappointed.

What about the lightning, and the bull, and the disappearing tree? Sean raged, before he stopped, realizing how ridiculous he sounded, even to Matt, You're absolutely right, all natural phenomenon, good luck, and lost directions.

How do you suppose Jared knew we'd be out here tonight? Matt mused, enjoying seeing Sean so worked up.

Sean was puzzled too, Yeah. Not certain yet, the Denmads can't be always hanging out here in the Arb all the time, maybe just a lucky guess for May Day.

Yeah, Matt said, much of his hair was burnt and falling off as he rubbed it, Well, I've got a lot to think about tonight. Meet me at the Hill of Three Oaks tomorrow morning at sunrise, and we'll see if we can figure out the next part of the puzzle. I now must go and meet Iain and begin my vigil, but I think I've already looked at enough fire for one night. Matt chuckled, and Sean echoed it.

See ya, pal. Matt said. Sean turned and shouldered the pack more securely and went back down to the campus, going around Lyman Lakes, along the highway. Matt looked at his clothes, Damn, this cloak needs a bit more repair!

END OF PART SIX OF EIGHT
Tune in next issue at Oimelc , for the further adventures of Sean & Matt.


SERIAL STORY .

Matt

Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Fiction written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE

Part Seven of Eight

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episodes

Our two poor undergraduate juniors, Matt (a Cricket & football star) and Sean (a philosophy major), are spending winter vacation too under-employed at Carleton College in rural Northfield MN. Desperate for money, they follow up on a mysterious ad in a newspaper that implies a great treasure was hidden at Carleton for the future rightful spiritual heir of David Fisher, the founder of Reformed Druidism. Following a tip from the campus Chaplain, Sean infiltrates the local Masons, while Matt goes ga-ga with the Druids. From the various clues they discover, they decide that only possible solution to the mystery is to check the original written materials by David Fisher, which are stored at the Druid Archive Collection. They meet the mysterious secretary, Dylan, and access is denied. With amazing ingenuity and great personal risk, they steal some documents from the Archives and discover a lengthy poem holding a cryptic blueprint to the treasure. A harrowing climb in the Lower Arboretum and a series of clues lead their search to the foreboding St. Olaf College across the town on a small forest-girt mountain, where Matt and Sean seek for a circumspect ill-rumored group known only as DENMAD, who holds the next key on their journey. Barely escaping with their life, from the clutches and strange initiation rites of the extreme Christian group, they decode a Masonic cipher on the cover of an ancient book they stole from DENMAD. This leads them to yet again pursue their treasure search at Carleton's chapel. After a few pranks, they overcome a few dangerous obstacles in the chapel then discover a hidden chamber under a lake which leads them to the conclusion that only by Matt's becoming a Druid priest, will the quest continue forward. Sean attends a mysterious Druid ceremony, and an all night vigil to become a priest turns remarkably dangerous for Matt; involving disappearing trees, torch-bearing mobs, lightning storms and short-tempered livestock. Matt now prepares to finish his solitary vigil.

The previous six episodes can be read in their illustrated entirety at http://www.rdna.info/treasure.html or in earlier issues of the Missal-Any.

Chapter Twenty-Four: The Sitting and the Sighting

Campfire Iain met a very tired Matt in a secluded peaceful grove where a large pile of wood was stacked, with a small fire happily crackling next to it, a beacon in the damp dark. As Matt entered, Iain took a flaming brand from the small fire and handed it to Matt with a simple speech; Here you will stay; and do not allow sleep to overtake you, but keep open your ears that you might hear. Take this brand and think of why you are out here, what do you seek, and what you will bring to the Druids as a priest of the Third Order. With that Iain gracefully rose, left and melted into the forest with nary a sound. Matt lit the fire with his brand, and sat down staring ever deeper into the mesmerizing, controlled fury of the fire, gently nurturing it over the hours, as the night was filled with the various songs by a chorus of frogs and cicadas about him. Sometimes, he thought he saw shapes darting through the woods, but concluded they were either squirrels, fairies or furtive lovers; none of whom wanted him to interrupt their nocturnal pursuits.

He thought about many questions he had prepared, thought about wild things that mischievously arose and crossed just on the fringe of his consciousness, occasionally getting sleepy and jolting back to consciousness with an embarrassed jerk. He eventually couldn't endure the stillness anymore, so he shored up the fire, and went for a stroll, retracing his earlier route across the upper Arb, past the barren mid-night silent highway, and pushed through the brush out to the field where he had found that strange oak with the iron bar. Surprisingly he found the tree was still there, easily enough this time, and pressed his back against its sure fixed bulk, watching the roiling clouds, which now having dumped their burden of lightning spears and buckets of rain, was beginning to depart relunctantly, perhaps to regroup later further east. One time of many when Matt shook awake from near-sleep, someone was standing before him in a black velvet cloak, speckled with a few glass sequins, and the air around him seemed thicker than water, and his sleep-encrusted eyes couldn't focus well at all. The figure quickly turned to leave, bounding away with amazing speed, but he got up and chased it across the field and with great difficulty until he caught it at the edge of the forest, and spun the entity around, and threw back the hood.

Dylan Good evening, Matt, a deep female voice said, the words rolling across his face like breaking waves on a beach.

Dylan! What are you doing here? Matt asked in disbelief, why would his girlfriend be out here?

She continued impersonally, You called for me forth, but few can see me, and fewer catch me. Matt could feel his own pulse in his hands and temples.

The words came of their own to him, I thought it might be you out here, he said dreamily without screening, While many bulls have nose rings, I didn't think many would have diamonds set in them, or pierced ears. Is this for real?

She chuckled and pressed closer, Perhaps you're just dreaming now, Druid. She rubbed her flanks, And yes, watch it with that whip next time, or I'll really hit you hard back with it, I swear!

I'm sorry, Dylan, I didn't know you were... what? ... a goddess? Matt couldn't quite find the words.

She sighed quite long her breath white in the chill, Saaa, I guess you might use that word. Call me Dalon, Matt, since most use that name in these woods. She ran two fingers through what was left of his burnt locks, that came away in crispy pieces, and she scattered them into the winds, where they fell slower than feathers.

This complicates our relationship, of course. What are you, really? Matt shivered, and gripped her shoulders tightly and lightly shook her desperately but firmly.

That's a hard question to answer in terms you could comprehend, I'm not so sure myself, it has been so long, and I've been so many things, but I certainly am not alone in my work, here and abroad, effortlessly, she twisted and emerged from his grasp smiling and chuckling.

Matt But, I thought Dalon was male, like the Chronicles state, Matt insisted off-hand.

Silly boy, I usually come in whichever form of what you most want to see me in, sometimes I come as a burst of courage or determination, for virtue or vice is ever at hand if you but call and choose it. Sometimes I come as a fawn at dawn, or a bevy of pheasants taking wing in the field. I do get so tired of the same limited format in most Christian lands, but I do what I can, wherever it is possible. She smiled gracefully, and swept an arm across the campus, Here, I appear often in this beautiful land as an oak tree. Her smile turned wistful, Now, what Fisher didn't know is that oaks are hermaphroditic, but then again, he wasn't a biology major.

So you're not going to tell me if Dylan is really you, are you?

Now, that would be telling, wouldn't it? Fairy logic is very different from human rules, so don't try to understand it, just learn from it. Would you settle for maybe and maybe not?

If it really is you, then we could never have a family and children? Matt pressed, as she turned away to look at the first stars peeking out from the opening clouds and was silent for a moment.

Dylan Offspring of mortals and gods are indeed usually big troublemakers, some even causing religions to be founded, she chuckled at a few memories, eyes half closed. Such troublemakers they are... But do not worry, if you seek another, I and she will understand it, for we are not the jealous type, I know you will always come back to me, and I will always come to you. Placing a finger on the septum of his upper lip, I must forbid you to ever broach this subject with Dylan, for if it is true what is happening now, I will have to depart, and if it is not true, she may not be able to understand or trust you, perhaps it is best for you to consider it but a dream.

So perhaps my romance with her/you is...

Perhaps just a metaphysical search for Truth and Deity. She put a finger on his lips as his next question came to the surface. Shhh. You have many more questions, more than I have the answers that you will understand. Your quest is nearly done, your soul is ready, but your heart is uncertain. When you have solved the last of the puzzles, you will know who keeps the treasure and whether you still want it then. I will always be here with you, closer than your jugular vein is to your body, throbbing within your blood. She wrapped the cloak about her lithe body and said quietly, It's time to go. And she was gone, but Matt caressed the space where he thought she had been, trying to hold on to the evaporating memory of her touch.

No wait! Matt reached out and found himself in the rubble of the field, no tree in sight, the air returned to its usual consistency, and like a light switch, the night noise resumed on cue in a cacophany. Matt lumbered back to his lonely campfire as if on autopilot. The neglected fire was dangerously close to snuffing itself out, being mostly coals now. He wondered, how many hours, or even days, had passed? It didn't matter. He rebuilt it and waited for the sunrise, occasionally consulting the tiny sundial on his wrist by the firelight.

Matt A few hours passed, and Sean hiked over from the campus and was waiting at the base of the Hill of Three Oaks, in the rosy haze of a damp May morning. Far away, from the forest edge, a large man, Matt presumably, came forth and trudged across a Frisbee field towards Sean, obviously very tired. His eyes were mostly on the grass as he talked with Sean.

How are you doing, Matt?

Tired, beyond words, Matt grunted, and they wordlessly sat down. A few minutes later, a jaunty cloaked figure strutted from the direction of the Goodhue Dormitory, approaching the hill. Iain bowed once to Sean, and tapped Matt's broad shoulders, So, did you sleep? Matt shook his head, and Iain motioned for Sean to remain, took Matt by the hand, and led him up to the top of the hill as the sun began to peek over the horizon. A few more cloaked figures reverently strode out of the forest here and there, heads erect, purposefully crossing the grass. All converged on the peak of the hill. There, silhouetted against the sky, Sean watched them read a few words from a sheet, turn a few times, hold up a chalice, and it was soon over, as Sean noticed his sneakers were completely soaked through with dew. Each figure then departed by their same earlier approaches, and Matt stumbled down the hill alone to Sean.

I think I know the solution to the puzzle. Matt yawned half asleep, Did you bring the two symbols? Sean nodded and they went downhill towards some pine trees, which were huddling together in a circle, and on the other side of the trees was a square granite monument on a mound overlooking the campus, about chest high. Give me the cross pole and Druid staff. Sean passed them to Matt who proceeded to explain, You see, Sean, listen to the puzzle again;

      When black and white are one day in line
      When all forms of God are known to be divine,
      Sight the two and carefully through them peer
      The path to her cave will be sharp and clear

And then we take the wall graphic that we found inside the crannog of Mai Fete Island:

Symbols You see Sean, that graven image got me thinking of the biblical hills of Olives and Calvary and the cave where Jesus was buried, things of apparent concern for Fisher. Now there are only two hills of note on this campus, listed in the early Chronicles. Matt counted on his fingers, One of them is the Hill of Three Oaks up there where I was just ordained, and the other is Monument Hill down here, where the first altars were built out of scrap rock, and destroyed by the Anti-Druids, whoever they were, and they're long gone. Matt started to stumble sleepily, and bumped into Sean, who shifted uncomfortably and shook him by the shoulder.

Monument Matt scratched his chin, They were possibly the Denmads, but that was probably too early for Fisher to have already thought about founding them, but perhaps Denmad was based upon the model of the Anti-Druids, as you've speculated, since having a foil or opponent is good for group cohesion. Now this granite stele has four sides, one side etched with a memorial for the first Christian baptism in Minnesota, first Christian marriage and first church service back in the 19th century. The fourth side is oddly blank, and according to Scharding, the 30th Archdruid, in his interview he states that Shelton, the 8th Archdruid, cryptically stated that blank side spoke of Druidism.

So? Sean tapped his foot in the wet grass, noticing some tiny purple flowers amongst the tall storm-tossed grass.

Matt continued, trying to concentrate on the topic, So, over the years, Denmad, or someone else has been planting wooden crosses here in the grass, much to the annoyance of the Druids, even though the Druids never acutally use this spot anymore. And this gave me an idea. If you look on top of the stone, there is a big hole, the perfect size for this! Matt rammed the cross's base into the hole which sank securely into the hole, gleaming in the morning sun. The crosspoint was 10 feet in the air, far over their heads.

Sean gasped, That means the Hill of Three Oaks is...

Is the viewing spot to 'gun-sight' the location of the cave. Matt went back to the pine trees and tied back a few branches with some red ribbons from his pocket. Back in the 1960s, this site wasn't nearly as heavily overgrown, and these pine trees were quite small. Matt came back and examined the monument's blank face again. I thought so. There we go. He pointed to the two horizontal side edges of the blank faces, heavily chipped, More of that Ogham code stuff, I believe, Fisher really should use some runes or something else, this is getting a bit too easy.

Sean scoffed, I'm not complaining about easy. What's it say?

Matt quickly whipping out his notepad. In all of two seconds of scribbling, he read it, It says;

      In good times heed the big brother, Bill
      When the way is clear, try to be humorous,
      In hard times heed the white dwarf's dog, Will
      When it's uncertain try to be serious.

Sean shrugged immediately in unison with Matt, Uh-huh, yeah, whatever, we'll have to decode the meaning of that later, now let's get up to the Hill of Three Oaks.

the The two mounted up to the apex of the Hill of Three Oaks, which enjoyed a commanding view of the surrounding camps and Arb, stretching out before their gaze. Matt went over to a large low-lying gray boulder by the remains of last night's bonfire. He pointed to a barely perceptible inscribed Druid sigil on the rock and he planted one end of the sigil staff on the rock, stepped onto the altar stone and fiddled with the other end of the staff. The sigil on the other side of the bar hinged open like a sight on a rifle. Matt squinted through the sight, looking down towards Monument Hill's cross and aligning them. There she is!

Sean pushed Matt aside and looked down toward the cross through the sigil. I see it Matt, down at the base of the hill of the Japanese Garden, there's a big wall of ivy and some concrete jutting out at various spots. Sean looked up at Matt beaming, That must be where the cave's entrance is located! Let's go find it! Sean began to stride in that direction, only to be stopped short by Matt heavy hand on his shoulder.

Um, wait a minute, Sean. That cave has been there for forty long years, so what do you say, let's let me get 40 winks because I'm just about collapsing on my feet as we speak. Besides, it is daytime and we'll need to get our spelunking gear out of the dorm and do this kind of activity at nighttime. We shouldn't rush now, especially since most of these challenges have proved to be quite dangerous and difficult, more so if you're half asleep

Good thinking, Matt.

Yuh-huh. Matt yawned polishing his fingernails on his sleeve and blowing on them pretentiously, Practical patience, a necessary virtue with Druids. We're also quite humble folk, perhaps the best at it, you know.

So tell me, Matt, anything else happen on your vigil?

Matt mumbled something that sounded like, I had seen things that I had not seen, and I had heard things that I had not heard and I had felt things that I had not felt. Then cryptically ending the conversation like that Matt headed towards the dorms and Sean followed behind him, carrying the iron bars. Some birds in a nearby tree began to start an excited chorus, but Matt's only quest now was for a large pillow and a soft bed.

Chapter Twenty-Five: The Tunnels of Terror

Matt Later that Sunday night, Matt awoke from a deep slumber and went over to Davis Hall to see Sean who was writing a letter by hand that he sealed in an envelope, and slipped under his pillow. Sean looked up and smiled, Caves and tunnels and trips to the underworld are dangerous places, so in case there's a problem, they'll know where to find the bodies. He lightly patted the pillow. Matt looked a bit shocked, so Sean consoled him, Cheer up, that's just a one in a million precaution, think ahead, right? It might be 40 more years until another group of idiots follows the clues to our location. Now, are you all ready my sleepyhead?

Remembering that he was indeed still tired, Matt yawned and stretched a little and nodded, Yeah, I got some dinner on the way over. The sun sets in another 20 minutes, so we should get going. They picked up their gear packs, and as they were leaving, Sean's third roommate, an angry fellow named Craig, looked at them suspiciously and shook a finger at them.

Sean! Now be sure to return by midnight this time, I need to get some sleep for classes on Monday, and last night you came in at 5 a.m. and you smelled like a burnt sheep! And you still haven't explained that odd green stain on my bed from winter break! With a slight twinge of apprehension, Just, what do you Druids do out there at night?

Sean began to explain, but Craig held up a trembling hand, No, wait, I don't really want to know. Oh, Matt, I've taken a few messages from Dylan, she wants to know why you missed your coffee date today, she said, don't be latte again.' That's a coffee joke I think.

It's complicated. Matt said without any outward signs of expression.

Whatever, dude, I don't care, so you tell her, Craig waved, Have fun guys, and clean up when you return or I'll complain to the R.A.

A They waved goodbye and made good time across the campus, clanking and tinging as their gear slowly settled into a fixed position. The weather was fine with wide clear sky lined by a thin purple rim on the horizon as the last of the sun's sphere disappeared. At Cowling Recreation Center they turned right, past the charming little Japanese Garden and hobbled down the tall hill to the floodplain and soccer fields below. Up to the north they saw the distant vista of the Hill of Three Oaks, perceptible yet in the setting glimmer from the west. They went to a corner of Bell Field and approached the spot along a steep hillside, where the slope was covered in an arm-deep layer of ivy.

Sean flicked on his ever-present Maglite and aimed it onto the wall of ivy and began banging a sharp pole into the dirt in a systematic search. One region was particularly damp, with a trickle of water coming out of the hill, and when he poked it, there was a clang there under the topsoil.

Sean smiled, It wouldn't be a real treasure hunt without at least some spadework, eh?

Oh, I dig it, man, Matt smirked hefting the shovel.

They removed about a foot of composted dirt, and pushed the ivy aside, and found a rusted metal sign with a radiation symbol bearing the words, Fallout Shelter. A lot more digging revealed a heavy padlocked door.

Looks like a storm shelter for tornadoes, kind of like in Oklahoma. Matt declared.

An Sean went to work, adding a lubricating spray to loosen up the lock, and after much cursing, it snapped open dully, and he pulled the chain out of the handles and the door swung up and open and some fetid air wafted outwards, and Sean sneezed violently, and careened out of the entrance and landed on the ground, Damn it, how many moldy buildings are we going to have to break in to?

So it's a fallout shelter, huh?

Sean still coughed a little, getting some fresh air, Yeah, the campus is actually criss-crossed like a rabbit warren, with underground tunnels, for routing the heating pipes and electricity and phone lines. Most of them were open for foot traffic in winter and rainy days until 1988, when the threat of lawsuits closed off the last of them. Now, ever since then, we have to freeze our butts off above ground. This is probably a disused segment, forgotten from the Cold War, many of them are sealed off. I don't think even the grounds crew knows how many there are.

Yeah, Sean, it doesn't look like this one has been used in 30-40 years. Matt pointed down the corridor, which had a few inches of water in it, Look at the old lighting fixtures, and the rust on the padlock. Matt peered down the corridor that stretched past the reach of their flashlight, various creepy ideas rising unbidden to his mind.

A Sean broke the silence, All right, whose turn is it this time to go down the creepy corridor?

I'll go first, and I promise, no funny business this time. Matt went inside ahead of Sean, splashing with each step up to the ankle, the unseen footing on the floor a bit uncertain due to fallen concrete and generic slippery slime all over. Sean soon recovered and fell in behind Matt, sliding down to his knees, once or twice. The 15 foot wide and 10 foot tall corridor went curving into the hill for about a fifty yards and came to a sudden stop at a wall.

What do we do now? Matt inquired.

I'm not sure, any ideas?

Matt thought for a moment and spoke confidently, Well, you said the Masons had an Order of Demolition, so can't you break down the wall?

That's the Order of DeMolay!

A Démolé? Is that French for razing buildings?

No, it's a program for the children of Masons, like a prototype for Boy Scouts. Besides I'm a Speculative Mason not an Operative Mason. Sean stated proudly, arms crossed. Matt had a blank look.

What's the difference?

Operative Masons are actual craftsmen, who build cathedrals, work with stone. Speculative Masons just use the symbolism of building in order to understand our souls.

Matt looked perturbed, Oh, I see, I guess it's a different ball of wax when it is Masonry, isn't it? I remember you giving me a rather hard time for not identifying maple trees in the winter by their bark, like I wasn't a good Druid! I guess I'm a Speculative Druid then, eh? Matt poked a slimy finger into Sean's chest.

Now, calm down, Matt, I'm sorry about that, Sean smirked with a clever idea, Besides, if you're a miner in English, can't you just use 'deconstruction' to get rid of the wall, Mr. Derrida?

Matt put on a forced straight face and spoke paternalistically, Ha, ha, all right, all right, that's good, but this witty banter is not getting rid of this wall, old chap, and it being reinforced concrete, we'd never break through in a week of picking. So, maybe there's a clue around here to help us go around it, secret passage kind of stuff, look around?

Calcium What about those white circles on the ceiling? Could they mean something?

Matt nodded, Yeah, I saw those. I thought they might just be calcium deposits leaking through, but they do seem to be arranged in a pattern that seems familiar. That one looks like a big 'W'. Any ideas?

Well, the school does have a large astronomy program, could they be a star chart, and that 'W' would be Cassiopeia? Sean suggested, and began reaching for one.

Matt slapped his hand vigorously, Possibly, but if we choose the wrong one, we might get a death-trap. I don't like death traps, not good for living things, um, death traps... Sounds silly, but you know how these dungeon adventures are rigged. I have no interest in being hit by another poison darts or falling through a trapdoor. Death is low on my list of priorities, let's think and choose wisely first.

There aren't any trapdoors. Well, obviously, we'd better review our last puzzle verses, I was hoping this one would be more obvious, Sean said responsibly, rubbed his smarting hand covered in crud. I think the verse we found on the monument seems appropriate here. But, I don't know much about astronomy, that's stuff for Druids, you like gazing at heavenly bodies, and all that.

Going Well, we Druids were supposed to be good at charting the stars, but I'm still working on that skill. Matt paused and thought, I'm still a First Degree Mason, so I don't suppose you can tell me if there are any prominent stars in Mason theories? Perhaps the one-dollar 'Bill' has a clue, it's full of Masonic symbols, right?, put there by Big Brother? Matt snapped out a one-dollar bill from his wallet and gave it to Sean who held a flashlight up to it.

Well, I've heard people talk about them, for example the number of arrows or steps on the pyramid, the slogan, the eye on the Great Seal is for the... wait a second... the rising Dog Star, Sirius in Latin, the brightest star in the sky, that coincided with the Founding of America and some higher degree in Masonry is associated with it, I think. Here's Orion on the ceiling--the great hunter/searcher--so his belt points to this big one up here... Sean quickly stabbed the star over his head with his finger and the floor suddenly fell away, and he was kicking in free-fall before he knew it. In a mind-splitting painful jolt his arm was nearly pulled out of socket as Matt swiped out to grab his hand, and Sean swung with a thud to the side of the pit. Matt grabbed his other hand and pulled him out.

The Matt said disapprovingly, Sean, you just weren't paying attention to those movies I loaned to you, were you? There's always a second catch to the tricky bastard's clues. I don't know about Masonry, but Druidry says that having second thoughts (or rather THIRD thoughts) is the key to solving life's dilemmas.

Sean rubbed his shoulder looking over the edge with his flashlight. Um, thanks, Matt. By the way, who has the time and money to put in death-traps in the real world, anyway?

Hard to tell, few of the other puzzles were as maliciously dangerous as that one. They seem to be getting more dangerous.

Sean shone his flashlight down the hold and spat in disgust, Damn it, that pit is about 20 feet deep, but I'm glad there are no skeletons down there!

Maybe the rats already ate them for the calcium? Matt suggested warmly and re-read the poem.

      In good times heed the big brother, Bill
      When the way is clear, try to be humorous,
      In hard times heed the white dwarf's dog, Will
      When it's uncertain try to be serious.

Sean grimaced, Well I don't find that humorous at all.

Opening Not all lessons in life are humorous or fondly viewed at the time, Matt pulled out his little Palm computer, Let me check my portable astrology chart for a minute. Useful thing to have, glad I ordered one. He clicked a few buttons for a while, flashed it for a minute to Sean, closed it and stated confidently. As I suspected, Sirius is actually a binary star. For centuries, people in sophisticated star-gazing cultures have noticed a secondary light by it of 'Sirius B', which is, guess it?, Yes, a white-dwarf star. With a long screwdriver, taped onto a pole with duct tape, and tied himself to Matt by a rope, Sean prodded the small dot next to Sirius. There was a dull rumbling and a dull click, and the obstructing wall slid open about an inch on the left side, and they were able to wrench it open together.

Sean propped his fists on his hips looking at Matt suspiciously, So when did you get so bloody clever all of a sudden?

You just underestimated me before, Sean, I know my Internet. Matt shrugged, Maybe the Goddess likes me, now. I wonder what's on the other side?

Won't know until we look, 'Will' we?

Chapter Twenty-Six: The Presidential Puzzle

Graffitti Beyond the withdrawn wall-door was a short section of corridor, with five doors along one wall. Each door was painted with a president from the 1950-1974 period, each door was nearly rusted off. Matt pulled on one and it fell off easily. Opening each one, they found that each small room had four walls literally covered with graffiti, painted with posters of long-gone bands, and disturbing large dioramas of mushroom clouds.

Whoa man, what are we looking for down here, Sean? Matt asked looking at the piles of forgotten tinned biscuits and rusted-out barrels of emergency water, woefully inadequate for 1,500 students from the period, a mere token gesture in a real disaster that seemed so imminent in that age. Matt could almost imagine the fear of students waiting down here, ears perked for a heavy boom that spelled the end of their civilization. He smiled, not much had changed, except we didn't know who the enemy exactly was anymore, or when they would strike, and there wouldn't be time to make even a pretense of hiding, or collecting duct tape and plastic sheeting.

Let's read that clue again from the master riddle found on the RDNA constitution. Sean read out the verse.

      Deep in the earth, her tunnel will twist
      When all seems done our leader has been missed.
      One bard has a harp, the rest but a lyre,
      Which of them built the Wonder of Wiltshire?

Okay, Sean, we're getting pretty good at this, so I'm guessing the 'leader' is one of the presidents on the doors to indicate a room.

Yeah, probably, Sean nodded and read them off, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon; the first five presidents of the nuclear age. This Fisher guy sure likes working in five.

Truman,
Matt piped in, Perhaps he is a Discordian anarchist? They started about the same time as the RDNA. He's certainly made a chaos of our lives so far.

Nah, I doubt it, Druids seem more disorganized, than anarchist. Sean looked at the five propped-up doors. Matt, do you remember the Green Book of various meditations and sermons the founders put together? I believe Fisher mostly worked with Vedic and Hindu sources, but perhaps he added the one from the section called 'Saying from the Buddhist Sutra' called 'The Four Noble Truths' which I happened to be reviewing last week, you remember the second verse in that memory of yours?

Sure, Matt concentrated, as if reading a floating book in front of him, And this, monks, is the Middle Path, of which the Tathagata has gained enlightenment, which produces insight and knowledge, and tends to calm, to higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana? This is the Eightfold Way: namely, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Sean tapped Matt in the middle of his chest, happy to one-up him, Thus, I think it's the middle one, the Druids being so intent on moderation in all things, and besides Kennedy had a great impact on the early Grove due to their assumed prophetic prediction of his assassination at Samhain 1963, just weeks before the fact.

Examining That is very reasonable. Matt paused and looked through a mental databank, And I remembered another verse from the Green Book that is from the Rig-Veda, undoubtedly by Fisher, which he later used in the ordination of his 4th Order Druids. It begins, 'Forth from the middle of the flood, the waters their chief, the sea flow cleansing, never sleeping.' And most of the water is coming from the third door, from a crack in the wall of that room.

Door number three, it is then Matt, and that's a very Druidic number too, regardless from which end you start the counting, eh? Sean said, mentally patting himself on the back. Let's concentrate on the graffiti inside that room, maybe one of them was drawn by Fisher himself?

They looked about the small chamber, pushed aside the old containers, and after a few minutes, Sean said. The verse refers to some musical themes, and there are six prominent bands on the wall; 'The Supremes, the Rolling stones, the Beatles, the Searchers and the Four Seasons' I think it's got to be one of these, one's true 'a harp', that's a bardic reference, right?, the 'lyre' might be a pun on 'liar', indicating some fakes, like a red herring.

Maybe, Matt opined, Well, Four Seasons would be an obvious pick for Druidical reasons, they did a song called, 'Dawn' in the Top 10 that year, I remember. The Searchers, you know who did, 'Love Potion No. 9', which has a magical ring to it, so that would be a good choice too as we're searching for treasure.

Sean had a pained look on his face, coughed a little, and leaned against an old barrel, Yeah, I'd think so too, but think about it, they have nothing to do with England, like the last line implies, nor do the Supremes, although that has a few Masonic implications. How's your English geography, I know the other two bands are from England, right?

Deep in thought, he hesitantly held up a hand to quiet Sean's muttering, I know a little about Wiltshire, I believe from a few of the Druidical essays in ARDA, it is the home to Shakespeare, the great spa of Bath, the Avebury Circle, a few giant hillside chalk carvings, and of course, Stonehenge.

That got Sean's attention, Stonehenge, that was built by Druids! And it is one of the seven wonders of the world!

One Well technically, no, it was built by a pre-Celtic tribe between 3200-1600 BCE, the Celts first arrived in 500 BCE, then the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, the Vikings...

Yeah, yeah. Got it, got it. Well, if it is Stonehenge, then it's just so obvious, the band has to be the 'Rolling Stones'. They went over to the group's section and peered closely at it for any type of clue. It was just the band's name in large letters. Sean took out a pocket tool and began hacking at the wall, knocking off big chips of paint a little under the group's name that was slightly raised. A dull metal panel soon began to appear, and it had a keyhole in it. He fished out the lock-pick tools and soon he had conquered the simple lock. Inside was a fuse-box and a small note card, wrapped in a plastic bag. He read the card out to Matt, who was crowding him.

      Long have you searched, many obstacles you've bested
      Perhaps it's time that you stopped and maybe rested
      Through St. Olaf's bosom is where your path now lies
      To the martyr's cold grave, under the mourning skies.

Sean copied the phrase down and returned the card to the panel and locked it. I think that's all we need to do down here, let's put the doors back on and get out of here.

Sean, we must be getting pretty close to the end of the verses in the master riddle, only two more verses are left out of the original ten. So, are we going to St. Olaf tonight?

After our last two run-ins with Denmad, I'm a bit worried, about openly going there. Those folks really have it in for us. Sean raised a finger, loosened his collar, and said, No, we'd better wait until Thursday, since everyone will be busy writing papers for Friday classes. And there's something we need to do first.

What's that? Matt asked as they put the doors back into their frames as they found them.

First, we should return that blasted book back to the Denmads, or it won't be safe to set foot on their campus. Or they'll come looking for us here and try to curse us again. I mean, I know that all Christians aren't whacko, but these Denmad guys have really gone off the deep end, and seem real dangerous. Suddenly his flashlight went off.

What In the pitch dark, Matt casually asked with a tinge of worry, Sean, what's wrong?

The batteries died. Do you remember the way out?

I think so, here hold my hand. Good! Your hand is awful clammy... Now come this way, Sean.

Um, Matt, palpable concern trembled in Sean's voice.

What, Sean?

Matt, both of my hands are on the flashlight... I'm not holding your hand...

AAAAAAAAGHHH! Matt jumped, slipped and fell with a slimy splash somewhere in the dark.

Sean whispered venomously in the darkness, Oh, sorry, just kidding, that was me. No hard feelings about creepy corridors, right? Come on, let's get outta here, naturally, watching out for that pit.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: On Matters of the Heart

They promptly mailed the Book of the Tree Vigil back to Jared on Monday, with no return address, of course, and for good measure, they charitably returned the original past treasure clues to their original position, to be fair to possible future explorers, in the morbid event that they died in a future death-trap. Thus, Matt volunteered to return the Druid pole to the oak tree, and Sean brought the cross back to the chapel, and the key to the crypt. There were only a few weeks left before the summer, and the college was beginning to press students to pay for their fall trimester already, much to Sean's obvious distress and discomfort.

The Matt went off into the woods on a late afternoon to the Hill of Three Oaks, and then went off into the sedge grass meadow that was slowly beginning to fill in with oaks and maples, through reforestation. There in the middle of the savannah was Iain with his long blond hair tinged with red from the setting sun behind him. When Iain saw Matt his arm parted his cloak and waved to him.

Iain, thanks for seeing me.

Iain smiled as only a sophomore could, What can I do for you, Matt? Always glad to help out. Nice sunset, eh? Belenos tirelessly rises and set, and there was never a day he didn't return to do his job all over again. I wish people were so reliable.

Yeah... Um, it's about my vigil... Matt began.

Iain held up a finger, What happens on your vigil is a mystery for you alone to contemplate, and perhaps, comprehend.

Matt nodded, Well, it's actually more guy-talk, on an issue of the heart, I've heard you're good on these matters.

The Iain smiled, and touched the grass of the meadow around him, I guess you could say I'm out standing in the field.

Matt chuckled with him for a moment, There's this young lady I was seeing.

A huh, a lady, Iain's face became unusually serious.

Matt searched for the right words, Well she's just not who I thought she was.

People rarely are, you know, Iain observed, and started walking in the tall grass. Matt followed.

After what I know now, I can't look on her the same anymore.

A hint of nostalgic smile came to Iain's face, A person often blossoms in college. She's still the same person she was before, you're just seeing more clearly some aspects of her. Is it something disturbing or wrong?

Matt shook his head, No, it's really quite magical. Divinely beautiful.

Iain stopped and clapped his thin arm around Matt's meaty shoulders, Then this is a reason to rejoice, not regret!

But, I'm not sure I can ever express it to her now, or that she even knows it herself.

Matt What's the hurry? Patting him on the back, and gazing at the sun, which had nearly passed out of view, Iain confided, We rarely know or can admit the wonders in ourselves. It sometimes takes our friends to see that, since they often have a more objective and clear view of our many facets, and they believe in us, because of what they see, and help us to better self-awareness. By ourselves, we are a pale shadow of our potentiality, although there are moments when only we can be sure of our proper destiny. The greatest poets and lovers agree that they have never full captured their feelings for their love in a single poem or statement, or even a volume of poems, but they do not cease to try. An unending process, love is.

A watery sad tear glistened on Matt's cheek, but he gallantly blurted, But, I'm afraid that I'll pass on long before she will, and don't wish to inflict the pain of parting on her someday.

I'm still young myself, Matt Iain began, But from many years of watching sitcoms and romantic movies, I can assure you that none of us knows how long we'll be in this world. There are no guarantees, my brother. None at all. You could die of an aneurysm or be hit by a bus tomorrow. He shook Matt by his shoulders, Everyone who begins a romance knows that it will end someday in this world, and we have little certainty about it continuing in another one. You must accept the possibility of sorrow when you go to seek joy, and you know not which will be in greater amount at the end.

Matt nodded, murmuring, I guess we can treasure even the sad moments together.

Wounded Yes, moments are moments, He handed a prairie flower to Matt, You have to plan for the future, but experience each day as if it was your last, and if your heart has the luck to find a companion, take the chance you are offered, now, or it will be you with the heartbreak, for who knows how long! Both to stay or to leave has heartbreak eventually. You should consider which has hope of perhaps more significant pockets of happiness.

That is good advice. Matt raised an arched eyebrow, How come you don't have a significant other, now?

It's easier to dish out advice, than it is to follow it. Iain chuckled rising on his heels, Ah, Matt, I'm still recovering from my own wounds on the battlefield of love. You know, we're not all as lucky as you, some of us have to wait a long time to find the right person again.

Matt volunteered, I don't think there is a single soul mate out there for me, you know, that would be rotten odds of finding her. I think I could get along with most people, naturally, some more than others.

I think so too, you have to choose dinner from the fish you catch, not the ones that swim by the boat. The sky was darkening to an imperial deep purple. But I spend my time in preparation, not despair. Besides, with all these Druids to occupy my affections as an Archdruid, I have little time nowadays to go hunting for that type of friend.

Married to your work, eh? Matt poked him in the ribs.

Running I guess so, it's the test of a vocation, you know, how much you love the drudgery of helping others. Iain looked deeply into Matt's eyes, And I think you, Matt, are bound for great things in your own way, whether it be aiding a grove or a few individuals. Never forget to follow your heart, wherever it leads you.

Matt nodded and the two watched as the stars slowly appeared in the heavens over the next hour, then they turned back and went to write a paper. Iain turned, Race you back? Loser buys Pizza! without waiting for agreement, he was off on a great head-start, his cloak billowing behind him horizontally as he ungracefully pumped his arms in full speed towards Goodhue. Matt cursed and ran laughing behind him, protesting vehemently. Their cloaks acted amusingly like parachutes on drag-racers, slower the all out race to a turtle's pace as they churned into a strong nose-wind.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Bosom of the Earth Mother

Sean A few days later on Thursday evening, Sean and Matt arrived at the St. Olaf campus on the other side of Northfield and parked the car. They were wearing cheap suits, sunglasses, a tie, a name tag: Prospective Student, 2004 on their left breast, and a forced bewildered look on their face. Their hands were filled with brochures and a big campus map.

Sean pulled down his sunglasses, Miami Vice style, and looked at his companion, Right listen up, Matt, I mean, John, here's a review of the clues to something hidden here on campus from the 10-verse master riddle from the constitution;

      Great are the Earthmother's charms to be sure
      White, firm and round and full of allure.
      Seek the middle path and where it will lead
      Look under the stone of the zealot's last deed.

Then he looked up, removing his sunglasses to see better, And there's that verse we discovered in the tunnels:

      Long have you searched, many obstacles you've bested
      Perhaps it's time that you stopped and maybe rested
      Through St. Olaf's bosom is where your path now lies
      To the martyr's cold grave, under the mourning skies.

Matt whispered behind a hand to Sean, Got it. Oh, and great idea, 'Alex', no one will ever guess our real identities. One problem we have is that we're on a Lutheran campus, it's probably full of references to martyrs. A small clutch of students suddenly walked by, and Matt blurted in pubescent voice, Wow, the buildings are so really, European style, huh Alex?!

The Great, 'John', good one. Just stay in character. Now I got this 3-D map at St. Olaf's website, so we're going to walk around this campus until we see some 'big bosom' here, all right?

Matt wasn't really paying attention to him, and mumbled, No problem, Alex, I think I've seen some already!

Sean sighed and whacked him smartly over the head with a thick rolled-up course catalog for the stupid joke. They walked around for hours, inspecting a few busty nude statues, a bit too closely, thus drawing some curious stares from some whispering students. They had to turn down several helpful offers to guide them to the visitor's center, on the pretext that they wanted to see the 'real Olaf'. It was nearly six o'clock and all the hills, statues and dormitories were not giving them any indication of bosom-iness.

Addressing Sean, You know, Alex, I'm beginning to feel like a big booby, Matt groused, earning another whack from the catalog.

That's the problem, stop looking at the women! We've looked everywhere here. Maybe we're going about this the wrong way. Where would a Druid turn to find the bosom of the Earth Mother?

Perhaps in the forest? We're rather partial to trees, after all, like squirrels. Perhaps some suggestive boles or galls on a tree trunk? We've already checked out all the buildings, anyway. Matt suggested, stretching a sore back.

What Okay, we have a few hours of daylight left, let's start in the largest forested areas, sticking close to established paths, suggested in the poems. They went over to Larson Hall by the big forest on the edge of the campus, thinking there might be a connection to one of the founders, Robert Larson, a bit set off from the bulk of the campus, and entered the forest and did a few turns and twists and broke into a large clearing.

Matt's eyes widened and he nudged Sean. Oh my Lord, look at the size of them!

Indeed, before them two enormous silo-like white fuel or water tanks jutted up from the ground, both coming to a dome almost reaching the height of the enormous surrounding trees, that camouflaged them from all but the highest levels of the twin dormitory towers on campus. A well-worn path went right down the center gap of the two tanks. They both knew this had to be it, and they were not far from the final part of this clue. As they quickly strode towards the tanks, five figures stepped forward into the gap and seemed none to eager to step aside.

Jared, Sean said despairingly, How did you know we'd be here?

Jared laughed, I have my sources of divine inspiration too, you know, although yours of course are infernal and inferior. After that, it was easy to find you bumbling about our campus. This time you won't get away, 'third time's the charm' they say in your Pagan Ireland.

Sean parried back, Looks like a few more have lost the faith since our last meeting.

Angry I can always recruit more, but let me introduce my 'staff' members. Jared waved and four members stepped forward tapping large oaken clubs into their other hands. I 'hate' to remind you that the scriptures state, 'spare the rod, spoil the child,' so dear Brothers, we're here to teach you about the 'staff of life'... and 'death'. This time, running is futile, as we're on home turf this time, and I have more in the woods behind you.

Actually, the whole Earth is our home and mother, we can never be far from either, merely out of sight of where we'd wish to be. We're always home, Matt lectured.

Sean poked him in the ribs, Now is not a good time to be preaching Pagan doctrine.

Matt looked offended, It isn't Pagan, it's more like generic worldly wisdom.

Jared chuckled, It doesn't matter, none at all, for I've come up with a plan to wipe out all the Pagans in the world! Bwa ha haha ha! Jared had obviously been taking laughing lessons from James Bond super-villains.

Oh great, does every cult leader have a plan to take over the world? Sean muttered. I suppose we're going to have to hear it.

Yes, of course, and mine is clever, we will go to the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean on summer break and bless their waters, and the rain cycle will carry the baptizing water all over the world, and Sister Gadala will back-mask the words of blessing into a Britney Spear's album during her summer internship at a record company, and we'll subliminate a message into the World Cup finals..

That's your plan? It sucks. Sean smirked. Technically, you'd have to have them simultaneously occur to count officially, besides, not all Pagans understand English, what's to stop them being non-Christian again, huh?

Silence, evil doers! Jared was turning purple. Ok, we're still working out the details. If English was good enough for Jesus and his disciples, then it is good enough for us!

Sean gaped at that. Matt turned to his friend, Sorry, do you have a better idea, Sean, than arguing with a maniac? We're in a right pickle here, huh? There might be more waiting in ambush in the woods, and my aikido is not Bruce-Lee-good.

Sean Sean wiggled his fingers at Matt, Can't you use some powerful Druid voodoo on them? I thought you Druid priests had the full power of nature at your command?

Matt sighed, Sean, once you realize how delicately balanced the forces of Nature are, you hesitate to disturb it, as the ramifications are unpredictable, like a butterfly in Mexico causing a tornado in South Carolina.

Despite the imminent danger, Sean was intrigued, So you're saying that the safest person to give absolute power to is...

Matt smiled, Yes, the one with absolutely no intention to use it. Sorry, Sean, do you have another idea?

No, just this, Sean yelled throwing up his arm in a Masonic wave, Is there no help for uh, ... um ... a widower's son?!

Most of them looked confused at the outburst. One of the Jared's staff members, Gestalt, rubbed his forehead and looked like he was about to say something, but was silenced by a stern look of Jared.

What was that, Sean, that doesn't sound helpful? Matt looked at him in a confused way, as the sun was setting on the western horizon.

Matt shrugged, It was worth a shot. Can't you remember it?

Beats me, I've only got a photographic memory not a tape-recording ear.

Jared interrupted their bickering, Well, Druids, it seems your hope sets with the sun, how fitting. Get them!

Mary The pair of Druids crouched, and the five Denmads sprang and came down the hill swinging their cudgels, and had made up half the distance when a powerful blast of light appeared halfway between the two parties, in the dusty gloom. A blond woman draped in blue and white robes hovered in the air, dazzling light radiating from her, a beatific visage looking down at the Denmads. Their jaws dropped, and the five beefy mob members fell to their knees, Gestalt in particular crying Mary! Jared pushed them half-heartedly, saying, All right, maybe it is Mary, but only the Episcopalians and Catholics believe in her interventional divine ability, get up you backsliding heathens, we only answer to. . .

Mary casually reached into her robes and pulled out a baby, and with a smirk held him out in both arms. Three Denmads cried out, Oh, God! It's Jesus! Blithely, the baby Jesus held an orb and scepter, acting quite regal for a nursing child. Gestalt plaintively cried out, Are we groveling enough?!

The baby turned his eyes to them saying disdainfully, No, a little bit lower. Which they complied with zest, writhing deeper into the mud. Sean smirked thinking, this is what happens when you recruit gullible followers.

Scroll Now, wait a minute, Jared accused, slapping his prostrate friends, trying to rescue the situation, How do we know you're the real Jesus? We can't accept this apparition without calling to the National Convention of Real Miracles, headed by... The baby reached into its robes and tossed out gently a scroll that floated to Gestalt who looked at it, and said; signed by Jerry Falwell himself. It checks out, Brother Jared. Looking like he was having indigestion, Jared held up an accusing hand, and the baby threw his arms open, speaking in measured tones, turning his halo up a few notches brighter.

Dear blessed children, Jesus said, your leader is possessed by a vexious spirit for how else could he hate me, for I am without sin? He is obviously in urgent need of a new baptism, Jared's eyes widened, Bind his mouth that he may not put poison in your ears, and take ye him away to the River Jordan on the other side of campus and cure him several times, just to be sure, and he brought his hands together and dropped his eyes in benediction, Be at peace, for I will conclusively deal with the two hateful ones. Be quick! lest the afflicted one lose his very soul, from your slow action! I will wait for your return and reward you with special passes to the afterlife! The five Denmads jumped up, sacked a struggling and sputtering Jared and gagged him with his own necktie, and forcefully dragged him kicking off into the forest, his eyes furious. The floating figures smiled and bobbed once, twice and dissolved into a mist, that in turn disappeared in a puff in the near-darkness of post-dusk. Matt thought he saw the quickest of winks as she departed, taking the angelic musical chorus with her.

Sean looked up at a bemused Matt, What the hell was that wink? What's that look on your face?

Matt said dreamily, Mary thinks I'm hot!

Sean gaped and yelled at him, What?! Has your ego no limits? I don't even want to contemplate the theological problems implicit in that statement? He glared suspiciously at Matt who was chuckling, Hey.... What do you know? You're not going to tell me that was some type of hologram, it looked pretty real!

Poppies That would be telling. Matt put on a pouty face, Now, I can't go revealing all the secrets of the Druids can I? Perhaps your faith evoked a response to your Mason's distress call? Besides, I'm not a Christian Druid, so it must have been you, Sean, you backsliding atheist, you. I'm quite impressed, I didn't know you had it in you, Sean! Matt patted him loudly on the back, while Sean looked at his own hands, as if expecting to find a stigmata or a call-button for God, with a quizzical expression plastered on his face. Matt distracted him, Perhaps it's just the poppy flowers all around this field? he said pointing at the various blooming plants around them. Or some swampgas, ergot poisoning, or alien brain implants? Besides, who cares, we're alive, now we have to go find a martyr's grave and a treasure, don't we? I'm glad the grave didn't turn out to be ours! Sean was pulled staggering with indecision by a chuckling Matt along the trail between the tanks, his mind unable to accept that something potentially supernatural had just happened there.

The After cautiously turning a few twists of the trail, they saw a large stone set beside the trail. Matt bent down and pushed off a pile of dirt and leaves and read, Here fell the body of Jeremiah Henderson, servant of God, of the Lutheran Faith, who died of cold and exposure here January 18, 1859 on the way to a parishioner. Rest in Peace. They nodded at each other and Matt dropped his gear bag and began rummaging and found a collapsible crowbar and made a fulcrum from a nearby piece of deadwood. Sean inserted more logs to prop it up as the stone was slowly lifted.

You know, grunted, Matt, I knew we were going to be eventually desecrating somebody's grave by the time this was over. What the heck is Fisher trying to teach us, by all these puzzles and breaking of the law?

Technically, this is just a memorial, not a grave, Sean said, loosening his tie and holding the rock, Pretty amazing the kind of dedication some people have for their brothers in faith, huh? Meanwhile Matt sought another good position. Eventually the stone was off on the side, propped up on two rolling logs, and the hot and profusely sweaty pair were digging in the dirt underneath. The little shovel soon hit something metallic and Matt soon pulled a little cash-box, handed it to Sean, who picked the lock in seconds and opened it. Another plastic-coated notecard was inside with another cryptic verse.

Here we go again, another cryptic message, I'll bet you Matt, we're down to the final stretch. He read it out.

      To catch the keeper, know ye thy plants and nations
      With quick words you'll stop his sly incantations.
      So seek he who resides at the end of the speckled span.
      Bring the four neighbour's herbs to bind the flight of Man

An owl hooted in the dark woods and the wind picked up. Hoo boy, Sean, wouldn't you know it, it's another brain buster! Matt said in good humor, returning the card to the box. He reburied it, and rolled the stone over the hole, and then rolled the supports out of the way, as the stone fell more or less into place, adjusting it afterwards a little with the crowbar. They tidied up, and then furtively snuck back to the car, without incident, and made it back across the city to Carleton's campus; ready to embark on the last stage of their adventure.

END OF PART SEVEN OF EIGHT
Tune in the next issue at Spring Equinox, for the final adventures of Sean and Matt.


SERIAL STORY

. Matt

Druidical Treasure
A.k.a. The Dave Fisher Code

Fiction written by B. N. Tavern
For the Public Domain, 2004 CE

Part Eight of Eight
The FINAL Episode

In photos, Matt is the blonde played by Ian
Sean is dark played by a fellow called Raven,
Filmed by Stephen
On-site at Carleton College

(Place mouse over pictures for secret messages.)


In Our Previous Episodes

As you have read, Matt & Sean learned in the winter about a treasure hidden at thier very own Carleton College, and followed the clues written on the back of the Druid's constitution. Their adventures led them to the mysertious frosty hilly St. Olaf campus to the fiery depths of a prairie fighter, through various buildings and unfrequented nooks of the forest; each location leading them to a new danger by an ingenious puzzle. Matt found love and wisdom, Sean found important lessons. Now with spring turning to summer, they are faced with the last puzzles to solve, to get the fortune they have earned, and to secure their funding for their senior year at Carleton.

The previous seven episodes can be read in their illustrated entirety at http://www.rdna.info/treasure.html or in earlier issues of the Missal-Any.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Stalking

A week after their harrowing escape from the woods of St. Olaf, Sean burst into Matt's room, yelling, Quick! Grab your jacket and come with me!

Matt ignored him, pointedly hunkering over a large pile of books and note cards on his desk, Ahhh Sean, I have a paper to write for finals! bawled Sean in the late May heat.

Sean barked, If we don't find that treasure soon, that will be the final paper you ever write, cricket boy!

Sean Matt sighed, and closed the book he was reading, Well, okay, Sean. But guess what? I made a new cloak! He held it up in his left hand, and then the other arm popped up with another cloak draped on it too.

And what's that? Sean said dubiously.

That's your cloak! beamed Matt.

I don't need a cloak.

Sure you do, what kind of Druid doesn't have a cloak? You've seen how useful they are. Sean didn't have a good reply and took the dark blue cloak. Matt continued, See a cloak is a lot like the Druid who wears it. For me, it's a rakish mantle that I use to make little flourishes, and it's a portable blanket for a sylvan night rendezvous. For you, well, it'll be a symbol of being apart from society, a shield, and a way to convey how moody and pretentious you are. Some girls like that too. He clucked suggestively.

Sean was fidgeting as Matt put away his books. So you'll be an Archdruid next year, Matt?

No, Iain's around for two more years, so I'll just help out during my senior year. He who leads, must also serve, and I like doing back-up.

Who's in charge then?

A No one's in charge, really, it's a big happy mess. You never know what's going to happen in the group, good or bad, it makes it interesting, you know, 'like a box of chocolates.'

Yeah, whatever. Let's get going.

Matt followed behind, and they ended up at the grocery store, Matt trailing Sean as he endlessly pushed a cart around the store, humming to himself, conspicuously trying not to look conspicuous.

Matt couldn't take it any longer after traversing the pasta aisle for the eighth time, Sean, what are we doing in the supermarket? It's been three hours. Those employees are beginning to stare at us. Matt looked over his shoulder down the cereal aisle, at a few concerned-looking cashiers jockeying for a spot to spy on them. Sean nonchalantly pulled another box of cereal off the shelf and began reading the entire list of ingredients with pronounced interest.

Quietly, Sean murmured out of the side of his mouth, spy-style, Waiting for proof. He'll be here in a few moments, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, he held up a finger. Shh! Here he comes, look casual.

A middle-aged man with red hair, of medium build, came down the aisle with a basket on one arm, pulled a box of cereal off the shelf and went straight to the checkout, with a lilt in his steps. Sean and Matt walked behind him for a little and then left the supermarket, Sean dropped a handful of change on the pavement as a ruse, and crouched behind a parked car, picking up the coins, while looking about.

The man came out and crossed the parking lot crossed the road and went into a tailor's store and turned the sign over to CLOSED and in a few moments exited and locked the door, heading towards the Carleton campus. Matt impatiently whispered to Sean, When are you going to explain all of this?

Little Come on, Matt, if I'm right, I think I know where he's going to go. Don't get too close, give him a block or two. The man struck an erratic path amidst the campus buildings, then stepped into a music building and Sean waited outside for twenty minutes, while Matt twitched. Another man came out, dressed in a tweed jacket with a briar pipe clenched in his teeth, also bearing a grocery sack of a different color, but similar contents, his hair color different, brown now, ruddier complexion, and his nose was bigger. Smiling pleasantly and whistling a little tune, he wove an exotic path around sculpture, through hedges and cutting through buildings, descended the hill past Lyman Lakes, and walked up the highway towards the Lower Arb, crossed the road near the water tower and into the trees. Sean and Matt sprinted behind and caught up in time to see him enter the little white house by the dirt path, and flip on a light switch inside.

Sean was quite pleased, and sat down by the side of road watching Lyman Creek drain into the Cannon River, with a sly grin on his face. I knew it, Matt, I knew it!

Matt was pretty disgusted, Explain it all now, already.

That's our man, Sean stated firmly.

No, it's not, it's a different man. What are you talking about? Matt complained at the seeming illogic, and Sean's intensity frightened him. The look on Sean's face was like an addict seeing a pile of unattended drugs on the street corner.

Proverbial Okay, Sean excitedly rambled, I'll show it to you in steps. First the beginning verse of the master riddle:

    To claim the treasure you must surmount many fears
    For great it has grown over four hundred years.
    Mending the souls from the journeys of sages
    Rich, but cursed, is the wealth from his wages.

long Grinning, he continued, And there is the last verse of the main riddle, right?

    Finally you know to whom you must meet
    Stare fast at him or he will certainly cheat.
    His journey is endless, but no longer will roam
    Not all that come here will return to their home.

Matt still had a blank visage.

Whipping out his handy PDA, Sean read out a filed, Then there is the last clue that we found under the minister's memorial stone at St. Olaf;

A

    To catch the keeper, know ye thy plants and nations
    With quick words you'll stop his sly incantations.
    So seek he who resides at the end of the speckled span.
    Bring the four neighbour's herbs to bind the flight of Man

So, do you get it yet? Sean said, knowing the answer, feeling it was as obvious to the world. His hands were propped on his hips and his jaw stuck out with pride,

No, not at all. What am I looking for? Matt said straight-faced, and Sean's composure collapsed, like a leaking balloon.

Sean sighed, "Okay, you've been busy for two weeks, your grades, making up with Dylan and all, but I've thought this through really carefully... and I hope you're ready for the answer.. Sean said a bit obsessively, his hands nervously wringing at what he was going to say, Matt looked up at him a bit worried, Sean leadingly inquired, If you walk on a long journey, what do you get?

Matt Tired?

Worn-out shoes. The soles of the shoes need to be mended, and this is a city with two colleges, full of students who need shoe repair. That man works in a tailor shop, and does saddlery and shoe repair on the side.

Yeah, but that's not the man who went in the house.

Yes, it is. He just changed his appearance.

But who is he, some kind of ex-spy?

Think, Matt. Who is the only man who is mentioned in connection with the Irish incantations in the Druid Chronicles? Sean asked in a leading way.

Matt's eyes sparkled a little, John Messenger, the assistant professor of sociology, who had been studying ancient folk customs of the Aran Isles in the west of Ireland. He was the advisor for the early Druids on campus, and taught the three ancient Incantations of Ireland from some old folk stories that they used in the liturgy. He taught only for a trimesterc

Sean grinned, But the records never said he actually LEFT, does it now?

Matt was excited, but protesting, Well, no, but that's just assumed... What do you mean? Of course he did, there is no such professor here now.

Not under that name, Sean examined his cuticles, And perhaps he spends his time on the side doing shoe repair?

Why would he do that?

Force of habit, I think he's been doing it for centuries. Good money in that trade, you know.

Matt looked at him warily, and waved his hand in front of Sean's eyes to check if he was awake, I don't believe you know what you just said. Are you okay, Sean, are you all right in there? Did something possess your mind?

somewhere Sean brushed off Matt's hand, Look at the clues, damn it, the riddle implies he's really, really old; and what do you think the speckled span is?

Well speckled means colorful, like a salmon's flanks, Matt trailed off as Sean spun his hands to encourage him to move forward, spans are bridges, colored bridges, rainbows, Sean smiled motioning for Matt to continue. Matt furrowed his brows trying to follow the thread of reasoning, rainbows, cobblers, old guys, incantations,c Matt gasped and looked up with alarm. You don't mean he's a....

Sean full of self-assurance, Yep, John Messenger was/is actually a leprechaun.

Matt burst out guffawing next to Sean, rolled once or twice on the grass, then sat up, eyes streaming with tears.

Quiet, man! You don't believe me? Sean asked, a bit taken aback, but straight-faced.

Wiping the tears away with his sweaty forearm, Matt chortled, No, I believe you, it just sounds funny coming from you. Trust me, anyone who didn't know you better, and been through all these strange events, would think you're a looney. Sean wasn't sure that was a compliment. Okay, Sean, let's assume he's a five-foot tall leprechaun, just for argument's sake. Another giggle. How do we confront him and get the pot of gold, eh?

Mr. We need leprechaun bait, you saw his grocery bag: a bottle of whiskey, butter, bacon and Lucky Charms cereal, the average unhealthy Celtic diet. The clue implies that we need to gather some plants from his neighbors...

Matt slapped him jovially on Sean's narrow shoulders, But Sean, he lives in a house, far away from the rest of the campus, in the middle of the Lower Arboretum. He has no neighbors, unless you are talking about Mr. Deer and Mrs. Owl.

Yes, you're right, that's a big problem. Sean murmured, kicking the dirt with the toe of his shoe. Matt looked at Sean's notepad again.

Sean, why is 'Man' capitalized in the riddle?

Maybe he's a God? Do we refer to fairies with capital letters? Sean asked.

No we don't, we only do it for Deities and Proper Nouns, Matt replied, glad to have minored in English. That might be significant; like people's names, days of the week, or countries! The verse says, Nations, Sean! Matt clapped his hands, suddenly feeling very clever.

The Sean looked nonplused, So?

There are six or seven modern Celtic Nations: Ireland, Brittany, Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and the Isle of Man; and perhaps Galicia in northwestern Spain. The Isle of Man is in the upper Irish Sea, and used to speak a variant of Gaelic, and (in addition to the Vikings) Man has been conquered and ruled at various times by Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.

But, England isn't a Celtic country, Sean chided him.

But it used to be, and the verse just says, 'neighbour' not 'Celtic.' So each of these bordering lands has an emblematic plant don't they? Maybe he's a Manx leprechaun? I didn't see any tail on him, did you?

Leprechauns don't have tails, you silly idiot, Sean chided, his eyes glowed though, Yes, so I've got a plan to catch him tomorrow afternoon as he comes home, but we'll have to be real careful, leprechauns can be very dangerous when cornered, and we're going to need to bring a few frogs.

Chapter Thirty: The Confrontation

The next afternoon, the man came down the same road again, and was crossing the small lawn to his house, when he noticed a large picnic blanket under a tall elder tree, with a bottle of Glenfiddich, a box of Keebler Cookies and a few scones. The man looked furtively over his shoulder, rubbed his hands greedily and stepped on to the blanket and picked up the bottle, chuckling.

An A voice cried out from the shrubs, NOW! and the blanket engulfed the man and he shot off the ground as Matt and Sean ran out of the bushes, tugging the rope behind them through a series of elaborate pulleys. Like a badger in a bag, the man kicked and squirmed for a minute, then stopped moving, swaying lightly back and forth. Matt secured the rope to a tree, and walked over to the bundle and tapped it.

From inside, a surprisingly calm voice said, Okay. What are you doing?

Sean leaned over and addressed him quickly, Cis lie grada filed?

The man in the bag spit back by rote, A secht, ollam, an ruth, cli, cano... Hey! Wait a minute! He caught himself, a bit too late.

Sean smugly continued, I thought so. We're here to collect the treasure, Mr. Messenger.

Messenger?... I'm not.. Oh dear, you do know... don't you?

Uh, huh. Not many people are that conversant in Old Irish and Brehon law.

Caught You've must have had some great spiritual insights along the way. I don't suppose you'd accept that 'the search is its own reward'? Can we leave it at that and skip the money part? Messenger asked hopefully.

Nope. Religion may help you to wait, but it doesn't put food on the plate. Sean snapped.

Let me down will you, I have a bad back. Messenger moaned a little. Sean nodded at Matt, his arms behind his back, When did you figure it out?

Sean began to loosen the rope and responded, When 'Mary & Jesus' showed up on our last outing, I remembered that red-haired brat had a wee pipe sticking out his swaddling clothes. Most babies can't smoke or speak that well, so I remembered my childhood legends of Changelings being swapped for human babies. That and the clues made it all fit together.

The blanket relaxed and fell about the feet of Mr. Messenger, who stood up and dusted himself off. Sean pulled out a frog and pointed it at the leprechaun like he was holding a gun, since leprechauns can't vanish if they are watched.

Messenger saw the Frog, Damn it, frogs don't blink, so you got me there. But frogs can't run. He stuck out his tongue, and turned to flee. Sean was ready with the other arm and threw a shotgun barrage of small tied cachet-bags at the running fellow. One hit him in the head, and he fell down, as if struck with a sack of hammers. He sat on the grass by the edge of the woods, rubbing his head, and shaking the other fist at him.

Criminy, you got me good, you did, with the herbal bags, lads, so I can't flee anymore by the Rules of Engagement, but can you properly chant me to do your work with your poetic prowess? You only get one try. He crossed his arms.

top Sean gestured at Matt who chanted forth dramatically waving his arms;

    All your secrets to us you will leek.
    Try a trick, and we'll clover you weak.
    As the sun today a-rose, make no fuss.
    Thistle teach you not to cross us.

He smirked, shook himself off, and laughed, Well, that was clever for a young kid, not too good on the meter, but the rules of the Great Game require me to honor it, and you both are brothers of Fisher, aren't you both? Matt and Sean nodded, watching him suspiciously. So what do you want?

First, we want to know the whole story. Sean came over and squatted next to the sitting figure as some clouds passed by overhead on a rich blue sky.

Leprechaun Pour me a cup of that Glenfiddich, and I'll tell you. Sean did so. If you'll believe me, this is the story. Back in 1563, there I was minding me own business on the Isle of Man in a lovely field of heather, when an English sailor from Ramsay Port strolls up behind me and the bloody Sassanach pounds me on me tender noggin, and ties me up right brutally with a rosary. What could I do, but accede to his terrible demands? Well, Jebediah Fisher, aye, that was his name, pressed me into service as his valet for the rest of his life and that of his direct heirs, and that they be many, mind ye. I agreed and demanded payment in-kind for the treasure he'd ask of me, and he agreed. Short-term thinking foolish man, I found a loophole, and while he had 20 children at first, every generation, his direct heir had one less child, until we arrived at David Fisher, an only child, and he would have none. I thought that would be the end of the agreement, but Fisher created and adopted an enormous number of spiritual brothers and sisters (which while stretching the rules, still is legal, according to the Gnomes Legal Association) to continue the agreement, so I decided to settle down here in Northfield permanently as Fisher wished and await a worthy successor to ask for the treasure under the same terms.

Matt noted, You know Sean, this is strangely too easy, I guess the chase is better than catching the prize.

Oh, laddie, that's because you haven't heard the terms, yet! cackled Messenger, lighting up a pipe.

Sean asked, And what are the terms?

He smiled mischievously, One year of your life in exchange for one year of my labor's profits. He blew a large puff of smoke in Sean's direction, to Sean's obvious discomfort.

Dancing Sean looked at him slyly with narrowed smarting eyes, How much is a year's labor? Where do you get the money?

Oh, well, in mortal currency, in round numbers, oh, I gross about one-half million dollars, and I keep about $100,000 in annual net profits. That's not counting my income of interest on money market accounts; and mind ye, compound interest is a powerful force when you can live 2700 years. And if you knew anything about leprechauns, me laddie, you'd know we make brogues for fairies and earth spirits, because they dance so much, they're always wearing them out, frolicsome beasties that they are. Messenger's chest puffed out with pride, and he pulled out a mirror to inspect a bruise on his forehead, I also have a few patented designs with Nike, a good Pagan-named company, I thought. The American market, mortal and fairy, was wide open when I arrived here with Alexander Fisher in 1755, the New Land has indeed been good for this old fool. The workload is too much, so I even brought some Welsh cousins over to work for me, cheaper wages, mind you. Would be richer if not for the darn stock market crash of 1869 by those fools Gould and Fiske!... Messenger trailed off into memory lane.

Matt inquired, But wouldn't it be cheaper for the fairies to dance barefoot?

He hushed Matt with a finger over his mouth, Blimey, quiet man! Are you trying to ruin me business? He turned and yelled over his shoulder towards the woods, The woods are full of glass, old medical needles and dog poop! We WOULDNT want to hurt our feet, would we?

How have you managed to bring so many relatives to this country, what about immigration and taxes? Sean asked.

Come on, how hard to you think it is for a leprechaun to get a Green Card, eh? He smiled, As for taxes, you learn a few tricks over the centuries, since fairies pay under the table, death and taxes are not certain for our kind.

Matt That contract seems fair and reasonable, but devilish, Matt chirped.

Dang right it's reasonable, but it wasn't meant to be fair. Stealing and extortion are unsanctionable acts, even against leprechauns, and whoever benefits from such a bargain, deserves a remonstrance too. That's why I cursed the treasure thusly, I owe it to protect my fellow fairies, from encouraging looting rude humans. Looking pleased, Messenger continued You see, well, it gets better. I get to pick which of your years to take, either from your youth or your old age, and I have a pretty good idea of how long each of you will live. Pointing at Sean, with a mischievous wink, Now, I wouldn't be making too many withdrawals if I were you, me bucko.

Sean looked shocked at first, but relented, It's true, most of my grand-parents died in their 50s. Sean sighed.

What happens if you take one of my youth? Matt asked.

Then you lose all the memories, training and experiences of that year, from one birthday to the next. Part of your very identity would vanish like that! Messenger snapped his fingers with a chuckle, That's all you're left with as you age, you know, memories, and even those are often robbed from you weak mortals. It's not an easy choice, most folks when they learned the rules haven't collected even a penny. Actually, come to think of it, the only takers were the folks who smoked, because they don't seem to care much about dying early, I think. Fortunately, Leprechauns don't get cancer.

Matt murmured, I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, I've got so many memories in my head, it'd be nice to clear some space for new stuff.

Sean's eyes narrowed, You said, 'most folks,' do you mean we're not the first?

Messenger laughed so hard his pipe fell out and bounced off the ground, Ha ha ha! Oh you think too highly of yourselves, you do! Of course, you're not the first, these Carleton kids, and even one Ole, they are quite the smart crackers, they are! Under the terms of contract, I'm not allowed to reveal who they are, of course, and neither can they tell who I am, except under a mutually-agreed riddle, and each discoverer adds another verse and obstacle to the puzzle, at my expense, and the money can only be used by a legitimate heir, no sharing with strangers. You have to keep it in the family. The penalty for rule breaking of course is insanity and impotency. Messenger help out his cup for a refill of whiskey, which Matt obliged. It's a dandy of a dilemma for you mortals, isn't it? When you are on your deathbed, most of you all would give the world for another day on this planet. Talk it over with yourself, I can wait.

Matt, stepped up without a pause. I would like to trade five years, for money to share with my brother, Sean.

Seam shoved Matt and tried to dissuade Mr. Messenger, Matt, what happened to that vaunted Druidical patience you told me about? Mr. Messenger, he doesn't mean it!

Messenger downed another cup of whiskey, Sorry, too late, those words are a binding contract. Matt, because your whiskey is good, and you put up with that rascal Sean, I've taken the compensatory years from your last five years of life, when you would be suffering anyway from dementia and long-term leukemia.

Pouch How old will I be then? Matt asked.

Messenger smiled, shook a finger and dismissed the question, That would be telling, wouldn't it? You don't really want to know. He pulled out a small bag from his vest and handed it to Matt. In fact, you'll probably want to forget about this whole treasure business. It's too tempting, and it's destroyed one man and a woman already. If you wish to forget, take a snort of this and the knowledge will be gone, not too much, it might be habit-forming. You should be receiving the cash in about a week, after I finish the currency exchange at the marketplace.

Where'd you get that powder? Matt asked.

Messenger smiled, Let's say, I've taken a few classes in organic chemistry over the years here at Carleton. Besides, I have a bit of experience in, shall we say, faith-based chemistry. Quite useful you know.

Nothing magical? Sean asked. You're not a fraud, masquerading as a fairy?

So you really believe I'm a leprechaun do you? Even in the twenty-first century? I guess the oldways aren't fully gone after all. He tapped his nose, Why use magic when science is so easy now? Oh, and ibuprofen, that's my idea too. Speaking of which, maybe I should go to my medicine cabinet to get some after the rough treatment you gave me, it's like they always say, 'Punish the messenger for the bad news'. Messenger got up, Now since Sean shouldn't ask for a withdrawal with his short life, I think our business is at an end today. I need to get inside and watch Shrek 2 tonight on cable. You have one week to consider another verse to lengthen the puzzle sequence, which I must agree with, then you are permitted one more visit in the future to ask for your last withdrawal. Hoisting the glass and returning it to Matt, he snatched the bottle and walked into the house, Good evening folks, and Matt, say hello to my niece, she misses you. Then he walked inside and Sean and Matt returned to their dorms, oddly quiet.

Chapter Thirty-One: The After Math

Carleton Matt and Sean showed their idea to Messenger early next week, who agreed, and they picked up a bottle of Glenfiddich-colored ink and a golden quill from him, that they used to inscribe another verse on the back of the Carleton Constitution. The last day of classes arrived, and Sean and Matt resigned themselves to a long, lonely, hot stay on campus during the summer break. Sean and Matt had been checking their mailboxes three times a day for the promised check, even on Sunday. Craig and Alex, Sean's roommates had returned to Kansas for the summer. One day in his quiet dormitory, Sean was sitting in front of the powerful stadning fan unit squeezed into the window, wondering what he was going to do this summer. At that time, Matt burst into the room waving an ordinary stamped envelope.

It's here Sean, it's here! It's kind of thin, should I open it? He held it up to the light. It shone with a halo in the overhead lighting, sparkling like a divine vision from Heaven. They looked dreamily upon it, thinking of their bright future.

A harsh Australian voice from the door behind him answered, No, Sean, you should give the letter to me. They whirled about. Sarah, the campus intrepid reporter, was standing there in a jogging suit, sweating profusely, with a large grin on her face, and, yes, a touch of lively madness in her eyes.

What are you talking about? Sean asked, snapping the envelope out of Matt's hands and holding it tightly, with his arms defiantly crossed over his chest.

Sarah slinked into the room, I've been following you two for months, I saw you assault the man in Olin House by the woods, and heard something about a million dollars that you blackmailed from him, and something about calling him a fairy.

Even if that's true, why do you deserve it, give me a good reason. Sean protested. Actually, I was kind of expecting good ol' Jared to pop up yet again and cause trouble at this point.

Well you go me to worry about now. Why should you two deserve it? It looks like you beat it out of that poor man by force.

Sean didn't have a quick come-back. Matt stepped in, Well, Sean, she's got a point. It's difficult to justify the acquisition of huge amounts of money through extortion by any code of ethics, but you'd know more about that me....

Everybody Sarah interrupted him, Shut up. Besides, I have 10 good reasons, in here. Sarah pulled a semi-automatic pistol from her jacket, with a cold silencer on the end of it; it's solitary eye peering menacingly at them.

Sean and Matt stood back in shock and moved towards the corner. Matt's voice quivered a little, Where did you get that?

Hello, this is America, mate, wise up, she said, keeping the barrel aimed at the two, every girl is packing a piece out here in the Midwest, don't you know. Cowgirl style. With a grin she continued, And I've been practicing in the woods for weeks with it on a stump, and I'm getting pretty good at point-blank range. She cocked it, slipping off the safety lock. I realized that with all the dangers you've experienced with Denmad both here and at Olaf, to keep going, you had to be getting close to something quite valuable!

How did you know where we went? Matt asked.

You could say, Jared and I have a close working relationship.

So that's how Denmad was always able to find us, Sean muttered, But why would you betray a fellow Carl?

Let's just say I have... older loyalties, she said, I'm not really Sarah Peterson from Australia.

You don't mean... said Matt in disbelief.

Ja, you betcha! I'm actually, Sarah Pedersen, a transfer student from St. Olaf! She followed with her best imitation of an evil chuckle. I was sent to Carleton to keep an eye on the Druids and other deviant groups on this campus for Denmad, to hate them better, just in case. She readjusted her position and comfortably locked onto their location. Now you're going to be good boys, don't you know, and hand me that letter, and give me that bag of powder I saw him give you. What does it do?

Matt Sean stepped forward, handing her the letter. Here's the letter, but Matt can't give you that powder, it gives eternal youth, and ... I want it. Matt looked like he was going to correct Sean, but Sean stomped on his foot. Sean painfully smiled.

Then I want it too! She chuckled again, then got serious, Hey... maybe this is some sort of a trick. I want Matt to take a snort of it first, then if he lives, I'm going to kill you both.

You can't kill us, we're your biggest FANS, Sean said pointedly to Matt with a hand drawn across his chest. Matt stared for a moment, got the idea, then fell in step, pulled the bag out of his pocket, loosened the strings, and slowly sidestepped in front of the window.

Sarah's eyes were glazed with dreams of ambition, If I live forever, I'll get new readers, own my own newspaper, I'll be rich, famous and forever young! Now snort it! Sarah growled, her face twisted, mostly unflatteringly.

Sean Okay. Matt turned the bag upside down and the green powder fell into the mighty breeze coming from the fan blades, filling the air with an instant sand storm. Matt and Sean held their breath on cue, and Sarah fired twice in a panic amidst the green haze, Sean shoved Matt out of the line of fire, whipping the cloak off the chair, and covering their heads and obscuring their position. Sarah dizzily collapsed against the other wall, soon was staring at the gun in her hand in utter puzzlement. A few seconds passed, and a nearly blue-faced Matt peeked out of the cloak, the dust had blown out of the room into the hallway, and he took a big breath of welcome air.

Sarah had a blank look on her face, Hey guys? What am I doing with a gun in your room? Sarah asked.

Matt ad-libbed quickly, Um, Sarah, you were going to a pistol practice downtown, and... it accidentally fired when you were showing it to us. Sarah looked convinced, and dropped the pistol.

Oh, I'm terribly sorry, are you guys okay? she asked with genuine concern.

I'm okay, Matt murmured.

No you're not you're bleeding from your chest!

Just a light flesh wound, something must have slowed the bullet..... Sean, how... oh my God, are you all right?

Sean was on the ground stoically crying quietly to himself with blood streaming from his left shoulder. Why is it always the left shoulder, huh? he gasped reflexively. And I'm a lefty, damn it! It appeared that the bullet had gone clean through Sean before lodging in Matt's chest.

Ah, Sean! Matt murmured and pressed a nearby T-shirt over the wound. It doesn't look too bad.

Sarah Well it sure don't feel good.

Okay. Let's get you to the hospital. Matt hefted him up wincing at the strain on himself, Are you gaining weight?

Sarah, still a bit confused, You okay? Do you want me to call for an ambulance and stretcher? You shouldn't stress your chest wound, he's too heavy! Sarah insisted.

Matt smiled, staggering a little himself, cradling the woozy man in his trembling arms, their blood running together, It's alright, he's not heavy, he's my brother.

As Matt strode past her, Sarah held out the envelope, Uh, this has your name on it, I think it's yours. Sean woke up briefly, snagged it from her hand and stuffed it in a pocket, then began to black out again. Sarah looked about nervously, swinging her fists together, Um, I'll wait here, for, um, the police, ja, I guess I'll have to fill a report or something. 'Pulling a Cheny' and shooting people in America isn't such a big problem, right?

His eyes unfocused, Sean hoarsely whispered, Matt,.... thank you, and went unconscious, and his body loosened.

Tears in his eyes, Matt gulped, No, Sean, thank you. Hold on buddy! He ran as fast as he could for the parking lot outside.

Chapter Thirty-Two: Recovery

Sean They made it to the hospital with plenty of time, and with Sean's lung reinflated, the surgery was a qualified success. Matt visited his room later that evening and sat by Sean's bedside, waiting for the anesthesia to wear off. People look different when they are sleeping, more natural and unaffected. Sean's breathing was regular and for a while it was for Matt easy to forget Sean's cynicism and sarcasm, and realize he was just a simple person caught in a complex world. Eventually, Sean's eyes flitted, and over a period of a few minutes, he gradually clambered out of the fog of the anesthesia and realized where he was.

Oh, shit, where am I?

ICU, Sean. Matt whispered, his face looming over Sean's prone form.

Yeah, I see you too, Matt, but is this a hospital? Sean mumbled, his lips not working properly, gazing around the brilliantly white room, everything still foggy, Or is it....?

No we're not in Heaven, Matt chided, unless you believe that the Kingdom of God is co-existent and present in the material world, in which case, you'd be right.

Same old Matt, Sean tried to move and yelped, Can't be Heaven, because I'm in a Hell of a lot of pain.

Bullet Bullet went right through you, Sean, it lodged in my sternum. You probably saved my life. Thank you.

Sean smiled, and noticed his right arm was in a sling, I suppose I had my ulterior motives, there, but you're welcome. Good thing finals are over, or I'd never be able to write my exams.

Matt dropped something into Sean's hand, a deformed bullet welded lightly onto a simple little silver chain.

Sean marveled at the twisted, shapeless piece of metal, and mused, Amazing how such a small thing can cause such a big pain.

Oh, Sean, I've got good news, Matt pulled out a memo, while you were in surgery, I was talking to the investigating officers who were booking Sarah, and I scored two paid internships with Northfield's police department for the summer. Just making coffee and running errands, but it'll be good for our resumes, I think.

Sean nodded, then remembered with a jerky sit up, But what about the check? Did it clear? How much was in it?

A few million, plus change. Sean, you're a rich man. How does it feel?

Our Pretty damn good!

Matt smiled mischievously, Oh, by the way. You also are going to owe the IRS $324,532.65 in gift taxes in a few weeks. Do you think you can fit all those numbers onto one check?

Damn! I need bigger checks!

And your father called. He was pretty upset about what happened to you, and should be here later this evening on a flight from Detroit. Matt held up a flight schedule print-out.

Sean sighed and rolled his head on the pillow towards the window. I have much to talk with him, about.

I'm sure you do, Sean.

Matt?

Yeah, Sean?

Matt Sean looked a bit embarrassed, It sounds a bit hokey, but after all these dangers, thrills, and searching, the real treasure we've found is our friendship, courage to think for ourselves and a newly appreciated sense of honor. I didn't want you to die because of the money. I needed to say that.

Matt beamed at him, and drifted off into a soliloquy, Yeah, I guess so, I've gained a lot from all those initiations in the Masons, Druids, even those loony Denmads. Those experiences, good and bad, are an integral part of me now, although none of them are sufficient on their own. I have more paths to travel and explore in my future, I'm sure. I hope my fellow travelers prove to be as trusty as you, Sean.

Matt... Sean's eyes unfocused a little trying to follow all that deep stuff, I'm really tired.

Yeah. Don't sleep, but rest up, I've got a pizza coming in just a few minutes, double-pepperoni, with all the fixings to celebrate, and we have to begin planning our next adventure. There's an interesting police case that happened this summer, that we might be able to help them with...

Epilogue

A Sean didn't press charges on Sarah, who soon went to Africa to work on a mission, and disappeared suddenly in a revolution, and wasn't heard from again. Jared apparently caught a chill from his forced baptism, developed pneumonia, tried a few faith cures, and died soon thereafter, possibly from apoplexy, a raving madman.

The check in the envelope, in the form of an inheritance from a relative of Messenger, was sufficient to cover their tuition well throughout their remaining undergraduate years, through graduate school and even for a Ph.D. Matt's children with Dylan, were indeed quite unusual, disappearing for months at a time with their red-haired great-uncle.

The two men never did go back for another withdrawal, but there were other intriguing events in their senior year, before the responsibilities of the outside world would pull them apart on different tracks in different parts of the world.

However, even until their 50s, when Sean passed on, they still exchanged Yule-time cards to keep track of each other's fate, and there was always a new fairy tale enclosed in each one, but their closing message was always the same, Yule always be close to my heart, despite the distance. Reality is stranger and grander than fiction, Love, Your Brother.

THE END


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