The Three Crowns


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Chapter 11 - In The World But Not Of It

I jump out of bed and take a quick shower and then dress to head to the gym.  "Otis, Beats on shuffle and let's repeat the running track."  Marcello walks in as I get on, he hands me the seaweed water.  "Thank you!"  "So, you have a strategy for tonight?"  "Actually, I have a strategy for our entire time here in Monterrey.  Then we'll head back to Quebec."  "Should I bring a notebook?" Marcello smirks.  "Only if you think you can't keep up,"  I answer back seriously.  The look on his face tells me he did not like my response.  "Are you going to get in a few miles or pounds?" I ask him.  "I think I will do resistance work, a few circuits.  This will highlight my chest," he responds as he heads to a machine with rubber strips that attach to different parts of the machine.  I am guessing that each rubber strip has a certain amount of resistance and you can add more resistance by slipping on another band.  I think I'll try that machine next time I do muscle building.  My warm-up turns into a full tilt run.  Slowly my muscles start to stretch as the terrain gets more challenging.  I keep at it for quite a while telling Otis to add another hour to the run before the cool down.  By the time I am done, I have run for 2 hours or so and it feels great.  I drink the rest of my seaweed water and towel down.   

"Otis, ask Sophie to meet me in my room."  I walk past the kitchen and ask Chef for some nuts for a snack, easy on the almonds and more seaweed water.  I take my bowl and water and head to the shower.  

As I walk in Sophie curtsies.  "I'm meeting the boys in the drawing room for a meeting.  I should be done by 5 for my fitting.  I must be at the cathedral at 8 for the mass and then head for the Palace.  How are the details?"  "Tres bien Marquessa!  The flowers are already here and are being refrigerated to keep them beautiful, I will prepare them for you to carry into the Cathedral."  

"I have a special request." "Oui Marquessa?"  "Can you have the tub filled with very hot water and some Tuberose, Rosemary and Vetiver oil? I'll text when we leave the Palace. Also,  I'd like you to put out a cashmere gown for sleep that ties around the shoulder.  Quick off kind." "Oui, oui Madam".  And I'll need a full bar put in my room.  Finally, I need waxing, hair, skin and nails. Is this too much?"  "Non Marquessa, Monsieur Heathman has prepared me a vocal note taker...secretary so I won't miss s thing.  I already have a team to prepare you and the couture house sent their own seamstress with the dress."  "How is the lace?"  "C'est magnifique!" "This will be a wonderful way to present me to society." 

"I don't have much time.  Can you pull me some leggings and sweater while I shower the smell off?"  "It's my honor Marquessa!" "Thank you Sophie".  "Ohh, please send a message to Elena about my bedroom in Quebec; I like Scalamandre.  That will undoubtedly inspire her."  

I head to the shower.  I love that Sophie has great taste in product.  The soaps and scents are always a pleasant surprise.  I rinse in a mint oatmeal soap that lathers nice and thick.  I jump out towel off and get ready to dress.  Sophie selected a beautiful natural cable knit sweater with worn denim leggings and knee high navy boots.  The lingerie is beautiful.  Even the thong which I'll only wear for a few hours.  As I sit on my bed I see my phone and under it is a folded piece of paper.  I open it.  Miss you already, Adam.  My heart just feels like it is squeezing.  I take the note and tuck it in my jewelery box.  I pencil in the date on the back.  Then I walk to the drawing room with my bowl in hand.  

As I open the door all three of my knights are there.  All three bow and I thank them for joining me.  "As you know I've drafted a strategy for our short visit in Monterrey.  I hope to address the existing mission and use the Omegas as our central information source.  By using them I will also get to address my personal mission to end child trafficking.  The Omega's are the Mexican/South American cartel whose largest source of income is trafficking.  The remainder of their income comes from serving as the weapons and muscles for other cartels across the world.  So we can use them for two purposes at once.  Felip looked surprised, "How did you know about the Omegas?"  "I've read the folio and did some research.  So I have a plan.  As you may know I'm a visual so I need a large white board to get started."  Marcello stands and walks to a wall with a map.  He rolls the map up and behind is a chalkboard.  "Will this work?" "Perfectly!  I'm a little old fashioned and love chalkboards. So grab a chair and have a seat.  I'm going to need your feedback and help with any holes." 

As all of you know I am a willing Keeper.  The only request I have of my tenure is that I be allowed to stop child trafficking.  I understand that complete elimination is impossible since the is a very broken world, but to stem the tide will help me mentally cope with some of the 'compromises' that will be required of me.  We are in Monterrey for my introduction to society.  But on the way here I was told that we had communication issues with the Called from Mexico and also that there is an issue with a Taiwan/Cuba relationship.  I think that Mexico can get us some information about the Taiwan/Cuba issue.  At the very least we'll find the start of the knot.  So here is my plan.

First, I have requested a special mass to for a blessing from the Bishop on my new role.  And before anyone says anything, I am fully aware that I can get a blessing from the Pope himself but by having a public, blessing mass in the land that my lineage served will send a message to the Called that their new Keeper is going to uphold the traditions.  I will also demand that everyone in that role take up the pride of being honored with the role of being part of this society and they will be held accountable.  We are all marching the line and upholding the code.  This will likely go a long way to improving the communication issues. 

Next, we are addressing two things with one.  The Omegas are the key.  The Omegas are the largest child trafficking cartel in Mexico but they are also hired weapon and muscle cartels from South America all through the Southern United States.  "She's right," Felip chimes in.  "How did you know?"  "I am a business woman Felip and I need always know the direction of money and trends.  Cartels affect stability.  Moving plan is to set a meeting with the Omegas and get both information about their involvement in Cuba and ensure that they find a new source of business; deter their interest in child trafficking."  "And you are going to do that by calling up the leader?" asks Marcello.  "No, I thought I would send you as my messenger."  "What!  You jest, I am a lineage knight..."  "And I am THE KEEPER!  You are at MY service and your tone is not making me happy."  I walk toward him and look down at him as he has his arms crossed over his chest, "Let me make myself clear, the fact that I allow you to fuck me whenever I please does not exempt you from serving me in anyway that I see fit.  And if I want to send you out to get me a newspaper you will not only do it, you will ask my which paper, what edition and have it ironed before it is delivered to me.  Do I make myself clear?"  "Wow, she can be a real bitch,"exclaims Filip.  "Yes I can be and I suggest you keep that in mind," I tell him as I glare.  Then I walk back to the chalkboard.  "My idea was to have a black candle with a red ribbon wrapped around it and sealed with my insignia in gold wax delivered to Marco by one of our most skilled military entourage.  He will serve as the messenger in a black tuxedo and black face mask.  The black candle is symbolic.  Can anyone guess what it represents?"  "Evil?" answers Adam.  " candles are serious business, when burned they are done so to eliminate evil or neutralize negative energy.  So in a way, they are a warning."  My color and insignia will tell Marco who its from.  "But he does not know who you are," says Marcello.  "Correct, but he will when he counters my challenge.  You see, he will receive the candle in a black box that has the Omega insignia in white on the cover, with a note that says that this is his only warning, he will put an end to child trafficking or the light of this candle is the last thing he will see.  If he agrees, he can keep the candle if he chooses not to, simply return the candle in the box to the messenger."  "Ahh, mind games,"  Felip perks up and rubs his hands together.  "Exactly!  Of course he is going to say no and return the candle.  Given the amount of media that will be covering the mass and the dinner at the Palace, good job by the way Marcello, Marco will find out who sent the candle because as I get out of the car, the messenger will hand the box to Marcello and Marcello will make a production of opening the box and handing me the black candle which I will hold up and smile, wave and blow a kiss as I hand the candle back to Marcello who will put it back in the box and give it to the messenger."  "What will the messenger do?" asks Marcello.  "He will get back into the limousine with my flags on it and drive away from the palace, Marco will have people following him.  I am counting on that, which is why I need the very best trained military personnel on watch."  "Felip has already set up security and cleared alternate routes in case of an emergency evacuation."  The reason I asked for a secret underground passage was for the messenger to disappear into.  Marco will know after he sees who gets the candle where to find me which is why we are doubling up on protection around here and why all three of you will be my escorts at the church and the dinner so plan to pack.  Felip have you already cleared that with the General?"  "Yes, he is aware that we are going to be wearing sabers and packing discretely."  "Did you tell him I would have my H&K on me?"  "You are going to be carrying a gun?" Felip asks.  "Yes, I plan to strap it under my gown."  "Very well, I'll have a gun ready."  "I don't mean to be picky but I need a 9mm H&K.  I don't shoot with any other brand.  Sophie will select my clutch, just give her the dimensions so we can add a secret compartment. Now the dinner."

Given the talk about a black candle given to my by the Omega's which in Mexico is a bad omen, I suspect we will see some people getting nervous.  Don't worry about those guys.  They are actually clean.  The ones we want to keep an eye on are the ones that are completely delighted or simply unmoved by the 'gift'.  Those are the guys that the Omegas are working with and we may also find out that some of them are Called.  Which will help us clean house if we have traitors amongst us."

"After the dinner and dancing, we will make our exit to the armoured vehicle.  I will be on Adam's arm, Felip you will lead to see if there is anything unusual and Marcello I need you to flank us to eavesdrop.  I need you to keep a close eye on anything that is happening as I leave.  Is someone calling someone, is there someone toasting, anything at all that would help us separate the wheat from the shaft.  You can read people very well and I am counting on you to keep tabs on everything that goes on once we leave the house.  Adam will maintain communications with our intelligence network to hear for chatter and will be advising the two of you of anything that needs to be covered.  I will play the clueless princess."  "Marco, what do we have on the car flags?"  "The conclave has decided on black with red and gold.  Black background, Red stripe from left corner to right corner and an adaptation of the axis mundi on your hand.  Similiar to what you saw on the helicopter when you arrived."  "Anything I should be aware of in terms of media?"  "In my opinion take the time to address the press in spanish spoken in Mexico not Castillian and leave international media like Univision last because they will have the longest questions and are not as interested in making your introduction into a celebratory affair."  "Good point!"  "Do all of you have your orders and sashes?  You know the sash changed but the orders are the same except all of you should have received you new one from the Vatican."  "Yes, we are all prepared,"  Adam states.  "Are all of you prepared to be on watch tonight? Because I am about to start a shitstorm that we are moving from Garza Garcia to my family's ranch outside of Monterrey in two days."  "What?!?" says Felip.  "Oops my bad...the day after the dinner I plan to rest but that evening all three of us are paying a surprise visit to Marco at his home.  He and I will have words and I will get information about Cuba and a commitment from him."  "Just like that!" shouts Filip.  "What if he tries to hurt you?!?" says Marcello.  "I just said I was taking all three of you with me.  I assume you are all trained to protect me and likely can take out say 7 minimally trained men at one time each."  "Of course!" says Felip almost indignant.  I'm almost done in the transformation process, so I won't die no matter what Marco tries to throw at me, but he won't get viscious during our first visit.  Marco wants me to be impressed by his prowess and pass it along.  He will want to show me some of his fire power which he cannot do if we surprise visit him."  "Well thought out Alexia," says Filip.  "Thank you.  After our visit we will come back here and the next day we will head to the ranch.  That is where we will likely see a small threat.  After his skirmish and our elimination of his squad, we will spend the night, and then take the helicopter back to the airport where we will fly back to Quebec.  That will be the end of my introduction and we can move onto my ceremonial duties and then we can get back to Marco. 

Gentlemen, I am basically trained in assasination.  I am not a fully vetted assasin since I only trained in the skills and have yet to apply them, but I am pretty sure each of you has already notched a few bedposts.  I am confident that being surrounded by three of the best assasins that The Called have means that I won't have to worry about you or me.  In addition, I was told that we have imported our own security.  These men and women are also trained special forces.  Each of them is lethal without a weapon, I am guessing that with your preparation and information they can keep this compound and the ranch safe.  Of course Marco is going to make a move.  I am a woman who has threatened him.  He is a narcisist who has maintained his power by splintering every time things get hard.  The men that report to him are deranged and have absolutely no respect for life and they will die for it.  Each of Marco's men that participate in the skirmish will be killed as bloodlessly as possible, they will then be cleaned and dressed in a suit, holding a black candle in their hands, my insignia branded on their right cheek and placed in a pine box without a lid.  Then I want each box to be wrapped in a red ribbon and lined along the front of Marco's home.  I want a large sign to be placed at the front gate of his home, behind the rows of boxes saying, 'For every child taken, two of your men will be returned to you.  Let this serve as a warning that Mexican children are not for sale.'  Marcello, once you get a headcount, I want you to prepare the media to cover it.  Can we manage that?"  "Yes, we can.  This is a cold way to make your point but I agree with your measures."  "Thank you Marcello." 

"Finally, I want you each to understand that this is a mission for me because I was once vulnerable too.  I think that after the failed Kung Fu game you might have taken time to look at my file.  It is hard for people to understand what being a 'survivor of abuse' is like because they cannot relate unless they too experienced it.  Now, I want you all to understand why I am so passionate about ending this kind of trafficking.  If you will allow me, I want you to 'feel' what I carry in my heart every day of my life.  Will you allow me to show you?"  Adam steps forward immediately.  I take his hand and my hand begins to glow, I try only to share a small portion of the helplessness, fear and pain and then I pull my hand away quickly.  His head is turned down as he walks away.  Marcello steps up and I do the same and he mumbles angrily as he walks away, finally Felip.  "You can share more with me," he tells me.  "No, I am only giving you enough to understand me.  Nobody should ever have to know what this feels like in full."  I put my hand on his and he face twists in agony, I start to pull my hand away and he tries to grip it harder but I pull away and then hug him as tears stream down my face, "Thank you Filip, I know you would do anything to take it all away, but you cannot and there is no reason your heart or mind should be filled with the full extent of my terror."  The room is earily quiet.  I look at each of them.  They are all in various stages of grief and the fact that my pain from so long ago can hurt them this way makes me want to be sick.  I turn away and walk back to my room. 


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Chapter 12 - My House Shall Serve

As the seamstress pins and tucks, Sophie shows me the lace veil.  It is magnificent.  She has draped it over a white pillow so I can see the details and design.  "Sophie, it is magnificent.  I think that I will be talking to Elena.  I would like to make you my personal assistant and have you recommend someone else for a chatelaine.  You are fluent in fashion and have been excellent in selecting items that I need and would never have thought of asking about.  In addition, as a female Keeper, I will be seen in public more often than previous Keepers and my fashion sense requires far more than the matching of a tie and whether a sports coat is appropriate.  Elena serves as a sort of liason between me, the knights, traditional expectations, and indirect communications from the Conclave.  She has to keep on top of my personal matters and the organization but will not have enough time to address both.  We have been without a Keeper for so long, I do not think they know how much there will be to do around the world.  So, having a personal assistant should be expected.  Don't you agree?  "She bows deeply, "Oui Madame, c'est un gran honneur!"  "Do you know of anyone who can easily fill in the role you are leaving?  Meaning, do you know of someone who already travels with us an could manage traveling as a steward?" "Mais oui Marquessa, Monsieur Bertrand!  You have met him already in Monte Carlo."  "Ohh yes, he seemed to know the boys well enough and with you to interact with him, he can easily see to the travel team.  Otis dial Elena."  The line comes alive, "Marquessa, how may I be of assistance?  "I would like to make some changes to the management of my household."  "Of course, Marquessa."  "First, I would like to promote you to Operations and you will be my liason with the Conclave, each advisor, my knights and other operational servants.  That means you will also need an assistant."  "Marquessa, I am honored but you have not even met me in person."  "Well, let us just say your reputation precedes you."  "But before you move into Operations, I would like to be sure you personally handle the rest of the preparations of my home in Quebec and also I would like to know who you would recommend to replace you when you are promoted.  And I want all three of my knights to review the assistant you are selecting and vet him or her.  We will not have much time, I will have Adam fill you in on my plans, but we are moving into mission mode effective today."  "Yes, Marquessa!"  "Next, I want Sophie promoted to the post of Personal Assistant for me.  Please have my advisor contact me to share the details of her compensation as it will be changing and so will yours. Finally, please advise Monsieur Bertrand that I am appointing him Steward of the travel team.  I will need him to also have some names of replacements for his post in Monte Carlo.  The knights will vet his replacement.  All of you may have to wear two hats for a bit until all the pieces are in place, but I am confident you are equipped to manage the extra responsibilities."  "Yes, Marquessa.  It is my privledge and thank you for the promotion."  "Don't thank me until we finish at least two to three missions, then you can tell me how much you like having to spin my actions to the Conclave."  "I am intrigued by the challenge and am sure that I can rise to the occasion."  "I am also sure you can which is why this re-organization was so easy for me to make.  As you know tonight is a very big night for us so please draft all that we have just discussed in a message to Adam and e-mail it to him when we leave Monterrey.  All three men are currently focused on the mission here and I do not want them distracted."  "Yes, Marqussa."  "Ohh, and my advisor needs to bring with him my personal financial advisor for a meeting a week after we return to Quebec.  Adam will fill you in on the arrival times and such.  One last thing,"  "Yes, Marquessa?"  "Please have samples of stationary ready for Sophie to review when I arrive, I would like my own custom stationary and calling cards.  I am sure we use the same companies we have used for hundreds of years and I do not plan to change that, but my colors and insignia are different so I would like to review that all in different formats, could you bring Sophie up to speed so she can take it from there?"  "Why yes Marquessa, I will be more than happy to help."  "Wonderful! One less thing to think about."  "Have a wonderful evening Marquessa!"  "Thank you Elena, I'll see you soon."  The line cuts off and by then I was already getting waxed and nails done all at the same time.  Thank goodness that I can multi-task and talking with Elena kept me distracted as they pulled the fabric strips.  I do not think I will ever get used to waxing.  Next was the skin scrub, bath, hair and then we are off.  As Sophie was putting in the last of the pins in my hair, Adam knocked and came into the room.  He looks so handsom in his tuxedo and the sash looks perfect on him.  It is as if he was born to wear each and every order he is wearing.  "Well, I must say, you look gorgeous."  "Thank you, Sophie is about to place the veil and then I should be ready to go."  "Not without these," Adam pulls out a box and in it are beautiful earrings.  They look like bouquets of flowers made of diamonds and other gem stones.  The earrings even had tiny emeralds shaped like leaves.  You could hardly see the platinum settings holding each of the stones.  The details are amazing, they just do not make jewels like that anymore.  "Where did you get these?"  I ask him.  "I have my sources."  He takes them out and puts them in with french clasps.  "They are so beautiful!"  I jump off my stool and hug him.  He whispers, "Not as beautiful as you." and he kisses my cheek.  I smile happily at him.  "Well, I am flattered you feel that way as I will be on your arm all night tonight.  I guess you can say you are my 'main man' for the night."  He smiles wide and kisses my other cheek as he clasps my hands. 

He takes a seat and watches as Sophie finishes pinning the veil and pulling my gloves and clutch.  I hear another knock and Filip and Marcello walk in wearing their sashes and orders too.  My goodness, I am surrounded by handsome men.  My introduction into society will certainly cause jealousy tonight.  As Sophie approaches with my sash, Filip steps forward, "Please allow me."  He takes the sash and gently places it over me setting it on my right shoulder.  Sophie fusses over each order and pins it into place over the bodice so that nothing moves and each order shine beautifully.  Filip takes my clutch and puts in my gun and Sophie adds some essentials.  "I will carry the flowers and hand them to you as you make your way into the cathedral," says Marcello.  "I am actually a bit nervous.  I know that is silly but look at you boys, a girl can't help but feel like a starlet surrounded by such handsome men."  All three grin at the same time.  "I am also very pleased we were able to have the mass at the original cathedral."  I slip my gloves on and take my clutch, Adam takes my black mink cropped jacket and we all leave.  I had never even seen the front entrance of the compound.  Each butler opens a massive wooden and stained glass door.  I take Adam's arm as I step off the last step.  Filip starts out the doors to check that we have security in place.  We will be led by a convoy with my insignia on each Hummer and followed by another convoy with my insignia.  The limousine has my flags and while the weather feels cold, it is not humid and certainly not as cold as Quebec.  Adam offers me my mink and I slip into it.  The sleeves are puffed  which only makes the dress look even more beautiful and it feels beautiful as I walk.  Marcello slips his phone into his pocket, a butler hands him the flowers and then he follows.  I slide in the car and the boys settle in, "Go," Filip calls out. 

And we are on our way.  The trip didn't seem as long as I expected but I had so much on my mind that I did not say much.  Marcello advised me that the messenger would be arriving at the same time as we did.  The police had placed a barricade wide enough for limousines to drive through in front of the cathedral, keeping the people and media at bay.  I could see the long line of dignitaries and other social elite.  Flags from every country and government office seemed to be waving from the cars.  Only our car had a security convoy ahead of it.  As we reached the front of the cathedral, my personal security team dismounted and positioned themselves, the cameras had been flashing and the light crews were moving around in every direction as the television announcers pointed out details.  The security personnel caused a frenzy.  I take my veil and cover my face The design makes the face part of the veil almost transparent, so that people can see my face clearly but it slowly fades into a design that is much more complex.  Filip steps out and looks around he signals Adam who steps out next, turns to reach for my hand then helps me out and stands to my side.  Finally, Marcello steps out and hands me the flowers which I cradle.  All three men surround me, I step forward and two of the men on each of my sides and Filip following.  I could hear all the comments from people who were being held behind a barricade along the steps upward.  "Is she a real princess?" "This is the famous Marquessa Alexia Arquieta from our very own city here in Monterrey."  "Not much is known about her, however her family had been prominently part of the growth of our beloved city since King Maximilliano."  "She will be joining many of Mexico's elite at the Palace for dinner this evening, don't miss a moment."  "Our sources tell us that the Pope had personally asked the Bishop to lead the blessing since the great Bishop is also from Monterrey and would make the Marquessa feel welcomed home."  "The dress is magnificent." "Women, we should all be so lucky to have three dates to take us to church but these men are more than we could have ever expected to bless us during mass" "My goodness, who are the men that surround the Marquessa?"  "How could any woman choose?  Maybe she does not have to."  "We're told none of the men are married, so girls there is hope."  Finally we reach the doors.  Young men dressed in parochial uniforms open the doors for us to enter.

As I walk in I dip my finger into the holy water to cross myself before continuing forward.  My knights do the same.  As we near the isle all three men fall back allowing me to lead.  All eyes turn to me and I hear a beautiful choir singing in Latin.  The candles were lit in every sconce making the alcoves with the figures even more magnificent.  I continued forward and the Bishop stepped around to the front of the altar.  I take the short series of steps up laying the flowers on the alter stepping back and kneeling on both knees.  The Bishop approaches me crosses my forehead, I stand and he bows to me as I hand him my left hand.  He kisses my ring and I step back until I reach the steps.  I turn and walk to my pew on the left front.  The boys stand and I sit between Filip and Adam.  Adam takes my hand and puts a palm sized Tiffany box in my hand.  I open it and there lies a beautiful platinum rosary.  I look at him and smile.  I lean forward to kneel on the kneeling pillow and say a short prayer of penance since I did not go to confession.  Then I sit feeling each of the rosary beads as the mass begins.  We follow tradition and then the Bishop calls me forward for the blessing.  I stand and walk up the steps and kneel holding my rosary in my hands which are clasped in position of prayer.  I look up at the Bishop as he prays over me in Latin while swinging the thurible around me, then he hands it to an alter boy and lifts my veil he takes a container of oil from another alter boy and then he takes his thumb which he has dipped in the oil and makes the mark of the cross on my forehead.  Then he steps behind the alter and continues mass until communion.  I stay kneeling accept the alter bread and then take the chalice he hands me to sip the wine.  I make my way back to the pew and kneel in prayer.  After a moment, I sit while others line up to take communion, my knights participate and the rest continue.  Finally, the mass comes to its conclusion. 

The Bishop stands to lead the congregation out.  I follow the altar boys and my knights follow me.  The doors open and people are clapping and shouting words of congratulations.  It feels as if I was part of a wedding.  Adam takes my arm and we make our way down the steps to the waiting limousine.  I smile and wave in every direction.  I thank the crowds and tell people how happy I am to be 'home'.  Once in the limousine, I take a deep breath.  As I start to mention how beautiful the service was, I notice that all three men are staring wide mouthed at me.  "What? Is there something wrong?"  Nobody answers.  I start to panic.  "What is happening?"  Felip rolls up the divider and Marcello throws himself at my feet.  "You are glowing!"  He says happily as he takes my hands and kisses them.  "I'm what?"  Adam takes my shoulders and turns me around to snap a picture.  "The cross the Bishop made on your forehead is literally glowing!"  Filip turns me to him and stares in astonishment.  "What is happening?  Why am I glowing?  Is this a good thing?  Please tell me this is a good thing!"  I screech.  Adam tries to calm me.  "I've never seen or read anything about this.  I'm sending it to the conclave to send to the Vatican."  Felip says, "Be sure to tell the them that the Bishop held the mass in the traditional Pre-Vatican II form.  That might give them some insight." "I can't arrive at the Palace glowing!" I say.  I take a handkerchief from my clutch and wipe my forehead.  Nothing shows on the handkerchief.  I take my compact out and look at my forehead.  "Now my face is glowing."  What do we do?  The limousine continues to the Palace, there is no way to delay our arrival since we have a police escort.  "Nothing to do about it now, the press will assume it is a reflection from all the lights taking pictures," says Marcello.  "Good point," I respond.  "Well, I hope that means that God is happy that I started all this by going to mass."  Marcello tries to distract me, "The box was delivered and the messenger said you are getting your candle back."  "Just as I thought!"  "Good gamble," adds Adam.  "Well, I will still do what I planned.  Marco will get the message via the Media."  Soon we arrive to the Palace.  The barracade is much wider, but the media is everywhere.  We moved in inches so as not run anyone over.  The police were working very hard to move people out of the way.  Filip rolls down the divider.  The driver tells him that people are turning out into droves to see the Princess of Mexico.  "I'm not a Princess."  "Well, you are to them," answers Adam.  "They don't care about a difference in rank from Marquessa to Duchess.  To them you are a Princess."  We finally arrive at a red carpet.  "Well, we are on boys!"  Filip steps out and signals the military personnel that had already taken their place.  Marcello steps out and immediately starts to ham it up as he and Filip look around waving as if they are bachelors making their debut from GQ.  Adam steps out next and turns to help me out.  We both wave the boys open a way for me.  I wave and stop to say a few word here and there.  Marcello interrupts me to give me the box.  I play my part perfectly.  The media buzzes and flashes blink in every direction as I open a box with the Omega symbol on the top.  I see the candle, take it out and show it to the boys and put it back and give the box to Marcello.  He hands it back to the messenger.  I smile and laugh the entire time.  A reporter asks me about the box.  "I say coyishly, "Well, it seems I have admirers everywhere." and then I laugh.  That was the linchpin.  Everyone goes on with it.  The Omegas admire the Princess.  I was thrilled.  I kept making my way down the red carpet.  Occasionally, I bump into an official or other social elite.  I am greeted as if they have always known them.  "Marquessa!"  and waves.  We finally get to the entrance and a servant opens the door. 

People are milling about and as we walk in the foyer we are announced.  The room comes to a complete quiet.  I step forward the man says, "Marquessa Alexia d'Arquieta de la casa de Alba Madrid.  The governor steps toward me and a que forms.  I extend my hand and he kisses my ring.  I make my way down the line as I hear the man announce my knights.  "Senor Caballero Adam Heathman Conde de Arundell de la Casa de Fitz-Montgomery, Senor Caballero Filip Ivanov Conde de Vladimir de la Casa de Oleg-Norgorod, Senor Caballero Marcello Romagno Conde de Modena-Reggio de la Casa de Este-Aldobrandini.  There were hand shakes, curtsies and bows all the way to an area where we could mingle.  "I thought the introductions would never end," I whisper to Marcello.  We keep the circle open to allow people to stop and converse.  Luckily my mink was taken because the room was warmer than I expected.  I ask for a cold drink.  People were drinking a variety of things.  I ask for a cold glass of Prosecco and Marcello promises he'll find me something like that.  I tell him I will settle for iced mineral water.  He parts our group.  I meet some lovely women and the men are incredibly polite keeping the conversation very light.  I hear some music.  When I hear the music I remember how much I hate networking.  I start tapping my foot.  Filip notices and asks if he can talk me into a dance.  I take his hand and head to the ballroom.  A simple waltz plays and I am enjoying how easy he is to follow.  "You dance very well."  "Thank you Marquessa, I truly enjoy spending time with you.  I apologize for being so childish about your Kung Fu game."  "No, I didn't mean to embarrass anyone.  I should have apologized sooner but I'm a bit stubborn you see."  "I like it that you are stubborn, that means you won't give up on any mission.  You will find any way to make it happen. You have courage and heart."  I smile at him, "You are starting to glow...try not to like me again."  I laugh out loud.  We spin and move to an area that is not very crowded.  Marcello sees us and hands me the mineral water.  "This tastes delicious and just what I need because it seems as if Filip makes me glow."  Marcello looks at Filip, "I am sure that Filip cannot make you levitate."  "OK boys each of you can do all kinds of things to me and for me.  And for the record I like that each of you pleases me so completely.  Hmm, yes...thank you."  I give Marcello my glass and walk away groaning softly just so they can hear it. 

Adam intercepts me, "May I have this next dance?"  "Why I would love nothing more."  The music is more intimate than the waltzes.  Adam draws me closer to him and places his cheek against mine.  There is a room full of men who would want nothing more than to touch your bare shoulders and wives who are shooting daggers at you."  Well, I am not sure why the wives hate me so much, "I wouldn't want anyone in the world to even graze my shoulder except for maybe," and I step back and look around "I guess you."  "Ouch, you know how to keep me in my place."  "I wouldn't want you to overinflate your ego."  A tango plays next and I ask Adam if he'll lead, "My pleasure Marquessa."  He steps back and bows low then begins to move with me as the rhythm takes us.  I feel pulled toward him and the music makes me take our dance seriously.  He moves seductively and his touch sets me off.  I think of his touch in bed and he smiles at me.  I think about his kisses on the inside of my thighs.  He blushes slightly.  "What are you grinning about."  "This morning."  "What?"  "I'm thinking about what we did this morning...the kisses on the inside of your thighs..."  "Really?!?"  "Yes, why?"  "I was thinking the very same thing?"  "Well, I think we should try that again."  "Yes, we should but I wonder if we are both thinking the same thing may be me transferring thoughts to you."  "Ohh, now that has some meaning."  "Try with Marcello." "I continue the dance and think of me calling to Marcello and I think of him holding his helmet.  I think a question 'Marcello, what is your favorite color?  Come over here and tell me."  I notice Marcello has a surprised expression.  Filip taps him as he stares at me with an astonished look.  He walks over to us as the dance ends.  "Did you hear me in your head?"  "Yes, my favorite color is blue."  Adam tells Marcello to take over, "We've discovered that I can 'send messages'"  "Now that will be handy."  The music moves to traditional Mexican music and Marcello leads me easily.  He was an excellent dancer too.  I danced continually until I could not move without a drink.  I waiter hands us flutes of champagne and we all meet together around the Attorney General who was sharing a joke.  He caught me off guard and I laughed, we were ushered in for dinner and had a very nice time.  We stayed a polite amount of time after dinner and then Filip called our security to prepare for our departure.  Filip gathers my fur and checks it thoroughly without anyone noticing.  We excuse ourselves and the three escort me to the car awaiting us.  Filip is told that our security convoy is prepared and they have selected the fasted route.  We are finally headed back to the compound.  As nice as the evening was, I was glad to get all the introductions over with and also glad that I was able to establish some solid social relationships.  I will be coming back to Monterrey on a regular basis for a while and I wanted to be sure I could have some fun. 

The trip back to the compound was uneventful.  We headed into the house, Filip headed to his room telling us that he needed to prepare for the ranch phase.  Marcello says he will draft some information that he thinks could give us some insight into who is wheat and who is shaft.  He also wants to talk to people to see the trend in chatter.  I walk toward my room and Adam follows me and then he picks me up to carry me up the stairs.  "You must be tired," he states.  I lean against him, "only a little, I feel like we may have discovered something new about me, I can glow and can send messages.  My head is spinning with thoughts about the night."  He hums his agreement.  I look up at him and ask hesitantly, "Will you spend the night with me?"   "If you'd like me to."  "I do."  I whisper.  He holds me closer and opens the door easily. He walks into the bedroom and I can see that Sophie has done everything I asked.  He sets me down gently and turns to look at me as if waiting.  I look up at him and move in close to take his hands and I kiss him softly.  He meets my lips with ardor that he seems to be holding back.  I tilt my head just a fraction and let go of his hands to take his head and run my fingers into his hair.  He grabs me and presses himself to me.  We kiss fervently hardly moving to take a breath.  His tongue is deep and my tongue meets the challenge.  He slowly pulls away to look at me as if he wants to sear the look on my face into his memory.  He gently removes my sash and sets it over the stool of my dressing table.  He removes his sash and places it there too.  He removes his jacket slowly and walks to lay it on the arm of the sofa.  He watches me like a panther stalking his prey as I move around watching his every move.  I make my way to my new bar and pour myself a cognac.  I swirl it and take a small sip and turn around.  Adam walks to the bar, "I see you've upgraded your room."  "Yes, I thought I should have access to a drink without having to call Chef or Sophie."  He unbuttons his collar and pours himself some whiskey over ice then walks toward the sofa to have a seat.  I follow and sit my drink on the side table so I can sit and lay my head on his lap.  He takes a drink and smooths my hair.  Slowly and almost unconsciously he removes each hair pin he comes across and drops them on the ground.  I close my eyes as he loosens the tight and complicated hair arrangement.  He smooths each lock to make sure it is free.  We sit like this for a while, he taking sips of his whiskey, me purring with contentment as he plays with my hair.  When the last of the pins makes it to the floor, he sets his drink down on the side table.  He bends down to kiss my forehead.  I scoot up to sit on his lap.  The velvet of my dress covering us both.  He looks at me then the bodice.  "You look delicious in this gown," he says while tracing the embroidery on the bodice.   "I do like it.  It is a shame I will not get to wear it again since it received so much media coverage."  "Ah yes, such a shame to retire such a beautiful gown.  We must do something to preserve it."  "I agree I say as I look at him."  I stand and turn moving my hair.  "Will you kindly unhook my bodice.  He leans over and I can feel his fingers unhook each hook and eye gently.  I turn when the last one is unfastened.  I am holding up the bodice.  "Such contraptions; they really do intend to keep me fastened up in it for all eternity.  It is as if these couture houses want to hold a woman hostage in their finery."  He smiles as he watches me and grabs his glass.  I decide I'll let him watch as I undress.  I drop my hand and shake my hair back, the backless lingerie leaves very little to the imagination but the black and gold lace shimmers.  I move my hands to the back of the skirt so I move my hips from one side to another moving the velvet in a swirl and as I turn around and unfasten the skirt, it drops at my feet.  He sees the back of my thong like panties with a gold bow in the back.  I turn my head over my shoulder to see if he likes what he sees.  He is looking at me with fire in his eyes and a small smile playing on his lips.  He sets his glass down as I walk toward the bathroom and he removes his cuff links putting them on the dressing table.  I don't turn back but can feel he is following and is removing his clothes leaving a trail as he goes.  I look into the tub and I bend over, giving him a precious view of the gold bow on my behind, I swirl the water then I stand and turn to him.  He is wearing only his tuxedo pants.  I remove my bodice and let it drop.  He unfastens his pants and lets them drop.  I notice he is not wearing underpants but he obviously likes what he sees.  He walks toward me and puts his hands on my behind and gives it a tight squeeze as he pulls me toward him.  He kisses me hotly and I grab his shoulders.  I think I would have taken him on the floor of the bathroom but I decide to take my time.  I want all night with him and I want him in every way that he can take me.  I take his hands and put them on my panties.  He easily pulls them down over my hips and they drop to the floor.  I pull away and step into the tub.  He follows me in.  He looks beautiful.  He has muscles everywhere but not bulky,  His hair looks a bit messy and he has a spattering of brown/copper colored hair on his chest.  I move back to make room for him to sit but he picks me up and gathers me up in his arms to kiss my neck and collarbone.  I can't hold back the feeling, moaning and telling him to take me.  He slides me slowly onto his erection and I throw my head back as I wrap my legs around his waist and put my hands on his shoulder.  "Ahh, yes...oh yes," he says as he lowers me slowly.  He puts his hands on my behind to move me on him.  He feels so good; so very good and the fact that he is letting me enjoy every inch is wonderful.  I feel like I am enjoying this for the first time.  I let myself enjoy everything and let him take the lead.  I lean into him as he moves me faster on him.  I cry out my enjoyment, the water is hot and his erection is big.  He is both wide and long.  I grab the back of his head by his hair and as he moves me faster I look him straight in his eyes as I feel the build up.  I let him watch my mouth and soon we are both crying out in complete extacy.  "I grab him by the neck because I am not done."  He holds me and I hold still for a moment and then I feel another organsm rip right through me.  "Ahhh, yes, Ohhhhh!"  He wraps his arms around me to hold me because my body feels like jello.  My nose is tucked into his neck.  He takes a hand to grab a sponge and he gets it wet and pours the warm water down my back.  He takes his time rubbing my back, then he moves to bath me.  He hands me the sponge and I take my time to bath him.  His errection has not dropped.  As I wash him I notice how big he really is.  He smiles as my eyes look down at him.  "Do you like him?"  "I do like him but I do not think I have taken the time to get to know him as well as I would like to."  "I think he would be happy to let you get to know him better."  "Well, I intend to know every centimeter of him, every vein and what he likes and doesn't like."  "How very kind of you to take such interest."  "The least I can do for such a very loyal servant."  He laughed and kissed me as if surprised by my comment. We talked a bit and moved around the deliciously scented water.  "Your bath water smells so very good."  "Thank you, I had Sophie create a custom mix just for me."  I look at him "I'm going to step out, why don't you stay for a bit and relax."  I walk up the steps and I wrap myself in a sheet towel that has been warmed.  I walk to the bar and I serve him a new whisky over ice and take it to him in the bath.  "Thank you precious."  "You are welcome," I say and kiss the top of his head.  I walk to the bedroom and dry off slipping into the cashmere chemise.  The ribbon is on the shoulder and is a beautiful cream colored silk ribbon.  The knit is so detailed on the shoulders and sleeves and the bottom trim.  Sophie knows her details.  I move the sashes to my bench in the closet and sit at the dressing table to brush out the wet areas and then wrap it to the side.  I make my way back to the bathroom and Adam looks up at me.  "Is it bedtime?" he asks.  "No, just wanting to be comfortable."  "Would you like me to get you a book or magazine?"  "No, I think you will provide all the distraction I need," he says as he sets down his drink and steps out of the water.  I watch him move and appreciate every bit of the view as I hand him the towel.  Such a specimen.  I wonder if he minds me looking at him so obviously.  He wraps the towel around his waist.  I turn to walk out and he slaps my behind.  "Oh, you will pay for that," I say.  "I hope so," he answers. 

I walk back into the bedroom and Adam surprises me by grabbing me and turning me around.  He shakes his head, sprinkling me with his wet head.  I giggle and grab the towel from around his waist and dry him patting him softly across his chest, I rub the towel over his head and then I make my way down, patting his stomach.  He does put in the time to work out.  The muscles toward his pubic area are so well defined that I can't help but pat them a little longer than I need to.  He waits patiently as I make my way around him touching every part of him that is wet.  He stands perfectly still as I finish patting his behind and thighs and then I drop the towel.  I take my fingers and slowly run them down his spine, I can see the goosebumps.  I draw little figures in his lower back and then I touch the top of his shoulders.  I stand on my tippy toes and whisper into one of his ears, "hmm, you have such a nice derrier."  He laughs and I tell him to stand still because I am still admiring him.  I can see that he has clusters of freckles along his shoulders.  "So the angels kissed you here?"  I touch it and kiss it softly, "and here," repeating the process about three more times before he turns and grabs me, "You are making me crazy with desire," takes me roughly to kiss me and takes his hands to grasp my head turning it to hold me for a kiss that makes me stand on my toes.  He takes one hand away to undo the bow on my shoulder and my gown drops, "I need you," he tells me.  "Do you need me or want me?" I ask.  "Both he says,"  And he walks me toward the bed where he lifts me and lays me down.  He lays next to me and looks at me while he touches my breasts.  He rubs them and massages them being careful to not touch my nipples which are hard and demanding attention.  He kneels next to me and kisses me briefly.  Then moves his tongue from one earlobe down my neck across my collarbone, my skin is prickling in excitement.  Finally, he sucks my nipples which cause me to groan loudly.  He bites down and I yelp in a way that tells him I want more.  He does the same to the other and plays with my nipples between his deft fingers.  He moves off the bed and pulls me to the edge keeping my legs together.  He breathes on my pubic area, warm puffs that make me grab the sheets.  I want him right there but he will not give in so easily.  He licks the inside of my thighs right up to the apex and enjoys watching me writhe in desire.  He turns me over and licks me between my thighs again.  I am gripping and groaning as I open my legs he puts his legs around mine to keep them together.  "Oh Adam, don't torture me!" I cry out.  "This isn't torture my precious, this is me enjoying myself and letting you get good and ready for what lies ahead."  He bends down to kiss my lower back and then each of my cheeks.  He then takes his wonderful erection and rubs it between my cheeks slowly; his own cum as lubricant.  I am so aroused I can't help but tilt my behind in the air, but he holds me in just the right position by putting his hand on my lower back.  He rubs painfully and wonderfully slow and I can feel his is very hard.  I can feel the veins.  Suddenly he pulls away and drops down opening my legs just slightly to lick me from behind, "Aggh, ohh, ye...s, agh,"  I try to say something but his licking leaves me without words.  He holds me down and will not let me spread open.  He licks just the outside and I am going to lose consciousness with desire.  He stands again and rubs the head of his erection between my legs, keep them tight between his knees.  "ohh, you know you want to slide it in." I say.  "Ohh I do, but the beautiful and delicious milky cum you are making just for me is not worth wasting."  He flips me back over and kisses me deeply.  I can taste my cum.  It is good.  I lick his lips and then dip my tongue deep into him as he squeezes my nipples.  "You see he says,"  It is almost maddening to have his erection rubbing all around my opening but not have him insert it.  I quickly jump back and wrap my mouth around his erection.  It tastes good but he is so big and I can feel the veins tighten as I put him in my mouth as deep as I can, He groans loudly and puts his hands in my hair to pull it away so he can see me sucking him and licking him.  He seeths between his teeth as I look up innocently at him.  Then I slowly take the tip of my tongue and slowly circle the head of his erection, I can see clear cum still coming out which I lick with the tip and show him how sticky it is.  He cries out, "you are fucking unbelievable," and just as he loosens my hair I deep throat him, which makes him cry out "FUCK"  "Yes, I let up, fuck, lets do that."  He pushes me back and crawls on the bed over me.  "Do you want me bad enough?"  "Oh I want you, and I spread my legs open with my knees up and I can feel the cum drip down.  He plows in with his tongue while I grab his hair.  "Ahhh, yes, suck it, all of it is just for you."  He sits back up and pulls me to him to kiss me and we kiss for a very long, delicious time.  He can taste his cum and I taste mine.  I push him back "I NEED you!"  He lies back and I take a leg over him, he grabs my hips to help me position over him and I lean forward to let only his head in.  As soon it pierces the opening I seeth looking at him and he takes one hand to rub my my lips with his thumb as he pushes me down with his other hand.  I cry out, he puts a finger in my mouth and I feel like I am losing myself.  I take my arms up into the air as I ride him like it is my last moment in time and I suck his finger harder.  He pulls his hand out of my mouth and plays with my breasts, my rythm increases and I can feel my stomach clenching and my nipples hardening.  My hands drop to grab his hands and I entwine my fingers with his as I ride his unbelievable erection I start moving faster and fasted, up and down front and back until I feel it, I tighten and I scream out, "Ohh, fuck me!"  "Yes, fuck me harder Adam, more, more, I need more." My breath hitches as I cum again and again, seemingly unable to slow from one to the next.  He sits up to bounce me on his erection and then I feel it, his hot cum at the very top which only makes me cum harder than before, as I scratch his back, his erection is still hard and he does not stop as he flips us and lays me on my back and he plunges into me hard and deep.  I shake my head from side to side as we are both making incoherent noises but we know this is almost too much just on the border of dangerous and then I feel it, his erection gets longer, wider and he cries out as he fills me so much that it leaks out the sides as he continues to plunge into me and I scream in contentment because an orgasm rips through every nerve in my body leaving me speechless.  My hands and legs drop.  He drops on top of me.  We make every effort to catch our breath but the room is spinning, that is when I see it, the glow.  My body is glowing under him.  I can hardly open my eyes but through a small a slit I see my hands glow.  Adam is almost unconscious but I hear him trying to catch a deep breath to say something when he lifts his head to kiss me, I kiss him back.  He opens his eyes to see what I look like after our love making and he sees it.  "My God you are glowing!" he says startled.  He sits back on his knees to look at me.  "Well, it must have been you."  "My God!  You are glowing from head to foot as he looks back at my feet."  "Yup!"  I respond and giggle.  He moves off me and suddenly I imagine myself as an angel floating and my body responds.  I levitate off the bed and I open my my arms and pull a leg up.  I see I am inches off the ground so I just lift my arms and I move up higher.  I am floating and glowing.  "This is what you do to me," I say to him.  The look of complete astonishment changes to joy.  "Well, as I have said before, you are good for the ego and I am not sure that this little trick isn't going to make me a real braggard."  I lean toward him and I move gracefully to him and I wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him lovingly.  He responds with an ever deeper love.  I can feel what he is feeling and thinking.  He is in love with me, he fell in love with me when we met in front of the fireplace in Quebec.  "Well, brag away!"  "Really, I can tell everyone I made you glow and float!"  "Yes, you can tell all the boys that you ravished me and that it was so good that I began to glow and float."  "They will hate me!"  he states.  "All they got was a glowing axis mundi, look what I get," he says moving his hands to point it out.  I lay down and he lays on his side next to me.  "I'm sleepy, very, very sleepy," I say as I roll on my side to face him.  It is almost as if I cannot control.  My arms start to drop.  Adam jumps up to my closet to gather some pajamas.  He dresses me because I feel suddenly drunk.  I can hardly move and while he performed amazingly, I don't think that my glowy, floaty exhaustion has anything to do with that.  I feel him slip the top over my head and he calls Sophie.  She comes running in.  She can see me glowing, and as I turn to get comfortable, all of me floats a foot above the bed.  I can hear Sophie gasp.  I hear them shuffling around and then they try to cover me.  Once the comforter gets on me and I start to fall asleep I feel the mattress.  I must have stopped floating.  Within moments I am out. 

I wake the next morning, well I think it is morning because Adam is next to me in bed and there is light streaming through the curtains.  I sit up slowly and see Filip and Marcello sleeping on the sofa.  I wonder what happened after I fell asleep.  I slip out of bed and head to the bathroom then I brush my teeth and wash my face.  As I come out all three are awake and staring at me.  The look like they are waiting for something.  "Good Morning boys!"  They watch me make my way across the room to the dressing table to tame my hair a bit.  "I'm sorry if you didn't rest."  Filip stoodd up first, "Rest!  You want us to rest when you keep glowing on and off like a damned fire fly and floating about like a moth!"  Marcello continues the tirade, "What if you hit something or if you went up in flames!" Adam shouts at him, "How can you say that you idiot?  'Go up in flames!'"  "Anything is possible, you talked to the Conclave and doctor last night and they are all clueless about what to expect."  I turn to look at all three, then turned to Adam, "Did you tell everyone E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.?"  He stands up in his pajama pants and kisses my forehead before saying, "I was discreet precious."  I stand and see if I can do it again.  "I don't know how to cause the glow but," I think about floating and suddenly I am up in the air, "Holy Shit," says Marcello; Filip looks like he is going to be sick from shock and Adam says, "See!"  "What are you doing?" asks Filip.  "I don't know I just thought about being off the ground and presto, I'm floating.  I think this is one of the gifts I will be able to control once I train it."  I float to the bed and lay down.  "I was so sleepy afterwards but I feel just fine now."  "Speaking of which we have a mission to finish at the ranch."  "You are not going anywhere," says Filip.  "Why not?" I ask.  The conclave will be meeting soon and they want to conference with you. 

Adam explains, "It seems the Bishop contacted someone and said the flowers you delivered to altar for your blessing turned into white roses overnight on the altar.  When the Bishop dropped to his knees in shock and began to pray the roses opened; bloomed."  He ran out of the church shouting about a miracle and that led to someone having to 'calm' the Bishop.  The conclave is concerned in a good way.  It seems that in the past, the Keepers had lost almost all supernatural abilities, they were physically stronger beyond measure and some could feel truth but mostly they relied on human abilities and the information from the Called.  You are a rarity.  A real rarity.  First because while your lineage is long, it is broken up, next you are a woman, then you get the axis mundi, it glows, then you seem to control some things like at the casino, then you glow and now you float.  Not to mention that God himself has confirmed you in Monaco and a lowly Bishop presided over your blessing that started the glowing.  You have not been formally confirmed. 

"Then there is all the press outside the compound," says Marcello.  "After the flower incident, the Bishop claiming your 'miracle' and the whole introduction to society thing,"  Filip opens the curtain a bit, "My security team has had to call in the Mexican military because there are people flocking all around the compound demanding the Princess make a presence and to lead a rosary." 

"Well, why didn't anyone wake me?!?" I demand.  I will more than happily lead a rosary.  Adam interjects, "The Conclave wants to discuss your future."  "The Keeper has never been so public.  You are all over the papers and news," says Marcello as he puts a stack of papers on the bed.  "Well, it looks like I'm in the US, France, Mexico, most of South America, and what is this?" Filip takes it and says, "Middle East". 

Suddenly Filip says, "The Conclave is in session do you want to do this in the drawing room?"  "Yes, I'll meet you all there in just a moment.  Shouldn't I change?"  "No, this is urgent," says Filip.  So we all head to the room.  I decide to test how fast I can fly/float.  I think about it and next thing I know I am up in the air face down so I look forward and I rush toward where my eyes are pointing.  I seem to be moving around just fine and the guys are running behind me.  I look back and then notice that the drawing room door is closed so I tilt my head back and I stop, just like that.  Then I am just floating in a standing position. I think 'stand on floor' and slowly I descend and open the door before the boys make it around the corner.  I am seated at the conference table when they walk in.  "You can see they have a look of anger and surprise on their face.  But seeing as The Conclave was connecting they had to be on their best behavior. 

I see Mr. Alarcon smiling brightly.  "Good Morning Marquess," he says as he bows deeply.  All the other men in the room do the same and then I say, "You may all be seated."  "We are delighted to see the form of your transformation.  You are obviously intended to serve in the role and your very gifting has brought us together today to consider how much more active our society will be in the future."  I interrupt as politely as possible, "I am glad to be of service and further more delighted that God Himself has confirmed my role by gifting our society with these abilities that have not been seen even in the first Keeper.  I understand that we are joined here today to discuss my very public introduction."  "Yes Marquessa, as you know we are a secret society and have spent centuries working undercover and behind the scenes but given these new incidents, it looks like we will be unable to continue as usual."  "Why not?" I ask.  "Couldn't we just keep to my public persona and then do what needs to be done behind the scenes?"  "Well, it would be difficult for you to interact with anyone without them knowing immediately who you are and who your knights are.  There is coverage all over the globe and with all social situations there is greater demand to see you.  You will need to give the public what they need: hope and then try to strategize how to accomplish our other missions.  You are gifted in this way because only you have the power to accomplish what needs to be done.  Given how quickly your transition is happening and the gifts that are appearing, we can expect that your tenure as the Keeper will be very busy and challenging.  Some of us are very excited at the prospect and some are weary about the kind of danger levels we have moved into and the risks of all those serving the society.  My proposal is to have a message prepared to the Society showing them some of your gifts and your message to them.  You will be far more influential than any Keeper before in time and The Conclave will stay here until we come to some agreement about how we will be working in the future."

"Thank you for your vote of confidence Mr. Alarcon, I would like to share with you that I have discussed one issue with my knights that I will be pursuing.  It is a personal issue but one I think The Conclave would happily support.  I want my tenure to include efforts towards the end of child trafficking.  I am fully aware of the financial consequences to some organizations and also the fact that pursuing this one issue will increase the danger level for those serving our Society.  But Gentlemen, I am a package deal."  I stand and show my palm the axis mundi begins to glow and then projects. 

Every member of The Conclave and each of my knights stand and drop to one knee, in unison, "In service to God and loyal servants of The Keeper.  God's Grace and Mercy upon the Keeper." then they all take their right arm and cross their chest and pound their heart area three times.  "God keep and lead each of you to bring order and hope to this broken world.  You may rise"  They all stand.  Mr. Harker speaks next, "Marquess, I do not wish to offend but we understand that you are now able to float, we all eager to see you do so."  "Of course Mr. Harker, I expect I will be a bit of a show piece for a while."  I think about floating and soon I am up in the air and then I open my arms wide projecting the axis mundi."  "Amazing!" He says.  When you see me in person you will also get to see some of my other gifts...I can project thoughts and collect feelings."  "We look forward to your return Marquessa." "Likewise gentlemen."  "On a final note, we have provided additional support for the mission at the ranch.  We are sure that the message will be received clearly."  "Thank you," I respond.  I stand to step away, they all stand and I make my exit. 

I walk toward the kitchen and ask Chef for some waffles, "The ones stuffed with cream!"  "My honor Marquessa!  M. Heathman told me that you enjoyed my last batch.  "Ohh I did, I ate mine and his.  Now I know I need to eat healthy so you'll have to add fruit or some such thing but as my nutritionist can you just go ahead and just make me a green juice so I can drink all my vitamins, minerals, and all that at once and it doesn't interfere with my indulgence in the waffels."  "Most certainly Marquessa!"  "When we return to Quebec we can sit an discuss my dietary requirements."  "Yes, Marquessa." 

I sit at the dining table and notice all the curtains are closed.  "I see the media is trying their very best to get a peek of me."  "Yes, Marquessa.  We have had a few head cases trying to jump from the top of the hill to land on the helipad."  "Ouch, no shots fired I hope?"  "No, Marquessa.  Our military personelle has taken them and our medical team has taken care of each of them, rushing the few serious cases to the hospital."  "I have a medical team here with me?"  "Why of course, Marquessa."  "Otis, please advise the head of my medical team that all injured fans be taken to the Hospital San Jose at our expense we will pay for their treatment." 

The knights join me and we wait for the fresh waffles.  As we eat I tell them that I plan to lead a rosary on the helipad so we need to set up some speakers so everyone can hear and participate.  In addition I will say a few words about being so happy to be welcomed with open arms or some such to my homeland.  "Have we heard from any of my extended relatives?"  I say this with disdain.  "Yes, we have a few in a comfortable holding area until we find out from you if you want to see them."  Says Marcello.  "The ones that showed up are all here because they want something.  The ones that have left messages are the ones that I might want to see.  MIGHT, their lives could be endangered after our visit tonight with the Omegas."  "Is that idiot cousin of mine here?"  "Yes," says Filip, "He looks like a snake and I would more than happily add him to the boxes headed to Marco."  "I would let you but he has already been disavowed and I will make it clear to him that he is not to attempt to contact me or he will end up in that box."  "There is one family member that I may want eliminated but not at my hand.  At the hand of the authorities.  He needs to pay for what he did to me as a child.  But I do not want the incident to be public news in any way.  I would like him to disappear to prison somehow." 

"That feeling you shared was because of 'him'?"  "Yes, he was one of the uncles, the other has already passed.  But I suffered his torture for 6 years.  I was only 8 years old when he started abusing me."  All of the men set their forks down and they look angry.  "Who is that bastard!"  Filip stands.  "I am not saying because I do not want a public incident!  I want him to go to jail and let God sort it out.  Jail is what he deserves, I have made my peace with it as much as anyone can."  Marcello stands to hold me.  He lifts me from my chair and holds me close whispering, "il mio amore prezioso."  I wrap my arms around his neck.  "Thank you."  I stand back and kiss him chastely on the lips.  "I know that even that fraction you felt was enough to make you want to destroy a person in all kinds of macabre ways.  Trust me, I have thought of some pretty sick ways.  But, you need to understand that he is a sick man and his sickness has cost him his life on this earth and this is where God will exact his justice.  The right thing for me to do is have him jailed.  There God will either exact the ultimate punishment or redeem him.  As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!"  I want to be sure that we each try to use this as a framework.  There are some things that we have to make judgement on and the decisions will be easy but there are some things that we will have to allow God to guide us in."

Before any of you think I am turning this Society into a seminary, I want to clarify.  There are certain golden rules that we should live by.  War is indiscriminant and innocent people will get hurt, but there is allowance or even special dispensation for that; then there are things that are too much on the line to judge one way or another which means we must not react.  We need to think of all the moving parts and how our actions will affect the entire Society not just us. 




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Chapter 13 - No One Can Serve Two Masters

After breakfast, Filip talks to security to prepare them for my appearance on the helipad.  He's told about my directions to the medical team.  So, he asks the Mexican police to fortify the hill's top to prevent people from jumping.  Marcello is busy managing media coverage, Sophie is selecting outfits and I'm showering and prepping.  Adam steps into the room.  I had told him he could dispense with the knocking because we had a special arrangement.  I asked him what he had been up to.  He fixes his drink and tells me that he was arranging our visit tonight to Marco and then the logistics of getting to the Ranch right after since we would be arriving at night.  "The Conclave meant their pledge of support." He tells me.  Filip will be thrilled when he sees what is already awaiting us at the ranch.  The Conclave's special forces elite have been sent in to arrange all the security precautions.  "I have never seen these people in action but my Father told me stories.  They used to be the people of last resort, they went in, cleared, cleaned and disappeared.  I've heard MI-5 thinks them a legend even when they show up and see the symbol that we were there."  "Well, then it will be nice to meet them." 

Adam continues showing even more excitement, "There are four leaders, each specializing in certain areas but they are all cross trained so they can step into anything they need to fix.  I've been told that the leaders each speak at least ten languages.  Under their command they have fleets of people all over the world.  They are like a Commanding General of Army or Chief of Naval Operations or Chief of Staff of the Air Force or Commandant of the Marine Corp.  Aside from having units of people and equipment, each branch has their elite squads, special forces if you will."  He takes a big sip.  The Omegas will be crushed and they will not even know what hit them.  "What about our security personnel?"  I ask.  "I am leaving that to Filip.  Each of our members would do anything to stand next to these elite members for even a small skirmish so I would hope that Filip gives them the chance." 

Well, I am ready.  "Sophie, I need a really nice, easy to move in, sexy outfit for tonight's meeting with the leader of a cartel.  It must have red in it but also look a little military, a little like Monaco.  Sophistication with a deadly edge.  We'll definitely coif my hair and wear the jewels.  I'll let you select the jewels but I do not want anything to interfere with the ring that has my insignia, Marco needs to get a good look at what he will be kissing before his death." 

Adam has a cheeky grin as he looks at me.  "Does that turn you on?" I look at him.  "Your lethal edge makes me very hard."  I step over to him and give him a kiss to take his breath away.  "Good, I don't want to bore you."  He smiles and shakes his head before taking another drink.  I put on my insignia ring and collect my rosary.  I look the picture of virginal innocence in a fur collared, fitted sweater and cord du roi pants with perfect Mary Jane like shoes with thigh high tights.  As a Marquesa, I have an open crown that would go over my head and rest on my forehead.  My official crown is given to me at my confirmation so I ask Sophie to bring out my temporary crown.  It is still beautiful in gold and rubies with diamonds edging the bottom and surrounding each ruby.  It looks a bit masculine which is why it will be redone after my confirmation.  That way I have a formal and informal crown.  "Adam will each of you knights wear your crowns?"  " I plan to but I am leaving out the orders."  "That sounds like a very good idea, could you have Filip and Marcello do the same?" "Certainly, he takes his last sip," sets his glass on the side table and exits after bowing.  "Sophie, it is windy on the helipad.  I am guessing the men will wear capes over their clothing.  Do you have a short white mink I can wear?"  "Oui, Marquesa!"  She pulls out five different white minks.  I like one that was fitted but had a high collar.  She then hands me some white leather gloves.  "Well, I'll pick the boys up as we head to the helipad.  Otis...please advise security and sound engineers that we will be up in 10 minutes." 

I walk out of the room and knock on the doors as I pass by.  "Boys, don't make me wait on you!"  I slide my gloves on and start to slip into my mink when I see all three walking toward me.  Again, the three most handsome men ever and they are wearing crowns.  "You are all a girl's dream!  Knights in shining armor, or crowns.  Yummy!"  They look at each other.  "Now don't let the fact that you are each making me think sinful things distract you." I say as I turn toward the elevator.  Filip steps forward and pushes the button.  Within minutes we are on the elevator and then on the helipad.  Before we exit I tell them that we will deal with my "family" afterwards.  They can follow the rosary just like everyone else. 

I step forward and toward the crowd.  There are large screens and sound systems turned on.  I see a 20 foot image of myself on one of the screens as I pass by.  I wave and blow kisses.  My knights stand behind me in an 'at ease' position.  I can tell they are all looking around in case they have to step in for a reason.  A security guard walks toward Filip and gives him a clip microphone.  Filip hands me the clip and then places the cordless box onto the waist of my pants and drops the mink over it.  I clip the mike to my collar.  "Buenas tardes amigos!" [Good afternoon friends] "Me da un gran gusto que mi gente me reciba con tanto carino. [It gives me great joy that my people receive me with such love.]  "Me dicen que las rosas dedicadas a nuestra Virgen han creado un milagro.  Quiero darle gracias a Mi Dios y nuestra bendita Virgen por la bendicion que me han dado al recibir mi comission como Marquesa d'Arquieta." [They tell me that the roses dedicated to our Virgin have created a miracle.  I would like to thank my God and our blessed Virgin for their blessing as I receive my comission as Marquesa d'Arquieta]  En agradecimiento queiero dedicar este rosario a la ciudad de Monterrey y nuestro pais de Mexico.  Que Dios nos bendiga y que nuestra sagrada Virgen guie nuestros ninos y jovenes hacia un futuro lleno de paz, riquesas, seguridad y amor a nuestra Patria."  [In thankfulness I would like to dedicate this rosary to our city of Monterrey and our country Mexico.  That God bless us and that our sacred Virgin guide our children and youth toward a future filled with peace, riches, security and love of Country.]  With that I kneel on the red velvet cushion and cross myself.  The multitude of thousands comes to a complete quiet and they too cross themselves.  And in unison, we begin the rosary.  As I lead these people through the rosary I decide on the Luminous Mysteries since they are representative of Christ's ministry.  Not that I am in anyway like Christ, but it seems that I am starting a God ordained journey of my own. 

At the end of the rosary I stand and people applaud, I hadn't realized that there were still tears on my face.  Adam stepped forward to hand me his handkerchief which I take to dab the tears.  Finally I say, "Gracias amigos por tomar tu tiempo y de hacer el esfuerzo de venir y celebrar con migo este Rosario.  Espero que mi proxima visita sea mas larga para poder ver mas de la ciudad que me dio tantas bellas memorias y una fundacion a la qual puedieron mis papas dar una creanza con honor y dignidad."  [Thank you friends for taking time and making the effort to come and celebrate this Rosary with me.  I hope that my next visit will be longer so that I can see more of the city that gave me beautiful memories and a foundation that my parents were able to build on with honor and dignity.]  I wave in every direction as I walk to the elevator with the knights behind me.  Once we make our way down, Marcello puts his arm around my waist and says, "That was magnificent!  The city loves you, the people of Mexico love you!  You are definitely their princess no matter what you say."  "Yes, you handled yourself like a true royal, Marquesa," added Filip.  Adam looked at me and said, "Your words endeared everyone to you.  How did you do that so quickly?"  As we step out I say, "I made it up as I went along."  They all looked shocked. 

"I can think on my feet pretty quickly, I probably comes from years of selling and impromptu negotiations.  I know that as each of you grew up you went through ardorous training for this very moment but you see, I was being trained too.  Maybe not to be The Keeper but my life experiences have prepared me for something.  And as I have mentioned, there will be additional training that I am sure to need, but I have a foundation of some kind.  We won't have to start from scratch with me."  "You may be right adds Adam but some of your overconfidence can get you in trouble."  "I suspect you are right, and I'll learn from that too.  I don't have mean to sound like I think too much of myself but I can't take on this role and doubt myself at every turn.  If the Conclave thought that I was suited for the role, they knew something none of us knows at this point.  In addition, we don't have time to put me through some kind of cram session to make me like other Keepers.  You all must believe that God organized the events of the Society and my being designated The Keeper for some reason.  I know from personal experience that 'the will of God will never take where the Grace of God will never protect you.'  Let us try to remember the purpose of the Society and who really runs it."  I say pointing heavenwards. 

We make our way to the drawing room.  "I am thinking we need to cover the visit to Marco."  "Filip, can you tell us your idea for us getting into his home in a way that surprises him.  We need to sneak in and make sure we aren't hunted at point blank as we leave."  "Yes, I have a few ideas.  The first is taking advantage of the obvious.  You are a recognized celebrity at this point, all we need to do is basically knock and say that you want to speak with him.  However, this will not be as much of a surprise since we would travel with convoys and such."  Marcello decides to put in his idea, "I think we need to look at his compound and find a way to sneak in.  He is not expecting us to make the first move, he'll think we are waiting for him to retaliate or show his power."  Filip pulls a map out and some sattelite images that show is what his compound looks like.  "His security team at his home is relatively loose because he is surrounded by firepower inside.  So getting past the perimeter won't be too hard.  It's finding the room that we want to enter through.  His servant quarters are removed from the main house and sit in the back area.  He has a small courtyard that two bedrooms open out to in this part of his home.  Since it is on the ground floor, I venture that one of the rooms is his study.  I am pretty sure that as is tradition in Mexico, all the bedrooms are on the second floor."  The courtyard could offer us some cover since it is surrounded by other walls with their windows facing outward not toward the courtyard.  "Ok, what about the upstairs rooms with windows facing into the courtyard?"  I ask.  "One of them is most definitely his bedroom and the other is possibly a guest room or maybe a continuation of the master bedroom.  The courtyard is there for privacy and he wouldn't want anyone to overhear anything from being in any of those rooms." states Filip.  

"Thoughts?" I ask.  "The most obvious is the courtyard," says Marcello so let us move on to getting past the security outside and inside.  "Agreed," says Adam.  Felip leads us through his plan as he points at satellite pictures.  "We'll need to be wearing our military gear with the carbon fiber in case we run into any area with the broken glass as part of their wall.  I think if we come in from the East we'll have a much better chance of coming in undetected.  His compound backs to a bar and some empty lots.  The noise of the bar is good cover.  Security has likely grown deaf to that area of the compound.  So we can get over the wall and then slide to the servant's quarters which we'll need to stay low for.  They will be empty but we don't want any lights to showcase us.  Shadows will be expected, again taking advantage of the areas they tend to overlook.  Then we make our way to the courtyard.  He has men posted on the roof all around the courtyard and if he is not in his study he will not have any one in there.  So we will need to stick close to the wall."  "Anyway to disable the rooftop security?"  "Technically yes, but it may take too much time and it will make the rest of the security team aware of a problem in the courtyard area." says Filip.  He hands me satellite pictures of the compound at night.  These were taken this week and the video is from our messenger.  I look at the satellite image.  He is a real paranoid guy.  He has men everywhere.  Some seem like security, others seem to be in groups playing cards or just drinking in clusters.  Every evening looks the same.  I look for a pattern in the light from the rooms facing the courtyard.  Looks like it is dark in the room at about the same time every evening: 8:00.  But when does he make his way into the study for any afternoon work?  We need to be in there at dusk if we want a chance of surprising him for a forced conversation.  We spend some more time discussing our approach and timing and then we depart to prepare for our visit. 

Adam has told us that our things have already been moved to the ranch and that we will be walking out the front door to a Hummer with our flags which will arrive at a designated time to pick us up.  We'll have four well trained security team members in the Hummer.  "Do we need any to go with us as we enter the compound and stand watch?"  "No, we'll have satellite coverage through all of it and we will be told of anything from Phoenix."  "Who is Phoenix?" I ask.  "They are our eyes and ears from the sky."  "That is reassuring."  "You'll have nothing to worry about," Filip tells me.  "We are leading the mission in and out, you are simply delivering the message." 

I enter my bedroom and look at Sophie, the worry etched on it.  Sophie comes to me, "Marquesa, this mission will work out just as you envisioned."  I just don't want any of the boys getting hurt.  Marco is a very unstable person and might just want to turn the visit into a battle."  "If that is the direction he chooses to take, he will be overpowered and the Omegas will lose their leader faster than it would take him to state a command to his security thugs."  I half-heartedly smile at here.  "Have you ever seen any of their training videos?"  She asks.  "No, they have training videos of themselves?"  "Ohh no Marquesa, the Conclave has kept a watch on them for quite a while as they decided who would be assigned to you."  She reaches for my iPad and pulls up one of Filip.  He has what seems like a Bowie knife in his hand and he is confronted by three armed men.  He is very nimble as he works his way behind one of them and tosses him like a rag doll after taking his weapon.  He rolls behind something and makes perfect shots in the skull of the other two.  I played it again in slow motion.  In less then 90 seconds Filip eliminates three armed men with nothing more than a Bowie knife.  "Very impressive!"  I say.  "So, you see Marquesa, you are in the best company." Sophie reassures me.  

I see my gear on the bed and my crown.  "I'm wearing my crown?" I ask.  "Oui, Marquesa, you must make it clear to Marco that you are not a solitary enemy or even a cartel, he must see the crown to understand you have a whole country that serves you.  The Called are all in seperate parts of the world but as you know already, they can be assembled in less than an hour and be anywhere in time to accomplish something or provide reinforcements."  she tells me with a big grin.  This comforts me.  I am not alone...we are not alone.  I dress and and Sophie ties my hear back adding a crown in a fixed position so it does not move regardless of how much movement I make. It looked like one the knights wear, a gold band with jewels in between.  Sophie tells me it is my battle crown.  I have a crown for every kind of occassion. 

In the late afternoon we escape through an underground exit the size of a car in a matte black Hummer with my Insignia.  We make our way to within 2-3 miles from Marco's compound.  The streets aren't too busy.  I am guessing dinner.  We are wearing black and grey military garb.  Our glasses transition from day sharpening glasses to night vision but they are very light, like standard sunglasses. As we begin to dismount, they leave me second to last and we communicate using hand signals.  We are all wearing a hearing device to hear Phoenix or each other.  Our mic is on a band we are wearing on our necks.  I remember seeing something like it on a navy seal. 

We each step out and head to the back area of the bar.  We didn't need to shuffle much everyone seemed to be minding their own business and even though we are all wearing uniforms nobody seems to care.  The complete disreguard makes me nervous.  As a general rule, people in this area stare at anything that looks different from the ordinary.  Or maybe in this area they are used to turning away because they do not want to know too much about anything having to do with Marco.  These cartels have no honor code, even if you provide information that could help a cartel they will eliminate you because 'you know too much'. 

The bar is virtually empty, you can hear the occasional drunk shout something out.  I'm transported back to my childhood, visiting my grandmother.  I had an uncle who was very troubled but as a child I only remember him being a happy man.  My grandmother did everything she could to hide away my uncle as his drinking increased.  I remember him playing with all the cousins.  Then he would leave the city until someone contacted her and then she would call an uncle in hushed tones to go get my uncle.  Inevitably, we would be ushered away.  Once I saw him completely limp and a few uncles getting him out of a car.  He was soiled and they were having trouble getting him in the doorway.  A maid opened the back gate and they dragged him to the servant quarters.  Even though we were supposed to be sleeping, I could hear him being sick and then shouting things.  A doctor arrived and slowly his voice sounded muffled then the screaming and shouting stopped.  I remember my uncles helping my grandmother to her room and the doctor following.  She was hysterical and the doctor gave her something to help her sleep.  I kept my eyes shut.  I hear the uncles talking to the doctor and then their comments over the events of the night. 

We were prohibited from going near the servant's quarters.  For weeks we would spend the night at the homes of other aunts.  The sour smell of this area reminded me of the smell of laundry in the wash area when my uncle was there.  The nannies whispered and I listened to as much as I could.  I was worried, what would they do with him?  As the years went on, I heard about and saw many of these episodes.  As soon as they could rehabilitate he would just disappear. 

I need to stay sharp, leave the past in the past.  We stand about and I notice Filip was smoking, I take the cigarette from him and take a drag.  I need to clear my head and smoking had always calmed me.  He doesn't say anything and takes another out of his cargo pocket, using my cigarette to light his.  We stand around trying not to make ourselves obvious.  Then the sun is at the right place.  The backside of the bar had been dark for a while but we needed the sun to set a little longer to get over the wall and to the servant's quarters without being noticed.  Filip shoots an arrow head at the cement wall piercing it easily,  he strings up the ropes and Marcello is the first to attach his carabiner to scale up and peek over the edge to see what it looks like.  He tells us that it is clear.  He hops over and slides down.  I snap in and scale easily up and over landing quietly staying close to the ground as I make my way to a blind corner at the servant quarters.  I see Adam then Filip and we are all huddled close.  We all know where the courtyard is and we don't have much time but we can see there is someone in the 3rd floor of the servant's quarters and two men on the rooftop looking out over where we are huddled.  After what seems an eternity I hear one say that the 'primo had arrived'  so the other man walks to the other side of the roof giving us clean access to the courtyard as long as the servant stays away from the windows for about a minute.  I lead and make my way around the half wall.  The others follow.  The room we think is his study is dark but the doors are open.  I'm not concerned as many people in Mexico leave their windows and doors open because the older homes do not have central air or heat.  I hop over the short iron railing and drop to see if anyone is in the room.  It is clear but I tell them to hold up, I see a flashing light.  I try to make out what the light is.  And after closer inspection, it is a charger.  Then I tell them to follow me in.  We enter the room and just as we suspected it is his office.  There are some weapons in a case on one wall, a few filing cabinets, a leather sofa, lamps and then a very large wooden desk and chair.  The desk doesn't fit, I wonder who he lifted it from.  I look around and feel around his desk.  His chair is exactly between the two french door sets.  So, when someone enters he can see them immediately.  I decide to have a seat and turn on the desk lamp.  Adam and Marcello stand near the wall with the weapons and Filip has a seat on the sofa.  I pull the candle from my backpack.  and set it nicely on the desk with my insignia facing the door. 

I ask Filip for a cigarette, there is no need to be quiet, apparently the arrival of the 'primo' has caused an impromptu celebration.  I hear some heavy laughter just as I light my cigarette.  Someone is heading our way and I hope it is Marco.  The door opens and a hand switches the light on and walks in closing the door behind him.  He looks up and sees me.  "Buenas noches Marco."  [Good Evening Marco] "Ay cabron!  [Oh, shit] La Princessa de Monterrey aqui en mi casa."  [the Princess of Monterrey, here in my home.] he says sarcastically.  He looks around.  "Que males maneras tienes." [You have very bad manners] I say as I stand up.  "Que no sabes que debes de inclinarte y besar me anillo!" [Don't you know that you have to bow and kiss my ring!] He laughs, "Lo unico que voy a besar es la pistola que voy a usar cuando te mate."  [The only think I am kissing is the gun I use to kill you.] "Mira que confianza.  Sera que ya empezaste a tomar y por eso crees que tienes tantos huevos para hablarme a me de esa manera."  [What confidence, maybe yo have already started drinking which is why you think you have the balls to speak to me in that manner.] "Mejor dejamos el protocolo social para despues.  Ayer to mande un mensaje y tu respuesta no me complacio." [let us leave social protocol for later, Yesterday, I sent you a message and your response did not please me.] "Pero como puedes esperar que te complasque quando me estas pidiendo algo que no quiero hacer." [How do you expect me to please you when you are asking me to do something I do not want to do.] He walks toward me.  I take a drag from my cigarette.  "No lo quieres hacer o no lo puedes hacer."  [You don't want to do it or is it that you cannot do it?] "Mire senorita, no se quien te crees pero aqui yo mando.  Y mis negocios no son de importancia tuya."  [Look young lady, I don't know who you think you are but here I am the boss and my business is no business of yours.] "No Marco, en eso estas muy mal informado, los detalles de tu negocio me importan mucho.  Es mas me acaban de avisar de tu interes en Cuba."  [No Marco, in that you are misinformed, the details of your business are very important to me.  As a matter of fact, I've just been told about your investment in Cuba.]  I hit a cord, his face goes from happy sarcasm to anger and he starts towards me.  "Hasta ahi," [Stop right there!] I hold my hand up and my Axis Mundi begins to radiate.  He stops in place.  I take another drag from the cigarette and take my time to exhale while holding up my hand.  I put the cigarette out on the leather desk pad.  I then float over the desk and hover in front of him.  His eyes open wide and a look of fear comes over him.  I hover for a bit longer to extend the drama, then plant my feet firmly on the floor.  "No te han pagado por tu trabajo en Cuba verdad?  [They haven't paid you for your work in Cuba have they?] Hmm, se me hace que tu negocio en Taiwan fue un abuso.  Te imaginas, el gran Marco haciendo los mandados the los Taiwanes y no poder decir o hacer nada.  [Hmm, it seems to me that your business in Taiwan was an abuse.  Can you imagine the grand Marco running the errands of the Taiwanese and not being able to say or do anything.]  Que lastima porque tengo entendido que China te tiene de los huevos y por eso no puedes hacer decisiones de nigun tipo.  Es mas si no te empiezan a pagar vas a tener que usar de tus propias cuentas porque no puedes abandonar a Cuba sin perder tu vida...o la vida de estos preciosos ninos.  [What a shame, because I understand that China has you by the balls and that is why you cannot make decisions of any type.  As a matter of fact if they don't pay you soon, you will have to dip into your own personal accounts because you cannot abandon Cuba without you losing your life or the lives of these precious children.] I say this as I hold a framed picture of his children.  I see a hint of anger but no argument.  Te voy dar solo una advertencia, vas a empezar a cerrar tu negocio acerca del trafico de ninos.  Los Omegas son el cartel que mas hacen puerquedades de esas.  Y tu Marco vas a empezar hoy mismo a redimirte."  [I am going to give you one warning, you will begin to close all your businesses relating to child traficking.  The Omegas are the cartel that most does that kind of disgusting work.  And you Marco will begin today to redeem yourself."  "Quien eres?"  [Who are you?] He asks with a look of fear still in his eyes.  I take his hand and transfer an image and words into his mind while saying, "Soy tu mas grande enemiga, tu propio terror y la mujer que va terminar Los Omegas si no haces lo que te estoy pidiendo."  [I am your greatest enemy, your very own terror and the woman who will finish the Omegas if you do not do what I am asking of you.]  His face looks anguished and terrified.  I let go of his hand.  "Si Marquesa!"  [Yes Marquesa!] He drops to his knees and kisses my ring.  "Me da mucho gusto que puedas ver las cosas de mi manera.  Tengo mis maneras de obtener informacion, y si no haces lo que te pido, pagaras y te juro ante Dios mismo que sufriras peor a mi mano que en el infierno.  Y tus hijos, pobres ninos, seran parte de tu propio negocio si no empiezas hoy mismo.  [It gives me great pleasure that you are able to see things my way.  I have my way of obtaining information, and if you do not do what I ask you will pay, I swear to God that you will suffer worse at my hand than hell itself. And your children, poor children, will become a part of your very own business if you do not start today.] Se que es dificil cerrar operaciones en un dia, por eso mismo te voy a dar un mes.  En un mes no acceptaras un peso hecho de ese negocio, y si algun de tus asociados deciden continuar, espero que los acabes.  Me entiendes Marco?"  [I know that it is difficult to shut down operations in one day, which is why I am giving you a month.  For a month you will not accept one peso made from that kind of business, and if any of your associates decides to continue, I expect that you finish them off.  Do you understand me Marco?] His throat croaks a yes and then I help him up and tell him to sit at his desk because he will be busy tonight making calls.  As I start to walk out the door of his office, I look back at him and say, "Y por cierto, no hay necesidad to buscarme para reportarte.  Mi gente me avisara de todo lo que to haces de este punto en adelante."  [Ohh by the way, there is no need to look for me to give me a report of your progress.  My people will advise me of everything you do from this point forward.] I look at my knights and say, "Gentlemen, I think you can all see Marco is in agreement with our plan.  I believe we are finished here and we can leave now.  I would hate to keep him from his company."  They all fall in place, Marcello opens the door for me and leads us out to the front of the house.  My Hummer is waiting, people are standing in awe as we walk past and get into the hummer.  Filip says "Go!" and we depart to the ranch. 

As expected there are two people trailing us on motorcycles.  I tell the driver that we do not need to rush.  I want to let those trailing us know where we are headed.  I expect Marco and his 'Primo' to attempt something.  So typical...just like the story of Pharoh.  I suspect I will have to plague him until I kill him.  Some people just don't learn. 

"So, have you all seen pictures of the ranch?" I ask.  "Yes, Marquesa." responds Marcello.  "It is very rustic."  "You aren't afraid of roughing it are you Marcello?  Are the stables still there?"  "Yes, it seems that is where most of the upkeep has been Alexia."  "I believe you, my uncle would never let his pride and joy go into dilapidation."  "The stables?" Asks Marco.  "Why yes, the horses are pure Spanish lineage.  You are aware that horses came to North America via the Spanish conquests?!  My uncle was proud of his horses.  Some were real fast, others for show but each of them was a pure treasure.  As a child I remember riding the ponies as they were being put through training.  As I got older, I would ride bare back just to get the rush of riding as fast as I could without being watched the whole time.  I would sneak out and give the horse an apple to lead it out then just grab its mane and hop on.  I would give it another apple and then I would guide it with it's mane and gently tap it with my heel to get it to go faster.  Pure joy on starlit nights!  Of course the next day I would nearly get a thrashing because I smelled like horse and so they knew I had been at the stables.  But they never figured out that I rode bare back."  I smile and giggle devilishly. 

"It seems to me you were always about stirring up trouble.  Did you need that much attention?"  Adam asks.  " that you say it, I actually did not want attention.  The ranch was the only place I was free from abuse and at night I wanted to get away from everyone.  I was angry and sad and it seemed that riding was the only way to lift my spirits from something that I never knew would end."  I'm sorry Adam says.  "Please don't be,  everyone is motivated by something.  You are each an active knight for a reason.  I said yes to being The Keeper for a reason, even the Called choose to risk their own lives to be part of the Society.  At our core we are truly selfish and we feed it whether we know it or not."

The ranch is about two hours outside of Monterrey and it has a river that runs through it.  I ask Filip if there is protection for my uncle an aunt.  He tells me that they have the house, cars and all other things covered.  As of right now, my aunt is enjoying the sudden fame and my Uncle is requesting to speak to me.  "I will speak to my Uncle.  He needs to know that I'm The Keeper and that I will provide protection for him and his family.  I also need to arrange protection for my brother Daniel.  But I don't want him to know anything.  I just want him to continue in oblivion until someone tells him about me from a newspaper article or something.  Then I'll get a call.  Ohh, then there is Jacob!  I'm not worried for him but he just needs a head up.  The Omegas are going to start looking into me and my house is the ideal place to start.  Not to mention if Marco tells the Taiwanese I'm aware of something we will have some trouble for sure." 

Filip takes his phone and slides it into something that looks like a case for a sattelite phone.  "What is that?"  I ask.  "This is how we switch sattelites to keep the conversations encrypted." Filip tells me.  "I need to coordinate with security at our next stop."  "Marcello, I never made it down to the family in the holding room.  What happened with them."  Ohh, I handled them.  Those that brought proof were taken back to their homes in a car and told that I had to leave urgently.  Those without proof were sent away and told that their name is on the list with their picture and you would notify them the next time you were in Monterrey."  "I'm sure you were very diplomatic all the way through."  "Of course!  Although I must say there are some serious issues within your family."  That made me laugh.  Little did he know. 

"Yes, as a matter of fact dysfunction is an understatement.  My grandfather's early death meant that the family quite literally blew through the money, primarily my gambling/drinking/drug addicted uncles.  My grandmother was so grieved that she just turned a blind eye and she thought that my aunts would do what would be expected which is 'marry well' as in above their social status and someone would step in to salvage the family.  None of my aunts married as expected as you can see my mother didn't. 

My thought is that my Uncle knows about the Society but did not think that there was anything worth salvedging.  He probably thought the Arquieta line would just die out with him.  He only had one daughter who happily married an engineer and left the continent.  So what is left are vultures.  They showed up because they think they can get something from me.  I've hated them since I can remember.  And as far as I know they don't care much for me.  They spent every moment of their life trying to be sure they kept me down.  Once I could drive and no longer had to visit Monterrey, I disappeared from the family.  Only I use the Arquieta name because I wanted to make my grandfather proud in some way and I wanted to be sure nobody in my family would find me. "

"Your Uncle knows...he knows about everything," says Adam.  "So, he doesn't need security?"  I ask.  "No, he doesn't always need security, he is trained to escape if his participation in the Called creates difficulties for him.  The Conclave has agreed to assist them only because he is of the lineage but they are not offering anything else given his failure to protect the lineage after your grandfather's death.  He will be removed from the Society and lose all privledges associated."  Adam explains this in a clinical manner.  I'm sure he is disgusted with the fact that someone in the Society was not honorable. I wonder how many of these men have seen the dispicable things people do and say and how the rest of just have to live with it.  I am thankful.  In a way I feel rescued.  Rescued from my past, rescued from an unknown future and I actually have people I can count on.  As in good or bad count on. 

I'm told we are approaching the ranch.  Filip tells us that the conversation from the motorcyclists has been covered since we left Marco's house and that there have been switches in cars and motorcycles but all intended to follow and communicate our location.  "Let's be sure that they think it is only us and the two drivers up front.  When we arrive at the gate, let one of the drivers get out and open it.  Then get back in.  They will think that they don't need many men to take the ranch.  But they will want to make a point by burning the place down or something.  Let's keep on their lines and see what they have planned." 

We drive up a dusty narrow road and arrive at a metal cattle gate.  One of the drivers steps off and opens the gate the Hummer drives through and the driver closes the gate taking his time with the lock.  "Perfect!"  Filip says that the house is dark but that we have our leads from the Conclave's security personelle sitting in a living room.  They did not want to attract any attention.  "Where is Sophie and Chef and the others?"  Marcello tells me that they have headed back to Quebec and nobody has followed them. 

We pull up to the front and the large cedar door with the iron work looks just like I remember it.  My uncle was an architect and he attempted to do rustic but my aunt intervened.  There are blue tiles along the trim of the door and windows.  Only the outside oil lamps are lit.  I step forward and pull the key from the ledge of the door window pane.  I unlock the door and walk in, the three knights following me.  "We're home!" I call out.  Soon I hear feet shuffling.  I pull my night vision glasses and see three men walk down.  As they step to the landing, they all three bow, "Marquesa!"  "At ease gentlemen!"  "We are happy to be at your service Marquesa."  "Well, I am happy to meet you all!  Your reputation is legendary!"  They laugh.  "May I introduce you to my knights Adam Heathman, Marcello Romagno and Filip Ivanov."  The men shake hands.  "It is not often we get to interact outside our squadron and especially directly with The Keeper and her knights.  Marquesa, I'm not sure if you are aware but each of your knights has gone through special forces training."  "Is that so?"  "Yes Marquesa, their lineage gave them a choice to continue in the ranks or pursue knighthood.  I am sorry to say that we lost all three of your knights to their ranks amongst The Conclave."  "Well, now I am impressed!  I have lethal men around me at all times!"  "You'd be surprised how lethal they can be!" I say as I wink and walk toward the kitchen.  

I find another oil lamp hanging from an iron hook "I take a match from the holder underneath and light the wick placing the glass flute back on.  It is amazing how much light these lamps put out.  The kitchen looks the same but the patina gives it a picturesque look.  When I was growing up, they were finishing the main house because the horse stables were my uncle's priority.  

Many of the downstairs rooms were temporary bedrooms with makeshift curtains as walls.  The older cousins could climb the stairs and sleep in the open on cots.  There was a section that had been roofed and had windows but my aunt and uncle squabbled about the upstairs which delayed the construction.  I'll have explore tomorrow and see who won.  

I'm led to the living area.  It won't be long before Marco's thugs head in this direction.  "Gentlemen, I'm sorry, I did not get your names."  "Marquesa, my name is Jasper Whitmore ma'am and I lead our land units.  I'm also happy to say that we share one commonality." "What would that be General?"  "I'm a proud Texan!"  I stand and head toward him and lean down to hug him.  Welcome to my ranch Whimore! I am honored to have a fellow Texan in my home. If you tell me you come from a line of Rangers, I might never let you leave." 

"Marquesa, Je m'appell Luca Durand." "Bon Nuit General Durand.  I understand you'll be settling in Quebec."  "Yes, however I am already aware of the degradation to the French language.  Something must have happened on the voyage to the Americas."  

Finally I hear, "Marquesa, my name is Hugo Souza." "Welcome General Souza."  "I understand your units are specialized in Magyver like skills."  "I had never heard us described in that manner but yes, we can create weapons with whatever materials we find.  In addition each member is skilled in air, water or land.  We are more like a Swiss Army Knife."  "Now that sounds like something I would like to hear more about.  Of course, I understand each of you cross trains in the other units.  Specialization is done in the last year of training.  Is that correct?"  "Yes, Marquesa."  

"I am very appreciative to have your support.  Do we know how many Omegas we can expect?  Durand responds, "we've seen the satellite images and listened in on their conversations since you left.  I suspect they are assembling about 50 men."  "Why so many?" I ask.  "Marco seems to think  he'll scare you off with a large number but then he will leave some behind as he claims the ranch as his treasure from winning the assault."  

Souza adds, "They don't plan to surround and conquer.  I think they'll come in the front and demand your head."  "He'll be disappointed," I finish.  "Marco will stand back and wait for the all clear.  And then he hopes to humiliate you in front of his men then kill you as part of his show."  

What of his family and children.  "They have been transported to their summer home near Merida and are about to leave in their jet."  Says Whitmore.  "Very good!  Now tell me your plan?"  

"Currently each of us has a company of 200 each, 4 platoons per company.  The air team has drones in the air already.  They are beyond detection and Marco's men aren't even considering the possibility.  The land company is distributed around the perimeter.  We've established shallow trenches to stay low and undetectible from night vision, should Marco's men decide to split up and come in from the front and a different side.  Or possible, if they think in advance, to hold some of his men back for a second strike.  We are keeping the specialty teams close to the stables and the house.  We've been told by Sir Ivanov that you intend to make sure the kills are done with a minimum of bloodshed."

"Yes, it is part of my sick plan to send a message.  Each body will be dressed in a suit, the corpse will hold a black candle and the boxes will be wrapped with a red ribbon.  All the boxes will be lined up along the front of Marco's compound with the message about Mexican children are not for sale.  I want to be sure that the people understand that I am not part of the cartel dealings, I am a person who wants the bloodshed to end but we can't do that until we raise up a generation of people willing to lay their lives on the doorstep of what is right."

"Unfortunately, these people don't understand anything but brutality.  And they have to witness it to be forced to change." says General Durand.  "I guess I'll have to leave the message in a language they understand." 

"Marquesa," Souza interjects.  "Yes?"  "What of Marco?"  "That is a good question.  He is still on the line for the Cuba situation.  With the loss of so many men locally, he'll be stretched.  It is unlikely that his best are in Cuba since he cannot get paid; so eliminating them in tonight's skirmish will set him behind the eight ball.  This may force his hand to siddle up to another cartel and offer to share the deal.  This is something I would like to see played out.  So, I will let him live, punctuated with regular 'waterboarding' if you will.  I'm able to send him some fiersome nightmares now.  So, I'll keep him underground for a while then let him off the hook to see what he does.  Let's keep him alive but he'll be tied to a pole with a slow fire burning from black candles underneath.  I want him to smell his own skin burning and for people to be terrified of all the bodies and him on a stick." 

"Marquesa, this sounds very vindictive, and I for one would have loved to know you as part of Mother Russia!"  says Filip.  "Thank you...I think.  It sounds like I am deranged but the sight of the children in my mind's eye makes me completely blind to mercy." 

"Do we have any word of Marco's planned time of attack?"  I ask.  "Well, you are about two hours from his compound and our intel is telling us that he is collecting men from every 'colonia' from his compound to the ranch."  says Whitmore.  "There is a ranch about one click from here that belongs to one of his supporters and that is where they will rendevous.  That ranch is across the main entry, so on the other side from your entrance.  He'll try to use that as a way to be exacting in his attack.  The fact that this is a retaliation, he won't have time to properly prepare, the men are coming with their own firepower so this is very uncoordinated.  However, he does not think you have much coverage here at the ranch because they have only seen your knights, and two convoys.  At best they are estimating you have twenty as part of security, and when I mean security they are grossly underestimating the caliber of training." 

Now that makes me happy.  "How about a shot of courage?"  I get up and look into the bar to find a fine tequila and shot glasses.  "Now, I do not want to be a bad influence, but do you all think you can drink and shoot?"  The laughter was simultaneous.  I poured the shots and toasted, "To sealing the deal boys!"  And everyone tipped their shot glass back. 

"Well, before I have another one of those I need to ask if it is possible for me to take a ride on one of my uncle's horses for 'old times' sake'"  As of right now, Marco has four men at the ranch and they are watching from their ranch but are too far to make much out.  They couldn't get a bead on you ma'am.  So, I would say you are safe.  Surely one or two will soon make their way closer to your gate to scope the territory but they know that Marco wants the winning kill so they won't even try."  says Whitmore. 

"Fantastic, I'll take a shot to that!" and I pour and tilt it back.  This is good tequila and was definitely meant to be sipped but I needed to get some air.  I head out the front of the house toward the stables.  My knights follow.  I take my pistol and make sure I move it to my right leg holster.  It had been rubbing my lower back and I wanted to be able to ride freely.  I see that the stable doors are open just a fraction.  I take a lantern and light it and then head down the isles.  They stalls look very well kept and it looks like my uncle has made some significant upgrades.  The horses are calm and probably curious about having someone in here so late.  I see a beautiful black horse that obviously spends it's time training for races.  It's mane is brushed but but not fussed over like some of the trick horses.  I'm not going to fuss over her either.  I check to see how she manages with her mane being tugged.  She seems unperturbed.  This is the one.  I grab the horse by the neck and hop on her back.  The horse seems a bit startled at first.  I am guessing she expected a saddle.  But I coo at her and she seems comfortable.  Then I whisper to her her "You may have heard stories about me when I was a little girl, I used to come to the stables at night and ride one of your sisters out into the stars.  Would you ride out into the stars with me tonight?"  The horse's head bounces up and down and neighs gently; almost as if she knew what I was saying.  I tapped her honch lightly with my heel and we trotted out.  The men watched and followed us out, but that is where I was going to leave them.  "OK boys, I'll be right back.  I need to catch my breath."  And I tapped the horse a bit harder this time with a handful of her mane in each hand we headed out and soon she was in a full on gallop.  I guided her toward the river.  And tested her speed.  Without the saddle I could feel every movement she made and then it occurred to me that I could hover.  So I hovered a few inches above her back, careful to keep my knees in so she could feel I was still with her.  She was fast and slick and the night seemed darker the farther we rode.  There was a well worn path when we hit a brushy area, I knew we were near the little river.  We moved on, not slowing for moment, just before the river I could see the stars sparkling in the little white cusps of water flowing over rocks.  I pulled back gently and the mare slowed carefully.  It was a moonless night but with so many stars, you could see so much.  I guided her up and down the edge of the river then I let go of her mane.  I sat to look up and the beauty of shooting stars and twinkles.  I took a deep breath.  Yes, this is what I needed.  I needed away from something I didn't know would ever end.  The horse sipped a bit and I rubbed her back.  She was sweating.  I have no idea how many kilometers we covered but I was glad for the space.  I knew I was not alone and so did the mare.  From what we were told there were about 200 soldiers all over the ranch's perimeter and surely they were watching me and they knew who I was.  I just pretended like I did not know they were there.  I sat back on the mare and kept my sights upward thanking God for this one precious moment.  Thanking him for saving me.  Thanking him for making me who I was despite all that had transgressed.  I wanted to make peace with Him.  I wanted to know that He still loved me.  I always believed somehow that I was unlovable and with each horrible incident in my life, I knew that God blamed me.  I knew that even He could not love someone who could do nothing more than attract the very worst of things.  I was a magnet for bad.  And if it got close enough, I took part.  Sometimes against my will, sometimes in spite of it.  Suddenly I felt a sense of anger and fear and sorrow well up in me.  "I didn't ask for this!" I shouted.  " let this happen and you let it happen to me,"  I cried in deep sobs.  "How could you!  You were supposed to love me and you let this let all of it happen to me!"  I shouted through my sobs.  I grabbed the mare by the mane and turned her around.  I would not get peace tonight.  I wasn't ready and maybe God wasn't ready either.  I kicked the mare and we were off like the wind.  After a few detours to see old markers, I made my way back to the stable in a slow gallop.  I rode the mare toward her stall and unmounted.  I rubbed her head and closed the stall, taking the oil lamp with me.  As I walked toward the house I could see that Adam was walking toward me. 

"Sounds like you were telling someone off out there."  He said as he walked slowly by my side.  "Was I that loud?"  I responded.  "No, it is just that you are surrounded by 600 people here and everything you say and do is reported for 'safety' reasons.  "Ahh I say!  So 606 people heard me shouting at God?"  "Ah, yes; and while you do not have to divulge what you meant by what you shouted, the generals might want to be reassured you weren't meaning that you were mad at God for selecting you as The Keeper."  he says gently as he stops me to hold me.  I started crying again, the sobs were deep and heavy.  "This place confuses me.  I had so many happy memories here and yet so many sad ones too.  I suffered abuse here from two different men and yet  I cannot get away from it.  I cannot leave one without the other."  He held me stronger and closer until my sobs slowed and I was able to catch my breath. 

"Well, there is no need to delay the spin, I need to address this before the attack and I want to be sure that my only hope of salvation came in the form of becoming their Keeper."  we walked back to the house and I hung the lantern outside on another hook and walked in.  I poured myself a shot as all eyes were on me, tossed it back and began.  "First, let me say that I apologize for making you all witnesses to my melt down.  But, since you heard me, I feel it is only fair that you know the story behind that.  As you all know my lineage is from this city.  As a child I spent years in boarding school and summers here in Monterrey.  My life has had a series of tragedies but one of them has tainted me since I was 8.  At that age I began a slow descent into hell.  Two of my uncles began to abuse me.  One is dead and hopefully in hell the other is alive and my knights have already been given instruction on how to handle him.  This ranch was the only place that I could run away from the abuse.  And when I came here as a child I would seek refuge by sneaking into the stable and taking a horse so I could get away from my 'dysfunctional' family.  So you see my anger toward the heavens are really more about how the issue was never resolved and the many tragedies that followed."  I walk toward the tequila and pour myself a drink and toss it back.  "This is why Marco is my first target.  I have already advised the Conclave of my personal interest in the elimination of child abuse and they have chosen to support my efforts through my tenure.  But let me be clear, whether God and I ever make peace over this issue will not affect the intensity by which I will hunt down those who seek to abuse children.  I will make every man or woman who chooses to abuse children pay...not just with their lives; no that would be too merciful...they will pay with their souls before I hand them over to the hands of hell." 

The looks of sympathy and confusion soon changed to looks of unity and support.  "My files surely have all this information, but it is one thing to read it and quite another to live it gentlemen.  I am out for blood and that will not stop until God himself stops me."  They all lined up and bowed their heads to me.  "We are at your service Marquesa."  "Your loyalty is much appreciated.  My hope is that you will help the other 600 soldiers out there understand that I am not mad at God for being selected to be the Keeper.  I just have some unresolved issues that will be part of my future as the Keeper." 

General Whitmore steps forward, "Ma'am if you will pardon my forwardness, I think you can be assured that every one of these soldiers, Called and service men and women will stand behind you in this endeavor and any other that you see fit to remedy."  then he saluted me.  "Thank you again,"  and I bow to them. 

I turn and walk toward the stairwell.  This is as good a time as any to see what 'upstairs' turned into.  There are what seems to be five rooms.  My aunt had made a corner room into a sitting room.  I could see books and chairs.  Another corner toward the front looked like a simple room, definitely a guest room.  I come across what looked like the master bedroom.  The furniture was rustic but not chunky.  The wall has some hand painted tiles all along the lower half of the room.  It is very colorful which tells me my aunt won the battle.  The room has an ensuite bathroom with a tiled tub that takes a big portion of the room.  It has a shower head a la European sitting on the faucet in a cradle.  That is definitely my aunt.  So is the fact that there were notebooks scattered on the desk along the wall toward the closet on the other side of the bedroom.  I sit on the bed and can tell that the house has been kept very clean.  Who knows the last time it had been used. 

I feel eyes on me, and as I look behind me I see Filip, Marcello and Adam.  Filip tells me that Marco and about 30 men have arrived at the ranch and he has already sent out a scout team of 5.  From what we gather there are more men arriving.  There is some pent up frustration and and this attack is a good excuse to show their power, especially over someone who has become a media darling.  

"So, what am I supposed to do?  Wait for it all to be over then just jettison off to Quebec?"  They moved in closer and Marcello tells me that this will be over in less than an hour and my orders will be followed. Every person who is present and anyone who attempts to arrive will be eliminated.  The stream of "volunteers" will stop.  "We are monitoring all their communications including phone and text. They will wait for Marco's next move or command.  We'll move in on them once the first group strikes to be sure there are no escapes."  

"Given the number of bodies we can skip the boxes.  Let's just sear my insignia on their right cheek or forehead.  But we'll dump the bodies  in front of his gates and the sign needs to be put up in a way that nobody can take it down or cover it.  I still want him on a stick, facing the bodies."  

I don't know what do with myself.  I sit there.  Adam tells me that they will all be with me until it's over then I'll be led away while the special forces do the clean up. 



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Chapter 14 - Bloodguilt

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Chapter 15 - Servant Leader

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Chapter 16 - What Has Been, Will Be Again

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Chapter 17 - Salt and Light

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Chapter 18 - Making A Way In The Wilderness

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Chapter 19 - Ask And It Shall Be Given

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Chapter 20 - The Shield of Faith

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Chapter 21 - Whom Shall I Fear?

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Chapter 22 - The Root of All Evil

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Chapter 23 - Arise and Be Strong

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Chapter 24 - The Sacrifice of Peace

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Chapter 25 - Justified

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Chapter 26 - Bondage of War

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Chapter 27 - Take Up The Sword

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Chapter 28 - Vengance Is His

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Chapter 29 - The Peacemakers

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Chapter 30 - The Evil Meant for Good

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Chapter 31 - The Cost of the Cross

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Chapter 32 - At the Gate

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Chapter 33 - The Lost Coin

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Chapter 34 - The Eye of the Needle

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Chapter 35 - Where the Treasure Lies

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