Chapter One – The Burning
"Tis the year sixteen hundred and ninety six as thy words are written down into this volume. The quill scratches across the yellow hued parchment, bound together here before thee with bindings of tanned leather and stripped sinew. The feeling of the quill cutting trenches into the page from thy deft strokes. The furrows fill ink of deep dark obsidian. Thy words came to life as they were etched for posterity here among its compatriots. The page is turned as thee look out of the window of thine home of hewn oaken walls with pine clapboard roof. The house, nay the very village, sits nestled amongst vast forests deeply inward from the great sea that is our neighbor. One can imagine the very aroma of the crisp clean blue sky as the trees reach in to thine embrace. All around thee is green leaf, branch, tree, and canopy. Small paths snake their way through these verdant groves across miles of acreage connecting one small village or township to others. Thou art alone yet never alone.
Thine wife, Sarah, hast taken to gathering kindling for long periods of time over the last few weeks when Thee hath come home in the past evenings from tilling the plot or hunting amidst the tall deep oaks for game to nourish us. Thine fear is she may suspect the village folk's intention towards us shall soon turn dark. Rumors hath started to creep across the fountain circle that our secret hath spilleth forth. The very reason for our exodus to the new world shall become the course of our demise. The words gathered here in these pages will guide future generations of the faithful. These verses candor what must be done by future family to hold true but never forsaken whom thee hath sprung from…"
No sooner had those fateful words been penned permanently to paper then their meaning became frightfully clear to one John Andrews, master of that small domicile in the village of great forest hidden in the new world. Looking fitfully out the window's creases where beams of fine light bleed into the room. The candles held aloft on the walls by sconces were soon out shown by the townsfolk blazing torches. Sounds of gathering townsfolk upon the Andrews home rattled John and his skittish wife Sarah. Rattling rake and pitchfork against the exterior of the home, the crowd demanded that John Andrews come outside. Stones pelted the clapboards with a cacophany of outcomes, shattering the peaceful air of the night. Sarah rushed to her husband's arms as the moment counted down upon their fate. Her own cries were drowned out by the screams and chants of the people outside their home demanding John Andrews' immediate egress.
"Thee can't hide anymore John!" screamed one voice.
"Come out here Andrews!" squawked another.
"What dost thou want?" pleaded Sarah Andrews from her husband's reassuring embrace.
"Cometh out and face us, Witch!" yelled a third, banging on the front door.
"Witch!" rang out the chant across the angered faces of the mob.
John Andrews knew it was at this moment he had but seconds left to save the legacy of his family, the prophecy of what was to mark it, and the generations that would complete it…the Legacy Journal of the Rosy Cross. Quickly John gathered a velvet cloth from above the writing table at which he recently sat. Draping the journal within its velvet purple embrace, John Andrews deftly placed his family's Legacy journal into a burlap rucksack. Thrown in among other items was a small satchel of money, coins, papers and a golden emblem that lay atop the mantle piece. All these things he gathered within moments to give to Sarah. Sarah's shawl and hooded cloak fell across the width of her shoulders as John took the rucksack bidding her to take it. John looked deep into her scared blue eyes. He pulled her close and whispered into the ear of his love, his love of his wife and their unborn child. Puling aside the hand woven rug that lay at their feet, John tugged at a trap door's handle that had remained unused until that moment. He bade her take her leave before the mob stormed through the wooden wall that acted as barrier and castle to them all these months in the village. Sarah took each motion carefully as she descended down the wooden stairwell underneath the house. John's gaze kept Sarah in sight until the last possible moment when he replaced the wooden tile into the flooring. No sooner than he had done so, the mob crashed through into the Andrews' house. This mob was determined if nothing else to see what they had come for to be accomplished.
Sarah listened above at the stomping about of her dear husband's tormentors. These people were once the very ones they had dined with, attended Church, and eve called dear friends. How could they have turned on them with such savagry. Those thoughts would haunt her sleep from this day on. She knew that she would have to wait till everything calmed down. She would steal away in the shadow of night onto the road with their horse, the rucksack of valuables, and her unborn child. All this was necessary if their family line was to continue. She vowed that the child of John Andrews would know his father's life, legacy, and the power of the Rosy Cross in his inheritance. Sarah Andrews bade her time as she knew she would have to till the devastation had passed. Even then she would need to act carefully making her way across the southern villages. She and John had promised each other to head to the southern colonies of the New World. Tomorrow she would make good on that promise. There would be plenty of time later to grieve.
The mob's chants raised in its intensity as it crashed through the wooden barriers between themselves and their quarry. Three men grabbed a sullen and shaken John Andrews literally tearing him out of his shoes as they paraded him away from home to the center of the village. Old men averted their eyes as he walked past them. Ladies screamed horrible curses at him of witchery and Satanism. Passionate children enjoy the uproar throwing rotten eggs and produce at John along the way. Chants of witch, witchcraft, and alliances with the Devil filled the silent air of Brambleberry defying the innocence of its name. John felt the bruising grasp of the men's hands as he was tethered to a tall wooden pole atop several stools to support him. Each group of the families from the village took turns dropping kindling at the foot of the spire. The Witchfinder General had been summoned forth some days ahead but John thought their private worship had been sufficiently kept under whelmed. The General raised the blazing torch towards the mob. Their voices rose to screams to match the anticipation of what was to happen. The General asked John for his confession of his sin of witchcraft. John's denial was vehement. Twice more the man of authority posed to the bound man. Both times John's denials were met with mob retaliation. Threats were made upon his wife and his homestead by the villagers unless he confessed his alliance with the Devil. The Witchfinder General sated their bloodlust by tossing the lit branch into the dry bramble. The fame exploded across the kindling like a swift torrent of water across the shoals of a fall, gaining speed and devastating in its wake. The fire grew in its intensity as it hungrily devoured all in its maw. It nipped at the chords of wood that nestled themselves between the legs of suspected witch John Andrews. John cried out of his innocence as the flames licked at his open flesh. Crisping and curdling skin released pungent aromas of this man's pain. His cries for mercy unacknowledged, his innocence disbelieved. John Andrews took only a single thought into the night in which he was bound. He knew that his wife and child would carry on the legacy. His final scream echoed out his heart as the fire devoured his earthly body.... SARAH!!!!
Suddenly Jay Elbert sat straight up in his bed, screams emptying from his quivering throat as tears streamed down his puffy ruddy cheeks. He found his arms outstretched from the pain with his palms held tight in pugilistic grips. The sweat had dowsed Jay's night shirt making it cling to his sixteen year old body as if it were a wet diaper. Jay soon sweltered from the irritations making him uncomfortable. He blinked in disbelief. Finding himself hidden among the matted sheets, Jay looked for the comforter his grandmother had given him. It had been thrown across the room dangling from the light fixture in the middle of the ceiling. He clamored around in the bed a moment checking for what he believed were burn marks on his hands, arms, chest, and cheeks…both sets. His skin was hot to the touch. He was on fire. He felt the heat then the pain. It was real. Jay calmed himself down. He knew it had to be a dream. He wasn't put to the torture last night no matter what his body had told him. It felt so real to him though.
The alarm clock chirped breaking the silence of the moment. Jay jumped out of the bed literally. He felt the heavy book land on his feet. Looking down, he found the leather bound journal adorned with the rosy cross emblazoned on the front. The tome was real that much he was sure of. His Grandpa Joseph had given him the family heirloom when he moved in his Jay and his family last year. The alarm clock continued to blast its echoing alert at the bewildered youth. A sweet tenured voice sang up to him from the kitchen below reminding him to get ready for school. The woman was his mother Emily and the melodious reminder a raging storm of harsh words about what would happen to his extra curricular activities should he miss the bus again this week.
Jay, shocked back into reality, fumbled around for a clean pair of underwear and T-Shirt from amongst the clothes cohabitating with him in his bedroom. He peeked under the bed for a brief second. He found his prey. A pair of black and white striped jockey shorts lay just out of reach. He stretched his arm the entire length under the bed to grab that last clean undergarment he had. He strained to make contact with its waistband. He pushed hard into the bed frame but to no avail. Suddenly he felt the underwear in his grip. He had not seen under the bed at that moment where the elastic band had begun to shake under his directed express will to be found. All Jay knew was that he was going to be going commando if he failed. At Mullinax River High School that was never an option. Jay skirted around his mother at his bedroom door heading into the bathroom for a shower. She simply looked at the mess in front of her that was masquerading as a room in this household. She sighed.
Jay Elbert was born sixteen years ago to Emily and Walter Elbert. They built a house in Elbert County, Georgia. Walter Elbert had been raised in Atlanta to loving parents who cherished their time living close to a large city. He met his soon to be wife Emily while attending the University of Georgia in Athens. Emily had been born and raised in Dalton, Georgia, a smaller municipality. She had given up on her lifestyle in the college environment and bohemian suburbia of Athens. Once they graduated, the pair knew they wanted to move away from either community and raise a family without constraint as their pioneering ancestors had done. This was apparently what they had been told time and again by Michael Elbert, Walter's father, who clung to the public avenues and walkways of Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta. Walter and Emily purchased several acres of land near the Mullinax Farm in Elbert County not too far from Athens. This verdant pasture land was just outside the small homey township of Elberton. Walter's job as a structural engineer had afforded them a comfortable lifestyle despite the hours of commuting it required to the office in downtown Duluth, Georgia off of Interstate 85 South. He felt that raising a family away from the bustle of the city life was paramount. So for the next decade Walter and Emily were blessed with rural peace as they raised their son Jay.
Jay Elbert, a youthful son of sixteen years, stood almost five foot seven inches barefoot to the wind. His reddish blond hair fell into curls as they edged across his brow. Striking cerulean blue eyes peered out from under his pale glare. He was not made for sun worshipping by any means but he had a keen warmth about him that attracted similarly old souls. Jay was never known for his social affectations. In fact, he avoided many hombres to be left alone to wander the dark forests that surrounded his home.
Many hours were spent with his knapsack, trinkets, and his sturdy Huffy Mountain Bike as traversed across Elbert County, searching for its secrets. He knew he was destined to uncover such secrets. He knew he was different than the other teens at school. His mother liked to call him "special" whereas he gained another nom de guerre at Mullinax High…. "Weirdo!" He knew both were right about him but he didn't know how to prove them wrong.
Stepping out of the shower's cascading waterfall, Jay threw himself into the clutches of his favorite plush beach towel. It's deep blue rectangular area always seemed to be able to smother those sudden chills after a hot shower. Once again the smell of fabric softener caressed his nostrils. He loved that smell from the fabric softener bottle, the one with the little teddy bear on it with a penchant for cooing. Thrashing about with his Jerzee Tee which brandished a huge moniker for his favorite web comic, Hero Central, Jr., Jay finally conquered his ensemble for the day of school. A bit of hair gel among the tangles on his head combined with Old Spice deodorant and Jay Elbert felt he could take on whatever hammered away at him. Spying the ring his Grandma Rose had given him several years ago laying dangerously on the sink side, Jay stretched out his hand trying to connect with it. He pursed his lips and furrowed his brow tightly trying to move the ring into his grasp. The ring with the red garnet simply stared back at him motionless. Frustrated he simply grabbed the ring and placed it upon his left hand's primary digit. It was just as how Grandma Rose had always worn the jewel. She had always told Jay that he was going to grow into a very special person. He didn't believe his grandmother when he was really young until that Thanksgiving dinner night when he saw just what she had meant. With the whole family crowding around their mountain home's fire in the countryside of Dalton, Georgia, Grandma Rose was placing some crystal glasses on a serving tray. She had forgotten the ladle that completed the set on the china hutch's top shelf. Jay ,trying to please his grandmother, ran to the hutch to retrieve the ladle. Slipping on a throw rug near the hallway, Jay fell into a toboggan-esque slide accosting the oak china cabinet with extreme duress. Jay had seconds to look up at the cascading shoals of china plates, crystal table accoutrement, thimbles, and that crystal ladle all raining down upon him. This was going to hurt much less destroy Grandma Rose's heart he thought in those impending seconds. Jay waited for the symphony of crashing tableware. It never came. He opened his eyes. As he winced, he looked up to see all thirty or so pieces of collectible antiques staring at him in mid-air. A warm hand reached over and covered his eyes. Jay was helped up from the shambled rug by Grandma Rose who had simply caught the potential victims of Jay's efforts to help. She moved all of the suspended items back into their place in the cabinet but with a concentrated thought. Simply placing her index finger across her lips, Grandma Rose extended her open hand towards her grandson. He looked confused but ultimately realized he was clutching the crystal ladle that he had sought out in the beginning of this averted fiasco.
Grandpa Joseph had come into the kitchen concerned with the absence of his beloved Rose. She told Joseph that Jay was just helping her set the table. Jay sat the ladle down on the lace table cloth and ran off back into the living room to play with his cousins. He never forgot what his family was capable of from that day onward. It would however seem like a dream of summers gone past to a young boy full of imagination with play always around the bend.
Jay sat at the breakfast table, tossing his black and turquoise handled knapsack into the chair next to him. Grandpa Joseph was already sipping on a second cup of coffee by that early hour. Jay's mother Emily sat down the bowl of cereal onto the table mat. It stared up at him as it snapped, crackled, and popped up at him. He smiled up at his mom. Pulling his knapsack over from the chair next to his, Jay rifled around some of his notebooks. Taking out the Legacy Journal and placing it on the table, Jay shuffled some papers into order until he was satisfied that he was finished with his World History homework. Grandpa Joseph's eyes lit up momentarily at the sight of the heirloom. His glance made its way around the room and over to Emily who was drying off the last of the prior night's dishes from the strainer that was anchored to the sink side draining any standing water. Her brow furrowed, frowning on the fact that Jay had become so attached to that object that stared at her indirectly from the tabletop. Grandpa Joseph simply smiled as he took another sip from his mug. Jay shoved everything back into the knapsack. As he pushed the journal into the bag, he caught Grandpa Joseph's smirk.
" So Grandpa, what are you gonna do today?" Jay inquired so as to misdirect any attention from his obvious action.
" Well son, I was going to take a walk out back a ways. Ever since I sold the house back in Dalton, moved into here, I really haven't had the chance to just explore any really good forests lately. Any ideas on what's back there?" he asked Jay whom he knew had explored the trail ways on his mountain bike.
"There are some really cool trails back there next to what I think is a gorge and a still…" Jay offered then suddenly stalled his descriptions of any said discovery as his un-approving mother hastened intently towards them, dish rag in hand. " …or so I hear. Sorry Grandpa, gotta go catch the school bus. I can't be late this time!"
Grabbing the knapsack, Jay emptied from his straight backed chair, bolting for the side door and out of the kitchen. He only hoped he had dodged another bullet as he rushed down the driveway to catch the oncoming elongated yellow limousine for the day.