Thomas heard the shuffling of boots and the noise of battle outside the hatch. Enemy knights undoubtedly searched through the monastery for anything or anyone that would get in their way. A match struck as one of the sages in the hatch lit a torch.
Elder Sage Phillip drew a finger over his lips, motioning for everyone to keep still and quiet while they waited for the enemy knights to pass through. Or so Thomas thought. But The Elder Sage turned toward the far wall of the hatch. Now that the room was lit, it appeared much larger than Thomas first anticipated.
Thomas watched the Elder Sage raise his hands toward the wall and place his fingers perfectly between the carvings of an ancient tree. Immediately, the branches loosened and what seemed like a door popped open. Then he swung it open, revealing a narrow passage. The sage with the torch crossed through first, lighting other torches along the wall as he went.
They took several twists and turns. Only when Thomas looked back did he realize that another sage blew out the torches again with a small handheld contraption. He understood why they needed to do this.
The tunnel stretched on for what seemed like a mile before they approached a small room. Only then did Phillip dare to speak again. “We’ll be safe here for a few hours. It’ll only be a matter of time before they find the entrance to the hatch,” he said, his voice of authority back again. “Quintus, give me the first of the Frodenheim Scrolls.” A sage with a long grey beard similar to the Elder Sage handed him a large scroll that had beautiful golden handles and several pure white pearls along the edges.
Thomas must’ve stared too much, because Phillip gave him a long stare and rolled his eyes. “Yes, they’re real.” Phillip opened it and began reading. Thomas waited urgently for the man to begin reading out loud. Finally, after minutes of silence, the Elder Sage spoke. “These scrolls make no mention of the current events.”
“How can you be sure?” Thomas asked.
“Even the last pages are filled with only snippets of the Ten Orders Of The Ancients,” Phillip said. “Although we’ve already rewritten all ten, the only real conclusion here is that we’re missing a scroll or set of scrolls.”
“So what do you propose we do?” Thomas said, which caused all the other sages to also lean toward them as if to hear the Elder Sage’s response.
“What scrolls did you manage to take with you?” Phillip asked all the sages in the room. Everyone who’d taken a scroll dropped it onto a small table in the right corner of the room. Phillip immediately began sorting them into different piles, obviously separating the categories.
“What are you doing?” Thomas asked when he noticed Phillip read a portion of each scroll and then place it into a corresponding pile.
“I’m separating the scrolls that contain a portion of the Ten Orders,” Phillip said. “Not every scroll we’ve read or written contain them. But we know that whichever ones do, they didn’t get lost in translation during the Great Separation.”
Thomas nodded, although he didn’t fully understand what the Elder Sage meant. What was the Great Separation? “Others have failed to successfully translate the Ten Orders Of The Ancients?” Thomas asked.
Phillip nodded and continued categorizing the scrolls. Thomas had been told often about people wanting to become a sage, but he knew the process was long and tough. It took accuracy in the translations and a deep knowledge of the Ways Of The Ancients. But he’d never anticipated that other people tried to become a sage on their own terms and understanding. Wasn’t this exactly what the Ancients had warned them about in their Orders? It made sense now why the majority of people wanting to become a sage ended up becoming Rebels instead. But Thomas could only hope that he wouldn’t be on of them.
Phillip suddenly looked up. “Who took this scroll in here?” Everyone in the room looked at him in dismay, for he’d used a more powerful voice than usual. He held a scroll with perfectly carved amethyst handles. But nobody came forward. Even when he asked again, nobody moved. He held only a portion of the scroll open.
“Why do you ask?” Quintus asked with his unsteady voice.
Phillip examined the scroll again. “This is the first one I’ve ever seen.”
“First one you’ve ever seen with what?” Quintus said.
Phillip drew back a long breath. “It includes all of the Ten Orders. We’ve seen them separated many times, but never all in the same scroll. And they’re written in order. It is without flaw.”
As Phillip opened the scroll for everyone to read it for themselves, Thomas began to read. It was true. Nothing was missing. Every Order was there. He gasped in disbelief. How could this even be possible? Yet there it was, for all to see and read for themselves.
But suddenly, something on the scroll changed. Bright orange words seemed to pop out in between the other words. The light overpowered the other words so that Thomas couldn’t read them anymore. It grew so bright that the torch’s light seemed like nothing.
When he gasped, everyone looked in his direction. He pointed at the scroll, unable to speak at first. But nobody else must’ve noticed the change. What was happening? Was his mind playing tricks on him? Yet there they were, bright as ever before. But they were beginning to dim.
“What are you seeing?” Phillip asked him.
Thomas still couldn’t speak but motioned for the scroll. When he’d finally calmed down a little, he read the words out loud for everyone to here, even though they looked at him with weird faces as though they were unsure of what he was reading. Every one of them knew the Ten Orders by memory. And he wasn’t reading them. He was reading the same words as he’d read only a little while ago.
“Search the books. Know the truth. Find the hidden kingdom, and it will set you free.”
Thomas looked up to see the old man from the wagon at the entrance to the room. The man gave him a warm smile and then disappeared into the darkness.