The crowd mutters through their departure from the area. They leave quickly, seeming afraid of being in close proximity to the cathedral for any longer than necessary. I look at Griff, who has finally stopped shoveling food into his mouth. He’s holding the spoon in mid-air, just below his chin. His mouth is still open, waiting for the food to arrive.
“Griff?” I ask, hoping he’s okay.
“What the hell was that?” Griff asks. His spoon falls to the ground.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“That show, that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Do they really get into this type of stuff at Renaissance Festivals?”
“Why should I know?” I shrug.
“You’re a nerd. You’re supposed to know all about this type of stuff.”
“Not that kind of nerd,” I reply grumpily. “You think a teenaged black girl could be running around with fairy wings in this day and age?”
“I don’t know. Aren’t we all tolerant now or whatever?”
“Yeah,” I snort. “Right.”
“Alright, kid.” He looks around before finally dropping his bowl to the ground to join the spoon. “Figure out how to get back to the city, yet?”
I shoot him an unhappy look.
“What?” he asks.
I gesture to the bowl.
“Oh, come on. They’ve got people who get paid to clean up that type of stuff.”
“Come on, Griff,” I rebuke.
“Fine.” He makes a big show of bending over to pick up both the spoon and the bowl. “Now, how do we get out of here?”
“No clue,” I respond after a short pause. “I still don’t even know where here is. Is it possible that storm took us out of the city altogether? Maybe somewhere upstate?”
“It’s still a stretch we were carried anywhere, kid. It’s much more likely we’re both suffering from a concussion.”
“That would make a lot of sense.” I grin.
“Well, we’ve got food in our stomachs. No sense in hanging around here any longer. Maybe we can convince one of these actors to tell us how to get out of here.”
“Good call.” I look out to see where the nearest actor might be. “Is it weird you and I are the only people here not in costume?”
“Naw,” Griff shrugs. “People come to these things in costume all the time. What’s weird is that they’re all hiding inside on such a beautiful day. And what about the guy on the steps there? I haven’t seen him move a muscle. Good job,” Griff yells, shooting a thumbs up at the heaped over man. “Dedication is what it’s all about!”
“It looks like everyone’s heading to the other side of that park there. Might be a bunch of shops or whatever. Maybe guest services?”
“Lead the way, milady,” Griff says in his most knightly tone, offering his arm. I pretend to swoon before sliding mine into his.
Once we clear the gardens surrounding the chapel, we find ourselves in the midst of what looks like a rather large village. I really can’t understand how this area could exist within Central Park, such a huge area, I might add, and be something I’m completely unaware of. I mean, come on, I might not be into all this Renaissance stuff, but I still can’t believe I wouldn’t have known they threw something this big right in the middle of Manhattan.
I’m starting to think we might not be in Manhattan any longer. Maybe Griff’s right, maybe this is some sort of dream. But it seems so real. And if it’s real, then I have a few more questions to ask, like, why are we here? Or, how did we get here? That storm wasn’t any storm I’ve ever seen before and it seemed to appear when Griff was playing with the time piece I snagged off that guy back at the antique shop.
I look down at the pendant and press the button on top. Neither the compass nor the watch is working yet. What if this weird clock has something to do with what’s going on here?
“Check out the scene,” Griff says, pulling me from my thoughts.
I have to applaud this troupe for their attention to detail. Where the bar at the city gate was filled with the lowest of the peasantry, here, safely at a deeper location within the walls, we find folks of who seem to have a higher place in the food chain of the Middle Ages. People are wearing long flowing tunics of beautiful colors and highlights. Hair appears to have been washed within the last decade. And the aromas of fresh bread are all around us. These might not be any sort of nobility, but they are definitely a far cry from the dirty yokels we found at the bar when we first entered town.
“Excuse me, miss,” Griff says to a short older lady walking past with three children behind her. She stops and looks us over with a questioning eye. “Could you tell us how to get back to the city?”
“What’s that, then?” she asks in reply.
“How do we get out of here and back to the city?” Griff repeats.
“You’re in the city, you is,” she says and continues on her way without a second glance.
Three pigs run down the street in front of us, squealing on their way. They are followed shortly thereafter by an exceptionally thin man screaming at them about something I can’t quite make out.
Griff looks at me and shrugs before walking up to the man who has now stopped in the middle of the road in frustration.
“Hey there, good fellow,” Griff begins, poorly taking on an English affectation, “would you be so kind as to tell us by which the best manner to return to the good city of York would be?”
The man’s eyes widen and he steps backward away from us.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to frighten you. You see, we are but two strangers to this land and have found ourselves lost within the walls of your fair village and merely wish to be directed in the best manner in which to get home to York.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the man answers. His voice squeaks with fear. “I don’t fink I can help you wiv ‘at.”
Without another word, he runs off down the street after the pigs.
“Alright, kid, looks like these actor types aren’t going to be any help. Howabout we look for that guest services building you were talking about?”
Down the road to the left, I see a stone building with Greek columns. It seems out of place in this rather English-looking village, but it looks like every other City Hall I’ve ever seen. And since City Hall almost always serves as the guest relations building, at least in theme parks, I head in that direction.
“Spared no expense, eh?” Griff says once he joins my side.
As we enter the building, we are greeted with a long room filled with more of the columns, each looking like they were made with the most beautiful of polished marble. The room itself has seen better days, causing me to wonder why they would have built this place only to allow it to get so run down.
I step into the room and my footsteps echo on the shiny stone floor below me. An old hunched-over man appears at the other end of the room and hustles toward our direction. He shushes us loudly while nearing.
“Good morrow,” Griff says loudly, “I was—“
“Shush!” the old man interjects. “Or would you like to bring down the wrath of The Wizard upon ye selves now?”
“Um,” I answer, “no, I don’t think we do want that.”
“Come wiv me,” the man says. He returns to the end of the room he had entered through.
We follow without a word.
The old man turns left at the other side of the room and exits through a door hidden behind a series of shelves which takes us into a darkened room with no windows to the outside world. This room is accentuated with dark-stained wood and shelves upon shelves of books.
Without thinking, I walk to the nearest shelf and begin perusing the titles of the beautifully bound books. The man hastily shuts the door behind us and hobbles to a chair situated in front of the lit fireplace that sits in the center of the opposing wall.
“Go on then,” the man sits, “have a seat, will ya?”
Griff sits on the complementary chair near the fireplace, placing the empty bowl on the desk.
I gesture to the pair, “You’ve got quite the amazing collection of books here.” I say this with honest enthusiasm. These must be ancient, yet they appear in perfect condition.
Hand-drawn images highlight every page of each selection I remove from the shelf. Beautiful calligraphy is emblazoned on each page. I suddenly realize these might be priceless relics, or at least expensive replicas, and quickly replace the item in my hand to the shelf and turn to face the seated pair.
“Oh, go on, miss. I know how you youngsters love to look at the pretty pictures.”
“They are definitely beautiful,” I agree. “But I have to say, I find the titles even more interesting. I’ve been to a lot of libraries and have never found a copy of Ptolemy’s Geography. And definitely not one as pristine and gorgeous at this one. Was it hand bound?”
“Of course, miss,” the man says with confusion in his eyes. “I’m certain it was. As are all books in my collection. I’m not certain how else one would bind them. By horse power I suppose?”
“Right,” I laugh, remembering how everyone here needs to stick to their characters.
“You must be of quite fine standing, young Moor, if you are learned enough to understand the written language,” the old man says quizzically.
“Oh, you know,” I laugh, deciding to play along. “Where I’m from, I’m something of a noble. Can’t you tell by my fancy clothes?” I ask, gesturing to my T-shirt and jeans.
“I must admit, your noble birth would explain a great deal regarding everything about you.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Griff cuts in. “We’re just looking to get some directions.”
“Ah, yes,” the man says again, his eyes lighting up. “The reason I had brought you both back here. Can’t be too careful you know.”
“Do I?” Griff asks.
“You two aren’t from around here, are you?”
“No,” Griff begins and follows it up with a sarcastic, “how could you tell?”
“Well, your manner of dress, for one,” the man answers honestly. “For the second, the fact that you were asking about the lost city of York. The third–”
“Great, finally someone who can tell us how to get out of the Park,” Griff tents his fingers and leans forward. “Look, pal, I love what you folks have done with the place and all, but you need to work on your ways of communicating with guests.”
“Before our town was known by the name of Avalon, it had another moniker. We were known for our inviting nature at that time. Unfortunately, our walls are closed off to outsiders, ever since–”
“Sure, whatever. Can you tell us how to get back to the city? We’ve got a plane to catch.”
“A plane?” I ask.
“Yeah, sorry, kid. I had meant to tell you on our way back to the hotel. We’ve got a flight out tonight.”
“Where to?” I ask.
“This city you seek, the city of Y…York—“ the man cuts in, stuttering upon saying the last word before Griff cuts him off in return.
“Right, New York City,” Griff responds impatiently. “Preferably in the direction of Broadway.”
“I have not heard mention of that name in quite some time.”
“Broadway?” Griff asks.
“No, Y…York. ‘Twas a word which brought light into the eyes of many for centuries.”
“C’mon, guy. We’re really not interested in the back story here. We just got lost getting out of the Park and want to go home.”
“If the lost city of York is what you seek, know that you have found it. For the city now known by the name of Avalon was, in fact, at one time the favored city of York.”
“Okay, right, the Park is technically in New York, we get it. We’re just looking to get us to—“
“I cannot help but notice your continued use of the phrase New York,” the man cuts in again. “Have you returned once again in order to free us from the tyranny of The Wizard and return the lost city to its rightful place?” The man stands and walks to one of the book shelves behind a desk on the other side of the room.
“Returned?” I ask.
“Will that get us home any faster?” Griff asks.
The man climbs a ladder and picks out a book from a shelf close to the ceiling.
“It has been quite some time since I’ve looked over the prophecy of the resurrection of York.”
I walk to the man’s side. Griff lets out a loud sigh.
“Seriously, guy. We’ve got non-refundable tickets, okay? Do you have a word for non-refundable in your goofy Renaissance speak?”
“Ah,” the man exclaims and looks at me with joy. “Here it is!”
“Alright, kid. He’s not going to be any help, let’s—“
“Hold on a second,” I cut Griff off.
“What?” Griff comes closer to see what I have found.
On the page before us is a gorgeous rendering of the cathedral steps we had been in front of only minutes ago. Standing on the steps is a male and a female, at their feet lies the body of a man with a long beard. The female in the picture is wearing a spherical locket around her neck.
“Doesn’t that kind of look like us?” I ask Griff.
“Bah,” Griff scoffs, taking only a quick glance at the page. “That could be anyone. Plus, in what world would this stupid Renn Fest know that you have this locket you got only today?”
“Yes, I had noticed your particular necklace,” the old man says. “Do you mind?” He holds out his hands toward the item I’m wearing.
Tentatively, I lift the chain over my head and hand it to the man saying, “It was working just earlier today. I’m not sure why it stopped.”
The man presses the button and it springs open. He sighs in delight at the sight of the interior of the device.
“This is it!” He speedily turns the pages of the book and stops on a rather da Vinci-esque blue print for something which looks an awful lot like my new piece of jewelry. “The Reprobian Sphere!”
“The what?” Griff asked.
“The Reprobian Sphere,” the man repeats. “Also called the Pendant of Saint Christopher.”
“Cool.” I peer closer at the device’s blueprint. “What does it do?”
“Of that, I know nothing,” the man says, his excitement not waning. “However, the Sphere has long been connected to the prophecy of the resurrection of the lost city of York.”
“Yeah?” Griff asks. “So, what does that mean we have to do? Give you a bunch of money, right?”
“Griff,” I scold.
“What?” He raises his shoulders in protest. “This guy’s obviously working some angle. What’s your game, guy? Couldn’t be a Spanish Prisoner, could it? Fortune Telling Fraud? Naw, too easy. I’ve got it! It’s a modified Rip Deal. You’re going to tell us the only way this damned thing is worth any money is if we have some piece that you just so happen to know how to get, but in order to get it, we’re going to have to put down some money so you can—“
“I have no interest in the Pendant.” The man hands the device back to me. “Outside of its historical significance, of course. My interest is in the two of you.” He turns the pages of the book back to the image of the three people on the cathedral steps. “But two mystic travelers will appear within the ravaged city, and with them, they will bring about the final destruction of the demon which possesses it.”
“Glim-dropper?” Griff asks.
“I think he’s being serious here, Griff. We should hear him out.”
“You think he’s being serious?” Griff laughs. “This is a damned show, kid. What the hell is there to be serious about?”
“There is naught but serious within the walls of Avalon,” the man says.
“This is ridiculous,” Griff continues. “I’m out of here.”
“Hold on a second, Griff,” I say, grabbing his arm to stop him. I toy with the pendant around my neck and I look to the old man. “I’m starting to believe we come from somewhere quite far away from here, from a land yet unfamiliar to the people of your city. I think my friend and I traveled a great distance to come here and I believe this locket might have something to do with it.”
“That would not be surprising. Saint Christopher, the man whose name is attached to the sphere, is considered the patron saint of travel.”
“Come on!” Griff yells. “This guy is totally working an angle here. Why are we still talking to him?”
“Is there something you might be able to show us, a large landmark, a nearby mountain, or something?”
“Ah,” the man says, “I believe I have just the thing.”
He wanders off without another word. Griff looks at me in agitation. I shrug at him and follow the old man. He exits the room, walks across the hall, and enters another doorway to another darkened room, this one containing only enough space for the tall spiral staircase which fills it. The man skips up the steps.
“You know,” he says without stopping, “I haven’t had the pleasure of discussing such matters with anyone in such a long time. Since The Wizard took over, everyone has been afraid of the ban he’s placed on books and knowledge. It’s made me into something of an outcast.”
I hear him struggle with something before I see he has opened a trap door in the ceiling and light is now pouring in from above. I step out onto the roof of the building and am immediately greeted with the sight of irrefutable proof that we are no longer in Kansas, or, you know, New York.
A loud escape of oxygen sounds from behind me as Griff steps out onto the roof and is greeted by the same skyline.
The entire city of Avalon is laid out in front of us, stretching on for about a half mile in every direction, surrounded on all sides by an elaborate wall structure. Running directly through the village is a mighty river, bisecting the town beautifully. A great bridge crosses the river, offering the only real method of traversing the wide breadth of raging water, although I see a multitude of strings and ropes and other items running across the length of it.
However, all of that pales in comparison to the landmark rising over the entire city. On a hill just within the wall opposite of the one we entered sits the most majestic vision of a medieval castle I have ever seen. It looks like it was carved out of the hill it sits on.
The line between where castle ends and earth begins is completely invisible. A thin bridge over a deep chasm leads to the only visible entrance for this stone paradise, entering the courtyard of the king’s quarters through an elaborate gate. Beyond that gate, the main structure seems separated into two primary sections. The larger of the two looks almost like a fortified church. The other is a great tower reaching toward the sky.
The tower alone shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we have traveled quite a lot further than the few blocks to Central Park. A fact that is verified by the slow whistle which then escapes my companion’s lips.
“That ain’t the Empire State,” Griff says, utilizing the world’s greatest understatement.
“You are correct, that is the king’s estate. Well, it would be, were the king not missing.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Not here,” the man says. “There are ears everywhere.”
Go to Chapter Ten