Chapter 3
“And what the hell is this? Greek?” It was a letter, in so much as a piece of paper with scribbled characters is a letter. Scipio, who’d been looking over my shoulder, took it from my hand. He looked at it closely for a moment then smiled, his eyes lighting up, like they do when he solves a puzzle. “Ever heard of Leonardo Davinci?” I glared at him, “Ever hear of staying on topic?” “I am! Check this out.” He jumped off the bed and went over to my mirror. “Yup. Exactly what I thought. Come here.” Cautiously hopeful I joined Scipio at the mirror. In our reflection was the letter, perfectly legible and I suddenly understood why Scipio had asked about Devinci. “She can write backwards.” “Yeah. Pretty good too. Look at that.” It was true. Every letter was neat and perfect, every line straight. “She’s no idiot then.” Scipio shook his head. “Are you kidding? She’s brilliant.” He paused, “Or crazy. It could be either.” I ignored him. Eyes clued to the paper. I finally read the message my cousin had left me. My dearest Troy, If you are reading this, it is likely that I am dead. I would explain but for the fear that someone other than you might read this. Find the Crusaders of Light. They will help you. I’m so sorry Troy. I never meant for it to be this way and I wish I were there to help you. I love you, Lemon. Love, Jennifer “Troy…” I drop onto the edge of the bed, feeling dazed, trying to make sense of what I was seeing, trying to make sense of any of this at all, but one line kept grabbing my attention like a knife twisting into my heart. I am dead, I am dead, I am dead. “Oh god.” All I could think about was how much I loved her. How she’d taken me in… Scipio dropped a hand on my shoulder. “Would now be a bad time to ask you why she would call you Lemon?” My first instinct was to strangle him. “Really Scipio? Of all the…” but then it hit me. It was a good question. In fact, it was an excellent question. “Lemon” was a childhood nickname. Something Jennifer hadn’t called me in years. It started with my boyhood obsession with anything secret agent or spy. To feed my imagination, Jennifer used to leave me notes in lemon juice. “Scipio, we need an iron.” Five minutes later found us in the laundry room, leaning over the ironing board. My heart was in my throat, and Scipio looked very excited. It took only moments for the writing to appear. Unlike the letter, this wasn’t written backwards and the handwriting was script- like, fancy, nothing like how Jennifer would write. Lest all the world to darkness fall Release the King of Light Tis he who stands ‘gainst him who crawls That evil Prince of Night On the day of darkness’ height Bird and beast will stand Lord of Earth, Master of Flight Answer the King’s demand The LionHeart and EagleSoul Proved in Griffon’s birth On the Armor Guard of the world Come and prove your worth Show the Light the high above The Eagle still does soar And show him here on Earth below There’s still a Lion that roars. And then written on the bottom, in bold block letters, one last message from Jennifer. YOU ARE THE LIONHEART What was I to do? Who was I to turn to? All I had to go on was a riddle of poem, someone called the Crusaders of Light and a claim that I was some LionHeart. Scipio looked like he’d gotten about as much sleep as I had when he met me coming down the stairs the next morning. His eyes were slightly bloodshot. Admittedly, not an uncommon look for him as he was known to spend all night on a computer if he found a topic that interested him enough. “Hey man.” He said kindly. “Couldn’t sleep?” It was early. His Aunt and Uncle weren’t even up yet. I shook my head. “You?” “Nope. Too busy.” That’s how Scipio was. Far be it for him to sleep when there was a puzzle to solve or a mystery to ponder. I knew this and waited for him to tell me what he’d discovered. He didn’t say anything until we were in Aunt Anita’s well stocked kitchen. Scipio had inherited his Aunt’s ability to cook and he whipped together breakfast and coffee while he talked. “What do you know about the crusades?” “Um. They were wars and they were bad.” “Genius.” Scipio deadpanned giving me a withering look over his shoulder. “Now, would you like to know what I know?” I gestured for him to go on. He turned back to his waffle-making, talking all the while, “The crusades were wars between Christians and Muslims over land that both considered to be holy, namely Jerusalem. I did a google search on Lionheart and you wouldn’t believe how many book and movies there are with that title. It’s ridiculous. Anyway, once I got passed all the useless media crap - did you know there is even a band called Lionheart? Yeah. Me either…” “I assume this is going somewhere?” I step in quickly. If someone didn’t keep him focused, Scipio could chatter on about nothing all day. “Right. Sorry.” He brought over a plate of waffles and a cup of coffee for me. I really wasn’t that interested in food but Scipio had made it for me and he made good waffles. I knew he was trying to make me feel better. After all, waffles always cheered him up. He sat down across from him with his own breakfast but his hands were too busy talking for him to eat. “So, ultimately I stumbled across a site on famous people from the Crusades, one of which was the Christian hero and leader of the Crusades, King Richard the I.” He looked pleased. I stare at him blankly. “And all this matters because…?” “Because he is very commonly known as Richard De Couer de Leon. Richard the LionHeart.” He looked to proud I wanted to be glad for the new but I couldn’t even humor him. “That’s great Scipio. I have the same nickname as some long dead Warrior King.” Scipio nodded, “Yeah. So I’m thinking…” “Stop Scipio.” I interrupt. “Just stop okay?” I’d listened to my friend for as long as I could stand it. I knew he was trying to help but I just couldn’t bring myself to care anymore. “I don’t care about the crusades or King Richard, or these Crusaders of Light, whoever they are. Okay? I. Don’t. Care. Jen is gone!” my voice broke. “None of it matters anymore.” “Troy I…” I pushed my plate away and left before he could finish. ~ Scipio only gave me an hour before he came knocking on my door, and entering before I could send him away. Despite his goofiness there could be at times something fierce and tenacious about Scipio, which was the side of him I saw when he marched in. “Listen.” He said not giving me a chance to speak. “I know you’re upset, I know you’re angry and quite frankly I’d be worried if you weren’t, but Troy, don’t you see what this letter is? It’s evidence. A link to whatever happened to Jennifer. I mean, don’t you want to know? Don’t you want justice? Besides,” Scipio continued. “It said, ‘likely dead.’ If there is even the smallest chance that Jennifer is still alive don’t you think we should at least try?” It was like someone had lit a candle in a pitch black cave. It wasn’t a big light but it was enough to cut through the darkness and bring that little bit of hope. “Thank you Scipio.” I murmured. Forcefully brushing away tears, I took a fortifying breath and looked up, my determination renewed. “You’re right. Where do we start?”