The Society of Orion – Book One: Weapons

TheSocietyofOrion

Published 12/17/2015

Chapter One 

October 14th, 1817

A horse ambled along the cobblestone streets in the center of the small city. The man riding the horse kept a sharp lookout. He was attempting to find a street with the address of a particular building. He and his five other travelers, all on horseback, created quite a stir in the ancient settlement of Solothurn, in modern day Switzerland. The men were heavily armed individuals wearing military uniforms, covered by long coats. To the locals, the men looked like veterans of many vicious war campaigns. The horses also appeared to be war veterans. To anyone that encountered them, they clearly appeared to be a protection detail. The leader rode high in the saddle. He was dressed in the fashion of a nobleman.

They rode through the town with the air of definite purpose. To the locals, these men looked like big trouble. Their presence disturbed the tranquility of the autumn season in the Alps. The chilled morning air magnified the sound of twenty-four horse hooves clip-clopping along the small cobblestone streets. The sound announced their menacing arrival. Most of the residents along their route stayed inside. They viewed the intruders through small windows in their dwellings. Many of the openings were covered with white lace curtains which people secretly peered through. The city residents wanted nothing to do with the foreigners. Foreigners meant war to them. Their mountainous countryside was finally at peace, but to the residents, it looked like another invasion was about to begin.

The leader was a man named Jakub. Today, he was in a foul mood as he crisscrossed the city. What the hell am I doing here? He had started his journey nearly a month earlier. He had covered the one thousand mile trek from his homeland on horseback. It was in the instructions of the letter. The letter was sent from 12 Gurzelngasse in the city of Solothrun. It was a request from the great man himself. It simply said, “Come at once in secrecy. Trust no one. I have something to give you. It is of the upmost importance.” There were no additional instructions and no directions.

Jakubs’ foul mood stemmed from the fact that he could not communicate with the people in the city. They all seemed to be hiding. Those he encountered were no help at all. They just shrugged when he spoke to him. Jakub spoke Polish, and learned Italian while studying under the master architect Domenico Merlini in 1786. He had even learned English while studying there, but the people he ran across in the city spoke German or French, languages that he did not expect to encounter. In his haste to leave his home, and with grave concerns about his protection, he had not thought to bring a German or French speaker in his protection detail. He wanted strong hard men by his side. As a result, he was relegated to wandering the streets of the city looking for the address.

“There it is,” cried out one of his men. The man pointed across the small town square. Jakub turned his head and was shocked at what he saw. The structure was little more than an apartment building with a store front on the ground floor. Jakub had expected a mansion or even a palace. He wondered how the great leader had fallen to this level. He sat on his horse while he studied the building for several minutes before riding over to the entrance. What does all this mean?

He knew that he had to keep the spirits of his men high. He struggled for something to say. “The structure is very solid,” he declared as he dismounted. “This building will last for several hundred years.” As an architect, Jakub admired well-constructed buildings. “He must want to keep my visit a secret.”

“Shall we come with you?” one of his detail asked.

“No, stay with the horses and protect my back,” Jakub replied absently. He then strutted to the door which led to the upper floors of the building. He rang the bell. It hung by a rope by the entrance. Shortly, a man dressed in the uniform of a servant, opened the door. They stared at each other for a few seconds.

Puis-je vous aider?” the servant asked.

Jakub didn’t understand what the servant said, but decided to reply in Polish. “Ja przyszedłem, aby zobaczyć swojego pana.” It meant, “I have come to see your master.”

“Je ne comprends pas.” The servant answered with confusion pasted on his face. He stood steadfast as he blocked the doorway. The now frustrated Jakub thought for a few seconds. He finally said the only words that he could think of speaking. He hoped the servant would understand.

Tadeusz Kościuszko,” Jakub said in Polish.

“Oui bien sûr,” the servant immediately replied and moved to the side so Jakub could enter the building. They proceeded up several stairs and down a short hall. The servant stopped. He knocked softly on a large door.

“Entrez,” an old voice boomed in French.

The servant opened the door and ushered Jakub inside. He was surprised because the room was a bedroom. Normally, people greeted him in a living room or study. As he surveyed the area, he noticed a sitting area, a small desk, and a massive four post bed. Prone on the bed was Tadeusz Kościuszko. He looked thin and weak.

Jakub knew the man from earlier in his life. They were both educated under the enlightened King Stanislaw II of Poland. Jakub turned into a renowned architect, servant of the government. Kościuszko turned into a military hero in both America, during the revolutionary war, and in his homeland of Poland. The old man in the bed noticed him. His tired eyes came to life.

“Ah,” he exclaimed. “You have finally made it here to see me,” the man spoke in a hoarse Polish dialect.

“I have come just as you have requested,” Jakub announced in Polish as he walked up to the bed.

“Speak English,” the old man demanded. “The servant doesn’t understand English. What we have to discuss is very private.”

“As you wish,” Jakub replied in English and bowed his head.

“Your English is very good,” Kościuszko told him.

“Why am I here?”

Suddenly more congenial, Kościuszko said, “Please call me Thaddeus, my American name. I no longer use my Polish name. Come and sit by the bed.” He motioned to the servant who immediately brought over a chair for Jakub.

“Thank you,” Jakub said as he sat down. “It has been a long journey. Why have you requested a visit from me?”

“There is time enough for that, but first let’s just talk,” General Tadeusz Kościuszko replied. He was quiet for a moment, but then he spoke. “You know,” the old man laughed with difficulty, “the information you gave me about Ben Franklin in 1776 was wrong. By the time that I traveled to the famous Café Procope in Paris to meet him to volunteer my services, he had already sailed to America. I almost didn’t make it into the revolution.”

“But Casimir Pulaski wrote me that Franklin was always there,” Jakub said defensively. “What did you do?”

“Why I hopped on the first ship bound for America with my men. I went straight to his printing shop in Philadelphia. He sent me to talk to General Washington, and the rest is history as they say.”

“I didn’t know that,” Jakub admitted as he began warming to the general. “But I do know that you became an expert in building defenses for the revolutionary troops. I understand that you even built a fort at someplace called West Point in New York. It is considered a defensive marvel.”

“I’m not as accomplished as you are at architecture,” Thaddeus complimented Jakub. “I am much better at fighting.”

“Speaking of fighting, you don’t look well,” Jakub stated. “What happened? You are too old to continue to fight.”

“Ah, I fell off  my horse, and have now developed a fever. The doctors say that I had a stroke. My time is short, Jakub.” This disturbed Jakub as Thaddeus was only twelve years older than himself. Time will catch us all, he thought.

“It’s been a long time since we last met,” Jakub said sincerely.“Yes, it has Sir Jakub Banyon, knight of the Polish Commonwealth.”

“The Commonwealth no longer exists,” Banyon said vehemently. “None of us are knights anymore.”

“I’ve given up the title as well,” the old man replied.

“Poland has been partitioned for the third time,” Jakub informed the greatest general in Polish history. “It happened shortly after the uprising bearing your name in 1794.

“I know this and I also know that you stayed on in the government,” Thaddeus said bitterly.

“I had no choice,” Banyon said in frustration. “I supported the king, Stanislaw II, and worked for the good of the Polish people.”

“And the King abdicated in 1796,” chided the old man. “He went to Russia to suck up to his former lover the Tsarina Catherine. Meanwhile you became a cog in the vile Russian cassock oppression.”

“The King had no choice, Thaddeus,” Jakub explained. “Catherine sent troops to escort him to Russia. Her invitation was more of a demand. I stayed on to provide some stability in the government. I hoped that he would return someday.”

“But, she died a few months later, late in 1796, and he died a little over a year after that without ever returning to Poland. He abandoned his people,” the old man snorted.

“I knew they had been lovers for a long time, but was surprised that she wouldn’t help him reestablish his throne. He was actually a virtual prisoner in Russia,” Jakub Banyon told the old man to clarify. “He did attempt to return, but was stopped by the Russian’s garrison. They locked him up.”

“I know this too,” replied Thaddeus sadly. “That was how I got out of the Russian prison after the uprising. You know the prison. It was the one where you and the other judges sent me. When Tsar Paul I became the leader after Catherine died, he pardoned me along with many other political prisoners. He hated Tsarina Catherine, and wanted to overturn some of her decisions. The only condition of my pardon was that I leave Poland. I went back to America instead and stayed there for several years.”

“But now you are back in Europe When did that happen?” Jakub responded dryly. “Why have you returned?”

“I still fight for the cause of freedom for our people Jakub,” the old general replied strongly. “I came back because Napoleon was taking most of Europe, including the Polish lands. I thought he would free Poland. So I went to talk to him, even offered my services. But alas, I found that he was nothing but a short power-hungry dictator who was more interested in plunder.”

“Yes, and now he too is gone, but we are still under the Russian yoke,” Jakub added sadly.

“Most recently I met with the new Tsar named Alexander I in Paris, but he just wants to carve up Poland into smaller pieces. He wanted me to serve in a small portion of what was once Poland. His plan was a joke. He renamed the area ‘Southern Prussia’. I even tried to emancipate the peasants on my remaining lands in Poland, but the Tsar disallowed it. Will Poland ever be free of the Russian vermin?”

“I agree,” Jakub replied. “It seems that the enlightened age of Poland is over. Stanislaw II did provide both of us with an advanced education though. He gave us a chance to hone our skills. Our Russian overseers see us as a resource to use up and discard. I’m afraid that Poland is doomed.”

Their discussion continued for another half an hour, during which time they covered the possible future of the Polish people. Both agreed that their people would rise again. Thaddeus then changed the subject.

“My sources tell me that you have a major project in the near future,” the general said suddenly.

“That is correct Thaddeus,” Jakub said with enthusiasm. “I have been commissioned to rebuild and put a glorious annex onto the Royal Castle in Warsaw. It will be called the “Banyon Arcades” and will be the new entrance to the Castle. The Castle will eventually be open to the public.”

“I’m also told that you will build a new residence for the Head of State in Warsaw.”

“You are well informed,” Jakub beamed. “It will be called the Belvedere, and will be built in the heart of Warsaw. I start that project next year. I too still work for the people of Poland.”

“Good. I am now convinced that you are the right man,” Thaddeus said solemnly with a shake of his head.

“Right man for what? Why am I here?”

“Be patient my friend,” Thaddeus Kościuszko, the Polish General, chided. “I must turn the artifact over to someone who I can trust. I needed to be sure that you were that man.”

“What artifact? What are you talking about?” Jakub Banyon was bewildered by the statement and flapped his arms in confusion.

“I’m talking about the most prized artifact in Polish history,” the general continued.

“What is it? Why give it to me? There must be dozens of men more worthy,” Jakub reasoned.

“Yes, there are many who would accept it, but you hold all the proper qualifications,” the old man retorted.

“What qualifications?”

The old man seemed to consider Jakub’s question before he answered. “First of all, I know you personally. Second, I now know that you still work to support the Polish people. Thirdly, you are a certified knight, receiving the honor in 1791. This artifact belongs in the hands of a knight.”

“The age of knighthood is over, Thaddeus. Future governments will be democracies and republics. The coming revolutions will dispose of Kings. There will be little room for knights,” Jakub said.

Acting like he hadn’t heard Jakub, the general continued. “The final reason is that you and I are both Freemasons. I know you can keep a secret.” The society of Freemasons had been rumored to keep and hide many secrets. Its membership at the time of the American Revolution boasted George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, and many of the revolutionary leaders. In Europe the Freemasons were even more secretive, but nonetheless were a strong society.

Jakub was suddenly very pensive. He knew that Kościuszko was right, he could keep a secret, and as a Freemason, he was obligated to help his fellow member. “I understand,” Jakub Banyon said humbly and nodded his head.

“You must swear to me as a Freemason that you will protect the artifact,” the general demanded. “You must use your connections in the organization to keep it safe. You must use it to better our people.”

“I swear I will do everything in my power to protect the artifact,” Jakub immediately responded.

“Good,” the general said with finality. “We now have a bond that can never be broken.”

“Tell me about the artifact?”

“Let me dismiss the servant first,” Thaddeus said. He then addressed the servant. laissez-nous,” and waved his hand in dismissal. The man bowed and withdrew from the room, closing the door behind him.

Jakub repeated his request. “Now tell me about the artifact.”

“Are you familiar with story of ‘The Magic Belt of Poland’?”

“That’s just a superstition,” Jakub quickly replied now wondering if Thaddeus had lost control of his mind.

“It’s not,” Thaddeus replied knowingly. “I actually have it in my possession. I have used its powers many times in the past.”

Jakub was stunned by this revelation. Polish folklore described The Magic Belt as having powers that could be utilized by only a certified knight. The power came from several talismans that adorned the belt. The knight would wear the belt and could invoke any of the weapons to fight. If there were several fighters, the knight would take off the belt, and they would stand in a circle with their companions, with their hair loose. Each person could then use a talisman. Each talisman on the belt performed different task. The belt appeared around 1600 A.D. but disappeared a hundred years later. The original belt was actually a piece of parchment which was eighty-nine inches long. The back of the belt contained magic symbols with prayers used to control the talismans. The talismans hung from the belt.

“Where did you obtain The Magic Belt?” It was all that Jakub could muster.

“I obtained it during my time in America, at the time of the Revolutionary War. It was given to me by none other than Casimir Pulaski. Remember, he was also a knight. He said I needed it more than he did.”

“But he died fighting in the war. Why did he give it to you?”

“Casimir was a cavalry officer. I was a planner and defender for the Americans. He thought I could do the most good with The Magic Belt. He also believed I would return to Poland to use it for our cause. He said he could never return to our homeland, a bounty was on his head.”

Quickly becoming a believer, Jakub pleaded. “Where is it? I must see it.” Like Kościuszko, Jakub Banyon was a Roman Catholic. He believed in many of the superstitions of the church. Magic was a short step in believing.

Thaddeus instructed Jakub to go to his desk. He told Jakub that he could not get out of bed to do it himself. When Jakub was at the ornate piece of furniture, the old man told him how to unlock the secret chamber hidden in the underside of the writing area. Jakub opened the panel and pulled out the belt. It was adorned with trinkets.

Jakub held the belt with reverence as he studied it. It had eight round talismans that appeared to be made of polished gemstone or of some type of metal. There was a knife sheath as well. He quickly realized the belt was more like a sash than an actual belt. It could be wrapped around a waist and tied to look like an ornament. There was writing next to each talisman. On the back of the belt he could see more writing, but much of it was faded. He brought it carefully over to the bed.

“I have seen many of these before. Many knights wore them as amulets in Poland. What magic does it perform?” Jakub asked the general.

“There is a difference between an amulet and a talisman,” the old man croaked. “An amulet wards off evil while a talisman provides the power of magic. The belt has magical powers.”

“What magic does each of these talismans perform?”

“The eight round spheres represent: determination, destiny, health, addiction, love, security, emotions and relationships. The knife sheath is my own. It was only there for protection. But when used together in a circle, the power of the belt is magnified many-fold.”

“How so?” Jakub asked.

“The first time I used it, the belt allowed me to hear the thoughts of my enemy during the war. As a result, I learned their plans and was able to counter them.”

“You could read their minds?”

“I just had to think of the person and could access their thoughts,” the general replied. “But it can do much more,” he added sinisterly.

“Tell me,” Jakub now demanded.

“I could change my appearance into any animal I desired. I could then hunt my enemy. I could blind them with light, and I could create a sound that made them shake which made them drop their weapons. I could even conjure up a fireball which I could hurl at the enemy.”

“It sounds like the belt can do anything you could imagine,” Jakub reasoned.

“Yes,” the old man said. “It is all-powerful. It must be controlled by someone who will use its powers wisely.”

“This belt is unbelievable!” Jakub exclaimed.

“There are more secrets to the belt, but that is for you to discover. It did not come with any instructions,” the old man said with finality. A secret society protects the talismans. I’m sure they will contact you in the near future.”

“A secret society?” Jakub Banyon repeated. “How secret?”

“They have been around for thousands of years,” the general replied with sincerity.

“And they will teach me about The Magic Belt?”

“Promise me that you will learn its secrets and use them to better our people.”

“This I promise you,” Jakub replied sincerely.

“Then you must go now. You have a long journey ahead of you, my friend. I officially pass The Magic Belt of Poland to you.”

Jakub Banyon, renowned architect, knight of the commonwealth, protector of Poland, and Freemason, left the general. In his possession was The Magic Belt. Kościuszko died two days later.

For almost two centuries, Jakub Banyon, his friends, and ancestors protected The Magic Belt, but now things have gotten more complicated.

Chapter Two

PRESENT DAY                                                  

C

olton Banyon awoke with a start. His first thought was; where am I? His second thought was; where is Loni? He didn’t try to move for several seconds as he struggled to regain consciousness. At first he had trouble focusing as a major-league headache throbbed in his head. After about a minute, the ache subsided. He began to take in his surroundings. The room was dark, but some light filtered in from two high windows on the back of the far wall. He quickly noticed that the windows were barred like a jail cell. As he turned his head he noticed that there were many objects in the room. They looked like old furniture. In fact, the room could only be described as a cluttered storage area. The walls looked aged and were unpainted white stucco. He realized that the room had been finished before there was wall board.

He was prone on his back on some kind of a cot. As he attempted to sit up, he found that his legs were tied together at the ankles. His arms were also secured behind his back. Some kind of tape covered his mouth. My god, I’ve been kidnapped, he thought. Panic began to set in, but he fought it off. I must find Loni.

After some maneuvering, he was able to swing his legs over the side of the cot, and eventually sat up. He then began a thorough search of the room with his eyes. Everything he saw appeared to be very old furnishings. He finally saw her stretched out on another cot in the corner of the room. She wasn’t moving.

With much difficult he stood up, and hopped towards her. His shoes slapped at the concrete floor loudly as he made his way towards her. He studied her body as he approached. Her eyes were closed. She didn’t react or move as he approached. She was unconscious. He searched her body with his eyes for any serious wounds and realized that she was beaten up pretty badly. She had put up a strong fight, but had lost. Her beautiful long hair was all disheveled. It splayed out around her small head. Her beautiful Chinese face had a scratch on her cheek and dried blood covered her puffy lower lip. Her pretty dress was covered with dirt. It was ripped on one sleeve. There were several bruises forming on her bare arms, legs, and feet. As he approached the cot, he noticed that her red high heels were neatly positioned by her cot. Why would a kidnapper take her shoes? Maybe this is something else? He decided to take a closer look at Loni. He couldn’t call out to her because of the tape on his mouth.

With horror, he realized that the front of her low cut gown had been deliberately pulled down. Her left breast was completed exposed. Banyon immediately saw red before his eyes. If they have touched her I’m going to kill whoever is responsible for this. He increased his hopping so he could be by her side.

He soon recognized the cot. It was a World War II army cot. The color was faded, but looked to be dirty brown. No one has used these in many years, he thought as he reached the seemingly flimsy bed. She was also trussed up just like he was, and this gave him hope that she was still alive, otherwise, why tie her up. She looked small and fragile on the cot. Soaking wet, Loni was only one hundred pounds while standing a diminutive five foot-two inches tall. It broke his heart to see her look that way.

He nudged the cot with his thigh. He was soon relieved when suddenly her dark, almond shaped eyes flicked open. They seemed unfocused. He believed she had been subdued, just like he had been, by some sort of injection.

He gave her time to recover her senses while he sat down calmly on the edge of the bed. After a few minutes she began to struggle against her bonds. She eventually turned on her side. Her mouth was inches from his hands tied behind his back. She mumbled something, but because of the tape on her mouth, Banyon could not understand her. She whacked her head against his fingers and he then understood. It took him a few minutes, but he soon had the tape in his grasp. She pulled her head back. He heard a ripe as the tape peeled off.

“Those bastards ruined my new dress,” she shouted vehemently. “If it’s the last thing that I ever do, I’ll get them for that.” Banyon was not surprised that her first concern was her personal appearance.

Within seconds, she was on her feet, standing over Banyon. She turned around and wiggled close to him. Using her fingers to search his face, she found the tape and gripped the edge. She then hopped forward. Banyon felt a sharp pain as the tape was removed, but it quickly disappeared.

“Loni, are you hurt?” Banyon quickly asked with concern.

“Only my pride,” she briskly replied. “I should have been more alert.”

“I mean, did they do anything to you?” Banyon said as he searched for a way to ask if she had been molested.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said pensively as she thought back to the struggle. “But I was knocked out some of the time.

“Are you sure? You left breast is hanging out.”

“Oh!” Loni exclaimed. After a few seconds she continued. “But I think I still have my panties on,” she said clinically.

Banyon felt somewhat relieved so he now concentrated on freeing themselves. “You didn’t by chance wear your jade ring today, did you? I could use a box cutter.” Loni had been given a jade ring by her father many years ago. The ancient Chinese good luck ring could sometimes conjure up almost anything that Banyon asked it to produce. They had used the ring several times before during their adventures.

“No, I didn’t Colt,” she answered with frustration. “This event was supposed to be a celebration not a war.”

He now stood up and they faced each other. She in her ripped dress with her breast hanging out, and he in his fine tailored suit without a wrinkle.

“Too bad,” he absently replied and tried to think. “Maybe we can find something sharp to cut our bonds. Let’s search the room. You go left, and I’ll hop right and…”

“But I do have a knife,” she interrupted him with a bit of mischief in her voice. Loni was always remarkably resourceful.

“What?” Banyon cried out as he wondered where she had hidden it.

“It’s small, but will be able to cut these ropes,” she announced.

“Where is it?”

“It’s taped to the inside of my left thigh,” she announced. “I can still feel it there. You just have to go in there and get it.” Now understanding that she had not been groped or they would have found the knife, Banyon felt completely relieved.

“You wore a knife under your party dress,” Banyon said incredulously.

“Of course,” she spat back. “That’s why this dress is longer than usual. Colt, didn’t you notice? It almost reached my knees.”

“You brought a knife on purpose?”

“A girl has got to be prepared, you know. We are in a foreign country,” she said defensively.

Thinking of the logistics, Banyon asked his resourceful partner a question. “How can we remove it? Our hands are tied behind our backs.”

“Well,” she said with a smile. “It will be fun. I can still spread my legs. You just have to go in there and rummage around for it.”

“How?”

“I’ll sit on the edge of the cot. You can kneel in front of me facing away. It might be a little awkward for you, but I’ll guide your fingers.” One of the reasons that Banyon loved Loni was because she approached everything like a fun adventure. She rarely became flustered under pressure. She could deal with most anything thrown at her. She also became sexually stimulated by danger. He could tell that she was heating up.

She immediately hopped over to the cot and sat down on the very edge. She then opened her legs as far as she could. “I’m ready,” she announced. Banyon dropped to his knees and moved in close. He could clearly see a three inch knife in a sheath taped to her toned thigh. He studied the position of the tape.

“This could be tricky, I don’t know if I can lift my arms high enough with them behind my back,” he acknowledged.

“Quit admiring the view and get to work,” she chided him. “I’ll squat down. I’ll be closer to the ground.” She then slipped off of the cot with her legs spread. Banyon turned around and positioned himself between her legs, then shuffled back towards her. Soon he found her thigh. He ran his hands along the inside until he found the tip of the sheath. His arms were in torturous pain, but he didn’t complain.

“I’m almost there,” he announced.

“Me too,” she replied in a husky voice. Banyon continued along the sheath until he had a firm grip on the knife, he then leaned forward. The knife ripped away.

Quickly standing back to back, Banyon used the knife to cut her bonds. In seconds, they were both free. Loni immediately rearranged her clothes. Her breast disappeared back under her dress. They quickly hugged. Banyon handed her a comb that he pulled from inside his suit pocket. She ran it through her long black hair.

“I’m a mess!” Loni exclaimed.

“You look just fine now,” he said to bolster her confidence.

“Do you have your phone?” She quickly asked.

“They took my phone, but left my wallet and everything else,” he replied as he searched his pockets.

“That’s curious?” Loni responded.

“We need to find some weapons and a way out of here,” Banyon said.

“I can’t wait until I get my hands on that professor,” Loni promised.

.