Chapter Seven – The Deception
The sun had gone behind the mountains in Mittenwald. The lantern on Arnina’s front porch was lit. She was expecting the four of them any second. Engelchen perked his ears up and she knew they had arrived. A soft knock on the door, then, Arnina shouted for them to enter.
As they stepped through the door, Arnina gracefully said, “Do come in. Tea is now served.”
“You are all here because you have the key. I will take it now.”
Alden tosses the key onto the coffee table and says, “What’s in store for us now?”
“I’ll be back,” says Arnina. “Please indulge yourselves. Everyone must be tired and the biscuits are fresh.”
Arnina went down into the cellar. On the back stone wall there was a small hole barely recognizable as a keyhole. She inserted the four-sided key and made the first, quarter turn. The wall began to recede. Stone scraped against stone making a sound like the dragging of concrete block along a floor. The movement formed a depression in the wall about the size of a doorway. She made the next quarter turn of the key. The depressed wall slid to the left. The next quarter turn spun the wall 180 degrees around and then forward and flush to the original wall. This time, a mahogany bookshelf appeared. There was a drawer in the center but there were no books. Arnina removed the key. She could hear a hollow thud every second. She believed it must be a timer. A slight jolt of the wall caused some mortar to crumble to the floor. This caused her to take her eye off the key just as she was about to insert it into the drawer’s lock. She missed and the key tumbled to the floor. She had a good eye and trusted her memory of the fourth position. She knew she had to get it right because the mechanism was most likely a trap if she did not succeed. Closing her eyes with a deep breath, she inserted it into the drawer’s lock and made the final turn. The drawer slid open. Inside was a case. She removed the case and stepped back. Immediately, the entire sequence of events came full circle and the original wall slowly found its way back. This time, the key was now on the other side. Arnina brought the case upstairs and set it on the table.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is how we defeat the Rogue.”
She opened the case and sat down on the chair.
“Do not touch them, yet. Let me explain.”
The case revealed four stunningly radiant, gold bangles. Each was distinct in their markings and the color of inset gemstones.
“The bangle I assign to each of you will give you special powers above and beyond the ones you already possess.”
“And, the catch is?” said Connell inquisitively.
“When you have the bracelet latched on, you are no longer Beholden,” said Arnina with much dismay.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” asks Madison.
“I am afraid not,” said Arnina. “If the little Prague girl were to perish, so would Stephan.”
“But…,” Alden started to say.
“Yes, I would lose both you and Connell because the two of you are beholden to Stephan,” said Arnina while shaking her head with frustration.
“This is a huge risk,” said Alden.
“One we must take,” said Arnina. “I am hoping the four of you will agree.”
“Tell us more about these old bangles,” said Madison.
Arnina went on to explain that the bracelets were found separately. Each discovered within a secret chamber to their respective ancient wonder of the world. No one knows their origins or exactly when they were found. In fact, no one is quite sure how they are used. The bracelet of Artemis will go to Alden. Artemis was the master of the animals. The bracelet of Colossus will be used by Connell. Stephan will be granted the Lighthouse bracelet. Arnina imagined it would create powers in sight. Finally, Madison will wear the Hanging Gardens bracelet. A bracelet of mystery, intelligence, and creativity. As for the other three bracelets, we don’t know if they exist. Seven bracelets for seven wonders would be logical. Maybe their creators never got to finish their plan. They could have been destroyed or lost to time. To demonstrate, Arnina picked up the bracelet of Artemis and placed it around Alden’s wrist. Unlocked, you are still beholden. Once you latch the bracelet, its power is activated and as I mentioned you are no longer beholden. Simply press on the gemstone to lock and unlock it.
“What if we choose not to accept this fate,” Stephan chides.
“Well, I don’t think my sweet puppy, Engelchen, will let you leave,” said Arnina.
The dog gets up off the floor and walks backward toward the front door, growling and showing its fangs to Stephan.
“Europe needs all of you,” proclaims Arnina. “The world needs you. Please accept these bracelets and your next task.”
By the time Arnina finished her statement, the four of them had passed out. The tea had been laced with a sedative. Arnina latched the bracelets onto their wrists and waited for the demands of the network to whisk them away to Istanbul.