“Holy Horus... this Argo VII is a true beauty, mate,” Jackboot whistled.
He was sitting on the Lazy Boy that was opposite Sam and Thunder’s couch in what Farsight had dubbed the Argo VII’s living room which was the large expanse of space between the sleeping quarters and the cockpit.
“I assume this was made with sorcery?” Jackboot asked. “How else can you fill up at school bus with this much space?”
“It’s science, actually...” Farsight chimed in from her spot in the driver’s seat. “We’ve folded an artificial dimension into the Argo VII’s interior space.”
“Well, what you Olympian chaps call science, we Egyptian heroes call—”
“Sorcery,” Farsight cut in. “We know.” Then she chuckled. “Egyptian heroes and your love for staves that turn into snakes... it’s like you prefer being stuck in the dark ages.”
Jackboot frowned. “Science doesn’t have all the answers, you know...”
An argument had begun between the two, one that had been playing out throughout history between scientists and sorcerers. Sam was quick to nip this in the bud, however, as there were far more important concerns for this group tonight.
“Jack, you said there was something in your grandfather’s journal that could lead us to the Golden Fleece,” Sam reminded him.
“Actually...” Jackboot flipped the pages of his journal to one with a sketch of what Sam guessed was a steeple bell. “I believe this is what you’re looking for.”
“What does a bell have to do with the Golden Fleece?” Sam asked.
“It’s not just the bell, mate... It’s also the inscription scrawled underneath it,” Jackboot explained.
To find the Ram’s Blessing, Pass into the unknown and Stow your disbelief with one beloved of the Fates.
After Thunder had read the phrase aloud, Sam — who was scrutinizing each word as if they held the secrets of the universe within them — noticed that there were a few that were capitalized as if to point out that they were, “Proper nouns... Ram’s Blessing, Pass, Stow, and Fates.”
“I think you’re right,” Thunder agreed, her brow furrowing slightly. “But what do they mean?”
“I believe the Ram’s Blessing is a direct reference for the Golden Fleece which had been sheared off the wool from the golden ram, Chrysomallos,” Jackboot chimed in. “Also, listen to this...”
He took the journal back from Thunder’s hands and flipped it to an entry dated May 4th, 1945, a date Farsight pointed out was a significant moment in World War II as it was the day that the allies arrived at the town of Berchtesgaden in order to occupy Kehlsteinhaus, otherwise known as, “the Eagle’s Nest.”
“The Eagle’s Nest,” Thunder repeated. “That’s the place where the remnants of the Axis superpowers made their last stand against—”
“The Liberty League,” Sam finished for her.
“The very best heroes of the age,” Jackboot added. “Captain Solar, Raven Knight, Shieldmaiden, the Quickster, Mr. Steampunk, Sea Lord, White Lighter, and my grandfather, Union Jack... and he had a lot to say about that day...”
Journal entry, May 4th, 1945;
It was the last stand of the Ubermensch and a day that will live on in infamy, at least to those of us who knew of its true accounting.
The battle was the most grueling it had been since the early days of the Normandy invasion. We faced off against the Fuhrer’s chosen, the Ubermensch, the fools who were now desperately trying to fulfill their master’s last wish.
Early in the battle, White Lighter fell at the hands of Count Doom, and with her death, her lover, Captain Solar, ripped through the Eagle’s Nest in a fury that was quite unlike the last son of Zeus. In fact, I could not recall any other moment in our association where he'd ever been so unrestrained.
“Wait...” Sam’s brow furrowed. “White Lighter died?! But, she was active in the fifties and sixties too, right?”
“That was the second White Lighter who was also the younger sister of the first one,” Farsight answered.
She’d left the cockpit to join the others in the living room. She'd brought a bowl of popcorn with her too.
“Read on, Jack,” she insisted.
It was a lucky happenstance for us that Solar’s rampage caused a hidden chamber within the Eagle’s Nest to be revealed. For in it we found two of the Ubermensch — Chimera and Pandora the 6th, members of Hitler’s S.S. — in the midst of a ritual that was supported by an assembly of sorcerers from the Thanatos Guild.
“The Thanatos Guild...” It was hard to tell how Farsight felt when she heard the name of that infamous guild of dark sorcerers that had been the rivals of the Fated Sisters since their very first incarnation because she was busy stuffing popcorn into her mouth. “I hate those losers...”
I will speak not of this ritual less my words be used to summon the great shadow we’d glimpsed in that chamber. However, I will note that this blasphemy involved a relic which was long thought lost to the ages, one that the Nazis had claimed was in their possession all along. Now we knew they spoke truth for within our sights was Hitler’s golden symbol of authority, one that was currently being used for darker purposes than was intended for such a holy relic of the Olympians.
Sam repressed the shiver that had come at the mention of a great shadow as his own experiences — memories of wading in absolute darkness while a voice of pure evil mocked him — resurfaced into his mind. Now was not the time to be afraid, however, as there was something in that passage that caught Sam’s attention.
“The golden symbol of authority... isn’t that—”
“The term used for the Golden Fleece during the ancient days of Colchis,” Farsight finished for him.
“That’s our second confirmation of the Golden Fleece...” Thunder sat forward. Her face turned contemplative. “But... I remember reading about Hitler’s symbols of authority before. They were the relics he’d amassed during the start of World War II.”
“His grandfather’s Helm of the Underworld, the Norn Coins, Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, and the Spear of Destiny,” Farsight enumerated.
“Powerful relics that gave the Axis powers such a huge advantage in the war that the Allies needed a counterpoint, which is the reason the Liberty League was formed in the first place,” Jackboot chimed in.
“Yes... this part of history is well-documented, which is my point,” Thunder frowned. “The Golden Fleece never made an appearance during World War II, at least not according to the history books.”
She does have a point, Sam thought. “Maybe there’s an explanation to this in jack’s journal?”
“Actually,” Jack began, and then he resumed his recitation of his grandfather’s words.
We could not let them corrupt this relic. It was imperative that we rescue it from the clutches of the Ubermensch. So we did — at great cost. Many lives were lost among the soldiers of the 7th and the 101st, as well as two of our number. But, we won the day as we always did for we were the sons and daughters of Liberty, a league on to our own.
However, it did not escape our notice that the relic could be used again for the same dark machinations that had been attempted within the Eagle’s Nest, one that nearly saw the resurrection of a true darkness that hadn't been seen in our world for millennia... Indeed, my companions and I believed it was a near certainty that whatever remnants of our enemies remained after the war would seek to reclaim this relic for just such a purpose.
Ever the pragmatist, Raven Knight suggested we erase all knowledge of our discovery. This included false reports and mind wipes — a task I was loath to agree to, but I was overruled. And so we hid the truth from the world and stole away the ancient relic, banishing it into a shadowy corner from whence no mere mortal could ever hope to find it.
Only, it was also my belief, and that of Shieldmaiden, that the world might one day have need of the Ram’s Blessing. So we left the barest of hints in a place where men of resolve once transcribed their will of independence to be found by those worthy of such a gift, guided as they are by the hand of the Fates and the chime of liberty.
As Jackboot spoke the last of his grandfather’s words, the others went into silent contemplation, with each of them mulling the passages over and over again in their minds. It was Sam, however — to Farsight’s disbelief — who discovered the connection between the clues presented to them. Well, him and the centaur whispering in his ears, that is.
Kid, you know what it is now, right? Chiron urged. It’s why we were drawn to Philly for Hera’s sake.
Sam nodded. “I think so... the chime of Liberty...”
To prove his theory, Sam took the journal from Jackboot’s hands and then flipped to the page with the drawing of the bell.
“I knew it...” His finger drew a jagged line across the bell, perfectly tracing the lightning-shaped scratch along its center. “It really is the Liberty Bell.”
“I believe that’s right,” Jackboot agreed.
Sam read aloud the inscription underneath the drawing before continuing with his explanation. “Pass and Stow, these are the names of the two workmen who’d been tasked with restoring the Liberty Bell that was—”
“Cracked by a lightning bolt hurled by Zeus in honor of its casting,” Thunder cut in. She was the Zeus expert, after all. “It was an accident though...”
Sam wasn’t sure anything the Sky Lord did was an accident, but he didn’t say that out loud. He knew from experience how attentive Zeus was to those who blasphemed against him, a thing his master did regularly.
“It’s not just this sketch either,” Jackboot chimed in. “My grandfather also wrote that they’d hidden the clue in a place where men of resolve transcribed their will of independence... I believe that means—”
Jackboot noticed the three eager faces turned his way.
“Um, wouldn’t you Yankees no about this better than I would?” he reasoned.
All three faces gave him the ‘get on with it’ look that prompted him to sigh heavily.
“Transcribed their will of independence is obviously referring to—”
“The Declaration of Independence,” Farsight guessed.
“Right,” Jackboot agreed. “And it was signed right here in Philadelphia. At the—”
“Independence Hall!” Both Sam and Thunder exclaimed.
“Well, yes,” Jackboot agreed again. “It’s also where—”
“The Liberty Bell is located...” Farsight was already making her way back to the cockpit. “Strap in, people... Into the breach we go.”
Jackboot’s eyebrow rose. “Strap in...?”
He noticed that both Sam and Thunder were already putting on their seatbelts, seatbelts that looked like they belonged inside a rocket ship instead of a school bus.
“What are you—”
Jackboot didn’t get to finish that sentence for Farsight had already started the Argo VII’s engine, and the bus’s acceleration from zero to ninety in what was merely a single instant in time nearly threw him off his seat. Luckily, he had the reflexes of a hare.
Sam, who’d seen the whole thing, couldn’t help but smile. Not just because Jackboot looked quite comical holding onto his seat like his life depended on it, but because it finally seemed like they were going full throttle on this new adventure, and they were.
NEW COVER ARTWORK
I thought I'd share the line art for the new cover coming out soon for Kindle and here on RR. XD