Da Vinci’s secret pales. Michelangelo concealed an explosive truth in his famous Creation of Man fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Everything we have been taught about Eve is wrong—she didn’t cause the fall of man. Eve carried a far more devastating secret for millennia—one that will change the world forever.
As the modern-day world suffers the cataclysmic effects of the “Plagues of Egypt,” Avery Fitzgerald, a statuesque Astrophysics major at Stanford, discovers that she is mysteriously bound to five strangers by an extremely rare condition that foremost medical experts cannot explain. Thrust into extraordinary circumstances, they race against time to stay alive as they are pursued by an age-old adversary and the world around them collapses into annihilation.
Under sacred oath, The Guardians—a far more archaic and enigmatic secret society than the Freemasons, Templars, and the Priory—protect Avery as she embarks on a daring quest that only legends of old have been on before. Avery must come to terms with the shocking realization that the blood of an ancient queen flows through her veins and that the fate of the world now rests on her shoulders.
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August 5, 10:45 A.M. Central European Time
On a busy Tuesday morning, the road repair crew from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation had blocked off Corso Vittorio Emmanuel and Viale De Trastavere for emergency repairs after the melted tarmac on sections of the road started to stick to the wheels of motorists' cars. It had been a normal summer until a week ago when suddenly, an intense heatwave descended over most of Europe. The temperatures rose to more than 118 degrees and stayed uncharacteristically high, day and night.
The president of Italy, as did most other heads of state in Europe, had to declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Republican Guard to protect citizens from the intense heat. Hospital systems in Rome were overwhelmed as many people suffered from heatstroke, and the morgues filled up with bodies of the elderly who had succumbed to the deadly heat.
As Eli Maric walked up Via Della Conciliazione from his small apartment a few blocks down the street, he noticed that many tourists, shop keepers, and locals were streaming out of the shops and restaurants. He initially paid it no mind, but it soon became difficult for him to navigate the sea of people at the brisk pace that he was used to. He peeked into one of the store fronts and noticed that it was unusually dark. All the interior lights were off. Further down the street, he glanced into his favorite cafe and overheard the owner screaming at the waitstaff to keep working despite the fact that they had no electricity. The owner was furious that he was going to have to throw out the fresh batch of gelato that he made that morning.
Eli pulled out his iPhone and went to La Repubblica's website. The lead story confirmed what he was seeing around him; all of Rome had indeed lost electricity.
He finally got to the Vatican Museum, in the northern corner of Vatican City, where he had a summer job in the Department of Restoration. None of the security scanners and metal detectors at the main entrance were working. That was surprising to Eli because he assumed that the Vatican — a self-sufficient, stand-alone city state, would have its own power supply and backup generators.
As he walked across the Courtyard of St. Damasco, in the Apostolic Palace, he noticed that security and the maintenance crew were talking hurriedly in one of the side offices with concerned looks on their faces. Eli called out to one of his friends, Hamza, in security, who happened to be from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which neighbored his native Croatia.
"Bonjourno Hamza," Eli shouted out across the entryway. "What's all the ruckus? Everyone seems to be running around scared. I know the lights are out, but it's the Vatican; we have backups, don't we?"
"Hi, Eli. Yes, any time we lose power, the backup generator facility automatically kicks in, and no one notices the changeover. This is different. We do not know what is going on."
Hamza's two-way radio squawked with the angry voice of his boss, barking orders at the security staff. He turned down the volume with an exasperated look in his eyes. "The backup is down as well. It must have been stretched too far over the last week because of the heat. I think it's gone kaput. We are all frantically trying to sort everything out."
Sensing that Hamza was eager to get back to managing the crisis around them, Eli bid his friend farewell and continued on his way to his small office in the basement of the Vatican Museum, where he had a brand-new project waiting for him. At the tender age of eighteen, Eli was absolutely thrilled to have a job in the heart of the Catholic Church, within shouting distance of the Pope and the Sistine Chapel.
In his new role as a Summer Apprentice in the Department of Restoration, Eli was tasked as an understudy to help restore old religious texts from around the world and get them ready for storage in the Vatican Secret Archives. Late last week, his boss, Padre Vincenze, summoned Eli to his office — a very unusual thing for him to do — and asked him to close the door behind him. A few moments later, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tedeschi, walked into the room, along with the Theologian of The Pontifical Household.
Eli had only been at the Vatican for a few weeks and did not know everyone by name, but he sensed, from how they carried themselves, that the two men wielded a considerable amount of gravitas within the walls of the Vatican. Without much formality, Eli was directed to a crate that sat on a long table in the back of his boss' office. The crate looked like it had just been shipped in from an overseas location. It appeared to have both Hebrew and Arabic markings on it. All the customs forms were neatly stapled on the side of the crate next to a big red FRAGILE sign stamped diagonally across the side.
The crate was still sealed, and Eli's boss told him that he wanted him there for the unveiling. When Eli asked what was in the box, Cardinal Tedeschi smiled politely and told him to be patient. Eli complied.
Eli watched as the group of three men very meticulously opened the crate and pulled out a smaller box made of a strange, reddish brown wood. The box looked to be hundreds of years old. They opened it and unrolled a parchment that had peculiar writing on it. Eli craned his neck in an effort to read what was on it, but it was in a dialect he was not familiar with.
The Theologian of the Pontifical Household stepped forward, took out his reading glasses, and studied the parchment quietly for several long minutes. There was complete silence, and the other two gentlemen looked very intently at the theologian as he studied the parchment.
Finally, with a deliberate flick of his wrist, he took off his glasses and put them in his left breast pocket. He looked at the two men, and declared triumphantly, "This is it. We finally have it back in our possession." Cardinal Tedeschi let out an audible sigh of relief and Padre Vincenze clasped his hands tightly together and looked upwards in grateful prayer. The three men seemed to be more relieved than excited about the news, which Eli thought was odd.
Eli blurted out, "What is it?"
Padre Vincenze purposefully looked up at Eli and said, "A few thousand years ago, after the Exodus, God appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai and gave him the Ten Commandments. Moses presented the commandments to the Israelites and later put the stone tablets in the Ark of the Covenant.
"What no one knows is that the stone tablets were first wrapped in a piece of cloth before they were placed in the Ark. That piece of cloth, as a result of the elements and the passage of time, got a perfect imprint of the actual stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. Over the years, before the Ark disappeared, the Israelites removed that piece of cloth and hid it away.
"And today, although the world still does not know the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant and the stone tablets on which God's commandments were written, we now have possession of the sacred cloth that protected the Ten Commandments for millennia. What you are looking at is the original imprint of the Word of God, as it was etched by the very hand of Moses."
Eli could barely breathe as he listened to Padre Vincenze describe the history of the cloth. He took it all in as he thought about all the times he imagined himself going on exciting adventures around the world to discover ancient religious artifacts.
Padre Vincenze studied Eli carefully as he spoke. He was impressed that Eli recognized the sheer magnitude of the moment. It was evident to Padre Vincenze that Eli was a student of religion, who knew when he was in the presence of divine history. From the first day they met a couple of months earlier, Padre Vincenze was struck by Eli and how smart and inquisitive he was about religious topics they discussed. Eli was an intent listener and incredibly well-read. Decades earlier, Padre Vincenze had worked closely with the Pope, when the Pope was a young bishop in Portugal, and every time he interacted with Eli, he was astounded by how similar the two were — down to several unconscious mannerisms, like putting his right palm on his heart whenever he laughed out loud. Padre Vincenze found that during their frequent interactions over the last few weeks, he could not help but think to himself, this young man is going to be Pope one day.
Eli's new project was to restore the sacred cloth that once wrapped the tablets of the Ten Commandments and prepare it for display in St. Peter's Basilica.
In the lower level of the Vatican Museum, where the Department of Restoration's labs were housed, Eli signaled to the two lab technicians to turn on the ultra violet lights so he could examine the integrity of the cloth. Eli could almost feel the sturdy hand of Moses on his shoulder, guiding him as he inspected the sacred relic through the LED magnifier lamp.
The time in Rome was 1:15 p.m.
Airspace over Marianna Islands
August 7, 10:15 P.M. Chamorro Standard Time
Kaliya Bennett was on a flight back to Tokyo from Sydney. She was on her way home after spending a few weeks with her dad in northern Australia. Kaliya's parents got divorced when she was five years old. When her parents initially separated, her dad left Japan and returned to Australia. Her parents met in Japan, her mom's homeland, and quickly got married; but after a few years, her dad wanted to return to his old life as a tour guide, enjoying the vast openness of the Australian outback. Kaliya's mother, however, wanted to continue to teach in Tokyo.
Kaliya's mom always believed that her daughter had more of her dad in her than she cared to admit. Kaliya had her dad's intense, fiery, brown eyes and strawberry blonde hair, which she wore in a short mohawk. At fifteen, she got a nose ring and her first of many tattoos. Her mom was furious when she walked into the bathroom as Kaliya was getting out of the shower and discovered the tattoo running down the side of her right hip — a winged unicorn with a ball and chains around its feet. As her mom glared at the artwork on her teenager's hip in anger, she could not help but wonder what her daughter was trying to express. It was a moment of anguish that her mom would never forget. At fifteen, Kaliya became distant and stopped sharing much of what she was thinking about and struggling with. In her mom's eyes, the sweet little girl she had always loved and adored had disappeared, and instead a rebel had emerged.
Trouble seemed to find a way of following Kaliya everywhere she went. In her primary school years, she got expelled a few times because of her knack for getting into fights with other children and talking back to her teachers.
Many of the boys in her high school thought Kaliya was stunningly beautiful, but none could hold her intense gaze whenever she looked them in the eye. She had a quality in her fiery brown eyes that felt like she was looking right into your soul. For the average sixteen-year-old boy, it was too much to handle. So most of the high school boys admired her from a distance, and many of the girls hated that she was so strikingly beautiful, with a natural, mysterious allure that they all wished they had.
Kaliya dropped out of high school two years ago, determined to travel the world and experience the outdoors, and find her truth.
Kaliya's mom raised her as a single parent, not involving her father for many years. It was not until Kaliya got to high school that she had her first chance to spend time with her dad. Every year since, she traveled to Australia for two months. Kaliya and her dad would explore the outback together — something she had grown to love.
Kaliya's many trips down under had earned her enough frequent flier miles to qualify for an upgrade from economy to business class on this particular flight. It was going to be a ten-hour trip and Kaliya was looking forward to being pampered and getting a few hours of sleep on the fully reclining seats. The flight attendants absolutely loved her — both the men and the women. They rarely got the pleasure of interacting with passengers with so much spunk and personality in business class.
Six hours in, she was just done watching her second movie and took a quick glance out of her window before turning in to sleep. The route north from Sydney, over Eastern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Guam, and on to Japan was typically a smooth ride over the Pacific, and tonight was no exception. There were no clouds in the sky, and the stars were clearly visible through the window of the Qantas A380. Kaliya stared into the distance and envisioned her next getaway, which she hoped would be an Alaskan Cruise. She had always dreamed of hiking a glacier and visiting Denali National Park.
As she drifted to sleep, she could not help but notice that the business class flight attendants were hurriedly walking up and down the cabin, picking up loose items from everyone's individual nooks. She had flown thousands of miles and knew that when this happened, it probably meant that there was some bumpy air ahead.
The pilot came on the PA system.
"Hi folks. This is the Captain. Sorry to wake you. I have just turned on the seatbelt sign. We have been notified by air control that things might get a little choppy in a few minutes. They are telling us the turbulence will be moderate, so we have asked the flight attendants to pick everything up in the cabin and remain seated for their safety. Nothing to be alarmed about, and I don't anticipate that it will last more than a few min — "
There was a sudden and violent downward lurch that turned the plane dangerously sideways. Because the PA system was on, the passengers heard the pilots gasp in horror.
The A380, the world's largest passenger airliner, went into a steep dive and continued to shake violently. Anything that was not secured was thrust upward and slammed into the roof of the plane's cabin.
Kaliya woke up as her head smashed into the window of the plane. The pain was blinding. As she heard the loud screams around her, it took her a moment to regain her bearings. As soon as she realized what was happening and heard the panic in everyone's voice, she opened her window shade. Expecting to see a storm around the plane, she was surprised to see that the night was completely clear. Yet the lurching of the plane seemed to get worse as the minutes went by. The A380's four Rolls Royce engines roared as the pilots labored to maintain control of the aircraft which was now shaking furiously from left to right.
The pilots did their best to keep the passengers calm through the ordeal but the look of sheer terror in the eyes of the flight attendants did not give Kaliya any comfort. It was the worst turbulence Kaliya had ever experienced, and she had logged more flying miles by the time she turned eighteen than most people do in a lifetime.
After what felt like an eternity, the pilots regained control and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in the Philippines to assess the damage on the aircraft. Many of the passengers were seriously injured from the violent turbulence. As they pulled up to their gate, the captain made an announcement asking that everyone wait in their seats while the ground emergency crew came on board to wheel out an elderly couple that appeared to be unconscious and bleeding heavily. As the rest of the passengers eventually walked off the plane in Manila, they were all shaken up but glad to be alive. The captain and first officer stood at the doorway of the plane and gave the exiting passengers a reassuring hug or handshake. The two pilots were ashen as they tried to conceal their relief to be safely on the ground after a grueling thirty minutes flying through the extreme weather anomaly.
Kaliya looked around for an airline official. She sensed that there was something abnormal about the severe turbulence they had just flown through and was keen to gather whatever information she could.
Savvy on how to extract information in certain parts of the world, she parted with a few dollars and got one of the local airline staff in the airport terminal to talk.
What they had just experienced was a sudden collapse of the jet stream — something that rarely happens, but when it does, wreaks havoc on weather patterns in the surrounding area.
What Kaliya did not know at the time, was that multiple jet streams were collapsing around the globe simultaneously. The collapses were causing severe unexpected turbulence along several high-traffic air routes. The phenomenon also spawned raging floods in some parts of the world, and extreme heat waves, apocalyptic cloud formations, and hurricane force winds in other areas.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Thirteenth Guardian"
Copyright © 2019 K.M. Lewis.
Excerpted by permission of K.M. Lewis.
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