When Did We Start Hating Big Families?

When Did We Start Hating Big Families?.

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Okay everybody….

This most recent post is to say that if you are reading the book, it’s probably best not to read the posts anymore. Anyone who wants to read the book in its latest form should simply go here:

http://highpattern.wordpress.com/book-all/

and choose your chunky chapter .

The reason for this is that I have continued to edit very much since posting those chapters and it is too much time trouble to repost chapters every time I edit. The storyline is evolving as some of you come up with great ideas and then we work those ideas back into the previous story.

If you want the art, go here:

http://highpattern.wordpress.com/book-art/

Draw as many pictures as you like, but you have to be able to tell me what part of the story it is!

I hope that this continuous editing process will make the weaving of the story much more rich and intriguing. There’s still plenty of opportunity to toss ideas or criticism my way. I’m hoping that the finished product will be like an aged block of cheese where the flavor has reached a good complexity.

Happy reading! And please don’t forget to send your ideas!

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25 Anni’s Plight

25

 

Annika Brownbeard was feeling lonely.  Growing up in the family produce business, she had never been lonely, learning to work with her four sisters.  At a very young age, she had discovered her talent for climbing and acrobatics.  By the age of six, her father would take her up Mount Carmel to get ice for keeping vegetables cold.  With her gifted feet and hands, she would climb up with her pickaxes and chop out a block of ice and slide it down to her dad.  If she ever slipped, he would catch her just like another block of ice.  But she never did.

Then she had taken to singing and acting when she went climbing.  She would pretend to be a glorious Princess in a far-off kingdom, or an elfin shield maiden jumping from tree to tree.

Then they had gone to visit Uncle Frederick in Phesus.  Frederick worked in the theater Guild and was in charge of the production of many plays which were done in the outdoor amphitheater near the harbor.  The Phesus theater put on at least ten plays every year.  Brownbeard had brought his family to see “Taming of the Blue”, a play about the difficulties in the life of a sailor.

Frederick had immediately seen Anni’s talents for climbing and acting when she had climbed up the scaffolding to retrieve a scarf which the wind had taken from one of the noble ladies of the town.  The attention of the whole crowd was drawn to her small form 20 feet in the air.  Her parents were probably the only people in the crowd that were not worried for her.  When she brought the scarf back to the woman, she curtsied and sang a few lines from the play.

Uncle Frederick had immediately asked if she would enjoy being trained to become a player.  Frederick was a decent sort of fellow, but like most people from Phesus, he did not attend church.  Her parents had let her stay on the condition that she was to be escorted to the Cathedral every Sunday morning.  Frederick had reluctantly agreed to this condition.

She remembered the first Sunday morning when she had to wake up Uncle Frederick.  She had arisen with the sun knowing that the Cathedral in Adelphia generally had service about two hours after sunrise.  Frederick’s dog, Maggie, a shaggy spaniel, was very excited that somebody had arisen at this hour.  Anni made scrambled eggs, buttered toast, tea and started a bit of soup broth, assuming that Uncle Frederick would smell them and come to the kitchen any minute.  The eggs grew cold.

Finally, after she could no longer cook to make good smells without burning breakfast, she tiptoed into Uncle Frederick’s room and found him sound asleep.  His facial hair made him look scraggly and the combination of body odor and flatulence was not very pleasant after the kitchen.

“Wake up uncle Frederick,” she said, trying to be gentle and soothing, but somehow, what came out was a squeak.

“Go back to bed!”  he said, turning over.

“But Uncle Frederick, you promised my parents you would take me on Sundays!”

As if to emphasize this point, Maggie took a running leap, landed on Uncle Frederick, and began licking his face frantically.

“Of all the confounded nuisances!”  he said, brushing Maggie off his head and glaring at Anni.  “Look, I’m sick.  I’m not feeling well,” he said, as he turned the cold shoulder toward Anni.

“I made you breakfast,” she said.  “Would you like some tea?  I’ll heat it up on the hearth.”

In response, Uncle Frederick rolled over.  Anni walked around to the other side of the bed and poked his nose.  “You leave me no choice.  I’m going to worship at the Cathedral by myself.”  She stomped out of the room to finish breakfast.

About five minutes later, Uncle Frederick came into the kitchen.  He had washed his face and water streamed down from his hair as he dried it with a scrap of linen.  “You’re just like my brother,” he said, “stubborn as a pigheaded mule!  I can’t let you just walk off on your own.”

“That’s good,” replied Anni as she started some more scrambled eggs, “because I’m walking off in ten minutes with or without you.”

In the end, they had to move at a pretty good clip to arrive in time.  The church bells rang three rings for a half-hour, two rings for ten minutes and a single ring for five minutes.  When the call to worship finally arrived, the ringer would ring all the bells, ringing and dinging with gusto!

“How annoying!”  said uncle Frederick, echoing what most of the people in Phesus felt about the bells.  For many, it was a signal that they could turn over and go back to sleep.

“I think the sound is pretty!” said Anni.

They arrived at the huge double doors of the imposing Phesus Cathedral along with two or three other latecomers.  There was no one to greet them at the door, and if it wasn’t for the bells, they might have thought it was empty.  They stepped into the narthex, it was so dim and gloomy that Anni was tempted to go back and open the front door for some light.

The second set of doors which lead into the nave were actually closed.  On a Sunday morning?  Anni gently pushed on the huge right-hand door and it creaked open. There were perhaps thirty people gathered near the center of the huge space.  The minister was giving a Scripture reading and they had to walk closer before they could discern the words clearly. The responsive readings were done in a complete monotone.  The minister showed no emotion, so, although Anni could not accuse him of being overly showy, she also felt that he himself was bored.

After a while, it came time to sing a song.  The organ was deafening to the point where no one could be heard singing over its screechy tones.

Anni cringed as she looked over at Uncle Frederick.  His frown showed that he was unimpressed.  How she wished she could bring him to a one of the heartfelt worship services in Adelphia.  She longed for that warm sensation of singing with everyone else.

After the service, Anni stopped to greet two girls her age on the steps.  They were dressed in exquisite gowns and their hair was curled to perfection.

“Hello!”  she said, “my name is Annika.”  She performed a very slight curtsy with a smile in hopes of making new friends.  Unfortunately, these were the daughters of nobles.  Often, this meant snooty.  They nodded ever so briefly, said nothing, and continued to walk away with their families.

Anni had matured at the produce stand, and so knew that some nobles could be friendly.  But not today.  A deep sadness came over her as she followed Uncle Frederick back through the streets.  He said nothing and she knew it was best to remain quiet herself.  Most of the town was beginning to wake up. People were already telling bawdy jokes as they bought and sold.  It seemed like they still paid just a tinge of respect to the fact that it was Sunday, but, once the Cathedral service let out, they went about business as usual.  The market opened late, but it was open.

When they arrived at the house, Anni fed Maggie some scraps and gave the shaggy dog water.  “Well,” she thought to herself, “if I’m going to win over Uncle Frederick, I’d better hop to it!”

She made hot soup for lunch.  The man’s kitchen was woefully inadequate.  “What had he been eating?”  Well, at least she could throw almost anything in soup.

 

Now she lay looking up at the cracks in the plaster ceiling.  Another Sunday midday nap. She’d been in Phesus for almost 6 weeks.  She began to see why Uncle Frederick slept in on Sunday mornings.  It was because he was waiting for Sunday afternoons. This was when the actor’s Guild put on a play in the big amphitheater.

It seemed like half the town of Phesus showed up for these!  They had been performing “The Taming of the Blue”, a play about life at sea.  Anni really did enjoy her role where she had to climb up in the crows nest and say “land ho!”

 

BEAUCUCCHIO:  “Lower the mainsail thou swarthy varlet!”

RIGGER (Anni): “Aye sir!  Winds will wend us whither we wot not.”

BEAUCUCCHIO:  “Aye.  Winds will wend whither whether we would or no.”

 

Enter deckhands.

 

BEAUCUCCHIO:  “Lift you lubbers! Lest we list left! Tie the tarps!”

After the play was over this particular Sunday, she was on her way home with Uncle Frederick when two older women asked to speak with her.  whom she had seen in the Cathedral that morning

“Dear Sir,” said the first, addressing Uncle Frederick, “is this young maiden your daughter?”

“She’s my niece,” said Uncle Frederick, turning as if that meant the end of the conversation.

 

 

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24 Dragon Fire

24

 

Wind whistled through Malachi’s hair.  He rolled over so that he was facing downward again and able to see where they were going.

“You got a plan for getting’ through the barrier, kid?”  asked Blog.

“Barrier?”  Malachi hadn’t heard what the girls had discovered with the Patternstone.

“Yeah, we can’t just fly back to the Cathedral.  We have to go through one of the magical gates in the city wall.  You’ll have to explain to the guards.”

“Fly to the gate nearest the Palace,” yelled Malachi.  Their speed was carrying them quickly toward the other gargoyles which were circling the city.  As they began their descent in toward the main southern gate, other circling gargoyles began to notice them.    Malachi noticed that these were staying out of range of the archers on the city wall.  As they dropped near to the gate, arrows began to be fired at them.

“Don’t shoot!”  Malachi yelled as loud as he could.  But the arrows continued.  Then Malachi realized that they weren’t able to see him.  “Blog,” he yelled, “fly back out of range for a moment!”

Blog had already checked his course.  “Retreat!” he yelled to Blig and Blag.  “You got it, kid!”  he said, banking in a sharp turn to the right.  The centrifugal force quickly made Malachi sick and nearly knocked him unconscious.

Suddenly, some other gargoyles were attacking them. He caught a glimpse of Scrapper hanging in Blag’s claws.  The poor dog was as limp as a wet rag.   Then, with a jolt, he realized that Blag had been hit by another gargoyle and was spinning out of control toward the ground.  All Malachi could do was say a prayer for the dog: “Save Scrapper oh God!”

When they swept away the other gargoyles, Malachi noticed a terrible sight in the distance.  A black spec was quickly becoming a big black object flying straight toward them.  “The Dragon!”  He said out loud.  That was a mistake.  He could feel Blog shaking with fear.

“We gotta fly in the gate now, or I’m done for,” said Blog, who had once again turned to sharply.  Malachi momentarily blacked out.  When he woke a few seconds later, he could see the archers firing again.  He began waving his sword frantically.

“Keep going!”  He yelled.

“But the archers…” began Blog.

“Go right in!  I’m waving my sword!  Trust me!”  The sword not only glowed grey, but it was now also burning with regular fire.  “The Dragon,” he thought to himself.  He began to twirl the sword in smooth circles.  This time he had the archer’s attention.  One of the bow men near the gate was pointing at him and shouting something.  They stopped firing.

Malachi was beginning to faint again from the intensity of the situation.

Something terrible was happening behind them.  Like a smooth black storm, Chaozz came in at storm wind speed.  Malachi realized that they would not have time to explain to the guards who they were before Chaozz would come up and possibly destroy them.  He could actually see the shadow of the Dragon which had got between the southern sun and the walls in front of him.  This gave the effect of darkness descending in midday.

 

 

Now, because I’m narrating from the omniscient point of view, I can step inside of Levi’s shoes for a moment.  He and the other guards were charged with defending the city gates.  Under no circumstances were they to allow any dragons to get close to the doors.

“It’s Malachi!”  Levi yelled.  “Keep them open!”  His fellow guards had begun running the doors closed with all speed.

“Dragon!”  They shouted in response.

There was no way to make the guards under his command understand in time.  He picked up the crossbow next to him on the parapet from which he was firing and strung the arrow which he had had fitted with light rope.  Taking careful aim he shot at the city gate itself.  Hitting the door closest to him, he looped the rope around a battlement pillar and jumped.

His leather handgrips sounded like a bumblebee as they slid down the 50 feet or so of rope.  As he was sliding, he yelled with all his might, “catch me!”  Of the ten or so guards closing the gate, only two looked up at their captain, so great was their fear of Chaozz.

Levi came to the end of his rope slide with a ‘thud’, hitting the gate.  Mercer, not a very large man, but quick on his feet had been one of the ones to look up.  He stopped pushing on the gate, pivoted to his left and reached his arms just in time to check Levi’s fall.  The two rolled on the ground.

This commotion was just enough to get the attention of the other four guards which were closing the large gate door.

“Reverse it!  Trust me!”  said Levi, jumping to his feet and beginning to push the door open.  At this, his guards realized what their leader was doing.  It seemed so counterintuitive, but their years under Levi had made them trust the man.  They quickly ran around to the other side and began to open the door.

_______________________________________________

As they swooped in, Malachi was from fainting by sheer terror.  Blog’s claws had gotten a little too tight, but thankfully, his head had already been facing forward so that he could see what was happening.  To his dismay, the gate doors were closing.

All the archers except one had dropped underneath the ramparts.  One lone archer stood just outside the gate waving them in with a circular motion of his arm.

“Straight in!”  yelled Malachi.  The three small gargoyles were at top speed but the black shadow behind them was still gaining.

“It’s closing!”  Blog yelled back.  Malachi craned his neck to look back and realized that only a few seconds separated them from Chaozz.  It would be close.  Just when it looked like the doors would be closed, the door on the right stopped its closing motion and began to open again.  The three gargoyles look like small grey fighter jets being chased by a black canopy of cloud.

“To the right!”  Malachi yelled.  This time, Blog’s only response was to veer slightly to the right.  Malachi could feel the heat of flame on his backside as they swept in under the archway.

Levi and his men quickly reversed the direction of the door, switching again to its backside.  But there wasn’t enough time.  Dragon fire ripped through the opening before they could fully shut it.  The door was partly iron and partly oak beams.  The iron became glowing orange.  The oak, well let’s just say it began to incinerate, as did the drawbridge which led to the gate.

Carriages 100 yards from the gate away caught fire as the dragon’s blast came through.  Blig Blag and Blog disappeared as soon as they let go of their cargo, because when they came through the barrier, the magic that had held them was released.  They dropped Malachi and Scrapper about 20 yards in. It was hard to say who was more still in the next split second.  Blig Blag and Blog were now gutter spouts nearly a half mile away on the sunny side of the Cathedral near the cloister Gardens.  Malachi and Scrapper had become a half dead puddle consisting of boy and faithful friend.

Levi and his men had slammed the gate shut just in time to avoid being consumed by the Dragon fire.  But not in time to avoid the smoke.  Levi held his breath.  Several of his guards did not.

Unfortunately, Malachi was unaware of the peril of Chaozz’s breath.  The black smoke goes right to the head.  The brain forgets to do what is right.  The central nervous system forgets to resist the Dragon.  The eyes become curious, wanting to see the Dragon up close.

Malachi had sucked in a good lungful.

Levi rolled away from the black smoke and took in hyperventilating breaths from the clean air on the inside wall.  He had to get enough stamina to run in and drop the gate latch. When the latch was dropped, the magical shield around the city would become complete again.  Chaozz angled his tail and threw the gate open, crushing two of the guards against the inner walls.  However, using his tail in the air, Chaozz was off balance.  He had to circle around for another pass.  He could not land on the sheer stone walls and the drawbridge was already weakened from flames.

Levi saw the opportunity, but just as he was about to slam the latch shut, he realized that two of his own guards were tottering toward him.  The black breath had blinded their minds, and now they wanted to get to the Dragon at all costs.  To make matters worse, the Dragon had looped about and was coming straight in again.  Flames were already coming through the half ruined gate.

Levi had no choice.  Using the pommel of his own sword, he knocked out the first of his own guards.  The second was going for the burning door to open it, oblivious to his potential death.

Levi swung around as his fellow guard, Jenkins, reached the door.  With a burst, Levi jumped onto his shoulders, and used the extra height to drop the latch bar squarely in place.  BOOM! The tongues of fire preceding the dragon suddenly stopped.

From the outside,  Chaozz hit the magical barrier.  He knew the feeling all too well from past experience.  It was like being electrocuted.  How he hated being reminded that he wasn’t invincible.  He fell with a huge ‘hisss’ into the moat below.

Levi was now in a desperate struggle with his own guard.  It is nearly impossible to jump onto somebody while holding your breath.  Yet that is what Levi had done.  He knew that the black breath would be disastrous.  As he jumped off Jenkins, intending to roll for safety and good air, the possessed guard grabbed his foot.

For Levi, it was like struggling underwater.  He knew that if he took a breath now, he would be under the black influence and likely do something to open the gate once more.  He squirmed, giving Jenkins  his boot, and rolled away from the black smoke.  It was a near thing, and he had to lay panting for a few seconds before he could tell the small crowd which had gathered to stay away from the smoke.

“Someone needs to stop Jenkins!  But hold your breath while you do it!”  Said Levi to his other guards.  Jenkins was just approaching the smoldering door and latch.

From the outside, Chaozz could sense that someone was under his influence.  He took to the air again, ready to blast more breath in if he could.

Thinking fast, one of Levi’s other guards took a large rock and knocked Jenkins senseless with a trained blow.

The wrath of the Dragon was terrible.  He circled around breathing fire and slamming trees and farmsteads with his tail.  But the magical power of the Patternstone could not be broken.  Chaozz had his limitations.

 

 

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23 Battle at the Barrier

 

Wind whistled through Malachi’s hair.  He rolled over so that he was facing downward again and able to see where they were going.

“You got a plan for getting’ through the barrier, kid?”  asked Blog.

“Barrier?”  Malachi hadn’t heard what the girls had discovered with the Patternstone.

“Yeah, we can’t just fly back to the Cathedral.  We have to go through one of the magical gates in the city wall.  You’ll have to explain to the guards.”

“Fly to the gate nearest the Palace,” yelled Malachi.  Their speed was carrying them quickly toward the other gargoyles which were circling the city.  As they began their descent in toward the main southern gate, other circling gargoyles began to notice them.    Malachi noticed that these were staying out of range of the archers on the city wall.  As they dropped near to the gate, arrows began to be fired at them.

“Don’t shoot!”  Malachi yelled as loud as he could.  But the arrows continued.  Then Malachi realized that they weren’t able to see him.  “Blog,” he said, “fly back out of range for a moment.”

Blog had already checked his course.  “You got it, kid!  I don’t want to get hit,” he said.

When they swept up near the other gargoyles, Malachi noticed a terrible sight in the distance.  A black spec was becoming a big black object flying straight toward them.  “The Dragon!”  He said out loud.  That was a mistake.  He could feel Blog shaking with fear.

“We gotta get me in the city now, or I’m done for,” said Blog.

“Swoop in again toward the gate again,” said Malachi.

“But the archers…” began Blog.

“Go right in!  I’ll be waving my sword!  Trust me!”  Malachi said as he drew it.  Now it not only glowed grey, but it was burning with normal orange fire.  “The Dragon,” he thought to himself.  He began to twirl the sword in smooth circles.  This time he had the archer’s attention.  One of the bow men near the gate was pointing at him and shouting something.  They stopped firing.

Malachi was beginning to get dizzy from the speed and intensity of the situation.  He caught a glimpse of Scrapper hanging in Blag’s claws.  The poor dog was as limp as a wet rag.

Something terrible was happening behind them.  Like a smooth black storm, Chaozz came in at lightning speed.  Malachi realized that they would not have time to explain to the guards who they were before Chaozz would come up and possibly destroy them.  He could actually see the shadow of the Dragon which had got between the southern sun and the walls in front of him.  This gave the effect of darkness descending in midday.

Everything depended on the guards at the gate.  To Malachi’s relief, the guards seemed to know what to do.  All the archers except one had dropped underneath the ramparts or gone in the gate.  One lone archer stood just outside the gate waving them in with a circular motion of his arm.

“Straight into the gate!”  yelled Malachi.  The three small gargoyles were at top speed but the black shadow behind them was still gaining.  Malachi turned to look back and realize that only a few seconds separated them from Chaozz.  It would be close.

As they swept in under the archway, Malachi realized who the lone archer was.  “Levi!”  He yelled.  Levi himself had run in now and taking his place along with thirty other men at the Gates.  They could not fully shut them in time to prevent Dragon fire from ripping through the space between them.  The drawbridge which led to the gate was torched to ash within seconds.

Carriages 100 yards from the gate away caught fire as the dragon’s blast came through.  Blig Blag and Blog had instantly disappeared because when they came through the barrier, the magic that had held them was released.  They were now gutter spouts nearly a half mile away on the sunny side of the Cathedral near the cloister Gardens.

Thankfully, they had the sense to drop Malachi and scrapper within 3 feet of the ground when they came under the archway.  Levi had pulled the two of them away from the gate just in time to avoid being consumed by the Dragon fire.  But not in time to avoid the smoke.  Levi knew to hold his breath.

Unfortunately, Malachi was unaware of the peril of Chaozz’s firey breath.  When the black smoke gets in the lungs, it goes right to the head.  The brain forgets to do what is right.  The central nervous system  forgets to resist the Dragon.  The eyes become curious, wanting to see the Dragon up close.

Malachi had sucked in a good lungful.

Seven soldiers were now frantically closing the Gates.  When the latch behind them was dropped, the magical shield around the city would protect the gate as well.  Chaozz angled his tail and threw the gate open, crushing two of the guards against the inner walls.  However, using his tail in the air, Chaozz was off balance.  He had to circle around for another pass.  He could not land on the sheer stone walls and the drawbridge was gone.

Levi saw the opportunity, but just as he was about to order his soldiers to slam the gate shut, he realized that Malachi was tottering toward the opening.  The black breath had enticed him.  Scrapper began furiously barking in front of Malachi trying to get them to go back, but Malachi through the dog aside and kept going toward the opening.  The Dragon had looped about and was coming straight in again.

Levi had no choice.  Using the pommel of his own sword, his experienced hand knocked Malachi out cold.  He slung the boy’s body over his shoulder and sprinted away, giving the command as he ran to shut the gate.

Tongues of fire preceded the Dragon through the middle of the closing doors.  One of the guards successfully dropped the latch!  There was a thunderous boom as Chaozz hit the magical barrier. The wrath of the Dragon was terrible.  He circled around breathing fire and slamming trees and farmsteads  with his tail.  But the power of the Patternstone could not be broken.  Chaozz had his limitations.

 

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22 Ponies and Pitfalls

22

 

When Martha awoke, Brego had called everyone together near the cave entrance.  Millie, Molly, Martha and Mercy stood huddled in their blankets.

“There is no easy way to say this,” he said.  “The gargoyles have taken Malachi and Scrapper.  But wait! Listen to me!”  He continued before anyone could begin grieving.  “I have good reason to think he was not taken to Chaozz!”  Mercy and Martha had begun sobbing but tried very hard to dry their eyes and listen.

Brego continued, recounting what had happened on the large boulder and how the gargoyles had flown off in the direction of Sarbad.  “But here is the bit of hope,” he continued.  “I followed them carefully with my eyes until they disappeared in the distance to the north. It seemed clear that they were taking him to Chaozz.”

“No!”  cried Mercy with a new burst of tears.

Brego walked over to her and put his arm around her.  “Listen.  I have not finished.”

Mercy and the other girls looked at him trying to restrain their tears.

He continued, “In my grief, and I stood on top of the boulder and contemplated what we should do now.  I could see the gargoyles still circling Adelphia in the sunrise.  Now here’s the strange part: I saw the three gargoyles with Malachi coming back toward me!  I knew that it was the same three because I saw the grey flash of Malachi’s sword.  They were flying back toward Adelphia, a quarter-mile or so to my North.  What this portends I do not know, but it is obvious that they changed their course from Sarbad back to Adelphia.  This may mean that Malachi has somehow convinced them to change course.”

“May we look in the Patternstone?”  Asked Martha.  “The other day it revealed the Queen to us and we knew that she was alive.”

Miriam spoke up, “Chaozz the Black is extremely sensitive to the Patternstone.  He hates it, but he can smell it when it is being called upon.  If we take it out of the black bag now, he will likely sense our position.”  She turned to Martha, “can you trust God for Malachi?  Obviously, you three were brought here for a very special purpose.  God has allowed Brego to see that Malachi was heading back toward Adelphia.  Chaozz the Black will not want Malachi dead, because then he would be of no use as a bargaining chip.”

Mercy’s grief had been replaced by worried shock.  “Well,” said Mercy, “I suppose if our parents knew what we were up to even now, they would be worried even more than us.  So, what can we do?”

Duman spoke up, “if we abandon the mission and go back to Adelphia, I do not think we can help Malachi any more than King Titus and the soldiers can.  It is possible that Chaozz will be tied up by Malachi’s actions which could leave us clear skies as we journey.  With your blessing, Mercy I say let’s put some miles under our feet.”

With unspoken gravity, everyone’s eyes turned toward Mercy.  “Yes,” she said, “we can’t be paralyzed by fear. But I don’t want to move another step without praying for him!”  Mercy looked to Philemon.  The minister stood erect, his tall wiry form silhouetted against the cave entrance.  He raised his hands toward heaven beseeching God with earnest entreaties on Malachi’s behalf.  Then he led them in a Psalm chant.

Breakfast was very satisfying.  Molly and Peter, along with Harry the Mason had packed delicious sausages, eggs, potato mash, and some other fairly luxurious breakfast items.  “The more we eat this morning, the less will have to pack!”  said Peter, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

Martha was half way through her scrambled eggs, when Brego called everyone to the cave entrance.  “Up here,” he said.  He led them all up a path which brought them out on the rocky ledge above the cave.  He cautioned them all to be quiet.  They could hear a booming noise in the distance.

“Stay low,”  he said.  “Just let your eyes go over the crest of this ledge.  Chaozz has better vision than we do, but right now he is occupied.  Martha, is the Patternstone hidden in the black bag?”

“Yes,” she replied, patting her cloak.

When they came over the lip of the ledge, an amazing sight met their eyes.  They could see Chaozz the black as a fairly large black speck aiming fire at the city walls of Adelphia which was about 2 miles away.  Several patches of trees were on fire outside the city walls.

“Now here’s the thing,” Brego continued, motioning them down below the ledge.  “Malachi must have gotten into the city!  I do not think that Chaozz would continue to beat the walls if he had captured Malachi.”

“So he’s safe?”  asked Mercy.

“I think so.  If he had Malachi, he would be taking his time back in his mountain questioning him.  It’s we who are not so safe.  He will figure out that Malachi was outside city limits.  He will figure that Malachi wasn’t alone…”  Brego’s voice had quieted.  He let his head go above the ledge again then said, “Quick!  Everyone in the cave!  I think he’s going to turn around!”

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21 Captured

Malachi awoke.  Faint rays of light were filtering through the mouth of the cave.    His sleep had been restless.  He had been awakened several times during the night by strong grey pulses in his sword.  Now they were growing stronger again.

He quietly crept forward to where Brego stood on guard duty.  “Can I go down here to relieve myself?”  Asked Malachi.  He couldn’t resist exploring a little.  He was just too curious.

“Only if I come with you,” replied Brego.  His tone indicated they should remain as silent as possible.  “Remember, we are in grave danger here.  I’ve spotted gargoyles in the air less than a mile away.”

“Malachi and I are going to scout within 200 yards,” said Brego as he woke Duman.

They climbed over the boulders near the cave entrance and dropped down into the pine forest.  These were beautiful long needled pines which hid the entrance to the cave.  Scrapper, always eager, followed Malachi as he picked a path through the branches.  The greyish pulses on Malachi’s sword were growing stronger with every step. 

After meandering through pines for about three minutes, they came upon a large boulder which seemed to go all the way up as high as the treetops.  The boulder was easy to climb and, well, you know how hard it is for a little boy to resist climbing a boulder.  When he came out at the top, he was level with many of the treetops.  As he began to look around, he saw Mount Marat to the west as it picked up the rays of the morning sun.  As he looked back to the East to see the sunrise, he noticed some small black dots flying in the horizon.

Suddenly, many things happened at once.  Malachi had climbed more quickly than Brego had anticipated.  Brego yelled, “Malachi! Slow down!  You’ll be spotted!”

Malachi waved to Brego, and was about to say, “I’m okay!”  when he realized that he wasn’t.  What had been black specks a few moments ago were now three hideous gargoyles speeding through the air toward him.  He began to run back down the boulder, sword flailing above his head.  But he was not fast enough.  The gargoyles were at full speed.

Brego leapt toward Malachi thinking to roll him to the ground and shield him with his body, but one of the three gargoyles quickly scooped up Malachi in it’s talons.  Brego leapt, attempting to grab a wing and prevent flight.  But a second gargoyle hit Brego with its beak and pinned him to the boulder before its momentum carried it passed Brego.  As Malachi rose into the air, he saw Duman standing at the cave entrance with his Longbow at full draw.  But he did not shoot.  “They don’t want to risk hitting me,” thought Malachi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1388[1]

(Malachi being captured as drawn by Malachi at 6)

He had been caught from behind and so was facing downward, watching the trees recede below him.  He realized that the other gargoyle had caught Scrapper.

Malachi’s head was spinning: “I’ve got to face it and kill it,” he thought to himself.  With a quick squirm, he reversed his body in the talons, and he still had his sword arm free.  The Ramfaya blade was a burning fire.  Had Malachi known it, it was creating a grey fiery streak in the sky.  The sword was showing his exact direction of travel to Duman and Brego.  He was just about to strike at the gargoyle, when it spoke:

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” it said.

In a split second, Malachi realized that if he killed the gargoyle, he would surely die as well since they were probably a half-mile in the air.  Then it came to him.  He knew which gargoyle this was.  It was one of the three from the side of the archway on the Adelphia Cathedral.  Still in a fury, Malachi was sooo tempted to just swing that blade of fire and end it all.  He was too angry to just give up or faint.

Malachi looked over his forhead to see where they were going.  No doubt about it, upside down, he could see a black mountain off in the distance.  He remembered the words that his Dad back on earth was always reminding him, “Malachi, think it through.  Use your wits!  Don’t just lash out in frustration!”

“Think!”  he thought to himself.  The dizzying height was beginning to make him faint.  Then it came to him, what Ezra had said: “They’d rather be sunning on their gutter spouts.”

Malachi had also learned the wisdom of Miriam: “In their natural state, gargoyles love to hear singing from their perches on churches.  When Chaozz possesses them, singing confuses them.  I will teach you a few basic Psalms which you must learn to sing with me.”

“Are you Blig, Blag or Blog?”  yelled Malachi over the wind.

That got his attention. “How did you know that, kid?”  It asked.

“Because; you were one of the three gargoyles missing from the Adelphia Cathedral.”

“Yeah, well I’ve got you now!” it said, pretending not to be surprised.

“I bet you’d rather be sunning yourself on the Cathedral right now,” said Malachi.  “When was the last time you had a nice bit of fresh water going through your gutter mouth?”

The gargoyle began to falter ever so slightly.

“Did you know Zlig, Zlag and Zlog are back on their sunny gutter spouts?”  Malachi continued.

The frantic beat of the creature’s wings began to slow.  “Yeah, well, we can’t get back in once the city barrier is up,” said the gargoyle.  It flapped its wings in silence.

“…singing confuses them”  Malachi began to sing the Psalm Miriam had taught them.

As if to interrupt the singing, it said, “Bet you can’t guess which one I am!”  with a sneer.

“You’re Blog,” replied Malachi without hesitation.

“Ain’t tellin’,” it said.

“You know,” said Malachi out loud, “you really don’t have to be a slave of Chaozz the Black…”

With this, Malachi began humming the Psalm again and tried to act relaxed, putting his arms back behind his head.

“You shut up, kid!”  said Blog.  Wait till Chaozz gets a hold o’ you.”

“I bet you’d rather be Zlig or Zlag right now,” said Malachi as if he hadn’t heard what Blog was trying to say.  “It’s a sunny day and there’s no better time to be a gutter spout!  In fact,” he continued after humming the Psalm a little more, “I’ll bet the people are walking by admiring their wings right now as they go to say morning prayers.  Zlog probably has that wonderful feeling of being admired and waving to them without waiving because he’s just blissfully…”

“You stop that!!”  Blog couldn’t take it anymore.  He squeezed his talons and said  “There ain’t no way for me to get back.”

“King Titus would let you through if I convinced him,” said Malachi.

“He would?”

“Yes, yes I’m sure of it!”

“But Chaozz‘ll catch us,” said Blog.

“Not if you turn around now,” said Malachi. “You don’t have to be his slave.  Anyway, I could stab you with my sword right now.  I’d rather die than go to Chaozz.”

That did it.  Blog’s resolve began to break.  Seeing his advantage, Malachi knew what to do.  He began again to SING the Psalm with all his heart!  Blog couldn’t help remembering fondly his days sitting on the Cathedral.

“Change of plans, boyz,” said Blog.  “Looks like we’ve nabbed a ticket back to our gutter spouts.  This little one can get us back.”

With that, three sets of wings headed back for Adelphia…

 

 

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20 Wet Beginnings

20

After another ten minutes, they began to feel the draft of cold air coming in from the entrance to the cave.  “The first thing we will have to do is descend this craggy ravine,” said Duman.  “Brego and Folsom have gone ahead with the ponies.  If they are safe, they will be waiting for us in another cave hidden 2 miles from here.”

“In this rain?”  asked Martha.

“We couldn’t ask for a better cover,” replied Duman.  “Our woolen cloaks will shed most of the water, and, hopefully we can dry them out tomorrow.  But the gargoyles will certainly not expect us to leave in this.”

“In full dark?”  Molly put in.

“Yep, you’ll all have to learn to trust the rope just like we did in the tilting yard.”

It was rather shocking, when cold rain suddenly pounded around Martha’s hood as they walked out into the night air.  Her ears were filled with the sound of rain.  Her boots protected her feet from the sharp rocks, but the walking was extremely uncomfortable, because her foot rarely fell in a flat place.  She held the rope in her left hand and it moved along very slowly.  Duman took frequent pauses, especially if someone fell or stumbled.

Martha thought of the times when she had gone hiking back on earth.  She had thought nothing of wading in a small stream when it was 50° outside.  But it was amazing how quickly she felt cold now.  It was 45° and rain.  She had begun to shiver slightly despite the activity.  She was very glad for the leather gloves with which to hold the rope so that her hands didn’t freeze.

Darkness.  Noise and total darkness.

Martha didn’t even see any light reflecting off raindrops.  There were no streetlamps.  They were out in the wilderness.  Martha had to completely rely on her senses of hearing and touch.  Every few minutes, Duman would mention a turn in the path or a sharp outcropping or something.  Martha began to listen carefully for these admonitions.  A few times, she found herself drifting off and forgetting to listen.  If she didn’t, she almost always paid with a stubbed toe or loss of balance.

Well, what did she expect?  Did she expect adventures to just be fun– jumping around and laughing at bad guys?  Somehow, more than anything else, this rain made her realize that this was not just going to be a light fairytale.

But as the rope moved forward, Martha was developing more and more a sense of trust.  Miriam was directly in front of her, and Millie was behind her in the line.  They seemed to be working their way gradually down a rocky slope.  At one point, Miriam actually fell.  She had lost her footing because of a jagged rock.  Martha felt the rope go down in front of her and instinctively grabbed it with her other hand as the whole line came to a halt.  It was enough.  The friends on either side of Miriam had prevented her from hurting herself on the sharp rocks.

“Everyone okay?”  called Duman through the rain.

“I’m allright!”  Miriam replied.  “Be ready for a few sharp ones where I am.”

No one really wanted to pause very long in the rain, so they kept moving again.  After another half hour or so, Duman brought the whole group to a halt.  “This is the rocky ledge.  It is twenty something foot drop with no footholds.    Jeremy, you are next.  I’m using one of your iron stakes.  Malachi, it’s time to use your sword again and risk a little bit of light.  It should show a faint grey.”

As Malachi drew the sword out slowly , it seemed bright to their adjusted eyes.  “Yes, mostly grey,” said Duman.  “But I am troubled by these slight green flickers.”

He put Malachi’s sword in his own belt and began to descend.  With the faint light, they could see Duman going down the rope hand over hand using Jeremy’s iron forged rope holding devices.  A moment later, Duman’s voice came from somewhere below.  “Jeremy, show the others what to do!”

“Okay Martha,” said Jeremy.  “Ease yourself off the cliff edge, then hand over hand with these clamps just like we practiced in the tilt yard.”  He handed her the pair of iron ‘descenders’, as he called them.   They were heavy, but held you firmly on the rope when you kinked the rope in them.  “Duman will be ready to catch you at the bottom, take your time!”

Martha could see the outline of Duman below by the grayish light of Malachi’s sword.  Using the ‘descender’ devices, Martha could almost walk down the cliff.  She had descended perhaps 10 feet when she really blew it.  She looked up.  The heavy rain coming straight into her eyes caused her to try to wipe them with her hand.  For some reason she forgot that her hand could not let go of the rope.

Instantly she began to fall.  The scream didn’t really come out of her mouth until she was almost to the ledge below.  She felt the paralyzing sensation of fear and freefall.

But Duman was ready.  Part of his training had been practicing catching other men when necessary.  His arms, chest and bent knees absorbed the momentum as he crouched, then rolled with Martha’s flailing personage.  When they hit, the back of her head hit the side of Duman’s ear.

Bam!

“Oow!  Are you all right?”  Said Duman.

“Yes!  Actually…” Martha checked herself.  Her ankle felt bruised where Duman’s leg had crushed it a bit.  She found she could stand.

Doing yelled back up to the others, “she’s okay!  When you are descending, do not look up at the rain!”

In the end, Duman did have to catch Molly, though from a lower height.  The rest managed the descent.

“What about the rope?”  Asked Malachi.

“Ahh, that’s where Jeremy’s iron stakes come in!”  Said Duman.  “Why don’t you demonstrate, Jeremy?”

Malachi noticed that there was a string with a piece of stick hanging on the cliff face.  Jeremy simply pulled the string back through the eye hole of the iron stake and pulled the rope back through!

“So you see,” said Jeremy, “the only thing we leave behind is the stake.”

“We’re not safe yet,” said Duman, sheathing Malachi’s sword again so that full darkness returned.  “We should reach the cave in 10 minutes or so.”  With that, he began to lead them all forward with the rope again.

The cave entrance was well hidden halfway down a gully.  Harry the Mason had been keeping watch.  “Halt!”  He called into the darkness.

“Patterns, pilgrims and patience!”  replied Duman with their prearranged password.  “Do you have the woolen blankets ready?”

The companions came in under the mouth of the cave.  Martha had never in her life been so glad to get out of the rain.  Harry the Mason led them away from the mouth of the cave into what felt like a room in the darkness.  They could hear the breathing of the ponies and smell their husky sent.  They could also hear human snoring amidst the ponies breathing.  This turned out to be Johnston and Medgrave.

“They’re here!”  said Harry.  “Time to wake up and help me hang their wet gear.”

Using the rope still, Harry let them to a place where there were woolen blankets laid out on the floor. In the dark, he instructed them to remove their wet outer gear and put them in a pile.

Martha rolled into the woolen blanket and was soon fast asleep.

 

 

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19 Final Preparations

Hammers were ringing bright and early Saturday morning at the blacksmith shop.  John had called many that had worked for him in the past to come and help out.  His regular crew consisted of eleven people give or take depending on the season.  Many local farmers would work for him during the winter months to earn extra pay and keep warm as well.  After the day’s work had been done, John would let many of them stay to make shoes for their own horses giving them iron in exchange for their work.

Today there were perhaps twenty-five people working on the equipment necessary for the pilgrimage.  John was careful to designate one of the farmers simply to keep a good eye on ventilation.  Smoke and steam were billowing from the forges.  Thankfully, the weather was fairly cool for late summer.  All the doors were open and there was a crowd of passersby watching what action they could from the street.

But none were busier than Jeremy.  His ideas for pulleys and stakes and rope gripping clamps were finally being mass-produced.  For him, it was thrilling to have some of his ideas being put to use.  His father had given him charge of five of the best smiths in the kingdom.  These men were skilled, and had quick techniques for molding the iron, but the parts needed for the rope clamps were small.  It took the utmost skill to fashion these and Jeremy was not sure if they were all going to be useful.

He found that if he simplified the design to its bare essentials, he could obtain more items in shorter time.  For example, instead of fashioning rounded stakes (these were a little over a foot long looking like a sewing needle of today with a place for rope to be strung through), he would settle for squared off ones which could be fashioned in half the time.

Malachi and Duman were stationed just outside Jeremy’s side of the shop loading these iron implements.  “These will be too heavy to carry on our backs, so we must start off with mules,” Duman told Malachi as he carefully wrapped two more of the stakes .  “The local shepherds from all around Adelphia are loaning us their animals.  But if we ever need to descend into the caves, we will have to choose our implements carefully and send the mules back.”

Malachi explained to Duman how many of the implements on earth were much lighter though he didn’t know whole lot about it at his young age.

“We’re going to have to pull Jeremy from his work,” said Duman as he closed the back of the wagon.  We all need to practice in the tilting yard this afternoon, including him, if he is coming on pilgrimage!”

“I’ll get him,” said Malachi.  “I’m sure he’s breathed in his quota of smoke and steam for the day!”

At Malachi’s signal, Jeremy left instructions with the remaining blacksmiths.  The two boys hopped into their familiar places in the back of the wagon with Scrapper.  They chuckled and giggled as they found comfortable place to lie down as the wagon rumbled up the cobblestones toward the Palace.

“Are you going to miss blacksmithing?”  asked Malachi.  “I mean, you have no way of knowing how long this adventure might go on.”

“I love blacksmithing,” said Jeremy.  “But, I was born for adventure!  It sounds like  my rope climbing implements may be put to the test.  The other thing is that I enjoy making swords, but I also enjoy swinging them.”

“Yeah, but how many silver tipped swords to we have?”  Malachi asked thoughtfully.  “I have a feeling we’re going to be battling tortured gargoyles.”

“That’s what my dad is about today,” said Jeremy.  “He’s forging silver onto the iron swords and arrowheads as fast as he can.  He’ll be busy with that for the next couple weeks because King Titus is going to prepare the Army to confront gargoyles again if necessary.”

The boys could feel the wagon wheels roll onto the softer surface of the drawbridge.  The horses hooves made a rhythmical ‘thud’ instead of the clip clop of the cobbles.  Once the guards had searched the wagon, they gave news to Duman.  “Always circling,” said one of the guards.  “They don’t stop night or day.  They can’t get through the rainbow barrier, but they’re ready to cause trouble for anyone who leaves the city.  Many of the peasant folk just outside the walls have had to go stay in the woods near Fern Berry or Auckland.  Gargoyles don’t really follow them.  They just keep watching the walls.”

“Let’s hope the tunnel will get us past their snooty noses,” said Duman in return.  “Somehow, I think they will sense when the Patternstone leaves.  All we can hope for is enough delay to get us out of sight on the road to the mountains.”

Duman introduced the boys to the guard and, once again, had Malachi draw his Ramfaya sword to check for enemies around the Palace.  Nothing but the small red flickers indicating men with evil intent.  They all thought of Rasha being held in the Palace Ward.

“Well, it’s time for lunch and then the tilting yard, said Duman.  We have many signals and drills to learn as we get to know one another.”

That afternoon, for the first time, all the people going on the pilgrimage were assembled together in the tilting yard. Each person chosen to go had demonstrated a history of being committed to worship, hard work, festivity and community.

“We are not an Army,” said Duman addressing the group for training.  “If it was our purpose simply to fight, we would send only soldiers.  But that is not our main purpose.  God has shown us that the business of freeing cathedrals can be entrusted to children.”

With a prearranged signal, he turned the speech over to Miriam.  “However, all of us will have to endure hardness as a soldier would.  Going through mountains in the dark is an extremely difficult task for anyone, let alone for us who have not trained specifically for this.  You will become weary, footsore and likely want to give up before it is over.”

“May I have those who were with me through the labyrinth to come forward,” said Duman.  He lined them up and placed in their left hand a rope which he had knotted at 5 foot intervals.  The rope was soft but exceptionally well woven.  Duman and Miriam and handed out pairs of leather gloves which allowed the fingers free motion.

“We’ve got to where the leather gloves at all times, even during sleeping, when we’re in the wild.  We must be ready to hold onto the rope or possibly climb a tree at a moments notice.  Also, if the mules need to be corralled, grabbing the reigns could otherwise cause blisters.”

The smaller group demonstrated walking together in line holding the rope.  “Now watch what happens when I trip and start to fall,” said Miriam.  Mercy remembered the feel of it and being on the other side from Duman helped to pull her to her feet.  Soon the whole group was following Duman around the yard, rope in hand.  Miriam began to lead them humming a Psalm.  She instructed them to stop and march in silence after every verse.  It would give them time for listening to their surroundings.

“There will be times when we march in silence, but there will be other times when we need the encouragement of singing,” she said.

On the side of the tilting yard, there were three large sycamore trees which had been pruned in such a way as to allow climbing practice.  “If we are chased by wild animals, we may need to climb trees,” said Duman.  He demonstrated a quick jump into a tree from a run.  The leather gloves were very important for this, but another important factor was to loop a piece of rope around the branch in such a way that the knot at the end would catch.

Martha tried the maneuver, but found it was much more difficult than it seemed.  She began to slip, but Duman caught her and set her on her feet again.  He continued to work with her, helping her to get the rope positioned correctly.  When this happened, Martha found that she could put her feet on the trunk of the tree and pull herself up using the knots on the rope.  When she finally settled on a branch, she was gasping for breath.

“Now, here is where you seasoned warriors come in,” said Duman looking at the experienced soldiers who were coming along.  There was Brego the captain of the King’s guard and whom the King had reluctantly spared for the adventure, and three more men from his retinue: Johnston, a slender, exceptionally fit man, Harry the Mason who was stocky and understood geological structures and stonework, and finally Medgrave who was an expert in equine tactics and all horse lore.

Duman demonstrated to them how to catch the younger children utilizing a harness from Jeremy’s shop and pulley them up the tree.  Martha found this infinitely easier than doing it herself and simply cooperated with the rope and harness.

“When we go through parts of the wild, we may want the younger ones to wear harnesses at all times,” he said.  Then to the delight of everyone he demonstrated the practice maneuver of pulling Scrapper up into a tree.  It was funny to see a dog calmly licking its paws 20 feet up.  It had taken Duman and Scrapper less than a minute to be well off the ground.

The afternoon went by quickly practicing all sorts of cooperative efforts for various situations that they may encounter on the road.  The children were taught self-defense techniques using their equipment.  They also practiced forming inner and outer circles for defense setting the soldiers and experienced warriors in an outer circle with the children protected inside.

That night, when Mercy and Martha went off to their sleeping quarters thoroughly exhausted, they were overjoyed to find that Millie and Molly were allowed to stay with them.

“I’m so excited!”  said Molly.  “It’s like my insides are turning flips.  Part of me can’t wait for adventure, but another part of me is scared.”

“I know what you mean,” said Mercy.  “The fact that God brought us to your world gives Martha and me feeling like we can face anything.  Like God will definitely bring us back to our world when we’ve done what were supposed to do here.  But you know, we could really die.”

“I know I could,” said Millie, lifting up a pile of suds almost a foot high and putting it on her head.  “It’s not like we’re immune from being hurt or anything.  Listener was kicked pretty badly by the gargoyle.”

“Honestly,” said Martha, “I would be happier just staying here at the Palace.  It’s such a great place!  And the King and Queen really care about their subjects.  But it’s almost like we have to go out there and remind people about the patterns even if we want to keep Adelphia glorious.”

“Yeah, Adelphia won’t stay glorious if Chaozz rules everything else,” Molly chimed in.

“You think he’ll fly down and blast us with fire or something?”  asked Mercy.

“Not if we love one another, sing Psalms, stay together and do what God asks us to do!”  said Millie with determined certainty.  “From what I understand, Chaozz can only defeat those who give in to his way of looking at things and don’t forgive one another and don’t remember the patterns.”

“I’ll be honest, Rasha troubles me,” said Molly, beginning to dry herself off.  “He’s scheming up something and he seems to really want to work with Chaozz.  I’ll bet there are more like him in other kingdoms, and I don’t look forward to meeting them.”

“But let’s remember that people can change!”  Said Millie.  “My dad has people working for him who used to be thieves.  He showed them a better way of life and give them a good job.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” conceded Molly.  “There are lots of people on the Palace staff who used to be troublemakers.  All the same, some people just don’t want to change.  We won’t win everybody over.”

“You won’t win anybody over if you don’t get your red cheeked faces onto pillows within a quarter of an hour!”  said Labesh, walking into the room with nightclothes.

“Can you come along on the pilgrimage?” asked Martha.

“No child, I’m a little too old for the hardships of the road.  But I’m not too old to get down on my knees and pray for you every day in the Chapel.”

Four sets of eyes looked at Labesh wishing she could come along.  Finally, Mercy asked if she would escort them to church in the morning.

“That would be a great honor,” Labesh replied.  “Now off to bed!”  Despite their excitement, they all fell asleep within a half hour of their bath.

Martha awoke sometime in the middle of the night.  Noisy silence.

In the beds next to her, she could hear the loud breathing of her tired friends.  As she lay there, she imagined that she heard:  “Mollll…llly, Merrrr…rrrcy, Millll…lllie,”  replacing the sound of their breathing.  She was determined to learn to distinguish which was which.

As she did whenever she woke up, she checked the Patternstone necklace under her pillow.  On this particular night, there was an insistent light coming from the middle of it.

“Get up and go to the window…”

Martha was not sure if the voice was in her own head, or just herself talking to herself as she did regularly.   She tried talking to herself:  “roll over and go back to sleep.  Your waaay over-tired.”

She rolled over.

“Get up and go to the window…”

It was her own voice, sure enough, but the stream of thought seemed to come from a different stream.

“Well,”  said her own stream, “I guess it’s a relatively safe thing to do.  You’re really up to your neck in adventure, Martha Jones!”

She listened again.  “Mollll…llly, Merrrr…rrrcy, Millll…lllie…”  They were all asleep.

Quiet as a mouse and holding the Patternstone, she tiptoed over to the window.  As with most of the windows in the Palace, it was narrow and began over 3 feet from the ground.  When she pulled back the velvet curtain, the crescent moon filled the floor with silvery light.  The Patternstone was dazzling with its facets bouncing moonbeams every which way.  But there was something else.  Less strong than the silvery light was rainbow colored light.

The height of the window prevented her from looking down toward the landscape.  She could only look up at the moon.  Wanting to see the fields and forests below, she moved a small chair under the sill.  As she did so, she carefully set the Patternstone down on the floor.  Immediately, the light became only silvery.  No rainbow colors.

Leaving the stone on the floor, she stepped up.  In the moonlight, she could see the outlines of the farm fields visible from the south wall of the Castle.   Only the East wall looked over the city.  Further out, she could see the rolling forests looking like darker black in the moonlight.

She stepped off the chair to test what would happen when she was holding the Patternstone.  Why had the quality of light been different?  As she clambered back up and looked out, immediately she knew why.  She could see a rainbow surrounding the city and the Palace.  It was like a large dome over the whole area.  It seemed to be centered on the spire of the Cathedral, though she could not actually make out the spire from her vantage point.  She fancied that she could see small black specks moving in the air outside the rainbow.

To experiment, she gently set the Patternstone necklace on the floor again and looked out:  all she saw was the normal moonlit night.

At first, Mercy was not too happy to be woken at such an hour, but they reluctantly complied with Martha’s insistence.

“You gotta see this!”  said Martha.

Mercy was bleary, but could look out the window without the aid of the stool.  “Okay,” she said, “nice moon.  Fields and forests.  Now can we go back to bed?”

“Now hold the necklace,” said Martha.  She handed it to her sister.

“Goll!”  exclaimed Mercy, a little too loudly.  Soon they were all viewing the scene with and without the Patternstone.

As they were trying, Martha explained, “I’m pretty sure the rainbow is the protection that comes upon the city after the Cathedral is set free.  Those black specks are gargoyles who want to get in but can’t.”

“Yeah,” said Mercy, “as soon as we step beyond the borders of that rainbow, it’s back to gargoyle war.”

They all sat in silence.  They could hear some Palace guards exchanging calls in the distance.

“Well, I’m sure they’ve got a plan for getting past that border without being spotted,” said Molly.  “The only thing is that the Patternstone itself might draw them.”

“I don’t think it will draw them when I roll it up in this bag,” said Martha.  She showed them the black bag.  As soon as she rolled up the Patternstone in the bag, it was like turning off a large electric current.  “Let me try something,” said Martha.  She unrolled the stone and held it up.  Then she said in a commanding tone, “show us how to get out of the city!”

“Not tonight.  Go back to sleep,”  said the stream in Martha’s head.  Nothing but bouncing moonbeams filled the Center facet of the stone.

“It told us to go back to bed,” said Martha.

“You mean it speaks to you?”  asked Millie.

“Yeah, I guess so.  It kinda feels like my parents talking to me—it’s sensible and all that.”

“Well then, we’d better listen,” said Mercy who was coming to trust the magic of the Patternstone.  “Besides, I’m still whupped.”

The girls clambered back into their beds after unanimously agreeing that they wanted to let the moonlight stream into the room.  As soon as Martha put the necklace back under her pillow and her head on top of it, she was back in dreamland.

Worship the following day was absolutely glorious at the Cathedral.  Crowds overflowed into the village square.  Nothing in their experience from earth prepared them for the magnitude when the whole city worships together.  Mercy wondered if this kind of unity would ever exist on earth, but here in Highpattern, in the city of Adelphia, it was truly amazing.

The Psalms had a certain resonance being sung by so many voices at once.  Mercy noticed that the organist had to slow down the tempo for so many people to sing in unison.  The warm feeling like chocolate cake coming out of an oven was even stronger this week.  Mercy loved the sensation when she added her voice to the throng of voices.  She could feel where her pitch fell – somewhere in the soprano range – as it blended with the other voices.

Queen Lydia had requested for their Sunday afternoon to be spent with her.  There was a large living room in the Royal apartments of the Palace.  It was not overly gaudy, but practical.  Scrapper rolled around and played with the palace dogs in a foyer.  Ezra told tales of the centuries leading up to the present.  There was a map of Highpattern set up on a table which Ezra would refer to as he told the stories.  Once in a while, Lydia would ask a question or interject something.  The children also were encouraged to ask questions.

Along with tea and hot chocolate, Duman introduced the children to ‘Defend the Kingdom’, a game of strategy for repelling invaders from Adelphia.  It had been devised by King Thomas to provide real instruction while at the same time entertaining his soldiers.

As night fell and the torches were lit around the Palace, the children realized that they had genuinely rested.  They actually felt more tired and ready for bed because of the restful attitude with which the whole palace seem to be filled.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in the tilting yard, practicing more techniques for journeying, climbing, packing, cooking and all other aspects which the Pilgrims would need for their journey.

They practiced unrolling their sleeping bags to bed down for night and they practiced packing them back up until they could do it in five minutes.  They practiced what would be the signal that the camp was under attack.  They practiced ways of waking one another up depending on the seriousness of the situation.  They practiced putting on and taking off harnesses for climbing.  They practiced mounting and dismounting the mules.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Miriam gathered the children together to practice singing Psalms.  Mercy had become more accomplished with the Treeano.  Martha told Miriam about how the Patternstone revealed the rainbow.  They had packed for the final time.

Before they went to bed, Duman explained how they would get past the rainbow border.  There was indeed a tunnel leading out from the west wall of the Palace which would emerge in a cave nearly a quarter mile past the rainbow border.  This tunnel was normally used for escape from the palace in times of siege.

“Please try to sleep soundly,” said Duman to the children.  “Drink the herbal tea Labesh makes for you.  And don’t worry, we will wake you up when the time comes.”

It was all Martha could do to still the pounding of her heart knowing that they would be departing two hours before dawn.  But the herbal tea had its effect, along with the steady “Mollll…llly” of Molly’s breathing next to her.

In what seemed like only a few minutes, though it had been hours, Miriam was gently waking them all.  As she had practiced, Martha put on her leather and chain mail.  They joined the whole company outside the sleeping chambers and were led further to the westward wing of the Palace.  They descended and long set of spiral stairs.

The whole group was subdued and hushed, well aware of the seriousness of what they were attempting.  They all held the rope in their right hands as they spiraled around to the left.  Martha felt glad for the rope which reminded her constantly of the presence of her friends.  At the bottom, a single torch was burning brightly.  And there stood King Titus, Shepherd Amos, along with Ezra, Lydia and several important courtiers.  Shepherd Amos directed a sincere prayer to God asking for the success of the mission.  They drank a cup of parting which was the same sweet wine Miriam had given them when they had gone into the labyrinth.

King Titus asked the three children to come forward.  “We have been so glad God has sent you from earth,” he said warmly.  “We cannot see all ends, but we trust that you are sent to our kingdom for such a time as this!”  He embraced the three of them in a warm group hug.

Titus addressed  the entire group:  “Each of you has a small leather envelope on the inside of your leathers.  In it are papers to give to Rudolphus, the King of Phesus, or whomever may have questions about your legitimacy.  In it also are promissory notes for money.  Should you be robbed, my name has good credit in most of highpattern and you can use the notes for lodging.

“Malachi, hand me your sword!”  The King said.  It’s glow was grey with some red flickers.  “Gargoyles will be above you soon and I believe the red flickers are from Rasha still in the dungeon.  Well, young man, lead the way!”  said the King, giving Malachi pat on the shoulder.

Duman grasped Malachi’s hand. King said.  It’s glow was grey with some red flickers.  “Gargoyles will be above you soon and I believe the red flickers are from Rasha still in the dungeon.  Well, young man, lead the way!”  said the King, giving Malachi pat on the shoulder.

“To Pilgrimage!” said Malachi.

“To pilgrimage!  said everyone.

Malachi found the first step felt like stepping off a cliff, even though it was on solid stone. Scrapper, as ever was an eager beaver at his side.  He was thankful when Miriam began to sing a Psalm.

He found it easiest to hold his sword at his side like a flashlight.  The grayish glow increased as they walked forward while the red flickers began to cease altogether.  The tunnel was very straight and true having been constructed for three soldiers to walk abreast.

The company walked along silently, each occupied with his own thoughts.  They felt the unity that the rope provided and walked in single file though the passage did not require it.  Within ten minutes, the grayish light in Malachi’s sword became much more pronounced.  They were going under the rainbow barrier.

Martha had placed the Patternstone carefully in the black bag and rolled it in three times as Miriam had instructed her.  The sincere hope was that the enemy would not sense the movement of the Patternstone.  All the same, she could feel it pulsate as they went under the barrier.

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18 Proposed Pilgrimage

When the Psalm ended, a quiet hush descended upon the whole company. The King simply took his seat motioning for everyone to follow suit. The whole assembly sat in silence reflecting upon the profound solemnity of the occasion.

After many minutes, the King motioned for Shepherd Amos to pray. This he did, requesting God’s aid and wisdom for what was to be done.

After this, Twombly stood up as the reader. He had been given a prepared speech which explained the need for secrecy regarding the proposed pilgrimage of the Patternstone. If fewer numbers of people knew what was happening on the pilgrimage, there was less chance for information to fall into the wrong hands. Consequently, the ensuing counsel would consist of a small group who had previously received invitation from King Titus.

The remaining people in the feasting Hall were encouraged to enjoy the music and pray for God’s wisdom regarding the Council. A small group were escorted once again into the Council chamber.

“From whence derives these patterns?

From whence, this use of time?

From heaven’s throne,

to call our own,

reflected in the Patternstone.

Ancient builders made them known.

‘ere hammers rang to chime.”

As Ezra finished the poem again, the chamber continued to resonate with his voice.  A hush fell again and he spoke:  “Over the centuries, we have made annual pilgrimages to the seven cathedrals. We have always renewed them with the Patternstone.”

“Now we face a new situation, however,” continued Ezra. “Though there have been years when the pilgrimage was not made, never has it been neglected so long. After a year or so, the gargoyles begin to leap from their gutter spouts. Never has it taken more than a year of this scourge to motivate us to pilgrimage.  As you know, we have endured increasing trouble from the gargoyles for 13 years.”

I hand was raised. Twombly, who was moderating the Council, motioned for Brownbeard to ask a question.  “Has anyone had trouble Monday through Saturday?” he asked with an air of humility and deference. “They trouble us on Sunday. They don’t bother my produce stand.  The bother us as we come in to Adelphia to attend the Cathedral. Many of my friends began worshiping on their farms to avoid them on Sunday mornings. Some have continued to worship in small groups, but many have begun to make Sunday like any other day. Good friends of mine have forsaken worship altogether.”

Brownbeard paused and gazed at Twombly, Ezra and the King as if to be sure he should continue. “Please continue,” prompted Twombly.

“Well, thank God, the stone has been found.”  I know three families who are planning to attend this Sunday now that the threat of gargoyles has passed here in Adelphia.”

Cheers went up at this.

“It is not easy for me to send my daughter Millie on this venture. But she sincerely desires to risk her life in this cause. She has been singing Psalms and studying the history of Highpattern.”  My suggestion is this: could we obtain the help of the local farmers outside of each city before we attempt entrance into the cathedrals?  I know many of them may help much when they realize that the Patternstone has been found.”

“Absolutely!”  replied Ezra. “When Queen Tirzah and her retinue would march toward Phesus or Myrrh the farmers and townsfolk would begin to fall in with them. By the time the Queen reached each Cathedral to renew its stone, nearly the entire city along with those in the outlying districts would be gathered.”

“By your leave, Ezra,” interjected King Titus. (His role as King gave him privilege with respect to councils. He could interrupt them at any time.) “So now we come to it. As Brownbeard says, some farmers still remember after 13 years. But let us keep in mind that those farmers surround Adelphia where we have been more faithful than most cities to remember the patterns– with the possible exception of Myrrh. The difficulty we are facing is that many have already forgotten the patterns. I suspect that most of the local farmers and tradesmen near Sarbad have given up on them.”

At a wave from the king, a man clothed in a cloister robe stood forth.  “Please let me introduce to you Harnold who has ridden in haste from Sarbad.”

Martha remembered the face of the man she had seen from parapet near the Chapel that afternoon. The man still looked weary though he had been washed and given a meal. The hair on the left side of his head was singed.

“The wrath of Chaozz the Black is terrible!” Said Harnold. “Never in our history can we remember such a display of his terror. Over the past 13 years, people have observed him flying further and further from the Black Mountain. But, last Friday evening, he simply went on a rampage! Reports poured in of his terrors all night Friday night. By Saturday morning, we saw that he had gained a large following of gargoyles and seemed to be headed for Adelphia. We sincerely feared for you, but we had no way to warn you who could ride faster than they could fly.

I was chosen to ride here as fast as I might. Around midday on Saturday, I saw the gargoyles descend upon Adelphia. I thought perhaps all was lost. Chaozz, true to his ways, was circling the perimeter of Adelphia, but not attacking the city himself. Suddenly, a brightness appeared from your Cathedral. The best I can do to describe it is that it was like a rainbow emanating from it and flinging all the gargoyles away. Many of them rushed back toward Sarbad.  Chaozz himself was thrown back from the city by the rainbow. It was as if he had been stung by it and he flew away from it with amazing speed.

Alas, I had not yet attained the borders of Adelphia. The rainbow simply stopped at the border, like a shield of protection around the city. One of the gargoyles who had been flung back toward Sarbad fell onto the road not 15 feet from me. In his mindless frenzy, he injured both me and my horse before he could see that I did not intend to stand in his way. Thankfully, he continued to try to fly off after Chaozz. After this, I spent three days tracking their movements. Chaozz has definitely retreated to Sarbad, but he has dispatched a steady stream of gargoyles to patrol your borders. Knowing that today was your feast day, I endeavored to journey here and warn you of his movements. I stand ready to help in any way I can.”

“Thank you Harnold,” said King Titus. After this, the King called upon Duman to convey his discovery of Rasha’s movements during the sneaky business on Tuesday. Scrapper stood dutifully and almost seem to nod and confirm Duman’s report.

Next Miriam reported on the advantage singing gave even in battle situations with the gargoyles and the Minotaur. Everyone nodded in agreement with this after the demonstration in the feasting Hall. She also demonstrated the use of the Treeano and small silver horns to magnify the singing voice.

Lastly, Listener was brought forward. He was bandaged and mostly immobilized on a rolling chair. His voice was weak and his face was white. He gave a brief account of his part in the adventures, calling attention to the use of silver tipped arrows and swords when dealing with gargoyles.

In honor of her mother, Queen Tirzah, Queen Lydia was called forward to propose the pilgrimage. Her beautiful queenly festivity gown shimmered in the torchlight of the Council chamber. She sat next to the King and began:

“I think all of you know that I would very much like to rescue my mother. The Patternstone truly is magical and we have seen Queen Tirzah and know that she is held captive in a cave somewhere near the black mountain. But, I fear if we attempt to rescue her first, our rescuers would be overpowered by Chaozz and his minions. If there is a chance of rescuing her, I believe it comes with fulfilling the mission. We must set all seven cathedrals free for worship again.”

“Therefore, I believe it would be best to begin by traveling toward a Cathedral that Chaozz will least expect. He hopes to lure us to Sarbad, and that is closest, but it is too much to risk with the children. What then?”

She motioned to Twombly who used a long pointer on a very large map which everyone could see.

“Laodice?” asked Lydia. “It would be the next obvious choice. But Mayor Kleearos has not been consistent in promoting worship. We can’t count on his aid. We have attempted to be neighborly and we do a fair amount of trade with them.  We must remain friendly toward them.  Please, all of you, welcome them to come worship at our Cathedral. They must see the value of the patterns.  Let us be hospitable and winsome.”

“But I do not think that they have the commitment to withstand a full-scale attack of gargoyles yet. Therefore, let us consider a third option. It is an option that Chaozz will not expect. Let us start with Phesus. The road is more difficult. In fact, there is no road in places.  I propose going through the mountains.”

She looked around the room.  No one spoke.  Heads were bowed in contemplation of what she had said.

Finally, Ezra spoke up: “As to the passage of the mountains, I can say that it has been done, but the way as dangerous.  Others know more of this.  But as to gaining the Cathedral at Phesus next, I think it is a good plan.  Some there will be receptive and it is a cultural center.  If we were able to win those who perform the plays and paint the pictures, it would help communicate the patterns to others.”

King Titus spoke up, “can anyone here see a major flaw in this plan?  We do not want to take such a venture lightly, but too much deliberation could also paralyze us.”

Listener, who was still present, gave his thoughts: “I have been through the mountains.  The going is very rough.  But the advantages of secrecy would seem to outweigh the danger.  I have not fully explored the caves which descend into Phesus, but there is opportunity for shelter and secrecy.  Jeremy, would you show us a few of your display items?”

With that, Listener motioned forward Jeremy, the blacksmith’s son.  He brought rope and pulleys and stakes and a harness which he had made and set them on the table in the middle.

“With my guidance over the past few years, Jeremy has fashioned a system of rope and harness whereby we may descend into caves and navigate cliffs or steep terrain,” said Listener.  “If these items are used wisely, the mountains can be traversed safely with God’s help.”

“You have answered the only objection I had,” said Brownbeard.

“Can we then decide here and now upon this pilgrimage?” said the King.  “Any further objection?”  He paused to give ample time.  “It is decided then.  To Phesus we send our pilgrims!”

 

 

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