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.