Martha woke to find herself on a comfortable bed staring at a beautiful hanging tapestry. It was woven with ornate trumpets being blown by angels. Morning sun was backlighting it so that many tiny points of light filtered through.
She felt breath on her ear and turned to see Malachi with a worried but hopeful expression in his big brown eyes. He was peering into her face: “There she is… her eyes are opening…I see you…” Martha blinked. Her little brother’s happy grin was good to see. “This Palace is really awesome,” Malachi said, no longer able to contain his enthusiasm. “I’ve talked to one of the guards. He showed me his sword. They’ve had to double their watch since…”
“Malachi, shut up!” said Mercy.
But it was too late. The scene flooded back to Martha’s memory. Her face went pale. “Arrrhhh!” she yelled as if to try to yell the memory out of her system. “Arrrhhh!”
Labesh came over from her seat near the window and stroked Martha’s face, calming her. “There now… Hush,” she said.
But Martha was wide awake now. “What kind of a beast was that?” she asked.
“They say it was a gargoyle,” said Mercy.
“You know the stone creatures made for gutter spouts on the cathedrals?”
Martha reflected: “It wanted the necklace. I know it.”
There was a knock in the outside chamber and Labesh went to answer it. Apparently, it was a Palace guard with an urgent message from the King. Labesh tried to shoo the guard away, but he insisted on reading his message: “Begging your pardon, Miss, but there is a summons here from the King. It states that if the children are awake and able, he awaits them in his council chambers.”
“Brego, have you been out there listening to know if they are awake?” Labesh said with a playful accusation in her tone.
“To be honest with you ma’am, yes I have,” he replied. “The Council is already begun.”
“Well, you can tell King Titus that the entire kingdom will have to wait a half an hour,” replied Labesh. “Land sakes,” she said turning to the children, “you’d think I trained him better when he was in wee britches! The King ought to know that these things take time.”
She bustled over to the table and poured a cup of tea. Martha had already noticed its fragrance which was filling the chamber. “Here, drink this,” said Labesh. “It is made from peppermint along with some other herbs.”
Mercy and Malachi had already been drinking the warm tea. “Try it Martha,” said Malachi, “it makes you feel better.”
The nurse gave the heavy ceramic cup to Martha after she had sat up.
“Don’t try to talk too much. Just drink.” said Labesh.
“She should go back to sleep,” said Mercy. Us two can go to the Council,” she added, gesturing to Malachi.
Tears welled up in Martha’s eyes. “No, no, I’ll go,” said Martha drying the tears with her sleeve. “We have to find out what this is all about.”
Martha noticed that the attendants had washed the blood and food stains off the sky blue dress. It was hung neatly at the foot of the bed. She moved her arm and winced. “It does hurt a bit.”
“We have completely cleaned and dressed the wound with calendula Miss,” said Labesh. “I can’t say as I’d recommend being up and around too quickly. But, my! You children do seem to get the red back in your cheeks!” She wiped Martha’s brow with a warm cloth. She continued in a soft prattle, “You’ll be glad to know the dishes in the Palace are washed with boiling water every day. That’s what cut you– palace dishes: clean as can be. Won’t you go back to sleep for a while longer?”
Martha began to edge from the bed, looking at the nurse with level eyes. “No, ma’am. I do so want to go to the Council,” she said, swinging her legs off the bed. “The King has summoned us.” She stood up, and, with Mercy’s help, began to put on the dress.
The nurse carefully checked the bandage on her arm. “Well, the King’s business is the King’s business. But if it was up to me, I’d have you sleep longer. I’m going to escort you. And if you begin to faint again, little missy, I intend to bring you right back here,” she said in a motherly tone.
As they left the healing chambers, they were escorted this time by Brego and two other palace guards. It was so exciting going through the Palace in daylight. There were large paintings, shields and hanging banners in nearly every corridor. They came to a large foyer with several paintings. Noise of conversation was coming through an archway where guards stood. They could sense numbers of people in the chamber beyond.
“Look!” Mercy exclaimed, pointing off to the left.
The guards seemed reluctant to pause, but the three children stood staring at a painting of a woman in queenly attire who was wearing the very necklace Martha had found.
“Who is that?” Mercy asked.
Brego spoke up; “That’s Queen Tirzah, Miss. She was the last queen to wear the necklace. She disappeared on pilgrimage over 13 years ago when I was a boy. We all loved her.”
The painting was larger-than-life. The Patternstone necklace shined on the Queen’s breast. The children felt like the eyes of the Queen were actually looking at them, they were so lifelike.
“How did she lose the necklace?” Mercy prompted.
“It was stolen, Miss. But you see…”
“Then how did it end up in the dressing chambers?”
“Begging your pardon, Miss, but I’m to bring you to the Council as soon as may be,” said Brego.
Martha could not stop looking at the painting. The Queen’s eyes had come alive and were beseeching—pleading with Martha to understand. “You are to pick up where I left off.” The voice was in Martha’s head, but it seemed very real.
After a few moments, seeing that there was nothing else for it, Mercy placed her hands over Martha’s eyes. “C’mon, we need to go.”
Pulling their eyes from the painting with difficulty, the three children proceeded into the council chamber. The chamber had many wooden tables forming a circle with high seats for the King and Queen. There were also several distinguished looking people and many men in the livery of the guard.
The lines of concern etching King Titus’ face gave way to rounded crinkles as he smiled at his guests. “Welcome, children. We are so glad to have you with us.” He pointed out places to sit. “We must do away with preliminaries. We have but an hour.”
The King gestured for a man with flowing white hair and a long beard to come forward. His reading spectacles, quills, and other odd items protruded comically from pockets on his gray robe. There were several scrolls laid out on the table before him.
“As many of you know, Ezra, our Chief Historian and Recorder, has understanding of these things. Let us all give heed to his brief history lesson!”
With the deepest of bows, the old man stood up. His beard only missed dragging the ground by a nifty fold which doubled it over at the belt. He smiled warmly toward the children. Martha thought she had never seen such a combination of beard and bald head. As he began to speak, his obvious age seemed to fall away in his enthusiasm. He could speak from memory, and began:
“A great and grand cathedral
spires to the sky,
as if to pierce the firmament
this joyful tent,
toward heaven bent,
has for us a pattern sent,
to mark the seasons by.”
Ezra paused to let his voice reverberate, testing the acoustics. He had placed his hands behind his back as if he was reciting a memory verse for grammar school.
“Many years in building,
on great foundations deep,
hewn with stone,
by back and bone,
in years we see a steeple cone,
from pastures with our sheep.”
“From whence derives these patterns?
From whence, this building plan?
From heaven’s throne,
to call our own,
Ancient builders made them known.
Reflected in the floor of stone,
and ceilings vaulted span.”
500 years of building?
‘Twas but a little time.
The people knew to make a place
to decorate with cloth and lace.
To meet their maker face-to-face,
singing praises by His grace,
‘ere hammers rang the chime.”
The acoustics in the chamber were excellent. Ezra paused to let the word “chime” reverberate fully. Then he began again in a pedagogical tone: “Ahh, yes, let me see …The construction of the seven cathedrals began approximately 2300 years ago. Phesus, Myrrh, Gamos, Attyra, Sarbad, Adelphia and Laodice. It was at least 490 years between their beginning and completion. As gifted craftsman contributed their skills over the years, parts of the architecture gradually took on magical qualities. It seems that Angels gave gifts to men.”
“Over the years, as the stone- masons continued to sing and chant in time with their chisels and hammers, perhaps coming down for a draft of ale at lunchtime, and rejoicing in their labor, they began to develop a sense of humor about the things they built. They were confident of God’s blessing. They began to carve stone gargoyles. It became almost a competition between the masons to see who could do the best carving. They were placed as gutter spouts to throw water away from the beautiful stone carvings below. Many of them were carved to laugh at the old dragon, Chaozz the Black because he never could get into God’s church. Some of their faces are sad, perhaps expressing sorrow at the plight of humanity. Some are stern, reflecting God’s judgment. But many of them were actually a competition between the masons to come up with the most interesting looking creatures.”
Malachi had perked up at the mention of a dragon. Forgetting protocol, he blurted out a question: “Did the dragon try to fly at them when they were working on the roof?”
Ezra did not seem at all flustered by Malachi’s interruption and responded. “Yes, occasionally he would fly down, breathing fire!” But he could not damage the buildings or the workers. The blessing of God created some sort of invisible shield around the cathedrals. In fact, as soon as a Cathedral was started, there would be a shield around the whole city in which it was being built. Chaozz had to resign himself to burning up farmsteads in the countryside. But he soon realized that this would only motivate people to build more churches and to worship more fervently. Soon even the smallest villages began to have a church.
“Of course, Chaozz was greatly dismayed by the progress of these buildings. He knew that if communities of people would gather in them to sing and worship, he would be rendered powerless. He had to completely change his tactic. He began to make friends with men using the gold and silver and diamonds found in the Black Mountain just north of Sarbad. He would offer to give people gold if they would train to be his magicians. He offered a life of pleasure and ease. And, sadly, as we all know, there are always people who will sell their souls for these things. Under his influence, these magicians began to put demonic spirits in the gargoyles. This is what we are now facing.”
At this moment Twombly sounded a low note and a silver trumpet.
“Ezra, pardon the interruption.” said the King. “What news, Twombly?”
“Sire, several hundred gargoyles have surrounded the cathedral! A messenger has ridden hard from Cathedral Square.”
One of the outer doors was opened. The sweaty scent of horse and the sound of its breathing could be heard. A man in full equestrian withers strode in, gathering his breath. “The gargoyles are flying hard into the large stained-glass window. Sire, I fear they may have already destroyed it.”
“Are any worshipers trapped?”
“There were only a few people praying. We managed to get them out the side door.”
“Have the archers had success?”
“They are tough to hit, sire, as you know, because they generally don’t come close to the ground. We have released over 200 silver tipped arrows. Many of the brave young lads are running about trying to find the overshoots and bring them back to the archers. We simply aren’t prepared for an attack of this type. We cannot understand why they have left their gutter spouts.”
“Where is Shepherd Amos?”
“He should be on his way. I think he began by praying and then realized that the sanctuary had been breached. We are all wondering, Sire: what has changed? What allows the gargoyles to violate the sanctuary?”
“That is what we are met to discuss. Please, take some refreshment!” said the King. A serving girl offered him water and wine. “Listen here,” Titus continued, “and you will learn much. This young girl has found the Patternstone. Ezra, please continue your description!”
“Yes, Sire. Well, when Chaozz the Black found a way to put his demons into the gargoyles, the stone masons were at a loss. But, there was a wise man among these craftsmen of old named Tubal. He remained faithful and so saw through the deception. He had understanding of the magical properties of different kinds of stones and minerals. He sought for a way to thwart these designs. In short, he needed a way to turn the gargoyles back into stone.”
There was a hush in the counsel. Everyone was intrigued. At this point, he turned to Martha. “Come forward and hold it up child!”
Martha had put the necklace back under the bodice which had a concealed pocket in the front. All three children now stood up and Martha held up the necklace for all to see. Its radiance filled the room. Gasps of astonishment could be heard as the people saw its brilliance.
“Behold the stone! Fashioned by Tubal of old, it shows us seasonal patterns for life and blessing of God. Against all probability, it has been found by this child from Earth.”
Martha felt a little self-conscious. Her blushing cheeks only added to the colorful reflections of the magic dress and bright necklace.
Ezra continued: “Tubal fashioned the Patternstone from the finest magical diamond available in the mines of Yahalom. He also fashioned the seven smaller diamonds, each of which has a precise fit in the floor of the seven cathedrals. When the Patternstone touches one of these seven, it’s cathedral becomes renewed. All its gargoyles will be turned back into stone. If this is done annually at the feast times, the gargoyles will remain in their native habitat—as stone gutter spouts. They love to sit in the sun laughing at Chaozz and performing a useful function keeping the water away from the buildings.”
“But if this is not done annually, the gargoyles become open to the demons, and, as time goes by, the demons can even manifest through the gargoyles physically. When this happens, they jump from their gutter spouts and begin to do Chaozz’s bidding. The gargoyles in Adelphia were prevented from this because we have continued to worship and have festivity around the Cathedral. We all know that Sarbad and other cities have had terrible trouble with gargoyles in the last couple years. But ours had never become demon possessed until yesterday.”
Martha was on the verge of tears again as she thought of the winged creature in the feasting hall. Her eyes wandered from Ezra and she caught sight of Miriam winking at her. She gathered her courage looking at Miriam and remembering about the diplomatic face. Meekly, she raised her hand to ask a question.
Ezra noticed her hand: “Yes Miss Martha.”
“So, did Queen Tirzah travel around to the seven cathedrals?”
“Yes, she did. And even after the necklace was stolen, she continued to make the pilgrimage and encourage the people to worship. She trusted that the stone would be found one day, and indeed, it has!”
Ezra paused. Martha raised her hand again. “Here, sir,” she said as she tried to hand him the necklace.
“Oh no….No, that is impossible. The necklace truly is magical. God causes it to be passed down into the hands of someone faithful. Each time the gargoyles assert themselves, another brave person is raised up. But 14 years ago, the necklace was stolen. It was found by you, so you must complete the task.”
King Titus had been listening thoughtfully. “But how could it have ended up in the dressing chambers?”
“The one who stole it was probably someone within the Castle,” replied Ezra. “Somehow, this person was not able to get from the Castle with it, and so simply hid it.”
When Ezra said this, Martha suddenly felt uncomfortable. She now sensed that not every eye now gazing upon her was friendly. Then, she saw him–one of the Kings counselors. At the mention of the dressing chambers, he had flinched.
One of the soldiers raised his hand. The King nodded permission to speak. “The gargoyle that flew into the hall seemed to know who was wearing the necklace.”
Then Caleb, the archer who had shot the arrow in the Hall, spoke up: “I think it was more a shrewd guess. They knew the necklace had been found because they are attuned to it. What then? The gargoyle felt its presence and simply guessed that the finder was attending the feast. I sincerely believe that it is he who we saw in the Hall. Did you notice how the beast looked around before descending toward Martha?”
Caleb turned to her. “Do you think that the creature saw the necklace?”
Martha shuttered. Her eyes filled with tears as she said, “I’m sure it did. It flew straight toward me.”
“So,” said Caleb, “they know we have it and they may know who has it. We must assume that they do.” He turned again to Martha: “do not fear, young mistress! We will guard you with our lives.”
Mercy spoke up, “Sir, couldn’t we put it under a bushel or lock it up ?”
The King spoke up, “locking it up will accomplish nothing. It is meant to be brought to Cathedrals. In fact, we must attempt to bring it to all the seven. If we were to lock it here, in the palace, the enemy would simply continue to send gargoyles until they finally overthrew us. Our only course of action is to attempt the Cathedral here at Adelphia first before the gargoyles gain greater numbers, then send Martha on pilgrimage to the other cathedrals.”
“Sire, surely not the haunted Cathedral at Sarbad?” Twombly broke out.
“That is the end for which is intended. We cannot see how this will be accomplished. We can only guess that each Cathedral, when set free, would weaken Chaozz‘s position. But we cannot discuss the big picture today. Let us focus on Adelphia! We must act quickly! ”
At this point, another counselor spoke up. The one Martha had not felt right about.
“Rasha,” the King gestured, “you may speak, but please be brief,” (King Titus wondered to himself why he had not taken Rasha out of his counsel before this).
“Most glorious King,” Rasha began, “with all humility, I suggest that we avoid acting too hastily or rashly. The Patternstone is a historical matter requiring the greatest of care and consideration as we determine the course of our kingdom. We must patiently procure all of the literature in the archives pertaining to the possibilities which the Patternstone may afford us. It is a particularly delicate political situation. Surely, you are aware, sire, that the philosophical and religious underpinnings connected with its potential abuse may, in the abstract…”
Before Rahsa’s monotone could lull them into complacency, another messenger burst through the door and begged for leave to speak. He was out of breath, his arm was bloodstained, and is whole body was covered with grime.
“Speak Honathan!” said the King, obviously grateful for the interruption.
“They’ve penetrated the cathedral again, Sire. They are beginning to reinforce their defenses.”
“This is the hour!” said the King. If his eyes could have been fencing swords, they could not have more clearly silenced Rahsa.
Then he shifted his gaze to the three friends. “Are you willing to help us? We cannot guarantee your safety, for that is in the hands of God, but we will defend you by life or by death. Martha, our only hope is to get the Patternstone to the center of the Cathedral floor.”
Martha glanced at her companions. They looked at her with determined expressions.
“Sire, my father taught us that we should be ready for such adventures. We have read books about this sort of thing. We are willing!”
Cheers went up in the hall.
“Hear me, everyone!” boomed the King. “There is no time to lose. Chaozz is surely calling up reinforcements from the other cities to try to prevent the setting free of this Cathedral. Can we assure this child safe passage to the Cathedral?”
Honathan spoke up again, “the entrance to the Cathedral is already blocked, sire.”
There was silence for a few moments, but then Caleb stood up: “Sire, I beg leave to counsel with yourself, Ezra, Duman, and the three children.”
Immediately, the King motioned and the seven of them retired to a smaller room off the Council chamber.
Caleb began, “Sire, as you know, I have patrolled the access tunnel on regular intervals. We have rightly guessed that the main doors could be blocked…”
The King nodded for him to continue.
“Our only hope is to get Martha and the necklace to the center of the transept by using the Key of David and going through the Open Door.”
“I can see that to attempt getting past the gargoyles in the open square would be folly,” said Titus. “But, what of the Labyrinth? Is it safe now that the Patternstone is found? When was the last time it was used?”
“I myself checked it three days ago. There were no major obstructions, though there is one deep crevice which requires rope to get across.”
“Where does it come into the cathedral?”
“The Labyrinth ends in the crypt under the very center of the Cathedral. We will need the Key of David to open the entrance to the crypt. Across the crypt, there is a spiral staircase leading up to the Cathedral. It comes out at the Open Door upon the wall of the southwest corner, the place where the transept crosses the nave. The gargoyles are sure to be surrounding the mosaic at the center of the floor. We must do something which would tend to distract almost all of them. They will not be suspecting our entrance there, but when we get in, we must try to cover the 10 yards or so without being seen. With your permission sire, I will lead the children through the tunnel along with Duman, his dog Scrapper and Miriam. More numbers than that would not avail.”
Twombly spoke up. “The army must launch an attack on the gargoyles which will completely engage their attention toward the outside of the Cathedral. And yet, we cannot sling munitions at the cathedral itself. How can this be accomplished?”
“That is a question for the Army. Let us go back to the main chamber. But I charge the seven of you to say nothing of this secret plan,” said Titus.
Ezra spoke up, “beware of evil now that the Patternstone is found. Remember the battle of 2543. Anytime the Patternstone is found, evil creatures (and the men who side with them) tend to come out of the stonework, so to speak.”
When the Council had reconvened, King Titus spoke again: “we have come up with a plan that cannot be revealed to all. In order for it to be successful, we must allow the gargoyles to think we are attacking them directly in the square in front of the Cathedral.”
Uriah, the captain of the Army, spoke up, “we can prepare a frontal assault within two hours. We must make it appear that we are going to follow them right into the Cathedral and attack with our silver tipped swords. Hopefully, they will be drawn out, especially since it will be night.”
Caleb spoke up again. “Honathan has told us that they have already have they broken the round stained-glass rose window. I will shoot a flaming arrow through the opening as our signal. With the trajectory from the southwest corner, I should guess the arrow will come down about 50 yards to the Northeast in the square which would put it about 30 feet due East of the fountain. Uriah, make sure no one is there to be the unwelcome recipient of the arrow. When you see the arrow, begin singing victory Psalm 7 at the top of your lungs and see if the gargoyles will be drawn out of the cathedral.”
“But what will you be doing in the Cathedral?” said Rahsa.
“That will be revealed in time,” said the King. “The plan is good. We will muster in two hours at Palace Square. From there, we march directly into Cathedral Square. Let the gargoyles assume we are making a direct assault. Sound the silver trumpet!”
A note sounded high and clear, followed by a melodic series of blasts. From atop the Castle it rang throughout the kingdom. In the silence that followed, the kingdom was beginning its reluctant preparations for battle.