The King took a few stout warriors and led the companions through many hallways into a small chapel on the east wall of the Palace. The chapel had Gothic style windows with beautiful stained-glass images of warriors, singers, baptisms and the like.
“This is where the people of the Palace come to chant their prayers,” said the King. “The passage between this Chapel and the Cathedral is a labyrinth. Are the three of you feeling strong?”
Mercy looked at the other two, “we are, your Majesty. We are a little overwhelmed, but we seem to be in good health.”
The King turned to Martha. “Hold out the necklace again, child,” he said. It was glowing. He showed the children the seven smaller jewels surrounding the Patternstone. These actually moved magically in an outer ring of settings to correspond with the seven pointed facets of the Patternstone.
“Phesus, Myrrh, Gamos, Attire, Sarbad, Adelphia and Laodice,” the King recited. Right now, the Adelphia stone is set corresponding to the “Facet of Many Colors” in the Patternstone. That facet of the diamond represents time for rest and worship and festivity one day in seven. Therefore, as you can see, it is the Adelphia stone which is to be reset in the floor of its cathedral– the one here in this city.”
He showed the children how to pull the smaller diamond gently from its setting and how it would fit in the floor at the center of the Cathedral.
“History shows us that when the Patternstone is found, evil is awakened,” he said. Queen Lydia was searching through the Royal apartments yesterday and found this!”
He carefully handed Martha what seemed like a simple black velvet purse. “It is an heirloom of Queen Tirzah. The heat and light from the Patternstone which it throws in the presence of enemies can be a detriment to its bearer. I think this purse will fit on your belt.”
The King knelt down and showed Martha how to attach it. “Your journey through the labyrinth to the Cathedral may be perilous, but remember, God in heaven above is watching your steps.”
As if to confirm the King’s words, a loud “thudd” was heard. Dark shadows could be seen through the stained-glass windows of the chapel. Scrapper began to bark fiercely. The companions could feel the presence of evil. Martha shuttered as the Patternstone gem began to glow with a fierce brightness.
“Hide it!” said the King. “Those shadows are gargoyles and they are seeking it. Listener, now is the time! Take them down the stairs and explain more to them on the way.”
There was another thudd on the outside of the main stained-glass window and they began to hear a cracking sound. Listener grabbed a torch from the wall and led them through a double-doored archway into the darkness beyond. The torchlight revealed a landing and a set of spiral stairs. Just as they began to descend the first few stairs, they heard a huge crash coming from the room behind them. One of the King’s guards slammed the iron double door shut behind them. From inside, Duman dropped a solid iron bar securing it.
“No time to lose!” said Listener, scooping up Malachi in his arms. “Let your left hand glide along the rail and focus on taking the stairs evenly.” He began to lead them down the stairs, which spiraled around to the left. He went slowly at first, giving time for their eyes to adjust. The crashing sounds grew slightly fainter behind them as they descended.
“Try pulling your sword out,” said Duman.
Malachi did so, and it flickered grey on both sides of the blade. “It is one of the Ramfaya blades forged by Meshek, brother of Tubal,” said Duman. “It will brighten with different colors in the presence of different enemies. Grey is for stone. It only flickers now because the gargoyles are behind us in the chapel. It will grow dimmer as we descend.”
“Do you think the King escaped?” Mercy asked.
“He has a few escape plans up his sleeve,” said Duman. “May God help him!”
Mercy noticed that Listener was humming to himself. “Why are you humming?” she asked. Listener did not answer, but Duman spoke up: “he is humming to count measures of time. A measure is four beats of his song. 400 till we hope to meet the guards, and 200 more till we must try to fire the arrow into the square. Timing is everything.”
“Why don’t you just use a watch?”
Mercy realized Highpattern did not yet have electronic devices. Come to think of it, there was no electricity. She looked at her wrist and realized that she had not brought her own watch. Then she gazed back at Listener. His humming was rhythmic and methodical. For a few moments, both men hummed together. Then, at a signal, Duman began to take over the humming.
Listener spoke: “it is time for me to fill you in as we go. You will need to practice walking quietly without speaking. Can you do that?”
“We can try.” said Martha. She was painfully aware of the padding of their feet on the stone stairs and noticed how quietly the three guides walked.
“It is not as easy as you might think. The skill of walking quietly usually takes years to develop, but we are asking you to try with no practice.”
They all listened. Their footfalls began to seem like megaphones announcing their presence to whatever was in the dark.
“That’s a little better,” whispered Listener, as the walking began to get quieter. “Secondly, you will be tempted to talk in places where we shouldn’t. Questions will come into your mind. You must signal to me like this (he showed them a questioning gesture) or pull right here on my cloak (he showed them where to pull) to get my attention. When you have done that, you must wait until I speak to you. If I do not speak to you, you must assume that it is not time to speak.”
Once again, the children were struck with the seriousness of the situation and realized how little serious training they had in these areas.
“Mom wants us to do this when she’s on the phone,” said Martha.
“Oh, something from our world,” said Martha. “I’ll explain later.” As
“100 measures,” announced Duman in a low voice. He began humming again.
“We will be descending just about 400 feet,” said Listener. The Cathedral is down in the village square. The steeple of the Cathedral is higher than the Palace, but the ground floor of the Palace is 300 feet above the floor of the Cathedral. The Palace serves as a lookout to guard the city walls.”
As they descended, the air began to change in its character. The smell of dampness greeted them, and the walls of the spiral stair on one side became open at waist height. They felt the largeness of cavernous surroundings and a draft of cold air. Duman was still humming, but so softly as to be barely audible.
Finally, they came to a landing. Miriam gestured them to remain quiet. They huddled in a circle and she handed them each a rice cake. Martha’s stomach had been queasy with fear, but cake seemed to settle it. Miriam also passed around a flask of liquid which tasted like sweet wine. Martha felt confidence return with the food. The wine brought warmth to her tummy which spread into her limbs and feet.
After they had eaten in silence for a few minutes, Listener called attention to Malachi’s sword. The greyish flickering had almost ceased, but Listener seem dismayed by a very slight green tint on the other side of the blade.
“Looks like something ahead,” he said. “something that was not there when I scouted this labyrinth three days ago.” In a very low voice, he said, “we must put out the torch now and be silent as we walk.” He took out a coil of rope and instructed each person in the line to hold it with the left hand.
Martha concentrated. Her feet had begun to ache. She knew she had to descend the stairs as soundlessly as possible, but the muscles around her knees were beginning to be uncooperative.
Listener gently put his hand on each shoulder as they came down signaling them to stop. The darkness now seemed complete. The floor of the tunnel here was damp. They stood and listened.
After a while, Duman sent a hand squeeze down the line indicating that 200 measures had finished. There was no sign of the Kings soldiers. After waiting in silence a good while longer, Listener checked the hand of each person on the rope, and, without a word, led them forward into the tunnel.
The trick here was to avoid splashing puddles which they frequented. The children noticed that the boots they had been issued were well oiled and kept their feet dry. After about another ten minutes of this, listener stopped again. Wordlessly, he worked his way down the line placing his hand on the shoulders of each person until had put them in a huddle. Scrapper obediently sat. The green on Malachi’s sword had grown brighter than had become their source of light. Listener spoke in the lowest whisper Martha had ever heard.
“There is rubble blocking the passage which was not here three days ago. It is a true labyrinth down here–meant to protect entrance into the Cathedral by enemies. We have reached a dead end. We must carefully retrace our steps looking on both sides of the passage for a door. Put your hand on the hilt of Malachi’s sword if you would like to speak.”
“Why is it green?” asked Martha.
“The green on Malachi’s sword indicates a cave dragon, or some such creature nearby, judging by its brightness. I suspect this is what has taken the other soldiers, or at least they are trapped at the other side of the creature. The finding of the Patternstone has awakened evil. But God will see us through if we follow his principles.”
“We have this sword!” whispered Malachi, after placing his own hand on the hilt .
“True, it is an ancient blade, and it may give power against ancient enemies. What about you young ladies? I can tell you that if you have never faced a creature like this, it will not be a pleasant experience.”
“Honestly, I’m really afraid,” said Martha. Mercy put her arm around her sister. “But God must want us to go forward. Somehow, I don’t think we have any choice.”
“Should we allow torchlight?” Asked Miriam.
“Yes, the beast, whatever it is, will certainly find us if we intrude his territory,” said Listener. “Let us hesitate no longer: we have only about 300 measures before I must fire the arrow into the square.”
The companions began working their way back– retracing their steps and carefully looking at the walls on either side. Malachi held the bright green light of the sword against the right hand wall, while Miriam kept the torch against the left-hand wall.
After only a minute or two, Mercy exclaimed, “stop, Malachi! What are these two trees here?”
“I think you’ve got something,” said Listener. Let’s see…”. He examined the tree carvings on the wall. They were carved in the stone with very intricate grooves. “Though I cannot see any crack in the stone, I believe there will be a door behind each one of these trees.”
On the left, there was a carving of a young sapling with the inscription:
“Humbly and gradually serve,
soon you will get the nerve,
to thoughtfully follow and see.
Wait for authori-tee.”
On the right was a carving of a mature tree with the inscription:
“Grab for your destiny now.
Don’t wait: I’ll show you how.
Have others look up to you,
and not tell you what to do.”
“It’s like the two trees of the garden of Eden,” said Mercy. “The Tree of Life…well…it gave Adam life and opportunity to learn. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave Adam authority, but…well, he picked the fruit too soon. You shouldn’t pick it until you’re ready.”
“300 measures,” said Duman, still humming softly.
“Yes,” said Listener, “we have a similar story here in Highpattern. There may come a time for that other door, but I feel much better about the small sapling now. All agreed?”
As if in answer, Scrapper was pawing at the sapling. Everyone nodded. Listener stood before the sapling and said in a clear voice, “We choose to wait and gradually serve!” There was a grinding noise, and the wall moved inward on unseen hinges.
Malachi’s sword glowed more brightly. Scrapper ran back from the door whimpering as if he’d been stung by a bee or something. “Whatever beast it is, it’s here!” said Malachi. “Shouldn’t we go the other way?”
“I understand now,” said Listener. “No, Malachi, we need to face it. We are going into a labrynth, and so there will be a beast at the bottom. The beast wasn’t there three days ago, but the Patternstone had not yet been found. Follow me!”
Listener took Malachi up in front with him. His sword provided plenty of light. The tunnel was quite often curving around the right. They would come upon an archway in the side wall of the passage and Listener would lead them through it as though he knew exactly where he was going.
“How do you know where to turn?” said Malachi.
“Because the same labyrinth is represented in the floor of the Adelphia Cathedral. I have carefully studied it,” said Listener. With a wink at Malachi, he added, “you should always study the patterns in cathedrals which were built based upon God’s patterns.”
The stone walls and floor were smooth and even polished in places. Though it was underground, it didn’t seem to be damp or dank, but rather warm and dry. Scrapper was whimpering and reluctant to go forward. Miriam picked him up as they continued. As they rounded another set of right-hand turns, they began to perceive a roar of challenge. Malachi’s sword was blazing green now.
“What is it?” said Martha, no longer able to contain her terror.
Listener pulled everyone to a halt. They gathered around the light of the Ramfaya sword. Miriam gave everyone another swallow of new wine. Duman was still humming softly, and Scrapper was silent and trusting but seemed to be saying “why are we doing this?”
Based on my study of this labyrinth,” said Listener, “we are about to face what is called a Minotaur! Martha, unless I miss my guess, the diamond itself will be our real weapon now. When you bring it out it will seem to be as bright as the sun, so everyone must close their eyes and keep them closed.”
Everyone did so. Duman carefully put his hands on Scrapper’s face.
“Okay, Martha, bring it out!”
Martha put her hand around the necklace. For some time now, it had been humming with power against her breast. When she pulled it out from its pocket in the bodice, they could all feel its radiance against their eyes.
“Now, turn away from it like you would turn away from the sun and gradually look around,” said Listener.
It was as if daylight had come. The startled amazement of everyone, the passageway had beautiful mosaic pictures. Listener began to walk in front with Martha lighting the way by the necklace. As they rounded the bend, they began to feel the beast’s presence. It’s roar was like a rumble of boulders. It seemed to be a roar of challenge. They could hear its flanks knocking against rock.
Now, when you are faced with a terrifying beast for the first time in your life, the experience can actually paralyze you with fear. Miriam put her arm around Mercy–without this Mercy would not have been able to go forward. As for Malachi, his sword seemed to hum with excitement and all he needed to do was keep his hand upon the sword hilt and it was like confidence flowing through his veins.
Despite all of this, Listener kept them moving forward. The curving passageway ended abruptly at a large Gothic arch. They looked into a chamber made of red earth in a bowl shape. In its center, bisecting it, was a wide chasm with flames leaping from it. The Company paused in the archway. Scrapper began to bark fiercely.
Out of the chasm vaulted the beast. It had the head of a bull and a triple sized human form. It had intended to come straight for them, but it’s eagerness was its downfall. It was immediately blinded by the unexpected brilliance of the Patternstone. Listener’s bow gave its familiar ‘thrumm’ as he sent an arrow straight into its chest. Duman’s arrow took the left side of its face
It gave a hideous wail as it retreated back down into the chasm. It’s angry thrashings could be heard not too far below. Quickly, Duman unraveled a spool of string and threaded it through the end of one of Listener’s arrows.
“Point the Patternstone upward!” Listener said to Martha as he knocked the arrow then shot it directly into a small crevice–illuminated by the necklace–in the roof of the chamber. It stuck. Duman ran back through the archway with the string through the end of the arrow like threading a needle. The string was specialized and grew progressively thicker and stronger. Listener hooked up a leather harness and tested it. With a running jump, he swung across the chasm.
“It works! Now, or we’ll never get across!” he yelled.
Placing a rock in the harness, he swung it back to Duman. But before he was able to start Martha across, the creature returned. It had continued thrashing but now was coming up again to the top.
Miriam had encouraged Martha to hold the diamond out high. Martha felt its immense power in her trembling hand. Fear was about to engulf her shaking legs. Her will began to waver. The terrible bull’s head was now bloody on the left side, but it’s eyes were still red as fire with a commanding will. Martha sensed that the creature was commanding her to put the diamond away out of sight. Her hand began to draw back and it’s light began to waver and dim.
As the Minotaur closed in, Duman threw his body in front of Martha. He parried the Minotaur’s first blow with his small shield, but this sent him sprawling on the ground.
At the same moment, Miriam had perceived what was happening. Beckoning to Mercy, the two of them held Martha’s hands up as Miriam began to sing a Psalm of praise to God using the little horn from the armory. Her clear voice was like an arrow of confidence piercing the fear infested darkness. The change in the Patternstone was immediate. It blazed with a light like sun in a winter sky. This was the fourth time the girls had heard Miriam sing this particular psalm, so now they began to join their voices with hers. All of this caused Minotaur to cry out in blinded agony and retreat far down into the abyss.
“Ready?” said Miriam.
“It’ll be just like our tree swing back home,” said Mercy.
“Don’t worry,” said Miriam as she hugged Martha. “I’m belting you in extra tight. Don’t look down.”
When the companions sent Martha across, the bright light from the Patternstone shifted with her. Martha couldn’t help it. She looked down. The necklace illuminated the creature below. It had closed it’s eyes and creature was about to spring for her! She screamed out in terror, but at that moment, another of Listener’s arrows sunk into its neck. What had started as a leap for Martha became a writhing agonized fall deeper into the abyss.
Listener gently caught Martha. “Keep the necklace out,” He said firmly as he undid the harness.
Malachi had watched all this and utter astonishment. When you are a little boy, you dream of real conflict like this, but you are unprepared for the gut wrenching fear. The sword in his hand was like green fire still flowing confidence through his arm. But the knocking of his knees was causing it to move like a shaky glow stick.
Duman had scraped himself off the ground from blocking Martha with a fresh idea. “Now that Martha is across, the creature may think it can strike this side. Malachi, sheath your sword.” Malachi did so, and the green fire quickly went out. “You and I must rush out with your sword out point first when the creature comes to our side.”
He was right. When the creature perceived that the bright light was on one side and darkness on the other, it’s attention shifted to those who still hadn’t gotten across. Now Malachi was shaking with fear. He felt Duman’s steady hand pressed over his. They advanced towards the crevice.
The light from the Patternstone on the other side showed the Minotaur stealthily climbing toward Malachi.
“Now!” shouted Duman. Adding to the strength of Malachi’s arm, they pulled the sword, now a bright green flame, from its sheath. The creature was completely caught by surprise. Malachi felt the great strength and timing of Duman’s arm as they swung the blade in a blinding arc. It caught the creature’s advancing arm severing it.
This time it’s cry was one of defeat. All the companions now sang loudly. By the light of the Patternstone, they saw the creature descend out of sight. Soon Mercy and Miriam were swinging across.
“Catch!” Duman shouted to Miriam as he sent Scrapper across in the harness. The small dog seemed to be smiling victoriously as he flew through the air. Duman turned to Malachi.
“Ready? Keep the sword out,” he said as he harnessed himself and scooped Malachi up. The pair looked like a blaze of green fire as they swung across the abyss in triumph.
Soon they were all running up the tunnel which led to the Cathedral, the blazing light of the necklace leading the way. The agonizing wails of the Minotaur receded behind them. Malachi held the Green flaming sword as a rearguard as he jogged along with Duman. Once again, there were grey flickers on the blade as the green dimmed.
“More trouble ahead,” thought Malachi. But the victory over the Minotaur had given him faith that they could handle it.