By the time the sun came over the edge of the tilting yard on Friday, Malachi was reaching exhaustion.
“Lift it again, young Master Ki!” said Duman as he brought his practice sword in for another strike.
Malachi gave every effort to deflect the blow again. He had been given a heavy oak practice sword weighing approximately 10 pounds. “Need to develop your wrists and arms,” Duman had said. They had been at it for an hour and everything ached. Malachi’s hands ached in the leather gloves. His wrists, shoulders and back were finding whole new ways to ache.
This was the 3rd morning of training. The children had been fully recovered by Wednesday, and Duman had insisted that they be prepared for the rough road ahead. But it was obvious that Malachi was really struggling to lift the 10 pound sword even one more time.
“Shake your hands out and stretch like this…” said Duman. After they had stretched a little, he handed Malachi his Ramfaya sword. It was small and light, weighing less than 4 pounds. After the 10 pound practice sword, it felt great. “Now go through the defensive sequence again.”
Malachi found that the perfect balance and weight of his own sword enabled him to move it nearly twice as fast and have good control. Duman brought his wooden sword in for an attack which Malachi parried fairly well. “Remember, any real enemy will probably not pause to allow you to decide how you’re going to block the stroke,” he said. “Just keep your stance and the sword in middle position ready to move with any attack. And never turn your back to the enemy unless it is time to run.”
Lastly, he brought Malachi to a straw practice dummy. “Go ahead and thrust a few times. Where would you stab your enemy if you really needed to kill him?” Seeing Malachi’s hesitation, he explained: “as a king’s Ranger, I have had to make the decision many times whether I actually needed to kill someone. If you are in battle with an enemy who has declared war, that is generally to the death. You don’t have time to decide how to incapacitate someone when you are in the middle of 50 people charging you.”
Malachi continue to think about where he would stab the dummy.
“But, when I have to deal with thieves or other crimes in Adelphia, I almost always looked for a way to knock them unconscious or incapacitate them.”
It was actually difficult for Malachi to stab the practice dummy. It caused him to think hard about what his sword meant.
“You see, is a great responsibility!” said Duman after watching Malachi contemplate really having to put someone to death. “In fact, someone like yourself who hesitates when he is young will probably be someone who avoids unnecessary killing when he is old. You have a tender conscience! Don’t lose that!”
Carefully, Duman showed the points where most soldiers are vulnerable on the dummy. Once again, as with the gargoyle, he took Malachi’s sword and Malachi’s hand and confidently stabbed the dummy.
Malachi broke down in tears.
“Good man. I’m so glad this is hard for you. Always take it seriously,” Duman said as he lifted Malachi off the ground and hugged him. “Join your sisters and Miriam. One more time up the tower steps to the Chapel,” he said. “Say your prayers and then go wash off in your rooms.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Malachi. He was also required to continue the practice of diplomatic speech under the formal surveillance of the tilting yard.
At the entrance to the chapel stairs, he found Martha and Mercy waiting for him along with Miriam. “Glad it took you so long,” said Martha. “Gave us a chance to rest!”
“Okay now, it’s only about 150 stairs,” said Miriam. “But there is a catch. We will all sing victory Psalm 7 as we ascend the stairs. Try to continue to sing even if you’re getting out of breath.”
The children followed Miriam up. Her pace was a steady climb which seemed easy for about the first 10 steps. But the difficulty increased.
“I trust in you, deliver me!
Oh, king of kings I sing to thee…”
Miriam’s voice rang up the spiral stairs. She paused at the end of each line for breath, but soon, even these pauses were not enough. Martha began to experience aching each time her knees bent. Her lungs were bursting for air. Everything in her screamed “stop running”.
“Keep running!” panted Miriam.
“How did she know my thoughts?” said Martha to herself, but she willed her legs to keep pumping.
By the time they reached the Chapel, everyone rolled on the floor gasping for breath. One of the things they liked about Miriam was that she wasn’t too proud to be practical. Miriam rolled too.
After about 20 seconds of this, Miriam insisted that they stand up. “Grab your knees like this,” she said, demonstrating. “Quiet your breathing. What if you really were being chased?” Gradually, she had them stretch their legs. Then she led them over to the altar and led them through sincere Chapel prayers and a gentle Psalm of praise.
When this had ended, they sat in silence for a few minutes. They went back to the alcove which overlooked the tilt yard. The windowsill was nearly 2 feet deep, hewn of rough stone. Martha could hear some of the sounds of practice from below. She felt the warmth of the Patternstone against her. Miriam had been standing feet beside her, and now put her arm around Martha. “Would you like to experiment?” she asked. “I would be curious to see how our singing affects the brightness of the stone.”
This time, Martha took up the tune. As they sang, sure enough the Patternstone blazed. “Okay, now put it in the bag,” said Miriam. It’s light went out inside the black bag. When Martha brought it out again, it looked like a normal diamond. “Now let’s just quietly hum the tune,” said Miriam. They did and the stone gave out a little light.
“Yeah, I can see how this could be useful,” said Martha. “We just hum a Psalm and we don’t need a torch!”
“Any enemy who could see a torch burning would see it before they would hear us hum,” replied Miriam. It will be handy for traveling in the dark.”
They had been humming by the In the distance, they heard the call of the Palace guards. Someone had come to the Palace.
“Malachi,” said Miriam, “may we look at your sword? I want to know if the new arrivals at the Palace have any evil intent.” There was no inner light from Malachi’s blade. “You see, down there, inside the gate,” Miriam pointed to the place just beyond the drawbridge which could be seen from their parapet. There, the guards were speaking with a man who looked like he had ridden his horse through a furnace. His tunic and jerkin were scorched and tattered.
“He is a messenger,” said Miriam, “his livery looks like it is from Sarbad. Hopefully his information will help us.” Others were beginning to stream in through the Palace gate. People were coming in for the Friday evening festivity. Occasionally, someone would hand a weapon to one of the guards for safekeeping.
“I think I’ve kept you here too long,” said Miriam. Labesh will be expecting you girls in order to dress for the feast.”
“Look!” Martha said before Miriam could escort them down the stairs. “It’s Millie with her father!” Sure enough, Brownbeard was smiling broadly and shaking hands with the guards.
“Millie!” Yelled Mercy and Martha together. Though they were approximately 200 feet away, Millie did see them and waved, jumping up and down with excitement. Martha and Mercy pointed toward the dining Hall.
“Hold on!” said Miriam. “I have something to say. Martha, tonight King Titus will ask you to reveal the stone to everyone at the feast. I will stand with you. I’m going to ask everyone to sing, and when they do, you can be sure that the light will be powerful. It is the key to our whole mission– the Patternstone will gain power as more and more people in highpattern worship and begin to feast together in community.”
Going down the Chapel stairs was so much easier! Their legs still felt like rubber, so it was rather humorous. One couldn’t be too sure if one would need one’s brother or sister to steady oneself because one’s legs would respond in unbidden spasms.
Soon, the girls found themselves in the dressing chambers again. Malachi had gone off with Miriam. Labesh had laid their pretty dresses out. “You’ll need to be wearing the sky blue dress tonight,” said Labesh. The Patternstone has been found and we need to present this good news as winsomely as possible!”
When the girls peeled off their tilt yard Jerkins, they were covered in sweat and grime. “Goodness gracious! What does that Miriam do with you girls? Into the tub with you!”
Labesh already had taken the precaution of putting an iron kettle on the hearth and so it didn’t take long for the bath water in the copper basin to be quite warm. “Ahhh!” Sighed the girls as the warmth surrounded there rubbery legs. But Labesh wasn’t messing around. She scrubbed and she brushed and she poured water over their heads. She had mixed some kind of stuff that she poured on their hair. To the girls’ surprise and delight, she began to sing:
“Lavender and tea tree oil,
bring that water to a boil.
Stir in soap and send it round
copper makes the clanging sound!
Fume-ee steam fills up the air
sudzing bubbles in your hair.
Tubbling makes for rosy cheeks,
scrub-bling face until it squeaks!”
With that, Labesh gave Martha’s nose the old motherly pinch which brought gruff-ling guffaws from all parties present.
This night, the dining hall was perhaps twice as crowded as it had been on the night of their arrival. The smells were just as delicious. Once again, Miriam was gently playing the fiddle along with some other musicians. The Royal table was much larger this time. As Labesh escorted them to their seats, they noticed Twombly ready to push in their chairs. Many eyes were upon them, Martha in particular felt the color beginning to rise in her cheeks, unselfconscious though she usually was. To their delight, however, they were seated in between Millie and Molly. Malachi was placed next to Jeremy. And in no time, all the children were busy with catch-up conversation.
Millie and Molly had similar stories: Twombly had come to visit their fathers and requested an audience. A little while later, each of their fathers had come and had a talk with his daughter. Twombly had asked them to consider sending the girls on pilgrimage. They had discussed the risks involved and likely duration.
“Dad said that they wanted you to have company your own age for the journey,” said Millie.
“Yes, and my skills in food preparation could be put to good use,” said Molly.
“And mine knowing how to pack food and store it,” said Millie. “Plus, it’s an honor to give our life in the service of the mission of the Patternstone. We’ve been taught the stories surrounding it ever since we were little.”
“What kind of stories?” Martha asked.
“Well, you know….How God made the Highpattern world, when he worked 6 days and rested for one. My dad says God wants us to follow his patterns. He wants us to have a day of rest and work hard when it’s time to work.”
“But then Chaozz the Black fell from the sky,” put in Molly. “Why some people follow him, I’ll never know! He doesn’t want any regular patterns. He wants chaos.”
“Or Chaozzzz, if you take the meaning” said Millie. “I seriously wish he would just fall asleep and snore forever!” She made a snorty–sort of snoring sound: “HONNN-PPPBBBZZZ!” They all laughed uproariously.
As their laughter began to recede, they realized that everyone within 20 feet was looking at them.
“Ahh, scuse me,” said Millie with humility, folding her napkin.
But Malachi was completely oblivious to everyone’s attention. “Why don’t we just kill Chaozz and be done with it!” he said loudly.
Stunned silence. Nearly the whole dining Hall became quiet.
The look on Malachi’s face was quite comical as the ring of his voice died away.
“That’s….the…part that’s really hard for us to understand,” said Millie, aware that all eyes were upon her. “You can’t kill him.”
King Titus had been watching the children’s conversation from the head of the table. “Millie is right,” he said. God allows Chaozz to remain in Highpattern. When Queen Tirzah accomplished the mission last, and all the cathedrals were humming with worship, that old Dragon was still plotting in Black Mountain above Sarbad. We shall all hear more in the counsel later.”
The King gestured to the musicians, who immediately struck a more lively tune. Final preparations for the feast resumed. He gave Millie a very broad, knowing smile and a wink.
She gave him a nod which silently communicated, “thank you, your Majesty.”
Conversations around them began to continue, allowing them more privacy.
“Well, how about the sword they gave me the Armory?” said Malachi. “It’s a Ramfaya sword. Couldn’t we just stab him in the heart with it? I’ll bet Duman could get through even if I couldn’t.”
“No, I tell you, you can’t kill him,” Millie’s eyes were deep and reflective now. ” Even with that sword. Shepherd Amos and my dad say that God purposely allows him to be in highpattern. God himself may kill him or banish him forever in the end, but that is not for us to know. I’m telling you the truth, God allows Chaozz to live so we can learn to fight evil with good.”
“Yes, yes, but come on….” Malachi trailed off. He took a big gulp of his water and looked at Millie. “How are we supposed to fight him, then?”
“It’s a different battle than you would think,” replied Millie. She seemed to be searching for words. “God wants us to remember the patterns he gave us and show them to the world. Tubal fashioned the Patternstone in the mines of Yahalom and each generation has to live the patterns. That’s the only way. It’s kind of a battle that takes a lot of patience and you can’t just win it all at once.”
Millie nodded as a servant offered her a bowl of soup. “Molly, you know what Shepherd Amos says. Help me out here!”
“She’s right,” affirmed Molly. “It’s why we are going on pilgrimage. Chaozz has the upper hand now. I’ll bet he’s got all the gargoyles working for him in every place but Adelphia.”
Miriam had just come over from the musicians stand and overheard the last few sentences. They all looked at her as she took her seat. They couldn’t help but notice how diplomatic and courtly her mannerisms were. Years of practice in the Palace court showed in her graceful motions.
“Yes Molly,” she said. “I believe you are right. This will not be easy. We need to put a stone from the Patternstone necklace in the floor of each Cathedral to set each one free. This will require that we remember the patterns, live the patterns, and teach the patterns to the people we meet. Then, in time, God will give us a way to get into the Cathedral at Sarbad, where Chaozz dwells.”
“But the Queen! said Malachi. “I’m not afraid of the Dragon!”
“You have not seen the dragon up close yet!” said Mercy. “What makes you think you can just march off half cocked and defeat a Dragon that even God is allowing to live until the end of time?”
“But what about Queen Tirzah?” said Martha. “Where is she? Is she in Sarbad? Remember, we saw her through the cave entrance. And there was a volcano behind the mound where she was. Is there a volcano near Sarbad?”
“Yes … There is!” said Millie, who had learned her highpattern geography. “But I don’t think you can march straight into Sarbad and rescue her. I mean…”
“Why not!” said Malachi, getting a little huffed and still not quite understanding.
“Haven’t you been listening!” put in Mercy. “We need to set the other cathedrals free first. Then we’ll gain the power of God’s patterns and numbers of people to knock the Dragon out of his seat!”
“Well, resist the dragon,” said Millie. But that’s it. No other way. Chaozz wants us to attack him at Sarbad. We have to fool him. What he doesn’t want is for great numbers of people to begin remembering the patterns. He doesn’t want them worshiping and singing Psalms and helping the poor and feasting together: those kinds of things.”
They all sat in silence for a few moments. Voices around them were now buzzing, but some were still looking at their little group attentively.
“Do you want me to take it out so we can look at it?” said Martha. Her desire to look at it was strong.
“No, no not yet,” said Mercy. “You don’t want everybody in the Hall looking at you, do you? Everyone wants to see it.”
“I see what you mean,” said Martha as she noticed all the eyes glancing in her direction and pointing occasionally.
“Let’s change the subject,” said Millie, sensibly trying to distract Martha from stage fright. “Have you guys been learning defense techniques in the tilting yard?”
“It’s totally exhausting,” said Malachi. “Duman kept going over how to sidestep when someone is charging you. You step to the side quickly which leads them to step to that side, then, right at the last minute, you pull back to where you were. You’ll have your footing because you’ll know the ground you were standing on, and hopefully he won’t be able to react in time.”
“That’s a good one,” said Jeremy. “One of the Palace guards showed me that one when he came down to pick up his sword from my dad’s shop. If you bring your left arm up quick enough, sometimes you can get his sword out of his hand. But I haven’t tried it. I havn’t had to deal with real ruffians much yet.”
“My dad shows us a lot about how to deal with belligerent people at the produce stand,” Millie chimed. “We try to avoid any kind of argument with the customers. But, if they still want to be belligerent, we tell them to talk to my dad.”
“If we meet real ruffians on the road, they’ll attack first and ask questions later,” replied Jeremy. “What would you do with that?”
“If they pull a weapon, dad taught us to duck and roll. That gets us rolling under the tables. Within a few seconds, we could be 3 tables over pulling my dad’s leg! They generally don’t want to challenge his quarterstaff!”
“How often do you practice that?” Jeremy asked.
“We should practice more,” said Millie. “If it really happened, I’m not sure I’d react right. It’s just that we don’t want to get our dresses dirty first thing in the morning, especially when most people want clean and washed produce from clean and washed people.”
“Well,” put in Mercy, “you would look silly as a produce seller with dirt in your hair!” Everyone chuckled. Somehow it was hard to imagine at the moment because Millie’s hair was finely braided for the banquet.
One of the Palace servants set some dinner plates in front of them. “That reminds me, what kind of food will we bring along?” asked Mercy.
“The kitchen staff is already beginning to pack nuts and dried fruit,” said Molly. “And were making lots of salted jerky out of meat. If we do get a chance to have a fire, we have some jerky that will soften into stew. But fires are always risky if you’re trying to stay hidden.”
The Royal trumpets rang a beautiful sequence as King Titus stood to give his blessing on the feast. When the king stood, everyone stood. He gestured with his hand to the fiddle player who gave the first line of the melody and everyone began to sing a Psalm of Thanksgiving. Shepherd Amos gave the benediction and everyone began to dig in.
Some of the same delicious dishes greeted their taste buds again. Martha could not help remembering Gothlond’s interruption and, despite her attempts to the contrary, kept glancing up past the oil chandelier, half expecting hideous black wings to smash the stained-glass. Thankfully, the cheerful mode of her friends and laughter kept her from dwelling on this.
Twombly had come over to Martha’s side. “Pardon me miss, but the King will be calling you up. Are you ready?” Martha had known this moment would come. It was a little easier now that she had some friends in Highpattern. She hoped her knees would not give way. She was thankful that Mercy and Malachi would also be standing with her.
The dinner guests were beginning to push away their plates, when the trumpet began to play a low, warm song which was an unspoken signal for everyone to stand.
King Titus spoke with a serious gaze and posture. “God has given us opportunity to be part of his story!”
The words rumbled through the hall. The King would pause after each phrase to let the words sink in. Twombly had pulled Martha to a position behind the King’s table and instructed her to place the necklace in full view. When the King reached the appropriate point in his speech, Twombly took Martha by the arm and escorted her forward. Her knees did seem ready to buckle, but Twombly’s arm was steady.
“… and now an answer to many prayers, the Patternstone has been found! Let me introduce to you three remarkable children from a world called Earth.”
The three children stood forth next to the King and smiled to all the dinner guests. Thankfully, the King did not ask them to speak, but continued: “you all see the beauty of the seven facets in this diamond which God has caused this young lady to find.” The Patternstone was picking up patterns of light from the chandelier on Martha’s dress. She had to remember to continue to smile and gaze toward the people.
“Now,” continued the King, “I want to show you something which you older folks will remember with my mother-in-law Queen Tirzah. I’m going to ask everyone to sing again.”
As before, he motioned for the fiddle player and began to sing the victory Psalm. As he did, the Patternstone blazed with glorious light. Had it not been for Twombly’s arm, Martha might truly have been knocked over. The stone was humming and vibrating and radiating glorious light!