The Battle Begins
“The battle begins,” Velius declared.
“It begins,” Diaphanous echoed. “May the King protect you and your men.”
“You know they will come for the Stone.”
“You’ll be alone.”
“Alone, and yet not alone. I’m never truly alone just as you and Max and all servants of the King are never truly alone.”
“There will be many.
“There will be many,” Diaphanous echoed again.
“I hope that today will not be the day you return to that paradise for which we all long.”
“If today is the day, if this is my last battle, then I shall be at rest at last and joyful to be in my King’s presence more fully than I have ever been. But,” he said as the old warrior stirred within, “whether I live or die may the King be glorified. Do not worry my friend. I’ve been in the King’s service for many years and have been in many battles at overwhelming odds.”
“Long life.” Velius said as Max walked out the door.
Then he turned and walked out closing and locking the door behind him.
“I’ve had one,” Diaphanous’ soft response whispered through the crack as the door closed.
“That is a man I would never want to meet in battle,” Max said almost to himself.
“Nor I,” Velius agreed.
Ewald took another couple of steps onto the Bridge, and then fell to his knees crying and sobbing. He remained only a moment, and then he got up and ran off the Bridge. He fell on his face wailing. He looked up at Velius with his face contorted by anguish.
Help me. Help me! I never knew! I never knew!!
“You’ve seen yourself as you truly are,” Velius said.
“If you cross the Bridge, the light will not only show you yourself, it will also change you, and you will begin to become what you ought to be.”
Ewald tried to speak but only sobs came forth.
I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it any longer!
As Velius and Kesniel helped him to his feet and escorted him to the Bridge, Ewald broke free and ran to the Bridge, and then across it.
At first, the Bridge seemed to stretch on forever, but somehow as he ran, Ewald could see the far end racing towards him with incredible speed. In an instant, he found himself in beautiful, lush, green meadows filled with flowers of every color. He fell to his knees sobbing, and then firm, strong hands lifted him gently to his feet. He turned and looked back at the Bridge. From deep within his soul began an uncontrollable laugh. It was the laugh of a slave finally freed, a laugh at his fears, a laugh of relief, a laugh of incredulity…
The Black Tower
As the forest closed in, a sound in the distance froze them in their tracks. It was the low guttural call of the wolf leader calling the pack to the hunt. Lachlaniel and Ewald ran. The call of the leader made their blood run cold and summoned their last reserves of strength. They couldn’t go far. If there were no shelter just ahead…. Then, ahead of them, a light loomed. They ran with renewed vigor; the sounds of the pack became distinct a short distance behind them. The light ahead was strange, not at all like the light from Kesniel’s stone. As they drew closer, they could see the fork in the road and the Black Tower beyond. So little light reflected from its surface that its features could not be discerned. In spite of this, it gave the appearance of a welcome shelter set down at the meeting of the ways in a land where there was no real shelter. The light of a fire within flickered welcomingly from the doorway. There was a man at the threshold. He held some strange object from which the light came. They were in agony as they crossed the last yards. The wolves rapidly closed the gap between them. The man was shouting.
“Hurry, hurry! Don’t look back! You can make it!”
He stood by the open door of the tower, urging them onward. The wolves were incredibly close now. Ewald caught the sound of the swiftest as it made a final leap toward him. He swung his axe wildly and blindly behind him striking the wolf in the neck with the head of the axe instead of the blade. The wolf was momentarily stunned, but the others continued to close the ground. Lachlaniel had already crossed the threshold into the tower. The man with the light held the door ready to slam shut as soon as Ewald was safe. The next closest wolf leaped as Ewald crossed the threshold and the door closed with a whump. There was a tremendous thud, and the oak planks of the door moved visibly with the impact. Outside, the wolves circled and howled with anger at losing their prey. Inside, Lachlaniel and Ewald lay sprawled on the floor, breathing too heavily to speak. They were too weary to move, but they were safe – inside the Black Tower.