The New Guard (Crossroads Book 1) (3 page)

Chapter
3

The cool
morning air was not chased away by the slowly rising light of day. The large
trees surrounding the clearing kept the bright rays from shining on the young
sleepers who had taken refuge therein. Those very children were understandably
exhausted after the night’s happenings and slept soundly well into the late
morning hours.

Mel was
the first awake, followed closely by Ruth. They were the early risers in the
family. Mel had an enthusiasm for running in the morning coolness, whereas Ruth
liked the silence of the morning unbroken by the various activities of her
brothers and sisters. Slowly, they both took in their surroundings and then
looked questioningly at each other. They were on the verge of asking each other
if what they had experienced was some nightmare, when they smelled the burning
pine and heard a harsh metal on metal scraping.

Both
children turned in unison to see their father and the Beagle sitting before a
campfire. Their father was rubbing a whetting stone across the sword they had
seen him wielding the night before. David’s strong brown hands worked the stone
from hilt to tip in a smooth motion, as if with years of experience. The image
was so strange, so alien to them that they sat dumbfounded until their father
looked up.

David had
a powerful look about him even without the sword in his hands. He’d played
football in high school and kept up his physical training long after. He was
far more muscled than Mel or Nic, though Nic was close to matching him in
stature and build. Though David’s father had been half-Caucasian, it was his
Lakota ancestry and his mother’s mixed tribal ancestry that he resembled. His
brown skin and eyes, dark hair, and other features all hailed his Native
American ancestry. He had passed many of these features and skin tone onto his
children, though they were lightened and mixed well with Rebekah’s genetic
gifts from her long held Irish bloodline.

David ran
the whetting stone over the blade one more time without looking as he looked
deep into their eyes and spoke. “It is called the Sword of Truth and it must
always be kept sharp, for the truth it brings is meant to bite through the
deception of the broken creation.”

David
stood, sheathed the sword into a scabbard he was wearing, then sat back down on
the log near the fire. The children had not yet spoken and their father nodded
at this. “There is much to take in and I don’t think we have the proper amount
of time to take it in slowly. Come, there is cheese, warm bread, and cool water
over at the spring. We should eat before we head out within the hour. The rest
of you should get up as well.”

David had
not raised his voice or taken his eyes off Mel and Ruth, but at the last words
the other children were up and moving around. The Beagle led a few of them to a
small spring where they splashed water on themselves and drank deeply. Ruth and
Mary quickly came over to the campfire and began dividing up the food. David
pointed out the trenches to the rest. With the all the strangeness, not one of
the children questioned having to relieve themselves in a hole in the ground.

Once they
were all gathered around the small campfire with their morsels of food in hand,
David spoke once more. “In order to properly orient you to what is happening, I
must first have you think about the beginning. The beginning I’m referring to
is Genesis.”

Mary
quickly piped up, eager to show how much she had remembered of the first story
in the Bible. “God created the world in seven days. He created the light, the land,
the plants, the animals, and the people.”

David
smiled at the eager six-year-old and nodded his head. “Yes, Mary all that
happens at the beginning, but I ask you: what happened first?”

This time
Jeremiah jumped in, “God created light. ‘He made the light day and the dark
night,’ Genesis, chapter one, verse three.”

David
continued to smile at his son’s exact quote and asked once more, “But what
happened first?”

Mel
smiled at his father thinking he knew what he was trying to get at. “The Word;
God created everything through the Word.”

“That is
correct, Mel. Without the Word nothing would have come into existence. However,
I want you to think about Genesis chapter one, verses one and two: ‘In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and
empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was
hovering over the waters.’ Before God brought forth the light of the Word to
shine signaling the beginning of creation, God had built up a foundation. After
God created, it was the acts of the serpent, of the woman Eve, and the man Adam
that broke the original design of the creation.”

As David
spoke these last words he stood and signaled to the Beagle who went over the
trenches and began covering them. David began dumping dirt on the smoldering
logs that the campfire had become. As he worked, he continued to talk. “We have
to hike the rest of this day in order to get to a safe spot to rest and gain
our bearings. I want you to think upon what we have said this morning as we
walk. Focus your thinking on the light and the darkness and the fundamental
forces they played in creation and today.”

“Perhaps
you should let them know that there is no going back; we can only move
forward.”

At the
sound of the low soft voice, the entire family turned. Just off to the side
stood the Beagle, his eyes locked on David’s. David sighed deeply, rubbed the
early stubble forming on his face, and then ran his hand through his hair.

“This
couldn’t have waited a few more hours?”

“The veil
must be lifted from the truth in order for all to see clearly. The road ahead
will be treacherous at times, and not knowing could lead to failure.”

The
children gawked at their family pet as its lips moved and a human voice came
forth. Slowly, their eyes moved from the dog to their father who now had a very
tired expression in his eyes.

“The
Beagle talks,” whispered Dinah, her young eyes a mix of questioning surprise,
barely restrained joy, and unbelief.

David
sighed once more, “The Beagle has always been able to talk, but only to me. He
is a member of the Host of Heaven and has been assigned to closely watch over
and guide our family. In this place, in the coming times, you will see and hear
and do many things you did not believe possible. Know this; all things are
possible with God. Do not doubt that He is with you even now. The sword I carry
and the Beagle are two signs of His watchfulness.”

“So the
Beagle is an angel?” The uncertainty in Nic’s voice was strong, but with a hint
of amazement. “Then who were those guys yesterday demons?”

David’s
raven black hair, which had not been cut in several months, was lengthening all
around. When his hair got like this David, had a habit of pushing it back from his
forehead. This was a sure sign he was getting agitated. When he answered Nic he
spoke in short, clipped sentences.

“No,
those men were not demons. They were twisted by the darkness, the Void. Yes,
the dog is really an angel. What it says is true. What has happened is
irreversible. We are left to walk the path before us. We have enemies we must
be watchful for and stay ahead of. Tonight, when we are secured, I will begin
to answer your questions. Take this time to think of what those questions will
be.”

At that,
David strode off toward the trees with his children staring after him. The
Beagle barked once to break the spell and quietly spoke once more “Let’s get
moving.” Softly he nudged the youngest children who then began to walk, which
prompted the older children to follow. With their thoughts spinning and
jumbling together, the children marched after their father now at the edge of
the woods. He turned and waved them on and they picked up their pace as he
moved into the trees.

The children
followed. Some of them followed out of confusion; they didn't know what else to
do. Some followed out of wonder or fear of what else was going to happen. Most
of the older children followed out of experience. Though the situation was
strange, frightening, and completely out of the normal bounds of what they
thought possible, they knew their father had never failed to protect them. In
addition, they understood his moods. When things didn’t stack up the way he
expected or something out of the blue happened to the family, he went into
quiet volcano mode. Everybody knew there was something boiling under the
surface. When he talked in short, clipped sentence and his actions become quick
and stiff, none of them wanted to test his patience to the point of seeing an
explosion. None of the children could ever recall a time when their father
truly exploded and they wished to keep it that way, so they complied.

Still
they were children, and as the day wore on and they continued to hike through
the forest their impulsive natures took hold. The youngest two, Mary and Dinah,
followed close behind David, but kept peeking ahead at the Beagle. Nearly
forty-five minutes had passed before they skipped ahead of David and trailed
closely behind the Beagle. David knew what they were up to and figured the
angel had brought this upon itself by speaking up when it did. The girls showed
remarkable self-control; another fifteen minutes passed before they began
pestering the Beagle.

“Have you
always been able to talk?” asked Mary, being the braver of the two.

The
Beagle looked back without breaking stride. It regarded David for a brief
moment and was rewarded with a smug look that said, “You’re on your own.” The
Beagle snuffed, then faced forward.

“Yes,
ladies, I’ve always been able to speak,” the Beagle replied.

A minute
passed before Dinah (who could no longer control herself) spoke. “Do you have
magical powers?”

The
Beagle sighed and slowed, putting itself between the two girls. By this point
Ruth and Jeremiah were also hovering nearby, drawn by curiosity and the sound
of talking.

“I,” the
Beagle began, “have powers that many might consider magical. However, a better
word is miraculous. All I can do is granted me by God and exists within the
boundaries of what He created when He brought the universe into existence.”

“So,”
said Jeremiah, fascinated, “your power is based in science?!”

“There is
more to science than you can imagine or understand in this existence.”

The
response brought Jeremiah up short and he fell back, lost in the unraveling of
the thought. The others continued to press the Beagle.

“Can you
fly?” “Can you disappear, invisible?” “Can you change your shape?” “Where are
your wings?” On and on the questions rained down, and they didn’t wait for
responses. This lasted for nearly ten minutes before the Beagle excused himself
and ran far ahead of the group, saying it was going to scout the area ahead.

Within
moments Dinah fell back and took David’s hand. She was quiet for a moment and
then spoke ever so softly, “Daddy, where’s Mommy?”

David had
been wondering when this would be brought up. He had spoken to the Beagle in
the night while the children slept, so he knew she too was here in this realm.
However, she was separated from them; something had fractured the crossing point
and she was miles away. He didn’t know where his wife was, though the Beagle
reassured him she was safe and being looked after, too.

David
reached down without looking and grabbed up Dinah. He kept staring forward and
did not make eye contact with her.

“Mommy is
here, too,” David replied soothingly. “She’s just not with us.”

Dinah
laid her head on David’s shoulder and whispered, “I hope Mommy doesn’t see the
bad men.”

David
hugged Dinah tight. “The Beagle said she was safe; there is an angel with her
as well.”

“Does it
talk to her?”

“I reckon
so. We have to trust the Lord to watch over her as He is watching over us.”

With
that, neither of them said any more.

Chapter
4

While
David had eleven of their children safe in hand, Rebekah had spent the night following
the small Owl. At some point, when she had to stop to catch her breath, she was
sure she’d fallen asleep. She was not sure for how long, though it must have
been a few hours because she woke up stiff from being on the log and leaning
against another tree. Now as the dawn was breaking, and the woods were
thinning, she was feeling the fatigue and hunger that her desperation and worry
could no longer hold back.

Rebekah
had never thought of herself as weak. While it was true she didn’t have to fight
for much of anything as most of her ancestors did, she had her share of strife
and challenge. When she chose not to go into the family business but marry
David instead; she suffered her own set of trials. She was ostracized from her
father’s house and cut off from the comfort she had enjoyed as she grew up.
David had no living family when she married him, so it was just the two of
them. While David had secured a steady job and they had the house his aunt left
to him, there was little room for luxury. 

Rebekah
had surprised herself in those early years. She had adapted and thrived in a
completely different environment from her childhood. The addition of children
only seemed to strengthen her. Now, however, after a night of little sleep,
unsure of where she or her family was, and all the peculiar happenings, Rebekah
was feeling drained and feeble. She stopped, sat on a fallen log, and wiped at
the tears of frustration and fear that were brimming in her eyes.

“Worry
not; have faith.”

Rebekah
froze at the sound of the strange voice. She looked around, but she could only
see the Owl a few branches away. As she shook her head, a red fox came from
behind a nearby pine. The Fox was walking backwards because with its mouth it
was dragging a small white bundle. Rebekah stared, uncertain what to make of
this new arrival. The Fox stopped a few feet from Rebekah and let go of its
burden. It sat on its haunches and let its tongue flop out of its mouth.
Rebekah continued to stare.

“Go on,
take it.”

Rebekah,
startled from her pondering, desperately looked around for whoever was
speaking.

“Hello;
who’s there?” she called out.

“It’s
just you, me, and the Fox.”

Rebekah’s
head snapped up and her eyes locked onto the Owl’s. Then, as she was staring,
the Owl spoke again.

“Ravens
won’t work around owls and they often get distracted, so a fox was an ideal
choice.”

Rebekah
was dumbfounded. Her mind became fuzzy, and though she was sitting down she had
to hold tight to the log she was sitting on so as not to fall over.

“Breathe,”
said the Owl calmly. “Breathe or you will pass out.”

Rebekah
took a deep breath. Then she took another. Slowly, forcing herself to
concentrate, she took in air and let it out. In . . . out . . . in . . . out.

“What
. .
?”

“It is a
long story, but you need to understand one thing first: God is with you. His
presence is here. He is watching over you. He still knows every hair on your
head. He believes in you; you are the one that must have faith and believe in
His grace and wisdom.”


Wha
. .
?

“Keep
concentrating on breathing,” the Owl cautioned her. “I am an angel of the Lord.
I serve the King of Creation as a guardian and guide. Before we go any further,
though, you should eat and rest.”

*

Rebekah
ate warily from the sack, which held was a water skin, some nut bread, and
dried meat. While she ate she, alternated her stares from the Owl to the Fox.
Both sat serenely, patiently waiting for her to finish. When she took her last
bite, the Fox stood and the Owl shook itself. “Ready then?” it asked.

After a
brief pause, Rebekah asked, “If you’re an angel, why aren’t you . . . why don’t
you look like one?”

Rebekah’s
abruptness didn’t startle either of the creatures. In fact, the Fox began to
grin.

“Stop that,”
the Owl said to the Fox. It then turned to Rebekah. “I take it you are
referring to a more human figure with feathery wings?” Rebekah nodded and the
Owl continued. “We have taken forms similar to that when God calls upon us to
do so. However, it is usually reserved for times of jubilation or destruction.
It is as close to our truest form you’ll see until you reach Heaven. More often
than not, we appear as other creatures so as to better blend in. The angel who
walked alongside Elijah took many forms, the most notable was a raven, which
helped the common ravens secure the proper food for Elijah. If my friend and I
would have come to you as humans, we most likely would have been treated with
suspicion.”

Rebekah
blushed and then looked around as she considered how to change the subject. She
quickly remembered the children. Placing her hand on her swollen abdomen, she
looked up to the Owl.

“My
children .
. , David; I have to find them.”

“Be at
peace, Rebekah. Your family is safe now and heading to a meeting place; where
you will reunite with them. As for going back to your house, well, that is not
possible. You are no longer on Earth, and the way back has moved. Look around
you and see the proof of my words.”

Rebekah
tried not to think about how crazy those last words sounded, the proof of a
talking owl’s words. However, she did look around and what she saw did confirm
the angel’s words. Though she saw trees that she recognized, there were a great
deal more she did not. Then she realized she had been long in the woods, and
those outside their house were easily crossed in an hour in any direction.

Once more
the Fox barked. The Owl turned and nodded. “Yes, we must go.”

The Owl
branched closer to Rebekah. “The immediate road ahead is not hard; we are mere hours
outside of Haven. There you will be safer and more comfortable. I can explain
more as we travel, but you must trust in me as a Herald of the King of
Creation. God is with you, Rebekah. Follow us. I will try to explain as much as
I can along the way.”

Rebekah
awkwardly stood, then nodded. The Owl did likewise as it took to the air. The
Fox merely turned and started leading the way. Rebekah looked down and smoothed
out her dress. She reached up and checked the pins that were still restraining
her auburn hair from falling down her back. She’d not taken it down since
yesterday and saw no sense in doing so now. Finally, with a sign of resignation
she started after the two angels, the thought of getting back to her children
and her husband driving her forward.

*

After
only an hour of traveling, Rebekah came upon a well-worn road. While most of
the road consisted of crushed stone, there were large, flat slabs here and
there.

“The road
will get better as we approach Haven. The road from Haven to the Central Kingdom
is nearly all smooth. In deference to your condition, we will arrange for
wheeled transport.”

Rebekah
stopped to take a drink from the water skin which didn’t seem to ever empty.
Rebekah’s head was still reeling from her surroundings and the information the
Owl had begun to share with her. During the trek through the forest, she had
been studying the shrubs and trees. There so many recognizable ones and so many
strange new ones with subtle differences from those she knew on Earth. She
wondered how many other new things she’d find here and if she’d ever get use to
finding minute differences amongst the expected.

Rebekah
took another sip of water before speaking. “So you said Haven is a town in the
Second Kingdom?”

“Yes,”
the Owl answered, “and the artisans and warriors who maintain it have erected
strong barriers that keep out the forces of the Void. Any agents of the
Deceiver found within are violently expelled. As I told you earlier, this is
the Here Between, a crossroads between each of the home worlds of the twelve of
God. Angels and demons use this place to travel between, as well. In fact, the
war between Heaven and Hell is fought openly in this world, and thus it is
easier to discover the enemy. This does not mean they don’t go about veiled,
passing unnoticed as they poison the Children of God.”

Rebekah
began walking up the road in the direction the Owl indicated and then said,
“Let’s stop talking about aliens and angels and demons for a bit. This is all a
bit to take right now. Can you tell me why I am here? You still haven’t
answered that or where David and my children are.”

The Owl
glided effortlessly around Rebekah. She had stopped trying to track its
progress as watching the endless spirals it made was causing her to feel
queasy. The Owl spoke in a quieter tone when it finally answered her. Rebekah
had to strain to hear.

“Your
husband is an ally of God and carrier of a powerful weapon as part of his
service.”

“The
sword I saw him wearing?”

“Yes, the
Sword of Truth. It is an ancient weapon forged by angels to pierce the veil
demons cast over all mortal eyes. It can banish demons to Hell or redeem the
lost.”

Rebekah
began to cry and hated herself for it. “Stop; this is too much. Every answer
starts more questions. I just want my family. . .”

The Fox was
suddenly at her side. It guided her to a stump near the side of the road. Then
it turned to the Owl and growled. The Owl landed on the road and heaved a sigh.

“I’m
sorry for your discomfort. Rest a moment and listen. I’ll tell you as much as I
can.”

The Owl
hopped closer to Rebekah and then began. “Your husband had been here before; he
crossed over into the Way World in his youth. During that
time
he came into possession of the sword. He was sent back to Earth to serve there
and given strict orders to be silent about the sword and his bearing it, as
well as the Crossroads.

“God had
a purpose for sending him back. You and he were made for each other and it was
safer that you two live, marry, and raise a family upon Earth. Now, however,
you are being called to serve here. Unfortunately, the Way you took is
fractured due to decay in the creation and chaos here. David and your children
are being watched over by an angel just as you are. In fact, your family has
always been watched over by this angel. You know it as the Beagle.”

Rebekah
looked up and locked eyes with the Owl. “Why didn’t David. . .”

The Owl
snapped its beak forcefully. “Would you have believed him? Those that have seen
this place are rarely believed. If they become adamant about their experiences,
they are often committed to asylums. David was never sure why he returned to
Earth, and it is only in recent years that he has begun to suspect what is to
be asked of him and his family.

“I will
remind you that he was commanded to silence. It was not his place to reveal
this information, just as it is not my place to tell you the whole reason you
are here. God commands our allegiance and footsteps.  Trust that he has
you in His hands.”

The Fox
came up to Rebekah and rubbed itself against her legs. A wave of coolness
washed over her, followed quickly by a slow, tingling warmth. As the warmth
reached her head, she realized the pains she had been feeling were gone and she
was full of renewed energy. She looked down at the grinning Fox and smiled
herself.

“Thank
you,” she said in amazement. The Fox yipped in reply. Suddenly puzzled, Rebekah
asked the Fox, “Why don’t you speak?”

The Owl
answered, “Not all of us are given permission to speak. It really depends on
our calling or the needs of our mission.”

Rebekah
turned to the Owl. “Missions I understand, but I didn’t think angels had
specific callings.”

“Angels
are all created to praise and serve God. Only the Deceiver and his followers
broke from this. There are four main callings for angels: guardian, herald, reaper,
and warrior. In the end times, we will all become reapers and warriors. Until
then, we find ourselves moved to serve in many different ways. The Fox is your
guardian angel and I am a herald. While I will one day leave you, the Fox will
not. Your angel will guard your soul until the last of your mortal shell
fails.”

Rebekah
knelt and reached out for the Fox. The angel allowed itself to be picked up and
kissed on the forehead by her. “Thank you,” she whispered.

The Owl quietly
replied, “The Fox is an expression of God’s undying love for your soul. Not
many people get a chance to see their guardian angel, but it is there.”

The Fox
gently licked Rebekah’s tears from her cheeks. After a few moments the Owl
continued.

“We must
get moving again. David and the angel are moving your children toward the
Central Kingdom. In due course, you will meet up with him there. First,
however, we need to get you to the safety of Haven. Those that hunt your
husband and children are being kept at bay. Eventually though, they will
discover you and try for you all again. We must have more allies before then.
Please, let us go.”

Rebekah
nodded, set the Fox down, and they set off down the road once more.

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