The New Guard (Crossroads Book 1) (5 page)

“Your
second question is answered thusly: your father and Brother Oswald were
speaking one of the dominant gaeder tongues. They did not switch from it to
English; I touched you and imparted a minor form of the gift of tongues. You
will now be able to speak freely with all the peoples of these lands; however,
their written languages will still be unknown unless you study them.”

As the
Beagle finished, David spoke up, “Thank
you
old
friend. The Gift of Tongues is not unknown here or on Earth; however, it is
more commonly used here. As you grow and use this gift more it will become more
than just a means of understanding others and being able to speak their native
languages. As we travel, we can talk more about this and the different races,
languages, and how they all interact here. There are other things to discuss
tonight. What is most important. . .”

“What is
most important is that you feed these children and provide proper
introductions.”

Once
again everybody turned. This time the new speaker was a large woman whose black
hair was pulled back into a tight bun, revealing her distinct Gaeder features.
Oswald smiled at her and bobbed his head as he softly laughed.

David
bowed to her and said, “You are correct, Sister Oswald. Where would we be
without you?”

“Hungry,”
she replied quickly, “and lacking manners.”

At this
Brother Oswald began to laugh louder. His wife turned to him. “You stop that
crowing and help get these children washed up for a meal. I’ll be back with
food and ready for introductions.”

Still
wearing a wide grin, Brother Oswald opened up a panel on the wall to reveal a
large wash basin. The children took turns washing up. When the water was dirty
enough, Brother Oswald would pull the basin off and dump it into the hollow
stone pedestal it stood on. He would then replace it and pump new water into it
from a small hand pump built into the wall. Once everybody was washed up sister
Oswald returned with four other gaeder, three girls and a young man, who all
brought food and dishes to eat from.

Sister
Oswald directed the setting of the table. She twice sent two of the girls back
to the kitchen for more food. Once the table was set, Sister Oswald instructed
the young man and one of the girls to make up the adjoining guestrooms on the
third floor. The two remaining girls were to make sure the kitchen was kept in
order and the other guests had what they needed. Finally, before she would let
anybody sit she asked for introductions.

“Certainly!
Sister Oswald, Brother Oswald, allow me to introduce you to my sons and
daughters. Deborah is my oldest at seventeen years; Melchizedek trails her by
fourteen months and is sixteen. He is followed by Nicodemus at fifteen, Eve at
fourteen, and Silas at thirteen. We have Esther at twelve; then, after so many
blessings, the children started to space out a little more. Ruth is ten, Hannah
eight, Jeremiah seven, Mary six, and finally (as of now) Dinah at five.”

Brother
Oswald leaned toward his wife, “Brother David’s wife is expecting another
child.”

Sister
Oswald’s eyes went large at this comment and stared at David. “There will be
twelve?”

Sadness
seemed to wash over David as he nodded, “Yes, there will be twelve.”

Sister
Oswald nodded and spoke softly, “With twelve as a blessing, what a bounty can
be harvested for the Lord of All.”

Brother Oswald
raised his hands to the sky, “To the Lord of All we give thanks for our
blessings and ask His guidance in the harvesting of what is necessary to feed
His people.”

“Amen,”
David said solemnly.

*

Dinner
was a wondrous event for the children. They ate vigorously, having not eaten a
large meal since dinner two nights previously. They were also surprised by the
unique look and tastes of most of the dishes. The blue carrots were one of the
first dishes tasted by all the children. The similarity was easily identified,
but much conversation was made in regard to the secondary flavor. This inquiry
led to the consumption of many of the blue carrots.

In
addition to the carrots, there was a dark bread that tasted slightly of
cinnamon and vanilla, and a light bread that was fruity. There was a platter of
small fowl that had honeycomb baked inside them, and a large roast with a gravy
that seemed to have a different dominant flavor every few bites. Strange
looking fruits and vegetables led to dares to taste them, followed mostly by
divine taste sensations or delightful comparisons to Earth’s produce. However,
there were a few puckered faces from a tart fruit, or forced swallows when the
bite did not agree with the taster. After a particularly
unliked
food taste, the children would gulp a good amount of sweet water, a jug of
which was being passed around the table constantly.

A half
hour passed in this manner, and soon those at the table were becoming
comfortably full. The younger Oswalds quietly appeared and began removing
dishes, so after three quarters of an hour past the start of the meal, the
table was cleared, save a pitcher of sweet water and each person’s cup. Once
the table was clear, both of the elder Oswalds excused themselves, citing
chores left to finish before full dark. Looking to the large front windows, it
was easy to see the fading sunlight painting the sparse clouds. David nodded to
the Oswalds and thanked them for the meal and their hospitality.

When they
were gone, David sat back in his chair and placed the Sword of Truth in his
lap. The Beagle jumped from his chair to the new empty one next to David. David
closed his eyes, placing one hand on the scabbard of the sword he carried while
the other absentmindedly petted the Beagle. When he finally spoke it was with a
deep, reverent tone.

“In the
beginning, as His first act, God created light that banished the darkness which
covered the uncreated universe. This act offered all creation a life without
sin and death. However, there were those of the Heavenly Host who felt the
darkness, the Void, had been dismissed prematurely. They rebelled against the
creation, and tempted the first created man and woman of each species. From
that point on our universe was filled with death and sin. Creation as God had
designed it was broken, and even the natural became corruptible. From the point
of first sin, our dying universe has been moving toward the end times, when
those of faith and acts will be redeemed and those of the Void will be
destroyed forever as the Spirit of God once again covers the creation with the
perfect light.

David
opened his eyes and looked around the table. When no one spoke he continued.
“As I’ve said, this realm is a place in-between all worlds. It is a bridge and
a focal point that reflects the chaos of the worlds it connects to. It is most
commonly called the Crossroads.

“I’ve
been here before,” he turned to his second oldest son, “when I was your age
Nic. My parents were supposed to pick me up from football practice after
school, but they never came. I figured I could get home on my own so I jogged
through town and up the country lane that would lead me home. Not wishing to
walk beside the road I cut through some farmland. At one point I came to a
small creek and I jumped over. When I landed I was waist deep in an ocean
located many miles east of here.

“I spent
over a year becoming entangled in the local battles between the forces of the
Void and the allies of the Word. I was tested, tempted, and tortured until one
decisive battle completely changed me forever. During the battle, my band was
joined by several warrior angels. We were holding a key crossing in the Fourth
Kingdom when the sun set. There would be no moon that night, so the Void’s
forces were at their strongest. My band and the angels fell one by one. Soon
there was only myself and one angel standing back to back in the midst of the
Void’s forces. It was then that I saw the sword appear. When it did, the forces
of the Void fell back. I went to reach for the sword, but the angel stopped me.

“‘No,’
the angel said, ‘it is not meant for you. To touch that sword will forever
convict you and burden you with the Way of Truth.’ At this, the angel reached
out to grab the sword, but several black bolts shot out of the darkness and
impaled the angel. My instincts told me more shafts would quickly follow so I
reached out grabbed the sword and ran. I didn’t make it far.

“A roar
of frustration bellowed from the darkness all around me and the sword began to
glow bright as the sun. I covered my eyes, but the light penetrated me, filling
me with knowledge, hope, and courage. I don’t know how long I was like that,
but gradually the light lessened to a radiant glow much like the moon’s distant
shining. I looked around only to find I stood at the center of a large scorched
circle. The sounds of battle were gone. I wandered back to camp to find my
commander and report the enemy’s disappearance. That was when I crossed back
over to Earth.”

David
grew quiet and the Beagle picked up the thread of the story. “That was when I
met your father. I arrived shortly after he had crossed and brought him the
scabbard for the Sword of Truth. Once sheathed, almost no mortal can see it.
Only those who have seen it in action become aware of its presence, much as you
have.

“I was the
one to inform your father that he was back on Earth and that he would one day
be called back to the Crossroads. I was also the one who informed him that his
parents had died in a car accident the day they did not pick him up. I helped
him contact some authorities and we were brought to his aunt, his only
surviving relative. It is her house you all called home.”

David
scratched the Beagle’s ears and smiled at it. “I restarted my life on Earth
finishing off high school before my aunt passed away. She left me the house and
a small bit of money. I worked odd jobs for the surrounding farmers and at
times in town. I met your mother there. She had just graduated from college and
returned home. We courted, much to the ire of her parents, for she came from
money and I did not. However, after many months we got married, settled into
the house, and started having children a few years later.”

This time
when David fell silent the Beagle did not speak up. After only a few moments of
silence, Nic spoke. “So there is a center to all creation and this is it?”

David
nodded. “Not exactly the center, though it is a close enough analogy to work.”

Nic
continued, “You’ve been here before and now we're trapped here?”

“Yes,”
David replied.

“Mom is
here, right? Just in another part?” Deborah asked a hint of longing and dread
in her voice.

“That is
correct,” David said. “It would seem the crossings are becoming more and more
random. For the longest time the crossing to Earth was at Bethel in Israel, but
the continued wars in that area and here at the Crossroads helped create
instability. The woods surrounding our house had not previously been a
crossing. As we crossed through, it shifted on this end, separating us from
your mother. It appears that the opening at each end can also vary in size from
as small as a staircase to as large as our woods.”

“Your
father surmises correctly,” the Beagle once again spoke up. “The apertures at
either end expand to allow or disallow flow of traffic. Your mother and unborn
sibling were also called forth, so the doorway was widened. However, the
doorway doesn’t move only because of instability. Sometimes a crossing moves
out of urgent need. Our recent experience was a mixture of both. You were
called forth, so the doorway moved to the woods outside your home. The decay of
creation and unstable governance of both Earth and the Here Between caused the
exit point to fracture, separating us from your mother.”

“You keep
saying we were called forth,” Mel said, “but we were attacked. Who, what were
those things? Was that part of a greater plan to bring us here?”

David
leaned forward, placing both of his hands on the blade which rested in his lap.
“First and foremost, God does not propagate evil and chaos to show his power
and fulfill his purposes. Creation has been broken, and He has given us all the
gift of freewill; our abuse of this gift is the thing that produce evil and
chaos. However, even though God does not perpetrate these acts, He will use
evil and chaos to shape heroes and inspire great, good deeds.

“Next,
you must understand that I was always destined to return to the Crossroads.
There have been few cases of those who have visited the Crossroads, returned to
their planet of origin, and not returned to the Way World at some later date. I
also bore the Sword of Truth, which is a weapon not long left out of the war of
good and evil. This is one of the greatest battle grounds in the struggle of
the light versus the darkness. I have only recently suspected that my entire
family would return with me.

“Those
who attacked us were agents of the Void. They were Dark Riders, sentient beings
and animals linked directly to and powered by the Void. They somehow found a
way to use the crossings to get to Earth and precipitate an attack. This is
unusual; the Void prefers to work through Satan to perform attacks on the
outlying worlds, and the Void Riders are unique to this place.”

“Perhaps
it is best for us to go back to what your father spoke of earlier: the
beginning.” The Beagle put its forepaws on the table so as to get a better look
at everyone while it talked. “God is Light and Life; the Void is Absolute
Darkness and Death. When God called forth the Light, the Void was beaten back.
God created suns to watch over the day and moons, which reflect the sunlight,
to guard the night and thus severely limit the Void’s Darkness. He also gave us
the Word to break Death. Those of the Void rebelled against the creation.
Lucifer, who had
succumb
to the lure of power of the
Void, in turn deceived the progenitors of all the races. God cast out the Devil
and those amongst the Host that sided with the Void. The Fallen Host became
demons with powers of their own, separate from the Void. However, the Deceiver
and the Void work with joint purposes against God and the Word.

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