The New Guard (Crossroads Book 1) (6 page)

“Though
the Crossroads mirrors the habitable planets it is attached to, the Void found
it easy to get a foothold here. The battles between the Word and the Void are
fought openly here, as well as subtly. While God uses angels as his main force,
the twelve saved races are also enlisted to fight for creation. By calling
forth champions from the twelve races, God has been able to stabilize the
Crossroads by placing in the Void’s way the various challenges that people of
freewill can create. Over the years, those champions have created a unique
society that blends together all the various races, which have not met outside
the Crossroads.

“You, as
a family, were to be brought here to add to this society and strengthen it
against the Void’s ambitions. The Void sent forces to intercept you, but the
Word’s forces are watchful and were able to act in order to bring you safely
over.”

“I don’t
get it,” Eve blurted out. “You’ve had all this information, knew all this
existed, carried ‘the Sword of Truth’, yet failed to tell any of us about
this!”

David
grimaced. He’d been expecting a reaction like this from at least one of them.
Given her personality, he was not surprised that it was Eve. David sighed, but
before he could address Eve’s comment she fired off one more biting remark.

“Isn’t an
omission of the facts just a dressed up lie? How many times have I been called
out for smaller infractions?”

Those
words had been spoken by him many times in disciplining and guiding the
children. Eve, his most rebellious child, had heard them plenty of times. The
Beagle spoke before David could.

“Your
father has been truthful with you all of his life. As a bearer of the Sword of
Truth, he cannot dismiss or alter the truth. He cannot lie. Thus, God placed a
compulsion upon your father and commanded him not to speak of the Way World,
the Sword of Truth, or the duties laid upon him as the wielder of that sword.
Your father could not speak of these things until now, when he returned to the
Here Between.”

Suddenly,
there was a loud bang at the door followed by a bright flash and a roaring
crack of thunder that shook the house. David was up quickly, the Sword of Truth
already out of its sheath by the time his feet were carrying him across the
room. The Beagle beat him to the door and turned to face David. Before it could
speak, however, two other voices shouted, “Stop!”

David
turned to see Brother Oswald and one of the russet guests moving toward him.

“It was
the threshold, Brother David,” Oswald quickly blurted out.

“Don’t
open the door; you’ll put us all at risk,” the russet man spoke firmly.

“What’s
going on, Dad?” This came from Mel, who was helping Deborah, Nic, Eve, and
Silas group everybody together.

David
shook his head and lowered his blade. “Sorry, it’s been a while,” he said to
Brother Oswald, the Beagle, and the other guests. To his children he called,
“Something has tried to force through the threshold protecting the Oswalds’
home.”

Brother
Oswald turned to the children. “Nobody, powered by the Void or members of the
Fallen Host, may cross the threshold established by the faithful building and
maintaining of this house. Should they attempt to break through, they become
forcefully discharged. Others, thralls of demons, have the ability to cross the
threshold, but often become violently sick.

“Many
generations ago, my ancestors built this house and dedicated it to the work of
the Lord of Creation. Legend also tells that my ancestors offered shelter, at
risk to their own lives, to some travelers who turned out to be angels. When
they left, they strengthened our threshold twenty-fold for as long as we offer
sanctuary and honor the Word.”

The
russet man beside Oswald spoke, “For the threshold to act that drastically, it
had to be something in service to the Void which threw power at it.”

As he finished
speaking, a voice from the other side of the door called out. “We seek the
Sword Bearer and his kin. Surrender them and we will leave you in peace.”

The
russet man tossed back his head and laughed loudly. “Hollow words,” he
bellowed, “servant of the Deep Darkness. Leave now, before my Coterie brothers
and I hunt you down and strip you of your false life.”

Silence
reigned for several minutes before an answer came. “Sword Bearer, you will have
to leave this sanctuary sooner or later. When you do, the Void Riders will come
after you.”

As if to
enforce these words, a hound bayed a deep, haunting howl. Horses’ hooves beat
against the road signaling the riders’ departure. Soon the sound of the hounds
and hooves disappeared into the distance.

David
looked into the russet man’s eyes. “Thank you,” he began, but the man
interrupted him by thrusting his arm out.

“I am
First Thunder of Clan
Kear’ou
.”

“Thank
you, First Thunder,” David said, grasping him by the forearm and squeezing
firmly. First Thunder returned the traditional greeting of the Coterie. David
spoke with great humility in his voice, “Your words have caused those fiends to
rethink their tactics this night. My name is David.”

First
Thunder released his grip on David and pointed to the door. “The Dark Rider
spoke truthfully, David. Those creatures will be waiting for you to leave the
safety of this sanctuary. Perhaps my brothers and I can help. Where are you and
your band headed?”

“I have
to get my family to the Central Kingdom.”

“My brothers
and I are not riding as far as Great Hall, but we are bringing horses to
Council Rock in the Seventh Kingdom. We can get you to South Road and a
sanctuary house there before we leave you.”

“You
honor me, First Thunder,” David said as he placed his fist on his forehead and
bowed his head in a traditional Coterie salute. First Thunder responded in kind
before going back to his traveling companions.

Brother
Oswald, the Beagle, and David went back to the children, who had only slightly
relaxed. Brother Oswald was the first to speak. “It is alright, children. We
are safe here. The Oswald Farm has had a strong threshold for many generations.
It will protect you while you rest.”

David
responded, “We should probably get to our rooms. I want us to leave at dawn’s
first light.”

“Dad,”
Mel spoke up. “Who was that man at the door with you?”

“His name
is First Thunder, and in answer to your next question, he is a Coterie member.
The Coterie are another of the twelve chosen races. They are all reddish in
skin color, but with a multitude of differences in tone and shading. You
probably didn’t notice from back here, but they have hard ridges above their
eyes instead of eyebrows. Similar ridges are found on their knuckles, down
their spines, and (for some) their temples. They are a fierce race that spent a
great deal of time fighting against God instead of for Him. Their Bible makes
the human Bible look like a series of picnic outings. The Deceiver nearly
destroyed their whole world before the Coterie gained enough enlightenment to
humble themselves and work toward God’s purpose.

“We can
talk more about that later, though; for
now
you should
know that First Thunder has offered to ride with us as far as the next
sanctuary.”

Sister
Oswald, who had joined the group as David was explaining about the Coterie,
suddenly cleared her throat loudly to get everyone’s attention. “Enough
talking!  I’ve been told that there are enough differences in the
Crossroads to keep a non-native asking questions all their days. You must all
rest. I’ve laid some night clothes out in your rooms. In the morning, we will
have supplies for your journey.”

Brother
Oswald nodded and ushered David and his family up the curved staircase that led
to the second floor; then they continued to a secluded stairwell at the end of
the gallery of rooms on that floor. Upon topping the stairs, Brother Oswald
showed the family a washroom and three adjoining rooms, with several beds in
each one.

David and
the children thanked the Oswalds, then set about getting ready for bed. Once
everybody was washed and changed, David called for them one last time.

“We are
safe here and therefore don’t need to set a watch. However, the older children
will soon learn how to watch the camp during the night, as there is not always
a sanctuary within a day’s travel. I know there is a great deal of strangeness
yet to experience, and I will do my best to keep you informed as we go along.
However, our survival will often depend on quick action, more so than at home,
and I expect to be obeyed first; then when the time is opportune, I can address
questions and concerns.

“You all
must be very tired,” David said, motioning toward Dinah and Mary, who were
already nodding off. “Get some rest, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

With
that, David picked up the littlest two and tucked them into the same bed. They
became alert enough to ask of water and nightly prayers. David knelt next to
their bed and prayed with them, asking for protection over the family. Dinah
thanked God for talking dogs, while Mary asked for Mommy and the baby to be
with them. When the prayer ended, she grabbed David’s hands, and with desperate
eyes she asked him when they would be back with Mommy.

David
sighed. “Soon, I hope, soon.”

With
that, the girls snuggled close together and nearly instantly drifted off to
sleep. David left the room only to come face to face with Esther in the
hallway. She, too, had a longing, desperate look in her eyes. When she spoke,
David could tell she was nearly on the verge of tears.

“Do you
know when we’ll meet up with Mom, or were you just trying to comfort Mary and
Dinah?”

With a
gentle movement David pulled the young girl to him. She clamped onto him as if
seeking to bury herself as far into him as possible. When he spoke his voice
rumbled her body.

“I hope,
Esther; I hope we will all be together soon. I don’t know the time or place;
only God knows that. We can only hope and pray.”

She
didn’t let go. In a few moments, she looked up at him, tear tracks on her face.
“What about home; is it true we’ll never go back?”

David
looked into her eyes, but on the periphery, he saw most of the other children
standing around or peeking out. When he spoke, he spoke to them all. “No, going
home isn’t even remotely likely. On Earth, there are people who have travelled
to the Way World and returned, though it is rare they linger on Earth for long.
We have been brought here for a purpose that has yet to be revealed. We must
trust in God, and in time He will reveal it.”

“So what
about our house?” This came from Ruth, a tinge of anger washing away her
sadness. David looked up as she continued. “What about our stuff? What about
the friends we left behind?”

Before
the words came out of his mouth, a sadness washed over him that each of the
children could plainly see. Esther dropped her embrace but stayed near,
unwilling to fully part from his comfort.

“All that
was, is gone. Those things are behind us now, only found in the memories of our
past. We have to. . .”

David did
not get to finish as Ruth ran crying from the hallway. He took a step forward,
but Esther’s soft hand upon his chest stopped him. She silently shook her head,
shedding some of the tears slowly rolling down her face. Then, still mute, she
followed after her sister.

“Dad,
I’ll be the first to say I don’t mind leaving school and most things behind,
but home. . .” Silas was trying to sound nonchalant, though some emotion was
slipping into his voice.

David
simply shook his head. “We left behind a house and personal belongings, not
home. Look around you; think. You all spent more time in those woods than in
the house. Your home is with each other. As long as we have one another, we
have home. This is why it is important now, more than ever, that we put aside
our disagreements and work together.”

Silas
held David’s gaze. Then from off to the side Eve asked, “What about when we’ve
done what needs to be done here; can we go back then?”

“Please,”
David implored. “Understand this one fact; we will never be going back to
Earth. The truth is that whatever we’ve been brought here to do, it will be
permanent. I wish I could say that once we were done, we could go back, but I
can’t.”

With a
quick glance at the sword still hanging on David’s belt, both Eve and Nic stalked
off. Silas, however, still had a longing in his eyes. David sighed yet again.
“We need to get some rest. We have to get moving at first light. I’m sorry I
couldn’t better prepare you all for being here. Get some rest and perhaps
things will look different to you tomorrow.”

Doubtful
of David’s words, the rest of the Koen children found beds. With varying
degrees of success, they all tried to calm their minds and make peace with
their situation. However, it would be a long time before any of them truly was
able to cope with all that they faced in this new world. The coming day would
indeed change their perspective, but it would not alleviate their fears, their
longings, or the disappointment of unrealized dreams.

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