Archive for the ‘Leaving The Trail’ Category

31a. Appendix Part Five

Appendix

Part Five

Main Events of Part Five:

  1. Men of the village meet with Rendezvous
  2. Fisher returns alone to village
  3. He and Sandy are bound and led to Bamah
  4. They escape and return to village
  5. They battle demons, come face to face with the Evil Man, and are rescued by people from Rendezvous and by angelic beings

Scripture References:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.7? ‘You shall have no other gods before Me. Deuteronomy 5: 6 – 7

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. ?15? “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 14 – 15

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. ?13? Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. ?14? Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, ?15? and having shod  your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; ?16? in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. ?17? And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6: 12 – 17

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. ?19? “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16: 18 – 19

Think about this:

The men of the village have witnessed first-hand the power of God and are ready to hear more. The Rendezvous team is ready and willing to accept them as brothers, and make plans to return to their families and hopefully, Fisher and Sandy the next morning. Fisher meanwhile, has gone back alone, anxious to rescue his bride. He finds her, only to be taken captive and led to the town center, where we learn that the two men supposedly killed by the demon warriors actually escaped and are now inciting the village to sacrifice Fisher and Sandy in place of Lisa.

How does fear play a role in the unfolding events we see at the village? Where does fear come from?

Sandy manages to cut through her bonds, and leaps over a bridge with a final word to Fisher to “Trust me.” He obeys, and leaps after her, in spite of the fact that he can’t swim, and that his hands are still tied behind him. She helps him to safety, then they must decide whether to return to the trail or to the village people who had just condoned their sacrifice. The decision is made easier when they see smoke coming from the village, indications that they are already under attack.

Outnumbered and nearly overwhelmed, they battle together against a demonic army, until Fisher is called out by the Evil Man himself. He and Sandy may leave unharmed, he is told, but leave the villagers to their fate. He refuses the offer, but just before the Evil Man can unleash his fury, the entire village comes out to face him, secure now in the knowledge that they too are covered by the blood of Christ. The situation only gets worse for the Evil Man and his followers, as once again the power of God is revealed.

When Jesus tells Peter that the “gates of Hell” shall not prevail against His church, do you see the church as being in an offensive or a defensive mode? In other words, who is attacking whom? If you are a Christian, do you see yourself safely sheltered within a fortress or on a battlefield, armored and equipped for battle?

Have you known people who have given up the journey because of failed perceptions of Who God really is? How can you help them back to the Way? Are you one of those, in fact, who has fallen victim to the enemy’s deceits? Turn to God’s truth, then show the enemy who he really is: a defeated and condemned rebel, destined for everlasting punishment.

May God bless you and the path He has set you upon. May you walk each day, confident of His love and care. May we meet one day, if not along the trail, then at the end of the journey.

31. Epilogue

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write to info@martonpublishing.com.”

An overnight shower had settled the dust over Rendezvous camp, and the early morning sun was now baking tents and sleeping bags as they hung out, prior to folding and packing away.

It had been nearly two months since Fisher and Sandy had returned to the trail, bringing with them all their new friends from the valley. Sandy had been wounded slightly in that last battle with the demon warriors, but was recovering nicely.  Now it was time to go.

Their gear was packed, and they were making the rounds of the camp, saying last farewells. While Fisher was engaged in conversation with Aaron and Reese, Sandy slipped over to the first aid tent, where Dr. Artinian was preparing a bundle of supplies for her.

“Here’s some extra bandages, Sandy,” he said. Be sure and dress the wounds every evening, using clean water to get rid of the trail dust. You’ll still be feeling some shortness of breath for awhile, so take it easy on the uphill climbs, and stop to rest every hour or so.”

Looking right and left, he lowered his voice to a stage whisper, then added, “There’s some vitamins in there as well. Don’t forget to take them every day, especially since your body is supporting two, now.” He patted her on the hand and said, “Have you told Fisher yet?”

“I’m planning to, as soon as we get off to ourselves. I don’t think he could handle the news right now, along with saying goodbye to everyone.” She hugged Dr. Artinian and through her tears said, “How can I ever thank you enough for all you’ve done?”

“Just make your way to Rendezvous often, so that I can check up on you from time to time. I want to see you in a month, now, even if that means making camp and waiting for us to catch up!”

“No problem there, Doc,” Sandy laughed. “Fisher’s anxious to check out a settlement to the north, where we saw smoke rising the other morning. That may take us away from the trail for some time. When we get back, you’ll probably have gone on ahead. We’ll leave a marker where we turn off, and if you’ll put something there as you go by, then we’ll know which way to go in order to find you.”

“Do take care of yourselves,” said Dr. Artinian with a touch of sadness in his voice. “We’ll be thinking of you and praying for you until we meet again.”

Fisher walked up just then, back pack in place and obviously ready to travel. “Everything okay Doc?” he asked, giving Sandy a hug and helping her cinch up her straps.

“She’s just fine, my boy,” he assured them both. “But I’m counting on you to make her take it easy until she’s fully recovered.” With that, he winked at Sandy and gave her a pat on the cheek.

“What did I miss here?” asked Fisher. “Is there something you guys aren’t telling me?”

“Oh there’s plenty I’m not telling you,” he replied with a grin. “But you know … doctor patient privilege.”

“Don’t sweat it, Sweetie,” she said with a flick of her hair. All will be revealed in good time.”

And so it will.

*****

This ends the condensed version of Leaving the Trail. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. If you’d like to read the story in its entirety, you can find it at www.amazon.com . Also, don’t forget to go to the appendix, there you will find devotional topics related to the story of Fisher and Sandy as they leave the trail on a missionary journey.

30. Face to Face

Running for the relative shelter of the meeting house, Fisher and Sandy were three steps away from the door when they were spotted by several demons nearby. If the door stayed closed, Fisher would have to turn and fight with his back to the wall. Just as he was bringing his shovel up to try and deflect the first blow that was sure to come, he saw the door open a crack. “Sandy! In there! I’m right behind you!”

Before anyone could protest, Fisher turned, raised the iron bar, opened the door and stepped outside. Standing back a few yards, a line of demons watched him. They seemed to be waiting for a single word, anxious to be the first to strike a blow against this frail-looking human. Directly in front of Fisher stood one apart from the rest, every bit as terrifying but in a different, more disturbing way. Here was one, Fisher knew, who had access to the throne of God: called “Beautiful One”, but whose former beauty was now buried in rebellious hatred and defeat. In his eyes was the look of one who knew much, and who would not hesitate to use that knowledge to humiliate, torture and destroy. “Evil Man” was far too simplistic a description for this creature. And the fact that he had called Fisher out personally made him all the more chilling.

“Pilgrim,” he began, “you’ve done well. While others cringed in fear, you rushed to the battle. You’re a brave warrior indeed.” Fisher stood motionless and silent. There was plenty he wanted to say, but something inside told him that to engage in conversation with this evil menace would not be proper, and could even be dangerous. “I see you’ve been counseled to keep your tongue in my presence. So not only is he a brave warrior; he’s a wise one as well.” The Evil Man smiled in a way that had no resemblance whatsoever to anything humorous. “Very well, to business then. You’ve fought against overwhelming odds,  and now you have lots of stories to tell your fellow pilgrims. It’s time to leave. I give my warriors charge over you to see that you are returned safely to the trail. Your female may go with you as well. Good bye, Fisher, until we meet again.”

Fisher was stunned for a moment. “Just like that?” he said at last. “It’s over?”

“Of course,” the Evil Man replied. “You’ve proved your point. You should be proud of all you’ve done here. People will be telling stories of your exploits around fires for years to come. Rejoice.” The Evil Man’s smile turned suddenly into a scowl that made Fisher’s blood run cold. “And be gone.”

That last command almost stirred him to motion, and Fisher was on the verge of turning to go, but then remembered: “What about the rest?”

“They are not your concern. They are mine. I will deal with them as I see fit, and will certainly not need your counsel. Now leave before my patience with you runs out.”

Patience?” Fisher repeated. “Are you telling me now that all this time you’ve been patient?” He knew he shouldn’t let himself be goaded into conversation with this personification of evil, but the words seemed to be coming from deep within himself. “I haven’t seen many examples of your patience lately. Like when you chased down and beat to death a mother and father who wanted nothing more than life for their precious little girl. You weren’t exactly patient when you sent your Neanderthals after us, in spite of the fact that they intended on bringing Lisa back to you; and would have if those idiots of yours hadn’t scared some sense into them. Incidentally, what about that battle, anyway? Not bad for a bunch of farmers.” The Evil Man’s scowl had turned into a mask of absolute rage, but he stood in silence while Fisher continued.

“And I guess this is another example of your patience, Oh High Ruler. Killing and burning. No, I think the only One patient around here in the One who made you. He’s defeated you already, and one day He’s going to come and cast you and all those who follow you into a lake of fire. And the only reason He hasn’t done it already is because He’s being patient with sinners like me, giving us every opportunity to stop listening to your lies and get back on the trail that leads to life.”

“Enough!” the Evil Man screamed. “How dare you speak of things you know nothing about. You think I stand helpless before you, as if you were some kind of privileged child? There are plenty of my followers who would gladly pay me with their last breath for permission to unleash their fury upon you. That permission I now give gladly. Enjoy your last few moments of life, Pilgrim. And know that this kingdom belongs to me!”

Just then the door to the building behind Fisher opened wide. The entire group of townspeople, along with Sandy, filed outside, taking up positions facing the waiting demons. Grandfather took one more step forward and spoke up. “I don’t know what exactly to call you, but Ruler doesn’t seem to fit anymore. We will believe no more of your lies, and we will sacrifice no more of our precious children on your altar. We have much to learn, but not about you. We know enough already to sicken us. What we will learn will be more of the Creator Who made us and you, and of His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s in His Name that we stand here now, and we command you, leave this place.”

For a moment, Fisher thought the Evil Man was going to have a seizure. His eyes turned a deep shade of red, then rolled back so that only the whites could be seen. His head was bent back in an unnatural contortion and his whole body shook. When he spoke, the sound of his voice seemed to come from deep within the bowels of the earth itself.

“Fools! You would defy me? Then feel my vengeance. Feel and die!” He raised both arms as if to utter the command which would unleash his demon army, but paused when a voice spoke up from behind him.

“Remember, Keeper of Bamah, that those who stand before you are not your only threat.”

The Evil Man turned to see a line of men standing at the edge of the trees overlooking the clearing below them. Unlike the ill-trained and practically unarmed farmers who stood with Fisher, those behind bore swords, and from the way they held them it was obvious that they were skilled in their use. Friend stood near the center of the line, and spoke for them. “What’s it going to be? Will you stand and fight a battle you can’t possibly win, or will you let these new pilgrims be on their way? The choice is yours, but I advise you to choose carefully. You’re not coming against ignorant and misled victims anymore; now you must deal with a force who knows you for who you really are. We know who we are as well: children of the Living God, forgiven through the blood of His Son Jesus and citizens of His Kingdom.”

That proved too much for the Evil Man to bear. With a roar of rage, he looked again to the heavens. There was an explosion followed by a sulfuric cloud of smoke … and then he was gone. Fisher looked in every direction, but he had simply vanished. The demons seemed just as puzzled as the men, turning this way and that, uncertain of what to do, until one finally broke ranks and ran toward Sandy, club high overhead. She had time only to raise the sharpened rake handle she had been carrying, and the point found its way into the creature’s right eye. He dropped his club and brought both hands up to his face. Suddenly a wound opened across his chest that took him to his knees, then another cut across his midsection. By the time his body had fallen prone onto the ground, his head had somehow been removed completely. Friend called out to the ranks standing with him. “The armies of the Lord stand with us! Join the battle!”

The line of men along the tree line moved as one down the hill and onto the mass of beasts who had begun to fight. They were soon joined by the men of the village, advancing upward toward where the fray was thickest. Every available weapon was brought to bear, and somehow managed to find their marks. Beasts fell, sometimes by a well-placed sword or sharpened farm implement, and sometimes by hands that remained unseen.

If the men were unable to see, however, it soon became apparent that the demon warriors were not so blinded. Rage quickly turned to terror, and terror to flight. Clubs were dropped and what might have been an orderly withdrawal from the battlefield was now a complete rout. For a long time after the beasts had disappeared into the undergrowth, their anguished howls could be heard, evidence that for them, at least, the battle was far from over.

29. Making a Stand

Running for the relative shelter of the meeting house, Fisher and Sandy were three steps away from the door when they were spotted by several demons nearby. If the door stayed closed, Fisher would have to turn and fight with his back to the wall. Just as he was bringing his shovel up to try and deflect the first blow that was sure to come, he saw the door open a crack. “Sandy! In there! I’m right behind you!”

Sandy never let up, but kept moving at full speed, entering the door just as it opened wide enough for her to get through. Fisher was right behind her, and he could actually feel the breath of the demon chasing him. Turning in mid stride, he lunged his shovel, point first, toward the creature’s face, connecting just at the bridge of its nose. The blow didn’t do any permanent damage, but it caused the beast to stumble, giving Fisher just enough time to fall backwards into the door. As soon as he was inside, several people rushed forward to slam the door shut, lowering an iron bar across the latch just as the closest creature struck it with his full weight. The bar bent and there was a sound of splintering wood, but the door held. Confusion reigned outside for the next few moments, as clubs were brought to bear on the door, accompanied by roars of rage and frustration. Finally, the sounds faded, the creatures moving back under a hail of hot scrap metal being dumped on them from the second floor window over the door.

Fisher and Sandy were both on the floor, having literally fallen inside. Looking up, they saw a mixture of fear and determination in the eyes of the thirty or more men and women who had taken refuge here together. The first person to break the silence of the moment was Grandfather. “You’re alive!” he shouted, and laughed aloud. “I’m glad … we’re all glad to see you two.” There was a murmur of approval from all around the room as Grandfather went on. “When you were taken away this morning, we felt so miserable, we just knew that we’d been wrong. No matter how long we’ve lived like this, no matter how much we thought we depended on the Ruler, we decided here and now that we were going to change. Several of the men organized themselves together and started out to catch up with you and convince Seth and Samuel to let you go. But they only got as far as the corner of the building before a pack of those brutes attacked us. They were planning to kill us all along! It was pretty touch and go for awhile; we lost some good folks in the first few minutes. But then we pulled back into this place. It’s the strongest building around, and as it turns out not too bad of a fortress. We covered all the openings and set folks up on the second floor to start throwing down anything they could find to discourage those things. We didn’t have much affect on them until Jim over there got the idea to use the forge to heat up some scrap metal. That made ‘em think twice about hanging around the door!” he laughed.

“Anyway,” Grandfather said as he took a step closer. “we don’t know how long we can hold out here, but one thing we do know: we’ll never go back to the way we were. And now that you’re here, Fisher, I think you’d better take this.” He held out Fisher’s sword and offered it handle first. “I managed to hurt a few with it, but I’d like to see what someone can accomplish who knows what he’s doing.”

Fisher took the sword with an air of reverence. Smiling at Sandy, Grandfather, and the whole group gathered around him, he said, “I’m really grateful, we’re both grateful to be back here with you. Sandy and I talked a long time about the events of the past few days, and we know that the enemy’s power is strong: strong enough to blind the eyes even of brothers and sisters. I only wish Seth and Samuel could have seen what we’re seeing now in your faces.” A quiet gasp went up among the people, and Fisher continued. “Sandy and I managed to escape, but they were left on the bridge just before the High Place. We saw their bodies a little later in the river. I’m so sorry we couldn’t save them.”

Another wood splitting crash was heard from the main door, bringing everyone back to attention. Fisher took a breath and spoke again. “It’s time we quit letting those things out there make our lives miserable. Sandy, take the women and children up to the second floor. I want you to watch the front door for me. The rest of you men, gather by the door. Those creatures want to get inside, so let’s let one in.”

Outside the door, several demon warriors were moving around the building, looking for weak places where they might be able to break inside. One was pounding unmercifully on the door with his club, each time managing to split the wood a fraction.

Just inside, Fisher and the men stood in a half circle facing the door, weapons firmly in hand. Looking up to the second floor, he called out, “We’re ready, Sandy! Tell us when.”

She watched the beast from the window as it pounded again and again with predictable swings at the gradually weakening door. Waiting until he drew back for another blow, she cried, “Okay! Now!”

In two swift motions, one man pulled the iron bar away from the latch while another swung the door wide open, just as the beast came down with his club, full force toward a barrier that suddenly was no longer there. The weight of the moving club pulled him inside, where he stood confused for an instant. Behind him, the men closed the door again, replacing the iron bar. With a shout, the men fell on the beast from all sides, giving him no opportunity to even draw back his weapon. It was over in seconds. One of the farmers commented, “Is that what we’ve been so scared of? Reminds me of a big hog I had once. He kept breaking down the fence.” A grin broke out over the old man’s face. “Finally had to eat him.”

That brought a burst of laughter which relieved the tension, but it was a moment short-lived, as the sound of a hundred clubs began beating on the walls of the building. Discovering the loss of one of their own, the entire force of demons had descended in fury, determined to break though and finish the destructive work they had begun. Sandy called down from upstairs, “There’s three at the door now; I don’t think they’ll fall for that trick a second time.”

The beating outside stopped, and the silence was almost deafening. Everyone stood frozen in place, listening for any sound which would tell them what was happening. Finally a single voice was heard: “Pilgrim! Come outside. We have words to speak.” Fisher knew at once who the voice belonged to. As long as he lived, he would never forget the sound of the Evil Man.

28. Back to the Village

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

The way out of the canyon was steep, but easier than they anticipated. Before long, they were standing on the edge of the cliff, looking back down at the way they had come. “What do you think, Sandy,” asked Fisher. “Should we work our way back to the trail, or try to make a straight shot of it overland?”

Sandy was looking over his shoulder when she pointed and said, “It looks like we have a beacon to follow, in that direction.”

Fisher turned and saw a column of smoke rising just above the treetops. “Oh no,” he said quietly. “We may be too late already. Let’s go.”

They set off in the direction of the smoke, all the while trying to put together a plan. “Without our backpacks, we have nothing to use,” said Sandy. “You don’t have your sword, and I can’t even pull out Lizzie’s wooden spoon to use as a weapon. Shouldn’t we perhaps be getting as far away from this place as we can?”

“I admit it: the thought crossed my mind too. But I keep thinking about all those people. They’re the same people God called us to, aren’t they? And even if God is planning to rescue them, it’s still possible that He intends to use us in the process, if we’re willing to be used. So what do you think?”

“I’m thinking the same thing you are. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t have any doubts about it on my account. No matter what happens, I know God has led us here, so either way, we win. Lead on.”

The trees finally gave way to a corn field, and they stopped before stepping out into the open. At the far side of the field a house was in flames, and a man’s body was lying near the front door. Beyond the rooftop, they could see another column of smoke rising, and so they skirted around the edge of the cornfield and went on in that direction. At the edge of another field, they paused and studied the scene. The house itself was already burned to the ground, but the gazebo out front told them that it was the home of Lisa’s grandparents.

“Oh Fisher,” cried Sandy, “you don’t think …”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “But remember that when we left them, they were at the big meeting place. Maybe that’s where we’ll find everyone. Let’s check this place out anyway.”

Looking in every direction, they broke from the cover of the undergrowth and ran to the gazebo. Crouching in the relative shelter, they peered over what was left of the house.

“I can’t see any bodies,” said Fisher. “Maybe there was no one home. I say we scrounge around here for something to use as a weapon and then head straight for the meeting place.”

Sandy agreed, and they looked around until they found a tool shed with shovels and rakes inside. Fisher took a shovel, swung it around a couple of times and set it aside. Then taking a rake, he placed his foot on the head, breaking it off. “Well,” he said, studying his work, “you’ve heard the expression, ‘beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick’. Care to give it a try?”

“Not unless I have to,” she said, taking the rake handle. “But I guess it’ll do.”

Now somewhat armed, they sped on through the woods toward the meeting area. By now, it was a simple task, since the sound of conflict was growing louder by the moment. Screams, roars and the incessant beating of wood on wood filled their ears, and left them with no illusions about where they were headed.

When the darkened woods began to give way to the clearing ahead, they slowed down, cautious now as the sight of moving figures came into view. There was the meeting place, a huge building which had been constructed for the purpose of storing and manufacturing goods necessary for the farmers in the area. Scattered about the building were a number of smaller structures: private homes, offices and retail shops, but most of those were now in flames. Demon warriors were running around these, peering into the flames for any sign of humans who might be trying to hide. Here and there was evidence of some who had been doing just that, and had paid for it with their lives. The main force, however, was concentrated around the large building, which was now closed up on all sides. Small windows along the second floor were serving as defensive portholes from which men were throwing everything from burning embers to sharpened sticks, with little effect except to make the creatures more careful in their approach. It was clearly only a matter of time before they would be overrun.

“What can we do?” cried Sandy, gripping her rake handle all the more firmly.

“If I only had my sword, I might be able to do some damage from behind, but …”

Fisher’s observations were cut short by the roar of a beast who had spotted them. So far, none of the others had noticed, but the sight of the single charging warrior was enough to spur the couple into action. “Follow me!” yelled Fisher, jumping to his feet and running headlong toward the oncoming creature. This was something it had not anticipated, since every other human it had attacked had always run full speed away. A change of tactics was called for, but that was the one thing the beast had neither the capacity nor the time for. Before it could react, Fisher was face to face, drawing back his shovel in a carefully calculated swing, coming around just below knee height. As tempered metal connected with flesh and bone, there was a resounding crack and the creature fell headlong. Without pausing for a second swing, he made sure Sandy was close behind then ran on toward the meeting house. “You people inside!” he yelled. “Open up and let us in!”

He wasn’t sure if they had heard or seen them approaching, but ran on anyway, knowing that was their only chance. Sandy added her voice. “Please open the door! We’re here to help!”

27. Into the Abyss

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

Seth ran out onto the bridge and stopped at the place where Fisher and Sandy had just jumped. Samuel joined him, and they looked over both sides, trying to see some sign of them.

“That was crazy! What did they expect? Now what are we…?”

“Seth? Seth?” Samuel had drawn closer, and was punching Seth in the side. He was looking at the far end of the bridge. There stood the Evil Man, black robe moving in the breeze which was rising up from the river’s surface. He wore the golden helmet, which hid all features from the two men except for the eyes. Suddenly as they watched in horror, the eyes began to glow a deep red. The two men were frozen in place, until the bridge jerked downward with a sharp force. At first they thought it had broken, but the Evil Man’s red glowing eyes held them unmoving, barely aware that the bridge was now swinging back and forth, as if someone were walking on it. Then a sound behind them made them both turn just in time to see a huge demon drawing back his massive club.

* * *

For Fisher, the worst part was passing that point of balance which sent him over the edge. But he had no time to think about it. The water was at least fifty feet below him, and even if he survived the fall, the fact that he had never learned to swim should have been enough to terrorize him to inaction. All he could remember were Sandy’s parting words as she leapt over the cable: “Trust me.”

He didn’t remember striking the water’s surface, but his first rational thought screamed for attention: “You’re drowning.”

He turned his head in every direction but saw nothing but water. Which way was up?  Something resembling stars began to flash all around his field of vision, a sign of oxygen deprivation. His will to continue holding his breath was ebbing, and in another moment he would simply relax and let events take their course. Actually, drowning wasn’t so bad, he told himself. After the first few moments of panic, he found himself slipping into a comfortable cocoon, as if snuggled into a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. Not bad at all .. just like going to sleep …I wonder what happens next?

What happened was a tremendous jolt as something struck him from behind. There was a sound like someone yelling in his ear, but seemed far away. The sound came again, and this time two arms slipped around his shoulders and yanked upwards.

Then the world exploded around him into a light show with stereo sound and sensory projectiles that felt like … water. There was water all around him, getting him wet, slapping at his face. Something from deep inside Fisher screamed at him, “Breathe! Breathe!” The shock prodded him into obedience and he opened his mouth to let the oxygen flow. The flashing stars changed into a rainbow of color and the air rushing into his lungs sounded like the passing of a jet, way too close.

He was being carried by a swift current down a river, and the realization brought a new wave of panic over him, as he remembered that he couldn’t swim. But something was holding his head out of the water, like a life preserver. A soft, yielding life preserver, which responded to his every move with a corresponding grip, keeping him afloat. He felt hands across his chest, fingers interlocked and holding him in a vice which wouldn’t let go. Odd, he thought, my hands are still tied behind me. Whose are these? Then a voice spoke clearly into his right ear, “Hang on Sweetie. We’re nearly there. Just let me pull you along.”

“Since when did you start calling me ‘Sweetie’? he asked the voice in his ear.

“I don’t know. It just seemed right at the time.”

“That’s okay, Babe. I kinda like it.”

After colliding with a couple of boulders, they finally reached a place where the gravelly river bottom came up to meet them. Fisher rolled to his stomach and pulled his knees up until he could support his weight. Sandy stood in front of him, put her arms under his shoulders, then bent her knees and half lifted, half dragged him to the bank of the river. As soon as he was able to lay face down with his head out of the water, Sandy moved around and worked at the ropes binding his wrists. “Your hands are blue,” she said. “Are those bruises or lack of circulation?”

“Probably both,” Fisher said, then stopped and took her hands in his. “Is that what you meant by ‘freestyle swimming champion’?”

“That gave me the confidence to jump in the first place,” she agreed, “but let me tell ya, this was nothing like any meet I ever swam at.”

“Well, you’re nothing like any girl I’ve ever known. I would have drowned, without a doubt. Have I mentioned that I love you?”

“Yeah. But feel free to mention it anytime it crosses your mind. Girls like to hear that kind of thing, especially from the man they love.”

As their strength slowly returned, they moved farther up out of the water until they were lying on their backs on the grassy river bank. “How far downstream do you figure we came?” asked Fisher.

“I don’t know; the current was moving pretty fast, and I think we floated for several minutes. Maybe a mile?”

“That’s about what I was thinking. So. What do we do now?”

They were resting on their elbows looking out across the water when something caught their eyes. Sitting up, they looked closely out at the center of the river where the current still flowed strongly. Two dark shapes were drifting with the current, and it didn’t take long to realize that they were the bodies of Seth and Samuel, floating facedown.

“Maybe that answers my own question,” said Fisher.

“What do you mean?”

“First, the Evil Man was robbed of Lisa’s sacrifice. Then he missed out on ours, and it looks like he took his anger out on those two. Ken and his friends will be returning from Rendezvous soon, and I have an idea that they’ll have a lot to say: a lot the Evil Man wouldn’t like anyone to hear. Sandy, by bringing the Truth to these people, we may have also placed them in great danger. Until they get back to the trail, with a solid foundation of faith to stand on, they’re sitting ducks. We’ve got to go back and warn them.”

Sandy thought about that, then said, “You’re right, of course. We can’t just make our way back to the trail and leave those people to fend for themselves, even if they were willing to see us die.”

“Fear is an awesome force, Sandy. It makes some people jump off bridges with their hands tied behind their backs.” He smiled and touched the side of her face. “And it makes some people do things they would never have dreamed of doing in different circumstances. I really believe that most of those people back there are simply bound up by the lies they’ve been fed for years. Let the truth shine in, and who knows? You may be teaching some of them to make Lizzie’s stew one of these days!”

“Now there’s an image worth pursuing!” Sandy smiled, then drew in her breath as a look of shock came over her face. “Lizzie! Oh Fisher, we’ve got to go back.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Lizzie’s spoon is in my backpack, which is still at Ken and Dorothy’s place. I can’t leave without that!”

“So, all noble thoughts aside, it comes down to food, huh?”

Sandy slapped him playfully on the side of the head and let him pull her to her feet. “Whatever it takes, Sweetie. Let’s see if we can find a way out of this canyon without getting back into the river.”

“Now you’re scaring me,” said Fisher. “I’m with you: let’s start climbing.”

26. Trust Me

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

The sun was now high overhead as Fisher and Sandy trudged up the trail leading to the place called Bamah. Seth and Samuel, their two captors, ollowed closely behind, crudely fashioned spears in hand. Sandy’s foot slipped on a rock, sending her backward, and with her hands tied behind her was unable to protect herself. Fisher threw himself down beside her, trying to help. The two men watched their struggles with mild interest, but made no move to help. Eventually the couple managed to sit back to back, then pushing against one another raised themselves to their feet. Fisher took a few moments to catch his breath, then said, “This is a great way to build your abs, guys. You ought to try it sometime.”

They said nothing, so Fisher continued talking, hoping to say something which would soften their hearts. “Hey, did you know that you fellows have great names? Yeah, right out of the Bible. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the Bible, have you? Well, there you are; a generation lost from the Way, but still tied to your roots.”

The men didn’t respond, but seemed to be listening, so Fisher went on. “Seth, now that name goes back a long way. He was the third son of Adam, who, if you don’t know, was the first man ever. In fact, a lot of folks think of him as Adam’s number one, since the first born son ended up killing the second born. Great story. I’d love to tell you about it sometime.”

They walked on in silence, then Samuel could resist it no longer. “What about my name?”

“Oh, I was hoping you’d ask,” said Fisher. “Samuel. Sahm-yu-El. It means ‘His name is God’. He became a prophet. That’s a man who goes around telling people what God wants them to know. He once told the king of Israel right to his face that God was going to judge him for his disobedience. Yes sir, there’s a name worth living up to.” Fisher stopped and turned back to face the two. “We could help you do that, you know. Both of you. God has so much for you. Not like that deceiver up there,” he said with a flick of his chin toward the top of the mountain.

The men stood quietly for a long time. Seth took a deep breath, about to say something, when a rumble of thunder rolled down the mountainside, shaking the loose stones around them. That broke the spell. “Move on!” Seth ordered.

They turned to go, and Sandy said to Fisher, “Say, let me lead for awhile, okay?”

“Sure,” said Fisher, wondering what that was all about. It wasn’t long before he saw what was on her mind, and in her hand. When she had fallen to the ground, she had picked up a stone with one sharp edge, and was working it feverishly across the ropes holding her wrists together. “Good girl,” he thought. “Never give up.”

The ropes were strong, but she seemed to be making progress. But what could she do, against two armed men? With his hands still firmly behind him, Fisher didn’t have much to offer, except maybe to trip them up when they started after her. If at least she could get away, that would be worth the effort, he decided. “You’re going good,” he said out loud, knowing that the double entendre would be missed by Seth and Samuel. “Keep up the pace. I’m right behind you.”

“Do you think you could outrun me?” she said, keeping the mood light and jovial, so as not to raise suspicion.

“Not likely, tied up like this. I’d probably fall flat on my face. Cause a traffic jam. You’d be in the next county by the time we got it sorted out.”

The trail led around the slope of the mountain and down to a narrow canyon. Strung over the canyon was a suspension bridge, standing about fifty feet above a deep running river. On the far side of the bridge, a series of steps went straight up the mountainside, all the way to the peak. At the top, stood a man, or something resembling a man. He had his back to them, and seemed to be wearing a long robe, the train extending all the way to the ground and a high collar coming up past his ears. On his head was a golden helmet, which shone brightly in the afternoon sun. Long feathers of some exotic bird adorned the top of the helmet.

When they reached the bridge, Seth and Samuel stopped and said, “This is as far as we go. You two move on.”

“Are you serious?” asked Fisher. “What makes you think we’d willingly go up there?”

“Because you know that if you don’t start walking, we’ll kill the both of you right here and carry your bodies up there ourselves,” said Samuel.

“Well, I guess I wouldn’t want you to strain yourselves,” said Fisher. “Listen guys, last chance. I’m telling you that thing up there is not your friend. He’s dedicated to the total destruction of you and everyone like you. And he’s a fake. Only God can do what this thing claims to do. Turn away from him now, or face God’s judgment.”

“Just walk,” said Seth, holding his spear up higher.

Fisher looked back at Sandy, who gave him a nod which said, “Let’s go.” They turned together and started across the footbridge, side by side.

“Sandy, I’m sorry for getting you into this.”

“You didn’t get me into anything, except into love with you,” she said. “We’ve both been called, and we both answered.”

“If that’s the Evil Man up there, and I’m pretty sure it is, then he still can’t touch us. We’re God’s children, and under God’s care,” said Fisher.

“I believe that too,” Sandy assured him. “But if he knows that, then he probably has people up there with him who are under his deception. Guys like Seth and Samuel, who will kill us if he tells them to.”

“So what do we do, Babe?”

Babe? Since when did you start calling me ‘Babe’?”

“I don’t know; it just slipped out. Sounded right at the time, I guess.”

“That’s okay,” she smiled. “I kinda like it.”

They were near the center of the bridge now, when Sandy stopped. From behind them Seth called out, “Keep moving!”

Sandy turned and said, “Do you remember the other night, when we were sitting around the fire and telling each other things about ourselves?”

“Yeah, I guess so, but …”

“Trust me,” she said, and with that gave the rope around her wrist a tug, breaking it free. Before Seth or Samuel could react, she placed her hands on the cable forming a handrail on the footbridge and vaulted over the edge.

“Sandy!” Fisher yelled as she disappeared. There was a faint splash far below as she hit the water. Seth was running as fast as he could, followed close behind by Samuel. Trust me, she said, Fisher thought, and threw himself against the cable, pivoting on his stomach for a moment before his momentum carried him over the edge and straight down to the river, his hands still securely tied behind his back.

25. How Can We Lose?

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

Darkness still clung to the forest, as Fisher stepped quietly out of the river. He had resisted the temptation to run all the way back to the valley, but instead had moved slowly and silently. By the time the house came into view, the eastern sky had gone from coal black to charcoal grey. Creeping up to the front door, Fisher listened intently for several minutes, then wrenched it open and leapt inside.

Grandfather and Grandmother were tied to their chairs, which were lashed back to back. The room was in disarray, and there was no sign of Sandy. Startled to see Fisher rush into the room, the old couple were at first struck speechless, then both started talking at once.

He stopped them with a wave of his hand. “One at a time: tell me what happened. Where’s Sandy?”

“They came and took her away just before you got here.”

“Who came?”

“The men who’d been left behind to watch us. They said something about news, and that they had to act quickly.”

“Where did they take her?”

“I think they were going first to the meeting house,” said Grandmother. “It’s a short walk from here, past the storage shed at the end of the corn field. Oh .. please hurry Fisher!”

In the next instant, Fisher was out the door and gone, racing to catch up with the men who had taken Sandy. He was no longer concerned about silence, but pushed his way through the undergrowth without pausing to stop and listen, driven by thoughts of Sandy, and what might be happening to her. “Oh God,” he prayed as he ran. “Please don’t let anything happen to her. Help me …”

His prayer was cut short by a tree limb lying on the ground, which suddenly and unexpectedly rose up off the ground to knee level. Fisher fell headlong, landing on his face. Hands came from all around him, grabbing and holding him so that it was useless to struggle. He looked around to see five or six men surrounding him.

“Kind of hard to miss you coming,” the man said. “We thought at first one of those monster things was after us.”

“If you’ve hurt Sandy, you’ll wish it had been one of those ‘monster things’. He would have shown more mercy.”

“Now, no need to get all upset; not now at least. Your wife is right here with us.” The men parted enough so that he was able to see Sandy, being held firmly by two men. Even in the semi-darkness, he could see that her eyes were opened wide in fear. Undoubtedly she would have been voicing her emotions had there not been a piece of cloth tied across her mouth, gagging off all sound.

“Sandy!” Fisher cried out. “Are you okay?”

She couldn’t say anything, but nodded her head to let him know that she was not hurt. “Listen to me, all of you!” said Fisher. “The others will tell you that I spoke the truth. You don’t have to do this!”

“I don’t see the others,” said one of the men. “Did they decide to not come back with you?”

“They’re coming soon,” Fisher promised. “They’ll tell you everything. Just wait. Please!”

“Well,” said another of the men, “that would be nice if they did come back. But I’m afraid another story has come to us this morning. Maybe you’d like to hear it firsthand.”

With a shove, Fisher was pushed forward and made to walk. He tried to catch up with Sandy, who was being led just ahead of him, but they wouldn’t let him. After awhile, the trees opened up into a large clearing, in the center of which stood a large structure. A crowd of perhaps fifty men and women had gathered, all focused on someone at the center of the group. Then a voice rose above the rest. “It’s true, I’m telling you! And we have to act now, or we’ll all die. Those things will be coming after us if we don’t do something right away.”

At first, Fisher thought he must be mistaken .… but no; it was them all right: the two men who had run away from the group yesterday, and right into the pursuing demons. Their clothes were torn and they had scratches all over their faces, and they were both shouting at the top of their lungs. As they turned in Fisher’s direction, their words were cut short. “No,” they shouted. “It can’t be! You’re dead!”

“We’re very much alive,” Fisher shouted back. “All of us. God rescued us.”

“That’s not possible,” said one of the two, whom Fisher recognized as Seth. “We saw those things. There was an army of them. No one could have escaped. The only reason Samuel and I are still alive is because we were coming back. The beasts let us go because we weren’t trying to escape.”

Samuel joined in, “You must be lying! Those beasts killed everyone; how is it that you alone came back? What deal did you make with them?”

“I make no deals with the Evil Man’s demons,” said Fisher. Our salvation came by the Hand of God, the Creator of everything.”

“But where are the others, if you’re speaking the truth?” one of the men in the crowd ventured.

“They’ll return. Soon. In the meantime, you all must put your faith and trust in God. Have nothing to do with the one you call ‘Ruler’. He rules over nothing, except by lies and deceit.”

“No!” Seth shouted. “You can’t talk about the Ruler that way. What he demands are small things, compared with all the good that he gives his people. We’ve been prevented from giving him what was rightfully his, and now his anger is near. He’s already slaughtered Ken and rest, and may be planning to destroy us today. We have to do something now! Lisa is gone, but we have those two. Maybe they will appease the Ruler.”

The crowd still seemed uncertain. Some were talking among themselves, others were shouting at Seth and Samuel; whether they were words of agreement or words of denial, Fisher couldn’t tell. It seemed that all order had broken down, and the crowd was moving swiftly to anarchy. Seth yelled again, and finally got the people to listen again.

“Listen up!” he shouted. “Sam and I will take those two up to Bamah. The rest of you stay behind and pray for mercy.” That seemed to prod the crowd into action. Many were still not sure if this was the right course of action or not, but at least it was action. Several turned to Sandy and Fisher and began them pushing them forward. Sandy managed to untie the gag from her mouth before they grabbed her hands and tied them together behind her back.

“Fisher! Oh, I’m so glad to see you again. Are you really okay?”

“Sandy,” Fisher said, as they were pushed farther toward the front of the crowd. “Have you noticed that now you and I both are tied up and being led to a place where they perform human sacrifices? Define ‘okay’ for me.”

“Hey,” she said with a smile. “While you’ve been out tramping though the woods, I’ve had nothing to do but pray all night. How can we lose?”

24. Into the Fold

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

The campfire had almost burned itself out, and as the darkness closed in the stars were more brilliant than ever. Friend considered putting another log on to burn, but decided against it. He stood and began to stretch when a voice called out from the darkness, “Someone’s coming!” One of the defense team guards posted around the camp had heard something. Almost immediately, several people had gathered close to Friend, weapon in hand, straining into the darkness to see what the sentinel had heard.

“Who’s there?” called Friend. “Announce yourself!”

At first there was no response, which prompted several of the men to draw their swords. Then at last they heard a voice. “We’re friends of Fisher. Are you the people called Rendezvous?”

“You’ve found us,” called Friend back into the darkness. “Come to the fire.”

The men who staggered into the light seemed more like refugees than pilgrims, thought Friend. They had no back packs, but instead were carrying what looked like farm implements. Their clothing, which appeared roughly made at best, was torn in places, and a few of the men were nursing what looked like recent wounds. They were obviously exhausted from the long climb up from the valley floor, but seemed to be suffering from hunger and lack of sleep as well.

“Come sit by the fire,” said Friend. “You must be hungry; we’ll heat up something, if you don’t mind leftovers.”

“Anything would be appreciated,” said one of the men, who looked to be their leader. Extending his hand, he said, “My name is Ken, and these are men from the village where I live, over that mountain to the south. Fisher and his wife came to us, and told us of the fate of the family who left. I want to thank you for taking care of Lisa. Is she all right?”

“She’s fine,” said Friend, “and sleeping in that tent over there with my daughter. She’s a very special girl.”

“Yes she is,” agreed Ken. “And I need to tell you, before we eat your food and enjoy your hospitality, that these men and I had come with the intention of taking Lisa back.”

“Of course, I understand,” said Friend, unable to disguise the disappointment in his voice. “Lisa belongs with her family. If you’ll stay the night, then tomorrow morning we can …”

“But I have to tell you more,” said Ken. “Our intention was not to return Lisa to her family, but to take her to a High Place we call Bamah. There, she would be sacrificed to the Ruler, in order to insure his blessing and protection over the village. Fisher of course would not agree to this, so we kept his wife as a hostage while he was to lead us here to you.”

Friend’s empty hands immediately and unconsciously doubled into fists, while the hands of defense team members standing around the fire went to their swords. Trying to control his words, Friend said, “I notice you said that you had intended this. Am I to assume that this is not now what you want to do?”

“Fisher and Sandy warned us about the one we call ‘Ruler’. They said he was a deceiver who didn’t want us to know about the Power over him. We would not … could not believe their words. But this morning we were attacked by the Ruler’s beasts. Two of our men were killed, and the rest of us would have surely died if it hadn’t been for two things: Fisher and the Power he spoke of. Even now, we’re not sure what we saw, but we want to know more about it. Fisher said that at the place called “Rendezvous” we’d find the answers we were looking for.”

“Fisher spoke the truth,” said Friend. “We do serve that Power, Whom we call ‘God’, and I can assure you that there are no other gods before Him. I suspect that the one you call ‘Ruler’ is the same that we refer to simply as the ‘Evil Man.’ He’s been around a long time, and he has many followers, such as the beasts that attacked you today. But the path you’re standing on leads to the Kingdom of God. Those who take this journey are called by many names: such as pilgrims, Christians and believers. But the oldest name given is simply the ‘People of the Way.’ You are very welcome to join us on this journey, and as we go, we would consider it a privilege to share with you what we know and what we’ve seen.

“But what about Fisher and Sandy?” asked Friend. “And there must be others; will they come with us as well?”

“Fisher’s wife was left under guard, along with my parents, who have been trying to tell us for years these stories that we now know must be true. Altogether, there are more than fifty men, women and children living in the valley. I can’t speak for them, but I feel certain that when we go back and report what’s happened today, they’ll gladly come back with us.”

“And Fisher?” repeated Friend.

Ken looked to the ground uncomfortably. “If he’s still alive, it’ll be yet another miracle. Fisher insisted on going back alone, to be with Sandy. If he runs into those beasts on the way, and doesn’t get the kind of help we did, I don’t see how …”

Friend thought about that for a moment, then said, “Well, if there’s one thing God specializes in, it’s miracles. We’ll pray for his safety; then I want you and your men to eat and get some rest. Aaron?” he called out. “Take a couple of guys and dig through the supplies. See if you can scratch up some sleeping arrangements for these men. Patty? Can you and some of the ladies get this fire going and warm up some stew? Ralph! Organize your defense team: half to go with us, half to stay here and guard the camp. There’s no use leaving before daybreak, so get some sleep. It may be awhile before you get another chance.”

23. Angelic Intervention

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

Arms and legs flailing, gasping for air and eyes wide in terror, the men rushed straight down the hill toward the trail, unaware that as they did so, they were passing through two ranks of angelic Beings. Jake stood at the front, sword raised and eyes fixed on the approaching demons. By now some of the beasts had caught sight of them, but by a combination of their momentum and rage at seeing the loss of two of their own, were unable and unwilling to stop.

So be it, thought Jake, raising his sword even higher as a signal to the waiting ranks under his command.

* * *

The men reached the trail barely fifty yards ahead of the demons. Fisher just had time to form them into a line, shouting to the men on each end to pull around and guard the rear as they became surrounded. There were at least twenty beasts, each one roaring and swinging huge clubs. They eyes blazed red and foam blew out of their nostrils, carried away by the wind. The closest one was a few steps ahead of the rest, its eyes fixed on Fisher, who held his sword straight out toward his attacker. Fisher’s plan was to use the beast’s momentum against him, sidestepping to let him pass then strike him from behind. Five steps away. Four. Three. Jumping quickly to one side, he let the beast pass through the line of men, swinging across with his sword as he did so. Disappointed, he thought that he had not made contact with the beast, but was shocked to see it fall to the ground, blood spurting from multiple stab wounds. There was no time to think about it, though, and Fisher turned to face the next creature, just as it seemed to explode right in front of him. Its club went flying into the air, one burly hand still gripping it, then fell harmlessly to the ground.

The other men were seeing similar phenomenon, using their farming tools the best way they knew how, but finding that the damage inflicted was far greater than they had been responsible for. By the time six beasts had fallen, the remaining few seemed to lose their taste for the battle, and were turning back uphill. Those who ran unstopping eventually disappeared into the trees, but whenever one paused even for a second, it was immediately cut down by an unseen foe and left to lay in a pool of blood.

For several moments, the sound of the retreating demons could be heard from high up the hillside. Occasionally a roar would rise above the trees, but it was different from what they had heard before. This was a higher pitched, almost communicative sound, rather than the freight train cacophony which had terrorized the men only moments earlier. Hands trembling and sweat pouring down their faces, the men kept looking up to the trees, then back to the fallen monsters. Ken was the first to speak.

“We fought well. But not that well. How did this happen?”

Fisher thought a moment, then said, “Remember what I said about the Ruler’s strongest power being deception? He doesn’t want you to know that there’s a greater Power he answers to. The real Creator doesn’t depend on smoke and mirrors. He made everything you see, including you.” Fisher looked around at the men, who were now listening intently. “And He loves each and every one of you, more than you can ever imagine. And He’ll do anything in His power – except brute force – to show how much He loves you. We’ve just been given a small demonstration of His love.”

There was a long silence, as the men pondered what they had just seen and heard. Occasionally they would venture over to the body of one of the beast, poke at it cautiously, then come back to the group. Ken was sitting on the ground, running his hands along a huge club he had picked up. “This is good wood,” he said at last. “Doesn’t come from around here.”

“Neither do you, Ken,” said Fisher. “You’re a pilgrim like me, created by a loving Father and set on a trail going to His kingdom. But somewhere, a long time ago, your people forgot about the journey and settled down here. When that happened, the Evil Man and all those who follow him laid claim to you. He wants you to believe that he’s your king and provider, but in your heart of hearts you know that’s not true. You were made for better things. And this path you’re sitting on will take you there.”

Ken stood up, dusted off his hands on the sides of his trousers and said, “It’s just that, well, it’s hard to admit that all your life, you’ve been living a lie. And you don’t know what all I’ve done for the sake of that lie. If I’m really a pilgrim like you say, I’m a pretty poor one.”

“That’s the beauty of it all,” smiled Fisher. “People of the Way are all pretty poor at what they do. None of us could take a step on this path if we didn’t have a measure of strength outside of ourselves. God will give you what you need. And He’ll forgive you for what you’ve done in the past. I guarantee it.”

“What about it guys?” Ken asked, turning to the other men. “I’ve seen enough today to know we’ve been missing something important. I for one want to know more about it.”

There was an immediate response, as every man there declared a turning away from the Ruler’s influence. Even without knowing what or to Whom they would now turn, they determined to seek the truth. And they would find it, Fisher promised them, when they reached Rendezvous.

“They were here two days ago,” he said, “so you may have to go awhile before you catch up with them. But I can tell you this for sure: they’ll be on the trail. Stay on the trail, and you’ll find them.”

“What about you, Fisher?” asked Ken. “You talk like you’re not going with us.”

“I’m going back to my wife and your parents,” he said. “I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but I have a feeling that when the Evil Man hears that you’re not coming back with Lisa, they all may be in danger.”

“Then we need to go with you,” insisted Ken. “We have family back there too.”

“I do want you to go back, but first you need to find the Rendezvous people and tell them what’s happened. Trust them to do the right thing. If I go alone, tonight, I can make better time, and just maybe I can slip by any demons without being spotted. When I get to your parents’ house, I’ll do what I can to keep them and everyone safe until you arrive. But go, now. Don’t waste another minute.”