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.

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