Guardians of the Herald – Issue #102

Billy closed the door to his two man room, thankful his roommate was on duty currently.  He needed to have some privacy, though he wasn’t at all certain he could accomplish his goal outside the familiar confines of Gideon’s store room.  He looked around and decided kneeling beside his bed was as good as any place.  He knelt down and took out the soft, leather-bound Bible Gideon had given him and began to whisper the Lord’s Prayer as he exhaled a long breath to calm his nerves.

This time, instead of concentrating on just the words of the prayer, he tried to envision the scene of that desolate plain with all those suffering people building that tower he’d seen behind the door in Robert Dante’s heart.  He started out focusing on the words and then tried to morph into the vision of the people, but each time he shifted he lost his focus on the prayer and had to start over.  Try as he might he could not pray and think of that wretched scene at the same time.  Stumped, he got up and sat on the edge of the bed, clutching the little pocket Bible as he turned the problem over in his mind.

A thought occurred to him and he swung off the bed, resuming his kneeling position.  He centered himself, closed his eyes, and began to pray again.  This time, instead of trying to focus on both the words and the details of the place themselves, he melded the two together.  As he said the words of the prayer he shifted from just the words themselves in general and began to focus on the idea that he was praying for something, praying for the plain itself.

His mind continued to say the words of the Lord’s Prayer but as he inserted his intent to pray for the plain, the vision of that place began to form in his mind.  The shock of the words still coming clearly in his head along with the vision snapped his eyes open, interrupting the entire endeavor as soon as he realized his success.  He smiled and then quickly refocused himself, resuming his prayers.

This time, the words continued to flow and the image in his mind continued to sharpen.  The tower came into view as though he were flying up and at a slight angle.  Off in the distance he saw a field of large rocks and boulders scattered about as though a giant had emptied a bag of stones on the ground and smoothed them out to form a single layer with spaces between them.  Off in the distance he could see the surface of a black lake churned by tall, frothy waves covered in flames.  Something writhed on the surface of the lake and he strained hard to get closer to see what it was.

Suddenly, heat washed over his cheeks, and a scorching wind assaulted his face as he realized he was floating just over the surface of the black waters.  The flames from one of the waves licked at his feet as the wave rushed to him.  Moans wracked with pain rose up off the surface of the lake and Billy realized the shapes churning the surface of the water creating the frothy waves were bodies of people writhing as they tried desperately to climb over one another to escape the flames that burned beneath the surface.  Several people noticed he was there and the screams that erupted from the lake were the loudest and most desperate sounds Billy had ever heard.  Instantly he was soaring high above the lake, but the screams and moans still sounded as though they were very close by though the heat was lessened enough to feel like the hottest summer day he could ever remember.

Billy rotated trying to get his bearings.  He noticed a large city built up into a cliff off to one side.  Straight ahead what had seemed like a lake to his mind appeared more like a sea as it stretched to the horizon in all directions.  He turned around and found the shoreline, and a small tower taking shape there, with a thin line of people stretching from a quarry further inland to the tower and back.  He wanted to check out the quarry, but the tower was between him and that destination so he decided he’d see what the tower offered first.

He began to descend straight at the tower but something troubled him in the back of his mind and he stopped.  He looked back at the lake and shuddered as he remembered the sound the people so tormented by the fiery waters had made when they had seen him.  They could see him here!

He snapped his head back around and focused on the line of people moving to and from the tower.  None seemed to be looking up or had noticed him.  He instantly shot to the boulder field he’d seen and took refuge among the rocks.  He floated high enough up to see over the tallest obstruction and saw with satisfaction that the tower was now between him and the line of people.  If he stayed low he could approach the tower without being seen from this direction, he thought.

Billy weaved his way through the boulders and out, heading toward the tower.  A rough corral with a center post like one he’d seen used in a western movie for breaking stallions stood deserted on this side of the tower. He flew quickly up to the tower wall and hugged it, looking around.  As he reached the tower, the low moan that permeated the region began to sharpen and get louder.  He began to examine the tower when he noticed a face from the stone directly in front of him staring back at him.  He took a step back and saw every stone not only had a face but that the eyes of each face was focused squarely on him.  He realized the moans he’d been hearing were coming from the stones that made up the tower. In fact, the tower wasn’t made of stones at all, but rather caricatures of people in the shape of blocks of stone.  The sight tugged at his heart, making him wonder if there was any way he could help these poor people and wondered who could be so cruel as to do this to someone.  The thought made him recall who he was looking for and where Hugh de Payens said he was, and he refocused on his task, surveying the rest of the tower face before him.

He looked up and saw a window three stories up, slightly around the side, facing the lake.  He floated up and to the side of the window so he could take a peek inside, and noticed the moaning growing softer as he rose.  He tried to ignore the sounds from below and focus on the task at hand.  From the side, the window showed the wall to be thick enough to hide his entire body if he was careful.  He steeled his will and floated into the partition rather than peek through the window as he would do in the real world.  He slowly pressed his face slightly ahead of the rest of his body until just his nose and eyes protruded through the wall.  He hoped his features would blend in with the other faces in the stone and go unnoticed.  His plan seemed to work as the room on the other side of the wall came into view.

The room inside the tower was an open expanse without walls or furniture.  Two figures stood inside in quiet conversation.  One of the figures was nearly ten feet tall Billy guessed, wearing a full suit of rust-covered ornate armor that encased his body from head to toe in old steel.  The rust gave his armor a deep red hue almost the color of blood.  The helm he wore had massive bat wings sweeping back from the sides and a black horse hair pony tail that cascaded down the back side.  Belted on his hip was the largest sword Billy had ever seen, and he assumed it would take two hands to wield by a normal sized man.  Kneeling before the red armored figure was the little stone-skinned demon they’d become familiar with around Robert Dante.

“As I said, young Rabdos, you have done well.  I suspect a demon of your inexperience would have parlayed this information with someone else before you brought it to me, but Lord Satan was not aware of it as yet so they are at least discreet, which also reflects well on you,” a deep bass male voice said from within the armor.

“The Red Rider of War is very kind not to blast me with hellfire for the infraction,” the demon identified as Rabdos said.  So this was Rabdos the Strangler.  Billy started studying the demon’s face and physical form intently.

“You are wise to avoid ridiculous excuses as well.  Good.  I have plenty of minions who throw excuses at me as though I were a freshly raised lemur,” the Red Rider said, placing his hands on his hips.

“I exist to serve the Master of War,” Rabdos said bowing his head.

“Then listen closely because the resurgence of these new men of valor must be stopped.  We cannot afford to allow the cycle they perpetuate to come round again,” War said.  “Father Satan was correct, I have seen a vision.  You will be there at the end, but let that embolden you not, for the vision did not specify in what form you would be there.”

Rabdos shuddered slightly, Billy could see.  The Red Rider of War began pacing in front of the little demon, and his steel-shod feet brought up red sparks and little moans from the stones under foot with every step.

“Your minion, Robert Dante, is an excellent catch.  His employer serves our adversary and he has found the man who shall be the Herald of the son, though I do not believe either is aware of that fact yet.  You must locate the Herald and destroy him as your primary goal.  Destroying these fledgling men of valor is secondary to that task, though only slightly lesser.” War stabbed a finger at Rabdos as he spoke the last sentence.

“I am familiar with the company where the sinner Robert Dante works.  We have been searching out information on a secret plan the company’s founder is working on. We are close to knowing more,” Rabdos said.  “As soon as I have more information I shall bring it to you directly and none other.  I will also have an agent in the base for these new men of valor as soon as Amy gets my offer signed by the woman she’s been working on there.”

“Good, good.  See that you do,” War responded.  “I have no concern where my minions jockey for standing in lesser matters, but this issue of the Herald is the only thing father Satan speaks of now.  You will not fail me on this or you will become a stone in your own castle.”

“It shall be as you command,” Rabdos said.

Billy pulled back into the wall and didn’t wait to hear the rest.  He had to get back to his room and take this information to Colonel Peters immediately.  He wasn’t sure who this Herald was, but they needed to find him.  He wasn’t sure how they’d do that, but he knew one thing, if Satan himself had taken interest in him he needed their help right away.

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Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm.  To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.

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