Saturday, February 19, 2005


the child, thirty-six


Starr had closed her eyes when the demon began its charge, not really wanting to see her own death bearing down on her. But the skewering she expecting never came - and the sound of swords clashing did...

She opened her eyes. Blinked. Gaped.

Somehow, Forest had rallied to her and was now between her and the demon. No longer merely holding the demon off, no longer giving ground before it step by trembling step. Oh no. Now...

It was amazing. Now, the lad was raining blows upon the foe before him, lunging, feinting, thrusting.

And now it was the demon giving way before the young man's sword. 'No!' cried Jessie's voice from its lips. 'No, don't hurt me! How cruel you are, to hurt a woman...!'

'You were hurting a woman,' Forest replied grimly. 'And it didn't seem to bother you a bit, to rip Starr with your words. And you would have killed her, happily, if you could just now - wouldn't you? As for me hurting a woman... ' And he pressed on against this enemy, giving the demon no room nor time to recover or rally itself. '...if you really were Jessie, then you might have a point. But you're not Jessie. She's over there in the corner. You are exactly what Starr told me you are. You are a demon, and in the name of the Master, you... are... defeated!'

The boy thrust home on that last word. There was a shriek like cloth tearing, and a blinding flash of not light but dark. A foul stench filled the air, gagging them...

And the demon was gone. There was only Forest now, and Starr.

And Jessie.

Starr went to her, holding out a hand to lift her up, while Forest cleaned and sheathed his weapon. 'Jessie?' the Child called gently to the still-cringing woman.

Jessie shook herself, shrinking away from Starr, keeping her arms still locked protectively over her head. 'Stay away from me!' the woman cried piteously.

'You're all right now,' Forest said, coming alongside. 'The demon is gone. It's safe now.'

'Safe?' Jessie hissed at them. 'Safe? When the two of you barge into my home, with weapons in your hands? Safe?'


A new voice, soft, patient. All three looked over at the door, were now the Master stood.

With a sob, Jessie leapt up and pelted for the doorway, flinging herself into the Master's arms, pouring forth her tale of woe, pointing again and again back at Starr and Forest - her hand stabbed especially viciously in Starr's direction. Shaking his head, the Master said to her, 'Jezebel. Do you think I do not know the Truth?'

She stopped talking suddenly, glared up into that stern and gentle face. And then, like the striking of a snake, she slapped him. Slapped him!

Forest's face darkened, and his hand flew to his sword. How dare that woman slap Josh!

Starr's face reddened, and her hand flew to her own cheek as if the slap had hit her instead. How could Jessie slap the Master?

But the Master only looked down on the enemy's daughter, his eyes full of compassion meeting hers full of venom. Softly he said to her, 'When you come to love the Truth more than you love your own self, then will you begin to know me at last.' And when her eyes only darkened more and flashed with anger, he added, 'What you do, do quickly.'

She drew back, looked for a moment as if she might slap him once more - then swept pass him, regal as any queen. And left.

And now came the rest of the little group crowding into the house. 'What happened here?' Lucy asked as she passed in through the door. The others followed, Stone last of all, only now sheathing his sword. His arms found Starr and drew her close. He was trembling a bit.

But then, so was she.

'My children,' said the Master, said Josh. 'So long as Jessie held this house, she held against you an inheritance the Master would have you possess. Now she is gone, and the inheritance is yours. See...' He gestured toward a cabinet set against the wall opposite the door. One of Lucy's friends was standing closest to it, so he reached and opened the doors.

And there within - there were several packs, walking sticks, traveling coats. In fact, everything they would need for this journey they were setting forth on.

Quietly - indeed, rather subdued, for Jessie's outburst was still fresh in their memories - the eleven gathered to take up the packs and make ready to go. Starr, waiting till the others were done, felt a light touch on her arm.

She turned. The Master. Drawing her apart from the others, he said to her, 'Ask.'

She dropped her eyes, and a bit of a blush touched her cheeks. 'You always know...' said she.

'Always,' he replied. 'Ask me, Starr. Ask the question that is in your heart.'

'It's just... Why Forest? Why not Stone?'

'Why did I send you in here to support Forest, instead of choosing Stone to send you at the side of?'

'Well, yes. I mean, if I am to be Stone's...' She hesitated, glancing to see if any of the others would hear her speak the word 'wife.'

'My Child. Stone already knows you, and has already begun to trust your sight. Forest needed to learn to trust as well. And through him, the others. Remember? This was an exercise in unity?'

'Oh.' And she nodded.

'Go now and get your things, Starr. Fear nothing; trust my leading. Yes?'

Feeling a bit embarrassed, she nodded.

He gave her a cherished kiss on the forehead and sent her off to the cabinet. Soon she had collected her share of the supplies for the journey as well, and returned to stand with the others.

Stone took her protectively to his side.

'Now,' said Josh, leading them back outside. 'Now you are ready. Now you will set forth. Look there.' He pointed, and their eyes followed.

Here they stood at the foot of the Mountain of Spices. Leading away from them ran the last traces of the path, curving away into a deep valley. A great mountain, higher than this one, rose on the other side of that valley. And there, further off, they saw that there was still another high mountain, where the valley ran in between the two mountains, leading into deep shadow.

'That is your way,' said Josh. 'Fear no darkness. Trust, and be trustworthy. Grow in grace. Know that the Master's Presence goes with you, though you see him not. And be in Peace.' He smiled on them all, gently sighed - how Starr breathed in the dearness of that sigh! - and then he turned and climbed again the path up the Mountain of Spices.

At the top, he lifted his arm and waved. Then came a curious brightness of sunlight, so that they all flinched and hid their eyes.

When they could look again, he was gone. A bit of cloud came up then, obscuring the sun, causing a great shiver to pass through the company.

They stood yet a moment longer. And then, with the singing sound of the drawing forth of his sword, Forest said, 'Well, let's get moving then.' And he started out, leading the way towards the dark valley.

Slowly, the rest followed.

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