Authors: Gilbert L. Morris
Â© 1997 by
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Cover Design: Ragont Design
Cover Illustration: Michael Carroll
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To April Meeksâ
the world needs more
sweet, gentle young ladies like you!
'm so tired, I don't think I can make it another day, Sarah!”
Josh Adams slumped down beside the small stream that wound through the village and locked his fingers behind his head. Josh was a tall, gangling teenager with a mop of auburn hair and dark blue eyes. He closed his eyes, saying, “It seems like it's nothing but one mission after anotherâand
ever really gets accomplished.”
Sarah Collingwood sat beside him and crossed her legs Indian fashion. She was wearing a pair of faded blue slacks and a man's white shirt. Her black hair had just a trace of red in it. She had large brown eyes and was, at fifteen, experiencing that first bloom of womanhood that comes to young girls. She was small and graceful, but fatigue marked her face as she answered quietly, “I know what you mean, Josh. It's hard to get up every morning knowing that nothing is really going to change.”
Five yards away a flock of sparrows began a miniature war, fighting and rolling in the dust. They cheeped angrily, and finally the largest bird appeared to win some sort of victory.
Josh had opened his eyes slightly to watch the battle, and a cynical smile tugged the corners of his lips upward. “You'd think birds could agree, wouldn't you? Even the birds can't get along in this blasted Nuworld!”
“Oldworld wasn't a paradise either,” Sarah reminded him. “Birds fought there sometimes too.”
But Oldworld was long gone. It had been called Earth once, but a nuclear holocaust had seared the planet. Continents moved, ice caps melted, new lands rose out of the sea. The inhabitants of the world changed too. The explosion caused mutants of all sorts to spring up in the races that developed after the Great Burning. There were giants, and dwarfs, and Snake-people, and all sorts of alien life forms roaming the planet that was now called Nuworld.
Josh and six other teenagers had been saved from the nuclear explosion by a small group of scientists, including Josh's father. The seven young people had been put into special capsules, where they slept for many years. Finally they had emerged to find a strange planet in which a sinister being called the Dark Lord was engaged in a horrifying struggle against GoÃ©l, the leader of the free peoples. The Seven Sleepers, as they were called, became the servants of GoÃ©l. He sent them on several dangerous missions, which had taken them under the sea, across burning deserts, to the tops of mountains, and into jungles harboring saber-toothed tigers.
“How much longer do you think it will be?” Sarah asked idly. She plucked a dry dandelion out of the green grass, examined it, blew at it. As the tiny fragments scattered, she tossed the stem down, saying, “I wish we would have done with it. I know GoÃ©l is going to winâbut sometimes it doesn't
Josh was almost asleep. He mumbled drowsily, “It's not just the physical stuff that's so hard. That's bad enough. I get tired, but I'm tired
You know what I mean, Sarah?”
“I know. I think they called it âbattle fatigue' back
in the wars on Oldworld. Men just got so tired fighting they couldn't go on.”
The two rested, saying little, for in truth they were exhausted. They had actually been little more than children when they had first been called from their sleep capsules; now, Josh and Sarah were sixteen and fifteen and had matured greatly. They had paid a price, however. The strain had taken its toll on them.
Finally they wandered up to the house where the Sleepers had been staying since their last assignment.
Josh looked up the four steps that led to the main floor and shook his head. “I don't know if I can climb those steps,” he groaned.
“Sure you can.” Sarah took his arm. “Let me help you. I was always taught to respect my elders.”
Josh managed a grin. “I'm only a year older than you are.” As they reached the landing, he said, “That means we'll never get married.”
Sarah shot him a startled look. “What do you mean by that?”
“I've decided to marry an older woman. Maybe someone seventeen.”
“I hope you marry a widow who's forty years old and has six redheaded, mean children!”
They stepped inside as Sarah said this, and the five young people who were sprawled around the room heard her comment.
“What do you mean, âredheaded children'?” Jake Garfield piped up. “Redheaded kids aren't mean. They're like meâeasy to get along with.” Jake had a New York City accent even after being away for so long. He was small, with brown eyesâand red hair.
A laugh went around the group, and the tallest boy, a handsome, athletic seventeen-year-old named Dave Cooper, added, “Everybody knows redheads are
hot-tempered. Now you take us guys with yellow hair and blue eyesâwe're right out of
A groan went up, and the girl sitting next to Dave, Abbey Roberts, said, “There's no chance of you winning the humility award, Dave Cooper!”
At fifteen, Abbey had large blue eyes, long blonde hair, and beautifully shaped features. And despite the hardships of their journey, she had managed to dress in a neat light-green skirt and a tan blouse that fit well. She was carefully made up, and her hair was done expertly. She looked over at the small black boy sitting by the window, looking out. “Wash, do
think redheads are mean?”
Wash was really named Gregory Randolph Washington Jones. He had been born in New Orleans and had grown up on the street there until he had been popped into a sleep capsule. At fourteen, he was slightly undersized, but he continually wore a cheerful smile. “I suppose redheads are just about like the rest of us. Some good and some badâbut Jake there, I expect he's one of the better redheads.”
The young man leaning against the wall beside Wash was six feet one, even though he was only sixteen. Lean, lanky, and muscular, he had very light blue eyes, bleached yellow hair, and was sunburned. Freckles were scattered over his face. His name was Bob Lee Jackson, but everyone called him Reb. He was a true Southerner from the hills of Arkansas originally, who was still fighting the Civil War.
“When do you think we might get out of this place and do something?” Reb asked. “I'm gonna go crazy! It's like being in the pokey. Why, my Uncle Seedy, if he was here, he'd get us on our way toward a new adventure.”
A groan went up. Of all the Sleepers, Reb was the only one who continually looked for new adventures.
“Don't tell me about your Uncle Seedy. I don't want to hear about him anymore,” Jake protested. He had been busily working on some invention.
“What're you making now?” Josh inquired, coming over to look at the mass of wires and tubes and coils.
Jake stared at him adamantly. “I'm not going to tell you until it's finished. I've taken enough ribbing from you about my inventions.”
“I hope it's not a bomb that's going to blow us all up,” Sarah said wearily. Then she slumped down onto one of the straight-back chairs. “Though I don't know but what that might be a welcome relief.”
“I'm surprised to hear you say so, my daughter.” The new voice seemed to come from nowhere.
And then every one of the young people leaped to his feet.
Standing in the doorway was a tall man wearing a light gray robe. He had pushed back the hood, and his long brown hair hung down past his shoulders. He had warm brown eyes, a generous mouth, and could have been anywhere between twenty-five and fifty.
“GoÃ©l!” Josh shouted, and instantly his fatigue seemed to drop away. “We've been waiting for you.”
“I know you have,” GoÃ©l said, “but I have had many miles to travel.”
“Here, we have some apple cider. Let me heat it up for you, GoÃ©l,” Sarah said quickly. She was given to touches like thatâcooking and keeping house, whenever the Sleepers had a house to keep.
Abbey could not cook an egg without ruining it, but she was good at serving, and as soon as Sarah poured the cider, Abbey served GoÃ©l first and then the rest of them. “I hope you like it, sire,” she said.
“I'm sure I will,” GoÃ©l said. He drank gratefully, then took a seat on the chair that Wash had brought.
“Thank you, my son.” GoÃ©l waved an arm. “All of you sit down. I have many things to say.”
“Will you stay long this time, GoÃ©l?”
“No, I must be gone almost immediately.” When a slight groan went up, a smile touched his full lips. “Some day it will be different, but for now we must do what we must.”
Reb said, “Well, that's what John Wayne always said. You all remember? In about a hundred movies he said, âA man does what he's got to do.' I guess him and you are right, GoÃ©l. So what're we going to do now?”
“I know what you would
to do.” GoÃ©l fixed his eyes on the tall boy. “You would like to go back to Camelot, and put on a suit of armor, and fight dragons again.”
Reb looked down at the floor, embarrassed. In truth, their adventure to the land of Camelot had been the high point of his life. He had become an expert jouster and had, indeed, done battle with something like a dragon. When he looked up, his light blue eyes glowed. “Is that where we're going? Back to Camelot?”
“I'm afraid not, Reb.” GoÃ©l seemed to note the disappointment on the young man's face and said, “Few of us get to do just what we'd like to do. That is a prize that must be won. But I promise you that some day, if you trust me and obey, you will come through to your heart's desire.”