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Authors: Gilbert L. Morris

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5

Trust the Heart

S
arah!” Josh said in amazement—and some disappointment. He suddenly realized how desperately he had hoped that this Sleeper would be a strong leader.

Mat evidently felt the same. “You know this one? Humph! Well, it's just another baby—and a female at that!”

“But a
pretty
one.” Tam beamed. Both he and Crusoe leaned closer to get a good look at Sarah.

When one is rudely awakened and sees two hairy dwarfs and an ugly hunchback not two feet away—well, what does one do?

Scream, of course! And the poor girl did exactly that, throwing herself into the arms of the startled Josh. He was torn by two emotions—terribly disappointed that no leader had emerged, yet finding it pleasant to hold the slim girl in his arms.

It made him feel so masculine that he said, rather arrogantly, “Back up there, you fellows—give her a chance to breathe!”

He was a little surprised when they obeyed instantly, so he said even louder, “Come on, Sarah. I'll explain everything to you later. Right now we've got to get out of here.”

As Josh led them to the door, Sarah clung closely to him, and he did not protest. Instead he said with newfound authority, “Step lively, men—be alert!”

Tam could not resist giving a mock salute and saying, “Right you are, sir. Yes, sir!” as they made their exit.

Then Josh, feeling a great deal like some romantic sea captain, went one step too far. “Here you go, Sarah,” he said, and with what he hoped looked like a dashing gesture, he half-lifted and half-pushed Sarah over the side of the tower.

He had forgotten two things. One was that Sarah did not know that she was going to be thrown off a building. Second, she did not expect to be caught in the hairy arms of a potato-faced giant with a sinister, gap-tooth grin.

Therefore, when she plunged over the side and the giant caught her and held her tight in his muscular arms, she let out some really earth-shattering screams—loud enough to alert any Sanhedrin up to two miles away.

Crusoe said instantly, “Shut her up, Volka! Carry her to cover—and keep her quiet!”

Like frightened rabbits, the group scrambled to the ground and scurried back to the grove. There they fell to the earth, gasping for breath.

All except Sarah. Since Volka had carried her, she had plenty of breath. She began to use it immediately on the unfortunate Josh.

“Josh Adams! I can't believe anyone could be so dumb!”

“But I—”

“You—I—you! I'm so mad I could spit!” Sarah sputtered. “When you woke up, did someone throw you off a building—to a—a monster?”

Volka grinned broadly and shook his head.

“Well, no,” Josh stammered, “but—”

“I never want to speak to you again as long as I live!” Sarah said fiercely.

She probably did not really mean this, but Josh believed her. His shoulders slumped, his face went red, and he felt totally humiliated.


Ahem!”
Crusoe broke in with a slight cough. “May I have a quiet word with you, Miss—Sarah, is it?” The old man had a nice smile in spite of his ruined face, and he turned it on the angry girl.

Sarah looked at him, then nodded with a very small smile of her own.

“Suppose you and I go for a short walk, and I'll attempt to clear this up,” Crusoe suggested. As they turned to go, he spoke to the others. “Why don't you fix something to eat? And Josh” —he lowered his voice— “don't worry, my boy. She'll get over it.”

“Who cares!” Josh simmered. “She always was a stuck-up snob.” He pretended to ignore the pair as they left.

Tam chose that moment to give the unfortunate boy one more jab.

“Any more orders, Captain?” He gave his silly salute again.

At last Josh found an outlet for his frustration. Without a word, he leaped on the startled Tam. They started an awkward scuffle, kicking and flailing in the dust.

“Maybe I ought to stop them,” Volka said to Mat.

“Let them fight,” Mat growled. “Maybe they'll kill each other—or at least beat some sense into their dull heads. But I doubt it.”

By the time Crusoe led Sarah back to camp, Tam and Josh had made their peace. The food was nearly cooked too—sizzling steaks and steaming potatoes. There was even a portion of crusty bread dripping in butter for each of them.

Evidently Sarah had changed her mind, for she walked right up to Josh. “Josh, I'm sorry I acted so rotten. I won't act that way anymore,” she promised. She waited a moment, then put her small hand on his arm and said softly, “Won't you forgive me, Josh?”

Turning very red, Josh finally muttered, “Sure, yeah.” Then he hastily shoved a huge piece of buttered bread into his mouth to cover his awkwardness. However, he did look pleased when Sarah got her food and came back to sit close to him.

They sat up far into the night. The fire and the danger seemed to make them all feel very close.

For two days they rested, keeping careful watch for the Sanhedrin. Then they resumed their journey in short trips. Several times Josh thought he saw the red robes of the Servants in the distance, but he was never sure.

This went on for three weeks. Josh seemed to be growing stronger every day—not only physically but emotionally. His terrible self-consciousness was fading. It was Josh, more often than not, who made the decision to go forward or to camp.

One morning at breakfast, Crusoe made the inevitable announcement. “Well, the food is gone—but we'll be at the spot by early afternoon if all goes well.” Then he noticed that Sarah was only picking at her food.

“What's the matter, child?”

“Oh, nothing …” She hesitated. “Yes, there is something the matter, but I—I'm not sure I can tell you about it.”

“I think we've come far enough to tell each other anything,” Josh said.

Sarah smiled at him. “Well, all right. After you all went to sleep last night, a man came into the camp.”

Immediately they all protested that it could not be. “Impossible! Can't be! We would have heard him!” And so on.

“You were all sound asleep—and I almost was, but then I looked up and there he was, right in front of me, with his back to the fire.” She paused and thought for a moment, her face intent. “The funny thing was, I wasn't
afraid! There he was, a murderer for all I knew, and yet I had the strangest sense that he was—safe. That's the only way I can put it.”

“Did he say anything?” Crusoe asked.

“Yes,” Sarah nodded. “First he said, ‘Sarah, don't be afraid.'Then he said, ‘When all fails, trust your heart.'”

Mat threw his hands in the air and barked, “Just what we need—another mystic prophet spouting poetry!”

“Hush, Mat,” Crusoe commanded. “Did he say anything else?”

“Well, I asked him his name. He said, just before he faded into the trees, ‘Very soon you will know my name.'”

Sarah looked around. “Don't you believe me—any of you?”

Volka grinned. “I do!” he declared.

“So do I,” cried Tam, who had so much affection for Sarah that he would have believed her if she had said that the sun was made of taffy.

Then Josh grinned. He—the one who heard voices no one else could hear—was a fine one to doubt. “I believe you, Sarah.”

Crusoe warmly added, “We all do.”

Mat made a show of protest. “Humbug! Last dwarf I knew who trusted his heart died in a lunatic asylum!”

Nevertheless, he winked slyly and gently pinched Sarah on the arm.

∗ ∗ ∗

Shortly after dawn, the company stopped, hid the horses in a large clump of maples, and began the search.

“What do we look for?” Tam asked.

Josh said, “Well, the song gives us the only hint.

“‘
Where the sweetest breath
turns to sudden death—

“‘
There the son of Isaac sleeps.
'

“Maybe it'll get clearer, but I guess we'll just spread out and try to find something unusual. Sarah, you come with me.”

By noon they had walked for miles. Their faces were scratched by briars, their feet sore. They gathered under a large bush, completely discouraged.

“This is no good,” Mat moaned.

“No, we could search for months,” Crusoe agreed. He looked wearily at the rock-covered landscape. “We'd better make a permanent camp in a better place.”

They were almost back to the ponies when suddenly Sarah stopped. “Wait a minute. I just thought of something. That man I saw last night—he may be the key to finding the Sleeper.”

“Romantic nonsense. Not scientific,” Mat grumbled shortly.

“But what if he meant it literally—I mean really literally?”

“Well—” Crusoe chuckled a little “—if we're going to trust a prophet, I think we'd better trust him all the way —or not at all.”

“But how can we do it?” Josh asked.

Sarah touched the gold chain that she wore and drew out a locket engraved with an emblem. “When I woke up, I had this on,” she said.

They all drew close and stared at the necklace.

“It's a gold heart!” Josh cried out.

“I don't think it's gold,” Sarah said, “but I think this is the heart that the man meant. See how dull it is.”

The heart was covered with a dull yellow film.

“But I noticed when we were over in that direction it was very shiny and bright.”

“Well, what do you think that means?” Mat asked.

“I think the heart is—well—not magic exactly, but somehow it gets bright when it's close to a Sleeper and dull when it's far off.”

“A good inventor could probably make it sensitive to some metal in the capsules,” Crusoe mused. “Maybe this is a time to trust the heart.”

“I never heard such rot!” Mat scoffed. “Why, you can't take prophecies and signs literally.”

“Yes, we can,” Josh said. “What else do we have? Come on, it's worth a try.”

They began to retrace their steps.

Before they had covered half a mile, Sarah cried out. “Look—the heart, it's getting bright!”

They needed no other sign but doubled their pace. Josh forgot all his weariness.

“You know what, Josh?” Sarah asked.

“What?”

“I wish I knew his name—the man I saw last night.”

“Well—” Josh smiled “—he was right about the heart. Guess you can trust him to do what he said about the name.”

“Yes. He did say, ‘Soon you'll know my name.'”

Josh trudged on silently, then said, “Sarah, when you find out his name, tell me, will you?”

6

A Taste of Honey

I
never saw a tree like that before,” Josh said. The group had been following the path set by Sarah's golden heart when they came across a strange, stunted tree. He stopped and peered upward. Brown fruit hung from its top branches.

“I have,” Volka said. “It's a honeyfruit tree. Here, try some.” He picked some fruit and tossed it to them. “The bees stuff honey in the fruit for some reason.”

“It's crisp and delicious,” Sarah said, licking her fingers. “Let's take as much as we can with us.”

So they did. Volka stripped the branches, and all filled their pockets and packs.

It wasn't long before Josh said, “Look, there's a hummingbird—and there's another!”

“Wait a minute,” Tam said suddenly. “Those aren't hummingbirds—they're bees!” He ducked as one rifled by his head. “They're bigger than sparrows!”

“Be careful,” Crusoe warned. “I saw one of those sting a dog once, and he died in a few hours.”

“Look,” Sarah said, “I don't see how the heart could be any brighter! We must be close.”

“Hey,” Josh called out, pointing at an opening in a large rock formation that rose twenty or thirty feet in the air. “That must be it. Come on!”

He started to run to the opening, but Mat tripped him neatly, spilling him on the ground. Josh got up angrily. “Why'd you do that?” he spluttered.

Mat pointed at the opening. “Look at that. See those bees going in and coming out? That whole rock is a beehive for those monsters!”

Crusoe nodded. “I think you're right. And it would be suicide to go in there! Let's see if we can find another opening.”

They skirted the rock formation, but there was no other opening. They tried walking away but the heart at once began to lose its fire and grow dull.

“That's it, I guess,” Tam said. “Can't we smoke them out?”

“Too big,” Mat answered. “We'll have to go back until we can think of something. We can't go in there.”

“I believe if we've been led this far, we're intended to go in,” said Sarah sharply. “What do you think, Josh?” She turned to him for support.

What neither Sarah nor any of the others could know was that Joshua, who was not in the least fearful of a snake or a spider, was terrified of bees and wasps. In fact, he was allergic to them. Once, when he was eight years old, he had been stung by a honeybee. The convulsions that followed nearly killed him. Ever since then, Josh had been almost helplessly terrified of bees.

In response to Sarah's question, he only reddened and mumbled. “Well, maybe Mat is right. Some things are too hard.”

Sarah seemed caught off guard. She looked at Josh a little closer, but he ducked his head.

“Well, I'm going in,” Sarah said.

“I'll go with you,” Crusoe declared. “We'll be all right if we don't accidentally mash one of them. That sends off a warning to attack, and we'd be dead right off.”

The pair walked toward the door.

∗ ∗ ∗

Crouching low, Sarah and Crusoe advanced down a tunnel that must have been seven feet high and at least three feet wide. Overhead Sarah heard the zinging sound of the bees going in and out of the hive. They had not gone far when it grew too dark to see.

“This won't do,” Crusoe said. “We may blunder into some grubs in this blasted darkness.” Then he looked over his shoulder. “What's that?”

A light was coming down the tunnel behind them. Soon Sarah heard Josh's voice.

“It's me. I'm—I'm coming with you.” His voice trembled, and the light in his hand was unsteady.

Crusoe threw his arm about Josh's shoulders—something he had never done before. He whispered huskily, “I know how hard this is for you, my boy.”

Sarah squeezed Josh's hand.

The trio had gone only a few steps farther when suddenly Josh stopped and said, “Listen to that!”

The air, Sarah realized, was filled with a tremendous humming, like a mighty dynamo.

Josh threw his light on the walls. They had entered a large cavern. The walls were all honeycombs, swarming with thousands and thousands of the giant bees. It was the bees that made the terrible humming.

“Come on,” Josh said. “I think there's an opening …” Suddenly he yelled.

In the dim light Sarah saw that a great bee had lighted on the helpless Josh. Its needlelike stinger was ready to sink into his neck.

“Don't move, Josh!” Crusoe said instantly. “Don't move a muscle.”

Somehow Josh was able to obey. Finally, after what had to have been some of the longest moments of his life, the bee flew off.

“Josh!” Sarah grabbed his arm. “Are you all right?”

“I—think so,” Josh said unevenly. “But it was so odd! That thing lit on my neck, and I almost jumped out of my skin. Then—well, it was like I was lifted out of my body and someone else stepped in and sort of became me. And then the bee went off, and I came back! What does it mean?” he asked Crusoe.

The old man shrugged, but there was a strange fire in his eyes. “We are not alone, are we, my boy?”

The three slowly continued on their way. Just as they were about to leave the immense central cavern, Sarah spoke. “Smell that? It's the honey.”

“Like the song, ‘
Where the sweetest breath'
—that's the honey— ‘
turns to sudden death,'
that's the bees.”

They entered a much smaller tunnel. At the end of the passage, they found what they were seeking—a white door that opened when the song was sung. Inside stood the third capsule, full of the dense gas.

As they stood before it, Crusoe looked at Josh. He asked curiously, “Do you expect to find a great captain in this one?”

Josh did not smile. “It will be whoever it should be.” He pushed the button marked AWAKE, and the chamber cleared slowly. The top swung open.

They watched as an undersized, red-haired teenager opened his eyes and sat up.

When the Sleeper saw the travelers, he jumped off the bed and put his back to the wall. “Who are you?” he asked defiantly.

“Friends,” Sarah said. “I'm Sarah, this is Josh, and that is Crusoe.”

The small redhead had a pug nose, and there was a fighting light in his bright eyes.

“How do I know you're not enemies?” he demanded.

“Well,” Josh said, “why don't you test us—ask us questions?”

“OK, I will. What's a Big Mac?”

“A hamburger!” Josh and Sarah answered.

“Who was Humphrey Bogart?”

“A great film star.”

“What's General Motors?”

“A car company.”

Slowly a grin broke across the face of the redhead. He admitted, “Well, I guess only real Americans would know that stuff. You can call me Jake. Jake Garfield.”

“A ‘son of Isaac,'” Crusoe murmured.

“That's right,” Jake said. “My old man's name
was
Isaac, but how'd you figure that?”

“We'll tell you when we get out of here, Jake. Let's go.”

They found their way out without incident, though Jake's eyes bulged at the massive bees. He seemed even more amazed at the sight of a giant and a pair of dwarfs.

“Are you
sure
they're all friendly?” he whispered to Josh as he gazed at Volka. “I'd hate to have to mess with that guy!”

Later that night the company ate the last of the honeyfruit. As they ate, Crusoe told Jake the history of the Sleepers. He also told him of the Quest.

Then Jake looked around the campfire and grinned broadly. “Well, we got one tough, if a bit small, lady; one beanpole on his way to manhood; one hunchback; one hairless King Kong; two midgets; and a skinny redhead. I don't see why we can't save the world with such a pack.”

He looked so satisfied that they all had to laugh at his cocky attitude.

“Where do we go from here?” Jake asked.

“Well, here's the song,” Josh said.

“‘
All caves of earth are dark and drear,

except the one that glows like diamonds clear.

“‘
He who would this Sleeper wake,

must pass the deadly jaws of fate.'

“There's 18 syllables in the first group—and 15 in the second. Let's see,” Josh murmured.

They gathered around the worn map, and Crusoe whistled as Josh put his finger on the spot.

“This won't be easy,” Crusoe remarked. “Look, if we go this way down the Temple Road, we're almost sure to be recognized. But the other way is right back through the Forbidden Land.”

“Not that way!” they all said at once.

“No, it's too dangerous,” Crusoe agreed. “There's only one other way that I can see. Look, we can get a boat right here and sail south through the Dark Sea.”

“Not
there,”
Mat said. “That's the Ghost Marshes.
Nobody
goes through there.”

“Why not?” Josh asked.

“For one thing—merely a small detail, you understand—people go in on one side and never come out on the other. Sorry to be so picky.” Mat sniffed disdainfully. “Of course, in this group of mystics, someone will probably
dream
us across the Marsh!”

After much argument, the travelers finally agreed that there was no other way. They would have to find a boat and pass through the Ghost Marshes.

BOOK: Flight of the Eagles
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