Authors: Gilbert L. Morris
Josh felt much easier now that that hurdle was over. He slept like a rock that night, but by the cold light of morning the safety he had felt in the warmth of the fire had faded.
The company gathered their gear and plunged through the overgrowth beside the river. It was not long before they began to ascend a steep incline. Soon most of them were panting for breath.
“It gets steeper from here on,” Hamar shouted. He had to speak loudly because the river was growing more narrow, and the water was beginning to roar.
Looking ahead, Josh saw that the river disappeared
into a deep canyon. Their group was poised on one lip of the abyss.
As they moved ahead, the trees grew scarce. The bushes and vegetation thinned out. There was no doubt nowâthey were climbing a mountain along the narrow path cut into its steep side. The ledge was at least six feet wide, but the wall of the canyon rose sharply on their left. On the right, far downâso far that it made Josh dizzy just to peer over the edgeâthe roar of the river increased.
“Why do they call this Roaring Horse River?” Sarah asked Hamar.
“Once in a while, horses lose their footing in the stream and are pulled into the rapids and through the canyon. When that happens, theyâwell, they roar!” He shook his head sadly. “It isn't a pleasant sound, I can assure you.”
“Are they all killed?” Sarah asked, peering at the wild whitecaps raging far below.
“Oh, yes, nothing could live in that turmoil,” Hamar said, waving a hand toward the river. Then he stood up saying, “Not too far to go now. Here, let me play a tune to cheer you.”
He pulled his silver flute from his knapsack and raised it to his lips.
“Won't somebody hear us?” Sarah asked nervously.
Hamar looked at her in amusement, then waved his flute at the sky. “A bird, perhaps?” He laughed. Then he began to pipe a merry little tune as the group marched down the narrow path.
Soon they were approaching what appeared to be a ledge of stone. Josh felt that it must be the very crest of the mountain path. He started forward more quickly, but suddenly there was a movement. The little party stopped as suddenly as if they had run into a wall.
A priest clad in scarlet with a gold insignia on his chest was barring their way, a cruel smile on his pale face.
“I arrest you all in the name of the High Priest of the Sanhedrin.”
“Run! Back down the mountain!” Josh called. He started to run but had not gone ten feet when four red-robed priests slipped down from the rocks overhead and barred his path.
“Pull back,” Josh shouted as he drew his sword. “Get Mat and Crusoe behind us. We'll make our stand there!”
There was a little hollow in the side of the mountain, and they gathered there, placing Mat and Crusoe inside the hollow. But their situation was hopeless. The soldier-priests had drawn bows, and cruel arrows with steel tips were trained on them all.
“Drop your weapons,” the leader commanded sternly. “You will die here if you resist.”
He began advancing and was joined by five other soldiers. The troopers coming up the path moved forward and began to squeeze the little group as in a vise.
“We're trapped,” Dave cried and threw down his sword with a bitter cry.
Slowly Volka dropped his weapon, then Mat and Sarah did the same.
Now, according to all reason, Josh should have done so, but he was filled with an anger he had never known. He gripped his sword fiercely and stepped out on a rock that projected over the roaring river. He turned to meet the approach of the sinister soldiers.
“If you will throw down your weapon,” the priest said, “you will have a fair inquisition. If you are not one of theâSleepers.” His lips curled as he spat out the word. “You will only have a term in prison for defying the Sanhedrin. Throw down the sword.”
Light glinted on the arrows of the soldiers, and Josh heard someone begging him to surrender. He thought it
was Sarah, but he could not be sure because something was happening to his hearing.
Even the loud roaring of the river was growing fainter. He stood on the rock over the raging water with arrows trained on his heart. But suddenly he was not afraid, for he could not hear the river or the voice of the priest telling him to surrender. Instead, he heard the still, strong voice that he had heard once before. The voice was giving him a command.
He shook his head as if to clear it, then he whispered, “Isâis that
And the answer came. “
Yes, I am here.”
Without hesitation Josh said, “What would you have me to do, Sire?”
Do you believe in me, Joshua?”
“Yes! Yes, I believe in you. I don't know who you are, but I believe in you!”
Would you do anything I commanded you to do?”
Josh answered instantly. “Yes! Anything, GoÃ©l!”
There was a moment's pause. Then Josh heard the voice say calmly but with authority, “I
command you to throw yourself into the river, Joshua.
If Josh had had time to think, he could have found plenty of reasons for not doing what the voice commanded. Even as he stood there, still another voice began nagging at his mind, whispering, “
But who is GoÃ©l? He may be evil.”
The second voice grew strongerâso strong that Josh knew that if he listened any longer, he would not be able to obey GoÃ©l's command. So without a moment's further hesitation, he threw his sword high into the air and cried out in a piercing voice.
Then he flung himself off the rock and plunged down, down, down until he disappeared into the murky depths of the waters.
arah never forgot the sickening feeling that swept over her as she watched Josh disappear into the froth of the churning river. A scream rose in her throat, but she did not have time to make a sound. The iron hand of one of the priests closed on her arm. She was dragged down the steep path along with the other travelers.
“He'll be one less to worry about,” said one of the swarthy guards, grinning at her. “By the time the Questioning is over, you'll be wishing you had gone into the drink with him.”
“Be silent!” the head priest commanded. One look of his burning eye was enough to turn the guard's dark face pale ivory.
The trip to the Tower was long, and Sarah was reeling with aching legs by the time they passed through the heavy stone wall.
“Put them in the Common until the Questioning is ordered,” the tall priest commanded.
The prisoners were pushed down a dark, moldy corridor of massive stones until they passed through a large court. Sarah thought she heard strange snorting noises, but in the darkness she could see nothing.
Using two keys, the guard opened a huge steel door. Without ceremony, the prisoners were shoved through, and the heavy door clanged shut behind them.
Two or three torches flickered in the gloom. When Sarah's eyes grew accustomed to the prison, she gave a frightened cry. “Ohâoh, Mr. Crusoe,” she whispered,
and then her voice choked with fright. The little band was surrounded by ominous dark forms moving in the shadows of the torchlight.
Suddenly a familiar voice called, “Hey, Sarah!” Out of darkness stepped Jake, his face alight with pleasure at seeing them.
“Jake!” Sarah said, running to hug him. “We thought you were dead!”
“Are you all right? Did they hurt you?” Dave asked.
“Wellâ” the little redhead grinned “âthose Questionings aren't much like exams back in school, but they haven't hurt meâyet. Tam is OK too. He's being questioned now, but he ought to be back. Hey, what's wrong with Crusoe?”
Crusoe had suddenly collapsed on the stone floor.
“Here,” Hamar said quickly, “he's fainted. We'd better try to get him warmed up.”
Hamar looked at the dark forms around the room and said something in a strange language. There was a rustle in the shadows, and some of the creatures began to edge toward them.
This time Sarah did not scream, but she took Dave's hand and realized that he was trembling too.
they?” he whispered.
“What?” Hamar asked, looking around. “Oh, you haven't been inside the Tower before, have you? Well, these are some of the enemies of the Sanhedrin. Don't be afraid. They won't harm you. They're prisoners too.”
As he spoke, two prisoners came forward and said something to Hamar in the tongue he had used. Then they picked up Crusoe and moved him toward another area.
“Hey!” Jake objected. “Where are they taking him?”
“They've a warm bed and some food, and that's what he needs.”
Sure enough, as the young people watched, the two
prisoners were joined by several others. They placed the limp body of the old man on a rough wooden bunk and wrapped him with warm blankets. One of them began to chafe his hands and another his feet. In a few moments, Crusoe's eyes flickered open. Then one of the prisoners produced a bowl of some kind of soup.
Hamar said, “I think he'll be all right. You watch him. I want to see if I can get one of the guards to come to the door.”
When Hamar disappeared into the gloom, the group around the three young people began to draw in closer. There were about six of the strangers.
The one feeding the soup to Crusoe was the most frightening. He had a dwarfish body that looked as if it had been driven into a large lump with a huge mallet. His head was shapeless. A drooling mouth, a potato nose, and wicked little eyes under beetling brows stood out of the lumpy mass.
Beside him there was a pair of Gemini twinsâsmall females with long black hair and fair skin. Nothing frightening about them.
But the three strange creatures standing near the twins were like nothing Sarah had seen before. They were all small boned and very thin. They looked like athletes, runners perhaps. It was not their bodies, but something else that made Sarah draw closer to Jake and Dave.
” she whispered.
All three of the strange creatures had normal, rather attractive faces, except that each had one terribly disproportionate feature. One had huge eyes. In the darkness, they looked like twin mirrors.
Another had ears like those of an elephant. Even as Sarah whispered, one ear twitched in the direction of her voice, while the other independently swept the room like a radar antenna.
The third creature had a nose that extended at least six inches in front of his face. It twitched and moved like a piece of soft rubber tubing as he sniffed and snorted.
“We look stranger all the time, don't we?” Jake said with a crooked grin.
It did Sarah good to see the tough little redhead able to smile in such a dark place.
“Ah, you speak Oldworld!” said one of the strange creatures.
The travelers turned with a start toward the ugly gnome who had finished feeding Crusoe. The little man was smiling at them.
“What did you say?” asked Sarah nervously.
“You speak Oldworld talk,” he repeated and wrapped another blanket about Crusoe. Then he turned to them again. “Not so many people speak Oldworld anymore.”
His voice was very nice, much like that of a radio announcer. Now Sarah saw that the gleam in his eyes was not evil at allâjust bright and intelligent.
“Please, Mr. â¦” Sarah paused helplessly.
The gnome said, “My name Kybus.”
Solemnly, first Sarah, then Dave, and finally Jake shook the little gnome's hand.
“Well, Kybus, who are these people?” Dave asked, motioning to the three prisoners with the outsized features.
“They? Oh, you never seen Hunter before?”
“Which one is the hunter?” Jake asked.
is Hunter!” Kybus insisted with a nod. “All three is Hunter. They get after
âthey catch him! See, smell, hearâthey get him.”
One of the pretty Gemini twins said something in a language filled with R's.
Kybus turned to them, and for a long moment he seemed to be weighing something in his mind. Finally he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Are you in the House?”
The three young people looked at each other in bewilderment.
“What house?” Sarah asked.
Kybus looked at them, but did not answer. Finally he said, “You better eat, rest now.”
Then the young people began to eat some of the broth that Crusoe had been fed. When they finished, they went to sleep so suddenly it was almost comical. Jake fell into a doze in the middle of a sentence, and Sarah was limp with exhaustion.
They had no way of measuring time, but when Sarah awoke she felt that she had slept the clock around.
“Jake? Dave?” she called.
“They still asleep,” a voice said.
Sarah sat up to see Kybus standing beside Crusoe, who was sitting up in bed.
“Oh, Mr. Crusoe, you're better!” she cried. She ran to his side and took his hands.
“For now I am, thanks to our friend here.” Crusoe nodded at Kybus. “Are you all right?” he asked Sarah.
“Wellâyes, butâoh, Mr. Crusoe, poor Josh!”
She began to weep.
Crusoe did not answer, but she felt his frail hands stroking her hair.
Their voices had awakened the others. Immediately Jake and Dave, with Mat close at their sides, drew around them in a circle.
Jake began questioning almost at once. “Say, what's this âhouse' they keep talking about? And why are we here?”
Crusoe held up his hand. “My boy, Kybus here can tell you about the House. It's the reason he and all the others are in this place.” He paused, and they looked at him expectantly.
The gnome softly cleared his throat and spoke. “Everywhere in Nuworld, there is people who believe that One is coming. Yes, One is coming. And He is building House.”
Kybus fell into a speech pattern that Sarah seemed to recognize but couldn't quite place. It was flowing, and it rose in intensity from time to time.
Finally Sarah recognized what it was. “He's
!” she whispered.
The others nodded, for they had all heard this cadence from certain intense preachers and rabbis on religious occasions. Kybus was saying that a Deliverer would come and make the world good again. Evil would be eliminated, and justice would flow back into the world.
“Sounds like a prophet,” Jake murmured.
Finally Kybus drew to a close. Yet, his last line astonished Sarah more than anything he had said before. He gravely announced, “The Deliverer will comeâwhen the Seven Sleepers wake!”
“What!” Dave exclaimed. He looked at the others with wild eyes.
“Do you thinkâ” Sarah began.
“I'll be aâ”Jake began.
Suddenly there was a clanging sound as the gate closed. Soon two guards appeared and threw a limp body down at their feet.
“The girl,” one of the guards commanded, nodding at Sarah.
They reached for Sarah, but before they could drag her off, Crusoe put his hands on her head, and Sarah heard him saying something. She could not understand the words, but as he spoke, a warm sense of security suddenly filled her. She drew back and looked with wide eyes at the old man. “Thank you, Mr. Crusoe. I'll be all right now.”
She turned and walked quietly away with the guards.
“Well, I'll say this,” Jake said in quiet amazement as they left, “she has got courage!”
“She has more than that,” Crusoe said softly.
The voices of her friends faded into the distance as Sarah calmly followed the guard. She was in such a strange state. She knew she should be frightened, but she had no fear at allâjust a strange sense of being watched and loved.
Her captors led her into a room where six redcloaked men sat at a long table. Yet even at the sight of the menacing strangers, Sarah's serenity held. She felt that she was somehow outside herself, looking on. She saw herself pushed into a hard chair. Then she saw one of the hooded priests nod.
From the darkness along the wall, a frightening figure wearing a cloak with mystic symbols began to make weird gestures and mutter garbled phrases. There was a sense of evil in the room. Sarah knew that if she had not been wrapped in some sort of protective spell, she would have been totally at the mercy of this sorcerer.
“Well, is she ready?” Elmas asked, for it was he indeed.
“IâI cannot say. There is something interfering with the spell.”
“If you are too incompetent to deal with a small child, perhaps we need a new sorcerer!”
“No! She is ready!” the sorcerer said quickly.
“Very well. Begin the Questioning,” Elmas commanded.
And then Sarah felt very strange. The sorcerer and the six red-robed men began to shoot tortuous questions at her.
“Who are you? Where do you come from?” they demanded.
Even in her strange state, Sarah knew that if these men found out who she was, it would be death to all her companions. Just as she began to give way a little before the questioners, a sudden knowledge invaded her. It was more striking than a spoken voice, for she seemed not to hear it with her ears alone but with her whole body.
Do not be afraid. I will help you to answer all questions
,” the voice assured her.
So it was that Sarah heard herself responding, but she knew that she was not controlling her words.
Finally Elmas said, “Enough! Bring in the old man. There is nothing in this one.”
As she went toward the door, Sarah heard someone mutter, “This Uprising is getting out of hand.”
“Uprising!” Elmas snarled furiously. “When I am through, there will be no Uprisingâif there ever has been. I think it is a tale made up by children and idiots!”
“Very likely, my lord,” another said smoothly. “And what shall we do with these prisoners?”
“Split them up,” Elmas ordered roughly. “All of them to different work camps. Let them serve in the mines. They will not be able to follow their so-called deliverer if they're worked to death!”