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Authors: Paul McCusker

The Marus Manuscripts

BOOK: The Marus Manuscripts
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As superior storytelling often does, the Passages series by Paul McCusker unlocks doors to the heart so that truth can make its home there. Unrelenting action, powerful themes, and endearing characters—that’s what you’ll find in Passages. Readers will leap right into the fantastic world of Marus and discover biblical accounts brought to life in riveting new ways.

—W
AYNE
T
HOMAS
B
ATSON

Bestselling author of The Door Within Trilogy:
Isle of Swords, Isle of Fire,
and
Curse of the Spider King

Passages isn’t just a good read, it’s an exhilarating ride . . . and into a parallel realm ripe with adventure, suspense, biblical allegory, and pure imagination. This is storytelling at its best.

—T
HE
M
ILLER
B
ROTHERS

Award-winning authors of
Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow

Biblical truths wrapped up in a wonderful mixture of adventure and page-turning suspense.

—B
ILL
M
YERS

Author of the My Life As . . . series

What fun it is to realize that one character in Passages represents a real person in the Bible. New insight opens up as the reader walks with a child from [our world] in the world of Marus.

—D
ONITA
K. P
AUL

Author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles

I love this series of books because you can find a similar Bible story. This is a great book for people who love adventure.

—I
SAAC
H.,
AGE 13

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Passages books are so great! . . . I really like how they [are about] kids who’ve been exported to another world. . . . If you enjoy books about other world but can’t seem to find any that are clean and spiritually uplifting, Passages is the series for you.

—C
HRISTIAN
A.,
AGE 14

Martin, Tennessee

Passages is now one of my favorite series. When I was reading them, I felt like I was there with the characters.

—G
RACE
O.,
AGE 14

Goodfield, Illinois

Arin’s Judgment
retells a familiar story with a new twist, and in my opinion, this book has an excellent one! I highly recommend it to any book lover or to anyone who is interested in finding out more about Passages!

—L
UKE
P.,
AGE 17

Franklin, Tennessee

PASSAGES: THE MARUS MANUSCRIPTS, Volume 1

© 2012 Focus on the Family.

ISBN: 978-1-58997-750-1

The books in this collection were previously published as

D
ARIEN’S
R
ISE

© 1999, 2010, 2012 Focus on the Family. Internal Illustrations © 2010 Focus on the Family.

A
NNISON’S
R
ISK

© 1999, 2010, 2012 Focus on the Family. Internal Illustrations © 2010 Focus on the Family.

A
RIN’S
J
UDGMENT

© 1999, 2010, 2012 Focus on the Family. Internal Illustrations © 2010 Focus on the Family.

A Focus on the Family book published by

Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Focus on the Family and the accompanying logo and design are federally registered trademarks and Passages is a trademark of Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995.

TYNDALE and Tyndale’s quill logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior permission of Focus on the Family.

With the exception of known historical characters, all characters are the product of the author’s imagination.

Editors: Larry Weeden and Mick Silva

Cover design, cover illustration, and interior illustrations by Mike Harrigan.

Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is available by contacting the Library of Congress
at
http://www.loc.gov/help/contact-general.html
.

ISBN 978-1-62405-084-8 (ePub); ISBN 978-1-62405-085-5 (Kindle); ISBN 978-1-62405-083-1 (Apple)

Build: 2013-04-05 08:24:44

MARUS MANUSCRIPT 1
THE CHRONICLES OF THE CHOSEN
D
ARIEN’S
R
ISE

Manuscript date: October 3, 1958

K
yle and Anna pressed on through the thick, green forest.

“Come on!” Kyle ordered his younger sister impatiently.

Anna had been snagged by the wild underbrush. “I’m going as fast as I can,” she insisted. “Why don’t they have paths in these woods?”

“Because they’re old woods, and nobody comes here anymore,” Kyle answered. “You remember what Uncle Bill said. Now hurry up!”

“Uncle Bill might have been pulling our leg,” Anna said. She broke free from the underbrush. Old twigs snapped like firecrackers under her feet. “Slow down, Kyle!” she called as she raced to catch up.

Kyle slowed a little, but not enough for Anna to notice. He was a stubborn 12-year-old who would never openly concede to doing something nice for his 10-year-old sister.

She puffed irritably behind him. “I knew this would happen,” she said. “I should have stayed with Grandma.”

“And get bored stiff,” Kyle reminded her.

Anna didn’t respond. Kyle was right. Since they’d come to stay with their grandparents at the beginning of the summer, they’d been bored. As a couple of “city kids,” they found it hard to cope with the slower pace and less-sophisticated pleasures of a small town. Their grandparents did their best to keep the two kids active, but there was only so much that could hold their interest. Kyle
and Anna finally admitted to themselves that they’d made a big mistake when they let their parents talk them into going for a month.

A glimmer of hope arose, however, when their uncle Bill came to visit just last evening and told them about an old, mysterious house in the middle of the woods. He said it had been empty for years. Some said it was haunted, others that it was magical, while still others claimed it once belonged to an eighteenth-century pirate who’d buried his treasure in the garden. “Whatever it is,” Uncle Bill said, “it might be a fun way to pass the time.”

Both Grandma and Grandpa pooh-poohed the story. Neither of them could remember an old house in the woods. But Uncle Bill insisted it was there, not far from Darien’s Creek in what they called the Black Forest.

Kyle was immediately intrigued and wanted Uncle Bill to draw a map. Uncle Bill scribbled directions as well as he could remember them—he hadn’t been there since he was a child, he admitted. Kyle said he would go the next day if it was all right with his grandparents.

“Sure, you can go,” his grandfather said. “But you won’t find anything.”

Anna didn’t agree to go with Kyle until the next morning. She didn’t really want to, but she thought it would be better than holding Grandma’s yarn while she knitted. Now—in the middle of the hot and humid Black Forest—she thought of that yarn and a tall glass of lemonade and wished she’d stayed behind in spite of the boredom.

Kyle tripped on a rock and fell, getting covered in dark mulch. Dead leaves stuck to his close-cropped, blond hair. Two circles of wet dirt formed on the knees of his jeans. “I’ll bet nobody’s walked through here in years,” he said happily.

Anna didn’t understand her brother. How could he be happy? It upset her to discover that her white sneakers were now a spotted brown. Her pants were streaked and smudged with dirt and decaying bark. She had torn the sleeve on her shirt. This expedition was turning into a disaster as far as she was concerned.

And what would they do if they didn’t find a house? Worse, she thought, what if they did find it and it was all the things Uncle Bill had said? Maybe that pirate still haunted the house, scaring away strangers who hoped to dig up his treasure.

“That would be cool!” Kyle said when Anna told him her worries.

No, she didn’t understand her brother at all.

Half an hour later, she was beyond trying to understand him and openly complained that it was time to go home. “The house doesn’t exist,” she said. “Uncle Bill was just teasing us.”

Kyle wouldn’t hear of it. “It’s around here somewhere. It has to be.”

Another half hour went by, and Anna began to worry out loud that they were lost.

“We’re not lost!” Kyle snapped. “I never should have let you come along. All you do is gripe, gripe, gripe!”

“I want to go home,” she said and abruptly sat down right where she was. “I’m tired and thirsty.”

Kyle towered over her with his hands on his hips. “Then go home,” he told her. “I don’t care.”

“I’ll get lost,” she said.

“That’s not my problem.”

“It will be if Mom and Dad find out you let me wander around alone in some strange woods.”

He groaned.

“You know I’m right.”

“You really get on my nerves,” he said with a frown.

“That makes us even.”

“Yeah, sure.” Kyle glanced ahead longingly. He wanted to go on. But he had to admit—not out loud, though—that he was getting tired too. He sighed deeply, then said casually, “Okay, let’s go back. But first you’d better knock that bug out of your hair.”

Anna had long, thick, brown hair and lived in horror that a bug would hide in it somewhere. One night before bed, she had brushed a small spider out of it. She had screamed loudly enough to wake up the neighbors. The police had come. She’d had nightmares for a week.

If there had been any sleeping neighbors in these woods—or police—the situation would have repeated itself. She screamed out one long note, leaped to her feet, and danced wildly while flicking her hair with both hands. “Get it out! Get it out!” she shrieked.

Of course the bug flew away the instant Anna moved, but that didn’t stop her from screaming, dancing, and flicking for a full seven minutes.

As Kyle tried to calm her down, he caught a glimpse of the house through the trees.

“This is incredible!” Kyle exclaimed. “I told you we’d find it!”

The house stood awkwardly in an area so thick with trees that the sunlight couldn’t break through. It looked completely out of place.

“What’s it doing here?” Anna whispered. “It’s like it got lost from all the other houses and died here. Why would anyone want to build a house in the middle of nowhere?”

“I don’t know,” Kyle said breathlessly as he circled around to the front. It was everything Uncle Bill had said: big, empty, and
mysterious. Part of it reminded him of an English castle, with walls made of large blocks of uncut stone and a tower sticking up from the corner. It had round, arched windows leading up to a conelike roof. Then it was as if the builder had gotten bored with that idea and decided to do something else. The rest of the house looked Gothic, with decorative gables, ornamental shingles, and shuttered windows jutting out of long walls. The porch was framed by intricate molding on the rails between the slim posts. It surrounded three sides of the house as if it were a belt meant to hold it all together.

Kyle’s imagination went wild with images of pirates, secret meetings, and treasure. “Maybe Darien’s Creek used to be a big river that led to the sea,” he said. “I’ll bet the pirates brought their ships in and hid here.”

“Pirates?” Anna asked with a loud gulp. She hadn’t forgotten the image of the ghost of a captain protecting his booty.

They slowly approached the steps leading up to the long front porch. Closer now, they could see how dark and dirty the place was. Windows were broken out. A tree had fallen and smashed through a wall on the far side. Portions of the roof had collapsed, the wood having given up its strength and decomposed a long time ago. Kyle reached the front door. It was made of heavy wood, worn and scarred, with panels of glazed glass, most of which were shattered.

“This is great!” Kyle said.

Anna lingered behind. She didn’t believe in haunted houses, but this looked too much like the kind she’d seen in the movies.

“I don’t like it,” she groaned. “Let’s go home.” She knew Kyle wouldn’t listen to her. He never listened to her. Nobody did, as far as she was concerned. She was just a little girl without a voice.

He tried the door handle. It turned, and the door opened with
a loud creaking sound. Kyle winced at the smells of rotten wood, mold, and animal droppings.

Anna stayed by the steps. “Kyle!” she called.

“Stay out here if you want to,” he said. He was turned away from her, so she couldn’t see his wry smile. “I’m sure the bugs will leave your hair alone.”

Anna hurried to Kyle’s side and held on to his arm.

The house looked as bad on the inside as it did on the outside. Cobwebs clung to the corners of the cracked ceiling and chipped plaster walls. Black smudges outlined the places where framed pictures had once hung. Leaves swirled and spread across the floor like brown fairies. Nests of branches and bush filled some of the corners and the fireplaces.

“Cool,” Kyle whispered.

The lower floor was made up of what was once a spacious living room, a library (with collapsed bookshelves), a dining room that led into what must have been the kitchen, and a small pantry. After their tour, Anna insisted that they go home.

“Not yet,” Kyle said. “Not until I see the whole house.” He started walking up the stairs. They protested with creaks and groans.

Anna looked around nervously and knew they’d made a mistake. They shouldn’t have come here. Why didn’t Uncle Bill learn to keep his mouth closed? Why couldn’t she make Kyle listen to her?

“Hey! Is anybody here?” Kyle suddenly called out when they reached the top of the stairs.

Anna jumped. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” she protested.

“Do you hear that?” he asked her softly, cocking his ear.

“Hear what?”

He hesitated as he listened again. “Voices. I hear someone talking.”

“You’re trying to scare me,” Anna said nervously.

“No, I’m serious,” Kyle said, then crept along the second floor. “Back here.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

They passed a couple of open doors that led into what were probably bedrooms. Their condition was the same as that of the rooms on the first floor.

“I don’t like this,” Anna whispered again. The floor beneath her felt wobbly. They were walking on loose boards. Kyle ignored her and pressed on down the corridor. He stopped at a closed door.

“In here,” Kyle said softly. Putting his ear against the rotten wood, he listened, then whispered, “Someone’s in here.”

Anna watched her brother carefully. Was he teasing her, or had he been out in the woods too long?

“Can’t you hear them?”

“No,” she replied sullenly.

Kyle shot her an annoyed look, then knelt down and peeked in the keyhole. His eyes grew wider than she’d ever seen them. He gasped. “There are people in there!”

“Cut it out, Kyle,” she demanded. “You’re not funny.” All her instincts told her to run away as fast as she could. But she didn’t dare. She knew he’d never stop teasing her for falling for his joke.

He continued in a low whisper, “It’s so weird! They’re dressed in old-fashioned clothes. Like . . . like . . . uniforms and . . .” He couldn’t find the words to describe it and gave up. “The room is full of furniture and paintings and . . .” His voice trailed off. “This doesn’t make any sense. How can there be a room like this in an abandoned house?”

Anna tugged at his arm. “Let’s get out of here!” she begged.

“But you have to see this,” he insisted.

“I don’t care! Let’s go before we get in trouble!”

“Look first. I want to prove I’m not crazy.” He stepped back so she could see into the keyhole.

Anna figured the only way to get Kyle out of the house was to do what he said. She bent down to look. At first she didn’t see anything. She squinted and looked again. The room was there, but it was as empty and run-down as the rest of the house. “I don’t see anything,” she said.

“Look harder!” Kyle whispered.

She did. The room was still empty and run-down. “Kyle—” she began to say.

Suddenly they heard a loud crack. The floorboards beneath Kyle’s feet buckled, then gave way. Kyle shouted as he fell backward. His hands clawed at the air. Anna reached for him, but it was too late. He crashed through the floor.

Anna crawled on her hands and knees to the edge of the gaping hole of old wood and splinters. “Kyle!” she screamed.

She couldn’t see below. The hole was black except for a swirling cloud that Anna thought was dust from the ceiling plaster. The cloud spun around and around but didn’t clear. If Kyle was down there, Anna couldn’t figure out where he was.

BOOK: The Marus Manuscripts
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