5. Babies in Christ

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Chapter V
Babies in Christ

 

With my dream and hope shattered, I withdrew to the shelter of my memories, shunning the surroundings of the cruel outside world which Necrom’s wagon passed by.  Thoughts of our enthusiastic dash into the forest, each morning.  Excited by the opportunity to be in service to a returning king, we were selfless in our effort.  Then the overwhelming joy experienced each evening as we presented our humble offering at the collection barrel.  The peaceful exuberance which we experienced each night, dreaming of the promising future and rich reward which had been set aside for our willing service to the King.  The companionship of a close, trusting friend in which we shared a common hope and dream of our eternal life in the King’s revived forest.


“Why didn’t you tell me, Andy;” I kept wondering?  “Why didn’t you come back and tell me?  Why?”

Finally, I asked Necrom sharply, “Did you see my friend, Andy or not?”

He looked at me and nodded his head confirming his words, “Yes!  I saw someone yesterday who may have been your friend.  It was just up the road a piece, at one of the large clearings.”

Necrom then turned his head back in the direction we were traveling, saying nothing else.

“Well, which way was he going?” I demanded.

“He wasn’t going anywhere,” Necrom snapped.  “He was sitting. Talking with one of your so-called travelers on his trail.”

Then Necrom added with a smirk, “A crimson trail, I think they call it.”

Concern came over me as Necrom made mention of the traveler, “You say, he was with a traveler.  Solo always warned us of the traveler.  Remember, I told you I saw one yesterday – and his magic feather.  It must be the same one.”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know if he’s the same one or not.  And don’t really care.  But I’ll tell you something, kid.  You need to wise up and stop believing all that mumbo-jumbo people feed you.  Nobody is going to help you less there’s something in it for them.  Solo fed you a line to hoodwink you into picking berries for him.  But in return; he gave you food, shelter, and protection.  Plus, right or wrong, he gave you a little hope to get you through each day.  I guess you were probably better off back in Solo’s little protected world.  Sorry to have to be the one to show you the reality of a cruel world, kid.  But it’s a tough life out there.  And you were going to find it out soon enough – all on your own.”

On my own, I had never been on my own.  But I did realize that I would never be able to go back to Solo’s camp, I had too many questions.  And Solo was not the type to entertain questions.  Looking back, I now remembered previous instances. Instances, in which, older members of the camp had questioned camp policies.  Shortly thereafter, these inquiring persons had always been nominated by the elders for some special scouting expedition and directed to proceed in a particular direction.  The next morning, the camp would break and head in the opposite direction.  The questioning servant would never be seen, or heard of, in camp again.  With the uncertainty of such a future, I reasoned – why go back?  I would just continue my search for Andy.  And when I found him, we could figure out just what was.

“Did he look frightened?” I ask in earnest.

“What?” Necrom replied.

“Andy!  Did he look frightened when you saw him with the traveler?” I demanded, growing inpatient with Necrom’s inability to provide speedier information.

“Oh, yeah!  Your friend,” he answered.  “No, he wasn’t frightened at all.  In fact, he looked quite at ease.”

“Well, did you speak to them?” I pressed.

“No!  I didn’t speak to ’em.”

“Well, did they speak to you?”

“No!  Don’t you understand?  No one said anything to anyone.”

“You didn’t even hear the feathers whispering in the wind?

“No!  Nothing!”

“Well, I can’t believe you didn’t ask him what he was doing out there all alone with that stranger.  Gosh!  What kind of person are you?”

“The kind who doesn’t stick his nose in other people’s business.”

“It doesn’t bother you that you came upon a kidnapping in progress and you didn’t attempt to hinder the traveler at all.”

“Hinder what!  They were just sitting there.”

I let out a sigh of disgust and said nothing else.

In a few moments; Necrom broke the silence, “That’s the clearing just ahead where your friend was.”

I stood in the wagon, straining to see if anyone was still in the area.

“Andy!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.  “Andy, can you hear me?”

Nothing!

Necrom pulled to a stop as I leaped from the wagon and ran to the clearing.  No one was there.

“Andy!” I cried.  “Andy!  Where are you?”

I ran round the area in a broad sweep, looking for some indication to which direction they could have departed.  The clearing appeared to be a major crossway since footprints in the sand headed in all directions.  Shaking my head, I sat on a fallen log and buried my head in my hands.

Necrom crawled down from the wagon, fetching one of his jugs as he did and walked over to the log.  He took a seat beside me and uncorked his jug.

“Did you think he’d still be here?” Necrom asked.

“I was hoping,” I replied.

We sat in silence for a moment before Necrom spoke up, “What you going to do now, kid?”

“I don’t know,” I answered in a defeated tone. I’d hoped that Andy would still be here.”

Necrom took a long drink from his jug and pass it over to me. Noting the puzzled look on my face; he chuckled before reassuring me, “It’s okay, kid.  This one’s my juice jug, no grog in here.”

With that, I gladly accepted his offer and drank my fill of the sweet berry juice.  Never had I drank anything so refreshing.                                         

“You know, kid;” he continued.  “I’ve been thinking some lately of taking on a helper.  Not for long, just so I could catch up a little.  You don’t have a place to stay now, so if you.”

His voice trailed off to a mumble as he finished his offer.  I didn’t know if he was serious in his need for help, or if he only felt sorry for me.  But regardless, I had business to tend to.

“I thank you for your offer, Necrom.  However; I have a friend who may be in serious need.  I have to keep looking for Andy.”

“Well you needn’t thank me,” Necrom replied with a false snap.  “It was hard work you’d have been looking at.  And remember, I stated not for long.”

“Yes, Necrom!  I understand what you’re saying.”

“Okay, just so you understand.”

I passed the jug back to him and stood.

“Well, sir.  I must be on my way.  I thank you and owe you a debt of gratitude for your assistance.  I hope to be in a position to repay you, some day.”

He said nothing as I stepped back from the old traveling fruit distiller.  Taking one last look at this man, I wondered where he would stand at the King’s return.

“May the King find refreshment in your jug,” I softly whispered while turning to face my calling.  Then questioned myself, “Which way do I go?”

Footprints headed in all directions.  Scratching my head, I stepped off slowly, my eyes glued to the ground with the hope a set of footprints would strike me as Andy’s.

Then Necrom called from the distance,  “If memory serves me right, the travelers always move in the direction of an old pine – over to your right.”

I looked up and saw the pine to which Necrom made reference.  Sure enough, a few prints were headed in that direction.  Looking back in my departing friend’s direction, he gave a silent nod and motioned me on my way.  Turning back to the pine, I sighted in my course and stepped off in a business like stride.

“Hang in there, Andy.  I’m on my way,” I confidently proclaimed.

—————–

 

I walked for some time through the forest.  The footprints had disappeared long ago.  The sand around the clearing had been replaced by a thick carpet of fallen leaves.  Several times, I had retraced my steps, in hope, I had missed a clue as to the direction of Andy and the traveler was headed.  An occasional broken twig would give me a glimmer of hope that I was still on the right way.  Then the possibility I might have lost Andy’s trail, for good started to worry me.  I did not even notice the toddlers sitting beneath an old oak tree.  Stepping into the clearing, I suddenly realized their presence. The babies appeared to be in the middle of a heated debate.

“We must provide a comfortable bench, with a cushion,” the first baby demanded.

“I agree,” a second baby quickly responded.  “We can’t expect anyone to become interested in our work, if they aren’t comfortable.”

“But you’ve still got to keep some sort of control,” the third baby jumped in.  “You put a nice comfortable seat out here; and you never know who may happen to sit on it.”

“That’s true,” the first baby agreed.  “Remember the one who came in and thought we ought to toss more flower seed out in the forest.”

“Yeah!” the second chimed in.  “And the one that said we should be spending more time with the flowers because we didn’t understand their meaning.”

Oh!” the third added.  “Don’t forget that one that came up out of the swamp.  Whew!!  Did he smell!”

“Uhumm!” The other two said in unison as all three shivered at the thought at the thought of the swamp visitor.

“So we all agree a new seat is a good idea,” the third baby concluded.  “However!  Access must be controlled.”

“Okay!” the second quickly agreed.

The two agreeing babies turned to the silent third.

“Welllll,” a teetering voice responded.     

“Maybe we ought to . . .”

“Excuse me!” I blurted out.  My frustration had overtaken my manners.  But their rudeness was intolerable.

A look of disgust spread across the three faces as they turned toward the intruder.  The displeasure of an unwelcome interruption reflected in their piercing glares.

“Well!” snapped the first.

“Of all the nerve”, countered the second.

“Do you believe it?” concluded the third.

The debating trio stood astounded by this irritating interruption.

“Excuse me for interrupting,” I quickly apologized; “but I needed to ask a question.  Have . . .?”

Before I could finish, my question was cut short by the first baby; “What!  Do you think you can just walk up here! Break into our conversation! Uninvited!  And demand information from us!”

Quickly, the second continued the attack; “The three of us happen to have been involved in an extremely important discussion which did not involve you, or your unsolicited input.”

“Now!” the third baby scolded while shaking a vicious finger in my face.  “I suggest you go over to that log over there and sit quietly while we finish our conversation.  And then, we’ll consider your query.”

The three babies then turned, resuming their debate.

“It just goes to show you we must control access, if we’re going to put out a new seat.”

“You’re so right,” the other two agreed.  The third looked back to see I still hadn’t move from their range of conversation.

“I told you, if you have a question – go wait on that log!” the baby chided while shooing me away.  “Now! Off with you.”

Shaking my head, I moved away from the babies and toward the log. 

“Maybe I should rest a bit,” I thought to myself.  “These little guys look like they may have been here awhile.  Good chance they might have seen Andy and the traveler.”

I plopped sideways down on the rotting log, leaning back against a sturdy limb.  By the time I had positioned myself on the log; the three nurslings had totally recuperated from the interruption and were again deeply engrossed with their real concern.

“If we put it there I won’t be able to sleep.”

Disinterested in the pettiness of their conversation, my boredom turned from the debate at hand and more toward my immediate surroundings.  The tree appeared to have fallen long ago and was quite weathered.  With its protective bark picked away; the smooth, exposed core lay defenseless to predator and the elements.  Numerous gouges and scares along the length of the seat served as evidence I was certainly not the first questioner to be shunted over to this little neglected waiting area.  Weeds grew all around and ivy had taken over one end of the log.  Picking up a small pointed stick, I began to poke and dig at the decaying wood. Rotting wood fibers fell unnoticed to the ground as I dug in silence.

Repositioning myself, I glanced over in the direction of the ongoing squabble.  An endless stream of trivial pros and cons flowed from the group.  Were my interest of not such an urgent matter, the sight of this rude little trio would be only a distant memory.

But for the moment, I figured my best hope was in questioning this obnoxious troop, so my prodding on the log continued as I swung my feet along the ground.  It was this swinging motion that drew my attention to the soft brush of lilies against my feet.  A small patch of white lilies grew alongside the fallen tree.  The small forgotten garden site now served as home to both the lily and a briar rose bush.  Bending down, I snapped one of the lily stems and brought the sweet flagrance to my nose.  The refreshing scent soothed me with an interwarmth.

“Hey!  Hey!” my peace broken by the reprimanding voice of one of the babies.  “Those lilies are not there for just anyone to pick.  We hold a charge to those plants and are responsible for their proper administration and distribution.”

“That’s right,” the second one jumped in.  “Those flowers reflect the history of the forest and hold the keys to the Kingdom.  Only the chosen understand their secret.”

Well,” the third snapped; “that one is ruined now.  Just like I keep stressing; with no control, we’re not in control.  They’ll just keep coming in here – and one day, drive us away if we’re not careful.”

“They mentioned the Kingdom,” I whispered to myself.

“Excuse me!” I shouted from the log.  “You say these lilies hold secrets of the Kingdom.  Is that the Kingdom of our returning King?”

“Oh, gosh;” one of the three murmured, in disgust.

“Yes,” the second answered me with a heavy sigh.  “How ever does that concern you?”

A new spark of hope shot through my spirit.

“I’m a follower of the collector’s teaching.  My camp gathered and stored for the King’s return.

“Oh, great;” one exclaimed.  “He’s a fruit gatherer.”

“Uhn?” with a puzzled query.

“You know,” was the snubbed reply.  “Works!  Constantly producing!  Earn your way!  Those things!”

“Oh!  Ohh! One of those!”

The three babies huddled together whispering occasionally glancing back toward the log.  Finally; they turned back and the first one ask, “What did you want?”

“At last!” I sighed.  “I only wanted to ask, if you may have seen a traveler passing

“Traveler!  We’re travelers,” the plump one replied as though offended.

“Yes,” the second one added.  “That should have been obvious to you, I’d think.”

“Now see what I mean,” the third joined in.  “If we don’t control these drifters always coming in and out of here looking for something, we’ll never get anything accomplished.”

The three of infants once again became occupied by their private conversation with my question and presence forgotten.

I turned my attention back to the log; my vent for frustration, until a sudden rustle at the end of the log startled me.  My eyes widened as a small snake slithered through the leaves of the ivy, just out of my reach.  It appeared comfortable with the situation, more so than me.  I inched slowly along the log, hoping to farther myself from the serpent. But my efforts were in vain, for the snake continued to glide right along with me.

Having retreated as far as possible, I was now trapped against the base of the tree.  I launched a feeble assault against my attacker using the only defense I held – the white lily.

Striking timidly at my foe, the snake coiled, hissed, and then swayed to the movement of the dangling flower.  The graceful motion of the dance proved hypnotic as we made eye contact.  Slowly, the serpent made contact with the base of the plant and wound methodically round the stem.  The lily eased from my hand and dropped to the ground due to the constricting pull of the serpent.  Locked in his powerful trance, I knew the snake had effortlessly disarmed me. Still I was unable to move, the snake curled against me.  His head rose slowly.

My eyes fastened in on his.   Closer, the reptile drew to my face. With my breathing heavy, his cold    black eyes reflected my helplessness.

The flicking tongue sensed the     tremendous fear in my heart. Totally in his control, he posed to strike. However; he never made his deadly strike.  The swish of a powerful, flaming sword suddenly cut the still air.  My eyes followed the downward glow.  As it made contact with the tree, a scorched serpent fell smoldering on the ground beneath the log.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than a two edged sword!” the victor proudly proclaimed.

His flaming sword – the white lily which I had once held.

 


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