Chapter Nine: Mythology in Transit
As we walked along, we enjoyed the quiet for awhile. It was actually getting rather nice. No screaming, no monsters hiding under flat people banging me against the ceiling, a cool breeze wafting from somewhere in the distance.. The woman cleared her throat, and I realized she was getting her voice back, which was good for her returning strength. But she was also really mad at me, which was no fun.
“You, sir, treated me most shabbily!” said the woman in a quiet voice, but much louder than the murmurs she had managed earlier. “Had I the power” she continued, ”I would gladly have done to you what you did to my poor Doctra.”
“Doctra?” I asked.
The woman pouted.“I’m sure you know who I mean. That poor innocent creature you set the dogs on” she said.
“You mean that armored beastie who bashed me about the roof and walls?” I asked. The woman smiled faintly.
“I did tell you, you had no business being here” she said, and I heard Steve chuckle. ”But really, you scared the poor thing”
“Uhhh-huh.” Was all I could say to that.
“Listen, since you’re getting a little stronger” I said, seeing her slowly raise one arm which seemed to gradually be shrinking back to a normal length and gaining definition, “My name is Daniel. And you are?”
“Miss Precept, to you” said the woman. “And you can forget about getting chummy with me, I shall be leaving as soon as I catch my breath.
“And I’ll thank you to give me back my Doctra!”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Miss Precept” I said. “That Doctra is a demon, and it’s got to go up topside to face Judgment.
Miss Precept looked shocked, and began to cry.
“You’re not going to hurt the poor thing!” she shouted, in a voice much louder than before. She was almost, but not quite, able to put weight on her legs. Steve and I caught her as she fell down. She slapped gently at us as we set her back on her seat.
“It’s already been through too much as it is, with those vicious hounds of yours!” she said, peering angrily at Arf, who didn’t make things better by laughing.
“Hey, he started it, we finished it” retorted Arf.
“Look, Miss Precept” I said, “We have to take the demon back, that’s no choice. But you can leave or come along as you choose.”
“If you’re taking my Doctra with you” snapped Miss Precept, almost fully human in shape and size now, ”Then I am certainly coming along to keep you from hurting any more on the way.”
Miss Precept looked around at our group.
“Hmf.” she said, ”From the look of you all, I’d be very interested to see how you handle your judgments.”
Arf and I looked at each other, and Arf winked. Lou looked a little nervous. Steve looked like he wonder how far it was to the nearest bar.
Off in the distance, we heard a muffled thud, and the sound of something large and angry. Arf’s ears perked up.
“Oooookay, more playtime!” she cried. ”C’mon, let’s get going!”I found weapons in my backpack for everyone, and we moved ahead.
I gained some confidence as we moved ahead. While whatever was waiting for us was definitely large and unhappy, the sheer number of bumps and thuds indicated it was none too agile. Then again, it might just trip and fall on me. Vaguely, I wondered why Arf never seemed to have these worries...
“Hey, holy guy” called out Steve from behind me. “Explain something to me, since you’re all wise and stuff.”
“I’ll try” I said, “and although I’m sure you already know, I’m not holy, just doing the job.”
“Yeah, sure” returned Steve. “Anyway, I was thinking:
“You’re telling us how you’re here to help us, and how God is all love and happiness and stuff.
“So, why are you carrying a bagful of weapons? Is that to ‘persuade’ anyone who won’t listen to you?”
Look, Steve” I said, “it’s not as if I use these on any people. And by the way, I’d suggest you don’t try to hit any people with it”
“Oh, really” said Steve, moving over towards John, and waving his mace a bit. “What if I sort of, you know, ‘missed accidentally’ -” and he swung the mace with full force towards John-and the mace, of itself, swung back onto Steve’s hand. Stevce howled with pain and dropped the mace.
“That’s why” I explained. “Now, pick up the mace with the other hand and don’t fool around like that.
“These weapons are made to be used on evil, and that’s all they’ll hurt.”
“Ohhhh, now I’m evil?” he asked.
“Well, it hit your arm” I said. “Maybe it’s you, but mostly it’s just what was in your heart when you tried to hit John.
“Anyway, it’s a good thing, I think.” I said, “You don’t have to worry about hitting one of your buddies, even if you don’t like them.”
“By the way” said Lou, “Where are you getting all these weapons, anyway?”
“Check the writing” I suggested.“Writing?” asked Lou and Steve and John, as they looked more closely at their weapons.
“Hey, there’s an inscription on my sword” said John, “Then David ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword” he read.
“I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall glory in his name” read Lou.
“Ahhhh, swell” muttered Steve, “to fight monsters, we have to use weapons with primitive superstitious sayings etched on them.”
“Well, Steve” I said, “if you don’t like the mace, you don’t have to use it. How do you feel about wrestling the forces of evil?”
Steve just shot me a mean look, but he kept the mace in his grip.
Stomping along as we approached the noisy darkness ahead, I decided Steve’s question had some merit, and caught with Arf to ask about it. She cocked her head an me and smiled.
“You’re not worried are you, Dan?” chuckled Arf.
“No that’s not it” I said, “but I was just thinking, that we seem to be getting into fighting pretty easily right now, and I wondered if I was being hasty.”
“Naaaah” assured Arf, ”In the first place, you and I have both been getting the same vibes, and you know we’re going to have to tackle some big baddies in this place and time. But I agree, that for all the fun, we need to be sure we don’t forget what we are about.
“Of course, “ continued Arf, ”that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t have fun doing the Lord’s will.”
“Fun, huh?” I countered. “I guess your back isn’t as sore as mine is right now” I complained.
“Ahh, you primates are always complaining about something.” said Arf. “If you get too tired, just let me know, okay?”
The fresh breeze turned into a steady wind, and I became aware that the cave roof had risen to somewhere far above. The sounds of our passage seemed much more open, as well. Remembering Scripture, I drew my sword and commanded it to light the way –And in the distance we saw a steep set of cliffs, of some pale rock, ending far above in a smooth curve of white stone. There was a funny smell, too, which I couldn’t place at first.
“Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, I shoulda brought the guys” murmured Arf. I turned to ask Arf what that was about, but I had a thought, and looked again at the cliffs.As five of them suddenly rose into the black sky, moving towards and above us, I suddenly realized that we were staring not at cliffs, but at the stupendous feet of a nephilim.
Who was in the process of trying to stomp on us.
Behind me, I heard a small voice suggest ”… run away?” , which would have been excellent advice, if there had been time.
Short answer is, there wasn’t time. Things got even darker, then things got heavy.After some time, it occurred to me that this might be karmic retribution for all the bugs I’d stepped on in my life. Assuming I had the chance, I meant to ask the Boss about that.I heard muffled noises, then nothing. Nothing but a bad smell and a worse feeling.I heard my sword ringing.At first, I figured it was my imagination, but I managed to reach down and pull it out, and sure enough, it was ringing and flashing, a pretty bell tone and a white/golden blink of light. I pulled the handle up closer and inspected it, trying to figure out how to answer it.
“Hello Daniel” said my Lord Jesus Christ (using my new name).
”What are you doing, lying on the ground under the giant’s toe like that?”
“I, uhhhh, wasn’t aware I had a choice” I replied.
”You always have a choice, Daniel” replied the Lord. “So, if you’d like to get on with the job, there’s a lot still to go.”
“Okay” I answered. “Ummm, since I can choose, could you clue me in on what my choices are?”
“I could just tell you” answered Jesus, ”but this is better used as a learning experience.
“I’m sure you’ll remember something useful.”
And with that, the call was over, as the sword stopped shining and went silent. I poked myself a couple times, trying to get it back into the sheath. For the record, I was not having fun.
I tried using a Word. The foot lifted a couple feet, then crashed back down on me. I presumed, from the pain, that this was not the intended lesson. So I thought some more.I laid there for a little while, despite my Lord’s remonstrations to get moving, and after awhile, I remembered that in Heaven, Jesus had been able to change His size at will. Maybe He meant I could do it, as well.“In the name of Jesus Christ” I intoned, “make me 500 feet high” I said, hoping that size would be suitable for the task.
I pondered the matter for a little longer, then remembered that Jesus had not said anything, He just did it. Then again, I didn’t figure Immanuel needed to ask His own permission.
I carefully concentrated, and rethought the size. Maybe a thousand feet would be best for dealing with a giant? If the toenail was 50 feet up, then .. I did some math and decided I needed to be about 5000 feet high. Anything was possible, so I aimed high, took a deep breath of the fetid air –I felt the giant, now much smaller than me, fall off and tumble to the ground. I was about to cheer, then felt my head smack hard against the cavern ceiling, and back down I went.
As the world spun around, I heard laughing.
I came to, again aware of an unpleasant smell. I found it impossible to move, and I seemed to be bent into an awkward position, facing down, with my arms and legs braced by ropes. A quick glance around confirmed that I had been separated from my backpack and weapons. I realized that the smell was coming from above, as someone was using me for a chair.
The guy sitting on me realized I was awake.
“Heeeeeey, Elvis is awake!” he announced. “C’mon, King, sing us a pretty song.”
“I’m not Elvis” I said, and the man laughed bawdily.
“Well, with that outfit, I guess you could be Evel Knievel, but he’d know how to miss bashing his own head on the roof.
“Anyway, Mister change-o-bang-o” continued the man, ”What do you think you’re doing, barging in like that? This is my place, and since you can change sizes, it’s not as if you can’t make do somewhere else.”
That was good news. In a flash, I not only realized what had happened before, so that I remembered now that I was facing, well, bound underneath one of the nephilim, but I also realized that the rest of my party had escaped his notice. I briefly wondered what had happened to Arf, who would never choose to miss a fight. A few moments’ thought did not illuminate. I let it go for now, hoping I would think of something when it was opportune.
“So, I’m Daniel” I offered, “Who are you?”
“Boneshear” announced the giant, “but don’t get too cozy. As far as I’m concerned, you’re just waiting for me to make up my mind about what to do with you.”
I heard heavy steps approach, and Boneshear stood. Either I had shrunk a bit, or the giant had grown since I first saw him. Things were just getting better and better, I griped to myself.Four more of the nephilim entered the opening. Boneshear picked me up with one hand, molded me as if into a ball, and tossed me at one of the arrivals.
“Hey, Slowdeath, catch!” he shouted, and the giant caught me easily with one hand, before throwing me down hard to the ground. The floor was still gravelly, and despite my relative size, it ground into my face and arms.The giants laughed together, and I had the unpleasant worry that I was about to become equipment in a game I would find distinctly painful and difficult to endure.Another one of the giants picked me up, and I tested the ropes. They remained tight and strong. I had the unpleasant feeling that if I tried to increase my size, they would bite into me, rather than fall away. As the second giant caromed me off the wall to another one, I remembered one of the Words, and spoke it.
Or tried to.
Nothing came out. I tried to mouth the words, as my breath failed, and Boneshear guffawed.
“Now then, you don’t think we’d allow that sort of language around here, do you?”
The giants all laughed together, as I came close to despair.
Time passed, though I can’t say how long. I vaguely wondered how my companions were getting along, hoping that they had not met some disaster because I couldn’t protect them. Just as I wondered what had happened to Arf, one of the giants answered, as if on cue.
“What are we going to do about that [------- ] dog?” he asked, swearing.
Boneshear laughed harshly. “Fancy that! First you get nipped by a pup almost smaller than the fleas in your hair, and now you’re worried it might come back!”
The giants roared in laughter at that, and the first one seemed ready to strike of his mates in anger. But the others had clearly taunted each other many times, and the offended brute couldn’t get close enough to any one, without two others blocking his way. Finally, one of the giants was able to get behind the first, and cuffed him sharply on the back of his head, so that he fell senseless to the floor.
“Oooo, that was a mistake on ‘im” crowed Slowdeath. ”Alrighty then, strip him!”
And the giants stripped the unconscious brute naked, and beating him a few more times for their amusement, they walked off towards a table and began to eat what looked like rotten vegetables and muddy stones.
“Speaking of morons,” began one of their number, ”Where in hell is Rector?”
“Speaking of idiots” returned another, ”who in hell cares?”The group grumbled agreement, and I wondered what that was about. It almost seemed from their tone, that these were afraid of this rector, and I wondered what sort of monster scared this sort of thug. Again, I seemed to receive my answer quickly.Quick steps, heavy but crisp-sounding, like someone determined and confident, approached. What was truly interesting was the reaction of the giants, who leapt to their feet as if caught in some mischief, as indeed they tried to hide the fallen giant’s clothing amongst themselves.
I rather expected some huge monster, but instead entered a relatively small giant, perhaps a head less in height from his colleagues. But this one seemed to carry authority with him, and he was definitely precise in his actions and quick in his wit. He quickly surveyed the room, and his glare turned hotly on his crew.
He pointed to the naked giant.“Dress him!” he ordered.
One of the giants took up the challenge. ”Make me” he countered.
Rector produced a sling, and faster than I could see him do it, put three stones into the face of the other giant, who fell to his knees sobbing surrender. The other giants quickly grabbed the clothes from their hiding places, and rushed to dress the naked giant, ignoring the one who had defied Rector.
Spying me, Rector came over and knelt, peering closely at me, considering something.“Just when you think it can’t get any worse…” he muttered almost too low to hear.
Rector turned to his fellow giants. ”His weapons and pack! NOW!”
Rector muttered what seemed to be an incantation, and the bonds fell away. As I collapsed onto the ground, and my outraged muscles and nerves screamed their protest, Rector caught me, and set me onto my back.“Just rest easy, until your strength returns” he advised. ”I am so very sorry for this. These have no idea what they have done.
“Or do you really think” he asked the others, his voice rising, ”that it is wise to try to defy one of the Elect?”
“But Rector,” Boneshear protested, ”what would one of the elect be doing here in hell?”
Rector smiled grimly. ”I don’t know, but I hope we can find out.”
As my feeling returned, along with those pins and pains the body gives to dissuade repeating what one did to lose the balance, Rector introduced himself and his brothers.
“Boneshear and Slowdeath you have met,” he began, ”and the rest are Moaner, Mauler and Ebola.”
“Nice names” I responded. “Rock band?”
“Naw, mostly strangling and stabbing” answered Mauler.
“Not the names I would have chosen…” said Rector, ”but to each his own, I suppose.
“Though I would think you would give more thought about how you will account before the King” he said, raising his voice and looking pointedly towards Boneshear.
Boneshear waved him off.
“As if anybody cares what happens to us down here” he replied. ”It’s everyone on his own down here, and only a fool with a pretty name thinks different!”
“So, are you guys Nephilim?” I asked. The giants laughed.“Not anymore” said Mauler after a moment.
”Sure, we’re still huge and mean, but we don’t have nearly the power we used to, no magic at all really, and what hope we had, we threw away long ago."
I shook my head. “Maybe, maybe not” I said, and everyone’s head turned my way.
“But first” I asked, “where’s my dog?”
Boneshear asked, ”That little demon is yours?”
“Well, she’s one of the good guys, but yes, she’s my companion on this trip.” I answered. “Any idea where she is?”
“Not a clue” replied Moaner, ”and that’s fine with me. Good job she’s not as big as we are, or I’d be in it for sure.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, that sounds like Arf.” I said.
“OK, we’ll look for your dog””but were you just now suggesting you might know a way we can get out of hell?”
The other giants groaned together.
“Not again” Complained Mauler. ” I know this song – ‘C’mon guys, let’s pray to God and tell Him we’re sorry, and see if He might yet take pity on us’ “Not buying. Not then, not now.”
Rector glared back. “After all these years, Mauler, one would think you’d have learned something.” said Rector.“Defying God has really worked well, huh? Here we are, in exactly the place we have earned for our arrogance.
“What are you afraid of losing? What is there left to lose?”
Rector approached me and extended his hand. “For what it’s worth,” he said, ”I am very sorry for everything wrong I’ve done, and whatever it costs me, I am now ready to go face my Lord and His judgment.”
“Welcome, Rector” I said to him. “I have friends around here somewhere. Let’s go find them.”As we walked off, the rest stood back in silence for a time, and it seemed they were content to remain.
But after a bit, I heard from behind us, and turning, we saw the other five come running. As Rector started to smile, Boneshear glared him down.“All right, all right, don’t go getting a big head.” he said. ”Maybe we just got bored and want to try something else.
“So, I guess we’re under arrest?” he asked me.
I grinned. “No, you’re free to come and go as you choose. But behave, or when I find my dog, she’ll call her friends on you, and trust me, that’s not comfortable.”
Apparently, Moaner and Ebola had encountered something of that already, as they unconsciously rubbed their butts and legs at this comment.
I made a light, and we went in search of my missing troupe.
Moaner grabbed my arm as we started out the door.
“Look, sorry about all that before” he said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Behind him, Boneshear rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath. I couldn’t hear it, but I caught the scent of a man in desperate need of a root canal, and some mint mouthwash.
I could figure out what he was unhappy about, though.
“Don’t worry about that Moaner” I said, “You’re not the first, won’t be the last.
“And Boneshear” I continued, “No, I haven’t tricked or entranced anybody.”
Boneshear sneered. ”Right. And blood-drinking giants always apologize to people for being rude.”
“Yeah, sometimes they do” I answered. “Anyway, it’s nothing to you if Moaner wants to be polite, is it?”
“Maybe not” admitted Boneshear, ”but it’s strange and then some. I don’t like it!”
I shrugged, and Rector laughed.
“What do you like, you old cudgel, that doesn’t involve hurting someone smaller and slower than yourself?” he demanded.
Boneshear didn’t answer.For a while we said nothing, but there was no chance we could be called silent. Besides the thunder of our feet, Moaner and Slowdeath were mouth breathers, and loud at it.
“So Rector” I asked, “What’s up with the names? Normally I don’t want to pray all that much, but I notice your name is a bit different from your companions.
“Well, it’s like this, Dan” said Rector, ignoring Boneshear’s vigorously swinging head in a an attempt to shut him up. ”We sort of lost our original names when we were sent down here, and we had to choose new ones.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes” said Rector.
”So, I went for class, and these others went for intimidation.”
“So, why aren’t they happy about you telling me?” I asked Rector.
Rector chuckled.“With our size, intimidation was already a given, and the names just invite trouble from some of the really bad locals.” he explained.
“Hmmm, someone worse than you guys?” I asked.I heard a groan from behind me. Slowdeath looked like he wanted to cry.
“We’re not going there, are we?” he whimpered, a strange thing to see in a giant.I shrugged . “Guess so” I said. “If Arf isn’t here, it’s because she found something even bigger and meaner to fight, so that’s where we go looking.”I heard a patter of what sounded like rain, as everyone moved away from Slowdeath.
Boneshear glared at him, then me.“I hope you’re happy. You made a giant pee his pants. Should I be impressed?”
“Does he do that often?” I asked Rector.
“No” answered Rector, ”Giants never pee themselves, although in this case I can understand why.”
“Well” I answered, “you don’t have to come along, but I’m going after my dog.”
“We’re coming” announced Rector. ”I have a feeling if we don’t come with you, we won’t get another chance.“Anybody else need to relieve themselves, before we go on?” he asked the group.
No one answered Rector, and I wasn’t sure if he was serious or taunting.The passage went black, even with my sword shining out in front of us. As I was about to ask Rector what that could mean, I heard Boneshear and Slowdeath mutter oaths. Rector nodded.
“Yeah, we’re in for it.” Rector faced me directly. “Daniel, I hope you’re as good as I figured you to be, or things are about to get very, very unpleasant for us all.”
“We’ll be all right” I assured the group, though I don’t think I sounded all that confident. I reached back into my pack and asked the group, “Weapons?”
A chorus of laughing and knuckles cracking answered me.
“Naw, they just get in the way” said Boneshear. ”I like to feel the action!”
We felt a presence, cold and malevolent, and the laughing stopped. “How long do we have?” I asked Rector.
“Seconds, not even a minute” he answered in a low voice.
“Well.” I said. “What need I know about these?”
“No names” began Rector, speaking quickly, ”They home in on identities, and love to seek out weaknesses.“They can be beaten, but they are very tough, and each must be beaten in a way different from the others in its group.
“They use a sort of magic, that is, a power source from somewhere beyond themselves, and if pressed, they will call upon it for strength, defense, or escape.”
I felt something nip at my neck, and realized it was time.I spoke a Word, and the immediate area exploded into light and music for a few seconds. I looked around, and the passage had returned to its normal dimness, but I could see. The giants were still with me, but all had been knocked to the ground.
Boneshear was annoyed, but Rector was surprised. “Nice of you to shove us all down like that!” protested Boneshear, but no one answered him.
“That’s not supposed to work on them!” exclaimed Rector.
I shrugged.“That’s why you try things” I said, “But I think they’ll be back in a little bit. Maybe more angry.”
“Then why did you do that?” asked Rector.“Because I needed to try it, and besides” I said, “It would be poor manners not to introduce myself.”
Rector grinned.“There is that” he admitted. Laughing, he pulled his companions to their feet.
“Imagine that!” he cried to them, ”they will think we are with the righteous!”None of the others laughed.My sword began to flash, and turned a deep red, almost burgundy. I wondered if I should have asked for a User’s Manual earlier.
I felt the air grow cold again, and it seemed a shade darker. My sword, a deep beet red, turned brighter on its right edge, and I felt it pull that way, so I let it turn.
SNIK! rang out the sword, and something heavy but invisible fell to the ground, with a loud crackling in the air, with tiny sparks showering from the sword. I felt the sword pull me over to my left, and lunge as a breeze warned of another approach by the demon.
SNIK-SNIK! I felt more than heard, as the sword arced itself around, cutting twice more into my unseen opponent. It is more than a little strange, to not be able to see what’s happening, yet still believe you are winning.For my companions, however, it was not so easy. Like my opponent, their enemies were unseen but fast and strong, and the sounds of violence and cries of pain let me know they were not faring well. Boneshear’s bravado was not sufficient to his boast. Rector was handling himself well, using a variant of Jujitsu I would have liked to watch, but my own bout kept me occupied. It was like Ballet, Tai Chi, and a Science Fiction movie all in one, my duel. The sword whirled and crackled, each stroke striking off something foul and heavy, but always moving on without respite.
Finally, with a heavy thud, something fell at my feet, and I knew my foe had fallen. I had no time to cheer, as I immediately felt Moaner’s opponent come after me. Without thinking, I raised my sword, but I knew things were different with this one, as the sword did not direct itself, and I felt it strike without effect, as if it had lost its edge. I hard shove threw me down to the ground, and my sword clattered off to the side. Something heavy landed on me, and my breath blew hard from me.As I struggled with the enemy, I began to worry that I was having difficulty breathing. I heard a chorus of hoarse cries and shouts, and began to wonder if we had all fallen under the same onslaught. Then I suddenly recognized the cries of the hounds.I rallied my strength, and shoved my hoary foe off from me, and rolled quickly to my left, hearing him fall back down to where I had been. Apparently, I had a slight edge for agility.
I looked to the room, and saw Arf and a pack of hounds in white –Tearing at the giants who had accompanied me.
”Arf! No!” I cried, “The giants are with me!
“Our enemy is unseen!”
Arf cocked her head and looked at me askance.“You promised I could fight a Nephilim!” she complained.
“Maybe later” I said, “if they don’t behave, you can chew them up. “But right now, there’s demons to fight!”
“Where?” demanded Arf, ”I don’t see them anywhe-“ then stopped as one of the invisible enemy hit her.
“Ohooooooooooooooooo!” shouted Arf, ”Plaaaaaaytiiiiiimme!”And the pack turned on the demons.
And just as suddenly, I and the Nephilim were free.