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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pilgrim’s Journey: Faith Challenged: BOOK 2 (Chapters 11 and 12) (A Novel / Allegory) (Last chapter of Book 2.)

This is a novel and an allegorical story about some knights who travel on a quest to reach a beautiful kingdom called the Kingdom of Heaven. As they go, they encounter giants, evil knights, swamps, perils, cliffs, dungeons, castles, evil Medieval lords, traps, dark forests, cunning enemies, and powerful weapons. They must fight for their lives and overcome all obstacles with the use of their weapons and armor, namely the Sword of the Spirit, and the Shield of Faith, and the power of God. 

- BOOK 2 -

Faith Challenged

- A Novel / Allegory -

By: Justin Brown (a pen name)
Date Created: Jan. 23, 2019

Chapter 11

(Chapter 12 will soon be posted up. It is the last chapter in Book 2.)


The Pursuit Through the Forest

Several miles away from the pilgrims, five horses with riders were cantering through the woods. The men riding them were dressed in black robes and were equipped with longbows, swords, and arrow quivers. Barbute helmets with Y-shaped facial openings protected their heads, and coats of mail were concealed under their dark robes.

[Barbute: This was a 15th century helmet which often had a Y-or-T-shaped facial opening in the front for breathing and visibility. Some had an arched opening, but the opening was still smallish compared to that of other helmet styles. Unique among the barbute designs, those with a Y-shaped opening had a projection to guard the nose.]      [Canter: The pace of a horse that is slower than a gallop but faster than a trot. It is the medium speed of a horse.]

The foremost rider swore under his breath and thought to himself: ‘I will kill those men for speaking strange and perverse things to the town of Rebellion. I will also kill them to avenge the deaths of all who lived in the town. It is in ruins a blackened heap of rubble thanks to them and their God. And Elihu, my good friend, died because of them. Those pilgrims shall not escape my wrath!’

“Ahaziah,” said one of the horsemen cantering behind him.

“What is it, Jehoiakim?” Ahaziah Bronze-smith said as he turned his head.

“I believe we are not far from our prey,” Jehoiakim Iron-fist said with an evil glint in his eyes.

“You’re right,” Ahaziah said, smiling wickedly. “I will make those pilgrims suffer a cruel death for all the evil they have done. And, Markus Christian shall be the first to go.”

The Hill of Difficulty

A very steep, rocky hill rose up high above the 15 pilgrims. The forest bordered it but stopped at its lower end, leaving the hill bare of trees. The pilgrims had just emerged from the forest and found themselves in open ground, staring up at a new challenge.

“That looks rather treacherous,” Captain Herring said quietly as he gazed up the hill. “I don’t think I want to go that way.”

Their path climbed along the side of the steep, rocky hill, zigzagging back and forth with switchbacks. In places along the path were piles of broken chunks of rock, which they might have to climb over.

“Captain Bartholomew,” Markus said, turning toward the ship captain, “God will give us the power to overcome all hardships. We can count on His provision. He got us through the swamp.”

On one side of the rugged path were jagged rocks and crags (cliffs). On the other side, a steep, rocky slope ran down toward the forest below. There were no railings to prevent them from tumbling down the hill and hitting jagged boulders near the bottom.

“Well, I guess I’ll give it a try,” Captain Herring said with some reluctance.

“It does look a bit difficult,” Henry said as his eyes swept up the hillside. “But, God will help us climb it up. I mean, climb up it. I’ve been through worse than this. ”

“You’re right, Henry,” Andrew Strong-heart said. “Let’s continue our journey. We’ll soon reach the top.”

The men began ascending the high hill, stepping around or over large stones. When they had climbed a fifth of the hill, a loud thump suddenly came from above them. A huge boulder had just struck a rock ledge fifteen yards up the hill and had bounced. In less than two seconds it came crashing down–boom–directly in front of Markus, and the ground shook slightly. Now, the path was blocked by a huge obstacle.

Trying to walk around the boulder would be very hard due to loose rocks and a very steep slope on the left, and a steep cliff on the right. Markus realized that he had reached an impasse. So, he began praying. [Impasse: This refers to a thing which prevents (or stops) further progress.]

“Now, we are stuck,” Gregory said from behind Markus. “But, God will come through. I believe He will. He didn’t fail us when we were in the pit. So, He must not fail us now.”

“My son, Markus,” God’s voice spoke to him, “I want you to speak to the others and have them ask Me to provide them with a wall of fire. This wall of fire will destroy all boulders and obstacles on this steep hill. Trust Me, and you will see the fire fall. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

Markus thanked God for the input and told his friends what he had heard. Then, the group began praying.

Suddenly, a whooshing, crackling sound came, and Markus opened his eyes to see a huge, bright wall of 14-foot-high flames undulating (moving like waves) and flickering about twelve feet in front of him. The wall of fire completely encircling the group of fifteen. In seconds, it began vaporizing a portion of the boulder closest to Markus.

“This is incredible,” Captain Herring said from the middle of the column of pilgrim knights. “This has to be a work of God. Does the Bible speak of this?”

Looking at him, Andrew Strong-heart said: “This is a literal wall of fire. A metaphorical wall of fire is mentioned in Zechariah chapter 2, verse 5. In it, God says: ‘[5] For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.’ [Zechariah 2:5.] The ‘her’ refers to Jerusalem, which symbolizes God’s people, believers in Jesus. This verse is speaking of how God surrounds us like a wall of fire. Now, we have a physical wall of fire about us.”

[Metaphor: This refers to language that is symbolic. Metaphoric symbols represent other things. A sword represents the Word of God, the Bible. A shield represents faith in God’s Word and in God’s Name (or in who He is). Fire represents God’s hand of protection surrounding His children.]

“But, isn’t this just speaking about Jews?” said Gregory White-peak, the grey-haired 27-year-old.

Andrew faced him and replied: “Galatians chapter 3, verses 28 and 29, says: ‘[28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female : for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ [Galatians 3:28-29.]”

“Okay. That makes sense,” Gregory said, scratching his short, grey beard.

“Let’s go forward,” Markus said as he started walking toward the wall of fire. 

As he approached it, the fire began to move with him, and it consumed the rest of the boulder. In seconds, the mass of stone was turned to vapor and dust.

“My son,” God spoke to Markus, “tell the group that these flames will not hurt a Christian who walks the pilgrim life. It will only harm rocks or obstacles. It will protect you from danger and keep you safe. You are safe under My wing. But, don’t walk away from My best will and seek to do your own will. Nonetheless, I will give you grace and call out to you if you turn away from Me. But, you don’t want to do that, I am sure. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

“Thank you, Father God. I want to walk closely with you and rest in you. I will tell the group,” Markus said.

He then informed them of what God had told him.

“I don’t want to go beyond God’s best will,” Andrew said, “because He loves us, and He knows what is good for us and what would bring Him glory.”

“That’s right,” Markus said.

Then, the group continued their ascent. When they were now two-thirds of the way up the big hill, Gregory shouted, “Look out!”

Thump. Crunch. Thump. A huge boulder came tumbling down the side of the hill, heading straight for the pilgrims.

“Help!” Henry cried as he looked up.

Seeing it plunging toward them filled their eyes with fear. Men raised their shields and others cried out to God. Several of the knights in the rear of the column bolted toward the wall of fire and passed through it, unscathed.

At the same time, a second boulder, which was covered with burning pitch, tumbled down toward the path directly in front of them. This boulder landed first with a heavy thud and lodged itself in front of the pilgrims. 

The men only had a second to assess their situation, for the other boulder had hit a ledge and was now airborne. The huge mass of rock was plummeting straight toward the group of 15. In less than a second, it would reach them.

As the huge boulder came within fifteen feet of the group, the wall of fire suddenly shot up and formed a solid dome around the pilgrims within the ring. The giant rock was turned to atoms – whoosh by the supernatural fire.

No harm came to those within the dome. But, chunks of rock that had not touched the dome crashed to the path and split into shards. Crash. Some of these fast-flying shards struck four pilgrims who had fled through the wall of fire. Ping. Clang. Thankfully, it only glanced off their armor.

“You out there, come back,” Captain Herring shouted to the men outside the translucent (partially see-through) dome of fire.

Thump. Crunch. Thump. A third boulder came tumbling straight toward the men outside the dome.

“Lookout. A boulder!” Bartholomew cried, pointing up at the tumbling rock.

The men ran toward the wall of fire and jumped through just as the 80-ton rock smashed into the ground boom where they were standing. Part of it was vaporized by the fiery dome. The remainder rested on the path behind them in large, broken chunks.

“We must stay inside this dome,” Markus said, turning toward the four who barely made it through the wall of fire.

Markus then walked toward the boulder in front of them, and it began vaporizing as the moving dome of fire reached it. Soon, it was completely gone, and their way was clear again.

Several minutes passed with no more boulders tumbling down the hillside. For a period of time, it was rather calm. But, several of the men were jittery. When they were close to the top of the hill, the dome of fire stopped moving forward.

“Why have we stopped walking?” a knight at the rear of the column said.

“The dome will not move an inch in any direction,” Markus said, turning around. “I’ve tried walking forward, but the fire stays put. Let’s wait and see what God has us do.”

A couple minutes passed.

“I’m tired of waiting,” Ahab Green-sword, a pilgrim knight at the rear of the group, said with frustration. “I’m going to go back down the hill and try an easier path up to the top. Or, I’ll just go around this miserable hill.”

“Don’t leave the dome of fire. It is God’s protection for us in this test,” Markus cautioned as he looked at the disgruntled man.

“I’m going,” Ahab stubbornly said as he turned and walked through the fire, again unharmed by the flames.

He was now outside the dome and walking briskly down the hill. Suddenly, a huge jet of flames shot out from somewhere up the hill. It roared down toward the wayward pilgrim and surrounded him with a fiery aerosol mixture. The flames heated his armor to a cherry red, and he screamed in pain. Without waiting a second more, Ahab ran toward the dome of protection.

[Jet: A concentrated stream of fluid (a gas or a liquid) that comes through a nozzle at high pressure.]      [Aerosol: A mixture of solid or liquid particles in a gas. It usually is a flammable spray.]

As he reached it, the fiery dome was suddenly, miraculously changed to water. The water instantly cooled his armor and God’s power healed him of his burns. The man was breathing deeply and dripping with water, grateful for God’s mercy and love. He knew that if he had not run for the dome of protection, he would be toast.

The Burning Flame

Markus turned his attention toward the top of the hill. He could now see a giant standing behind a 10-foot-long, metal cylinder. The cylinder was fastened, on a pivot, to a metal framework or stand.

As he beheld it, a vapor spray suddenly shot out from a nozzle on the front of the cylinder. The spray hit the flame of a torch–whoosh–and turned into a ball of fire. Roaring through the air, the burning gas shot toward the pilgrims. But, it was harmlessly absorbed by their fiery dome of protection.

Markus was relieved to see that the giant’s flamethrower could not penetrate God’s dome of fire.

[A description of the giant’s flamethrower:  The flamethrower in this scene was based off an ancient flamethrower device that was used in ancient China. It uses a piston; a torch fixed to a rod; a reservoir of fuel; piping; valves; and a special nozzle to send a spray of fuel toward a hot flame. The flame ignites the spray and creates a ball of fire that can reach targets a number of yards from the nozzle.

The operator of this ancient flamethrower simply moves a handle attached to metal rod to cause the piston to pump fuel through the nozzle, which turns it into a spray. Valves keep the liquid fuel from flowing the wrong direction so that the piston can pump fuel as the piston is drawn back again. The aerosol spray would ignite once it reached a torch or brazier fastened to a rod jutting out from the front of the machine.]

“That monster will roast us alive,” Captain Herring said anxiously from behind Markus.

“But,” Markus replied, “you saw the ball of fire being absorbed by our dome of protection. Let’s just follow the path, and I believe we will be safe.”

The giant with the flamethrower swiveled his weapon toward the pilgrims as they walked up to the top of the hill and across a flat area of green turf. The massive knight was wearing the same type of armor as that worn by other giants. It was dark grey and covered every part of his large frame (or body).

As he watched his foe, Markus could now see that the giant was beginning to push a handle connected to a metal rod. The rod passed through a tight-fitting hole in the back of the cylinder. Just then, another ball of fire rushed through the air. But this spray of fire did nothing, except to keep the pilgrims on their toes, so to speak.

While they walked down the trail, Markus glanced down at the giant’s armored legs and noticed that a large, strong shackle was fastened around his left ankle. A chain ran from the leg shackle up to a rock where it was attached to. On his helmet skull was painted a word in red: “Fear.” [Helmet skull: The part of a helmet that covers the skull.]

The Encounter

At last, the group of ten had gotten beyond the range of the Giant Fear’s flamethrower, and beyond his sight. As they did, the protective wall of fire became invisible and intangible. They were now walking among the trees of a large, hardwood forest. The landscape consisted of gently rolling, wooded hills and meadows. Tamarack, beech, oak, and white pine trees rose up from the forest floor like great, leaf-covered pillars. Bracken and other shrubs filled the space between the trees, making the forest very dense and somewhat shaded.

“Praise God for delivering us from that giant,” Andrew said as he looked up and closed his eyes.

“God protected us,” Markus said with relief and joyfulness. “It was His power, and His power alone that got us through that trial of faith.”

“We couldn’t have done it without the Almighty, our Father God,” Henry added, smiling. “I was afraid that burst of fire would kill us, but God was aware of that too.”

“He was,” Andrew said, nodding.

The pilgrims walked for half a mile, talking as they went. As they arrived at a moss-covered boulder, suddenly, a sable horse trotted out of the trees in front of them. Atop the steed sat a man wearing a dark cowl. Resting around his upper body was powerful weapon: a longbow. The large, cloak hood shaded his face and kept it in shadows. Rustling came from bushes to Markus’s left and right. Then, men wearing cowls and armed with bent longbows came from the forest, walking forward slowly. Sharp arrows were aimed at the pilgrims’ hearts.

[Cowl: It is a long, hooded cloak with sleeves. The cowl was commonly worn by monks during the Middle Ages (and in later periods). But, other people also put it on.]

Just as the horse rider had come from the trees, Markus and the other pilgrims had noticed that their armor was fading to a translucent hue. Then, it no longer appeared. Their white tunics, leather boots, and trousers showed up as the metal faded from view.

[Note: Since the pilgrims’ armor was spiritual, it became invisible when lost humans were present. But, the arrows and weapons carried by the pilgrims’ foes did not fade. They were of a physical nature.]

The rider of the horse dismounted his steed and tied its reins to a tree limb. He removed his hood, revealing a dark-grey barbute helmet with a Y-shaped facial opening. He opened a large, leather bag behind the horse saddle and checked to make sure his money bag within it was safe. A quiver filled with arrows was fastened to the other side of the horse, near the saddle.

[Barbute: This was a 15th century helmet which often had a Y-or-T-shaped facial opening in the front for breathing and visibility. It was probably based on the Greek Corinthian helmet.]

Reaching into the quiver, he drew out five arrows. Then, after removing his longbow, he placing an arrow on the bowstring and turned to face the white-clad pilgrims.

Markus, seeing the rider’s face for the first time since the man had ridden up, recognized the clean-shaven face and short, brown hair of Ahaziah Bronze-smith. But, Markus didn’t remember the long scar that now appeared on the man’s right cheek.

“Ahaziah,” Markus said, looking at his former friend, “what are you doing here with that bow?”

Markus remembered that it was Ahaziah who had joined Jehoiakim Iron-fist and Elihu Coppersmith in forsaking the path to Heaven. The three men had left the rest of the pilgrims when the good knights had been confronted with a major hindrance to their progress: the fortified bridge of Baron Conniving Unbelief.

“Markus, Markus,” Ahaziah said with a cold smile on his face, “I have come to put an end to your quest. You have long been a grief to me and my acquaintances.”

“What do you mean?” Markus said, watching the man’s longbow, which was aimed at the ground.

Markus also remembered, with a chill in his spine, that it was Ahaziah who had uttered a threat to kill him when Elihu had suffered from a massive heart attack in the town of Rebellion.

“Life can be hard when you have a debt to pay,” Ahaziah said.

“What is your debt that you must pay? You’re speaking in riddles,” Markus said, trying to keep the fear out of his voice.

“I work for the devil now,” Ahaziah said. “And, he is a cruel master. But, I must pay the debt I owe to my own zeal for justice. Today is your last day on earth, Markus.”

Fear shot through Markus’s body as he saw his former friend draw the longbow suddenly and point an arrow straight at his chest.

“You want to kill me?” Markus said, trembling slightly. “Why?”

“I said I work for the devil now,” Ahaziah said as he trained his bent bow at Markus, “and I owe a debt to my zeal for justice. You killed Elihu when he withstood you. So, you shall die.”

“I didn’t kill him at all,” Markus said. “You saw me. Neither I nor any of my friends touched him. We did no harm to his person. I have witnesses who can testify.”

“I hate you, Markus, because you love what I hate, and hate what I love. You are for God, and I am against God. So, you will die, Markus,” Ahaziah said with a cold, cruel expression on his face.

Ahaziah stepped back a few feet. As he backed up, he stepped into an area of ground he hadn’t walked before. The hate-filled archer prepared to release his arrow, but as he did, he backed up a little more and suddenly stepped into a camouflaged pitfall. His feet broke through a leaf-covered hatched made of thin sticks, and he plunged down through a deep shaft in the ground.

Twang. Ahaziah’s arrow shot up through the air as he fell. And, a loud cry came, followed by a splat as his boots plunged into deep mire at the bottom of the shaft. The longbow and four arrows landed beside him.

[Pitfall: A pitfall is a deep hole, or pit, or hollow shaft in the ground which is concealed by a flimsy trap door or cover. The intention is that the pit cover will break when a person steps on it. It breaks under his weight, and he falls down into the shaft.]

Due to his sudden fall, the arrow he had prepared to fire had completely missing its target.

Surprised that their boss had fallen into a pitfall trap, the other archers lowered their bows and two headed over to the edge of the shaft. Bending over, they gazed down into the muddy shaft and saw their leader up to his knees in greenish-brown slime.

“Get me out of here,” Ahaziah said harshly with great frustration and annoyance.

“If we rescue you, Ahaziah, you’ll have to give us all the money on your horse,” said one man with a dark beard and an eye patch as he leaned over the edge of the pit.

“No,” Ahaziah said. “I will not give you any more money than I said I’d pay you.”

“Then, you will have to stay down there,” the patch-eyed man said, chuckling. “And, we won’t kill your enemies, but we will take your money and divide it up.”

Hearing that, Ahaziah cursed and uttered profanity. Then, he said, “Get me out of this pit!”

An arrow shot up out of the pit–zip–and flew high into the air. It began to lose momentum and came plummeting down toward the trees many yards from the dirt road.

But, the two men left the shaft entrance and walked over to Ahaziah’s horse. The patch-eyed  man unfastened a leather bag from the horse saddle and undid some drawstrings on the bag. Then, he removed his own cowl and dropped it onto the grass near the path. The other archers walked over to the two men with Ahaziah’s moneybag and watched as its contents spilled out onto the cloak. Gold coins ringed together as they poured onto the fabric.

“Divide it between all four of us,” one of the men said.

“That shall be done,” the man with the patch eye said as he began separating the coins into four piles. The man counted each pile to make sure they had an equal number of coins. Then, he scooped up one pile and shoved it into a money bag fastened to his belt. The other men did the same with their piles.

Having parted the money among them, the four men walked back into the forest and soon reemerged, leading four horses. Mounting their chargers, the four cantered away down the path and soon disappeared around a bend in the path. When they were gone, Markus breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to the edge of the pit. Andrew followed him.

“Ahaziah,” Markus said, “are you injured?”

But, the man in the pit cursed at Markus and uttered hateful words replete (i.e. filled) with profanity. “I will kill you, Markus,” Ahaziah said. “I will kill you and then I will kill those thieves who stole from me.”

Feeling compassion for his enemy, Markus said, “I can try to find a rope to get you out of the pit.”

“I don’t want you to get me out of this pit!” Ahaziah said bitterly. Then, he placed an arrow on his bowstring and pointed the sharp tip up at Markus. The pilgrim quickly backed away from the entrance, just before the arrow shot up through the pitfall.

“It’s sad that he doesn’t want our help. He is so hardened,” Markus said to the rest of the pilgrims.

“Why would you like to help him? He wants to kill us,” Ahab Green-sword said, surprised.

“You’re right, but I thought he might soften toward us if we show him Christ-like love,” Markus said.

Ahab just shook his head and sighed. Then, Markus said, “Jesus wants us to do good to those who are unkind to us, as much as possible and by His power.”

“I remember a certain Bible passage,” Andrew said. “The Lord Jesus said these words in Matthew chapter 5, verses 44 and 45: ‘[44] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you ; [45] that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven : for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’”

“Hmm,” Ahab said with a frown.

“I see something near the pit,” Gregory said. He was standing about four feet from the edge of the shaft entrance. He looked toward the ground and knelt down.

“What do you see, Gregory?” Andrew said.

“It’s a ground-level, stone plaque in the grass that reads, ‘Beware of the pitfalls of bitterness and hatred,’” Gregory said before he slowly stood up.

As he spoke, loud cursing, death threats, and profanity came from the pit where Ahaziah had fallen. So, the men walked away from the vicinity of the pit and stepped back onto the dirt road.

“Folks, we better watch out for pitfalls in this area,” Andrew said as he paused on the road. “If we remain on the path of life that Jesus walked, we will be safe.”

Looking toward Gregory and Andrew, Markus said, “Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23, says: ‘[23] Keep thy heart with all diligence ; for out of it are the issues of life.’ And, Proverbs 4:26 and 27 says: ‘[26] Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. [27] Turn not to the right hand nor to the left : remove thy foot from evil.’”

“This is very good, Markus,” Andrew said gravely. “I want to remember that and not forget how bitterness is a pitfall.”

Henry said, “I remember now how our Lord Jesus Christ spoke about bitterness. In Matthew chapter 6, verses 14 and 15, Jesus said, ‘[14] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you : [15] but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’”

“What does that mean?” Captain Bartholomew Herring said, confused.

“God can’t forgive a man or woman who is stubbornly unwilling to repent from sin,” Markus said. “Such a person is very hardened and does not love God. If we love Jesus, we’ll obey Him. In John chapter 14, verse 23, it says: ‘[23] Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words : and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.’”

“That’s right,” Gregory said, thoughtfully. “Someone who hates the Lord Jesus would not want to obey Him. They might claim to love Him, but by refusing to obey Him, they are showing, by their choices, that they don’t love God.”

A pause followed as the men pondered over what was said. Then, Markus breathed deeply and said, “Why don’t we move on, brothers?”

Soon, the group of 15 pilgrims was walking down the forest trail. As they ambled, their shiny armor reappeared. Grateful to have it back, they started walking faster and talking more loudly and joyfully. Half an hour later, they saw 15 white horses with empty saddles trotting their way. [Amble: Walk slowly.]

“Look, it’s our horses,” Henry said, surprised. “God is again providing us with strong chargers.”

The men mounted the horses. Sending their steeds off at a cantering pace, they covered ground much faster. Soon, they came to a place in the forest where the trees grew less dense, and more blue sky appeared through the forest canopy. Scattered about the forest floor were fairly dense clusters of leafy bushes, appearing here and there, and a carpet of dry pine needles.

Markus soon noticed something missing from the forest scenery. The background sounds of chirping birds, which flitted among the branches of the trees, was gone. Suddenly, the sound of galloping hooves reached Markus’s ears. Then, he turned to his left and saw knights on horseback charging his way. The knights were wearing black and red surcoats and carried iron lances with sharp tips. Shields appeared fastened to their other arms.

“Watch out! Trouble has come our way!” Henry shouted back to the men riding behind him.

“Trouble Has Come”

The pilgrims shut their helmet visors and drew their broadswords.

The pounding sound of hooves thumping against turf grew louder. Thuh-thump. Thuh-thump. Thuh-thump. More enemy knights came into view and lowered their steel lances. Kicking their horses’ sides, they sent the animals charging straight toward the pilgrim knights. Lance tips were trained on their targets, ready to punch through armor.

Then, – crash – sharp lance tips slammed into the shields of the pilgrims, knocking most off their horses. The good knights hit the ground hard, but their armor protected them from injury. Their horses ran off into the forest, and the men on the ground groaned and slowly rose to their feet.

In the first wave of the attack, Markus had been unseated from his horse. His broadsword rested on the ground beside him four feet away. Lying on the grass, he breathed deeply, but he felt soreness in his back. He had hit a rock when he fell from the horse. So, Markus began praying to God for help, healing, and deliverance. Slowly, the soreness began to leave and peace started to return to his body.

Suddenly, an evil knight came thundering toward him with a sharp lance tip pointed at him. Markus quickly rolled to the side and held up his shield. The lance hit it – clang, but it glanced off the shield.

Following just a few yards behind the first, a second enemy knight charged toward him, but this time, Markus grabbed his broadsword and stood to his feet. Thuh-thump. Thuh-thump. Thuh-thump. Horse hooves approached rapidly. As the enemy’s sharp lance tip shot toward him, the pilgrim knight suddenly struck the lance with his sword, – clang – and the long, metal pole flew out of the rider’s hand. Markus had hit it with all his might.

The pilgrim knight grabbed the fallen lance and soon saw a third knight charging toward him. Holding the lance as if it were a spear, he kept the lance tip pointed toward the ground. With thunderous fury, the enemy knight galloped toward him with a lowered lance. Then, just as the knight on the horse came within twenty feet from him, Markus threw the lance hard.

It struck – chunk – the enemy knight in the upper breastplate, and punched through his armor. Having the combined speed of the horse and rider, and its own motion through the air, the lance was able to barely penetrate the rider’s breastplate. But, the tip only scratched the skin of the foe. Drawing it out of his armor, the knight prepared to charge again.

“Father God, will you give me something to unseat that knight with?” Markus said.

“Yes, My son,” God’s kind voice said. “My son, look below you.”

Markus looked down on the ground and saw a halberd, to his surprise, lying flat on the grass. This weapon was different than other halberds Markus had seen. In place of a long spear tip on its head, this particular halberd had a broadsword attached.

[Note about this halberd: A battle axe head appeared on the wooden shaft of this halberd a few inches below the sword. Like other halberds, the rear end of the axe head had a curved, metal hook or pick. But, a sword replaced the spear tip on this particular weapon.]

Sheathing his sword, Markus took the halberd in his hands. He was not a moment too late, for the enemy knight was now galloping toward him with a lowered lance. As the lance tip closed in on him, Markus suddenly struck it – clang – with the sword blade of his halberd. The lance flew out of the rider’s hands.

Then, as the man on the horse charged past him, Markus quickly reached up to his neck with his halberd’s curved metal pick (or hook). The halberd pick snagged the foe around his neck and violently unseated him from his horse. And, the rider fell to the ground with a heavy thud.

‘If that knight were a human, he would likely be dead by now, having a broken neck,’ Markus thought, ‘but he is a supernatural foe.’ The knight, however, was somewhat wounded. He glared at Markus through his closed visor and made an animal-like growl. The word “Doubt” was painted in red on his helmet.

“We will destroy you soon,” said Doubt, the evil knight. “God will not deliver you from us. You have no hope.”

Markus shook his head and replied: “God’s Word says, ‘[37] Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.’ [Romans 8:37.]

Uttering a string of bitter curses at Markus, the evil creature slowly stood to his feet and limped off into the forest. As he did, Markus noticed that the thunder of horse hooves and the clash of metal still filled the air.

He was now able to watch his friends battle their foes in the forest. The other pilgrim knights had also called upon God to equip them for this fight, and each man was now armed with a halberd like Markus’s. Markus could see that the pilgrims were starting to get the upper hand in their fight with the enemy. Clang. Ring. Clash. Ding. Several evil knights were already unseated, and they fought with the pilgrim knights on the ground. Enemy shields were starting to crack, and dark-grey sallet helmets were being dent in.

But just then, a deep, dull thumping sound came from the forest. Thump. Boom. Thump. Boom. The ground seemed to vibrate with each thump. ‘What could possibly make that sound?’ Markus wondered. ‘Is that thumping sound a ground tremor or a small earthquake?’ Then, his eyes widened with fear as he looked up.

[Tremor: A small earthquake which is usually caused by a movement of the crust of the earth at a fault.]       [Fault: A seismic fault happens when there is a sudden movement of rock layers in the crust of the earth. This sudden movement, or displacement, in the rock layers causes a break or a crack which can appear on the surface of the earth. It is called a fault line when it is seen on the surface of the earth.]

Chapter 12

The Giant of Pride and Haughtiness

Thump. Boom. Thump. Boom. Thump. Boom. Every heavy footfall caused the ground to shake slightly as a colossus of a giant came tromping through the forest. His helmeted head rose up high among the cedar, birch, and elm trees. This incredibly-tall knight appeared to be at least 110 feet in stature. Markus found it hard to believe what he was seeing. The monster was a higher than the oldest trees in this part of the forest, and he was stout and strong-looking.

Equipped with a gigantic hammer, dark-grey armor, and an armet helmet with attached goat horns, this monster was far larger and more intimidating than any giant Markus had ever faced. He would have dwarfed the giants the pilgrims had encountered in the swamp. A phrase was painted, in red, on his helmet: “Pride and Haughtiness.”

[Armet helmet: An armet helmet was similar to the close helmet. But, the armet contained two hinging cheek pieces, which opened so that the wearing could put the helmet on. This helmet was tight-fitting, so it needed to be hinged open. In contrast, a close helmet opened in the front of the helmet rather than on the sides. The armet opened by unfastening two cheek pieces on the left and right. When they were closed, the cheek pieces would overlap, and pivoting hooks would engage staples (i.e. U-shaped pieces of metal).]  [This particular armet helmet has two ram horns attached to its skull temples. The helmet skull is the part of the helmet that covers the human skull.]

[Haughty: Behaving in an arrogant, prideful way that despises or thinks less of others.]

A Bible verse suddenly came to Markus: “[2] When pride cometh, then cometh shame : but with the lowly is wisdom.” [Proverbs 11:2.]

As the colossal monster came thumping across the land, the pilgrims began to tremble. The closer the giant got, the more his every step began to send vibrations up Markus’s legs and through his spine.

“Father God,” Markus said quietly, “how do we defeat this extremely massive foe? He is larger than anything I’ve encountered so far.”

“My son,” God’s kind voice said, “there is a metal chain connected to a tree. The giant will walk past that tree, but you need to draw him to chase you. Then, other men will grab the drooping end of the chain and they will raise it up the side of a different tree. There is a metal hook, which has been prepared aforehand for this purpose. This is the trip chain of faith and the hook of belief. Hook the chain across the path of the giant, at the right moment, and he will fall to the ground, and you will be able to conquer him.”

[Aforehand: Before, earlier, or at an earlier date.]

“Thank you for what you have shown me, Father God,” Markus said.

“You little humans will fall prey to my power,” the evil giant suddenly roared as he walked forward. His deep, booming voice sounded somewhat like a lion roaring, but it was much louder and deeper.

“Will you help me to find the chain you spoke of?” Markus asked God.

“Yes, My son,” God said, “it is near that large rock you see before you.”

Markus was looking at a large boulder which rested at the foot of a huge cedar tree 60 feet from him. His sharp eyes caught a glimpse of a small portion of a large, iron chain fastened to a thick, metal loop embedded in the base of the large cedar. Part of the chain was hidden from view by leafy, forest undergrowth.

The 110-foot-tall giant was tromping three hundred feet from the cedar tree (which had the embedded loop in its base). He was wielding his powerful, iron hammer, swinging it in circles through the air. Occasionally, the hammer broke tree limbs in half as if they were matchsticks.

The giant suddenly swung his enormous hammer toward a pilgrim near his feet who was trying to run away. The pilgrim was fleeing for his life, but he stopped suddenly. A shadow had fallen on the ground directly ahead of him the shadow of a great hammer.

The giant’s colossal hammer swung down with great momentum and slammed into the ground CRUNCH right in front of him. The beastly weapon sent up a spray of broken rock pieces as it turned a boulder into flying gravel. Rock chunks struck the pilgrim knight’s armor pong, ding, ping and bounced off.

Markus was shocked by how huge the giant’s hammer was. Sizing it up, he thought the weapon must weigh a little over 107 English tons. The length of its head was about 14 feet, and its head width was 5 feet. Few boulders would be able to survive a blow from this massive head of iron. ‘How then could a pilgrim knight survive this weapon?’ Markus thought.

[Note: Markus saw that the hammer head was 14 feet long, 7 feet high, and 5 feet wide. It was made of solid iron. One cubic foot of iron weighs about 491 pounds. That is over 120 tons. (It is roughly 107 British tons.)]

As the giant raised the hammer upward for another strike, Markus caught sight of a phrase in red lettering on the head of the hammer: “Extreme Conceit, Pride, and Hardness of Heart.”

The knight being attacked suddenly removed his helmet and tossed it along with his sword and shield to the ground. With disgust and hatred, he trampled on the helmet of salvation and began cursing God. Markus could now see that the knight was Ahab Green-sword. ‘Why is he cursing God?’ Markus thought, troubled.

“I hate you, God!” Ahab shouted. “You’ve ruined my life! I am done with seeking your will. Now, I will do my own will. I will be my own man and live how I want to live!”

‘Why is he saying that?’ Markus thought.

The giant watched the tiny human below him and gave an evil, deep, booming laugh.

“My son,” God’s kind voice spoke to Markus, “speak to the giant and get him to come your way. I will have my golden knights attach the chain right when it is needed to fell this giant of pride. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

But, Markus hesitated. He could see the giant preparing to make another powerful hammer blow, and he was afraid of being hit by the monster’s massive weapon. That hammer, Markus knew, could destroy the thick walls of a strong castle and eradicate the spiritual life in a pilgrim.

[Eradicate: To get rid of something until nothing of it is left.]

The hammer came swinging down hard and fast. Ahab Green-sword cursed and uttered loud profanities right before the massive piece of iron came down on his head. He disappeared beneath its immense bulk, and Markus never saw Ahab again.

[Note: Unknown to Markus, the hammer had broken through the roof of a cavern below, opening a wide hole, and Ahab had fallen into its dark depths below.

There would no longer be life in Ahab. From then on, he would walk in the dark cavern of sin and self-righteousness below. He would continue to grope about, cursing the true God in his heart; loving Baal (the god of sin and self-righteousness); and despising true pilgrims. Markus didn’t realize that the giant’s hammer had not physically killed Ahab, but it had destroyed his spiritual walk with God. And, the life of Christ that was in Ahab was now gone.]

Markus was very grieved to see the former pilgrim die spiritually. But, he knew he could do nothing about it now. So, he decided to follow God’s instructions. Holding his special halberd and shield, the courageous pilgrim knight ran forward through the forest. Even as he ran, he felt fear attacking him, but he chose to reject it, and he silently repented from it.

Markus shot past the large cedar tree with the attached chain. A golden knight suddenly came from the forest and approached the chain after Markus had passed the tree.

“You up there!” Markus shouted to the giant as he ran forward. Courage had fallen on Markus like a mantle from Heaven.

The huge creature looked to the left and then to the right, scanning through the trees. Then, he spotted Markus far below his massive, armored head.

“You will perish, human!” the giant roared with a deep and horrible-sounding voice. “I will destroy you through pride and false works!”

Markus could see the creature preparing to strike him with the powerful hammer. As Markus ran, he caught glimpses of shiny armor partially concealed by dense undergrowth. Many pilgrims were hiding in the forest, terrified of their new foe. Markus knew, as he sprinted, that only God could give him the courage for what he now faced.

“I will make you doubt God and love your fleshly nature,” the giant bellowed. “I will also make you pursue Baal – the god of self – and you will serve me forever. Your heart will grow cold toward God so that you will secretly hate Him.”

“I am one of God’s sheep,” Markus said. “God’s sheep hear His voice and follow Him. They will not follow the voice of another. That is what Jesus said in John chapter 10.”

“You are making that up,” the giant said as he stepped forward, sending a slight tremor through the ground.

“What I said is based on the words of the Lord Jesus in John chapter 10,” Markus said as he ran. “Jesus Christ said this of himself: ‘[4] And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him : for they know his voice. [John 10:4.]”

“Hah. You and your Bible,” the giant laughed wickedly. “I will make you doubt the Bible and doubt all that it says.”

Markus shouted: “Jesus said this in the next verse: ‘[5] And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him ; for they know not the voice of strangers.’ [John 10:5.]”

“Now, My son,” God spoke to Markus’s spirit, “run back toward the tree with the chain, and I will be with you to strengthen you.”

Markus stopped running forward, turned around, and began sprinting away from the giant.

Then, the monster gave chase, swinging his hammer down as he went, but missing Markus by yards. Thump. Crunch. Broken rocks and dirt rained down on Markus’s armor as the giant’s hammer created wide holes in the ground with each missed blow.

Markus now felt his heart pounding in his chest harder and faster than when he had first approached the giant. He was definitely feeling fear, but he was trying not to give place to it.

Thump. Thump. Thump. The giant was gaining on him with each powerful step.

THUD…CRACK. The monster’s colossal hammer suddenly slammed into an oak tree on Markus’s left. And, the tall, woody pillar cracked near the middle and came crashing down across Markus’s path in front of him. Thud. It was a large obstacle for Markus, but he turned to the left and ran around it, hopping over fallen trees and small boulders.

The giant paused briefly to shove the broken tree out of his path, moving it as it were a mere lance or spear. Then, he continued pursuing the small knight below him. But, Markus was now past the tree with the metal chain.

“I will destroy you, you human!” The giant roared.

The thick, iron chain ran across the ground to a second large tree, a giant oak. A knight with gold-colored armor stood on a wooden platform which was attached to the oak about 12 feet above the forest floor. The chain now was ready to be moved into position.

Just as the giant drew close to the tree, running with long strides, the golden knight quickly lifted his end of the chain and hastily fastened it to an iron hook embedded in the oak. The chain was now taut as it stretched across the path of the giant, forming a “trip wire.”

The 110-foot-tall monster saw the strong, metal chain suddenly lift off the forest floor and block his path. Instantly, he knew he needed to halt to avoid tripping. But, he was so large that his extreme mass kept him from stopping suddenly. The armor on his lower legs (or greaves) slammed into the chain, and it caused him to trip and fall toward the ground.

[Taut (adjective): stretched tightly.]      [Note: The golden knight was ready to raise his end of the chain and fasten it to an iron hook embedded in the side of the tree.]      [Greave: A piece of armor worn over a knight’s lower leg.]

The chain links stretched and snapped as the monster hit them, but they served their purpose. Markus ran to the left of the giant’s path as the monster plunged toward the ground. The giant slammed into the earth and his head hit a huge, granite boulder. The blow to his massive head was so strong that the monster was knocked unconscious.

Lying like a felled tree, the giant was no longer slamming his big hammer into the dirt. Dozens of golden knights unexpectedly emerged from the forest. The first one to reach the giant’s head drew out a sword, removed the creature’s helmet, and swiftly killed the unconscious monster. As the golden knight ended the life of the huge soldier, Markus realized that this was not the last of the giants. ‘There must be other giants,’ he thought, ‘who seek to destroy pilgrims through pride and haughtiness.’

“My son,” God’s kind voice spoke to Markus as he looked at the fallen monster, “I am the LORD your God and Abba Father. You and your men will travel down the path of life until you reach your next destination. There, you will find a ship. The ship will take you across a sea where your adventures will continue. And, you will see My power work to guide you through all trials you will face. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. And, My hand of love and protection shall always be upon you. Rest in Me, seek to know Me better, and follow what I show you to do. And, you will do very well. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Thank you for showing me that, Father God,” Markus said. “I do want to get to know you much better. And, thank you for delivering me from that giant. Only you could have given us the ability to overcome such a monster.”

“You are welcome, My son,” Abba Father God said.

Markus then walked back toward the place where he had seen pilgrims hiding in bushes. He called out to them, cupping his hands around his mouth. After a short time, 9 pilgrims emerged from denser parts of the forest and approached Markus. Andrew, Gregory, and Henry were among them. The pilgrim knights chatted and described what they had just observed with the giant’s great fall and the battle that had taken place moments earlier.

Then Markus, seeing that only he and nine other pilgrims were present, said, “Brothers, can I have your attention?”

When all eyes were on him, Markus said, “We had 15 in our group. But, Ahab Green-sword was sadly struck by the giant’s powerful hammer. And also, some other pilgrims are missing.”

Dishan Small-heart, the first mate, fled into the woods with 3 others,” Bartholomew Herring said. “I think they found horses and rode back the way we had come.”

“Dishan Small-heart and his friends have forsaken the path of life,” Markus said, lowering his head. “But, Jesus had spoken of this thing in the parable of the sower. The seed of the Gospel may produce fruit in a believer’s life for a time, but when trials and difficulties come, he forsakes the true Gospel, and goes his own way. He may still claim to be a believer, but he proves by his true motives that he isn’t.”

“I remember,” Andrew said, “that Jesus said this truth in Mark chapter 4, verse 5: ‘[5] And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth ; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth : but when the sun was up, it was scorched ; and because it had no root, it withered away.’ [Mark 4:5.]”

The men talked some more. Then, they heard the sound of galloping hooves. Ten white horses came into view, racing through widely-spaced trees. The steeds slowed to a trot and paused before the men. They still had on their bridles and saddles. So, the 10 pilgrim knights mounted them and rode back toward the dirt path they had taken through the forest earlier.

Reaching the dirt road, the mounted knights rode down it for two hours, giving their horses breaks from time to time. Soon, they could smell the salty air of the ocean. The forest became sparser as they drew closer to the sea. In the distance, they saw church building spires and the fortified walls of a coastal town. Nearly half a mile from the town, the forest ended. Fruit orchards, scattered cottages, and small pastures, with grazing livestock, took its place.

The Port Town of Blanco Risco

The knights soon arrived at the busy, Medieval port town with the high, stone walls. As they trotted toward a gate, their armor became nearly invisible, and their white garments and leather boots again appeared.

Passing through the gate, the pilgrims entered the crooked, narrow streets of the coastal town and headed toward the docks. After passing by a butcher shop, a general store, and a few other businesses, they reached the docks and beheld the ocean. The vast body of turquoise and sapphire-blue water stretched out to the horizon, sparkling in the sunlight. An assortment of ships sailed about the harbor: galleons, brigs, feluccas, and fishing smacks. Many also lined the docks or lay at anchor.

The pilgrims dismounted their horses beside a wharf.

Markus prayed quietly, asking God to guide them to a ship captain who’d be willing to take them across the ocean. Just as he finished his prayer, a burly, brown-bearded man approached him and said, “Are you folks eager to sail today?”

“What town are we in?” Markus said.

“You are in the port town of Blanco Risco, in the duchy of Cabello Castano,” the man said, grinning. “Does taking a voyage sound appealing to you?” The burly man wore a bycocket hat and a brown cloak over his tan tunic.

[A medieval bycocket hat had an upturned brim that came to a point in the front. A tunic was a long shirt that came down to the knees, or lower.]

“Yes,” Andrew said. “We were desiring to sail across the ocean.”

“Well, I happen to be looking for more passengers,” said the captain. “I am Captain Pablo Campo-verde. “I have a galleon that is at anchor. So far, I haven’t been able to find anyone who is willing to travel today. But, you folks appear eager to go.”

‘Is this man trustworthy?’ Markus thought. ‘Or, is he a deceitful slave-ship captain?’

“My son, go with this man,” God said to Markus with a kind voice. “He will take you to your next destination. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Thank you, Father God,” Markus said.

Then, he approached the Spanish sea captain. “Captain Pablo, how much do you charge?”

[Galleon: This was a large sailing ship frequently used by the Spanish during the Age of Exploration. It had three masts, a forecastle, and a large aft cabin. The forecastle was a raised section of the deck at the bow of the ship. Aft refers to at or near the back of a ship.]

“That all depends on what you’re bringing with you and where you’re headed,” the man with the bycocket hat replied. “I can’t bring those horses with me, but I can take any luggage you might have. Let’s see... I can count ten in your group, unless there are others coming.”

“There are now ten of us,” Markus said. “Our horses will not be going with us. So, they will not be a problem. We plan on going straight across the ocean, due south-east, to the land that lies there.”

“Oh, my friends,” Pablo said with a shudder, “are you sure you want to go there? That is the land of Viviente Muerte. No one who travels there ever returns back across the sea. I will not set foot on that land.” [Note: Viviente means “living.” Muerte means “death.”]

“That is where God is showing me we need to go,” Markus said.

“I can take you near that land, and let my men row you ashore,” Pablo said. “But, I will not set foot there.”

“We will still go there,” Markus said resolutely. “I believe that God will always be with us and that He will deliver us from whatever we may face in Viviente Muerte.”

“Okay, then, come with me,” Pablo said as he started walking along a boardwalk toward a dock where two longboats were moored.

Several sailors were chatting near the docks. The captain called out to them and gave some orders.

“Aye, aye, sir,” they said in unison before they hurried over to the longboats and began preparing them for departing.

When the pilgrims reached the boats, Pablo paused and said, “Sirs, do you have money with you? This voyage will likely last about two weeks, and so it will cost you 195 Blanco Risco kroner.”

[Note: The Blanko Risco krone (which is “kroner” in the plural form) is based off of the Danish krone, a unit of currency in Denmark. The krone in this story is roughly equal to a laborer’s daily earnings.]    

“That sounds like a fair price,” Markus said. “But, we don’t have any money with us.”

“Those look like good chargers you have,” the captain said, eying the white horses. “I’ll tell you what. Give me your horses, and I will give you passage on my vessel. I have a large horse stable and some servants, so the animals will be well cared for.”

Markus turned and spoke quietly with the other pilgrims, asking them if they’d be willing to sell their horses. After a brief discussion, they all agreed to give their horses to the captain. So, Markus turned back toward Pablo and said, “We’ll give you the horses, but we expect you not to charge us any more or trick us in any way.”

“Don’t worry. I will make a legal contract with you, my friends,” Pablo said. “Then, we’ll be off.”

After attending to all the details of signing a legally-binding contract and preparing for their voyage, the pilgrims joined the sailors and the captain, and set off in the longboats. Enjoying the fresh, invigorating, sea air, they briskly rowed toward the galleon, which was anchored a thousand feet from the dock. A bright, yellow and blue standard flew from a flagpole atop the ship’s mainmast. It cheerfully snapped and fluttered in a steady sea breeze.

[Standard (medieval): A special flag that flew from poles on castle towers. It displayed the coat of arms of the lord of the castle. Sometimes, standards were carried on poles by servants of a nobleman. The coat of arms is a design representing the name of a noble family.]       [Mainmast: Usually, it is the tallest mast on a sailing ship.]

Minutes later, as the rowboat was being raised by ropes and pulleys up the side of the galleon, a shadowy figure was watching. He wore a long, black cowl (a hooded cloak) with the hood over his head. Having a grim expression on his face, the man in the cowl reached inside his left sleeve and drew out a short throwing knife.

He gently rubbed his left thumb along the sharp blade and said menacingly, “Markus, you will not survive your voyage.”

Then, he quickly returned the knife to its sheath (which was strapped to his left forearm) and walked toward an alley between two shops near the waterfront. The ambition to kill Markus was an unquenchable thirst in the heart of the man with the dark cowl. He was adamantly determined to put an end to the pilgrim knight and his companions, once and for all.

[Adamant (adjective): Being unwilling to yield or be influenced to change from a belief, plan, or goal.]

In the placid bay, the galleon was starting to unfurl its sails. An ocean voyage to a strange and unfamiliar land awaited the pilgrim knights. What adventures would they have next? What dangers lurked in their path? What foes would challenge them and seek their lives? What will happen next? Find out in Pilgrim’s Journey: The Quest for Heaven: Book 3: Island Quest.

[Placid: Calm and peaceful.] [Unfurl: This refers to the action of unrolling a sail so it can catch the wind.]

[The End of BOOK 2.]


[Note: Chapter 12 is the last chapter in Book 2.
Book 3 ("Pilgrim's Journey:... Island Quest") will likely be posted up this year (2019).]

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