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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Pilgrim’s Journey: BOOK 3: ISLAND QUEST (FULL BOOK) (With a PDF File)


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Pilgrim’s Journey: The Quest for Heaven

- BOOK 3 -

Island Quest

- A Novel / Allegory -

By: Justin Brown (a pen name)
Date Created: Feb. 12, 2019

Chapter 1

Arriving at the First Destination

Wind billowed the square sails of the galleon Red Jasper as it sailed across the placid sea. The moon’s reflection undulated with the water as the three-masted ship passed across the watery wilderness. Stars covered the night sky like an array of diamonds on black velvet. 

The ship had been at sea for five days after leaving the port town of Blanco Risco. Pablo Campo-verde, the captain of the ship, had told his passengers that an island was about a two days voyage from Blanco Risco. He planned to stop at that island before continuing the voyage across the ocean to the mysterious country of Viviente Muerte. That country was the last stop before eight pilgrim knights--Pablo’s passengers--would reach the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Land ho!” a lookout said from the crow’s nest on the mainmast (i.e. the tallest mast).

[Crow’s nest: This was a platform with a wooden railing on which the lookout, a sailor, had a good view of what lay ahead. The crow’s nest was often located partway up the mainmast.]

A sailor on the half deck (or stern deck) cried up to the lookout, “Henrico, where do you see land?”

[Note: The half deck was at the rear (or stern) of the ship. It rose above the upper gun deck and provided a decent view. The half deck was the top of the aft castle. The aft castle was a raised portion of the deck in the stern (or rear) of an old sailing ship. The forecastle is located near the bow.]

When the lookout had given him the directions, the man on the half deck turned toward the south east and drew out a spyglass (i.e. hand-held telescope). Sure enough, he could see land. An island rose up from the ocean, resembling a grey rock covered with dark-green vegetation. A mountain rose high above the jungle-cloaked land mass. It appeared to be about three leagues away. [Note: One league is about 3 miles in distance.]

Sebastian Martinez, the sailor with the spyglass, walked over to a rectangular opening in the half deck and called down through the staircase opening. “Helmsmen, land has been sighted,” he said.

A helmsman in the “steering room” (the chamber below) replied, “What direction is it, Sebastian?”

“It is …” Sebastian said, giving the directions through the staircase opening.

Then, the sailor below and another helmsman gripped the whipstaff tighter and moved it to the left, causing the tiller to turn the rudder accordingly. The galleon turned like a whale toward its new course.

[Note: The whipstaff is a vertical, wooden beam, used for steering, which is fastened to the tiller. The whipstaff projects up through a slot in the floor of the “steering room.” The tiller is an oblique (sloping) beam of wood which is much thicker than the whipstaff. On a galleon, the tiller is located below the “steering room” where the helmsmen turn the whipstaff. The tiller connects to the rudder, which is a flat, hinged, wooden object used to steer the ship through the water.]

In a little over an hour, the ship had come within a 200 hundred feet of a sandy shore. It laid anchor in a small harbor which had access to the ocean by way of a thousand-foot-wide entrance. The night crew soon was replaced by a the day shift as the sun rose in the east. Its golden rays turned clouds purple and pink as the fiery orb rose over the horizon.

Markus Christian, a brown-haired, clean-shaven man, stretched and yawned in his hammock. He had been sleeping soundly until the sound of leather boots came tromping past him. Members of the day shift were waking from sleep and yawning as they got out of their hammocks in the lower-gun deck. The ship stirred to life as sailors high up in the rigging began furling (rolling up) the sails and making preparations for an excursion to the island. [Excursion: A short trip to some location, and back again.]

Wearing his daytime clothes--a long, white tunic and white trousers--Markus left his hammock, slipped into his leather boots, and began lacing them up.

“What’s happening?” Markus said, standing up, as a burly sailor walked past him.

“We just laid anchor at an island,” the man replied.

“Do you know what it is called?” Markus said.

“It is called Oro Island,” the sailor replied with a wink. “That is ‘Gold Island’ in English.”

Before Markus could say any more, the burly man walked on. Markus then remembered hearing the captain say that they would be arriving at an island after a voyage of five days. He hurried over to the hammock where Andrew was sleeping. As he arrived before it, Markus noticed something was wrong. Andrew was missing.

Just then, a hand tapped him on the left shoulder, and Markus wheeled around. It was Andrew Strong-heart with a smile on his clean-shaven face. He was dressed in the same type of white clothing that Markus wore.

“It’s good to see you, friend,” Andrew said warmly.

At 6 feet and 7 inches, the brown-haired man was half-a-foot taller than Markus. He was the tallest men Markus had befriended. But, Andrew never teased anyone for being shorter than him. And, he had a kind and friendly personality that Markus enjoyed being around.

“I look forward to visiting that island,” Markus said. “Did you hear about it?”

“Oh, yes,” Andrew said. “It’s Oro Island. There is a rumor among the sailors that it still contains gold.”

“But, we didn’t come for gold,” Markus said.

“That’s right,” Andrew said, smiling. “Our gold is in Heaven, where the streets are paved with gold. But, most of all, we will see our Heavenly Father’s lovely face and enjoy walking with God in the beautiful gardens of Heaven.”

“I look forward to that very much,” Markus said, looking dreamily up at the wooden ceiling, which was the underside of the upper-gun deck.

“Markus and Andrew,” a loud, guttural voice said from some yards away. “It’s good to see you alive and awake.”

The men turned to see Captain Pablo Campo-verde striding across the lower-gun deck toward them. The burly, brown-bearded sea captain was still wearing his bycocket hat and brown cloak. A smile appeared on his strong-looking face.

 [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.]

“It’s good to see you, Pablo,” Markus said.

“Are you and your friends ready for an island adventure?” Captain Pablo said with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Yes, we certainly are,” Andrew replied. “But we’d first like to spend some time with God.”

“Time with God? Why do you need that?” the captain said, surprised.

“God is everything to us. Without Him, we have nothing,” Markus said.

“Well, you’d better hurry because breakfast will be in an hour,” the burly, bearded man said. “And, once breakfast is over, we will jump into some longboats and row for shore.”

Markus and Andrew thanked him and went to seek God in different parts of the ship. Andrew headed for the orlop deck. It was directly below the lower-gun deck where the hammocks hung. But, Markus walked in the direction of the lazaretto, a storage space at the stern of the ship. He passed through an opening in the lower-gun deck and descended a set of stairs. Now, standing on the orlop deck, Markus quickly walked toward the stern of the ship.

[Lazaretto: This was a storage space near the stern of the ship and below the lower-gun deck.] [Orlop deck: A deck below the lower-gun deck. It had trap doors through which hoists (winches with ropes) could lift barrels of food from the hold.] [The hold was an area of the ship used for storing food and ballast. It was right above the keel of the ship.] [The keel is a ridge of timber or metal that runs along the bottom of the ship from its bow to its stern.] [Ballast is heavy material, such as rocks, used to stabilize a ship.]

In this particular galleon, the lazaretto was accessible to the orlop deck by way of a regular door. As Markus approached the door, he heard a muffled cry suddenly come from within the storage room. Concerned, Markus ran the rest of the way and grabbed the door handle. He shoved open the door, expecting to see something alarming, but his face relaxed when he saw his friend, Henry Willow.

The brown-bearded, 50-year-old was seated on a sea chest and surrounded by more wooden chests. Three candles, resting on sea chests, illuminated the room with a buttery-yellow light. A Bible rested on one of Henry’s knees.

“Oh,” Markus said, “I’m sorry to bother you. I just heard a loud cry coming from the room.”

Henry chuckled and scratched his beard. “I was just startled when a large spider landed on my head and start crawling over my hair. But, the critter is gone now.”

“Do you mind if I use a corner of the room?” Markus asked. “I will be quiet.”

“Oh, that would be fine, Markus,” Henry said with a chuckle. “Just make sure you watch out for a big, hairy spider.”

“Okay,” Markus said with a laugh. “I’ll do that.”

Oro Island

After eating a breakfast of porridge, sea biscuits, and salted-beef chunks, sailors took some supplies to the upper-gun deck where they loaded it aboard two longboats. Captain Pablo and two sailors entered a jollyboat while the longboats were being readied. The smaller boat was then lowered over the side of the ship.

Markus and his seven pilgrim friends stepped into one longboat and were lowered on cables toward the calm, turquoise water. Once the boat floated in the sea, sailors unfastened the cables.

[Upper-gun deck: The deck of an armed, sail ship of which a good portion is in the open air.] [Deck: A deck is a surface that goes from one side of a ship to the other. The upper-gun deck includes the great cabin (the captain’s quarters) and the “steering room,” among other chambers.] [Longboat: A boat which had 8 to 10 oarsmen. It was carried aboard sailing ships and used for going ashore and other purposes. Most longboats had oars (long poles with paddles for rowing) rather than sails.]

“I can’t wait to see this island,” Bartholomew Herring said, grabbing his oar.

Being the former captain of a ketch sailing ship, Bartholomew knew the sea like the back of his hand. Markus had met him during his visit to the inland Sea of Prueba. (See Part 2 of Pilgrim’s Journey to learn about Markus’s earlier adventures.) During an adventure on the inland sea, Markus had been able to point Bartholomew to Jesus Christ, and the captain had gotten saved.

“Why is that?” Markus asked the tall, 40-year-old man. Then, he took his oar and started to row with the other men. Markus and Bartholomew shared the same rowing bench.

“Well, I’ve heard stories that it is full of buried treasure,” Bartholomew said, glancing at Markus with a wink. “But, I don’t know if those stories are true.”

“They might be,” Markus said. “But, our goal isn’t to get rich on earth, Bartholomew.”

“I know,” Bartholomew said as he rowed. “But, aren’t you curious if there is buried treasure? Just the thought thrills me. I used to hunt for buried treasure, but found none.”

“What if someone already found the treasure if there is treasure yonder?” Markus said, nodding toward the island. [Yonder means “to or in that place over there.”]

“What if they didn’t find the treasure?” Bartholomew said, glancing at Markus with a grin on his red-bearded face.

“Well, it would be hidden so well that you’d need a map to find it,” Markus said as he rowed.

The tropical island with its high, jagged mountain was getting closer, and that brought him some relief but it also made him wonder what was on the mind of the pilgrims he hadn’t spoken with. Did they also want to find buried treasure? Markus didn’t know what Captain Pablo had in mind when he had asked him if he was ready for an “island adventure.” But, could it be that Pablo was planning a treasure hunt? Or, could it be he was planning on simply gathering tropical fruits?

Before long, the captain’s jollyboat and the two longboats made it to the shore, one after another. The men hopped out into the surf--splash--and carried their boats up the beach close to where it ended near some coconut trees. Setting the heavy boats down, the sailors and pilgrims breathed deeply, inhaling the fresh, sea air.

Then, Captain Pablo ordered a sailor to remove a small, wooden chest from his jollyboat. Once the man had brought the chest back to Pablo, the captain pulled out a key and unlocked it. As he opened the wooden lid, the captain grinned. He reached in and pulled out a bronze tube which had a wooden cap on one end. He removed the cap and drew out a scroll from the tube.

Unrolling it, he said, “Men, what do you think I have here in my hand?”

“I am not sure, but it must be a treasure map,” a sailor said.

“That’s right,” Pablo said. “It is a treasure map. I purchased it for 30 Oro Pico gilders. It is a an expensive item. And, I believe that the seller was being completely honest with me. For, that seller is a good friend of mine. With this nice map, we will find a great treasure.”

[Note: The Oro Pico gilders are fictional coins based on the Dutch gilder coin. One of these coins might be equal to the money earned in two and a half hours of work by a low-income worker.]

Several sailors cheered and one said, “Captain, I didn’t know you had a treasure map. So, that’s what this excursion was all about?”

“That’s right,” Pablo said. “And, I will divide the treasure equally among my entire crew.”

More cheers came.

“Now,” the captain said, “if any of you harm your fellow sailors, I will have you put to death immediately. We must work as a team and not be greedy.”

Suddenly, as the captain was speaking, a gunshot cracked through the jungle and a musket ball knocked the captain’s bycocket hat from his head. He dropped to his hands and knees and turned around suddenly. With wild eyes, he stared into the jungle where the gunshot came from.

The Attack

A second shot rang out from the depths of the jungle, and a musket ball zipped past the head of a sailor ten feet from the captain. Then, the captain came to his senses and shouted, “To the longboats! Retreat!”

A sailor grabbed the small chest and hustled it over to the jollyboat. Simultaneously, other sailors opened a big sea chest and pulled out compact crossbows, which could be cocked by simply pulling the firing string back. Crossbow bolts began to shoot toward the jungle in the general direction of the shots. Zip. Zip. Zip.

Soon, the sailors had gotten the first longboat to the surf. They jumped aboard, took their seats, and began rowing back toward the galleon. Markus and his friends grabbed the other longboat and hurried toward the surf. But, the jollyboat was unoccupied; for, the sailor with the small, wooden chest had placed the chest in the boat and then dove into the water to hide himself.

Markus gazed back to where he last saw the captain. The burly man was hiding behind a thick bush with two sailors lying down on either side of him. They were armed with dirks (long daggers). The jungle was a short distance from them.

As the pilgrims climbed into their longboat, a third loud gunshot cracked through salty air.
Markus squinted and observed a man step out of the jungle. He was wearing a barbute helmet with a T-shaped opening for the face. In his hands he carried a new type of gun: a wheel-lock musket.

“I see you,” the soldier said suddenly as he aimed his gun down at Pablo.

[Note: The wheel-lock musket came out at a later time than the year 1500 (when this story takes place), but it is used in this story because this book is both fictional and allegorical. The wheel-lock musket has a coiled spring connected to a spinning disk of metal--the wheel lock. When the trigger is pulled, the metal disk begins spinning rapidly and rubbing against a piece of flint. Sparks fly out and hit black powder in a tiny flash pan. The powder in the pan ignites and burns in through a small hole where it explodes black powder in the main chamber. A musket ball is shot out through the barrel toward its target. No ordinary armor worn by knights could withstand the musket ball.]

The burly, bearded man raised his hands into the air. 

“You three, come this way,” the musketeer said to the captain and his two men as he pointed the gun at Pablo’s chest.

“We better do what he says,” Pablo told his two men as he raised his hands slowly.

A long, brown tunic; tan trousers; boots; and a steel breastplate appeared below the enemy’s helmet. A sword was sheathed at his side.

A second man appeared, armed with a sheathed broadsword and a bent crossbow. This soldier was equipped with similar armor as the musketeer. And, in a few seconds, a second musketeer emerged from the forest and began preparing his gun for firing.

Seeing that there was nothing that could be done to rescue the captain, Markus got into the longboat with the other pilgrims and they began rowing away as fast as he could. Splash. Splash. Splash. Their oars sliced through the turquoise water in rhythmic strokes.

Boom! A loud report echoed across the water, but the round bullet missed the pilgrims in the longboat. They increased their rowing speed, straining at their oars. [Report: A loud noise like that of a gunshot.]

Markus could see the captain and his two men being handcuffed. Then, they were led away by two soldiers while a third was reloading his wheel-lock musket. The group vanished into the tropical vegetation. But, one musketeer remained behind. Once the musketeer had finished the lengthy reloading process, he took aim at the pilgrims and pulled the trigger. The wheel or metal disc began spinning and creating sparks. ‘The discharge is soon to come,’ Markus thought with concern. [Discharge: The firing of a weapon.]

But, the flash pan failed to ignite. Some of the black powder had gotten damp, so it didn’t fire. The musketeer growled and tried to blow away the damp powder so he could refill the tiny pan on the side of his gun. As he did, the longboat began to leave his weapon’s range.

When he had finally refilled the flash pan with dry black powder, the longboat was too far away for him to accurately shoot at it. Frustrated, he turned away and strode back into the jungle past a hala tree. [Hala tree: A tropical tree with long, pointy leaves.]  

Now, the beach was empty and all the enemy soldiers were gone from view.

“That was a close call,” Markus said as he rowed.

As Markus spoke, the man hiding in the water near the jollyboat pulled himself back to the shore and, dripping with seawater, stepped into the little boat. He took the oars and began rowing toward the galleon.

“But, the captain is captured,” Andrew said as he rowed next to him.

“We need to find out where those musketeers are taking him,” said Gregory White-peak, a 27-year-old with a grey-blond beard and prematurely-grey hair. He was rowing beside Henry Willow on the bench directly behind Markus and Andrew.

“How will we do that?” Henry said as he rowed with gritted teeth.

“We need to go back,” Gregory said.

“But those rascals have muskets,” Henry said, “and we have no weapons that can protect us from musket balls.”

“But, we have the Word of God and the power of God with us,” Gregory said. “You remember, brothers, how God blinded the eyes of the soldiers in the castle of Baron Tyrannous Entertainment?”

“Yes,” Markus and Andrew said, in unison.

“God can do that again if He wants to,” Gregory said boldly. “Why don’t we ask God what we should do? If He is for us going after Captain Pablo, then let’s do it.”

“Yes,” Markus said, breathing deeply. “You’re right, Gregory. Let’s seek God about this.”

 “Father God,” Markus said silently, “do you want us to go after the men who captured Captain Pablo?”

“Yes, My son,” God’s kind voice replied, “but go around the island and you will see a pirate ship. Follow that ship to the next island they stop at. That is where I will work on your behalf to help you rescue the captain, if he can be rescued. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Thank you, Father God,” Markus said.

Markus informed the other pilgrims about what the Heavenly Father had told him.

“God told me the same thing,” Gregory said when Markus had finished.

“He also told me that we need to sail around the island in a counter-clockwise direction,” Andrew said.

“I need to talk to the first mate once we’ve been taken aboard,” Markus said as he rowed.

The Chase

Before long, the longboat had reached Pablo’s galleon, Red Jasper. The yellow and blue standard of Pablo’s state--the duchy of Cabello Castano flapped in a sea breeze high atop the mainmast. Its cheerful colors brought some comfort to the pilgrims as they neared the ship.

[Cabello: hair (on the head), in Spanish.] [Castano: brown or chestnut color, in Spanish.]

The longboat was connected to some cables, raised up by winches, and set on the upper-gun deck. The pilgrims hopped out of the boat and helped to unload it. Gregory, Andrew, and a few other pilgrims carried some sea chests below decks. As they were unloading the chests, Markus searched for the first mate (the second-in-command).

“The first mate is in the great cabin, so you’ll have to wait unless it is urgent,” a sailor told Markus when he asked about him.

“What’s his name?” Markus asked.

“He is First-mate Ricardo Espada-azul,” the sailor replied. 

“Okay,” Markus said. “Thanks.”

He was standing in the “steering room” (which was where helmsmen would steer the ship using a whipstaff). The door to the great cabin, where the captain lived and ate his meals, lay right behind the whipstaff, which was unmanned.

Markus approached the whipstaff and knocked on the thick, oaken door behind it. The great-cabin door flew open and the first mate came out with an angry expression on his goateed face. Ricardo Espada-azul was a tall but wiry man with a thatch of chestnut hair and a long goatee flowing from his chin. Armed with a heavy crossbow, a broadsword, and protected by a mail coif, the second-in-command appeared ready for battle.

[As mentioned earlier, the whipstaff is a vertical, wooden beam, used for steering, which is fastened to the tiller.] [A mail coif is a hood formed of mail (small, metal loops linked together) that covers the neck, shoulders, and head. It has an opening for the face.]

“What is the problem now?” he barked.

“Captain Pablo and two sailors have been captured by enemy soldiers or pirates,” Markus said.

“I heard that from the first longboat crew,” Ricardo said with an annoyed look in his eyes. “We’re going to arm the men with swords and crossbows and we’re going to kill those no-good brigands!” [Brigand: This older word refers to a bandit (which is an armed robber).]

“Sir, God does not want us to kill people if we can spare their lives,” Markus said with concern. “That’s what God means by saying, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ That is from Exodus 20:13.”

“Oh, just leave that Bible stuff alone,” the first mate said with frustration.

“God has shown us to follow the shoreline,” Markus said, “and sail around the island in a counter-clockwise direction.”

“Why should I follow what you think God is telling you?” Ricardo said, squinting with suspicion and mistrust.

“I have been learning,” Markus said politely, “that trusting in God’s leading is infinitely better than depending on human reason.”

“I’ll take two longboats and search the island for the captain,” Ricardo said firmly.

“But, what if the brigands are taking the captain to their ship?” Markus said with some enthusiasm. “If we sail around the island, we will locate their ship. Then, we might be able to board it and capture it.”

The first mate sighed and lowered his head. After a minute of deep thought, Ricardo looked up at Markus and said, “Okay, that does sound better than just searching through the jungle. The captain has the treasure map with him, last I heard. So, we would have no human way of finding him, even if he was being kept somewhere on the island.”

“But,” Markus said, “God showed us we need to sail counter-clockwise around the island to reach the enemy ship in time.”

Before Markus could say anything more, the first mate walked past him and began climbing the main staircase, which ascended to the half deck above. Markus followed him up the steps. He passed through an opening in the deck and gratefully breathed in the fresh sea air.

With a loud voice, the first mate began barking out orders. “Raise anchor!” “I need two helmsmen here immediately.” “Unfurl the sails.” The orders kept coming from his mouth. As they came, sailors scrambled into action, hurrying toward the masts or toward other parts of the ship.

In a little while, the sails were unfurled and were billowing in the breeze. The longboats were fastened down, and protective cloth coverings were placed over them. And, the anchors were resting against the side of the ship. With the wind filling all its sails, Red Jasper began to pick up speed. The only problem, Markus realized, was that the galleon was heading in a clockwise direction instead of counter-clockwise.

He jogged over to the first mate who was now standing on the upper-gun deck, on the port side, looking out over the aquamarine waves. [Port side: This was left side of the ship, from the perspective of someone facing the bow of the ship].

“What is it?” the first mate said, glaring at Markus.

“Sir, we are heading the wrong way,” Markus said. “We are moving clockwise around the island instead of counter-clockwise.”

“The wind is blowing that direction. So, I will follow the wind,” Ricardo said, stubbornly. “Leave me alone, now.”

The Red Jasper sailed around the island, following the prevailing wind. But when it had reached the northern side of the island, the first mate’s jaw dropped. He pulled out a spyglass (i.e. hand-held telescope) and lengthened it to stare at a sight in the distance. There, sailing with its wide, square-rigged sails spread out like a gallant sea creature, a carrack cut through the water.

[Carrack: A three-masted sailing ship used during Middle Ages. It had a forecastle and an aft castle, like a galleon. On a carrack, the aft castle (where the great cabin is) has three “levels” (or floors), starting with the upper deck (i.e. the large deck which has part of it open to the air). The galleon, typically, has an aft castle with one “level” or “floor.” By this, I am not speaking of the “roof” or half deck of the aft castle. The galleon typically was larger of the two ships, but not always.]

“Those pirates have left the island first!” Ricardo cried as he gazed through the small telescope.

Chapter 2

The Pursuer Must Catch Up

Full of frustration, he began shouting and pounding his hands on the half-deck railing atop the aft castle. He cursed himself and said, “I should have circled the island as was suggested to me. Now, we have missed the opportunity to catch those pirates!”

Then, he shouted orders down through the rectangular opening in the half deck.
“Helmsmen, set our course for…” And, the first mate gave a new heading.

Soon, the ship’s bow was turning to face the faster-moving carrack. The chase was on. Powered only by the wind, the two vessels played a game of cat-and-mouse. But, the smaller carrack was lateen-rigged (i.e. having large, triangular sails) and began putting much distance between itself and the bow of the Red Jasper.

Night fell on the Red Jasper as it sailed in pursuit of its foe. Two days passed as the galleon pursued the pirate vessel. As sun rose in the east, on the third day, the Red Jasper lookout spotted an island. Large and extensive, the land formation stretched out over what appeared to be 30 miles. Palm trees, (give some names of tropical trees) graced the land above the water and formed a green jungle full of exotic birds, plants, and land animals.

As the morning brightened, the Red Jasper began sailing around the island in search of the triangular-sailed carrack. Two hours later, they saw a caravel sailing about three leagues off their port side.

[Port side: This was left side of the ship, from the perspective of someone facing the bow of the ship].
[Caravel: A small, Portuguese merchant vessel. It typically was lateen-rigged (i.e. having large, triangular sails) and had usually two masts. It had a raised half-deck (in the stern / rear) which provided cover for sailors to sleep under. But, caravels had no forecastle.]

Before long, the Red Jasper entered the choppy water of a busy harbor. The walled port town of Piedra Preciosa sat nested up at the water’s edge. Caravels, carracks, sloops, and other sailing ships created a forest of masts by the docks. A medieval castle overlooked the busy town and its bustling harbor from a high hill behind the town. Ruffling from poles atop castle towers, red and black standards (flags with a coat of arms) snapped in the sea breeze.

“We’ve reached a harbor,” Henry said with curiosity in his voice. “I wonder if that carrack we were pursuing is here.” He was standing near the bow of the ship atop the forecastle. The 50-year-old’s beard ruffled as wind rushed past his beard.

“I just might be,” Markus said near him.

The Red Jasper neared the shore, and the first mate ordered his men to lay anchor. Four anchors were dropped, splashing into the sea, and the ship came to rest in the bay.

Footfalls came through the square opening in the top of the forecastle. Markus turned to look down and saw the first mate climbing the steep staircase in the forecastle room below. With a sigh, first mate Ricardo Espada-azul stepped onto the forecastle roof and looked Markus straight in the eye.

“We have arrived at Tesoro Grande Island. Your God was right when He told you to travel counter-clockwise around the first island we came to,” Ricardo said. “So, I have come to ask you a favor.”

“Yes?” Markus said.

“Would you seek your God and find out what we should do?” the first mate said.

“I would be glad to,” Markus said, surprised to hear those words. It seemed that the man’s heart was softening a little.

“I have a feeling that the enemy carrack is in this harbor somewhere,” Ricardo said. “But, I don’t know how to find it. There are many carracks in this place. And, I don’t know how to go about rescuing the captain. Perhaps, your God would show us what to do.”

“I will gladly seek Him and tell you what He shows me,” Markus said.

“Very good,” Ricardo said, slapping Markus on the shoulder. “Tell me what you hear as soon as possible.”

Then, the first mate turned around and descended the steps through the square opening. Markus closed his eyes and began praying.

“Father God, what should we do?” Markus said. “The enemy carrack could be in this harbor. If so, what should we do about it? How can we rescue the captain?”

“My son, I will show you what to do,” God’s kind voice said. “The captain is very rebellious against Me. That is why I allowed him to be captured by those pirates. They will not allow him to escape. The captain is now in a cave near the top of the mountain. Go to that mountain by way of the river that flows through the middle of the island. You will use the longboats to float down the river. Then, you will reach the base of the mountain and hike up it. Near the top, you will see some caves. I will show you which cave to enter, and I will give you the power to overcome what will face you there. I love you very much. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Thank you, Heavenly Father,” Markus said.

Then, he rushed toward the open hatch and descended the stairs to the interior of the forecastle. The chamber he entered was small but it contained a little table with two chairs. He flung open the forecastle’s aft door and ran across the upper deck. [Aft refers to being toward the direction of the stern or rear of the ship.]

The first mate was talking to a couple sailors near the aft castle at the rear (stern) of the ship. Markus slowed his pace to a fast walk and approached Ricardo.

“Excuse me, sir,” Markus said.

Ricardo turned and focused on Markus with an intense expression. “What did you hear?” he said.

“God told me some things,” Markus said before he informed him about all he had heard from God.

After Markus was finished, the first mate said, “Then, we shall do that. According to a map I have of this island, the mouth of the Verde River, which is the only river on this island, is located a mile from here. We will sail there first and lay anchor near the mouth of the river.”

Markus nodded as he took in the information.

“Then, once we arrive,” Ricardo said, “I will go with one longboat crew. And, one of my subordinate officers will be in charge of a second longboat. You and your friends will take a third longboat. The forth longboat will be left with the men we leave to guard the Red Jasper. And, the jollyboat will accompany us to carry some cargo.”

“Very good,” Markus said.

The first mate turned away from Markus and began shouting orders. In moments, men began to scramble to prepare the longboats for departure. Sea chests containing crossbows and crossbow bolts were hefted up through a hatch in the upper deck. Two small barrels containing salted beef were stowed in one of the longboats. A barrel containing water was placed in the jollyboat.

Sailors donned breastplates, back plates, and bascinet helmets. Being fully equipped, each sailor carried a broadsword in a scabbard and a small, round shield on his left or right forearm.

The galleon anchors were raised and the ship sailed to the mouth of the river. Soon, the river appeared on the starboard side. Wide and shimmering, it flowed through the jungle and out into the bay like an endless snake of water. As they neared the river mouth, the ship dropped anchor and came to rest a hundred feet away from the river. Then, the three longboats and the jollyboat were lowered, one after another. Haversacks and four small barrels filled any space not used by the men.

[Bascinet helmet: A pointy helmet used during the Middle Ages. It covered the sides of the head and the back of the head. But, the face had no protection. However, some bascinets had visors. The lower neck was left unprotected by this helmet. But, some bascinets had chain-mail neck armor (called an aventail) attached to the lower end of the helmet.] [Scabbard: A sword sheath which hangs from a belt.] [Starboard side: This was the right side of the ship from the point of view of someone facing the bow of the ship.]

Traveling Down the Verde River

The boats traveled up the wide river for three miles before they reached a town built on both sides of the river. Three bridges spanned the river and connected the both halves of the town together. Once the boats were moored to a dock, the first mate and seven of his men left the boats and went into the town to purchase some pack horses. After 40 minutes, the sailors returned to the docks with seven chocolate draft horses.

“Men, load up the pack horses and prepare to march through the jungle,” Ricardo Espada-azul said with a commanding voice. “I’ll leave two of you to guard the boats by the docks. This town of Pueblo Verde has thieves just like any other town.”

The 17 sailors and their commander began preparing the horses for a long trek, fitting them with haversacks and small barrels. Markus and his seven friends prayed and sought God as they spiritually prepared for the expedition.

“I pray that God leads us right to the place the captain is held at. And, I pray we will be able to rescue that man easily enough,” Henry said as he stood near a large draft horse that was fully prepared for a journey.

“I agree with you, Henry,” Markus said. “We need God’s protection and guidance.”

“But, Markus, isn’t God’s protection over us already?” Andrew said. “We are in His hands and nothing can remove His sheep from His hands.”

“We are facing human pirates that would want to kill us if they could,” Markus said with some fear in his voice. “You saw how they shot at us with those muskets.”

With care in his voice, Andrew said, “But Psalm 91 says this in verses 1 through 3: ‘[1] He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. [2] I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress : my God ; in him will I trust. [3] Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.’”

Markus sighed. “Yes, that is true. God will never leave us. You’re right. He will be our refuge. I need to believe that.”

“Let’s prepare move out, men,” Ricardo said.

Then, the first mate appointed two men to guard the boats. He gave them money to pay for any expenses they would have.

After finishing this arrangement, he said, “Okay, let’s go.”

The rest of the armed sailors began walking behind their commander with their crossbows ready to be cocked at a moment’s notice. The sunlight sparkled off their bascinet helmets and breastplates as they walked down a cobblestone street near the edge of the river. Three-story half-timbered buildings rose up on either side of the water and stared down at the foreigners. Villagers gawked at the armed men as they walked down their streets. And, curious children pointed at the band of 24 men, making comments to their parents.

Soon, the town of Pueblo Verde was behind them and a tropical jungle filled their view with verdant greenery. Mile after mile passed under the feet of the pilgrims and sailors. Birds chirped and monkeys hollered in the tree tops. The men took breaks every half hour to refresh themselves and rest.

After a few hours of walking along the bank of the Verde River, the group of 24 men reached the base of a mountain. The volcanic peak rose high above the treetops and it resembled a huge, wide cone with a missing top. Jungle trees marched up the lower sides of the dormant volcano and covered the slopes of a mountain spur. The spur branched off the top of the volcano cone and ran down one side of the peak.

“Markus,” Ricardo said, “we have arrived at the base of the Tesoro Grande Mountain. It is an inactive volcano. What would God show us to do now?”

Tesoro Grande Mountain

“I’ll seek Him about this,” Markus said before he walked away from the men a little distance.

Then, he said silently, “Father God, where should we go? Where is the captain being held? Are we even at the right place?”

“My son,” God’s voice said to Markus, “go up the mountain spur and you will reach a cave near the top. It is an artificial cave. It was not naturally formed. In that cave you will find your friend the captain and his two men. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

“Thank you, Father God,” Markus said. Then, he quickly walked back to the first mate.

“God told me,” Markus said, “that the captain and the two sailors with him are in an artificial cave near the top of that mountain spur. You can see that the spur almost reaches the mouth of the volcano.”

“Then, we will go up there and rescue him,” Ricardo said boldly. Turning to the sailors, the first mate said sternly, “Anyone who deserts us will be hung. Do you men understand?”

“Yes, sir,” they replied.

“You two,” Ricardo said, pointing at two sailors standing near him.

“Yes sir,” one said.

“I want you both to guard the pack animals,” the first mate ordered. “Tie their guide ropes to some trees and make sure no one steals them.”

“We will do that, sir,” one said.

The first mate then began walking toward the mountain spur which passed down the volcano cone to his right. The 22 others followed him. Thankfully, there was no need to build a raft to cross the river. For that, Markus was grateful.

Soon, the party was climbing up a densely-covered slope. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. The sailors’ broadswords sliced through thick jungle undergrowth and vines. Clearing a path was difficult in this environment, and seeing even fifteen feet ahead was a challenge.

“I hope we will be able to find a trail soon,” Henry said as they hiked. “This jungle is getting nearly impossible to travel through. It’s as thick as my grandma’s soup.”

“There may be a trail somewhere along this slope,” Gregory White-peak said.

The men traveled a few more yards before the first mate said loudly, “At last, we’ve found a cleared trail. It appears to be a walking trail. Now, our going will be easier.”

The men took the trail up the side of the high, mountain spur and found that it led straight to the highest point on the spur. They had to pause for breaks a few times, but soon they saw a level, rock strewn clearing near the top of the spur. The clearing ran up to some rugged, stony hills which contained five cave mouths. Large boulders were positioned in various places about the clearing, and they partially blocked Markus’s view of some of the caves.

“We arrived at the caves,” Henry said as they emerged from the dense jungle, “but this place seems rather desolate and empty. I don’t see a single soul here.”

“Men,” Ricardo said, glancing back at the sailors, “load your crossbows, and cock them.”

Crossbows were cocked back and bolts (resembling arrows) were placed on the strings. Then, the helmeted sailors raised their weapons to their shoulders and prepared to fire at anything that moved.

As the first mate approached one of the large boulders, a huge, gloved hand suddenly reached out and grabbed him. He was pulled behind the boulder and a dull thump came.

“The first mate! He’s gone. Did you see that?” Gregory said, sputtering.

The Battle on Tesoro Grande Mountain

“Commander?” a sailor shouted as he walked slowly toward the large, 15-foot-high boulder.

The man was holding a broadsword in one hand and a small shield in another. As he drew close to the boulder, a giant suddenly stepped out from behind the large rock and swung a large club toward the man. The sailor jumped out of the way just as the spiked club slammed into the ground where he was standing. Thump!

The sailor swung his sword at the monster’s legs, but the giant blocked the sword strike with his club. And then, he swiftly slammed the club into the sailor’s head, knocking him unconscious. Seeing this, several sailors unleashed their crossbow bolts at the monster, but the quarrels (crossbow bolts) bounced off the beast’s full suit of dark-grey armor.

A second giant stepped out from behind a boulder and charged at the sailors, swinging a club as he came. The men fired a few more quarrels, with no effect, and then ran toward the jungle. But, the second giant was too fast for them. His club began slamming into men and sending them to dream world.

As he continued knocking out the sailors, regular-sized knights, wearing slate-grey armor, suddenly came from behind the same boulder where the first giant had appeared. They grabbed the unconscious, armored sailors and carried them back behind the boulder.

While this was taking place, the first giant gazed down at the eight pilgrims. They had quickly positioned themselves into a circular formation. Their round shields were raised and their bright, shiny swords were drawn. This wall of shields formed a protective barrier around the pilgrim knights.

While the battle was taking place, the Ephesians 6 armor, in all its silvery glory, had suddenly appeared on the eight pilgrims knights. It had faded from view earlier, but now that the pilgrims were facing supernatural foes, it had again become opaque and solid.

The huge, 10-foot-tall creature approached the pilgrims and stared down at them through slits in his sallet helmet visor. His lower face and neck were protected by a bevor which was scratched and pitted. And, his body was covered with medieval plate armor. A word appeared on his helmet in blue paint: “Greed.”

[Sallet: A style of medieval helmet that was popular during the 15th century. This style often had a curved flange of metal in the rear of the helmet. Later sallet helmets had movable visors (to protect the face) and bevors (to protect the neck and lower face). The bevor was a piece of armor that covered the upper shoulders, the neck, and the lower face.]

The giant carried a spiked club in both hands, but a sheathed sword hung from his belt.

Holding the club tightly in his massive hands, Greed said, “God isn’t going to meet your needs. So, why don’t you pursue your own interests? Why don’t you try some tasty food? Come with me, and I will bring you to a place where you will be able to enjoy the best of Lucifer’s delicacies.”

Markus said boldly as he faced the giant: “The Holy Spirit had Paul write these words in Philippians 3, verses 17 through 20: ‘[17] Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. [18] (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ : [19] whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) [20] For our conversation is in heaven ; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ :’ [Philippians 3:17-20.]” [Emphasis added.]

Just as Markus finished speaking, the giant swung his large club down toward him, but Markus held up his shield and blocked the blowclang.

“We must not serve our fleshly desires,” Andrew added.

“Hah,” the giant laughed as he swung his club toward Markus andclangit again struck his shield. “But, God will not satisfy you,” the giant said with a deep voice. “So, you will only be miserable.”

“That is a lie,” Gregory said, piping up. “I remember that God’s Word says this in Galatians 3, verse 5: ‘He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?’ [Galatians 3:5.] God ministers to us by faith, and not by our works. So, God will minister to us His Spirit.” [Emphasis added.]

As Gregory spoke, Markus’s sword suddenly vanished. A split second later, it was replaced with a halberd. But, instead of a spear tip at the very top of the long pole, this halberd had a sword blade. And, this miracle happened for all the pilgrim knights. (The battle-axe head and the sharp prong, opposite it, were still present on this weapon.)

“Wow,” Markus said, with surprise, at receiving from God a new version of his weapon. But, he quickly regained his focus and looked up at Giant Greed.

“God’s Spirit is nothing,” said the wicked giant, blasphemously, with an evil laugh.

“Giant Greed, that is false! God’s Spirit is the very reason we live, and move, and have our being,” Markus said as he suddenly thrust his halberd up toward the giant’s neck. But, the giant deflected the weaponclang.

“It is God’s Holy Spirit that gives us pilgrims life,” Markus said. “And, Jesus Christ said this in John 7, verses 37 through 39: ‘[37] In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. [38] He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. [39] (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive : for the Holy Ghost was not yet given ; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)’ [John 7:37-39.]” [Emphasis added.]

[Halberd: A medieval weapon with a long, wooden handle and a multipurpose head. The halberd head is a combination of an axe blade; and a sharp, metal prong on the other side; and a long, spear tip at the very top.]

As Markus spoke, he suddenly swung the battle-axe side of his halberd at the giant’s legs. The giant attempted to block it, but he was not fast enough. Ding. The axe head struck the giant’s left steel greave (i.e. lower leg armor), causing it to dent inward slightly.

[Greave: Armor for the lower leg. It went from below the knee down to a sabaton (armored shoe).] [Sabaton (singular noun): A sabaton was a jointed piece of metal foot armor (for each foot) that was designed to articulate (or move like a hinge) as the knight walked.] [Poleyn were armored knee guards.]

“I will stop you humans!” Greed roared as he swung his club toward Markus. But, it struck against the pilgrim’s shieldbong.

Ignoring Greed’s threat, Markus said, “So, it is the Holy Spirit that ministers to us and who quenches our spiritual thirst.” Markus swung his weapon quickly and struck the giant in the leg again. The dent in the monster’s armor began to crack.

“I agree with Markus and the Bible. It is true that God satisfies the spirit and soul of a believer by His Holy Spirit,” Andrew said just before he suddenly stepped forward and swung his own halberd toward the giant’s club.

Clang. The sharp sword blade on his halberd sliced off a third of the club near the ‘striking’ end.

Giant Greed dropped his useless half-club, turned and hustled off toward the boulder he came from. The second giant, who had been watching the whole time, trotted back to his hiding spot and was also lost to Markus’s view, behind a boulder.

With courage, Markus ran toward the boulder where Giant Greed had gone to, and Andrew and Henry followed him. Behind the boulder was a closed trap door made of iron. As he walked up to it, his halberd suddenly vanished. A split-second later, his broadsword once more was in his hand. Suddenly, fire leaped up from the blade and rose up three inches from the metal.

The Sword of the Spirit Miracle

“What just happened?” Andrew said as he stared at his own weapon and opened his close-helmet visor. His halberd had also been replaced with a flaming broadsword.

“My halberd is now a fiery sword,” Henry said with surprise as he gazed at the flames undulating from his weapon. [Undulate: To move like waves do.]

[Close helm: The close helm, or helmet, was an authentic, late-medieval helmet style which fit closely to the head and neck of the wearer. It normally covered the entire head, neck, upper shoulders, and face of the wearer.

But, in this story, the close helmets worn by the pilgrims are modified so that the lower portion of each helmet (the bevor) is shortened to extend just halfway down the neck. With this modified, close-helmet design, the neck is protected by a stiff, leather collar, which has pieces of metal fastened to it. Certainly, the neck area of our fictional, close-helm design is weaker than in most close helms, but this fictional version of the close helm has more freedom of movement. The knight can now freely move his head.

The close helm often had a hinging visor, which could be raised up and lowered back over the face. Since it fit snugly, the helmet had to be put on by first unlatching and hinging open a rotating bevor.

A bevor was a piece of metal that (usually) protected the lower face, neck, and upper shoulders of the wearer. It shared the same hinges as those used by the visor. Once the helmet was on the knight, the bevor would be hinged shut. To secure it shut, pivoting hooks slid through slots in staples (i.e. U-shaped pieces of metal). Often, a strap was used for extra strength.]

“This is again a miracle of God,” Markus said. “The sword of the Spirit is a very powerful weapon. I remember Genesis chapter 3 mentions a flaming sword which was to guard and protect the way of the tree of life. This could also be applied, in a metaphor, to the Ephesians 6 sword. This supernatural weapon protects the path of life from Satan, the evil serpent.”

“How does the sword of the Spirit do that?” Henry said.

Turning toward him, Markus said, “The sword of the Spirit keeps people from believing lies that there are supposedly other ways to Heaven than the way of faith as laid out in the Bible.”

“Let’s try going through this hatch,” Andrew said as he stood near the trap door. “I believe Captain Pablo and the other sailors are somewhere below us.”

He stooped down and tried to find a handle, but none appeared. Then, Andrew glanced at his sword and back at the trap door. An idea came to him and he suddenly plunged the sword toward the hatch. The sword tip clanked against the metal, and the sword flexed. But, nothing happened.

However, as the hot fire surrounding the blade reached the metal hatch, the hatch metal began to glow red and then orange. In a few seconds, it began to turn white as it heated up. It slowly bent inward under the pressure of the sword tip. Then, the white-hot portion of the hatch fell inward, and a 4-inch-wide hole appeared.

“Did you see that?” Gregory White-peak said to another pilgrim knight as both walked up to Andrew. His close helmet visor was opened, revealing his face. [Close helmet: See Chapter 2 for information. It is in the section titled: “The Sword of the Spirit Miracle.”]

Markus and Henry placed their fiery sword tips against the remains of the hatch, and the entire metal surface began to glow white. In a minute, it caved in and dropped away. Through the hole, the three pilgrims saw a metal rungs fastened to the side of a vertical shaft in the ground.

“This is the way in,” Markus said to the small group. “And, it was God’s goodness that gave us these wonderful, fiery swords.”

“I’m going to tell the others,” Gregory said as he turned and started walking back toward the rest of the group of pilgrims.

Before long, all eight pilgrim knights had descended the metal rungs and had reached the bottom of the shaft. Above them appeared a square patch of blue sky, at the top of the shaft. The ladder rungs continued from the ceiling and crawled down the side of a wall toward the floor. The knights were standing in a chamber, which was 14 feet high and 20 feet by 23 feet, in length and width.

Beneath the Earth

In the light of their sword flames, the knights could see four hallways branching off from the four walls of the stone chamber. One hall entrance appeared in each wall.

“I say we should split up,” Caiaphas Fetido, a pilgrim knight said. “I will go through that doorway.” He pointed toward a hallway entrance which had a wooden sign above it. Words on it in yellow paint read: “Apostasy Section.”

Caiaphas Fetido was a tall man with a short, white beard and brown eyes. His face appeared somewhat nervous as he looked from one pilgrim to another. Then he said, “Who will go with me?”

“I’ll join you,” Cain Mentiroso, another pilgrim knight, said walking toward him.

Cain was a short man with blond hair, a mustached face, and green eyes. His close helm visor was openedlike the other knightsrevealing his facial features. Cain’s mouth formed a strange grin. It was the look of someone seeking to do mischief. [Close helmet: See Chapter 2 for information. It is in the section titled: “The Sword of the Spirit Miracle.”]

“Why don’t we all stay together?” Markus said, looking at the two men.

“We will find Captain Pablo faster if we split up. That is the logical thing to do,” Caiaphas Fetido said with a touch of arrogance in his voice.

“God will speak to you,” Markus said, “and show you the right course to take if you simply ask Him.”

“Ha,” Caiaphas said, arrogantly. “I don’t need to ask God anything when I can simply use the mind He has given me to logically determine what I should do.”

“After all,” Cain added, “God is busy with other things.”

“What you just said, Caiaphas, is not true,” Markus said. “Romans chapter 8, verses 4 through 7 says:

‘[4] That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [5] For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh ; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. [6] For to be carnally minded is death ; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. [7] Because the carnal mind is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ [Romans 8:4-7.]”

“Hmm,” Caiaphas said as he frowned.

“What I just quoted shows that it is wrong to follow the logical, carnal mind, which has been corrupted by sin,” Markus said. “Following our logical mind, without seeking the Heavenly Father, eventually brings spiritual separation from God. This is what it means by ‘death.’ Those who stubbornly refuse to repent (when God convicts them of sin) are separating themselves from God by their own choice. But, He will still call out to them and plead with them.”

Caiaphas bent down and appeared to be adjusting a leather strap on his lower left leg. But, he secretly drew a dagger from a partially-concealed sheath fastened to the back of his leg.

“And, to answer what Cain stated,” Andrew said, “God’s Word says this in Psalm 139, verses 1 through 6:

‘[1] O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. [2] Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising ; thou understandest my thought afar off. [3] Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. [4] For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. [5] Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. [6] Such knowledge is too wonderful for me ; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.’ [Psalm 139:1-6.]”

Cain Mentiroso just shook his head and continued grinning with an arrogant look.

Caiaphas, while still kneeling, opened the pivoting hooks which locked his close helmet shut. Then, he opened the helmet’s rotating bevor. [Note: On a close helmet, the bevor was the front part of the helmet that went from the forehead down to the neck. It swung open on the same pivot points as the visor.]

“Cain,” Andrew added, “God is not busy. He sees all things and knows all things and He is intimately or deeply involved in all of his creation, especially those made in His image. That would be us, and the angels.”

Suddenly, Caiaphas threw his helmet to the ground and sprang toward Markus with his dagger in hand. As he did, all the men’s armor suddenly faded until it was nearly invisible. The men were now dressed in either white or black garments and leather boots.

“I will become the leader of this group,” Caiaphas said as he slowly walked toward Markus Christian with the dagger. With an evil gleam in his eyes, the white-bearded man entered a fighting stance, ready to lunge toward Markus with a physical weapon.

Wearing a black tunic, black trousers, and leather boots, the false pilgrim prepared to kill his victim.

“Why do you want to be the leader, Caiaphas?” Markus said, feeling a mixture of fear and soundness of mind.

“I will kill you if you do not leave this group now and never return,” the white-bearded man said with a hateful look in his eyes. “Power belongs to me. It doesn’t belong to you, Markus Christian.”

Markus raised his hands and said, “Okay, Caiaphas, I will go.”

“Yeah,” Cain said, “leave us.”

With that, Markus turned and walked toward the metal rungs affixed to the wall. Markus knew that the man with the physical dagger was armed with a weapon that potentially could kill him because Markus’s armor was not of a physical nature. It was spiritual armor. But, Markus also knew that God had angels with him to watch over him, like Psalm 91 speaks of.

“Never return,” Caiaphas said as Markus grabbed a metal rung, “or you will be a dead man!”

Chapter 3

A Turn of Events

Markus scrambled up the rungs. When he reached the opening at the top of the shaft, he pulled himself onto the ground before the boulder and breathed deeply. Then, standing up, Markus saw his armor reappear. The flaming broadsword returned to his hand and, with a sense of comfort, he clutched its leather handle grip.

He walked away from the bare, grass-less clearing and passed into the tropical foliage on the edge of the clearing. Colorful lorikeets, with yellow, blue, and green feathers, chirped from the upper branches of leafy mamane trees. [Lorikeet: This is a small parrot which has bright, colorful feathers. It has bristles on its tongue for removing pollen and nectar from tropical flowers.] [Mamane tree: A tropical tree.]

When he was 90 feet from the edge of the rocky clearing, down the slope, Markus crawled under a bush and began pouring out his heart to God. He felt very troubled that another one of his acquaintances wanted to kill him. The first had been Ahaziah Bronze-smith, who had plunged into a deep pitfall by accident just before he was about to fire an arrow at Markus. After Ahaziah’s fall, Markus had offered to help him out of the pit with a rope. But, Ahaziah had stubbornly refused any help and had pointed a bent bow at him. Markus had to move out of the way before an arrow had shot up toward him.

Now, Caiaphas Fetido was seeking to gain power even if it meant killing him. And, Cain Mentiroso was in full support of Caiaphas, or so it appeared. These thoughts troubled Markus as he sat beneath the bush and listened to brilliantly-colored macaws imitating sounds.

“Father God, I feel so troubled about many things,” Markus said.

“My son,” God’s kind voice said, “what are you troubled about?”

“I feel worried about the future,” Markus said with his helmeted head in his hands. “I know that Caiaphas Fetido is seeking power and threatened to kill me, but I also know that Cain Mentiroso has joined him. I fear that more men will join him. And, I don’t know what to do when I am up against a man armed with a physical weapon.”

“My son, Markus,” God’s kind voice said. “I am with you and I never will forsake you or any other Christian. I am here for you even when you sin and rebel. But, I will always correct you in love, and in kindness, and in mercy. I will never allow you to go in the wrong direction without calling out to you so that you will know that I am reaching out to you.”

“That’s good to know,” Markus said, feeling a sense of peace beginning to return to him.

“Now,” God said, “these evil men wear black garments because they have cast Me out of their lives. Their armor was rotting away even while you withstood the giant who had the club. But, now they are very hardened indeed. They will seek to join up with pirates to begin looting treasure on the high seas.

“There are Spanish treasure fleets that pass by this island. The pirates and those men from your group will join up to form a coalition and will seek to rob the Spanish fleet that comes by in two days from now. I will show you what I want you to do.”

“Okay,” Markus said, listening.

“Go and head back toward the port town where your galleon ship is located,” God said. “I want you to speak to the men aboard the galleon and have them know that they need to leave the harbor at once. Tell them that both their captain and their co-captain are in prison and are held for a high ransom. You are not able to even enter these prisons because men armed with muskets are guarding them.”

“Okay, I’ll try to remember that,” Markus said, nodding.

“The caves you have arrived at are the secret entrances to the underground prisons,” God continued. “In order to achieve victory to release the captain and the first mate from the cave prisons, you will need to pray for My angels to go into battle. They will appear as knights in golden armor, in this case. And, they will fight for you.

“Now, go ahead and head back toward the hatch you passed through. You will meet your loyal friends and you can have a prayer meeting to request My angelic warriors to fight for you so that these men will be released from prison. I will tell you that Cain and Caiaphas shall leave the cave system another way. They will not see you, so you are safe. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”


Markus left the cover of the bush and walked back up the slope toward the rocky clearing. As he reached the rocky clearing, his shiny armor became fully opaque and solid. Markus’s broadsword was sheathed in its scabbard, and his shield hung behind his back from a leather strap.

He walked around a certain boulder and found the hatch he had passed through earlier. With a desire to get back to his three loyal friends, Markus descended the metal rungs and passed down the wall of the underground chamber. Standing on the floor of the chamber, he removed his shield and put it on his left arm. Then, he drew out his sword, and flames leaped up from its sharp, double-edged blade.

The sword flames revealed that the chamber was empty. “What do I do now, Heavenly Father?” Markus asked.

“Just be patient, My son, and they will come,” God’s kind voice said.

A secret, stone door suddenly flew open and two knights with shiny armor entered the chamber. Each carried a battle axe and a shield. And, each foe bore a name painted on the front of his helmet: “Fear.”

“What are you doing in this place, pilgrim?” one of the evil knights said. “I will give you a nightmare from which you will never awake.”

Without wasting any time, the evil soldier lunged toward Markus with his shield outstretched and his axe prepared to strike.

The Underground Battle

Markus quickly raised his shield and both shields clanged together as the enemy charged forward. Then, the second evil knight moved into action and ran up behind Markus.

Red and black, alternating stripes covered both evil knights from head to toe. And, each wore an armet helmet with a visor that resembled the prow of a modern ship.

Clang. Clang. Ding. The first evil knight viciously struck Markus on his shield and on his left pauldron (i.e. shoulder armor). And, the second knight struck him on his helmet and on his back plate. Their battle axes were almost a blur of motion, and it took Markus his full concentration to parry and deflect their blows. But, he often missed and was hit in several places in his armor.

[Pauldron: This is shoulder armor that also covers part of the upper back and a portion of the upper breastplate.]

“You will be a failure in the end, pilgrim,” one evil knight said. “We will make sure you don’t reach Heaven. God is against you. You will fall and not arise.”

Then, Markus turned to God and asked for help. Suddenly, scripture came to his mind. With renewed confidence in God’s love, Markus began swinging his sword toward his foes.

And, Markus said boldly: “God’s Word says this truth in Romans chapter 8, starting with verse 31: [31] What shall we then say to these things ? If God be for us, who can be against us ? [32] He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?’”

“Ugh,” the evil knight said, trying to block the pilgrim’s fiery sword. “Stop saying that!”

Markus ignored him and said, “It goes on to say: ‘[33] Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect ? It is God that justifieth. [34] Who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.’”

As Markus spoke, his sword flame glowed brighter and hotter. He began striking the evil knights in their shields and helmets–clang, clang, ding–instead of just blocking blows. Dents now appeared in their tough armor.

Markus continued, saying: “Romans 8 goes on to say: ‘[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? [36] As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long ; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’”

As Markus hacked at their shields–clang, ding–with his fiery sword, an enemy shield suddenly cracked down the middle. Another sword blow caused it to break in half. The evil soldier dropped the shield–crash–and hurried back toward the secret door. He yanked it open and disappeared into the darkness beyond the opening.

Striking the remaining soldier’s shield, Markus said, “Romans 8 also says: ‘[37] Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.’”

The enemy’s shield began to bend inward with Markus’s sword blows.

“‘[38] For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [39] nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ [Romans 8:33-39.]”

The shield cracked. Markus then struck it harder with his fiery sword, and sliced through the shield. It fell to the ground in pieces, and the evil knight cursed Markus before bolting for the secret door. The door slammed shut a few seconds later.

“Thank you, Father God, for helping me to win this battle,” Markus said in the now-empty chamber.

“Markus,” a voice said, “is that you?”

Markus turned around and saw three knights in shining armor entering the chamber through one of the hallway entrances. The first knight to enter raised his visor and Markus recognized the face of Andrew Strong-heart. The other visors were raised and Markus saw the faces of Gregory White-peak and Henry Willow.

Moving On

“It’s good to see you, my friends,” Markus said. “I feared that I’d never see you again.”

“There is no reason to fear,” Andrew said. “Caiaphas, Cain, and the others in our group have joined some pirates. A number of pirates and evil knights are guarding prisoners in this underground region. God blinded the eyes of the pirates and false pilgrims so that they would not see us. Seeing that we were hidden from their eyes, we left the group to head back to meet up with you.”

“That’s good to know,” Markus said. “I need to fill you in on some things God told me.”

“Yes?” several said.

Then, Markus began telling them all that God had told him. When he was finished, Henry said, “Markus, I had no idea that a Spanish treasure fleet was heading near this island. But, I believe what God told you. Let’s pray that Caiaphas and his accomplices repent and turn to God.”

“Let’s also pray that Captain Pablo and First Mate Ricardo are able to escape the pirates,” Andrew suggested.

The men did just that, praying and interceding for concerns they had. They offered up thanksgiving to God and praise for what they expected Him to do. Then, when they opened their eyes, the four pilgrims were utterly surprised. They were no longer standing in an underground, stone chamber. Instead, the sky appeared overhead. Seagulls wheeled in the air, circling above them. They were standing on the upper-gun deck of a galleon.

“What are you men doing here?” a husky sailor said as he approached the circle of four men.

The Galleon

The pilgrim’s armor was invisible, but they were wearing white garments and leather boots instead.

 “I don’t know how we got here,” Gregory White-peak said as he looked left and right. “Where are we?”

“You are aboard the Red Jasper, the ship that belongs to Captain Pablo Campo-verde,” the strong-looking sailor said. “What are you thieves doing here?”

The goateed, dark-haired man wore a dark-blue tunic, white trousers, and black boots. His sleeves were rolled up, showing his strong arm muscles. A dirk hung from a sheath on his leather belt.

“We were traveling with you,” Markus said. “We gave Captain Pablo our horses to pay for a voyage. Do you remember us?”

“Ah,” the sailor said, slowly relaxing. “I remember you now. I can’t be too careful. There are pirates that roam these waters, every now and then.”

“We need to warn you that your ship is in danger,” Markus said. “God told us to tell you that you must leave this harbor at once. Both your captain and first mate are in prison and are being held for a high ransom.”

“And, we couldn’t rescue the men,” Andrew added, “because pirates armed with muskets are guarding them.”

“How do I know that you aren’t part of the plot to kidnap the two men?” the sailor said, suddenly getting suspicious.

“We are not part of any plot,” Markus said. “We are believers in Jesus and lovers of God. You can trust us. Seek God and He will show you the truth.”

“I think that perhaps I should put you men in confinement,” the sailor said, narrowing his eyes with mistrust. “I don’t believe you are telling the truth.”

“But, we are speaking the truth,” Henry said.

The officer turned quickly and shouted some orders to some lower-ranked crew members. They came running toward the pilgrims and drew dirks from their belts. A sailor emerged from the forecastle, armed with a crossbow, which was cocked and loaded with a quarrel.

“Raise your hands and follow me,” the officer said.

Reluctantly, Markus and the three other pilgrims complied. Raising their hands, they followed the officer as he led them to a hatch in the upper-gun deck. The descended a set of stairs to the lower-gun deck. Another staircase brought them down to the orlop deck. They were marched across this lowest deck toward the lazaretto (i.e. a storage area), at the stern of the ship.

After being shoved through the door into the smallish room, the pilgrims stood to their feet and saw sailors coming toward them with iron leg cuffs. The cold shackles were snapped around their ankles, making it impossible for the men to run or walk. Then, the lazaretto door was shut tight.

A thick, wooden drawbar was slid through metal loops fastened to the outside of the door, locking it shut. Metal loops on either side of the door secured the drawbar to the doorposts and nearby wall.

With the door shut, the room was nearly pitch black.

Markus began to feel despair attacking him. ‘Is this what we are destined to face?’ he thought. ‘Imprisonment aboard a wooden ship?’

“My son, I am pleased with you,” God’s kind voice spoke to Markus’s spirit. “Now, sing praises to Me and rest in Me, and you will see Me work on your behalf. You don’t praise Me in order to earn anything, but praising Me helps you trust Me. Go ahead and worship Me, and I will work a miracle. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Wow,” Markus said. “So, praising you helps me to trust you. Then, that’s what I want to do.”

Markus began singing songs of praise he had heard before.

“Why are you singing, Markus?” Gregory said from the darkness.

“Because God is going to deliver us,” Markus said.

Henry joined Markus, and Andrew followed his example. Suddenly, without warning, the pitch-black chamber was replaced by daylight. The four pilgrims were now standing by a dock. The calm, turquoise bay spread out before them. Behind them lay the town of Piedra Preciosa, which spread out over a large area. Tall cathedrals and prison towers rose high over the three-and-four-storied, half-timbered structures. Clouds swirled in the blue sky while birds circled about the air.

Piedra Preciosa

“Wow,” Markus said. “God has caught us away again. This is a miracle! It reminds me of what happened to Philip in Acts chapter 8. He was translated or transported by God from where he met the Ethiopian eunuch over to another location many miles away.”

“We serve an awesome God,” Andrew said, smiling. “I just noticed that I now have a small, leather money bag on my belt. And, it is filled with coins.”

“How much money do you have?” Henry said, wide-eyed.

“I don’t know,” Andrew said.

“Where should we go from here?” Gregory White-peak said, looking at his friends. The prematurely-graying 27-year old had his close helmet visor raised and was holding a leather drinking bottle in one hand. [Close helmet: See Chapter 2 for information. It is in the section titled: “The Sword of the Spirit Miracle.”]

“Father what do you want us to do now?” Markus said silently.

“My son, I am with you,” God’s kind voice said to Markus. “I love you very much. You may charter a boat to take you to the next closest island on your route to the other side of this ocean. On that island, you will find a map. That map will take you to a location where there is a great treasure. Follow that map, and you will be blessed. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

Markus thanked God and turned back to his friends. “God just told me,” Markus said, “that we need to charter a boat to the next closest island which will be on our route to the land across the ocean. There, we will find a map. God was telling me we can follow that map to find a great treasure.”

“A treasure map?” Gregory said, surprised. “Why would God want us to find a great treasure?”

“I am surprised too,” Markus said.

“Let’s find a captain who is willing to take us to on our way,” Andrew suggested.

“Let’s seek God first about who to go to,” Markus suggested.

“Good idea,” Henry said, smiling cheerfully.

“Father God,” Henry said, “I know that you’ve often spoken to Markus about details like what I’m about to ask you. But, I want to know if you’d show me where we should go to find a ship captain.”

“My son, Henry, walk along the docks and you will meet a man with a parrot on his shoulder. He is tall and has a bycocket hat. He has a sea cloak and tall, brown boots. That is the man who can help you on your next step in this journey. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

“Thank you for sharing that with me, Heavenly Father,” Henry said. “Praise your Name!”

[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.] [Sea cloak: A thick cloak worn by medieval sailors.]

He turned to his friends and cleared his throat to get their attention.

“What is it, Henry?” Andrew said.

“God just told me who can help us on our voyage,” Henry said with excitement in his eyes.

“Who?” Andrew said.

Henry motioned with his hand and said, “Follow me.”

Henry started walking down shore near the docks and swiveled his head left and right, looking for the man God told him about. He saw sailors coiling up ropes, fishermen spreading out nets, and longshoremen unloading ships on a distant wharf. Other people walked down crooked, cobblestone streets in the town nearby.

[Longshoreman: A dock worker who unloads cargo from a ship or loads a ship with cargo.] [Wharf: A structure that extends out into the water where ships or boats are moored (tied to). It sometimes has a cover to protect from the weather.]

There was no man with a bycocket hat and a sea cloak in sight. ‘Did I really hear from God?’ Henry wondered to himself as he walked. His stomach began to tighten with fear and doubt and he frowned. Not a single man around was wearing a bycocket hat. As his heart began to sink, Henry began telling God about his doubt and fears.

“Give them to Me, My son,” God’s kind voice said, “and I will take them from you. Trust Me even when you don’t see what I have told you, for you will see it soon. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

“Okay,” Henry said, breathing in quickly. “I choose to trust you, Father God.”

Just then, a door swung open from a building along a nearby street and out stepped a tall, bearded man wearing a brown bycocket hat; a long, tan cloak; and tall, brown-leather boots. Henry hurried over to him, followed by his friends.

The bearded, brown-haired man carried a small book in his left hand. He pulled it open and began flipping through it.

“Excuse me, sir,” Henry said, jogging toward him.

The man looked up at Henry and said, “What’s the trouble?”

“We are visitors to this island and we would like to know if you own a ship?” Henry said, breathing somewhat hard.

“Yes,” the man said, smiling, “I am James Hawthorne-wood the captain and owner of the White Stallion, a carrack.”

“I’m Henry Willow,” Henry said extending a hand.

Captain James shook his hand and grinned at the pilgrims.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Henry said. “We would like to sail with you to the south-east. Do you have a map with you?”

“I have a map aboard my ship,” Captain James said. “Why don’t you come with me back to the ship and we’ll get the paperwork done?”

“That sounds good,” Henry said.

The pilgrims followed the ship captain as he walked toward the docks and approached four sailors, who chatted nearby. After giving the sailors some orders to prepare a longboat for departing from the docks, the captain then turned to his passengers and said, “Gentlemen, I was just getting ready to leave the harbor, so you showed up at just the right time. Do you have any luggage to bring with you?”

“We have no luggage right now,” Markus said.

“Well, then come this way,” Captain James said as he walked toward a dock. At the far end of the dock was moored a longboat. Three sailors were now seated in the boat and one was untying the moorings (i.e. cables for securing a boat to a dock).

The pilgrims stepped in, followed by the captain, and the longboat left the dock. Markus grabbed an ore and began rowing with the other men. As he rowed, he began to feel fear attacking him.

‘Some sea captains are actually pirates,’ Markus thought, ‘who steal men and sell them in slave markets.’ And, he had no desire to be sold as a slave. So, he began pouring out his heart to God. After telling God his fears, Markus remembered that God had told him that the captain was trustworthy and would get them to their destination. So, Markus chose to trust God and rest.

Soon, the longboat arrived at a three-masted ship with a high aft castle and a large forecastle. The carrack’s sails were unfurled and were gracefully billowing in a sea breeze. Slowly moving with the gentle waves, the ship was a masterfully-constructed piece of woodwork. From is mainmast flew a blue and yellow standard (flag).

 [Aft castle: A structure in the stern of the ship where the great cabin was located.] [Forecastle: A structure in the front of the ship which could defend it from attackers should it be boarded.]

After being hoisted aboard, the longboat crew and passengers stepped onto the upper deck of the carrack and stretched. Then, the captain led the men to stairs ascending up the aft castle. They reached the lower aft castle deck of the aft castle where the officers’ mess (dining room for officers) was located. An open door revealed a table and chairs within.

“Up this way, please,” Captain James said as he walked toward a staircase that led to the middle aft castle deck.

Aboard the White Stallion

Reaching the middle aft castle deck, the captain led his passengers into the great cabin, his office and living quarters. He walked over to a bookcase bolted to a wall and removed a tome (book). Walking across the creaking, wood floor, he took a seat behind a teak desk and picked up a quill pen. Dipping its sharp tip into an inkwell, he prepared to write information down in the thick record book.

“Your names please,” he said.

“What is the nearest island to the south west of us?” Markus said.

“That would be Roca Grande Island,” Captain James said.

In addition to the desk, the great cabin contained a hammock behind a thick, hanging curtain; a tapestry depicting knights riding out of a castle; and other paraphernalia. Candles illuminated the room from within hanging lantern cases.

“Is that where we want to go, Father God?” Markus asked God silently.

“That is correct, My son,” God said.

Markus then gave his name and the captain began filling the information into his record book. When he had finished the legal work, and all his passengers’ names had been recorded, the captain stood up and said, “Gentlemen, this voyage will cost you 35 Oro Pico gilders.”

[Note: The Oro Pico gilders are fictional coins based on the Dutch gilder coin. One of these coins might be equal to the money earned in two and a half hours of work by a low-income worker.]

Andrew stepped toward him and untied his leather money back from his belt. Setting it on the desk, he opened the pouch and drew out 11 gold coin.

[Note: The Oro Pico 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.]

“I have eleven Oro Pico krone coins,” Andrew said.

“That is the equal to the amount I need,” the captain said, smiling as he drew the coins toward himself.

As he slid the pieces of gold into a money pouch of his own, James Hawthorne-wood looked up at his passengers and said, “Now, that the writing has been signed, and the money has been turned over to me, I will tell you something that you need to be aware of.”

“What is that?” Henry said.

“Pirates roam the sea looking for vessels to plunder,” the captain said, tying his money bag. “But, you will be safe with me because I have a highly-trained crew that has the latest weaponry. Using wheeled bombards, we have successfully warded off several attacks by pirates. When we give them a broadside from our cannons, they retreat. Few pirates carry cannons because they are fairly rare and hard to obtain.” 

[Bombard: A medieval cannon which was usually set directly on the ground and secured by pounding in wooden steaks.]

“I believe our God will protect us should we be attacked by pirates,” Markus said.

“Oh, you are pilgrims,” Captain James said. “So am I.”

James removed his tan sea cloak to reveal a long, white tunic and matching trousers underneath. He set his bycocket hat on his desk and said, “Well, in that case, I will only charge you half the amount.”

“No,” Andrew said, raising a hand. “God provided that money. You keep it.”

“If you insist,” the captain said. “But, I will make sure you have the best sleeping conditions on this vessel.”

Half an hour later, the ship took up anchor and sailed out of the bay. The White Stallion glided across the waves for several hours, distancing itself from the island of Tesoro Grande where the pilgrims encountered the giants earlier.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

The Pursuer

A caravel with a red standard (flag) flying from its mainmast sliced through the turquoise water of the ocean. Its triangular, lateen-rigged sails bulged with a brisk sea breeze as it sailed. The small ship had just left the main harbor of Tesoro Grande island. Standing near the bow, which had no forecastle, Ahaziah Bronze-smith gazed over the undulating (rolling) sea. He could see a tall mast with square-rigged sails far off in the distance. He wasn’t sure what ship it belonged to, so he drew out a spyglass and extended it.

[Lateen-rigged sails are triangular. Square-rigged sails are at right angles to the length of the ship.] [Spyglass: A small telescope, which often is collapsible.]

Since the ship was so far away, he couldn’t see what name it bore on the stern. Frustrated, Ahaziah slammed the spyglass back together and cursed under his breath.

Wearing a dark, hooded sea cloak; pitch-black trousers, and a satin-colored tunic, the bitter man drew a dagger from a sheath on his belt and felt the blade’s sharpness with his fingers. “Soon, I will reach you, Markus Christian,” he said. “And, when I do, you will be a dead man.”

Ahaziah remembered how his first attempt to kill Markus had been thwarted. ‘But, this time,’ he thought, ‘I shall make sure Markus is truly dead.’

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___


Chapter 4

Aboard the White Stallion Carrack

As late evening came, orange-rimmed clouds turned dark purple and then satin (dull black) as the sun dipped below the horizon. Night descended upon the ocean, dark and menacing. Stars twinkled in the night sky. To Markus, they looked like diamonds on black velvet as he beheld them from the top deck of the forecastle.

Markus had just eaten dinner below the galley, in the orlop deck, with the sailors and his friends. After dinner, he had gone up to the forecastle top deck to find a quiet place to seek God and listen to the calming sound of the waves.

 [Note: The orlop deck was located directly above the cargo hold on Galleons, carracks, and other sailing ships.] [Galley: A kitchen area where food is prepared on a ship.]

“Father God, is this truly the last leg of my journey toward Heaven?” Markus said quietly as he looked out to sea past the bowsprit. [Bowsprit: a beam that juts out forward at the bow of the ship.]

“My son,” God said, warmly, “I love you very much. You are on the last leg of your journey. You will pass over a few islands and then you will reach the shore of a different continent. I will then bring you over safely to your home in Heaven. That is true.

“All these trials you go through prepare you for Heaven and test you to see if you love Me, or not. But, I see that you love Me and I desire you to know Me better. I desire that for all people. Knowing Me is through Jesus Christ, My Only Begotten Son. It is by His blood that you are saved, and only by trusting in His blood can you reach Heaven. But, you are doing just that. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

Markus spoke with God more and then he went down through a hatch into the forecastle. His friends were sleeping in hammocks that hung from the ceiling of the forecastle chamber. He found his hammock and crawled into it. Then, he quickly fell asleep.

Three days passed uneventfully. Then, the carrack ship came within sight of a medium-sized island. A few hours later, the ship was half a league (1.5 miles) from the shore of the tropical island. Palm trees and other trees sprouted all over the island and marched up the side of a non-volcanic mountain. High cliffs or bluffs jutted out from mountain spurs at the base of the mountain. The sky was azure and bright, filled with a few clouds that sailed high overhead.

[Spur: a ridge that projects outward from a mountain range like a branch projecting from the main trunk of a tree. The spur ridge points toward a valley.]

Markus stood near the portside railing on the upper deck. The clomping sound of boots came his direction. Turning, he saw Captain James walking his way.

“Well, Markus,” James said, “we have arrived at Roca Grande Island. I will gladly take you and your friends farther, free of charge, if you would like to sail on.”

Roca Grande Island

“We have come here because God was leading us this way,” Markus said, turning toward the captain.

“Why were you interested in this island, if I may ask?” James said.

“God told us to go here and that we would find a treasure map on this island. The map will lead us to a large treasure, God told us,” Markus said. “He told that to Henry and me.”

“Be careful,” Captain James said, narrowing his eyes. “That island is a resort for pirates, I’ve heard. I will pray for your safety, but I expect you to be back at this ship before the sun sets. Night is a dangerous time to be on this island.”

“I understand,” Markus said, slowly. “We will be back as soon as we complete the objective God has for us.”

“Very good,” the captain said. “I will provide you with 14 sailors armed with wheel-lock muskets, broadswords, and crossbows.”

In a short time Markus and his three friends joined four sailors and entered a heavily-laden longboat. They were lowered down the side of the ship and into the turquoise sea. A second longboat followed them a couple minutes later. Then, both boats rowed for the shore.

“I look forward to finding the map God told us about,” Henry said as he rowed.

“I do too,” Gregory said, rowing beside him.

Landing on the beach, the men jumped out and began unloading wooden chests from the vessel. After placing the sea chests on dry ground, the men carried the longboats to the edge of the beach, where it turned into grassy ground.

“Look over there!” Gregory said suddenly, pointing. The white-haired young man was pointing at a pile of sand.

Markus approached Gregory and looked where he was pointing. Then, he noticed an object poking out of the sand. Gregory and Markus hustled over to the sand pile and began brushing sand away from the object. Soon, a small wooden chest appeared. No lock was to be seen, so they opened the lid immediately.

Inside was a metal tube or cylinder with a leather holster. Gregory reached inside and drew it out of the chest. Then, he reached for one end of the cylinder and removed a thick, round piece of cork wood. Inside was a rolled up parchment. Gregory pulled it out and began unrolling the small scroll. His eyes lit up with excitement.

“This is a map,” he said, wide-eyed. “A treasure map!”

“What does it say?” Markus said.

“A paragraph appears below a drawing of this island,” Gregory said as he looked at the parchment. “The paragraph says, ‘This map will lead you to a great treasure. This treasure is greater than any treasure that exists on earth. Pearls and diamonds are not equal to this treasure. Follow the path, and you will reach the treasure. Watch out for traps and pitfalls that will be on either side of the path. Stay on the path and you will be safe.’”

“Wow,” Markus said, “this must be worth more than the crown jewels in many royal treasuries.”

“Much more, I’d say,” Gregory said looking up from the map.

“Where is the trail head?” Andrew said.

“From the map,” Gregory replied, “it appears to be down the beach to the left of where we landed.”

“Let’s go and find it before anyone else does,” Henry said with excitement.

Gregory placed the leather holster with the tube onto his belt. He slipped the scroll into the tube and popped the cork back in place. Now, the scroll dangled from his belt and would not get lost.

Then, the four pilgrims began walking down the beach, and Captain James’s men followed, carrying crossbows and wheel-lock muskets. They had just removed the weapons from the large sea chests that were in the longboats. Two of the 14 sailors were left to guard the longboats. The rest accompanied the pilgrims in search of the path.

The men had only walked 80 yards from their landing point before Henry cried, “I see a trail! This must be it.”

Gregory walked up to a path that went from the beach and into the dense jungle. A wooden sign stood beside the trail. Words were carved into its surface.

“What does that sign say?” Henry said as he approached Gregory.

Gregory approached it and said, “The sign reads: ‘Pilgrims beware, walking off this path is dangerous. Stay on it and you will find your treasure. If you stray, you will be walking on uncharted, unholy territory. Stay to the path and you will be on the right road. God bless.’”

“We better stay on the path,” Andrew said next to Gregory.

“But,” Markus said, “God will not forsake us if we do stray, but we would needlessly be putting ourselves in danger.”

“Is this the path we are to take?” said a sailor named Ashkenaz Hillock. He had bushy beard and thick eyebrows. A barbute helmet with an arched facial opening covered his head. He carried a crossbow and wore a breastplate over a coat of mail.

[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.]

“Yes,” Markus said, turning toward the armored sailor. “The sign over there tells us not to stray from the path.” Markus then told him what it said.

“Ah,” Ashkenaz said, waving his hand, “there is no need to be concerned about some old, wooden sign. Let’s just go.”

“Danger awaits the one who leaves the path,” Markus cautioned.

The pilgrims and the sailors began walking down the path through the jungle. Sunlight filtered through the branches of tropical trees and created dappled shadows on the path. Blue and yellow macaws made trilling sounds as they roosted in the upper branches of some nearby trees. The path meandered through the jungle like a snake. Branches passed by covered with insects. Mosquitoes buzzed about and landed on men to pester them.

At one point the trail reached a bog which was full of cattail plants and teak trees. Strangely, the path descended straight into the mire. But, a sign appeared on the right side of the trail. Gregory, who was in the front of the group, approached the wooden sign and read it.

“This sign says,” Gregory said, “‘Pilgrims, this is the swamp of Selfish Pursuit. To overcome this swamp, you must take the bridge of Loving God. There is no other way across this swamp. Follow God, and you will do well.’”

“I don’t see any bridge,” Henry said, looking left and right.

“Wait,” Andrew said. “Look up there.” He was pointing to some large trees.

Markus looked up and saw a rotating staircase attached to a wooden platform high up on a tree. He guessed the platform was fifty feet above the ground. The staircase had a counterweight to keep it in a raised position. Like a drawbridge, this staircase could be raised or lowered. A rope dangled from the lower end of the rotating staircase.

Markus walked over to the rope, reached up, and grabbed it. He pulled and the ladder easily swung down. Then, he placed his weight on the stairs, and they remained on the ground. So, he climbed the steps up to the platform, and Gregory followed him up. Once he was on the platform, Markus could see rope bridges running from tree to tree. Wooden boards were fastened to thick ropes, providing a walkway above the swamp.

“Come up this way,” Markus said to the men below.

“That rope bridge does not look safe,” Ashkenaz Hillock said. “I am not going that way. We can find a way around this swamp.”

The sailor began gazing about the swamp, looking for some other route. Then, he locked his eyes on something in the distance and said, “I can actually see the edge of the swamp about 50 yards from here. I’m going to just circle around this mire. You can risk your lives on that rope bridge, but I’m not.”

“But, that is going against what the sign said,” Markus said.

“I don’t care about that silly sign,” Ashkenaz said defiantly. Then, he turned to the other nine sailors with him and said, “Come on men. Let’s go this way.”

“We will go with the passengers,” a sailor said as he and three other men walked toward the wooden staircase. A rock on the last step held it down so they could easily mount the steps.

“Simon, Matthew, Alexander, and Agrippa,” Ashkenaz said, “why do you want to risk your lives over an old rope bridge that could break under your feet? That is unwise.”

“Ashkenaz, the signs exist for a reason,” Simon said. “We will follow their instructions.”

“Have it your way, but don’t tell me I didn’t give you a common-sense warning,” Ashkenaz said before he walked off the trail and into the jungle.

The seven other sailors followed Ashkenaz as he marched in a perpendicular direction to the trail, skirting the edge of the swamp as he walked. He hacked at bushes with his broadsword, now and again.

When he had passed behind some dense bushes, Markus turned to his friends on the platform and said, “Let’s pray for those men.”

“Father God,” Markus said, “we ask you to spare them from harm, as much as possible, and call out to them to get them to turn to you. In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.”

“My son,” God’s kind voice spoke to Markus’s spirit, “I am calling out to them and I will certainly warn them, for they are walking away from the truth. But, I will spare their lives. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

Markus thanked God and told the others about what he had heard.

“God is in control and He will do what is right,” Andrew said when Markus was done speaking.

The men talked a little more and then decided to continue their journey. Markus stepped onto the rope bridge and began walked down it. Each step he took caused it to bounce slightly. The seven others followed him, grabbing onto ropes that ran along the sides of the bridge at waist level.

“Do you think this will break?” Gregory said nervously as he walked behind Henry.

“I don’t believe so,” Henry said, glancing back at the younger man. “God is guiding us, so we will be fine.”

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

The Attack from the Sea

“Captain,” a young sailor said as he ran up to Captain James Hawthorne-wood.

“What is it?” the captain said.

Captain James was standing near the portside railing on the upper deck of the White Stallion carrack. He was looking out across the water at the island, watching the distant surf wash up on the beach.

“Captain,” the young man said with fear in his eyes, “pirates are …” Boom! The sailor was cut off in mid-sentence as loud cannon reports roared across the waves.

James turned toward the starboard side of the ship and ran across the deck to the railing there. As he clutched the top of railing and gazed out to sea, he quickly spotted the triangular sails of a lateen-rigged ship. A small and fast caravel was sailing toward him with its bow facing toward his starboard. Boom! Boom! More cannon shots blasted out from the upper deck of the caravel.

[Lateen-rigged sails are triangular. Square-rigged sails are at right angles to the length of the ship.]

The little ship was approaching fast. And it was firing two swivel-mounted cannons from the deck near its bow. Atop its mainmast flew a black flag. Its emblem was two, white femur bones crossed together.

“Return fire!” the captain shouted.

Sailors scrambled toward hatches leading to the lower gun deck. The captain began giving orders for the men to prepare to for battle. Other sailors hustled toward the hatches which would take them down to the ship’s armory where they could find armor and weapons.

“Raise anchor!” James shouted. “Unfurl the sails!”

His ship officers hurried to the lower gun deck to repeat his orders to the sailors. In no time, the ship was abuzz with activity as men scrambled to get the vessel ready for a battle with pirates.

Cannons began firing--boom--through gun ports at the carrack’s lower-gun-deck level. But, the shots splashed into the ocean, completely missing the small caravel as it sailed straight toward the larger ship. Seeing this, James grew nervous. He rushed to a staircase on the aft castle and ascended it quickly. With his heart beating fast, he ascended a second staircase from the lower aft castle deck to the middle aft castle deck where his great cabin was located.

In the great cabin, he reached for his armor and began donning a coat of mail.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

The Swamp Problem

“The rope bridge comes to an abrupt stop,” Markus said at the front of the line.

“This is not good,” Henry said, scratching his beard.

Markus, his three friends, and the four sailors had been walking along the rope bridge, which ran from tree to tree above the swamp. The bridge had suddenly stopped at a tall teak tree. Going forward would mean falling to the ground about 50 feet below.

“What do we do?” Gregory said, looking down at the swamp far below.

“Let’s seek God,” Markus said. “He will show us what to do.”

Thirty feet from the sudden drop, the rope bridge continued on through the trees. A gap spanned the 30-foot distance and presented a big obstacle to their progress. There was no way across it that Markus could see. And, the swamp appeared far below.

“We can go back and try skirting around the swamp,” Simon Oak-hill said.

Markus turned to face the sailor and replied, “The sign back there warned us to stay on the path. God will provide a way across this gap.”

“I’m leaving. This is ridiculous,” Simon said, shaking his head as he turned and began walking back.

“I’m with you, Simon,” said Agrippa Egoismo, another sailor.

“Don’t leave,” Andrew said. “This is the way we should go. God had done miracles for us in the past. He will make a way for us.”

“That is all nonsense,” Simon Oak-hill said. “You men are deceived to think God is with you. Come back with us and do what is common sense. You will have to anyways. There is no way across that gap in the bridge.”

“Going off the path is against God’s will,” Markus warned.

“We don’t need to hear about God’s will,” Agrippa Egoismo said.

The two men squeezed past the others and began walking back along the rope bridge, talking with one another as they went.

When they were beyond earshot, Markus said, “Do you remember Proverbs chapter 3 where it speaks of trusting in God?”

“What does it say?” Gregory said.

Markus said, “Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5 through 8, says, ‘[5] Trust in the Lord with all thine heart ; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. [7] Be not wise in thine own eyes : fear the Lord, and depart from evil. [8] It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.’ [Proverbs 3:5-8.]”

“That is very good,” Andrew said. “So, we need to acknowledge God. Would that mean to understand and get knowledge and guidance from God?”

“Yes,” Markus said.

“I can see that trusting in God will always get us through every hardship or difficulty,” Henry said.

“Let’s seek God about what we should do,” Markus said. “This is acknowledging Him in the way the verse is saying.”

“Very good,” Gregory said.

Then, silently, Gregory spoke to God and said, “Heavenly Father, I want to acknowledge you or learn from you what to do now. What can I ask you to do so that we can keep going on our journey? There is a gap in the bridge and I don’t know how to cross it.”

“My son,” God’s kind voice said, “I will show you what to do. Ask Me to send you golden knights to bring you a rope. That is the rope of faith. That will bridge the gap of unbelief so that you will be able to continue your journey. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.

“Thank you, Heavenly Father,” Gregory said.

Then, he turned back to the others and told them what God had just said to him.

“That is wonderful,” Henry said. “God showed me that we need to keep our eyes on Him, for He will deliver us from the enemy.”

“Let’s pray then,” Markus said. “God showed me to pray for a miracle.”

“Father God,” Markus said, “we ask you to give us the rope of faith so that we can cross this gap of unbelief. We repent from all unbelief and we choose to trust you even when we feel fearful or doubtful. In Jesus Christ’s Name.”

“Markus, My son,” God’s kind voice said.

“What is it, Father God?” Markus said.

“My son,” God said, “I shall send you a miracle. Watch and see, and you will be blessed. Your patience will be rewarded. Your trusting in Me will be rewarded. And, you will be blessed for serving Me. I love you very dearly. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Thank you, Heavenly Father,” Markus said. “You are beautiful and lovely. I want to trust you the rest of my days on this earth and forever in Heaven.”

“You will, My son,” God’s kind voice said.

“Look over there,” Henry said, pointing across the gap to the other side of the rope bridge.

Markus and the others faced the gap and saw on the other side a knight wearing a close helmet and a full suit of armor. His armor was of a golden color and was very shiny. And, he was walking toward the pilgrims with a coiled up rope in his arms.

“Hello,” Markus called across the gap. “Have you come to help us?”

“I have been sent from God to assist you pilgrims,” the golden knight said as he set his coiled rope down on the bridge.

The knight began fastening one end of the rope to a tree branch just inches above his head. Once it was secured, he uncoiled the rope to reveal a metal grappling hook.

“Stand back, please,” he said, holding the end with the grappling hook.

Markus and the others backed up some distance. Then, when he was sure they were safe, the golden knight threw the grappling hook with the attached rope across the gap. The hook sailed through the air and landed on Markus’s side of the bridge. It snagged one of the ropes in the bridge and remained in place.

“The rope made it across,” Henry said. “Praise God!”

Now, the rope was crossing the gap. But, to secure the rope better, Markus picked up the grapping hook and ran the hook with the rope around a nearby tree limb. After he had secured it, he tugged on the rope to make sure it was not going to slip off the limb.

Then, Markus grabbed the rope and swung his lower legs over the top of the cord. Using his hands and legs, he crawled down the rope and began to move across the gap. Far below him, the marsh looked like a field of brown slime, bushes, and rocks. He had no desire to slip and fall into that. For all he knew, there could be pitfalls or sink holes in that swamp.

As he was halfway across the gap,zipa quarrel (a crossbow bolt) suddenly shot past his head. As it did, his silvery, Ephesians 6 armor materialized around him. He turned his head to the left and peered into the swamp below.

Chapter 5

Swamp Assault

Zip. Zip. Two more quarrels suddenly shot past Markus Christian’s body.

Knights wearing shiny, sable-colored armor stood in the mire 90 feet away from Markus. They were training crossbows at the pilgrims standing on the rope bridge. And, three were pointing crossbows at Markus.

“You pilgrims are going to perish in this swamp,” an evil knight shouted up at them before he fired a crossbow bolt toward Andrew.

Andrew was now also wearing his silvery armor. He held up a shield, and the bolt bounced off the shield with a loud ping.

Andrew cried, “Romans chapter 8, verse 37, says, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.’ [Romans 8:37.]”

“And,” Henry shouted, “the Lord Jesus Christ said: ‘[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me : [28] and I give unto them eternal life ; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.’ [John 10:27-28.]

Suddenly, Henry’s broadsword was replaced by a golden crossbow, which was already cocked and ready to fire a bolt (a crossbow ‘arrow’). Surprised that he was now holding such a weapon, Henry silently said to God, “Heavenly Father, did you just give this to me?”

“Yes, My son,” God said. “I gave this to you. Now, shoot the dart of faith and truth at the enemy to destroy his lies. You believe My Word even if you don’t feel it is true, because your feelings can be from the enemy, at times. Then, speak the truth out loud, if you can. That is how you can overcome the enemy. That is right, My son. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

As God spoke to him, crossbow bolts zipped over Henry’s helmeted head. One pinged off the crown (top) of the helmet.

“Thank you, Father God,” Henry said before he trained his golden crossbow on an evil knight below.

“You pilgrims will be devoured by this swamp,” an evil knight shouted as he fired a bolt toward Henry. Ding. But, the bolt ricocheted off Henry’s left pauldron (shoulder armor).

Henry said: “Jesus told the wicked Pharisees this truth in John chapter 8, verse 44: ‘[44] Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do : he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own : for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ [John 8:44.]”

[Pharisee: A member of a religious group in the first century A.D. Many Pharisees hated Jesus Christ and sought to kill Him. Most Pharisees wrongfully believed that salvation was through works instead of by trusting in the Messiah (who is Jesus Christ).]

The foe’s black gorget (neck armor) cracked. Zip. Thwack. A second crossbow bolt struck the same knight’s gorget and it split open, revealing a leather collar underneath. It had come from a crossbow in the hands of Andrew Strong-heart. Clack. A third bolt hit the armored collar, and the gorget fell to the ground.

“Yes,” Gregory White-peak said.

The white-haired, 27-year old was aiming a golden crossbow at the sable knight. Its bolt had just struck its target. Now, the sable knight was fleeing the battle. He had not anticipated that bolts would be fired at him from his enemies.

“Fire at those evil knights,” Markus said from the rope. “They will have to flee because the deceiver cannot stand before the truth and the Word of God.”

Markus, Henry, and Gregory began firing bolt after bolt at the evil soldiers on the ground. Since each of their golden crossbows had a magazine clip attached to the underside of the crossbow, it could fire bolt after bolt in fairly rapid succession.

[Succession: This means to have one thing follow another.]

[Note: The golden crossbows, being gifts from God, were not like other crossbows. A magazine clip was positioned below the crossbow. When one crossbow bolt was fired, the archer would press a button and a second bolt would pop up from the magazine clip below. All an archer had to do was connect the new bolt to the firing string and cock the crossbow. Once the crossbow had fired that bolt, the archer would press the same button and a new bolt would pop up.]

Before long, the evil knights had fled the battle scene since their crossbows could not match the speed and power of the golden crossbows. Relieved that the battle was over, the pilgrims continued their journey, crossing the thick cord that spanned the gap in the rope bridge.

After Alexander Espada (a sailor) had crossed it, he said, “I wonder where you got that armor from.”

“God gave it to us,” Henry said, turning to face the shaven, blond-haired, round-faced man.

“And, what were you firing those crossbows at?” Matthew Green-knoll said from behind Alexander.

“Evil knights wearing black armor were attacking us,” Henry said, looking at the brown-haired sailor. “We shot back at them with crossbows God miraculously gave us.”

“That is amazing,” Matthew said. “I couldn’t see any foes.”

“They are supernatural enemies,” Henry said. “God’s Word gives us the power to fight them and overcome their attacks.”

“Will you show me how to become a Christian?” Matthew said.

“I would be glad to,” Henry said.

The group clustered near Henry and Matthew Green-knoll as Henry Willow explained to Matthew how to be saved. Then, he led Matthew in a prayer of salvation.

“This is exciting,” Matthew said after he had received Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord.

Suddenly, bright, shiny armor appeared on the new pilgrim, and he smiled in amazement.

“God has just given you the armor of God,” Henry said, smiling. “With this armor, you will be able to fight and overcome the attacks of the enemy. But, God will not allow the enemy to tempt you beyond what you are able to handle. God will also make a way of escape from the temptation or trial.”

“That’s good,” Matthew said.

Looking at Matthew, Markus said, “What Henry just said is from 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13. It says, ‘[13] There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man : but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able ; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.’ [1 Corinthians 10:13.]”

“I will take that to heart,” Matthew said.

“I’d like to be saved by Jesus too,” Alexander Espada said with eager anticipation in his eyes.

“Two being saved in one day,” Gregory said to Markus. “This is wonderful.”

Henry led Alexander in a prayer of salvation, and he also became a follower of Jesus Christ. He too miraculously was given armor, a shield, and a sword.

“This is wonderful how God’s Kingdom is receiving more pilgrims,” Markus said.

“Praise God!” Andrew said with gladness.

The rest of the group rejoiced that two more had entered the Kingdom of Heaven.

Then, they continued walking along the rope bridge on the other side of the gap. An hour later, the swamp was fully replaced by a tropical forest with firm ground. Ahead of Markus, the rope bridge stopped before a platform attached to a tree. From the platform, a set of wooden stairs descended toward the forest floor.

“We have finally reached the end of the swamp,” Andrew commented as he looked down at the grassy ground below.

“I am glad for that,” Gregory said from behind him.

Reaching the firm ground, Markus breathed deeply and sighed, relieved that the trial of the swamp was past. He thanked God for bringing him through that ordeal and for giving him the power to hold onto the rope even while being shot at.

A trail appeared at the base of the stairs and passed on through the jungle. The pilgrims and the two sailors walked along it, talking as they went.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

The Battle at Sea

Wearing a barbute helmet and a coat of mail, Captain James drew a broadsword from a scabbard and raised a small, round shield. As extra padding under his chain mail, he wore an aketon overshirt, which was quilted and filled with feathers. [Note: This armor was not the type of Ephesians 6 armor that Markus wore. This ship captain’s armor was man-made.]

“Men,” he shouted, “we can fight off these pirates. Be brave and fight hard. We will drive them away!”

The sailors shouted, “Death to the pirates!”

The pirate caravel was approaching James’s larger carrack with its bow facing the starboard side of the carrack. The little caravel was maneuverable and fast for a sailing vessel. It could beat the carrack in a race any day. But, the small ship was also ready to slip over to a weak point on the carrack.

As the lateen-rigged caravel drew near, it suddenly turned to port and sailed directly in front of the bow of the White Stallion carrack.

[Lateen-rigged sails are triangular. Square-rigged sails are at right angles to the length of the ship.] [Spyglass: A small telescope, which often is collapsible.] [Port: Port refers to the left, from the helmsmen’s perspective. The helmsmen were sailors who steered the ship near the stern. They faced the bow.]

The White Stallion was still in the frantic process of unfurling the sails, but its anchors were raised. So, Captain James’s ship was not moving forward by much. It bumped slightly against the pirate caravel as the smaller ship approached with its starboard side facing the White Stallion’s bow.

Grappling hooks with attached ropes were tossed from the pirate vessel across to the rigging of the foremast (mast near the bow or front of the ship). The metal grappling hooks clung to the rigging like the barbs in porcupine quills. Pirates dressed in an assortment of armor fastened their ends of the grappling-hook ropes to their ship. Then, they began climbing the ropes up to the White Stallion’s forecastle.

“We’re being boarded!” a sailor up in the foremast rigging shouted.

When that warning came, Captain James felt fear strike his chest, but he rejected it and shouted, “Attack!”

His men began firing crossbows at the pirates, but the pirates were ready. Two giants wearing full suits of armor raised up huge shields that acted like a wall of metal. Ping. Ping. Ding. The crossbow bolts ricocheted off the shields as if they were tiny pebbles.

The sailor in the rigging opened his eyes wider. His stomach felt like it was filled with butterflies.

Each giant was about 10-feet-tall and muscular. They stood in front of the men on the caravel’s deck and blocked most of the crossbow bolts. Two other giants carried collapsible, metal ladders. They raised them up from the deck of the caravel and then began to extend the ladders to their full length. Soon, the ladders reached the top of the forecastle.

Once the ladders were in place, the two giants began climbing the ladders, followed by normal-sized pirates. Sailors on the carrack ran up to the forecastle and tried to shove the ladders off, but the giants were too heavy. Arrows and crossbow bolts just bounced off the giants’ armor and fell into the water below.

“Fire at the ship!” Captain James shouted to an officer.

“We have no cannons that can hit them since they are right below our bow,” the officer said.

“We need flaming arrows to fire at that ship!” the captain said, feeling fear rushing through his body.

“We don’t have any arrows prepared for that, captain,” the officer said, swallowing.

“Then, we must fight with what we do have,” James said.

As he spoke, the two giants reached the fore castle and drew out huge hammers from holsters on their backs.

“Attack them!” James shouted, pointing at the enormous knights.

Sailors wearing armor and equipped with halberds and swords ran toward the giants. But, they met a duo they were not prepared to fight. Bong. Ding. Whack. Big hammer heads struck James’s men, sending them flying. The hammers were swinging at anyone within their reach. Sailors began crashing into each other, or flying across the deck, or splashing into the ocean below. Pirates with longboats drew out the unconscious sailors from the water.

As the giants fought, more pirates climbed the ladders and reached James’s forecastle. These were not the pirates he had anticipated. These were trained mercenaries who were armed with expensive, lightweight armor and short swords.

One approached him, and James began fighting. Sword clanged against sword in a vicious fight. The man was an excellent swordsman and made it very difficult for James to stand in place. He soon realized he had to start backing up.

“You look a little weak,” said the pirate, a thin acrobatic man. He wore a dark patch over one eye and a sallet helmet with a raised visor.

“I can handle a sword,” James said.

“But, you look like you are backing up,” the pirate said as he struck clang James’s shield.

“I can still hold my own,” James said with a little arrogance.

“We shall see,” the pirate said, quickly studying his opponent before he suddenly increased his swinging speed.

Ting. Clang. Ding. Blow after blow landed on James’s helmet, sword, and shield. Ding. Clang. And, in a few sword moves, he dislodged James’s broadsword clang from his right hand. Without a weapon, James tried to keep the shield between himself and the pirate. Clang. Ding. Bong. He backed up a few paces, but he didn’t see a bundle of rope behind him. Bumping into the rope as the pirate approached, James fell to the deck and lost his shield.

He looked up to see a sharp sword tip close to his face.

“Surrender or I will kill you,” the pirate said as he held his sword within inches of James’s nose.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Cliff Danger

After walking for a couple hours, Markus’s group came upon a 30-foot high, granite escarpment or steep cliff on their right side. The trail ran along the base of the escarpment and climbed a grassy, forested hill. Gradually, the left side of the hill became steeper and rockier. Small boulders and jagged rocks littered the side of the hill below the pilgrims. The cliff continued up the hill on their right side.

“I remember seeing a path like this,” Henry said. “I don’t like the looks of this.”

“Let me see what the map says,” Gregory said.

The graying 27-year-old uncorked the scroll-tube, which hung, in a holster, from his belt. He drew out the treasure map and unrolled it.

“Let’s just keep walking and see where this takes us,” Markus said. “The map indicates that this is the way, right Gregory?”

“That is correct,” Gregory said as he held the map in both hands.

The men continued walking along the trail as it ascended up the hill. They hadn’t walked for long when suddenly a loud thump, thump, thump sound filled the air. Markus looked up to the right and saw a huge boulder tumbling down the hill toward him and his friends. His eyes widened with fear as the boulder reached the escarpment and fell straight down toward the pilgrims.

“Help us!” Matthew Green-knoll cried as the big rock plummeted toward him, shading him from the sun.

But, just when the boulder had descended to within seven feet from their heads, it suddenly changed direction, in mid air. And, it shot out toward the left and landed down the slope. It would have pulverized them, but the huge stone harmlessly tumbled down the steep left side of the hill.

“What just happened?” Alexander Espada said, looking down toward the tumbling boulder.

The huge stone broke into pieces as it crashed against some large rocks. And, some large pieces smashed into a couple trees, snapping off four boughs.

“My son,” God’s kind voice said to Markus, “this is the hill of testing. You will face a giant at the top of the hill. He is called Self-Instruction. He preys on people who want to listen to their own understanding over Me. He seeks to deceive them and lead them into falsehood, selfish pursuit, and deception.

“Self-Instruction is full of pride, selfishness, and arrogance. It is arrogant and proud of a man to think that he knows how he ought to live and be without seeking Me or My Word. Such a man is a fool. Don’t listen to Self-Instruction. Listen to My Word, the Bible, and My Holy Spirit. My Holy Spirit never contradicts the Bible and My Spirit will guide you into all truth. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

“Thank you for showing Me that, Heavenly Father,” Markus said.

“Now, My son,” God said, “go forth and walk up this hill. But, don’t wander off the path. I will protect you. I will fight for you. This is the path of faith in My Word. It may seem hard to trust Me. But, it is actually easy. Trusting in Me is just choosing to believe My Word even when you don’t feel it is true. For, My Word is always true because I am always true. And, I the LORD your God have spoken. And, I love you very much.”

“I choose to trust you, Father God, and not my own understanding,” Markus said. “I believe you and your Word is true.”

“You are doing good, My son,” Abba God said.

Then, Markus continued walking along the trail. He and his friends had not traveled more than 20 feet before zip, zip, zip fiery arrows suddenly shot down at them. Like streaks of light through the sky, the flaming arrows zoomed toward the pilgrims and pinged off their armor and shields.

“You pilgrims will perish unless you follow common sense,” a voice shouted from the air above Markus.

Markus looked up toward the sky to his left and saw a huge, winged dragon flying through the air. Riding atop the giant, red monster were three sable knights, armed with longbows. They were firing a continuous volley of flaming arrows at the travelers below.

[Note: A metal brazier was attached to a huge, leather saddle on the creature’s back.
Arrows with oil-dipped wrappings were ignited by flames from the brazier. These flaming arrows were being rapidly fired at the men below.]

Arial Assault

“Hold up your shields and don’t fear the arrows!” Markus shouted as he placed his shield between himself and the dragon archers.

The dragon flew back and forth, allowing the archers on its back to continue firing at the men below. After flapping back and forth for a couple minutes, the big, winged monster suddenly flew down to the path ahead of Markus and set its hind, clawed feet on the ground.

Dinosaur-like, the red dragon had scales, clawed hands, and feet. It had two horns that resembled the curved horns of a male goat. Multiple scales covered its entire body and resembled armor in appearance. With evil, yellow eyes, the monster stared at the humans before it and grinned.

Then, the dragon spoke with a deep, guttural voice and said, “You pilgrims shall fail, for I shall defeat you. You shall perish and I will bring you to my camp. God cannot save you now. Fire and brimstone shall be your couch. Death shall take you as my sword enters your heart.”

The dragon’s hands were somewhat human-like but were scaly and red. Claws grew in place of fingernails. The monster reached toward a sword fasted to its back and drew a sharp, curved blade from a scabbard. The archers on its back dropped to the ground and walked up the hill behind the beast.

Then, the dragon opened its mouth and issued forth a fireball. The flaming sphere of fire struck the ground directly in front of Markus and scorched the path where it landed.

“You are too weak to fight me,” the dragon roared with its deep, voice just before he stepped forward toward Markus.

Markus replied as he clutched his sword: “David told Goliath these words: ‘[45] Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield : but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.’ [1 Samuel 17:45.]”

“Hah, hah, hah,” the monster laughed with a deep, hideous voice. “You think I am Goliath? I am far stronger than he ever was.”

Then, the monster lunged toward Markus with his sword. Markus held up his shield and used his sword to parry the sword lunge clang. But, the monster suddenly turned to the side and swung its thick tail, which was covered with spikes, toward the pilgrim knight. Markus wasn’t prepared for that sudden move, and the spiked tail struck him in the back clang, and he flew through the air a few yards before landing on the left-hand slope. As he thumped against the ground, Markus began to tumble down the hill.

“Markus!” Andrew cried.

But, suddenly, a golden knight caught him and stopped his fall. Markus was help back to his feet, feeing bruised and wounded. His armor had protected him, but he felt injured from the powerful blow.

“You will be fine,” the golden knight said as he handed him his sword. Then, he opened Markus’s close helmet visor. The knight uncorked a glass bottle and poured some oil on Markus’s face.

By God’s power, the wounds Markus had receive began to heal and fade away. Then, strength surged into his soul. He thanked God for sending the golden knight. And, after a minute, he shut his helmet visor and walked up the hill back to the trial. He had not fallen far from the trail. Renewed by God’s Spirit and by God’s healing, Markus tightened his grip on his broadsword.

As Markus walked up the hill, he saw that the red monster was swinging its sword at Andrew, who was fighting valiantly against the beast. Suddenly, Markus’s broadsword vanished. A second later, it was replaced with a halberd. The head of the weapon was glowing red with intense heat. Then, fire rose up from the halberd head.

Markus was now to the right side of the monster. It was still fighting with Andrew and didn’t pay attention to Markus. Then, the pilgrim knight swung the axe head of his hot, flaming halberd at the red dragon. Thump. The flaming blade struck the side of the monster and made a furrow in some tough scales.

The dragon turned to see who hit him and his yellow eyes locked onto Markus.

“You,” the creature spat. “I will destroy you! Your weapons are no match for mine,” he boasted.

The dragon leaped up into the air and began flapping his huge wings, causing the sparse patches of grass around Markus to flatten down. The pilgrim shut his helmet visor and clutched his flaming halberd in a vice-like grip. Markus looked up and saw the red beast circling high above him like a vulture flying in an updraft.

The monster suddenly folded its wings toward its sides and plunged toward him. A torrent of fire rushed out of its mouth down toward the pilgrim knight on the ground. Markus uttered a brief prayer and held his shield up. In a split second that fire would reach him.

But, when the fire came down within four feet of Markus, a sudden strong gust of wind blasted toward the fire torrent. The powerful blast of wind sent the flames off to the side and away from Markus. And, a second powerful wind gust struck the dragon and threw it through the air like a small stone being flung. The creature used its wings to control its movements and it flew straight up. Then, it landed back down on the path before Andrew.

“I hate you humans!” the winged creature roared. “I will destroy all of you. You will utterly fail, for God has forsaken you!”

“Through Christ Jesus, we will overcome you,” Gregory said, pointing his sword toward the evil creature.

“Hah,” the monster laughed. “You have no hope. You are forgotten by God. That is why I am here.”

“That is a lie,” Andrew said, pointing his sword tip at the dragon. “Hebrews chapter 13, verse 5 says: ‘[5] Let your conversation be without covetousness ; and be content with such things as ye have : for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. [Hebrews 13:5.]” [Emphasis added.]

The dragon shook its head, and scowled.

Markus added: “The next verse says: ‘[6] So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.’ [Hebrews 13:5.]

The red beast bared its teeth and cringed.

Markus Christian suddenly ran and swung his fiery halberd at the monster. The flaming axe blade hit the same scales it had struck moments ago. This time, the red-hot axe head cut through the scales and touched the dragon’s muscles. It roared in pain and suddenly leaped into the air. Then, the creature beat its wings hard and fast and flew high into the sky. Before long, it was gone from sight behind a grey cloud.

Markus sighed and fell to his knees. He lifted his hands into the air and praised God for the victory over such a powerful and evil foe.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Ahaziah’s Strange Contraption

While the battle was being fought aboard the White Stallion, two square-rigged ships approached the scene of the conflict. One was the Red Jasper, the captured galleon belonging to Captain Pablo Campo-verde. The other was Azure Sea, a pirate carrack. It had been used to transport Captain Pablo from Oro Island after he had been captured.

“Let’s prepare the craft for our excursion (short trip),” Ahaziah said to some pirates aboard the Red Jasper galleon. He was standing on the upper deck of the ship.

“We will do that,” said a bearded pirate with a scar on his left cheek.

The Red Jasper, under the control of pirates, had rendezvoused (had a meeting) with Black Dragon. It was the caravel Ahaziah Bronze-smith had sailed on for most of his voyage to Roca Grande Island. Partway through his voyage, Ahaziah had transferred to the Red Jasper galleon from the caravel and had brought with him a large, wooden platform; ropes; firewood; some other items, and a huge amount of sailcloth.

“Load up the longboat with my stuff,” Ahaziah said to some pirates. “This must be done carefully and exactly how I say. Understood?”

“We understand,” a red-haired pirate with a patch eye said before he hurried off to make preparations.
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Chapter 6

The Plight of James Hawthorne-wood

The battle went very poorly for Captain James Hawthorne-wood and his men. He had surrendered to the pirates. Now, cold handcuffs closed around his wrists. He sat in the darkness of an empty, cargo-hold compartment, in a pirate carrack. Depression surrounded him and gloom filled his thoughts. [Plight: A sad, trying, difficult, or desperate situation or predicament.]

‘We are doomed,’ he thought to himself dejectedly.

Sailor after sailor had been disarmed and captured by pirates and evil knights that had accompanied them. James’s carrack, the White Stallion, was soon seen flying a pirate flag from its mainmast. Shortly after he had been captured, two more pirate ships had entered the battle to seize James’s sturdy ship. Now, acting as a pirate vessel, the White Stallion was sailing along the island coast, escorted by several pirate ships.

During this dark time in his life, James didn’t feel like praying, even though he knew he should pray. He was a believer in Jesus, but he felt very distant from God. However, even in this dark valley, God was calling out to him in love. But, James ignored his Creator’s loving voice and Presence.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Facing a Problem

After the red dragon had flown off, Markus and the other pilgrims continued walking along the trail that ascended the hill. Before long, they arrived at the hilltop. Just as they did, Markus found himself looking up at a huge knight in slate-grey armor. The giant wore a sallet helmet and a bevor. By his side sat a huge, evil-looking wolf wearing plate armor and a spiked collar.

“What is that?” Matthew Green-knoll said as he gazed at the giant canine (dog).

The enormous wolf was the size of a large draft horse. Seeing the pilgrims, he started growling viciously at them as they stood before the giant.

“That is my wolf, Anxiety,” the giant said with a deep, booming voice. “And, I am Giant Pride. But, I am also called Self-Instruction. I am here to help you see how great you men are. There are no pilgrim knights as godly and as strong as you are. Look how you by your own power drove the dragon away. You should be very proud of yourselves.”

“It was God who gave us the power to attack and drive away that dragon,” Markus said. “God also gave us the faith we needed for that battle. 1 John chapter 5, verse 4, says: ‘[4] For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world : and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’ [1 John 5:4.]”

Suddenly, the giant wolf rose to all four legs and ran straight for the pilgrims.

Markus was still carrying his halberd. The blade was still very hot and was covered with rolling flames. He ran toward the monster wolf and swung the axe head of his halberd toward the beast’s armored neck. But, the wolf jumped suddenly and flew over his halberd. It landed near Gregory, who was also carrying a flaming halberd.

The horse-sized wolf pounced on the young, grey-haired knight, knocking him down. His halberd fell out of his hands. Anxiety, the giant wolf, grabbed Gregory’s helmet with his iron teeth and tugged on the helmet to rip it off his head.

“Help!” Gregory cried out, trying to reach for his flaming sword, which lay a few feet away from him.

Markus and the other pilgrim knights clutched their halberds tightly and ran up to the giant wolf. They began attacking it, striking its armor plates hard and fast. Ting. Pong. Clang. The giant wolf released his hold on Gregory’s helmet. Growling in frustration, the monster wolf began trying to use its iron teeth to grab the weapons of the pilgrims.

The wolf succeeded in clamping onto Matthew’s halberd clink and yanked it out of his hands.

“Hey,” Matthew shouted. “Come back with that!”

But, the wolf, Anxiety, ran off with the halberd in its mouth. Markus broke into a run, seeking to stop the beast from getting away. A sudden surge of energy shot through his body, and the pilgrim knight was able to run faster than he had ever run before.

He quickly reached the monster wolf and swung his fiery halberd at the wolf’s rear legs. Clang. A huge gash appeared in its leg armor and the wolf howled. As it howled, it dropped Gregory’s halberd. Then, the wolf fled into dense jungle.

“You see, Markus,” Giant Pride said, chuckling. “You are a very good knight. You can probably get to Heaven all by your own strength and power. You don’t need God’s help.”

The giant picked up a large, double-sided battle axe from off the ground. He suddenly swung it toward Markus with a swift and powerful motion.

But, Markus’s shield blocked the blow just in time clang.

Markus replied, “Jesus Christ said: ‘[5] I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit ; for without me ye can do nothing.’ [John 15:5.]”

Then, the pilgrim knight swung his flaming halberd toward the giant’s chest, but the monster blocked the weapon with his large axe. With a quick and sudden move, the giant manipulated his axe with precision and twisted it. The top points of the two axe heads locked around Markus’s halberd and caused it to slip out of his gloved hands.

Now, Markus was unarmed. So, he held up his shield and began retreating, with his shield facing the foe.

“You are a better than other men your age,” Giant Pride said as he came tromping toward Markus with his axe. “You are wiser and smarter than most men you know.”

“That is not true,” Markus said. “And, Proverbs chapter 16, in verses 18 and 19, says: ‘[18] Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. [19] Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.’ [Proverbs 16:18-19.]”

Markus leaped toward his fallen weapon and picked it up. The halberd head was still flaming. He swung it suddenly up toward the stomach area of the giant’s breastplate. Clang. The halberd’s red-hot axe blade cut a deep gash in the giant’s breastplate. Since, the giant was caught off guard by the move, he had not attempted to block the blow.

Markus swung up at the breastplate again, but the monster move quickly and blocked the swing--clang. Then, the giant swung his huge axe down toward Markus’s back--bong. The pilgrim was knocked to the ground by the powerful blow and dropped his halberd.

But then, the other pilgrims took courage and charged toward the giant. They all now had flaming halberds. And, they were not going to let Markus face the giant of Pride alone. As they ran, they prayed.

Markus slowly turned over and reached for his halberd. He prayed and God gave him strength to stand up again. The axe blow had not actually injured him. But, it had knocked the wind out of him.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Leaving the Sandbar

The captured Red Jasper now sailed close to a sand bar and laid anchor. A longboat was lowered over the side with Ahaziah and a few pirates. Being towed behind them was a wooden platform. It was about 16 feet by 16 feet, in length and width. 

After making a short trip to the sandbar, the longboat crew set the platform on the sand and headed back for more equipment. After half an hour of going to and from the sandbar, and setting up some items, and assembling materials, a huge, bizarre object began to take shape before the pirates’ eyes.

“What a strange vessel,” said a pirate with a big chin and a rugged face as he stood on the sandbar.

“Yes, William. It is strange-looking, but it will take me where I need to go,” Ahaziah said with a cold smile from a few feet away. “With this, we will be able to find my enemy and finish him.”

Fastened to the top of the wooden platform was a railing running around its circumference. And, in the middle of the platform was a metal tray with raised sides. Inside the tray, a campfire crackled and ate away at some wood.

“Will there be enough room for the firewood and us?” said William Sword-hand, a pirate.

Above the flames was a mesh grate made of intersecting wires. Thin, metal poles (which were attached to the metal tray) held the grate above the fire to keep sparks from flying upward.

“I can only have two men ride with me,” Ahaziah said as he moved his eyes from the fire and on to William. “Who volunteers to join me?”

William Sword-hand and a patch-eyed pirated named Francis Green-oak raised their hands.

“Are you ready for a dangerous journey?” Ahaziah said.

“We are,” Francis said.

Above the mesh grate was the open mouth of a huge bag made of white sailcloth. The bag was supported at the top by a rope that rose up to the mainmast of the Red Jasper. As the huge, sailcloth bag filled with hot air, it began to bulge and become more and more round in shape.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Self-Instruction Attacks

“You think you can defeat me?” the giant roared at the pilgrims below him. “I will make you all perish.”

He drew a large broadsword from a scabbard on his belt. With the sword and the battle axe, the giant began taking multiple, fast swings at the pilgrim knights as they attacked him.

Markus remembered a verse Ephesians 4:13which says, “[13] I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Markus continued thinking about this truth as he walked toward the battle, praying as he went. Soon, he was strengthened enough to fight and he joined his friends in attacking their enemy.

Clang. Clang. Ding. Clash. The sounds of battle rang through the air as the knights fought their powerful foe. Praying, quoting Bible verses, and putting their faith into action, the pilgrim’s fought Giant Pride. His blows sometimes landed on their helmets, but more often on their shields.

The battle lasted an hour. But, at last, the giant began to show some weaknesses. His legs were not as easy to defend, so the halberds began swinging toward his greaves and poleyn.

[Greave: Lower-leg armor. A greave covered the area of a knight below the knee and above his ankle.] [Poleyn: Knee armor. Poleyn protected a knight’s knees.]

After hitting the monster’s leg armor for a few minutes, a greave suddenly cracked open and fell to the ground. Seeing this, the giant turned away and jogged off toward the jungle, frustrated and angry.

“I will return for you and will make you all suffer,” he shouted over his shoulder before vanishing into the dense jungle.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___


“When will this contraption be ready?” the patch eyed pirated asked as he stood on the platform beside Ahaziah.

“It will be ready soon, Francis Green-oak,” Ahaziah said. “Be patient. It’s coming.”

After a while, the huge sailcloth bag began to rise upward. As it did, a pirate sailor on the mainmast pulled out a sharp knife and cut the rope which connected the mast to the top of the enormous, sailcloth bag. Standing on the platform, Ahaziah Bronze-smith grinned wickedly as his contraption, a hot-air balloon, began to lift upward.

“Gentlemen, we will now commence our journey,” Ahaziah said to Charles and Francis as they stood on the platform.

The other pirates remained either in the ship or on the sandbar.

[Note: Hot-air balloons didn’t actually exist during the 1500s (that we know of). But, the first hot-air balloon flight, recorded in history books, took place in 1783. The Montgolfier brothers’ hot-air balloon was recorded to have reached an altitude of 6,000 feet. It landed over a mile from its launching point. Their balloon had no burner to heat up the envelope (the bag which contains hot gas). Instead, a fire was started under the envelope. Hot air filled it up, and the craft rose into the air, leaving the fire behind.]

Strong cords connected the lower end of the sailcloth bag, or envelope, to the wooden platform. These became taut as the balloon rose an inch.

“Roll the ballast rocks onto the sand,” Ahaziah ordered as he sat beside the fire near a pile of firewood. “Then, we will ascend.”

Obeying his orders, William and Francis rolled some heavy stones off the platform and onto the sandbar. Once they did, the hot air balloon quickly rose into the air. The sandbar appeared to shrink in size as the balloon rapidly gained altitude.

Soon, the hot-air balloon had gained an elevation of 500 feet. The galleon now appeared small and far below the balloon crew. It now looked like a model ship. And, the island appeared as a mass of green foliage, grey rocks, and sandy beaches. Ocean breezes pushed the balloon toward the center of the island where a mountain rose above the dense jungle.

‘Soon, we will arrive at our destination,’ Ahaziah thought to himself as the balloon floated through the air. ‘And, soon, I will be able to meet Markus face to face.’ That thought brought some elation to Ahaziah’s evil heart. ‘Markus,’ he thought, ‘you will not escape me!’

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

The Cave

The group of six pilgrim knights followed the trail through the jungle. The narrow path passed along the top of a mountain saddle and then ascended up the side of a steep, tree-covered slope in switchbacks.

“I sure hope we reach the end of this treasure-map trail soon,” Henry said, wiping sweat off his brow.

“I believe we will reach it soon,” Gregory said, looking at his bearded, 50-year-old friend.

After an hour of walking, which was interrupted by a few brief breaks, the weary travelers reached an open, grassy plateau (flat area) near the top of a mountain peak. The path ran up to the plateau through jungle and snaked across the flat, grassy plateau. It vanished into a cave in the side of a granite crag.  [Crag: A crag is a steep rock which is part of a mountain peak or cliff.] 

The crag was part of a rocky peak that rose 500 feet above the 100-foot-wide plateau. Now, standing on the plateau, the pilgrim knights gazed up at the peak and the crag. Henry whistled low. Gregory sighed and breathed deeply of the fresh, mountain air. Markus walked toward the cave mouth, wondering what lay within.

“Markus,” Andrew said, “don’t you want to take a break? We’ve just done a lot of climbing.”

Markus turned back to Andrew and said, “I was just curious about that cave. The path passes right through its mouth.”

Gregory reached for the metal tube which hung in a holster from a belt around his lower breastplate. Uncorking the tube, he reached in and pulled out the treasure map. Crinkling sounds came as the young, white-haired man unrolled the map.

After studying it briefly, Gregory said, “We are near the very end of this treasure map. According to this map, the treasure lies within the cave and behind or under something that could be a boulder or something.”

“Could I see that?” Markus said as he approached Gregory.

The graying knight handed Markus the scroll. Stretching it out before him, Markus scanned through the parchment. He could see a dotted line running through the island. It climbed the side of a mountain and reached a cave.

An illustration of the interior of the cave revealed that the dotted line came to a stop before an object that looked roughly like the letter “m.” But, this object or “m” had no sign or written explanation that it was intended to be a letter of the alphabet. It was a mystery to Markus.

“If we go into this cave, we will see something that looks like the letter ‘m,’” Markus said as he looked up from the map.

“Let’s go, then,” Gregory said. “I am curious what that ‘m’ represents. The map shows that treasure is near that object.”

“I’m very curious about this treasure,” Matthew Green-knoll said with eagerness. “Let’s cut our rest break short and find that treasure.”

“But friends,” Markus said, “this treasure is something God has shown us to look for. It is not going to be a stash of money. For, God is not about having us focus on worldly goods. This is a special treasure far more valuable than money, I believe.”

“I think you’re right, Markus,” Andrew said as he scratched his clean-shaven chin.

“Well,” Alexander Espada said, “we will find out once we reach the treasure.”

With that, he walked toward the cave full of excitement. Matthew Green-knoll followed him, saying, “I don’t know for sure, but I think it is pirate treasure.”

The six pilgrims followed the path into the cave and drew their swords. Fire leaped up from their blades and lit up the dark interior with yellowish light. Boulders, some stalagmites, stones, and rock surfaces appeared in the golden light. A 40-foot-high ceiling with a few stalactites rose above their heads.

A path made out of white granite passed through the darker rock of the cavern floor. The white-granite path snaked around some stalagmites and boulders. It came to an abrupt stop before a stone block that resembled a rectangular prism (or a rectangular box).

“What is this?” Gregory said, squinting at the large, stone block.

“It appears to be about 5 feet high, 10 feet long…,” Matthew said as he walked around the stone block. “And, it is about 5 feet deep.”

“Whatever it is, it has to have the treasure inside,” Gregory said. “This is where the dotted line on the map stops.”

“Oh,” Matthew said suddenly, with wide-opened eyes. “I see something here. It is a carving of two thumbs or something that resembles that.”

Matthew was standing on the right end of the block and looking at its surface.

Markus walked over to Matthew and gazed at that end of the block. In the light of their flaming swords, Markus could see what appeared to be two stone tablets depicted in a
bas-relief. He instantly recognized them. [Bas-relief: A sculpture which projects slightly from a flat surface. It usually is made in stone.]

“This bas-relief depicts stone tablets. The Ten Commandments,” Markus said, surprised.

“The Ten Commandments?” Matthew said. “Are those the commandments God gave Moses?”

“They were written by the finger of God on stone tablets,” Markus said. “But, those commandments always have existed since the time that God created Adam and Eve. Cain, their son, broke the commandment not to murder when he killed Abel, his brother.”

“I want to try something,” Matthew said just before he pushed on the bas-relief of the tablets.

The tablets moved inward, and a muffled clicking sound came. Suddenly, a thin, stone lid hinged up, revealing a stone container. Thick, coiled springs had opened the lid after a kind of clasp had been opened.

Markus peered down into the container and saw the treasure God had told them to find. Stacks of beautiful, gem-studded Bibles appeared below Markus’s flaming sword. He reached down and picked one up. After placing his sword back into its scabbard, Markus took the jewel-encrusted Bible and began flipping through its pages. The interior was just like any other simple King James Bible. Nothing was out of the ordinary. But, the book was a treasure, for it was the inspired Word of God, translated into the English language.

“The treasure is Bibles?” Matthew said, astonished.

“Yes,” Markus said as he lovingly looked through the pages of the Bible.

Markus didn’t worship the Bible itself, but he loved the Living Word of God, who is Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Word, inspired every word in the written Word of God, the Bible. Such a precious book rested in the pilgrim’s hands. And, he never ever wanted to part with such a book or such a beautiful Person as Jesus Christ.

“Is this all we get after such an ordeal fighting dragons, giants, and facing archers?” Matthew said, disgusted.

He turned and began walking away, shaking his head.

“Matthew, My son,” God’s gentle voice suddenly spoke to the new pilgrim.

“Who is that?” Matthew said, looking around.

God Speaks with Matthew Green-knoll

“It is I, the LORD your God and Father,” God’s kind voice said, speaking to Matthew’s spirit.

“Do not fear, I am with you,” God said to Matthew. “This book is the treasure of treasures, for it contains the living Words of God. It is precious and beautiful. It is how you will be blessed the rest of your life.”

“Really?” Matthew whispered, stopping in mid-stride.

“It contains very great and exceedingly precious promises to provide you all you need for now and in the future,” God said. “It is the Book of books. Don’t forsake the faith because you didn’t get what you wanted. I tell you that if you reject the Word of God, you will have no place in My Kingdom, for My Word is in perfect agreement with My nature. I never change. And, My Word never changes. The Bible remains the same.”

“Hmm,” Matthew said, scratching his chin.

“But,” God continued, “Satan has created evil counterfeits and has corrupted the Words of the Bible. Read the King James Bible or read it in a version that is perfectly based on the Received Texts. Those texts are preserved and are not corrupted. But, a few minor texts are corrupted, and that is how false or corrupted versions of the Bible have come about.”

“Okay,” Matthew said, nodding.

God’s voice continued, saying, “Don’t read the NIV, the RSV, the Amplified Bible, or any thing like that. If you are someone who does not understand English, read a Bible based on the Received Texts or based on the King James Version. And, I will bless you greatly for that. But, if you do read from a corrupted text, I can still use what is true in it, but it is not the best thing to do. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

“Wow,” Matthew said. “I will read the King James Bible. And, God, I really am sorry for rejecting your Word. Will you forgive me? I repent.”

“My son,” God said, “you are forgiven. You will be blessed for reading and studying the King James Bible. I was with the translators of that Bible. Though all of them did not necessarily know Me, I guided them in translating the Bible. A good portion of them did know Me. But, I guided them in making a beautiful translation of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic words of the Textus Receptus. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

After speaking with God a little more, Matthew turned to Markus and said, “I really am sorry, Markus, for being so stubborn and rebellious. God was speaking with me. He just told me some wonderful things. Would you like to hear them?”

“I would love to,” Markus said.

Then, Matthew filled him (and the other pilgrims) in on what God had told him. When Matthew was finished speaking, a loud gunshot boom, crash suddenly echoed through the cavern. Just as the shot came, the pointy tip of a stalagmite above Markus’s head shattered to pieces.

Chapter 7

The Attack in the Cave

Markus ducked, instinctively, and began looking for a place to hide. As he did, the other pilgrims crouched down and began scrambling to find shelter behind boulders or large stalagmites. As he did, his Ephesians 6 armor vanished, and his white garments and leather boots appeared on him.

Boom! A second gunshot echoed through the cavern.

Markus turned to see where it came from and he saw pirates wearing barbute helmets with T-shaped facial openings. Some where armed with wheel-lock muskets. Others carried crossbows and swords. A few held up torches. They had just passed through the cave opening 80 feet away.

“Run,” a voice spoke to Markus’s spirit. He looked toward the other end of the cavern and saw that it continued on for a long distance, fading into darkness. Without waiting another second, Markus ran. Seeing him running, Andrew, Gregory, and Henry followed him.

Boom! Another shot echoed through the underground chamber. A musket ball zipped past Markus’s left shoulder. But, he didn’t stop running. With his heart racing, the pilgrim didn’t want to see if he was being pursued.

‘Who are these men or pirates? What are they after?’ he thought as he ran. ‘Why do they want to kill me?’

Markus turned quickly to see if he was being pursued. He saw his three friends running to his left and right and slightly behind him. But, the two newer pilgrims, Matthew and Alexander were nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, Markus tripped on a rock and fell straight toward the rocky ground. He landed hard, but didn’t suffer any serious injuries. However, he was feeling sore and bruised. Andrew rushed over to his side, disregarding the fact that he was being pursued by pirates.

Henry and Gregory ran over and knelt down beside Markus.

“Are you hurt?” Andrew said with concern.

“I feel a little sore,” Markus said, “but I will live.”

“Take my hand,” Andrew said, extending a hand to Markus.

He grabbed his friend’s hand, and stood to his feet.

“Let’s go,” Gregory said, glancing back at the pirates. The brigands (bandits) were running toward them with drawn swords. Unlike the evil knights Markus had faced, these pirates were human beings, and their weapons were not spiritual.

The pilgrims hurried off, running as fast as they could. But, Markus was limping slightly, due to a slight bruise from his fall. Markus glanced back and saw several brigands with broadswords and axes drawing closer and closer. A tall pirate with an axe, a torch, and a red beard came running up fast. His face was full of cruel pleasure as he closed the distance between himself and the four pilgrims.

As he reached within ten feet of Markus, who was at the rear of the group, the tall, red-bearded pirate shouted, “I will kill all of you, pilgrims. You will never see the light of day.”

Fear attacked Markus as he heard those words from behind his back. He turned and saw the bearded brigand now only 8 feet away from him. The sharp axe in the pirate’s hands menacingly gleamed in the torchlight.

“Markus,” God’s kind voice said.

“Yes, Father God?” Markus said silently as he ran.

“My son,” God said, “I will keep you and protect you. Now, trust in Me for the strength you need, and I will give you strength and healing. Will you do that?”

“Yes, Abba Father,” Markus said. “I choose to trust you. You will do this?”

“I certainly will, My son,” God replied.

Markus felt energy pass through his body. The stiffness and soreness he felt began to fade. In no time, he felt the power to run increase. He began running faster than he had run before and began to outpace Gregory, who was at the front of the group.

Markus looked back and saw that the pirate was keeping up.

The cavern floor and ceiling began to slope upward, making the going more difficult. But, the men ran up the hill as fast as they could, knowing that more brigands were running behind them. Bobbing torches revealed the pirates’ locations.

“Markus,” God’s voice said, “watch out for chutes and holes in the floor.”

“There are holes in the floor?” Markus said as he ran.

“Watch out for pitfalls, holes, and traps, which the devil has set up in this cavern. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

Markus looked at the ground before him and squinted, but he couldn’t see that far ahead. Suddenly, a lit torch appeared in his left hand and he clutched it tight.

“That is a gift for you, My son,” God’s voice said. “I translated that to you so that you could see where you are going.”

“Thank you, Father God,” Markus said, surprised and grateful.

“You are welcome, My son,” God said.

With the burning torch in his hand, Markus was able to see the ground ahead of him.

“Watch out, Henry,” Andrew shouted.

Markus turned to see the brigand with the axe swinging his weapon toward Henry. Henry made a quick burst forward and barely missed being hit by the axe.

“I will kill all of you,” the pirate shouted.

Suddenly, a chunk of rock tumbled down directly in front of the pirate, and he had no time to react. He tripped over it and fell face first to the sloping ground. Landing heavily, he rolled down the slope and screamed as he suddenly dropped through a jagged, circular opening in the ground. His screaming continued as he plunged down a vertical shaft or tube.

The pilgrims continued running, knowing that more pirates were closing the distance fast. As the pilgrims ran up the slope, they began breathing harder and slowing their pace. Strong pirates were able to catch up to them and overtake them. Markus turned to see four brigands with swords and axes drawing near.

He began praying as he tried to increase his speed, but he was feeling a little tired. Suddenly, an earthquake shook the cavern. Boom. The ground trembled violently beneath their feet, knocking the men to the ground. But, the pilgrims managed to crouch down and avoid falling. The pirates, however, lost their footing and fell to the ground. Thump. They landed hard and groaned.

Unexpectedly, a cracked opened in the floor right behind them. As the earthquake continued, the chasm or fissure widened. The pirates tried to stand to their feet and continue the chase, but a powerful tremor knocked the men to the ground once more. Two brigands rolled down the slope and fell into the wide chasm, plunging into darkness with loud screams of terror.

[Chasm: A deep hole or crack in the earth.] [Fissure: A crack in a rock.] [Crevasse: A deep crack or chasm.]

Once the earthquake was over, Markus began crawling up the slope, followed by his three friends. They tried to move as quickly as they could without pushing themselves too hard. The two pirates who didn’t fall into the crevasse continued the chase.

When Markus and his friends reached a flat area of the cavern at the top of the slope, he was in for a surprise. Standing in an open area that was surrounded by boulders and large stones, Ahaziah Bronze-smith trained a wheel-lock musket at Markus’s chest. Fear rushed through Markus’s body.

“Raise your hands and stop right there, Markus,” Ahaziah said coldly. A long scar appeared on his right cheek and a nasal helmet covered his head. His face was clean shaven.

Standing on either side of him were two brigands, armed with broadswords.

[Nasal helmet: This was a round helmet with a nose guard also called a “nasal.” The nose guard (or nasal) was a piece of metal that projected down over the nose. The nasal helmet was commonly worn by Normans and Vikings. But, it was used during much of the Middle Ages. Some nasal helms were more pointy on top and others were more rounded, like hemispheres.]

Facing Ahaziah Bronze-smith

“You thought I was stuck in that pit and had no way of getting out, didn’t you?” Ahaziah said.

The memory came back to Markus vividly. He had been walking down a forest path with his three friends and some other pilgrims when men armed with bows had come out of the forest. And, Ahaziah Bronze-smith was among them. He had prepared to shoot an arrow into Markus’s chest. But, as he had stepped back to aim, he had suddenly fallen into a pitfall trap. When Markus had offered to lower a rope and help him out, Ahaziah had arrogantly refused.

“I have been thwarted from killing you,” Ahaziah said, “but I will get my chance to take your life now.”

Standing just behind Markus, Andrew turned, curious about their pursuers. He saw some brigands coming up the slope behind them. They were armed with crossbows and swords. Seeing their weapons, he began praying earnestly.

“We offered to bring you up from that pit,” Markus said, looking at his enemy in the face.

“You were the one who killed my friend, Elihu Coppersmith,” Ahaziah said coldly.

“I didn’t kill him,” Markus said, shaking his head. “Elihu had a heart attack and died. He spoke evil of God’s message and of us before a multitude of people. And, he was one who believed the Bible and believed that we must repent from sin. But, he turned away from God and rejected God’s ways. When he publicly spoke against what God was having us do, God allowed him to die from a heart attack. I did not kill him.”

“But, I hate you, nonetheless. You shall not leave this cave alive, Markus,” Ahaziah said. “However, to show that I can kill you without relying on a gun, I will give you a sword. We will fight in a duel. If you kill me, so be it. But, if I kill you, I will have gotten revenge.”

He turned to one of the pirates and said, “Francis, hand him your sword. I’ll give you my gun in exchange.”

Francis and Ahaziah made the exchange. Then, Ahaziah tossed the sword toward Markus’s feet. The pirate now clutched the wheel-lock musket in his strong hands and watched his boss. Drawing his broadsword from its scabbard, Ahaziah prepared for a fight.

For protection below the head, the evil man wore a leather breastplate. Stooping down, he picked up a buckler (a small, round shield).

Markus reached down and grabbed the physical sword. He was used to wielding his Ephesians 6 broadsword, but he was not accustomed to fighting using a broadsword made by human hands.

Then, Ahaziah swung toward Markus’s head. Markus blocked the swing clang and held his sword high in a fighting position.

“Shoot him if this fight takes more than half an hour,” Ahaziah said to the man with the wheel-lock musket.

The pirate nodded and grinned.

“That isn’t playing fair,” Markus said as he blocked another blow.

“I don’t intend to give you any chance of escaping,” Ahaziah said. “But, you still can kill me, if you can beat me.”

Then, the evil man swung his sword fast and hard. Clang. Cling. Clang. It took Markus great concentration and stamina to block every sword move. He knew that if he missed, he would be dead or badly injured.

Clang. Ring. Ting. The sharp weapons clanged together several more times when suddenly, Markus lost control of the weapon, and the broadsword slipped out of his hands. His foe had done a clever move to dislodge the sword.

Now, Markus was unarmed and at the mercy of his heartless, cruel foe.

“Well, Markus,” Ahaziah said, mockingly, “I see that fate has brought you to your end. I shall not be seeing you any longer.”

Then, the evil man prepared to plunge his sword into Markus’s chest. But, before he did, a powerful earthquake boom suddenly shook the cavern once more, and chunks of rock broke off the ceiling and crashed down to the slope behind Markus.

The large chunks tumbled down the slope toward pirates that were climbing up. The brigands ran out of the way of the boulders, but several men fell into crevasses (deep cracks) that had suddenly opened up in the ground. Their fearful shouts faded away as they fell down deep shafts.

The quake was so powerful, that Markus and all the men nearby collapsed to the ground. Weapons thumped against the stone, cavern floor. The rumbling continued and vibrations passed through the walls, floor, and ceiling of the cave system. More chunks of stone crashed to the ground, but none hit Markus, his friends, or the pirates nearby.

Ahaziah, determined to kill Markus at all costs, picked up his sword and stood to his feet. He glared at the pilgrim on the ground before he suddenly swung the broadsword toward Markus’s neck, but a powerful tremor shook the cavern, and a wide cracked opened up behind Ahaziah. He lost balance and started to fall backward. The cracked widened and lengthened until it passed between Ahaziah’s feet.

“I will kill you, Markus,” the evil man shouted, but he couldn’t walk any closer to Markus. The shaking was so violent that Ahaziah lost his footing and fell backward into the fissure or chasm. But, he stopped his fall by clutching onto the edge of the shaft with his fingers. He desperately tried to pull himself up, but the ground still trembled, and his grip was starting to slip.

Dangling from the edge of a deep chasm, the hateful man shouted, “Charles, Francis, help me!”

“We can’t,” Francis shouted. “We’re being pelted with gravel and the earth is shaking. We might fall into the chasm.”

“Get me out of here now!” Ahaziah shouted.

The fissure suddenly widened by a few more inches, and Ahaziah Bronze-smith lost his grip. He plunged down through the darkness of the chasm, screaming. That was the last Markus saw of the man.

The earthquake continued, and a second crack opened under the two pirates. They screamed in terror, and tried to scramble out of its path, but the ground suddenly cracked in multiple places and fell out from beneath their legs. The evil men plunged down a newly-opened chasm and were lost to sight. A torch fell with them, lighting their decent.

Markus and his friends backed up quickly and hurried back toward the slope on hands and knees. Markus prayed as he crawled down the slope he had jogged up earlier. “Father God, please cause this earthquake to stop. It fear that I will fall into a crevasse or be struck by a falling stone.”

The rumbling continued to knock loose very small particles of rock from the ceiling. The rain of tiny, rock particles bounced off of Markus’s head and back. Less than a centimeter in width, the tiny pieces began to cover the ground with a coating that resembled dust or dirt.

“Don’t worry, My son,” God said to Markus as he crawled. “I will cause this quake to cease. Now, look to Me and rest. And, I the LORD your God and Abba Father have spoken.”

In a couple minutes, the earthquake had stopped, and the rain of tiny particles ceased. Relieved that it was ended, Markus stood to his feet. As he did, his armor reappeared. Drawing his Ephesians 6 broadsword, Markus held its flaming blade up. Its flickering, yellow light revealed cracks and crevasses all over the cavern floor. As the dust settled, he could see torches burning, but no one holding them.

The Earthquake Ends

The other pilgrims stood up and drew fiery swords from their scabbards. Walking down the slope and avoiding all crevasses and boulders, the group of four pilgrim knights slowly and carefully made their way back to the stone box which contained the jewel-studded bibles. When they were within 15 feet of the stone box, Markus saw a man peer out from behind a boulder. It was Matthew Green-knoll. He was wearing his shiny, Ephesians 6 armor. His face was full of relief at seeing the other pilgrims.

Leaving the cover of the boulder, Matthew walked over to Markus and his friends.

“I am so glad to see you again,” Matthew said. “When those pirates entered the cavern, I was frightened. I didn’t follow you because I was afraid of being shot.”

“I understand. Are you injured?” Markus said.

“No. God protected me,” Matthew replied.

“What happened to your friend,” Henry said, walking toward him.

“I don’t know what happened to Alexander Espada,” Matthew said. “With all the chaos, I had no idea where he went. He might be dead, for all I know. I hope not, though.”

“I am not dead, Matthew,” Alexander said as he walked out from behind a boulder forty feet away.

“I’m so glad to see you survived, Alexander,” Matthew said, smiling with relief.

“I am glad to be alive,” Alexander said. “If it wasn’t for God’s protection, we’d all be dead.”

“That is right,” Markus said. “I definitely know that.”

“I want to see if the bibles are still in good condition,” Andrew Strong-heart said as he walked over to the stone box.

After pressing in the bas-relief tablets on one side of the box, Andrew waited. In a second, a click came. Then, powerful springs opened the stone lid. He held up his flaming sword and gazed down into the box. Reaching in with a free hand, he drew out a gem-encrusted bible.

“Folks, the Bibles are safe and sound,” Andrew said. “God protected His Word.”

“Praise God!” Markus said as he walked over to the stone box.

After talking a little longer, the men walked back toward the mouth of the cavern. Not a single pirate was to be seen anywhere in the cave. But, the men were careful to watch out for crevasses in the floor. Outside the cave, on the grassy plateau, a strange sight met the eyes of the pilgrims.

Four primitive hot-air balloons were tethered to the ground on the plateau. Tethers (ropes) ran down to stakes in the ground from ‘gondola’ platforms, which hung from cables beneath the balloon envelopes. Active fires in metal trays on the platforms continuously filled the envelopes with hot air.

[Balloon envelope: A huge, round sack filled with hot air. Hot air in the envelope is lighter than the air surrounding the bag. The lift produced by the hot air causes a gondola (a basket or platform) below the balloon to rise.] [Tether: A rope used to fasten something down, such as a hot-air balloon, a blimp, or an animal.]

[Note: Ahaziah had brought four working prototype hot-air balloons with him on board the captured Red Jasper galleon. These were constructed by skilled men he had hired to build these new vehicles. The idea had come to him when he had watched a handkerchief floating above a hot campfire.]

“What are these?” Gregory said as he looked up at the strange contraptions resting on the ground.

“I have no idea what they are called,” Markus said. “But, they have fires burning in metal trays on platforms below those huge bags. Hot air rising from the fires must fill the bags and cause them to expand and rise.”

“How would hot air cause a giant bag to float?” Matthew said.

“I don’t know how, but you have seen sparks rising upward,” Markus said as he thought. “The smoke or heated air from the fire causes the sparks to lift upward.”

“Perhaps, these contraptions float like a ship in water,” Andrew said, “because they are lighter than an equal volume of air at a normal outside temperature.”

“So, you’re saying that hot air is lighter than cold air?” Markus said, looking at Andrew.

“Yes.” Andrew nodded.

“The pirates must have used these floating bags or balloons to reach this mountain,” Henry said, scratching his brown beard.

“I think you’re right,” Markus said. “Why don’t we take these balloons, as you call them, and see if the wind will blow us back to Captain James’s ship. That way, we will not have to go back on the same trail we used to come up here.”

“First, why don’t we find out what our Heavenly Father would say,” Andrew suggested.

“Let’s do that,” Markus said before closing his eyes to seek God. Keeping his eyes closed helped to remove distractions as he listened to God’s voice.

After seeking God, the men heard that it was fine for them to take some balloons and travel back. God had also told them that he would make sure the wind would carry them where they needed to go.

So, without any delay, the six pilgrims entered two ‘gondola’ platforms, which had protective railing. Gregory went around loosening the stakes that the tethers were attached to. Then, he stepped onto a ‘gondola’ platform and assisted Matthew and Alexander in pulling the tethers up onto the balloon platform. Next, they tossed some ballast rocks off the platform. Markus, Andrew, and Henry did the same with rocks on their platform. Having nothing to keep them down, two hot-air balloons lifted off the ground and ascended into the sky.

The sensation of leaving the earth was fearful to most of the men, but they soon got adjusted to it. The beauty of the island’s jungle, mountains, and geography was captivating and breathtaking. For the next hour, the men did nothing more than keep the fires fueled and burning while their strange, aerial vehicles took them high above the island jungle.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Terror at Sea

“We’re going to die!” Captain Pablo Campo-verde cried as he looked at the ocean waves.

He was standing in four and a half feet (4.5 ft) of water, at low tide, with a handcuff around his left wrist. The other metal cuff was locked around a long, steel chain. Both ends of the long chain were fastened to a large, heavy anchor. Along the length of this chain were more than 30 sailors and ship officers. Each man was attached to the chain in the same way as Pablo. One wrist was free. The other was locked to the chain by a hand cuff.

A second anchor with an attached chain rested in the water 60 feet away from Pablo’s chain. Forty men were locked up to that setup. As he considered his predicament, Pablo Camp-verde realized that there was no way of escape from this dilemma.

Pirates had brought the prisoners ashore a short while ago and had locked them up to the anchors in shallow water, at low tide. Standing in four and a half feet of water, the prisoners knew that once the tide rose, they would be drowned. Several heavy steel balls had been fastened to some links of the chains to weigh them down so that none of the men could float.

The pirates had returned to their ships and had sailed away, leaving the prisoners to die by the tide.

“God, please save us,” Pablo cried with great anxiety. “Deliver us. I will serve you if you deliver me from this death trap.”

Hearing Pablo shout, Captain James Hawthorne-wood paused his fervent prayers and turned toward the ship captain who was 15 feet away from him. He knew that this was a serious trial, but he also believed that God did not want any of those men to perish if any of them could be saved.

“You,” Captain James said, “what’s your name?”

“What’s my name?” Pablo said, turning toward James. “I am Captain Pablo Campo-verde. I captained the galleon Red Jasper, which the pirates stole from me. Why do you want to know?”

“I am also the captain of a ship, the White Stallion,” James said. “But, I wanted to tell you that there is hope. I felt very depressed even before being shackled to this chain. But, light began to flicker in my heart as I remembered what I had read in the Bible. Then, I began to have some hope. Heaven awaits me because I have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Do you want to be saved from sin and go to Heaven?”

“That would be wonderful,” Pablo said. “But, I don’t think God will accept me. I am a big sinner. You might agree with me if I told you all I’ve ever done.”

“We were all born in sin,” James said. “But, God wants us to be His sons, through adoption, by receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. And, He wants us to be saved from sin and from the consequences of sin, which ultimately is Hell (for a rebellious person). If you believe on the Name of Jesus Christ for salvation, and believe that Jesus dies for your sins, and took them away, and rose from the dead, and that He lives forever as God the Son, you will be saved. And, you will go to Heaven.”

“I want to do that,” Pablo said.

“But, you must not trust at all in your own works to save you,” James Hawthorne-wood said. “Only by simply believing the truth about Jesus Christ are you saved.”

“Okay,” Pablo said. “I want to know Jesus. I want to be saved from sin. What do I do?”

James then led him in a prayer of salvation. After Pablo has finished his prayer to God, he opened his eyes and rejoiced. The men around him were surprised. His attitude had changed dramatically. Just moments ago he was complaining and moaning. Now, he was full of hope.

“I believe that Jesus die for me, rose for me, and lives for me,” Pablo said with excitement. “I believe that He has washed me from all my sin and has given me a home in Heaven. Praise God. I am free!”

As Pablo was rejoicing, some men looked up toward the sky and noticed some strange objects floating in the air directly overhead. The sailors had not seen them before, having been focused on their predicament. They constantly were trying to keep their heads above the waves.

“What are those things?” a sailor said, pointing directly above himself.

A shadow fell on the water some distance from the chained men. Pablo looked up and saw two hot-air balloons. He was completely baffled by what they might be, having never seen such a contraption before.

Sailors began shivering with fear as they gazed up at the sky. “It’s a spirit,” a sailor cried out in fear.

“I don’t know what that is,” Captain James said, “but is definitely not a spirit. It is a solid object of some kind.”

The hot-air balloons lowered to the beach near the chained sailors. Once they touched down on the sand. Two men got out of a “gondola” platform and picked up a 40-pound rock. Carrying it over to the platform, they placed the heavy stone on the wood to act as ballast. Then, they did the same for the other balloon platform.

Satisfied that their balloons were secured to the beach, Markus and his friends departed from the wooden platforms and hustled over toward the helpless prisoners in the water.

“Help us!” several men cried.

“You must be gods come down from the sky,” a man said as Markus waded toward him through the water.

“I am not a god and I never will be a god,” Markus said firmly but kindly. “I am no more powerful than you are. Only God is worthy of worship, honor, glory, and praise. All humans, angels, and fallen angels exist because God created us. But, God did not make anyone evil. Since we have a free will, we can choose whether we serve God or not. We can choose to love God or not.”

“But, where did you get that contraption from?” the sailor said.

“Pirates built them, I believe,” Markus replied. “Seeing that our foes were defeated, we borrowed these craft to transport us here.”

“Could you hurry up and rescue us?” a different sailor pleaded with anxiety in his voice. “The tide will soon come in, and we will drown.”

Markus turned away from the sailors and closed his eyes. “Father God,” he whispered, “what should we do? They are chained down. We have nothing to cut the chains with.”

God’s kind voice replied, “Pray for a miracle, My son. And, I will answer your prayer. And, I the LORD your God have spoken.”

“Father God, I ask you… Will you break the chains or cause the men to be loosed before the tide comes in?” Markus said.

“Yes, My son,” God said. “Watch and see what I will do.”

“I believe you,” Markus said before he turned toward the prisoners in the water.

“God is going to deliver you,” Markus said loudly so that all the sailors and ship officers could hear him.

“He better hurry,” a sailor said. “The tide is starting to rise now.”

Just then, a different man shouted, “My shackles just came loose. I’m free!” He jumped up and began splashing through the water toward the shore.


Pablo felt his wrist, underwater, and noticed that his shackle was loose. He flipped the handcuff open and removed his hand from it. He was free! The shackle was gone just like his spiritual shackles were broken. With great joy, he and the rest of the prisoners splashed out of the water and up onto the beach, praising God for delivering them from certain death.

As the men rejoiced and some gave God the glory, Markus watched the celebration and joined in with it. After the excitement had died down a little. Several men walked toward Markus, asking him how to be saved through Jesus. Markus was glad to see that what the pirates had intended for evil, God had turned around and used for good to call out to these men and point them to Jesus.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___


Following the rescue of the chained prisoners, Markus, his five friends, and all the former prisoners walked along the beach for several miles until they reached a medium-sized seaport, called Puerto Bueno. Markus and his five friends said their goodbyes to James, Pablo, and the sailors.

Since both the sea captains had lost their ships, Markus and his friends boarded a carrack named Caballo. Turning down James and Pablo’s offers to get their money back, Markus and his friends bid the captains farewell and sailed off. Markus Christian had finished one chapter in his life and about to embark on another great adventure, which would culminate in leaving for Heaven.

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