Here’s the December ’08/January ’09 story! Don’t forget to rate it when you’re done, and please leave a comment.
Death of Man
by Cris Jesse
The doors to the fallout bunker had opened, signaling that the air outside was clean enough to support human life again. That was three weeks ago, and still none of the other lights on the panel lit up.
The panel was a map of the world. It had a green light wherever a bunker had been built. All the bunkers on each continent were connected by a system of wires buried deep under the bunkers. If a bunker survived until the air was clean again, it would send out a signal to all the other bunkers to let them know where other survivors where.
“Even if their numbers were small, they’ve only got 1 more week until their rations run out” Rebekah said. She had been troubled about the others ever since the beginning of lockdown.
Stomplad smashed his large fist down on the table, “Greedy fools, every one of them!” His face was twisted up like an angry bulldog. “Times were hard during the war, but there was food enough to live on. None of them listened when we warned them to leave the rations alone.”
Noblen nodded, “The two bunkers in Eastern Washington were wiped out before their doors ever closed. Had we not guarded this shelter with our lives they would have surely taken from it as well. It’s only because of a full stock and smaller numbers that we survived all those years. We made it out just in time. Most of the others likely perished long ago.”
Another memory of the mysterious chanting flashed in Rebekah’s mind… “Feet that are quick to rush into evil…” She strained to look closer at the hooded men, but the vision quickly faded into a dark red mist. Then it was gone. She wished knew where these memories were from.
Then a separate question snapped her back into the present. Rebekah turned to Noblen with the question she’d never thought of before. “But even if they died off, wouldn’t their light still come on when the air cleared and the doors opened?”
Stomplad shook his head, seeming to calm down. “No, my young friend. The bunkers are equipped with life sensors. If there’s no life within their walls, they shut down and remain closed.”
The girl’s eyebrows teeter-tottered in confusion. “Why would they stay closed?”
Noblen had an answer, as he usually did. “To prevent the spread of disease. The people may have died long before hunger set in. And if they’re all dead, then there’s no need for the doors to open.”
Rebekah was a little unsettled. “But what if the life sensors malfun…”
“Stomplad!” came a shout from the top of the stairs. “Stomplad!”
“What is it boy?” the large man’s voice boomed back.
“Come quick!” the young man shouted from outside. “We’ve found a den in the caves. The bears are still alive! We’ve found food!”
Urgency washed over Stomplad’s face. He dashed up the stairs in a blur.
Rebekah had never doubted the strength that his muscular build obviously provided. But she was amazed at how a man of his build could move so fast. And she wondered why he looked so concerned.
She strapped her pack onto her pack and ran after him. Though Stomplad was fast for his size, no one in the bunker could match her for speed. She could hear Stomplad’s voice echoing around her, calling for the others outside to stop. Rebekah quickly caught up to Stomplad, and asked as they ran, “Why are you not excited? We’ll have fresh meat now!”
Stomplad didn’t bother to look over as he spoke, “No time to talk now girl. We have to get to that cave and preserve the life of those bears.”
Rebekah didn’t understand. But she knew well enough to trust Stomplad in such matters. Nodding to Stomplad, she bolted past him as fast as she could run. By Stomplad’s word, she had to save the bears.
Minutes later she was deep in the cave. She could see the men. “Stop!” she cried out. But the men ignored her.
One of the hunters was just pulling the spear back over his head. The bear was coming towards him, towards death by impalement. Then, suddenly, the man felt a smack. His legs were thrown forward, and his body fell back to the ground. The fall pulled the spear from his hand. He saw the enraged bear coming closer, and began to quiver.
Then he saw a young woman tumbling between him and the beast.
Rebekah knew the bear would be upon her as soon as she came out of her roll. The large paw tore the air with its claws, swinging straight for her midsection. Had she not already directed her momentum to the side she would have been ripped open.
But there was no time to celebrate; another paw was descending in a blur. Rebekah reversed her roll just in time, dodging both the second paw and the full weight of the bear coming down behind it. With a burst of strength her arms straightened and her body sprang into the air. She flipped and twisted as she landed in a kneel, less that ten feet from the angry beast.
The timing was perfect, as Stomplad’s huge frame leaped over the girl and slammed down between her and the bear. With a deafening roar he made his presence clear to all within a mile.
The bear replied with a low growl and a threatening look… but it took a few steps back. It locked its gaze on the large man’s eyes, and found in them more intensity than in its own. The large man made no advance, and so the bear held its place between him and the rest of the bears in the den.
Stomplad reached down into a pouch at his side and grabbed a handful of large pellets. Keeping his eyes on the bear’s, he began to toss the pellets on the ground around the bears. After a few handfuls, he spoke to the hunters and Rebekah without looking their way. “Pack up your weapons and leave.”
The hunters hesitated.
Looking upon one in particular, Rebekah saw his grip tighten around the spear in his hand. Then her vision blurred, and she heard the drawn out chanting once again… “Haughty eyes, a proud look…” Flames dances around the men in black hoods, and Rebekah was sure she heard the fire whispering “Death… Death…” The flames quickly grew larger, and then became the deep red mist.
Rebekah came out of the vision, looking at a man whose spear was pointed at another man.
“Stomplad, lookout behind you!” she cried.
Stomplad turned around to see a spearhead speeding towards his body. He started to bring his arms in, but knew they wouldn’t be there in time.
Then there was a sudden blur inches in front of him, and the spearhead was gone.
Rebekah kicked at the man’s knees as she grabbed the spear. By shifting the man’s weight and smacking his wrists, it was easy for her to gain control of the weapon. After what appeared to be one magnificent movement, she was standing firm with the spearhead pressed against the off balance man’s throat.
Stomplad looked at the man and smirked.
Rebekah’s face was red with rage. “Why?” she demanded of the man.
The hunter’s face showed only fear. The cold metal against his neck could steal his next breath before he was able to take it. But still he said “What makes him think he can order us around. There’s fresh food right here and he keeps us from it. I’m not going to let him take it for himself.”
Rebekah had reacted quickly, but still a lot had happened in only moments. She remembered the look on the man’s face before he struck out, and remembered the vision that came upon her. Even now the hunter’s eyes held a bit of the same look. “Haughty eyes, a proud look” Rebekah said without realizing.
Stomplad nodded. “She’s got you figured out Dohl.”
Dohl replied to Stomplad with a spit.
Rebekah pressed the spear in, teasing Dohl’s blood with release.
Stomplad looked to the other three hunters. “Who else has a complaint?”
The hunters looked to Dohl, and all of them appeared afraid.
Stomplad sighed. Speaking to the other hunters he said “Don’t worry. Dohl’s finished. You are in no danger from him any longer.”
That seemed to convince them. But still they looked unsettled.
“Well,” Stomplad said with a smile, “spit it out.”
One of the hunters pointed to the bears. “We’ve been starving ourselves for lack of food. And now that we find game you stop us from our hunt.”
All eyes, including Rebekah’s, turned to Stomplad.
The big man chuckled to himself and nodded. “Well, I guess that could seem a bit confusing. But I was hoping that all of you had been paying more attention to the Bible passages I read to you in the bunker. When Noah and his family left the ark, do you suppose that they immediately began hunting?”
He turned and pointed at the bears in the cave. “Would we have these bears today if Noah’s family behaved so rashly?”
“But we’re starving now!” Dohl shot back.
“Hungry, but alive!” Stomplad returned with equal intensity. “We have no future hope if we show no patience. The forests have already grown thick. We’ll survive if we’re careful.”
Dohl’s face sank deeper into anger. “Keep the fairytales of your God to yourself. We are real people, and these bears are real food. Reality, not philosophical dreams!”
Rebekah renewed the pressure against Dohl’s neck. “That what the other fools said when they raided the bunkers. Your kind of thinking is the reason we ran short on food in the first place.”
“Enough of your poisonous talk Dohl” Stomplad said. He walked over, grabbed the hunter’s neck, and lifted him into the air. “With small numbers and resources, we cannot afford to have a murderer and his wickedness dwelling freely amongst us.”
They could all see that Dohl was trying desperately to resist Stomplad’s grip. And they could all see it was getting the small man nowhere.
One of the hunters, now seeming to be encouraged by the sight of Dohl’s helplessness, said “Maybe we should feed him to the bears. That way he can be a help to us all instead of a detriment.”
Stomplad knew the man speaking. After years in the bunker together, they all knew each other. Stomplad smiled at him and laughed a bit, likely catching the bit of jest in the hunter’s voice. “No, Charlie. I’ve got other plans for this man.”
Stomplad began walking out of the cave. “Come, let the bears feed on the pellets. They’ll multiply in the next few years, and we’ll have our meat soon enough.”
“Do you think they’ll survive that long?” Charlie asked. “They’re likely going to compete with us for what little food is to be found.”
“Whether they live or die” Stomplad said, “we’ll trust in the wisdom of the Lord. By His will we live or die.”
Soaking it all in, Rebekah started to understand a bit of what Stomplad had told her many years ago. Because of the wickedness of man the world was being destroyed. And though the war was in many ways considered to be the end of the world, they had a new hope now that the bunker had opened.
She was starting to believe that if the truths of the Word continued to be ignored, they might yet face the end of man.
They left the caves, and headed back to the bunker.
Rebekah still couldn’t believe what Dohl did. She thought that after a few days she would have had other things at the front of her mind. But the only other distraction her thoughts found was the questions she had about her visions.
For some reason she was sure they were memories. But how could she have forgotten the whole of such a strange experience? When did it happen? And what about the flames and mist? Memories of an impossible event that never happened… her conclusions only confused her more.
As she sat in the dense tree near the river’s edge, trying to figure out what was going on in her mind, Rebekah noticed a man in a dark hooded robe. He looked a lot like the men in her visions. He was walking up to another man named Franky.
From her perch she was mostly hidden, though she was close enough to the men to hear them talk. And with the way the wandering man was dressed, Rebekah’s attention had shifted to their conversation.
“I’m surprised you didn’t know Franky” said the man in the hood. “Many of the bunkers were shown to have wiring problems long before the final day.”
Rebekah had never heard that before. But that wasn’t what surprised her the most. What did catch her off guard was the flame she saw upon the tongue of the hooded man. She strained to see who he was, but couldn’t. As he continued to talk his voice faded from the young woman’s conscious thoughts.
She was fixed on the flame upon his tongue.
A large flame flashed up in front of her face, causing her to pull her head back in surprise. Then all was as deep night around a campfire. The hooded men were in their slow, hypnotic chant. “A lying tongue…” She tried to see their faces, but all she saw was their fists swinging forward and opening toward the flames.
Suddenly the fire exploded in rage. Rebekah thought she heard a word in its roar…
“A lying tongue” came the chant again, louder than the last. And then another burst of the roaring flame…
The flames licked up the vision of the hooded men, taking up Rebekah’s entire line of vision. The deep red mist quickly soaked up the flames. Then the mist faded.
Franky stood alone on the riverbank, looking up into the tree where she sat.
The hooded man was gone.
She jumped down quickly, spinning after she landed to look in every direction.
“What’s wrong Rebekah?” asked Franky, seeing that she was tense.
Rebekah saw a dark shadow about a hundred feet into the woods. It was speeding away from her. She didn’t have time to talk to Franky, she decided. And with that she bolted after the shadow in the woods.
It had been 6 hours, and every time Rebekah thought she found the hooded man he disappeared just as fast. The sun was already digging into the horizon and burying the light with it. She was getting farther and farther from the bunker, and realized that she had better go home. She’d have to settle for asking Franky who the man was.
It was after midnight when she returned to the rest of the survivors.
“Well it’s good to see you’re ok” came a quiet voice from the woods just outside of camp. She recognized it right away.
“Thank you Noblen” Rebekah replied. She turned to see him walking out of the darkness toward her. “Have you been waiting for long?”
“Stomplad got worried just before midnight” Noblen replied, looking to make sure she was ok. “I told him I’d keep an eye out for you.”
Rebekah shook her head and let out a laugh of frustration. “I’m 19 years old Noblen. And I’m not exactly a helpless woman.”
Noblen smiled at her. He made the slightest flick of his wrist, sending a marble the color of night speeding silently toward Rebekah’s forehead.
With reflexes like a wild cat she snatched it out of the air.
“I know you can handle yourself Rebekah” Noblen said, nodding at the marble in her hand. “But it’s not normal for you to be out so late. And with the recent events, it’s wise for us to look out for each other. Besides, where could you have possibly been at so late? It’s not like there’s any theaters around these days.”
Rebekah was pleased with the test. It was a sign of his respect for her. But for some reason, she didn’t want to let on about the full details of what had happened earlier. Trying to move on, she said “I was looking for something. By the way, do you know where Franky is?”
Noblen laughed. “He’s probably sleeping by now. Do you realize what time it is?”
Rebekah’s mouth went straight as she nodded. She hadn’t thought about the fact that Franky would likely have gone to bed hours ago.
“Yeah. Look, I’m really sorry Noblen” she said. “Thank you for waiting up for me. I didn’t mean to worry you guys. Let’s let Stomplad know I’m back so we can all get some rest.”
Not a minute later they were at the entrance of the bunker. And Stomplad was leaning against the entrance watching them.
“Looking for something you say?” Stomplad asked Rebekah.
“Yeah,” she responded. She was trying to think of a distraction as quickly as she could.
Stomplad leaned in close. “Rebekah, what were you looking for in the dark woods in the middle of the night?”
Her thoughts went to a ring of hers that had great sentimental value. But as she tried to speak she felt a burning in her throat. She tried again and she felt her lips burn as a flame burst up in front of her.
She coughed hard, and the burning was gone. But when she opened her eyes, she saw the men chanting around the flames again. “A lying tongue” came their chant, with more fervor than before.
“A lying tongue!” they shouted melodiously.
They tossed a dust into the flames, and the flames leaped in response. The fire spoke the word “death” in its roar, more clearly than it had the last time.
The flame was coming closer.
She tried to pull back, but she was too slow. The flames tore into her mouth, burning all the way down to her stomach.
Rebekah dropped to her knees in pain. Everything was red. Then she felt a pulse inside her body. She began to vomit, though flames were all that came out.
She vomited again, but as she opened her eyes she realized that nothing came out at all. And she was kneeling before Stomplad, crying.
“Are you ok?” Noblen asked, dropping to her side.
Stomplad dropped just as quickly, putting a comforting hand on the back of her head. “Rebekah, are you alright?”
She looked Stomplad in the eyes and spoke with a weak voice. “I think so.”
Stomplad paused for a minute, and replied soothingly. “We’ll work this out tomorrow, ok?” He leaned forward and kissed her forehead gently.
Rebekah knew Stomplad genuinely loved her as if she was his.
Stomplad picked Rebekah up in his arms, and carried her to her bed as a father would carry his own daughter.
After tucking her in and reading a few psalms to her, he blew out the light and left her room.
She was drained. Sleep came quickly.
Rebekah made haste looking for Franky early the next day. She felt horrible for not being up front with Stomplad and Noblen. Somehow she felt that speaking with Franky about the hooded man would clear things up. And she wanted to make sure that Stomplad and Noblen were there to hear it.
She was pleasantly surprised to find Franky already talking with Stomplad and Noblen. Charlie was with them as well, he had been staying close to Stomplad ever since Dohl’s attempt on Stomplad’s life.
“Rebekah,” Stomplad called out to her, “you’re looking better. Good morning.”
“Good morning guys” she said back.
Noblen waved his hand toward Franky. “We happened across Franky this morning, and told him you were looking for him. He said he hasn’t the faintest idea why.”
Rebekah was a bit taken back. She thought it should be obvious. “Franky, you don’t remember what happened down by the river yesterday?”
“Well sure I do” Franky replied. “I was looking for fish, but there weren’t any. But how did you know I was down by the river?”
Something was wrong. Really wrong. “Franky I saw you down there, and you saw me! I was in the tree, remember. You asked me if I was ok. Listen, I saw you talking to that guy in the hood. Who was he?”
Franky gave the other three men a look of confusion. A small flame began to dance on his tongue. “You didn’t see me talking to anyone Rebekah. I was alone down there, and I never saw you.”
Then Franky opened his mouth wide at Rebekah. He was blowing a large fireball straight at her.
It smacked her in the face. There was no pain, but as the fireball disappeared she was in the vision once more. “A false witness, who pours forth lies” they chanted, this time in their slow melodic tone. The flames were brighter, and their faces were a bit easier to see. “A false witness” they chanted again, dusting the flames.
Yes! It was much brighter now. But then the flames jumped too high, just as she was beginning to make out a face.
“Death!” the flame growled at her threateningly.
It wasn’t enough time. The red mist faded in, faded out, and Rebekah was back talking with the four men.
She wasn’t in any pain like she had been last time, and she was very glad for that.
All four of them were looking at Rebekah, wondering why she was spacing out. It was obvious to her that Charlie, Noblen nor Stomplad saw the fireball come out of Franky’s mouth. But what wasn’t obvious to her was whether or not Franky knew what he did.
“I don’t know why you’re lying Franky” Rebekah said bluntly, “but I’m going to find out whatever it is your hiding.” She came in close to Franky, and with a grave voice said “You tell that hooded man that I’m coming for him.”
She turned to Stomplad. “This is getting nowhere. Don’t trust him. A man in a hood came to him yesterday and told him that the wiring under many of the bunkers was bad long before they were used. I couldn’t hear the rest.”
Both Stomplad and Noblen turned to Franky. Neither of them ever had a bad experience with Franky. But both of them were close to Rebekah, and had never been given a reason to doubt their friend.
Charlie looked like he didn’t know what to think.
As Rebekah turned and walked off she heard Stomplad getting real stern with Franky. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but you got my girl there pretty worked up. It isn’t like her to be so upset. If you got something to say, you’d better come clean.”
She stopped walking, with her back only 15 feet from them. As soon as she heard Franky continue in his lies, she continued on her way.
Rebekah knew that if she didn’t get away from the man that she would be very tempted to beat the truth out of him.
Rebekah found it quite easy to track Franky after he was finished talking to Charlie, Stomplad and Noblen. At this point she was more concerned with who he talked to then what he talked about. If these two were going to such great lengths to keep the hooded man’s identity secret, then it would surely shed some light on things if she could find him out.
There wasn’t too much out of the ordinary during the first day she followed Franky. He was more social than she had ever seen him be before, but none of the people he spoke with seemed to act abnormally.
The second day was very different however. While everyone was out about their work, Franky met with two men in the bunker. Both were hidden in their dark hoods.
As stealthily as possible, Rebekah crept closer and closer, until she was just barely able to hear some of their conversation.
Franky was replying to them sternly, “If we get caught it’s going to be as bad for us as it is for Dohl.”
“Don’t cower back on us Franky” one hooded man said back, just as sternly. “You’re committed. Just put the bear meat under Stomplad’s bed…”
Rebekah was a bit surprise when she saw flames begin to twirl on the chests of all three men. The three swirls of fire joined together in their dance, and with the blink of an eye they were upon her.
She had a guess of what was coming. This would be the test…
“Hearts that devise wicked schemes” came the chant from the hooded men around the campfire. Their voices rang out into the darkness, though this time it sounded as if there were three different melodies in the chant.
The aroma of death filled her nostrils. This was the first time she smelled anything in the visions.
As Rebekah looked closer around the fire, she noticed human skulls. Some were smashed by jagged rocks, with no small amount of white powder next to the bones. Then she watched as the hooded men threw the powder into the fire. White powder.
The fire blasted high when the powder fell upon it. Along with the word “death” coming from the roar, she now noticed images of skulls formed by the flames.
“Hearts that devise wicked schemes” the hooded men chanted once more. They threw the powder, and as Rebekah expected, the flames grew quickly until they were all she could see.
Then the red mist came and took the vision away. She was careful to stay still. She didn’t want to be noticed.
Rebekah was sure now of what the visions meant. Though she still didn’t know why she was seeing them, she at least knew a way to take advantage of them.
She watched as the men handed Franky the bear meat, and as he went into Stomplad’s room while the hooded men guarded the entrance to the room. Franky came back out empty handed.
Rebekah had witnessed the treason.
“Quickly now,” one of the hooded men said to the other two with him. “We have to spread this quickly, before Stomplad can do anything about it.”
The three men began running to the entrance of the bunker.
Right at Rebekah.
She looked around. There was nowhere to hide! They would see her for sure, and she knew things would get physical at that point.
Then a plan came to Rebekah’s mind. If she bolted out and ran for Stomplad, then they’d be forced to give chase. They wouldn’t have time to finish their plan. “A man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” She didn’t need to wait for the vision. She knew what was coming.
As fast as she could Rebekah made for the bunker door.
She stopped and looked back. The men were only twenty feet behind. She wanted them to think they had a chance at catching her.
“Get back here” Franky yelled.
What a ridiculous request, Rebekah thought. She hoped the man would continue to be as dull. It would help when this all came to a head. Rebekah bolted forward again. She knew where she could find Stomplad, and hoped that Noblen would be there as well.
It wasn’t long before the speedy chase brought Rebekah and the three men within earshot of Stomplad. As they came around the last bend in the trail, Rebekah saw Stomplad cutting firewood. Charlie and Noblen were stacking it.
“Stomplad! Noblen!” she cried out. “You’re in danger!”
All three of the men turned to see what was going on. Stomplad had obviously heard what she yelled; he was holding his ax as if ready to strike someone.
Moments later she was upon them, with the other three men just coming into sight.
“They’re trying to set you up” she said to Stomplad. “The planted bear meat in your room, and were planning on turning everyone against you!”
“This isn’t going to be pretty” Noblen said to Stomplad as he scratched the back of his neck.
Stomplad nodded back at Noblen, readjusting his grip on the ax.
Charlie looked around with confusion on his face.
Then Franky and the hooded men arrived. “You’re obviously in on it too!” Franky said to her. His voice sounded malicious.
“Remove your hoods” Stomplad said in a commanding voice.
The two men took a half a step backwards, but left their hoods in place.
Franky came within a step of Stomplad, and pointed a shaky finger at the large man’s chest. “You didn’t stop the hunt to preserve the bears! You did it so you could have the meat all to yourself! We demand you release Dohl, and leave us all!”
Stomplad eyeballed Franky and his mysterious companions, as he leaned his ax upon his shoulder. He waited a few moments before speaking in a low, threatening voice. “You three know the penalty for such false accusations.”
Charlie stepped toward Stomplad and Franky. “We voted in the bunker to abide by the community laws in the Bible. Before you go any further Franky, you should read what it says. You know where it is written.” And with that Charlie handed his large Bible to Franky.
Franky glared at Charlie. As he reached out for the Bible, Rebekah saw flames leap from Charlie’s hand toward the Bible. Then the flames whooshed in her direction, as fast as lightning.
When they disappeared, she saw that she was again in a dark vision at the fire.
The hooded men were now swaying back and forth. They chanted louder than ever before, “Hands that shed innocent blood!”
Rebekah didn’t understand. Franky said they wanted to banish Stomplad, not kill him. Then she remembered the path of the flames that initiated the vision this time.
The hooded men tossed the white powder into the flames as they began to chat again. “Hands that…”
“NO!” she screamed, dashing forward. She hadn’t tried moving that much in one of the visions before, but she knew she didn’t have enough time to wait.
A white flashed blinded her, as an invisible wall knocked her to her feet.
Rebekah shook the pain and brightness almost instantly. She was out of the vision now, but laying flat on her back.
All eyes were on her.
“Stomplad!” she cried. “The Bible, something’s wrong! He’s going to kill you!”
Stomplad looked straight to the book. “Give it here!” he said coldly.
Franky handed the Bible to Stomplad.
After a quick examination, Stomplad looked to Charlie, and then to Franky. “It appears to be safe Rebekah” he said, keeping his overwhelming gaze locked upon Franky’s eyes. “Why are you on the ground young lady?”
“The vision knocked me down,” she replied.
“What vision?” Stomplad asked.
Rebekah was on edge as she spoke. “I’ve been having these visions. Men in hooded robes, chanting around a fire. Every time I see someone committing one of the seven sins that Psalm 6 says God hates, I see fire come from their body and it sends me into the vision. This time the flames came from Franky’s hand, and bounced off of the Bible before coming to me. This time they said ‘Hands that shed innocent blood.’ He’s trying to kill you!”
Stomplad had turned his eyes to Rebekah as she spoke. When she was finished, he looked to the hooded men behind Franky. “Rebekah, I love you as a daughter. And this is indeed a terrible situation. But considering everything, including your behavior in the last few days, I’m worried more for you than for myself.”
Rebekah was completely surprised by Stomplad’s response. As she stood up and looked around, she saw that everybody was looking at her strangely. She then realized how crazy she must appear to them.
But she knew what she saw. “Stomplad, please. I’m not out of my mind!” She began to walk toward him.
However, Stomplad held out his hand to stop her. “Stay where you are Rebekah. I see no danger in this book, not for me. Let Franky read the punishment for himself so we can be done with this whole thing. We’ll figure your visions out later.”
Rebekah obeyed. A tear fell from the young fighter’s eye.
The tall man handed the book back to Franky. “Read” he said.
Franky took the book and opened it up. “Crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery” he said.
Stomplad glared at Franky, looking confused and threatening all at the same time.
Rebekah knew that wasn’t the right passage.
Then there was a click, followed immediately by the sound of a blade being buried into a man’s chest.
“NO!” Rebekah cried out.
Stomplad took a large step back. As he did the ax shot up into the air, and was yanked straight down upon Franky. Stomplad tore it down through one side of Franky’s collarbone, and planted it nearly a foot down through the man’s torso.
Both men fell to the ground.
Charlie began as if to attack Rebekah.
Noblen was standing right behind him though. With his hand already at the back of his neck and inside his shirt, he pulled a long blade out and immediately brought it down in front of him.
Charlie didn’t even finish his first step before he stopped and threw his chest out forward. He cried out in pain as he fell to die.
With rage in her face Rebekah turned to meet the immanent attack from the robed men at her back.
The man that was now to her left brought a dagger toward her throat.
She knew immediately that this man didn’t know much about combat. With a flick of her wrist she spun the dagger back at the man and took the weapon as her own. She continued her move without pause, burying it deep into the shadow of the hood.
As the first man fell dead, the other man swung at her with a longer dagger.
She quickly twisted her body to smack the attack away with her free arm, but found out too late that the man had another long dagger in his other hand. She felt the metal of it tear across her arm, causing her to cry out in pain.
But the man gave her no time to gather herself. Immediately he began to jab both blades at the girl, trying to get through her defenses. Their combat became a deadly dance.
In better circumstances she could have turned the tables and been on the offensive. But her arm was wounded deeply, limiting her use of it.
She continued her desperate defense, hoping to find a way to break the man’s advantage and take control of the fight.
Then suddenly the man fell, and she saw Noblen standing behind him looking down. Noblen’s sword was wet with blood, and the side of the hooded man’s body was open. The hooded man twitched, and then was still. He never moved again.
Rebekah spun around, making sure there were no other threats. Then she dashed over to Stomplad, tears suddenly pouring out.
Noblen ran with her, kneeling down as she did when they came to Stomplad’s body.
The large man was lying on his side, blood oozing from his chest.
Stomplad spoke quietly, “I’m sorry doubted you Rebekah.”
“No, please” she replied, barely able to speak through her sobbing. “I don’t care; I just want you to hold on.”
“Listen to me,” Stomplad said. “You are a very brave woman. Because of you, the people are now safe. There’s a good chance we were the only bunker to survive. The future of mankind lies in the fate of our group. These men would have oppressed and killed others had they pulled all this off. You’ve done us all a great good.”
Noblen nodded. “He’s right Rebekah. We would have been caught completely unaware if it wasn’t for you. Their plan would have left us dead, and the others would have been happy about it after hearing their gossip.”
“You must find Dohl.” Stomplad cut in.
Rebekah didn’t understand. “But I thought you took care of him?”
“I imprisoned him, but someone let him out” Stomplad replied. “Find him, and give him swift justice for his murderous actions. Things are going to be very hard now. The two of you are going to have to bear my burden. Don’t let me down.”
Rebekah’s tears fell faster. “Don’t leave me Stomplad. I’m scared.”
Stomplad managed to lift his hand and pull Rebekah in close. He kissed her forehead. “Don’t be scared. The Lord shall be with you if you honor Him and love Him. Never turn your back on Him Rebekah.”
“I won’t, Stomplad” she said, returning his love with a kiss on his forehead.
Stomplad looked to Noblen, and they exchanged nods. Then Stomplad rolled his head back toward Rebekah. He looked at her softly, smiled, and closed his eyes. His pain ended.
Rebekah fell over him, losing all the wetness in her eyes. She felt Noblen’s comforting embrace, but her grief held fast.
As the sun began to hide behind the horizon, Rebekah and Noblen finally arose and headed back toward the bunker. As they passed the hooded men, they looked to see who they were. The less experienced fighter was one of Dohl’s hunting companions.
The other man was Dohl.
Though she was already spent, mixed feelings began to well up inside Rebekah’s heart. She found comfort in knowing that Dohl was gone as Stomplad had asked her to make sure of. But she had killed two men.
Noblen, always seeming to know what to say, said “Don’t feel guilt Rebekah. Stomplad and I were elected to enforce the law. Our bearing of the sword was not in vain. We chose to have your help in the matter. Your hands are clean.”
She looked to him and nodded. Then she looked back one more time to her dear friend’s quiet body.
“Rest in peace, Stomplad. Goodbye.”