F I F T Y - S E V E N



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6 Molu and the Gorgons, Part II

With the collapse of the Ghouls’ urban centers, thanks to both E and B, there was only wilderness. Only heavily armed would they ever venture into it--and then they always hurried back to their secure, safe, warm, dark-chambered cities. Yet, remaining in their stricken cities, exposed to the light and the weather, was impossible. Threatened with mass asphyxiation from the fumes of rotting plasma and dead Algol, the remnant was forced out into the jungles. It would be reasonable to think that deadly scorpion-spiders could fend for themselves and easily overcome an enemy, since they vastly outnumbered every other species except ants, flies, flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. Yet they were deadly only to human beings, since they were a social species, dependent on technology and an artificial environment for their protection and sustenance. Exposed to the forces of nature and wildlife, their tremendous superiority in intellectual equipment and communal action quickly collapsed. Turned out into the wilderness, their social organization in tatters, without the aid of their technology and infrastructure, they were essentially rendered helpless prey. In the wilderness and jungle, as they feared, they were devoured without mercy, by the piranha, jaguars, crocodiles, pythons, eagles--the whole menagerie of beasts that the great showman Coxie had introduced to Atlantis in bygone times. Army ants especially took a major part in reducing the tremendous numbers of Algol, covering the invaders with black, writhing masses. Only the Algol queen, microscopic in size, a parasite in the body of a host scorpion-spider, escaped. Where? Who could know? It would take something as small to find her, or an electron spectroscope--which was not available at the moment to any of the DUBESOR.

The Gorgon sisterhood, on the other hand, was composed of large individuals that could be easily tracked when compared to the diminutive Algol nano-queen. The task would be difficult, since they were adept at hiding their large bulks in almost inaccessible places, but it was not impossible. It would merely take time and considerable diligence and fortitude. What happened after they were found was the true problem. In the first place, who in his right mind would willingly choose to confront such abortions on their own turf? Not one but three acting in unison, they could face off with an army and the odds would always run heavily in their favor that they not only escaped but also destroyed their attackers.

Clearly, this was a foe of the type and magnitude only angels could effectively deal with. The Atlanteans, no angels, had despaired of controlling the Gorgons, and only a large, standing guard kept the Gorgons contained on an island, which would not have worked except for a cordon of ships, on the water and in the air, that maintained continuous surveillance of the ghastly trio. Once they got free, there was no possible way to ever control them again. Of a like nature and mind with the Algol, they formed part of the union of Ghouls, or Demons, and there was no conflict since their interests coincided with the other parties. Once that had happened, the Atlanteans avoided actual contact. They knew very well what the Gorgons could do. It was best not to provoke them.

The DUBESOR, however, had no such compunction. Directed by the Almighty, the Gorgons were treated as arch-enemies of mankind, which they certainly were. There could be no parley or co-existence with such creatures, since the Gorgons allied themselves with those who did everything in their power to exterminate and enslave humanity. If all the elements of the Algol, but this one, were crushed and eliminated, it would be to no avail. The Gorgons, seething with implacable hatred for mankind and anything that moved and had life, would destroy, ultimately, all life on Earth. It was in their very nature to do so, to turn the Earth into a howling desert like long, lost Mars, the only difference being a plenitude of rotting statues of men and beasts, just as the scorpion-spider component of the Algol had desolated their home planets and extinguished all other forms of life. Predators all, Gorgons, scorpion-spiders, and parasite, the Algol constituted a dire threat to human life, and while they existed humanity was in the greatest peril at all times.

Palmoni the Wonderful Numberer had gone to the aid of Brun O’Kele, and the result vindicated Palmoni’s epithet. Would he remember Molu in a similar way, who was bedeviled by the Hidden Crystal?

It was Molu who was the logical letterman to send against the Gorgons. Brun dealt with the less deadly members of the Algol. He was not even sent against the Sapphire/Jacinth, which the Pea confronted in his short, brutal, but ultimately glorious career. It would take a terror to deal with sheer terrors the likes of the Gorgons. Appointed nemesis for the Gorgons, Molu was most appropriate, since he, like them, could claim Atlantean origin. Not that the was proud of it! He recalled only the shame, abuse, and hurt of the experience!

And he hated his makers all the more since they had made him such a monster, though what else they might have made of him, he could not imagine. A product of shameless bestiality coupled with Atlantean cunning, he probably rued the moment he first opened eyes on the world--if he had the slightest inkling at that time what he really was!

However he first came to realize it, it must have come to him eventually because of the laughing contempt and ill treatment he received from his infancy and earliest days. It was one dark, dire night for him, with no beginning, no end--a Noche Triste!

Rejected and sunk into the depths of the sea, to languish there forever, what thoughts of revenge must have boiled in his formless, chaotic psyche--the like of which no savage beast on earth could rival. It was truly a marvelous thing how this fell thing responded to kindness tempered with reasonable discipline. All Molu, hitherto, had known was brute power and cruelty applied to him by his superiors. He had raced in development toward becoming a human being, precisely because he was treated like a human being and not the monster he had been fashioned into.

What light flooded his being! What intelligence dawned on his brow, as Daniyel guided him through the paces of what it meant to be human, a moral, disciplined, God-fearing one at that! It was difficult for such as the Two-Horned to keep with the training at times, particularly since he still contained all the horror and frustration, anger and vengefulness of a deeply wronged being.

The Wolflings, for instance, knew the dark side of Molu well, and scarcely one of that race survived his wrath. Electric charges that burst from his massive head--which were like the tremendous pulses emitted by Moray electric eels but man, many times greater in voltage--made his vicinity highly problematic. But what a marvelous creation he became in the mold of a New Man and a DUBESOR Dawidum --even though to all appearances he was the old, shaggy beast of former days.

Enlisted in the fighting alphabet of the Almighty, in particular the elite team of the DUBESOR, the Two-Horned became an object of amazement and dread to the Gorgons, whereas he knew virtually nothing about them. The Crystal had attacked him, aiming to kill, but he still did not understand how they were only acting in the Gorgons’ stead.

He had no idea that beings other than the Atlanteans would seek to slay him. As for the Wolflings and the women of the Crystal City under the surface, who hated him sufficiently for that, he did not take them seriously as threats. They and he were not to be compared. The Gorgons, which were unknowns to him, were far more dangerous. To send him against them, it was first necessary to teach him what he was facing--lest he think they were “garden-variety” enemies on par with pesky deer flies.

Not that Daniyel hadn’t tried! But Molu could not imagine such beings as Daniyel described. He lacked intellectual equipment to comprehend such monstrosities, and as for their peculiarly lethal powers, they were beyond Daniyel’s power to translate to the Two-Horned.

Simple in his world-view and emotional makeup, Molu tended to look on the world and its contents the same way.

Complexity was not in his mental lexicon.

Daniyel had to content himself with simply naming them and then warning Molu that he must seek God’s leading regarding them, on all points of contact.

Daniyel, who appreciated the vast, Hopkinesque semantic play and intricacy of the wide canvas of God’s game strategy, would seem to have been the ideal candidate to confront the Gorgons, but that was not the Almighty’s will. No, Molu was His choice--and the world and perhaps the entire Universe would have to live with whatever result the Two-Horned achieved or did not achieve.

No cowards, but reacting from instinct, Gorgons, Inc. invested still considerable capital of evil and wickedness in the mountains, biding their time and watching for an opportunity to spring out and destroy whatever they regarded as a threat to their supremacy. For they knew very well that, with the other components of the Algol vanquished, they were left as the heirs of the kingdom Earth. A triple throne now ruled the Earth on which sat Gorgonic spite, venom, and malice. They had no desire to make it easy for an enemy. Let him come to them. That was better strategy, they reasoned.

As for Wally, he was still on the gameboard--barely. Daniyel trained the “Dreamteam” with no need of advice from him, so poor Wally was excluded from a responsibility no one thought was his business. But what good was mere existence? Wally’s odometer turned over several times completely as he clocked Daniyel’s endless trekking back and forth across the Earth. Would the Almighty FC ever retire the old codger? Wally wondered. When would this DUBESOR thing conclude? Would it ever run out of candidates?

Most, of course, never made it to a team letter. Daniyel lost much toil and effort in the failures of the wannabes, which Wally had given up counting. For every Letterman that made it, dozens slipped up one way or another and disqualified themselves. Daniyel exercised immense patience, but some slips were fatal, and he always seemed to know what they were when they happened. It mattered nothing to him how much the trainee wanted to complete the course, or how much he thought he deserved the Letter. Daniyel sought only the Almighty’s will. Sometimes, it is true, he deeply grieved for those whom he had to send away, but that really proved best for all. If admitted into the ranks of the DUBESOR, they would destroy all the good that the team had painstakingly achieved. Then it would be back to the drawingboard--and that was a long, long way removed in the past, as Wally well knew from his Dr. Pikkard and Cray glory days.

Wally was amazed, evenso, at the choices of particular candidates. Against all expectation, Molu had been chosen, yet he had succeeded where others had failed miserably. Despite his terrible mistakes and willfulness, he had gone on, pushing away the mountain of probable failure until he had virtually attained the summit of success. Only one thing remained to be done. The Gorgons needed to be sought out and defeated. This was, in many ways, his supreme challenge. And who could envy him it?

Could Molu have been persuaded to go against such if he knew exactly what they were? That was a good question, Wally reflected. But, even if dreadful beyond the worst nightmare, the Gorgons had to be confronted if humans were to survive and reach their desired destiny on a reclaimed, human-populated Earth. If not Molu, someone else would have to be found, trained, and sent. Now it was Molu’s opportunity and mission. Could he do it?

The Gorgon Gang of Three, who were well aware by this time that the Two-Horned might rival the best they could wreak on him, were on the alert. Molu, however, was no puppet, though the Almighty had allotted him a short leash. Molu could still choose to make his own moves on the gameboard, and that could prove disastrous for him and a victory for the Gorgons.

Would he press on to finish his task, eliminate the Terrible Triad, once he found out how fearsome they truly were? That remained to be seen. Poor, benighted Molu! Molu, of all the DUBESOR, still had the farthest to go in attaining the stature of a true New Man.

If he fell, he could fall all the way back to beasthood. Once having known the Light, losing it might propel him to such depths there might be no possible return.

Was there any pity for Molu on all the Earth? Conceived in darkness, darkness lingered on every side, waiting its chance to swallow him back up. An Atlantean joke, the butt of depraved humor, Molu was not amusing to himself.

His antics, awkwardness, and bestial appearance furnished prime qualifications for a laughingstock, but Molu, nevertheless, possessed a sense of self-dignity. With it burned an unquenchable desire to improve himself that went deeper than the deepest barb.

Yet no one saw quality in him. Only the Almighty, and Daniyel with Him, seemed to be rooting for Molu the potential New Man, calling out, “Molu! Keep your head! And don’t give up, don’t ever give up! You’ll make it yet! Just a little bit farther, just--”

As it was, this campaign against the Gorgons was Molu’s second and no doubt last chance. Everything "hung" on it.

Molu’s dread, second chance dawned early one morning after he cried out to God for pardon.

“Go up, champion of the Most High, into the Mountains of the Day Moon yonder,” a commanding Voice told him. “The Crystal you fear and hate will not hurt you again.”

How far, and where, was “yonder”? Gripped with hope and excitement, the repentant Molu obeyed at once. He couldn’t possibly find his way back to his country by this time, nor could he mentally pin-point the Day Moon Mountains within a thousand miles--for he had no sense of geography and relied entirely on instinct to get about. So, as he started out, he circled like a pigeon, then following his instinct, heading southeast. Whether he could swim to the next continent, that wouldn’t come to mind until he stood on a wave-washed shore facing the unknown, dividing sea--if he got that far, that is.

Strangely, so easy as it was to enter, the Georgian forest became twice as hard to leave. Grown used to this odd, powerfully-built, bull-like creature knocking about their forests, the Seminoles of southern East Bear/Turtle Island no longer regarded him as a passing god or sacred spirit. They saw him as game, and began dogging his retreating hooves.

He was making good progress along the track, he thought. Several times words came to him, but he ignored them, intent on making swift progress. A sharp twanging sound was followed quickly by a deep, jabbing blow in his backside. It made him bellow with pain as he grabbed and pulled out the cruel barb and long stick--a feathered stick. Just then another arrow went by his head, slicing an ear. More arrows flew, drumming a rapid line up a tree trunk by his side.

Fully alert to his being made a porcupine, Molu broke into a mad gallop, completely forgetting he had the power to set fire to the whole forest around him. He was, he thought, safely away from the first attack when he suddenly found himself flying downwards through a cunning layer of sticks and palmetto branches into a deep-dug pit.

Molu hit his head on a big rock and was stunned. He felt nothing, knew nothing, for a while, when though he was pulled out of the pit with alligator leather ropes.

A spear was thrust into his chest, into his heart, stopping it, but missing his new heart. His tail was whacked off with an obsidian-bladed knife. The brave who thought he had slain Molu was awarded the tail--a high honor.

The hunting party flayed the carcass, for no women were along to do it since they were far from camp. Then they cut off the hooves (though his fore-hooves weren't much to boast about in a dance), and the tail-bedecked hunter began his song, thanking the spirit of the bull-man for the hide and meat he had furnished the people. As for his horns, they were throught to ugly and misshapen to bother with, the hunters decided.

Besides, their knives had no power over the metal-like knobs, though they tried hard to saw one of them off.

When this was done, the Two-Horned awoke groggily. His deepening roar and bellows of pain and surprise as he gathered what had happened to him sent the hunters backing away. They sensed at once that they had made some kind of mistake, and the spirit of the beast was enraged against them.

The singer ceased his song and dance of thankfulness to the Great Spirit. He was, according to custom, wearing the skin, making grateful bellows through the mouth of the skin to the Great Spirit, when the former contents of that same skin wriggled back into life right before his eyes!

Molu, his legs tied back and splayed to make the butchering easier, easily burst his fetters, but getting to his feet was difficult. The hunters watched with wide eyes as Molu staggered forward, then backwards, unable to get his footing with no hooves. Roaring all the more, he tried not to put his de-hoofed fore-stumps to the ground, but that was what he had to do if he were to walk and not crawl on the ground!

He bled buckets, splashing leaves and grass all around. Pain finally cleared his eyes.

He saw the Seminoles, who stood stiff as swamp cattails, frozen in place as if by a Gorgon’s killing stare.

Badly hurt and mutilated as he was, Molu had no intention of dying without a struggle.

But, driven by sheer pain, he couldn’t think that the hunters had made a mistake and did not hate him.

His first lightning bolt shot wide of the mark. It took off the top of a tall tree above the clearing, roaring skywards. Lowering his head, Molu made better aim.

The bolt burst forth and swept half the hunters into early graves. The others--Molu over-killed with bolt after bolt until the forest all around was aflame. Still the Two-Horned rampaged.

The fire seared his own body, his bleeding stumps, as he made bloody prints in the ashfall.

Who can describe the feeling of Molu as he retrieved his fire-singed skin from his dead attacker and pulled on his own hide to cover his bleeding nakedness? In agony he moved, without thinking where he was going, the Gorgon quest all forgotten in his calamity.

The next hours and days became a blood-red, excruciating blur. Nothing marked them but his unspeakable pain as he dumbly struggled to escape the region.

Down steep slopes, or up hillsides, what agonies of holding to trees, easing his bulk a bit at a time! Soft leaves and bog were easiest on his tortured stumps, but there was hard claypan stretches that afforded no mercy at all.

And the rivers, streams, the lakes he crossed--they softened his flayed body and the insects swarmed like a living skin on him after he climbed out of the water, feasting on his newly exposed tissues and oozing blood.

To move one leg, it was impossible not to brush the other, which shot pain through him from the friction of the naked nerves and muscle. His mind was gone. He was a witless hulk of misery, ever moving, never stopping except for fainting spells.

Always, when he awoke, he bellowed and roared, but kept moving onwards. Never had the Seminoles heard or seen such a red beast as this, and those he happened to pass gave him wide berth.

Days brought a steaming heat, the torment of insects, but nights breathed a chill that stabbed him and convulsed him with uncontrollable shudders that racked his whole body. Which was worse? There was no telling.

This spectacle did not go unnoted in heaven, beyond the portals through which the great Palmoni had stepped. It was this angel that took up Molu’s cause, as he took up the cause of all the DUBESOR. He recited before the ear of the Majesty on High from the Book of the War of Heaven and Earth, the portion that ran

Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You. According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are appointed to die; and return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.

These words must have been the very ones the Almighty was waiting to hear. They only needed to be spoken for a divine act to intervene on Molu’s behalf. There was thunder and smoke about the Throne, and Molu, struggling far, far from the Throne, nevertheless felt the first breaking of his unbearable pain.

Healing, and with healing a new, human skin, rapidly overspread his limbs as he stumbled through the woodlands, hills, and swamps toward the sea. More followed. Something beautiful bloomed in the brutalized being of Molu with each step, at last taking on the form of words that penetrated his pain:

I have suffered this same pain of yours. You are not alone, my son. I the LORD am with you.

Unable to ignore the words, they sank into Molu’s soul to the roots. He stopped roaring, and continued on. Tears swept down from his blood-shot eyes and covered his chest. He could not see for his weeping, and began knocking into the trees of the dense forest. How he ever reached the seacoast in his crippled condition, not even the holy watchers in heaven could say.

But the words encouraged him on, and with the strength of them he persisted and one day he suddenly halted, his ears filled with the booming surf of the sea. Stumbling forward down the face of a sand dune, he fell, tumbled, and then at last was swept by salt water and spray.

The water stung him with a thousand arrow-pricks, and he gasped. Just then a new word swept over him that made his mind reel with wonder and fear. He seemed to hear the voice of Palmoni!

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers. And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday....

Waves struck Molu, each blast equaling the blast of revelation that shook him in his whole being as the words of the great Book were read by the Wonderful Numberer before the Throne and the myriads of multitudes gathered on the crystal ocean of the throne room floor.

...A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand. But it shall not come near you, only with your eyes will you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. For He shall give angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra. The young lion and serpent you shall tread under foot. Because you have set your love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him on high because he has known my Name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.

Though the wounded Molu could not grasp but a fraction of the words or the significance, the words made a deep impression. He felt the waters well up around him, the currents of the sea in the Straits of Floyda tugging at his body and all his hurts, and he gave way to them. He quit the land with no regret, and began to swim with powerful strokes, all the more since he could move freely in water and felt scarcely any pain in them.

It was a wonderful freedom, to move swiftly without pain! His instinct took over now that his brain cleared. Southeast! Southeast! it urged deep within his brain.

He spread his big, land-awkward limbs in the water, a crawling-motion that propelled him into the sea far from shore. His strength and spirit renewed, never had he enjoyed anything so much as this long, long swim. He swam all the rest of that day in the Straits, mindless of the sharps that kept circling, closing in on him until one big white one made a pass that pushed him half-way out of the water with the surge of waters.

Molu came sharply to his senses, realizing what it was. He knew he was not fast enough to outswim the big-toothed fishes, and they were all around, as he saw their fins knifing this way and that in the water.

Then he remembered his chief weapon. Would it work in the water? He sent one bolt off, and watched sharks flip out of the boiling, steaming water. Swimming through their midst without harm, he kept firing, clearing a path.

Even with this success, he had to be careful they did not creep up and rush at him from behind. It was a battle all the way across the straits, but finally he lunged out of the water and sank down on the sand, seventy miles away from his starting point on the tip of East Bay Island. Far off, if he had looked, glimmered the snowy points of the Mountains of the Moon.

Molu, knowing he had to move inland, pressed on. He collapsed from weariness, and when he opened his eyes he found himself staring at an angel’s burnished, golden feet--Palmoni’s!

The stern, red-gold angel said nothing. His gaze seemed to hold all wisdom along with the ability to look through Molu and see everything. Then he reached and lightly touched Molu’s four stumps with his red-gold staff where his hooves had been. That was all he did, and he vanished.

Molu, his face sinking back into the sand (for sand extended a long ways inland), felt a strange feeling begin at his stumps and continue feeling that way until he opened his eyes and looked to see. The cleft in his chest, oozing white matter and blood, was healed over, but it was the hands and feet of a man growing out from his stumps that riveted Molu’s eyes. Finally, he could bear it no longer. He stood up on his new, perfectly formed feet. He took several steps on them, then felt his hands, flexing his fingers again and again. How strange, but satisfying they were! How weak they were compared to his old fore-hooves, but they seemed to fix his hurting limbs, so that he felt no hurt at all now.

The Two-Horned abortion of the Atlanteans now looked like a man from toe to the hair of his head!

But he could not entertain himself with these changes--his whole being was charged with the imperative of “Southeast! Southeast!”

Drawn almost against his will, he continued on, hurting his feet when he wasn’t careful. He had to learn the hard way, how to treat them. It took much practice. On hooves he could stomp and gallop over the most rocky terrain without harm. But not with feet! He had to carefully pick his way. It was most galling to his temperament. He wasn’t inclined to take care of anything, but now he was forced to treat his body with care.

Since he was aware of little else but himself, it was fortunate the area had been vacated by most all major foes. The Algol had gone, and the Nergul in their van. Only the Gorgons and the star-stone--they remained somewhere, each in hiding. As for the Rom on the other side of the Day Moon Mountains, they had deserted their cities, and were reduced to nomadic bands trying to cope with the collapse of their economy.

But even Molu could go only so far on his Atlantean reserves. Famished, he felt so weak he couldn’t take another step.

Then a line from a Persian poet flashed into his mind.

“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and Thou, O Lord, beside me in the wilderness...”

Molu sank to his knees and devoured the bread he found on a rock set beneath a shading tree. It was the best taste he had ever imagined. And the jug held cool wine, sweet as the honeycomb that lay beside it. He was completely refreshed when he arose from his country banquet, and whoever had fed and dined him, there was sign.

He went on. Growing thirsty, he put his hand down into the water, cupping some of it, then drew it to his lips. That was quite a feat for him! But he learned fast. He was proud of himself, thinking it was not so bad after all to be made so like a man when a voice nearly knocked him off balance.

You are My son. Obey me.

The words burned in Molu’s heart and mind and soul. He leaped up. The Almighty had called him,, Molu, His son! His son! Exulting, he sprang forward with renewed ardor. But the next words cautioned him before he could go another fifty paces.

You will be badly hurt again. But I will not let you die. Will you obey Me? My words are life to you.

Molu was stopped in his tracks. He knew well by this point what “badly hurt” entailed. He glanced down at his hands and feet. They were not strong. He had to be very careful with them. They seemed useless for fighting. But he still had his lightning bolts, didn’t he? A doubt suddenly struck him hard. He wasn’t sure.

For the first time, the significance of what he was being told struck home. He seized his head with his hands, feeling all over. No horns! No hard knobs that spat the great spears of killing fire! Gone!

Molu reeled from the shock of his loss. Aiming his head, he shot a bolt as hard as he could, then another in quick succession, but nothing! Nothing but click, click, click! Spinning round, he gasped in fright. His bolts had been taken away. Now he was totally helpless, powerless! He was a weak as a mouse, as a human, an ordinary man!

Horrified, Molu was beside himself, he was so upset that he couldn’t fight the enemy. He had no power, none whatsoever.

Will you obey Me? I will give you strength against the foe.

But Molu could not grasp what he was being told--not that day anyway. All he could do was bemoan his terrible losses and feeling of woeful weakness. He had climbed high by this time--still impelled by the instinct that led him into the mountains. It eased his mind somewhat to keep moving.

Snow flakes thickened in the air. Molu was cold and hungry, but he was confused, and kept climbing the slopes, without knowing how to help himself. His instinct, too, was fading rapidly. He went this way, then that, passed the same rock several times, realizing it because it was shaped like a human.

Curious at last, Molu went close to the rock. He reached out with his hand to touch the snow-covered figure, then drew it back as if he had been burnt. The rock felt unlike any rock. With a yell Molu stepped back in horror as he wrenched off the rock's rags. It was a man, frozen in his tracks!

Making a great effort, Molu overcame his horror enough to return to it and examine the face more carefully. He brushed away snow and fallen tree needles and saw the man’s expression--terror, and something more, the Shadow itself, reflected in the eyes of the victim that seemed to bear a hint of what had done this to a once living man.

Next Site

Glimpsing the Shadow, Molu could take no more and leaped away. Now he knew! He shuddered, and fell, rolling down a slope, and hit a big rock. Groaning, he climbed out and got to his feet, shaking. Crying with a blubbering voice, Molu began to pray, pleading from his utter wretchedness and fear, stretching ice-cold hands toward the heavens, only bits of which he could see above the trees.

“I can’t fight them!” he cried. “O God, I can’t fight like this!”

He was exhausted more by his self-pitying cries and tears then by his trek. Presently, however, he felt a warming Presence, and he calmed down.

Good! You cannot fight! For you will surely fail if you use your own strength in the coming battle.

Utterly bewildered, Molu looked about, and listened to the words that followed.

You shall receive Words of War when you meet the enemy. The Words will be your shield, a buckler, a fortress, and a refuge for you. With them you shall destroy the strong foe.

Molu was all ears, but nothing more came. He had to repeat the words to gain some sense of them. The snow fell harder. Despite their assurance, the Words seemed to fade, and he couldn’t keep a firm hold on them. He rubbed his feet, and his pitiful hands, trying to put warmth into them. He needed food, a fire, and shelter badly, for the night was coming on. Though used to hardship, he no longer could endure much of it now. With only his shaggy hide for a cape, he was practically naked to the elements. His feet were bare. He needed to move down from the snowline, or he would freeze, he realized.

Yet he couldn’t make himself descend. Ahead were cliffs, the rocky face of the mountain he was climbing. He thought that perhaps he could find a cave in which to spend the night. Anything was better than remaining in the open.

As he neared the cliffs, climbing the scree of fallen rubble, even in the growing dark he could see a cave ahead---a very large one. In fact, an entire village was built beneath the overhanging ledge. People had lived here in a mountain village!

He started up quickly. Then a sharp feeling made him halt. He paused, surprised, to view the village. What was wrong with it?

A sense of foreboding swept over him so strongly he half-crouched. Then a thought came: he was just like, in appearance, the man turned to stone back down on the mountain! Glancing around, he saw other half-crouched shapes. No! he thought. Then he realized it had to be what he dreaded, these were men, women, and children, single or huddled in groups, all frozen into figures of rock!

A rock-woman nearest him was standing, her arm outstretched, and her eyes rigid as she gazed up at Something.

Petrified Woman

A bolt of fear swept through him head to toe. This was no shelter for him! People had tried to flee some invader of their village, but they were too late. The invader had turned upon them before they could get away.

His knees went to water at the thought. He scrambled away down the slope, going as fast he could. At last he came to a mountain brook, and he caught his breath, then splashed through, icy as it was, and reached the bank, scrambling up the other side.

When he had made the full descent from the mountain, shame caught up with him. What will my Father in heaven think of my running away? Molu felt a scalding shame. He had come far to do something like this? He glanced back toward the mountain and the villagers turned to stone, and he shuddered, and began to retch.

Their fate could be his! Why should he go back up? After all, the Father had said that he would be “badly hurt.” So it would happen to him, what had befallen the mountain village. He would be turned to rock by the monsters he had come to fight.

Groaning with fear, he tired to keep walking away from the mountain, but a terrific tugging started in his innards, and he couldn’t keep going that direction. He turned around, and tears swept down his face.

The peak of the mountain barely showed above the firs, but he knew it was the mountain he feared with all his heart.

The struggle was tremendous, but finally he cried, “Yes! I will go back!”

As he dragged himself back up the path his fright had already blazed, he did not see the great Eagle, the golden flier named YH that rode on the clouds. YH took wing from a tall tree and sailed upwards on the wind and followed the tiny, toiling figure of poor Molu, as he sought his destiny in the mountain heights above.

How icy, how deathly cold, the brook waters felt on his body as he struggled across. It was with a scream that he forced himself to ford it.

Finally, when Molu had regained the slope where his fear had overwhelmed him, the snow had stopped. It was pitch dark, and no moonlight lit the scene. Yet the snow shone brightly enough for Molu to see the village.

“The Almighty, my Father, will deliver me!” Molu reassured himself. “I shall be hurt, but I won’t die!”

He might have repeated this a hundred times.

The wind rose as Molu drew the site. It began to wail in the deep clefts of the rocks.

Freezing, hugging his old skin and hide around himself, Molu crouched down behind a boulder as he eyed the village. He knew he could not stay here all night.

“Go!” he told himself, but he could not make himself rise up.

Suddenly, a most wonderful feeling stole over him. He felt filled and covered with his Father’s love and protecting presence, even as YH, high overhead, overspread Molu far below.

Then Molu did it. He threw off his cape and ran forth stark naked, yelling at the top of his lung the Name of God, El Elyon. The God of Daniyel, the Most High God--His Name Molu shouted into the darkness that lurked at the base of the cliffs.

Just as he named his God the third time the cliffs lit up with something like sheet lightning. A shaking and rumbling sent the walls of the village crashing, and Molu stopped running, aghast, as an entire room was laid bare, exposing its three occupants.

But Molu never really met the Gorgons face to face. A blizzard of snow struck, blinding the scene with flying flakes before his eyes.

Then his War Word came to him. He gasped it out. This was his last conscious moment for some time.

The entire peak roared, and whole sections tore away in avalanches. The cliffs began to fall. The golden Eagle, YH, screamed, his great wings overshadowing Molu.

After it was all over, though badly knocked about, Molu lay outstretched on rock, still alive, not crushed, but stunned. The moment he awakened, YH lifted off the rock, soaring heavenwards. No amount of tonnage torn from a mountain could kill the Gorgons, of course. The rocks, charged and ionized in the grinding together and thereby releasing their energies, captured the electomagnetic Gorgons at their cores, and petrified their energies--doing to them what they had done to so many victims through the ages.

Unaware of any of this, in which he had played a central role, Molu rose up slowly on the rock. A robe of golden, angelic cloth clothed him, and a crown rested on his brow, light and airy but full of gems and gold. More remarkable, a staff, with a violet stone of royal beauty that shone far out into the darkness, dispelling it.

“Surely God is the Almighty,” he thought, realizing something tremendous had happened when he recalled his last act, and the fall of the mountain. “He is the Unwrought Stone!” he also recalled. “He is the Stone that fell and ground His enemies to powder! He is also the great Eagle who flies above the whole earth and commands the heavens!”

For, with this memory, there came assurance that the Gorgons, which he had never had to face, were no more. They had been destroyed, and they lay somewhere beneath the rubble of the mountain.

Naturally, after this great victory, Molu felt his task was over. How mistaken!

A word came to him, as he was congratulating himself.

It is time to get up and go! You must go fight the foe in the air!

This was not what Molu wanted to hear.

“Wh--what?” Molu protested, his victor’s crown slipping half-way off.

You will not wait for the morning. You will go down upon the plain before you. Then I will rout the foe out of hiding to meet you. Again, do nothing until I give you My Word. Otherwise, you will surely fail. And do not throw down your staff, even when you drink water.

Grumbling, feeling uneasy despite his great victory, Molu began the long trek down to the plain.

Meanwhile, isolated by the crushing of the Gorgons, aware of defeat of the Algol and Nergul, the star-stone grew uneasy in its chosen setting, as if it were constricting on it like a noose.

Feeling it needed to move, the Sapphire rose up and began moving openly across the land, set to destroy anything and everything in its path.

Molu trudged along in his golden, victor’s robe. Already he had grown weary of the trappings of success. He found the gold staff heavy, awkward to carry a long way, and was tempted to leave it on a rock ledge when he bent to drink from a wayside pool.

Another foe! That wasn’t pleasant news at all to a battle-scarred veteran like Molu. And exactly what was this new foe?

Molu wracked his memory for what it might be. The foes of man, Daniyel had taught him, were the Devil-Stone, the World, and the Flesh.

The “Devil-Stone?” It wasn’t always so. Stolen from the midst of the crown jewels of the Most High, stolen by the guardian angel Lucifer, it was changed in its heart to a thing of great wickedness and impurity. It was this Devil-stone that had come and cast so much woe upon the world, bringing with it these scorpion-spiders, a host of them, and the nasty Nergul, and the Gorgons who turned men to stone. All these enemies the Almighty had vanquished, except the Devil-Stone itself. But where was it?

While Molu pondered these things the object of his search flew closer. He could actually smell it before he saw it. It was now early morning, and he could plainly see a dense, dark cloud like the night pouring down upon the plain before him. It was a fearsome thing with lightning bolts cracking before it, striking whatever lay in its path.

Molu’s fingers tightened on his heavenly staff, as he noted that the cloud had reversed direction and had turned directly toward him.

Without the staff, Molu might have fallen, for he sensed now that the cloud contained his enemy, and his foe was beyond all stopping by a human being. This force would hurl him down to the depths--the bottom of the miry pit from which he had been dug by the Almighty.

This time there was no YH riding the clouds above, His wings overshadowing Molu. He felt utterly forsaken! All he had given him against this Devil-Stone was a golden robe and a gold staff! What was that compared with so mighty a foe?

Excreting sulfur and ammonia, the cloud spread outwards to him, poisoning the air he had to breathe. Gagging, his nostrils pinching shut at the same time, Molu put a hand over his eyes to keep them from stinging, and he gripped his staff with all his might to keep from falling.

As if to show him what it had in store, the Devil-Stone sent forth lightning bolts that forked out at various objects and exploded them. Then the noxious, defecating cloud came on with a rushing sound, and a poisoned mass swept over Molu. The nauseating, fecal stench, the mustard-gas, was so intense he couldn’t keep to his feet. His hand loosened on the staff.

Lift your holy standard!

But uncountable thousands of tons of filth bore down on Molu, and he could not do it, hard as he tried. Blinded and nauseated, he was letting go. But as his last finger still touched the staff, the violet stone shot forth a ray into the heart of the cloud, striking the hidden star-stone at its heart.

For Molu, losing the staff, what followed was nearly fatal. A blast swept away the cloud, stripping away the enemy’s cover, so that the Devil-stone was exposed along with its contrail as it beat a retreat away from the nearly dead Molu. As he sank down, lying face upwards, a distant boom reverberated as the Sapphire sought to leave the planet, but could not, and instead began breaking up, its immense energies flying out of control.

Far below the Devil-Stone, Molu rolled and writhed on the poisoned ground. He lays still as the Sapphire went into its death agony like a snail writhing in a bath of salt.

Shooting out murky streams of smoke and fire, the star-stone jerked about, then flipped, rocking back and forth as it exuded more floods of its filthy innards. There seemed to be no end to the black, oily matter that gushed out of it. But finally a froglike creature crawled from the center, melting like scum, then freezing stiff and wraithlike in space and whirling away as the exploding outer shell carried it off into the depths of starless voids.

At the same time the once magnificent, now twisted spirit and genius of the star-stone perished, the six Angels of the Dire Night were busy. They picked up Molu where he too was expiring, and he trembled back into life in their reviving care. Molu felt himself taken by his hands and arms Together he and the angels rose and flew heavenward, into the northern sky. As they passed into deeper space they gave the tumbling frog of impurity as wide a berth as they awarded something that followed. Horrors! It was the incoming Emerald. Moreover, its fiery contrail was dogged closely by a quenchless Hell of the Saggitarian A West Black Hole.

7 East Gate Regained?

An overwhelming, crushing avalanche of grief for her abducted and lost children destroyed the mother’s will to live. She preferred death by her own people far above anything life could do to her in foreign lands, and Brun, naturally, had infuriated her by trying to save her from a desired end. Finally, after meddling all he could, he left her at the shepherd’s hut and had gone out somewhere to be by himself. At last she could mourn in peace! But the moment was soon shattered by a loud knocking at the door.

Her hosts, Philemon the shepherd and Baukis his wife, simple souls that they were, not expecting any more guests on that day, simply stared at it, so she was forced to get up and go--thinking it was, perhaps, her husband returned penitent after annoying her so badly that day. One pull showed how mistaken she was! It was not Brun. Rather, a blaze of reddish-golden light flooded in, dazzling her eyes so that she could scarcely make out the figure that stood before her. Glimpsing the guest, her hosts fainted dead away. She herself found her knees turning to water, but with utmost will clung to the wooden doorframe and door with her hands as she looked at the angel, who in turn was gazing at her with burning eyes.

Who is this? she wondered. What does he come here for? She thought she might have to kneel, for perhaps this was the Most High that Daniyel had revealed, or His Warrior-Son.

“No, I am not He,” replied the angel. “I am His servant. He has sent me to lead you to a place of safety. Quickly, you must go now with me.” A thousand thoughts and feelings whirled in Andromeda’s mind and spirit. Why should she cling to a wretched life? What did the angel intend to do with her? Where would she go? She didn’t want to go anywhere with a stranger! Her misery--that was all she knew. The angel gazed at her more deeply. “You will not save yourself. But what about the old ones. They will die here, with you, if you do not come away with me now.”

Andromeda’s face showed her torment, as she turned back and looked at the old couple and then back at the angel. She found herself speechless. Only her body responded. She dragged herself from the doorway, pulled at Philemon and Baukis, who revived and were impelled by her to get to their feet and follow her. Slowly, she got them to the doorway despite their great fear of the dread angel of red and gold fire.

“He’s come to save our lives from something!” she shouted at them, trying to penetrate their sluggish peasant mentalities which were slow to grasp the situation. “Don’t you wish to live?”

Where is Brun? she wondered as she led the old, protesting pair into the courtyard where the angel had gone.

By this time, however, it was late. A storm cloud had reached them, sending forked lightning bolts forth and striking everything that moved.

Andromeda, in the fury of the erupting landscape, saw the angel was gone. Instead, another form stood before her, holding the door open in a shining doorframe that stood towering in the courtyard. Sheep had fled the storm cloud in a panic, turning in at the house as instinct connected with the old sheds that the shepherd and his wife had turned into a home. Now they huddled witless and bleating against the threshold of the door of the hut, unable to go in unless led.

Suddenly, a Voice thundered in the depths of Andromeda’s grief-darkened spirit.

I am the Door of Life. Enter by Me, and I will give you everlasting life.

Who? Who are you? Andromeda’s spirit cried, though there was no time for speech. Somehow she could tell This was not an angel. He was far more magnificent, yet he bore signs of severe injury on his hands and feet and brow. Was this the Anointed One the venerable Daniyel had spoken of so many times in her house in the far, southern mountains by the big lake? Who else might it be?

A lightning bolt was this moment heading toward the house, to destroy all life that it might contain, and everything living within many yards of the door as well. Yet the time seemed to stop, as Andromeda, in a sort of trance, found herself gathering up the old man and his wife, leading them to the protective doorway, putting them just inside, then going and getting each sheep, ewe, and lamb, leading them to safety also, before joining them. The fraction of time that was completed, the death bolt struck, and a wall of fire crashed down before the Door.

The Door lifted then, and presently, after no apparent passage of time or scene, set down gently, then opened. The Anointed One was gone, and Andromeda and the souls with her, man and beast, stared outwards into a fresh, new world, or so it appeared. Andromeda’s eyes widened. It was the Crystal Mountain that loomed overhead. And the lake! Her home in the wilds!

She sprang from the Door, followed more slowly by all who entered with her. Forgetting the stately dignity of a palace born and bred princess of the Romany, Andromeda raced to the pa, her heart leaping for fear she might be disappointed. But she was right! The Lord God had remembered her, not only in saving her life and those of the old couple and their sheep, but he had answered her deepest cry.

Children! At least some of her children she saw at a first glance, came crying and shouting and running to meet her. Sweeping her arms around as many as possible, she wept and could not restrain her broken heart. Even with old Philemon and Baukis staring aghast at her, ignorant of all that had happened except dimly aware that they had been in some sort of great danger, did not stop Andromeda’s showing joy and tears before commoners.

Finally, she recovered her thoughts and turned back to see the great Door that had given life back to her. The Anointed One was not standing in it as before, but all her thoughts centered on him. He was, she recalled then, the Unwrought Stone that Daniyel had promised would one day fill the entire Earth with His rule and majesty. Where had the Mighty One gone? Her heart crying with joy unto Him, she took her children and began to trek back to the Door. As she approached it, words formed within her.

....a Scepter of Righteousness is the Scepter of Your Kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You.

Her entire being cried, as if in response, “Amen! Yes! Amen!” Now she knew what the words, taught her by Daniyel, meant. She gasped as she looked down at her ruined garments. Torn to pieces in all her troubles, something was happening to them. They were turning white--a blinding white--and the hundred rents were repaired and replaced with golden patterned leaves and flowers that belonged to the richest palace brocades and tapestries.

“Forgive me, O my God and Lord!” she cried, sinking to her knees. She felt, for the first time in her life, totally clean within her spirit. Swept up in the glory of her transformation, she felt reborn, and wanted only to praise the God who had done this thing to her.

Words poured from her as she raised hands toward the resplendent, golden Door.

“You are fairer than the sons of men. Grace is poured upon Your lips, therefore God has blessed You forever. Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, with Your glory and Your majesty! And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness. And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of all the King’s enemies. Peoples fall under You. Your Throne, O God, is forever and forever. Therefore, a Scepter of righteousness is the Scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, Your God, He anointed You...”

After her spontaneous Magnificat of the Pantocrator ended, she lay, her children running off to chase the wonderful creatures Philemon and Baukis had brought with them. New words were forming within her mind.

A wicked star came to destroy you in your former country, but I prepared this place for you and your husband. He will come, carrying My scepter of authority, after the star has been destroyed by yet another who is like him. And together you shall recover all.

Slowly, filled with wonder and joy, Andromeda rose to her feet, feeling of her regal garment, and turned back to the pa. So Brun was coming? And what was that--”you shall recover all together”?

Brun? True, his return was an event, but she scarcely could tell what she felt about it, since her emotions were all in total upheaval, so that she no longer knew her own mind.

“Listen to me, your father will be here soon!” she told the children, struggling to keep her voice steady without a ridiculous quaver. They began to jump and race about, each with a sheep or favorite lamb. She had all she could do to quiet them and lead them back to the safety of the walled pa. Besides, since all the bigger ones wanted to do was play with the sheep. Yet the younger ones complained of hunger. The stocks of food had run out, and they needed to hunt for roots to dig and wild fruits, but they were too afraid to go far beyond the pa without their parents. Besides, the guardian angel that had looked after them would not permit them to go very far.

After a look at the ransacked larders, Andromeda saw she needed to go with the children to forage if there was to be any dinner that day. She turned to Philemon and Baukis. But Baukis wasn’t much good for helping, the princess saw at a glance. Old Baukis had already adopted a half-dozen children as grandchildren, and they were hanging on every inch of her loving, withered frame. As for the old man, he was a shepherd. What did he know about planting and sowing and reaping? No, sheep was all he would know how to handle. No, if she wanted customary food for the children, she had to go get it herself!

Taking a planting stick more for protection than hope she might find anything in the wild pig-ravaged gardens, she left the pa with her children. The pa was out of sight behind the trees when she remembered the Door. Was it still there, beside the lake? She felt drawn to it, and took the children down that way, despite their wanting to run up the mountainside toward the best fruit--the bananas.

But she searched the shoreline with her eyes as soon as she could see through the trees and vines, and the Door of Heaven was gone! Feeling desolate, she sighed, but a child pointed. She looked up, and there it was, the Great Door that had carried her to safety, risen shining in the clouds.

With a leap of her heart, just then she saw a rearing jaguar. No! A jaguar-caped man was scrambling up from the beach. Her hand unclenched, and her planting stick fell. With him were children--the children that had been taken from the pa! She began to run toward him.

Suddenly, impelled by love she never knew she had possessed for the father of her children, she could not help forgetting all about her palace upbringing as she rushed toward her returned husband. Scream after scream, she could not help herself. The horror of all she had suffered with the abductions, her own and that of her children, all mingled with the joy of meeting the Anointed One and His joining her with now all, not just some of her lost children.

It was all too much for her to contain any longer.

“Who am I?” she cried. “What have I become? I don’t know myself anymore!”

Brun seized the hysterical woman and held and rocked her until she calmed slowly to her old self, or rather, her new self. Her eyes, flooded, now cleared, and he gazed into a beauty that he had never known, a beauty of love and feeling for him that no man had ever known, not since the Beginning in the first, lost Paradise. For he knew that instant that he was gazing at the Mother of all life, of generations to come, as he held her.

He stood, drawing Andromeda up to him. Shuddering against his strength, she subsided in his grasp. Her dainty fingers in his large hand, they stood quietly under a tree they had yet noticed, they were so taken by each other’s presence. Forming a lofty T, it was leafy and had gone to flower and then fruit in three days, its ripe fruit hanging in huge clusters that the children could not miss seeing if they just happened to look straight up. But for the moment the chattering, shrieking children, who had all decided to adopt the oldsters as grandparents, went off with Philemon and Baukis to give them a grand tour along the beach. Nothing was said between man and wife. Nothing needed to be said. The waves of the low surf beating on the sands, the waving of the palms, the tolling of a bell-bird, the mournful love song of cliff doves--it was a place fit for a new beginning. Some might even call it Paradise.

Meanwhile, the light in the heavens became a blaze, a golden fall of sheer curtains hanging down in gleaming folds across the shell-blue sky. Gazing at it, the startled pair could not comprehend what was happening, except that they felt a chord strike deeply in their hearts, like the first heralding note of a new world. The curtained Door? It was spreading outwards on every side like a great, soaring Bow in the clouds. They were still watching a few moments later when it arched and crystallized into a gate facing easterly, only this time no man and his woman fled like hunted animals through it, their faces wearing darkest fear and grief.


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