Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The World Below: Part 7

Todd looked around in amazement that they could think he could do anything to save them from the beast. He was only a boy after all! What could he do, that they couldn’t? After the song was finished they all cheered and shouted “Praise God for sending Todd!” over and over again.  Todd tried to tell them that he wasn’t the one; that there must be some mistake; but no one heard him over the cheering and shouting, and the thunderous clapping that filled the room with joyful noise. Finally Bandrag motioned for the crowd to be quiet and then began to speak.
“There is much to celebrate!  There is much to be thankful for!  Once again God has provided one to save us from the beast!”
The crowd broke into cheers and applause again. Bandrag motioned again for quiet.
“Our friend Todd has been sent by God to a challenge that even the bravest and strongest of us would not dare to face.  The beast is feared by all Anakdidae! But Todd will face this challenge alone!”
More applause and cheers drowned him out.
“He will, however, need our help in one way.” The crowd murmured amongst themselves, asking what they could possibly do to help the bravest of them all. “We will be fasting and praying today, so that our God would strengthen Todd and give him courage for the battle tomorrow!”
Gardle took Todd’s arm and raised it with his into the air in a show of unity and victory. Todd smiled and looked around like a boy who had just been voted the captain of the team, but was used to not being picked at all.  He noticed that Einah was smiling broadly at him and cheering as enthusiastically as the rest and that seemed to help a little so that he almost believed it himself!
“Let us begin our fast this hour. Go;  Go to your homes and pray for Todd and his victory over the beast.” Bandrag concluded.
The crowd dispersed happily and soon the lights dimmed again as only Bandrag, Gardle, Einah and Todd were left. Todd asked, “Bandrag, how am I going to defeat the beast?  I am just a boy;  I have no weapons!?”
“You are not a child, Todd.  You are a man and I am positive that you will prevail with God’s help. In addition, you possess the oracle, which will give you the strength you need.” Said Bandrag.
“Oracle?” asked Todd.
“Yes, the holy oracle.  You call it a…” he thought for a moment, “belt buckle!”
“Are you serious?  How is my belt buckle going to defeat a giant squid?”
“It is needed to activate the defense system of the blessed hive.  Without it we are vulnerable!  The beast is getting more and more bold as it gets larger.  Soon it won’t just attack individuals; soon it will attack the blessed hive itself!  That cannot happen if you activate the defense system.”  Gardle explained.
“You are not making any sense.  I don’t even know where my belt is; the last I had it I was diving off the oak tree.  When I awoke I was dressed like this.” Todd explained.
“We, took off your clothes; they were wet.  You, um, weren’t wearing any pants Todd.”  Said Einah who turned a darker shade of silver.
“He has no oracle!” exclaimed Bandrag angrily. “Gardle? Why was I not told?” he asked obviously upset.
“At the time, we were not certain where it was, or if he was the one. Things have progressed somewhat more rapidly than I had anticipated, Bandrag. I offer no excuse however.”  Gardle bowed his head and fell to one knee in submission to his leader.
“You will have to be punished for this oversight. You have embarrassed me; you have embarrassed Todd! You have made a mockery of this whole thing.” Bandrag said, still fuming.  Out of nowhere a long sword glinted in his hand and he raised it above his head, as if to separate Gardle from his. Einah screamed.
“Wait! What are you doing!” Todd jumped in front of Gardle, standing between him and Bandrag. “You can’t kill him! He – He doesn’t deserve to die for this!”
“It is our way.” Said Gardle humbly, “I fully submit to this punishment.”
“I don’t care!  You will not kill him!” Todd said defiantly, standing taller. “Kill me in his stead!”
Bandrag slowly lowered his sword, his eyes wide.  You would do this for him? One you hardly know?”
“I know enough of him to know he is a man of character.  He does not deserve to die for such a minor thing.  However, if that is your law; that someone must die; then let it be me!” said Todd, setting his jaw.
“Very well.” Said Bandrag.  “Step forward and kneel.”
“No!” said Einah, “Stop! He does not know of our customs. Please!” and she started to sob.
“Enough.” Said Bandrag.
“You don’t have to do this Todd.  Please, let me pay my own debt.” Pleaded Gardle.
“Jesus didn’t save himself when he stood in our stead. He could have easily called ten thousand angels to save him.  If I can do this thing for you, I hope that He will have mercy on my soul for taking your punishment.” Todd said quietly. “Let’s get on with this.”  Then he kneeled before Bandrag.
Einah hugged Gardle and put her head in his shoulder sobbing quietly as they stood behind Todd.  Todd heard a grunt as Bandrag raised the sword above his head, followed by a ‘swoosh’ of the sword coming down in an arc through the air. Then Todd heard nothing.
“Stand up.” Said Bandrag.
Todd looked up to see Bandrag, empty handed, smiling. “You have passed the test of character. You are the one.”
Gardle said, “You are the one.”
Einah said, “You are the one.”
“Praise God!” they said in unison.
“What? That was a test?  How could you do that to me? Is this some kind of sick joke?” asked Todd incredulously.
“I am sorry Todd, but we had to be sure before we could entrust you with the oracle and the fate of our people.” Said Bandrag. “You are the one to save us from the beast.  Now it is up to you, and up to God to give you the strength you need for the battle tomorrow. Gardle.”
“Todd, here is your belt.” Said Gardle.  Another Anakdidae came in from the shadows carrying Todd’s belt, and with it the buckle/oracle.
“We retrieved it from the blessed hive entrance. Somehow it was pulled off as you traveled through and left inside. Take it.”
Todd took the belt and fixed it around his waste. “What now?” he asked.
“You must find the altar of Dagon in the depths below. When you find it, you will know what to do.” Said Bandrag.
“What about the beast?”
“The beast will be waiting for you, just as he waits for anyone who wonders near his home. He is a formidable foe.” answered Gardle.
“Todd, you must be careful!  The beast has never been defeated!” said Einah concerned.
“The beast will be no match for Todd.  He is the one.” Said Bandrag. “Now let us all go and fast and pray.” He said finally, then turned and walked away.
“Come Todd. You must prepare as well. There is much to do to prepare!” said Gardle and led Todd to the doorway.
“I’d like to help, if it is allowed?” suggested Einah.
“Very well. Come along then.”
The three walked out the doorway.  Todd felt nervous, but didn’t show it.  He didn’t want Einah to see him scared. Einah walked with him and held his hand, Gardle led the way down the hallway and around several turns. He stopped at a doorway that opened before him.  What Todd saw there he would never forget as long as he lived.

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