Here it is, my addition for the fall prompt! I think I managed to get everything in in one way or another, and this is one more in the Victorious series. This and Peace Victorious and the soon-coming Mercy Victorious and being-planned Grace Victorious MAY eventually be expanded. Note the "may" and "eventually."
This is somewhat similar to a short story I wrote a while ago called "Coming Home."
And oh! Today is one year since it was announced ApricotPie was staying. I remember checking email in a little hotel room in San Antonio, on my knees with daddy's laptop on a chair, and seeing Anna's email that said "GO TO APRICOT PIE NOW!" And so I went and almost couldn't sleep that night; I was so happy.
Happy saving day, and three cheers to James and the others who brought us through this year! Here's to many more!
An overripe apple landed on the ground beside Eleri. Shifting her basket, the young woman looked up. A bare foot dangled from the tree above her.
“Kael, you’re supposed to be helping!” Eleri said.
A spry figure hit the ground. “We are helping. But we were taking a break.”
“Just a short one, I hope.” Eleri reached up to pluck an apple from the tree. She looked down the long rows of fruit trees.
“We’ll have a big harvest this year,” Kael said. His voice was filled with pride.
“I’d rather be riding or exploring,” Eleri said, casting a glance toward the plains. “The cool Autumn air turning my nose red and filling my lungs – and no housework or cooking because you need my help.”
Another figure landed by Eleri.
“It’s too bad you’re not one of us boys,” Selwyn said. He moved a ladder to another side of the tree. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about that.”
Eleri yanked an apple from its branch. “Don’t remind me I’m a girl,” she said.
Another apple fell from the sky, and down came the oldest brother, Brogan.
“True, the more the merrier, but we needed a girl in this family. I for one am glad to have a sister.”
Eleri looked at Brogan. His angular face was serious, for once.
“Anyway,” a voice called from above. “We still have many trees to pick before this harvest is over.” The youngest child, Gawain, shimmied down the tree.
Eleri set her basket down so she could pick with both hands. “I don’t like harvest, but I do like the cooler weather that comes with it, being outside, and eating the fruits of our labors.”
“Very funny, El,” Ioan said, moving to another tree.
They worked in silence for a time. In the orchards beyond theirs, the siblings could hear other Minareans busy gathering their fruit. Harvest time in Minarea was the busiest time of the year. The balmy air that marked the rest of the year gave way to crisp, cool breezes. Fruit and grains ripened, pleading to be gathered. The lakes and oceans were deserted as people returned home to harvest. Soon, though, they would be filled with trade ships taking produce to the other eight kingdoms of Edaled.
Eleri finished picking the apples on the lower branches of the tree. She paused for a moment, watching her five brothers as they worked. Gawain sat in the crook of a tree, his brown hair falling into his eyes as he reached for apples. Then came Kael, blonde and blue-eyed, moving ladders and baskets to help his brothers. Ioan, Eleri’s younger by a year and a half, stood in a tree, his tawny head peering out above the highest branches as he searched for ripe apples. And next in the line is me, Eleri thought. She looked down at her basket of apples and her skirt and apron. Jealousy filled her heart. I wish I could be like them, not a silly girl. She thought of Selwyn, who was two years older than her, and his woodworking business. And Brogan, who had traveled all over Edaled, a merchant. But he always came home at harvest time. Eleri’s blue eyes met his brown ones and they both smiled.
“Tell us a story,” Eleri said to him.
“There’s a legend I heard the other day I thought I’d tell sometime soon. But you have to promise not to slow your working,” Brogan said.
Eleri moved on to the next tree.
“We won’t,” Kael said. He climbed a nearby apple tree and began picking furiously.
Brogan laughed. “Alright, then. This one comes from Tilkah, in our very own Minarea. It’s the story of the islands. Very near the time of creation, there was a gryphon much larger than any we’ve ever seen – this was just after Nathan’s fall, you see, and some things were still just as Ad had created them. One day, he was flying over Edaled, as he often did, when behold, he spotted a smoking mountain. Never before had this gryphon seen a mountain on fire, and so he soared close to it to investigate. As he drew near, fire shot out from the mountain. The gryphon dove away. The fire scorched his wings, but did not burn them.
“’I must keep this from hurting mankind. They could not move away so easily and would be killed,’ he said.
“The gryphon stretched his mighty claws and spread his wings, and waited for the fire mountain to cool. Then he took hold of it with his talons and pulled with all his might. The valleys along the coast split, causing pieces of earth to float into the sea. Some sank right away. Others floated for a time, and then stopped. Still others caught on sunken earth and never moved. At last he felt the ground around the fire mountain give way. A crack ran along the land by the fire mountain, and it cut deep. The mountain floated away, surrounded by a large piece of land. The sudden change in motion sent the gryphon backwards, and before he could fly away, he fell back into the fire mountain and there died. Even so, he has become a hero, because in moving the fire mountain, he saved many men.”
Eleri smiled a small smile and pulled a few more apples from the tree. “That’s very sad, but a good sort of sad.”
“Is it true?” Kael asked, leaning out of his tree to look at Brogan.
“I can’t say for certain,” Brogan said. “But I do know something like it happened once.”
“Do tell,” Gawain said.
“Adan died so that we’d be able to live. Of course, He didn’t stay dead, but His Father, the Creator raised Him up. The fire mountain Adan saved us from was the just wrath of the Creator, on us because of our sin. And it’s had many side effects, like the many islands. We can now be with the Creator forever, and we desire Him more. And the legend is an example to us, just like Adan, to lay down our lives for others. I heard once in Ladylan, from a descendant of someone who worked closely with Adan that Adan Himself taught about that. I wish we had Adan’s words as well as the Law.”
“I wish father would tell us more from the Creator’s Law,” Ioan said. “He’s always gone taking messages from the Creator to people, but doesn’t ever give them to us. I don’t mean I’m asking for something special, just for him to read us the Law and teach us from it. I think it would influence us all for the better to hear things from him and have him explain them. He’s so wise, I know, but it’s hard for us to see because he’s never available for us to talk to.”
Brogan said nothing. His eyes were focused on his work, but Eleri knew he was deep in thought. “I know a lot of families that daily read the Law together,” he said at last. “I’ve wondered lately why we’ve never done the same. Until recently, I wouldn’t have wanted it. But the Creator has been changing my heart.” He looked at Eleri.
She looked down. “I don’t know that I would want it. It would take from my time to be outside.”
“Father’s gone so much helping others,” Kael said. “Doesn’t he see that the Creator has also given us for him to help?”
Dylan approached the solitary bell tower.
“Is this really where You would have me go today, Creator?” He wondered. The tall, stone bell tower had not been used for many years. Yet that morning, Dylan had felt pressed to go there. As he bade farewell to his five sons and daughter that morning, and kissed his wife, the image of the bell tower was impressed upon his mind. Eleri had run after him and walked down the dirt path with him.
“Where are you going today, father?” She had asked.
“Wherever the Creator leads.”
“If I were a man, I’d want a calling like yours, to bring people the messages the Creator sends.”
Dylan smiled down at his daughter. “Well, you’re not a man. Make sure you help your mother today. And don’t enjoy your brothers’ company too much in the orchards.” He waved and set off into town.
And there was the bell tower in front of him.
Weeds grew up all around the edifice. Moss and lichen clung to crumbling stone.
And what message would You have me give?
Words from the Law came into his mind. “Behold, I will send you who will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Dylan pondered the phrase. There had been peace throughout Edaled for over one hundred years. Fàolan’s death had ended the fighting and hardships. And it was said that Adan’s death brought freedom from Daron.
What could go wrong?
“And when you eat and are full, take care lest you forget the Creator, who has provided them for you, and do not teach His ways to your children and your children’s children.”
Dylan ran his hand on the stone wall of the tower, then moved to the door. The latch was rusty, but the door swung open after a gentle push.
He climbed many stairs to the top of the tower. There was no one inside. He looked out across the orchards, fields, and quarries of Minarea. All is quiet and well here, Dylan thought.
Voices in the plain below called Dylan from his thoughts. Three young men sat not far from the tower.
“Them,” the Creator said.
But Creator, they’re boys!
“I use who I will.”
Dylan descended the stairs and left the tower. “Hello!” He shouted as he approached the trio.
“Look, it’s the prophet from the orchards,” one of the young men said.
“Do you have a message for us?” Another scoffed.
“It is not I who have the message, but the Creator. Adan came a century ago to save mankind, and turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and of the children to their fathers. In these times we need one to turn hearts again.” Dylan looked at the boy who had not yet spoken. “And the Creator will use you.”
The boy looked behind him, then pointed to himself.
“You will be the one to begin a work of grace and turn hearts.”
“I’m prophesied to do what?” the boy cried. “You don’t understand, I don’t speak to people unless I know them well, and even then I don’t like it. You’ve got the wrong person.”
“What’s your name?” Dylan asked.
“Aderyn, Ad is on your side. He will help you.”
Before Aderyn could say more, the other two boys tapped him on the shoulder. “Let’s leave.” They began walking away. Aderyn followed them, but cast a glance back at Dylan before he ran to catch up to his friends.
That night after dinner, Carys, Dylan’s wife, and Eleri cleared the table. Carys began to clean the kitchen, while Eleri stood in front of a tub of hot, soapy water. Spoons and sponge in hand, she gazed out through the window, looking at the stars.
She sighed and moved the sponge back and forth across a spoon. The boys were out in Selwyn’s workshop helping him with a table. Her father, she knew, was in his room praying and reading the Law.
Her mind wandered back to Kael’s words earlier that day. “Father’s gone so much helping others. Doesn’t he see that the Creator has also given us for him to help?”
Do I want his help? She wondered. He’d tell me I’m a woman, and they’re men; I need to be different. That’s what he’s always told me. That’s no reason.
A knock pulled Eleri from her thoughts. She turned from the dishes to watch as Carys answered it.
“Does the prophet live here?” Someone asked.
“Aye,” Carys said.
“May I speak to him?”
“Come inside,” Carys invited. “I’ll go and get him.”
A young man entered.
Eleri held a spoon in one hand and a dripping sponge in the other, and looked him over. He didn’t look much different from most Minareans. Faintly tanned, tall, brown eyes, and brown hair. She shrugged and turned back to her dishes.
Dylan entered the room. “Ah, hello!” He said. “Aderyn, right?”
The young man nodded. “I wanted to talk to you more about what you told me today. I almost wanted to then, but wasn’t sure. But I haven’t stopped thinking about what you said.”
“Come, sit.” Dylan invited the young man to sit on a couch with him.
“Do you tell people things like that a lot?” Aderyn asked.
“I tell them when the Creator tells me to. Sometimes that’s a lot, other times messages come farther apart.”
“So Ad told you to say that to me? Not just anyone, but me?”
“What’s it supposed to mean?”
“That, I’m not always told. Often the hearer understands the message. S ometimes an explanation is given me. Other times, the hearer must figure it out, or wait until it is made clear.”
“This time, I don’t know any more than what I’ve told you.”
“Then I guess I’ll go and just wait it out.”
“Do you know much of the Creator?”
“Then stay, and we’ll talk. Eleri-“
“Could you get the Law for me?”
Eleri dried her hands and went into her father’s study, returning with the Law.
“Thank you, El.”
Eleri smiled and returned to the dishes.
“What do you know?” Dylan asked Aderyn.
“I know that Ad made Edaled. That’s about all.”
“That is how we all first know Him – as Creator. But as you begin to know Him more, you’ll see He’s also Father, and Lover, and Savior – and many more things. He created a perfect world, and made men to take dominion over it, and set up laws to make everything continue in that way. But Nathan, the first King of Sealyn, broke those laws, and thus all of us are tainted with imperfections and cannot know the Creator unless we are changed to be holy.”
“Is that the end?”
“No. In His grace, the Creator sent His Son to bear the Creator’s wrath for our disobedience. And now, those who repent can be saved and know Him.”
Eleri washed one last plate and added it to the drying dishes. Then she slipped out the door to join the boys in the workshop.
“What’s going on inside, El?” Kael asked.
“Father’s talking with a young man. They were talking about the Creator.”
“I wish he’d talk to us like that.”
“Maybe he thinks that we’ve grown up with learning about the Creator and don’t need lots more,” Selwyn said.
“Maybe.” Brogan held a piece of wood in place for Selwyn. “I think it’s more than that, though.”
“What?” Gawain wondered.
“Hearts that need to be changed.”
“Why don’t you talk to him?” Ioan asked.
“I would, but I leave tomorrow for a week.”
“The harvest isn’t done yet!” Eleri cried. “You can’t go so soon!”
“I have a trip I have to make. But then I’ll be back.”
“Talk to him then,” Selwyn suggested. “You understand this better than the rest of us.”
“I don’t know,” Eleri said. “I kind of like things the way they are.”
“Not everything would change,” Brogan said. “Just some things, and it would be obeying the Creator.”
Eleri said nothing.
The boys continued to talk as they worked. As it grew later, they went to the house. Brogan walked beside Eleri.
“May I have a sister who is really a sister?” He asked.
Eleri walked faster.
“Think about it, El. We’ll talk more when I get back.” He hugged her, then disappeared inside.
Aderyn joined Dylan’s family often for meals. Many nights he stayed later and talked with Dylan until the wee hours of the morning, learning much of the Creator.
“You ever do this with your family?” Aderyn asked one night as he gathered his things to leave. “They’re always with us for dinner, but not the study of the Law.”
“Doesn’t it say in the Law, what we read last night, that we’re supposed to teach our children the Creator’s ways?”
“I take them to meetings, and see that they read the Law on their own.”
“But what about when you rise up, and when you lie down, and walk by the way? That’s when it said to do it.”
“I’ll have to think about that one more and then tell you.”
“I’ve been watching all of you together. Your children love each other’s company, and love you, but not deeply. You’re father but not leading them. They need you, here with them, leading them. I don’t have my father anymore. I can’t stand seeing fathers who have such gifts, but don’t understand it. They need you to teach them as you have me. Eleri especially. She needs guidance from you, Dylan. She doesn’t understand why it is that she must be a woman, and you know, but haven’t taken the time to tell her. I-“ Aderyn looked down and shifted his weight. “I’ve said a lot and I need to get home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Aderyn stepped outside and began to walk home.
Dylan stood outside, watching, and thinking. He reviewed Aderyn’s words in his mind.
They need you. What about when you rise up, and when you lie down, and walk by the way? She doesn’t understand why it is that she must be a woman… you haven’t taken the time to tell her.
“When did a stranger begin to know my daughter better than me?” Dylan murmured, then went inside. He tried to sleep, but rose and lit a candle. He took the Law from its place on the shelf and opened it to the passage Aderyn had spoken of.
“These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
“Teach them diligently!” Dylan exclaimed. He put his head in his hands. How, in all of my studying the Law, have I missed that? Oh, Creator! I have failed you! I have been so set on some of the things you have given me to do that I have missed the ministry right in front of me. So what do I do now?
The answer was clear in his mind: teach the Creator’s statutes diligently, talk of them when they sat in their house, and walked by the way.
Dylan felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Carys,” he said.
“What are you studying?”
“Aderyn challenged me to do what I have been doing with him with you and the children. He quoted this passage, which we studied just a few nights ago! Yet I was so blind to see my own shortcomings. Carys, will you forgive me for not following the Creator’s Law? I have not led you and the children like I should have. I mean to do it now. Will you help me?”
“Aye, I will. Start now! Show me what it is you’ve been reading!”
Carys sat beside her husband and together they pored over the Law until the wee hours of the morning.
“Where are you going today, father?” Eleri asked as they ate breakfast the next morning.
“Today, my work is with you all,” Dylan said.
Eleri shot a glance at Selwyn, who raised his eyebrows.
“But before we do anything, I must ask for your forgiveness. I have sinned against you and the Creator, by failing as my duties as a father. I have not followed His commands to me as father. I failed to see them, though I had read them so many times. Last night, through Aderyn, Ad turned my heart and opened my eyes to see what I need to do. We’re going to make a new start. Will you forgive me for my foolishness?” Dylan looked at each child.
The boys nodded. Eleri hesitated, but then slowly moved her head up and down.
Dylan took the Law from where it sat beside him. “And we’ll start now, by reading the Law together. I’ll read you what it is that I studied last night.
“’These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’
“We’re beginning to apply this now. I want to work to be diligent to teach His Laws to you, all the time. I’ll need your help. We’ll have to make some changes. It will be hard. But it’s done in obedience to the Creator.” He looked down. “I don’t know exactly what it will mean, and there will be trials for all of us. But obedience to Him always brings joy, even if darkness and hardship precedes it.”
“Eleri, come for a walk with me.”
Eleri pulled a cloak around her shoulders and followed Dylan out the door. She breathed in the crisp air and smiled.
“This is your favorite season, isn’t it?” Dylan asked.
“Let’s walk through the orchard. See if there are any reachable apples left for a mid-morning snack.”
Eleri smiled. “Father, why can’t I be out here with the boys all the time?”
“Ah, I knew that would come,” Dylan said. “Did you know Aderyn sees things better than I? He was the one who pointed out your struggle. ‘She doesn’t understand why it is that she must be a woman, and you know, but haven’t taken the time to tell her,’ he said. You must forgive me, Eleri. What Aderyn said is true. I haven’t taken the time to tell you. I’ve always brushed you off saying that you’re not a man. There’s so much more I should have said. Here, take an apple.” Dylan handed a crisp apple to his daughter and bit into a second.
“Thank you.” Eleri took a bite and chewed thoughtfully.
“I suppose you’ve heard me say before that Ad created women and men. That’s true. He wanted that distinction. We’re not unequal, El, just different. The Creator calls us to do different things. The things men do aren’t more or less important than the things women do. If it weren’t for women, Adan would never have been born. There is a strength and dignity to womanhood that I want you to see. Being a woman doesn’t mean an endless life of dishes and cooking. I’m not against you climbing trees and running with your brothers. Women are called to hard tasks, too.” Dylan put his hands on Eleri’s shoulders. “I want you to be a strong, sturdy woman who follows the Creator with all her being. Some days that may mean making soup. Other days, it may require climbing trees or running long distances. Yet others you may need to travel, or gather information, or take care of many children.”
Eleri looked up at her father. “I understand a little more. But – only the big picture. It’s still dishes and laundry and cooking.”
“And right now, that’s what it is. It’s a season, El. Other times will come. And while you’re in this season, use those times to pray, seek ways to serve others, and study the Law. Will you try it for me? Think of it as obedience to both me and the Creator. Remember that it will be hard at first, but there will be joy in the end.”
The next night when Aderyn came, he rejoiced to see the family gathered together to read the Law. Yet he noticed that some of the children were more willing than others. Eleri sat a ways from everyone else and said nothing the whole time. Selwyn’s arms were crossed over his chest. But Kael, Gawain, and Ioan hung onto every word their father said. After dinner, while Eleri was washing the dishes, Aderyn leaned on the counter near her.
“Your father’s wiser than you think,” Aderyn said.
Eleri let a cup slip into the dishwater. “I know he’s wise – and deep down, I know he’s right. But it changes so much; I’m not willing yet.”
“Make yourself willing,” Aderyn said. “Joy isn’t a thing you conjure up. Joy is a choice. Choose joy, Eleri.”
It was two days later. Eleri glared at the pile of potatoes, then began to scrub them.
“One would think you want to kill the potatoes, El,” Carys said. She put a hand on her I daughter. “There’s not that much dirt on them.”
Eleri sighed. “Can’t I go back out and help the boys in the orchard?”
Carys planted a kiss on her daughter’s cheek. “Honor your father, and the Creator. Seek obedience. Joy will come.”
“How long must I fight for it? I’ve been fighting all day the past two days, mama. How long?”
“I can’t answer that. But what I can say is that there is joy in following His commands. Put your hand to the plow. Don’t think about there being a choice – there isn’t one – you must obey Him.”
Eleri clenched her jaw and sighed. She looked at her mother. “Then I will pray for grace and strength, and continue to fight.”
“And I, too, will pray for you.”
“Thank you, mama.” Eleri looked back at the potatoes. She took the scrubber in her hand and began to work. Soon faint singing escaped her lips, and a smile came.
Thank you, Creator, for these potatoes, and for our food. Thank you for mama, and father. Thank you for what you’re doing in our family. Make me willing.
Bright sunshine streamed between branches in the orchard. Laughter floated across the spring air.
“Brogan, you of all of us should know better than to use the branches as a sword!” Ioan shouted.
“We have so many trees to prune!” Selwyn said.
“Then you’d better get started,” said Aderyn, brandishing a leafy stick.
“Hand up a saw!” Kael cried, looking down at everyone from his perch in a tree.
Gawain handed his brother a small saw.
Soon more branches began to fall from above.
“In another month, this orchard will smell marvelous!” Eleri said as she approached the boys. “I can’t wait for apple blossoms.”
“What did you bring us for lunch today, sister?” Brogan asked.
“Rye bread, cheese, and a special surprise for dessert!” She said.
“Aderyn, have you had any of El’s bread?” Brogan wondered. “If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought she loved making bread all her life.”
“I still don’t love making it,” Eleri said. “But I’m always glad to do it in order to serve you and father.” She turned to Aderyn. “Thank you for what you said to me that night, about choosing joy. It seems like every day I still must choose it, but it gets easier and more rewarding every day. And I often think of Adan. He didn’t want to endure the hardships he faced – and they’re so much harder than any of the things I encounter – and yet He chose to do it, for the future joy He’d have. And you were right – father does have a lot of wisdom.”
“Father told me the story last time I was at home,” Brogan began, “about the day you two met. He told me the message the Creator had him give you. As with all prophecies from the Creator, it has been fulfilled. Ad truly has used you to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their father. Our family has changed, and for the good of eternity. The Creator is worthy of all our praise, and the sacrifice of all our lives – whether it brings earthly joy or not.”
“I am glad to have been a tool in the Creator’s hand,” Aderyn said. “And to know that He always provides the strength we need, often in joy.”
Eleri began to sing. “Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Creator
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the Creator is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
Our soul waits for Ad;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in Him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”