Chapter Eight: I Will Find Him It was three days later. Jonathan was still in the company of the followers of the Creator. Although he was still reticent around most of the men, Kianna had stolen his heart. He sat and listened to her with an air of bewilderment, as if he could not understand their way of life. After some coaxing, Kianna told Jonathan stories of her family before they had run to the forest. Their lives were so completely different from those that Jonathan had encountered before that he was dumbfounded. When Kianna noticed this, she told him that their lives were so different because they served the Creator. Jonathan shook his head and said that that couldn’t be it.
Believing tales cannot change one’s life like that.
Now Jonathan told Keegan that he had spoken with the Island Council and the Jubilee and its passengers could continue on to wherever in the islands that they wished.
“We will go to many places,” Keegan said in response to Jonathan’s query. “Myself, Archie, and the children will go to Tilkah. As for the rest, it is for them to decide. We have decided that spreading out will allow us to complete our task more efficiently.”
“That first day, you spoke about continuing the work that the Creator has given you. Just now, you spoke of it again. What is that work?”
“Our work is copying the Holy words of the Creator and His Son, Adan,” Keegan replied, looking up from the map he was studying. “Many followers of the Creator –“
“Halachites, I’ve heard them called,” Jonathan said.
“Aye, that is what others call us.” Keegan replied with a grim glance up at Jonathan. “We would not mind except that they call us that mockingly, making fun of the Law of the Creator, which is not a laughing matter, but rather, gives life.”
“But why do you call yourselves the followers of the Creator?”
“Because that is who we are. We follow the Creator; obey His Word, striving to be like Him in everything that we do. There are others who desert the Creator and follow Daron.”
“Kianna was telling me of that fellow, Daron. I had never heard of him before.” Jonathan paused. “What of those who follow neither Daron nor the Creator?”
“There are none such as that. Whoever does not follow the Creator is his enemy. Some follow Daron more openly than others, but even so, anyone who denies the Creator follows Daron.”
“These aren’t tall-tales?” Jonathan asked. If adults believe these, they must be very misled – either that, or these things of which they speak are true.
“No. They are facts of life.”
Then I follow Daron. Jonathan drew the conclusion quickly. What does that mean? “What does it mean for one to follow Daron?”
“It comes out in different ways, like I said, whether they follow him openly or not. There is one thing that is true for all of them: they will not spend eternity with the Creator. The Creator once dwelt with man on earth, both at the beginning of time and then more recently as Adan, but one day He will take all of those who follow Him to Himself. None of the pain and destruction that happens in the world will be there. It will be with those who followed Daron, in a place much worse than this world.”
Jonathan turned a compass over in his hands as he thought. He set it back down on the table. “How did Kianna’s father die?”
Keegan set down the tools he was using with the maps and sat back in his chair. He looked intently at Jonathan for a few moments. His brow furrowed as the area around his eyes turned red. Blinking back tears, Keegan spoke. “He died because he was doing what was right for his family. In Rakeyna, the city we come from in Ladylan, the government was doing all that they could to persecute followers of the Creator. There are many who are still there, but even more were forced to leave, myself and Archie included.” Keegan lifted up his sleeve, revealing his brand to Jonathan. “I bear this mark gladly, because it is reminds me of what Adan did for me, and how much He suffered in my place, bearing the wrath of the Creator.” He paused. “Timothy and his wife Caithlin decided after much prayer that God was calling them to join the exiles in the forest in our work of copying the Word. They were escaping one night and sentries near the edge of the forest shot at them.” Keegan was silent. Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Timothy died that night as he sent his family on ahead.”
“She died the next morning. Archie and I tried to heal her wound, but she was out of our hands.”
“Did you find Timothy’s body?”
“Then is it not possible that he still lives?”
“He would have come to the forest.”
Jonathan put his hands on the table and leaned across to Keegan. “Maybe he can’t! What if they caught him, but haven’t killed him? There’s still hope!”
“There might be… but don’t talk to Kianna, Jeffrey, and Liam about it.”
Jonathan backed off and let his hands fall to his sides. When he spoke, it was barely above a whisper. “I will find him.”
Before Keegan could reply, Jonathan was gone.
Late that night, Keegan climbed to the top of the mainmast on his watch. He wanted to think and pray where no one would disturb him. But as he reached the top, he found that Archie was already there.
“Come up here to think and pray?” Archie asked.
“Me too. It’s so much calmer up here somehow.”
“You should be getting your rest,” Keegan said.
“I know. I couldn’t sleep.”
“Care to share what’s on your mind?”
Archie sighed. “I don’t rightly know what is on my mind, actually. But the sin of our world troubles me even more than usual tonight.”
“It is a troublesome thing. But we need not be troubled by it, for we have no need to fear it.”
“It is not so much a fear as it is a desire to reach those who do not know the love of the Creator. Whenever I sit in awe of Him and have fellowship with Him, it makes me want to share it, to tell the world what they are missing. We hear so much of death. And so often it is death of those who will go to a place worse than this.” Archie looked out across the water. A sea breeze rippled through the air, playing with his hair. Closing his eyes, Archie took a deep breath, smelling the salty water. “Today I was thinking as I watched the people in the town below. There are so many of them that walk by. I wanted to jump down and stop them and ask them if they knew the Creator, and tell them of His love, hoping that He will allow them to see His beauty.”
“My heart breaks for them sometimes,” Keegan said. “Especially those who you know have heard the Word and yet still reject it.”
“Aye. Though perhaps he is not as far off as we think.” Keegan leaned back into the rigging. “He wants to search for Timothy.”
“What?” Archie jerked out of his calm thoughts.
“Jonathan wants to find Timothy.”
“But… but Mr. Timothy… died.”
The hint of a smile spread across Keegan’s face. “As Jonathan reminded me, we don’t know that. We know that he didn’t make it into the woods with everyone else, and that Caithlin was shot… but we never searched for Timothy… I think we just assumed that –“
“But he could be anywhere by now!”
“Aye. But if he had not been shot, then he would have tried to find his family in the forest. Unless,”
“Unless the government captured him… in which case he would be dead by now.”
“Quite possibly, yes. But again, we don’t know for certain.”
“I cannot seem to bring myself to even hope that he might be alive, for fear of it not being true.”
“Which is why we must not mention it to the children. I do not want them to get their hopes up. I know that Jonathan wants to help us, but there are more practical ways for him to do that.”
“Perhaps this is a mission that God has laid on his heart,” Archie mused.
“I feel burdened more than ever to pray.” Keegan looked down on the quiet city. “There is so much work to be done in this world, and yet we have such a short time to do it.”
“Then let us pray, and pray without ceasing.”
They bent their heads in prayer.
Kianna’s lip trembled. “Does he have to go?” She asked, looking up at Archie.
“Aye, he must go, and so must we.”
Jonathan knelt down next to Kianna. “I will return as soon as I can, and then I will come and find you. I will have a surprise for you then.”
“I still don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want to leave either, Kianna, but both of us have things that the Creator has called us to do.”
Kianna could only nod as tears filled her eyes. It’s just… The young girl did not want to continue her thought, yet she did anyway. Everyone else I’ve loved and had to leave has died. Daddy, mama…
“Promise me you’ll be back?” She asked, wiping away the tears that ran down her cheeks.
“I will do everything in my power to return.”
Kianna knew that this was the most that he could promise. Even though she was young, she understood the sovereignty of the Creator over everything.
“Now, how about you go find Miss Elena and help her cook. I can’t wait for my last meal with you all, and I couldn’t bear it if it wasn’t cooked by you.”
Kianna beamed. Her hair streamed out behind her as she ran toward the galley.
Jonathan stood. He gave a half-hearted smile to Archie.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Archie asked.
“Aye. Ever since Kianna told me that her father died, I could not stop my heart aching for the child. But when Keegan told me of his supposed death, my heart leaped with hope. It has not come down from that high place since. I do not know the Creator like all of you do, but when I left the Jubilee for home the other night, I talked to Him. I told Him my desire to find Timothy.”
“Perhaps you will find much more than Mr. Timothy in the process.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that in searching for Kianna’s father, you may find much more than you set out to find – the Creator has already been revealing Himself to you, but He will do even more so, especially if you seek Him with the same fervor that you seek Mr. Timothy.”
“And when I find him we shall talk of these things.”
“Aye. He knows much more of the Creator than I do.”
Jonathan ran his fingers through his hair as he thought. Then suddenly, he looked up. “How will I know when I find him?”
Archie shook his head. “I do not know. But I do know this: if it is the will of the Creator to lead you to Mr. Timothy, then He will do so, and however He will do it, you will know.”
Kianna came up next to Jonathan and tugged at the sleeve of his tunic. “It’s time to eat.” The expression on her face was a mixture of joy and sadness. It seemed impossible for Kianna to serve others without a smile on her face, yet today she knew that it was the last time that she would serve Jonathan for a long while. “Sit by me,” she said as she sat down at the table. Keegan prayed, asking the Creator’s blessing on both the food and on Jonathan’s quest – though what the mission was he did not say, to protect the hopes of the little ones.
“Amen’s” rippled through the tables, and immediately Kianna popped up and ran to the big kettle of stew that was cooking. She dished up a large portion for Jonathan, taking a piece of bread and some cheese as well. Then she sat down beside him and smiled up at him while he ate.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” He asked.
“I don’t really feel like eating,” Kianna replied. She looked down at the table and sighed.
“Tell you what – you wait here, and I’ll be back in just a minute.”
Without looking up, Kianna nodded. Soon Jonathan returned with an orange in his hand. “Jeffrey told me once that oranges are your favorite fruit. So what do you say to sharing this orange with me?”
Kianna’s eyes grew wide. “Where’d you get an orange?”
“Minarea exports many fruits, oranges among them. It’s not hard to find them here.” He began peeling the fruit. Once peeled, he handed the first piece to Kianna.
She closed her eyes and stuck it in her mouth. As the cool juice flooded her mouth, Kianna’s mind took her back to their home in Ladylan. They had not had much, but out in their small yard was an orange tree. Kianna used to climb up in it and pick an orange, then peel it and eat it, letting the juice run down onto her chin and hands. Then when Timothy came home from the fields, he would help her down from the tree and carry her inside.
Suddenly she burst into tears.
Jonathan looked down at her, puzzled. “What’s wrong?” He asked, bending down to put his arms around her.
“Eating oranges makes me miss daddy,” She said. Kianna picked up a piece of the peel from the table and rolled it between her fingers.
Oh, I wish I could tell her! Jonathan looked toward Archie, who was engrossed in conversation with one of the men. “Well, maybe you’ll see your father again. If not here, than in the world to come, when we’ll all be with the Creator.”
“Aye.” Kianna dried her tears. “I hope that day comes soon. I want more than anything to be with the Creator.”
Kianna turned her head quickly to look at Jonathan. “Don’t you?” She asked, as if she could not imagine someone not wanting to spend eternity with the Creator.
“I don’t know.” Absentmindedly, he handed Kianna another section of the orange.
The little girl held it in her hands and frowned. “Then you don’t really know the Creator.”
“I suppose not.”
“That makes me sad… those who don’t know the Creator won’t be with Him forever.”
“I know. I don’t know if I would be happy there, with only the Creator.”
“Sometimes you talk like you know Him.” Kianna accused. “That’s not right – you have to decide.”
“I know.” I will find Him.
Kianna put the orange slice in her mouth and savored the sweet flavor. She chewed slowly, pensively. “You have to seek Him. If you seek Him, He’ll come to you, because He’s been seeking you for a long time, you just didn’t know it.”
She puts complex things so simply! Jonathan marveled. “I will seek Him, and I will find Him.” And I will find your father, Kianna. I will find your father, precious child!
Chapter Nine: Tilkah.
At the crack of dawn, every person aboard the Jubilee was awake.
Everyone, that is, except Liam, who had fallen asleep under a table the night before and was found there just as Archie and Keegan were going to bed. Now he slept in his hammock, thumb in mouth, resting peacefully. From time to time a small toddler snore escaped him as he slumbered on, oblivious to the flurry around him as people rushed by, tying down crates of food and sea chests filled with people’s belongings. Today was the day that they set out for Tilkah. Along the way, they would make stops at three other islands, where various groups of the followers of the Creator would disembark. Tilkah was a five-day’s sea journey, but they were in no rush to get there. Archie especially enjoyed being at sea, and with a few exceptions, everyone had their sea legs and enjoyed roaming about the ship. A few days before they arrived in Ocadem, Keegan had confided in Archie, sharing his fears.
“I am afraid,” he said. “Daron is ever on the move. Already there are signs of him on the islands.”
“The last safe place.”
“Except for the sea. It gives me joy to see how much we enjoy being at sea. If it were ever to come to that, we would be happy here.”
“Aye, we would be happy, but not necessarily joyful.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that if we treat the sea as a hiding place, we do not trust the Creator as our hiding place, which He is.”
“Aye. Thank you for correcting me, Archie.”
“There’s something else that has given me hope. Not only is it exciting to know that He is our hiding place, but He says that the gates of the strongholds of Daron will not prevail against us, His followers. Do you know what that means?”
Keegan shrugged. “That we will always win in the long run.”
“Yes, but there’s more. Gates, Keegan, it says gates. You said that Daron is on the move. Gates don’t move. We move. Daron seems to be loose in the world, but he is chained by the Creator, doing only what the Creator permits, to bring more glory to His name. That, more than anything, helps me trust Him.”
“Too often I forget how worthy He is of my trust.”
“Aye. I think it is the lesson that I learn the oftenest and forget the fastest.”
“’Tis a hard one to learn. But we must never be afraid to trust Him who gave His all for us.”
As the Jubilee weighed anchor, the followers of the Creator staying on Ocadem waved from the shore. They had copies of the Law and Word with them to continue the work that Keegan and Archie had begun. As they embarked on the next part of their journey, Archie sat up on a yardarm, Kianna and Jeffrey on either side of him. Kianna clung to Archie, but Jeffrey sat up straight on his own, having been up in the rigging more often than Kianna.
“It’s alright, Kianna, you can let go,” Jeffrey said.
Kianna shook her head and tightened her grip around Archie’s waist.
“Do you want to go down?” Archie asked.
The girl shook her head again. “I like it up here.”
“No you don’t,” her brother contradicted. “If you liked it up here, you wouldn’t be scared.”
“I like the air up here; I just don’t like the heights.” Pleased with her defense, Kianna turned her gaze to the people on shore watching them depart. For a brief moment, she let go of Archie and pointed.
“Miss Elena is looking right at us.”
“Where? I don’t see her.” This statement came from Jeffrey, who only had eyes for taking in last glimpses of Ocadem. In their brief stay there, he had grown to love the beaches and balmy air.
“Down there, right near the edge of our friends,” said Archie.
“Why does she have to leave us?” Kianna wondered, looking up at Archie. He looked down at her and couldn’t help but smiling. Her golden curls had been tossed about by the wind and framed her face in untidy tangles. The days aboard the ship had changed her from a frail white urchin into a ruddy, healthy child. The same changed had occurred in Jeffrey. Now as Kianna’s eyes stared intently at him, Archie sensed the depth of thought and care in the young girl’s soul. Her love for others and desire to serve them was so strong and had been ever growing stronger as she was given the opportunity to serve.
“Miss Elena isn’t leaving, we are. And we’re leaving to fulfill the calling that the Creator has given us.”
“And what’s that?”
“That is to bring the Law and Word to the ends of the world.”
“Don’t they already know about the Creator?”
“Not all. Some have been blinded by Daron, others haven’t heard.”
“Not heard?” Kianna turned this thought over in her mind. It puzzled her. How could people not have heard of the Creator? “Didn’t their parents tell them?”
“No, Kianna. Most people do not have parents like yours who follow well what the Creator has said.”
“Oh.” She looked down at their friends, who now were growing smaller as the ship sailed farther out to sea. “How can they be happy?” She asked, looking back at Archie. Suddenly she blushed, remembering a conversation from a few years earlier. “Not happy, I mean, joyful.”
“They would wonder the same of you.” As they were fully out to sea now, a strong breeze now hit them. Archie swung his legs contentedly. “They look at the things the Creator has told us and see them as restrictions. They do not understand that we are the ones who are truly free.”
“So we’re going to go and free them.”
“Aye. But we will not free them, only be tools in the Creator’s hands.”
“Because nothing happens without Him!” Jeffrey shouted. That was probably his favorite part about being at sea and up in the rigging – no one ever told him to be quiet.
“Archie!” Keegan called from the deck. “You three come on down, it’s time for Jeffrey’s lesson, and I hear that the women are cooking up a surprise in the galley.”
“Alright, you heard him, let’s go,” said Archie, helping Jeffrey turn around so he could climb down. “Ready, Kianna?”
“I hate going down more than going up,” the girl said, but nodded. Archie began descending, and Kianna followed. She always refused to go down unless Archie or Keegan was right below her. Sometimes she would climb back to the deck with one of the other men, but that took much coaxing beforehand. Once on the deck, Kianna breathed a sigh of relief.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Archie put a hand gently on her shoulder.
“Not so bad,” she said quietly. “But I still got scared.”
“You don’t have to go up, you know.”
“I like to be with you and Jeffrey.”
“But you don’t have anything to fear when you’re up or coming down, alright?”
“Yes, Mr. Archie.”
Kianna walked – though for Kianna walking was closer to skipping – off to the kitchen, eager to help and curious to know what the surprise was.
Lunch had been a simple meal, piquing the men’s curiosity even more. Once Kianna had run down to the hold to get more ingredients and passed Keegan on the way.
“What’s for dinner?” He called out.
“I can’t tell you,” Kianna replied, grinning merrily. “But it’s a feast!”
As was revealed at dinner, the meal was a feast. It seemed like the dishes of food never ended. Pot after pot was passed around the table. Biscuits, scones, and other breads were piled high on trays at various points on the table. In the middle, a large bowl of fresh fruit sliced artistically and topped with cream sat waiting for the conclusion of the meal and dessert. The women walked around the tables serving the things that they had cooked. Kianna dished out large helpings of yam mixed with brown sugar and pecans. This dish was a rare treat, as neither yams nor pecans were grown in Ladylan. They were, however, abundant on the islands.
Keegan winked at Kianna as she spooned the casserole onto his plate. “And what do we have here?”
“Yams mashed up and topped with brown sugar and pecans.”
“And you’ll like it even better,” One of the women chimed in. “As Kianna had no help making it!”
“In that case, I think I’ll need some more!”
Kianna smiled and put another spoonful on Keegan’s plate. Many other delicious foods followed. Eileen had made herbed chicken. The broth dripped all around the chicken’s crispy skin, which was coated in rosemary and other herbs. Mabel’s dumplings were bursting with cheeses. Nevertheless, one aroma wafted over all of the others: the soup to which all of the women had contributed. It is said that ‘many cooks spoil the broth,’ but that was not so on the Jubilee. This was the most exquisite soup one can imagine. Tender vegetables filled every bite. Beef chunks cooked to perfection melted away in people’s mouths. The broth was filled with delicious seasonings to the perfect mix of spicy and savory.
Men reached for the hearty breads, dipping it in sauce or soup and eating vigorously. Soon they began taking fruit from the centerpiece, and the women brought out pies and cakes, and then sat down to eat their own dinner. Very little conversation was heard as the people chewed and relished the delicious feast. When they finished eating, laughter floated across the water as they told stories. Everyone sighed contentedly as Keegan got up to read from the Law and Adan’s word. Then they sang. It was the most beautiful time of singing you can imagine, harmonies flowing in and out of the melody, words praising the Creator and Giver of music, and every voice joyfully raising its worship. They sang late into the night. Liam once again fell asleep under the table, and Kianna poked Jeffrey multiple times to keep her young brother awake.
It was a cheerful crowd that went to bed that night, stomachs full and hearts rejoicing although their feet dragged tiredly on the deck. Even adults were yawning as they climbed into their hammocks.
The merriment that accompanied the feast continued through the stops along the way to Tilkah. Hearts were still high and songs ever on people’s lips as they docked at their final destination. As people walked across the ship packing up, their songs soared. One line would be heard of one song before someone else came on deck, singing yet another song. Sometimes they were in a completely different key, but no one cared. Jeffrey stood atop a yardarm, grasping the mast. Archie stood on the other side of the mast. They cheered as the anchor splashed down into the water. Archie closed his eyes and let the strong tropical breeze blow across his face. Here will be a blessed life.
Once again, the sojourners stayed aboard the ship for a few days. As people found places to live, they left the Jubilee. Archie found a vacant spot of land in one of Tilkah’s bays and they brought the ship around there. While Kianna packed away their things onboard the ship, the men and boys built a small house out of local materials. Soon they moved in and the work began in earnest.
The children spent the morning outside with Keegan, reading, writing, and doing their studies. They loved learning from their friend, and in a relaxed setting, they learned much. In the afternoons, Keegan would work on copying the Books and Archie would explore Tilkah with the children and any others of their group who wanted to join them. Evenings were often filled with meetings, prayer, or meeting the islanders. Within a few days of their arrival, all three of the children had friends. They spent many long hours playing together on the beaches. They build sand castles, played in the surf, and tossed around dead jellyfish. Kianna would bring home buckets full of shells and decorate their small house with them. Many of her friends received various forms of shell jewelry.
Everyone was happy on Tilkah, even after just one week of being there. The islanders were welcoming. The followers of the Creator prayed that their hosts would be just as welcoming to the Truth of the Creator’s Word as they were to His people. Even in that first week, the islanders noticed a difference. At first, they talked among themselves.
“These new people, they are different somehow. They look just like us, but act differently. Even the way they walk. They carry themselves as if they were royalty.”
These thoughts leaked out into the community of believers on the island, and they smiled when they heard them. Of course we carry ourselves like royalty! We are royalty, children of the King of Edaled!
One day, the father of one of Jeffrey’s friends spoke to Keegan about it.
“Jeffrey is not like my boy Brendan. He acts differently. They are both very much wild little boys, but when he is around me or Brendan’s mother, Jeffrey acts differently than the island boys. Is it the way you mainlanders train your children?”
Thank you, Creator! Keegan jumped at the chance to share the Creator’s story with this man. “No, there are mainlander children who are much, much worse than the children here. The reason has nothing to do with us, but Who it is that we serve.”
“I don’t think I understand what you mean.”
“You see, there are two people one can serve – Daron or the Creator. There is no middle ground, and there are no others. Much of Edaled serves Daron. We serve the Creator. Servants of the Creator desire to follow His Law, and teach His Law to our children. The Law hidden up in their hearts gives them a desire to bring honor to His Name by obeying the Law and by showing respect to everyone they meet.”
“This Creator that you speak of. Who is He?”
“He is as His name suggests, the Creator of Edaled. He also rules Edaled. When He made this beautiful world,” Keegan motioned to the water beneath where they sat on a cliff. “It was very good, like Him. Though He is more than good, He is perfect. But man… we are not. We sin and break His Law.”
Here the man shook his head. “I don’t agree with that. Man is bad, yes, but not sinful. Even if there is a Creator, He is not so much better than us.”
“That is not the Truth. Daron would have you believe so, but…”
“Are you saying what I believe is a lie?”
Keegan nodded. “Aye.”
Brendan’s father, whose name was Irial, stood. “That is something I cannot accept.”
“The Truth is the Truth whether or not we choose to accept it.”
Irial looked as if he was about to refute Keegan’s statement, but he said nothing, only stared down at the waves below.
“If what I believe is a lie, then what all of us on the islands believe is a lie. What we have taught our children for generations is a lie. What would that mean?”
Keegan lowered his head. “It would mean a very sad thing. Those who do not believe the Truth and live as believers of the Truth will be forever separated from the Creator, in a place much more terrible than this earth here.”
Irial shook his head. “Then I cannot – will not – believe it. I have five brothers, all dead. When each died, those left found comfort in knowing that they are in a better place.”
“I have nothing I can say to that than that more lives will be spared if you repent now than if you never do. There are people dying all throughout the world this very minute as we speak, and many die without any knowledge of the way that we are separated from the Creator. Even more die without the knowledge of the way that we can return to our Creator.”
Then Keegan heard the words that he had heard Archie say so often: “I must think.”
It was a slight indication – though an indication nonetheless – that the Creator was moving in Irial’s heart. Keegan knew that it is not the natural inclination of man’s heart to have a desire to think about the Creator unless the Creator moves his heart.
That night, Keegan prayed harder than ever and with more hope than ever for the Creator’s Truth to invade Tilkah.