Chapter Three: That’s Why We’re Free
For weeks, Archie met with Keegan and Timothy regularly. Often Jeffrey would sit on his lap, smiling up at his new friend, and offering input whenever he could. Sometimes Kianna and Caithlin joined in their discussions, but most often it was just the men, outside of the house or in the fields. Archie’s understanding of the Creator grew in leaps and bounds, as he eagerly sought after His glory. His lifestyle changed dramatically, as he spent his time studying the Law instead of out in the village oppressing the weak. It all seemed to be going so well. Where is the suffering? Archie wondered. Life seemed better than before. Why did the followers of the Creator speak of the road of Truth as hard?
Then one day the trials began.
The Commander of the army called Keegan to his office that afternoon, and Archie went with him. They stood outside the commander’s office. Archie toyed nervously with his hat.
“What could you have done?” He asked.
“I cannot think of anything, but I know of no good that has come of anyone being called to the commander’s office before.”
“My prayers accompany you,” Archie reminded as a guard approached to take Keegan into the office.
Keegan nodded. He looked apprehensively at the small building. “I will need them.” Keegan took a deep breath, looked toward the guard
. “The Commander is ready,” said the guard.
Archie shook Keegan’s hand and smiled encouragingly.
The guard looked at Keegan with a strange look. Keegan raised an eyebrow, but the guard did not seem to notice. “Come.”
They turned down various hallways, finally stopping outside a wooden door with a small sign on it reading ‘Commander.’ The guard knocked.
The guard opened the door and motioned for Keegan to step inside. Keegan automatically took his hat off as the door closed behind him.
“You wanted to speak to me, sir?”
“Aye, I did. You’re Keegan, a Lieutenant, correct?”
“Your behavior of late has been brought to our attention as something that needs to change.”
“My behavior, sir?” I have absolutely no idea what he means!
“Either you can stop meeting with the followers of the Creator and keep your commission, or we will hold trial for you for breaking the law and you will most likely be banished. If it comes to that, though, we will give you the chance to resign first so as not to sully the name of the government. Even still you would have to leave Rakeyna.”
Keegan stared at the commander. “Sir?” He could not believe what he was hearing. “Am I the only one?”
“No,” the commander replied. “But most willingly agree.”
To protect the name of the government, Keegan thought. He spread out his hands. “I must have time to think.”
“You have three days to give me your answer.”
Keegan nodded, then saluted, replaced his hat, and left the room with a heavy heart.
Archie was waiting for him outside the army headquarters. “What was that all about?”
“They want me to stop attending meetings. It’s either that or I lose my commission.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. It should be obvious. I always told myself that when this happened I wouldn’t back down. But now that it’s here, staring me in the face, I don’t know what to do. Lose my commission!”
“You warned me of suffering before, Keegan, and here it is in your own life. I’ll stand by you. If they’re sending you out from the army, I’ll be next, and I’ll join you wherever you go.”
“I know… I just wonder if it’s worth it.”
“Worth it? What do you mean, worth it?”
“If maybe I should just keep it quiet for a little while, and not go to meetings, but still keep my convictions, and share about the Creator when I can.”
Archie stopped walking and turned to grab Keegan’s shoulders. “No! Keegan, you can’t! Hasn’t the Creator given us the strength to be bold? Hasn’t He told us there will be trouble? Hasn’t He given what He loved most so we could be free? You can’t just hide in the culture! We’re meant to be a city on a hill, a light in darkness! If a light hides in the darkness, there’s no point in it being a light!”
Keegan was silent.
“I’m with you every step, brother.” Archie said, more quietly now. “I’ll stand by you. If you leave the city, I’ll come with you. I’ll give up my commission if you give up yours. We need each other for encouragement.”
“I know, I know.”
“I do wonder, though.” Archie paused. “As followers of the Creator, should we be in the army? It seems that for us to be in the army, in this army, that we’re supporting a cause that goes against the Creator’s Law. Do you see that? Maybe this is His way of saying it’s time to leave, that these things clash.”
“Maybe so.” Keegan looked down at the ground. “Do you remember the first day you ate with Timothy and Caithlin, what Jeffrey said?”
Archie shook his head.
“’Adan died for us.’ He said. ‘That’s why we’re free.’ But we’re not just free because Adan died. We’re free because the Creator has a purpose for us in our freedom. We’re to do something with that freedom.”
“So have you decided?”
Keegan sighed. “Aye. I cannot be in the army and truly serve the Creator at the same time.”
“Then let us pray for something we can use our freedom for.”
That evening, the two young men sat with Timothy and his family around the dinner table. The sun was setting outside, and inside Timothy had the handwritten book of Adan’s words open on his lap and was reading aloud. “‘For freedom Adan has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.’” Timothy stopped reading and looked around the table. “Kianna, can you tell me how this passage about freedom has to do with Archie and Keegan and how they are leaving the army?”
“Keegan, Archie, would you care to explain?”
“I will,” Keegan offered. “You see, Kianna, Jeffrey – although we have been freed through Adan, we couldn’t do everything that we wanted to do for the Creator because the army is so strict. But now that we’re no longer with the army, there’s a freedom to do whatever the Creator calls us to do where He leads us. As Adan said, we’re not to use our freedom for the flesh, but to serve each other through love. So when Archie and I leave, we will look for people that we can serve. And we will go as the two of us, because then we can protect each other from falling into slavery again… as Archie did today.”
“And you go with our blessing,” Timothy said.
“Thank you. I still have three days to tell the Commander of my decision, and Archie will resign at the same time.”
“Then let us dedicate those days to prayer. Come with me to the fields in the mornings, and we can talk as we work, and in the afternoons, we will pray.”
Caithlin’s eyes wandered to the book Timothy had on his lap. “Timothy!” She exclaimed.
“Is the baby alright?” He asked.
“Aye, nothing to do with the baby – though oh, I do hope it comes soon! But remember how we were talking about wanting more people to get Adan’s words?”
Timothy’s mind quickly connected the dots. “It’s brilliant, Caithlin!”
“What’s brilliant?” Archie wondered.
“Caithlin and I have been praying, ever since we were married, that the Creator would provide us with a way to get this book out to more people. This book,” Timothy explained, “was handwritten by my ancestors who lived during Fàolan’s time, under the teaching of Adan. After it was all over, Fagan and his wife moved to Ladylan, and his descendants have stayed here ever since. The oldest son always received this book, so here we are with it. Yet no one has ever had the time to make copies – until now, that is.”
“So what you’re saying is that the reason we’ve received this freedom…” Keegan began.
“Is to distribute Adan’s teachings.” Archie finished joyfully.
“Then if it is His will, we are His servants, armed and ready…”
“With quills and ink!”
“Aye, with quills and ink indeed!”
“But you know as they say, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’”
Archie laughed, and soon Keegan joined in. Jeffrey looked up sleepily from where his head had been resting on Archie’s shoulder.
“What’s so funny?” He asked, rubbing his eyes.
“You are,” Kianna teased.
Jeffrey yawned. “No, you’re not laughing at me.” He said decisively.
“You’re right, Jeffrey, we’re not laughing at you. We’re laughing because we have every reason to be joyful through the Creator.”
“Oh.” Jeffrey yawned again.
“I think it’s time for bed for you, little one,” Archie said.
“Can I, mama?” Jeffrey climbed off of Archie’s lap and ran to Caithlin. As he reached her side, another yawn – the biggest yet – stretched across his face. “I’m tired, mama.”
“You’re tired early, Jeffrey.”
“I was in the fields with daddy this morning,” he reminded. “Working with daddy.”
“Then come say goodnight, and then you may go to bed,” Timothy said. “Because you helped me so well this morning.”
Jeffrey beamed and hugged his father. “Goodnight,” he said, halfway to his bed already. He undressed and slipped under the covers.
“Pray, daddy, please.” The sleepy voice was muted in Jeffrey’s pillow.
“Creator God, thank you for this beautiful day of fellowship with one another. Thank you for giving us freedom to serve each other in love. We ask for your help to serve each other, and we ask that you show us ways we can better serve one another and remind each other of our freedom. Give us all our rest tonight, and lead us as we ask for your guidance as to Archie’s and Keegan’s future. All this we ask in Your name, for we know that You alone can fulfill Your purposes, amen.”
“Amen…” Jeffrey echoed contentedly from his bed.
Their little cottage was now dark, and Caithlin lit a candle as the men continued to talk in hushed tones. Before long, Kianna also retired to bed, and Caithlin reached into a basket and pulled out her knitting as the conversation deepened.
“It comes at a fitting time, though,” Archie was saying. “I was telling Keegan earlier that I had been questioning whether it was right for us to be in the army as followers of the Creator, because often our orders require us to do things contrary to the Creator’s law.”
“Indeed, they do,” Keegan agreed. “Yet we had no choice but to obey.”
“Well, we did have choice, but that choice was obey or death.” He lowered his head in shame. “Too often we obeyed, and often willingly.”
“But no more.”
Archie sighed. “But where will we go?”
“There are many other cities in Ladylan.” Timothy said. “And all of them are in need of the Creator’s love just as much as Rakeyna.”
“Aye, but we can only go to one.”
“Should we even go to a city?” Keegan asked. “Or would it be best to build a hideaway in the forest as we copy Adan’s words?”
“That is for you to decide. All I can do is pray, I cannot tell you what to do.” reminded Timothy.
“Then let us bow our heads in prayer now.”
For a few minutes, only Timothy’s voice was heard in the quiet house, and then silence reigned as everyone sat, deep in thought, turning events and possibilities over in their heads.
“I’ve come to resign, sir,” Archie said. He set his hat down on the desk. The Commander looked up.
“Resign, Mr. Archibald?”
“May I ask why?”
Archie took a deep breath. How can I say this in such a way as to tell the truth but not get myself imprisoned? “My life and purpose in life no longer match up to the things I am asked to do in the army. It goes against my conscience to fulfill many of the orders I have recently been given.”
“Then we can transfer you to another city, or put you on some other sort of duty,” the Commander said.
Archie shook his head. “No sir, it goes much deeper than that.”
The Commander leaned across his desk. “Well, I hope, sir, that this has nothing to do with the followers of the Creator. You’re wiser than that and have more potential, potential that should not be dulled by those… those lies.”
The young man stepped back. “Sir, what I believe to be the Truth…” he began, then started again. “I don’t believe they’re a pack of lies, and whether I believe them or not has nothing to do with their Validity. Neither does anything you say, or what you call them. Perhaps they seem like lies to you, but that does not change the Truth.”
“You may go,” The Commander said abruptly. “Collect your things from your quarters and leave anything provided by the army on your bed. I don’t want to hear anything more from you, or you will be banished or perhaps worse.”
“Yes sir.” Archie returned his hat to his head and left the room. He passed Keegan in the hall. “My prayers are with you!” He said cheerfully.
“I shall need them,” Keegan replied ruefully. A few minutes later he stood in front of the Commander’s desk.
“So, Mr. Keegan, the men have been saying you are going to resign.”
“Yes, sir. I cannot stop my meetings with the followers of the Creator.”
“You know this means banishment?”
“And that with banishment comes branding?”
“Aye.” Marked for life, as a criminal. Though I have done nothing wrong.
The Commander nodded. “I am sorry to see you go,” he said. “I hoped you would see your folly.”
“It’s not folly.” Keegan said firmly.
“Who is the one getting himself banished here?”
“It is banishment by choice, sir, and I will bear the brand as a reminder of what Adan did so that I could be free. It would be folly indeed if I could not remember the price paid for my freedom and then remember to live as one freed from slavery.”
The Commander shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Well, there we will have to agree to disagree.” He flashed a charismatic smile at Keegan, then rang a small bell. Two guards entered.
“Take this man and brand him for banishment.”
“Banishment from where?”
“Rakeyna. I’m sure he’ll learn his lesson well enough and stay out of trouble.” Another smile.
The guards took Keegan by the arms and led him away. They branded “RKA” on his arm, so that if he ever tried to come back, the sentries at the gate would turn him away. His skin still burning, Keegan went to his quarters and gathered up his things. Shouldering his bag, he turned to look around his quarters once more and then trudged to Timothy and Caithlin’s house. Jeffrey met him at the door.
“Mr. Keegan, Mr. Keegan!”
“Good morning, Jeffrey!” Keegan picked Jeffrey up and carried him inside, where Archie was waiting for him.
“It’s done,” Keegan said grimly.
“Officially done?” Archie asked worriedly. He had heard about the branding, but never known anyone that it had happened to.
In answer to Archie’s question, Keegan rolled up his shirt sleeve. Caithlin gasped.
“I can’t ever come back to Rakeyna.” Keegan said, covering the brand again. “Though I hope someday we will meet again.”
“You’re leaving?” Jeffrey asked.
“Aye, Jeffrey. I must. We’re going to the forests.”
“Is Mr. Archie going with you?”
“Why are you leaving?”
“To take Adan’s teachings to all of Edaled!”
“Because that’s why we’re free, Jeffrey.” That’s why we’re free.