Ethan awoke on the opposite side of the pond.  His hawk was gone, or returned within him, depending upon how you looked at it.  He found himself dressed in the ragtag garments that had appeared in his visitation to Gwen, as if somehow someone had known he wouldn’t want to be naked while talking with his sister and therefore provided clothes.  After ages in the desert having food delivered to him every morning, this was not so astonishing.  No, he was amazed at something else.

            “Years!  I’ve been gone for years!  Everything has changed…” He muttered to himself under his breath.  He had known that he had been wandering for a long time, but he had no idea that so much time had passed.  “And all this time, that thing has been taking my place…” 

He thought over the things he had seen:  his friends living in a dark tower, surrounded by wealth; his sisters reuniting at the family farm; a world beset by destruction, poverty, disease and fear…  Ethan discovered he had more questions than answers after his spiritual journey.  He knelt on the ground and did the only thing he could think of to find guidance.  He prayed.

            “Gracious Father God, you have provided for me in this wilderness for years.  I trust to Your will, that You are guiding me.  I do not know where I am going, the path I should take.  Show me the path, Lord.  Help me find my way.  I ask that, wherever You are leading me, You help my friends.  I wish that I could go back to them, warn them… but I trust in Your plan for me.  Help me serve You, Lord.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

            When he opened his eyes, Ethan noticed that there were plants growing around the pond, the first green things he had seen in this desolate place.  In fact tiny desert flowers and small leafy plants were sprouting up before his eyes, forming a trail that was slowly moving eastward.  It was like someone was rolling out the red carpet for him to follow, save that it was green.  He stood in wonder, watching life spring up where there had been none before.  Ethan moved to follow and then realized he had none of his gear.  Though there was life now, this was still the desert, and he had no water supply.  He stared at the pond for a long time, trying to think of a way to carry some of its life-giving liquid with him.  Ethan scratched his head in consternation.

            “You’re cute when you’re bewildered, you know,” a melodious voice said with a chuckle.  Ethan whirled towards the source of the voice, his nerves on end.  Once again he had been unaware of an approach, and his adrenalin level spiked.  His body naturally geared itself for its instinctive fight-or-flight response as his muscles tensed for attack or defence.  As his eyes drank in the sight before him, however, his body immediately began to experience a different response.  His heart soared in a way he could never have imagined, and for one of the few times in his life, Ethan Keaton Pitney was struck completely speechless.

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