So, when Gwen told me to let go of my anger, I remembered what Raphael said.  I gambled that their words were true.  I decided to believe in my sister.  I let go of Reza’s wrists, putting him off-balance for a second.  Then, he went for my throat with one hand, and swung back his knife with the other.  He was going for the deathblow.

            I had only a split second to act.  But I’d been preparing for seven years.

 

***

 

I cannot adequately describe how I travelled through the wilderness.  Sometimes I walked, but mostly just for the sake of activity.  I knew that this journey was more inward than physical.  More often than not, I meditated and sought God.  I was seeking my place in God’s plans, learning to trust.  I found a measure of peace within myself, and then Raphael had to go and ruin my concentration by interrupting.

            “Enjoying yourself?” He asked, and I could hear the smile in his voice.  Opening my eyes, I confirmed my suspicions and saw an amused grin on his face.

            “Is it time to start the next phase?”  I asked.  “Where are we going?”

            “We’re already there.”  He motioned with his hand and I took in the landscape behind him.  The snowy mountains that had once stood between my holy sword and me had replaced the desert.

            “Like old times,” I observed.  Raphael smiled again, extending his hand to help me stand.

            We walked in silence toward the mountains.  We picked our way through the foothills and then up the craggy slopes, sharing an easy camaraderie.  We offered each other a helping hand over boulders and gullies, climbing steadily higher and higher until we found a path to the other side.

            Peering over a stone outcropping, we looked down over a dry, barren valley.  This was a true wasteland, making the desert seem teeming with life.  The ground was cracked as if by extreme heat, the scorched earth riddled with sharp rocks and deep crags.  In the centre of this plain was a great pit billowing out a black column of smoke.  Emerging from the plume like ashes from a fire came winged shapes.  Demons.

            “It’s the Gateway to Hell,” Raphael said, answering the question in my eyes. “It’s a nexus point.  You know how you can focus sunlight on one spot with a magnifying glass and set it on fire?  Reza and the Drake have been focusing evil in this one place in your world until a crack opened, letting evil flow more freely into your reality.  As Reza killed your friends he became more powerful and drew even more energy into the nexus.  When he kills the last member of your group, enough energy will be released to blow open the whole thing.”

            I felt shock shudder throughout my body.  Raphael looked at me sternly to emphasize his next words:

            “If they open it, it will be one way only.  Demons will pour out and flood the world.  There will be no way to stop them.  The Door to Hell will remain open forever.”

            “So it’s my job to close the door?”  I said.

            “No,” Raphael said, his face filled with the trouble this caused him as well.  “I wish it was.  We need you to use your sword like a key.”

            “My sword?”

            “It reveals truth.  If you strike at Reza at the right moment, revealing him as a demonic beast, he’ll be sent back to Hell.  The release of so much energy, timed correctly, will blow open the Gate.”

            “But I thought that’s what we didn’t want?”

            “We don’t want them to open it, because it won’t close after that.  But your sword is truth.  The truth of Reza is the beast within.  The truth of a door is that it should go both ways.  With the key, your sword, it can be opened and shut.  We need the Gate to open and close.  So they can come out, and so we can put them back.”

            I quoted Scripture: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.  And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…”

            Raphael nodded in confirmation of my words.

            “Let’s do it, then,” I said firmly.  Together, we drew swords and ran down into the valley, our blades burning with holy fire against the dark hordes.

Raphael and I tore into the first wave of demons on the edge of the plain.  He carved his sword through a swath of them, knocking them sideways.  The creatures snarled and growled, trying to get around his flashing blade.  I dove in among the horde, trying to blaze a path towards the distant pit.

            We whirled like dancers, guarding each other, stabbing at foes.  The world was a blur of dark skinned monsters, snapping teeth and swiping claws. 

            “Good luck!” Raphael said.

            “With what?” I turned to ask, but suddenly I was standing in the middle of a group of human soldiers, in the midst of a small outpost.  They turned in shock to grab me, and I instinctively swiped my glowing blade through them.  Immediately, they turned and began disarming their comrades.  Using my sword to show them the light, I soon had the beginning of my army of peace.  Together we began the march towards my destiny.

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